We’ve watched four Republican mosh-pits twist and teem, staged for our edification and for the amusement of America’s voting public. This is not to say these appearances are unimportant. They matter, especially this year, in so far as the would-be nominees are untrained, inexperienced, and largely unknown to millions of Americans genuinely concerned about America’s place in the sun.
True enough, we’ve all had distant acquaintanceships with Donald Trump and Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee and Chris Christie. But it’s doubtful whether any of us know them sufficiently well to begin to imagine how any of them, as president, would react to the daily stress and responsibilities of the world’s biggest job.
We listen to them now, apart from the entertainment factor, in order to try to estimate their skills, their knowledge, their temperaments.
After this past Tuesday’s appearances by men and one woman who should be grateful as children at a surprise birthday party even to be riding this merry-go-round, we’ve learned a little something.
At about halfway through this week’s marathon, a tiny voice started to sing in our ear. After four performances, the cast of thousands is beginning to gel. They are starting to feel both looser and more desperate. And no one has enough brain-power and imagination to give us new reasons for voting positively. Their time at the microphones is now being wasted by men and one woman without the ability, without the agility to change. In four weeks they have run through their repertoires and that distant humming we hear belongs to “Little Sir Echo, How do you do, Hello, Hello?”
We’ve heard these refrains before. Four weeks has come to seem an eternity.
Carly Fiorina is especially demented on her little flat feet, singing over and over again about wanting to know how every dollar of our budget is spent, can be traced, can be moved from one pocket of intent to another. This is not an unreasonable request, since the government manages to waste and loose money just by thinking about it. But how can this be done economically? Follow-up questions are rarely presented to any of the class and when presented are artfully dodged entirely.
Ted Cruz has begun to rant about returning to the gold standard dismissed by FDR.
And while his manners may have improved somewhat, Donald Trump is stuck on making America great again, period. The details, the hows and whys of construction or reconstruction are never mentioned in favor of general bluster that reeks of nothing more than egoism and wish fulfillment. Also, it turns out there is a little of Vlad the Impaler in the Donald. Watch out.
Marco Rubio looks cute and young and fearless, and he can afford to because he seems to be everyone’s fallback guy.
Mike Huckabee has made no forward steps since last trying this waltz.
And Jeb Bush still hasn’t lifted a leg even to begin to dance.
Occasionally one or another of these excellent, exceptional citizens has, probably to his own surprise, managed to have a minute of accidental inspiration, and by virtue of this hiccup have risen, even if only temporarily, above his peers.
Rand Paul this week had two moments of value. One was in reminding the moderators of the so-called debate to remind another candidate that China was not a party to the embryonic Trans-Pacific Trade Agreement. The other was in trying to make Marco Rubio define what a conservative is. Score two big pluses for a candidacy that had begun to evaporate as we watched.
And Ted Cruz, vilified by his colleagues in the senate as well as a large section of the Republican party that could be called moderate, demonstrated unique skills at evasion and fantasy. Apparently what we read about his prowess as a college debate giant is true. He’s slippery and sly and gifted as a demagogue must be. No one is going to be disappointed by anything he says or does. He scores by being as true to his character as Bernie Sanders is to his. Cruz’ character is down and dirty, mean, deeply self-involved as opposed to being committed to improving the status of millions of needy Americans.
John Kasich. Poor John Kasich. Here was the thinking Republican’s real fallback. A man who has performed well in the House of Representatives, a quietly determined and good governor of Ohio, and the antidote to the uneducated raving surrounding him on stage.
But he’s become increasingly impatient and insistent and loud. We don’t blame him. It must be galling to have to stand for hours listening to claptrap presented by another candidate with no experience, no time apparently to study foreign policy, who seems to make up his biography day-to-day and who, no matter how full of holes his ideas are, keeps rising insensibly to the top of the ladder.
Ben Carson is the most egregious and perplexing of the nominee candidates. Uninformed, largely untested, a man who cannot speak intelligently about the budget, about the Armed Services, about the needy in our country. Or about jobs and retirements and education.
If Jeb Bush is running on his decent enough record as governor of Florida, Kasich wants to run on his long and accomplished public service which also includes a governorship. But he’s been put in the position of spoiler. He knows when his colleagues are whistling in the dark. Calling them on their pie-in-the-sky economics, for example, endears him to no one. It makes him seem a scold, rude, a know-it-all when in fact we think he’s accomplished, knowledgeable, and seasoned. No wonder he’s blowing his top. He has all our sympathy, and we wouldn’t blame him if one night he just ups and leaves a debating site shouting “Take them! They’re yours!”
You know what? They are, and we deserve them.