Thursday, October 29, 2015

Response to October Unpleasantness

(See: Just Above Sunset: October Unpleasantness)

My debate observations, such as they are:

To paraphrase Henry Higgins, "Why can't Republicans be more like us?" And by "us", I obviously mean Democrats. And they aren't, you know. You can see the difference in their debates.

Here's Ted Cruz last night, allegedly fielding a question from CNBC's Carl Quintanilla and John Harwood:
QUINTANILLA: Senator Cruz. Congressional Republicans, Democrats and the White House are about to strike a compromise that would raise the debt limit, prevent a government shutdown and calm financial markets that fear of — another Washington-created crisis is on the way. Does your opposition to it show that you’re not the kind of problem-solver American voters want? 
CRUZ: You know, let me say something at the outset. The questions that have been asked so far in this debate illustrate why the American people don’t trust the media. (APPLAUSE) This is not a cage match. And, you look at the questions — “Donald Trump, are you a comic-book villain?” “Ben Carson, can you do math?” “John Kasich, will you insult two people over here?” “Marco Rubio, why don’t you resign?” “Jeb Bush, why have your numbers fallen?” How about talking about the substantive issues the people care about? (APPLAUSE) 
QUINTANILLA: (inaudible) do we get credit (inaudible)? 
CRUZ: And Carl — Carl, I’m not finished yet. The contrast with the Democratic debate, where every fawning question from the media was, “Which of you is more handsome and why?” (LAUGHTER) And let me be clear. (CROSSTALK) 
QUINTANILLA: So, this is a question about (inaudible), which you have 30 seconds left to answer, should you choose to do so. 
CRUZ: Let me be clear. The men and women on this stage have more ideas, more experience, more common sense than every participant in the Democratic debate. That debate reflected a debate between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks. (LAUGHTER) And nobody watching at home believed that any of the moderators had any intention of voting in a Republican primary. The questions that are being asked shouldn’t be trying to get people to tear into each other. It should be what are your substantive positions… (CROSSTALK) 
QUINTANILLA: OK. (inaudible) I asked you about the debt limit and I got no answer. (CROSSTALK) 
CRUZ: You want me to answer that question? I’m happy to answer the question… (CROSSTALK) Let me tell you how that question… (CROSSTALK) Let me tell you how that question… (CROSSTALK) 
HARWOOD: Senator Paul, I’ve got a question for you on the same subject. 
CRUZ: … so you don’t actually want to hear the answer, John? 
HARWOOD: Senator Paul? 
CRUZ: You don’t want to hear the answer. You just want to… (CROSSTALK) 
HARWOOD: You used your time on something else. Senator Paul? 
CRUZ: You’re not interested in an answer.
Three things to notice in this case study:

* First of all, Cruz didn't answer the question.

He decided early on to use his answer time to, instead, perform his own little standup routine, and it was only way after his time had run out that he tried to answer the moderator's question -- but by then, the moderators had decided to move on.

In fact, the very first question of the debate was asked to John Kasich, and he, too, spent all of his allotted time not answering the question.

Come to think of it, not following rules, including not answering questions, earns you points with conservative voters, especially if you're trying to prove your conservative bona fides. Show all the folks at home that you are someone who is always able to take control. Remember Ronald Reagan booming at that New Hampshire debate when someone tried to cut off his microphone?
“I am paying for this microphone, Mr. Green!”
(Once again, keeping with a long tradition of the Republican low regard for truth, the guy's name wasn't "Mr. Green", it was "Mr. Breen".)

And remember Sarah Palin's debate with Joe Biden? She started out by announcing at the beginning that she would not be answering any of their questions -- probably because she had already demonstrated in interviews her inability to answer questions. Later, she wrote a book that, to keep consistent with the conservative "lawlessness" can't-be-controlled meme, she called "Going Rogue", possibly unaware of the Urban Dictionary definition of that term.

* Second of all, Cruz wasn't the only candidate last night to launch into a (I'm sure "pre-rehearsed") rant.

In fact, this Republican debate was noticeably more ranty than the Democratic one. CNBC could have just as easily called this program "Ten Angry Men" (even though one of them was arguably a woman. Anyway, she'll probably be gone soon.) It was imperative for each candidate, except maybe the passive-aggressive Ben Carson, to start yelling about something at some point, even if what they yelled was meaningless and confusing dreck -- and more than once, they need to turn and rant directly at that camera with the red light on it, just so people at home can experience that anger, eye-to-eye. I don't remember any of the Democrats pulling that nonsense.

* And thirdly, whenever a candidate was stuck on what to answer, or maybe just didn't want to address his criticism at any one of his primary opponents (after all, why risk pissing off supporters of another candidate, who you hope will turn to you as more and more candidates drop out?), he or she would lavish praise on all the others, or would instead focus his rancor on one of two other targets: 

(a) Hillary Clinton and her fellow Democrats, or, because they'd soon run out of anything specifically to say about Hillary, outside of the general charge that she's done a terrible job in some way ...

(b) The "media". That's always good for an audience response. Yeah, it's kind of a cheap shot, but apparently never fails to change the subject.

The media calls candidates out on their propensities for foolishness -- which, in the Republican case, of course, are legion. Therefore, if a candidate can imply, if not outright charge, that all members of the media are biased, the public will be disinclined to believe them or put any stock into their questions. And because reporters, as Karl Rove once allegedly told an interviewer, are part of the "reality-based" community, while Republicans are of the "faith-based" community, the two groups don't speak the same language anyway. News folks obsess about the truth, while Republicans obsess about winning.

But while news people try hard to ask hard questions of both Democrats and Republicans, there are just more hard questions to ask the Republicans, so they appeared to be lobbing softballs at the Democratic debate. I mean, what hard question would they ask a Democrat about, say, climate change? Why they steadfastly refuse to give up their silly belief in global warming?

The fact is, there are differences between the parties, and that obviously extends to the candidates. For one thing, we Democrats are not nearly as entertaining. Hell, we have an honest-to-god socialist running for office, but when it comes to wresting media attention from that herd of angry clowns on the other side of the aisle, we can't seem to get ourselves arrested.

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