Well, That Was Dispiriting


I couldn't watch Saturday night's GOP debate live. Before catching up to it on video, I was of course privy to the common opinion that Marco Rubio shot himself in the foot by repeating himself four times in the wake of Chris Christie's withering accusation that Rubio has no achievements to point to and just repeats his canned lines.

This seems to have been the opinion not only of the majority in media, but of those of my own household. Contemporaneous text from Eldest Weed:
Is Rubio a buffoon? What is he doing? This is absolutely insane.
Prepared by this talk for cringing on Rubio's behalf, the exchange didn't seem that damaging to me. (Watch it here, roughly minutes 10-15). I'm not sure why Rubio coming back repeatedly to his point that the problem with Obama is not that he was inexperienced but that his agenda was poisonous is somehow more robotic and canned than Christie's coming back repeatedly to his point that a governor is much better suited than a senator to hold executive office. (How many times did Christie say that Saturday night? How many times has he done it in all the debates combined?) No one has more canned lines than Christie. Here are 5: 

  • I was a federal prosecutor during 9/11. 
  • I was scared for my wife during 9/11
  • I am a governor, a job where you actually do stuff
  • (interrupting substantive debate that defines difference between candidates, turning to camera to say:) "See, we need a Washington to English dictionary, the American people don't care about this. 
  • The American people are terrified, cringing in the corner, in case there's another terrorist attack

I grant that Rubio's response was not stellar.  As an argument, Christie's contention that an executive role better prepares you for the higher executive role of President than does the deliberative role of senator is strong, and one I have often made here. In the abstract, I would always choose a governor over a senator if each were equally conservative and electable.  But it looked to me as if Rubio, though occupying the weaker ground, basically held his own, particularly since Christie, not satisfied with laying a good clean punch, went pissy and then got a bit of his own back.  

Rubio is already running for the general election, and it's my judgment that he did well just keeping a smile on his face while Christie indulged his inner New Jersey -- and later in the debate, staying out of the weeds of his gang of 8 participation, carefully navigating away from that topic (where he is defensible, but the defense is too complicated for sound bites).  Not his best night, but I doubt it does him much long term damage -- especially since except for those 5 minutes, he won the rest of the debate in my mind. Great answer on abortion; clearly has a better command of what's happening in the middle east than the others; much clearer handle on the state of the armed forces and the prosecution of terror; clear articulation of the principles of limited government. 

I agree with the conventional wisdom that Ted Cruz had a good night (seemed a little more human and less condescending than usual somehow, in addition to having some effective and attractive answers on several questions) and Jeb Bush showed some life. But on the whole I found the Saturday debate dispiriting, and it lowered the entire field in my esteem. 

1) Sometimes I have thought I could get behind Christie, but this is the second debate in a row where he has used enemy language to tarnish pro-lifers unfairly (he likes to say he's pro-life even after people are born -- the precise malicious taunt used by Planned Parenthood types against pro-life activists. I go white hot with rage when I hear anyone level it, because pro-lifers are the ones who adopt the kids (including minorities and those w/ special needs), run the pregnancy centers and homes for single mothers, etc., etc. As a former pro-life lobbyist I know personally all the heads of the pro-life groups, and they all walk the walk. They all do an enormous amount of charitable giving, hosting single moms in their own homes, fostering and adopting special needs kids.... ALL of them do that; it comes with the conviction. There is no more terrible calumny than the one that pro-lifers don't care about born children -- and to hear it from someone who styles himself pro-life is just lemon in a cut. It's betrayal.  I feel I hate Christie when he talks that way, and I guarantee you everyone else actually engaged in the issue does too).  

And, in this debate he defined a child conceived in rape as a "predator" against the mother.   Rubio did a vastly superior job (besides taking my own position) of discussing competing rights without turning babies into Alien. Sheesh.  That offensive line of argument makes Chris Christie dead to me.

But on top of that, if he's such a wonderful leader who can get things done, someone who can take the tough decisions, then why doesn't he throw some of his punches at Donald Trump, who is damaging the conservative movement, instead of confining himself to Rubio? He's too afraid to take it to Trump, so I don't want to hear anything about toughness and courage. 

2) Marco Rubio did damage himself with me Saturday night, as did the entire field, by having not one word to say against women in combat, and even supporting selective service registration for women.  Oh. My. God.  Three of the candidates on stage explicitly supported women in combat and selective service, and the others -- not even Cruz, not even Carson-- felt no need to jump in. 

So a) apparently not a single GOP candidate understands the difference between opening combat positions to those (few) women who desire them and can qualify for them and compelling all young women via the draft ?!? 

One of them (I no longer recall who -- Bush?) said something about not politicizing the military, but none of them could extrapolate from that and make the point that opening combat roles to women IS experimenting with the military? No one could take it to Obama and point out the administration is doing this against the advice of the military experts and that in a dangerous time, while our military is catastrophically weakened, we're now forcing the military to turn its attention to affirmative action-ing women into combat? 

And that's just the easy, obvious argument. The larger point is that it's suicide for a nation to send its young women to war. All kinds of cultural upheaval was the result of WWII and a generation of men never returning home. Nothing good in the culture came from the loss of that generation of men ("war is always a defeat for humanity" as St. JP II said), but at least old men can sire children. Old women cannot bear them, and therefore only a culture of death (or a nation fundamentally unserious about war and peace) can entertain sending its young women off to war. (Bush, as I recall, said he was for selective service for women because the draft isn't coming back. Is he sure? And there's principle for you.).  All my heart for this election and for any of those men drained out of me in those moments. 

After the fact, Ted Cruz has discovered that drafting women into combat is nuts. But Mr. Stand on Principle, Never Be Politically Correct didn't find that very important to say to a national audience, so I'm not impressed. 

I suppose I will rally in a day or two. Maybe if I contemplate a Sanders presidency.

Update: NR w/ more on why women in combat is stupid policy, and selective service super-stupid.