Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.
Wednesday, October 26, 2016

It made sense that the two biggest names in the GOPeeWee debate belonged to men who weren’t even in the room: Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump, representing two touchstones and two diametrically opposed directions for the modern GOP: angel and devil; Reagan, the polestar and patron saint of the party, and Trump, the reality TV star who crashed the gates and changed the game with his crass and classless tactics.

As if by invoking their names over and over again — the former to be emulated, the latter disparaged — the four men who couldn’t crack the top 11 spots in the race for the nomination could catch some of that Gipper/Donald name recognition and mojo secondhand.

It was a much smaller playing field than the primetime debate: the increased intimacy a kind of consolation prize for not making the varsity team. Standing in the shadow of Ronald Reagan’s Air Force One housed in his Simi Valley, California presidential library, Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, U.S. senator from South Carolina Lindsey Graham, former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania Rick Santorum, and former New York governor George Pataki made a bid to elevate their credibility and perhaps snag a spot on the big-kids debate next time around.

But the candidates’ own records, policies, and campaign promises seemed to play second fiddle to the legacy of the man whose presence and plane dwarfed them onstage, and to the billion-dollar elephant waiting in the wings — to say nothing of the 10 other candidates leading them in the polls.

Pataki opened by invoking Reagan’s “tremendous smile,” “optimism,”  and his dedication to “safety, security, and prosperity” — promising to bring that kind of leadership to the Oval Office. But he lamented that “the first four questions have been about Donald Trump.”

On the subject of Trump, Jindal doubled down on his criticism of the real estate mogul, saying that the current GOP frontrunner wasn’t really a conservative, or even a liberal. He believes in one thing, Jindal said: “He believes in Donald Trump.”

Despite taking Trump to task for his take-no-prisoners, bombastic style, Jindal was guilty of adopting a similar scorched-earth tack: On a number of positions, he asserted his dominance as the most unequivocal and uncompromising of the four candidates on stage. Conservatives have never stood up for their beliefs, he argued. In a field of capitulators, he was the only real soldier for conservative values.

The subject of religious liberty is near and dear to the devoutly Catholic Jindal, making it the focus of his first campaign video. Ever the purveyor of straw-man arguments, Jindal demanded that the left furnish Christians with a list of jobs that they were allowed to do, since, he said, they clearly weren’t allowed to be florists, bakers, and Kentucky county clerks.

(Pataki said he would have fired Kim Davis, the recalcitrant Kentucky clerk who went to jail rather than issue marriage licenses — “We have the rule of law in America,” he said. There is a country “where religion supersedes the rule of law,” he added. “It’s called Iran.”)

Jindal took aim at Senate Republicans who had wilted on Obamacare and weren’t willing to shut down the government — even in the face of “Planned Parenthood selling baby parts.” He chastised the “Establishment” and “permanent governing class” (including, by implication, the U.S. senator to his left, Graham) for caving too often to the executive branch.

If Senate Republicans weren’t willing to do what was necessary to end the wholesale trafficking of baby parts, he said, it is time to be done with the Republican Party. “At least [congressional Democratic leaders] Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi fight for what they believe in. ”

Graham countered that he was sick of Jindal — and his fellow conservative crusader, Ted Cruz — filling Republican voters’ heads with nonsense, telling them just what they wanted hear. He emphasized the need to reach across the aisle and compromise “in order to get things done.” Leadership, he said, required a “certain amount of honesty.”

But there was one area in which Graham gave no quarter: He came out swinging on foreign policy. He leveraged his Air Force service and his many trips to the Middle East to emphasize his qualifications and “uncompromising dedication” to defeating ISIS and the other “religious Nazis running wild,” and to restoring American dominance overseas.

Regarding the question of “religious liberty,” Graham erred on the side of the “rule of the law,” and said that in the grand scheme of things it didn’t matter if you were a gay couple or a Christian florist: “Let’s not lose sight of the big picture. Radical Islamists would kill them all.”

We need to “destroy the caliphate” ISIS had established, Graham said, and warned that if the U.S. and its allies couldn’t succeed in ousting Bashar al-Assad, president of Syria, the war would come to America’s shores.

Throughout the debate, he leavened his hawkishness with a series of limp jokes. It is admittedly easier to insist on the need for ground troops when you’re making self-deprecating quips in your best “aw shucks” voice.

On the subject of immigration, Graham played the level head to Rick Santorum’s promise to be deporter-in-chief. Graham stressed that the labor force was rapidly diminishing and unless everyone wanted to make like Strom Thurmond and have four children, the nation needed a rational path to legal immigration.

“I have seven kids,” Santorum quipped. “I did my part.”

After the debate, the four men were invited to remain on stage for a group photo of all 15 Republican candidates — before being asked to clear off for the primetime show.

Image: The men, from tallest to shortest. They’re all polling the same before the debate, so why does it matter? Screengrab via CNN

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2015 The National Memo
  • Paragryne

    This whole GOP debate thing is hardcore ignorance porn at it’s best.

    • RED

      I hear ya, kind of a “snuff film” for human intellect. Because, the right wing nuts and their nut job “leaders” have certainly murdered any ability to think these whackos may have once possessed.

  • Dominick Vila

    The most memorable part of the first debate for me was the way they reacted to the Ahmed Mohamed incident. All of them were so uncomfortable with this topic that they all looked as if they were ready to run for the exit door. I guess admitting that our paranoia, and tendency to blame an entire culture for the crimes of a few, to an audience consumed by fear and prejudice is not what the doctor – or more accurately – what their strategists prescribed.

  • FireBaron

    I see Santorum is still trolling to be the “Righteous Indignation” candidate. Amusingly, their combined poll numbers are still below “Margin of Error”.

  • FT66

    The language Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz used on Chief Justice John Roberts was awful, distasteful and disgusting. He can’t be insulted at that level because he upheld Obamacare. Where respect has gone to those who hold jobs at higher Offices? They should remember the man has a lifelong job. He is not going anywhere.

    • nana4gj

      I know. They pick and choose which laws they believe are “legitimate” and which laws they can ignore and not being “legitimate”, such as civil rights for all Americans, a civil servant employee obeying civil law over her religious beliefs, and a law that enables Americans to access healthcare, et al. If a SCOTUS deliberates on the merits of law with objectivity, and not as a conservative ideologue, he is worthless to them. Huckabee even said his litmus test for a nominee would be that the nominee was a strong conservative, not a liberal. I hardly call Chief Justice Roberts a “liberal”, but he does try to be a Judge and to do what a Judge should do.

      • Polana

        Bravo. Agree 100%. We will see what the DEMS have to say and what they stand for.

  • nana4gj

    All of them, such courageous, vocal critics of each other and everyone else currently and actually!! keeping us safe by paying attention to intel info and knowing what to do about it, proclaiming how they will be tough with ISIS, Syria, Iraq, Ukraine, Russia, Cuba, China, Mexico, and the entire world, because America is in such bad shape and dead. Wow, such leadership.

    And, yet, not one of them, in their seats in Congress and/or in their state legislatures, on their podiums of spirituality and morality lectures, in their advocacy for Freedom and Rights guaranteed by the Constitution, in their stated need to protect us from evil illegal immigrants, have had the courage, the guts, the independence, the willingness, the competency, the leadership, to do one thing, to utter one word, about what really has presented the most serious danger to this country and our Freedoms.

    Massacres of innocent children and adults going about their daily life activities at the hands of what have been white, legal citizens of middle and upper class society, who have been so filled with anger and hatred re racism, who are mentally ill, whose parenting by upper middle class, white, conservative, Republican, gun loving parents of mentally ill children, who knew better than the medical professionals and the education specialists on how to treat that child, does not behoove them to address with the same vigor and determination and promises this uniquely American tragedy and endangerment of our health, well being, safety that is not on their agenda one bit. The fact that the Freedom to bear arms for anyone and everyone threatens the Freedom to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all of us is not on their wave length. Perhaps, if ISIS and other terrorists formed super PACS and contributed to their political campaigns and subsidized their lifestyles with financial kickbacks ala lobbying, they would cool their rhetoric on the dangers posed by “terrorists” and “illegals”, and find a way to advocate for the “Freedoms” of these ilks.

    It’s great that these politicians, who claim to be no experts on climate and environmental issues and who doubt those who are, based on their own ignorance and refusal to read up on it, can, nevertheless, be experts on epidemiology, communicable disease management, vaccines, and autism, and, again, advocate for some to have the Freedom to eschew mandatory vaccinations recommended by those experts who do know something about it, at the expense of the Freedom of others to expect to be protected from diseases that have long been managed, eliminated, or minimized by these very vaccines, for over 40 years now. I prefer the recommendations of medical experts to the pandering of weak and ignorant politicians who cannot see the health dangers of unlimited gun access to everyone carrying them everywhere and who went ballistic over Ebola, based on imaginations and not scientific research and medical epidemiology and infectious disease. Why, they ask, can we not cure cancer, alzheimers, diabetes, et al? Because federal funding is required and because these kind of know-it-alls would not believe it if and when it should happen.

    The one who said the Supreme Court litmus test, should he be President, would be that they adhere to the Constitution….and, in the same breath, said, not a “liberal’, but, instead, a strong Conservative….so that, the Constitution, as interpreted by a Conservative religious fanatic, would mean the Supreme Court deliberates and decrees not by civil law and Constitutional precepts, but by the interpretation of such law and precepts by Conservative ideology, picking which civil laws they endorse and which they do not; which religious beliefs deserve protection and which do not. The Rev Huckabee grows more disgusting with each passing year and campaign.

    I resent the free wheeling talk of America’s “might” via the use of the military, sending everyone else’s loved ones as fodder to fight the wars of hubris across the globe as their own enjoy the good life here at home, especially when we have learned that war today, in every corner of the globe, never ends well, costs lives and money, and, in fact, never do end. They do not make us “safe”, as an extra caveat. Who, in that dozen plus, has ever put their own boots on the ground and bled for this country? They cannot even pass commonsense gun legislation and review mental health legislation re identification, treatment options, and intervention. They have been so busy over the past 7 years making social wars here at home, in Congress, in the States, denying civil liberties, shutting down the government, and trying to take health care access away from Americans, that it is surprising they have a thought about international issues, albeit thoughts that are insanely juvenile, unprofessional, incompetent, and dangerous.

    None of these individuals deserve my confidence or credibility in them to manage my country in a competent, rational, legitimate manner. They are, one and all, a hoooge embarrassment. This country may be in bad shape but it is only as it pertains to the ability of today’s Republican Party to govern, lead, and represent this country that they say is so great, yet they embarrass on an international scale, daily, and sometimes in very big ways, with the fact they are unsupervised in Congress and can mail letters signed by 47 Senators to the “evil Ayatollah in Iran” telling him to ignore the US President because “he counts for nothing”.

    The only danger this country faces is the danger posed by today’s Republican Party, who goes cukoo every 4 years with characters like Trump and Palin, who have so many “stars” and “rising stars” that can more readily be called “comets that blaze in a trajectory and then, fall into oblivion, eventually.”

    If it were not so serious, it would be comical and entertaining. They are a bunch of frauds, the whole lot of them.

    PS: I cannot believe JEB! claimed his brother “kept us safe”….the first attack on US soil, killing over 3,000 innocent Americans and others in less than one hour; an economic crash and collapse of epic proportions; outsourcing of jobs; all while his brother was looking under his Oval Office desk for the perpetrator and creating the massive deficit that he did, going to war “with what you have, not with what you need”, credit from China, debt, and massive tax breaks for the very wealthy while attempting to decimate Social Security and Medicare to offset that deficit.

    Who believes these frauds in their debates and on their campaign trail? This is not a popularity contest; it is not a “cute meet”; and they will play hell having one iota of success in governance that the current Administration has had, in spite of the fact that he had nothing but obstruction, lies, slander, law suits, and infamy thrown at him. That, alone, disqualifies them from the dignity of the office of President of the USA.

    • CrankyToo

      Mess ’em up, Nana!

    • plc97477

      If you listen carefully you can hear the standing ovation the nation is giving you.

  • Louis Allen

    Sam Reisman, you poor imitation of a journalist:
    “…. GOPeeWee debate…”??!!
    Go and get a (real) degree in journalism, you brain-dead libturd.
    Which of the GOPeeWee or GOPBiggies will WHIP Hil-LIAR-y’s or Bernie The Socialist’s arse in 2016? ANYONE of them.
    …. not to mention Joe “The Clown” Biden, who the DemocRATS will be forced to “pick” because Hil-LIAR-Y will be living for 18 years at Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary and won’t be able to run ….