There was a moment in Las Vegas, during the last Republican primary debate whilst Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz went tit for tat over immigration, where I spotted the gleam of instant realization in their eyes. It hit both candidates at the exact moment, ‘one of us is going to be the nominee’. And it was in this brief clarity that the American people were treated to one of the few salient moments of the GOP debates thus far. Two men of opposing opinion argued over a single issue passionately, and although both massaged the truth, as candidates are wont to do in these venues, they were forced to rely on principle and policy as argument rather than Twitter traded barbs and insults to which we’ve all been subjected ‘lo these many months.
Rubio insisted throughout the night that his immigration policy, seen as soft through a Republican lens, was not the same as amnesty. There is no truer axiom in Republican primary races than that of nice guys finishing last. Despite the fact that his stance on many woman’s issues are abhorrent and that he has no compunction against mass data collection of US citizens, Rubio is being painted as a softee liberal. To the other end, Senator Ted Cruz struggled to hide his oily grin as Wolf Blitzer quoted his pledge to carpet bomb ISIS strongholds and to see “if sand can glow”. But I supposed you have to at least try and talk tough when your voice can be likened to that of a prepubescent goose. When asked if he had any compunction leveling entire civilian populations if their country or region was overtaken by ISIS, such as the Syrian capital of Raqqa, Cruz insisted his carpet bombing would be strategic and targeted and that he would not target countries but rather ISIS strongholds. Both statements prove Cruz has no concept or care of what carpet bombing entails. The fact that an ISIS stronghold and an innocent civilian population are not always mutually exclusive is a detail that has no room on a bumper sticker.
The love fest was not in short supply throughout the dais. Carson, who shrewdly snuck in a moment of silence for San Bernardino during his opening statement as a means to filibuster, claimed that the murder of innocent children is not such a bad thing. “You have to be able to look at the big picture and understand that it’s actually merciful,” he argued, “if you go ahead and finish the job rather than death by a thousand pricks.” I’m beginning to think that it is the neurosurgeon’s own brain and not that of the patient suing him for malpractice that had the sponge left behind.
Trump was as vitriolic as you’d expect, taking time from making juvenile faces at anything that did not serve his pomposity, to malign anyone within eye range. At one point he chided the audience after they turned against his call for internet censorship and first amendment curtailing. He pouted, “What they can kill us all they want and we can’t kill them?” The concept of goodness, of maturity, of morality, of justice and a base level of ethics is so far removed from the Republican front runner that anyone still making jokes at his expense should wake up and face the reality that his heartlessness was not inexplicably forged in a vacuum but was an informed and well-supported stance backed by a frightening contingent of mouth-breathers that “want to make America great again”. Ask any of the countless minorities that have been maligned and persecuted by similar bigots throughout American history when was America ever great for people like them while rich, old, white males continue to spin the national narrative toward hateful conclusions.
To the more farcical end of big man posturing, Ohio governor, John Kasich, said, apropos of nothing, that “it’s about time we give Russia a punch in the nose.” It’s irresponsible, meaningless chatter like this that leave his constant calls for a more mature and civilized tone to the debates as well as his Party to fall on deaf ears. What ‘a punch in the nose’ to an entire nuclear superpower even looks like was left unsaid as Kasich faded back into the scenery. Not to be outdone, Chris Christie, who has spent the entire campaign staring into the camera and sweating, said that he would institute a no-fly zone over Syria and not hesitate to shoot down Russian pilots that cross the line. Never mind the fact that the US has no right to pick a country and randomly tell another country that it has cooties and is no longer allowed to visit. Thankfully, Rand Paul, who has consistently been the voice of reason on the dais, remarked afterward, “If you want World War Three, it looks like you have your candidate.”
The next day, Christie was asked by Charlie Rose on the Today show if he was concerned about potentially serving as a modern day Gavrilo Princip. “Charlie, we are already in World War Three”, Christie answered to the surprise of the world. Rose countered, “Perhaps so, but not with Russia.” This simple and obvious conclusion should have been first registered by Christie as well as the rest of the candidates who, aside for Paul, said nothing against inciting war with a nuclear superpower. It is this blustering, self-serving rhetoric that not only is an embarrassment for the nation but a liability to the safety and future security for all US citizens.