Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A Night of Bellicose Republican Bluster

The husband and I had dinner last night with friends at a local country club, so I missed a good part of the Republican presidential debate last night although I listened to a part of it on satellite radio driving home.   While the main topic of the evening was national security, what I heard did anything but make me feel safer.  There were many promises of murder and mayhem towards ISIS and Ben Carson justified the killing of women and children in the process.  Then of course, there were promises of "boots on the ground" even though (i) it was American boots on the ground under the misrule of George W. Bush and Darth Vader Cheney that set the stage for ISIS's rise, and (ii) few if any of the GOP demagogues have served in the military or had family members in harms way in the Middle East. From what I heard, my vote is definitely, none of the above.  A column in the New York Times looks at the batshitery that thrills the hearts of the GOP base but which ought to make the rest of us very fearful.  Here are highlights: 
When you call for carpet bombing, as Cruz did again on Tuesday night, you are not outlining a strategy of pinpoint targeting or of any discernment.

You are sounding big and bold and advocating something indiscriminate. That’s the nature of a carpet. You can’t pretend otherwise.  Unless you’re Cruz, who can pretend just about anything.

“You would carpet bomb where ISIS is, not a city, but the location of the troops,” he said, as if there’s no mingling and the fighters of the Islamic State are somehow clustered apart from everyone they control, extinguished with the mere dropping of a rug.

“The object isn’t to level a city,” he added, never specifying how he would separate the good edifices and actors from the bad.

[I]it was a prime example of the bluster and oversimplification on vivid, infuriating display in this Republican presidential debate, the fifth.

It was dominated as none of the four before it by one word, one syllable — “safe,” which was uttered so regularly that it was essentially the heartbeat of the debate.

And each of the nine contenders on the stage had one goal above all others: to convince viewers that he or she could be the agent of that fiercely desired security. That he or she could bring back “safe.”

But many of the aspirants had additional aims: to wound the rivals for the nomination who stood most directly in their way. As the night wore on, it degenerated into tedious, often puerile quarrels: between Cruz and Marco Rubio; between Rubio and Rand Paul; between Jeb Bush and Donald Trump.

Actually, the Bush-Trump crossfire was welcome and satisfying, because Bush more than anyone in any of these debates effectively called Trump out for his galling recklessness, and Trump’s responses were as naked a display of his adolescent narcissism as he’s engaged in yet. That’s saying something.

“He’s a chaos candidate,” Bush said when asked to elaborate on a tweet in which he’d called Trump “unhinged.” “And he’ll be a chaos president. He would not be the commander in chief we need to keep our country safe.”

The candidates rightly observed that neither Barack Obama nor Hillary Clinton had articulated a strategy or found an answer for reassuring jittery Americans.

But their own attempts to do that also failed, eclipsed by their sparring and preening, by an emphasis on puffed chests and sound bites over nuanced policies and earnest reflection.

In that sense Cruz was the night’s defining figure, his certainty verging on cockiness, his ambitions transparent, his attempts to tap into some warmth a mesmerizing exercise in futility.

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