Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Fear Won the GOP Presidential Debate

Overall, there seems to be any consensus as to who won the Republican Presidential debate last night.  Yes, Jebbie Bush got in a few licks against The Donald and reminded the audience that the Geneva Conventions still exist (not that his idiot brother and Dick Cheney let that bother them), but seemingly there is little movement to be seen in polling numbers.  But, as a piece in Politico, there was indeed one winner: fear or perhaps more accurately, fear mongering.  And the overall solution the GOP clown card offered is belligerence, calls for "troops on the ground," and, of course, killing Muslims.  In the process, the would be commanders in chief showed most were not ready for prime time.  Ted Cruz may hay released classified information, Chris Christie talked about talking face to face with the king of Jordan who has been dead for 16 years, and as noted in a prior post, Ben Carson advocated for killing women and children in the fight against ISIS.  Sadly, the mainstream media is doing its best to whip up fear and anxiety and, thus are aiding the GOP.  Here are highlights from the Politico piece:

[I]t’s accurate to say that the debate was all about terrorism—how to fight it, how to keep Americans safe from it, and how much Americans should be freaking out about it. CNN’s panelists asked no questions about jobs, wages, the impending Fed rate hike, health care, energy, infrastructure, the federal budget, the federal deficit, the Supreme Court, financial reform, abortion, race, or any other domestic issue unrelated to homeland security. “Americans are more afraid today than they’ve been at any time since 9/11,” Wolf Blitzer declared, and the main theme of the debate—from the candidates, but arguably from the network as well—was that they ought to be even more afraid.

Immigration was a prominent topic, but mostly in the context of keeping jihadist refugees out of the U.S. Energy came up, but only in the context of reducing U.S. dependence on oil from terror-supporting nations. Guns came up, but only in the context of Obama’s proposal to deny guns to Americans on the terror watch list. The economy barely came up, although Kasich did say strengthening the economy would help defeat ISIS. Rand Paul brought up the federal debt in his closing statement, calling it the greatest threat to U.S. security.

Polls after the Paris and San Bernardino attacks have found that terrorism has become the most pressing issue for the public. It’s a complex issue, worthy of debate, and last night’s focus on terror produced several interesting disagreements among the Republicans—over regime change and foreign entanglements, over domestic surveillance, over Syrian refugees and border security. But CNN’s implicit assumption was that non-terror issues are no longer as important for 2016. “You all have different strategies for keeping America safe and that will be the focus of our debate tonight,” Blitzer said at the outset.

There was little acknowledgment during the conversation that Americans have anything to fear from anything other than terrorists, or that the terrorist threat could be anything but dire. In fact, since 9/11, more Americans have been killed by lightning strikes than by terror attacks—and way more Americans have been killed by car accidents or preventable diseases. But that doesn’t mean Americans feel safe, especially when cable news is wall-to-wall terror coverage. There’s a fine line between covering anxiety and creating it.

Rand Paul also suggested last night that Americans shouldn’t overreact, that “we defeat terrorists by showing them we don’t fear them.” But that was a minority view on the Republican stage, as the candidates generally agreed that our military is in shambles, our president is weak, and ISIS is an existential threat. There was no sense that the U.S. spends more on its military than the next seven countries combined, and little mention of the thousands of bombs the U.S. and its allies are already dropping on ISIS.

Nobody really explained how all that belligerence would defuse a threat that can manifest itself in homegrown Americans, like the health inspector who killed his colleagues in San Bernardino. And there wasn’t much discussion of the potential for military action abroad to create unintended consequences. But near the end of the debate, Trump complained that more than a decade of U.S. intervention in the Middle East has achieved nothing, while costing trillions of dollars that could have been spent upgrading U.S. roads, bridges and airports.

It was a profound attack on the interventionist Republican foreign policy of the 21st century; Carly Fiorina immediately pointed out, correctly, that Trump’s rhetoric echoed the Democrats. And needless to say, it was the only time anyone mentioned infrastructure.

In truth, other than waging endless war and ignoring huge domestic problems, the GOP clowns offered no real solutions - which is par for the course.

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