The Party’s over, no debate about it
I told myself I wasn’t going to look. But like a gruesome six-car pileup on the 405 when it finally came time for last week’s GOP debate in Houston, I peeked.
At first it was just a quick glance. Then I stared, transfixed and horrified that one of those characters could actually be our next president.
The herd has been thinned from the early days of the campaign when there were more candidates than voters. Undoubtedly the lineup will be trimmed again after 11 states cast ballots in this week’s Super Tuesday primaries. The likely winner will be the Reality TV vulgarian who will then have a clear path to the Republican Party nomination.
Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan are spinning in their graves like the turbines in a jet engine.
For two hours last Thursday night Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and two other guys lobbed rhetorical Molotov cocktails at each other, mostly imbecilic ad hominem insults with less wit than a street corner “‘Yo mamma’s so fat” cutting contest.
To be fair to the others, how are you supposed to debate a guy who simply calls you a “loser,” “liar,” “ugly,” “a basket case,” “weak” and worse? There’s not a lot of room for nuance with a man whose entire campaign platform fits on a hat.
Every campaign eventually ends up in the gutter. Trump is the first candidate to start in the gutter.
Meanwhile the other team has its own problems.
The Democrats are going to nominate Hillary Clinton despite genuine concerns about her personal integrity. Clinton loyalists can duck their heads in the sand, but Mrs. Clinton’s email server problem is real and potentially disastrous. Aside from the security issues involved -- profound on its own -- there’s a strong probability the server’s true purpose was to allow the Clinton’s to collect enormous speaking fees and donations from overseas donors with business before the State Department while Hillary was serving as Secretary of State. Also known as Pay-to-Play. After deleting 30,000 emails Hillary says, “trust me.”
Yet, in November the likely match-up will be Clinton vs. Trump; “The Crook versus the Con Man.”
The Democratic and Republican Parties brought this mess upon us by ignoring the legitimate grievances of the American people. The border is in crisis. Illegal immigration isn’t an invention of FOX News or the Ku Klux Klan. Worries about the super-concentration of wealth in fewer and fewer hands are not Marxist propaganda. The “too big to fails” are bigger now than ever. The middle-class and poor are being crushed while Washington fiddles.
The TV networks have packaged the 2016 campaign like a WWE match and the Republican candidates have been happy to oblige. I keep waiting for Trump to show up with his face painted. Come to think of it, he is pretty orange. It doesn’t have to be this way.
Start by losing the studio audience.
Staging debates in front of rabidly partisan crowds who hoot and holler at each verbal broadside is a virtual guarantee the candidates will pander to the lowest common denominator. Trump’s bullying and invective would collapse in the vacuum of an empty TV studio.
Next, lose the moderators.
Lincoln and Douglas didn’t have Megyn Kelly, Wolf Blitzer or Hugh Hewitt injecting themselves into the process. Let the candidates make their pitch, challenge each other and respond. Let’s see how they think on their feet rather than regurgitate canned stump speech sound bites while looking for openings to insert scripted ad-libs. When you hold political debates in a theater you’ll get theater. And bad theater at that.
In the Kardashian era, an age when fame has been divorced from talent, should we be surprised Donald Trump could actually win the White House?
Doug McIntyre’s column appears Sundays. Hear him weekday mornings 5-10 on AM 790. He can be reached at: Doug@KABC.com.