Saturday, September 19, 2015

Debate #2: Winners and Losers

As promised, and as done with the first debate, below are the ranked performances of the GOP contenders in the second main stage debate. I promise you, you likely won't believe who came out on top...

1) Huckabee
Being a contrarian, I had to pick the person on the absolute bottom of the Drudge Poll as my best debater of the night. Huckabee spoke naturally and intelligently, without any of the affected airs that other candidates put on. Being on stage was no different for him than being on his show, just another day in the office.

Nonetheless, he had some significant weaknesses as well. First, as both I, and Ann Coulter, have stated before, at times he sounded more like he was trying to be Prime Minister Netanyahu, than President of the United States. Secondly, a primary is a competition. He needs to attack his opponents, not try to conciliate them. This seems to be a failing characteristic of Baby Boomers, and while it might play well to them, it is absolute poison to other demographics. The world is in crisis, and America needs a fighter, not a diplomat, to face it.

All in all though, Governor Huckabee is still the best debater of the field. While his candidacy will never be the beneficiary of a media windfall like those of Dr. Carson and Mrs. Fiorina, and he still suffers from extremely low polls, if Huckabee can stick around through the cull and learn from the successes of his opposition, he has the ability to become a top tier candidate.

2) Fiorina
Sadly, even a contrarian can only go so far. As much as I hate jumping on any bandwagon, and as justified as Scott Walker's criticism of the media's attempted coronation of the former HP CEO may be, Carly Fiorina still was the dominant voice in this debate. She correctly realized early on that she could easily neutralize the moderators, and simply keep talking until she had said her fill. She seemed to go double her allotted time on each question, but absent any push-back, this transgression cost her nothing.

Ms. Fiorina's success was not merely limited to rhetoric: for the more dialectically inclined,  she offered one of the few tangible plans of the night. I don't like her plans (mostly disastrously ill-informed), or her style (how's having a middle aged woman lecturing from the bully pulpit treating Germany?), but I am forced to respect both. The boorish Trump is a crude call to the glories of of the past, while Ms. Fiorina serves a polished paragon of the feminist new era. Whether the growing dissatisfaction with the American Nightmare can overcome Ms. Fiorina's charms and Mr. Trump's failings is yet to be seen.

3) Christie
I regain a little of my indie cred with this choice. I said last debate that Christie was doing surprisingly poorly, given the similarities between his style and Trump's. And while he hasn't quite stolen Trump's thunder yet, Governor Christie did a good job this debate of re-calibrating himself to the more aggressive mood prevailing in the body politic. Most of all, he was one of the few candidates on stage to act as masculine as Ms. Fiorina, which, sadly for this group, is high praise indeed.

4) Cruz
Really, there's a huge jumpoff in quality here between Christie and Cruz, but I'm going to show the Senator a little favoritism here. Cruz seemed a lot more solid here than in the last debate and almost managed to make himself look like a serious contender. Almost.

The characterizing moment of the night was when Cruz was speaking on immigration. His tenor changed, his words grew more serious, more powerful. Finally the sea change that we had longer for was coming: Mr. Trump had burst the dam, and finally the men of the West had found their courage. Senator Cruz had come into his own, and would now lead us to... get cut off by the moderator, and slink off defeated into the darkness.

Courage is the virtue we most need to turn the tide. Courage is the virtue most lacking in the woman-men of Western Europe and its diaspora. Courage is what Cruz failed to show here. Conservatism is primarily a masculine ethos. As the spread of the red pill opens the eyes of more and more men to the birthright that feminism and tolerance stole from them, the masculine characteristics of courage, aggression, and strength become of greater value to a prospective leader of men. To lead men, one must be a man. For Cruz to truly serve his country and his ideals, he must settle for nothing less.

5) Jeb
I won't say Governor Bush did well here, because he didn't. Jeb Bush is still an utter joke of a candidate, who shows all the strength and backbone of a well-boiled noodle. His attempts to stand up to Trump are particularly pathetic, ending universally with the submissive Mr. Bush wishing for the tension to go away and an nice scratch behind the ears from the Donald.

Nonetheless, Mr. Bush is trying, he really is. When not faced with his kryptonite, actually having to stand up to another person, Mr. Bush puts on a good show of being a legitimate candidate. Slowly but surely, he's finding his voice. And while the campaign trail, even the greatly lengthened one of modern times, is unlikely to give him the time to actually grow up into the man he should have been, he's giving it a good shot.

6) Carson
After the last debate, a good deal of talk was had about whether Dr. Carson could capitalize on his newfound exposure. He was the anti-Trump, kind where Trump was aggressive, thoughtful where Trump was stubborn, and humble where Trump was brash. This week, Dr. Carson proved the old saying: nice guys finish last.

Dr. Carson was the McClellan of the debate, with his high poll numbers he should have been a force to reckon with, but he mainly sat there as a candidate in being. Unfortunately for him, the battlefield offered many more attractive targets for the picking, and he remained mostly engaged throughout the night, and thus neutralized.

It is clear that the genial Dr. Carson, despite having a few good ideas (the two-tier minimum wage plan particularly impressed me as an innovative idea that could see bipartisan support) is not the fighter that America needs at this time. Should he be nominated, he will be unable to counter the inevitable Democratic attacks. Should he survive those, he will not be tough enough to impose his will from the White House. Dr. Carson would be a new smiling face plastered over the decaying rot of our country, and the more he fails to show vigor, the more people will see that.

Dr. Carson's heart is in the right place, but his fists need to be as well.

Rubio should really be higher here, as he did do a competent job of debating, speaking well, communicating effectively -- but I had to look him up to remember that he was in this debate. In a three hour slog of banal rhetoric, you have to do something to stand out, either for the better or the worse. Senator Rubio did neither. While he won't lose any supporters based on his performance, neither will he gain any.

While he doesn't need to resort to the hijinks of Trump or the pushiness of Fiorina, and such things would likely alienate his supporters, he needs to do something to focus attention. Unlike Cruz, Rubio doesn't suffer from hesitation, but he does suffer from being bland. As Trump did with immigration, I think Rubio's best bet to bolster his candidacy is to find one big issue that the American people are passionate about and push it zealously. Nobody has the attention span to discriminate between the fine nuances between fifteen candidates carbon-copy platforms. People do, however, know what they care about. Pick one issue, Senator, and let them know you care about it too.

Donald Trump showed one very important thing at this week's debate: that his base of support is wholly independent of his debate performances. Mr. Trump came off as a parody of himself, making a whole slew of goofy faces and goofy comments and generally showing that he was just as bored of the whole thing in hour one as I was by hour three.

Trump started the night off with an inexplicable attack against Senator Paul who, as Trump rightly pointed out, is a non-entity. While Paul was effectively neutralized form that point on, Trump having caught him severely of-guard, the Senator was never a treat! Like Napoleon, Trump is overly aggressive, stretching himself thin and attacking wherever he sees a fight. And while the Republican field is likely to roll over just as easily as the Frenchman's early opponents, he'll face his Wellington eventually.

Trump still has his strengths. His refusal to apologize when faced by Mr. Bush's incoherent and garbled request took more guts than any candidate other than Ms. Fiorina likely has, and was done deftly and respectfully, neutralizing Bush without giving him any aggression to feed on. Trump is still impervious to a direct assault, being able to bullshit without the slightest hint of shame, assuring you that whatever that thing is you just mentioned he'll be the best at it. 

Trump's confidence and game are still without peer, but he needs to bring more. The Democrats are a lot better at fighting than his primary opponents, and they have significant allies that the GOP establishment does not. If Trump doesn't start disciplining himself now, he will be drawn out into the open and destroyed. The left doesn't need to take away all his support, which would likely be impossible, but just carve off enough from the sides, playing upon the cuckservatives desire for respectability, and making Trump every bit the albatross to them as Sarah Palin became. Then, like King Ottokar at the Marchfeld, he will be isolated and destroyed, and with him the hopes of a nation.

Nobody cares about what you did in Ohio. While your experience does lend credibility to your campaign, it can't be the only thing you rely on. You're in the big leagues now. Everybody on that stage was a governor, or a senator, or did something to show their competence and ability to get things done. Making your entire answer to any question posed you a lecture on Ohio legislative history is like showing up in college wearing your high school letterman's jacket.

Governor Kasich shouldn't hide his experience, but he needs to actually apply it to the situation at hand. Example: "I dealt with a similar issue in Ohio. We had X problem. I got the support of A,B,&C, and we did Y, with Z results. For national problem R, I would talk to H,I,&J and do S, with likely result T." This wouldn't keep him from being overshadowed by the more rhetorical speakers, but at least his dialectic would be effective for once.

10) Paul
Paul, aside from a few flickers of understanding from Trump, is the only candidate with a sane foreign policy. This, sadly, is the only thing he has going for him at this point. He has drawn aggro from Trump, and as unwise as it is for the mogul to attack the Senator, he seems hell-bent on doing it. And while Paul wants to fight back, his long-winded rejoinders aren't doing so effectively. His visible frustration merely marks him as the bullied pariah, and no matter how much distaste someone may have for the bully, nobody wants to stand up for that kid.

For Paul to have any shot at all, he needs to stop telegraphing low status with every move. Calm, collected, concise: these are alpha traits that the Senator lacks, and Trump wields against him with abandon. If nothing else, the attacks Paul has brought on himself will give him an intimate chance to learn from the master. Maybe he'll pcik up something for next election.

11) Walker
I can't remember a single thing he said all night. I don't think anyone else could either. When even Jeb has the guts to speak up, and you don't, you put yourself beyond all serious consideration. Try again next time.

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