Instead, we were treated to two hours of personal jabs, pokes, innuendo, and school yard taunts of "he said," "no I didn't," "yes you did, I heard you" with an occasional peek at "look at me, I'm sober, dedicated, prepared and ready to be in charge." The peek was brief though and I may have been mistaken, so don't quote me on that.
FIVE QUESTIONS AFTER A VULGAR REPUBLICAN DEBATE, by Frank Bruni
Does the size of Donald Trump's penis matter?If someone had asked you just a year ago if penis size would be a presidential election issue, would you have treated that question with any degree of seriousness?
I'm not being cheeky. I'm not being shocking. I'm noting something that we cannot lose track of, should not shrug our shoulders about and must not gloss over: Trump has succeeded at nothing as fully as he has at infusing the presidential race with a vulgarity that's absolutely breathtaking.
He has done so well at dragging his rivals so far down into the sewer with him that portions of what we watched on Thursday night were a fetid farce. We actually witnessed an interchange--in the first 10 minutes, no less--about how well endowed (or not) he is.
It's worth stopping for a second, letting that sink in and wondering what it says about our country and political process right now.
Here's how it happened: One of the moderators upbraided Marco Rubio (rightly) for abandoning incessant pledges of a positive campaign, answering Trump's schoolyard taunts with adolescent jokes and jabs of his own, and even going so far as to claim that Trump had wet his pants under pressure at a prior debate.
Trump butted in to take special issue with one of Rubio's digs.
"He hit my hands," Trump said, alluding to Rubio's assertion that they were small and correctly noting that Rubio had insinuated that "if they're small, something else must be small."
Trump lifted his chin. Puffed up his chest.
"I guarantee you there's no problem," he said. "I guarantee."Why does Mr. Combover have to repeat everything twice?
There is absolutely a problem... The problem is that Trump, Rubio, Ted Cruz and John Kasich were on the stage in Detroit to debate their qualifications for the most powerful job in the world, at the helm of its most important democracy, and Trump and Rubio weren't just hitting, but also dwelling, below the belt.
So, yes, the size of Trump's penis matters--or, rather, what matters is that it was an actual subject of discussion: that it reflected and set the tone of the encounter; and that this tone favors Trump, because it's where he lives, it's his kingdom, and if rivals join him there, they merely become his subjects.
Can Fox News be the host of every G.O.P. debate from now on?
Remember the first debate of this election cycle, when there were more than double this number of candidates and the night opened with Fox's moderators confronting all of them, one by one, with what were seen as their greatest vulnerabilities and flaws?
The moderators were similarly merciless on Thursday night, at least when it came to Trump, and Trump was the rightful focus--the whole show. They hounded him about his inconsistencies, his lies, his lack of specificity--all of it.
If substance can pull Trump's voters away from him, the moderators set that up to happen...
...Fittingly, he reached his nadir under interrogation from Megyn Kelly, his nemesis from that first debate. The subject was fraud charges against Trump University, and every time he tried to portray them as baseless and the school and its students as the happiest place this side of Disneyland, Kelly pushed back. Confronted him with contrary evidence. Corrected his selective, self-serving version.
Her victory was clear when Trump pivoted from defending himself to pummeling Rubio, saying that if fraud was the topic, Rubio's poor record of attendance in the Senate should be examined...
Do Trump's voters really care how closely he hews to Republican and conservative orthodoxy?
Cruz and Rubio keep making this assumption. They made it anew on Thursday night...
...In the days leading up to the debate, a rapidly growing, increasingly prominent chorus of Republican standard bearers made that same he's-no-Republican argument, detailing the ways in which Trump betrays conservative principles...
...But here's the problem: Trump's voters aren't with him because he's the purest conservative. Trump is their protest vote...
...Republican leaders' failure to take down Trump isn't simply a function of hesitancy--it's not just about waiting too long. It's about their own lack of credibility and authority with the part of the electorate that's defying them.I have made this argument myself. Democratic voters may be sick and tired of Republican obstructionism and the right's seeming desire to return America to the 1950s; but Republican voters are angry for another reason entirely, and the GOP has no one to blame but itself. For eight years they have promised what they cannot deliver; and it has caught up with them.
Let's be honest, it's doubtful the majority of Trump followers can even spell orthodoxy let alone have any idea of what an orthodoxy is--Republican or otherwise.
Is it now officially three against one?
One of the most fascinating dynamics of the debate was the degree to which Cruz, Rubio and Kasich declined to go after one another, no longer angling to emerge as the single Trump alternative but working harder instead to erode Trump's support, no matter where that support went.I call this the Party Panic Factor.
Could some good yet come of Trump's place in the race?
...More emphatically and unequivocally than at any recent juncture that I can recall, Republican leaders and standard bearers are saying that their party has no tolerance for any racism, no room for any sexism, no forgiveness for bigotry...
...Disgust with Trump and a recognition of the damage that he could do have prompted many of the Republican Party's stewards to make unwavering statements and articulate principles that they'll be judged by--and maybe have to live up to--down the line.
Trump has reconnected them with their soul or rather, if you want to be a cynic, forced them to find one.
Maybe the detour down his pants will amount to something more and better, in the end, than phallic braggadocio.While I'd love to believe this to be true, I disagree with Mr. Bruni's assumption. Yes, Republicans--establishment and Tea Party alike--are trying to sound all warm and fuzzy, all soulful and willing to embrace the world's diverseness, but I don't expect that to last; in fact, it really is nothing but lies right now.
They may say they harbor no racist feelings--but then along comes that black man in the White House who thinks we should allow him to select a Supreme Court Justice. That kind of pushiness just cannot be tolerated.
They may say that sexism is anathema to their principles--but what about the uppity women who expect us to allow them to make their own healthcare decisions? The women of the 1950s were never like this, so the world will understand why we have step back a bit in order to remind them of their place.
They may say that bigotry will not be tolerated--but what about all those gay people? We can't be expected to like them too!
Watching their party come apart at the seams and being able to so easily identify the head seam-ripper may appear to be an opportunity for rebuilding their brand, but at this point, it's going to take more than a new needle and thread. No amount of fancy stitchery can turn rotten broadcloth into silk.
You can read Mr. Bruni's full article here.