Live Blog: GOP Presidential Candidate Debate – The Rest of the Clowns

The 10 leading contenders for the Republican presidential nomination take the stage at 9 PM EDT for a two hour debate at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. It will air exclusively on the Fox News Channel. I doubt this event will have any effect on who the eventual nominee will be. Despite the cast of characters and their recent antics, it may well be incredibly boring but we’ll do our best to entertain. I just regret that we will no longer have Jon Stewart’s wit to help get through this cycle.

As hard as it may be for those of us in the reality based world to take any of these individuals seriously, we should, as author Larry Beinhart notes, we should “beware the clowns” because the more clownish and unrealistic they are about the issues, the more likely they are to sit in the Oval Office. Just look at the last 30 years.

In 1980 the very witty Gore Vidal said, “[Ronald] Reagan has no chance of being elected president. It is true that the United States is turning into Paraguay but not at that speed.”

Reagan was elected twice.

By 1988, it was time for a change. The stock market crashed in 1987, “Black Monday,” the largest one day decline, still, in Wall Street history. The savings and loan crisis, the biggest set of bank failures since the Great Depression, was underway. Reagan’s tax cuts were supposed to generate more government revenue, even with the lower rates. Instead, the deficit tripled.

Also, there was Iran-Contra.

Imagine if Barack Obama had been secretly selling missiles to Iran. The evidence against Reagan mounted until he had to go on television and say, “A few months ago, I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages. My heart and my best intentions still tell me that’s true, but the facts and evidence tell me it is not.”

That’s astonishing. The president admitted not merely that he preferred to live in his imaginary world but also that he was capable of doing so.

The money from selling arms to Iran was used for another illegal purpose: funding right-wing paramilitaries in Nicaragua.

Pat Moynihan, the highly esteemed Democratic senator from New York, took a look at the contenders for the GOP nomination and said, “If we can’t beat these guys, we need to find another country.”

Yet the Republican, George H.W. Bush, won. [..]

After eight years of peace and prosperity, Clinton’s vice president, Al Gore, should have coasted to victory. Ronald Reagan’s son Ron Reagan summed up Gore’s opponent, George W. Bush, this way: “He’s probably the least qualified person ever to be nominated by a major party … What is his accomplishment? That he’s no longer an obnoxious drunk?”

Yet Bush won and then won re-election.

Whenever to GOP candidate was sane, sober and respectable like Bob Dole, John McCain and Mitt Romney the Republican base loses interest and the presidency goes to the Democrats. The proof of Mr. Beinharts’ theory is George H. W. Bush:

George H.W. Bush is the proof of the pudding, because he ran as two different characters. In order to win the nomination in1988, he had to prove that he wasn’t a “wimp.” He did so by walking out of a TV interview. This may seem a strange way for a guy who won the Distinguished Flying Cross and flew 58 combat missions in World War II to prove his manhood to the electorate, but it is credited with having done the trick. To win the election, he attacked the Democrat as being soft on crime, specifically black criminals, and it carried him to victory.

As president, George H.W. Bush proved remarkably sane and sensible. He made sure his Gulf War was legal. He managed to have Arab states align against another Arab state to get the Israelis to keep their mouths shut, to stop when Iraq was kicked out of Kuwait and, to top it all off, got other countries to pay for it. The economic policies he inherited from Reagan continued to increase the deficit and had driven the country into a recession, so Bush raised taxes. At which point the economy reversed direction.

That lost the support of his base and, as a consequence, cost him re-election.

Why does this happen? It makes no sense. Mr. Beinhart’s conclusion:

We get a hint from Reagan’s Iran-Contra confession. True Republicans – not RINOs but the base, the enthusiasts, the foot soldiers – can be truly enthused only by reality deniers. When they get even a whiff that their guy recognizes facts and might act on them (such as that tax cuts don’t work, that torture doesn’t work, that compromise is necessary, that government has useful functions, that contraception prevents abortion, that climate change is scientific fact), they lose their enthusiasm. Then their candidate loses.

The next question is: who in that car is respectable and sane? Bet your popcorn futures the show continues for the next fifteen months.

For your amusement, below the fold we have Esquire‘s Charles Pierce’s questions for the candidates and Matt Taibbi’s drinking game. Please drink responsibly.

One Question for Each Republican Candidate in Tomorrow’s Debate

Charles Pierce, Esquire Politics

Jeb (!) Bush: In 2003, you intervened in a private family matter in contravention of a state law that had been enacted several years earlier. How many life-and-death decisions are you preparing to make for individual American families after you are president?”

Scott Walker: Why do so many of the people who work for your campaigns wind up in jail?

Chris Christie: Do you still believe that so many people in New Jersey won’t vote for you for president because they want you to remain governor? If so, have you sought professional help?

Marco Rubio: Whatever happened to that immigration-reform bill of yours? Is it buried in the backyard, under a rake?

Mike Huckabee: Please explain, in detail, how an arms deal with Iran is similar to the doors of a crematorium?

John Kasich: Please explain, in detail, how a Balanced Budget Amendment would have allowed the United States to win World War II. Please show your work.

Ben Carson: Please explain, in detail, how is the Affordable Care Act like slavery-specifically, illustrate the similarities between the Middle Passage and a Bronze-level plan.

Rand Paul: How long have you been afflicted with invisibility and is it a chronic condition?

Ted Cruz: What if I want sausages with my waffles instead?

Donald Trump: Dude, seriously?

The Official GOP Debate Drinking Game Rulesn

Matt Taibbi, RollingStone

Drive responsibly, ‘Murica


1. Donald Trump mentions his wealth, or how smart he is.

2. A candidate mentions Benghazi

3. A candidate says, “This president…”

4. A candidate whines about not getting called on enough.

5. Someone promises to “take America back.”

6. Trump interrupts someone by saying, “Excuse me, let me answer that…”

7. Anyone mentions Hitler, Nazis or Neville Chamberlain. Includes related imagery, e.g. “ovens.”

8. The crowd cheers a racist/bigoted statement by a candidate.

9. A candidate mentions his poor/hardscrabble upbringing, or a parent who “worked every day of his life.”

10. A candidate talks about “stopping Hillary Clinton.”

11. Anyone warns the U.S. is becoming Greece.

12. Trump refers to himself in the third person.

13. Anyone invokes St. Ronald Reagan.

Drink EVERY time a candidate:

14. Claims a positive relationship with a minority. Also known as the, “Some of my best friends are…” rule.

15. Tries to speak Spanish

16. Tries to warm up to the Ohio crowd with an awkward LeBron shout-out.

Drink EVERY TIME you hear the word(s):

17. “I’m not a scientist.”

18. “You can keep your doctor.”

19. “ACORN.”

20. “The war on Christians.”

21. “Thug.”

22. “Right here in Ohio.”

23. “Culture of dependency.”


24. “Kenya.”

25. “All Lives Matter.”

Let the games begin!


Skip to comment form

  1. TMC

    The Chris Matthews analysis panel is all right wingers hawking for a war with Iran and women’s health.

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  4. BobbyK

    I may need an air sickness bag.

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  71. BobbyK

    I’d say tonight’s winners are huckleberry, crusty, that white guy, and the other white guy, that teenager, and the cruise liner. Losers are bush, Ron Paul’s kid, Carson. Unknown, trump.

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