Ten Angry Men
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Ten Angry Men

Recapping the first Republican debate.

Ten Angry Men

It began as most predicted it would – with Donald Trump doing something to tick off just about everyone in the room. In this case, it was being the only one of ten candidates on stage to refuse to pledge that he would support the eventual Republican nominee and wouldn’t consider a third-party run. The crowd’s boos were greeted with an exaggerated shrug and Trump’s assurances to an almost pleading moderator that he fully understood what he was saying. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, eager to reclaim his status as outspoken person to the principle, was quick to attack Trump – claiming that the real-estate mogul was “hedging his bet” and accusing him of opportunism. The next question was directed at former Florida Governor Jeb Bush regarding whether…

You know what? I could give a play-by-play breakdown of the debate. But I’m only a third of the way down my first page of notes, and it’s already exhausting. Truth be told, the first primetime debate of the 2016 cycle was long on preening and short on policy. Of the two-hour circus act, there were perhaps a handful of notable moments and characters.

Has Trump Finally Gone Too Far? (Answer: Yes, but it probably won’t stop him.)

Alright, let’s rip this Band-Aid off now so I don’t have to write about this guy any more than I have to. One of the debates fieriest moments came from a back-and-forth between moderator Megyn Kelly and the real-estate mogul. Kelly questioned several of Trump’s past statements and social-media posts regarding women, bringing up the fact that he has called several women “fat pigs” or “disgusting animals.”

“Only Rosie O’Donnell!” was Trump’s brilliant defense. He got testier when Kelly brought up the fact that he once told a female contestant on his game show that she must make a pretty picture dropping to her knees. In response, Trump used his usual defense – that he is too busy for political correctness.

Political correctness? Look, I’ll be the first one to agree that we take worrying about offending people far too often, but there is a point where you’re just blatantly insulting people. Call me old fashioned, but I was raised to think that a real man shows respect to women. Where I come from, a guy doesn’t talk like that to a woman without expecting to get his jaw jacked. Maybe Trump’s father taught him different. Or maybe he’s just too self-absorbed to realize just how far away from rationality he’s gone. Either way, the optimist in me believes that people will soon see him for what he really is and his poll numbers will slip. Of course, with him leaving open the possibility of a third party run, I don’t think we’re going to be rid of Trump anytime soon.

Dr. Ben Carson Showed Why So Many Support Him

Famed neurosurgeon Ben Carson definitely seemed out of place on a stage dominated by political personalities. The accomplished doctor spoke fairly little that night, but when he did, he spoke well. From his self-deprecating one liner about the few questions directed at him to his eloquent speaking on racial tension, Carson acquitted himself admirably. It’s easy to see why he has acquired such a sizable following – his intellect is clear to anyone who listens. Unfortunately for the doctor, I personally doubt that he will be able to last past the first few primaries. While we can all appreciate someone untied to all the Washington power games, running for president does require significant political skill. When questions turned to more political matters, Carson did portray a somewhat shallow understanding of foreign and domestic policy. He certainly has some interesting ideas and bears listening to seriously, but Carson probably won’t have what it takes to secure the nomination in the end.

Governor John Kasich Emerges As Top-Tier

The Ohio governor entered the race late, and just barely managed to squeak into the top-ten polling required to be on the primetime stage. Many commentators expected him to give a lackluster performance and be inevitably relegated to an “also-ran.” Most people were counting him out before the race even truly got started.

You wouldn’t have known that watching John Kasich on stage. Clearly feeding off of the hometown energy in Cleveland, Kasich was able to establish himself as a distinct, moderate candidate. When questioned about his decision to expand Medicaid in Ohio, he gave a stirring defense. Arguing that our country – and the Republican Party in particular – too often forgets those unfortunate “people in the shadows” that are overlooked and left to languish in poverty; Kasich, a conservative to the bone, offered no apologies. He believes it is possible to keep government small while still offering a hand-up to those on the edges of society.

Kasich gave a similarly impressive reasoning when he was the only one on stage that agreed to not fight the Supreme Court’s recent same-sex marriage decision. When the moderators probed what he would do if one of his daughters came out as homosexual, the governor was not fazed.

“Look, I’m gonna love my daughters. I’m gonna love them no matter what they do. Because you know what? God gives me unconditional love, I’m gonna give it to my family and my friends and the people around me.”

This statement, while probably common sense to most people, is significant coming from a contender for the Republican nomination. Most of the time, Republicans attempt to run to the right at first – throwing red meat to the base voters that turn-out in disproportionate numbers during primary season – and are then forced to hedge and moderate in order to win swing-voters in the general. By sticking to his guns, Kasich defined himself as someone more concerned with principle than politics. I don’t know if he’ll have enough support to ultimately clinch the nomination, but Kasich isn’t letting himself be counted out just yet.

Rand Paul and Chris Christie Go at It

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie have some things in common. Both have been darlings of the right in their time, and both have seen their poll numbers drop off dramatically in recent weeks. That’s about where the similarities stop however. Christie’s background as a federal attorney involved in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks has made him a firm proponent of a strong national defense – including the NSA blanket collection of phone records. Paul, perhaps showing a bit of his father’s libertarian streak, has long fought against such controversial measures. When questioning turned to these issues, the two men threw decorum out the window and went for the other’s throat. Paul accused Christie of “fundamentally misunderstand[ing] the Bill of Rights” while Christie characterized Paul as dangerously soft on terrorism. The exchange went back and forth for some time before the moderators were able to reestablish normal proceedings.

Both of these men, as previously stated, are floundering in the polls. Both are desperate to reestablish themselves as contenders, and both seem to have reached the same conclusion – if they’re going to get their spot in the limelight back, they need to come out swinging. Whether or not it worked will be told by the polls in coming weeks. Personally, I wasn’t too impressed with either of them.

Throughout the remaining time of the debate, there were surely a couple bright spots – Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio’s civil disagreement over Common Core educational standards being perhaps the only hard policy debate of the night – but it was mostly just ten men trying to score a few more points with the crowd. Such is the nature of political debates, I suppose, but there will have to come a time when the candidates get down to the real nitty-gritty – the policies that will truly delineate them from each other. Only then will Republicans be able to make an educated choice about who is the best candidate to square off against the Democrats.

God, I hope that time comes soon.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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