In America, politics are a lot like organized sports: Formerly integral pillars of civilization that are somehow becoming less and less relevant as they become more and more profitable. As time goes on, it will become increasingly obvious that the circus of modern politics is little more than it’s own media market, fundamentally no different than a club music sub-genre or a fandom for some really creepy anime.
Oh, to be sure, political geeks will claim with breathless exasperation that the party they support or the candidate they follow MATTER, and that politics are more important than everyone else’s frivolous obsessions with reality television and sports franchises. It must be nice to believe in something.
The truth is that politicians serve to do little but continue campaigning in office, attempting to perpetuate the myth that they really fucking matter. On occasion, they might vote bills into laws that could MAYBE affect your life. Since those bills are generally written by corporate lawyers and rarely read by the people you voted for, politicians have as much influence over the future of our country as Stan Lee does over the future of Marvel.
The President? Well, he can do a lot. A lot for major donors. A lot of favors for whichever Congressperson tickled his balls right that day. Thing is, he also has to deal with Congress as a whole on a regular basis. So he might have a little more control, but not much.
Some big-assed corporation or another purchased most of your favorite politicians a long time ago. Yes, yours. At best, they’re glorified middle management masquerading as the people in charge. You want a vote that matters? Vote local. Some of those folk are still too small to be worth buying. At the very least, people who decide where the traffic lights go have a greater chance of doing something that, you know, immediately affects you.
That being said, my love of this increasingly insane pageant called American politics has hardly diminished. You see, I didn’t grow up in a sports family. We weren’t fanatic about any particular sport, per se, and I never had a team loyalty as a part of my youth. My father was a news father. He loved nothing better than complaining about the news. He still doesn’t, which is a little weird since custom news is actually being made for him.
The result of this background is that I still find a gleeful sort of enjoyment in campaign season. It’s become like professional wrestling, but between assholes and morons. The quality of candidates is just enough on the huckster side to make things interesting, but not so much that the whole affair goes from whimsical to pathetic.
So with that in mind, I’d like to present these following impressions from the two-tiered GOP debate that aired last night. Hosted by that fine bastion of journalistic integrity, Fox News, the event in Cleveland featured the seventeen (?!) current Republican candidates for President.
Of the United States.
I felt the need to point that out, because it was difficult to remember at several points during the evening.
In any case, the event was broken down into a prime-time showcase for the current top ten polling candidates, with a bush league pre-game show for the remaining seven airing a few hours earlier. I endured both of them (beer helped) and have organized my initial impression of these would-be Commanders in Chief for your perusal. Never let it be said I don’t suffer for my art. We’ll start with the minor league contenders, then move on to the big show:
Part One: The Undercard
Seeing this guy in a lower polling bracket is something of a surprise for anyone who remembers this magazine cover:
These days, it seems at first that the former Texas Governor is going for more of a folksy intellectual vibe, which I can’t help but respect, since it’s how I usually get laid.
But beneath his humble $500 Jean Lafont glasses lies a traditional Texas firebrand, the standard primary archetype, eager to flex his conservative credentials to whoever the hell was watching debate coverage at 5pm EST on a Thursday (me and senior citizens, in other words).
His strategy appeared to consist primarily of two attacks. First was the scripted tough-guy line that got him so much traction some months back, an anecdote he related multiple times, because why waste a shitty one-liner you paid some speechwriter good money for?
The second strategy seemed to be repeated assurances that even though he dropped out of the Presidential race four years ago, ostensibly for being “not ready”, that he was for-sure ready this time. Pinky swear.
Beyond that, he seemed to have a remarkably detailed vision of a sci-fi future-fence and defensive grid on the Mexican border. He went into it with a lengthy description of the aircraft and technical specifications required, and thereafter appeared to become sexually aroused whenever he mentioned the subject again. I think the man has a strange fetish for border security, and I mean that in every sense of the word.
At one point, he waved his hand in a manor that made me feel he MIGHT start speaking in tongues. Part of me hoped Martha MacCallum had been properly instructed to drape snakes around his shoulders.
Anyway, it was pretty much what you would expect if you know anything about this sad sack of impotent confusion. I’ll give him props for what had to be the most hypocritical moment of the entire night, which I assure you was no mean feat:
While defending his unsurprising opposition to illegal immigration, he made an argument based on the startling revelation that we were a nation of laws, and only made great by being equally protected under those laws.
Since this is a guy who’s spent so much of his political career opposing equal protection under a law called “marriage” for a segment of the population called “gay people”, we’re talking about some grade-A premium vintage political bullshit.
He should honestly be proud of the moment, because this weasel-faced jackhole sure as shit isn’t going to come in first in any other contest in the next fifteen months or so.
Bobby Jindal is the acting governor of Louisiana, whatever the fuck that means.
He’s a dark-skinned dude who seems like a nice enough guy, but for whatever reason has a tendency to appear about ten shades lighter whenever he has his portrait painted.
Despite this weirdly specific similarity to Jesus, the Republicans don’t seem to like him much. Probably knowing this, he took extra effort to sound about three-steps to the right of Attila the Hun, with a special emphasis placed on decrying Islamic terrorism so as to make clear up front he’s not an Arab.
He would have probably been better served by wearing a shirt that said something like “I SWEAR I’m not a Muslim” and otherwise shutting up. Because we all know what a disaster it is when Bobby Jindal opens his mouth:
Lindsey Graham, who literally speaks like a Gone With The Wind cast member, clearly came here with a mission. A likely issue candidate, he seems to be exerting all his efforts into promoting a full-blown war hawk stance on foreign policy before he inevitably drops out of the race. During the debate, he was the first to truly attack Hillary Clinton, for being too soft on… ISIS? Libyans? Syrians? I think everybody.
He also couldn’t talk enough about putting American troops back in Iraq, and impressively managed to turn a climate change question into an outline of his next Middle East war strategy. Let me sum it up for you: Invade everyone again because fuck everything.
I’ll give him this: despite a complete lack of “I do declare”s in the mix, you can’t help but enjoy listening to the man, because his voice is so ungodly soothing. He sounds like the effeminate offspring of Foghorn Leghorn and Mr. Rogers. It’s actually quite nice.
Holy SHIT woman! Where did this razor sharp political animal come from? What hell-spawned flame tempered the blade of her debating skills? How much hyperbole will Fox News pile on her performance before the next debate?
By now you’ve likely heard of Carly’s break-out performance during the low-tier debate. I mean, you’d have to, because me and like four other people saw it live probably.
And it’s true, she danced circles around the rest of these guys. Hailing from the corporate world, she’s clearly learned somewhere along the way how to get shit done in a male-dominated boardroom.
By the end of it, Rick Perry was giving her props himself, apparently temporarily forgetting they were supposed to be working against each other.
All in all, she made for a refreshing dose of something close to sanity. Her positions were well articulated, her expertise was clearly unquestionable, and she showed tremendous leadership potential with nothing more than the way she took charge of the conversation. Her presence in the race going forward will likely be enlightening and engaging.
Unfortunately, she has a vagina, and this is the GOP. So don’t get used to it.
The former governor of New York, Pataki seemed to spend most of the debate distancing himself from his relatively moderate political record. When it became clear that no one was either buying that OR giving a shit, he tried reminding us that he was governor during 9/11 and was willing to wiretap mosques with the best of them. Apparently someone forgot to remind him that Rudy Giuliani sailed that boat into the rocks some years ago.
If this debate had been an elementary school competition, Pataki would be the kid going home with a “participation certificate” and a disappointed look in his parent’s eyes.
I had no idea who the hell this guy was before the debate, neither did anyone else, and I’m pretty sure he knew that. Most of his efforts seemed to involve giving his (admittedly impressive) resume to the audience, which would have been way more interesting if it hadn’t been delivered with all the passion of a Vulcan accountant.
Honestly? I can’t even remember what the fuck he looked like.
One thing I do remember, and maybe the reason he was so forgettable, is that he was a counter-intelligence agent in Europe during the Cold War. That’s pretty badass, but it’s not like he can tell stories from those days on the campaign trail.
My suggestion then would be to maybe arrange a few accidents and/or anonymous blackmail photos for some of the front-runners if he wants to have a chance at this.
Part 2: The Main Event
Coming into the debate with an obvious home-court advantage, the sitting governor of Ohio pulled off some very impressive, if unsurprising, tricks last night. He was the first person I noticed who used the expected “I’m against gay marriage, but I respect the Supreme Court’s decision” tactic. Look for this to be the likely go-to for Republicans who want to dodge that issue this election cycle.
What was more surprising was the way he logic-strafed his way to defend his taking of federal money for Medicaid. He might have been the only person last night who managed to a make rational argument successfully to the average dimwit. I agree it’s sad that such a thing qualifies as “impressive”, but here we are anyway.
Chris Christie is the huggable governor of New Jersey who bears such a strong resemblance to Tony’s brother-in-law from the “The Sopranos” that you probably haven’t noticed that’s actually who’s in the picture above.
Up till now, Christie’s campaign has been primarily defined by his insistence that he’ll use his powers as President to stomp out marijuana in Colorado, etc. Go states rights!
Other than that, you might best remember him for his recent “rhythm method” moment at a campaign stop:
If you haven’t seen that before, you’re welcome.
Anyway, Christie’s performance in the debate was relatively lukewarm until he got into a spirited shouting match with Rand Paul over the NSA. It was a legitimate exchange which touched on an important division within the Republican party concerning privacy versus security.
Unfortunately, it quickly devolved into a kindergarten-grade shouting match between “I saw you hug Obama” and “I helped after 9/11, shut up”.
Ben Carson is a former Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon, so he has a background solving highly complex problems using the scientific method and a specialized skill set. What the blue fuck he’s doing onstage with these guys is anyone’s guess.
His quip that he “wasn’t sure [he] was going to get to talk again” told me he might be wondering the same thing. At the very least, I can assume a surgeon would have the nerves of steel a successful Presidency requires.
Despite the fact that Ted Cruz has a propensity for saying the most bafflingly disconnected shit this side of an Alex Jones broadcast, I found him quite boring last night.
Honestly, with that serial-killer looking face of his, it’s difficult to listen to him speak live without wondering what kind of lotion he would prefer you put in the basket.
He looks like the guy in high school you always “forgot” to invite to the party. You know, the party that literally everyone else was going to, but he somehow managed to show up anyway. I get the feeling the rest of the candidates feel a similar way about him.
Huckabee has always been hilariously uncomfortable to watch, and I was expecting some Chuck Norris-level antics out of him. Maybe I was grading my expectations too high, but he seemed a little tired, relegating his usual insanity to some half-hearted griping about the military deciding to be more progressive toward potential transgender recruits than he would prefer.
In his view, the military exists purely for “breaking things and killing people” and not for “social experiments”. I suppose he skipped the part in his history book where the American military desegregated a decade before the South did, but is that surprising? Not fucking really.
It was kinda funny when he said pimps and prostitutes could help save the tax system, though. At least, that’s what it sounded like to me, but who the fuck can tell with this guy anymore?
Look, I’m glad the chairman of the Young Republicans got to come onstage last night, but someone has told him that he’s not REALLY running for President, right?
Scott Walker, the favored candidate of almost everyone with the last name “Koch” showed up at the debate last night. He talked about some things, and used a lot of words. He certainly delivered his answers, and responded when he was asked things.
A few times, I felt the need to check my pulse while he was speaking to make sure I was, in fact, still fucking conscious.
Hailing from a little-known family of minor politicians, Jeb seemed to spend most of his time last night distancing himself from Bushes past. You’d think he was the son of a one-termer and the brother of the most reviled President in modern history or something. At one point, he actually said “I am my own man”, which is a phrase I didn’t know anyone used outside a coming-of-age movie.
Typically, when you’ve got most of the financial backers and the highest poll numbers, it’s a good idea to keep your energy up during debates. Jeb was “okay”, which is likely problematic. Being “okay” when your job is to be “the best option” doesn’t really get the job done. Come to think of it, that pretty much sums up his brother’s Presidency, too.
Sweet mother of liberty, here comes the rugged individualist to save us all. This fucker came out swinging, taking the fight to Trump in the first five minutes. Since Trump was the guy everyone was tuning in to see, that was actually a good strategy, and to Paul’s credit he kept the fire up throughout the debate, even saving a little for Chris Christie.
Rand Paul seems to be a lot like his father, if far more media-polished. He comes across as a reasonable guy with some sensible ideas, right up to the moment that the crazy comes out. Fortunately for him, he managed to avoid that last night, and will probably get a poll bump for his efforts.
Part of me would love to see a general election between him and Bernie Sanders, just so I could find out how much irrational hatred the internet could meme up and spew out in a single election year.
donald fucking trump
There is a small part of my mind that still can’t believe I’m typing this man’s name in an article about a Presidential debate. Growing up, Trump was a walking cartoon, a garish, joking epic composed of trophy wives, messy divorces, hostile takeovers, and probably cocaine because the 80’s.
He (and Geraldo, I guess) were everything that was wrong with America. If you’d asked me back in the day, I would’ve honestly expected Shock G to run for President AS Humpty Hump before I would’ve called this shit.
And yet…. fuck it. We let banks, corporations and the ultra-rich buy our legislative system. We allowed brand marketing to dominate our political discourse, and blindly accepted it when real journalism died to be replaced by that mockery of the Fourth Estate called cable news.
We’ve lived with, and been complacent in, a system of political cronyism that stretches back decades, all the while assuring ourselves that our own “team” is comprised of the un-corrupted, the good guys. That the REAL problem were those OTHER guys, and their back-door shenanigans.
And if we couldn’t get behind a particular franchise, we just started ignoring this bullshit altogether, and who could really blame us?
So why SHOULDN’T we get a media whore like Trump for a candidate?
So steeped are we in the lies, that when this blowhard fuck-face says flat-out he paid Hillary Clinton to show up at his wedding, we all act like we’re surprised. But we’re not surprised, not about THAT.
We’re surprised there’s someone up onstage ADMITTING to it, and strangely fascinated by the fact that he’s going to get voter support for his honesty. Forget that his honesty concerns his being a cynical fuck and a bankruptcy-court businessman. Forget that this entire campaign is bacially being undertaken so he can pimp the Trump brand name with free advertising from the news networks.
He’s telling the truth. THAT’S how starved we are for someone who says what he means. Even if what he says is narcissistic, disjointed, and occasionally racist as fuck, Donald Trump is giving us, at the very least, the illusion of pure unfiltered honesty.
And we’re lapping that shit up like it’s the last water at the oasis.
So congratulations, country. Donald Trump is the candidate America deserves. And we got him.