Thursday night’s Republican presidential debate in Texas would dismay almost anyone interested in debates or politics. Insults flew. Boasts filled the air. Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio postured about which could be meaner toward “illegals” (undocumented workers). There was more talk of border walls, of higher defense spending, of cutting taxes, of eliminating Obamacare, of reanimating Antonin Scalia and restoring him to the Supreme Court (think of Stephen King’s “Pet Sematary” but retitled as “SCOTUS Sematary”) — OK, that last one I made up, but if they could, they would.
I took a high school course on “debate and discussion,” and later as a professor I graded my students on debates. Remember rules like staying on subject? On following the rules? On keeping to the time allotted, on being civil to your opponent, on sticking to facts, on relying on evidence? If you don’t recall those criteria, join the club of Trump, Cruz, and Rubio.
Almost any objective observer of the debate would score a win for John Kasich, the governor of Ohio. He was clear, passionate, and stuck mainly to the subject. He stressed his executive and governmental experience, spoke in complete sentences, and avoided insults and sound bites. I don’t agree with much of what Kasich advocates, but he has the temperament and qualifications to make him a sound choice for the presidency.
Trump, of course, plays up his business acumen as preparing him for the presidency, and his argument against bickering politicians like Cruz and Rubio is compelling. But let’s face it: watch the debates for just a few minutes and you realize Trump is a bully whose main attribute is bombastic self-confidence. By temperament he is unsuited to be president. The grim reality is that Republicans appear to have no answer to him.
This is partly because the debates are about issues only in passing. They’re mainly about show, and “The Donald” knows how to put on a show. As Cruz and Rubio split the vote, and Kasich and Carson slowly fade, Trump tightens his grip on the delegate total needed to grab the Republican nomination.
The amazing thing is this: It’s now quite conceivable that come January 2017, we will see Donald Trump inaugurated as president.