Friday, August 7, 2015

Not my take on the GOP "debate:

Anson Mount is the star of one of my favorite shows "Hell On Wheels".  He is an awesome human being and a very good actor.

On facebook he gave his opinion on the debate and while he seems to lean left he has the ability to look at all sides.  I read his post and agreed so much I'm reprinting it here. 

Personally I think Marco Rubio was the winner and I said years ago when I saw him give a speech he was someone we would see again. Walker was like a default generic fill in candidate.
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First of all, let's give credit where credit is due (and this is the last thing I ever thought I would be leading with): hats off to FoxNews and the moderators. This was no softball game. The questions came fast, they came hard, and they skewered. If anything can be taken from this debate, it has more to do with broader Republican sensibilities at this moment than it does with any particular candidate's platform; namely, the establishment is eager to separate the wheat from the chafe.
So let's start where this desired landed most squarely: Trump. Make no mistake about it. Trump's first step onto the stage was a trap door. Asking who was not willing to support another GOP candidate was tailor-made to single out the man who (perhaps stupidly) already signaled his intentions to consider independence.
But Trump's difficult evening is not, even remotely, the fault of it's host. If it was not brilliantly clear before, now there is no mistaking that he lacks experienced, if not effective, if not EXISTENT, consultation. Despite the prior opinions of most,Trump had an opportunity here to solidify his lead in the polls by further distancing himself from the pack. Case in point, both of the first two questions directed specifically at him had to do with previous slights he had made to women and to Hispanics. While the cultural significance of the resultant uproar (of Trump's previous statements) cannot be denied, he could easily have used the moment to point out the absurdity of being asked about hurting people's feelings instead of policy at a time when everyone on the stage (not to mention the moderators' booth) agrees is a dire one for America. And instead of doubling down (the classic Trump intransigence) on his opinion that all politicians are charlatans who have created and maintained their rather lucrative profession out of whole cloth, he seems to have heeded the calls for "decency" from the GOP establishment, his primary enemy in this realm if there ever was one. In short, Trump was out politicked by (surprise, surprise) the politicians.
Perhaps the only true moment of debate happened between Chris Christie and Rand Paul, two fringe candidates who are clearly vying for the same libertarian/centrist pedestal (if there is one to be had). The result? While, for a moment, it looked like mutual assassination, it succeeded in re-branding both of them tough firebrands, and it was a moment important to both campaigns which have struggled to be heard (Christie's camp clearly spending a significant amount of money for ad space during the debate itself).
The biggest failure (besides Trump) was undoubtedly Bush. While he took no major bumps, a man who enters the debate this far ahead of the others - in terms of fundraising and raw political connection - cannot merely swim with the Sharks. He must feed or he must rise above the fray. Bush clearly lost stature in what I can only assume was an attempt to appear statesmanlike and measured, re-reminding us of his accomplishments in Florida ad nauseam; a mistake that belies the consultation to which he must have privilege. I am literally scratching my head at this performance.
The candidate who appears as though he had the best advisors, the best media training, and the best overall preparation was, without a doubt, Marco Rubio. Here is where the (thus far) under-the-radar campaign approach makes tremendous sense. This is the candidate no one prepared for. This is the candidate who dressed as the tortoise knowing he was a hare. The momentum he will take from this debate's expected shake-up far exceeds any he could have gleaned had he placed a stronger foothold earlier. This is a campaign that has intelligent leadership and understands the importance of letting a candidate be "discovered". Further, Rubio side-stepped any and every invitation to attack his fellow Republicans. Instead, he deftly drove the subject straight to the 500 pound gorilla in the stadium: Hillary. And he took these opportunities to explain to us how he would be the best candidate to face her down.
But after having watched the post debate coverage on FOX, it became clear to me that, for all the political analysis I can bring to bear, nothing accounts for the vagaries of modern populism which can now operate on the order of the second (or the tweet). It is clear that the two big surprises of the night (at least to the Republican base which was selected and polled by the host network) were Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz. It's clear that both whipped out some well written sound bites. And both handled them with the poise and timing of experienced debaters. They will certainly show gains in the polls, but I doubt that either of these bumps will prove solidifying, because neither of them really got into the fray or stepped clear of their rehearsal. Huckabee, however, raised eyebrows by successfully eschewing his regular position as the "Mister Rogers" of the GOP (a stance that worked well for him in the war-laden past but does not serve him at all in the current field) by landing the hawkish statement that our military is for "killing people and breaking things". While unpalatable to some, by risking an alienation of the center, Huckabee played a card that is likely to get him into the game.
Cruise shared a similar quality with Scott Walker: both appeared as if they were already being portrayed by members of the SNL cast. While such easily mimicked postures of the overly groomed have never seemed to hurt GOP candidates in the past, it certainly didn't help to set them apart from such a revelation as Rubio, or from the clear belle of the ball (until she drank the spiked punch and fell into the band's drum kit) Trump.
Another standout (according to post debate polls) was Ben Carson. But I predict this will be short lived, particularly given the fact that he seems to think that reminding us of his big brain is a policy platform (not to mention his rocket science tax plan that seems to consist - at least according to his statements tonight - of nothing but a flat rate). Ben Carson is interesting and I'm glad he's in the race. But his lack of experience is blaring and, for this reason, I think he will be one of the first of the major ten to fall by the wayside.
Much like Bush, Walker is going to have to find a message beyond his Hulk-a-Mania declaration that he took on the Wisconsin unions and won. Backward glancing is fine to a degree, but placing this much emphasis on your own record can quickly become an anchor. As a good friend noted, the man we elect President will always be an optimist. Optimism requires a greater emphasis on the future than on the past, no matter how studly you think yours might be.
And then we have John Kasich, the local crowd favorite who barely squeaked into the top 10, who set himself apart of the pack by proving that he is the best Democrat in the 2016 field of Republicans. Like Carson, I am also interested in the diversity of thought that Kasich brings to the race. But this campaign, too, will be short lived.
But if there was one BIG winner of the night, it was undoubtedly Carly Fiorina. Much was made of FOX's decision making process when it came to determining who got into the prime-time debate and who did not. In a recent NPR interview, Fiorina was asked if she was upset with FOX over this process and the fact that she was not likely to make the cut. She deftly answered that she would not presume to tell FOX how to run their business and that she would (essentially) make lemonade out of lemons. And what a batch of lemonade she made. When I last checked, Fiorina was controlling 83% of the post poll votes from a field of SEVEN. This is unheard of and will clearly put her on the stage in California. Not only that, but she will be coming in with the head of steam afforded someone who has already set themselves apart when, perhaps, they had been underestimated. She also holds the Trump-like maverick-ness of someone who has never sought office but wants to change things from the outside, an attractive option for a party currently struggling for identity. My prediction? Watch for Fiorina to come out on the Reagan Library stage looking to dismantle Rubio, or Huckabee or Cruz. None of them is likely to rankle their slowly growing margins by picking a fight, but she has to if she wants to remain viable and moving in the right direction. My gut is that she'll go for the easiest target: Cruz.
Then again, it might make more sense for her to go ahead and further set herself apart by further attacking the establishment that is, by proxy, Bush; and, thereby, hopefully knock off a potential threat at the same time.
Anyway. That's my take. What do y'all think? And be civil please. I'm not looking to host a debate on social justice, just a sounding board for other politicos.