Did you, a few nights ago, catch the televised beauty contest – I can’t call it a debate – of the Republican Party candidates? And if you did, were you a just a little bit frightened by what you saw and heard?
I watched and listened and I was very frightened.
From the mouths of this band of seventeen potential residents of the White House – ageing and world-weary right-wing gadflies and buffoonish pretenders alike – nothing intellectually challenging emerged. Not even remotely. What they delivered instead were sound-bites of bile, resentment, often accompanied by waspish personal jibes about irrelevancies, such as whether President Obama is a Christian. There wasn’t a centrist in sight. Almost to a man (there was one woman) the party line being spouted was that of the Tea Party.
Or, let me put it another way, the Republican Fright.
I’ve already expressed my opinion of Donald Trump, still evidently the front-runner in this field. Suffice it to say that his bleak contribution to the proceedings only served to confirm my worst fears. In responding to a comment by a female moderator that he has been known to say insulting things about women, Trump harrumphed that America’s problem was that the country had become too politically correct.
That much may be arguable, of course, and has been argued, but coming from Trump, and in the context in which the question had been asked, his response was, depending on your point of view, merely impolite or brazenly degrading.
The man cuts an absurd figure, in appearance and in speech, and either doesn’t realize it or doesn’t care who knows it. Either way, it’s bad. Bad for the Republican Party and its election prospects, and even worse, I’d say, for America and its sense of self-worth.
Of course it’s easy to pick on Trump, and pointless, as he revels in hogging headlines, regardless of how big a fool he presents in the process. However, the other sixteen candidates, if obviously less asinine, were none too impressive either.
If Jeb Bush is of presidential timbre, then I ought to run for the office myself (except that I’m disqualified, as Trump claims the sitting president is, by having been born abroad). Jeb may be twice the man his brother George is, but that’s not saying a great deal. Talking about doubling the growth of the United States economy, as if it were a balloon that just needed a bit more puff to be inflated, he looked not so much determined as lost, sounded not so much erudite as confused.
But then, they all did. Rand Paul went further by looking slightly demented. Speaking of balloons, Chris Christie, bulky and jowly, sweating profusely, looked as if he might explode at any moment. Scott Walker seemed to think that being a Christian was not just the main qualification for becoming president but the only one.
There’s no point in going on because they are a hopeless bunch. Marco Rubio came across at least as literate. Carly Fiorina, the only lady present (in the warm-up debate, involving the also-rans), a former chief executive of Hewlett Packard, was likewise articulate but seemed curiously intemperate in her remarks on Middle East issues.
I doubt that either of them will last long, as the great swathe of Republican malcontents out in the American heartland seem to find inarticulacy and bombast attractive attributes rather than disqualifications.
All in all, then, a dispiriting viewing experience. Because, if there is any chance that the future of the United States will end up in the hands of any of these candidates, I can only fear for that future.