GOP field clear about its slim range of topics

Watching the “debate” on Fox “news” felt like a reverse lobotomy: I may never be able to forget it. If buzzwords were ice cream, global warming would be solved. If gullibility were raindrops, my lawn would be green. Firearms were banned, though. Weird, huh?

First, a word of praise: the moderators asked good questions. Sadly, they didn’t push when the candidates ignored them, but credit for trying. On the other hand, they made the Fox “news” agenda very obvious. Not a word about climate change. No mention of the influence of big money on our political system, except when The Donald copped to buying politicians. On those issues, greater threats to our country than Iran or ISIS, silence. On its fiftieth anniversary, the gutted Voting Rights Act was unmentionable, but not the evil of women’s health care. For Ted Cruz, launching an investigation of Planned Parenthood is job two on day one. The economy, education, health care? Not on his inaugural to-do list, because falsehoods are the perfect distraction from what he really plans to do. “Selling body parts” has a good chance to be this year’s Lie of the Year, like “death panels” a while back (See Politifact at tinyurl.com/y94y8tu.) Those cynically edited videos show nothing of the sort and nothing illegal; but to get a vote, they’ll say anything. Mike Huckabee won’t be president; for him, it’s about selling books.

Poor paranoid Ben Carson (See Esquire at tinyurl.com/na94tbr) looked lost. With a goofy smile from a time warp, he name-dropped Saul Alinsky. Checking his tea party list, he called for increased military spending. And torture. His tax code will be the Bible, so save ye your bushels of wheat. According to polls he’s the favorite of people who consider abortion the biggest problem we face. I assume they’re fine with his published research using tissue from aborted fetuses. (See tinyurl.com/nhupm2q)

Rand Paul was petulant. Evidently he and Chris Christie really don’t like each other. Christie won the who-hugged-whom challenge; in the battleground of ideas, though, it’s a toss-down.

They all hated the possibility of avoiding war with Iran. Trump proclaimed we “got nothing” from the nuclear agreement. Scientists disagree (See the New York Times at tinyurl.com/o35lx4o), as do dozens of generals, admirals (See Washington Post at tinyurl.com/pjojto5) and Israeli security professionals (See tinyurl.com/pth8c6w). But those people are, you know, “knowledgeable.” So, no. Negotiating is weakness, the candidates droned, unanimously. It’s about our military, they tumesced. Respect for America only happens when we’re tough guys. The world admires our weapons, not diplomacy. Unlike them, I’ve been to war. To me the president’s recent words make more sense (See the video at tinyurl.com/px4km82).

Marco Rubio, pundits (but not polls) tell us, won. Must have been his lies about Dodd-Frank (See Washington Post at tinyurl.com/n9dmrzy), or disavowing his record on abortion exceptions (See International Business Times at tinyurl.com/pqpzyku). But he’s good-looking, and a smooth talker. Seriously. He is. Since there’s little difference among them, why not? Jeb looked worried, and still needs better coaching on Iraq.

On same-sex marriage, John Kasich was impressive. Afraid that he might have appealed only to the dozen or so remaining true conservatives, he was quick, a couple of days later, to refer to climate change as “an unproven theory.” Nice recovery, sir. That was close.

I’m no psephologist, but watching Trump I’m thinking we might be seeing performance art. Making not even a pretense of depth, maybe his aim is to show how easy it is to dupe voters with catch phrases alone, and how his voters prefer attitude over substance; that they, in fact, demand it (See Politico at tinyurl.com/o3obkwv). If it turns out that’s his game and people wise up and then he drops the mike, I’ll take back everything I’ve said about him.

These things were confirmed: a vote for any of them is a vote to ignore climate change, to allow more money from fewer people to run the country, to abandon our structural needs at home (other than a border wall), defund women’s health care and wipe out consumer and environmental protections. It’s to choose war with Iran, repeal the ACA with no replacement, and, yet again, to re-gift the oligarchy with the pre-failed economics of trickle-down. They may have fudged questions, but on that they were unambiguous. Then Megyn Kelly chose a viewer question: Which of them talks to God and what’s He had to say lately.

Email Sid Schwab at columnsid@gmail.com.

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