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Debating the debates of the debaters

By Joey Kennedy
Alabama Political Reporter

OK. I’m probably biased. I come at this from the left. I’m giving that up at the outset.

But it’s like two different presidential elections out there. You have the Democrats, generally calm in their debates, constructive, mostly sane.

And you have the Republicans, about as whacky as grown people can be arguing with each other, and, of course, with the debate moderators. They’re like 13-year-olds.

“You did.”

“No, YOU did.”

“Did not.”

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“Did, too.”

“Mommy, Donald touched me.”

“Daddy, are we there yet?”

Sorry, there’s truth in all that. Don’t blame the question-askers. Blame the candidates. They want to be confrontational and belligerent. They think it plays well with their supporters. And maybe it does. Which says all sorts of sad things.

Facts have little purchase in the GOP debates. Candidates just shoot from the hip, and it doesn’t matter that they’re mostly firing blanks. Fact-checking a Republican debate these days is a full-time job — plus overtime.

I guess what I don’t understand is how voters let them get away with it.

In a sane world, there’s no way a Dr. Ben Carson or a Donald Trump should be leading the Republican race. They’re both parodies of themselves, and likely to embarrass themselves when they open their mouths. But they’ve shown themselves beyond embarrassment, and it’s the same with Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, and Ted Cruz. The main truth we’ve heard from Marco Rubio is he hates the Senate. So he wants to be president.

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The problem is, these fringers leading the Republican Party today are pulling the other, more reasonable candidates – Jeb Bush and John Kasich, for example – into crazy-land with them. It doesn’t take long, after they speak, to realize the butter has slipped off their biscuits. I don’t think there’s any butter in the bunch.

You’ve got South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham, who as a senator voted against federal relief for Superstorm Sandy, but is begging for the same relief for his home state after recent flooding.

Somebody the other day on Facebook pointed out that Bush’s slogan, Jeb Can Fix It, is actually referring to the 2000 election where his brother, George W. Bush, stole the election from then-Vice President Al Gore. And we know where Bush 2’s presidency led.

Seriously, I don’t know if a Republican can ever win the presidency again. These candidates certainly aren’t appealing to key groups, like African-Americans and immigrants and Hispanics and pro-choice women and the LGBTQ groups. That’s a lot of American votes to simply write off.

This year’s Republican crop seems more interested being more outlandish than the next guy.

Mexican immigrants are rapists and criminals, Trump says.

Carson is against abortion. Except when he isn’t. And he justifies his change on the issue to some convoluted reasoning about slavery and abolitionists. “I began to think if abolitionists a long time ago began to think that ‘I don’t believe in slavery, but anybody else can do it if they want to,’ where would we be today? So that changed my opinion of a lot of things,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

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Mike Huckabee, Christian that he is, doesn’t believe health insurance should have to cover pre-existing illnesses. Good thing Jesus didn’t look at it that way, or the leper never would have been healed.

Carly Fiorina, who should be protecting a woman’s right to choose, was flippant in the Des Moines Register earlier this year at the Iowa Freedom Summit. “Liberals believe that flies are worth protecting, but the life of an unborn child is not,” she said. I’d love to be a fly on the wall when she’s coming up with this crap. At least I’d be safe.

Ted Cruz is just, well, Ted Cruz. The senator from Texas hasn’t done anything but block stuff in the Senate. He’s against President Barack Obama on everything – EVERYTHING – and believes that’s his value. Except Republicans in general are against Obama on everything – EVERYTHING – so he doesn’t really stand out. He’s like a taller, louder Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama.

I have to admit, watching and reading about the Republican debates is fun. No telling what’s going to happen. There’s a whole lot of whining going on when the candidates are asked to answer substantive questions. Because they can’t. They all went to the Sarah Palin School of Government. Thank you, John McCain, for that.

There are still plenty more Republican debates. Eight or more, anyway.

So, really, the fun is just beginning.

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Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes this column every Wednesday for Alabama Political Reporter.
Email: [email protected].


Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column each week for the Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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