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GOP Debate: It Literally Does Not Matter What the Question Is

The candidates came to say things, and they'll be damned if they aren't going to say them.

Charles P. Pierce

 by Esquire

Holy mother of pearl, it's Larry Kudlow, anchoring a debate…on economics! This already is more fun than a person should have with their clothes on.

There never has been a debate in which the panel seemed less relevant, and this isn't the fault of the three people on it. The folks behind all the podiums came to the stage wanting to say things, and damned if they weren't going to say them. It started when John Kasich answered a question about his biggest weakness by pointing out what know-nothing schlubs Donald Trump and Ben Carson are. Sequiturs? Non!  It got worse. Trump bludgeoned Kasich in return about how much of Kasich's success as governor of Ohio was due to the fracking boom, and then mocked him for getting tough because he's polling so badly. Dr. Ben (The Blade) Carson spun his mathematical cotton candy into sweet swirls of complete non-fact. And Marco Rubio claimed that the bad press he's getting about missing votes—and, it must be said, for his going around talking about what a miserable job the Senate is—is a result of the gap between "the mainstream press" and conservative politicians. Jeb! Bush asked him "as a constituent" why he didn't walk away from the completely miserable existence forced upon him as a United States Senator. Rubio flashed back by reciting how many votes previous senators—​citing Bob Graham, John Kerry, and the president​—​missed while they were running. Of course, none of them complained about their day jobs and, by the time Kerry ran, he was a decorated war hero, and a veteran senator who had led hearings into international money laundering and the drug trade. Marco Rubio was…speaker of the Florida House. Where is Lloyd Bentsen when we all need him?

But the highlight of the first hour, and the most vivid example of what was going on, was when Ted Cruz was asked about the budget deal that was struck this week between the Congress and the White House, and he replied by ripping the moderators up one side and down the other. This was the Tailgunner in full cry, channeling the spirit of the original Tailgunner when he called the last Democratic debate, "the Bolsheviks vs. the Mensheviks." Are you now, or have you ever been…

This wasn't a lack of control. The format was fine.  But there's nothing you can do about someone like Ted Cruz, who isn't encumbered by either truth or civility. Even defending the other candidates, he doesn't care what damage he does, as long as he can stand atop the rubble. Come to think of it, that could be said of pretty much all of these people.​


© 2021 Esquire
Charles P. Pierce

Charles P. Pierce

Charles P. Pierce is a writer-at-large for Esquire and his work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the LA Times Magazine, the Nation, the Atlantic, Sports Illustrated and The Chicago Tribune, among others.

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