Second Debate, Initial Reaction

2016-debatesTonight, Donald Trump came to the second debate much more prepared than he did to the first one.  He was not on defense the entire night and learned the art of the pivot. The difference between his performance between the two debates was night and day.  Hillary on the other hand had little in the way of new material.  It was widely speculated that she used up most of her ammo during the first debate.  That speculation seems to have been proved correct. Most of her attacks were predictable and Trump was obviously ready for them.  The moderators played less of a role in this debate than in either the first or VP debate.  That’s probably for the best.  I’m predicting that Trump will be widely seen as the winner.



The “What if?” Debate

Just a short note on tonight’s VP debate…

If you’re like me, a political junkie, you’ll dutifully sit down and watch tonight’s VP debate.  Of course the fact that you’re a political junkie means that you already have enough information to have picked a candidate.  So why watch?  I’m looking at it like an episode of a sci-fi show that deals with alternate realities.  Physicists suggest that there is not a single reality, but many– where every possible scenario get plaid out.  Alternate timelines where the NAZI’s win the war, where the Federation is an evil empire and so on.  The alternate reality  sub-genera is one of the more intriguing, the where we get an answer to the question: “What if?”

What if?… Donald could actually stay on message and never put his foot in his mouth?

What if?…  Hillary were actually likable enough to the non-Democrat that people actually liked to hear her speak?

That’s something like the frame of mind I’ll be as I watch tonight’s VP debate.  If you ever wondered what their policies sounded like spoken by well, better candidates, then tonight should be a good chance to find that out.  In some alternate timeline, Tim Kaine and Mike Pence are at the top of their tickets.  (…and for some inexplicable reason, Clinton and Trump are their running-mates.) What would it be like then to hear the Clinton and Trump policy prescriptions coming from candidates without all the baggage?  We get to briefly examine this alternate reality tonight.  Tomorrow, it will be back to real reality, but tonight for about ninety minutes, we get to see some political sci-fi– at least that’s how I’m going to try to make it a little more interesting to watch.

The 2016 Presidential Debates Drinking Game

2016-debatesThe 2016 presidential debates promise to be something extra special.  The debates will be a battle royal between two heavy weights (metaphorically speaking)  for the political championship of the world. If you’ve paid any attention at all to the race so far, you may have heard some of the favorite words and phrases from each of the candidates. You may be sick of hearing them, so here’s a fun way to reward yourself for having to hear them again, and again, and again….

The rules are simple, every time during the debate one of the candidates says one of the designated words or phrases, you take a drink of your favorite adult beverage.  You must of course, be of legal drinking age to play, unless your favorite adult beverage is non-alcoholic, in that case…you’ll probably make yourself sick either way!

Take a sip anytime any candidate says one of the magic words or phrases:

  • Disqualified
  • Tremendous
  • Unqualified
  • Leading from behind
  • Fair share
  • Reckless
  • What have you got to lose?
  • Historic election
  • For all the people
  • Fat cats
  • Unhinged
  • Failed Policies

Expert level:

  • Drink every time any candidate breaks out into a coughing fit.  (one drink per instance)
  • Drink at any remark that gets booed. (counts for moderator remarks too)
  • Drink every time the moderator “fact checks” a statement by one of the candidates.

Think you can last all the way through?  You might want to have a good supply of chips and pretzels on hand. Enjoy!

Disclaimer:  No-one except you is responsible for any foolish thing you might do after playing this game, like: driving, drunk-texting your boss, or voting third-party. So there!

Dr. Carson and the Golden Rule of Debating

GOP DebatesDr. Carson had the funniest line in the Thursday night’s GOP debate.  After being largely ignored, and during a spirited exchange between his fellow candidates he begged, “Can somebody attack me please?” to an amused audience.  The levity provided a needed break from an otherwise intense debate.  His question also was symptomatic of a chronic problem of his, a lack of understanding of how presidential debates differ from the academic kind.  Academic debates are measured, well controlled affairs.  Presidential debates are media events. Even so, they have rules, some apparent and official, some less apparent and unofficial.  The same rules that work for Trump, Cruz, and Rubio work against the good doctor.

The debate rules are deceptively simple.  The candidates are asked a question, then have a certain length of time for their response.  Typically, if another candidate on the stage is mentioned in the answer, that person is allowed a response.  Naturally, a smart candidate loves it when one of his opponents mentions him or her because it gives them an additional opportunity to speak.  Ben Carson is no different, which explains his ironic protest at not being attacked.

Another irony is that the answer to Dr. Carson’s problem could be a basic Christian tenant, one that he knows well. He has yet to apply its application, albeit in a novel way perhaps, to his present situation.  That rule is:  “Do onto others as you would have done to you.”  It is understandably not an obvious connection for him to make, that for him to be attacked, and thus get an opportunity to respond, he must attack himself.  His attacks need not be gratuitous like Trump’s, or biting like Cruz’s but he does need to call out his opponents by name where he disagrees.  He can do it civilly or at least in a way that’s not off-putting, Rubio effectively walks that fine line using his sharp wit.  Fiorina did it by likening her opponent’s stance to one of Hillary’s or President Obama’s, then providing an alternative view.

Think of the premise of almost every question, the formula going something like this:  “Candidate X, candidate you said this about candidate Y last debate, do you stand by your remarks?”  Yes, it is often a transparent attempt to pit one candidate against another for the sake of drama.   It is a simple proposition—if you’re a candidate on the debate stage and want to speak, you want to be either candidate X or Y in that question. We are ten debates in, the eleventh is around the corner in Michigan.  Maybe he has yet to make the connection between calling out opponents on the stump and the reception of debate questions, maybe he thinks himself above such things.  If it is the former, he needs to figure it out in the course of a roughly a week.  If it is the latter, the old saying may unfortunately prove true yet again, that “good guys finish last.”

What to Expect at Tonight’s Prime-time Debate

GOP Debates

  • The very first question will be about Donald Trump
  • After the first question, expect mainly oblique references to Trump
  • Cruz will take shots from everyone on stage but Dr. Carson and John Kasich
  • Jeb will attack Rubio to little avail
  • Every candidate will have some story or anecdote about Iowa

Random Thoughts on the Past Week

Election 2016Birther accusations: This is all you need to know, Ted Cruz is a natural born citizen of the U.S.  He finds himself in precisely the same position as John McCain did eight years ago.  Do you really think the Democrats did not attempt to challenge his eligibility eight years ago?  …And please Donald, stop trying to help.  Don’t worry, if you were thinking of voting for Cruz, relax—he can be president.

The Iran hostages:  Thankfully, the four Americans being held by Iran have been left free.  If they were being held for “crimes”, did they suddenly become innocent when Iran saw hundreds of billions of dollars suddenly in reach?  What do you call captives who are released only after the captives receive something they’ve wanted?  Hostages.  Let’s hear you say it Mr.  President and Mr. Secretary: HOSTAGES.

Marco Rubio:  Did well as expected in the debate.  Will this translate into votes in the primaries?  His chief nemesis to date has been his fellow Floridian, Jeb Bush.  Try as he might, Jeb just cannot penetrate Marco’s armor of being quick witted, good-looking and young.  Rubio was more than willing to mix it up with Ted Cruz on Thursday.  Will he do well enough in coming weeks to upgrade to Donald Trump?

Bernie Sanders:  His main talent must be giving Hillary flashbacks of 2008.   Remember how everyone thought she would win the Iowa Caucasus back then too?  What was that guy’s name who actually ended up beating her?  Oh yeah, Barack Obama.

The State of the Union Address:  Chris Christie might have put it best during the debate:  “…I watched story-time with Barack Obama and I gotta tell you, it seemed like everything in the world was going amazing…” The President’s recollection of the past year is as faulty as well, Christie’s own about his positions on gun control and support for Planned Parenthood.  Having completed all of his presidential obligations, Obama finds himself free to go back to his first love, golf– until we need him to start packing up his belongings into a moving van roughly a year from now.

Policy Discussion or Political Cage Match

GOP DebatesTed Cruz has said that he does not want to give the media a “cage match”.  The crew at CNN probably will try to see about that. Will we see an informative discussion on the issues, a cage match, or something in between take place tonight in Las Vegas?  Expect to see the fight for the heart and soul of the Republican party begin in earnest on the stage tonight at the CNN Republican Debate.  We could well see conservative vs. establishment vs. Trump.  Will we see Republican vs. Democrat to any great extent?  One things for sure:  It’s desperation time for several of the candidates, and that may mean an no-holds-barred effort to gain (or regain) traction in the polls. It should be good TV, if not good politics.  Until then…