The GOP field presidential candidates held a noisy war drum circle on December 15… otherwise known as their Tuesday debate. They warred with each other, with Muslims, with refugees. You’ve been abandoned—yes, abandoned!—by your Democrat leaders, America. I know you’re scared to death now, but *I* will utterly destroy ISIS during my first day in office!

What’s scaring ME to death is the mindless jingoism. These colors don’t run, all that bullshit. The political “poetry” pounded out in breathless rants by nearly every Republican on stage would make Rudyard Kipling blanch. Interestingly, the rants roared out of everyone except the universal soldier from all past debates…

Despite his love for the phrase “boots on the ground,” Lindsey Graham went surprisingly un-militant by talking up building schools and educating women in the Muslim world. Who knew? Unfortunately, it didn’t last long.

Graham then detoured into schizophrenia, declaring at one point that “we’re in a religious war” and later that we should leave the faith alone and just go after the radicals. But his best trick was his for-the-camera eye rolling every time Rick Santorum disagreed with him.

Six days later, he finally read the writing on the wall and “suspended” his campaign. Wow, we’re down to a baker’s dozen of Republican candidates now. I wonder who’ll snap up Graham’s less-than-zero percent of voters?

Ted Cruz went Graham several degrees hotter by advocating a contradictory hybrid of “pin-point carpet bombing.” Not cities or civilians, mind you. No, no! We’d target only ISIS fighters, who would apparently be willing to huddle by themselves out in the desert, for our convenience.

The evening continued like a global game of Russian Roulette, with Chris Christie assuring us that, not only world he never hesitate to shoot down a Russian plane, he was pretty much looking forward to it: he’s General Buck Turgidson, out of Dr. Strangelove: 

Nearly all loved a no-fly zone over Syria. This huge mistake is something that Hillary Clinton favors too, so don’t call me a partisan. It’s a foolish idea at this point in time. The alleged purpose: to prevent Russia from bombing our allies against Bashar al-Assad.

First, a no-fly zone is horrendously expensive. Second, Russia is flying there NOW, as are we, and so how exactly do you define that zone? Or do you just declare it unilaterally and notify Putin? That’s what Christie would do, with Fiorina perhaps not telling him at all.

And finally, ISIS doesn’t have any airplanes. Hey people, ISIS doesn’t fly! All a no-fly zone will accomplish is to pit ISIS’s enemies against each other. Saying no to that, is a no-brainer. …at least until we arm Iraqi trainees with planes that they can later abandon to ISIS.

But don’t tell the public! Belligerent Christie is doing better in the polls; he’s back on the main debate stage. Impressed? Hah! Trump has already upped his game into Joseph Stalin territory. That Russian dictator murdered the families of his enemies, and now The Donald seems eager to murder the families of terrorists.

I caught a video of Trump reiterating idea that to a reporter, and the crowd behind him cheered like it was watching a public hanging. We’re talking bloodlust and he’s now above 40% in some polls. Sigh—so much for diplomacy, not to mention the Geneva Convention. Pffft! Who needs that silly restraining order?

B-b-but having said that, I must confess my own delight with Larry Wilmore’s suggestion that guillotining pharma bully Martin Shkreli would make a memorable Super Bowl half-time show. There’s a little blood lust in each of us, and I think I just explained Trump’s popularity. But I’m still waiting to see what actually happens at the ballot box.

The Republicans all found common ground, of course, expounding the many horrible decisions and actions made by the “Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton” administration. I do wonder how effective that kind of attack is, but I also recall how horrible the “George W. Bush and John McCain” administration had been by 2008. Everyone thinks it works.

I was delighted to hear Clinton, in the Democratic debate, recognize her inevitable pairing with Obama, and actually defend Obamacare. It’s about time some Democrat running for office did that! We hear so much about the middle class, the middle class, the middle class. Obamacare’s biggest benefits go to the lower class, as they should. Just ask Jesus.

I heard a lot of Republican complaining about political correctness, and how it prevented us from preventing the San Bernardino attack. The complaints were as general as they were frequent, so I’m really unclear.

But it seemed to involve the government’s inability to collect information from Facebook. Seriously? Shared Facebook data is extremely public. I can legally view it. Oh wait, they mean we should be reading everyone’s unshared communications. That would involve sidestepping the Constitution in the way they keep claiming Obama does. Another silly restraining order.

Here’s a concept up there with Cruz’s pin-point carpet bombing: we could read the private Facebook communications ONLY OF TERRORISTS! See how easy it would be?

Three sitting U.S. Senators were among Obama’s critics, two of them beating the war drums like a traveling Tyco drum ensemble. Attack! (We are.) Bomb the shit out of them! (We are.) Obama is doing nothing! (Um, see the previous two points.) What’s more, those senators are members of a Congress that refuses to even vote to authorize the war that Obama is fighting. You do it and take the blame for failure, but I’ll take credit for success.

These folks remind me way too much of the neo-con coterie that led W. into Iraq in 2003, after phantom WMD. I found myself nodding a violent “Yes!” as the otherwise incongruent Rand Paul railed against the folly of regime change. He is so right—about this.

I hit this topic last week, but it’s worth a fresh mention: never start a war with no idea of what the peace will look like after you’ve won. In more concrete terms, who would replace Assad after he’s deposed? You already know the answer: ISIS. But what the heck, Syria might get lucky and only be invaded by Putin’s Russia.

If I could be a “Cafeteria Republican,” I might build a hybrid candidate with one view that I like, with another view that I like taken from another candidate. Let’s say, Rand Paul’s distrust of forcing regime change with no plan for the peace that follows. Combine with Rick Santorum’s flawed but worthy populism regarding on-shore manufacturing—seeking to employ all those Americans who didn’t go to college. Let it simmer.

Problem with that is, these people drop way more vinegar than honey into the soup.

Santorum also delivered a surprisingly good defense of meta data collection by the NSA. (Ignoring, of course, the potential for abuse.) But my infatuation ended a moment later anyway, when he agreed to let people on the terror watch list buy guns.

Mr. Rick spent a share of his time sounding knowledgable about Shariah law, so he could explain why to reject it when “they” try to institute it here. This is a straw man that always catches me unawares because it is SO tin-hat misguided. No one is talking about instituting Shariah Law here, Rick. No one. There’s also no mention of men marrying dogs, just so you know we didn’t forget about that.

The Republican debate at times resembled a roast of Trump by amateur comedians. Wolf Blitzer offered plenty of leading questions. Bush got off a few zingers. My favorite was asserting that Trump gets his news from the morning shows—but Jeb wasn’t sure if it was the Saturday morning or Sunday morning shows.

I worry that he was too subtle for Trump’s supporters.

Bush was persistent in his assaults on Trump—“You can’t insult your way to the White House”—but ineffective. That hasn’t stopped him from getting even more aggressive on the campaign trail since the debate: “Trump is a jerk!

For his part, Trump brushed off Bush like he was an annoying mosquito. This man’s skill at all the wrong things is simply frightening. He and Cruz kissed and made up right there on the stage. Each backed off the tough things he had said of the other, as if they had been idle, inconsequential comments. Of course, each wants the other’s supporters if he’s the one left standing.

Bernie and Hillary had their moment of reconciliation as well, during their debate. A DNC computer database breech had allowed Sanders campaign people to download Clinton campaign data. The subsequent penalty assessed on them by the DNC provided a newsy controversy that some Democrats have been praying for, lest the Republican circus grab all of the headlines, all of the time.

Fiorina distinguished herself by criticizing the way that we ask the tech sector to compromise its customers (regarding cell phone data encryption), when we could be asking them to help in positive technical ways. She may not be the leader we need, but she’s right about that.

Ironically, the skills from that sector which would help us the most belong to hackers like those in the association that calls itself Anonymous.

Trump’s call to “shut down parts of the internet” isn’t as ridiculous as many have made it sound. Hacker moves such as denial-of-service attacks and self-downloading malware—and far more sophisticated approaches—could help silence ISIS’s strong and effective presence on social media.

The cost of a single bombing mission, spent instead on hacking the ISIS social media presence, might actually be the best money we’ve spent against terrorism in years.

Enough! I could go on complaining and mocking, but I can’t do it half as well as Ana Marie Cox does in this delightful Daily Beast article: Surrealist GOP Debate Scorecard.

Finally: what was my biggest laugh of Tuesday evening? The Mobile Strike video game commercial that posed Arnold Schwarzenegger in a General’s uniform, directing an army of toy-soldier-sized human troops. Planes, tanks, the works.The ad agency buyer who scheduled that metaphorical slice of theater for the debate deserves a nice, fat bonus.

Political Survivor #29

Written by

Steve Schlich is retired after 35 years of writing fiction about software: “easy to use,” “does what you want,” and the like. Hobbies include webmaster for, writing songs and short stories. In 2004, he created, a website chronicling the naughty public art in Washington, D.C. He lives happily with his wife and cats, north of San Francisco.

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