Republican Debate: We’re Strong and Hard

Republican DebateI guess I should say something about the debate. Despite my best efforts, I did manage to listen to the whole thing. But as soon as I found out that it was focused on “national security,” I wanted to run away. This strikes me as journalistic malpractice on the part of CNN. Do we really need a forum to listen to all these candidates talk about how terrible non-Americans are and how we need to close down our borders? This is most of what we get from the candidates regardless. This is the easiest issue to demagogue and so they stick with it.

What’s more, when it comes to the situation in Syria and Iraq, they all push how “strong” and “hard” they will be. But when you get down to it, they aren’t proposing to do anything more than Obama. So they are going to continue to bomb but with more intent? Ben Carson implied that he wanted boots on the ground. Marco Rubio wants boots on the ground — Arab boots on the ground. John Kasich wants boots on the ground — some kind of Persian Gulf coalition. But I get it: the Republican Party is working itself up for war.

The reason I know this is because my father told me that he thought we needed to send ground troops into the conflict. Charles Krauthammer must think this. I know because my father also has no clue why we should send ground troops in. I questioned him about it. Does he think that ISIS is an existential threat? No. Does he think fighting ISIS over there is going to make terrorist attacks here less common? No. Does he realize that ISIS has been so successful because of our starting the Iraq War? Yes. So why do we need ground troops? At that point he folded, but this is fast becoming the new Republican orthodoxy.

But watching the debate, it was hard to escape the conclusion that Republicans think the greatest threat to the United States is Barack Obama. It’s also hard to understand why they all haven’t emigrated from the country. I mean, as Trump put it, “Our country doesn’t win anymore.” The United States does have a lot of problems, but listening to these bozos, you would think we were Zimbabwe. No one respects us; everyone gets over on us; we’re weak. And the only thing that will save us from this sorry state is a Republican president. That is, interestingly, also the one and only thing. Just elect one of them and America will be great again because it will be “strong” and “hard.”

The phrase “Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton” was repeated so often that I began to think it was a single person. And almost all of the attacks were facile. Take Ted Cruz’s opening, “The men and women on this stage, every one of us, is better prepared to keep this nation safe than is Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton.” And why is this? Based upon the discussion, there seem to be two ways that every one of them is better:

  1. They won’t be politically correct.
  2. They will use the magic words “radical Islamic terrorism” more often.

That seems like snark, right? But it isn’t. It all comes down to their contention that there is something ineffable about fighting terrorism. It isn’t about intelligence and bombs and troops and so on. None of that matters if you don’t really want to fight the terrorists. And the one thing that Republican voters know, it is that Obama loves the terrorists just as much as he hates America. What they want is not any particular policy. They want more belligerent rhetoric. That will make them feel safer. And they are very much willing to give up essential liberty to purchase not temporary safety but the illusion of safety. It’s worse than Benjamin Franklin said.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

19 thoughts on “Republican Debate: We’re Strong and Hard

  1. The Magic Words is a weird thing. It’s usually not difficult to distill their talking points. That one is racism, that one is misogyny, and now tax cuts. Boring. But I don’t get what they’re on about with the Magic Words.

    • I don’t get it either. The implication is that it proves some deeper lack of motivation. But all it actually seems to prove is that they really don’t have any policy differences.

  2. It seems to be like a bizarre version of Calvinism, perhaps. “Man is justified through faith, not works.” So it doesn’t matter what you do, all that matters is what you believe. (This isn’t necessarily what Calvin himself believed, but it seems a decent summary of what a lot of modern Calvinist think.)

    • Interesting comparison. It does seem to be some kind of signifier for a deeper truth. Of course, that’s assuming they aren’t just pretending. I wonder if Ted Cruz really believes such nonsense. Of course, I have a hard time believing that Ted Cruz believes anything at all other than that he ought to be put in charge.

    • During the debate, I was going crazy. I thought they used the term PC a hundred times. But when I checked the transcript, it was mostly Ben Carson. He will protect us through his lack of sensitivity!

  3. Remember back when W was running things and everybody on talk radio, cable news, right wing blogs, the editorial boards of every major newspaper were devoting all their time to criticizing the President for neglecting to blame the entire Muslim population for 911… me neither.

    • It’s a question of the presumption of innocence. The Republicans know they are patriotic and the Democrats are not. So they just have to find the clues that prove what they already know. And there is no crazy left wing that the mainstream press are willing to pretend are reasonable.

  4. Hey, I was trying my best to distract you.

    It comes down to the fact that they want reality to match what the movies say life is. It is like they think Independence Day is how life should be-we blow stuff up, the British say “finally” upon hearing we have a plan and everyone gets to cheer at the end while they only have to make inspirational speeches. Or flight a jet plane. I don’t think it matters either way as long as they get to stand there looking awesome.

    Besides, running for President must be fun-they get all this attention and people want to hear what they have to say despite it being bloody insane.

        • It’s still weird. I’m sure if you asked Republican voters, they would say that they realize the president is not an action movie hero. But it obviously has emotional resonance.

          • Since I work with them, I have asked. They don’t, I guess, actively think that way but you can tell they subconsciously think that way. They think someone in charge is supposed to be tough even though weirdly they don’t actually at that way on the bench. It is all surface over substance.

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