I don't know what die-hard Republicans took away from last night's GOP primary debate. I saw a dysfunctional family on stage. What dysfunctional families do, in private, is take old grievances and worry them to the bone. In doing so, the original source of pain becomes unrecognizable. History counts for everything and nothing. The story lines that emerge are shards and fragments of memory and fact.
So it went last night on CNN:
America and the world is in sharp decline; it is all Barack Obama's fault. It wasn't a debate. How could it have been? The only policy all eleven GOP candidates agreed upon is that the United States should bomb Iran so we can destroy Planned Parenthood at long last.
Interesting that the party of "personal responsibility" -- that rose out of the Reagan call for limited government -- has eleven candidates for the highest office in the land who won't take responsibility for any of the problems afflicting our economy and national security.
It is as though the world of pain the Republican candidates experience is a "de novo" event. The sun doesn't rise joyously, in the GOP's America -- as Mike Grunwald noted in Politico this morning -- it is always "darkness at noon."
The best example is the candidates' certainty that the Obama agreement with Iran puts Israel at existential risk, as though Israel hasn't been at existential risk since its founding. All I heard from the field last night was the drumbeat for war with Iran. On this point, Marco Rubio attempted to be especially presidential; the kid from West Miami ready to swing the Obi-Wan nuclear sword. God help us all.
The basic principle in the Mideast and the fragile network of nation states that arose in the early part of the 20th century is that "if you break it, you own it." Not a word from Rubio or any others how U.S. foreign policy based on extracting oil wealth didn't merely fuel the growth of Western economies but ensured that, through our support of despotic regimes, our own national security would eventually erode. That is just too much honesty for the GOP. Not a single candidate wanted to revisit the manifold tragedies of Iraq where trillions invested and blood and treasure haven't changed the geo-political equation an iota. "Negotiate with Iran?" Last night it was as though the GOP candidates were selecting their own criteria for getting booted off Survivor, the primary stage.
Every week, another candidate will be sent home until the GOP is left with one hero who can achieve, if nothing else, the highest ad revenue for media conglomerates. Time to go back and re-read Neil Postman's 1985 book on the subject: Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business because that, apparently, is the one book GOP strategists all have on their bedside tables.