Friday Politics Roundup

Last night I stayed up late and watched the first 2016 Republican presidential debate, followed by the last Jon Stewart episode of the Daily Show. So in lieu of links, I’ll talk about those.

Thoughts on the debate, bearing in mind that I’m about as likely to win the Kentucky Derby as vote for any of these candidates:

  • A lot of people criticized Fox News for their “arbitrary” selection process, cutting the top ten from the bottom seven on the basis of some very thin differences in polling numbers. I don’t understand this; of course it’s arbitrary. Any such decision is arbitrary. What’s the alternative? Have all seventeen on stage at once?
  • The moderators asked excellent hardball questions and managed the debate very well. They seemed a lot smarter than the people onstage.
  • Before the debate, Rand Paul was the only one I liked even a little, because of his strong defense of civil liberties. Well, that’s gone. Dunno if he’s a dick in real life, but he sure acted like one last night, attacking other candidates over meaningless, trivial distractions (like Chris Christie hugging Obama).
  • Speaking of Christie, I thought he came across reasonably well, aside from wanting to use the Fourth Amendment as toilet paper. He seemed to grasp the idea that you can’t get the budget under any kind of control by just whittling around the edges, without touching entitlements.
  • Huckabee’s an idiot; or at least, if he’s smart, he hides it well. His alternative to raising the social security retirement age is to remove retirement benefits for Congress – as if that would have any kind of significant effect.
  • Jeb Bush seemed relatively okay.
  • Trump was what you’d expect – vapid, bombastic, insulting, sensational, and stupid. The sad thing is, I can actually see a certain id-centered charisma to the man. He spins compassion as political correctness, disrespect as honesty, and critical thinking as stupidity – and at some level, it works. I still don’t think he’s a real contender, but his solid #1 position in polls (within the Republicans) is depressing enough as is.
  • Ben Carson, by contrast, was very un-charismatic, though without much substance to compensate.
  • John Kasich, the governor of Ohio (my home), came across surprisingly well. He sounded like he understands that people with opposing ideas aren’t automatically enemies. Of course, this will hurt his chances considerably.
  • There were other people on the stage too.
  • Just a quick reminder that today, now, in 2015, 94% of the major Republican candidates (and 100% of the top ten) are men. And 88% are white. Just in case anyone tries to tell you that we’re living in a post-racial society, or that feminism isn’t necessary.
  • It’s depressing that Obama and Hillary have become so deeply vilified that merely associating a candidate with them counts as an attack, while Ronald Reagan has apparently become a kind of benevolent Republican god, to the point that candidates defend their policies by saying “Reagan did it too.”
  • Don’t forget, everybody, we’ve got fifteen more months of this.

As for Stewart’s last Daily Show (#JonVoyage), it was more sentimental than funny, which is fine. Jon paid tribute to all (or at least a hell of a lot) of his past correspondents, ending with Colbert, whose heartfelt expression of gratitude moved Jon to tears. Then they went behind the scenes and gave a who’s who of the people who run the show. Jon gave a final, very enjoyable little talk on the importance of detecting bullshit, which nicely summed up the show’s entire message. And then, for some reason, Bruce Springsteen came on and sang for a really, really long and boring time.

Hats off to Mr. Stewart and everyone else who’s made The Daily Show possible. You made us all a little smarter – or, failing that, a little better at laughing at stupidity.

Have a laudable weekend!

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