After the recent New Hampshire Republican presidential primary debate, just before the New Hampshire Primary, who is the "best of the worst" when it comes to the abysmal set of Republican presidential candidates? Let us take them one-at-a-time and focus on some highlights (or, really, lowlights) of their debate positions, to answer that vital question. In no particular order, but ending with the "just barely tolerable", we have:
Donald the Trumpet -- after claiming in Iowa that he could shoot and murder someone on Fifth Avenue in New York, without losing any supporters, the Trumpet now advocates not just illegal and unconstitutional waterboarding of suspects, but even stronger forms of torture which he refuses to identify. His justification is the horrid atrocities of ISIS such as beheadings, under his "we need to be as despicable as the barbarians are" theory of government. On the other hand, if that hand has not yet been cut off, the Trumpet supports his own form of eminent domain -- not a unit of government taking land for a vital public purpose, but the Trumpet taking an elderly woman's land for a parking lot near his Atlantic City casino. Upon being "booed" by the audience, he said Jeb Bush had bought them all.
Speaking of Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who came a bit nearer to having some charisma during the debate but still failed to achieve that minimum requirement, here is a candidate who has little to say himself, instead trotting out his brother, whose failed presidency led to two needless wars and the near-destruction of the American economy, and even his ninety-year-old Mommy. Sorry, Jeb, neither of those worthies can save your campaign, which appears to have little independent message at all. Nor are the vast sums you are spending on paid advertising likely to save it, either. You just don't seem to have what it takes. Two prior Bush presidencies were plenty.
Then there is Dr. Ben Carson, a man of noble sentiments not matched by much real knowledge of the world, or of governing. Even his answer about the major threat posed by viruses such as Ebola and Zika was a bit wishy-washy, even though medical matters, at least, should be within his purview. While the good Dr.'s outrage at the Cruz campaign's leaked story that Carson was quitting the race was well justified, in truth his sudden trip to Florida at the height of the Iowa caucuses was a bit strange, and the voters deserved an explanation, which they never received.
Speaking of the Cruz campaign, Senator Ted Cruz gave an elaborate -- and incomplete -- explanation of why his campaign erred by falsely announcing to their supporters, and the world, that Ben Carson was suspending his campaign. Ted the Unready said they were merely picking up on CNN speculation to that effect -- conveniently omitting that CNN had corrected the speculative report immediately. This might appear minor, did it not emanate from the candidate who tells primary voters that they cannot trust their government, but they can trust him. Judging from the evidence, that appears not to be the case
Then there is Senator Marco Rubio, who seems to have turned into the 2015 version of The Manchurian Candidate, a movie character who is turned into a roboticized assassin. Marco Rubio repeatedly, and ultimately unsuccessfully, tried to assassinate his own candidacy, by his fourfold-repeated mechanical assertion that President Barack Obama actually knows just what he is doing. While many people would consider that to be a compliment -- indeed, a desirable trait in a president -- not so, says Rubio, because everything Barack Obama does is wrong, evil, and bad for America. What would really be bad for America, though, is Marco Rubio -- when a candidates has to reiterate the same tired line over and over again, it usually means that he has little of substance to say. At least one of his sons gave him a "high five"; the electorate is not likely to share that positive sentiment.
Responding to the Rubio Repetitions was Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, always a real work of art, who has ignored the severe weather afflicting his home state in a futile campaign consisting mainly of puffing his past record. While no-one can deny that Chris Christie is the "heavyweight" among the Republican candidates, he has a short fuse and a shorter memory. His short fuse was demonstrated, perhaps appropriately, as he called attention to Marco Rubio's "broken record" attack on President Obama. His shorter memory was demonstrated by his omission of his own pettiness and spite in sanctioning the closure of lanes on the George Washington Bridge to New York to punish a mayor who had failed to endorse Christie, by punishing the residents of the mayor's city, and all those innocent souls traveling across the bridge from other locations. Chris Christie has all the style and grace of a juvenile bully.
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That leaves my pick for The Best of The Worst Republican Candidates for President: Governor John Kasich of Ohio, a candidate with a positive and sincere message of bringing America togegther, reaching out to all of us and offering hope of real solutions to real, serious problems. What a breath of fresh air, blowing from John Kasich! Of course, he does not stand much of a chance of winning the Republican nomination for President. That sad reality sort of says it all -- the truth is that ultimately Republican and Tea Party voters will choose their preferred candidate from among the extremists, the distorters, the deniers of reality, the re-writers of history, and even those who advocate torture. 2016 may well mark the end of relevance for the Republican Party -- which is preferable to the end of the American nation.
Eugene Elander has been a progressive social and political activist for decades. As an author, he won the Young Poets Award at 16 from the Dayton Poets Guild for his poem, The Vision. He was chosen Poet Laureate of (more...)