Giveaways from Last Night’s Republican Primary Debate.

If immediately after turning off your television you didn’t feel like you were being quick-talked into buying a borderline “quasi-legal,” investment package that sounds too good to be true because it relies upon unspoken yet overly optimistic and highly theoretical “growth” projections, then perhaps Marco Rubio’s assertion that we need “less” philosophers is telling. If that is indeed the case, I also have some stock in I’d like to sell.  And as much as I’d rather sit in a closed room with Donald Trump for an undetermined amount of time, listening to him list different synonyms for the word “worst” as they can be used to describe what and how specific people, events, and contracts, have been the worst things in “history,” I have to give Fox moderator, Maria Bartiromo, credit for pressing Ted Cruz about his tax plan.

It was at that moment, but not only at that moment, that my waking paralysis — brought on by what I can only assume was a latent instinct for self-preservation — was exorcised, as I heard 8 grown adults (in at least the biological sense of the term) in a sycophantic orgy give their worst attempts to flatter millions of other grown adults (only in the biological sense).  Put differently, it was Ted Cruz who was called to task about how his and his comrades’ tax-plans would avoid crushing deficits without cutting vital spending that even Republicans (besides maybe Rand Paul) wouldn’t dare touch.  Mr. Cruz, relying on “growth estimates” from The Tax Foundation, a Washington think-tank often criticized for its methodological errors and reliance upon early projections without hard data, claims that

over ten years, increase the size of the U.S. economy by 13.9% above what is currently projected, create an additional 4.86 million jobs, and boost wages by 12.2%. Every category of worker will see a double-digit increase in after-tax income. 

And last night Cruz said that

The numbers the tax foundation have put out is that the static cost of the plan is $3.6 trillion over ten years, but the dynamic cost of the plan, which is the cost that factors in growth, is about $768 billion. It is less than a trillion. It costs less than virtually every other plan people have put up here and yet it produces more growth.

Anyone brazen enough to ensure these kinds of projections should be in either banking or sports-betting (or, in both cases, prison), not the kinds of offices that require sober reflection and calculated action.

On a more serious note, here’s AccuSo’s breakdown of each candidates performance, working from stage right.

John Kasich:

Undoubtedly the most qualified to be President out of the field, Kasich is often criticized for not pandering to the ideological base. Take his criticism of Trump’s proposed immigration policy, which consists of “shipping them all back and building a wall,” for instance.  Kasich quickly interrupted Trump (Kasich’s m.o. for the evening) and pointed out that the logistics involved in deporting 11 million people makes the project impossible.  Not that Kasich’s reasonable, sober approaches to the presidency was winning him any points, but it’s just this type of realism that the Republican base certainly doesn’t want to hear.

Kasich’s tendency to jump in the conversations, taking time for himself after being cut short of time in the last few debates, rather than making him appear assertive and presidential, came off as desperate and almost sad.  Perhaps seeing this as a final opportunity to gain ground in the polls, Kasich went for broke.  Unfortunately for him, and us if we end up with a Republican in the White House in 2017, the American right isn’t prepared for his kind of experienced, reasonable leadership.

Jeb Bush:

George W. Bush’s brother and former governor of Florida Jeb Bush obviously lacks his brother’s charisma.  George W. obviously received the better portion of “I can appear human” gene in the Bush family.  Still, Jeb’s attempts to appear like flesh-and-blood human being almost (almost) evoke in me something resembling a human type of sympathy for seeing him flounder through his attempts to articulate a middle position on things like immigration.  That sympathy ends immediately when he begins talking about projecting American military power in the Middle East.  Perhaps lacking his brother’s human-like appearance makes it impossibly harder for him to sell us on another full-scale war in the Middle East, or his “no-fly-zone” which would bring us into direct conflict with Russia.

Marco Rubio:

I almost wanted to save Rubio for last but that does’t fit in with my “starting-from-stage-right” methodology.  Rubio immediately demanded my attention with his comments about the “need for philosophers.”  I almost would have given him a pass on the comment had he not demonstrated other unabashed NeoConservative discursive tendencies throughout the debate.  While I don’t have the space or attention span to complete a thorough analysis of that in this piece, I plan on writing about it extensively later.  We can just be satisfied with concluding that Commander-in-Chief Rubio would be a dangerous man.  And I can offer a teaser: whoever was coaching and advising the George W. Bush administration on how to sell the Iraq war to the American public and the world, has gotten to Rubio and is profoundly influencing his rhetoric and international policy preferences.

Donald Trump:

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Trump start losing ground in the polls after this performance. Not only did he command less camera time, but his answers are becoming boringly stale and downright inaccurate, not that the latter part is anything new.  His 5 minute tirade about China’s role in the TPP just illustrates Trump’s unfamiliarity with policy and even his arrogance to speak on an issue that he has not even been briefed on.  He is barely entertaining anymore.

Ben Carson:

Ben Carson has taken some heat recently about misrepresenting himself in his biographies.  The moderators left him alone on this, for the most part.  Overall, Carson played it safe although, as if this comes as a surprise, made some unbelievablely grossly oversimplified and unempirical statements.  For instance, at one point he said, historically (and whenever anyone speaks so generally about history we should be suspicious) every time minimum wage is raised unemployment goes up.  His statement about African-American youth unemployment was also inaccurate.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see Carson start to gain on Trump his performance,

Ted Cruz:

I already went off about Cruz’s snake-salesman tax plan.  Cruz just happened to be the one singled out about it, but what is true of his plan applies generally to the rest of the field.  Although he has a great stage presence, he demonstrated fully his full unelectability last night.  His plans to abolish the Fed as well as the other major Cabinets are romantic enough to energize a Libertarian base but unrealistic enough to scare moderates to the polls to vote against him.  But it is also obvious that he is merely employing a calculated, classic, “anti-establishment” Republican tactic.  The same holds true for his tax-plan, which is premised upon unrealistic, economic, “philosophic” projections.  If elected to office, he will just blame the opposition party and “establishment” officials for blocking his idealistic designs.

Carly Fiorina:

She knows a few talking-head buzzwords like “socialism” and “crony capitalism.”  Other than that, I bet she would have been fun to party with 35 years ago.

And finally,

Rand Paul:

Paul provided a good counter-balance (as he consistently has) to the “establishment” Republicans’ military expansionistic fetishes.  He can sound reasonable when he’s not pathologizing the Federal Reserve.  I’m not sure if he’s a gold-standard die-hard like his gold-obsessed leprechaun-possessed father.  Paul is likable and speaks with a sobriety indicative of a good potential commander-in-chief.  His anti-interventionist tendencies allows him to cross traditional popular political boundaries, but his domestic policies, or lack in clarity thereof, shut those channels down no sooner than they’re opened.  Unfortunately, like Kasich, it’s his more reasonable approaches that make him unelectable.

If you managed to make it through the full two-and-a-half-hour debate last night, despite any self-realized danger to mental health while doing so, you probably took away similar lessons.  It looks like, once the entertainment factor of the primary dies out, we’ll probably be looking at a race among Rubio, Bush, and Cruz, all of which are terrifying in their own, unique ways. It should be telling, to anyone with a “philosphers'” knack for critical distance, that it takes a Carson and a Trump to lead for months in order to make the more traditional, establishment candidates appear normal enough to be contenders, despite what they’re trying to sell.




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About Thomas Hobbes Jr.

Scientist of the soul, of the City. Anxious political theorist and social media gadfly, who refuses to engage without immediate internet access. Becomes especially aroused by, and is particularly adept at sniffing out, weak arguments in foreign policy and international relations. Likes to hide behind the quotes and texts of great writers, political philosophers, and other figures in the history of political thought.

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