Friday, February 26, 2016

Stephen Green's commentary on the CNN GOP debate


Forget Carson and Kasich. They're good men, whatever you might think of their policies, but neither belonged on that stage.

Cruz did well, but probably not well enough to reverse his downward trajectory in the polls. I've long been a supporter of his, albeit an increasingly reluctant one, but he needed to do more tonight than he did.

Rubio shocked the hell out of me. Two, three, four times on the drunkblog and on Twitter I found myself asking "Where was THIS Rubio before?" I asked myself that even more times privately in my thoughts. Whatever you might think of his policies (I'm not a fan), tonight's Rubio came out swinging -- and connected again and again. His performance comes at the perfect time, too, just as he's gaining some traction in a few polls here and there.

But was it enough?

We might not know until Super Tuesday just days from now, and we'll know for sure when the primary vote moves to Florida shortly after.

Which brings us to Trump.

Trump did his Trump thing, and we all know what that is by now. He took some big hits tonight, a couple from Cruz and the rest from Rubio. But -- and this is the vital thing -- he never really lost his stride. That invisible Trumpness wasn't punctured, at least not in a way that appeared on his face, where it could have shattered the hopes of the Devoted.

Trump has so changed the rules of the game that in order to beat Trump, you really have to make him look beaten, to recognize his own loss.

If such a thing is possible, I can't commit to saying we saw anything like that on CNN.

So it sounds as though Mr. Green is saying that Donald Trump has a lot in common with Baghdad Bob, the announcer who brayed that there were no US tanks in Baghdad even as the tanks were rolling in.

I believe that you haven't truly won the fight against your opponent until you've beaten his mind—taken away his will to fight. If I pound someone into the earth and that person stares defiantly up at me from the dust—bloody but unbowed, as the poem goes—then I haven't truly beaten him.

But it's easy to confuse Trump's narcissistic defiance with that sort of bravery. Trump is not the master of his fate, nor is he the captain of his soul. He's irascible, inconsistent, and easily manipulable. Mexico's former president, Vicente Fox, is now on record as saying "I'm not going to pay for that fucking wall! [Trump] should pay for it. He's got the money." Trump shot back with a tweet demanding that Fox apologize for saying "fucking," once again revealing how vulnerable and reactive he is to any sort of criticism. Trump's knee-jerk tweet is not the action of a man who is the captain of his own soul.

I maintain that voting should be an act of conscience, not an exercise in game theory. It's private and personal. For myself, I can't in good conscience vote for Trump. In all likelihood, assuming I do vote (and not voting is also an act of conscience, a right that we uphold in America, if not in other Western countries), I'll most likely be writing someone in.


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