My Reaction to a 2000 Republican Primary Debate

I’ve been dreading this one. If there are two political “groups” I can’t stand, it’s the Bush and Clinton entourages. I literally cringe watching Hillary or Bush II speak—they have horrible delivery, I know they don’t believe what they’re saying, and so it just makes me feel angry. I couldn’t finish W’s RNC speeches for this reason, and watching any of Hillary’s speeches I find myself having to pause every few minutes to take a break. Even though I hate Trump too and am empathetic to people being bullied, I gotta admit it gave me great visceral pleasure watching him humiliate Jeb (as a surrogate for the entire sorry Bush family) and destroy him during the primaries. If the rumors of a future Chelsea run are true I sincerely hope we’ll have someone in the Democratic field who doesn’t play as nice as Bernie.

Now, nobody then could’ve possibly known how bad W would turn out to be, but I can’t understand how anyone could choose him over McCain in his prime. From what I understand, it was a combination of the indefensible rumor Karl Rove started that McCain’s adopted daughter was the product of an interracial affair, and W being “the kinda guy I could have a beer with.” Both are really stupid reasons to pick a presidential nominee. One of them is the kind of dirty politics which I see most often coming from the two anointed dynastic families in America, again the Clintons and the Bushes. Hillary pulled a similar dirty trick to Obama in ’08 with the turban photo which Sidney Blumenthal leaked. She also said she was staying in the race well past the point of viability in case Obama got assassinated. And then in 2016 she called Bernie’s campaign sexist and said he didn’t care about the Sandy Hook families since he wasn’t as anti-gun as she deemed appropriate. These people, these two dynasties, are outright scum.

In any case this primary would embody the worst in American politics and ultimately produce the man whom I honestly 100% consider to be the [now second] worst President by far. Yes, worse than Buchanan, Pierce, Andrew Johnson or Warren G. Harding. Sadly, it’s frustrating trying to be open with that opinion among certain circles because, since Bush [and now Trump, are] the most recent GOP President[s], people accuse you of just being partisan in the same way other circles jump to conclusions at Obama criticisms. Yet the facts are, W gave us:

  1. the surveillance state,
  2. torture,
  3. the illegal toppling of another country which ruined our reputation,
  4. $14 trillion in debt after the biggest surplus in our history,
  5. a bungling of the Katrina relief efforts,
  6. treating our oldest ally (France) like dirt for calling us out on our stupidity in Iraq,
  7. and overall squandering all the goodwill and sympathy we had accrued just after 9/11 with nothing productive to show for it.
  8. We didnt even catch Bin Laden for all our misadventures in the Middle East.
  9. And many more strikes against him which I’m surely forgetting.

So, as for the debate itself, right off the bat I’m annoyed because they’re still pushing this asinine “question each other!!” nonsense I’ve grown to hate. It’s just time wasted where we don’t get to compare everyone’s stances on one topic, which I reiterate yet again is the entire point of a productive debate as far as I am concerned.

We have Gary Bauer, Orrin Hatch, Alan Keyes, Steve Forbes, McCain and W. Right from the first answer to the question: “what will you do to keep schools safe from more shootings?” you know we’re in for an unprecedented feat of mental gymnastics. According to Bauer, shootings occur because of an “eroding of values” and “taking Christ out of schools.”. I do agree personally that shootings are not (just) a gun problem, but how self-centered and ignorant do you have to be to blame the rest of us for not adhering to your religion? Bauer pledges that when he’s president, “it’s gonna be ok to hang up the ten commandments again.” Separation of church and state be damned.

Just like in the general election debates from this same 2000 cycle, Bush outright lies about what he intends to do as President. It’s actually really scary in hindsight the way he was able to get away with this baldfaced misdirection so often. In the general, he accused Gore of being the warmonger and bully, and here he says he doesn’t believe in an over-reliance on testing in schools when he would give us No Child Left Behind. (Which from my understanding is what took the toxic “teaching to the test” phenomenon to a whole new level.) “I strongly believe in local schools! […] My Plan says less power in Washington, not more!” If you’re watching in hindsight, it’s sickening just how much W is a total snake in the grass.

McCain gets a great applause line when he suggests Senators are overpaid and shouldn’t be in charge of their own pay raises. I certainly agree this is a conflict of interest.

As for the other candidates: Hatch lacks charisma. That’s all I have to say about him. He looks like an old man who’s half-unsure where he is. Keyes is somewhat less annoying than he was in ’96. Forbes has the nerdiest, most punchable smile I’ve ever seen. He says all parents should be able to spend more time with their kids. Ok, so far so good. And how will we accomplish that? Why, by cutting taxes of course! Yeah, because that controls paid maternity leave, or how many hours your boss schedules you for, or having to work two jobs to make ends meet, or having a job where you’re always on-call or expected to work unpaid overtime, or jobs that offer no sick leave or vacation time. Taxes! Let’s just gut the Federal government altogether! That’ll solve the problem of America being overworked and miserable because we’re forced to spend so much time away from the people who really matter!

Barely 10 minutes in and already I want to switch it off. These people are so stuck in their little bubble, they can’t or won’t admit that there’s more to governing and making things better for people than slashing taxes. And many if not all of them know slashing taxes won’t solve problems like these—just make the millionaires a little richer. But they sell the American people on this fertilizer and turn a sizable chunk of the public into their drones voting against their own best interests. It’s the greatest scam of all time.

Taxes/Economy

Apparently, according to Forbes, the prosperity America had at this time is due to Ronald Reagan. Not the tech industry boom, or fall of the Soviets and opening up of new trade markets. Nope. Reagan with his magic wand of supply side economics made it all happen. Of course. And this gets a massive applause because Reagan was literally the reincarnated Jesus sent to smite the antichrist, Jimmy Carter.

I was thinking I might have to give Forbes some points when the moderator mentioned he’s critical of Alan Greenspan…but it turns out he’s critical because he thinks interest rates should be kept at zero. Oh boy. His flimsy analogy about the doctor doesn’t work either. A better one would be: vitamin supplements can help you out when you need a boost. But take too many and it’s not good for you. Same with interest rates. Many believe we will see another collapse when the FED inevitably has to raise them at some point. And in any case, they’ve overused their one tool to help ease us out of any future recession. We’re living on borrowed time. There are many good reasons to criticize Greenspan—he was an Ayn Rand worshiping lunatic who didn’t even believe in the very system he was asked to oversee. But finally wanting to do the sensible thing and raise interest rates is NOT one of those reasons.

Keyes is just ridiculous with his over the top grandstanding about how Americans are worse off than serfs, because, you guess it…we have to pay taxes. [Apparently paying taxes is worse than working for room and board only, being levied for wars we have no say in, our women being at the Lord’s mercy and our children working right beside us with no future prospects. Hey…wait a minute…]

McCain is the only reasonable one onstage, talking about simplifying the tax code and getting special interests out of it so they don’t unjustly benefit. He’s the only person there speaking in real terms, to average Americans, not in cliched right-wing platitudes that deliberately misframe the issues. (See Keyes’ answer above.)

Hatch makes some good points on taxes too, but he keeps stuttering and “uhh-ing” so he wastes time and makes himself annoying to listen to.

Bush lies again, saying surpluses are gonna increase under him. Yeah, thanks again for that multi-trillion dollar debt my children will still be paying off, you lying asshole.

Bauer, after an annoying but not unexpected Reagan name-drop, actually gives some cogent points about the US bankrupting itself by trying to be the world police. He ended up giving the perfect summation of his colleague’s presidency without realizing it. Kinda funny. Once again, Bush lies his ass off, saying America needs to promote the peace and keep strong alliances—that’s why we destroyed the chance for peace in the Middle East in all of our lifetimes and pissed off almost all our allies! This guy…I don’t know if he really held these beliefs during the primary and his advisers convinced him otherwise in office, or he knew all along what he was going to do and intentionally misled America from the very beginning. Either way it’s deplorable and he deserves to be forever vilified for his actions from the first primary debate to dancing at a policeman’s funeral this year. Bush either knew he’d never get elected on his apocalyptic neoconservative agenda, or he didn’t have the confidence to stand up for the ideals he espouses here once in office.

Asking Each Other Questions

I will say, I do like the questions being asked here. This debate addressed school shootings, the FED, education in general, tax codes and scaling back foreign intervention. Now this is the kinda in-depth policy discussion we need at debates. Not the mud slinging of pretty much all 2016 debates, or the fluff at most of the other debates I’ve seen. It’s just unfortunate that they all answered these otherwise great questions in obvious platitudes and outright lies. And once we move on to the “ask each other!!” round all that great momentum disappears. Listen to these convoluted, pointless rules the moderator lays out, and tell me this isn’t a quiz show. My god, why?? Just ask them to lay out their policy on each topic, and then ask follow up questions for points they didn’t address or left too vague. How fucking hard is that? Even the moderator and Bauer make fun of how ridiculous the rules are.

Bauer, with his question to Bush, all but admits he wants to keep the Cold War going with Russia for literally no reason than because it’s how Reagan treated them (when the situation was far different). When Bauer compares Bush’s policy to Clinton’s, Bush literally recoils and says “boy, you know how to insult a guy.” Like, god forbid you agree with the sitting president on anything, just because he’s from another party. That kind of hyper-adversarial, mean-spiritedness is only present in the Republican party from what I’ve seen. I’m not saying hyper-partisan attitudes don’t exist in Democratic voters or even some politicians. I’m just saying that they don’t spend a solid chunk of their primaries and conventions treating their opponents as though they’re non-human adversaries unworthy of dignity like this.

In response to Bauer’s question though, Bush gives the telling remark that America’s greatest export is “freedom.” Yes, really. It’s like an SNL skit, he practically parodies himself. He does make a good point though, that to leave China out of world trade would only cause more problems down the line. If Bauer would take his head out of Reagan’s outdated playbook for 5 minutes, he could open up a history book and see that Nixon did the same thing—and got a lot of well deserved credit for it, even among his harshest rivals, like McGovern. This apparent need for a new enemy and a new Cold War is incredibly dangerous. It makes me believe that maybe Bush, as awful as he was, wasn’t the worst person on stage and then, realizing that I just recoiled with fear.

McCain uses his question to challenge Bauer to pledge to stand with him on campaign finance reform. Can’t say it enough, McCain is by far the best person on stage. He’s the only one that has an ounce of bipartisan appeal and whom I believe really cares about the average American. He ruined his own reputation in 2008 with Palin and 2016 letting Trump walk all over him, but here in 2000, McCain would’ve made a great president, whatever flaws he may have. I’d even go as far as to say that as of 2000, he was the best candidate of the last 3 or 4 primaries for his party. (Until we get to young-Dole and Anderson.)

I will say, surprisingly, this debate was far more watchable than the 1988 and 1996 outings I witnessed. This debate is more lively, and the topics discussed at first are actually relevant enough that I was compelled even despite the often terrible answers. I wouldn’t call this the worst Republican primary of all time: in terms of candidate pool, 1996 and to a lesser extent, 1988 were worse. In terms of result, 1980 was just as bad, arguably worse since Reagan completely changed the political spectrum and became an unwarranted idol for the right where Bush was very unpopular and arguably helped split the Republican party.

Bush and Hatch appear personable enough. Keyes is still irritating, Forbes is a weasel, and Bauer is a grubby little cabin boy from the Reagan years, singing the praises of his former master without an original thought in his head.

As the primary contests proved, this race was solely between McCain and Bush. If I had to guess why the former lost, aside from the infidelity rumor, it’d be the fact that Bush appealed to the base more but not too much so as to be alienating towards independents. McCain seemed to have the exact opposite strategy, and as I’ve said before, the way to win (in a first past the post electoral system) is to excite the base rather than hug the middle. Plus, I’m sure the Bush family and connections meant a lot of cash and party establishment pull.

1 Comment

  1. Another good analysis of a political debate. At the time I am sure I didn’t watch the debate. I disliked Gore so mush that I had decided to vote for anyone that ran against him. Was still somewhat at the end of my short Conservative Republican phase, although Bush I’s actions, especially his getting us into the first Gulf war had very much cured me of it. Then as Now I believed that the Ragan policy of Low taxes and free markets do bring about prosperity. I didn’t then and still don’t credit Ragan or Bush I for winning the Cold War. It was The Stupid socialist Economic policies of the USSR was what made them unable to compete and brought down their empire. I personally very much hate both Bush and McCain, This is another debate I’m glad you watched so I don’t need to. Good Job Cassie!

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