Republican Debate Reactions

I just arrived home after a whirlwind speaking trip to Tucson, Arizona. Because of the event, I was unable to watch the first Republican primary debate live and, to tell you the truth, I really wasn't planning on watching it after the fact. But upon my return all my girls are away on our annual church camping trip, so I decided it was a good opportunity to catch up on what I missed.

I read lots of commentary on the debate. Having watched it in its entirety, I agree with much of the commentary. But a number of things stood out to me that I thought I'd share. I don't have the time to give an assessment of every candidate's performance, so I apologize if I don't comment on your favorite.

The debate was simply fantastic

I sit amazed at the quality of nine of the ten candidates on the main stage, and several who took part in the earlier undercard debate. Honestly, with a few variances in degrees of wholeheartedness, I could support any of them. Forget for a moment silly things like who misspoke or who looked uncomfortable or who "won" a particular exchange on a policy disagreement. Every single person on that stage except one (more below) was confident, articulate, substantive, and passionate about moving our country in a better direction. 2012 was a political clown show; 2016 is a master class of political professionalism.

Donald Trump Was Out"Classed"

Having read most of the post-debate commentary, I confess to being completely unprepared for just how badly every other candidate outclassed Mr. Trump. It will undoubtedly take a bit of time for this to trickle down to actual poll numbers, but Donald Trump was thoroughly diminished on that stage. Actually, I'm tempted to use the word "humiliated." He wasn't worthy of carrying the bags of the greatest neophyte of them all: Dr. Ben Carson. Even conservative pundits are giving him way too much credit. Now, anyone who knows me knows that I cannot stand Donald Trump. But I assure you I approached this debate with as open a mind as I could muster, willing to listen. Donald Trump turned out to be a kindergartner in a postgraduate seminar. It really was shocking to me how poorly he performed in that crowd. Trump will be long gone before the first primary votes are cast. Not because he wants to bow out, but because his ineptness will simply catch up to him. That's my prediction, based partly on my new novel theory:

No, Trump is not conspiring with Bill and Hillary to split the Republican vote and deliver the White House to her, although before watching this debate I suspected that to be the case. As he was delivering one of his mind-numbingly stupid "red meat" answers in this debate, the truth struck me like a thunderbolt. Remember a few years ago when well-known, talented Hollywood actor Joaquin Phoenix appeared to go crazy? He quit acting, was photographed by Paparazzi doing all kinds of weird things, and decided to pursue a career in hip-hop music? He even went on David Letterman and gave this classic (bizarre and strangely funny-as-in-watching-a-car-wreck) appearance. It all turned out that Joaquin was making a "reality-esque" film about Joaquin Phoenix quitting acting and starting a hip-hop career. Everyone was "punked."

Donald Trump is a reality TV star. This debate made it obvious to me: he isn't trying to get Hillary elected because he's been paid off. He's making a "reality" film about him running for President. Some enterprising reporter should check the identities of the ubiquitous film crews following Donald Trump around on this campaign. One of them is not a journalism outfit. It's a reality TV firm filming a movie. We are all being punked. 

Marco Rubio, The Savant

Conservatives: we have found our Ronald Reagan. So stop looking, please. I mean that. Rubio's every second was maximized to deliver a conservative vision to the common man, with once-in-a-generation charm and likability. In this he is the antithesis to Ted Cruz, who seems determined to win by doing nothing other than (very) grimly trumpeting his personal hobby horses, as much as I might agree with a few of them.

Rubio took some heat later on for his answer on abortion, in which he denied ever advocating for rape/incest exceptions, and I was surprised that nobody in the conservative commentariat really mentioned his answer. I'm sure it's the travel tiredness, but the last part of Marco's answer brought me to literal tears. I found it just as moving as the pro-abortion crowd found it disturbing.

Yes, people will say Marco is too young. He should "wait his turn." I'm not sure the country can afford to wait for a mythical "turn." Watch the debate and see how Marco handles every question. He is an absolute political savant. Performing like this is not easy (ask Rick Perry!), and he makes it look ridiculously easy. 

Jeb, the Anti-Marco

On the other hand, Jeb Bush makes politics look very difficult, indeed. Runs in the family. I liked almost everything he said. But the Bushes have never been great communicators, and he seemed, well, awkward. A person watching the debate who had no prior exposure to the campaign would never know that he is one of the frontrunners. That's a major problem for Jeb, and a major compliment to the other candidates. They all came across as serious contenders. Even Ben Carson.

Speaking of whom, Ben Carson is the nicest man alive. He just oozes grace and goodness. His foreign policy answers were, as expected, sub-par, but he did a lot of good for his campaign with his answer on race relations and his delightful closing statement.

I thought John Kasich gave a good impression, even though I didn't like all his answers. Mike Huckabee was his usual gregarious self, and had some terrific zingers. Chris Christie was confident and Presidential. Rand Paul was... Rand Paul. He hit all the usual family talking points, but he just lacked stature on this stage. I'd replace him in an instant with Carly Fiorina, who blew the competition away in the undercard event.

All in all, I was immensely gratified by the Republican field this year. Pull yourself away from the hype for a moment and appreciate it. I'll let Marco Rubio express what I think:

Don't Pass it Down. Do Something.

So by now you've no doubt heard of the explosive undercover videos exposing the nausea-inducing underbelly of Planned Parenthood (an Orwellian name if there ever was). After four videos (more to come) this much seems clear: they are all Kermit Gosnell. Tidier and more sanitary, sure, but exactly the same barbarism. Gosnell liked to joke about his murders: "That one was big enough to walk me to the bus stop." Clinicians in the back rooms of Planned Parenthood locations say things like: "Ooh, there's a liver!" And, "It's another boy!" And their executives sip wine and munch salad while talking about how careful they are not to crush valuable baby body parts and to get dead bodies less "war torn," and joke about wanting a Lamborghini when haggling over the prices. Gosnell convinced the poor black women in his neighborhood that his services were, well, contraceptive services. Isn't that the entire edifice upon which Planned Parenthood is built? Gosnell had a major financial stake in keeping girls pregnant and coming to him, and we learn that Planned Parenthood has a double conflict of interest when "counseling" expectant mothers: they make their cash doing the abortion, and they make money selling the carved up corpses. How likely is it those sessions are about "choices"? About the same as a car salesman trying to convince me to buy the cheaper model.

But I digress. That isn't what I wanted to write.

My children are too young for this. Still in the blissful, glistening fog of innocence. The eldest is nearly a teenager, and getting there. More than once they've asked what Planned Parenthood is and what these videos are all about (Mom and Dad talk about them). I change the subject. I say, "Never you mind. Go outside and play. Enjoy your summer." 

Why do I hesitate? Is it because I'm overly protective? Do I really think they cannot handle the truth? Maybe there's something to that. But deep down there's another reason.

I want them to reach an adulthood in which this atrocity is a memory, not a living reality. I do not want abortion-on-demand to be a moral issue handed down to them. Rather, I have an almost desperate hope that my children will look back and say: "My parents ended it." I want my generation to be the heroic one. There is something wrong about telling them about all this, burdening them with this horrific knowledge. It feels like passing the buck. It's too soon. There is still time yet for victory before passing the torch to the next-generation reinforcements.

It might seem silly; wishful thinking. My eldest will be an adult in the blink of an eye. But you know what I also know? Planned Parenthood could lose all their Federal funding tomorrow. They could shutter their doors in a matter of months as result of aggressive criminal investigations. What I know is we are closer than we have ever been in 40 years to a significant victory in the fight to protect the most helpless people on the planet. What it will take at very least is for each and every one of us to make our voices reverberate through the offices of our elected representatives. Flood the lines. Flood the lines. Let it be all the staffers can talk about: "Can you believe all these calls?" Call even if your Senator or Representative is a liberal, devoted to defending abortion on demand. Let them know there is no moral or even political defense of this odious organization receiving a single dime of hard-earned, taxpayer dollars.

If, by the time my children come of age, we haven't shuttered Planned Parenthood's doors and passed significant legislation that brings us back into the realm of civilized nations, I'll pass the torch then. I'll accept the reinforcements. I'll give them the full briefing.

And I'll apologize for the catastrophic moral failure of our nation, our elected leaders, and our entire generation. 

Update: Phone numbers for your Congressional representatives can be easily found here.