So this was one of the best debates in the history of debates. I’m not kidding. Four remarkably eloquent, serious, policy-minded politicians of significant standing stood on stage and dealt candidly with issues both foreign and domestic. If I had to choose a winner, I would say Nikki Haley by a mile, but Ron De Santis was calm and effective and commanding, and made a good showing for himself. Chris Christie was mostly terrific and Tim Scott, while not quite ready for this race altogether, simply cannot fail to be winning and brought a warmth to the stage that made a real difference. Especially since there was a man with the emotional maturity of a three year-old who somehow made millions in a health-care-scheme and seemed to spend the entire debate daring someone to smash him directly in the mouth—and whose shot at one of Haley’s children represented a new low in a political age where you keep thinking things can’t go any lower. When Haley called Vivek Ramaswamy “scum” for what he did, everyone in America who was watching stood and applauded.
But who was watching? And how can I be sure what I was watching wasn’t just a dream? It was—in the sense that this was a long political conversation in which there was substantial agreement (with the exception of the man who is scum) on the necessity of a foreign policy that defends our friends against our enemies and was committed to the principle that we need to help them by supplying the tools to complete the job. (Just to get back to the human scum, he called Ukraine’s Zelensky a “Nazi,” which is a slander so perfidious that one can only hope Karma exists so that it can, one day soon, be a real bitch to him.)
It might have been my dearest dream, this mostly neocon conversation. But the reality is these candidates are running behind Secretariat at the Belmont Stakes of 2024 and barring some bizarre twist of historical reality of the Aaron-Rodgers-is-eliminated-in-the-fourth-play-of-the-season variety, they are unlikely even to have a chance.
Elsewhere in Florida last night, Donald Trump was speaking at a rally at which he said he “loved” Hannibal Lecter because, he said, Hannibal Lecter said he loved Donald Trump. There’s no way of knowing what on earth he meant, except that the guy can say anything.
I don’t think I’m going to watch any more debates. They’re too painful. They show a world that might have been but is not and never will be.