About last nightBy
Where to begin? In a nice bit of irony, Republican candidates for president were on the bill of a cage match last night at Greenville, South Carolina’s “Peace Center.” It was a good warm-up for the rumble in the Senate when President Obama nominates someone to fill Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. Unless you were under a rock and missed it last night, Scalia died in his sleep Friday night in Texas. The announcement hit in the late afternoon, Eastern time.
Wingnuts had the skinny: Obama had Scalia whacked. (Hillary must have been at a fundraiser.)
Republicans immediately circled the wagons and by debate time insisted it would be inappropriate for the president to continue doing his job and nominate a replacement with a year still left in his presidency. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY):
“The American people? should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice,” he said in a statement. “Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new President.”
Shorter McConnell: Elections have consequences except when they have Democrats. The American people who elected Obama in 2008 and 2012 must demur to the all-new, less old-and-white, 2016 American people, signalling that Republicans in the upper chamber will hold their breath until the Senate turns blue.
A real poker player, that McConnell. Did he even watch the debate? Here’s just some of what we learned:
Ronald Reagan tore down the Berlin Wall. [Jeb! Bush]
The Constitution is not a living and breathing document. [Marco Rubio] (A friend observed that the older Talmud is still being interpreted.)
The way to hold Wall Street executives accountable for financial crimes is to eliminate the laws and reduce enforcement. [Ben Carson]
It was intense. Josh Marshall was keeping score:
I find it hard to know quite what to say about this debate. It was chaotic and disordered. Lots of candidates called each other liars. Donald Trump used variations of the actual word numerous times. Our initial count from the rough transcript has Trump saying “single biggest liar” twice, “this guy lied” twice and “why do you lie” no less than three times. Rubes said Cruz “lies” a handful of times. And that was just the start of it. I don’t think there’s ever been a presidential debate where so many of the candidates have called each other liars so many times. At some moments the trash talking and chest-puffing and general drama got so intense I thought this might be a fair approximation of West Side Story if you’d written it about two battling country clubs, the plutocrats versus the plutocrat flunkies.
Donald Trump must have decided the way to score points in an anti-establishment election was to double down on conservative blasphemy. In Greenville, South Carolina, no less, Trump declared that Planned Parenthood actually does “wonderful things having to do with women’s health.” Then he attacked Jeb’s mother and brother:
BUSH: And he has had the gall to go after my brother.
TRUMP: The World Trade Center came down during your brother’s reign, remember that.
BUSH: He has had the gall to go after my mother.
Hold on. Let me finish. He has had the gall to go after my mother.
TRUMP: That’s not keeping us safe.
BUSH: Look, I won the lottery when I was born 63 years ago, looked up, and I saw my mom. My mom is the strongest woman I know.
TRUMP: She should be running.
Ohio Governor John Kasich was gobsmacked, “This is just nuts, OK? Jeez, oh, man. I’m sorry, John.”
That was moderator John Dickerson of CBS News, who at one point threatened bickering candidates that he might have to “turn this car around.”
Candidates pretty much ignored Rubio, except Cruz:
CRUZ: You know, the lines are very, very clear. Marco right now supports citizenship for 12 million people here illegally. I oppose citizenship. Marco stood on the debate stage and said that.
But I would note not only that, Marco has a long record when it comes to amnesty. In the state of Florida, as speaker of the house, he supported in-state tuition for illegal immigrants. In addition to that, Marco went on Univision in Spanish and said he would not rescind President Obama’s illegal executive amnesty on his first day in office.
I have promised to rescind every single illegal executive action, including that one.
(MIX OF APPLAUSE AND BOOING)
CRUZ: And on the question…
RUBIO: Well, first of all, I don’t know how he knows what I said on Univision because he doesn’t speak Spanish. And second of all, the other point that I would make…
CRUZ: (SPEAKING SPANISH).
In Spanish, Cruz challenged Rubio to debate him in Spanish. Rubio is done.
Best debate ever! They tell the truth about each other and lie about themselves.
— Joe Conason (@JoeConason) February 14, 2016
Looking forward to McConnell blocking a new appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court until he’s proven Republicans are as utterly dysfunctional as their candidates.