Chris Christie dealt Marco Rubio a blow on Saturday. When Christie said Rubio isn’t ready to be president because he relies too heavily on memorized stump speeches, Rubio responded by delivering a stump speech, verbatim, several times. The exchange went viral. Rubio’s enemies in the GOP, among the Democrats, and in the media piled on. His future is uncertain.
I went back and looked at President Obama’s answer to the readiness question. Hillary Clinton attacked Obama’s youth and thin résumé throughout their primary fight, mostly famously in the “3 a.m. phone call” ad. But Obama not only defeated Clinton, he also beat John McCain, who made similar arguments against him. How?
Marco Rubio entered the ABC New Hampshire debate on the upswing, only to have Chris Christie bat him down. Rubio effectively turned a third-place finish in Iowa into a springboard for a top-two finish in New Hampshire. But Christie wasn’t about to let him sail to victory without a fight. Christie launched into a brutal and bruising attack on Rubio’s inexperience, belittling his record in the Senate, calling him over-scripted and underprepared, contrasting senatorial debate with executive action.
You listen to Bernie Sanders and hear something familiar. The party establishment has been corrupted by big money. It hasn’t achieved the promises it has made to voters. International trade has been a corrupt bargain for American workers. America has been too assertive and quick to take military action overseas and should work within international coalitions above all else. The mainstream of the party is much closer to the center than it is to the beliefs of its base.
Ted Cruz won a major victory in Monday’s Iowa caucuses. Polls showed him running behind Donald Trump, who attacked Cruz furiously, calling him a nasty person, a stooge of Goldman Sachs, and, heaven forbid, a Canadian. But Cruz persevered and beat Trump 28 to 24 percent, with Marco Rubio a close third at 23 percent. Cruz’s path to the Republican nomination depended on him winning the Iowa caucuses. Well, he won them.
I don’t understand how our “superannuated, increasingly sclerotic 20th-century welfare state structures” are entirely to blame for the political, cultural, and social decomposition of America. And I am afraid decomposition is the word.
Thursday’s Republican presidential debate on Fox News Channel was serious, substantive, and filled with thoughtful policy statements from major candidates. Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Ted Cruz delivered solid performances. Yet there was something missing: The Republican frontrunner Donald Trump, who skipped the debate because of a dispute with the cable news powerhouse. I watched the program attentively, yet was left puzzled by what I saw. It’s hard to determine who wins when the candidate who leads the polls and has determined the grounds of political discussion is nowhere to be seen.
Paul Ryan enters his first full year as speaker of the House with a unified caucus, an ambitious agenda, and an audacious goal: Go on offense against President Obama and the Democratic Party, while laying the predicate for unified Republican control of government in 2017. “We have no clue who our nominee is going to be,” Ryan tells me over the phone, “and the last thing we should do is sit around and wait.”
The Fox Business debate made clear that the Republican primary is Donald Trump’s race to lose. It’s not only that Trump continues his months-long polling lead and the debate won’t do anything to change that. It’s that Trump’s considerable political skills were on display Thursday evening. Provocative, gauche, funny, emphatic, and fearless, Trump doesn’t back down when the crowd boos him, he holds his own against more polished opponents, and he has identified and exploited the anger of many Republican and independent voters.
President Obama spent the week defending his proposals to curb gun violence, culminating in a CNN town hall. Think about that. What else happened during the last few days that might warrant a presidential town hall?
Oh, nothing much.
No doubt you, too, spent the holidays relishing the humiliation of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the overrated and obnoxious Democratic Party hack who, finally, is teetering on the brink of political oblivion. How the former ballet dancer and Sarah Lawrence alumnus parlayed ambition and drive and the ability to scream like a lunatic into high office and a fortune of more than $10 million is one of the remarkable political stories of our time. “Emanuel has succeeded in almost every professional endeavor he has undertaken,” Ryan Lizza wrote approvingly in 2009. Spoke too soon.