Let’s not call it a debate.
Not only were the discrepancies between the candidates rather few and far between but no candidate spoke for more than ten and a half minutes. In short, and I mean very short, Donald Trump stumbled his way through a mediocre GCOM 101 presentation, minus the power point.
After him, Jeb spoke for 8:33. Everyone else on the primary stage spoke for six and a half minutes tops.
As a teacher, I felt like I was watching a Socratic seminar where none of the students have read the book and utter buzzwords they located on SparkNotes and Shmoop. And, when their cheat sheets failed them, the candidates simply made shit up.
Debates? These were more like drama auditions for roles in Patton and High Noon. You know, to be leaders in a world and a nation that no longer exist. And that’s what was so strange about the debate: from the specific questions to the general topics, everything seemed anchored in the past.
Towards the end, when Dr. Ben Carson’s description of all the things he’d done with brains started to make him sound a bit like Dr. Frankenstein, he concluded with a statement about race that boiled down to: it’s what’s on the inside that counts. Afterwards, he was praised by pundits for this statement as if he had just uttered something as profound as Martin Luther King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” But this was Sunday School simple grasping at straws.
Ideas? Solutions? Not many. But how could there be? The problems the nation faces were rarely identified correctly. When speaking of the Middle East, most of the candidates seemed to conflate ISIS and Iran as the same challenge. But they’re not.
And that’s the real problem with calling Thursday night's preacher’s tent of snake and oil salesmen a debate. How do you flesh out real answers in less time than it takes to use a search engine, when the number of people lined up to use the keyboard outnumbers the entries in an NCAA Tournament bracket?
The answer is you don’t. And the only real argument becomes who was more Presidential in a debate over who hugged whom sometime in the past when hugs were the end all be all.
Bryan Harvey tweets @LawnChairBoys.