The recent Republican debate struck a new low for our body politic. Not much remarked, but striking to anyone suffering through it, was a new tone of empty vitriol directed especially at President Obama. The Republicans have been consumed with hate since he was elected, but I have never seen decorum drop to quite such a low level.
"America has been betrayed. We've been betrayed by the leadership that Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton have provided to this country over the last number of years." - Governor Chris Christie.
"This is why -- this is what I said at the beginning that this administration, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton through their foreign policy, have betrayed the American people, because the weakness they've displayed has led to Putin's incursions in the Middle East and in eastern Europe, and has led -- has led to significant problems in the Middle East as well, and the death and murder of lots of folks." - Governor Chris Christie
"As far as other people like in the migration, where they're going, tens of thousands of people having cell phones with ISIS flags on them? I don't think so, Wolf. They're not coming to this country. And if I'm president and if Obama has brought some to this country, they are leaving. They're going. They're gone." - Donald Trump
"One of the things I would immediately do, in addition to defeating them here at home, is bring back the warrior class -- Petraeus, McChrystal, Mattis, Keane, Flynn. Every single one of these generals I know. Every one was retired early because they told President Obama things that he didn't want to hear." - Carly Fiorina
"This president and this is what the focus ought to be, it's not the differences between us, it's Barack Obama does not believe America's leadership in the world is a force for good. He does not believe that our strength is a place where security can take place." - Former Governor Jeb Bush
"And let us remember one other thing. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are responsible for the growth of ISIS because they precipitously withdrew from Iraq in 2011 against the advice of every single general and for political expediency. It's not these people up here. It's Hillary Clinton." - Carly Fiorina
"Well, Wolf, I'll tell you what reckless is. What reckless is is calling Assad a reformer. What reckless is allowing Russia to come into Crimea and Ukraine. What reckless is is inviting Russia into Syria to team with Iran. That is reckless. And the reckless people are the folks in the White House right now. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are the reckless people." - Governor Chris Christie
"Barack Obama has said he doesn't believe in American leadership or America winning -- he is wrong." - Senator Ted Cruz
- The word "kill" came up 26 times in the debate
"I would certainly be open to closing areas where we are at war with somebody. I sure as hell don't want to let people that want to kill us and kill our nation use our Internet. Yes, sir, I am." - Donald Trump
- Then there was the bizarre over-inflation of ISIS as a threat.
"Regarding national security, we need to restore the defense cuts of Barack Obama to rebuild our military, to destroy ISIS before it destroys us." - Former Governor Jeb Bush
The "reckless" charge is particularly ironic in light of Barack Obama's predecessor, who sort of defines the term, including the "killing of lots of folks" part. At any rate, extreme competition among a very crowded field of mediocre candidates has lowered the level of rhetoric, to what I would regard as unconscionable levels. How do they expect to be treated in office, and how do they expect the office to maintain its value if they as public officials make of it such a pig-sty?
This is not even to delve into Mr. Trump's ugly past rhetoric. In this debate, he continued to expound on his "strength", as shown by his willingness to kill relatives of terrorists, and to prohibit Muslims from immigrating to the US. From a left perspective, the GOP is a motley circus, but that doesn't excuse us from paying some attention and noting that we all share in the national discussion and need to draw some lines of basic decency if our politics is not to descend to the level of farce, and worse.
- Some are uncomfortable with this language.
- A few more lies.
- Is ISIS going to kill us all?
- Which side are the Saudis on, really? What a change from the 60's, when a Muslim military alliance was forged against Israel. And how did that work out?
- And they don't just imprison political protesters, they behead them.
- A look back at the Arab spring. Note especially (and in connection with the new Saudi "coalition") how the social and economic dominance of the military in Muslim countries like Egypt, Syria, and Pakistan has no relationship to its effectiveness. It is empty, political, patriarchal machismo writ large.
"If Islamic fundamentalist forces managed to become dominant among the organized forces in those uprisings, with no exception, it is surely due, on the one hand, to the practical and/or political weakness of the Left, but, on the other hand, it is also and above all a product of decades of rule by the despotic regimes. No one should miss that. The Syrian regime was not a shield against Islamic fundamentalism, nor were Mubarak or Ben Ali, and nor are Assad and Sisi today."
Islam as a religion and ideology, of course, seems to go unnoticed. Time and again in this discussion, it come up in passing as the most powerful regional ideology, by far. What does modern liberalism have to offer in its place?
"Add to this the very active involvement of the regional counterrevolutionary stronghold represented by the Gulf oil monarchies, which did their best to strengthen the Islamic fundamentalist component of the Syrian opposition at the expense of anything else. Because, a real democratic uprising is the major threat to them like it is for Assad. In a sense, they concurred with the Assad regime in promoting the Islamic fundamentalist component of the opposition at the detriment of the secular democratic."