That 2nd GOP Debate Was a Disaster

That 2nd GOP Debate Was a Disaster
(L–R) North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former South Carolina Gov. and U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, and former Vice President Mike Pence at the second Republican presidential primary debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., on Sept. 27, 2023. (Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)
Jeffrey A. Tucker

After the disastrously idiocratic Republican debate on the evening of Sept. 27—which, like a fool, I stayed up late to watch—Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who was one of the participants, sat down with Sean Hannity of Fox.

“If I was at home watching that,” Mr. DeSantis said, “I would have changed the channel.”

Exactly. If just one candidate had said the following, that candidate would have been the winner.

“Before I attempt to answer your canned and superficial question, let me say this. This format is awful. These questions have so far been hackneyed and scripted. The time limits seem designed to generate clips for social media and nothing more. Your games with the microphones are annoying. This great country is falling apart, and Fox seems to be running the circuses. This isn't serious. Our nation is in the midst of a real emergency. The American people deserve better.”

That would have been the night’s takeaway. It's also what every single viewer was thinking. There's no one who spent two hours watching that mess who didn’t feel robbed. Not one salient point emerged from it. Fox got its advertisements in, mercifully free of pharma, but that's all.

It was otherwise a complete waste.

Former President Donald Trump was the only winner.

The format and question content alone was stunning, almost jaw-dropping. The point seemed to be to run a before-times debate of the old sort. That's why so many questions seemed lifted from the reject pile from 2012. One moderator even posed as a representative of the Latino community—complete with a thick accent—and asked questions almost exclusively about that subject, which only reinforces the very identity politics that's ripping the country apart.

There was no mention of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the CIA, the FBI, the decaying standard of living as a result of Washington’s mismanagement, the censorship, the fall of U.S. cities, lockdowns, or any other elements of hardcore reality. Indeed, the entire question slate seemed designed to avoid reality.

We have an administrative state that's out of control, rampant digital censorship and spying, a security state run amok, a people broken by lockdowns and lies, and an utterly pointless proxy war going on with Russia—and yet there wasn't one mention of any of that. The moderators pretended that the country was a normal place with the old debates about health insurance or something. Not one of them hinted at the sheer scale of the problem.

As for the candidate answers, they all seemed overcoached. Staff invariably drills numbers into the heads of candidates, thinking somehow that flinging numbers around will make them seem serious. As a result, the two hours were a blizzard of blah blah. It was 20 percent this, and 70 percent that, and 54 percent this, and 10 million that, plus 4 million this, and 30 percent that. None of this gibberish means anything to any viewer.

And when they weren’t tossing off phony baloney data, they were telling silly anecdotes about real-life people while trying to keep within the 60-second limit. It didn't work. The cross-talk was even more ridiculous. At some point, Sen. Tim Scott was denouncing former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley for something to do with curtains, as in the things you use to cover windows. I couldn’t figure it out, and no one else could either.

All this coaching and correcting only ended up making all of them seem inauthentic, as if their main skill was in memorizing riffs taught to them by their handlers. It certainly doesn't give one confidence. Indeed, this whole charade reinforces the feeling that a vast number of us have that these candidates are simply marionettes who lie to get votes and then do whatever they want.

Think back to how then-presidential candidate Trump destroyed the huge field of candidates in 2016. It wasn’t by long sessions of debate preparation and canned responses. It was by being a fascinating and real personality, alternately laughing, denouncing, clarifying, dismissing, and otherwise tearing up the rules. He dominated the stage by disregarding all the protocols. His promise to drain the swamp and hold politicians and bureaucrats accountable put him over the top. He was a bull in a despised china shop.

In contrast, the people on stage were too willing to allow the absurdities of the structure and topics to restrain their comments. Time and again after typically inane questions, we hoped the candidate would dismiss the terms of service. Instead, each time, they were like trout to the fly on the pond, biting and being fished out.

I have no idea if Fox was attempting to make President Trump the winner by his absence, but that was the net effect.

Not one person called out the scam until the very end when a moderator asked them all to write down the names of someone on stage that they would like to kick off the island. This was too much for Mr. DeSantis. He finally came to his senses and flat-out said that he wouldn't participate. That blew up the whole idea, and the moderator immediately caved.

Something like that should have happened 100 minutes earlier. The structure, the questions, the moderators, the lighting, the charade—all of it deserved to be called out by everyone on stage. They played the game for far too long, and they were all diminished by the experience. The network, too, suffered, since it was Fox that put this show on.

A final note for candidates and their controllers: Your approach isn't working. Every one of these candidates needs to be free of consultant controls and allowed to sink or swim on his or her own. The difference between real and fake is incredibly obvious to any viewer. Every successful public speaker knows this. You can't engage anyone through memorized remarks and canned responses. The only way to engage is to be a real person, and that means putting an end to the fake displays of cartoon “leadership” and instead saying what's on the minds of masses of voters.

People in this country today are terrified for their future. We're no longer a naive people. We're more than aware that this once-great country is being pillaged by an entrenched ruling class that's taking whatever isn't nailed down, with zero regard for the future. These seem like the end times, and people are crying out for explanations and answers.

Last year, The Epoch Times hosted a debate in a congressional race that had actual experts—not camera-ready actors and actresses reading from scripts—asking knowledgeable questions of candidates who were given time to frame their answers in a coherent and intelligent way. It actually worked.

Something like that could work again. Regardless, what happened at the second GOP debate should never take place again. Fox should apologize to viewers and get serious or get out of the game of pretending to contribute to public life.

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
Jeffrey A. Tucker is the founder and president of the Brownstone Institute, and the author of many thousands of articles in the scholarly and popular press, as well as 10 books in five languages, most recently “Liberty or Lockdown.” He is also the editor of The Best of Mises. He writes a daily column on economics for The Epoch Times and speaks widely on the topics of economics, technology, social philosophy, and culture.