Three moderators. Ten trolls. One Trump. Lots of bad hair. And no one came prepared. But at least they agree on 3 things: They hate abortion, Hillary, and Obama.
It’s the beginning of the first GOP debate of 2016, and to get myself ready I figured I needed a good drink. The question is, how much? Much like the magic 8-Ball, the answer was initially unclear, which is why I decided to write a little drinking game of my own, focused on the GOP’s two favorite topics of late: religious freedom and Planned Parenthood being the devil.
When I wrote the game, I thought it would just be a little bit of fun. Especially once I started catching clips from the #kidstable—the term coined for those candidates who only garnered 2 percent of popularity in national polls or less. Based on the rules I had written, Rick Santorum alone would have put me under the table between his seven children and his depiction of Roe v. Wade as the new Dred Scott. I was glad I had to be a responsible parent and wait for the mainstage event before starting this endeavor.
Was the prime-time debate going to hit Planned Parenthood as heavily? Would ultrasounds make a play? Was Mike Huckabee going to praise the Lord or call out the national guard to protect the unborn?
Drink in hand, I couldn’t want to see.
Beer 1: “Scott Walker winked at me!”
I know it wasn’t the booze, because since not one candidate had spoken yet, I didn’t have a chance to drink. But yes, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker dashed a cheeky wink at the camera during candidate announcements.
The first question of the debate was pointed, and hit straight at frontrunner Donald Trump. Did every candidate pledge to support the eventual nominee and did they all promise not to run an independent third-party campaign if they lost the nomination, which would “essentially hand the race to Hillary Clinton.” Donald Trump refused, responding cattily that he’d be happy to support the nominee and not run an independent campaign if that nominee were someone he respected—namely himself. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul jumped straight for the jugular, accusing Trump of “being used to buying politicians” and hence assuming he could buy a nomination, too. The spat ended soon after, but set the tone for a debate that was essentially Fox News trying to end Trump’s popularity with supporters.
In many of those instances, they failed spectacularly.
The debate began somewhat slowly as I kept an eye on my drinking sheet waiting for permission to hit up my beer. Early questions went to Dr. Ben Carson, who was then largely ignored for most of the rest of the debate, with Fox asking if maybe he wasn’t too unqualified to be president, what with his complete lack of any idea of who was in government or how it works. His response? He’s a neurosurgeon, so he can probably learn. Soon after, Florida Senator Marco Rubio made the night’s first flub by pointing out that yes, Rubio himself was inexperienced, but if you wanted someone with the most experience than a voter should pick Hillary Clinton. Our thoughts, exactly …
Soon, the drinking game hit full engagement as Fox News’s Megyn Kelly hit Donald Trump with the “Is there a war on women” topic. Of course, as Kelly asked it, she basically recounted a litany of examples of Trump saying absolutely awful things about women.
Trump’s response? That political correctness is destroying the country. Even more disheartening? The crowd roaring its approval. The first attempt by the Fox team to bring Trump’s numbers down with his target audience had obviously failed, but they would be back.
After that, things began to get a little hazy as moderators asked Scott “Winky” Walker if he would let a woman die rather than have an abortion? His answer? Yes, and so would many other people, so that makes it absolutely acceptable. Walker followed up with a litany of anti-abortion bills he passed, including his own personal effort to defund Planned Parenthood in the state of Wisconsin.
By the end of his speech I was most of a beer in, only to follow it up quickly with a few more drinks when former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee began stating that the 14th Amendment protects unborn babies from abortion and from “having their body parts sold like Buicks.”
Luckily, I had a chance to slow down for a moment when New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul went at each other over search warrants. The next thing I knew, Paul was criticizing Christie for hugging President Barack Obama, and Christie was yelling at Paul for not hugging as many 9/11 families as Christie had.
As I tried to parse that out, suddenly Fox’s Chris Wallace was asking Donald Trump if he still hated Obamacare or wanted to switch to some single-payer system that Trump must have said a decade ago made sense and Fox decided to dredge up because they really, really hate that he is the top polling candidate. Trump answers back that he would repeal and replace Oabmacare, and sort of outlines a private system he’d use instead, totally blowing my “Hey, no one ever has the actual plan for replacement” theory that caused me put that as a “slam your drink” scenario in my game.
Luckily, my glass was mostly empty by then. It was time for a new beer and a new round of questions.
Beer 2: Did Someone Say Social Issues?
By the time I poured by second beer, we were heavy into national security and ISIS. At one point, Scott Walker threw in a Hillary Clinton jab which he obviously had in hand in preparing for the debate and was terrified he wouldn’t have the opportunity to use. I didn’t mind. I needed the drink.
I sort of zoned out for a bit while the Republican candidates discussed entitlement programs, and then taxes. There was a bit of chatter over the idea of a FAIR tax—the payment of a set portion of income, or just paying on consumption, both ways in which rich get to keep larger portions of their wealth while the less affluent are forced to pay larger chunks. At one point, Dr. Ben Carson compared it to tithing at church, so I was allowed another drink there, too.
Fox debate moderators tried again to take out Trump, this time by pointing out that he had declared bankruptcy a lot. Trump snapped back that he never did, it was his businesses. Then he somehow managed to paint the Fox News system as anti-business, which had me so baffled I drank just to drink.
Then the moderators said after the break they’d discuss social issues, and I knew I was in trouble.
The next segment started with what at first sounded like a hard hitting question for Florida Governor Jeb Bush, but in actuality turned into a softball. He was asked about his work with the Bloomberg Foundation and did he know it supported abortion rights? No, he answered emphatically, then took the opportunity to parage his “pro-life” creds as governor, from Defunding Planned Parenthood to funding crisis pregnancy centers. I was so busy drinking I didn’t have time to note that he didn’t mention the debacle that was keeping Terri Schiavo on life support against her husband’s wishes or when he tried to force a mentally disabled woman to give birth.
Then Florida Senator Marco Rubio got to correct the moderators, saying he supported life from conception and that any rumors that he believes there should be exceptions to abortion bans for rape or incest were lies.
Trump, who was up next, probably thought he would get the same kid glove treatment, but not at all. Instead, Kelly pointed out that at one point he said he was prochoice and even “supported ‘partial birth’ abortion.” She then followed up with the non-sequitor, “When did you become a Republican?”
Trump’s response on how he evolved on abortion was tepid at best. “There was a child that was going to be aborted. And he wasn’t. And now he’s a superstar,” Trump told Kelly.
As the dust settled from another struggle between Fox and Trump, somewhere in there Rand Paul was asked a question and I missed it, but the answer was that “I don’t want my guns or my marriage registered in Washington.” You can insert your own big government question yourself and likely be close enough. Soon after there was a literal 20-second dash in and out of the #Blacklivesmatters debate, where Walker answered that we need to better train police officers then danced away without actually discussing racism or police violence.
The answer still probably had more depth than Governor Mike Huckabee’s next answer, which was that trans people should not be allowed into the military because, “The point of the military is to kill people and break things. It’s not a social experiment.” Maybe Huckabee should tell that to the 15,000 trans military members currently serving.
Beer 3: Does God Talk to You? Me, Too.
It’s not shocking that I made it through an entire beer during “social issues.” I suppose I should just be surprised that I only went through one. That was just as well, since that gave me a fresh one for when the debate moderators decided to ask candidates if they felt that God talked to them and if so, what did God say.
Walker of course hears God, and is “washed in the sacrificial blood,” and all. Texas Senator Ted Cruz talks to God directly as well, which I’m fairly certain is actually a prerequisite for being elected a GOP senator in Texas. But since the God thing wasn’t enough of a pander to his party base, Cruz mentioned the lovely veterans who sacrifice so much for us and how much God loves them, too.
He forgot kittens, though. I hear God really loves kittens.
Needless to say at this point I was terrified that every candidate would be asked about his personal relationship with God, which was going to drain my beer very, very quickly, and I’d just opened it.
Every candidate then got to close off with a final statement, and by this point they were all blurring into one. I do know that if Ted Cruz is going to get elected then on his first day as president he will undo every executive order President Barack Obama put into effect, then investigate Planned Parenthood. Yes, all of his very first day.
God help us all. Oh, and I said God, so I have to drink.
Empty bottles, Empty Promises
In the end, there were a few takeaways from the first GOP debate. One is that Trump must actually have a shot at the GOP nomination, because Fox tried very, very hard to make him look bad in front of his target audience. However, for many of those battles, Trump managed to spin it back around, either applauding the opposition of political correctness or criticizing government or even the media. It will be interesting to see if they can shake him from his pedestal, or if the efforts will just make him soar higher. After all, a lot of people in the GOP love the guy who is the most persecuted.
Two is that Jeb Bush is at this point all fluff, and possibly even less politically consequential than his brother. His planned lines fell flat. His more extemporaneous ones got flubbed. And there is no Vito Corleone in him, no matter how much he claims otherwise.
There really is no GOP frontrunner. Walker is acceptable but nothing special. Trump is popular but volatile, and probably unelectable over all. Bush is all funds, no flash. And the others so far are all too niche to grab a nomination.
The GOP has so many nominees that they needed two debates, and they have yet to show one politician who can both energize the base and win a general. That’s got to be terrifying for Republican leaders.
I’d offer them a drink to help them cope, but I’m all out.
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