Pre-Holiday Conflict In The Republican Party Fuels Presidential Campaigns
Word I’m getting from those on the inside is that Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus is back on the sauce. His drinking problem, which began to rear its ugly head around this time four years ago, has returned with a Hemmingway-like vengeance. Only this time he doesn’t have a minor core of religious nuts or gun goofballs to deal with, while desperately trying to adhere to a 2012 post-mortem declaration by big-money donors and establishment voices to make the next national GOP candidate electable. This time he is facing a full-out revolt, not just ideologically, but quite literally.
For the first time in distant memory all the current Republican presidential campaigns met in private this past week to cobble together demands on how the party will represent their needs; specifically in these showcases dressed up as debates. These included, among other key issues, the choosing of softball moderators and the temperature in the venues. The consensus is that Priebus has not had their “interests” in mind—whatever a collective of fourteen’s general interests may be. The byproduct of this is the lost-cause campaigns that are not yet polling at one-percent, like Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, former New York Governor George Pataki, Rick Santorum, and South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who want out of the kiddie-table, pre-showcase debates to bloat an already crowded stage of ten, with every candidate getting equal time.
All of the campaigns want these things to be two hours, during which they are allotted four minutes at the top and the conclusion to speechify. This, of course, would give each candidate about additional six minutes to differentiate themselves from the field, but only if those differentiations do not include stupid things they say or stand for.
Most of this blew up after CNBC ran a clown show that turned into a whine-fest about the liberal media and then an outright cry-baby complaint department. Even the declared winner (if there could be such a thing in these insipidly devised events) Marco Rubio, the mostly absentee senator from Florida, who turned opponent Donald Trump’s rightful tirade on how million-dollar Super Pacs (of which Rubio is second to only Jeb Bush) make candidates special-interest puppets into an opportunity to claim that the mainstream media is a Super Pac for the Democratic Party. Nice job.
To be fair, the CNBC production and the performance by its moderators was abysmal at best and a downright mugging at worst. How a financial network cannot ask a single question about the current administration’s largest trade agreement or force Republican candidates to explain to voters how another GOP president won’t sink the economic solvency of the Western Hemisphere again is beyond me. Bad questions, allowing candidates to shout incessantly over one another, and not having the proper notes to refute claims that candidates didn’t say things that were on their websites is inexcusable
Having said that, bitching about it is bush league, especially during the damn thing. Texas Senator Ted Cruz spent two minutes complaining after being asked one of the few legitimate questions and then was perturbed to not get another two minutes to actually answer the question. Predictably, this kind of nonsense plays well with the base of the Republican Party, and the public in general, who all have some measure of beef with the media—specifically the networks who run these showcases dressed up as debates as if professional wrestling matches; complete with dramatic openings and promises of major conflict. The selling of Trump and the field of nine trying to take him down has turned news into big entertainment. However, attacking the messenger has a short shelf life. Didn’t help Nixon or the Clintons and it pretty much sank Newt Gingrich last time around.
There were rumors after the debate, most of them started by this columnist, that Priebus was already hammered on six Grand Marnier’s after his precious showcase had gone rogue, and yammered like a 10-year-old about the line of questions and the decorum of the moderators, claiming the same kind of “attack dog” victimization as the Clinton Campaign parlayed into soaring poll numbers the previous week. It was well calculated on his part, but little did he know the candidates were not fucking around.
It is important to point out at this juncture that the current frontrunners—and have been for months—Donald Trump and Ben Carson, with zero political credentials between them, despite running for the top political job in the land, had no problem with the moderators or the showcase dressed up as a debate. Chaos fits their narrative just fine; the process is screwed. They’re merely here to provide an alternative. Ted Cruz, who has been in the U.S. Senate now for almost six years but continues to claim outsider status, once again piggybacked Trump and Carson’s headwind by comically suggesting that Rush Limbaugh and other right wing radio entertainers moderate. Good one.
Seems Trump and Carson and a few other candidates eventually came to the conclusion that it is not such a good idea to allow barely relevant opponents a chance to muck up an already crowded field. Soon after the brief solidarity, Trump, in his inimitable fashion, began suggesting candidates start extracting themselves from the process, so he can have more time to do the Trump thing. Carson mumbled something about Jesus with his eyes closed and his poll numbers soared.
Priebus had a conference call with RNC officials to have someone on staff to make sure he has enough cognac on hand.
There are eight more of these left.
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James Campion is the Managing Editor of The Reality Check News & Information Desk and the author of “Deep Tank Jersey”, “Fear No Art”, “Trailing Jesus”, “Midnight For Cinderella” and “Y”. His new book, “Shout It Out Loud—The Story of KISS’s Destroyer and the Making of an American Icon” is due out this October.