7 takeaways from Thursday’s GOP debate

Back in junior high, they told me that the things I was learning would help me later in life.

I just didn’t realize that meant the things I was learning on playground as my friends and I taunted each other.

But yet, the mentality of that schoolyard was perfect preparation for covering the end of the Republican Party and its concomitant assault on democracy itself. As part of that enterprise, I watched the Republican debate on Fox News on Thursday. Here are seven takeaways from that awful spectacle.

1. Ted Cruz obviously practices his steely eyed John Wayne impression in the mirror. You know he does. But it’s not convincing anybody.

2. Donald Trump made history! He’s the first major candidate for president of the United States (at least in the modern era) to mention the size of his genitals during a nationally televised presidential debate. Congratulations?

3. You can say that again, Megyn Kelly! As the candidates interrupted and talked over each other, desperate to get their latest insults in, moderator Kelly tried to restore order. “The audience can’t understand when you talk over each other,” she gently reminded the candidates. Then again, it was pretty hard to follow even when most of the candidates had the microphone to themselves.

4. Release your anger! Cruz totally believes in intelligent design, and his campaign was showing it as he tried to steal Trump’s voters by associating Trump with the establishment. He noted that Trump had donated money to liberal Democrats, and that Trump said he’d come to the job with some “flexibility” and ability to compromise. “For 40 years, Donald Trump has been part of the corruption in Washington that you’re angry about,” Cruz said.

5. Trump is flexible. Just in last night’s debate, he flip-flopped on H1B visas and an assault weapons ban. “I’ve never met a successful person who doesn’t have a certain degree of flexibility,” Trump said. Maybe if this running-for-president thing doesn’t work out, he could teach yoga!

6. Trump is also dangerously under-informed. The most unbelievable moment of the night came when Trump declared that members of the military would follow his orders, even if he ordered the targeting of non-combatants in the person of terrorist family members. “They’re not going to refuse me,” he said. “If I say do it, they’ll do it. That’s what leadership is all about.”

Um, no. Leadership is about understanding the limitations of constitutional power as well as the exercise of it. And while Trump may not understand the duty of military officers to refuse to obey unlawful orders, you can be damn sure those officers do. The fact that Trump believes his personality is larger than the U.S. Constitution is yet another really good reason he shouldn’t be considered presidential material.

Oh, by the way, all the other candidates on stage later said they’d support Trump if he were the nominee, even after they’d heard the ridiculous remarks above. Nothing like Republican patriotism, is there?

7. Cruz v. SCOTUS majority. Cruz, a former Supreme Court law clerk, called the court’s 2015 gay-marriage decision in Obergefell v. Hodges “illegitimate.” But why? The case came to the court through the system like any other, was accepted for argument like any other, and the final decision won the votes of a five-member majority of justices. Cruz may not like the result, but he should know that the holding is just as legitimate as the court’s other controversial rulings. Legitimacy is not a function of whether you agree with the court or not.

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