by Avi Davis
The Second GOP Presidential Debate at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley last night was a wonderful showcase of the great talent in the Republican nominating field. I was deeply impressed with several of the candidates who had not revealed their strengths in the first debate. Included among them was Chris Christie who stood effectively above the fray by calling attention to the pettiness of the exchanges between some of the other candidates and made some forceful points about foreign policy and planned parenthood; Marco Rubio continues to impress me with his remarkably articulate presentation – probably the best extemporaneous orator I have ever witnessed on the American political scene. Mike Huckabee presents as a clear sighted elder statesman who delivered the line of the evening when he reminded his fellow candidates that Ronald Reagan rarely spoke about what he personally could do for America as much as about the American potential for greatness. John Kasich is beginning to emerge from obscurity to present his brand of compassionate conservatism – which of course places him on the moderate ( dare I say “liberal”) wing of his party but positions him well to collect votes of disaffected Democrats.
But Carly Fiorina, to my mind at least, stole the show. Diminutive (at least in comparison to the men on the stage) and the only woman, she displayed a remarkable wit, pluck and was carefully prepared. If her words were rehearsed then it was not noticeable. She came across as confident and informed and very much a leader – clearly a skilled competitor to the others who are now forced to pay her the respect she deserves. Her line about Hilary Clinton – that logging flight time cannot be listed as an accomplishment – is a killer.
Of the others I did not think Scott Walker particularly distinguished himself, despite what other commentators have said. I am still waiting for him to look and sound presidential – that kind of ringing confidence still seems to escape him. Ted Cruz did well. but appears at times a little too stiff and robotic. There is not enough warmth nor personality in his presentation and he lacks the humor and self effacement of other candidates such as Ben Carson – all of which would help humanize him. Rand Paul was the big loser of the night. Diminished by the great Great Diminisher, Donald Trump, himself, he never quite recovered his poise;
Of the front runners, Jeb Bush did much better this time around but I can’t help wondering about his level of preparation and his sometimes faltering delivery. At least he stood up to Trump and did not allow himself to be kicked around again. Ben Carson was amiable, humorous and comfortable – but of all of them, his soft spoken demeanor, while attractive, tends to cast him as the guy you would like as your best friend, but not necessarily as your president.
Then of course there is front runner The Donald. ( Why am I calling him that????). He was warmer and less arrogant this time around and held his own against the others who tried to paint him as a light weight with no defined policies. This is, of course, a mistake. Trump is supremely intelligent and a quick study and what he says is true – what he doesn’t know he will pick up – and with speed. The jury is still out on whether he has the temperament to be president – he hardly ever talks about mustering support in Congress for his policies or of working together cooperatively with anyone. The first thing a President learns upon entering the White House is that no elected leader just pushes a button that gets things done. It takes extensive back slapping and glad handing of people you don’t really like and even consider your enemies.
Will he learn this and would he be able to engage in the political world like other cooperative presidents such as Ronald Reagan – and to a certain extent – Bill Clinton? That should be left to the questioning by hosts in future debates.
So much for presentation . I will talk about the substance of the disagreements on policy between the candidates in a post later today. .