Last Tuesday’s Fox Business Channel debate among GOP presidential contenders was a vast improvement over the previous CNBC debate, which was an embarrassment to all concerned, especially to the hyper-partisan CNBC moderators. By contrast, the Fox moderators stuck to the topic at hand — the faltering U.S. economy.
For what it’s worth, I thought Florida Sen. Marco Rubio won last Tuesday’s debate, while Ohio Gov. John Kasich lost. Ten other candidates maintained their positions behind the front-runners, non-politicians Donald Trump and Dr. Ben Carson. Although the candidates mostly treated each other with courtesy and respect, it’s a fact Republicans have a propensity for turning on each other and losing winnable elections.
When heavy-hitting conservatives like Weekly Standard Executive Editor Fred Barnes and nationally syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer sound political alarm bells, the GOP should pay attention. That’s what’s happening in the Republican-controlled Congress and in the messy race for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination as candidates turn their fire on each other.
As Barnes wrote last week, “Republicans are in trouble. A significant bloc regards their congressional leaders . . . as enemies (and) a quarter or more of grassroots Republicans think Donald Trump should be president.” Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Krauthammer piled-on by claiming the GOP doesn’t know how to win.
Calling the CNBC debate “a stunning victory” for GOP candidates over the mainstream media, Krauthammer asserted the candidates “overplayed their hand so as to dissipate whatever sympathetic advantage they gained.” After “winning” the CNBC debate, the candidates immediately started whining about “tough” questions. Please!
Despite their CNBC debate victory, Krauthammer wrote, some Republicans were determined to turn it into another battle in “their civil war against the GOP ‘establishment.’” He added “Republicans . . . are hopeless at oversight hearings,” referring to the recent Benghazi hearings, which made Democrat front-runner Hillary Clinton look good. To their credit, GOP candidates turned their fire on President Obama and Mrs. Clinton rather than trashing each other in last Tuesday’s Fox debate.
Although I agree with my Republican friends more often than not, I simply don’t understand their all-or-nothing approach to politics and their “I don’t win unless you lose” attitude toward those who disagree with them. As I’ve written many times, you don’t always get everything you want in life or in politics. During my diplomatic career I learned that if you can get most of what you’re after, you should probably declare victory and move on to the next challenge. But my more conservative friends call me a “wimpy moderate” because I’m willing to compromise with the other side.
So I have a question for them: Do you want to win elections or do you want to score ideological points? Take your pick. Right-wing Nevada Republicans scored ideological points in 2008 when they nominated Tea Party favorite Sharron Angle to oppose vulnerable Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who defeated her going away even though the GOP had two moderate candidates who could have given the Searchlight kid a run for his money. Apparently, Ms. Angle is thinking of running again. Help!
In the most recent Nevada GOP dustup, Tea Partiers are attempting to reverse the Legislature’s decision to raise taxes in order to improve public education, a “must” if we are to compete successfully in the high tech job market. Somewhat inexplicably, however, two Republicans, State Controller Ron Knecht and Treasurer Dan Schwartz, are leading the charge to scuttle GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval’s education plan. I’m with the governor on this one.
As an independent voter, I reiterate my plea to my Republican friends: Please nominate people I can vote for next year. Thank you.
Guy W. Farmer is the Appeal’s senior political columnist.