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While That Debate Was Happening ...

The whole crazy "shut down the government over Planned Parenthood" pyschodrama continued to unfold in the House last night even as the GOP presidential debate was droning on. GOP leaders now have a new plan to let anti-abortion hardliners "vent" but to avoid shutting down the government.

Great! But ...

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The War Party

Commentators seem to agree that once the early Trump/World Wrestling phase of last night's debate ebbed it moved on to a more substantive discussion from which Trump was largely absent. That may be so. Trump may have been silent because he just doesn't now enough details or doesn't care enough about them to engage. But there was a far more consequential reality that largely escaped attention. The debate turned not so much to foreign policy as to each candidate trying to outdo the other in embracing the sort of petulant unilateralism that made the aughts such a disaster for the United States.

It was, to put it simply, a race to embrace Bush foreign policy on steroids.

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If you missed the entire five-hour slogfest last night, I'm ... jealous. But more to the point, Ed Kilgore has the smart version of what you missed, which in truth wasn't a whole helluva lot. And that's partly the point.

Some Initial Thoughts

I found this debate a bit hard to get a read on. In large part that's because it was, at three hours, just ridiculously too long. Maybe if there were fewer candidates, that might have been different. More focus would have been possible. But with so many voices over three hours, it was just too much. By my read, it held together with some coherence for the first hour or maybe hour and a half. After that it just lost focus and seemed to be a disorganized run of questions. I don't think that was Jake Tapper's fault. It was just too long; too many people.

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Debate Blogging #5

10:01 PM: Whatever else you can say, Rand Paul has kicked Trump's ass.

10:02 PM: Jeb: Dude, my dynasty has been running the GOP for three decades. Where else can I find advisers?

10:12 PM: Lord, two hours in, this debate is a mess.

10:14 PM: "Arab boots"

10:22 PM: No one sings the song of conservative victimization quite as well as Ted Cruz.

10:36 PM: This reminds me of the heavyweight fights my dad and I used to watch on TV like forty years ago when you're in the 14th round and Ali and the other guy are just sort of hanging on to each other because they're so tired and the ref keeps having to break them up and demand they fight.

10:48 PM: This Trump vaccine thing is weird.

10:57 PM: Jake Tapper definitely punch drunk at this point.

11:03 PM: I hate to break it to these guys. But every President doesn't get to have their own Air Force One. And that wasn't even Reagan's. Like four or five presidents used it.

Walker, Not Happening

A year or so ago, I said that Walker was the sleeper candidate. There's a lot in his resume that should make him a strong candidate. But he's stumbled again and again on the national stage. And I think the big thing is this: he does not come off as a likable guy. He's aggressive. If you're in line with his ideology then his aggressiveness is appealing. He's a fighter. He seems, and I think is, ruthless. And he's successful. You cannot take away from him that he ran on - and pushed through - an extremely conservative agenda in a bluish state. Big deal. But only a small portion of the electorate is that ideological. If you're not, I think he comes off very differently. As aggressive and kind of a jerk.

They used to say that even for people who didn't agree with President Bush, he was the kind of guy you could see yourself having a beer with. I don't think people without a strong ideological grounding on the right will see Walker that way. He's not the guy you have a beer with. He's the guy who would stick out his leg and trip you when you're on your way to have a beer with someone else. Maybe President Bush, maybe not. But he's not likable. And those people don't get elected President.