Council | What I saw on that G.O.P. The debate phase was complete and total moral cowardice (2023)



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Council | What I saw on that G.O.P. The debate phase was complete and total moral cowardice (1)
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DoorFrank Bruni

Mr. Bruni has been a columnist for The Times for over 25 years.

Ron DeSantis blames Donald Trump for Covid-19 lockdowns during his presidency. Nikki Haley denounced him for uncontrolled government spending. They did it early Wednesday night during the Republican presidential debate, and they did it willingly, as if to show voters how fearless and independent they are. What courage!

What a bunk bed. When they were later asked to raise their hand if they would support Trump as the 2024 Republican Party nominee even if he is convicted of a felony, DeSantis's arm shot up. Haley too. Without hesitation. No ambiguities. Do not worry about itWhichof Trump's 91 crimes can be debated. No emphasis was placed on how strong the evidence turned out to be. Just faithful. That's what Republican voters seem to want, and that's what all eight candidates on the Milwaukee podium promised, with the exception of Chris Christie and Asa Hutchinson.

The degree of this loyalty varied greatly. At the shaky end was Mike Pence, whose campaigns represent a further development of the backbone most of the Trump administration lacked. During the debate, this backbone made a great, exciting and oddly poignant spurt.

Although Pence showed the same perverse willingness as DeSantis and Haley to look beyond Trump's possible criminal record, he also delivered a monologue in which he not only reaffirmed his refusal on January 6, 2021, but also happily granted Trump's request not to provide the credentials. claim. Joe Biden's election victory.

"He asked me to ask him about the constitution, and I chose the constitution," Pence said. "And I will always be." He sounded and looked serious and grandpa. In the same voice and attitude, he implored voters to think long and hard about electing someone who would put political survival above all else. It was an instruction to turn away from Trump.

But the party does not turn its back on Trump, and that is the moral of the event, where Trump was physically absent but mentally present, like an oppressive orange specter manifesting in his pieces, during which candidates other than Christie and Hutchinson reappeared. Harvested. own political identity - and unwillingness to do the bare minimum and tell his party the full truth about Trump's lies.

Admittedly, the Fox News moderators did not focus on Trump until the second of the two-hour debate, and even then they spoke about him relatively briefly.

Trumpy's interlude, however, highlighted the fundamental timidity and inconsistency of candidates who try to defeat Trump without actually defeating him, and who argue that they would be better candidates if they did not use the most appropriate and convincing ammunition against him. Their debating performances combined moral cowardice with political abuse to create a confusing, irritating and infuriating spectacle.

How can anyone praise Pence for standing up to Trump on Uprising Day - an expression of admiration that implicitly recognizes Trump's treacherous conduct - and then dismiss the current indictment of the former president as a chilling politicization of justice and make Trump eligible to return to the White House? This was the oxymoronic and completely idiotic position of many candidates on the podium. In that sense, they were miniature Trumpers, broken master mirrors. They put their own political ambitions first.

In fact, Vivek Ramaswamy's exhilarated, hyperbolic and comically exuberant turn transcended pragmatic calculations and entered an entirely different, more disturbing world: Trump fanboy, Trump sycophant. I'm assuming this was his audition for the Trump nominee?

He called Trump "the greatest president of the 21st century," tying Trump to only one Republican Party commander-in-chief, but that wasn't even his strangest and most obsequious act of worship. No, he was exaggerating when he proudly asked which of his supporters had the "courage" - he really used that word - to promise to pardon Trump on the first day of his presidency for anything that might require a pardon.

They seemed to ignore him, at least at the time, though they beat him on other occasions. He was up in the polls and ready to attack. In foreign policy, he was taught by Haley, Pence by his country's ability to face many challenges at once, and Christie by his inexperience and unfounded self-confidence.

Ramaswamy, 38, looks like Trump in the larval stage, reaching his full MAGA wingspan, but not quite there yet. But his narcissism is fully developed. On social media in recent days, he resigned from participating in the debateposted the videoabout himself during "three hours of thorough preparation for the debate". It showed him playing tennis - shirtless. Call it an exaggeration, but also a subtle reminder that some older, rounder, slower golfers prefer a golf course that forgives aerobics. I think Ramaswamy has some Trump tricks, but they are subliminal.

On Wednesday evening, Ramaswamy pulled himself together and continued writing, establishing as many topics of conversation as he could. Topics were plentiful as moderators guided candidates through abortion, Ukraine, education, immigration, government spending, climate change and more. This trip revealed Haley's desire to be seen as somewhat moderate, less vain and brash than men; Tim Scott's upbringing by a poor single mother; and Christie's ability to survive a tsunami of derision.

Doug Burgum and Asa Hutchinson also take the rostrum. But I've forgotten them, and I suspect other viewers and most voters will follow suit.

And Ron De Santis? Has he strengthened his candidacy or invited to last rites?

He was loud, I give him that. He smiled when a smile was allowed, punched the air, and uttered the phrase "cold death," which he had used before to describe the fate he wanted to inflict on drug dealers crossing the country's southwestern border.

But you had to get caught up in saying that on January 6, Pence was right. He was grumpy about aid to Ukraine and suggested he stop it, but then stated that his real concern was that Western European countries would bring in more money. . (Oh man, where did we hear that before?) He was as vague as he was brash, and that's the way you can't catch up with Trump, much less catch up with him.

But is DeSantis really trying that hard? Is there anyone else besides Christie? Like their ethically rotten party, they too have been held hostage by a serial killer and are apparently waiting for a twist of fate or an act of magic to make things better.

I share Ramaswamy's hunger for true courage. But I define it differently than he does, and on Wednesday night I felt hungry.

What I listen to, read and play


  • Forbidden Books. Stop the culture. This tumultuous chapter of American life demands a re-examination of the meaning of free speech, and acclaimed author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie made a concrete, convincing case for this in a late 2022 speech that only recently surfaced on my radar. You can hear itherzher. The precision of her words - and the way she communicates - is thrilling.

  • In connection with today's university, I have written about the dangers of performing culture, which is featured in two new books. Jennifer Breheny Wallace's Never Enough book was released on Tuesday.hailed by "Publishers Weekly".Ana HomayounsClears the finish line: A new blueprint for success beyond grades and college admissions."

  • In late June, I came across a plugin from singer-songwriter Olivia Dean in format aflattering assessmentfrom her new album Messy by Times critic Jon Pareles and recently again inSummer featedition of Slate's Culture Gabfest. I'm wonderful. While several tracks on Messy, including the opener, left me cold, the best tracks ("The Hardest Part", "No Man", "Ladies Room") are extremely pleasant counterparts - they sound almost like pop soul. several decades ago, but with a contemporary brilliance.

  • Became a big fan of The Times latest daily game,connectionsin which you must correctly arrange 16 words into four groups of four. This can be difficult: in one edition, "month", "year", "decade", "century" and "millennium" played a role, but it iswomanmeasure of time. It was necessary to realize that "month" is associated with "jury", "rose" and "egg", and there are dozens of them all. I started every morning with "Spelling Bee" and "Mini Crossword". Then I added Wordle. Now connections. Shut up, New York Times! I have work to do!

For the love of phrases


In the Atlantic by James Parkerhe looked backon Edvard Munch's life and work: "Like Dostoyevsky before him, like Kafka after him, he was one of those people gathered somewhat hastily - with detached skull plates, dangling nerve endings - chosen by the demon of history to carry his message to the world. ((Thanks to Kathleen Mazzocco of Nice, France, for the nomination.) From the same article, on The Scream, Munch's most famous work: "It is a cave painting on the inside wall of a human skull." (Margaret Sinclair, Skokie, Illinois)

Also in the Atlantic, Derek ThompsonsewnRecession errant fortune tellers: "The economic models of the future are perhaps best understood as astrology, vaguely embellished with computational equations." (Rick Osmon, El Sobrante, CA and Allan Parnell, Hillsborough, North Carolina)

En Rebecca Giggsgreetedto the winged wonder: "The owl was the size of a terrier, but hovered listlessly like a day-old mylar balloon." (Viki Maxwell, Oakland, CA) This whole article was funny and reminded me of all the wonderful prose that writers focusing on the natural world have produced. I regularly think back to the excellent work of Natalie Angier whohe discussed science for The Times.year and won the Pulitzer Prize for itthis collection of articlesincluding some about animals. Interestingly, Jonathan Franzen recently wrote an essay for The New Yorker entitled "The problem of writing in naturestating that it often misses the point. His sentences matched their sentences perfectly. "Joy may be as strong as Everclear or as gentle as Coors Light, but it is never joy: the blossoming of the heart, yes to the world, yes to life in it," he wrote.

Also on The New Yorker, Zach Helfandexplainedfascination with monster trucks versus our cult of size, noting that "people have always loved really big things, especially unnecessary variety. Stonehenge, pyramids, giants, Costco." (Doris McInnes, Greenwood, South Carolina)

Vanity Fair by Susan Caseyreflectedin the thoughts of Stockton Rush, CEO of OceanGate, who lifted the warnings about his Titan submarine: "In a culture that has embraced the ridiculous mantra of 'move fast and destroy everything,' that kind of arrogance can go a long way. But in the deep sea, the price of admission is humility - and it's non-negotiable. The Abyss doesn't care if you've been to Princeton or if your ancestors signed the Declaration of Independence. If you want to enter her world,thensets the rules.” (Debbie Landis, Garrison, New York)

I „Boston Globe”, Alex Speierare comparedthe seemingly plausible injuries to Red Sox pitcher Chris Sale caused by "so many whistleblowers in one game." (Bill Keveney, Beverly Hills, CA)

„Washington Post”, Matt BaisporesLimits Andicted One: "Asking Donald Trump to pledge allegiance to something other than himself is like asking my dog ​​to write a novel. She may look at you like she understands the concept, but trust me, she doesn't. (Reid Cushman, Miami and Ste Kubenka, Austin, Texas.)

I Esquire, Charles P. Piercedecided"There is no earthly reason for Disney to drop the lawsuit against Florida just because Ron DeSantis claims Florida will win this lawsuit. A dream is a desire that your heart expresses, but not in a courtroom." (Chuck Carlin, Leesburg, Virginia)

"The Times", Rico Gaglianorivetedcapital of the West Coast: "Los Angeles refuses to promise speed." He noted that it is "a city of five-lane highways with heavy traffic" and "the birthplace of the In-N-Out Burger - the very name promises quick gratification - where the commuter lines go on forever. See the Maseratis lineup: impatient after driving, forced to stand still. Angelenos know this feeling. (Lisa Smith, Pacific Palisades, CA and Robert Weimer, Los Angeles)

Also in "The Times" Alexis Soloskidescribedher meeting with actor Taylor Kitsch: “There is a loneliness in his heart that makes women want to save him and men want to buy him a beer. As a mother of young children, sometimes the temptation to offer him a snack was overwhelming” (Peter M. Handler, Chicago)

David GatessetSun House, a new novel by David James Duncan. "Duncan often exaggerates," he wrote, "especially when trying to express the unsaid: characters are constantly being 'avoided', 'defeated', 'confused', 'confused', 'infected' and 'pushed away'. words." True, some words are better left out. (Scott Williams, Salt Lake City)

Kyle’a Buchananafamouspoor movie accents because the movies are "dream worlds that make us believe in bizarre things, like the multiverse, three-foot-tall blue people, or Mark Wahlberg playing a science teacher." (Mary Melby, Tempe, Arizona.)

Roger Cohendecidedmany forms of nationalism, including today's Russian, as "a promise to change the present in the name of an illusory past and to create a future dark in all but glory." (Allan Tarlow, West Hollywood, CA)

Maureen DowdsetTrump with his own allegations of election rigging and concluded that "the coup d'état knew that its pursuit of a coup d'état was unfair." (Linda Mancini, Florence, Italy and Demeter Manning, Olympia, Washington, and many more)

En Bret Stephenscapturedwith the vast territory covered by Trump's accusations: "Ninety-one counts in total. You could almost knock them over and scatter them across the wall like beer bottles. (Kathy Haynie, Oregon City, Oregon and Frank Ohrt, Houston and many more)

Email me to nominate your favorite pieces of recent work from The Times or other publications for inclusion in For the Love of Sentencesherand enter your name and place of residence.

Frank Bruni is a professor of journalism and public policy at Duke University, author of The Beauty of Twilight, and opinion writer. He writes a weekly email newsletter.Instagram @FrankBruni Facebook

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