Carly can really Bring (a can of) It!

The Franklin Pangborn Memorial Theater at The Stately Manor is popping corn for a screening of The Best of Enemies, a documentary in theatrical release recounting the groundbreaking verbal jousting between William F. Buckley Jr. and Gore Vidal on ABC-TV during the political nominating conventions of that annus horribilis 1968.

Buckley would fill college campus theaters, most often with John Kenneth Galbraith as his debate foil. This was before the nihilist Jon Stewart substituted snark for intelligent debate about real issues. The Comedy Central era is over. A cable TV record 24 million Americans tuned in last Thursday night for the first Republican presidential debate, proving an audience remains for great debate as theater — an American tradition since at least Lincoln-Douglas.

Fox News’ Megyn Kelly, the foremost journalist in the land, opened the prime time debate by noting that the 10 gentlemen on the stage — among whom were two Hispanics and one black — were lucky that Carly Fiorina wasn’t on stage with them. She will be next time.

“She just opened a can, if you know what I mean.” I believe Ms. Kelly was referring to a can of Whoop Ass. As I had predicted before the debate, Carly can Bring It!

In the early debate, Fiorina nailed the political equivalent of a quadruple Salchow, then followed it up with a classic takedown of the insufferable Chris Matthews on MSNBC. It was akin to Sarah Palin field dressing a moose in a cocktail dress. (Text and video.)

As for the main event, Scott Walker didn’t “pop,” but he more than held his own. The Wall Street Journal was less impressed.

One prominent candidate who didn’t do so well was Scott Walker, the Wisconsin Governor who was introducing himself to many voters for the first time. With the exception of an answer on Russia, he seemed small on stage and some of his answers were so clipped he failed to take advantage of his time. One of Mr. Walker’s challenges is looking like he can make the leap from the statehouse to the White House, and this debate did not help him with that sale.

The Journal’s own statistics contradict its editorial jibe for not taking advantage of his time. The Journal (as only it can do) counted the words spoken during the prime time debate. No surprise that Donald Trump lapped the field with 2,322 words, according to the transcript. The surprise was that Scott Walker came in third at 1,514 words, slightly behind Marco Rubio’s 1,527. They were followed, in this order, by: Kasich, Bush, Cruz, Huckabee, Christie (there’s a surprise), Carson, and Paul. But it’s impressions that count.

I thought it was Cruz and Bush who didn’t really “register.” Walker had some great lines:

  • “You probe with bayonets. When you find mush, you push.” — Scott Walker on how to deal with Putin’s aggression. (Mush, by the way, is pronounced to rhyme with push.)
  • Another zinger: “… probably the Russian and Chinese government[s] know more about Hillary Clinton’s email server than do the members of the United States Congress.”

But he could have used some “fight and win” from his Waukesha announcement. Some more about Independence Day being July 4, not April 15.

The finest speech belonged to brain surgeon Ben Carson, who talked about moving beyond race. “When I take someone to the operating room, I’m actually operating on the thing that makes them who they are. The skin doesn’t make them who they are … it’s time for us to move beyond that.”

While the good doctor was saying that, the camera caught Scott Walker standing next door, giving the only black presidential candidate (in either party) his full attention and nodding in agreement. Little moments like that count big. People remember images maybe more than words. Remember George Bush Sr. checking his wristwatch during a debate with Bill Clinton? This “optic” pushed the needle into positive territory.



A Buick, not an Acura

Huckabee had the best lines: “It’s time we protect children instead of rip up their bodies and sell them like parts to a Buick.” Even so, Huckabee seems like a show airing on MeTV — a classic, but moldy oldie.

John Kasich was kind and thoughtful — loved his speech about unconditional love and gay marriage — but there’s no sizzle there. He’s Bob Dole — solid, thoughtful, pragmatic. Like a library card. Eat your broccoli.

Marco Rubio is the future of the Republican party. But gosh, does he look like he should be holding his First Communion candle. Too young.

Chris Christie is clawing back from the politically dead. He was pugnacious without being mean; took on Rand Paul and made the latter seem very small, although that may have been influenced by their physical size. Rand Paul reminds me of a dead-end kid from the Bowery Boys. You expect a slingshot in his back pocket. But he’s got the Tea Party.

The Left is coughing up a hairball over Mike Huckabee’s observation that, “The military is not a social experiment. The purpose of the military is to kill people and break things.” Now that, Mr. Trump, is what it really means to have no time for political correctness.

About Donald Trump — he is amazingly thin-skinned, boorish, inarticulate, inexperienced, self-entitled, peevish, narcissistic, and just not very intelligent.

BTW: Fox News conducted real journalism Thursday night. Not one softball question, except for possibly for the last, their relation to God. But those are the equivalent of an essay question that test the candidates’ creativity.

Blaska’s score card, based on a) performance, and b) how much they improved their stock (being weighted on needing to improve said stock): 1) Kasich, 2) Christie, 3) Huckabee, 4) Rubio, 5) Walker, 6) Bush, 7) Cruz, 8) Carson, 9) Paul, 10) Trump. Carly will crack the Top 10, but whom will she replace?

Quotes of the week:

1) Carly Fiorina, from the debate of the “Second Seven”:

On day one in the Oval Office, I would make two phone calls. The first one would be to my good friend, Bibi Netanyahu, to reassure him we will stand with the State of Israel.

The second will be to the supreme leader of Iran. He might not take my phone call, but he would get the message, and the message is this: Until you open every nuclear and every military facility to full, open, anytime/anywhere, for real, inspections, we are going to make it as difficult as possible for you to move money around the global financial system. … As important as those two phone calls are, they are also very important because they say this. America is back in the leadership business. And when America does not lead, the world is a dangerous and a tragic place. …

2) “Trump’s base is more the people who used to have season tickets to the Roman Coliseum. Not sure that they vote in great numbers, but they like blood sport.” — Joseph McQuaid, publisher of the Union Leader newspaper, Manchester, N.H., quoted in the New York Times, August 9, 2015.

3) See Ben Carson, above.

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