John Feehery: Speaking Engagements

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The Valentine’s Eve Massacre

Posted on February 14, 2016


I didn’t catch all of the debate.

It was on a Saturday night, and I have a life, mostly revolving around my kids.

And watching the entirety of a GOP debate isn’t exactly what they had in mind for entertainment.

My kids are young and I am not sure if the debate was appropriate for them.  It could have been rated PG-13 or even higher.

I would have rated it “R” for ridiculous, especially the parts where Donald Trump fulminated at the mouth.

I am amazed by how many of these Presidential candidates call each other “liars” right to the faces of their opponents. In past eras, such disrespect would have garnered a sure-fire call for a duel.

Alexander Hamilton was shot dead by Aaron Burr, who was Vice President at the time.

Andrew Jackson killed one of the leading figures of the day, Charles Dickinson.

It was John Dickerson (no relation), the moderator of Face the Nation, who caught Ted Cruz in an untruth. Cruz said, counter-factually, that Justice Anthony Kennedy was not confirmed by the Senate in 1988, which is verifiably untrue. All the Texas Senator and supposed Supreme Court expert had to do was check Wikipedia about the timing of the Kennedy confirmation before he went on stage, but he decided to wing it and Dickerson winged him as a result.

But that’s the way it goes in these debates, I guess.

People just say stuff and it doesn’t seem to matter if it's true or not.

I thought Donald Trump was going to literally blow his bouffant and skull clear off of his head, he was so testy towards both Jeb and Cruz. For those who want to see a nuclear conflagration, it must have been comforting that Trump is their man, but for the rest of us, it gave pause. I, for one, am not all that good with the Donald being so close to the nuclear button.

It was less a family discussion and more a shoot-out at the OK Corral.   And man, the bullets were flying.

It made for great television, but not of the G variety.

John Kasich once again looked like the adult in the room, while Ben Carson looked like the sleeping Uncle who just woke up from a nap after his nephews were breaking furniture and noses in the next room.

Trump supporters said that Trump won the debate and I have no doubt that they believe that. If you support Trump, you probably think that the Iraq War was a tremendous mistake and you also probably believe, in your heart of hearts, that George W. Bush was a dolt who was talked into it by the neo-conservatives.

I have a working theory on the Trump people. They are the same folks who supported Pat Buchanan in 1992 and 1996. They are throw-backs who are isolationist, protectionist, culturally-conservative and not into all of this politically correct stuff.

They are not a small part of the party and they have been growing ever since the financial crisis and the failed war in Iraq.

Jeb, of course, defended his brother and inexplicably threw in a vigorous defense of his father and mother. As far as I know, nobody was attacking H.W. or Barbara, and while I am glad that Jeb loves being a Bush,  come on, man,  give it a rest.

If Jeb wants to win, he can’t make the restoration argument, because nobody wants royalty at this revolutionary moment.

I thought Kasich’s response was interesting. He didn’t defend the Iraq war and he said quite clearly that America shouldn’t involve itself in civil wars. He’s right, of course.

Marco Rubio offered a much better defense of Jeb’s brother than Jeb did when he said that he would rather have W. as President post-911 than Al Gore. That’s a pretty clear difference from Donald Trump, who thinks W. is a war-criminal.

This is not an insignificant point of contention in the party. There are those who believe that the Iraq War was worth it and those who violently disagree.

I am of the opinion that Iraq was a tremendous mistake and that those who recommended that we go to war have not been held adequately accountable. I am not accusing them of war crimes, but I also don’t believe that they have much credibility when it comes to foreign policy.

But that’s the funny thing about Washington. When somebody runs a losing political campaign, they somehow are always able to get another job, usually at a higher salary. Same thing for those who lose wars. They always get hired to advise somebody else, and usually at a much higher salary.

Turning back to the debate, the biggest news is what happened off-stage.

Antonin Scalia, the son of immigrants (I throw that in there for all of you immigrant-bashers), died of a heart attack on Saturday and news of his death provided an eerie back-drop for the ensuing family discussion.

It matters not what questions John Dickerson asked last night.

What matters now is who will win the White House because they will likely hold the keys of the Supreme Court kingdom.

Electability is now the most important thing in the Republican Presidential primary.

The ability to win enough electoral votes to become President is important, but just as important is the ability to have big enough coat-tails to carry the Senate.

Mitch McConnell might have been a bit crass, but he was very direct in his typical fashion. The President isn’t going to  get his chance to replace Scalia with a liberal.

That just ain’t going to happen. Scalia would have appreciated McConnell’s bluntness.

And so, taking flier on somebody like Donald Trump becomes very, very dangerous for people who care about issues like abortion, gun rights and the encroaching power of the state.

Ted Cruz won’t play in the Northeast. His nomination will sink Kelly Ayotte, Pat Toomey, Rob Portman and Mark Kirk and his anti-immigrant orthodoxy will sink the candidacy of whoever runs to replace Marco Rubio.

Ben Carson is not a serious Presidential candidate and would drop out if he didn’t have so much money in the bank.

I used to think that Jeb Bush and his ability to court Hispanic votes could give him the edge, but he has run such a lousy campaign, I am starting to doubt that he would be much of a general election candidate.

That leaves Marco Rubio and John Kasich.

Put those two on the ticket, in either order and you might have the combination you need to win the White House and protect the Senate majority.