Making Sense by Michael Reagan
Here we go again.
The first Republican presidential primary debate is less than a month away and the GOP is hell-bent on making the same mistake it made in 2015.
For its first primary debate back then Republicans had a herd of medium-caliber presidential wannabes that was so large the party had to split them into two tiers based on their polling numbers.
Fox News hosted two crowded debates back-to-back on one night that were more useless than usual.
In the main event, 24 million Americans watched a chorus line of party heavyweights – Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Chris Christie and John Kasich – struggle to out-promise each other while they ganged up on Donald Trump.
In the preliminary debate Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum, Lindsey Graham, Carly Fiorina, Jim Gilmore and George Pataki tried to do or say something memorable that might explain why they, their wives and their mothers thought they were presidential timber.
Today, most of those 2016 dreamers have disappeared from the scene, become answers to trivia questions or appear on Fox News every 20 minutes doing commercials for pain relief or sleep aids.
Those over-crowded Republican debates in 2015 were a waste of time and energy that did the party, the candidates and the country no good. Plus, except for the entertaining Trump Factor, like most debates they were boring and unenlightening.
Apparently, the GOP’s thinking about primary debates this year was, “Hey, let’s make the same mistake again.”
So far, seven of the 11 Republican candidates who’ve announced for the 2024 presidency have qualified for the Aug. 23 debate in Milwaukee.
They are North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott and some rude former president named Donald Trump.
Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and former Vice President Mike Pence are still trying to meet all the polling and fundraising requirements they need to be included.
Ditto for former Texas congressman Will Herd and Miami Mayor Francis Suarez. Did I actually say the mayor of Miami? Really?
Other than Mayor Suarez, the Republican slate for 2024 is pretty impressive.
It’s a deep, diverse and accomplished lineup of current and former public servants who should be thanked for their service – and then urged to drop out and endorse someone who can win in 2024.
Realistically, except for Trump and maybe DeSantis, the other candidates are kidding themselves and their supporters.
They have as much chance of becoming the 2024 Republican presidential nominee as my gardener and don’t deserve to be included in a debate.
Meanwhile, our presidential debates are not really debates at all.
They’re become places where candidates duck hard questions and instead deliver pre-packaged, poll-tested, 90-second answers that no one remembers the next day.
In a better world, our political debates would be limited to three or four candidates who are competitive.
In a perfect world, they also would be conducted by unbiased, skeptical journalists and would allow plenty of time for candidates to answer important policy questions and challenge each other.
Unfortunately, we live in the real world. Which is why we’re going to continue to get overcrowded debates, poorly constructed debates or no debates at all from the major parties and the major media.
The GOP’s upcoming string of presidential primary debates will be another waste of time and energy.
They will just be a series of TV tryouts to see who has the brains and guts to be Trump’s vice president pick – which makes Pence’s candidacy make even less sense.
I respect Pence, but he’s never going to be nominated for president by a MAGA Republican Party. He’d have 75 million votes against him on Election Day.
And anyway, he shouldn’t be in the primary debates because he’s already been Trump’s VP.
Copyright 2023 Michael Reagan, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.
Michael Reagan, the son of President Ronald Reagan, is an author, speaker and president of the Reagan Legacy Foundation. Send comments to [email protected] and follow @reaganworld on Twitter.