Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Uneven performances in Trump-less Republican forum in NH, Jeb Bush stumbled, stammered-New York Times

8/3/15, "Uneven Performances in Trump-less Republican Forum," NY Times, Jeremy W. Peters and Michael Barbaro

8/3/15, NY Times
"Jeb Bush stumbled through a familiar question about his brother and father, struggling for the right words as he cracked a joke about duking it out with anyone who questioned the legacy of his aging dad.

Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey awkwardly said aloud what many have been wondering about his candidacy: “Am I washed up?” 

And Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina reached back to the 1990s to attack Hillary Rodham Clinton’s credibility by dredging up her husband’s dishonesty about a sexual affair. 

Mischievously promising to translate “Clinton-speak” for the audience, Mr. Graham explained, “When Bill says, ‘I didn’t have sex with that woman,’ he did.” 

After weeks of preparing for a smash-mouth debate with Donald J. Trump, 14 Republican candidates found themselves instead Trump-less but sandwiched into a constricting format on Monday night, delivering strikingly uneven performances just days before the first big test of the presidential primary contest.

Rather than making the other contenders look more presidential, however, the event, at St. Anselm College in Manchester, N.H. seemed to shrink the candidates. Assembled in the front row, the Republicans gawked as each rival took his or her turn on stage, looking at times as if they were being forced to sit through a tedious school assembly. 

In Mr. Trump’s absence — he skipped the event, saying it was not worth his time — the candidates filled two hours with credentials and boasts that he could not match. They touted their experience balancing big state budgets (Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Gov. John Kasich of Ohio), their military service (Mr. Graham) and their middle-class roots (Carly Fiorina.)....

Still, Mr. Trump’s influence could be discerned. The moderator, Jack Heath, a New Hampshire radio host, repeatedly pressed the candidates on immigration, the issue that Mr. Trump has ridden to the top of the polls. And it seemed clear they felt compelled to take as hard a line as they could to leave as little room as possible between their positions and his.

Rick Perry, the former governor of Texas, said he had looked President Obama in the eye and warned, “Mr. President, if you don’t secure the border, Texas will.” He listed the security measures he favored for stemming the flow of illegal immigrants, from air patrols of the border 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to a stronger fence in certain places.

The forum, sponsored by The Union Leader newspaper, seemed to lack the drama and anticipation surrounding Thursday night’s Republican debate in Cleveland. Candidates were not permitted to interact with each other directly; instead, they each took two turns at the microphone, fielding rapid-fire questions from the moderator, before being given 30 seconds for closing statements.

Some were not even in New Hampshire. Three of the senators who participatedTed Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida — did so from a studio in Washington, where they stayed so they could vote for stripping Planned Parenthood of its federal funding. (The vote failed in a Democratic-led filibuster.)

The unusual format and repeated interruptions by timekeepers led to several painfully awkward moments.

Former Gov. George Pataki of New York was mid-sentence — “By the way, Jack” — when the moderator cut him off. He reacted with surprise, stood up and walked off. At another point, a woman suddenly emerged from stage right with a folder in hand, beckoning Mr. Perry to leave. He sheepishly did so.

C-Span cameras caught candidates waiting their turn, forlornly watching their rivals onstage, sometimes in unflattering ways. Mr. Christie at one point sat with his head down, looking positively bored, as he listened to Mr. Walker. As Rick Santorum, the former senator from Pennsylvania, gave his closing statement, Ms. Fiorina was caught gabbing with Mr. Graham.

There were moments of levity. The moderator asked Mr. Perry to name agencies he would cut from the federal government, the same question that tripped him up, disastrously, during a Republican presidential debate in 2012. “I’ve heard this question before,” Mr. Perry deadpanned, to laughs.

There were revealing moments, too. Mr. Heath asked Mr. Christie if his best shot at the White House had been in 2012. Mr. Christie gamely replied, “Jack, you saying I’m washed up?” He added that, back then, "I was not ready."...

The format seemed ill suited to a number of candidates. Mr. Bush, the former Florida governor, whose eight years out of office has left many wondering about his adroitness as a debater, delivered a low-key and sometimes halting performance — particularly on the subject of the Islamic State. He said America “needs to pick a strategy and stick with it,” but when asked about putting American forces on the ground to fight it, his answer seemed wobbly: “I’m not sure that’s necessary.”

He also stammered through his attempt at a joke about his famous family. "My dad is the probably the most perfect man alive, so it’s very hard for me to be critical of him,” he said. “In fact, I’ve got a T-shirt that says, uh, at the Jeb swag store, that says I’m the, um, I’m the, my dad’s the greatest man alive. If you don’t like it, I’ll take you outside.”" via Free Rep.

Image caption: "The in-person lineup at a candidate forum in Manchester, N.H., on Monday night. Donald J. Trump skipped the event. Credit Ian Thomas jansen-Lonnquist for The New York Times"


Comment: This stilted event was a good idea if the point was to diminish GOP candidates and the GOP in general. After 2012, the GOP E had supposedly decided the key to victory in 2016 was to cut down on the number of group tv events. As of 2015, perhaps someone beyond E control was getting too much attention, so E decided to add another tv show in an attempt to show they were still in charge. If the fraud Pataki was embarrassed then the night wasn't a total loss.


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