debate 2

The Republicans held another debate last night. I didn’t get to watch all of it but about as much as I could stand. It’s hard for me to watch these debates. I don’t like to see people say unpleasant things about each other and to each other, even when those things are true. When the things said are not true, I find it very disturbing.

From what I watched I had the impression Chris Wallace was hostile to Ted Cruz. To me he seemed far more lenient to Rubio on time limits and unwilling to let Cruz speak. Maybe that was just my impression. It always seems like the refs are calling the game against your own team.

Though Rubio is supposed to be more conservative than Bush, I found Bush vastly more presidential than Rubio. It’s probably a sign I’m getting old, but I think the presidency ought to be reserved for grown-ups. Bush comes across as a grown-up. Rubio doesn’t. To me he comes across as a kid who has gotten caught doing something he shouldn’t and is trying to talk his way out of trouble.

But how someone comes across in a debate, or even what he says in the debate, really should not be our determining factors in deciding whom to support. In a debate you hear what the candidate says and what his rivals say about him, and people will say anything. Sometimes a given candidate is just having a bad night. We ought to choose our president based not on what he says, or what others say about him, but rather on what he does. Look at his actions rather than his words. What has he done in government over the past eight or ten years–or the last time he held office?

We should be realistic. The question should not be, Has he been perfect? Of course he hasn’t. Rather we should ask whether a given candidate’s pattern of behavior in government has been overwhelmingly correct on the key issues. The question is not whether he has ever stumbled but whether he has been walking the right direction the whole time.

So what would this question tell us about the leading four candidates–the three on stage last night and the one playing hooky?

The big event of Rubio’s career in government has been his joining the Gang of Eight in 2013 and pushing for amnesty and citizenship for illegal aliens. For me, that eliminates him from consideration–doubly so since he ran for the Senate in 2010 on a promise to oppose illegal immigration. He can’t be trusted.

Ben Carson seems to be a very good man, but he hasn’t been in government. I don’t see the presidency as an entry-level job. That’s not so much because of the know-how required as because of the need for a candidate to be tested under the pressures and temptations of government and to show that he can stand firm against them. I think Carson probably would come through with flying colors, but I’d prefer someone who had established at least a short track record in government of standing firm in the face of massive opposition. Carson’s announced positions are generally good, though he has shown a tendency to misspeak on issues on which he’s not up to speed. I think he is getting up to speed, and, more important, I think his heart is in the right place. He’s my second choice.

Donald Trump has also not been in government. His announced positions over the past eight years have included advocacy of abortion, including partial-birth abortion, single-payer (i.e., socialist) medical care, and amnesty for illegal aliens. He claims to have changed his position within the last few months on some of these policies but not all of them, and he hasn’t proved his commitment to any of his alleged new stands. He has no track record in government. He does have a track record as a private citizen, though an unenviable one. He has cheated on at least two of his wives and boasts of his numerous adulteries, including some with married women. He has tried to use eminent domain to seize a widow’s house, and he says he has never asked God’s forgiveness for anything. He has a narcissist’s charm, and can fool almost anyone for a short time, but if we let this man fool us all the way until the day of our own state’s primary or caucus–well, then we would be fools indeed.

Ted Cruz has served ably and consistently throughout his career as a principled constitutionalist and conservative. In the Senate especially his service has been heroic. He has stood against efforts to disarm Americans, against taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood, against out-of-control government spending, and for the repeal of Obamacare. Sometimes he has stood almost alone against the rest of the Senate when most of his fellow Republicans sold out or knuckled under to the establishment. There are no guarantees in politics, and none of us knows the future, but Cruz’s track record gives us better reason to expect good service in the Oval Office than we’ve ever had for any candidate since George Washington.

Cruz generally does well in debates too, even with all the other candidates and at least one of the moderators coming after him, but debate performance is not the reason to support him or any other candidate. Look at what they’ve done!

So what is the true value of a presidential debate? Well, really it’s a spectator sport. You can watch it and cheer on your candidate. But, on the whole, I’d rather watch a football game.