Trump trumps them all in Republican debates

Pepe Escobar
Pepe Escobar is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia Times Online. Born in Brazil, he's been a foreign correspondent since 1985, and has lived in London, Paris, Milan, Los Angeles, Washington, Bangkok and Hong Kong. Even before 9/11 he specialized in covering the arc from the Middle East to Central and East Asia, with an emphasis on Big Power geopolitics and energy wars. He is the author of "Globalistan" (2007), "Red Zone Blues" (2007), "Obama does Globalistan" (2009) and "Empire of Chaos" (2014), all published by Nimble Books. His latest book is "2030", also by Nimble Books, out in December 2015.
Republican 2016 U.S. presidential candidate businessman Donald Trump answers a question at the first official Republican presidential candidates debate of the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign in Cleveland, Ohio, August 6, 2015. © Brian Snyder
Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz has said that the US, on the financial front, is “on the wrong side of history.” As for the Republican candidates chasing the nomination for the 2016 US presidential race, well, they may qualify only for the ‘wrong’ side of the bargain, as they hardly know what ‘history’ means.

And that brings us to a mammoth specimen of entertainment/reality TV; the first Republican debate, no less than a seemingly-eternal 15 months before the actual US presidential election.

It definitely started with a – what else? - celebrity TV bang. Would anybody raise their hands if they were mulling running as a third-party candidate, and ignore the eventual Republican nominee?

Up goes the lone raised hand of billionaire real estate speculator-cum-reality TV celebrity Donald Trump. And true to form, The Donald pulled a – what else? – Trump; he would keep hedging his bets, while swearing on live television to support the Republican nominee and not be a third-party candidate if he was, well, the Republican nominee.

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul’s response to that was exemplary; Trump was “hedging his bets”. After all, he “buys and sells politicians.” And Paul doubled down, hinting that Trump was an actual Trojan Horse who will, in the end, support The Hillarator ‘we came, we saw, he died’ Clinton.

The Hillarator, by the way, took no prisoners, announcing to the whole social media universe that she was not watching the debate; she was hangin’ out in LA with – who else? – a bunch of reality TV ‘royalty’. But she did commit the mortal sin of attending one of Trump’s weddings, as The Donald himself admitted.

© Brian Snyder

We only care about our $2bn

The reality TV spectacular even had a warm-up, like those preliminary bouts on UFC. Cynics might have preferred iron chick Ronda Rousey immobilizing all the Republican contestants in the octagon in less than 30 seconds, but still the arguable winner of the warm-up was Carly Fiorina, former (booted out) CEO of Hewlett-Packard. Cynics, once again, might have preferred the other Carly (Simon) singing ‘You’re so Vain’, but that’s just nostalgia.

On foreign policy, the warm-up highlight was an actual pre-warm-up, as South Carolina’s wacko job Lindsay Graham told Japanese media on the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, “If I were President Truman, I would have dropped the bomb.”

Predictably, the main ‘debate’ was an anti-abortion and illegal immigration ‘drop the bomb’ fan fest.

Trump, predictably, trumped them all. His master plan to solve illegal immigration: The Great Trump Wall of Mexico, including “a big beautiful door in that wall so people can get into this wall legally.”

Marco Rubio’s response; “El Chapo built a tunnel under the fence and we need a solution to deal with that too.” Trump didn’t elaborate on how he would deal with the notorious Mexican drug lord’s underground tactics.

As this was a reality TV spectacular generating huge ratings – and not a real ‘debate’ - it was micromanaged to the millimeter by Fox News. Some of the questions unveiled Fox’s real agenda; dress down Trump a notch and give a chance to the other Muppets to say something, anything, mildly respectable.

Fox News’s demographics hover around 68 as the median age; angry, aging, white, exceptionalist American males. Fox – essentially a Republican PR asset - made $794 million in profits in 2014. The network is worth at least $2 billion a year to parent company 21st Century Fox, part of the Murdoch empire.

Trump made mincemeat of any idea of a level playing field. He was on a roll, including a full 30 seconds to expand on his claim that the Mexican government is sending rapists and murderers to undermine the American dream.

“Our leaders are stupid. Our politicians are stupid. And the Mexican government is much smarter, much sharper, much more cunning, and they send the bad ones over because they don’t wanna pay for them, they don’t wanna take care of them, why should they when the stupid leaders of the United States are doing it for them?” he asked.

So political America – as in the Beltway – is stupid. That much was already known by the whole Global South. Now coming from a billionaire who knows all there is to know about making it big, that certainly adds gravitas.

Gravitas, of course, in a trash TV sense. Even right-wing pundits are now waking up to the fact that The Donald’s act is actually a re-run of comedian Norm MacDonald’s impersonation of Burt Reynolds from the Celebrity Jeopardy sketch.

Which makes total sense, as far as American pop culture is concerned. If even George ‘Dubya’ Bush can become an American president, why not an impersonator from a fake celebrity TV personality?

© Brian Snyder

‘We don't win anymore!’

Foreign policy at the reality TV spectacular was a blast. Rand Paul said, “[Islamic State, IS formerly] ISIS rides around in a billion dollars’ worth of Humvees. We didn’t create ISIS, ISIS created themselves, but we will stop them.” No wonder the arguably science-based Obama administration is puzzled on how to deal with a creationist IS.

Jeb! The billionaire candidate too cowardly/savvy to use the toxic family name was forced to talk about the Iraq war: “Knowing what we know now … it was a mistake. I wouldn’t have gone in.”

Yet “the US has to finish the job in Iraq”, Obama “abandoned Iraq, and when he left Al-Qaeda was done for and ISIS was created.” The creationist myth once again - with a twist.

And, predictably, considering the profile of some of his billionaire backers, Jeb! has an Iran hard-on; “We need to stop the Iran agreement for sure because the Iranian mullahs have blood on their hands and we need to take out ISIS with every tool at our disposal.”

Yet Jeb! paled compared to Ted Cruz, who got terribly excited describing an elaborate Tehran-Kremlin conspiracy to unleash a vicious cyber-attack against the Pentagon’s IT network.

Scott Walker jumped in, stressing that, “Russian and Chinese hackers probably know more about Hillary Clinton’s email server than do members of Congress.”

Walker actually should try to get the job of Dr. Strangelove, sorry, Gen. Breedlove/hate at NATO; “I would send weapons to Ukraine, I would work with NATO to get forces on the eastern border of Poland.” And he wants missile defense in Poland and the Czech Republic to boot.

So before the next war, what do to about the economy? Jeb! has the answer: “You fix a convoluted tax code, you go in and replace every regulation that’s a job killer.”

The Donald – who had four of his companies bankrupt – turned the whole argument around; “Every company virtually in Atlantic City just went bankrupt… I had the good sense [to leave] seven years ago…

“I’ve made a lot of money in Atlantic City and let me tell you I am very proud of that.”

Now that’s your metaphor of America as two-bit casino racket Atlantic City.

In the end, all reality TV contestants played to the concerns of their ‘base’. American exceptionalism faces three horrible, compound threats even Pentagon think tanks could not come up with; China, IS and a horde of illegal Latino immigrants.

But Ted Cruz will be able to prevent Armageddon. He will “rescind every illegal action taken by Barack Obama.” He will defend “religious liberty.” He will destroy the Iran nuclear deal. And he will transfer the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

Whatever. Because the winner of the show on Google search data was – who else? –Trump. The Donald laid down the law: “Our country is in serious trouble. We don’t win anymore. We don’t beat China or Mexico or Japan, those countries make so many cars. We don’t do anything right. Our military has to be strengthened.”

So come January 2017, there’s got to be a war. Ukraine? Iran? “Syraq”? Russia? China? Why not all of them at once? “We don’t win anymore!”

I think it's time to enlist Ronda Rousey.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.