Something of the pallor of doom came into the cheeks of Jeb Bush, slavish in his attempt to channel the older generation manners of a doting father and yet saddled with a world that has moved on, leaving even his devilishly brutish brother in some other sphere of behavioral science.
It’s not a kinder and gentler nation, Jeb.
It’s meaner and more cruel, with sharper elbows and beset by a decidedly Hobbesian strain, even if no one knows what the hell that means.
Bush appeared unaware of the fact that he is competing on a stage where the candidates must butt one another like sumo performers and make the most of encounters to ensure no doubt of their ability to dominate utterly others of their species.
His attempt to engage Senator Marco Rubio looked like the effort of someone brandishing a white glove as a weapon in an Old West saloon fight.
Crinkled up like tissue paper in the face of Rubio’s close quarters counter-salvo, Bush – still fighting his father’s so-called wimp favor – showed the world what would happen if Vladimir Putin jabbed an index finger in his chest.
Rubio’s no Putin, and yet armed with simple sound bites, the junior senator from Florida pivoted from the roadkill to his right to maintain a steady torrent of blows on the mainstream media while all the while zooming upward into the comfort zone of his own vision of himself as dominant world leader. “My campaign is going to be about the future of America,” he said. “It’s not going to be about attacking anyone else on this stage.”
Debate host CNBC would get impaled for lack of substance in those post-event assessments by any number of supposed intellects who would, in the next breath, note that Bush was finished because he got slapped around by Rubio.
In the inimitable words of state Senator Nick Sacco (D-32): “Issues? They’re going to have to invent them.” There weren’t any last night, or anyway precious few of them. Issues are, in fact, along with ideas, encumbrances on a process that depends more on take-downs and put-downs than thoughtful debate.
It’s a 21st Century oxymoron.
Rubio knows the rules. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas knows the rules. Gov. Chris Christie knows the rules. Every time Christie stepped into a question he wielded a downward-slamming club like a strongman at an amusement park intent on blowing off the top of the moronic bell. Another solid performance albeit one spread over a spare seven minutes. Then there was Carly Fiorina, the Hewlett Packard boss turned middle of the pack presidential contender. PolitickerNJ had a conversation with someone, a woman, during the debate who insisted Fiorina was the only leader on the stage, a secretary turned CEO who had spent her life convincingly going for the jugular in a world of males. Putin would no doubt be watching – and maybe scared, or at least disconcerted.
Bush meanwhile slumbered upright, a 20th Century apparition amid the chiming, dying cymbals of noblesse oblige.