Written by Hannah Dunleavy

In The News

Donkeys and Elephants

The Elephants continue to make the US Presidential race an absolute circus. It’s the greatest shitshow on earth, says Hannah Dunleavy.

Illustration by Louise Boulter.

Chris Christie illustration by Louise Boulter.

I spent the day after the last Republican Primary debate on a windswept peninsular beyond the bogs of County Mayo, so I was expecting to stay in the dark about the fallout until I returned to the land of reliable broadband and a TV I could work out how to operate. Imagine my surprise, then, to find the one radio station we could pick up in the car reporting on it. That must have been one bunfight, yes?

Yes. Everyone agrees the CNBC debate, staged in Colorado, was a disaster, but like Rashômon, no one could agree who was responsible.

The main problem is, of course, there are too many people in the Republican race to get them all together in an orderly fashion. It’s like letting everyone out of the Big Brother house on the same night and watching them fight for screen time. Or, you know, trying to decide which pub to go to next on a crawl with more than six people. Eventually, the winner is just the person not making sense the loudest.

“There was a point early on in the debate when Chris Christie said nothing for almost 25 minutes, which must be a personal record.”

CNBC went for the 10 candidates polling highest – bad news for Bobby Jindal and Lindsey Graham in particular, who were shut out of this debate. They weren’t happy. They weren’t alone.

With this many people on the stage, even in a two-hour debate, no one is going to get much time. There was a point early on when Chris Christie said nothing for almost 25 minutes, which must be a personal record. And, rather than ask the same question to all the candidates and get them to debate it among themselves, the CNBC moderators asked individual questions.

On the one hand, this seemed sensible: keeping control of that would be hard work, and TV companies really do believe the viewer to have too small an attention span for 30 minutes on one subject. But the moderators didn’t really succeed in keeping control of anything anyway; there were interruptions and people speaking way over time and the sort of half-arsed hardness that screamed of “Ask me again and I’ll let you get away with it.”

So, the candidates themselves were happy? Not so much. Their beef was with those individual questions.

Take Ted Cruz, whose first question – on the debt ceiling – was met with the response that all the questions were rubbish and not about important stuff. He got a huge cheer from the crowd, who clearly don’t give a fuck about the debt ceiling either.

Donald Trump, who was asked if he was running a comic-book campaign, answered with more talk about the wall he’s going to build and make Mexico pay for; a plan even the Penguin would find stupid. If China can build a wall, he added, America can build a wall. Because it’s totally the same thing, I think we can all agree. I’d say he should maybe find out a bit more about the death toll associated with the Great Wall, but I don’t suppose he gives two hoots.

Little did I know when I set out to write a column that I’d have to spend so much time agape at a glib twat so ill-suited to the position of President. But so it is, so I’d also like to point out something to anyone applauding Trump’s attitude to immigration and foreigners. A lot of immigrants died in the creation of America and an awful lot of them were Chinese.

“Such was the bitching about the questions, that Barack Obama commented that if the Republicans found those questions unpleasant they might want to reconsider their statements about how easy it would be to deal with Putin.”

Trump tipped Carson, who was at an adjacent podium, a wink that continues to fuel belief the businessman could be eyeing up the brain surgeon as a potential Vice Presidential running mate. There are people who think this is a good idea. But then there are people who think putting petrol on a fire is a good idea.

Jeb Bush was asked why his numbers are down (and man, are they down), and Rand Paul didn’t manage to say anything interesting enough to distract me from the idea that if there was a clammy scale, he’d come somewhere between early stages of flu and full-on Trainspotting.

Such was the bitching about the questions, that Barack Obama, who’s entered the “I’m just going to say whatever I like” stage of his Presidency, commented that if the Republicans found those questions unpleasant they might want to reconsider their statements about how easy it would be to deal with Putin.

Immediately after the debate, there was talk of candidates uniting to wrestle control of the debates from the Republican National Committee, enabling them to negotiate directly with the TV networks. You know, so they wouldn’t be shot from cameras behind them, which would reveal their notes, as if this in any way affects the chances of someone voting for a candidate. (“He’s talking shit honey, but at least he’s not talking shit off notes.”)

This halcyon day of unity was soon broken with the news that Trump (you’ve guessed it), is now in one-to-one negotiations with TV stations on how debates should be.

There’s another primary next week, which I fully expect to contain Trump on a huge podium debating against a Magic 8 Ball.

Outlook not so good.

Read all of Donkeys and Elephants here.


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Written by Hannah Dunleavy

Hannah Dunleavy is the deputy editor of Standard Issue. She likes whisky and not having to run anywhere.