... Donald Trump had to listen obediently, even meekly, as Megyn Kelly -- the one woman on Fox News’s panel of three debate moderators -- recited a squirm-inducing litany of his misogynistic remarks through time....Well, of course Trump said nothing that showed gravitas. Of course he was pouty and petulant. Pouty and petulant is precisely what's been working for Trump for weeks, as has lack of gravitas.
... the questions that the moderators asked weren’t just discomfiting, humiliating ones. They were the right ones, starting with a brilliant opener: Was there any candidate who was unwilling to pledge support to the eventual Republican nominee and swear off a third-party run?
Trump alone wouldn’t make those promises, even though the moderator who asked that question, Bret Baier, pointed out that such a third-party run would likely hand the presidency to the Democratic nominee.
And thus, in the first minute of the debate, Trump was undressed and unmasked, and he stood there as the unprincipled, naked egomaniac that he is. He never quite recovered.
... I do think that Trump lost: He said nothing, not one syllable, that infused his candidacy with any of the gravitas that it sorely needs, and there was something pouty and petulant about his whole performance.
And apparently it's still working:
Crammed into a hotel ballroom to watch the first GOP presidential debate, hundreds of the most conservative activists in the country cheered Thursday when Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas talked Middle East policy, predictably. They booed when former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush talked education policy, also predictably.Also, see "Fox News & Megyn Kelly Get Blasted By Conservatives After A Horrible Debate Performance," from John Hawkins at Right Wing News, where you can see social media messages like this:
But with Donald Trump, nothing is predictable, and it's there that the "Red State Gathering" crowd offered up a surprise: When Trump defended his reversal on abortion, his donations to Democrats like Hillary Clinton, even his refusal to rule out a third-party run should he not win the Republican nomination, the crowd responded with among the biggest cheers of the night.
If the Red State crowd is any indication, the Summer of Trump is not even close to over.
"He says a lot of politically incorrect things that a lot of people are thinking," said Randy Daniel, a dentist from the Atlanta suburb of Stockbridge.
Indeed, when Trump actually cited "political correctness" as he defended his public insults of women over the years, the 600 in attendance went wild, just as they did when he hit back at Fox News moderator Chris Wallace for his question on Trump's bankruptcies.
the training of Megyn Kelly and Chris Wallace for the GOP debate was brought to you by Candy Crowley AND by the letter "B" for BIAS— Christine (@BUcrimlaw) August 7, 2015
(The right still blames Mitt Romney's defeat in part on Candy Crowley's moderation of the second Obama-Romney debate, in which Obama insisted that he'd spoken of the Benghazi attack as terrorism shortly after it occurred, and Crowley agreed.)
Judson Phillips, of course, was the founder of Tea Party Nation in 2009.
And from Twitter, also see this guy:
And this guy:
And please see the online "who won the debate?" poll linked at the Drudge Report -- Trump is first as I type with 50.49%. His nearest challenger is Ted Cruz with 12.62%.
Am I saying that Trump did well last night? Not by objective standards. But I'm saying that he brought the "No, fuck you" edge that's most of what his fans want. They want him to have basic command of right-wing talking points and to express them passionately, they want him to hate Mexicans and Obamacare and the Iran deal passionately, they want him to say that the country is a mess and that it's all the fault of both Democrats and the Republican Establishment. He did that. He's fine.
But what was up with all those needling questions to the debaters last night? Bruni's account is fairly accurate -- the debate moderators
took each of the 10 Republicans onstage to task. They held each of them to account. They made each address the most prominent blemishes on his record, the most profound apprehensions that voters feel about him, the greatest vulnerability that he has.But why? Isn't Fox the GOP propaganda channel? Wasn't Fox's mission to make all these Republicans look good?
But every so often -- an Mitt Romney interview here, a Dick Cheney interview there -- Fox's people do ask tough questions. One purpose of this is so that Ailes can flip the bird to his haters: You think "fair and balanced" is a big joke? Watch this!
But beyond that, you have to remember that Roger Ailes was an abused child, as Gabriel Sherman reminded us in his 2014 Ailes biography:
Sherman’s story begins with Ailes’s childhood in rural Ohio where, it will surprise approximately no one, he was burdened with poor health and a sadistic father. “The cruelest lesson Roger would speak of occurred in the bedroom Roger shared with his brother,” Sherman writes. “Roger was standing on the top bunk. His father opened his arms wide and smiled. ‘Jump, Roger, jump,’ he told him. Roger leapt off the bed into the air toward his arms. But Robert took a step back. His son fell flat onto the floor. As he looked up, [Ailes Sr.] leaned down and picked him up. ‘Don’t ever trust anybody,’ he said.” This bizarre form of sadism was coupled with more traditional varieties -- “If they ignored him, he pulled out his belt, whipping them not until they began to cry, although they did wail, but until they fell silent” -- and a mother who was alternately controlling and cold. “Roger remembered her hugging him only ‘once in a while,’” Sherman reports. “He speculated to a reporter that perhaps she was scared of his hemophilia.”What Ailes was doing last night was what he has his interviewers do to occasional Fox guests: treat them the way his father treated him, with what I imagine he recalls as "tough love." Smack 'em around! Toughen 'em up! If they can't handle this, they're never going to be able to take on Hitlery!
It's good television -- but it's also meant to identify the ones whose toughness Ailes can vicariously live through in the future. Those are the ones who can supposedly smite the Democrats and liberalism. For Ailes right now, Trump is still one of the top tough guys. He took punches and hit back. That's all that matters to Ailes -- and it's also sufficient for the Trumpistas.