Presidential Candidates

A Debate About…Ideas! That's the Good News. The Bad News: The Ideas.

Matt Welch on the latest GOP slugfest.

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After three of the dumbest months in modern American political history, something kind of wonderful happened Wednesday night at the Reagan Library: Carly Fiorina took a machete to the Donald Trump balloon.

By treating him more like an embarrassing if beloved house pet than a serious competitor, Fiorina, Rand Paul, and even Ben Carson put The Donald on his heels, leaving him with little more misfired put-downs and bizarro anti-vaccine riffs. For whole stretches of a time, the oxygen-hog was silent, leaving the candidates to talk about—of all things!—ideas. So that's the good news. The bad news? Well, the ideas.

Did you know that ISIS was on the verge of toppling Western Civilization? That immigration has destroyed us as a country? That the military has been cut down so brutally that the Marines can barely tie their own shoes anymore? These surreal assertions and more were treated as fact by wide swaths of the GOP field.

But amid the nonsense there were glimmers of hope. Rand Paul showed some belated signs of life, pointing out accurately that if you want to go to war in Iraq again, there's a Bush and a Clinton and 14 other candidates ready and willing. An honest-to-goodness discussion about drug policy revealed Chris Christie as the lying bully he is. Some candidates even talked about the $18 trillion debt, and unsustainable entitlements. Of all things.

But the candidate who gave us the most reason to hope wasn't Carly Fiorina, or Rand Paul, or even Ben Carson: It was Lindsey Graham.

"That's the first thing I'm going to do as president," he told the crowd. "We're going to drink more!"

Two minutes and 3 seconds.

Shot and edited by Jim Epstein.

Music: "Carny's Dance "by Kevin MacLeod (Creative Commons) and "Bronco Romp" by Waylon Thornton (Creative Commons).

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