Statement | What I saw in the Republican Party debate phase was complete and utter moral cowardice. (2023)



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Statement | What I saw in the Republican Party debate phase was complete and utter moral cowardice. (1)
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Byfrank bruni

Bruni is a contributing opinion writer who has been employed by The Times for more than 25 years.

Ron DeSantis blamed Donald Trump for the Covid lockdowns during his presidency. Nikki Haley criticized him for runaway government spending. They did it early in Wednesday night's Republican presidential debate, and they did it with ease, as if to show voters how fearless and independent they were. What courage!

What a bunk. When later asked to raise their hand if they would support Trump as the Republican nominee in 2024, even though he had been convicted of a felony, DeSantis raised his arm. Haley too. Without hesitating. No doubt. There is no worry aboutWhich oneof Trump's 91 felony charges may be under discussion. It was not emphasized that they should see how strong the evidence turned out to be. Loyalty only. That's what Republican voters seem to be insisting on, and that's what the eight candidates on stage in Milwaukee, other than Chris Christie and Asa Hutchinson, promised.

The degrees of this loyalty varied widely. On the wobbly side was Mike Pence, whose campaigns have been the continued growth of a backbone sorely lacking for most of the Trump administration. In the debate, that spine had a big, exciting and strangely moving outburst.

Although Pence indicated the same perverse willingness as DeSantis and Haley to look beyond Trump's possible criminal record, he also delivered a speech that not only laid down but rejoiced in his refusal, on January 6, 2021, to grant Trump's request for not to certify. Joe Biden's election victory.

"He asked me to put him over the Constitution, and I chose the Constitution," Pence said. "And I always will." It sounded and looked serious and grandfatherly. And in the same voice, the same face, he implored voters to think twice before electing anyone who puts political survival above all else. It was an instruction to turn your back on Trump.

But the party is not turning its back on Trump, and that was the takeaway from an event where Trump was physically absent but spiritually present, an oppressive orange ghost manifesting in the bits of him that the candidates, plus Christie and Hutchinson, the reunited. their own political identities and in their unwillingness to do what was most necessary and tell their party the full truth about Trump's lies.

The Fox News moderators, to their credit, didn't really focus on Trump until the second of the two-hour debate, and even then they kept the exchange about him relatively brief.

But the Trumpy interlude underscored the fundamental timidity and inconsistency of candidates who try to beat Trump without hitting him hard, who claim they would be better candidates without using the most relevant and persuasive ammunition against him. His debating performances mixed moral cowardice with political negligence to produce a confusing, annoying and infuriating spectacle.

How can anyone praise Pence for standing up to Trump on the day of the uprising (an expression of admiration that implicitly acknowledges Trump's treasonous methods) only to dismiss the current charges against the former president as a chilling politicization of justice and deem Trump fit to Back to the White House? That was the contradictory and completely stupid attitude of many of the candidates on stage. In that sense, they were miniature Trumps, broken mirrors of the master. They put their own political ambitions first.

In reality, Vivek Ramaswamy's frenetic, hyperbolic and comically exuberant turn traveled beyond pragmatic calculation into an entirely different and more disturbing world: that of the Trump fanatic, the Trump sycophant. I take it this was your audition to be Trump's running mate?

He called Trump "the best president of the 21st century," putting Trump ahead of only one other Republican commander-in-chief, but that wasn't even his strangest and most slavish act of worship. No, he got over it when he proudly asked which of his warring rivals had the "guts" (he used that word) to promise that on the first day of his presidency they would forgive Trump for anything need forgiveness.

They seemed to ignore it, at least then, though they crushed it at other times. Rising in the polls and ready to be attacked, he was tutored by Haley on foreign policy, by Pence on our country's ability to tackle multiple challenges at once, by Christie on his lack of experience and misguided confidence.

Ramaswamy, 38, is like Trump in the larval stage, melting toward full MAGA wingspan, but he's not quite there yet. However, his narcissism is fully developed. On social media, in the days leading up to the debate,posted a videoof himself in "three hours of solid debate preparation." It showed him playing shirtless tennis. Call it over-underdressing, as well as a less-than-subtle reminder that a certain older, rounder, slower favorite prefers the golf course's more aerobically tolerant habitat. I suspect Ramaswamy has a hint or two of Trump, but they are subliminal turns.

On Wednesday night, Ramaswamy took his licks and kept ticking away, inexperienced working up as many topics of discussion as he could. And there were many topics as moderators moved the candidates forward on abortion, Ukraine, education, immigration, government spending, climate change and more. That trip revealed Haley's desire to be seen as somewhat subdued and less vain and reckless than the men; Tim Scott's upbringing by a poor single mother; and Christie's ability to survive a tsunami of derision.

Doug Burgum and Asa Hutchinson also took up lecterns. But I've already forgotten them, and I suspect other viewers and most voters will too.

And Ron DeSantis? Did he renew his candidacy or invite to his last rites?

It was loud, I'll give you that. He smiled when it was necessary to smile, punched the air and uttered the "dead as a stone" phrase he has used before to describe the fate he will inflict on drug smugglers crossing the country's southwestern border.

But he had to be drawn into the claim that Pence did the right thing on January 6. He was very secretive about aid to Ukraine and suggested he would cut it, but later said his real concern was that Western European countries would contribute more. . (Wow, where have we heard that before?) It was as vague as it was bold, and it's no way to catch up to Trump, much less surpass him.

But is DeSantis really trying that hard? Other than Christie, are there any of them? Like their ethically rotten lot, they are being held hostage by a serially accused trafficker and seem to be waiting for a twist of fate or act of magic to make things better.

I share Ramaswamy's hunger for true value. But I define it differently than he does, and on Wednesday night I was hungry.

What I listen to, read and play


  • Forbidden books. Discontinue culture. This turbulent chapter of American life calls for a re-acquaintance with the meaning of free speech, and acclaimed author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie made a distilled and persuasive case at a conference in late 2022 that recently crossed my radar. can you hear itheroher. The precision of his words (and of his expressions) is intriguing.

  • I have written, in today's university context, about the dangers of performance culture, a theme present in two new books. "Never Enough," by Jennifer Breheny Wallace, was released Tuesday andpraised by Publishers Weekly.Early next week,"Deleting the finish line: The new plan for success beyond grades and college admission will be released.

  • I stumbled upon an Olivia Dean singer-songwriter slot at the end of June atflattering assessmentfrom her new album, "Messy," by Times critic Jon Pareles, and then again, most recently on "summer prop“Slate's Culture Gabfest Edition. I am greatfull. While some songs on "Messy", including the first track, left me cold, the best songs ("The Hardest Part", "No Man", "Ladies Room") are deeply pleasant throwbacks: they almost sound like reborn pop-soul ... from decades ago, but with a contemporary shine.

  • I've become a big fan of The Times' latest daily game.connections, which challenges you to arrange 16 words correctly into four groups of four. It can be tricky - in one edition "month", "year", "decade", "century" and "millennium" were all up for grabs - but it'scincotime measurements. You had to realize that "month" belonged to "sworn", "rose" and "egg", which come in dozens. I used to start every morning with just the spelling bee and mini crosswords. Then I added Wordle. Now, connections. Enough, New York Times! I have work to attend to!

for the love of sentences


In the Atlantic, James ParkerHe looked backon Edvard Munch's life and art: "Like Dostoevsky before him, like Kafka after him, he was one of those somewhat hastily assembled people (with skull plates unfastened and nerve endings dangling) who are chosen by the demon of history. to bring his message to the world. (Thanks to Kathleen Mazzocco of Nice, France for nominating this.) From the same article, on "The Scream," Munch's most famous work: "It is a cave painting on the inside wall of the human skull." (Margaret Sinclair, Skokie, Ill.)

Also in The Atlantic, Derek Thompsonagujadofallible recession forecasters: "Economic models of the future are perhaps best understood as astrology lightly decorated with calculus equations." (Rick Osmon, El Sobrante, California and Allan Parnell, Hillsborough, North Carolina)

and Rebecca Giggshailedto a winged wonder: "The owl was the size of a terrier, but slowly floated like a day-old Mylar balloon." (Viki Maxwell, Oakland, CA) This whole article was, um, hilarious and reminded me of all the wonderful prose that writers who focus on the natural world have produced. I routinely review the excellent work of Natalie Angier, whocovered science for The Timesfor many years and won a Pulitzer Prize forthis collection of objects, including several on animals. Interestingly, Jonathan Franzen recently wrote an essay for The New Yorker titled "The problem with writing about nature”, in which he argues that he often misses the mark. His sentences matched theirs perfectly. "Joy may be as strong as Everclear or as soft as Coors Light, but it never ceases to be joy: a flourishing of the heart, a yes to the world, a yes to being alive in it," he wrote.

Also in The New Yorker, Zach Helfandexplainedthe fascination of monster trucks in relation to our cult of size, noting that "people have always liked really big things, especially unnecessary ones. Stonehenge, pyramids, colossi, Costco." (Doris McInnes, Greenwood, South Carolina)

En Vanity Fair, Susan CaseyreflectedOn the thinking of Stockton Rush, the CEO of OceanGate, who ignored warnings about his Titan submersible: "In a culture that has embraced the ridiculous mantra of 'move fast and break things,' that kind of arrogance can lead to a person walks away. But in the depths of the ocean, the price of admission is humility, and it is not negotiable. The abyss doesn't care if you went to Princeton or if your ancestors signed the Declaration of Independence. If you want to go down to his world,ellasets the rules.” (Debbie Landis, Garrison, New York)

I Boston Globe, Alex Speierare comparedInjuries that reliably occur for Red Sox pitcher Chris Sale in "so many rings in a surgery game." (Bill Keveney, Beverly Hills, California)

An el Washington Post, Matt BaisporesThe Defendant's Limits: "Asking Donald Trump to pledge allegiance to something other than himself is like asking my dog ​​to write a novel. He might look at you like he understands the concept, but trust me, he does no.(Reid Cushman, Miami and Ste Kubenka, Austin, Texas)

I Esquire, Charles P. Piercedeclared: "There is no earthly reason for Disney to drop its lawsuit against Florida just because Ron DeSantis says Florida will win it. A dream is a desire that your heart asks for, but not in court. (Chuck Carlin, Leesburg, Va.)

The Times, Rico Gaglianorivetedthe West Coast capital: "Los Angeles is the promise of speed denied." He noted that it is "a city of five-lane highways where traffic crawls" and "the birthplace of the In-N-Out Burger (its very name heralds quick gratification), where drive-thru lanes stretch all the way to infinity . Behold the Maseratis in line: eager to run, forced to remain idle. Angelenos know the feeling." (Lisa Smith, Pacific Palisades, California, and Robert Weimer, Los Angeles)

Also in The Times, Alexis Soloskidescribedmeet actor Taylor Kitsch: “There's a loneliness inside him that makes women want to save him and men want to buy him a beer. I am a mother of young children and the temptation to offer him a snack was sometimes overwhelming." (Peter M Handler, Chicago)

David Gatesreviewed"Sun House," a new novel by David James Duncan. "Duncan is a serial pusher," he wrote, "especially when he tries to undo the unspeakable: characters constantly find themselves 'avoided,' 'overcome,' 'stunned,' 'silenced,' 'beaten,' and 'carried on.' word". It is true that it is better to go beyond a few words". (Scott Williams, Salt Lake City)

Kyle Buchanancelebratedbad movie accents on the grounds that the movies are "dream worlds that ask us to believe in things as crazy as multiverses, 10-foot-tall blue people, or Mark Wahlberg playing a science teacher." (Mary Melby, Tempe, Ariz.)

Roger Cohendefinedmany varieties of nationalism, including the current Russian one, as "a promise to change the present in the name of an illusory past to create a future that is vague in all respects except its glory". (Allan Tarlow, West Hollywood, California)

Maureen DowdretTrump's relationship with his own allegations of stolen elections, concluding that "the putsch knew his lobbying for a coup was dishonest." (Linda Mancini, Florence, Italy and Demeter Manning, Olympia, Washington, among many others)

Y Bret Stephensfoughtwith the broad ground covered by Trump's charges: “Ninety-one counts in all. You could almost put them down and send them like beer bottles on the wall.” (Kathy Haynie, Oregon City, Oregon and Frank Ohrt, Houston, among many others)

Email me to nominate favorite pieces of recent writing from The Times or other publications to be featured in "For the Love of Prayers."herand include your name and address.

Frank Bruni is a professor of journalism and public policy at Duke University, author of the book "The Beauty of Sunset" and contributor to Opinion. Write a weekly email newsletter.Instagram @FrankBruni Facebook

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