National Commentary

A Fear Mongering GOP Debate

nfbenton-mugIt is clear from Tuesday’s GOP presidential candidates’ debate in Las Vegas that the principal role assigned Donald Trump in this process has been to provide cover for other even more dangerous candidates to harden their obsessive policy stands that amount to little more than perpetual brinksmanship and war.

Ironically, while Trump heightens anxieties and fears bellowing about the full array of defensive, police state social aspects of a dystopian world, such as walls and moats, bans and blackouts, he is providing a context for other candidates – Bush, Rubio, Christie and Cruz, most importantly – to offer escalated scenarios for offensive, military interventionist involvement in the middle east and elsewhere.

Effective as he is at ginning up hysteria in a population a lot of which never shed racist attitudes during nearly seven years of President Obama, as intimidating as he is as the image of the “strong man” leader, and as useful as he is to the “military industrial complex” in pushing the envelope against basic civil liberties by calling for an all-out ban on allowing Muslims into the U.S., and even more ominously, restricting access to the Internet, there’s one noteworthy thing that Trump lacks to be the ideal candidate for those who would be the masters of this process.

What ultimately disqualifies Trump, in the eyes of these masters, is his opposition to what the U.S. has done militarily beginning with the invasion of Iraq and his eager willingness to let Putin help in the destruction of ISIS. Note the extent to which Trump went in the debate Tuesday to repeatedly rail against the “waste” of $4 trillion on U.S. military involvement since the invasion of Iraq that could have been put better to domestic uses, such as infrastructure renovations.

So, while Trump will continue to be allowed to clear the field, so to speak, first of the same kinds of token candidates the GOP permitted last time – the African-American, the woman – and then of any obstacles to the most extreme of pro-war intentions, don’t be surprised if Trump gradually begins to fade while his war monger opponents begin to rise.

The problem for those masters is two-fold: first, to actually engineer the slow demise of Trump while allowing him to carry along a sizable fear- and racist-based constituency and secondly, to see who among the other candidates can demonstrate the chops to make the general election next November truly competitive.

On the second point, nothing is yet clear. Jeb Bush has been a huge disappointment for them to date, even if he played a bigger part in the invasion of Iraq through his founding role in the war-obsessed gaggle of neo-cons making up the Project for a New American Century than his brother in the White House.

Among Bush’s biggest problems is his last name, the long and the short of it. Many Trump supporters would never migrate over to Bush for just that reason. To be an “outsider” to the Washington establishment is an unconditional precondition for a vast majority of Trump’s populist devotees.

The other significant contenders, while they’ve been falling all over each other to out-Trump Trump, have not shown they could actually be effective in the general election against Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. They’ve simply crafted their images to be too extremist.

Rand Paul was right Tuesday when he characterized Christie’s claim that he’d shoot Russian fighter planes out of the sky in Syria as “a prescription for World War III.” Yes, these nut cases would not know when or how to prevent a total conflagration, and while the “military industrial complex” wants the U.S. committed to a perpetual war, not many have an appetite for a nuclear conflagration. At that level it becomes obviously self-defeating, although some may think such a scenario could be a winner for them.

Another quickly-suppressed subject was Cruz’ claim that the new meta-data legislation allows for more, not less, total surveillance of the U.S. population.

CNN’s disingenuous role in the debate was to frame it entirely as a response to the great fear that Americans are supposed to be feeling right now.