The first Republican primary debate was show on Fox News on August 23, 2023, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It was moderated by Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum. The candidates who qualified were Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, former Vice President Mike Pence, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, conservative entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson.
I confess that I did not have the stomach to spend time watching an exhibition of candidates who have little chance of defeating Donald Trump for the nomination. However, I did read the news reports of the exchange and watched video excerpts from it as well. My conclusion was that the moderators were incompetent in their attempts to control the candidates as well as keeping the debate organized. When the candidates argued with each other, it was usually by loudly interrupting and ignoring the moderators attempts to maintain order. Worse, with few exceptions, the candidates collectively were either just a Trump echo or lacked the courage and honesty to speak their true feelings about his conduct. There were exceptions. One of them was Christie who said: “Someone’s got to stop normalizing misconduct. Whether or not you believe that the criminal charges are right or wrong, the conduct is beneath the office of president of the United States.”
As to the individual candidates, it is obvious DeSantis has a chronic personality problem. He simply doesn’t connect with people. Ramaswamy, who was the target onstage, is even to the right of the views of Donald Trump. He told the audience that “the climate change agenda is a hoax.” He also offered the view that “President Trump, I believe, was the best president of the 21st century. It’s a fact.” Haley, the only woman on stage in a sea of men wearing red ties, did speak her mind, but was among the candidates who just interrupt the other person to argue her views.
I was struck by the lack of the candidates professional conduct, leadership qualities and basic adult conduct. An American minister, Robert Fulghum, wrote a bestselling book in 1986. The title was “All I Really Need to Know I learned in Kindergarten.” It outlined what children are taught about conduct. It included such things as: “Don’t hit people, play fair and Tell the truth.” I thought of that book while watching people who want to be president of the United States, act like grade school students arguing in the school yard with each other. As I reviewed the candidates conduct, I was struck with prevailing conduct of frequent loud interruption of other speakers, rude conduct and ignoring what little control the moderators tried to exercise. The candidates collectively showed a lack of leadership qualities as well as hypocritical dishonesty about Trump and national issues of concern. Instead, the offered views they believed the voters for their party wanted to hear. It was a disappointment, but not unexpected. This was, after all a Fox News show.