The Kabuki Theatre of Presidential Debates

This post is for Gates of Vienna’s historical record but it can’t chronicle anything substantive.

The ‘debates’ have long since become scripted farce. Less and less do they deal in reality. Instead, they are performances designed to reassure the mainstream media that it’s still relevant. For far too long the political stage has been a vaudeville performance with our mainstream media acting as the managers of farce.

Why do we continue with the show? Debates clarify nothing. They change no one’s mind. They do nothing to return us toward a more “republican” (make that a small ‘r’, just as the original meaning of democrat requires a lower case ‘d’) form of governance. You remember what comprises a republican way of governance, right? That’s where the Constitution is the gold standard — to coin a phrase — by which we measure the worth of our public servants. Sadly their worth now lies in their (literally) stolen wealth, what they have scraped from the tax trough and the bribes fees they collect after leaving office. That applies with few exceptions to both parties.

For the last seventy-plus years the Democrat party in America has owned our large cities. Those places are in serious trouble precisely because of this exclusive ownership. We used to understand the value of competing ideas and the dangers of corruption and slavery without the regular infusion of innovation. Now we simply turn away from the insoluble problems fomenting in the inner city cages or we pass judgment on those who find themselves trapped in those hellholes.

Here’s a brief video which sums up the process of September 26th’s vicious encounter:

After watching this latest performance I went to bed disheartened, mad at myself for wasting my time. I hadn’t watched one of those things in years, for the reasons outlined by Brian Lilley in that video.

That was no debate; it was a beatdown. It was injustice in the flesh: the ruling class in the form of Hillary Clinton and her journolist-servant moderator, Lester Holt. Holt (who called Trump a racist and accused him of lying) proceeded to bully one candidate whilst playing softball with the other. Trump’s a big boy; he hardly needs my sympathy. However, I will note that Trump has voiced repeatedly a central concern many others share — i.e., that this election will be rigged. I thought so when Obama was re-elected in 2012 after a first term marked by failure in his foreign policy and socialist chaos in his domestic schemes. He effectively used the Executive branch as a bully pulpit to cut the Legislative branch out of the loop. Now, after eight years, he is leaving our country in a shambles.

What transpired in that ‘debate’ was merely more of the same make-believe we’ve had forced upon us for well over a generation now. Just to name one federal bureaucracy which rules through fear and intimidation, look at the odious KGB IRS. The Internal Revenue Service has unconstitutional seizure and arrest powers far worse than many totalitarian governments… and now they’re armed. Just ask Tea Party organizations how they’ve been harassed by the IRS. You won’t see any leftist orgs, the kind George Soros uses to foment chaos, at risk of an audit. No business should be held under a microscope for decade, yet Donald Trump has been audited every year for more than that time.

The same treatment will never apply to the Clinton Foundation, even though the latter never seems to do anything beyond collect cash for obscenely expensive “speeches” by the Clinton machine. Even The New York Times has questions about the former Secretary of State’s dealings with Russia’s acquisition of uranium.

But that subject never passed the moderator’s lips during the Monday Night Fight.

What was particularly ugly in that debate was the aftermath. I haven’t seen this incident remarked upon elsewhere, but what happened afterwards was the perfect coda to the whole encounter. In those few moments after the candidates left their lecterns to shake hands with one another and then with the moderator, both families came up on the stage to congratulate their respective warriors. Then, somehow, Clinton followers completely filled the front rows in the audience, deftly managing to prevent Trump followers any access to the stage or to Trump. The Trump family was treated to the full monty awkwardness of a public cordon sanitaire, forced to wave to a few distant faces we were never permitted to see, though you could hear a few voices of encouragement. As Trump looked over at the stage business with Hillary’s family, you see him ‘get’ the message; he turned and quickly herded his family offstage. Here is one version of the debate which shows that bit of theatre (the one I watched appears to have been removed). Scroll to the end of the video and roll back until you see the candidates shake hands with Lester Holt… then watch carefully to the end… That’s the petty level of optics at which the Clinton machine operates. However, Trump is a quick learner. Madame Secretary & Co. won’t get the opportunity to finesse that power-play a second time.

As for the moderator, Lester Holt, let’s compare and contrast his previous history with the candidates. Here is an interview he did with Donald Trump back in May. And another in June, where Holt is even more aggressive.

In contrast, here’s ol’ Lester “interviewing” Hillary in July. He throws softballs and then lets her ramble without interruption.

Compare and contrast and ask why this man was chosen as the purported “moderator”.

America is a mess precisely because those in power, politicians and their handlers, make facile, ignorant judgments about affairs domestic and foreign. Those judgments and their subsequent actions have earned America her current sad reputation. Our supine Congress forces us to live in servitude to extra-legal judgments and decisions. To add insult to injury, this legislative branch spins its wheels while passing more regulations. As the Baron often says, “justice has to be seen to be done”. For several presidential reigns now justice has been hiding. Or perhaps The Powers That Be knocked her off her pedestal and left her in the outer darkness along with the bust of Churchill.

Below the fold are a variety of links I found to be helpful in considering the ramifications of this tedious Theatre of the Absurd; some of the information may prove useful to you also.

There is also an excerpt from Angelo Codevilla’s thoughtful essay regarding the end of our republic.

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I’d be interested in your opinions regarding Codevilla’s analysis, “After the Republic”.

As usual, I recommend reading it in full.

Mr. Codevilla elaborates on this theme [with my emphases. Editorial comments are in brackets]:

Over the past half century, the Reagan years notwithstanding, our ruling class’s changing preferences and habits have transformed public and private life in America. As John Marini shows in his essay, “Donald Trump and the American Crisis,” this has resulted in citizens morphing into either this class’s “stakeholders” or its subjects. And, as Publius Decius Mus argues, “America and the West” now are so firmly “on a trajectory toward something very bad” that it is no longer reasonable to hope that “all human outcomes are still possible,” by which he means restoration of the public and private practices that made the American republic. In fact, the 2016 election is sealing the United States’s transition from that republic to some kind of empire.


Electing Donald Trump would result in an administration far less predictable than any Democratic one. In fact, what Trump would or would not do, could or could not do, pales into insignificance next to the certainty of what any Democrat would do. That is what might elect Trump.

The character of an eventual Trump Administration is unpredictable because speculating about Trump’s mind is futile. It is equally futile to guess how he might react to the mixture of flattery and threats sure to be leveled against him. The entire ruling class — Democrats and Republicans, the bulk of the bureaucracy, the judiciary, and the press — would do everything possible to thwart him; and the constituencies that chose him as their candidate, and that might elect him, are surely not united and are by no means clear about the demands they would press. Moreover, it is anyone’s guess whom he would appoint and how he would balance his constituencies’ pressures against those of the ruling class.

Trump’s slogan—”make America great again” — is the broadest, most unspecific, common denominator of non-ruling-class Americans’ diverse dissatisfaction with what has happened to the country. He talks about reasserting America’s identity, at least by controlling the borders; governing in America’s own interest rather than in pursuit of objectives of which the American people have not approved; stopping the export of jobs and removing barriers to business; and banishing political correctness’s insults and injuries. But all that together does not amount to making America great again. Nor does Trump begin to explain what it was that had made this country great to millions who have known only an America much diminished.

[“all of that together” may not amount to “making America great again” but — just to pick one item from Professor Codevilla’s list — if he did no more than to banish the “insults and injuries” of political correctness, Trump would change the conversation in America. We would stop our journey on the long road to Becoming Europe. The Alinskyites would be soundly defeated.]

In fact, the United States of America was great because of a whole bunch of things that now are gone. Yes, the ruling class led the way in personal corruption, cheating on tests, lowering of professional standards, abandoning churches and synagogues for the Playboy Philosophy and lifestyle, disregarding law, basing economic life on gaming the administrative state, basing politics on conflicting identities, and much more. But much of the rest of the country followed. What would it take to make America great again — or indeed to make any of the changes that Trump’s voters demand? Replacing the current ruling class would be only the beginning.

Because it is difficult to imagine a Trump presidency even thinking about something so monumental as replacing an entire ruling elite, much less leading his constituency to accomplishing it, electing Trump is unlikely to result in a forceful turn away from the country’s current direction. Continuing pretty much on the current trajectory under the same class will further fuel revolutionary sentiments in the land all by itself. Inevitable disappointment with Trump is sure to add to them.

We have stepped over the threshold of a revolution. It is difficult to imagine how we might step back, and futile to speculate where it will end. Our ruling class’s malfeasance, combined with insult, brought it about. Donald Trump did not cause it and is by no means its ultimate manifestation. Regardless of who wins in 2016, this revolution’s sentiments will grow in volume and intensity, and are sure to empower politicians likely to make Americans nostalgic for Donald Trump’s moderation.

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We haven’t been a republic in a long time — certainly not since NATO interfered in the Bosnian crisis or, more surely, since President Bush spent so much time begging the UN for permission to interfere with Iraq’s governance. The latter was at best naive, the former a distraction from Clinton’s satyriasis. But in light of those disasters, surely Obama’s lethal extra-legal “treaty” with Iran was the final kiss of death to our republican form of government. No, Congress didn’t even fiddle while our Constitution burned. It lay there, supine.

To even expect that Mr. Trump can do much more than stick all ten fingers in the crumbling wall holding back a deluge of Unintended Consequences is unrealistic. What he can do — what he’s known to do well — is persuade Americans to begin to find ways out of the governmental morass.

Supposedly twenty-five percent of the permanent bureaucracy in Washington will quit if Trump is elected. Don’t get your hopes up — far too many of those uncivil “servants” have no intention of giving up their sinecures. But perhaps Trump can manage some legal form of “You’re Fired!” That’s more hope and change than we’ve seen in the last three regimes in Washington.

12 thoughts on “The Kabuki Theatre of Presidential Debates

  1. Yes, the media is corrupt and bias. We know that.

    The only question of importance is how the undecided (i.e. uninformed, dumbed-down, non-critical thinkers) saw the two candidates. They will be influence by style over substance. And being uninformed, they can not identify outright lies or discern critical issues.

    I believe Hillary won a much greater share of these undecided voters.

    • I disagree with your assessment of American voters as uninformed, dumbed-down, non-critical thinkers. That group doesn’t vote.

      Unless voting is mandatory – as in Australia – the decisions made by the minority which actually casts ballots does indeed reflect the informed, the opinionated, and the critical thinkers.

      There is a link in the post to Scott Adams’ view of what happened and what he thinks is likely:

      Some months back he had to close his comment section. It was running to the thousands on each post and he could no longer moderate the conversation. However, he continues to view things from the lens of persuasion. Of the debate he says:

      Clinton won on points. She had more command of the details and the cleaner answers. Trump did a lot of interrupting and he was defensive. If this were a college debate competition, Clinton would be declared the winner. I call that victory on the 2D chess board. But voters don’t care about facts and debating style. They care about how they feel. So let’s talk about that.

      For starters, Trump and Clinton both seemed “presidential” enough. That mattered more for Trump. We haven’t seen him off the teleprompter lately. So Trump passed that test by being sufficiently serious.


      But the most interesting question has to do with what problem both of them were trying to solve with the debate. Clinton tried to look healthy, and as I mentioned, I don’t think she completely succeeded. But Trump needed to solve exactly one problem: Look less scary. Trump needed to counter Clinton’s successful branding of him as having a bad temperament to the point of being dangerous to the country. Trump accomplished exactly that…by…losing the debate.

      Trump was defensive, and debated poorly at points, but he did not look crazy. And pundits noticed that he intentionally avoided using his strongest attacks regarding Bill Clinton’s scandals. In other words, he showed control. He stayed in the presidential zone under pressure. And in so doing, he solved for his only remaining problem. He looked

      By tomorrow, no one will remember what either of them said during the debate. But we will remember how they made us feel.

      Clinton won the debate last night. And while she was doing it, Trump won the election. He had one thing to accomplish – being less scary – and he did it.

      So far, Adams’ predictions have been accurate. We’ll see if he stays on target.

      To the extent you can, stay away from MSM editorials that repeat their mantra about how stupid we are. It will infect your thinking and more importantly, your feelings about your fellow voters. The MSM is scared and they fight dirty. They’re all in the bag – or the toilet, depending on your metaphor – for Clinton. All the links I gave are to contrarians.

      As for percentages, remember the THREE PER CENT of the colonists who joined in the revolution against England. Everyone else hunkered down or called themselves “Loyalists” and moved to Canada.

      Look for Peter Drucker’s book,

      Post-Capitalist Society

      His contention is that every few hundred years the underlying paradigm of a culture changes. We (unfortunately for many of us) are at that nodal point. It’s not a comfortable place to be…but that’s just another thing we don’t get to choose. The only real freedom is how we will choose to view ourselves in this era of post-capitalist structures.

      Peter Drucker did phenomenal work. I was saddened on learning of his death in 2005.

      Re his intellectual journey:

      Among Peter Drucker’s early influences was the Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter, a friend of his father’s, who impressed upon Drucker the importance of innovation and entrepreneurship. Drucker was also influenced, in a much different way, by John Maynard Keynes, whom he heard lecture in 1934 in Cambridge. “I suddenly realized that Keynes and all the brilliant economic students in the room were interested in the behavior of commodities,” Drucker wrote, “while I was interested in the behavior of people.”

      Reading Peter Drucker makes you smarter. Honest.
      The Baron and I are considering starting an Amazon “Giveaway” – or rather, I am considering it. The B doesn’t have an extra minute.

      I haven’t looked into the rules for Amazon’s Giveaway program but it would seem only fair to limit the prize to our donors – whether it’s five dollars or a hundred, we could arrange some kind of periodic lottery as a thank-you…I haven’t looked at Amazon’s set-up for the program. Nor have I asked others who may have participated how they like it. So that’s definitely in the “To Do” column. It would certainly make the fundraisers more fun.

  2. The Democratic “ownership” of US cities is mirrored here in the UK, including the London Borough of Southwark where I live (pronounced “suthark”, guys; I know it doesn’t make sense, but we invented the language!)

    However, equal ineptitude, with different emphases, can be found in areas which routinely elect the Conservatives; basically it’s bad for democracy for one party always to be in power. Wish I had a solution…

  3. We ceased being a republic with the passage of the 17th Amendment and went to the popular election of Senators and becoming essentially super-Representatives. This was a fundamental shift of power away from State sovereignty to the central authority and removed an important intermediary check on centralized power. And this was done on the heels of the 16th Amendment and the authorization of personal income tax, yet another assault on the original Constitutional framework prohibiting direct taxation.

    Even earlier events began to whittle away at the republic: Marbury v. Madison and the establishment of judicial supremacy; the oft overlooked internal improvements debate of the early 19th century; and the real and psychological shift of “these” United States to “the” United States after the War of the Rebellion, the War of Northern Aggression, or the American Civil War (your choice). All of these accreted more and more power to the central government.

    • We’ve never been “United”. But like a dysfunctional extended family, we were always able to stand together and smile for the camera. That family album lied to later generations who thought it had been better in the old days.

      There are several important books that can lead us into a better understanding of how and why. I mentioned this one in another comment thread since I’m currently reading it:

      American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America

      It was published four years ago and still remains the #1 book in the category of “State and Local Government”.

      The author knows his fault lines. Just look at the map on the cover.

      I grew up in Northern Florida where the Spanish had established a foothold a century before the English arrived in Tidewater or founded Yankeedom. DAMN Yankees was/is an accurate description of those fellows.

      He mistakenly puts Florida in a region he calls “The Deep South” but in reality it has long been a truncated part of the southwest region he terms “El Norte”. I remember well the remnants of Spanish architecture and leftover pieces of the language, not to mention the extant forts built by Spanish before the English came.

      The whole of Florida always felt itself a thing apart from the rest of what the author terms The South. When Cuban refugees began arriving in the 60s, after Castro, Florida became even more Spanish. Cubans do not consider themselves “Hispanics”; they share a more direct cultural link to Spain. The music and religion is Spanish in origin. The creole people – African and Spanish – were discriminated against.

      As they were in Louisiana, with its mix of French, Spanish, and African plus a soupçon of Native Americans who hid in the bayous. That area has the most complex mix of peoples. But it’s no melting pot.

      I recommend the book. You can get a used version for a few cents plus the 4.00 postage.

    • A comment of excellence, Craig in Michigan.

      It’s been over four decades since I read Marbury. It seemed straightforward enough in interpreting the Constitution and applying it to a particular controversy. It provided simply that “Congress cannot pass laws that are contrary to the Constitution . . . .” Wikipedia. Since then, however, a goodly number of the snakes, slugs, bottom feeders, and vultures of the legal profession has made the absurd claim that the Supreme Court has the final say on what is constitutional and that the Court’s rulings are settled law (or holy writ, if you will).

      This has led to something called “constitutional law,” something separate and distinct from the actual provisions of the Constitution. A prime example is the Court’s betrayal in the ’30s when it sanctioned an interpretation of the Commerce Clause that the word “expansive” does not even begin to describe. Every court, bar association, lawyer, and legislator (with honorable exceptions) across the fruited plains knows this was a dishonest power grab by FDR in collusion with the traitors in Congress and that it was a major nail in the coffin of the Republic of 1789 (one of many). And they have done precisely nothing to undo this.

      So much for oaths of office.

      However, the idea that the Supreme Court has plenary powers of constitutional interpretation is an impolite fiction. The Constitution clearly states in Art. III, Sect. 2 that the judicial power of the US extends to cases arising under the Constitution, among other cases, and that in all but a few kinds of cases the supreme Court’s jurisdiction is appellate jurisdiction with such exceptions that Congress shall make. Marbury was thus hardly some kind of revolutionary expansion of the Court’s jurisdiction. It just happened to be the first time the Court exercised the jurisdiction that had clearly and plainly been conferred.

      Moreover, the Court in fact is not untouchable as its justices are subject to impeachment under Art. II, Sect. 4. Plus the Court’s jurisdiction can be limited under Art. III, Sect. 2. Aberrant or dishonest decisions can be corrected by either mechanism.

      Certainly”Justice” Ginsburg should be home cutting out paper dolls by now for her contemptible recommendation to an Egyptian that Egypt not follow the US Constitution but rather choose something like the S. African one, which establishes positive not negative rights. It is nothing short of bizarre that this woman sits on our highest court as a respected interpreter of our Constitution. A recent immigrant from Haiti has more respect for it than she and I can supply that fine woman’s name in five minutes.

      Citizens who revere the Constitution are sometimes mocked as placing faith in a mere piece of paper. That piece of paper, however, provided many tools to officials and citizens to maintain the structure established by the Constitution and it is no fault of that document that cowardly, venal, and ambitious officials have simply chosen to collude with each other – especially with the pot of gold placed at their disposal by the 16th Amendment. Not unreasonably, the Framers and Ratifiers mistakenly thought that we could rely on institutional prerogatives and rivalries (and that citizens would not be so stupid as to all Congress to have direct access to their paychecks).

      It is also no fault of that paper that the press would come to be controlled by a loathsome class of liars and trolls hostile to all that that the Western world has built or thought that has improved the lives of millions – and that our premiere educational institutions would be complicit in their lies and become grotesque parodies of places where the young are refined and truth is sought.

      Nor can it be blamed that the citizens became addled by libertinism, shiny toys and prancing athletes only days away from the end of their probation.

      And it cannot be blamed that legislatures handed out citizenship and voting rights to parasites, foreigners, and strangers who would terrify even the creatures in the famous bar scene of Star Wars (to steal a clever image).

      Perhaps the paper is deficient for the Framers and Ratifiers having failed to provide for a radical flush of the toilet every 50 years – pardon my imagery, please, though it is quite accurate – and to require that every elected and appointed official in office anywhere in the nation as of January 1 of 1839, 1889, etc. is removed and disqualified from holding office for 30 years and that all vacancies created thereby shall be immediately filled by citizens in each jurisdiction personally supplying their personal, secret choice for each vacancy.

      Some 227 years down the pike our entire body politic above the level of hamlet, village, or town has become sclerotic and only a meth addict or [faux conservative] would say that is representative in any but a superficial and formalistic sense. Kabuki is exactly right with an encore of clarity and truth worthy of Roshamon or “The Three Stooges.”

  4. Obviously, there should be no ‘moderator’.

    The two candidates should have to sit at a table and face one another.

    (After going through a scanner and being patted down, airport-style, so that there are no mysterious electrical devices hidden underneath their clothes. Hey, if it’s good enough for us if we want to fly from Florida to NY, it’s good enough for them.)

    Then let the two of them have at it. No scripts, no leading questions, just two people in direct competition with one another. After all, we’re not voting for a ‘moderator’.

    Oh and if one of the candidates is a little squirt, that’s too bad. Two chairs, same height, one table. And that’s it.

    • Good luck with that idea…no moderator to throw it for the Dems? Will never happen…

      We’ll see how Trump handles the next debate. He did succeed in getting whatever factotum is in charge of the debates to admit that there was “something” wrong with his microphone…at first they denied it.

      I recommend periodically checking Scott Adams’ ‘reviews’ of the political campaign. He focuses on process rather than content, which has always been my preference…a lesson learned from Peter Drucker.

      I haven’t yet found a good breakdown of the content yet, other than people noticing the hostile questions Trump was peppered with in contrast to the two or three asked of Madame Secretary.

      Meanwhile, the top post on Adams today is about walls:

      He doesn’t post every day but each of his essays is short, to the point…

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