Report from planet Republican

The news from this week's Republican debate: one of America's political parties truly has gone completely, collectively bonkers.
By Eric Alterman

Whenever I watch a group of Republicans do almost anything, I find myself imagining someone from a sensible planet, or even a sensible country, watching and wondering what in heck they would make of it. This is particularly true of debates, and during this week's Republican mash-up in South Carolina, there were so many mouth-open/what the heck moments upon which to ruminate, it's hard to pick the most bizarre.

Recall that this debate follows the one where all the candidates vied with one another to claim the mantle of Ronald Reagan, a politician so simultaneously clueless and ideological that, to this day, nobody knows where his faculties ended and his Alzheimer's began - whether before or after he left the presidency.

Much of this nutty Reagan nostalgia is inspired by the fact that to any sentient human being, Reagan actually looks good compared to George Bush. Some of his aides were competent. And he didn't take this Christianism stuff too seriously, skipping church religiously even allowing gay guys to have sleepovers in the White House.

This time the talk was all about who's the toughest; who likes torture the most; and who likes terrorists the least. Fox News moved things along in this direction nicely with questions that sounded like they were written by the rightwing script doctors at "24" in return for promotional considerations.

So there you have it. One candidate says something that is obvious to those of us living in the "reality-based community", gets it wrong, but also adds that Ronald Reagan would have supported him. Another candidate, known to be nuts by some who know him best, goes nuts, misinterprets the misguided assertion, and "wins" the debate because of it - putting off the day of reckoning when the people who vote in the primary realize that he disagrees with everything they hold dear in the first place.

I'm not a real big fan in truth, but we really could use a Hunter S Thompson on this campaign....

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