Wednesday night’s second Republican debate was breathtaking -- but for all the wrong reasons.
I thought televised debates were supposed to impress, not distress. On the contrary, this thing was like bearing witness to the collapse of society.
What was so breathtaking? The chaos, the ineptitude, the unintelligible cross-talking … This "debate" between six men and one woman who all think they should be President of the United States was like watching a schoolyard of bickering schoolchildren at noon recess.
Did not! Did too! Nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah. I half-expected these un-grownups to stick their tongues out at each other.
For many years, I have covered my fair share of quadrennial debates between Republican and Democratic hopefuls, and the debates between the nominated candidates and their vice-presidential running mates.
Thus, since I cannot possibly remember them all, I cannot reliably make the claim that this debate was hands-down the worst one I have ever seen.
But that was what I thought while watching it, and then continued to think when I pondered it on the day after.
This debate was put on by Fox Business in association with Univision. It was simulcast on Fox Business, Fox News Channel and other platforms.
The three moderators were Stuart Varney of Fox Business, Fox News commentator Dana Perino and Univision news anchor Ilia Calderón.
The debate was set in a location imbued with great symbolism for Republicans -- the majestic Ronald Reagan Library and Museum in Simi Valley, California.
The debaters, moderators and audience were set up in a building known as the Air Force One Pavilion featuring, among other attractions, a full-size Air Force One suspended from the ceiling.
The space is often used for special events with capacity for 1,500 spectators when configured as a theater, according to online sources.
But as demonstrated in Wednesday’s event, the place is cavernous, with acoustics that seemed completely at odds with the needs and requirements of a television broadcast.
At various times, the sound echoed throughout the space so severely that a viewer at home could not make out what was being said.
In addition, at times, the moderators seemed to muff their lines in a way that is virtually unheard of in televised debates.
Hand-offs between them came across as awkward, as if they were performing without having rehearsed.
While watching the debate, I wondered why Fox Business had partnered with Univision.
Perhaps the two were put together with the help of the RNC to draw more Spanish-speaking Americans to the telecast, since they are a group who are said to be a growing constituency for Republicans.
But the Fox News and Univision brands are far different. Fox Business and Fox News are obvious choices for mounting Republican debates, and Fox News had the last one on August 23.
In Wednesday’s debate, it was hard to see what these two co-sponsoring entities had in common -- especially because, speaking for myself and possibly others, I have no idea where Univision stands on various issues, but everyone knows where Fox News and Fox Business stand.
But concerns about the quality of this debate’s production are nothing compared to the atrocious comportment of these Republican presidential wannabes.
Much of the debate was wild and out of control, and there was little, if anything, that the moderators could do about it.
The seven participants were Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Vivek Ramaswamy (above left), former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott (sparring with Ramaswamy, above), former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Vice President Mike Pence and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum.
Governor Burgum’s presence at the debate serves as a symbol of what’s wrong with these debates.
Like other pseudo-candidates who turn up every four years, he has about as much chance of becoming President as a giraffe has of getting accepted at Harvard, and everybody knows it.
And yet, there he was at Wednesday night’s debate throwing tantrums, ignoring the moderators’ pleas to desist, and doing little more than adding to the atmosphere of anarchy that characterized the entire mess.
How small these candidates seemed. While watching the debate, I thought that what these Republicans really need is a Republican rock star -- someone like Reagan, perhaps, who is capable of rising above the others to encapsulate what this party stands for.
Unfortunately, the closest thing the Republicans have now to a rock star is Donald Trump. And that can’t be good for anybody.