Debate and Post-Debate Observations


I am watching Morning Joe this Wednesday morning after last night’s CNN Republican Debate in Las Vegas. In my humble opinion, Morning Joe ranks as the most informative and instructive news commentary and political program on any cable, satellite, or network channel. It beats anyone. That said, I disagreed with many things uttered this morning by the diverse members of its intelligent and perspicacious ensemble and agreed with others.

As importantly, I disagreed with the characterizations uttered by some of the candidates themselves at both the main and undercard debates.

In this first article, I will address the compliments paid to Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, and the substance of Graham’s debate remarks.

The compliments included the assessment that Graham won the undercard debate and belonged on the main stage with the big boys. In winning the undercard, his Morning Joe complimenters, principally Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski, and Mike Barnacle, praised him, wondering where he had been all her life (Mika), extolled the proper, sensitive, Republican attitude toward Muslims (Barnacle), and declared what should be the emotionally mitigated Republican position toward terror and the steps to counter it (Joe).

Let’s acknowledge that Graham laid out a plausible plan for dealing with terror, bonded with establishmentarians by praising former President George W. Bush and creating a continuity doing so, and provided more details about why his plan was the one to take and why those of others should be rejected.

But Graham also laid bare his weaknesses, if unwittingly. He said he had been studying terror and figuring out how to defeat it for the last 10 years. Not that you shouldn’t study, but did it really take him that long to come up with effective proposals?

He ripped those who offered other alternatives, especially Trump (but also Cruz), whom he continued to demonize, reflecting a grudge and sense of hurt he (Graham) has not been able to overcome since Trump revealed his hypocritical campaign tactics and gave out his cell phone number.

Most importantly, he, and others, continue to proffer the notion that Islam is a peaceful religion and that a president cannot redefine a religion to create a strategy to defeat terror.

This last point in particular is patently false and misleading, and is usually compounded by the declaration that to say anything harsh about Islam will play into the hands of ISIS, which will use it to recruit greater numbers of prospective terrorists and to commit greater numbers of acts of terrorism.

It is those sentiments, so frequently expressed by Democrats and some Republicans alike, that disturb the average American citizen, who stands by and watches as his leaders allow his American culture to dissolve into nothingness, who goes undefended by the persons who should be defending him the most.

For the establishment mindset, the axis is always the other, and not American citizens. The leaders forsake their citizens and cover it with an effort to convince them it’s okay, that to win the war against terrorism they must swallow such indignities, because we need Muslim cooperation to win, and they will otherwise take offense and refuse to participate, leaving us powerless to complete the job.

They also throw in the point that accepting the axis of the other represents American values!

It is an argument from weak-mindedness, and it is patently false and misleading, like the chief idea – that Islam is a peaceful religion – to which it is conjoined.

This stands out as one of the main reasons Trump resonates with the American public. Our citizens are the axis of his mindset, and he is not going to let anyone compromise that with an argument from weakness. The safety and security of Americans predominates in his thinking. This is why he wants to install a temporary ban on Muslim migration to the United States. This is why he wants to “bomb the shit” out of ISIS. This is why he wants a terrorist’s family members to pay the price. They are not innocent; they are complicit in what their terrorist relative plans and executes! Or, let us say, when they are complicit, they, too, must be punished or rendered incapable of assisting terror.

Let us return to the chief issue, the idea that Islam is a peaceful religion. This pronouncement is false, and such falsehood is attested by the many verses of violence toward infidels found in the Quran.

LIke a lot of people, I want that to be true. For some Muslims, especially those in America, it may be the case. Religions change. We want to understand why, however, because at the heart of the Quran is a moral teaching that it is right to murder those who are infidels, particularly Christians and Jews, or in the alternative allow them to live if they pay a heavy tribute and remain silent and obedient to Islamic law rather than their own.

Has that theology, that ideology, that moral teaching, which typically weaves deeply into and throughout the fabric of Muslim societies, been rejected?

Do Muslims who have settled in America reject that Quranic teaching? Have they modified their beliefs to exclude that demand on their spirituality?

American citizens deserve to know, and they deserve to be reassured. They came here, among other reasons, to find religious freedom. A theocratic religion and ideology that espouses death because its scriptures call for it from its one and only prophet, speaking on behalf of God, cannot find purchase in our free American society.

By the words of its own scriptures, Islam makes bigotry and discrimination and murder spiritual, moral, and legal. It is that belief which Americans do not and will not tolerate, because it terminates life and liberty.

Further, the other ideas that spring from the Quran fall far short of being worthy of toleration. For many, the Quran itself reveals that Muhammad acted as a pedophile, being betrothed to a six-year-old and marrying her when she turned nine. Women are not merely subordinate, they are in their essence sinful and harmful to men, and must be controlled strictly.

It is irrational and irresponsible to ignore these realities and to espouse the falsehood that Islam is peaceful when intrinsically it is not. In that sense, Muslims alienate themselves from other belief systems, rational and religious, and make war on them.

It is not for an American political leader to declare that Islam is a peaceful religion; it is for a Muslim to declare that Muslims reject the violent verses of the Quran and that those verses came from God.

That Graham and Bush continue to paper over these religious and ideological realities remains nothing short of fraudulent, as does Bush’s claim that insults litter Trump’s doomed pathway to the presidency.

Funny, isn’t it? Bush can say or suggest Trump is “unhinged”, a “chaos candidate”, a “joke”, “not serious”, not tough enough, and watches cartoons to get policy ideas, but decries Trump for insults. Similarly, holier-than-thou Graham blasts Trump as a race-baiting bigot because he wants to keep bloody terrorists out of the country, but issues the ultimate condemnation, that Trump should “go to hell.”

It’s okay to offend a fellow American but don’t you dare rile those Islamics! Why not? More broadly, why is it okay to offend American citizens but not Muslims? Christians and Jews get reviled; why not Muslims?

There is much more to say for another post. Here, it is clear that darker motivations underpin the rhetoric of those candidates considered establishment or more centrist. Graham, like any other politician, said what his supporters or prospective supporters wanted to hear. He panders as much as anyone, and the folks on Morning Joe praised that pandering rather than called it what it was because it was what they wanted to hear. It fit more what they are looking for in a candidate; but upon closer inspection, it remains detached from what a huge chunk of Americans want… and need and obscures realities that must become part of the national discussion.


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