“Borderline/Feels like I’m going to lose my mind/You just keep on pushing my love/Over the borderline,” sang Madonna in the Gen X 1980s classic. In so many ways, last night’s GOP debate epitomized the Material Girl’s 1983 dilemma. Whether it was Mike Huckabee’s work as a bassist in a J. Geils cover band (“My Angel is a centerfold”… named Kim Davis), Teddy Cruz’s bizarre pronunciation of Ayatollah Khamenei—it sounded like Common Knee, who I am pretty sure was a Native American leader in colonial times—or Jeb! Bush’s uncanny Will Ferrell impersonation, the Republican candidates seemed to cross borders real and imagined all night.
The orgiastic love fest for the late Ronald Reagan edged ever closer to necrophilia, as each candidate sought to explain their connection to the President in increasingly intimate terms. Kasich nearly told the audience he once gave a cowboy handy to the Commander in Chief while aboard Air Force One as a congressman. Sometimes you have to give an inch to get a buck or something like that.
It should be noted that whoever set up the lighting for this event must have truly wanted to melt the candidates as the stage appeared awash in the kind of flop sweat usually visible only in porn films. Scotty Walker looked like a drugged Albino wandering in the desert of Saudi Arabia, while Huckabee seemed like a balding, malicious Frosty the Snowman. Plus, whose idea was it to make this a three-hour slug fest? Moses and the Isrealites got out of the desert in shorter time, a concept I know this panel can understand.
Of course, how can anyone ignore the Donald? The man gesticulated, guffawed, smarmed, offended, and oranged (it’s a thing, people) in equal measure. When he went on about birthright citizenship, returning to his usual canard about Mexicans crossing the border to pop out a kid, he thoughtfully decided to include Asians in the mix—though one imagines he really wanted to just say “China” in that weird way that he always does—CHY-NUH. Is he thinking of an errant stripper who once scorned him, and not the Middle Kingdom, perhaps?
The Orange Menace continued to troll Jeb! and Rand Paul in the most magnificent of ways. It’s almost like Jeb!’s never been picked on; are you telling me no one ever made fun of his seersucker underwear when hanging out in Kennebunkport as a kid? Come on, you know Dubya liked to play grab-ass or some shit. Honestly, the Donald may be noxious but damn if he isn’t the most entertaining racist this side of … Le Pen? (Editor’s note: ASC is more of a Mark Steyn aficionado.)
When Trump and Scotty Walker traded barbs with Jeb! in the middle, one could excuse the former Florida governor of looking almost disturbingly excited. The Jeb! Sandwich as we like to call it was part ham, part cheese and all orange-tinged with duck sauce (ironically enough). A sort of sick, smitten, envious delight shone on Jeb!’s face as Walker tried to land a few blows on the frontrunner—it’s as if Jeb! was the Star Trek-loving fat kid on the playground who’s amazed to discover that one of the other kids is actually willing to stand up to the bully who gives him merciless wedgies on the daily. After the show, Walker offered Jeb! a promise ring.
By the way, I’m convinced Ted Cruz, a known Divinyls fan, was touching himself repeatedly during this exchange and really every time he got called upon, if only to feel “alive,” since he seemed like a lurid afterthought for much of the so-called debate. Be honest, every time he used the term “rock-ribbed” you thought of condoms.
Then there was the usual jockeying for which one of us rich people is more outside the mainstream. I mean Fiorina, Christie, and others were like, “I’m beyond outside. I’m so outside of outside that S.E. Hinton wrote me out of her novels.” A bunch of rich white people—and, admittedly, one black guy with a truly legit rags-to-riches story—vying to explain how they’re “Jes Folks” and completely, totally, not in any way a part of the power structure.
Right. As journalist S.V. Daté noted the other day, the Donald is a self-made man if that means inheriting millions of dollars and a real estate empire. Fiorina drove HP into the ground to show what a mavericky ordinary person she is. Christie at least has the waistline to be one of the hard-luck working stiffs in a Springsteen song. And Scotty Walker keeps reminding people he has a Harley, like an unpopular kid who loudly tells everyone in class that his dad bought him a sweet Mustang, though no one’s ever actually seen it, and he actually looks like “pogo stick” would be his preferred mode of transportation.
And what’s up with Paul? The Orange One threw the Kentucky Senator’s flagging (or should we say flaccid?) poll numbers in his face right out of the gate, and somehow managed to make fun of his day-old scrambled-egg hairdo without even actually saying anything. (As a wise man once said, talent does what it can—genius does what it must.) Paul came dangerously close to making sense at times when he talked about our abymsal military interventions overseas and the Drug War, but his inner looney tune kicked in soon enough. Like Howard Dean, he often looks like he’s sitting with a wooden spoon up his ass, but doesn’t want anyone to know. And we must never forget that Rand is only famous because his dad was a white supremacist, numismatist leprechaun with an implausible following of stoner college dudes.
In the end, people say Fiorina did well because she sounded like a thinking adult human, and Carson got plaudits for stringing together words into quiet, if no less deranged sentences. Rubio still seems like he’s running for class treasurer. Jeb! Bush looked like he had been kidnapped and forced on stage while his family was held at gun point somewhere in a seedy Miami ranch house. He tried to sound cool by admitting he smoked pot in high school—did he have premarital sex too? If he really wanted to be bold, that is the sort of thing to genuinely rile up the brain dead cow-fraus of Iowa. (Thrice married is one thing—hi Donald—getting a million Iraqis killed is understandable too—but teenage fornicatin’? Vapors!)
Speaking of sex, we learned that the Planned-Parenthood-Industrial-Complex is the greatest threat facing the nation. The GOP candidates talked about “that video” like it was the tape from The Ring. As far as we could tell, Planned Parenthood officials are using baby parts to play foosball or something, and selling little fetus feet to corrupt Chinese businessmen who use them as a sick aphrodisiac or something. Come to think of it, they should get together with ISIS, because the jihadists have lots of leftover heads lying around that the disgusting pervs at PP could probably put to good use. The Donald deflected questions about the time he gave Hillary Clinton a killer Brazilian by saying he has to get along with everyone to make a deal, so maybe he could work something out between our domestic and foreign enemies.
The only thing that distinguishes several of these bozos is their shared record of unaccomplishment. To wit:
Fiorina flaming out at HP and failing in her one bid for office, a doomed campaign against Barbara Boxer in California, in a year when a brain-damaged ferret could get elected if you coached it to say “Nobama”
Rubio taking the one political risk in his life, to push immigration reform, and wearing it like a blinged-out millstone ever since
Trump’s many wives and bankruptcies
Huckabee losing a bunch of weight and gaining it back
Walker picked on schoolteachers and lunch ladies, so that’s something. (My hero!) When asked which woman should be on the 10 dollar bill, Jeb! couldn’t even think of an American woman who had accomplished anything. Maybe he should have cited noted performance-artist and melted Barbie doll Ann Coulter. She went on a truly memorable tear about the “fucking Jews” after the debate. That’s reprehensible, but ask yourself this: how bad was this poor excuse for a Broward County police line-up that Ann had to go full Goering just to get attention?
Today’s GOP is like the final scene of 1960s hippie-paranoia classic The Prisoner, except when you keep taking off one mask after another, they go from jolly ayatollah (Huck) to lamé fascist frat boy (Trump) to Jew-burning medieval inquisitor-comedian (Coulter). What’s under the next mask, folks?
Clement Lime is Tropics of Meta’s social media manager and book review editor. A failed academic, he unfortunately lives in the red hot mama of all swing states: Ohio.