I mentioned the other day that I was going to write more on the Christie-Rubio exchange during the last debate, the one that has everyone abuzz. I’ve been working on an article that I might ship out (if it doesn’t get published elsewhere, it will appear on this blog soon), but I thought in the meantime I’d just summarize what I discovered.
Strangely enough, when I actually went back to the transcript of the debate (something very few people seem to have done), I was very surprised to find that Christie was startlingly wrong. What’s more, Christie was repeatedly ignoring Rubio’s main point and repeating his own flawed premise. Rubio was repeating himself in response because Christie kept restating the error.
When people (and that most definitely included me) listened to the debate, they didn’t catch it. It happens fast, and you have to be tracking the back-and-forth very very carefully. But going back to the transcript and reading closely, I found it fairly clear.
Unfortunately, because of Christie’s emphasis on Rubio’s repetition (as though that has any deep meaning), Rubio’s point got lost. Rubio would have done well to have specifically said something like “You keep repeating your error and that’s why I’m repeating my answer,” but that was his biggest failure, and it was rhetorical.
Those who believe that it was Christie who had a good night must believe it’s true that Obama is a bad president because of inexperience, because that was Christie’s position. In other words, Christie’s answer to the “knave or fool?” question for Obama is: fool.
That, IMHO, makes Christie a fool about the biggest question of Obama’s presidency, and in addition a fool about the danger the left presents. Rubio was trying to say that. Too bad Christie’s belittling of Rubio’s method of saying it fooled so many listeners.
I wonder: would people have liked it better if Rubio had just let the analogy of his inexperience with Obama’s inexperience—and the idea that that’s the source of Obama’s “errors”—stand? Or would it have been better if, instead of saying “Obama knows exactly what he’s doing” several times, Rubio had said “Obama is aware is the meaning and consequences of his own actions, and is therefore culpable rather than incompetent?” Yes, Rubio repeated himself for emphasis, but he also said plenty of other things that evening (and elsewhere) that weren’t in his stump speech. And of course Christie, and the others, repeat themselves all the time.
Rubio is not necessarily my frontrunner. I’m most simpatico with Cruz’s stances on most things, although I worry about his “electability” (I’m growing to hate that word). And in the past I’ve been somewhat positive towards Christie, as well as of Rubio. My defense of Rubio here is because of what I found when I went to the transcript—and not just what I found about Rubio, but what I found about Christie.
[NOTE: And by the way, although I don’t happen to think repetition is a crime when you’re making an important point, here’s a piece on how Christie repeated himself during the same debate.]
[ADDENDUM: I plan to be more specific in my longer piece. But in response to a commenter request, here’s a really quick listing of what Christie got wrong in terms of content:
(1) the idea that Obama’s flaws stem from inexperience rather than intent, a serious and dangerous underestimation of the man’s agenda, and the left’s agenda. That was why Rubio was hammering that point home. Not only did Christie have no effective answer, he didn’t even attempt to answer at any point, just kept repeating his error.
(2) Christie had no answer to Rubio’s charge about his snow removal faux pas (and it was Christie who cited snow removal as some sort of experience relevant to the presidency, which it is not)
(3) Christie had no answer to Rubio’s charge about Christie’s budget failings.
Actually, of Rubio’s three points, Christie only even attempted to answer one—the snow removal charge. And he did so ineffectively.]