I try not to think about what might have been
'Cause that was then and we have taken diff'rent roads
We can't go back again there's no use giving in
And there's no way to know
What might have been
- Little Texas, "Big Time"
If the GOP electorate hadn't gone clinically insane; if delusional ambition had been far better contained, and far fewer 'Pubbies had fancied themselves presidential timbre; if any of them had had the foresight, once You Know Who immediately rocketed to the top of the polls, to cut him off at the knees straightaway instead of mowing down each other for second place; if, if, if.
If we - i.e. conservatives - still had a party, if would have looked like last night in Detroit and a week ago in Houston for the last eight months, and perhaps we wouldn't already be exiled to the political wilderness by "the American Sarkozy".
Once again, the Cruz-Rubio tag team thrashed and exposed Donald Trump as the liar, swindler, crook, rude, ill-tempered boor, and policy (heh) lightweight that he is. It was a thing of beauty; they took turns on the double-teams, one landing haymakers, the other following up with the clotheslines. If the two freshman senators could formalize this alliance - declare a fusion ticket in either order - stopping Trump at a brokered convention might still be possible.
But I digress.
Cruz mercilessly flogged Trump on his multiple donations to Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign, his refusal to allow the New York Times to release an audio wherein he reassures them that he's pro-amnesty but he has to pretend to be a border hawk to bilk Republican voters into nominating him - which he rebuffed several times on-stage - and speared his insufferable poll-boasting by reminding one and all that both senators beat Hillary Clinton in general election matchups while Trump gets trounced by her.
All of his answers were commanding, informed, insightful, even powerful. Ted Cruz knows his stuff, and left no doubt that he's prepared to be POTUS from day one.
Rubio was a little fatigued, but still managed to "bring it," continuing his merry stomping of Trump on his inability to offer a substantive riposte to anything but instead always resorting to personal insults (which the tiny-fingered mogul promptly and repeatedly demonstrated - mein Gott, is it easy to push his buttons), his fraudulent "university" (about which Trump flagrantly and transparently lied by claiming a "98% customer satisfaction rate, and an "A" Better Business Bureau rating). Like Cruz, Rubio was conversant on all the issues and left the viewer confident that he would require no Oval Office "on the job training".
And, by day-glo obvious implication, that Trump will. The Donald was a disaster last night. He proved conclusively that he knows nothing about policy, has no core principles except "look out for #1," no guiding philosophy except raw ambition, is a serial flip-flopper that makes Mitt Romney look like the Rock of Gibralter, yet continues to manifest his New York liberal instincts in, for instance, his persistent defense and extolling of Planned Parenthood and his vow to "open up the libel laws" by implied illegal, unconstitutional executive order, in order to effectively eviscerate First Amendment speech and press protections.
A constitutional originalist, Trump ain't. But he did brag about the size of his penis (aka "Trump Tower"), although he didn't prove it by whipping it out on stage and stroking it like a punk rock band frontman. That certainly would have made everybody forget about Cruz's and Rubio's tour de force performances.
And if the latter had joined forces long before now, the clinical insanity might not have metastasized, and the Right would be on its way to (if Obama allowed it) reclaiming the White House and beginning the Sisyphean task of cleaning up the frightful damage of and wreckage from The Age Of The One. As it is, the Houston and Detroit debates are like the Seattle Seahawks' divisional playoff loss at Carolina seven weeks ago, a furious second half comeback after falling behind 31-0 at halftime that just runs out of time.
And like the Panthers' Super Bowl L faceplant, so Trump will get buried in November by Mrs. Clinton or Senator Sanders. And the next delightful round of recriminations and finger-pointing can begin.
But for now, at least we have what might have been.
UPDATE: Here are a couple of predictions, folks, and mark down the time and date, because they WILL come true: If Donald Trump does somehow make it to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue....
1) He will be a one-term president, because he isn't in this race to actually do anything, but simply to "win" - as in, the election. Does anybody seriously believe that Trump wants to govern the country? Or accomplish anything in terms of an agenda? That stuff is boring, not entertaining. It's too much like work. Trump will hate the job from the day he assumes it.
2) He will become the second POTUS in American history to resign from office. That is the pattern of his career as a businessman, after all; borrow a ton of high-interest rate money, create a big, splashy, glitzy enterprise, mismanage it, run it into the ground, then make a quick getaway before his board of directors can oust him. Why would his U.S. presidency be any different?
When he moved into the newly-constructed White House on November 2nd, 1800, President John Adams, in a letter to his wife Abigail, wrote the following: "I pray to heaven to bestow the best of blessings on this house and on all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof."
The spinning of Adams in his grave, it seems, will continue.
UPDATE: And then there was this little dollop of fascism to come:
They wouldn't? So they would willingly become war criminals at the behest of their cult leader? That's news to a lot of veterans:
“If you’re a private in the field and your major or your colonel orders you to do something that is a war crime, you actually bear responsibility, you can’t say that the colonel made me do it,” said [GOP Representative and Air Force veteran Adam] Kinzinger, who is supporting Marco Rubio. “What Donald Trump, as wanting to be president of the United States, is advocating is a war crime that would force every soldier that did, i.e. killed the relatives of terrorists, tortured regardless of whether it not it works, the things that he’s advocating would force all of these people in jail.”…
“Now, you have to do one of two things,” he said. “You either believe that Donald trump is all bluster which most people do but for some reason they like that, or you take him at his word in which case he is advocating, like what Benito Mussolini did, war crimes.”…
“For the leading Republican presidential candidate to advocate war crimes, which he does openly, just advocates war crimes, doesn’t matter, makes me sick really,” he said. “Especially as somebody that’s defended the country. It’s just terrible.” [emphases added]
Kinda runs counter to his denunciations of the war in Iraq, his 9/11 Trutherism, and his other manifestations of Bush Derangement Syndrome, doesn't it?
Former CIA Director and Air Force General Michael Hayden flatly believes Il Douche would face an open mutiny:
Former CIA Director Michael Hayden blasted Donald Trump's rhetoric in a recent interview, saying that the U.S. military would refuse orders from him, even as commander-in-chief, to kill the families of terrorists, as Trump has pledged to do.
Which would simply, as a practical matter, not intimidate jihadists who already embrace death like a passionate lover, so what would be the point of it?
Appearing on HBO's Real Time With Bill Maher to promote his latest book, Hayden expressed concern about Trump's language, including the Manhattan real-estate magnate's vow to bring back waterboarding and worse because "they deserve it."...
The reason to bring back waterboarding isn't because "they deserve it," but that it works as an interrogation technique without physically harming the subject, as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed can testify. The fact that Trump purports to champion it (and "worse") in a punitive sense is further proof that he's a New York liberal trying to tell gullible Republican voters what he thinks they want to hear, since like any leftie he contemptuously thinks all conservatives are racists and crypto-fascists. Which makes his likely nomination even more overpoweringly depressing.
Maher brought up Trump's pledge to kill family members of Islamic State terrorists. “That never even occurred to you, right?” Maher deadpanned.
“God, no!” Hayden exclaimed. “Let me give you a punchline: If he were to order that once in government, the American armed forces would refuse to act....You cannot — you are not committed, you are not required, in fact you’re required to not follow an unlawful order," Hayden replied. "That would be in violation of all the international laws of armed conflict." [emphasis added]
D'ya think that Hillary's or Bernie's oppo researchers and advertising shop won't be making promiscuous use of this particular clip? By design?
UPDATE III: Trump runs away from #NeverTrump and TRUMPAC over....a scheduling conflict:
Maybe it's because he'd rather openly flip the bird to TRUE conservatives rather than be booed off the stage by them....
.....or have the audience get up and walk out when he began his rant.
A passive PR disaster is better than an active PR disaster, I guess. But so much, as well, for being an "Alpha male" fighter tough guy.
Or, put another way, The Donald is suffering from what George Costanza used to call "significant shrinkage".
UPDATE IV: Trump was against H1-B visas, then he was for them, then he was against them, and last night he was for them again, and today his campaign says he's against them again. Anybody got any Dramamine?
Also, now he's YUGELY walked back his "I'll order the U.S. military to morph into the SS, and they'll like it" line from eighteen hours ago.
Via Byron York, this Rubio staffer sums it up nicely:
“First of all, I’m not surprised that he so easily took what yesterday was something that he had said was a core principle and threw it out the window, because the fact is that Donald Trump has no core principles,” [Rubio campaign aide Todd] Harris told me. “One of the hallmarks of a con man is to say whatever it is that you need to say in order to fool somebody, and he obviously feels that what he needs to say to fool the people now is different than what it was yesterday.”
I asked whether Senator Rubio is happy to have Trump join him in advocating for H-1Bs. “Senator Rubio supports the H-1B program,” Harris said. “The problem is we have no idea where Donald Trump is going to be tomorrow on this issue or frankly, any other issue.” [emphasis added]
That's not entirely true, actually; Trump will be wherever the political needs of the moment dictate. Which is why Trump's policy baseline will always look like little Billy's from The Family Circus.