GOP Debate: Emmy Winner Merrill Markoe Analyzes the Candidates' Prep

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The former 'Late Night With David Letterman' writer breaks down Christie's infomercial-style eye contact, Paul's filibuster-length answers and Cruz's Colorado brownie comment: "a couple of his staff members no doubt slapped each other five."

At last night’s third Republican presidential debate on CNBC, all of the candidates spent a fair amount of time throwing around the details of their exciting flat tax plans that will change the course of this country. I don’t recall if it was 10 percent, 15 percent, 25 percent or something else that is going to pare down the current tax code from 75,000 pages to three, dismantle the IRS and/or make it possible to file via a postcard.

Dr. Ben Carson had so many numbers to share, he sometimes looked like he was still finishing up the math portion of his test when he suddenly realized it was now his turn to speak. He would like to get rid of a lot of regulations and government agencies. And also he firmly denied having any relationship at all with a nutritional supplement company that claims its product cures cancer and autism. It is completely crazy that people continue to link him to this company, because aside from his photo on their website, a few speeches he did for them (for the most recent of which he was paid $42,000) and the fact that he does take the product himself and thinks it is a very good product, he has absolutely no relationship to them at all.

Curing disease was also on the mind of Candidate Huckabee, who revealed a bold new plan to save the crumbling entitlements by waging a fight “against diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and cancer.” Although curing a disease has not yet been proven to be the kind of thing that can be legislated, on the bright side what member of the House or Senate would be willing to go on record as having voted against a cure for cancer? Should Huckabee take office, I for one will be eagerly awaiting the day that we find out, definitively, where all our elected officials stand on abolishing death.

In an unrelated matter, Huckabee was also the only candidate to mention Krispy Kremes.

Throughout the evening many confusing questions were raised. Among them: Who had the most campaign staff meetings? Answer: Chris Christie, who appeared to have been repeatedly advised to always look directly into the camera, as though he was starring in his very own high-pressure infomercial. “The government has lied to you and stolen from you. I’m the only one who can save you,” he said over and over, never forgetting to follow up instantly with a mention of Hillary Clinton, lest the viewers forget for one second that this race is going to be between Christie and Hillary. The others do not exist. They are a mirage. What more evidence do you need than the way that he is looking right at you and telling you exactly who the players are going to be? Argue with him at your own risk. Has he not already proven that he can and will make your commute a bigger hell than it already is?

Though it's hard to imagine Trump attending meetings where anyone talks except Trump, last night he seemed to be playing things a bit lower key. Yet his main point remained: Trump can do what no politician can do. “Boy, am I good at solving debt problems,” he said, citing how he was able to leverage the bankruptcy of the other casinos in Atlantic City to his own personal advantage ”by using the laws of this country to my benefit.” So how exciting will it be, if he is elected, to see him exploit the financial problems of the entire country in a way that may even triple his personal worth? Imagine how proud we will all be to say we stood by and voted for him to be our very first king!

Kasich also seemed to have taken a lot of meetings at which he was advised to jump in as soon as the mic was open. He did manage to reveal an interesting idea about alleviating student debt through public service. But whenever it was his turn to speak, it was a little like watching the winner of a tech award at the Oscars trying to squeeze in all the names of his crew and his family before the play-off music drowns out the mic.

Pale, tousled-haired Mr. Paul appeared to have attended the fewest meetings. He seemed to see the debate as a two-hour promo for his upcoming filibuster. There he will finally be able to say everything he has ever thought of, uninterrupted by the rest of these annoying people.

Other than that, there were few surprises. Blustery Mr. Cruz (the only candidate to make a Colorado brownie joke, during which a couple of his staff members no doubt slapped each other five) wanted us to know that there were a lot of single moms in his family. Considering his position on women’s health issues and against Planned Parenthood, its not clear whether any of them are still speaking to him.

Jeb Bush cited his impatience as his biggest weakness, perhaps referring to the years he had to sit quietly, jiggling his leg, while his brother kept hogging all the attention. Carly Fiorina made sure we understood that only she can provide the leadership the country needs and that she plans to keep repeating this until everyone stops asking her about getting fired from Hewlett-Packard.

Marco Rubio refuted accusations of not showing up for his current job at the Senate by pointing out that plenty of the other senators attend even fewer Senate meetings than he does. He didn’t mention what he would do if he found out that all the other kids were jumping off a bridge.

Happily, one thing all the candidates agreed upon: Their biggest problem was the debate moderators. Cruz, Trump and Christie all complained about “nasty questions.” Rubio referred to the press as a Super PAC for the Democrats. But since this is the kind of problem that can easily be corrected, perhaps some future administration will offer us a debate full of questions preapproved by the White House. Since almost no debate questions are actually answered anyway, the candidates will be happier and none of the rest of us will ever know the difference.

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