Leave aside for a moment the favored policies of the ten Republican presidential candidates in the prime-time debate and the seven in the second-tier happy hour debate. While there were very few actual policy differences, at least five candidates expressed startling contempt or disregard for the core structure of U.S. government, democratic constraints on the executive, international law, or the most basic standards of evidence for assertions made in public.
Here's a quick look at five violations of the norms of democratic government as understood in the U.S. and internationally.
1. International law banning torture is not "brain surgery." Here's neurosurgeon Ben Carson responding to a question from Megyn Kelly: "As president,....would you bring back waterboarding?"
Alright. You know, what we do in order to get the information that we need is our business, and I wouldn't necessarily be broadcasting what we're going to do.(APPLAUSE)
We've gotten into this -- this mindset of fighting politically correct wars. There is no such thing as a politically correct war. (APPLAUSE)
The left, of course, will say Carson doesn't believe in the Geneva Convention, Carson doesn't believe in fighting stupid wars. And -- and what we have to remember is we want to utilize the tremendous intellect that we have in the military to win wars.Perhaps Carson took his cue in dismissing the norms of civilized behavior as "political correctness" from Donald Trump, who wrote off a challenge to his long history of public sexual insult on those grounds. Carson did him one better, licensing not mere verbal abuse but the most extreme forms of physical assault, acknowledged by U.S. law and treaties signed by the U.S. as war crimes, on those grounds.
2. Murderous dictator as the very model of an American president. This one goes to Ted Cruz:
....let me contrast President Obama, who at the prayer breakfast, essentially acted as an apologist. He said, "Well, gosh, the crusades, the inquisitions--"Just yesterday, arguing that Sisi's dictatorship is fueling the rise and spread of Isis, Shadi Hamid reviewed the crimes that have followed the coup that brought him to power:
We need a president that shows the courage that Egypt's President al-Sisi, a Muslim, when he called out the radical Islamic terrorists who are threatening the world.
Of course, it shouldn’t be surprising that the country is growing less secure: Since the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi on July 3, 2013, Egypt has seen shocking levels of repression. On Aug. 14, 2013, it witnessed the worst mass killing in its modern history, with at least 800 killed in mere hours when security forces violently dispersed two pro-Morsi sit-ins in Cairo. WikiThawra, a project of the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, estimates that nearly 36,500 people were arrested or detained from the day of the coup through May 15, 2014 — one can only imagine how high that figure has grown a year later.Like most middle east dictators, Sisi "calls out" anyone who opposes him as a terrorist. That's courage, Cruz style.
Since April 2015, meanwhile, at least 163 Egyptians have “disappeared.” As one prisoner recalled of his time at Azouli, a military jail which can’t be seen by civilians: “There is no documentation that says you are there. If you die at Azouli, no one would know.”
3. Don't like a Supreme Court Ruling? Constitutional amendment is for wimps. In this august forum, Huckabee didn't quite call for using federal troops to stop abortions. He left a little to the imagination:
Chris, I disagree with the idea that the real issue is a constitutional amendment. That's a long and difficult process. I've actually taken the position that's bolder than that.There's a name for a legal system that does recognize the supreme being as the governing authority. It's called Sharia law.
A lot of people are talking about defunding planned parenthood, as if that's a huge game changer. I think it's time to do something even more bold. I think the next president ought to invoke the Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the constitution now that we clearly know that that baby inside the mother's womb is a person at the moment of conception.
The reason we know that it is is because of the DNA schedule that we now have clear scientific evidence on. And, this notion that we just continue to ignore the personhood of the individual is a violation of that unborn child's Fifth and 14th Amendment rights for due process and equal protection under the law.
It's time that we recognize the Supreme Court is not the supreme being, and we change the policy to be pro-life and protect children instead of rip up their body parts and sell them like they're parts to a Buick.
4. The Supreme Court does not determine U.S. law, cont. It appears that Rick Santorum agrees with Huckabee on this front, though his means of overcoming are somewhat less extreme:
Well, the Supreme Court found a bill that I was the author of unconstitutional.I must have missed the part in civics class where we learned that Congress determines what is Constitutional -- though I also missed, in Santorum's disquisition, exactly how Congress convinces the Supreme Court of that fact. Not mentioned: the Supreme Court upheld a ban on partial birth abortion after Samuel Alito replaced Sandra Day O'Connor on the bench.
What did I do? I didn't stop. I didn't say "oh, well we lost. It's the law of the land." We worked together. The House and Senate, under my leadership, and we passed a bill, and we said, "Supreme Court, you're wrong."
We're a coequal branch of the government. We have every right to be able to stand up and say what is constitutional. We passed a bill, bipartisan support, and the Supreme Court, they -- they sided with us.
Sometimes it just takes someone to lead and stand up to the court.
5. Evidence is for losers. Donald Trump is alone among these small-d nondemocrats in not explicitly advocating contravening international law or Supreme Court dictates or emulating murderous autocrats. He simply revived the McCarthyite tradition of blowing off any and all demands for evidence that his inflammatory (and paranoid) assertions are true. Kudos to Chris Wallace for making that determination absolutely clear:
WALLACE: Mr. Trump, it has not escaped anybody's notice that you say that the Mexican government, the Mexican government is sending criminals -- rapists, drug dealers, across the border.On the plus side, slightly more than two thirds of the GOP candidates did not explicitly advocate waving aside the limitations of law or norms of common decency and evidence. They exhibited some probity while vowing to start new wars or escalate existing ones, cut taxes further for the wealthy, de-insure some twenty million newly insured Americans, defund health clinics for poor women and give Wall Street carte blanche. Perhaps there's hope for the Republic yet.
Governor Bush has called those remarks, quote, "extraordinarily ugly."
I'd like you -- you're right next to him -- tell us -- talk to him directly and say how you respond to that and -- and you have repeatedly said that you have evidence that the Mexican government is doing this, but you have evidence you have refused or declined to share.
TRUMP: So, if it weren't for me, you wouldn't even be talking about illegal immigration, Chris. You wouldn't even be talking about it. (APPLAUSE)
TRUMP: This was not a subject that was on anybody's mind until I brought it up at my announcement. And I said, Mexico is sending. Except the reporters, because they're a very dishonest lot, generally speaking, in the world of politics, they didn't cover my statement the way I said it.
The fact is, since then, many killings,murders, crime, drugs pouring across the border, are money going out and the drugs coming in. And I said we need to build a wall, and it has to be built quickly.
And I don't mind having a big beautiful door in that wall so that people can come into this country legally. But we need, Jeb, to build a wall, we need to keep illegals out.(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
WALLACE: Mr. Trump, I'll give you 30 seconds -- I'll give you 30 seconds to answer my question, which was, what evidence do you have, specific evidence that the Mexican government is sending criminals across the border? Thirty seconds.
TRUMP: Border Patrol, I was at the border last week. Border Patrol, people that I deal with, that I talk to, they say this is what's happening. Because our leaders are stupid. Our politicians are stupid.
And the Mexican government is much smarter, much sharper, much more cunning. And they send the bad ones over because they don't want to pay for them. They don't want to take care of them.