So the second GOP debate is upon us, scheduled for 8 p.m. EST on CNN tonight. The moderators are Hugh Hewitt, Jake Tapper and Dana Bash. You'll be reading a lot more about those names within 24 hours.
The first debate was an epic piece of comic theater. It featured at least a half dozen laugh-out-loud moments, including: the now-infamous Megyn Kelly-Donald Trump imbroglio, Mike Huckabee accusing Planned Parenthood of selling baby parts like "parts of a Buick," Ben Carson bragging that he was the only candidate to remove half a brain, Chris Christie and Rand Paul trading hilariously cringe-worthy "hug" jokes, Trump bragging that he bought Hillary Clinton with campaign contributions and many other choice exchanges.
It was salacious, pathetic, vapid, undignified, degrading, uninformative and compelling, making it a model for how Americans will consume politics going forward in the reality TV era.
This debate promises to be just as explosive. In fact, this affair is, quite frankly, a setup. All three moderators have tangled with Donald Trump before. In fact, the event seems like Jerry Springer-style tactics by CNN: putting people disposed to throw chairs at each other onstage, turning the cameras on and waiting for all hell to break loose.
Hewitt in particular is virtually guaranteed to get into a scrap with Trump. A former Nixon ghostwriter, Hewitt is one of the most vile people in America, a charmless, self-congratulating pedant whose fiendishly boring right-wing radio show might be called Not as Smart as I Think I Am.
Hewitt interviewed Trump earlier this month and fired a string of gotcha-style foreign policy questions at the Donald, daring him to name the leaders of Hezbollah, al-Qaeda and ISIS. Trump deflected as only he knows how, saying that he didn't know but that it didn't matter because by the time he made it to office, "they'll all be gone." Similar to the Kelly episode, he grew angry about the exchange overnight, and the next day told Joe Scarborough that Hewitt is a "third rate radio announcer."
Bash, meanwhile, did the interview with Trump where he blasted attorney Elizabeth Beck for being "disgusting" while breastfeeding. And Tapper went after Trump in his own interview for promoting "traditional" marriage when Trump himself has been married three times.
My guess is that the debate will play right into Trump's hands. Hewitt, who was a Harvard housemate of Grover Norquist and was tutored by Alan Keyes, will act as a stand-in for the Republican Party bigwigs: he'll try to bloody Trump by exposing his lack of concrete knowledge, in the area of foreign affairs particularly. Expect questions along the lines of, "Who is Hassan Nasrallah's favorite soccer player?" or "Name two countries in South America."
This will make for excellent theater, but what Trump's audiences will see is their candidate being pestered by one GOP puppet and two reporters from CNN, which in 'Murica is widely understood to be a wing of the Democratic Party.
Anyway, there will be 11 candidates at the grownup table tonight. It's newcomer Carly Fiorina along with the ten from the last debate: Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz , Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Mike Huckabee, John Kasich, Chris Christie and Rand Paul.
In the Friday the 13th movie that is this campaign, Rick Perry is the first to be found with an axe is his head. He dropped out this week, blaming his inability to get into the first debate and the unfortunate fact of his being under indictment (for coercing a public servant) as reasons for his failed campaign. One of Perry's megadonors is already asking for his $5 million back, to which Perry's camp says it's reviewing its options; fun stuff. All in all, a great showing by the former Texas governor, who will almost certainly run again in 2020, perhaps with a Japanese soldier who hasn't heard WWII is over as a running mate.
Not listed here is former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore, who will be watching the debate from the mythical religious territory of purgatory. Gilmore of course didn't make it to the grownup event, but CNN says you need 1 percent in the polls to make even the kiddie-table debate, making Gilmore a second-rater among second-raters: as Beavis and Butthead would say, the "ass of the ass."
Here are the official rules for the second GOP debate drinking game. After a lengthy discussion on Twitter, we're adding an almost entirely new lineup here, with a few holdovers. The event is taking place in California at the Ronald Reagan library, which means we can't have people drinking every time a candidate tries to fellate the Gipper's memory: we'd have Guyana-level mass deaths. We thought about making people drink a the sight of Ted Cruz's first Reagan-inspired boner, but the podium will make that rule tough to enforce.
Please take small shots! And when watching politics, please make sure to have a designated driver.
I'll be tweeting throughout the event. The rules:
Drink THE FIRST TIME and the FIRST TIME only:
1. A candidate invokes the memory of Saint Reagan.
2. A candidate mentions Hillary's emails.
Drink EVERY TIME:
3. Hugh Hewitt hurls a douchey gotcha question at Trump.
4. Trump – or any of the other candidates – insults or threatens one of the moderators. Beer chaser if it's Tapper or Bash, and the candidate rips liberal-ass CNN in the process.
5. Trump brags about his wealth or his poll numbers, or mocks the low poll numbers of an opponent.
6. A candidate pledges to stand with Israel.
7. Carly Fiorina makes a joke about her own face.
8. A candidate claims a positive relationship with a minority. We're keeping this rule in every debate. (So far we're one-for-one: Kasich said he had a gay friend in the first debate.)
9. Anyone mentions Kim Davis or the "War on Christians."
10. A candidate says he'll stand up to Putin.
11. Trump derides someone for being a "lightweight" or having "low energy" or "low enthusiasm."
12. Anyone mentions Tom Brady or Deflategate.
13. Anyone calls Black Lives Matter a "hate group," argues that BLM or Barack Obama have endangered the lives of police, or pulls a "What about black-on-black crime?" line.
14. A candidate mentions the founders. Double shot if it's Rand Paul.
15. Carson invokes the Bible as an authority for something that has nothing to do with the Bible, like tax policy.
16. A candidate says, "I'm the only person on this stage who…" Double shot if it's Carson saying something like, "I'm the only candidate who's had his hands inside a human thorax."
- Anyone mentions Hitler, Nazis or Neville Chamberlain. Includes related imagery, e.g. "ovens."
18. A candidate stumbles over what to call ISIS/ISIL, or mispronounces the name of a world leader.
19. Anyone mentions the Governator or makes a Terminator-themed joke, e.g. "To illegal immigrants, I say, Hasta La Vista."
Drink EVERY TIME you hear:
20. "Anchor babies."
22. "Leading from behind."
23. "All lives matter."
24. "Apologize for America."
Take a shot of JAGERMEISTER if:
26. Anyone compares Kim Davis to Rosa Parks.
27. Any candidate is seen wearing a Blue Lives Matter bracelet.
28. A candidate offers an insincere paean to departed Rick Perry. Double shot if someone references his "smart glasses."