Ladies and gentlemen, start your livers.
Onward we march, to the fifth Republican debate, held this time at the Venetian in Las Vegas, beginning Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. EST.
This one promises to be a lively affair, with some pundits predicting a brawl between onetime snuggle-bunnies Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. Trump recently called Cruz a “maniac,” prompting Cruz, who has depressed us all with his repeated overenthusiastic 80s pop culture references, to tweet back a link to Michael Sembello’s “Maniac” song from Flashdance.
Ben Carson, returned from an extended trip abroad taken in the wake of a string of bizarre and controversial public comments – the campaign version of taking a semester off to “find yourself” – will need to do something drastic to stop his freefall in the polls. Even Republican voters seemed freaked out at the lack of foreign policy knowledge he displayed in the last debate. So expect him to try to force-feed references to things he’s recently learned about the Middle East, like that it is hot and you need a passport to visit it.
Marco Rubio was being set up in the press a month ago or so to be the establishment challenge to Trump, but his numbers have plateaued. Ted Cruz cunningly went after Rubio in the last debate with a passing mention of sugar subsidies. Expect Rubio to turn the tables this time and focus his blowdried boy-rage act at Cruz, who is his chief obstacle to winning Beltway support in the fight to dethrone the Donald.
My colleagues in the political media are lately trying to gin up a story suggesting that Chris Christie is making a run in the polls, but this has all the feel of a fake D.C.-concocted narrative – nobody actually likes Chris Christie. Nonetheless, look for the Gov to go out of his way to act like he’s really the comer in this race. He’ll probably interrupt people and pull his loud, hectoring moralist routine even more than usual.
As for the rest of them, God help us. Trump’s continued success puts the onus on the field to try to out-crazy the frontrunner. Expect lots of rhetoric about the need to even more fully arm the populace (children included), put immigrants in camps, register all watchers of subtitled movies, carpet-bomb any country with sandy terrain, etc.
DRINK AFTER EVERY VIOLATION OF:
1. The doctor’s note rule: Self-explanatory. Drink after any riffing on Trump’s latest stunt.
2. The nuke ’em till they glow rule: Drink after any promise to “carpet bomb” the Middle East, or after any attempt to one-up Ted Cruz’s recent comments about how, “I don’t know if sand can glow in the dark, but we’re going to find out.”
3. The Obama won’t say “terrorism” rule: Candidate complains that the president is afraid to use the words “radical Islam” or “Islamic terrorism.”
4. The climate change denial rule: Complaint about the Paris climate change agreement. Shotgun a beer if it comes with a mention of how the nice local weather renders climate change talk meaningless.
5. The War on Christmas rule: Mention of “red cups,” nativity controversies, etc.
6. The Reince Priebus rule: Mention of a brokered convention or use of the phrase “Let the people decide” in a discussion of RNC/Reince Priebus controversy. Double shot if the latter’s name pronounced incorrectly.
7. The George Lucas rule: Gratuitous mention of Star Wars. Double shot if it comes with an impersonation or a sound effect (e.g., Cruz does a Yoda voice while threatening ISIS).
8. The I’m just a simple caveman rule: A candidate mentions that he/she is not a scientist, or generally derides higher education before proceeding to make a “common sense” point.
9. The wet blanket rule: Attempt by Kasich to implore his fellow candidates to be more realistic, followed by boos/catcalls from the audience.
10. The Hitler had some really good ideas rule: Salutary mention of Japanese internment, religious registries or other similar policies.
11. The I don’t just believe in the American dream, I’m a product of it rule: Anyone talks about how they are the son/daughter/husband/wife of a humble bartender/maid/tow truck driver/whatever because dreams and opportunity.
12. The good guy with a gun rule: Self-explanatory.
13. The empty God platitudes rule: An anti gun-control candidate extends “thoughts and prayers” to the victims of Paris, San Bernardino or whatever other mass shooting we’ll have in the next ten minutes.
14. The we’re not racist rule: A candidate complains that people with “traditional values” are being accused of being bigots. Double shot if it’s Rubio.
15. The Carly, interrupted rule: Carly Fiorina interrupts someone and/or uses a bogus statistic. Double shot if it’s that “73,000-page tax code” line she continues to send out there at every opportunity.
THE EVERGREEN RULES
ALWAYS drink, in every debate, when:
16. Trump brags about how much money he makes.
17. Anyone says, “I’m the only one on this stage who…”
18. Someone says, “Any one of us onstage is better than Hillary Clinton…”
19. The crowd breaks into uncomfortable applause at a racist/sexist statement.
20. Any candidate evokes Nazis, the Gestapo, Neville Chamberlain, concentration camps, etc.
21. Anyone force-feeds an Israel reference into a question where it doesn’t belong. Also known as the Ann Coulter rule.
22. Anyone pledges to “take our country back.”
23. The Jim Webb rule: Candidate complains about not getting enough time.
24. Any candidate illustrates the virtue of one of his/her positions by pointing out how not PC it is.
25. Someone invokes St. Reagan. Beware, people, this is an every time rule again.