Back when I was in my twenties, out of curiosity and a lack of anything better to do on a Saturday night, I ventured into a local comedy club to find out what the attraction was in paying to be deliberately insulted. Friends had told me about such establishments and said they were not the place to go if you wanted a true laugh.
Was meanness really the fashion of the Eighties? Was this really the mood of the then-current generation? I was willing to offer myself up as fodder to find out. Being of very poor appearance and even lower confidence, I was sure of success in my real endeavor.
The “comedian” immediately set upon me almost before I even had a chance to sit down. I didn’t trouble myself to listen distinctly to his diatribe; I’d heard it all before. I was busy watching the audience, sodden late-adolescents dribbling beer down their chins in their hysteria. Others were chicly-dressed, sophisticated (or so they thought) night owls, young ladies in their little black dresses, their eyes narrowing in my direction in piercing sneers.
What a horrible arena. Here was a playpen in which to finesse their cruel manners in order to show their worth in the working world and rehearse their own malevolent taunts. Champions flexing their inner nerves to a honed callousness from which barbs would fall off like feathered shafts.
Satisfied that I comprehended why young adults came to such places, I rose to leave. My tormentor actually objected. His best material for the night was leaving, quite calmly and unruffled. Why was I leaving?! Was I leaving because I couldn’t take it?! If I couldn’t take it, why had I come to such a place?! What did I think was going to happen to someone like myself in such a place? All these unanswered questions were met with uproarious laughter by the crowd. The waitress sneered at me as I left.
I’d certainly gotten my money’s worth.
Why, we Conservatives may ask, did the 2016 Republican candidates subject themselves to a third debate, sponsored by the most notoriously Liberal and unprincipled of all the major news networks? Last night’s show was not a debate; it was an inquisition.
The Medieval Inquisition, beginning around 1184 was established in response to movements considered apostate or heretical to Christianity, in particular Catharism (the belief in a both a good and an evil “God”) and Waldenesians (who preached apostolic poverty) in southern France and northern Italy. These were the first inquisition movements of many that would follow.
The Cathars were first noted in the 1140s in Southern France, and the Waldensians around 1170 in Northern Italy. Before this point, individual heretics often challenged the Church. However, the Cathars were the first mass organization in the second millennium that posed a serious threat to the authority of the Church.
French historian Jean-Baptiste Guiraud (1866–1953) defined Medieval Inquisition as “… a system of repressive means, some of temporal and some others of spiritual kind, concurrently issued by ecclesiastical and civil authorities in order to protect religious orthodoxy and social order, both threatened by theological and social doctrines of heresy.”
Many other religious inquisitions would follow. Early Medieval courts generally followed a process called accusation, largely based on Germanic practices. In this procedure, an individual would make an accusation against someone to the court. However, if the suspect was judged innocent, the accusers faced legal penalties for bringing false charges. This provided a disincentive to make any accusation unless the accusers were sure it would stand.
By the twelfth and early thirteenth centuries, there was a shift away from the accusatorial model toward the legal procedure used in the Roman Empire. Instead of an individual making accusations based on first-hand knowledge, judges now took on the prosecutorial role based on information collected. Under inquisitorial procedures, guilt or innocence was proved by the inquiry (inquisitio) of the judge into the details of a case.
The first medieval inquisition, the episcopal inquisition, was established in the year 1184 by a papal bull of Pope Lucius III entitled Ad abolendam, “For the purpose of doing away with.” It was a response to the growing Catharist movement in southern France. It was called “episcopal” because it was administered by local bishops, which in Latin is episcopus, and obliged bishops to visit their diocese twice a year in search of heretics.
If Socialism is the now de facto religion, in place of Christianity, then anti-Socialists and anti-Communists (nominally called “Conservatives) are, therefore, heretics and the united media of print, televised, and computer media are the communist tribunals by which they are scourged. A movement that is largely secular and political in nature, their political debate forums then become inquisitions for those who speak heresy against their platforms.
Why, then, would the Republican Party candidates subject themselves to such an inquisition by the opposition party’s propaganda organ?
One reason is that that’s where the GOP will find the Millennial audience, the successors of the Insult Comedy Club generation, the Saturday Night Livers’ grandchildren, who look to cable network Comedy Central, of all places, for their news and their thinking points.
CNBC is nominally a business network. But its stock-in-trade is Millennial Mockery. Give the audience what it wants. The third debate’s principal moderators, Carl Quintanilla, Becky Quick, and especially John Harwood were nonplussed as various candidates, to the hearty applause from the partisan audience at the University of Colorado, complained that their questions were inaccurate, unfair, downright insulting.
Harwood quickly assumed the lead by asking Donald Trump, right out of the box: “Mr. Trump, you have done very well in this campaign so far by promising to build another wall and make another country pay for it, send 11 million people out of the country, cut taxes $10 trillion without increasing the deficit, and make Americans better off because your greatness will replace the stupidity and incompetence of others. Let’s be honest. Is this a comic book version of a presidential candidate?”
Harwood then followed up with this exchange, a minute into the “debate”:
HARWOOD: We’re at 60 seconds, but I gotta ask you, you talked about your tax plan. You say that it would not increase the deficit because you cut taxes $10 trillion in the economy would take off like…
HARWOOD: Hold on, hold on. The economy would take off like a rocket ship.
TRUMP: Right. Dynamically.
HARWOOD: I talked to economic advisers who have served presidents of both parties. They said that you have as chance of cutting taxes that much without increasing the deficit as you would of flying away from that podium by flapping your arms.
The ultra-mild Dr. Ben Carson was not spared. His inquisitor was Becky Quick.
QUICK: Dr. Carson, let’s talk about taxes.
You have a flat tax plan of 10 percent flat taxes, and — I’ve looked at it — and this is something that is very appealing to a lot of voters, but I’ve had a really tough time trying to make the math have a flat tax plan of 10 percent flat taxes, and — I’ve looked at it — and this is something that is very appealing to a lot of voters, but I’ve had a really tough time trying to make the math work on this.
If you were to took a 10 percent tax, with the numbers right now in total personal income, you’re gonna come in with bring in $1.5 trillion. That is less than half of what we bring in right now. And by the way, it’s gonna leave us in a $2 trillion hole.
So what analysis got you to the point where you think this will work?
Next, there was this bit between Carl Quintanilla and Carly Fiorina, still on the issue of taxes:
QUINTANILLA: You want to bring 70,000 pages [of bureaucratic tax regulation] to three?
FIORINA: That’s right, three pages.
QUINTANILLA: Is that using really small type?
FIORINA: You know why three?
QUINTANILLA: Is that using really small type?
FIORINA: No. You know why three? Because only if it’s about three pages are you leveling the playing field between the big, the powerful, the wealthy and the well-connected who can hire the armies of lawyers and accountants and, yes, armies of lawyers and accountants and, yes, lobbyists to help them navigate their way through 73,000 pages.
How would Quintanilla like to read 73,000 pages of tax regulations? On the air. He could think of it as job security, because he’d be reading for the next 20 years or so.
Then he went after Marco Rubio.
QUINTANILLA: We will come around the bend, I promise. This one is for Senator Rubio. You’ve been a young man in a hurry ever since you won your first election in your 20s. You’ve had a big accomplishment in the Senate, an immigration bill providing a path to citizenship the conservatives in your party hate, and even you don’t support anymore. Now, you’re skipping more votes than any senator to run for president. Why not slow down, get a few more things done first or least finish what you start?
QUINTANILLA: So when the Sun-Sentinel says Rubio should resign, not rip us off, when they say Floridians sent you to Washington to do a job, when they say you act like you hate your job, do you?
Why doesn’t Rubio finish what he starts? Why doesn’t he resign? Why not ask the guy why he raped his wife, while he was at it?
HARWOOD: I’m about to ask you about this.
That is, you had some very strong words to say yesterday about what’s happening in your party and what you’re hearing from the two gentlemen we’ve just heard from. Would you repeat it?
KASICH: I’m the only person on this stage that actually was involved in the chief architect of balancing the Federal Budget.
When Kasich didn’t take his bait, Harwood “pointedly” made a second attempt, and Kasich was more than happy to oblige the inquisitor since he’s the closest thing the Republicans have to a Democrat.
HARWOOD: Well, let’s just get more pointed about it. You said yesterday that you were hearing proposals that were just crazy from your colleagues.
Who were you talking about?
KASICH: Well, I mean right here. To talk about we’re just gonna have a 10 percent tithe and that’s how we’re gonna fund the government? And we’re going to just fix everything with waste, fraud, and abuse? Or that we’re just going to be great? Or we’re going to ship 10 million Americans — or 10 million people out of this country, leaving their children here in this country and dividing families?
Folks, we’ve got to wake up. We cannot elect somebody that doesn’t know how to do the job. You have got to pick somebody who has experience, somebody that has the know-how, the discipline.
Kasich wanted to make a point, but the Inquisitors had an agenda to keep.
HARWOOD: No, we’re moving to Governor Bush. Governor, the fact that you’re at the fifth lectern tonight shows how far your stock has fallen in this race, despite the big investment your donors have made.
There was some exchange between Harwood and Bush. Finally, Harwood got in this barb:
HARWOOD: But it’s a — OK. It’s a — it’s a question about why you’re having difficulty. I want to ask you in this context.
Ben Bernanke, who was appointed Fed chairman by your brother, recently wrote a book in which he said he no longer considers himself a Republican because the Republican Party has given in to know- nothingism. Is that why you’re having a difficult time in this race?
QUINTANILLA: Senator Cruz. Congressional Republicans, Democrats and the White House are about to strike a compromise that would raise the debt limit, prevent a government shutdown and calm financial markets that fear of — another Washington-created crisis is on the way.
Does your opposition to it show that you’re not the kind of problem-solver American voters want?
CRUZ: You know, let me say something at the outset. The questions that have been asked so far in this debate illustrate why the American people don’t trust the media.
(APPLAUSE) This is not a cage match. And, you look at the questions — “Donald Trump, are you a comic-book villain?” “Ben Carson, can you do math?” “John Kasich, will you insult two people over here?” “Marco Rubio, why don’t you resign?” “Jeb Bush, why have your numbers fallen?”
CRUZ: How about talking about the substantive issues the people care about?
CRUZ: The contrast with the Democratic debate, where every fawning question from the media was, “Which of you is more handsome and why?”
Quintanilla gave some inaudible response about “getting credit” for something and that Cruz now only had 30 seconds left.
If we were to choose the next Republican candidate by who finally belled the media cat, it would have to be Ted Cruz. Donald Trump also commented about the decidedly unfriendly nature of the questions.
The manner of last night’s debate was, indeed, outrageous and unprofessional. But not unexpected. When you go hunting for votes in the enemy’s territory, seeking the benediction of an adolescent, free-loading, shallow electorate you should expect to enter an arena somewhere in between The Inquistion and The Daily Show.