I woke up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat after the last Republican debate. I had a vision of President Ronald Reagan sitting in the front row at his library watching the debate. Alongside him were fellow Presidents Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, Gerald Ford and even Richard Nixon.
Very quickly the blood drained from their faces. They began to fidget, to shift awkwardly in their chairs. They began to look around for the exits. These men who had led our nation, made difficult decisions and participated in politics their entire lives were appalled at what was going on before them.
Sure, they were shocked at the nastiness and vitriol among the candidates – this was way over the top. Sure, they were amazed that the front-runner was one Donald Trump, who belonged on “Entertainment Tonight,” not a presidential debate. Sure, they understood that how the candidates were behaving was counter to everything they knew about getting elected in America.
But my guess is what really frosted these men was that the substance of what most of these candidates were saying was so unreasonable, so off base, so totally devoid of reality, that it was downright scary.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, and others, saying they would tear up the Iran agreement on day one of his presidency, thereby ensuring that no foreign leader would trust the U.S. to keep its word in the future. Former CEO Carly Fiorina stating flatly she would not ever talk to Russian President Vladimir Putin. No negotiating, no contact, nada. That would surprise Reagan and the others who always talked to our enemies and kept the lines of communications open – from the Soviet Union to “Red” China.
[SEE: Republican Party Cartoons]
And how about blanket threats, with Fiorina’s phone call to the “Supreme Leader” of Iran that we will throw out the agreement and “move money around the global financial system.” Trump showed no knowledge of foreign policy and simply said he would hire great advisers – where are they now, the ones he watches on cable TV? And then there was the suggestion that we deport 11 million people because “the good ones will come back.” And, of course, there was the fight about who was the worst CEO or who could attack Planned Parenthood with the most vengeance.
The sheer level of ignorance, lack of preparation and categorical, extreme statements on critical policy matters was astounding. My guess is that these former presidents, had they been present, would have truly wondered what had happened to their country and the quality of the candidates running for the highest office in the land.