The Nuclear Option: GOP Primary — The Greatest Show on Earth!


It is high time to declare — honestly and without exaggeration — that the 2016 GOP presidential primary has officially become the greatest, most interesting, most entertaining election of all time!

And it all culminated in Thursday night’s triple header of political imbroglios in Des Moines. The Corn State Three Ring Circus on Ice. Truly, the greatest show on earth!

The opening act was the undercard debate with four trailing Republicans — including the two Republicans who won the last two GOP Iowa caucuses! And it was a great fight with plenty of rage and vehemence.
Hillary Clinton has “escaped prosecution more times than El Chapo!” Carly Fiorina declared.

Then you had the main event with seven of the eight leading Republicans. That one began with moderator Megyn Kelly asking the man running in second place in Iowa about the polling front-runner, whom she described as, “the elephant NOT in the room.”

But, wait! There’s more.

Across town, said Elephant — Donald J. Trump — gathered another sold-out event in the freezing cold to raise some $6 million for wounded veterans. Not a political debate exactly, but not a shabby cause, either.
Then, in the middle of Mr. Trump’s roll call of generous donations, here come two more Republican candidates from the undercard debate onto the stage to support Mr. Trump’s effort to raise money for wounded warriors.

But Rick Santorum did not want to stand behind the podium emblazoned with a Trump sign. So he kind of noodled around from the side and spoke words into the microphone from the side of the podium.

Mike Huckabee had no such qualms and just grabbed the podium with both hands when he spoke.

Furiously flipping between the debate on Fox News and the Trump show on CNN, it was hard to keep track of everything.

Perfect equilibrium was finally achieved when CNN put up a split screen with Huckabee speaking at the Trump show on one and a CNN reporter interviewed live from the media filing center over at the Fox News debate. As the reporter tried describing contents of yet another press release about behind-the-scenes negotiations between Mr. Trump and Fox News, he was interrupted.

Loud audio was being piped into the filing center so that all at once on a single screen a viewer could watch Mr. Trump nod approvingly as a GOP competitor spoke behind his podium and at the same time hear all the squabbling from the Fox News debate.

Of course, the debate was worse off for that elephant who wasn’t in the room. It was a far more cordial and less spectacular event than previous GOP debates, especially the very first one.

At one point in the evening, Sen. Ted Cruz, who suffers from being naturally unfunny, decided to try his hand at a witticism.

“If you ask one more mean question, I may have to leave the stage,” he told the moderators. Get it? It was a shot at Mr. Trump? Who wasn’t there?

It was a sharp reminder of the problem caused by Mr. Trump’s absence. Funny one-liners come so easy to him. And when Mr. Trump takes a shot at you, there is no mistaking it.

Not to be outdone, Sen. Marco Rubio tried his hand at jokeyness.

“I’m not leaving this stage no matter what you ask me.” Gulp. It might have been funnier if he had drunk some water when he said it.

And herein lies the sad, sad truth about the future of politics in America. When this is all over and Mr. Trump has either been poisoned by fanatics suffering from Donald Trump Derangement Syndrome or he has served his complete eight years in office, he will be gone.

And all that will be left are politicians, and it will never be this much fun again.

• Charles Hurt can be reached at and on Twitter via @charleshurt.


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