Republican presidential candidates Ben Carson, Donald Trump and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush during the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum on Wednesday. (Mark J. Terrill / AP)

Are they fools or fascists? Probably the former, but there was a disturbing cast to the second GOP debate, a vituperative jingoism reminiscent of the xenophobia that periodically scars Western capitalist societies in moments of disarray.

While the entire world is riveted by the sight of millions of refugees in terrifying exodus attempting to save drowning and starving children, we were treated to the darkly peculiar spectacle of scorn for the children of undocumented immigrants and celebration of the sanctity of the unborn fetus.

Marching to the beat of that mad drummer Donald Trump, the GOP candidates have taken to scapegoating undocumented immigrants, in particular the young, blaming them for all that ails us. Most of the GOP contenders appeared as a shrill echo of the neo-fascist European movements of late, adopting the traditional tactic of blaming the most vulnerable for economic problems the most powerful have caused.

Forget the collateralized debt obligations and other Wall Street scams that continue to cripple the world economy—as the Federal Reserve Bank noted Thursday in postponing a threatened increase in interest rates—or the massive shipment of jobs abroad by leading companies like GE. Instead, blame the folks who cook your food, raise your kids and pick the grapes from the vineyards for all that has gone wrong.

None of the candidates—not even Marco Rubio, who admitted to a Spanish-speaking grandfather who emigrated from Cuba, or Jeb Bush, who is married to one of those Mexicans now tarred as criminals—had the courage to cite the overwhelming evidence from the Congressional Research Service and other impeccable sources of these facts: Undocumented immigrants are far less likely than the general population to commit crimes, and they pay more in taxes and uncollectible benefits than they receive in public assistance.

No candidate mentioned that the supposedly porous border with Mexico has never been more tightly controlled, that in 2013 the Obama administration set a record for deportations, and that the 9/11 hijackers all had valid documentation, with our ally Saudi Arabia providing documents for 15 of the 19. Even Trump has yet to come up with the name of a Mexican terrorist who crossed our southern border.

How odd to hear candidates who generally trumpet a pro-family, pro-Christian sensibility speak so cavalierly about ending the birthright path to citizenship affirmed by the Constitution’s 14th Amendment. Their indifference to the suffering of the stranger in our midst stands in sharp contrast to Jesus’ extolling the virtue of the Good Samaritan. The attack on immigrants comes at an inconvenient time, when Pope Francis is about to visit the United States with his message of compassion for millions of refugees pouring into Europe after being dislocated in Mideast nations the U.S. claimed to be concerned with liberating.

It was a bit refreshing that Rand Paul, Ben Carson and even Trump reasserted their initial opposition to the Iraq invasion, so there is a slight possibility that a GOP candidate might challenge Hillary Clinton, the hawkish big-money candidate of the Democratic Party, on her Senate vote for the war.

Paul had the good sense to observe, “Every time we have toppled a secular dictator, we have gotten chaos, the rise of radical Islam, and we’re more at risk.” But, as Trump noted, Paul’s caution on imperial hubris, his opposition to crony capitalism and his principled critique of NSA spying have reduced the Kentucky senator to low-single-digit support among likely primary voters.

Unfortunately, the lone female candidate, fast-rising Carly Fiorina, was the most militaristic contender, even returning to the Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) insanity of the Cold War in calling for ramping up the nuclear triad in apparent preparation for a war of human annihilation with Russia.

“Let’s talk about the future,” Fiorina demanded before drowning in the swamp of the past. “We need the strongest military on the face of the planet, and everyone has to know it.” And that means, she said, 50 Army brigades, 36 Marine battalions, 300 to 350 naval ships, and “we need to upgrade every leg of the nuclear triad. …”

For those not steeped in the full nuttiness of Cold War thinking, the triad of bombers, subs and missiles was necessary to have sufficient military assets to survive an all-out Soviet nuclear attack so we could make the radioactive rubble that was left of the enemy bounce higher than their surviving forces could inflict on our rubble.

While we desperately need to break the glass ceiling, it is tragic that we are offered two women who could compete quite effectively for a Margaret Thatcher award.


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