For Your Enjoyment #35, Race to the White House 2016 Ed.

It's Western civilization's very own car wreck. Even if you don't want to watch it, you will... The irony is that this was supposed to be the year when the Republicans opened the tent up, made a sincere play for the Hispanic vote, and perhaps softened up a bit on gays and other vermin. But then the lights went on in the race and voters flocked to a guy whose main policy plank was the construction of a giant Game of Thrones-style wall to keep rape-happy ethnics off our lawns. So much for inclusion! ...It may not seem funny now, because it's happening to us, but centuries from this moment, people will laugh in wonder. America is ceasing to be a nation, and turning into a giant television show.

- "Go Crazy or Go Home": Matt Taibbi takes a look into the 2016 GOP Clown Car (image above)

If someone did make a movie about the 2016 presidential race, who would play the candidates? …The funniest suggestion I received for the role of [Bobby] Jindal was the empty chair from Clint Eastwood's infamous convention speech.

- Taibbi gathers suggestions for a Hollywood casting call 

In all the hysteria, however, what's often missed are the qualities that brought Trump here. You don't do a fraction of what he's done in life — dominate New York real estate for decades, build the next grand Xanadus for the super-rich on the far shores of Dubai and Istanbul, run the prime-time ratings table for more than 10 years and earn a third (or sixth) fortune at it – without being immensely cunning and deft, a top-of-the-food-chain killer. Over the course of 10 days and several close-in encounters, I got to peer behind the scrim of his bluster and self-mythos and get a very good look at the man. What I saw was enough to make me take him dead serious. If you're waiting for Trump to blow himself up in a Hindenburg of gaffes or hate speech, you're in for a long, cold fall and winter. Donald Trump is here for the duration — and gaining strength and traction by the hour.

- Rolling Stone heads on the campaign trail with Donald Trump

There has been a lot of talk this campaign season about how women pols bring superior qualities to the table: collegiality and listening skills. But Sarahcuda shows that we are truly the equals of men, capable of narcissistic explosions, brazen hypocrisy and unapologetic greed. She had barely finished the endorsement Tuesday when she began using it to raise money for SarahPAC, so she can take her show on the road... Palin has done us a favor by proving that a woman can stumble, babble incoherently on stage and spew snide garbage, and it isn’t a blot on the female copybook.

- Maureen Dowd thanks Sarah Palin for saving feminism in her wonderfully snarky Op-Ed in the Times


Let's Take a Quick Chris Christie Interlude, Shall We?

Chris Christie is, even in moments of tranquility — of which, in his life, there seem to be none — a torqued-up, joyously belligerent, easily baited, and preternaturally exuberant son of New Jersey, so bringing him to a Bruce Springsteen concert is an exercise in volcano management. Christie, in the presence of Springsteen — whom he would marry if he were gay and if gay people were allowed to marry in the state he governs — loses himself... “No one is beyond the reach of Bruce!” [Christie] screams over the noise of the crowd, and then screams it again, to make sure I understand: “No one is beyond the reach of Bruce!”  There is something odd about this assertion, beyond the obvious, which is that there are, in fact, people who don’t like Springsteen, who find his singing akin to hog-calling; others find his Tribune of the Downtrodden persona a bit of a pose. But what is strange about this statement is that it is an inversion of a central, dispiriting truth of Christie’s life: Bruce Springsteen is beyond his reach.

- The reason behind this tangent: we need to revisit Chris Christie's unrequited love for The Boss

"We gotta get out but we can't. We're stuck in Governor Chris Christie's Fort Lee, NJ traffic jam."

-  I still can't stop watching Springsteen and Fallon's 2014 ode to Bridgegate (video above)  

[I]n many great love stories, some will be punished and some will be pardoned. In this tale of woe, though, the punishment was meted out on national television: Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey was scorned, in his hour of need, by the man whose embrace he had so fervently sought and only recently secured... At venues large and small, the populist rocker seemed to go out of his way to snub the governor. Still, Mr. Christie never wavered in his devotion. “Just because we disagree doesn’t mean I don’t get him,” Mr. Christie said. Love runs deeper than disagreements. It would take a hurricane to bring the two men together. They embraced at a benefit for Hurricane Sandy victims at Rockefeller Center. For Mr. Christie, it was more than just a hug. He later relayed the experience to President Obama, who had himself played matchmaker, arranging a call between the two men. “I told the president today actually that the hug was great and that when we got home there was a lot of weeping because of the hug,” Mr. Christie recalled after the trip. “And the president said, ‘Why?’ I said, ‘Well, to be honest, I was the one weeping; everyone else was fine.’ ” At a town-hall-style meeting not long after the embrace, Mr. Christie told voters, “We hugged and he told me it’s official: We’re friends.” But it would not last.

- In the post-Bridgegate Springsteen spoof world, the end of Christie's one-sided love affair

In a videotaped interview, when asked to choose between Mr. Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi, also from New Jersey, Mr. Christie and his wife, Mary Pat, both picked Mr. Bon Jovi without hesitation. 

- ...Bon Jovi now?  At least the feeling is mutual


... And we're back to The Present

To hear the pundits and experts in Washington tell it, the problem with Ted Cruz is that he doesn’t play well with others in the Senate, he’s too hardheaded and he doesn’t compromise... But there is a far bigger problem with Cruz: Donald Trump is not the most self-absorbed Republican running for president — Cruz is. Whether you like Trump or not (and I don’t), at least Trump makes no effort to hide his narcissism. Cruz, on the other hand, takes great pains to be whatever he thinks you want him to be. And the troubling thing is he’s really good at it. Occasionally, he offers a glimpse of his vanity and his need to be loved — such as the hilariously painful 15 hours of B-roll footage his campaign put on the Web for use by his super PACs. My favorite part of that footage is the multiple times he and his family practiced the prayer scene before a meal… The other revealing scene is when Cruz is sitting on the couch with his mom and he says, “Not a day goes by that my mom is not lifting me up in prayer.” Then mom agrees saying, “It’s true.” But then, Cruz can’t help himself and he adds, “for hours at a time,” after which mom can’t take it anymore and very tellingly gives us a roll of the eyes that says it all... There is no denying that Cruz is a smart and gifted orator. But if you listen closely you will find that he sells everything with the exact same level of zeal. Whether he is condemning the Islamic State or ordering a ham sandwich, the invective is identical.... Cruz’s view of himself was on full display in the CNBC debate in Colorado in October. All candidates were asked to show some vulnerability by sharing a few thoughts on their biggest weakness. Cruz answered first with a joke by saying, “I’m too agreeable, easygoing.” But then Cruz got down to business, telling the watching nation about his biggest weakness — “You know, I think my biggest weakness is exactly the opposite. I’m a fighter. I am passionate about what I believe. I’ve been passionate my whole life about the Constitution.” There you have it. His biggest weakness is that he is wonderful... In fact, Cruz has failed in every cause he has championed — and it is never his fault. Failure to defund Planned Parenthood, failure to repeal Obamacare, failure to stop the Iran deal—and the list goes on. Of course, all conservatives want these battles to be fought, even if we lose. But it’s not really the issue or the cause that Cruz is championing. No, he just wants to be the one leading the cause—and wants you to see him doing it. Cruz is a perpetual martyr. 

- Ted Cruz: The Televangelist Candidate?

"His commitment to overcomb any obstacle."


- A few of the funniest things said about Donald Trump

'It's actually a flannel moth caterpillar, they're really rare, I've seen this type of caterpillar before but never one of this colour. We put the picture of our Twitter and Facebook page and immediately people started comparing it to Donald Trump. We didn't see the resemblance when we first saw the caterpillar but looking at the photo it's certainly similar to his hair... I think if Donald saw it himself, he'd find a reason to come down and check the caterpillar out. It's not the most approachable of caterpillars either - if you touch that thing it would seriously hurt, it has these little hairs that can poke into your skin and release a venom."

- Caterpillar or Trump Toupee? On a related note: TIME Magazine has discovered the secret behind Trump's 'do

"I'm here for all you teachers and teamsters, you farmers and charmers, whether you're a mom or Two Broke Girls or Three Men and a Baby, or a rockin' roller, holy roller, pushing stroller, pro bowler with an abscessed molar..."

- Tina Fey nails Sarah Palin's endorsement of Donald Trump, complete with That Cardigan and a spot-on speech

He would email them at all hours of the night, causing many to avoid meetings at which they believed Cruz would in attendance, lest they be added to his list of correspondents.

- Ted Cruz has been annoying people for decades

Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from Thursday's Fox News Channel debate was treated like a bombshell, a surprise move from a candidate who had patented the mid-week swerve. But it was entirely predictable. 

- Oscar Wilde was right: There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.

Among the whole sample of Republicans, Trump led Cruz by 11 points, but among those who caucused last time, Cruz led by 2. On the Democratic side, the effect was even more stark: Sanders led Clinton by 8 points among all respondents, but among those who caucused in 2008, Clinton led by 17.

- Just how representative will Monday's Iowa Caucuses be? 

One factor that may entice Mr Bloomberg into the race is a rising number of Americans who are seemingly disaffected with the two-party system. Gallup poll numbers show the number of independents has climbed to 43% of the electorate. If Mr Bloomberg’s fiscally conservative but socially liberal platform could galvanise these middle-of-the-roaders, he could stand a chance. But, again, it all depends on who wins the two major party nominations. In a battle of extremes between Mr Trump and Mr Sanders, Mr Bloomberg could conceivably peel off enough moderate voters from both parties to build a winning coalition. But in a contest featuring a centrist and a polarising figure like Mr Trump or Ted Cruz, Mr Bloomberg would likely share the reasonable-person vote with Mrs Clinton — to the benefit of the GOP nominee.

- The Economist considers who would vote for Michael Bloomberg should he consider a late entry into the race

So, let's have it. Run, Mike, run. Would it be in the best interests of the country for him to run? Probably not. Would it be in the best interests of the country for him to be president? Oh, hell no. Would it be a heck of a lot of fun? You bet.

- Speaking of Bloomberg: The Week describes what would be at stake in a Trump-Bloomberg rivalry

This election is about changing the parameters of what’s feasible and ending the choke hold of big money on our political system. In other words, it’s about power – whether the very wealthy who now have it will keep it, or whether average Americans will get some as well... I have worked closely with [Hillary Clinton] and have nothing but respect for her. In my view, she’s clearly the most qualified candidate for president of the political system we now have. But the political system we now have is profoundly broken. Bernie Sanders is the most qualified candidate to create the political system we should have because he’s leading a political movement for change.

- Robert Reich gets to the heart of the Sanders-Clinton debate (See also: this piece)

"I frankly think that in our system of mainly bought elections, [Bernie Sanders] doesn't have much of a chance. But if he were elected I think he would - of the current candidates -  be the one who would have, from my point of view, the best policies."

- Noam Chomsky doesn't appear to have much faith in a Sanders win...but has he read Reich's response(s)?

With Donald J. Trump and Senator Ted Cruz battling for the Republican nomination, two powerful factions of their party are now clashing over the question: Which man is more dangerous?

- I think we all know the answer to this one