From Stephen Stromberg, it's "The dismal, dark, traitor-filled world Republican candidates inhabit." Stromberg cherry picked — cherries for anti-GOP-ers — the most negative statements. Things like:
"Our military is a disaster. Our healthcare is a horror show…. We have no borders. Our vets are being treated horribly. Illegal immigration is beyond belief. Our country is being run by incompetent people."Is that dismal? It's a foundation for saying we need change. Somehow when Obama ran in 2008, the call for change was deemed optimistic by the Strombergs of the press.
The original meaning of "dismal" is literal — dies (days) mali (evil) — evil days. OED:
The dies mali, evil, unlucky or unpropitious days, of the mediæval calendar, called also dies Ægyptiaci, ‘Egipcian daies’... hence, by extension, Evil days (generally), days of disaster, gloom, or depression, the days of old age.Today, it just means "depressing, wretched, miserable." I think Stromberg's point is people want optimism, so they don't want Republicans. Those horrible people are all doom and gloom. Stay away! Toxic! It's a warding-off that works on many, many people, probably most of the people I know in real life.
Jennifer Rubin has "The Charleston GOP debate: A series of riveting face-offs." She stresses the energy. "Rubio was noticeably energetic and on message." Except for "Kasich and Carson, who seemed to suck the energy out of the room with each answer." And she loathes Trump. ("He was set back on his heels briefly but got several minutes to talk about birtherism, which was probably what he wanted.") She focuses on "face-offs." They were "riveting."
On the birther issue, Cruz likely won on points, chiding Trump that he once dismissed the citizenship issue. “The Constitution hasn’t changed. But the poll numbers have,” he said to laughter and applause. “And I recognize that Donald is dismayed that his poll numbers are falling in Iowa.”Unfortunately, for Cruz, you mean. Cruz made a good point about "natural born" extremism. Some people think both parents ought to have been born in the United States, and that would disqualify Trump. (And also Obama.) But people that extreme don't matter much, it remains a fact that Cruz was born in Canada, and — who knows? — there's something lovely about a mother born in Scotland. (Trump's paternal grandfather and grandmother were also immigrants. They were from Germany.)
(Actually it is Cruz who is in trouble in Iowa). Cruz continued, suggesting that virtually everyone on the stage might have a challenge brought, even Trump, whose mother was Scottish.... Trump kept insisting that Cruz could not “do that to the party,” set the presidential ticket up for legal challenge, so any doubt about his eligibility was enough to worry. Unfortunately, this exchange was Cruz’s high-point.
Rubin's next line, as she dismisses Cruz, is:
Rubio then stepped in, winning the moment by declaring, “I hate to interrupt this episode of Court TV,” and went onto a withering criticism of President Obama. It was a presidential-caliber moment.Rubin also highlights the Cruz/Trump exchange about New York, which was for me the most memorable part of the debate:
However, on “New York values” Cruz landed with a thud, insisting no conservatives come from Manhattan and that New York is the bastion of liberalism and money (not mentioning Goldman Sachs). Here, Trump came back with a vengeance, dropping William F. Buckley Jr.’s name as a conservative New Yorker (he was actually from Connecticut) but then gave his best answer in a debate extolling the people of New York after 9/11, recalling the “smell of death.” Cruz had nothing to say in return.Cruz must have thought the "New York values" theme would really hurt Trump, and I presume he had the attack worked out in advance. Trump — who hadn't prepared — immediately, devastatingly flipped it. That was so good, so dramatic.
ADDED: Video and text of Trump's spontaneous paean to New York.