I don't want to hear Jeb Bush cajoling Donald Trump to apologize to his wife in front of millions of people. I don't want moderators to force a food fight between Trump and other candidates about whether he should have his finger on the nuclear button. I don't want them provoking a conflict between Chris Christie and Ben Carson over politicians' expediency. And I sure don't want to hear a candidate commenting on his rivals' physical appearance. This stuff is embarrassing, is unproductive and trivializes vital issues facing the nation.
Such distractions may drive ratings or serve to diminish the conservative brand -- to the delight of those stirring the pot -- but they don't advance the vital national discussion about the problems we're facing. People serious enough to watch these debates want to hear the candidates' positions on the issues.
There were many valuable moments Wednesday night -- candidate after candidate eloquently expounded conservative principles -- but there would have been many more had the goal been a substantive debate.
The overarching question in every presidential election is America's future -- which of the competing visions will prevail -- but the stakes are higher today. With the advance of Obamaism -- the fundamental transformation of America -- we must decide whether we'll have the America President Obama envisions or the one grounded in the American idea. We are no longer witnessing the slow, incremental march of socialism; we're seeing statism piloting a jet plane.
The left is pushing its vision full-bore. But will the right respond with equal vigor? To do that, we will have to come to terms with our stark choices.
Do we want:
--A handful of blindfolded central planners flailing dizzily at 300 million pinatas or the market's omniscient invisible hand, which dispassionately picks winners and losers for the good of the whole?
--Utopians punishing achievers and forcing equality of outcomes or constitutionalists promoting equality of opportunity?
--Politicians creating endless classes of victims or statesmen who will forgo demagoguery and lift everyone up?
--A Balkanized America whose ruling class dehumanizes people through identity politics and soft bigotry or an America that aspires to color- and gender-blindness?
--To leave our borders unprotected and vulnerable to invasion or to control our immigration process and encourage assimilation?
--A nation where political correctness selectively smothers free speech and religion or one that fosters our essential civil liberties?
--An America crippled by false promises of cradle-to-grave security or one grounded in liberty for all -- one paralyzed by taxes and regulations or one poised for robust growth, which only freedom can bring?
--Socialized medicine, with its soaring costs and plummeting quality and choices, or free market solutions to reverse these problems?
--To bankrupt our country or to take the difficult steps to ensure its solvency?
--To surrender our sovereignty to global entities that actively oppose the American idea or to preserve our independence and remain a unique force for good throughout the world?
--An America in perpetual decline and conducting from the caboose or one that maintains peace through strength for our allies and ourselves?
There is a breathtaking contrast between the two visions, and we must ultimately unite around a candidate who recognizes the gravity of our circumstances and the urgency of implementing corrective measures. You can be sure the left fully understands the chasm that separates these visions.
I once asked whether Obama would finally change the nation enough that he would begin to like it. Apparently, we're approaching that point.
After slamming America to everyone who would listen for seven years and using and abusing every tool at his disposal to radically remold it, he's now telling us how wonderful it is.
He said: "I'm here to say that there's nothing particularly patriotic or American about talking down America, especially when we stand as one of the few sources of economic strength in the world. ... America's winning right now. America's great right now."
But no matter how much destruction he's wrought, a leftist's work is never done. He is touting his progress, all right, but he also knows he's got more mischief to make. He admitted as much when he announced he will resume community organizing when he leaves office. In this new role, he could be more of a societal menace than Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton combined.
Our work is cut out for us. Just winning the election won't be enough. That's why we have to pay close attention and choose the person most capable and willing to fight for America's salvation. From now on, a serious discussion of the issues is nonnegotiable.