Hardball Questions For The Next Debate
MODERATOR: Hello, and welcome to the third Republican primary debate. To shore up declining voter interest, we’ve decided to make things more interesting tonight. In this first round, each candidate will have to avoid using a specific letter of the alphabet in their answer. If they slip up, they forfeit their remaining time, and the next candidate in line gets the floor.
Our candidates who have qualified today are Chris Christie, Nikki Haley, Ron DeSantis, and Donald Trump. And our first question is: what issue do you think is most important in this election? Chris Christie, let’s start with you.. Your Forbidden Letter is “V”.
CHRISTIE: Nobody told me anything about this forbidden letter thing. I don’t think voters - [microphone shuts off]
MODERATOR: Sorry Chris, there’s a “V” in voters. Our next candidate is Nikki Haley. Nikki, the question is still which issue is most important, and your Forbidden Letter is “K”.
HALEY: Tha . . . uh . . . gratitude to you. I thi . . . uh, I believe . . . that rising threats to peace around the globe are the most important issue. Countries li . . . countries such as Iran and . . . and . . . such as that place with Pyongyang . . . are threatening US allies. When I was UN ambassador, I learned to stand up to dangerous tyrants such as Ayatollah . . . such as the Ayatollah . . . and Vladimir Putin. And . . . that one guy in . . . in the place with Pyongyang. We need to stand together with US allies such as Israel, South . . . that place with Seoul . . . and most recently U . . . Um, our allies such as U . . . such as that place with . . . f—k.
MODERATOR: Sorry Nikki, there’s a “K” in f—k. Our next candidate is Ron DeSantis. Ron, question is still which issue is most important, and your Forbidden Letter is “S”.
DESANTIS: What the hell? Nikki got “K”, and Chr . . . that other guy got “V”, and you’re giving me . . . that letter i . . . uh . . . could be . . . like a hundred . . . a hundredfold more common than the letter for the other two people combined! How could that be fair?
MODERATOR: Ron, fairness is exactly what we’re going for. You’re ahead of Chris and Nikki in the polls, so we’re giving you a harder letter. Let’s see if you can keep your lead.
DESANTIS: Fine. What the hell. Whatever. I think the mo . . . the maximally important problem facing America today . . . for the problem, I would pick wokene . . . the condition of being woke. Our . . . educational in . . . educational thing . . that thing where we try to give education to people . . . it could be . . . totally . . . corrupted . . . by . . . that thing where people have the condition of being woke. Teache . . . teaching people . . . tell me that our . . . our . . . kid . . . the children in the education thing . . . oh, come on. This is f—ing impossible!
MODERATOR: Sorry Ron, there were “S”s in the words this, is, and impossible. Donald Trump, you’re up next. The question is still what issue you think is most important during this campaign. Your Forbidden Letters are “A”, “E”, and “I”, which I realize might seem a bit -
TRUMP: No worry! Folks, our south bound’s so porous! Lots of rough groups pour through. Crooks, cholos, drug lords! Now no jobs for poor US folks. No good! But don’t worry! POTUS Trump would shut porous bounds! Trump would construct humongous block on south bounds. Block would shut door to crooks. Now, good jobs for poor US folks! Woohoo for Trump!
MODERATOR: Thank you Donald. In our next round . . .
DESANTIS: No! That’s crazy! Someone must have leaked the letter thing to Donald. No one could do that on the fly like that. You’ve got to . . .
TRUMP: Our bout’s fully just. Dumb Ron’s just too dull to ply odd words promptly!
MODERATOR: If there are no further objections, in our next round . . .
DESANTIS: And that reply proves nothing! It would be easy to predict that I would object to this blatant debate-fixing, then prepare a response with the appropriate constrained letters ahead of time!
MODERATOR: Sorry, “proves”, “easy”, “response”, and “constrained” have S’s in them.
DESANTIS: F—k you, we’re done with the part where I have to avoid S!
MODERATOR: As I was about to say . . . In our next round, all candidates will still have to avoid their Forbidden Letter or Letters. But we’re introducing an additional complication! Candidates, please open the sealed envelope you’ll find at your podium. Each of you will also have to follow a Second Round Constraint which you and the audience will know, but the other candidates won’t. If you slip up, you’ll lose your time. But if any of the other candidates guess the constraint you’re trying to follow, they’ll get to steal the remainder of your time from you, plus 100 of your votes in the Iowa primary. Is everyone ready?
DESANTIS: Again, nobody told me about that rule, and I think the Iowa vote part might be un-Con . . . un- . . . could be contrary to that big piece of paper by the people in the building in Philadelphia.
MODERATOR: Our first question is for Chris Christie, and remember, Chris, your Forbidden Letter is still “V”. As President, how would you resolve the war in Ukraine?
[On the bottom of the TV screen, we see “SECOND ROUND CONSTRAINT: MUST INCLUDE THE STRING ‘CHRIS’ OR A HOMONYM THAT SOUNDS LIKE IT IN EVERY SENTENCE”]
CHRISTIE: Um. Hmmm. What’s going on in Ukraine is a . . . global Chrisis. [long pause] Like all Americans, I’m horrified by the news about Russian forces’ massaChris of innocent people. Ukraine should get not just our continuing support, but an inChris in military aid. [upbeat, finding his stride]. And I want to call out the hypoChrisy of Donald Trump on this issue. He says he wants to keep America strong, but he proChristinates on helping one of our most important allies.
DESANTIS: [Interrupting] I got it! He i . . . he . . . could be pronouncing the vowel wrong in a few of the word . . . in . . . you know what I mean.
MODERATOR: Sorry Ron, the constraint isn’t that he has to mispronounce vowels. We’ll be subtracting 100 votes away from your eventual total in the Iowa caucus for your incorrect guess.
DESANTIS: Motherf - [his microphone is muted]
CHRISTIE: [continuing] And in conclusion, our courageous soldiers will be home by Christmas.
MODERATOR: Thank you, Chris Christie. Our next question is for Nikki Haley. Nikki, what would you do to address the Chrisis . . . sorry, the crisis . . . in Israel and Palestine? Remember, your forbidden letter is still “K”.
[On the bottom of the TV screen, we see the phrase “SECOND ROUND CONSTRAINT: MUST USE THE NAME OF A US STATE IN EVERY SENTENCE”]
HALEY: Hmmmm . . . um . . . [sweating] . . . the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the Maine issues facing the world today. Errgh . . . um . . . it is a source of great suffering and Missouri for the people of the Middle East. [Long pause] Idaho-ped that there would have been peace in the region, but those hopes have been dashed. [Very long pause]. I believe we Kansas-tematically develop a long term plan to bring . . .
MODERATOR: Sorry, you used a K.
HALEY: “Can systematically!” That’s a C.
MODERATOR: Then you didn’t use the name of a US state in that sentence, and you fail on that basis.
HALEY: I hadn’t finished the sentence! Maybe I was going to use the name of a US state somewhere else! Maybe I was going to say “I believe we can systematically develop a long term plan to bring peace to the region and meet this ma-Georgia-llenge.” Get it? Like Georgia, and major challenge?
MODERATOR: In that case, you would have unintentionally used the names of two US states in your sentence, but the constraint was you had to use “a” state name, which I interpret as meaning exactly one. Our next candidate is Ron DeSantis. . .
HALEY: I object to this! There needs to be some form of appeal [her microphone is muted].
MODERATOR: Ron DeSantis, your Forbidden Letter is still S. Ron, let’s get your take on Israel-Palestine as well.
[On the bottom of the TV screen, we see the phrase “SECOND ROUND CONSTRAINT: MUST INCLUDE A PALINDROMIC WORD IN EVERY SENTENCE”]
DESANTIS: Thank you . . . the conflict between I . . . between the Jew . . between . the country with Jeru . . . between the Tel Aviv entity . . . f—k it, I’m coming off like a commie now . . . the conflict between the people with the beard and the funny hat . . . wait, no, they both have . . .the conflict between the good Levant people and the bad Levant people . . . yeah . . . that conflict . . . it could come onto our national radar -
TRUMP: [interrupting] Ron must mouth word so, upon full turn, word holds form!
DESANTIS: HOW COULD YOU GET THAT SO QUICKLY?
TRUMP: Trump’s not dumb! So Trump thought: Why fly-spot-tool word?
DESANTIS: I still think someone fed you these prompts, and you made reasonable guesses about what conversation topics would come up after you cheated on them.
TRUMP: Your doubts - bogus! Dumb Ron should just grow good.
MODERATOR: Donald has figured out Ron’s secret Second Round Constraint and so gets the remainder of his time. Donald, since Chris Christie accused you of hypoChrisy - sorry, hypocrisy - on Ukraine, I’ll give you a chance to respond. Tell us your thoughts about the situation there. And remember, your Forbidden Letters are still A, E, and I.
[On the bottom of the TV screen, we see the phrase “SECOND ROUND CONSTRAINT: ANSWERS MUST BE SPOKEN ENTIRELY IN HEROIC HEXAMETER, A POETIC FORM FROM THE ILIAD WHICH IS WIDELY CONSIDERED IMPOSSIBLE TO IMITATE IN ENGLISH”]
TRUMP: Pour’ng / forth out of / Rus’s / rough woods; from / Muscovy’s / boroughs
Gun-bulky / troops rush / forth on / Korsun’s / uncorrupt / country
Just so / Cronus' / son, who / roosts on / lofty O- / lympus
Puffs up / storm clouds / - so puff'd / up, so / smug Popov's / columns.
But ho- / mologous / to long- / shoot’ng / Phöbus’s / sun-glow
Just so / Korsun’s proud / corps burnt / through your / columns, o / Moscow.
Frolov / Sokolov / Tsokov / Kozlov / sturdy Kutuzov
Brought to / Cocytus; / turn’d to / bounty for / dolorous / Pluto.
But not ours such / glory; / you, Vo- / lodomyr, / hog boughs of / honor
Thus our / funds ought / not to sup- / ply you, your / jousts should go / solo.
HALEY: [interrupting] His secret constraint is that he has to imitate a Greek -
MODERATOR: [interrupting] Sorry, “Greek” contains the letter K. 100 votes from Haley to Trump.
DESANTIS: [furiously hitting his microphone, trying to get it to turn on, mouthing something inaudible.]
TRUMP: Poor shmucks don’t know Troy book rhythm. Lousy!
MODERATOR: Donald, are you done?
TRUMP: [smirking] Yup.
MODERATOR: Then it sounds like everyone’s gotten a chance to speak in the second round. We’re going to move on to our closing statement. You’ll be happy to hear that your Forbidden Letters and Second Round Constraints are lifted for this part, and you can say anything you want. But: you can only say a single word at a time, in order of the placement of your podiums. If you want to make a closing statement that resonates with the American people, you’ll have to cooperate with each other. I’ll be turning off your microphone liberally to enforce this rule; if you go over one word per turn, you lose your turn for the next minute. If everyone’s ready, let’s go. Chris?
CHRISTIE: . . . America
CHRISTIE: [glaring] . . . strong
CHRISTIE: [pause, debating internally] Bring
HALEY: Wait! That was it! That was your Second Round Constraint! You had to work “Chris” into every . . . [microphone turns off, Haley becomes inaudible]
DESANTIS: You’re both - [microphone turns off, DeSantis becomes inaudible]
CHRISTIE: That’s two words, you can’t just join things with a hyphen and - [microphone turns off, Christie becomes inaudible]
[The audience starts chanting along with him. Trump! Trump! Trump! Everyone stands up. Trump! Trump! Trump! The other candidates may or may not eventually get their microphones turned back on after a minute; nobody can tell over the roar of the crowd. Trump! Trump! Trump! Trump! The screen turns black, and another Republican primary debate is over.]