New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie hit the nail on the head in Tuesday evening's GOP presidential debate when he said: "If your eyes are glazing over like mine, this is what it's like to be in the United States Senate."
Yes, or to be an interested (or previously interested) voter watching these debates at home.
These endless reparsings of candidate positions that have been made clear months ago are bad television, and bad politics, and they represent the voracious programming needs of cable news networks far more than they do the informational needs of the voters.
Here's a tip for those running: When you start explaining minutiae of the legislative process to a national TV audience like you're doing a sequel to Schoolhouse Rock's "I''m just a bill, sitting here on Capitol Hill," that's not a good sign.
But not everything in the debate was boring. Some of it was downright disconcerting, and nothing more so than watching a bunch of older men debate how and whether we should close areas of the Internet like it's a dance floor that just got mopped and ought to be avoided by those darn kids, with their rock 'n' roll music.
Donald Trump started this with his proclamation that we needed to consider "closing that Internet up in some way." Since, and in the debate, he doubled down, saying, “I sure as hell don’t want to let people that want to kill us and kill our nation use our Internet.”
It's fine to then come back at Trump with First Amendment concerns, as many of the other candidates have, but what's probably more important to understand is that you can't close the Internet. Or monitor it fully, or get through the encryptions, or shut down the "dark Web," the subterannean levels of websites and communication most of us aren't even aware of.
This misunderstanding of the Internet is almost like a symbol for how hard our modern national security issues are to confront. Individuals and terror cells present the danger now, not just governments. Everything is decentralized: our violent enemies and their organizations, money and intelligence. And that is the crux of much of Americans' fears. Despite what many politicians promise, that's not the kind of danger that can be fully contained or conquered.
Each of the candidates argued that he or she knows how to ensure the safety of American citizens and the nation's security. But with their squabbling, rude behavior and sometimes-out-of-touch comments, the candidates didn't make that easy to believe. Democrats have shown some of the same weaknesses in their debates. But for better or worse, fewer people are watching those.