I've picked an entirely unrepresentative section from last night's GOP debate on national security; unrepresentative because it shows two people who know something of what they're talking about engaged in a somewhat substantive debate.
The Republican race overall is best viewed in the context of this brilliant, blistering polemic by David Frum, lifelong Republican, former Bush speechwriter, now considered an apostate by his own party because he hasn't followed it to the extreme, thoughtless right, represented most visibly by the Tea Party movement:
For the past three years, the media have praised the enthusiasm and energy the tea party has brought to the GOP. Yet it’s telling that that movement has failed time and again to produce even a remotely credible candidate for president. Sarah Palin, Donald Trump, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich: The list of tea-party candidates reads like the early history of the U.S. space program, a series of humiliating fizzles and explosions that never achieved liftoff. A political movement that never took governing seriously was exploited by a succession of political entrepreneurs uninterested in governing—but all too interested in merchandising. Much as viewers tune in to American Idol to laugh at the inept, borderline dysfunctional early auditions, these tea-party champions provide a ghoulish type of news entertainment each time they reveal that they know nothing about public affairs and have never attempted to learn. But Cain’s gaffe on Libya or Perry’s brain freeze on the Department of Energy are not only indicators of bad leadership. They are indicators of a crisis of followership. The tea party never demanded knowledge or concern for governance, and so of course it never got them.
That Newt Gingrich is considered a remotely credible candidate for the 2012 Republican nomination - and his chances are now rather better than remote - is just further evidence of the party's degraded state.