The Undercard Debate (6pm ET, Noon Friday NZT)
Held in North Charleston, South Carolina, this debate was moderated by Fox New Business anchors Trish Regan and Sandra Smith. It was supposed to feature Rand Paul, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, and Rick Santorum. Then Rand Paul had a wee tantrum and threw his toys out of the cot, so he wasn’t there. In an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Paul said:
I won’t debate anything that’s not first-tier, because we have a first-tier campaign.
He tried to persuade Fox Business to let him on the main stage, but they stuck to their guns, and good on them. He’d already made CNN cave on a prior occasion, which is how he got on the main stage that time. You may remember Trump making derogatory comments at the time that Paul, “shouldn’t even be there.” By his actions, he has failed the character test to be president in my opinion. This is a sign of bad judgment. The debates get millions of viewers and the first caucus (Iowa) is on Monday 1st February. He should take every opportunity he can to present himself to voters.
Paul’s absence put Fiorina standing behind the centre podium. As usual, her performance was exemplary. She made no missteps, and was prepared for every question.
Huckabee and Santorum answered exactly as you would expect from someone on the extreme right. Here are some quotes that show this.
When asked about the US role in Afghanistan, Huckabee said:
The role of the United States is not to build schools, it’s not to build bridges, it is not to go around handing out food packages. It’s to kill and destroy our enemy and make America safe, and that’s the purpose we should be there, if we’re going to be there.
He also used his closing statement to campaign for personhood for the foetus from the time of conception, and to laud this comment he said he heard from an elderly man on the campaign trail:
I sure wish, Mike, we had the days when the Ten Commandment were in all of our capitals, and in every school, and we prayed again.
Then commented himself:
You know, he may be 100 years old, but I believe some of those old ideas to get this country back where we unapologetically get on our knees before we get on out feet might be the best solutions we ever sought as a country.
Being humble, and recognizing you don’t know it all is one thing – begging for help from a supernatural deity is another.
As for Rick Santorum, he was even worse. For example, he accused the president of lying about the unemployment rate in the State of the Nation speech. He said, “Nobody is focused on those who are struggling,” then proved he wasn’t either:
I’m someone who believes that we need to be the party that stands for the American worker, and when I say we need to send people back, I mean we send people back! And let me just make a point. I was in Storm Lake, Iowa the other day and … 91% of the kids that go to elementary school there are minority kids, and they said, “What are you going to do with all these people, they’ve families, they’ve lived here for a long time.” I said, “I’m going to give them a gift of being able to help the country they were born in. And I’m going to export America – the education they were able to receive, they learned the English language, they learned about capitalism, they learned about democracy,” You wanna stop the flow of immigrants? Let’s send six million Mexicans, Hondurans, Guatemalans, El Salvadorans, back into their country so they can start a renaissance in their country so they won’t be coming over here anymore.
Absolutely revolting. And the Republicans wonder why Hispanics don’t vote for them.
Main Debate (9pm ET, 3pm Friday NZT)
This debate was moderated by Fox Business Anchor/Managing Editor of Business News, Neil Cavuto and Anchor/Global Markets Editor, Maria Bartiromo.
Although Donald Trump managed to qualify in first place, Ted Cruz wasn’t far behind him, and the two have been attacking each other all week. Trump has been focusing on the fact that Cruz was born in Canada and questioning his eligibility to be president. Although this holds no water because Cruz’s mother is a US citizen, the attack seems to be working as Cruz’s poll numbers have gone down about five points in the last week, though Trump’s numbers have only increased by one, so it’s not his own campaign he’s helping. Trump said he doesn’t care about where Cruz was born, but he insists it’s a problem, and that the Democrats are going to bring a law suit if Cruz becomes the Republican candidate. In the end, it was Cruz who won the exchange hands down and Trump who was left looking like a fool.
After the Paris terrorist attack, I made Mediate, a US new site that attacks people from the political left. The reason was I’d made an error in tweeting a comment from Trump. After the Charlie Hebdo attack, Trump had tweeted that this was the fault of the strong gun laws in France. That if the Charlie Hebdo staff had had guns, they might be alive. (Of course, the first two people killed were the armed police guarding the offices.) I didn’t check the date of the Trump tweet and I tweeted it after Paris attack. I admitted my mistake within a few minutes, but that didn’t stop the later attack on me on Mediate, or the constant Twitter attacks for the next couple of days. Why am I bringing this up? Because since Obama made his executive orders relating to guns recently, I have heard Trump say several times, including in tonight’s debate (on two separate occasions), that the reason so many died in Paris was due to the strong gun laws in France.
Trump complained about China trade again. “I know so much about trade with China,” he says. However, he’s wrong in a lot of what he says. He doesn’t like that their currency has devalued recently, and thinks it’s all about attacking the US. The truth is that China has been keeping it’s currency artificially high, and most economists are pleased that it’s devaluing because it’s going down to more realistic levels. China has been a drag on the world economy because these days it’s large enough and has enough exports that its effects the rest of us. China devaluing their currency gives their export economy a boost, which long-term is good for the international economy. All the other candidates who spoke (expect Ted Cruz) realized that Trump’s solution of putting a tariff on Chinese goods didn’t sound right and were able to come up with microeconomic reasons why he’s wrong. Mine is the macroeconomic argument, which is what a president needs to focus on. Ted Cruz did his usual weaselly thing of saying both sides were right – there’s no way he’s going to do anything to risk losing any Trump voters; he wants them when Trump leaves the race as Cruz believes he inevitably will.
Trump’s logic got a bit screwed at the end too. In his closing statement he talked about the sailors detained by Iran. He said the only reason those sailors were released was because of the Iran agreement, and that he’s president there’ll be no agreement. I guess he would prefer the sailors dead or imprisoned. He still got the sycophantic applause – it seems his supporters will applaud him just for opening his mouth.
I’ve barely focused on Ted Cruz in previous debates. He never answers the question he’s asked in interviews and rarely in debates, just about everything he says on the campaign trail is either a lie or an obfuscation, and he’s strongly disliked by his colleagues in the senate with good reason. I assumed GOP voters would see those and the other reasons he shouldn’t be president, which are quite separate from the fact I don’t like his policies. However, it seems he has managed to persuade a significant proportion of the electorate he’s worthy of office, just as Trump has.
Right from the first question he was asked, he responded that, “he’d get to that, but first he wanted to say…” and launched into an emotive, anti-Obama, anti-Clinton pack of lies and half-truths about the US sailors detained by Iran. It was a sermon, not an answer.
Overall though, Cruz won the debate. So this ghastly man is going to be crowing about all the extra donations he’s received as a result of his performance for the next few weeks.
Marco Rubio focused a lot on Obama underestimating the risk of DAESH. That was frustrating because he wouldn’t have been able to make those criticisms if Obama had discussed thus issue properly with USians. Admittedly it’s complicated, but it’s been going on a long time, and facts do eventually sink in. Most of the things the Republican candidates say they would do, Obama is already doing. The only really big difference is that Obama isn’t going to carpet bomb. Because Obama hasn’t taken control of the rhetoric, the hate-mongers and fear-mongers on the right have been able to make a mark.
The only thing Rubio mentioned about his tax plan was that he pledged not to create a value-added tax (VAT, aka GST). He talked more about criticizing Cruz’s plan (a so-called Fair Tax, which is a flat tax, plus he’s going to abolish the IRS!) than his own. As Christie pointed out during the ensuing argument between Rubio and Cruz, the question was actually about entitlements.
In the discussion on guns Rubio said that the last line of defence between American families and DAESH might be their guns, which the audience loved. Rubio made an impassioned speech about gun rights that appeared to be one of the most popular moments of the night. He covered all the arguments that the right love (never mind that they’re not objectively accurate). It’s a toss-up whether he, Trump or Christie came in second to Cruz in the debate – they all had their moments.
Cruz was exposed as a liar on immigration by Fox News a few weeks ago, but he seems to be able to have twisted his way out of that one. Rubio used to be more centrist on the subject – from what I know of it, the “Gang of Eight” solution that he was a part of seemed to be a reasonable one. Now, Rubio has been forced to the right on immigration to compete with Cruz giving Cruz the opportunity to accuse Rubio of lying and flip-flopping.
I commented on Trump’s logic in his closing statement earlier, but there was some weird logic in Rubio’s closing statement too:
Our rights come from God, that’s why we embrace free enterprise.
I never saw that bit in the Bible.
Ben Carson’s campaign seems to be in a death spiral. His campaign has maintained the same policies and positions that made him popular earlier, but the perceived increase in the threat of terrorism in recent months has exposed his lack of knowledge and experience in international affairs. In his first answer he was a complete prat too – he moaned about not being asked a question yet (at that point Trump hadn’t had a question either) and said he was going to ask to be woken up when it was his turn. Like Rand Paul, it was another version of throwing his toys out of the cot, and displayed he doesn’t have the character to lead a country. He also frequently uses the phrase, and did tonight, “I find it really quite fascinating,” when mocking others showing he thinks he’s cleverer than everyone else. It’s condescending, and in the process he often exposes that despite his intelligence, he’s ignorant in many areas.
Chris Christie has been working hard in the states where the first primaries are to be held, presumably because a strong showing there would kick start his campaign. That work is paying off, and is seeing him slowly rise in the polls. Long term, this could be a better strategy than some of the other have that have peaked too early. He was popular in 2012 when he supported Mitt Romney, and the main objection to him then (apart from hugging Obama) was that his straight-talking was just a bit too straight. However, he appears comparatively mild next to Donald Trump and this is helping. On every subject, he made a point of contrasting himself favourably with Obama.
Chris Christie said tonight there are fewer democracies in the world than there were when Obama came to power. That is not true, and even if it was, why is it the job of the US to enforce democratic governments on every country in the world? There is no doubt that democracy is a better, but countries have to work that out for themselves. The entire democratic world (and many of us do democracy better than the USA) is ready to help anyone who asks for it, but it’s not up to any of us to force our rules on others.
In his closing statement he again seemed to be making a point of separating himself from Obama – he talked of “kicking his butt” out of office. The Obama hug must still be dogging him.
Jeb Bush is currently struggling to excite GOP voters. He didn’t make any missteps tonight, and he has plenty of money to keep going for a while, but he’s done little to excite voters either. He did manage to call out Trump for some of his ridiculous statements such as:
You [Trump] cannot make rash statements and expect the rest of the world to respond as if, “Well, it’s just politics.”
He seemed to get very little time, but when he did get the chance to talk, he made a point of presenting himself as an elder statesman and reliable leader. That was sometimes refreshing after petty arguments between other candidates. Chris Christie made the same points though, but better. He’s experienced too, and that experience is more recent. Christie said things in a way more likely to resonate and be remembered, such as when he criticized Rubio and Cruz for squabbling about which parts of a Bill each supported, when that Bill didn’t pass anyway.
John Kasich is perhaps the most reasonable of the Republican field, and the most likely to appeal to centrist voters, but his character isn’t one to excite Republicans. Although he supports cutting taxes for business in the belief that this will create jobs, his answers on the subject were otherwise sensible and balanced. He seems to be a weird combination of liberal and conservative. For example, on the one hand, he recognized how important it was for the community and the police to work closely together, and on the other he boasted that the use of deadly force by police has been enforced throughout his state.
Kasich said that if Bernie Sanders is the Democratic Party nominee, the Republicans will win every state. I don’t know if he really believes that, but if he does, I think he’s out of touch with the average American.
Some of the debates so far have either been poorly run, or stupid questions were asked. Whatever you say about Fox News, they have consistently done a good job, and this one was no exception.
Thank you for a remarkably detailed report. A few comments suggest themselves.
 As for Rubio calling out the right to free enterprise as a basic Enlightenment value, his logic is sound. Rubio was not citing scripture, but the Declaration of Independence, a fundamental document of the Enlightenment and American civics. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Rights come from God, not a King, by virtue of human nature. Liberty and the pursuit of happiness certainly encompass the right to pursue a livelihood of one’s choosing, and to enjoy the fruits of one’s own talents and exertions, without undue deference to a King (or modern-day busybodies).
 The problem with Obama’s approach to terrorism has to do with more than the content of his teleprompter and the way he delivers it. That’s part of it, but symptomatic of a deeper ideological issue. Obama inhabits a world where counter-revolutionaries are the only true enemy. If ISIS managed to recruit Mitch McConnell, Obama would eradicate it tomorrow.
 Did Christie say anything about forcing rules on other nations? Isn’t that a bit of straw man? It is certainly reasonable to judge a president’s performance by whether he leaves the country and the world a better place than he found it. A US president is not responsible for the level of peace and democracy in the world, but he is responsible for using his influence to promote them.
 As a popular and effective two-term governor of a swing state, Kasich has as much of a finger on the pulse of the mythical “average” voter as anyone. He’s surely right that Grandpa Sanders won’t wear well beyond his far-left fan base. People are sick of Obama’s stubborn ideology, and Grandpa is even deeper into that benighted territory. Sanders could conceivably win a statewide race in Massachusetts, in addition to Vermont, and he’d do okay in precincts with high concentrations of professors and psychiatrists. Otherwise his only impact would be to divide the party that he would represent but not join.
I think it’s a bit of a stretch to call capitalism an Enlightenment value, though I see your logic. Don’t forget the Protestant work ethic came before the Enlightenment, and I suspect that has a lot more do do with it.
Obama recognizing that a big part of the problem in the ME was caused by the US is not a problem. Doing things like carpet bombing, which several candidates are promising, would create another DAESH. It was things like the hundreds of thousands of innocents that were killed during the Iraq war, and the use of things like depleted uranium shells, that caused ongoing resentment. Candidates are saying that by being in Raqqa, the people are guilty, but many of them have nowhere else to go, and can’t get away even if they could afford it. The only way they can survive is by cooperating with the regime. It is to Obama’s credit that he is doing his best to try and avoid civilian casualties.
Christie implied that that’s what Obama should be doing by making the comment he did. There is a meme amongst many Republicans that America is less respected than is was in 2008, but that’s simply not true. Obama is very highly respected by the majority of other nations/heads of state.
I think Sanders would do better than most people think, though I suspect the Democrats won’t let him win the nomination. Everyone’s focusing on whether someone like Trump could win the Republican nomination, but if Clinton is found to have done anything illegal, there could be big trouble and lots of insider trading on the Democrat side. I suspect someone like Biden will be asked to step in and there will be all sorts of horse trading at their conference.
Wow Heather. I’m impressed that you could summarize the thing so well and so quickly.
For me the takeaway was the shameless fearmongering of all the candidates. Without Rand Paul there was not a single person who questioned the wisdom of more military interventionism. They mocked Obama for pointing out, accurately, in his State of the Union, how much the economy has improved in his term and that Isis, indeed nobody is a substantial military threat to the US. I continue to be baffled that they couldn’t get away with such fearmongering if Obama called the Jihadists “Islamic”. They are stirring up fear and nothing Obama said or did would alter that. It’s clear that they want to justify more war, and anyone, like Harris and Coyne, who exaggerate the danger of Islam and Muslims is playing into their hands.
Assuming this is the real Paxton, no one said “they couldn’t get away with such fearmongering if Obama called the Jihadists “Islamic”. We just said it makes the debate harder when Dem/left leaders hand right-wingers an issue that they can point to and accurately claim, “they are lying about this”. It will make some potential supporters wonder what else they might be lying about.
He has the same e-mail and IP address, so I’ve assumed it’s the same person.
Real Paxton here. I guess I’m subconsciously modeling myself on “The Donald”. Here’s an interesting take on how he has defined the terms of the Republican debate:
Yeah, I see the point, but I think too much is made of it.
Great analysis Heather, thanks. Since, as many have stated including me, watching the whole debate live would induce unwanted anger and agitation. You’re benefiting my state-of-mind. 🙂 This group of bozos are especially loathsome this cycle. I was able to handle McCain (not Palin) and even to some extent Romney. This new group is beyond the pale. I personally would be extremely embarrassed to be a Republican today. The immorality and un-American attitudes on display is appalling.
I would like to add that the Cruz issue is not resolved. For starters, if he gets the nomination, Alan Grayson will open a suit against his legitimacy. The sticky part is that Cruz’s mom denounced (courts to decide) her American citizenship when she registered to become a Canadian citizen (for the ‘free’ healthcare) and also registered to vote in Canadian elections. What does that mean? This is unprecedented, and the Supreme Court, which has never taken up a case regarding “Natural Born Citizenship” would undoubtedly be the deciding factor. This means even if SCOTUS rules that Cruz is legit, it would take many months (years?) of litigation for the outcome. This uncertainty will naturally make Cruz supporters wary. I for one would rather have (I can’t believe I’m saying this) Trump for President than the greasy Cruz. At least Trump isn’t a fanatical theocrat.
It is also worthy of note that Cruz took out a million dollar loan to help pay for his Senate race. He didn’t disclose this loan to campaign finance reports. To make matters worse, he is now caught in a lie since he said the money was “everything that they saved”. ‘They’ being he and his wife. So another massive lie lies on the shoulders of this fanatical Christian.
Thanks Mark. 🙂
I din’t know that stuff about Cruz’s mother. I’ve heard him denying something like that, and that must be the reason he was denying it – because of what you said. Cruz is one of those people I think who thinks the end justifies the means, especially when it’s for, in his opinion, the greater glory of God. He thinks his campaign is blessed and therefore whatever he does is OK. It’s scary.
As I said to Brujo Feo, I do wonder how much this has to do with the idea of someone as revolting as Cruz becoming president. And I say it as well – I too would even prefer Trump to Cruz.
My brother is a Republican from way back. He has all the credentials – MBA from Yale, former Wall Street Trader for a company everyone knows the name of etc – but he told me at Christmas (and he told me I could mention it on the website) that he was now officially a Democrat. He can’t get over how extreme they all are. None of the current crop of candidates are fit to be president in his opinion, and their policies are just crazy, he says.
I hope more Republicans come to their senses like your brother did. That’s refreshing to hear.
Thanks for the in-depth analysis, Heather.
I think that you miss the mark with your criticism of Rand Paul for skipping the debate. But first you have to understand the history of Faux Snooze and ANTHING libertarian-leaning…or even not hard-core neo-con.
Full disclosure: I joined the LP in ’73, switching to the GOP in ’08 ONLY for the purpose of voting for Ron Paul in the primaries. And at one time I was the titular NGC for the Republican Liberty Caucus. (And I do mean just titular–I think that they just needed someone’s name to put on some applications.)
I’m also not the only libertarian who may switch to the Dems this year just to vote for Sanders in the primaries. Stange bedfellows, indeed!
Faux Snooze HATES libertarians. If you followed the hoops they jumped through to keep Ron Paul off the stage during the ’08 debates, you would understand the absolutely crap artificial methods they used to define Rand Paul off the main stage for this one. I’m not saying that Paul has a snowball’s chance in hell of the nomination, but he is running strong in Iowa and New Hampshire.
They’ll do or say ANTHING to keep the public from hearing from the ONLY GOP candidate (well, you can make an argument for Kasich) who isn’t a wholly-owned tool of the neo-con corporatist oligarchy.
Boycotting this debate is a questionable tactic, but you miss the point by denigrating it as some sort of juvenile fit of pique. If he does well in the first few primaries, it exposes Fox’s duplicity. And what’s the downside?
And on the issue of Cruz’s eligibility…hold on just a second…http://www.newsweek.com/ted-cruz-canadian-citizen-415430
I agree that Paul could have the last laugh if he does well in the early primaries. Two points though – Fox had criteria that he failed to meet. He would have been included if he had done that, whatever Fox’s feelings about Libertarians.
I agree that Fox appears to most appreciate establishment Republicans. There are plenty of hosts and anchors on Fox though that are clearly Libertarian, and Stossel has his own show focused on Libertarianism.
It’ll be interesting to see if anything comes of the Cruz birther issue. I wonder how much of it has to do with the thought of such an odious man running the country. If anyone tries to say it’s because he gets his citizenship from his mother, not his father, that’ll cause an uproar, and rightly so. (Saying that, I’m eligible to work in the UK because I have a paternal grandparent born there. If I had a maternal grandparent born there, but not a paternal one, I wouldn’t be eligible.)
The emergence of the extreme minorities within the right, such as the Tea Party, in the last decade had seemed to lead candidates to fall over themselves to prove that they are more conservative, more extreme, than their rivals. This only served to destroy their chances in a national competition as they had no chance to win moderates and swing-voters. Now, with a larger, more extreme, pool of candidates, it seems to be having another effect – the real achievement of Trump, Carson and Huckabee may be only to have made Cruz seem like a sane choice! Without them, Cruz would be on the extreme and perhaps making Rubio and Christie look better. You have to say the Cruz team is playing it smartly, he is looking more like a primary winner every day while still having no chance of being President.
I agree. I’m wondering if it might be evidence for hope though. The GOP can’t handle the forces pulling it in so many different directions for much longer – the Libertarians, the Tea Party, the Evangelicals, and the Establishment, are all fighting for control. In countries like NZ, all those sorts of groups are separate parties, and elections show that despite some of the making a very loud noise and getting lots of media time because of it, very few people actually vote for them. It effectively puts them in their place, and more moderate parties rise to the fore.
It’s been my opinion for a long time that the US electoral system needs a major reformation, and if the GOP implodes, maybe that will be a catalyst for it to happen. At the moment, there are too many on both sides who have an interest in maintaining the status quo.
I’m skeptical there’s that much practical difference between a two-party system versus multi-party. When you have a binary choice, each party’s raison d’etre is to get to 50% +1. Winning inevitably trumps ideology, and principles are compromised. That’s why true believers in both parties are perpetually frustrated. It’s why zealots like Grandpa Sanders don’t join parties. And it’s why the Oval Office almost always changes hands when the lease expires.
Despite the sideshows, the Republicans have been blessed with an exceptional number of highly qualified candidates compared to the other side. Kasich, Bush, Rubio, Pataki, Perry, Walker, Jindal, Fiorina, Christie, Graham: All perfectly reasonable centrists with actual accomplishments. All vastly more qualified than any Democrat candidate in decades — let alone extremist ideologues like Obama and Grandpa Sanders, or sleazy connivers and scofflaws like Grandma Clinton and her old man, the randy hillbilly.
93% of US counties still haven’t recovered from the recession. Come November the Republicans will be unified and determined to end this madness and save humanity.
Meanwhile, the Dems ain’t doing so good themselves: “In January, Republicans will occupy 32 of the nation’s governorships, 10 more than they did in 2009. Democratic losses in state legislatures under Obama rank among the worst in the last 115 years, with 816 Democratic lawmakers losing their jobs and Republican control of legislatures doubling since the president took office….The average age of the three top Democratic leaders in the House is 75, while the three most senior Republican leaders — with the new speaker of the House, Paul D. Ryan — average 48 years old…Hillary Rodham Clinton is 68; Bernie Sanders, the senator from Vermont, is 74; and the biggest intrigue had been whether Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who turns 73 next week, would join them.” — NY Times, 13 November 2015.
Your comments in relation to the GOP are valid arguments. I wish you’d argue like that on subjects where we don’t agree instead of (for example) the string of nasty words you use in your second paragraph about the Dems. You’d find the other commenters much more receptive if you did that.
My opinion is the GFC was so bad it scared the sh*t out of people. It ‘s been harder to recover because it hurt much more people, and hit them harder. A lot of people learnt the lesson that they need to have more assets behind them. Too many were borrowing, and being given credit, (it was a two-way street as far as blame goes) against the increased value of their houses. Since then, people have been using any extra money to increase their savings and especially to pay down debt.
Businesses have actually got plenty of cash. The problem is demand people aren’t buying because they still feel insecure because of what happened in the GFC. The GOP is proposing giving tax cuts to business to get them to create jobs, but that’s not the problem. The weak businesses have collapsed. Those still going have already got the money to create jobs, but nobody’s buying. What’s needed is an increase in the incomes of the poor, because they spend all, or almost all, of any extra money they get. That’s why, in the current environment, an increase in the minimum wage is what’s needed (among other things). It’s Macroeconomics 101.