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.