Fox News/Google Iowa Republican Main Debate – 28 January 2016

6th GOP Debate Fox

Rand Paul #8, Chris Christie #6, Ben Carson #4, Ted Cruz #2, Marco Rubio #3, Jeb Bush #5, John Kasich #7. (Source: Fox News)

Note: I had a two hour power cut about half-way through this debate, and I won’t have time to finish this tomorrow morning, so this report only covers the first hour of the debate.

Main Debate

(See here for my take on the Undercard Debate.)

The main debate was held at 9pm ET (3pm Friday NZT) and was moderated by Fox News hosts/journalists Bret Baier, Megyn Kelly, and Chris Wallace. Like the Undercard Debate, it was held at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines, the state capital of Iowa . The centre podium, by dint of his being #1 in the polls, was supposed to be occupied by Donald Trump, but in a fit of pique he decided not to show.

The first question in the debate was to Ted Cruz about Donald Trump. Before he got to that, he gave one of the smarmiest answers to suck up to Iowa voters I’ve ever heard in my life. Then he mocked Trump by giving examples of the nasty things he thought Trump would have said in the debate. Next, he tried to present himself as arguing with Trump only on the issues, and never about personalities. It was a relief to move onto another candidate.

Marco Rubio‘s first question was about his contention that he can unite all the factions within the GOP. Rubio turned that around, saying the campaign was about Obama, and how he’d ruined America and many of the things that made the country special, then moved onto attacking Hillary Clinton. He didn’t answer how he would unite the country, just restated that he would.

Jeb Bush was questioned on the tactic of the so-called establishment candidates attacking each other and splitting that vote, thereby handing the election to an anti-establishment candidate. He pointed out that the process had only just started, and to give it time to play out. He immediately came across better and more relaxed than he has before, making jokes about Trump’s absence. Also, he immediately addressed the other elephants in the room – his father and brother. He dealt with that well, and managed to get an attack on Clinton that was both effective and humourous when he said he’d released 34 years of his tax records, but you need a sub-poena just to get Clinton’s e-mails.

Obama and ChristieChris Christie‘s first chance came with a question addressing his history of leading a blue state, and whether compromise or standing on conservative principles was better. He did really well, pointing out the difference the experience of being a governor makes, and having the practical experience of actually getting things done and working with others. He got in a dig at Obama too, which he always needs to do to separate himself – the Obama/Christie photo, ridiculously, haunts his candidacy. To a sensible voter it’s a sign he’s willing to do what it takes to help his state – only the ignorant see it as a negative in my opinion.

Rand Paul was kicked in the teeth up front – told of a video in which Cruz is recognized as the new leader of the libertarians, and how his father, former senator Ron Paul, has said it’s a realistic scenario that Trump will be the party’s nominee. He was asked if he “made a mistake” by not “more fully embracing” his father’s political legacy. The smile Paul wore throughout Baier’s question was his frequent supercilious one, where it seems like he feels sorry for the speaker because they’re so stupid. He was effusive in his praise of his father – too effusive to be entirely convincing. He managed to make some valid points against Cruz though. The collection of surveillance information is another issue Cruz has flip-flopped on – he’s spoken both for it and against it, depending on the audience, but didn’t turn up to vote against it. Cruz’s response was just rhetoric, praising Ron Paul, and even managing to get the first of his always frequent mentions of Reagan in. Marco Rubio inserted himself into the conversation too by saying he thought surveillance was necessary to keep the country safe, which got a lot of applause.

John Kasich has been calling himself the “inside/outside guy” in order to disassociate himself from the establishment he is part of, and was asked what he had to say to those who consider practical government experience a liability. He talked at length of his leadership and management skills, and of the achievements made in his state because of them, such as, he says, 400,000 news jobs since he became governor. He says he’s not an establishment guy though because he works with everybody.

Ben Carson was asked how he expected to run a country with no experience in government at all. Carson focused on his reputation for honesty, and the fact that as a surgeon he has frequently had to make life and death decisions. He offered his experience of putting teams together to solve complex problems and thinking out of the box as a good strategy to solve the countries problems. It was a good answer that he presented really well. The problem, of course, is that to him thinking out of the box means the pyramids are ancient grain silos and evolution is a lie.

GOP debateForeign Terrorism

The moderators then moved to ask all the candidates about what Chris Wallace called “foreign terror.” He noted that according to Google “ISIS” is the most searched foreign policy topic over the past year at 80%, followed by Refugees (13%), National Security (4%), Iran Nuclear Program (2%), and China-US Relations (1%).

Wallace went to Cruz first, asking him about his tough-talking statements such as carpet-bombing DAESH into oblivion and making the sand glow at night. Wallace pointed out that Cruz’s senate record was quite different, such as opposing giving Obama authority to enforce his “red-line” in Syria, and he’s voted against the Defense Authorization Act ever since he was elected. Cruz didn’t answer the question, but instead turned in into an attack on both Wallace and Obama. He said Wallace “claimed” it was tough-talk, but that it was actually “a different military strategy than we have seen from Obama.” He made a point of saying he made no apologies for his plan. Like several GOP candidates he has the opinions that USians must be considered people from the time of conception to protect the innocent, but civilians in war zones are fair game. He insists Obama has “dramatically degraded” the military. He gives counts of things like planes and ships to make his point. (Perhaps he should count drones.) He wants the rules of combat rewritten, presumably to allow the murder of civilians.

Rubio’s rhetoric on this subject is good, whether you agree with him or not. He clearly has a superior knowledge and understanding of the situation. He talks of defeating DAESH, rather than destroying them, which shows that he probably has a more balanced and sensible opinion of how to handle them, whatever  he says on the campaign trail. However, he also talked of how small the US army, navy and air force are. He failed to mention that’s because the military is transitioning to other technologies, and still has a budget bigger than the next eight countries combined. It’s about fighting smarter, which the US military themselves will tell anyone who cares to listen. Rubio, though, is another one who thinks the US is fighting under rules of engagement that are too strict.

And Cruz got in his next Reagan mention here, giving a history lesson which was completely irrelevant, but saying he would do what Reagan did. I wonder if he means arming the Iranians in an illegal deal?

Chris Wallace tried to make Christie criticize Cruz and Rubio for their inexperience next, asking whether he thought they were ready to lead the country, especially as Christie has previously criticized Cruz for blocking the surveillance legislation. Christie refused to do that, and instead used the opportunity to criticize Clinton. He then referred to his own experience in such situations, especially 9/11, and said that was what the country needed.

Wallace tried to  get Bush to attack Cruz and Rubio also, noting he had previously talked of other candidates’ unrealistic ideas when fighting terrorism. He then attacked Bush because as “your brother got us into two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that are still not ended, (Wallace got some boos for that, and fair enough – he’s not his brother’s keeper) what lessons have you learned from your brother’s mistakes?” Bush did well here. He talked of how unpopular Obama’s red-line was at the time, and no-one wanted him to go ahead, and reverted to talking of his own plan to defeat DAESH. His plan has been well thought out, and he’s had it for a while, but it does include things that I consider are ill-advised such as a no-fly zone in Syria.

Cruz then showed his petty side, which had to come out. He complained about the previous questions which he said had been all about the others attacking him. He was right, but pointing it out showed he lacked the dignity to rise above it, as a leader should.

Rand Paul then shared his “wisdom” –  we should be supporting Bashar al-Assad of Syria. Apparently anything else is a “really bad idea.”

We got a wee wobbly from Kasich here too, because he didn’t feel like he was getting enough attention. When will these guys learn how this looks?

TerrorismDomestic Terrorism

Megyn Kelly challenged Rubio on his view that mosques should be shut down if their members indulge in hateful speech, pointing out that their speech is protected by the First Amendment unless they turn to terror. (Try shutting down even one of the many churches that that spits anti-LGBT venom!) Rubio said, basically, that the problem with Muslims is that they don’t just talk about it, they do it.

Christie came in with a practical, common sense response – if you see something, say something, and let law enforcement make the judgement to a question about profiling. He is against profiling as he sees it as unnecessary. As always, he was also able to bring his response around to an attack on Obama and Clinton.

Carson was asked about the rise of Islamophobia and whether he thought the GOP approach was causing it to rise. He refused to answer that question, then justified Islamophobia by reference to an obscure Texas Islamic organisation. It was simply revolting.

Federal Spending

Christie wants to defund Planned Parenthood. Why? Abortions, of course.

Cruz will repeal Obamacare because it’s been a “disaster.” According to his (already proven bad judgement and facts) it’s caused millions of USians to lose their jobs or be forced into part-time work. He went on about reforms to the health insurance market he’d make, which are good, but the question he was asked was what he’d do about the millions who now rely on Obamacare. He didn’t answer that. Every USian with an ongoing health condition who has never before been able to get insurance because of the brutal, uncaring regime that operates in that country better hope that the Republicans don’t get elected. Their lives won’t be worth living.

Bush doesn’t think the federal government should bail out Puerto Rico, but supports statehood for them once they’ve got their economy sorted out.

Rubio denies climate change, and thinks nothing should be done by the federal government re carbon costs.

(There was another hour of the debate after this, but as I said, the power went out for two hours when I got just a few minutes into the next section of the debate.)


It’s time for Rand Paul at least to drop out of the race. He’s not the worst of the top eight (that “honour” belongs to Cruz), but it must be obvious even to him there’s no path to the nomination for him from here. There’s little hope for Carson either unless there’s an outbreak of peace in the world. At least one of Kasich, Christie and Bush needs to go too. All three would be better presidents than the leading contenders (Trump and Cruz), but unless the majority of GOP caucus voters has an outbreak of rationality, they’re only taking votes from each other.


28 Responses to “Fox News/Google Iowa Republican Main Debate – 28 January 2016”

  1. Ken says:

    Thank the goddess for power outages, I say!

  2. Diane G. says:

    Gotta love the press. Every election cycle they’re writing hand-wringing whinges about mud-slinging campaigns…Then they seem to spend the evening pitting the candidates against each other.

    OTOH, I suspect that’s the only way to try to get the debaters off their boiler-plate talking points.

    • An exchange I saw on the Kelly File (Fox News, Megyn Kelly) I feel I have to comment on. I found myself agreeing with not only her (which happens more often than not) but Glenn Beck of all people! The discussion was about how several of the candidates had handled the “Muslim question”. Chris Christie is opposed to profiling but Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, and Ted Cruz all advocate closing mosques and even cafes if they become places from which hate speech against the US comes. Both Kelly and Beck made the point that their speech is protected by the Constitution, and both were worried about what the Republican party was coming to when these sort of opinions were widely expressed within it. It’s good to know there are still some Republicans out there that stand for the principles of, you know, the Republic.

      In the 2008 election when there was all that to-do about anti-American speech that sometimes emanated from the church Obama attended, I don’t remember anyone suggesting it be closed down. Or for that matter, all the hate speech that comes out of the anti-LGBT churches. It’s only a problem when it’s Muslims with some of these candidates, and they should be called out for it, not cheered on like too many are doing.

      • Diane G. says:

        SMH. Beck, even!

        What an important point, though. But what’s a candidate to do when they know what the audience is slavering to hear?

        Sigh. There’s a reason why the wisest potential statespeople refuse to run at all!

        • These guys are supposed to lead opinion, not slavishly repeat it because they’ve got a crowd baying for blood. In the Republican party there’s a bid deal being made about sticking to conservative principles. I would argue that sticking to the constitution is a conservative principle, and these guys are skilled debaters – they can present the argument and persuade the voters imo.

          (I’m not having a go at you in case that’s how it sounds.) I agree it often does seem like the best people are those that don’t want the job.

          • Diane G. says:

            Oh, no worries! I enjoy the back & forth since I know that we’re both essentially on the same page of nearly every (if not every!) issue. 🙂

            These guys are supposed to lead opinion, not slavishly repeat it because they’ve got a crowd baying for blood.

            Heather, Heather, Heather, have a seat and let me tell you about something we have here called “politics.” 😀

          • Everyone always says they hate negative politics and won’t do it, then they do. Negative politics on the campaign trail (though not elsewhere) has become a big no-no in NZ, pretty much since we started getting atheist PMs (constantly since 1999), though I don’t think there’s any connection. If a candidate indulges in personal negative politics, they get punished at the ballot box big time.

            It makes it all a bit boring though – at least US politics gives me lots to write about!

  3. Diane G. says:

    Negative politics on the campaign trail (though not elsewhere) has become a big no-no in NZ, pretty much since we started getting atheist PMs (constantly since 1999),…

    How cool is that?!

    It makes it all a bit boring though – at least US politics gives me lots to write about!

    Ha ha!

    And of course the ultimate determinant is what the actual citizens themselves want, not necessarily the virtues of the candidates. Would that we (the US) catch up with your (NZ) electoral attitudes!

    • I’ve gotta say, I’m quite proud of how we do politics here, though I know it sounds very “we’re better than you” to say so, which I really don’t like doing. The main reasons are:
      1. Electoral boundaries are decided by an independent commission, so there’s no gerrymandering.
      2. Campaigns are limited to the period three months before the election. USians, for example, seem to spend their whole time campaigning and if they’re in office, they don’t get any work done.
      3. The amount a party can spend on their campaign is limited by legislation and strictly enforced. Campaigns have to submit detailed accounts and any discrepancy is investigated thoroughly. If a campaign goes over the limit by even a small amount, they can lose their seat.
      4. Our electoral system (MMP – Mixed Member Proportional) means that most votes count, and people feel like their votes count, so more people vote, so the result is more representative of the whole population.
      5. Election day is always a Saturday, so more people can vote, and they have time to wait in line if that’s necessary. There are enough polling places too that there are rarely long lines to wait.
      6. No electioneering is allowed from midnight on the day before election day, so no-one can be influenced. The bigger political parties phone people later in the day who haven’t voted yet offering them a ride to the polls. But they’re not allowed to ask who you’re voting for, try to persuade you who to vote for, or even say which party they volunteer for. They basically guess on demographics which people to phone, hoping the’re giving people who’ll vote for them a ride.

      • Diane G. says:

        I’d adopt all that in a heartbeat.

        Wasn’t that long ago that we had at least somewhat better rein on campaign spending; then the SCOTUS majority shifted…

        In what world does Citizens United make any democratic sense?!

        • Exactly! I just don’t get that. It’s not even my country, but the thing that worries me the most about a conservative Republican winning the next election is the likelihood that they’ll get two or three appointments to the Supreme Court. That could affect the social direction of the country, in opposition to its changing mood, for decades. Things like the legalization of marijuana which most people seem to want will never get through the court, and it could see reverses to things like abortion rights. It’s has to be really damaging to society when the legislators are taking the country in a different direction to what the people want.

          • Diane G. says:

            Surveys say–the bulk of Americans usually score slightly left of center (sensu USA) when polled on many issues. Problems lie in trying to get voting reform through Congress and then making it a lot simpler for people to vote!

            I remember standing in long lines in Boston, after work, outside, in the dark, freezing my ass off, hoping I made it into the precinct voting building before the polls closed at 8pm. What’s with this “one week-day in November” crap?

            Then there’s the fact that with the 4 time zones, people out west start to feel their votes aren’t going to count anyway, so why go to the polls?–a self-fulfilling prophecy. (They’ve tried to improve the situation by not allowing results to be posted before all the polls across the country have closed [except for poor old Hawaii, of course, and much (all?) of Alaska]; but there are still the chattering heads on TV all evening with predictions, etc., that I believe affect western voters nonetheless.)

            We need either some incentive for voting (beyond just the tiny little fact that not voting could change the future for you & your children far into the future) or some penalty for not doing so. (I really dislike the latter idea, though–so much for personal freedom.)

          • It must be really difficult handling all the different time zones, with the different closing times. I can imagine people sitting at home watching TV and deciding there’s no point voting.

            I also think that the large number of states where the result is pretty much pre-determined and people think their vote won’t matter must make a difference, which is a fault in the design. We used to have a basic First Past the Post system, which meant parties were getting 15% of the vote but not a single seat in parliament. Also, the party with the most votes wasn’t necessarily the one with the most seats, so that was unfair too. We changed in 1993.

            If all a state’s votes go to whoever gets 50% + 1 for example, which is how I understand it works for most states, it seems really unfair. More proportionality would surely help.

            We don’t have compulsory voting, and 80% is a low turnout for us. Australia has compulsory voting, and just about gets it. I don’t like the idea of compulsory voting, but I can see the reasoning for it too. It makes people take ownership of the government, take an interest, and be involved.

          • j.a.m. says:

            Republicans are more likely than Democrats to respect the distinction between judges and legislators. Republican appointees are more likely to prevent both Congress and the federal judiciary from exceeding their enumerated constitutional powers. This makes it more likely, not less likely, that the government of each state will reflect the will of its people.

            Legalization of marijuana is up to legislators. If both federal and state law is reformed and harmonized, the courts really would have no role.

            A world where Citizens United makes democratic sense is a world that takes free speech seriously, and won’t allow politicians to control political speech.

          • How does Citizens United help free speech? (I’m genuinely asking – I don’t see it, and I’m interested to know what the arguments in favour of it could be.)

            We don’t have elected judges, or judges appointed by government. (Or police chiefs, or DAs, or any of the other multitude of offices you do.)

            We have public elections for parliament, mayors and councils, regional councillors (for managing the environment and similar) and district health boards. All other local, regional and national government appointments are made on merit, including the CEOS of all government ministries and departments and the head of the Reserve Bank (who is independent). Our Supreme Court doesn’t make political decisions as SCOTUS is often accused of. They decide solely on the basis of law. Most people couldn’t even tell you their names, let alone who they would vote for in an election.

          • j.a.m. says:

            37 states have early voting (Massachusetts among them), of which three have all-mail voting.

          • We have all mail voting for city/district, regional, and health board elections. They all have a very low turnout – maybe 40%? Not sure. Health boards haven’t been around that long and have always been postal. ?20 years. Can’t remember. We voted in the others in person on the same day. Councils have been gradually changing to postal – mine did at the last election – one of the last.

            On parliamentary election day, we vote in person, but you can vote early at a limited number of locations in each electorate. Not sure what the rules are because I’ve never done it. Low turnout is 80% – it’s usually higher, often well into the 90s. I think it was 79.something at the last election (2014).

          • Diane G. says:

            “We don’t have elected judges, or judges appointed by government.”

            So they just appoint themselves?

          • Here’s how it’s done, from:

            Judicial appointments are made by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the Attorney-General.

            For appointments to the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal and High Court, the Governor-General is advised by the Attorney-General who, by convention, receives advice from the Chief Justice and the Solicitor-General. For appointments to district courts, the Governor-General is advised by the Attorney-General who receives advice from the Chief District Court Judge and the Secretary for Justice.

            Although judicial appointments are made by the Executive, it is a strong constitutional convention in New Zealand that, in deciding who is to be appointed, the Attorney-General acts independently of party political considerations. Judges are appointed according to their qualifications, personal qualities, and relevant experience.

            Successive Attorneys-General have announced new systems designed to widen the search for potential candidates and increase the opportunity for input. Within the past 10 years the systems adopted by Attorneys-General have resulted in a more diversified judiciary. Judges have been appointed whose career paths have not been those of the conventional court advocate.

            The convention is that the Attorney-General mentions appointments at Cabinet after they have been determined. The appointments are not discussed or approved by Cabinet. The appointment process followed by the Attorney-General is not prescribed by any statute or regulation. From time to time it has been suggested that a more formal method for appointment of judges should be adopted but that course has not been followed. There is no suggestion that the present procedure has not served the country well.

            All superior court judges (Supreme Court, Court of Appeal and High Court) are High Court judges. Section 6 of the Judicature Act 1908 provides that no person shall be appointed a judge unless he or she has had a practising certificate as a barrister or solicitor for at least seven years. This is the bare minimum for appointment as a High Court judge. Judges also require much more than just experience in practice. They must be of good character, have a sound knowledge of the law and of its practice, and have a real sense of what justice means and requires in present-day New Zealand. They must have the discipline, capacity and insight to act impartially, independently and fairly.

            The governor-general is the Queen’s representative. The Attorney-General is elected to government as an MP, and appointed to that position by the prime minister. It’s an equivalent role to any other ministry such as Minister of Health, Minister of Education etc. All those people in NZ are first elected as MPs, then the prime minister selects the other ministers from the pool of elected MPs.

            So you could argue that the government does appoint the judges, but I would say a point is made of keeping the appointments non-political.

          • Diane G. says:

            If all a state’s votes go to whoever gets 50% + 1 for example, which is how I understand it works for most states, it seems really unfair. More proportionality would surely help.

            OMG yes! I am so in favor of doing away with the STUPID Electoral College! Also of letting everyone vote by mail. (Where that’s been implemented I believe overall participation has significantly increased.)

          • Diane G. says:

            We’re posting simultaneously. 🙂

            So you could argue that the government does appoint the judges, but I would say a point is made of keeping the appointments non-political.

            Thanks for all the info. Indeed, we seem to do anything but keep the appointments non-political.

            A couple of fun cartoons from the Alito confirmation hearings:


          • Ha ha! Very good. I especially like the “permission” one. 😀

          • Diane G. says:

            @ j.a.m.

            “37 states have early voting (Massachusetts among them), of which three have all-mail voting.”

            I should have mentioned that that memory comes from the early 80’s.

      • Diane G. says:

        Whoa, sorry for dominating your thread, here!

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