Yet Another GOP Debate

[ Posted Tuesday, November 10th, 2015 – 22:39 UTC ]

Tonight was debate night once again on the Republican side of the presidential contest, and so it's time once again for some snap debate reactions. As usual, I'm writing this before checking out what the rest of the punditocracy thought about things. We'll see, tomorrow, whether my opinions coincide with anyone else's, but for now they're just my honest reactions.

Both debates tonight were wrapped in cotton balls, with questions only from deep within the conservative media bubble. Only one question, during the "kid's table" debate, even came close to straying off the reservation, and it was promptly ignored by everyone on the stage. Perhaps because of this, there were no direct attacks on the moderators and very little interchange between any of the candidates (at least in the main event).

The undercard debate is best quickly forgotten, as they all are, really. Bobby Jindal was shouty. Chris Christie went for the high road, training his attacks solely on Hillary Clinton. The moderators were quite obviously also the "B Team," and asked nothing of any real note. The only interesting note was a bizarre one, when Bobby Jindal somehow tried to work a toilet-flushing metaphor into his contempt for all the other Republican candidates. Other than that, not much needs be said about the undercard.

The main debate's moderators, like all debates (Democratic and Republican, to be fair), had much more pompous moderators. Neil Cavuto, in particular, seemed very enamored of the sound of his own voice. Either that or he's a big fan of the William Shatner "introduce lots of random pauses" school of acting. Or something.

The main debate began with a weird introductory video and an explanation of the rules. A buzzer was previewed, after which one of the funnier lines of the night was uttered by one of the moderators: "It sounds like a game show, but it's not."

The main debate stage was smaller, as there were only eight candidates upon it. But you could tell there was a definite stench of desperation coming from two of these candidates, who know they might not be around for the next major debate. Both Carly Fiorina and John Kasich seemed acutely aware of their position of being one step away from getting bumped, and both tried their hardest to make a big splash. Kasich, in particular, was the most aggressive "I didn't get asked a question, but I'm just going to start talking anyway" guy on the stage, for the entire evening. I doubt it'll do him much good, though. The crowd didn't seem impressed in the slightest, with either his jumping in at random times or with much of anything Kasich had to say. Fiorina did her usual shtick, being as vicious as humanly possible to Hillary Clinton and anyone else she didn't approve of. To my ears, at least, this came off as flat and uninspired compared with some of her earlier debate performances. As I said, both candidates seemed desperate to impress, with little positive result.

The third candidate on the edge of being pushed off the main debate stage didn't seem as needy, as Rand Paul put in a fairly standard debate performance, for him. He had the usual bad things to say about the Federal Reserve and broke with much of the stage on military funding, again as usual for him. But, unlike Carly and Kasich, Rand seemed less desperate, somehow. I realize this is a fully subjective opinion, and perhaps it's just that I'm more used to seeing Paul speak than the other two.

Of the five candidates who actually have any sort of chance of winning the primaries, Jeb Bush also reeked of desperation. He's really trying his hardest to be more forceful, but he always seems to get lost in the weeds somewhere along the way. He wasn't as confrontational as his last debate performance, but he was trying mightily to sound mighty. To me, these attempts largely fell flat.

Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio both put in fairly standard debate performances for them, which seemed to work quite well for them in the last debate, so who knows what it'll do for their poll numbers -- perhaps they'll get another small bump each. Ben Carson looked, several times, like a deer in the headlights, but again that's fairly standard for him. Donald Trump was actually fairly subdued, as he was in the last debate.

There weren't a whole lot of fireworks between the candidates, actually. Maybe all the bad reviews from the previous debate meant the moderators didn't set any confrontations up, or maybe all the candidates were just mostly playing it safe tonight. Either way, there wasn't a whole lot of shouting or even talking over one another -- at least compared to the previous Republican debates.

OK, that's enough of an overview, let me check my notes for the blow-by-blow reactions I jotted down while losing three-plus hours of my life I'll never get back. Early on, there was a question about how Democratic presidents actually see more jobs added to the American economy than Republicans, which Carly Fiorina chose to completely ignore. Too much reality for her, I guess. Trump got a funny line off during one of Kasich's numerous interruptions (he jumped in right before Bush was about to get a question), when he told the moderators (and Kasich): "You should let Jeb speak." This was all in the midst of Bush and Kasich swimming against the Republican tide by noting that 11 million immigrants just will not be loaded up and shipped back to Mexico, no matter who is president. Trump confidently reminded everyone that President Eisenhower did this on a smaller scale way back when, but the optics of praising what was known as "Operation Wetback" seemed a trifle strange, in this day and age (Trump never actually used the term, I should mention, to be fair).

What else? Many on the stage seemed in love with the "flat tax" idea, which is no real surprise. Ted Cruz had a Rick Perry-style "oops" moment when he tried to list five federal agencies he'd eliminate (the same sort of list which tripped up Perry), and he cited the Department of Commerce as two of them. This will likely be the most-ridiculed moment from tonight's debate -- look for it on the news and in late-night comics' jokes soon! Marco Rubio followed this with a slip-up of his own, misstating "president" as the most important job while trying to say "parent," but it wasn't as amusing a gaffe as the Cruz-Perry "oops." Ted Cruz then actually brought up sugar subsidies, which means he likely doesn't care about winning Florida (where sugar subsidies are as big a deal as ethanol is in Iowa).

The funniest moment of the entire evening was provided by Rand Paul. Donald Trump was asked a question about the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, and spent most of his time badmouthing how China manipulates its currency. Paul waited for Trump to finish, and then right before a commercial break tossed out an inconvenient fact: "China is actually not part of this trade deal." The smack-down was pretty brilliantly done, I have to admit.

Ben Carson's worst deer-in-the-headlights moment came when he was asked about terrorism and the Middle East, as he gave an answer completely unconnected with reality in any fashion. Jeb Bush tried to get into it with Donald Trump on whether America should be the world's policeman, but his attack flailed limply and landed no real punches. Trump responded by saying he wanted to take all the Middle East's oil and give it to American veterans, or something (my mind was starting to cloud, by this point, I have to admit). Carly Fiorina tried to interject herself into this fracas several times, until Trump got off a pretty cutting remark of his own: "Why does she keep interrupting everybody?"

Jeb then tried -- I guess, it wasn't totally clear -- to make some sort of joke about how he had traveled to "Washington, Iowa," but he then stopped in the middle of what was supposed to be some sort of funny play on the town's name and just flailed around instead. You almost have to feel sorry for Jeb, at this point, watching him prove to the world what a bad campaigner he truly is.

Carson then returned for another headlight/deer moment, exposing his utter ignorance on what to do about "too big to fail" banks, the economy, and bailouts. Ted Cruz brought up a 100-year-old law called the "Dead Horse Act," but by this point I was too brain-numb to even do a web search to find out what the heck he was talking about. Kasich ended the night as he began, by trying to horn in on everyone else's answer time. Cruz sparred with him for a moment on big banks, and the audience wound up booing Kasich for some unfathomable reason.

This brought the debate towards its end, as Carly ranted about how Dodd-Frank was actually the beginning of socialism and the Consumer Financial Protection Board is actually the N.S.A. (or something). The audience got to boo Hillary Clinton's impressive résumé, and we were finally at the closing statement part of the show.

Rand Paul and John Kasich said some things, which I yawned through. Carly trotted out her whole "Hillary Clinton is the Devil" act one last time. Jeb spent his closing statement promising to fix the V.A., confusingly. Ted Cruz said his Dad was the best Dad ever. Rubio said something or another, but then I yawned again and didn't catch it. Ben Carson gave us some final Crazytown thoughts, and Trump ended with his standard "I'm great -- have you heard?" boilerplate.

Those were my reactions, for whatever they are worth. At some point I may decide watching these debates isn't worth the trouble any more, and tonight certainly took me a large step in that direction. I have no idea what others thought of the performances tonight, but I'm off to find out. I don't normally play the "who won and who lost" game with debates, and I certainly didn't see any clear winners tonight. As I mentioned, Carly Fiorina and John Kasich certainly looked desperate, but I don't know if that qualifies as "losing" the debate to anyone else or not. There weren't many personality clashes at all, which made for a pretty boring night all around.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


9 Comments on “Yet Another GOP Debate”

  1. [1] 
    Michale wrote:

    Well, take heart.. You can always watch all the Democrat Party "debates"..

    Oh, that's right. You don't have debates for a coronation.. :D


  2. [2] 
    TheStig wrote:

    CW- I spent way too much trying to get some streaming from the WSJ link, but all I got was a still of Bush and half an hr later a still of somebody else and some voice. At that point I said to myself "why not let Chris do it" and he you did so thanks. Looks like I didn't miss much. This morning, both Carson and Trump showed sharp dips at Betfair, nobody else moved much. The morning papers uniformly called it a stalemate. Maybe it's time to pull the plug on primary debates and just let the aspirants buy commercials...the pay to prattle approach.

  3. [3] 
    TheStig wrote:

    Here's an interesting headline from the NY Times:

    "Mixed Night in 'Strange' Christie's Contemporary and Postwar Sale.

    It's about a high end art auction, but why not re-purpose it for the under card debate?

  4. [4] 
    Paula wrote:

    I think the across-the-board refusal to raise minimum wage that came out of last night's exhibition is pretty significant. The entire platoon of idiots is sure people simply can't be paid a living wage if America is going to survive! May their remarks be hung around their respective necks going forward -- although, with the wealth of inanities and insanities to choose from, it's hard for any one atrocity to stand out.

    Meanwhile, I read somewhere yesterday -- need it to be confirmed -- that Carson is going to be a headliner at an ALEC event -- as if we needed further confirmation that he is a grifter trading on his supposed Christian-cred. Gag.

  5. [5] 
    Michale wrote:

    The entire platoon of idiots is sure people simply can't be paid a living wage if America is going to survive!

    Well, I am sure glad ya didn't get personal, eh? :D

    The problem with your "living wage" argument is it sounds too much like communism.. each according to their needs

    With that, it's not WHAT you do that is important.. It's what you "need" that determines pay scale..

    Here's a quaint notion that seems to be out of vogue with the Left Wingery...

    If you "need" more $$$, then EARN it!!!

    Whooaaaa!!!!! Whatta concept, eh!!?? :^/


  6. [6] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    TheStig -

    Actually, I streamed it from FBN site and it worked much better than the other debates I've had to stream -- fewer pauses for buffering, that sort of thing.

    It did, for some reason, have a lot of problem coming back from commercial breaks -- just got stuck in a loop and never returned to the live action after the break was over. Reloading the page after 2-3 min. fixed the problem, but it was weird.

    Next Dem debate is actually on broadcast TV! Woo hoo!


  7. [7] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Michale -

    No comment on my Captain Kirk reference? You're slipping, pal...



  8. [8] 
    Michale wrote:

    Well, I did notice the William Shatner reference.. :D

    I was at a loss for a witty rejoinder....

    "I must be tired.."


    Next Dem debate is actually on broadcast TV! Woo hoo!

    Yea, ya notice the time slot???

    The worst possible time slot for viewership. Dems might as well have their debates at 0200hrs on Monday morning...

    Apparently SOMEONE wants to protect the Chlorinated One... er... I mean, the CORONATED One... :D


  9. [9] 
    Michale wrote:

    It did, for some reason, have a lot of problem coming back from commercial breaks -- just got stuck in a loop and never returned to the live action after the break was over. Reloading the page after 2-3 min. fixed the problem, but it was weird.

    I am guessing it's a MAC issue.. :D heh


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