The GOP Debate Without the Bloat


I’m was feeling uneasy after watching the first major GOP debate, so I tried an experiment. I agreed with Mike Rapkoch’s observation that the format of the debate made it nearly impossible for me to get a good read on any of them. So I decided to take the transcript and edit it ruthlessly. I took out the long questions, then cut out all the repetition, meaningless words, well-trod political clichés, jokes, irrelevant meandering, crude but irrelevant appeal to emotion, and personal anecdotes. I left only specific, verifiable (and politically relevant) statements about what the candidates have done, statements about what they believe, and statements about their policy proposals. You can compare it to the full transcript, here. 

Basically, I got rid of all the rambling and flab.

Have a look. Does reading it this way give you a different sense of who stands for what, and how the candidates truly differ?


BAIER: Is there anyone on stage who is unwilling tonight to pledge your support to the eventual nominee of the Republican party and pledge to not run an independent campaign against that person.

TRUMP: I cannot say.

KELLY: Dr. Carson. You are a successful neurosurgeon, but you admit that you have had to study up on foreign policy, saying there’s a lot to learn. Your critics say that your inexperience shows. You’ve suggested that the Baltic States are not a part of NATO, just months ago you were unfamiliar with the major political parties and government in Israel, and domestically, you thought Alan Greenspan had been treasury secretary instead of federal reserve chair. Aren’t these basic mistakes, and don’t they raise legitimate questions about whether you are ready to be president?

CARSON: We will have an opportunity to explore those areas, and I’m looking very much forward to demonstrating that, in fact, the thing that is probably most important is having a brain, and to be able to figure things out and learn things very rapidly.

WALLACE: Senator Rubio, could you please address Governor Bush across the stage here, and explain to him why you, someone who has never held executive office, are better prepared to be president than he is, a man who you say did a great job running your state of Florida for eight years.

RUBIO: I’m not new to the political process. I was making a contribution as the speaker of the third largest and most diverse state in the country well before I even got into the Senate. This election cannot be a resume competition. It’s important to be qualified, but if this election is a resume competition, then Hillary Clinton’s gonna be the next president, because she’s been in office and in government longer than anybody else running here tonight. Here’s what this election better be about: This election better be about the future, not the past. It better be about the issues our nation and the world is facing today, not simply the issues we once faced. This country is facing an economy that has been radically transformed. You know, the largest retailer in the country and the world today, Amazon, doesn’t even own a single store? And these changes have been disruptive. They have changed people’s lives. The jobs that once sustained our middle class, they either don’t pay enough or they are gone, and we need someone that understands that as our nominee. If I’m our nominee, how is Hillary Clinton gonna lecture me about living paycheck to paycheck? I was raised paycheck to paycheck. How is she — how is she gonna lecture me — how is she gonna lecture me about student loans? I owed over $100,000 just four years ago. If I’m our nominee, we will be the party of the future.

BAIER: Governor Bush, you have insisted that you’re your own man. You say you have a life experience uniquely your own. Not your father’s, not your brother’s. But there are several opponents on this stage who get big- applause lines in early voting states with this line: quote, “the last thing the country needs is another Bush in the Oval Office.” So do you understand the real concern in this country about dynastic politics?

BUSH: Absolutely, I do. I’m gonna have to earn this. Maybe the barrier — the bar’s even higher for me. That’s fine. I’ve got a record in Florida. I’m proud of my dad, and I’m certainly proud of my brother. In Florida, they called me Jeb, because I earned it. I cut taxes every year, totaling $19 billion. We balanced every budget. We went from $1 billion of reserves to $9 billion of reserves. We were one of two states that went to AAA bond rating. They called me Veto Corleone, because I vetoed 2,500 separate line-items in the budget. I am my own man. I governed as a conservative, and I govern effectively. And the net effect was, during my eight years, 1.3 million jobs were created. We left the state better off because I applied conservative principles in a purple state the right way, and people rose up.

KELLY: Mr. Trump, one of the things people love about you is you speak your mind and you don’t use a politician’s filter. However, that is not without its downsides, in particular, when it comes to women. You’ve called women you don’t like “fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals.” Your Twitter account…

TRUMP: Only Rosie O’Donnell.

KELLY: No, it wasn’t. For the record, it was well beyond Rosie O’Donnell.

TRUMP: Yes, I’m sure it was.

KELLY: Your Twitter account has several disparaging comments about women’s looks. You once told a contestant on Celebrity Apprentice it would be a pretty picture to see her on her knees. Does that sound to you like the temperament of a man we should elect as president, and how will you answer the charge from Hillary Clinton, who was likely to be the Democratic nominee, that you are part of the war on women?

TRUMP: I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct. I’ve been challenged by so many people, and I don’t frankly have time for total political correctness. And to be honest with you, this country doesn’t have time either. This country is in big trouble. We don’t win anymore. We lose to China. We lose to Mexico both in trade and at the border. We lose to everybody. And frankly, what I say, and oftentimes it’s fun, it’s kidding.

WALLACE: Senator Cruz, Senator Paul said a few months ago he agrees with you on a number of issues, but he says you do nothing to grow the party. He says you feed red meat to the base, but you don’t reach out to minorities. You have a toxic relationship with GOP leaders in Congress. You even called the Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell a liar recently. How can you win in 2016 when you’re such a divisive figure?

CRUZ: Chris, I believe the American people are looking for someone to speak the truth. If you’re looking for someone to go to Washington, to go along to get along, to get — to agree with the career politicians in both parties who get in bed with the lobbyists and special interests, then I ain’t your guy. There is a reason that we have $18 trillion in debt. Because as conservatives, as Republicans, we keep winning elections. We got a Republican House, we’ve got a Republican Senate, and we don’t have leaders who honor their commitments. I will always tell the truth and do what I said I would do.

BAIER: Governor Christie, under your watch, New Jersey has undergone nine credit rating downgrades. The state’s 44th in private sector growth. You face an employee pension crisis and the Garden State has the third highest foreclosure rate in the country. So why should voters believe that your management of the country’s finances would be any different?

CHRISTIE: If you think it’s bad now, you should’ve seen it when I got there. The fact is, in the eight years before I became governor, taxes and fees were raised at the state level 115 times. In the eight years before I became governor, spending was increased 56 percent. And in the eight years before I become governor, taxes and fees were raised at the state level 115 times. In the eight years before I became Governor, spending was increased 56 percent, and in the eight years before I became governor, there was zero net private sector job growth in New Jersey. Zero. For eight years. So, what did we do? We came in, we balanced an $11 billion deficit on a $29 billion budget by cutting over 800 programs in the state budget. We brought the budget into balance with no tax increases. In fact, we vetoed five income tax increases during my time as governor. We cut business taxes $2.3 billion, and we cut regulation by one-third of what my predecessor put in place. And, what’s happened since? A hundred ninety-two thousand private sector jobs in the five and a half years I’ve been governor. We have a lot of work to do in New Jersey, but I am darn proud we’ve brought our state back.

KELLY: Governor Walker, you’ve consistently said that you want to make abortion illegal even in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother. You recently signed an abortion law in Wisconsin that does have an exception for the mother’s life, but you’re on the record as having objected to it. Would you really let a mother die rather than have an abortion, and with 83 percent of the American public in favor of a life exception, are you too out of the mainstream on this issue to win the general election?

WALKER: Well, I’m pro-life, I’ve always been pro-life, and I’ve got a position that I think is consistent with many Americans out there in that I believe that that is an unborn child that’s in need of protection out there, and I’ve said many a time that that unborn child can be protected, and there are many other alternatives that can also protect the life of that mother. That’s been consistently proven. Unlike Hillary Clinton, who has a radical position in terms of support for Planned Parenthood, I defunded Planned Parenthood more than four years ago, long before any of these videos came out.

WALLACE: Governor Huckabee, you have staked out strong positions on social issues. You favor a constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage. You favor a constitutional amendment banning abortions, except for the life of the mother. Millions of people in this country agree with you, but according to the polls, more people don’t, so how do you persuade enough Independents and Democrats to get elected in 2016?

HUCKABEE: Chris, I disagree with the idea that the real issue is a constitutional amendment. That’s a long and difficult process.  A lot of people are talking about defunding planned parenthood, as if that’s a huge game changer. I think it’s time to do something even more bold. I think the next president ought to invoke the Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the constitution now that we clearly know that that baby inside the mother’s womb is a person at the moment of conception. The reason we know that it is is because of the DNA schedule that we now have clear scientific evidence on. And, this notion that we just continue to ignore the personhood of the individual is a violation of that unborn child’s Fifth and 14th Amendment rights for due process and equal protection under the law. It’s time that we recognize the Supreme Court is not the supreme being, and we change the policy to be pro-life and protect children instead of rip up their body parts and sell them like they’re parts to a Buick.

BAIER: Senator Paul, you recently blamed the rise of ISIS on Republican hawks. You said, quote, “Everything they’ve talked about in foreign policy, they’ve been wrong for the last 20 years.” Why are you so quick to blame your own party?

PAUL: Only ISIS is responsible for the terrorism. Only ISIS is responsible for the depravity. But, we do have to examine, how are we going to defeat ISIS? I’ve got a proposal. I’m the leading voice in America for not arming the allies of ISIS. I’ve been fighting amidst a lot of opposition from both Hillary Clinton, as well as some Republicans who wanted to send arms to the allies of ISIS. ISIS rides around in a billion dollars worth of U.S. Humvees. It’s a disgrace. We’ve got to stop — we shouldn’t fund our enemies, for goodness sakes. So, we didn’t create ISIS — ISIS created themselves, but we will stop them, and one of the ways we stop them is by not funding them, and not arming them.

KELLY: Governor Kasich, You chose to expand Medicaid in your state, unlike several other governors on this stage tonight, and it is already over budget by some estimates costing taxpayers an additional $1.4 billion in just the first 18 months. You defended your Medicaid expansion by invoking God, saying to skeptics that when they arrive in heaven, Saint Peter isn’t going to ask them how small they’ve kept government, but what they have done for the poor. Why should Republican voters, who generally want to shrink government, believe that you won’t use your Saint Peter rationale to expand every government program?

KASICH: President Reagan expanded Medicaid three or four times. I had an opportunity to bring resources back to Ohio to do what? To treat the mentally ill. Ten thousand of them sit in our prisons. It costs $22,500 a yea: — to keep them in prison. I’d rather get them their medication so they could lead a decent life. Secondly, we are rehabbing the drug-addicted. Eighty percent of the people in our prisons have addictions or problems. We now treat them in the prisons, release them in the community and the recidivism rate is 10 percent and everybody across this country knows that the tsunami of drugs is — is threatening their very families. So we’re treating them and getting them on their feet. And, finally, the working poor, instead of them having come into the emergency rooms where it costs more, where they’re sicker and we end up paying, we brought a program in here to make sure that people could get on their feet. Our Medicaid is growing at one of the lowest rates in the country. We went from $8 billion in the hole to $2 billion in the black. We’ve cut $5 billion in taxes, and we’ve grown 350,000 jobs.

WALLACE: Governor Bush, you released a new plan this week on illegal immigration focusing on enforcement, which some suggest is your effort to show that you’re not soft on that issue. I want to ask you about a statement that you made last year about illegal immigrants. And here’s what you said. “They broke the law, but it’s not a felony, it’s an act of love. It’s an act of commitment to your family.” Do you stand by that statement and do you stand by your support for earned legal status?

BUSH: I do. I believe that the great majority of people coming here illegally have no other option. They want to provide for their family. But we need to control our border. It’s  our responsibility to pick and choose who comes in. I’ve written a book about this and this week I came up with a comprehensive strategy that mirrored what we said in the book, which is that we need to deal with E-Verify, we need to deal with people that come with a legal visa and overstay. We need to be much more strategic on how we deal with border enforcement, border security. We need to eliminate the sanctuary cities in this country. It is ridiculous and tragic that people are dying because of the fact that — that local governments are not following the federal law. I think rather than talking about this as a wedge issue, which Barack Obama has done now for six long years, the next president — and I hope to be that president — will fix this once and for all so that we can turn this into a driver for high sustained economic growth. And there should be a path to earned legal status for those that are here. Not — not amnesty, earned legal status, which means you pay a fine and do many things over an extended period of time.

WALLACE: Mr. Trump, you say that the Mexican government, the Mexican government is sending criminals — rapists, drug dealers, across the border. Governor Bush has called those remarks, quote, “extraordinarily ugly.” I’d like you — you’re right next to him — tell us — talk to him directly and say how you respond to that and — and you have repeatedly said that you have evidence that the Mexican government is doing this, but you have evidence you have refused or declined to share. Why not use this first Republican presidential debate to share your proof with the American people?

TRUMP: So, if it weren’t for me, you wouldn’t even be talking about illegal immigration. This was not a subject that was on anybody’s mind until I brought it up at my announcement. And I said, Mexico is sending. Except the reporters, because they’re a very dishonest lot, generally speaking, in the world of politics, they didn’t cover my statement the way I said it. The fact is, since then, many killings,murders, crime, drugs pouring across the border, are money going out and the drugs coming in. And I said we need to build a wall, and it has to be built quickly. And I don’t mind having a big beautiful door in that wall so that people can come into this country legally. But we need, Jeb, to build a wall, we need to keep illegals out.

WALLACE: What evidence do you have, specific evidence that the Mexican government is sending criminals across the border?

TRUMP: Border Patrol, I was at the border last week. Border Patrol, people that I deal with, that I talk to, they say this is what’s happening.

WALLACE: Governor Kasich, I want to ask you about the merit of what he just said.

KASICH: He’s got his solutions. Some of us have other solutions. You know, look, I balanced the federal budget as one of the chief architects when I was in Washington. Hasn’t been done since. I was a military reformer. I took the state of Ohio from an $8 billion hole and a 350,000 job loss to a $2 billion surplus and a gain of 350,000 jobs. Mr. Trump is touching a nerve because people want the wall to be built. They want to see an end to illegal immigration. They want to see it, and we all do. But we all have different ways of getting there.

WALLACE: Senator Rubio, is it as simple as our leaders are stupid, their leaders are smart, and all of these illegals coming over are criminals?

RUBIO: The evidence is now clear that the majority of people coming across the border are not from Mexico. They’re coming from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras. Those countries are the source of the people that are now coming in its majority. I also believe we need a fence. The problem is if El Chapo builds a tunnel under the fence, we have to be able to deal with that too. And that’s why you need an e-verify system and you need an entry-exit tracking system and all sorts of other things to prevent illegal immigration. But I agree with what Governor Kasich just said. People are frustrated. This is the most generous country in the world when it comes to immigration. There are a million people a year who legally immigrate to the United States, and people feel like we’re being taken advantage of. We feel like despite our generosity, we’re being taken advantage of. And let me tell you who never gets talked about in these debates. The people that call my office, who have been waiting for 15 years to come to the United States. And they’ve paid their fees, and they hired a lawyer, and they can’t get in. And they’re wondering, maybe they should come illegally. It’s a serious problem that needs to be addressed, and otherwise we’re going to keep talking about this for the next 30 years, like we have for the last 30 years.

WALLACE: Governor Walker, from 2002 until as recently as 2013, just two years ago, you supported comprehensive immigration reform, including a path to citizenship. Other than politics, could you explain why in the last two years you’ve changed your position on a path to citizenship, and are there other past positions that we shouldn’t hold you to?

WALKER: I actually listened to the American people. I talked to border state governors and other elected officials. I look at how this president, particularly through last November, messed up the immigration system in this country. I believe we need to secure the border. I’ve been to the border with Governor Abbott in Texas and others, seeing the problems that they have there. There is international criminal organizations penetrating our southern based borders, and we need to do something about it. Secure the border, enforce the law, no amnesty, and go forward with the legal immigration system that gives priority to American working families and wages.

WALLACE: Senator Cruz, will you support Kate Steinle’s Law, which would impose a mandatory five-year prison term for an illegal who is deported and then returns to this country? And will you defund sanctuary cities for violating federal law?

CRUZ: Yes. And not only will I support it, I authored Kate’s law in the United States Senate and filed that legislation. I tried to get the Senate to vote to pass Kate’s law on the floor of the Senate just one week ago, and the leader of our own party blocked a vote on Kate’s law. You know, there was reference made to our leaders being stupid. It’s not a question of stupidity. It’s that they don’t want to enforce the immigration laws. That there are far too many in the Washington cartel that support amnesty. President Obama has talked about fundamentally transforming this country. There’s 7 billion people across the face of the globe, many of whom want to come to this country. If they come legally, great. But if they come illegally and they get amnesty, that is how we fundamentally change this country, and it really is striking. A majority of the candidates on this stage have supported amnesty. I have never supported amnesty, and I led the fight against Chuck Schumer’s gang of eight amnesty legislation in the Senate.

KELLY: Governor Christie. You’ve said that Senator Paul’s opposition to the NSA’s collection of phone records has made the United States weaker and more vulnerable, even going so far as to say that he should be called before Congress to answer for it if we should be hit by another terrorist attack. Do you really believe you can assign blame to Senator Paul just for opposing he bulk collection of people’s phone records in the event of a terrorist attack?

CHRISTIE: Yes, I do. I’m the only person on this stage who’s actually filed applications under the Patriot Act, who has gone before the the Foreign Intelligence Service court, who has prosecuted and investigated and jailed terrorists in this country after September 11th. I was appointed U.S. attorney by President Bush on September 10th, 2001, and the world changed enormously the next day, and that happened in my state. This is not theoretical to me. When you actually have to be responsible for doing this, you can do it, and we did it, for seven years in my office, respecting civil liberties and protecting the homeland. We have to give more tools to our folks to be able to do that, not fewer, and then trust those people and oversee them to do it the right way. As president, that is exactly what I’ll do.

PAUL: I want to collect more records from terrorists, but less records from innocent Americans. The Fourth Amendment was what we fought the Revolution over. John Adams said it was the spark that led to our war for independence. I will continue to stand for the Bill of Rights.

CHRISTIE:  “I want to collect more records from terrorists, but less records from other people.” How are you supposed to know?

PAUL: Use the Fourth Amendment. Get a warrant. Get a judge to sign the warrant.

CHRISTIE: When you’re sitting in a subcommittee, just blowing hot air about this, you can say things like that. When you’re responsible for protecting the lives of the American people, then what you need to do is to make sure is to make sure that you use the system the way it’s supposed to work.

PAUL: You fundamentally misunderstand the Bill of Rights. Every time you did a case, you got a warrant from a judge. I’m talking about searches without warrants, indiscriminately, of all Americans’ records, and that’s what I fought to end. I don’t trust President Obama with our records.

FACEBOOK QUESTION: How would the candidates stop ISIS and its growing influence in the U.S?

KELLY: Senator Cruz, you asked the chairman of the joint chiefs a question: “What would it take to destroy ISIS in 90 days?” He told you “ISIS will only be truly destroyed once they are rejected by the populations in which they hide.” And then you accused him of pushing Medicaid for the Iraqis. How would you destroy ISIS in 90 days?

CRUZ: Megyn, we need a commander in chief that speaks the truth. We will not defeat radical Islamic terrorism so long as we have a president unwilling to utter the words, “radical Islamic terrorism.” When I asked General Dempsey, the chairman of the joint chiefs, what would be required militarily to destroy ISIS, he said there is no military solution. We need to change the conditions on the ground so that young men are not in poverty and susceptible to radicalization. That, with all due respect, is nonsense. It’s the same answer the State Department gave that we need to give them jobs. What we need is a commander in chief that makes — clear, if you join ISIS, if you wage jihad on America, then you are signing your death warrant.

KELLY: You don’t see it as an ideological problem — an ideological problem in addition to a military one?

CRUZ: Megyn, of course it’s an ideological problem, that’s one of the reasons I introduce the Expatriate Terrorist Act in the Senate that said if any American travels to the Middle East and joining ISIS, that he or she forfeits their citizenship so they don’t use a passport to come back and wage jihad on Americans.  Yes, it is ideological, and let me contrast President Obama, who at the prayer breakfast, essentially acted as an apologist. He said, “Well, gosh, the crusades, the inquisitions–” We need a president that shows the courage that Egypt’s President al-Sisi, a Muslim, when he called out the radical Islamic terrorists who are threatening the world.

KELLY: Governor Bush, for days on end in this campaign, you struggled to answer a question about whether knowing what we know now we would’ve invaded Iraq. ISIS, of course, is now thriving there. You finally said, “No.” To the families of those who died in that war who say they liberated and deposed a ruthless dictator, how do you look at them now and say that your brothers war was a mistake?

BUSH: Knowing what we know now, with faulty intelligence, and not having security be the first priority when — when we invaded, it was a mistake. I wouldn’t have gone in, however, for the people that did lose their lives, and the families that suffer because of it — I know this full well because as governor of the state of Florida, I called every one of them. Every one of them said that their child did not die in vain, or their wife, of their husband did not die in vain. Here’s the lesson that we should take from this, which relates to this whole subject, Barack Obama became president, and he abandoned Iraq. He left, and when he left Al Qaida was done for. ISIS was created because of the void that we left, and that void now exists as a caliphate the size of Indiana. To honor the people that died, we need to stop the Iran agreement, because the Iranian mullahs have their blood on their hands, and we need to take out ISIS with every tool at our disposal.

KELLY: Governor Walker, in February you said that we needed to gain partners in the Arab world. Which Arab country not already in the U.S. led coalition has potential to be our greatest partner?

WALKER: We need to focus on the ones we have. You look at Egypt, probably the best relationship we’ve had in Israel, at least in my lifetime, incredibly important. You look at the Saudis — in fact, earlier this year, I met with Saudi leaders, and leaders from the United Arab Emirates, and I asked them what’s the greatest challenge in the world today? Set aside the Iran deal. They said it’s the disengagement of America.

KELLY: Dr. Carson, in one of his first acts as commander in chief, President Obama signed an executive order banning enhanced interrogation techniques in fighting terror. As president, would you bring back water boarding?

CARSON: What we do in order to get the information that we need is our business, and I wouldn’t necessarily be broadcasting what we’re going to do. We’ve gotten into this mindset of fighting politically correct wars. There is no such thing as a politically correct war. The left, of course, will say Carson doesn’t believe in the Geneva Convention. Carson doesn’t believe in fighting stupid wars. We want to utilize the tremendous intellect that we have in the military to win wars. I’ve talked to a lot of the generals, a lot of our advanced people. If we gave them the mission, which is what the commander-in-chief does, they would be able to carry it out. And if we don’t tie their hands behind their back, they will do it extremely effectively.

BAIER: Mr. Trump, ObamaCare is one of the things you call a disaster.

TRUMP: A complete disaster, yes.

BAIER: Saying it needs to be repealed and replaced.

TRUMP: Correct.

BAIER: Now, 15 years ago, you called yourself a liberal on health care. You were for a single-payer system, a Canadian-style system. Why were you for that then and why aren’t you for it now?

TRUMP: In July of 2004, I came out strongly against the war with Iraq, because it was going to destabilize the Middle East. That’s exactly what happened. The Middle East became totally destabilized. As far as single payer, it works in Canada. It works incredibly well in Scotland. It could have worked in a different age, which is the age you’re talking about here. What I’d like to see is a private system without the artificial lines around every state. I have a big company with thousands and thousands of employees. And if I’m negotiating in New York or in New Jersey or in California, I have like one bidder. Nobody can bid. Because the insurance companies are making a fortune because they have control of the politicians, of course, with the exception of the politicians on this stage. But they have total control of the politicians. They’re making a fortune. Get rid of the artificial lines and you will have yourself great plans. And then we have to take care of the people that can’t take care of themselves. And I will do that through a different system.

PAUL: The Republican Party’s been fighting against a single-payer system for a decade. So I think you’re on the wrong side of this if you’re still arguing for a single-payer system.

TRUMP: I’m not.

BAIER:  Mr. Trump, you’ve also supported a host of other liberal policies. You’ve donated to several Democratic candidates, Hillary Clinton included, Nancy Pelosi. You explained away those donations saying you did that to get business-related favors. And you said recently, quote, “When you give, they do whatever the hell you want them to do.”

TRUMP: You’d better believe it.

BAIER: So what specifically did they do?

TRUMP: Most of the people on this stage I’ve given to, just so you understand, a lot of money. I will tell you that our system is broken. I gave to many people, before this, before two months ago, I was a businessman. I give to everybody. When they call, I give. And do you know what? When I need something from them two years later, three years later, I call them, they are there for me. And that’s a broken system. Well, I’ll tell you what, with Hillary Clinton, I said be at my wedding and she came to my wedding. You know why? She didn’t have a choice because I gave. I gave to a foundation that, frankly, that foundation is supposed to do good. I didn’t know her money would be used on private jets going all over the world.

BAIER:  Governor Huckabee, on Facebook, John Pietricone asked this, “Will you abolish or take away the powers and cut the size of the EPA, the IRS, the Department of Education?” The size of government is a big concern for Facebook users, Facebook persons, as well as, obviously, conservatives. But year after year, decade after decade, there are promises from Republicans to shrink government. But year after year, decade after decade, it doesn’t happen. In fact, it gets bigger, even under Republican politicians. So the question is, at this point, is the government simply too big for any one person, even a Republican, to shrink?

HUCKABEE: It’s not too big to shrink. But the problem is we have a Wall Street-to-Washington access of power that has controlled the political climate. The donor class feeds the political class who does the dance that the donor class wants. And the result is federal government keeps getting bigger. Every person on this stage who has been a governor will tell that you the biggest fight they had was not the other party. Wasn’t even the legislature. It was the federal government, who continually put mandates on the states that we had to suck up and pay for. And the fact is there are a lot of things happening at the federal level that are absolutely beyond the jurisdiction of the Constitution. This is power that should be shifted back to the states, whether it’s the EPA, there is no role at the federal level for the Department of Education. And I’m still one who says that we can get rid of the Internal Revenue Service if we would pass the fair tax, which is a tax on consumption rather than a tax on people’s income, and move power back where the founders believed it should have been all along.

CARSON: I agree we need a significantly changed taxation system. The one that I’ve advocated is based on tithing. That’s why I’ve advocated a proportional tax system. You make $10 billion, you pay a billion. You make $10, you pay one. And everybody gets treated the same way. And you get rid of the deductions, you get rid of all the loopholes.

BAIER: Governor Bush, you are one of the few people on the stage who advocates for Common Core education standards, reading and math. A lot of people on this stage vigorously oppose federal involvement in education. They say it should all be handled locally. President Obama’s secretary of education, Arnie Duncan, has said that most of the criticism of Common Core is due to a, quote, “fringe group of critics.” Do you think that’s accurate?

BUSH: No, I don’t. And I don’t believe the federal government should be involved in the creation of standards directly or indirectly, the creation of curriculum or content. It is clearly a state responsibility. I’m for higher standards, measured in an intellectually honest way, with abundant school choice, ending social promotion. And I know how to do this because as governor of the state of Florida I created the first statewide voucher program in the country, the second statewide voucher program, in the country and the third statewide voucher program in the country. And we had rising student achievement across the board, because high standards, robust accountability, ending social promotion in third grade, real school choice across the board, challenging the teachers union and beating them is the way to go. And Florida’s low income kids had the greatest gains inside the country. Our graduation rate improved by 50 percent.

BAIER: Senator Rubio, why is Governor Bush wrong on Common Core?

RUBIO: Well, first off, I too believe in curriculum reform. It is critically important in the 21st Century. And it should happen at the state and local level. That is where educational policy belongs, because if a parent is unhappy with what their child is being taught in school, they can go to that local school board or their state legislature, or their governor and get it changed. Here’s the problem with Common Core. The Department of Education, like every federal agency, will never be satisfied. They will not stop with it being a suggestion. They will turn it into a mandate. In fact, what they will begin to say to local communities is, you will not get federal money unless do you things the way we want you to do it. And they will use Common Core or any other requirements that exists nationally to force it down the throats of our people in our states.

BAIER: And do you agree with your old friend?

BUSH: He is definitely my friend. I think the states ought to create these standards. And if states want to opt out of Common Core, fine. Just make sure your standards are high. Because today in America, a third of our kids, after we spend more per student than any country in the world other than a couple rounding errors, to be honest with you, 30 percent are college- and/or career-ready. If we are going to compete in this world we’re in today, there is no possible way we can do it with lowering expectations and dumbing down everything. Children are going to suffer and families’ hearts are going to be broken that their kids won’t be able to get a job in the 21st Century.

WALLACE: Governor Kasich, it looks at least for now like whoever that nominee is, he or she, will be facing off against Hillary Clinton. You know how she will come after whoever the Republican nominee is. She will say that you, whoever it is, support the rich while she supports the middle class. That you want to suppress the rights of women and minorities. She wants to move the country forward while you, the Republicans, want to take the country back to the past. How will you, if you’re the nominee, how will you answer that and take Hillary Clinton on?

KASICH: Let’s start off with my father being a mailman. So I understand the concerns of all the folks across this country, some of whom having trouble, you know, making ends meet. But I think she will come in a narrow way. The nominee of this party, if they’re going to win, has got to come at it in a big way, which is pro-growth. Which is balancing budgets. You know, we were talking about it. People were saying, could we do it? I was the chairman of the Budget Committee and the lead architect the last time it happened in Washington, and when we did it we had great economic growth, we cut taxes, and we had a big surplus. Economic growth is the key. Economic growth is the key to everything. But once you have economic growth, it is important that we reach out to people who live in the shadows, the people who don’t seem to ever think that they get a fair deal. And that includes people in our minority community; that includes people who feel as though they don’t have a chance to move up.

WALLACE: Dr. Carson. Basically, same question to you. If Hillary Clinton is the nominee and she comes at you with that kind of line of attack, how will you take Iraq?

CARSON: The way I will come at it is to educate people, help people to actually understand that it is that progressive movement that is causing them the problems. You know, you look at the — the national debt and how it’s being driven up. If I was trying to destroy this country, what I would do is find a way to drive wedges between all the people, drive the debt to an unsustainable level, and then step off the stage as a world leader and let our enemies increase while we decreased our capacity as a military person. And that’s what she’s doing.

WALLACE: Governor Bush, you have made a bold promise in your announcement. You have promised four percent economic growth and 19 million new jobs if you serve two terms as president. That many jobs, 19 million, would be triple what your father and your brother accomplished together. And four percent growth, the last president to average that was Lyndon Johnson during the height of the Vietnam War. So question, how specifically would you pull that off?

BUSH: We’ve done it 27 times since World War II. The new normal of two percent that the left is saying you can’t do anything about is so dangerous for our country. There’s 6 million people living in poverty today, more than when Barack Obama got elected. 6.5 million people are working part-time, most of whom want to work full-time. We’ve created rules and taxes on top of every aspiration of people, and the net result is we’re not growing fast, income is not growing. A four percent growth strategy means you fix a convoluted tax code. You get in and you change every aspect of regulations that are job killers. You get rid of Obamacare and replace it with something that doesn’t suppress wages and kill jobs. You embrace the energy revolution in our country. This president and Hillary Clinton, who can’t even say she’s for the X.L. pipeline even after she’s left? Give me a break. Of course we’re for it. We should be for these things to create high sustained economic growth. And frankly, fixing our immigration system and turning it into an economic driver is part of this as well.

WALLACE: Governor Walker, when you ran for governor of Wisconsin back in 2010, you promised that you would create 250,000 jobs in your first term, first four years. In fact, Wisconsin added barely half that and ranked 35th in the country in job growth. Now you’re running for president, and you’re promising an economic plan in which everyone will earn a piece of the American dream. Given your record in Wisconsin, why should voters believe you?

WALKER: Before I came in, the unemployment rate was over eight percent. It’s now down to 4.6 percent. We’ve more than made up for the jobs that were lost during the recession. And the rate in which people are working is almost five points higher than it is nationally. People, not the government, creates jobs. And one of the best things we can do is get the government out of the way, repeal Obamacare, put in — reign in all the out of control regulations, put in place and all of the above energy policy, give people the education, the skills that the need to succeed, and lower the tax rate and reform the tax code. That’s what I’ll do as president.

WALLACE: Governor Christie, you say that to save the system that you want to raise the retirement age and cut benefits for Social Security and Medicare, and you say that some of the candidates here on the stage are lying. Governor Huckabee says he can save Social Security and Medicare without doing any of that. Is he lying?

CHRISTIE: No, he’s not lying, he’s just wrong. I’ve put out a detailed, 12 point plan on entitlement reform, because 71% of federal spending right now is on entitlements and debt service. And we have spent the last hour and five minutes talking about the other 29%, and no time on the 71%, and that makes no sense. Now, let me tell you exactly what we would do on Social Security. Yes, we’d raise the retirement age two years, and phase it in over 25 years, that means we’d raise it one month a year for 25 years when we’re all living longer, and living better lives. Secondly, we would needs test Social Security for those who are making over $200,000 dollars a year in retirement income, and have $4 to $5 million dollars in liquid assets saved. They don’t need that Social Security check. Social Security is meant to be — to make sure that no one who’s worked hard, and played by the rules, and paid into the system grows old in poverty in America. If we don’t deal with this problem, it will bankrupt our country, or lead to massive tax increases.

WALLACE: Governor Huckabee? You say that changing entitlements, the kind of thing that Governor Christie is talking about, would be breaking a promise to the American people, and you say that you can keep those programs, save Social Security, save Medicare, without those kinds of reforms through a Fair tax, which is a broad tax on consumption. Please explain to Governor Christie how that would work, and how you could save these programs without the kind of painful reforms he says we need?

HUCKABEE: 60 million Americans are on Social Security. A third of those people depend on 90% of their income from Social Security. Nobody in this country is on Social Security because they made the decision when they were starting work at 14 that they wanted to trust some of their money with the government. The government took it out of their check whether they wanted them to or not. And, if person goes to 65, they’re going to spend 51 years with the government reaching into their pocket at every paycheck. Now, here’s the point, whose fault is it that the system is screwed up? Is it the recipients, or is it the government? And, if Congress wants to mess with the retirement program, why don’t we let them start by changing their retirement program, and not have one, instead of talking about getting rid of Social Security and Medicare that was robbed $700 billion dollars to pay for Obamacare. It’s always that the government figures that they can do this off the backs of people, many of whom are poor, and depend on that money, and I just think it’s fundamentally lying to people and stealing from them, and we shouldn’t be doing it.

CHRISTIE: I don’t disagree with ending Congress’ retirement program. I’m a governor, I don’t have a retirement program in my state. But the lying and stealing has already occurred. The trust fund is filled with IOUs. We can’t fix the problem just by ending Congress’ retirement, that’s worth about, “this” much. We need to go at the fundamental problem, and the fundamental problem is that this system is broken.

HUCKABEE: One of the reasons that Social Security is in so much trouble is that the only funding stream comes from people who get a wage. The people who get wages is declining dramatically. Most of the income in this country is made by people at the top who get dividends and — and capital gains. The fair tax transforms the process by which we fund Social Security and Medicare because the money paid in consumption is paid by everybody, including illegals, prostitutes, pimps, drug dealers, all the people that are freeloading off the system now.

WALLACE: Mr. Trump, Trump corporations — Trump corporations, casinos and hotels, have declared bankruptcy four times over the last quarter-century. In 2011, you told Forbes Magazine this: “I’ve used the laws of the country to my advantage.” But at the same time, financial experts involved in those bankruptcies say that lenders to your companies lost billions of dollars. With that record, why should we trust you to run the nation’s business?

TRUMP: Because I have used the laws of this country just like the greatest people that you read about every day in business have used the laws of this country, the chapter laws, to do a great job for my company, for myself, for my employees, for my family, et cetera. I have never gone bankrupt, by the way. I have never. But out of hundreds of deals…

WALLACE: That’s your line, but your companies have gone bankrupt.

TRUMP: Out of hundreds of deals that I’ve done, hundreds, on four occasions I’ve taken advantage of the laws of this country, like other people. Virtually every person that you read about on the front page of the business sections, they’ve used the law. The fact is, I built a net worth of more than $10 billion. I employ thousands of people.

WALLACE: Let’s just talk about the latest example, which is Trump Entertainment Resorts, which went bankrupt in 2009. In that case alone, lenders to your company lost over $1 billion and more than 1,100 people were laid off.Is that the way that you’d run the country?

TRUMP: These lenders aren’t babies. These are total killers. I had the good sense to leave Atlantic City. Caesars just went bankrupt. Every company virtually in Atlantic City went bankrupt. Seven years ago I left Atlantic City before it totally cratered, and I made a lot of money in Atlantic City. This country right now owes $19 trillion.

FACEBOOK QUESTION: Please describe one action you would do to make the economic environment more favorable for small businesses and entrepreneurs and anyone dreaming of opening their own business.

RUBIO: It begins by having leaders that recognize that the economy we live in today is dramatically different from the one we had five years ago. It’s an economy that now has placed us in global competition with dozens of other countries around the world. Now, the big companies that have connections with Washington, they can affect policies to help them, but the small companies like the one Tania is talking about, they’re the ones that are struggling. The first thing we need to do is we need to even out the tax code for small businesses so that we lower their tax rate to 25 percent, just as we need to lower it for all businesses. We need to have a regulatory budget in America that limits the amount of regulations on our economy. We need to repeal and replace Obamacare and we need to improve higher education so that people can have access to the skills they need for 21st century jobs. And last but not least, we need to repeal Dodd-Frank. It is eviscerating small businesses and small banks. 20 — over 40 percent of small and mid-size banks that loan money to small businesses have been wiped out over the — since Dodd-Frank has passed.

BAIER: Governor Walker. You’ve said that you would tear up the Iran deal on day one. If this deal is undone, what then?

WALKER: Iran is not a place we should be doing business with. To me, you terminate the deal on day one, you reinstate the sanctions authorized by Congress, you go to Congress and put in place even more crippling sanctions in place, and then you convince our allies to do the same. This is not just bad with Iran, this is bad with ISIS. It is tied together.

BAIER: Senator Paul, would you tear up the deal on day one?

PAUL: I oppose the Iranian deal, and will vote against it. I don’t think that the president negotiated from a position of strength, but I don’t immediately discount negotiations. I’m a Reagan conservative. Reagan did negotiate with the Soviets. But you have to negotiate from a position of strength, and I think President Obama gave away too much, too early. If there’s going to be a negotiation, you’re going to have to believe somehow that the Iranians are going to comply. I asked this question to John Kerry, I said “do you believe they’re trustworthy?” and he said “No.” And I said, “well, how are we gonna get them to comply?” I would have never released the sanctions before there was consistent evidence of compliance.

HUCKABEE: The reason we disagree with [Obama] has nothing to do with party. It has to do with the incredibly dangerous place that this world is gonna be as a result of a deal in which we got nothing. We didn’t even get four hostages out. We got nothing, and Iran gets everything they want. We said we would have anywhere, anytime negotiations and inspections, we gave that up. We said that we would make sure that they didn’t have any nuclear capacity, we gave that up. The president can’t tell you what we got. I’ll tell you what the world got. The world has a burgeoning nuclear power that didn’t, as the Soviets, say “we might defend ourselves in a war.” What the Iranians have said is, “we will wipe Israel off the face of the map, and we will bring death to America.” We need to take that seriously.

KELLY: Senator Rubio, you favor a rape and incest exception to abortion bans. Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York just said yesterday those exceptions are preposterous. He said they discriminate against an entire class of human beings. If you believe that life begins at conception, as you say you do, how do you justify ending a life just because it begins violently, through no fault of the baby?

RUBIO: I have never said that. And I have never advocated that. What I have advocated is that we pass law in this country that says all human life at every stage of its development is worthy of protection. In fact, I think that law already exists. It is called the Constitution of the United States. I believe that every single human being is entitled to the protection of our laws, whether they can vote or not. Whether they can speak or not. Whether they can hire a lawyer or not. Whether they have a birth certificate or not. And I think future generations will look back at this history of our country and call us barbarians for murdering millions of babies who we never gave them a chance to live.

KELLY: Mr. Trump, in 1999, you said you were, quote, “very pro- choice.” Even supporting partial-birth abortion. You favored an assault weapons ban as well. In 2004, you said in most cases you identified as a Democrat. When did you actually become a Republican?

TRUMP: I’ve evolved on many issues over the years. And you know who else has? Ronald Reagan evolved on many issues. And I am pro-life. And if you look at the question, I was in business. They asked me a question as to pro-life or choice. And I said if you let it run, that I hate the concept of abortion. And what happened is friends of mine years ago were going to have a child, and it was going to be aborted. And it wasn’t aborted. And that child today is a total superstar, a great, great child. And I saw that. And I saw other instances. And I am very, very proud to say that I am pro-life. As far as being a Republican is concerned, I come from a place, New York City, which is virtually, I mean, it is almost exclusively Democrat. And I have really started to see some of the negatives — as an example, and I have a lot of liking for this man, but the last number of months of his brother’s administration were a catastrophe. And unfortunately, those few months gave us President Obama. And you can’t be happy about that.

KELLY: Governor Bush, I want to ask you, on the subject of name calling of your fellow candidates, a story appeared today quoting an anonymous GOP donor who said you called Mr. Trump a clown, a buffoon, something else that cannot be repeated on television.

BUSH: None of which is true. It’s not true. But I have said that Mr. Trump’s language is divisive. I want to win. I want one of these people here or the ones at 5:00, to be the next president of the United States. We’re not going on win by doing what Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton do each and every day. Dividing the country. Saying, creating a grievance kind of environment. We’re going to win when we unite people with a hopeful, optimistic message. I have that message because I was a governor of a state that saw people lifted up, because we had high sustained economic growth. Our economy grew at double the rate of the nation. We created 1.3 million jobs. We led the nation seven out of those eight years. We were only one of two states that went to AAA bond rating. I cut taxes, $19 billion. If you do that and apply conservative principles the right way, you create an environment where everybody rises up.

TRUMP: The one thing he did say about me, however, was my tone. But when you have people that are cutting Christians’ heads off, when you have a world that the border and at so many places, that it is medieval times, we’ve never — it almost has to be as bad as it ever was in terms of the violence and the horror, we don’t have time for tone.

KELLY:  Governor Kasich, if you had a son or daughter who was gay or lesbian, how would you explain to them your opposition to same-sex marriage?

KASICH: Well, look, I’m an old-fashioned person here, and I believe in traditional marriage. But I’ve also said the court has ruled, and I said we’ll accept it. I just went to a wedding of a friend of mine who happens to be gay. Because somebody doesn’t think the way I do, doesn’t mean that I can’t care about them or can’t love them. So if one of my daughters happened to be that, of course I would love them and I would accept them. That’s what we’re taught when we have strong faith. God gives me unconditional love. I’m going to give it to my family and my friends and the people around me.

MEGAN: Senator Paul, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling on same sex marriage, Carol Fox on Facebook want to know the following. “What will you do to ensure Christians are not prosecuted for speaking out against gay marriage and will Christians be forced to conduct business that conflicts with their religious beliefs?”

PAUL: Look, I don’t want my marriage or my guns registered in Washington. And if people have an opinion, it’s a religious opinion that is heartly felt, obviously they should be allowed to practice that and no government should interfere with them. One of the things that really got to me was the thing in Houston where you had the government, the mayor actually, trying to get the sermons of ministers. When the government tries to invade the church to enforce its own opinion on marriage, that’s when it’s time to resist.

MEGAN: Governor Walker, many in the Black Live Matter movement, and beyond, believe that overly-aggressive police officers targeting young African Americans is the civil rights issue of our time. Do you agree? And if so, how do you plan to address it? And if not, why not?

CARSON: Well, what we have to stop and think about is that we have weakened ourselves militarily to such an extent that if affects all of our military policies. Our Navy is at its smallest size since 1917; our Air Force, since 1940. In recent testimony, the commandant of the Marine Corps said half of the non-deployed units were not ready and you know, the sequester is cutting the heart out of our personnel. Our generals are retiring because they don’t want to be part of this, and at the same time, our enemies are increasing. Our — our friends can’t trust us anymore. You know, Ukraine was a nuclear-armed state. They gave away their nuclear arms with the understanding that we would protect them. We won’t even give them offensive weapons. We turned our back on Israel, our ally. I would shore up our military first, because if you don’t get the military right, nothing else is going to work.

BAIER: Governor Walker, as president, what would you do if Russian President Vladimir Putin started a campaign to destabilize NATO allies Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, mirroring the actions Putin took at the early days of Ukraine?

WALKER: Well first off, for the cyber attack with Russia the other day, it’s sad to think right now, but probably the Russian and Chinese government know more about Hillary Clinton’s e-mail server than do the members of the United States Congress. That has put our national security at risk. If I am president, he won’t think about that. You know, Putin believes in the old Lenin adage: you probe with bayonets. When you find mush, you push. When you find steel, you stop. Under Obama and Clinton, we found a lot of mush over the last two years. We need to have a national security that puts steel in front of our enemies. I would send weapons to Ukraine. I would work with NATO to put forces on the eastern border of Poland and the Baltic nations, and I would reinstate, put in place back in the missile defense system that we had in Poland and in the Czech Republic. We define steel.

BAIER: Governor Huckabee, the culture of the American military is definitely changing. Women are moving into combat roles. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell has obviously been dropped. And now Defense Secretary Ashton Carter recently directed the military to prepare for a moment when it is welcoming transgender persons to serve openly. As commander in chief, how would you handle that?

HUCKABEE: The military is not a social experiment. The purpose of the military is kill people and break things. It’s not to transform the culture by trying out some ideas that some people think would make us a different country and more diverse. The purpose is to protect America. I’m not sure how paying for transgender surgery for soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines makes our country safer. We’ve reduced the military by 25 percent under President Obama. The disaster is that we’ve forgotten why we have a military. The purpose of it is to make sure that we protect every American, wherever that American is, and if an American is calling out for help, whether it’s in Benghazi or at the border, then we ought to be able to answer it. We’ve not done that because we’ve decimated our military. We’re flying B-52s. The most recent one that was put in service was November of 1962. A lot of the B-52s we’re flying, we’ve only got 44 that are in service combat ready, and the fact is, most of them are older than me.

BAIER: Senator Paul, the first budget your proposed as senator cut all financial aid to Israel. You have since changed your view on that issue. What made you change your mind.

PAUL: I’m the only one on the stage who actually has a five-year budget that balances. I’ve put pencil to paper and I’ve said I would cut spending, and I’ve said exactly where. Each one of my budgets has taken a meat axe to foreign aid, because I think we ought to quit sending it to countries that hate us. I think we ought to quit sending it to countries that burn our flag. Israel is not one of those. But even Benjamin Netanyahu said that ultimately, they will be stronger when they’re independent. My position is exactly the same. We shouldn’t borrow money from China to send it anywhere, but why don’t we start with eliminating aid to our enemies.

BAIER: OK. But you still say that Israel could be one of the countries that is cut from financial aid?

PAUL: I still say exactly what my original opinion is. Do you borrow money from China to send it to anyone? Out of your surplus, you can help your allies, and Israel is a great ally. And this is no particular animus of Israel, but we cannot give away money we don’t have. We do not project power from bankruptcy court. We’re borrowing a million dollars a minute. It’s got to stop somewhere.

BAIER: Governor Christie, what do you think of that answer?

CHRISTIE:  I agree with what Dr. Carson said earlier. The first thing we need to do to make America stronger is to strengthen our military, and I put out a really specific plan: no less than 500,000 active duty soldiers in the Army. No less than 185,000 active duty marines in the Marine Corps. Bring us to a 350 ship Navy again, and modernize the Ohio class of submarines, and bring our Air Force back to 2,600 aircraft that are ready to go. Those are the kind of things that are going to send a clear message around the world. I don’t disagree with Senator Paul’s position that we shouldn’t be funding our enemies. But I absolutely believe that Israel is a priority to be able to fund and keep them strong and safe after eight years of this administration.

FACEBOOK QUESTION: “I want to know if any of them have received a word from God on what they should do and take care of first.”

CRUZ: Well, I am blessed to receive a word from God every day in receiving the scriptures and reading the scriptures. And God speaks through the Bible. I would also note that the scripture tells us, “you shall know them by their fruit.”

KASICH: I do believe in miracles.

WALKER: I’m certainly an imperfect man. And it’s only by the blood of Jesus Christ that I’ve been redeemed from my sins. So I know that God doesn’t call me to do a specific thing, God hasn’t given me a list, a Ten Commandments, if you will, of things to act on the first day. What God calls us to do is follow his will. And ultimately that’s what I’m going to try to do.

RUBIO: I think God has blessed us. He has blessed the Republican Party with some very good candidates. The Democrats can’t even find one. And I believe God has blessed our country. This country has been extraordinarily blessed. And we have honored that blessing. And that’s why God has continued to bless us. And he has blessed us with young men and women willing to risk their lives and sometimes die in uniform for the safety and security of our people. Unfortunately today we have a VA that does not do enough for them. I am proud that last year we helped change the law. We changed the law to give the power to the VA secretary the ability to fire any executive that isn’t doing their job. And it is outrageous they’ve only fired one person to date. When I’m president of the United States, we’re going to have a VA that cares more about our veterans than about the bureaucrats who work at the VA.

CARSON: Well, I think the bully pulpit is a wonderful place to start healing that divide. You know, we have the purveyors of hatred who take every single incident between people of two races and try to make a race war out of it, and drive wedges into people. And this does not need to be done. I was asked by an NPR reporter once, why don’t I talk about race that often. I said it’s because I’m a neurosurgeon. And she thought that was a strange response. I said, you see, when I take someone to the operating room, I’m actually operating on the thing that makes them who they are. The skin doesn’t make them who they are. We are the United States of America, not the divided states.


KASICH: I was a member of the Armed Services Committee for 18 years. I spent a big chunk of my life studying national security issues and our role in the world. I was the chairman of the House Budget Committee and one of the chief architects the last time we balanced a budget, and it was the first time we had done it since man walked on the moon. We had a $5 trillion surplus and we cut taxes. I spent ten years in the private sector, actually learning how business works. And now I’m the governor of Ohio, and I inherited a state that was on the brink of dying. We turned it all around with jobs and balanced budgets and rising credit and tax cuts, and the state is unified, and people have hope again in Ohio.

CHRISTIE: I was born into a middle class family in New Jersey. My dad came home from serving in the Army after having lost his father, worked in the Breyers ice cream plant in Newark, New Jersey. Was the first person to graduate from college. He put himself through college at night. My mom was a secretary. I was appointed United States attorney on September 10, 2001. And I spent the next seven years of my career fighting terrorism and putting terrorists in jail. I’m a conservative, pro-life governor in a state where it is really tough to be both. A state like New Jersey, with lots of Democrats, but still we cut taxes, we balanced budgets. We fought the teacher’s union. This president has had weak leadership, which has led to bad choices. We have got to stop worrying about being loved and start worrying about being respected. And that’s exactly how I’ll lead our country.

PAUL: I’m a different kind of Republican. I’ve introduced a five-year balanced budget. I’ve introduced the largest tax cut in our history. I stood for ten and a half hours on the Senate floor to defend your right to be left alone. I’m the only one that leads Hillary Clinton in five states that were won by President Obama.

RUBIO: Both of my parents were born into poor families on the island of Cuba. They came to America because it was the only place where people like them could have a chance. Here in this country, they never made it big, but the very purpose of their life was to give us the chance to do all the things they never could. My father was a bartender. And the journey from the back of that bar to this stage tonight, to me, that is the essence of the American dream. It is what makes our nation different. And I’m running for president because I want that to still be possible for the people trying to do that now. I run for president because I believe that we can’t just save the American dream; we can expand it to reach more people and change more lives than ever before.

CRUZ: If I’m elected president, let me tell you about my first day in office. The first thing I intend to do is to rescind every illegal and unconstitutional executive action taken by Barack Obama. The next thing I intend to do is instruct the Department of Justice to open an investigation into these videos and to prosecute Planned Parenthood for any criminal violations.  The next thing I intend to do is instruct the Department of Justice and the IRS to start (sic) persecuting religious liberty, and then intend to cancel the Iran deal, and finally move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

CARSON:  I’m the only one to separate siamese twins. The only one to operate on babies while they were still in mother’s womb, the only one to take out half of a brain, although you would think, if you go to Washington, that someone had beat me to it.

HUCKABEE: I think America  is in trouble, but it’s not beyond repair. But it’s going to take leadership who sees the greatness of this country, and who believes that once again we can be one nation, under God. I’ll be my best to do that, and thank you for your support.

WALKER: I’m guy with a wife and two kids, and Harley. One article called me “aggressively normal.” I ran for governor because I was worried about my kids’ future. Then, I took on the big government union bosses, and we won. They tried to recall me, and we won. They target us again, and we won. We balanced the budget, cut taxes, and turned our state around with big, bold reforms. It wasn’t too late for Wisconsin, and it’s not too late for America. That’s why I ask for your vote.

BUSH: I believe we’re at the verge of the greatest time to be alive in this world. But Washington is holding us back. How we tax, how we regulate. We’re not embracing the energy revolution in our midst, a broken immigration system that has been politicized rather than turning it into an economic driver. We’re not protecting and preserving our entitlement system or reforming for the next generation. All these things languish while we have politicians in Washington using these as wedge issues. Here’s my commitment to you, because I did it as Florida. We can fix these things. We can grow economically and restore America’s leadership in the world, so that everybody has a chance to rise up.

TRUMP: Our country is in serious trouble. We don’t win anymore. We don’t beat China in trade. We don’t beat Japan, with their millions and millions of cars coming into this country, in trade. We can’t beat Mexico, at the border or in trade. We can’t do anything right. Our military has to be strengthened. Our vets have to be taken care of. We have to end Obamacare, and we have to make our country great again, and I will do that.


Would you feel any differently about the candidates if you’d read this, rather than seen or heard the debate? This is, I think, the substance of what they said, absent the style.

How does it change things for you?

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  1. Podkayne of Israel Member
    Podkayne of Israel

    Nice! I listened to the debate Friday morning on YouTube, while cooking for Shabbat, popping in occasionally to see if I’d identified the speaker.

    Comic Mort Sahl once said that the problem with life is that you have to live every agonizing minute of it. Life, Sahl concludes, needs an editor.

    • #1
  2. Robert McReynolds Inactive
    Robert McReynolds

    I did the same thing as you did Claire on Youtube.  Except I skipped all of the parts with the candidates who I don’t think have a snowball’s chance.  I am watching Rubio, Cruz, Trump (for entertainment),  Jeb, and Walker.  It actually goes by pretty quickly that way.

    • #2
  3. Leigh Inactive

    There’s an odd break in this transcript: Kelly asks Walker a question about Black Lives Matter and policing, and somehow it jumps to Carson’s answer about something else.  We don’t see Walker’s answer or the question to Carson and maybe miss something else?

    A couple random notes:

    Rubio’s answer about his experience was very smoothly handled, but is it right on substance?  “This can’t be a resume competition” is what you say when your resume is just a little short.  I don’t care about the number of bullet points or years of experience (think that would be Perry), but I do care about what your history says about your principles and leadership ability.  Things don’t happen just because the President has the right positions and can state them well.

    That goes to Cruz.  It’s all very well for a backbencher to attack his party’s leadership —  sometimes it needs doing.  But the next president needs to be able to influence those Senators to repeal Obamacare and do just about anything on his agenda.  Cruz seems to have stepped into the Jim DeMint role in the Senate.  But DeMint knew better than to run for President.  He believed in what he did but knew it meant he couldn’t unite the party as a president must.

    Kasich was asked whether his rationale for expanding Medicaid applied to every big government program.  He notably did not answer the question.

    • #3
  4. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.

    What I took away from this is that this is a beauty pageant, not a debate.

    Unless the same question is posed to every candidate, and unless the candidates are challenged truly to defend their views, the exercise is an invitation to the candidates to insult my intelligence.

    • #4
  5. Leigh Inactive

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:What I took away from this is that this is a beauty pageant, not a debate.

    Unless the same question is posed to every candidate, and unless the candidates are challenged truly to defend their views, the exercise is an invitation to the candidates to insult my intelligence.

    Unfortunately that won’t get ratings.  And unfortunately, this early on, even that would mostly be just a show.  On some of the most important questions we’d get ten variations of the same answer, and the variations would tell us more about style or each candidate’s preferred audience than about how they’d actually govern.

    It takes interaction between the candidates to get them to really defend themselves.  They should have asked one of the other governors — probably Walker — to respond to Kasich on Medicaid.  That could have been a substantial back-and-forth that would have drawn some clear lines about governing philosophy.

    I don’t use debates to decide how to vote.  I do research.  I watch the debates for the show.

    • #5
  6. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.

    Leigh: I don’t use debates to decide how to vote.  I do research.  I watch the debates for the show.

    Does this state of affairs seem healthy to you? It doesn’t, to me. There’s no reason our political debates should be nothing more than a reality-TV show.

    • #6
  7. Great Ghost of Gödel Inactive
    Great Ghost of Gödel

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:Does this state of affairs seem healthy to you? It doesn’t, to me. There’s no reason our political debates should be nothing more than a reality-TV show.

    Maybe it’s a benefit of your editing, but I got the sense the moderators were seriously striving to address the candidates from the perspectives of their actual backgrounds, and I find myself preferring this to the generic cookie-cutter question for all candidates format, both because the candidates will be asked questions individually in the future and to avoid the mass of cookie-cutter responses.

    On the other hand, I do find the moderators taking 31% of the air time problematic.

    So what should we do differently?

    • #7
  8. Leigh Inactive

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    Leigh: I don’t use debates to decide how to vote. I do research. I watch the debates for the show.

    Does this state of affairs seem healthy to you? It doesn’t, to me. There’s no reason our political debates should be nothing more than a reality-TV show.

    Not healthy, no, but to some extent I think it is inevitable with this many candidates.  They are all cautious politicians.  No format we could invent would tell us as much about them as doing your homework does.  In all honesty, I’m not sure the debates help us choose a candidate well.  A crowded debate simply rewards whoever is quickest on his or her feet and has a flair for the dramatic.  In this debate, that was Rubio, and good for him.

    Given an hour with two candidates, we can actually learn something.

    • #8
  9. Great Ghost of Gödel Inactive
    Great Ghost of Gödel

    I suppose my other major takeaway is how dissatisfied I am with all of them, but I’m a little long in the tooth for that to be surprising.

    • #9
  10. Crabby Appleton Inactive
    Crabby Appleton

    If I ran the world this is how I would create a debate system. First, it would be an honest no-BS forensic debate between two parties. Make it adouble elimination tournament with winners and losers brackets, scored using traditional accepted forensic scoring methods (if such exist). Candidates would be randomly paired. Round one would be topic/issue A. “Winners” advance to the “winners” bracket, “losers” to their bracket. Round two would be topic/issue B. Winners advance and losers are eliminated, thank you very much, you’ve been great, here’s your lovely parting gift. Round three would be Topic C…. You get the idea. Alas, I do not run the world.

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  11. Chris Member

    I want to apply this:

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:What I took away from this is that this is a beauty pageant, not a debate.

    Unless the same question is posed to every candidate, and unless the candidates are challenged truly to defend their views, the exercise is an invitation to the candidates to insult my intelligence.

    To this:

    Leigh:Kasich was asked whether his rationale for expanding Medicaid applied to every big government program. He notably did not answer the question.

    Why on earth did the moderators not push back on this or ask someone else on the stage who had actively opposed the administrations machinations on Medicaid funds to respond?  It was truly disappointing when they just moved along.

    • #11
  12. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.

    Great Ghost of Gödel:

    So what should we do differently?

    I think Mike was absolutely on to something.

    The questions were indeed designed to see how each candidate could handle the most obvious point of attack.

    I’m not sure how to do it differently, but there has to be some way to force the candidates to be less superficial. When you read over the transcript, it’s obvious than none of them are being forced to make sense — they’re all getting away with nonsense.

    • #12
  13. American Abroad Thatcher
    American Abroad

    Thanks so much, Claire, for the edited transcript.  I just don’t have the patience or self-discipline to watch politicians talking for an hour without cursing or breaking the TV, so I didn’t bother to watch.  This transcript is a big help.

    • #13
  14. Concretevol Thatcher

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    Leigh: I don’t use debates to decide how to vote. I do research. I watch the debates for the show.

    Does this state of affairs seem healthy to you? It doesn’t, to me. There’s no reason our political debates should be nothing more than a reality-TV show.

    I hate it and it culminated this last go around giving us our American Idol president.  There is something to be said for “persona” and I guess communication skills are important in the leader of the free world but there is a huge lack of seriousness currently.

    You are touching on my personal absolute rule on elected officials that I wish were a law.  “Starring on your own reality show is an automatic disqualification.”  Oh yeah…and good lord no facebook questions.  That is where political discussions go to die.

    • #14
  15. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator

    As usual I didn’t watch.  I figure if anybody says anything important I’ll find out about it soon enough.  It sounds like the usual happened.

    The news did get me to thinking a lot more about Rick Perry, though.   Do Bush/Fox fear him that much that they thought it best to exclude him? If so, he might be the best choice for the nomination.  Or was there some advantage to throwing him off the island first?

    I realize that some other rationalization was probably announced for excluding Perry and that it’s not the fault of Bush/Fox. I don’t believe it, of course, and I presume nobody else does either.

    • #15
  16. Concretevol Thatcher

    The Reticulator:As usual I didn’t watch. I figure if anybody says anything important I’ll find out about it soon enough. It sounds like the usual happened.

    The news did get me to thinking a lot more about Rick Perry, though. Do Bush/Fox fear him that much that they thought it best to exclude him? If so, he might be the best choice for the nomination. Or was there some advantage to throwing him off the island first?

    I realize that some other rationalization was probably announced for excluding Perry and that it’s not the fault of Bush/Fox. I don’t believe it, of course, and I presume nobody else does either.

    I still think it’s worth watching Reticulator, if only for the live chat here.  I have to say it was far better than the last cycle’s primary that’s for sure.

    • #16
  17. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.

    Great Ghost of Gödel:I suppose my other major takeaway is how dissatisfied I am with all of them, but I’m a little long in the tooth for that to be surprising.

    I’m not surprised by it, but I’m puzzled.

    • #17
  18. Steve in Richmond Inactive
    Steve in Richmond

    This was more of a serial interview than a debate.  Hard to decipher specific differences between candidates without asking them the same question.  However, this did bring out a lot of information on character, approach, communication skills and to a degree, how they think.

    To me, Trump comes off much worse when you look just at the written word.  His rhetorical skills don’t seem to rise much above a middle schooler both in content and attitude.  Rubio and Cruz seem to come off even better.

    Thank you Claire, this was a great approach and a good way to be able to focus on content.  Now if you could edit in Carly’s comments, it would be even better.

    • #18
  19. Concretevol Thatcher

    Great Ghost of Gödel:I suppose my other major takeaway is how dissatisfied I am with all of them, but I’m a little long in the tooth for that to be surprising.

    I’m not normally a huge optimist but I have to say that wasn’t my takeaway at all.  For one thing, to me, Rubio and Fiorina both get better with viewing.  Nobody but Trump was saying anything really cringe worthy.  Most everyone handled some predictable tough first questions when too often candidates have acted like they never expected being asked the obvious.  I thought two candidates did surprisingly well in the primetime debate, Huck and Carson.

    Overall, in the first round of debates I think we are asking a little much for a ton of detail with 35 candidates introducing themselves.  I am hoping for the field to narrow fairly quickly (It could be halved easily already) and more specifics to emerge.

    • #19
  20. Concretevol Thatcher

    So Claire, when are the Ricochet candidate interviews happening?  Rob was talking about a Ricochet Pac a while back.  Maybe instead of supporting specific select candidates it would be more useful to delve more deeply into important issues with the candidates individually.  Let’s find out where they agree and where they differ.  A panel interview one on one or in small groups would be incredibly informative.

    Yes I know I’m not posing an original thought here.  :)

    • #20
  21. Jim Kearney Contributor
    Jim Kearney

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: There’s no reason our political debates should be nothing more than a reality-TV show.

    As your “limited edition” debate transcript illustrates, it’s not nothing more. The substantive remarks you document had a record-breaking audience of 24 million Americans.

    Many of those folks feel “uneasy” watching more seriously framed debates. But inspired perhaps by reality TV shows with interactive voting, these “low information voters” (really emotional information voters) now participate in elections in sufficient numbers to alter the outcome. In 2008 they discovered, clicked like, and voted for Barack Obama. This debate introduced them to several new personalities across the aisle, voices they might not ordinarily hear.

    More than a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine of conservative ideas go down, this debate also hinted at personal qualities and group dynamics which voters use to assess and bond with candidates.

    There were several two-shots of Scott Walker nodding thoughtfully at Dr. Ben Carson’s comments. There was Marco Rubio’s infectious smile and youthful energy. Psychiatrists around the country excitedly made diagnoses based on Donald Trump’s gestures and facial expressions.

    John Kasich, who in a previous extended TV appearance was sprawled back in his chair and rambling, showed up attentive and disciplined. He trumpeted his accomplishments more than The Donald, but did so with self-effacing body language, and in a politically relevant manner.

    Dr. Carson had a twinkle in his eye, a clever joke in his closing remarks, and somewhere in Detroit a black mother told her son, “that man grew up in our neighborhood.”

    Marshall McLuhan called television an “x-ray” for the way it exposes the inner personality to everyone watching. I think this debate, including reactions to the provocations of the journalists and the feedback of a large live audience, gave us much more insight into these candidates than a transcript of policy remarks alone.

    • #21
  22. David Carroll Thatcher
    David Carroll

    Thank you Claire, for your hard work.  I did not watch.  I have read the commentaries takes, but this edit gives me the incentive to read a transcript.  I am printing it out (38 pages in Word).

    I share your disdain for the format.  It is a misnomer to call it a debate,  It is more like a multiple-candidate interview.  I debate requires a proposition, an argument on the proposition, a response and preferable one or more replies.

    • #22
  23. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator

    Concretevol: I still think it’s worth watching Reticulator, if only for the live chat here. I have to say it was far better than the last cycle’s primary that’s for sure.

    It may be worth watching but I’m not going to watch it.  I think it’s important for a few of us to provide the perspective of people who are interested but who do not let their brain-time agenda be driven by what’s on the tube.  (I must admit that I’m amazed that Claire was able to watch it, given all the other things she does. And I don’t see the tell-tale signs of it controlling her mind’s agenda. Some of us don’t have that kind of superbrain and energy.)

    • #23
  24. Crabby Appleton Inactive
    Crabby Appleton

    What I honestly cannot understand is why any candidate could not or would not challenge his or her perceived major rival to an honest debate on a specific issue about which they disagree or have significantly differing policy positions and to hell with the entire field. Throw down the gauntlet, and if the challenged party refuses, then there’s all the more justification to point out differences. The most depressing aspect of the media/political culture is this demeaning bread and circuses approach. A candidate, especially one who is considered to be a non-contender, could shadow one or more of the establishment players or well financed contenders and respond to their speeches/addresses in real time. It has been done before (cf A Lincoln). With the availability of the Internet and social media platforms this would be eminently practical and obviate and funding/logistical limitations.

    • #24
  25. Concretevol Thatcher

    The Reticulator:

    Concretevol: I still think it’s worth watching Reticulator, if only for the live chat here. I have to say it was far better than the last cycle’s primary that’s for sure.

    It may be worth watching but I’m not going to watch it. I think it’s important for a few of us to provide the perspective of people who are interested but who do not let their brain-time agenda be driven by what’s on the tube. (I must admit that I’m amazed that Claire was able to watch it, given all the other things she does. And I don’t see the tell-tale signs of it controlling her mind’s agenda. Some of us don’t have that kind of superbrain and energy.)

    Not judging here.  I almost didn’t watch it because Trump makes me want commit acts of violence.  I’m just saying the reality is today you must be able to handle yourself in that type of format to have a chance in the general election.  I think we actually have an opportunity to pick someone that can do that and still hold up under scrutiny of actual policy issues……well here’s hoping.

    • #25
  26. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator

    Jim Kearney: Marshall McLuhan called television an “x-ray” for the way it exposes the inner personality to everyone watching. I think this debate, including reactions to the provocations of the journalists and the feedback of a large live audience, gave us much more insight into these candidates than a transcript of policy remarks alone.

    Either that, or it shows us which persons are better actors.  (Ronald Reagan did say acting ability was important to the job.)

    • #26
  27. Manfred Arcane Inactive
    Manfred Arcane

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:What I took away from this is that this is a beauty pageant, not a debate.

    Unless the same question is posed to every candidate, and unless the candidates are challenged truly to defend their views, the exercise is an invitation to the candidates to insult my intelligence.

    But the general election can be easier to win with a beauty pageant winner carrying the banner.  Optics count, sound bites are all that candidates have to work with mostly, so our first exposure here may be telling.  Walker needs to up his game, Carson is going to be a monster candidate in four years, Bush is not going to make any mistakes and will have the savoir faire to handle any Clinton attack, Rubio would be an excellent VP, President in waiting (if he doesn’t get the nod), Paul is a bit too dweebish, …

    PS. Thanks for the edit job.  Very useful.

    • #27
  28. Manfred Arcane Inactive
    Manfred Arcane

    Great Ghost of Gödel:I suppose my other major takeaway is how dissatisfied I am with all of them, but I’m a little long in the tooth for that to be surprising.

    So what do you want?  What didn’t they say that they should have, or vice versi?

    • #28
  29. Manfred Arcane Inactive
    Manfred Arcane

    Crabby Appleton:If I ran the world this is how I would create a debate system.First, it would be an honest no-BS forensic debate between two parties.Make it adouble elimination tournament with winners and losers brackets, scored using traditional accepted forensic scoring methods (if such exist).Candidates would be randomly paired.Round one would be topic/issue A.“Winners” advance to the “winners” bracket, “losers” to their bracket.Round two would be topic/issueB.Winners advance and losers are eliminated, thank you very much, you’ve been great, here’s your lovely parting gift.Round three would beTopic C…. You get the idea.Alas, I do not run the world.

    Ah, there is a whole literature on this, and other, selection methods.  This one unfortunately is known to have major flaws.  Most particularly, “the agenda setter”, that is the orderer of the questions asked, can oftentimes arrange it so that any desired candidate (of the top contenders) wins – because the most preferred candidate (actually an ambiguous concept) is never better than all the others on every issue.  So, for example, if your aim was to eliminate Jeb Bush in the early rounds, you would just arrange that he be asked a question on which his (randomly) assigned opponent was a bit stronger…Then he’s gone, or down to the losers bracket where you repeat the exercise…

    • #29
  30. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.

    Crabby Appleton:What I honestly cannot understand is why any candidate could not or would not challenge his or her perceived major rival to an honest debate on a specific issue about which they disagree or have significantly differing policy positions and to hell with the entire field.

    The problem is that I can understand it. This is what depresses me. You don’t win by challenging your rivals to an honest debate unless that’s what people want; people want the bread and they want the games. Not the first time in history that’s happened.

    A candidate, especially one who is considered to be a non-contender, could shadow one or more of the establishment players or well financed contenders and respond to their speeches/addresses in real time.

    It has been done before (cf A Lincoln).With the availability of the Internet and social media platforms this would be eminently practical and obviate and funding/logistical limitations.

    Bernie Sanders is doing just that on Twitter. I have a feeling the GOP may be a big mistake by failing to notice this.

    • #30
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