The Debate That Was


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TDS-Logo-BLast night, CNN hosted the fifth Republican primary debate, held at Las Vegas’s lovely Venetian hotel and casino. There were, of course, two debates. But the one that people were interested in was the prime-time debate. Unfortunately for everyone involved (especially anyone who had to write about it after), the undercard debate didn’t finish until 8:12 pm ET and the primetime debate, scheduled for 8:30, didn’t start until later. The first candidate didn’t speak until 8:42. (Not that we were tapping our foot with annoyance or anything.)

The room was big and raucous, there were cheers, and boos, and even some far distant heckler who tried to interrupt Donald Trump. The focus of this debate, for obvious reasons, was “keeping America safe.” If you had to pick a phrase of the night, it would be “Destroy ISIS,” which every candidate was in favor of.

As usual, all eyes were on frontrunner Donald Trump. He … did not do so well. It’s not that his answers were that bad (they were … consistent with his usual quality), but he again clearly demonstrated he has no idea how the Internet works. The Donald’s other problem is that Jeb Bush got under his skin by repeatedly saying how Trump was unserious as a candidate. And rather than maintain the more serious (again, on the Trump scale) demeanor he introduced after the first debate, Trump reverted to form. He lashed out at Bush. He made faces and mugged for the camera. He went on an extended tirade about CNN’s questions. You half expected him to stick out his tongue at people. However, he did get big applause by swearing off running as an independent. (For what that’s worth … which probably isn’t much.)

The other candidate being watched was Ted Cruz, who is polling first place in Iowa and second place nationally. Cruz had a good night. He defended his refugee plan, and when asked, was able to contrast his with Trump’s, um, plan. He was willing to forcefully argue for his position, including defending his vote on the USA Freedom Act when attacked by Rubio. The conventional wisdom is that when the dust settles, the primary will be Rubio versus Cruz. The two men seemed to agree with that analysis and punched each other repeatedly during the night. (Not, like, literally. Although that would have made it more interesting…)

Contrary to any expectation that Republican candidates would outbid each other to be the biggest hawk on the stage, several of them (especially the trio of senators, Rubio, Cruz, and Paul) expressed a more limited view without large numbers of American ground troops, but they were subtle enough not to say that outright. (Contrasted with John Kasich who called for a Gulf War-sized ground force to fight ISIS.)

While the Senators were busy clobbering each other, Chris Christie was rolling his eyes at do-nothing legislators bloviating on the Senate floor. He pointed to his experience as governor and his time as a federal prosecutor, which he mentioned like five dozen times. (Although he scaled back from some of the larger claims he made in the first debate.)

Meanwhile, Ben Carson (who was rocking the best suit and tie on the stage) made a point to drop detail bombs when it came to foreign policy questions. He was trying, after several high-profile blunders, to demonstrate that he knows his stuff. So he was sure to talk about things like Ohio-class submarines and Minuteman missiles.

Carly Fiorina said basically the same stuff she said in every other debate. This was the fifth debate (the fourth where she’s been on the main stage) and she’s still introducing herself to the electorate. She also twice refused to answer a direct question about whether tech companies should be forced to help the government access their encryption.

John Kasich was … also there. He’s from Ohio. His daughter’s friend hates politics because it’s so negative. Also, did we mention he’s from Ohio? (Because he did like five dozen times.)

And then there’s Rand Paul. In his opening statement he staked out a distinctive foreign policy position. He came out against regime change in Syria (and said that was the big issue). He was willing to attack other candidates: He went after Rubio on surveillance, he took on Trump for his anti-constitutional positions, and he got in a pair of good slams against Christie. Then he closed by talking about the security threat posed by the national debt. You got the feeling that Paul was playing a different game from everyone else up there.

If you’re a lunatic with too much time on your hands and are interested in reading the transcript of the full debate, you can find that here.

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There are 6 comments.

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  1. Tommy De Seno Contributor
    Tommy De Seno

    The libertarian bias runs strong in this report.   Is Daily Shot intended to be news or opinion?

    • #1
  2. Fred Cole Inactive
    Fred Cole

    Which parts are “libertarian bias”?

    • #2
  3. Matt Upton Inactive
    Matt Upton

    Tommy De Seno: Is Daily Shot intended to be news or opinion?

    It is a daily email with running gags and continued questioning of the reader’s sanity.

    The assertion, however, that Ben Carson had the best suit and tie is indisputable fact.

    • #3
  4. Eugene Kriegsmann Member
    Eugene Kriegsmann

    This was the first of the debates that I have watched, lacking a TV. I don’t feel like anyone was a clear winner, but the three non-politicians all seemed out of their depth. In their opening statements each of the three demonstrated a real lack of punch. Fiorina, who I have always liked, came across as someone touting her victimhood. Ben Carson’s moment of silence seemed very contrived to me. And Trump with his usual braggadocio was anything but impressive. He reminded me of the Wizard of Oz when the curtain was pulled back.

    I felt as though the moderators were to a large extent ignoring Trump, and that lack of a spotlight had a very hard effect on him. When he was engaged by a questioner he seemed unprepared and inarticulate. He seemed to be grasping for his lines which seemed to elude him. It occurred to me that when he does an interview he must be handed the questions in advance so that he can have a ready-prepared answer. Lacking that fore knowledge last night he was reduced to mugging the camera and insulting those on stage with him, mostly Jeb.

    I turned it off before the end and missed any of Carson’s good moments.  The CNNGO app was getting pretty flaky, and nothing I was seeing particularly inspired me to keep watching.

    • #4
  5. TKC1101 Inactive

    Not bad Fred, aside from your usual Trump derangement syndrome.

    • #5
  6. Fred Cole Inactive
    Fred Cole

    Trump derangement syndrome?

    • #6
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