Friday, January 15, 2016

My thoughts on last night's Republican debate.

It's time yet again to talk about the Republican debate. This time the sixth one is finally in the books and all and all it was an entertaining night. A few notes first. Due to circumstances outside of my control, I had to miss the undercard debate staring Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum. From what I understand though, Carly Fiorina is widely thought to have won that debate, but since I did not watch it, I won't comment on it. I do think that Rand Paul probably deserves special mention for not attending and going so far as to flip off the media for not making it to the main debate stage. I'm not sure if that is a wise move or not but it is funny no matter what! 

I also had to miss about 15 minutes of the debate near the end. I can't really comment on it because I didn't see it but I did hear that I missed an exchange between Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz on immigration. From what I have heard it was a pretty brutal attack between the two, but I missed it so if you think my analysis is missing something, that is probably it. 

I do have to say that I wasn't too happy with the moderation of this debate. They weren't CNBC bad or anything, but the last time Fox Business did a debate they did a much better job controlling the candidates. The candidates often ignored questions and spoke whenever they felt like. Worst of all the debate when way longer then it should have. It was supposed to be done at 10:00 pm Central but it was still going on almost 20 minutes after 10:00 pm. That's the reason I missed about 15 minutes of the debate, because I had stuff I had to do at 10:00 pm. Not good.

As for the debate itself I am going to take it candidate by candidate again. I can say that half the field was a complete non factor for the whole night and one candidate was lying his ass off. I do think one candidate won hands down this time though, and another came damn close. Everyone else though... I will say that everyone pretty much came down hard in support of gun rights, so everyone gets a gold star there... except the liar... 

Donald Trump:
Great night for Trump. This was his best debate performance by far. He won almost every engagement he was involved in and he really stuck by his policies. He also defended himself from almost every attack and in many cases turned it around on the people who were attacking him. Trump didn't quite dominate on speaking time but he was close and he used his time effectively. 

He was smart to double down on his Muslim comments. When he said, simply but firmly, "no" to the suggestion that he modify or reconsider his ban on all Muslim immigrants he sounded strong and like he was 100% confident that he was doing the same thing. Jeb Bush tried to attack him with those comments, but being Jeb Bush, he failed. All the other candidates kinda wimped out and didn't hit Trump on the issue. Most of them agreed in principle that something had to be done, but just didn't want to go as far as Trump did. I am guessing that Trump's blanket ban will be much more popular then the plans that the other candidates put forth because it's 100% effective in preventing terrorist infiltration, even if it is over the top and politically incorrect. 

Trump was also wise when he didn't make a big deal about Governor Nikki Haley's comments about him during the State of the Union response. Trump said he wasn't offended when Haley implied that he was an "angry voice" that the Republicans didn't have to listen too. Instead he doubled down and said that he was angry. Angry at all the problems in this country including immigration and the treatment of veterans. The direct quote is "I will gladly accept the mantle of anger". That's a hell of a quote. 

Trump and Ted Cruz got into it as well. I'll talk more about their first engagement concerning Cruz's citizenship in the next section, but I think Trump did well overall against Cruz. Cruz was hitting him very hard over the fact that Trump was from New York and that everyone from New York is a progressive Democrat when Trump did something amazing. He invoked 9/11 in a way that actually seemed classy. Normally I think invoking 9/11 is a crass thing for a Republican candidate to do (ie Chris Christie) but in this case it served as an effective defense of Trump's hometown. He wasn't pandering to get votes, he was defending his city and the people in it. He was so effective in doing so even Ted Cruz was applauding at the end of it. You can actually see the moment on Ted Cruz's face when he realized that bashing New York probably wasn't a good idea... 

It wasn't all good for Trump though. I'll get into the first engagement he had with Cruz in a moment, but that wasn't the only problem he had. He had a terrible time explaining his plan when it came to China. His long, rambling explanation really didn't make a whole lot of sense. I think he was trying to say that a 45%  tariff is just an option if China won't play ball, and an option of last resort at that, but there is no guarantee that is what he meant. One of the other candidates (Marco Rubio I think?) pointed out that tariffs would be paid by Americans, so I am not sure that moment will play well. Other then those two flubs though, Trump had a great night. 

Ted Cruz:
Mixed night for Cruz. In some ways he was a winner but in others he failed. And I think there are going to be some repercussions from last night's debate for him. I said I would talk about his first engagement with Trump and I will. Cruz won that argument, on performance alone. He really got the better of Trump and for the first time I think Trump was on the backfoot. He made it seem like Trump was just picking a fight with him over his citizenship and pointed out that many people in the race, including Trump, had a parent that wasn't a citizen. On the face of it it really looked like Trump was trying to pull a John Kasich; hit the guy with the good poll numbers to help you out. That has to help Ted Cruz.

Unfortunately for Cruz, I don't think this birther issue goes away. I think there is a very good chance that Trump is 100% right. If Cruz is the candidate some Democrat will sue over it. Even if the case isn't strong, and I am not sure that it isn't, it will still be a huge issue in the middle of a presidential campaign. The best case scenario is a hotly contested lawsuit in the middle of a campaign that could distract or even derail Cruz's presidential run. The worst case scenario is another presidency decided by the Supreme Court. That didn't work out so well for George Bush and people are still mad about it. And if, somehow, Cruz is elected and the courts rule against him and he is removed, what happens then? The country is divided enough already, but if a sitting president is removed over this kind of issue it could completely tear the country apart. That's not something Cruz can just laugh off. He needs to deal with this and deal with it soon or he isn't going to be a candidate. I know that if I was in Iowa, I wouldn't be comfortable with risking my vote on him. 

Ted Cruz also had an engagement with Marco Rubio about immigration and other things but I totally missed it. From what I understand though Rubio hit Cruz hard. I don't know if that was enough to hurt Cruz because I think he had a pretty good night. In terms of performance he went 1-1 with Donald Trump and he dominated the talking time. I think he had a good night but the birther issue is going to bite him in the ass if he doesn't do something about it. And he also had a moment where he seemed to wiff on the China question. His response to their unfair trade problem was to get rid of the IRS? I didn't quite understand how those two things are related and then Marco Rubio hit him hard about his flat tax plan. But by that point I was just too confused to follow it.

Marco Rubio:
Not a great night for Rubio but not a horrible one either. He did try to get the better of Ted Cruz and Donald Trump at one point, delivering a quip about them acting like they are on court TV and from what I understand he did good against Cruz when they fought. But other then that I don't think he did much to help himself either. With Trump and Cruz going at it he didn't have much of a chance to stand out.

He did get into it with Chris Christie a couple of times. By all rights he should have won those fights but Christie was able to sleeze his way out of it. Rubio rightly called out Christie on his out and out lies but Christie was able to counter accusations of lying with more lying. Rubio hit him hard but it wasn't enough. Christie was just more convincing and funny then Rubio was, even if Rubio was right on the facts. Christie also rightly pointed out that Rubio totally dodged a question asked to him about entitlement reform. On this point Christie was correct because Rubio completely ignored the question.

I think the best thing you can say for Rubio's performance is that nobody really hit him at all. Though his attacks on other candidates failed, he was pretty much left alone. Which is strange because there was a lot to hit him hard with, and a lot of people should be gunning for him. There are major differences in policy between him and the other candidates, but nobody really pointed them out. 

Ben Carson:
Not a good night at all for Ben Carson. He was a total non-factor, to the point I am struggling with thinking of things to say for him. I do know that he bashed comment sections pretty hard for being comment sections. Anyone that has seen one knows what I am talking about and I guess Carson was technically correct in what he was saying. But his greater point about polarization between left and right could have been made better. And I don't think it will play well for anyone that actually posts in comment sections. Honestly, it made Carson seem a little weak, as if he can't handle the back and forth and banter found in comment sections. For someone who rails against political correctness, Carson came off as almost a Social Justice Warrior, whining about internet "harassment". That can't be good for Carson.

Ben Carson was also the only one to pimp his website and I don't think he had any really good points. His point about nuclear electromagnetic pulses was just bizarre. Though such devices are possible I have no idea why he thinks that is some kind of new threat that we all have to be concerned about. Nobody is going to deploy those weapons against us because to do so would invoke a nuclear strike of our own. And there is absolutely no way that at terrorist organization could do it because you need a ICBM to even try it. Plus I have heard nothing in the news about this being a major threat. Maybe Carson knows something I don't, but I doubt it. 

Other then that it was a super quite night for Carson. I don't think this debate helps him at all and it may even hurt him. I think it was his weakest so far and if he keeps it up he will be in the undercard debate very soon. 

Chris "Lying Liar who Lies" Christie:
On a purely technical performance, Christie did pretty good. He was funny at times, and wasn't pushed around by anyone. I wasn't a huge fan of the way he bashed Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton all night, because that's all he seems to do, but I can give it a pass because all the candidates did that last night. He also beat up Marco Rubio pretty good in a couple of engagements. On the technical side he won those fights.

Too bad he was lying through his teeth. Every "fact check" I have read has said that Christie was lying about Rubio's correct attacks on him. He said that he never supported Sonia Sotomayor, Supreme Court Justice appointed by Barack Obama. That was a lie. He said he wasn't his first choice but he did say that Sotomayor was more then adequately qualified and should be confirmed. Christie also claimed that he never wrote a check for Planned Parenthood but in a 1994 article he said that he supported Planned Parenthood and cut them a check. And he also said that he got rid of Common Core in his state when Common Core is currently completely intact. There will be some minor revisions in the future, but nothing close to what he was saying.

Finally, Chris Christie said he supported gun rights. While it was true he vetoed a .50 rifle ban, he was also the one who proposed it in the first place! Sure he vetoed it when it turned into a gun confiscation ban but he did want to ban future sales. Hugely dishonest! Chris Christie was telling the truth when he said that he pardoned a bunch of people who were from other states and had been charged with gun crimes, but that doesn't excuse the fact that the laws in his state are so draconian in the first place! If the laws in New Jersey are so slanted against gun owners that many people from other states are going to prison because they have legally owned guns with them, then they need to change the laws! 

Chris Christie has always been a joke of a candidate and I really appreciate Marco Rubio attacking him. While it didn't work out too well for him during the debate, I think he has been vindicated. Christie was lying his ass off last night and someone needed to bring him to task. It would have been better though if Rand Paul had been there to get into the action as well...

Also, I almost threw something at my TV when he called magazines "clips"... As a gun owner that's a huge pet peeve of mine and usually a good sign of a gun grabbing asshole when someone says it.

Jeb Bush:
Very quiet night for Jeb! tonight. He did his best to hit Trump on his Muslim comments but they fell completely flat. Largely because he didn't hit him very hard at all. It almost sounded like he was begging him to back down, and when he didn't Jeb Bush looked very weak. He also seemed to think that Trump's comments about Muslims were beyond the pale and would torpedo the fight against ISIS, while it hasn't really made an impact. The King of Jordan kind of ignored the whole thing saying it was wrong of him to comment on it when the media interviewed him. I don't think the actual leaders of the Muslim world even care.

Jeb Bush had one good moment where he pointed out that Dylan Roof, the man who shot up a black church, should have failed his background check but didn't. More gun laws wouldn't have prevented it and Bush was right to point that out. Other then that it was a very, VERY quiet night for Bush. He has had a jump in the polls lately, but it isn't for his debate performance, that's for sure. He just hasn't been all that good. 

John Kasich:
CNN hilariously bashed Kasich in a one line review: "John Kasich was also present last night -- and that sums up his performance." That's a little unfair but I don't think it was a very good night for him either. His best moment was when he did the unthinkable and agreed with Donald Trump on something and Trump kind of complimented him a bit. Being John Kasich, I can't remember what he said, but it was the best thing he has done in the past 5 debates. 

Other then that I don't have much to say about him. I thought he was wrong on Syria... yet again. I do think he was smart to not attack everyone though. In the past he has bashed Donald Trump and that hasn't helped him at all. He needed to focus on his ideas, and he did that this time. He also completely dodged a very good question about Saudi Arabia as well. Still, nothing here that made him stand out and I think Rand Paul deserved the last slot instead of him. Hopefully this will be the last we see of Kasich in the main debates. 

It was a fairly good debate and I think that Donald Trump was the clear winner with Ted Cruz right behind him. It was a bad night for Carson, Bush and Kasich and a middling one for Rubio. Chris Christie should get eviscerated for his lies though, if their is any justice at all. I am hoping that he is the big loser of this debate and that his campaign is finished. But I am not holding my breath.

I do have to say that I was a bit saddened that the Donald Trump and Ted Cruz "bromance" seemed to come to an end  last night. Those two were good together and not just in a potential running mates kind of way. They had some great moments together in the past debates and I am hoping this is just a momentary blip in their pseudo-friendship. 

I also think that this debate had some of the best subject matter so far. They hit on a lot of my hot button issues, like gun rights, terrorism and bashing the Democrats. I'd like more of that in the future and less talk about China and trade deals. We shall see how that goes...   

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