62 things I learned from the South Carolina #GOPDebate

What happened during the South Carolina #GOPDebate?

by John English
by John English

1. CBS made sure they didn’t repeat ABC’s snafu by having all of the candidates walk out on stage together.

2. The positioning is L-to-R John Kasich, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, and Ben Carson. Based on the cheers at introductions, most of the people in the room are not Trump or Carson voters.

3. Moderator John Dickerson has a moment of silence for Antonin Scalia. Five of the men bowed their heads and close their eyes. Trump stares straight ahead.

4. Dickerson introduces Kimberly Strassel and Major Garrett, then goes to his first question, about the Supreme Court. Would Trump nominate someone if he only had 11 months left in his term.Trump said he hopes Mitch McConnell has the plan to “delay, delay, delay.”

5. Kasich said if he were president, we wouldn’t have the division we have today. He says if the President does nominate someone, he hopes it’s someone with widespread approval.

6. Carson says when SCOTUS started, the average age of death was 50, so lifetime appointment wasn’t a big deal. Says they should relook at that pretty carefully at some point.

7. Rubio spends the first 2/3 of his time honoring Scalia, then says it’s been over 80 years since a president nominated someone for SCOTUS in his last year in office.

8. Asks Bush if he would have a litmus test for SCOTUS. Bush says not on issues; he’ll nominate someone with a proven record. Says too many times someone makes it through nomination process without much of a record.

9. Asks Cruz where the president should set a date on not nominating SCOTUS judges. Cruz incorrectly say we have 80 years of precedent of not confirming someone in president’s final year. Dickerson clarifies with him the difference between nominating and confirmation, since Kennedy was in 1988. Cruz says Kennedy was confirmed in 1987. (It was February 1988). Cruz then gives this long pause so the crowd can boo the moderator, which they eventually do.

10. Dickerson asks what 3 questions candidates would ask their national security team on their first day.

11. Trump’s are “What do we want to do? When do we want to do it? How hard do we want to hit?” He repeats his line about being the only one who said “Don’t go into Iraq” even though no news organization has found evidence of him saying that before the invasion started.

12. Rubio’s are “What are we doing in the Asia-Pacific region regarding China and North Korea? What are we doing in Middle East, regarding the Sunni-Shia conflict and the growth of ISIS? How will we rebuild NATO and strengthen Europe to stop Putin’s aggression on its neighbors like Georgia and Ukraine?”

13. When asked about an experience where he had to act in an emergency, he pointed to his vote against authorizing force for the US to go after Assad.

14. Carson makes a joke about getting a second question this early in the debate. He really needs to stop doing that.

15. Kasich says he’d arm the people of Ukraine, says any attack on a NATO country is an attack on us. Says all countries are now being threatened by ISIS. The world needs us.

16. So far so good. Good questions.

17. Bush said he would restore the military, have a strategy to destroy ISIS, and contain Iran.

18. Trump says “Jeb is so wrong.” Some boos. Trump says it’s Jeb’s special interests and lobbyists booing. He says ISIS are chopping off heads; “they’re animals.” “We’ve been in the Middle East for 15 years and haven’t won anything.” He attacks Lindsey Graham. More boos.

19. Bush says Putin will not be an ally of the United States. ‘They’re not even attempting to take out ISIS.” He says Russia is attacking the troops we support.

20. Trump says we don’t even know who they are, the fighters we’re supporting. Bush says this is what happens when you get your foreign policy “from the shows.” Bush says Trump insults his way to the nomination. What happened in this whole exchange is that Bush criticized Trump, and Trump did what he usually does, which is come back at him twice as hard. Bush then hits him right back and knows he can’t let Trump have the last word, so they squabbled until Dickerson took control and aimed his next question at Cruz.

21. He asks Cruz why he doesn’t have a ground component to his plan for ISIS. He says we need a focused objective. He says Obama and Clinton and some Republicans focus on the wrong things.

22. Dickerson asks about the limitation of Kurd support. Cruz says there are Kurds in Iraq and Syria who are out long-term allies. Says if it requires to use ground troops to defeat ISIS, then he will do so.

23. Dickerson asks Trump about his old quote of thinking President George W. Bush should have been impeached. Trump says first of all, he gets along with everyone. Crowd boos. Crowd participation is getting annoying at this point. He says the war in Iraq was a big fat mistake. Says Jeb took five days to decide if the Iraq invasion was a mistake. Says Iran is taking over Iraq. Says GWB lied about weapons of mass destruction.

24. Jeb says he’s sick of Obama blaming his brother for all the problems he had. He says he doesn’t care about Trump’s insults to him, but he’s tired of him going after his family. “While Trump was building a reality TV show, my brother was building a security apparatus to keep us safe.” Trump says 9/11 happened on GWB’s watch. Is Trump sure he’s a Republican?

25. Kasich says this is crazy. He said we thought Iraq had WMD. The fact is we got ourselves in the middle of a civil war. Says the borders were drawn after WWI by Westerners who didn’t understand the region. We should not be the policemen of the world.

26. Rubio says he’s just glad GWB was president on 9/11 and not Al Gore. Cheers. (See how Rubio’s setting himself to pick up Jeb supporters if Jeb finishes behind him in SC?)

27. Trump says he lost hundreds of friends on 9/11, Bush did not keep us safe. Rubio said 9/11 happened because Bill Clinton didn’t kill Osama bin Laden when he had the chance. Trump said Bush had his chance too. Trump is angry.

28. Carson said the situation in the Middle East is worse now because Obama “turned tail and ran.”

29. Strassel asks Trump about his budget proposal, says his tax plan and spending proposals would increase deficit. Trump said he’ll bring back jobs from China, Japan, Vietnam, etc. He says the government says we have $2.5 trillion offshore, which means it might be $5 trillion. “I’m the only one here who will save social security.” But how will you pay for it? “By getting rid of waste, fraud and abuse.”

30. Garrett asks about Cruz’s value-added-tax (VAT) plan. Cruz says middle class has been left behind by Obama’s economy. Says creating more jobs takes more than magic pixie dust. Cruz says whenever we “lessen the burden” of Washington, it helps the economy. Says he’ll have a flat tax, says his VAT isn’t really a VAT. He calls it a business flat tax, not a sales tax.

31. Strassel asks Rubio about his increase in child tax credit. He says family is the most important institution in society, and this ensures parents can keep more of their own money.

32. Kasich said the Medicaid costs in Ohio are coming in below expectations, says it’s easier and cheaper to actually take care of people. he’s cut taxes more than any governor. “Economic growth is not an end unto itself.” Our credit is strong; our pensions are strong.

33. Bush admires that Kasich is spending more on drug rehab and mental health, but he’s against expanding ObamaCare. We should be fighting ObamaCare, repealing it and replacing it. Said they didn’t expand Medicaid in Florida. Kasich says under Bush’s first term, Florida’s Medicaid grew twice as fast as Ohio’s. Kasich says we expand it to get people on their feet so they can get training and get off of government aid.

34. Bush & Kasich start to get in the weeds on specifics of whose state budget is better, which i really don’t mind. I gather they were both good. I think Kasich won the exchange.

35. Garrett asks Bush about raising taxes on hedge-fund managers. Bush says they should be paying as ordinary income, not capital gains treatment. Bush said we need tax reform.

36. Carson says go to his website for his tax plan, which is has been praised by CATO and Wall Street Journal. Says everyone has to pay something, everyone needs to have “skin in the game.” “Skin in the game” means raise taxes on poor people.

37. Garrett asks Rubio about amnesty. Rubio defines it as forgiveness of a wrongdoing without consequence. A section of the crowd starts cheering. (Okay, this is obnoxious.) He lays out his plan, and CBS also helpfully puts it in a graphic they show on the screen to viewers at home.

38. Cruz says, sure, everyone talks tough about illegal immigration. He starts to talk about defeating the “Rubio-Schumer amnesty plan.” He has some weird pauses in there like he forgot what his lines were. When he says “Rubio-Schumer amnesty plan” again, the audience boos. Rubio points out again that Cruz was for doubling green cards, pathway to citizenship, then says “he either wasn’t telling the truth then, or he isn’t telling the truth now.”

39. Cruz then says Rubio went on Univision in Spanish to say he wouldn’t repeal Obama’s immigration plan. (Is one Cuban really trying to otherize another Cuban?) Rubio says “I don’t know how he knows what I said because he doesn’t speak Spanish,” which makes Jeb chuckle. Cruz then says a sentence or two in Spanish. Rubio says Cruz lied about a bunch of things, and it just spirals until Garrett tamps it down.

40. Bush channels Christie and criticizes two senators squabbling over arcane bills that didn’t pass. He says not all Mexicans are rapists like “you know who” says. Trump gets to respond anyway.

41. Trump says if he wasn’t running, no one would be talking about illegal immigration. (False.) He says he doesn’t often agree with Cruz or Rubio (because they’re both conservative?) but the weakest one on the stage on illegal immigration is Jeb Bush.

42. Bush says what’s really weak is denigrating women, denigrating the disabled. Trump starts interrupting him, says Jeb threatened to moon everybody the other day. (Whut?!)

43. Kasich says let’s just talk about what we’re “for” and stop the negative attacks. He says he’s for sealing the border and a guest-worker program.

44. Carson says go to his website and read his immigration policy. (You can’t just keep saying, “Go to my website.”)

45. Cruz says the economy hurts the young the most.

46. Trump says he’d impose a tariff or tax on any car company that sent jobs overseas. Garrett asks him from where he derives that power. “I would build consensus.”

47. Trump says he’s a common sense conservative. He says he’s not in love with eminent domain, but it’s a tool to use. he says even George W. Bush used eminent domain.

48. Jeb says there’s an area where he disagrees with his brother; you shouldn’t use eminent domain for private use.

49. Cruz says he’s for flexibility, but Trump’s spent most of his life supporting liberal principles. Trump interrupts “You are the single worst liar! This guy will say anything! Nasty guy!” Cruz tries to explain where Trump lied, and Trump keeps interrupting about his support for John Roberts. He even defends Planned Parenthood. Trump is melting down.

50. Dickerson tries to take control but everyone wants to speak. Bush dives in and says Reagan didn’t tear down people like Trump; her tore down the Berlin Wall. Cruz says he would not have nominated John Roberts. Trump calls him a liar. Cruz points out Trump gave money to Jimmy Carter, John Kerry, Hillary Clinton.

51. Rubio talks about poverty. We need anti-poverty programs. he says he’d empower states to fight poverty because he thinks Nikki Haley could better fight poverty than Barack Obama.

52. Carson says “People say to me I need to scream and jump up and down. Do people really want that?” Says the Supreme Court is an important issue and we shouldn’t tear each other down.

53. Carson: “I’m not a politician. I’m never going to become a politician.” No, you sure aren’t. Which is why you won’t still be in this race by the end of the month.

54. Kasich says his dad was a blue-collar Democrat, but the Democratic party has left them for socialism. He says he can give people hope.

55. Dickerson asks Trump when the last time was someone told him he was wrong, and he listened. He says his wife tells him he’s wrong all the time, and he listens. Cute line, falls flat with this crowd. Dickerson asks him to elaborate, and Trump breaks into his “Listen, I built a great company…” shtick. Dickerson asks him about his profanity. Trump shrugs it off.

56. Bush says the dysfunction in Washington is dangerous. Says we need someone who’s never gone bankrupt four times. Trump dives in. “That’s a lie! I’ve never been bankrupt!” Says he used the laws of the land four times to make great deals. Says Florida is full of debt and it crashed.

57. Kasich closes by saying he’ll send power and money back to where we live. The Lord made all of us special. We’re part of a big mosaic. The spirit of America rests in all of us.

58. Carson says this is the first generation where they’re not expected to do better than their parents. Then he gives a fake quote from Joseph Stalin.

59. Bush says we need a leader, someone with a servant’s heart and a backbone.

60. Rubio says our culture’s in trouble. All those things that held our families together are under assault. 2016 can be a turning point. We will re-embrace free enterprise, we will say life begins at conception, that our rights do not come from our president but from our Creator.

61. Cruz says he will be a conservative who will fight for you every day. Abolishing the IRS and installing a flat tax won’t be easy, but together we can do it. Who do you know will defend the Constitution and the Bill of Rights?

62. Trump says politicians are all talk and no action. We’re $19 trillion in debt. We need a very big change. We’re going to make our country great again.

So that happened.

This debate got higher ratings than the last one, but things need to change for the next one to be productive.

1. Do better crowd control.

2. Carson needs to drop out.

3. Trump needs to drop out.

Ah, but Trump won’t drop out because he’s in the lead. But he was so boorish and obnoxious that it’s difficult for the others to look like adults. It’s not all his fault either though. Rubio and Cruz descended into “You’re lying!” “No, you’re lying!” too.

Donald Trump is the candidate for Republicans who hate the Republican party. He’s a hand grenade for people who feel like Washington DC needs to be blown up. I mean, if we could magically move DC from its current location to somewhere a little more central in the nation – say, northern Missouri – it would change the culture. Sure. But that’s not going to happen. There is no way I will vote for Donald Trump, and I know many other Republicans who feel the same way. If Trump won the nomination, I’d be petitioning Mitt Romney to run as a third-party candidate. If Trump doesn’t win the nomination, I can almost guarantee he’ll run third party. Donald Trump is what happens when you’re surrounded by yes-men your whole life.

Ted Cruz is the candidate for those who want to pick the “only true conservative,” but he seems more of an obstructionist than a leader. It matters that not one senator has endorsed him. I do think Mike Lee would if Marco Rubio wasn’t there, but Lee would be the only one. Cruz may radiate ideological purity, but he doesn’t radiate authenticity.

Marco Rubio had his brain-freeze in New Hampshire but he recovered nicely tonight. I just find it a pity he’s never had a good answer for the Gang of 8 bill. While watching the debate for a few minutes, my wife said “He looks too slick to be president.”

John Kasich is able to position himself as the positive candidate because he didn’t get in the mud with four other candidates.

Ben Carson should drop out.

Then there’s Jeb Bush. It was tactically smart for Trump to relitigate the George W. Bush years since GWB is going to be campaigning with Jeb this week. However Trump went about it all wrong and sounded Michael Moore by the end of the debate. Jeb has to finish in the top three in South Carolina to justify his staying in the race, and the earliest post-debate numbers suggests he might have slid to fifth. If he finishes behind Rubio and Kasich in South Carolina, then he really has no path to victory.

This was one of Jeb’s best debates yet, but what does he really think he’s doing? Republicans are squeamish enough about nominating a third Bush; how does he think the entire country feels?

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