Here are a few of my thoughts about tonight’s Fox Business Channel/Wall Street Journal GOP Presidential Debate…
1. This was BY FAR the best debate of this election cycle. It wasn’t even close. The moderators asked good, pointed, relevant questions, and then got out of the way. Kudos to Cavuto, Bartiromo, and Baker — I’d like to see them moderate several more debates.
2. The longer time allotments for candidate answers and rebuttals was great. It allowed it to feel more like a real debate. It allowed some candidates enough time to put together coherent thoughts and arguments (especially Paul & Rubio), and exposed others who often rambled incoherently with more time (Trump, Kasich, Bush).
3. I really wish moderators would shut off microphones of candidates who do more than finish their current sentence when the bell rings. The worst offenders of the time limits were Kasich and Cruz (and to a somewhat lesser extent, Fiorina), and it was really annoying. Meanwhile, Paul, Rubio, and Carson all did a great job staying within time limits.
4. Rand Paul had his best debate by far. He had some great quotes, including, “We can be strong without being involved in every civil war around the world,” “Can you really be conservative if you support profligate defense spending?” and, “If you’re going to enforce a no-fly zone in Iraq, you need to realize that you’ll be shooting down Russian planes. Are you prepared to send your sons and daughters to yet another war in Iraq?” (Quotes are approximate from my memory.) I mostly like what I know of his tax plan, and he finally got a chance to talk about it tonight. But his tiff with Marco Rubio on defense spending was the most surprising and most memorable moment of the debate. I know a lot of my fellow conservatives poo-poo Rand Paul on foreign policy, but I really wish they’d actually listen to what Paul is saying and seriously think about it. In my opinion, you can’t have a serious plan to address the federal budget and national debt without substantially reducing defense spending *in addition to* reducing domestic spending. We have to take a both-and approach, not either-or. At the very least, Rand Paul’s ideas need to continue to be heard in these GOP debates.
5. Ted Cruz had a Rick Perry “oops” moment, when he said he was the only candidate to have a plan on which specific federal agencies to eliminate. He said he would eliminate five agencies, and proceeded to count out five — except that he listed the Department of Commerce twice. Oops. And speaking of eliminating the Dept. of Commerce, does that mean that he wants to eliminate NOAA and the National Weather Service? Or would he move them to another department? (On a related note, how many non-meteorologists are even aware NOAA is in the Dept. of Commerce?)
6. Speaking of Ted Cruz, he had a couple good lines tonight, but his style gets on my nerves in a hurry. Anecdotes like he had really seemed out of place in a debate like tonight. That, and he’s dangerously ignorant on issues like climate change.
7. Speaking of climate change, Rand Paul got the only question on the issue. He did kind of okay with it, but on the plus side, he’s one of the only candidates who will actually acknowledge that climate change is a real thing and that humans are playing a role in it.
8. I liked Ben Carson’s deft handling of questions about his past, and how he pivoted to a slam on Hillary’s honesty, which everyone knows is non-existent.
9. John Kasich had a dumpster fire of a debate for the second time in a row. He was whiny, condescending, rambling, and incoherent in his far-too-frequent interruptions. He really should drop out before the next debate. Thankfully, I think he removed himself from VP consideration as well.
10. Donald Trump was a rambling, incoherent mess. Again. Why does anyone support this clown? He can’t drop out soon enough.
11. Having only 8 candidates on stage, instead of 10 or 11, also helped things greatly. Didn’t miss Christie or Huckabee one bit. Eight is still too many, but it’s progress. Hopefully by the next debate Kasich and Bush will be out or demoted, and we’ll be down to six.
Here are my rankings for who won/lost tonight’s debate…
1. Rand Paul. I’m not saying that he won the debate just because he’s been my #1 candidate all along, but I really thought he did great tonight, with really good, substantive answers.
2. Marco Rubio. He wasn’t quite as good as previous debates, but he was still better than everyone else on the stage except for Paul.
3. Ben Carson. He turned in his best overall performance so far, though it wasn’t nearly as good as Paul or Rubio. I think he’s a decent man, and I’d support him in a heartbeat in the general election against anyone the Democrats put forward, but I think he might be best as HHS Secretary or Surgeon General.
4/5. Ted Cruz/Carly Fiorina. Some good lines, but didn’t move the needle for me. I’m unconvinced they’d be good presidents, though both would be better than Hillary.
6. Jeb Bush. He is so incredibly awkward. He had his best debate so far, but it still was bad. Jeb is toast, and really should drop out before the next debate.
7. Donald Trump. Stunningly, he wasn’t the biggest disaster on stage this debate, because…
8. John Kasich. Ugh.