Nel's New Day

August 7, 2015

And the GOP Debate Winner Is ….

fox-rebublican-presidential-debate-lineup-2015The common question after any debate is “who won,” and last night’s first GOP presidential candidate debate was no exception. The gang of 10 followed the largely ignored group of seven earlier in the day to give their typical conservative responses to producing rapid economic growth by lowering taxes for the rich, rolling back regulation, shrinking government, repealing healthcare and Dodd-Frank, weakening Social Security, further reducing women’s reproductive rights, building a fence between Mexico and the U.S., and increasing the military budget to cause war around the world from Ukraine to Iran. The debates had one clear winner, however—Fox network.

August 6, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. (M. Scott Mahaskey/Politico)

August 6, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. (M. Scott Mahaskey/Politico)

Moderators Bret Baier, Megyn Kelly, and Chris Wallace came out for the later debate like a cheerleading team at a horse race as Kelly emitted giddy giggles and made inappropriate comments from the first time that she opened her mouth. The first question—who is willing to run as a third-party candidate if he doesn’t win the candidacy—established Fox’s bona fides as the GOP agenda-setter when Baier badgered Trump after he wouldn’t sign the pledge not to run.

Kelly followed that argument by assailing Trump on his sexist comments, making attacks from other candidates unnecessary. Trump struck back against Kelly, “What I say is what I say. And honestly, Megyn, if you don’t like it, I’m sorry. I’ve been very nice to you, although I could probably maybe not be, based on the way you have treated me. But I wouldn’t do that.” Fox will surely use that clip as a video loop as long as Trump is in the running. Kelly will get the credit if she destroys Donald Trump’s popularity, but she’s following the strategy of Roger Ailes, Fox president. Fox gave the power to Trump, but can it take away that power? The next polls will be very telling.

With other candidates, Kelly softened her approach. She asked Scott Walker, “Would you really let a mother die rather than have an abortion” and failed follow through after Walker explained that this could never happen. In essence, he said, “Yes.” Another Walker question was, “Why did you change your mind on immigrants and what else have you changed your mind on?” Again no request for explanation after Walker answered, “I listen to people.” Confronted by his failures in Wisconsin, Walker said, “They elected me for the third time … because they wanted someone to aim high, not aim low.” He also said that the United States should not do business with Iran because of the hostage situation 35 years ago, one which was orchestrated by the GOP trying to get Ronald Reagan elected Reagan who then tried to illegally sell weapons to Iran in order to help finance an illegal war in Central America.

Fox went for entertainment in the debate with its question-answer beauty-queen format, and the highpoint may have been the shouting match between Chris Christie and Rand Paul that matched the two bullies as if they were facing off on a school playground. Paul accused Christie of supporting spying because the president gave him a hug, and Christie accused Paul of “sitting in a subcommittee, just blowing hot air about this.”

Earlier in the day, George Pataki avoided a question about whether he would spy on mosques after moderator Martha MacCallum warned him about Islamic extremists in the United States. Then she warned him that Christian GOP voters worry about government interference in their religion. Later Lindsey Graham endorsed surveillance, but no one mentioned that the United States is already doing this.

In the next debate, Christie puffed himself up about his importance surrounding 9/11. He claimed ownership for 9/11 because he “was appointed U.S. Attorney by President Bush on September 10th, 2001.” This is another of Christie’s lies that even MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell swallowed. In fact, the White House contacted Christie on 9/10/1 to tell him that they had started the six-week vetting process preceding his nomination. Christie was nominated on December 7, 2001 (almost three months after 9/11) and sworn into office until January 17, 2002.

Nick Baumann pointed out ways that Fox smacked down candidates if they dared stray from the GOP ideology:

To Lindsey Graham: How can conservatives trust him because of his record on working with Democrats on climate change?

To Bobby Jindal and George Pataki: How did they think Ohio’s governor, John Kasich, “got it wrong” by accepting Medicaid expansion?

To pro-choice George Pataki:  Have the Planned Parenthood videos “changed your heart when it comes to abortion?”

To Sen. Rand Paul: Because he “recently blamed the rise of ISIS on Republican hawks,” the question was “Why are you so quick to blame your own party?” (It’s to be noted that no one asked Ted Cruz the same question that evening as he blamed half the problems on the Republicans.”

To John Kasich (about his claim that God was the reason for his Medicaid expansion): “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?”

The Nation provided a great overview of the debate.

“The first official Republican debate was, at least, good television, chock full of shouting matches, bald-faced lies, and ad hominem attacks. Spanning two hours, it addressed everything from national security to reproductive rights and economics (with a fifteen-second token question on race in America).”

Some of my favorite highlights from The Nation’s roundup:

Mike Huckabee on transgender rights in the military: “The military is not a social experiment. The purpose of the military is to kill people and break things.”

Ben Carson on his foreign policy blunders: “The thing that is probably most important is having a brain.”

Ben Carson on tax reform:  “The one that I’ve advocated is based on tithing because I think God’s a pretty fair guy.”

Jeb Bush on how he could achieve a four-percent economic growth rate: “I think we need to lift our spirits and have high lofty expectations.”

The language throughout the debate was disrespectful. Hillary Clinton was continually called “Hillary,” and moderator Chris Wallace, who should have known better, referred to the undocumented man who killed a woman in San Francisco as “an illegal.” The term was used six other times in the debate.

Perhaps the most outrageous response—and that’s hard to determine!—came from Bobby Jindal who promised to send the IRS after Planned Parenthood on the day that he becomes president. Jindal has promised a blatantly illegal act. Born in 1971, Jindal isn’t old enough to remember that Richard Nixon could have been impeached for trying to use the IRS as a political weapon if he hadn’t resigned first. The GOP spent a lot of capital accusing the president of using the IRS to punish far-right Tea Party groups, but nobody followed up on Jindal’s bid for attention in a crowded field.

Fox reinforced the GOP vision of a theocracy in its last question: “I want to know if any of [the candidates] have received a word from God on what they should do and take care of first.” The flurry of Christian expressions was to be expected. What was missing?

What has there been historic job growth during the past few years after the Affordable Care Act was described as a “job killer”?

Do you support paid maternity leave like all except two other countries in the world?

Do you support the policy of banning guns from the arena for the debate?

What lessons has the Iraq War given the United States? Does this impact your view of the Iranian deal?

Ronald Reagan granted legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants, grew the federal government, banned assault rifles, and raised the gas tax for the infrastructure and the ceiling on the Social Security tax? Is your approach different from his and, if so, how?

In gaining support from the Koch brothers, who say they are opposed to corporate welfare, would you eliminate all government subsidies and tax breaks for the fossil fuel industry?

Do you agree with the Citizens United decision, which conferred “personhood rights” on corporations, allowing them to give unlimited political donations?

Other missing topics: voting rights, climate change, and income inequality. In short, nothing new—nothing changed.

As Helen wrote to Margaret in her blog, “On a stage with no vaginas, there were a lot of opinions about vaginas.” As for the winner of last night’s GOP debate, some people say, “Hillary Clinton.”

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