GOP Debate Scorecard: The Big Winner Wasn’t Anyone on the Stage, It Was Democrats

Trump comes off as a sniveling bully; Bush as simple-minded; Cruz as maniacal. And that’s good news for Democrats.

Source: AlterNet

Author: Amanda Marcotte/Salon

Emphasis Mine

One thing is certain from Tuesday night’s Republican debate on CNN: Whatever polling data the Republicans are reading, it’s telling them that GOP primary voters are worried that ISIS is sneaking in through the air ducts and that the only thing that will save them now is thumping your chest really hard and repeating, “Radical Islamic terrorism, radical Islamic terrorism, radical Islamic terrorism” until the magical spell works and the baddies go away.

Oh, and bombing someone. Definitely have to bomb someone.

So who won this debate, clearly aimed at people who, like Lindsey Graham, really miss the Bush administration and those carefree days when it seemed that all the world’s problems could be solved by bombing some innocent civilians half a world away? Here’s an examination:

Winner, Untouchable Division: Donald Trump. Trump came across as a sniveling bully and a consummate bullshitter who clearly just says the first thing that pops into his head and then, when confronted, just doubles down on it instead of admitting he was wrong. But that’s never hurt him in the polls before, and it’s unlikely to do so now.

Bonus points: Trump’s “plan” to bar Muslims from traveling into the U.S. became one of the central points of contention in the debate. Trump continues to amaze with his ability to control the narrative just by flapping his loose jaws while other politicians fail to get a word in edgewise with their carefully constructed talking points.

Loser, Conservatives Are A-Skeered DivisionRand Paul. The crowd was definitely not feeling his attempts to be a maverick by rejecting the security state and (some) war. Paul, never the principled libertarian he plays on TV, did his best to pander to the heightened bloodthirst of the conservative crowd by chasing after Rubio on immigration, but ultimately the moment fell flat, flatter than Paul’s poll numbers.

Winner, Impressing The Political Press Division: Jeb Bush.

Bush’s war-mongering and simple-minded posturing would probably not hold up well in a contest with Hillary Clinton. However, he said a couple of things that were true during this debate, such as noting that all this Muslim-bashing is going to undermine our relationships with Muslim allies we need to fight ISIS. This made him look like a foreign policy genius compared to the clowns on stage pretending Syrian orphans are about to go jihad on us, and he’ll probably get a bunch of kudos for it from the political press.

Loser, Actually Getting Anywhere With The Voters Division: Jeb Bush. The audience loved it when Bush said, “Donald, you’re not going to be able to insult your way to the presidency,” but only, oh irony, because Trump has trained them over months to react to every feeble insult like it’s the sickest burn they’ve ever heard. But despite landing a couple of blows during the debate, Bush’s concluding remarks were so limp he got bored with them and trailed off. Voters will soon forget that he’s even in this race.

Winners, Tap-Dancing Around The “How Fascist Are You” Question Division:Carly Fiorina and Marco Rubio. You can’t denounce Trump’s nutty idea of a Muslim travel ban, because you’ll just drive more of your idiot base into his arms. But you can’t endorse it, either, because it’s unconstitutional and seriously a legitimate threat to national security. So both candidates, when faced with the question, rattled off officious-sounding nonsense to run out the clock. Rubio gave us a history of the San Bernardino shooter and Fiorina gave us a history of social media, but both accomplished the main goal of babbling until the buzzer sounded without either of them actually answering the question.

Loser, What’s This Debate About Again Division: Chris Christie. Christie’s Hail Mary pass in the past few months is to paint himself as a “law and order” type, feeding off conservative hostility to the Black Lives Matter movement in hopes of getting some kind of attention. An entire debate dedicated to Syrian politics did not help him in this mission, even though he mentioned that he’s a federal prosecutor roughly 1.2 billion times during the debate.

Winner, Oh God He Might Actually Win DivisionTed Cruz. He was nearly as maniacal as Donald Trump when it comes to racist pandering and was by far the most convincing in the contest to see who is most eager to kill them all and let God sort them out. This is a man who knows how to fight and claw his way to the top of any trash pile you give him, and winning the Republican nomination is what he was born to do. Be afraid, be very afraid.

Loser, Being Able To Sleep At Night Edition: The viewers. Well, at least viewers who still have enough wits about them to know Barack Obama isn’t a secret Muslim and that chemtrails aren’t mind control. Those viewers watched candidates dedicate nearly 2 hours out of a 2 and a half hour debate to the question of Syrian politics and the most immediate takeaway is not a one of them has the first clue about what’s really going on in the unbelievably complex civil war there.

Oh, the candidates know that Bashar al-Assad is on one side and ISIS is on the other and that Vladimir Putin is being a dick, all of which is probably more understanding that the typical Republican voter has regarding the whole thing. But memorizing these little factoids is hardly relevant when you still think the solution to an intricate civil war that mostly isn’t about us at all is to stand around declaring how tough you are.

Winner, General Election Division: The Democrats. The Republicans look for all the world like they’re going to nominate their candidate based on fears about a country most of them can’t find on a map. Better yet, that candidate will not be chosen based on his foreign policy qualifications, but on whether or not he said the nastiest things about Muslims. Either way, it’s going to be fun for the Democrat to run against this impetuous pick 11 months from now, when the issue of Islamic terrorism has faded from the public imagination and journalists have returned to asking questions about issues that are far more immediate to voters than who has a leg up in the Syrian civil war this week.

Amanda Marcotte co-writes the blog Pandagon. She is the author of “It’s a Jungle Out There: The Feminist Survival Guide to Politically Inhospitable Environments.”

See: http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/gop-debate-scorecard-big-winner-wasnt-anyone-stage-it-was-democrats?akid=13782.123424.ZFQd7f&rd=1&src=newsletter1047420&t=4

11 Distortions, Misrepresentations and Outright Lies in the GOP Debate

Source: Alternet

Author: Zaid Julani

Emphasis Mine

Last night, millions of Americans watched two rounds of Republican Party presidential debates – first a debate among candidates who have failed to achieve more than one percent in national polls, and second a debate among relative frontrunners.

Both debates offered a window into an entirely different world, completely unrelated to the world we actually live in. Candidates made statement after statement that represented distortion, mistruths, and outright lies. Here are 11 whoppers:

1. Insisting That Hispanics Used to Love Republicans: Lindsey Graham scolded the other three candidates in his debate, telling them that Hispanics voted for “us” under previous Republican president George W. Bush. Although it’s true that frontrunner Donald Trump has depleted much of what was left of Hispanic support for the GOP, even under Bush, that wasn’t a vote they won. At the high point in 2004, Bush won 44 percent of that vote, and Romney won only 27 percent.

2. Ridiculously Saying That Iran Threatens The Whole Western World: Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee wanted the audience to know that Iran threatens the “essence of Western civilization.” Except Iran’s defense budget is around $10 billion, a fractionof our own $600 plus billion defense budget. How a country with no weapons of mass destruction and a tiny defense budget can be threatening the United States, let alone our NATO allies, was not explained by Huckabee. Probably because it makes no sense.

3. Implying the U.S. Government Funds Abortion: Over and over, the assertion was made that the United States federal government finances abortions, such as by giving subsidies to Planned Parenthood. While you can make a convoluted argument that money is indirectly spread around, the fact is the the federal government has followed a blanket ban on such funding except in cases of rape, incest, or when it threatens the health of the mother.

4. Claiming Obama Is Trying to Circumvent the Process to Let In Syrian Refugees: Bobby Jindal said that Obama was trying to “short-circuit the vetting process” to let in Syrian refugees, a dangerous dog whistle to imply that the president was going to let in terrorists. As CNN’s own fact-check pointed out, the 10,000 refugees – truly a paltry amount – are slated to come in through the exact same process as any other refugees.

5. Saying We Are Almost the Only Ones With Birthright Citizenship:Trump said almost no one else – including Mexico – has birthright citizenship, and moderator Jake Tapper agreed with him. That’s true, if you think the entire rest of the world consists of Europe. Almost everywhere in the Americas has birthright citizenship and that includes Mexico.

6. Rubio Telling a Fantastic But False Story About His Grandfather:Senator Rubio gave an emotional address about his grandfather supposedly fleeing Castro to come to the United States. There’s just a problem: the story doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. As has been reported in the past, his family came to the United States long before Castro even came to power.

7. Stating That North Korea Can Hit Us With a Nuclear Weapon: Rubio also claimed that North Korea could hit us with a nuclear weapon. Unless they plan to send a team on a boat carrying one, it’s not going to happen – there is very little evidence that they have a functional intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the United States.

8. Saying, With A Straight Face, That Bush Kept Us Safe: “My brother kept us safe,” said Jeb Bush. This is a pretty ironic thing to say five days after the anniversary of the September 11th attacks, which his brother obviously did not keep us safe from.

9. Going Back to the Tired “Sanctuary” Arguments About Terrorists:Rubio made the argument that we needed to stay in Iraq, invade Afghanistan, and have our military all over the world to prevent terrorists from having “sanctuary” – but as the Boston Bombing, Charleston, and many other attacks prove, terrorists don’t need to have a physical space to plot attacks, and a giant military presence in a foreign country doesn’t necessarily prevent them so much as give them recruits.

10. Telling People Marijuana Is More Harmful Than Beer: Carly Fiorina, disupting Rand Paul’s more libertarian view on drugs, said that smoking marijuana isn’t like having a beer. Actually marijuana is much safer than alcohol – is linked to “one in 10 deaths among working-age adults can be attributed to excessive alcohol use.”

11. Lying About Vaccines: Trump boosted theories that vaccinations are linked to autism; despite Ben Carson’s intervention that this wasn’t true, Rand Paul still went on to tout the “voluntary” nature of smallpox vaccinations – actually they were not voluntary, they were mandated and financed by a global government effort through the World Health Organization.

See:http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/11-distortions-misrepresentations-and-outright-lies-gop-debate?akid=13484.123424.-yHQbT&rd=1&src=newsletter1042561&t=2

The GOP’s First 2016 Debate Showcases Its Right-Wingers and True Crazies

Fox News shows the nation how nuts the GOP has become.

Source: AlterNet

Author: Steven Rosenfeld

Emphasis Mine 

The Republican Party’s first official debate of the 2016 presidential election showed the GOP’s leading candidates as not just all hard right-wingers, but different shades of crazy.

There was Donald Trump, who will doubtless draw the most press attention by declaring right off the bat that if he is not the nominee, he would seriously considering running as an independent—which, as Fox News’ debate moderator Bret Baier said, “would almost certainly hand over the race to Democrats and likely another Clinton.”

That brought boos from the crowd and a spontaneous attack by Sen. Rand Paul, who blared, “This is what’s wrong. He buys and sells politicans.” To which, Trump replied, “ Well, I’ve given him [Paul] plenty of money.”

That feisty spree set the tone for much of the next two hours. Trump would go on to explain that, of course, he spends money to buy politicans’ attention, and failed to see anything at all wrong with that. When asked what he got in return from Hillary Clinton, he said that she came to his latest wedding. But beyond political gossip like that—or saying he was tired of being criticized for being politically incorrect after crude and sexist statements about women—the Fox News debate made it clear that most of the GOP’s leading candidates roughly fell into two right-wing camps: truly crazed extremists (Donald Trump, Rand Paul, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee) or blandly presentable right-wingers, whose agenda is still remarkably out-of-synch with mainstream America (Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, John Kasich, Chris Christie).

The blander crazies are probably the more dangerous crew, because even though their policies are very far to the right—anti-abortion, anti-gay rights, anti-tax, anti-immigrant, anti-government, anti-science—they will be portrayed by mainstream media as moderates. Take reproductive rights, just an example.

Bush answered a question about being on the board of ex-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s foundation, which has supported Planned Parenthood, by saying that his record as governor was to lead the country in restricting abortions, passing parental notification laws, outlawing late-term abortions, and being first in the nation to have pro-life license places. That was the quote-unquote, moderate response, when compared to Mike Huckabee, who said that the next president must declare that the Constitution’s 5th and 14th amendments protects the rights of the unborn “from the moment of conception.” Speaking of the Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion rights, he said, “It’s time that we recognize that the Supreme Court is not the supreme being.”

Other social issues followed the same arc. Early in the debate, one Fox moderator pressed Ohio Gov. John Kasich for being a litte too much like St. Peter because he expanded his state’s Medicaid program under Obamacare, which Kasich defended. But when asked about same-sex marriage, he replied, “If one of my daughters happened to be that…” Kasich quickly followed up by saying, he’d love his daughters unconditionally, but such exchanges showed just how immoderate the GOP’s supposed moderates are.

The more serious exchanges were interrupted by moments that were astounding political theatre, such as Trump sparring with Fox News’ Megyn Kelly who said, “You’ve called women you don’t like ‘fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals…’ Does that sound to you like the temperament of a man we should elect as president?” Trump began his reply, saying, “I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct… I frankly don’t have time for total political correctness. And to be honest with you, this country doesn’t have time either. This country is in big trouble.”

Exchanges like that quickly ended and were followed by other zany questions, such as asking Ted Cruz why he recently called Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a liar? To which, Cruz replied, because he was one—and the country needed politicians who spoke the truth. “As Republicans, we keep winning elections. We have a Republican House. We have a Republican Senate, and we don’t have leaders who honor their commitments. I will always tell the truth and do what I said I would do.”

When it came to specifics of what the candidates would do, the template was roughly the same. The plan is to cut taxes and regulations to promote economic growth, build up the military—including sending troops overseas fight a new ground war with ISIS, and saying that this strategy worked for Ronald Reagan and would surely work again. Of course, there were small differences. On immigration, everyone objected to amensty for the undocumented already in America, but some—such as Jeb Bush—said a pathway to legalized status was needed, especially to ensure economic growth. Others were less charitable. Trump, of course, said a new border wall needed to be built—but with a large door in it for those following a legal process to enter.

The debate did showcase the candidates’ political skills and that might shake up their ranking in the polls. Chris Christie had a good night, feistily dismissing questions about New Jersey’s lagging economy under his watch—it was worse before he got there, he said—and eagerly attacking Rand Paul for his opposition to NSA spying on Americans. Marco Rubio, who has the best smile of anyone on the stage, didn’t say anything that was truly cringe-worthy, even though he was fervently pro-life and almost libertarian on federal oversight—on the environment and education. John Kasich appeared almost grandfatherly on stage, projecting himself as a seasoned hand on budget and national security issues. And Jeb Bush, when pressed on being the heir to a political dynasty, replied he had a higher bar to prove himself with voters, which came across as both insecure and honest. In contrast, Scott Walker, who didn’t make any mistakes, came across with answers that seemed a bit too canned—practiced and unengaging.

The crazies, however, may have won the night’s battle but set themselves back in the longer war. Trump clearly distinghished himself as someone who really doesn’t care what people think about him—he’s a businessman who will do whatever it takes. The other outlying ideologues—Cruz, Huckabee, Carson, Paul—all seem to be in narrower silos where their followers will love what they said, and how they said it, but they’re less likely to break through to a larger base.

You can be sure that the Republican Party will declare their first debate a great success. Millions of people watched. They saw candidates up close and personal. Their remarks will surely shake up the race. And, to be sure, the night will also be seen by Democrats as pure political manna from heaven—because the modern GOP was on display in vivid color, and because it is not a party of mere establishment right-wingers, but also out-and-out crazies running for the presidency.  

Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America’s retirement crisis, democracy and voting rights, and campaigns and elections. He is the author of “Count My Vote: A Citizen’s Guide to Voting” (AlterNet Books, 2008).

See: http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/gops-first-2016-debate-showcases-its-right-wingers-and-true-crazies?akid=13363.123424.-8l4Ir&rd=1&src=newsletter1040551&t=1