Thoughts on last night’s debate(s)?

Above and below you see two of my most popular Tweets (out of 39) from during the GOP debate last night. This is the kind of incisive commentary you won’t find elsewhere.

OK, truth be told, I later saw that Nicholas Kristof had the same idea I did re William Jennings Bryan, but that’s OK. Great minds and all that.

But I’m putting up this post to ask what y’all thought of the debate.

Just some quick overall impressions from me:

    • I was struck a number of times at how this sounded like a debate featuring candidates of some party other than the Republican, such as Rand Paul’s opposition to a strong defense, Ted Cruz’ criticism of corporate fat cats, and Marco Rubio’s tax credit for child care.
    • Meanwhile, the most perfect embodiment of traditional Republicanism, Jeb Bush, continued to fail to pull away from the pack.
    • Trump was marginally more buffoonish than in past events, I thought. Will his supporters notice. My fave LOL Trump moment — when he asked with regard to Carly Fiorina, “Why does she keep interrupting?” Yeah, Donald! Doesn’t she know men are talking?
    • Actually, I’m serious about the West Coast thing (below). It’s ridiculous for debates to start that late at night.
    • I think Cruz had the best night, followed by either Rubio or Kasich.


17 thoughts on “Thoughts on last night’s debate(s)?

  1. Norm Ivey

    On the undercard Jindal kept attacking Christie, and Christie kept saying they shouldn’t be attacking each other. It was kind of comical given Christie’s rep for verbal pushback. I kept waiting for him to cut loose on Jindal. Christie was definitely the strongest during that debate.

    I thought Rubio did a good job. I think Cruz is a smart guy, but I don’t want him as president. I still don’t think much of Carson or Trump, but at least they didn’t get too much air time. The questions were, for the most part, much better than the last debate, and the whole thing felt more adult.

    The moment of the night was when Kasich got booed for suggesting that the wealthy should not have their deposits protected if BoA were to fail. Pretty bold words to say in front of a GOP crowd.

    1. Mark Stewart

      Wait, Kasich took the Republican view and got booed for it?

      Sounds like a reconstitution of the party hack apparatus is in order, by that I mean the reactionary social conservatives and the Tea Party need to go find their own sandbox. Even at the expense of voters. Nuts.

  2. Jeff Mobley

    I also thought Cruz did well. I thought Bush was much better than he’s been in past debates, but that’s not saying much.

    I thought Rubio did well, as usual.

    The exchange between Rubio and Paul was very interesting. Paul started off by criticizing the expanded tax credits for families in Rubio’s tax proposal, arguing that it would be a trillion-dollar expenditure and would therefore not be conservative. Others argue that such credits are needed to correct an inherent distortion I the tax code. But that’s not what was interesting. Rubio responded with a few words about families, but then seemingly out of nowhere unleashed the label of “committed isolationist” on Rand Paul. This got Paul talking about defense spending. Rubio had successfully pivoted from having to defend (what can arguably be described as) domestic spending, to defending defense spending, which is much easier to do in front of a Republican audience. The most interesting thing was that Paul happily obliged Rubio in shifting the focus of the discussion to defense spending (which he argues must be cut along with domestic spending), even though I personally think he would have been better off going back to the specific criticism he had leveled about the tax credits in the first place.

    I tend to generally agree with Rubio when he talks about foreign policy, but I always find Rand Paul worth listening to (I didn’t feel the same way about his dad).

    I found Kasich thoroughly annoying. Even when he says things with which I agree, he sounds like a lecturing jerk. At times his answers made no sense at all. I’d rather listen to Jim Gilmore (who will be at the Russell House at USC tomorrow, by the way).

    I find myself considering Cruz more seriously than I have in the past. I have had my doubts about his ability to win people over in a general election, but he is quite a skilled communicator. However, he needs to stop making quasi-dramatic pauses that make it look like he’s waiting for applause. Just keep talking, Ted!

    I like Ben Carson, but have some serious concerns. I think almost all of the fuss over his biography is a bunch of nonsense (though I’m not satisfied with his explanations about Mannatech), but he seems out of his depth on so many issues. A man of his intelligence should be willing and able to study and prepare for these debates (not to mention for holding the office) more than it seems he has.

    Trump didn’t really surprise. I’d vote for Carson if I thought it would keep Trump from winning the SC primary.

    Fiorina had a solid performance, and made some very good points. The thing about her is that all her responses are derived from her stump speech (this is undoubtedly true of all the candidates). She transitions from the questioned asked to her memorized lines more abruptly than some of the other candidates. I like most of her memorized lines, though (the ones about President Fiorina regularly conducting smartphone insta-polls of the citizenry aren’t my favorite).

    In closing: Cruz won this one. Rubio continues to perform at a high level. I like listening to Rand Paul. Bush would fit better in the undercard debates. I’d rather see any of the four undercard candidates (or Graham, for that matter) on the main stage than have to watch Kasich again.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Thanks for your very thoughtful analysis, Jeff.

      The more that Rubio-Paul exchange went on, the more I liked Rubio. Paul is useful that way, for any candidate who wants to appeal to me.

      Yeah, I can see how Kasich could annoy (and his reputation is that he’s pretty cranky and often rude). But you know what I think would do him the most good? Standing up straight. That slump of his is off-putting. (And if he’s got some kind of health problem that causes it, I apologize.)

      Cruz is good at projecting himself in a positive light, but beware — a lot of Republicans who have had the chance to get to know him really don’t like the guy.

      As for Carson — I’ve made an observation over the years that may be unfair, but here it is: Doctors, especially specialists, have a tendency to be alarmingly out of touch on topics that don’t bear directly on their specialties. They tend to know less about politics, their community, the arts, what have you than, say, lawyers do. I think that’s because their profession demands that kind of exclusive focus, while lawyers (like journalists) tend to be pushed more in the direction of being generalists, knowing at least something about a lot of things.

      Anyone else notice that?

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Part of that might be ego on my part.

        When I meet lawyers, they very often know who I am and start engaging me in conversation about something I’ve done or written about.

        That happens less often when I meet doctors. They tend to look at me kind of blankly and wait for me to describe my symptoms. There are exceptions to that; I know some docs who are very aware of the world around them. But it’s not the rule…

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          I remember in particular the anesthesiologist who gave my wife an epidural when she was in labor with my daughter who was born out in Wichita.

          He was in the labor room for awhile, so we fell into conversation. When he learned I was the news editor at the local paper, he made a point of saying he didn’t read the paper (I suspect that journalists attract that kind of rudeness more often than most people, but I could be wrong). He said he read the L.A. Times.

          I decided to hold my tongue rather than lecture him. But if I had been less disciplined, I would have said the following: Aside from the fact that only a fool or a hermit ignores the news about the community in which he lives, he was limiting himself with regard to national and international news by reading just one large newspaper. As news editor, I determined what went into the paper every night, and I had at my disposal all the best content from the L.A. Times — as well as that from the NYT, The Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune and all Knight-Ridder papers — not to mention the AP and UPI. I compared them all, and my readers got the best from each outlet.

          But I didn’t want to argue with a guy who was putting a needle into my wife’s spine…

      2. Norm Ivey

        I noticed it about Carson. There were a couple of questions where he looked decidedly unprepared. It was a question about ISIS and he mentioned that the Chinese were in Syria. I’ve no doubt about his intelligence, and I admire his surgical talent, but his popularity concerns me even more than Trump does. I think a President Trump would have enough sense to surround himself with people who really do know what’s going on. I’m afraid a President Carson would be someone’s puppet.

        1. Bryan Caskey

          If you’re a Carson supporter, every answer he gives is a white-knuckle ride where you hold on to see if he can make to the end of an answer without crashing and burning.

          1. Jeff Mobley

            I agree. The thing is, sometimes the answer turns out great. I thought he gave the best answer on the minimum wage question, for example. Far better than Trump’s. But, yes, I think that’s a very apt characterization.

            1. Bryan Caskey

              If liked Carson’s answer about minimum wage, listen to this, from Milton Friedman about the minimum wage. It’s a very similar analysis.

              Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking Carson for saying the same thing as Uncle Milton. On the converse, I’m glad.

      3. Kathryn Fenner

        I believe you are correct that the *training* for their profession requires an awful lot of focus, but I wouldn’t give them a pass after they are up and running. Given the storied amounts of time doctors supposedly spend on the golf course or on their sailboats, perhaps a bit of that could be chipped off to learn non-medical things.
        If you are going to participate in our democracy, you owe it to us to become better educated. See also, Tea Party.

  3. Doug Ross

    “Meanwhile, the most perfect embodiment of traditional Republicanism, Jeb Bush, continued to fail to pull away from the pack.”

    In order to pull away from from the pack wouldn’t you have to first get somewhere close to the front? How many more campaign resets will Bush be able to try and pull off before he realizes he isn’t going to be President, nevermind the nominee?

    I think we’ll be down to about 6-8 total candidates by Iowa. Trump, Carson, Rubio, Cruz, Paul, Bush, Fiorina and maybe Christie. Then after New Hampshire, it’ll will be 4-5. If Bush doesn’t come in at least second in one of IA, NH, SC, he’ll be done.

    At the end, I think it will be Rubio.

  4. Bart

    Didn’t watch the debate. Learned that it is better to read the intelligent comments posted by the regulars on this blog. Of course I keep up with the other side’s take on the Republican circus and based on what I have been reading, Rubio and Cruz are the ones they are most concerned about. If may be a Rubio-Cruz ticket and if it comes to that, Hillary may be in for the fight of her political life.

    Thanks to all for your comments. Worthwhile reading.

  5. Chris McCormick

    Favorite moment of the debate was when Trump was asked about the [truly, astoundingly bad] TPP, and he went on for quite a while about it being a way for China to get one over on us. Finally Rand says to the moderator, “We might want to mention that China isn’t a part of this deal.” Big laugh in the room.


    I loved it. It was a big enough moment that they were playing the cue in music for a commercial when Rand spoke up, and they CUT the music and gave Rand 30 seconds or so to expound.


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