Live-Blogging the First 2016 Republican Presidential Primary Debate

11:04 pm: “It’s over!  Relieved?  They don’t look relieved; they look like they’re saying, ‘Ugh, get me out of here!’ Hah hah hah!”  Megyn Kelly closes-out the debate.

11:02 pm: Governor Walker tells us that he destroyed unions in the birthplace of the progressive movement and gutted the University of Wisconsin system because he was concerned for his children’s future.  Well, Walker would win the election if it were decided by the US House of Representatives…

10:58 pm: …OK, Senator Paul closes his participation in the debate calling himself “a different kind of Republican.”  He speaks of his balanced budget proposal, which would slash or abolish programs that millions of minority voters depend on…and offers as compensation his concerns about police abuse of minorities in the inner city.  I don’t think he is going to outmaneuver the Democratic candidate on this issue in a general election, and I hope he will soon be more-prepared to discuss the particulars of these program cuts and how empowering they will be for the minority voters he is so eager to cultivate as Republicans…

10:55 pm: Dr. Carson speaks very eloquently about how we shouldn’t talk about racial disparities in America, which has become as solemn of a Republican refrain as anything.  I don’t know just how many anecdotes of police abuse and killing of unarmed Black men Dr. Carson and the other Republican Presidential hopefuls can countenance, but I’m sure they will abide the suffering of others with the same unmoved demeanor they are so proud of.

10:50 pm: Senator Cruz gets a question from a concerned (or maybe a very snarky) citizen about whether any of the candidates believe they have received word from God over what would be a priority for him as President; Cruz avers that he gets “a word from God every day, from the Bible.  And the Bible is the Word of God.”  Applause; the Christian Right is strong with this one.

Governor Kasich talks of his upbringing…and then says that “We’ve got to listen to other people,” and notes that America should be an exemplar of human rights.  He’s really serious about this kinder, gentler tone.

Governor Walker actually launches into Christian dogma.  He notes that he turned the other cheek to Liberal critics as a Conservative Governor of Wisconsin; what he doesn’t say as he invokes the Sermon on the Mount is that he told a man he thought was David Koch over the telephone that he had considered putting agents provocateurs into union protests to stir-up trouble from the police, but that he hadn’t gone ahead with it because he was concerned it might backfire.  That’s Scott Walker’s Christianity.

10:45 pm: Senator Paul is good at soapboxing about the national debt, but his inability to discuss it outside of sound bytes is…more-fascinating than infuriating.

10:42 pm: Governor Walker hits President Obama hard on a lack of support for Ukraine and Eastern Europe to guard against Russia, including the more-extensive deployment of George W. Bush’s missile defense.

In fairness to his Republican critics, President Obama’s overtures to Russia, which extended across 5 years, have been rendered a total failure as a result of the events of 2014 and our muted response to it.

10:39 pm: Senator Cruz actually believes that the Islamic Republic of Iran freed the U.S. Embassy hostages in 1981 on the day President Reagan was inaugurated because they were afraid of him; they actually decided to free the hostages at that point in order to give plausibility to the myth that their resistance brought down a U.S. President.

10:37 pm: What Donald Trump just said in criticism of President Obama’s proposed Iran nuclear agreement was too vacuous and dumb to discuss in particular.

10:31 pm: A concerned citizen asks, “What will you do to ensure that Christians are not prosecuted for speaking-out against gay marriage?”  Nothing has to be done to ensure this, as Obergefell v. Hodges will not cause this to happen.

Senator Paul makes the ill-conceived suggestion (Senator Paul is prone to ill-conceived suggestions) that the government should not be involved in regulating guns (He is desperate to assert himself in this debate!) or in marriage licensing.  You cannot remove government from marriage licensing; the courts have to rule on marital disputes, divorce, spousal rights, powers of attorney and inheritance and the like; what are we to do if this is not the subject of statute?

10:27 pm: Megyn Kelly notes Donald Trump’s past pro-choice stance on abortion and asks, “When did you become a Republican?”  Trump says his views have “evolved” (meaning, of course, that political circumstances have forced him to profess to believe something other than what he believes) on abortion.  He talks like a deprogrammed cultist, claiming that he lived somewhere where he was geographically surrounded by Democrats and that he is now coming to his senses.

I don’t think that anyone who is really listening to Donald Trump can really view the way he talks as the benefits of a lucid moment.

10:25 pm: Senator Rubio insists he doesn’t make exceptions for rape or incest victims in prohibiting abortion.  “I believe every single human being is entitled to the protection of our laws…whether they have a birth certificate or not.”  Legal fetal personhood apparently has become the mainstream position of the Republican Party on abortion.  This would enjoin making abortion equivalent to murder in our laws; would these guys like to discuss the implications of this?

10:18 pm: Senator Paul criticizes President Obama for not “negotiating from a position of strength.”  Did he actually read the provisions for Iran’s uranium enrichment and monitoring?  It sure sounds like he didn’t.

Governor Huckabee accuses the Islamic Republic of Iran of genocidal intent towards Israel and an inflexible vendetta towards the United States.  As has previously been noted, his assumptions basically enjoin not only rejection of this nuclear refinement agreement with Iran, but any, and eventual war with Iran.  But at least we’re standing tall…

10:16 pm: Governor Walker is asked what comes next if we reject the Iran nuclear disarmament deal; he invokes his childhood memory of the 444 days American Embassy workers were held hostage in Iran following the 1979 Revolution.

10:14 pm: I’m going to ignore all of Governor Walker’s empty rhetoric about what we need to do to fix this country, and focus on the fact that he wants to repeal the Dodd-Frank financial reform law.  There it is: Republicans have reached the point where they feel safe militating to return us to the fundamental financial instability that distinguished the previous decade in this country.  The Koch Brothers have their knight-errant.

10:11 pm: Donald Trump declares that he has always tried to do his best by his companies, himself, his friends, his family, etc…and he notes that he has never personally declared bankruptcy.

Chris Wallace responds by noting that investors in Trump Entertainment Resorts in Atlantic City lost over $1 billion; Trump comes back by demonizing his own investors and noting that Chris Christie is the Governor of New Jersey!  Cheers and applause.

10:07 pm: Governor Huckabee is asked about his past criticism of Governor Christie’s proposal of raising the collection age of and means-testing Social Security.  Look, a policy debate!

Governor Huckabee proposes cutting Congressional benefits instead of Social Security benefits…If all you could cut after doing that were Social Security, you’d practically have to cut it just as much.

10:06 pm: Governor Christie proposes raising the collection age for Social Security (which is regressive because the wealthy live longer) as well as subjecting the program’s beneficiaries to progressive means-testing (which by definition is progressive).

10:03 pm: Jeb Bush has accused the President of taxing people’s aspirations.  Has he heard of the payroll tax cut? Republicans fought the extension of that in late-2010 in order to extend George W. Bush’s tax cuts for the rich!

He also accuses President Obama for fighting “the energy revolution in this country.”  He is clearly referring to the oil-drilling side of it and not the renewable energy side of it, for which President Obama is actually centrally-responsible.  Also, the drilling permits President Obama’s Department of the Interior has approved has been controversial in some places, and pretty continuous with George W. Bush’s promotion of more domestic oil and natural gas drilling.

10:01 pm: Dr. Carson accuses Hillary Clinton of following “the Saul Alinsky model” of taking advantage of “useful idiots,” asserting that “I don’t think that people are stupid,” and promising to “educate people” about how damaging the progressive Left (who they put in the White House by unambiguous margins twice in the past 8 years) is for America.

10:00 pm: Governor Kasich attributes the economic growth of the late-90s tech boom to a balanced Federal budget.  Things aren’t good for you just because they sound virtuous: Big Republican policy problem.

9:52 pm: Brett Baier asks Governor Bush about his own embrace of Common Core education reforms; many Republicans who know nothing whatsoever about Common Core “boo” him for it.  Governor Bush asserts the many unhelpful Conservative reforms he brought to Florida, such as school vouchers.  Senator Rubio, in response, warns that Federal guidelines always become Federal mandates; isn’t the Senate doing exactly the opposite right now in reforming the No Child Left Behind Act to remove unhelpful mandates?  Is Senator Rubio not going to vote for that reform, the way he usually doesn’t endorse legislation passing through that chamber?

9:52 pm: Dr. Carson just called for a “proportional” tax system: “You make $10 billion, you pay a billion; you make $10, you pay one.”

That is a powerful demonstration of Republican moral logic: A tax system that leaves one person with $9 billion and another person with $9 is a priori “fair,” if that is what the market provides for.

9:48 pm: Donald Trump parries a question about his money donations to the Clintons with surprising cleverness: “When they call, I give,” he says of all politicians.  He notes that he was able to get Hillary Clinton to come to his wedding because he had donated to the Clinton Foundation.  He calls it a broken system but is unapologetic about making use of it.  I think…he’s calling for taking private financing out of politics.  Republicans are usually in such denial about the corrupting influence of this exchange.

Ugh, I was just impressed by Donald Trump!

9:46 pm: Donald Trump is asked about his advocacy for Canadian-style single-payer health care…He first is careful to establish that he opposed the Iraq War…in 2004.  (The war was first discussed in 2002 and launched in March 2003).  Trump first notes that single-payer health care has worked great in other countries, but then calls for simply allowing Americans to buy insurance plans across State lines.

I think that is the only health care idea Republicans have had since early 2009.

9:45 pm: Ben Carson says “There is no such thing as a politically-correct war,” to some applause…I think he is saying he doesn’t care about war crimes.

9:43 pm: Having been asked to discuss his support, knowing what he knows now, for his brother’s disastrous decision to invade Iraq, Florida Governor Jeb Bush blames President Obama for pulling  our occupation force out of that country…8 1/2 years after that war of choice was initiated.  What a weak argument just to defend his family’s name.

9:41 pm: Ted Cruz grandstands: “…If you wage jihad against the United States of America, you are signing your own death warrant!”  Didn’t a Democratic President, whom Senator Cruz offers up for mockery now, actually launch the raid that killed the terrorist bin-Laden?  Senator Cruz calls for ending citizenship for suspected terrorists (wow, due process? no?) and celebrates General al-Sisi, the Egyptian dictator.  Does he have anything to say about the relationship between Egyptian domestic politics and its anti-terror policy?  Is that fair to ask?

9:37 pm: “I will make no apology about protecting the lives of Americans,” Governor Christie says.  He speaks in defense of the NSA’s telecommunications data-canvassing programs.

Senator Paul angrily opposes his response.  He shouts his consternation the way I imagined the Founding Fathers did; Governor Christie tells him it’s easy to inveigh that way in a Senate subcommittee hearing.  Senator Paul fires back that “I don’t trust President Obama with our records.”  He sounds a bit like the town crank; he attacks Governor Christie for hugging President Obama.  (That would be after Hurricane Sandy devastated the Jersey Coast.)  These 2 men are trying to knock each other out tonight, I think.

9:35 pm: “President Obama has talked about ‘fundamentally changing this country,'” Senator Cruz says.  Noting that “There are over 7 billion people around the World,” he essentially preaches fear of immigration and also closes the door on immigration reform, restating his opposition to the Gang of 8 Senate immigration reform agreement.

9:32 pm: Senator Rubio says “America is the most-generous nation in the World to immigrants.”  I don’t think that’s true anymore by any quantitative benchmark.  Rubio means well in saying this, but it is at this point somewhere between a myth and a falsehood.  He notes that lawful immigrants who have had applications in processing for 15 years have come to his office desperately asking for help.  The status quo on immigration is an outrage; how can we restrict immigration further?

Governor Walker immediately inveighs against “amnesty” and essentially closes the door to immigration reform; I don’t think we have to worry about him winning the election, though talk like that might be enough to make him the Republican nominee.

9:30 pm: Chris Wallace asks John Kasich about Trump’s line of argument (why?), and Kasich gives Trump credit for “touching a nerve”–and then launches into a discussion of his Congressional record (That’s right, Governor Kasich served in Congress–and worked for FOX News!–before becoming Governor of a must-win swing State for the Republicans).

9:24 pm: Chris Wallace asks Donald Trump about his claim that the Mexican government has intentionally sent “criminals, rapists, drug dealers” across the U.S. Border.  He asks for evidence of this.

Donald Trump claims victory by default by making the assumption that this…issue has only been raised during the Debate because he had the…courage to bring it up during his candidacy announcement.

Chris Wallace gives Trump an additional 30 seconds of debate time in order to actually provide evidence; Trump uses this time to grandstand further.

9:20 pm: Megyn Kelly asks Governor John Kasich of Ohio about his justification of embracing the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion by invoking St. Peter.  She asks whether he will “invoke St. Peter to expand every government program.”  Kasich justifies his Medicaid expansion…by actually discussing it on its particulars.  He also champions his record of fiscal management and tax cutting in Ohio.

Kelly used a popular line of argument in Republican politics: Isn’t any justification of the expansion of a government program inherently-dangerous, because it might be used again?  The fundamental lack of trust Conservatives seem to have in the ability of human beings to make pragmatic distinctions is very telling, I think.

9:18 pm: Governor Huckabee has declared that “we know” that human personhood is established at the moment of conception because we know that a fertilized zygote has the same “DNA signature” as a born human being…All I think we know at this point is that we can count on Governor Huckabee to demonstrate the value of argumentative fallacy to ideological advocacy.

9:15 pm: Governor Christie is asked if he is really willing to run on his record in New Jersey.  He responds, “You should see how it looked when I got there.”  …I’m giving him that one; New Jersey’s fiscal shape was almost catastrophic when Christie entered office in 2010.  He has at least elevated New Jersey’s fiscal shape to merely-bad.  But I think one of the considerable strikes against Christie will be controversy over the details of how Christie managed to tide that State’s budgets over.

9:13 pm: Chris Wallace asks Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) how he can hope to win a Presidential Election when he is such a divisive figure.  Cruz’s response is to equate bipartisan compromise with corruption in Washington, DC.  This is the caliber of insight I expect to hear from Senator Cruz, and I’ve given it too much time already.

9:12 pm: “I don’t have time for total political correctness.”  Donald Trump is not viewed with skepticism because he doesn’t have time to be politically-correct; he is viewed with skepticism because he doesn’t have time to think…either before speaking or upon what he considers reflection.

9:08 pm: Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) connects with the audience early.  He actually managed to leverage his charisma in order to make observations about current economic insecurities.  He noted that Amazon.com is the largest domestic retailer but has no store locations, and asked, “How is Hillary Clinton going to lecture me about the problem of student loans when I held over $100,000 in student loan debt just 4 years ago?”  Tonight might be the Senator’s breakout opportunity.

9:05 pm: Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) gets the dig in on Donald Trump for giving money to the Clintons (oops!) first.  Senator Paul can attack other candidates for “buying politicians,” since he hasn’t demonstrated his fundraising prowess in this field…

9:04 pm: Brett Baier asks if any of the 10 Republican Presidential prospects will not pledge tonight that they can support the eventual 2016 Republican nominee (as 9 of them will eventually be asked to do).  Only Donald Trump raises his hand, to a chorus of boos.

9:03 pm: “…(S)omewhere between a LeBron James dunk, and the Cleveland Public Library across the street: That is the sort of response we are looking for.”  Brett Baier going for the Cleveland local flavor!

9:02 pm: Looney Tune Donald Trump, who made a name for himself in politics by denying the current President’s American birth, is positioned at the center of the debate stage because he’s currently first-ranked among Republicans in nationwide polling.  I suppose that’s as fair of a means of placement as any; it is also madness.

9:00 pm: Megyn Kelly made jokes about the 10 top-polling 2016 Republican Presidential prospects looking shy onstage; is complying in humiliation part of the character test FOX News wants to subject a field of Presidential candidates to?

…Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker actually did look shy.

8:55 pm: The Liberal Ironist isn’t even morbidly-curious; he’s just curious.  I really don’t know what to expect tonight.  Some of these guys–There are a lot of them, and there are non-politicians who are constitutionally-incapable of being good Presidents but there are no women–have talked a little smack about the others, but many of them have not interacted together in a major national forum.  As Chris Wallace just noted, they finally have the opportunity to meet one another.  “It’s part of the great American process,” as he calls it.

He’s right; this should be hilarious.

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