Live-Blogging the Last Pre-Iowa Republican Presidential Primary Debate

Hey, where’s Donald Trump?

It’s prime time, folks.  It’s just too late for establishment Republicans to kid themselves about the fact that either reality TV star Donald Trump or universally un-collegial Texas Senator Ted Cruz is likely at this rate to be their party’s Presidential nominee.  Your well-intentioned narrator will watch…Hoo boy.

…Well, I didn’t stop watching the debate early, but in the last 20 minutes I didn’t hear anything that prompted me to write.  I don’t like to repeat myself, especially when I’m just reacting to the strange things some people are saying.

10:38 pm: Governor Christie has invoked Benghazi and the Republicans’ pointless and interminable investigations again, this time trying to make news out of a Democratic Debate answer from Secretary Clinton. This guy could actually make me stop watching this debate.

10:26 pm: Governor Kasich gives an encouraging speech about the importance of caring for those in need; he mentions not only the poor (whom are at least subjects of serious political debate), but also the mentally-ill.  Kasich isn’t joking-around about the Compassionate Conservatism, and it probably explains a lot about why he’s one of the most-popular Governors in the country…Back to Ohio he goes, as he doesn’t really have a gimmick to allow him to stand-out in this cacophony of a Republican field.

10:20 pm: It’s satisfying to see Chris Wallace ask Governor Christie about the George Washington Bridge onramp closures that were political retaliation ostentibly directed by his aides and appointees.  Christie’s defense is that he was proved not to be involved by 3 separate commissions (that’s nonsense; he was “proved” to not have been involved by the private commission he curiously chose to convene).  He says that, when his own appointees were revealed to have been responsible for the bridge access closure, he fired them.

So, Christie’s defense is basically the same as Nixon’s: For once, I’m satisfied with this surly jerk’s answer to a debate question.

10:12 pm: Christie just shat on being a Washington politician. Woow.  That’s so courageous of him.

I would like to point-out that almost every President elected since Nixon has been from outside Washington. Jimmy Carter, almost universally reviled among Republicans, was a Washington outsider.  George W. Bush was elected from the Texas Governor’s office.  Better to be a “Washington outsider”?

Christie is so full of it…Sorry, I just wanted to establish that.

10:08 pm: (Numerous Republican Presidential hopefuls, some of which have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning the Republican Presidential nomination, challenge each other’s Republicaness for having once supporting immigration reform that would allow illegal immigrants to remain in the United States.  It’s funny, in a melancholic way.)
10:01 pm: Marco Rubio: “Jeb, that was the book you wrote when you supported a path to citizenship.”

Jeb!: “So did you!”

Ah-hah hah…Classic, and true.

10:00 pm: “I know a few things about this issue; I wrote a book on it: Immigration Wars.”  You can get it on Amazon for $2.99.  It’s not a best seller…”  Jeb! probably should have avoided joking that his book on immigration wasn’t a best-seller, as he is not a best-seller.

9:43 pm: Oh boy, a question from a Black YouTube video star about our capacity to monitor law-enforcement.  He’s from St. Louis; Ferguson looms in his thinking.

Senator Paul has an excellent response, focusing on several aspects of the unequal treatment of Black Americans in our criminal justice system.  He has been a smart Senator, focusing on building both personal and legislative relationship-building, and a smart Presidential campaigner, getting his message out tactically, on an issue basis.

That said, the Libertarian message is dying, if anything, and Senator Paul is realistically a non-factor in the Presidential race.

9:33 pm: Senator Rubio manages to speak conversationally while sounding professional. That’s not easy to do, especially not in a debate.

It’s too bad he’s sort of channeling his inner Chris Christie.  We expect Republican Presidential candidates to emphasize that we should be on more of a war footing, but that doesn’t mean they have to say it with such obvious tones of exasperation, almost as if they’re hysterical.  A friend of mine noted that Rubio seems close to losing his composure as he insists that we aren’t prepared to face the strategic threat posed by ISIS; he has a point.

Governor Christie explicitly claims that the Islamist couple behind the San Bernardino shootings weren’t stopped by a report from their suspicious neighbors because President Obama and Secretary Clinton don’t support our law enforcement.  I’ve had it with this man; he is revolting and I just want him to shamble off of the debate stage and go away.

9:17 pm: Ted Cruz made an alarming-sounding comparison, pointing out that our military’s force strength is much less than it was during the Persian Gulf War.  A more-serious analysis would acknowledge that the Persian Gulf War was fought on a late-Cold War budget, and that we no longer face superpower competition.

Ted Cruz also put-out a pretty big fib when he said that President Carter gutted the military and President Reagan restored it to strength.  We were already in the midst of a planned military buildup under President Carter following a post-Vietnam drawdown under President Nixon; President Reagan simply expanded and accelerated that buildup.

9:14 pm: Senator Paul and Senator Cruz just cautiously avoided criticizing each other while both affirming their skepticism of the NSA’s existing surveillance powers.  Senator Cruz notes that he wants to forge a stronger electoral alliance between the Christian Right and Libertarians.  He has just paraphrased his electoral strategy, which is to…hope that the far right somehow constitutes as silent majority.

9:09 pm: It’s infuriating for Chris Christie to suggest that President Obama and Secretary Clinton haven’t been held to account, and that he has as Governor of New Jersey has.  Christie convened his own investigation of the politicized closing of the George Washington Bridge, which then cleared him.  And there’s no way to say that there has been a full accounting of the measures Christie has taken to momentarily balance New Jersey’s budget and to shore the finances of its cities.  THAT kind of scrutiny should be enough to sink his campaign.  The President and his past Secretary of State, it’s fair to say, have been subject to a lot of scrutiny that wasn’t of their own choosing.

9:04 pm: “I just want to say that I am a maniac…and everyone on this stage is stupid…and Dr. Carson, you are a terrible surgeon.  Now that the Donald Trump portion of the debate is out of the way…”  That’s good for an early extended laugh; I think it’s actually a little risky for these guys to attack Donald Trump while he’s absent from this debate, lest they look passive-aggressive.  But Cruz has made a joke out of it, trivializing Trump as the carnival barker.

It’s also worth noting that Ted Cruz is a particularly belligerent candidate himself.

9:03 pm: Senator Cruz starts by saying that he will remember Iowa when he is elected President: Iowa won’t be flyover country; it will be fly-to country.”  Wow, he is so full of it…There are shades of Francis Underwood in such a hokey and inevitably-insincere promise.

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