Live-Blogging the February 24, 2016 CNN Republican Primary Debate

How can this be happening?  No, the Liberal Ironist isn’t despondent, but he isn’t satisfied with so many Americans being this scared–sorry, sorry, angry–that they should support an obvious charlatan and racemonger like Donald Trump for the Republican Presidential nomination.  Republicans have until next Tuesday, maybe, or until the ides of March to correct this blight against their supposed coolness of judgment.

10:53 pm: Donald Trump says that politicians cannot be trust, and that as he has no political experience, he can be trusted, and that he will get all the things he’s promised done.  He’s really refined his BS message for his millions of credulous Republican supporters.  I’m glad this one is over; the angry recriminations were fun, though.

10:52 pm: Senator Rubio says that the circus needs to end and that at this point in the primary cycle, Republicans need to get serious.  Even the Liberal Ironist can’t possibly argue with that.

10:51 pm: Senator Cruz repeats his message of being a consistent Conservative, which dovetails nicely with his attack on Senator Rubio for not being consistent, and his attack on Trump for not being Conservative.  The only thing that Cruz has truly been consistent in is in crossing his arms while other Senators are actually legislating, and alienating people.

10:50 pm: Governor Kasich asserts that he hopes he has demonstrated that he has foreign policy experience based on what he has said tonight; the truth is that only Senator Rubio really exhibited much foreign policy knowledge or judgment tonight.

10:49 pm: Dr. Carson argues that he will set a good example as President.  Does he mean he would set a good example as a President, or as a talented neurosurgeon?  Dr. Carson has set a good example as a Presidential candidate, provided that one’s actual statements and promises on the campaign trail (a 10% flat income tax because it’s the mandated Biblical tithing rate, Doctor?) are not a factor in the appraisal.

10:42 pm: Senator Rubio gives a reasonable answer when asked about Apple’s refusal to grant the FBI access to an iPhone used by 1 of the 2 San Bernardino shooters by making a code change that would break encryption; he notes that this could be done as a 1-off without the relevant code ever leaving Apple’s posession.  Senator Cruz works in a snide comment suggesting that Senator Rubio has not consistently held this position, but additionally notes that a conventional search warrant would cover Apple’s responsibility to grant the FBI access to this iPhone.

10:34pm–10:35 pm: Chaos.  Uproar.  Donald Trump and Ted Cruz get into a long fight in which the 2 of them personally bait each other.  They both struggle to maintain their composure; they both lose it; the debate grinds to a halt.

10:27 pm: Senator Rubio came dangerously close to expressing approval of President Obama’s Libyan intervention, but he made sure that he used the “lead from behind” gaffe and to insist that he would have intervened in Libya better…and harder…and faster!

10:26 pm: Donald Trump said that he wished that murderous Libyan strongman Colonel Moammar Gaddafi were still in charge of Libya…I wonder if Trump ever reminisces about the time Gaddafi stayed over at his Westchester County estate before his weird UN General Assembly speech about a decade ago, when he tried to pitch a huge tent on Trump’s lawn.

10:22 pm: Dr. Carson has said that he isn’t concerned about disclosure of his own tax returns because he “is an honest person–but the IRS is not honest, and it should be abolished.”  Thunderous applause.  Millions of Americans who live paycheck to paycheck, or worse, give enthusiastic approbation to a party whose candidates propose taxing consumption that they need to pay for.

10:17 pm: I think Governor Kasich has said we might need to assassinate the Dear Leader of North Korea.  That’s a bit discordant with his usually calm and sane (and civil!) message.

 10:14 pm: Senator Rubio says that Donald Trump is actually anti-Israel.  He notes that the Palestinian leadership “has walked away from reasonable Israeli offers of peace many times.”  That was true…10 years ago; that is not at all true today, as the Likud Government of Benjamin Netanyahu continues to appropriate land currently occupied by Palestinians (who had voted for the conciliator Mahmoud Abbas) for religious settlers.

Most of Senator Rubio’s thinking seems to be 10-30 years trite; he’s lucky he speaks so well.

10:13 pm: Senator Cruz says that Donald Trump isn’t sufficiently certifiably pro-Israel.

10:10 pm: Donald Trump gets another gift question from Wolf Blitzer–who is doing a terrible job as a moderator, by the way–and he says that “President Obama has treated Israel terribly.”  I don’t know about that; our UN Ambassador has still vetoed UN Security Council resolutions condemning Israel and prevented the recognition of Palestine as an independent state even as Israel under a Likud coalition continues to remove Palestinians from more land in the West Bank.

10:00 pm–10:02 pm: Both Senator Rubio and Senator Cruz underscore that Donald Trump is under an IRS audit!  Duh…

9:56 pm: Donald Trump says that his finances shouldn’t be so suspicious to people because he’s subject to an audit by the IRS every year.  That suggests that the IRS thinks his tax return is particularly suspicious every year.

When Governor Romney was called to release his tax return in 2012 and he resisted, I wondered if he was concerned that people would see him taking advantage of unjust tax provisions that constantly favor the rich, trust managers and major investors; when Donald Trump is under IRS audit I simply suspect that he is trying to elude the Feds the way Al Capone was.

9:37 pm–9:46 pm: There is a good exchange between several of the Republican Presidential candidates on this stage…and little really comes of it.  Senator Rubio points out that his legislative contribution eliminated the Federally-funded risk pools for insurers through the Affordable Care Act, which is true; Donald Trump proposes allowing Americans to purchase insurance across State lines, and Dr. Carson proposes the creation of special savings accounts to save up money for their health care costs…and there you have it, folks, the only 2 ideas Republicans have for health care reform.

Oh, that’s right, and Donald Trump promises to keep the popular reforms from the ACA without the individual mandate to buy health insurance that pays for those reforms–that is, he does what he always does, which is promise everything to the largest identifiable audience without discussing particulars.

9:39 pm: Senator Rubio has accused Donald Trump of repeating himself.  (Haaa ha ha.)  Donald Trump’s repetitions truly are his Achilles heel; without repetition of the simplest points and the vaguest promises (like how America doesn’t win and that he’s going to bring all those jobs back from Mexico and China), there’s nothing to maintain the attention of the millions of scared–sorry, angry–voters who have rallied to his cause of putting the 7 Genies back in the bottle.

9:23 pm–9:29 pm: We have an occasionally funny series of exchanges involving Donald Trump and whether he would appoint a Conservative Justice to the Supreme Court.  The recent passing of Justice Antonin Scalia at age 79 created a big question overhanging the Presidential election: Will Liberals or Conservatives dominate the Supreme Court?

Donald Trump gets a little zinger off by noting that Senator Cruz sang praises for Chief Justice John Roberts…who upheld the President’s health care reform twice!  Senator Cruz avers that he wouldn’t have appointed Chief Justice Roberts himself.  Cruz then tries his own little smear of Donald: “I’m not going to ‘cut a deal’ in the defense of the Constitution.”  Senator Cruz expresses worry that a President Trump will cut a deal with Senate Democrats to appoint a Supreme Court Justice who will abandon the 2nd Amendment.

9:21 pm: Donald Trump faces a challenge from the moderator from Univision: Donald Trump has claimed that he would be a winning candidate with Hispanics…While it’s true that he polled well among Hispanic Republicans in the Nevada Caucus, a new poll co-sponsored by Telemundo found that Trump’s polling with Hispanics is abyssal!  Doesn’t that mean that Trump won’t be a viable candidate?  Trump responds curtly that he doesn’t believe anything that comes from Telemundo.  (This debate is being carried in Spanish on Univision, Donald, but go for the laughs, I guess…)

Trump then surprisingly pulls back and restrains himself; he’s starting to think like a primary front-runner who isn’t sure if he’s burning his bridges with larger audiences.  (It’s too late for that, Donald.)

9:14 pm: Senator Rubio notes that there are 2 Hispanics and 1 Black Presidential candidates among 5 Republicans onstage; “The Republican Party is the party of diversity, not the Democrats!”  Thaaat’s a bit silly; I think the party of diversity moniker has to go to the party that actually has a diverse electorate, not 5 men who want to be President.

9:03-9:08 pm: Senator Rubio takes an opening; Donald Trump is asked to respond to former Mexican President Vicente Fox saying, “I am not going to build that ***king wall!  He has the money, he can build it.”  Trump says that “the wall just got 10 feet taller” to the cheers and jeers of the rubes in the audience.  Trump then decries the language which President Fox (I think understandably) used to describe Trump’s Great Wall of America.

Anyway, Rubio says that if Trump were to build the wall, it would be built with illegal immigrant labor to save money.

Then he notes that Trump clothing is manufactured in Mexico.

Then he refers to Donald Trump’s multiple declarations of bankruptcy.

Then he says that “Donald Trump inherited $210 million dollars.  If Donald Trump didn’t inherit $210 million dollars, do you know where he’d be?  He’d be selling brushes.”

There are screams of excitement and cheers from the crowd for all of this.  For what it’s worth, all of those artillery shots landed.

8:59 pm: Dr. Carson says that illegal immigrants should apply for citizenship by a normal lawful process.  I agree, and that would be the path to citizenship that former President George W. Bush, President Barack Obama and Senator Rubio have all called for in the past.  It’s interesting to see 2 Republican Presidential candidates in a row knowingly or unknowingly express approbation for something similar to the President’s and Senator Rubio’s comprehensive immigration reform, just not in name.

8:58 pm: Governor Kasich acknowledges that George Bush Sr. is in the audience, and that he had tried to implement a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.  He reminisces that “That was a time when things worked in Washington,” which apparently means that a path to citizenship was a good idea because government worked in the early 1990s while it isn’t a good idea now due to government dysfunction.  I guess a generation of Republican Congress really has been terrible for Federal administration.

8:52 pm-8:57 pm: We have a go-around for several minutes; Donald Trump faces a 2-front war with Senator Rubio literally to his left and Senator Cruz literally to his right, both laying into him for his indictment for hiring illegal immigrants to work on his construction projects.  These hits don’t seem to land!  Trump actually defends the use of illegal immigrants for labor in South Florida, saying that other workers wouldn’t be willing to work in the heat.

8:48 pm: Donald Trump gives a slightly more wishy-washy version of his call for all illegal immigrants in the United States to be deported, saying “the good ones” can be let back in to the country.  Univision is broadcasting this debate in Spanish; Trump is trying to go gently on this one.

Senator Cruz talks of the victimization of Americans and legal immigrants who lose their jobs or face depressed wages due to illegal immigrants.  He cites an Arizona example; Donald Trump thanks Cruz for doing this, noting that he has the endorsement of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a favorite of the anti-immigrant strain of social Conservatives.

8:45 pm: Ted Cruz has said that even Texas Democrats have given him basic credit for “doing exactly what (he) said (he) would do.”  He promises to do the same as President.  That’s not possible, because all he has done is posture himself as Saint George to President Obama’s dragon.  This sense of struggle against a gargantuan enemy has cost his party a lot more than it has cost Barack Obama, and it has revealed more of a sense of showmanship than constancy in Ted Cruz.

8:44 pm: Marco Rubio calls for Republicans not becoming the party of fear; that’s an obvious initial swipe at Donald Trump, but he’s going to have to do better than that to establish a sense of command over the party’s dialogue tonight.

8:42 pm: Ben Carson: “If you had described, years ago, the America of today to another person, they would have stared at you in disbelief…”  Yes, a Black President, gay people getting married, a foreign policy not dominated by Manichean sloganeering and slogans, health care for all Americans!  Carson calls for comity between Republicans.  That’s a nice (and sensible) sentiment for them, but I think there’s no way to prevent the brawling mob from overtaking a Presidential primary that has gone so far off the rails.

8:42 pm: CNN has finally returned from a gratuitous commercial break.

8:35 pm: All Republican candidates have assembled onstage when called; this debate is off to a relatively good start by recent standards.





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