GOP Undercard Debate Recap

This is a recap of the GOP undercard debate on August 6, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. The moderators were Bill Hemmer and Martha MacCallum. Debate participants were Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal, Carly Fiorina, Jim Gilmore, and George Pataki.

In summary, Carly Fiorina proved herself smart and capable, and was the clear winner of the debate. She did not belong in this debate at all, and should have been invited to the main event. Lindsey Graham came in second in the sense that he gave a very good debate performance which is sure to gain him some support among low-information voters. However, few conservatives will really ever trust the man, given his record as a senator. Perry and Santorum came in the middle of the pack. Perry in particular seemed to disappear in this debate, and was not a factor in the second half. Jindal did not help himself at all, which is a pity, and Pataki and Gilmore would have been better off skipping the debate altogether.

As the debate was not broadcasted online and we do not have access to Fox News, the recap is based upon a transcript of what was said.

Question: Why should someone vote for you?
Perry: My record as governor of Texas, the greatest country state in the world proves I would make a good president, and I have spent the last four years preparing for this moment.
Question: How dare you compare yourself to Margaret Thatcher!
Fiorina: Like Thatcher, I understand how the economy works and I am able to make tough decisions.
Question: You’re a loser, so what makes you think you can win this time?
Santorum: I have a track record of getting things done.
Question: In your home state, your approval ratings are in the toilet. How can you be considered a plausible candidate?
Jindal: I have a great track record as governor, and the Dems and Republicans in Washington are running up a huge debt, and boy does that Iran deal stink!
Question: You are a lib when it comes to climate change, how can conservatives trust you?
Graham: I’m not for cap and trade. We should drill for more oil and find more ways to save energy.
Question: You’re a fossil! Doesn’t the party need new blood?
Pataki: Yes, I’m a fossil, but I can bring us all together.
Question: You’re a loser and a fossil. How can you run for president?
Gilmore: Things have gotten much worse since I began to fossilize, but as governor I had extensive foreign policy experience and I know how to run things.

This line of questioning was about as softball as one could get, and surely all of the candidates should have been prepared for it. At the same time, the biased way some of the questions were pitched shows the genuine weaknesses of some of these candidates. On this basis, Santorum, Jindal, Pataki, and Gilmore really did not help themselves with their answers as they did not address the basic point of their questions, or (in the case of Pataki) they reaffirmed preconceptions that they were not all that conservative.

Question: Is Trump getting the better of you?
Perry: He’s a celebrity, and at some point his poll numbers will fall to earth. He was for nationalized healthcare, and on illegal immigration he is all talk.
Fiorina: The man got a phone call from Bill Clinton urging him to run for president, and he is a Clinton donor. He has successfully tapped into the anger many Americans have, but has flip-flopped on so many issues, how can he possibly be trusted as a principled conservative?

Perry scored some points. One the other hand, Fiorina kicked Trump in the nuts and whacked him on the head. Impressive.

Question: How would your fight against ISIS be any different than Obama’s?
Jindal: Obama can’t even bring himself to identify the enemy for what it is–radical Islam–so no wonder he is failing. I would coordinate with the Pentagon to come up with a game plan to win the war, even if it means sending in ground troops.
Graham: I would do whatever it takes, no matter how long it takes, to defeat them.

Both men were impressive, and surely Jindal scored more points by being willing to talk about Obama’s failed worldview. However, are voters really wanting to get involved in a ground war in the Middle East once again?

Question: What would you do about the threat of Islamic terrorism here at home?
Pataki: The preaching of jihad and radical Islamism is not protected First Amendment speech. We need to shut them down and destroy them.

The above is just a summary–Pataki goes into some detail as to how he would do this, but much of it would involved putting the Bill of Rights into the trash heap and giving the police more power to spy on people and trample on civil liberties. Why not fix the real problem first, which involves a broken immigration system that allows radicals and terrorists into the country legally?

Question: Do cyber walls need to be torn torn so that we can be more secure, or is this a threat to our liberty?
Fiorina: The intelligence agencies need to develop a different mindset so that they can see and connect the dots using the information they already have. We do need to tear down some cyber walls, but only on a targeted basis–like those existing in China and Russia.
Gilmore: I have experience fighting terrorism, and we need to use all our technological advantages to fight this scourge …

Fiorina hit her answer out of the park once again. On the other hand, apart from generalized sentiment, it was hard to see what Gilmore was on about.

Question: How could you be so heartless to tear families apart with your immigration proposal?
Santorum: I come from an immigrant family which played by the rules, and that meant waiting on visas and sometimes being apart. It is hard but it is also a small price to pay. We are a country of laws, and so it is important that everyone live by those laws. My position is anti-illegal immigration and pro-legal immigration.
Perry: Everyone is tired of hearing about this, and no one trusts Washington to do anything. I would secure the border.

Perry’s response will be welcomed by some people, but in truth he did not at all answer the question and did not really help himself with those skeptical of his candidacy. Santorum, on the other hand, excelled.

Question: How do you get Americans who are able to take a job instead of a handout?
Graham: People want to work, but need a chance. Hillary is bad. Obama is bad.
Santorum: We need to create better paying jobs, we need a 20% flat tax, work requirements and time limits for all welfare.

Graham gave no specifics, while Santorum did. At the same time, a 20% flat tax would destroy the livelihoods of everyone except the upper class. When combined with withholding taxes, it would mean that everyone would find their income cut by more than 30%.

Question: Isn’t it heartless to cut entitlements?
Gilmore: But it will grow the economy so people will have jobs. We also need to lower the tax rates, have tax reform, and eliminate regulations. This will help grow the economy.

This was Gilmore’s best answer of the night.

Question: Why is Kasich a bad governor for expanding Medicaid ?
Jindal: Babble, babble, babble.
Question: Jindal didn’t answer the question, can you help us Pataki?
Jindal: Medicaid should not be expanded.
Pataki: I agree with Jindal. Babble, babble, babble.
Question: Would you have expanded Obamacare in New York if you had been governor?
Pataki: Obamacare should be repealed.

This exchange did not help either man in the least.

Question: Which side should we be on, the Iranians who want the bomb, and who support terrorism, or the Saudis who also support terrorism?
Perry: We should be the side of whoever will keep Iran from getting the bomb. The Iran agreement is bad and I’d tear it up.
Fiorina: Well, sometimes things are not so black and white, but I would stand with Israel against Iran. We have to destroy this deal and stop the money flow to Iran.
Question: Would you help Arab countries get nuclear weapons to counteract Iran?
Fiorina: I would provide all the conventional weapons, intelligence support, and coordination required to help Arab countries fight ISIS in the Middle East.

Let’s face it: The question was crap. Both candidates did the best they could under the circumstances, though Fiorina made more of this opportunity.

Question: Is the recent SCOTUS decision on homosexual marriage now settled law in the US?
Santorum: “Not anymore than Dred Scott was settled law to Abraham Lincoln.” The SCOTUS was also wrong on partial-birth abortion, but we were still able to pass laws restricting it.

Yep. Sadly, this question was not asked of the other candidates. Fiorina is on record that it is settled law, for example.

Question: Should abortion be a litmus test for the appointment of SCOTUS judges?
Gilmore: SCOTUS judges should follow the law and not make the law, but no litmus test. Also, we need a Middle East NATO to combat terrorism.

Gilmore not only whiffed the question, but then proceeded to double down on stupidity. He would have been better off to say that he had no opinion on any issues and talk warmly of Ronald Reagan.

Question: You’re pro-choice, but you would defund Planned Parenthood. Have the recent videos changed your mind about infanticide?
Pataki: I am appalled by abortion, but it is settled law and I don’t think we should try to change it. I would pass a law outlawing late-term abortions, however.
Question: Would you be willing to shut down the government over Planned Parenthood funding, in the same way as Fiorina would?
Jindal: No, I would not shut down the government in order to protect their funding, and I would start criminal investigations of them as well.
Question: Isn’t this talk of defunding a war on women?
Graham: “I don’t think it’s a war on women for all of us as Americans to stand up and stop harvesting organs from little babies.” Let’s use the money for things that really help women’s health. The real war on women is in Iraq and Afghanistan–we need to send more soldiers to protect them.

Pataki is in the wrong party. Fiorina helped herself by just being at the debate–she didn’t even have to answer the question. Jindal’s choice of wording was so poor that he took what should have been a home run and turned it into a suicide bunt. Graham really shined. If you didn’t already know anything about him and his record, you might actually want to support him.

Question: What would be your first executive order as president?
Gilmore: I would void all of Obama’s executive orders that I did not agree with.
Graham: Stop funding abortions overseas. Restore the NSA.
Jindal: Repeal Obama’s executive orders. Go after sanctuary cities. Call the IRS off conservative and Christian groups. Executive order protecting religious liberty.
Perry: Tear up Iran deal, secure the border, void Obama’s executive orders.
Santorum: Ditto. First Amendment Defense Act, protecting religious freedom.
Fiorina: Ditto. Void all of Obama’s executive orders. I am an conservative because …
Pataki: Void all of Obama’s executive orders. Hiring freeze on new federal employees.

If one is against the idea of using executive orders to institute new laws, then some of the candidates seemed a little soft here. For example, on what legal basis could Jindal go after sanctuary cities or create an executive order protecting religious liberty? Isn’t this a matter for Congress to take up?

Question: How would you be able to inspire the nation?
Fiorina: Our rights come from God, and cannot be taken away by the government. People are being crushed by the weight of government, so we need someone who can challenge the status quo. I can do that.
Santorum: My biography shows that I can get things done in Washington.
Graham: I will defend our nation. I will protect Social Security and Medicare. I will make sure that everyone knows I will put my country ahead of my party.

Fiorina comes out strongest once again. Graham sounds good in sound bites, but in action his stance that he should put the country ahead of party means that he is willing to sell out to the Democrats every time. Santorum needs to stop talking about his biography. It isn’t helping him.

Question: How would you describe Obama?
Pataki: “Divisive and with no vision.”
Fiorina: “Not trustworthy. No accomplishment.”
Perry: “Secretive and untrustworthy … Good at email.”
Jindal: “Socialist and government dependent.”
Graham: “Not the change we need at a time we need it.”
Gilmore: “Professional politician that can’t be trusted.”

So they all dislike the man.

After this there were the final statements, which are always just boilerplate, and in this case pretty much just repeat what has already been said.

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