2015 Reagan Library GOP Main Event Debate Recap

The September 16, 2016 CNN GOP debate was held at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California. The moderators were Jake Tapper, Hugh Hewitt, and Dana Bash.  Debate participants were Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Ben Carson, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz,  John Kasich, Mike Huckabee, and Carly Fiorina.

Overall, this was a much better debate than the previous one, although the first half was too much about Donald Trump. If there was any clear winner, it had to have been Fiorina. She came across as sharp, well-informed, and capable, and she had several of the best moments of the night. Rubio also had several moments where he really shined, though many conservatives may not agree with him on all issues. Christie and Bush also did quite well in the debate, but I suspect that it will not do either man much good among the GOP grass roots. Cruz gave all his normal applause lines, but fell a little flat. While he did not hurt himself, I doubt seriously that he helped himself. Carson was OK, as was Walker. Unfortunately, it is not enough to be merely OK when on the big stage with so many other good candidates. Paul and Huckabee gave middling performances–I doubt that either of them made new converts. Kasich exhibited everything that is wrong with the political establishment. He should be in the lower tier. Meanwhile Trump made a complete fool of himself, though it seems nothing can dissuade his fans from worshiping him.

The recap:

Question: Is Jidal right in saying that Trump is bat guano crazy and can’t be trusted with the nuclear arsenal?
Trump made faces while Fiorina was being asked this question–he came across as bat guano crazy. In many ways this segment went downhill from there, as Trump launched unprovoked attacks on both Paul and Pataki, and then attacking Walker’s record in Wisconsin using the Democrat’s inaccurate talking points as fodder. (Walker easily swatted this away.) Essentially, Trump proved Paul’s assessment correct that he is a schoolyard bully. Neither Paul nor Walker have much to lose, and so they were fearless in confronting Trump. However, the only one who scored any points in this section was Walker. All things considered, why is Trump being allowed to talk so much and at such length? There are many other people on the stage who haven’t been allowed to say a thing.

Question: Carson said that as a non-politician he can tell the truth, while politicians have their finger in the air to see what is politically expedient. Is that a fair assessment of you?
There was some back and forth between Christie and Carson, but nothing of real substance.

Question: According to Trump, you are a puppet for special interests. Is this true Jeb?
There was a lot of back and forth here, especially concerning Trump’s attempt to pay off Bush to allow him to set up a casino in Florida, something which is on record as true, but which Trump vociferously denied.  Since Trump lied about the casino deal and Bush was telling the truth, one would think this exchange hurt Trump. One would think.

Question: Trump, what would you do right now to get Russia out of Syria?
Trump didn’t answer the question because he couldn’t–he is obviously completely out of his depth. Rubio gave a detailed lecture accurately describing the situation, but didn’t offer concrete solutions. Fiorina nailed it by giving a detailed, muscular, hawkish plan for what to do about Russia, and got a rousing applause.

Question: Kasich, talking about you, says that anyone who plans on ripping up the Iran deal on day one is “inexperienced and playing to a crowd”. How do you respond?
Cruz made a very good, strong statement about the bill’s defects, but did not really address the question. Kasich gave an inconsequential, senatorial response.

Question: Walker says that Obama should cancel the state dinner with Xi Jinping because of China’s cyber-attack on the US. Is he right?
Paul wants to talk with everyone, because he isn’t an “isolationist”. Bush seemed to be talking out of both sides of his mouth, trying to have it both ways. Walker gave an able defense of his position (“why a 21-gun salute?”), and Huckabee chimed in about how awful the Iran deal was.

Question: Trump, Obama drew a red line on Syria and then he asked for the Senate to back him up. Three men on this stage refused to back Obama up on this. Do these men share some blame for what happened in Syria?
Trump freely blamed Rubio, Cruz, and Paul for what has happened in Syria, even though Trump obviously had no clear idea what the Senate vote was about. Rubio gave an excellent response, saying that the bill was in support of what Obama called a “pinprick” response, and if we are going to do something militarily, we should go all in. Cruz defended his vote by saying that we should only go in with a plan, and there wasn’t one. Paul explained that he was merely voting “present”. Kasish chimed in to say that we should give the Iran deal chance, and Cruz accurately pointed out that the deal has no means of verification.

Question: You said that what happened to Kim Davis was really the criminalization of Christianity. Bush disagrees with you on this point. Is he wrong?
Huckabee made a strong case that the woman should be able to receive some religious accommodation, and Bush agreed. Huckabee comes across here much better here than he has been characterized in news reports on this issue.

Question: Do you agree with Cruz that Planned Parenthood should be stripped of funds, even if it means shutting down the government to do so?
Kasich is Mr. Let’s-Not-Rock-The-Boat on this and all issues, it seems. (If he isn’t angry enough about dismembering live babies and then selling their body parts to shut down the government, then what is he passionate about?) Christie is all for shutting down the government on this and any number of other issues. Fiorina made a star turn with her remarks, however:

As regards Planned Parenthood, anyone who has watched this videotape, I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to watch these tapes. Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, it’s heart beating, it’s legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain. This is about the character of our nation, and if we will not stand up in and force President Obama to veto this bill, shame on us.

Depending upon how much this video of Fiorina plays, this may well be the turning point in her campaign. She was visibly furious about the situation–something none of the male candidates could manage.

Question: Bush said that he wasn’t sure that we need to spend so much money on women’s health, and later admitted that he misspoke. However, Trump seized upon that quote and feels that now Bush is hellishly doomed. Is Trump wrong?
There was a lot of back and forth here, with Bush talking about defunding Planned Parenthood and putting more money into alternate programs, and Trump claiming to respect women. This would have been a good time to take a bathroom break.

Question: Trump said that you had an ugly face, but then claimed that he was talking about your persona. What do you think about Trump’s persona?
Fiorina simply answered that women all over this country heard very clearly what Trump said. Her answer brought the house down

Question: Can we really deport 11-12 million people. How much will it cost and how can we do this?
Trump lied again in his claim that no one was talking about illegal immigration before he came on the scene–it has been pretty much all we have been hearing about for years. Apart from this, Trump couldn’t answer the question beyond offering vague generalities. Christie did a good job defending his position that we have neither the money nor the manpower to deport so many people. Carson did well in explaining that he cares, but then couldn’t really explain what was wrong with Trump’s position.

Question: Was Trump out of line for pointing out that your wife is a native of Mexico?
Bush demanded that Trump apologize, and Trump refused. Trump then started dumping on immigrants in general. Fiorina tried to speak up, but was cut off by the moderator.

Question: Trump criticized Bush for speaking Spanish on the campaign trail. What’s wrong with that?
Trump said that people need to assimilate, and to do that they should be speaking English. Bush explained that a high school kid asked him a question in Spanish, and that he felt bound to respond in Spanish out of respect. Rubio then affirmed that people should learn to speak English, but then talked about his grandfather, who came to this country as an immigrant, and did not speak English well. He said he learned American values from him, in Spanish. So now he gives interviews in Spanish, because he wants to reach these people and talk about our free enterprise system, and he wants them to hear it directly from him and not a translator. Bush gave an able defense of himself, but Rubio really shined with his response.

Question: Is Carson’s guest worker plan amnesty? 
Cruz refused to attack Carson at all, but then went indirectly after Rubio. Rubio had a very articulate, detailed response regarding immigration, allowing that after the border is sealed and the legal immigration system is fixed, we might allow some illegals to stay, but that this should not even be discussed until everything else is done. For a lot of good reasons, I am not in favor of Carson’s immigration plan. However, he is a least wanting to talk about solutions that work. Whatever the merits of Rubio’s plan, he is quite articulate and persuasive. Cruz fell flat in his attacks.

Question: You are against birthright citizen. Fiorina calls this pandering. What is your response?
Trump responded by giving an inaccurate legal explanation of the 14th Amendment, and then went on to attack anchor babies. Fiorina pointed out that it would take years to overturn the 14th Amendment, but that meanwhile the problem of illegal immigration will not be solved. Paul agreed with Trump, and then went on at length with a rather inaccurate description of the 14th Amendment.

Question: Trump says that you were a terrible CEO of HP. How do you defend yourself?
Fiorina gave a detailed and terrific defense of her tenure. Trump cited a paper written by a Yale professor–and Clinton supporter–saying that Fiorina was a disaster as a CEO. Fiorina pointed out that Trump filed for bankruptcy 4 times, and is therefore a terrible manager. Christie found the whole interchange amusing, but didn’t really want to hear about their business careers.

Question: Trump wants to raise taxes on hedge fund managers. Do you agree?
Kasich gave a rambling response pointing to his own experience in Washington and in Ohio. Huckabee wants to get rid of all income and capital gains taxes, and have a national sales tax.

Question: Why are Trump’s ideas on taxes wrong?
Carson pointed out that progressive taxes are socialist in nature–he is in favor of a flat tax or sales tax. Trump says that he wants to reduce taxes on the middle class and raise taxes on the wealthy. Paul wants a flat tax.

Question: Carson wants to raise the minimum wage. Do you agree?
Carson claims to be on the fence about the issue, but he thinks that we need to have two minimum wages–one for young people and another for wage earners. Walker wants to grow jobs and support education, so the minimum wage will no longer be a discussion.

Question: Kasich refuses to knock Hillary, but that’s all Fiorina does. Who’s right and who’s wrong?
Kasich just wants to be positive, and he thinks this is a winning formula. Fiorina went after Hillary with a vengeance. Christie wants to be the person who puts Hillary in jail.

Question: Are you in favor of marijuana legalization?
Paul says in general it should be left to the states. Bush admits to having smoked marijuana while in high school, and thinks that legalization should be left to the states. Paul called him a hypocrite because he was against medicinal marijuana. Christie calls marijuana a gateway drug, and wants to enforce federal law even though the states may allow it. Fiorina notes that she buried a child to drug addiction. While she is in general in favor of Paul’s points, she thinks drugs are really bad and wants more money and effort spent on education and rehabilitation.

Question: What do you think of gun control?
Bush thinks it is generally a state issue, and not a federal issue. Rubio notes that criminals don’t obey the laws anyways, and wants to support families as a way of addressing the problem of violence. Cruz wants to be thought of as the strongest supporter of the 2nd Amendment now running for president.

Question: Christie suggests that the filthy rich shouldn’t get Social Security? Do you agree?
Trump thought that people should decide if they want it or not. Christie doesn’t think it should be a voluntary measure, and thinks that Social Security should be saved for the people who need it.

Question: Why shouldn’t we at least take measures to protect ourselves from climate change, even if the science is wrong?
Rubio pointed out that it would destroy the economy to do as liberals suggest, and that working people cannot afford these policies, which won’t work anyways. Christie agrees with Rubio that there is no need for large government programs that will destroy the US economy in order to solve this issue. Rubio denied that he is a climate change skeptic. Walker said “me too”.

Question: Trump is vaccine truther. What do you think?
Carson pointed out that vaccine trutherism is simply bad science, and that vaccines are very important. Dr. Trump reaffirmed his commitment to vaccine trutherism. Paul is all for vaccines, but wants people to be able to decide for themselves. Huckabee wants a federal war on a variety of medical problems. Of course, America has been there and done that, and it just leads to a larger federal budget and more federal programs without solving anything.

Question: What woman would you like to see on the $10 bill?
Paul: Susan B. Anthony.
Huckabee: My wife.
Rubio: Rosa Parks.
Cruz: No change to $10 bill; take Jackson off $20, leave Hamilton on $10, and put Rosa Parks.
Carson: My mother.
Trump: My daughter, or Rosa Parks.
Bush: Margaret Thatcher.
Walker: Clara Barton.
Fiorina: No change.
Kasich: Mother Teresa.
Christie: Abigale Addams.

Question: What would you want your Secret Service code name to be?
Christie: True Heart.
Kasich: His current Secret Service nickname is Unit One.
Fiorina: Secretariat.
Walker: Harley.
Bush: Eveready.
Trump: Humble.
Carson: One Nation.
Cruz: Cojiba (?).
Rubio: Gator.
Huckabee: Duck Hunter.
Paul: Justice Never Sleeps.

Question: How will the world look different after you are president?
Paul: as a Reagan conservative, but as a dove rather than as a hawk.
Huckabee: as a peacemaker, because he will have built the most fearsome army ever made; that our country has peace, and abortion would no longer exists.
Rubio: as the president who has brought freedom to the world.
Cruz: as the one who killed the terrorists, re-appealed Obamacare, and defended the Constitution.
Carson: as a uniter, a person who restores financial responsibility, as a leader in the Middle East.
Trump: as someone who has made the country greater than ever before–a veritable paradise on earth.
Bush: as someone who grows the economy.
Walker: as someone who has set us free from the threat of terrorism, who grew the economy, who empowered the people and sent powers back to the state.
Fiorina: as someone who has brought liberty and justice to the US, with fairness to all.
Kasich: as a problem solver, as someone who has rebuilt US relations around the world, as someone who has revived the concept of citizenship.
Christie: as someone who has made his presidency about the US people, and not himself, who enforced the law and leveled the playing field, as someone who made the US strong overseas.

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