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Out of the Mouths of...The Contenders

Updated on August 13, 2015

A Debate or a Forum?

The August 6 debate featuring the Top Ten candidates running for the Republican nomination for President of the United States elicited quite a bit of follow-up commentary, (much of which came from one of the candidates himself.) From the beginning, the 10-candidate debate was clearly at a disadvantage, since the term “10-candidate debate” borders on an oxymoron. Staging an actual debate, whereby participants voice their ideas and verbally react to the comments of other candidates in an orderly fashion, is next to impossible, which is probably one of the reasons that Fox TV chose three moderators- Bret Baier, Megyn Kelly, and Chris Wallace- to throw out the questions and attempt to give all the candidates a relatively equal opportunity to be part of the action. (The word “relatively” is a key point here.) Depending on your definition of the word action, you might not call this particular debate “action-packed.” Considering the drawbacks of a Debate of 10, however, the moderators and most of the candidates did almost as well as could be expected.

The Hot Air Balloon Ascends

The first question put to the candidates went something like this: “If you are not selected as the Republican Presidential candidate, will you support whoever that candidate might be?” An appendage of The Hot Air Balloon rose in the air as Donald Trump made it clear that his support will not necessarily go to the candidate whom the Republican Party ultimately chooses to represent them in the 2016 Presidential election, particularly since, as he intimated, he might be running as an Independent. “We wanna win and we will win,” he asserted. Score 1 point for the man who went on to say, “I think the problem here is being politically correct.” Certainly no one will ever accuse Mr. Trump of that offense. On the other hand, he’ll never be accused of being “verbally humanitarian,” either. When moderator Megyn Kelly noted some of his monikers for women- “fat pigs, dogs, slobs”- he said he couldn’t remember having used those kinds of expressions except when they applied to Rosie O’Donnell, an answer that put the debate forum on the level of a bad episode of “Saturday Night Live” for just a moment. Mr. Trump's post-debate comments referring to a "bleeding" Megyn Kelly sounded more like they came from a middle schooler who has been rebuffed by the prettiest girl in the class than from a man who is hoping to run for President of the United States.

The Elephant Et Al

While Elephant in the Room made his presence known immediately, perhaps more disturbing was the realization that one of the “elephants” who was not in the room probably should have been. Carly Fiorina, who had been relegated to the Lesser Candidates/ Early Debate forum, seemed to have no problem with political correctness when, in reference to the Iran nuclear deal, she asserted during the earlier debate that “Obama broke every rule of negotiation.” That "negotiation," in fact, was one of the major topics of discussion during the Debate of the Chosen Ten. Rand Paul said, “You have to negotiate from a position of strength. Obama gave away too much, too early.” Former Arkansas Governr Mike Huckabee asserted that the United States needs to take the threat from Iran seriously. Scott Walker flatly stated, “Iran is not a place we should be dong business with.” (Dangling preposition... Fortunately, Governor Walker is not running for Honorary English professor.) Ted Cruz went a step further when he pledged that he would cancel the deal with Iran “and rescind every illegal action taken by Barack Obama.”

They're Not All Alike

Of course, the debate proved a perfect forum for sharing campaign slogans. Marco Rubio stated , “This election cannot be a resume competition,” and insisted,” It better be about the future, not the past.” Ted Cruz offered, “Leading from behind is a disaster. We need a President who can stand up to our enemies and have credibility.” Ohio’s John Kasich noted, “We’re stronger when we are united.” Most of the candidates moved beyond the slogans to tackle controversial issues, too. When asked about his stance on homosexuals serving in the military, Mike Huckabee responded, “we’ve forgotten why we have a military. The military is not a social experiment.” (Politically correct? Hardly. Trump doesn't seem to be the only candidate who calls it like he sees it.) Regarding the struggling Social Security system, Huckabee rhetorically asked, “Whose fault is it that the system is screwed up?” and went on to suggest that perhaps members of Congress could help by cutting their own retirement benefits. Rand Paul explained his position on federal government control with, “I don’t want my marriage or my guns registered in Washington,” and, “When the government trees to invade the church, that’s when it’s time to react.” When asked whether he would “bring back water boarding” for prisoners of war, Ben Carson responded, “We’ve gotten into this habit of fighting a politically correct war. There is no such thing as a politically correct war.” So much for being politically correct.

Some of the candidates backed up their claims of successful leadership with facts and outlined actual plans to address issues facing our country. John Kasich explained how his state (Ohio) has been treating and rehabilitating drug addicts. He added that Ohio has gone from “eight billion dollars in the hole to two billion dollars in the black.” Chris Christie noted that he has “a specific plan for the military.” Marco Rubio promised, “We’re going to have a Veterans Administration that cares more about the veterans “ than the people who work there. He also highlighted the “need to even out the tax code for small businesses.” Jeb Bush noted that he had “defunded Planned Parenthood,” put an end to partial birth birth abortions and supported the “choose life” license plate slogan when he was Governor of Florida. Rand Paul proudly proclaimed, “ I’m the only one on the stage that has a five-year budget that balances.” One of Paul's suggestions was, “Why don’t we start with eliminating aid to our enemies?”

So....What Was Missing?

It was somewhat disappointing that the moderators directed so few questions to Dr. Ben Carson. Carson’s answers to the questions that he did field, however, seemed to be on target, particularly for a person with so little political experience. In fact, when this was thrown out to the former pediatric neurosurgeon: ” Your critics say that your inexperience shows,” Carson replied, “The thing that’s most important is having a brain,” and went on to say, “Experience comes from a large number of various arenas.” It also seemed like Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker had fewer questions directed at him than did some of the other candidates. Not only were there inconsistencies in parcelling out questions to the candidates; there also seemed to be some major issues that were under-addressed. Of course, on the topic of immigration, Donald Trump beat everyone to the punch with his on-the-mark comment, “If it weren’t for me, you wouldn't even be talking about immigration.” When asked for evidence to back up his claim that the Mexican government is sending criminals across the border, however, Mr. Trump’s reply was somewhat ambiguous, to say the least. Candidates’ views on addressing the rioting, accusations, and ongoing contentiousness regarding law enforcement and minorities in this country were scarcely noted except for a question regarding race directed at Ben Carson (hmmm), who noted that when he had practiced neurosurgery and would “take out half a brain,” the color of the patient’s skin and hair were meaningless. “They don’t make us who we are.”

Plenty of "Elephants" in The Room

Some critics/commentators/journalists have suggested that Donald Trump again trumped his opponents with his verbal antics. Many of his supporters deem his style of shooting straight from the mouth “honesty.” When a candidate’s platform consists of sweeping generalizations and a mantra of “politically incorrect,” however, one begins to wonder if this man actually has a plan. Of course, there’s no guarantee what the plan would be if any of the candidates were elected President of the United States. It would have made the debate more effective, though, if some of them would have been given more of an opportunity to speak. However, as Marco Rubio pointed out, “God has blessed the Republican Party with many candidates. The Democrats can find only one.” And this is just the beginning………….


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