Posts Tagged ‘GOP Debate’

The GOP Candidates Are Shockingly Uninformed About Foreign Policy

In U.S. Politics on January 29, 2016 at 7:00 AM


Carlos Barria/Reuters


Even without Trump, the Republican field seems clueless on the basics.

Thursday night’s Trump-less debate was less blustery than the Republicans’ previous spectacles, but on foreign policy issues, the Donald’s absence didn’t make it less slight, cynical, or shruggingly uninformed.

Earlier in the week, Robert Gates—a lifelong Republican who has served as secretary of defense and CIA director—said the GOP candidates’ discussion of national security issues “would embarrass a middle schooler.” If Gates tuned in Thursday night, he would have had no cause to revise his assessment.

Sen. Marco Rubio started off by promising that, if—or, rather, when—he’s elected president, “We are going to rebuild our intelligence capabilities, and they’re going to tell us where the terrorists are.” Rubio seems unaware that President Obama has vastly boosted spending on intelligence and that the spy agencies’ No. 1 priority is to find terrorists. But Rubio went further: Under his administration, he said, “If we capture terrorists, they’re going to Guantánamo, and we will find out everything they know.” I think this means that he would bring back torture—a technique that George W. Bush ended in 2006. None of the other candidates, or the questioners, seemed to mind.

Sen. Ted Cruz doubled down on his colorful comment from an earlier debate that he would “carpet-bomb” ISIS until the desert sands glowed in the dark—suggesting that the bombs might be atomic. (Gates was addressing this remark when he lambasted his party’s candidates for “making threats and promises that are totally unrealistic, totally unattainable,” adding, “Either they really believe what they’re saying, or they’re cynical and opportunistic, and, in a way, you hope it’s the latter, because God forbid they actually believe some of the things that they’re saying.”)

Cruz also said—obligatory in these settings—that Obama has “dramatically degraded our military,” noting that since the 1990 Gulf War, the number of U.S. planes and ships has diminished by half. Assuming those figures are true, he ignores that the combat power of those planes and ships has dramatically grown. Would Cruz prefer trading today’s military for the one of 25 years ago? That’s the right question, if he’s going to raise the issue. Any general or admiral would choose today’s.

Rubio went further, saying we now have the smallest Army since World War II, the smallest Navy in 100 years, and the smallest Air Force in history. Again, I don’t think any general or admiral would make the trade. The number of ships, planes, and soldiers is not all that counts.

Gov. Chris Christie charged that the National Security Agency reform bill “made the country less safe,” apparently not recognizing that its effect—to remove metadata files from the agency’s headquarters and store them with the phone companies (and allowing the agency to retrieve them with a court order)—was, in fact, suggested by Gen. Keith Alexander, the NSA director at the time. Alexander assured the members of Obama’s reform commission, as well as many lawmakers on Capitol Hill, that the measure would have negligible effect on counterterrorism.

Jeb Bush said, “We need to arm the Kurds, embed troops with Iraqi soldiers, support Sunni tribes,” and help a “Sunni-led force to take out ISIS.” He seemed unaware that President Obama is doing all of those things, though admittedly, the final and crucial piece—organizing a Sunni-led force—is slow going because some of the Sunni nations fear and loathe one another more than they fear and loathe ISIS. How would any of these candidates better deal with that problem when they apparently don’t know it exists?

Rubio, Bush, and Cruz all said they’d loosen the rules of engagement that supposedly constrain U.S. forces fighting and bombing ISIS. But they didn’t specify how they would do this (except for Cruz with his call for carpet-bombing) or what effect the loosening might have.

Fred Kaplan

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Fox News Slams Trump Campaign’s ‘Terrorizations’ Against Megyn Kelly

In U.S. Politics on January 27, 2016 at 7:45 AM



“We can’t give into terrorizations toward any of our employees.”

Fox News slammed Donald Trump’s decision to skip Thursday night’s debate in Iowa and accused his campaign manager of “terrorizations” against Megyn Kelly, “The Kelly File” host who will be one of the moderators at the event.

Trump has had an ongoing feud with Kelly since she questioned his sexist attacks against women during a debate in August. Fox News said the war of wordsescalated behind the scenes over the weekend during a call with Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.

In a statement released to Politico on Tuesday night, the conservative news network claimed:

“In a call on Saturday with a Fox News executive, Lewandowski stated that Megyn ‘had a rough couple days after that last debate’ and he ‘would hate to have her go through that again.’ Lewandowski was warned not to level any more threats, but he continued to do so.”

“We can’t give into terrorizations toward any of our employees,” the network said.

Fox News said the GOP front-runner for president spent four days lobbying to have Kelly replaced, but they refused to give in to his demands.

“Capitulating to politicians’ ultimatums about a debate moderator violates all journalistic standards,” the network said.

Trump is still welcome to join the debate “but he can’t dictate the moderators or the questions.”

The latest statement is a sharp turn from one released earlier in the day, which took more of a humorous tone. According to The New York Times, Fox News initially said:

“We learned from a secret back channel that the Ayatollah and Putin both intend to treat Donald Trump unfairly when they meet with him if he becomes president — a nefarious source tells us that Trump has his own secret plan to replace the Cabinet with his Twitter followers to see if he should even go to those meetings.”

Writing on Twitter, Trump dismissed that earlier statement as a “pathetic attempt by @foxnews to try and build up ratings for the #GOPDebate.  Without me they’d have no ratings!”

At the time of this writing, Trump has not yet commented on the latest statement accusing his campaign manager of threatening Kelly.


Watch the Moment the Gloves Finally Came Off Between Trump and Cruz at the GOP Debate

In U.S. Politics on January 15, 2016 at 7:45 AM


During Thursday’s GOP debate, Sen. Ted Cruz was forced to weigh in on his eligibilityto run for president of the United States—a controversy Donald Trump has been vigorously fanning as the Canadian-born senator has risen in the polls.

Cruz’s initial annoyance was palpable, but it was clear he was prepared for the “birther” issue to come up. Throughout the campaign, Cruz has avoided hitting back against Trump. But this was the moment the gloves finally came off.

“The Constitution hasn’t changed,” Cruz said. “But the poll numbers have. And I recognize that Donald is dismayed that his poll numbers are falling.”

Watch the tense exchange below:


In U.S. Politics on January 15, 2016 at 6:30 AM


Scott Olson via Getty Images

GLOVES OFF: Trump Bashes Cruz… Cruz Slams Rubio… Rubio Punches Back… Birther Blowout… Trump Gets Booed… Name Checks William F. Buckley… 2.5 Weeks Away From Iowa… DEBATE HIGHLIGHTS…

Christie Calls Obama A ‘Feckless Weakling,’ Internet Responds With A Brutal Reminder For Him

In U.S. Politics on December 16, 2015 at 7:20 AM

LAS VEGAS, NV – DECEMBER 15: Republican presidential candidate New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks during the CNN Republican presidential debate on December 15, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)


During CNN’s Republican debate, Chris Christie hoped to pull his dismal poll numbers out of the gutter by attacking President Obama. In typical Christie fashion, he did so in the most disgusting, unpresidential way possible. Thankfully, the internet is here to remind Christie that not only was his attack on Obama pathetic, but he’s also a raging hypocrite.

Christie – who currently polls within the statistical margin of error – suggested he would be a stronger president than Obama because he would be willing to start a world war by shooting down a Russian plane in Syria. For the Republican crowd, war-mongering stood in place of sound foreign policy. Taking things a step further, however, Christie also took a cheap shot at the president.

“Maybe because I’m from New Jersey I have this plain-language hang-up. I would talk to Vladmir Putin a lot, and I’d say listen, Mr. President, there’s a no-fly zone and it applies to you and yes we’d shoot down the planes of Russian pilots if they were stupid enough to think that this president was the same feckless weakling that the president we have in the Oval Office is right now.”

One might think that calling the sitting president a “feckless weakling” would be taboo, even for the Republican crowd, but here we are.

While an attack such as that would be pathetic coming from anyone, the idea that Christie would go there is particularly galling for one obvious reason: Just three years ago, when Christie needed Obama’s help after New Jersey had been devastated by Hurricane Sandy and the Republican Party had turned their backs on the state (including some members sharing the debate stage with him), President Obama came through in a big way. Christie, and the entire state of New Jersey, praised Obama for his leadership.

Here’s how the Washington Post described Christie’s praise of Obama in 2012:

Here’s how the Washington Post described Christie’s praise of Obama in 2012:

But no photo opp in the world can top the praise of a job well done that comes from an affected, outspoken governor from the other party. In comments that perfectly encapsulated not only the severity of the storm but the divisiveness of our national politics and the bluntness of the speaker, New Jersey governor Chris Christie—primetime GOP convention speaker and frequent campaign surrogate for Mitt Romney—heaped praise on Obama’s initial reaction to the storm.

Christie told news outlets that the president’s response had been “outstanding,” said that coordinating with the administration had been “wonderful,” and remarked that “the president has been all over this and he deserves great credit.” He even told Fox News the president had done a “great job for New Jersey.”

Needless to say, not everyone has forgotten Obama’s outstanding actions in the middle of that crisis and the internet let Christie know it.

Many people also noted how astoundingly disrespectful it was to slander the president just because your political campaign is withering on the vine.


It was certainly a surprise to see that on a stage with Donald Trump, Chris Christie managed to come across as the biggest asshole of the night. It’s both impressive and sad at the same time.

Republicans Turn on Each Other in Bitter Las Vegas Debate

In U.S. Politics on December 16, 2015 at 7:12 AM


Donald Trump and Ted Cruz take fire from all sides

The long-coming collision inside the Republican Party erupted in a free-for-all on the Las Vegas Strip on Thursday, with Donald Trump facing criticism from all sides at the latest debate while fast-rising Ted Cruz found himself suddenly taking barbs from those looking to stop his momentum.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush led the criticism of Trump, the brash billionaire who has spent months atop public polling despite a string of inflammatory comments about Hispanics, women, immigrants and Muslims. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and former technology executive Carly Fiorina pitched in against Trump in their final debate of 2015.

Trump, however, showed no signs of backing down from his incendiary proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States—which might be unconstitutional. Republican primary voters have rewarded Trump with steady—if not strengthened—poll numbers based on his calls against immigration.

“We are not talking about isolation. We are talking about security. We’re not talking about religion. We’re talking about security,” Trump said, defending a position that has put him at odds with many of his rivals.

It was clear Trump was not winning over his rivals, who seemed flabbergasted that they were losing to this former reality star. “Donald is great at the one-liners. But he’s a chaos candidate, and he’d be a chaos President,” Bush said.

Trump, the acerbic front-runner, was taking none of it. He fired back at Bush: “He has failed in this campaign. It has been a total disaster.” And he shook his head as others tried to offer alternatives to his proposals.

“Donald, you’re not going to be able to insult your way to the Presidency. That’s not going to happen,” Bush added later, showing a new found ability to interrupt Trump. It clearly got under his skin. “Leadership is not about attacking people and disparaging people.”

“Talking tough is not the same as being strong,” Fiorina  chimed in, casting herself as a battle-tested executive in a field of lawmakers.

And Paul, a libertarian-leaning outsider, sneered at Trump’s strength. “Is Donald Trump a serious candidate?” he asked skeptically, given the real estate developer’s proposal to kill family members of suspected terrorists. “It would defy every norm that is America,” Paul said. “Think do you believe in the Constitution? Are you going to change the Constitution?”

Trump rolled his eyes at the Constitution and international treaties to distinguish between terrorists and civilians. “I can’t imagine someone booing.”

It was one of the many intra-family subplots playing out on national television on the final Republican debate of 2015. The new front-runner in Iowa, Cruz, faced a pile-on from Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, and from Paul.

“It sounds like what he’s outlining is not to lead at all,” Rubio said of Cruz’s foreign policy.

Cruz disputed that and pledged to “carpet-bomb” ISIS strongholds. Rubio quickly knocked Cruz for voting against defense budgets. “You can’t carpet bomb ISIS if you don’t have planes and bombs,” Rubio said.

Cruz responded by comparing Rubio to community organizer Saul Alinsky, a boogieman for conservatives.

“Marco knows what he’s saying isn’t true,” Cruz said of Rubio’s criticism. “They are Alinsky-like attacks.” Paul added to the criticism: “Marco can’t have it both ways.”

Yet Cruz had the most to lose in the debate. About an hour into the debate, Cruz essentially hijacked the debate, refusing to yield back to the moderators. He was careful, though, not to to openly split from Trump and his divisive rhetoric against Muslims. “It’s a not a war on a faith. It’s a war on a political and theocratic ideology who seeks to murder us,” Cruz said, again reminding audiences of his talents to straddle two conflicting positions so supporters on both sides can find reasons to support him.

From the edges, struggling candidates tried to land blows amid the squabbling. “No one in America cares about this,” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said of the sparring among the senators. He drew applause. “This is the difference between doing something and being one of 100 debating it. … People don’t care about that.”

Cruz entered the debate having worked for months to build a campaign that is worthy of envy. The junior Senator from Texas toiled away in rural Iowa restaurants, South Carolina churches, even an active bee farm in New Hampshire where guests were warned they might, in fact, be killed if they wandered off. Cruz lined up county chairmen in each of the first four early nominating states, something that even eventual winners of party nominations never achieve. His super PACs—yes, plural—are sitting on at least $30 million. To this point, Cruz has not incurred a single meaningful gaffe. And new polls show he’s leading in Iowa.

All of which is to say his Republican rivals were gunning for him, including his one-time best-frenemy, Trump. He entered Tuesday night’s debate on the Las Vegas Strip with all eyes on him and how he could defend his newly minted—and perhaps fragile—front-runner  status.

For months, the crowded field of Republicans has seen the top tier shift, as retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson captured voters imagination only to fade and Fiorina fought her way into debates only to see voters tire of her. Bush began his campaign as the one to beat and armed with platinum-plated donors, yet his campaign has essentially to shrunk to one state: make-or-break New Hampshire. Paul started with the advantage of his father’s previous campaigns, yet those voters have moved on as the surly libertarian has shown little enjoyment in running for the White House.

Only Trump, the brash billionaire no one took seriously at the start, has proved he has staying power atop the polling heap. Yet there are signs he is starting to fade in Iowa, even as his national numbers remain strong if not growing. Perhaps sensing the shift, Trump has ended his detente with Cruz, leaning into him this weekend: “I don’t think he’s qualified to be President. … I don’t think he’s got the right judgment.”

Ben Carson doesn’t hate gays hard enough for Tony Perkins

In U.S. Politics on October 31, 2015 at 7:45 AM


Ha. Haha. Hahahahahahaha.

You guys, remember how during the Republican debate on Wednesday Ben Carson got asked to reconcile his flagrantly anti-gay views with the fact that he was on the Costco’s and Kellogg’s board while the company was implementing some rather pro-equality company policies?

The audience booed the question. The LGBT community rolled its eyes. And Tony Perkins apparently did a spit take at how unacceptably pro-gay Carson’s answer was.

Yep, really. From Reuters:

Gage Skidmore / Flickr

“I think he has to explain this,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Christian conservative lobbying group Family Research Council. “As he is pursuing the presidency, what he has to make clear is that the board positions should not be reflective of his public policy.”

Perkins and other conservative leaders say they fear that some of the changes at American corporations could be used to punish employees with unpopular political views. They worry, for instance, that workers who do not support same-sex marriage could be found in violation of anti-discrimination policies.

That Ben Carson — who thinks being gay is a choice, same-sex marriage caused the fall of the Roman Empire and ex-gay conversion therapy isn’t all that bad — is somehow not homophobic enough for Tony Perkins is so, so cute.

Because for Perkins, it isn’t enough to protect people’s deeply-held religious beliefs. In order to earn his vote, you have to prove that you have worked to make life more difficult for LGBT people in both public and private capacities.

Never mind the fact that Costco and Kellogg’s are now considered two of the best brands in the country precisely because of the strong LGBT protections they put in place while Carson was on the board — such as banning discrimination based on gender identity and providing health insurance for employees’ same-sex partners — Perkins is a thousand percent sure that discrimination was and always will be a necessary and good business decision.

And everyone else is a thousand percent sure that he’s wrong.

(h/t Towleroad)

H/t: DB

Bush supporters pick up the pieces after disappointing debate

In U.S. Politics on October 30, 2015 at 7:30 AM

Getty Images


Jeb Bush’s supporters are struggling to explain the candidate’s listless debate performance, as baffled investors ponder the way forward.

Top fundraisers and donors aren’t setting their hair on fire just yet, but in interviews on Thursday, they said they were frustrated and puzzled by Bush’s wilting act under the bright lights at the debate on Wednesday night.

“It’s frustrating for those of us who are supporters of his, those of us who know him,” said one of Bush’s largest donors. “I mean, I’ve seen in these meetings with the smaller groups, he’s unbelievable. It’s just sort of weird.”

Bush was outmaneuvered by his former protégé and whiffed on softballs that his rivals clobbered.

The former Florida governor tepidly followed a debate moderator’s lead in attacking Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) for missing votes in the Senate. The moment was a long time in the making, and could have announced Bush’s reemergence as an authoritative voice in the race while diminishing his chief rival for the establishment mantle.

Instead, Rubio won the encounter.

“The only reason you’re saying this is because we’re running for the same position and someone has convinced you that attacking me is going to help you,” Rubio said, earning big applause from the crowd.

Bush didn’t have a comeback and he never really recovered.

Bush supporters were left scratching their heads as to why Bush, the high-minded policy wonk, would pick that issue and that setting to take on Rubio, the fast-talking, slick debater.

“Rubio’s comeback was spirited and the media has played it as if Rubio got the better of the exchange,” said Fred Malek, who has raised money for Bush’s super-PAC. “So all things considered [Bush] would have been better off not piling on the moderator’s comment.”

Later, in answer to a moderator’s question, Bush wondered aloud whether the federal government should regulate fantasy football betting websites, setting the table for Chris Christie to eat his lunch.

“Are we really talking about getting government involved in fantasy football?” Christie thundered. “We have $19 trillion in debt, we have people out of work, we have ISIS and al Qaeda attacking us, and we’re talking about fantasy football? Enough on fantasy football. Let people play. Who cares?” 

On Thursday, Rubio’s campaign was busy fundraising off suggestions in the debate that he should wait his turn to run for president and sending self-congratulatory emails to supporters about his debate performance.

Bush’s campaign, meanwhile, was seeking to move on, sending out press releases about upcoming appearances and picking up an endorsement.

Not even Bush’s most enthusiastic surrogates were up to the task of defending his effort.

“The debate performances are having a huge influence this time around because they’re being viewed by so many people, and it’s probably the one component where he’s not doing as well,” Republican strategist Ana Navarro, a Bush loyalist, said on CNN. “It’s frustrating to me because I still think he’s most qualified to be president.”

Meanwhile, former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Bush’s Virginia state co-chair, admitted on MSNBC’s Morning Joe that Bush “had a tough night,” while former George W. Bush aide Nicole Wallace told “The Today Show” that Bush “didn’t have the kind of night that even his campaign acknowledged he needed to have.”

It all leaves Bush in a bad spot.

He was already dealing with a feedback loop of negative news over his polling numbers and campaign spending cuts. Now, the media narrative surrounding Bush’s campaign has moved on to declare that his campaign is on death watch.

In private conversations with fundraisers some cracks are beginning to appear.

Bush’s supporters are baffled that he didn’t display the fire they expected from a candidate who badly needed to quash the notion that he’s losing his grip on the race and dispirited by the process.

“I don’t want to hear about this ‘joyful tortoise’ anymore, I want to see a wounded lion,” said one Washington bundler.

Some fundraisers worry that the big-dollar donors Bush is reliant on will dry up or hedge their bets across the spectrum of establishment-friendly candidates, including Rubio and Christie.

The Bush campaign will find out where it stands on the money front later on Thursday, when Bush’s brother, former President George W. Bush, hosts a $2,700 a ticket fundraiser at the Georgetown home of financier Paul Horvath. Jeb Bush is holding a town hall in New Hampshire and won’t be on hand.

Some supporters and fundraisers remained optimistic. They’re still buzzing from the confab in Houston last weekend where the campaign made the case that it’s built for the long haul.

“One thing that makes us campaign insiders feel confident is that we know we have the resources and the game plan in the early voting states to go the distance,” said Bush confidant Al Cardenas. “It’d be nice to change the narrative, but the debates are more important for the candidates who don’t have the resources we have.”

Supporters say they’re content to let the media buzz over momentum, debate zingers and other indicators they insist are irrelevant to winning the nomination.

“Relax. We’re going to be OK,” Bush Bundler Slater Bayliss said in an email on Thursday. “It is absurd to suggest that a poorly run debate, on a second tier cable network, held concurrently with the World Series would lead to an obituary for a man who is sitting on a pile of endorsements and money and who has a legitimate record of success as a reform-oriented businessman and governor.”

Furthermore, they believe that the campaign sees a way forward that’s more suited to Bush’s strengths.

Bush’s campaign manager Danny Diaz likes to boast that he has the hardest working candidate running for president, and Bush has likened his own efforts to those of Sen. John McCain in 2008. The Arizona senator, once left for dead, rose from the ashes with a road-heavy, hit-the-pavement and carry-your-own-suitcase campaign that ultimately won him the nomination.

Bush is hoping the same formula works for him.

He fled Colorado on Wednesday night to pick up an endorsement from former Sen. Judd Gregg in New Hampshire, where he’s redoubling his efforts.

Bush will host a town-hall in the state on Thursday night and will preside over the coin toss at high school football game in Florida on Friday, and cross paths with Rubio again at an Iowa GOP event in Des Moines on Saturday.

As the debates have failed to provide the spark he needs, the fallen former front-runner will have to grind it out as he seeks to regain the confidence of supporters.

“There’s no magic bullet, he’s going to have to work his way out of this one,” said one bundler. “Go to event after event, make appearance after appearance, and sit through the interviews where he’ll have to listen to how badly he did. It’s going to be unpleasant, but he’s just got to get through this.”

By Jonathan Easley and Jonathan Swan

The CNBC Republican Debate Was A Total Trainwreck

In U.S. Politics on October 29, 2015 at 8:41 AM

John Kasich, left, and Donald Trump, second from right, argue across fellow candidates during the CNBC Republican presidential debate at the University of Colorado, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015, in Boulder, Colo. | CREDIT: AP PHOTO/MARK J. TERRILL


Reporters from both conservative and liberal-minded news organizations seem to agree: the CNBC Republican presidential debate was kind of a trainwreck.

That wasn’t really because of the candidates, though — it was because of the moderators. For the first hour, CNBC moderators Becky Quick, John Harwood, and Carl Quintanilla didn’t let candidates interact with each other, resulting in multiple moments of incomprehensible yelling. This may have been because of stricter time limits — this particular 10-candidate debate was only two hours, while the previous Republican debates have spanned three hours.

But constant interruption wasn’t the only problem. Candidates were also highly critical of the CNBC crew, accusing them of being part of the “liberal media.” At one point, Ted Cruz ripped into the moderators for asking what he called unfair and non-substantive questions. And in two instances, audience members actually booed at questions the moderators asked of Ben Carson and Mike Huckabee.

There was even a moment when moderator Becky Quick admitted she was unsure of Donald Trump’s position on high-skill immigrant visas after questioning him about it. She first asserted that Trump was critical of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg, who wanted to increase H-1B visas for highly skilled immigrants. This is true — Trump has been critical of Zuckerburg for that reason. But when Trump said he hadn’t been, and Quick admitted she was confused.

“Where did I come up with this?” she asked, “That you were..?”

Trump interrupted: “I don’t know. You people write this stuff.”

Quick then apologized to Trump for ostensibly misquoting him — she accused Trump of calling Marco Rubio “Mark Zuckerburg’s personal senator,” and Trump said he “never said that.” But Trump did say that — the statement is literally on his campaign site.


Continue reading here


In U.S. Politics on September 17, 2015 at 9:23 AM


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