I don’t know if I can pull off some good old-fashioned live-blogging. I see my son John is set up to live-blog, and I’m sure he’ll do good work. I’ll just update this post, making a numbered list if any insights strike me, and I invite you to participate in the comments. I’m not rooting for anyone, not playing any drinking games, not obsessed with Trump, not anything in particular… just open to the moment.
1. As they take their places behind the lectern, Jeb and Ben are jotting down notes and Trump, between them, is standing, swiveling, and displaying his game face. Carly’s in royal blue, matching the large airplane that is stretched out behind them. Now, Jake Tapper is explaining the ground rules, introducing Hugh Hewitt and Dana Bash. Rubio wipes sweat from his brow.
2. Very short intros. Rand Paul is an eye surgeon who defends the Constitution, Huckabee says hi, Marco Rubio makes a joke about drinking water, Ted Cruz is a husband to his best friend, Ben Carson stresses the pediatric part of his career because he’s here for the children, Trump wrote “The Art of the Deal” and made billions and billions of dollars, Jeb looks forward to talking about fixing Washington, Scott Walker emulates Ronald Reagan, Carly started out as a secretary, Kasich is ready to lift us up, and Christie is gonna give back what Obama stole from us.
3. Carly gets the first question and she won’t answer it: Is she comfortable with Trump’s finger on the nuclear button? She just calls him an “entertainer.” Trump gets to respond: He’s a businessman, and his temperament is “very good, very calm.” Rand Paul got sideswiped by Trump, so he gets to respond, and he says that a guy that would sideswipe like that shouldn’t have his finger on the button. Trump: “I never attacked him on his looks, and believe me, there’s plenty of subject matter there.”
4. Scott Walker breaks in without waiting to be asked a question or to get a turn triggered by an attack from someone else. It was Jeb who was asked a question, and Jeb triggered a Trump response opportunity. Walker just butted in.
5. Tapper wanted to ask another question, and Kasich started talking, so now he’s been given an opportunity. Kasich is copying Walker, creating more chaos, and ironically, the point he wants to make is that the show is going to be too chaotic for the folks watching at home.
6. Christie offers to be our “vessel.” Jeb is asked if he’s “a puppet” for his donors. Jeb says Trump offered him money in exchange for getting gambling in Florida, and Trump said that didn’t happen, because if it had, he would have gotten it. Jeb tries to break in, and Trump gives mock approval: “More energy tonight, I like it.”
7. The candidates are all sweating like mad. How can they run the government if they can’t even run a room in the Reagan Library?
8. “There’s just something missing from our President. He doesn’t have courage.” Says Trump (talking about Syria).
9. Kasich breaks in ferociously. He’s yelling and looking swollen and red. He’s seething. This is interfering with my sense of him as everybody’s dad.
10. Huckabee is complaining about the Supreme Court “redefining marriage” and championing Kim Davis. Jeb agrees with him, but in a much milder, mellower way.
11. Cruz calls Planned Parenthood “an ongoing criminal enterprise.”
12. Tapper tells Carly Fiorina to respond to Trump’s statement a few days ago that when he said “look at that face,” he wasn’t talking about her looks but her “persona.” She’s asked to talk about Trump’s persona. She could have had a prepared remark for this, but she’s thinking on her feet and uses a line that Trump just used against Jeb Bush: people heard very clearly what he said. She said that, then absolutely shuts up, and the crowd cheers. Trump smirks, then leans forward and says: “I think she’s got a beautiful face and she’s a beautiful woman.” I think that was a prepared remark (and a lie) and Carly utterly refrains from giving an appreciative smile. She’s got her game face.
13. Jeb is annoyed that Trump once said that Jeb may have a “soft spot” for Mexicans because his wife is Mexican. Trump babbles about what a lovely woman Jeb’s wife is, but resists Jeb’s demands for an apology. There’s the wife out in the audience, come on, apologize to her. Trump won’t do it. He’s done nothing wrong, he says.
14. Speak English! Assimilate! Says Trump. Jeb says he is speaking English, but if someone asks him a question in Spanish, he’s going to answer in Spanish. That’s an opening for Rubio to break in and talk about his immigrant grandfather taught him that he was blessed to live in America… and he taught him that in Spanish. And he wants people who speak Spanish to hear from the President in Spanish, not from some translator on Spanish TV.
15. “We’re the only ones dumb enough, stupid enough” to have birthright citizenship, says Trump. And he’s not buying that it’s in the Constitution.
16. Fiorina thinks the Constitution would have to be amended, which isn’t likely. She concentrates on blaming the Democrats for not reforming immigration back when they had control of the Senate. They don’t want to solve the problem. They want the issue to remain live.
17. Trump is turning beet red fighting with Carly over who’s the better businessperson. He impugns her business career and she impugns him. Christie breaks in to say the person watching at home could “care less” about this back-and-forth about their careers. You 2 are both successful, what about the people out there who are not successful? Christie blusters.
18. “A track record” is important, Carly responds, without losing her cool at all. If we’re going to talk about Christie’s record in government, we should talk about the business record of the candidates who are coming to the race from business.
19. Aw, Rand Paul’s reduced to playing with his pencils.
20. Hugh Hewitt wants to talk about who can win in the general election and who’s going to attack Hillary Clinton? Kasich isn’t ready to do that yet. But “at the end of the day…” (That was one of my drinking game cues, by the way. And Ben Carson has already proclaimed something “ridiculous!”)
21. Trump effuses about Hugh Hewitt’s declaring Trump “the best interview in America” and the camera shows Hewitt grinning responsively. What a bromance!
22. “Finally!” I say, and the crowd gives a big cheer, when Jeb says “Let me say one thing about my brother: He kept us safe.”
23. Trump tried to high-five Carson and Carson received it in a way that moved it around into a regular handshake. Don’t slap the neurosurgeon’s gifted hands! The cause for Trump’s move was Carson’s statement that he’d advised George W. Bush in 2003 not to go to war in Iraq. (Trump had previously stated that he’s the only one on the stage who opposed the Iraq war at the time.)
24. Do you think the questions are being evenly distributed? My sense of it is that they keep coming back to Jeb Bush.
25. Cruz thinks Bush I should have appointed Edith Jones instead of David Souter and Bush II should have appointed Michael Luttig instead of John Roberts to the Supreme Court. Jones and Luttig were both “rock-ribbed conservatives.” The Presidents Bush both took the easier route and didn’t want to fight for conservative Justices. Cruz’s appointees will “not act like philosopher kings.”
26. How long is this darned thing? I thought 2 hours. Then I thought 2 and a half. Now, I’m thinking it’s going to go on for 3 hours. This is madness! (And I watched some of the other debate, the one with Santorum and… I forget who… Lindsey Graham… Pataki. One other. I have to ask Meade: Jindal.)
27. Oh, good: marijuana. I could use some marijuana at this point. The question goes to Paul, who thinks the laws hurt the poor and racial minorities. Bush confesses to smoking marijuana 40 years ago.
28. Paul is dominating for a long time on the marijuana question. He calls attention to Christie’s willingness to enforce the federal criminal law against people in Colorado, who may think that their state has legalized marijuana, so — as Paul puts it — Christie doesn’t believe in the 10th Amendment and “states’ rights.”
29. “Autism has become an epidemic,” says Trump when he’s asked whether he’ll stop saying that vaccines are linked to autism. Carson is asked to comment and he says, “He’s an okay doctor”… which is a quote of something Trump once said about Carson, so some pretty good humor from Carson, even if it’s not enough pushback. Trump’s point is that all he’s saying is that vaccinations are too “bunched up” — too much is pumped all at once into a “beautiful little baby” and parents ought to have some discretion to space out the vaccines the way he did with his babies. Carson agrees with that point, and Trump reaches over to pat Carson on the elbow.
30. Uh-oh, lighthearted questions. First, what woman should be on the $10 bill. Huckabee says his own wife. Blechh. Cruz wants the $20 bill, not the $10 bill changed, and he’d put Rosa Parks (as would Rubio). Carson wants his own mother on the bill. Trump wants Ivanka or Rosa Parks. Jeb wants Margaret Thatcher. Walker wants Clara Barton! Carly wouldn’t change the bills, and we should recognize that “women are not a special interest group.” Kasich wants “Mother Theresa, a lady I had a chance to meet.” Christie provoked laughs nationwide, I suspect, by saying “I think the Addams Family has been shorted in the currency business,” causing a million people to quip “Morticia?!” (He meant Abigail Adams.)
31. What Secret Service nickname should you have? Carly Fiorina says “Secretariat,” because, you know, she started out as a secretary, but I’m sure a million Americans just made a “horse-faced” joke. Bush wants to be “Ever Ready” — trying to establish that he’s not low energy. Walker wants to be Harley (for his motorcycle). Trump says “Humble.” Rubio wants to be “Gator.”
32. What was up with that “Defeat Bloomberg” ad?
33. They’re all boringly predicting what the world will be like after their presidency. The blabby question from Tapper was framed to invite them to connect that to Ronald Reagan… as if there hadn’t been enough opportunities in all these many hours for the candidates to liken themselves to Ronald Reagan.
34. Who most improved his case? I asked the question out loud and immediately thought: Rand Paul. Meade answered: Rand Paul. But he’s got a long way to go. Did anyone hurt his case significantly? I don’t think so. It’s more: Who needed to make some real progress here and didn’t? Maybe Walker.
35. After the debate, in an interview, Trump says what he learned is that he can stand for 3 hours. Yeah, that was a severe challenge — having to stand there for 3 hours. It was hard enough to sit through!
36. John opines that Carly Fiorina won. Read More …