Following on from the first debate of pre-decided underdogs, Cleveland, Ohio braced itself for another ten GOP candidates for president, each vying to prove their stripes as a right-winger who can garner the most votes from the foaming-at-the-mouth halfwits known in the mainstream media as the Republican base. Many of the questions were the same as those posed to the first seven candidates however there were also some that were tailored to get reactions from the presidential hopefully standing before them.
The event was moderated by Bret Baier, Chris Wallace and Megyn Kelly of the Fox News Network, who had organised the first debate in partnership with Facebook, to make sure that the questions were ‘fair and balanced’. Controversy quickly arose as the first question, whether all the candidates would support the eventual Republican candidate, with Donald Trump playing up to expectation by stating that he was still considering a run as an independent candidate. My previous article on the ‘Kids’ Table’ debate endeavoured to dissect each candidates’ statements and reveal the idiocy beneath the assertion; I will probably not be as detailed due to the higher number of candidates in this debate and the fact that I don’t have the patience to analysis all of the bullshit spewing out of Ted Cruz’s mouth.
First up would be business magnate and perennial headline-grabber Donald Trump; if his comments about an independent candidacy are discounted, as they were provoked for entertainment purposes, his first comments were regarding sexist remarks that he had made on Twitter and playing to the crowd as the comments being about a well-known liberal media personality, Trump asserting that the United States was “too politically correct”, and that the problem with America is that “we don’t win anymore. We lose to China, we lose to Mexico, both in trade and at the border. We lose to everybody”. As unconventional starts go, that’s courageous to say the least; it appears that because Trump is tapping into a right-wing populism angered by the Washington status quo, deriding the country rather than building it up is an instant vote winner.
On immigration Trump claimed that the media wouldn’t be talking about the issue had he not said at his campaign launch that the Mexican government was sending criminals over the border, and that many of those who come are drug dealers and rapists. When asked what he would do on the undocumented immigrants currently in the United States, he evaded the question by stating that the first priority would be to “build a wall, quickly”. When pressed by the moderators as to what his evidence was to support his statements of the Mexican government actively sending people over the border, he cited personal conjecture and anecdotal evidence of border patrol employees.
When the Affordable Care Act was brought up Trump, when pushed on his previous support for a single-payer healthcare system he conceded that “it works in Canada, and in Scotland”, before quickly asserting that his solution would be to have a fully private system with people able to buy private insurance from countries across state lines. He also made public that he had contributed to many political campaigns in order to receive favours from politicians later on and that such a system shouldn’t exist, but not before some of the other candidates on the stage sarcastic made requests for campaign donations illustrating that they are incapable of self-awareness because at least Donald Trump is aware that such a system of campaign donations is unjust.
As the attempted Fox News hatchet job continued, rather than ask about what he would do on the economy as all the other candidates were, he was asked about the history of his business which had been declared bankrupt four times. After being asked this Trump became noticeably more irritable as he attempted to dodge the question asserting that “I’ve never gone bankrupt”, with it being pointed out that the question was about his company, not himself as an individual. Once this saga had been somewhat resolved with Trump stating that he used the laws of the country to protect his interests, he moved on to his plan to improve the economy which largely consisted of him making self-serving statements about his personal wealth of $10 billion (which is disputed) and by stating unequivocally that he would “straighten out the $19 trillion mess”; unsurprisingly he wasn’t exactly specific about how he would do this, so based on his track record I can only presume that he would declare the US bankrupt and fire loads of people (which in turn may destroy the entire global economy, but I guess he doesn’t care about other countries so much).
He was also briefly asked about social issues in which he claimed that he had “evolved on some issues”, which is brave wording for a Republican primary debate, and that he was now passionately pro-life. When Jeb Bush mildly criticised Trump by arguing that his tone was divisive, Trump, being that bastion of logic, responded that tone doesn’t matter because ISIS exists.
The last thing that Trump was directly asked about was foreign policy and the military. He said that President Obama “didn’t have a clue” and that “he wouldn’t call him incompetent because that’s not nice”. On the Iranian Nuclear Deal he complained that Obama didn’t get the four US hostages currently held by the Iranians back and that the US was giving them $150 billion, both of which I will come back to as a number of candidates brought these two things up but I’ll debunk them later as I don’t want to give Trump too much attention because what the petulant fool wants.
Next is libertarian golden-boy and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, a man who is so right-wing that he’s named after someone who believed that altruism was immoral. Paul’s tactic quickly became apparent as he wished to harass Trump in order to make him flustered and seem unpresidential; this didn’t particularly work as a couple of patronising statements from Trump made Paul look like a loud-mouthed university student. On the issue of electability, Paul gave a psuedo-defence of comments he made about cutting foreign aid to Israel by stating that he would maintain aid in the short term, but invoked the Republican darling and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in saying that in the long term Israel would be safer without US aid. Paul then took the opportunity to insert some of his pre-prepared sound-bites by saying that “you can help your allies out of a surplus” and “[the US] shouldn’t be borrowing money from China to send it overseas”.
Paul’s most exciting moment came in a verbal fracas with current Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie over the issue of national security; the dispute arose when Christie brought up his record as the United States Attorney for New Jersey prosecuting terrorists under the Patriot Act in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. The point of contention was that Christie was in favour of the NSA bulk-collection of phone records which were exposed by Edward Snowdon in 2012. Despite Christie’s bluster and continued attempt to make political capital out of 9/11, Paul was actually correct in pointing out that bulk-collection of phone records violated the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and that the simple solution would be to get a warrant to investigate an individual.
Although Christie’s immediate response was his usual cocktail of bravado and unconstitutional policy suggestions, Paul’s case wasn’t helped by yelling over Christie making both come over as unpresidential, which is exactly what the establishment GOP and Fox News wanted in order to discredit Paul’s campaign. The final point of the disagreement was when Paul told Christie to “go hug Obama again”, in reference to when Christie hugged Obama for providing federal relief to New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy; that was an intellectual distillation of Rand Paul, I cannot fathom how thanking the President after the state that you lead was hit by a natural disaster by hugging him disqualifies him from running for that office.
The Kentucky Senator’s next speaking opportunity came on the topic of the Iran Nuclear deal, where he unsurprisingly stated his opposition to the deal, but also separated himself from other Republicans, who seem to receive a borderline sexual thrill out of bombing countries, by articulating his belief that negotiations were not the work of Satan, even bringing up the person Tea Partiers think was close to being the reincarnation of Christ: Ronald Reagan. He also mentioned how he wouldn’t have lifted the sanctions on Iran until they had a track record of complying with the deal; my counter-point would be that Obama probably had to negotiate away such a position in order to get the deal, which is incredibly good from a US perspective, accepted by Iran, or that the other negotiating countries didn’t think that such a policy was necessary.
On ISIS Paul backtracked on his originally stated position which was that hawkishness from Republican politicians created ISIS and that those neo-Conservative leaders, in reference to people like Dick Cheney and Bill Kristol, had to take some of the blame for the power vacuum that precipitated sectarian conflict. Rather than clearly state this as his position in front of the millions of people watching across the US, Senator Paul chose instead to bang the drum for the base and blame everything on the terrorists.
The final topic that Paul spoke about, other than foreign aid in which he basically reiterated his statements from earlier, was on the issue of same-sex marriage. In an act of throwing red meat to the Republican base Paul stated that “[he] didn’t want [his] marriage or [his] gun registered in Washington”, because a key way to be remembered by the base is to mention firearms for no apparent reason. On the issue of religious liberty, which has been lumped into discussions about LGBT rights by right-wingers, Senator Paul showed that he was ignorant of civil rights laws by saying that he believes that the government shouldn’t interfere with the religious beliefs and practices of people, which is politician-speak for ‘I’m fine with you discriminating against them dirty gays’.
Dr Ben Carson is also trying to become the 2016 Republican nominee and, on the topic of electability, Carson brought up the necessity of a president having a brain, and that America only became great because people used their brains for creative and entrepreneurial reasons; both statements are hardly controversial from a former neurosurgeon.
Dr Carson was first asked about whether the US should resume waterboarding as part of its interrogation protocol. For people who are acquainted with morality this is what we would call a ‘softball’, as it doesn’t take much to say that a country that has signed the Geneva Convention shouldn’t torture people. Unfortunately this wasn’t the thought process of Dr Carson who said: “what we do is our business, and we shouldn’t be broadcasting what we do”. He then went on to say that “the Left will say that Carson doesn’t believe in the Geneva Convention”, however he then leaves it ambiguous as to whether he does support it or not, especially as his final comments were that the US military’s hands shouldn’t be “tied behind its back”.
On the economy Dr Carson supports proportional taxation, not because of his worry that a flat tax would disproportionately help the rich at the poor’s expense, but because he believes that the taxation system of the United States should be based on Biblical tithing because “God’s a pretty fair guy”. But the problem with Carson saying that he supports a proportional system is that he doesn’t, he actually explains that the system he supports is a 10% flat tax; how stupid are you if you say your position is one thing and then reveal its the opposite when you explain it? In addition to getting his taxation policy from a book written nearly two millennia ago, he wants to abolish all tax deductions and all tax loopholes which his interesting because the Republican leadership disagrees.
During one of Fox News’ quick rounds of questioning, in which only a few candidates were asked to answer, Dr Carson said that “[a Hillary Clinton candidacy] would be a dream come true” and that she was the “epitome of the secular progressive movement”. As I have previously stated Clinton is in now way at all left-wing and her support for secularism would make her in tune with the opinion of the Founding Fathers. He believes that Clinton is using the American people as “useful idiots”, and said that children should be educated so that they know that it is the progressive agenda that is the reason for economic strife; Dr Carson should probably have been made aware that teachers telling students that one particular political viewpoint is incorrect is incredibly unethical, and that to suggest that in a general election if the Republicans chose him as the nominee would be electorally disastrous among independent voters.
Carson’s final comments were regarding the US military which he believed had been significantly weakened by the Obama Administration. He then set about saying lots of statistics about the size of the military: smallest navy since 1970, smallest air force since 1940, half of Marine Corps aren’t ready for combat etc. This would seem on the surface to be proof of Obama’s decision to reduce the capability of the US military and that the only solution, as Carson suggests should be a massive increase in military spending and to stop “turning our back on Israel”; unfortunately for Dr Carson there is a reason that the US navy has reduced in size over the years, because the ships are more powerful and that modern combat is focussed around counter-terrorism rather than WWII-style naval warfare. In terms of budget, the US already current spends over $600 billion on the military, which according to the Stockholm Peace Research Institute happens to be more than the next seven countries, many of whom are allies of the US.
Next is Florida Senator Marco Rubio who was able to come up with many sound-bites that the auditorium crowd were vocally supportive of such as “Hillary Clinton can’t lecture me about living pay cheque to pay cheque, I was raised pay cheque to pay cheque” and “if the most experience candidate is going to win the election it’ll be Hillary Clinton”. On actual policy substance regarding immigration he pointed out that most immigrants coming into America were not Mexican and were in fact from Guatemala and Honduras due to instability caused by drug cartels, however he did fail to criticise the US government’s War on Drugs which has indirectly cause this instability. On border security he wanted to build a fence and e-verification for immigrants because “people feel angry and we need to do something”.
On education the Florida Senator believes that the Department of Education should not be in the business of setting curricula or standards because it would eventually lead to the federal government withholding funds from school boards that don’t comply. On the economy he acknowledged that big business can change government policy, however in order to ‘help’ small businesses Rubio would institute flat corporate tax rate of 25% which would apply to all businesses (including big businesses) as well as repealing Obamacare and Dodd-Frank. If we put aside the fact that Dodd-Frank is the only bank regulation to come out of the Global Financial Crisis, and it is piecemeal at best, a President Rubio has revealed his ignorance as to how the US government functions as both of these measures are legislation and passed into law, therefore requiring Congress to do something, which based on recent history would be hard to do.
On social issues Senator Rubio was introduced in the question as someone who was pro-life but who supported abortions in the case of incest and rape; this was swiftly brushed aside by the Florida Senator said that he didn’t favour such exceptions, despite the fact he co-sponsored a bill in 2013 containing those exceptions. He also boldly asserted that the Constitution protects foetuses which indirectly meant that he believes he has a greater understanding of the Constitution than the US Supreme Court who ruled in Roe vs Wade that women’s right to have an abortion is constitutional.
The next candidate was former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, whose first question prompted an interesting response as the he revealed that he was concerned about ‘dynastic politics’, although he at least had the self-awareness to acknowledge that the questioner wasn’t referring to Hillary Clinton. He also touted his record in Florida which he referred to as “implementing Conservative principles in a purple state”. In his continued pitch to portray his candidacy as that of a moderate who could win independent voters, Bush positioned himself as the only main candidate that supported a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants however in order to appeal to the incredibly right-wing base of the Republican Party Bush also stated his support for increased border security, e-verification and promised to eliminate sanctuary cities.
On foreign policy Bush trotted out the usual neo-Conservative revisionism about the 2003 Iraq War by stating that, despite it being a mistake to invade, the withdrawal of US forces by Obama was why ISIS flared up and exists currently. Bush said that he would “take out ISIS with every tool at our disposal”, which would seem to imply that he was open to continuing the long tradition of presidents called Bush invading Iraq. When talking about the Iran deal Governor Bush said that he would stop the deal because “the Mullahs have blood on their hands”.
In his continued pitch to walk the line to be conservative enough to appeal to the primary voters and also moderate enough to convince independents that he wouldn’t be too right-wing for them, Bush reaffirmed his support for Common Core for reading and maths but made it clear that he was fine with states opting out of Common Core and that he doesn’t believe that the federal government should have any direct role in setting standards, curricula or content. He also said that he supported school choice and said he would fight the teachers’ union, which is always a GOP primary debate crowd-pleaser.
Bush was only asked about two other topics: the economy and social issues. On the economy he said that regulations and taxes were crushing people’s aspirations, ‘fix’ the tax code, get rid of ‘job-crushing’ regulations, repeal Obamacare and ’embracing the energy revolution’; Bush kept repeating the need to ’embrace the energy revolution’ which I believe to a renamed version of Sarah Palin’s “drill baby drill” from the 2008 election. The energy that Bush is referring to is fracking, coal production and oil production, thus reaffirming his belief that, much like his brother, environmental concerns are not at the top of his list. On social issues he boasted that whilst Governor of Florida he had defunded Planned Parenthood, increased adoption rates, outlawed partial-birth abortions, and introduced parental notification laws. In more general comments he said that his view was “informed by [his] faith”, and wanted to run a positive campaign in order to give people hope.
I am aware that the saying goes ‘save the best until last’ but I can’t because the next candidate in the borderline-insane Senator from Texas Ted Cruz. Full of idioms and phrases that do not provide any substantive answers to question, Senator Cruz said that he would be electable because “the American people are looking for someone to speak the truth”. He also pointed out that the establishment GOP and many Democrats are getting into bed with lobbyists and special interests, but offered no real solution to the problem like a constitutional amendment to reverse Citizens United. Cruz finished his piece about electability by attempting to tap into the same right-wing resentment that has seen the growth of Donald Trump’s poll ratings by stating that the American people are “sick of GOP leaders that don’t honour their commitments despite election victories”.
In order to play into this populism the smarmiest candidate on the stage said that he supported ‘Kate Steinle’s Law’ and railed against the GOP leadership who blocked a vote on it, as well as accusing the Washington “cartel” of supporting an amnesty for currently undocumented immigrants. Cruz said that he believed that Obama was trying to fundamentally change America via amnesty and that he has never been in favour of such a policy unlike some of the other people on stage; this is also false as the Republican Party’s most right-wing politicians have employed messaging that has renamed a pathway to citizenship as amnesty, so, according to Cruz, Jeb Bush is in favour of amnesty (like Ronald Reagan who, of course, is venerated by Cruz).
On terrorism Cruz said that a crucial part of his strategy to fight ISIS would be to name it ‘radical Islamic terrorism’ as a slight to President Obama who doesn’t want to give ISIS the satisfaction of being associated with a major world religion. The next part of the debate made me almost keel over with laughter as Cruz regaled the audience with a story of when he was discussing ISIS with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey who said that there was “no military solution, we need to change conditions on the ground so young people aren’t in poverty and susceptible to radicalisation”.
From an objective European perspective I immediately assumed that Cruz was going to launch into this thesis of how Obama’s drone policy was flawed as it did nothing to address the socio-economic conditions in Iraq and Syria; how I was wrong. Rather than accepting the expert opinion of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff he dismissed it out of hand because the strategy proposed didn’t involve a massive military escalation, and then inserted one of his excruciatingly pre-prepared sound-bites: “doing jihad against the America is signing your death warrant”. When asked if he thought the battle with ISIS was more ideological, Cruz conceded that “of course its ideological” which would imply that he is aware that a military solution will not be successful, but is willing to do it ever.
Coincidentally Cruz only other speaking opportunity on policy also came on foreign policy and the military. Cruz accused Russia and China of committing acts of cyber-warfare, which heavily implied that he would not opposed to the idea of the United States going to war with both Russia and China, as well as continuing America’s military activity in the Middle East. Cruz also attempted to implicitly state that the foreign policy of Obama and Clinton was linked to the rise of radical Islam; considering that Islamic radicalism in its modern form has existed since at least the mid-1980s, when Saint Reagan was in charge, linking it solely to US foreign policy since 2009 would be false. Where he would be correct is that US hawkishness has been a contributing factor to the rise of particular groups such as al-Qaeda and ISIS, but this was largely the result of decisions made by previous presidents; in the case of the 2003 Iraq War and the increased assistance the Mujahadeen fighting the Soviet Union, both of which massively strengthened Muslim extremists, were decisions taken by Republican presidents (George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan respectively).
He also asserted that Iran was on the verge of a nuclear weapon, which is factually inaccurate as Obama’s Iran deal prevents that eventuality. Cruz also massively implied that the election of Ronald Reagan was the reason that Iran had released American hostages in the saga now known as the 1981 Iran Hostage Crisis; as any historian would tell you most of the negotiations were undertaken by President Jimmy Carter with the successful release noted in history as one of President Carter’s final successes as president, and not the Iranian leadership believing that a former B-list actor was going to be a ‘strong’ president in the future thus prompting the hostages’ release.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie also took his place alongside the other candidates and began his pitch for the nomination by stating that during his time in New Jersey, which he stressed was a heavily Democratic state, he cut taxes and cut loads of social programmes; as somebody who isn’t right-wing I couldn’t believe that someone would gloat about cutting social programmes designed to help the poorest in society, but this was definitely met with approval.
The next time Christie spoke was his back and forth with Rand Paul, but having already covered that I’ll move onto the Governor’s economic policy; the first thing he said was that 71% of government spending is on Entitlements, which is what we in Britain call Benefits, and debt servicing (which is a lie). The 2015 US government’s Welfare budget was $454.3 billion and the debt interest payments were $334.2 billion, which together is around 12.7% of the total $6.228 trillion budget; even if anything that could be vaguely considered as in these categories by a right-wing politician (pensions, healthcare, welfare, debt interest and ‘other spending’) and that amounts to 60.8% of the budget.
Christie also said that he wants to raise the retirement age by five years and that it would be a phased introduction over twenty years. The Governor also said that he would introduce means testing for social security for the wealthiest pensioners and he also asserted that without such reforms Entitlements will bankrupt the US and lead to higher taxes. This isn’t actually true as figures in 2010 from the U.S. Social Security administration point to three possible scenarios: the most pessimistic is that Social Security, if unchanged, will stay solvent until 2029; the immediate cost assumptions would leave Social Security solvent until 2037; and the best-case scenario is that, due to low-costs, Social Security will remain solvent for at least the next 75 years.
The New Jersey Governor’s final topic was on the military and foreign policy. Christie said that if elected as President he would increase the size of the army to 500,000 active duty soldiers, the size of the Marine Corps to 185,000 active duty personnel, the size of the Navy up to 350 ships and the size of the Air Force up to 2,600 aircraft that are “ready to go”. According to figures from the United States government these pledges would be incredibly cheap to implement…because two of them already exist: the most recent figures show the US Marine Crops had 194,000 active personnel, and the US Air Force 5,137 active aircraft. In addition the number of active duty soldiers is currently around 490,000 and the number of ships in the Navy has been steadily declining due to the changing face of modern warfare to its current level of 273 ships; the reason behind Christie’s posturing is that, having painted himself as a ‘tough-guy’ on terrorism earlier on in the debate, he’s wanting to seem like he knows what he’s talking about on the military as well as feeding into this false Republican narrative that the US military has been reduced under Obama by so much that around twenty Mexican bandits could ride to Washington on horseback and take over the country. On foreign policy Christie said that the US shouldn’t be funding its enemies, obviously, and that support for Israel must be continued.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker also tried to stake his claim for the presidency and began by stating that he is pro-life in every situation, which nobody thought to follow up with getting Walker to admit that he would prevent a woman having an abortion even if her life was at risk. On immigration Walker admitted that he had changed his position on a path to citizenship, because he is now against it, and said that there shouldn’t be an amnesty of currently undocumented immigrants in the US and that the Southern border should be secured.
On foreign policy Walker pointed out that the US needed to work with other states throughout the Persian Gulf. He also said that he had spoken with Arab leaders in the Persian Gulf who said that they opposed the Iran Nuclear deal and also that American disengagement from the Middle East was their biggest concern. The first point would be that the overwhelming majority of countries in the Middle East are Sunni Muslims and that their opposition to the Iran deal is rooted in sectarianism because the deal would no longer leaver Iran out in the cold. On the second point, I am not surprised that countries like Saudi Arabia are unhappy with the US retreating from the Middle East in a military capacity, by which I mean that they are no longer invading countries because of course according to GOP politicians droning countries doesn’t count as military activity, because it means that these nations will have to spend their own money to stabilising the region.
He was also asked later on about the Iran deal which he said he would “terminate” the deal and reinstate stronger sanctions than previously, before labelling the deal, which is one of the most one-sided in favour of the US in recent years, as “another failed policy of the Obama/Clinton doctrine”.
His final piece of foreign policy was actually the last thing of policy substance he said in the debate which was that, after joking about Russia and China’s cyber-attack at the expense of Clinton, he would have sent weapons to the Ukrainians to resist Russia, as well as sent US military forces to Eastern Europe to deter any potential Russian advances. Walker also said he would also reinstate the Star Wars missile system in the Czech Republic and Poland, which would definitely not increase hostility between Putin and the United States.
On the role of the federal government Walker said that “wherever Hillary Clinton and Barrack Obama touched is now worse off”, which is false when you look at the economy for example. Speaking of the economy, Walker claimed that “Clinton thinks you can grow the economy by growing Washington” and that “the government doesn’t create jobs”; this is obviously false by virtue of the fact that government jobs exist. He also stated that he wants to repeal Obamacare, reign in “out of control government regulations”, lower the tax rate and simplify the tax code.
However the most interesting thing came when Walker said that “Wisconsin more than made up from recession job losses”, and to be fair Wisconsin has seen a net increase of jobs since the recession…of 4,000, which is great news for those 4,000 people but I would question that qualifies as ‘more than made up’. Walker was also briefly asked about race and police harassment by saying one of the most moderate things of the entire night: police officers need better training about the appropriate use of force throughout their careers and that those who were proven to be racist should be prosecuted; Governor Walker breaking out into uncharacteristically sane policy positions.
The penultimate candidate was former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee who continued his anti-abortion crusade by asserting his belief that the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the US Constitution protect foetuses from abortions, even though the Supreme Court has expressly said that women can legally have an abortion. He also said that “the DNA schedule proves personhood at conception” which sounds very scientific until you Google that phrase and you quickly find out that I’m not the only one whose never heard of it, because scientists haven’t either. He also reiterated his current favourite talking point: “the Supreme Court is not the Supreme Being”, which is illustrating Governor Huckabee’s disdain for the fact that the United States government is not a Christian theocracy.
On the subject of the federal government’s role, he claimed that Wall Street and donors controlled Washington, which is factually accurate, and that the federal government was acting unconstitutionally in establishing the EPA and the Department for Education. He also said that power should be decentralised away from Washington, income tax should be replaced by a consumption tax (which would benefit the rich at the expense of the poor) and abolish the IRS. Firstly there’s nothing in the constitution about the EPA or the Department of Education being expressly unconstitutional, and secondly abolishing the IRS would be catastrophic for the collection of tax revenues thus making the US an incredibly dysfunctional society. Huckabee also claimed that Obamacare “robbed $700 billion from Medicare” which is a lie because the Affordable Care Act would prevent the need for the Medicare budget to increase by $700 billion thus meaning that that doesn’t need to be used for Medicare.
On the economy, because he had already spelled out most of his fiscal policies, Huckabee gave a valiant defence of Social Security by stating that “it’s not the recipients’ fault that [the system] doesn’t work”, and instead called on Congress to get rid of their retirement benefits. He also said that putting Social Security contributions on consumption rather than income would ensure its solvency, something I would contest as those people with the most amount of money would pay a similar level to people on the poorest, and many people would be put into poverty as an increased consumption tax would hit the poorest in society hardest.
On the military Huckabee claimed that Obama has reduced the military by 25%, which even if true, would still mean that the US is still the strongest military power in the history of humanity. He also criticised the changing culture of the military by saying that the military “[is] not a social experiment”, which was his open revulsion at the idea of transgender people openly serving in the military. During another one of Fox News’ quick rounds, Huckabee said that Obama “trusts [America’s] enemies and vilifies everyone who disagrees with him”, and said that the Iran deal “didn’t get four hostages out”.
I said I would come back to this so here it is: as John Kerry said, you don’t put the hostages in the nuclear deal because it gives the Iranians, who had been forced to the negotiating table due to the crippling economic sanctions, leverage as they would know that the US wouldn’t ever negotiate away the release of hostages. By saying at the start of negotiations that the hostages were never going to be considered and another deal would have to take place for their release immediately removes the Iranian’s only bargaining chip; on a practical point if the hostages were put into the nuclear deal, it would show Iran that in order to get a better deal they should keep taking hostages.
The final candidate was Ohio Governor John Kasich who was very aware that the crowd were hanging on every word he was saying due to the debate location. When asked about the Medicaid expansion he compared himself to Ronald Reagan, who also expanded Medicaid, whilst also bringing up his decisions to treat the mentally ill outside of prisons, as well as putting drug offenders in rehab. He incorrectly said that Medicaid is growing at one of the lowest rates in the country, because of the 30 states that took the expansion Ohio is 16th on the list, and ended his piece by playing to crowd in saying that he had turned an $8 billion deficit into a $2 billion surplus.
When asked how he would take on Hillary Clinton he said that he would paint the GOP as a pro-growth, pro-balenced budget party as economic growth is “the key to everything”. He also warned other GOP candidates that they shouldn’t just ignore Donald Trump because he was tapping into something very real. The Governor also came up with the most moderate position on the issue of same-sex marriage by saying that, although he was a “traditional guy” he said that he would accept the Supreme Court’s decision and he also revealed that he recently attended a same-sex ceremony. Furthermore Kasich, despite not being the candidate that spouted his religious beliefs most, also said that if his daughter came out as gay to him he would love her either way and that he would not only accept people of other beliefs, but actively encouraged people to love others of different views, which appeared to be the most Christian to come out of a Republican’s mouth all evening.
Although all of the candidates statements on policy have been explored I shall leave you with a quick comparison between Britain and the US. In 1997, despite being a Catholic, Tony Blair said that his government wouldn’t “do God” as a way of garnering support; this is not the same as the US as explained by the final question of the night which asked the candidates about whether God had spoken to any of the candidates about what they should do.
From a European perspective my immediate reaction was that if any of them said yes then they should be sent to a mental hospital on the grounds of schizophrenia, and I sat in borderline disbelief as Ted Cruz played to the crowd by stating that “God speaks to me daily through the scriptures”. Unfortunately this wasn’t the only depressing part of this concluding section as Ohio Governor John Kasich, who at this point was still in my good books, said that “America has God’s blessing” which if extrapolated can result in disastrous policy decisions. Governor Walker tried to give a balanced answer of Bible-bashing, “only through the blood of Jesus Christ have I been redeemed for my sins” and less theocratic speech “God’s not given me a list of things to do”.
Marco Rubio joked that God had blessed the Republican Party with many great candidates and the Democrats can’t find one, which played well with the audience, but also said that America was blessed by God. Finally Dr Carson heavily implied that Obama was a racial arsonist, that people should not look at race (which was a euphemism for ignoring systemic racism), and that those trying to destroy America were those trying to divide the American people, which was implicitly insulting Obama.
I am painfully aware of the political, economic and social incoherence of many of the GOP candidates, but for a major ‘news’ network to think that a legitimate question is whether they believe that God had told them to institute a flat tax or prevent people from having access to healthcare then I am left more distraught. If in May 2015 David Cameron had been asked whether the Holy Spirit had called him to commit to the 2% NATO defence spending target the person asking the question would have been looked at like someone mentally unwell; as much as I loathe everything that the current Conservative government is doing I am grateful that they aren’t promising to ban same-sex marriage (because they actually introduced it) and put guns into schools.