A Marathon Second Republican Debate

A field of 15 candidates gathered at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library on September 16th for a combined total of almost 4.5 hours of debate between the prime time and “under-card” debates.  As host of the Late Show Stephen Colbert put it, “The debate started last night at about 8 pm and it ended—did it end yet?”

Many candidates expressed their concerns with Trump.

Kentucky Senator Ron Paul stated, “Do we want someone with that kind of character, that kind of careless language to be negotiating with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, do we want someone like that to be negotiating with Iran,” referring to Trump’s frequent personal attacks on other candidates.

Fiorina, when responding to a comment Trump had made about her on the campaign trail (“Look at that face, would anyone vote for that?”), said, “I think women all across this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said.”

Trump had also previously stated that former Florida Governor Jeb Bush is lenient on immigration because of his Mexican-born wife, to which Bush responded, “To subject my wife into the middle of a raucous political conversation was completely inappropriate, and I hope you apologize for that, Donald.”  Trump subsequently refused to apologize.

Later, Fiorina attacked Trump, questioning his ability to manage the country’s finances; “You were forced to file for bankruptcy not once, not twice, four times…why should we trust you to manage the finances of this nation any differently than you managed the finances of your casinos?”  Both Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Bush expressed doubt that Trump had sufficient knowledge of foreign policy.

When discussing how to force the Russians out of Syria, Trump stated, “Number one, they have to respect you.  He [Putin] has absolutely no respect for President Obama…ISIS wants to fight Syria, why are we fighting ISIS in Syria?  Let them fight each other and pick up the remnants.”  Rubio claimed that “[Putin] wants to reposition Russia once again as a geopolitical force…he is exploiting a vacuum that this administration [Obama] has left in the Middle East.”  Fiorina advocated for rebuilding the Polish missile defense system and conducting aggressive military exercises in the Baltic States.

Further on Syria, Trump claimed, “If he [Obama] had gone in [to Syria] with tremendous force [after Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian dictator, used chemical weapons], you wouldn’t have millions of people displaced all over the world.”

Rubio, when defending his decision to vote against the military intervention in Syria advocated by Obama, said, “Let’s remember what the President [Obama] said.  He said the attack he was going to conduct was a pinprick.  The United States military was not built for conducting pinprick attacks…If the United States military is going to be engaged by a commander in chief, it should only be engaged in an endeavor to win.”

Paul held that attacking the al-Assad regime would have created a stronger ISIS today, and said that when fighting ISIS, America should arm the Kurds and other opponents of ISIS rather than sending American troops.

Rubio later said, “The belief that somehow by retreating America makes the world safer has been disproven every single time it’s ever been tried.  Syria is a perfect example of it.”

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie maintained, “What you need is a strong American leader who will take the steps that are necessary to protect our nation.”

On the Iran Nuclear Deal, Texas Senator Ted Cruz stated that, “the single biggest national security threat facing America right now is the threat of nuclear Iran…This Iranian Nuclear Deal is nothing short of catastrophic.  This deal on its face…  [will make] the Obama administration the world’s leading financier of radical Islamic terrorism…it will only accelerate Iran’s acquiring of nuclear weapons.”

In response, Ohio Governor John Kasich, though he does not support the deal, advocated for working with European allies to ensure Iran does not fund terrorism or build a nuclear weapon, rather than the USA acting alone to discontinue the deal.

Paul suggested he approach the deal as a Reagan conservative, stated, “Should we cut up the agreement immediately?  That’s absurd!  Wouldn’t you want to know if they’ve complied?”

Though he also indicated he did not support the deal.  Bush emphasized that, “The first thing we need to do is to reestablish our commitment to Israel which has been tattered by this administration.”  Former Aransas Governor Mike Huckabee referred to the untrustworthiness and cruelty of the Iranian regime as grounds to claim that all Western civilization would be threatened by a nuclear Iran.

While talking about Kim Davis (the Kentucky county official who was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to homosexual couples), Huckabee railed against the Supreme Court; “The Supreme Court…decided out of thin air that they were just going to redefine marriage…I thought that everybody here passed 9th grade civics; the courts cannot legislate…If the court can just make a decision and we just all surrender to it, we have what Jefferson called ‘Judicial Tyranny.’”  He continued, saying, “I’ve seen the accommodations that we made to the Muslim detainees who killed Americans [at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba]…What else is it other than the criminalization of her [Davis] faith [Christianity] and the exultation of the faith of everyone else [that accommodations were not made for Davis].”

Bush agreed that “there should be some accommodation for her conscious” and advocated for accommodations for other businesses who don’t wish to participate in homosexual weddings.

When it came to Planned Parenthood, while the candidates were in unanimous agreement that it should be defunded, there was disagreement over whether to risk government shutdown to this end.  Kasich stated, “The President of the United States is not going to sign this [a budget that doesn’t include Planned Parenthood] and all we’re going to do is shut the government down and then we’re going to open it up and the American people are going to shake their heads and say ‘what’s the deal with these Republicans?’  So I think there is a way to get to cutting off the funding for Planned Parenthood…without having to shut the government down.”

Christie disagreed, saying, “We elected a Republican Congress to do this [defund Planned Parenthood] and they should be doing it and they’re not and they’re giving the President a pass…Let’s force him to do what he says he’s going to do [uphold Planned Parenthood].”

Fiorina made the most impassioned speech against the women’s health and family planning organization, Planned Parenthood, explaining, “Anyone who has watched this videotape [undercover edited videos released online in July by the Center for Medical Progress, an anti-abortion group ], 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 it’s brain.’  This is about the character of our nation, and if we will not stand up and force President Obama to veto this bill, shame on us.”

Bush maintained, “I am the most pro-life governor on this stage…life is a gift from God.”

Trump’s plan for dealing with illegal immigration consisted of immediately deporting all 12 million undocumented immigrants, stating, “We have a lot of really bad dudes in this country.”

Christie was skeptical, stating, “[Trump’s plan] is an undertaking that almost none of us could accomplish given current levels of funding and the current number of law enforcement officers…We need to secure our border, and we need to use more than just a wall [Trump has repeatedly advocated for a “great wall”].  We need to use electronics, we need to use drones…and yes, we need to take the fingerprint of every person who comes into this country on a visa.”

Bush was more positive than Trump, saying, “We’re at a crossroads right now.  Are we going to take the Reagan approach [to immigration], the hopeful optimistic approach, the approach that says you come to our country legally, you pursue your dreams…Or the Donald Trump approach, the approach that says that everything is bad, that everything is coming to an end.”

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson stated that, “First of all, recognize that we have an incredible illegal immigration problem…at the border, the fences that are there are not manned, and those are the kind of fences when I was a kid that would barely slow us down, so I don’t see any purpose in having that.”  He also stated that there is a large problem associated with drugs and convicts crossing the border into the USA. Carson’s plan on immigration was; “After we seal the borders…people who had a pristine record, we should consider allowing them to become guest workers primarily in the agricultural sector, because that’s the place where Americans don’t seem to want to work…and they [illegal aliens] have a six month period to do that.”

Cruz then emphasized that he was one of the only candidates who had never supported amnesty.

On tax reform, Huckabee stated he wanted to tax consumption more heavily, and get rid of all taxes on production.  Carson stood by his flat rate tax, stating, “We can’t grow by continuing to take a piece of pie and dividing it and redistributing it,” referring to tax systems which tax the wealthy more heavily, which he compared to socialism.  Paul agreed, and advocated for a flat rate of 14.5% on business and income.  Trump stated he wanted to reduce taxes on the middle class and increase taxes on the wealthy, such as hedge fund managers.

On the issue of marijuana legalization, Paul said, “The people who are going to jail for this [smoking marijuana] are poor people, often African-American and often Hispanics, yet the rich kids who use drugs aren’t…this is crime for which the only victim is the individual…I’d like to see more rehabilitation and less incarceration.”  When Paul stated that there was someone in the debate who had smoked pot in high school, Bush identified himself, admitting, “Forty years ago I smoked marijuana…but here’s the deal; we have a serious epidemic of drugs that goes way beyond marijuana.  What goes on in Colorado [where recreational marijuana is legal] as far as I’m concerned, that should be a state decision.  But if you look at the problem of drugs in this society today, it’s a serious problem…It is appropriate for the government to play a consistent role to be able to provide more treatment, more prevention.”

Christie was criticized for contradicting the 10th amendment (state’s rights) when he expressed interest in enforcing federal law against recreational marijuana, but stated, “I’m pro-life, and I think you need to be pro-life for more than just the time in the womb…when they’re the 16 year-old drug addict on the floor of the county lock-up, that life is just as precious as the life in the womb.  That’s why I’m for rehabilitation…but that doesn’t mean we should be legalizing gateway drugs.”

Fiorina stated that, “We must invest more in the treatment of drugs…we are misleading young people when we tell them that marijuana is just like having a beer…We do need criminal justice reform; we have the highest incarceration rate in the world.”

On gun control, Rubio explained, “the only people who follow the law are law-abiding people.  Criminals by definition ignore the law, so you can pass all the gun laws in the world like the left wants, the criminals are going to ignore it because they are criminals.”

Cruz stated, “When Harry Reid [Senate Minority Leader] and Barack Obama came after the right to keep and bear arms of millions of Americans, I was proud to lead the fight in the United States Senate to protect our right to keep and bear arms, and for that reason I was honored to be endorsed by Gun Owners of America as the strongest supporter of the Second Amendment on this stage today.”

The end of the debate featured a light-hearted question; what would each candidate choose as his or her Secret Service Codename?

Christie; True-Heart

Kasich; Unit 1

Fiorina; Secretariat

Bush; Ever-Ready

Trump; Humble

Carson; One-Nation

Cruz; Cohiba

Rubio; Gator

Huckabee; Duck-Hunter

Paul; Justice-Never-Sleeps


Meanwhile, at the undercard debate, candidates also questioned Donald Trump.  Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal stated, “He’s [Trump] not a conservative.  He’s not a liberal.  He’s not a Democrat.  He’s not a Republican.  He’s not an independent.  He believes in Donald Trump.”  While former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum said that criticism only helps Democratic candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former New York Governor Georgia Pataki denied that Trump had any chance of being the Republican nominee.

South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham was the most committed to destroying ISIS, stating, “If I’m president of the United States, we’re going to send more ground forces into Iraq because we have to. President Obama made a huge mistake by leaving too soon against sound military advice.  To every candidate tonight, are you willing to commit before the American people that you will destroy ISIL and you understand we need a ground force to do it?… Would you go from 3,500 to 10,000 American boots on the ground in Iraq to destroy ISIL?  Because if you don’t, we’re going to lose.”  The other candidates supported sending a smaller force.

On illegal immigration, Jindal said, “We need to secure the border, period… Immigration without assimilation is invasion. We need to insist the people who come here come here legally, learn English, adopt our values, roll up their sleeves and get to work… My parents came here legally almost 45 years ago. They came here, they followed the rule of law. They knew English, they adopted the values. They didn’t come here to be hyphenated Americans. They’re not Indian Americans. They’re not Asian Americans.”  Santorum maintained that illegal immigrants are holding wages down for Americans.  Graham stated, “We’re not going to deport 11 million people here illegally, but we’ll start with felons, and off they go. And, as to the rest, you can stay, but you got to learn our language.”  Pataki added, “We can’t just ignore them, or send them back. I think my policy would work to give them legal status, make them a part of an economy that will grow, and help America.”

On the Syrian refugee crisis, Jindal said the solution was to not simply let in more refugees, “The way to solve this problem is for us to be clear to our friends and allies that we’re going to replace Assad, we’re going to hunt down and destroy ISIS; our friends don’t trust us, our enemies don’t fear and respect us.”  Graham asked, “How does President Obama sleep at night?  Look what you [Obama] let happen on your watch. Your commanders told you, don’t withdrawal from Iraq because we’ll lose of our gains.”

While discussing County Clerk Kim Davis, Graham said, “I’m not worried about her [Kim Davis] attacking me. I am worried about radical Islamic terrorists…Young men from the Mid-East are different than Kim Davis. And we’ve got to understand that.

Pataki held that, “An elected official can’t say I’m not going to follow that law if it conflicts with my beliefs. I think she should have been fired and if she worked for me, I would have fired her. We have to uphold the rule of law. Imagine one minute… that was a Muslim who said I don’t believe in gay marriage, and refused to perform that wedding. We wouldn’t have had that outrage. There’s a place where religion supersedes the rule of law. It’s called Iran. It shouldn’t be the United States.”  Alternatively, Jindal stated, “They are throwing this woman in jail in Kentucky…Let’s talk about the Christian florist, the caterer, the musician, who simply want to say, don’t arrest us…don’t discriminate against us, don’t shut down our businesses, don’t fine us thousands of dollars for believing marriage is between a man and a woman. Let’s talk about not discriminating against Christians.”