Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: Live coverage of the CNN Republican Debate

Democrat vs. Republican on whiteAugusta Free Press editor Chris Graham leads our live coverage of the Dec. 15 CNN Republican Debate. Hit refresh for updated reports, commentary and analysis.

 

Live Coverage

Kerfuffle between Trump, Jeb! gets us started: Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was asked to defend his statement on the campaign trail that Donald Trump is “unhinged.”

Oh, he did.

“Donald, you know, is great at the one liners. But he’s a chaos candidate. And he’d be a chaos president. He would not be the commander in chief we need to keep our country safe,” Bush said.

And then The Donald, being The Donald, responded.

“Jeb doesn’t really believe I’m unhinged. He said that very simply because he has failed in this campaign. It’s been a total disaster. Nobody cares,” Trump said, to scattered boos from the audience.

And we are under way!

 

Candidates discuss ISIS strategies: To Bush, the biggest obstacle is getting “the lawyers off the backs of the war fighters.”

“Right now under President Obama we’ve created this standard that is so high that it’s impossible to be successful in fighting ISIS,” Bush said critically of the administration’s ISIS strategy.

Then turning his attention back toward Trump, Bush offered the observation that the billionaire’s bluster regarding banning Muslims from entering the country is doing its own level of harm.

“We need to engage with the Arab world to make this happen. It is not a serious proposal to say that to the people that you’re asking to support, for their support that they can’t even come to the country to even engage in a dialogue with us. That’s not a serious proposal. We need a serious leader to deal with this,” Bush said.

Trump, for lack of a better way to put it, trumped

“Tens of thousands of people having cell phones with ISIS flags on them, I don’t think so, Wolf. They’re not coming to this country. And if I’m president and if Obama has brought some to this country, they are leaving. They’re going. They’re gone,” Trump said, referring to something, not sure what, but something.

Sen. Marco Rubio entered the fray a little later, saying ISIS “needs to be confronted with serious proposals,” and offering that ISIS is a “very significant threat” and that the Obama administration “has left us unsafe.”

“He spoke the other night to the American people to reassure us. I wish he hadn’t spoken at all. He made things worse because what he basically said was we’re going to keep doing what we’re doing now and what we are doing now is not working,” Rubio said, without offering specifics or even generalities as to what he would do differently.

As Bush was given the opportunity to offer comment on Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric, Rubio was given the same opportunity, but he demurred.

“I understand why they feel that way, because this president hasn’t kept us safe,” Rubio said.

Sen. Ted Cruz was also given the chance to offer comment on Trump’s anti-Muslim proposals, and like Rubio deflected.

“Everyone understands why Donald has suggested what he has. We’re looking at a president who’s engaged in this double speak,” Cruz said. “Where he doesn’t call radical islamic terrorism by its name. Indeed, he gives a speech after the San Bernardino attack where his approach is to try to go after the constitutional rights of law abiding citizens, rather than to keep us safe.

“Even worse, President Obama and Hillary Clinton are proposing bringing tens of thousands of Syrian refugees to this country when the head of the FBI has told Congress they cannot vet those refugees.”

Cruz, of course, is misstating, to the point of deliberately misstating, the in-flow of refugees from Syria. The president has proposed resettling 10,000 Syrian refugees in 2016. To date, 1,800 Syrian refugees have been resettled in the U.S. since the start of the civil war in Syria in 2011.

To Cruz’s credit, he has at least gone on record with something resembling a strategy regarding ISIS.

“I introduced legislation in the Senate that I believe is more narrowly focused at the actual threat which is radical Islamic terrorism, and what my legislation would do is suspend all refugees for three years from countries where ISIS or Al Qaeda controls substantial territory,” Cruz said.

And we’re all mad at Trump, like he’s the only hate-monger ..

 

Chris Christie will flush your right to privacy down the toilet: Waving the bloody flag of 9/11, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie offered his own solution for keeping America safe.

“I spent seven years of my life in the immediate aftermath of September 11th doing this work. Working with the Patriot Act. Working with our law enforcement. Working with the surveillance community to make sure that we keep America safe. What we need to do, Wolf, is restore those tools that have been taken away by the president and others. Restore those tools to the NSA and law enforcement community,” Christie said.

 

Jeb! gets the applause line of the night: It’s not a Trump room.

“Donald, you’re not going to be able to insult your way to the presidency,” Bush said, to wild applause from those assembled.

Those same assembled lustily booed Trump during the earlier Bush-Trump kerfuffle.

Interesting …

 

Trump repeats nonsense about 9/11 attackers’ families: It doesn’t matter that the claims that the 9/11 attackers put wives and girlfriends on planes before the attacks have been widely and repeatedly debunked, and that even on their face they don’t make sense.

(Familiar with the concept of mission security at all?)

Trump repeated the claim again, and of course his handlers at CNN didn’t call him out on it.

“When you had the World Trade Center go. People were put into planes that were friends, family, girlfriends and they were put on planes and they knew what was going on. They went home and wanted to watch their boyfriends on television.”

Somebody needs to call him out on his bullshit, but saying that, where do you start? Not here; that’s how steaming deep the pile is.

 

Rand Paul on the Trump attack: Few are paying serious attention to Rand Paul, based on the polls, but he can be compelling when you get to hear him.

Regarding another nonsense proposal from Trump, this one having the U,S. closing down parts of the Internet to prevent ISIS from using it as a recruiting tool.

Yes, this is a serious proposal.

“Well, look, this is so easy to answer,” Trump said. “ISIS is recruiting through the internet. ISIS is using the Internet better than we are using the Internet and it was our idea.What I wanted to do is I wanted to get our brilliant people from Silicon Valley and other places and figure out a way that ISIS cannot do what they’re doing. You talked freedom of speech. You talked freedom of anything you want. I don’t want them using our Internet to take our young impressionable youth and watching the media talking about how they’re masterminds.”

So Trump wants to shut down parts of the Internet, and trust him, it will work.

Which gets us to Paul.

“Is Donald Trump a serious candidate?” Paul asked rhetorically. “The reason I ask this is, if you are going to close the internet, realize America what that entails. That entails getting rid of the First Amendment. Okay. No small feat. If you are going to kill the families of terrorists, realize that there is something called the Geneva Convention we’re going to have to pull out of. It would defy every norm that is America.

“So, when you ask yourself whoever you are that think you’re going to support Donald Trump. Think, do you believe in the Constitution? Are you going to change the Constitution?”

Trump had a chance to respond.

“We’re not talking about closing the Internet,” Trump said, moments after talking openly about closing down parts of the Internet. “I’m talking about parts of Syria, parts of Iraq. Where ISIS is. Spotting it. Now, you could close it. What I like even better than that is getting our smartest and getting our best to infiltrate their internet. So, that we know exactly where they’re going. Exactly where they’re going to be. I like that better.”

Trump’s comments were met with boos from the audience.

“I just can’t imagine somebody booing,” Trump said. “These are people that want to kill us, folks. And you’re objecting to us infiltrating their conversations? I don’t think so. I don’t think so.”

The crowd thought so.

 

Christie would shoot down Russian planes in Syria! You can’t make this stuff up, folks.

“I would do it. A no-fly zone means no-fly zone. That’s what it means,”Christie said when asked if he would risk war with Russia to protect a Syria no-fly zone.

He said he would tell Russian President Vladimir Putin that “there is a no-fly zone in Syria, and it applies to you. And we would shoot down the plane. If they thought that this president is the same feckless weakling that the president we have in the Oval Office is right now.”

In the role of voice of reason, once again, was Paul.

“If you are in favor of World War III, you have your candidate,” Paul said. “Here’s the thing. My goodness, what we want in a leader is someone with judgment not someone so reckless as to stand on the stage saying yes, I’m going to shoot down Russian planes.”

 

What was Trump trying to say here? Trump was given the opportunity to respond to a comment made by Bush regarding his readiness to be president.

Not sure what he was saying here. Pretty sure this was a filibuster.

“I think it’s very sad that CNN leads Jeb Bush down a road by starting off virtually all the questions, Mr. Trump this, Mr. Trump that. I think it’s very sad. And frankly I watched the first debate and the first long number of questions were, Mr. Trump said this, said that. These poor—although, Santorum, good guy, Governor Huckabee, good guy. They were very nice, and I respect them greatly, but I thought it was very unfair that virtually the entire early portion of the debate was Trump this, Trump that. But in order to get ratings, I guess.”

Is he complaining that he’s getting the lion’s share of the TV coverage for his nonsense campaign? Surely he’s not complaining that the excessive coverage has him at the top of the GOP polls.

He wouldn’t be acknowledging that his campaign would be nowhere without the wall-to-wall, 24/7 saturation fixation with his flatulence disguised as a presidential campaign?

 

Trump to Jeb!: Mine’s bigger “I’m at 42, and you’re at 3.”

The only factual statement of the night from The Donald.

 

Immigration: if you build it, they can’t come Trump was asked about his border wall. That’s called a softball in the business.

“I have a hard line position, we have a country or we don’t have a country,” Trump said. “People who have come into our country they have to go and come back through a legal process. Walls have to work, just speak to the folks in Israel, walls work, if they are properly constructed. I know how to build. But I feel a very, very strong bind and I’m bound to this country. We either have a border or we don’t. People can come into the country and we welcome people to come in, but they have to come in legally.”

Bush … seems to agree?

“We have to secure the border,” Bush said. “It’s a serious undertaking and we need more fencing and we do need to use technology and border control and we need to have cooperation with local law enforcement. There are 800,000 cops on the beat. They should be the eyes and ears for the threat against terror as well as for immigration. This is a serious challenge. If we can get it right yeah, we’ll start winning votes again. The real problem isn’t anyone on this stage. The real problem is Barack Obama has done nothing. Congress has funded these programs of building the fencing and he hasn’t done it. He wants to maintain it as a wedge issue. Republicans need to fix it. When we do, we’ll be better off.”

 

Syrian refugees: No huddled masses here Not surprisingly, you wouldn’t find a lot of support for accepting refugees from the deadly four-year civil war in Syria.

A quarter of a million dead, hundreds of thousands more displaced, 1,800 resettled here, maybe 10,000 more next year, unless a Republican is elected president, then they can all go to hell.

“Two Iraqi refugees came to my town. Their fingerprints were on a bomb in a database. We got them on food stamps and began to provide for them but didn’t have adequate security.”

This was Paul, above the voice of reason on a couple of issues, giving a version of the welfare momma buying groceries on food stamps and driving away in a brand-new Cadillac.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, himself a voice of reason among the GOP candidates, told his own welfare momma story.

“We had Central American miners placed in Ohio. Some of them may have been human trafficked. When the administration tells me we have a great vetting process, they sent the miners to us, the schools were disrupted. We didn’t know where they were, and bad things happened to them and now they tell me we ought to admit the Syrian refugees. People accuse me of having too big of a heart. But I also have to say I must keep the people of my state safe. So we take a pause,” Kasich said.

Keep them all out, was the message from Rubio.

“It’s not that America doesn’t want to accept refugees we may not be able to. This is an issue we have to be 100% right on,” Rubio said. “If we allow 900,000 in but one who is an ISIS killer. We get one person wrong and we have a serious problem. There is not a single person in the national defense apparatus of the country that can guarantee you will be 100% right.”

“We have to put America’s security first,” Christie said.

“The American people, we on the stage need to open our ears. The American people are not whispering to us. They are screaming to us that it’s our job to make this government work,” Christie said. “It’s so dysfunctional. It’s so ineffective. It’s so ineffectual. And it was widows and orphans by the way and we now know that women can commit heinous acts against humanity just the same as men can do it. When the FBI director tells me that he can vet those people, then we’ll consider it and not a moment before because your safety and security is most important to me.”

 

Ted Cruz: Chickenshit Cruz was put on the spot in respect to comments that he made at a private meeting of donors in which he questioned Trump’s readiness to serve as commander-in-chief.

“I said that the judgment that every voter is making of every one of us up here is who has the experience, who has the vision, who has the judgment to be commander-in-chief. That is a standard I’m held to,” Cruz said, launching into filibuster mode.

“And in the course of this discussion about our foreign policy threats it illustrates the need for clarity of focus. My daughters, Caroline and Katherine came tonight. They are 7 and 5. You think about the Los Angeles schools cancelling their schools today. And every parent is wondering how do we keep our kids safe? We need a commander-in-chief that did what Reagan did. He set out a strategy to defeat communism. One of the things we’ve seen here is how easy it is for president Obama and Hillary Clinton to be distracted from islamic terrorism. We need a president who stands up and says we will defeat ISIS and says the greatest national …

CNN moderator Dana Bash interrupted.

“A lot of people have seen these comments you made in private. What you are saying is that you do believe that Mr. Trump has the judgment to be commander-in-chief?”

Cruz; “That is a judgment for every voter to make. But all nine of the people here would make an infinitely better commander-in-chief than Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton.”

Get up off your knees, son.

 

No worries: Trump and Carson aren’t bolting Trump and Carson were up in arms over a Washington Post report last week that had Republican leaders thinking aloud about how to deal with a brokered convention.

The implication was there was plotting about how to work around an outsider frontrunner, like, say, Trump or Carson, who would fall short of a majority of delegates going into the convention in favor of a more establishment-friendly candidate.

“I‘ve gained great respect for the Republican leadership,” Trump said. “I‘ve gained great respect for many — in different forms for the people on the dias. I have great respect for the people I have met in this process. But I will tell you, I am totally committed to the Republican party. I feel very honored to be the front runner. And I think I’ll do very well if I’m chosen if I’m so fortunate to be chosen. Polls have come out recently that say I will beat Hillary.”

And most have him losing – badly. Another story for another day.

“The statement that I would leave the party was contingent upon whether in fact the party acts like they have in the past with a lot of subterfuge. And I have been assured that the Washington Post writer had it all wrong and they will not be engaging in anything to thwart the will of the people. That’s why I got into this race as a member of we the people to bring back honesty to the process,” Carson said.

Carson, dropping like an anchor in the polls, is an afterthought already, unfortunately for him.



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