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November 11, 2015

Oh, So That’s What a Real Debate Looks Like

From open to close, this debate was different from the last debacle.

From the moment Tuesday night’s fourth Republican debate began, it was obvious the night would be a stark contrast to the third debate, in which the moderators served as the Democrats super PAC attack dogs. Maria Bartiromo and Neil Cavuto of the Fox Business Channel and Gerard Baker, editor in chief of The Wall Street Journal, deserve praise for not getting in the way of a substantive debate. They got right to the point and allowed the candidates to be the focus. “[T]he purpose of tonight’s debate,” Cavuto began, is “the economy and what each of you would do to improve it, no more no less.”

There were fewer candidates on stage last night, too, as Mike Huckabee and Chris Christie were demoted to the “undercard” debate due to poor polling. Fewer candidates meant more speaking time for each one, and the result was positive. The tone was far more substantive, allowing each candidate to present his or her economic case — with some venturing into national security — to the American people without having to combat the moderators. On the other hand, most of the candidates were able to comfortably repeat talking points without being challenged.

Overall, the picture of the candidates remained largely unchanged. Marco Rubio is a good debater and a good candidate. Ted Cruz continues to impress, and once again won points for zinging the media. (Don’t be surprised if the primary comes down to those two men, or if they end up joining forces on the ticket.) Carly Fiorina is well rehearsed and focused. Ben Carson’s warm personality and down-to-earth observations often compensate for his unpolished policy chops. Jeb Bush avoided any unforced errors this time, but did little to improve his standing. John Kasich continues to run against his own party instead of the Democrats and his peevishness is tiresome. Donald Trump largely faded into the background for much of the night, perhaps because all he does is rearrange the words “America,” “win,” “unbelievable,” “tremendous” and “great” to form vaguely coherent, tremendously repetitive and unbelievable sentences.

Rand Paul may have been the most improved. He stood out last night and reminded voters of his core appeal — solid and principled conservatism on fiscal issues and a contrarian take on national security that is informed by his fiscal views.

With that said, here are some of the highlights from the evening. (Please note that quotes are not necessarily indications of agreement.)


“If you raise the minimum wage, you’re going to make people more expensive than a machine. And that means all this automation that’s replacing jobs and people right now is only going to be accelerated. Here’s the best way to raise wages: Make America the best place in the world to start a business or expand an existing business, tax reform and regulatory reform, bring our debt under control, fully utilize our energy resources so we can reinvigorate manufacturing, repeal and replace Obamacare, and make higher education faster and easier to access, especially vocational training. For the life of me, I don’t know why we have stigmatized vocational education. Welders make more money than philosophers. We need more welders and less philosophers.”

“We can’t even have an economy if we’re not safe. Yes I believe the world — I don’t believe, I know the world is a safer and better place when America is the strongest military power in the world.”


“The Democrats are laughing because if Republicans join Democrats as the party of amnesty, we will lose. And you know, I understand that when the mainstream media covers immigration, it doesn’t often see it as an economic issue. But I can tell you for millions of Americans at home watching this, it is a very personal economic issue. And I will say the politics of it would be very, very different if a bunch of lawyers or bankers were crossing the Rio Grande. Or if a bunch of people with journalism degrees were coming over and driving down the wages in the press. Then we would see stories about the economic calamity that is befalling our nation. And I will say for those of us who believe people ought to come to this country legally and we should enforce the law, we’re tired of being told, it is anti-immigrant. It’s offensive. I am the son of an immigrant who came legally from Cuba to seek the American dream. And we can embrace legal immigration while believing in the Rule of Law. And I would note, try going illegally to another country. Try going to China or Japan. Try to go into Mexico. See what they do. Every sovereign nation secures its borders and it is not compassionate to say we’re not going to enforce the laws and we’re going to drive down the wages for millions of hard-working men and women. That is abandoning the hard-working men and women.”


“I think what’s interesting about Dodd-Frank is it’s a great example of how socialism starts. Socialism starts when government creates a problem, and then government steps in to solve the problem. Government created the problem. Government created the problem of a real estate boom. How did we create it? Under Republican and Democrats alike, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, everybody gathered together, Republicans and Democrats, and said, ‘Home ownership is part of the American dream. Let’s create a bubble.’ And then government stepped in. … And now what do we have with Dodd-Frank? The classic example of crony capitalism. The big have gotten bigger, 1,590 community banks have gone out of business, and on top of all that we’ve created something called the Consumer Financial Production Bureau, a vast bureaucracy with no congressional oversight that’s digging through hundreds of millions of your credit records to detect fraud. This is how socialism starts, ladies and gentlemen.”


“People need to be educated on the minimum wage. Every time we raise the minimum wage, the number of jobless people increases. This is particularly a problem in the black community. … How do we allow people to ascend the ladder of opportunity … rather than give them everything and keep them dependent? I would not raise [the minimum wage].”

“We should vet all candidates. I have no problem with being vetted. What I do have a problem with is being lied about. … And, I don’t even mind that so much if they do it with everybody — like people on the other side. But you know, when I look at somebody like Hillary Clinton, who sits there and tells her daughter and a government official that no, this was a terrorist attack and then tells everybody else that it was a video — where I came from, they call that a lie. … People who know me know that I’m an honest person.”

“In the two hours of this debate, five people have died from drug-related deaths, $100 million has been added to our national debt, 200 babies have been killed by abortionists, and two veterans have taken their lives out of despair. This is a narrative that we can change. Not we the Democrats, not we the Republicans, but we the people of America, because there is something special about this nation, and we must embrace it and be proud of it and never give it away for the sake of political correctness.”


“We could get to 4% growth. The new normal of 2% puts huge demands on government. The reason why we have structural deficits is that more and more people are relying on government and the growth that we don’t have makes the deficit grow. … On the regulatory side I think we need to repeal every rule that Barack Obama has in terms of work in progress, every one of them. … Hillary Clinton has said that Barack Obama’s policies get an A. Really? One in 10 people right now aren’t working or have given up altogether. That’s not an A. One in seven people are living in poverty. That’s not an A. One in five children are on food stamps. That is not an A. It may be the best that Hillary Clinton can do, but it’s not the best America can do.”


“I’ll tell you about Wall Street: There’s too much greed. And the fact is, a free enterprise system is a system that’s produced the greatest wealth for the world. But you know Michael Novak, the great Catholic theologian, says that a free enterprise system that is not underlaid with values — and we should all think about the way we conduct our lives — yes, free enterprise is great, profits are great, but there have to be some values that underlay it. And they need a good ethics lesson on Wall Street on a regular basis to keep them in check so we, the people, do not lose.”


“The [Trans-Pacific Partnership] TPP is horrible deal. It is a deal that is going to lead to nothing but trouble. It’s a deal that was designed for China to come in, as they always do, through the back door and totally take advantage of everyone. It’s 5,600 pages long, so complex that nobody’s read it. It’s like ObamaCare; nobody ever read it. … We lose a fortune on trade. The United States loses with everybody. We’re losing now over $500 billion in terms of imbalance with China, $75 billion a year imbalance with Japan. By the way, Mexico, $50 billion a year imbalance. So I must say I just think it’s a terrible deal. I love trade. I’m a free trader, 100%. But we need smart people making the deals, and we don’t have smart people making the deals.”


“China is not part of this [Trans-Pacific Partnership] deal. … There is an argument that China doesn’t like the deal, because in us doing the deal, we’ll be trading with their competitors. … There is an important point, though, about how we discuss these trade treaties. … We should negotiate from a position of strength. And we also should negotiate using the full force and the constitutional power that was given to us. I think it’s a mistake that we give up power to the presidency on these trade deals. We give up the power to filibuster, and I’m kind of fond of that power. We give up the power to amend. And I think, really, one of the big problems we have in our country is, over the last century, really, so much power has gravitated to the executive branch. Really, Congress is kind of a bystander. We don’t write the rules. We don’t make the laws. The executive branch does. So even in trade — and I am for trade — I think we should be careful about giving so much power to the presidency.”

Next up: The second Democrat debate, coming Saturday, Nov. 14 on CBS. The fifth GOP debate is scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 15 on CNN.

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