This week saw the first Trump-less GOP debate of the 2016 season, mere days before the Iowa Caucuses. It's yet to be seen whether the boycott redounds to his favor or was a fatal mistake, but the debate was remarkable for more than what it lacked: Fox News moderators Megyn Kelly, Bret Baier, and Chris Wallace holding the candidates accountable and posing admirably substantive questions. Their answers, however, were another story.
Verne Langdon's Carnival of Souls
Michael Andrews: Middlesex Times
BROOKE: From WNYC in New York this is On the Media, I’m Brooke Gladstone
BOB: And I’m Bob Garfield. Thursday night, something… unusual happened.
BAIER: Governor Kasich, you're one of two remaining sitting governors still in the race. Your colleague, Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan is under fire -- he and his administration -- for the Flint, Michigan water crisis and the botched response to it. How would you have handled that? [flint]
YOUTUBER: As an African-American living near Ferguson, I've seen the strain between police officers and the communities they serve firsthand. Why aren't we using the technology available to better protect our communities?
BAIER: Senator Rubio, on the issue of climate change, in 2008, you wanted Florida to get ahead of other states and establish a cap- and-trade system. So why the change?
BOB: An actual debate. With, you know, questions. About issues. And not only that, but the moderators even acknowledged that the candidates had held different positions in the past. And they provided evidence! Such as when Megyn Kelly played a video montage of Senator Marco Rubio making contradictory statements on a path to citizenship.
KELLY: Within two years of getting elected you were co-sponsoring legislation to create a path to citizenship, in your words, amnesty. Haven't you already proven that you cannot be trusted on this issue?
RUBIO: No, because if you look at the quote, and it's very specific. And, it says blanket amnesty, I do not support blanket amnesty...
KELLY: ... But, you went on from there...
RUBIO: ... I do not support amnesty...
KELLY: ... You said more than that, Senator...
RUBIO: ... No, I said I do not support blanket amnesty...
KELLY: ... You said earned path to citizenship is basically code for amnesty. You...
RUBIO: ... It was...
KELLY: ... supported earned path to citizens
BOB: Of course, it’s one thing to have substantive questions, quite another to receive substantive answers.
For instance, here’s moderator Chris Wallace asking Governor Chris Christie about his position on Kim Davis, the county clerk in Kentucky who refused to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples:
WALLACE: Governor Christie, you said that she must follow the law or be moved to another job that would be in keeping with her conscience. But some conservatives say that that violates her religious liberty.
BOB: Christie’s answer?
CHRISTIE: Here's the problem with what's going on around the world. The radical Islamic jihadists, what they want to do is impose their faith upon each and every one of us -- every one of us. That's why as commander in chief, I will take on ISIS, not only because it keeps us safe, but because it allows us to absolutely conduct our religious affairs the way we find in our heart and in our souls.
BOB: Later, YouTube personality Dulce Candy posed a question to Ben Carson about immigration:
Candy: If America does not seem like a welcoming place for immigrant entrepreneurs, will the American economy suffer?
BOB: Dr. Carson?
Carson: that's one of the reasons that I have called on us to declare war on the Islamic State because we need to reorient our immigration policies and our visa policies for people who are coming into this country because there are many people out there who want to destroy us.
BOB: And Marco Rubio’s response to that aforementioned challenge on a path to citizenship? Duh.
RUBIO: Number one, we're going to keep ISIS out of America. If we don't know who you are, or why you're coming, you will not get into the United States.
BOB: If changing the subject is the tactical lifeblood of live debate, ISIS was O-negative: the universal donor. Of course, there was something else different about this evening: the GOP elephant NOT in the room. You know, the rich loudmouth with all the insults...whatshisname? Senator Cruz?
CRUZ: Now, secondly, let me say I'm a maniac and everyone on this stage is stupid, fat, and ugly. And Ben, you're a terrible surgeon. (LAUGHTER) Now that we've gotten the Donald Trump portion out of the way…
BOB: Oh, right. Donald Duck-the-Question. -- who decided to boycott the debate because of what he calls “bias” on the part of moderator Megyn Kelly and what others might call “moderating” or “seeking accountability” or “journalism.”
But if Trump was absent from the debate stage, he was front and center in the hearts of many newscasters. Here’s the Morning Joe team:
Scarborough: We turned on the TV and I’m glad I did. It was Trump’s plane landing in Des Moines. And I swear to god...
Mika: It was unbelievable.
Scarborough: It was like the pope had landed...
Mika: Probably a nicer plane.
Scarborough: ...with the middle east peace pact to end 3000 years of war. The grand spectacle of it all was every bit as remarkable as the story Heilman told in Iowa…
Mika: And he planned it.
Scarborough: Yeah and he planned it.
BOB: He planned it. We filmed it. Same as it ever was.