The First Republican Debate Was a Mess and the GOP Should be Embarrassed

trump-bigmouthFinally the night we’ve all been waiting for came and went, the first GOP presidential debate. Personally I had been waiting anxiously for this night for months. Not because I cared about what “great ideas” these candidates would present during the debate (because I knew there would likely be none) but because of the absolute circus I knew the whole event would be.

When Donald Trump is in the “number one” position, because he’s the current (and overwhelming) GOP frontrunner, that pretty much says all that needs to be said about what a joke the Republican party has become.

And the debate did not disappoint, though I will say it was slightly more tame than I thought it would be. Still, there were several exchanges (the Chris Christie/Rand Paul one was epic) where things got fairly heated.

Basically it was what you would expect – a lot of the same empty talking points we’ve all heard uttered repeatedly by Republicans throughout the years:

  • Obama is bad.
  • The Iran deal is horrible.
  • Hillary Clinton is going to destroy the nation.
  • Tax cuts and deregulation will build the economy.
  • Repeal Obamacare.
  • Tough talk about ISIS – with no solutions offered.
  • Planned Parenthood needs to be defunded.

As far as Trump goes – he did not disappoint. While I would never vote for the man, it’s undeniable that he’s highly entertaining. And while he was booed several times, in particular when he said he wouldn’t rule out running as an independent, he still knows how to play to a crowd. Either way, I am curious how his numbers will do after this debate as he really didn’t have that “it” moment I had expected from him.

As for Jeb Bush, the more he spoke, the more he came off looking like his brother. For the presumed GOP favorite for the nomination, he sure as heck didn’t stand out with any big positives or key moments. At least not in my opinion.

Scott Walker? For someone who’s supposedly one of the favorites, he’s really going to have to step up his game. Even thinking now, I can’t name one point where he really stuck out. I still just don’t get how he’s seen as a “favorite.”

However, one of the lines of the night for me came from Ted Cruz when he declared, “I will always tell the truth.”


Facts show that he is literally one of the most dishonest politicians in this country. He’s so ridiculous that he seems unable to be honest about much of anything.

Then there was Rand Paul who seemed desperate to appear relevant by trying to appear to be aggressive and outspoken – but mostly came off looking like a weakling massively overcompensating for a campaign in free fall. Even in his exchange with Christie he just came off looking like a radical trying to shout over someone who clearly got the better of him.

Then there was Ben Carson who really didn’t say or do anything of any importance.

When it comes to Christie, outside of putting Paul in his place during their exchange, he really didn’t have any key moments that would leave a lasting impression.

Then there was Mike Huckabee. While he said a few really idiotic things, my favorite part came when he complained about our military’s dwindling stock of B-52 bombers – a plane that hasn’t been made by Boeing since 1962. Somehow he tried to claim that’s President Obama’s fault.

To be honest, the two who came off looking most impressive were Marco Rubio and John Kasich. While I don’t agree with Rubio, he came off looking competent, strong and prepared. He looked much more like a frontrunner than any of the other candidates, including Trump.

As for Kasich, he brought the most surprising moments of the night. He’s clearly a Republican, but he seemed to the most genuine of any of the candidates on stage. He also provided the most shocking moment of the night when he spoke positively about gay rights, how he attended a gay friend’s wedding and how we should just accept people for who they are – and the audience responded overwhelmingly positively. I was stunned. It was easily the most pro-gay response I’ve seen from a Republican politician and a conservative audience. Granted, he’s the governor of Ohio and the debate was being held in Ohio so he had a home field advantage, but it’s a sharp contrast to just a few years back when a Republican presidential debate featured an audience which booed a gay United States soldier.

Earlier in the afternoon there was the “first debate” which Fox News held for the second-tier candidates which was just – sad. Aside from Rick Perry looking proud that he actually managed to finish a sentence every time he spoke, there wasn’t a whole lot that happened. Some say Carly Fiorina came off looking incredibly strong. Well, she looked prepared, but offered no substance. Either way, I’m not sure “being the best candidate” on a stage with Perry, George Pataki, Rick Santorum, Lindsey Graham, Jim Gilmore and Bobby Jindal is really that big of an accomplishment.

Speaking of Jindal – his campaign was destroyed by the Fox News moderators before he could ever speak. It’s not good when, before you even get a chance to speak, the hosts of the event point out your terrible approval numbers and the fact you’re trailing Hillary Clinton in your own state.

If this first debate was any indication of what the next 12-15 months is going to be like, all I can say is – wow. We have a government education grant program called “Race to the Top,” well the GOP presidential primary seems to be a “Race to the Bottom.” The fight for the Republican nomination really does seem to be a battle to see who can pander to ignorance and bigotry the best. Outside of Kasich, every other candidate was filled with more of the same anti-immigrant, anti-women, anti-helping the poor rhetoric to which we’ve all become accustomed from the GOP.

Because that’s what we saw tonight. Ten candidates, standing on a stage pandering to some of the worst parts of our society.

My final thoughts on the whole ordeal: It’s an embarrassment that after all this time, and with years to prepare, these are the “best” candidates the Republican party can offer.

Allen Clifton

Allen Clifton is a native Texan who now lives in the Austin area. He has a degree in Political Science from Sam Houston State University. Allen is a co-founder of Forward Progressives and creator of the popular Right Off A Cliff column and Facebook page. Be sure to follow Allen on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to his channel on YouTube as well.


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