Summarizing the 5th Republican Debate: An Absurd Sideshow of Propaganda and Dangerous Ideas

Tonight’s Republican debate on CNN was, quite possibly, the most anticipated debate thus far. Not because it carried with it any significance other than being the last debate of 2015, but because it was the first debate following the Paris attack; the San Bernardino attack; the Planned Parenthood attack; and Donald Trump’s incredibly inflammatory remarks about Muslims. Personally, I was as pumped for tonight’s debate as I have been for any so far this year.



And I was not disappointed.

Not because the debate offered any real substance – Republican debates rarely do – but because it was every bit the circus I expected it to be. Clearly led by the lead clown, Donald Trump.

I knew I was in for a long night when the first debate was filled with some of the most over-the-top fear-mongering I think I’ve ever witnessed. I’m not really going to get into it too much (because who cares) but I’ll toss out a couple of highlights:

  • They blamed President Obama for Trump’s bigotry.
  • Said if George W. Bush was still in charge, ISIS wouldn’t exist. No, seriously – that happened on that debate stage tonight.
  • The movie The Princess Bride was quoted.
  • The right for the government to intrude into any aspect of your private life they want was encouraged – but denying guns to suspected terrorists was frowned upon.
  • The government cannot be trusted – but should be allowed to use their discretion to violate the Constitutional rights of every American.

…and that was just the kid’s table debate from earlier in the evening.

Now, on to the main circus show.

The big question: Will Trump’s numbers fall after this debate? I think they will – as I predicted – though probably only slightly. He was booed several times throughout the evening and put on a national stage just how radical he really is. Not only did he say he wants to censor the Internet; ban Muslims; and target the families of terrorists – but he also essentially said we should act with the same moral convictions as our enemies.

Toward the end of the evening he became visibly annoyed at the fact that much of the focus was on his inflammatory rhetoric. I could be wrong, but I do see Trump’s numbers taking a little bit of a hit after tonight. Though when it comes to his supporters, thinking rationally is pointless, so he could very well go up 2-3 points in the next set of polling as well.

Marco Rubio did well, though he typically does during these debates. He took on several attacks from Ted Cruz and usually got the better of the Texas senator. Rubio still strikes me as someone who, if ever put under the intense scrutiny of the national spotlight, is going to crumble. I guess we’ll see. He’s clearly one of the two candidates the RNC wants to emerge as the nominee.

He did, for the first time, put his support behind a form of a “path to citizenship” for illegal immigrants. So I’ll be curious to see how that impacts him in the polls.

I feel Ted Cruz got completely exposed tonight. As I’ve said before, he’s great when it comes to hitting his talking points during a speech – but he crumbles whenever he’s pressed. Tonight, Rubio pressed him fairly well and he faltered pretty badly during most of their exchanges. His weakest moment, in my opinion, came when he was asked whether or not he would be willing to “carpet bomb” ISIS in cities that are heavily populated by civilians – only to suggest that ISIS apparently isn’t based inside of cities. Which, of course, is completely ridiculous. ISIS has been using civilians as cover to try to avoid airstrikes.



It also didn’t help that he literally mocked the push by many Republicans – including the entire foreign policy of George W. Bush – to promote democracy within the Middle East.

Though I would like to point out that while he had no problem battling Rubio, he was still too big of a coward to take on Donald Trump.

Ben Carson did nothing that made me think he’s gong to regain any of his momentum. It seemed painfully obvious throughout the night that he was struggling to remember what he had rehearsed beforehand to appear more knowledgable. He was specifically asked what he thought about an exchange Rubio and Rand Paul had on national surveillance – and he said to ask them. Yes, to ask other candidates what he thinks about national surveillance.

As far as Fiorina… if you liked her before, you liked her tonight. She did nothing to stand out and I wouldn’t expect her standing in the polls to change at all. If she makes it to Iowa, I would be shocked.

Then there was Chris Christie – the guy who seems unable to give a response without mentioning Hillary Clinton, 9/11 or the fact he was a prosecutor. Much like Fiorina, if you liked him before, you probably liked him after tonight. He did nothing at all to stand out, at least not in my opinion.

John Kasich, who cares? Why he’s still in the race is beyond me, though I will give him credit for sounding the most reasonable on a couple of issues. That’s not a huge accomplishment on a stage where he’s surrounded by ridiculous ideas and dangerous rhetoric on almost every issue.

Rand Paul, despite the fan club that apparently showed up to cheer everything he said, is done. With a conservative base that’s becoming increasingly war-hungry, a candidate with an isolationist approach isn’t going to play well to many voters outside his libertarian loyalists. Though, as hard as it is for me to say (which is a testament to how ridiculous the GOP has become) Paul might be the most rational candidate of the whole bunch on many of these international issues.

I will say Jeb Bush surprised me a little. He came off looking fairly strong several times throughout the night, though I couldn’t help but laugh when he tried to blame the chaos that’s going on in the Middle East on President Obama. Blaming Obama for the mistakes of his brother is nothing new for Jeb – heck, Republicans have been doing it since 2008. While his poll numbers might see a slight increase… he’s currently polling around 3 percent. Even if his numbers triple (which I doubt), he still wouldn’t even be in double-digits.

What to say other than – wow. No matter how many of these sideshows I watch, I can’t help but walk away astonished that there are people gullible enough to buy into the propaganda and lies Republicans often sell. This is a party that is built on fear and driven by paranoia. A party running mostly against what Democrats support rather than on what they actually will do. And even in those rare moments they actually offer specifics as to what they want to do – it’s the same worn out rhetoric Republicans have been using since the 80’s. The same ideas that have proven time and time again to be absolute failures.

These GOP debates are comically absurd. Again, it’s stunning that there are millions of people who are simple-minded enough to buy into the outrageous propaganda these con artists are selling.

But more than anything, tonight made me realize that – whether it’s Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders or Martin O’Malleywe cannot allow Republicans to win the White House in 2016. I’m not sure this country can survive the idiocy that I just spent 4+ hours witnessing tonight.




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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  • strayaway

    According to Allen, Cruz “when he was asked whether or not he would be willing to “carpet bomb” ISIS in cities that are heavily populated by civilians – only to suggest that ISIS apparently isn’t based inside of cities.”

    This is what Cruz actually said. It’s a little different: “You would carpet bomb where ISIS is, not a city, but the location of the troops. You use air power directed — and you have embedded special forces to direction the air power. But the object isn’t to level a city. The object is to kill the ISIS terrorists.”

    • Laura Beutler

      The problem with his logic is how that all plays out: ISIS is using the cities as civilian shields. If you bomb where ISIS is, (and ISIS is in the city,) then you bomb the city… If you’re interested in carpet bombing ISIS troops, in cities, then those cities get leveled and lots of civilians die.

      Think Dresden in WWII…

      • strayaway

        Better example Hiroshima. But, again, Cruz didn’t say he was going to carpet bomb cities in last night’s debate. That is Democratic spin. Would it be ok with you if IS was bombed with the same intensity with which Obama bombed Tripoli to depose Khaddafi or Clinton bombed Serbian cities knocking out sewage and electrical plants? There was some unattended collateral damage in those places too

      • Creeayshun Sighuntist

        Hiroshima is not a good example. Don’t even start to think it is.

        “We will carpet-bomb them into oblivion. I don’t know if sand can glow in the dark, but we’re going to find out!”

        Ted Cruz does not care about people. Stop trying to falsely equate anyone with the crazy things coming out of his mouth which are only meant to rile up his lunatic followers.

        Maybe you should compare Bush and the senseless bombing of Baghdad. That one is pretty close. Unhinged Republican needlessly slaughtering 10s of thousands up to 150,000 innocent people….(although Dumsfeld didn’t count all of them so there is always plausible deniability to those who like to rewrite history). Why do you knowingly leave out GOP war crimes?

      • strayaway

        Laura referenced Dresden as an example of bombing that caused civilian casualties. I trumped her with Hiroshima where many more civilian casualties occurred. You are wrong on that point. Both were actions of Democratic presidents as were bombings of Tripoli by Obama and Serbian sewage, water, and electrical plants by Bill Clinton. If you need a Republican, guilty of same, consider Lincoln condoning Sherman’s march to the sea. Bush is another good example. He was as bad of a president as Obama. Whether or not Cruz “cares about people” is not the topic of this article or any point I made in reference to it anymore than is referencing the messes Obama contributed to in Libya or Syria.

      • Creeayshun Sighuntist

        ISIS is a Bush creation. The leaders of ISIS are Saddam Hussein’s former military leaders who Bremer sent home. Bush never understood the second and third order effects of destroying Iraq. This whole mess is absolutely the fault of Bush/Cheney/Dumsfeld etc.

        President Obama has been working non-stop since taking over in 2009 to clean up the total mess he inherited. From top to bottom, Bush destroyed this country. Obama has performed better than anyone could have done given the circumstances and we are immeasurably better off today than we were when he took office. That is a fact. To deny that just shows how partisan you are.

      • strayaway

        Yeah right. Everything is Bush’s fault no matter what the thread is about. Like everyone heard of the “Islamic State” before Obama. You have quite an imagination. Over and over, Obama has supplied “moderates” with weapons to overthrow Assad and over and over, those moderates have tended to run away and abandon their weapons to IS if they didn’t actually join IS. This strengthened IS and weakened IS biggest enemy – Assad. Yesterday, Kerry bowed to Putin and said the Obama administration would leave Assad alone. Finally. Obama’s messes: Ukraine, Libya, Egypt, Syria, refugees. What a clown. IS continues to grow and even tried to claim credit for the San Bernadino killings by a vetted visa holder and her hubby.

      • Creeayshun Sighuntist

        Last time I checked, right now, you were trying to pin all world events on President Obama and every Democratic President. Ever hear of PNAC? I get it, Republican failures and honesty don’t fit your narrative. Why don’t you just go back to Breitbart or WND?

      • strayaway

        You poor guy, your reading comprehension is failing you again. Look up the thread to my second to last post discrediting two Republican presidents. Maybe someday we can elect a president who can be in the same room with Putin and hold his/her own. 399 days and fifty-two minutes before that is possible though.

      • MorganLvr

        Obama was NOT the one who attacked a sovereign country with only lies for a reason. This obscene war created ISIS in the first place! Bush was the one who signed the disposition of troops that forced Obama to pull out of Iraq when he did – in spite of GOP lies.To equate Bush and Obama in ANY way is either utter stupidity or racism.

      • strayaway

        Obama attacked Libya for no good reason and without congressional approval. Blood is on his hands. Don’t forget that Kerry and Hillary voted to give their power to declare war to Bush when you vote. Quit blaming Obama’s faults on his race. That’s racist.

    • Creeayshun Sighuntist

      “We will carpet-bomb them into oblivion. I don’t know if sand can glow in the dark, but we’re going to find out!”

      – Ted Cruz

      Ted Cruz does not care about collateral damage. He is unfit to hold the office of President or even be considered for the office. He needs to go away and soon, before his dangerous rhetoric gets any more Americans killed.

      • strayaway

        The article was about what Cruz said in the debate last night which was a clarification of your quote. However, neither Cruz’ original statement nor his follow up statement claimed he would carpet bomb cities. That is mostly Democratic spin.

        Cruz was also addressing and contrasting Obama’s insipid bombing response averaging 16 sorties a day of which 12 don’t drop their pay loads for reasons including collateral damage. After Russia started blowing up large numbers of IS oil tankers that Obama had spared, Obama felt compelled to bomb some tankers too. Before he bombed any, leaflets were dropped warning them. Maybe that is going too far in the opposite direction.

      • Creeayshun Sighuntist

        I’m just letting you know that Cruz is unhinged and will never be President. There is no need to defend wackos like him.

      • MorganLvr

        Obama is following what used to be called the “rules of engagement.” Even so, we’ve killed enough civilians to spur plenty of ISIS recruitment. Not only does Cruz not care how many civilians he kills, he cannot get it through his rock-hard head that what he wants to will only make the situation WORSE. GEEZ!

      • strayaway

        I partly agree. I would just leave them where they are to continue their 7th Century Sunni-Shiite conflict. I must not care who Mohammed’s rightful successor was. We don’t need them here. I’m not sure why getting rid of IS makes the situation worse for Christians, Aalwites, Jews and other minorities in the area. 9/11 happened long before ISIS came to power. French cartoonists, Swedish women, girls in Nigerian schools were murdered long before Republican candidates threw out the unwelcome map for foreign Muslims. It doesn’t seem like they needed Cruz for motivation.

  • Creeayshun Sighuntist

    Ted Cruz thinks that all you have to do to defeat ISIS is call them a name and then carpet bomb some place in the middle east. Then voila! We win! Republicans are so unbelievably naive to listen to garbage like Ted Cruz and take him seriously. Today’s GOP is chock full of completely stupid people.