With only five candidates – but still not the big one – on the Miami stage last night, the Republican debate seemed more orderly and focused.
But – yet again – the culture war elephant in the room was largely ignored.
Aspects of the battle roiling the nation were addressed – abortion, border security, Israel, etc. – were present, but the overarching issues of government censorship, media bias, the deep state, and the continuing accumulation of global power by international bureaucrats and zillionaires and their “foundation” minions was again left untouched.
Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy came out of the gate swinging directly at those issues. He slammed party chair Ronna McDaniel for allowing the the GOP to become a “party of losers” and lit into NBC News moderators.
To one of the biggest crowd cheers of the night, Ramaswamy said party voters would have much preferred “Tucker Carlson, Joe Rogan, and Elon Musk” as debate moderators and railed against the “corrupt media” that pushed the Trump/Russia hoax. He even directly asked the NBC hacks to explain why they get repeating the lie, only to be met with a not-quite-blank smirk by a moderator.
Needless to say, much of the media said afterwards that Ramaswamy had a “terrible night.”
Frontrunner Donald Trump was not there – he had his own rally not too far in Miami and during a commercial break in the debate got a rousing “Trump!” chant from the crowd – and was, again, dinged by the participants for not being there, amongst other things.
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie – Trump’s most virulent critic throughout the campaign – specifically noted his legal troubles, saying that anyone “who’s going to be spending the next year and a half of their life focused on keeping themselves out of jail cannot lead this party or this country.”
Both Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley deemed Trump a generally good president but a man whose time had come – and gone.
“We can’t live in the past. We can’t live in other headlines,” Haley said.
Speaking of DeSantis and Haley, Ramaswamy slammed both of them for being “Dick Cheney in three inch heels.” Note – much of the media is reporting he only referred to Haley – who responded she actually wears five-inch heels that she uses as “ammunition,” but the audio clearly captures Ramaswamy referring to “two of them,” referring to the latest silly non-issue about whether DeSantis improves his height.
As to more specific issues, DeSantis said he would really close the southern border using military force and shoot fentanyl dealers “stone cold dead.”
South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott had a different, rather confusing approach, to stop the flow of China-originated drugs like fentanyl over the border: he would “sanction the accounts” of the dealers.
It seems Scott has no idea what Bitcoin is, how the dark web works, or that there’s this thing called money laundering. Not to be too mean, but it is highly doubtful El Chapo walked into his local B of A and said “Hi – can I open a checking account?” when he kicked off his cartel (probably didn’t even get a business license either, the scofflaw!)
If the debate field is cut further, Scott, polling at the bottom with Christie, will almost assuredly not make it through.
On abortion, most the candidates spent their time discussing week limits for a federal law, though Christie wondered why pro-life groups – who fought for 50 years to overturn Roe V. Wade and place the matter back in the hands of the states – were now pushing for a federal law at all, essentially undoing the entire point of that fight.
Ramaswamy again called out the party for being caught “flat footed” by pro-abortion referenda like the one just passed by voters in Ohio and that the GOP must offer alternatives that do place limits – but may not ban outright – abortion in order to stop travesties like Democratic laws that allow abortion essentially up to an including the third grade –
All of the candidates hammered President Biden’s “green new deal” and called for national energy independence – and then some – immediately. On Social Security, all promised to keep the program in place but some considered raising the retirement age for those now in their 30s and/or means testing the entitlement; in other words, rich people get their benefits cut off because they don’t need them.
Ramaswamy said that much of the federal government’s debt problem could be taken care of by massive cuts to the bureaucracy and by instituting “zero based budgeting,” which would mean government agencies would have to start their annual budget process at, well, zero as opposed to the current system of starting at last year’s budget and simply adding to that.
As to China, all of the candidates said it must be reined in, it should not be allowed to buy massive swaths of American farmland – particularly near military bases (sems like a no brainer,) and that the massive Chines government private data collection scheme that is TikTok must be limited if not outright banned.
Except for Ramaswamy, who is on TikTok to reach younger voters and noted that Haley’s daughter has an account, too. To that jab, Haley called him “scum” for bringing her (admittedly 25 year old, but still…) daughter into the debate.
Here’s a video clip of that tense moment:
Okay, that was a clip from the terrible 1950s Japanese sci-fi flick “Prince of Space,” but the feeling’s the same.
As for general performances, Scott – as is his wont – swerved wildly from on-top-of it and serious to “huh?”, Christie battered Trump but showed he knows the issues, Haley seems to be confidently growing into her newfound second (third, actually) place role, and the hyper-competent DeSantis – unlike in the second debate – again came off as a bit stilted and vastly over-managed and over-consulted.
Ramaswamy – hey, why not? – kept swinging for the fences, sometimes badly missing but sometimes knocking it out of the park, as he did in his closing statement when he called on the Democratic Party to “end this farce” of maintaining Biden – a “puppet for the managerial class” – that will actually be the nominee.
“Just tell us if it’s going to be Gavin Newsom or Michelle Obama?” demanded Ramaswamy.
Good question, Vivek.
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