Republican candidates gathered in Las Vegas on December 15 for their fifth debate of the primary season. Read the highlights from the debate below and follow along at our blog Minutes, where we’ll be covering the action as it unfolds.
Jeb Bush calls Trump the “chaos candidate”
Jeb Bush had previously called Donald Trump “unhinged” for his plan to ban all foreign Muslims from entering the United States. When asked about that comment at the debate, Bush came out swinging. “Donald is great at the one-liners, but he is a chaos candidate. And he would be a chaos president,” Bush said.
Trump quickly rebuffed the jab, saying that Bush didn’t really mean it—he was just upset because he has been running such a bad campaign.
Everyone Gangs up on Rubio over Surveillance, Immigration
Criticizing Ted Cruz’s support of the USA Freedom Act (a bill that made it harder for the government to access private phone records and metadata) could have helped Marco Rubio win some easy points with voters afraid of ISIS. “This is not just the most capable, it is the most sophisticated terror threat we have ever faced. We are now at a time when we need more tools, not less tools,” said Rubio. Instead, it turned into a dogpile on Rubio.
First, Cruz claimed that “Marco knows what he’s saying isn’t true” and that Rubio’s campaign ads are full of lies about the metadata program.
Then Rubio implied that he was privy to some very secret national security information that he didn’t feel comfortable sharing on television. “I don’t think national television in front of 15 million people is the place to discuss classified information,” he said.
All this was the perfect opportunity for Rand Paul, staunch opponent of surveillance, to get into the conversation, which he did by criticizing Rubio’s stance on immigration. We wouldn’t need surveillance if we didn’t let terrorists into the country in the first place, he said, and Rubio is the “weakest candidate” on immigration because of his work with the Gang of Eight. He concluded, “Marco can’t have it both ways.” Rubio let out a strained laugh and pointed out that one of the San Bernardino shooters was born in the U.S.A.
To end it all, Christie came in and and spun Rubio and Paul’s exchange as typical Senate floor dysfunction, proof that someone with “executive” experience should be in the Oval Office.
Donald Trump Fails Internet 101
In answering a question about whether he would close portions of the internet—as he has said he would, and as China and North Korea have—Donald Trump finally came up with a concrete policy: Get ISIS off “our” internet, because “ISIS is using the internet better than we are.” It’s so simple!
Unfortunately, it’s really not.
Later in the debate, Rand Paul circled back to explain what shutting down the Internet would mean, namely messing with the First Amendment: “Are you going to change the constitution?”
Ben Carson is ready to kill some kids to win a war against ISIS
Moderator Hugh Hewitt asked Carson whether his career as a pediatric neurosurgeon was at odds with the realities of war: carpet-bombing and airstrikes that could kill hundreds of children.
Carson’s answer got weird. “You should see the eyes of some of those children when I say to them, ‘We’re going to have to open your head up and take out this tumor.’ They’re not happy about it, believe me, and they don’t like me very much at that point, but later on, they love me.”
“You have to look at the bigger picture and understand that it’s actually merciful if you go ahead and finish the job rather than death by a thousand pricks,” Carson said.
Hewitt wasn’t going to let Carson get away with skirting the question via metaphor. “So you are okay with the deaths of thousands of innocent children and civilians?” he asked, prompting loud boos from the audience, who were apparently incredulous that anyone would spell out the toll of war in such uncomfortably literal terms. “The job of the president of the United States is to protect the people of this country and to do what is necessary in order to get it done,” Carson replied. So, yes, Carson would be so ready to kill a ton of kids if elected president.
Chris Christie spent the night as the chief scolder
Competing with Trump, Carson, Cruz, and Rubio for attention, Christie tried to distinguish himself as the most plain-talking, no-nonsense, and experienced leader on the stage. This nonsense included debates on the Senate floor, and basically anything that was not related to 9/11.
He opened with some subtle, ingrained sexism by casually dividing the parents of Los Angeles into two categories: woman taking care of the kids, men going to work. Over the span of the debate he made great strides towards understanding gender equality, remarking that the San Bernardino shootings showed that women could commit heinous acts—just like men!
Christie also said he wants to coordinate with Middle Eastern leaders for a ground fight against ISIS. His plan: “When I stand across from King Hussein of Jordan, I say to him, ‘You have a friend again, sir, who will stand with you to fight this fight,’ he’ll change his mind.” King Hussein is, unfortunately, dead, so this might not work as well as Christie hoped.
Later, Christie claimed he would talk to Putin “a lot” to get him to understand that the U.S. would shoot down Russian planes if they violated a hypothetical no-fly zone in Syria. He also drew big applause from the audience when he said President Obama was a “feckless weakling” for not enforcing said no-fly zone. His campaign immediately tweeted the quote, which sounds like an insult shouted by a really lame character on Game of Thrones.