Ken Berwitz

I would like to expand on my bleary-eyed, quickly-written recap of yesterday\’s Republican debates (that plural is not a typo – I\’ll explain why further on).  

I saw Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz as the big winners, because both voiced intelligent, compelling visions of how they would lead the country if elected.  In saying this, I would also point out that the three stooges from MSNBC (with that greased-up, combed-down hairdo, carl quintanilla actually looked like one of the stooges) were so busy asking mindless “gotcha” questions that they barely got to social issues at all.  If they had, I probably would be seeing Rubio and Cruz in a less positive light, because I disagree with their positions in a number of major areas like, for example, gay marriage.

Chris Christie was a winner, because he not only talked intelligently, but came across as someone who was conversing with us – treating us like fellow human beings – rather than making pronouncements from Olympus as some candidates do.  And he, like Rubio and Cruz, nailed the three stooges for their stupid, antagonistic questions that were designed less to educate us about the candidates\’ positions on issues than they were to start an on-stage firestorm between them, which would grease the skids for Hillary Clinton.

I saw Jeb Bush as a winner too – though most “pundits” seem to disagree.  I thought he talked reasonably and articulately about policy and presented his successes as Governor of Florida very capably.  His weakest point was when he attacked Marco Rubio, and Rubio blew him away with his answer.  The bottom line for Bush is that if you are viewing the debate strictly as a stage performance he was no great shakes – but if you are viewing it as a vehicle for finding out how likely candidates are to govern well, he was right up there.

John Kasich told us beforehand that he was taking the gloves off.  And that he did.  But his over-animated, arms-flailing way of doing so got in the way of the very important points he was making and probably sent him downward, not upward.  Too bad, because, speaking personally, I would not at all be troubled by a Kasich candidacy – something I cannot say about some of the others.

Carly Fiorina was calm, collected, articulate and well-scripted.  She did not hurt herself, but I doubt she is getting much of a boost here.  If Hillary Clinton is the Democrat candidate, Fiorina – who largely defuses the woman-on-the-ticket issue –  is probably a politically logical VP pick for the ultimate nominee.

Mike Huckabee was well spoken and made good points (though, again, I remind you neither he nor the other candidates were asked almost anything about social issues, which might have changed my assessment).  But he did not distinguish himself enough to make any major move.

Rand Paul is what he is.  Nothing changed.

Ben Carson went from being a soft-spoken advocate for positions he does not seem to have any specifics for, to being the invisible man, as others took over the stage.  I expect that he is at his peak right now and is about to head down the same mountain….

….that Donald Trump is sliding down.  Trump leads the league in the BBB category:  Bombastic, Blustering Bullcrap (that\’s the nice way of saying it).  And he gave us another healthy dose of BBB last night.  When does this man ever offer anything besides blunt assessments of what is wrong, and assurances that he is so great that he can get everything done simply by the power of his greatness?  The answer seems to be never

One last point:  at the beginning of this blog I referred to two debates.  One was the candidates debating each other.  The other was the candidates debating the three moderators, who deserved every negative reaction they got…from both the candidates and the increasingly disgusted audience.

If Hillary Clinton\’s campaign manager had been given a chance to write the first question, it would have been, word for word, what was asked by the smirking, obnoxious carl quintanilla which, verbatim, was…

“This series of debates is essentially a job interviewwith the American people. And in any job interview, you know this: you getasked, \’what\’s your biggest weakness?\’ So in 30 seconds, without telling usthat you try too hard or that you\’re a perfectionist, what is your biggestweakness and what are you doing to address it?”

… and which, paraphrased, was “Everyone tell me what your biggest weakness is, and don\’t couch it as a positive, I only want negatives.” 

That is not a serious question, it is an attempt to have Republicans provide Democrats with opposition research.  If quintanilla – and CNBC – had any shame, they would be apologizing for it.

But they don\’t.  In fact, CNBC, stung by the reaction to their moderators\’ questions (even the audience started booing them), put out a snarky statement that “People who want to be President of the United States should be able to answer tough questions”.  

The problem?  They were NOT tough questions.  A tough question is asking Donald Trump how he is going to remove 11 million people from around the country, or asking Mike Huckabee why he thinks religious beliefs supersede the law (as in the case of Kim Davis) and what other situations he thinks it does.  These were ATTACK questions, designed to damage the candidates.  Exactly the kind of questions that a debate opponent would ask if the format allowed each participant to question the other.  In other words, CNBC\’s explanation of quantanilla, quick and harwood\’s performance not only did not answer the criticisms, but made CNBC look even worse.

If you want to see a very well put together compendium of the candidates\’ reactions to these three stooges, click here for Alex Pappas\’ blog at

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