Pundits and spin doctors are hitting the airwaves Friday, opining on who won Thursday’s Republican presidential debate in South Carolina. Most of the air time in the two and a half hour long debate was taken up by frontrunner Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and to a lesser degree, Marco Rubio. The consensus is that it ended in a draw between Trump and Cruz. It is difficult to make points when two candidates were speaking most of the time.
Many are saying that this was Donald Trump’s best debate. NBC’s Chuck Todd said Friday that Trump has “really grown as a candidate.” Cruz did well because his breakup with Donald Trump played out on national TV. Trump scored his biggest points defending New York from insults lobbed by Cruz. The Texas senator’s high point was defending his eligibility to run after Trump raised questions about his birth. The other candidates simply listened.
Cruz was dogged all week by questions about whether his Canadian birth disqualified him to be serve as president. The Constitution states that only “natural born” persons may be president. Cruz was born in Canada. Trump suggests that Cruz get a declaratory judgement to clear the matter up now. Trump said Cruz should do that for the sake of the Party.
“It is settled law,” Cruz said, and under Trump’s “birther theories”, Marco Rubio and Trump would also be disqualified because Trump’s mother was born in Scotland. It is clear that this issue has knocked Cruz off message for a week now.
Most of Marco Rubio’s words were spent talking about Barack Obama, who is not running. His answers began and ended with “Obama” with large doses of Obama-bashing in the middle. Chris Christie used the same approach. That gets applause in the hall, but saying “I hate Obama more than you,” is not a platform.
Trump did a masterful job diffusing the criticism from Governor Nikki Haley, who was at the debate. He said that the governor was correct “I am angry,” Trump said. I am not mad at her because what she said about me is true.”
Candidates debated who would spend more on the military; who would destroy “Islamic radicals” faster; and who would get rid of Obamacare faster. No one on the stage had a suggestion for a replacement.
Facts took a beating. First of all, the issue of “natural born” is not settled law as Cruz says. Federal Courts have never ruled on the definition of “natural born” in the context of presidential candidates because no one in that situation has ever won. No matter is settled law until the Supreme Court settles it. Many legal scholars have made the distinction between being “naturalized” and “natural born.” One deals with the rights of citizenship, the other qualification for being president.
Fact checkers for AP noted Friday that none of the candidates addressed the fact that the short-lived crisis with Iran was created by the U.S. sailors who steered their boats into sovereign Iranian waters. Under such circumstances, AP said, it would not be unusual to disarm members of a foreign military force and hold them temporarily for questioning. “The suggestion by Cruz that he would have launched a military attack on Iran in response to such an incident is hard to square with accepted international tests for the use of force.”
“Carson is not likely to find ISIS fighters lounging with cigars in Raqqa, AP pointed out.” ISIS has imposed a strict smoking ban throughout its territory in Syria and Iraq and implements stiff fines for anyone caught smoking, and even more brutal punishments for those caught selling anything that can be smoked, cigars included. Christie’s statement about Common core being eliminated in New Jersey was rendered false by fact checkers.
AP took exception with Cruz’s explanation about loans totaling as much as $1 million he received from two banks. Cruz said he made a paperwork error not reporting them. But, AP noted that that the law requires candidates to file such reports. Cruz may dislike New Yorkers but he’s been willing to take a bundle of money from one of them. According to AP, Wall Street hedge fund mogul Robert Mercer contributed $11 million in April to a Cruz-aligned super PAC. Perhaps conservatives do come out of Manhattan.
In the days to come, fact checkers are likely to find other liberties candidates took with the truth in the debate. Stay tuned.