GOP Debate Round 2: CNN’s five-hour marathon of absurdity

The Republicans got together in the Reagan Cathedral Library last night for five godforsaken hours of lying about Planned Parenthood, pretending George Bush’s presidency began on September 12th, 2001 (and that Benghazi was our first ever embassy attack), intentionally misunderstanding how the Supreme Court works and trying — with highly variable degrees of success — to throw some shade at Donald Trump.

It was a marathon of awful. In the lower-tier/JV/kids’ table debate, Rick Santorum compared Kim Davis to Columbine victims and Lindsey Graham promised to kill pretty much everyone in the Middle East. In the main event, DOCTOR Ben Carson let Donald Trump off the hook for going full anti-vaxxer, Jeb Bush publicly called for launching cyberattacks against China and Chris Christie described marijuana use as a medical condition that requires “treatment.” Of all of the candidates on stage, it somehow became Trump’s responsibility to explain why progressive taxation is a good thing.

Oh, and they name-checked Israel. A lot. Enough to goad Ann Coulter into being (predictably) awful:

As if the Republicans’ fetishizing of Israel has anything to do with Jews.

After a while, the wrongness got piled up so high that you couldn’t fully appreciate all of it:

People will make cases for various candidates having won (more on that below), but Jeb Bush definitely lost, rhetorically swinging and missing at Donald Trump over and over again with poorly-rehearsed non-zingers that Trump Trumped away with ease.

The entire debate featured one question about climate change and none about economic inequality or police brutality. There was, however, a question about which woman should be on the $10 bill: Responses ranged from Planned Parenthood board member Rosa Parks to foreign leader Margaret Thatcher to candidates’ mothers. Carly Fiorina, the lone woman on stage, said we don’t need to put a woman on our currency in the first place — and for a Republican audience, that may have been the best answer.

To be fair, in five hours of jabber, the candidates were bound to stumble on a few bright spots. When Rick Santorum was through making horrendous Kim Davis comparisons, he gave a reasonable defense of the minimum wage. Rand Paul said a lot of infuriatingly reasonable things about foreign policy and the War on Drugs. Carly Fiorina landed the night’s biggest applause line with this off-the-cuff response to Donald Trump’s comments about her face that was much better than the one I had hoped for:

In any case, we’ll all have to wait with bated breath to see how the Republican electorate responds. The conventional wisdom is that Fiorina did the most to give herself a boost in the polls, due to both the above exchange with Trump and a series of strong, factually baseless claims about the Putin, Iran, the military and Planned Parenthood. Then again, the conventional wisdom also said that Ben Carson looked like a mumbling, daft idiot after the last debate (because he was) and he saw arguably the biggest gains following the last debate, so anyone who says they know what the polls will look like next week is making a pretty big stretch.

Thankfully, the we’ve got about six weeks between now and the next one of these ratings grabs.

But in case you missed it and want to bang your head against the wall for a few hours, here’s the whole top-tier debate:

Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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12 Responses to “GOP Debate Round 2: CNN’s five-hour marathon of absurdity”

  1. Nicholas A Kocal says:

    No matter what republican “won” the “debate, America lost.

  2. fry1laurie says:

    When Trump and Fiorina badgered each other about their records as CEOs, I was tempted to paraphrase that old SNL “Shimmer” skit: “Calm down, you two, you’re BOTH horrible!”

  3. angryspittle says:

    The bullshit was piled high. And the lies higher.

  4. BeccaM says:

    Oh, at this point, it’s like comparing giant sacks of shit and trying to decide which one is larger.

  5. emjayay says:

    And she told the most and biggest lies as well.

  6. BeccaM says:

    Mark Stern had the right of it: The so-called debate was really nothing but a Gish Gallop, with a few insults and zingers on the side. I know politicians spin, prevaricate, and often lie, but it was like a blizzard of lies last night.

    I will grant that Fiorina did the most to help herself, and that response to the question about Trump’s misogynistic remarks was definitely a mic-drop moment. It was also pitch-perfect.

  7. Daniel Borchers says:

    Ann Hart Coulter has a very long history of hostility toward Jews. Her tweets were not gaffes. They reflect her heart.

    See “Ann Coulter’s Jewish Roots” at

  8. Don Chandler says:

    You didn’t want to light a match in that room.

  9. Jon Green says:

    I wasn’t, and you’re right.

  10. chrislib says:

    Complete transcript from REPUBLICON JEOPARDY last night:

    “Bu$h kepted us safe on 9/11, so we should bomb Iran because Kim Davis isn’t a muslin.”

  11. nicho says:

    Trump Trumped away with ease.

    If you’re aware that “trump” is British slang for fart, that sentence gets even funnier.

  12. Sally says:

    I couldn’t watch. The lies were piling up faster than the falling leaves on my lawn. Lord, these people are pathological. And there are actually people who will vote for them? America is lost.

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