The HyperTexts

2016 Republican First Presidential Debate: Winners, Losers and Impressions

The first Republican presidential debate of the 2015-2016 election campaign is now history, and this page contains my impressions of the winners and losers, along with quips and quotes. (My original title for this page was "Bad Hair, Horrendous Policies," but that seemed too obvious.) The thing I found most troubling and offensive about the debate was the unanimous disdain for women by the major Republican candidates: not only for their rights, but even for their lives. For instance, when debate moderator Megyn Kelly asked one of the frontrunners, Scott Walker, if he would "really let a mother die rather than have an abortion," Walker replied that the unborn child must be protected no matter what. While there were passionate rebuttals of other positions stated during the debate, not a murmur was raised about the grotesque injustice of forcing pregnant women to die in a lost cause, as in most cases the fetus would also die. The impression I received is that many things are vastly more important than the lives of pregnant women, which were not even worth a single 30-second rebuttal. The silence truly spoke louder than words. How virulent can Republican animosity toward women become? Well, there are reports that Megyn Kelly has been receiving death threats from Trump supporters, since she had the temerity to ask him why he called women "pigs," "slobs" and "disgusting animals." (BTW, I am not an inveterate liberal, but a former Reagan Republican who left the party when it became obvious that it was losing its marbles.)

compiled by Michael R. Burch

Loser: Ted Cruz, who appears to be the spitting image of Paul Bearer, the "manager" of the Undertaker and Kane in the bizarre world of the WWF.

But is the GOP any less bizarre than the WWF, since Jesse "The Body" Ventura was elected governor of Minnesota, then went on to say and do crazier things than in his pro wrestling days? The only thing creepier than the way Cruz looks is the hateful, intolerant bilge spewing from his mouth. But let's not emulate Donald Trump and judge people by their looks. I dislike Cruz because of the things he says and does, and find the resemblance ironic (and hopefully prophetic). Let the 2016 election be the funeral and graveyard of his political aspirations. May he RIP.

"Twenty years from now if there is some obscure trivial pursuit question, I am confident I will be the answer."Ted Cruz

I certainly hope Cruz proves to be a prophet.

But perhaps we both spoke too soon ... because ... lo and behold ... in the post-debate NBC poll, Cruz was one of the winners, jumping to second place at 13%, behind only Trump at 23%. What can possibly be Cruz's appeal? A Salon article suggests that he does have human characteristics, after all, "specifically those of a debate-team coach at a Baptist women's college."

Loser: Rand Paul, the cocky bantam rooster, who said: "Look, I don't want my marriage or my guns registered in Washington." 

With his pixie-ish perm, Paul does not impress me as the gunslinger type. When he talks tough about guns, he is not at all convincing. In reality, Rand Paul is the RuPaul of politics. He would do better to defend his right to have an unregistered blow-dryer and curling irons.

Pricing 2016 GOP Presidential Candidates' Haircuts

Rand Paul has several things going against him, besides his 'do. First, he's short and a bit fey, like a disgrunteld elf. Second, he seemed combative, irritable, hyperactive and smirky: not a good combination. Third, he misheard or misunderstood Trump's position on single-payer healthcare, and Trump gave him a quick spanking, saying: "You're having a hard night." (Trump has considerable experience administering such snappy public dressing-downs.) Fourth, Paul's major confrontation was with Chris Christie on the subject of personal liberty versus phone surveillance, and Christie trounced him (at least for this particular audience) because Republicans talk a good game about defending personal liberty, but when given a clear choice between security and liberty, they favor security. Christie won this exchange because most conservatives are much more frightened of terrorists than they are worried about turning over their phone records to the government.

At a campaign rally in New Hampshire, Trump mocked Rand Paul's height (five-foot-eight), holding his hand mid-chest and exclaiming: "Rand, I’ve had you up to here!" Trump also mocked Paul for "chirping" at him on the debate stage. The audience, no doubt, ate it up as Trump hammed away, insulting everyone and everything in sight. Trump recently admitted that he takes it easy on people who are "nice" to him, but he gleefully attacks anyone who is "unfair" (it seems that all criticism of The Donald is unfair, due to his elevated opinion of Himself).  

Later, Paul said that he was sticking to that message to try to make more people aware. "I think it's time someone stands up and calls nonsense nonsense," Paul said. "Are we going to fix the country simply through bombasticness and empty blather? I made the decision from the opening of the debate that it was high time someone did stand up to him." (Did Paul subconsciously try to compensate for his lack of stature by elongating "bombast," one wonders.)

Losers: Bad hair ruled the day, with the absolute worst being the bizarre thing occupying Trump's redacted scalp. I do hope it's had its vaccinations! Other brain space oddities include Rand Paul's super-curly perm, Chris Christie's poufy poodle 'do, Marco Rubio's follicle-exposing comb-over, Scott Walker's neo-Gorian bald spot, Bobby Jindal's hick hair, and Ted Cruz's funeral parlor pompadour. Jeb Bush may be the winner in this category, by default. Not because he has great or even good hair, but because he doesn't try to do anything "special" with it.

Who the hell are these politicians trying to fool? Well, us, of course, since snake oil is their (hair) tonic of choice.

Winners: The only real winners in this category are the barbers who undoubtedly get paid top dollar for such lackluster work.

In a related note, Trump's toupee has announced its own independent campaign for president and has narrowed its short list of running partners down to Don King, Kramer, William Shatner, Dolly Parton and Phil Spector, with absolutely no worries about being upstaged. Trump may have greatly exaggerated his wealth, but his hair can justly claim to be the worst on the planet ... nay, in the entire history of the planet!

Pricing 2016 GOP Presidential Candidates' Haircuts

Winner: Delusion, after Donald Trump said: "I will say this, I was attacked by the people that you talk about. When you mention a couple of those names, I was attacked viciously by those people. I don’t mean a little bit, I mean viciously. When I am attacked, I fight back, but I was attacked viciously by those women. Of course it is very hard for them to attack me on looks because I’m so good-looking."

If Donald Trump is "good looking," then I'm a monkey's uncle. He also claims to be "smart" when he can't stop exposing his ass on national TV. And he claims that he'll win the vote with women, immigrants and Afro Americans. If you like bleu cheese, make a beeline for the moon.

Loser: Honor, when Trump during an interview with Chris Cuomo on CNN's New Day proclaimed himself "the most fabulous whiner," incongruously bragging: "I do whine because I want to win and I'm not happy about not winning and I am a whiner and I keep whining and whining until I win."

Will Mr. Putin cave to American demands simply to end The Donald's incessant whining? Well, he is incredibly annoying ...

Trump has no actual policies, as far as I can tell, but it's nice to know his game plan for making America great again: incessantly whining until he gets his way and "wins." Considering Trump's base, his ratings in the polls will probably skyrocket after this stunning revelation.

Loser: Sanity.

Ben Carson said that we are "at war" with illegal immigrants and should use the military and drones to take them out: "one drone strike, boom, and they're gone!"
Lindsey Graham wants to sent more American troops to the Middle East, to fight simultaneous wars against Iran, Syria and ISIS.
Scott Walker would let pregnant women die if there are complications during a pregnancy, even though in most such cases the fetus would also die, making the woman's death purposeless.
Donald Trump is the monster created by Fox News, but will he turn on his creator as another monster turned on Dr. Frankenstein?
Mike Huckabee thinks it's a good idea to force a 10-year-old girl to bear her rapist's baby.
Jeb Bush actually tried to force teenage girls to have babies, while he was governor of Florida.
Ben Carson claims that the sole purpose of Planned Parenthood is to eliminate black Americans.

Loser: Women, if one of these lunatics manages to get elected president. It is simply not true that the life of the mother and the fetus can always be saved. In the real world a number of pregnancy-related conditions can be life-threatening, including: miscarriage, cancer, pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure that can cause a stroke), molar pregnancies (in which the tissue becomes a tumor), septic pregnancies, and ectopic pregnancies (in which a fertilized egg implants outside the uterus, often in the fallopian tubes, causing excruciating pain and threatening the woman's life if the pregnancy continues). Here are the candidates' positions on abortion:

Scott Walker: Just let pregnant women die if their lives are in danger, because it is a "false choice" to save the mother, even though in ectopic pregnancies the fetus rarely survives.
Donald Trump: Has ranged from "strongly pro-choice" to his current anti-choice position that Planned Parenthood "absolutely" should be defunded.
Ben Carson: So extreme that he has claimed Planned Parenthood was formed exclusively to eliminate black people: "That was the whole purpose of it."
Jeb Bush: Tried to force teenage girls to have babies as governor of Florida, defunded Planned Parenthood, and generally played God with women's bodies and lives.
Rick Santorum: Is not only anti-choice, but actually opposes contraception and sex for pleasure rather than procreation (so prepare to give up oral sex and masturbation under his administration!).
Marco Rubio: Seems to support fetal personhood, which means that as soon as a girl or woman becomes pregnant, she would be forced to give birth or die trying.
Mike Huckabee: On Meet the Press in January 2008, Huckabee supported outlawing abortion without exceptions for rape or incest because "I always am going to err on the side of life."
Rick Perry: Would not allow abortions in cases of rape and incest, but only when a pregnant woman's life is in danger.
Rand Paul: According to the The New York Times in 2009, Paul believed "abortions should be illegal, even in cases of rape, incest or where the life of the pregnant woman is at stake."
Ted Cruz: "Strongly anti-abortion, he would allow the procedure only when a pregnancy endangers the mother's life," according to The Houston Chronicle.
Bobby Jindal: Has a 100% track record of voting anti-choice, and has sponsored fetal personhood legislation.
Chris Christie: In 2011, Christie stated, "I am pro-life [i.e., anti-choice], I believe in exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother. That's my position, take it or leave it."
John Kasich: Is anti-choice but would allow three exceptions: rape, incest and the woman's life being in danger.
Carly Fiorina: Has called to defund Planned Parenthood and seems to be anti-choice, but would allow three exceptions: rape, incest and the woman's life being in danger.
George Pataki: Has described himself as "pro-choice" and would not overturn Roe vs. Wade, but wants to defund Planned Parenthood.
Lindsey Graham: Is staunchly anti-choice, has championed anti-abortion legislation, and is prepared to put large numbers of American troops on the ground in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.

If you think Lindsey Graham sounds extreme, think again, because he says "nearly all" the other Republican candidates for president agree with him, other than Rand Paul. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) signed the letter to Iran aimed at derailing the peaceful negotiations (as did Paul), while Jeb Bush has hired foreign policy advisers who helped plan the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq under the administration of his brother, George W. Bush. Trump calls himself "the most militaristic person there is," and proves it by demanding that "we bomb the hell out of" Iraq, Iran, and ISIS. Here is Trump's latest brainstorm, which seems to be prompted by ire that Iran has fast Internet connections: "We bomb the hell out of them [Iran], take the oil. We thereby take their wealth, they have so much money — they have so much better Internet connections than we do in the United States, they’re training our kids through the Internet!" Of course this plan didn't work so well in Iraq, did it? Iran has a much larger population that is not divided ethnically like Iraq's, so one must assume that an invasion of Iran will go even worse than the invasion of Iraq.

Trump received two draft deferments (Class 2-S student) between June 1964 and December 1965. In November 1966, he was classified as able to serve (Class 1-A), but that was reversed. He received another deferment in January 1968, before he transferred from Fordham to the University of Pennsylvania. Then in October of that year, Trump was again classified as able to serve. But there was another reversal, as in September 1967, he was given a medical deferment (Class 1-Y). Donald Trump did not serve his country in the Vietnam War, even though he was twice classified as able to serve and was a star athlete in his youth. In high school he played varsity baseball, football and soccer. One classmate described Trump as a physical powerhouse: "He could have played on a farm team for a professional team, but he chose to go to business school instead," according to Bruce Barberi. In college, Trump was reportedly active in baseball, tennis and squash. When asked the nature of his deferment while on the campaign trail in Iowa, Trump said it was for a bone spur but he couldn't remember which foot had the spur. Later, his campaign announced that he had bone spurs in both heels.

Getting back to the issue of abortion, according to GLOWN (Global Library of Women's Medicine): "The need for safe, legal abortion is nowhere more clearly shown than in the Romanian experience. When abortion was outlawed in the 1960s, the abortion-related maternal mortality rate rose ten-fold. An estimated 10,000 women died from this policy over the 23 years of its imposition. The death rate fell only when abortion was again legalized. The public health message of this bizarre natural experiment is clear: when abortion is legal and accessible, women’s health improves, and vice versa. No evidence supports the claim that restricting abortion reduces the number performed. Abortion rates and ratios are as high or higher in countries in which abortion is completely illegal than in countries in which it is legal and readily available. The need for safe legal abortion was again shown in the Nepal experience. Between 1996 and 2006 maternal mortality fell dramatically from 539 to 281 deaths per 100,000 live births. This dramatic decline correlated with the legalization of abortion in Nepal in 2002. Safe abortion services are available in all 75 districts and more than 400,000 women have benefited between 2002 and 2010. This impressive decline was attributed in part to the scale up of safe abortion services. In South Africa abortion related deaths fell by 91% between 1994 and 1998–2001 following legalization of abortion in 1997."

Loser: Hispanics and Mexican-American Relations

Donald Trump first leapt to the top of the Republican polls after he insulted Mexico, the Mexican government and Mexican immigrants, saying: "The U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else’s problems ... When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best ... They’re sending people that have lots of problems ... They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people."

Armando Fuentes Aguirre, writing in Reforma, said: "Donald Trump is one of these perverse specimens of whom humanity should feel ashamed ... I trust that Republicans—and all North Americans—will lance this ugly boil that has suddenly erupted in their national life."

Winner: Radical Fundamentalism

Why do the Republican presidential candidates all seem to hold the same extremist views on so many issues? For instance, all the major candidates seem to (1) prefer war with Iran to a diplomatic solution; (2) deny climate change even though there is the indisputable evidence that sea levels are rising, which means more ice is melting globally than is forming; (3) strongly oppose a woman's right to choose; and so forth.

Are these candidates really conservatives in the Reagan mold? No, because as Ronald Reagan's family has pointed out, he couldn't win the Republican presidential nomination today. In reality, the GOP has shifted radically to the right, and the views mentioned above are those of Christian fundamentalism. Christian fundamentalists believe in an all-powerful God who controls everything that happens here on earth. Thus, the United States must support and defend Israel, so that American Christians can avoid the "tribulation," even when Israel continually steals land and water from Palestinians (a primary cause of 9-11 and the subsequent wars). Christian fundamentalists deny the evidence of evolution and climate change because for them blind, unquestioning faith trumps facts, science and reason. They oppose abortion because they "know" that God grants each fertilized egg a "soul" at the moment of conception, making it murder to interfere with cell division even in the earliest stages of a pregnancy. Thus, to use the "morning after" pill is to commit murder and defy the will of God. But then it is only a short leap of faith to say that the use of contraceptives also defies the "will of God," a position that Rick Santorum has taken. Republican legislators keep pushing "religious liberty" bills that could be used to deny women the right to contraceptives, just as they can be used to deny basic human rights to homosexuals and Muslims. One more Republican-appointed conservative judge on the Supreme Court could conceivably result in women not only losing the right to choose, but even the right to use contraceptives.

It does no good to point out that if God controls nature he cannot hold human life sacred, because multitudes of babies and unborns have perished

How does one argue with such insanity? It does no good to point out that there never was a perfect garden of Eden, because trillions of dinosaurs and other animals suffered and died before human beings walked the planet. It does no good to point out that a loving, wise, just God could not have commanded the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, which according to the Bible resulted in entire cities being utterly destroyed, including women, children, babies and animals. It does no good to point out that an enlightened God could not have commanded slavery, sex slavery, the stoning of children to death for misdemeanors (a truly grotesque way to kill anyone, much less a child!), infanticide, matricide, ethnic cleansing and genocide. These are the worst crimes known to mankind, and in many passages the Bible is worse than Hitler's Mein Kampf. It does no good to point out that it would be terribly unjust for a God who chooses to remain hidden to force human beings to guess which of earth's many religions is the correct one, then send anyone who guesses wrong to an "eternal hell." It does no good to point out that there is No Hell in the Bible, as I did in the hyperlinked article. Christian fundamentalists have been brainwashed from toddlerhood with fear: the intense fear of an "eternal hell" if they dare think for themselves. They have been trained to believe what they are told to believe, and 80% of them put their faith in Fox News. The same Fox News that crucifies politicians in public if they don't stick to the party script. Trump is a colorful exception to the rule because of his money, but Trump puts the same blind faith in himself that the other candidates put in the Gospel According to Fox.

Winner: Absurdity.

As Paul Krugman pointed out in an op-ed piece for the New York Times: "While it’s true that Mr. Trump is, fundamentally, an absurd figure, so are his rivals. If you pay attention to what any one of them is actually saying, as opposed to how he says it, you discover incoherence and extremism every bit as bad as anything Mr. Trump has to offer. And that’s not an accident: Talking nonsense is what you have to do to get anywhere in today’s Republican Party." And as Mark Cuban pointed out in an interview recently, Fox News makes damn sure that none of the candidates (other than Trump) expresses an independent thought in public. The GOP is all about conformity to its brand of insanity. Other than Trump, the candidates are unanimous in their witch hunts against Obamacare, Planned Parenthood, women's rights, gay marriage, protecting the environment, unions, teachers, Iran, etc. As Krugman suggested: "Judge them by positions as opposed to image, and what you have is a lineup of cranks." Krugman goes to conclude: "It has long been obvious that ... one of our two major parties has gone off the deep end ... the G.O.P. has become an 'insurgent outlier' ... unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence, and science. It’s a party that has no room for rational positions on many major issues. Or to put it another way, modern Republican politicians can’t be serious — not if they want to win primaries and have any future within the party. Crank economics, crank science, crank foreign policy are all necessary parts of a candidate’s resume."

Loser: God, because there were 19 mentions of his name by a motley crew of hypocrites who profess to be "Christians," while studiously ignoring the main ethical teaching of Jesus Christ, the apostles and the Hebrew prophets.

Ironically, Jesus Christ, the apostles and Hebrew prophets were flaming liberals. If Jesus was God in human form, as Christians believe, his disciples should heed his primary ethical teaching: to care for the sick and needy. When asked for advice by a rich young Republican of his day, Jesus said that before he became a Christian, he should sell everything he possessed, give the proceeds to the poor, and only then would he be qualified for discipleship. And according to the New Testament, Jesus set the perfect example, dying with only the clothes on his back. Over and over, the Bible commands those "with" to help those "without." But as far as I can tell, all the Republican candidates for president want to junk Obamacare and make damn sure the rich get richer while the poor get poorer. What would Jesus say about these modern-day Pharisees, I wonder?

Mixed: Evangelicals.

Trump, a Presbyterian, caused distinct unease with many evangelical Christians when at a Family Leadership summit in Ames, Iowa, he said he had never asked God for forgiveness and spoke casually about Holy Communion: "When I drink my little wine — which is about the only wine I drink — and have my little cracker, I guess that is a form of asking for forgiveness." That may not sit well with many Christians, particularly conservative Christians like Southern Baptists, who comprise the largest American denomination. Will all Trump's slips, slights and pivots have a cumulative impact on Christians who take their faith very seriously, if they don't reject him outright?  

But then haven't evangelicals rejected Christ himself,? As an article in Daily Kos pointed out recently: "No one in American life today proclaims their allegiance to Christ more conspicuously than those who have rejected most of what Christ actually taught: Republicans." After all, Jesus, the apostles and the Hebrew prophets were flaming liberals. They were for free healthcare for the poor, for helping the needy, for social justice, and Jesus said the prostitutes would enter the kingdom of heaven before the self-righteous. Is there any family resemblance between Jesus and so-called "Christians" who are willing to let the poor suffer and die so the super-rich can acquire even more money they can't possibly spend? Not that I can see.

Winner: Fox News, which had the highest ratings for any cable news event in history, with 24 million viewers. Also, the Trump "brand," regardless of what happens to The Donald in the election.

Did Fox use Trump to attract millions of additional viewers, then set him up for a Humpty-Dumpty-like fall? It certainly seems possible. Trump's comments suggest that he felt he had been stabbed in the back, and that may explain his many irate Tweets directed at Megyn Kelly.

Were the questions and the person who asked them designed to make Trump implode? Michael Cohen, who is special counsel to Trump, told Business Insider that Fox’s coverage was "an organized attack." Cohen went on to say, "Obviously, somebody, you know, doesn’t want him to continue to rise in the polls."

Has Fox been playing the player, perhaps? Was there a plan to use Trump to create a massive audience, then immediately begin the process of phasing him out by luring him into self-imploding?

Not that I'm complaining. Kelly had every right to ask the questions she asked Trump. But from the opening bell, the questions directed at Trump seemed like the ones most likely to drive wedges between him and the party. First there was the question of loyalty, directed ultra-obviously at Trump. There was also the question of whether he is really a Republican. But the question hardest for Trump to handle or dodge was the one about his offensive comments about women. Trump seems to be unable to back down or apologize. His only method of response is to attack. Was he lured into attacking Megyn Kelly, with the objective of dislodging him from the frontrunner position and discrediting him to the point that he cannot hope to win as an independent? It certainly seems possible.

But it also seems possible that Trump may decide that running as an independent is worth the investment of time and money required, because it will help "build his brand." The value of the Trump name and brand may matter more to the The Donald than the presidency. So if there is a game of chess going on, it may be a very risky one for the Republican Party. Fox may be a clear winner. The all-important Trump brand may be a winner, regardless of what happens in the election. But if Trump runs as an independent, the chance of a Republican being elected president may lie somewhere between very slim and none.

However, is it possible that someone outfoxed the Fox Network? Trump has revealed that Bill Clinton suggested he run for president. Did Clinton, a political genius, figure out that no matter what Trump did, it would benefit his wife's campaign? Trump would be an easy Republican candidate for Hillary to defeat, due to her overwhelmingly higher popularity with women and minorities. And if Trump runs as an independent, that helps Hillary and hurts the Republican nominee. Did Bill, perhaps, point out to Donald that his brand and name would benefit, regardless of which path he took, so that he really couldn't lose? In the end, he would either be president, or he would be even richer and more famous than before.

One thing seems sure: Trump has been a godsend to Fox. As he crowed the day after the debate in a telephone interview, "I’m a ratings machine!" Trump is a long-time admirer of P. T. Barnum, and doesn't seem to mind being the political equivalent of a three-ring circus.

Winner: Bill Clinton, who seems well on his way to becoming the nation's first "First Dude."

Of course Hillary Clinton will be the biggest winner in this scenario, but her husband does enjoy the limelight ...

Mixed: The GOP, which benefitted from intense interest in the debate, mostly due to the outlandish presence of The Donald and his eccentric hairpiece, which is rivaled in political circles only by Rand Paul's perm. However, there was a massive dark cloud surrounding the silver lining generated by Trump's lightning bolts of racism, sexism and egoism. First, there was the unabated war on women's rights, with Walker's startling proposition that abortions should be illegal even when a pregnant woman's life is in danger. This comment didn't seem to raise any eyebrows. Second, there was lobbying for war with Iran, either economic or military, rather than a diplomatic solution. Third, there was praise for the busting of teachers' unions, which also went unchallenged. Fourth, there was a lot of bragging about defunding Planned Parenthood, as is that is a very good thing. I could go on, but you get the drift, I'm sure.

Is it a good idea, really, for the GOP to attract so many people to a forum where they can see how crazy the candidates are? Wouldn't it be smarter to hide them, than to let them speak to a huge audience? How many sane American women will conclude that the GOP has their best interests at heart? How many legal immigrants with darker skin? How many teachers and union workers? How many people who managed to get affordable healthcare, thanks to Obamacare? How many people with functional hearts and brains, who don't think the 1% should get even richer while everyone else works longer and harder to make ends meet?

After the debate, Mark Cuban made the point that Fox does not allow Republican candidates for president to think for themselves, but forces them to conform to its rigid ideology. Anyone who doesn't is called a RINO (Republican in Name Only). So other than Trump, it's hard to tell them apart. Trump may be a carnival act, but at least he has the courage (or is the chutzpah?) to not toe the party line.

Winner: Bernie Sanders, who tweeted: "What I'm hearing so far: tax breaks for the rich, more people losing health insurance and more talk about war. This is not what we need." Sanders again: "The Republican debate is over and not one word about economic inequality, climate change, Citizens United or student debt. And that's why the Republicans are so out of touch."

Amen, Bernie!

Winner: Elizabeth Warren, who was provided with more live ammunition for her salvos against the oinkers when the Senate voted to defund Planned Parenthood: "Do you have any idea what year it is? Did you fall down, hit your head, and think you woke up in the 1950s or the 1890s? Should we call for a doctor? Because I simply cannot believe that in the year 2015, the United States Senate would be spending its time trying to defund women's health care centers. You know, on second thought, maybe I shouldn't be that surprised. The Republicans have had a plan for years to strip away women's rights to make choices over our own bodies." Warren doesn't believe the timing was accidental: "Scheduling this vote during the week of a big Fox News presidential primary debate, days before candidates take trips to Iowa or New Hampshire isn't just some clever gimmick." (I agree that it wasn't clever, which doesn't mean that it wasn't effective in the near-term, although it could backfire in a big way since Planned Parenthood is more popular with the general American public than the GOP and its candidates, by a long shot.) And Warren explained why there really is a war on American women: "This year alone Republican state legislators have passed more than 50 new restrictions on women's access to legal health care." She concluded with a rallying cry for change: "The Republican vote to defund Planned Parenthood is just one more piece of a deliberate, methodical, orchestrated, right-wing attack on women's rights, and I'm sick and tired of it. Women everywhere are sick and tired of it. The American people are sick and tired of it."

Amen, Elizabeth! (Please excuse me while I take a quick "barf break" to get over the sick feeling in my stomach, from thinking about Scott Walker's plan to condemn girls and women to death, if they encounter physical problems during their pregnancies ... Okay, I'm back now, but still feeling a bit queasy.)

Winner: The Democratic Party and its nominee for president, for the reasons above. For instance, in response to multiple Re-flub-lican candidates saying they would shut down the federal government over financing for Planned Parenthood, the Democratic National Committee sent out emails saying that among the losers at the debate were "American women, who were attacked at every turn."

The GOP keeps making the same mistake over and over again, by failing to recognize that more than half the population of the United States happens to be female. The GOP's war on women's rights seems likely to sabotage its attempt to re-take the White House. But the male chauvinist oinkers don't seem to be able to help themselves: this is who they are, and what they do. Is it any surprise that the GOP has failed to get the majority of female votes since 1988? Hell, it doesn't seem the Republican candidates are even trying to appeal to women. "Not one candidate attempted to persuade women voters," said Margaret Hoover, a Republican consultant.  Now, if the religion-mad pastors were only preaching to the choir, perhaps it wouldn't create a huge problem for the party at this stage. But a fairly large percentage of the 24 million viewers probably came for the spectacle, and were not died-in-the-wool conservatives. Many of them may have left agreeing with Bernie Sanders that none of the candidates said so much as a word about the most important subjects. And when they did speak, they frequently sounded like ultra-paternal male chauvinists (because that's what they are).

I believe the GOP's war on women and their reproductive rights goes beyond abortion. Ninety-nine percent of sexually active American women ages 15-44 have used birth control. Preserving access and affordability is crucial for women to continue making their own health care decisions. It is only a short step from saying "Only God can determine whether a fertilized egg results in birth" to saying "Only God can determine whether eggs get fertilized." Rick Santorum, at times a leading Republican candidate for president, made it clear that he would prefer for states to have the right to ban contraceptives. Santorum is a favorite of Christian fundamentalists, and one of their primary "truths" is that women should be subject to nature, which to them is the same as being subject to God, since their God rules nature. In a speech at a Catholic university, Santorum in effect accused 99% of sexually active American women and their churches of following the Devil because they do not conform with the Vatican on the subject of contraceptives.

Loser: Mike Huckabee, who claimed the purpose of the military is not to defend Americans from harm, but to wreak mayhem: "The purpose of the military is to kill people and break things."

Huckabee is a former Baptist minister. Is this the message of Jesus Christ and the apostles, really?

Winner: John Kasich, who said that he would love his daughters unconditionally if they were gay: "God gives me unconditional love. I am going to give it to my family and my friends and the people around me."

But such tolerance is not likely to appeal to a party that lusts to discriminate against homosexuals and transgenders, so it seems very unlikely that Kasich will be the final Republican candidate for president. Also, it was a bit of a mixed bag, as Kasich said that he opposed same-sex marriage, then in the next breath mentioned attending a same-sex marriage. Still, Kasich did come across as one of the more genuine and likeable candidates, if a bit awkward in his delivery. However, it obviously doesn't really matter, as an article in Salon explains: "Kasich is playing the role of Non-Insane Republican Candidate briefly filled in 2012 by Jon Huntsman, who got almost no support from actual GOP voters but sent the media caste into a collective Jon Stewart-style swoon for the lost days of bipartisan reasonableness. It’s not like the people who cover politics at the New York Times or CNN these days actually know anything about old-timey Republican moderates like Henry Cabot Lodge and Nelson Rockefeller, but they venerate them anyway, like medieval peasants mumbling over saintly relics." And sure enough, in the post-debate NBC poll, Kasich was nowhere to be found at 2%, while three extremists collectively garnered 47%: Trump, Cruz and Carson.

Losers: the Utterly Insignificant or "How the Mighty Have Fallen." Candidates who never were really in the running may now be off the map, according to the NBC News Online Survey: Chris Christie (1%), Lindsey Graham (1%), Mike Huckabee (5%), Bobby Jindal (1%), John Kasich (2%), Rand Paul (5%), George Pataki (0%), Rick Perry (2%), Rick Santorum (0%).

While Huckabee and Paul may still seem viable at 5%, I suspect that Huckabee appeals primarily to evangelical Christians, being a former Baptist preacher, while Paul has a base of libertarians who will vote for him rain or shine. But do they have any appeal outside their bases? If not, 5% may be the cap on their ratings. The real surprises here are Christie, Perry and Santorum, who "shoulda been contendahs." How the mighty have fallen, indeed. Christie may have been undone by Bridgegate and the perception that he's a bully immersed in corruption and cronyism. Or perhaps it was his willingness to embrace President Obama when his state needed federal assistance. Perry never seemed to recover from the gaffe of not being able to remember the name of the evil federal department he had promised to get rid of. Perhaps the biggest surprise is the spectacular fall of Santorum, the former favorite of fundamentalists.

Winner: Megyn Kelly for calling out Trump for his disparaging comments about women, and refusing to back down. The first jaw-dropping moment of the debate came when Kelly asked Trump to defend comments he's made in public about women: "You've called women you don't like fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals," Kelly began. Trump interjected: "Only Rosie O'Donnell." Kelly continued: "It was well beyond Rosie ... your Twitter account has several disparaging comments about women's looks. You once told a contestant that it would be a pretty picture to see her on her knees. Does that sound like the temperament of a man we should elect as president?"

Perhaps Trump was at a temporary loss for words, since Kelly can hardly be called ugly. But it didn't take Trump long to "recover" as he launched a series of Tweets and other communications that, either directly or indirectly, called Kelly a "bimbo," a "lightweight," "not professional" and other derogatory terms.

After the debate, Trump complained that Kelly "behaved very badly," when she was only doing her job, as if in his opinion women are "uppity" if they ask him difficult questions. (BTW, props to Kelly for doing her job and not backing down, but why are all the female Fox News anchors and reporters blonde? Not only that, but they all look alike to me. Talk about conformity!)

As Jennifer Horn, the Republican chairwoman in New Hampshire, pointed out: "There’s a big difference between being politically correct and being respectful, and Thursday night Donald Trump was not respectful to women."

Carly Fiorina posted on Twitter: "Mr. Trump: There. Is. No. Excuse."

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina went further, saying: "Enough already with Mr. Trump."

"Politicians have survived plenty of unfortunate statements and events, but Trump is turning his greatest asset into a weakness. Flippant comments eventually catch up with you," said Pete Seat, a former aide to President George W. Bush. In a reference to gifts that politicians typically log on campaign finance disclosures, Seat said: "What he is achieving is making considerable in-kind contributions to Hillary Clinton through his comments."

The reviews so far are decidedly mixed, like everything else to do with The Donald. "Trump has been declared dead so many times that he must feel like Huck Finn at his own funeral," said Eric Fehrnstrom, a veteran of Mitt Romney's 2012 Republican presidential campaign. "The fact is, he's not going away. He defies the normal political laws of gravity," Fehrnstrom said. "He may go up and down in the polls but he will be there when the first voting takes place in February. The rest of the field is going to have to get used to him and make their adjustments." That view isn't unanimous, however. While attacking McCain is "very, very popular for conservatives," going after Kelly is a different story, said Republican strategist Ford O'Connell, a veteran of McCain's 2008 presidential campaign. "If you can't handle Megyn Kelly, how are you going to handle Hillary Clinton?" he said. "It's not the comments per se. It's more the thin-skinned tantrum that he threw afterwards. And that is what is less presidential." 

Kelly defended her line of questioning during the debate in an interview with Howard Kurtz on MediaBuzz: "If you can’t get past me, how are you gonna handle Vladimir Putin?"

Mixed: Donald Trump, who refused to apologize for calling women "pigs" and "disgusting animals," then bragged about how smart he was to file for bankruptcy four times. (This from the man who said that he only liked soldiers who were not captured by the enemy! Is it "better" to file for bankruptcy four times, than to be captured while serving one's country?) Trump comes across as an egomaniac, buffoon and hypocrite. But his poll results may still go up, because many Republicans like his brash, audacious style.

The Best Donald Trump Jokes, Tweets and Quotations

Correction: While it seemed Trump could say almost anything and not suffer the consequences, I think his reprehensible comments about Megyn Kelly could be the beginning of his downfall. Kelly was just doing her job, which is to ask hard questions that will undoubtedly be asked on the campaign trail. Trump has a documented history of insulting women about their looks. That certainly seems unpresidential to me. But in any case, it was juvenile for Trump to insult a journalist for bringing up things he said in public. And he certainly stepped over a line when he said Kelly had blood coming out of her "wherever," a crass suggestion that being on her period influenced the questions she asked him.

Trump said after the debate that he thought Kelly was "unfair" because the other candidates were not asked the same question. But what are the odds that any of the other candidates were so unwise as to call women "pigs" and "disgusting animals" in public? But Trump got positively weird, even for him, when he said: "I have nothing against Megyn Kelly. I think her question was extremely unfair to me ... her whole question was unfair to me. ... On social media, I'm the one that's beloved," Trump said. Does he think a presidential debate is some sort of quasi-reality show, in which the most popular contestant moves forward, so that other players try to undermine the favorite's popularity? Does he think he's on "Survivor" or "Bachelorette"?

"I don’t want my daughter in the room with Donald Trump tomorrow night so he’s not invited," said Erick Erickson, the conference leader of the upcoming conservative RedState Gathering. Erickson also observed: "We will not gain the White House if we’re screaming at people, calling them whores and queer and the N-word."

Roger Stone, a former Richard Nixon aide who helped Trump's campaign with debate preparations, submitted a letter of resignation in which he said: "Unfortunately, the current controversies involving personalities and provocative media fights have reached such a high volume that it has distracted attention from your platform and overwhelmed your core message. With this current direction of the candidacy, I no longer can remain involved in your campaign."

Loser: Ben Carson for extolling the virtues of waterboarding, as long as one doesn't talk about it. The Senate released a torture report in 2014 in which it was admitted that "enhanced interrogation techniques" like waterboarding are not effective in collecting intelligence.  Carson seemingly does not agree, and prefers to keep torture off the record and out of the public eye.

Carson was composed, well-spoken and perhaps the most presidential of the candidates in bearing, as long as one ignored what he was saying. But when I consider the meaning of his words, he sounds like just another nut, akin to Palin, Bachmann and Cruz. However, he did rise dramatically in the post-debate NBC poll, to third place at 11%, so perhaps the Republican base is in favor of torture, or just doesn't care one way or another. Carson has expressed other extremist views, such as supporting Israel's "settlement expansion" (a euphemism for ethnic cleansing), saying that Egypt should provide land for exiled Palestinians, presumably somewhere in the desert. Carson has also called Obamacare the worst thing to happen to the United States since slavery, and wants to eliminate Medicaid and Medicare. He opposes same-sex marriage and caused a considerable stir in 2013 when he said in an interview that marriage was "a well-established, fundamental pillar of society, and no group, be they gays, be they Nambla, be they people who believe in bestiality — it doesn’t matter what they are, they don’t get to change the definition." (Nambla is the North American Man/Boy Love Association.) In his book The Big Picture, he compared homosexuality to the sin of murder. Carson has also insisted that being gay is "absolutely" a "choice." Carson has also accused President Obama of "treason" and plotting to serve a third term and/or suspend the 2016 election. Ironically, he happens to be running in that election without any interference from the Obama administration. How many of his other irrational fears are unfounded?

Winner: Carly Fiorina, who may have earned a spot in the top ten for the next debate. Also, as I explain below, I see Fiorina as one of the more attractive candidates for vice president, when the time comes. If she doesn't leap to the top of the pack, I look for her name to start coming up in that regard, sooner or later.

Fiorina even seemed to impress the other candidates. "I will tell you one thing," Rick Perry said, "I would a whole lot rather (have) had Carly Fiorina over there doing our negotiation than John Kerry. Maybe we would've gotten a deal where we didn't give everything away."

Fiorina also got the best dig in at Trump, in a humorous way, when she asked the other second-tier candidates: "I didn’t get a phone call from Bill Clinton before I jumped in the race. Did any of you get a phone call from Bill Clinton? I didn’t. Maybe it’s because I hadn’t given money to the foundation, or donated to his wife’s Senate campaign." She then went on to ask a difficult question of her own: "Here’s the thing that I would ask Donald Trump in all seriousness. He is the party’s frontrunner right now, and good for him. I think he’s tapped into an anger that people feel. They’re sick of politics as usual. You know, whatever your issue, your cause, the festering problem you hoped would be resolved, the political class has failed you. That’s just a fact. And that’s what Donald Trump taps into. I would also just say this, since he has changed his mind on amnesty, on healthcare, and on abortion, I would just ask what are the principles by which he will govern?"

However, it may not be entirely a bed of roses for Fiorina. After the debate, the Democratic National Committee issued a statement attacking Fiorina for her record as executive at Hewlett Packard: "Here’s Carly Fiorina’s record on negotiations – she negotiated a merger with Compaq where 30,000 HP employees lost their jobs," said DNC spokeswoman Christina Freudlich. "Then she negotiated a $40 million golden parachute after she was fired. Here’s Carly Fiorina’s policy record: an affinity for sending American jobs overseas."

Winner: Marco Rubio, who said: "This election cannot be a resume competition." If it is, he said, "Clinton will win."

Rubio seemed relaxed and composed, and was well-spoken. However, he struggled on his position on a rape and incest exception for laws banning abortion, something anti-abortion conservatives despise. Aides later partially walked back his comments. How will Hillary not eat him alive on women's issues? But Rubio will probably have more crossover appeal for Hispanics than the other candidates. Would a pairing of Rubio and Fiorina have a chance in the general election?

Winner: Hillary Clinton, for all the reasons mentioned to date.

She has a marked advantage over all the Republican candidates, who are hamstrung by their party's Middle Ages approach to sex and reproduction. She has a similar advantage with gays, transgenders, immigrants, teachers, union workers, et al. But could she be vulnerable to a Rubio-Fiorina ticket, or a Bush-Fiorina ticket?

In any case, the Re-flub-licans are pitching gopher balls into Hillary's wheelhouse. "They brag about slashing women's health care funding," she told reporters after the debate. "They say they would force women who have been raped to carry their rapist's child, and we don't hear any of them supporting raising the minimum wage, paid leave for new parents, access to quality child care, equal pay for women, or anything else that will help to give women a chance to get ahead." 

Loser: Jeb Bush, who was not terrible, but seemed a bit flustered and rushed in his delivery at times.

One commentator remarked that "Jeb Bush looked like oatmeal getting cold." I didn't think he was that bad, though. He seems likeable enough, and not as extreme as some of the other candidates. He's not as bland as his father, and not as cocky as his brother, and they were both elected president. The big question for Bush may be whether one of the other candidates can out-shine him on a consistent basis. If not, he may still be the front-runner.

However, Bush has a terrible track record on women's rights. For instance, he recently said: "I'm not sure we need half a billion dollars for women's health issues." Let's see ... that works out to around $3.15 per American female, per year. If he were elected president, Bush would no doubt advocate spending hundreds of billions of dollars on the US military ($615 billion per year currently), and billions of dollars in aid to Israel ($234 billion in total). Are women in Israel worthy of vastly more aid than American women? What about NASA and its $18.4 billion budget? Bush also bragged about defunding Planned Parenthood. Is that a good thing, really?

Carly Fiorina called Bush's comments about women's healthcare "foolish." And she admitted that there really is a war on women, continuing: "It's disappointing. I spent all of last year with a lot of other conservatives pushing back effectively against the war on women." She also pointed out how the Democratic Party will use Bush's words against the GOP: "I think it's gonna become an ad," Fiorina said after the debate. "I think it's gonna become an ad in a Democrat campaign. Hillary Clinton jumped all over it for a reason because she saw an opportunity. And it is foolish to say that women's health isn't a priority. Of course it's a priority. We can talk later about how and where that money is spent. But it is Democrats who want to talk about women's health when they talk about Planned Parenthood."

And according to Wikipedia: "In 2005, Bush sought to block a 13-year-old pregnant girl who had lived in a state-licensed group home from obtaining an abortion; a judge ruled against the state, and Bush decided not to appeal further." So Bush has actively tried to force a very young girl to have a baby. It seems he thinks part of being an elected official is to play God with the lives and bodies of American girls and women.

Bush called himself "probably the most pro-life governor in modern times." But he is also extremely anti-choice, based on what he has said and done. Does Bush have the right to "dick-tate" (if you'll pardon the pun) terms to American girls and women? Kristy Campbell, a spokeswoman for Jeb Bush, told The Huffington Post that the former governor opposes abortion except in cases of incest, rape or when the life of the woman is endangered. But what about the single working mother of three children, whose contraceptive fails to work? Should she be forced to have a fourth child because of something beyond her control? What happens to the quality of life of her other three children, if she really can't afford a fourth child? What if your sister is in college and becomes pregnant due to a faulty contraceptive? Should she be forced to leave college, abandon pursuit of a degree, and take a job as a dishwasher in order to support a child she's not ready to care for? It's all too easy for men who don't have to give birth to dictate terms to girls and women. But having and raising children requires a world of sacrifices and compromises. No one should play God by forcing girls and women to bear babies they are not ready to have.

Mixed: Chris Christie, who also was not terrible, but probably didn't do enough to improve his standing very much. He was strong on his stances on intelligence and defense, and was willing to mix it up with Rand Paul. But did he really stand out?

Christie at least played to his strengths, and seemed to do reasonably well. I have him tied with Carson for seventh overall, in my informal and nonscientific poll (i.e., sheer guesswork).

Loser: Scott Walker, who came in as one of the frontrunners, but seemed mostly forgettable and answered his questions so quickly that he lost valuable air time to his competitors. And can a man willing to let women die in order to save unborns (who would then also die under most circumstances) be elected president in the 21st century?

"For Walker, the question of not sparing a mother’s life if endangered by a pregnancy seeds an extremist view that would be quite unpopular in a general election," Margaret Hoover pointed out.

Losers: Decency, Respect and Tolerance.

On "This Week," host George Stephanopoulos confronted Trump over a passage from his 1997 book "The Art of the Comeback" in which he wrote: "Women have one of the great acts of all time. The smart ones act very feminine and needy but inside they are real killers."

Trump insisted that his comment was a "compliment." 


In conclusion, there were no major winners, except Fox and perhaps the Democratic Party and its nominee for president, thanks to the GOP's unanimous disregard for women and their rights. In the near-term, the lack of a major shakeout  may be bad news for lower-ranking candidates like Christie, Huckabee and Paul. The candidates who helped themselves the most may have been Fiorina and Rubio. If I had to guess at the rankings of the next poll, it would be something like this (the results in parentheses were added after the NBC News Online Survey results were published, followed by Reuters/Ipsos, New Hampshire, Morning Consult and Iowa polls):

(1) Trump (up) 25% (I was close about Trump: 23%-24%-25%-32%-19%, still in first place with an average of 24.6%.)
(2) Bush (down) 12% (I was right about Bush going down, and was very close to four of the polls: 7%-12%-11%-11%-11%, still in second place with an average of 10.4%.)
(3) Carson (up) 7% (I was also correct about Carson rising in the rankings, but he rose a bit more than I expected: 11%-8%-6%-12%-12%, in third place with an average of 9.8%.)
(4) Walker (down) 9% (Ditto for Walker, who dropped about how I expected: 7%-7%-10%-8%-12%, with an average of 8.8%.)
(5) Cruz (down) 4% (I was close in three of the polls, as Cruz dropped to 13%-5%-4%-4%-9%, with an average of 7.0%.)
(6) Rubio (up) 10% (Rubio didn't rise as much as I expected: 8%-8%-4%-6%-6%, in fourth place with an average of 6.4%.)
(7) Fiorina (up) 8% (I hit this one on the head in the first poll: Fiorina was up to 8%-6%-2%-3%-10%, with an average of 5.8%.)
(8) Huckabee (down) 5% (I hit Huckabee on the overall head: 5%-8%-2%-4%-6%, with an average of 5.0%.)
(9) Kasich (up) 9% (Boy, was I wrong here, except for NH! It seems decency and tolerance definitely do not appeal to GOP voters. Kasich was down: 2%-4%-9%-4%-3%, with an average of 4.4%.)
(9) Paul (down) 5% (Again, I was close, as Paul ended up where I anticipated: 5%-3%-6%-5%-3%, with an average of 4.4%.)

Minor losers: Candidates who never were really in the running may now be off the map, according to the NBC News Online Survey: Chris Christie (1%), Lindsey Graham (1%), Mike Huckabee (5%), Bobby Jindal (1%), John Kasich (2%), Rand Paul (5%), George Pataki (0%), Rick Perry (2%), Rick Santorum (0%).

Winner: Craziness. Lunacy really does rule the Republican roost, and seems to have great appeal for around half the viewers. The top three in the NBC post-debate poll received 47% of the votes. Trump (23%) is a carnival act. Cruz (13%) has political positions even creepier than his funeral-parlor-manager looks. Carson (11%) thinks torture is fine and dandy, as long as we don't advertise what we're doing.

Major observation: Perhaps the most striking thing about the NBC poll is that the top three spots and 47% of the vote went to "outsiders" expressing extremist views. Fiorina is also an outsider, so make that 55% of the vote going to outsiders, although I'm not sure how extreme Fiorina is at present, and need to do some research on that subject. The major figures of the Republican establishment are either non-present, or "slip-sliding away" as Paul Simon put it: Santorum (0%), Christie (1%), Perry (2%), Walker (7%), Bush (7%). Has the GOP been digging its own grave over the last eight years, with its constant negativism and do-nothing-ness? In the process, did the party alienate its own base, while prodding individuals to become more and more irate, till they started spitting venom at the prodders as well as their intended targets: President Obama, "liberals," gays, Muslims, et al? Has the party lost control of its base? Will that irate base now insist on a candidate who is unelectable in a general election, because he will scare the hell out of moderates? Has Doctor Frankenstein created a Monster that will not rest until the source of its misery is eliminated from the picture?

Loser: Tolerance. The candidate, John Kasich, who came across as the most decent, compassionate and tolerant, should have risen in the poll but barely registers at 2%.

Loser: Typical Two-Party Politics. In an interesting poll side-note, 54% of Trump supporters say that they would vote for him if he runs for president as an independent. Will that give Trump some leverage with the Republican establishment? What if he starts threatening to run as an independent unless he gets questions more to his liking, for instance? What if he insists that Megyn Kelly cannot be a debate moderator, or at least not ask him questions?

If there was a major loser, it was probably Trump, who may have lost any hope of being the Republican nominee with his foot-in-the-mouth attacks on Kelly. Also, certainly the Republican Party, if Trump decides to run as an independent. But in my opinion none of it really matters in the long run, because a party that keeps treating women so shabbily is not going to win presidential elections in 21st century America. Rubio's inability to articulate his position on abortion may be a clue that the GOP itself will continue to founder. The candidate, Scott Walker, who did articulate the GOP's current position on abortion, sounded sinister to me: "Let them die, who cares?" And dying women were not worth a 30-second rebuttal to any of the other candidates: may they RIP along with Walker in a political graveyard.

Related pages: The Best Donald Trump Jokes, Tweets and Quotations

The HyperTexts