Mercifully, the first Republican presidential debate of the 2016 campaign is over. Those of us who watched the event on Fox Noise Channel will never get those two hours back, but thankfully, on Twitter, progressives had a fantastic debate watching companion in Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who live-tweeted the debate.
Here’s a chronology of Bernie’s best rejoinders to the Republican field:
6:15 PM: Jeb Bush has a lot of respect for his brother George W. Really? Let’s not forget the virtual collapse of our economy when he left office.
6:16 PM: Will any Republican talk about the need to raise the current starvation minimum wage of $7.25 an hour?
6:20 PM: Does any Republican care about whether or not a woman, rather than the government, should make decisions regarding her own body?
6:30 PM: Still waiting. Will Fox ask if it’s appropriate for billionaires to buy elections?
6:32 PM: Kasich saved Ohio’s economy! Oh. Who was the president who helped lower unemployment and create millions of new jobs?
6:33 PM: Marco Rubio is right. The people are frustrated. The rich get much richer and everyone else is getting poorer. Will the Republicans talk about this?
6:36 PM: U.S. is the only major country without guaranteed paid family and medical leave. Will we hear anything about that tonight?
6:38 PM: Who would’ve believed it? Rand Paul is right. Yes, we can fight terrorism and protect the U.S. Constitution.
6:40 PM: The clock is ticking. Climate change? Income inequality? Citizens United? Waiting for the questions and the discussion.
6:43 PM: Some of us didn’t believe Bush and Cheney on Iraq. We voted NO. That was the right vote.
6:48 PM: Did Donald Trump just support a national single-payer health system? Well. He was right on something.
6:52 PM: Huckabee and Carson: more tax breaks for billionaires, higher taxes for working families.
7:03 PM: Carson talks about the debt. Hey, Dr. Carson… the Republicans forgot to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. $6–8 trillion on the credit card.
7:05 PM: Jeb Bush — Talk about killing jobs. When your brother left office we were hemorrhaging eight hundred thousand jobs a month. And you want more of the same?
7:11 PM: Social Security can pay every penny owed for next eighteen years. Lift the cap on taxable income and it’ll be solvent for decades.
7:21 PM: Will Fox and the Republicans talk about pay equity for women workers who make seventy-eight cents on the dollar compared to men? Waiting.
7:26 PM: Will Fox and the Republicans discuss criminal justice reform and the need to end police killing of unarmed African-Americans?
7:29 PM: Millions of Americans are struggling with horrendous student debt + high interest rates. Do the Republicans have anything to say?
7:46 PM: Republican agenda: more money for military, tax breaks for the rich, cuts to Social Security & programs for working families.
7:49 PM: Listen to Republicans talk about military funding and remember what [Republican President Dwight] Eisenhower said about power of the military-industrial complex.
7:50 PM: Pope Francis says climate change is one of the great crises we face. I’m waiting for one word from Fox and the Republicans on it.
8:01 PM: The very rich get richer, everyone else poorer. And Republicans who take campaign money from billionaires have nothing significant to say.
8:05 PM: It’s over. Not one word about economic inequality, climate change, Citizens United or student debt. That’s why the Republicans are so out of touch.
As Bernie points out, what was most significant about the debate was what was missing. Fox personalities Brett Baier, Megyn Kelly, and Chris Wallace wasted opportunities to drill into the issues and ask substantive questions. The candidates were not challenged on any of the great systemic and pressing issues facing our country, like big money in elections, income inequality or the climate crisis.
Kelly did ask one question of Scott Walker about the Black Lives Matter movement before cutting to commercial — but this received all of a few seconds of airtime. Otherwise, the topic of criminal justice reform received scant attention. The debate stayed in shallow waters for nearly its entire duration.
Of the ten candidates, John Kasich came across as perhaps the most reasonable and compassionate. Given an opportunity to spar with Donald Trump, he passed, without endorsing Trump’s fiery rhetoric. He had a good debate.
But he won’t get the Republican nomination by appealing to biconceptuals. He may well turn out to be the Jon Huntsman of the 2016 cycle.
The candidate who gave the scariest performance was former Arkansas Mike Huckabee, the man who set police killer Maurice Clemons free. Huckabee espoused a vision of a theocratic government that dictates Americans’ family planning choices and spends ever increasing amounts of money procuring weapons for our military.
Not surprisingly, media mogul and real estate tycoon Donald Trump talked the most without saying anything substantive. He did not rule out running for president as an independent when challenged to, or take back any of his absurd comments from earlier this summer. At times he seemed bored or disinterested, like the debate was beneath him. But at other times, he seemed more engaged, tossing barbs at the Fox hosts as well as trading jabs with other candidates on stage.
The next big Republican debate will take place in September at The Gipper’s presidential library, and will be televised by CNN.
The first Democratic debate, meanwhile, won’t happen till October 13th. It will take place in Nevada and will also be televised by CNN.