A moderate’s review of the Republican national debate: Part 3

By Best in Moderation

Yesterday the GOP presidential hopefuls met to debate policies and profiles with one another and present the first official look into the GOP primary contest. I watched the debate in the limited Fox stream (they made it quite inaccessible) and have written my reactions in real time below, as well as my summary. I hope it gives insight for those who didn’t view it, and prompts debate with those who did. Here’s part 3.


There’s a lot to unpack in this one. They talked briefly about Trump and Insurrections, a topic that most seemed very uncomfortable engaging. Even Christie, who makes this part of his stump speech, seemed to struggle to actually engage the topic, though he had his best performance of the night protecting and praising Pence. I found it remarkable that the hosts had to ASK if it was right that Mike Pence didn’t break the law and turn the USA into a banana Republic. Incredible that they’ve fallen so far.

When talking about Ukraine we see the major split in the party between isolationists and classic Republicanism. It’s refreshing to see a few Republicans finally stand up to Russia after years of deferring to Trump’s preference of praising Putin.

When it comes to the border, the answers ranged from the the reasonable work with Mexico and do better at tracking undocumented immigrants to shoot them and invade Mexico. DeSantis especially comes off as insane bordering on criminal, which isn’t working for him outside a select deranged group. Yikes!

Christie was stronger in this section, serving as the moral backbone to judge others against, whether it’s about Putin or Trump.

Haley is also taking bold stances, that are putting her at odds with the audience. She is clear that Trump is unpopular, that Russia is wrong, that giving up on American morals is wrong, and that people who give up morals for power deserve none.

Pence tries to talk, but is more talked about. That’s good for him, honestly. He still comes off strong.

Hutchinson took a stance against Trump’s immorality and illegality, but the crowd gave him no love for it. His less bloodthirsty response to immigration also does not endear him to the crowd.

Burgum is focused on China, as well he should, because when he starts talking about the US and border policy he is completely irrational, seeming to find it BAD that we are stopping more drugs and illegal border crossings.

He’s not alone in this, as Scott, continuing his record dishonest nonsense tonight, falls for both the IRS debunked meme and the border myths. He also firmly promises to aid Trump in getting revenge on those who prosecute him. Yikes.

DeSantis just looks deranged this whole debate. Here he angrily feels forced to agree that Pence should not have broken the law and did the right thing, and openly states he’ll commit acts of war without a single moment of hesitation.

Vivek is… Vivek. Won’t shut up, though he should have long ago as his schtik is starting to wear down.

Live Reactions:


As expected, most of the people on stage will support Trump not only if he beats them but also if he is convicted of serious felonies. The GOP is finished as a rational party if they can’t field people loyal to the law over one criminal. Only Christie has the balls to say no.

Christie says Trump being indicted is correct. He says we should stop normalizing this, and that even if you believe the charges are right or wrong, the actions are wrong. He is of course booed for it, which he calls out as not changing the truth to boo. Too weak, and to the wrong audience.

Vivek states that Trump was the best president of the 21st century. That’s 1 out of 4, so seems easy, but no rational, honest person agrees with him. He just wants to capitalize on the Trump cultists in the audience. Vivek does get a good hit on Christie, saying his entire campaign is based on grievance so his critique of Trump doing the same is meaningless. Pure ad hom, but it works.

More canned lines from Vivek, who WISHES he was as charismatic as Trump. He’s not. Vivek seems to have bought the line that Joe Biden is prosecuting Trump, instead of Trump being prosecuted by four states, multiple individuals, and has almost 90% of the witnesses against him being Republicans. In other words, Vivek is nuts.

Christie tries to respond, but the crowd is booing to drown him out. It is a cult, people. Few there actually want a debate, they just want to see people kiss Trump’s ass. Vivek can’t shut the fuck up. Christie looks weak. Christie tries to get a powerful attack in on Vivek, saying he supported Trump suspending the Constitution (yeah, forgot about that, huh?). Doesn’t work well because Vivek talks over him and the hosts move on.

Fox pivots to Pence and January 6th. Then surprise! It’s the question to Scott: did Pence do the right thing by following the law and NOT turning the USA into a fascist state? (Holy hell, we’re actually asking this at a national debate, as if there is ANY debate on that).

Scott firmly states yes, Pence did the right thing. He gets away with it. Then he pivots to saying he’ll fire Garland (gotta protect Dear Leader!) and then Trump-appointed Wray (revenge for Dear Leader!) Scott then claims parents are called domestic terrorists for saying moronic and bigoted things at school board meetings. No Scott, they are called domestic terrorists when they MAKE DEATH THREATS.

Christ, remind me who said Scott was the reasonable one? He’s been the most directly dishonest person on the stage. At least Vivek and DeSantis are too deranged to KNOW they are lying… Scott dodges the question entirely, playing the GOP victim card. Coward.

Question to DeSantis, do you think Mike Pence did the right thing by following the law and NOT turning the USA into a fascist state? (asking this a second time doesn’t diminish how freaking insane it is that this needs to be asked). Coward DeSantis dodges, like he’s been doing all night. He gets immediately called out on it by the hosts. He still gets away with it, because Fox loves it when people dominate them, apparently.

DeSantis claims he was “assigned with the US navy seals in Iraq.” This is part of the authoritarian playbook, pretending he is a strong military man. In reality, he was a legal advisor. Wow.

Fox calls out that he didn’t answer the question. The audience ignores it. Pence doesn’t, and challenges him. DeSantis panics and says Mike did his duty. This is to date the first time DeSantis has acknowledged that Pence was right not to assist the Jan 6th insurrectionists in their coup attempt. He doesn’t want people to focus on that.

Fox slams DeSantis by saying as Trump is beating DeSantis by over 30 points in the polls, these things are a factor. DAMN!

Hutchinson states that Trump was morally disqualified as of Jan 6th. He is booed by the Trump cult audience members. He persists, noting that conservative legal scholars say he is LEGALLY disqualified as well. He states that he will not support someone who is a convicted felon or is disqualified under the Constitution. This really annoys the crowd of Trump asslickers.

Christie wants a turn. Looks a bit desperate. But damn does he come strongly to the defense of Mike Pence, saying it shouldn’t be grudging acceptance that he did the right thing, but people should laud him for saying no to a coup attempt and a criminal president. PREACH BROTHER!

Haley gets a say, Fox repeats the absurd question of whether or not Pence did the right thing. Haley agrees BUT she prefers to let the American public (aka, the Electoral College) decide, not the law. Mob rule?

She then hits the generation button again, one mostly Vivek has been carrying so far. She says most people do not want Trump v Biden round 2. She is correct. She calls Trump the most disliked politician in America. This fact upsets the crowd.

Burgum is ALSO asked the silliest question of all time. He says yep, absolutely. He pivots quickly to talking about the threat of China.

Topic is barely addressed, but people are moving on. Pence would like to say something, but Vivek jumps in to say Pence should promise to pardon Trump on day one. Guess Vivek has no respect for the rule of law at all. Pence schools him by saying someone should be convicted first, show contrition, and THEN consider pardoning them. He then pivots to keeping his oath to God, and challenging all the others to make a commitment to do the same. Actually comes off as quite strong. Well done Pence.

And then he sinks another one by stating clearly that Trump asked him to put him over the US Constitution. He gets heckled by the audience (seriously, this cult behavior is just sad) and then ends STRONGLY by saying Harris won’t be able to overturn an election of a Republican in 2024. Nice zinger!


Ukraine is up next. Question is would anyone not support any more funding to Ukraine at all to repel the Russian invasion of Ukraine (Note that Fox calls it the “Ukraine war”). Vivek of course puts his hand up. DeSantis puts his hand slightly up and starts talking immediately, because that’s what he does. Then he says the EU isn’t pulling its weight in supporting Ukraine, which is ludicrous because EU nations have spent larger parts of their GDP on this than the US has. Of course DeSantis doesn’t like talking about his own responsibility if he can talk about and especially lie about someone else’s.

DeSantis is overshadowed by a grin from Vivek, who puts up a finger. He then launches into a canned answer about not worrying about a military invasion, with all the war crimes and rapes happening therein, and instead commit military troops to stopping a fraction of the undocumented immigrants at the border. He’s a moron. He then launches into more insane rhetoric, not really worth talking about. It’s all DEEP MAGA stuff.

Christie decides its time for another smackdown, and says he went to Ukraine. He’s NOT afraid to call it out as an invasion from Putin to attack free Ukraine. He calls out specifically Russia’s war crimes and atrocities, including child kidnapping, to drive home the point that if ANYONE wants to claim a moral cause, they better understand that this is happening there and must be stopped.

Vivek tries to respond, gets cut off and they move to Pence. He preempts an expected argument from isolationist Vivek by saying anyone who thinks we can’t solve our problems and lead the free world has a pretty small view on the USA. He cites Reagan’s policy of arming and training others to fight so that we don’t have to send troops. He points out that if we give the land up to Putin, like Vivek wants, he’ll roll over them and then challenge NATO borders, which WILL require our troops. I think Pence has been reading DNC talking points and might have learned something.

Vivek tries to attack Pence on calling Russia the USSR (which he didn’t do), but Pence takes the bait and says Putin wants to recreate the Soviet sphere of influence. True, but not related to his comment. Pence calls Putin a dictator and a murderer. This probably won’t play well with Trump.

Vivek then says that the single biggest danger is Communist China. I think Ukrainians would take issue with that statement. He says fighting Russia drives them into the arms of China, so we should instead… what? He moves on, but Pence jumps in and notes that NOT protecting Ukraine will give China cover to invade Taiwan, saying we acheive peace through strength. That will probably appeal him to whatever Reagan Republicans are left.

The hosts tell everyone that they need to keep to the rules and listen to the bell. It’s obvious they’ve lost control.

Vivek gets given an additional 30 seconds to talk some more. He says we shouldn’t be involved in world affairs. That much is clear about his isolationism; arguments against that seem not to phase him. He also again suggests using the US military as border control, which isn’t even legal, but whatever, he’s not a serious person.

Haley is asked about Ukraine funding, but more importantly, why she objected to DeSantis calling it a “territorial dispute” (yeah, forgot about that one too, huh?) Haley says an American president needs to have moral clarity, a nice dig at DeSantis.

WHAT? Haley makes my point above, that most EU nations have given far more to the Ukrainians. What is going on? Does she know what stage she is on? Or is there really an appitite for a rational politician in this base? I hope to be surprised.

“A win for Russia is a win for China.” Well, that seals it: she will support Ukraine no matter what. She calls out Vivek’s isolationist rhetoric, and while he claims not to believe that, she says you don’t hang your friends out to dry. Haley also mentions that Putin assassinated Pergosyn and other ambassadors etc. She calls him a murderer, straight up. Good for (some) Republicans, finally getting out of the Trump cloud of supporting Putin.

Vivek tries to hit back by accusing her of interviewing for a military development job. Weak. She pounces on it and calls him out for all his isolationist rhetoric, which he says he will defend. He comes back with a claim that he will support Israel, but Haley notes that he wants to defund Israel. Vivek claims he likes Israeli policies like their murdering of Palestinian dissidents, and says he wants an Iron Dome (I wonder if he knows we made that?)

Everyone is talking over each other, so DeSantis wants to get into the fun. So he says the first obligation is to defend the USA, completely ignoring Pence’s and Haley’s point that this DOES protect Americans. He also wants to pretend we’re not securing the border, which is simply a lie. Crossings are down. Drug confiscations are up. We have border security.

Haley cuts in, saying we can handle both. DeSantis no sells it and says he will handle both, which kind of goes against what he JUST said about not doing that… DeSantis says he will send troops to the Southern border. Again, that’s not even a legal move, because the military can’t be used like that on a whim. For someone who served (as a legal aide) that shows remarkable ignorance.

He then says we will kill anyone who tries to smuggle drugs into the USA. Not only is that insanely bloodthirsty but it is also illegal, because no law of ours allows for the death penality for smuggling. DeSantis is deranged.


Question to Burgum: how would you deter China? He spends a little time spouting a line of nonsense about China and oil, and then says we need to arm Taiwan, not realizing that that is considered an act of war from China and they’ve stated clearly that it would start a war. He then foolishly claims Biden started the Afghanistan withdrawal (nope, that was Trump) and that Biden somehow greenlighted Putin moving into Ukraine. What drugs did someone smuggle in to his podium and why didn’t Ron “shoot them dead?”

He then claims that Biden doesn’t allow the Border Patrol to enforce the law. Given that his direct policies have led to a direct reduction of border crossings, again I ask, what reality are these folks living in? THEN he claims that Biden wants to add 87K IRS agents, which is one of those far right memes that won’t die. No, the funding would have provided for potentially up to 87,000 jobs PERIOD over 10 years at the IRS, including replacing retiring workers, and again, what are Republicans so afraid of from the IRS? Kind of a big tell, if you ask me.

Scott then takes up the same delusion, saying we should fire 87K IRS people (guess he also lies on his taxes). He then claims that lax border control has led to 70K deaths from fentanyl. While that’s tragic, most fentanyl smuggling is done by American citizens, so I have no idea what he thinks will stop that.

Scott also falls into the typical GOP trap of citing how many people we stopped at the border. I mean, aren’t we SUPPOSED to be stopping more people? Would he be happy if we stopped LESS people? What kind of fresh dumbassery is this?

He then promises to “complete the border wall.” He’s apparently not aware of the fact that several places cannot support a wall, than environmental groups have stopped the construction based on the disastrous consequences, that most people on the border don’t WANT the wall, and that ladders exist.

Burgum wants to jump in on the dying folks from drugs, apparently also not aware of the fact that Biden is stopping MORE drugs than Trump ever did. I am lost as to how these people think. Should we stop LESS drugs? WTF?

Pence tries to talk, gets shut down by the hosts.

Fox notes that some armed cartel members snuck into the USA, and asks if they would support lethal force to stop them. Hutchinson responds that as needed, sure. He’s not as bloodthirsty as DeSantis, it seems. Good answer. He also says we should partner with Mexico to help them stop the cartels. Also a good answer. He also says the military should be limited in it’s use, correctly identifying how the military is legally used in the USA.

Hosts ask DeSantis if he would support sending special operatives into Mexico to take out cartel targets and drug bases. Again I am just blown away by these questions; Fox has just asked DeSantis if he will commit acts of war against our Southern neighbor. WTF?

Amazing. DeSantis openly and angrily says he will on day one commit an act of war against Mexico. He is truly deranged. He goes on to try to paint invading another nation and bombing them as protecting this nation. The crowd eats it up, because holy hell is the GOP base fucked.

Question to Pence: why would you be better at this issue than DeSantis? Pence answers that he reduced immigration by 90%. Well, COVID helped that, didn’t it? He then says when Joe Biden took office he “threw open the border.” That’s a complete lie. Biden continued the policies of the Trump administration until recently, and only then did illegal immigration numbers and asylum seeker numbers go down. Pence is lying to save face.

Pence further says he’s done this before, so he can do it again. But he’ll do it right by partnering with Mexico to help them enforce their laws.

Christie gets a question about 7 million “migrants” that have crossed the border and what he will do about it. Note that Fox makes no distinction between undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers, nor a difference between those asking for refugee status and those who simply avoid registration. Guess that matters little to them; let’s see if it matters to Christie.

He says first we stop the influx. Good luck with that, as most people ignore that most illegal immigration comes from VISA overstays, not border crossings. He says we should detain illegal immigrants. Ok, and then? And no mention of refugees and asylum seekers.

On to fentanyl! Christie says China is sending chemicals to the cartels in an act of war to kill US people. That’s… out there.

Clarification question to Christie, would he send migrants back? He answers yes, again not differentiating between refugees, asylum seekers, and people who just refuse to register.

End of Part 3

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