“Look at us!” “See how smart and clever we are!” “This is our show,” Bret Baier was no doubt thinking to himself when he started off the GOP Fox News debate with the first bullshit question of the evening:
“Gentlemen, we know how much you love hand-raising questions. So we promise this is the only one tonight: the only one. Is there anyone on stage, and can I see hands, who is unwilling tonight to pledge your support to the eventual nominee of the Republican party and pledge to not run an independent campaign against that person... Again, we’re looking for you to raise your hand now — raise your hand now if you won’t make that pledge tonight.”
Of course, this wasn’t a debate question at all; far from it. The entire charade wasn’t even a debate. It was a show. It was the Bret Baier, Megyn Kelly and Chris Wallace variety show. The candidates were expected to debate – not with each other – but with them.
And that very first “question” was directed at only one candidate – Donald Trump. It was asked solely for the purpose cheekily forcing Trump’s hand. It was Baier bait. The other nine candidates were merely used as stage props.
Trump took the bait. What else could he do? He had to be honest. So he raised his hand. Of course, he was the only one to raise his hand. That was the plan.
“Mr. Trump,” Baier scoffed, along with considerable booing from the audience. “Mr. Trump to be clear, you’re standing on a Republican primary debate stage.”
TRUMP: “I fully understand.”
BAIER: “The place where the RNC will give the nominee the nod.”
TRUMP: “I fully understand.”
BAIER: “And that experts say an independent run would almost certainly hand the race over to Democrats and likely another Clinton... You can’t say tonight that you can make that pledge?”
TRUMP: “I cannot say...”
Of course, this gave a little mouse in the corner, Rand Paul, an opportunity to call out Trump as hedging his bet: “Hey, look, look! Paul squeaked, “He’s already hedging his bet on the Clintons, OK? So if he doesn’t run as a Republican, maybe he supports Clinton, or maybe he runs as an independent… I mean, this is what’s wrong. He buys and sells politicians of all stripes…”
TRUMP: “Well, I’ve given him plenty of money.”
That’s how the “debate” started and that’s how it (the show) continued for the next two hours. The so-called moderators, Baier, Kelly and Wallace, were more like interrogators – inquisitors – than moderators. They were the one’s doing the debating and the candidates were expected to respond to them with answers to one confrontational question after another.
“You are a successful neurosurgeon,” Kelly told Dr. Carson, “but you admit that you have had to study up on foreign policy, saying there’s a lot to learn... Your critics say that your inexperience shows. You’ve suggested that the Baltic States are not a part of NATO, just months ago you were unfamiliar with the major political parties and government in Israel, and domestically, you thought Alan Greenspan had been treasury secretary instead of federal reserve chair... Aren’t these basic mistakes, and don’t they raise legitimate questions about whether you are ready to be president?”
KELLY: “Mr. Trump, one of the things people love about you is you speak your mind and you don’t use a politician’s filter. However, that is not without its downsides, in particular, when it comes to women... You’ve called women you don’t like “fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals... Your Twitter account has several disparaging comments about women’s looks. You once told a contestant on Celebrity Apprentice it would be a pretty picture to see her on her knees. Does that sound to you like the temperament of a man we should elect as president, and how will you answer the charge from Hillary Clinton, who was likely to be the Democratic nominee, that you are part of the war on women?”
WALLACE: “Senator Cruz, your colleague, Senator Paul, right there next to you, said a few months ago he agrees with you on a number of issues, but he says you do nothing to grow the party. He says you feed red meat to the base, but you don’t reach out to minorities. You have a toxic relationship with GOP leaders in Congress. You even called the Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell a liar recently... How can you win in 2016 when you’re such a divisive figure?”
BAIER: “Governor Christie, you’re not exactly the darling of conservatives. You tout your record as a Republican governor in a blue state. On Facebook, the most people talking about you, not surprisingly, come from your state of New Jersey, and one of the top issues they are talking about is the economy... This — this may be why. Under your watch, New Jersey has undergone nine credit rating downgrades. The state’s 44th in private sector growth. You face an employee pension crisis and the Garden State has the third highest foreclosure rate in the country. So why should voters believe that your management of the country’s finances would be any different?”
And, on and on; you get the picture. The only genuine debate between two candidates occurred during a precious few seconds when Chris Christie and Rand Paul got into a heated exchange over the role of NSA’s bulk collection of phone records. Oh yeah, and when Christie and Huckabee debated to some extent about reforming Social Security.
Aside from that this first “debate” was simply the Bret Baier, Megyn Kelly and Chris Wallace variety show.