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GOP debate: Trump comes out swinging

The Washington Post

August 06. 2015 9:47PM
Posing at the start of the debate in Cleveland Thursday night are Republican 2016 presidential candidates, from left, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, Dr. Ben Carson, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, businessman Donald Trump, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. (REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

Businessman Donald Trump began the first major Republican party primary debate by refusing to pledge he would support the eventual Republican nominee, setting off a sharp exchange with moderators and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.

As the debate’s first question, moderators asked candidates to raise their hand if they would not forswear running a third-party campaign against the GOP candidate. None of the 10 onstage raised his hand at first. And then, after a pause, Trump did.

“I cannot say, ‘I have to respect the person, who is not me,’” Trump said, as the crowd booed him. “We want to win, and we will win. But I want to win as the Republican. I want to run as the Republican nominee.”

Immediately, Paul attacked, saying that Trump was “hedging his bets,” and accusing him of being too close to the Clinton family. “He’s already hedging his bets on the Clintons,” Paul said, pointing in Trump’s direction. “He’s already hedging his bets, because he’s used to buying politicians.”

Just as in 2012, the primary showcased the GOP’s combative side. The crowd cheered when a moderator mentioned that Texas Sen. Ted Cruz had called Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky — one of the top Republicans in Washington — a “liar.”

Supporters of Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul clap as they watch the Fox News Republican presidential candidate debate Thursday night at the Rand Paul campaign office in Manchester on Thursday night. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)

And onstage, Trump continued to be the best at embodying that edge.

When moderator Megyn Kelly asked Trump about past statements criticizing women for their appearance, Trump responded by saying, “Only Rosie O’Donnell.”

He then turned on Kelly herself, suggesting she was on thin ice by even asking the question.

“I don’t frankly have time for total political correctness. And to be honest with you, this country doesn’t have time, either,” Trump said, as the crowd cheered. “If you don’t like it, Megyn, I’m sorry. I’ve been very nice to you. Although I could maybe not be, based on the way you have treated me.”

Other candidates sought to distinguish themselves in the debate’s first few minutes.

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee attacked Planned Parenthood by saying that it sold parts of aborted fetuses “like parts to a Buick.”

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio whose parents were Cuban immigrants, said that he could debate Hillary Rodham Clinton about what’s best for families living paycheck-to-paycheck, because he had lived that way.

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush—the son and brother of presidents—responded to a question about his family legacy by saying that “They called me Veto Corleone,” in Florida, he said, because he had vetoed so many bills.

“I’m my own man,” he said.

He added, “I’m going to have to earn this; maybe the bar is even higher for me, and that’s fine. I’m proud of my dad, certainly proud of my brother. In Florida they called me Jeb, because I earned it.”

Other debate moments

Megyn Kelly asked Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, “Would you really let a mother die rather than have an abortion?”

“I’m pro-life, I’ve always been pro-life, and I’ve got a position consistent with, I think, many Americans out there,” said Walker.

When pressed about his comments regarding illegal immigration, Trump responded, “If it weren’t for me, you wouldn’t even be talking about illegal immigration ... This was not a subject that was on anybody’s mind until I brought it up.”

Trump went on to attack “stupid leaders” of the U.S., claiming the Mexican government “is much smarter, much sharper, much more cunning,” and is intentionally sending “bad” criminals over the border. He said that’s what U.S. border guards have told him.

On the topic of illegal immigration, Ohio Gov. John Kasich said, “Donald Trump’s hitting a nerve in this country, he really is. For people to want to just tune him out, they’re making a mistake.”

Sen. Rand Paul and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie got into a shouting match over NSA record collection.

“I want to collect more records from terrorists, but less records from innocent Americans,” said Paul. “I’m proud of standing for the Bill of Rights, and I will continue to.”

“That’s a completely ridiculous answer,” said Christie. “How are you supposed to know? When you’re sitting in a subcommittee blowing hot air, then you can say things like that.”

“Here’s the problem, governor — you fundamentally misunderstand the Bill of Rights,” Paul shot back. “I don’t trust President Obama with our records, I know you gave him a big hug, and if you want to give him a big hug again, go right ahead.”

At one point, Trump said he has donated money to a lot of people, including Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

“I didn’t know her money would be used on private jets going all over the world, but it was,” said Trump.

Walker then jumped in, saying the real issue here is, “Every section of the world that Hillary Clinton touched is more messed up today than it was.”

Dr. Ben Carson said that if Clinton is the Democratic nominee, it would “be a dream come true.”

Fox News’ Chris Wallace gave a list of four Trump companies that declared bankruptcy.

“With that record, why should we trust you to run the nation’s business?” Wallace asked.

“I have used the laws of this country to do a great job for my company, for myself, for my employees, for my family, etc.,” Trump said. “The fact is I built a net worth of more than $10 billion. I employ thousands of people and I’m very proud of the job I did. Four times I’ve taken advantage of the laws, and so has everybody else in my business.”

Common Core, Iran deal

Bush and Rubio engaged each other regarding their views on the federal government and its role in education.

“I’m for higher standards,” said Bush, who has consistently been assailed for his support of Common Core.

“Here is the problem with Common Core. The Department of Education will never be satisfied,” said Rubio. “They will not stop with making it a suggestion. They will make it a mandate. In fact, what they will say to local communities is, ‘You will not get federal money if you don’t do things the way we want you to.’”

On negotiations with Iran, Rand Paul said he opposes the nuclear deal, but added that he’s not always opposed to negotiation.

“President Obama gave away too much too early,” Paul said.

As the Republicans debated, Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York announced that he will break with President Obama and oppose the Iran nuclear agreement now under review by U.S. lawmakers.

Regarding the negotiations with Iran, Trump said, “If Iran was a stock, you folks should go out and buy it right now because it will quadruple. We have a President who doesn’t have a clue.”

Mike Huckabee was questioned about increasing gender diversity in the military, and LGBT benefits.

“The military is not a social experiment,” said Huckabee. “The purpose of the military is to kill people and break things.”

A Facebook user asked, “I want to know if any of them have received a word from God on what they should do and what they should take care of first.”

Ted Cruz offererd the first response, a story of his father’s conversion and his evangelical background. “I have been brought to stand and fight for religious liberty,” said Cruz.

In response to the same question, Rubio said, ““God has blessed the Republican Party with some very good candidates, the Democrats can’t even find one.

The debate ended with each candidate getting 30 seconds to make a closing statement.

Trump did it in under 30 seconds.

“Our country is in serious trouble,” he said. “We don’t win anymore. We don’t beat China in trade. We don’t beat Japan with their millions and millions of cars coming into this country at trade. We don’t beat Mexico at the border or in trade. We can’t do anything right. We have to make our country great again, and I will do that.”

Washington Post reporters David A. Fahrenthold and Sean Sullivan and Union Leader staff writer Paul Feely contributed to this report.

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