“I renegotiated it down to two hours — so we can get the hell out of here! Not bad!” That was Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s chuckling take on his agreement with Dr. Ben Carson to boycott CNBC’s GOP Debate regarding overall running time.
The Celebrity Apprentice host’s disdain for the network that hosted the event percolated throughout the event — despite the fact that CNBC’s crazy-cacophonous pre-game commentary definitely leaned anti-Obama and pro-fiscal conservatism.
Some of the debate’s most impassioned moments — and most animated responses from the crowd at the University of Colorado in Boulder — came when candidates criticized the line of questioning from network moderators Carl Quintanilla, Becky Quick and John Harwood.
In one particularly eye-popping exchange, Quick apologized to Trump when he insisted she was wrong about his quotes regarding criticism of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s stance on H-1B Visas. Later in the evening, Quick resumed her queries, noting she’d had time to check her sources: “It was from the DonaldJTrump.com Web site.” (Whoops!)
Meanwhile, Sen. Marco Rubio raged that, “The Democrats have the ultimate Super Pac — it’s called the mainstream media,” while former Gov. Mike Huckabee closed by complaining that “to the media,” the election is a mere game and the candidates are just players who “give up our livelihoods… and fight for the people of America.” (That sounds good, but to be fair, popular candidates can and do make a pretty penny on the post-election speaking circuit.)
Carson, for his part, played it verrrry verrrry quiet for a man who’s the current front-runner in the polls, keeping it vague about specific policy ideas while failing to score many points in the buzzy one-liner department.
Anyhow, I shan’t spend another second defending the media — since that’s how I make my living, too. Instead, let’s dive into recapping the loudest, most outlandish and pop-culturiest moments of the GOP Debate No. 3.
MOST BAFFLING MUSIC CUE | Please explain, por favor, the decision to have a child creepily recite the words to “America the Beautiful” as CNBC showed fist-pumping, grimacing images of the 10 candidates as if they were about to scrimmage on the football field.
MOST UNEXPECTED TWIST ON AN ’80s HIT | Answering a thoroughly useless question from CNBC’s Carl Quintanilla about their “biggest weaknesses” as candidates, Sen. Ted Cruz declared himself not the best bet for going out and getting a beer. “But if you want someone to drive you home, I will get the job done.” Strangely, CNBC did not take the opportunity to cue up The Cars’ “Drive,” softly in the background.
NOTHING COMIC-AL ABOUT IT | Co-moderator John Harwood asked Donald Trump if his presidential platform — building a ball on the country’s southern border, deporting 10 million immigrants, cutting $10 trillion in taxes without affecting the deficit — made him “a comic-book version of a candidate.” To which the Celebrity Apprentice host huffed that if The Great Wall of China spans 13,000 miles, there’s no reason he can’t build one that’s 1,000 miles long — with a “big, fat beautiful door.” Trump also seethed that CNBC contributor Larry Kudlow loved his tax plan — so, basically, “Ha!”
TITHE-ING THE KNOT | Co-moderator Becky Quick came out guns blazing about Dr. Ben Carson’s tax plan — saying that any crunching of the numbers proved his 10% tithe tax would result in a “$2 trillion hole.” Carson proved somewhat vague in his response — insisting he’d look into cutting staffing and budgets for 645 federal agencies and that it would all make sense “when we put all of the facts down.” Alrighty, then!
STOP THE INSANITY! | In one of the brief moments he was given the floor, Ohio governor John Kasich, so polite in GOP Debates No. 1 and 2, ripped into some of his fellow Republicans (Trump and Carson, without naming them) for proposing economic plans that would result in “trillions and trillions of debt.” Kasich (roaring “This is fantasy!”) made the point that, “we cannot elect somebody who doesn’t know how to do the job,” underscoring that a “10 percent tithe” or the belief in one’s greatness or the deportation of 10 million people (resulting in families being torn apart) couldn’t be construed as positives.
BIGGEST ROAR OF APPLAUSE | Grilled about a recent Florida Sun Sentinel editorial blasting him for missing more than half of his votes on the Senate floor, Marco Rubio turned the question around, saying Barack Obama won the paper’s approval while also campaigning as an active senator. “It’s another example of a double standard in this country between the mainstream media and the conservative movement!” he shouted, as the crowd exploded like they were watching American Pharoah coming down the stretch in the Belmont Stakes.
HARSHEST BURN | Following Rubio’s defense of his attendance record in the Senate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush sniped that his opponent was indulging in a “French work week.” Le gasp!
CARLY’S GOT A CATCHPHRASE | On a number of subjects, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina — who came across as particularly firm and steady in Debate No. 2 — repeated some variation on the theme of “big and powerful government” doing damage to “the small and powerless.” She was also kinda sorta blinking uncontrollably, no?
“I AM NOT A HOMOPHOBE!” | Asked how he could sit on the board of Costco — voted the “No. 1 gay-friendly brand in America” — Carson said he believes the U.S. Constitution “protects everybody,” then added that “one of the myths the left perpetuates” is that opposition to same-sex marriage means a person is homophobic. (Fair enough, buddy, but opposition to same-sex marriage pretty much means you don’t believe gays and lesbians deserve equal protection under the U.S. Constitution you were so eager to reference, no?)
YOU MAY LIKE IT, BUT YOU SHOULDN’T PUT YOUR MOUTH ON IT | “Find me a Democrat that would cut spending $10 and I’ll give him a warm kiss,” smiled Jeb Bush. Dude, everyone in America would pay $10 to have that image deleted from their memory banks right this second.
BEST CROSS-CANDIDATE SYNERGY | “I’m wearing a Trump tie tonight!” smiled Mike Huckabee, when asked if Trump had the moral fiber to hold the nation’s highest office.
QUOTE MOST LIKELY TO SCORE A TOUCHDOWN ON MORNING-NEWS SHOWS | “We have $19 trillion in debt, we have people out of work, we have Al Qaeda and Isis attacking us — and we’re talking about fantasy football!” said New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who did everything but slam a ball and do an end-zone dance to punctuate his point.
What did you think of #GOPDebate No. 3? Who were the big winners? Who fell behind? Sound off in the comments!