In Wednesday night’s Republican presidential debate, Jeb Bush dug himself a deeper hole, Ben Carson gave some incoherent answers, and Rand Paul seemed totally irrelevant, but the biggest loser was still CNBC. It’s certainly not uncommon for conservatives to complain about how they’re treated in the mainstream media, but the candidates actually banded together against the moderators. By the end of the debate, even fellow members of the ostensibly liberal media were mocking the network on Twitter, and in the spin room Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus said CNBC “should be ashamed” of how it handled the debate. “I was very disappointed in the moderators. I’m disappointed in CNBC,” he said. “I thought they would bring forward a pretty fair forum here tonight. But I think it was one gotcha question, one personal low blow after another.”
Here are some of the best and worst moments (okay, mostly worst) from the CNBC debate.
Bush finally attacks Rubio, gets destroyed.
Last month Donald Trump insisted that Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio’s buddy act is just “political bullshit,” and tonight they proved he’s right. With Rubio pulling ahead, the Bush team has been lobbing attacks at so-called “GOP Obama” in recent days. During the debate Bush finally confronted Rubio directly, noting that he’s habitually missing Senate votes. “What is it, like a French work week? You get, like, three days where you have to show up?” Bush said. “You can campaign, or just resign and let someone else take the job.”
Rubio completely ruined Bush’s big moment by pointing out that plenty of candidates miss Senate votes, and Bush only cares because Rubio is winning. “The only reason why you’re doing it now is because we’re running for the same position, and someone has convinced you that attacking me is going to help you,” he said.
Bush offers to give Democrats a “warm kiss.”
To salvage his campaign the former Florida governor needed to turn in a dazzling performance on Wednesday night, but instead he was more lackluster than usual, and said something kind of creepy. When asked about a theoretical situation in which Democrats would cut $10 in spending for every $1 tax increase, Bush said Obama already passed a tax increase and there were no spending cuts. “The biggest tax increase happened under the watch of Barack Obama, and spending’s gone up,” Bush said. “You find a Democrat that’s for cutting taxes — cutting spending ten dollars, I’ll give them a warm kiss.” In addition to being awkward, that’s not true.
Christie balks at fantasy-football talk.
Bush perked up when he got a question about whether daily fantasy sports should be considered gambling. “Well, first of all, I’m 7 and 0 in my fantasy league,” Bush said. “Gronkowski is still going strong. I have Ryan Tannehill, Marco, as my quarterback, he was 18 for 19 last week. So I’m doing great. But we’re not gambling.”
Then Chris Christie jumped in and wrecked Bush’s one moment of joy. “Carl, are we really talking about getting government involved in fantasy football?” he said. “We have — wait a second, we have $19 trillion in debt. We have people out of work. We have ISIS and Al Qaeda attacking us. And we’re talking about fantasy football? Can we stop?” And we thought he was a football fan.
Trump reveals he’s packing heat — sometimes.
Carl Quintanilla asked Trump if he’d be comfortable with his employees being armed, in light of the candidate’s remark that the mass shooting in Oregon would have gone differently if teachers had guns. Trump said yes — and in fact, he’s often armed himself. “I have a permit, which is very unusual in New York — a permit to carry,” he said. “And I do carry on occasion, sometimes a lot. But I like to be unpredictable so that people don’t know exactly … ”
Fiorina claims Clinton and Obama have never done anything for women.
In the last debate Carly Fiorina got a lot of applause for saying something completely false about the Planned Parenthood videos, so why not make another extreme, untrue remark? She went with: “It is the height of hypocrisy for Mrs. Clinton to talk about being the first woman president when every single policy she espouses, and every single policy of President Obama, has been demonstrably bad for women.” It seems like a president would have to be actively misogynistic to exclusively pass laws that hurt women, but no one asked a follow-up question.
Carson isn’t “involved” in a shady supplement company, they just pay him to promote their product.
When asked about his ties to Mannatech, a nutritional-supplement company that was sued for deceptive marketing, Carson said that’s “total propaganda.” Has he said the pills made his cancer symptoms go away? Sure. Was he paid to make speeches at Mannatech events? Yes. But how could anyone accuse him of having some connection to the company?
“I didn’t have an involvement with them,” Carson said. “That is total propaganda. And this is what happens in our society — total propaganda. I did a couple speeches for them. I did speeches for other people. They were paid speeches. It is absolutely absurd to say that I had any kind of relationship with them. Do I take the product? Yes. I think it’s a good product.”
Trump denies he ever called out Mark Zuckerberg, despite quote on his website.
Continuing the trend of the candidates simply denying things they wish weren’t so, Trump got offended when Becky Quick asked about his criticism of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, who wants to expand the H-1B visa program. “I was not at all critical of him. I was not at all,” Trump said. Quick wondered, “Where did I read this and come up with this?” Trump then denied that he ever called Rubio Zuckerberg’s “personal senator” so convincingly that Quick apologized.
Rubio even leaped to Trump’s defense, declaring, "I know the Democrats have the ultimate super-pac. It’s called the mainstream media." Cue applause.
But Quick’s ostensibly erroneous source was actually Trump’s immigration-reform plan, which is posted on his website. It reads, “Mark Zuckerberg’s personal Senator, Marco Rubio, has a bill to triple H-1Bs that would decimate women and minorities.”
Cruz is asked about the debt ceiling, goes on an anti-media tirade.
The candidates’ full-on revolt against the moderators began when Ted Cruz opted not to answer a question about his opposition to the bipartisan budget deal making its way through Congress. “This is not a cage match. And, you look at the questions — ‘Donald Trump, are you a comic-book villain?’ ‘Ben Carson, can you do math?’ ‘John Kasich, will you insult two people over here?’ ‘Marco Rubio, why don’t you resign?’ ‘Jeb Bush, why have your numbers fallen?’ How about talking about the substantive issues the people care about?”
The crowd went wild, though little of what Cruz said was an accurate depiction of what the candidates were asked. (Confusingly, John Harwood then posed the question again, but when Cruz attempted to answer he cut him off, saying, “You used your time on something else.”)
Huckabee refuses to bash the Donald, shows off Trump tie.
The candidates banded together again when Harwood asked Mike Huckabee if he thinks Trump has the “moral authority to unite the country.” The audience booed loudly, and Huckabee declared, “I love Donald Trump. He is a good man. I’m wearing a Trump tie tonight. Get over that one, okay?”
Bush quipped, “Is it made in China or Mexico?” repeating himself to make sure everyone heard. It would have been a great jab, if he didn’t deliver it as his fellow candidates were standing united against their mainstream-media oppressors.