Americans — or rather the portion of the electorate that appears poised to make a reality TV star the GOP presidential nominee — finally got the debate they deserved on Thursday night. With just five days to go until Super Tuesday, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz laid into Donald Trump, while John Kasich and Ben Carson spent most of the night literally offscreen. Establishment Republicans were excited to see Rubio show off the advantages of having a sound-bite dispenser for a candidate, but for everyone else the CNN debate was a weird mix of hilarious and terrifying. Was it fun to watch moderator Wolf Blitzer say “effing,” and Ben Carson talk about considering the “fruit salad of their life” when it comes to Supreme Court nominees? Sure. And we can all admit that it was satisfying to see politicians dispense with the faux-civility and shout insults at each other for a minute and a half. However, we suspect these moments will be less amusing when they’re featured in a montage explaining how America sank into an abyss of destruction.
Most Disparate Visions of America
CARSON: If someone had tried to describe today’s America to you 30 years ago, you would have listened in disbelief. Americans know that our nation is heading off the abyss of destruction, secondary to divisiveness, fiscal irresponsibility, and failure to lead.
KASICH: America is an amazing country, where a kid like me can grow up to run for president of the United States and be on this stage tonight. So to all the young people that are out there, your hopes, your dreams, pursue them. Shoot for the stars. America’s great, and you can do it.
Most Surprising Conservative Darling
The New York Times. Trump cited the paper’s recent report on Cruz’s failure to disclose large loans from Citibank and Goldman Sachs. Then Rubio kept coming back to a Times report on Trump hiring foreigners rather than American workers.
Worst/Most Delicious Litmus Test for a Supreme Court Nominee
Ben Carson promises, “The fruit salad of their life is what I will look at.”
Proof Trump Has No Tolerance for Losers
When attacked for his flip-flop on “self-deportation,” Trump said he only criticized Mitt Romney “for losing the election. He should have won that election. He had a failed president. He ran a terrible campaign. He was a terrible candidate.”
Later he let conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt know that he was tired of answer his questions by announcing, “First of all, very few people listen to your radio show. That’s the good news.”
Biggest Offense to Trump’s Delicate Sensibilities
Trump, who’s suggested that he considers one of his rivals a “pussy,” was deeply offended when Wolf Blitzer noted that Vicente Fox, the former president of Mexico, said his country is not going to pay for that “effing wall.” “The wall just got ten feet taller, believe me,” Trump responded. “If I would have used even half of that word, it would have been a national scandal. This guy used a filthy, disgusting word on television, and he should be ashamed of himself, and he should apologize, okay?”
Best Rubio Sound Bite, Rehearsed
“If he builds the wall the way he built Trump Towers, he’ll be using illegal-immigrant labor to do it.”
Best Rubio Sound Bite, Ad-Libbed
TRUMP: I have to say, he lied this time. He lied. 100 percent. 100 percent.
RUBIO: You lied about the Polish workers.
TRUMP: Yes, yes, yes. 38 years ago …
RUBIO: Oh, he lied 38 years ago. All right, I guess there’s a statute of limitation on lies.
Weirdest Bedtime Routine
Rather than counting sheep, Hugh Hewitt spends his nights worrying that women may have access to affordable contraception. “Senator Cruz mentioned the issue that keeps me up at night, which is religious liberty,” he said. “Churches, Catholic and Christian colleges, Catholic adoption agencies — all sorts of religious institutions fear that Hobby Lobby, if it’s repealed, it was a five-four decision, they’re going to have to bend their knee and provide morning-after pills.”
Biggest Act of Republican Heresy
Cruz hammered Trump for promising “I will not let people die on the streets if I’m president,” but the award goes to his defense of Planned Parenthood. “As far as Planned Parenthood is concerned, I’m pro-life. I’m totally against abortion, having to do with Planned Parenthood. But millions and millions of women — cervical cancer, breast cancer — are helped by Planned Parenthood,” he said. He did add that he would “defund it because of the abortion factor,” but good Republicans don’t acknowledge that Planned Parenthood provides non-evil services.
Most Surprising Problem Facing America
“The lines around the states,” which are preventing competition between health-care companies, or something. When Rubio pushed Trump to be more specific about his health -are plan, he just kept talking about the tyranny of “the lines.” “I watched [Rubio] repeat himself five times four weeks ago,” Trump snapped. “I just watched you repeat yourself five times five seconds ago,” the senator shot back.
Most Efficient Answer
Rather than telling Wolf Blitzer how he’d deal with North Korea, Ben Carson addressed every topic he hadn’t been given an opportunity to weigh in on (4:45 mark below). “People say that I whine a lot because I don’t get time,” Carson noted. “I’m going to whine because I didn’t get asked about taxes, I didn’t get asked about Israel. Hugh, you said you’re going to be fair to everybody, you didn’t ask me about taxes. I had something to say about that.”
Most Valuable Body Part
Ben Carson’s gifted hands.
Best Title for Tonight’s Debate
Carson’s plea, “Can somebody attack me, please?”
It’s unclear why former President George H.W. Bush and former First Lady Barbara Bush showed up to watch a debate featuring the people who bullied their son for the past eight months, and we’re sure they aren’t happy about what’s become of their party.
Most Satisfying/Scariest Debate Moment
In 11 months, one of these people screaming over each other could have access to the nuclear launch codes.