Those participating in the first session were: former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore, U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, former Texas Governor Rick Perry, former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum, former HP CEO Carly Fiorina and former New York Governor George Pataki.
Many reporting on these debates, myself included, felt that Cara Carleton "Carly" Fiorina handily won the first session. There was no one who even came close. However, the best 'one liner' came from Bobby Jindal: "Immigration without assimilation is invasion."
There was not a lot of liveliness in the first session. Except for Ms. Fiorina, the outing was fairly 'vanilla'. Nothing stood out as memorable; again, except for Ms. Fiorina.
The second session was a whole different matter, however.
Note: The following will not be a "blow-by-blow" of this debate. Rather, I will offer a few observations.
Many have reported that their impression of this debate was that the FOX News moderators had as their goal to eliminate Donald Trump. This was my impression as well.
Take, for example, the opening request to all candidates relating to "please raise your hand if you will not commit to supporting the Republican nominee". Prior to the debate Trump, when asked if he would entertain a 3rd party run, responded that he would not if he thought he was being treated fairly by the Republican Party. This, most likely, is why the question was asked in the debate.
The only person to raise their hand was Trump. Lots of "boos" from the audience were heard. When asked to certify that he would not commit to such a thing Trump responded, "Not at this time." And, Trump was correct - and here's why.
At that point there were 17 candidates with differing opinions on things. Later, a "dark horse" could emerge offering yet another set of opinions and ideas - either good or bad or both. The current composition of Congress in both houses has as a majority Republicans. They are, in total, wishy washy, essentially devoid of positive accomplishment, and seem to do little to uphold the US Constitution - that which they have sworn to do. Why would anyone commit to the RNC's future, unidentified selection without knowing for what that person stands?
To blindly support some unknown, future person designated by the Party is, at best, ignorant and at worst a disloyalty to our great Nation. Support should be given to that person felt to best fulfill the obligations set forth in the Constitution for the office of the presidency (See Article II of the US Constitution.) And, someone who will actually uphold their oath to defend the US Constitution.
To the other 9 candidates, I say, "Shame on you!".
Overall, I felt the FOX News team did a good job of bringing up and asking questions that pointed to the perceived weaknesses of each candidate. That was informative.
The moderators' often "snarkiness" seemed somewhat disingenuous. After all, news personnel are supposed to report the news, not make the news. However, there is another side to this.
If a candidate, any candidate, can't handle a "snarky" opponent in a professional manner, then is that candidate really ready to handle "The Big Job"? Consider, will Putin, the leader of Iran, etc., really be "nice" to the president in their "offerings"? Most likely not. Learn to handle this kind of thing or get out of the race.
Case in point was Trump's interchange with one of the moderators. Trump was asked about perceptions of him relating to his treatment of women. The moderator repeated, as part of her question, statements he had made to women (not all women, by the way) as being "'fat pigs,' 'dogs,' slobs, and disgusting animals.".
Trump's reply was, "Only Rosie O'Donnell." As a slight aside here, does it count if in this specific instance he was correct? But, I digress.
The moderator then offered some of the "snarky" that I mentioned above. At this point Trump launched into an anti-political correctness response. In this he was absolutely correct - not the unflattering statements about O'Donnel, et. al, but about political correctness.
But, what was telling on the part of the moderator was the focus on women. It was as if she were operating out of the Democrats' playbook re: the supposed Republican war on women. Trump, whereas impolitic a good deal of the time, is an "equal opportunity" insult thrower. Just go to Google and look up "Trumps most notable insults". You'll find that the majority are against men. However, only women were mentioned by the moderator. Not exactly fair, say I. And, for certain, insults are far from the best means of making one's point - independent of gender.
The above interchange, more than any other, points to understanding the difference between "being in charge" and being a "leader".
An "in charge person", operates from a position of power; questioning their positions or authority is not often welcomed. A "leader", although not strictly required, endeavors to make those they lead see the wisdom of a decision vs. forcing their decision. Over generalized? Yes. But, in principle it is correct.
Trump has been very successful by being "in charge". The president isn't really "in charge". The office requires "selling" points vs. demanding that they be followed. This, I believe, is Trump's biggest downside.
Another interesting interchange occurred between Rand Paul and Chris Christie. It had to do with the appropriateness, or not, of the widely reported NSA "spying" on American Citizens. It was a heated exchange. Rand Paul came across here, and during the whole evening in my opinion, as some child throwing a tantrum. BUT, were you to close your eyes and just listen to what each had to say, Paul was dead on correct. The 4th Amendment was/is being violated by such NSA endeavors. And, talk about "snarky", Christie was the epitome of "snarky" here.
Overall, there seemed to be a lack of specificity as to what the candidates would do. I realize that with a one minute time limit any real degree of specificity is severely curtailed. However, the words "I have a strategy", or the like, were used often. I don't remember anyone offering any completion criteria for any "strategy". Disappointing!
There was one thing that the debate offered that, I guess, troubled me the most.
Statistics may not support me here, but it felt like too many of the questions and candidates' answers centered around the question of when life begins, abortion, etc., and their related religious convictions.
And, the candidates who fielded these questions fell for it "hook, line & sinker". To a one, all expounded on their personal beliefs, often regurgitating their deeply held religious views as answers to the question.
A person's personal beliefs, to which they are certainly entitled, may be interesting to some but have no place in the execution of the duties of the Office of the President of the United States. As to what I feel is an appropriate response to such a question is embodied in my (below) example of what I feel would be a proper "closing statement".
The closing statements were pretty much innocuous. Most opined on their backgrounds, etc. The only redeeming closing remark was from Dr. Ben Carson who humorously quipped, "I'm the only one who has removed half a brain, but if you went to Washington, you'd think someone beat me to it."
Here is my opinion on what a proper closing statement should be:
"Over the last several decades our Nation has lost, or is losing, its way. Presidents, past and present, seem to offer things that divide us as a people. This I will endeavor to correct. Our Nation is 19 trillion dollars in debt - an unsustainable amount. This I will strive to reverse. The illegal immigration issue, especially via our Southern border, is out of control. This I will curtail.
This great Nation became great by its people and its set of laws. When there is a law that is troubling, we change that law - we do not ignore it.
But, perhaps there is a fundamental core issue that has been lost. Not one of the esteemed people tonight addressed the actual job description of the president.
The job of the president is not to lead based on any personal beliefs or convictions. The job of the president is not to cater to special interest groups of any kind. And, the job of the president is not to push one ideological agenda over another.
The actual job description of the president, as specified in Article II of our Constitution, is fairly short. There you will find both the responsibilities and authorities of the president. There are three prime responsibilities: Defend the United States and its citizens from harm, uphold the US Constitution, and equally enforce the laws - all laws - of our Country.
As your next president, these three things will be the focus of my administration. No one will be allowed to operate above or outside the law. Our military will be strengthened to maximize our safety. And, the Constitution will not be treated as a set of suggestions - it will be followed.
Thank you and God Bless America and our wonderful people."