WASHINGTON, Oct. 29, 2015 − Listening Wednesday evening to the Republican presidential debate, it was very rewarding indeed to see that the Republicans finally got it right. They refrained from arguing with each other personally, they explained their positions on various issues and they clearly outlined the differences between their views and those of presumed Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
In prior debates, the candidates argued rather than debated and aimed their attacks at each other, often on a personal level. Donald Trump dominated prior debates by taking a no-nonsense approach to problems, although he offered no specifics. But this time, the candidates clearly presented their solutions to the most difficult and basic problems facing the American people today.
They didn’t talk about having the government spend more money to solve problems. In fact, they noted that it is big government that has caused many of those vexing problems. Each candidate wanted to concentrate on growing the economy, reduce government spending and excess regulation and stop burdening future generations with huge government debt and unfunded liabilities.
Regardless of the differences in the specifics, they all wanted lower taxes for all Americans.
There were some intriguing new ideas and interesting positions taken. Carly Fiorina, for instance, brought up a concept that can easily be adopted as a way to painlessly reduce government spending. That concept, known as zero-based budgeting, was actually employed successfully by Jimmy Carter when he was governor of Georgia, and he tried to implement it again when he was president.
Zero-based budgeting means that every government agency must justify its entire budget, not just its annual budget increase. By starting at zero and justifying every dollar, total government spending could decrease by as much as 20 percent. Fiorina, the businessperson, knows how this works, and the concept is logical.
The media − in this case CNBC’s clearly antagonistic moderators − finally came in for some long- and well-deserved criticism. Marco Rubio was very forceful on at least two occasions Wednesday evening, particularly when he spoke of the bias and double-standard of the media when it comes to political conservatives. And he was strategic enough to direct that force toward Hillary Clinton.
During the recent congressional hearings on Benghazi, evidence clearly revealed that Hillary Clinton lied to the American people, and had lied,on a personal level to the families of the fallen Americans. Even then, she continued to lie for days after the “fog of war” had cleared, apparently for political reasons.
Rubio seized upon this issue to point out the mainstream media’s poor handling of a clear distortion of the record, something Clinton actually had admitted. Yet the mainstream media chose to ignore this in its entirety. In fact, the mainstream media took care to do precisely the opposite, as they inexplicably praised her Benghazi performance.
After Trump spoke about the evils of big money PACs, Rubio, in high spirits, noted that the mainstream media itself is the Democratic Party’s biggest PAC. His performance on these issues gained in impact, following on Ted Cruz’ earlier resetting of the evening’s tone when he called the media on the carpet by putting the moderators squarely in their place. The moderators, he said, were trying to bait the candidates with questions unrelated to the important topics.
Mike Huckabee presented a new idea when he said that the problem with Medicare can be traced to just four diseases: diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s and heart disease. He would, as president, concentrate on finding cures so that perhaps zero dollars can be spent on those diseases in the future, as is the case with polio today.
Together, all 10 candidates looked qualified, knowledgeable and ready to lead. There was, however, a difference in Donald Trump. He was not brash, but more subdued. The biggest non difference was that he continued to offer little or no substance. His style may have been appealing at first and may have lasted a bit longer than most forecast, but now the candidates must put forth specifics.
Trump continues to give the same answers that lack substance. When asked how he would build a border wall, he simply answered that he would build it. When asked how he would get Mexico to pay for the wall, he simply again answered that they would pay. This debate may be the beginning of the decline in Trump’s popularity.
The overall feeling though, was the Republicans finally got it right. Although each tried to distinguish themselves, they were united when it came to their vision of the future. They want a future that provides opportunity for all Americans, encourages freedom and individual responsibility and allows people to keep the fruits of their labor.
That vision is very appealing.