Fiorina, Rubio Impress at Second GOP Debate

Photo credit: Peter Stevens via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
Photo credit: Peter Stevens via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Wednesday night’s Republican presidential debate — a three-hour marathon with 11 candidates — was quite a show.

Preliminary numbers suggest that 20 million people tuned in. Prior to last night, CNN’s highest rated presidential primary debate featured Obama and Clinton battling it out in January 2008 with just over 8 million viewers.

That tells you something. There is a lot of energy among conservatives and interest in the GOP candidates. How much is due to Donald Trump’s presence on the stage?

All of the candidates had their moments last night and no one was seriously hurt. Trump was clearly dodging attacks from the rest of field thanks to CNN’s questioning, but I think he held up under the fire. It will be interesting to see what the polls reveal in the days ahead.

One candidate, however, clearly stood out.

Carly Fiorina delivered one of the best moments of the debate when she brilliantly combined foreign and domestic policy into an outstanding defense of America and the unborn. Watch it here.

Obama and Hillary said they would not watch the debate, but I guarantee there were plenty of left-wing operatives watching for them. I suspect they were reaching for the Maalox imagining Hillary Clinton on the stage debating the sanctity of life with Fiorina.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio also performed well, demonstrating a clear grasp of foreign policy. In recent days, we have written about how the Obama/Kerry team was caught flatfooted by Russia’s moves into Syria. On that issue Rubio said:

I have an understanding of exactly what it is Russia and Putin are doing, and it’s pretty straightforward. He wants to reposition Russia, once again, as a geopolitical force. . . What [Putin] is doing is he is trying to replace us as the single most important power broker in the Middle East, and this president is allowing it.

One of the candidates said something during the debate that left me with questions I didn’t have before.

Dr. Ben Carson is a wonderful Christian man with a tremendous personal narrative. But one particular comment on foreign policy raises concerns that he could bring a naivete to the Oval Office during a time of great danger.

Moderator Jake Tapper stated that Dr. Carson had opposed U.S. intervention in Afghanistan after 9/11. Dr. Carson didn’t really dispute that, which I found inexplicable.

He said he advised President Bush to make the U.S. energy independent and that the “moderate Arab states” would then eagerly turn Osama bin Laden over to us. But Afghanistan under the Taliban could hardly be considered “moderate.”

Our fight is not with moderate Arab states, but with the radical Islamists. I know Dr. Carson understands that, but energy independence isn’t going to stop the Islamists from trying to kill us.

One of the worst moments of the night occurred during the “happy hour” debate. Former New York Governor George Pataki suggested that he would have fired Kentucky clerk Kim Davis. Not only that, he compared her behavior to the radical clerics in Iran.

“There is a place where the religion supersedes the rule of law. It’s called Iran. It shouldn’t be the United States,” Pataki said.

Really, governor? This is a disturbing example of the fuzzy thinking among many GOP elites. In Iran, they don’t simply refuse to marry homosexuals, they hang them.

If Pataki can’t see the difference between Iran murdering people and America seeking accommodations for men and women of faith in government, he isn’t a conservative.

Gary L. Bauer served in President Ronald Reagan’s administration for eight years, as Under Secretary of Education and as President Reagan’s Chief Domestic Policy Advisor.