If you were hoping for another cage match — one in which Donald Trump hyperventilated over Ben Carson’s insistence he really did stab someone with a knife and Jeb Bush got into another verbal brawl with Marco Rubio — you were disappointed by tonight’s GOP debate on Fox Business Network. Tragically, moderators Neil Cavuto, Maria Bartiromo and Wall Street Journal editor-in-chief Gerard Baker kept the eight Republican White House hopefuls in check. Which is not to say the two-hour debate was totally devoid of Moments:
• Moderator Neil Cavuto notes Ben Carson’s brand has been his trust and asks the candidate if he’s worried by media reports looking into claims he’s made about his past: “Are you worried your campaign” is “now being hurt by you?”
“First of all, thank you for not asking me what I said when I was in the 10th grade,” Carson quipped. “I have no problem being vetted,” he insisted. “What I do have problem with is being lied about, and putting that out as truth.” Big applause from the audience. Carson began to talk about Benghazi and Hillary Clinton “who tells her daughter and a government official this was a terrorist attack and tells everybody else it’s a video; where I come from they call that a lie. I think that’s very different from somebody misinterpreting when I said I was offered a scholarship to West Point.” (About 45 minutes later, an extended ad for the Benghazi movie 13 Hours aired during a commercial break.) Fellow debate moderator Baker, whose paper co-sponsored tonight’s debate and was among those that had looked into some of Carson’s claims, did not join in the fun.
• Cavuto asks Carson about his “tithing” tax plan vs. other candidates’ presumably more secular approach: “Whose plan would God endorse?” Did we just hear Fox Business Network ever so slightly needle the evangelical vote? Carson doesn’t take the hint and just says he’s for everyone paying their taxes in the same proportion. Based on Carson’s response, it appears God is no fan of the mortgage interest deduction. Good time to sell.
• John Kasich and Carly Fiorina both get under Trump’s skin – Kasich by trying, Fiorina just by being. After Kasich calls Trump’s plan to deport millions of immigrants “a silly argument” and “not an adult argument,” Trump sulks that he built “an unbelievable company worth billions and billions of dollars and I don’t have to hear from this man.” Later, when Fiorina interrupts a non-Trump candidate, he complains, “Why does she keep interrupting everybody?”
• Ted Cruz smacks the media upside the head with a lock, only by “lock” we mean a crack about immigration: “If a bunch of people with journalism degrees were coming over [to this country] and driving down the wages in the press, then we would see stories about the economic calamity that is befalling our nation.” Cruz, a disciple of Aristophanes, also landed a punchline on taxes: “There are more words in the IRS code than there are in the Bible, and not a one of them is as good.”