The GOP Debate – An Attendee’s Analysis


Dr. Randy White

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Bret Baier of Fox News and Randy White after the GOP Debate in Cleveland.

Bret Baier of Fox News and Randy White after the GOP Debate in Cleveland.

I’ve just come from the first national GOP debate, which I attended because I was in the area for another conference. I am a recovered political junkie, so there was the intrigue of the debate (though it didn’t stir the old interest I used to have in politics). I really went because of my friendship with Bret Baier, whom I’ve committed to pray for daily.

Having been at the debate, however, and being a pastor who believes that pastors should be vocal about politics, I’ll give a bit of analysis.

First, I must say that if you think a good, right-wing candidate is going to fix the problems of American society, you are fooling yourself. Our answer isn’t going to come from Washington, even if the most God-honoring, Bible-believing candidate in America is elected to the White House.

Second, it is way to early to choose a candidate. I wouldn’t even recommend you have a “favorite” at this point. American politics is notorious for turning on a dime. I’m personally not ready to stake my claim with any of the candidates. At this point, it is probably easier to know who you can’t vote for than who you can. If you’ve picked a candidate this early in the game, you have a good chance of some egg on your face before all is said and done. In the past, I’ve seen too many candidates say stupid things or make late-in-season policy claims that I couldn’t support. I’ve also watched those who publicly supported those candidates wrestle with what to do with the new revelation. Too many times, they overlooked the issue because they had already pledged support. Since I don’t have to vote today, I don’t have to decide today!

Now, for debate analysis.

The moderators were much more aggressive than most expected. They are being hammered on social media for this. I personally am not offended by direct questions that go to the heart of a candidate’s weakness. I think this is much the purpose of these early debates. In my estimation, we don’t like the hard-hitting questions for two reasons. First, we live in a society that has come to value peace and harmony. Direct questions make us uncomfortable, and we get nervous for the candidate. Second, we subconsciously want “soft-ball” questions for our favorite candidate, while we want other candidates (read: Hillary) to get direct, aggressive, and pointed questions.  As for me, I think that running for President is not for the weak. It is the big-stage, and candidates for such office need early experience with aggressive journalism. I don’t even think that debate-journalism needs to be “fair and balanced,” except in ensuring that each candidate gets equal time and equally tough questions.  I think a debate scenario in which each candidate gets the same question is of little value. I’d much rather pick and choose what a candidate is forced to speak on, and, if I was the moderator, I’d pick questions that the candidates most didn’t want to answer.

Now for the candidates, here are a few random thoughts:

  • Ben Carson can’t win. He’s probably a nice guy, but he simply isn’t on Presidential level.  (On a side note, I’d beware of praising his God-talk. His theology is errant, though it sounds good on the surface).
  • Donald Trump’s rhetoric has been good for the party. Other candidates are being more bold in their speech to counter the “Trump-effect.” Getting to the heart of the matter is good for those of us who will have to make a decision one of these days. (I personally think Trump will either crash and burn or make a slow decline toward insignificance in the race. American’s like brash politicians when there is no real election. They don’t like to vote for them with a real ballot, however). I also noticed that Trump is beginning to sound like a Jimmy Carter “malaise” speech, about how bad America is. This speech never wins.
  • Jeb Bush certainly comes across as Presidential. He’s far more middle-of-the-road than many (including me) want in a President, but those who write him off for his moderate positions may find that they have to write him back in later. In a sense, this race is his to lose.
  • Ted Cruz is principled (which is good, because he doesn’t really have a resume). I loved his answer about hearing from God (he hears by Scripture). It was an answer that most Christians need to heed today. I thought he had the best closing speech of all the candidates, because it was filled with principled action that he would take on his first day in office. I personally want my vote to go for a candidate, like Cruz, who will pledge to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem (even though almost every Presidential candidate in the past 40 years has promised to do so, and it is still in Tel Aviv).
  • Mike Huckabee could be a 2016 surprise. His answers were showed a stronger Huckabee. He has a grandfatherly trust going for him, a soft-but-sure wit, and an ability to communicate in a way that will entice conservatives (though his positions are often moderate).
  • The others on the stage (Christy, Walker, Kasich, Rubio, Paul) all have some good points and a fair amount of baggage. Except for the unpredictable nature of American politics, I don’t expect them (or the seven from the earlier, non-prime-time debate) to do much (except be vice-presidential candidates).

I realize that when the subject is politics, disagreement comes quickly. I am perfectly fine with your disagreement and your thoughts. Put them in the comment section below!

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