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Saturday 9 December 2023 Dublin: 9°C
political theatre

WATCH: The 5 craziest moments from last night's US Presidential debate

Things got seriously heated in Cleveland last night.

GOP 2016 Debate Associated Press Associated Press

Updated: 10.41 pm

BILLIONAIRE BUSINESSMAN DONALD Trump came out swinging in all directions overnight at a rowdy first Republican Presidential primary debate in Cleveland.

As well as attracting cheers from a raucous crowd, however, the party’s outspoken frontrunner was booed for comments about women and clashing with moderators.

Elsewhere, there were explosive rows between candidates, jokes about Hillary Clinton, and a strange question about the voice of God.

Here are the craziest moments you might have missed, while you were sound asleep on this side of the Atlantic last night:

1. The Don gets booed from the Republican faithful

The tense tone of the debate was set right from the very first question, when Trump was the only candidate who refused to rule out running against the party, as an Independent candidate, if he failed to win the Republican nomination.

“I will not make the pledge at this time,” Trump declared, provoking resounding boos from a crowd full of party faithful, who fear a third-party campaign would split the conservative vote and virtually guarantee a Democratic victory in 2016.

Fox News / YouTube

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, whose campaign had been accused of floundering, wasted no time in seizing the spotlight, slamming Trump’s unpopular declaration:

He’s already hedging his bets because he’s used to buying politicians.

2. ‘If you don’t like it, I’m sorry’

Trump, who was at times both aggressive and defensive towards the Fox News panel, and even the audience, was also booed (and cheered) after an indignant response to a question from Megyn Kelly, who confronted him with previous disparaging remarks about women.

I’ve been challenged by so many people and I don’t frankly have time for total political correctness…And honestly, if you don’t like it, Megyn, I’m sorry, but I’ve been very nice to you…

Fox News / YouTube

3. A screaming match about government surveillance

Several candidates clashed with one another, but perhaps the most explosive moment of the night came between New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and libertarian-leaning Senator Rand Paul.

The two fought over the NSA’s mass phone and electronic surveillance – revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013 – as a strategy for countering terrorism.

Christie stood by claims that Paul – who opposes mass surveillance – should be held responsible in the event of a future terrorist attack, and accused him of “blowing hot air.”

The two ended up shouting over each other, with Paul hammering Christie for his support of President Obama’s continued use of surveillance methods:

I know you gave him a big hug, and if you want to give him another big hug, go right ahead.

Christie lost popularity in the Republican party in 2012 for publicly embracing Obama during a visit to the hurricane-ravaged New Jersey shoreline, and appearing to snub the party’s candidate Mitt Romney, days before the election.

National Review / YouTube

4. ‘Have you received a word from God?’

The final question in the debate was an intriguing one, posed by a Facebook user:

I want to know if any of them have received a word from God on what they should do and take care of first.

In response, the candidates went out of their way to out-do one another in front of a conservative, religious audience.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker casually declared “It’s only by the blood of Jesus Christ that I’ve been redeemed from my sins” and said “God calls us to follow His will.”

However, he did admit that God hadn’t given him “a list of specific things” to do.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz won applause for a story about his alcoholic father “giving his heart to Jesus and turning around.”

Ohio Governor John Kasich declared that “God wants America to be strong…and succeed.”

Fox News / YouTube

5. “What specific evidence do you have?”

Donald Trump blasted his way on to centre stage last month, launching his campaign and making the extraordinary claim that the Mexican government was deliberately sending “criminals and rapists” over the border into the US.

To his credit, Fox News panellist Chris Wallace pressed Trump hard on this, asking him (twice) “What specific evidence do you have?”

Rather than using the opportunity to clarify or backtrack, Trump doubled down, claiming “border patrol people…say this is what’s happening, because our leaders are stupid…”

American fact-checking website Politifact has rated Trump’s Mexico allegations “pants on fire” – meaning “there is no evidence to support [them].”

Fox News / YouTube

Arguably the three strongest performers in the debate were Florida Senator Marco Rubio, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, and Ohio Governor John Kasich, who was bolstered by a sometimes adoring home state audience in Cleveland.

Rubio, the 44-year-old son of Cuban immigrants and the youngest candidate of any party, responded strongly to a question about his relative inexperience, saying “this can’t be a resumé competition.”

He drew huge cheers when he declared:

[God] has blessed the Republicans with some very good candidates – the Democrats can’t even find one.

The biggest laugh of the night arguably came from former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who joked:

A lot of this election is about a person who’s high in the polls, but doesn’t have a clue about how to govern.
A person who has been filled with scandals, and could not lead. And of course I’m talking about Hillary Clinton.

Trump could be heard shouting, “Thank you.”

Western Journalism / YouTube

Originally published: 4.31 am

Read: Trump got top billing for the first Republican debate – one of his opponents is livid>

Column: Donald Trump taps into the fear and anger of ordinary Americans – and that makes him powerful>

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