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Sixth Republican Debate: Political Showcase or Low-blow Bickering?

Republican+presidential+candidate%2C+Sen.+Marco+Rubio%2C+R-Fla.%2C+Republican+presidential+candidate%2C+businessman+Donald+Trump+and+Republican+presidential+candidate%2C+Sen.+Ted+Cruz%2C+R-Texas%2C+stand+on+stage+before+the+Fox+Business+Network+Republican+presidential+debate+at+the+North+Charleston+Coliseum%2C+Thursday%2C+Jan.+14%2C+2016%2C+in+North+Charleston%2C+SC.
Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Republican presidential candidate, businessman Donald Trump and Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, stand on stage before the Fox Business Network Republican presidential debate at the North Charleston Coliseum, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016, in North Charleston, SC.

Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Republican presidential candidate, businessman Donald Trump and Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, stand on stage before the Fox Business Network Republican presidential debate at the North Charleston Coliseum, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016, in North Charleston, SC.

Chuck Burton/AP Photo

Chuck Burton/AP Photo

Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Republican presidential candidate, businessman Donald Trump and Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, stand on stage before the Fox Business Network Republican presidential debate at the North Charleston Coliseum, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016, in North Charleston, SC.

Natalie Kim, Staff Writer

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On the evening of Thursday, January 14, the top seven Republican presidential contenders took the stage for the sixth presidential debate hosted by Fox Business Network at the North Charleston Coliseum, S.C.

The prime-time lineup consisted of Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, and John Kasich. The undercard debate, which Rand Paul refused to attend, included Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, and Rick Santorum.

This particular debate is chiefly remembered for the number of verbal attacks on both the Democrats as well as fellow contenders, many of which were repetitive of past statements and accusations. Thus the role of the presidential debates remains disputable: does a debate provide an opportunity for the American public to witness a candid version of the candidates beyond policy, or is it a spectacle that too commonly devolves into petty bickering?

The GOP hopefuls kicked off the debate in unison with one another, each expressing the mutually agreeable, oft-recited idea of Barack Obama being a horrible president. The President’s State of the Union Address delivered two days prior to the debate was a frequent target of the candidates, with Christie referring to the address as “storytime with Barack Obama.” Additionally, Cruz criticized the President because he “didn’t so much as mention the ten sailors that had been captured by Iran” during the SOTU.

Soon enough, the harmony disintegrated as Cruz was inquired about his failure to properly disclose a loan to the FDIC as well as his eligibility to serve as president. The latter led to friction between Cruz and Trump, who alleged that Cruz is ineligible to serve due to his lack of birthright citizenship (Cruz was born in Canada to an American mother). Cruz criticized Trump’s attacks by claiming, “Donald is dismayed that his poll numbers are falling,” with Cruz recently polling second behind Trump. Trump then insisted that the Democratic party would hold a lawsuit against Cruz if he were chosen as the GOP’s nominee.

After the exchange, Rubio was given an opportunity to speak, though he spent a considerable portion of his time repeating criticisms of Obama. He then shifted his attacks to Christie, whom he castigated for supporting liberal policies such as increased gun control and Common Core education standards. Christie responded by citing his conservative decisions in New Jersey, following up with “I’m never going to change my tune. I like Marco Rubio. He’s a good guy, a smart guy, and he would be a heck of a lot better president than Hillary Rodham Clinton would ever be.”

What followed was a period of relative agreement between the candidates, with Kasich promising that Democrat Bernie Sanders would never become the nominee, drawing applause from the crowd. Meanwhile, Carson spoke on American strength and the need for unity within the Republican party, discussing “values and principles” being lost at the hands of “race wars, gender wars, income wars, religious wars, age wars.”

Later in the debate, the Trump-Cruz feud continued to escalate. Though memorable, the aggressions seemed to center around personal attacks rather than policy disagreements, again raising the question of whether or not the debates are legitimately beneficial.

Cruz began the exchange by denouncing Trump’s “New York” values. “Everyone understands that the values in New York City are socially liberal or pro-abortion or pro- gay-marriage, focus around money and the media,” Cruz asserted.

In rebuttal, Trump evoked the events of 9/11. “When the World Trade Center came down, I saw something that no place on Earth could have handled more beautifully, more humanely than New York,” he said, drawing applause from nearly all, including Cruz.

At Watchung Hills, senior Henry Zhu, current president of the WHRHS chapter of Junior Statesmen of America (more commonly known as  “JSA”), discusses the candidates as well as the nature of the presidential debates:

What did you think of the GOP debate?

“The GOP Debate last week truly solidified in my opinion the frontrunners of the Republican Primary and narrowed down the playing field in an extremely diversified group of conservative candidates. It is becoming obvious that the favorite among the Republican establishment is Marco Rubio, while Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are competing very directly to sway the more hardliner Republican base. This debate will be remembered for the clashes between these two relative political outsiders, who now hold the most current support among Republican voters.”

“However, these attacks were not based on issue-disagreements, but rather very personal low-blows designed to cloud a voter’s perception about the candidate. I found neither Donald Trump’s repeated attempts at pointing out Ted Cruz’s birthright citizenship argument nor Ted Cruz’s attacks at Trump’s “New York values” to be conducive in any way to helping voters decide who is the most prepared and qualified leader of the United States.”

Was there an apparent winner in this debate?

“I will have to say however that I found Ted Cruz to be the winner of this debate because he was able to distinguish himself as a more reasoned choice among Republicans for the Presidency than Donald Trump and successfully promoted Republican values such as protecting the 2nd Amendment and fighting against ISIS. However, it is worth noting that Ted Cruz was a former debate champion in college and does noticeably shine in such platforms, but to win in Iowa and New Hampshire requires a certain commitment and personality for grassroots politics and winning over individual voters.”

“Again however, I must note that this election is quite an interesting anomaly as extremely experienced public servants such as John Kasich, Chris Christie, and Jeb Bush seem to be lacking in support despite clearly emphasizing their achievements and experience in debates including this one, while those with little to no experience in high political offices from Trump to Carson to even junior senators such as Rubio and Cruz seem to be winning over voters. This in a larger sense is a signal among Republican voters that they are prepared to choose a leader who will make groundbreaking changes in Washington and shakeup the establishment culture there.”

As president of JSA, do you think that the presidential debates reveal more about a candidate’s potential as POTUS or skill at debating?

“As far as relating this to my experience in JSA, I do feel any candidate running for the highest public position in the country must have some degree of skill in public speaking. The lackadaisical performances in debates for Jeb Bush is one of the strongest reasons why he has fallen so far out of contention and again why Ted Cruz has gained in traction.

“However, voters should not judge candidates based solely on their speech delivering skills but participate more fully in an evaluation of their accomplishments in prior roles, their leadership style, and whether their agenda matches with one’s beliefs. The reality of the job description of a President is spending most of one’s day in closed meetings with advisers, cabinet members, and other public policy individuals, while only a small portion is spent in more public gatherings and events. Therefore, it is important to judge a candidate on his actions rather than rely solely on his words.  This broader analysis of a presidential candidate is what I feel is lacking in emphasis on the media, while personal attacks over one’s appearance or personality seem to get the most attention.”

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Sixth Republican Debate: Political Showcase or Low-blow Bickering?