The Best & Worst Moments of the South Carolina GOP Debate

The "free traders" went at it again last night.


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Another day, another GOP primary debate with Donald Trump at center stage. So how'd the candidates fare without libertarianish Senator Rand Paul in the mix? Strap in because we've watched hours of this stuff to distill for you only the best and worst moments of the South Carolina GOP debate.


Flatter, fairer taxes

Americans hate the tax system, and most don't trust the IRS, so it was refreshing to hear an actual, substantive discussion of tax reform from many of the candidates.

Amid calls to reduce rates and balance the budget were debates over the VAT and how governments attempt to hide the true tax burden from the taxpayer, as well as how over-regulation raises prices and acts as a regressive tax on the poor.

"I'm a free trader."

Donald Trump did what Donald Trump does best: bluster against China. But some candidates on stage pushed back and pointed out that tariffs just punish our supposed enemies, they also punish American consumers when the costs are passed on to them via higher prices. Even Ben Carson shook himself awake long enough to point out that excessive taxation tends to hit the poor far harder than it does the wealthy.


Rebuild our military

Republicans always talk a big game about cutting spending—except when it comes to the military. This debate was no different, with Jeb Bush advocating an end to the only actual budget-cutting (read: budget-growth-slowing) measure enacted in years, the sequester.

Several others, especially Ted Cruz and Chris Christie, seem to think Obama has made such deep cuts that our armed forces are basically in the same state as during the Spanish-American War. To them, we need to "rebuild" the military, because the nearly $700 billion we spend each year on defense, more than the next seven nations combined, has left our soldiers in rags.

"I have many great Muslim friends."

There's nothing Donald Trump can say to shock anyone anymore. But doubling down on his all-out Muslim ban was a particularly shameful moment in this debate. And while the other candidates weren't on board with an explicit ban on a religion, many opted to simply ban all refugees fleeing ISIS, regardless of religion.

As for the persecuted Christians and orphans, well, they're gonna have to go to the back of the line just like everybody else (also, there is no line). This is what passes for ideological purity in today's GOP.

"What we want to do is to control this."

Given how much the candidates would expand the NSA's domestic spying, though, they should want to lure terrorists into the country so we can keep a closer eye on them.

Chris Christie and Jeb Bush first derided the government's ability to keep sensitive data secure, as in the horrendous OPM hack that delivered millions of government officials' most blackmail-bating information to foreign adversaries and the public at large. But in the next breath, Bush stated that all civilian digital infrastructure should be controlled by the government—specifically, the NSA.

The absence of the usual lone dissenting voice on this Big Brother reach-around, Rand Paul, accentuated the GOP establishment's desire to massively expand a government agency that violates citizens' basic rights. But as they say, if you can't stop hacks from China, threaten draconian prison sentences for whistleblowers upholding the Constitution.

A chill wind blows through law enforcement

The Republicans' collective need for us to respect their authoritah doesn't end at the federal level. Beyond the usual "war on" rhetoric, this debate saw Chris Christie wax poetic on the "chill wind" blowing through the battle planes of local law enforcement.

Despite FBI statistics showing that police have never been safer in history, Trump also saw fit to give this fable his particular stamp of approval, insisting that not only is there a war on the boys in blue, but that "the police are the most mistreated people in this country."

Watch the video above to see how the madness unfolded. Agree, disagree, and/or just don't care? Let us know in the comments!

About 5 minutes.

Produced by Zach Weissmueller and Justin Monticello. Music by Minden.