With the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino shootings turning the final Republican debate of 2015 into a forum on national security, the nine candidates on the big stage looked to seize a new opportunity to frame ideologies with real talk on military strategy and foreign policy.
While candidates at times parroted recycled rhetoric (We need to stop infighting! Obama has led from behind!) they did give this fifth debate some important and memorable moments. Some of the most talk-worthy of those are below.
Jeb Bush vs Trump:
Jeb Bush, fighting to maintain relevancy, finally showed he was willing to kick ass (or at least try), punching above his weight to take Donald Trump head on. Though he appeared visibly nervous and a little jittery at the beginning, Bush began to find a groove (or what would pass for one in his world, anyway) and then got downright gangsta with The Donald. "He's a chaos candidate, a chaos president," Bush said, issuing the bitch slap none of us knew he had in him, before a slightly shocking tit-for-tat. "Am I talking or are you talking?" Trump said. "You can't insult your way to the presidency," Bush said to applause, before Trump reminded Bush that he keeps moving further and further from the center of the dais based on his performance numbers. "I know you're trying to build up your energy, Jeb, but it's not working well," Trump said, generating laughs and applause. Damn Jeb. At least you tried.
Penetrate the Internet: Thanks to Trump, we were gifted with a meme that might soar to heights not seen since the great "Binders full of women" ride of 2012. That moment came when Wolf Blitzer asked Trump about his plan to close off portions of the Internet to thwart terrorists."That is so easy to answer," Trump replied. "We should be using the most brilliant minds" to "penetrate the Internet" - immediately giving birth to #penetratetheinternet, which will be a Tumblr, T-shirt and Etsy coffee mug by Friday, guaranteed.
Ben Carson: Operation Crazy: After opening remarks from Rand Paul, Chris Christie and Marco Rubio that took on American might, a war with radical Islamic terrorism and even a "Won't someone please think of the children?!" plea, Ben Carson - already lampooned for his soft-spoken kookiness - opened his remarks with...a soft-spoken plea to join him in a moment of silence. It was super awkward. Later, he shoehorned in his neurosurgery experience with an analogy that made America a patient (again, awkward) having a cancer removed, and telling us that when he had to open someone's head, they didn't like it very much. "Let me complain: this is the first time I've been able to taIk," he said early in the night. "This is craziness," he cooed. Yes, Ben. Crazy is exactly what we're thinking too.
Breaking: Chris Christie is still from New Jersey; Carly Fiorina still female: Naturally, each of the candidates leaned into their experiences to assert their right to the throne, but both Christie and Fiorina laid it on a little more than thick. "Maybe it's because I'm from New Jersey," Christie said, casting himself as above the fray and baffled by political machinery in a clear appeal to regular Joes, "but we like plain language." He's like the political equivalent of a Bruce Springsteen album cover! Fiorina hammered home her experience as Hewlett-Packard CEO as evidence of her ability to use the private sector and digital smarts to defeat terrorists, but she whipped out the ace: a Margaret Thatcher quote. "If you want to get something said, ask a man. If you want to get something done, ask a woman." Got it, guys. Christie, woman. Fiorina, New Jersey, is that right?
Marco Rubio: the great debater? Rubio, appearing charming and dashing while tough and thinking big, framed his remarks by opening with a story about his grandfather telling him as a boy he lived in the greatest country in the world. By contrast, the other candidates seemed like a pool of people putting together puzzle pieces to solve disparate issues rather than leaders with a cohesive, big vision. "We will have a president that believes we're the greatest country in the world, and acts like it," he said, closing with "We will rebuild this country, and usher in a new American century." It was #boss.
What did you think of the debate? What was the standout moment for you?