The 3 Best and Worst Moments of the Las Vegas GOP Debate

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Here are the three best and worst moments from the fifth Republican debate, which focused on foreign policy and was hosted by CNN in Las Vegas.

THE GOOD

3. The third best moment of the debate was delivered by the candidate formerly known as libertarian-ish, Rand Paul. While most of the others fought over which parts of the map should be carpet bombed, Paul summoned the ghost of his father’s campaign and pushed back on the GOP’s myopic lust for regime change in Iraq, Libya, and now Syria.

2. At number two on our list of the best moments was a brief beam of hope that shot through the medieval dungeon in which Republicans usually craft their militaristic foreign policy. And it came from some of the least expected sources, including the dungeon master himself, Donald Trump. Not to be outdone, Ted Cruz also got into the mix with some saner-than-normal cautionary advice for the hawks in the field.

1. And finally, none other than the Kentucky Senator delivered the best moment of the debate, reanimating his inner libertarian with a spirited defense of American ideals that are under assault by other candidates.

THE BAD AND THE UGLY

3. While that moment was pretty great, we can’t forget that Rand Paul was absolutely terrible on the issue of immigration, depressing us with the third worst moment of the night. Instead of taking Marco Rubio head on when the Florida Senator defended mass surveillance, a strong point of differentiation for Paul, he quickly pivoted the debate and instead attacked Rubio for being in favor of an “open border.”

Other Republicans were also quick to demonize immigrants in the wake of the San Bernardino attacks, particularly refugees. But the fact remains that it wasn’t refugees who carried out the attack, it was an American-born citizen and his K-1 visa-holding fiancee.

2. Which brings us to our second worst moment, the various candidates’ proposals to create a luddite utopia. Republicans aren’t just determined to stop the flow of people but also of ideas, by trying to clamp down on the internet and encryption technology while ramping up “cooperation” by the private sector in surveillance schemes.

Never mind that the San Bernardino attacker boasted about her jihadist aims on Facebook. And the FBI hasn’t confirmed that the attackers used any encryption, simply that it existed on their phones—just as it does on almost every smartphone everywhere.

Perhaps if our intelligence agencies weren’t vacuuming up millions of data points on average Americans, we could have devoted more resources to tracking self-proclaimed jihadists living in southern California.

1. The safe word for this debate was apparently “safe,” with the candidates promising to keep everything and everyone, especially children and America, free from the scary dangers lurking around every corner of the globe. The atmosphere of apocalyptic doom cultivated by both the candidates and CNN made this entire debate a generally miserable event whose worst moment can’t be whittled down to a single soundbite. Suffice it to say, most of the candidates seemed to be jockeying for position as the bomber-in-chief most likely to start WWIII.

Agree, disagree, or have other moments you think were particularly good or awful? Let us know in the comments.

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4:40 minutes.

Produced by Zach Weissmueller and Justin Monticello. Music by Jason Shaw.