Column: Some lies from Wednesday’s Republican debate explained

Republican presidential candidate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, right, watches as Donald Trump speaks during the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015, in Simi Valley, Calif. (Mark J. Terrill/AP)

Aside from the plethora of Trump insta-quotes (e.g., “I would get along with a lot of the world leaders”) that I’m generally going to refrain from getting into, there was a generous amount of posturing, distortion and plain non-truth spoken at the most recent Republican primary debate. 

That said, the celebrity billionaire candidate did make some duplicitous statements worth delineating. For one, Trump’s claim that Mexico does not have birthright citizenship is false. Within the debate’s context, Trump says the United States is the only country “stupid enough to have it,” but Mexico just has a slightly different paradigm than us. Anybody born in Mexico is considered Mexican, but he or she isn’t deemed a citizen until they turn 18, according to the nation’s constitution.

Whether certain rights are limited because of a lack of complete citizenship is a consideration, but Trump is wrong to say we are the only nation with birthright. Canada has it, too. 

Trump also suggested the 14th amendment (which, among many of its implications, arguably guarantees the rights to children of illegal immigrants born in the United States) can be repealed without Congress, which is, as anyone who has taken a rudimentary civics course can attest, incorrect. Carly Fiorina was quick to call him on that, which brings us to her.

Several publications are referring to Fiorina in the wake of the debate as the emerging victor. While some of her proposed policy decisions Wednesday are largely considered foolish at a closer glance – there are already 40,000 soldiers stationed in Germany, so sending “a few thousand” more is not exactly going to coerce Vladimir Putin into calling his troops out of Syria – her perceived cognizance of foreign policy and preparedness when juxtaposed with the other candidates gave her a serious leg up. The illusion of good policy looks much better than no determinate policy at all. 

Something Fiorina, John Kasich, Chris Christie and other candidates did was tap into their base and make impassioned statements to defund Planned Parenthood, if elected. 

Fiorina, in particular, invoked the scandal that evolved over the summer regarding the “sting” videos created by the Center for Medical Progress, an anti-abortion group seeking to shut down Planned Parenthood on the grounds that it sells fetal tissue to biomedical research firms for extra money. 

Fun fact: It doesn’t, but the videos are heavily edited to enforce this claim. Moreover, in these videos, PP officials repeatedly say they have no intention of making money off of selling tissue, as it is illegal: The only instance where selling tissue would be legal is if it was compensatory for the time spent procuring and preserving it. 

Nevertheless, her challenge to President Obama and Hillary Clinton to watch “a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking, while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain,” went over like a bomb of vivid, empty rhetoric. But this scene doesn’t even happen in the CMP sting videos. People speculate she may be referring to another mini-documentary series by the group, Human Capital, wherein stock footage demonstrates a fetus writhing on a table. 

What Fiorina said on Wednesday plays on an audience with clear-cut beliefs who likely didn’t watch the videos. Like most politicians, she preyed on the public’s predisposition to ignorance and partisanship. 

That’s all these debates are: slightly nuanced versions of the same person repeatedly pandering to a crowd of largely uninformed people with the same vague, sometimes baseless ideologies and ethical pseudo-concerns. 

So, I say this to the candidates perpetually debating over the next couple of months: Your cognitive dissonance and groundless rhetoric is hurting people who trust you as a source of moral and intellectual authority, for reasons that genuinely escape me. This is toxic. Stop it.


Stephen Friedland is a staff columnist for The Daily Campus opinion section. He can be reached via email at stephen.friedland@uconn.edu.