RUSH: This is Greg in Oakhurst, California. It’s great to have you on the program, sir. Hello. You’re up first today.
CALLER: Hi, Rush. Longtime listener, 24/7 member, been listening for 25 years and I appreciate what you do and thanks for taking my call.
RUSH: You bet, sir.
CALLER: Listen, I was just so upset with Megyn Kelly last night. I watch Fox News a lot, and, you know, it’s the first time that I can remember any network ever showing videotape of the candidates and then asking them to respond to themselves. And she did that to both Rubio and Cruz, and I guess you could say she did it because they are the leading two candidates at this point without Trump there. But the thing that I was so upset about was when she asked Cruz to respond to what his video showed, she said (paraphrasing), “Were you acting then or was that just an act?”
And then when he responded she tried to act like, Oh, no, I’ve got you here.” And then immediately afterwards, on her show, if you were watching Fox and stayed with ’em, on her show more than once she said when he responded and gave the same answer, she said, “You’re right, you’re right, I did some heavy research,” I think is what she said, “I did some heavy research into that, and you’re absolutely right,” and she conceded the point that he made during the debate. Now, during the debate there was a much larger audience, of course, than for her show, so she tried to show that she could stick him, she could really get him, but then during her show she conceded that he was correct.
RUSH: Yes. Yes, I’m quite aware of this, the fact that this happened. Not surprised you’re upset about it. Not surprised it’s the first call we’re getting today about this. Because I’ve had any number of people reacting the way you have and even making the point okay, fine, so she finally figured it out and announced that he was right, but long after 90% of the audience was gone.
CALLER: Right, exactly. And listen, Rush, I’m a Rubio supporter because I feel that he’s got the best chance of beating Hillary, unless she’s indicted, of course, which I hope, but I like Cruz more, I like his positions more, but I believe that Rubio is the person who can beat Hillary. And she went after both of them, but really, even though I’m supporting Rubio, I wouldn’t be disappointed, as I said, if Cruz got the nomination. But even though she went after both of them, she really tried to nail Cruz, and then admitted that he was right later. So hypocritical. You know, it’s very upsetting.
RUSH: Well, that’s the larger point here is that I’ve had it said to me if once it’s been 10 times, that people are a little worn out with these debates ending up being debates between the moderators and the candidates, not the debates between the candidates and the candidates themselves. And it comes across as gotcha. And of course the moderators say, “No, our job is to vet these people for you. Our job is to expose them.”
Let me tell you something, Greg, for better or worse, what you saw last night is what journalism is taught to do and be. That’s journalism. That’s how it’s taught. That’s how it’s practiced, and that’s how people in it judge whether or not somebody’s good at it. Can you expose a hypocrite? Can you speak truth to power? Can you destroy a powerful person who wants to have all kinds of power over the American people? Can you expose them as frauds, or whatever else. That becomes, and in many ways it always has been, what journalism really is. That’s why I make jokes over the years about it. If you want to climb the ladder in journalism go destroy the local guy in your town and the Washington Post might hear about it and hire you.
CALLER: Yes. Am I still on?
RUSH: Yeah, you’re still on.
CALLER: Hey, Rush, I want to tell you real quick, I used to work for NBC News in Burbank, California, for over 20 years. And this goes back to Herbert Walker Bush. He said something about Dukakis during their campaign, and it was something about the military, and Dukakis demanded an apology, he was so upset about it, he wanted to get Herbert Walker Bush to apologize to the troops. And Bush had a press conference or a press availability the next day and was speaking to people at a rally. And I was in the NBC take-in room where all the feeds come in, okay, from the satellites. And I watched the whole thing, it went on for about a half an hour.
Herbert Walker Bush held up the dictionary and then he quoted what he had said and gave an eloquent defense of what he said and said why he was not going to apologize to Dukakis. So after it was all cut and they sent the feed to New York, the videotape to New York, the reporter didn’t allow Bushes words to be spoken at all. Instead it was a voice-over and the reporter said, “Even with the help of a dictionary –” and of course though showed pictures of Bush holding up the dictionary “– even with the help of a dictionary, President Bush could not explain why he wouldn’t apologize to Dukakis.”
RUSH: Hey, it’s the same network that doctored the 911 calls in the George Zimmerman case. We know.
RUSH: There was one thing I noticed; I need to observe this. There was one thing I noticed during the entire day yesterday and the day before, about the possibility that Trump might not show up. Now, obviously Fox News was concerned, and they did not hold back their concern. They… I mean, O’Reilly’s got Trump on the night before begging him to show up. Fox News was engaged apparently negotiating all day. So they were making it known they really would like Trump to be there. It’s not something that they didn’t care about.
But the RNC, did you notice that the Drive-By Media…? Well, not the Drive-Bys so much. But did you notice the Republican establishment didn’t seem all that concerned about this? And you know why that is, don’t you? Oh, because this set the table to take out Ted Cruz, who they really hate. Remember now, the establishment’s out there saying, “We think we could deal with Trump. Trump, yeah, he’ll make deals with us. Trump’s not a rigid ideologue.” Meaning: He’s not a conservative. “But Cruz? Cruz is somebody we can’t do business with.
“Cruz, if he wins, he’s gonna be straight-down-the-board conservative through and through. We don’t want any of that.” Trump’s absence put Cruz in the center of the stage, which meant that all the fire was gonna be aimed at Ted Cruz. So Trump not showing up actually facilitated the desires of the Republican establishment. Well, it furthered the possibility of their desires. I mean, I’m not saying the RNC got together with Fox and said, “Hey, take on Cruz.” ‘Cause everybody’s gonna be aiming at Cruz anyway.
Of all the people there, he was the front-runner. Trump was not there. You could hit Trump all day long, but it’s arguable whether you’ll do much damage. But you can go after Cruz if you want, and a lot of people did. Rubio did, understandably so. The moderators were going after everybody. It’s just the way the moderators have decided to do these things. We talked about that earlier. So it did set Cruz up for headlines today that he did not come through, that he did not do quite as well. This is the kind of thing the RNC or the Republican establishment doesn’t mind seeing at all.
It’s just an observation, and I don’t think there’s any question about it. I thought Cruz did… I thought Cruz had a couple of really great moments, and Rubio did, too. The story here in Vanity Fair… You might say, “Vanity Fair? Who gives a (pause), Rush? Who cares a whit about Vanity Fair?” Well, to a lot of the elites and the big clique guys in pop culture, Vanity Fair is like a bible. And their headline: “A Lost Republican Field Struggles to Debate Without Donald Trump.”
The subheadline is: “Without the gravitational pull of the reality star, the candidates suddenly became aimless. — As Thursday nightÂ’s Republican presidential debate progressed, it became clear that Donald Trump had pulled the rest of the GOP candidates into his gravitational well, locking them into near-permanent orbit around his personality. Without Trump, who boycotted the Fox News event over a disagreement with one of its hosts, the rest of the candidates seemed confused at how to define themselves on their own terms, or to confront each other without the front-runner present.”
So this story clearly making these Republican candidates on the stage last night look like they were lost dwarves. Big Daddy wasn’t around. They didn’t know how to act without Big Daddy on the stage. The writer here is Tina Nguyen. She’s Vietnamese, N-g-u-y-e-n, pronounced Nguyen. A couple of pull quotes: “Nowhere was this more evident than in Megyn Kelly’s ruthless questioning, utterly devastating Rubio and Cruz with pointed video clips of them flip-flopping on positions like amnesty and legalization of undocumented immigrants.
“Cruz and Rubio likely anticipated those attacks from each other (and probably hoped that the drama of their televised clash would differentiate each other), but had no idea how to communicate a clear, unique answer to questioning from a third party.” Did you get that impression? I mean, the clear opinion here is that Cruz and Rubio might have been ready for one or the other to come after ’em, but they were lost when Megyn Kelly came after ’em. They were totally lost, totally unprepared for Megyn Kelly’s “Then-and-Now” video.
I don’t think they came across as lost. There might have been a brief moment of, “Gulp. What the hell is this?” But the recovery — Rubio’s recovery, Cruz’s recovery — on this stuff was stellar to the point that Megyn Kelly had to admit to Cruz after the debate on her show that after she had done exhaustive research, guess what? She had learned that he was right all along, that he had been trying to poison the legislation with amendments that would expose it for what it was. A lot of people say, “Well, thanks for nothing. You conclude after the attempted destruction that he was right?”
Another pull quote: “In a normal cycle, candidates could hone those positions on-air in front of millions of people, learning what the electorate responds to best, and how to forge their own narrative. But in this cycle, the majority of candidates have been forced to spend each debate attacking TrumpÂ’s temperament and lack of leadership, slow to realize that his positions resonated the most with the country.” Excuse me, that’s not exactly what happened here. I mean, you can write and you can say that the candidates spent the debate attacking Trump’s temperament, but that’s because that’s where the moderators took ’em.
Remember, that’s when Cruz finally stood up in exasperation at the CNBC debate and said, “Look, this is pointless! In the last 30 minutes, you accused him of this, him of that, somebody over here of doing that, and me of this.” But see, they played by the rules. They follow the rules. The moderators took ’em where they want to go and they went there, until finally somebody stood up. Well, here’s an example. This is Megyn Kelly opening the debate with a question about Trump, and it is for Ted Cruz.
KELLY: Let’s address the elephant not in the room tonight. Donald Trump has chosen not to attend this evening’s presidential debate. What message do you think that sends to the voters of Iowa?
CRUZ: Let me say, “I’m a maniac, and everyone on this stage is stupid, fat, and ugly — and Ben, you’re a terrible surgeon.” Now that we’ve gotten the Donald Trump portion out of the way…
RUSH: I heard a lot of laughter there. I had some people say, “Cruz ought to leave the humor alone. He’s not a funny guy.” That kind of worked. (interruption) What are you looking at me like that for? You don’t think it worked? It didn’t work for you? (interruption) Okay. Well, then let’s try this. This is Bret Baier, and he’s asking a question of Jeb Bush. Dr. Krauthammer, by the way, said that this was Jeb’s best night so far — except the last debate, which was his best night so far, and then the debate before that was his best night so far, I think.
Dr. Krauthammer watched the debate, and he said that no question, hands down, this is Jeb’s best debate. In fact, Jeb might have finally triumphed in a debate, I think Dr. Krauthammer said. So let’s see here. It is Bret Baier who says, “Governor Bush, it’s hard for anyone of your pedigree to avoid being called ‘establishment.’ But isn’t that part of the problem in this race, that three others on this stage are splitting the mainstream Republican vote and thereby possibly handing the nomination over to an anti-establishment candidate?”
JEB: I kind of miss Donald Trump. He was a little teddy bear to me. We always had such a loving relationship in these debates and in between in the tweets. I kind of miss him. I wish he was here. Everybody else was in the Witness Protection Program when I went after him on behalf of what the Republican cause should be. Look, I’m an establishment because my dad — the greatest man alive — was president of the United States, and my brother — who I adore as well, is a fantastic brother — was president. Fine. I’ll take it. I guess I’m part of the establishment ’cause Barbara Bush is my mom.
JEB: I’ll take that, too.
RUSH: Right on. Right on. He admits being part of the establishment ’cause his parents are part of the establishment. And since they were part of the establishment, how could he not be? He’s proud of his parents and so therefore he’s going to be the establishment. The question was, you’re not the only one up there. There’s a bunch of ’em up here. Aren’t you afraid you guys might split the vote and leave it open for Trump. “Oh, no, I miss Donald. I miss Trump. He’s a little teddy bear to me.”
Next, this is the Today show today, Savannah Guthrie speaking with Chuck Todd about the Republican debate last night. Savannah Guthrie said, “Normally at this time in the morning I would ask who won the debate, but today I’m gonna say who won the night? Did Trump’s big gamble pay off, Chuck?”
TODD: I think it did, and the reason I think it paid off, because nobody on that debate stage was able to take advantage of the moment. That was an opportunity for a couple of the front-runners to come out and really go at Trump. He wasn’t there to respond, and they chose not to do it. If you’re Trump, you’re sitting there going, “Well, this was great. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, the two the guys chasing me, ended up beating each other up and, oh, by the way, were the targets of everybody else.”
RUSH: So then Willie Geist, who’s also on the show, said, “Hey, a lot of people thought that Ted Cruz, because he’s running so close with Trump in Iowa, would have a target on his back. How did he handle that pressure last night, Chuck?”
TODD: I think he struggled with it early in particular. He was the one getting a lot of time incoming. I go to he looked a little testy at times. His jokes fell a little flat. His little tweaking of the moderators didn’t seem to go over well. If anything, Rubio may be nipping at his heels a bit. This may be a closer three-way race here than we thought.
RUSH: You know, I marvel at this. I try to put myself in the position of people that are gonna caucus on Monday night, and, by the way, we haven’t discussed this. I just assumed everybody knows what happens at a caucus. But maybe it would be worthwhile just to give a short, short, short little illustration here, as it differs from going up to vote. When you show up at your polling place to vote, you go in there, you do it in private, you mark your ballot, as many of ’em as you can get if you’re a Democrat, then you turn ’em in and you leave. You get a little sticker saying “I voted,” you feel like great citizen, you walk around, you peel the sticker off when you walk out, get in your car, you go home, tell everybody you voted.
When you go caucus, you go into somebody’s living room, could be a gymnasium, could be a library, any number of places and all kinds of people from your district are in there, and people of varying degrees of intensity supporting various numbers of candidates start working on you, and you start caucusing, you start talking about it. It’s like being on a jury. You go in there and you start examining the evidence and who’s for who and why, and people work on you and try to change your mind, talk you out of what you’re thinking. You might do the same thing, and it goes on for a little while, an hour or two.
And that’s why everybody talks the ground game, having a big ground operation is so important there, because you’ve gotta turn out people that are gonna show up to the caucus for you, committed to you, because everybody representing other candidates is gonna try to shame you out of it or talk you out of it, threaten you out of it, or what have you.
And then, who is it, Bernie Sanders I think — No, it’s the Hillary camp accusing Crazy Bernie of busing in a bunch of college students from out of state to show up at various cauci and pollute things, much as Obama did, which he did. That’s precisely what Obama did. And he ended up winning the Hawkeye Cauci when he wasn’t really thought to be in the position of winning it. I mean, back then, you know, Hillary was gonna just — even then she was gonna run the table.
So as I listened to these guys analyze the debates, like here’s Chuck Todd, “Well, you know, I don’t know. I think Cruz struggled with it early.” It’s as though, imagine you’re a caucus-goer and you’re gonna go for Cruz, and you like Cruz because you like his issues, you like his temperament, you like this. So you want the guy to do well in a debate. You watch the debate, and maybe he’s not doing well, but you really want him to. I don’t know that people analyze it the way these guys do. “You know, he didn’t start out strong. Man, those jokes fell fat. I can’t caucus for Cruz.”
I don’t think it works that way. It’s the way they look at it, it’s the way these horse race types look at it. This is like trying to analyze the outcome of a football game in the first quarter by judging who’s breaking the huddle the fastest, who seems to have the momentum. Well there’s gonna be a whole bunch of momentum shifts before the game is over.
And it’s not new. It’s just I’ve always been interested, perplexed at the same time, in the way these professionals sit there and analyze these debates or performances half hour by half hour, five minutes by five minutes of answer by answer as though this is how people are watching and their minds can be changed. When in reality, most people’s minds, if they’re gonna be changed, are going to be changed by others at the caucus leaning on ’em, pressuring ’em, what have you.
RUSH: Here’s Sal in upstate, New York, as we head back to the phones on Open Line Friday. Hi.
CALLER: Hi, Rush. Thanks for taking the call. Hey, question. I’ll preface this saying I am a Trump supporter for a lot of reasons, not just the boldness of the man, but from last night’s debate I watched it open-minded hoping to learn something new from any of the other seven candidates, and I gotta be honest, other than the fact that we need a watchdog or a truth tracker to determine who’s telling the truth between Rubio and Cruz, everything or mostly everything that was said during that debate has been said in the prior six debates.
So we get all these people on all these talk shows, CNN, Fox News, whatever they may be, saying, well now this was a substantial debate with topics. But, again, I didn’t come away with anything new. And my question for you is, can you give the audience — and you may have covered this already; I apologize — but what did you learn differently that what you did not know from prior debates about these candidates?
RUSH: Well, I never learn anything in them, Sal, ’cause I know more than the people in the debates know. It’s always a challenge for me. I never learn anything, policy-wise. I may learn a personality characteristic or something I didn’t know. But these debates — your point is well taken — people are looking for something new. You’re looking for characteristics, somebody take the occasion of the front-runner being gone to really step up and command it last night. Those are the kinds of things you look for, ’cause policy-wise you pretty much know it.
For example, Jeb Bush has been Jeb Bush for whatever you said, six, seven debates. What could he do to change your opinion of him last night? What could any of them do? What could Chris Christie do — I think these debates are largely for the networks, the rules, the game, the two sides work together, the media and the political organizations, the candidates, people, to keep the enterprise going. In terms of learning something new policy-wise, I don’t think it’s about that. I think it’s about consistency and the opportunity to continue to expose what you believe to new people. With each new debate, you hope the audience is bigger or made up of different people, such as in Iowa. Maybe people watched last night that haven’t watched before because of the caucuses coming up Monday.
CALLER: Thank you, Rush.
RUSH: So that’s actually a good point. Now, wait a minute. Kasich’s dad was a mailman. I’m not sure if I knew that. I’m kidding. It’s actually a good question. If you look at Frank Luntz’s focus groups, those are all about what did you learn that you didn’t know or what caused you to change your mind. So for some people, there are things they see that they haven’t seen before, supposedly, or things that they learn. I wasn’t trying to be flippant. My job and my career, whatever, knowing who these people are is something that I have — there’s nothing that I don’t know about them that I need to know, policy-wise, things that would determine whether or not I would vote for ’em.
But not everybody spends the time that I do in this regard ’cause it is my job, so I didn’t mean to be flippant, I didn’t mean to swat the question away. I mean, I do know more. I’m convinced, and I’m righter than a whole hell of a lot of people running for president, too. But so are you. That’s the frustrating thing, isn’t it?