In between all the bickering, one-upping, and apology demands during the mammoth three-hour CNN debate, there were a few surprising points that the GOP candidates made that were actually insightful. It was, after all, CNN's intention to allow the candidates plenty of time to discuss their stances and policies in greater detail. A few candidates rose to the challenge and illustrated deft understanding of the issues — even Donald Trump made a rare insightful point (it took me five minutes to realize he wasn't kidding). In what felt like a three-hour exercise in herding Republican cats, the GOP candidates made some good points during the second debate.
During Wednesday night's primetime debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, moderators Jake Tapper, Dana Bash, and Hugh Hewitt asked the 11 Republican candidates on stage to discuss everything from immigration reform to the Iran nuclear deal to marijuana laws. As expected, statements were retorted, voices were raised, and hardly a topic was met with any kind of unity from the candidates. Through all the impassioned assertions and interruptions, however, there were a few standout statements that the candidates made that had even the most liberal Democrats going, "Hmm, that's a good point." Here are eight times the Republican candidates actually showed insight.
Immigration Reform & Birthright Citizenship
In response to Tapper's question about Trump's call to deport every undocumented immigrant, Chris Christie pointed out the logistical flaws in that plan:
The fact is though that for 15,000 people a day to be deported every day for two years is an undertaking that almost none of us could accomplish given the current levels of funding, and the current number of law enforcement officers.
Jeb Bush echoed Christie's sentiment, but also touched on the moral implications of such a feat:
But to build a wall, and to deport people — half a million a month — would cost hundreds of billions of dollars, Donald. Hundreds of billions of dollars. It would destroy community life, it would tear families apart.
And it would send a signal to the rest of the world that the United States values that are so important for our long-term success no longer matter in this country.
When the topic turned to birthright citizenship, candidates like Trump and Rand Paul both called for ending the practice. However, Carly Fiorina brought up a significant logistical detail:
You can't just wave your hands and say "the 14th Amendment is gonna go away." It will take an extremely arduous vote in Congress, followed by two-thirds of the states, and if that doesn't work to amend the Constitution, then it is a long, arduous process in court.
After Trump and Fiorina sparred back and forth comparing their track records as CEOs, blue-collar icon Christie jumped in and said:
While I'm as entertained as anyone by this personal back-and-forth about the history of Donald and Carly's career, for the 55-year-old construction worker out in that audience tonight who doesn't have a job, who can't fund his child's education, I've got to tell you the truth. They could care less about your careers.
I could hardly believe my ears when Mike Huckabee, a man I vehemently disagree with 99 percent of the time, dropped this ingenious nugget:
I think we ought to get rid of all the taxes on people who produce. Why should we penalize productivity? And it's why I'm an unabashed supporter of the "fair tax," which would be a tax on our consumption, rather than a tax on our productivity.
And just when I thought my mind couldn't be more blown, Trump weighed in on tax reform and offered a surprisingly progressive stance.
We've had a graduated tax system for many years, so it's not a socialistic thing.... I know people that are making a tremendous amount of money and paying virtually no tax, and I think it's unfair.
For a man who has thus far only repeated various versions of "I'll beat them" in relation to policy, that was a shockingly decent point.
The Iran Nuclear Deal
While just about every candidate tore the Obama administration's deal to shreds, John Kasich chimed in with a more level-headed approach:
I think it's a bad agreement, I would never have done it. But, you know, a lot of our problems in the world today is that we don't have the relationship with our allies. ... We work better when we are unified. ... Nobody's trusting Iran. They violate the deal, we put on the sanctions, and we have the high moral ground to talk to our allies in Europe to get them to go with us.
While some candidates were steadfastly tough on drug laws, including marijuana, which is now legal in 23 states in some form, Paul was surprisingly practical in his stance:
I personally think that this is a crime for which the only victim is the individual, and I think that America has to take a different attitude. I would like to see more rehabilitation and less incarceration.