The 11 Best Debate Moments Of 2015 Perfectly Depict This Weird, Wild Campaign Year
It's getting to be that time of year, with the winter holidays already upon us — 2015 is drawing to a close, with the promise of a hopefully better 2016 on the horizon. But for all the reasons there are to look forward, if you're a political junkie, you've had a pretty memorable year so far, enough so that it might be worth a little look back. For example, how about those presidential debates? Even some people who really can't stand them seem unable to entirely stay away. Here are the best debate moments of 2015, because in the event you did opt out of any of them, there are definitely a few highlights you might enjoy seeing.
Obviously, not every memorable debate moment is going to stir up positive feelings. Some moments go down in history thanks to deft rhetorical maneuvering, some for well-placed, devastating facts, or some just for the reactive interplay between the candidates, but conflict is often the name of the game.
On the other hand, there's an energy and a flow to these presidential debates that can be truly high entertainment, especially in the moments that seem to capture some of the candidates' authentic moments of frustration, awkwardness, or humor. Here are 11 examples from 2015 that you won't soon forget:
1. Lindsey Graham Wants More Booze
Lindsey Graham's prescription for what ails the American political process? Not enough drinking! And if you elect him, that'll apparently change: "That's the first thing thing I'm going to do as president — we're going to drink more."
2. Trump Calls Out Jeb's Energy
If there's any single reason that Jeb Bush can't win in these debates, it's that Donald Trump won't let him. Trump simply seems to know he can instantly deflate anything his loathed establishment rival is saying with the simplest of bullying put-downs: "More energy tonight, I like that."
3. Marco Rubio's Devastating Jeb Rebuke
Poor Jeb Bush. Here, we again see him try to get an attack, this time on someone he sees as a prime establishment foe. But simply by painting the image of him, huddled in a room with advisers somewhere before the debate, Rubio turns the tables on him in cruel fashion: "... the only reason why you're doing it now is we're running for the same position, and someone has convinced you that attacking me is going to help you."
4. Bernie Is Tired Of Those Damn Emails
Bernie Sanders' expertly delivered applause line in the first Democratic debate — protesting that he, and the public, were "sick and tired" of all the talk about Hillary Clinton's email scandal — was as memorable a moment as the Democratic debates have produced so far. Well, except for one, that is...
5. Hillary Says No
A huge part of politics is knowing when a fight is worth your energy, and Hillary Clinton clearly decided that former Rhode Island governor and Democratic challenger Lincoln Chafee wasn't worth an ounce of hers. After Chafee questioned her ethical standards in regards to the email controversy, and moderator Anderson Cooper offered her a chance to respond, her "no" shredded Chafee like no argument could have.
6. Make Lindsey Commander-In-Chief
This isn't a single moment, to be fair, but have you noticed how much Lindsey Graham loves the title commander-in-chief? Seriously, he's really into it — during the CNBC undercard GOP debate, he practically pleaded with the audience: "Make me commander-in-chief!"
7. Donald Trump Picks On Rand Paul
Donald Trump cannot be shamed into decent, civil behavior. That much is clear. So when Rand Paul decided to criticize the Republican front-runner for his endless litany of childish, personal attacks against his political rivals, you knew what was coming, right? Paul teed it up, and Trump slammed it out: "I never attacked him on his look, and believe me, there's plenty of subject matter right there."
8. Rand Paul's 9/11 Eyeroll
There was a time in American politics when a presidential candidate visibly rolling their eyes while another candidate intoned about the 9/11 attacks would've been a game-changing gaffe. But in this case — perhaps because Paul's roll of the eyes was just exasperated enough, and Christie's invocation of 9/11 just predictable and self-important enough — nobody seemed to mind all that much.
9. Jim Webb's Been Waitin' For 10 Minutes
In what sense is this a "best" moment, you ask? Admittedly, it wasn't a great moment for Webb — when you spend nearly a minute of your 15 minutes of speaking time grousing that you're not getting more, all while not really campaigning, it's not a great look. But on the bright side, his complaints make for a catchy tune!
10. Trump Taunts Jeb's Downward Slide
During the fifth GOP debate on CNN, things got heated once again between Trump and Jeb Bush, and once again, Trump ultimately got the last word, hectoring his fallen rival for his dwindling poll numbers and his slow descent to the side of the debate stage: "Well let's see, I'm at 42 and you're at 3, so, so far, I'm doing better. You know you started off over here, Jeb, you're moving over further and further, pretty soon you'll be off the end."
11. Carly Fiorina Successfully Shames Donald Trump
I know I said that Donald Trump couldn't be shamed into decent behavior, and he wasn't really in this instance, but it's about as close as anyone's come. After Trump essentially claimed in a Rolling Stone interview that former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina was too ugly to be president, then tried to claim he hadn't been talking about her appearance, Fiorina delivered a perfect response: "I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said." Trump's response, calling her a "beautiful woman," was still sexist in the extreme, but it was more of a deliberate backpedal than Trump has made anywhere else.