Krauthammer: ‘Amazing Debate’ Was ‘Thermonuclear’ Compared to Democratic ‘Skirmishes’

Fox News contributor and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer received the first comments late Saturday night on FNC’s post-Republican debate coverage and ruled that if the Democratic debates could be described as “skirmishes with the occasional subtle jabs,” the latest GOP debate on CBS could be chalked up to being a “thermonuclear” war “if the previous Republican debates have been World War I or II.”

Krauthammer made clear at the onset that he thought “[i]t was an amazing debate” and “[i]f the Democrats were engaged in skirmishes with the occasional subtle jabs and if the previous Republican debates have been World War I or II this was thermonuclear.”

“I have never seen as much personal attack, as much high temperature attacks as we saw in this debate and I am not even sure that you can judge the debate on who won or lost on the actual sound bites of who won this exchange or that, it was the tone,” the conservative writer added.

In some comments that set Donald Trump off on Twitter, Krauthammer ruled that “Trump was a man who was not sitting on the lead, that's for sure” because “[h]e was engaged personally with everybody at a very bitter level” with Jeb Bush.

A few moments later, Weekly Standard senior writer Steve Hayes was initially speechless at what transpired in the debate before going onto praise Rubio’s performance:

Marco Rubio after the stumbles last week, you know, in general, an okay debate, but memorable stumbles where he sounded robotic. They were played in a loop on cable television. He probably needed the debate of his life tonight and I thought he got it. I think he was clear and clean the best debater on the stage tonight. 

When Special Report host Bret Baier played devil’s advocated and warned that those on Twitter opposed to Rubio would be rushing to blast him as “in the tank for Rubio,” Hayes laid out his case: 

Yes, to be specific about it, he gave a great answer on national security to start with in the space of a minute, talked about Asia, talked about the Middle East, talked about the need to rebuild our defenses. He took a tough question from Kim Strassel on tax policy about whether his plan favors child tax credits in a way that the liberals might like and he said, look, this is their money which I thought was a very good answer...He jumped in to defend George W. Bush on Donald Trump's criticisms of Bush on national security in a state that has 21 percent veterans that voted in 2012...I thought his closing statement was good, and most importantly, he didn't have any of the moments. 

“For anybody who thought that Marco Rubio is incapable of answering questions extemporaneously, that is blown away tonight,” Hayes concluded.

The relevant portions of the transcript from FNC’s America’s Election HQ on February 13 can be found below.

FNC’s America’s Election HQ
February 13, 2016
10:57 p.m. Eastern

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: It was an amazing debate. If the Democrats were engaged in skirmishes with the occasional subtle jabs and if the previous Republican debates have been World War I or II this was thermonuclear. I have never seen as much personal attack, as much high temperature attacks as we saw in this debate and I am not even sure that you can judge the debate on who won or lost on the actual sound bites of who won this exchange or that, it was the tone. I think that if you counted up the number of times that the word 'lie' and 'liar' was employed, it would exceed the number of times it’s been used in all previous debates. In the end, I thought that Trump was a man who was not sitting on the lead, that's for sure. He was engaged personally with everybody at a very bitter level...with Bush, he was throwing around insults, including the family, but he was getting incoming as well from all sides as well, so he didn't sit on the lead. I think he took a risk in being as open and often contemptuous as he was, but I don't think it's going to shake his support. The question is, will it limit his support? Bush was extremely feisty. I think that he thinks his only hope is to go after Trump hard and he did with some success. Rubio and Cruz had their usual exchanges on immigration which I thought was a draw, but Rubio's job was to make people forget the mistake he made in the last debate, that gaffe, and I think that he did that. I think that he carried it off in the sense that people will be talking about this debate and the one in which he stumbled which is doing to be fading into insignificance. We went here from WWE to the UFC. This was a cage fight of the sort that I don't think we have seen at the presidential level before.

(....)

11:05 p.m. Eastern

STEVE HAYES: I mean, what a night. What a debate. Look, Marco Rubio after the stumbles last week, you know, in general, an okay debate, but memorable stumbles where he sounded robotic. They were played in a loop on cable television. He probably needed the debate of his life tonight and I thought he got it. I think he was clear and clean the best debater on the stage tonight. 

BRET BAIER: Alright. You know what people are write in. You are in the tank for Rubio. What’s the deal? You know, do you really think he had the debate of his life tonight? 

HAYES: Well, I think he clearly the best debate on the stage tonight. I think he was one of the better performance, and I was down in Florida with him when I saw him do the debates in 2010. Yes, to be specific about it, he gave a great answer on national security to start with in the space of a minute, talked about Asia, talked about the Middle East, talked about the need to rebuild our defenses. He took a tough question from Kim Strassel on tax policy about whether his plan favors child tax credits in a way that the liberals might like and he said, look, this is their money which I thought was a very good answer. I thought he fought Ted Cruz on immigration to basically draw as Charles Krauthammer said. He jumped in to defend George W. Bush on Donald Trump's criticisms of Bush on national security in a state that has 21 percent veterans that voted in 2012. I thought that is a good line. I thought his closing statement was good, and most importantly, he didn't have any of the moments. For anybody who thought that Marco Rubio is incapable of answering questions extemporaneously, that is blown away tonight and I thought, on the other side of that, I thought Donald Trump had a terrible night. This was Donald Trump at the most unhinged where he was at some points screaming and yelling. I also thought Jeb Bush had a good night. I thought Ted Cruz had a good night tonight. 

Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck is the Managing Editor of NewsBusters for the Media Research Center