Last night, millions of Americans watched two rounds of Republican Party presidential debates – first a debate among candidates who have failed to achieve more than one percent in national polls, and second a debate among relative frontrunners.
Both debates offered a window into an entirely different world, completely unrelated to the world we actually live in. Candidates made statement after statement that represented distortion, mistruths, and outright lies. Here are 11 whoppers:
1. Insisting That Hispanics Used to Love Republicans: Lindsey Graham scolded the other three candidates in his debate, telling them that Hispanics voted for “us” under previous Republican president George W. Bush. Although it's true that frontrunner Donald Trump has depleted much of what was left of Hispanic support for the GOP, even under Bush, that wasn't a vote they won. At the high point in 2004, Bush won 44 percent of that vote, and Romney won only 27 percent.
2. Ridiculously Saying That Iran Threatens The Whole Western World: Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee wanted the audience to know that Iran threatens the “essence of Western civilization.” Except Iran's defense budget is around $10 billion, a fractionof our own $600 plus billion defense budget. How a country with no weapons of mass destruction and a tiny defense budget can be threatening the United States, let alone our NATO allies, was not explained by Huckabee. Probably because it makes no sense.
3. Implying the U.S. Government Funds Abortion: Over and over, the assertion was made that the United States federal government finances abortions, such as by giving subsidies to Planned Parenthood. While you can make a convoluted argument that money is indirectly spread around, the fact is the the federal government has followed a blanket ban on such funding except in cases of rape, incest, or when it threatens the health of the mother.
4. Claiming Obama Is Trying to Circumvent the Process to Let In Syrian Refugees: Bobby Jindal said that Obama was trying to “short-circuit the vetting process” to let in Syrian refugees, a dangerous dog whistle to imply that the president was going to let in terrorists. As CNN's own fact-check pointed out, the 10,000 refugees – truly a paltry amount – are slated to come in through the exact same process as any other refugees.
5. Saying We Are Almost the Only Ones With Birthright Citizenship:Trump said almost no one else – including Mexico – has birthright citizenship, and moderator Jake Tapper agreed with him. That's true, if you think the entire rest of the world consists of Europe. Almost everywhere in the Americas has birthright citizenship and that includes Mexico.
6. Rubio Telling a Fantastic But False Story About His Grandfather:Senator Rubio gave an emotional address about his grandfather supposedly fleeing Castro to come to the United States. There's just a problem: the story doesn't stand up to scrutiny. As has been reported in the past, his family came to the United States long before Castro even came to power.
7. Stating That North Korea Can Hit Us With a Nuclear Weapon: Rubio also claimed that North Korea could hit us with a nuclear weapon. Unless they plan to send a team on a boat carrying one, it's not going to happen – there isvery little evidence that they have a functional intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the United States.
8. Saying, With A Straight Face, That Bush Kept Us Safe: “My brother kept us safe,” said Jeb Bush. This is a pretty ironic thing to say five days after the anniversary of the September 11th attacks, which his brother obviously did not keep us safe from.
9. Going Back to the Tired “Sanctuary” Arguments About Terrorists:Rubio made the argument that we needed to stay in Iraq, invade Afghanistan, and have our military all over the world to prevent terrorists from having “sanctuary” – but as the Boston Bombing, Charleston, and many other attacks prove, terrorists don't need to have a physical space to plot attacks, and a giant military presence in a foreign country doesn't necessarily prevent them so much as give them recruits.
10. Telling People Marijuana Is More Harmful Than Beer: Carly Fiorina, disupting Rand Paul's more libertarian view on drugs, said that smoking marijuana isn't like having a beer. Actually marijuana is much safer than alcohol – marijuana kills next to no one while the Centers for Disease Controlis linked to “one in 10 deaths among working-age adults can be attributed to excessive alcohol use.”
11. Lying About Vaccines: Trump boosted theories that vaccinations are linked to autism; despite Ben Carson's intervention that this wasn't true, Rand Paul still went on to tout the “voluntary” nature of smallpox vaccinations – actually they were not voluntary, they were mandated and financed by a global government effort through the World Health Organization.
The alternate universe the GOP candidates live in was on full display last night at the library of a Republican president Ronald Reagan who, if he was alive today, would be considered to be on the far left of his party.