Still image of the GOP candidates from

Update: When talk in the final stretch of the debate turned to American foreign policy, fortunes turned in favor of Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and Carly Fiorina—for different reasons. And John Kasich got in a couple of solid minutes of detailed description about his own global views.

Less well-off were front-runners Ben Carson and Donald Trump, whose attempt to shut Fiorina down by criticizing her for jumping into the debate unannounced — “Why does she keep interrupting everybody?” Trump asked, mixing equal parts irritation and bewilderment — went over like a lead balloon with some vocal members of the studio audience. Though Trump broke from some in the GOP pack with his unequivocal declaration that “the [Trans-Pacific Partnership] is a horrible deal,” Paul was ready to jump on his assertion that the TPP was “designed for China to come in, as they always do, through the back door” with a corrective that didn’t boost Trump’s profile as a potential commander in chief. “Hey, Gerard,” Paul said, addressing debate moderator Gerard Baker, “you know, we might want to point out that China’s not part of this deal.”

For his part, Carson’s tendency to revert to generalities came across like platitudes and dodges in the face of specific questions such as how the U.S. should deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin — not to mention Syria and Islamic State.

“Putin is really going to spread his influence in the Middle East,” Carson noted. “This is going to be his … base.” As for Islamic State, Carson’s stance was similarly obvious yet vague. “We’re talking about global jihadists, and their desire is to destroy us,” Carson said, adding that the challenge regarding the U.S. approach to the Islamist organization is, “How are we able to make them look like losers?”

Fiorina, in her interruptions, advocated a show of strength with Putin that would involve the strategic deployment of silence — i.e., refusing to meet him at the negotiating table if certain conditions aren’t met. “We should not talk to people from a position of weakness,” she said. She also advocated conducting “very aggressive exercises” in the Baltic area as further evidence of America’s muscle, as well as enforcing a no-fly zone in Syria.

Jeb Bush also landed some hits with lines such as, “We’re not going to be the world’s policeman, but we sure as heck are going to be the world’s leader.”

Paul once again came across as a more measured and experienced voice in the mix when he cautioned against refusing to negotiate with Putin, shot down the no-fly-zone notion and observed, “You can be strong without being involved in every civil war in the world.”

Almost missing from that portion of the evening’s programming was Ted Cruz, who managed to make his presence better known later, when the discussion turned back to more strictly economic matters. Many candidates agreed on issues such as opposing big bank bailouts, repealing the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which Fiorina dubbed “a great example of how socialism starts,” and making sure the worst threat of all wouldn’t occur — a Hillary Clinton victory.

Rubio, who got exercised to good effect more than once in the final hour, finished with a flourish by declaring, “Here’s the truth: This election is about the future … If I am our nominee, they will be the party of the past — we will be the party of the 21st century.”

Look for more coverage on Tuesday’s debate in Truthdig’s reports, blog items and syndicated columns this week.

* * *

Update: In the debate’s second half-hour installment, Fox Business Channel moderators asked Ben Carson about the controversy over what he’s said about his past and drew out the candidates on tax reform. Jeb Bush and Donald Trump had a lively exchange about immigration, and Carly Fiorina once again came on strong as Ted Cruz faltered.

Fielding the inevitable question about recent scrutiny of his personal history, Carson played upon the evening’s friendly mood between parties on both sides of the microphone with his opening salvo: “I thank you for not asking me what I said in the 10th grade—I appreciate that.”

Then Carson demonstrated that he has been boning up on how to execute political machinations with the best of them by invoking not just Hillary Clinton, but Benghazi specifically. “Where I come from, they call that a lie,” Carson said, accusing Clinton of painting a false picture of the 2012 attack on the American Embassy in Libya, while pinning the controversy over his own accounts of his life on reporters “misinterpreting” what he had said.

Donald Trump, true to form, once again brought up his plan to build a wall between Mexico and the U.S. “The wall will be built, the wall will be successful,” Trump declared, pointing to Israel as an example of a success story involving immigration and the use of walls.

This time, Jeb Bush was ready for him, countering that Trump’s stance is unrealistic and divisive. “Even having this conversation sends a powerful signal,” Bush argued, adding, “They’re doing high-fives in the Clinton campaign over this.”

* * *

Watching the opening minutes of Tuesday evening’s main Republican debate in Milwaukee, the average viewer might come away with the impression that income inequality and the near-cataclysmic economic crisis that beset the nation in 2008 was entirely the fault of Democrats on Capitol Hill. Handy how that works.

Sen. Rand Paul was front-and-center with this kind of rhetoric as he made his first statements at the GOP faceoff, sponsored by Fox Business Network and The Wall Street Journal. Claiming that income inequality “seems to be worst in cities run by Democrats, states run by Democrats, and countries currently run by Democrats,” Paul panoramically indicted the opposing party, while also allowing that he’d “lay some blame at the feet of the Federal Reserve.” The solution? Move to “a city with a Republican mayor or state with a Republican governor.”

Meanwhile, Carly Fiorina garnered big applause by playing upon her party’s aversion to big government (at least in theory): “Big government has created a big business called politics,” she said, laying blame at the feet of both parties, but mostly at those of the Democrats. “We must take our government back!” she said, rallying the crowd.

For their parts, Jeb Bush offered that he believes we should “repeal every rule that Barack Obama has in terms of work in progress,” Ted Cruz talked up his 10 percent flat-tax plan, and Marco Rubio flatly opposed raising the national minimum wage. “In the 21st century, it’s a disaster,” Rubio said.

Watch Fox Business Channel’s live feed of the event here. Meanwhile, live blog updates will continue in this window.

–Posted by Kasia Anderson

Wait, before you go…

If you're reading this, you probably already know that non-profit, independent journalism is under threat worldwide. Independent news sites are overshadowed by larger heavily funded mainstream media that inundate us with hype and noise that barely scratch the surface. We believe that our readers deserve to know the full story. Truthdig writers bravely dig beneath the headlines to give you thought-provoking, investigative reporting and analysis that tells you what’s really happening and who’s rolling up their sleeves to do something about it.

Like you, we believe a well-informed public that doesn’t have blind faith in the status quo can help change the world. Your contribution of as little as $5 monthly or $35 annually will make you a groundbreaking member and lays the foundation of our work.

Support Truthdig