This picture is perfect. (L-R) Republican Presidential Candidates former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, US Senator from Texas Ted Cruz, Neurosurgeon Ben Carson, US Senator from Florida Marco Rubio and Ohio Governor John Kasich at the end of the Republican Presidential Debate sponsored by CBS News and the Republican National Committee at the Peace Center in Greenville, South Carolina, USA, 13 February 2016. The South Carolina Republican presidential primary is 20 February 2016. EPA/ERIK S. LESSER
Columnist

Usually, when I summarize a debate, there is room for slight exaggeration. But at the CBS GOP debate on Saturday night, moderated (sometimes) by John Dickerson, nothing I can say is actually more ridiculous than what the candidates in fact said. To demonstrate this fact, everything in italics is an actual quote. My job is both easier and harder and also satire — after years on life support — might finally be dead?

John Dickerson: Hello, everyone. I will try, and fail, to keep things under control this evening. We are trying a new format tonight: instead of having a debate like usual, we are having a cage fight. We also have a bell that is pretty much just decorative? It is supposed to get you to stop talking, but instead it will ring a couple of times and you will just ignore it. On the bright side: if there are any angels in the crowd, you are definitely getting wings tonight! First, let us have a moment of silence for Justice Scalia before things get wildly political. That was the moment. So, what should we do about nominating a successor to the Supreme Court?

Cruz: Well, President Obama is a lame duck. We have 80 years of precedent of not confirming Supreme Court Justices in an election year.

Dickerson: Except for one time when that very thing happened.

Cruz: Well–

Dickerson: Sorry, just want to get the facts straight for the audience.

(Audience: Boooooo)

Dickerson: But I apologize. Donald, not to put too fine a point on it, but didn’t you at one point say that President Bush (no, not that one, the other one) should have been impeached?

Trump: They lied. They said there were weapons of mass destruction, there were none. And they knew there were none. There were no weapons of mass destruction…. The world trade center came down during your brother’s reign! Remember that.

Bush: “Reign?”

Trump: Bush lied, people died! Did you see Fahrenheit 9/11? Huge movie, tremendous. Jet fuel can’t melt steel beams–

Bush: I must speak, John. He has had the gall to go after my mother. Hold on. Let me finish. He has had the gall to go after my mother.

Trump: That’s not keeping us safe.

Bush: Look, I won the lottery when I was born 63 years ago, looked up, and I saw my mom. My mom is the strongest woman I know.

Trump: She should be running.

Bush: DO YOU WANT TO HEAR MORE ABOUT HOW MUCH I LOVE MY MOTHER BECAUSE BELIEVE ME, I HAVE GOT MORE! SHE IS THE LIGHT IN THE SKY THAT MAKES FLOWERS GROW! NORMAN BATES DOESN’T KNOW THE FIRST THING ABOUT RESPECTING THE WOMAN WHO MADE YOU!

Dickerson: Governor Kasich, please weigh in.

Kasich: I’ve got to tell you, this is just crazy, huh? This is just nuts, OK? Jeez, oh, man. I’m sorry, John.

Rubio: If I could? I’d like to speak up for George W. Bush. Listen, he kept us safe, and I am forever grateful to what he did for this country.

Trump: How did he keep us safe when the World Trade Center — the World — excuse me. I lost hundreds of friends. The World Trade Center came down during the reign of George Bush. He kept us safe? That is not safe. That is not safe, Marco. That is not safe.

Rubio: The World Trade Center came down because Bill Clinton didn’t kill Osama bin Laden when he had the chance to kill him.

Dickerson: Wow. Okay. You’re really going there, huh. Talk about your tax plans and poverty?

Rubio: Parenting is the most important job any of us will ever have. Family formation is the most important thing in society. “Family formation.” That is a normal phrase that we non-robot humans use to describe parenting, is it not? Please say “0”. I mean “yes.” Do you want to talk about amnesty? I have a definition I can repeat to you.

Cruz: Don’t listen to Marco’s lies! Marco went on Univision in Spanish and said he would not rescind President Obama’s illegal executive amnesty on his first day in office.

Rubio: Well, first of all, I don’t know how he knows what I said on Univision because he doesn’t speak Spanish.

Cruz: Si quieres dicelo ahora mismo, dicelo ahora en español, si quieres!

Dickerson: Is this —

Cruz: YO HABLO ESPANOL! S’IL VOUS PLAIT!

Carson: Is this a good time to mention that I speak fluent Esperanto?

Kasich: I remember when I was just knee high to a grasshopper! Well shoot the horse and slap me silly! I am fluent in ‘folksy,’ John. Perhaps too fluent.  I don’t know how to turn it off, but I sure am fixin’ to!

Bush:… I feel like I have to get into my inner Chris Christie, and point out that the reason why I should be president is listening to two senators talk about arcane amendments to bills that didn’t pass. My outer Chris Christie I am pretty sure just threw his TV out the window and startled some pigeons.

Trump: I want to enter it into the record that two days ago [Jeb] said he would take his pants off and moon everybody, and that’s fine. Nobody reports that. He gets up and says that, and then he tells me, oh, my language was a little bit rough… My language. Give me a break…

Bush: Just, for the record… make sure my mother’s listening, if she’s watching the debate. I didn’t say that I was going to moon somebody

Dickerson: Please stop addressing all your remarks to your mother, Jeb! This is weird now.

Cruz: Speaking of parents, don’t forget that Donald Trump supports Planned Parenthood! And John Kerry. Not sure which is a greater abomination.

Trump: You probably are worse than Jeb Bush. You are the single biggest liar….I’m not going to vote for Ted Cruz. This is the same thing he did to Ben Carson. This guy will say anything, nasty guy. Now I know why he doesn’t have one endorsement from any of his colleagues.

Dickerson: …Hold on gentlemen, I’m going to turn this car around.

Bush: Listen, I did not come here to be insulted and called a liar. Well, I did, because Donald Trump is on the stage, but I did not come here to have my mother insulted. And not only did they insult her — he talked about one of my heroes, Ronald Reagan…He was a conservative and he didn’t tear down people like Donald Trump is. He tore down the Berlin Wall.

Dickerson: Wow. Let’s just savor that for a second.

Trump: Ted “Lies” Cruz, I am not finished with you! Why did you support John Roberts, if I am the fake conservative who will ruin the Supreme Court? Why you always lying? Why do you lie?

Cruz: You need to learn to not interrupt people.

Trump: Why do you lie?

Cruz: Donald, adults learn…

Trump: You pushed him.

Cruz: Adults learn not to interrupt people.

Trump: Yeah, yeah, I know, you’re an adult.

Kasich: Folks, I think we got this party off on the wrong foot, don’t you? I think we’re fixing to lose the election to Hillary Clinton if we don’t stop this. I have dialed my folksy dial all the way up to 11 (Boy okey! just knee high to a grasshopper! well shoot the horse and slap me silly!) and I don’t know how to turn it off, but shucks! Gee, John!

Dickerson: Ben Carson, you haven’t gotten to participate in a while. Do you want to yell? Here’s an idea: tell the voters something that they need to hear but that might be politically incorrect?

Carson: Really? This debate? You want to encourage us to say something politically incorrect? Have you not noticed that everyone else around me appears to be literally on fire and fighting with sticks?

Dickerson: No, that’s fair. You don’t have to.

Carson: Okay, I’ve got something: I don’t think Sudoku puzzles are as fun as everyone makes them out. You just write these little numbers in a box. It’s not a crossword, but it’s not math. It is peculiar. What is the challenge in it?

Dickerson: Governor Kasich, you’ve been described as the Democrats’ favorite Republican. You talked about in New Hampshire, Democrats would come up to you and say, “I hope you win.” Why will that help you win a Republican nomination?

KASICH: It won’t, John, but I may get the votes of Democrats!

Dickerson: Back to you, Donald. Can you tell us of an instance where somebody has said, “Donald Trump, you’re wrong,” and you listened to them?

TRUMP: Well, I would say my wife tells me I’m wrong all the time. And I listen.

DICKERSON: About what?

TRUMP: Oh, let me just say — look, I am very open — I hired top people. I’ve had great success. I built a great, great company. I don’t need to do this.

Dickerson: Wait, so your answer to ‘When were you wrong?’ is ‘Listen, I don’t have to be here’? (sighs heavily) Closing statements?

Kasich: You know, the Lord made all of us special. The Lord wants us to be connected. I believe we’re part of a very big mosaic. And I’ll send the power back. And whoever gets elected president here, hopefully will take care of the issue of jobs and wages and Social Security and the border. But the spirit of the America rests in all of us. It’s in our guts.

Carson: That made perfect sense to me, John! It was almost like something I would say. I feel like you have remained above the fray and I have remained out of the fray in a giant field of sunflowers several miles away. Ahem. I, like you, am a member of we, the people, and we know that our country is heading off the cliff. Joseph Stalin said if you want to bring America down you, have to undermine three things: our spiritual life, our patriotism and our morality. We, the people, can stop that decline, starting right here in South Carolina. That quote was forwarded to me in an email in a very striking font, so I am sure that it is real.

BUSH: Listen. I can almost guarantee that under the next president, something awful will happen. Worst-case scenario, it is just a Trump presidency. Best-case scenario, we’re talking some kind of pandemic or a huge natural disaster. Do you think I could handle that? Please do not answer as my mother may be watching. A BOY’S BEST FRIEND IS HIS MOTHER!

Rubio: I am going to take this time to make it clear to any young people tuning in just now that my stance on social issues is something that came in a box filled with dry ice directly from 1950. But hey, I *look* young! Listen, I chipped a tooth on a Twix earlier; I am all in.

Cruz: South Carolina, your choice is simple. Do you want someone who people are willing to make deals with, deal with, endorse, or even talk to for any length of time? Then you should not pick me. I am anathema to everyone who has ever met me.

Trump: This is the best season of Real Housewives yet!