I was afraid to look. When Donald Trump bragged about the size of his manhood during last night’s Fox News debate, I was half expecting a Marco Rubio to challenge him to “whip it out.” The 11th GOP debate seemed like a testosterone induced school yard brawl where teenage boys in the midst of puberty, unable to control their raging hormones, fight to see whose the toughest man. But with each insult, punch and kick they prove they’re nothing but little boys.
This was the first debate I can recall that included mentions of penis size, yoga, and included one candidate insulting another as ‘little.
Throughout most of the night, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz continued their attacks on Donald Trump, while John Kasich tried to play the “adult” in the room and Trump attempted to add some substance to his bravado.
The Fox questioners asked fair but pointed question. After the last FNC hosted debate Trump whined about the network’s moderating team, especially Megyn Kelly. Not only did the Fox team team did not back down, but they offered a real-time onscreen fact-check forcing Trump to explain the specifics of his budget cutting plans and thankfully there was no Trump attack on Megyn Kelly, in fact her first question to the businessman began with this friendly exchange:
Kelly: Mr. Trump, hi.
Kelly: How are you doing?
Trump: Nice to be with you, Megyn.
Kelly: Great to have you here.
Trump: You’re looking well. You’re looking well.
Kelly: As are you.
After being relatively quiet at the beginning of the debate but really came alive about a half-hour in. He positioned himself as the only Candidate left that could beat Trump and really pushed hard on whether people should trust him on immigration based on the over off-the-record comments “The Donald” is rumored to have made to the New York Times editorial board. Aiming at his conservative base, the Texas asserted that Trump was a closet liberal, who had donated and befriended liberals like Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton. Cruz asked Trump how he would combat Clinton when he made four donations to her presidential campaign in 2008. “It was for business,” Trump answered. Each time Trump tried to interrupt, Cruz scolded him like a child. “Donald, please, I know it’s hard not to interrupt. Breathe, breathe, breathe. You can do it, breathe, I know it’s hard, I know it’s hard”
Rubio continued with the same type of attacks he began last week, but fighting the flu his voice was hoarse and he didn’t seem to have the same energy, even his best slams didn’t seem to have the same force behind them.
His best moment was when Chris Wallace asked him how many jobs he has created during his career
Rubio: First of all, Chris, my point is exactly right. He has spent a career of convincing Americans that he’s something that he’s not in exchange for their money. Now he’s trying to do the same in exchange for their country. This is a fact. He talks about these great businesses that he’s built. He inherited over $100 million.
Trump: Wrong. Wrong.
Rubio: And with that money, he lost more money than he made.
Wallace Mr. Trump, it’s not your turn. You’ll get your turn, sir.
Rubio: He can start tonight by announcing that all the Donald Trump clothing will no longer be made in China and in Mexico, but will be made here in the United States.
And on the issue of job creation, I find this interesting. The private sector creates jobs. The jobs of those of us in public service are to put in place policies that allow the economy to grow.
That’s the problem with the Democratic Party. They think government is what creates jobs. Government does not create jobs. Now, the way you create jobs is you make America the easiest and the best place in the world to start a business or to expand an existing business. If you go on my website, marcorubio.com, you will see a real plan to fix our taxes, to roll back regulations, to repeal and replace Obamacare, not just lines around the states. Serious policies and proposals.
When Trump responded that he wasn’t going to move the production, it became a heated exchange with Trump calling Rubio a liar and Rubio laying out each and every Trump business that failed.
To be clear, the biggest an harshest attack on Donald Trump was made by Trump himself, with each and every time the Fox questioners tried to pin him down on as position, the billionaire seemed to drop the ball.
The moderators, trying to block Trump from his usual technique of denying positions he demonstrably had taken before, used videos and slides to confront him with contradictory comments. Usually Trump’s defense is that he never said something, or that was a lie, etc. But as they did in the Iowa debate Trump didn’t attend, the Fox moderators displayed evidence of his previous positions and/or the absurdity of his rhetoric.
The most damaging of these was when Chris Wallace showed him a slide showing that his budget cutting plan fell far short of closing a $554 billion deficit, Trump answered that it didn’t account for his plan to save “hundreds of billions of dollars a year in waste” from “pharmaceutical companies” by negotiating lower drug prices through Medicare. But Wallace showed him that the government only spends $78 billion total on drugs per year, the confused Trump answered “I’m not only talking about drugs, I’m talking about other things.”
Or when Megyn Kelly asked why he praised H1B visas for highly skilled workers in the CNBC debate when the immigration plan on his own website said the same visas “decimate” American workers. Trump responded that he was changing. “We need highly skilled people in this country, and if we can’t do it, we’ll get them in.” But immigration is Trump’s signature issue and this added to the speculation made about his NY Times off the record interview that he was softening his immigration stance.
Trump’s weakest moment IMHO was Bret Bair’s question about torture:
Baier: Mr. Trump, just yesterday, almost 100 foreign policy experts signed on to an open letter refusing to support you, saying your embracing expansive use of torture is inexcusable. General Michael Hayden, former CIA director, NSA director, and other experts have said that when you asked the U.S. military to carry out some of your campaign promises, specifically targeting terrorists’ families, and also the use of interrogation methods more extreme than waterboarding, the military will refuse because they’ve been trained to turn down and refuse illegal orders
So what would you do, as commander-in-chief, if the U.S. military refused to carry out those orders?
Trump: They won’t refuse. They’re not going to refuse me. Believe me.
Baier: But they’re illegal.
Trump: Let me just tell you, you look at the Middle East. They’re chopping off heads. They’re chopping off the heads of Christians and anybody else that happens to be in the way. They’re drowning people in steel cages. And he — now we’re talking about waterboarding.
This really started with Ted, a question was asked of Ted last — two debates ago about waterboarding. And Ted was, you know, having a hard time with that question, to be totally honest with you. They then came to me, what do you think of waterboarding? I said it’s fine. And if we want to go stronger, I’d go stronger, too, because, frankly…
… that’s the way I feel. Can you imagine — can you imagine these people,these animals over in the Middle East, that chop off heads, sitting around talking and seeing that we’re having a hard problem with waterboarding? We should go for waterboarding and we should go tougher than waterboarding. That’s my opinion.
Baier: But targeting terrorists’ families?
Trump: And — and — and — I’m a leader. I’m a leader. I’ve always been a leader. I’ve never had any problem leading people. If I say do it, they’re going to do it. That’s what leadership is all about.
Baier: Even targeting terrorists’ families?
Trump: Well, look, you know, when a family flies into the World Trade Center, a man flies into the World Trade Center, and his family gets sent back to where they were going — and I think most of you know where they went — and, by the way, it wasn’t Iraq — but they went back to a certain territory, they knew what was happening. The wife knew exactly what was happening.
They left two days early, with respect to the World Trade Center, and they went back to where they went, and they watched their husband on television flying into the World Trade Center, flying into the Pentagon, and probably trying to fly into the White House, except we had some very, very brave souls on that third plane. All right?
It wasn’t even the torture that was bothersome. The military doesn’t operate like businesses, where you can always find someone who could be paid off to break the rules. Our heroes in the military operate on honor and if they get an illegal order like kill the families of terrorists our military will refuse.
Kasich stayed away from the fights as part of his the adult in the room strategy. When asked why he stays above the fray he says, said, “I have never tried to go and get into these kind of scrums that we’re seeing here on the stage and people say everywhere I go, ‘you seem to be the adult on the stage.’
During the gay marriage discussion he sounded like a frustrated father when he said if a photographer does not want to work a same-sex marriage ceremony, “find another photographer, don’t sue them in court.”
He also explained why he is still in the race, saying the primaries were in their “March Madness” period and he would do better when they moved to the midwest or as he called it “my turf.” But if the polls are to believe he won’t do better. Even in his own state of Ohio, the Real Clear Politics average has him in fourth at 8%.
If a gun was held to my head until I declared a winner of this debate, my pick would be Ted Cruz by a nose, followed by Kasich, Rubio and Trump in that order.
In any other year, Donald Trump would be facing a big drop of in support after his horrible performance in addressing his flip flops, but this is not a typical year. Only God knows what effect, if any will his performance do to his support. Based on the history of this primary season so far, any effect will be miniscule.