We learned many things from the GOP marathon debate, starting with the not-so-startling fact that three hours is a lot of hours as these things go.
In fact, the debate was so long that occasionally the CNN moderators even got around to talking about something other than the Donald. And here’s the strange part: For maybe the first time in his life, Trump must have had moments when he was actually glad for the camera to have moved to someone else.
It was the night when nearly everyone ganged up on Trump, which came as no surprise to anyone who can read a poll — all of which, as Trump might have mentioned, he’s leading. Going into the debate, the only question was who would come after Trump first. Oh, and in a follow-up, how hard would Trump hit back? And, in one more follow-up, did Trump actually say “braggadocious”?
The moment that everyone is talking about, of course, is when Carly Fiorina got in Trump’s face about his ugly – ugly even by Trumpian standards — Rolling Stone comment about her face, or as it will be forever known, that face.
The insult was so ugly that Trump had tried to walk it back, saying that he was not talking about Fiorina’s face, but her persona — that persona. When Fiorina got the question, she was ready: “I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said.”
The place went wild, or as wild as that particular crowd could go. When Trump tried to make nice, saying she had a “beautiful face,” Fiorina, the clear breakout winner of the debate, gave him the stone face instead.
It was great TV. It was, you’d think, a terrible moment for the Donald.
But if that’s all that anyone remembers from the debate — other than Trump’s high-fives and low-fives and constant run-ins with Jeb! — Trump would have to count himself a winner. That would mean that people may not have noticed that when it came to policy questions – particularly foreign policy — Trump had almost nothing to say, which can be a problem if you’re running for, say, president.
When Marco Rubio suggested that Trump didn’t actually know anything about foreign policy, Trump said he would put together a great team — or did he say an unbelievable team? — although he didn’t actually name anyone who would be on that team.
But this is where it gets good. Trump assured us that he would study up if he actually got the job.
“I will know more about this,” Trump said. “I will know more about the problems of this world by the time I sit” in the White House.
It’s a moment, one in which Trump admits he’s unprepared, but it gets worse.
When Jake Tapper asked Trump what he’d do about Vladimir Putin’s aggressive moves in Syria, Trump said, “I would talk to him. I would get along with him. I believe — and I may be wrong, in which case I’d probably have to take a different path — but I would get along with a lot of the world leaders that this country is not getting along with.”
Meanwhile, as Trump stumbled, Rubio was talking in long paragraphs about foreign policy. So was Fiorina, even if all the paragraphs didn’t necessarily add up, like the one in which she said she wouldn’t talk to Putin at all. Rand Paul went back to his foreign policy roots, going all anti-war all the time, which may mean that he’s not too much longer for the GOP race. Jeb! argued that his brother had made the world a safer place, which, for some reason, got big applause. In Trump’s best foreign-policy moment, he said he didn’t feel any safer. Chris Christie, who said the night wasn’t about him, said he was appointed U.S. attorney the day before 9/11. I’m not sure what Ben Carson said, but he said it softly, and to this point, that seems to be enough to push him to second in the polls, although some pundits are already predicting that Fiorina might steal some of Carson’s support.
And what of Trump? As Trump likes to say, he’s not going anywhere. It’s fair to surmise at this point that Trump supporters don’t care about his policy chops. It was enough that he made Jeb! look bad again. And just wait until the fact-checkers get done with Fiorina. And if Trump thinks that vaccinations cause autism despite all the evidence, well, you may have noticed how few people on the stage wanted to jump in on that question.
If you’re among those who think Trump’s act is getting old, you’re probably not among those who ever thought Trump should be president. And besides, nobody could match Trump in his closing statement/promise to America: “We will make this country greater than ever before. We’ll have more jobs. We’ll have more of everything.”
How much more than more of everything could you ask for?
Photo credit: DonkeyHotey, Creative Commons, Flickr.