Donald Trump, who has seen a meteoric rise in popularity since getting into the race, continued to be incredibly vague about policy positions yet still managing to encourage people to actually support him. At this debate the CNN moderate Jake Tapper essentially spent the entire time asking the candidates to respond to comments from each other, but almost all of those questions involved comments by the billionaire.
Continuing on from the first debate Donald Trump, in a question about his temperament, attacked Rand Paul for having low poll numbers before asserting that his temperament was fine because he has a successful business, which is a ridiculous thing to say. He also said that America needs a businessman in charge because “we owe $19 trillion dollars”, which is in reference to the national debt and seems to imply that he doesn’t quite understand that a national debt isn’t the same as America having a loan that has to be repaid by a certain date else repo men come over to take Arizona.
Rand Paul said that Trump was attacking people based on their looks, and in response Trump said that he had never attacked him based on his appearance although “there’s plenty of subject matter there”. In regards to comments by Jeb Bush about his campaigning strategy, Trump said that he’s qualified to be president because he’s number one in the polls and because he’s a successful businessman; he then preceded to prove Bush’s point by criticising former New York Governor George Pataki, who wasn’t at the debate, by calling him a “terrible governor” even though nobody was talking about him. He also claimed that he would “make America rich again” which is a strange thing to say considering that the USA is currently the richest nation in the history of the world.
Trump was then criticised for having four projects go into bankruptcy, and his response was that he’d never gone bankrupt, which was an irrelevant thing to say as the other candidates weren’t talking about him. He then turned his criticism to Scott Walker’s record in Wisconsin which enabled Walker to respond, with much applause, by saying that “just because [Trump] says it doesn’t make it true”. Trump then made an accurate point about the influence of donors and lobbyists over politicians, and then said that nobody has control over me and that he had turned down a $5 million donation; obviously because Trump didn’t say the person’s name it is impossible to fact-check whether he turned down the donation or made it up but it doesn’t matter either way. He then patronised Jeb Bush by saying “more energy tonight, I like it”.
On Russia Trump said that Putin had no respect for Obama and that a President Trump would get on with all the world leaders, thus eliminating all foreign policy problems; the eagle-eyed among you would have noticed that nothing I just described comes close to what would remotely be called a policy position. On Syria Trump said that Obama shouldn’t have drawn a line on Syria and, although he acknowledged that those Senators that opposed him bore some of the blame, lacks courage.
Trump remained mercifully quiet for a while until the issue of Planned Parenthood was brought up to which he said, “I’ll take good care of women”, which is plainly false considering that he has repeatedly attacked women based on their appearance and infamously implied that Fox News journalist Megyn Kelly was on her period. In his remarks he also randomly brought up North Korea as a threat that nobody talks about; when looking at my notes I had to check that I hadn’t written down his comments down in the wrong section but the candidates before and after him were talking about Planned Parenthood so Trump literally started talking about North Korea for no reason.
Trump, unsurprisingly, was also asked about immigration. His ‘policies’ included building a wall along the border with Mexico Berlin-style, saying that US laws should be adhered to and, in reference to the 11-12 million undocumented immigrants already in the US, that on the first day of his presidency quote: “they’re gone”. I don’t need to explain in much detail as to why this is clearly bullshit, but fellow GOP candidate Chris Christie actually did a pretty good job by saying that the current levels of funding a law enforcement officers means that it isn’t possible to 15,000 people every day for two years; it would therefore seem physically impossible to deport 12 million people in one day, as if that needed pointing out. Once again Trump’s answers, despite being more specific than the grandiose slogans that constitute his economic policies, were distinctly devoid of detail and costings but the electorate of the ‘party of fiscal responsibility’ didn’t seem to give much of fuck at that point.
Whilst still on the topic Trump asserted that illegal immigration costs America $200 billion a year however the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which is a right-wing advocacy group that calls for stricter immigration laws, puts the figure at half of that, and even that figure could be easily have been inflated by the group because of political bias.
When challenged by Jeb Bush for bringing up comments about his wife, Trump refused to apologise saying “I won’t apologise because I did nothing wrong”; he swiftly followed this failure to apologise by saying the Jeb Bush is “weak on immigration”, and his justification was that Bush supports a pathway to citizenship (like the American people). He finished his remarks about Bush at this point by saying that Bush shouldn’t speak Spanish to immigrants because immigrants need to assimilate; Bush’s response was that the question was asked in Spanish, which seems perfectly fair. On birthright citizenship Donald Trump didn’t understand how to amend the US Constitution and simply asserted that the 14th Amendment doesn’t necessarily mean birthright citizenship, even though it has been understood that way since it was written.
Then came an unbelievable moment where I agreed with Donald Trump. Why? Because he supported a progressive tax rate rather than the idiotic flat tax that pretty much all of the other candidates were proposing. Trump responded to Ben Carson’s belief that a progressive tax system is ‘socialism’ but saying that a flat tax doesn’t work; it’s also worth pointing out that socialism is an economic system based on the collective ownership of the means of production by the workers thus making a progressive tax system not socialism, it makes it socialistic at most. A taxation policy cannot, by definition, be an entire economic system- it’s a pedantic point but a point nonetheless.
When foreign policy was once again mentioned Trump once again confessed to not knowing all the information required to be the president but then said that he will do when he’s in the White House, which is a remarkable admission. He also said the horrendous phrase “I’m a very militaristic person” before clarifying that “you have to know when to use the military” and that he was the only person on the stage to oppose the Iraq War…in front of Rand Paul. Jeb Bush immediately afterwards said that Donald Trump wanted Hilary Clinton to negotiate with Iran, as Trump used to be a Democrat, before Trump retorted that “your brother gave us Barack Obama”.
Trump’s final few points were a mixed bag. The first was saying that rich people should voluntarily give up their social security payments as they no longer need them; which is perfectly reasonable. The final point, on the other hand, was utter lunacy: Trump repeated his scepticism toward vaccines; he said that he supported vaccinations but wanted to spread them out over a longer period to prevent the development of autism, even though the ‘study’ that showed a link has been disproved for around twenty years.
To review, it was a Donald Trump-oriented broadcast. He was given far too much airtime considering that the actual format of the programme was a debate between eleven people, yet despite all of the attention in many key areas like immigration, the economy and foreign policy the policies he put forward were either completely ridiculous or so absent of detail that it is literally impossible to ascertain whether it is a good policy or not. I wouldn’t be surprised if Trump’s numbers did dip, however, as other candidates came across better than in the first debate but this is not based in any scientific polling research and is a pure gut reaction.