Media personality and real-estate developer Donald Trump remains the front-runner in the race to be the GOP nominee. As the leader of the pack these debates are important to Trump for different reasons as the other candidates. Whereas all the other candidates need the debates to put their case to the Republican primary voters, Trump needs the debates to tear down the other options to leave him as the only viable option. That fact that Trump hasn’t already crashed and burned is terrifying but this debate did expose some cracks in his armour.
Donald Trump began the evening’s question-answering by addressing the issues of immigration and national security: “we’re not talking about isolation, we’re talking about security, we’re not talking about religion we’re talking about security”. This plainly isn’t true. When diplomats and politicians from around the world think that Trumps plan to ban all Muslim immigrants and refugees from entering the country is barbaric, that is proof that it isolates the US. Further, his plan is about religion because he says he wants to ban Muslim immigrants. You can’t have a go at Obama for not calling ISIS “radical Islamic terrorism” and then complain when you’re plan to ban all Muslims from the country is seen as related to their religion. He concluded his first verbal feces-throwing by saying that he would deport all the refugees that Obama has brought in, thus marking out a Donald Trump-led America as one of the most heartless places in the world.
Trump was later asked by Wolf Blitzer if he would clarify comments he made about “closing up the internet”. He waffled about using America’s “great people” to penetrate the internet and stop ISIS from being able to recruit online. When Blitzer pressed him for whether he supported censorship he bluntly replied that he would be in favour of closing up some parts of the internet. Rand Paul went back to Trump’s comments and reminded the audience that doing that would violate the First Amendment, but Trump didn’t seem to care.
Indeed later on Rand Paul directed further criticism toward Trump to which the TV personality responded: “I’m not talking about closing the internet, I’m talking about Iraq and Syria”. I don’t quite know what to say to this other than: no, Donald, you were talking about closing the internet. That was the whole premise of the last question.
He was also asked about his strategy to kill the families of ISIS members, to which he responded: “we need to be much tougher than we’ve been” and “I would be very firm with the families”. This is kind of true, in the sense that killing someone is certainly ‘firmer’ than not killing them but it does ignore a couple of things.
Firstly all common decency and morality. Secondly all legal arguments against the logical fallacy of guilt by association. And finally it ignores, as Senator Paul also mentions later on, the Geneva Convention and international law. If this isn’t enough to stop the Republican base voting for Trump, we can only conclude that these people are actual fascists.
When derided by Jeb Bush for being inept in the area of foreign policy Trump tried to respond but Bush deliberately talked over him. This didn’t go down with Trump who appeared to lose his cool for a moment. Bush then retorted that “you can’t insult your way to the Presidency”, which went down well with the audience.
Donald Trump once again reinforced his populist credentials by suggesting something quite left-wing, yet this policy received a lot of applause from the Republican audience. Trump argued that the money spent on foreign wars should have been spent on investing in America, especially in its infrastructure. He then went straight back to being very right-wing by arguing for America to go into Iraq and Syria and “take the oil”. I’ve already gone through why this stupid in my analysis of Ben Carson‘s performance so I won’t bore you with the same details. The main takeaway is that it’s stupid.
Hugh Hewitt then took the time to ask an inane question: “If Assad stays, Hezbollah, Iran and Russia are winning. If they’re winning how can we be winning?”. Any illusion that this man was a journalist quickly flew out of the window before Trump appeared to say something somewhat moderate in comparison with Marco Rubio or Chris Christie: “get rid of ISIS first, then look at Assad”.
As the evening progressed Trump continued to make statements totally devoid of all facts and feigned outrage to play to the crowd.This was best exemplified when Trump criticised CNN for leading Jeb Bush down a path to insult him. He then appeared to lose his cool once again and simply did ad hominem attacks against the former Florida Governor. He was then asked about the nuclear triad (the ability to drop nuclear bombs from planes, as well as being able to fire them from submarines and from silos n the US). He didn’t address the question and simply said that he was very worried about bad actors getting hold of nuclear weapons.
His final two points were about his campaign more generally. He was asked whether Cruz’s temperament was acceptable, especially given that he had previously called him “unhinged” to which he responded that Cruz was fine. Trump then patted him on the back and Cruz bowed his head as if his father had told him he wasn’t a total failure. Trump’s final substantive comment came right at the end of the debate in which he said that he would not run as an independent because he “gained great respect for all the other GOP candidates”.
Do I think Trump did well in the debate? Of course not. He didn’t give any details or statistics, some of his policy proposals were unconstitutional and he was completely ignorant of certain areas of policy. Do I think this will stop him? No. Every time Trump has taken part in these debates he has done, in my view, badly. Nevertheless his poll numbers have continued to rise. I can therefore only predict that Trump will remain the frontrunner and is now the likely GOP presidential nominee. That’s terrifying.