By Tiffany Pattillo
CNN anchor and chief Washington correspondent Jake Tapper moderated the second GOP debate Sept. 16 as the top eleven Republican contenders took the stage at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.
Election Day isn’t until November 2016, but candidates are already on the campaign trail. The Republican ballot boasts a hefty 15 competitors, each looking to make an impression on voters to rise in the polls.
Businessman Donald Trump is leading polls at this point, a fact he belabors given the opportunity. Trump champions himself as a candidate with no interest in political correctness, painting a portrait that is both refreshing and desirable to voters. He also has no interest in pandering to the public for campaign donations, clarifying he’s spending his own money and refusing donation offers. Trump suggests he has no use for political misdirection and tactics. During the debate, Trump attempted to separate himself from the image of a bought-and-paid-for politician and said, “Nobody has control of me, other than the people of this country.”
Trump may be the unconventional frontrunner, but it’s undeniable that 14 Republican candidates are trailing him in the polls. His opponents didn’t hesitate to take shots at Trump for his unfiltered remarks and lack of political experience, questioning if those qualities would benefit him as president. The first question of the night, posed to former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, referenced Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s suggestion that Trump would be a dangerous president and Fiorina’s similar accusations regarding Trump’s temperament. Fiorina quickly dismissed Trump as a “wonderful entertainer” in her response to Tapper. Trump was given a chance to respond and unexpectedly insulted Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul for his presence at this debate before claiming his own temperament is “very good, very calm.” Paul was quick to utilize the remarks about him as an accusation that Trump is “sophomoric,” criticizing Trump’s “visceral response to attack people on their appearance.” Trump took another swing at Paul: “I never attacked him on his looks, and believe me, there’s plenty of subject matter right there.” Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was next to remark that being a successful president of the United States was a difficult job that requires a certain composure and ability to refrain from insulting leaders around the world. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker interrupted conversation in an attempt to guide it toward the issues. Walker then said of Trump, “We don’t need ‘an apprentice’ in the White House.” And thus went the tedious opening scene of the debate, but it was not the night’s only attack on Trump.
His honesty may be refreshing, but it’s also crude, brash, offensive, unwarranted and misinformed. Can we get a fact-check please? His non-medical opinion on a correlation between vaccines and autism was evidence enough that Trump is out of his depth. He may be skilled in making business deals, but he can’t keep his foot out of his mouth long enough to stop insulting large groups within the voter base, especially immigrants and women.
In an article published by Rolling Stone on Sept. 9, Trump reportedly said of 61-year-old Carly Fiorina: “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president? I mean, she’s a woman, and I’m not s’posed to say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?” Trump later backpedaled saying he was commenting on her persona not on her looks. Given the chance to comment on Trump’s persona during the debate, Fiorina simply said, “I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said.” Trump really missed the mark when afterward he said, “I think she’s got a beautiful face, and I think she’s a beautiful woman.”
Trump’s behavior does little to make him likeable. As he introduced himself during the debate, he touted the billions of dollars he’s made in his career, prefaced that it shouldn’t be taken as a “braggadocios” claim. In the closing segment of the three-hour debate, Tapper asked the candidates what they’d like their Secret Service code name to be as president. Donald Trump’s response: “Humble.” Trump offered no further explanation, stating only the word defined by Merriam-Webster as, “not proud: not thinking of yourself as better than other people.” The laughter and applause that followed guaranteed the audience saw the irony in that declaration.
Trump has no shortage of confidence and smack talk. What he lacks is specificity on plans and policy that he would introduce as president. Despite his popularity, Trump didn’t appear particularly knowledgeable or specific in Wednesday’s debate. How long can he last in this campaign without providing more solutions and less of his bravado? Trump is not a rule follower, and he’s bolstering that character to shake up this race. Does that make him a political game changer? I think not.
Photo courtesy of Mark J. Terrill, Tampa Tribune