The first prime time 2016 Republican Presidential debate featured the top ten candidates based on national polling. Some complained that having so many politicians on the stage gave short shrift to substantive consideration about the issues, in so far that candidates would have ten minutes or less each in the spotlight. Still the exercise allowed America to become acquainted with the aspiring GOP nominees, discern their demeanor as well as shed some light on where they stand politically.
Based upon polling popularity for the blockbuster Fox News debate was Donald Trump, the billionaire businessman who bravado and brash campaigning has stolen much of the early political coverage. As the front-runner, he got the most attention and harsh questions from the moderating panel. Early in the debate, Megyn Kelly inquired about how Mr. Trump he referred to women --
“Mr. Trump, one of the things people love about you is you speak your mind and you don’t use a politician’s filter. However, that is not without its downsides, in particular, when it comes to women.
You’ve called women you don’t like 'fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals.'"
Trump tried to brush off the challenge by qupping that he was only referring to Rosie O’Donnell. This was neither well received by the booing audience nor Megyn Kelly who insisted that these degrading insults were directed at more than the so called “Queen of Mean”. Trump shifted his argument to noting that America is too politically correct and we do not have time for that.
Bluntness and being anti-PC reflects the anger of the so called Silent Majority who have propelled Trump to the top of the summer polls. But this retort was unsatisfactory to an abrasive executive who seems oriented to intimidation. Trump interjected that he thought that Megyn Kelly was disrespecting him and not being nice. Trump asserted that he had always treated her well and Trump passive-aggressively asserted he might have to rethink that consideration, but that he would never do that.
After the debate ended, Trump (or his staff) was up until 3:45 a.m. tweeting. This social media sharing attacked Megyn Kelly and he also retweeted a message declaring that Kelly was a bimbo.
Not to be outdone, during a day after media appearance on CNN, Trump berated the Kelly File host by saying: “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her wherever.”
Whatever could Mr. Trump meant (sic)? The best the Trump team could spin on that pointed choice of phrase was that Mr. Trump meant “whenever”. Sure.
Aside from boorish bimbo eruptions concerning Megyn Kelly, some Trump-etteers complain that Kelly is not a conservative. That may well be true, but over 90% of the press corps is liberal. Tim Russert was a liberal from upstate New York who would ask hard gotcha questions of both sides hoisting a politico by their own petards Megyn Kelly seems cut of the same cloth, though it was troubling to hear post debate softballs which Kelly tossed with DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
It is foolish to expect as a Republican, which Trump now says that he is, that he will receive fawning treatment from the political media. But if Mr. Trump feels threatened by pointed political questions, how would he react in the Oval Office against our adversaries or even allies?
There was scuttlebutt that big GOP donors and the Republican establishment had ordered a take down of Trump. Instead of the assault mainly coming from Trump’s rivals to the “Game of Thrones”, the attack stemmed from the biased panelists of Fox News. Granted, they do have Karl Rove on all the time, it is dubious that FNC takes their marching orders from “the Architect”. How about aggressive journalism which asks tough questions, trying to create controversy and attract eyeballs?
In response to the misogynistic musings coming from “The Donald”, Eric Erickson uninvited Mr. Trump from participating in the the Red State Gathering in Atlanta. Erickson wrote:
“[I] also think that while Mr. Trump resonates with a lot of people with his bluntness, including me to a degree, there are just real lines of decency a person running for President should not cross.
His comment was inappropriate. It is unfortunate to have to disinvite him. But I just don’t want someone on stage who gets a hostile question from a lady and his first inclination is to imply it was hormonal. It just was wrong.”
Now Trump-etteers discount Erickson as just a tool of the establishment. It seems in Trump territory, it’s always someone else’s fault. That seems like such a familiar modus operandi, except there was no rush to blame Bush (for now).
Res ipsa locquitur is a Latin phrase for “It speaks for itself”. Trump’s pugnacious predilections to berate women whom he dislikes epitomizes the “war on women” gist of Kelly’s hard question. Implying that Kelly’s questions stemmed from menses is sexist, disrespectful and degrading. Suggested synonyms from Webster's dictionary for boorish are: course, uncouth, loutish, churlish.
The derogatory demeanor in the exchanges with Megyn Kelly speaks directly to Trump’s reputation for dealing with women with whom he disagrees. This was not a off the cuff quip, this is a persistent pattern of behavior. Are these qualities which Americans wish to see stemming from the Oval Office.
But it’s not the only instance of boorish behavior coming from Team Trump. Michael Cohen, special counsel to Donald Trump and a Vice President of the Trump Organization, threatened a political reporter who was going after a marital rape allegation by Ivana Trump during her 1980s divorce by suggesting:
"I will make sure that you and I meet one day while we're in the courthouse. And I will take you for every penny you still don't have. And I will come after your Daily Beast and everybody else that you possibly know, So I'm warning you, tread very f---ing lightly, because what I'm going to do to you is going to be f---ing disgusting. You understand me?"
Politics isn’t beanbag but such bullying behavior is remarkable. In an environment in which the Lamestream Media lap dogs cower so as not to lose access to the White House, I shudder to see such thuggish tactics employed on professional practitioners of the freedom of the press. Trump put little distance from his errant aide. After all, Cohen was just doing his boss’s bidding and using intimidation tactics that seem culled from the Art of the Deal (1987).
Then there was the McCain mutiny. During a candidate forum in Iowa in July 2015, Frank Luntz got Donald Trump to comment on Senator John McCain (R-AZ). McCain had recently called the 15,000 people who turned out at a Trump event in Phoenix as “crazies”. Trump berated McCain as being a loser and then followed up by insisting:
“McCain is not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured, okay? I hate to tell you that. He’s a war hero because he was captured, okay? And I believe perhaps he’s a war hero but right now he’s said some very bad things about a lot of people.”
Afterwards, Trump refused to apologize according to the civic script. Professional political pundits thought that the outrageous comments would sink Trump’s candidacy, but it only increased his stature as a primary celebrity. Once again, Trump riffs, making outrageous and insulting insinuations and then holds a vindictive grudge.
The campaign is in its early stages and there is a crowded field. It was unrealistic to expect precises platform positions in a first debate, but two hours on center stage can give a feel for the demeanor of a candidate and offer indications on his or her likeability.
During the debate, Donald Trump was bold enough to raise his hand to say that he would not commit to supporting the eventual Republican nominee (unless it is himself) nor would he rule out being spoiler third party Presidential candidate. Bold and brash as well as being self centered and unconventional. These qualities may appeal to anti-establishment political firebands, while potentially alienating the Republican base which actually votes in Republican primaries. Pugnacious personality who is always spoiling for a fight may make for fun reality television but it is dubious if Americans seriously want that in our living rooms each night as Commander in Chief.
When someone tells you who they are, believe them. Between the bluster and the boorishness, we are getting the measure of the man. Time will tell if Trump’s braggadocio and bullying can politically cash the checks which his mouth is underwriting. There is plenty of opposition from the Silent Majority to the craziness contained in Political Correctness, however Greg Gutfeld is right that political incorrectness is speaking the truth but not necessarily lewdness.