By Tom Quiner
1. DONALD TRUMP WILL NOT BE PRESIDENT. Donald Trump has turned the Republican debates into a high quality reality show. This is not all bad. Republicans are enjoying record television ratings, thanks to Mr. Trump. Quality candidates are gaining valuable exposure, again thanks to the ratings boost directly attributable to Trump’s schtick.
Trump WILL fade as voters get more serious and focus on policy details more than individual personality. An example. Regarding ISIS, Trump said:
“Syria’s a mess. You look at what’s going on with ISIS in there, now think of this: We’re fighting ISIS. ISIS wants to fight Syria. Why are we fighting ISIS in Syria? Let them fight each other and pick up the remnants.”
He basically just described President Obama’s current, failed policy.
Here is how The Donald would handle Putin:
“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.”
We need an adult in the White House dealing with serious foreign and domestic issues exacerbated by Mr. Obama’s failed policies. Anyone of the Republicans on last night’s stage would be a dramatic improvement, with the exception of Donald Trump. The superficiality of his thinking will become manifest in the debates to come.
2. CARLY FIORINA IS THE BIG WINNER. The Drudge Report’s online, unscientific survey showed that 20% of viewers thought that Ms. Fiorina won the debate. (For the record, 54% said Trump won, which I attribute to the reality show buzz surrounding the debates right now.) Every other candidate was in single digits.
Fiorina is a formidable debater. Even more, she is establishing the persona of a formidable leader. Her put down of Trump for his insufferable remarks about her appearance will live in debate lore forever. I am certain Saturday Night Live writers are at work on a sketch based on this exchange.
Did you notice what Carly did after her withering putdown of Trump? She didn’t budge an inch.
She didn’t look at him.
Her expression didn’t change.
She is tough as nails. Every man on that stage knows they are dealing with a heavyweight contender. The feckless Hillary Clinton would be no match.
3. THE REPUBLICAN BENCH IS DEEP. Other than Trump, we witnessed a lively, intelligent exchange on important issues of the day. There were sharp lines drawn on certain issues, especially foreign policy with Rand Paul on the Left and the rest of the candidates on the Right. Mr. Paul made his case very well. He was countered forcefully by Marco Rubio, and Lindsay Graham in the earlier debate. Let the debate continue!
By contrast, the Democrat’s bench is thin and old.
4. THE DEPTH OF MARCO RUBIO’S POLICY GRASP IS IMPRESSIVE. The rap against the 44 year old Rubio is that he may be too young for the job. The youngest president was Teddy Roosevelt at 42 followed by John Kennedy at 43 and Bill Clinton at 46. Rubio would be 45 when sworn in.
Rubio, though, distinguishes himself with a mature understanding on how the world works and how the proper public policy can make it work better. He delivers his message with clarity, specifics and inspiration. An example regarding Putin:
“Well, first of all, I have an understanding of exactly what it is Russia and Putin are doing, and it’s pretty straightforward. He wants to reposition Russia, once again, as a geopolitical force. . . . He’s trying to destroy NATO . . . He is trying to replace us as the most important power broker in the Middle East.”
Contrast this cool analysis with Trump’s clownish response above.
5. BEN CARSON SLIPPED. I love Dr. Carson. He is bright and acts like an adult. But he’s feeling his way on what type of policy he should embrace. He lacks the clarity demonstrated by a Rubio or Fiorina. He talked about a flat tax in one breath. But after hearing Mike Huckabee’s case for the Fair Tax, he back pedaled and said he’d consider that approach, too, as if he were hearing about it for the first time.
I love the Fair Tax, but it will never, ever be enacted. Candidates agree on some sort of tax simplification. Rand Paul’s is the cleanest of them all with a simple flat tax. I do believe that tax simplification will happen in some form, but it will take strong leadership. Can a Ben Carson provide it? I’m not convinced based on his wishy-washing response last night.