Rubio Comes Out Swinging
US Senator Marco Rubio was cool as a cucumber, appropriately aggressive, and sharp as a tack in Thursday’s Republican presidential debate.
In his spontaneous responses to moderators’ questions and to Donald Trump’s remarks about the U.S. and Israel, his moral clarity shone: “A deal is not a deal when you’re dealing with terrorists” and “The Palestinians are not a real estate deal, Donald.” Exactly. It ain’t that simple.
Rubio also scored some points in pointing out Trump’s hypocrisy: “You’re the only person on this stage that’s ever been fined for hiring people to work on your projects illegally.”
Trump, in contrast, came across as a red-faced, sputtering angry presence. While I think Trump is a very interesting figure who in some ways might conceivably make an effective president, I also think he’s a wild card: Conservatives and people like myself — who care deeply about human rights and the plight of dissidents and democracy supporters around the world, as well as about Israel — are, I think, very wise to be cautious about him.
Sure, he’s a doer and he’s not a wimp (and his mercurial, brash personality could, I think, be an asset on the international stage. I do think terrorists and dictators would be less inclined to attack America with him at the helm, if only because they would be hard-pressed to predict his actions and reactions, at least at first).
Then again, while we live in a lawless world and there is something to be said for boldness as a deterrent (and I think idealistic, kumbaya-singing liberals, ivory tower intellectuals and career diplomats underestimate its importance), it’s also true that tough talk only goes so far. Trump’s seeming lack of balance and composure and his lack of respect in dealing with anyone who opposes him, even entirely legitimately (such as a reporter asking tough questions) does suggest to me some real anger management and ego issues that defy the norm for a man of his intelligence. He does not strike me as extremely psychologically, well-balanced.
The man or woman who shouts the loudest and is quick to insult is rarely actually the toughest in terms of resiliency; ability to stay calm and focused in a crisis; ability to see situations clearly in their nuances as well as their black and white aspects; and inner resources. Trump seems at times to lack a sense of proportion. For instance, he wildly overreacted to Megyn Kelly’s perfectly legitimate question in the first debate last August. Though he is quick to insult, he is very thin-skinned and hypersensitive – a bad combination that suggests the personality of a classic bully. In that sense, I worry that when faced with real defeat or a true shock, he may not be very tough or logical. On the other hand, he does manage to operate in business at a very high level, and he’s decisive and confident. In crisis, he could be great. Or he could overreact, behave impulsively, or even fall apart. In contrast, I would predict someone like Dr. Ben Carson — who actually has overcome tremendous disadvantage to succeed in life and seems like a very well-integrated personality — is more the type of individual I would want to be with in a shipwreck or a foxhole or – heaven forbid – an attack on this country. (And points to Dr. Carson for the funniest line of the night, “Can somebody please attack me?”)
At any rate, though I think Trump made an effort this evening to keep his temper in check, his bright red face on stage as Rubio went after him on substance – including Trump’s insistence that he would be “neutral” on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and his past hiring of illegal immigrants by the thousands, which utterly contradicts his fierce stance and threats regarding illegals – belied his attempts at composure. Ironically, in a CNN interview after the debate Trump harped on Rubio’s lack of effective response to Christie’s attacks in the previous debate, calling him a “choke artist” and reviving a stale and ridiculous complaint about Rubio – that he sweats – it was Trump, not Rubio, who looked like he was sweating last night.
Ohio Governor John Kasich keeps promising to stay positive and he has avoided attacking Trump. I heard Kasich, interviewed on CNN after the debate, say of Super Tuesday, “Nobody is going to win but Trump.” I also have noticed that Trump has not attacked Kasich.
Here’s a prediction: if Trump gets the nomination, Trump will ask Kasich to run as his vice president (at any rate, it would be a smart move on the part of Trump to ask him).
But we might – or might not – get to that point. I think both Cruz and Rubio are in it to win it and I don’t see either of them dropping out regardless of Tuesday’s outcome.
Whether that hands the nomination to The Donald is anyone’s guess.