Longshot lands body blow on Trump
Fiorina slams billionaire rival, but Donald walks away from CNN debate without a dent
WASHINGTON — For more than 10 minutes, Donald Trump was silent. And then, just for a moment, something even rarer happened: he looked embarrassed.
The second Republican presidential debate, Wednesday night on CNN, was hyped by the faltering campaigns of Jeb Bush and Scott Walker as the night they would finally match the aggression of the bully who has stolen their thunder and their supporters.
They tried, briefly. So did Rand Paul. But the only candidate to bring even fleeting shame to the shameless billionaire was the candidate who had to beg and plead to get on the stage: Carly Fiorina.
Trump had insulted the looks of the former Hewlett-Packard chief executive in the presence of a Rolling Stone reporter. Asked for her response, Fiorina referred to Trump’s criticism of Bush’s effort to distance himself from a gaffe on women’s health funding.
“You know, it’s interesting to me,” Fiorina said, poised. “Mr. Trump said that he heard Mr. Bush very clearly and what Mr. Bush said. I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said.”
The California crowd applauded long and hard. Trump, not quite getting the point, feebly responded that he thinks Fiorina is a “beautiful woman” with a “beautiful face.”
It was one of several strong moments for Fiorina, who would not have been part of the three-hour marathon at all without an aggressive lobbying campaign by her campaign.
CNN had limited the prime-time debate to the top 10 candidates in the polls, relegating the others to an earlier session. By CNN’s original formula, Fiorina would have missed the cut. The network agreed to expand the unwieldy group to 11 to accommodate her recent rise to 5 per cent.
She repaid the favour by delivering the debate’s most memorable moments — though sometimes dishonestly.
On the subject of Planned Parenthood, whose officials have been secretly filmed discussing the transfer of fetal organs for medical research, Fiorina offered a vivid, emotional denunciation.
“Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kick- ing, while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain,” she said. “This is about the character of our nation, and if we will not stand up in and force President Obama to veto this bill, shame on us.”
She earned the most enthusiastic applause of the night — though none of the undercover videos includes a scene like the one she described.
Tightly packed on stage at Ronald Reagan’s presidential library — a retired Air Force One visible behind them — the 11 candidates each went long periods without talking. Even Trump, whose incessant unscripted monologues have made him the darling of both cable news producers and a conservative base unhappy with career politicians.
The Fiorina exchange notwithstanding, though, Trump did not appear to suffer any grievous wounds – in part because he appears impervious to lines of attack that would dam- age more conventional candidates.
When Paul, the Kentucky senator, chastised Trump for criticizing others’ looks, Trump essentially called Paul himself ugly: “I never attacked him on his looks, and believe me, there’s plenty of subject matter right there.” When Bush, the former Florida governor, correctly noted that he had rejected Trump’s lobbying campaign to build casinos in the state, Trump simply shook his head and said: “Totally false.” When secondplace candidate Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon, said vaccines do not cause autism, Trump insisted they actually do.
And Trump, as he has done all campaign, forcefully advocated positions anathema to other top Republicans. Asked how he would challenge Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s involvement in the Syrian civil war, Trump said, “I would talk to him. I would get along with him.” When Carson de- nounced taxing the rich as “socialism,” Trump said he would raise taxes on hedge fund managers.
“We’ve had a graduated tax system for many years, so it’s not a socialistic thing,” Trump said.
Bush, initially perceived as the likely nominee, was more forceful in this debate than last, but he stumbled on predictable questions about his expresident brother. He appeared ill prepared even for a confrontation he chose: when Trump refused to comply with his dramatic demand to apologize to his Mexican-born wife for dragging her into their debate on immigration, he meekly moved on.
He also managed to offer the night’s most confounding answer. When the moderator, CNN’s Jake Tapper, went down the line asking the candidates which woman should be put on the U.S. $10 bill, Bush had time to think – and then picked Margaret Thatcher, the late U.K. prime minister.
Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump sparred with former Florida governor Jeb Bush during Wednesday’s debate.