On the Wednesday March 2nd edition of The Sean Hannity show, Newt Gingrich commented that Marco Rubio had turned to character assassination in his effort to destroy Donald Trump. Gingrich said Trump needs to come up with responses to the attacks by the establishment and return the focus to the issues.
This is surreal. If there is anyone on the Republican side that has expertly deployed the ad hominem approach to campaigning it is Donald Trump.
On the stump Trump talks about the wonder he sees when he gazes in the mirror, his poll numbers, the stupidity of his opponents, and whatever pops into his head. He mocked Jeb! for his low energy and Marco Rubio for his height. Ted Cruz was his best friend on the debate stage until he started to look like he could win, then he became a liar and a bad guy.
The other candidates tried to differentiate themselves by talking about their different policy views. From the start of his campaign Donald Trump sucked all the air out of the room, often taking a greater share of media coverage than the other candidates combined. He was certainly captivating with his bold take on the immigration issue but it was his antics that have given him a lion’s share of the conversation.
Donald Trump has directed his fire across the board. Of Senator McCain he said that he preferred “people who weren’t captured.” Trump gave out Lindsey Graham’s cell phone number when the two engaged in a back and forth over the summer. In the fall he lashed out at Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon with an inspirational up from poverty story, as someone whose “pathological” temper disqualified him from the presidency. Trump feuded with journalists, but not over questions of substance, but whether he had been asked not so nice questions.
Returning to Newt Gingrich’s advice to redirect attacks to the issues, two nights later Donald Trump gave us a new low in modern politics. After Marco Rubio’s taunts over several days finally got to him Donald Trump devoted time during a nationally televised debate to let everyone know that he is just fine. This is not the reaction of a decent man blindsided by a question out of left field it is the behavior of a bully and a boor thrown off balance by someone who stole his tactics.
Aside from some in the media no one thinks that this is appropriate for the campaign trail or debates broadcast to the country. Candidates should get the opportunity to share their vision for the future of the country and question each other over their respective records. The descent into a schoolyard brawl is unfortunate but The Donald started it.