Last night’s Republican debate was a terrific show. After having to endure months of Donald Trump, America finally got to see him exposed for what he is: a vacuous blowhard.
Thanks to deft and persistent skewering by Senator Marco Rubio, who just would not let Trump get away with his standard techniques of interrupting and overstating and insulting, Trump was embarrassed repeatedly. On health care, immigration, foreign policy, and issue after issue, Trump showed himself to be a colossal know-nothing who has no real positions beyond vague platitudes, and only the dimmest grasp of facts. That reality became clearer and clearer as Trump flailed and babbled in response to Rubio’s aggressive questioning and, ultimately, mockery. After that debate, does anyone think that Trump’s promises to “repeal and replace Obamacare with something much better” have any substance, or for that matter that Trump has any idea what a “much better” plan would even look like?
Thanks to Rubio, and to a lesser extent Senator Ted Cruz, we finally got to hear about some of Trump’s actual history and record on things like hiring immigrant workers and “Trump University,” about his clothing lines, and his tax returns, and his lawsuits. It’s not a pretty record, but I’m guessing that many of the people who were watching the debate were hearing about it for the first time.
Those of us who have long thought Trump an empty-headed braggart may well ask why it took so long for other candidates to finally take some meaningful shots at him — but better late than never. Until now, Trump has gotten by on sheer force of personality and his willingness to violate all rules of courtesy and decency. His supporters hear his interruptions and insults and confuse his lack of civility with anti-establishment toughness. So far, they’ve excused his lack of knowledge on the issues because they think he projects strength and success. Last night, however, Trump was shown to be anything but the strong, successful frontrunner. And when, after Rubio’s attacks, Trump belittled the questioner who asked an entirely fair question about Trump’s tax returns — making a mean and gratuitous comment about radio show ratings — Trump looked like a desperate jerk, rather than the confident and unflappable front-runner his supporters have come to expect. He’s like the loudmouth jerk at a bar who can’t do anything but hurl personal abuse when he’s presented with facts that show he’s wrong.
Lots of people have been talking about “Teflon Don” and his supposed clear path to getting the Republican nomination. No doubt there are some Trump fans who could care less that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, but I think many of his supporters just desperately want to change the direction in which the country is headed and think voting for Trump is the best way to do that. After last night, they might come to realize that Trump is a pig in a poke, and voting for him would be a total leap of faith. Maybe those who haven’t fully guzzled the Trump Kool-Aid will start to see the Donald for the crass know-nothing windbag that he really is.