Polman: Trump may take GOP down with him
If success is measured in ignorance and arrogance, then the winner of the fourth Republican debate was Donald Trump.
Granted, it's old news to bemoan the bloviating mogul, but he's impossible to ignore, like a car wreck on the side of a road. He was booed twice Tuesday night by a Republican audience that knows darn well a Trump nomination would spell doom next November. Indeed, a new national poll shows Hillary Clinton burying the boor by 15 points.
Unfortunately, other than Trump there's wasn't much to marvel at during the debate. Credential-free Ben Carson opined on foreign policy (we can "fairly easily" seize Iraq oil fields!), which was like watching a toddler try to cross a city street without adult supervision.
Ted Cruz extolled the "incredible economic growth" under Calvin Coolidge, somehow forgetting that Coolidge's laissez faire attitude paved the way for the Great Depression.
Carly Fiorina lied yet again, insisting that "Obamacare isn't helping anyone" (except for the 16 million people it has helped, according to the U.S. Census and the Centers for Disease Control).
Marco Rubio was characteristically slick, and thanks to the friendly Fox Business moderators, he never had to defend a tax plan that tilts toward the rich, deepens the budget deficit, and does nothing to alleviate the income inequality that Republicans claim to care about.
John Kasich bellowed at every turn, saying centrist stuff that might work in a general election, but is deadly in a Republican primary.
But Donald Trump? Oh man. I can't tell the difference between his real-life shtick and his Saturday Night Live act. He's the apotheosis of "politicotainment," and he's doing great damage to the party he purports to lead, especially in a couple of key areas.
Once again, Trump argued for the need to forcibly eject as many as 11 million people from the country, noting, "They are going to have to go out." He sought to buttress his stance by citing a modest removal program that President Eisenhower OK'd in the 1950s. He neglected to mention that the program was called Operation Wetback, and that it was infamous for its human rights abuses.
Jeb Bush entered the discussion and stated the obvious — when the Republicans talk about forced deportation as a magical bromide, "they're doing high-fives in the Clinton campaign right now when they hear this." True that. Clinton strategists immediately tweeted that they were doing high-fives. Even if Trump fails to win the nomination, his racism may well stain the party anyway.
Trump's 'd'oh!' moment
Trump predictably railed against the Obama administration's Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, saying, "The TPP is a horrible deal. It is a deal that is going to lead to nothing but trouble. It's a deal that was designed for China to come in, as they always do, through the back door and totally take advantage of everyone."
In other words, according to Trump, this international trade deal is bad because we negotiated badly with China. Enter fact-checking Rand Paul, who jumped in and said, "We might want to point out China is not part of this deal."
Just a little fact that Trump should've known. Indeed, said Paul, "There is an argument that China doesn't like the deal, because in us doing the deal, we'll be trading with their competitors."
You've really screwed up when you get yourself punked by a cipher like Rand Paul.
Sexism, yet again
The GOP has lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections primarily because they decisively lose woman voters. Trump is not helping the party recoup lost ground. Tuesday night, the men on the margins — notably Kasich and Paul — repeatedly interrupted their rivals, to compensate for their fringe positions on stage. But late in the debate, when Fiorina sought to do the same, Trump audibly muttered, "Why does she keep interrupting everybody? Terrible."
Trump was booed, again. For the sake of the party's long-term health, they should keep it up.
Dick Polman is a national political columnist and a "Writer in Residence" at the University of Philadelphia.