Just a quick note on the final GOP debate before the Iowa caucuses. I think Gov. Jeb Bush had his best night, and I know I’m not the only one who is thinking about what might have been had Donald Trump not been in this race. But Trump is in the race, and he has sucked all the proverbial air out of the room. Some would see this as a show of strength. But I don’t see it that way. It’s a show of insult and bravado. Michael Gerson is right:
Days away from the first votes of the presidential nomination process, the prohibitive Republican front-runner is successfully applying the lessons of his pro wrestling career to dominate media coverage and prevent opponents from gaining attention and traction. God help us…
As for who won the debate, I agree with David French who makes a good case that Bush won. But he also observes that his solid performance is too late to help his candidacy in Iowa:
This debate was a fascinating glimpse into what might have been absent the disrupting force of Donald Trump. Bush was far more at ease without one of the candidates hurling middle school insults at him, and the debate itself was substantive — showcasing the GOP’s most effective communicators. This is why people said the GOP had a “deep bench” in 2016. Absent Trump, the three-man contest likely would have been between Bush, Rubio, and Cruz. But might-have-beens are irrelevant, and in this evening’s audition for the best alternative to Donald Trump, Marco Rubio won the night.
Trump’s “low energy” attack on Bush was devastating, below the belt, and effective. It was a personal attack that had no relevance to any of the substantive issues at hand. But Trump has proven that he specializes in sophomoric insults. He may have elevated himself by doing so, but he has diminished the process. I was glad he wasn’t on the stage tonight. It is a shame that qualified candidates are about to have to cede the race to the one man in the race who is singularly unqualified. On that note, one final word from Gerson:
It is a tribute to the seriousness of the Trump candidacy that we should be considering the real-world consequences of his temperament. But his feud-seeking, his personal insults, his shock-jock transgressiveness, his sexism, his mocking of those with disabilities, his clumsy deceptions, his toxic leadership style, his cultivation of chaos should be issues in this campaign. And they should be disqualifying in a prospective president.
Read the rest of Gerson’s column here.