Joshua Green notes that last night’s debate finally found an effective way to make Donald Trump shut up, just start a serious discussion about policy.
The broad and beleaguered field of Republican presidential candidates, all but ignored during the raucous Summer of Trump, finally found a way to silence the GOP front-runner: they talked about policy. Wednesdayâ€™s CNN debate at the Ronald Reagan presidential library began with all the bluster and histrionics weâ€™ve come to expect from Donald Trump. He sucker-punched Rand Paul right out of the gate. He bickered with Jeb Bush. He mugged, squinted, and brooded. And then he did something no one anticipated. He fell silent.
In a wild melee that moderators struggled to control, the 11 candidates jockeyed and sparred throughout. But unlike the low-calorie Fox News debate in Cleveland, CNNâ€™s torturous three-hour affair veered into policy issues for long stretchesâ€”stretches during which Trump entirely disappeared.
While his more polished and policy-fluent opponents delved deeply into discussions about issues ranging from how best to fight Islamic terrorism to their assessment of Supreme Court judges to marijuana legalization, Trump barely participated. When he did chime in, he had little to contribute beyond insults and boasts about how his own personal toughness and negotiating prowess would reshape the geopolitical order. Asked how, for instance, he would get the Russians out of Syria, Trump replied, â€œI would get along with a lot of the world leaders that this country is not getting along with.â€
Trump didnâ€™t exactly flop. His bluster and showmanship carried him through, for the most part. And the crush of candidates straining for attention filled the awkward pauses and silences left by his inability to speak in any meaningful depth about subjects besides immigration and his own wealth.
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