Tonight in Miami was the most substantive Republican debate of the 2016 election, though it was shocking how Donald Trump made calls for civility on stage in light of how he slashed and burned his way to be most divisive GOP frontrunner in generations.
Whether it was dismissing the Tiananmen Square heroes as mere “rioters” rather than understanding the magnitude of their bravery and sacrifice or dismissing an entire global religion of 1.6 billion adherents as extremists, Trump again illustrated he was out of his league on matters of policy and substance.
While Common Core certainly has its problems, Trump also did not seem to realize they were state-based standards, not federal ones. He also continued his anti-capitalist blustering on trade, though he was aided by moderator questioning positioning free trade as a bad thing for jobs instead of highlighting massive consumer surplus.
Marco Rubio had returned to his element because the conversation was about policy and substance rather than the schoolyard fight in the prior debate, and he outshone Trump on every issue, including his more nuanced response on Islamic terror, acknowledging that while there are extremists, most Muslims are peaceful and that in a visit to Arlington National Ceremony, you’d see crescent moons on graveyards–monuments to Muslim soldiers who gave their all for this country.
Rubio was also highly impassioned and articulate in contrasting against Trump on the issue of Cuba. Rubio pointed out that the Obama administration did not extract concessions for human rights in exchange for loosening sanctions. Trump tried to backpedal and say that he did not support the Obama policy, but it was clear he wasn’t fluent on the issue.
While it was a risk in a Miami debate, in a state heavily populated by seniors, it was brave of Rubio to highlight problems with entitlement spending that will kill discretionary spending and the widening budget deficits under current trajectories.
Ted Cruz also had a strong night in pointing to contrasts against Donald Trump, asking on the issue of foreign policy “Do you want to continue on the same basic trajectory of the last 7 years?” This was due to the fact that Trump has supported John Kerry and Hillary Clinton financially, and praised Clinton’s work as Secretary of State. Cruz was also speaking like a real economist tonight when he pointed out that tariffs hurt consumers by jacking up prices.
Kasich had a quiet though solid night, including a memorable line for Millennials: “Young people today think they are more likely to see a UFO than Social Security check.”