The first GOP 2016 presidential debate was substantive, fast-paced, informative and fun, of all things. A big reason for the fun was that TV celebrity and businessman Donald Trump was on stage. He brought his normal Trump persona to the stage and was brash and occasionally funny. He started off strong, in his own way. But he followed up these flashes with some amazingly tone-deaf, illogical, stupid and bizarre statements. Here are 10 of the worst.
1) Didn’t rule out a third-party run
Bret Baier asked the candidates, “Is there anyone on stage, and can I see hands, who is unwilling tonight to pledge your support to the eventual nominee of the Republican party and pledge to not run an independent campaign against that person?”
Donald Trump was the only person to raise his hand. Baier noted that experts say a third-party run from a prominent candidate would kill the GOP’s chances of winning the election.
Trump made it clear that if the GOP wouldn’t nominate him, he was strongly considering a third-party run. “If I’m the nominee, I will pledge I will not run as an independent. But — and I am discussing it with everybody, but I’m, you know, talking about a lot of leverage.”
2) Refused to support eventual GOP nominee unless it was himself
He also said, with what would become a pattern of semi-illiterate syntax, “I cannot say. I have to respect the person that, if it’s not me, the person that wins, if I do win, and I’m leading by quite a bit, that’s what I want to do. I can totally make that pledge.”
3) Said he loves the single payer healthcare system
He was asked why, if he now says he opposes Obamacare, he supported single payer systems years ago. He said, “As far as single payer, it works in Canada. It works incredibly well in Scotland. It could have worked in a different age, which is the age you’re talking about here.” He went on to mention some stuff about a private system and about insurance companies and politicians working together (all of which might have been salient or worthwhile in the hands of someone who knew health policy in any way). When Rand Paul told him he was wrong to support single payer, Trump attempted to insult him by saying he had trouble hearing.
4) Said calling women disgusting fat pigs is just keeping it real
Megyn Kelly pointed out that he speaks his mind but that he speaks very poorly of women. He responded by making a joke about Rosie O’Donnell, which kind of worked, as they spar a great deal. Kelly noted that the problem was with more women than O’Donnell, and he tried to defend himself on the grounds that the country is too politically correct.
Indeed it is! But not every instance of being an asshole is about being politically incorrect.
5) Admitted to buying off politicians
When asked about his many contributions to Democrats, considering he’s running for a Republican nomination, Trump admitted “When I need something from them two years later, three years later, I call them, they are there for me.”
6) Admitted to having to pay people to attend his wedding
Perhaps the saddest thing about admitting to buying off politicians for personal favors was that he called in a favor to get someone to come to his wedding!
“Well, I’ll tell you what, with Hillary Clinton, I said be at my wedding and she came to my wedding. You know why? She didn’t have a choice because I gave.”
I know I’m not the expert on weddings that Trump is, as I’ve only had one and he’s had three, but I didn’t pay anyone to come to my wedding! That’s the saddest thing I’ve ever heard!
7) Was unable to substantiate his outlandish claims about the Mexican government
Say what you want about Trump, he has brought a real diversity of thought to the immigration debate. At a time when there’s very little daylight between Republican and Democratic establishment figures on the immigration debate, many voters support Trump because he does present a different view. Pinning him down on that view, however, is almost impossible.
And when Chris Wallace asked him if he had any evidence for his claim that the Mexican government was sending criminals to the United States, Trump was unable or unwilling to answer. So Wallace gave him another 30 seconds to answer. He claimed he had conversations with unnamed Border Patrol agents and suggested that something they said led him to believe these claims about the Mexican government.
What’s sad about this is that there are candidates who could force better debates on the issues of their choosing, but Trump’s lack of substantive rhetoric will not actually effect any real change in policy.
8) Who better to help manage a bankrupt country than, uh, a guy who’s had a bunch of bankruptcies
Yeah, he said that.
9) Couldn’t explain if or when he had become a Republican
Trump was asked when he became a Republican. Here’s what he said:
As far as being a Republican is concerned, I come from a place, New York City, which is virtually, I mean, it is almost exclusively Democrat. And I have really started to see some of the negatives — as an example, and I have a lot of liking for this man, but the last number of months of his brother’s administration were a catastrophe. And unfortunately, those few months gave us President Obama. And you can’t be happy about that.
10) 24 hours? Closer to a month, Donald
Asked how he would respond to a top Iranian general traveling to Moscow to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump offered this word salad:
TRUMP: I would be so different from what you have right now. Like, the polar opposite. We have a president who doesn’t have a clue. I would say he’s incompetent, but I don’t want to do that because that’s not nice.
TRUMP: But if you look at the deals we make, whether it’s the nuclear deal with 24 hour periods — and by the way, before you get to the 24 hours, you have to go through a system. You look at Sgt. Bergdahl, we get Bergdahl, a traitor, and they get five of the big, great killers leaders that they want. We have people in Washington that don’t know what they’re doing. Now…
If you understand what he’s saying beyond the joke about Obama, you speak Trump better than most. But his confusion about the terms of the deal — it’s 24 days, not 24 hours — aren’t the problem so much as the complete inability to form a coherent thought that can be communicated in any meaningful way to people not already a fan of the Trump celebrity.