The Most Abrasive Politician Ever? Trump's Insults Have Belittled and Smeared Almost All the GOP Candidates
Donald Trump has discovered that the biggest TV show of all—running for president—thrives on punch lines, not policy papers. So Trump has punched and attacked and belittled most of his 2016 GOP rivals with one notable exception: Ted Cruz, who praises Trump and shares his stage with him.
But a summer of seemingly unending insults has entered a new political season. And as the GOP prepares for its second nationally televised debate Wednesday from Ronald Reagan’s library, the question looming largest is who has the political skill to put the GOP’s frontrunner and bully extraordinaire in his place?
Trump will face 10 rivals on CNN. Here’s what he has said about many of them this summer and recently.
Carly Fiorina: Many people are expecting the former Hewlett-Packard CEO to take on Trump, after he shifted from political attacks to personal swipes. This summer, he derided her as “headache”-inducing, for her pointed barbs and speaking style. That was before the first GOP debate, when Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly asked Trump to respond to his history on misogynist remarks. That exchange sparked more slurs, which Fiorina said was unacceptable.
In a subsequent campaign stop, Trump said, “Carly was a little nasty to me — be careful, Carly! Be careful! But I can’t say anything to her because she’s a woman. . . . I promised that I wouldn’t say that she ran Hewlett-Packard into the ground. I said I wouldn’t say it! That her stock value tanked. That she laid off tens of thousands of people, and she got viciously fired. I said I will not say that. And that she then went out and ran against Barbara Boxer, and . . . lost in a landslide. And I said, ‘I. Will. Not. Say. That!’”
More recently, with a Rolling Stone reporter in the room as Trump and several aides were watching a TV interview with Fiorina, Trump blurted out, “Look at that face… Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president? …I mean, she’s a woman, and I’m not s’posedta say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?”
After the story with that anecdote appeared, Trump backtracked on CNN’s New Day, saying, “I’m not talking about looks… I’m talking about persona.”
Jeb Bush: If anything, Trump’s attacks on the latest Bush to seek the presidency have been even nastier than his smears about Fiorina. Astute pundits have said that Trump is intentionally breaking the unwritten rule in politics that one never personally attacks—your allies do that—as a way to unnerve competitors and gain a psychological edge. With Bush, Trump has attacked his vitality and his wife’s Latino heritage.
As the AP reported, “A true Trumpism requires a personal dig. Trump has repeatedly served that up by calling Bush ‘low energy’ and suggesting ‘every time you watch him, you fall asleep.’” He has criticized Bush for his education and immigration stances “because Jeb Bush is in favor of Common Core, and he’s weak on immigration. Those are two bad things.” But he really went after Bush for speaking in Spanish, which apparently is the language that Bush speaks with his wife at home.
“I like Jeb,” Trump told Breitbart News. “He’s a nice man. But he should really set the example by speaking English while in the United States.” As CNN.com reported, “Trump was referring to the former Florida governor’s comments to reporters on Tuesday about Trump’s policies. “El hombre no es conservador,” Bush said, which translates to, “This man is not a conservative.”
These anecdotes are the tip of Trump’s Bush insult iceberg, TheHill.com reported. “I’m not a big fan. The last thing we need is another Bush,” Trump said on June 16. Trump's Twitter account also retweeted an insult to Bush’s wife on July 4: “@RObHeilbron: @realDonaldTrump #JebBush has to like the Mexican Illegals because of his wife.” It was later deleted.”
Scott Walker. The fervently anti-union Wisconsin governor has slipped in the polls since last winter, when he was leading after early events catering to Iowa’s right-wingers. Like his attacks on Fiorina and Bush, he has attacked Walker for lousy business skills, his support of federal education standards, and low energy.
“Wisconsin’s doing terribly,” Trump said. “First of all, it’s in turmoil. The roads are a disaster because they don’t have any money to rebuild them. They’re borrowing money like crazy… I wrote this stuff all down, although I don't need it because I have a really good memory — but they projected a $1 billion surplus and it turns out to be a deficit of $2.2 billion. And money all over the place. The schools are a disaster, and they’re fighting like crazy because there's no money for the schools. The hospitals and education is a disaster.” He continued: “And he was totally in favor of Common Core! Did you his know that? He was totally in favor of [Common Core], which I hate.”
“I love Wisconsin, it’s a great place. But he’s putting debt up to gills,” Trump said about Walker on CNN’s ‘State of the Union’ on Sunday. “The school system is a disaster because they don’t have any money. I mean, Walker’s state, Wisconsin, is a catastrophe from an economic and a financial standpoint.” And in front of a Rolling Stone reporter while watching a TV report praising Walker’s “slow but steady” style, Trump commented, “Yeah, he’s slow, all right! That’s what we got already: slowwww.”
Ben Carson: Trump’s criticism of the retired neurosurgeon, who is in second to Trump in some polls, also is to challenge his business skills—saying Carson doesn’t know how to be America’s negotiator-in-chief.
“Ben can’t do that. Ben’s a doctor and he’s not a dealmaker,” Trump said. “I think I have been a world-class businessman … and I make deals and I’ll bring back jobs and I’ll also bring back wealth to our country and I’ll build up our military so that nobody is going to mess with us… But Ben is not a dealmaker at all, and I don’t think would be a very good — I don’t think that’s his natural ability at all.”
John Kasich: The Ohio governor was one of the last candidates to officially announce, but quickly drew Trump’s scorn as a lousy manager and copycat politician. “What people don’t know about Kasich—he was a managing partner of the horrendous Lehman Brothers when it totally destroyed the economy!” he tweeted on May 20. He also tweeted, “I now see John Kasich from Ohio—who is desperate to run—is using my line “Make America Great Again”. Typical pol—no imagination!”
Rand Paul: Trump’s combative reflexes are especially attuned to people who criticize him—like Paul did during the first GOP debate, when the Kentucky senator pressed him to explain his position on health care reform. Trump, of course, ducked anything resembling specifics, but attacked personally, “I don’t think you heard me. You’re having a hard time tonight.” Then Trump kept up the attacks in follow-up appearances, as Rolling Stone noted. “‘They had 24 million people [at the debate the other night]… Do you think they were there for …Rand Paul? Rand, I've had you up to here!’ He touches his armpit, zinging the vertically challenged Paul: ‘He didn’t like it when I said you have to pass an IQ test to get up on the stage.’”
After the first debate, he mocked Paul, an eye surgeon, for asking him for a donation for his center that gives free care to impoverished people. “Recently, Rand Paul called me and asked me to play golf. I easily beat him on the golf course and will even more easily beat him now, in the world in the politics,” Trump said in comments reported by the Washington Post. “Senator Paul does not mention that after trouncing him in golf I made a significant donation to the eye center with which he is affiliated.”
And he hasn’t dropped his grudge. Fox News reported he hit Paul just last weekend. “Lightweight Senator Rand Paul should focus on trying to get elected in Kentucky--- a great state which is embarrassed by him,” he tweeted. “I truly understood the appeal of Ron Paul, but his son, Rand Paul, didn’t get the right gene.”
Who Will Stand Up to Trump?
Meanwhile, Trump’s enemies list keeps growing. It includes other GOP 2016 contenders, such as Sen. Lindsey Graham, who he called a “jackass” on TV; Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who he called a “zero;” Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, former New York Gov. George Pataki, and ex-Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the first candidate to drop out of the race.
Trump has upended the GOP field by saying that he is strong, everyone else is weak; he is experienced in business and negotiating, everyone else is inexperienced and weak; and attacking segments of American society that are threatening to the largely white Republican base: non-white undocumented migrants and criminal elements. While many of his competitors would bring a right-wing agenda to the White House if elected, none are purporting to be an American strongman in waiting as Trump is.