These rugby scrums have long since run their course and served their purpose in finally winnowing down the frighteningly overpopulated size of the GOP presidential field, and there's nothing that any of the candidates haven't said already countless times by now, so there really wasn't much to look for from last night's group appearance.
Trump, the bombastic billionaire, remains atop the polls [alongside Senator Cruz] nationally but locked in a tight race with Cruz in Iowa. That’s why Trump has been shivving Cruz on his constitutional eligibility, even though most legal scholars consider this another sideshow.
Because he has nothing on Cruz in policy terms that wouldn't make him look even more like a Democrat than he does already, even though the legal scholars, ironically, are dead wrong.
Cruz was ready with a rejoinder questioning Trump’s own qualifications.
As one would expect of a national debating champion. It was like watching McCoy debate Spock, frankly, and should be demolishing Trump's candidacy for how it completely undermines his "deal-making" and "strong leadership" boasts. Take a close look, Trumplicans, because if you get your wish, this is what every world leader - think Vladimir Putin, Xi Jing Ping, Kim Jong Un, Ali Khamenei - is going to be doing to your well-groomed hero for at least the next four years.
“At the end of the day, the legal issue is quite straightforward,” Cruz said calmly. He had prepared for this moment. After all, he didn’t win national debating championships by happenstance. “But I would note that the birther theories that Donald has been relying on, some of the more extreme ones insist that you must not only be born on U.S. soil....
Which is not true.
....but have two parents born on U.S. soil.
Two parents that are U.S. citizens at the time of your birth, yes - which was not the case for Senator Cruz and why he isn't eligible. Senator Cruz doesn't know that because, as much of an originalist as he claims to be, he still has been brainwashed by that "judicial review"-drenched Harvard law education. Donald Trump doesn't know that because he's an ignorant buffoon who doesn't care what the facts are but just wants to tear out Senator Cruz's scrotum.
Under that theory, not only would I be disqualified, Marco Rubio would be disqualified [which he should be], Bobby Jindal would be disqualified [Who cares? He's not even in the race anymore] and, interestingly enough, Donald J. Trump would be disqualified.”
The moment caught Trump by surprise. “Not me!"
Zing! You see how you disarm and pants Hairboy, folks? Don't play his "high concept drama" game of playground taunts; keep emotion out of it. Simply calmly dismantle him with the facts and expose his shallowness and vapidity. He'll take care of the rest of his humiliation himself.
In this case, Trump had no idea what Cruz was talking about, because the Texas senator had done his homework, and The Donald had not.
Oh, yes, you. A woman born in 1912, in some voters’ minds, might be the thing that finally disqualifies Trump from the most powerful office in the land
“Donald’s mother was born in Scotland. She was naturalized,” Cruz continued with the calm of a former Supreme Court lawyer, which he is.
Prior to Trump's birth, presumably. Which established his constitutional eligibility. If that had been Trump's riposte, we could take him at least somewhat seriously.
That wasn't his spluttering comeback, however:
“But I was born here. Big difference,” Trump said, trying to set this attack back on track and stretching out the adjective as long as he could. “Big” became a very big word. He knew the clip was going to be a cable news favorite.
And that was an irrelevant and non-responsive answer, because location of birth does not constitutionally determine citizenship
Senator Cruz, entertainingly, wasn't finished:
“On the issue of citizenship, Donald, I’m not going to use the issue of your mother’s birth against you,” Cruz said. It was a fantastic reminder that no white paper, no policy address can compete in the modern era of political campaigns with the snide dagger stabbed just below a rival’s rib cage.
And remember: Trump brought it entirely upon himself.
And still it wasn't done. Since Trump doesn't know constitutional jurisprudence from his bunghole, he went out of his way to desperately cite Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Tribe as his authority, which only opened the door for Cruz to point out how Tribe is a leftwingnut Democrat and staunch Hillary Clinton supporter and wonder aloud why Trump has so many prominent Democrat friends for an ostensibly Republican presidential candidate.
As I say, Trump's candidacy should be in stiffening rigor mortis this morning after what would have been a complete disaster for anybody else. But because his supporters are all about "populist" mental irregularity, it'll probably wind up boosting him in the polls, as just about everything does. Why should rationality suddenly make an appearance in what has been an acid trip of a campaign up to now?
Latest case in point, and I'm going to run these two videos side by side so that the parallel is impossible to miss:
Haven't we had more than enough of "cults of personality"? Isn't the very concept fundamentally unAmerican? And why do a quarter to a third of Republican voters, if the polls can be believed, want their own version of it with a candidate that is neither conservative nor Republican?
UPDATE: If you're inclined to give Iowa to Cruz and New Hampshire to Trump, this is a harbinger of the direction in which South Carolina might go....