Donald Trump & Carly Fiorina Answered Foreign Policy Questions, And One Of Them Totally Bombed
The Donald Trump campaign just had a not-so-fantastic day. It may or may not hurt him, of course, because it really seems like nothing can. But make no mistake, he took a real political beating, even though it was strictly by contrast — Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina answered foreign policy questions Thursday, in separate interviews with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt. Can you guess who showed up better prepared?
Hewitt is a broadly well-respected interviewer, and as the Washington Post described in an extensive profile of him on Friday, he's also very savvy in terms of newsmaking. His questions probed Trump in some sorely lacking areas — specifically, identifying key figures within Middle East terrorist networks, and speaking extemporaneously about the impacts of the Iranian nuclear deal, as detailed by CBS News.
Trump did not handle it well. He intially misheard a question about the leader of Iran's elite Quds Force as being a question about the Kurdish people, and plainly showed very little knowledge on Hewitt's question once the mistake was cleared up. He also insisted it wasn't important that he didn't know the names of the terrorist leaders Hewitt dropped — that they probably wouldn't be around anymore by the time he took office, and that they were basically "history questions." For some perspective, two of those names were Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of Al Qaeda, and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS.
Just like you'd expect, Trump has since gone on the attack, branding Hewitt a "third-rate interviewer" who was indulging in "gotcha" questions. But the biggest problem for Trump might not even be his own fumbling and stumbling, but how starkly different things were when Fiorina spoke with Hewitt later that day. In a performance remniscient of her polished, well-prepared performance in the undercard GOP debate in August, she basically rolled through and answered the questions with a grace Trump wasn't able to muster. Here's a comparison of how they answered.
Trump On Iran's Gen. Qassem Suleimani
After Hewitt clarified that he'd said "Quds" and not "Kurds" — Trump seemed eager to turn the conversation towards his view that the Kurdish people have been mistreated by the United States — he only had this reaching reply.
Is he the gentleman that was going back and forth with Russia? Meeting with Putin? I read something, and that seems to be also where he's at — he's going back and forth meeting with other countries, et cetera, et cetera. ... Not good. Not good for us.
Fiorina On Iran's Gen. Qassem Suleimani
While Fiorina's answer was pretty standard fare for any Republican candidate who's going to sit down with a fairly trenchant conservative interviewer like Hewitt, when you compare it to Trump's meandering, it's practically a master class.
There’s no doubt. There’s no doubt. Look, we know that the general of the Quds Force has been a powerful tool of the Iranian regime to sow conflict. We also know that the Quds Force are responsible for the deaths and woundings of American soldiers. We also know that the Quds Force have been in Syria and a whole bunch of other countries in the Middle East.
The Iranian deal — which sadly, has just been approved by Congress — starts a massive flow of money, and that money is going to be used not only to build up an Iranian nuclear weapon — which they have been hell-bent on getting for thirty years — that money is also going to go to the Quds Force, going to go Hezbollah. It’s going to go to all of Iran’s proxies which is why I’ve said to you on other occasions, Hugh, that we have to stop the money flow.
And even if Congress had succeeded in stopping this deal — which we now know they have not — the reality is that China and Russia and European money are already flowing to Quds Force among proxies. And that’s why I’ve said I’d cut off the money flow, by letting the Supreme Leader know that, hey, there’s a new deal, and we’re going to make it as hard as possible for you to move money around the global financial system so that we cut off the money flow from the Iranian regime to whomever, including the Quds Force.
Trump On Terrorist Leaders
When asked if he knew the names of terrorist figures like Hezbollah's Hassan Nasrallah, al-Nusra's Abu Muhammed al-Julani, ISIS's Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and al-Qaeda's Ayman al-Zawahiri "without a scorecard," Trump bristled noticably. He ultimately dismissed the question's relevance, and accused Hewitt of going for a "gotcha" moment.
No, you know, I’ll tell you honestly, I think by the time we get to office, they’ll all be changed, they’ll be all gone. I knew you were going to ask me things like this, and there’s no reason, because number one, I’ll find, I will hopefully find General Douglas MacArthur in the pack. I will find whoever it is that I’ll find, and we’ll — but they’re all changing, Hugh. You know, those are like history questions. Do you know this one, do you know that one...
... that is a gotcha question, though. I mean, you know, when you’re asking me about who’s running this, this this, that’s not, that is not, I will be so good at the military, your head will spin.
Fiorina On Terrorist Leaders
Here's a good object lesson for Trump — if you don't know something, you can usually still acquit yourself well by being respectful and humble about that fact. That was how Fiorina approached the same question from Hewitt, who smartly got both of them on the record about it.
Well, I have to be very honest with you and say that sometimes I can get confused a bit between the name and group because they sound a bit alike sometimes, so I have to pause and think sometimes. But, I certainly know all those names both of the individual leaders and of the terrorist groups. I certainly understand where these terrorists are in play. I certainly understand that one of the most dangerous things that is going on right now is competition among these leaders and among their terrorist groups.
So on the one hand, we see organizations like Boko-Haram pledging allegiance to ISIS — in other words — joining forces and conducting horrific acts on behalf of ISIS. But on the other hand, we see competition among these groups, so Al-Qaeda and ISIS are competing now. Al-Nusra is competing. That’s also dangerous because the way these terrorist groups compete is by one-upping each other in the horrific nature of the violence that they conduct.
What can't be overstated is how different the two candidate's tones were — Fiorina was well-composed and confident, while Trump seemed unable to go into any depth, beyond a narrow band of issues he'd drilled down on.
And, of course, there'a contrast in their post-interview reactions, too — Trump has gone on the offensive, while Fiorina reassured Hewitt that the questions were entirely fair. Again, this might not hurt Trump that badly, because his appeal to a certain type of Republican voter seems bulletproof. But it could be a harbinger of flubs to come.