After subsiding for a few weeks, the Donald Trump / Carly Fiorina feud heated up again at Tuesday night's Republican presidential debate. During a discussion about U.S. involvement in Syria, Fiorina attempted to interject while Rand Paul was speaking. Paul asked to finish, and then Trump jumped in, asking the moderators, and perhaps the audience, why Fiorina kept interrupting everybody.
Trump was booed for the remark, and appropriately so. His criticism of Fiorina reeked of sexist, dated expectations about how women should and shouldn't act in conversation — namely, that they shouldn’t try to get a word in when the boys are talking. The fact that Fiorina was the only woman on a stage of men didn’t make Trump come off any better; nor did the fact that every candidate in the debate was constantly interrupting everyone. Add in how Trump wasn’t even the one being interrupted, and he may as well have just said “Quiet down, honey. Let the men handle this one.”
For a better example of how to handle such a situation, look no further than Paul — the one who was actually being interrupted. During the crosstalk, he simply asked the moderators, “Can I finish with my time?” He didn’t use the opportunity to attack, or even reference, Fiorina.
Engaging in misogynistic attacks against Fiorina is familiar ground for Trump. He was roundly criticized in September saying of her, “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that?” He later attempted to patch things up during a debate by complimenting her “beautiful” face, which most certainly hurt his cause more than it helped.
Make no mistake: Debates are rough-and-tumble affairs, and candidates have to fight for every second of speaking time. But there’s a way to do that without being misogynistic. Trump just hasn’t figured it out yet.