In a Trump-Free Debate, Everyone Tries to Out-Trump Trump

We were treated Thursday to the vision of seven other men who want to run the country, and they were as terrifying as Trump

Ted Cruz and the rest of the top-polling Republican candidates gathered in Iowa Thursday for a Fox News-hosted debate. Credit: Scott Olson/Getty

If Donald Trump becomes president of the United States, the world will be a much more dangerous place. A thoughtless, impulsive, thin-skinned lunatic obsessed with his own machismo is not someone you want in charge of the most powerful military (not to mention nuclear arsenal) on the planet.

But Trump wasn't on the debate stage Thursday night. Instead, we were treated to the vision of seven other men who want to run the country, and for the most part they're just as terrifying as their party's frontrunner.

They may not all be as bombastic as Trump, and their plans may not sound quite as vague. But when it comes to America's role on the world stage, the other Republicans vying for the presidency are just as ill-informed, unprepared and downright dangerous.

"I will apologize to nobody," Ted Cruz announced with his usual flair (the same flair he showed as a debate team star in college without ever learning to speak like an actual human being), "for the vigorousness with which I will fight terrorism, go after ISIS, hunt them down wherever they are, and utterly and completely destroy ISIS."

That's Cruz's entire foreign policy. He's going to destroy ISIS, unlike Barack Obama, who likes to take ISIS out for ice cream and talk to it about its behavior.

How will Cruz destroy ISIS? He'll carpet bomb them. Since ISIS is embedded in cities with thousands of civilians, how will he carpet bomb it to death without murdering ISIS's victims?

"You want to know what carpet bombing is?" Oh good! He's going to explain it. "It's what we did in the first Persian Gulf War; 1,100 air attacks a day, saturation bombing that utterly destroyed the enemy."

In the first Persian Gulf War, we were attacking Iraq's army, not a terrorist organization embedded into a population. It was easy to find 1,100 targets a day, and of course there were still civilian casualties. Where would Cruz find these targets in the fight against ISIS? Maybe he'd politely ask them to leave the cities.

At least Cruz is focused on a genuine threat — ISIS is a vicious band of terrorists who murder, rape and torture in the name of a twisted ideology. Chris Christie has a little trouble figuring out where the real threats to America are coming from.

"Well let me tell you what the country should really be worried about," Christie said, leaving us all on the edge of our seats. What was this threat that ought to keep us up at night? He went on to tell the story of an Iowa voter who had a pointed question for Hillary Clinton.

"They asked about her email situation."

That's it. That is the No. 1 threat America faces, according to the straight-talking, bridge-blocking New Jersey governor. The former secretary of state used a personal email address. Next to the blinking green lights on the server in the Clinton home, Ted Cruz's carpet bombs might as well be birthday candles.

Marco Rubio defended his Trump-inspired plan to fight domestic terrorism by shutting down mosques here at home, and said we'll capture terrorists "wherever they are, and if we capture them alive, they are going to Guantanamo."

Defending the terrorist prison at Gitmo from President Obama's plans to shut it down has been a fixture in the GOP campaign since the 2008 campaign, when Mitt Romney said he'd double it in size. In the eight years since, the prison has been the star of both al Qaeda and ISIS's recruitment efforts. When they capture Americans or other westerners, they use Guantanamo to justify their mistreatment. Any candidate who doesn't promise to actively work to shut down Gitmo is only promising to make terrorist threats against the United States stronger.

But it was Ben Carson, bless his heart, who provided the most entertainingly insane and misinformed foreign policy vision of the night. First he was asked about a Muslim veteran, a mother who was worried about raising her children in an atmosphere of anti-Muslim hatred (growing, of course, thanks to Donald Trump). Carson's response? "[We] need to stop allowing political correctness to dictate our policies, because it's going to kill us if we don't."

A Muslim mother — a veteran — is worried about people attacking her children, and Carson is worried about political correctness. Like Rubio's promise to throw more people into Guantanamo, Carson's barely veiled threat that immigrants must "accept our values" is as dangerous as it is ugly.

Later in the evening, moderator Bret Baier asked Carson what he would do if Vladimir Putin invaded Estonia, a NATO member, and the Baltic nation invoked "Article IV, an attack on one is an attack on all. What do you do?"

After suggesting we send more troops and weapons to the Balkans, Carson laid down this mystifying bit of wisdom: "I think we ought to give Ukraine offensive weapons, and I think we ought to fight them on the economic basis, because Putin is a one-horse country: Oil. And energy. And we ought to fight them on that level."

Putin is a country? And he's a one-horse country, which is made up of two horses, oil and energy, which are horses? Did Ben Carson operate on his own brain?

Carson's nonsense aside, the foreign policy vision for the GOP that emerged Thursday night was one of thoughtless aggression that would make the world, and Americans, far less safe. Most of the men on the stage were out to prove one thing: They were tougher than all the other guys, and they were the ones who will swing the biggest… let's say "bat"... at the terrorists.