Excerpt – Chapter 4: “Blood Coming Out of Her Wherever”

Published April 20, 2018

On Thursday, August 6, 2015, the crowd was slow in arriving at Quicken Loans Arena but eventually filled the 5,000 best seats. Most were there just to see the main event, which started at 9 p.m. The preliminary event, scheduled for 5 p.m., was for diehards only.

Quicken Loans Arena is best known as home to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers of the National Basketball Association, but tonight’s crowd was not there to watch basketball. They were there to watch the 16 “other” candidates for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination try to gain ground on the surprising leader in the early polls, Donald Trump.

It was questionable going into the debate how interested people were in the 2016 election so early in the campaign, but thanks largely to Trump and the whirlwind his unconventional style was stirring, a record 24 million viewers tuned in to the Fox News telecast—three times more than for any previous primary debate, and the largest audience ever for a non-sports cable TV event.

The field of candidates was too large for one debate, so there were two debates. The 10 candidates with the highest national poll numbers qualified for the main debate. The lower seven jousted in a preliminary bout. The field (alphabetically) looked like this:

Main Debate

Jeb Bush—Former Governor, Florida

Ben Carson—Retired Neurosurgeon

Chris Christie—Governor, New Jersey

Ted Cruz—US Senator, Texas

Mike Huckabee—Former Governor, Arkansas

John Kasich—Governor, Ohio

Rand Paul—US Senator, Kentucky

Marco Rubio—US Senator, Florida

Donald Trump—Real Estate Developer and Television Personality

Scott Walker—Governor, Wisconsin

 

Preliminary Debate

Carly Fiorina—Former CEO, Hewlett-Packard

Jim Gilmore—Former Governor, Virginia

Lindsey Graham—US Senator, South Carolina

Bobby Jindal—Governor, Louisiana

George Pataki—Former Governor, New York

Rick Perry—Former Governor, Texas

Rick Santorum—Former U.S. Senator, Pennsylvania

 

In both debates, the partisan Republican crowd cheered anything that was anti-Democrat, anti-Hillary Clinton, or anti-Barack Obama. At times, it sounded more like the crowd for a Jerry Springer or Maury Povich show (not to disparage Mr. Springer or Mr. Povich). America would soon learn that this was the new normal for presidential debates, at least on the Republican side.

Among the also-rans, Carly Fiorina distinguished herself the most by talking tough on national defense. Like all the candidates, she trashed the Iran nuclear deal, but she was the only one to promise that on her first day in office, she would tell Iran the deal was off and would insist on new conditions before lifting economic sanctions.

In the main debate, Rand Paul and Chris Christie got into a meaningless snit over government surveillance. Then Paul chided Christie for hugging President Obama when the president had visited New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy—the insinuation being that Republicans were supposed to hate Obama, not hug him.

Mike Huckabee, a favorite of evangelical Christians, was first to attack Planned Parenthood for selling tissue from aborted fetuses “like parts to a Buick,” but all the candidates—including the only pro-choice member of the panel, former New York governor Pataki—said they’d seek to defund Planned Parenthood in the wake of the covert videos portraying the sale of fetal tissue for research.

It was mainly up to Trump to liven up the proceedings. He pounded further on Mexico and illegal immigration, but he raised even more eyebrows when he expressed support for a single-payer national health-care system.

“It works in Canada,” he said. “It works incredibly well in Scotland.”

Actually, it works in most places. The United States is the only developed country in the world that relies on for-profit insurance companies to pay for health care. The United States pays far more per capita for health care than any other country as a result, and with just middle-of-the-pack outcomes.

Trump must have forgotten which party he was representing. Republicans are against socialized medicine (except for Medicare), whether that’s how the rest of the world does it or not. When Trump realized this, he backtracked a bit—but his initial statement made the rest of the panel even more wary of this brash outsider.

An exchange between Trump and Fox News moderator Megyn Kelly was what really set off post-debate fireworks, however. During the debate, Kelly quoted some derogatory comments Trump had made in the past about women, calling them “fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals,” among other things. In light of this, Kelly asked, “How will you answer the charge from Hillary Clinton, who is likely to be the Democratic nominee, that you are part of the war on women?”

“I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct,” Trump responded. “I don’t have time for political correctness, and this country doesn’t either. This country is in big trouble. We don’t win anymore. We lose to China. We lose to Mexico, both in trade and at the border. We lose to everybody.” In other words, You’re worried about me saying disparaging things about women when the country is going to Hell in a handbasket—which is why the country is going to Hell in a handbasket!

Trump told Kelly he thought her question was unfair and complained afterward that his questions had been tougher than those asked of the other candidates. He indicated that Kelly had a vendetta against him or wasn’t in her right mind. “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever,” he said.

Did he say “blood coming out of her wherever?” That was the public reaction. It seemed like Trump was insinuating that Kelly was having her period during the debate. He denied this was what he meant, but he continued to take jabs at Kelly’s journalistic integrity.

Trump’s Republican challengers jumped all over him for, in their view, disparaging women. “Do we want to win?” asked Jeb Bush, referring to the general election. “Do we want to insult 53 percent of all voters?” Of course, despite Bush’s use of the word “we,” it was only Trump who had insulted women. Surely he would be the only one to feel any voter backlash.

Remarkably, though, he did not. Trump’s lead in the polls did not diminish. Although some attributed this to the brand of people he attracted, the fact remained that voters would need to be the ones to send Trump packing between this debate and the Republican convention in July of 2016 (coincidentally also to be held at Quicken Loans Arena)—and they showed no signs of doing that any time soon.