Carly Fiorina was not the only candidate who faced off with Donald Trump last night over a very personal issue.
The question that sparked the most contention between Jeb Bush and Trump — “Did Trump go too far when he suggested Bush’s views on immigration are influenced by his Mexican-American wife?” — became the perfect illustration of a more subtle point that many of the GOP candidates made during the debate.
Trump does not have the temperament to be the leader of the United States of America.
Bush spun the situation perfectly. Not only does Trump not have the humility and common decency to apologize for insulting another man’s wife, but Ronald Reagan would be ashamed to share the same party name as this man who calls himself a Republican.
The point that Bush articulated was that Americans are made by choice. Our country’s founders were born in Britain, but when did they become Americans? George Washington believed this happened during the Revolutionary War when they chose to sacrifice their individual interests for something greater than themselves; when they developed a national character.
Policy aside, since even Bush calls for secure borders and a path to legal status rather than amnesty, this is an important dimension added to the immigration debate. Last night, Bush made himself into the heir of Reagan, the man who takes a “hopeful, optimistic approach” to immigration and the real people involved.
The Trump approach, he said, is “everything is bad, everything is coming to an end.”
It is true that this is Trump’s approach to all policy, as he then presents himself as the strong, hard-line candidate who can lead us out of the storm. For the time being, the polls show that this approach has worked.
But as Walker jabbed at Trump last night, “we don’t need an apprentice in the White House, we have one right now.”
Why does temperament matter in this presidential race? And why does Trump’s proud and degrading approach to immigration matter?
Simply put, a leader must unify, and Trump only wants to divide. No matter how much Trump will “get along” with Putin, a divided nation is a susceptible nation.
Maybe we don’t need another Reagan in the White House. But we need someone with his empathy and clear-headedness. As Reagan himself said, “whatever else history may say about me when I’m gone, I hope it will record that I appealed to your best hopes, not your worst fears…”
Anna Pfaff works for American Principles in Action.