The gloves came off against Donald Trump during CNN’s Town Hall on Monday night, as the four other presidential candidates from both parties took turns pummeling the GOP’s leading contender in a desperate, final attempt to slow his momentum.
“In business there’s not an automatic ability to understand politics,” said Gov. John Kasich. “It’s not the same. Some people can make the transition … [politics] is more complicated, more nuanced,” he told Anderson Cooper. Kasich also said there is a “below zero” chance of his joining a ticket with either Trump or Sen. Ted Cruz, and conceded to the host that Trump’s language regarding riots was unacceptable.
Cruz held nothing back in his criticisms of Trump. “You can listen to Donald Trump on any given day and he can give you three different answers in the course of the day,” the senator told Wolf Blitzer.
Cruz also criticized Trump’s stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, suggesting it “buys into the moral equivalency” between the two sides “that many in the media pitch.” The Texas senator called Trump’s questioning of the value of NATO “hopelessly naive.” Donald Trump is effectively saying “that he would unilaterally surrender to Russia and Putin,” Cruz claimed.
“Donald gets scared, he begins lashing out,” Cruz railed. “He begins attacking. He begins insulting. He begins yelling. Often, he begins cursing … his entire campaign is built on a lie,” Cruz said.
“The lie behind Donald’s campaign is that he will stand up to Washington,” added Cruz. “He is the system. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are flip sides of the same coin. Donald Trump has made billions buying influence in Washington. Hillary Clinton has made millions selling influence in Washington.”
He continued, “Trump has supported liberal Democratic politicians for 40 years from Jimmy Carter to John Kerry to Joe Biden to Chuck Schumer to Harry Reid to Hillary Clinton as a presidential campaign. I have zero interest whatsoever,” he added (in being Trump’s running mate).
Hillary Clinton was even more scathing in her criticism of Trump than Cruz, claiming the GOP front-runner “has been engaging in bigotry and bluster and bullying. And I think when it comes to understanding what he would do as president, there are serious questions that have been raised in this campaign.”
“His incitement of violence, his constant urging on of his supporters in large numbers to go after protesters, his saying ‘I want to punch people in the face’ and telling somebody who did punch somebody, ‘I will pay your legal bills’ — I think that raises very serious questions,” Clinton told Cooper.
Sen. Bernie Sanders echoed those criticisms. His “temperament, that kind of divisiveness which he is engendering, the kind of violence which he is almost encouraging, is not what the American people want,” said Sanders. “There’s no question but he has authoritarian tendencies.”
Trump, however, defended both himself and his supporters from the various allegations made against them Monday night and throughout his campaign. “My people aren’t the problem. They’re the problem,” he said, referring to protestors at his rallies. “Let me tell you, you have agitators. These aren’t even protesters. You have agitators,” he told Blitzer.
When questioned by Blitzer about his language, Trump said, “I think people understand … half of that was show business. The dropping to the knees, that was in ‘The Apprentice.’ The Rosie O’Donnell stuff” was show business.”
He added, “Look, these politicians, I know them. They say far worse when they’re (behind) closed doors or when they’re with a group of people that they trust … And you know in Florida, the amazing thing, they spent $38 million in negative ads on me, and you know what? I won by a record landslide. Pretty amazing.”