Yesterday, both Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina appeared on Hugh Hewitt’s radio program. Hewitt asked both candidates about Gen. General Qasem Soleimani, the leader of Iran’s Qud Forces who made headlines last month when he traveled to Russia to visit with Vladimir Putin in violation of existing sanctions on Iran.
When Hewitt asked Trump about Soleimani, he initially mixed up the Quds with the Kurds. Although Trump was aware of Soleimani’s trip to Russia, he said Hewitt’s query was a “gotcha question.” Trump said, “Well, that is a ‘gotcha’ question, though, you know, when you’re asking me who’s running this, this, this.” Hewitt mentions several other prominent Islamic terrorist leaders including Hassan Nasrallah of Hezbollah, Ayman al-Zawahiri of al Qaeda, and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi of ISIS and Trump dismissed this by saying, “By the time we get to office, they’ll all be changed, they’ll all be gone.” I wouldn’t be so sure of that. While it appears that al-Baghdadi was wounded in a coalition airstrike back in March, al-Zawahiri has been a prominent leader for more than three decades going back to his days with the Egyptian chapter of Islamic Jihad. Nasrallah has led Hezbollah since 1992 and Soleimani has led the Quds since 1998. These people aren’t flavors of the month. Trump doesn’t have to be an expert, but he will need to have some grasp of who these players are if he wants this job as badly as he says he does.
Yet when Hewitt posed the same question about Soleimani to Carly Fiorina later that day, she answered it with ease, noting that the Quds forces were responsible for killing and wounding American soldiers. Fiorina did not whine about it being a “gotcha question.” Nor did she refer to Hewitt as “a third-rate radio announcer,” as Trump did today. If Trump considers Hewitt to be so third-rate and beneath him, then why would he appear on his show in the first place? Indeed, Trump has appeared on his show four times in the past month.
Trump is angry because Hewitt threw him off balance. It isn’t the job of a good journalist to tell Trump how great he is. Trump is quite capable of telling us that all by himself. Given everything we’ve been through under President Obama, we ought to want journalists to ask tough questions of the people who seek office and see how those candidates handle those questions. Or is Trump simply exempt from this standard?
If Trump considers Hugh Hewitt’s questions to be “gotcha questions,” then it leaves me to wonder what questions Trump doesn’t categorize as “gotcha.” If Trump is going to get angry at every tough question asked of him then he’s going to burn a lot of bridges and eventually will burn himself out long before the Republican National Convention, never mind the election.
If Trump wants to be President, he has to expect tough questions whether he likes it or not. Some of them might not be fair, but that comes with the territory. Ronald Reagan endured a lifetime of unfair questions. What separated him from everyone else was his ability to handle those unfair questions with a combination of toughness, grace, and good humor. Trump has a lot to learn if he wants to measure up to Reagan. He also needs to brush up on foreign policy. In which case, perhaps Carly Fiorina can give him a tutorial.