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As Romney Warns Trump Will Lead U.S. into Abyss, Challengers Vow to Back Trump If He’s GOP Nominee

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In an extraordinary day for the Republican Party, the GOP’s past two presidential nominees, Mitt Romney and John McCain, denounced Donald Trump, saying the current Republican front-runner is a danger to the nation and the party. “Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud,” Romney said. “His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University.” Hours after Mitt Romney spoke, Donald Trump came under more criticism at a debate in Detroit, but all three of his remaining challengers vowed to support him if he wins the nomination.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: In an extraordinary day for the Republican Party, the GOP’s past two presidential nominees, Mitt Romney and John McCain, denounced Donald Trump, saying the current Republican front-runner is a danger to the nation and the party. Romney spoke in Utah.

MITT ROMNEY: Let me put it very plainly: If we Republicans choose Donald Trump as our nominee, the prospects for a safe and prosperous future are greatly diminished. … I understand the anger Americans feel today. In the past, our presidents have channeled that anger and forged it into resolve, into endurance and high purpose, and into the will to defeat the enemies of freedom. Our anger was transformed into energy directed for good. Mr. Trump is directing our anger for less than noble purposes. He creates scapegoats in Muslims and Mexican immigrants. He calls for the use of torture. He calls for killing the innocent children and family members of terrorists. He cheers assaults on protesters. He applauds the prospect of twisting the Constitution to limit First Amendment freedom of the press. This is the very brand of anger that has led other nations into the abyss. Here’s what I know: Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University.

AMY GOODMAN: Hours after Mitt Romney spoke, Donald Trump came under more criticism at a debate in Detroit hosted by Fox News. Florida Senator Marco Rubio also focused on Trump University, Trump’s for-profit venture now at the center of a multimillion-dollar fraud claim.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO: He’s trying to do to the American voter what he did to the people that signed up for this course: He’s making promises he has no intention of keeping. And it won’t just be $36,000 that they lose; it’s our country that’s at stake here. The future of the United States and the most important election in a generation, and he is trying to con people into giving them their vote, just like he conned these people into giving them their money.

MEGYN KELLY: Let’s just [inaudible]—

DONALD TRUMP: Let me tell you, the real con artist—excuse me, excuse me. The real con artist is Senator Marco Rubio—

SEN. MARCO RUBIO: The only con artist on this stage is Donald Trump.

DONALD TRUMP: —who was elected in Florida and who has the worst voting record in the United States Senate. He doesn’t go to vote. He’s absent.


DONALD TRUMP: He doesn’t go. Now, the people of Florida can’t stand him. He couldn’t get elected dogcatcher.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Texas Senator Ted Cruz, meanwhile, blasted Trump for having donated to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2008.

SEN. TED CRUZ: I understand the folks who are supporting Donald right now. You’re angry. You’re angry at Washington, and he uses angry rhetoric. But for 40 years, Donald has been part of the corruption in Washington that you’re angry about. And you’re not going to stop the corruption in Washington by supporting someone who has supported liberal Democrats for four decades, from Jimmy Carter to John Kerry to Hillary Clinton. You’re not going to stop the corruption and the cronyism by supporting someone who has used government power for private gain. Instead, we need a president who stands with the American people.

AMY GOODMAN: The Republican debate repeatedly broke down into shouting matches and name calling. Within the first 10 minutes of the debate, Trump even defended the size of his penis while responding to a recent comment from Marco Rubio about the size of his hands.

DONALD TRUMP: I also happened to call him a lightweight, OK, and I have said that. So, I would like to take that back. He’s really not that much of a lightweight. And as far as—and I have to say this. I have to say this. He hit my hands. Nobody has ever hit my hands. I’ve never heard of this. What—look at those hands. Are they small hands? And he referred to my hands—if they’re small, something else must be small. I guarantee you, there’s no problem. I guarantee you.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Ohio Governor John Kasich tried to stay out of the fray but also advocated for the most hawkish foreign policy of the night, calling for a significant number of U.S. ground forces in Syria, Iraq and Libya.

GOV. JOHN KASICH: Fortunately in Libya, there’s only a few cities on the coast, because most of Libya is a desert. The fact of the matter is, we absolutely have to be—and not just with special forces—I mean, that’s not going to work. Come on, you’ve got to go back to the invasion, when we pushed Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. We have to be there on the ground in significant numbers. We do have to include our Muslim Arab friends to work with us on that. And we have to be in the air. And we—it should be a broad coalition made up of the kinds of people that were involved when we defeated Saddam. Now, you’ve got to be on the ground and in the air both in Syria and Iraq. And at some point, we will have to deal with Libya.

AMY GOODMAN: Despite the growing attacks on Donald Trump from within the Republican establishment, all three of his challengers vowed to support Trump if he wins the nomination.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO: I’ll support the Republican nominee.

BRET BAIER: Mr. Trump, yes or no?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO: I’ll support Donald if he’s the Republican nominee.

BRET BAIER: Senator Cruz, yes or no, you will support Donald Trump if he’s the nominee?

SEN. TED CRUZ: Yes, because I gave my word that I would.

BRET BAIER: Yes or no, would you support Donald Trump as the Republican nominee?

GOV. JOHN KASICH: Yeah, I—but—and I kind of think that before it’s all said and done, I’ll be the nominee.

AMY GOODMAN: To talk more about the Republican debate, we’re joined by two guests. Lester Spence is associate professor of political science and Africana studies at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. His new book is Knocking the Hustle: Against the Neoliberal Turn in Black Politics. And joining us from Irvine, California, is Brian Levin, the director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University in San Bernardino. His recent article in The Huffington Post is “We All Must Draw a Line Against Hate and Violence.”

Lester Spence, let’s begin with you. Your reaction to the debate last night?

LESTER SPENCE: It was like pulling teeth watching it. I was born in Detroit, grew up in the Detroit area, and I think it’s really interesting that at no point in time during the debate at all did they talk about the policies that are affecting Detroit, the policies that are affecting cities like Flint, policies of emergency financial management, that actually kind of reflected a bipartisan consensus but were basically created by a Republican Legislature and a Republican governor. My mom was a substitute teacher at Spain Elementary. She just retired. Spain Elementary, what? They had a rodent infestation. They had a gym that was crumbling. And it required Ellen DeGeneres and, I think, Justin Bieber to donate money to get it straight. And they didn’t talk about any of that.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And in your book, you deal a lot with the whole issue of the neoliberal impact on public education in the country. But there’s been, in these—certainly in the Republican debates, very, very little discussion of education, except for Trump repeatedly saying, “We’re going to get rid of Common Core. We’re going to get rid of Common Core.”


AMY GOODMAN: And the Department of Education.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And the Department of Education.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s how he would save money.

LESTER SPENCE: Yeah, yeah. And again, if you think about the state of Michigan, the state of Michigan has some of the laxest regulations on charter schools. And what I think either a Free Press or a Detroit News report suggested was that because of that lack of regulation, you’ve had significant levels of corruption and a number of charter schools that were allowed to function long after they should have been closed. We didn’t have a discussion of—again, we didn’t have a discussion of any of that.

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