When Trump declared that President Bush lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Jeb – who has previously been criticized for tame debate performances – hit back hard.
"I am sick and tired of him going after my family. My dad is the greatest man alive," Jeb Bush said. "While Donald Trump was building a reality TV show, my brother was building a security apparatus to keep our country safe."
Trump fired back: "The Word Trade Center came down during his brother’s reign." The comment drew loud boos from the crowd in Greenville, S.C.
George W. Bush, whose victory in the South Carolina Republican primary catapulted him to the nomination in 2000, will campaign for his brother in the Palmetto State next week ahead of the GOP vote on Feb. 20.
So tonight Trump has praised Planned Parenthood and eminent domain and called George W Bush a liar.— Nicholas Thompson (@nxthompson) February 14, 2016
Trump didn't have the crowd Saturday night, but he's got the polls. The latest ones put him up 16 to 19 percentage points over Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is third, with 15 to 13 percent, Bush has 13 to 11 percent, former Ohio Gov. John Kaisch has 9 percent in both recent polls and Ben Carson has 5 percent.
The bitter debate threatened to veer into chaos several times as the crowd booed and hecked – mostly Trump. Trump sparred with Bush. Trump sparred with Cruz. And Cruz sparred with Rubio.
At one point Kaisch declared: "These attacks, some of them personal, are terrible. I think we’re fixing to lose to Hillary Clinton if we don’t stop this."
Most Jerry Springer shows were more orderly and dignified and respectful than this debate. This is awesome.— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) February 14, 2016
Earlier in the evening, Bush and Trump sparred over Middle East policy after the billionaire tycoon said the U.S. should work with Russia to destroy ISIS in Syria. Bush retorted: "This is a guy who gets his foreign policy from the TV shows. This is a guy who thinks he can insult his way to the nomination."
Trump attacked Bush's policy on Syria by saying, "If you listen to that, we’re going to be in the Middle East for 15 more years and start World War III."
That comment, too, drew boos from the crowd. To which Trump retorted: "I only tell the truth, lobbyists."
When Trump declared that Bush was the weakest candidate on immigration, Bush responded: "If you want to talk about weakness, it’s weak to disparage women. It’s weak to disparage Hispanics. It’s weak to denigrate the disabled."