During Thursday night's unusually civil debate, Sen. Marco Rubio got into a relatively civil exchange with Donald Trump about his latest horrifically offensive comments about Muslims. "Last night you told CNN, 'Islam hates us,' " moderator Jake Tapper said to Trump.* “Did you mean all 1.6 billion Muslims?"
"I mean a lot of them," Trump said, to a fair amount of cheers. "I mean a lot of them." When Tapper asked him if he wanted to "clarify" his comment, he might as well asked Trump if he wanted to drop out of the race. "I will tell you there's something going on that maybe you don't know about, maybe a lot of other people don't know about, but there's tremendous hatred," Trump said. "And I will stick with exactly what I said to Anderson Cooper."
Sen. Marco Rubio was asked to respond. He did so eloquently.
Let me say, I know that a lot of people find appeal in the things Donald says. The problem is presidents can't just say anything they want. It has consequences here and around the world.
And so let me give you one. Two days ago, I met this extraordinary couple who are on furlough because they are missionaries in Bangladesh. It's a very tough place to be a missionary. It's Muslim. Their safety and security relies upon friendly Muslims that live alongside them that may not convert but protect them and look out for them... They tell me today they have a hostile environment because the news is coming out that in America leading political figures are saying that America doesn't like Muslims. This is a real impact.
There's no doubt that radical Islam is a danger in the world. I can also tell you if you go to any national cemetery, especially Arlington, you'll see crescent moons there. If you go anywhere in the world you'll see American men and women serving us in uniform that are Muslims. And they love America. And as far as I know, no one on this stage has served in uniform in the United States military. Anyone out there that has the uniform of the United States on and is willing to die for this country is someone that loves America. No matter what their religious background may be.
Donald Trump called this response out for being unnecessarily "politically correct," to which Rubio responded: “I'm not interested in being politically correct. I'm interested in being correct."
Rubio cannot be held blameless for the reputation that America "doesn't like Muslims." Recall that Rubio last fall toyed with the idea of shutting down mosques, a notion put forth by Trump. Rubio also criticized President Obama's visit to a mosque earlier this year, even though Obama was doing the exact sort of thing that a president should be doing, per Rubio's comments above. But that was during Rubio's dark-and-gloomy period earlier this year, which followed his sunny-and-hopeful period of late last year and preceded his more recent foray into dick jokes. Perhaps Rubio, with his campaign running on fumes, has finally stopped overthinking it.
On "substance," though, the party's still with Trump.
Correction, March 11, 2016: In describing an exchange between Jake Tapper and Donald Trump, this post misidentified Trump as Ted Cruz. (Return.)