Stop lowering tone of debate

Republican Donald Trump addressed the a sold out crowd during the East Cooper Republican Club meeting Monday February 15, 2016. Grace Beahm/Staff

Saturday night’s Republican presidential debate in Greenville had its moments of substance, particularly on the immigration issue. But it was again marred by the distractions of personal invective, mostly by front-runner Donald Trump. The real estate magnate and reality television star further demonstrated his lack of civility in a series of loud, boorish interruptions and personal insults.

For example, in an exchange with Ted Cruz, Mr. Trump repeatedly called the Texas senator a liar, and continued to interrupt Mr. Cruz when he attempted to respond.

“You probably are worse than Jeb Bush. You are the single biggest liar,” Mr. Trump said. “This guy will say anything, nasty guy.”

Actually that last statement might be better applied to Mr. Trump, who spent much of his time and effort on Saturday night ripping former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush on matters unrelated to the current presidential contest.

For example, he criticized the decision of Mr. Bush’s brother, former President George W. Bush, to invade Iraq and the former president’s support of eminent domain in Texas. He even contended that the former president deserved to be held accountable for the 9/11 attack that Mr. Trump said killed “hundreds of my friends.”

The remarks reflect Mr. Trump’s willingness to go off topic to stir up his supporters, and to act as if he is the only candidate in the room by repeatedly interrupting his opponents after baiting them to a response.

Sen. Cruz told Mr. Trump, “Adults learn not to interrupt people.”

If only it were true.

At least Mr. Trump acknowledged during the debate that he ought to be more sparing in his use of foul language, promising not to use profanity during the remainder of the campaign.

If Mr. Trump can’t exhibit a measure of restraint and civility for the three final debates, the moderator ought to take matters in hand and cut off the candidate’s microphone until he can mind his manners. The candidates are vying for the presidency, and should be willing to conduct themselves accordingly.

They ought to consider the remarks of Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who during Saturday night’s debate described the diminished level of discourse as “just nuts.”

“I think we’re fixing to lose the election to Hillary Clinton if we don’t stop this,” he said.

Mainly, that problem starts with — and should stop with — Mr. Trump.