Why I’m Leaning Towards Fiorina

While I do not agree with Carly Fiorina on every point, at the moment I’m inclined to support her for president. My reasons:

1) She was visibly outraged by the Planned Parenthood videos. Most of the other candidates are against abortion, but none show as much anger or resolve.

No doubt, it will be pointed out that she supported the California version of the DREAM Act, and this will be the deal breaker for many people. Ann Coulter famously tweeted the following, regarding Donald Trump:

In a real sense, I am the anti-Coulter in this regard. Illegal immigration is inherently a policy issue. However, abortion is a mortal sin. The two simply do not compare. I’m tired of candidates grandstanding on the abortion issue and saying things to get votes, but then doing nothing when they get the chance. I believe that Fiorina is mad enough about the issue to actually do something. If this video gives a true hint of Fiorina’s feelings for abortion, then I would crawl over broken glass to see her elected.

2) In the last debate, Fiorina gave a muscular, detailed plan for restoring America’s stance in the world. Others offered only vague generalities.

3) While her tenure at HP was controversial, even if she was wrong on some issues she proved willing to fight against the machine. She took on entrenched interests and stuck to her guns. She’s not afraid of conflict.

4) She has proven herself a masterful debater thus far. I don’t want the GOP candidate to face Clinton/Sanders/Biden and then become tongue-tied or timid. I want someone who will eat their lunch.

5) More than any of the other candidates, she has proven herself knowledgeable about the issues. It’s clear that she knows what she is talking about, even if one doesn’t always agree with her stances.

6) Biography is everything. I’ve worked in a big company, and so I know how hard it is to rise up from the bottom with the wind at one’s face. Fiorina’s done that. I find this quite admirable. Was she always perfect? Far from it. But it takes talent, strength, skill, and determination to rise from an entry level position to CEO of a top 20 company. She deserves props

This does not mean that I am on her bandwagon yet. However, it does mean that I am taking a lot of the criticisms of her with a huge grain of salt. All in all, compared to many of the other candidates, based upon her life experiences, her skills, her mastery of the issues, her leadership ability, her willingness to tackle controversial issues, and her pro-life passion, she deserves some respect, and we should give it to her.

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2015 Reagan Library GOP Main Event Debate Recap

The September 16, 2016 CNN GOP debate was held at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California. The moderators were Jake Tapper, Hugh Hewitt, and Dana Bash.  Debate participants were Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Ben Carson, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz,  John Kasich, Mike Huckabee, and Carly Fiorina.

Overall, this was a much better debate than the previous one, although the first half was too much about Donald Trump. If there was any clear winner, it had to have been Fiorina. She came across as sharp, well-informed, and capable, and she had several of the best moments of the night. Rubio also had several moments where he really shined, though many conservatives may not agree with him on all issues. Christie and Bush also did quite well in the debate, but I suspect that it will not do either man much good among the GOP grass roots. Cruz gave all his normal applause lines, but fell a little flat. While he did not hurt himself, I doubt seriously that he helped himself. Carson was OK, as was Walker. Unfortunately, it is not enough to be merely OK when on the big stage with so many other good candidates. Paul and Huckabee gave middling performances–I doubt that either of them made new converts. Kasich exhibited everything that is wrong with the political establishment. He should be in the lower tier. Meanwhile Trump made a complete fool of himself, though it seems nothing can dissuade his fans from worshiping him.

The recap:

Question: Is Jidal right in saying that Trump is bat guano crazy and can’t be trusted with the nuclear arsenal?
Trump made faces while Fiorina was being asked this question–he came across as bat guano crazy. In many ways this segment went downhill from there, as Trump launched unprovoked attacks on both Paul and Pataki, and then attacking Walker’s record in Wisconsin using the Democrat’s inaccurate talking points as fodder. (Walker easily swatted this away.) Essentially, Trump proved Paul’s assessment correct that he is a schoolyard bully. Neither Paul nor Walker have much to lose, and so they were fearless in confronting Trump. However, the only one who scored any points in this section was Walker. All things considered, why is Trump being allowed to talk so much and at such length? There are many other people on the stage who haven’t been allowed to say a thing.

Question: Carson said that as a non-politician he can tell the truth, while politicians have their finger in the air to see what is politically expedient. Is that a fair assessment of you?
There was some back and forth between Christie and Carson, but nothing of real substance.

Question: According to Trump, you are a puppet for special interests. Is this true Jeb?
There was a lot of back and forth here, especially concerning Trump’s attempt to pay off Bush to allow him to set up a casino in Florida, something which is on record as true, but which Trump vociferously denied.  Since Trump lied about the casino deal and Bush was telling the truth, one would think this exchange hurt Trump. One would think.

Question: Trump, what would you do right now to get Russia out of Syria?
Trump didn’t answer the question because he couldn’t–he is obviously completely out of his depth. Rubio gave a detailed lecture accurately describing the situation, but didn’t offer concrete solutions. Fiorina nailed it by giving a detailed, muscular, hawkish plan for what to do about Russia, and got a rousing applause.

Question: Kasich, talking about you, says that anyone who plans on ripping up the Iran deal on day one is “inexperienced and playing to a crowd”. How do you respond?
Cruz made a very good, strong statement about the bill’s defects, but did not really address the question. Kasich gave an inconsequential, senatorial response.

Question: Walker says that Obama should cancel the state dinner with Xi Jinping because of China’s cyber-attack on the US. Is he right?
Paul wants to talk with everyone, because he isn’t an “isolationist”. Bush seemed to be talking out of both sides of his mouth, trying to have it both ways. Walker gave an able defense of his position (“why a 21-gun salute?”), and Huckabee chimed in about how awful the Iran deal was.

Question: Trump, Obama drew a red line on Syria and then he asked for the Senate to back him up. Three men on this stage refused to back Obama up on this. Do these men share some blame for what happened in Syria?
Trump freely blamed Rubio, Cruz, and Paul for what has happened in Syria, even though Trump obviously had no clear idea what the Senate vote was about. Rubio gave an excellent response, saying that the bill was in support of what Obama called a “pinprick” response, and if we are going to do something militarily, we should go all in. Cruz defended his vote by saying that we should only go in with a plan, and there wasn’t one. Paul explained that he was merely voting “present”. Kasish chimed in to say that we should give the Iran deal chance, and Cruz accurately pointed out that the deal has no means of verification.

Question: You said that what happened to Kim Davis was really the criminalization of Christianity. Bush disagrees with you on this point. Is he wrong?
Huckabee made a strong case that the woman should be able to receive some religious accommodation, and Bush agreed. Huckabee comes across here much better here than he has been characterized in news reports on this issue.

Question: Do you agree with Cruz that Planned Parenthood should be stripped of funds, even if it means shutting down the government to do so?
Kasich is Mr. Let’s-Not-Rock-The-Boat on this and all issues, it seems. (If he isn’t angry enough about dismembering live babies and then selling their body parts to shut down the government, then what is he passionate about?) Christie is all for shutting down the government on this and any number of other issues. Fiorina made a star turn with her remarks, however:

As regards Planned Parenthood, anyone who has watched this videotape, I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to watch these tapes. Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, it’s heart beating, it’s legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain. This is about the character of our nation, and if we will not stand up in and force President Obama to veto this bill, shame on us.

Depending upon how much this video of Fiorina plays, this may well be the turning point in her campaign. She was visibly furious about the situation–something none of the male candidates could manage.

Question: Bush said that he wasn’t sure that we need to spend so much money on women’s health, and later admitted that he misspoke. However, Trump seized upon that quote and feels that now Bush is hellishly doomed. Is Trump wrong?
There was a lot of back and forth here, with Bush talking about defunding Planned Parenthood and putting more money into alternate programs, and Trump claiming to respect women. This would have been a good time to take a bathroom break.

Question: Trump said that you had an ugly face, but then claimed that he was talking about your persona. What do you think about Trump’s persona?
Fiorina simply answered that women all over this country heard very clearly what Trump said. Her answer brought the house down

Question: Can we really deport 11-12 million people. How much will it cost and how can we do this?
Trump lied again in his claim that no one was talking about illegal immigration before he came on the scene–it has been pretty much all we have been hearing about for years. Apart from this, Trump couldn’t answer the question beyond offering vague generalities. Christie did a good job defending his position that we have neither the money nor the manpower to deport so many people. Carson did well in explaining that he cares, but then couldn’t really explain what was wrong with Trump’s position.

Question: Was Trump out of line for pointing out that your wife is a native of Mexico?
Bush demanded that Trump apologize, and Trump refused. Trump then started dumping on immigrants in general. Fiorina tried to speak up, but was cut off by the moderator.

Question: Trump criticized Bush for speaking Spanish on the campaign trail. What’s wrong with that?
Trump said that people need to assimilate, and to do that they should be speaking English. Bush explained that a high school kid asked him a question in Spanish, and that he felt bound to respond in Spanish out of respect. Rubio then affirmed that people should learn to speak English, but then talked about his grandfather, who came to this country as an immigrant, and did not speak English well. He said he learned American values from him, in Spanish. So now he gives interviews in Spanish, because he wants to reach these people and talk about our free enterprise system, and he wants them to hear it directly from him and not a translator. Bush gave an able defense of himself, but Rubio really shined with his response.

Question: Is Carson’s guest worker plan amnesty? 
Cruz refused to attack Carson at all, but then went indirectly after Rubio. Rubio had a very articulate, detailed response regarding immigration, allowing that after the border is sealed and the legal immigration system is fixed, we might allow some illegals to stay, but that this should not even be discussed until everything else is done. For a lot of good reasons, I am not in favor of Carson’s immigration plan. However, he is a least wanting to talk about solutions that work. Whatever the merits of Rubio’s plan, he is quite articulate and persuasive. Cruz fell flat in his attacks.

Question: You are against birthright citizen. Fiorina calls this pandering. What is your response?
Trump responded by giving an inaccurate legal explanation of the 14th Amendment, and then went on to attack anchor babies. Fiorina pointed out that it would take years to overturn the 14th Amendment, but that meanwhile the problem of illegal immigration will not be solved. Paul agreed with Trump, and then went on at length with a rather inaccurate description of the 14th Amendment.

Question: Trump says that you were a terrible CEO of HP. How do you defend yourself?
Fiorina gave a detailed and terrific defense of her tenure. Trump cited a paper written by a Yale professor–and Clinton supporter–saying that Fiorina was a disaster as a CEO. Fiorina pointed out that Trump filed for bankruptcy 4 times, and is therefore a terrible manager. Christie found the whole interchange amusing, but didn’t really want to hear about their business careers.

Question: Trump wants to raise taxes on hedge fund managers. Do you agree?
Kasich gave a rambling response pointing to his own experience in Washington and in Ohio. Huckabee wants to get rid of all income and capital gains taxes, and have a national sales tax.

Question: Why are Trump’s ideas on taxes wrong?
Carson pointed out that progressive taxes are socialist in nature–he is in favor of a flat tax or sales tax. Trump says that he wants to reduce taxes on the middle class and raise taxes on the wealthy. Paul wants a flat tax.

Question: Carson wants to raise the minimum wage. Do you agree?
Carson claims to be on the fence about the issue, but he thinks that we need to have two minimum wages–one for young people and another for wage earners. Walker wants to grow jobs and support education, so the minimum wage will no longer be a discussion.

Question: Kasich refuses to knock Hillary, but that’s all Fiorina does. Who’s right and who’s wrong?
Kasich just wants to be positive, and he thinks this is a winning formula. Fiorina went after Hillary with a vengeance. Christie wants to be the person who puts Hillary in jail.

Question: Are you in favor of marijuana legalization?
Paul says in general it should be left to the states. Bush admits to having smoked marijuana while in high school, and thinks that legalization should be left to the states. Paul called him a hypocrite because he was against medicinal marijuana. Christie calls marijuana a gateway drug, and wants to enforce federal law even though the states may allow it. Fiorina notes that she buried a child to drug addiction. While she is in general in favor of Paul’s points, she thinks drugs are really bad and wants more money and effort spent on education and rehabilitation.

Question: What do you think of gun control?
Bush thinks it is generally a state issue, and not a federal issue. Rubio notes that criminals don’t obey the laws anyways, and wants to support families as a way of addressing the problem of violence. Cruz wants to be thought of as the strongest supporter of the 2nd Amendment now running for president.

Question: Christie suggests that the filthy rich shouldn’t get Social Security? Do you agree?
Trump thought that people should decide if they want it or not. Christie doesn’t think it should be a voluntary measure, and thinks that Social Security should be saved for the people who need it.

Question: Why shouldn’t we at least take measures to protect ourselves from climate change, even if the science is wrong?
Rubio pointed out that it would destroy the economy to do as liberals suggest, and that working people cannot afford these policies, which won’t work anyways. Christie agrees with Rubio that there is no need for large government programs that will destroy the US economy in order to solve this issue. Rubio denied that he is a climate change skeptic. Walker said “me too”.

Question: Trump is vaccine truther. What do you think?
Carson pointed out that vaccine trutherism is simply bad science, and that vaccines are very important. Dr. Trump reaffirmed his commitment to vaccine trutherism. Paul is all for vaccines, but wants people to be able to decide for themselves. Huckabee wants a federal war on a variety of medical problems. Of course, America has been there and done that, and it just leads to a larger federal budget and more federal programs without solving anything.

Question: What woman would you like to see on the $10 bill?
Paul: Susan B. Anthony.
Huckabee: My wife.
Rubio: Rosa Parks.
Cruz: No change to $10 bill; take Jackson off $20, leave Hamilton on $10, and put Rosa Parks.
Carson: My mother.
Trump: My daughter, or Rosa Parks.
Bush: Margaret Thatcher.
Walker: Clara Barton.
Fiorina: No change.
Kasich: Mother Teresa.
Christie: Abigale Addams.

Question: What would you want your Secret Service code name to be?
Christie: True Heart.
Kasich: His current Secret Service nickname is Unit One.
Fiorina: Secretariat.
Walker: Harley.
Bush: Eveready.
Trump: Humble.
Carson: One Nation.
Cruz: Cojiba (?).
Rubio: Gator.
Huckabee: Duck Hunter.
Paul: Justice Never Sleeps.

Question: How will the world look different after you are president?
Paul: as a Reagan conservative, but as a dove rather than as a hawk.
Huckabee: as a peacemaker, because he will have built the most fearsome army ever made; that our country has peace, and abortion would no longer exists.
Rubio: as the president who has brought freedom to the world.
Cruz: as the one who killed the terrorists, re-appealed Obamacare, and defended the Constitution.
Carson: as a uniter, a person who restores financial responsibility, as a leader in the Middle East.
Trump: as someone who has made the country greater than ever before–a veritable paradise on earth.
Bush: as someone who grows the economy.
Walker: as someone who has set us free from the threat of terrorism, who grew the economy, who empowered the people and sent powers back to the state.
Fiorina: as someone who has brought liberty and justice to the US, with fairness to all.
Kasich: as a problem solver, as someone who has rebuilt US relations around the world, as someone who has revived the concept of citizenship.
Christie: as someone who has made his presidency about the US people, and not himself, who enforced the law and leveled the playing field, as someone who made the US strong overseas.

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2015 Reagan Library GOP Main Event Debate Preview

The fallout from first 2015 GOP debates pretty much as expected, although there were a few surprises.  Ted Cruz made very modest gains in popularity among GOP voters. At the same time, overnight Carly Fiorina became something of a minor political rock star. Donald Trump’s support dipped ever so slightly among those who watched the debate, while it maintained a steady, slow upward arc overall among the uninformed public.

I had Scott Walker the clear winner of the first debate on substance. This is where presence and personality come in: I was judging the debate based upon the transcripts, and did not have access to the video. While I had expected that his low-key style would hurt him, I had not expected that his campaign would pretty much implode because of his debate performance.

The support Ben Carson has received since that debate was also a surprise. In truth, he barely had a chance to talk in the first debate, and the few policy statements he made sounded good in substance by sketchy when it came to the details. Of course, I was already somewhat familiar with Carson from his speech at the National Prayer Breakfast in 2013, so he was pretty much a known quantity for me. Carson’s growing support appears to be coming from people who had never heard of him before, and were surprised by what they saw.

In the Reagan Library debate, Walker and Paul will have to find their footing, or they will essentially be out of the race. At the same time, all eyes will be on Fiorina, Carson, and Trump. How they do in this debate may well set the stage for the Iowa caucuses later on.

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My Memories of 9/11

I was living with my family in rural China where I worked as an English teacher in a high school. One morning, I woke up, ate breakfast, joked and talked with the kids, and then went to check the Internet.

Most western news sites on the Internet were blocked at that time, but I had discovered that I could at least see the headlines if I went to my page on Yahoo, and so that was my Netscape homepage. I opened up the browser, and was shocked to see in the headlines that both towers of the World Trade Center had been destroyed, possibly in a terrorist attack. I did not have time to do much more than check the headlines before I had to run off to class.

Our apartment was some blocks from the main campus of the school, so I had about a fifteen minute walk. Still in shock and in a daze, I took the wrong road at the roundabout and found myself in an unfamiliar neighborhood. I had to retrace my steps, and arrived at school after class had already begun.

Since the school had foreign teachers, it had applied for permission to have satellite reception for CNN and BBC so that we could watch the news in our apartments. However, school administrators had neglected to give us foreign teachers access to the satellite feed in our homes, but had instead hooked it up to the school so that they could use it themselves, making it off-limits to foreign teachers and the students. Nevertheless, given events, when I entered the classroom the TV was turned to CNN so that the students could see what had happened.

To them, it was a festive occasion. They were joyously running up and down the classroom, celebrating and having a party. I turned off the TV and scolded them. At that point, no one knew how many casualties there had been–estimates ranged up into the tens of thousands. All of these were innocent people, and as far as we knew, some of these victims could have even been Chinese (in fact, about 80 of them were). This was nothing to celebrate about. The class appeared chastened, and we turned to our English study.

In the days that followed, a DVD on 9/11 was issued with the blessings of the Chinese government, showing clips of the disaster interspersed with scenes from a recent movie of Godzilla ravaging New York, and commentary from Chinese newscasters celebrating that America had been cut down to size. It is said that Chinese leader Jiang Zemin had a copy of this DVD, and played it over and over again for himself at night, as though it were some sort of porn film.

That was fourteen years ago.

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Obama, Trump, and the Oprahfication of America

There are very strong parallels between the phenomenon of Obama in 2008 and 2012, and Trump in 2016. In both cases, by any objective measure, one cannot say that people supported these men based upon policy considerations. Indeed, when one looks at Obama’s policies, it is quite clear that the very people his policies have hurt the worst are in fact the people who have always given him the greatest political support because he was “on our side” and “fighting for us”. The black community, young people, and the poor have found themselves devastated by the Obama administration, yet they continue to support him. In the same way, from a policy standpoint, Trump should have little or no appeal to the people who have given him the strongest support, as there is no sense that he has ever consistently fought for what they profess to believe in–all he has ever done is offer slogans and soundbites that please their ears, yet none of this has any apparent substance or reality.

Surveys show that both men receive their support from low-information voters–the people supporting these men do not actually know what these men stand for, and are merely supporting them based upon appearance and tribal impulse. Yet, when one tries to explain clearly what each man stands for, using their own actions and their own words in context, this is met with complete denial and even scorn. So, it is clear that the issue isn’t merely their supporters don’t know what these men stand for: It is that they don’t want to know what these men stand for. Their supporters simply do not care.

What is going on here?

This question has caused me to review an old post that I wrote in 2011, which seems even more true today than it was when it was written:

Since we have so many alternatives for amusement in modern society, the truth is so often drowned out by all of the media noise that surrounds us. Our desire to be entertained and the many avenues for fulfilling that desire have made us all egoists: It is always about us, what amuses us, what makes us happy, what satisfies our needs. Our feelings, how we feel about others, and how others make us feel becomes the center of our existence. Thus, the trivial becomes elevated to the same importance as the essential, the meaningless to the same importance as the meaningful, and many people have lost the ability to distinguish between what is insignificant and what is vital.

America has become, like it or not, the Oprah society. The TV news is rarely watched anymore, and when it is there is only about five minutes of hard news followed by hours upon hours of human interest stories. Our political discourse has been reduced to soundbites. Our last presidential election was taken about as seriously by many people as a vote on American Idol. However, instead of having Sanjaya as president, we ended up with Obama. Sanjaya could sing some, but did not at all belong on the big stage–people voted for him because they liked him and it made them feel good about themselves. In the same way, Obama was not by any measure qualified to be president, not by experience nor by temperament, but he gave people the warm fuzzies inside and caused tingles to run up their legs. Obama could have been Charles Manson as far as many people were concerned, but they voted for him anyway, because it made them feel good.

And that is the crux of our problem. There is a huge mass of people in America who no longer really care about what is going on outside their front door–they just want to feel good about themselves, they want all the problems in the world to simply go away, and most of all, they want to be amused and entertained. Obama and Trump are perfect candidates for such people, as they are devoid of real substance, but full of sound and fury.

Essentially America is on the brink of becoming communist China, where the government and political leaders can get away with anything–even murdering people in the streets–so long as the leaders make the people feel good about themselves, keep the economy limping along, and provide its citizens the requisite entertainment.

For democracy to work, it needs a “demos”. This is a group of citizens who have the interest, knowledge, and ability to take part in the political discussion and deliberations of government. A demos is certainly not an unformed, unthinking mob. However, as we can see from the Occupy Movement, Black Lives, etc.–which Obama has explicitly encouraged–Obama has always made up for his political deficiencies by aiming for the support of the mob.

In the same way, it is hard to see Trump’s support as anything but that of a mob with pitchforks, looking for a witch to burn. Trump has found a way of pushing the mob’s buttons, and they love him for it–his policies, all reality, and the facts be damned. This is not democracy. It is in fact the very thing the Founding Fathers of the US feared most, because it is demagoguery, pure and simple. And, the impulse to support the demagogue can only lead to tyranny.

So long as a leader can placate people with slogans, soundbites, and appeals to their worst emotional instincts, that leader can rule unrestrained by any limitations of law, constitution, and basic morality. We already have this with Obama, and so how would Trump be any improvement over Obama? Indeed, since Trump has so easily been able to roll people who call themselves conservatives, he may well in the end be much worse than Obama.

Conservatives have been the only real voices in America crying against the Obama agenda. With conservatives bought off by Trump’s demagoguery, who in American will still be standing for rule of law and morality in government? Certainly not Trump, with his track record.

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Trump Versus Reagan On Immigration

All this talk about how Donald Trump resembles Ronald Reagan has only reminded me of Reagan himself, and what little Trump and Reagan share in common. For example, we have Trump’s recent statements on immigration and removal of birthright citizenship. Compare this with what Reagan said in 1980 when he accepted the GOP nomination for the presidency:

Here is a transcript:

I have thought of something that is not part of my speech and I’m worried over whether I should do it.

Can we doubt that only a Divine Providence placed this land, this island of freedom, here as a refuge for all those people in the world who yearn to breathe freely: Jews and Christians enduring persecution behind the Iron Curtain, the boat people of Southeast Asia, of Cuba and Haiti, the victims of drought and famine in Africa, the freedom fighters of Afghanistan and our own countrymen held in savage captivity.

I’ll confess that I’ve been a little afraid to suggest what I’m going to suggest–I’m more afraid not to–that we begin our crusade joined together in a moment of silent prayer.

God bless America.

To be honest, I was upset with Reagan at the time of this speech, as I thought that prayer was not a valid substitute for policy. Yet, even if his remark was devoid of substance, the tone and intent was exactly right.

Trump’s latest immigration proposals are diametrically opposite from his immigration proposals from several months ago (proposals which have disappeared down the rabbit hole, never to be seen again). Yet, whether any of Trump’s proposals on immigration are right–whether they be his current proposals or earlier ones–his tone is aggressive, hateful, and strident. It may be right to deport some people in the end, but these are people who came to America, even if illegally, to be a part of the American dream. As someone who has been deported from a country in which I made my home over a visa snafu, I know how hard it is to be on the other end of this process. Yes, laws need to be enforced, but there is no need for the people of the US to be hateful about it.

At the same time, note the lack of consistency in Trump’s character. Trump is forever shifting with the wind. Several years ago, Trump was so pro-choice that he even defended late-term abortions, then when he decided to run for president he suddenly claimed to be pro-life and wanted to defund Planned Parenthood–yet, literally within less than a week of wanting to defund Planned Parenthood, Trump is on record as wanting to preserve Planned Parenthood funding, and has in fact received an endorsement from Planned Parenthood. You may like Trump’s proposals today, but did you like the ones he made yesterday, and will you like the ones he makes tomorrow? The man is a model of inconsistency and incoherency.

Throughout his life, Reagan was consistent and clear in his principles. For example, earlier in his speech above, he had this to say:

And, the time is now to redeem promises once made to the American people by another candidate, in another time and another place. He said, “For three long years I have been going up and down this country preaching that government–federal, state, and local–costs too much. I shall not stop that preaching. As an immediate program of action, we must abolish useless offices. We must eliminate unnecessary functions of government…we must consolidate subdivisions of government and, like the private citizen, give up luxuries which we can no longer afford.”

“I propose to you, my friends, and through you that government of all kinds, big and little be made solvent and that the example be set by the president of the United States and his Cabinet.”

So said Franklin Delano Roosevelt in his acceptance speech to the Democratic National Convention in July 1932.

Trump supporters claim that somehow Trump is the same as Reagan, because as little as six weeks ago Trump left the Democratic Party. However, Reagan could honestly say that he never left the Democratic Party: the party left him. Reagan’s principles may have evolved some, but by and large he was the same man with the same beliefs in 1932 as he was in 1980. Trump cannot even say that he has the same beliefs now that he had two weeks ago. At the same time Trump hasn’t changed one bit over the years: He is just as hypocritical, unprincipled, godless, and duplicitous now as he was thirty years ago.

And somehow, this makes Trump like Reagan?

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1st GOP Main Event Debate Recap

This is a recap of the GOP main event debate on August 6, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. The moderators were Bret Baier, Megyn Kelly and Chris Wallace. Debate participants were Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Ben Carson, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and John Kasich.

The debate format and the questions asked left a lot to be desired. The debate moderators should have stuck with three or four broad topics and let every candidate have a chance to respond to the same question. As it was, many of the questions were too closely tailored to the individual candidates to get any kind of response that would allow a comparison between the candidates on the issues. This was not a debate in any meaningful sense of the word, but a series of disjointed and often trivial interview questions.

As the debate was not broadcasted online and we do not have access to Fox News, the recap is based upon a transcript of what was said.

Looking over the transcripts, my overall impression is that Walker had the best overall performance, followed by Cruz. However, given that Walker is quite wooden and Cruz is a very dynamic speaker, I suspect that most conservative viewers would say that Cruz won the debate. Rubio also helped himself, while Christie, Bush, Carson, and Huckabee were in the middle of the pack. Paul and Kasich probably hurt themselves more than they helped themselves with this debate.

The real wildcard is Trump. On my scorecard, he came in well behind everyone else, primarily because he refused to answer most of the questions, and when he did his answers were strong on theater and low on depth, basic morality, and–in some cases–intelligibility. I do not think, however, that his debate performance will hurt him in the short run, and I rather suspect that many people who liked him before will like him even better now, as he can now claim martyrdom as a victim of the press.

The recap:

Question: Can your promise that you will nor run as an independent if you fail to win the nomination?
Trump: No.
Paul: “Hey, look, look! He’s already hedging his bet on the Clintons, OK? So if he doesn’t run as a Republican, maybe he supports Clinton, or maybe he runs as an independent…”

Trump surely did not help himself with this answer. But did Paul help himself by going on the attack and pointing out the obvious? Probably not. It must be real frustrating for Paul to see Trump steal his thunder and support.

Question: Are you ready to be president?
Carson: I have a brain, so yes.

Frankly, this was all the substance we could get from his answer. And we like him. We like him a lot.

Question: Given his superior resume, can you tell Bush why you would make a better president than he would?
Rubio: This election cannot be a resume competition, because if it was Hillary would win. The election has to be about the future, and not the past.

Excellent response.

Question: What do you say to people who don’t want another Bush in the White House?
Bush: I’m my own man. I governed as a conservative, and I have a great record as governor.

Bush gave about as good an answer as he could have here.

Question: Based upon your Tweets, you’re a male chauvinist pig aren’t you?
Trump: I’m not politically correct, and I like to have a little fun by saying disparaging things about women.

The crowd loved his answer, apparently, but let’s face it: The man is an abusive bully. The only reason Trump could score points with such a bat guano answer is because so many people hate the press and hate that he was even asked such a question.

Question: “How can you win in 2016 when you’re such a divisive figure?”
Cruz: “I believe the American people are looking for someone to speak the truth.” There’s a reason the country is so screwed up, and it’s because politicians do not honor their commitments when they get to Washington. “I will always tell the truth and do what I said I would do.”

Great answer!

Question: You ran your state into the toilet. How would you be any different as president?
Christie: My state was in worse shape before I got there. We balanced the budget and cut regulations, and this created jobs.

Another good answer. Some people obviously came prepared for the debate, while others obviously didn’t.

Question: You recently signed a law that does not allow an exception for abortion in case the mother’s life in in danger. How can you be such a heartless bastard?
Walker: The unborn baby must be protected, and there are always alternatives that will protect the life of the child while protecting the life of the mother. Unlike Hillary Clinton, I am not in favor of infanticide.

This was about as strong a pro-life statement as one could make. Kudos to Walker for sticking to his guns.

Question: You are a radical extremist when it comes to social issues, so how could you ever hope to get independents and Democrats to vote for you?
Huckabee: Abortion is bad so we need to do something about it.

He did not answer the question at all. Was he paying attention?

Question: Why did you blame your own party for the rise of ISIS?
Paul: I never said that. However, Hillary and some Republicans want to send arms to ISIS’s allies, and this must not be allowed to happen. The way to stop the ISIS is to stop funding and arming them.

Obviously, Paul is off his meds once again.

Question: You defended expanding Medicaid in your state by saying that it was God’s will. Are you always going to use God as an excuse to expand government programs?
Kasich: Well, Reagan expanded Medicaid, and I had a chance to get federal money for Ohio and look at all the good things we did with it.

When an appeal to God’s will fails, bring up Reagan–it always does the trick. Of course, he failed to answer the question, but it was a nice try.

Question: Are you still in favor of amnesty?
Bush: Yes. These people simply want to provide for their families. But we need to control the border–I wrote a book about this. And amnesty is not amnesty, but earned legal status.

This will not go over well with immigration hawks. I’m also somehow doubtful that the primary motivation for most illegal immigrants is to provide for their families. At least he stuck to his guns and gave something of a straight answer.

Question: You said you had evidence that the Mexican government is sending criminals—rapists, drug dealers–across the border. Where is that evidence?
Trump: If it weren’t for me, no one would even be talking about immigration. My statement was misreported (because all reporters are liars), but somehow true. We need to build a wall.
Question: But you didn’t answer the question at all. Where is your proof?
Trump: Border Patrol told me this. Our leaders are all stupid, but the Mexicans are smart so they send the “bad ones over”.

The idea that no one was talking about immigration before Trump brought it up is pure bat guano, and anyone with their head out of their butt knows this. Yet, it got applause. The rest of his answer was equally stupid.

Question: What do you think of Trump’s answer?
Kasich: I’d just like to spend as much time as I can brown-nosing Trump. I balanced the federal budget, and I’m an effective governor.
Question: But can you answer the question?
Kasich: Well, we all have solutions to the immigration problem.
Question: Rubio, can you answer the question?
Rubio: Most of the people coming over the border illegally aren’t even from Mexico. But we do need a fence. We also need e-verify, and entry-exit tracking systems. We also need to do something about the people who are trying to immigrate legally, but who have been caught up by the system.

Who let Kasich attend this debate? Even Pataki would have given a better answer than this. Meanwhile, Rubio hit his answer out of the park.

Question: You were for amnesty before you were against it. What other issues are you going to flip-flop on?
Walker: I’ve acknowledged that I was wrong. I learned by listening to knowledgeable people on all sides of the issue and by going down to the border and seeing for myself what was going on. We need to secure the border, enforce our laws, and put American families and wages first. No amnesty.

Given his flip-flop, this was a great answer.

Question: Will you defund sanctuary cities?
Cruz: I’ve already sponsored a bill to do just that. We need to enforce our immigration laws. Unlike some of the people on this stage I’ve never been in support of amnesty, and I led the fight against the gang of eight amnesty legislation.

Another good answer. He was a little too polite here, however, given that Rubio was a member of that gang of eight, and Trump has been in favor of amnesty as long ago as last week. Cruz should have hit a little harder.

Question: You’ve said that Senator Paul’s opposition to the NSA’s collection of phone records has made the United States weaker and more vulnerable. Can you really say that?
Christie: Yes, because I’ve fought terrorists, and many of my friends were killed by terrorists.
Paul: “I want to collect more records from terrorists, but less records from innocent Americans. The Fourth Amendment was what we fought the Revolution over!”
Christie: He’s being ridiculous. How are we supposed to know who is and isn’t a terrorist?
Paul: Get a warrant!

The whole discussion deteriorates from here on out. Paul reasonably wants the laws and the Constitution to be obeyed, while Christie keeps telling sob stories about victims of terrorism, in the end accusing Paul of making speeches just to raise money. One can’t help but think that the exchange hurt both of the men, but certainly Paul won on the merits. Why is it that Paul had to interrupt, once again, in order to speak? Since the question was about him, shouldn’t the moderator have given him a chance to respond?

Question: You asked Gen. Dempsey how he would destroy the ISIS in 90 days, but you didn’t like his answer. How would you do it?
Cruz: General Dempsey said that there was no military solution to the situation, but there is. The solution is for ISIS recruits to know that they are signing their own death warrants.
Question: You don’t see this as an ideological problem?
Cruz: Of course it is an ideological problem, which is why I’ve sponsored a bill stating that any American who goes to fight on the side of ISIS forfeits his citizenship. But we need to stop acting as apologists for these terrorists, as Obama did at the prayer breakfast.

This was a good strong answer for a crap question.

Question: To the families of those who died in the Iraq War, how do you look at them now and say that your brother’s war was a mistake?
Bush: Knowing what we know now, I wouldn’t have gone in. Obama abandoned Iraq, and this has allowed the ISIS to flourish. We need to stop the Iran agreement and we need to stop the ISIS with everything we have at out disposal.

Including ground troops? But wouldn’t this be the same thing his brother did? Don’t get me wrong: It is a great answer. But isn’t he trying to have things both ways by sounding anti-war and pro-war at the same time?

Question: You said that we need to gain partners in the Arab world. Apart from the partners we already have, who do you have in mind?
Walker: We need to focus on the partners we already have.

A trivial question with a largely uninformative response. What a waste.

Question: As president, would you bring back water boarding?
Carson: Thank you for allowing me to speak. We shouldn’t be broadcasting what we are going to do. The war on terrorism is a politically incorrect war. We shouldn’t tie our military’s hands behind its back.

A fair answer to a relatively trivial question. Why not ask him what his overall strategy would be for fighting ISIS and dealing with Iran? Water boarding is simply not a political issue in 2016.

Question: You say that you are against Obamacare, yet 15 years ago you wanted the US to have a healthcare system like that in Canada. What happened?
Trump: I was against the Iraq War. Well, the healthcare system works well in Canada and Scotland. We need private systems for each state, but insurance companies are making a fortune because they control the politicians.
Paul: The GOP has been fighting a single-payer for decade, so you’re on the wrong side of this issue.
Trump: “I don’t think you heard me.”

Did Trump answer the question? No. Meanwhile, Paul interrupted again. Being rude to his majesty is unlikely to go over well with many people.

Question: You’ve donated to a host of liberal policies and politicians, including Hillary. “You explained away those donations saying you did that to get business-related favors. And you said recently, quote, ‘When you give, they do whatever the hell you want them to do.'”
Trump: “You’d better believe it.” I’ve paid off most of people on this stage.
Unidentified: Not me!
Unidentified: Not me!
Unidentified: You can give me money if you like!
Unidentified: I hope you give to me!
Trump: “I give to everybody. When they call, I give. And do you know what? When I need something from them two years later, three years later, I call them, they are there for me.”
Question from unidentified candidate: “What did you get from Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi?”
Trump: Well, Hillary came to my wedding.
Walker: Hillary! Everything she touches turns to crap.

Actually, there was a considerable amount of crosstalk and back and forth, but the upshot is that Trump is a crook who sees nothing wrong with buying politicians, and who blames the system for his own moral lapses. Disgusting.

Question:  Is the government simply too big for any one person, even a Republican, to shrink?
Huckabee: No, but the donor class has a strangle-hold over the federal government. We need to shift power back to the states, and we need to abolish the IRS. We need a consumption tax instead.
Question: Do you agree?
Carson: We need to base our tax system on tithing–everyone pays ten percent, no deductions or loopholes.
Question: Governor Bush …?
Carson: But I’m not done!

Huckabee makes some fair points, but it is not possible to have a consumption tax and still get rid of the IRS. Carson’s idea is great, as a 10% tax is something just about everyone can afford. On the other hand, the last time we saw figures, any flat tax would have to be at least 17% in order to generate the necessary revenue to keep the government going. Without a cut in the size of government, a 10% rate is a non-starter. Of course, Carson was cut off.

Question: You’re for Common Core. Would you agree that those who are against it are lunatics?
Bush: No. And I don’t believe that the federal government should be involved in education at all. School choice, vouchers, higher standards, etc.
Question: Is Bush wrong on Common Core?
Rubio: I believe in curriculum reform, but this should be done on a state level. Common Core is optional at the moment, but inevitably it will turn into a mandate.
Question: Do you agree with Rubio?
Bush: If states want to opt out of Common Core, fine.

What an incredibly stupid question, but Bush never really answers it, and never really says if he is for or against Common Core. He is trying to have it both ways. Rubio, on the other hand, gives a very thoughtful and articulate answer.

Question: Hillary says she wants to move the country forward while you, the Republicans, want to take the country back to the past. How would you answer that?
Kasich: My father was a mailman, so I know what it is like to be one of the little people. However, we need pro-growth policies, balanced budgets, etc.
Carson: Hillary is a progressive tool who thinks people are stupid. If I were wanting to destroy our country, I would advocate the same policies that Hillary has.

Both men seem earnest, but out of their depth. Hillary doesn’t play nice and she’s not in this business to make friends. They need to step up their game if they want to defeat her.

Question: You have promised four percent economic growth and 19 million new jobs as president. How will you accomplish this?
Bush: We need to lift our spirits and have higher expectations. Deregulation, simplified tax code, get rid of Obamacare, embrace the energy revolution.
Question: You’ve promised an economic plan in which everyone will earn a piece of the American dream. Given your crappy record in Wisconsin, why should voters believe you?
Walker: Well, I must not be doing that bad as governor, as I have been reelected twice. The unemployment rate in my state is almost half what it was when I first came to office. Meanwhile, Hillary wants to grow the economy by growing the government. Most people understand that the government does not create jobs. Repeal Obamacare and many regulations, energy policy, education, tax reform.

Both men gave good, strong policy answers.

Question: Huckabee says that we can save Social Security and Medicare without raising the retirement age and cutting benefits. What do you think?
Christie: No, Huckabee is simply wrong. We have to raise the retirement age by two years, and means-test Social Security so that wealthy people don’t receive it.
Huckabee: The money for the Social Security benefit was money paid into the system by people who have worked all these years, and they are not the one’s responsible for the government screwing things up. We shouldn’t be stealing from people by cutting their benefits.
Christie: The money is already stolen–the trust fund is full of IOUs. We have to fix the system because it is broken.
Huckabee: The reason there’s no money for Social Security is that there is no money coming in. Only wage earners pay into it. A consumption tax is the answer because “money paid in consumption is paid by everybody, including illegals, prostitutes, pimps, drug dealers, all the people that are freeloading off the system now.”

This is just a summary–Christie was actually quite detailed and specific in his plans. Anyone following the Social Security issue closely would know that Christie gets the better part of the argument here. Huckabee comes across as ill-informed and more than a little wacky. At the same time, many voters are just as ill-informed as Huckabee, and actually believe that their Social Security benefits are paid using money previously withheld from their paychecks when they were wage earners. (That has never been true–people on average have always received much more money from Social Security than they originally paid in, and in fact Social Security payments have always come, not from the trust fund, but from current withholdings. The reason the system stayed solvent in the past was in large part because there were more people working and paying into the system than people receiving benefits. However, this is no longer the case.)

Question: You’ve gone bankrupt four times. Why should anyone trust you with our nation’s finances?
Trump: I’ve never personally gone bankrupt.
Question: But your companies have.
Trump: On four occasions I’ve taken advantage of the laws of this country. Everyone does it. I’m worth over $10 billion dollars. I’m great.
Question: Trump Entertainment Resorts went bankrupt in 2009, “lenders to your company lost over $1 billion and more than 1,100 people were laid off.”
Trump: My lenders “are total killers.” Screw ’em. Every company in Atlantic City goes bankrupt. “And by the way, this country right now owes $19 trillion. And they need somebody like me to straighten out that mess.”

By declaring bankruptcy? Is this what he plans for the US government? With all due respect, Trump is completely amoral, and proudly so. How would this be an improvement over Hillary Clinton?

Question: “Please describe one action you would do to make the economic environment more favorable for small businesses and entrepreneurs and anyone dreaming of opening their own business.”
Rubio: Tax reform, deregulation, get rid of Obamacare and Dodd-Frank.

A solidly wonkish response.

Question: “You’ve said that you would tear up the Iran deal on day one. If this deal is undone, what then?”
Walker: Iran is not a country we should be doing business with. We need to re-institute sanctions.
Paul: I would try to negotiate from strength and get a better deal.
Huckabee: We got nothing from this deal. Obama is just a bad president, and the Iranians are bad people.

So Paul would not re-institute sanctions and would negotiate with Iran, and Huckabee doesn’t have a plan. Advantage Walker.

Question: You favor a rape and incest exception to abortion bans. Don’t you care at all about the unborn?
Rubio: That is a misstatement of my record. I have advocated a law that would protect life at every stage of development, but we actually already have such a law–the Constitution.

Good answer.

Question: “Mr. Trump, in 1999, you said you were, quote, ‘very pro- choice.’ Even supporting partial-birth abortion. You favored an assault weapons ban as well. In 2004, you said in most cases you identified as a Democrat. Even in this campaign, your critics say you often sound more like a Democrat than a Republican, calling several of your opponents on the stage things like clowns and puppets. When did you actually become a Republican?”
Trump: I’ve evolved, just like Ronald Reagan evolved. But I’ve always been pro-life, and you know New York is almost completely Democrat, and “I have a lot of liking for this man, but the last number of months of his brother’s administration were a catastrophe. And unfortunately, those few months gave us President Obama. And you can’t be happy about that.”

The section in quotation marks is a direct quote. I’ve no idea who he is talking about at the end. The transcript says that the audience applauded after this statement. It can only be because they hate the press, and are giving Trump a pass on every nonsensical statement he makes.

Question: “An anonymous GOP donor who said you called Mr. Trump a clown, a buffoon, something else that cannot be repeated on television.”
Bush: Untrue. I said his language was divisive. We need to get past the divisiveness of people like Obama and Hillary. Many people are suffering in America, and we need to give them hope by creating an environment where everyone rises up.
Trump: Of course my tone is harsh, when people are cutting Christian’s heads off and people are going all medieval.

A trivial question of there ever was one. Note the pandering in Trump’s response: He has never expressed any concern for Christians getting their heads cut off before.

Question: How would you explain your opposition to homosexual marriage to your child if he or she were a homosexual?
Kasich: I’m an old-fashioned person, but the court has ruled that homosexual marriage is the law of the land, and so we should accept it. And I will love my daughters no matter what they do.

So much for his social conservative credibility.

Question: “What will you do to ensure Christians are not prosecuted for speaking out against gay marriage and will Christians be forced to conduct business that conflicts with their religious beliefs?”
Paul: The government should not interfere with people’s religious beliefs or practices.

A nice sentiment, but what would Paul do to ensure Christians are not prosecuted for speaking out against gay marriage? He did not help himself with his answer.

Question: Many people believe that overly-aggressive police officers targeting young African Americans is the civil rights issue of our time. Do you agree?
Walker: Police need better training.

Walker went on at length about the need for better training, but never really answered the question. On the other hand, the question wasn’t all that good.

Question: A top Iranian general traveling to Moscow to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. He’s blamed for hundreds of U.S. troops death in Iraq, and Afghanistan. His trip to Russia appears to directly violate U.N. Security Council resolutions to confine him to Iran. How would you respond to this?
Trump: The whole thing that Obama is doing with Iran is a disgrace.
Question: In your view, have Russia and China committed of cyber war, and if you were president, what would you do about it?
Cruz: Of course they have. And this Iranian general, he’s a bad dude.
Question: Would you have used military force on Assad after he crossed the red line and used chemical weapons on his won people?
Carson: Our military is at its weakest state in years, and this limits our options. Our friends can’t trust us anymore. We’ve turned our back on Israel.
Question: What would you do if Russian President Vladimir Putin started a campaign to destabilize NATO allies Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, mirroring the actions Putin took at the early days of Ukraine.
Walker: That cyber attack by Russia the other day was terrible! I would send weapons to the Ukraine, I would put NATO on the borders, and I would reinstate our missile defense system with the Poles and the Czechs.

Walker was the only one to actually answer his question, and his answer was quite good.

Question: The US military is preparing to let transgender people serve openly. What are your thoughts?
Huckabee: The military is not a place for social experiments–it’s there to protect our country. However, it is being destroyed under the Obama administration, and it has forgotten its mission.

This was Huckabee’s best answer all night.

Question: The first budget your proposed as senator cut all financial aid to Israel. You have since changed your view on that issue. What made you change your mind?
Paul: I’m the only one who has even had a budget. “But even Benjamin Netanyahu said that ultimately, they will be stronger when they’re independent. My position is exactly the same.” We should not be borrowing money from China to send to other countries. We cannot give money away that we do not have.
Christie: We should be strengthening our military, and while we shouldn’t be giving aid to our enemies, we certainly should be doing what we can to fund Israel.

So, Paul is not in favor of giving aid to Israel after all. This is just a rehash of his father’s talking point–that Israel would actually be stronger without US aid, and so aid to Israel should be cut. This talking point makes no more sense coming from Rand than it did from Ron.

Question: Have any of you received a word from God on what they should do and take care of first?
Cruz: God speaks to me through his Scriptures. My father was an alcoholic, and God turned my his life around. Scripture says that we will know people by their fruits, and we see a lot of “campaign conservatives”, but if we are going to win we need a real conservative who is willing to fight for liberty.
Kasich: My father was a mailman. I do believe in miracles. But elections are not about campaigns, they are about movements. God wants America to succeed.
Walker: I’m not perfect, but Christ has redeemed me of my sins. God calls us to follow his will, and that’s what I’m trying to do. I want to live as a testimony to him.
Question: Talk about your relation to God, and veterans.
Rubio: God has blessed our country. We are all so blessed. We need to do more for the people in uniform and clean up this VA mess.
Question: Talk about your relation to God, and race relations.
Carson: We need to heal the divide. Our skin color doesn’t make us who we are. “Our strength as a nation comes in our unity. We are the United States of America, not the divided states.”

Afterwards come to closing statements, which are boilerplate and will not be repeated here.

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