2015 Boulder GOP Main Event Debate Recap

The October 28, 2015 CNBC GOP debate was held at the University of Colorado at Boulder. The moderators were Becky Quick, Carl Quintanilla, and John Harwood.  Debate participants were Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Ben Carson, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz,  John Kasich, Mike Huckabee, and Carly Fiorina.

Overall, the moderators were hostile and argumentative. They weren’t really trying to moderate a debate. Rather, they were seeking to hang some Republican hide on the wall. Given how Americans tend to side with whichever party seems to be under attack, this strategy certainly backfired. While it may have won plaudits from the moderators’ liberal friends, it will only make the press and CNBC more hated by the public at large.

The clear winner of this debate was Rubio. He had several great moments, and was unscathed by the attacks launched against him. Christie also gave a very good debate performance, but should be running for Attorney General rather than president–I just really doubt that his debate helped him with the grassroots who distrust him. Cruz had his best debate thus far. He did well in the first debate, but was overshadowed by Trump (despite Trump’s piss-poor performance). Cruz seemed to sleep through the second debate. Here, he was comfortable and passionate. Fiorina stayed in the mix, as did Carson. Neither was hurt by this debate, and both may well have been helped. Paul and Bush showed up. While there was nothing especially wrong with most of their answers, neither helped themselves at all, and Bush’s willingness even to answer the fantasy football question to begin with–not to mention his desire to regulate it–should end his political aspirations. Christie was right to be both incredulous and indignant that the question was asked in the first place. Kasich thought that yelling would improve his performance, but it just made him more painful to listen to. Huckabee seemed like he was in the race because he wants to be the Surgeon General in the Trump administration. Nothing Trump said was true, or even made a lick of sense. He should be very happy that he wasn’t asked many questions or given much opportunity to talk, as it was to his advantage.


The recap:

Question: What’s your biggest weakness?
Kasich, Christie, and Paul wouldn’t–or couldn’t–answer this question. However, in terms of soundbites, Christie hit it out of the park:

“Where I see the weakness in those three people that are left on the Democratic stage, you know, I see a socialist, an isolationist, and a pessimist. And for the sake of me, I can’t figure out which one is which.”

The other two came across as boring and tedious.
Huckabee: tries to play by the rules.
Bush: impatience, can’t fake anger.
Rubio: optimistic.
Trump: too trusting, unforgiving.
Carson: didn’t believe enough in his ability to be president.
Fiorina: doesn’t smile enough.
Cruz: a fighter, passionate in what he believes.

Question to Trump: Is your’s a comic book version of a presidential campaign?
Trump got tiffed and accused the moderator of being mean, then went to his talking points. He gave the Great Wall of China as an example of what a country can do to stop illegal immigration. Of course, the wall was built to keep out armed invaders, and failed miserably in that regard. “Mexico is going to pay for the wall, because the Mexicans are smarter than we are.” The moderators and then Bush got into it with Trump on his tax plan, resulting in a lot of cross talk and then a cut microphone for Bush.

Question to Carson: Your 10% tax plan makes no sense as it leads to a huge government deficit.
Carson said that he used the tithing analogy, but that the rate would be closer to 15% (he’s finally done his homework). He would balance the budget by getting rid of all deductions and loopholes, and by cutting spending to downsize the government.

Question to Kasich: What do you really think of Trump and Carson?
Kasich said that Carson was living in a fantasy world when it comes to balancing the budget. He then recited his resume in Washington and in Ohio, hit Trump on immigration, and yelled a lot. Trump was given a chance to respond, and said that Ohio does well because of fracking. He then went on to blame Kasich for the Lehman Brothers debacle. Kasich denied ever being on the board for Lehman Brothers. Carson defended his budget plans, saying that the 15% would apply to corporate taxes and capital gains as well. Cruz then touted his flat tax plan with detailed facts and figures. Fiorina then broke in and said that tax reform never happens because there isn’t a leader in Washington who knows how to get things done. She would reduce the tax code to three pages, and get rid of all the loopholes and deductions.

Question to Rubio: You are skipping a lot of votes. Maybe you should slow down and do your job rather than run for president.
Rubio noted that there is no more time to wait–there needs to be leadership now. The moderator pointed out that Sun-Sentinel had called on Rubio to resign because he was missing so many senate votes. Rubio’s response was priceless:

RUBIO: Let me say, I read that editorial today with a great amusement. It’s actually evidence of the bias that exists in the American media today.
QUINTANILLA: Do you hate your job?
RUBIO: Let me answer your question on the Sun-Sentinel editorial today. Back in 2004, one of my predecessors to the senate by the name of Bob Graham, a Democrat, ran for President, missing over 30 percent of his votes. I don’t recall them calling for his resignation.
Later that year, in 2004, John Kerry ran for President, missing close to 60 to 70 percent of his votes. I don’t recall the Sun — in fact, the Sun-Sentinel endorsed him. In 2008, Barack Obama missed 60 or 70 percent of his votes, and the same newspaper endorsed him again.
So this is another example of the double standard that exists in this country between the mainstream media and the conservative –

The audience went wild. Bush then went after Rubio for not showing up for work. Rubio parried this attack admirably. Trump tried to break in, but the moderators would have none of it.

Question for Bush: Ben Bernanke said that the GOP has given in to no-nothingism. Is that why your campaign is struggling?
Bush spoke at length about hope and optimism, spouting off facts and figures, but to no great point or effect. Trump tried to break in again, and was thwarted.

Question for Fiorina: You really failed as head of HP, costing stockholders millions, and were fired by your board. Why should you be hired as president?
Fiorina gave as good of as a defense of her tenure as she could have, noting that the man who led her firing has since said that he was wrong to fire her, that she was a great leader at HP, and that she would make a good president.

Question for Cruz: Does your opposition to the new budget deal show that you are not the kind of problem solver that Americans want?
Cruz noted that the questions asked thus far in the debate show why the American public doesn’t trust the media:

This is not a cage match. And if you look at the questions: Donald Trump, are you a comic book villain? Ben Carson, can you do math? John Kasich, will you insult two people over here? Marco Rubio, why don’t you resign? Jeb Bush, why have your numbers fallen?
How about talking about the substantive issues … and, Carl, I’m not finished yet. The contrast with the Democratic debate, where every fawning question from the media was, Which of you is more handsome and wise?

The moderators then cut Cruz off and refused to let him answer the question that was asked, saying that the time limit had expired.

Question for Paul: Do you oppose the budget deal because it does not cut entitlement spending enough? (Subtext: You’re a heartless bastard who hates the elderly and poor people, aren’t you?)
Paul said that the money wasn’t going for entitlements anyways but was used on other things such as defense, and then he went after an “unholy alliance between right and left” to spend the US into oblivion.

Question for Christie: Entitlement spending is a compact between the people and the American government, yet you want to cut it. When it is it acceptable to break a compact with the American people?
Christie pointed out that the compact had already been broken long ago–the Social Security trust fund is full of IOUs, and the government will soon no longer be able to pay Social Security benefits, and knows it. He wants to lower entitlement spending to deal with the issue, rather than raising Social Security taxes as Hillary Clinton advocates.

Question for Huckabee: What do you think of Christie’s plan?
Huckabee demagogued about how Social Security payments are “our money”, arguing that the money received in Social Security payments comes from Social Security withholding taxes. This is not true and has not been true for a long time–the money an individual typically pays into Social Security is a fraction of the money received in payments. Social Security is not a pension fund, as Huckabee holds, and was never meant to be one. Since Social Security pays out more than people put in, why shouldn’t payments be cut for people who are wealthy and don’t need the money? This is one of the points that Christie has been making, and that Huckabee fails to acknowledge or address. Christie was given a chance to respond, and stressed that we need to start telling the people the truth–the program is broken and needs to be fixed. Cruz advocated making no changes to Social Security for older people, but to raise the retirement age and allow young people to put some of their money into personal retirement accounts.

Question for Trump: Your hotels and casinos declared bankruptcy four times, leaving bondholders and other parties up a creek. Bankruptcy is a broken promise. Why should we believe any promise you make?
Trump claims that everyone uses bankruptcy laws for their benefit, so it is just good business practice, and that Atlantic City is just a bad place to do business. He then offered that going bankrupt proves he knows how to handle debt and can solve the US budget problem.

Question for Carson: Have drug companies gone too far in their profiteering, and should the government be involved in holding down drug prices?
Carson avoided answering the question directly, but wants get rid of many government regulations.

Question for Christie: Should corporations who do wrong face criminal prosecution?
Christie: You bet. However, the Justice Department has been politicized and is no longer doing its job. He then pivoted to the question Carson was asked, and answered it by noting that the government screws up everything it touches, so why would it be a good idea for the drug companies to face further regulations and price controls? He would enforce the laws currently on the books, criminally prosecuting corporate offenders when necessary.

Question for Bush: Would you still accept a budget deal that raised taxes even if it had spending cuts ten times as large?
Bush essentially answered yes, but then noted that as governor he cut taxes every year, and cut spending. He said that no one in Washington really wants to cut spending, especially the Democrats: “You find a Democrat that’s for cutting taxes — cutting spending ten dollars, I’ll give them a warm kiss.”

Question for Fiorina: Years ago, you called an Internet sales tax a bad deal. Now that the Internet has matured, shouldn’t we have an Internet sales tax to “even the playing field”?
Fiorina began expounding on crony capitalism: “Government causes a problem, and then steps in to solve the problem.” She linked all of this to the push to regulate and tax the Internet. In her view, the only way to level the playing field is by reducing government regulations, because government regulations tend to support the big and powerful and hurt the small and powerless.

Question for Rubio: You can’t even manage your own personal finances, so how can you possibly manage US government finances or the US economy?
Rubio pointed out that the moderator was just reciting discredited Democratic talking points and it was a waste of time to even respond to them. He noted that he grew up poor, and has worked hard his whole life to support his family, and he has been able to send his kids to college. He then pivoted to the economy and wage earners, and the problems they are having.

Question for Kasich: Aren’t you in love with corporate welfare?
Kasich said that corporate welfare was bad, apparently except in his state. He then pivoted to his experience in Washington DC in balancing the budget.

Question for Cruz: What would you do to help working women?
Cruz said that he would grow the economy and that would help women. He then talked about his mother trying to raise him as a single mother before his father turned to Jesus and came home. Finally, he hit the Democrats on how their policies have hurt working people in general, including women. Fiorina then broke in to attack Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, given that all of their policies hurt women.

Question for Carson: You are on the board to Costco, yet it is gay friendly. How can you do this, given your views on homosexuals?
Carson pointed out that the moderator was misrepresenting his views. He believes that the Constitution  protects everyone–including homosexuals–but that marriage is between one man and one woman. Just because he wants to protect the definition of marriage does not mean that he is a homophobe or hates homosexuals.

Question for Carson: You have been related to Mannatech, which makes fraudulent claims for its nutritional products. Why?
Carson said that it was a lie. He did a couple of paid speeches for them, and that was as far as his involvement went. The crowd was almost to the point of marching on the moderators with pitchforks before this line of questioning was finished.

Question for Rubio: You’re in support of increasing the number of H1B visas, but doesn’t this hurt American workers?
Rubio wants not just to increase the number of H1B visas, but change the way that program is administered so that it would be harder to abuse the system and take away a jobs from qualified Americans. He also supports vocational training for Americans, so that they would be better qualified to work in the high-tech industry.

Question for Trump: You’ve been very critical of Mark Zuckerberg because he was in favor of expanding the H1B visa program …
Trump said that was untrue (he lied), and said that he himself was in favor of expanding the H1B program. He then claimed that he his campaign was entirely self-funding (another lie), unlike any of the other campaigns. He then began to rail against super PACs.

Question for Trump: You called Mark Rubio “Mark Zuckerberg’s personal secretary” …
Trump: That’s a lie. (Actually, this statement was taken from his immigration proposal.) Rubio then went after the mainstream media for their false reporting, likening them to a super PAC for the Democrats, especially in their recent reporting of the Benghazi hearings wherein Hillary Clinton was caught in multiple lies.

Question for Cruz: You don’t like the Federal Reserve, so what would you do about it?
Cruz wants to audit the Fed, and then return some of the power of the Fed to congress. He argues that the Fed should be focused on sound monetary policy rather than quantitative easing, which only benefits Wall Street and not wage earners. Paul then piled on with the idea of auditing the Fed, and talked about how evil the Fed was. If you are inclined to support Paul’s ideas, Cruz stole nearly all his thunder in this exchange.

Question for Carson: You are against government subsidies, yet you are in favor of taking oil subsidies and putting them towards ethanol processing …
Carson: I was wrong. We need to get the government out of our lives. Regulations have a cost, and that cost is passed on to the poor and the middle class.

Question for Huckabee: What would you do to force companies to lessen income inequality?
Huckabee says that the government shouldn’t be ordering people to do anything, and that is part of the problem. The government shouldn’t be choosing winners and losers. He then advocated the government waging a war on diabetes, heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s.

Question for Bush: Why would you tax the income from labor more than the income from investments?
Bush claimed that most middle or lower-income Americans would end up paying no taxes at all under his program.

Question for Rubio: Your tax plan would benefit the upper 1% more than lower income people, yet you claim to be the champion of the working class.
Rubio flatly denied this characterization of his tax plan.  The moderator then tried to interrupt and contradict Rubio’s claims. Rubio: “You wrote a story on it, and you had to go back and correct it.” This was denied by the moderator, even though Rubo was correct and the moderator was lying:

Paul begged for a chance to talk about his tax plan, which cuts the payroll tax as well as income taxes. Cruz then joined in and said that his tax plan was better, and that he wanted to eliminate the IRS. Cruz stole Paul’s thunder once again.

Question for Kasich: Shouldn’t marijuana be legalized and taxed to help pay for government deficits?
Kasich then railed against drug abuse, to which Roger Stone replied on Twitter:

Kasich then turned to the issue of income inequality, and began yelling once again.

Question for Trump: During the break, I found where I read the quote about Rubio being Mark Zuckerberg’s personal secretary–it was from your website. You then railed against H1B visas. So what is your position?
Trump says he is now in favor of importing workers legally. Rubio wants to reform the immigration system so that it is merit-based, and stressed that one criteria for admission should be that someone wants to be an American, and not just live in America.

Question for Trump: Would you feel more comfortable if your employees brought guns to work?
Trump said yes. He noted that he has a gun permit, and that he does carry sometimes–or a lot. Trump probably helped himself with this answer, until you consider that he is armed and deranged.

Question for Huckabee: Does Trump have the moral authority to be president?
Huckabee professed his love for Trump. He then went on to wax eloquent about what a great president Trump would be. Finally, he talked about how–unlike the other candidates–he has fought the Clinton machine for over 20 years, and won. He did not specify on what planet this occurred. Christie then jumped in and talked about Obama’s lack of support for police officers.

Question for Fiorina: Should the federal government play a larger role in helping workers set up retirement plans?
Fiorina answered no, because the government just makes things worse and not better. She went on to point out that small businesses are being crushed by Obamacare and federal regulations.

Question for Kasich: What will you do to help people with their student loans?
Kasich then got very angry when he talked about the high costs of universities, and then said something about public service. Frankly, it was hard to continue to listen to him, and quite puzzling that he is being asked so many questions given his growing irrelevancy to the presidential race. Bush broke in and said that we don’t need to get the federal government involved in the problem–that this should be something solved on the state level.

Question for Bush: Should fantasy sports be treated as gambling?
Bush would regulate fantasy sports. And thus he flushed his presidential aspirations down the drain. Christie (incredulously):

Are we really talking about getting government involved in fantasy football?We have — wait a second, we have $19 trillion in debt. We have people out of work. We have ISIS and al Qaeda attacking us. And we’re talking about fantasy football? Can we stop?


Question for Christie: You believe in climate change, so what do we do to deal with it?
Christie wants private investment in all kinds of energy.

Question for Paul: Was Reagan right for opposing Medicare in the 1960s?
Paul went on and on about how the government doesn’t solve anything, and then added this jewel:

When people ask me, whose fault is it? Whose fault is it that Medicare is broken, out of money, that Social Security is broken, out of money? And I say, look, it’s not Republicans’ fault, it’s not Democrats’ fault, it’s your grandparents’ fault for having too many damn kids.

This is not the kind of statement that a serious presidential candidate would ever make. He then went on to say that unless the age is raised Medicare and Social Security cannot be fixed. Curiously, Huckabee was given a chance to respond to Paul. He then went on to advocate declaring war on the four big health diseases that cost money. Bush then broke in and said that we need to reform Medicare and Social Security.

Question for Trump: You said that you would grow the economy so much that Social Security and Medicare don’t have to be touched. Do you want to explain how that is going to happen?
Trump talked about bringing jobs back from Japan (these jobs are non-existent), from China (these would be low-wage, unskilled manufacturing jobs), from Mexico (if there is so many good jobs in Mexico, why are so many Mexicans fleeing to America?), and that he was going to cut costs. He could not explain how he would do any of this, but it really doesn’t matter at this point. Bush then said that he would reform Social Security by making it means testing, and that we should “incent” private savings. Kasich then started talking about Ohio again. Paul said that we have to raise the age and means test benefits. It seemed like Paul was bored and his mind was wandering.

Question for Carson: You want to replace Medicare with family savings accounts. How does that work?
Carson said that he wasn’t talking about replacing Medicare, but giving people the option to have these accounts. Christie agreed with Carson that we shouldn’t be sending more money to Washington, but doesn’t necessarily agree with Carson’s ideas on savings accounts. Rubio added that when he talks about reforms, he is not talking about anything that would hurt current retirees: “I am against anything that would hurt my mother.” Fiorina advocated going to zero-based budgeting.

The closing statements were all mini-stump speeches, and were thus pretty much big yawns. Fiorina made the most of it by saying that everyone in the heart of hearts would love to see her debate Hillary Clinton (true). Carson got some applause. Trump said that the fact that the debate was limited to two hours proved that he was a great leader and shrewd negotiator. Everyone else just droned on, expecting–but not really receiving–much acknowledgment from the audience.

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Ah, To Be Young And In Love Again!

Young, in love, eat lard adYoung, in love, eat lard adYoung, in love, eat lard ad
(H/t Jason)

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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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