Miss the 5th Republican Primary Debate? You Didn’t Miss Much

Given the fact that Ted Cruz had actually topped Donald Trump in a poll of likely caucus goers in Iowa I among many others was hoping to see an interesting encounter last night between the two, as Trump has shown a tendency to verbally cut down whoever seems to be robbing a bit of attention from the great bloviator.

It turned out just the opposite.  Though Cruz had recently suggested Trump’s judgement wasn’t up to snuff for a president and Trump had employed the label “maniac” in describing Cruz, neither went at the other last night.  Just the opposite.  Standing next to each other, they were almost best buds.

When the “maniac” comment was brought up, Trumped disowned it with a laugh and a friendly jab at Cruz.  Ted apparently had morphed from a maniac into a good guy.  Such is the unexpected nature of the Donald’s thinking.

It seems the two have an unstated alliance.   They benefit by not attacking each other at this point as they are well clear of the pack in Iowa and attacking each other at this point would only provide openings for the others to attack them.  They remind me of Hitler and Stalin who found it in their best interests to get along, having each others’ backs until Hitler decided it was time to stab Stalin in the back.

As the February 9 caucus date approaches, will that time come?  I expect to see the fun couple begin to find more wrong with each other and it really could get interesting after that if Cruz has the audacity to win in Iowa.

While I see Cruz as a weasel and Trump as a snake oil salesman, I have to tip my hat to the skillful way they have played this political version of Survivor.  What seems surreal to people like me, seems just a new reality that they have adjusted to better than the rest.

Trump has been playing the media and American angst like a virtuoso while Cruz has been drafting behind him like a nascar driver awaiting his chance to pounce.

Unless something surprising pops up that makes the other candidates relevant, Trump and Cruz are the Republican race in Iowa and I’ll be especially curious to see what Cruz does.   He’s got a better chance to trump Trump in evangelical Iowa than he has in the more secular New Hampshire, but does he really want to get into a mano a mano with Trump?

Perhaps he is hoping like many others that the Trump balloon will eventually pop by itself, which would leave Cruz in a prime position to sweep up his followers and then race to the finish line as the survivor last standing.

Or how about this?   What if the Trump bubble does not  burst and Cruz maintains good relations with the self-proclaimed great man, and rather than stab each other in the back they unite their forces:  President Trump and Vice-President Cruz?

Now that could really get interesting.  Scary, but very interesting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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OOPS! Mea Culpa Ted Cruz

(I wrote this post this morning before all hell broke loose in Paris, which is being covered on TV behind me.  That makes what I write below pale in significance, but I still want to send this out to tie up a loose end that bothers me.)

I have a passionate dislike for the way that information has become spun or twisted out of context or simply lied about to fit an ideology or cause.   What was called the “age of information” in my youth has become, at least in the realm of politics and all it touches, an age clearly marked by misinformation,   Gandhi said:  “Truth is God.”   I may not go that far, but I can relate.

So, I feel compelled to confess I was careless when I wrote:  “While the candidates touted their various economic plans and directed viewers to their web sites for details, the most important point seemed a sin of omission:  none indicated where they would cut spending, despite often wanting to spend more on one or more areas, national defense being the prime example.”

What failed to register in my mind is Ted Cruz’s saying he wanted to eliminate:  “..the IRS, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Energy, the Department of Commerce and HUD.”  Yes, he did mention Commerce twice, but on his web site indicated the fifth department was the Department of Education.

Certainly those would be some major budget cuts, but they didn’t register as such with me at the time.   Perhaps subconsciously I marked it down as Ted throwing more red meat to his base.  But, in any case I was plain wrong in my statement about no indications of cutting spending.

On the other hand, Cruz has a whole tax plan that according to a Vox analysis ” will cost trillions upon trillions of dollars and lead to an enormous tax cut for the richest Americans.”  True, Vox would have to be seen as liberal leaning and more conservative analyses would undoubtedly be kinder to Cruz.

I just want to indicate a more balanced sense of Cruz’s vision.

The 4th Republican Debate was more Informative than the Other Three: Boring

The general consensus of the media regarding last night’s debate was that it dealt more substantially with the issues, a phrase I have come to equate with “boring”.   The Donald didn’t even spice things up, partially because he has elected to present a lower profile in the debates  while remaining his old outrageous self on the campaign trail.  And partially because he wasn’t attacked much.

As such I could only stand watching for a few minutes at a time, so I switched back and forth most often to a recording of the TV series Fargo, which is not brilliantly funny like the movie but is grimly gripping.

During the last presidential race I often heard complaints that a key issue to most of us, the economy, was seldom really talked about.  It wasn’t but then, truth be told, most of us don’t want to hear about plans for the economy, even if we indicate we want to in polls.  We all want a better economy, but we don’t want to hear about detailed plans that will only be pilloried by various “experts” and we laymen won’t really be able to figure them out because it would require a major devotion of time and energy which would likely confuse us more than anything else.

AND WE DO HAVE LIVES.  Even me.

And even if it is a great plan, it will die on the desiccated vine of congressional politics, so……what’s the point?   This is a good part of the recipe for Donald Trump’s and Ben Carson’s success thus far.  They have no plans.  They just want us to believe in them as trustworthy successful individuals who can parley that success into making government work better.  Given the frustrations we all feel about government, a good share of us are willing to put our faith in their being able to do just that.  At least at the moment.

While the candidates touted their various economic plans and directed viewers to their web sites for details, the most important point seemed a sin of omission:  none indicated where they would cut spending, despite often wanting to spend more on one or more areas, national defense being the prime example.  This implication of greater spending is a weak spot for a party whose identity is based on fiscal conservatism to a large degree, something Rand Paul pointed out.  But the others were mostly content to emphasize their spending would be less and serve us better than Hillary Clinton’s would be.

From what I’ve read since the debate it seems all eight presenters at the main debate were judged to have performed reasonably well, even Jeb Bush, who I’ve come to think of as “dead man walking.”   Chris Christie is said to have won the preliminary four candidate debate and you may have noticed he has a heart felt video on drug addiction that has gone viral, so his campaign seems to be picking up.

But I would rather not dwell on how anyone is doing in the Republican race as it seems that the chances of each candidate will go up and down like the stock market in upcoming months (for example, in Christi’s case there are still trials pending on bridge gate which still could damage his campaign).

The one thing that does seem clear is that the party is divided enough that most of these candidates will be sticking around for a few months at least, most betting that over time the believe-in-me candidacies of Trump and Carson will gradually lose steam and the race will become wide open at that point.  When the music stops who knows who will be in position to crab the one remaining chair?

For those interested in knowing more about the debate, google:  We’re finally seeing the deep fault lines at the heart of the GOP nomination battle   It’s the title of an article in the Washington Post which I’ve tried to link you to, but the link doesn’t work..

The next Republican debate is five weeks from now.   I hope something will attract my interest by then.

Donald Trump: King of the Birthers

I began to think of Donald Trump as a clown when he became king of the birthers several years ago.  Prior to that I thought of him as a publicity hound who got plenty of what he wanted.  But when he pushed the birther agenda he went beyond his own life and added to the distorted political consciousness of our nation.  And it was distorted aplenty before that.

That also raised my contempt for the Republican leaders who acted like innocents as to whether Obama was Kenyan born, as if they thought he might be. I also was disgusted with journalists who allowed Trump to get away with implications of what his crack investigators learned about Obama’s birth.  Always implying solid information, while never producing any, and never pressed to do so.

Now Trump refers to the great scholars who question that the 14th amendment really includes what he calls “anchor babies,” but once again the press doesn’t press for names.  That’s how falsehoods are allowed to stand and blossom into the “truthiness,” that Steven Colbert has mocked so well.

A recent poll concludes that 61% of Trump fans believe Obama was born in Kenya, while 62% think he’s a secret Muslim.  Other polls are considerably lower.  What seems more believable to me is is 30 to 40% in those categories.  (In these ornery times I can imagine some respondents giving false answers to screw with the pollsters).  Whatever the exact per cent is, it’s a lot of people who believe in nonsense, nonsense that is having a surprisingly big impact on our presidential race.

This morning I did some googling in search of an understanding of how so many people could still be convinced Obama was born in Kenya.  Well, there is plenty of information on the net to support that idea if you want to find it.  Nothing that I find credible, though.

My favorite is a video which claims to be Obama admitting to his Kenyan birth, which actually is Obama mocking the idea at a White House Correspondents dinner. There he said he had a birther video of his own and then played a segment from The Lion King.  I’m sitting here wondering just how low an I. Q. level it takes to miss the joke.

There is also a Kenyan birth certificate which upon examination seems to have the authenticity of a three dollar bill.

The most convincing bit of evidence that I could find was that: “A 1991 literary client list booklet listed Barack Obama as having been born in Kenya.”   I checked it on Snopes.com and they said it was “true”.   But they said much more, that the folks at the (right wing) Britebart News prefaced their providing the information by saying that while they believed Obama was born in Hawaii, they wanted to share the information as an indication of Obama’s misrepresentation of his ideology.

As if to say:  It’s not our fault if others use this to distort the truth.  As Snopes goes on to detail, the woman who edited that bio-pic later said that the Kenya birth was a “fact checking error” by her tied to her having little information on Obama at the time.   I suggest you read the Snopes piece as the details illuminate how truthiness is generated.

So, for those who can’t stand President Obama, you can find “evidence” he was born in Kenya, as long as you take the spurious information at face value.

By the way, I have long wondered why neither side of the birther debate has tried to establish where Obama’s mom was at his birth.  I have never seen anyone try to prove she was in Kenya at the time, only that he was born there.   Wouldn’t she have had to be there, too.?

THE TRUMP SHOW: The Surreality of Politics as Reality TV

I’m beginning to tire of Donald Trump, but not of the process that has made him a wrecking ball to the campaigns of other Republican candidates.  Not true of all those candidates – Ted Cruz, for example, always says nice things about the man while positioning himself just close enough to siphon off fall away voters later.  Like Nascar drivers, Ted is drafting behind the Donald in good position to make his move when (if?) the frontrunner falters.

The others, though, seem on a tight rope, careful to show how they are both like him (to attract his supporters later) and not (to also attract his detractors).  Sometimes these lesser sorts dare cross from the prick of wit to the sting of insult in Donald’s eyes, which prompts a verbal whack, such as his pointing to Carly Fiorina and asking:  “Would you vote for this face?”

This, I surmise, in response to her saying that in dealing with foreign policy it is important to have some sense of the major players, playing off Trump’s confusing the Quds Force of Iran with the Kurds of Iraq in an interview.   If you criticize the Donald better expect a pie in your face.

Under normal circumstances I would suggest Carly produce a poster of Trump with the caption: “Would you vote for this face?”   But then I fear Trump would hold it up in some mass rally, and his fans would cheer wildly “yes.”  It’s not politics as usual since the Donald hit town.

I happen to know one of these fans who just emailed me:  “The more he takes cheap shots, the more popular he becomes.  Amazing. ”  Like so many others, he likes Trump’s unfiltered side, a sign of how mind numbing our politics have become that anything that actually seems unscripted is cheered no matter what it matters.   There must be some limit, right?  He can’t say something like “stone them to death” and still get cheers can he?

Well, perhaps.  Afterwards he could say he didn’t mean “stone to death” literally, as later he said he wasn’t criticing Carly’s looks but her “persona,” and later still that his comments were made “as an entertainer,” ….which means exactly what?  Is he saying his comments shouldn’t be taken so seriously, for after all, he’s just entertaining us.  Who knows but the not knowing further fuels interest as if it really matters what comes out of his mouth.

That we might further ponder the issue is evidence of his wiliness.  See how much coverage he gets from saying something contemptible and then changing what he said and then getting coverage for that and prompting fools like me to further ponder?

That’s the joke folks.   What he says doesn’t matter.  It’s his jabbing politicians and the politically correct police that matters to his fans, not exactly what he says.  It’s the rest of us who don’t get the joke.

People like me need to kick the habit (addiction?) of wondering out loud what Trump is up to now?   I have high hopes I can, and even think many of Trump’s fans will tire of his act or think more seriously about whether they actually want a person for president whose “primary” goal is to entertain us.

But my Trump-fan friend indicates I may be wrong.  When asked whether he would actually vote for Trump for president, he said he would if he got the nomination..

While typing I’ve been thinking of Bette Midler’s singing:  “Let me entertain you.  Let me make you smile.”

TRUMP MANIA

An American who has been living in England for many years has written that she is surprised at the attention I have been giving Donald Trump.  No one is more surprised than I, as might be inferred from my initial post on the phenom in late June.   I was part of the chorus that called him a clown.  It turns out he was actually the ringmaster and we were his clowns.

The Apprentice has morphed into The Candidate, now with the smidgen of potential to one day morph again into The President.   Reality TV eventually transformed into surreality TV?

The thought horrifies but fascinates, as if some huge asteroid was hurtling itself towards us.  Why horrified at the thought of a Trump presidency?   Because anyone who basically holds himself up as the answer to all of our major problems (these fool politicians got us into this mess and I alone am rich enough not to be bought and smart enough to fix the problems and “make American great again”) is a snake oil salesman.

But snake oil sales are going good and I don’t see the demand reducing any time soon.

The temptation is to try to analyze Trump as a psycho-sociological phenomenon, but that’s worth a book and the story has just begun.   Still, still there is wide spread disdain for both politicians and politics as usual (Democrat Bernie Sanders being another beneficiary) and with the rise of Trump, politics have become anything but usual.

That’s the point.  The unusual in the form of Trump is a lot more fun and interesting.  In this case  especially for Democrats who love to watch the squabble,  but obviously for many Republicans as well.  It must keep a number of other Republicans awake at night, though.   Unlike literally a few weeks ago, it seems Trump’s getting the party nomination is not totally far fetched.

Jeb Bush is the only other candidate to get much traction in the polls at this point.  But when they juxtapose clips on TV of The Donald in front of a crowd of thousands next to the jeb in front of a few hundred, Trump looks like a star and jeb looks like an undertaker.  And he is the only other Republican candidate to receive even double digit poll support, still only about half of THE DONALD’s.  As is often said, Trump takes all the oxygen out of the room, prompting images of the other candidates gasping for breath and just trying to survive.

The President, hmm….. now that’s a “reality” show I’d watch, frightened as I would be.

The First GOP Debate a.k.a. The Donald Show

As certain as I am that the Donald Trump campaign balloon will pop at some point, I’m revising my thinking as to how he’ll perform tonight.   Forget what I said in my last post about him turning the evening into some form of The Apprentice.  He doesn’t need to make the debate all about him, it already is.

He has already established himself as the clear cut leading Republican candidate in the polls, so he does not need to be as outrageous as usual. He simply has to get through the night without the other candidates successfully tearing him down and I think the other candidates on stage will be wary of doing that, lest they seem like they are ganging up on him and dismissing the anger and frustration of a large proportion of the Republican base.   The Donald’s peeps.

In short, Trump does not need to score points on his opponents.  He’s already the big leader.  He just needs to counter punch a bit if they try to land punches on him.   So, the stage is set for Trump to look more presidential than usual which is all he needs to maintain his lead in the polls. What I’ll be curious to see is whether any of the other candidates impress sufficiently to rise in the polls themselves and what they’ll do to distinguish themselves. (1)

The difficulty for them is that anything that sounds like a serious approach to some problem, such as Chris Christie’s proposal for entitlement reform, will prompt glazed over eyes when compared with the Donald’s hubris.  You want entitlement reform?  Elect me president and I’ll show you entitlement reform, just as I built up a real estate empire.   I’ll also fix the border problem as well as put China in its place.  Wait and see.  The Great Wall will become The Great Wall of Trump.

The basic reason I think the Donald’s campaign will fizzle over time is that as much as we all want to fix a number of problems in this country, we have different ideas as to how to fix what and even what needs to be fixed, often polarized ideas.  The herculean challenge for a president these days is not to fix everything, but to get the rest of us (in the form of Congress) to agree upon a path to fix anything.

About a 100 years ago a wise man said something like:  For every complex problem there is a simple solution.  And it’s wrong. (2)   For Donald Trump and those who favor him in the poles, he is the simple solution.  Elect him and he’ll fix what others have been too feckless to fix.

Ah, I wish life were that easy.

But for now, and tonight and the immediate future, Trump mania seems likely to thrive and the solutions to our complex problems will seem that easy to a sizable some.

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(1)  As you know, there are actually two debates tonight, the first for the seven candidates who did not make the top 10 in the polls.  They have the advantage of not worrying about clashing with Trump directly and one or more might say something that gets pumped up by the media later.  Carly Fiorina, the lone woman GOP candidate and good at articulating her ideas, would be my first guess.

(2)   The guy was H. L. Mencken, an influential American thinker of the period.  He actually wrote:  “There is always an easy solution to every human problem–neat, plausible, and wrong.”  But I think my bastardized version suits the Trump situation better.