Spotted lily

Spotted lily

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The CNN Las Vegas Debate

This past week, the Republican presidential candidates participated in yet another debate, this one focussed on issues of foreign policy and national security.  There was rather a lot of substantive discussion, which is a good thing, and several of the candidates performed well.  At this time, I’d like to mention just a few observations related to the CNN debate in Las Vegas.

Regarding the format, I think that debates devoted to one broad category of issues, like national security or the economy, allow for some more detailed examination of important subjects.  However, some potential voters will not watch all of the debates, and, for those perhaps only tuning in to one event as the actual voting draws near, it might be beneficial to have a forum in which the candidates discuss a wide range of topics to give the public a better idea of their overall positions and philosophies.

Jeb Bush has had a tough time so far in this campaign, so I was glad that he had a good night in Las Vegas.  He was solid during the actual debate and also got in a couple of effective one-liners directed against Donald Trump.  I especially liked his quip that he wasn’t sure if Trump was getting his information from TV shows on Sunday morning or Saturday morning.  (Come to think of it, having Yosemite Sam and Foghorn Leghorn as policy advisors might explain a lot...)  When asked about others’ proposals or statements with which he disagreed, I thought that Governor Bush managed to present himself as a reasonable alternative without seeming apologetic or lacking in strength, and also to articulate his own ideas for the issues under discussion. Unfortunately, he did stumble a bit during both his opening and closing statements.  Maybe he let the pressure of the big moments he’d prepared for get to him.  In any case, while I don’t know if Jeb Bush still has a real chance in the race, at least I think he can feel good about his most recent debate performance as a whole.

Chris Christie does seem like someone who could plausibly be seen as a Commander in Chief, but I’m not sure that he’ll have that much opportunity for success in this year’s large field of good candidates.  During the debates, I don’t think that Governor Christie should be so dismissive of policy discussions among other candidates.  Many of these issues and details are important, and the particulars of the laws enacted by Congress do have a large effect in determining what prosecutors and governors like Christie are able to do when, for example, surveilling or investigating suspected terrorists.  On a more positive note, I will also say that, especially for someone known as rather a blunt-talking “tough guy,” Governor Christie showed himself capable of considerable restraint.  Standing right next to Christie, Rand Paul accused him of being likely to start World War III and then threw in a gratuitous reference to the New Jersey bridge scandal, but Christie stayed calm, basically ignored Paul’s comments, and just continued making the points he wanted to convey.

It almost seemed as if Marco Rubio had a big target on his back during much of the evening.  The moderators often set up direct, conflicting exchanges between him and Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul joined in with criticism of Rubio on multiple occasions.  Overall, I thought that Senator Rubio held his own and kept his cool under pressure, but some of what was said about him, along with renewed attention on his immigration views, could potentially hurt him in the race.  Still, throughout the debate, I think that Rubio once again did a good job of sounding prepared and knowledgeable and making a case for his positions and past votes, and I continue to think that he would be a very strong nominee.

Ted Cruz could also be a good nominee and conservative spokesperson, and it seems that things have been going his way lately, with polls showing him leading in Iowa.  He always has pretty good performances in the debates, and I’d expect those most inclined to support him liked much of what he had to say on Tuesday.  In the debate exchanges with Senator Rubio, particularly on the immigration issue, I think that Senator Cruz may have come out with somewhat of an advantage, especially because Rubio was put on the defensive, fending off criticism, much of the time.  However, I do think that Senator Cruz may have come across as less than clear or even as evasive on a few occasions, including when discussing his stance (past and present) on legalization of immigrants and when asked why he wouldn’t publicly say the same things about Donald Trump’s candidacy that he’d said at a private fundraiser, and that’s not an impression likely to be helpful to him.

I’m not sure how much point there is discussing anything in particular Donald Trump says in a debate.  In this case, he still often sounded very vague and sometimes, as when asked about the nuclear triad, didn’t seem to have any idea what the question meant.  In addition, he expressed ideas of questionable practicality and constitutionality (such as shutting down parts of the Internet to deter terrorist recruiting), falsely denied statements he’d previously made, and demonstrated (again) that the sincerity of the things he says is frequently in doubt by complimenting and praising opponents (Ben Carson and Ted Cruz) he’d harshly criticized and insulted as recently as two days earlier.  Yet, most of the other candidates didn’t seem willing to express criticism of Trump at the debate, and the usual rules of politics don’t seem to apply to him.  So, people will give Mr. Trump credit if one or two of his answers are more coherent than usual, and his supporters will presumably continue to keep him at the top of the polls, as they have since he first entered the race.

As I’ve stated before, I really can’t comprehend the way the public is viewing this primary campaign, but based on the way things have been going, I’d guess that this debate won’t really have much of an effect on the standing of the national frontrunner or of any of the candidates who’ve been polling in the single digits.  I am concerned, however, about the impact recent developments, including this debate and its aftermath, might have on Senators Rubio and Cruz.   Maybe things will remain basically unchanged in the race, or perhaps one or the other will benefit, but I do worry that the conflicts between them could wind up damaging both candidates.  I hope that this is not the case, as both men are capable and qualified contenders for the Republican nomination -- and, if they should fall out of favor, I’m afraid that victory for someone extremely unsuitable would become even more likely than it already seems.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Donald Trump: More of the Same

After writing at great length in my last post about some of my many issues with the continuing success of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, I had hoped to be able to concentrate on some other topics for a while.  However, since Trump-centric discussions have been pretty much everywhere during the past week, I guess I might as well talk about him some more, as well -- though, hopefully in a shorter burst this time.

I’m not going to spend a lot of time on the controversy of the week -- Mr. Trump’s suggestion that no foreign Muslims should be allowed into the U.S. until the government “figures out what’s going on.”  If that means until our leaders and bureaucratic agencies accomplish the daunting task of developing an extremely accurate way to determine which prospective immigrants or visitors could possibly commit or support terrorist activities at some point in the future, the temporary ban might last quite a long time indeed.  I will say that I do not think that the proposal would be unconstitutional, because our Constitution doesn’t grant rights, such as freedom of religion, to everyone in the world.  (It could be dangerous, though, to give the Supreme Court a chance to weigh in on something like this and risk having them fabricate an inventive ruling that applicants for admission to the U.S. may not be disqualified for things that would be considered protected speech, exercise of religion, etc. for American citizens.)  I also think that, if a temporary moratorium on entrances to the country were to be adopted, it might be less problematic to make it universal rather than limited to one religious group.  After all, Trump’s suggestion that people would simply be asked their religion at, for example, an airport, doesn’t seem to be a particularly accurate way to verify such information.  In any case, even though these types of policies may be legally permissible, that does not mean that they would necessarily be wise or that they would not create or exacerbate as many problems as they solved, and their consideration should not be taken lightly.  I also agree with those who have said that Trump’s announcement this week of his proposal regarding Muslims entering the country was likely prompted by recent poll results suggesting a lessening of his lead, especially in Iowa, where one poll showed Ted Cruz was now ahead.  Based on the pattern of the last several months, it wouldn’t be surprising if Mr. Trump figured that the best way to divert attention from that development and refocus it on himself was to say something controversial, and it worked.  Odd as it may sound, this seems to just be business as usual for the Donald Trump campaign.

I’ve said (repeatedly) before that I’ve found it stunning that any sizable group of people would consider someone like Donald Trump their top choice to be President of the United States.  From a certain perspective, though, I suppose that I should not be surprised at all, as Trump’s popularity fits in with the trends seen in the last couple of presidential elections.

Barack Obama was able to win twice despite lacking prior experiences showing particular qualifications to be president and even though some of his main positions and proposals (such as “Obamacare”) were opposed by a majority of the people.  Many of his supporters were devoted to him, and policy details or any critical information about Obama were not important.  This has been called a “cult of personality,” and that seems to be a fitting description -- just remember the accounts of the enthralled crowds at Obama’s campaign events in 2008, complete with people fainting when overcome by the awesome experience of being in his presence.  Obama encouraged people to view him in this way when he spoke of the amazing changes that would happen if he would be elected -- why, the entire planet would be healed as the sea levels would fall if he were victorious.  In both of Obama’s elections, people disregarded potentially damaging facts about him, including, in 2008, his past associations with people like Bill Ayres and Jeremiah Wright and, in 2012, the events and lies surrounding the Benghazi attack.  None of this mattered to many voters -- Obama was their guy.

Similarly, Donald Trump’s supporters this year are unmoved by any arguments against him.  Even if they describe themselves as Republicans and often as conservatives, they are not dissuaded by his past (or present) support for liberal positions, his lack of experience with foreign policy and other presidential matters, or his vague and shifting views during this campaign.  Any rude or insulting comments he directs at reporters,  a captured POW, an entire state of voters, or his opponents are acceptable, because he’s standing up to the oppressive political correctness problem in the country, even if he’s reiterating and amplifying the very attacks (as in the case of Ben Carson) these same people criticize the media for using.  I’d imagine that having a pre-established fan base from his television show, along with general celebrity name recognition, didn’t hurt Mr. Trump in establishing his campaign.  Now, it seems that most of his backers will stick with him no matter what he says or does, and whichever position he takes on a given issue is fine with them.  As for Donald Trump himself, he certainly does not downplay his own importance.  He says that media members tell him he is the best interview and that even his opponents compliment him on his winning debate performances.  If he is elected, he will “make America great again” and negotiate tremendous deals with other countries.  It isn’t necessary for him to provide a lot of specifics regarding any of his plans, because he has assured us that he will bring in fantastic people to handle every issue.

While in office, Barack Obama has continually claimed more power for himself.  He has issued a great many executive orders, even in cases where he had previously admitted that he didn’t have the authority to do so.  This week, Donald Trump said that, if he were president, he would sign an executive order mandating the death penalty for anyone convicted of killing a police officer.  Now, I’m certainly unhappy with all of the police-bashing that’s been going on the last couple of years, and support for law enforcement from the Oval Office would be a welcome change, but this suggestion might be rather too broad.  Whatever the merits of the idea, I can’t see how Mr. Trump’s proposed executive order would possibly be within the president’s authority, as it would seem to be usurping the powers of local, state, and federal legislatures and courts.  Republicans and conservatives have often criticized Obama’s power grabs and unlawful executive orders -- are many of them now OK with the idea of a mega-powerful chief executive circumventing the separation of powers established by the Constitution as long as the one in charge is (at least momentarily) affiliated with their party?

So, on one hand, Republicans nominating a quite liberal, deliberately abrasive reality-show celebrity (yes, and businessman) with no government experience as their presidential candidate would be a rather novel development.  But, on the other hand, a victory for Donald Trump would just show once again that the American people have developed a preference for presidents who, to put it nicely, have very high self-esteem and are willing to assert (or exceed) their authority to accomplish their goals.  We’ve already had two terms of a, as Bobby Jindal might put it, narcissistic egomaniac in the White House with Barack Obama.  The election of Donald Trump would only give us a third, and that type of continuity hardly seems desirable.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

What's Trumping logic?

My consternation at Donald Trump’s success upon entering the Republican primary race actually drove me to start writing here this summer, but, while he has continued to hold a lead in the polls for the last several months, I have tried to remain (relatively) calm and refrain from addressing the topic at length again. After some of the things I’ve heard and read lately, however, I can no longer help myself.  So, here I am, once again trying to make some sense of the incomprehensible.  It’s difficult to know how to approach a phenomenon that seems almost unbelievable, but I’ll begin by mentioning and responding to some of the recent comments and news items that have prompted this post.

I’m usually at work during Rush Limbaugh’s radio program, but on the Friday before Thanksgiving I happened to find myself in a car with someone who was listening to his show.  Rush was defending Donald Trump against stories in the media suggesting he might be interested in having a database to register Muslims in the U.S.  While discussing Mr. Trump, Rush said that the media has not been able to destroy Trump because it didn’t create him.  A couple of days later, I saw Rush on Fox News Sunday saying that Donald Trump is providing a great service by showing Republicans that they do not have to be afraid of the media or of being politically incorrect.
  • First of all, I really would not be at all sure that “the media” is trying to “take out” or ruin Donald Trump at this point.  They get good TV ratings or more hits on their websites, etc. when they cover him, so why would they want that to stop any time soon?  Also, I’d guess that they probably still do not view Mr. Trump as one of the Republicans most likely to do well in the general election.  So, from a partisan standpoint, I wouldn’t expect the media to try to harm him during the primary season -- why make it more likely for Hillary Clinton to face someone they see as a stronger opponent?  Once the Republican nominee is officially selected, there will be plenty of time for attempted media sabotage of whomever is chosen.
  • Also, while there may be occasions like this one, where reporters or others ask Trump questions that have a good chance of eliciting controversial answers from him, most of the time this is quite unnecessary, as Mr. Trump seems delighted to make blunt or even outrageous statements of his own accord.
  •  Finally, I cannot see that Donald Trump’s ability to succeed to this point despite a plethora of media coverage of his “politically incorrect” campaign would be generally applicable to other Republican candidates.  I find it hard to believe that most candidates would retain their support if the news was filled with reports about them continually making rude and insulting comments about practically everyone, constantly changing their positions on issues, and making or supporting proposals that might alienate large portions of the public.  This type of “Teflon” resilience is possible, for Trump or any other politician, only if his or her supporters are willing to provide it.  Trump’s segment of the Republican electorate certainly seems willing to stick with him no matter what he says or does or what is said about him, which, in his case, I do not thing is a good thing.  If Republican voters in general and conservative media figures would be willing to extend that sort of unshakable loyalty to any (or even most) Republican candidates, it would certainly be a new development, because in the past there has been what I would consider an often unfortunate tendency to abandon Republicans facing criticism or even to join in with it, even when the people in question are much more deserving of defense.
On the radio program mentioned above, Rush also talked to a young Trump supporter who stated that he and other people he knows just laugh at things in the media about Trump.  This caller said that he doesn’t want a “scripted president” but instead wants  someone who “speaks for him.”  All of this support for Trump on a conservative talk show was too much for me to deal with, and I couldn’t contain my exasperation, at which point I was asked by my fellow auto occupant (and family member) if I thought Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama were better than Trump.  Sigh...   Jumping ahead a bit, a week later, Mark Steyn was filling in for Rush Limbaugh and took a call from someone critical of the desire of the (so-called) “establishment” to take down the frontrunner in the race.  He asked, “Don’t they want to win?”
  • In reference to Rush’s caller, once again, I think it would be wiser for potential voters not to simply discount stories about candidates without any attention or thought.  Beyond that, though, I find it troubling that people would want to claim that Donald Trump is “speaking for” them.  If we’re seeking a spokesperson, wouldn’t it be better to look for one who is at least moderately civil, consistent, coherent when discussing issues, and, hopefully, conservative?
  • To respond to the question from my dear relative (and I will mention that she actually prefers a candidate other than Trump,) I think it is the wrong thing to ask, especially now, and it is certainly not a sufficient argument for having Donald Trump as the Republican frontrunner.  Barack Obama is rather irrelevant to the discussion, since he is not, thankfully, running for reelection again.  (Unless, of course, he decides to pen another really creative executive action eliminating presidential term limits and then phone all of the media outlets to tell them about it.  But, I digress...)  As for a comparison of the relative merits of Trump and Hillary Clinton, I honestly cannot say that I am confident Trump would be preferable.  Not that long ago, he praised and supported Hillary, and he changes his stated opinions on many things very frequently.  How, then, can we think we have any real idea what actions he would take or goals he would pursue were he elected President?  I will confess that I see Mr. Trump as really being much more of a liberal Democrat than a conservative Republican at heart, so, in a contest with Mrs. Clinton, there would basically be a draw in my mind.  That being said, even if we were to stipulate that Trump would at least be better than Clinton, this is not the time to raise such a point.  If he does eventually win the nomination (insert involuntary shudders here,) it would make sense for those advocating his election to use this reasoning in attempting to persuade other voters to support him.  For now, though, we still have 14 candidates in a primary race for which the actual voting has not yet even begun.  Rather than settling for someone who meets a bare minimum standard of being a bit better than the Democrats, shouldn’t we be trying to select the strongest candidates who are likely to do the best job as President and who might actually try to govern according to some basic conservative principles?
  • Finally, a couple of points in answer to Mark Steyn’s caller regarding “winning.”  First, I think that it is still difficult for many of us to accept the idea that large numbers of people could find Donald Trump to be a valid option for President of the United States, so we do not just assume that the nation as a whole would be willing to elect him even if enough Republicans vote to give him the nomination.  The American electorate obviously has been known to make very unwise choices before, having, for example, recently elected Barack Obama twice.  So, they may well go along with the idea of a brash reality show in the White House, but there is also a chance that they may take a more traditional, staid approach when deciding whom to consider “presidential.”  Secondly, are we to consider it a “win” as long as someone with an “R” next to his or her name on the ballot is elected, no matter what his or her philosophy, policies, or actions may be?  I think that we should aim higher than that and seek to nominate someone who will at least try to move the political conversation and policy goals of our country in the right (and Right) direction, and, I’m sorry, but I don’t believe Mr. Trump is the man to do that.
To top all of this off, a little over a week ago, I read the news that, even after Donald Trump had given an even more bizarre performance than usual at one of his appearances and after voters were expected (by some) to “get serious” as they focus more on things like security in the wake of the recent terrorist attacks, Trump’s lead in the latest polls had actually increased, and Republicans in a survey were saying that they trusted him the most to deal with almost all of the issues listed.  More recently, I did see an item this past weekend claiming that Trump had dropped sharply in a poll, but it stated that he’d been at a high of 43% a week before.  (I had never before seen news that Trump had gained that much support, which is a good thing, because if I had, I might well have gone into complete shock.  If there really was such a poll result earlier this month, I would think it must have been an anomaly.)  This item said Trump was now down to 31%, which is about the figure I’d read when his numbers recently went up, so, the way I see it, Trump was still enjoying what I’d consider remarkably positive results.  It may well be that I’m the one who has lost touch with reality, but I just can’t help feeling that a large portion of the electorate has gone completely mad!
  • In general, it seems rather odd for the public to put its trust in someone with no real relevant experience or qualifications who mainly just expresses multiple vague and ever-changing opinions about foreign policy and other issues, but this seems especially reckless regarding matters of national security.  Why would voters choose to rely on a person who thinks he can wait to become knowledgeable and prepared about these issues until it’s time to take office; who has criticized other candidates for making harsh characterizations of Vladimir Putin, with whom he thinks he can have good discussions; suggested that we should just let Russia deal with ISIS in Syria; and so on?  Because they see him as the “tough guy?”  I think that’s a flawed perception of him, but, in any case, I don’t think the terrorists are going to abandon their goals and plans and slink away because someone casts particularly creative or withering insults in their direction.
  • In addition, I find it quite troublesome that even reports about Donald Trump’s lengthy “speech” in Iowa a couple of weeks ago apparently do not give his supporters pause.  If he can go on a rather unhinged tirade against other candidates (including Ben Carson and Marco Rubio) and even call the voters of Iowa stupid for the egregious error of failing to always keep him, the Great & Powerful Trump, on top in their polls, and this results in a greater number of people thinking he is the man they want to make the leader of the free world, what does that say about the qualities the American people (or at least Republican primary voters) want in a president?  And, from a practical standpoint, this begs the question:  is there anything Donald Trump could possibly do or say that might cause fans to rethink their support?  I’m afraid that the answer may be no, and that is a very disheartening thought.
I was definitely initially stunned by Trump’s popularity in the Republican presidential primary contest, but, once it was established, I have not been among those who were confident it would fade.  I have certainly hoped fervently that this might happen, but, until there is actual evidence that people are regaining their senses, I see no reason to assume the public will suddenly make a more reasonable choice.  There is still some time left before the actual primaries and caucuses begin, though, so maybe, just maybe, the political landscape of the campaign can yet change and allow a superior candidate to prevail in the end.  We’ll just have to wait and see -- and, in my case, possibly write some more on related topics in an attempt to cope with politics-induced distress. 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Milwaukee Debate & Other Recent Developments

A lot has happened in the world in the last couple of weeks, much of it far more important than the details of the primary election campaign.  Still, I’d like to take at least a brief look at the most recent Republican debate and a few other things related to the race.

The Fox Business debate held in Milwaukee was an improvement over previous events in giving much more attention to substance.  Because there are differences among the candidates regarding various issues, there were some interesting exchanges, and the responses and comments made by the participants should give potential voters more to consider in forming their opinions and candidate preferences.  (If, that is, the members of the public are actually concerned about and interested in policies and ideas, which, unfortunately, doesn’t seem to always be the case.)

Regarding the early debate for those not doing as well in the polls, I still think it’s unfortunate that some of these candidates have never had a chance to “compete” with the others in the prime time event.  People who are far better-qualified and prepared choices than anyone on the Democrat side (and than some in the Republican field) seem to have been summarily dismissed by voters without serious consideration, which is a shame.  Rick Santorum keeps plugging away, pointing out both his prior conservative accomplishments in the Senate and the distinguishing aspects of his current platform that are especially aimed at helping American workers/labor.  I’ve admired Senator Santorum for a long time, so, even though I’m not necessarily in agreement with all of the items in this latter category, I feel he has earned a fair hearing in the race.  I thought that Chris Christie did a good job of sticking to his main message that it is crucial to focus on stopping Hillary Clinton and that he believes he is the best person to “prosecute” the case against her.  He did this even while facing quite a bit of criticism from Bobby Jindal, who kept hammering the point that voters should choose to elect, not just any Republican, but one who would actually do things that he promises, especially cut government spending.  It seemed to me that Jindal didn’t make the most effective use of his time by coming back to this same theme in pretty much every response, when he could have used the opportunities to detail more of his accomplishments and proposals.  Since the debate, Governor Jindal has ended his campaign for the nomination, which means that three men who all have very successful records as governors and would seem capable of doing a solid job if elected President have now dropped out of the Republican race quite early in the process.  Meanwhile, candidates lacking experience, a strong grasp of issues, and/or a reasonable temperament continue to be favored in the polls, and I really must once again question the choices that Republicans and “conservatives” have been making in regard to this campaign.

I’m not sure how much of an effect the prime-time debate might have on the fortunes of the various candidates.  John Kasich once again spoke a lot.  He seemed to be on quite a different page than most of the field on many issues and to be criticizing the more common Republican positions, and I really don’t think this will help him win over voters.  Rand Paul also presented some more unique views, but he did do a better job of presenting his points than in previous debates.  He doesn’t seem likely to have a huge surge of support in the polls, but he did add additional dimensions to the discussion and serve as sort of an on-stage “fact-checker” at times.  Carly Fiorina did fine, pretty much as she had before, but I don’t know that we heard anything new or that she stood out as she might have in the first couple of debates.  This may be about the only time I say this, but I personally agreed with Donald Trump(!!) that she was interrupting too much, and I certainly didn’t think it made sense for some people to say that it was “sexist” for him to mention it.  As for Mr. Trump himself, he still gave many answers that were vague (about his fantastic plans and experiences) or rather puzzling (about China and the trade deal being discussed, for example.)  He was less hostile and insulting toward his opponents, which was a positive thing, but, unfortunately this mood did not last long, as he attacked other candidates at length in a speech a couple of days later.  Ben Carson was pleasant and made some thoughtful general statements, but other answers, particularly about foreign policy, didn’t seem very strong.  In recent weeks, there were quite a few stories in the media questioning the accuracy of some details in Dr. Carson’s biography, etc.  I rather wonder if these efforts, especially since they did not wind up demonstrating any clear falsehoods on his part, actually had the effect of helping Dr. Carson.  Many people felt that he was being unfairly criticized or targeted and therefore rallied to defend him, but, beyond that, time spent researching incidents from Carson’s youth is time not spent examining statements he’s made or positions he’s taken on current issues (such as strategies for combating ISIS or dealing with illegal immigration) that might not inspire confidence in voters.  Jeb Bush’s performance in Milwaukee was much better than at the previous debate, but he still seemed a little hesitant.  He should be more forceful, but not by trying to attack his opponents, which I think has only hurt him in the past.  Rather, while Governor Bush’s position on the issue will not help him with many Republican voters, I thought that his strongest presentation might actually have been on the immigration issue.  He unapologetically stated what he felt, and I think that is the direction he needs to move in general in sharing his views on various issues.   Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio once again were solid performers, although I did think that they both had some more shaky moments than in the earlier debates.  For example, Sen. Rubio misspoke about the primary importance of the role of parent  (not President) in defending his proposed child tax credit expansion, and Sen. Cruz hesitated while listing the five government agencies he would propose eliminating, and then mentioned the same one twice.  Still, both of these men have demonstrated considerable preparation and knowledge in all of the debates, and they deserve to be serious contenders for the nomination.

I am a little concerned about the way individual past votes or comments of candidates (especially those currently serving in the Senate) have recently been brought up, possibly out of context, to suggest that they are weak on national security, illegal immigration, refugee policy, etc., and I hope that the candidates themselves, as well as others, will be careful about the way they use and discuss these details.  While we should certainly examine the records and statements of those running for the presidential nomination, we should not be too quick to label or categorize someone as wrong or unacceptable based on one or two comments or votes with which we might disagree.  Otherwise, because no one is perfect, we’ll likely wind up in a situation where we’ve eliminated everyone as unworthy of our support.  We need to look at the candidates’ histories, characters, and current proposals as a whole in determining which person would be the best choice.

In the time since the debate, the terrorist attacks in Paris and elsewhere have understandably drawn more attention to candidates’ views and experiences related to issues of national security, fighting terrorism, etc.  So far, it does not seem that the shift in focus has caused significant changes in the polling rankings of various candidates, but I certainly hope that voters will think very seriously about all of these grave matters before selecting a nominee, and eventually a President, to be entrusted with the enormous responsibilities of the office.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

CNBC's October Republican Debate

Much has already been said about the Republican debate held in Colorado last week.  Probably the most prominent characteristic of this event being discussed has been the questionable handling of the proceedings by the moderators.  They were, especially in the prime-time portion of the evening, over the top in asking hostile questions, phrasing queries in ways most likely to cast a negative light on the candidates, and treating those on the stage rather rudely.  Still, the debate was another opportunity to see and hear for a couple of hours from those running for the Republican presidential nomination, and I think that it’s worth taking time to note some impressions about the candidates in addition to directing deserved criticism at the team from CNBC.

Donald Trump

As others have noted, he was somewhat toned down last Wednesday.  The insulting of other candidates and making of faces was reduced, but he did go after John Kasich quite a bit at the beginning of the debate and more than once mentioned that he wasn’t going to criticize other people on the stage about something, even though he certainly could.  Perhaps he figured that he could take a break from spreading negativity about his opponents that evening since the moderators were already taking on that task.

I still find the topic of the bankruptcies of Trump’s companies to be a glaring fault that should be a problematic issue for voters, but many others must not see it that way.

In response to a question related to immigration, Trump claimed he had not said what the moderator attributed to him regarding Marco Rubio and Mark Zuckerberg. By the time the moderator was able to find her source and point out that the statement was on Trump’s website, people may have dismissed this as another falsehood or mistaken point from the moderators.  Trump’s comments about increasing visas for tech workers and allowing more international students to stay after they graduate from American colleges might not be appreciated by some of the people whose support for him centers on the immigration issue.  While inviting more legal immigration doesn’t offend the rule of law the way amnesty-type policies for those who come (or stay) illegally do, there are still concerns about the effects increased levels of immigration may have on jobs and wages for Americans and current legal residents, on costs for government services such as education and health care, on the assimilation of newcomers into American culture, and so on.  I understand that Mr. Trump (once again) completely changed his tune in appearances the next day, presumably after realizing (or being told) that his statements in the debate could be problematic among his supporters.  Will this latest flip-flop and/or the notion that Mr. Trump was not even familiar with the opinions and positions attributed to him on his own website cause anyone to re-think their support of his candidacy?  Who knows?  But, many other inconsistencies and controversies haven’t seemed to dissuade his fans up to this point.

Ben Carson

Dr. Carson continues to seem like a nice man with good intentions, but I’m not sure that he gave us much information or clarification about the policies he would favor.  Over the last several weeks, Dr. Carson has been subjected to a lot of overblown criticism in the media, etc. about various comments he’s made, which seems to have actually caused him to gain support from many people who want to combat political correctness and the “outrage” it can generate.  I do think, though, that we need to be careful not to just regard every question or challenge (for example, about the amounts of revenue to be expected under his tax proposal) posed to Dr. Carson as an unfair “gotcha” question that doesn’t merit a thorough answer.

Carly Fiorina

Mrs. Fiorina once again had a pretty good debate, but, to me, she didn’t seem to stand out as much this time,  maybe because we’d already heard some of the things she was saying or perhaps because more of the other candidates were able to take the opportunity to present themselves well, too.  I’m not sure how those of us who are not experts on the world of technology business can really evaluate how good a job Mrs. Fiorina did as a CEO, but, since this part of her background is important in judging her qualifications to be the country’s Chief Executive, it is an issue worth our attention.

Jeb Bush

Unfortunately, this was not a good night for Governor Bush at all.  He still seemed to have trouble presenting his points clearly and assuredly, and actually probably took a couple of steps backward in this regard from the previous debate. Of course, I’m sure it doesn’t help a person’s confidence to start the evening answering questions about your greatest weakness and your dropping poll numbers.  Cutting into the conversation to add to the Senate attendance-related criticism the moderator had already raised with Marco Rubio was a painfully poor choice for Gov. Bush.  He needs to turn things around in a major way, and I can only hope we’ll be able to see a much improved performance at the next debate.

Marco Rubio

I thought that Senator Rubio had another successful night in Colorado.  He communicated well and also managed to keep his cool even when facing hostile questions and criticisms.  His characterization of the mainstream media as a Super PAC for Democrats was memorable and should be popular with many Republican voters.

Ted Cruz

Obviously, Ted Cruz’ rebuke of the moderators for the antagonistic nature of their questions was one of the most notable exchanges of the night and will resonate with many people who do not like the way Republicans and conservatives tend to be treated by the media.  Beyond that, though, the debate was a very good one for Senator Cruz.  He has demonstrated before that he is knowledgeable and well-spoken, but this time he also seemed to come across as more “relatable” and better connected with the audience than before, which should be a big plus for him going forward.

Rounding out the field

Mike Huckabee and Chris Christie each had a few good lines and moments.  John Kasich seemed to get quite a bit of time to speak, but he also seems to often be on a different page from most of the others and from what I’d think most Republican primary voters are seeking.  It appeared that Rand Paul didn’t get that many chances to talk, but he may also have been the rare person on stage who was asked some more straightforward questions about policies.  As for the four candidates in the earlier pre-prime-time debate, while I agree much more with a couple of them than the others, I think that they all did a credible job of articulating their views and really should have a full chance to make their cases to the public along with the rest of those running for the nomination.  I’m not sure what debate arrangements would have been the most fair with the very large field this campaign cycle, but the two-tiered setup we’ve seen so far doesn’t seem ideal.


Some candidates definitely have much more reason than others to be pleased with their individual performances last Wednesday, but, in general, despite the way the debate was handled by CNBC, the GOP field may benefit from what happened at the event.  Besides managing to get at least a little substantive discussion of things like entitlement programs and tax reform onto the airwaves, the candidates pushed back against the negativity of the media (as represented by the moderators) and rallied support from a sympathetic audience, both in the venue and watching at home.  It will be interesting to see how things go for the group when they gather for debate number four in Milwaukee next week, so we will all have to stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Checking in on the Democrats

I’ve written a lot over the last few months about the Republican presidential primary race, so I thought that it might be time to give just a bit of attention to the Democrat contest.

In the last week or so, we've seen lots of stories about things starting to go Hillary Clinton’s way.  She was seen as having a pretty good performance in the Democrat’s recent debate and as making it through her testimony to the Congressional committee investigating the Benghazi incident pretty much unscathed.  Of course, I do wonder what the media and other Democrats would have needed to see in the hearing to consider it a “big deal” that might damage Mrs. Clinton -- video footage of her actually planning the attack on the US embassy in Libya herself or some other outlandish thing of which no one has accused her?  It’s obviously not a problem for them that Secretary Clinton’s State Department did not provide extra security even though the ambassador had repeatedly requested it; that she lied to the public and to the victims’ families about the causes and circumstances of the attack; that she and others in the Obama administration scapegoated a man who made an Internet video for actions committed by Islamic terrorists; or that she lied to investigators about and tried to conceal her infamous e-mails related to this matter.  Sadly, it seems that the American people, as a whole, aren’t really bothered by these things either.  The handling of the Benghazi situation and the misinformation spread by the administration about it were discussed during the 2012 presidential campaign, and the people still chose to re-elect Barack Obama.  Now, even with the added private e-mail server issue, although polls do show that many people do not believe Hillary Clinton is honest or trustworthy, she is still the overwhelming favorite to be the Democratic presidential nominee and would have a good chance of winning the general election.  Mrs. Clinton’s success in the primary contest became even more likely due to still more pieces of recent good news for her, as two of the other candidates (who really had almost no support anyway) dropped out of the race and Vice President Biden, who might have provided her most serious competition, decided not to run.  With only Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Martin O’Malley left, the Democrats might be able to hold their next debate in someone’s cozy living room, and, if the trend continues, Hillary Clinton could wind up giving monologues on stage alone by the end of the year.

That is certainly not the case on the Republican side, as there are still fifteen people running,  some of whom keep being denied space in the prime-time debates.  So, in the spirit of bipartisanship and sharing, perhaps we could lend the Democrats a few of our candidates to fill out their debate rosters.  That way, those tuning in to these Democrat events would have a chance to hear something other than non-stop far-left ideas and proposals, and the candidates would get a chance to speak to another sizable audience (even though the live crowd, at least, might be a little scary!)  A couple of hours spent listening to Rick Santorum and Bobby Jindal, for example, giving their take on topics like Planned Parenthood or immigration should give the average Democrat viewer (or listener) some food for thought.  Perhaps this temporary “guest candidate” program isn’t generous enough, though, so I would even be willing to give one of the leading candidates from the GOP race to the Democrats outright.  The person I have in mind was the Republican frontrunner for months but has views that would seem to fit at least as well in the Democratic party.  The evidence that he seems to still be suffering from Bush Derangement Syndrome should be enough on its own to earn him honorary membership.  It doesn’t seem fair to deprive Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders of the opportunity to share their debate stage and their media coverage with him and his amazing talents for the next several months, so I’m sure they would appreciate my suggested “gift.”  Of course, the fact that this arrangement would give us a chance to hear the rest of the Republican field discuss their views and policies in a (physically, at least) Trump-free zone for the rest of the debates would be an added bonus from my perspective.

Yes, I know that these things will never happen.  Oh, well, I guess I’ll just have to take a few deep breaths and try to relax before (and after) subjecting myself to tonight’s Republican debate and more campaign coverage.  Sigh...

Friday, October 16, 2015

Paul Ryan Under the Microscope

After Kevin McCarthy announced late last week that he was no longer a candidate to become the next Speaker of the House, Representative Paul Ryan was often mentioned as a possible popular choice for the job.  There were plenty of stories last Friday about many people (both fellow political figures and reporters) repeatedly calling Ryan and following him around Washington, DC before he “escaped” back to Wisconsin, so that one could half expect to stumble across him trying to hide in some inconspicuous location here -- perhaps disguised as a tree in a park, for example.

While politicians generally love being in the limelight as much as possible, I think that Mr. Ryan would have preferred to avoid a lot of the attention this time.  I would imagine that it must be gratifying to know that many of your colleagues and others believe that you would be a good choice for an important and prestigious position such as Speaker of the House, and it would also be flattering to have them go out of their way to try to convince you that you should seek the job.  However, if these attempts at persuasion remain frequent and persistent even after you have repeatedly declined, at some point they would likely become burdensome pressures rather than welcome compliments.  I actually feel quite sorry for my Congressman these days, as I think he finds himself in a rather unenviable situation.

Congressman Ryan is reportedly still thinking about the possibility of changing his mind and becoming a candidate for Speaker.  I obviously don't know all of the factors he is weighing as he makes his final decision, but as an outside observer, it looks to me like the scale is overwhelmingly tipped against running.

To start with, there are a couple of basic but very important arguments against Ryan taking on the Speaker’s role:  it is not what he wants to do, and he already has what he has considered his “dream” job for a long time.  If he would be most satisfied being Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee and spending his time working on policies about taxes and Social Security, etc., why should he give that up?   I think that it would be better, for Ryan and for all of us, if he continues doing the job that best fits his interests and strengths rather than taking on something that does not suit him as well, especially since his heart certainly does not seem to be in it.  Ryan has also indicated that the additional time commitments required of the Speaker would be problematic for him, because they would keep him away from his family more than is already the case. 

These factors would apply to Paul Ryan even if the vacancy for Speaker of the House had occurred under “normal” circumstances, but right now, most sensible people would likely have serious reservations about the position.  As long as Barack Obama is President, there are severe limits on what Republicans in Congress can actually accomplish, but the voters who elected them expect some results.  The very serious disagreements among House Republicans about goals to pursue and tactics to use make it difficult to reach consensus and secure the votes necessary to pass things.  Under these conditions, the next Speaker is going to have a very difficult job indeed.  Since the dissatisfaction of some House members with the current leadership actually resulted in the impending departure of Speaker John Boehner and the abandoned candidacy of his expected successor, Majority Leader McCarthy, anyone thinking of running for Speaker should anticipate that some close scrutiny and possibly unpleasant evaluation may stand between him or her and the position.

With that in mind, when I first started reading that Congressman Ryan was being discussed as the most likely (or even only) consensus choice to be the next Speaker of the House, I did wonder if those, including the members of the Freedom Caucus, who had led the charge against Boehner and McCarthy were really OK with Ryan.  While the present situation was precipitated by their great dissatisfaction with the current leadership, Paul Ryan has generally been supportive of the leaders and their decisions, and there has been some unhappiness on the Right with the Congressman in recent years.  In the week since the flurry of discussion about a possible Ryan candidacy for Speaker began, I don’t know if concerns about him have been raised by his colleagues in the House, but some members of the conservative media have been detailing their criticisms of him and his perceived shortcomings as a potential Speaker.  Since this is happening even though Congressman Ryan has not yet even agreed to be a candidate for the job, I can only imagine that it would greatly intensify if he were to actually do so.  While I also disagree with or question Paul Ryan’s positions on some issues, such as immigration and trade promotion authority for the President, and would have preferred that he advocate some different approaches to the conducting of business in the House, I still consider him a valuable member of the conservative team and support him overall.  I would hate to see him be talked into running for House Speaker against his better judgment only to be rejected as McCarthy was and have his reputation and career tarnished in the process.

Were Paul Ryan to actually become Speaker of the House, it is possible that he would do a great job, and I wish him well whether he decides to seek the position or not.  But, do I think he should run?  Yes -- as quickly as he can away from the Speaker’s race and those trying to convince him to join it.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Presidential Idol?

I recently read that, in reference to the presidential race, Jeb Bush said, “We’re not auditioning for some kind of show here.  We’re running for President of the United States.”  Plenty of others have said similar things before, but I’m not so sure that everyone clearly understands that this is the case.  Especially this year, with an actual reality show celebrity in the field, it sometimes seems that the media and some voters are viewing the primary races as a giant reality competition.

Lots of attention is given to questions such as:  Who polled the best this week?  How will the latest controversy help or hurt the different candidates?  Who fared the best in a guest spot on late night TV?  and so on.  It seems that those most able to attract attention (by whatever means,) to be “entertaining,” and to sell themselves well in brief TV segments are the most likely to be rewarded with success in the polls.  This is then reinforced when the focus of coverage often seems to be almost exclusively on which people are up and which are down in popularity without that much discussion about which candidates actually have sound policy proposals, a solid record of accomplishments, or personal characteristics likely to enable them to be a good and effective president.

The major debates should present opportunities for the consideration of more serious and substantive matters.  However, in addition to the unfortunate use of time even there to ask silly questions and to stir up confrontations for better TV or whatever reason, a large amount of the discussion after these events centers mainly on who is perceived as the “winner.”  I’m not sure that we need to try to find one at all already among so many participants, but I also think we need to give some thought to a couple of questions.  What do those using the term mean by it?  And, what criteria should be applied to select the winners of Republican presidential debates?  Should this designation go to those who have the smoothest presentation, take up the most airtime, or come up with the most clever put-downs of their opponents?  Or, should we instead be looking first for candidates who demonstrate in their answers that they understand the issues and have ideas for addressing them, hopefully informed by a solid conservative point of view?  I’d say the latter, but I very well may be in the minority.

The system used to select presidential nominees has never struck me as ideal.  It usually seems as if candidates are written off very early in the process if they have low poll numbers or don’t win in one of the first contests, and too often, the ultimate decision has already been made before the people in many states even have a chance to vote.  It would be great if we could come up with a better process, but what might that be?  Since many seem to be approaching the race for the nomination as entertainment already, maybe we should just go ahead and embrace the concept of politics as a high-stakes reality competition and design a series around it.  I speak mainly in jest, of course, but there could actually be some good points to such a notion.

(Those of you who are fans of popular talent programs might like to join me in the little imaginative exercise that follows.  Others might find their eyes quickly glazing over.)

There are many different types of reality programs out there, and more than one kind might provide some useful ideas, but I’ll state up front that I would not ask candidates to fend for themselves on an island somewhere, eat bizarre and horrifying things, or even face judgment in a business board room (at least not this year -- we can’t have any unfair advantages!)  What I have in mind would be based on popular talent competitions and would be intended to give the candidates opportunities to fairly present themselves to the public.  This proposed Presidential Idol or So You Think You Could Be President program should ideally air on one of the major broadcast networks or PBS (or alternate episodes amongst them) and be simulcast on news radio stations so that pretty much everyone who wishes to do so would have a chance to follow along.  Since we currently start the campaigns a very long time before the eventual general election, the series could have a nice, long run with no rush to choose a victor too soon.

To give even those candidates who aren’t well known a chance to be heard, I’d suggest the first few programs consist of 5 or 6 candidates each night having the chance to give an extended (15 or 20 minutes) presentation, in which they could explain their previous experience, their reasons for seeking the presidency, some things they would hope to accomplish if elected, or whatever else they’d like to share with the American people.  These speeches might be rather similar to those given at events like the Red State Gathering or the Values Voter Summit, and they should give potential voters a more thorough idea of who the candidates are and what they believe than a couple of brief answers to debate questions posed by others.  Subsequent episodes could involve “theme nights,” where each candidate would be asked to answer questions about and/or discuss particular topics such as taxes & budgets, health care & entitlement programs, foreign policy, etc.  Again, each person should have his or her own dedicated segment or everyone should get equal chances and speak in turn.  There should be no situations where some participants are asked ten questions and others only two, and there should be no “cutting in” to talk during another speaker’s allotted time.  Once several of these rounds have taken place, there could be a few more conventional debates, still designed to be as fair and substantive as possible. 

So far, these suggestions would basically just change the nature and frequency of widely broadcast forums made available for presidential candidate participation.  If desired, other features could be added with the goal of increasing the entertainment level of this venture and making it truly more like a reality television program.  Choosing an appropriate host would be important.  A conventional news personality would be one option, but perhaps someone more associated with show business, like a Pat Sajak, for example, could add an interesting touch to the proceedings -- if Ryan Seacrest is too busy with his multitude of other jobs to be available, of course!  Having a panel of “experts” could be beneficial, as well, but the best way to utilize it would have to be determined.  I don’t think they should actually “judge” the candidates by assigning scores or anything like that, but they might offer commentary at the end or beginning of each show and/or serve as moderators or facilitators of question and answer sessions, discussions, or debates.  The role that the expert panel would play, as well as its makeup, could possibly vary from week to week.  I’m sure that it would be challenging to decide who would be allowed to select the members of such a group and what criteria would be sought in the panelists.  It might be nice to have a representative from more traditional news media (like a Brit Hume, for example), one from newer media or talk radio (do you think Rush Limbaugh or Mark Levin would come on board?), and a respected former officeholder or other government official (if there are any who aren’t already running for president themselves...)

On many competition programs, it is common to show short video features about the participants.  For our purposes, this type of thing could be used to show the candidates out on the campaign trail or preparing for their TV appearances or to provide some background about their earlier lives and careers, their families or outside interests, etc.  If done correctly, videos of this type could give the public some additional insight into the people running for president, but the pros and cons of their use should be carefully weighed before adding them to our format.  If we let each candidate’s team create its own videos, they might be seen as just another batch of campaign commercials, but if a TV network or other entity produces the features, we might well wind up with unequal treatment of candidates that could unfairly affect public opinion.  If selective editing or slanted video production for dramatic effect can essentially wind up sabotaging the chances of dancing celebrities (and I believe this has been the case), imagine what could happen to politicians dealing with controversial issues and playing for the highest of stakes.

Finally, there is the matter of audience participation, which is very important in reality competitions.  People voting for their “favorites” online or by phone, text, etc. could serve as an extra opinion poll and provide valuable feedback to help the candidates gauge how well they are connecting with the public.  I would suggest waiting until the audience has had a chance to hear from everyone at least twice before having any votes, and I think that the full results of each vote should be revealed.  I would personally be reluctant to suggest using the audience vote to actually eliminate anyone from the presidential race, as this is too important a choice to treat lightly.  However, if the candidates were to agree beforehand, this might possibly be an acceptable way to narrow the field just a little at the end of the “series.”   In any case, if the presidential nomination show were to air every couple of weeks beginning in August, it could wrap up by the end of January, by which time the audience should have had the opportunity to see and hear enough upon which to base well-informed opinions about the candidates before the actual primaries and caucuses begin.

Well, after speculating about this fictional scenario, it’s time to get back to the real world.  And in that realm, I think it’s fair to say that reality television shows can be very enjoyable, but anyone who wants to watch one already has many options from which to choose.  Since people can seek “entertainment” from programs featuring chefs or inventors, bachelors & bachelorettes, celebrities doing any number of silly things, and a plethora of other themes, perhaps we can try our best to look at presidential politics in a serious and thoughtful way instead.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Blame the Congress?

Last Friday, House Speaker John Boehner suddenly announced that he will very soon retire from Congress.  While I wished he would have made some different decisions as Speaker, I am not among those taking pleasure in his resignation, which comes at a time when there is great disagreement among Republican legislators in Washington about the correct way to approach both advancing their own goals and opposing those of Barack Obama and the Democrats.  Many Republican voters, meanwhile, are very frustrated with a situation where, even with majorities in both the House and the Senate, Republicans on Capitol Hill not only are unable to actually enact any conservative legislation but often seem unwilling to even try to stand up to the President.  This has resulted in particular dissatisfaction with Republican leaders in Congress and talk of challenges to their positions if they do not change their methods, and this is the atmosphere in which Mr. Boehner elected to step down.

I do see that Republican lawmakers are in a difficult position.  As long as Barack Obama is in the White House ready to veto any bills he doesn’t like and the Republicans do not have enough votes to override his veto, the chance of actually enacting any conservative legislation or undoing some of the liberal policies already implemented by this president is practically nonexistent.  It seems, then, that the questions for Republicans involve how much time and effort it is worth expending on various measures when real success is not currently possible, and whether speaking out on particular issues and/or using certain tactics is likely to help or hurt the cause and/or the party in the short or long run.

Personally, I certainly would prefer it if those on our side would show some more fight in Congress, and I am very disappointed every time I hear that the Republicans are backing down or preemptively announcing that they will lose a battle with Barack Obama and the other Democrats.  I would think it would be a good thing, in general, for Republicans to be presenting their arguments for the policies they support on the floor in Congress and in media appearances, and I wouldn’t think it should be a negative to actually pass some plans of their own, even if the President vetoes them.  That being said, I am not going to automatically brand all of the elected leaders and other legislators who believe they should act with more caution as weak and/or unconservative.  They have more experience with the details of these matters than I do, and they might be correct in fearing the way the electorate might react to more open conflict with Barack Obama and the rest of his party.  I can especially understand concern about making any challenges in the context of budget bills needed to fund the government, since the Democrats and the media love to tell everyone how something the Republicans did or might do necessitates all sorts of cutbacks or closures of government operations.  What I do not really comprehend, though, is the reason the Republicans don’t push back against that narrative.

For example, the current issue prompting discussion of a possible showdown concerns federal funding for Planned Parenthood.  Especially in light of the recently released videos of people connected with this group saying horrifying things, most conservatives feel strongly that Planned Parenthood should be kept from receiving any federal taxpayer money.  Some wanted to attempt this by removing such funding from the next continuing budget resolution, but the leadership and others were against that because such a resolution would not survive an encounter with Barack Obama’s famous pen.  At that point, with no signed bill to authorize funds for government operations, the torrent of accusations about Republicans “shutting down the government” because of their “extremist” views would be unleashed.

But, let’s step back and consider this for a minute, shall we?  If the Republican Congress crafts and passes a budget bill and Barack Obama vetoes it and then makes a show of closing national parks and memorials and halting other popular government activities, how does it make sense to say that the Republicans have shut down the government??  Clearly, that choice would have been made by the President.  Shouldn’t he then be asked to explain how such a “drastic” action is justified by his desire to continue to force taxpayers to provide money to Planned Parenthood despite the group’s involvement in gruesome (and possibly illegal) practices related to fetal dismemberment and organ trafficking and why reallocating the money that would have gone to Planned Parenthood (a reliable Democratic political donor) to other, non-controversial groups that provide health care services is not good enough?  Would Obama’s defense of such positions really make the Republicans look extreme and unreasonable??  Of course, Barack Obama’s opposition to any limitations at all related to abortion is so absolute that there is probably no chance whatsoever that he would resist vetoing any bill defunding Planned Parenthood.  But, if Republicans can get the facts about Planned Parenthood and the undercover videos out to the public, maybe hearing Obama and other Democrats trying to defend the indefensible will make some voters more receptive to the messages of pro-life Republicans, hopefully including next year’s presidential nominee.

To accommodate those still fearful of the potential biased "government shutdown" stories that might result if Planned Parenthood’s funds are removed from the budget resolution, it might be possible to try to achieve the same things with stand-alone legislation to reallocate the money.  However, with the decreased risk would probably also come reduced opportunity for progress, as, without the “shutdown,” there would presumably be less media coverage, less pressure on Barack Obama to explain a veto, and, therefore, less of a chance to persuade the public.  Putting forth a serious effort to make the case for such legislation, though, would still be far better than just surrendering and letting the liberals have their way.

I realize that “the public” at large may well see things completely differently than I do, especially with some nudging from the media -- after all, they routinely elect people like Barack Obama to powerful offices.  Still, when the Republicans are clearly in the right on an issue, like the defunding of Planned Parenthood, it would be nice if they would at least try to achieve some success once in a while.  Even if confronting the Democrats about this topic would somehow wind up hurting the GOP with some “moderate” or independent voters, I think that declining to do so could actually be more damaging to their future electoral chances, since many conservatives already feel so discouraged and frustrated by what they see as inaction in Washington.

Whoever winds up succeeding John Boehner as Speaker, I hope that, in the future, Republicans in both the House and the Senate will be able to be much more effective at advocating for conservative positions and, eventually, getting those policies codified in law.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Governor Walker Bows Out

Even though I knew that Scott Walker’s presidential campaign was not going at all well lately and that he had very little support in recent polls, I was still quite surprised to hear on Monday that he had decided to leave the race.  It seemed to be a very sudden and early move for someone who’d been considered to have a real chance at the nomination just a couple of months ago, but if he felt it was time to leave, I respect his judgment on the matter.

Many people have been offering their reasons, some of which don’t seem particularly accurate or fair to me, for the troubles and short duration of Scott Walker’s campaign, but, at least for now, I’ll refrain from even attempting such an analysis.  I will say that, as it relates to the overall course of the Republican primary race, this development concerns me quite a bit.  To me, it is very unfortunate that the first two candidates to depart the contest seem to be among those most qualified to serve as the Chief Executive, based on their records as successful governors.  There are still several very worthy candidates in the race, but I worry that the current campaign climate and nomination process might not allow the best candidates to survive until the end.

As for Governor Walker, I wish him well and hope that he will be able to bounce back quickly from this disappointing experience, as there is still plenty of important work that he can do in the office he did recently win.  In the end, Scott Walker remaining as governor of Wisconsin isn’t such a bad “consolation prize”-- for him or for those of us who live in that state.

Monday, September 21, 2015

CNN Debate Impressions

The second major Republican presidential primary debate took place this past week at the Reagan Library in California.  After watching the lengthy event and reading just a small amount of the succeeding commentary and analysis, I’d like to share some thoughts about the debate in general and about quite a few of the individual candidates.  I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised by now, but my take on some things was quite different from what I’ve read in various articles the last couple of days.  Perhaps I really am in a world of my own, but here are some views from that out-of-step planet.

General Observations

I understand that it must be very difficult to try to manage a debate such as this, with many  participants, high stakes, and lots of attention.  Still, some things about the way the event was conducted seemed rather problematic.  The allocation of time and questions among the candidates did not seem very fair.  It may make sense for the most prominent contenders to have more time than others, but the difference should not have been so vast, with some candidates barely getting a chance to speak.  This problem was exacerbated by the extended back and forth exchanges between sets of candidates that were requested by the moderator and by the lack of control the moderator seemed to have over the proceedings.  I would think that, in general, one rebuttal and one response per question would be more reasonable in a setting like this, and I did not think that so many interruptions should have been allowed.  Perhaps those hosting future debates will have to resort to muting people’s microphones if they persist in talking out of turn or speaking far longer than the allotted time.

Probably even more importantly, though, I thought that issues should have been brought up in a more straightforward way, with candidates having the chance to express their own opinions.  Instead, far too often, one candidate was asked either to give an opinion about what the questioner stated to be the position of one of the others, or to react to an opponent’s comments about him or her.  Also, in posing these questions and in following up on candidates’ responses, the moderators seemed to feel the need to summarize and interpret for us what the candidates had said, either during the debate we were actually watching or in previous interviews, statements, etc., and I took issue with this for two reasons.   First, it did not seem that the third-party portrayals of the candidates’ views and intentions were always correct.   Second, this technique seemed to be used more than once in an attempt to bring about more on-stage confrontations when some candidates had tried to be somewhat measured and indirect in speaking about their rivals, and this really seemed unnecessary.  (Paraphrased example:  Q:  Do you think Candidate X is unqualified to be president because of a lack of foreign policy knowledge?  A:  Well, you should ask Candidate X questions about foreign policy so that the voters can make an informed choice, as it is extremely important a president be prepared in this area.  Q:  So, Candidate X, Senator Y seems to be saying you don’t have the necessary knowledge to be president.  How do you respond?)

Having said all of these things about those conducting the debate, there certainly was plenty of food for thought in what actually happened on the stage over those several hours Wednesday.  So, I’ll move on to discussing some impressions related to the candidates themselves.

The Early Debate

The afternoon debate, seemed a bit more organized and balanced, as the four candidates had more of a chance to speak and also seemed more respectful of the parameters, such as time limits.  I think many of the things discussed during this session relate to important themes or trends affecting the race as a whole.

I have always been fond of Rick Santorum, and I appreciate the fact that, as he pointed out, he was involved in efforts to actually accomplish things such as welfare reform, confirmation of conservative judges, and passing pro-life legislation during his time in the Senate.  As he also mentioned, he differs from many others in the race regarding immigration, favoring more restrictions and opposing amnesty, positions that he says are taken with the intention of protecting American workers.  A couple of Santorum’s other points related to this theme, such as support for an increase in the federal minimum wage and his assertion that the Republicans have focussed too much on businesses and business owners, are not personal favorites of mine.  However, since many say that populism is one of the things driving the polling success of non-traditional candidates such as Donald Trump, one might think that Santorum’s concern for workers along with his immigration stance would benefit him in the current electoral climate, but he has so far been getting far less support in the polls than in his previous campaign -- is the fact that he actually has government experience just an automatic disqualifier for many voters right now?

As I’ve said before, I think that Bobby Jindal deserves more consideration in the race than he seems to be getting, and I liked much of what he said on Wednesday.  He defended his comments about Donald Trump not being a serious candidate and articulated criticisms of Democrats in interesting ways (such as pointing out that Barack Obama’s wants to have a war against trans-fats but make a deal with Iran).  In addition, Governor Jindal expressed frustrations conservatives have had with things on the Republican side, including judges who “evolve” and make liberal rulings and members of Congress who, even in the majority, seem unwilling to even fight for stated goals.  Senator Lindsay Graham, on the other hand, said that many of the things Republicans wish to accomplish cannot be done without also winning the presidency.  I think these contrasting attitudes merit some more thought and discussion among Republicans and conservatives, as we do need to avoid unrealistic expectations about what can actually be accomplished under certain circumstances while still striving to make our case to the people, bring about positive changes, and stop negative ones.

Scott Walker

Governor Walker did not get that many chances to speak, but I felt that he made full use of the opportunities he did have to make his points and bring up proposals that he has made.  I had read that the governor intended to take a “more aggressive” approach in this debate, and I was somewhat worried about what that might mean, but there was no uncharacteristic rude or obnoxious behavior.  He just seemed to be trying to get his share of time and to set the record straight.  When Donald Trump was criticizing Scott Walker’s record, I especially liked Walker’s response that, “Just because he [Trump] says it, that doesn’t make it true.”  Hopefully, people will finally realize that (but I’m not holding my breath.)  Governor Walker’s remark that we don’t need another “apprentice” in the White House, made in reference to Trump, was another good line.  All in all, I thought this was a much improved performance and a pretty good night for Governor Walker, but I don’t know if it will help him at all in the polls, especially since many seem to disagree with me.  Also, although it has been suggested that Walker needs to change to stand out in these debates, it is my opinion that sticking to being the nice guy, can-do Republican would work better for him.

Jeb Bush

Here again, I was glad that a more forceful approach to the debate did not manifest itself in any drastic ways.  Governor Bush did seem more energetic and had some good comebacks to Donald Trump without stooping to a low level, but I remain concerned about the impact this debate might have on his campaign, as he still seemed somewhat tentative  in making the case for his candidacy.  Of course, that may be somewhat understandable, since he seemed to have to spend most of his time fending off a lot of negative charges thrown his way -- many of them in questions about criticisms made by Donald Trump, who was standing right next to him.  I think that Gov. Bush may have been a little unsure what to do when Trump would just make statements or denials that Gov. Bush believed to be plainly untrue.

In relation to some particular exchanges from the debate that perhaps might be problematic for Mr. Bush, I’d make a few suggestions.  I would advise him to prepare a solid explanation about the women’s health care comment that supposedly was just so horrible, as it’s pretty ridiculous to hear Donald Trump gleefully harping about it while declaring that he, unlike Bush, respects women!
In an exchange about the nomination of Supreme Court justices, in which Governor Bush’s main point was the good one that presidents should nominate people with proven records of following the Constitution, he also made the statement that John Roberts has done a good job.  I think that he may have been thrown off by the way his interaction with Ted Cruz went, but, since he has said he disagrees with the Obamacare decisions, I think that he needed to qualify the compliment to point out that those rulings were incorrect.  (I will note that Senators Graham and Santorum did make some positive statements about Justice Roberts earlier in the evening, as well, so perhaps Gov. Bush’s comment won’t be as huge of a problem for him as I thought at first, before I had a chance to watch the afternoon debate.)

Finally, it seems to me that Jeb Bush does not need to be so afraid of being associated with his brother (or his father, for that matter.)  After listening for a while to Donald Trump once again bashing President George W. Bush’s administration and blaming him for Obama’s rise, poor Jeb Bush seemed almost like someone forced to do something that might have dire consequences when he finally asserted to Trump that his brother had kept us safe during his presidency.  I was glad to hear him say it, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one, but I wonder if Jeb Bush half expected the floor to open up and send him plummeting far away from the debate stage and any political future.  Saying something positive about the last President Bush is not an extreme or outrageous act, and I think that his brother will be able to more freely pursue his campaign if he can accept that.  Perhaps the fact that Governor Walker responded to Trump’s retort that he doesn’t really feel safe by chiming in to say that that is because of Barack Obama, not George W. Bush, will help in that regard.

Marco Rubio

I thought that Senator Rubio generally presented himself well and gave many good answers last Wednesday, but I did think there were a few things that made this debate a bit less successful for him than the first one.  Later in the evening, he seemed to be a little less smooth when delivering some responses.  Also, towards the end of the debate, I found myself thinking that he’d seemed pretty stern and serious much of the night, which is understandable, considering the gravity of the issues being discussed.  However, the Senator has expressed the intention to present an optimistic view in his campaign, and I think that that positivity, along with the good humor and winning smile he possesses, is an important part of his potential appeal to voters.

For me, there was one especially weak spot for Marco Rubio during the debate.  Donald Trump took a shot at Rubio’s Senate record, and I’m afraid that I didn’t think the Senator’s response was strong.  He seemed a little flustered to me, and I actually wasn’t really sure what reasons he was trying to articulate for having missed Senate votes, but I thought that he might be saying that he’d realized that Congress wasn’t really going to be able to accomplish what is necessary to help people, so he was leaving to run for president instead.  Based on an e-mail I received from his campaign the next day (in which they actually cited this part of the debate as one of their favorite moments, confirming, I suppose, how out of step I must be,) I guess that I did have the general idea correct, but I think that it is really quite sad.  Here we have a talented, conservative young member of the Senate apparently giving up on the institution after less than one term -- if he doesn’t think it’s even worth trying to improve the way things work in Congress, who will?  Besides, in any case, being a Senator is still his job right now, so I’m not sure how much of a justification his upcoming departure over a year from now provides for any lack of commitment to current job obligations.  He very well may have an explanation that, expressed more clearly, would defuse the issue, and, if so, I hope that he’ll provide it the next time he’s asked.

Those things being said, I do like Senator Rubio and think that he is a very strong candidate for the nomination.  Since a top-notch performance in the first debate didn’t seem to help him in the polls, I hope that this somewhat less successful one will not hurt him.

Ted Cruz

As I expected, Senator Cruz gave some strong answers during the debate -- when he was given a chance to speak, which did not seem to be all that often.  I’m not sure why, but I was a little surprised that he didn’t add his comments on a couple of extra occasions once it became clear that some candidates were being allowed to force their way into the conversation.  Of course, when he tried to ask for the opportunity to weigh in as a climate change skeptic, he was dismissed by the moderator, so maybe he should have just started talking instead of trying to be acknowledged.

I did have a bit of a problem with the way Senator Cruz handled his exchange with Jeb Bush about Supreme Court nominees.  I think it’s great that Cruz intends to nominate the people he believes to be the best and most reliable choices and to fight to get them confirmed.  When it came to discussing John Roberts, though, I thought that Senator Cruz should have acknowledged from the beginning, once Jeb Bush mentioned it the first time, that he had supported Roberts after he was nominated, even though he now feels it was a mistake.  Waiting until Governor Bush had repeated the point might have made the exchange less than helpful for both of them -- Cruz might be seen to have been less than straightforward in his comments about the issue, and, until the end, people might have been wondering whether Bush was not telling the truth about Cruz.

It’s a small observation, but Senator Cruz seemed to often have a very formal way of presenting his answers, delivering them as mini speeches directly to the close-up camera.  I wonder if that manner of speaking might not particularly connect with TV viewers, but I think people should pay much more attention to substance than to matters of style, as Ted Cruz is another very capable presidential candidate.

Ben Carson

Dr. Carson still seems like a very nice guy, but he did not help himself with me in this debate -- quite the opposite, actually.  I’ve said before that I don’t think a candidate without previous experience in office should get the nomination, but I now also have serious questions about the types of policies Dr. Carson might adopt.  I was especially concerned to hear that he did not even think that we should have gone after the terrorists in Afghanistan after 9/11 and that he thought we could have achieved what we wanted through some intellectual plan.  Also, even though he had very recently outlined a sort of “path to legal status for those people already here once the border is secure” type of immigration plan in an interview, when he was asked in the debate about Donald Trump’s expressed deportation approach, he just said he’d be willing to listen to different alternatives.  Has he not yet decided what he thinks would be the best approach, even with the prominence of the issue in this campaign?  Dr. Carson also seemed quite eager to point out that he, like Donald Trump, had opposed the Iraq war, and he also was on the same page with Trump’s comments about “special interest” contributions.  He may sincerely hold these latter views and still be open to persuasion about the best way to handle immigration, but it almost seemed like he might have been specifically trying to identify himself with Trump and/or his type of candidacy, possibly in the hopes of winning over some of Trump’s supporters.  Even if this was not  his intention, let’s just say that demonstrating agreement with Donald Trump on more issues is not going to move someone up on my list of preferred candidates.

Donald Trump

Once again, Mr. Trump spent much of his time insulting his opponents and making goofy faces, which some people may still find entertaining, but I think is quite tiresome.  During one of his first chances to answer a question, what was the point of gratuitously attacking Rand Paul for just being there, when he didn’t even have anything to do with the topic?  Mr. Trump did seem to at least attempt to answer more questions this time, so, who knows, he might have actually come across Wednesday more as a rather unprepared and rude political candidate than as some random guy who crashed the debate.

While Donald Trump has criticized other people for speaking Spanish during their campaigns, I think it’s interesting to note that others basically had to translate some of Trump’s points (attempted in English) during the debate.  Specifically, Senator Paul had to be the one to articulate why some scholars would believe that “birthright citizenship” for children of people not here legally has not been definitively ruled to be required by the 14th Amendment, and the moderator had to point out that, when Trump had said that Marco Rubio had the worst voting record in the Senate, he was referring to the Senator being absent during votes.

I’ve read some debate commentary expressing the opinion that Donald Trump’s remarks about vaccines could be particularly harmful to him, but I’m not so sure.  Dr. Carson had stated that no link has been demonstrated between vaccines and autism, and I would agree that it seemed rather awkward to hear Mr. Trump follow that immediately with an anecdote suggesting that a child he knew had become autistic after receiving a vaccine.  If the discussion of the issue had ended there, I’d say that more people might see it as putting Mr. Trump in a bad light.  However, afterward, both Dr. Carson and Senator Paul (also a doctor) essentially said that what Trump actually suggested should be done -- administering vaccines in smaller amounts at a time -- was a good idea!  So, I can see people, particularly those who already support him, responding to the exchange, “See, Trump was right again!”

I have no idea if anything that happened on Wednesday will affect Donald Trump’s standing in the race at all, as those who support him seem committed to doing so no matter what.  The way things have been going, since this debate performance might have been a little less terrible than the first one, he may even increase his lead.

Carly Fiorina

Plenty has been said about Carly Fiorina since Wednesday’s debate, so I’ll just make a couple of comments.  Ms. Fiorina definitely presented herself confidently and seemed to hold her own in exchanges with Donald Trump.  Her willingness to go into detail about the sorts of things revealed in the Planned Parenthood videos was noteworthy and welcome.  How can Democrats insist on funding an organization capable of such gruesome actions?

I must say, though, that by the end of the debate, I was a little perturbed by Ms. Fiorina’s behavior, as she repeatedly forced her way into the conversation when she hadn’t been addressed and continued speaking well past the allotted response times.  A little of this might be acceptable, and I understand that she was doing what she could to get her views heard by the public.  However, other candidates deserved the chance to speak, too, and I felt she overdid it.

In addition, now that Ms. Fiorina is getting more attention in the race and rising in the polls, I would like to hear more specifics about the policies and actions she would intend to pursue should she be elected.

Chris Christie

This is probably a backhanded compliment, but I’ve found listening to what Governor Christie had to say in both debates much less annoying than I might have expected based on what little I’d heard about him before.  Perhaps the presence of certain other personalities in the race has made him seem more reasonable in comparison.


The CNN Republican debate gave us the chance to hear and compare many of the candidates once again, but they did not all have equal opportunities to share their views.  It will be interesting to see how polling and media coverage develop in the coming weeks.  Hopefully, through other debates, interviews, speeches, and other means, the voting public will be able to get a more comprehensive understanding of the qualifications, proposals, strengths, and weaknesses of all of the candidates and make the best possible decision about the person who should ultimately win the nomination.  It seems the current wave of public sentiment is against me, but I am still hoping a solid and experienced member of the field will eventually be able to rise to the top.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Governors' Week

As I’ve said before, I like many of the people running for the Republican nomination this year.  Unfortunately, it seems that almost everyone has been struggling since a certain celebrity joined the race.  There is still a long way to go before the actual presidential primaries and caucuses take place, but there is already plenty happening that is worthy of attention.  Several candidates made notable speeches or appearances this week, and I’d like to spend a little time on four of them, all of whom happen to be current or former governors.

On Tuesday, former Florida governor Jeb Bush appeared as a guest on the much-advertised premiere episode of “Late Night with Stephen Colbert.”  After watching the interview, I have a few thoughts.  In general, I’m not sure that late night talk show appearances are really fitting for politicians.  I understand that they are an opportunity to be seen by large audiences, including many people who don’t usually follow politics, and to perhaps present a more relatable side of oneself, but I think that there can also be risks in trying to mix the often very serious business of politics with the realm of celebrity entertainment.   As for Jeb Bush on Colbert, I thought that he might have been a little uneasy, especially at first, and there were a couple of awkward moments, but I think that the segment as a whole was OK for him.  For those who already had a basically positive view of Gov. Bush, he didn’t say anything that should change that.  In the interview, l thought he came across as a likable guy, and he made references to wanting to cut spending, reform Washington, and have more limited government, all of which should appeal to potential conservative voters.  (I also must admit to being rather amused by Colbert’s seemingly amazed need to confirm that Gov. Bush was actually saying that his brother hadn’t been conservative enough about spending during his administration.)  However, it seems to me that one of Jeb Bush’s biggest challenges right now is to overcome the opposition of those on the Right who feel he’s too “moderate,” and I don’t think he helped himself with them by making what he described as a “heretic” statement that he doesn’t think Barack Obama has bad motives (but is wrong on lots of issues.)  I don’t know that the opinion itself is a particular problem, but pointing out on national television that you’re distancing yourself from what many others in your party believe, presumably with the intention of showing your reasonableness to the general public, may not be the best way to win over those already concerned with your nonstandard positions on one or more other issues (most notably immigration.)  Overall, then, I’d guess that Jeb Bush’s late night guest spot probably leaves him in pretty much the same position as he was before.  As someone who wishes him well, I hope that he will be able to find ways to clearly and strongly present his record and proposals in the best way possible in the future so that his merits as a candidate can be judged fairly.

After his campaign got off to a strong start earlier this year, Governor Scott Walker, from my state of Wisconsin, has been having a rough time for the last several weeks -- so much so that National Review Online ran a lengthy piece a few days ago about “What Went Wrong” with his campaign and whether he can recover.  As a long time admirer of the governor, I would probably have a little friendlier take on some things, but I still found the piece interesting and informative.  It has seemed lately that Governor Walker has been hurting himself unnecessarily with some things he’s said, and I don’t know what has caused this.  Perhaps he is, as suggested in the article, trying too hard to please all segments of the Republican party at the same time.  Or, maybe he’s attempting to present himself in a different way to compete with other candidates who seem most popular right now.  Whatever the reason, it has pained me to follow his recent troubles and accompanying drop in the polls.  This past Thursday at Eureka College in Illinois, Governor Walker gave a speech which has been described as an attempt to “reset” his campaign.  I watched a video of the speech, and I think it was pretty successful.  Governor Walker seemed more comfortable as he returned to discussing his record in Wisconsin and why he believes his experiences here have prepared him to be President.  He also talked about some of the things he intends to do if elected, including getting rid of the Iran deal and Obamacare, and repeatedly stated that he doesn’t “back down.”  I’m personally not sure that it’s the best idea to say that you intend to do a long list of things “on day one” of your presidency, as that might prove to be a rather tall order, and I’m also not particularly fond of the slogan expressing an intent to “wreak havoc” on Washington, which seems too destructive rather than positive to me.  However, while I might prefer different phrasing for these notions, I can appreciate that the candidate is really expressing an urgency to eliminate the current administration’s bad policies and a desire to make changes to the way things are currently done in our nation’s capital.  All in all, I think that Governor Walker’s speech this week was a good step in the right direction for his campaign.  I hope that he can follow it up with a strong debate performance next week and, going forward, also present a clear message not only when giving a speech on his own terms, but also when answering questions from others.

Also on Thursday, Louisiana’s governor, Bobby Jindal, gave a rather unusual speech at the National Press Club in which he presented his assessment of Donald Trump’s candidacy.  I’m not sure I would have recommended that someone deliver a speech specifically dedicated to this purpose. Perhaps it might be better for a candidate to present his or her policy ideas on one or more issues and then to contrast this type of substantive material with the Trump campaign by making the sort of case Governor Jindal shared.  That being said, I have to say that I did appreciate Gov. Jindal’s comments very much (and he did also address a number of other topics in the subsequent question and answer period.)  I saw a headline of a column somewhere referring to the speech as “desperate,” but I watched the video, and Governor Jindal was quite calm and collected as he spoke.  He was actually rather more positive about Mr. Trump than I would have been, as he said that he liked the “idea” of Trump’s type of unorthodox candidacy and also called Trump’s campaign and actions entertaining, while I have just found Donald Trump’s antics and rhetoric annoying and distressing.  Beyond that, though, I think that Governor Jindal was correct to refer to Donald Trump as a narcissist and egomaniac who isn’t really committed to any movement or party and to state that we really can’t know what he would actually do were he to be elected.  It really shouldn’t be necessary for anyone to have to point these things out repeatedly, as they should be evident from even brief exposure to Mr. Trump’s campaign, but, alas, it seems a significant portion of the electorate has determined that he is somehow the best person to become our next president.  I don’t know if Governor Jindal’s sensible remarks will influence anyone to change their mind about whether or not to support Donald Trump, but I’m glad that he made them, and I also think that voters should give an experienced governor like Mr. Jindal more consideration as a serious candidate for the nomination than he seems to have been receiving so far.

Finally, on Friday, Rick Perry, the former governor of Texas, announced that he was suspending his presidential campaign.  Governor Perry is another successful and experienced political executive who didn’t seem to get the type of consideration from potential voters one would think his record would merit.  I thought that his suspension speech contained a lot of good material, and I find it very unfortunate that we are losing a good candidate so early in the process.  Governor Perry stated that he feels there is a “tremendous field” of Republican candidates in the race this cycle, and I would agree, but I think it’s somewhat less so with his departure.

While plenty of interesting things took place this past week in the primary process, as I suppose is always the case, next week promises to be even more eventful, as the presidential hopefuls will be participating in the next high-profile debate.  We’ll have to see what happens there, but I am hoping it goes well for all of the serious candidates in the race.