Interpreting The Final Des Moines Register Poll Showing A Statistical Tie Between Clinton And Sanders

Des Moines Register Poll Final

The final Des Moines Register/Blomberg Poll before the Iowa Caucus shows Hillary Clinton leading Bernie Sanders with 45 percent compared to 42 percent. The three point lead is within the poll’s margin of error at four percent. Martin O’Malley trails at three percent.

While I have often pointed out the limitations of polls before primaries, the final Des Moines Register poll is probably the most likely to be predictive. Among its virtues, it does not exclude voters based upon past lack of participation in the caucuses as many other polls do. While it has a better track record than other polls, it still suffers from the same problem of all pollsters in not knowing who will actually turn out. Traditional Democratic voters favor Clinton while more independent voters strongly favor Sanders, but we don’t know how many of them will participate in the caucuses. Higher turn out than usual would increase the chances of a victory for Sanders.

Being a caucus rather than a pure primary vote creates additional questions. A candidate has to meet a fifteen percent threshold for their vote to count towards selecting delegates in the Democratic caucus. If they do not meet this threshold, then the second choice becomes crucial. Greater support for Sanders than Clinton among O’Malley supporters nearly erases Clinton’s lead.

Another question is the consequence of the difference in date for the caucus this year compared to 2008, when Obama came in first and Clinton came in third. The 2008 caucus occurred on January 3, when many college students were still on vacation, and possibly out of the state. Will having the caucus occur after students have returned to school provide an additional benefit to Sanders? On the other hand, will college students be more likely to caucus near their campus as opposed to at homes throughout Iowa. There is the danger that this will lead to Sanders having huge leads in some areas, such as Iowa City and Ames, while not doing as well as Obama did in other parts of the state. This could result in Clinton picking up more delegates statewide even if Sanders narrowly wins the popular vote.

Donald Trump leads among the Republicans at 28 percent with Ted Cruz in second place at 23 percent.

Update:  Buzzfeed reports on how the Clinton campaign is trying to game the system by having some of their supporters back O’Malley so that he will meet the fifteen percent viability requirement to keep his supporters from going to Sanders. Of course plotting such a strategy and getting Iowa voters to go along are two different things. I recall how Clinton protested over similar actions by the Obama campaign eight yeas ago. Plus Bloomberg has more background on Clinton’s strategy in Iowa–basically doing the opposite of what she did in 2008.

An updated post with further news, including Sanders leading in latest pre-Iowa poll, is here.

Stephen Colbert On Sarah Palin’s Endorsement of Donald Trump & Conflict In The GOP

While the Democratic race has become more competitive, Donald Trump continues to dominate the Republican race. The big news of the week was that he received the endorsement of Sarah Palin, helping Trump win the idiot vote.  (“You’re fired.” “I quit.”) Stephen Colbert discussed the endorsement in the video above, starting out by exclaiming “God, I have missed you.” It was a great day for comedians, except possibly for Tina Fey who might not want to be dragged back into that role.

Colbert showed how it would sound if Palin endorsed every candidate, after he tased the part of his brain that understands sentence structure.

Colbert Palin Endorse Trump

Trump appears to be consolidating support among the GOP establishment, which appears to hate Ted Cruz even more than Trump. The exception is the National Review, which is going all out to try in stop Trump. In response, the Republican National Committee has disinvited them from an invitation to co-host a debate next month.

The Political Debates Of The Past Week: Wins For Bernie Sanders & SNL

Both major political parties had debates in the past week. The one similarity is that in each party the front runner (Clinton and Trump) is facing a serious challenge. Neither race is likely to change very much based upon these debates alone. The Republican Debate was not all that eventful, except for Donald Trump defending New York against the attack from Ted Cruz. The coverage from Saturday Night Live in the video above is sufficient.

The Democratic Debate was largely a replay of the Rovian-style campaign which Hillary Clinton has resorted to since Sanders started to catch up with her in the polls. Rather than honestly discuss the issues, Clinton attacked Sanders by misrepresenting his views. Her strategy was to scare Democratic voters into thinking that Bernie Sanders plans to take away their guns and Obamacare. She would have fit in much better with the Republicans.

As I noted last week, Clinton has also been far to the right of her current position on gun control in the past, such as when she debated Barack Obama in 2008. Clinton has taken multiple positions on gun control over the years, campaigning even further to the right at times in 2008 when she described herself as a “pro-gun churchgoer.” Despite her major flip-flops on guns, Clinton also sent out a dishonest flier attacking Obama on guns, which is just one way she is repeating the same dishonest tactics employed in her unsuccessful 2008 campaign.

Sanders responded early in the debate to Clinton’s distortions of his record:

Well, I think Secretary Clinton knows that what she says is very disingenuous. I have a D-minus voting record from the NRA. I was in 1988, there were three candidates running for congress in the state of Vermont, I stood up to the gun lobby and came out and maintained the position that in this country we should not be selling military style assault weapons.

I have supported from day one and instant background check to make certain that people who should have guns do not have guns. And that includes people of criminal backgrounds, people who are mentally unstable. I support what President Obama is doing in terms of trying to close the gun show loop holes and I think it should be a federal crime if people act as dormant.

Clinton was confronted with her distortions of Sanders’ position on health care by Andrea Mitchell, who asked:

Secretary Clinton, Senator Sanders favors what he calls “Medicare for all.” Now, you said that what he is proposing would tear up Obamacare and replace it.

Secretary Clinton, is it fair to say to say that Bernie Sanders wants to kill Obamacare?

Clinton evaded the question and Sanders responded:

SANDERS: Secretary — Secretary Clinton didn’t answer your question.

Because what her campaign was saying — Bernie Sanders, who has fought for universal health care for my entire life, he wants to end Medicare, end Medicaid, end the children’s health insurance program. That is nonsense.

What a Medicare-for-all program does is finally provide in this country health care for every man, woman and child as a right. Now, the truth is, that Frank Delano Roosevelt, Harry Truman, do you know what they believed in? They believed that health care should be available to all of our people.

I’m on the committee that wrote the Affordable Care Act. I made the Affordable Care Act along with Jim Clyburn a better piece of legislation. I voted for it, but right now, what we have to deal with is the fact that 29 million people still have no health insurance. We are paying the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs, getting ripped off.

And here’s the important point, we are spending far more per person on health care than the people of any other country. My proposal, provide health care to all people, get private insurance out of health insurance, lower the cost of health care for middle class families by 5,000 bucks.

That’s the vision we need to take.

Sanders continued to discuss the limitations to Obamacare such as “the 29 million still have no health insurance, that even more are underinsured with huge copayments and deductibles.” He describing his plan as building upon Obamacare, not tearing it up.

In other highlights of the debate, Sanders had a strong response to abuse of police powers:

“I believe there’s a huge conflict of interest when local prosecutors investigate cases of police violence within their communities. Most recently, we saw this with a non- indictment of the officers involved in the case of 12-year-old Tamir Rice. How would you presidency ensure incidents of police violence are investigated and prosecuted fairly?”

SANDERS: Absolutely. This is a responsibility for the U.S. Justice Department to get involved. Whenever anybody in this country is killed while in police custody, it should automatically trigger a U.S. attorney general’s investigation.

Second of all, and I speak as a mayor who worked very closely and well with police officers, the vast majority of whom are honest, hard- working people trying to do a difficult job, but let us be clear.

If a police officer breaks the law, like any public official, that officer must be held accountable.

And thirdly, we have got to de-militarize our police departments so they don’t look like occupying armies. We’ve got to move toward community policing.

And fourthly, we have got to make our police departments look like the communities they serve in their diversity.

In another of her distortions of Sanders’ record Clinton claimed, “He even, in 2011, publicly sought someone to run in a primary against President Obama.” Sanders had entertained in principle having a primary challenge to Obama from the left in response to questions, but he never sought to have someone run, and he campaigned for Obama when he ran for reelection. Sanders responded by highlighting one of Clinton’s major weaknesses:

SANDERS: Set the record right. In 2006 when I ran for the Senate, Senator Barack Obama was kind enough to campaign for me, 2008, I did my best to see that he was elected and in 2012, I worked as hard as I could to see that he was reelected. He and I are friends. We’ve worked together on many issues. We have some differences of opinion.

But here is the issue, Secretary touched on it, can you really reform Wall Street when they are spending millions and millions of dollars on campaign contributions and when they are providing speaker fees to individuals? So it’s easy to say, well, I’m going to do this and do that, but I have doubts when people receive huge amounts of money from Wall Street. I am very proud, I do not have a super PAC. I do not want Wall Street’s money. I’ll rely on the middle class and working families…

Throughout the debate Clinton also tried to present herself as the next Barack Obama, speaking of him as Republicans speak of Ronald Reagan. Of course Clinton is far to the right of Obama on issues including foreign policy, civil liberties, and separation of church and state. She is also counting on viewers failing to recall how often she has attacked Obama from the right on foreign policy since she left the State Department.

Sanders was once again declared the winner of the debate by large majorities in the non-scientific on line polls. Pundits differed but most seemed to agree that Sanders beat Clinton. Examples include Chris Cillizza and John Podhoretz.

The debate received more attention than the previous ones, and there was a lot of interest in the candidates as measured by Google searches. Google even listed the top trending questions for each candidate, and the results were fascinating:

Top Trending Questions on Hillary Clinton
1 Will Hillary Clinton get prosecuted?
2 Will Hillary Clinton win the nomination?
3 What did Hillary Clinton do that is illegal?
4 Where did Hillary Clinton grow up?
5 Is Hillary Clinton a Democrat?
The first and third should serve as a warning of what is to come should Clinton be the nominee. Some background information on those can be found here. The FBI is still investigating and we do not know if Clinton will be prosecuted, but she did commit enough ethical violations and violations of government policy that it is a disgrace that the Democratic Party would consider nominating her for President. The fifth depends upon whether you really consider a DLC type Democrat who has spent her career undermining liberal values to truly be a Democrat.
The questions on the other candidates:
Top Trending Questions on Bernie Sanders
1 Why is Bernie Sanders so popular?
2 Can Bernie Sanders win?
3 How old is Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders?
4 What religion is Bernie Sanders?
5 What are Bernie Sanders’ positions on the issues?
Top Trending Questions on Martin O’Malley
1 Why is Martin O’Malley running for President?
2 Martin O’Malley was Governor of which state?
3 Is Martin O’Malley still running for President?
4 What does Martin O’Malley think about Obamacare?
5 What does Martin O’Malley do?
The questions about Sanders are far more typical of questions about a candidate people are thinking of voting for.

Outrageous Statements From Donald Trump Distract From Serious Flaws In Other Conservative Candidates (Including Clinton)

Trumps and Clintons

One of the many problems with Donald Trump’s outrageous statements (undoubtedly made more to attract attention and support from a certain segment of the Republican Party than out of conviction) is that it might be making people fail to realize that many other candidates running also have positions which in a normal year might disqualify them from serious consideration. This is most clearly true within the Republican Party, but Hillary Clinton also benefits from the non-stop vulgar and sexist attacks on her from Trump. Donald Trump’s views make the flaws in the other candidates look far less significant in comparison, but there remains reasons why other candidates would be unacceptable as president.

Politico looked at The Wild Ideas You Missed While Donald Trump Was Talking, finding that many people are not noticing extreme views from other Republican candidates when Trump gets most of the attention:

The good news for Republicans, arguably, is that their rhetoric has been so consistently over-the-top that it has started to sound routine; academics call this “shifting the Overton window,” the range of what’s considered politically acceptable. I’ve watched all the debates as well as the undercards live, but when I reviewed the transcripts, I was amazed how many radical statements had slipped under my radar. Ted Cruz called for putting the United States back on the gold standard. Marco Rubio accused President Barack Obama of destroying the U.S. military. Huckabee said Bernie Madoff’s rip-offs weren’t as bad as what the government has done to people on Social Security and Medicare. Lindsey Graham said his administration would monitor all “Islamic websites,” not just jihadist ones. I had even forgotten Trump’s claim that vaccines caused autism in a 2-year-old girl he knew.

Vaccines do not cause autism. Goldbuggery is crackpot economics. The U.S. military is still by far the strongest in the world. And what the government has done to people on Social Security and Medicare is give them pensions and health care. But none of those statements drew any pushback from the other Republican candidates, or, for that matter, the media moderators. Neither did Ben Carson’s assertion that if the United States had set a goal of oil independence within a decade, moderate Arab states would have “turned over Osama bin Laden and anybody else you wanted on a silver platter within two weeks,” which is wackadoodle on multiple levels.

On the other hand, the Republican debates do present an extremely distorted view of Obama’s record, with nobody present to present the facts:

These are presumably winning messages in a Republican primary. It’s not clear whether they would be in a general election. The reality of the Obama era, for all its warts, is that unemployment has dropped to 5 percent, the deficit has shrunk by two thirds, illegal immigration has plateaued, far fewer U.S. soldiers are dying abroad and Americans are more likely to be killed by lightning than by terrorists at home. The question is whether the run-for-your-lives talking points will crash into statistical reality, or whether they will gradually help create a new political reality.

The Republicans do deserve some credit for being willing to display their views in public. The article does chastise the Democrats here in concluding that the Republicans are “acting like a confident party—perhaps an overconfident party—while the Democrats are acting like they’ve lost their feck.”

In reality, it is the Clinton campaign (which only wanted four debates) and the DNC, which expanded the number to six but hid most of them on nights when few would be watching, which are acting cowardly. Both Sanders and O’Malley have been pushing for more debates. I also think that Clinton has benefited from the exaggerated coverage paid to Trump. If not for his unexpected success in the Republican race, the big story of the year might be Sanders’ challenge to Clinton. After all, Sanders does beat Trump in head to head contests–and often by a larger margin than Clinton does.

Clinton benefits in other ways from Trump being in the race. The large number of lies from Trump dominated the year-end report from Factcheck.org. This led to a fairly long list of lies from Clinton being less obvious, posted further down in the story after Trump’s lies.

The concentration by the media on outrageous comments from Trump distracts from talk about the unethical conduct from Clinton, as well has the poor judgment she has shown throughout her career. Most importantly, it distracts from a more thorough look at Clinton’s views, including her neoconservative views on foreign policy, her conservative views on social/cultural issues, and her turn to the right on economic issues and health care. It also might be kept in mind that, with all his unacceptable statements and views, Donald Trump did oppose the Iraq war which Clinton pushed so hard for, and which turned out to be a disaster.

SciFi Weekend: Arrow; Legends of Tomorrow; Jessica Jones; Luke Cage; The Man In The High Castle; The Expanse; Childhood’s End; 11.22.63; Minority Report; House of Cards; Fargo; Doctor Who; Ted Cruz Christmas Infomercial

Arrow -- "The Magician" -- Image AR304a_0155b -- Pictured (L-R): Katrina Law as Nyssa al Ghul and Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen -- Photo: Ed Araquel/The CW -- © 2014 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Matt Nable will be reprising his role of Ra’s al Ghul from Arrow in the ninth episode of Legends of Tomorrow. Considering that much of the cast is made up of people who either died or appeared to die on Arrow, this doesn’t really come as a surprise. Damian Dark will also be making an appearance on Legends of Tomorrow. On Arrow, Nyssa will also continue to fight Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman) for her dead father’s title.

I really liked Daredevil, and liked what they did with Jessica Jones even more. Jessica Jones also has me looking forward to Luke Cage. Collider had an interview with Mike Colter, who plays Luke Cage. The discussion included how Luke Cage will differ from Daredevil and Jessica Jones.

Man In The High Castle

I was happy to hear that Amazon has renewed The Man In The High Castle, as expected, for a second season. The entire series was enjoyable, but that ending has me really wondering where the show is headed. I read the book many, many years ago and don’t remember how it ended. Plus there are already major changes from the book so that might not matter.

I’ve  been far too busy around the holidays to keep up with everything on television. I thought I was doing well completing both Jessica Jones and The Man In The High Castle. (My original plan was to review these two series this week, but holiday plans have prevented it.) I haven’t had time to start The Expanse, but I hear that if some time opens up it is possible to stream the first four episodes, and get ahead of what has been shown on television.

I have recorded Childhood’s End with hopes of watching it sometime later over the holidays. Meanwhile this article, which I haven’t read to avoid spoilers, looks like the type of article with a show’s producer on the ending which I would be quoting from if I had seen the show.

Yet another new genre show I haven’t had time to watch–The Magicians. IO9 has a review here.

Hulu is releasing teaser trailers of 11.22.63, produced by J.J. Abrams and based upon the Stephen King novel. Abrams also has something else major out this weekend.

I also haven’t had a chance to watch the movie version of The Martian yet, but did enjoy the book last year. Nerdist has news on Andy Weir’s next book, to take place on the moon and feature a female lead.

With so much to watch on television, I didn’t watch Minority Report after some poor reviews of the first episode, followed by news that production was cut to ten episodes. The final episode aired recently and I have heard some buzz that the series ended well. This is a positive sign of how television has changed. In the past a network needed at least a few years of a series to make money in syndication. If it looked weak after a few episodes, they would be tempted to just pull the plug.

These days a series can still bring in episodes with even a short run. By giving the producers a cut off date, they were able to make a series which stood on its own with ten episodes, or expand into subsequent seasons if it did build an audience. It is still possible to sell a self-contained ten episode series as a Blu ray or DVD set, as well as have it on one or more streaming networks. The networks have reason to continue a show with a small audience for at least a short time, current viewers get a conclusion as opposed to having a show they like abruptly pulled, and genre fans have one more thing available to watch when desired in the future. Plus maybe a show will even be brought back by another outlet.

Netflix ran the trailer for the fourth season of House of Cards during last week’s Republican debate. The show returns on March 4. “America, I am only getting started” sounds sort of scary.

The third season of Fargo won’t be filming until next winter, and therefore won’t be seen until sometime in 2017. It will take place in 2010, four years after the first season. We got an unexpected view of some of the characters from the first season in the second season finale, but reportedly the regulars from the first season will not be the major characters for the third season. Some could appear briefly.

Doctor Who TV has an advance review of this year’s Christmas special, The Husbands of River Song.

ABC will be airing a one hour special, Captain America’s 75th Anniversary, on January 19th, just prior to the season premiere of Agent Carter. It will be opposite the return of The Flash on CW, but that is why we have Hulu, and modern DVR’s which record more than one show at a time.

Vox looks at Tina Fey’s response to some of the internet outrage over Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt for having  the blonde, Polish actress Jane Krakowski playeding a Native American woman who was hiding her true ethnicity.

Ted Cruz has paid for a Christmas-themed parody infomercial to air during Saturday Night Live tonight. Steve M. has a review, and finds Cruz to be scary. I agree.

Debate Shows Why Republicans Cannot Be Trusted On Foreign Policy

Republican Debate Los Vegas

The Republican debate (transcript here) showed once again that most of the GOP candidates have not learned a thing from the mistakes made by George W. Bush. The debate did play towards Rand Paul’s areas of sanity in opposing military interventionism and infringements on civil liberties, and did not include the many other areas where Paul is no better than the others in his parties. Jeb Bush, whose candidacy was derailed partially due to attacks from Donald Trump of being low energy, did manage some good counter-attacks on Trump. Chris Christie, back from the kiddie table debate, showed moments of strength, for better or worse.

As Esquire pointed out, Rand Paul didn’t win the debate (primarily because most Republican voters would not go along with his views) but did raise the important questions.

BLITZER: Senator Paul, was getting rid of Saddam Hussein a pretty good deal?

PAUL: These are the fundamental questions of our time, these foreign policy questions, whether or not regime change is a good idea or a bad idea. I don’t think because I think the regime change was a bad idea it means that Hussein was necessarily a good idea.

There is often variations of evil on both sides of the war. What we have to decide is whether or not regime change is a good idea. It’s what the neoconservatives have wanted. It’s what the vast majority of those on the stage want.

They still want regime change. They want it in Syria. They wanted it in Iraq. They want it in Libya. It has not worked.

Out of regime change you get chaos. From the chaos you have seen repeatedly the rise of radical Islam. So we get this profession of, oh, my goodness, they want to do something about terrorism and yet they’re the problem because they allow terrorism to arise out of that chaos.

Ted Cruz said he wanted to “carpet bomb ISIS into oblivion,” and to have”sand can glow in the dark.”When asked about killing civilians, Cruz replied, “You would carpet bomb where ISIS is, not a city, but the location of the troops.” But ISIS is in cities. does he think they are just sitting targets out in the desert, away from civilians, waiting to be bombed?

Ben Carson bragged about being tough enough to kill children:

HEWITT: So you are OK with the deaths of thousands of innocent children and civilian? It’s like…

CARSON: You got it. You got it.

Donald Trump both spoke of closing portions of the Internet and killing the families of terrorists. Rand Paul responded:

I’d like to also go back to, though, another question, which is, is Donald Trump a serious candidate? The reason I ask this is, if you’re going to close the Internet, realize, America, what that entails. That entails getting rid of the First amendment, OK? It’s no small feat.

If you are going to kill the families of terrorists, realize that there’s something called the Geneva Convention we’re going to have to pull out of. It would defy every norm that is America. So when you ask yourself, whoever you are, that think you’re going to support Donald Trump, think, do you believe in the Constitution? Are you going to change the Constitution?

Carly Fiorina pointed out that, “Hillary Clinton has gotten every foreign policy challenge wrong.” That is generally true, as she has the same neoconservative views as most of the Republicans, who are no better.

Chris Christie did sound strong when he mocked Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz when they argued.

CHRISTIE: Listen, I want to talk to the audience at home for a second. If your eyes are glazing over like mine, this is what it’s like to be on the floor of the United States Senate. I mean, endless debates about how many angels on the head of a pin from people who’ve never had to make a consequential decision in an executive position.

But being tough does not necessarily mean being wise, and Christie showed a quite foolish attitude towards Russia. Again Rand Paul displayed a sense of reality lacking in both other Republican candidates, as well as Hillary Clinton, in their support of the no fly zone:

BLITZER: Governor Christie, if the U.S. imposed a no-fly zone over Syria and a Russian plane encroached, invaded that no-fly zone, would you be prepared to shoot down that Russian plane and risk war with Russia?

CHRISTIE: Not only would I be prepared to do it, I would do it. A no-fly zone means a no-fly zone, Wolf. That’s what it means.

See, maybe — maybe because I’m from New Jersey, I just have this kind of plain language hangup. But I would make very clear — I would not talk to Vladimir Putin. In fact, I would talk to Vladimir Putin a lot. But I’d say to him, “Listen, Mr. President, there’s a no-fly zone in Syria; you fly in, it applies to you.” And yes, we would shoot down the planes of Russian pilots if in fact they were stupid enough to think that this president was the same feckless weakling that the president we have in the Oval Office is right now.

BLITZER: Senator Paul — Senator Paul, I want you to respond to what we just heard from Governor Christie. If there was a no-fly zone, you say that potentially could lead to World War III. Why?

PAUL: Well, I think if you’re in favor of World War III, you have your candidate. You know, here’s the thing. My goodness, what we want in a leader is someone with judgment, not someone who is so reckless as to stand on the stage and say, “Yes, I’m jumping up and down; I’m going to shoot down Russian planes.” Russia already flies in that airspace. It may not be something we’re in love with the fact that they’re there, but they were invited by Iraq and by Syria to fly in that airspace.

And so if we announce we’re going to have a no-fly zone, and others have said this. Hillary Clinton is also for it. It is a recipe for disaster. It’s a recipe for World War III. We need to confront Russia from a position of strength, but we don’t need to confront Russia from a point of recklessness that would lead to war.

This is something — this type of judgment, you know, it’s having that kind of judgment; who you would appoint and how you’re going to conduct affairs, that is incredibly important.

I mean, I think when we think about the judgment of someone who might want World War III, we might think about someone who might shut down a bridge because they don’t like their friends; they don’t want to — you know, they want to (inaudible) a Democrat.

So I think we need to be very careful.

Jeb Bush didn’t have much of consequence to say on policy, but he did do a good job of responding to Donald Trump’s antics. He told Trump, “Donald, you’re not going to be able to insult your way to the presidency. That’s not going to happen.” He summed up Trump here:

So Donald, you know, is great at — at the one-liners, but he’s a chaos candidate. And he’d be a chaos president. He would not be the commander in chief we need to keep our country safe.

He also questioned Trump’s source of information, referring back to a previous statement from Donald Trump that he obtained information on foreign policy from television shows:

HEWITT: Governor Bush, a commander-in-chief question. You’ve said that Mr. Trump is not qualified to be president because he’s not qualified to deal with Vladimir Putin. Why are you better qualified to deal with Vladimir Putin than Mr. Trump?

BUSH: Because I — first of all, I know what I don’t know. I know what I don’t know. I would seek out, as I have, the best advice that exists. I won’t get my information from the shows. I don’t know if that’s Saturday morning or Sunday morning. I don’t know which one.

None of the candidates was remotely qualified to be president. (While Rand Paul was generally right in this debate, his economic views and opposition to reproductive rights, which did not come up in this debate would disqualify him.) Unfortunately the Democratic front runner holds essentially the same views, even if Clinton uses different rhetoric in appealing to Democratic as opposed to Republican primary voters. Bernie Sanders represents our best hope to both have a president who has not made the errors which destabilized the region, and who can inspire voters to turn out to defeat the Republicans in a general election.

Poll Suggests Epic Presidential Battle Between The Lesser Of Two Evils–Please Give Us Another Choice

Clinton Trump Sanders

The latest USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll shows problems for both major political parties. The bad news begins with Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton maintaining the lead for the Republican and Democratic Parties, respectively. Trump could conceivably win the GOP nomination while being disliked by many in the Republican mainstream while Clinton could win the Democratic nomination with the support of the Democratic mainstream, but not many others.

…there is an almost even divide among those who have an unfavorable opinion of both Trump and Clinton: 45% say they dislike Clinton more; 42% dislike Trump more.

“Their mantra is ABCT— Anybody But Clinton or Trump,” says David Paleologos, director of Suffolk’s Political Research Center in Boston. More than one in five of those surveyed fall into this category. “If each is their party’s respective nominees, the poll tells us that the majority of the country does not see either candidate as acceptable, which means that the race for president may come down to which candidate voters view as the lesser of two evils.”

How things have changed from last summer, when the mantra was no more Bushes or Clintons. Now Jeb is hardly a factor, while Ted Cruz is this month’s leader as top challenger to Donald Trump.

The bad news for the Democrats is also that the poll shows that Clinton would have a tough time against the major Republican candidates: ” Clinton leads Trump by 4 percentage points, Cruz by 2 and Ben Carson by 1. Rubio leads Clinton by 3 points.” Battleground state polls, where Clinton has preformed poorly, suggest she would have an even tougher time in the electoral college.

The biggest news out of this poll is that 68 percent of Trump’s supporters say they would vote for Trump if he ran as an independent, while only 18 percent say they would not.  While I wouldn’t put it past Trump’s ego for him to run as an independent, it is hard to see how that actually comes about. Even if his current lead in the polls does not allow him to run away with the nomination, most likely he will be competitive for the next several months, probably dissuading him from going third party for quite a while. By the time the GOP nominee is determined, it could be too late to launch an independent bid.  In the event that Trump performs poorly in the early primaries, he would then be tarnished and look like a loser, making a third party run less likely to obtain support.

But maybe someone as unpredictable as Trump will run and perhaps even more candidates will get in the act. Jesse Ventura has been making noise about running, and possibly other candidates will arise. While unlikely, maybe 2016 will be the year which ends the dominance of the Democratic and Republican Parties. Both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are showing that there is a significant number of voters who are unhappy with the establishment choices from both parties. Plus there is a large pool of potential voters among those who have not voted in recent elections should a candidate be able to motivate them to vote.

A race between a DLC Democrat such as Hillary Clinton and an establishment Republican would not differ significantly on policy, even if their primary rhetoric is different to attract two different partisan bases. Theoretically a third party candidate could go far if they could convince voters that both Clinton and the Republican establishment not only offer essentially the same thing, but that their policies are the policies which have been screwing up America.

Of course that will never happen. The voters from both parties are a bunch of suckers. Republicans have convinced their base, including the Tea Party, to express their rage against government by voting for the Republicans–the party which has dominated both the federal and most state governments. The Democratic base is looking just as delusional, supporting a candidate who opposes so much of what Democrats claim to support and has spent her career undermining liberal principles.

Perhaps a third party candidate can come along and convince voters of the folly of voting a Republican, or a Republican-lite candidate such as Clinton. Donald Trump might have the showmanship to pull this off, but he is also bat-shit crazy.

Our best hope remains that Clinton can be defeated in the Democratic race, with Bernie Sanders building a new coalition to change the status quo.

Fourth Republican Debate Primarily Economic Fantasy With Moments Of Sense On Foreign Policy From Rand Paul

republican-debate-wsj-fox

This week’s Republican debate (transcript here) was largely a display of the standard Republican misconceptions about the economy, plus Bush and Kasich arguing with Donald Trump about whether you could just deport large numbers of people currently living in the United States. While, once again, he has received the least attention, I found Rand Paul to have the most sensible contribution to a Republican debate, this time arguing with hawkish views which are shared by most of the Republican candidates, along with Democratic front runner Hillary Clinton:

CAVUTO: Senator Paul, you have already said, sir, that that would be a mistake in not talking to Vladimir Putin, or to rule it out. You’ve argued that it’s never a good idea to close down communication. With that in mind, do you think the same applies to administration efforts right now to include the Iranians in talks on Syria?

PAUL: I’d like first to respond to the acquisition, we should — I think it’s particularly naive, particularly foolish to think that we’re not going to talk to Russia. The idea of a no fly zone, realize that this is also something that Hillary Clinton agrees with several on our side with, you’re asking for a no fly zone in an area in which Russia already flies.

Russia flies in that zone at the invitation of Iraq. I’m not saying it’s a good thing, but you better know at least what we’re getting into. So, when you think it’s going to be a good idea to have a no fly zone over Iraq, realize that means you are saying we are going to shoot down Russian planes. If you’re ready for that, be ready to send your sons and daughters to another war in Iraq.

I don’t want to see that happen. I think the first war in Iraq was a mistake. You can be strong without being involved in every civil war around the world.

This won’t go over well in a Republican primary battle, but Paul did give shot at trying to reconcile his views with more traditional conservative Republican positions in his closing statement.

PAUL: We’re the richest, freest, most humanitarian nation in the history of mankind. But we also borrow a million dollars a minute. And the question I have for all Americans is, think about it, can you be a fiscal conservative if you don’t conserve all of the money? If you’re a profligate spender, you spend money in an unlimited fashion for the military, is that a conservative notion? We have to be conservative with all spending, domestic spending and welfare spending. I’m the only fiscal conservative on the stage.

The current Republican front runners, Donald Trump and Ben Carson, meanwhile seemed totally clueless on foreign policy, as they frequently appear to be whenever the debates turn to issues.

This also does not mean that Paul made any sense consistently. Earlier in the debate he called for “government really, really small, so small you can barely see it.” How does that reconcile with wanting the government to interfere with the personal decisions of a woman regarding her own body? CNN also debunked Paul’s claim that Democrats are presiding over income inequality.

The rampant misconceptions which dominate Republican thought have already been discussed in many places. Jonathan Chait both debunked some of their false claims and pointed out that these candidates will never satisfy the desire for change, and certainly not reform which I discussed earlier in the week. ” He noted that, “All the candidates prefer to live in a world in which big government is crushing the American dream, and all of them lack even moderately credible specifics with which to flesh out this harrowing portrait.” Later he concluded:

In a debate where chastened moderators avoided interruptions or follow-ups, the candidates were free to inhabit any alternate reality of their choosing, unperturbed by inconvenient facts. Presumably, the general election will intrude, and the nominee will be forced to make a stronger case against what looks, at the moment, like peace and prosperity.

Factcheck.org listed multiple false statements during both the prime time and undercard debates, with further detail in the full post:

  • Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said that “welders make more money than philosophers.” Actually, those with undergraduate degrees in philosophy earn a higher median income than welders.
  • Businessman Donald Trump said that President Dwight D. Eisenhower had forced out 1.5 million immigrants who were in the country illegally. The federal government claimed it was 1.3 million, but historians say that’s exaggerated.
  • Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said the Tax Foundation calculated that his tax plan “costs less than virtually every other plan people have put up here, and yet it produces more growth.” But the foundation said Bobby Jindal’s and Rubio’s plans both would lead to higher gross domestic product growth over a decade.
  • Cruz also repeated the years-long falsehood that there’s a “congressional exemption” from Obamacare. Members of Congress and their staffs face additional requirements than other Americans, not fewer.
  • Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said that his state has had “eight credit upgrades,” but two credit rating agencies moved the state to a “negative” outlook in February. And it faces a $117 million deficit in its most recent budget.
  • Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said he had cut his state budget by 11 percent during the 2001-2003 recession. Over his entire tenure, however, spending went up by 50 percent.
  • Jindal claimed that there were “more people working in Louisiana than ever before.” That’s wrong. There were fewer Louisianans working in September than there were in December 2014.
  • Huckabee said that Syrians make up only 20 percent of the refugees arriving in Europe. The figure is actually 52 percent for 2015.

Further fact-checking and analysis at The New York Times, CNN, AP, and NPR.

Donald Trump’s Great Plans

Jimmy Kimmel Live! presents their take on Donald Trump’s first ad will be, making fun of the fact that we really don’t know what Trump plans to do as president other than building that wall.

The biggest problem I see with Trump building a wall on the border is that it might get in the way of people trying to escape a United States under the rule of Donald Trump.

Donald Trump makes a point as he walks with former governor of Alaska Sarah Palin in New York City as they make their way to a scheduled meeting Tuesday, May 31, 2010. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

Maybe we will learn more about Trump’s ideas. Sarah Palin is interviewing Donald Trump tonight. I can imagine the first two question:
Question #1. Why are you so awesome?
Question #2. Will I be able to see the wall from my house?

And coming soon, something big from Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump announced on Thursday that he and Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), also a GOP candidate, are joining forces to do “something very big over the next two weeks in Washington.”

Speaking to reporters following a campaign rally in South Carolina, Trump said the event will essentially be a “protest” of the Obama administration’s “totally incompetent” nuclear deal with Iran. He also called Cruz a “friend of mine” and a good guy.”

Those who believe “it can’t happen here” have never heard of Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, or Sarah Palin.

Fox Republican Debate Dominated By The Donald

Fox Debate August 2015

Fox brought in a record 24 million viewers for the first Republican debate on Thursday night , and nobody doubts it was because of Donald Trump. CNN explained what this number means:

For perspective, the first GOP primary debate four years ago, also on Fox, attracted 3.2 million viewers.

The most-watched primary debate that year, broadcast by ABC, reached 7.6 million.

Thursday’s debate audience more than tripled that one.

The audience easily exceeded pretty much everything that’s been on American television this year, from the finale of “The Walking Dead” to the final episode of David Letterman’s “Late Show.”

The debate was bigger than all of this year’s NBA Finals and MLB World Series games, and most of the year’s NFL match-ups.

It also trumped Jon Stewart’s Thursday night’s sign-off from “The Daily Show,” which averaged 3.5 million viewers.

Trump is a known ratings magnet. His reality show “The Celebrity Apprentice” used to reach 20 million viewers a week. But it has slipped over the years, averaging 6 to 8 million viewers for recent seasons.

The debate, as well as most of the talk afterwards, was about Donald Trump. They might as well have named it Presidential Apprentice. By the end, many viewers might have been expecting to go to the boardroom to see who Trump would fire. Hint–it might not have been one of the candidates considering what he has been saying about Megyn Kelley and the other Fox correspondents. Among the most crude:

Trump was the center of attention from the start when the very first question was a show of hands  as to “who is unwilling tonight to pledge your support to the eventual nominee of the Republican party and pledge to not run an independent campaign against that person.” Only Donald Trump raised his hand. (Full transcript of the debate can be found here).

Donald Trump did make a great case for campaign finance reform:

I will tell you that our system is broken. I gave to many people, before this, before two months ago, I was a businessman. I give to everybody. When they call, I give.

And do you know what?

When I need something from them two years later, three years later, I call them, they are there for me.

QUESTION: So what did you get?

TRUMP: And that’s a broken system.

QUESTION: What did you get from Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi?

TRUMP: Well, I’ll tell you what, with Hillary Clinton, I said be at my wedding and she came to my wedding.

You know why?

She didn’t have a choice because I gave. I gave to a foundation that, frankly, that foundation is supposed to do good. I didn’t know her money would be used on private jets going all over the world. It was.

Trump also restated his opposition to the Iraq war but flip-flopped on his previous support for a single payer system. Trump could have been the best candidate in the room if he hadn’t turned into a Tea Party clown.

There were some other moments when Republican candidates deserved credit. This includes Rand Paul criticizing both his fellow Republican candidates and Hillary Clinton for their policies which on sending more arms to middle east:

I’ve been fighting amidst a lot of opposition from both Hillary Clinton, as well as some Republicans who wanted to send arms to the allies of ISIS. ISIS rides around in a billion dollars worth of U.S. Humvees. It’s a disgrace. We’ve got to stop — we shouldn’t fund our enemies, for goodness sakes.

This was followed by John Kasich defending taking funds for the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare:

First of all, Megyn, you should know that — that President Reagan expanded Medicaid three or four times.

Secondly, I had an opportunity to bring resources back to Ohio to do what?

To treat the mentally ill. Ten thousand of them sit in our prisons. It costs $22,500 a year to keep them in prison. I’d rather get them their medication so they could lead a decent life.

Rand Paul made a another good point when he argued with Chris Christie over NSA surveillance:

The Fourth Amendment was what we fought the Revolution over! John Adams said it was the spark that led to our war for independence, and I’m proud of standing for the Bill of Rights, and I will continue to stand for the Bill of Rights.

Beyond this, we primarily learned from the debates that Republicans hate Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Obamacare, and Planned Parenthood.

I am looking forward to seeing Bernie Sanders debate Hillary Clinton on foreign military intervention and suppression of civil liberties. Clinton’s record on these topics does fit well in the GOP mainstream.

I am hesitant to write about winners because we have learned that the winner of a debate is not based upon the debate itself, but the perception of the candidates after people have listened to the talking heads in the days following the debate. This is further complicated with the Republican Party as most of their voters receive their thoughts from Fox. Criticism from the Fox commentators could make Donald Trump look like a loser, but so far he has managed to survive better than the pundits have predicted, and it is not looking like Fox will be successful against him.

From my perspective, which could be quite different from that of Fox, the winners were John Kasich and Marco Rubio. Kasich barely squeaked into the prime time debate, and the two debates did show that Kasich really did deserve to be there more than Rick Perry, who was excluded, possibly by fudging the results of the polls. Kasich and Jeb Bush looked the most stable in the group. Bush already has his position as top contender after Trump, but now Kasich might replace Scott Walker as the leading challenger to Bush and move into the top tier.

I also downgraded Bush for his discussion of his brother’s policies. It wasn’t faulty intelligence which got us in Iraq as he claimed, but his brother twisting the intelligence to justify the war he wanted to start. Jeb! also seemed oblivious to the fact that ISIS and the other problems now occurring in Iraq are due to his brother destabilizing the region. They all seemed oblivious, when talking about the deficit, to the fact that the deficit is a consequence of George W. Bush both fighting the war on credit and cutting taxes on the wealthy.

The other Republican who looked good, if you ignore his actual views, was Marco Rubio. He could make a good candidate in a television-based campaign. The entry of Trump into the race made it hard for candidates like Rubio to get attention, but he did get a shot at being noticed Thursday.

On the other hand, it seemed a battle throughout the evening between Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz to be the most bat-shit candidate on stage, which was impressive considering that Donald Trump was on the same stage. I was edging towards awarding this to Huckabee, with lines such as, “The purpose of the military is kill people and break things,” until Cruz gave his closing statement, and clinched the title:

If I’m elected president, let me tell you about my first day in office. The first thing I intend to do is to rescind every illegal and unconstitutional executive action taken by Barack Obama.

The next thing I intend to do is instruct the Department of Justice to open an investigation into these videos and to prosecute Planned Parenthood for any criminal violations.

The next thing I intend to do is instruct the Department of Justice and the IRS to start (sic) persecuting religious liberty, and then intend to cancel the Iran deal, and finally move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

I will keep my word. My father fled Cuba, and I will fight to defend liberty because my family knows what it’s like to lose it.

In contrast, Huckabee went for the laugh as opposed to Cruz’s tirade:

It seems like this election has been a whole lot about a person who’s very high in the polls, that doesn’t have a clue about how to govern.

A person who has been filled with scandals, and who could not lead, and, of course, I’m talking about Hillary Clinton.

So, in conclusion, Trump wins for continuing to totally dominate the discussion, Kasich and Rubio had smaller victories which might improve their position if the race should return to be about the more conventional candidates, and Cruz edged Huckabee for the scariest Republican in the room. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders must really have felt happy seeing this debate and the caliber of candidate they might come up against in the general election.