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.

Sanders and O’Malley Express Reservations On Troops On Syria While Clinton Flip Flops On Another Issue

Clinton Flip Flop

Barack Obama’s decision to send limited troops into Syria has shown the predictable divisions in the Democratic field. Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley have expressed strong reservations, while Hillary Clinton has taken only seventeen days to flip flop on her position regarding troops on the ground.

The Washington Post reported on Sanders’ reservations:

Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders voiced concerns Friday about President Obama’s decision to dispatch a small number of Special Operations troops to northern Syria, saying through a spokesman that he fears the United States could be drawn into “the quagmire of the Syrian civil war.”

The independent senator from Vermont “believes that the crisis in Syria will be solved diplomatically, not militarily,” Sanders spokesman Michael Briggs said in a statement.

Sanders, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for the White House, was asked about the issue later Friday by an audience member at a town hall in Derry. He said that he agrees with Obama’s overall objective to provide support to groups and countries battling the Islamic State in the region.

But Sanders added: “You have a quagmire in a quagmire. . . . My nightmare is that we get sucked into a never-ending war in that part of the world.”

Stars and Stripes also note his “concern about the United States being drawn into the quagmire of the Syrian civil war which could lead to perpetual warfare in that region.

Martin O’Malley also expressed concerns while campaigning in Iowa. The Souix City Journal reported:

ISIS must be stopped, and the U.S. should support the coalition to defeat the Syria-based Islamic militant group, former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley said Friday.

But the Democratic presidential candidate hesitated to support a move that would place U.S. troops on the ground, pointing to past examples of U.S. interference in Middle Eastern affairs.

“We have to stay involved, but we also have to be very, very cautious because it’s hard to point to an example where putting American boots on the ground gave us the desired result in the last 15 years,” O’Malley s

O’Malley’s comments came hours after the White House announced that Democratic President Barack Obama had authorized the deployment of fewer than 50 special operations U.S. troops in the Kurdish-controlled region of Syria.

If elected, O’Malley said he’d like to find ways to cut off ISIS’ finances and stop its propaganda.

Hillary Clinton has previously advocated a no-fly zone in Syria, with Sanders disagreeing. On October 13 at the first Democratic Debate, Hillary Clinton said, “We don’t want American troops on the ground in Syria.”  It only took Clinton seventeen days to flip-flop on this position. On October 30 Clinton’s campaign released this statement:

Hillary Rodham Clinton supports the decision by President Barack Obama to deploy a small number of special operations forces to northern Syria to work with local ground forces in the fight against Islamic State militants. Campaign spokesman Nick Merrill said in a statement that Clinton “sees merit in the targeted use of special operations personnel.’ He added that Clinton also strongly ‘supports ongoing diplomatic efforts to end the conflict.’

Clinton’s quick reversal on this issue reinforces the view that her more progressive statements while campaigning for the Democratic nomination provide no guarantee that she will not return to her more conservative views if elected.

Republican candidates also took the expected positions.  Rand Paul opposed sending in ground troops. The Des Moines Register reports:

 Sen. Rand Paul said Saturday he is not ready to “send our sons and daughters back to a war in Iraq,” but is “not completely for doing nothing” to fight the Islamic State.

The Kentucky senator spoke to members of the Jasper County Farm Bureau in Newton before taking a tour of a pipeline farm in Reasnor. Paul touched on a variety of rural issues in front of the small group, but was firm on his stance on Syria following the news that the Obama administration will send 50 special operations soldiers to consult with rebel groups fighting ISIS.

“The fighting on the ground needs to be done by the people who live there,” he said. “The Sunnis will have to rise up and say ‘enough is enough.'”

Paul said while the radical group needs to be fought, it should not be by the United States military. He said he “would help the Kurds fight” but is against putting troops in Syria because the first Iraq War was bad for foreign relations and the national debt.

In contrast, Chris Christie took the more conventional Republican line, stating he believes the military should go “whole hog.”

The New Jersey governor and Republican presidential candidate addressed the issue during a town hall in response to news that the Obama administration approved up to 50 special operations soldiers to enter Syria and work as military advisers with rebel groups fighting the group known as ISIS.

“For me, this is too little. too late from the president, and if you’re going to involve American troops, you’d better go whole hog,” he said.

The U.S. should deploy boots on the ground only if the strategy of arming U.S. allies in the region fails to defeat ISIS, Christie added.

“I think we have to keep American troops as an option on the table, but to me it is a later option, not a first option, and the president should have been doing all these other things first,” he said.

Quick tip for Chris Christie: Think twice before using terms like “whole hog” as the listener might conjure up a different image when  you say this than  you desire.

Update:  Donald Trump expressed opposition to Obama’s plan, but he hardly expressed an anti-war viewpoint. He opposed limiting to fifty people, telling CNN, “You either do it or you don’t do it. Fifty people. He puts 50 people.” Trump also supports returning ground troops to Iraq.

Rand Paul Warns Of Mass Killings If Bernie Sanders Is Elected President

Paul Sanders

Rand Paul could be of value if he would stick to supporting non-interventionism and civil liberties as he did at the second Republican debate. Unfortunately he has to open his mouth about things he just doesn’t understand, like economics. Paul even warned, while discussing the Democratic debate,  that the election of Bernie Sanders will lead to mass killings like under Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot. Via Right Wing Watch:

“It amazes me and it actually kind of scares me,” Paul said. “I’ve been spending more time going after Bernie and socialism because I don’t want America to succumb to the notion that there’s anything good about socialism. I think it’s not an accident of history that most of the times when socialism has been tried that attendant with that has been mass genocide of people or any of those who object to it. Stalin killed tens of millions of people. Mao killed tens of millions of people. Pol Pot killed tens of millions of people. When you have a command economy, when everything is dictated from one authority, that’s socialism, but it doesn’t come easily to those who resist it.”

Sanders is a European-style social democrat, not a Communist. As I noted recently, even most American socialists don’t consider Sanders to be a true Socialist, and certainly not a Communist. Sanders, despite disliking the term which has been tarnished by Republican corruption of the system, is actually a capitalist. He wants to reform the system, not destroy capitalism. He does not support a command economy, or dictating everything by the government. There was no “Red Dawn” in Vermont when Bernie Sanders became mayor of Burlington. Even in the most far left Scandinavian countries, which go far beyond any changes Bernie Sanders could ever bring to the United States, entrepreneurs do quite well, and there is no mass killing by the government.

Audio below:

Another Deadline For Joe Biden & New Criteria For Next GOP Debate

Ridin With Biden

The Los Angeles Times reports on another deadline for Joe Biden to consider when deciding whether to announce a candidacy for the Democratic nomination. He has until November 20 to register for the New Hampshire primary.

As I recently noted, he can wait until October 13, the date of the CNN Democratic debate, to declare his candidacy and still qualify for the debate.

There is speculation that Biden might hold off on officially entering the race and wait to see if Clinton is forced from the race due to the scandals or if her campaign no longer looks viable should she lose to Bernie Sanders in Iowa and/or New Hampshire. The November 20 deadline might also not be of concern to him if he plans on going this route as he is expected to concentrate on South Carolina, as opposed to Iowa and New Hampshire, should he enter the race, which in normal years would be a risky strategy.

Turning to the Republican campaign, CNBC has changed the rules for qualifying for their October 28 debate. Instead of setting an arbitrary number (and then expanding it by one) as in the first two debates, CNBC has announced they will decide by a fixed standing in the polls. As they will round up, a candidate averaging 2.5 percent can make it into the evening debate:

National polls will be used to determine a candidate’s eligibility and placement on the stage. To be eligible to appear in either segment, a candidate must have at least 1% in any one of the methodologically sound and recognized national polls conducted by: NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox, CNN and Bloomberg, released between September 17, 2015 and October 21, 2015.

To appear in the 8pm debate a candidate must have an average of 3% among these polls. The polls will be averaged and will be rounded up to 3% for any candidate with a standing of 2.5% or higher. Candidates who average below that will be invited to the 6pm debate.

The Wall Street Journal has speculated on who will make the cut:

A Real Clear Politics average of national polling suggests that the candidates who would make the cut for primetime are Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Mike Huckabee and Chris Christie. Candidates who rank at 2.5% or above in the polls have their numbers rounded up to 3%. Rand Paul’s average in the polls RCP tracks is 2.3%.

Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum, George Pataki and Lindsey Graham—all of whom took part in the undercard debate earlier this month—all rank at 0.5% or less, alternately winning 1% or 0% in the polls.

This formula might help speed up the elimination of the weaker candidates from the race. I do hope that Rand Paul manages to remain in. While I disagree with him on many other issues, I did like seeing him challenge the other candidates on military intervention and the drug war in the second Republican debate.

Update: CNN is now reporting as of October 1 that Biden is not expected to participate in the first debate and plans to delay his decision until later in the month. He might be able to delay but I suspect that the longer he does wait the harder it will be to launch a full scale campaign.

The Second Republican Debate: Faux Controversies, Lies, And One Candidate Was Even Right Twice

CNN Republican Debate

The second Republican debate (transcript here), this time hosted by CNN, didn’t raise as much controversy as the first. Donald Trump was still a dominant force, but whenever the talk got to policy, Trump didn’t know what to say and was quieter. CNN did try to liven things up with having the candidates respond to comments about them from other candidates. This included both comments during the debates and often insults made to the media before the debates. While at times it was a good idea to have the candidates interact, often it was over matters far to trivial to really belong in the debate.

This did allow Carly Fiorina to have one of the better moments of the debate, and she was obviously ready to comment on this insult from Donald Trump:

TRAPPER: In an interview last week in Rolling Stone magazine, Donald Trump said the following about you. Quote, “Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?” Mr. Trump later said he was talking about your persona, not your appearance. Please feel free to respond what you think about his persona.

FIORINA: You know, it’s interesting to me, Mr. Trump said that he heard Mr. Bush very clearly and what Mr. Bush said. I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said.

While candidates often exceeded their time, Fiorina responded perfectly with this brief comment.

It was overall a good night for Fiorina, who might have done more than anyone else to improve her position in the GOP race with her debate performance. Unfortunately doing well in a Republican race does not require telling the truth. She repeated previously debunked claims about her record at HP. While she sounded more forceful than Donald Trump in saying how she would deal with Russia and Syria, Ezra Klein pointed out how she got the facts wrong. Klein, along with Sarah Kliff also pointed out how she was wrong about the Planned Parenthood tapes. There was no scene such as the one she described:

FIORINA: I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to watch these tapes. Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.

Of course most, if not all, of the candidates were also lying about Planned Parenthood during the debate. Even if they didn’t make a claim as blatantly false as Fiorina did, they repeated the debunked claims that Planned Parenthood was selling fetal tissue.

The biggest whopper came from Jeb Bush when he responded to criticism of his brother from Donald Trump:

TRUMP: Your brother — and your brother’s administration gave us Barack Obama, because it was such a disaster, those last three months, that Abraham Lincoln couldn’t have been elected.

BUSH: You know what? As it relates to my brother, there’s one thing I know for sure. He kept us safe.

Both Trump and Jeb Bush were wrong about Obama and George Bush in the above exchange, but it is Jeb’s comments which were the most absurd. The most destructive terrorist attack on the United States occurred on George Bush’s watch, with Bush ignoring intelligence reports which might have enabled the United States to prevent the attack. Bush then followed up the attack by foolishly getting us into the quagmire in Iraq.

Rand Paul is one of the candidates who was nearly forgotten. Donald Trump, who insulted so many of the other candidates that I thought he was preparing to fire one, even said:

TRUMP: Well, first of all, Rand Paul shouldn’t even be on this stage. He’s number 11, he’s got 1 percent in the polls, and how he got up here, there’s far too many people anyway.

While Paul is certainly wrong on many, many things, I noted he was right on two points during the debate.  For this group, just being right twice makes him stand out.

First he pointed out that military intervention is not always the best idea:

PAUL: I think this gets to the point of wisdom on when to intervene and when we shouldn’t. Had we bombed Assad at the time, like President Obama wanted, and like Hillary Clinton wanted and many Republicans wanted, I think ISIS would be in Damascus today. I think ISIS would be in charge of Syria had we bombed Assad.

Sometimes both sides of the civil war are evil, and sometimes intervention sometimes makes us less safe. This is real the debate we have to have in the Middle East.

Every time we have toppled a secular dictator, we have gotten chaos, the rise of radical Islam, and we’re more at risk. So, I think we need to think before we act, and know most interventions, if not a lot of them in the Middle East, have actually backfired on us.

Paul missed the point Obama successfully stepped back from the brink, but his overall point is correct about thinking before engaging in senseless military intervention.

Paul also also criticized the drug war during the debate:

TAPPER: Many people on social media wanted us to ask about marijuana legalization. Senator Paul, Governor Christie recently said, quote, “if you’re getting high in Colorado today,” where marijuana has been legalized, “enjoy it until January 2017, because I will enforce the federal laws against marijuana.” Will you?

PAUL: I think one of the great problems, and what American people don’t like about politics, is hypocrisy. People have one standard for others and not for them — for themselves.

There is at least one prominent example on the stage of someone who says they smoked pot in high school, and yet the people going to — to jail for this are poor people, often African-Americans and often Hispanics, and yet the rich kids who use drugs aren’t.

I personally think that this is a crime for which the only victim is the individual, and I think that America has to take a different attitude. I would like to see more rehabilitation and less incarceration. I’m a fan of the drug courts which try to direct you back towards work and less time in jail.

But the bottom line is the states. We say we like the 10th Amendment, until we start talking about this. And I think the federal government has gone too far, I think that the war on drugs has had a racial outcome, and really has been something that has really damaged our inner cities.

Not only do the drugs damage them, we damage them again by incarcerating them and then preventing them from getting employment over time.

So I don’t think that the federal government should override the states. I believe in the 10th Amendment and I really will say that the states are left to themselves.

Paul was generally right on two points, but neither are going to help him in a Republican primary battle. It is also rather sad that the Democratic front-runner has been wrong on both issues, with Clinton supporting both greater military intervention and being a hard-liner on drug laws.

Paul was more mixed on vaccines. He didn’t go along with Donald Trump’s claims about a connection between vaccines and autism, but also wasn’t consistent with the science:

TAPPER: Mr. Trump, as president, you would be in charge of the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health, both of which say you are wrong. How would you handle this as president?

TRUMP: Autism has become an epidemic. Twenty-five years ago, 35 years ago, you look at the statistics, not even close. It has gotten totally out of control.

I am totally in favor of vaccines. But I want smaller doses over a longer period of time. Because you take a baby in — and I’ve seen it — and I’ve seen it, and I had my children taken care of over a long period of time, over a two or three year period of time.

Same exact amount, but you take this little beautiful baby, and you pump — I mean, it looks just like it’s meant for a horse, not for a child, and we’ve had so many instances, people that work for me.

Just the other day, two years old, two and a half years old, a child, a beautiful child went to have the vaccine, and came back, and a week later got a tremendous fever, got very, very sick, now is autistic.

Paul later responded:

One of the greatest — one of the greatest medical discoveries of all times was — were the vaccines, particularly for smallpox. And if you want to read a story, it’s called The Speckled Monster, it’s an amazing story, it was all done voluntary.

But people came in by the droves. George Washington wouldn’t let his wife visit until she got vaccinated. So I’m all for vaccines. But I’m also for freedom.

I’m also a little concerned about how they’re bunched up. My kids had all of their vaccines, and even if the science doesn’t say bunching them up is a problem, I ought to have the right to spread out my vaccines out a little bit at the very least.

The debate will probably not change the race very much but it is a good thing that the candidates were provided this opportunity to present their views to a national audience on a repeated basis. If only the Democratic National Committee would do the same this year and allow more than six debates total.

Update: The New York Times reviewed  Crazy Talk at the Republican Debate with Paul Krugman adding additional Fantasies and Fictions at G.O.P. Debate

News Briefs: Donald Trump, Kim Davis, and Tom Brady

DONALD-TRUMP

A few brief comments on items in the news today:

Donald Trump signed the pledge that he will support the Republican candidate and not run as a third party candidate. He says, “no circumstances under which I would tear up that pledge. … I have no intention of changing my mind.” However, there is no way to hold him to it. It is not as if they could penalize him by taking away delegates at the convention if he loses the nomination and goes decides to run as an independent. At the moment Trump has a strong lead in the polls. The question remains as to whether the party will unite behind someone else as the weaker candidates are driven from the race.

By now I’m sure that everyone has heard that Kim Davis is to be jailed for contempt of court for refusing to obey the law and issue marriage certificates for same-sex couples. Republicans, who see religious liberty as the freedom to impose their religious views on others, are upset with this. GOP candidates including  Mike Huckabee and Rand Paul are coming to her defense. The main reason I am bringing this up is that I’m seeing a lot of comments on social media suggesting that the logical move would be to fire her. She is an elected official and cannot be fired.

The other major legal decision of the day was that a federal judge has thrown out the four game suspension of Tom Brady over deflategate. The NFL is appealing the decision.

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.

Leader of Racist Group Which Radicalized Dylann Roof Contributed To Republicans

In an update to the recent post on Dylann Roof and the Republican problem with racism, The Guardian reports “The leader of a rightwing group that Dylann Roof allegedly credits with helping to radicalise him against black people before the Charleston church massacre has donated tens of thousands of dollars to Republicans such as presidential candidates Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Rick Santorum.”

The three have said they will either be returning the donations or, in the case of Rand Paul (who may have learned a lesson from his father’s problems), donating it the Mother Emanuel Hope Fund.

Meaningless But Hopeful News For Sanders And O’Malley

Favorability Fictional Characters And Politicians

This week has a lot of somewhat encouraging news, even if it all has zero predictive value. Bernie Sanders came unexpectedly close to Clinton in the Wisconsin straw poll. While straw polls are pretty much meaningless, as we saw with all those straw poll victories by fringe candidates like Ron Paul, it could be a sign of the enthusiasm for Sanders, which has also been seen elsewhere, and Sanders has far more upside potential than Paul ever had. The first Daily Kos Democratic Straw Poll shows Sanders leading Clinton by more than two to one at the time I am writing. Then there is the survey pictured above.

The data is based upon the favorability of politicians from the latest Quinnipiac poll along with Google Consumer Survey questions on famous movie villains. The Terminator, Darth Vader, and the Shark from Jaws beat all politicians. No surprise there. It is also not surprising that Donald Trump has the lowest favorability of all.

It is also interesting to look at the non-fictional candidates. Of the potential 2016 candidates, Bernie Sanders and Marco Rubio both beat Hillary Clinton,  and Martin O’Malley, who has barely started his campaign is not far behind Clinton. The latest polls show a sharp drop for Clinton and if this continues she might even wind up below Rand Paul, Scott Walker, and Voldemort.

At the moment, it looks like Bernie Sanders is the most electable based upon this chart.

Of course the more meaningful numbers are in the recent polling results showing that support for Clinton is falling among Democrats.

Forget The Benghazi Nonsense–Clinton Finally Facing More Questions On Her Real Mistakes In Libya

Clinton Email

Republicans often turn out to inadvertently be Hillary Clinton’s best friend. They are never satisfied with criticizing Clinton’s real faults, and instead feel compelled to fabricate what sounds like far more serious crimes. Thus criticism of Clinton’s actual policy mistakes in Libya as Secretary of State have been largely ignored because Republicans think find that they can raise more money by attacking Clinton over conspiracy theories leading to the deaths in Benghazi.

Clinton’s push for intervention in Libya has often been criticized by Rand Paul, but he has too many problems with credibility. There has been some criticism from the anti-war left. The Nation recently ran a story critical of both Clinton’s rational for intervening and overthrowing Gaddafi and for her the execution. There is a sign that the issue might be entering more mainstream conversation with CNN reporting on the issue:

She’s already grappling with the political headaches from deleted emails and from the terror attack that left four Americans dead in Benghazi.

But she’ll face a broader challenge in what’s become of the North African country since, as secretary of state in 2011, she was the public face of the U.S. intervention to push out its longtime strongman, Moammar Gadhafi.

Libya’s lapse into the chaos of failed statehood has provided a breeding ground for terror and a haven for groups such as ISIS. Its plight is also creating an opening for Republican presidential candidates to question Clinton’s strategic acumen and to undermine her diplomatic credentials, which will be at the center of her pitch that only she has the global experience needed to be president in a turbulent time.

One person who is thinking of joining the Democratic primary battle does have a record of criticizing Clinton on this issue:

Democrats voice concern on Libya

Concern over what has become of Libya is not confined to the Republican Party.

Possible Democratic challenger Jim Webb, a former Virginia senator, complained in a recent appearance with CNN’s Jake Tapper that: “We blew the lid off of a series of tribal engagements. You can’t get to the Tripoli Airport right now, much less Benghazi.”

Though Webb did not criticize Clinton directly, his comments raise the possibility that the issue could surface in the Democratic primary race.

So Clinton must be ready to explain why she backed a military operation in a region laced with extremism without effective planning for the aftermath. It’s the kind of question that has long challenged Republicans in the wake of President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq.

Clinton’s campaign declined to comment for this story, so it is unclear whether what happened in Libya after Gadhafi fell has changed her thinking on military intervention.

It has been typical Clinton to refuse to answer questions from the press on controversial topics, making it difficult to take Clinton’s liberal rhetoric on limited issues seriously. This, along with other advocacy of military force as Secretary of State, suggests she has not changed her thinking sufficiently since when she pushed for war in Iraq based upon nonexistent claims of ties between Saddam and al Qaeda. Clinton’s recommendations for Libya were often a repeat of the mistakes made in Iraq.

The article further discussed how things have gone wrong in Libya, and Clinton’s role in pushing for intervention:

Clinton has little choice but to own what happened in Libya. An email to Clinton in April 2012 from her former top adviser Jake Sullivan, released last month, appears to show that initially her aides were keen to trumpet her role in the intervention and saw it as legacy-enhancing.

Clinton ‘a critical voice on Libya’

“HRC has been a critical voice on Libya in administration deliberations, at NATO, and in contact group meetings — as well as the public face of the U.S. effort in Libya. She was instrumental in securing the authorization, building the coalition, and tightening the noose around Qadhafi and his regime,” Sullivan wrote.

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates also describes her pivotal role in the decision making in his memoir.

Gates said the intervention, which he initially opposed, split the administration down the middle, with heavy hitters such as Vice President Joe Biden and national security adviser Tom Donilon also against.

On the other side were U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and National Security Council staffers including Ben Rhodes and Samantha Power.

If Joe Biden decides to enter the race, foreign policy could receive greater consideration. This was typical of the first four years of the Obama administration, with Biden opposing Clinton on foreign policy. Bernie Sanders has also had reservations over this intervention in Libya while Lincoln Chafee has made criticism of Clinton’s support for the Iraq war a key issue in his campaign.

Clinton’s failed policies in Libya might also tie into the email and Clinton Foundation scandals since it was revealed that she was receiving advice on Libya from Sydney Blumenthal, who was both receiving $10,000 per month from the Foundation and was involved with Libyan companies, suggesting further conflicts of interest. The bigger issue is Clinton’s history of both poor decisions and hawkish views on foreign policy, which risk getting the country involved in further needless wars should she be elected.