Down To One Liberal And One Defender Of Civil Liberties In The Presidential Race

Colbert Hungry for Power Games

The number of presidential candidates should drop quickly now that voting has begun. It is not surprising that many of the candidates are waiting to see if they do better than the polls have predicted, which is reasonable considering how poorly polls often are at predicting primary results. Some of the more mainstream candidates are putting their hopes on New Hampshire. For other candidates, a loss in Iowa was enough to tell them that they had no chance.

On the Democratic side, Martin O’Malley announced that he is suspending his campaign while the Iowa caucus was in progress. It has been clear for months that O’Malley had no real chance with the conservative/establishment voters going for Clinton and the liberal/pro-insurgent voters going for Sanders. There was no middle lane for O’Malley, who certainly would be a far better choice than Clinton. He campaigned hard in Iowa, and there was no point in continuing once this failed to result in support at the caucuses. This leaves Bernie Sanders as the only liberal or progressive left in the race from either party.

For the Republicans, the Iowa caucus is the best shot for a candidate from the religious right to win, as Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum have done in the past. Republicans this year are bucking their usual trend of backing the next in line, with Ted Cruz winning this year. Huckabee at least deserves credit for realizing there is no hope and not dragging it on any longer. I wonder how much longer Rick Santorum and Ben Carson will stay in the race.

Rand Paul dropped out today, realizing it made more sense to work at holding on to his Senate seat, especially when he is increasingly being excluded from the Republican debates. While I disagree with Paul on many things, I did like having Paul criticizing the other candidates for their conservative positions on military interventionism, civil liberties, and the drug war. For that matter, while he has done so at times, I also wish Bernie Sanders would do the same regarding Clinton’s views.

With Paul out, this leaves Sanders as the only candidate opposing unnecessary foreign intervention, the only candidate opposing the surveillance state and other restrictions on civil liberties, and the only candidate who opposes the drug war. By concentrating on economic issues, where he also differs substantially from all the remaining candidates, other issues are receiving too little attention this year.

Stephen Colbert did not do his usual segment on Hungry For Power Games last night, concentrating on the caucus instead. Now he has three candidates to mock tonight.

Update: Rick Santorum is also dropping out.

Nomination Of Sanders Essential To Prevent Clinton’s Neocon Policies

Sanders On Iraq Vote

While foreign policy has frequently been pushed behind economics in this election, largely due to the emphasis placed on this by her major challenger, Bernie Sanders, foreign policy remains a major reason for opposition to Clinton on the left. Sanders showed the contrast in their views in the last Democratic debate, while the Republicans showed why they cannot be trusted on foreign policy their debate.  In an interview with The Guardian, Sanders  discussed how Clinton’s pursuit of “regime change” in Libya helped rise of Isis:

Speaking to the Guardian in an extensive pre-debate interview, the senator from Vermont criticised Clinton for carelessly fomenting regime change in Libya “without worrying” about the ensuing instability that has helped Islamic State forces take hold in the country.

“Regime change without worrying about what happens the day after you get rid of the dictator does not make a lot of sense,” Sanders said.

“I voted against the war in Iraq … Secretary Clinton voted for that war. She was proud to have been involved in regime change in Libya, with [Muammar] Gaddafi, without worrying, I think, about what happened the day after and the kind of instability and the rise of Isis that we have seen in Libya.”

Foreign policy has recieved far more emphasis in the liberal media compared to the rest of the campaign coverage. I have looked at Hillary Clinton’s neoconservative and hawkish views multiple times.  At Salon, Paul Rosenberg recently described how Clinton has been a neoconservative hawk, concentrating on her mistakes on Iraq and showing how she made similar mistakes in her failed policy in Libya. The foreign policy views she has held in the past should be taken as a warning of what to expect should Clinton be elected. As Secretary of State her more interventionist advice was overruled by more sensible people in the Obama administration. There will be no such restraints on Clinton’s militarism should she be elected.

Rosenberg looked at how Clinton justified the invasion of Iraq in her Senate speech. He discussed how Clinton failed to show understanding of the problems which the war would inevitably result in, including the increase in extremism and terrorism. He next discussed her fundamental errors in repeating the false claims of a threat of WMD in Iraq, first quoting from Clinton:

In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including al Qaeda members, though there is apparently no evidence of his involvement in the terrible events of September 11, 2001.

It is clear, however, that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons. Should he succeed in that endeavor, he could alter the political and security landscape of the Middle East, which as we know all too well affects American security.

Now this much is undisputed.

Rosenberg responded:

We now know unequivocally that Iraq did not rebuild its WMD capacities, as Clinton had claimed. There were already ample reasons to doubt it at the time, so she was clearly lying when she said “this much is undisputed.” But she was also expressing a common elite consensus view. And her stress on elite consensus was another troubling aspect of her speech for us to consider—which we’ll return to below. First, however, we need to focus on Clinton’s claim that Saddam had “given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including al Qaeda members.”

Of course, Saddam, as secular dictator, had no reason at all to behave as Clinton described. He and bin Laden were bitter ideological enemies, and the only thing that could bring them together was necessity and a common enemy they hated and feared more than each other. That would be us. And although both Saddam and bin Laden are dead, their followers have joined together to fight us. That is, in fact, the origin story of ISIS—or at least a crucial part of it, as counter-terrorism expert Malcolm Nance has explained, talking to William Arkin, for example.

There is more worth reading on how the invasion of Iraq led to the later threat from ISIS.

Rosenberg next criticized how, “Clinton went on to craft an equally misleading picture of the policy options,” leading to her support for the war. Clinton has called this a mistake, but we saw that as as Secretary of State she had not learned from this mistake:

After all, Clinton herself pushed hard for a similarly flawed regime change strategy in Libya—Conor Friedersdorf even compared her role in Libya to Cheney’s in Iraq. Hyperbolic? Yes. But he did have a point. As summarized by Joel Gillin at the New Republic, she did get carried away with questionable intelligence, over-focused on deposing a long-time U.S. bogeyman, and failed to give sufficient consideration to the depths of difficulties that would follow afterwards. All of which allowed the broader jihadi threat increased opportunity to spread.

In particular, the key claim that something genocidal was about to unfold was entirely unfounded, according to a lengthy review of the Libya intervention at the London Review of Books, which noted that “in retaking the towns that the uprising had briefly wrested from the government’s control, Gaddafi’s forces had committed no massacres at all; the fighting had been bitter and bloody, but there had been nothing remotely resembling the slaughter at Srebrenica, let alone in Rwanda.” Given that Libya had normalized relations with the West in 2003/2004, renouncing its former international outlaw role, including an active WMD program, it was strikingly counterproductive to turn on Gaddafi like that, if you want to coax other “rogue states” into the community of nations.

Rosenberg concluded:

The last 14 years have seen America completely lose track of what its own core ideological strengths are. If “they hate us for our freedoms,” then fine, we’ll get rid of them. That’s been our response in a nutshell. We’ve been taken so far out of touch with our own values that it might seem like a pipe dream to turn the tables on ISIS and exploit their contradictions. But that’s exactly what we need to do. And nothing in Hillary Clinton’s record shows any capacity for engaging ISIS on those terms.

To the contrary, Clinton’s just like Bush and the neocons in fighting the last century’s wars. She’s much smarter about it, in theory at least. But we’re in a whole different ballgame now, and none of our foreign policy elites seem to have a clue about that, despite a growing choru

In a normal election year, Clinton’s failures as Secretary of State would be a major election issue. We are now seeing the same mistakes with Clinton’s views on Syria. However, Clinton benefits from a double standard in which many Democrats feel that it is somehow unfair that Clinton be criticized or held accountable for her views, and the many mistakes which have characterized her career. Some claim that criticism of Clinton is a right wing plot, when they are the ones backing right wing policies in defending Clinton’s record. Criticism of Clinton is written off as Clinton Derangement Syndrome, with the conservative Democrats who make this argument echoing both the words of those who defended George W. Bush with cries of Bush Derangement Syndrome, and as a result pushing for what would amount to a third term for George Bush’s policies (with the ethics of Richard Nixon).

While Bernie Sanders is the only candidate who has a realistic chance of providing an alternative to the neoconservative views of Hillary Clinton and the Republican candidates, another candidate has also criticized Clinton’s foreign policy views. Jim Webb, who has kept open the possibility of a third party run, has criticized Clinton for her “inept leadership” on Libya in a Facebook post found via The Hill:

Our next commander in chief must define a strategic vision for the country and accept accountability for past actions. Hillary Clinton should be called to account for her inept leadership that brought about the chaos in Libya, and the power vacuums that resulted in the rest of the region. She’ll need better answers than the recent nonsensical comment that she advocated taking out Muammar Qadaffi in Libya in order to avert a situation like Syria. The predictable chaos in Libya was bad enough, but it also helped bring about the disaster in Syria. Who is taking her to task for this? http://read.bi/1SbMG7h

She said, “If we had not joined with our European partners and our Arab partners to assist the people in Libya, you would be looking at Syria.” In reality that is what we are looking at. As the Harvard (Kennedy School) Lessons from Libya study of 2013 found, “The biggest misconception about NATO’s intervention is that it saved lives and benefited Libya and its neighbors.” Radical Islamist groups, suppressed under Qaddafi, emerged as the fiercest rebels during the war, highlighted by the September 2012 attack on U.S. facilities in Benghazi that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three of his colleagues.

Clinton talked at this last DNC debate about her failure as Secretary of State as if she was successful. While she held that office, the U.S. spent about $2 billion backing the Libyan uprising against Qadaffi. The uprising, which was part of the Arab Spring, led directly to Qaddafi being removed from power and killed by rebel forces in 2011. Now some 2,000 ISIS terrorists have established a foothold in Libya. Sophisticated weapons from Qaddafi’s arsenal—including up to 15,000 man-portable, surface-to-air missiles have apparently fallen into the hands of radical Islamists throughout the region. For a Secretary of State (and a Presidential administration) this is foreign policy leadership at its worst.

The first rule of wing-walking (and regime change) is never let go of what you have until you have a firm grasp on where you are going.

Clinton lacks any real grasp of the dangers of interventionism, repeatedly making the same mistake she made in supporting the Iraq war. Her mistakes on policy, including but not limited to foreign policy, are far more important than the mistakes she has made campaigning this year which the media is more likely to discuss.

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.