"I'll always tell you the truth," "Leading from behind is a disaster." (Cruz)
"I'm rich!" "I will straighten out the debt problem." (Trump)
"Obama abandoned Iraq" and left a void for ISIS to take control (Bush)
"I have always been Pro-life, unlike Hillary Clinton who supports Planned Parenthood" (Walker)
"Shift power back to the states;" get rid of the IRS; establish consumption tax (Huckabee)
"Let's have tithing instead of taxes" - everyone pay 10% of their income (Carson)
"Have to negotiate from position of strength -- Obama didn't; how going to get Iran to comply? (Paul)
"All human life is worthy of protection; Planned Parenthood is murdering millions of babies" (Rubio)
"Federal budget spends 71% on entitlements and debt costs; I have a 12-point plan to deal with that" (Christie)
I just love watching these clowns! They are entertaining. I especially found Ben Carson's rendition of "color of skin doesn't matter" to be laughable! He implied that the brain is where the essence of a person resides. Can't argue with that, but can argue with "skin color is not important." It's extremely important if you are the black-skinned person on the wrong end of police brutality. It matters a whole lot if you are seeking a personal loan from a bank to establish a business, to buy a car or a home. It matters if you just want to live in the suburbs. And it matters a great deal if you want to actually vote in certain parts of this country. It matters a whole lot if you find yourself before a white judge and jury. Skin color matters -- it may not be the locus of intelligence, but it is the target of prejudice, bigotry, hatred, isolation, inattention, and abject intolerance. Carson said something like: "it's time to move beyond skin color and not let dividers like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama define us." Shame on you Dr. Carson for standing with a Party that takes away voting rights, assistance programs, and the opportunities of affirmative action while ignoring police brutality and unequal justice directed toward people of color.
After the principal debate was over, we heard from Frank Luntz's test group that was present to record their reactions to debater utterances. Luntz said that one of the largest positive reactions ever recorded in a (presumably, Republican) debate occurred when Huckabee said we got nothing out of the Iran negotiations; that instead of verifying what Iran does, Obama vilifies everyone who disagrees with him on Iran. Ted Cruz also scored well with his remarks that any American citizen who goes to the Middle East and has anything to do with ISIS should lose their passports immediately; and any who actually train with or join ISIS should be understood as having signed their death warrant!
One headline the day after did not surprise me. It said that Fox News was the winner, and I must say that I was impressed by the questions and follow-ups - even some rather unusual pressing for answers to questions asked. It appeared to me that the three questioners actually took their jobs seriously, did a lot of research, and wrote some dynamite questions that lit a few fires along the way. Chris Wallace lambasted Trump about flip-flop positions of his; he even at one point said something like "now that you have had your say, would you please answer my original question."
Megyn Kelly definitely irritated Trump when she questioned him about his attitudes and actions toward women. She also pressed him on other questions he did not like, and Trump basically accused Megyn of not liking him and attacking him. (Worse than that, he used some stupid words about blood coming from her at him which needs no further comment from me!). The Luntz group again had some things to say about Trump's performance that were not complimentary. They felt he skirted questions, was mean and angry, and offered no solutions for problems. By Friday, news reports indicated that 'the Donald' had been dis-invited to a gathering of conservatives known as the RedState event. His possible replacement - Megyn Kelly!
With that said, it makes sense to look at a few of the avoidance tactics as well as some pointed references to Hillary and President Obama, and finally at what we as citizens can expect from these candidates.
Avoidance of tough questions is nothing new to politics, or to politicians. It happens all the time; and often it happens because the candidate knows he is in deep trouble with donors, with voters or with the media, and sometimes with his party colleagues. Trump avoided several questions of what he would actually do to solve certain problems and instead emphasized his wealth and what that means in terms of governing. Rubio surprised a bit with some thoughts about people emigrating from countries other than Mexico. He thus avoided having to talk about building a border wall or using troops to stop immigration of miscreants.
The former and present Governors - Kasich, Bush, Huckabee, Walker and Christie - all touted their state records as proof of their ability to govern and to turn around our "failing economy." Unfortunately, we only have time and space for two examples of their avoidance by exaggeration.
Jeb Bush claimed twice that as governor of Florida, he cut taxes by $19 billion dollars. According to FactCheck, a big chunk of that came from cuts in Florida estate taxes mandated by federal law with which Bush had nothing to do. Moreover, not all of the revenue changes were due to tax cuts, but included various fees, license changes, sales tax holidays and lottery proceeds.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker claimed his state “more than made up” for the job losses from the recession. According to FactCheck, that’s a stretch. He made a campaign promise to create 250,000 jobs in his first term. Reality check: In December 2007, when the recession started, the state had 2,878,000 jobs, and as of June 2015 it had 2,882,000 jobs — a net gain of just 4,000 jobs (Bureau of Labor Statistics), putting Wisconsin 34th in job growth rate during his time as governor.
Another avoidance tactic, used quite often to divert attention away from the real problem or the real issue, included references encased in a few words that denigrate an opponent. These clowns are masters at that tactic.
Cruz: Obama never tells the truth; Obama won't even say "radical Islamist terrorist"
Paul: I would not arm our enemies like ISIS or their allies - they are driving billions of dollars worth of U.S.-made HumVees because current administration sells arms to terrorists.
Walker: everywhere Hillary Clinton has traveled is in a mess;
Carson: give Generals the mission and let them win the war with ISIS
Bush: federal government should not set education standards like Duncan and Obama did
Rubio: repeal Dodd-Frank
Christie: fundamental problem under Obama: the system is broken; social security is broken
All: Iran deal is lousy; re-instate sanctions and add more; vote against it; world a more dangerous place because of this deal; gave up too much, including inspections.
It is fitting to end this summary with the question: what do we learn from these debates? Or more pointedly: what will we get from these candidates if any one of them should be elected? (Don’t forget that second tier of candidates waiting in the wings to knock-off some front runners so they can join the first team!). You don't have to look very far to know what is in the offing. The candidates put it in their own words (sometimes with flare, and other times with hum-drum style), and if you missed it, beware the deluge.
Dana Milbank has a good article in the Washington Post about what Republicans have not learned from 2012, even though they did their own analysis of their performance. He reminds us:
"Back in 2013, the Republican National Committee 'autopsy' of the 2012 election concluded that to win future presidential elections, Republicans would need to be more inclusive of women, be more tolerant on gay rights to gain favor with young voters, support comprehensive immigration reform to appeal to Latinos and stand strong against 'corporate malfeasance'."
"Well, the 17 Republican presidential candidates met in Cleveland on Thursday for three hours of debate, and Americans saw candidates:
- opposing abortion without exceptions of rape or incest or to save a mother's life;
- comparing the Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage to one supporting slavery
- talking about building border walls and denying 'amnesty'.
- silent about the Trump company's four bankruptcies (the most recent of which caused lenders to lose $1 billion and 1,100 people to lose jobs), with Trump saying that all "the greatest people in business use bankruptcy laws to their advantage."
- setting a negative tone near the opening minutes of the debate, when Trump declared: "I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct.' And again: "We don't have time for 'Tone'."
- promising to build a wall; keep illegals out. Mexico is deliberately sending criminals claims Trump.
- defy Roe vs. Wade; block all abortions - no exceptions; sic IRS on Planned Parenthood
- declare "The military is not a social experiment" (Huckabee about transgender recruits)
1) Women's health and well-being are not held in high esteem by this crowd. It wasn't just Trump with a bad attitude, although his stood out to be sure. No, it was everywhere. Even in the audience which was made up of a lot of women. When Trump made a disparaging remark about Rosie O'Donnell, it got many laughs and cheers. When he attacked Megyn Kelly for her attitude and questions, there were some who applauded, presumably not all were men.
So, here we are, where the only issue of import touching on women's health had to do with abortion. Except for Trump, who nonetheless emphasized how abhorrent abortion was to him, the candidate crowd was obviously Pro-life. Rubio and Kasich made similar attempts to say that all human life is worthy of protection, but pretty much to a man they all agreed on de-funding Planned Parenthood (an agency that provides mostly health care to poor women) and a ban on abortions. Scott Walker said sometime the next day that yes, he was willing to let a mother die in order to preserve an abortion ban.
Once again -- watch out for what is not there. If these radical Republicans (and the wannabe's of the far right 2nd Team, including Fiorina) favor a ban on abortions, they mean a total ban. There is no room in this crowd for exceptions (although some simply won't say). This puts women in a position that is subtle but outright dangerous. If the traditional exceptions to a ban on abortions - mother's life in danger, incest, rape, and malformed fetus (such as an ectopic pregnancy) - are not protected or allowed, then people like Scott Walker will have no compunctions about allowing a mother-at-risk to die. This position negates the mealy-mouthed assertion by some like Rubio that all life (all the way through) is worthy of protection. It also negates their hypocritical assertion (put forth by Huckabee) that the 5th and 14th amendments to the Constitution protect the lives of unborn children (but presumably not the lives of their mothers!)
DO YOU REALLY WANT SOMEONE WITH THAT KIND OF MIND-SET AS PRESIDENT OF THESE UNITED STATES? Considering the assertion that not one Republican candidate for President in the last 40 years has ever not supported at least some exceptions to an abortion ban,
YOU MIGHT WANT TO CONSIDER VOTING FOR SOMEONE WHO REPRESENTS MORE TRADITIONAL VALUES! The Republican candidates this time around are not representative of the traditions of the Grand Old Party! They are radical Conservatives who have lost the values that keep us strong and compassionate at the same time.
2) Voting Rights. What happened to that very important and "hot" issue? Is the closing down of people's right to vote OK with this group? Apparently so, from the lack of attention given to it. Let's be clear: these debaters are some of the people who have led the way on denying the vote to groups that vote against them: African Americans, Hispanic Americans, people living under poverty, women, young people and even those who are disabled. These are the deniers of automatic registration or even of a broadened registration by mail. These are the people who believe voter fraud is rampant and must be controlled, when all the facts are against them. These are the people who believe fervently that corporations should have the ability to control the votes of their workers; that corporations have free speech rights equivalent to individuals and should therefore be allowed to exercise that right through virtually unlimited contributions to third party groups called PACs and super-PACs, as long as they have no contact with the candidates. Along with their five compatriots on the SCOTUS, these are the people who believe in electoral BRIBERY, and in the domination of the 1% who control the nation's wealth and many of our elections and elected officials.
3) Race Relations. Except for Carson's attempt to "move beyond skin color," there was little said about race relations, and no mention made that "Black Lives Matter." Perhaps the one question about policing was meant to cover this crucial and glaringly relevant topic. Scott Walker, of all people, got the question and his response was so vague as to fade into the ether. Apparently his answer to police murders of black people was to emphasize training, making sure those police who don't obey the state's high standards are made to bear the consequences (but no specifics given!).
And that, my friends, is the way this crowd wants it to be: SILENT! They don't want to engage in discussions between races; they don't want to hear about the effects of structured or institutional racism upon those of color; they don't want to know about the ravages of poverty; or the toll being taken on young men and women of color who lack the opportunities afforded white children. They don't want to hear about anything that has to do with other than law & order; keeping criminals off the streets; protecting white control and power. They simply are hiding from reality.
And that reality is: a blatant inequality ensconced in our most basic institutions - government offices, schools, retailers, banks, justice system (policing, arrests, trials and sentencing and incarceration). It is in the self-interest of all races to oppose inequality wherever we find it, because such a major contradiction of our fundamental constitutional precepts is eating away at the very fabric of our democratic system. We cannot sustain liberty, freedom, and justice for all if inequality is allowed -- and enabled -- to flourish in the lives of millions of our people.
The proof of that lies in the beliefs and mythologies of these very politicians. They represent values that contradict our cherished democratic and republican ('of the people') principles. They threaten our very basis for existence as a democratic nation.
They seek to construct a nation at war with:
- women and minorities,
- Iran and any other nation that they choose;
- the poor,
- children and young people;
- our federal government which they accuse of being corrupt, opposed to states’ rights and power-hungry enough to force states to comply with federal mandates and to remove the right to own guns.
This is not the Party of Lincoln, and certainly not that of Theodore Roosevelt! That Party is gone. This is not the Party of traditional compassionate conservatives. That is dead. This is not even the Party of Landon, Eisenhower, Dirksen, Dole or Ford.
This is a Party more aligned with looking for a bully, a white man of strength, someone who takes no guff and speaks his mind even if that is insulting, overly bombastic or denigrating. The GOP seeks someone who is tough, doesn't lead from behind, opposes women's rights, loves the military and uses it boldly without worrying about the costs. This Party is looking for someone who can command public support, but not someone who is soft on criminals or opponents, and can basically control the government and the populace; especially someone who will keep his nation and its military strong at all costs. WAIT -- I think I've got it!
THIS IS THE PARTY OF PUTIN! (Good Old Putin!) They just happen to be looking in the wrong country! Wow - talk about a birth certificate controversy!
And that, my friends is why this spurious Republican Party must be defeated in 2016! But not just defeated: destroyed is probably the most honest rendering. This radicalized Republican Party is a menace to us all and needs to be put out of business. A major defeat at the polls is the beginning of that demise. Every American disgusted by this first "debate" debacle must be willing to put themselves on the line to GET OUT THE VOTE in favor of all acceptable (hopefully progressive) opposition candidates.
And PLEASE, Mr. Trump -- be sure to take revenge on this Party when it rejects you as its candidate -- PLEASE RUN AS AN INDEPENDENT THIRD PARTY CANDIDATE!