Nel's New Day

January 19, 2016

Tale of Two Debates

Presidential candidate debates from two political parties last week demonstrated a world of difference. 

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. In the first of two presidential candidate debates last week softball questions gently thrown by Fox Business facilitators turned into a knock-down, drag-out fight among seven GOP candidates. Donald Trump came out on top, Marco Rubio failed, and all the others except Ted Cruz disappeared. Several of them complained about the lack of release of ten sailors who were released the day before, after only 16 hours.

The “big time” GOP debate began with bashing the President of the United States. Cruz accused President Obama of “betrayal,” and Chris Christie described him as “a petulant child” before he claimed he would kick his “rear end out of the White House.” Rubio charged that the president “doesn’t believe in the Constitution.” Then they battered Hillary Clinton, who Jeb Bush described as “just a disaster.”

The real fight, however, started as Bush talked about “backbench senators” and Trump’s “unhinged comments” and Rubio attacked Christie as a liberal. Then they got serious, delving into birther and flip-flopping accusations toward their candidate colleagues. GOP solutions were more guns, more income inequality, and more anger and violence. Marco Rubio actually said that everyone needs to buy guns because ISIS is coming to your house.

Both debates took place in South Carolina where black people comprise 27 percent of the population. Both debates occurred the week before Martin Luther King Jr. Day and were staged just one block from the historic church where a white man killed nine black people during a prayer service less than seven months ago. Yet the word “black” was uttered only twice among GOP candidates: black lung and black market. Also missing during the GOP debate was any reference to issues of specific concern to over half the population—women. The result was a pack of jackals in a cage where they were tossed red meat from laissez-faire moderators and wild audience applause.

Recent presidential debate moderator Hugh Hewitt, however, managed to even out-bizarre the GOP candidates. In talking about positions espoused at the GOP debate, Hewitt said:

“Fact checking doesn’t matter in these things. What matters is personality, an aura and your command presence. And of all those two, the best command presence last night was Donald Trump and Marco Rubio. And I keep marveling at how Donald Trump can dominate a television screen.”

The fact-free zone of GOP presidential campaigns is not new: Mitt Romney used this style against President Obama in 2012. It’s just that Republican pundits now admit that their candidates are welcome to make up anything that they want on the spot, leaving the audience misinformed rather than just ignorant. Jeb Bush explained he knew Clinton was going to be indicted because “I only get my news from Fox & Friends, so that’s all I get.”

The fact-free approach has become so blatant that full-time fact-checking would result in volumes rather than articles. They even lie about falsehoods easily checked, for example Cruz’s answer to a question about his not disclosing a $1 million loan from Goldman Sachs, his wife’s employer at the time, for his 2012 campaign. He first talked about how hateful the New York Times is and then launched into pretending he had done so. The problem was Cruz’s failure to list any bank loans on his FEC report. All his publicity about how he and his wife had scraped the bottom on their financial barrel to fund the campaign was bogus. So was Chris Christie’s claim that he didn’t support Sonia Sotomayor for Supreme Court justice, a claim disproved by a New Jersey Star-Ledger headline.

Even Mitt Romney is disgusted with the candidates. He called the Republicans “nuts” for not raising the federal minimum wage, something he calls part of GOP orthodoxy. “As a party, to say we’re trying to help the middle class of America and the poor and not raise the minimum wage sends exactly the wrong signal,” Romney said. None of the GOP candidates pays attention to Romney, however, some of them suggesting that this wage should be $0. Fiorina thinks that the law is unconstitutional.

Rand Paul boycotted the “also-ran” table, but Carly Fiorina tried to carve out a place for her by abandoning her promise to make no personal comments about Clinton. Fiorina’s attack: “Unlike another woman in this race, I actually love spending time with my husband.” Mike Huckabee wants to train poor people as if they were dogs. The comments just came coming.

“Politician turned reality show star endorses reality show star turned politician.” That’s Ari Melber’s response to Sarah Palin’s endorsement of Donald Trump. The newest NBC/WSJ poll shows that almost two-thirds of Republican voters could vote for Trump, an increase of 42 percent in the past ten months from 23 percent to 65 percent. The same NBC/WSJ poll shows that 42 percent of voters view the GOP less favorably compared to 19 percent who like it better.

University of Massachusetts PhD candidate Matthew MacWilliams conducted a poll to determine what lies behind the “Trump phenomenon.” His research showed that education, income, gender, age, ideology and religiosity had no significant bearing on a GOP voter’s preferred candidate—only authoritarianism trailed by the less significant fear of terrorism. Authoritarians obey, rally to, and follow strong leaders while responding aggressively to outsiders. Trump promised to “make America great again” by building a wall on the border and closing mosques through iron-fisted solutions to sometimes manufactured dismay, agitation, and fear.

Writer Rick Salutin compared Trump’s rise to that of European dictators in the 1930s. Trump’s favorite word is “strong”; Chinese and Japanese are “killers”; and the nation has been lost because of “stupid,” “weak” leaders. Trump mocks opponents’ weakness through “low energy.” According to Trump, the growing economic inequalities affecting whites comes from non-whites who are poised to become the majority within the U.S. The unchallenged occupiers at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge (OR) are prime examples of “Trumpers”—trigger-happy, anti-Islamic, and power-hungry. Trump doesn’t need a platform of informed policy because of his “patriarchal self-proclaimed omnipotence.” Like Hitler, Mussolini, and Franco, Trump knows the value of “spectacle and incendiary propaganda” appealing “to emotion, not reason.”

MacWlliams concludes:

“Those who say a Trump presidency ‘can’t happen here’ should check their conventional wisdom at the door. The candidate has confounded conventional expectations this primary season because those expectations are based on an oversimplified caricature of the electorate in general and his supporters in particular. Conditions are ripe for an authoritarian leader to emerge. Trump is seizing the opportunity.”

Even if Trump doesn’t win the primary, he has poisoned GOP campaigns. Benjy Sarlin wrote:

“Trump has defined the Republican primary and the debate showed just how far he’s shifted the conversation. His rivals — even the supposedly more moderate candidates running on their appeal outside the party — are adopting a darker tone, more bellicose rhetoric, and shifting their positions to the right as the contest continues.”

Another reason for the possibility of Trump becoming president is ignorance. Jimmy Kimmel honored MLK Day in his Lie Witness News segment to interview people what they thought about the announcement that Martin Luther King, Jr., who was murdered in 1968, was endorsing Donald Trump.

One woman answered, “I figure if he’s going to endorse Donald Trump for president, then maybe he thinks he will be a good president,” one woman said. Some people thought King should have voted for President Obama, and others believed were surprised when they were told that King didn’t vote for Barack Obama, and others thought that Malcolm X and Hillary Clinton vacation and play golf together at Martha’s Vineyard.

In the Democratic debate, two leading candidates and one polling at two percent argued about how to improve the country. Bernie Sanders is mad at the system, wants universal healthcare, and doesn’t get paid by Wall Street for speeches; Hillary Clinton wants to improve the health care law, thinks that Sanders doesn’t fight enough for gun safety laws, and supports President Obama’s policies. Martin O’Malley complained about not getting enough questions. Discussions were intense as they criticized each other’s positions, but the event was nothing like the free-for-all cage fight of the GOP candidates just three days earlier. It was the “best of times” because it was opposite of the GOP debate.

Now we’ll wait for the first primary results after the Iowa caucus on February 1.

October 31, 2015

October GOP Debate Introduces Halloween

Filed under: Presidential candidates — trp2011 @ 9:00 PM
Tags: ,

tube nosed batOn Halloween, I’m sitting warm and dry inside while the rain and wind sweeps across the central Oregon Coast. Tonight television will finish the weeks of badly-done films meant to scare people. Not nearly as good as these wonderful creepy creatures such as this tube-nosed bat. And certainly not as scary as the scary masked creatures behind the podium at the GOP debates last Wednesday. Not satisfied with spending four hours in two different debates manipulating those watching through lies and evasions, several candidates have decided to make their mark by changing the entire debate process as the put-upon candidates try to rig future performances by using radical extremists to give them a pass on all their wacky, destructive ideas.

Those who watched the debates probably noticed all the missing economic topics—the Trans-Pacific Partnership, effects of the Great Recession, China’s economic slowdown, the country’s physical infrastructure, etc. Asked about their position on the recently passed budget bill, candidates chose to have temper tantrums to avoid answering questions.

The lying started at the little kids’ table (the first debate) with Bobby Jindal claiming that the Democrats “forced Obamacare and socialism down our throats.” The Affordable Care Act comes from Mitt Romney’s plan proposed by the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation—and uses private insurance companies. People in the United States are far happier with the socialist Medicare plan. Jindal also repeated the myth that the U.S. has the world’s highest corporate tax rate. In theory, it is only the third highest, and in practice, corporate taxes in the U.S. are among the lowest of developed countries.

Lindsey Graham said that Boeing was in South Carolina because of the state’s taxes. That might be partly true because the state gave hundreds of millions of dollars of gifts that most citizens and firms never receive. Also the falsely-named “right-to-work” laws in South Carolina give Boeing  the opportunity  to pay slave wages to its employees. Graham also maintained that Russians wouldn’t be in Ukraine if Ronald Reagan were president. They were in Ukraine all during Reagan’s two terms.

None of the candidates in the first debate worried about a possible merger between Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors that would control 73 percent of the U.S. market. Rick Santorum said he drinks a lot of Coors beer and there wouldn’t be a problem because he sees a lot of breweries in his travels. Graham said that he’s the “best bet” for good beer policy because “my dad owned a bar.” He uses that experience a great deal on any issue in his campaign.

Candidates touted several ways to improve life in the United States. Mike Huckabee would end disease, Ted Cruz would abolish the Federal Reserve and return the county to the gold standard, and Carly Fiorina would reduce the 70,000 pages of tax code to just three pages.

Because the debate’s focus was the economy, candidates talked a great deal about tax rates—in very general terms. Both Donald Trump and Ben Carson want all taxes to be at 15 percent, and Rand Paul offers a zero option for payroll taxes. John Kasich explained how the other candidates’ plan would leave the country “trillions and trillions of dollars in debt,” but his opponents couldn’t come out of their alternative reality to answer. They just got upset that their plans would be questioned. Here is the exchange between Becky Quick and Carson regarding questions which about Carson’s vague plan that candidates found “unfair.” Earlier Carson claimed that he would not ever raise the debt ceiling if he were elected president and showed he didn’t understand the difference between the process that agrees to pay debts and the budget, which incurs future obligation.

Candidates complained about “gotcha” questions, but their responses, either lies or evasions, were to substantive questions. For example, Becky Quick asked:

“Senator Rubio, you yourself have said that you’ve had issues. You have a lack of bookkeeping skills. You accidentally intermingled campaign money with your personal money. You faced foreclosure on a second home that you bought. And just last year you liquidated a sixty-eight-thousand-dollar retirement fund. That’s something that cost you thousands of dollars in taxes and penalties. In terms of all of that, it raises the question whether you have the maturity and wisdom to lead this seventeen-trillion-dollar economy. What do you say?”

Rubio dodged the question and said, “You just listed a litany of discredited attacks from Democrats and my political opponents. I’m not gonna waste sixty seconds detailing them all.” Then he wasted his 60 seconds by repeating the story about his immigrant parents. Politifact, more kindly to conservatives, pointed out that Rubio had paid his wife and relatives thousands of dollars, double-billed expenses, lost thousands of dollars in fees and penalties by liquidating a retirement fund, “forgot” about a home equity loan, and charged personal items such as grocery bills and car repair to the Republican party. Rubio may have “won” the debate, but only because he appeared sincere and a little wounded while he lies about facing foreclosure on a second house he co-owned with another scandal-plagued politician.

ben carsonAnother question came from moderator Carl Quintanilla about Carson’s connection with “a company called Mannatech, a maker of nutritional supplements, with which you had a 10-year relationship. They offered claims that they could cure autism, cancer, they paid $7 million to settle a deceptive marketing lawsuit in Texas, and yet your involvement continued. Why?” Even conservative National Review described Carson’s denial of involvement as “bald-faced lies.” Videos show Carson talking about how Mannatech’s product helped him fight cancer, even after the cash settlement. His belief in the curative powers of larch-tree bark and aloe vera extract for his prostate cancer gives concern about the doctor’s knowledge of medicine. Carson declared Quintanilla’s question “very unfair.”

Quintanilla’s question about the budget was the one that set Cruz over the edge:

“Congressional Republicans, Democrats and the White House are about to strike a compromise that would raise the debt limit, prevent a government shutdown and calm financial markets that fear another Washington-created crisis is on the way. Does your opposition to it show that you’re not the kind of problem solver American voters want?”

As a master debater, Cruz ignored the question by claiming that the media was focused on style and not substance. He then complained about the “easy” questions addressed at the Democratic debate. By the way, the first question of the Democratic debate, for Hillary Clinton, was “Will you say anything to get elected?”

Fiorina switched her former lying about Planned Parenthood to the claim that “92 percent of the jobs lost during Barack Obama’s first term belonged to women.” The Washington Post factchecker reported that this statement came from falsehoods of the Mitt Romney campaign. Fiorina said that the Washington Post has no credibility and that the poverty rate among women is the highest ever recorded. Asked for supporting data, Fiorina blamed the media for asking questions. CNN reported figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

“In January 2009, there were 66.5 million American women working in non-farm jobs, compared to January 2013 when there were 66.9 million. That’s an increase of over 400,000 working females in Obama’s first term.”

fiorina cruzBoth Fiorina and Cruz used the figure of 3 million women falling into poverty during Barack Obama’s presidency.  According to the Census Bureau, 1.85 million women fell into poverty between 2009 and 2014 1.85 million women fell into poverty. During the same time period, 1.23 million men fell into poverty. The sharply reduced benefits from welfare contribute to part of that fall, which followed a decline starting under George W. Bush. Women lost 1.13 million jobs between January of 2008 and 2009. At this time, unemployment rates for men and women are almost identical—4.7 and 4.7 percent.

The debate was about the economy, and facts—not opinions—show that the economy consistently does better with Democratic presidents than with the GOP. Marketwatch proved that by examining the past seven decades of economic statistics, going back to World War II. Economic growth, adjusted for inflation, averaged 2.54 percent per year under GOP presidents, compared to the 4.35 percent per year under Democratic ones. Better job creation and stock market performance coincide more with Democratic presidents.

The better economy holds true for the current administration despite the growing inequality. In the past five years, the U.S. unemployment rate has been cut in half, and about twelve million new jobs have been created. GDP has grown at a steady, if unspectacular, rate for more than six years. House prices and stock prices rebounded strongly from the Great Recession.

The GOP candidates suffered from their own inadequacies during the debate and solved their problems by claiming that all mainstream media, primarily conservative at this time, was far too liberal to be “fair.” The worst part is that they appear to be controlling the journalistic process. In the last debate, they successfully promoted their lies. Future debates may be total propaganda from the far right. The losers of last week’s debate are 90 percent of the people in the United States if the GOP presidential candidates get their way.

Happy Halloween!

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