Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Cruising the Web

Politico summarizes the 13 biggest moments of the GOP debate. What was the most interesting were the moments between Cruz and Rubio and then Paul and Rubio over immigration and NSA surveillance though I wouldn't have known from what they each said who was telling the truth about the other. It does seem that Cruz wasn't quite telling the truth about his previous position on immigration. As Guy Benson laid out recently,
His amendments were not strategic maneuvers to expose ulterior motives; they were genuine solutions to solve the problem. So doesn't that mean Cruz is on the record in favor of mass legalization? No way, his camp now insists. Okay, then what is Cruz's plan for handling the vast majority of the otherwise law-abiding 11 million illegal immigrants already living in America? Well,he won't say...

His new plan is conspicuously silent on that central question, although it's packed with other specifics, including a stark reversal on legal immigration. Until last week, Cruz had positioned himself as a fervent supporter of expanding and streamlining legal immigration, including proposing a massive expansion of the H1B visa program -- much larger, in fact, than the Gang of Eight requested.
So Rubio has flipped on his original position and so has Cruz. Cruz just won't admit it. Of course, Rubio is still very vulnerable to the attacks we heard last night about how he teamed up with Chuck Schumer for the Gang of Eight bill. That calls into question his judgment in thinking he could work with Schumer and in the sort of bill he ended up supporting.
Rubio's best retort is to evince contrition and to continue to get under Cruz's skin by pointing to evidence that their immigration platforms aren't terribly dissimilar -- or weren't, at least, until Cruz suddenly adopted a much harder line. I'm not the only guy who changes his mind, right Ted? If Cruz is going to pummel Rubio over supporting a legal path to citizenship, Rubio should demand that Cruz clearly explain his own position on what to do about those millions of illegal immigrants who are already here.

It rather annoys me that Cruz sucks up to Trump while slamming Rubio. I know that his choices are all strategic so that he can be the only one left standing if Trump collapses. But he ducked any opportunity to slam any of the wild things Trump has proposed while going after Rubio for any difference between them.

I have no idea how the public will take the debate. I appreciated that CNN focused on the issues that the country is focused on - terrorism, foreign policy, and immigration.

My guess is that Cruz will keep his strong position in the polls and Rubio might stall out a bit or decline. Those people who care deeply about immigration, and Trump's candidacy demonstrates that there are a lot of them in the GOP electorate were reminded why they were suspicious of him in the first place. Carson should continue his decline as will Fiorina. Christie might go up a little.

And I'm done trying to predict where Trump will head in the polls. He continued his tendency to bluster and make extravagant claims about what he can accomplish without any specifics. And he whined about the questions to other candidates being about him as if he doesn't love all the attention.

Jim Geraghty had about the same feeling that I did after watching the debate. Having Hillary Clinton in charge of our foreign policy after eight years of Obama would be disastrous.
One glaring conclusion of the night is that the GOP nominee, whoever he or she is, has a golden opportunity and the country desperately needs a Republican president. The threat of al-Qaeda has been replaced with the greater, more varied, more sophisticated threat of ISIS. The threat grew worse in part because the Obama administration didn’t want to see the threat, didn’t want to acknowledge the threat was growing, didn’t want to admit its policies weren’t working, and didn’t want to break its politically-correct worldview. We don’t look at the social media of immigrants and those entering the country. We don’t always require those who have visited Iraq and Syria to get an entry visa. We don’t pause our refugee entry program. This is a formula for more San Bernadinos and more Bostons and perhaps another 9/11. No Democrat will ever give up the philosophical underpinning that they’re the tolerant and accepting ones, and that their foes are driven by hateful xenophobia. The country needs to change direction from the Obama administration’s path, and no Democrat can be counted on to do that.
Geraghty thinks that the debate might have spelled the end for the Rubio candidacy since finally his history on immigration was a main focus of the debate.
Tonight may turn out to be a consequentially bad night for Marco Rubio. He turned in his usual smooth, concise, well-versed, well-rehearsed performance. But he and Ted Cruz had a tough exchange on his “Gang of Eight” immigration reform bill, and if you’re completely opposed to a path to legal status – green card, not citizenship – Rubio didn’t reassure you tonight. Rubio really needed to give a full-throated renunciation of the Gang of Eight bill, and he didn’t. He was walking a tightrope, and you could almost tell from his body language that he could feel the line wobble beneath him. But he’s still a gifted communicator, and he may have avoided any lasting damage.

Rubio brought up Cruz’s past support for a fivefold increase in the number of H1B visas, and immigration restrictionists may not find that perspective such a terrific alternative. Cruz’s statement that “I have never supported legalization and I do not intend to support legalization” sounds like it left a little wiggle room.

For a man who’s supposedly the new front-runner – if not in polls, then in media buzz — Cruz didn’t have a Robert-Redford-at-the-end-of-The-Natural night. Cruz indisputably knows his stuff, backwards and forwards; if you were facing jail time, you would want him as your lawyer. But his answer on what he said about Trump in private was pretty transparent spin.
I found myself wondering what Rubio's plans are if he loses the nomination. He has said he won't run again for the Senate. He could get some placeholder job at a university or think tank and run for governor of Florida and get the executive experience he lacks.

Ramesh Ponnuru was struck by how Trump wasn't part of the Cruz-Rubio throwdown.
What’s most striking about the Cruz-Rubio debate, though, is that it dominated tonight without involving the polling frontrunner, Donald Trump. Cruz talked about Trump only when forced to. The Cruz-Trump relationship has become something of an obsession in the press, but it doesn’t seem to me to differ all that much from the Rubio-Trump relationship. Both senators disagree with Trump politely when pressed on an issue, with Cruz offering more compliments to the businessman. The only candidates who took on Trump were Rand Paul, who does not appear to still think of himself as a real contender for the nomination, and Jeb Bush, who seems to think that he has to show strength against Trump. Both senators, on the other hand, appear to have decided that one of two things is true: Either Trump will fall on his own, or he can be dealt with later. That’s probably right, but it makes a lot of anti-Trump Republicans very nervous.
I thought Rubio gave a glancing criticism of Trump's idea of banning all Muslims by saying it wasn't going to happen and then pivoting to what he wanted to do. Cruz didn't do even that much. He's just hoping to

John Podhoretz posits that Chris Christie might benefit if Rubio stalls out. I'm a bit tired of Christie's shtick of chastising the other candidates for arguing about details of policy as if those details don't matter. However, Christie might pick up some of those voters who liked Rubio. I don't know if Christie has the money and operation to compete anywhere after New Hampshire. He could come in strongly in New Hampshire and then fizzle because the next contests come up fast after that and he needs to have people on the ground ready to go in other states.
ruz goes on to defend himself, and at some point Rubio asks point blank, "Does Ted Cruz rule out ever legalizing people that are in this country now?" You can consult the transcript of the debate, but I think it's fair to say that Cruz does nothing but basically filibuster the question in response. It may even be worse than that. Cruz's answer -- "I have never supported legalization, and I do not intend to support legalization" -- is downright Clintonian in its evasiveness. And this is not the first time Cruz has ducked the question:
That might not matter since there are so many Republicans who will never forgive Rubio for the Gang of Eight bill. As Michael Warren points out, even though Cruz was dodging the question on eventual legalization, it might not matter.
"I do not intend to"—an artful dodge from Cruz, lawyerly in its construction and reflective of Cruz's own complicated position on immigration. Cruz did, in fact, speak in support of a path to legalization during the 2013 debate over the Gang of Eight bill. His unwillingness to disavow legalization wholeheartedly may indeed help muddy the waters on his position. That muddying might have been to Rubio's benefit if he had a solid lead and were trying to squash an insurgency from Cruz, or even if the two were in an effective tie.

But Cruz is on or near the top in Iowa, coming into his own as a candidate and picking up momentum. The Texas senator is increasingly looking like a reasonable conservative alternative to the Trumpmania within the party. Rubio, meanwhile, has been sitting in the middle of the top of the pack in Iowa, New Hampshire, and nationally for weeks. Rubio didn't need simply to mitigate the damage from finally facing difficult questions about his chief weakness. He needed to knock Cruz off his game, too. But ever the nimble debater, Cruz showed he was prepared to deny Rubio's claims and reassert his commitment to principle. The confusion over Cruz's position may end up looking more like a desperate Rubio trying to take down a surging rival.

And let's not forget: The immigration exchange with Cruz—along with several assists from Rand Paul throughout the night—helped highlight that Rubio did, in fact, work with Chuck Schumer on an immigration bill supported by Barack Obama. Perhaps primary voters will believe that Rubio's "learned his lesson," that he's now willing to fight for a secure border, and that Cruz's tough border talk is more bark than bite.

But don't count on it. Among the non-Trump candidates, Cruz is currently in control.

Mark Hemingway looks at the Cruz-Rubio clash on immigration and concludes that Cruz was not being forthright on his position.

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Gosh, I feel for school officials having to decide whether or not to close schools when they get a threat like the LA schools got yesterday. I'm used to the authorities in Raleigh, NC, where I live closing school at the merest threat of snow because they're worried about buses driving in the snow. At the charter high school where I teach, I know the administration worries about inexperienced teenagers driving to school with snow and ice. So I fully understand the caution with which school authorities approach such threats. And in Los Angeles just days after the attack at San Bernardino, who can blame a school official deciding to err on the side of safety.

But, are we going to see such threats being sent to all sorts of locations now that it's clear that they can shut down schools, universities, shopping malls, theaters, basically, American life, without even risking their own lives.

What I don't get is how New York City officials decided that the warning they got was a hoax partially based on the fact that Allah was not capitalized. First of all, why let the hoaxers know the basis for determining that their warning was a hoax. Secondly, I've taught enough teenagers to see how many of them have little knowledge of what to capitalize. I have Christian students who don't capitalize God or the Bible. In this age of people sending messages by texting, it might be quite ordinary for a word not to be capitalized. And finally, if the person making the threat is a native Arabic speaker, he might not capitalize Allah because Arabic doesn't have capital letters. When I have taught native Arab speakers, they would randomly capitalize letters in the middle of words and then not capitalize them when they should be capitalized even at the beginning of words.

I sure hope they had other reasons for deciding the threat was a hoax. It turned out fine, but I wouldn't have based my decision on Allah not being capitalized.

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I suppose Hillary supporters will blow this report off as old news that doesn't matter. And the rest of the media will ignore it. But shouldn't this matter?
An intelligence community review has re-affirmed that two classified emails were indeed “top secret” when they hit Hillary Clinton’s unsecured personal server despite a challenge to that designation by the State Department, according to two sources familiar with the review.

The sources described the dispute over whether the two emails were classified at the highest level as a “settled matter.”

The agencies that owned and originated that intelligence – the CIA and National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency or NGA – reviewed the emails to determine how they should be properly stored, as the State Department took issue with their highly classified nature. The subject matter of the messages is widely reported to be the movement of North Korean missiles and a drone strike. A top secret designation requires the highest level of security, and can include the use of an approved safe.

The sources, who were not authorized to speak on the record, told Fox News that while the emails were indeed “top secret” when they hit Clinton’s server, one of them remains “top secret” to this day -- and must be handled at the highest security level. The second email is still considered classified but at the lower “secret” level because more information is publicly available about the event.

The findings have been transmitted to the State Department, which continues to challenge the intelligence community’s conclusions about the classification of all the emails. But the department has no authority to change the classification since it did not originate the information.
And, of course, we don't know if there were other messages that got cleansed when Hillary had her lawyer and his staff (who had no security clearance) scrub out her emails.

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Adam Winkler, a law professor at UCLA, and author of Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America, explains why an assault weapon ban wouldn't accomplish what its advocates believe it would.
Yet we already know that banning assault weapons won't reduce gun crime or deaths. Worse, the bans may make it harder to enact more effective gun control laws.
He explains why the term "assault weapon" is misleading. And attempts to ban them haven't worked.
Yet we already know that banning assault weapons won't reduce gun crime or deaths. Worse, the bans may make it harder to enact more effective gun control laws.

For those who advocate affirmative action for Hispanics, David Bernstein asks a simple question: Should the children of Ted Cruz be eligible for affirmative action if they apply to state universities such as their home state university that is the subject of the case before the Supreme Court, Fisher v. University of Texas? What about George Zimmerman, the man who shot Trayvon Martin? Does having a Hispanic parent qualify him as a Hispanic?
In any event, the diversity rationale endorsed by Grutter fails to explain why a state university is permitted to give preferences to a Hispanic individual of European ancestry, or an American of Mexican descent whose family has lived in Texas since 1850 and is fully assimilated into American life, while denying such preferences to, say, a dark-skinned child of Arabic-speaking immigrants from Yemen. The one hundredth Hispanic admitted to a university freshman class as an affirmative action candidate would seem to add less ethnic or linguistic heritage diversity than the first Kazakh or Mongolian. Yet it’s permissible under Grutter to give only the former a preference to satisfy diversity goals.

Grutter endorsed the University Michigan Law School’s policy of trying to achieve a “critical mass” of students from minority groups. But even assuming some ethnic commonality among Hispanic Americans, some are recent immigrants from Spanish-speaking households, others have been in the United States for generations and speak only English. Some have only Spanish-speaking recent ancestry, while others, like George Zimmerman, may be from families of mixed heritage, and some in fact may self-identify as Hispanic even though they only have distant Spanish-speaking ancestry. Indeed, when Sonia Sotomayor was appointed to the Supreme Court, debate broke out over whether she or the late Justice Benjamin Cardozo, whose Sephardic Jewish ancestors fled Spain [and Portugal] hundreds of years ago, should be deemed the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice.

Put another way, what commonalities do the Argentine child of German refugees from (or perpetrators of) Nazism, the child of Mexicans of indigenous ancestry whose first language is Mixtec, and the child who has one set of grandparents descended from the Mayflower and another set of mixed-race Puerto Rican grandparents who arrived in New York City in the 1930s have that create a critical mass of anything beyond a clumsy census category?

An alternate justification for affirmative action preferences is that they are necessary to redress the historical exclusion of minorities from mainstream American life. The Supreme Court has never endorsed this rationale, but if it did it would have to explain how it fits the situation of Hispanic Americans who do not have common racial heritage, and who mostly trace their families’ immigration to the United States to the post-civil rights era....

Any justification for government use of preferences will become more complicated as Hispanics become increasingly assimilated into American life. Currently, approximately thirty-six percent of Hispanics born in the United States marry non-Hispanics. In the not-too-distant future, tens of millions of Americans will have partial Hispanic ancestry. Will all of them qualify for government affirmative action preferences, and if so, why would it be consistent with equal protection principles to give a preference to a light-skinned American with one Colombian grandparent, but not to a dark-skinned American descended from Egypt’s Copt minority?
Once we start delving into such questions, and Bernstein has many more, it becomes clear how shaky the idea of giving certain minorities preferences while ignoring other minorities is. How much simpler it would be to just apply the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause literally and not seek to carve out preferences for favored groups.

Katherine Timpf links to a hilarious story to show how silly some student activists are. Such a group at the University of Kansas was upset because they were having a protest and a sorority, Delta Delta Delta was also selling candy to raise money to help children with cancer. The protesters thought it was a microagression to sell candy while they were busy protesting. It is quite similar to those Black Lives Matter protesters at Mizzou who were upset that the attacks in Paris distracted from their own protests. Some people are way too impressed with how very special they are.

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David Lathrop explains how Iowa is a lot different from its stereotyped image.

Carly Fiorina might be trying to come across as more personable, but this seems a bit strange. She posted a humorous video about how dogs are better than cats and then telling one puppy "“Obama ate your cousin. Vote Republican” and then eating some dog food.

The Washington Post's Fact-Checker Glenn Kessler has released his list of the "Biggest Lies of the Year." And the whole idea that Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, Missouri while he had his hands up in surrender saying, "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" makes the list. In response, Ian Tuttle comments, "A lie? Well, then it’s a good thing no one acted prematurely and propagated that story before it was confirmed!" and then links to several protests in sympathy of people holding their hands up in the surrender pose. Of course, this is one of those stories for which the truth will never penetrate to those who are convinced that that is what happened.

It's a bipartisan list. Hillary Clinton makes the list for her claim that her husband signed the Defense of Marriage Act to stop an anti-gay marriage amendment to the Constitution. I suspect that GOP operatives would have a whole list of other Clinton statements that could have made the list. Trump has several statements on the list. Big surprise. And Elizabeth Warren is on the list for her claim that "auto dealers markups cost consumers $26 billion a year." And Obama makes the list for claiming that the "Keystone pipelin is for oil that bypasses the United States." He should also get on the list for many of the claims that he's made about terrorism and the effectiveness of his actions as well as for what he's said about those he's released from Guantanamo and how many have returned to fighting.

Robert Tracinski explains the tropes we should recognize for politicians exploiting terrorism. The one that gets me is when they tell us that doing what their opponents want to do or even what strawman proposal they're making up that their opponents want is just what ISIS wants us to do.
The bodies were barely cool in the Paris shootings when we were treated to lectures that “The West Is Giving ISIS Exactly What It Wants,” usually accompanied by very dubious projections of what ISIS wants, which just so happen to correspond to any policy proposed by someone on the American right.

Exactly What ISIS Wants may seem as if it is the opposite of Or the Terrorists Win. Or the Terrorists Win urges action to defy terrorism — albeit trivial and ineffectual — while Exactly What ISIS Wants demands inaction. But both effectively say the same thing: act as if the situation is normal, go on with our lives as if nothing happened. Or the Terrorists Win tells us to go shopping or hold awards ceremonies or whatever else we were already doing — even though many young men, thankfully, did disrupt their lives by volunteering to join the armed forces. Exactly What ISIS Wants tells us to change nothing about our policies toward terrorism, toward ISIS, toward Syria, toward refugees, or anything else — even if such changes might be warranted.

The purest, most absurd use of Exactly What ISIS Wants is to declare, “If we go to war, we’re doing exactly what the terrorists want.”

Get that? Don’t destroy ISIS. Don’t bomb them, shoot them, or hunt them down like dogs. That’s exactly what they want!

As absurd as it may sound, this is the specific form Obama used in his appeal to Exactly What ISIS Wants: “We should not be drawn once more into a long and costly ground war in Iraq or Syria. That’s what groups like ISIL want.” To which he then adds: “They know they can’t defeat us on the battlefield.” Strange, then, that they would want to draw us into a war they know they can’t win, isn’t it? It reminds me of the famous Patton quote: “No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.” If terrorists are eager to die for their cause, why not accommodate them?

Surely it is possible that ISIS may not be the best judge of what is in its own interests, just as Japan was not the best judge of its interests when it bombed Pearl Harbor. Surely it is possible that talking heads who only sporadically discuss foreign policy are not the world’s foremost experts on exactly what ISIS does, in fact, want. And maybe we should decide our response to terrorism based on our own judgment of our interests, without worrying too much about what ISIS has to say on the matter.

But Exactly What ISIS Wants is the black hole of arguments. It pulls any proposed action against terrorism into its gravitation field and sucks all motion and energy out of it. Which is interesting, because I’m pretty sure that dithering and inaction on our part is exactly what ISIS wants. It has certainly served their interests so far.
Unsurprisingly Clinton used just that trope in her foreign policy speech yesterday. She also inadvertently made a hit against her former boss.
Shallow slogans don’t add up to a strategy,” Clinton said.

President Obama previously admitted he had not fully developed a working strategy to defeating the terrorist organization. The president and his administration have constantly reiterated their desire to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the jihadist organization and insist the president’s plan is working. Americans overwhelmingly disagree.

Of course, the Democrats want taxpayer subsidies for their national convention. I never understood why we should be paying for a party's PR extravaganza.

John Hawkins debunks "five phony statistics that liberals love to toss around." He's right. I see one or another of these all the time.

Jim Geraghty explains why Barack Obama had the worst year in Washington. There are many, many reasons why this has been an awful year for the President.

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Fox News aired a documentary this weekend on the young men whose lives have been ruined by phony accusations of sexual assault. They focus on three stories that should never have reached the level they did of accusation. Martha MacCallum narrated the report stating,
"We've long heard that government is best kept out of the bedroom, but as it turns out, in colleges across the nation, government is insisting that it be referee in life's most intimate moments," MacCallum says at the beginning of the report. "And far from resisting, activists on campus are inviting the government in. In fact, they're demanding that it do more."
The Obama Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights' letter to college administrator threatening to remove federal funding if they don't adjudicate all accusations of sexual assault instead of leaving such investigations to the police. So we get ridiculous stories like this one about John Doe and Jane Doe at Occidental College who had sex after drinking. They seemed to have peaceably discussed the encounter between themselves and decided to be friends until the school's sexual assault advocate convinced her that she had been raped.
Jane filed a report with police, who determined that both students were drunk but neither was raped. Jane then went to administrators at Occidental, who initially agreed with the police.

Occidental would then review the case and reverse its position without any new evidence. Suddenly, John was found responsible for sexual assault and expelled. One of the major pieces of "evidence" used to determine his guilt was the claim that he had given Jane a piece of gum when she went back to his room.

"Because I had given her a piece of gum I somehow should have known she was – 'incapacitated' was the word [Occidental] used," John told Fox News. "I don't even remember giving her a piece of gum."

Asking for gum prior to an intimate situation is commonplace. Using that as evidence that John should have known she was too drunk (and not merely concerned she had bad breath, say, from eating a garlicky dinner) would turn a lot of consensual encounters into sexual assault.
I've been out of the singles scene for a long time. I had no idea that giving a woman a piece of gum was evidence of sexual assault.

Kyle Smith notes that Democratic candidates want a "safe space" to protect them from questions they don't want to answer. Bernie Sanders's campaign instructed reporters not to ask him any questions about ISIS while he was at a photo op in Baltimore.
As MSNBC reported, “No one seemed eager to ask about the terror group” in the first place but because Sanders’ camp brought it up, a CNN reporter asked if Sanders was trying to avoid the topic. “You want to ask me about ISIS?” Sanders said, peevishly. “We will talk about ISIS,” he added, then shut down the press conference and left without talking about ISIS.

So, a “free speech” panel where leftist operatives try to prevent anyone from speaking. A press Q&A canceled because someone from the press asks a Q.
Yes, because a man running for president shouldn't have to answer questions about a subject other than the one he wants to talk about.

The good news is that this man was stopped before he could act on his plans to aid ISIS by carrying out a terror attack in Maryland. The bad news is that he's one of many people who have been arrest for their suspected connections with ISIS.
A Maryland man has been charged with attempting to provide material support to Islamic State, the Justice Department said on Monday, becoming the latest of more than 70 people arrested by U.S. law enforcement authorities for suspected ties to the militant group since 2014.

Mohamed Elshinawy, 30, of Edgewood, Maryland, was arrested on Friday, the Justice Department said. He was also charged with lying to federal agents and obstructing their investigation.

According to a criminal complaint unsealed on Monday, Elshinawy pledged allegiance to Islamic State in February and later told his brother he wanted to die as a martyr. He is a U.S. citizen, according to the complaint.

Investigators said he received nearly $9,000 in payments from people he understood were associated with Islamic State, which controls wide swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria and has urged followers to carry out attacks around the world.

Elshinawy used several disposable mobile phones, social media accounts and email accounts to hide his communications with those people, the government said.

When interviewed by federal agents, according to the complaint, Elshinawy said he never intended to carry out an attack and was simply trying to convince Islamic State to send him money.
Yeah, that's a good plan for raising money.

Is this supposed to reassure us?
Saudi Arabia announced on Tuesday the formation of a 34 member coalition made up exclusively of Islamic nations in an effort to combat terrorism.
Yes, the Saudis who sponsor radical mosques around the world.

There's actually a name for one of Trump's favorite rhetorical devices.
Praeteritio is the act of saying something by saying that you’re not going to say it. Like, for instance, when Trump calls Rubio a lightweight by saying “I’m not going to call him a lightweight, because I think that’s a derogatory term.” It’s a rhetorical device as old as political rhetoric itself, once proudly wielded by Cicero, who often “refused to mention” the various crimes committed by Catiline and his supporters.

As with Cicero, Trump uses praeteritio to insult his opponents while also suggesting he’s the kind of guy who’s above insulting his opponents. It’s a neat trick.
He's just modeling Cicero. Who knew?