Friday, January 29, 2016

Cruising the Web

As the debate was finishing up last night, I remembered that Donald Trump wasn't there. I had basically forgotten about him. It was if the past seven or eight months of having him be at the forefront of our political lives was a bad dream. Unfortunately, it is not a dream, but it was nice while it lasted.

Overall, I think most of the candidates did well. Jeb had his best night. Without having to respond to Trump, he seemed more on his game. Cruz started out shaky with his canned jokes that just didn't come off well, but his answers got better as the night went on. Marco Rubio had one of his typically sharp debate performances. The video montage that Fox played to ask him about immigration could have been an attack ad from one of the other candidates. Rubio answered that as best he could. He is very good at shifting to what he wants to talk about and his standard talking points. Having a list of what he wants to do now on immigration rather than talking about his previous mistakes probably helps him with those who aren't as passionate about the issue. Others will never forgive him. The video montage for Cruz was not quite as devastating because the differences are a bit more abstruse. I just didn't think it was fair and balanced that they only did a video montage for those two candidates. There wasn't anything else they could have done for the other candidates? Rand Paul also had his best night with a thoughtful answer to the question on Ferguson. I'm finding Chris Christie's routine of making fun of skirmishes between Rubio, Cruz, and Paul as Washington-speak that he is above because he's a governor is quite tiresome. It was good the first time, but it's become too repetitive and self-congratulatory. But what both Rubio and Christie do most effectively is pivot on almost every question to focusing on Clinton.

Can you imagine the video montage they could have had for Donald Trump? It would have looked like an attack ad from Our Principles PAC, the anti-Trump group that just started a week ago.
That would have been lovely. Once Trump saw that they did these sorts of questions, I bet he was doubly glad not to have been there. In his mind, it's totally unfair to ask him about things he's said before. That was his whole beef with Megyn Kelly's question in the first debate.

Maybe because I've watched all the debates that we've had, but I found this debate quite repetitive. There weren't many new topics or questions. The responses were about what we've heard before. Perhaps it is worthwhile for those who haven't watched the other debates, but I am well ready for these to end and for the real primary season to start.

Here are responses from around the web.

Michael Barone notes that Rubio kept using religious language to frame his answers and thus appeal to Iowa's evangelicals.
What I found most interesting about the Fox News Republican debate in Des Moines was Marco Rubio's strategy to try to leverage upward his current third place position in the Iowa polls, where he runs in double digits, well behind Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, but perceptibly ahead of the others who are in single digits. Rubio used question after question to respond in religious language, in a state where 57 percent of caucus-goers in 2012 described themselves as evangelical Protestants. And again and again he launched strong attacks on Hillary Clinton, an attempt to make the argument, without explicitly saying so, that he would be the strongest Republican nominee in the general election, a proposition that is supported, but only weakly, by current polling but which I think is part of an inchoate feeling that because of his fluency and likability that he would be a strong nominee.

Rich Lowry ponders how Trump's absence affected the other candidates.
Rand Paul and Jeb Bush had their best debates. Bush clearly benefited from the absence of Trump–I guess it is an iron rule of forensics that your arguments go over better if someone isn’t making rude and dismissive faces while you talk. He was funny, relaxed, and together solid. But Paul and Bush are obviously in very weak positions in the race. If Jeb got running room with Trump not on the stage, Cruz was denied oxygen. It certainly feels like he’s running behind here (although his internals evidently still have him ahead) and he was loaded for bear for Trump. Plus, Cruz perhaps does best in close combat, and there is great opportunity in being able to stand up to and best the Alpha Dog. Without Trump, Cruz was a little at sea.

In his tussle with Chris Wallace over the rules, he let too much of his prickly argumentative side show. His riff about how all the other candidates had been invited to attack him was ill-conceived. Cruz was trying to repeat his triumphant catalog of loaded questions from the CNBC debate, but it is one thing to do that in defense of the other candidates; it is another to do it trying to make yourself out as a victim. He followed it up with an attempted joke at Trump’s expense about leaving if the questions were too too tough that fell flat.

Jay Caruso at RedState thinks that Cruz isn't as effective without Trump.
1. Ted Cruz is off without Donald Trump on the stage – Kirsten Powers said Cruz does better with Trump on the stage playing the foil and I agree. Because Trump wasn’t there, Cruz was in effect, the leader and sights were set on him. He stumbled as a result. When you’re on top, people are going to gun for you (unless you’re Mike Murphy and you spend $20 million on behalf of Jeb Bush going after everybody except for the guy at the top – for the most part) and Cruz was off his game as a result. He didn’t do badly but he didn’t do as well as he could have.
He also points out something that political aficionados should remember. Most people haven't been paying as much attention to every little speech as political observers have.
4. The talking heads are going to think Rubio did ok, but everyday people will be impressed – Here’s why. For the last 5-6 months, those of us who follow politics closely have been paying attention. Many other people have not. So tonight as we are close to the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, many people who have not been paying attention, are doing so now. And Rubio looked really good. What we may have seen as “stumbles” on immigration, looked like pretty good responses. He’s going to look good especially to those who are just starting to really start taking a look at the candidates.

Jim Geraghty is also imagining the sort of video montage that could have been played of Trump's quite recent flip-flops on immigration.
I think Iowa caucus-goers who are still undecided or wavering, who are really mad about illegal immigration, turn to Donald Trump – never mind that Trump wants to bring back “the good ones” among illegal immigrants in an expedited process. Trump wasn’t there to have his past statements showcased to the audiences at home and in the hall. Could you imagine if Trump had stayed, and Megyn Kelly confronted Trump, showing his old quotes on video? The resulting explosion would have been epic.

The video clips played by Fox News were great journalism – they eliminated the instinctive, “Megyn, I never said that,” or “Chris, you’re taking my words out of context” – but they were brutal for the two leading non-Trump candidates.

I cannot believe Rubio doesn’t just say, “yeah, I’ve rethought the issue, and concluded the path to citizenship is a bad idea” instead of trying to insist he really said “blanket amnesty,” and meant something different. Still, for what it’s worth, Frank Luntz said his focus group loved Rubio’s answers. To political junkies like us, “I’m not going to use unconstitutional executive orders like Barack Obama” sounds like a dodge because it’s about process, not the ultimate fate of illegal immigrants – but to ordinary voters, it seems common-sense and decent. Rubio’s bad nights are still better than most candidates’ good nights.

By the way, this ad from Our Principles PAC could have been the video montage that Megyn Kelly could have played and then asked Trump about his previous positions on Trump. It is pretty devastating. It's a shame that they're only airing it just now in Iowa and New Hampshire. But maybe it will have an impact on those now making up their minds.

John Podhoretz writes that we got a vision what this election could have been without Trump. It's a plus for everyone.
The key beneficiary was Jeb Bush, who had his best night — which isn’t surprising, since he didn’t have a loudmouth needler tossing insults at his poll numbers and calling him “low-energy.”

If you want to know how lucky Bush was, consider this horrific what-might-have-been moment had Trump been present.

Gozer would surely have taunted Jeb, as he did for a few days last week, for having his “mommy” campaign for him.

How on earth could Bush have responded effectively? There would’ve been no way. Jeb couldn’t have decked Trump and he couldn’t have ignored Trump and he couldn’t have insulted Trump’s dead mother. Jeb would have come out the loser in every scenario there.

Due to this in-kind contribution from Trump to his campaign, Jeb was liberated to be himself. And he was. He was animated and substantive and likable. But I fear there was nothing sharp or pointed or memorable about him. He wasn’t a punching bag, at long last, but he wasn’t the heavyweight champ either.
Podhoretz thinks that Rubio won the clash of the video montage questions because he has a better style.
And that’s why it all comes down to style. Cruz is combative and charmless and tries to make an asset out of both by blending them into a mien that we’re supposed to consider “authentic.” But — this is hard to capture precisely — he just seems to be trying too hard to be passionate and urgent, even though there’s no doubt he’s a true believer and a fighter for what he believes in.

Rubio somehow manages to convey urgency and passion without sacrificing his boyish charm. That can be a two-edged sword — who wants a “boy” president? —but the very fact of it is key to his argument to conservatives that he’d be a better choice for them than Cruz.

Rubio says, I can win because I’m more appealing, and you need not worry because I believe what you believe. And because of my appeal I can expand the Republican vote enough in November to take the White House.

Cruz says, I’m willing to be disliked to take on the bad guys you hate as much as I do — and I’ll win because there are more people like us in America than there are people like them.

I think Cruz is wrong about this. Since 2000, the evidence is pretty unmistakable that voters in presidential races are more likely in the aggregate to vote for liberals than conservatives. But the key to his potential GOP victory is assuring Republicans that the country is as right-wing as many of them would like it be.

Katie Pavlich thinks that John Kasich did the worst of all the candidates.
Kasich is tonight’s biggest loser. Not only did he defend the Obama administration’s deal with Iran, he couldn’t properly explain how to hold the Iranian regime accountable should they break any part of the agreement as Europe lines up to do business.


“Hillary wants to put Barack Obama on the Supreme Court.” –Marco Rubio

Jonathan Last wasn't all that pleased
with the Fox moderators.
But it wasn't just Cruz who failed to take the lumber to Trump—no one at the debate rose to the task. Partly that's because the Fox crew ran a strange debate: They asked very few questions about the frontrunner; they queued up flip-flop highlight reels for some candidates, but not others; they paid homage to liberal shibboleths like climate change and Kim Davis; they devoted time to silly YouTube question about America's supposed climate of Islamophobia from a Bernie Sanders supporter.

The result was something of a muddle, with none of the candidates prosecuting the case against Trump. Instead, they all acted as if they were in an interregnum which had nothing to do with the campaign both behind it and in front of it. It's as if they thought that because Trump was gone for a night, he was vanquished from the field. This seems like a terrible miscalculation.

Perhaps the strangest moment in this strange debate was when Jeb Bush launched an attack on Rubio over immigration. Bush's complaint was that Rubio wasn't a staunch enough supporter of amnesty. Bush caviled that when it really came time to press on for amnesty in 2009, Rubio "cut and run." As always, Bush's political instincts were amazing: He managed to back Rubio into the only possible immigration argument that Rubio could win.

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Here's a profile of the woman behind the Des Moines poll and why she is "the best pollster in politics."

Just in case you've been religiously checking out every new poll on Iowa, remember this.
But anything can still happen … there’s still plenty of time … right? Sort of. It’s true that even the final Iowa polls are sometimes way off. But it’s also true that every caucus winner since 1980 was either within about 10 percentage points of the leader or showing at least some momentum in the polls by this point....

Historical polls have been off by a lot — by enough that it wouldn’t be shocking (or even surprising) if Cruz, who has consistently run second to Trump in recent Iowa polls, prevailed in the Hawkeye State. Here’s what would be shocking: If someone not named Cruz, Trump, Clinton or Sanders carried Iowa. Then again, there have been plenty of shocks in the 2016 campaign already.

And then there is this poll result.
Nearly a third (31 percent) of likely GOP caucus goers say they could change their vote before Monday, according to a fresh survey from Public Policy Polling. The new data suggest that “there are still a lot of votes on the table," PPP wrote in a release accompanying the results.

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Hmmmm. Interesting.
Prosecutors looking into the Clinton-era Whitewater scandal considered indicting then-first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, tied closely to four charged in the affair, but decided in 1998 not to after an internal debate rated a possible conviction at just 10 percent.

Judicial Watch released documents provided by the National Archives that showed the "statements of the case" against Clinton and Webster Hubbell, her former Rose Law Firm partner and former Associate Attorney General in the Clinton Justice Department....

The reason offered was the unlikelihood a jury would convict a high-profile figure like Clinton.

The April 24, 1998 memo said, "First, when we are confident of the ultimate ground of our case -- the factual guilt of the accused -- there is an impulse to bring the charges if there is any reasonable basis for success. Part of that impulse is the recognition that in a 'typical' case, the costs of failure are low. No prosecutor has ever been criticized for being too aggressive in charging an 'edgy' case against, say, a Mafia kingpin. In this instance, however, the costs -- in terms of damage to the investigation and damage to the public perception of the criminal justice system --of failure will be much higher than normal."

Another document said that Clinton destroyed her personal records.

The case led to three convictions and indictment of Hubbell for allegedly hiding his and Clinton's role in the real estate deal.
Hillary Clinton destroying records? Who would think that she could have done such a thing? I wonder if the same debates are going on within the FBI as they look into her use of her a private server to transmit classified information.

This is just laughable.
Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton said in an interview aired Wednesday night that special interest groups cannot buy her to gain access and influence as she continues to face scrutiny for taking large sums of money in speaking fees from the financial industry in recent years.

Speaking over the phone with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, Clinton was asked how she will respond to impending attack ads from her main primary challenger, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I, Vt.), who is expected to target her ties to Wall Street.

“As anybody who knows me knows, you can’t buy me,” Clinton said in response, defending her commitment to regulate financial firms and weaken Wall Street’s influence.

This is what happens when people are afraid of crime despite what the leaders say about guns.
More Germans are arming themselves in the wake of the Cologne sex attacks on New Year's Eve, it has emerged.

Also on the increase is enrollment in self-defence courses - particularly among women - and sales of pepper sprays that are commonly used by police against protests.

It comes as several other countries claim to have seen gun sales increase just weeks after hundreds of women reported being robbed and molested by migrants in Cologne on December 31....

While gun laws are stringent for the purchase of revolvers and pistols, they are less so for gas-guns and signal pistols which are allowed to be carried outside the home and can be bought by anyone aged 18 and over.

Felix Beilharz, a social media expert from Cologne, told DW: 'There has been an increase of at least 1,000 percent or more in Google search queries for gun permits since January.'

Courses in self defence are booked out in Cologne and other cities for weeks in advance - something that was not the case this time last year.

Gun sellers say that most would-be buyers want a small weapon that can fit into a bedside table or a handbag.

Two weeks ago it emerged gun sales had jumped 350 per cent in Austria amid 'unease' over increasing numbers of migrants following the Paris terror attacks, firearm dealers claimed.

The final months of 2015 showed increases in gun permit applications, while dealers reported huge demand for self defence weapons such as tasers, pepper spray and blank firing-guns.
The events on New Year's Eve in Cologne have people realizing they have to take care of their own protection because the police clearly can't do it.

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Just in case you ever need it, here is a directory of Donald Trump's tweets.

The favorite word of GOP candidates is "establishment."
Every Republican candidate for president is part of the “establishment.” Just ask the other guy.

As voters in this election cycle have rallied behind political outsiders, the word “establishment,” adjective or noun, has emerged as a particularly popular and searing diss. It can be shorthand for any number of qualities: moderate policy stances, deference to Republican Party officials, robust fundraising, support from elected officials, a long career in politics, or a short career in politics.

At one time or another, everyone has been a card-carrying member of the establishment, to hear the candidates tell it — except, of course, the accusing candidate himself.

Rush Limbaugh likes to talk about the GOP "establishment" as if he's at one with all those resenting what that establishment has done. But, as Conor Friedersdorf points out, Limbaugh is as much as part of the establishment other conservative media outlets. If Fox News is part of the establishment, so is Limbaugh. Friedersdorf goes through Limbaugh's bragging about how close he is to those who might be termed the establishment.
When Republicans control the White House, Rush Limbaugh gets invited to stay over and socialize with the president. He dined in the office of perhaps the most consequential Republican speaker of the House. One of his best friends runs the most powerful media organization on the right. Its highest-rated anchor attended his wedding. He knows multiple U.S. senators and most of the GOP presidential candidates every cycle.

But he thinks of himself as totally apart from “the establishment,” the “ruling class,” those other people who are responsible for the state of the Republican Party.
He is trying to have it both ways.

Timothy O'Brien explains how Trump "bungled the deal of a lifetime."

Given the fun rules of the Democratic caucuses in Iowa, Martin O'Malley's small support could be key to whether Hillary or Bernie wins there. A candidate must have 15% of the support at a caucus location to be considered viable there and get votes. Otherwise, his supporters have to switch to one of the other candidates. So will O'Malley's supporters go for Hillary or Bernie? I would think they'd go for Sanders. Anyone supporting O'Malley now must really not be interested in Clinton or they would already be supporting her instead of a candidate with zero chance.

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Glenn Reynolds reports on how Earl Ehrhart, a Georgia state representative who leading an effort in the state legislature to ensure that students have due process rights if they're accused of some crime or the universities will lose state funds.
Erhart held hearings in which he focused in particular on unfair procedures at the Georgia Institute of Technology, better known as Georgia Tech. In one case, a fraternity was suspended for a crime that, basically, couldn’t possibly have happened. A student accused a fraternity of hurling racial insults at her. The university ignored video footage that showed nothing happening and evidence that the windows from which fraternity members were supposedly shouting insults had been sealed for years.

Nonetheless, Georgia Tech put the fraternity on “suspension in abeyance,” something that sounds a bit like the “double secret probation” from the movie Animal House, but that actually meant that the fraternity was banned from intramural sports and socials. Fraternity members were also required to undergo re-education — excuse me, “sensitivity training,” — before the sanctions could be lifted.

In another case at Georgia Tech, a student was accused of sexual assault, reportedly for helping a drunk woman home and not doing anything to her. No, really. Here’s how Ashe Schow of the Washington Examiner, who covered Monday’s Georgia legislative hearings, reported it: “The mother of the student accused of sexual misconduct also spoke. She told a story of her son helping a drunk woman home when she had lost her key. The accused student let the woman wait at his apartment until her roommate returned home to let her in, so that the woman wouldn't be alone outside in the cold. Sometime later, another young woman accused the student of holding the alleged victim against her will, despite text messages from the drunk woman thanking the accused student for his help. The text messages were not allowed as evidence in the hearing. Even the alleged victim didn't even believe she was the victim of anything. Yet on the word of a third party, the accused student was suspended.”
There are more and more of these stories of how universities are ruining students' lives with their shoddy kangaroo courts. I'd like to see more state legislators taking on universities to protect students.

James Longstreet has a very good question for Republican candidates.
The other day, a commentator asked a GOP candidate this simple question.

“What is the federal government doing that it should not be doing?”

The candidate did not have a ready answer and did a soft-shoe talking-point response that had little to do with this question. But isn’t the answer to this question the crux of conservatism? Should not each candidate running for office under the guise of conservatism not have, at the constant ready, a litany of unnecessary federal government programs and activities?