Monday, February 15, 2016

Cruising the Web

Apparently, Saturday night's debate had the highest number viewers of any of the political debates this season. I guess it helps to have it on a network and have it the night the most consequential conservative justice passed away. It also helps not to be the night before the Super Bowl, but maybe it did conflict with the NBA dunk contest.

But I am glad that that debate was the one that most viewers got to see. If South Carolina GOP voters could watch Donald Trump at simultaneously his most buffoonish and leftist. So many of the things Trump said on Saturday night came from the left, the far left. The worst was when Trump went full 9/11 truther implying that George W. Bush was at fault for the attacks on the World Trade Center.
"The World Trade Center came down during the reign of George Bush. He kept us safe? That is not safe. That is not safe, Marco. That is not safe," he continued. "The World Trade Center came down because Bill Clinton [didn't] kill Osama bin Laden when he had the chance to kill him. And George Bush-- by the way, George Bush had the chance, also, and he didn't listen to the advice of his C.I.A."

“How did he keep us safe when the World Trade Center…excuse me,” he said as the crowd booed. “I lost hundreds of friends!” Trump shouted.
Oh, geez. Only the worst leftists peddle that line. Then Trump went on to peddle the Bush lied about WMDs canard. Apparently, Bush got both Bill and Hillary Clinton as well as Tony Blair, Colin Powell, Nancy Pelosi, and John Kerry to all buy into his lie. The entire intelligence community here and in Britain was, I guess, in on the lie. And none of them have confessed or leaked since then about that conspiracy of lies. It's as if the cork came out during the debate and Trump's full id was on display. And Trump's id is not a pretty sight.

I'm with John Podhoretz in his assessment of how out of control Trump was during the debate.
Donald Trump was so awful, so horrible, so disgusting in the latest Republican debate — his lies, his distortions, his deceits, and his libels thicker and fouler than they’ve yet been—that he’s done us all a favor. If he wins easily in South Carolina after his monstrous turn, he’ll be going straight to the Republican nomination.

Such a victory in a classically conservative state like South Carolina after his romp in idiosyncratic New Hampshire will prove Trump’s repellent personality is the real key to his success. You want me to delineate his dishonesties? That would be like asking me to count how many breaths he took.

We will not be able to labor under any delusions after a win comparable to his triumph in New Hampshire. We will know for a certainty that the man Republicans want for their tribune in 2016 is a disgusting jerk they somehow believe will have their backs when the only back he’s ever had is his own.

South Carolina, a state filled with evangelicals and active and retired military, just listened to the Republican frontrunner blame George W. Bush for 9/11. And blame him again. And blame him a third time. We’re told the former president has an 87 percent approval rating in the state. So aside from saying something appalling and untrue and unjust, what Trump did would seem politically suicidal, no?

Well, no—or let us say, we don’t yet know. Since he began running he has demonstrated he knows things we don’t know about the emotions roiling in the American underbelly. Maybe he knows this too. Or maybe he knows he needed there to be a shadow hanging over the former president’s appearance in the state as he campaigns for his younger brother Jeb on Monday....

Alas, just as you don’t bring a knife to a gunfight, you can’t bring disapprobation to a showdown with Hannibal Lecter and hope to survive. You have to eat his liver with fava beans and a good chianti before he eats yours. How? How the hell do I know? But I’m not running for president. They are.

And the thing is, he might have eaten all their livers already.
As Jim Geraghty writes, it's in the hands of South Carolina Republicans now.
If the Republican Party wants to nominate a man who thinks Bush could have prevented 9/11 but chose not to, who knew Iraq had no WMDs and lied the country into war anyway, who sneers and shouts and bellows and interrupts and accuses everyone else of lying… if a majority of South Carolina Republicans look at all that and give it the thumbs up . . . then yeah, maybe it isn’t my party anymore.
Geraghty links to this analysis from Ace at Ace of Spades
Trump damaged himself with his claim that Bush lied us into war in Iraq. Not botched the intelligence, not read too much into thin intelligence.

Most Republicans, I think, would agree that that.

No, Trump claimed that Bush deliberately lied us into war.

First, this is alarming because it once again demonstrates that Trump has a conspiratorial mind. It's not enough for the conspiracist to say someone was wrong -- no, they have unrealistically black/white minds, and if you made a bad call, you must have lied.

That conspiracism was always present in his claims about Obama's birth certificate. But that bit of fantasy was about Obama, someone the average Republican voter isn't exactly eager to man the battlements for.

This corker -- this Al Gore roar of quote -- is about George W. Bush, someone still looked upon with affection by most of the party.

Which brings us to the second problem.

If Donald Trump is right, and George W. Bush deliberately schemed with his neo-con advisers to "lie" us into a phony war with Iraq, what does that say about the average Republican voter who supported Bush from 1999, voted for him, defended him through the recount, cried with him on 9/11, agreed with him on Iraq, defended him from ceaseless liberal attacks on him during the war, defended him from Obama's never-expiring "Blame Bush" blame-shifting, etc.?

If Trump is right, then we're not just wrong to have supported him. If Trump's right, we're goddamned rubes and fools to have defended this Actual Hitler-Level Monster for going on 17 years now.
Ace, who has never liked Trump, thinks that, by insulting the intelligence of the average Republican voter for having supported Bush, Trump will have hurt himself.
This is a long way of saying Trump specifically and completely contradicted a belief that 75-80% of Republicans have about Bush -- that he was a fundamentally decent man, perhaps overwhelmed by a very difficult period, who made an erroneous decision based on incomplete information -- and instead offered a new belief, that Bush deliberately lied about Iraq's WMD's, a position that 75-80% of Republicans have long not only rejected but have been actively hostile towards.

With no better reason to adopt this new claim other than that Donald Trump said it.

I doubt very much people will be willing to make this leap with Trump. Gathering political support is all about getting a buy-in of belief at a price that people are willing to pay (usually, a low price-- that's why politicians strain to parrot back to you things you already believe).

I think Trump, who has been a past-master at getting people to buy-in to a very low-cost premise -- "Let's Make America Great Again" -- just made a very high cost premise central to buying into him.
I don't know about that. Wasn't it an insult to his supporters when he bragged that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and they'd still support him?

And then we had this totally bizarre moment when Trump was asked about his use of profanity and he complained that one of the times the media portrayed him as saying the F-word, he had only been mouthing "F***," not actually saying it. Alright, so that's a defense I hadn't thought of. Vote for Trump; he'll only mouth the word "F***," but he'll actually repeat someone calling an opponent a "p****." That's a winning argument for sure. At least, among those drinking the Trumpian Kool Aid.

If the GOP voters of South Carolina still prefer him after that performance, then there is no hope. It's one thing for liberals to go bonkers over Bill Clinton and Barack Obama and pull enough independents along with them. But if Republicans want this repellent clown, then there seems to be little hope left. I thought I was in the Slough of Despond after the New Hampshire votes. Add in the loss of Justice Scalia and the possible victory of Trump to win the nomination, and I fear to go even deeper into the pits of despair.

The Republicans' only hope is to coalesce around another candidate who can defeat Trump and win in the general election. Marco Rubio has been my choice for that role since the beginning. I haven't been enthusiastic about either Ted Cruz or Jeb Bush and I find John Kasich quite off-putting, but any of the four would be light years ahead of Trump as my preference. I'm not including Ben Carson since he doesn't seem to be really running any more. He seems to be more on a book tour than a presidential campaign. But I'd vote for him if Trump were the only other choice.

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Another leftist positions that Trump took on Saturday night was to buy into the argument that it's okay to fund Planned Parenthood because they do wonderful things for women. Apparently, the graduate of the Wharton School and prominent businessman never learned about the concept of fungibility.

As David French writes, true conservatism was the real loser in the South Carolina debate. And Trump wasn't the only one guilty of this. John Kasich demonstrated why he's liberals' favorite Republican and is holding onto the Jon Huntsman vote.
So long as Donald Trump dominates an overly-large field of ambitious, fratricidal competitors, we will continue to see absurdities like the following:

1. Trump — the Republican front-runner, no less — borrowing language from and Daily Kos to advance the absurd “Bush lied, people died” Iraq War narrative, attacking his fellow Republicans with far more fury than even Hillary Clinton can muster.

2. Trump repeatedly and loudly holding George Bush responsible for 9/11 and the fall of the World Trade Center.

3. An extended GOP defense of Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, courtesy of Ohio’s extraordinarily sanctimonious John Kasich. Using talking points that Democrats would envy, he cloaked his embrace of an inferior, third-class government insurance program in the language of compassion and fiscal responsibility. In an ordinary race, Kasich would be long gone — shoved aside by genuine conservatives and an afterthought even in moderate New Hampshire.

4. Trump (yes, him again) actually extolling the virtues of Planned Parenthood on a GOP debate stage. As a businessman who built a “world-class company,” surely he understands that injecting hundreds of millions of dollars into a business helps the entire enterprise stay afloat. That’s what taxpayer subsidies for Planned Parenthood do for the nation’s largest abortion provider, even if taxpayer dollars don’t “directly” subsidize abortion.

5. An actual presidential candidate acting like an angry drunk — interrupting candidates, calling them names, and creating a social dynamic where the other GOP candidates either ignore him — and look weak — or engage him and risk lowering themselves to his shouting and name-calling level....

On a day when an American lost a great patriot — a Supreme Court justice who defended the Constitution and upheld its vital principles until the very day that he died — it was particularly sad to see the hijacking of constitutional conservatism in a race that is quickly degenerating into a dangerous farce at the very time when the nation so desperately needs principled, courageous leadership. Dear candidates, if you can’t win, step aside. If you can win, step up. Otherwise, we are lost.
That's what I think, but all these guys apparently think that they can win.

Perhaps, Rubio's debate performance in South Carolina will help him. I don't know how much validity to give a flash poll taken right after the debate, but CBS's poll shows that viewers thought Rubio won the debate. But who knows what that means when 24% said that Trump won the debate. Anyone who thought that is a full-bore Trumpian who won't let any evidence change his or her mind. CBS's poll included independents, among whom Trump, Kasich, and Rubio split the vote. But independents can't vote in South Carolina, so maybe that will depress his numbers a bit. We can only hope.

But Marco Rubio was out taking full advantage of the hoped-for momentum coming off his strong debate performance by doing the full Ginsburg on all the Sunday shows. That is just the right tactic as he works to dispel the idea that he's robotic and can't answer questions. I thought he did a fine job though I think, if he were indeed elected president and served for two terms, he might be buying himself some trouble by basing his resistance to allowing Obama to have a nominee placed on the Court to replace Scalia on the argument that a lame duck president in his eight year shouldn't get to make that nomination. He should be able to make the nomination and the GOP in the Senate should have the right to vote it down. They would vote the nomination down because they don't agree with the candidate's ideology, not because a president doesn't have the right to get his nominee on the Court if it's an election year. What if Rubio or another Republican were elected and Ruth Bader Ginsburg were to die in an election year. I don't think Republicans, especially if they controlled the Senate, would suddenly say that they should wait until after the election for a GOP president to nominate and a GOP Senate to confirm a replacement. Given that Senator Barack Obama voted against Bush's uniformly voted against Bush's judicial appointees and voted against cloture on Samuel Alito's nomination, President Obama will have a tough time arguing that any president's nominees deserve deference from the opposition party in the Senate.

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Perhaps this is why people don't think that Hillary Clinton is honest and trustworthy.
The State Department’s inspector general last year subpoenaed the Clinton Foundation for documents related to work that required approval from the Hillary Clinton State Department, making it now at least four investigations involving the Democratic presidential candidate being conducted by federal agencies.

According to The Washington Post, the State Department inspector general’s subpoena, which was filed in the fall, also sought records related to longtime Clinton aide Huma Abedin’s concurrent employment in 2012 with the State Department, the Clinton Foundation, and Teneo Holdings, a Clinton-connected consulting firm.

Clinton’s critics have asserted that the overlap between the State Department, her family’s foundation, and Teneo during her tenure created potential conflicts of interest. The book “Clinton Cash,” which was released last year, laid out numerous examples of the Clinton Foundation’s wealthy donors gaining special access to Clinton’s State Department. Other examples have emerged from the release of Clinton’s State Department emails.

The newly revealed IG probe is in addition to the FBI’s investigation of Clinton’s private email server. That probe began last summer after the Intelligence Community’s inspector general discovered “top secret” emails among Clinton’s records. It also comes on top of the State Department’s investigation of Clinton’s emails. And as Fox News reported last month, the FBI also opened an investigation last year into whether the State Department provided special access and agency contracts to Clinton Foundation donors.
Think about that for a minute. The leading contender for the Democratic nomination is tied to four federal investigations. Four. It's just mind boggling that she is the party's choice.

As Andrew McCarthy writes, having a major party's lead candidate appear to be a felon is not business as usual.
That she has the audacity to run despite the circumstances is no surprise — Clinton scandals, the background music of our politics for a quarter-century, are interrupted only by new Clinton scandals. What is shocking is that the Democrats are allowing her to run.

For some Democrats, alas, any criminality by the home team is immaterial. A couple of weeks back, The Donald bragged, as is his wont, that he “could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.” Trump was kidding (at least, I think he was). Unfortunately, the statement might have been true had it sprung from Mrs. Clinton’s lips.

In a Democratic party dominated by the hard Left, the power Left, what matters is keeping Republicans out of the White House, period. Democrats whored themselves for Bill through the Nineties, seemingly unembarrassed over the lie it put to their soaring tropes about women’s rights, good government, getting money out of politics, etc. They will close ranks around Hillary, too. After all, if she was abusing power while advancing the cause of amassing power – er, I mean, the cause of social justice — what’s the harm?

This is how desperate the Clinton campaign is. Now Bill Clinton is trying to convince people that everyone is mix-raced.
Bill Clinton still wants to be known as America’s “first black president.”

The former president downplayed President Obama’s historic presidency, telling a Memphis crowd Friday everyone has some African ancestry.

“Unless your ancestors, every one of you, are 100 percent, 100 percent from sub-Saharan Africa, we are all mixed-race people,” he said, according to reports.
So I guess that Barack Obama doesn't deserve any credit for seeming to be the first mixed-race president. What a bizarre statement. I can't figure out what he had in mind.

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Kamel Daoud, a Muslim writer, acknowledges in the New York Times the fundamental filth polluting
too much of the Muslim world - the way women are treated in too many places.
The attacks on Western women by Arab migrants in Cologne, Germany, on New Year’s Eve evoked the harassment of women in Tahrir Square itself during the heady days of the Egyptian revolution. The reminder has led people in the West to realize that one of the great miseries plaguing much of the so-called Arab world, and the Muslim world more generally, is its sick relationship with women. In some places, women are veiled, stoned and killed; at a minimum, they are blamed for sowing disorder in the ideal society. In response, some European countries have taken to producing guides of good conduct to refugees and migrants....

Although women are veiled, they are at the center of our connections, exchanges and concerns.

Women are a recurrent theme in daily discourse, because the stakes they personify — for manliness, honor, family values — are great. In some countries, they are allowed access to the public sphere only if they renounce their bodies: To let them go uncovered would be to uncover the desire that the Islamist, the conservative and the idle youth feel and want to deny. Women are seen as a source of destabilization — short skirts trigger earthquakes, some say — and are respected only when defined by a property relationship, as the wife of X or the daughter of Y.
As Daoud describes life in too many Muslim countries, there is overwhelming focus on women and sex.
In some of Allah’s lands, the war on women and on couples has the air of an inquisition. During the summer in Algeria, brigades of Salafists and local youths worked up by the speeches of radical imams and Islamist TV preachers go out to monitor female bodies, especially those of women bathers at the beach. The police hound couples, even married ones, in public spaces. Gardens are off-limits to strolling lovers. Benches are sawed in half to prevent people from sitting close together.

One result is that people fantasize about the trappings of another world: either the West, with its display of immodesty and lust, or the Muslim paradise and its virgins....

Sex therapists are few in the Muslim world, and their advice is rarely heeded. So Islamists have a de facto monopoly on talk about the body, sex and love. With the Internet and religious TV shows, some of their speeches have taken monstrous forms, devolving into a kind of porno-Islamism. Religious authorities have issued grotesque fatwas: Making love naked is prohibited; women may not touch bananas; a man can be alone with a female colleague only if she is his milk-mother, and she has nursed him....

What long seemed like the foreign spectacles of faraway places now feels like a clash of cultures playing out on the West’s very soil. Differences once defused by distance and a sense of superiority have become an imminent threat. People in the West are discovering, with anxiety and fear, that sex in the Muslim world is sick, and that the disease is spreading to their own lands.

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Jonah Goldberg explains how it is hurting Hillary Clinton that voters are judging her as an individual and not solely for her gender. And isn't that what feminists always wanted - to be judged for their own qualities, not because they are women?
Hillary Clinton is not a woman, and that’s a triumph for feminism and a problem for Hillary.

Let me clarify.

Yes, technically she is female. But when millions of Americans think of Hillary Clinton, they don’t think of her gender; they think of, well, Hillary Clinton. Some may think of her as a heroic liberal technocrat. Others might think of her as a deeply partisan politician. The list goes on: She’s a supportive (or enabling) wife, a great (or terrible) former secretary of state, a left-wing bully, or a victim of political witch hunts.

What she is not is an icon for a category of humanity called “womanhood.”

This strikes me as a significant victory for feminism, though not for professional feminists and certainly not for Hillary Clinton.

Clinton, who on her best days is a workmanlike (workwomanlike?) politician, desperately wants to borrow some unearned excitement about her gender. And to her great frustration, it’s not happening. In Iowa, Bernie Sanders crushed Clinton among women under 30 years old by 70 percentage points (84-14). He beat her significantly among 30- to 44-year-old women (53-42). Meanwhile, Clinton trounced Sanders among mature and, uh, very mature women. Women over the age of 65 backed Clinton 76 percent to 22 percent....

The best part of feminism was always grounded in the simple idea that women should be judged as individuals, not categories.
But Hillary wants us to throw that idea out and vote simply on her physiology. This reminds me of the recent controversy at the University of Oregon over the Martin Luther King quote that was chiseled on the walls of the student union.
Oregon’s Erb Memorial Union, which is currently under renovation, had the following famous King quote on the wall: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. I have a dream…”

But as renovation continues, the Oregon Student Union seriously considered replacing that quote. “The quote is not going to change,” reports student paper Oregon Daily Emerald, “but that decision was not made without some hard thought by the Student Union Board.”

When the student union considered the question, some students asked, “Does the MLK quote represent us today?” The problem wasn’t so much the message, but the fact that it only focused on racial diversity instead of gender identity.

“Diversity is so much more than race,” said one sophomore architecture major. “Obviously race still plays a big role. But there are people who identify differently in gender and all sorts of things like that.”
Somehow, MLK was no longer diverse enough. And there are plenty of those who like to exacerbate racial tensions who don't want blacks to be judged on the content of their character, but solely on their race. That becomes clear whenever we have debates over affirmative action. And now we have aging feminists like Gloria Steinem argue that Hillary should be supported simply because she is a woman and not on the basis whether voters think she would be the best person for the job. Amazing how they never had that response about Sarah Palin or Carly Fiorina. It certainly wasn't Gloria Steinem's position when she called Texas Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison a "female impersonator" because she didn't share Steinem's views on abortion rights. So Hillary is a real woman and Republican women are not, solely based on where they stand on abortion. Got that? Just as Clarence Thomas is not a real black because he is a conservative and Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are not real Hispanics because they're Republicans. If Jonah Goldberg is right that voters have gotten past this idea and are rejecting Hillary simply because they don't like her, then we have achieved a true feminist goal. Too bad that the feminists no longer believe in that goal and have moved the goalposts to demand ideological fealty.

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One MSNBC reporter reveals what liberal journalists believe their true role is in political reporting.
Offering a window into just how journalists view their power, on MSNBC on Thursday NBC News correspondent Gabe Gutierrez suggested that reporters may “punish” Marco Rubio for not admitting, quickly enough, to a bad debate performance in New Hampshire.

Appearing on MSNBC Live, the reporter reminded viewers that Rubio claimed “the reason that his campaign didn't initially own up to that debate performance is that he didn't want to hurt morale.” Gutierrez noted it wasn’t until Tuesday that the Republican “came clean.”

Offering a possible threat, the journalist wondered, “But the question is will reporters punish him? Not just for that terrible debate performance on Saturday, but for the follow up, the next day, trying to own that flub instead of owning up to it.”

Openly talking of “punishing” a conservative politician. That’s MSNBC.
And of course this quote also reveals the view that everything should revolve on whether or not journalists decide to punish or forgive a candidate instead of just reporting what happens and letting viewers make up their mind. The media did enough after the New Hampshire debate to play the Rubio-Christie moment over and over again in case not enough New Hampshire voters had seen it. And it worked. In Gutierrez's view, I guess that means "Mission Accomplished."