Monthly Archives: September 2015

Live-Blogging the CNN Republican Presidential Debate

11:108 pm: Governor Walker’s claim to fame remains the fact that he broke the power of most public-employee unions in Blue Wisconsin, and that he recently made Wisconsin a “Right-to-Work” State in which workers in a trade aren’t automatically union members.

Scott Walker’s claim to distinction is that he is personally an agent of the unraveling of worker security in America.

11:04 pm: Dr. Carson closes by recalling having been a “radical Democrat” until he heard former California Governor Ronald Reagan speak.  He said Reagan “sounded logical,” and that he hoped he sounds “logical.”

He’s now a radical Conservative (he should probably mostly stick to medicine), but Dr. Carson doesn’t cause the Liberal Ironist’s spider sense to tingle.  He is politically naive, with very hard views and no government experience, and it is very difficult for me to believe that he could be a good President, but he is sincere and thinks before he speaks, and he knows how he sounds and doesn’t make it for show.

While he plays well with the Conservative base, he’s nothing like Donald Trump.

11:01 pm: Senator Rubio closes by talking about his heritage.  China.  Cuba.


He’s eloquent, but it’s not trite to observe that the World has changed.  There is a lot of politicized and institutionalized evil out there and in international politics; let’s see if Senator Rubio can move out of the Cold War binary thinking while maintaining his hawkish foreign policy liberalism.  That could be interesting.

11:01 pm: Governor Huckabee closes by hoping for an America in which abortion is as much an abhorred part of our past as slavery.  That will play well with the Pro-Life crowd; President George W. Bush used to invoke the Dredd Scott Decision as a way of condemning Roe v. Wade.

Governor Huckabee also wishes for a return to greater civility and respect; he’s too far gone to be the President who could give us that.

10:58 pm: As a lighthearted question to close-out the debate, the Republican hopefuls were all asked to give themselves Secret Service code-names.  Senator Paul the Libertarian proposed “Justice Never Sleeps.”

Brevity is the soul of wit, Senator: You’re supposed to arrive at 1 word, preferably a short one.

10:37 pm: Senator Rubio makes the same tired argument that we’ve always heard from Conservative opponents of gun control: Only law-abiding people follow the law, so gun control can never stop criminals.  The problem of gun violence in America, thus, must be…all of the problems in society.

Sadly, it seems that America has waay more social problems than the rest of the Western World (or East Asia) with their lower murder rates (and incidentally, much stricter gun control).

Yes, his answer to a general question about gun control was vacuous and it has been the Conservative refrain on this issue for a long generation while it has been repudiated empirically.  (Basic effective gun control by the States, as by other countries, is strongly associated with lower homicide and suicide rates overall.)  But Senator Rubio speaks so well.  I’m keeping an ironic eye on him.

10:27 pm: A question about the Federal laws against marijuana is addressed to Senator Paul.  He makes a good case about hypocrisy in politics and the War on Drugs.  He notes that 1 candidate onstage has admitted he smoked pot in high school–

–Oh, it was Governor Bush.  Anyway, Senator Paul notes that low-income and racial-minority and inner-city drug users who are caught by police tend to fall victim to mandatory-minimum drug sentencing while affluent or White kids don’t.  Senator Paul calls the War on Drugs immoral and unjust.

Governor Bush thinks that Colorado should be allowed to legalize marijuana for its own residents if they want that.  But drug use as an issue looks very different in Florida, with many scary cases of roving criminality and a lot of hard drug use.

Governor Christie defends limited decriminalization of marijuana, of which he was a relatively early adopter, and medical marijuana–but he adamantly resists drug decriminalization.  Paul cleverly doubles-down, insisting that enforcing the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 over the wishes of Colorado which wants to legalize marijuana, violates the 10th Amendment, which reserves much statutory power “to the States respectively, or the the people.”  He’s right; the War on Drugs is authorized by an unconstitutional statute.

10:20 pm: Senator Cruz attacks Governor Bush for having previously supported Chief Justice Roberts, and for defending him now; Governor Bush quotes Cruz on having previously endorsed Roberts’ appointment to the Supreme Court; Cruz admits that he endorsed Roberts then but that he made a mistake.  I believe he’s now saying exactly what Governor Bush said about Roberts.

…The informational quality of this debate is frayed by the number of participants in it.

10:18 pm: Governor Bush avers that Supreme Court Chief Justice “John Roberts has made some good decisions, but he didn’t have the proven record” of Conservative jurisprudence that Republicans should have demanded of a Supreme Court appointee.  Chief Justice Roberts makes decisions at around the middle of the Supreme Court now; he is calling his brother’s more-famous Supreme Court appointee into question.

In good Liberal Ironist fashion, I think that the cases where Conservatives feel “betrayed” by Chief Justice Roberts–He is a high court judge, not their monkey–are exactly the cases where he proved his integrity as a judge and as a legal scholar…and as an umpire.

10:17 pm: Ms. Fiorina grandstands a bit trying to enumerate every aspect of her proposed defense policy–but  she ends on borrowed time on a strong note, saying that veterans of the United States Armed Forces are dying without getting the health care they are entitled to through Veterans Affairs.

10:14 pm: “There will always be a Bush or a Clinton if you want to go back to war in Iraq,” Senator Paul says, obviously allergic to all of the Neoconservatism on the stage around him.  Sometimes his indignation is easy to understand.

10:13 pm: Governor Walker insists that he will only deploy military boots on the ground in a war if our national security is at stake, and that if we commit to a war, our armed forces will have the full support of the public.  What our armed forces are going to need are the full support of *the administration,* and a public that will pay attention to the war they’re fighting–but it is good to hear that Governor Walker is saying.

10:07 pm: Governor Christie speaks with electric clarity about his experiences on and after September 11th.  He speaks at length and is allowed to finish.  He defends George W. Bush’s national security and foreign policy record with a fervor that exceeds even that used by his brother.

No mention of illegal roundups of Muslims in and outside of the United States, wrongful indefinite detentions including dozens of innocents, the use of torture, an EPA that lied to Ground Zero first-responders knowingly exposing them to toxic air and dust, the badly planned and entirely-unnecessary Iraq War, 4,487 dead American servicemen in Iraq, the Pakistani nuclear weapons technology auction, an utterly failed drug war in Afghanistan, the feckless appeasement of a nuclear North Korea, failure to deal with Iran in any way whatsoever…

Oh, right, George W. Bush’s Veterans Administration made veterans pay an unprecedented $250 copay for doctor appointments.  George W. Bush couldn’t even protect our veterans from a huge hike in their medical bills.

10:00 pm: Donald Trump claims to be the only Republican on the debate stage who was against the Iraq War all along; Senator Paul, who is an ardent non-interventionist, objects; he has to defer his chance to speak.

9:58 pm: Governor Bush is asked about his name; he says that he will in fact appoint some people from his brother’s administration, because a new President will have to do that.  That’s not really true, and besides that weak defense, bear in mind: Donald Rumsfeld, who was an awful Secretary of Defense, had “experience” going  back to the Nixon Administration.  Dick Cheney, who was an unprincipled and corrupt Vice President, was Bush’s father’s Secretary of Defense.

9:53 pm: Senator Rubio makes a hard-charging case that Donald Trump may not be sufficiently-versed in international politics to be President, invoking Trump’s confusion in an interview of a reference to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Quds Force with the Kurds of Iraq.  This is a hard-charging case…but not a strong one.  Donald Trump is a national embarrassment, but he made a very-credible case that he simply misheard his interviewer.

Where Senator Rubio, who is a foreign policy specialist in the Senate, should have pushed back harder was when Trump claimed that he could learn-up on international politics faster than any other candidate onstage if he won the Presidential nomination and the Election.  That’s nonsense.  Studying international politics and foreign relations is a vocation.  It is a calling.  It takes years, decades, to be an expert in international politics, and it does make a difference.

9:47 pm: Ms. Fiorina went a little further than the other Republican candidates have in attacking Secretary Clinton; she’s done this before.  I don’t know if she attacks Clinton with less ambivalence because she is also a woman…and I’m not particularly interested in that question.  I know that Ms. Fiorina wants to break into the mold of vacuous, angry Conservatism currently occupied by Trump, Governor Huckabee, and (with notably greater gentility) Dr. Carson.

She still wants to hold Secretary Clinton to account for the Benghazi attack in which 4 Americans died at a US Consulate in Libya; she should read 1 of the House Republicans’ several voracious investigations into the incident which have all cleared the former Secretary of State of any wrongdoing.

9:43 pm: Governor Walker notes that he is the only Republican Presidential prospect running this time who has publishes a plan for how to repeal “Obamacare,” the Democratic comprehensive health-care reform passed in 2010 and upheld by the Supreme Court twice since.

No applause from the audience; no defensive rejoinders from the other candidates.  Have Republicans finally given up?

No, there’s no way; former Texas Governor and Republican Presidential Candidate Rick Perry recently called for the repeal of the 17th Amendment and making US Senators appointed by the States again.  Say what you will, Republicans don’t give up even when it’s the right thing to do.

9:42 pm: Senator Paul repeats his call for a 14.5% flat Federal income tax, which sounds almost within sight of being moderate compared to Governor Huckabee’s call for basing Federal revenues on a tax of goods purchases.

9:38 pm: Governor Huckabee is asked about having previously said that he is “disturbed” by the  low rate of taxation on hedge fund managers; he responds that we shouldn’t tax “producers” and calls for replacing the Federal income tax with “a tax on consumption.”  So, we’ve gone from Herman Cain’s “9-9-9” tax which split taxation among income and consumption…to a proposal for a tax on sales solely.  That’s incredibly regressive; the poor have to spend much or all of their income on necessary goods; they would pay Federal sales taxes where they currently get Federal tax rebates!  And this is the tax reform plan proposed by a mild-mannered former minister; that’s the power of being a Republican.

9:34 pm: Ms. Fiorina and Trump get into a fight over who was a better businessperson; Trump quotes a detractor of Fiorina’s; Fiorina dwells on Trump’s…several bankruptcies and what they did to his investors or partners.  She typifies Atlantic City, the old gambling resort city which was notoriously not a nice place to live and which is now decaying, as evidence of the Trump touch; Trump says it’s just a sign of the times and that everyone in business in Atlantic City is hurting now.

Wow, he got mad about that one.

Mercifully, Governor Christie calls this debate childish and self-involved, and calls for re-centering the debate on who is doing well for themselves on the middle- and working-classes, to applause.  That’s how you move in, Chris…

9:31 pm: “We must lead in this nation again.  Some tough calls must be made…” Ms. Fiorina says, burnishing her record as a CEO.  It really makes me feel odd hearing these businessmen talk as if their successes as businesspersons (which I don’t deny or begrudge) incur to them the leadership virtues we need in executive politicians.  That relationship is not established.  Just look at Donald Trump: There is a reason why a man who inherits a fortune from his father says whatever he likes whenever he likes, and an effective statesman does not.

9:27 pm: Carly Fiorina has said that Democrats don’t want immigration reform to go away “because they want it as an issue.”  For what it’s worth, she has just secured my contempt; she noted that President Obama entered office with large Congressional majorities, but she may not recall the 111th Congress, which was very productive yet in which Republicans voted against nearly every major bill in unison; having completed most of his first term agenda in his first 2 years, President Obama had no means of passing comprehensive immigration reform without going through Republican votes in the House since.

9:17 pm: Governor Bush and Senator Rubio both defend speaking Spanish to schoolchildren or prospective Hispanic voters, respectively, to engage them as Americans in whatever language they feel most-comfortable speaking.  They are not booed; actually, they get some applause.

Senator Rubio spoke about his grandfather coming to the United States as an exile from Communist Cuba, and telling his grandson how deeply he appreciates the United States, it’s democratic government, and its tradition of free enterprise–in Spanish.  It sounds good.  Pretty-much everything sounds good when Senator Rubio says it.  I think that “voice” will have staying power; I just don’t know when it will come of age and manifest.

9:15 pm: Governor Bush hit Donald Trump for implicating his wife, who is Mexican-American, in Governor Bush’s, I guess “soft” position on immigration reform.  Governor Bush asks Trump to apologize to his wife for involving her as an agent in the mudfest of the campaign; Trump avers that he’s heard many good things about Bush’s wife but that he doesn’t owe her an apology.

Wow, I bored myself writing that much about that.

9:13 pm: Dr. Carson comes up with his first step of a Plan to Keep all of the Mexicans Out: “A double-walled fence, with a road for easy access for law-enforcement,” as was established in Yuma County, Arizona.  He notes that this fence reduced illegal crossings by 97%.

Setting aside the issue of the fence, doesn’t Dr. Carson’s figure sidestep the fact that illegal migrants and the “Coyotes” that sometimes spirit them across the border simply moved to a less-guarded stretch of the border?  Shall we build the Great Wall?

Yes, that rhetorical question has been asked before.  I’m getting tired of hear Conservatives talk about building a wall, too.

9:10 pm: “First of all, I want to build a wall, a wall that works.  So important, and that’s a part of it.  Second, we have a lot of really bad dudes in this country.  My first day, they’re out of here…”

That’s Donald Trump responding to Governor Christie’s very-practical observation that there aren’t enough law-enforcement in the United States at all levels of government who could be spared to participate in the deportation of about 11 million illegal immigrants.  Seriously, Trump Republicans need to actually think about the things Donald Trumps says and ask themselves if they don’t think it sounds like nonsense.  Forget whether it’s profoundly offensive, because that obviously doesn’t bother them, but just that it’s nonsense.

9:07 pm: Ms. Fiorina shot back at Donald Trump for reducing her to “a beautiful woman” with understandable contempt under the circumstances, and a seemingly-lost Trump doubled-down, “I think she has a beautiful face, and that she is a beautiful woman.”

Fiorina flinched…I think.  I actually don’t find her particularly engaged in her surroundings.

And Trump always seems lost when he campaigns; it’s just that this time I think some of his support base could see it.

9:05 pm: Governor Walker tries to mildly 1-up Governor Bush by noting that he, “defunded Planned Parenthood, but in a Blue State.”

I agree with him that Wisconsin is a Blue State in Presidential politics, but it usually makes pundits’ and pollsters’ lists of swing States even now, because of its potential strategic value in many Republican electoral strategies.

9:04 pm: Donald Trump, who told us he’s confident he could get along a lot better with many World leaders than President Obama, just called North Korean strongman Kim Jong-Un “a maniac” in prime-time on CNN.

9:01 pm: Governor Christie and Ms. Fiorina have both called former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to account for her association with Planned Parenthood, both referring to a heavily-edited video that misleadingly gave the impression that Planned Parenthood was illegally harvesting fetuses for organs.  Applause from the audience.

8:59 pm: Governor Christie identifies himself as “the first Pro-Life Governor of New Jersey since Roe v. Wade,” and says he defunded Planned Parenthood in his first budget.

Considering Christie entered office with about a 45% projected annual budget deficit, State government in New Jersey ran clear through the low-hanging fruit in budget cuts, and his cut of New Jersey’s contributions to Planned Parenthood might have meant anything, or nothing.

8:55 pm: Governor Bush says that if a Conservative county clerk finds processing the marriage licenses of gay couples contrary to her sacred moral principles, she shouldn’t have to work on them–but someone else in country government should be duly-deputized to do it in her place so that the civil rights of those couples are not impeded in any way.  This is the Utah Compromise on gay marriage rights, and it works.

8:54 pm: Governor Huckabee: “If the Court can just make a decision, and we all just surrender to it, what we have is what Jefferson called judicial tyranny.”

Many Southern politicians would have said exactly the same thing about Brown v. Board of Education, Loving v. Virginia, or Griswold v. Connecticut, or Roe v. Wade, or Lawrence v. Texas…and since he is speaking in response to the instance of a Kentucky county clerk refusing to process marriage licenses of gay couples in keeping with Obergefell v. Hodges, I stand by that observation as in-point, proportionate and fair.

8:52 pm: “This agreement trusts the Iranians to inspect themselves!  That makes no sense,” Senator Cruz says.  I agree, that doesn’t make sense; maybe he didn’t actually read the agreement or any of its constituting understandings, or maybe he doesn’t actually understand them.  That is not the agreement.

8:48 pm: Again, Senator Paul demonstrates a knowledge of Middle Eastern history that we should expect from a man who keeps it both physically and intellectually at a safe distance.  He calls both the Assad Family Regime of Syria (which drops barrel bombs on city streets because it’s an easier way to kill rebels) and the rebels in Syria evil; before the Islamic State reared its dark visage, before al-Qaeda franchised the Nusra Front in Syria, there was the secular Free Syrian Army.  Senator Paul simply says that if we had bombed Assad’s forces 3 years ago, that “ISIS would now be in Damascus.”  You can be serene in politics if you don’t have sufficient vision to know when we’ve missed our moment.

8:46 pm: Governor Huckabee pushes back against Senator Paul (and Governor Bush) in saying that a diplomatic agreement with Iran on unranium enrichment should at least be given a chance to work.  Huckabee mocks President Obama, who he says ” treats this agreement like the Magna Carta, while the Iranians treat it like toilet paper.”  He calls on all of his fellow Republican Presidential hopefuls to commit to tear up that agreement upon entering office.

That’s great; our allies would already have (happily) lifted the sanctions President Obama persuaded them to impose on Iran.

8:42 pm: Senator Paul criticizes Ms. Fiorina’s (and Governor Walker’s) call to break off relations with Russia, and takes the brave move of criticizing the call from the right to “tear up the (nuclear) agreement with Iran” upon electing a Republican President even though he intends to vote against the uranium-enrichment restriction agreement with Iran.

I’m not being ironic, that’s a brave move.  The Senator deftly moved past his old reputation as a foreign-policy isolationist, a brand he inherited from his father.

8:38 pm: “Vladimir Putin is someone we should not talk to, because the only way he will stop is if he senses strength from the other side,” Carly Fiorina says.  Having been advanced from the JV Debate to the prime-time event because so many Conservatives liked the cut of her jib, Ms. Fiorina’s own lack of political experience and expertise shows as much as Trump’s and Dr. Carson’s.  Our Presidents even “talked to” the premiers of the Soviet Union.  For all the geostrategic challenges we face today, I wouldn’t go back to George W. Bush’s foreign policy of “We don’t talk to bad guys” for anything.  President Obama hasn’t made any concession to President Putin without his eyes on his own strategic goals, and ultimately frustrated or not, he has made no concessions to President Putin that he isn’t in a position to rescind at his discretion.  Oh, and he’s talking to the man though he clearly doesn’t like him.

8:35 pm: Donald Trump, who has distinguished himself from all other Republican Presidential hopefuls by being far more-willing to insult other people at the first opportunity, just claimed that he would be able to get along better with many World leaders than the current President, “including Putin.”  He also complained about the state of our diplomacy with China and Mexico.  If he’s implying that he would conduct relations with Mexico better than President Obama, that’s just amazing.

8:33 pm: 3 hours of debate…It seems the Keystone Cops of journalism over at CNN can’t even start a Presidential Primary debate at the standard time for national primetime events.  The Liberal Ironist starts live-blogging now.

Happily, there’s still 3 hours to go.