Monthly Archives: January 2016

Live-Blogging the Last Pre-Iowa Republican Presidential Primary Debate

Hey, where’s Donald Trump?

It’s prime time, folks.  It’s just too late for establishment Republicans to kid themselves about the fact that either reality TV star Donald Trump or universally un-collegial Texas Senator Ted Cruz is likely at this rate to be their party’s Presidential nominee.  Your well-intentioned narrator will watch…Hoo boy.

…Well, I didn’t stop watching the debate early, but in the last 20 minutes I didn’t hear anything that prompted me to write.  I don’t like to repeat myself, especially when I’m just reacting to the strange things some people are saying.

10:38 pm: Governor Christie has invoked Benghazi and the Republicans’ pointless and interminable investigations again, this time trying to make news out of a Democratic Debate answer from Secretary Clinton. This guy could actually make me stop watching this debate.

10:26 pm: Governor Kasich gives an encouraging speech about the importance of caring for those in need; he mentions not only the poor (whom are at least subjects of serious political debate), but also the mentally-ill.  Kasich isn’t joking-around about the Compassionate Conservatism, and it probably explains a lot about why he’s one of the most-popular Governors in the country…Back to Ohio he goes, as he doesn’t really have a gimmick to allow him to stand-out in this cacophony of a Republican field.

10:20 pm: It’s satisfying to see Chris Wallace ask Governor Christie about the George Washington Bridge onramp closures that were political retaliation ostentibly directed by his aides and appointees.  Christie’s defense is that he was proved not to be involved by 3 separate commissions (that’s nonsense; he was “proved” to not have been involved by the private commission he curiously chose to convene).  He says that, when his own appointees were revealed to have been responsible for the bridge access closure, he fired them.

So, Christie’s defense is basically the same as Nixon’s: For once, I’m satisfied with this surly jerk’s answer to a debate question.

10:12 pm: Christie just shat on being a Washington politician. Woow.  That’s so courageous of him.

I would like to point-out that almost every President elected since Nixon has been from outside Washington. Jimmy Carter, almost universally reviled among Republicans, was a Washington outsider.  George W. Bush was elected from the Texas Governor’s office.  Better to be a “Washington outsider”?

Christie is so full of it…Sorry, I just wanted to establish that.

10:08 pm: (Numerous Republican Presidential hopefuls, some of which have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning the Republican Presidential nomination, challenge each other’s Republicaness for having once supporting immigration reform that would allow illegal immigrants to remain in the United States.  It’s funny, in a melancholic way.)
10:01 pm: Marco Rubio: “Jeb, that was the book you wrote when you supported a path to citizenship.”

Jeb!: “So did you!”

Ah-hah hah…Classic, and true.

10:00 pm: “I know a few things about this issue; I wrote a book on it: Immigration Wars.”  You can get it on Amazon for $2.99.  It’s not a best seller…”  Jeb! probably should have avoided joking that his book on immigration wasn’t a best-seller, as he is not a best-seller.

9:43 pm: Oh boy, a question from a Black YouTube video star about our capacity to monitor law-enforcement.  He’s from St. Louis; Ferguson looms in his thinking.

Senator Paul has an excellent response, focusing on several aspects of the unequal treatment of Black Americans in our criminal justice system.  He has been a smart Senator, focusing on building both personal and legislative relationship-building, and a smart Presidential campaigner, getting his message out tactically, on an issue basis.

That said, the Libertarian message is dying, if anything, and Senator Paul is realistically a non-factor in the Presidential race.

9:33 pm: Senator Rubio manages to speak conversationally while sounding professional. That’s not easy to do, especially not in a debate.

It’s too bad he’s sort of channeling his inner Chris Christie.  We expect Republican Presidential candidates to emphasize that we should be on more of a war footing, but that doesn’t mean they have to say it with such obvious tones of exasperation, almost as if they’re hysterical.  A friend of mine noted that Rubio seems close to losing his composure as he insists that we aren’t prepared to face the strategic threat posed by ISIS; he has a point.

Governor Christie explicitly claims that the Islamist couple behind the San Bernardino shootings weren’t stopped by a report from their suspicious neighbors because President Obama and Secretary Clinton don’t support our law enforcement.  I’ve had it with this man; he is revolting and I just want him to shamble off of the debate stage and go away.

9:17 pm: Ted Cruz made an alarming-sounding comparison, pointing out that our military’s force strength is much less than it was during the Persian Gulf War.  A more-serious analysis would acknowledge that the Persian Gulf War was fought on a late-Cold War budget, and that we no longer face superpower competition.

Ted Cruz also put-out a pretty big fib when he said that President Carter gutted the military and President Reagan restored it to strength.  We were already in the midst of a planned military buildup under President Carter following a post-Vietnam drawdown under President Nixon; President Reagan simply expanded and accelerated that buildup.

9:14 pm: Senator Paul and Senator Cruz just cautiously avoided criticizing each other while both affirming their skepticism of the NSA’s existing surveillance powers.  Senator Cruz notes that he wants to forge a stronger electoral alliance between the Christian Right and Libertarians.  He has just paraphrased his electoral strategy, which is to…hope that the far right somehow constitutes as silent majority.

9:09 pm: It’s infuriating for Chris Christie to suggest that President Obama and Secretary Clinton haven’t been held to account, and that he has as Governor of New Jersey has.  Christie convened his own investigation of the politicized closing of the George Washington Bridge, which then cleared him.  And there’s no way to say that there has been a full accounting of the measures Christie has taken to momentarily balance New Jersey’s budget and to shore the finances of its cities.  THAT kind of scrutiny should be enough to sink his campaign.  The President and his past Secretary of State, it’s fair to say, have been subject to a lot of scrutiny that wasn’t of their own choosing.

9:04 pm: “I just want to say that I am a maniac…and everyone on this stage is stupid…and Dr. Carson, you are a terrible surgeon.  Now that the Donald Trump portion of the debate is out of the way…”  That’s good for an early extended laugh; I think it’s actually a little risky for these guys to attack Donald Trump while he’s absent from this debate, lest they look passive-aggressive.  But Cruz has made a joke out of it, trivializing Trump as the carnival barker.

It’s also worth noting that Ted Cruz is a particularly belligerent candidate himself.

9:03 pm: Senator Cruz starts by saying that he will remember Iowa when he is elected President: Iowa won’t be flyover country; it will be fly-to country.”  Wow, he is so full of it…There are shades of Francis Underwood in such a hokey and inevitably-insincere promise.


Live-Blogging the Republican Response to the 2016 State of the Union Address

Hey, the Republicans have a few things to say, too.

10:30 pm: Haley had some interesting and daring things to say about racial tension.  She spoke about the white supremacist who killed the 9 Black parishioners who welcomed him into their church.  She noted that he didn’t look, act, or sound like the parishioners who welcomed him in; dark humor would indicate that this would be the time to say that that’s what happens when you’re so welcoming, but of course that’s not the direction Haley took the narrative.  She called the gunned-down parishioners “extraordinary”; in what may be the deftest phrase available to her when discussing a decision that was controversial with the Republican base in parts of the South, she said that her State succeeded in removing “a symbol that had been used to divide us,” meaning the Confederate Battle Flag that had flown on statehouse grounds in Columbia.

10:28 pm: I’ve just realized what a difficult task the 2016 SOTU Response is: President Obama remains very unpopular among Republicans, of course, but how do you speak to a party that’s this divided by ideological differences in the middle of the party’s Presidential primary cycle?  Interesting: Haley warns against listening “to the angriest voices among us,” which means Donald Trump and Senator Cruz.

10:24 pm: Like recently-retired Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley is the direct descendant of Sikh immigrants from the Punjab region of India; unlike Jindal, her political stock has improved with years in office.  Jindal practically left office in disgrace after governing from the right for 2 terms.

Live-Blogging President Obama’s Last State of the Union Address

I could say that I miss President Barack Obama already, but I know very well he’s still here.  He has always had a surer hand than his critics, so prone to doomsaying, hyperbole, and reductionism and jaundice in reading into his motives, have given him credit for.  So many milestones have been reached in the 7 years of a President who has so often been a reliable voice of reason and conscience for our country.  It was enough to restrain even my cynicism, to which even the name of this blog is a light nod.  I have only appreciated the integrity of his words more with time and experience.

10:00 pm: In what is the most emotionally-satisfying moment of the address, President Obama makes a thinly-veiled reference to Republican frustration with the Republican Party’s primary base.  “I know it,” he says.  “You’ve told me about it.  It’s the worst-kept secret in Washington!”

The President calls for redistricting reform, and the creation of bipartisan or independent redistricting commissions to redraw Congressional and State legislative districts and remove sitting politicians from the process; Democrats rise to their feet and applaud, Republicans remain silent and seated.  He calls for removing private financing and thus the access of deep-pocketed private interests from elections; Democrats rise to their feet and applaud, Republicans remain silent and seated.  The President notes that Washington politicians hate having to raise money from private sources for the TV and Internet ads that actually estrange them from the public; I can think of no clearer expression of the sad effect of that private financing on politics that Republicans don’t want to be seen admitting that they don’t like campaign fundraising even though it’s widely viewed as unethical by their own Conservative base.

9:55 pm: “When someone attacks a religion, when a mosque is vandalized, when a kid is called a name at school, that doesn’t make us safer.  That’s not ‘telling it like it is.’  That’s just wrong.”  The President is entirely willing to accept the terms of political contestation laid-out by the leaders in the Republican Presidential Primary.  He seems contented to make the call of dark prognostication a central subject of the upcoming election.

9:50 pm: President Obama extols his approach to foreign policy in the case of the uranium-enrichment agreement with Iran and the reestablishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba, noting that his administration bucked 36- and 50-plus year trends in opening dialogues that turned-out remarkably well.  He really has ushered in tectonic changes in foreign policy that Republicans will simply have to ignore for years in order to continue to speak in the political dichotomies and terms they’re used to.

9:41 pm: President Obama calls claims of the United States’ strategic vulnerability as claimed by his critics as nonsense, noting that the United States is by far the most-powerful state in the world whether measured by military strength or the quality of its soldiers.  He regards Russia as a belligerent strategic challenge–There’s an interesting change–but places the military emphasis entirely on fighting terrorism.

He takes great satisfaction in speaking of the purpose in doing this, but also attacks the approach of Donald Trump and Senator Cruz again, saying that it’s foolish to intentionally associate a terrorist movement with the 2nd-largest religion in the World: “We just need to call (all-Qaeda and the Islamic State) what they are: killers and fanatics who have to be hunted-down and destroyed.”

9:37 pm: I know that Republicans have ideological, parochial and bottom-line driven reasons for being uninterested in emissions regulations or Federal funding for clean-energy programs or research, but I did  appreciate the spectacle of seeing President Obama note that our foreign imports of oil (a strategic liability in several manifestations) have been reduced by 60%, and almost all Democrats rising to their feet to applaud while almost all Republicans sat (gloomily, I imagine).

9:32 pm: President Obama notes that when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik into space in the opening days in the Cold War, Americans didn’t pretend it didn’t happen.  In a little over a decade, we put men on the Moon.  He goes on to call a cure for cancer America’s new “Moon shot,” and appoints Vice President Biden (whose son Beau, a promising young Delaware politician, died of cancer last year) as the head of the consolidated Federal effort.  This one gets a standing ovation from both sides of the chamber; maybe Republicans are more-interested in being associated with a generational victory before the next election than they are in continuing to fight President Obama on every front; we’ll see.

9:30 pm: “Food stamp recipients didn’t cause the stock market to collapse; Wall Street did.  Immigrants didn’t drive down wages; those decisions are made in the boardrooms…It sure isn’t average American families that put lots of money into offshore accounts.”  We aren’t going to hear a Republican retort to these argumentative points later tonight, that much is certain.

9:25 pm: President Obama notes that Congress is one of the few workplaces where pensions are secure.  The Speaker of the House nods for that one.  He spends time discussing income insurance and putting encouragement of specialized job retraining on top of standard defined-benefit unemployment benefits.  (It really is true that many Americans can’t afford to lose their jobs–even on unemployment insurance, even on a new job.)

9:24 pm: Big applause line when President Obama says that college needs to be made more-affordable.  He says that recent restraint of increases in the cost of college and the rapacity of student loans are a good first step, but that the existing cost of college needs to be tamped-down.

9:21 pm: President Obama just made a bold admission: “Any job can be automated.”  We can see it, including the derived challenge (which the President notes) or pressure put on those workers who have jobs due to competition for positions, and the downward pressure on wages that comes from that competition.

9:19 pm: The President names 4 questions he wants to ask his audience about our current challenges: How do we make the economy work for us?  How can we anticipate and negotiate the challenges posed by technological change?  How can we face our national security challenges abroad?  “How can we make our politics reflect what is best in us, rather than the worst in us?”

9:15 pm: President Obama warns us that “Like it or not, these (destabilizing) changes are only going to come faster.”  With a thinly-veiled reference to Donald Trump and Senator Cruz, President Obama says that those who promise the restoration of a brighter past on the backs of an out-group are just appealing to fear, and that those fears have always been overcome by past generations of Americans, and (quoting Lincoln) past dogmas discarded by them.

9:12 pm: The President’s  first mention of policy substance is a nod to new House Speaker Paul Ryan, thanking him for his conduct of the House’s business thus far, and expressing a hope that Democrats and Republicans can work together in an election year on criminal justice and criminal sentencing reform.  That’s striking a good tone, I think.

9:11 pm: “I’ll try to keep this short.  I know that some of you have to get back to Iowa…I’ve been there!  I’ll be shaking hands afterwards if any of you want some suggestions.”  Hah.

9:09 pm: President Obama has to tamp down chanting of his name.  7 years into his Presidency, he can inspire a celebratory mood among his base of political support.