Digesting the First Republican Debate

For those of us who survived last week’s first Republican presidential debate, there’s been a good deal of reflection on our lives, just to figure out where exactly we went wrong in deliberately choosing to waste a couple of hours of our lives on something with no redeeming value. And the best answer I can come up with seems to be that I wanted to tune into what I knew would be a train wreck.

You had to wonder how effective a debate with 10 people could be, since there didn’t seem like enough time to actually hear any thoughtful discourse. So instead, I was just waiting on the talent and swimsuit competition portions of the evening’s festivities. But alas, those were not forthcoming. Instead, we got a non-contact lightweight wrestling match.

As a liberal, tuning into an event like this is just asking for trouble, because it really was a two hour deep dive into the conservative mindset, which can feel like having dental surgery without novacain.

But frankly, some takeaways were predictable: We learned (or had the knowledge reaffirmed) that Donald Trump is a self-absorbed asshole, Ted Cruz would be deeply terrifying as the leader of the nation because not only does he seem like a very mean person, but he also comes across as angry and malicious to boot; and any problems the nation is currently experiencing can be traced immediately and directly to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

There were some things that came out of the show that I didn’t quite expect: if one performance is indicative of the whole, Jeb Bush is a horrible debater. He frequently seemed over matched and unprepared, often stammering and searching for the right words.

Dr. Ben Carson loves to show off how smart he is, even when the moderators totally forget about him for 30 minutes at a time. But, as he was quick to remind everyone, he’s the only one on the stage to have separated siamese twins. If only he could have done the same to Rand Paul and Chris Christie.

Chris Christie and John Kasich somehow came off as the voice of reason in a field of radicals. Yet they still scare the hell out of me.

Marco Rubio must be a magician because he successfully faded away out of view and totally out of the consciousness of 24 million people on national television. And for the life of me, I can’t remember one meaningful thing that he said all night.

And Scott Walker obviously thinks he’s God’s gift to the Republican party and the nation because he clearly views his performance as Wisconsin’s governor entirely differently than the rest of the planet does. Which means that he either has surrounded himself with sycophants or is not able to correctly identify success.

Finally, while the basic content and tone wasn’t surprising, the lengths to which Donald Trump will go to piss off entire classes of people is stunning. And while I understand the sentiments of those who support him in saying that they find his candor refreshing, I wish these morons would wise up and realize that this kind of rhetoric on the international political scene would quickly make every single American on the planet a target for just about everyone who isn’t one. It’s terrifyingly apparent that he would quickly and easily alienate our allies and further antagonize our enemies. And that’s something that we really can’t do–not just for our own nation’s security, but for the peace and stability of the entire world.

So rest, relax, and take some time preparing for the next of these debates coming up next month. Be kind to yourself, you’ve been through a lot.


Profiles in Somethin’ – The Trump that Donalds and the Political Fringe

Yes, I’m aware I’ve used that picture up there already, but it fits, so I’m going with it.

Just because the 2016 presidential campaign could use another rich white weirdo, the Republicans have (kind of) welcomed Donald Trump into the fold. And let’s face it, he’s got what it takes to be a politician (notice I didn’t say “good politician”): he’s outspoken, opinionated, rich, and egotistical.

One presumes that he’d promise to run the country like a business, as that’s a popular theme among Republican candidates who are/were business people in a former life. But if that’s the case, we’d better brace for impact because Trump’s companies have filed for bankruptcy four times over the years thanks generally to being over leveraged.

But on the plus side, it’s good to see someone running for office who isn’t afraid of saying exactly what’s on his mind, though his recent comments about Mexican immigrants, while probably playing to some segment of his base, were way out of line and probably extremely dangerous. But hey, he’s standing his ground, right? You’d think that those comments are hurting his chances to…wait, what?

Yup. The Donald, much to the Chagrin of the GOP establishment, is currently polling second in the Boston Marathon-sized pool of primary candidates.

This, along with the similarly meteoric rise of Bernie Sanders, is an interesting phenomenon: what makes fringe candidates appealing in the early going of presidential primaries?

It seems to baffle the reporters, the poli-sci majors, and even some in the political parties. The Democrats seemed all-in on backing Hillary all through the primary and into a triumphant nominating convention. And the Democrats and Clinton even welcomed Sanders’ announcement when he threw his hat in the ring, claiming at the time basically that having another voice in the campaign could only help make the party stronger.

The GOP side, though, is a little less congratulatory. Trump’s candidacy was not met with much enthusiasm by the party elite. And the apparently annointed candidate, Jeb Bush, hasn’t done much to acknowledge the Donald. In fact, on the news this morning, unnamed party officials had told some of the reporters that Trump’s strong showing, even after the “rapists, drug runners, and murderers” comments has the party worried. I can see why: it’s that kind of lack of brain control that leads not only to campaign problems, but, heaven forbid, much more weighty problems if that brain is attached to a president.

The long-term prognosis of both of these candidates is an interesting one to ponder: Sanders is polling very well in New Hampshire, but not strongly in Iowa. He’s certainly become a force to reckon with in the campaign, but when it’s all said and done, he and Clinton have similar opinions on a wide variety of topics. In a recent poll, even Sanders supporters said he doesn’t have a good chance to become the nominee, and I’d be willing to bet that all of them would throw their votes behind Clinton whole-heartedly.

On the Republican side, this is where things become problematic: the Tea Party and evangelical fringe of the party hate the moderate groups. And vice versa. And even though it’s the moderates that control the party, both sides need each other to be able to keep the party numbers high. Which is a problem. If you have so much internal fighting over party ideology, how can you possibly expect to come out of what will almost certainly be a very contentious primary with everyone enthusiastically backing the nominee? Remember that even George W Bush wasn’t conservative enough for the up and coming Tea Party.

It comes down to a question of how galvanizing Clinton (or Sanders, should he mount a huge push) would be for the Republicans, because I start to wonder how much they’d turn out to vote for either of two candidates who they really don’t like. I know they’d hate Clinton, but I’m thinking she would be able to pull in a lot more moderate voters than Sanders would.

Just 15 months left until the conventions, folks!


2016 Quick Candidate Profile – Mike Huckabee

As the never-ending parade of Republican candidates continues its inexorable march toward futility, we drop in to check on Mike Huckabee, who this week is discovering that when you’re running for president, your past can come back to haunt you, even if your name is not Hillary Clinton.

We speak, of course, of Huckabee’s stupid comment about transgendered people, brought back into the limelight during a week that has seen its most high-profile moment with Caitlyn Jenner introducing herself to the world.

For those who missed it, let’s quickly recap before moving on: Huckabee, in a speech to the National Religious Broadcasters’ Convention in February, he said, basically, that there was a time he wished he could be transgendered so he could shower with the girls in the girls’ locker room. This came during a portion in his speech where he echoed the oft-repeated thinking of the religious right that transgendered people are doing it simply because of sex.

Which is clearly stupid, short-sighted, ignorant, and shows where their entire line of thinking goes whenever considering the gay, bi-, and trans communities.

But let’s break down another disturbing aspect of his stupid statement: he was speaking to a clearly friendly crowd, and he obviously was very comfortable with his speech, because he spends much of the 20+ minutes walking back and forth near the podium and doesn’t spend much time actually behind it. So what makes this statement worse is that while he is clearly illustrating the depth of the belief that being transgendered is only just about sex, he’s also showing the level of sexism that exists there to make him think this is actually a funny joke, in a room of religious broadcasters, no less! (Sure, a joke about being a high school boy in a girls’ locker room would be a great joke for this room!)

It’s all illustrative of the fact that the religious right agenda, aside from lashing out against the world for supposedly putting christianity under attack, is actually about making sure that everyone stays in line, within the societal box that has been intended for them, and does not stray from it in the least, lest the world have to accept differences among us. There is no room, regardless of what these people say, for non-conformity, individualism, or–heaven forbid–freedom.

Yes, freedom. That word they toss around all the time saying in claiming that their freedoms are being taken away. Sure, I’ll agree with the argument that any business that doesn’t want to serve a customer is certainly within their right. But when you make it about who they are or who they love or how they live their lives, then it’s blatant discrimination, and as a free society, we cannot allow that.

But by claiming that their religious freedoms are being taken away because they don’t want to allow gay marriage is insane: you can still hold your beliefs and celebrate your religion in your church. No one’s stopping you from doing that. But by telling a group of people that they cannot get married in your church because of who they love, that’s wrong. Why? Because marriage is not an inherent sanctioning of sexual activity. The marriage license or certificate doesn’t say that you’re now legally allowed to go have sex with the person you love. So why would gay marriage a specific sanction for two people in love to have sex with each other? People have gotten married for reasons besides love, and somehow that was okay, simply because they were a traditional union–getting married for immigration reasons, tax reasons, arranged marriages, and the like. Under the thinking against same sex marriage, these unions should also be disallowed, because they clearly don’t fulfill the true purpose of marriage.

To break it down to its simplest concept: marriage is solely about sex. Period. Man-Woman, procreative sex. Not about love, or a partnership, or trust, or respect, or equality, or friendship, or family, or togetherness.

Somehow, love, sex, sexuality, and gender have become one all-encompassing concept to the religious right. And they’re going to have one hell of a time extricating themselves from that because by relating it all in such simplistic terms, they’ve woven a web that they can’t easily take apart.

Oh yeah. What does Huckabee stand for? Frankly, the same crap that just about every other far right conservative does. Read up on the others and you’ll get a feel for it. In the meantime, realize that he, and most like him believe that marriage is only about sex.


2016 Quick Candidate Profile – Lincoln Chafee

Finally, we’ve got a one-time Republican to counter the looks and general tone of Bernie Sanders (who I’m actually falling in love with, by the way). I mean, just look at that hairdo!

Enjoy this one, folks. Everything about this run is funny, so we’ll give it the tone it deserves.

Presented for your consideration, we have LIncoln Chafee, former governor of Rhode Island, a state that probably 75 percent of the public couldn’t locate even if they were told what states it’s next to. Thankfully, as governor of a mostly overlooked state, Chafee is also mostly overlooked, which apparently means that he needs to say some fairly crazy stuff to get attention.

And he did, which I guess proves the point.

First off, he announced that he’s running as a Democrat. Which is probably a shrewd move since he was at one time a liberal Republican (stop laughing!) and since he’d only have to debate a handful of other people instead of the twenty or so currently in the logjam that is the Republican list of hopefuls.

Meanwhile,in his campaign launch announcement earlier this week, Chafee told the world and the assembled collection of probably six or so reporters that he wanted to offer “bold” ideas. The top of which appears to be his desire for the United States to fully adopt the metric standard. And what’s even better was his reasoning given at the launch event: the rest of the world has done it, so why shouldn’t we? Oh, and it would be a gesture of goodwill to the world.

Because ISIS would tone things down considerably if we started measuring everything in centimeters, I guess.

Apparently, being governor of Rhode Island doesn’t involve a whole lot of heavy lifting and leads to a lot of crazy, outside-the-box thinking.

And buried somewhere in that lede is his plan to make the US “wage peace” internationally and strengthen the United Nations so it could better handle international conflict on its own.

Can someone please tell me just how the hell this dude got into the Republican party in the first place? Wait, I’ve just been handed this bulletin: he started out as a Republican and has drifted left until he finally passed entirely into the Democratic party just a couple of years ago. I’m sure the pitchforks and torches probably helped move him along.

So while we wish him the best of luck, I don’t think that anyone will be teaching our kids about centimeters and kilograms anytime soon.


2016 Quick Candidate Profile – Carly Fiorina

Carly Fiorina is the quintessential Republican presidential candidate in all but one respect: she’s white, a business leader, fiscal and social conservative, and a woman. There are questions as to whether her candidacy is purely to allow a cleaner attack on Hillary Clinton without the appearance of gender bias, an overall attempt to show diversity by a party widely viewed as being out of touch with woman’s issues, or whether she actually believes she has a chance of winning the nomination.

I’ll admit that the first theory seems the most legitimate since her campaign website is thin on position statements and seems mostly to be a fundraising vehicle, and also since her campaign funds and runs a site dedicated purely to running a negative campaign against Hillary Clinton ( Her twitter feed offers extremely little in the way of political positions as well and mostly highlight television appearances and fundraising and speaking engagements.

Fiorina, to her credit, was the first woman to lead one of the top twenty corporations in the country when she took the CEO job at HP. Prior to that, she was an executive at AT&T and its spin off Lucent. But under her leadership at HP, she orchestrated one of the largest tech mergers in history, acquiring Compaq, and then promptly laying off 30,000 workers. While there is debate over the effectiveness of the merger, HP did gain market share in the PC market, but by killing off the Compaq brand lost a great deal of business contract traction. She was eventually asked to resign by the board of HP who believed her direction for the company was the wrong one.

Left with nothing to do apparently, Fiorina moved on to politics, first as a fundraiser for the RNC, then taking an advisory role in the 2008 presidential campaign of John McCain. This role got her in trouble when she was quoted as saying that VP candidate Sarah Palin was qualified to be VP but not to lead a company and when questioned about the statement followed that up by saying the same thing about McCain.

Undeterred, she then received the Republican nomination for US Senate in 2010, running and losing to incumbent Democrat Barbara Boxer. That loss ended her political career until she announced her candidacy for President earlier this year.

She graduated from Stanford with degrees in philosophy and medieval history, and like everyone else who gets undergrad degrees in virtually useless fields and doesn’t get a job as a professor, she pursued her MBA, kickstarting her career as a business executive.

As I mentioned, her website offers few position statements, but the few statements she has made recently and in the past show that she opposes abortion and same-sex marriage, and believes global warming is a serious issue, but that the science needs to be examined. She supports a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants if the finish college or serve in the military, and has opposed the federal stimulus and supports cutting federal worker pay.

She does deserve credit for helping forward a couple of causes due to her personal circumstances: her daughter died as the result of drug addiction, causing her to support the decriminalization of drug addiction and abuse. In addition she helped raise awareness of breast cancer as a result of her own fight against the disease during her 2010 Senate campaign.


2016 Quick Candidate Profile – Marco Rubio

We continue our tour of the wingnut side of the Republican party with a stop to take a look at Marco Rubio.

Rubio is a freshman senator from Miami, proving yet again that apparently every argument against Barack Obama as a candidate (his lack of experience) was total disingenuous crap. Rubio the second candidate with Cuban roots and is brought forth to us by one of the wackiest political states in the nation and home of the infamous hanging chads.

He’s a fan of smaller government, having supported a bill that would have left 10% of government positions unfilled through attrition. And yet, his argument against the sequestration bill was that defense spending should not have been linked to such a plan.

Representing the far right of the party, he’s obviously anti-abortion, against gay marriage, opposed to gun control, and voted against the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act primarily based on the grounds that the money would be taken from other domestic violence and state-operated crime-fighting funding.

He’s pro-flat tax, opposes the capital gains tax (saying it’s taxing the same dollars twice), and opposes an increased minimum wage in favor of a kind of convoluted plan to offer tax breaks to certain low-wage earners working in qualifying low-wage jobs…Because he doesn’t seem to understand that you can’t live on $18,000 any more, let alone support a family.

Rubio is not the rabble-rouser that Ted Cruz or Rand Paul are, but that probably doesn’t make him much more palatable to the power-controlling centrists of the party leadership. But what is interesting is that his views are fairly similar to both Cruz and Paul, which will make for some interesting debates between the Republican candidates, and curious decisions to be made by the primary voters. Because if nothing else, we’ve seen that the Republicans have proven themselves to be particularly adept at ripping their party apart lately.




2016 Quick Candidate Profile – Hillary Clinton

We’ve come to know her and love (or hate) her. She’s been an inextricable part of American politics for nearly 25 years, and has held just about every job besides dog catcher and president. And after all that time as First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton is the proverbial elephant in the presidential election room: everyone knows she’s there, but does anyone dare acknowledge her?

She’s been the person everyone loves to hate at just about every job she’s held, but I don’t think anyone can question her capabilities. After a rough start (anyone else remember the cookie joke during the 1992 election?), she became an active First Lady, helping push what Barbara Bush began in making the role less about appearance and more about substance. Wonks and even the electorate questioned whether she could be an effective Senator for a state she hadn’t lived in for very long, and yet she quickly and quietly used her name and reputation to serve effectively. And while there have been issues during her time as Secretary of State, I don’t think anyone could say she wasn’t a well-respected representative of this nation.

The bonus is that she knows how to run an email server in her home. There’s a skill we’ve never had from any prior President.

She’s been a radical, a lawyer, a feminist, a professional, a mother, and a centrist. She’s known for being outspoken and for her pantsuits. And remarkably, in a business rife with people tearing down others, she has never even begun to crack under whatever political pressures are brought unto her. Though to be fair, she’s had more than her share of large-scale controversies dog her.

So heading into the 2016 campaign, she’s the presumptive Democratic nominee at least in part because she has become such a strong political figure. Now she just needs to run a better campaign than she ran in 2008, when she really should never have been out-run by Barack Obama.

Clinton has supported the Affordable Care Act, after watching her own health care reform plan fail in 1993.

She initially supported the Iraq invasion and later the invasion of Afghanistan, but then opposed troop build ups in Iraq, but as Secretary of State, supported and argued for a build up in Afghanistan.

She’s a supporter of same-sex marriage, abortion rights, and other women’s health issues. As First Lady, she was involved in a committee that helped recognize Gulf War Syndrome, later identified as part of the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder spectrum.

She has changed her views on a few issues, but more from a pragmatic position than one of trying to chase votes or popularity. This has been particularly true during her time as Secretary of State, when she both represented the Obama administration, but also spoke out against some of the policies when she found them to be a problem.

From here on out, unless the Democrats offer up any real alternatives, you can assume that all Republicans will be running against her. Which may just strengthen her case.


2016 Quick Candidate Profile – Rand Paul

Libertarianism is, at its heart, focused on the freedoms and liberties of individuals to live their lives unencumbered by governmental interference. It’s a fine ideal, but the reality is that it’s impossible to achieve in its total form in any society: government exists to impose order while providing services that no one else would provide.

Enter Rand Paul, the son of perhaps the best practitioner of libertarianism there is, Ron Paul. Yet somehow, he has come up with the Tea Party, probably thanks to some of his more extremist views. So yes, while Ron Paul was a wingnut sometimes, he was a well reasoned wingnut.

Rand Paul is an Ophthalmologist by training, after quitting Baylor before completing his undergraduate work, but attended Duke Medical School. So yes, the eyes have it…

Paul is a third-term congressman who opposes gun control, and opposes large portions of the Patriot Act. He’s pro-life, and is against same-sex marriage, but believes it should be determined at the state level. In fact, states’ rights are a big deal in his book, as he also opposes federal land grabs from the states.

He’s in favor of a balanced budget amendment, elimination of the Federal Reserve Bank, and supports a flat tax on individuals and corporations. He has voted against raising the debt ceiling, and even proposed cutting over $500 billion from the federal budget in one year by severely cutting the budgets of the Department of Education and Homeland Security, rolling the Department of Education into the Defense Department, and eliminating HUD and international aid payments. And that was all in his first year in Congress.

Oddly though, he supports American military intervention abroad and blames Iraq War detractors for causing the current violence in that country.

What’s particularly curious about his candidacy as opposed in particular to those of most other Republican candidates, is that he’s attracted a very large and young activist base of supporters. While Ron Paul has been around Republican politics since the ’80s, he was always considered to be part of the lunatic fringe. But Rand, with a decisively more radical tone, has been elevating his national profile and attracting those who appear to be the conservative disenfranchised.

With the way the Republican field is rapidly filling up, his higher profile will probably help raise his performance, but as with all of the fringe candidates, he shouldn’t be able to carry the base.


2016 Quick Candidate Profile – Ted Cruz

This time around we’re profiling the first Republican to fling his hat into the overcrowded ring, Ted Cruz.

Cruz is the Canadian-born, Cuban-American Tea Party-aligned freshman senator from Texas, all of which, while it represents a mouthful of weird, is fully representative of everything he seems to be: a contradiction. His father fought with Fidel Castro in the revolution, and Cruz himself studied public policy at Princeton and law at (where else?) Harvard. And up until almost two years ago when it was pointed out to him by a Dallas newspaper, he held dual citizenship in Canada and the United States.

We’ve all seen his over-the-top performances, including his most famous performance in the 21-hour solo filibuster attempt to block a funding bill in 2013 which eventually led to a government shutdown. But where does he stand on other issues?

He’s flip-flopped on his position on American involvement in Syria, initially saying we had no role in the civil war, but changed his view only after ISIS emerged and started taking over portions of the country.

Not surprisingly, he supports voter ID laws, gun rights, and unlimited campaign contributions, but thankfully he introduced a law to forbid the use of drones to kill U.S. citizens within within the U.S. Sadly, this much-needed legislation seems to have died on the vine shortly after its introduction.

He’s pro-life, pro-flat tax, but is anti-same-sex marriage, to the point where he chastised the Republican mayor of Dallas for twice participating in gay pride parades because you shouldn’t be supporting that anyway. But he does believe that states should be allowed to decide for themselves whether or not to allow same-sex marriage.

He has said himself that his foreign policy stance lies somewhere between isolationism and active interventionism, which seems to indicate he has no clue what he believes on a broad scale, just that he’ll make it up as he goes along. Which I think was basically the George W. Bush foreign policy.

Oddly enough, there are no calls for a “birther” type investigation to his true birthplace, and it should be pointed out that prior to running for president, Barack Obama had more legislative and congressional experience than Ted Cruz does. But hey, leadership experience isn’t important, right? As for other experience, he’s been a law clerk, a lawyer, a solicitor general, and, well, a lawyer. Oh, and he advised George W. Bush’s campaign on domestic policy.

So there you have it: Ted Cruz. Candidate for President.


2016 Quick Candidate Profile – Bernie Sanders

This post begins an experiment at Lathropworld, as we inaugurate a blog devoted entirely to politics. In addition, this post begins what I’m sure will prove to be a very popular feature of quick profiles of all of the presidential candidates for 2016. We’ll try to jump on them as they crawl out of the woodwork to help you at least get to know them, if not forming an overly critical opinion of them.

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) threw his hat in the Democratic presidential ring last week, positioning himself as a party outsider and independent thinker, both of which may very well be true, especially if you go by his often disheveled hairdo.

The only announced major candidate so far to be a self-professed democratic socialist, Sanders’ campaign is being launched apparently mostly because he’s mad as hell and he’s not going to take it anymore, as stated in his campaign kick-off speech, he highlighted income disparity and campaign finance reform as being two of his major issues.

However, finding position statements for his presidential campaign is a bit tricky right now as his website is just a landing page with an email form to join the campaign and a date of 5/26/2015 for when the campaign is coming.

That being said, diving into his past positions is relatively easy because the man has not waffled much if at all.

He was part of the civil rights movement in Chicago in the 1960s. He’s one of a very few people to vote against the 2003 invasion of Iraq. He has supported environmental laws for decades, supports a single-payer health care system, is pro-choice, an advocate of LGBT rights and same-sex marriage, and co-wrote a bill with John McCain to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs. He has also proposed a moratorium on the construction of new nuclear power plants after the Fukushima meltdown.

As an independent, he has voted with both parties on issues, but mostly aligns with the Democratic caucus. However, he seems to have friends on both sides of the aisle that he has worked with over the years.

But heading into this campaign, he has stated that campaign finance laws basically allow elections to be bought by big givers, so he has vowed to not accept Super PAC contributions, and will only accept contributions from individuals.

So let’s all welcome Bernie Sanders to the big 2016 presidential election party!