Monday, August 10, 2015

First Impressions

We are still nearly fifteen months out from the presidential election. But we’re only half a year out from the primaries. Four years ago the debates started in May, and there were far too many (twenty). So let’s consider the process less painful this time.

There are people who look at the political process as a sporting event. It’s a contest in popularity and strategy, rather than a civic duty to find and support the best leadership our United States of America can find. I don’t enjoy the game. I understand what’s at stake.

I don’t believe the election can solve all of America’s problems, particularly those caused since the election of 2008. But I am aware that solutions will be prevented if we don’t get someone in who boldly goes where no one has gone—since probably Calvin Coolidge, with some reprieve during Reagan. We need someone who understands and loves the Constitution, and believes in the principles that lead to freedom, prosperity, and civilization.

That’s why I have my favorites already, as well as a list of “I cannot vote for that person.”

GOP Candidates at last Monday's forum
There was a pre-debate last Monday, a short interview format, with eleven of the candidates. There are so many candidates this time, it’s helpful to get an introduction. For the record, here’s the list (in alphabetical order). Only ten were allowed to participate in the official first debate on Thursday; I’ve listed the amount of speaking time each got in that debate, and we’ll talk about that later.

·         Jeb Bush                      8:48
·         Ben Carson                  6:46
·         Chris Christie               6:24
·         Ted Cruz                      6:46
·         Carly Fiorina
·         Jim Gilmore
·         Lindsey Graham
·         Mike Huckabee             6:42
·         Bobby Jindal
·         John Kasich                 6:52
·         George Pataki
·         Rand Paul                      5:28
·         Rick Perry
·         Marco Rubio                6:49
·         Rick Santorum
·         Donald Trump             11:14
·         Scott Walker                5:45

The additional seven participated in a pre-debate second-tier debate. Normally you’d look at the second tier as having no chance. However, the lowest polling 2-3 who made the prime-time debate were practically arbitrary, so doing well in the pre-debate could change the lineup for next time.

Second-tier pre-debate

That is particularly true for Carly Fiorina, who shone in the pre-debate, and who capitalized on that with a good interview following the regular debate. (She was also on fire in Monday’ forum.) And it could also boost Rick Perry, who did well, as those of us familiar with him expect.

So, about the time in the debate. I was watching with son Political Sphere and his wife, and working around getting kids to bed and read to, and other life essentials. In the comings and goings, I was annoyed that we kept hearing from Donald Trump, and it seemed like a half hour or more since we’d heard from Ted Cruz. Supposedly, each candidate was to get the same number of minutes. That wasn’t what we were seeing.

So I wasn’t surprised to hear afterward that there was indeed a disparity. But the clock wasn’t just unfair to Cruz. Trump got about 4 ½ minutes longer than Cruz, but he got far more than anyone. The closest was Jeb Bush, who got 2 ½ minutes less than Trump. Everyone else got 4 ½ minutes less or beyond. Rand Paul was slighted by almost 6 minutes; Trump doubled his time.

Speaking times at the first GOP debate

But time on stage didn’t exactly equate with advantage.

We’ve waited a long time to have non-liberal media run the GOP debates. We didn’t expect softball questions; we wanted valuable information. Maybe we got that in spite of some of the questions. But, particularly with Trump, the questions worked to reveal who these people are.

Trump showed himself to be brash, bullying, self-approving, arrogant. Sure, he’s smart—at least in business. He has said frequently enough that he has bought and paid for politicians (that’s an explanation for why he had donated to the Clintons and others).

He was asked directly when he became a Republican. I was interested in that, because when he declared his candidacy—that was when I became aware that he thought of himself as a Republican. He has previously stated support for single-payer healthcare. He used to favor abortion. Suddenly he’s supposed to have all the beliefs of the conservatives? He didn’t answer the turning-point question. We don’t know how he voted in the last several presidential elections, or primaries (or if he even voted in primaries).

He could have capitalized on such an answer, but he didn’t. In fact, he’s spent the days following the debate complaining about Fox News, and about Megyn Kelly in particular, as ganging up on him with all the wrong questions. If he can’t come up with a clear answer to a Fox News question, how is he going to handle the various alphabet liberal news outlets, who will control the message during the post-primary?

News to Trump supporters (if such exist among actual primary-voting Republicans): Trump said nothing at the debate that he hadn’t been saying all along. He has brought attention to the porous border, using brash and crass soundbites. With more clarity and specifics, most of the other candidates have been as strong on border security. Unlike most of the others, Trump fails to mention the Constitution, even to refer to it as a guide. His guide is his gut, which he trusts implicitly.

We are still experiencing the disaster of a president who ignores the Constitution and goes by whatever his gut tells him to do—and accuses any dissenters of hatred, bigotry, bitter clinging, and stupidity. We don’t need another arrogant narcissist in the White House.

I have assumed, up to this point, that Trump is only in the news because he has bought the coverage, and happens to be good at self-promotion. Whatever the polls say, I have not met a single Republican who supports him. I’ve heard a few supporters call in on radio, but I haven’t met any. Not one.

This is Texas, where we have alternatives. Rick Perry was an excellent governor, and deserves more consideration that the news is giving him. If he were the candidate, I would gladly support him. But he’s not my favorite.

Because we have Ted Cruz.

Cruz used his time well in the debate. In fact, for every minute he was given, he probably went up a point in the polls—while for every minute Trump got, he dropped a point or two in polls (depending on where you look; we still don’t have a poll of likely GOP primary voters).

Cruz was given the question about what God is telling him to do. It was intended to be a loaded question. Yes, he appeals to religious conservatives. He’s the son of a preacher, and strongly religious. He lives it. But the question was aimed at making him claim that God talks to him personally—which is intended to make him, or any religious candidate, look delusional. But he handled it brilliantly. God speaks through the scriptures, and he reads God’s word every day. Then he told the story of life turnaround of his father, who had been a drunkard who left Cruz and his mother. But when he found the gospel of Christ, he turned his life around, went back to his family, and turned his life over to God. It’s a vivid and inarguable example of the positives that belief in God can do.

Then he used his final comments to list, very directly, whathe will do the first day in office:

If I’m elected president, let me tell you about my first day in office. The first thing I intend to do is to rescind every illegal and unconstitutional executive action taken by Barack Obama.
The next thing I intend to do is instruct the Department of Justice to open an investigation into these videos and to prosecute Planned Parenthood for any criminal violations.
The next thing I intend to do is instruct the Department of Justice and the IRS to stop persecuting religious liberty.
And I then intend to cancel the Iran deal and, finally, move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
I will keep my word. My father fled Cuba, and I will fight to defend liberty because my family knows what it’s like to lose it.
In case you missed the connection, that’s what God tells him to do. That happens to coincide with what God tells me ought to be done. As a beginning.

Sometimes Rand Paul gets away with being the Constitutional expert. But Cruz had the Constitution memorized as a teen; he spoke on it possibly hundreds of times. He has defended the Constitution before the Supreme Court a number of times—all successful.

Those who claim Donald Trump is their guy because he’s bold enough to speak the truth—they haven’t been listening carefully. Trump has been playing political games for decades, buying influence. He’s good with PR; he’s good at getting attention. But he’s saying what will get coverage, not how we will get back to the Constitution. Trump is the most political being in the field, and happens to embody the caricature the media and liberals have of Republicans. Real Republicans are nothing like him.

But if you want a bold truth speaker—Ted Cruz will appeal to you. I assert that those who know Cruz and are for him would not vote for Trump as their candidate. But those who have so far been attracted to Trump  for “truth speaking” will find Cruz a much better example of what they’re looking for.

Seventeen candidates is too many. Just a few observations.

Like I said, I cannot foresee any scenario in which I would vote for Trump. I voted against Obama in 2008 by holding my nose and voting for McCain. But the country is so far gone now, I would not bother to cast a presidential vote if it were between Clinton (or any other socialist Democrat) and Trump.

Nor do I foresee any way I would vote for Jeb Bush. I thought he was a decent governor of Florida. There was a time that I thought he might be the true conservative among the Bushes. But his support of Common Core lost me. He tries to back off now, but he skirts the issue. Nor does he stand strong on border security and obeying and sustaining the laws. It’s not that nuanced an issue. As Cruz says: legal immigration good; illegal immigration bad.

I also will not vote for Mike Huckabee. He is a good speaker, and often messages the conservative viewpoint well. But I do not believe he is a man of integrity. I hold him personally responsible for gifting us with McCain in 2008 (his shenanigans led to the movement from Romney leading in West Virginia caucus to McCain winning the state’s primary, which was a turning point in the campaign).

And Huckabee has attacked my religion (Romney’s religion) in an underhanded way, implying that we believe Christ and Satan were good buddies and playmates prior to life here on earth. What we believe is that we were all spirit children of Heavenly Father before we were born here on the earth. It’s not that strange a belief (William Wordsworth and John Milton describe similar beliefs). But he twisted it to make Mormonism seem weird, particularly to his evangelical listeners. And it was reticence to accept a Mormon as a good Christian person that led to lack of support of Romney again in 2012. Romney was and is a man of integrity; I do not believe Huckabee is.

The claim following 2012 was that Romney was too moderate, but in fact he was then and always has been more conservative than Huckabee and most of the rest of the field. The only thing Romney lacked was the boldness of speech and continual reference to the Constitution that we are getting from Cruz.

There are a few candidates I would like to see get more attention. Governor Bobby Jindal is one. The turnaround in Louisiana—from corrupt and poverty-stricken liberal-led backwater, to successful thriving state—is nothing short of miraculous. It is a microcosm of the change we need to see at the national level. He doesn’t get attention because he is low-key and soft-spoken, pretty much the opposite of Trump. Or Obama. Following a shooting in Louisiana recently, he immediately flew to meet the family and offer condolences in person. Without media fanfare. I believe he is a good man and an excellent leader who should be more highly considered.

Carly Fiorina is impressive. I was looking at her when she ran for Senate in California. She didn’t succeed, and my memory is tickling that there were things I disagreed with her on. But whatever that may have been, she’s not saying those things now. I would favor her as a VP pick.

I’m still looking at Scott Walker. He’s young enough, however, that maybe this isn’t his time, and he’s doing good work where he is.

I’ve been wary of Marco Rubio since a false step on immigration a year or so ago. However, if he can be repaired on that issue, he is otherwise reasonable, smart, and reliable. His voice is worth hearing in the race.

I enjoy hearing Chris Christie talk. He’s entertaining. There’s more good about him than people have claimed, since his buddying up with Obama during his state’s disaster. But he’s not reliably conservative and Constitution loving. So, keep him working on New Jersey.

Ben Carson is an interesting man, and a calm voice of reason. But he doesn’t understand the Constitution well enough, or understand the workings of government well enough, to trust with the leadership of the country under these dire circumstances.

I have no idea why several are running. Lindsey Graham has virtually no support, and is not a good example of a conservative. It is a mystery to me why John Kasich is in the race—in the upper ten. Do we want a moderate governor of a liberal state—who does not have the stellar business record, or the Olympics, or the perfect family priorities of the more conservative Romney? That would go better than 2012?

I used to like Rick Santorum. But he hasn’t succeeded in leadership in more than a decade. And he showed himself to be negative in the last go-round. A good man, but I don’t think he’s right for the presidency.

I’m unaware of Jim Gilmore, except that he’s the former Governor of Virginia. George Pataki may be familiar to New Yorkers, but he does not speak to me here in Texas.

So, let’s hear a lot more from Cruz. And give more voice to Jindal, Perry, Fiorina, Walker, and Rubio. And let’s ignore any media that tries to cram Trump or Bush down our throats. And very soon, the wannabees who shouldn’t be in the race ought to bow out.

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