Thursday, October 29, 2015

View from Inside

Eventually, here, I’m going to talk about last night’s GOP debate. But to get where I’m going, I need a little context.

In our church we often get told we should be the ones defining who we are—because if we don’t, others will. That’s why there’s so much on the website LDS.org, the many related sites and pages. I think that’s the right decision.

I made the mistake, some years ago, of starting my Sherlock Holmes reading with A Study in Scarlet, which may be an interesting story, but it was offensive to people of my faith, in the extreme, and was at its basic level wildly inaccurate about what we believe. Including what we believed during the time the story was about (late 1800s). The story couldn’t have happened. It isn’t conceivable to someone who knows the truth. Basic assumptions were so far off, I lost all respect for the great detective. I’ve still read several, plus the occasional movie or series. But I know he’s not infallible.

A similar experience happened when I read a Brad Thor book, The Lions of Lucerne, that had a section located in Park City, Utah. An elderly couple gets murdered by terrorists who want to use the couple’s home as a staging area for kidnapping the president. But the couple was Mormon, and several of the circumstances related to that. And because I am an insider, I knew that the things in the story couldn’t have happened. There was a pretty sizable list of errors in the relatively short segment of the book.

Both of the authors had clearly done research. Quite a lot. But they were critically wrong nevertheless.

A couple of weeks ago, Ben Carson’s religion came under scrutiny in the news. He’s a Seventh-Day Adventist. I liked Glenn Beck’s approach to understanding (Glenn Beck Radio, October 22, “A Look into Ben Carson’s Faith.” He went to the source, found a Seventh-Day Adventist spokesperson, had him on his show, so someone on the inside could define their beliefs for those of us wondering, from the outside. It was respectful and fruitful.

It’s hard for someone on the outside to understand how people on the inside think. That’s true for religion. Sometimes it’s true for ethnicity, but that has more to do with culture: how a person is raised, what is their common experience. It’s also true for major ideological belief systems: conservatives, and liberals/progressives/socialists/democrats. There’s not a useful term for that side. That’s why the Spherical Model perspective of southern hemisphere is useful. I’ll go ahead and use that term for them in the rest of this piece.

We watched in last night’s debate a cadre of southern-hemisphere partisan media reveal their disdain—because of their lack of understanding—of the Republican candidates. Their purpose was not to reveal who the candidates were, and what their stands on issues were, or their plans for our country. Their purpose wasn’t even to pit one candidate against another in an ill-advised attempt at increasing their ratings, as we’ve seen in the previous debates (including the disappointing Fox News debate).

Their purpose was to attack each candidate with Democrat party talking points, twisted untruths, sneering innuendos, and outright lies—and then expect the candidate to answer the implied question, “Because we know how awful you are, why don’t you leave the race in shame?”

These moderators are supposedly professional “unbiased” journalists. (Note: in today’s media, the term journalist almost always implies southern-hemisphere bias.) They were supposed to be specialists on the economy. Yet they favor big government, government control, and crony capitalism. They seem unaware that free-market economics works, every time it’s tried, because the data, common sense, and common experience support our side. They’re too ingrained in their own culture to even recognize that a legitimate point of view exists that doesn’t agree with them.

We have had moderator interference before. In fact, as Republicans, we assume that the moderator will be a hard Democrat (i.e., always or nearly always votes straight Democrat in elections). We’re used to that. But it used to be that they tried to hide it. I think Candy Crowley, who stepped in to “correct” Mitt Romney and support Obama in a question, still thinks she was being fair—even though all of us with a transcript or video of what Romney was referring to could prove Romney was right and Obama was obfuscating.

That was about Benghazi, shortly after it happened, in 2012, and shortly before the election. Would the election have gone differently if Romney had been allowed to hold the president accountable? We won’t know.

What I think we’re seeing now, however, is that what should have happened (but Romney was too nice to do) was a rebuttal: “I have memorized the transcript, Ms. Crowley. I am not wrong. And I will thank you to stop interfering in an attempt to favor your candidate.”

Last night we had a candidate who shifted the power from that tyranny-loving media. He organized an opportunity for substantive debate—despite the questions.

Ted Cruz saved the night. And he may have saved future debates from ever repeating that mess. It might get us the opportunity to refuse moderators who do not, and cannot, understand the conservative way of thinking.




I’d like to show the full context of Ted Cruz’s historical moment. So first, we’ll see the question and his full answer. Then we’ll see, side-by-side, what he’s referring to.

Carl Quintanilla: Senator Cruz, Congressional Republicans, Democrats, and the White House are about to strike a compromise that would raise the debt limit, prevent a government shutdown, and calm financial markets that fear another Washington created crisis is on the way. Does your opposition to it show that you’re not the kind of problem solver American voters want?
Ted Cruz: Let me say something at the outset: The questions that have been asked so far in this debate illustrate why the American people don’t trust the media. This is not a cage match. And, you look at the questions: “Donald Trump, are you a comic book villain?” “Ben Carson, can you do math?” “John Kasich, will you insult two people over here?” “Marco Rubio, why don’t you resign?” “Jeb Bush, why have your numbers fallen?”
How about talking about the substantive issues people care about? And Carl, I’m not finished yet. The contrast with the Democratic debate, where every fawning question from the media was, “Which of you is more handsome and wise?” And let me be clear...
CQ: You have 30 seconds left to answer, should you choose to do so.
Ted Cruz: Let me be clear. The men and women on this stage have more ideas, more experience, more common sense, than every participant in the Democratic debate. That debate reflected a debate between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks.
And nobody watching at home believes that any of the moderators has any intention of voting in a Republican Primary. The questions that are being asked shouldn’t be trying to get people to tear into each other. It should be “What are your substantive issues that people want to hear?
CQ: For the record, I asked you about the debt limit, and I got no answer.
Ted Cruz: You want me to answer that question? I’m happy to answer that question.
(The moderators talked over him.)
Ted Cruz: You don’t actually want to hear the answer, John? You don’t want to hear the answer, you just want to give insults?
John Harwood: You used your time. Senator Paul…

Take note that the question asked wasn’t, “What is your approach to the debt limit?” as Villanova claimed. It was “Does your opposition show you’re not the problem solver the American people want?” That is a yes-or-no question, with an assumption of superiority behind it, arranged to be a no-win for the candidate. Ted Cruz recognized it for what it was, recognized the pattern of the evening (this was a half hour into the debate), and recalled multiple examples. Accurately and in order.

The media seems unaware of how extremely bright Ted Cruz is. He has an audiographic memory. He remembers what he hears, word-for-word.

JH to Trump: Is this a comic book version of a presidential campaign?
Cruz: “Donald Trump, are you a comic book villain?”
Becky Quick to Carson: I’ve had a really tough time making the math work on this. You’d have to cut government by about 40% to make it work with a $1 Trillion dollar cut.
Cruz: “Ben Carson, can you do math?”
CQ to Kasich: You said yesterday that you were hearing proposals that were just crazy from your colleagues. Who were you talking about?
Cruz: “John Kasich, will you insult two people over here?”
CQ to Rubio: You’ve been a young man in a hurry ever since you won your first election in your 20s. Why not slow down, get a few more things done first, or at least finish what you start?
Cruz: “Marco Rubio, why don’t you resign?”
JH: Governor Bush, the fact that you’re at the fifth lectern tonight shows how far your stock has fallen in this race, despite the big investment your donors have made.
Cruz: “Jeb Bush, why have your numbers fallen?”
After the first question—“Tell us your greatest weakness,” disallowing “I work too hard” or “I’m a perfectionist,” which is pretty much no-win for the candidates as well, Cruz identified every stabbing question that had been asked up to that point. Without notes.

What happened from there was different. Not that the moderators had improved, but the candidates were now united in a cause—to get out their message. Not just their personal message, although there was that, but the message of conservatism. Fresh ideas, better approaches. Things other than, “Things are still bad, so let’s give more money to government.”

Anyone who claims Cruz is a divider ought to witness what he just accomplished. That is what the real Ted Cruz naturally does.

The candidates had better opportunities to express their ideas in this debate than in any previous. Time per candidate was more even (although Rand Paul yet again got short shrift). Trump didn’t dominate—either time-wise or using his overbearing presence to take over. He was milder, for him. Carly Fiorina got the most time, and she used it well, but she had no breakout moment. There were good moments for every candidate. Marco Rubio and Chris Christie had opportunities to let us see who they really are.

I also watched the pre-debate, including the four lower-tier candidates. As last time, Bobby Jindal was excellent. He could use the exposure the main debate stage shows. He certainly deserves it more than some of the main ten.

Here’s more evidence that the southern-hemisphere media can’t see what the rest of us see. The commentators that came on between the two debates opined that it was Lindsey Graham’s night—that he had more energy than they had ever seen. Even Larry Kudlow, the supposed “conservative” in that group, believed it was a Lindsey Graham win. In our house, we thought Graham had a couple of campaign ending moments, served up with whininess. One of the commentators believed that a couple of Graham soundbites would end up being the news stories of the following day.

They were, of course, wrong. Cruz’s call to talk about the substantive issues was the story of the day.
In the after shows, Cruz suggested to Sean Hannity of Fox that a good panel of debate moderators would be Hannity, Mark Levin, and Rush Limbaugh. I read a headline today that such a panel is being considered (I don’t know how seriously to take that). It would certainly be an improvement. They, at the very least, know what questions would lead to a clear view of what conservatives care about.

Word to Republican Chair Reince Priebus: Stop letting the opponent media define the Republican Party or conservatives. Control the moderator choice first, then offer up the debates to various outlets. If no “mainstream” source picks up something that could rival viewership of major sports events, let C-SPAN do it. Or The Blaze. Or stream live from a GOP website.

Let people a chance to get the information they want, and people will come. People who believe we are heartless, stupid, and bigoted have no business controlling the chance us to show who we really are. 

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