Comrades in Arms

Enough about Trump for now. How about that other race on the Democrat side? What do we have there? On the one hand, we have a failed secretary of state who is as corrupt as . . . well . . . her husband. She is being challenged by a 70+ avowed socialist who wants to make everything “free.” What a duo.

Dragging

Let’s be honest here. It’s not really a contest between one socialist and a liberal; it’s one avowed socialist, Bernie Sanders, and another socialist, Hillary Clinton, who tries to hide the fact. They are, in truth, comrades in arms philosophically:

Comrades

So when it comes to philosophy, there’s not much difference. On the practical side, the distinction is that Sanders is true blue in his philosophy whereas Clinton rakes in the money from Wall Street while bashing Wall Street simultaneously.

Polls show that Democrat voters (both alive and dead) are drifting toward Sanders, perhaps because they perceive him as being the “pure” candidate. The Iowa caucus result, if it proves anything, shows he is a threat to Clinton. In a state where she should have run away with a victory, it was a virtual tie. Sanders is far ahead in the New Hampshire polling.

Both claim to be the eventual winner, but what kind of a win might that be?

Winners

In Iowa, they battled to a tie in six caucus locations. How did the Democrat officials determine who won? They tossed a coin. In all six instances, Clinton won the coin toss. The odds of that, I’m told, are highly improbable. Did the Sanders people inspect those coins beforehand? What? A Clinton devotee might cheat? Perish the thought. She and her people are above reproach. If you don’t think so, just ask them. Surely her history doesn’t reveal any integrity issues, right?

Great Victory

As a nation, though, perhaps we’re used to scandalous coin tosses leading to calamitous results:

Coin Toss

If we end up with a Clinton or Sanders presidency (slight pause here while I meditate on that horrid thought), we can expect more of what we have experienced the past seven years.

The Twitterer-in-Chief Demands a “Do-Over”

I had planned to write today about the results of the Democrat caucus in Iowa, the one where Hillary declared victory over Bernie Sanders by virtue of six miraculous coin tosses. Well, that was the plan.

Donald Trump 3Then Donald Trump did what he does best, thrusting himself back into the limelight. After slightly more than 24 hours of relative silence in which the electorate was lulled into the illusion that he had accepted the judgment of Republican caucus-goers, he unleashed a barrage of tweets accusing Ted Cruz of having stolen the victory from him.

The Twitterer-in-Chief is now demanding that the results of the caucus be nullified and another vote be taken. That’s patent nonsense, of course. Nothing is going to be nullified; there will not be a “do-over” for Trump’s sake.

What has so ruffled Trump this time? What is behind his assertion that Cruz deliberately stole a Trump victory?

Here are the facts as I have been able to ascertain them:

  • During the caucus, a Ben Carson staffer, innocently I’m sure, gave out a garbled message about what Carson would be doing. He would not be going to New Hampshire at this time but would be returning to Florida, then go to DC for the National Prayer Breakfast.
  • CNN then ran with this message, interpreting it as a signal from the Carson campaign that he was on the verge of dropping out of the race. I’ve viewed the video of the CNN talking heads. They definitely gave that impression.
  • Someone in the Cruz campaign picked up on CNN’s false report and began to spread the word, urging Carson backers to now switch their vote to Cruz.
  • The Carson people then strenuously denied that he was leaving the race and blamed the Cruz people of deliberately misleading voters.
  • When the dust cleared, Cruz publicly apologized to Carson for what had happened, saying it was not anything his campaign had orchestrated but was an inadvertent slip-up.

Enter the sound and fury of Donald Trump. Again. As always. It’s all he ever has to offer.

Cruz won, he asserted, because of this illegal ploy. He had to remove that first tweet because of the word illegal—it could have led to legal trouble for him. But he didn’t back down. Because of what happened, he thundered, Cruz got enough Carson voters to deny Trump his deserved win.

After all, Trump is a winner. He never loses. If you don’t think so, just ask him. The only way he could ever lose is by trickery, deceit, and an outright conspiracy.

Here’s what I think about this episode:

  • First, someone in the Carson campaign has to take the blame for an ambiguous message that could be misinterpreted. In fact, one reporter questioned Carson yesterday on that very point, but Carson wouldn’t acknowledge the role of his own staffer in starting this mess.
  • Second, the main culprit here is CNN, running with a non-story and leading viewers to believe the Carson campaign was over. As Bill O’Reilly commented last night about this, CNN demonstrated extremely sloppy journalism. Neither have they apologized for the false reporting.
  • Third, those in the Cruz campaign who picked up on the false story were too quick to try to capitalize on it. They should have gone to greater lengths to verify it before using it to attempt to get Carson voters to switch.
  • Finally, regardless of the mess, neither Carson nor Cruz should have to fire anyone. Carson’s person never intended to mislead; Cruz’s followers were too quick to take advantage of the report. But there was nothing illegal, criminal, or dastardly in what they did. It was bad judgment.
  • Here’s another “finally”: Trump would not have won regardless. He was out-organized by the Cruz team. It was a well-earned victory.

Trump also said that the reason we can’t believe anything Cruz says is because he was born in Canada. *Sigh*

I’m coming to the view that Donald Trump exhibits a particular strain of emotional instability that would be disastrous in the presidency. His constant stream of invective toward anyone who crosses him or who exposes his hubris should be a worry for his erstwhile supporters. Should a president resort to a continual assault of Twitter taunts and accusations? How presidential is that? What does this say about his character?

I’m also getting closer to believing that if he loses the nomination, Trump, to salve his bruised ego, will bolt the Republican party (as he has done a few times in the past) and run an independent campaign. If that happens, the false conservatism he is trying to display now to win Republican voters, will disappear, and he will say what he really thinks about policy, which will be decidedly liberal.

Donald Trump is a train wreck waiting to happen. If the Republican party attaches itself to him, it will be seriously damaged when that wreck occurs.

Iowa Lessons

What does Ted Cruz’s Iowa win mean? What are his prospects going forward?

Cruz Iowa Caucus

First, Cruz’s top finish tore up the conventional wisdom on a few fronts. In a state dependent on ethanol subsidies, he stood firm against them and won anyway. Lesson: you don’t have to change your principles to get votes.

Second, the record turnout was supposed to benefit Trump; instead, Cruz beat him by four points and received the largest number of votes in the history of the Republican Iowa caucus.

Third, organization trumps (sorry about that) media glitz and big rallies. Celebrity does not equate to victory.

Fourth, personal pique that leads one to withdraw from a debate will not endear one to voters. Trump hurt himself badly with his arrogant decision to avoid being questioned by Megyn Kelly.

Going Home

Of course, an Iowa win doesn’t carry over to a state like New Hampshire, which is next in line. Cruz benefited from the large number of evangelicals who attended the caucus, estimated to have comprised 64% of all caucus-goers. New Hampshire is more secular. At this point, no one expects him to win in the state, but they are looking to see if Iowa provides enough of a bump that he will do better than expected.

Another factor in New Hampshire is that one doesn’t have to register as a Republican to vote in the Republican primary. I have never understood the logic of that. It should be the committed Republicans who choose their own nominee, not voters who don’t plan to vote for the Republican in the general election.

What will New Hampshire do? Will the Iowa results make them rethink the support Trump seems to have in the latest polls? Or will they be swayed more by his rhetoric of getting things done?

Need a President

I think we’ve been down that road already. How’s that working out?

The Campaign Begins

No primaries have taken place yet, but everyone knows the 2016 campaign has begun. Over the weekend in Iowa, where the first test will occur about this time next year, a parade of Republican presidential hopefuls took to the stage at the Freedom Summit to share their vision for what America should be and how they would handle the transition away from the Age of Obama.

Scott Walker Freedom SummitAccording to the reports I’ve read, the two standouts from the event, which was largely attended by the most conservative of the Republican electorate, were Texas senator Ted Cruz and Wisconsin governor Scott Walker. Everyone expected Cruz to go over well with the crowd; they didn’t know what to predict about Walker. Yet the courageous governor, who has made reform after reform in a state that isn’t known for its conservative politics, and who survived a recall election as well as winning re-election, surprised many. He was both forceful and personable.

Some who were calling Walker the Dark Horse of this campaign are thinking he may be in the top tier after all. This is all very early, of course, so all prognostications are tentative. Everyone realizes that just one misstep can spell disaster for any candidate. Ask former Texas governor Rick Perry about that.

Two notable no-shows for the event were Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush. You can judge whether that was smart or not.

On the Democrat side, however, there is no race whatsoever. Yes, Joe Biden makes noises occasionally; Elizabeth Warren, senator from Massachusetts with virtually no government experience, is the darling of the radical radicals (I use that term because it’s really rather difficult to distinguish anymore the difference on the Left), but I don’t see that happening. Do you think the rest of the country might also hesitate to put another inexperienced person at the helm after what we’ve seen the last 8 years?

So, barring a physical problem (and some have speculated there may be one), Hillary Clinton will be the Democrat candidate.

Old Maid

One could say she’s experienced, to be sure. But how successful has she been? Her chief claim to fame, while not necessarily a claim to competence, is that she was First Lady during her husband’s reign. But what did she really accomplish in that role? It’s hard not to acknowledge the only reason she has the press she does is because of who she is married to.

As a senator, no one can point to any landmark legislation she championed, and again, the reason she even won that seat was due to Bill Clinton’s coattails among Democrats.

Then there was her stint as secretary of state, with the infamous “reset” button with Russia and the whole Benghazi fiasco, blaming it on an internet video and sending the poor man who made it to prison. What a sterling resumé.

King of Hill

Then there’s her laughable comment that she and Bill were broke when they left the White House. She’s also expressed deep concern for income inequality while simultaneously raking in huge amounts herself for paltry speeches.

Hillary Income Inequality

If universities complaining about costs want to pay her those princely sums, that’s their call, but it’s pretty foolish.

Already the polls show she is far ahead of any Republican challenger in a general election. That, though, is primarily a name-recognition factor. She’s shown in the past she can be a terrible campaigner. If Republicans choose, for once, a strong, articulate candidate who stands on principle, that fluffy lead can vanish. And if the electorate doesn’t lose its mind again, there is hope.

President Hillary Clinton (you don’t know hard that was to write) is not inevitable.

Choose a Standard-Bearer Who Has Integrity . . . Please

So much happened in the campaigns yesterday that I’m postponing more commentary on Santorum’s book for one day. Part of what happened, of course, deals with Santorum. Iowa had to reverse itself on who won the caucuses. It seems that Santorum is the winner by 35 votes. There remains confusion about some uncounted precincts, but apparently they won’t be included. This means Romney is not on the roll he and the media had proclaimed he was.

All you ever heard was that Romney, after winning Iowa and New Hampshire, was the inevitable nominee. This changes that scenario. Some may say that it’s only 35 votes, so it’s no big deal that Santorum won. Well, Romney’s “win” was a mere eight votes. Which is better? What’s fascinating is that the Romney people decided to call Iowa a tie. That’s not the rhetoric they used when they thought they had a victory there. Santorum isn’t having any of that—he has declared victory, a fact finally acknowledged by Romney later in the day and announced at the CNN debate last night. So it’s recognized as official.

What will this do for Santorum in South Carolina? That remains to be seen. But another factor in his favor that may raise his vote total is his performance at the debate. He was strong; much better than the last time. In fact, commentators on the National Review and Townhall websites gave the win to Santorum in the debate, which is the first time they’ve ever done that. Now, will that double bit of good news, along with some high-profile evangelical endorsements [the 150 leaders who met in Houston last weekend; Gary Bauer; James Dobson] help his cause? The latest polls show him lagging. The voting is Saturday, so there’s not much time to make up the ground. Yet, all in all, yesterday was a great day for Santorum.

It wasn’t so great for Perry and Gingrich, though. Perry held a news conference and dropped his bid for the White House. He finally bowed to reality. The unfortunate part of his departure for me, however, was his endorsement of Gingrich. As a sincere Christian, I hoped Perry would put his weight behind Santorum. But a poll of his supporters shows that they are about evenly divided as to whom they will support—22% Romney, 20% Gingrich and Santorum, so I’m not sure Perry’s endorsement meant a lot.

That was probably the only good news for Gingrich yesterday. His past has come back to haunt him again. His ex-wife taped an interview with ABC’s Nightline that highlighted his hypocrisy and venality in their relationship. How much can one believe from an ex-wife who was embittered by the way a marriage ended? I’m not sure, but it throws the limelight on Gingrich’s character once more. She says he approached her with the grand idea of an “open” marriage, in which he would be free to have a mistress on the side. She says she rejected that outrageous request.

The debate opened with CNN moderator John King asking Gingrich about it. Gingrich responded by lecturing King about the propriety of having such questions be part of a presidential debate. He was so indignant in his response that he got the crowd on his side, leading to a standing ovation. He then denied the account his ex-wife gave. While one part of me rejoices to see the mainstream media taken to the cleaners like that—and Gingrich is especially good at doing it—I would not have been part of the standing ovation if I had been there. Why?

I just don’t trust Gingrich’s integrity. I’ve stated before that I believe in forgiveness of sins if there is a genuine repentance before God. Gingrich says he has done that, but as I watch him, I get the uneasy feeling that he’s not being strictly truthful about it. I don’t want to disbelieve him, but there’s just so much in his background—what everyone refers to as his “baggage”—that’s it’s difficult to put it all behind.

I also look ahead to the general election. It would be hard for me to be enthused about a Gingrich candidacy when I have so many nagging, unanswered questions about the man. And you can be sure Obama’s people will take out extremely long knives, many of which will slice deeply. No matter how skilled a debater Gingrich might be, his ability to rally the nation to his side is a long shot.

As a Christian, I want to vote for someone who has undoubted integrity. Even if I might have some disagreements with the candidate on specific means for carrying out his agenda, I at least want to be confident that his heart is for God and for serving the people. At this point, the only one who inspires that kind of confidence in me is Rick Santorum. I seek to vote for someone, not just against Obama.

What will Saturday hold? South Carolina, you gave us John McCain last time. When he won that primary, it was the turning point of the campaign. How did that work out? It’s time to rectify that mistake. Instead of going for another moderate [Romney] or someone who raises more questions about his past and what he will do in the future [Gingrich], how about elevating one who is solid and steady, someone who will carry the banner with honor? I hope the Republican voters in South Carolina will give Santorum the chance to be that standard-bearer.

Foolish Reasoning?

New Hampshire went for Mitt Romney last night. Not exactly a surprise. He owns a home there; he’s pretty much been campaigning there since the 2008 election. And New Hampshire is not Iowa. Approximately 26% of New Hampshire residents have no religious affiliation whatsoever, which is above the national average. Further, the primary process allowed anyone to participate as a Republican, even if just for a day. That’s why Romney could rack up a substantial score, as a number of moderate Democrats undoubtedly crossed the line this time. That also explains Paul’s second-place finish, as he, because of his foreign policy stance, attracted what I call the Dennis Kucinich wing of the Democratic party to his banner.

My concerns about Romney have not been assuaged over time. What concerns?

What is also bothersome is the spin the media places on the win. Due to his razor-thin “win” in Iowa [it more accurately could be called a tie with Santorum] and now his victory in New Hampshire, some are concluding the race is over. I do understand the psychology of that, but it doesn’t necessarily comport with reality. New Hampshire sends a whole twelve delegates to the Republican convention. Twelve. Out of more than two thousand.

Additionally, South Carolina, the site of the next primary, is not New Hampshire. In some ways, it comes closer to resembling Iowa in its perspective. New Hampshire should not, by any stretch of logic, be considered the final say on the nominee.

I continue to believe that Romney could lead the Republican party in an entirely wrong direction should he become the standard-bearer. They’ve tried his type of candidate before—anyone remember President Dole or President McCain? What the party really needs is a stalwart on conservative principles who also can reach out to what have been termed “Reagan Democrats.” I personally believe that person is Rick Santorum.

But the odds are that Republicans will mess it up again by their erroneous assumption that only a moderate can beat Obama. To me, such reasoning is foolishness, and it will hurt them in the long run more than they realize.

Having said all that, I now find myself in the somewhat strange position of defending Romney from some of his critics, namely Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, and Rick Perry. The tack they’ve taken lately—accusing Romney of destroying lives through the company he ran previously—comes right from the Democrat playbook. In fact, some of the rhetoric being used against him aligns more with the Occupy Wall Street Movement/Fiasco than with sound economic principles. This smacks merely of political opportunism, pushing a populist message that they hope will reverse the course of the nomination process in their favor. For Gingrich, there’s also the flavor of revenge for what Romney’s minions did to him in Iowa.

The two candidates who did not pile on with this discreditable ploy were Paul and Santorum. They maintained integrity in this matter.

What’s it going to come down to?

Ultimately, regime change is the goal. I just want it to occur with solid principles and with someone I can trust.

The Santorum Surprise

Eight votes. That’s all that separated Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum once the Iowa caucuses ended. Technically, Romney was the winner, but one has to excuse Santorum for feeling as if he took the prize. Two weeks ago, no one saw this in the making; one week ago, though polls showed a Santorum surge, few could have guessed it would turn out this way.

Even the speeches given by both at the end of a long night marked the contrast: Santorum’s was, as many have commented, inspiring and from the heart, while Romney’s was a rehash of campaign rhetoric. Another factor that impressed me was the way Santorum identified with blue-collar workers because that was his family’s background. The story of his grandfather was Reaganesque, and while nearly every candidate has taken it upon himself or herself to embrace the Reagan mantle, Santorum has come closest to the actual spirit of the 40th president. One of the keys to Reagan’s success was his ability to relate to the so-called “common man.” If Santorum can do the same, he may continue to surprise.

What does this mean for him going forward? The climb to the nomination will be steep regardless of the Iowa infusion of adrenaline. New Hampshire, the first primary state, is Romney territory. Can Santorum build on his momentum and carve out a niche there large enough to keep the buzz alive? It’s then on to South Carolina, whose primary voters are more like Iowa’s than New Hampshire’s. Can he pull out a clear-cut victory in the Palmetto State?

One positive factor for him is the withdrawal of Michele Bachmann from the race. The most conservative candidates—Santorum, Bachmann, and Perry—have split the conservative vote. Now that she is no longer on the ballot, that could help Santorum. Although her numbers were not high in either New Hampshire or South Carolina, even a few more percentage points could make the difference. If Santorum had Bachmann’s 5% in Iowa, he would have run away with the top spot.

It looked like Perry was going to drop out as well, only to surprise even his own team by deciding to move on to South Carolina. That’s too bad. I like Perry, but he has no real chance at getting the nomination. His only contribution now will be to draw votes from Santorum, thereby giving Romney a greater opportunity to stay at the top.

The case with Gingrich is somewhat more complex. He is angry, and that anger is directed at Romney. He already has a full-page ad running in New Hampshire newspapers contrasting his conservatism with Romney’s moderate stance. He’s fighting back. That could re-energize his campaign, which might lower Romney’s numbers, yet it also could detract from Santorum’s, thereby creating a wash and maintaining the status quo.

Ron Paul, meanwhile, by coming in third, will put the best face on the result, but has to be disappointed. So many of the polls had him number one; perhaps his foreign policy views finally caught up with him. As I’ve said before, I wouldn’t feel safe with Paul as commander-in-chief. He doesn’t really grasp the dangers we face from radical Islam. Let’s be honest: he’s more of a libertarian than a Republican. Iowa was his best shot; it will be downhill from this point for him. It’s time to pack it in and reject calls for a third-party candidacy that can only end in the reelection of Obama.

No matter what happens in New Hampshire, the race will not be decided there. Neither do I think South Carolina will serve that purpose. As a Floridian, I’m glad I will be able to participate in a primary with significance later this month. The media may want to call this for Romney at every point along the way, but that will be premature. Keep watching for surprises. I have this feeling there are more in the offing.