The Cruz-Trump Debate Showdown

The races for the presidential nomination are tightening in both parties. Bernie Sanders is doing surprisingly well against Hillary Clinton. I like what one commentator said about that: “To see her struggling to overcome the challenge from a glowering grouchy grandfather socialist like Bernie Sanders tells us a lot about how far left the Democratic base has drifted.”

On the Republican side, Ted Cruz is now pushing Donald Trump in a way Trump didn’t anticipate; he doesn’t like being behind in a poll, as he now seems to be in Iowa:

Biggest Problem

Trump has spent a lot of time trying to convince Republican voters that everyone else is a “loser,” and that he is the only one who can lift America out of its doldrums. The “loser” meme is getting kind of old:

Losers

So when it looks like he might be the loser, he comes up with a new strategy: claim that Cruz might be ineligible to run because he was born in Canada. Never mind that Cruz’s mom was always an American citizen; ignore that the distinction always has been between someone born to an American citizen and someone who has to go through the naturalization process (which Cruz didn’t have to do); suggest that this could be a huge problem if he becomes the nominee; call for him to have a court decide this.

We have a granddaughter who was born in New Zealand. Her mother—our daughter—is a natural-born American citizen; her father is a naturalized citizen; our granddaughter is considered a natural-born American citizen even though she has never spent one second of her life in the United States. Ted Cruz, except for that brief, transitory period when his father took a job in Canada, has lived in the U.S. all of his life.

There should be no controversy. Trump even acknowledged in the debate last week that he decided to raise the issue because Cruz was coming up in the polls. How crass can you get?

Cruz tore Trump’s argument to shreds in that debate. It was a joy to watch.

Later, Trump got his revenge when Cruz critiqued what he called “New York values.” Now, anyone with even half a brain knew what Cruz meant: that New York in general, and the City in particular, are havens for leftist ideology. When is the last time New York went for a Republican in a presidential race? (Hint: his initials are RR.)

Cruz was quite clear that was what he was talking about. So what did Trump do? He shifted the focus from that leftist ideology that has dominated the state and talked about the way New Yorkers dug out of the rubble of 9/11 and showed great courage in the process.

No one disputes that. It was a clever political ploy, but a ploy nonetheless. It had nothing to do with what Cruz was talking about; rather, it removed the entire context of Cruz’s comments and concentrated on something that had no relation to what he was saying.

In retrospect, Cruz probably should have known Trump might do that. He also probably shouldn’t have singled out New York but the elitist, leftist ideology itself. As a result, Trump had another “victory” in the debate, no matter how deceptive.

What was truly ironic is that he accused Cruz of being insulting, as if the Trump campaign hasn’t revolved around a steady stream of insults for which he never is called to account.

Once you get past the anger Trump has been able to take advantage of, and listen to what he actually says, you discover there is very little “there” there. What we get instead is a healthy helping of hubris, grandiose promises, scanty knowledge of the issues, and a character—based on his previous political/policy views and personal life—that cannot be trusted:

Trump at Debate

Called on by Democrats to apologize for his remarks, here’s what Cruz said in response:

Ted Cruz 2I apologize to the millions of New Yorkers who have been let down by liberal politicians in that state.

I apologize to the hard working men and women of the state of New York who have been denied jobs because Governor Cuomo won’t allow fracking. Even though there had been many high paying jobs just south in Pennsylvania, New Yorkers are denied the ability to provide for their families.

I apologize to all the pro-life and pro-marriage and pro-second amendment New Yorkers who were told by Governor Cuomo that they have no place in New York because that’s not who New Yorkers are.

I apologize to all the small businesses who have been driven out of New York city by crushing taxes and regulations.

I apologize to the millions of unborn children, many African-American and Hispanic, whose lives have been taken by politicians who relentlessly promote abortion on demand with no limitations.

I apologize to all of the African-American children who Mayor de Blasio tried to throw out of their charter schools that were providing a lifeline to the American Dream.

I apologize to the people of New York who are offended when the New York Daily News lambastes anyone who prays for victims of violence.

I apologize to the people of faith who are ridiculed and insulted by the New York media.

And I apologize to all the cops and the firefighters and 9/11 heroes who had no choice but to stand and turn their backs on Mayor de Blasio, because Mayor de Blasio over and over again stands with the looters and criminals rather than the brave men and women of the law.

It was an eloquent “apology,” and one that I wish more Republicans had the courage to issue.

The Hillary Predicament

Hillary Clinton is in trouble, although she continues to laugh off her troubles as some kind of vast right-wing conspiracy. On the purely political front, she’s behind Bernie Sanders in the polls in both Iowa and New Hampshire.

Bernie Sanders??? That has to be humiliating.

The reasons have to do with the lack of enthusiasm by Democrats for someone so flawed to be their candidate. Other polls show that Americans think she is a liar (Benghazi, e-mails, etc.) and her own base considers her a sellout to Wall Street.

So what did she promise to focus on recently? UFOs.

UFOs

Actually, that might be a pressing issue for a certain segment of her base, seeing as how they have a tenuous relationship with reality.

Here’s the reality, though: the FBI has now expanded its investigation into her potential criminal actions via the e-mails and inappropriate use of the Clinton Foundation as a funnel for personal enrichment while serving as secretary of state.

One cartoonist drew a parallel with the news that North Korea had developed an H-bomb.

Other H-Bomb

For the first time, there is serious talk about a possible criminal indictment. If the FBI says she should be indicted, will the Obama Justice Department follow through? Most dismiss the idea, but there isn’t a whole lot of love between the Obama and Clinton devotees. Perhaps they would prefer Sanders as the most ideologically “sound,” from their perspective.

Hillary’s go-to guy, husband Bill, may be too flawed himself to be of much help now. His tawdry past is becoming an issue, as well it should be. Can he really be considered a plus for her this time around?

Break Glass

If she should somehow survive this and Republicans do the unthinkable, this is what we will face in the general election:

Snake Eyes

Not a pretty prospect.

Trump, Integrity, & the Lack Thereof

Donald TrumpNo, Donald Trump is not a racist because he is concerned about illegal immigration. Neither is Donald Trump a fascist because he believes radical mosques ought to receive greater scrutiny. Those are not the reasons I don’t favor him as the Republican nominee for president. I have deeper reasons.

I’ve written before about what I consider to be Trump’s iffy conversion to conservative policy positions, his supreme arrogance with respect to how much money he has, his assurances that all will be right with the world because he’s so good at making “deals,” and his demeaning attitude toward any other candidate who threatens his poll numbers.

I’ve also been put off by his undisciplined manner of speaking that has led to making some truly absurd statements, none of which have yet come back to derail him, but should have.

His latest claim is demonstrably false, yet many of his conservative supporters are making excuses for him once again. Let me quote Trump—his words unaltered—earlier this week:

Hey, I watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down. And I watched in Jersey City, New Jersey, where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down. Thousands of people were cheering.

Now, there certainly were Muslim extremists in America who rejoiced over 9/11. That’s not the point. Trump is claiming that he saw, with his own eyes, “thousands and thousands” in Jersey City “cheering” as the buildings fell.

Only one problem: there is no video of any such rejoicing by those thousands in that city. No Jersey City official can back him up. The current governor, Chris Christie, has no recollection of this. In fact, no one saw it. Why? Maybe it’s because it never occurred. By continuing to insist that it did, Trump has put himself in some rather disreputable company:

That Never Happened

Jim Geraghty of National Review wrote yesterday that when he called Trump out on this falsehood, Trump supporters sent him videos of what they said was evidence of Trump’s truthfulness—Muslims celebrating 9/11. The problem? The videos were of Palestinians rejoicing in Jerusalem. Geraghty was amazed how they never even bothered to check where that celebration took place. For those with Geography Deficit Disorder, Jerusalem is not Jersey City.

Then there’s been a rush to defend Trump because of a Washington Post report from September 18, 2001, that his supporters say validates Trump’s remembrance. That report stated,

In Jersey City, within hours of two jetliners’ plowing into the World Trade Center, law enforcement authorities detained and questioned a number of people who were allegedly seen celebrating the attacks and holding tailgate-style parties on rooftops while they watched the devastation on the other side of the river.

As Geraghty correctly notes,

Police questioning “a number of people” after reports of celebrations is not the same as “thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down”, an event that Trump contended was televised and was “well-covered at the time.”

It’s time to be honest: Trump was shooting from the lip when he made his statement. There is no truth in what he said. What bothers me even more than Trump’s lack of integrity is the willingness of those who should know better to defend the indefensible.

Trump is taking the Republican party for a ride, and it’s more than a little scary to me.

Political Minefield

Trump may win the nomination. Trump could conceivably win the presidency. While anything would be better than a Hillary Clinton presidency, a Trump victory might be the second worst scenario because he could bury Republicans once and for all.

Suicide Vest

I know there are some in my readership who would like to see that happen. However, going forward something would have to replace the Republicans in order for Democrats not to become ultimately triumphant. Can we reasonably expect a Phoenix to rise out of the ashes of the utter destruction of the Republican party?

Some people, I fear, are far too optimistic that a pure, undiluted conservatism grounded in Biblical principles will come to the forefront. While I would welcome that development, there is the basic truth that all political parties are coalitions of different groups with different emphases. Currently, Christian conservatives still have a strong voice within the Republican party. I’m not yet ready to surrender that voice.

Meanwhile, I will continue to warn Christians, conservatives, and particularly Christian conservatives, to beware the Trump mystique. His penchant for saying whatever he wants, his unwillingness ever to admit to a mistake, and his basic lack of integrity should be more than enough to move us toward a better candidate.

2016’s Worst-Case Scenario

Joe Biden says he is out of the 2016 race, then proceeds to give a 25-minute campaign speech. Why? Commentator Charles Krauthammer thinks he is positioning himself should lightning strike Hillary Clinton in the form of a federal indictment.

Any indictment that may come will be the result of an FBI investigation into her e-mail scandal, but there are other reasons to fervently oppose a Hillary nomination, with Benghazi being a key one.

Today the House special committee investigating Benghazi will have her testify. Four Americans died in that terrorist attack that she tried to blame on a hardly seen video. When she appears before the committee, perhaps they should also have empty chairs next to her as a remembrance for the four who died.

There’s actually a fifth victim here as well:

Empty Chairs

Another cartoonist picked up on that theme rather pointedly also:

Waste of Time

For me, it doesn’t matter which of the possible candidates Democrats will offer to the public; I could never vote for any of them. Why don’t they just get it over and change the name of the party officially to the Socialist Party? Or how about the Kill Innocent Children and Sell Their Body Parts Party? The Let’s Destroy Marriage Party? You get the drift. There’s no way I can ever support what Democrats now stand for. How any Christian can give support for them is beyond my comprehension.

Then there’s the Republican side where Donald Trump continues to lead in the polls. Some, like this cartoonist, view him this way:

Trumpet

His candidacy certainly has been long on bravado, a cult of personality, and the ability to hit hot-button issues that appeal to angry voters. But he’s far from lacking substance; what bothers me the most is the substance I see.

Trump, in my view, has only latched onto a type of conservatism because it’s what will get him the nomination. He, by his own admission, has always aligned himself more with Democrats than Republicans, and now mouths conservative platitudes that I don’t really think he believes.

Ronald Reagan underwent a serious rethinking of his New Deal liberalism over a number of years, coming out of the period of rethinking as a confirmed conservative in principle. Trump is, I fear, nothing more than an opportunist jumping on a bandwagon of reaction against the Obama years.

That’s not enough. It’s also dangerous to put one’s trust in an opportunist. It will come back to bite.

His latest foray into the Loony Left’s talking points is the insinuation that 9/11 was somehow George Bush’s fault. Whatever critique we, and I, may have of Bush’s actions, anyone who even hints at his complicity in letting 9/11 happen is wandering into the fever swamps.

There were so many daily threats Bush was given that there was no way to single out ahead of time what actually happened on 9/11.

Further, Trump then asserted that if he had been president, 9/11 wouldn’t have happened, indicating that his immigration approach would have prevented it. Does he not know that 15 of the 19 terrorists that day came into the country legally? And does he really want us to believe that he would have rounded them up and deported them in the short 8-month span he would have been in office prior to 9/11?

Hitching a ride on the Trump Train will spell disaster for the GOP.

911

Can you imagine a worse scenario than what we may be facing as an election choice in 2016?

Miss Those Days

As noted above, I’ll never vote for Hillary or any other Democrat. But please, Republicans, don’t force me to vote for a third party.

Hillary, Biden, & Trump–Oh, My!

I understand there’s a Democrat presidential debate this week. Forgive me if I’m not really interested in watching it. I have more important things to do than listen to five socialists argue about how to destroy the country even more.

The presumed frontrunner for the Democrats, Hillary Clinton, has a lot on the line. A bad performance—because let’s be serious, that’s all these debates are—may throw her erstwhile supporters into an even greater panic than what they’re currently experiencing. I’m sure, though, that her friends at CNN will do all they can to make her seem presidential and inevitable.

Sinking Poll Numbers

There’s also one person missing at this debate, one who is standing by just in case, watching Hillary disintegrate:

Crumbling

Of course, she also has her loving husband to turn to for comfort and encouragement:

Cheer Up

Let’s be real: the eventual Democrat nominee will be either Hillary or Joe Biden. The first may be indicted for offenses that send others to prison; the second is a national embarrassment with a long history of verbal gaffes and a mean streak toward Republicans that knows no bounds.

Either choice, in normal times, ought to lead to an overwhelming Republican victory. Republicans, however, have to step back from the Trump cliff first if they are to have any hope of winning the general election.

Beat Donald Trump

Will Republicans regain their moral backbone or will they enhance their sad reputation as the “stupid party”? The Iowa caucuses are still almost four months away; there’s time to reverse course and make a wise decision.

Walker’s Withdrawal

Scott Walker SuspendsWisconsin governor Scott Walker last night withdrew from the GOP presidential nomination race. All things considered, it is understandable that he did so, but I believe it says a lot of things—mostly bad—about our current nominating process and the expectations of the electorate. I’ll explain in a moment.

First, I want to examine Walker’s comments in his withdrawal statement. They say a lot.

One of the points he made was how disappointed he was that this entire campaign “drifted into personal attacks.” One candidate, in particular, has excelled in doing so, and that is Donald Trump, who has disgraced himself by the way he has handled legitimate criticism from the other candidates. Walker is correct about that.

Then he said that the best way he can show leadership at this moment is to help clear the field “so that a positive, conservative message can rise to the top of the field.” He called on other candidates with little support in the polls to follow his example “so that the voters can focus on a limited number of candidates who can offer a positive, conservative alternative to the current front-runner.”

With that statement, he made it abundantly clear that he does not consider Trump to be a genuine conservative who deserves the Republican electorate’s support, and that the only way to stop him is to coalesce around someone who can give him a true run for his money. Most surmise that Walker is encouraging his supporters to make Rubio that challenger, and indications are that his top people are already moving in that direction.

What to say about Walker’s failed candidacy? First, it’s sad that two governors with superb credentials as fine leaders with courage—Walker and Perry—are the first to drop out. In the rush to thumb their noses at anyone who has held office, far too many voters are looking for any alternative, no matter the consequences.

It is the height of foolishness simply to lash out at anyone who has experience in government. Walker has a stellar record as a courageous conservative in a blue state who has accomplished pretty much all he set out to do. His demise is grievous to me.

I’ve read a number of autopsies of his campaign, and I agree with some of the criticisms leveled at him for how the campaign was run. Neither did he help himself by the debates, where he failed to shine.

Yet that is another issue for me: voters are looking for charisma and audaciousness more than competence. That does not bode well for the Republican party or the country.

I admire Walker and pray the best for him as he continues to lead Wisconsin, knowing that his foes will now redouble their efforts to smear him and overturn the advances he has made there.

May those efforts fall flat, and may his reputation as a Christian man of conscience repair whatever damage this presidential bid may have done to his reputation. He deserves better.

Gleanings from the Second Debate

I loved the setting of the second Republican presidential debate: the Reagan Library with Air Force One in the background. I was there almost a year ago; it’s an impressive place.

Fourteen Republican U.S. presidential candidates (L-R), U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, former New York Governor George Pataki, former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum, U.S. Senator Rand Paul, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, Dr. Ben Carson, businessman Donald Trump, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, former CEO Carly Fiorina, Ohio Governor John Kasich and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie pose before the start of the second official Republican presidential candidates debate of the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, United States, September 16, 2015. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson - RTS1HC6

Not as impressive was how CNN conducted the debate. Jake Tapper, the moderator, attempt to be the whole show; the other two questioners, when allowed a stray question or two, were no more than window dressing, virtually non-existent.

It also became evident from the very start that Tapper’s goal was to create as much divisiveness, bitterness, and “good television” as possible by trying to make everyone attack Donald Trump. For CNN, this was just a moment to try to relive its glory years when people actually watched this news channel rather than Fox News.

Overall, reaction to CNN’s ploy has been largely negative.

But enough about CNN. My aim today is to provide whatever analysis I can of the candidates. Let’s get Trump out of the way first, since he has been the headline grabber now for weeks.

His petulance showed immediately. Upon getting his first question, he decided instead to turn to Rand Paul at the far end of the line and tell him that he didn’t deserve even to be on stage with everyone else because of his low poll numbers.

What did that have to do with anything substantive? It was Trump being Trump, annoyed because Paul has been one of his most vocal critics, and he will never let a criticism go without response. His thin skin won’t allow it.

I’m not a Paul supporter, but this was patently unpresidential and rude. Paul’s rejoinder was that Trump was revealing his “sophomoric” attitude. I couldn’t agree more. Perhaps I might change the word to “juvenile” or “childish.”

The most cringeworthy moment was when Trump attempted to walk back his insult of Carly Fiorina’s face by shouting into the microphone that she really is beautiful. The only reaction from the assembled crowd was a groan because it was so obviously a fake comment. Fiorina, for her part, didn’t even look at him and retained her dignity.

Beyond that, when one looks at whatever Trump offered as substance, one might ask, as in the old Wendy’s commercial, “Where’s the beef?” No specifics on foreign policy except to say that he will get along with everyone and will be respected. Putin, apparently, will be so overwhelmed with Trump’s personality that all Russian aggression will cease. I seem to remember that being Obama’s approach in 2008.

Trump wasn’t any better on domestic policy. All we can do is believe grandiose promises that everything will be great once he’s in charge.

Unscientific polls afterwards indicate he was the runaway winner of the debate. Those are the kinds of polls that Ron Paul always won. I don’t recall his presidency.

Let’s go on now to the real candidates. The field, of course, is much too large. How to begin? How about Mike Huckabee’s comment later that he felt like he was waiting in line at the DMV? Huckabee and Scott Walker received the least time to speak than all the rest, yet they are two of the governors who have shown how to be an executive.

Life isn’t fair, right?

Rather than go down the long list and say something about everyone, I would like to provide my view that only candidates with strong conservative/Christian principles be allowed to participate in the next debate. I know, that’s a pipe dream. But given complete dictatorial power, I would immediately suspend the campaigns of Paul, Kasich, Bush, and Christie (and Trump, of course).

Half the Candidates

Ben Carson I put in a special category. He is a wonderful man, thoroughly Christian, with whom I would love to sit down and talk and enjoy his presence. However, I don’t see him as the next president. His answers on minimum wage and foreign policy, for example, are not clearly thought through; I just don’t believe he is ready to be president. Few successful neurosurgeons can make that leap, no matter how pure their intentions and impeccable their character.

For me, that leaves, in alphabetical order, Cruz, Fiorina, Huckabee, Rubio, and Walker. I would love to add Bobby Jindal to that list if he ever breaks out of the lower tier.

Ted Cruz was forceful, as always, and principled in his answers. I don’t doubt his commitment to constitutional concepts and his bravery, shown by his willingness to buck the system and tackle his own Republican leadership. The only down side to Cruz, for me, remains his rather speechified way of talking, as if every answer is an invitation to go into speech mode. I would prefer someone who comes across as more human and less robotic.

Carly Fiorina certainly benefited most from this debate. She was sharp, knowledgeable, and courageous. Many commented that, at times, she seemed to be the real adult in the room. She was the anti-Trump, full of specifics and well informed on all the issues. Regardless of what happens in the future, I will always fondly remember her masterful takedown of Planned Parenthood and the complicity of Democrats in supporting its atrocities.

She was eloquent in her defense of the unborn in a way that few have been. Some have questioned her real views on abortion, but I don’t see how anyone can have said what she said—and with the kind of vehement conviction with which she said it—without her pro-life stance being genuine.

I agree with others who have concluded that she was the standout speaker of the night. Whether that translates into the presidency is still another matter.

Mike Huckabee was, as usual, an effective communicator. I was particularly pleased that he came out and said he would definitely have a litmus test for judges. He called out the hypocrisy of the Democrats who say they have no litmus test when, in reality, they would never vote for a pro-life nominee or anyone with even a hint of constitutional principles.

Huckabee was strong in his condemnation of the Iran deal and how the consequences of that deal can lead to the destruction of Israel and undermine the security of America. He deserves to be heard.

Marco Rubio was, like Fiorina, well versed on the issues and effective at communicating his views, particularly on foreign policy and national security. Even though he damaged himself with conservatives by his dalliance with the Gang of Eight immigration reform plan, he clearly knows we need to tackle that problem, and I believe he has learned a lesson about attempting some sort of comprehensive plan.

The weakest part of Rubio’s evening was his defense of his voting record in the Senate. He’s missed votes, he said, because nothing would have been accomplished by being there since the measures he would have voted for were doomed anyway. My response is that he was elected to represent, so he should be there as the representative of his (my) state whenever possible.

Finally, there is Scott Walker, the candidate who was given the least amount of time to speak. Many have now written Walker off since he doesn’t come across as strong in these forums as others. I think that’s a mistake.

Walker was better this time than in the first debate, but he had to try harder to be heard. He is the only candidate who has come up with specific plans to replace Obamacare and reform the federal government unions. Tapper never asked about those; he was interested only in controversy.

I refuse to dismiss Walker because he has an outstanding record as governor of Wisconsin. He not only has manifested courage in standing up to opponents who wanted to take over the Capitol building and remove him from office, but he has succeeded in getting his reforms through his legislature. In other words, he has been an effective governor.

If conviction and competence were the only factors that Republican voters were to consider, Walker would be the nominee.

I feel like I’ve been writing forever here. I don’t claim any special insight that others haven’t offered, but I hope my thoughts will spark a fresh perspective for some who read these words.

May God extend His mercy to our distraught nation once again as we move forward to make what might be the most crucial political decisions in the history of this nation.