Veep Debate 2016

Indiana Governor Mike Pence is practicing for his debate against Virginia Senator Tim Kaine (also practicing). The debate will be on Tuesday 4 October 2016, at Longwood University in Virginia. Elaine Quijano will moderate.

Vice-presidential debates are typically of little matter. They aren’t running to be the leader, so a passing performance is all that’s needed. But, as Trump did not do very well against Hillary Clinton in the first debate, the question arises: what happens if Pence outshines his star?

That’s not to predict a Pence win—Kaine will undoubtedly bring a solid performance of his own. It’s just a general question: how will the electorate respond if it appears that the sidekick is the stronger of the two.

Back when it was time to speculate on veep choices, I pointed out that basically anybody that Trump could pick would have more experience than he does. And, of course, that’s the case. But it’s not clear that the contrast has been made to the electorate, and if it will become clear, the VP debate is that time.

Given the obscurity of the event, the damage is surely limited, but even if only a few Trump voters clue-in to the fact that they’ve got a kind of corporate-inversion ticket on their hands, they might be discouraged. This is especially true if they remember the talk from Governor Kasich of Ohio that Trump basically offered him the position of policy puppeteer.

To put it another way, Hillary Clinton may have been debating someone who plans to be a figurehead if elected, while Kaine may end up debating the one who seeks to handle much of the actual function of the presidency. In that case, the media should really be vetting Paul Ryan for a succession scenario where Pence were to become incapacitated.

In any case, Kaine is more moderate, while Pence is something of an arch-conservative, so the debate will probably be fairly ho-hum except where it applies to the tops of their tickets. Neither of them will open with “Who am I? Why am I here?” as James Stockdale did in 1992. But maybe they should. Almost everything the electorate knows about them is a few clips from their highlight reels on their records (Pence’s needle-exchange opposition, anti-abortion restrictions, etc.; Kaine’s being a moderate Democrat on every issue).

With Trump and Clinton absent, the debate will feature fewer interruptions from Trump—though who knows, he may try to call in. But both Kaine and Pence will inevitably weigh in on the 200-pound candidate sitting on his bed. Pence will do his best to allay fears of Trump, while Kaine will do his best to contrast the inexperience of Trump with the experience of Clinton. But it may also serve him well to point out the experience gap between Trump and his own running mate.


First Debate 2016

In the green corner, we have Donald Trump. In the blue corner, Hillary Clinton. They will square off on Monday (26 September 2016) in their first televised debate. Clinton has been practicing and studying hard. Trump, opting for the non-traditional route, has instead been trying to find someone (and probably using his foundation’s money to pay them) to defeat his son’s Skittle® Riddle so he can eat the damned things.

This first debate features Lester Holt as moderator, and it takes place in Hempstead, New York, at Hofstra University (motto: Je maintiendrai, which is French). The topics will be the direction of the nation, how to achieve prosperity, and how to maintain security.

One expects Clinton to be well versed on the issues, prepared for almost anything (even for Trump quitting the race mid-debate). She knows Trump’s policy proposals better than he does, at this point. She’s had strong debate practice, both in ’08 against then-Senator Obama, and this year against Senator Sanders.

People question “which Trump” will show up. I haven’t seen any firm numbers on that, but I’m pretty sure there’s just one Trump. People have surely figured out that him acting nice on a stage and Trump-like on the trail is just the two-faced nature of this guy. That is, I don’t think Trump gains anything by acting any particular way, except maybe from the press. The press seems to think it’s an asset of Trump’s to be able to wait until after the debate to brag-tweet about not calling Clinton “Crooked Hillary” (“Lincoln, eat your heart out!”).

Trump’s only real debate experience at this level is his involvement as one of the leaders of the Birther movement, the movement to somehow disprove the fact that President Obama was born in Hawaii. The primary debates, while entertaining, were mostly about him sniping other candidates and then letting the throng beg the moderators to let them respond.

Trump will tell us how tough he’ll be on ISIL, and Clinton will ask him how he can be tough on them when all they’ll need is his tax returns in order to assure his capitulation to their wants. Trump will claim he’ll be the law-and-order president, Clinton will point out that racism is not a viable strategy for dealing with economic problems or criminal justice reform.

They’ll both say they’ll create lots of jobs. Trump will say he’ll do it by reducing trade (which ignores the loss of export jobs), Clinton by increasing government programs and fostering investment. On the direction of the country, Trump will say he’ll make America great again. Clinton will say we should all move forward together. In other words, some slogans.

Will there be any big surprise of the debate? Will one of the candidates spontaneously combust? Will Trump, by virtue of appearing on the same stage, look presidential? Will his supposed unpredictability help him or harm him? Who will win?

We’ll see Monday. Trump should probably have practiced.


GOP Debate Ten

Rubio thinks he finally hit the piñata. But, come Super Tuesday, he’ll still be looking for the candy. Cruz tried to pin the donkey on Trump’s tail, but he’ll be lucky to come out with a win in Texas.

Why? They slammed Trump on all sorts of issues, from his labor practices to his business practices to the fact that he (also) repeats himself. Why won’t Trump just fall down like a regular politician?

The problem is, Rubio and Cruz think Trump is a regular politician. They think his rhetoric is the same weak sauce that politicians have peddled for years. But they’ve made a grave error in not hearing Trump clearly. They have failed to understand why Trump is winning, and attacking him (at least, as they have) is not the best way to stop him.

Trump does appeal because of his bravado, but there’s more to it than that. This is a Republican candidate that actually says Planned Parenthood does positive things for women. If Rubio or Cruz said that, they’d be kaput. But Trump says it from a different place. He says it and it comes off as honest and without the strings attached to things that politicians say.

Then Rubio and Cruz attack him for holding what they paint as a negative, the people just don’t take it to heart. Because the attack assumes that you already disagree with Trump, which his supporters don’t.

But Planned Parenthood is small potatoes compared to Trump’s real issues, and Cruz and Rubio have failed to attack those or co-opt them. Big issues like trade deficits, sure, but the biggest issue that Trump rallies people with is: Trump acknowledges that people are getting a raw deal in a very specific way.

Like Sanders, Trump is pointing at corruption of money in politics. But he’s also pointing at trade. He’s pointing at illegal immigration. He’s not the Great Oz, but he’s Dorothy telling everyone that the Great Oz—the American Dream—is just a humbug from Omaha. That the rally cry of the Republicans has been a big stage show.

To Trump supporters, Cruz and Rubio are just a couple of winged monkeys, swooping and screeching. The traditional Republican line isn’t a good fit.

Via Politico: 25 February 2016: “11 most interesting moments of the GOP debate”:

Rubio accused Trump of having just five lines. “Everyone’s dumb, he’s going to make America great again. Win, win, win. He’s winning in the polls. And the lines around the states,” Rubio said, mocking the front-runner. “Every night. Same thing.”

The problem with Rubio’s attack is that he underestimates the key lines:

  • Everyone’s dumb
  • Make America Great Again
  • Win, win, win

That everyone includes Rubio. Trump claims that the whole damn system is distorted, and it’s hard to disagree with that, even if you do disagree about how he’ll probably try to fix it. But folks like Rubio and Cruz don’t make that case. Cruz tries a little, but still falls back on agreement with the establishment too often to be believed.

Those three lines (the poll thing—bravado; the lines around the states is not one of Trump’s greatest hits—a b-side at best) all say basically the same thing: “Hey, voter, these guys [China, Mexico, Obama, the establishment, etc.] are taking you for a ride. I want to stop that from happening and make them pay.”

Cruz and Rubio just say, “Obama is taking you for a ride, so replace him with a Republican rider.” And, as long as they do, they will have a very hard time, attacks be damned, of making inroads with Trump supporters.

Or I’m wrong. We’ll find out Tuesday.


The GOP Roast of President Obama

Another debate. It’s hard to say whether they are getting worse, or if I keep forgetting how bad they are. And that’s just the moderators. There are a lot of questions they fail to ask. For the candidates, as actual votes are looming so stiffer rhetorical medicine is called for as they scramble to actually place in Iowa and New Hampshire.

They claimed that the US military and security situation has deteriorated under Obama. If any of these candidates were elected, how long will it take them to make the US safe? Five years? Fifteen? Usually it would be important to indicate the severity of the problem. Have the candidates themselves told their families to run to the mountains? Have they bought extra insurance? How bad is it? Level with us, but do it in specifics, not vagueries.

The truth is, obviously, they don’t believe the situation is anything approaching what they claim. It’s just more pins to stick in their Obama voodoo doll, trying to win the election.

On the topic of ISIL, the candidates to a man pretend they represent a real threat to the USA. They simply do not. Could they inflict harm on some Americans? No more than we already do to ourselves with regularity. That’s just a fact, and most of those harms the Republican candidates either ignore outright, or worse, blame the president for trying to improve the situation.

Does that mean the USA should ignore ISIL? Nah. But we shouldn’t pretend we’re going to fight them because our lives depend upon it. Others’ lives depend upon our assistance in defusing ISIL, and it’s important we help to protect innocent lives. But by-and-large, Americans are not less safe because of ISIL.

The Republican candidates simply see another fear button, and they are leaning on it like a skinny kid trying to TILT a pinball machine.

Over and over, throughout the debate, the candidates fail to understand the specifics of law and history.

Chris Christie claimed the founders chose to place the Second Amendment in that position because of its import; in reality the Second Amendment was fourth as proposed. The first two proposed were not ratified, so third became first and fourth became second (the second proposed was ratified in 1992, and it is now the 27th Amendment). He also claimed that the election would kick the president out. Obama is term limited.

Marco Rubio opposed tariffs on the basis that the price is passed on to consumers. That’s actually the point, though. The tariffed good’s higher price implies that the good at its natural price would lack some necessary thing, either inspection or trade equity, whatever. The point of the tariff isn’t to make money off of the importation. It’s a basic economic signal.

The utility of tariffs is debatable, but pointing out a basic fact of tariffs, as though it were revelation, is just silly. As the tariff question lingered, the stated problem was retaliatory tariffs. Ted Cruz bothered to suggest that a change in the tax code would magically solve the problem. I seem to recall the Republicans not seeing a difference between a fine and a tax for Obamacare; why is a tax different than a tariff all of a sudden?

Anyway. Another counterproductive debate. For the candidates that get bumped soon, I hope they will realize they had more time to talk about issues, but they squandered it talking about Obama. If the Democrats win the election, I hope the party will realize that pissing on the president is not a winning strategy. But given they seemed to learn nothing in 2012, 2020 will be another rerun of clowns in a clowncar running for president.


Final GOP Debate of 2015: Thoughts

Senate Looking into if Cruz Leaked

Cruz said the new metadata program covers “nearly 100 percent” of phones, where the old program covered 20 to 30 percent. Apparently the government may believe that’s classified, and Cruz may have leaked it.

The problem with that claim is that the metadata program can’t be classified. It isn’t secret. The whole metadata program is based on the idea that people don’t have an expectation of privacy, so it is just preposterous that the government could consider it secret that they operate a program that they only claim the authority to operate because of the data being arguably non-proprietary to begin with.

Of course, that won’t stop them. Cruz probably won’t get in trouble, but the government has a lame history of misunderstanding what private means. The encryption debate is symptomatic of that, as is the ever-lasting quest to protect Social Security Numbers, rather than to promulgate rules that state it cannot be used as proof of identity. Your SSN isn’t secret, and it’s not a password or other authentication mechanism, and yet the government naively treats it as such (having illogically spent tons of money over the years to move away from SSNs as identifiers for many purposes).

Trump Won’t Turn Spoiler

Trump has reiterated his pledge to stick with the GOP. It’s been worried over, if Trump lost the nomination, he might go rogue and cause much trouble for the GOP in 2016. He says he won’t. He won’t, in all likelihood, because there’s nothing to be gained. Either he wins the nomination (unlikely) or he goes back to doing the same thing he’s already doing, just without the excuse that it’s to “Make America Great Again.”

The GOP Wants it to be About Islam

Specifically Cruz, but many others, kept talking about “Radical Islamic Terrorism” or “Jihadism” or some other variation on the theme. The redundancy of the words radical and terror in the same sentence aside, they want it to be about Islam. It is unclear whether it just fits into the xenophobic agenda, some crusader idealism, or is just another way to try to slight Obama.

What is crystal clear is that the GOP remains the party that doesn’t have to live with its neighbors. They have a conflicted psyche that thinks America’s standing has been weakened, but they simultaneously claim to not care about what others think. The crowd kept applauding to contradictory statements, like they were being led around by the nose (aside from Rand Paul’s personal cheering section).

That sort of response makes it fairly obvious that the Republicans don’t really know what they want. If one of the candidates had promised to spend a couple billion developing ice cream that tastes great and has zero calories, they probably could have wrapped up the nomination then and there.

The Format Still Sucks

Rather than culling some of the bozos from the clowncar, CNN continued down the path of inclusionism. They did have the smaller debate, composed of the most marginal candidates, but the main debate featured other slightly-less marginal candidates.

They should draw the line at five percent, which would have made the main debate a four-person affair. Instead, you have this ten-person chorus line to hear from. It just gets ridiculous.

Hell, break it in three and do 5-5-4 with the top four in the final, the middlers in the middle, and the low-end at the start. Anything but ten people all trying to stand in the spotlight.

Some Mocking of Climate Change

I mean, if it were any other major issue… and they just passed it off as being a bunch of bologna… it’s just sad at this point. The GOP used to stand for important issues, once upon a time. Now they live in the land of fairytales and only summer in the real world.