Saturday, January 30, 2016

Cruz's duplicitousness gets revealed

More and more evidences of Ted Cruz's lies and hypocrisy keep surfacing.   He really took a beating in this week's debate from Rubio, Bush, and Paul -- and his mean personality shone through in his petty attempts to flaut the debate rules and to challenge the moderators.   The crowd even booed him loudly when he did that.

Here's some evidence that his honeymoon may be over.  He has to win Iowa to stay in the race, yet he is slipping behind Trump in the polls there and has very little support in New Hampshire.

But he's still saying the nomination is down to a two way, Cruz-Trump race.  Yet he has suddenly shifted all of his tv ads from attacks on Trump to attacks on Rubio.   Sounds like he's now really fighting to come in second in Iowa, not first.


The irony of Cruz's (in)eligibility to be president looked into whether Ted Cruz's birth in Canada makes him ineligible to be president according to the requirement that one must be a "natural born" citizen.  They concluded that the issue "isn't quite as settled as Cruz makes out."'

The Constitution does not define "natural born," and the Supreme Court has never been called on to rule on its precise meaning -- even though the question came up when George Romney (Mitt's father) ran and, more recently, in 2008 when John McCain was the GOP nominee.   In both those cases, the parents were living temporarily abroad, the Romneys as missionaries and the McCains as a U.S. military family.   In Cruz's case, his American mother had moved to Canada to live with her Canadian citizen husband, but retained her U.S. citizenship.

There are some constitutional scholars who have concluded that natural born literally means born in this country and, therefore, Cruz is not eligible.

Other law professors, two former U.S. solicitors general, and the Congressional Research Service have all said that Cruz qualifies.   This has practical implications, because a law suit has already been filed in Texas challenging his eligibility, and Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) has said that he will bring a suit if Cruz is nominated.

The political implications are currently being exploited by Donald Trump in his usual way:  "I'm just saying . . . I don't personally care, but people are raising the question."  None is raising it so loudly as Trump himself, of course.   Despite Trump's rhetorical manipulations, it is a serious question.  What if a major party's nominee were, after the fact, found to be ineligible?

But here's where it becomes an ironic paradox.   I quote the article from
"During the debate, Trump repeatedly referred to another legal scholar, Laurence Tribea constitutional law professor at Harvard who once had Cruz as a student.  In an opinion piece penned for the Boston Globe on Jan. 11, Tribe opined that while 'no real court is likely to keep Cruz off the ballot, much less remove him from the White House if he were to win,' the kind of 'originalist' judges that Cruz has said he would appoint to the Supreme Court are the very ones most likely to conclude he is ineligible."
Tribe then explains that an originalist claims to interpret the Constitution according to its narrowly historical meaning at the time of its adoption.   "To this kind of judge," Tribe writes, "Cruz ironically wouldn't be eligible."

Tribe contrasted that with the kind of judge he admires, a "living constitutionalist," who believes that the Constitution's meaning "evolves with the perceived needs of the time and longstanding practice. To that kind of judge, Cruz would be eligible to serve because it no longer makes sense to be bound by the narrow historical definition that would disqualify him."

What makes this so ironic is that, in the debate, Cruz dismissed Tribe as "a left-wing judicial activist, Harvard Law professor who was Al Gore’s lawyer in Bush versus Gore. He’s a major Hillary Clinton supporter.”   Again, quoting

"But Tribe didn’t say he thinks Cruz is ineligible, only that he thinks Cruz is 'a fair weather originalist' when it comes to interpreting the Constitution’s definition of 'natural born.'

This may yet have to be decided by the Supreme Court.   If it comes to that, Cruz might do well to hire Laurence Tribe to defend his case, since he has already argued that he favors the evolved interpretation of the Constitution that would find Cruz eligible.   "I'm just saying . . . "


Friday, January 29, 2016

Republican's last debate before Iowa -- Trumpless

Ho Hum.   So Trump didn't appear after all.   And Megyn Kelly began by asking "about the elephant that is not in the room."   Ted Cruz responded with a well-crafted reply that got the intended laugh.

I sort of half-watched the debate while doing some other things.   Lots of noise and misstatements.  Cruz still doesn't seem to understand what "carpet-bombing" means, citing the 1991 GHW Bush bombing of Baghdad as an example.   But, in fact, the New York Times at the time praised it for its "precision-guided bombs and missiles," which is the exact opposite of carpet-bombing.

Rubio yelled a lot about Obama, and said, in effect, that he would tear up the Iranian nuclear agreement on day one, even if it is working.   Christie lied a lot.  And Jeb Bush was . . . bumbling Jeb was also there.

Cruz was asked what he would do about the people who would lose health insurance, since he has vowed to end Obamacare.   He bloviated about how bad Obamacare is, told several lies in the process, and then reveled that he has no comprehensive plan to replace it.

John Kasich did his usual thing.   Rand Paul made one good point and another silly one.  And Ben Carson recited the Preamble to the Constitution as his closing remarks.

But enough about the ones who showed up.   What about Trump?    He claims that Fox News called today to apologize and beg him to join the debate.   Fox's Roger Ailes says Trump offered to come if Fox would donate $5 million to his (Trump's) charities.   Ailes refused.   Trump says he "can't be bought."    Did this spat end in a tie of lies?

This is what the Republican Party has devolved into?


Thursday, January 28, 2016

The most important commentary on the 2016 race -- by historian Doris Kearns Goodwon.

Doris Kearns Goodwin, photo by Morry Gash/AP 

Pulitzer Prize winning presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin (author of biographies of Lincoln, the Roosevelts, and LBJ) gave an interview to the Huffington Post's Howard Fineman.   This is, to me, the most insightful thing I have read about this extraordinary 2016 Republican presidential primary race.    Her bottom line is that the media is falling down on its job to vet Donald Trump.

Quoting Fineman's article about what Goodwin said in the interview:
"Trump deploys fame for fame’s sake; taps into populist expressions of fear, hatred and resentment and shows a knack for picking fights and a braggart’s focus on the horse race. All of which allow him to play into -- and exploit -- every media weakness and bad habit in a chase for audience and numbers.

"As a result, said Goodwin, the 69-year-old Trump has preempted serious scrutiny of his past, character, record in business and suitability -- if any -- for the office of president. . . .  'We in the media are the key purveyors of the qualities of the candidates and of telling people who they are and what they stand for . . .  The responsibilities are pretty great.'"
And the press is not carrying out those responsibilities, in Goodwin's view.   Additional factors are the obsession with polls and conflict, the shorter attention spans of most news consumers and the ruthless aggregation, measurement and marketing of user interactions across scattered social media.   Fineman continues:  
"But no one uses these trends as cynically or successfully as Trump to avoid the scrutiny that only the media can provide and that the media, mesmerized, is not providing.

“'Every day he is a new story . . . .  By dwelling on the glittering present and the entertainingly uncertain future, Trump erases all sense of history, context and accountability for his own life and actions.  'He doesn’t let you have time to go back to his past,' said Goodwin.

“'Do we know, at this point, about his modus operandi in business? Do we know how he treated his staff? Do we know what kind of leader he was when he was building his business?  . . .  No person in public life is more in need of deep investigative scrutiny than Trump. . . .  

"Trump has another tactic for defeating press scrutiny . . . .  Trump isn’t selling a movement or a specific agenda, or even the details of his own track record. . . .  He is selling his stage persona -- and the related notion that his supporters can somehow mimic him by voting for him. It’s a materialistic version of a religious appeal: the 'prosperity gospel' of Norman Vincent Peale and Rev. Ike. 

"Or it’s like becoming another BeyoncĂ© by buying her lipstick.

"Media amplifies the presumed power of Trump by conflating celebrity with clout and voters’ faith in an agenda with fan worship.  'Bernie Sanders is a movement; Trump is not a movement. . . .  It’s just him.'

"He’s saying ‘I am here and just somehow, I am going to make things good.  We know enough about leadership to know that that is not true.'"
*     *     *
Put this alongside the article I quoted last week (January 20th) on authoritarianism as the one trait that distinguishes Trump supporters -- and what he offers -- and I think we have a pretty good understanding of the Trump phenomenal appeal in this particular election year.

The interview with Goodwin was before Donald Trump's latest caper over whether or not he will participate in the Fox News debate on Thursday night.   Is this just another of his caper's with the media that Goodwin is talking about?

Or is this is far bigger than a spat over Megyn Kelly as moderator?   Some suggest that this has more to do with a fight going on behind scenes between Roger Ailes -- who built Fox News into what it is -- and the now owner Rupert Murdoch.  Trump has said he won't talk with Ailes but only with Murdoch himself.   Then Bill O'Reilly got into it, trying to muscle in on Ailes power and win favor with Murdoch by begging Trump on live tv to do the debate. 

It's not clear what Trump's role in this -- except perhaps a fight to gain even more control of the media than he altready has.   It does not seem like a good idea for a presidential candidate to be meddling in the internal politics of the leading conservative television news empire -- or, as some say, the mouthpiece for the Republican Party. 

To say the least, it is not presidentialHaving an authoritarian president who also has control of the media would be very dangerous.


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

News flash: Ammon Bundy arrested, one killed

The FBI has reported that FBI agents and Oregon state troopers carried out a traffic stop involving Ammon Bundy and some of his followers as they were driving into town in two trucks.   Bundy and four others were arrested at the scene.     Shots were fired, and LaVoy Finicum was killed;  Ammon's brother Ryan Bundy was wounded.  Two other militiamen were later also arrested in the town of Burns.

Apparently the law enforcement agents came with the purposes of arresting them on charges of conspiracy to impede federal officials from discharging their duties.   It was smart planning to arrest them outside, rather than at the refuge where they could barricade and shoot it out.

Oregon's Gov. Kate Brown had said she was "fed up with" the occupation;  and she had been calling on the federal government enforce the law and end the occupation.   An FBI spokesman said that all the men had cooperated except the two who were shot.  It has not been revealed who fired first;  but Finicum had previously told NBC News that he would rather be killed than arrested.  "I have no intention of spending any of my days in a concrete box [jail]."


Most disgusting political ad of this season

What's your guess as to which presidential campaign would put out the most disgusting ad?    Right now that dubious distinction belongs to Right to Rise, Jeb Bush's SuperPac.

There are two images that struck me as really awful to put in a political ad.    One shows a pious looking Jeb Bush, cloaked in what could be a church robe, hands folded and eyes downcast as if in prayer.   The voice over says "He is a man of deep faith," as the image changes to a Christian crossProminently displayed right next to the cross, is someone holding a   Jeb!   political sign.

You want pious? . . .  ok.   But then to stick your political sign right next to the cross?    We're supposed to associate Jeb! with the crucified Jesus and . . . vote for him?

The other is much worse, and it follows as the very next image after the cross/Jeb! image.   The  voice-over says "he has fought time and again to protect the right to life," and the image is the much publicized photo of the brain-dead Terri Shiavo.   This is the young woman tragically left in a vegetative state following a cardiac arrest.   Then Gov. Jeb Bush fought her husband all the way to the Supreme Court -- and even beyond to the U.S. Congress to pass a special law -- to take control and artificially prolong her life. 

Yesterday, the Tampa Bay Times published the husband's response to this ad, which is currently running in South Carolina:
"It is simply disgusting that Jeb Bush and his super Pac would exploit my wife’s tragedy for his crude political gain.  Shame on Jeb Bush.

"Using his disgraceful intervention in our family’s private trauma to advance his political career shows that he has learned nothing. He’s proud of the fact that he used the machinery of government to keep a person alive through extraordinary artificial means -- contrary to the orders of the court that were based on the courts determination, made over 6 years of litigation, that doing so would be against her wishes. . . .  What the campaign video shows is that if he ever got his hands on the power of government again, he would do the same thing again, maybe next time to your family."
I agree with Michael Sciavo.   Even if you admire Jeb's "right to life" motives and agree with his heavy handed tactics, to now allow his SuperPac to use her image in a political ad is just despicable, to say nothing of completely tasteless.   Here's the link to the ad:

For details of this case, see ShrinkRap 2/5/15 and 3/16/15 concerning Jeb Bush's abuse of power in trying to go around the courts to get his way.  Even after he lost in court and after Terri had mercifully died, Jeb tried have the woman's husband arrested.   This, more than anything else, turned me against Jeb as a presidential prospect.


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Bundy is confused about who "the government" is -- and about what the job of the FBI is.

Ammon Bundy, leader of the militia occupying a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon, does not understand our system of government or else he is simply denying reality and flouting the law.

He insists that the land belongs to "the people . . . . [It's] their land."  Yes, the land belongs to the people.   But it is the collective "We, the People of the United States," not the individuals who happen to live in the areaDo the people who live on Liberty Island own the Statue of Liberty?

By all legal measures, the wildlife preserve is federal land Bundy and his cohorts demand that control of the land be given to local governments;   or, at the least, that ranchers be given free use of the land for livestock grazing -- without having to pay a fee as they would on private property.  So much for free enterprise, huh?

Further, he declares that the Federal Bureau of Investigation "was organized to investigate federal bureaus, not people" and thus has no jurisdiction in this matter.   That is simply not true.   The FBI is the agency that enforces federal laws.

Each day that this standoff goes on, it becomes more at risk for a shootout.   Bundy's group is heavily armed and some of his people have declared their willingness to die for the cause.  This may be harder than negotiating the Iranian nuclear agreement.



From the Dallas Morning News, Jan. 25, 2016:
"A grand jury . . . tasked with investigating Planned Parenthoods Houston affiliate following the August release of an undercover video taken inside the clinic, cleared the organization of misconduct . . . and instead indicted the group behind the video. . . ."
David Daleiden was charged with violating the prohibition of the purchase and sale of human organs.  That is what he was trying to pin on Planned Parenthood;   but, by posing as the buyer in the fraudulent videos, he filmed himself engaged in the act of attempting to buy human organs.


Monday, January 25, 2016

Pope Francis -- what a change his 3 years brings

We are approaching the third anniversary of the sudden resignation/retirement of Benedict for health reasons and the naming of the Argentine Cardinal Bergoglio as his successor Pope Francis.   What a difference this man of humility and service has brought to the Vatican and to worldwide Roman Catholicism.

Gone are many of the fancy trappings  -- the luxurious papal apartments, the limousines, the red shoes, the gold and glitter -- replaced by the simple, homespun, self-effacing style of the man who chose for his papal name that of the gentle, 12 century man of the people:   Francis of Assisi.

In his three years as Pope Francis, this former teacher and Franciscan priest has become known for his humility, his concern for the poor, and his emphasis on God's grace and mercy rather than on the numerous sins of mankind.

Although he has not sought to overturn church doctrine on abortion, divorce, gay marriage, or the ordination of women, he has declared that the church has been "obsessed" by those issues;   and he has encouraged a more inclusive and compassionate attitude toward people who have transgressed.   If he has not changes the rules, he has changed the tone.

Francis has chosen to speak out more on issues involving poverty, global warming, consumerism, and cooperation with other faith groups.   He played an active, though largely unpublicized, role in helping to restore diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba.

He has also overhauled much of the entrenched and corrupt operations of the Vatican, and he has addressed more forthrightly than his predecessors the scandal of sexually abusive priests and their enablers in the church hierarchy.

His world-wide popularity is shown by being chosen "Person of the Year" for 2013 by both Time and The Advocate magazines, while Esquire named him "best-dressed" man for his simpler vestments and style.   Fortune magazine ranked him as #1 of it's list of 50 greatest leaders in 2015, and Forbes picked him for the fourth place slot on its list of "Most Powerful Person in the World."

What really matters most, though, is the example being set by this man of the people -- whether or not one is catholic.  He deserves a place in our modern pantheon of worldwide men of peace:   Albert Schweitzer, Mahatma Gandi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, Bishop Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama, and Jimmy Carter.

Let's not forget that there are some good things happening in the world today.


Sunday, January 24, 2016

Ted Cruz is Donald Trump's "secret weapon"

Ryan Grim and Sam Stein, political writers for Huffington Post, have an interesting take on the Trump/Cruz contest that helps explain why the establishment Republicans are going after Cruz instead of Trump -- despite spending the last few months warning that Trump's candidacy was "a grave threat, not just to the party, but to the country itself."  

It's true, a flurry of conservative pundits in a special anti-Trump edition of the National Review, have railed against Trump.  But the fact remains that the donor class and the establishment SuperPacs are not running a single negative ad about Trump in any of the early voting states.

Add in the stated preference for Trump over Cruz by two former Republican senate majority leaders, Bob Dole and Trent Lott;  and popular Iowa governor Terry Branstad also asked Iowa voters not to vote for Cruz.  Here's how Grim and Stein explain this apparent sharp pivot of the GOP big wigs and moderates:

1.  They believe that Donald Trump is "putting on an act," that he doesn't really believe all the racist, anti-immigrant, right-wing stuff he's saying and would not follow through on it if nominated.   He's just playing politics to get the right wing primary votes, and then he will pivot to the center for the general election.

2.  They apparently have more or less given up on Marco Rubio, who continues to languish behind in third place, despite doing all the right things -- but it just doesn't seem to be working.   They gave up on Jeb Bush long ago for the same reasons.

3.  Ted Cruz has alienated all the Republican leadership in congress, who don't just oppose his policies;  they loathe him personally.   It's even become a cliche to say, "Nobody likes him."

4.  They believe that Trump is someone they can work with.   Cruz, on the other hand, has waged a notorious war with his own party leadership in the senate and is seen as someone whose only concern is what's good for Ted Cruz.   "Cruz has shown a real willingness to put Republicans in difficult positions and then to place the blame at their feet when those positions bloom into abject disasters . . ."

5.  There are also serious concerns about Cruz's hypocrisy in running against his own party establishment, while being married to a Goldman Sachs banker and taking big loans from themAs Grim and Stein say, "That's about as Republican establishment as you can get."

6There are further concerns that the uncompromising, extreme right-wing ideology of Cruz at the top of the general election ticket would hurt other Republicans running on the ticket more than Trump would. 

It's not that the Republican establishment likes Trump.   It's more that they're resigned to it being either Trump or Cruz, and they are choosing Trump.

Now, two late developments since Grim and Stein wrote their article.   Cruz has been caught lying to his people at a rally, claiming to have lost his family health insurance because of Obamacare (his campaign has admitted it's not true).*   And former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has sent up trial balloons about running for president as an independent.   So, as they say, the plot thickens. 

Who would have thought the 2016 election would turn out to be the best action drama of the season?   Yes, it's frightening and maddening to consider the possible outcome, but it is high drama and a fascinating process to watch.


* Cruz family health careSen. Ted Cruz refused to accept the government subsidized family plan offered to him as a senator because it required going through the Obamacare exchange.  Instead, the family had a high-end Blue Cross/Blue Shield plan in Texas.   That particular plan has been discontinued by BC/BS, but Cruz is free to shift to another plan with them.   His family is not "uninsured," as he claimed at a rally;  and the premium increase he also complained about was due to actually opting for another BC/BS plan with greater benefits than his old plan.  Or, unlike the people he's trying to stir up, he could accept the government plan offered by the senate (his employee) at a much lower cost.  He simply lied at his rally to try to turn people against Obamacare -- and he's being called out for it.

Later bulletin:   another source explains that the Cruz family plan actually was cancelled by the insurer because Sen. Cruz failed to renew it.   Seems his attention has been elsewhere -- i.e., trying to kill Obamacare for everyone else.