In Ted’s Fantasy World

Some mornings, Kish starts the day by reading news stories, and sometimes watching video clips of newsworthy events on her iPhone.  Today was one of those days.

ted_cruz_rnc_cleveland_ap_imgUnfortunately, the clip she chose to watch this morning was footage of Ted Cruz closing his speech to the Republican convention last night to a deafening chorus of boos.  Even more unfortunately, I was able to hear Cruz’s whining voice — which in my view is the human equivalent of a dentist’s drill — over the uproar.  I had hoped that, with the ending series of debates finally behind us, I would never have to endure Cruz’s irritating and overly studied vocal gyrations again.  Alas, it was not to be.

I don’t like Donald Trump, but I like the smug and smarmy Cruz even less.  If I’d been at the Republican convention — fat chance of that! — I’d have booed him, too.

Apparently Ted Cruz thinks his performance, and failure to endorse Trump, positions him to be the presumptive GOP nominee in 2020.  I think Ted Cruz is living in a fantasy world.  The only reason anyone other than Bible-thumpers backed Cruz was because he was running against Donald Trump.  Once Trump is gone — and by 2020, he’ll either be President or yesterday’s old, old news — Cruz’s base will dwindle to back to the religious righters who don’t mind his scripted speech patterns because it reminds them of the cadences they hear every Sunday morning from the pulpit.  By 2020, the world and the United States will be moving in a different direction, and everything that gave Cruz a shot this year will be totally changed.

I seriously hope I never hear Cruz’s holier than thou voice again.  It makes my teeth ache.

Weird World

Let’s face it, we live in a weird, incredibly unpredictable world.  Just when you think you’ve got it nailed, you turn around and are astonished to learn that Donald Trump is the “presumptive Republican nominee.”

120408033849-ybl-van-jones-best-advice-00002022-story-topSome months ago, we went to dinner with a large group of friends, and someone suggested that we each predict the Republican and Democratic nominees who would emerge this year.  Even though the dinner occurred during the early days of Trumpmania, I’d guess that nobody picked Trump as the eventual carrier of the GOP banner.  His behavior and comments were uniformly viewed as so inflammatory that the notion that he could somehow navigate through the primary process without spontaneously combusting seemed wildly, impossibly implausible.  And since that dinner party I’ve been regularly expecting and predicting that, with each grossly improper, know-nothing comment, Trump was bound to fall.

And yet . . . here he is.  To be sure, he’s continued to say outlandish things that would have been immediately, irreversibly fatal for every other candidate who has ever vied for the presidency, and yet . . . here he is.  The Governors and Senators, the seasoned pols, who made up the large field of initial Republican candidates have all fallen by the wayside, leaving an egomaniacal reality TV show star as one of the two major party candidates for the most powerful office in the world.  Last night Ted Cruz “suspended his campaign,” and today John Kasich threw in the towel.  Amazingly, Trump has actually triumphed over his Republican opponents while Hillary Clinton is still struggling to drive a stake into the heart of Bernie Sanders’ rebel campaign.

Last night Kish and I were watching CNN’s coverage of the Indiana primary and Trump’s by-now-familiar stream of consciousness victory speech.  CNN has not one, but two panels of pundits to cover such events, and one of them is activist Van Jones.  Most of the pundits seemed to focus on the typical things that pundits do — that the early Republican candidates made this mistake or that that allowed Trump to survive and ultimately prevail.  Not Jones.  He cautioned that the political elites may be oblivious to something brooding in the country, something big but still under the radar, a kind of broad and deep, visceral dissatisfaction with the state of things that the inside-the-Beltway types are just missing but that finds its outlet in the insurgent, unconventional candidacies of Trump and Sanders.  Perhaps he’s right.  It’s as good an explanation as any for a “presumptive GOP nominee” that leaves me slack-jawed in wonderment.

 

Our Muslim Friends

Kish and I have friends and acquaintances who happen to be Muslims. We’ve shared meals with them and celebrated special events with them.  They live in our town, have worked with us, and are related to our friends.  They are people we know and like and trust.  We don’t fear them because Islam is their religion.

IRAQI-AMERICAN MUSLIMS CELEBRATE IN DEARBORN OUSTER OF HUSSEINI’m quite sure that we’re not unusual in knowing and working with Muslims.  America still remains a melting pot where people of different nationalities, colors, and faiths can come and pursue their dreams, without being shackled by caste systems or tribal ancestry or corrupt political systems.  In America, a person’s religious faith is just one aspect of their persona.  It doesn’t immutably define them, and it certainly shouldn’t cause them to be targeted.

That’s why comments like the one Ted Cruz made yesterday are so . . . appalling.  In the wake of the latest ISIS-supported bombings, in Brussels, Cruz said that “we need to empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized,” and that America cannot be confined by “political correctness.”   But America isn’t like Europe, where in many cities Muslim immigrants live in separate neighborhoods, never learn the language, and never become integrated.  What would define a “Muslim neighborhood” in America?  Would Hamtramck, Michigan, be one?  That’s America’s first majority Muslim city — and it also happens to be where our son Russell lives and works.  How would police patrols “secure” such “Muslim neighborhoods” and prevent them from becoming “radicalized”?  Does anyone really think that police car drive-bys or foot patrols are going to keep receptive young men and women from falling prey to the terrorist teachings of ISIS?  And while I think there are times when political correctness can run amok, it isn’t “political correctness” that prevents targeting people because of their religion — it’s basic American principles that flow from the First Amendment.

I’m as interested as anyone in defeating ISIS, but we have to focus on the terrorists, not their religion.  People are more likely to become radicalized when they are disaffected, and dividing people and targeting “Muslim neighborhoods” with a heavily armed police presence sure seems like a good recipe for creating disaffected people.  The better course, I think, is to do what America always does — accept people, welcome them, and let them pursue their dreams in a country that is free and full of opportunity for all — and then make sure that we find and crush the terrorists who are slaughtering innocents because of some sick and twisted ideology.

Ohio Stands Tall

On a night when the Trump wave continued to roll across America, inundating yet another of the Republican candidates and washing Marco Rubio out of the race, one state stood out.  Ohio was a breakwater against the Trump tsunami, with Governor John Kasich knitting together a coalition of Kasich supporters, Rubio supporters, and Trump opponents to beat Trump convincingly.

635918131274016669-ap-gop-2016-debateThe pundits will talk about what Trump’s victories in Florida, North Carolina, Illinois, and (apparently) Missouri mean, and his chances of reaching the magic number that will allow him to be the Republican nominee.  I don’t think there’s much need for analysis on the former question, really.  Marco Rubio put his finger on it in his graceful concession speech last night:  there are a huge number of frustrated, angry, disaffected people out there who feel left behind, and Trump’s anti-establishment status and promises of a future where America gets “better deals” and “wins” again appeals to them.  I think the strong perception that he is a candidate who will bring about change — whatever that change might be, precisely — has attracted people who see his candidacy as a reason to participate in the political process and vote for the first time in years.  In primary after primary, these Trump voters are making their voices heard.

There are still a number of states where voting has yet to occur, and with the Republican race down to Trump, Kasich, and Ted Cruz, voters in those states will have their chance to determine whether Donald Trump does well enough to compile a majority of Republican delegates.  As Rubio noted, we are a republic, and the elections in those other states will be the final decision points.  Last night, Ohio had its say in the process, and the Republican primary voters in the Buckeye State have resoundingly voted against the Trump approach.

Whatever the ultimate result might be, I’m proud of my state.

Exposing The Know-Nothing

Last night’s Republican debate was a terrific show.  After having to endure months of Donald Trump, America finally got to see him exposed for what he is:  a vacuous blowhard.

imageThanks to deft and persistent skewering by Senator Marco Rubio, who just would not let Trump get away with his standard techniques of interrupting and overstating and insulting, Trump was embarrassed repeatedly.  On health care, immigration, foreign policy, and issue after issue, Trump showed himself to be a colossal know-nothing who has no real positions beyond vague platitudes, and only the dimmest grasp of facts.  That reality became clearer and clearer as Trump flailed and babbled in response to Rubio’s aggressive questioning and, ultimately, mockery.  After that debate, does anyone think that Trump’s promises to “repeal and replace Obamacare with something much better” have any substance, or for that matter that Trump has any idea what a “much better” plan would even look like?

Thanks to Rubio, and to a lesser extent Senator Ted Cruz, we finally got to hear about some of Trump’s actual history and record on things like hiring immigrant workers and “Trump University,” about his clothing lines, and his tax returns, and his lawsuits.  It’s not a pretty record, but I’m guessing that many of the people who were watching the debate were hearing about it for the first time.

Those of us who have long thought Trump an empty-headed braggart may well ask why it took so long for other candidates to finally take some meaningful shots at him — but better late than never.  Until now, Trump has gotten by on sheer force of personality and his willingness to violate all rules of courtesy and decency.  His supporters hear his interruptions and insults and confuse his lack of civility with anti-establishment toughness.  So far, they’ve excused his lack of knowledge on the issues because they think he projects strength and success.  Last night, however, Trump was shown to be anything but the strong, successful frontrunner.  And when, after Rubio’s attacks, Trump belittled the questioner who asked an entirely fair question about Trump’s tax returns — making a mean and gratuitous comment about radio show ratings — Trump looked like a desperate jerk, rather than the confident and unflappable front-runner his supporters have come to expect.  He’s like the loudmouth jerk at a bar who can’t do anything but hurl personal abuse when he’s presented with facts that show he’s wrong.

Lots of people have been talking about “Teflon Don” and his supposed clear path to getting the Republican nomination.  No doubt there are some Trump fans who could care less that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, but I think many of his supporters just desperately want to change the direction in which the country is headed and think voting for Trump is the best way to do that.  After last night, they might come to realize that Trump is a pig in a poke, and voting for him would be a total leap of faith.  Maybe those who haven’t fully guzzled the Trump Kool-Aid will start to see the Donald for the crass know-nothing windbag that he really is.

No. 9 (Bad) Dream

The Republican presidential candidates had their ninth debate last night, in Greenville, South Carolina.  It was a train wreck.

Donald Trump dominated because he was willing to be even more rude and bombastic and bizarre than he has even been before.  He was like Trump, squared.  With his florid face neatly matching the red backdrop, Trump routinely interrupted and talked over other candidates, called people liars, made sophomoric snide remarks, and actually voiced the paranoid theory that the administration of George W. Bush lied about weapons of mass destruction in order to engineer the Iraq War.  Trump’s inability to give any specifics on what he would do to deal with any policy issue — other than hire “top men,” build a wall, and engage in trade wars — was more exposed than it has ever been before.

Republican U.S. presidential candidate businessman Donald Trump speaks at the Republican U.S. presidential candidates debate sponsored by CBS News and the Republican National Committee in GreenvilleI wonder when, or whether, Trump voters will awaken from their dream and realize that this ill-mannered, poorly informed, red-faced yeller is not suited to be our President and represent our nation in communicating with foreign leaders.  Last night Trump displayed, over and over again, a temperament that is unfit for high office, but his supporters have given his antics a pass before.  Perhaps the best evidence of how angry and marginalized Trump voters are is that they are willing to support Trump even after he obviously embarrasses himself.

Among the rest of the candidates there was a whiff of desperation in the air.  Campaign money has been spent down, and candidates feel that now is the time to step out and make their mark.  After South Carolina the field is likely to be winnowed further, and the logical person to go is Dr. Ben Carson, who really should have been winnowed out already. Carson is more well-mannered than Trump — of course, a caveman would be more well-mannered than Trump — but he appears to have only a tenuous grasp on some issues and seems to be wholly ill-suited, by training and knowledge, to serve as President.

I thought Marco Rubio won last night’s bad dream of a debate, by staying above the fray on the Trump sniping and giving thoughtful, cogent answers to a number of questions.  I thought the brouhaha about Rubio repeating himself in the last debate was overblown by the media — every politician up there repeats the same lines, routinely — but in any case last night’s performance should lay to rest the silly notion that Rubio is some programmed robot.  I thought Ted Cruz fared poorly, and Jeb Bush and John Kasich had their moments.  Kasich is still trying to follow the “Kasich lane” and is relentlessly staying on message as the positive candidate, while occasionally throwing in classic Midwestern phrases like “jeez o pete” and “dollars to doughnuts.”  It’s not clear whether that will sell south of the Mason-Dixon line, but Kasich has, at least, been very effective in staking out his own, unique persona among the remaining candidates.

We get to take a break until the next debate, which will be held on February 25 in Houston, Texas.  That’s good, because we need one.

Terrible Ted’s Voter Shaming

I’m one of those people who think Ted Cruz is not “likable.”  In fact, he looks and often sounds like the kind of guy who is so single-minded about succeeding that he would happily climb over the bodies of his former allies to get to the top.  Anyone who has gone to law school knows that personality type and shudders when they think of it.

twitterSo I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that the Cruz campaign in Iowa would do something like obtain voting data — which is available a matter of public record in Iowa — and then prepare individualized mailings headed “VOTING VIOLATION” and designed to look like official citations from state voting officials.  The mailing lists the name of the recipient and the percentage of times they have voted and gives them a “grade,” and — even worse — names the recipient’s neighbors and gives their voting percentages and “grades,” too.

Iowa’s Secretary of State, Paul D. Pate, has strongly criticized the mailing, calling it misleading. “Accusing citizens of Iowa of a ‘voting violation’ based on Iowa caucus participation, or lack thereof, is false representation of an official act,” Mr. Pate said. “There is no such thing as an election violation related to frequency of voting. Any insinuation or statement to the contrary is wrong and I believe it is not in keeping in the spirit of the Iowa caucuses.”  The Cruz campaign, for its part, pooh-poohs the issue and says that such a mailing is “common practice,” and Ted Cruz himself said he would “apologize to nobody for using every tool we can to encourage Iowa voters to come out and vote.”  (Why does that reaction not surprise me?)

Some people — like the guy who tweeted his mailing, shown above, and declared he was now caucusing for Marco Rubio — have reacted negatively to the mailing, which they think is trying to shame them, in front of their neighbors, into participating in the Iowa caucuses on Monday.  I’m not surprised.  Such a mailing would piss me off, too, and I vote in every election and therefore presumably should get a good voting “grade.”

I think, for Ted Cruz, this kind of mailing strikes at the deeper issue of just what kind of jerk he seems to be.  If Cruz is willing to try to publicly embarrass average people to try to get what he wants, where would he draw the line — if anywhere — if he were elected President?  People like to believe they can live their private lives without being put under a microscope or having their actions held up for ridicule by politicians who are already far too intrusive in our everyday affairs.  Now Ted Cruz thinks it is okay to try to shame people to their neighbors?  If I were an Iowan, it would definitely be something I would think about come caucus time.