Friday, September 18, 2015

My thoughts on the second GOP debate(s)

CNN hosted two Republican debates at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library last night.  Like the Fox News debate held in Cleveland last month this was meant to be considered one debate broken up into two rounds, but when you have a completely different set of people on the stage for each round it effectively becomes two debates.

I guess you could say that Bobby Jindal won the 6 PM debate, but the whole thing felt like a waste of time to me.  Jindal tried to strike a balance between speaking to the base much in the same way that Ted Cruz does while still being willing to denounce Donald Trump, Rick Santorum's foreign policy chops were overshadowed by his sanctimony and his naked appeals to economically illiterate Trump voters, Lindsey Graham stuck to his usual shtick of trying to be some strange General Patton/Andy Griffith hybrid, and George Pataki was just sort of there (I honestly can't remember a single word he said).

Every candidate in the 8 PM debate had at least one good moment but Carly Fiorina was the candidate that really stood out as the winner.  She's someone who not only does her homework but is very good at thinking on her feet, and it showed last night.  No matter what question was asked she always seemed to find a way to turn her answer into a blistering attack, but she never once resorted to the sort of third-grade insults used by Trump.

Marco Rubio did well for himself too, but not quite as well as he did in the Fox debate, I think.  He knows his stuff, and he's very good at explaining things without it sounding like he's giving a speech, but last night he just didn't get in the kind of broadsides that we saw from Fiorina.  (I also could've done without his lame water bottle joke, but that's a minor complaint.)

I don't know if he'll be punished in the polls for it or not but Donald Trump's performance in last night's debate was pretty terrible, even for him.  Sure, he did have a few moments where he seemed almost human, but mostly he stuck to non sequiturs and random insults, or blatant lies about his previous random insults; and for some strange reason he still seems utterly determined to remain as uninformed on matters of foreign policy as he possibly can.

For the most part Ben Carson seemed much more comfortable giving more specific answers in this debate than he did at the Fox debate, but he still seems out of his depth on foreign policy and at times even dangerously naive.  At one point he seemed to suggest that President Bush should have used "the bully pulpit" to do some unspecified thing instead of invading Afghanistan after 9/11--not the kind of answer serious people want to hear from a potential Commander in Chief.

Chris Christie came off as a serious guy for most of the night, as he did in the Fox debate, but at other times he seemed like he was trying too hard to act like he was the only adult in the room and I found it a bit off-putting.  If you want to be seen as Mr. Serious you can't be overbearing about it.  I do have a lot of problems with him as a candidate but I haven't written him off yet.

We know who John Kasich is now so he no longer has the benefit of low expectation, and he no longer has his adoring fans from Ohio in the audience to cheer him on.  He pretty much fell flat last night.  I find Kasich a bit tedious at this point, frankly.  He kept interrupting everyone else on the stage but never seemed to have much of anything to say.  Also, his explanation of why he wants to keep the Iran deal in place was so dumb that it made my head hurt.

I like that Scott Walker pushed back a little bit on how all the questions were about Trump, but ultimately it didn't change anything.  The dumb questions just kept coming and coming.  I like Walker, but his campaign has been an absolute mess so far and he's just too subdued in these debates.

Rand Paul was much less aggressive here than he was in the Fox debate; he had a chance to get into a big fight with Trump while defending Carly Fiorina but he gave up and just rolled his eyes instead.  Other than that minor skirmish, the only things I can even remember hearing from him last night was more of the usual anti-war stuff and pro-marijuana stuff.

Ted Cruz still sounds way too rehearsed to me, and way too focused on speaking only to the base.  I don't know why he has a reputation for being such a great debater.   And of course he didn't say one bad word about Trump, as usual.  He seems to think that if he keeps playing footsie with Trump that he'll just somehow magically end up with all of Trump's supporters.

Jeb Bush was just as uninspiring in this debate as he was in the Fox debate.  Well, he did have one good line where he defended his brother by saying that he kept us safe, but that was it.  I just don't think Jeb has it in him to show us that he's anything other than Mr. Establishment.  He doesn't even really have the perception that he's the default not-Trump guy going for him anymore.

Huckabee was Huckabee.  He had a few good lines but mostly he was just there taking up space.  I still can't believe he gave up a television show for this.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Tweets of the Week (8/2/15 - 8/8/15)

My thoughts on the first GOP debate(s)

Well, it looks like it's debate season again.  Fox News hosted two Republican debates in Cleveland, Ohio last night.  Technically, it was supposed to be considered one debate, but it was broken up into two parts, with the second-tier candidates debating at 5 PM and the main debate happening at 9 PM.

I was disappointed that Rick Perry (who IMHO actually has the best record to run on) wasn't included in the primetime debate, but I thought the more easygoing pace of the less crowded 5 PM debate served him well; whether Perry can do well enough in a debate to stop the grumbling of people still sore at him for his lackluster 2012 debate performance remains to be seen.

The consensus seems to be that Carly Fiorina was the winner of the 5 PM debate; Perry practically endorsed her himself in the middle of his answer to a question about Iran.  Fiorina has a lot of great moments but my favorite was the shot she took at Trump--the kind of shot that Perry should've taken but didn't.  I only wish I could've seen the look on Trump's face when she did it.

Bobby Jindal may look good on paper to a lot of people, but I don't think he's a very good at talking about his record; he keeps switching back and forth between speaking too fast and trying not to sound like he's speaking too fast, and it sometimes makes it hard to follow what he's saying.

George Pataki, Rick Santorum, and Lindsey Graham all left me cold; none of these three really felt to me like they even belonged there.  I don't remember much of what Jim Gilmore said, but I don't remember actively disliking him or feeling like he was somehow out of place.

I'm not sure if there was a clear winner of the primetime debate, but the biggest loser was definitely Donald Trump.  Right off the bat he refused to pledge not to run as a third party candidate if someone else won the GOP nomination.  Later in the debate Trump hurt himself again by giving a strange answer to a question about single payer healthcare in which he praised the healthcare systems in Canada and Scotland, said some stuff about buying insurance across state lines here in the US, and seemed careful to not entirely rule out wanting single payer as part of a replacement for Obamacare.  All throughout the debate most of Trump's answers were really not much better than word salad, and often he would be given an extra thirty seconds to clarify his garbled answers.  (And of course after the debate was over he blamed Fox News for his pathetic performance because nothing is ever his fault.)

Marco Rubio seemed to make the best use of his time overall and had a very strong close; I tend to prefer executive experience in a candidate, but I have to admit he's very good at speaking without sounding like he's speechifying.  (There will always be those who write Rubio off as an amnesty shill, but even Donald Trump for all his ranting and raving about border security always manages to leave the door open to some sort of amnesty whenever directly asked about it.)

Jeb Bush went into this debate being known by most people as the Establishment guy or the default not-Trump pick, and I don't think he really did much to convince people that he was anything more than those things.  I didn't find him very inspiring and not much of anything he said really stuck with me after the debate was over.  There was an awkward moment where he declined to take credit for calling Trump an asshole, and then Trump called him a gentleman afterward, which probably made a few heads explode on both sides.

Ted Cruz has a reputation for being an excellent debater but he sounded a bit too rehearsed to me, and most of his answers felt like little speeches. He also has a tendency to sound like he's speaking only to the base even when he's trying not to, which could be a problem for him in the general election if he ever manages to win the nomination.

Rand Paul tried to stand out by getting into a few shouting matches but his shrill voice always makes him sound like he's desperately flailing even when he actually has the better argument.  I don't think he did himself any favors.

Ben Carson did a good job of using humor to try to connect with people, but he didn't really offer any substance along with that humor; his answers tended to meander all over the place without ever finding any specifics.  He's put more thought into his positions than Trump, I'll give him that, but that's not saying much.  Someone who's only running for president because he made Obama uncomfortable for a few minutes at a prayer breakfast really needs to do better than this.

Mike Huckabee is also very good at using humor but I don't think people will ever get over the fact that he's Mike Huckabee.  His record as governor is not a good one, so he only gets so much benefit from saying he has executive experience.  The show he had on Fox may give him a base of support but most people will always think of him as Rick Santorum with a bass guitar and a better sense of humor.

Chris Christie did well for himself.  He had a skirmish with Rand Paul that fans of Paul probably won't forgive him for, but for the most part Christie came across as a serious guy.  I'm still skeptical that someone from a blue state with his temperament and tendency to lash out at his own party can win the nomination.

Scott Walker didn't really stand out, but he didn't make any blunders either.  If he made a mistake at all it was in playing it too safe; it seemed like his answers were shorter than they needed to be at times.  He's really not known as a foreign policy guy but one of his best moments came when he quoted Ronald Reagan while talking about Vladimir Putin.

John Kasich got a lot of praise for doing better than people expected, but that was only because the audience was filled with Ohioans cheering him on and our expectations were so low.  Next time will be a lot harder for him to get that kind of praise, I think, and it will be tough for him to escape being thought of as a more genial version of Jon Huntsman.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Playing by their rules is not always a good idea

Some people on the right have it in their heads that Obama winning the White House has somehow fundamentally changed the nature of politics itself.  I know Obama said he wanted to "fundamentally transform" the country, but I really don't think he's changed the way the GOP will win elections.

Obama's victories in 2008 and 2012 hasn't changed the fact that it's been nearly 100 years since a Republican senator has won in a presidential election.  Obama could get away with being a presidential candidate that had an impossibly thin record and the most inane slogans you could ever imagine because the media chose to treat him like a demigod anyway.  Republicans don't have the luxury of being worshipped by the media.  The media only ever gives Republicans glowing coverage when those Republicans are bashing their own party for something, and even then that praise will only last so long; you could be the media's favorite Republican and you'll still be treated like the incarnation of evil the moment you become an obstacle for a Democrat seeking the White House.

You can't spend all day complaining about the media's double standard and then suddenly expect everything to go swimmingly when you try to play by the other side's rules.  Any Republicans seeking higher office should take it as a given that the media will do its level best to tear them apart, and so they need to go the extra mile to make sure they have their shit together before they decide to run.  A Democrat can give one speech and somehow be taken seriously as a presidential candidate, but Republicans need to do more than that.  Giving a good speech or being good in a debate are good skills to have, but they shouldn't be the only skills you have.  Republican candidates need to be good at communicating their ideas in simple and relatable terms, but they also need to be able to show that their ideas work when put into action, which is why governors tend to make better GOP candidates than senators do.  ( People who have their hearts set on nominating a senator will often point to Mitt Romney as a notable exception, but Romney was a governor from a very blue state so he was only going to get so much mileage out of his record there... and Santorum probably would've lost by double digits anyway. )

I'm not saying that it's utterly impossible for the GOP to send a senator to the White House, just that the chances are slimmer than they should be, and when the deck is already stacked against you this much, why risk it?  The media is thoroughly corrupt, probably more corrupt now than it's ever been before.  Our education system is constantly churning out people who don't know how to think for themselves and our culture is constantly finding new ways to fill their heads with left-wing talking points, turning them into millions of people who are basically Democrats by default.  When that's what you're fighting against, there's very little margin of error.  If you really want your favorite senator to be president someday, then maybe you should be telling him to run for governor first before they run for president, or at least be willing to settle for him being on the bottom of the ticket.

( And by the way, speaking of our culture, when Republicans are already perceived as being out of touch, one of the worst ways a Republican can play the "their rules" game is to make yourself look like a culturally ignorant buffoon while throwing around blatantly false allegations of racism. )

Friday, February 27, 2015

RIP Leonard Nimoy

Leonard Nimoy passed away today after fighting a years-long battle with COPD.  He had many great acting roles over the years, but his role as Spock is the one he'll undoubtedly be most remembered for.  My favorite Spock moment comes at the end of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, the final Star Trek film to feature the entire cast from the original series.  Here's a clip:

Saturday, February 21, 2015

If Obama loves America, he sure does have a funny way of showing it

Our hopelessly corrupt left-wing media is apoplectic over comments that Rudy Giuliani made expressing doubt in President Obama's love of country.  Of course, these same media hacks were just fine with Obama questioning Bush's patriotism whenever it suited him. (And somehow they never seem to notice that if Obama held himself to the same standard on debt he held Bush to, he'd have to call himself the most unpatriotic president ever.)

Obama's early life was filled with communists and anti-colonialists who harbored a deep resentment of the West in general and of America in particular.  As a young man, Obama specifically sought out Jeremiah Wright and chose him as a spiritual mentor, and he sat in the pews of that church for over 20 years while Wright spouted all sorts of anti-American nonsense; at one point Wright even explicitly blamed America for 9/11.  Obama's political career began in the living room of Bill Ayers, a domestic terrorist whose terror group bombed the Pentagon on Ho Chi Minh's birthday.  After all that, why should anyone just automatically assume that America gives Obama the warm fuzzies?

Michelle Obama openly admits that she wasn't proud of her country until her husband was elected president.  This is the woman he chose to spend the rest of his life with?  This is his soul mate?  What does that say about him?

One of the first things Obama did as president was go around the world apologizing on behalf of America.  Obama apologizes for America, yet he jumps to the defense of Islam again and again.  Bizarrely, he even tried to credit Islam with being part of the fabric of our country from America's inception, yet somehow he neglects to ever mention the Barbary Wars.  Obama refuses to call Islamic terrorists what they are because he refuses to believe they might actually be motivated even in part by Islam.  And Obama's apparent anti-Semitism causes him to spurn Israel, America's greatest ally in the Middle East, over and over again.  Are these the priorities of a man who loves America?

Whenever Obama speaks about American exceptionalism he either seems to dismiss it outright or he gives an answer that demonstrates a complete misunderstanding of the term.  (Once, he even tried to offer himself as proof of America's exceptionalism, which is just the sort of thing you'd expect a malignant narcissist to do.)  As president, Obama has always placed far more importance on the advancement of his own far-left agenda than he has on the constitutional principles of popular sovereignty. republicanism, federalism, separation of powers, checks and balances, limited government, and individual rights.  Even the lectures he gave at the University of Chicago Law School were never much more than a series of "social justice" talking points dressed up as lectures about constitutional law.  Can you really say that you love America when you don't love any of the things that make America special?  Can you really say that you love anything that you've promised to fundamentally transform into something completely different?

Saturday, January 31, 2015

I'm a poet and I didn't even know it

Poetweet is an interesting website that takes a Twitter handle and uses it to generate a poem based on that person's tweets.  It can make three different kinds of poems: sonnet, rondel, and indriso.  It can be quite amusing, but if you use it on the same handle more than once the same sentence fragments start to appear over and over again, so it tends to get repetitive very quickly; also, the randomness of it often comes across as just plain nonsensical rather than absurdly funny.

That being said, I found the idea of making a poem out of tweets interesting enough that I thought I'd try to piece one together manually from some of my own tweets and partial tweets.  In some places I mashed a couple tweets together or rearranged the words a bit, but it's all stuff I scraped from my timeline; I didn't add anything extra.  Anyway, here it is, in all its glory:

The King of Empty Promises
by A.J. Winkelspecht

The rich don't pay their fair share.  Let's just put our money in a big pile and split it.
The world can't be fair until we're all lying face down in the same gutter.
Pushing for policies that have failed every single time they were tried.  Same old shit.

Facts are indeed stubborn things... such a shame that so many Democrats are stubborner.
A dishonest MSM.  False and deceptive is their bread and butter.
Every street, a Folsom Street Fair.  Subsidized abortions on every corner.

That's what they want, that's why they lie.
You trying to make us laugh or cry?.

Booing God and Israel.  Washing Obama's feet and anointing him with oil.
Progressives have a king today, now it's Cloward-Piven all the way!
Forward into the beckoning chasm of debt and unemployment and tyranny.

What the hell is this?  Hope?  Change?
If Obama's explicit goal was to see America ruined and Israel destroyed, what would he be doing any differently?

That's what they want, that's why they lie.
The end is extremely fucking nigh.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Stupid Party strikes again

Mollie Hemingway has a great piece up at The Federalist explaining what a debacle the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act turned into in the House of Representatives.

Even if you were certain you didn't have the votes to pass it, why pull the bill?  All pulling the bill does is give people the impression that it's extreme when it's actually pretty mainstream; in fact, a virtually identical bill passed the House in 2013 without incident.  Late-term abortion bans always poll extremely well; even many folks who don't call themselves"pro-life" are still in favor of banning late-term abortion.  So why not just hold the vote on this bill regardless of whether or not you think enough votes are there to pass it, and then let whoever is extreme enough to vote against it show themselves for what they are?

Why in the world did Speaker Boehner let this happen?  I want to give the guy a chance, but this is the kind of stupid shit that keeps pushing me into the anti-Boehner camp.  Just take the easy win when you have it, Mr. Speaker!  Please stop trying so hard to find a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.  ( I'm glad that he invited Bibi to speak to Congress and all, but I don't think it was part of some master plan of his to give Obama a nervous breakdown, so I can only give him so much credit. And, really, it should've been a no-brainer anyway. )

Many conservatives are calling for Representative Renee Ellmers to be primaried in 2016 as punishment for throwing a spanner into the works with her flip-flop on late-term abortion.  Ace even goes so far as to say that we should vote for her Democrat opponent if she somehow survives a primary challenge.  I used to think such ideas were insane, but I have to admit he makes a surprisingly persuasive argument.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Is this really as bad as it will get?

Writing at The American Interest, Walter Russell Mead suggests that the left may have peaked with the Obama administration.  He makes some good points, but I'm not quite as optimistic as he seems to be.  For one thing, Obama still has two years left in office with no threat of electoral consequences to prevent him from fully embracing the darker angels of our nature, so I expect things to get much worse still before they start to get better; the GOP won big in the midterms, but if they won't stop Obama from sidestepping Congress whenever he feels like it, then how much of a victory was it, really?

Mead is also much more dismissive of Elizabeth Warren's chances than I am.  Yes, she's a leftist kook with a practically nonexistent resume and a partially fabricated bio, but so was Obama; nobody thought anything of Obama either when he ran against presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton in 2008.  Mead thinks it was a unique set of circumstances (mainly Iraq and the financial crisis) that propelled Obama to the White House, but that theory doesn't really explain how Obama got reelected in 2012, does it?  I still think our problems as a country run much deeper than many of us would like to admit.

(Hat tip to @rdbrewer4 for finding Mead's article.)