Sunday, February 7, 2016

Dealing with Glitches in the GOP Debate

Republican Presidential hopeful Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL)'s rapid rise in the primary political polls has been premised on strong debate performances.  Rubio is articulate, some say smooth talking, in giving upbeat bite sized morsels during his time on the debate stage.

 Rubio surprised many political observers by his showing at the Iowa Caucuses, where he came in third as expected, but only 1.5% behind second place finisher Donald Trump.Thus his rapid rise made him a prime target at the Republican Debate held three days before the New Hampshire Primary. So he should have known what to expect.

After seven prior Republican debates, astute observers know candidates' patterns of behavior.  Ex Governor Mike Huckabee always slung "canned ham", hokey pre-written one line zingers designed to make him seem like the funny every-man's candidate.  The Iowa Caucus echo of Adele "It's Me" was expected but still amusing. Donald Trump (when he deign to show up for a debate) will start being subdued but eventually with squabble with Jeb! Bush. Dr. Ben Carson will joke about how little time he is being allotted and will do a data dump on questions not posed to him.Governor John Kasich (R-OH) will wildly flail his hands when speaking at the podium with occasional karate chops for rhetorical punctuation.

Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) inevitably will slip in a reference that he was a former Federal Prosecutor named just before the 9/11 terror attacks.  Christie also loves to look directly into the camera and address the television audience. Christie's blunt, confrontational approach should appeal out the outsider aura, those who are fed up with the District of Calamity (sic) and presumably blue collar voters.

Senator Rubio was wont to retell his family's remarkable American Dream story, which loses its effectiveness after it has been used a few times. Rubio also had the habit of asking people for their vote in a close, which gets a bit cloying.  Wisely, Senator Rubio has dropped both tacts.  As for style, Senator Rubio shoots for the American Dream in some responses and then tries to focus attacks on Obama and Hillary, while subtly shivving other candidates in the back.  This approach has given Rubio great favorability ratings.  Along with his strategy of heavy paid media campaign advertising, it has precipitated his top tier status.

Governor Christie is staking the fate of his entire campaign upon doing well (placing in the top troika) in the New Hampshire Primary.  For the week before the Republican Debate in Manchester, Christie had been gunning to take Rubio down a couple of notches, deriding him as "Bubble Boy", who was not accessible to voters or responding to tough questions.   Other have ripped Rubio as being robotic. So the critiques were being telegraphed to Rubio. Yet the freshman Florida Senator displayed a glaring glitch.

It seems that Rubio got rattled after Christie repeatedly rubuked him for giving memorized 30 second speeches. Almost to prove his point, Rubio blurted out similar tracks about President Obama four times in four minutes. In post debate spin mode, Rubio claims that he is passionate about this position and wishes people would keep playing the clip. The episode inspired a parody Twitter account "Marco Rubio Glitch".

Unfortunately, that was not the only instance were over-preparation showed.  In his answer about the military, Rubio began his answer, then stopped and began again because his memorized stump speech had to be delivered in that order.  Again, this glitch contributes to the charge of being robotic and mars an otherwise good debate performance, with excellent responses about ISIS and defining conservativism.

I do not begrudge candidates doing preparation work prior to a debate.  In fact, it shows some respect for an audience and hones a message, unlike Donald Trump's flippant definition of conservatism as "conserving money".  However, it is most effective if the audience is unaware that you are prepared. For example, Huckabee's canned ham are groaners because you know there are not spontaneous and he stained to find the opening to launch the zinger.

Similarly, by regurgitating the same rhetoric several times in a short span sounds robotic and pre-programmed. Discerning viewers are prompted to question authenticity. It begs the question of how a candidate will stand stricter scrutiny in the General Election campaign.

Sometimes glitches underline growing perceptions.  Ben Carson had developed a whiney reputation from the debates for not getting enough recognition or time allotments. The Carson campaign seized on a kerfluffle over a CNN news report at the start of the Iowa Caucuses that Carson was taking time from the campaign trail prior to the New Hampshire Pimary. Both the Cruz and Rubio campaigns spun this news to their grass-root leaders in the Caucuses to garner more votes.  Carson took umbrage exclusively at Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX).  Cruz quickly apologized for not passing along subsequent reports. Carson claimed as a Christian he accepted the apology but then priggishly seemed to require conditional forgiveness.  Cruz apologized again at the Manchester Debate, but that did not seem to assuage Dr. Carson's animus.

But as the candidates were being introduced onstage at the Manchester Debate, there was a technical glitch to cue Dr. Carson so he remained waiting in the wings, even as a stage manager gestured for him to take his place.  The ABC News Moderator David Muir had to invite Ben Carson for him to go to his podium.  Afterwards, Carson complained about not being introduced second.

This strange stagecraft, combined with a perception of priggish prissiness in politics, made it seem like Carson was being stand-offish because of a pecking order failure.  Along with Carson's standard complaint about being ignored and his refusal to accept Cruz's repeated apology, it gave a bad impression.  The technical glitch may have be inadvertent, but the cascade of a candidate who stands on heirs and hardly seems like he is working to win was a tough impression to shake.

Most of the time, people do not remember the substance of a debate but their impressions. Famously, in the 1960 Presidential Debate, the radio audience thought that then Vice President Richard Nixon (R-CA) bested then Senator John Kennedy (D-MA).  But the vast majority of the audience was on television, and they remember Nixon's five o'clock shadow vis-a-vis a tan, rested and telegenic Kennedy.

 In the 1980 Republican New Hampshire scheduled with then George H.W. Bush one on one debate, all people remember is  then former Governor Ronald Reagan (R-CA) saying: "Mr. Dean [editor's note- which was actually the wrong name], I paid for that microphone."  It showed assertiveness and authority.

Or the 1992 Richmond Town Hall debate when President George H.W. Bush was caught on camera looking at his watch. It gave the perception that Bush looked bored.

Then there was Vice President Al Gore's audible sighs in the 2000 Debate, which in retrospect he may have wanted to keep in a lock box.

How much the Rubio Glitch or the Carson miscue sticks in the minds of Granite State primary voters remains to be seen. At the very least, Rubio's less than stellar Manchester debate performance has halted his meteoric rise in the media and may prompt another antagonizing reappraisal by the GOP establishment of which horse to back against insurgent outsider candidates. 

Saturday, February 6, 2016

John Kasich on Politics

Erick Erickson Skewers the Carson Campaign

Aborting the Birther Canard

Recently, I wasted an evening dialoging on social media with political activists insistent that a series of Presidential candidates were disqualified from being elected because of their "natural born citizen" status.  These perseverating politicos railed against the Cubans.  One was disparaged as the Canadian candidate (a.k.a. Senator Ted Cruz R-TX), who was born in Calgary, Alberta to an American mother.  The other was described as an anchor baby (a.k.a. Senator Marco Rubio R-FL), who was born in Miami, Florida but his parents were not American Citizens (although they were Permanent Residents).

This tiresome conundrum seems to fascinate tin-foil hat conspiracy types as well as some racists. Some push citations from their blogs that insist that even the parents of candidates must be natural born citizens in order to qualify to be elected to the White House.  They did not cotton to the fact that such an interpretation would disqualify Donald Trump, as his mother was born in Scotland.

Some Trump-eteers echo their dear leader's Dutch uncle's advice that Cruz (and presumably Rubio) should get Declaratory Judgments in their favor.  The catch is two fold. Courts adjudicate legal disputes so someone has to be injured before such a judicial pronouncement can be made.  So the issue is not ripe.  And pro arguendo, if there is not settled law on natural born citizens, the judicial branch ought to kick the case out as it is a political matter. Of course they may not like the Illinois Election Board decision.

In a futile attempt to educate individuals of their invincible ignorance, it is worth considering a Harvard Law Review piece written a year ago by two Solicitor General of the United States [editor's note--that is the chief lawyer for the President who usually argues cases for the Administration before the Supreme Court]  Clinton acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal and George W. Bush Solicitor General Paul Clement examined examines the phrase natural born citizen and concludes that if someone is born outside of the US but has an American born parent who lived at least one year in the US, then they are a natural born citizen.

For those who can not be troubled to read the Harvard Law Review piece, Fox News Legal Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano comes to the same conclusion a nearly a year later and assuages Donald Trump's eligibility assertions.

Those who keep seeking to make this a campaign crucible seem unwilling to listen to reason.  They love the fight and seize upon this thread even when it exposed as a canard, because otherwise they would need to delve into policy. I've had one colloquy with someone who wanted her birther question answered. It was asked and answered even with a citation intended for laymen.  She thanked me and claimed that she was a German Grandma who just wanted to know more.  A week later, she was posting the same shtick so I asked if she had read my referral. She could find no fault with the legal argument but was not a lawyer so her simple question remained.

I had hoped that the No Nothing Party disappeared from America in 1860. Regrettably, they are devolving our civil discourse today. Their logical rivals the mental machinations of the Loose Change crowd 150 years later.

When it comes to human life I am a pro-life advocate.  That being said, we ought to abort the birther canard. But it is daunting to get chase away trolls and clean up after their blustery bi-products.

President Ronald Reagan on Prayer

President Ronald Reagan on Prayer

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Barbara Bush on Jeb!

More Muddled Message From Ben Carson

The Ben Carson campaign has been capitalizing on a kerfluffle regarding a CNN report just as the Iowa Caucuses were starting that Carson was suspending his campaign. Other opponents, such as the Cruz and Rubio campaign, trumpeted the information to their grassroots operatives.  A subsequent clarification from the Carson campaign that he was off the campaign trail for a few days to get some R&R as well as fresh clothes, were not passed along to the Caucus precinct captains.

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) publicly apologized for not passing along the additional information.  Some have been scandalized by a recorded telephone call (isn't dissemination a felony unless there's two party consent?) that the Cruz campaign pushed a suspended campaign pitch to win over Carson voters.

Dr. Carson has perseverated on this point.  First, he claimed Christianity forced him to accept the apology but then his forgiveness was conditional.  Then his expectation evolved to having heads roll in the Cruz campaign.  Now in day three of this contrived controversy, Dr. Carson went on television to demand:"Don't do what's legal, but what's right". Whatever does that mean in the primary process?

In addition, is this selective outrage?  The Rubio campaign was also trafficking in this report. Why is Cruz the sole focus? Is it animus against Cruz because some of his New Hampshire staff and fund-raisers defected to Cruz?  Is it because both Cruz and Carson are competing for the same sliver of the Republican primary electorate?  Or is it to gang up on the front runner which neither the establishment nor the press likes?

That pious platitude is about as clear as Carson's campaign clarification that he was leaving the campaign trail to get fresh clothes in the heat of a primary that could determine the viability of the Carson campaign.

It is unclear what Carson really wants, other than more publicity and burnishing his personal brand. Perhaps he will answer when he returns to New Hampshire on Saturday afternoon for the Republican Debate.  But if he thinks that this whiny, ambiguous complaints about past contests endears himself to conservatives, he is as mistaken as former Governor Sarah Palin was about her endorsement of Donald Trump for President

Cruz Decimates Dirty Trick Charge

In the wake of losing the Iowa Caucuses, Republican Presidential hopefuls Dr. Ben Carson and Donald Trump have been making hay about an alleged dirty trick in Iowa.  The some operatives in the Sen. Cruz (R-TX) campaign as well as Sen. Rubio (R-FL) grassroots activists passed along the information that Carson was going off the campaign trail and would be making a big announcement.

While Senator Cruz did make a public apology that his staff did not pass along subsequent media reports that Carson was just going off the campaign trail to fly to Florida for a change of clothes, this was insufficient for Dr. Carson who wanted heads to roll in the Cruz campaign.

Trump has gone so far as to declare himself the real winner of the Hawkeye Cauci and demanded a do-over to make things right.

When pressed to answer for this campaign tactic, Cruz answered by impeaching the press.

Will this inconvenient truth quash the ersatz controversy.  Of course not.  

Dr. Carson is getting more media spots in the last couple of days to build his brand then he has received in weeks.  Mr. Trump regains the media circus spotlight while establishing a potential charge that the Republicans treated him unfairly, so he would be justified to run a third party campaign.  The Republican establishment will be happy to sully Cruz as his platform threatens the Cocktail Party business as usual.  And the media loves a Republican food fight, especially since it draws attention away from the fledgling campaign of Democrat First Lady/Senator/Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D-NY)