The New Hampshire debates on Saturday night cemented the current standings from ridiculous to obscure the bankrupt idea makers who make up the GOP's current top seven candidates as they shred facts and spin 24 hour news cycles in the hopes of capturing the imaginations of confused constituencies they hope will vote for them as the new leader of the free world in 2016.
Who's left? Chris Christie, the ham fisted Taft sized Governor of New Jersey, who believes in taking from the rich and basically stopping there. He expects the most from his local and state officials, and when total sycophantic dedication is denied they are turned on vindictively in true Christie style.
Casual retaliation is on display potentially at any press conference or town hall where Christie has a history of shouting down and belittling his voters, making women cry and the unemployed humiliated.
Famously in Bridgegate he showed the pattern of ritualized punishment on the state level, when Fort Lee's Mayor Mark Sokolich, didn't endorse Christie for his 2013 re-election bid, which resulted in Christie setting friend and Port Authority appointee David Wildstein after him, to shut down all the lanes but one to the George Washington bridge and snarl traffic in the town of Fort Lee for weeks which was a municipal disaster. Wildstein pleaded guilty to two conspiracy counts for his actions in court last May. Christie also sacrificed his long time aid and Chief Of Staff at the time, Anne Kelly, who's emails and texts showed her collusion as well as another Christie friend and appointee at the Port Authority Bill Baroni. Both who are expected to be indicted. As a former DA does Christie know how to surf scandals and manipulate government? Sure thing. Sacrifice your friends. Is he interested in helping his state? Well, there was that pesky federal investigation in 2014 about why only 25% of the $3.3 billion Hurricane Sandy Relief Aid had been distributed, and why $25 million of it was used for a marketing campaign to promote tourism in New Jersey. Then, surprisingly, another $1 billion was dispersed suddenly at the end of that year. Where's the rest of that Sandy fund? Two years later? Still not disbursed. His approval rating as Gov. is at a new low as of Dec 2015, as he's polling at 33%, and his state is ranked as one of the worst in the country to do business in. New Jersey has only recovered 62% of jobs since the recession while the rest of the country as recovered 135%. Usually those in government tout their successes in office as a mandate for Presidential selection. That ain't happening so much here. But to his credit, he has defunded Planned Parenthood, and taken $50M away from them in six years. So he's got the women's vote.
Donald Trump, the Carnival barker and fascist-lite bullying savant became the exact thing that he loathes a week ago when he came in second at the Iowa Primary and became a 'loser'. His famous tweet "No one remembers who came in second - Walter Hagen', says it all. Trump who? Should be the new T-shirts printed by anyone, please. I say fascist -'lite', by the way, because as much as he may want to be a totalitarian dictator, I don't think he has the focus. I don't see Donald Trump spending sleepless nights with his mind burning at the required high temperatures of insanity that propel a xenophobic mass murderer to plot the state-wide military machinery required to eradicate entire clines of people. There's a heads up, people, we're all one race by the way, scientifically, there is no difference between the minor aesthetic differences in humans, (skin color, eye shape, hair texture, etc). So the categories we've become familiar with and happily humiliate each other shouting unpleasant names for these differences for millennia are called 'clines', not races. We're one race. Period.
As to Trump, his campaign is starting to look a lot like his real estate projects, which no doubt probably look like his typical date nights. He's all talk, smooth talk, loud talk, shouting talk, a self deluded ladies man who pushes himself on the target in question so hard they don't know what hit them before it's too late, only to realize it's all a big fat zero in the sack after he closes the deal. Trump's had so many bankruptcies (at least four) his next book should only have chapters 8 and 11.
All that brutish talk gets you some action, but after you close the deal if it's just an embarrassment and humiliating clean up people will move on, which is why he continually spins his own reality so hard it makes the ministry of information in 1984 seem like the Columbia Journalism review. There's been plenty written about the shutting down of his casinos, hotels, airlines and other properties, and the handing over of control of his liabilities in bankruptcy to financial managers who actually made them work.
If the poor Joe had invested the money his dad gave him he'd have 8 billion, not 2. That tells you all you need to know about his genius for making money. What does he do now? Sell his name, on chocolates, shirts, steaks, not buildings or municipal projects. Does he plan to build a wall against Mexico? Not really. Does he want to move 11 million undocumented out of America? Of course not. Does he know how to manipulate the media with outlandish statements so he's always being talked about? Yes.
Losing the Iowa Primary last week showed us that the bully boy's voting block that's cheering him on are nowhere near large enough to make his campaign a winning one nationally, much less buoyant regionally. After his next nose dive in New Hampshire, or the one following, his campaign will go the way much of his real estate projects over much of his life, swollen, upside down, debt ridden and sink into default. He'll be unable to continue as cold sweats and panic attacks will accompany his realization that he can't spin a losing streak which will be toxic to his brand. He'll probably want to take his name off the campaign, just like he's tried to take his name off his bankrupt casino he lost in Atlantic City, but they won't let him. Guaranteed he'll write a new book on how to win a campaign, even though he didn't, and make some new real estate deals based on the free publicity he's gotten all year. He'll Oprah he could have had it all but decided against it, as it's not his calling. That nagging pathological liar voice in his head just can't stop and handle the truth. It's all for the bigger play: stay relevant, sell some more licensing deals with his name on hit, to some more suckers, walk away and gold gild another 17 bathrooms.
Ted Cruz, the sideways talking Canadian is happy to say anything to anyone to get their vote. It doesn't matter that his position on the issues may shift every time. He promised not to go after Gay marriage to supporters in NY, and promised to go against Gay marriage to supporters in the south. He wants to carpet bomb the mid-east, which of course isn't really a position, just a compassionate conservative's stance on war. He wants to turn America 'Theological' as it's the only way to save it. He's anti New York and anti -banking, except he got a $1.4 million loan from Goldman Sachs for his campaign in 2012 that he never disclosed. How did he get away with that? His wife works at Goldman Sachs and Chad Sweet his campaign chairman also worked at Goldman Sachs for a decade.
So he loves banks and loves NY, but that just doesn't play on the southern bible belt circuit, he's a Tea Party guy out of Texas, so he campaigned against big banks. Brain hurt yet? He's made so many incorrect quotes of the constitution it's hard to know where to start to correct him, so it's easier to say he's writing a novel in the sand on beaches across the country and to please reference those writings if you have any questions.
He won the Iowa Primary, which is fascinating, but understandable as Iowa tracks strongly evangelical and liberal, which is a curious mix. But his theological adulation won't play nationally, as his pro bible rhetoric and anti-woman and anti-immigration positions are too divisive for the mainstream. Political expediency was never more in relief than with this guy as he's claimed he's the candidate standing up for the first responders of 9/11, for example, but voted against their health bill. He has said he wants government out of the new energy biz, but would assure ethanol could come to market with anti trust laws, which is putting government into the energy biz. He takes no position on undocumented immigrants 'until the border is secure." Which will be...never?
And here's a good one; billionaire hedge fund manager Robert Mercer has donated up to $31 million to Ted Cruz's campaign, and Cruz has called for the abolition of the IRS, which surprising wants 6 billion from Robert Mercer. It goes on and on like this and is frankly exhausting. That's why he has stated he hates fact checkers with the quote:"There is, however a new, particularly noxious species of yellow journalismis...It's called PolitiFact." If you google 'Ted Cruz fact check', however, your computer may collapse under the avalanche of corrections that download as he's wrong on just about everything he has ever said in public. To say he has a credibility problem is like saying the Fukushima reactor had a water pump problem. The real problem is, he doesn't care. His careful mistatements keep the spotlight on him, advance his own agenda, and are designed to get him air time. Like his famous 11 hour filibuster to stop Obamacare, that did nothing to stop Obamacare and never would, except it got him a news story about himself, which was the only point of doing it. This is what this Senator is all about. Getting himself on camera.
Marco Rubio's robotic meltdown on the New Hampshire debate night with his four repetitions, word for word, of his position against Obama even caused Chris Christie to come out of his ever-ready belligerent fugue state and tell Rubio to shut up and not be so scripted. Rubio's a hawk who wants to bomb the mid-east just like Cruz does, as well as the Ukraine to teach Russia a lesson, and Iran to stop them from getting the bomb, and also Syria. He doesn't believe in climate change and opposes laws that support it. He's anti-gay marriage (even though the Supreme Court said it's the law of the land last July), and is so anti woman that it makes the other candidates seem pale in comparison.
He's a 100% pro lifer who believes: "I've chosen to err on the side of life," which means no abortion, ever, even in cases or rape in incest. He's gone as far to say "I would tell the rape victim it's a terrible situation, but have the rapist's baby anyway." and "rape victims should be in custody if there is suspicion they are planning an abortion." He has said he would rather lose an election than be wrong on the sanctity of life and he'll probably get his wish. It was a disappointing night for the man who placed 3rd in the Iowa Primary, with 23.1% of the vote to Trump's 24.3%. A few coin tosses and maybe he'd have second place, which suddenly makes him a player.
But he came off so scripted at the debates that he doesn't seem able to have a real conversation, let alone give the impression his thinking is as facile as his memorization, which seems to be limited to the one quote about how Obama is wrecking the country. It doesn't build confidence for being the leader of the free world. So a disappointing night for Rubio, this arch conservative who is parading as a moderate. More importantly it was a disappointing night for us who had to listen to his meandering confusion. One had the feeling Rubio wasn't sure where he was, and was just speaking his bullet points into the camera with the red blinking light to play it safe. "Don't worry," his campaign manager is saying, "no one will notice the sound bites are the same when they're cut to pieces on the internet."
Jeb Bush, ironically had a better night than Jeb Bush usually has, which is not saying a lot as the bar is so low for this guy as he was tracking at 4.1% the day of the Primary and took only 2.8% of the vote.
If he had been alone in a room with a cat he would have a had a better night for Jeb Bush, than usual, as cat's in general support people around 5.6% of the time. If he had been acting intelligently during this campaign up to now, people might say he's been hanging back on purpose, the dark horse, waiting for the louder baboons to fight each other to the death and leave the lane to the finish open for him. But it genuinely seems to be his own inability to connect with people, or shoot himself in the foot with statements like "Stuff happens," a day after a massacre on an Oregon college campus, or "People need to work longer hours," only weeks after his campaign launch in a newspaper interview discussing the economy and unemployment, or one of my favorites when asked if Obama was hostile to capitalism:"I definitely do. It think he has a deep-seated belief that through government programs and through government regulation, you can improve the social condition." ...Um, yeah - that's the point.
I personally loved the early campaign slogan Jeb! - which perhaps was supposed to evoke the same kind of Broadway excitement as the show; Mama Mia!, and the direct mail flyer it was printed on that was mailed to 10's of thousands of homes which showed Jeb! standing smiling against a cityscape, except one of his hands was African American. Mama Mia! Talk about being all things to all people!
His campaign re-design and new slogan "Jeb Can Fix It!" which came a few months later spawned a thousand jokes on Twitter, including "yes - so African Americans in Florida can't vote," and "what, his campaign?" while others suggested the "Walking Jeb" was a better slogan after he was polling at 9% in his own state.
Given his lackluster character and monotone voice that could be used as an emergency anesthetic in hospital surgical theaters in times of crisis, you'll find him at many of his town halls, sometimes with other people who've also shown up, as he slowly explains why he's on the wrong side of most issues.
Even so, I still called Bush to be the last man standing and will be the GOP pick at their convention back in August and do so again here. Because at the end of the day, dark money financiers don't have any imagination, but they can count. And in this case they can count to two. And that's the number the presidents in this guy's family before him. So they'll decide the brand is still a winner and back him, even though he seems just as bad as communicating ideas as his brother did and that's saying a lot. But as governor of Florida he oversaw the election meltdown of 2000 so he's got the looking the other way when the shit hits the fan down cold, which seems to be a Bush skill set,as in: "I think Brownie's doing a heck of a job."
He thinks climate change is a concern, but it's unclear if humans cause it - so translate that as no legislation against it. He wants to expand gun owners rights. There were over 204 mass shootings in the U.S. in 2015., so - good call. He wants to create a legal status for illegal immigrants, not citizenship. He wants to put U.S. troops near Russia's regions because Putin is a bully. He believes abortion is okay up to 20 weeks. So, at the end of the day Is he crazy? No. Boring? Yes. Extreme in his positions? No. Nationally he could be in play. He oddly keeps pushing his devalued and embarrassing brother as his own biggest supporter, and points out his father was President as well. You probably knew that.
Doctor Ben Carson is leading the race into obscurity faster than previous figures in history who headed into obscurity before him, like Pertinax, the Roman emperor who reigned for 3 months before he was assassinated. Remember him? Exactly. Possibly Carson is trying to set a new record for reaching obscurity faster than that guy. Carson might actually have more impact if he dropped out of the race, as being in the race seems to be having no impact. His half crazy ideas polled well and gained momentum initially, like how the pyramids in Egypt were used to store grain (they are mostly solid with complicated narrow corridors and chambers within to hold the dead pharaoh and his earthly possessions), that "Obamacare is the worst thing since slavery," again not exactly true and a slight over statement to one of the greatest social injustices in human history that took place over centuries, there was "Jews could have prevented the Holocaust if they had guns," another winner right up there with the NRA's thoughts that teachers (and children) should have guns to stop insane shooters. There are many great variations on this socially responsible idea right up there with - if a kid throws a rock in the playground, give all the kids rocks. But Jews had guns in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and inspiring as that act of defiance was, it did little to stop the actual Holocaust. Crazy was working for Carson, so that even when he said Anarchy could cancel the 2016 election his supporters were shouting "Yes!" Probably followed by "what?" which we didn't hear over the sounds of his campaign folding in on itself. In mid-January his finance chair resigned after a $20,000/month salary was revealed, as well as the use of many inexperienced staffers and heavy spending, which made his financial backers re-assess and leave his campaign after hemorrhaging too much cash. He may not recover from this loss of momentum and financial support, and likely will not if we are lucky, as no one really seems to care (see Mike Huckabee 2008. See Gov. Texas Rick Perry 2012, see Herman Cain 2012, see also dust bins of history.) How interesting that it was the balance book that undid him, while his actually being unbalanced was working for him.
Governor John Kasich is still in it, to win it, if you can win with 1.9% of the vote (that's his Iowa election result) but he can feel much better about the 5% he's tracking nationally based on polls three days ago after the Iowa Primary. Hey, he's tied with Jeb! Perhaps he should revamp his logo to: Kasich!
Many say Kasich is the real GOP candidate, the mainstream guy, with moderate positions that would track nationally. And hey, he's the Governor of Ohio, famous for fixing elections and having Ken Blackwell as Secretary of State during the presidential election of 2004, when Ohio claimed computer problems for hours behind locked doors on election night, then awarded Bush the victory after exit polls said John Kerry had won. (Not making any of that up, Google it, Blackwell's still the target of lawsuits). He was also overseeing the election team as GOP re-election chairman in 2008 that got locked out of the electronic voting machines on election night and strangely Obama was elected, so go Ohio! Granted Kasich was voted into office in 2010 after those debacles, but who can ignore such inspiring history in such a red state. Kasich, it has been said, is actually nation-friendly, with a two decade history in congress, who helped balance the budget under Clinton. Yes, he's also not insane, which also makes him 'moderate' by GOP standards. He believes in global warming, but doesn't want the EPA to cut emissions, he wants to cut corporate taxes, and also cut social security, he wants less prison time for non-violent offenders, he wants to let undocumented workers stay here legally.
I find these positions not egregious, except for his social security plans, until this fascinating Town Hall tidbit in New Hampshire (of all palces) that comes to light from last year, when Kasich is quoted talking about cutting social security, medicare and other 'entitlement' programs (that's what Republicans call social services and water in Flint, Michigan) and asked for a show of hands for those who would mind a lower payment than expected when they qualify for social security. When hands went up, he said "You're going to have to get over it," and laughed. Nothing like trying to get voters on your side by taking an axe to social security and being proud of it. A true died in the wool conservative, he's not a tea party lunatic, but still believes you get to balance the budget on the backs of the poor because you can't ask corporations to pay taxes.
So it's very nice of them to keep him around, but he's about as exciting as a stamp in the monopoly game at Ralphs that gets you a $5 coupon for groceries if you're lucky. I don't think he's gotten the memo that his campaign is already dead. Perhaps the real heads up for him was several nights ago at the New Hampshire debate when there was an embarrassing stack up of candidates in the wings at the start who mis-heard their cues, waiting unnecessarily to go on stage, and when the commentators turned around, and the whole mess was cleared up and they were ready to move forward, someone pointed out that Kasich wasn't on stage yet and hadn't been called. At all. Christie pointed it out. No, not Saturday Night Live, just Saturday Night at the Republican debates.
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