The Democrats: Calm as a Duck On Top of the Water…

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After the debacle that was the Republican National Demolition Derby last week (really didn’t think it was possible to bottle up that much hatred in one room), the Democrats get their turn in the barrel for the next four days. Starting today up until former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is nominated on Thursday, the Democratic National Committee will throw their shindig in Philadelphia to nominate their choice for President and the proceedings have the appearance of a duck. If you know anything about ducks, they look calm and placid on top of the water, but they’re paddling like hell underneath it to keep everything moving.

It pretty much seems that, at every step along the way, the Democrats have tried to shoot themselves in the foot at every opportunity that they get. 2016 was supposed to be the year that they were supposed to reward Clinton for her patience after getting beaten in 2008 by Barack Obama and, for the most part, the major players that could have given her issues stayed out of the way. Vice President Joe Biden didn’t have it in his heart following the passing of his son and other prominent Democrats lacked the national name recognition to be able to mount a charge (looking at you here, Martin O’Malley). But the DNC was definitely caught with their pants down when it came to a certain septuagenarian from New England.

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont caught on to the wave of voter disdain for those in Washington (despite him being a part of the Washington scene for the past 25 years) and threw the first of several monkey wrenches into the coronation of Clinton. The first warning shot came in Iowa, where Clinton eked out the slimmest of victories over Sanders, and continued onward. At some points, Sanders would pull off the impossible – evidenced by his win in Michigan – and many, especially younger voters, were enthused by the policies espoused by Sanders (free college, $15/hour minimum wage, etc.).

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Sanders proved to be an excellent foil for Clinton, whipping her into shape for the general election as she had to campaign hard in the Democratic primary to ward off Sanders’ run. Neither would be able to garner the number of delegates outright to be able to earn the nomination, so the choice came down to the super delegates, the members of the Democratic Party who serve as the final arbiter of such decisions. Despite the cries that it was unfair – but, to be honest, Sanders knew the rules and failed to attempt to even woo them before the primaries began (probably because he just joined the Democratic Party to run for President, not because of a long affinition for the group) – super delegates overwhelmingly supported Clinton and, as a result, she will be the nominee Thursday evening.

All is not calm in the Democratic world, however. There are factions of Sanders supporters that, despite what their candidate has said about supporting Clinton and defeating Cheeto Jesus, are behaving like petulant children who will pout because they didn’t get their way. These “supporters” have threatened to either not vote or to vote for another candidate, such as the Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson or the Green Party’s Jill Stein (who ran an underhanded campaign in offering to give up her nomination for President if Sanders would join their party), to “make their protest known.” There’s only one problem with this:  by doing so, they would be giving the election to the Orangutan Mutant, who would destroy the system far worse than Clinton ever could.

Throw in the perceived voting irregularities, Clinton’s investigations by the Republican-led Senate over Benghazi and the Federal Bureau of Investigation over her private e-mail server, Clinton’s less-than enthusiastic approach to campaigning (the female Clinton has always been a policy wonk, unlike her husband and former President Bill Clinton, who enjoyed the campaigning) and the idea that it was “ordained” by the DNC that Clinton would be the nominee (among other things) and there’s plenty of “paddling like hell” under the water that is occurring.

That doesn’t even begin to add in the latest Democratic shooting of foot. Leaked e-mails from a Russian hack show that the DNC at the minimum wasn’t happy about the Sanders campaign looking to usurp the nomination from Clinton and, at the max, actively was wondering how to stop Sanders’ rise. While none of the e-mails were from Clinton, one e-mail in particular from the Chief Finance Officer of the DNC, Brad Marshall, questioned Sanders’ religious background and whether he was an atheist (many socialists, as Sanders purports to be, are at best areligious and at extreme atheist) and how it could be used against him in certain areas of the country.

Although there is little to no evidence that any action was taken on this or other e-mails, the chair of the DNC, Representative Debbie Wasserman-Schultz of Florida, has been ushered out as the chairman of the DNC effective following the convention (not a big deal as she would have served her term by the end of the November elections) because of the viewed impropriety. This has been something the Sanders campaign has sought for some time because of several perceived slights from Wasserman-Schultz towards the campaign and the scheduling of debates (something that the Sanders campaign agreed to before the campaign started). The actions following Wasserman-Schultz’s announcement aren’t going to soothe anyone’s feelings, however.

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The hiring of Wasserman-Schultz by the Clinton campaign as “honorary chair” of the campaign isn’t going to settle any ruffled feathers. Instead of just letting Wasserman-Schultz lurk behind the scenes and advise the campaign – much like what many think deposed Fox News honcho Roger Ailes will do with the Drumpf campaign since his dismissal – the announcement by the Clinton faction is a stick in the eye to the Sanderites. It is a sign once again that, instead of a placid lake, there are at least ripples in the water.

Alas, as the Democrats converge on the City of Brotherly Love for their convention, their attempts at showing a “united” front seem to be coming apart at the seams. Over the next week, there will be the usual parade of party hierarchy and celebrity speakers (including Lady Gaga – take that, Mr. Oompah Loompah, for star power!), but it is going to be the thoughts of two people that will draw the most attention.

First off will be Sanders and his speech on Monday night. Sanders has already appeared with Clinton on the campaign trail and fully endorsed his former opponent, but it will be how well he can convey that same message, after all of the turmoil of the past few days, and be taken as sincere with his speech. Several other people in the Sanders camp, including his wife Jane and former campaign manager Jeff Weaver, would also be great advocates for Sanders supporters to move on to Clinton.

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The final person who will be able to make an impact is Clinton herself. No matter how many people say good things about her, whether it is family, coworkers, friends or rivals, it will be Clinton’s speech on Thursday night that will sway many opinions. Can she find a way to present the current course of the United States in an optimistic light and show how her Presidency would further the goals of the country? This will be important because of the “doom and gloom” speech that was sputtered last week (hell, the entire Republican National Demolition Derby sounded like the Hellmouth had opened and demon spawn were ravaging the world). If Clinton can show that there is an “adult in the room” and project a solid, stable base for the next Presidency, it could go a great way to winning over people.

But that’s not coming until Thursday. Until that time, we’ll have to see if the Democrats can put it together and not just give the appearance of unity but actually show that it exists. If they are able to overcome their own self-inflicted wounds, then they will come out of Philly with the rockets roaring. If they can’t, then there’s the 4:1 chance that Cheeto Jesus might rise up from the brimstone.

Dear Bernie Fans: Don’t Become the Democratic StormTrumpers

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Since the campaign started immediately following the second inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States, it seems that there has been a course. On the GOP side, they rolled out a clown car of buffoons, religious zealots, has beens and never weres and even three civilians, just to give the right seasoning to the idiocy. Now they are down to a representative of each of those categories and I will let you figure out where they go.

On the Democrats side, however, they were supposed to be the adults in the room. They put up a solid policy person in former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who seemed as if she were a shoo-in for the nomination, but some challengers arose. Former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley was supposed to represent the “new guard” of the Dems (at the wet-behind-the-ears age of 53), while Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders was to represent the progressive side of the party. On the way to the coronation of Hillary Clinton as the nominee – she did, after all, swallow her pride and take a position in President Obama’s cabinet following his crushing defeat of her in 2008 – a strange thing happened:  the people listened to someone else.

Much like the knuckle draggers who began listening to the rantings of a lunatic on the GOP side (once again, take your pick of lunatic), some on the Democratic side found a message in the anti-Establishment rhetoric of the Independent Senator from Vermont, Sanders. An avowed democratic socialist (definition:  while businesses can run just fine and not under government ownership, heavy taxes WILL be paid by those companies; the money then will fund several social programs that will lift all boats, such as free college and other items), Sanders’ message first alit on the ears of the youth, then on those who were disillusioned with having to look at another Clinton taking a turn in the White House.

Sanders stunned Clinton from the start, battling to a near draw in Iowa before moving onto his backyard in New Hampshire and taking the bellwether state by a large margin. Clinton regained her footing by romping through the South in early March, but Sanders hasn’t gone anywhere. Of the 33 primaries or caucuses that have been held to this date (with the delegate-rich state of New York up for grabs on Tuesday), Sanders has won 16 of them, primarily states with large white demographics and large college towns that will probably be Republican states come November (Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, etc.).

Sanders’ performance has not only driven out every other candidate in the Democratic race (O’Malley at least made it to the first primary in Iowa before dropping out; Lincoln Chafee, Jim Webb and Lawrence Lessig didn’t even make it that far), he’s getting the attention of many in the Democratic Party. Noted director Spike Lee led a pro-Sanders campaign ad that featured such fellow Hollywood celebrities as Rosario Dawson, Susan Sarandon and Dr. Cornell West and other celebrities such as Danny DeVito, Sarah Silverman and Mark Ruffalo (the Hulk in the Avenger movies as well as a two-time Academy Award nominee) have also come out in support of Sanders’ campaign.

But as the campaign has gone along, Sanders has been the victim of the political system. For the first time in ages, the Democratic usage of superdelegates may have an impact on the outcome of the primary. While only behind Clinton by a bit more than 200 elected delegates – those that are allotted by the results of the primaries – Sanders is vastly behind Clinton in the pledged superdelegates that the party uses as a final check on the results of the primaries. Of those pledged superdelegates, Sanders has earned 31; Clinton has picked up 469. Thus, when some news outlets post the delegate count, they show it as a rout for Clinton, 1758-1076, without pointing out that the superdelegates are a huge factor in that count.

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Once again much like the StormTrumpers of a particular candidate in the GOP race, the Sanders forces have been responding in similar manners. During a fundraiser held by actor George Clooney and his wife, Amal, for Democratic candidates in San Francisco on Friday night, Sanders supporters protested the fundraiser and Clinton, refusing to look at the work that the fundraiser was doing for “down the ballot” candidates in the upcoming races (of the nearly $350,000 raised, approximately $300,000 of it was to go to the Democratic National Committee and candidates from the Democratic Party in several states; Sanders has done little to no campaigning for fellow Democrats in their races). Hurling insults at Clinton’s motorcade and carrying derogatory signs, the Sanders supporters seemed to lack the knowledge of what the Clooneys have done for people, if anything else.

Then there’s the tactics that are straight out of Roger Stone’s handbook (if you’re in a cave, Roger Stone is the GOP “strategist” who works with Drumpf). According to many superdelegates, phone calls as late as 2AM have been made by Sanders supporters to their homes. Many of these persons who have issues with the superdelegate process have taken to populating websites and databases such as those called the “Superdelegate Hitlist” (perhaps noting the murderous tone, it now is the “Superdelegate List”). Those that venture online and attempt logical discussion with Sanders supporters on the Democratic process are often met with a literal wall of non-discourse and, when discussion is taken to the nth degree, commentary that seems as if it has come from a StormTrumper themselves.

The battle between Sanders and Clinton has had moments when it has been an excellent exchange of ideas and viewpoints as to the future of the Democratic Party and perhaps even the United States itself. Lately, however, the civility that the two candidates have carried has been fraying a bit, perhaps because they’ve been at this for several months and there’s still a long time until the convention in July. What the candidates – and what their supporters – have to remember, however, is that they are all on the same side.

Unlike the train wreck that is occurring before our eyes on the GOP tracks, the Democrats have two excellent choices. While neither is perfect, either one presents a logical and practical future for the United States in both domestic and foreign policy. Clinton’s vision is one of pragmatism and hard work; Sanders’ is one of bold steps that would alter many aspects of life in these United States. But with either one, the option is better than what is slobberingly gazing from the opposite side.

Over the past few months, we’ve seen a U. S. Senate who will not even consider doing their jobs – the work of leading the country – over confirming a nominee for Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States. We’ve seen several states enact draconian legislation against LGBT persons, knocking them down to second-class citizens because of a “religious freedom” to be as fucking bigoted as they can be. We’ve also seen one candidate on the GOP side freely admit that the U. S. should be led as a “Christian nation,” despite the fact the Constitution that he seems to so lovingly want to follow says that something such as that should NEVER be done. Do you really want three or four SCOTUS seats, more “religious freedom” bullshit and other social doctrines attacked by whomever comes out of the GOP coven?

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Look, Sanders supporters, I get it. You’re tired of the same old politics and want a change. Through his very candidacy, Sanders has garnered the attention for those changes. But if his supporters continue to call those that support Clinton “Democratic whores,” it’s going to be a bit difficult to be able to keep him in the mix or potentially even consider some of those ideas he has so powerfully presented so far.

The ability to look at things logically and, if the facts demonstrate that the fight is truly unwinnable, to be able to accept whatever prize can be gained from the battle is one of the measures of compromise that this nation is built on. To either downgrade Clinton or pout in your rooms and not vote if “your guy” doesn’t win is juvenile at best. Look logically at the situation and hopefully the skies will clear…if you don’t want Iran in the Western Hemisphere as a theocratic government for the U. S., the only way to go is with the eventual Democratic nominee, whoever it is.

What The Hell Happened in Iowa On Monday?

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After more than a year of pandering to Hawkeye voters – quite honestly a state that in no way represents what the United States of America looks like but gets to set the tone for what a political campaign is supposed to look like – the Iowa Caucuses took place on a cold, wintry Monday night. Both the Republicans and the Democrats met in schools, town halls, churches and homes across the Iowa plains to decide how to divvy up the delegates for their respective parties at their National Conventions come this summer. Everyone thought that, for all practical purposes, that it was going to be triumphant marches to victory by both billionaire idiot Donald Trump and millionaire double-talker Hillary Clinton – so what the hell happened in Iowa on Monday night?

For the Republican Party, it always was going to be a bit of a clusterfuck. After starting the process with 17 candidates – and going to the Caucus with 12 candidates still officially running – the process was going to spread the votes across a wide swath of the candidacy. Even Jim Gilmore, who has only participated in one of the GOP debates (the sixth one right before the Caucus), received 12 votes from Iowa’s Republicans…not 12%…12 VOTES. Thus, whoever came out on top was going to have had to made an impression on the Iowa Republican constituency.

Even though he claims differently now (more on this in a minute), Trump was at the forefront of the Iowa race pretty much from the time he announced his candidacy in June 2015. According to some polls, he had built a double-digit lead over fellow candidates as varied as Dr. Ben Carson, Jeb! Bush, Carly Fiorina, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz as the Republican Caucus approached. In fact, Trump was so confident of his place in Iowa, he chose to poke Fox News in the eye at the final GOP debate before the Iowa Republican Caucus and not show up, instead running his own “veterans’ fundraiser” (by the way, jackass…as a veteran I ask where and when is that money going to be dispersed?) to “compete” with the debate.

That move might have been something that tipped the scales. Iowa voters don’t like to be neglected by the candidates and both Cruz, who made a great deal of noise about going “full Grassley” (hitting every county in Iowa with a campaign stop, something that Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley says is critical to winning the Caucus, hence its name), and Rubio, who had an outstanding performance in that final debate, surged at the end by making the Iowa voter feel as if they were important. The result? Cruz defeated Trump by a rather comfortable margin and Rubio almost clipped Trump for second place, which would have been an even more devastating blow to Trump’s campaign and ego.

Trump, defeated for the first time in the 2016 campaign, played it off as if the resounding setback didn’t affect him. He said he was “honored” to have finished second, mentioning that he “had been told to ignore Iowa, that he didn’t have a chance” and that he was “way behind from the start,” a lie if there ever was one. But there was a menace behind his words and his body language spoke volumes, almost like he was telling wife Melania, daughter Ivanka and bland sons to “get to the plane so we can get the fuck out of this hellhole.”

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Meanwhile, Rubio and Cruz were positively giddy over their performances. Predicted to not even garner 10% of the Caucus vote, Rubio more than doubled that in earning the support of 23% of Caucus-goers and nearly upended Trump. Cruz was also proud to see that his “ground and pound” game had supplanted Trump’s “dazzle them with bullshit” approach and he didn’t miss the chance to point this out to “The Donald.”

That seems to be the biggest thing that Iowa voters looked at. After several months of listening to the candidates, it didn’t seem that they bought the Trump bullshit in the very end. Perhaps it was that misstep at Liberty University when he called it “Two Corinthians” rather than “Second Corinthians” (even as a heathen I know what it is called); maybe it was the inability for Trump to have admitted a time when he prostrated himself in front of God; perhaps it was his inability to come up – or even enunciate – what was his favorite Bible verse. While these things might not be important to some, it is important to Iowa and its evangelical voters.

That is an important factor to the voters in Iowa. From the conservative, religious values voters after eliminating Trump, it was a simple step to which candidate did people want to follow, someone viewed as an “establishment” figure or someone who would “shake up” Washington, D. C.? Cruz has prided himself as someone who doesn’t follow the “establishment,” while Rubio has picked up that mantle (after the failure of Jeb! Bush throughout the early campaigning). That they were separated by only a few thousand votes indicates how close that fight may yet turn out.

On the Democratic side, you couldn’t ask for a better fight. Whereas former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton thought that she would have a cakewalk over Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders (and let’s pause here to “pour a 40” for the campaign of former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, which never had a snowball’s chance in Hell; he suspended his campaign after the votes were in on the Iowa Democratic Caucus), it has been Sanders’ virility on the campaign trail that seems to have shocked Clinton. Sanders barnstormed Iowa, making it a fight, where Clinton thought she could throw a couple of token appearances and walk away with an easy victory.

Sanders’ message has found an excited audience, but just who is it? It would be easy to say that it is the young people, college students and the “hipsters” under-30, but that doesn’t explain the 50/50 split that came between Sanders and Clinton on Monday night in the Iowa Caucus. Sanders had to convince some of the adults in the room that his ideas and plans for the future of the United States were viable and that he is a viable choice for the Democratic Party. It may not be what Sanders is doing that is drawing in the crowd.

I’ve said it before…despite being arguably the most qualified candidate in the field (hey Republicans…if you had a candidate that was a former Secretary of State, a former Senator, had a position with a former President of the United States that helped to set national policy during one of the most prosperous periods in U. S. history and also worked with that person as a former Governor, you’d be championing that candidate like they were the Second Coming), Clinton is carrying more baggage than the Titanic and she is trying to navigate through a glacier field that would sink a weaker politician. Although there isn’t an indictment against her for the myriad of alleged transgressions she has made (and I’m not even going to count the e-mail situation, but that is a story for another time), there are those not only with the opposition party but also in the Democratic Party that will not support Clinton. Thus, they are throwing their support behind Sanders, which might explain the 50/50 split in Iowa on Monday night.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the Democratic Party of Iowa has still not declared a winner between Clinton and Sanders. In reality, though, Sanders is the big winner while Clinton walks away with a slight victory. Sanders is showing that he can actually bring in voters to his supposedly “socialist” way of thinking – that people are ready for the progressive mindset that he espouses – while Clinton can say she held her ground and took a victory that eluded her in 2008, when she was upended by an upstart named Barack Obama.

So, when will President Cruz or President Sanders take office? Not so fast, bucko. The Iowa Caucus didn’t do a damn thing, in reality. Because the Iowa Caucus hands its delegates out by percentages (what is called a proportional allocation) and not a “winner take all” (as the March “SEC primaries” will be), this is the way that the Republican Party breaks down:

Ted Cruz                     8 delegates
Donald Trump            7 delegates
Marco Rubio               7 delegates
Ben Carson                 3 delegates
Rand Paul                   1 delegate
Jeb Bush                      1 delegate

(no other candidates received a delegate)

And for the Democrats:

Hillary Clinton            26 delegates
Bernie Sanders            21 delegates

(and don’t ask me how they can be 50/50 and Clinton get more delegates…must be that superdelegate thing)

As you can see, nothing has been decided.

The carnival now moves onto New Hampshire, where the barkers are already hawking their wares to the voters of The Granite State. Trump, licking his wounds after the Iowa disappointment, also is projected with a double-digit lead there, but it is supposedly thought a sizeable voting bloc that isn’t fascinated with the Circus of Trump is waiting in the wings to take him down. The reality is, however, that Trump has paid little attention to New Hampshire and has little “ground forces” there…just like what he did in Iowa that eventually doomed his candidacy. Rubio and Cruz, energized by their performances, and other candidates, such as Chris Christie, John Kasich (with the endorsement of the New York Times in his pocket) and Bush, seem to think that they can take Trump down a few more notches in New Hampshire.

For the Democrats, Clinton seems to have ceded New Hampshire to Sanders, in his Northeast backyard, and while she will contest it a bit seems to be pushing onwards to South Carolina and the March “SEC primaries” in the South, a traditional stronghold of the Clintons. She also has come to the realization that, unless she can put together a crushing set of wins in a row, she is facing a similar “delegate fight” to that which is going on in the Republican Party.

It’s just the beginning, political junkies, and it isn’t showing any signs that it will come to a close soon. Short of a seismic shift – something along the lines of Trump saying “fuck this, I’m out” (something that could conceivably happen…or his move to an Independent campaign), an indictment on Clinton, the Hellmouth opening up and sucking both parties into the Abyss – it’s going to be a battle all the way to Cleveland (Republican) and Philadelphia (Democratic)…and the fight may still rage on at the convention floor once they reach those cities.

Welcome Back, My Friends: What to Expect from Tuesday’s GOP Debate

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Welcome back, my friends, to the show that never ends!
We’re so glad you could attend,
Come inside! Come inside!

Emerson, Lake and Palmer, “Karn Evil 9

If it seems like we are in a Bill Murray-esque “Groundhog Day” scenario, it is about to come to a close. On Tuesday night, 13 of the 14 remaining candidates from the Republican Party will meet at the Venetian in Las Vegas, representing the final time in 2015 that the GOP will parade their talent across the stage for the U. S. voter. It is expected that, by the time of the next debate two days after the State of the Union address in January, this field will be whittled down again (since the start of the campaign, three candidates – former Texas Governor Rick Perry, current Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and current Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker – have already tossed in the towel…and thus completes our moment of silence for them).

It is appropriate that Las Vegas is the host of the final GOP debate for 2015 because, for many of the candidates, it is a full-out gamble that they’re taking by staying in the race. The four men who will make up the undercard (or “kiddie table”) debate – current South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, former New York Governor George Pataki, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee – were unable to make the criteria for the main CNN debate (to be eligible, a candidate had to poll at least at 3.5% nationally or at 4% in either Iowa or New Hampshire) and probably should have left this contest months ago (another candidate, former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore, was left off this stage because he doesn’t poll at all in the GOP race, he just hasn’t gotten around to ending his campaign). They do little for the process other than to confuse voters, offer nothing as to “fresh” ideas and simply aren’t viable (on the Democrats side, Martin O’Malley serves this purpose all by himself). There would have to be a tremendous “change of fortune” if any of these longest of “long shots” were to pay off with a residency in the White House.

The nine person GOP All-Star team that will be in the “Main Event” – billionaire businessman  Donald Trump, brain surgeon Ben Carson, current Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Florida Senator Marco Rubio, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, businesswoman Carly Fiorina, current New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Ohio’s Governor John Kasich and current Kentucky Senator Rand Paul – could have probably been cut as well, but we don’t want to have three debates that would provide emergency rooms with more alcohol poisonings than they could handle. With just the top four alone – Trump, Carson, Cruz and Rubio – nearly three-quarters (73.5%) of the GOP has decided who they will back. The other five candidates divvy up 15% of the vote, not enough for any of them to mount a serious charge at the top and probably not enough to swing the top four in any particular direction (the rest are basically undecided, either supporting one of the bottom four or have truly not made a choice). As such, this debate (and maybe they’ll do it by the January debate, but I’m not holding my breath) might be the last time we’ll see this many GOP hopefuls on the center stage.

The run-up to this debate has been intriguing if not necessarily pretty. Paul was a last-minute addition (due to a late Sunday Fox News poll that showed him doing well in Iowa) to get him to the main stage. There was talk that he would be shuttled to the undercard debate, which brought the threat from Paul of either a lawsuit or a resignation from the campaign. Trump has been wavering atop the ladder, with a surprising Cruz passing him in some polling while Trump has extended his lead in others. Finally, there has been the grandstanding that many in the GOP have done as a result of situations in the world and in the United States over the past few weeks.

This debate is being billed by CNN – who will put commentator Wolf Blitzer in as the moderator, with assistance from CNN Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash and Salem Radio (co-host of the debate) talk show host Hugh Hewitt – as a comprehensive look at the threat of terrorism and foreign policy. With the attacks in Paris and in San Bernardino over the past few weeks, the actions of ISIS and terrorism in general has come to the forefront as an important issue. This doesn’t bode well for a few of the candidates – Carson, Fiorina, Kasich and Paul in particular – because it isn’t their forte. Some of the other candidates on the stage – Cruz, Rubio, Bush and Christie – have been very consistent with their proposals to counter terrorists’ threats. It is Trump who is the wild card simply because he presents “solutions” that will not even be seriously considered (registering a religion for government surveillance or forcing them into “training camps”, bombing the “shit” out of ISIS regardless of where they are, etc.); the real question is when will Trump grow up and figure out simple civics and government protocol and offer viable ideas.

The tone of the debate on Tuesday night is going to be two-sided. For those at the bottom of the totem pole – Paul, Kasich, Christie (making his return to the main stage after being “sent to the minors” for the last debate) and Fiorina – they are going to have to put out a big bet (in keeping with our Las Vegas theme here) and hope that it hits in their favor. This could be some sort of proposal to combat terrorism, an attack on another candidate showing how their position is wrong, or a particular stance that makes them potentially look like “the adult” in the room rather than a pandering child. Expect the “slings and arrows” for this debate to come out of this bunch because, let’s be honest, they haven’t got anything else to fall back on if they are to be viable in the campaign.

The top five in the GOP – Trump, Cruz, Carson, Rubio and Bush (and he barely gets into this class) – will probably be on their best behavior, especially Trump. After months of acting like your crazy, drunken uncle at the Thanksgiving or Christmas gathering, Trump is now being tracked down by the one candidate who is actively looking to pull away his supporters, Cruz. He has to try to look somewhat “sane” as he tries to parlay the attack of Cruz (who was called by none other than Arizona Senator John McCain a “wacko bird”). Cruz, who has basically burned every bridge he might have been able to use in the GOP to push his candidacy forward, HAD been the “lunatic fringe” of the GOP before Trump came along and now is potentially viewed by some as more “Presidential” than before. Instead of staying this course, Trump is strangely resorting to trying to portray himself as having a better “temperament” for the Presidency (as the rest of the political world does massive spit-takes); whether that strategy pays off has yet to be seen.

These five guys will, for the most part, spar lightly with each other but mostly will look out for the heavy ammunition from the back of the pack. Despite his bombast, Trump isn’t well-versed in foreign policy matters, so he’ll probably sit back and look for someone else to make a mistake (instead of the one Trump did in the last debate when Paul pointed out China – one of Trump’s favorite targets for beating – wasn’t a part of the Asian trade pact recently negotiated). This plan doesn’t bode well for him, however, as it could result in a drop in the polls if he doesn’t display “strength.”

I expect good showings from both Cruz and Rubio on this issue. The two are well-versed from their Senatorial work in potential foreign policy options and could present a viable course of action. Bush might surprise here, if he can separate himself from the Albatross that were his brother’s actions in the Middle East, while Carson suffers from a worse case of the same condition that afflicts Trump – no knowledge of foreign policy (although this would be a good time to demonstrate that he’s been listening to his advisors and show some deep thought on the subject).

What has held true for all the previous debates – and will continue to hold true for this one – is that it won’t have much effect on the current campaign at all and I don’t say that cynically. Trump has been the leader since he stepped into the race this summer and, despite every verbal bombast, insult and slur that he’s thrown, he’s either maintained the lead or expanded it. It isn’t going to be until that late-January debate that there might be a change in the numbers on the board, more so true if there are some candidates who come to their senses and realize they have no shot at the big prize and withdraw from the race. While Las Vegas may be the city where “dreams come true,” it more often than not crushes those dreams into dust; it will be that way for some of these GOP candidates as we head towards the end of 2015.

How to Fix the Presidential Debates

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Since the conclusion of the last GOP Presidential debate that was held on the cable network CNBC – a truly dismal effort that left nobody satisfied with the outcome – there has been bellowing from pretty much everyone. Yes, the CNBC debate was a clusterfuck from the start – with three moderators and two guest questioners, it was never clear who was in charge – but once they became coalesced around an issue, the Republican debate participants struck back with veiled threats against the “mainstream media” (important point here:  if you’re going to govern a country as vast as the United States, you’re going to need that “mainstream media” at some point to get things done). It left the entire night as a giant stain on the 2016 Presidential campaign process.

The candidates complained about a multitude of things, including the length of the debate, the number of questions received, the quality of the questions and so forth. The moderators, in their defense, were faced with participants who, when presented with a viable question – such as Dr. Ben Carson’s involvement with the snake oil provider Mannatech, Senator Marco Rubio’s attendance in the Senate, how billionaire Donald Trump plans on paying for his myriad of xenophobic programs or why Senator Ted Cruz was against the recent compromise that passed a federal budget out of Congress and to President Barack Obama for the next two years – either didn’t answer the question, answered another question that they wanted to answer, waited for a partisan GOP audience to air their opinion through booing or attacked the moderators and the media. When you have this type of Mexican standoff (which Trump is now looking to wall off at Ciudad Juarez), there’s not much that is going to occur in said debate.

Now the candidates have decided to set up their own rules for how debates will be conducted. There is supposedly a letter that a majority of the 14 remaining candidates in the GOP race have gotten behind (bypassing the logical arranger for such events, their own Republican National Committee) that is being sent out, but it isn’t to be taken seriously. The letter supposedly would allow the candidates to vet the moderators, review the questions of the debate before it is conducted and such bullshit as whether there will be a gong, bell or buzzer to indicate their time is up when answering a question.

It was announced on Thursday night that next week’s debate on November 10 (which wasn’t expected to fall under this supposed “letter” being drafted) and being aired on Fox Business Channel will already have a smaller “main event” field. Through their criteria, Fox Business has chopped the “main event” debate stage down to eight, separating New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee off to the “kiddie table” debate beforehand. That “kiddie table” debate has also been chopped, with former New York Governor George Pataki and current South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham being eliminated from the debates altogether. Those that are being dropped down or out completely are not polling at the prescribed levels by Fox Business and, as such, have met the axe as to the debates and probably will soon as a viable candidate in the GOP race.

As a result of some of these changes, get ready for more whining out of the GOP candidates. If the GOP candidates – and also their Democratic brethren – want a chance to take on a serious debate, replete with issues to discuss, then it would be necessary to follow these rules.

2016DemocraticDebates

Both Parties Must Have a Debate On Foreign Ground – The GOP is the only party who has stepped outside of their traditional “home turf” of Fox News (or Fox Business), where they could be semi-comfortable in that they would receive a decent hearing (even these GOP candidates, however, complained about the Fox News debate). The CNN GOP debate was considered to be quite good as the longest debate yet, providing for more discussion of the issues but not enjoyed by Trump or Carson, who lack the background to describe how their policies would work other than “they’ll be great.” By this point, you already know about the CNBC snafu. The Democratic Party hasn’t left its cozy home with CNN and their next “debate” – a candidates’ forum in South Carolina on Friday night that will feature former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, current Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley (Lincoln Chafee, Jim Webb and Lawrence Lessig have ended their campaigns since the first Democratic debate a couple of weeks ago) – will be hosted and aired by MSNBC and commentator Rachel Maddow.

Each party has their partisans; I would be more interested in how they speak to a hostile audience and, just maybe, both sides could have a chance at swinging those in the middle ground to some of their viewpoints (this would also help as far as governance, but that’s another story for another time).

The Arbiter Determines All – While one or two moderators is OK, one should be the rule. There should be only three questioners involved in the game and the participants in the debate have NO RIGHT to choose who they want to fire questions (why would I want to hear you and a “friendly” questioner lob softballs all night?). Finally, there will be one voice who makes all determinations on the floor of the debate hall – The Arbiter (usually a moderator would do this, but they are too encumbered by their own networks to draw in ratings and worried about any potential future dealings with the candidates to have the balls to do anything).

The Arbiter will be an unknown person, presumably with knowledge about debate procedure, the subjects that would be presented during the debate, the histories of the participants involved in the debate and should have as little involvement with one political side or the other or be in media as a current broadcaster (if it has to be, then The Arbiter should be from the opposing party or media outlet – couldn’t you imagine someone from the Wall Street Journal serving as The Arbiter for an MSNBC debate and someone from the New York Times handling the Fox debates?). The Arbiter will be in charge of officiating the event and providing the punishments (we’ll get to that in just a second) that will be meted out for violations of the debate protocol. At the end of the debate, The Arbiter slinks back into the dark, never known by those who were in attendance.

The Arbiter will have several weapons at his/her disposal:

Question Refusal – The Arbiter will have the right, after a question is posed, to determine if the question is worthy of being answered. Such questions as whether some other candidate has the “moral authority” to do something or something that prods two candidates to spat at each other over insignificant bullshit would be the main thing that The Arbiter is looking for. If a questioner poses such a question, the first infraction is a warning with a second infraction resulting in a 10-minute penalty (removal from the debate). A third violation will result in the questioner’s removal from the remainder of the debate.

Microphone Control – The Arbiter would have control over the candidates’ microphones for the purpose of keeping them on track with questions. If a candidate is posed a question and said candidate either starts off on a tangent or doesn’t address the question directly, The Arbiter has the power to cut the candidate’s microphone. The Arbiter will pause for five seconds before reactivating the candidate’s microphone and, if at any time during the candidate’s response he goes off topic again, The Arbiter will end the question by shutting off the microphone for the remainder of the question.

The Arbiter will also be in control of how long the candidate speaks; once the candidate has reached the maximum allotted time (60 seconds in the previous debates), The Arbiter will cut off the candidate’s microphone permanently unless asked a follow-up question.

If the candidate cannot keep on track with his replies to the questions being posed, The Arbiter will have the right to remove the candidate from the debate or, if the candidate refuses to move, will have his microphone cut off for the remainder of the debate and his/her constant interruptions will begin to annoy everyone.

Question Count – The Arbiter will be responsible for keeping a running count (can be aided on this by electronic timing of each candidate’s responses) or time bank on how many questions each candidate has received and/or how much time each candidate has been speaking. If The Arbiter notes a predominance of questions to a few candidates, then he will inform the moderator and the moderator must change tactics and ask other candidates questions until The Arbiter feels it is balanced out.

Have a Manageable Debate Field – This has been the major problem with the GOP debates is the number of people on the stage. When you have 10 candidates looking to make their mark in a two hour debate, the most a person is going to be able to speak is probably around seven or eight minutes (once you deduct commercials, opening and closing statements and audience applause/outrage/outbursts). In the GOP field, there is probably no more than six viable candidates (I’ll let you choose your six); the Democrats have already limited their field from six to three, so they are on course for the primaries.

The whittling of the field is useful because, if you’re drawing 1% of the vote six months to a year after you announced your candidacy, the likelihood of you earning the party’s nomination next summer is highly unlikely. It’s simply a numbers game in that you aren’t going to get the attention as someone at the back of the pack that the frontrunners are going to get from being the, well, leaders. It IS a Catch-22, but that’s the way many things are in life. Unless the front six are mysteriously overcome with a debilitating illness that renders them incapable of running for office (and Christie isn’t above trying to inflict said illness on the frontrunners), you’re going back to your previous job or hosting duties on Fox News.

Implementing these rules – and simply letting the respective committees, the RNC and the Democratic National Committee – handle the nuts and bolts of debate preparations is the logical way to go. You’re running for the most important office in the United States; being concerned that the debate hall has a temperature more than 67 degrees shouldn’t be on your mind. Policy thoughts, debate tactics and proving yourself to U. S. citizens should be your goal. As President Obama also stated earlier this week, if you aren’t able to handle the queries of journalists from the news networks, you’re going to have trouble handling Putin.

Will these rules be adopted? No way in hell…but it would make for a more streamlined debate with plenty of policy discussion. And who wouldn’t want to see The Arbiter enforce his rules on both bags of bozo biscuits running for President?

What to Expect at the First Democratic Debate

DemocraticCandidates

Just when you thought that the political world had calmed down, the first of a planned six debates from the Democratic Party will be held on Tuesday night in Las Vegas. The five announced candidates – former New York Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, current Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, former Rhode Island Senator and Governor Lincoln Chafee and former Secretary of the Navy Jim Webb – will take the stage around 9PM Eastern Time on Tuesday night at the Wynn Las Vegas, presenting their reasoning for being the party’s selection for the 2016 Presidential nomination. It may not be as visually exciting as what the Republican Party have been able to put on in their previous two clashes, with their myriad of candidates all saying the same thing but trying to sound different, but these debates are just as important as those on the GOP side.

With President Barack Obama heading off into the sunset following his two terms in office, it is up to one of these five people to try to maintain the legacy of the Democratic Party for several reasons. One, the next President will probably have at least one and potentially as many as three Supreme Court justices to name in their 4-8 year term, basically allowing for a reshaping of the Court towards a more conservative or liberal bend. Two, if the next President is one of these Democrats, they will be able to firmly ensconce the Affordable Care Act – “ObamaCare” to many – as the “law of the land” and make it even more difficult to take away through repeal as it becomes more entrenched in the U. S. psyche. And three, the Democrats would be able to maintain the current foreign policy viewpoint of diplomacy before dominance – the major difference between them and the GOP, who want a war on all days that end in a “y.”

Anyone who says that the Democrats didn’t think that this would be a simple coronation for Clinton on the way to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in July 2016 would be out-and-out lying. After getting stunningly pummeled in 2008 by Obama, Clinton did her duty in first accepting the Secretary of State role in the Obama Administration and then in not trying to usurp Obama is 2012. Her reward for this party loyalty was supposed to be a free pass to the Democratic nomination in 2016 but, along the way to the coronation party, someone threw a huge monkey wrench in the plans.

Sanders, the genial, grandfatherly Senator from the Northeast who calls himself a “democratic socialist,” has been stealing a great deal of Clinton’s thunder, especially in the early primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire. Part of the appeal of Sanders has been his Quixotic-tilt against the uber-rich, banks and corporations, which has struck a chord with the young and the downtrodden. His firm stance against all military action in the Middle East has also drawn comparisons of Sanders to fellow Kentucky Senator and Presidential hopeful Rand Paul – you know, back when Rand Paul was cool before he became a Republican.

Sanders has become so popular with some Democrats that the threats against Clinton in the early primary states have forced her into campaigning much sooner than she would like to have done. The Clinton team is looking to get her through the first few primaries in Iowa and New Hampshire, ready to take a second place finish behind Sanders, and prepare for the “SEC Primaries” at the beginning of March in the South, a traditional stronghold of the Clintons that would allow her to be able to thwart a Sanders attack through numerous victories.

There are a few differences between Clinton and Sanders, but there is more diversity when you toss the other candidates in the mix. O’Malley is a “law and order” type that, as mayor of Baltimore, was able to lower crime rates and improve the city’s image (it is also alleged that the tactics employed by O’Malley – the “stop and frisk” utilized by police officers, in particular, where officers could stop anyone for investigation despite not visually committing a crime – were a major impetus for the Baltimore riots of earlier this summer). Chafee is a former Republican who first became an independent before moving to the Democratic Party, while Webb is almost a DINO (Democrat in Name Only) as he supports the “close the border first, then maybe amnesty” program popular with Republicans as well as reining in the Environmental Protection Agency and its regulatory authority.

The 800-pound gorilla in the room will be the specter of current Vice President Joe Biden. Supposedly considering a third run for President, Biden has not committed to this debate as of Monday, but CNN has stated that a podium will be on hand should Biden state he wants to take part in the festivities. With Biden polling better than Sanders (but still behind Clinton), Biden would be an immediate (and strong) challenger to Clinton, forcing her to fend off not only Sanders but also Biden.

What exactly is going to happen in the debate? First off, Sanders and Clinton – and throw Biden into the mix should he show up – will not attack each other as the GOP candidates did in their second debate. First, moderator Anderson Cooper and his panelists, CNN reporter/anchor Dana Bash, CNN anchor Don Lemon and CNN en Espanol’s Juan Carlos Lopez, are not going to ask the “challenging” questions that saw the Republicans rip into each other during their debates. “I think it’s just as interesting to kind of learn about some of these candidates who the American public doesn’t really know much about,” Cooper stated in an interview on CNN’s Reliable Sources over the weekend, “as it is to hear from some of the candidates you do.”

There has also been a remarkable bonhomie between Sanders and Clinton in that they haven’t brought the knives out against each other. Sanders, in particular, has been given multiple opportunities to rip into Clinton over a variety of problems she has faced (her private e-mail server, her work with the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative and how it affected her time as Secretary of State, her vote for the Iraq War in 2003, etc.), but he has refused to do any mudslinging and instead concentrated on his message. That is a bit refreshing in this current day and age of politics.

Both Clinton and Sanders are going to continue with their own presentations of what their plans as President will be, which differ in some areas. Sanders in particular has made many suggestions regarding what he would do as President – free college for all students, raising the minimum wage to $15 nationwide, universal health care (going beyond ObamaCare) – but he will also have to answer about how he’s going to pay for those things; if Sanders’ plan to increase taxes on the 1% (for your information, that would be anyone who makes more than $344,000) and reduce military spending doesn’t stand up to the scrutiny, then his other plans won’t be taken seriously.

The ones who have nothing to lose are O’Malley, Chafee and Webb. Any airtime they get during the debates would be welcome as the three men currently are barely even making an impact on the polls (Webb is averaging .9%, O’Malley .6% and Chafee .2%, according to Real Clear Politics and their national polls). They also have to make viewers/voters remember them, so taking some shots at Clinton, Sanders and/or Biden (if he shows up and he’s polling at 18.6%) might help them out. If these candidates can’t get a bump out of this debate, they may not get another shot at the next debate in November, especially if Biden announces a run for the Presidency and their numbers stay the same.

One thing that will NOT happen is any of the candidates making a serious faux pas. All of them are experienced debaters and, as such, will be able to withstand the slings and arrows that come from their opponents. Only the introduction of Biden into the mix (due to preparation by the candidates for those that are currently on the dais and not an 11th hour introduction of another player) or a change in tactics by Sanders regarding his “no mudslinging” tactics with Clinton might change the game.

It might not be as electric as the GOP debates have been to this point, but the Democratic debate should provide viewers/voters with more substantive information on the candidates. It will also mark the drive towards next November when the next President of the United States will be chosen.

Are We Seriously Considering Donald Trump for POTUS?

I’ve tried to hold off of this one for quite some time. It seems that the mainstream media (and read that as the major television networks of ABC, CBS and NBC while adding in CNN, MSNBC and Fox News) has been all over the Presidential campaign of billionaire Donald Trump. Yes, the man who used to come into your living rooms with the television reality show The Apprentice…the man who came online with something called “Trump University” that apparently taught you how to be just like him in the business world (and which has brought about as many lawsuits as “students” it educated)…the man whom the comb over (or a traditional hair color) seems to have bypassed. As such, I had held out on doing ANYTHING closely resembling giving Trump any more attention.

But it’s gotten to be a bit much, especially after reading the papers of late.

When the campaigns opened up on both sides of the aisle for the President of the United States in 2016, we all knew it was going to be an ugly situation. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton had taken her beating in 2008 – and her subsequent stint as Secretary of State for the man who beat her, Barack Obama – like a good little soldier and seemed a shoo-in for the Dems (quite honestly, something the GOP used to do all the time). Then, like the cherry blossoms along the Potomac, there were the perennial grudges brought up about Clinton by her opponents, which brought Bernie Sanders – your crazy uncle who happens to have a seat in the U. S. Senate – out of the woodwork. Throw in former Governors Lincoln Chaffee and Martin O’Malley and former Senator Jim Webb and you have a veritable “Who?” of the former Secretary of State’s opponents.

The GOP, though, is the crème of the crop. The “Clown Car,” the “Buffoon Bus,” or the “respected statesmen and businesswoman who may be the future leader of our nation” came to the forefront. After getting crushed twice by the Black Man Who Shall Not Be Named, the GOP decided to throw the door open and let the “Crazy Carousel” spin around and let more individuals leap into the fire. What they didn’t plan on, though, was the public getting behind one of the offbeat members that hopped on the ride.

On June 16, Trump entered the race for the Republican Party’s nominee as President in 2016 and immediately set himself apart from the field. The usual term you would use is “distinguished” himself from the field, but there is little about Donald Trump that is distinguished. As we all know by now, Trump made his infamous comments about how the truckloads of Mexicans that are violating our borders illegally are here to rape our White Women and bring drugs to little Suzie and Bobby, something that might have been a part of Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles but was too unbelievable to make the final cut in that classic film.

In the past, that would have been enough to push whatever candidate uttered those inept lines into the catacombs of history, if not a little white room with a special suit that had arms that tied in the back and a sedative drip in the carotid artery. Because it was DONALD TRUMP, however, it attracted attention from those who have been searching for someone who could say what they wanted to say but couldn’t say it because they might have to answer for it. Since then, the commentary has become even more ludicrous.

Trump would then go on to deride those who he believes aren’t “war heroes,” priceless information from a man who used every bit of his Daddy’s money to ensure that he didn’t get drafted during the Vietnam War. The expected outrage over that didn’t materialize because the person he was talking about, 2008 Republican Presidential nominee and the senior Senator from Arizona John McCain, adhered to former President Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment and didn’t kick up a fuss over the situation. Moving on, Trump dismissed pretty much everyone who has come within radius of his campaign as “idiots,” “stupid,” “imbeciles,” or, worse yet, suggest that they “crucified” him during a debate with questions because the moderator was on her menstrual cycle. If you listen to Trump, the entirety of the U. S. is the most ignorant species in existence…except for HIM, because he’s going to BRING THE THUNDER against our allies and enemies and “make America great again.”

To this point, none of these things have slowed the Trump bandwagon down. My final point here should, however, end any hope for his candidacy with the GOP and, if they are insane enough to go ahead and nominate him, earn him and them a crushing defeat in the general election. Trust me, however, I’m not holding my breath on Trump ending his candidacy anytime soon.

The Boston Globe reported on Wednesday the attack of a Hispanic homeless man by two South Boston brothers. According to police reports, Scott and Steve Leader were on their way home from a Red Sox game when they happened across the Hispanic man sleeping on the street near a bus stop. The report states the brothers “urinated on the man’s face and then started rummaging through his belongings.” Once the Hispanic man woke up, the brothers then allegedly beat him with a lead pipe and kicked him in the torso, requiring hospitalization for a broken nose and bruised ribs.

Scott Leader, after being apprehended, told the police it was “OK to assault the man because he was Hispanic and homeless.” “Donald Trump was right, all these illegals need to be deported,” he allegedly told the police. His brother Steve showed his displeasure with the arrest by pissing on the cell door and both brothers allegedly threatened the law enforcement individuals who processed them. Currently the twosome are in a Boston jail being held without bail.

What was Trump’s reaction to these fine examples of Boston manhood? “I will say that people who are following me are very passionate,” he remarked. “They love this country and they want this country to be great again. They are passionate.”

All I can say, after everything said previously, is…are we seriously considering Donald Trump to lead this country?