How Do You Solve A Crisis? By Closing the Door and Ignoring It

At its essence, the United States is a country that has been and continues to be built upon immigrants. Someone from nearly every nation in the world has crossed the borders of the U. S. and given up their birthright citizenship, with those immigrants in pursuit of what the signers of the Declaration of Independence penned more than two centuries ago, the pursuit of “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Furthermore, there are those that have come to the U. S. of no desire of their own as refugees due to dangerous situations that are occurring in their home countries.

These refugees come to the United States usually because of warfare that either targets an ethnic group (such as the situation in the 1990s in Bosnia) or a religious or political conflict. The ongoing civil war in Syria is the latest in these myriad of situations where the world has found it necessary to take in those forced out of their home country due to the deteriorating conditions on the ground. Another situation, however, has now sprung up threatening those refugees even more.

Blame for the terrorist attacks in Paris have, by some conservative outlets, been laid at the feet of those Syrian refugees after someone opined that a member of ISIS (who has taken responsibility for the attack) infiltrated Europe with a refugee group from that country. Despite the fact that this has been debunked by officials on the ground in France, this irrational fear has sent a sizeable chunk of the U. S. and one of the two parties in its political system into a frenzy. It has also presented the dilemma of how do you solve a refugee crisis…if you’re a part of that group in the United States previously mentioned, it seems you handle it by closing the door and ignoring it.

The sheer inhumanity of some of the statements coming out of those running for the GOP nomination for President of the United States in 2016 is appalling. Speaking to conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie started off the blowhard bluster by saying he “wouldn’t even let 5-year old Syrian orphans into the country.” Christie believes that the United States, the richest nation on the planet, can’t support any orphans and they shouldn’t be admitted because they have no family. Oh, by the way, he also “doesn’t trust the administration” to make sure any refugees coming in aren’t a terrorist threat. Governor, would that be different if there were a Republican in the White House?

Texas Senator Ted Cruz, his own father a refugee himself from the power struggle in Cuba decades ago, upped the ante with his opinions. On the campaign trail Cruz espoused a “religious test” to determine who would be able to come in. Of course, no Muslims would be able to pass that test, but Christians would be given the proverbial “cheat sheet” because “there is no meaningful risk of Christians committing acts of terror.” To be fair, one of Cruz’s fellow Senators, 2008 GOP Presidential nominee John McCain, blasted Cruz for this viewpoint.

Another player in the GOP race that is struggling to make any headway, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, chided the Obama Administration in pushing his denunciation of accepting refugees because of their Muslim faith. “The #1 job of the President is to protect America, not protect the reputation of Islam,” Huckabee said as he condemned an entire religion on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” He continued with his derision of the Muslim faith in making a similar statement that Cruz made in that “Christians” wouldn’t commit acts of terror and should be let in freely.

The stupidity coming out of the GOP continues even today. Beside the factor that Dr. Ben Carson can’t seem to grasp the idea of foreign policy and Donald Trump believes we should just “bomb the shit out of ISIS” and close a few mosques to thwart terrorist threats, there aren’t many voices that are looking for a reasonable solution. There are some calls for sanity, most notably from former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and current Ohio Governor John Kasich, but they lack any concrete approach to solving the issue. Meanwhile, more than two dozen Governors across the U. S. have said they won’t accept any refugees from Syria (tough shit, guys; according to the Refugee Act of 1980, the federal government can put the refugees anywhere they want) and conservatives across social media are vehemently against allowing any Syrian refugees into the U. S.

This is all an outrageous embarrassment to U. S. citizens, not only as a country but also on our alleged “faith-based” background.

It shouldn’t come as any surprise that we’ve been down this path before. Instead of living beside several Indian nations in the 19th century, the answer by the U. S. government was to round up those tribes by force and send them 1000 miles from their homes, removing them from their tribal lands in the southeast U. S. In 1838, the “Trail of Tears” (a term coined by the Choctaw Nation in 1831 when they were moved west and since applied to the overall plan of removal), the forced march by military units of the Cherokee Indian nation (the final tribal removal), would result in roughly 5000 people dying on the trip, something that is a crimson stain on this country’s reputation and history.

Even in the 20th century, the shortsightedness and intolerance to others by U. S. citizens was apparent. In what some might find to be a shocking statement, U. S. citizens were against taking in Jewish refugees from Europe prior to the start of World War II. In evidence uncovered by Historical Opinion and tweeted throughout this week, some of the same claims used against the Syrian people and their refugee situation were used against the Jewish people.

Then there is the fact that, as many are wont to say, that the U. S. is a nation founded on “Judeo-Christian” values. Besides the fact that the Founding Fathers wanted the U. S. to be as far away from a theocracy as humanly possible, if those principles were put into effect it would be a good step. Respect for your neighbor, reaching out to assist the poor and needy, looking out for your fellow man…all great tenets of most religions, not only Christianity. The reality is that the “religious” in the U. S. aren’t even close to this mission statement.

Accepting in the downtrodden is something that is a traditional statement in the Bible. There are a host of scriptures that state a follower of Jesus Christ should take in those that need help, provide shelter for those that are threatened. Instead of reaching out to help those in need – and the Syrian refugees definitely fall in that category – some of these “Christians” turn their backs on those people when they need the help the most.

Finally, what does the very statue that many of our ancestors saw when they immigrated to the U. S. say about the subject? On the Statue of Liberty (ironically a gift from France on the U. S. centennial), the poem of Ezra Lazarus defines the base thought that should be held by every citizen of the U. S.:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest tost to me,
I life my lamp beside the golden door.

This is what the United States is based on. Freedom, the “unalienable rights” of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, the ability to come to this country with nothing and become anything…this is the basis of who we are, the thread that holds the fabric of the United States together. If we are to start unthreading that fabric by deny those principles to those looking for entry to the United States – to those very people that perhaps need it the worst – then the dream of what the United States truly is and the beliefs that it is built on have been pissed down the gutter in the name of “security” and “tranquility.”

We do not uphold the traditions of this country – nor of our founding fathers or even our religious figures – if we cannot find it within ourselves to assist those in life-and-death situations. Sure, we have to screen the people coming into the country, but it is also said in today’s Wall Street Journal by former U. S. Ambassador to Syria Ryan Crocker that “the U. S. vetting system is strong.” Crocker also puts in the second caveat, something that all U. S. citizens should remember:  “So is (the U. S.) tradition to welcome the oppressed.”

The current response of many people in the U. S., including those in one of the two major political parties, is a monumental embarrassment to citizens of the U. S. It is time to make a return to what this country once was – a country that was strong, that didn’t cower to terrorist’s threats, that stood for those we might not agree with in their time of strife – otherwise that “shining city upon a hill” that Ronald Reagan once spoke of has been extinguished and is nothing more than a bland political posture point that hypocrites can hang their hat on.

What to Expect from Tomorrow’s GOP Debate

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They are beginning to happen so frequently – not only on the Republican side but also on the Democratic – that it is becoming a bit mind-numbing when they come up. For the fourth time in the past three months, however, the Republican Party will be gathering at the Milwaukee Theatre in Wisconsin for another two tiered debate. The debate, hosted by Fox Business Channel and moderated by FBC’s Neil Cavuto, Maria Bartiromo and Wall Street Journal editor in chief Gerard Baker, may appear to be the same on the surface, but there are underpinnings that have changed some of the dynamics.

The change will be apparent from the pregame show, otherwise known as the “kiddie table” debate. Gone from that stage will be former New York Governor George Pataki and current South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who have both been polling in the microscopic digits and were deemed as no longer viable in the race by Fox Business. Despite both candidates complaining that the Republican National Committee is looking to knock out candidates rather than have their constituency decide (Graham stated on MSNBC that the RNC “couldn’t run a one-car funeral”), neither man will be in attendance when former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and current Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal take the stage for the opening act on Tuesday.

It isn’t just going to be Santorum and Jindal on the stage for the pregame show, however (despite the high comedy of how they would attempt to “out-righteous” each other for the evangelical vote). Coming down the ramp like wrestlers in the WWE to battle against The Religious Way (oh, wait…they’ll be looking to join the team!) will be two veterans of the “Main Event,” former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and current New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (at a combined weight of 600 pounds!). These two gentlemen have been cast away from the main debate for the same reasons that Pataki and Graham aren’t around anymore; their poll numbers have plunged to a depth that they no longer are considered serious contenders for the GOP nomination.

This will leave eight players – political outsiders Dr. Ben Carson and businessman billionaire Donald Trump (tossing the lead back and forth between each other), Florida Senator Marco Rubio (garnering more support from the “establishment” wing of the GOP as they desert another candidate), Texas Senator Ted Cruz (clinging to the Tea Party vote while he waits for Trump to leave the campaign), former Florida Governor Jeb Bush (losing that establishment vote while eliminating exclamation marks from his campaign slogan in favor of “fixing” something, just what isn’t known), Ohio Governor John Kasich, former businesswoman Carly Fiorina and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul – to take the stage for the “Main Event” on Tuesday night. Debate organizers probably could have cut Paul, Kasich and Fiorina (who has plummeted after making her run out of the “minor leagues” to the Adult Table due to her inability to find a subject to run on) for the same low poll numbers that they have been using in dismissing others, but they (and the RNC) probably didn’t want to appear that they were trying to manipulate the game too much. As such, they will be trying to wedge themselves into discussion amongst the Top Five candidates, who are viable in that they control roughly 75% (76.6% to be exact, according to Real Clear Politics) of potential GOP voters.

Not only have the dynamics of the participants changed for this fourth debate, there will probably be noticeable changes to the general tenor of the questioning from the Fox Business Channel moderators and staff.

The first debate, basically a “get your feet wet” affair, was on the home turf of Fox News Channel, but some of the candidates still found something to bitch about even though their questioning was rather low-key. The second debate, conducted by CNN, amped up the pressure on the candidates over a three hour span (the longest debate so far of the 2015-16 primary season) and has generally been recognized as the best debate to this point. The candidates complained – especially Trump and Carson – that the debate was too long (in reality, it actually forced them to have substance rather than fluff to their statements in requiring explanation). Then there was the debacle of last month’s CNBC debate, an unruly affair that featured inane questions from the panel and outright refusal to answer questions from the candidates.

That CNBC debate, however, will hover like a smoke cloud over the Fox Business proceedings. The ineptitude of the CNBC moderators will probably remove any character questions from the Fox Business panel’s repertoire, meaning that there will be no answers to Carson’s consistently false claims in his books and in his speeches. Carson, who has come under fire for inaccuracies and perhaps fabrication of some of his past actions and achievements (most people do this but, then again, most people aren’t running for President; for the ultimate job interview, you pretty much have to be scot-free of scandal nowadays or at least have “plausible deniability”), has continually ducked those questions. Cavuto, Bartiromo and Company aren’t going to be able to query Carson on these inaccuracies lest they be besmirched with the Scarlet “G” of “gossip.”

This also means that the panel will not be able to point out differences between the candidates regarding their policies. They will probably stay far away from any sparring sessions between Trump and…well, anyone on the stage…regarding his draconian plans on immigration. There is the slimmest of possibilities that there will be some discussion between the candidates as they delve into their differences, but Fox Business doesn’t want to give the candidates the ability to say they were “set up” to fight with each other (as Cruz alleged in the CNBC debate).

Although there won’t be the circus atmosphere on the stage in Milwaukee, this is a chance to see some actual discussion on the issues (that is, if the candidates will answer the questions as they are presented to them). I WOULD like to see Trump’s feet held to the fire regarding how he plans to round up 11 million people without it looking like he’s sending an entire race to the gulag. I’d like to see Trump explain where the money is coming from for this and his other fantasyland projects such as the Great Wall of Mexico. I’d like to hear from Carson how his tax plan isn’t going to put an even larger crater in the national debt; hell, this is something I’d like to hear from all the candidates in how, if they cut taxes to the bare bones, how it is supposed to translate to more revenues actually coming into the government (the “trickle down” economics from the Reagan Administration have been proven time and again to be false).

In this explanation, I want more than “increased buying power of customers,” “repatriation of money from overseas companies” and “small business growth” as platitudes. Explain in simple terms how cutting taxes without an appropriate or deeper cuts in the spending is supposed to either stanch the growth or lower the national debt. Then also explain to me what some people are to do when those cuts are so deep that they can no longer keep their heads above water and stay in the game (re:  actually stay alive).

Rubio, Cruz, Bush, Paul, Fiorina, Kasich…there are a host of inquiries about policies that they have stated to the public that could be the basis of a myriad of questions from the hosts at Fox Business. My only hope in the debate is that we don’t get a castrated Fox Business panel that either can’t or won’t ask the tough questions in fear of “offending” the candidates. This is a Presidential debate, for fuck’s sake, and not a coquette’s debutante ball. The questioning is supposed to be harsh, unnerving and probing…you are going to be leading the strongest nation in the world and, as such, you’d BETTER be able to handle the heat of the job rather than running to a pulpit to seek permission from a “higher authority.”

Unfortunately, this is what I believe we are going to see on Tuesday night. Cavuto will have a choker on him from the Fox Business brass (or perhaps even Fox News chairman Roger Ailes himself will have his hand on the jerker chain) and will have all the strength of a neutered Chihuahua. Bartiromo will bat her eyes as she “seriously” looks into the numbers, while Baker will rubber stamp things as long as he can lock up the candidates for an op-ed in the WSJ in the near future. The debate will not be providing anything substantive that people can examine in depth, allowing the candidates themselves to crow about how “they have control of the message” (what that message is really is anyone’s guess), at least until the next debate.

Those looking to be a leader of ALL people, not just one segment of the people, have to be able to answer the hard questions and with something more than platitudes or dismissals. If a group isn’t challenged to show their abilities in leadership, then they don’t earn that chance to be a leader. If those that question them – and those that listen to the answers to those questions – allow them to bypass this process and immediately put them into leadership because of other non-leadership qualities, then you get what you asked – or didn’t ask – for.

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.

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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?