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“The Massive Irony For Ted Cruz”: Bromance On The Rocks: Surging Ted Cruz Begins To Poke Donald Trump

Ted Cruz’s moment has arrived.

Less than 10 weeks before Iowa voters cast the first votes of the presidential campaign season in Feb. 1 caucuses, a new Quinnipiac poll shows the Texas senator statistically tied with Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump for the lead in the state. Perhaps not so coincidentally, Cruz is tentatively beginning to take on the brash New York billionaire after months of cozying up.

Twice in recent days, the Texan has seized opportunities to distance himself from Trump’s policies and rhetoric.

First, Cruz disagreed with Trump after the New Yorker expressed openness to setting up a registry of Muslim Americans in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks. “I’m a big fan of Donald Trump’s but I’m not a fan of government registries of American citizens,” Cruz told reporters in Iowa, according to Politico. “The First Amendment protects religious liberty, I’ve spent the past several decades defending religious liberty.”

Then over the weekend, he politely chided inflammatory rhetoric from fellow Republicans on immigration, citing Trump, in an interview with The Associated Press. “Tone matters,” Cruz said. “Are there some in the Republican Party whose rhetoric is unhelpful with regard to immigration? Yes.”

Cruz’s campaign said to expect more distinctions to come.

“Senator Cruz has drawn policy contrasts with his opponents before and he will continue to do so as he shares his own record and positions with voters on the campaign trail,” said Catherine Frazier, Cruz’s spokeswoman. “As the field continues to narrow, it’s only natural that the contrasts between the front-runners will become more evident.”

The contrast-drawing follows an unusual summer and fall bromance between Trump and Cruz that included a July meeting at Trump Tower in New York, instigated by the Texan, and a September rally on Capitol Hill headlined by the two Republican candidates. On Oct. 8, Cruz admitted his strategy was to eventually win over Trump’s supporters. “In time, I don’t believe Donald is going to be the nominee, and I think in time the lion’s share of his supporters end up with us,” he told WABC’s Rita Cosby.

Trump’s persistent national lead since July, defying a steady stream of predictions about an impending implosion, has forced a strategic shift for Cruz. The Texan is looking to capitalize as he rises to the top tier of the GOP race and as former Iowa front-runner Ben Carson sinks under scrutiny. The new Quinnipiac poll of Iowa Republicans, released Tuesday, found Trump at 25 percent, with Cruz at 23 percent — a 2 percent gap that is inside the survey’s margin of error. Carson was third in the Quinnipiac Poll with 18 percent.

“Ted Cruz should be taken very seriously. He’s laid out a very well thought out grassroots and fundraising network across the country. He’s been very strategic in his timing,” said Ron Bonjean, a veteran Republican operative who is not affiliated with any of the presidential campaigns.

For Cruz, Trump presents an obstacle and an opportunity. The politically incorrect New Yorker has been outperforming the Texas firebrand at his own greatest talent: deploying scorched-earth rhetoric to channel the anti-establishment sentiments in the GOP. But Trump’s bravado gives Cruz a chance to paint himself as something nobody in Washington would accuse him of being: prudent and measured.

“There is massive irony here for Ted Cruz to be asking Donald Trump to tone it down,” said Bonjean. “He’s trying to look like the most adult candidate in the room — the most realistic alternative that could take away Trump voters.”

The irony is that Cruz has built an image upon angering Republican leaders with tactics like incubating the government shutdown of 2013, forcing weekend work as he makes a stand, and calling Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a liar on the floor this summer. It has been a tactical use of his Senate seat, Bonjean said, that has enabled Cruz to cultivate his conservative base and that now positions him to seize his political advantage. “He has built a foundation brick by brick for this moment.”

The appeal of Cruz is straightforward: He’s a crusader for tea party and evangelical Christian causes with the scars to show for smashing fists with a Republican Party leadership that is increasingly disliked by the base. And he has an unusually large war chest for a non-establishment figure — $26.5 million as of his third quarter filing with the Federal Election Commission, along with $37.8 million as of June 30 by a quartet of super PACs supporting him — towering over the fundraising of past Iowa caucus winners Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee, who are running again and trying to appeal to the same conservative base.

Cruz is battling on a second front with presidential rival and fellow Sen. Marco Rubio, seeking to cast the Floridian as an establishment-friendly foil to his insurgent persona. The two first-term senators, who have been neck and neck for third place in an average of national polls, are duking it out over Rubio’s support for immigration reform in 2013 and Cruz’s vote this year to curtail the government’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone data.

Meanwhile, Trump has suggested Cruz is copying his ideas, telling conservative radio host Laura Ingraham last week that “Ted Cruz is now agreeing with me 100 percent.” The confrontational New Yorker has also indicated he’ll take the gloves off if Cruz becomes a threat to his nomination.

“If he catches on, I guess we’ll have to go to war,” Trump said last Monday on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”


By: Sahil Kapur, Bloomberg News, Tribune News Service; The National Memo, November 24, 2015

November 26, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Presidential Candidates, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“John Kasich And Matthew 25, Revisited”: We’re All Just One Big Freedom-Loving Family In The West

This is Republican Gov. John Kasich explaining in March why he expanded coverage for Ohio’s Medicaid recipients:

The conservative movement — a big chunk of which is faith-based — seems to have never read Matthew 25. … There’s so much we have to do to clean ourselves up. … So instead of getting into the judgment, why don’t we get into the feeding the hungry and clothing the naked and helping the imprisoned and helping the lonely? That’s what we’re commanded to do.

This is Republican presidential candidate John Kasich explaining on Tuesday why he has joined more than two dozen governors who say they’ll refuse to accept any of the 10,000 Syrian refugees, many of them widows and children, to arrive in the U.S. in the next fiscal year:

“We understand these people are in trouble, but think about … us putting somebody on our street, in our town or in our country who (means) us harm. … We just got to be very careful for our friends, our neighbors, our families and our country. … Until we get a handle on where we are, we need to stop. And once we have a rational program and we can determine who it is that’s coming, then it’s another story. But for this point in time, in light of what we’re seeing in the world, it’s reasonable to stop.”

What happened to Matthew 25?

Pfft. So pre-primary.

I listen to these governors — all of whom know they have no power to defy the president and close their borders — and marvel at how readily they pander to the worst among us. I don’t know what version of the Bible they’re thumping, but I sure would like a cloud-side seat on that storied day when they try to explain themselves to you-know-who.

For me, the joking ends here.

Just a few short weeks ago, we reeled at the sight of a little boy named Aylan Kurdi. The 3-year-old Syrian Kurd tried to flee with his family from Turkey to Europe. Their boat capsized, and Aylan’s lifeless body washed ashore. His 5-year-old brother and mother drowned, too, but it is Aylan we remember because of the photographs of him that were published online and in newspapers around the world.

In the pictures, he is wearing a red shirt and shorts, lying on his stomach. His face is turned ever so slightly to his left, his arms resting palms up by his side. His was the universal pose of a busy little boy surrendering to a nap. Maybe that’s why he got to us. He was every child we’ve ever known.

On the same day that Kasich said Syrian refugees are not welcome in the state he has abandoned for his presidential race, he announced his nifty idea to fight the Islamic State group: a new agency to impose “the core Judeo-Christian Western values that we and our friends and allies share.” He would target China, Iran, Russia, and the Middle East.

“We need to beam messages around the world about what it means to have a Western ethic,” he said in an interview with NBC News. “It means freedom. It means opportunity. It means respect for women.”

Let’s stop right there.

Respect for women? This, from the governor who has championed some of the harshest abortion restrictions in the country.

And what about this notion of a universal set of Judeo-Christian values in the Western world?

On Wednesday, I spoke to Colin Swearingen, an assistant professor of political science at John Carroll University, near Cleveland, to talk about Kasich’s theory that we’re all just one big freedom-loving family in the West.

“The Declaration of Independence centered on liberty,” Swearingen said. “A lot of Western civilization focuses more on equality. This is a significant difference in how you set up government.”

So what does he make of Kasich’s idea?

“Well, the establishment clause certainly jumps out at you,” he said. “Was it a slip-up, or is he trying to reach out to the Iowa caucuses? In 2012, 57 percent of them were evangelicals. Maybe this is some sort of coherent strategy where Kasich sees an opening in Iowa.”

I have searched and searched my Bible, and I cannot find any holy dispensation for presidential candidates who turn away widows and orphans to help their poll numbers with people who like that sort of thing. I did, however, find last month’s Quinnipiac poll that showed Kasich trailing far behind Donald Trump and Ben Carson in his own state.

Overall, we’re seeing some interesting timing from Kasich, don’t you think?

I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how this new interpretation of Matthew 25 works out for him.


By: Connie Schultz, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Columnist: The National Memo, November 19, 2015

November 20, 2015 Posted by | ISIS, John Kasich, Syrian Refugees | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Racism Vs. Whites? You’re Kidding Me”: Majorities Of Whites Think Anti-White Discrimination Is As Bad As The Anti-Black Kind

Last week, New York Times columnist Tom Edsall, in a piece about Donald Trump’s appeal among conservative voters, cited an alarming survey on white people’s racial attitudes that made me wonder if large segments of white America are completely misinterpreting what racism is and how prevalent it remains in our society.

Edsall pointed to a study conducted last fall by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) that found that 52 percent of white respondents agreed with the following statement: “Today discrimination against whites has become as big a problem as discrimination against blacks and other minorities.”

Among subsets of respondents, 76 percent of those affiliated with the Tea Party agreed with the statement. Another 61 percent of Republicans, and 53 percent of independents. A majority of whites over age 50 also agreed with the statement, and 58 percent of working-class whites agreed. Evangelical Protestants (63 percent) and Catholics (56 percent) also agreed.

62 percent of white Democrats disagreed, and 61 percent of those with a college education. White Americans under 50 also disagreed, even though it was close. Only 48 percent of whites between the ages of 18-29 agreed, and 49 percent of them disagreed. Of whites 30-49, 46 percent agreed and 52 percent disagreed.

Upon seeing these figures I immediately wondered about what exactly white Americans perceive racism to be, and how the supposed racism they receive has become equal to that of African Americans and other minority groups.

Did a leading American presidential candidate refer to large swaths of the white American population as “rapists” and “murderers”?

Have countless white Americans taken to the streets to express their frustrations with a criminal justice system that disproportionately harms and negatively impacts the lives of white Americans?

Are white Americans campaigning against profound levels of income inequality that negatively impact the white community far worse than other racial and ethnic groups in America?

When I look around America I do not see white voices making these complaints. Instead I see large amounts of white Americans expressing their frustration that some traditional white American values are being questioned, or are “under attack,” as some might say.

The controversy over the Confederate Flag has ruffled the feathers of many conservative white Americans because it questions the value and legacy of certain Southern traditions and their heroes. But should it be right for a nation’s or even a state’s decision to refrain from celebrating the lives and ideals of known traitors who were hell-bent on destroying America (who also happened to be white) to be viewed as a racist attack against the white race?

Additionally, the growth of Black Lives Matter has led many white Americans to proclaim that they are “under attack” along racial divisions, but the closest incidents of an “attack” have been occasional protests that have turned violent and resulted in the destruction of property. There has never been a concerted effort to destroy white-owned establishments in the movement, and the random destruction of property is defined as criminality and not racism.

Apart from the recent and unfounded accusation that Black Lives Matter has morphed or been hijacked into a rabid, uncontrollable movement that emphasizes the killing of white law enforcement officials, the greatest cause for concern has been the name of the movement. To some Americans, the name Black Lives Matter implies that other lives do not matter, despite the fact that this notion is actually the inverse of the intent of the name. Black Lives Matter’s intent is to highlight how historically and even to this day, but with lesser severity, black lives have been dehumanized, devalued, neglected, and abused within American society, and that collectively we need to put a stop to this damning status quo.

At no point has the existence of Black Lives Matter been about the dehumanizing or abusing of other races. It has not been about pitting the races against one another and saying that one race is superior to the other. It has been about highlighting the centuries of abuse inflicted upon black Americans, acknowledging the existing abuses, and aspiring to increase the empathy and humanity of the American public to combat these systemic problems.

Proclaiming that the movement should change its name to “All Lives Matter” or creating spin-off, competing slogans such as “Blue Lives Matter” only displays a lack of understanding of the intent of Black Lives Matter. And while the motivations of such reactionary suggestions might be honest and pure, I struggle to see how the misunderstanding of certain segments of white America regarding a national civil rights movement led by black Americans should be interpreted as a racial attack against white Americans.

Black Americans expressing their frustrations against the oppressive institutions that govern them that have been erected primarily by white Americans should not be viewed as a racial attack against white Americans.

In another PRRI survey, support among whites for public protests to combat an unfair government dropped dramatically—from 67 percent in favor to 48 percent—when the protesters were identified as black.

Criticism and racism are not one in the same, and we should not encourage lazily conflating the two.

The majority of the frustrations I hear white Americans express when racist accusations are made center on two main threads: that their lives and social structures should not be questioned and/or challenged, and secondly, that there is an inherent danger of foreign or dissimilar bodies.

These two perspectives are quite common throughout the world, so they are not necessarily “wrong” per se, but when you combine these attributes with the large expanses of land throughout America, it becomes clear that much of American civilization was built around the creation of various “whitopias”—to borrow the term from author Rich Benjamin.

The narrative of white families fleeing Europe to escape persecution and arriving in America to create their own utopian existence where they can practice their desired faith and associate with “their own kind” has been the heroic narrative that we have sold to the world. America had so much land to colonize—once the Native Americans were killed and forcefully removed from their land—that white people from across the world were encouraged to move here for sanctuary and opportunity. There was never much of a need to tolerate those who were different than you because you could always create a town or a suburban community that separated you and “your kind” from dissenting, dissimilar, or critical voices and people.

America has always been structured in such a way that white Americans were encouraged to build and expand this utopian or “whitopian” environment. Both directly and indirectly this has resulted in the dehumanizing and dismissing of non-white life, and the racist structures that have encouraged this forced separation.

However, in this modern world where information and individuals can move faster than previously imagined, the opportunity to escape and live in your own utopian world where you no longer need to value or listen to dissenting voices and may be fearful of foreign bodies is no longer an option. White Americans must now hear the voices of the previously oppressed.

White Americans receiving criticism from the people they have always demonized and oppressed regarding the structures that white society once thought to be utopian is not an act of racism upon white Americans. It is a step toward building more just and humane institutions and societies for all people regardless of race. Misinterpreting this collective social progress as anything else, and especially as a racially motivated attack, is a step in the wrong direction.


By: Barrett Holmes Pitner, The Daily Beast, September 8, 2015

September 11, 2015 Posted by | African Americans, Donald Trump, Racism, White Americans | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Little Late To The Party”: Why Kim Davis Has Missed Her Moment

Years ago, I remember Christian right leaders fretting about pastors going to jail if they expressed their anti-gay views; when that didn’t come to pass, they fretted about churches losing their tax-exempt status. These worst case scenarios never happened, because we have this thing called the First Amendment, which protects peoples’ and churches’ right to say gay people are going to hell, or shouldn’t be able to get married, or should be cured by divine redemption.

Years later, the Christian right finally has its martyr in Kim Davis. Thanks to United States district judge David Bunning—who, despite having other options for securing marriage licenses for all Rowan County, Kentucky residents, ordered Davis to jail for six days—a new heroine was born.

Yet while Davis is most obviously a symbol for a Christian right bent on claiming its religious freedom is under siege, she is really a symbol of something else entirely. The Republican Party, and even its most reliable base of support, the Christian right, is being forced to move on when it comes to the marriage issue. According to a 2014 Pew survey, 58 percent of Republican millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996) favor gay marriage. A Public Religion Research Institute survey conducted last year found “white evangelical Protestant Millennials are more than twice as likely to favor same-sex marriage as the oldest generation of white evangelical Protestants (43% vs. 19%).” That’s not a majority of millennial white evangelicals, but it’s certainly significant, given that this demographic has long been one of the staunchest opponents of marriage equality.

Davis, then, is a little late to the party, an anachronism delivered to the doorstep of the party’s most desperate presidential candidates. Her host and chief supporter Mike Huckabee reminded us at yesterday’s rally in Grayson, Kentucky, that Davis came to Christ just four and a half years ago. To her, everything is new again, but to evangelicals who have either embraced marriage equality or acquiesced to its inevitability, her rebirth as a celebrity victim of Rowan County’s gay and lesbian betrotheds and of the judiciary’s “tyranny” must feel a bit stale.

The Davis phenomenon has some Republicans worried, as Sahil Kapur and Greg Stohr report at Bloomberg. “I think the longer this lingers, the worse it is for the Republican Party and for the conservative movement,” John Feehery, a Republican strategist and lobbyist, told Bloomberg, adding that Davis’s stance “smacks of bigotry.”

Then there is the matter of the law. Yesterday Davis embraced Huckabee and lawyer Mat Staver, both of whom have pronounced the Supreme Court to be without authority to decide constitutional questions like whether bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional. Even Fox News host Gregg Jarrett called this view “stunningly obtuse” and his guest Sharon Liko, a lawyer, called it “ridiculously stupid.” Piling on, the network’s Shepard Smith described the entire spectacle as a “religious play” and criticized Davis’s refusal to accept an accommodation, adding, “Haters are going to hate. We thought what this woman wanted was an accommodation, which they’ve granted her, something that worked for everybody. But it’s not what they want.”

While not a majority view among a group of evangelical thought leaders interviewed for the web site Breakpoint, Hunter Baker, a lawyer and political science professor at Union University, opined, “Kim Davis’s office is obligated to perform the state function of issuing wedding certificates. She disagrees that marriage can exist between two people of the same sex. I agree with her.” But, Baker maintained, “the state of Kentucky has little choice other than to respect the ruling of the Supreme Court.”

Who else agrees with that statement? None other than Donald Trump, who called the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges “the law of the land.”

Trump’s perch atop the GOP field is, of course, driving his adversaries in search of a potent boost from the fractured evangelical base. At yesterday’s rally, a Huckabee aide did the Christ-like thing of blocking Ted Cruz from a key photo opportunity with Davis; after all, the Bible does say those polling in the single-digits shall reap the glory of exploitative publicity stunts.

While Trump’s summertime standing with evangelicals was thought to be a blip, it has persisted into September—along with continued analyses of why. “Mr. Trump’s criticism of the Obama administration and of Republican Party leaders has many social conservatives cheering for him,” the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday.

Writing on the Fox News website, Robert Jeffress, the Texas megachurch pastor who in 2011 called Mormonism a “cult,” maintains, “No Evangelical I know is expecting Trump to lead our nation in a spiritual revival.” But, he goes on, President Barack Obama has “drastically lowered the threshold of spiritual expectations Evangelicals have of their president. No longer do they require their president to be one of them. Evangelicals will settle for someone who doesn’t HATE them like the current occupant of the Oval Office appears to.”

Do evangelicals need Kim Davis, political motivator? She may very well have missed her moment.


By: Sarah Posner, Religion Dispatches, September 9, 2015

September 11, 2015 Posted by | Christian Right, Kim Davis, Religious Freedom | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Fire And Brimstone Coming Down From The Sky”: Scott Walker Vows To ‘Wreak Havoc’ On Washington; As If That Would Be A Good Thing

Can one candidate steal adopt another candidate’s tone and thereby revive his struggling campaign? Scott Walker, currently languishing at around four percent in Republican primary polls, is going to try.

So today, Walker will deliver a speech meant to capture the prevailing sentiment in his party, by means of a promise to “wreak havoc” on the nation’s capital. That may sound like a joke, but it isn’t. Zeke Miller reports:

“To wreak havoc on Washington, America needs a leader with real solutions,” Walker will say. “Political rhetoric is not enough — we need a plan of action. Actions speak louder than words. I have a plan to move this country forward. To wreak havoc on Washington, America also needs a leader who has been tested. I have been tested like no one else in this race. We passed those tests and now, I am ready to lead this exceptional country.”

Perhaps in the speech’s exciting denouement, Walker will quote “Ghostbusters” and promise “fire and brimstone coming down from the sky, rivers and seas boiling, 40 years of darkness, earthquakes, volcanoes, the dead rising from the grave, human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria!”

Do Republican voters really want Washington to be overtaken by “havoc”? Some politicians say they’ll reform Washington, or clean it up, or change the way it does business. But havoc? It certainly shows that Walker is not going to bother telling Republican voters that governing is complicated, and you need someone who can navigate the processes and institutions of Washington if you’re going to achieve the substantive goals you and your party share.

Which is perhaps understandable, given the fact that in current polls, if you combine the support for Donald Trump and Ben Carson — the two candidates with zero government experience, who have never run for office before, and who promise that all the problems we face have easy, simple solutions — you get about 50 percent of the Republican electorate.

So Walker, whose fall has coincided with Trump’s rise, seems ready to try anything to emulate the current frontrunner. There’s precedent for that — in past primaries, when one candidate has won support with a particular message or style, other candidates have often tried to adopt some of it. In 2000, when John McCain was successfully portraying himself as a reformer, George W. Bush started calling himself “a Reformer With Results,” and it actually seemed to work. It was possible because it’s only a couple of steps from “reformer” to “reformer with results,” so voters could decide that while they liked McCain’s reform record, Bush offered something similar, but even better.

Walker’s theory seems to be that there are voters now supporting Donald Trump who’ll say, “I like that Trump is smashing things, so if Scott Walker wants to utterly lay waste to Washington, DC, sign me up!” This seems implausible, to say the least.

Earlier this week, the National Review published an article entitled “Scott Walker: What Went Wrong?“, which sums up the prevailing sentiment among Republicans about the Wisconsin governor. Before the race began in earnest, Walker was the thinking person’s choice to become the Republican nominee, in large part because he offered something for everyone. His union-busting and tax-cutting would appeal to economic conservatives, his evangelical roots would appeal to social conservatives, as a governor he could argue that he has executive experience, and his battles with Democrats in his state showed him to be the kind of partisan warrior partisans like. Many commentators, myself included, thought this would be a powerful combination. We put Walker in the top tier of Republican contenders, along with Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio.

While there’s still plenty of time before the voting starts and things could (and probably will) change, for now that assessment doesn’t look so hot. Trump, on the other hand, has demonstrated the degree to which Republican voters hold not only the federal government but their own party’s leaders in contempt. As he’d say, they’re losers, politicians who have been making promises to their constituents for years (we’re going to repeal Obamacare any day now!) but have been utterly unable to deliver. If you want to capitalize on that sentiment, you can do it substantively, by moving your positions on some important issues, or you can do it stylistically, which is what Walker looks to be trying to do.

The degree to which Trump’s success would influence the other candidates is something we’ve been trying to figure out for a while now. Would he pull them to the right on immigration as they tried to capture some of his voters, or would they present themselves as more thoughtful and reasonable, to heighten the contrast with Trump? The question could matter a great deal in the general election (presuming Trump is not the nominee), because if they choose to be more like Trump, they’ll harm themselves among the voters they’d need next fall. But it may not be possible even in the primaries to win over Trump’s voters by trying to be more like him. No matter what you promise to do to Washington, you just can’t out-Trump Trump.


By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, September 9, 2015

September 11, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Presidential Candidates, Scott Walker | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment


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