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“Now He Has Really Done It!”: Marco Rubio Alienates Comic-Con Crowd

Marco Rubio’s views on reproductive rights are likely to alienate women. His views on immigration reform are likely to alienate a lot of Latinos. His take on marriage equality is going to alienate the LGBT community. And his plan for tax breaks for millionaires will alienate economists.

But now Rubio has really done it: he’s alienated the comic-con crowd.

The latest McClatchy/Marist poll found the Florida senator running third nationally, trailing only Donald Trump and Ben Carson, in the race for the Republican nomination, but there was an interesting age gap: Rubio may be the youngest candidate – he’s only 44 – but he enjoys stronger support with older GOP voters than younger GOP voters.

Rubio has pitched himself as the voice of a new generation of far-right policymakers, but voters older than him tend to like Rubio more than voters younger than him.

The senator’s take on science fiction may not help matters.

The first hint of trouble came two weeks ago, when someone asked Rubio a familiar genre question: Star Wars or Star Trek? He tweeted in response, “Star wars. It has a political theme.” The political themes in Star Trek are hard to miss, making his answer odd.

Today in New Hampshire, Rubio added some related thoughts on the subject, explaining his conflicted feelings about Darth Vader. He also reflected on some childhood toys (thanks to my colleague Will Femia for the heads-up):

…Rubio also revealed that he had a toy version of the Death Star, the fictional base for the movie’s darker forces, and re-told a key moment in the series’ plot.

 “I think I had the Death Star, but it kept breaking just like it did in part two – in ‘Empire Strikes Back’ when it blew up cause that guy got that rocket to go into that hole,” Rubio said. “Remember that?”

No. No, no, no. Noooooo.

Look, I realize Marco Rubio gets confused about economic policy, foreign policy, health care, immigration, the culture wars, and most of the major issues of the day, but he should at least have some basic understanding of Star Wars canon.

First, the Death Star blows up in two Star Wars movies, but “The Empire Strikes Back” isn’t one of them.

Second, Luke Skywalker is not to be referred to as “that guy.”

And third, I wouldn’t really say Luke fired a “rocket.”

Political pundits seem to love the Florida senator, but is it fair to say Rubio just lost some backing among sci-fi pundits?

Postscript: If Rubio is looking for pointers on how public officials and politicians should talk about Star Wars, he could get some useful pointers from the Obama White House, which knows what it’s talking about.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, November 10, 2015

November 11, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Marco Rubio, Science Fiction | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Jeb Can’t Even Handle The Little Stuff”: The Simple Job Of Finding A Couple Of Handful Of People To Serve As His Delegates

We have a very convoluted system for electing our president, and particularly so within our party nominating contests. In some places we have caucuses that are followed by county and state conventions where delegates are selected to the two parties’ respective national conventions. In other places, we have primaries where delegates appear directly on the ballot. In these cases, it’s not just a matter of getting the candidate’s name on the ballot, you also have to field enough delegates to take advantage of the support you get from the voters. In Alabama, at least, Jeb Bush couldn’t meet this basic test.

One data point promoted by the Bush team as a show of organizational strength: Bush already is on the ballot in 13 states. But Ohio Governor John Kasich isn’t far behind, with his name on the ballot in nine states. First-term U.S. Senator Ted Cruz’s team said they’ve put his name on ballots in 17 states and territories.

In Alabama, one of the Bush campaign’s top targets in March, Bush has endorsements from a member of Congress, a handful of state legislators and statewide officials. Yet, in contrast with Donald Trump or Marco Rubio, Bush wasn’t able to find a full slate of delegates to run on the ballot by Friday’s deadline.

“It’s been hard to recruit people to run because of how his numbers have gone,” said Chris Brown, an Alabama Republican strategist who worked for the Florida Republican Party when Bush was governor.

This obviously undermines Jeb’s main arguments for his own candidacy. He’s supposed to be competent and experienced. His team is supposed to know what it is doing and have a shot at matching the team the Clintons will bring to the general election contest. He’s supposed to have enough establishment support and resources to not have to worry about things like ballot access that can be a real challenge to cash-strapped and little-known candidates.

And, yet, even in a deep red state where he’s got significant establishment support, he couldn’t accomplish the simple job of finding a couple of handfuls of people to serve as his delegates.

It’s almost sad, really.

 

By: Martin Longman, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, November 10, 2015

November 11, 2015 Posted by | Delegates, GOP Presidential Candidates, GOP Primaries | , , , , , | 3 Comments

“It May Be Democrats Who Gain The Most”: Why Fox Business Is The Perfect Venue For The Republican Debate

The most recent Republican primary debate, which aired two weeks ago on CNBC, was a well-choreographed pageant of pandering, evasion, and deceit. Confronted with moderators who questioned the feasibility, consistency, and wisdom of their issue positions, the candidates responded not with demonstrations of their substantive knowledge, but with fabrications and unfounded accusations of media bias.

Republicans registered their dissatisfaction with enough petulance that the host of Tuesday’s debate, Fox Business Network, is trying to set itself apart. To avoid a repeat of the CNBC mess, it is making its moderators “invisible” and thus unable to interject when the candidates say untrue things.

It stands to reason that the GOP and Fox Business will serve each other’s purposes perfectly. By renouncing confrontation and skepticism, Fox Business will give Republican candidates the obstacle-free forum they demand; and in return, for distinguishing itself from CNBC, Republicans will refrain from attacking the network’s moderators as limelight-seekers or agents of a media conspiracy. A symbiosis of cynicism and reciprocal gratification.

But that isn’t to say the debate will redound to the benefit of either Republicans or their inquisitors. Republicans and Fox Business may figure out how to get along with one another, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that the candidates or the network will enjoy lasting boosts to either their reputations or their ultimate aims. In the end, the winners of such a delicate presentation might well be the very people Republicans have sought to demonize, at the expense of misled and frustrated Republican voters.

The conservative movement in the Obama era has been marked by leaders who hyperbolize and over-promise, simultaneously stoking latent paranoia and failing to adequately confront these imagined dangers. Recent convulsions on the right—like former Speaker John Boehner’s resignation from the House, and former Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s defeat last year at the hands of David Brat, a right-wing primary challenger—are widely characterized as self-defeating acts of conservative excess. But they can just as easily be characterized as the justified backlash of a disgruntled conservative rank and file. “[Cantor] wrote, ran on, and promised the Pledge to America,” Brat complained recently to reporters. “He is now name-calling, and making fun of—as ‘unrealistic’—those who are running on the pledges that he made on paper. So, Eric Cantor was the leader who put forward the Pledge to America, and we’re ‘unrealistic’ for following his logic. Run that by a college freshman in philosophy. That’s called a contradiction. Socrates would give him an F.”

Republican primary debates are venues for this kind of over-promising and underperforming on a grander, televised scale. The four leading Republican presidential candidates have promised to reform the tax code in equally, but uniquely unserious ways. Donald Trump would reduce revenues by $10 trillion over a decade, but he wishes away this immense calamity by claiming falsely and without any shame that his plan would generate 6 percent economic growth in perpetuity. Ben Carson proposes a tax plan based on the tithe. Ted Cruz’s combination of a flat income tax with a value-added tax would be less fiscally disastrous but much more regressive. Marco Rubio promises tax cuts so enormous that he’d have to eliminate the entire non-defense budget, save for Medicare and Social Security, to square away the rest of his promises. These ideas are the embers of the next right-on-right conflagration, which will erupt when the Repbulican nominee swings back to the center during the general election, or when the next Republican president fails to deliver what he promised.

CNBC’s fiasco proved that journalists who don’t enjoy the auspices of the conservative movement can’t successfully contest this kind of outlandishness in real time. Republicans will brush off outsider scrutiny as a symptom of media bias. Fox Business doesn’t have that problem. But if for the sake of coalition management its moderators decide they’re better off serving as enablers, it won’t be in the interest of the party or the candidates or GOP voters. They’ll be doing a favor to those who stand to gain from the right’s increasingly attenuated grip on reality.

 

By: Brian Beutler, Senior Editor, The New Republic, November 10, 2015

November 11, 2015 Posted by | Fox Business, GOP Presidential Candidates, GOP Primary Debates | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Domain Specific Intelligence”: The Truth About Ben Carson; Smart People Can Believe Crazy Things

The mystery of Ben Carson is that he’s a startlingly intelligent man with an inspiring life story who repeatedly makes unhinged assertions that are divorced from reality—and who, as we now know, unnecessarily embellishes his life story. About Carson’s braininess there can be no doubt: He’s not just a doctor, nor is he just a brain surgeon, he’s also performed astonishing medical breakthroughs. In 1987, he was the first surgeon to successfully separate twins conjoined at the head, not a feat that you can do unless you are extraordinarily talented. Yet Carson’s impressive medical accomplishments are puzzling in light of the many absurd things he’s said, notably that Charles Darwin was inspired by Satan and that the pyramids were created by the Hebrew slave Joseph to store grain (as against what Carson thinks is the belief of many “scientists” that they were created by space aliens).

There’s no gainsaying the undisputed facts of Carson’s life, which are genuinely elevating. He really did go from a ghetto childhood to Yale to medical school to being a world-class surgeon. Why then has Carson felt the need to gild the lily with apparently tall tales of being a violence-prone kid who nearly murdered a friend, and being offered a scholarship to West Point? Reporting by CNN and Politico has made it clear that these central claims in his autobiographical account of himself are almost surely false.

To solve the mystery of Ben Carson, it’s important to realize two facts: First, great intelligence doesn’t immunize a person from indulging in magical thinking or pseudo-science. Second, even very smart and accomplished people can be fantasists.

A key text for understanding the Carson phenomenon is science journalist Michael Shermer’s Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Times (originally published in 1997 and revised in 2002). In a chapter titled “Why Smart People Believe Weird Things,” Shermer notes that “intelligence is … orthogonal to the variables that go into shaping beliefs.” What this means is that the factors that make someone believe unusual and non-scientific or pseudo-scientific ideas—everything ranging from ESP to myths about Atlantis to oddball Shakespearean authorship theories to outright holocaust denial—are independent of intelligence. These are beliefs that very smart people as well as the far less intellectually gifted are prone to.

“Another problem is that smart people might be smart in only one field,” Shermer notes. “We say that their intelligence is domain specific.” Carson clearly has a “domain-specific” intelligence—which he freely applies to fields outside his ken (not just Egyptian Archaeology but also American politics, foreign policy, economics, evolutionary biology, and many others).

But there’s a further factor at work: In our educational meritocracy, smart people like Carson are likely to have high social status, which makes them more self-assured and willing to think they are smarter than the experts in other fields. Or smart enough, in Carson’s case, to believe they’re qualified for the presidency.

In some respects, being as intelligent and well-educated as Carson makes you more vulnerable to what Shermer calls weird beliefs. The smarter and better-educated you are, the more powerful you are at coming up with arguments to justify your positions. In effect, intelligence and education give you the skills at becoming entrenched in motivated reasonings. In Shermer’s words, “smart people believe weird things because they are skilled at defending belief they arrived at for non-smart reasons.” This explains the engineers who become 9/11 truthers, the Supreme Court justices who think the Earl of Oxford wrote Shakespeare’s plays, the distinguished mathematicians who think HIV is not the cause of AIDS. It also explains Ben Carson.

But aside from his proclivity toward weird ideas (often connected to his right-wing ideology), we now know that Carson is also a fantasist. His inspirational tales about his life seem to be filled with fibs, moments where he takes perhaps a kernel of truth and turns it into an outright untruth.

Here again, we have to recognize that intelligence and accomplishment are no guard against moral failings. Whatever qualities make someone into a fabulist—perhaps a love of powerful stories, perhaps an inability to distinguish between fact and fiction—can be found in the gifted as well as the ordinary. Two distinguished historical figures prefigure Carson in this regard: the novelist Ford Madox Ford and the political theorist Harold Laski. Ford wrote wonderful novels like The Good Soldier (1915), and Laski was a seminal figure in the Fabian movement, yet both inexplicably felt the need to spruce up their life stories. Ford was genuinely friends with figures like Joseph Conrad and Henry James, but made up stories about them in his autobiographical books. Laski was active in the heart of British politics, yet his letters and private conversations were filled with untrue stories about meeting famous people and doing extraordinary things.

Ben Carson is fast becoming a tragic figure. He’s a man of genuine merit, yet he’s tarnished his reputation through his inability to resist fantastic ideas—and to make up fantasies about his own life. He stands as proof of the fact that intelligence is unconnected to morality.

 

By: Jeet Heer, Senior Editor at The New Republic; November9, 2015

November 11, 2015 Posted by | Ben Carson, GOP Presidential Candidates, GOP Primary Debates | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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