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“Fiorina’s Fast And Loose With The Facts”: Fiorina Relies On Speed And Specificity To Give The Impression Of Substantive Knowledge

I noted at Lunch Buffet that the fact-checkers are having a ball with Carly Fiorina’s performance last night. But it’s worth remembering that’s a real pattern with her. Back on August 20, WaMo intern Celeste Bott deconstructed a Fiorina appearance at Campbell Brown’s education summit in New Hampshire, and found the former CEO did not really know what she was talking about:

Many of her responses in the Q&A stuck to the same GOP talking points the other candidates mostly stuck to, criticizing the Common Core standards and an overinvolved Department of Education. Her biggest argument? Increased federal spending on education hasn’t led to substantive improvement.

“Let’s talk about what’s not working. It’s pretty obvious what’s not working. The Department of Education has gotten more money every year for roughly 30 years, and yet these income disparity gaps I described are getting worse. We’re not improving in terms of our achievement rates relevant to other nations. So we know factually speaking that when Washington spends more money, the quality of education in this nation does not improve.”

What Fiorina said, however, is factually inaccurate, even if it plays to common misperceptions about our “failing” public schools. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which education experts generally agree is the most reliable measure of K-12 attainment, reading scores for American nine year olds have increase by 12 points, or an entire grade level, and math scores have gone up 24 points, or two grade levels, since the early 1970s. And the disparities between advantaged and disadvantaged students she says have widened have in fact narrowed: black and Latino students’ test scores have risen faster than white scores. Though the topline NAEP scores are flat, making it seem like there has been little progress, as the conservative American Enterprise Institute has pointed out this is a statistical quirk arising from the fact that in recent decades the percentage of students who are affluent and white (and generally score relatively high) has decreased while the percentage who are lower-income and minority (and generally score relatively low) has increased. In fact, NAEP scores for all subgroups have increased substantially, during the same period that federal spending and involvement has grown.

That wasn’t the only problem with Fiorina’s education rap.

A great deal of Fiorina’s responses centered around promoting school choice, going so far as to say that if elected, she would surround herself with people who have built successful charter schools. When asked about challenges to choice, she pointed to federal programs like the Obama administration’s Race to the Top.

“Federal government money is being used to pick winners and losers. You see a program like Race to the Top being used to determine, ‘Well, you’re doing it the way we want you to do it, so you get federal money’ and ‘You’re not doing it the way we want you to do it, so you don’t get federal money.’ That’s not going to work. The truth is more federal money ought to flow out of Washington D.C. into the states, and money at the state level ought to flow into the community level.”

Race to the Top, a so-called barrier to school choice, awarded grants to states for lifting their caps on charter schools, effectively providing incentives for states to offer more choices and create innovative programs, the very things Fiorina is advocating.

Bott concludes by noting Fiorina’s assertion that the federal government should get out of education policy and instead focus on its primary responsibilities, like “repairing roads and bridges.”

Wrong again, Batman!

In fact, the vast majority of roads and bridges in America are owned and maintained by state and local governments, with the federal government picking up only 24 percent of all surface transportation costs, mostly for interstate highways and mass transit systems.

As we saw again last night, Fiorina relies on speed and specificity to give the impression of substantive knowledge, even if it’s not actually there. But what else would you expect from some fast-talking politician who’s been in office playing these games for years?

Oh, wait….


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, September 17, 2015

September 18, 2015 Posted by | Carly Fiorina, Education, GOP Primary Debates | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Hater’s Guide To The GOP Debate”: Rubio Will Rise And Trump Will Inevitably Fall

Well, that was kind of like watching a basketball game that had 10 teams. But hey—the questions were good. They were surprisingly tough. But were they evenly tough? That’s an interesting question. Let’s take a quick look at who was asked what, among the four top candidates. I kept track.

Donald Trump was asked eight questions, about: why he wouldn’t back the GOP nominee (which he of course brought on himself by volunteering that he might not); all the names he’s called women; what his evidence was for saying that Mexico is “sending” us its rapists; why he used to support single-payer; his four bankruptcies; why he was once pro-choice; whether his tone is appropriate in a president; the Iran deal.

Jeb Bush was asked six questions, about: dynastic politics; his previous Iraq faux pas; Common Core; his 4 percent growth pledge; being on that Bloomberg board (an abortion question); did he call Trump a “clown,” “buffoon,” or “asshole.”

Scott Walker (seven questions): the Wisconsin abortion bill that makes no exception for the life of the mother; his path-to-citizenship flip-flop; what more we could be doing with our Mideast allies; Wisconsin’s poor job growth; the Iran deal; police shootings; cyber war.

Marco Rubio (six questions): lack of experience; immigration; Common Core; how he’d help small businesses; what Megyn Kelly thought was his support for rape and incest exceptions for abortion; about God and veterans.

Lots of people seem to think that Rubio had a strong night. I would submit to you that the question list helps explain why. They lobbed a few massive softballs in his direction. For example, both he and Bush were asked about Common Core. But whereas to Bush this was a challenging question, because he’s swimming against the GOP tide on the question, to Rubio it was just, as a Senator, what do you think of what Governor Bush just said? The immigration and small-business questions were totally teed up. And God and veterans? They might as well have asked him if he loved his mother (which he answered anyway; he does).

The other top-tier candidates all got tougher questions. Seven of Trump’s eight questions could fairly be called confrontational or at least challenging. Five of Bush’s six were the same; maybe all six. Three of Walker’s seven. And just one or at most two of Rubio’s. And even those were only mildly so. The lack-of-experience question, for example, was an obvious set-up for him to launch into his future shtick, which he plans on making his main line of attack against Hillary Clinton should he be the nominee.

Now I’m not suggesting that there’s some Murdoch-orchestrated conspiracy here to elevate Rubio. Moderating a 10-candidate debate is probably a really hard thing to do. They surely drew up at least 20 questions for each candidate, knowing that they could only get to some of them, and of course they had to make sure that the questioning was evenly distributed. It’s a high-pressure gig, and the three of them—Kelly, Baier, and Wallace—did pretty well overall.

But it is a fact that they didn’t hit Rubio with any gotcha questions. Two possibilities spring to mind. They could have asked him about his hard-line Cuba position, which isn’t supported even by Cubans in Florida themselves, except those aged 65 and older. And if they’d really wanted to zing him, they could have brought up that hearing where he seemed to think that Iran and ISIS were allies and John Kerry had to explain politely that they weren’t.

In contrast, it seemed clear that they wanted to rake Trump over the coals. The opening question, about whether they’d all support the GOP nominee, was obviously aimed squarely at him, and he obliged them by affirming that no, he would not. Well, Trump’s the front-runner, and the front-runner should get tough questions. And Trump was pretty bad. He clearly didn’t prepare much, he wasn’t funny (and he can be), and he didn’t manage at all to do the one thing he really should have done, which was to say something, just one thing, that was substantive, that showed he had a surprising command of policy, so that the talking heads afterward would have been forced to say, “Hey, that Donald, give him credit, he showed us something new tonight.” He showed nothing new.

Bush was…okay. His task was to be the one who seized on any Trump stumble to communicate to people: See, I’m the real front-runner. But he never really did that. Walker was kind of a blank until almost the very end of the debate, when he pulled out that line about how Russia knows more about Hillary Clinton’s emails than the United States Congress.

As for the second tier: John Kasich probably had the best night. At least he managed to get an audience of conservatives to applaud the fact that he attended a gay wedding. That’s what a home-court advantage will do for you. But his saying that God’s unconditional love for him meant he should love a potentially gay daughter was the right way to do it.

And yes, I’m kind of surprised that I’m 860 words into this column and haven’t mentioned Ted Cruz. Now there’s a guy who needs a lot more than 60 seconds to find his rhythm.

Bottom line: Trump drops, Rubio gains. But the most interesting figure, even though he is personally quite boring, is Bush. When will he demonstrate that he actually deserves to be the one getting all these millions of dollars raised for him? He’s just a bet by moneyed class, not because of what he is, but because of what he isn’t (not Trump, not extremist). He wasn’t bad enough that any of the money people are going to panic. But if it were my money, I’d be shopping around.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, August 7, 2015

August 10, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Fox News, GOP Primary Debates | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Base Is Skeptical Of Both Men”: Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, And The Art Of Disagreeing With The Base

The race for the Republican nomination is full of potential candidates who could plausibly claim the mantle of the conservative movement’s electoral champion. Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal, Ted Cruz — they all want to speak for the right wing of the Republican Party.

Jeb Bush and Rand Paul, on the other hand, despite having plenty to offer base Republican voters, simply cannot check all the boxes of a median conservative-movement voter. Bush is a lead promoter of Common Core education standards. He supports a “path-to-citizenship” for illegal immigrants (known to Republicans as “amnesty”). Rand Paul, meanwhile, is significantly more dovish than the average Republican office-holder, and has tried to leverage his libertarian convictions to reach groups that don’t typically favor Republicans, namely young voters and African-Americans.

The base is skeptical of both men, and it’s not hard to see why. And so far, these two likely candidates have utilized extremely different strategies for selling themselves to suspicious conservative voters. Bush opts for open confrontation. Paul tries for appeasement.

Paul, a first-term senator from Kentucky, sometimes gives the impression that he can’t prevent himself from presenting the least-popular, most-controversy-generating libertarian convictions that lie in his heart. Where he succeeds in selling his rather unconventional non-interventionist and libertarian views to conservative audiences is when he can contrast them to either President Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. The most obvious example would be his opposition to intervention in Libya. Paul could argue to skeptical conservatives that in fact, his dovish position was the one consistently opposing the Obama-Clinton foreign policy agenda.

But in a scrum with Republicans, Paul has a harder time. He starts to fudge the differences between his position and that at the core of his party. For instance, his most devoted fans were completely flummoxed when Paul signed Sen. Tom Cotton’s blistering open letter to Iran about the negotiations. Justin Raimondo, the libertarian behind, called Paul “the Neville Chamberlain of the Liberty Movement.”

When first elected by a Tea Party swell, Paul proposed an idealistic libertarian-ish federal budget that cut off all foreign aid, including aid to Israel. But now, instead of arguing that cutting foreign aid makes good fiscal and foreign policy sense, Paul has repositioned himself in a way that gets part of the way to his goal, while ceding much rhetorically to the base. He has introduced legislation that would halt aid to the Palestinian Authority, calling it the “Stand with Israel Act.” This didn’t prevent critics from laughing at his unenthusiastic clapping for Benjamin Netanyahu.

While Paul tries to have it both ways, Bush’s approach has been to confront his critics head on. In an interview with Sean Hannity at CPAC, Bush adverted his views on immigration: “There is no plan to deport 11 million people.” (He did throw a bone in the direction of the movement right, saying, “A great country needs to enforce the borders.”)

When Bush is asked about Common Core, he doesn’t let himself get pulled into the weeds about individual curriculum choices that schools have been developing and making in response to the standards. Instead, he reframes Common Core as a common-sense effort at accountability in public education: “Raising expectations and having accurate assessments of where kids are is essential for success, and I’m not going to back down on that,” the former Florida governor said.

Some conservative commentators have interpreted Bush’s strategies as a a replay of Jon Huntsman’s base-baiting 2012 campaign. But Huntsman seemed to be uninterested in conservative support entirely. Bush’s rhetorical game might actually win their respect.

Bush doesn’t come to conservatives as Mitt Romney did, with a basket full of new convictions. Bush’s efforts to sell his positions to conservative voters is an implicit message that he wants conservatives to support him. It also helps that he keeps hiring political and activist figures who have a devoted following among the most conservative parts of the right.

Even if conservatives can’t get everything they want, they seem to appreciate knowing where the GOP candidate stands, and what they can expect from him. In a way, Bush is giving the movement a compliment by disagreeing forthrightly, and selling his position to them anyway. Paul, on the other hand, is doing his own convictions and his party a disservice by pretending their differences don’t really exist.


By: Michael Brendan Dougherty, The Week, March 17, 2015

March 21, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Jeb Bush, Rand Paul | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Pre-Racial Society”: 5 Policies That Republicans Loved (Until Obama Did, Too)

On Friday, Texas senator and likely 2016 presidential candidate Ted Cruz (R-TX) took some heat when Mother Jones reported that the right-wing Republican once offered a resolute defense of the 2009 stimulus law that he now derides as an archetypal government overreach. As a private-practice lawyer representing the Texas Retired Teachers Association, Cruz declared that stimulus money “will directly impact the [Texas] economy…and will directly further the greater purpose of economic recovery for America.” But today, he considers the law to be a failure.

Cruz is far from the first Republican to change his mind on an issue championed by the White House. Here are five policies that high-profile Republicans loved — until President Obama came along.


Since before it even became law, Republicans have decried the Affordable Care Act as a job-killing, freedom-crushing abomination. But the right wasn’t always so vehemently opposed to the law’s underlying ideas, like the health care exchanges, the individual mandate, and Medicaid expansion. In fact, they were developed by the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank, and favored by many Republican politicians.

As recently as 2008, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney considered his health care law — which was largely the inspiration for Obama’s — to be “the ultimate conservative plan,” and a “model” for the rest of the nation. But with Obama in the White House, that didn’t last.

Common Core

Today, Republicans widely agree that the Common Core education standards are a hostile, oppressive government takeover of the education system. Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal has compared Common Core to “centralized planning” in the Soviet Union. Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) derides it as “the Obamacare of education.” Senator Cruz has vowed to repeal it (even though it’s not a law passed by Congress). State Representative Charles Van Zant (R-FL) warns that it will “attract every one of your children to become as homosexual as they possibly can.”

But before Republicans began associating the new educational guidelines with the Obama administration (and, by extension, gay communism), they were quite fond of them. After all, Common Core takes after George W. Bush’s education policy, was introduced by the bipartisan National Governors Association, and at one point was adopted by 46 states. Even the aforementioned Jindal, now a leader of the anti-Common Core push, once defended it by promising that his state would not “move one inch off more rigorous and higher standards for our kids.”

Cap And Trade

Before Barack Obama became president, public officials broadly agreed that climate change was a real problem that required a serious policy response. Newt Gingrich even sat on a couch with Nancy Pelosi to talk about it(

Many Republicans agreed that cap and trade, which was developed by a “strange alliance of free-market Republicans and renegade environmentalists,” was the solution that combined the most economic and environmental benefits. In fact, almost every Republican candidate in 2012 backed the plan — until they decided to run against Obama, at which point they reflexively turned against it.

Today, carbon limits remain unpopular on the right, where they are falsely considered to be a job-killing abomination.

Deficit Spending

When President Obama released his 2016 budget plan, congressional Republicans reacted as they often do to his proposals: by attacking it for failing to close the budget deficit.

“While Washington is still racking up debt, this budget doesn’t even try to balance the books,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy complained. “In fact, despite the best efforts of Republicans over the past four years to rein in spending and cut the deficit, this budget would erase all those gains over the 10-year budget horizon by increasing the deficit and adding even more to the debt. Our children and grandchildren can’t afford such recklessness.”

But back during the Bush administration, McCarthy and his fellow Republicans didn’t seem to mind budgets that never balanced; that’s why they voted for deficit-busting plans like the Bush tax cuts or the Iraq War, among many others.

Indeed, the Republican Party’s pre-Obama attitude towards balancing the budget can be best summed up by former vice president Dick Cheney: “Deficits don’t matter.” There’s a pretty good case that he was right — but don’t expect any Republican to make the argument while Obama is in the White House.

Immigration Reform

For years, many Republicans have agreed that the United States desperately needs to reform its immigration laws. In 2013, the Senate even passed a rare bipartisan bill which would strengthen border security and establish a pathway to citizenship for the millions of undocumented immigrants who are already in the country. In other words, it closely mirrored President Obama’s goals. And that became a major problem for many Republicans. For example, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) voted against the 2013 bill despite having supported similar measures in 1986 and 2006.

But no Republican illustrates President Obama’s effect on the GOP better than Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL). Rubio helped craft the 2013 bill in the first place, arguing that the issue is a question of human rights. But a year later, he had abandoned his plans — because “the Obama administration has ‘undermined’ negotiations by not defunding his signature health care law.”


By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, February 13, 2015


February 16, 2015 Posted by | Domestic Policy, GOP, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“They’re All Cronies”: Conservatives In Iowa Resist Bush, Romney

Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney face big trouble in Iowa — influential conservatives have had enough of them.

Disdain for the party’s center-right powerhouses, who are both considering seeking the 2016 Republican presidential nominations, could have implications well beyond the nation’s first caucus state.

Iowa conservatives mirror the views of like-minded activists nationwide, and having the party’s vocal right wing blasting away could stagger either candidate throughout 2016. And it’s uncertain that conservatives would actively work in a general election for Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, or Bush, the former Florida governor.

“This could be a big problem,” said Craig Robinson, editor-in-chief of, a partisan web site.

With its town-hall-like precinct caucuses the first test of the nomination next winter, Iowa usually winnows the field of a party’s nomination contest and previews campaign styles and weaknesses. Just ask the Romneys and Bushes. The families have had a candidate in five competitive caucuses since 1980, and in all but one instance, the outcome foreshadowed the future.

George H. W. Bush was a barely-known former CIA director in 1980 when he stunned the political world by topping Ronald Reagan. Though Reagan would win the nomination, Bush showed enough strength to become Reagan’s running mate.

Bush faltered in Iowa in 1988 when he ran for the nomination a second time, this time as the sitting vice president, finishing third behind Kansas neighbor Bob Dole and evangelist Pat Robertson. The caucus prodded Bush to run a tougher campaign, and he went on to win the nomination and the White House.

In 2000, his son cemented his standing as the candidate to beat with a big victory over magazine editor Steve Forbes.

Romney finished second in 2008 and 2012, both times losing to Christian right favorites. It was a signal that that bloc was leery of Romney’s record.

Today, memories of Romney’s previous efforts dog him. “He’s a proven loser,” said John Eggen, a Des Moines air conditioning and heating contractor.

Another campaign, he said, would mean more debate over the 2006 Massachusetts health care law that Romney approved when governor. It’s considered the model for the 2010 federal health care law that Republicans hate.

Bush is also yesterday’s candidate, said Sabrina Graves, a stay-at-home mother from Blue Grass. Bush’s support for Common Core educational standards, which many conservatives view as big government reaching too far into local education, also gets slammed.

“I don’t know what is worse, nominating someone merely because he’s been nominated twice before or nominating a liberal supporter of Common Core because he has a familiar name,” said former New Hampshire House Speaker Bill O’Brien, who spoke at a daylong conservative forum in Iowa Saturday featuring a long list of potential presidential candidates.

Romney and Bush did not attend. Bush, who last week spoke at length with the Iowa Republican chairman and hinted at a White House bid, cited a scheduling conflict. A spokesman for Romney did not respond to a request for comment.

Some of Saturday’s loudest cheers came when businessman Donald Trump fired away. “It can’t be Mitt because Mitt ran and failed,” Trump said, adding “the last thing we need is another Bush.”

The audience was largely hardcore conservatives, the crowd that boosted former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, also a Baptist preacher, in 2008 and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, a hero of the Christian right, four years later. Both won the Iowa caucus.

They watched Romney market himself as a fierce conservative in 2012, but never quite bought it. Saturday, they saw New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, another moderate favorite, argue that he’s a true conservative.

“If the values I’m fighting for every day in New Jersey and all across this country are not consistent with your values, then why would I keep coming back? I wouldn’t,” he said. Reaction was spotty.

The conservatives say they’ve had enough of nominees with appeal to independent and more moderate voters.

“We are tired of being told who our candidates should be,” said Donna Robinson, a Marengo saleswoman. “They say they’re conservative, then they run to the middle.”

The right wants new faces and new ideas. They were particularly impressed Saturday with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, 47, and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, 44.

“He has a proven record and he’s young,” Eggen said of Walker.

They also like people without lengthy political resumes. That’s why retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and former business executive Carly Fiorina got warm receptions.

“People who have been in and around government and politics for their entire lives may no longer be able to see the truth: our government must be fundamentally reformed,” Fiorina said.

The conservatives loved it. Romney and Bush? “They’re all cronies,” Graves said. “I want someone this time who’s not a politician.”


By: David Lightman, The National Memo, January 26, 2015

January 29, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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