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“Iowa Intrigue”: Huckabee And Santorum Backers Reportedly Plotting To Help Rubio Against Cruz

The late stages of the invisible primary would not be complete without reports of intrigue and skullduggery in Iowa, with campaigns forming tactical alliances against common enemies. We have one today from National Review‘s Tim Alberta and Eliana Johnson, who report that supporters of the last two caucus winners, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum, are so bitter at being eclipsed by Ted Cruz that they are conspiring to block the Texan and instead elevate Marco Rubio. There’s only one problem with that scenario: Under Republican caucus procedures, there’s no way the disgruntled social conservatives can achieve their alleged goal without damaging their own candidates, who will probably drop out if they don’t do surprisingly well in Iowa.

The reason Democrats are usually featured in these Iowa intrigue stories is that their caucus procedures encourage tactical alliances via minimum thresholds for “viability” (i.e., the opportunity to elect state convention delegates, which is the only measurement of success), meaning that support can be loaned to favored candidates and denied to disfavored candidates on a precinct-by-precinct basis. Republicans, by contrast, have a simple candidate preference vote at their caucuses, so there’s no way for would-be tacticians to loan or borrow support without hurting their own candidate’s statewide tally.

That’s what makes the NR report suspect. Are Huck and Santorum zealots really so angry at Cruz that they’d screw over Huck and Santorum to help Rubio? That’s not at all clear. Yes, the campaigns of the two former caucus winners are going after Cruz hammer and tongs, trying to exploit Mike Allen’s pseudo-scoop about Cruz telling an audience in sinful New York that fighting same-sex marriage would not be a “top-three priority” (long story short: Cruz enclosed the issue in his top priority, defending the Constitution as he misunderstands it). But that’s because the Texan is obviously the primary obstacle to their survival in Iowa. Helping Rubio try to beat him by giving away any of their own meager support would defeat the whole purpose of the exercise.

The intrigue-within-the-intrigue is burnished by the fact that the only people on the record validating the part of the cabal involving surreptitious support for Rubio are (1) a 2012 Santorum supporter who’s now neutral, and (2) Craig Robinson, proprietor of influential web page the Iowa Republican, who’s not really a Christian right figure but who does for some reason seem to hate Ted Cruz. There is a quote from a Santorum campaign official saying that Rubio’s immigration record is “more honest” than Cruz’s, but that’s in the context of condemning both.

The bottom line is that what Alberta and Johnson are reporting appears to be either a Rubio campaign plant, or scuttlebutt from scattered folk in the Huckabee and Santorum camps who actually want their candidates to drop out sooner rather than later and are (disloyally) already making their plans for the future. In Iowa, the intrigue is often deeper than it first appears.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, December 30, 2015

December 31, 2015 Posted by | Iowa Caucuses, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Ted Cruz Tackles ‘The Condom Police'”: He’s Never Met “Any Conservative Who Wants To Ban Contraceptives”

Ted Cruz doesn’t usually stray too much from his usual campaign stump speech at various events, but last night in Iowa, NBC’s Vaughn Hillyard reported that the Texas Republican was asked about his position “on making contraception available for women.” Cruz seized the opportunity to share some unexpected rhetoric, calling the controversy surrounding Republicans and birth control “an utterly made-up nonsense issue.”

“Last I checked, we don’t have a rubber shortage in America,” Cruz exasperatingly said to the rather boisterous crowd. “Like look, when I was in college, we had a machine in the bathroom. You put 50 cents in – and voila!”

Cruz added that he expects Hillary Clinton to run against “the condom police” in order to “try to scare a bunch of folks that are not paying a lot of attention into thinking someone’s going to steal their birth control.”

And if there were only one form of birth control available to American consumers, Cruz would almost have a credible point. At the Iowa event, the senator said he’s never met “any conservative who wants to ban contraceptives” – Cruz might want to chat with Rick Santorum – but the Texan’s focus was exclusively on condoms.

Cruz is right that there is no “rubber shortage.” What he’s wrong about is, well, literally everything else.

Part of the problem is that Republicans sometimes seem surprised by descriptions of their own policies. In one of my favorite moments of the 2012 debates, President Obama argued “employers shouldn’t be able to make the decision as to whether or not a woman gets contraception through her insurance coverage. That’s not the kind of advocacy that women need.”

Mitt Romney scoffed at the very idea, responding, “I don’t believe employers should tell someone whether they could have contraceptive care or not. Every woman in America should have access to contraceptives.”

Romney seemed repulsed by Obama’s description of Romney’s own position, but the truth of the matter was that both the Republican nominee and his running mate endorsed a policy that would leave contraception decisions for millions of workers in the hands of employers.

Cruz’s posture is similar, in that he seems baffled by Democratic rhetoric. If condoms are readily available, and there’s no meaningful effort to restrict their sales, why in the world are Democrats always running around complaining about a “war on women” and Republican hostility towards contraception?

The answer, of course, is that there are other forms of contraception, and women’s access to them would be curtailed by the GOP agenda.

Cruz really ought to know this. He not only personally voted against a measure to protect workers’ access to contraception, regardless of possible objections from their employers, but Cruz has also argued that he considers birth-control pills “abortifacients.”

What’s more, the Texas senator has endorsed a “Personhood” policy, which would have the practical effect of banning common forms of birth control.

In other words, Cruz would have voters believe that the entire issue is “nonsense” because Republicans aren’t actively trying to limit access to condoms, which necessarily means, in his mind, that there is no “war on women.” But the GOP senator is inadvertently proving his critics’ point with a myopic understanding of what contraception even is.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, December 1, 2015

December 3, 2015 Posted by | Birth Control, Reproductive Choice, Ted Cruz, Women's Health | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Hillary Clinton Living Inside The Republican Brain”: Republicans Are Sure Hillary Is Bad, But They Aren’t Sure Why

Imagine a police sketch artist drawing a picture of Hillary Clinton based only on descriptions from the Republicans at the Fox Business Network debates on Tuesday night. The sketch would be unappealing, obviously, but also weird and contradictory. According to the collective wisdom of the GOP crowd, Clinton is a power-mad monster who is nearly unstoppable, but she’s also weak. She is afraid of debating Republicans, but Republican debates are making her stronger. She is a hard leftist who hasn’t been shaken from her mission to drive America into socialism, but also a flip-flopper who only recently began capitulating to the left. At one point in the undercard debate, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal summed up the theme: “Look, we all agree Hillary Clinton is bad.” But how is she bad? Let us analyze.

The Republicans who talked about Hillary Clinton the most last night were New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, two more moderate guys who haven’t fared well in the primary. Perhaps they wanted to let more conservative voters know that they know who the real enemy is. But their sketch of the enemy is confounding. Republicans are sure Hillary is bad, but they aren’t sure why.

An easily beatable candidate who’s also a nearly-unbeatable juggernaut: “Hillary Clinton is gift-wrapping this election to us,” Jindal said. “Hillary Clinton is running so far to the left … to catch up to her socialist opponent, Bernie Sanders, it’s hard to even see her anymore,” Christie said. And she’s afraid of the looming fight, he added: “Hillary Clinton doesn’t want one minute on that stage with me next September when I’m debating her, and prosecuting her for her vision for America.” And yet despite cluelessly adopting positions that would turn off most of the electorate, she is a powerful electoral force. “I had Bill and Hillary in my state—James Carville managed the race against me—a state with a million more Democrats than Republicans,” said former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennslyvania. (Yet he had triumphed! Until 2006, when he lost.) To beat her, Ohio Governor John Kasich said, Republicans need “a CEO mentality,” and “our ideas have to add up. They have to be solid.” Bush chimed in with a similar warning when Trump’s idea of deporting millions of immigrants arose: “They’re doing high-fives in the Clinton campaign right now when they hear this.” Or maybe she’s laughing because of Bush’s immigration plan (Cruz: “The Democrats are laughing—because if Republicans join Democrats as the party of amnesty, we will lose”). Whichever one she finds hilarious, the threat of a Clinton victory is real, and dangerous: “We cannot lose this election,” Trump said.

A woman with no ideas except for bad ones: Clinton has no ideas (Rubio: “The political left has no ideas about the future”). Except for one: single-payer health care (Christie: “She will completely nationalize the federal health care system”).

A criminal-ish politician: Christie, in particular, painted Clinton with a tint of criminality. Christie said being governor of a blue state made him better equipped to win nationally, but he seemed to think his time as a U.S. attorney was more appealing; four times, he said some version of the idea that he would be best at “prosecuting” her.

A foreign-policy failure who agrees with Republicans on foreign policy: Clinton is trembling and weak on foreign policy. (Bush: “This president, and Hillary Clinton both, do not believe the United States has a leadership role to play.” Rubio: “Around the world, every day brings news of a new humiliation for America—many the … direct consequence of decisions made when Hillary Clinton was the secretary of state.” Christie: “Remember why we’re in the position we’re in with China, because of an absolutely weak and feckless foreign policy that was engineered by Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.”) At the same time, she agrees with many Republicans about what to do with the gravest international crisis, in Syria (Paul: “The idea of a no-fly zone, realize that this is also something that Hillary Clinton agrees with several on our side with…”).

A big spender who is also stingy: She wants to tax Americans to death (Christie: “Hillary Clinton’s coming for your wallet”). But she won’t spend the cash to build up some of the biggest government expenses (Fiorina: “Imagine a Clinton presidency. Our military will continue to deteriorate. Our veterans will not be cared for”).

A socialist who loves Wall Street: Clinton is a socialist (Christie: “What Hillary Clinton is talking about doing, if she’s president of the United States, is to make sure that the government gets even more involved in the economy, even more involved in making choices for everybody”) who is screwing up the financial sector by backing Dodd-Frank, which is unpopular on Wall Street (Bush: “This vast overreach has created a huge problem for our country, and Hillary Clinton wants to double down on that”). But she’s also in the pocket of Wall Street (Cruz: “Hillary Clinton embodies the cronyism of Washington.” By contrast, Cruz said he would go after the Wall Street criminals of the financial crisis.).

It gets worse. Clinton wants to regulate the economy to death (Carson: “Even for the average person, every single regulation costs money. … Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton won’t tell you that that’s the thing that’s really hurting middle class in the core. They’ll say it’s the rich, take their money, but that won’t help”). But she has not backed the right regulations (Bush: “What we ought to do is raise the capital requirements so banks aren’t too big to fail”).

Their bizarrely contradictory portrait of Clinton points to what’s confusing in the Republicans’ own message. They know Hillary Clinton and the Democrats are on the other team; what they don’t know is why the GOP team is better or more noble, or what exactly binds it together. They can’t agree on what parts of the old GOP platform should be thrown out—Santorum says Republicans should pander less to business owners than to the people who work for them, Paul suggests ditching some social conservatism and hawkish foreign policy, Bush says lose the hostility to immigrants, and Trump says cut entitlements. But they do agree on what to keep: being against whatever Clinton is for. And whoever she is.

 

By: Elspeth Reeve, Senior Editor at The New Republic; November 12, 2015

November 12, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, GOP Primary Debates, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Whither Goes The Holy Candidate?”: The Roots Of Carson’s Magical Thinking Evidently Lie Deep In His Past

At the expense of spoiling all the fun, let’s get real about Dr. Ben Carson’s presidential campaign. Every four years, rural Iowa Republicans fall raptly in love with a bible-brandishing savior who vows to purge the nation of sin. In 2008 it was Mike Huckabee, in 2012 Rick Santorum.

Mr. Establishment, Mitt Romney, finished second both times.

In the general election, Iowa voters supported President Obama.

Soon after the New Hampshire primary, the holy candidate fades fast. Huckabee finished a weak third in New Hampshire, Santorum fourth with 9.5 percent of the vote. And that was basically the end of God’s self-anointed candidates.

Particularly in view of increasing evidence that key elements of Dr. Carson’s inspiring personal biography are imaginary or worse, there’s no reason to think that he will fare any better than Huckabee or Santorum. A bit like Bernie Sanders supporters, Carson fans have been slow to grasp that their party’s presidential nominee will need the votes of millions of “blue state” Republicans historically resistant to religious zealotry.

Indeed, New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait makes a persuasive case that, quite like Huckabee, Carson isn’t actually running for president. Rather, his campaign is a for-profit organization.

“Conservative politics are so closely intermingled with a lucrative entertainment complex,” Chait writes “that it is frequently impossible to distinguish between a political project…and a money-making venture. Declaring yourself a presidential candidate gives you access to millions of dollars’ worth of free media attention that can build a valuable brand.”

The fact that Carson’s campaign evidently plows a reported 69 percent of its donations into further fund-raising may be a clue. Real political campaigns spend the bulk of their cash building an organization and advertising. Carson invests his loot in pyramid-like direct-mail and phone-spamming operations.

Freed of the time-consuming necessity of being president, Carson will be able to hire more ghost-writers, give inspirational speeches and peddle fundamentalist Christian DVDs to a rapt audience of millions. With any luck, he can market himself as a martyr to liberal media bias.

Even the books currently being dissected by reporters at the Wall Street Journal and Politico aren’t standard campaign biographies. They’re basically miracle fables, contemporary versions of John Bunyan’s 17th century classic Pilgrim’s Progress, mingling an allegory of divine salvation with the material rewards of the “American Dream.”

Now you’d think that Carson’s actual life story, rising from the Detroit streets to become a world-renowned pediatric brain surgeon, would be enough to warrant admiration. Mere reality, however, won’t suffice to cover the miraculous narrative of sin and salvation evangelical Christians have come to expect. Thus, Carson can’t simply have been raised a poor kid in a rundown ghetto, he has to have been a violent thug touched by God.

Similarly, Carson can’t just be a bright, hard-working scholarship student. He has to have been victimized by a professorial hoax and rewarded as the most honest student at Yale. That this screwball tale from his 1990 book Gifted Hands appears to have been inspired by a prank pulled by the college humor magazine makes it no more believable. Only that the roots of Carson’s magical thinking evidently lie deep in his past.

It would be interesting to know if friends and professional associates ever heard these whoppers previous to his book’s publication. Because brain scientists tend to be a skeptical lot. He did leave medicine somewhat early.

That said, it’s hardly unknown to encounter a physician, much less a neurosurgeon, with a God complex. The experience of holding life and death in one’s hands may have something to do with it. The Guardian newspaper has published a photo layout of Carson’s home — essentially a museum exhibit celebrating his greatness — that suggests an ego gone mad.

The man may actually believe, as he said recently on Meet the Press, that his candidacy represents a big threat to “the secular progressive movement in this country…because they can look at the polling data and they can see that I’m the candidate who’s most likely to be able to beat Hillary Clinton.”

Call me Mr. Worldly Wiseman, after the character in Pilgrim’s Progress who tries to steer Christian down the wrong road, but it says here that Democrats could never get so lucky.

The negative TV ads practically write themselves. Imagine a clip of Carson during a GOP debate indignantly denying a business relationship with Mannatech, the hinky diet supplement company, followed by another of him bragging that the company basically bought him an endowed chair at Johns Hopkins.

Actually, it’s mildly alarming living in a country where a crank like Carson commands any attention at all. Now me, I’d no more visit a physician who claimed that Satan inspired Darwin’s Theory of Evolution than I’d climb into an airline piloted by somebody who denied Newton’s Theory of Gravity.

But President of the United States?

Not a chance.

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, November 11, 2015

November 12, 2015 Posted by | Ben Carson, Evangelicals, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Ben Carson Is Right About Something!”: But Where Would His New Standard Leave Most Republicans?

Just a few days ago I wrote an article slamming Ben Carson for his asinine view that a Muslim should not be president of the United States and that the values of Islam are incompatible with our Constitution.  The irony here, of course, is that Carson’s very views are inconsistent with our Constitution, which expressly prohibits a religious test for president (or any federal office.)

But on Monday night Carson actually said something I agree with. While on Fox News, he stated, “I don’t care what religion or faith someone belongs to if they’re willing to subjugate that to the American way and to our Constitution.”

He even said he would support a Muslim American seeking office if the person  “clearly will swear to place our Constitution above their religion.”

I couldn’t agree more with Carson. And I say that as a Muslim American. If a Muslim candidate for office were to advocate imposing Islamic law in America or revising our Constitution to agree with the Koran, I would be the first one to loudly oppose that person.

But I also feel strongly the same test should apply to all candidates of any faith. John F. Kennedy, a man I greatly admire, espoused a similar view when running for president in 1960 when he was subject to vile religious bigotry for being Catholic. Like Carson is now saying about Muslims, in 1960 some on the right claimed that Roman Catholicism was “incompatible with the principles” of our nation and that Kennedy was not truly loyal to America simply because of his faith.

In response, Kennedy gave a famous speech in 1960 before a group of Protestant ministers in Houston to address these allegations head on. There, Kennedy said that “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.” Adding, “I believe in a president whose religious views are his own private affair, neither imposed by him upon the nation, nor imposed by the nation upon him as a condition to holding that office.”

Kennedy did, in essence, what Carson advocated Monday; namely that he swore “to place our Constitution above” his religious beliefs.  And I believe it’s now time for the GOP presidential field to do the same. (The Democrats as well but let’s be honest, the religion talk comes from the Republican presidential field.)

So in accordance with the “Carson doctrine,” at the next GOP debate, all the  presidential candidates should be asked if they would expressly pledge to place our Constitution above their religious beliefs.  Yes, I know some will try to squirm there way out of it saying things like, “America was founded on Christian values and that is my faith” or “America is a Christian nation and I’m a Christian so there won’t be a problem.”

Not so quick. If any candidate refuses to make this pledge, follow up questions must be asked. We, as a nation, need to know specifically which of their respective religious beliefs they view as superior to our Constitution. Here are a few proposed questions:

  1. In the Bible it says that, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.” Do you agree or reject that principle?
  2. If a woman is not a virgin on her wedding night, would you support the men of the town stoning her to death as expressly as mandated by the Bible?
  3. We have heard American pastors called for killing gays for “for their abominable deed” as it’s described in the Bible. Is that something you reject or agree with?
  4.  If a woman is raped in the city but does not cry out for help, would you stone the woman to death to “purge the evil from your midst” or reject that and instead follow our Constitution?
  5. Do you believe in death for those who commit blasphemy as required by the Bible?

We can even ask about modern day issues such as if a bill was put in front of you to ban all abortions, would you sign it, imposing you religious believes upon all Americans or follow the Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade?

Don’t we need to know which passages they would follow if elected president and which they would reject? And yes, I know that many of the above passages are from the Old Testament and some Christians will claim that they don’t follow that book—except when some cite it to demonize gays, of course.

Well I’m far from a theologian but Revs. Billy and Franklin Graham are. Billy believes that Christians mistakenly ignore the Old Testament when in fact God gave “the whole Bible to us.” And his son Franklin has echoed that very sentiment with his words, “I believe the Bible from cover to cover. I believe the Old Testament, as well as the New Testament.”

But even before the next debate, we know some would fail the Carson test. For example, Mike Huckabee has stated that conservatives cannot accept “ungodly” court rulings on gay marriage and abortion. He has even urged that we need “to amend the Constitution” to agree with the Bible.

And Rick Santorum in 2012 told us that Kennedy’s famous 1960 speech “makes me throw up,” and U.S. laws must “comport” with the Bible. So he’s out too.

But the jury is still out on the rest including Carson himself. Isn’t it time we know if these candidates will place the U.S. Constitution over the religious beliefs or are they more beholden to the Biblical passages listed above?  I, for one, very much want to know the answer to that question.

 

By: Dean Obeidallah, The Daily Beast, September 22, 2015

September 23, 2015 Posted by | Ben Carson, GOP Presidential Candidates, Religious Beliefs, U. S. Constitution | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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