Good morning Austin:
A lot has happened in the last week.
The Democratic field has winnowed. Jim Webb and Lincoln Chafee are out and Joe Biden is not getting in.
Hillary Clinton testified before a House Select Committee on Benghazi for roughly the length of time of a Jerry Lewis Telethon, except that she was the whole show and she didn’t sweat, smoke a cigarette, say, “Hey, laaaaady!” or sing, You’ll Never Walk Alone.
Ben Carson passed Donald Trump in polling in Iowa, and Trump, who is leading every other poll in every other place, was not pleased. In retaliation, he intimated that his religion is better – or at least more socially acceptable – than Carson’s religion.
Carson defended himself from Trump’s suggestion that he was low energy by reminding Chuck Todd on Meet the Press Sunday that, “As a teenager. I would go after people with rocks, and bricks, and baseball bats, and hammers. And, of course, many people know the story when I was 14 and I tried to stab someone.”
Jeb Bush dramatically reduced his campaign’s personnel budget, and said there are “a lot of really cool things” he could be doing besides running for president, and that if America loves Trump so much, why don’t they marry him.
And, this very morning, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is endorsing Ted Cruz for president of the United States, even though, or maybe because, former President George W. Bush let it be known of Cruz that, “I really don’t like that guy.”
To help sort all this out, here are some answers to ten follow-up questions.
1 – Why is Dan Patrick endorsing Ted Cruz for president today?
FR – Simple. Because, when he was running for lieutenant governor, Patrick pledged to support Ted Cruz if he ran for president, and he is a man of his word.
Here is what Patrick said in September 2013:
My opponents have criticized my statement published in the Texas Tribune recently where I said that I would support Senator Cruz if he were to be a candidate f or president.
It is true that I did not support candidate Cruz during the (U.S. Senate) primary elections – but then again neither did any of my opponents. I supported Ted in the General Election, as did all good Republicans.
Since taking office, Sen.Cruz has impressed me, over and over. I have been quick to give him credit where credit is due. I appreciate Ted for his willingness to take strong stands in Washington. He is providing critical leadership for other conservatives. He is the prescription for what is ailing the country and our Party.
Two of my opponents, Commissioner Staples and Commissioner Patterson are quick to call me a flip-flopper.
Unlike Mr. Staples and Mr. Patterson, I am not afraid to say I would support Ted Cruz if he were to be a candidate for President. Neither of them seem convinced that he is the right candidate or have yet mustered that courage to say so.
I choose not to act like a politician, never admitting a mistake. It is amazing to me that my opponents do not recognize or will not admit what an outstanding job Ted Cruz is doing in Washington, pressing the battle for conservative ideas.
“Who are Mr. Staples and Mr. Patterson supporting for President in 2016 – Chris Christie?
2. Will Gov. Abbott back Ted Cruz for president?
FR: Hmm. Good question. Don’t know.
Abbott has indicated he may endorse a candidate for president before the March 1 primary.
After early voting on Wednesday, Abbott once again laid out his criteria for picking a candidate.
From Brandi Grissom at the Dallas Morning News:
Abbott listed the top criteria for a candidate to win his support:
– “Do more than talk, but take action to secure the border.”
– Fix Medicaid. “Promise and commit to at least a block grant program so that Texans can do a better job of taking care of themselves with regard to the health care system.”
– Stop federal overreach by agencies like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “I’m looking for a candidate who will rein in what Barack Obama has done under the EPA.”
– Repeal or overhaul financial regulations of the Dodd-Frank Act, which he said is “really hampering the ability of both lenders to make loans and borrowers to access capital.”
So far, he said, no one has checked all those boxes.
“Not ruling out, not ruling in any candidates,” Abbott said. “I will continue to evaluate the process as they move forward.”
Abbott could endorse Cruz, but he need not.
Cruz was his solicitor general when he was attorney general. He can take credit for being his mentor. Cruz is a likely front-runner in Texas, or at the very least will be depending on Texas to keep him in the competition, and he is extraordinarily popular with the Republican base, which might be mightily displeased if Abbott seemed to be dissing Cruz by failing to endorse him or, far worse, endorsing another candidate.
On the other hand, Abbott and Cruz are in contention to be the top GOP dog in Texas, Abbott is not quite as keen on making enemies as Cruz, and there are some Republicans in the state who would think more of Abbott if he steered clear of Cruz.
But, if not Cruz, who?
I think Abbott actually believes, after a long career in elective office, that some experience in governing is an advantage. That would rule out Trump and Ben Carson – who, with his wife, visited with Abbott Monday while in Austin – and Carly Fiorina.
It would make no sense to endorse someone who could not compete effectively in Texas.
Jeb Bush is struggling, and so anathema to tea party folks, that Abbott would pay a steep price for endorsing him.
Rand Paul is fading fast. Ohio Gov. John Kasich and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie are too moderate and have no traction in Texas.
Which leaves Marco Rubio, who Ross Douthat, the so-called conservative columnist at the New York Times, wrote Sunday, is the one.
The betting markets have him as the most likely nominee, and — since this is quadrennial prediction time — I’ll say that I agree: I think he’s the real front-runner, and I predict that he will win.
But, as far as I know, Rubio has made no effort to court Abbott, and for Abbott to endorse anyone but Cruz would be a very bold move by a very cautious politician.
3. Is Ted Cruz dislikable enough to be president?
FR: Well, yes. Sure he is.
Normally, this question is asked in the reverse, as Erica Grieder did last week in Texas Monthly.
Is Ted Cruz Likeable Enough To Be President?
That followed the blockbuster story by Eli Stokols at Politico, which began like this:
Inside a sleek Denver condominium, George W. Bush let a hundred donors to his brother’s campaign in on a secret. Of all the rival Republican candidates, there is one who gets under the former president’s skin, whom he views as perhaps Jeb Bush’s most serious rival for the party’s nomination.
It isn’t Donald Trump, whose withering insults have sought to make Jeb pay a political price for his brother’s presidency. It isn’t Marco Rubio, Jeb’s former understudy who now poses a serious threat to his establishment support.
It’s George W. Bush’s former employee — Ted Cruz.
“I just don’t like the guy,” Bush said Sunday night, according to conversations with more than half a dozen donors who attended the event.
One donor in the room said the former president had been offering mostly anodyne accounts of how the Bush family network views the current campaign and charming off-the-cuff jokes, until he launched into Cruz.
“I was like, ‘Holy sh-t, did he just say that?’” the donor said. “I remember looking around and seeing that other people were also looking around surprised.”
Of course, W is not alone among Republican heavyweights in his low opinion of Cruz.
House Speaker John Boehner, also at a Colorado fundraiser, referred to Cruz this summer as “that jackass,” and later as a “false prophet.”
John McCain took an instant dislike to Cruz when he arrived in the Senate, labeling him a “wacko bird.”
And earlier this month, McCain’s alter ego, Mark Salter, wrote a scathing column at Real Clear Politics, which began:
Although I find Sen. Ted Cruz’s “lonely man of principle” act as tired as it is phony, I should give the devil his due. Cruz has given Americans exasperated with Washington gridlock hope that Congress can, when sufficiently motivated, find consensus and act.
In this instance, the consensus is that Ted Cruz is a jackass.
Last week it was columnist Frank Bruni’s turn at the New York Times, with The Scary Specter of Ted Cruz:
And remember that when someone is as broadly and profoundly disliked as Cruz is, it’s usually not because he’s a principled truth teller.
It’s because he’s frightening.
OK. So Cruz has a bit of an edge.
But the ads write themselves.
“I just don’t like the guy.” George W. Bush.
“What a jackass,” John Boehner.
“He’s a wacko bird,” John McCain.
Stop the Washington Cartel: Cruz for President
Likability is overrated.
Barack Obama is really likable, and yet he may be the most hated person in the country, in the world.
You want likable? There’s Rubio.
You want stand-up tough? It’s Cruz.
Cruz fashions himself the next Reagan, but maybe he’s more Nixon.
A lot of people hated him, but, before he wasn’t, he was the one.
Since Cruz was first elected to the United States Senate in 2012, I’ve heard more people than I can count express the same kind of aversion that Bush did over the weekend. I’ve heard it so often that I think it has to be taken seriously, even though the feeling has consistently been reported without reference to a compelling explanation, and often without any stated reason at all.
While reporting Texas Monthly’s 2014 profile, for example, I talked to dozens of sources who had personal history with Cruz—these were conservatives, contemporaries, most of them Texans. Some of them did express a visceral distaste for the senator. But when I asked those sources to elaborate, none of them produced a concrete reason. They just disliked the guy. The only explanations offered were ex post facto and unconvincing.
OK, but Cruz is courting trouble, in the Republican race, but especially in the general election if he is the nominee, by running a campaign that seems predicated on the idea that an electoral and governing majority can be assembled entirely of people to the right of George W. Bush and Chief Justice John Roberts.
It is a strategy that doesn’t do him much harm – and may help him – with the base in a crowded race.
But, as the former president’s comments suggest, there are powerful people in the Republican Party who I think would rather see Hillary Clinton elected president – would rather see Bernie Sanders elected president – than Ted Cruz.
4 –What other cool things Jeb Bush could be doing if he weren’t running for president?
FR: Here is what Bush said over the weekend in South Carolina:
If this election is about how we’re going to fight to get nothing done, then I don’t want any part of it. I don’t want to be elected president to sit around and see gridlock just become so dominant that people literally are in decline in their lives. That is not my motivation. I’ve got a lot of really cool things I could do other than sit around, being miserable, listening to people demonize me and me feeling compelled to demonize them. That is a joke. Elect Trump if you want that.
Well, all right then.
Not that you feel entitled or anything, and not that Trump is getting to you, but, say, for instance, what cool things?
I don’t know.
I did a little digging, and this is what I came up with:
1 – Horseshoes. His father installed a horseshoe pit at the White House, probably on the instructions of Lee Atwater, who figured it was a good activity while eating pork rinds.
2 – Skiing.
From the New York Times’ First Draft in January.
“I like to ski.”
5 – Who makes better presidents – Presbyterians or Seventh Day Adventists?
FR: In between calling Bernie Sanders “a communist,” and suggesting that if you want America to go to hell, Hillary is your girl, Trump, in a raging river, stream of consciousness rant in Jacksonville, Florida, on Saturday, hurled a few insults in the direction of mild-mannered Ben Carson, including a seemingly dismissive comment about Carson being a Seventh Day Adventist.
I’m Presbyterian. Can you believe it? Nobody believes I’m Presbyterian. I’m Presbyterian. I’m Presbyterian. Boy, that’s down the middle of the road, folks. In all fairness, I mean, Seventh Day Adventist. I don’t know about.
It is true that there have been a lot of Presbyterian presidents.
– Andrew Jackson – 7th U.S. President
– James Knox Polk – 11th U.S. President (converted from Presbyterian to Methodist)
– James Buchanan – 15th U.S. President
– Rutherford B. Hayes – 19th U.S. President
– Grover Cleveland – 22nd and 24th U.S. President
– Benjamin Harrison – 23rd U.S. President
– Woodrow Wilson – 28th U.S. President
– Dwight D. Eisenhower – 34th U.S. President
– Ronald Reagan – 40th U.S. President
There have been even more Presbyterian vice presidents.
– Aaron Burr – U.S. Vice-President under Jefferson; killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel
– Daniel D. Tompkins – U.S. Vice-President under Monroe
– John C. Calhoun – U.S. Vice-President under John Quincy Adams and Jackson
– John C. Breckinridge – U.S. Vice-President under Buchanan
– William A. Wheeler – U.S. Vice-President under Hayes
– Thomas A. Hendricks – U.S. Vice-President under Cleveland
– Adlai E. Stevenson – U.S. Vice-President under Cleveland
– Thomas R. Marshall – U.S. Vice-President under Wilson
– Charles G. Dawes – U.S. Vice-President under Coolidge
– Henry A. Wallace – U.S. Vice-President under F.D. Roosevelt
– Walter Mondale – U.S. Vice-President under Carter
– Dan Quayle – U.S. Vice-President under George H.W. Bush
Of course, some of those vice presidents turned out to be losers, when they ran for president. Bob and Elizabeth Dole, both losers as presidential candidates, are also Presbyterians. William Jennings Bryan, a three-times presidential loser, was Presbyterian.
There has not yet been a Seventh Day Adventist president or vice president, according to Adherents.com, and the ranks of SDA politicians is pretty thin – U.S. Rep. Shelia Jackson of Houston. Former Philadelphia Mayor John Street. A handful of others.
But Sojourner Truth was SDA. Malcolm X was born SDA. Paul Harvey was SDA.
And Art Buchwald. For a while.
Buchwald’s mother went mad after his birth and was institutionalized, and, according to the New York Times obit by Joseph Severo:
Mr. Buchwald soon parted from his father as well. Joseph Buchwald, unable to support his children after his business ran dry during the Depression, placed his son in the Hebrew Orphan Asylum in New York. Mr. Buchwald was shuttled to a series of foster homes, including a Queens boarding house for sick children — he had rickets — run by Seventh-day Adventists.
There, young Arthur, a Jew, was taught that eating meat, fish and eggs was sinful. Years afterward, he wrote, “There is still a tiny Seventh-day Adventist inside of me screaming to get out every time I make a pass at a tuna fish sandwich.”
Mr. Buchwald remained at the home until he was 5. He and his father and sisters were eventually reunited and lived in Hollis, Queens.
6. Does Ben Carson want a national ban on abortion?
FR: Yes. No. Maybe. Or maybe it all depends on exactly how you frame the question.
This is what Carson told me last week when I asked about Mike Huckabee’s suggestion that the Constitution’s 5th and 14th Amendment’s due process and equal protection provisions could be invoked to end abortion.
Carson believes that most decision-making should rest with the states, except when, as in the cases of slavery and Jim Crow, something is “so out of whack” that the federal government needs to assert its authority.
And, for the same reason that he thinks the question of gay marriage ought to have been left to the states, Carson, who opposes abortion, believes regulating abortion should be left to the states.
“I think you have to give the states some leeway on issues that are controversial. There’s no general agreement about life. I obviously believe what I believe, but there are people on the other side who believe just as strongly that that’s not a life,” Carson said. “Now that is moving, it is moving toward the pro-life side as we become more knowledgeable, as ultrasound techniques improve, as endoscopic techniques improve, and we learn more about that individual in the womb.”
“But there’s still quite a dichotomy and it’s always tempting to say, `Now it has to be my way or the highway,’ but we live in a pluralistic society and I think we do much better when we’re willing to sit down and discuss things. When we sit down with somebody who thinks this is a meaningless mass of cells and you begin to explain to them, `We can see this organ and this organ and it’s responding to the environment, the limbs move,’ I think that tends to be a much more powerful, convincing tool than just to say, `This is the way it is,’ and I think that just creates animosity, and I think that’s what we’ve been doing”
But here is what he had to say on Meet the Press Sunday:
Does life begin at conception?
DR. BEN CARSON
I believe it does.
Does that mean, whose right, I guess, should be superseded? The mother or the unborn child? Whose rights, who has greater rights?
DR. BEN CARSON
In the ideal situation, the mother should not believe that the baby is her enemy and should not be looking to terminate the baby. You know, things are set up in such a way that the person in the world who has the greatest interest in protecting the baby is the mother. We’ve allowed the purveyors of the division to make mothers think that that baby is their enemy and that they have a right to kill it. Can you see how perverted that line of thinking is?
What if somebody has an unwanted pregnancy? Should they have the right to terminate?
DR. BEN CARSON
No. Think about this. During slavery– and I know that’s one of those words you’re not supposed to say, but I’m saying it. During slavery, a lot of the slave owners thought that they had the right to do whatever they wanted to that slave. Anything that they chose to do. And, you know, what if the abolitionist had said, you know, “I don’t believe in slavery. I think it’s wrong. But you guys do whatever you want to do”? Where would we be?
Definitively, do you want to see Roe v. Wade overturned?
DR. BEN CARSON
Ultimately, I would love to see it overturned.
And that means all abortions illegal? Or is there still an exception that you would have?
DR. BEN CARSON
I’m a reasonable person. And if people can come up with a reasonable explanation of why they would like to kill a baby, I’ll listen.
Life and health of the mother?
DR. BEN CARSON
Again, that’s an extraordinarily rare situation. But if in that very rare situation it occurred, I believe there’s room to discuss that.
Rape and incest?
DR. BEN CARSON
Rape and incest, I would not be in favor of killing a baby because the baby came about in that way. And all you have to do is go and look up the many stories of people who have led very useful lives who were the result of rape or incest.
And then here is another pass on Carson on abortion from an excellent recent piece – The Political Education of Ben Carson – by Yahoo! Politics senior political correspondent Jon Ward.
Given Carson’s flair for impolitic comments, I was surprised to find the 64-year-old candidate curiously opaque when we spoke about matters of importance to conservative voters. At one point I mentioned that rival presidential campaigns were criticizing his views on abortion. “And what is my position on abortion?” he asked, prompting me to explain what his critics were saying.
I told him other candidates had pointed out that in 1992, Carson had said, “I would never advocate it be illegal for a person to get an abortion.”
He indicated that he did not believe that now — “I have definitely changed my views.”
But when I asked Carson whether he would like to see Roe v. Wade overturned, and abortion made illegal without exceptions – both nearly standard positions these days for GOP candidates – he refused to answer.
“I favor life. That’s what I favor,” Carson said.
That wasn’t very clear. So I asked if he instead believed that Roe should remain the law of the land. Again, he didn’t answer the question, talking about how he would appoint Supreme Court justices who “believe in life” and “understand that a baby in the uterus is a human being and is protected by the Constitution.”
“What does that mean for Roe, though?” I pressed.
“It means that we will try to protect human life because all people in our country have a right to the protections of the law,” Carson said.
After four attempts, I moved on. But it was puzzling to me why — when it seemed clear that Carson was pro-life — he refused to be precise about how he would approach laws governing the issue if he were elected president. When I asked Carson’s spokesperson Deana Bass afterward why that was, she said Carson preferred to focus on the process rather than the outcome. She later sent me a text message saying that Carson had been “pretty clear about appointing judges who value life.”
Uncertainty about Carson’s views on abortion go back to 1992, when he appeared in a political ad arguing that Maryland voters should reject a ballot amendment that would have preserved abortion rights in the state in the event that Roe v. Wade was ever overturned. There was an uproar, and Carson disavowed his involvement with the ad, asking the anti-abortion group to remove it.
Carson was defensive about this. “I came from a background where I was a Democrat, and where I was a fairly radical Democrat and had a different belief system,” he told me. “That has changed over the course of time. Does a person not have a right to have an alteration in their thinking over the course of time?”
People change their views on one issue or another all the time in politics. But they usually provide some justification or explanation — even if flimsy — and try to establish what their new position is. See Hillary Clinton on same-sex marriage.
Perhaps Carson’s lack of clarity on Roe can be ascribed to what he himself has called his own “political inexperience.” At this point in a presidential campaign, however, it’s the kind of basic question on a core belief that is usually ironed out.
7. Why did Lincoln Chafee get out of the race for president?
FR – Why did Lincoln Chafee get into the race for president?
From Jennifer Bogdan and Lynn Arditi of the Providence Journal under the headline, End to Chafee’s run called right move in R.I.
“It looks like we can put our metric system converters away for a few years,’’ state Democratic Party Chairman Rep. Joseph McNamara quipped when asked for his thoughts on Chafee’s decision to drop out. Chafee made the announcement Friday at a women’s forum hosted by the Democratic National Committee in Washington.
McNamara was referring to a heavily mocked comment the former U.S. senator made while announcing his presidential bid in June. Chafee, also a former Warwick mayor, called for the United States to “join the rest of the world and go metric.”
Still, McNamara called Chafee “a gentleman” and said he’s raised important issues about the U.S. handling of the Middle East conflict. Among Chafee’s primary campaign points has been a call to “change the paradigm” in the Middle East from a militaristic situation to a peaceful negotiation.
“I certainly give him credit for participating,’’ McNamara said. “[But] as the governor would probably say, when the gains of his campaign are measured in centimeters and not kilometers, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate.’’
From The Slot at Jezebel.
Lincoln Chafee, a gentle, smiling bird you’d rather not be killing for dinner but you have to, that’s nature, has raised just over $15,000 for his Democratic presidential campaign. Of that sum, $4,100 came from his own wallet, while $8,300 was collected from a selection of major donors as numerous as toes on your feet, or stars in a cluster of 10 stars.
I want to cry.
NPR interviewed three of the 10 itemized donors, who each willingly parted with at least $200 to support a campaign averaging one-tenth of 1 percent in the latest Democratic primary polls. Two of them are Chafee’s friends, and one of them just likes his vibe.
Well at least Chafee put his own money where his mouth was, paying for budget hotel rooms, gas for the car and, this $4 here, to feed a parking meter.
Maybe he got out of the race because his time was up.
8. Why did Jim Webb drop out?
FR: Webb, the former senator from Virginia, is a very smart and impressive guy. He shoulda been a contender.
My guess is that his campaign team, such as it was, was infiltrated by double agents on behalf of powers-that-be who feared his potential, and who advised him to keep his powder dry until the first Democratic debate at which, he was instructed that, no matter what the question, he was to whine about how he wasn’t getting called on for any questions.
9. Why did Joe Biden decide not to run for president?
FR: For exactly the reason he stated on 6o Minutes last night: He didn’t think he could win. (Usually when prospective candidates choose not to run, they start out by insisting that if they had run, they could have won.)
I’ll be very blunt. If I thought we could’ve put together the campaign … that our supporters deserve and our contributors deserved, … I would have done it.
10. Why did Hillary Clinton laugh when Rep. Martha Roby of Alabama asked her whether she was alone, “the whole night” the day of the terrorist attack in Benghazi.
FR: From Politico:
Roby asked if Clinton had a SCIF, or a sensitive compartmentalized information facility, in her home. Clinton said she did.
“Were you alone?” Roby asked.
“I was alone, yes,” Clinton said.
Roby pressed: “The whole night?”
Well yes, the whole night,” Clinton said, bursting into prolonged laughter.
“I don’t know why that’s funny. Did you have any in-person briefings? I don’t find it funny at all,” the Alabama Republican admonished her.
“I’m sorry, a little note of levity at 7:15,” Clinton said.
“The reason it’s not funny is it went well into the night,” Roby said.
Clinton’s response: “Congresswoman, you asked if I had a SCIF. I had secure phones, I had other equipment that kept me in touch with the State Department at all times. I did not sleep all night. I was very much focused on what we were doing.”
Well, I don’t know the answer.
Humor is subjective.
But I think it may have something to do with being married to Bill Clinton.