Different strokes: O’Malley sings, Trump stings

Good morning Austin:
Yesterday was Martin O’Malley Day here in Austin.
Sort of.
The third wheel of the Democratic presidential contest spent the day in town:
Taping Overheard at KLRU.
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Having lunch with a Mexican immigrant family in danger of being split up if President Obama’s executive order is permanently blocked by a court suit initiated by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
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An evening fundraiser.
And just before that, a speech before an enthusiastic student audience at UT’s Hogg Memorial Auditorium, which ended with O’Malley, grabbing a borrowed guitar, and, with a touch of Pete Seeger, or maybe Raffi, leading the students in a rendition of the Passenger song, Scare Away the Dark.
Here is a low-quality video I shot of O’Malley’s performance
 
Here is a far higher quality video of another performance of the same song, which has evidently emerged as a kind of anthem for O’Malley.
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And here are the lyrics, which are pregnant with all kinds of meaning for a man running for president in this day and time.

So sing, sing at the top of your voice
Love, without fear in your heart
Feel, feel like you still have a choice
If we all light up we can scare away the dark

We wish our weekdays away, spend our weekends in bed
We drink ourselves stupid and work ourselves dead
And all just because that’s what mom and dad said we should do

We should run through the forests, we should swim in the streams
We should laugh, we should cry, we should love, we should dream
We should stare at the stars, and not just at these screens
You should hear what I’m saying and know what it means to sing
Sing at the top of your voice
And love without fear in your heart
Feel, feel like you still have a choice
If we all light up, we can scare away the dark

Yeah we wish we were happier, thinner and fitter
We wish we weren’t losers and liars and quitters,
We want something more than just nasty and bitter
We want something real, not just hashtags and Twitter

It’s the meaning of life. and it’s streamed live on YouTube
But I bet Gangnam style will still get more views

We’re scared of flying, and swimming and shooters
But we’re all slowly dying in front of f*cking computers
So sing, sing at the top of your voice
Yeah and love without fear in your heart
Feel, feel like you still have a choice
If we all light up we can scare away the dark

Ooooohhhhh

And the TV and papers, they fill us with fear
The icecaps are melting and Al-Qaeda is here
Now every curtain-twitching suburban is scared of every man that’s wearing a turban
You see, the unknown breeds fear, and fear breeds hatred
And hatred is everything that darkness created
When it came in the night, and it strangled the hope
So let’s open the windows and turn on the light

So sing, sing at the top of your voice
Yeah love with all of your heart
Feel, feel like you still have a choice
If we all light up we can scare away the dark

Oh and sing, sing at the top of your voice
And love without fearing your heart
Feel, feel like you still have a choice
If we all light up we can scare away the dark

Wow.

Yeah we wish we were happier, thinner and fitter
We wish we weren’t losers and liars and quitters,
We want something more than just nasty and bitter
We want something real, not just hashtags and Twitter

Well, at just about the same time the former Baltimore mayor and Maryland governor was serenading the Longhorns, 860 miles away, in Fort Dodge, Iowa, a large crowd at Iowa Central Community College didn’t have to wish they weren’t losers because they were present for the EPIC RANT, a 95-minute, extemporaneous one-man show by Donald Trump that pushed the performance art of his campaign to a whole a new level, and left me wondering, if  he survives this, is there nothing he can do to undo himself.

(note: that’s Sam Clovis, who went from chairing Rick Perry’s campaign to being Trump’s top adviser, opening the show.)

From Jenna Johnson’s gripping account in the Washington Post.

FORT DODGE, Iowa — For an hour and 35 minutes, Republican front-runner Donald Trump vented about everything that’s wrong with this country and this election.

He said he would “bomb the s—” out of areas controlled by the Islamic State that are rich with oil and claimed to know more about the terrorist group than U.S. military generals. He ranted about how everyone else is wrong on illegal immigration and how even the “geniuses at Harvard” have now backed his way of thinking. He accused Hillary Rodham Clinton of playing the “woman’s card,” and said Marco Rubio is “weak like a baby.” He signed a book for an audience member and then threw it off the stage. He forgot to take questions like he promised. And he spent more than 10 minutes angrily attacking his chief rival, Ben Carson, at one point calling him “pathological, damaged.”

Gone was the candidate’s recent bout of composure and control on the campaign trail. As Trump ranted on and on, campaign staffers with microphones who were supposed to take questions from the audience instead took a seat, trying to cheer their boss here and there. The audience laughed at times and clapped for many of Trump’s sharp insults. But an hour and 20 minutes into the speech, people who were standing on risers on the stage behind Trump sat down. The applause came less often and less loud. As Trump skewered Carson in deeply personal language, a sense of discomfort settled on the crowd of roughly 1,500. Several people shook their heads or whispered to their neighbors.

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“Carson is an enigma to me,” Trump said. “He said that he’s ‘pathological’ and that he’s got, basically, pathological disease… I don’t want a person that’s got pathological disease.”

Trump repeatedly said he doesn’t believe there’s any cure for such a disease, and he said he doesn’t believe that Carson was truly changed by divine intervention, as he writes in his book.

“If you’re a child molester — a sick puppy — a child molester, there’s no cure for that,” Trump said. “If you’re a child molester, there’s no cure. They can’t stop you. Pathological? There’s no cure.”

And yet Carson is doing well in the polls, Trump said in disbelief.

“How stupid are the people of Iowa?” Trump said. “How stupid are the people of the country to believe this crap?”

Here’s the Carson riff within the EPIC RANT.

 

My first thought was of Lonesome Rhodes, the fictional hero/villain of the 1957 film, A Face in the Crowd, played with crazed gusto by Andy Griffith, making his film debut.

It’s a magnificent movie.

I was hardly alone in making that association.

https://twitter.com/mcmoynihan/status/665020802828337152

Says Rhodes of his adoring public:

They’re mine. I own them. They think like I do. But they’re even more stupid than I am … So I’ve got to think for them.

Trump asking Iowans how stupid they are is not exactly the same thing, but it’s not all that different.

And this is, apparently, real life.

From the original New York Times review by Bosley Crowther:

BUDD SCHULBERG and Elia Kazan, the writer-director team whose “On the Waterfront” manifested the rare congeniality of their skills, are doing a brisk encore in tracing the phenomenal rise (and fall) of a top television “personality” in their new film, “A Face in the Crowd.” This sizzling and cynical exposure, which came to the Globe last night, also presents Andy Griffith as the key figure in his first screen role.

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From the outset, when he is picked up as a drunken guitar-playing tramp by a female television reporter in an Arkansas town, he progressively dominates the TV audience to which he is expandingly exposed, the advertising agency representatives and the big industrialist by whom he is employed. He even is coming close to dominating a political faction and a Presidential aspirant when the rug is suddenly pulled out from under him by his girl friend, who throws a studio switch.

Meanwhile, he is demonstrating his eccentric personality—his gusto, his candor, his shrewdness, his moral laxity and his treachery. And, from the way his eyes narrow and his lips tighten, we gather he is demonstrating a thirst for power, when his loving and loyal discoverer decides that we’ve all had enough.

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We finally get bored with Lonesome Rhodes. Thus the dubious device of having his girl friend switch him on the air when he thinks he is finished with his program (and is scorning his public) is inane. This type would either have become a harmless habit or the public would have been finished with him!

Inane? I thought it was a pretty good device.

Here is what Rhodes says on the hot mic:

Those morons out there? Shucks, I could take chicken fertilizer and sell it to them as caviar. I could make them eat dog food and think it was steak. You know what the public’s like? A cage of guinea pigs. Good night, you stupid idiots. Good night, you miserable slobs. They’re a lot of trained seals. I toss them a dead fish and they’ll flap their flippers.

Back to Austin, here is the advisory from the O’Malley campaign about his lunch.

Governor O’Malley will join the Ramirez family, a New American family that would have benefited from the president’s Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) for lunch in Austin, Texas. This week, the 5th Circuit Appeals Court ruled in favor of Governor Greg Abbott  and the 25 Republican governors blocking President Obama’s DAPA program and the 2014 expansion of DACA.

Governor O’Malley spoke-out against the ruling and tomorrow, he hears first-hand how our inhumane immigration system and the ongoing court battles have impacted the Ramirez family

Governor O’Malley has committed to make comprehensive immigration reform a priority of his administration. While other candidates try to triangulate and make-up for past comments, Governor O’Malley’s bold, progressive immigration plan has been heralded as the most inclusive in the race. His record and proposed plan have earned him the title, “the Most Aggressively Pro-Immigration Candidate in the Race.”

The event is being organized by America’s Voice, United We Dream Action and the Center for Community Change Action/Fair Immigration Reform Movement as part of their DAPA Dinners campaign.

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First. Lunch –  chilaquiles and refried beans, potatoes, salsa –  looked and smelled great.

The conversation in the sweet little house in East Austin was obviously a bit  stilted – surrounded by reporters and camera.

But it was powerful.

The parents are not legal residents, though they could have secured their status under the DAPA executive order issued by Obama had it not been stymied in court, thanks to the lawsuit initiated by Abbott in his waning days as attorney general before assuming the governorship.

The youngest child, Abigail, is U.S. born and, therefore a citizen

The older children are covered by DACA and, in two-year increments, are safe here.

Maria Ramirez, 22, spoke first. She is student at UT and has an infant daughter, Scout.

O’Malley asked about the baby’s name.

It is from To Kill a Mockingbird, a favorite book, Maria said.

O’Malley lit up.

“My older sister, Eileen, looked just like Scout growing up, had that sort of cowboy thing, and my dad raised six of us, was a sole practitioner lawyer, so it was not unusual for us to get paid in cords of wood and  for people to show up at the door at all hours of the day and night. We used to call my dad Atticus. I was so angry, though, when they came out with that second book and redid the character of Atticus.

Maria agreed.

“I do remember growing up in Mexico we did kind of lived in poverty,” Maria said. She told how her parents went to the United States ahead of her and her sister. They were left with an aunt and uncle in Mexico.

Her uncle eventually delivered them to a coyote to get to Texas, and, she said, they had an easier time slipping in because “we were lucky enough to pass as white.”

“My older brother and sister, they had to physically cross the river. My sister saw people die trying to get here,” Maria said. She is crying. “I just feel so lucky not to have experienced that,  and getting here to see my parents.”

“I hadn’t seen my father in years, and it’s like, `Who are you? I know I love you and i know you’re my dad but i don’t know you.'”

 

martin-scout

The walls of the house are almost exclusively decorated with large graduation photos. With the exception of the youngest, the other children all went to or are now going to UT.

O’Malley asked about the status of in-state tuition for so-called Dreamers in Texas.

“I think Texas was one of the last states to do that,” O’Malley said. “We call that the state version of the Dream Act in my own state.”

In fact, Texas preceded Maryland in enacting in-state tuition, and, for all the agitation on the issue, it’s still there. And Rick Perry paid a huge political price for defending in-state tuition when he ran for president four years ago, telling his rivals,  “I don’t think you have a heart,” if you oppose it.

From the National Council of State Legislatures in 2014

Currently, at least 18 states have provisions allowing in-state tuition rates for undocumented students.  Fourteen states provide these provisions through state legislation—California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas, Utah, and Washington.  Two states—Oklahoma and Rhode Island— allow in-state tuition rates to undocumented students through Board of Regents decisions.

California and Texas were the first states to enact legislation in 2001. In 2002, New York and Utah passed similar legislation. During the 2003 and 2004 legislative sessions, Washington, Oklahoma, Illinois and Kansas all passed such laws. Oklahoma has since amended its law, leaving granting of in-state tuition rates to undocumented students up to the Oklahoma Board of Regents. The Board of Regents currently still allows undocumented students, who meet Oklahoma’s original statutory requirements, to receive in-state tuition. In 2005 and 2006, New Mexico and Nebraska signed undocumented student tuition legislation into law, and Wisconsin enacted a similar law in 2009, but then revoked that law in 2011. Maryland’s governor signed a law in May 2011 allowing undocumented students meeting the specified requirements to pay in-state tuition at community colleges only. Also in 2011, Connecticut enacted a law allowing in-state tuition for undocumented students. In 2013, four states, Colorado, New Jersey, Minnesota, and Oregon enacted laws allowing in-state tuition for undocumented students. Florida passed legislation in May 2014 and was signed by the Governor in June 2014. 

And, here, from PolitiFact Texas.

Also, when the Ramirezes mentioned Abbott’s leadership role in blocking the implementation of Obama’s executive orders on DACA and DAPA, O’Malley said that he had not realized that.

Huh?

It was in his press release.

It seems to me that O’Malley could have seized the opportunity to use the Perry and Abbott examples to point out how much the Republican Party has moved right on the issue of immigration, and offered some words of praise and warning about how Texas has been and can continue to be a model for its successful, blended Tex-Mex character, and ought not risk that now.

“If you get to be president, remember all the promises made, because we’re not people who come and take,” said the mother, Adriana Campos Rivera, her Spanish translated by an aide to O’Malley.

Abigail Ramirez, 13, spoke next. She was crying from the start.

 I live in constant fear of coming home from school and not being able to see my family, not knowing if I’m ever going to see them again.

And I have to live with that constant fear. And so do other kids.

You know, other people don’t realize that if immigration reform doesn’t happen, you know, millions of families could be split up, because every time I hear people say like, `Well, I’m glad they are going to deport all these people,” but they don’t realize it would affect other people.

I mean how would you feel if you came home one day and no one was there, an empty house and all you think is, oh, they just went out. But then, after hours and hours  of waiting, they never come back. I have to live in constant fear of that happening to me.

And I hear all these people say that people like my family take jobs and don’t pay taxes. But they pay taxes. They love this country so much they take jobs that no other people take. They build buildings basically risking their lives. And if something goes wrong, they’ll never be able to see their family again.

O’Malley: Well said, Abigail.

omalleylunch

“Why don’t i talk a little bit, share a little bit about myself,” O’Malley said.

I believe very, very firmly that our country is made better in every generation by the arrival of new American immigrants. And the beauty of our nation is that from people from all over the world, we become one nation because of our diversity. Our diversity is our strength. Our diversity is what allows us to build a great country.

And fortunately, I was raised in a home where my mom, most of whose people were German immigrants, and my dad, whose people were Irish immigrants, reminded, and made sure all of their kids knew, that all of us, except for our Native American brothers and sisters, all, at some point, all of us came from somewhere else.

During the seven years I was mayor of Baltimore, and the eight years I was governor, I always kept a sign from the 1890s on my desk, and it read – you know what it read? Help wanted, no Irish need apply.

So that’s the flip side of our history. That’s the sometimes ugly side of American history. But the good news is that in every generation, we find ways to overcome that, and we’re going to overcome this too, and pass comprehensive immigration reform.

And as one candidate running for president, I intend to be very clear of our principles as a people, that our enduring symbol is the Statue of Liberty, and not a barbed wire fence, or detention camps for women and children. Because it’s been my experience that on issues the people say are too divided, we can’t reach an agreement, that leadership matters, and when you call people back to the principles that unite us, that people come together, and things shift and things change and you can get things done.

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“I hate to interrupt,” said Paul Alexander, who is Maria’s fiance and Scout’s father. “You really nailed it on the head. You have to respect the dignity of every person.”

Grasping to find the right words, Alexander apologized.

“I’m distracted.

“You’re not distracted,” O’Malley said. “You’re thinking about what it would be like for your little girl to be in a detention camp. You’re very focused.”

Alexander:

We’re always brought up to believe to treat everybody like they’re your neighbors, right?

But a lot of people just don’t see the injustices that we’re placing on people. Just because of a silly line on a map, we’re treating them as less than human, in some cases. It’s really hard to see that unless you’re brought up in something like this, like Abby’s story, just that raw emotion, I never knew what that was like, and I still can’t even relate to that, and I’m lucky to call these people my family now.

O’Malley:

The good new is, when I talk to younger people, under 30, I rarely ever meet young Americans who think like Donald Trump. I rarely ever meet young Americans who want to bash New American immigrants, and for younger people in our country, the word “foreign” has become almost a bit of an antique word. There’s an awareness. And it’s more than geographic. I think it’s empathetic.

 

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Afterward, outside the house, O’Malley talked with reporters.

Asked about Trump’s promise to deport millions, O’Malley said, “It’s this close to ethnic cleansing and it’s not right and it needs to be called out”

If he were president, O’Malley said, “I would extend executive protection to even more people,” and make the process less expensive for those applying for legalization.

The idea of “parents being taken away from their families, from their kids, that’s not right, that’s not us, that’s not the United States. We’re better than that.”

And O’Malley said, of the Democrats, he has been the most consistently pro-immigrant.

Clinton will boast about she was for big fences and walls on the border, the border with Mexico, which last I checked, we had net zero immigration from, and then, in another context, she’ll talk about comprehensive immigration reform and compassion.

If you want us to be a more compassionate nation than you need to speak to the goodness within us and not the sort of cynical game  in which you say one thing to one crowd and use the term “illegal immigrants,” and then you turn around to another crowd, switch your messaging and talk about new Americans. I always talked about new Americans.

 

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On Morning Joe earlier in the week, Trump described how it would go down.

You’re going to have a deportation force and you’re going to do it humanely and fairly because you have some excellent, wonderful people,  some fantastic people who have been here a long time, but  don’t forget you have millions of people who are waiting on line to get into this country and they’re waiting to come in legally.

We have no choice. Otherwise we don’t have a country.

But President Obama told ABC”s  George Stephanopoulos.

The notion that we’re gonna deport 11, 12 million people from this country — first of all, I have no idea where Mr. Trump thinks the money’s gonna come from. It would cost us hundreds of billions of dollars to execute that.

Imagine the images on the screen flashed around the world as we were dragging parents away from their children, and putting them in what, detention centers, and then systematically sending them out. Nobody thinks that that is realistic. But more importantly, that’s not who we are as Americans.

O’Malley arrived in Austin to the results of the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll.

 

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“I’ve got them right where I want them,” O’Malley told Texas  Tribune CEO and editor-in-chief Evan Smith on Overheard.

As he explained to reporters yesterday”

Usually in the Democratic Party there is an inevitable front-runner who remains inevitable, right up until the first voters have a chance to express their choice, and that happens first in Iowa and New Hampshire, and then it’s off and running.

So I would look forward to coming back to Texas. But right now, most of my time is spent on the ground in Iowa and in New Hampshire, but after those early states, I believe this race is going to take a turn, the dynamic is going to shift and it will be a choice between a candidate from our country and our party’s past, that all of us have heard of, and a new candidate that mot of us are just meeting, and I look forward to that robust debate about our country’s future.

It’s obviously a very optimistic scenario, but I wouldn’t say utterly impossible.

His let’s-move-on, generational argument is a powerful one, especially if the Republicans appear likely nominate a candidate like Rubio or Cruz, both now 44. O’Malley is 52, Clinton is 68, and Sanders is 74.

And Iowa and New Hampshire are all about exceeding expectations, and that is a harder trick right now for either Clinton or Sanders, who have traded the lead in two early states. O’Malley doesn’t have to win to win.

At UT, O’Malley was presented with a campaign rap.
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Despite his relative youth, O’Malley seems an old-school Democratic politician and a happy warrior.

Meanwhile, back in Iowa, the Washington Post reported that:

Trump started the speech looking exhausted, his voice hoarse. This was his fourth state in four days. A sense of anger built as Trump listed off everything wrong with the country and everything wrong with his rivals. His voice got louder and stronger, his hands gripping the podium. He would be a unifier, he said, a winner. Then he wondered aloud if he should just move to Iowa and buy a farm.

“I’ve really enjoyed being with you,” Trump said as he drew to a sudden but long awaited end. “It’s sad in many ways because we’re talking about so many negative topics, but in certain ways it’s beautiful. It’s beautiful.”

I’ll let O’Malley play you out.

A Pogues cover.

 

And busking, in shorts, with a banjo.

 

 

Crubio’s the one! 44-year-old Cuban-American senators ace GOP debate

Good morning Austin:

Nobody delivered a knockout punch at last night’s fourth Republican presidential debate, but the Fox Business Network debate did seem to go a long way to clarifying the race.

On the strength of last night’s performances, it appears increasingly likely that the Republicans will nominate a 45-year-old Cuban-American senator for president when they convene in Cleveland in July.

It’s just a question whether it will be Ted Cruz, who will turn 45 on December 22, or Marco Rubio, who won’t reach that milestone until May 28.

https://twitter.com/EWErickson/status/664305361013202944

Each brings his own distinct strengths.

Pardon me for being so shallow, but Rubio is simply better looking.

He’s got far more of a JFK/New Frontier/Passing-the-torch-to-a-new-generation thing going.

While both Cruz and Rubio attempt to appropriate the sunny Reagan optimism, it seems a far more natural fit for Rubio, while Cruz comes across as a bit mean, with the heart of a killjoy, hardly lovable and, to those who aren’t true believers, barely likable.

On the other hand, even though it is Rubio who has far more experience as an elected official – at both the state and federal level – Cruz comes across as older, wiser, and quicker and more confident on his feet.

Rubio is good at soaring eloquence, but it seems very practiced, canned, rehearsed.

And being “boyish” – an appellation always applied to Rubio but never to Cruz – is both a blessing and a curse.

The turn-the-page, vote-for-the-young-guy could be very effective for Rubio against Hillary Clinton, but he is also more vulnerable than Cruz to being portrayed as a callow youth, not quite read and more vice presidential than presidential material.

One can more easily imagine Rubio than Cruz capturing the national imagination accepting his party’s nomination in Cleveland.

But, I think Cruz is a surer bet to acquit himself well in debate with Clinton, less likely to stumble.

https://twitter.com/EWErickson/status/664285047080550400

(As for Erickson’s dream team, I don’t think America is ready for an all-Cuban American ticket. A little too Manchurian candidate.)

But Cruz’s biggest advantage is the issue of immigration, where he is a hard-liner far more in sync with the base than Rubio, who, at this point on the issue, is a profile in mush.

Immigration may be the most powerful motivating issue for Republicans – witness Trump’s rise – and if that is your issue and you were watching last night, it would be easy to conclude that, even if you like Trump’s bluntness and bluster on the issue, Cruz can be trusted to more skillfully and artfully make the case you want made.

It is hard to imagine Republicans nominating an unapologetic immigration moderate in 2016, so forget about Jeb Bush or John Kasich.

The pivotal exchange of the night came on immigration.

It was a kind of tag team match pitting Trump and Cruz on one side, and Kasich and Bush on the other.

And, just as in the last debate, when Cruz offered the crispest, most comprehensive attack on alleged media bias among the CNBC moderators, Cruz once again provided the soundbite of the night.

It began with Trump.

BARTIROMO: Mr. Trump, a federal appeals court just dealt a blow to the Obama administration’s plan to prevent the deportation of 5 million people living in this country illegally. The White House is appealing to the Supreme Court. 

At the heart of this issue is the effect that illegal immigrants are having on our economy, what will you do about it? 

TRUMP: I was so happy yesterday when I saw that decision come down. That was an unbelievable decision.

And we don’t have enough of those decisions coming down. He of the executive order, because nobody wants to listen to him, including the Democrats, so he just goes around signing executive orders. That was a great day. And, frankly, we have to stop illegal immigration. It’s hurting us economically. It’s hurting us from every standpoint. It’s causing tremendous difficulty with respect to drugs and what that does to many of our inner cities in particular. 

And it really is — was such an unbelievable moment because the courts have not been ruling in our favor. And it was a 2-1 decision. And it was a terrific thing that happened. 

And I will tell you, we are a country of laws. We need borders. We will have a wall. The wall will be built. The wall will be successful. And if you think walls don’t work, all you have to do is ask Israel. The wall works, believe me. Properly done. Believe me.

BARTIROMO: Can we just send 5 million people back with no effect on economy? 

TRUMP: You are going to have to bring people — you are going to have to send people out. Look, we’re a country…

BARTIROMO: So what will you do?

TRUMP: Maria, we’re a country of laws. We either have a country or we don’t have a country. We are a country of laws. Going to have to go out and they will come back but they are going to have to go out and hopefully they get back. 

But we have no choice if we’re going to run our country properly and if we’re going to be a country. 

Then came Kasich.

KASICH: Well, look, in 1986 Ronald Reagan basically said the people who were here, if they were law-abiding, could stay. But, what didn’t happen is we didn’t build the walls effectively and we didn’t control the border. We need to. We need to control our border just like people have to control who goes in and out of their house. 

But if people think that we are going to ship 11 million people who are law-abiding, who are in this country, and somehow pick them up at their house and ship them out of Mexico — to Mexico, think about the families. Think about the children. 

So, you know what the answer really is? If they have been law- abiding, they pay a penalty. They get to stay. We protect the wall. Anybody else comes over, they go back. 

But for the 11 million people, come on, folks. We all know you can’t pick them up and ship them across, back across the border. It’s a silly argument. It is not an adult argument. It makes no sense. 

Then Bush.

Bush: Twelve million illegal immigrants, to send them back, 500,000 a month, is just not — not possible. And it’s not embracing American values. And it would tear communities apart. And it would send a signal that we’re not the kind of country that I know America is. 

And even having this conversation sends a powerful signal — they’re doing high-fives in the Clinton campaign right now when they hear this. That’s the problem with this. We have to win the presidency. And the way you win the presidency is to have practical plans. Lay them out there. What we need to do is allow people to earn legal status where they pay a fine, where they work, where they don’t commit crimes, where they learn English, and over an extended period of time, they earn legal status.

And then Cruz.

CRUZ: I want to go back to the discussion we had a minute ago because, you know, what was said was right. The Democrats are laughing — because if Republicans join democrats as the party of amnesty, we will lose.

And, you know, I understand that when the mainstream media covers immigration, it doesn’t often see it as an economic issue. But, I can tell you for millions — of Americans at home watching this, it is a very personal economic issue. And, I will say the politics of it will be very, very different if a bunch of lawyers or bankers were crossing the Rio Grande.

Or if a bunch of people with journalism degrees were coming over and driving down the wages in the press.

Then, we would see stories about the economic calamity that is befalling our nation. And, I will say for those of us who believe people ‘ought to come to this country legally, and we should enforce the law, we’re tired of being told it’s anti-immigrant. It’s offensive.

I am the son of an immigrant who came legally from Cuba to seek the American dream. And, we can embrace legal immigration while believing in the rule of law – and I would note, try going illegally to another country. Try going to China, or Japan. Try going to Mexico. See what they do. Every sovereign nation secures its borders, and it is not compassionate to say we’re not going to enforce the laws. And we’re going to drive down the wages for millions of hardworking men and women.

From the New York Times coverage of last night’s debate:

In the most substantive Republican debate so far, Mr. Kasich and Mr. Bush, who have been fading in polls, presented themselves as experienced chief executives who had practical solutions to deal with national challenges like immigration. Yet Mr. Trump and another candidate, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, inveighed against what they called amnesty and argued that undocumented workers were driving down Americans’ wages.

While several other candidates, like Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and the retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, received a pass from the moderators on immigration, Mr. Kasich took on the issue directly after Mr. Trump defended his plan to build a wall along the Mexican border and to identify and deport some 11 million people.

And, of Rubio, the Times wrote:

Mr. Rubio was not only able to avoid being drawn into the contentious immigration debate, but also repeatedly received questions that allowed him to answer with versions of his stump speech. Even he seemed unable to believe his good fortune when he was asked to make his case against Mrs. Clinton. He chuckled for a moment before unspooling a well-rehearsed argument: why he can prosecute a “generational” case against her.

But Rubio will not be able to sidestep the immigration issue. His now-abandoned efforts on behalf of comprehensive immigration reform remains his Achilles’ heel with the Republican base. He remains very vulnerable to a Cruz attack on the issue if and when it becomes a mano a mano race between them.

There are a little more than 80 days left until the Iowa caucuses, but the four debates are doing a good, if not always fair, job of winnowing the field.

It is, ultimately, a process of elimination.

The relegating of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to the undercard debate – just as he was hitting his stride as a candidate – was a gift to the eight remaining candidates on the main stage. He remains, at least theoretically, as the mainstream/establishment candidate if Bush continues to fade, Kasich doesn’t catch on, and Rubio doesn’t claim that mantle.

But, while Christie dominated last night’s early debate, he was still a candidate who had just been demoted, and that’s not really the definition of Big Mo. Everything for him rides on New Hampshire, where he is still well back.

Paul, while more engaged than at previous debates, remains way too out of step with his party on foreign policy to win the nomination.

Kasich is too out of step with his party on domestic policy to be nominated.

Carly Fiorina – sorry – still seems more vice presidential material than anything else.

And Jeb! is hardly living up to family expectations, let alone his exclamation mark.

Carson, who shares the lead with Trump in polls, did well enough last night, and probably reassured the faithful after a week buffeted by coverage of discrepancies in stories he has told and written about himself.

CAVUTO: Dr. Carson, to you. You recently railed against the double standard in the media, sir, that seems obsessed with inconsistencies and potential exaggerations in your life story, but looked the other way when it came to then-Senator Barack Obama’s. Still, as a candidate whose brand has always been trust, are you worried your campaign – which you’ve always said, sir, is bigger than you – is now being hurt by you? 

CARSON: Well, first of all, thank you not asking me what I said in the 10th grade. I appreciate that.

CAVUTO: I’ll just forget that follow-up there. 

CARSON: The fact of the matter is, you know, what — we should vet all candidates. I have no problem with being vetted. What I do have a problem with is being lied about and then putting that out there as truth.

“And I don’t even mind that so much, if they do it about — with everybody, like people on the other side. But, you know, when I look at somebody like Hillary Clinton, who sits there and tells her daughter and a government official that no, this was a terrorist attack, and then tells everybody else that it was a video.

“Where I came from, they call that a lie. And I think that’s very different from, you know, somebody misinterpreting, when I said that I was offered a scholarship to West Point, that is the words that they used. But, I’ve had many people come and say the same thing to me.  That is what people do in those situations.”

“We have to start treating people the same, and finding out what people really think and what they’re made of. People who know me know that I’m an honest person.”

I think Carson’s performance probably settled the nerves of most of his supporters,

But, for those not already on board,  more than one commentator on Fox last night noted that waiting on a Carson answer can be an agonizing and nerve-wracking experience – will he make it or will he plunge into the abyss.

Meanwhile, Trump is doing fine, still riding high, but it does appear that he may, perhaps, just possibly, have peaked. That he has an It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding) problem.

Darkness at the break of noon
Shadows even the silver spoon
The handmade blade, the child’s balloon
Eclipses both the sun and moon
To understand you know too soon
There is no sense in trying.

Pointed threats, they bluff with scorn
Suicide remarks are torn
From the fools gold mouthpiece
The hollow horn plays wasted words
Proved to warn
That he not busy being born
Is busy dying.

OK. So maybe Dylan wasn’t writing a Trump prophesy.

But the results of the most recent Public Policy Polling survey in South Carolina, released yesterday, seem to confirm that, while Trump is still number one in the Palmetto State, his candidacy is not busy being born, it’s busy dying.

PPP’s newest South Carolina poll finds Donald Trump continuing to lead in the state, but that he’s lost about a third of his support since peaking in early September. Trump gets 25% to 21% for Ben Carson, 15% for Ted Cruz, 13% for Marco Rubio, 8% for Jeb Bush, and 5% for Carly Fiorina. No one else gets more than 3% in the Palmetto State- John Kasich hits that mark followed by Lindsey Graham, Mike Huckabee, and Rand Paul all at 2%, Chris Christie and Rick Santorum at 1%, and Jim Gilmore, Bobby Jindal, and George Pataki all at less than 1%. There’s a big gender gap with Carson leading Trump 27/19 among women, but Trump leading Carson by an even greater 31/15 margin with men.

Although he’s still out front Trump’s standing has declined a good bit from September- he’s dropped 12 points from when he led with 37% on our poll then. His overall popularity with the Republican base has declined from then as well – he’d had a 64/28 favorability rating, but that’s dropped down now to 53/33. It’s possible the field will have seen some winnowing by the time the race gets to South Carolina and that’s boding a lot less well for Trump now too. In September we found he led Marco Rubio 58/35 in a head to head match up and trailed Ben Carson only 46/45.  Now he can achieve only a tie with Rubio at 46%, and his deficit to Carson is up to 51/38. He also ties Ted Cruz 44/44 in a head to head- the one he does still dominate is against Jeb Bush where he’s up 57/32.

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The only two candidates with any sort of momentum in South Carolina are Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, both of whom are up 9 points from our September poll. Cruz has gone from 6% to 15%, and has seen a 10 point gain in his net favorability rating from +25 (52/27) to +35 (57/22). Cruz is leading the GOP field in South Carolina among voters whose biggest concern is having a candidate who’s conservative on the issues (28% to 23% for Carson and 21% for Trump) as well as among Tea Party voters (32% to 27% for Trump and 18% for Carson). Rubio’s gone up from 4% to 13%, and has seen a 14 point improvement in his net favorability from +24 (53/29) to +38 (60/22). Rubio’s the second most popular of the GOP hopefuls in South Carolina and also the second most frequent second choice at 14%, behind just Carson who’s second choice for 19%. All of those metrics make Rubio a likely beneficiary if anything ever does cause Trump and Carson’s support to come crashing down.

A Rubio-Cruz race could be very tight and exciting.

Here is the Real Clear Politics polling average in Iowa.

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And New Hampshire

Real Clear Politics New Hampshire polling average
New Hampshire is followed by South Carolina.

Then, on March 1, Texas and a raft of other states, many in the South, where Cruz would have the advantage, and then, on March 15, the Florida primary, which, unlike the primaries that precede it, is winner-take-all.

A huge opportunity for Rubio.

Cruz needs to beware the ides of March.

Real Clear Politics Florida polling average

OOPS

Yes, ladies and gentleman, Ted Cruz last night sought to defy history.
A Texan, running for president of the United States, he was determined to announce his plan to eliminate certain federal agencies and to enumerate them, live, in public, without a net, during a Republican presidential debate.
It’s been tried before, with tragic results.

Not satisfied to simply redeem Texas’ reputation by doing what Rick Perry couldn’t do and name three agencies, Cruz chose to tempt fate, to taunt it, by attempting a virtual triple Salchow.

CRUZ: Today, we rolled out a spending plan. $500 billion in specific cuts — five major agencies that I would eliminate. The IRS, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Energy, the Department of Commerce, and HUD — and then 25 specific programs.

Oh. Damn. So close.

Gotta give the guy props for trying.

But really. No harm done.

Perry’s brain-freeze hurt because it fed a narrative that his mental processes generally operated at too low a temperature.

No one doubts Cruz’s intelligence.

And, unlike Perry’s moment, which lasted an eternity and ended with his sheepish “oops,” no one on stage called Cruz on his double count of Commerce, and afterward he laughed it off.

As he told Megyn Kelly on Fox after the debate, “I think the Department Commerce is such a base of cronyism, we ought to eliminate it twice.”

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And the fifth department was Education.

 

Roger and me: A Saturday in the Stone Zone

Good morning Austin:

I had lunch with Roger Stone on Saturday.

He was in Austin promoting his new book, The Clintons’ War on Women, the basic premise of which is, as Stone puts it, “Bill Clinton is a Bill Cosby-like sexual predator,” and Hillary Clinton is his witting accomplice.

I had asked Stone ahead of time where he wanted to eat. He said either barbecue or Tex Mex.

I chose barbecue and asked whether he wanted a truck or bricks and mortar.

He chose the latter, and I suggested Freedmen’s near UT.

We met there. It was cold and wet, so the outdoor seating wasn’t really an option. All that was open were seats at the bar. We took them. They were out of the ribs. Oh well. We both had brisket and shared beans and potato salad. Stone, who lives in South Florida, said he was very pleased, that it was just what he wanted.

For 90 minutes, we talked 2016 politics and I can’t think of anyone better to do that with.

On Friday, he spoke at the 30th Biennial State Convention of the Texas Federation of Republican Women,  in Lubbock, where he sold a couple of hundred books, and a bunch of copies, of his previous book, The Man Who Killed Kennedy: The Case Against LBJ.

For the women in Lubbock, it was a chance to get psyched for the coming campaign, and do some early Christmas shopping.

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For those who don’t know Stone, here is a quick introductory video fromStone’s website – the Stone Zone.

Stone is a man of intrigue and contradictions.

Stone’s introductory line this year – he uses it in his book and in his book talks – is, “I spent years in the corroded rectum of the two-party system.”

But, the arresting coarseness of that image aside, he is also both satin smooth and disarmingly direct.

He describes himself, in his book and in conversation, as a “libertine” and a “bit of a dandy.”

He has a tattoo of Nixon’s head on his back.

 

 

NewYorker-Toobin-Stone

 

He is now a registered Libertarian in Florida, and his capacity for bipartisan mischief is suggested by his role as an adviser to Al Sharpton’s 2004 presidential campaign.

Since the death of the Hollywood designer, Mr. Blackwell, he has assumed the mantle of preparing an annual Best and Worst Dressed List.

For example from the Worst List:

Hillary Rodham Clinton – The former Secretary of State and 2016 hopeful has no taste in clothing and no idea whatsoever what she looks good in. Take the coat she wore to the Nixon Cox-Castimitidis wedding. She’s changed “looks” more than we have. Darker colors would minimize her bulk, heavy legs and bizarrely thick ankles. Now, this may seem overly nasty and we would agree, except she deserves it. Meow.

And, fom Sridhar Pappu in The New York Times in August.

“Rand Paul could walk down the street in Manhattan and nobody would know who he was,” Mr. Stone said. “He looks like a guy who went to the gym, jumped in the shower really quick and then ran to the meeting. He looks unkempt. Cowboy boots from Kentucky. O.K., whatever. But you can’t dress like a college student. Someone should get the guy a decent haircut and a good suit.”

Stone is the voice of reason in Trump’s head – his top adviser in his presidential campaign until August, when he was either fired or quit after Trump went on his crude – and Stone thought self-defeating – tirade against Fox’s Megyn Kelly.

But, such is the nature of their very long and tumultuous Richard Burton-Elizabeth Taylor, married-divorced-married relationship (with an occasional flash of Liz and Dick’s George and Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf), we can expect him to play the role of a Karl Rove or David Axelrod, at least intermittently, in a Trump White House.

For example, from the terrific June 2008 Jeffrey Toobin profile of Stone in the New Yorker:

Stone worked for Donald Trump as an occasional lobbyist and as an adviser when Trump considered running for President in 2000. “Roger is a stone-cold loser,” Trump told me. “He always tries taking credit for things he never did.” Like Nixon, Stone is also a great hater-of, among others, the Clintons, Karl Rove, and Spitzer.

Elliot Spitzer was among Stone’s most famous scalps – a complicated business that ended with the revelation that the New York governor was having sex with high-priced prostitutes. He resigned.

Stone had a number of grievances against Spitzer, but apparently what most offended him was the revelation (via one of the prostitutes and delivered by Stone to the FBI) of Spitzer’s habit of keeping his calf-length black socks on during sex.

Stone and Trump still talk regularly and he talks Trump up at every opportunity.

There is a rich literature around Stone. A college course could be built around a close reading of Stone profiles.

A Stephanie Mansfield profile in the Washington Post in 1986, The Rise and Gall of Roger Stone, begins:

He has a dog named Milhous, a wife named Bitsey, a chauffeur-driven Mercedes and a Jaguar.

Later:

He names his heroes as (Roy) Cohn, Nixon and the Duke of Windsor — all outcasts in one form or another.

Among the best was a Nov. 5, 2007 profile in The Weekly Standard by Matt Labash.  Roger Stone, Political Animal.

Here are a few excerpts:

Being a skilled confidence man is both a blessing and a curse. If you truly excel at the long con, raising it to a form of art, marks will never know they’ve been taken. But if you become renowned for such artistry, when it is synonymous with your very name, people never believe you’re off the grift, even when you’re playing straight.

Such is the life of Roger Stone, political operative, Nixon-era dirty trickster, professional lord of mischief. It’s hard to assume he’s not up to something, because he always is. He once said of himself, “If it rains, it was Stone.”

WeeklyStandardxxxxxxxx

Naïfs might say he’s a cancer on the body politic, everything that is wrong with today’s system. But maybe he is just its purest distillation: Politics is war, and he is one of its fiercest warriors, with the battle scars to prove it.

The first time I laid eyes on Roger Stone he was standing poolside at a press conference on the roof of the Hotel L’Ermitage in Beverly Hills. With a horseshoe pinkie ring refracting rays from the California sun and a gangster chalk-stripe suit that looked like it had been exhumed from the crypt of Frank Costello, Stone was there to help his friend and longtime client Donald Trump explore a Reform party presidential candidacy in 2000.

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Actually, it was more complicated than that. After having recruited Pat Buchanan to seek the nod (“You have to beat somebody,” Stone says), he pushed Trump into the race. Trump relentlessly attacked Buchanan as having “a love affair with Adolf Hitler,” but ended up folding. A weakened Buchanan went on to help the Reform party implode, and Republicans suffered no real third-party threat, as they had in 1992, thus helping Stone accomplish his objective. If, in fact, that was his objective. These things are often hard to keep track of with Roger Stone.

Trump’s short-lived campaign provided lots of memorable Stone moments. There was the scene on the roof, where Stone, a dandy by disposition who boasts of having not bought off-the-rack since he was 17–he’s now 56–taught reporters how to achieve perfect double-dimples underneath their tie knots, while providing them hand sanitizers should they want to shake hands with the germophobe Trump. Then there were the hardball negotiations he drove backstage at the Tonight Show, where he promised access to the dressing room, but only if we refrained from “making fun of Mr. Trump’s hair” in print.

But the moment that has most stuck with me came after reporters had just watched Trump dispense invaluable life tips at a Tony Robbins seminar (“Get even. When somebody screws you, screw ’em back–but a lot harder”). Stone mounted the bus, which in Trumpian fashion was named “A Touch of Class,” and announced, “I’m here. Who needs to be spun?”

It was a throwaway line, not even one of the serially quotable Stone’s best, but the naked cynicism at the heart of it might be why his fans in the press corps over the years have called him things like “a state of the art sleaze-ball,” “an extreme rightwing sleazeball,” and the “boastful black prince of Republican sleaze” (the sleaze theme is popular). Color me contrarian, but I will say something I don’t believe another Washington reporter has ever admitted publicly: I like Roger Stone.

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“Politics with me isn’t -theater,” he admits. “It’s performance art. Sometimes, for its own sake.”

He has dabbled in at least eight presidential campaigns, everything from working for Nixon’s Committee To Reelect the President (CREEP) in 1972, to helping stage the infamous 2000 Brooks Brothers Riot in Miami, where angry Republicans in loud madras shorts and pinstriped suits helped shut down the Miami recount. (Stone was directing traffic by walkie-talkie from a nearby van.)

He made his bones as a principal in the Reagan-era lobbying firm Black, Manafort & Stone. Stone’s bread is now primarily buttered by strategizing for corporate clients, everything from casino interests to the sugar industry, but his love of the action insures that he is usually waging at least one exotic war on the political periphery.

It’s a bit nerve-racking figuring how to properly dress for a Stone engagement. His long-time tailor is Alan Flusser, author of the sartorial bible Style and the Man, and one of Flusser’s associates tells me Stone knows enough to work there. Sitting across from him is a bit like sitting across from Mr. Blackwell: Suppose you accidentally went with a single-vent jacket rather than side vents, which Stone finds unthinkable (“I’m not a heathen”), or if you wore trendy flat-front suit trousers instead of ones with properly-draped pleats (“Pants today are like a little church in the valley–no ballroom”).

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I read once that he has 300 solid-silver wedding ties. He’s says it’s an exaggeration–he only has about 100. But to give an idea of his obsessiveness, he owns so many suits that there are 100 in storage alone. His closets are meticulously ordered–even his jeans are organized “by jeaniness.”

 

Roger Stone at Brave New Books in Austin
Roger Stone at Brave New Books in Austin

 

On Alex Jones’s radio show Monday, the host seemed pleasantly nonplussed when Stone suggested he would hook Jones up with Trump as a guest on his show because he thought they would hit it off.

After lunch with Stone, I moved the junk in the passenger seat of my 2008 Accord into the trunk and gave him a ride back to the Hyatt Place.

I would see him a few hours later at his book talk and signing with co-author Robert Morrow, at Brave New Books, an appropriately subterranean bookstore on Guadalupe near the university, where far left meets far right in a spirit of underground bonhomie.

 

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Stone promised me an eclectic crowd.

Self-assessing, I would rate myself in the middle or high middle in terms of deportment. Several of us had our hair in ponytails.

 

An Austin Chronicle ad.
An Austin Chronicle ad

John Bush is the new owner of Brave New Books, taking over for founder Harlan Dietrich, who was also in attendance for Saturday night’s event, which drew about 40 people.

Bush, who founded a Civil Liberties Union chapter during this time at Texas State University, is a former executive director of Texans for Accountable Government. He now considers himself  more of an anarchist and less focused on elective politics.

But, in opening the program Saturday, he expressed satisfaction that Travis County voters had rejected a bond for a new courthouse, and especially that voters in San Marcos had approved by a large margin a measure to stop fluoridation of their water.

Here is Stone’s presentation, which was followed by a Q-and-A, which is not on the video.

And here, from Media Matters for America, is a dossier on Stone and Morrow and why you should pay them no heed – indeed, turn in revulsion and run.

MMA was founded by David Brock, who also created American Bridge, which seeks to truth-squad Republican candidates, and Correct the Record,  which is more narrowly focused on defending Hillary Clinton from attacks as she runs for president.

Brock, of course, is atoning for his own Stone-like sins.

As Stone and Morrow write in their book:

Ironically, the first journalist to report extensively on the Clintons’ wrongdoings was David Brock of the American Spectator. Brock interviewed Clinton’s Arkansas State Police bodyguards who talked about Clinton’s personal cocaine use, chronic infidelity, sexual assaults, and involvement with drug trafficking. The American Spectator stories had a profound impact. Today, Brock is a Clinton toady sucking compensation from at least three pro-Clinton front organizations. Today, Brock claims his American Spectator stories exposing Bill Clinton were false. He’s lying.

Brock is engaging company, highly intelligent, and, like me, a bit of a dandy. He sported a monocle, cape, and gold-headed walking sick, an affectation known only to the National Review’s Richard Brookhiser in the past three decades. Brock let the rumor spread he was on heroin when heroin was chic. He’s lying.

At Brave New Books, Stone referred to Brock as “that twisted little freak.”

Robert Morrow and Roger Stone at Brave New Books
Robert Morrow and Roger Stone at Brave New Books

Stone finished his presentation with a rhetorical flourish – “Bill and Hillary are the penicillin-resistant syphilis of the American body politic” – and then answered questions.

He was asked how it is possible that all the material in his book is true – and much of it previously out there – and yet the Clintons are still standing, even thriving.

Stone said it’s been a generation since Bill Clinton was first elected president, and much of what they detail in the book is lost to gauzy memory.

“Nothing is old news if people haven’t heard it before,” he said. “To them it’s news.”

“Why hasn’t anyone used this stuff?” Stone was asked.

Stone said “Their opponents are compromised. The two parties are in it together.”

He was asked if any of the leading Republican contenders, “have the, pun not intended, stones to make an issue of this.”

“There is one that does,” Stone said. “Trump as you can already see. He’s fearless. He’ll say anything.”

Marco Rubio?

“Not a chance. He’s in the club, totally in the club.”

“Ted Cruz? Maybe. Maybe.”

Back to Trump:  “Believe me, Donald Trump has the political establishment pissing their pants. He is completely uncontrollable.”

Now, about Morrow, who is after all a local boy.

In introducing Stone, he said of himself, “I tell the truth about everybody. I tell the good and bad. I generally focus on the bad because I’m a muckraker. I rake up the muck.”

From Adios, Mofo: Why Rick Perry Will Make America Miss George W. Bush, by James Moore and Jason Stanford in 2011:

The 47-year-old Morrow is not your standard crackpot. He is a millionaire Princeton graduate who also holds an MBA from the University of Texas. Nonetheless, he has been a guest on the radio show of Alex Jones, a man who sometimes appears to believe day and night are conspiracies cooked up by the sun and earth. Morrow, like Jones, appears to believe President Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary had opponents murdered in Arkansas, George H. W. Bush was a cocaine smuggler, and in general, nobody is up to no good, especially Rick Perry, who Morrow says is sitting on a “slut fueled tank of nitroglycerin” that will destroy his image.

Morrow attracted a lot of national attention when he ran an ad in the Austin Chronicle, which asked in large black letters, “Have you ever had sex with Rick Perry?” He was hoping to make contact with “strippers, escorts, or “young hotties” and help them publicize their encounters with the Texas governor. Morrow’s ad was presented as an effort by an organization he founded and called CASH: The Committee Against Sexual Hypocrisy.”

The governor’s office finally decided it was unable to ignore Morrow and once again his staff reached out to Ken Herman of the Austin American Statesman. Perry chief of staff Ray Sullivan sent the reporter an email that Herman included in his story about Morrow.

Here is Ken’s story.

Here is Morrow ‘s cringe-worthy confrontation with Chelsea Clinton during her recent book-signing at BookPeople in Austin.

And here is Morrow when I asked him Saturday night whether his approach – lacking any of Stone’s suavity – wasn’t counterproductive (and yes, I do cut him off in the video before he dragged Rick Perry back into things, which, at this point, seems especially uncalled for).

I think the Clinton campaign is depending on Stone’s and Morrow’s approach and reputation to inoculate them from suffering the ill-effects of The Clintons’ War on Women.

But Stone intends to raise money to make ads in which some of Clinton’s victims will tell their stories.

There will be women, different kinds of women, who will be saying that Bill Clinton sexually abused them.  Should that happen, those ads may be far harder to dismiss than the book, particularly in the new age of Cosby.

In her introduction to The Clintons’ War on Women, Kathleen Willey concludes:

In this book, you will learn that the Clintons are not the ambassadors of goodwill and progressivism you might think they are. And even though Hillary portrays herself as a champion for the rights of women and girls, she is not fighting for the best interests of women. She is the war on women. The stories of everyone who has been hurt by the Clintons deserve to be told.

I recall that Dateline NBC’s 1999 interview of Juanita Broaddrick, accusing Clinton of raping her in 1978 when he was the attorney general of Arkansas, made a powerful impression.

Somehow  Monica Lewinsky carries a residue of guilt and shame, like this slick L.A. intern somehow took advantage of an unsophisticated president of the United State from Little Rock, Ark.

From Alexandra Schwartz,  Monica Lewinsky and the Shame Game in the March 26 New Yorker:

Clinton’s escape from pointless impeachment ended up seeming like a golden boy’s feat, the stunt of a daredevil pilot who takes his plane into a nose dive only to swerve up just before hitting the ground. Not so for Lewinsky. “Overnight, I went from being a completely private person to being a publicly humiliated one worldwide,” she says.

Bill Clinton’s comeback in public esteem is remarkable

Chris Cillizza in the Washington Post  back in March.

Bill Clinton is almost certainly the most popular person in American politics. A new NBC-Wall Street Journal poll showed that 56 percent of people have a positive view of the former president while just 26 percent hold a negative one. That makes him more popular than George W. Bush (35/39) and President Obama (44/43). It also makes him more popular than his wife; 44 percent of Americans have a positive view of Hillary Clinton while 36 percent have a negative one.

Bill Clinton’s popularity is no idle discussion. With Hillary Clinton moving inexorably toward a presidential run in 2016, how her husband will be used on the campaign trail — particularly after the disastrous results of his forays into the 2008 campaign — is a critically important question for her campaign-in-waiting.

Views on what the best role is for Bill Clinton are divided within Democratic circles.

“The campaigner in chief is always more an asset than anything,” said Jef Pollock, a New York-based Democratic pollster. “He’s good for money, he’s good for strategy, and he’s good for turnout. That’s the holy trinity of good campaigning.”

But, Dave Beattie, a Florida-based Democratic pollster, had a different view on how Bill Clinton should be used. “In a campaign, he should not be used to attack opponents, but to paint the picture of a more equitable economy that reinforces voters’ existing perception of his strength as president,” argued Beattie.

Bill Clinton as attack dog was a formula that just didn’t work when his wife ran for president seven years ago. Time and again, he got himself and his wife into trouble with impolitic remarks.

But, lost amid the overreach of impeachment, was a pretty tawdry story.

I suspect the great liability Clinton brings to his wife’s campaign is that this will all, almost certainly, be revisited in a general election campaign, with Stone’s and Morrow’s book well-thumbed if not necessarily well-regarded, and offering Republicans an opportunity to undermine the feminist pride that ought to be fundamental to her success.

It is a critique of the Clintons that one might expect from the left, though, with rare exceptions, like the late Christopher Hitchens, they closed ranks behind the Clintons against a common enemy.

 

After the first Democratic debate this year, Hillary Clinton said,  “I’ve been told to stop, and I quote, `shouting about gun violence.’ Well first of all, I’m not shouting. It’s just when women talk, some people think we’re shouting.”

 

It’s a well-thought-out line that brings a rise from women in the audience, and that apparently especially rankled Sanders and his campaign.

But it’s a line that bothered me. It struck me as a cheap shot.

Sanders was saying that the plague of gun violence was going to be ameliorated through compromise, not shouting at one another.

But it is also all too facile, playing a card that she can get away with in the Democratic primaries, but that could get her in trouble in a general election debate, where she could be asked why she never raised her voice publicly when her husband was so obviously taking advantage of other women.

Stone also previewed his next book at Brave New Books. Co-authored with Saint John Hunt, son of E. Howard Hunt, and due out just ahead of the Iowa caucuses next year, it is about the Bushes. From the publisher’s promo page:

Jeb and the Bush Crime Family is the book that smashes through the layers of lies and secrecy that has surrounded and protected our country’s very own political dynasty.

New York Times bestselling author and legendary political insider, Roger Stone lashes out with a blistering indictment that exposes the true history and monumental hypocrisy of the Bushes. In his usual “go for the jugular” style, Stone collaborates with Saint John Hunt—author, musician, and son of legendary CIA operative E. Howard Hunt—to make this a “no-holds-barred” history of the Bush family.

The authors reveal Jeb to be a smug, entitled autocrat who both uses and hides behind his famous name as he mingles with international drug peddlers. They show how Jeb:

Received a $4 million taxpayer bailout when his daddy was Vice President
Used his insider status to make millions from Obamacare
Avoided criminal prosecution on a fraudulent Federal loan
Hypocritically supports the War on Drugs, despite his own shocking drug history

After detailing the vast litany of Jeb’s misdeeds, Stone travels back to Samuel, Prescott, George H. W., and George W. Bush to weave an epic story of privilege, greed, corruption, drug profiteering, assassination, and lies. Jeb and the Bush Crime Family will have you asking, “Why aren’t these people in prison?”

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I left Brave New Books Saturday night for the Continental Club to see the Siberian surf rockers, Igor and the Red Elvises, here peforming, “I worked at Taco Bell; She worked at KGB.”

I thought Stone might be intrigued, but he had other equally exciting Saturday night plans – “a burger with a bunch of Birchers.”

Cool.  Sounds like ripe material for the Red Elvises.

 

 

 

On the CNBC debate and Republican efforts to indict a ‘crap sandwich’

Good morning Austin:

So apparently last week’s CNBC Republican debate was, in the words of Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, a “crap sandwich.”

Is that how a family values conservative talks?

What an unappealingly vivid turn of phrase. I hate the c-word. To me, it’s lower class than the word it is, in the ostensible interests of taste, substituting for.

But, I guess Priebus had his reasons to be upset.

Here was the full quote, from his appearance on Hannity on Fox.

“Obviously we had assurances that it was going to be straight-up finance, which is what they do every day, and what was delivered was just nothing but a crap sandwich,” said Priebus.

 

 

Priebus was picking up on the outrage of some of the party’s presidential candidates at the questioning they endured at the CNBC debate.

Most memorably, there was this from Ted Cruz, in answer to a question from CNBC’s Carl Quintanilla.

CRUZ: You know, let me say something at the outset. The questions that have been asked so far in this debate illustrate why the American people don’t trust the media.

[APPLAUSE]

This is not a cage match. And if you look at the questions: Donald Trump, are you a comic book villain? Ben Carson, can you do math? John Kasich, will you insult two people over here? Marco Rubio, why don’t you resign? Jeb Bush, why have your numbers fallen?

How about talking about the substantive issues —

[APPLAUSE]

… and, Carl, I’m not finished yet. The contrast with the Democratic debate, where every fawning question from the media was, `Which of you is more handsome and wise?’ And let me be clear —

CARL: You have 30 seconds left to answer, should you choose to do so.

CRUZ: Let me be clear. The men and women on this stage have more ideas, more experience, more common sense than every participant in the Democratic debate. That debate reflected a debate between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks.

And nobody watching at home believes that any of the moderators have any intention of voting in a Republican primary. The questions that are being asked shouldn’t be trying to get people to tear into each other. It should be what are your substantive —

It was probably the best received answer of the whole debate – with the live debate audience, with pundits rating the debate performances, with Frank Luntz’s focus group  – and apparently also with Cruz donors, who contributed $1,125,978 in the first 22 hours after the debate.

And, what was the ridiculous, insulting, out-of-bounds question that set Cruz off.

QUINTANILLA: Senator Cruz, Congressional Republicans, Democrats, and the White House are about to strike a compromise that would raise the debt limit, prevent a government shutdown, and calm financial markets that fear another Washington-created crisis is on the way.

Does your opposition to it show that you’re not the kind of problem-solver American voters want?

Hmm. Well, that actually seems a pretty good and fair question.

It’s the question that every Democratic colleague in the U.S. Senate, and almost all of Cruz’s Republicans Senate colleagues – including his Texas colleague John Cornyn – have about Cruz.

It’s the question that House Speaker John Boehner – who has called Cruz a “jackass” – has about Cruz.

It is the question that before long, Boehner’s successor, Paul Ryan, will probably have about Cruz.

It’s kind of the fundamental question that Cruz is going to have to answer to get elected president: How is it that he is right and virtually everybody else is wrong, and how is he going to make that work as president?

Actually, it’s a question that Cruz would ordinarily love to get – so that he could tee off on how the leadership of his party and at least some of his presidential rivals are “campaign conservatives,” who talk a good game when they want your vote, but are all about surrendering to the “Washington cartel” once they get elected, while he is the real deal “courageous conservative.”

The only reason he didn’t tee off on it, I think, is that he saw an even riper target in an assault on the media in which he could appear to be defending not just himself, but all the other Republicans on the stage.

But what were the other questions that outraged him?

Donald Trump, are you a comic book villain?

Well, here is the start of the actual exchange between CNBC questioner John Harwood and Trump.

JOHN HARWOOD: Mr. Trump, you’ve done very well on this campaign so far by promising to build a wall and make another country pay for it.

TRUMP: Right.

JOHN: Send 11 million people out of the country, cut taxes $10 trillion without increasing the deficit.

TRUMP: Right.

JOHN: And make Americans better off because your greatness would replace the stupidity and incompetence of others.

TRUMP: That’s right.

JOHN: Let’s be honest. Is this a comic book version of a Presidential campaign?

TRUMP: It’s not a comic book, and it’s not a very nicely asked question, the way you say that.

Well, I agree it’s not very nicely asked – and needlessly so.

But it’s not all that different than what Jeb Bush, Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, Marco Rubio, Carly Fiorina – really just about everyone but Cruz and Carson  – have said about Trump.

OK. Back to Cruz’s litany of unfair questions.

Ben Carson, can you do math?

Well, this was an attempt to pin down Carson, who after all is a political neophyte, on whether his tax and budget numbers add up. That seems fair.

Indeed, the instant that Carson finished answering what Cruz would a few minutes later describe as an unfair “gotcha” question, Cruz jumped in to say:

 If you want a 10 percent flat tax where the numbers add up, I rolled out my tax plan today. You can find it online at tedcruz.org.

Next.

John Kasich, will you insult two people over here?

Here was the pertinent exchange between Harwood and Kasich.

HARWOOD: Well, let’s just get more pointed about it. You said yesterday that you were hearing proposals that were just crazy from your colleagues. Who were you talking about?

KASICH: Yeah. Well, I mean right here, to talk about we’re just going to have a 10 percent pie, and that’s how we’re going to fund the government? And we’re going to just fix everything with waste, fraud, and abuse? Or that we’re just going to be great. Or we’re going to ship 10 million Americans — or 10 million people out of this country, leaving their children here in this country and dividing families?

Folks, we’ve got to wake up. We cannot elect somebody that doesn’t know how to do the job. You’ve got to pick somebody who has experience, somebody that has the know-how, the discipline.

So, Kasich was suggesting that his party was in danger of electing  somebody that doesn’t know how to do the job – it was the central point he wanted to make at the debate, and why shouldn’t he be asked who he was talking about?

Next.

Marco Rubio, why don’t you resign?

Well, a major paper in the senator’s home state had just called on him to resign because he was missing so many Senate votes, and Bush sought to make some hay out of the issue.

And finally,  Jeb Bush, why have your numbers fallen?

Here was what Harwood said to Bush.

Governor, the fact that you’re at the fifth lectern tonight shows how far your stock has fallen in this race, despite the big investment your donors have made. You noted recently after slashing your payroll that you had better things to do than sit around and be demonized by other people.

But that was also pretty much the gist of Rubio’s reply to Bush, when he joined in criticizing him for missing votes – that Bush was panicking because his campaign is lagging.

RUBIO: The only reason why you’re doing it now is because we’re running for the same position, and someone has convinced you that attacking me is going to help you.

As for what Cruz referred to as the “fawning questions,” Democrats were served up a their CNN debate, here was Anderson Cooper’s opening question to Hillary Clinton.

COOPER: Secretary Clinton, I want to start with you. Plenty of politicians evolve on issues, but even some Democrats believe you change your positions based on political expediency. You were against same-sex marriage. Now you’re for it. You defended President Obama’s immigration policies. Now you say they’re too harsh. You supported his trade deal dozen of times. You even called it the “gold standard”. Now, suddenly, last week, you’re against it. Will you say anything to get elected?

And here was his initial offering to Bernie Sanders.

COOPER: Senator Sanders. A Gallup poll says half the country would not put a socialist in the White House. You call yourself a democratic socialist. How can any kind of socialist win a general election in the United States?

And the follow-up:

 The question is really about electability here, and that’s what I’m trying to get at. You — the — the Republican attack ad against you in a general election — it writes itself. You supported the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. You honeymooned in the Soviet Union. And just this weekend, you said you’re not a capitalist. Doesn’t — doesn’t that ad write itself?

Now, truth to tell, I thought CNBC did a pretty bad job with the debate, but not because the questions had a liberal bias.

The Fox panel at the first Republican debate was at least as tough in their quetions, but the Cruz line of attack wouldn’t have worked against Fox.

To me, CNBC  just came across as a second-string cable network.

 

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For example, asking the candidates to each describe a weakness about themselves is a colossal waste of time.

At the undercard debate, Quintanilla asked whether the day after the Super Bowl should be a national holiday.

There is a also a little pot calling the kettle black about Quintanilla critiquing Rubio as a young man in too much of a hurry. Maybe Walter Cronkite could have pulled that off, but not the at-least-as-boyish-as-Rubio Quintanilla.

And the low point came when Trump flatly denied Becky Quick’s assertion that he had criticized Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg on immigration. Quick apologized even though she had him dead to rights.

QUICK:  Where did I read this and come up with this that you’re —

TRUMP: Probably — I don’t know. You people write this stuff. I don’t know where you …

Ay yi yi.

Also, there among the presumably hostile questioners – albeit briefly – was  CNBC’s Rick Santelli, who threw Cruz a softball that allowed him to talk about auditing the Fed and going back to the gold standard.

Who is Rick Santelli?

From Steven Perlberg at Business Insider.”

“A lot of people have been credited with starting the modern-day tea party but make no mistake, it was Rick Santelli,” Glenn Beck told Business Insider in an email. “His off the cuff monologue spoke the words that millions of Americans felt but could not nor dare not speak.”

Five years ago on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, CNBC’s Rick Santelli bellowed what would later become his most famous rant ever.

Which is saying something if you’ve ever watched CNBC, where Santelli has reigned as de facto ranter-in-chief since 1999.

As a result of the complaints about CNBC, Ashley Parker of the New York Times reported:

In a meeting here Sunday evening following the fallout from last week’s CNBC debate — in which the campaigns blamed both the Republican National Committee and the television network for what they said was an unfair debate — representatives of most of the campaigns met to discuss how to exert more influence over the process.

They emerged with a modest list of demands, including opening and closing statements of at least 30 seconds; “parity and integrity” on questions, meaning that all candidates would receive similarly substantive questions; no so-called lightning rounds; and approval of any graphics that are aired during the debate.

The campaign representatives also moved to take the Republican National Committee out of the debate negotiating process, calling for the campaigns to negotiate directly with the TV networks over format, and to receive information about the rules and criteria at least 30 days before each debate.

xxxxxxx

In an attempt at damage control on Friday, the R.N.C. suspended a Feb. 26 debate scheduled to be hosted by NBC News and the NBC-owned, Spanish-language network Telemundo. And on Sunday, shortly before the meeting, the committee shook up its debate staff by assigning Sean Cairncross, its chief operating officer and former chief counsel, to take the lead in negotiating with the networks.

In the meantime, Cruz, on Hannity, had his own recommendation.

 

 

CRUZ: Well, Sean, look, we’ve seen now over and over again where the media, they are the Democrats’ cheerleaders. And in these debates the media tries — every question is an insult, every question is an attack, every question is asking one Republican to attack another Republican. You know, they don’t do that to the Democrats. The Democrats, they give them each a chance to talk about what they believe in.

And I’ve got to say, Sean, one of the most ridiculous things, why is it where we keep having debates where the moderators, no one in the right mind thinks any of the moderators actually will vote in a Republican primary. In my view, Republican primary debates ought to be moderated by people who would vote at a primary. How about a debate moderated by Sean Hannity and Mark Levin and Rush Limbaugh? Now, that would be a debate.  But instead —

HANNITY: I’m in. And I think I can speak for the other two, they’re in as well.

And I do agree with you, because these questions are downright hostile. And I believe this was a horrible night for the news media. And I will say in many cases, in many instances tonight a disgrace to the, quote, “profession of journalism.” This is a serious issue.

CRUZ: And the reason is the moderators and the networks don’t want the American people to vote for any of the 10 men and women on that stage.  They want to beat up whoever the Republican nominee is, and then they want people either to stay home or vote for Hillary.

And then, over the weekend in Iowa, from the New York Times:

Mr. Cruz offered what he called a “radical” proposal: “How about if we say from now on if you have never voted in a Republican primary in your life you don’t get to moderate a Republican primary debate.”

 

Well, the next thing you know, the Democrats will be demanding that their next debate has to be on MSNBC – or, what Cruz would call the Bolsheviks to CNBC’s Mensheviks – presided over by Comrade Maddow.

Oh, oops.

Rachel Maddow to moderate Democratic candidates forum

Rachel Maddow announces that she has been selected to moderate the First in the South Candidates Forum with Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Martin O’Malley, to be held in South Carolina on November 6th, co-sponsored by the Democratic Parties of 13 southern states.

 

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In any case, after the CNBC debate I asked some professors of political science and communication who I regularly talk to, and asked them for their take on the CNBC debate and particularly my concern that they tend to reward the most sweeping and confident answer with little regard to whether the answer bears any relation to the truth.

Here is some of what they told me.

Kirby Goidel, a professor and fellow in the Public Policy Research Institute and the Department of Communication at Texas A & M.

I don’t think there is any question that they are almost always won on style rather than substance. Debates are won with sound bites, a single great line, or they are lost because of a gaffe. Appearing uninformed is a major problem. Confidently stating misinformation typically is not – unless the candidate has the decency to back away from the statement. If they double down, blame the media and their enemies, they can typically survive being misinformed. 
This is why I am not convinced fact checkers make much of a difference as facts appear to matter less than “truthiness.”
I am surprised at how bad the moderators were, especially when asking factual questions. As soon as a candidate said, “no, that’s not right,” they backed down. The best example was Carson on Mannatech. That may come back to haunt him but if you are asking a question like that shouldn’t you be certain of the facts first? More generally, I think the television need for drama and conflict keeps them from asking good, issue-based questions. It also allows them to be an easy scapegoat when candidates don’t want to answer. 

Cal Jillson, professor of political science at Southern Methodist University.

Primary debates, where all of the candidates from the same party and share many policy positions, tend to be more free form, won by the great one-liner, than by even a general description of a well thought out policy point. General election debates, where the nominees of the two parties have real policy differences, tend to focus more on those policy differences. 

I do think that the proliferation of debates and their movement to the cable channels have cheapened the debates. In distant memory, when Walter Cronkite or John Chancellor, nationally known and respected journalists, asked candidates a question they damn sure had to answer them. In the recent CNBC debate, John Harwood was the only journalist with anything like a national reputation, and when Jim Cramer and Rick Santelli came on you might as well have cued the calliope music.

There are also different kinds of candidates. Jeb Bush has trouble winging it and John Kasich is increasingly aggravated by the lack of serious policy discussion. Trump, Carson, and Fiorina just don’t have the policy depth to be serious, and Cruz is focused on a constituency so alienated that all the want to hear is attack. Rubio is an excellent, very quick-witted, very articulate, debater and a bit more grounded than Cruz, so that is why people talk about him as a candidate able to bridge the divide between the establishment and populist wings of the Republican Party.

Brandon Rottinghaus, University of Houston political scientist.

*  It’s usually performance over substance in these early debates.  A memorable line, even if half true or untrue, hits the mark better than a notable policy point.  This is especially true in a crowded field where there isn’t enough time or interest to correct the record on every infraction, major or minor. 

*  At this point in the race, debates are used to preview new stump lines and play to base constituencies.  Arguments made in debates don’t have to be true to achieve the campaigns’ objectives. 

*  Any missteps or misstatements made by the candidates are cleaned up in the spin room afterwards.  This gives candidates a safety net to be more outrageous as an attempt to stand out from the crowd.  This also provides no sanction to being wrong in the debate since the record can afterwards be clarified. 

*  Once the nominees are set and the parties settle into their issue profiles, the debates will be come more substantive and less theatrical.  The irony is that at that point they will be less impactful and probably less watched than the carnival the early debates have become. 

* I found the backlash against CNBC interesting.  Part of these debates are about showing off intangible personality traits – humor, passion, pride. The CNBC debates were light on substance and modest on order but produced some memorable moments.  What the audience lost on policy substance, they gained in seeing a more nuanced side of the candidates. 

*  I debated in college too – not nearly as good as Cruz though. I did a different style.  Parliamentary debate, what Cruz did at Princeton, is highlighted by spontaneity, humor and inability to quote evidence.  Clearly good training for the thrust and parry of presidential debates. 

(note: From the American Parliamentary Debate Association’s Guide to Parliamentary Debate, “Parliamentary debate does not allow evidence.”)

Josh Scacco. Purdue University professor of media theory and politics in the Brian Lamb School of Communication.

One of the big issues is that the format, including 60-second responses and 30-second rebuttals, does not allow for a full interrogation of policy issues. It allows for a rehearsal of talking points. By the time a moderator can respond to the generalness of a talking point, the message or misinformation has been delivered.

The network moderators and fact checkers then are left with clean-up, but by that point the damage has been done. The CNBC moderators did themselves no favors by lacking the information to back up their questions or simply apologizing for a particular line of inquiry.

Although much criticism has been leveled at the questions themselves, provocative questions are the hallmark of debates. It was the 1988 debate where respected journalist Bernard Shaw asked death penalty opponent Michael Dukakis how he would respond to the rape and murder of his wife. Other questions seem small in comparison to this moment.

The second big issue, and you have begun to see this increasingly more as the information environment has fragmented, is that political candidates campaign in self-selected information echo chambers. They hear supportive citizen, strategist, and media messages that rarely contradict established thinking.

When a debate moderator brings up a contrary point or criticism, as is the job of a debate moderator, the first inclination for the candidates is to argue about the veracity of the source as opposed to the premise of the question. Therefore, the actual debate never gets to the finer points of a candidate’s economic plan, but only to whether a source is biased or not.

Luckily for the candidates, their most partisan supporters also live in political information bubbles and are less likely to hear contrary information compared to less partisan and interested individuals. In many ways, the rewards for misinformation outweigh the costs for candidates running in primaries. News media may cover candidate misinformation, but their most ardent supporters probably are selectively tuning out the information or watching something else altogether.

I cannot definitively say that style is rewarded over substance in modern elections.

Voters assess, often without realizing it, the character of individuals using small bits of information that become representative of larger traits. Debates are excellent moments for character assessments, including calmness in the face of adversity, ability to think quickly, and the formation of complex policies into simple, understandable statements. Former Governor Perry’s debate “oops” was not frowned upon because he forgot something, which we all tend to do, but more so because it reflected larger questions about his intelligence and general engagement with important policy details.

For all of their warts, debates have benefits for voters. They engage them around the election and are often the highest encountered campaign-related events. Debates also help voters learn about candidate positions, and particularly lesser known candidates.

David Redlawsk. Rutgers University professor of political science, who is a fellow this semester at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa He did a debate watch Wednesday with Drake students.

What was interesting about the students watching the third debate – and very different from the group of non-student Iowans I saw watch the second debate – was that they were very interested initially, but began to lose interest as things got contentious. They were there to actually learn about the candidates, but the meta-debate between the candidates and the moderators didn’t seem useful to them. The group I watched with for the second debate was engaged and followed it pretty intently all the way through.

As for the issues of truth and media bashing … because media and pundits tend to give an immediate win-loss assessment, the truth probably doesn’t matter all that much these days. Candidates may later be forced to confront misstatements they made, but by then it probably doesn’t matter as much as the immediate reaction that they are looking for does.

Still, I don’t think candidates can get away with anything and everything. While immediate pundit/media commentary seems to determine win/lose based more on style and zingers than substance, it’s not completely so. After the second debate, for example, I seem to recall a lot of commentary about how vacuous Ben Carson’s responses were.

Still, in the end,  I am more optimistic than pessimistic about voters. While they certainly can be influenced by things you and I would consider trivial to the job of president, they also do for the most part pay some attention to issues and at least in my research with Rick Lau, seem to get it right more than they get it wrong. That is, they settle on the candidate who best represents their interests based on what they (the voters) care about. This is not to say voters cannot be misled, or cannot be influenced to care about things that you and I would objectively say are less important. But if the Republican Party nominated Trump or Carson it really will be because one of them better connects to what those voters care about at this time.

I should also add that I am a fan of negative campaigning as one way in which candidate lies can be challenged. We know voters are not all that trusting of the press, which limits the press’s ability to correct the record. But opponents can (and do) correct the record as well, and that can be effective, as Kyle Mattes and I discuss in our book The Positive Case for Negative Campaigning.