Without Trump, the thrill is gone

Good morning Austin:

I gotta tell you.  Last night’s debate really left me conflicted.

I thought Megyn Kelly was great.



Alfred Hitchcock would have loved Megyn Kelly

And I really missed Trump.

Why can’t we all get along?

Call me shallow, but without Trump, the debate was sort of dull. Kind of a dud.

I doubt the debate fundamentally altered the race.

Maybe Trump, by his absence, was merely eating up the clock in a contest in which the polls find himself a little ahead of Ted Cruz. Cruz has the compensating – or perhaps more-than-compensating – advantage of a superior ground game.

I doubt Cruz lost any of his faithful last night. But I think his performance was off and not very appealing. He missed an opportunity to present himself as the commanding alternative to Trump as front runner.

He didn’t advance his agenda of leaving the audience convinced that this was down to a two-person race between him and the absent Trump.

Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio talk after a Republican presidential primary debate, Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio shake hands after the Republican presidential primary debate on Thursday in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

From Rich Lowry at National Review, which devoted its last issue to denouncing Trump.

If Jeb got running room with Trump not on the stage, Cruz was denied oxygen. It certainly feels like he’s running behind here (although his internals evidently still have him ahead) and he was loaded for bear for Trump.
Plus, Cruz perhaps does best in close combat, and there is great opportunity in being able to stand up to and best the Alpha Dog. Without Trump, Cruz was a little at sea. In his tussle with Chris Wallace over the rules, he let too much of his prickly argumentative side show.
His riff about how all the other candidates had been invited to attack him was ill-conceived. Cruz was trying to repeat his triumphant catalog of loaded questions from the CNBC debate, but it is one thing to do that in defense of the other candidates; it is another to do it trying to make yourself out as a victim.

He followed it up with an attempted joke at Trump’s expense about leaving if the questions were too too tough that fell flat. The rest of Cruz’s night was good (and particularly admirable on ethanol), but in Trump’s absence a test for Cruz was if he could establish a frontrunner-worthy sense of dominance, and he didn’t.

From Jonathan V. Last at the Weekly Standard. Cruz Flails at Trumpless Debate:

With Donald Trump skipping the debate to consort with Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum (because he cares so very much about veterans), Ted Cruz had a golden opportunity to make a strong closing pitch to Iowa voters. He missed it.

Cruz started out strong, with a clever line about Trump’s patois. But after that he failed to hammer home the difference between himself and Trump. Instead, he was dragged into debates about foreign policy and budget bills and immigration poison pills. Maybe Iowa voters will absorb the contrast—that Cruz has a grasp of policy and Trump doesn’t implicitly. But maybe not.

As a tactical matter, it wasn’t a bad performance from Cruz. He held his own against the other six candidates on stage. His ethanol answer—which at this point has been honed to a razor edge—was exceptionally good. And he probably helped himself more than a little in his long exchange with Rubio on immigration. But as a strategic matter, what Cruz wanted to do was to present himself as a commanding, steady figure. Instead, he got steamrolled by Chris Wallace in the first half and then found himself arguing with Rand Paul—currently at 3.9 percent in the RealClear Iowa average—over who was the more genuine libertarian. That’s not the fight Cruz needs to be having four days before the caucus.

In several spots Cruz reminded people that he is a lawyer, to a fault.

He didn’t come off well when he tried to grab some time from moderator Chris Wallace.

CRUZ: Chris? Chris I was mentioned in that question.

BUSH: No, you weren’t. Your name wasn’t mentioned, Ted.

CRUZ: … Actually, I was…

BUSH: … Chris, keep it coming…

WALLACE: … I don’t think that your name was mentioned…

CRUZ: … Chris, your questions that you…

WALLACE: … Sir, I think — I think the question was…

CRUZ: … What was your question…

WALLACE: … It’s not my question that you get a chance to respond to, it’s his answer.


WALLACE: You don’t get 30 seconds to respond to me…

CRUZ: … Your question was you have disagreed…


WALLACE: … You don’t get 30 seconds to respond to me…

CRUZ: … (inaudible) opening statement.

WALLACE: … If I could go on. Sir, I know you like to argue about the rules, but we’re going to conduct a debate…

BUSH: … Thank you Chris…

WALLACE: … Governor Bush…

CRUZ: … This entire question was an attack, but that’s (inaudible)

And, as Lowry notes, his attempt to reprise his successful riff about how the moderators were attempting to unnecessarily pit the candidates against one another seemed merely self-serving and defensive when, in fact, those other candidates – especially Marco Rubio and Rand Paul – didn’t need any prompting to go after Cruz.

CRUZ: Chris, I would note that that the last four questions have been, “Rand, please attack Ted. Marco, please attack Ted. Chris, please attack Ted. Jeb, please attack Ted…”

CRUZ: Let me just say this…

WALLACE: … It is a debate, sir.

CRUZ: … Well, no, no. A debate actually is a policy issue, but I will say this. Gosh, if you guys ask one more mean question I may have to leave the stage.


A debate actually is a policy issue?

Huh? I think this was Ted Cruz, champion college debater, making an inside debate point, but I didn’t get it.

And, while the Cruz folks believe that every time the conversation turns to immigration, they win, the exchanges with Rubio and Paul on immigration were revealing in a way that did not redound to Cruz’s benefit.

From Patrick Healy and Jonathan Martin in the New York Times:

DES MOINES — The Republican presidential candidates competed vigorously to fill the vacuum created by Donald J. Trump’s boycott of Thursday night’s debate, with Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida trading ferocious attacks on immigration and taking fire from rivals seeking advantage in the Iowa caucuses on Monday.

Mr. Cruz and Mr. Rubio, who are behind Mr. Trump in the Iowa polls and hoping for surprise finishes here, were repeatedly confronted with pointed questions about their views and Senate votes on providing citizenship or legal status to immigrants who are in the country illegally. But it was Mr. Cruz who was hit hardest on the issue, as Mr. Rubio teamed up with Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky to portray him as an opportunist.

“Everybody’s for amnesty except for Ted Cruz,” Mr. Paul said, turning Mr. Cruz’s favorite shibboleth against him as he denounced the “falseness” that he said Mr. Cruz perpetrated. “That’s an authenticity problem.”

Mr. Rubio was even harsher as he tries to upset Mr. Cruz here and finish in second place, which could strengthen his position against Mr. Trump in the Feb. 9 New Hampshire primary.

“This is the lie that Ted’s campaign is built on,” Mr. Rubio said, seizing on a brutal compilation of video clips that the Fox News debate moderators had shown, highlighting Mr. Cruz’s apparent shifts on immigration.

Mr. Cruz struck back by getting nearly as personal with Mr. Rubio. “I like Marco,” he said, unconvincingly. “He’s very charming. He’s very smooth.” However, Mr. Cruz added, when Mr. Rubio came to the Senate, he backed off his hard-line stance on immigration and supported an overhaul favored by the Republican Party’s “major donors because he thought it was politically advantageous.”

Here’s more from Rubio”s back-and-forth with Cruz:

RUBIO: … no, I understand, but let me respond. I was mentioned on this — in this answer, and so I’m going to respond this way.

This is the lie that Ted’s campaign is built on, and Rand touched upon it — that he’s the most conservative guy, and everyone else is a — you know, everyone else is a RINO.

The truth is, Ted, throughout this campaign, you’ve been willing to say or do anything in order to get votes. Ted, you worked for George W. Bush’s campaign…


You — you — you helped design George W. Bush’s — you helped design George W. Bush’s immigration policy. And then, when you got to the Senate, you did an interview with CBS News — I (ph) wasn’t even part of the video — where you said, on the issue of people that are here illegally, “we can reach a compromise.”

And then in the committee, you said, “I want to bring people out of the shadows.”


Now you want to trump Trump on immigration. But you can’t — we’re not gonna beat Hillary Clinton with someone who’s willing to say or do anything to win an election.

KELLY: Go ahead, Senator Cruz.


CRUZ: You know, I like Marco. He’s very charming. He’s very smooth. But the facts are simple. When he ran for election in the state of Florida, he told the people of Florida, “if you elect me, I will lead the fight against amnesty.”

When I ran in Texas, I told the people of Texas, “if you elect me, I will lead the fight against amnesty.” We both made the identical promises. But when we came to Washington, we made a different choice.

Marco made the choice to go the direction of the major donors — to support amnesty because he thought it was politically advantageous.

With the movement base, Cruz wins on immigration vis-à-vis Rubio. A few key words – amnesty, Gang of Eight, Chuck Schumer – are all that’s required. But he cannot compete with the blunderbuss simplicity of Trump’s build a wall, make Mexico pay for it, ban Muslim immigrants.

But Cruz’s case that he led the opposition to amnesty is too cute by half.

From Josh Feldman at Mediaite

Kelly turned to Cruz to confront him about a bill he pushed years ago that appeared to support legalization. She ran clips of Cruz making statements that seem to contradict his current claims that it was a “poison pill” to kill immigration reform.

Cruz continued to insist he introduced amendments to “fix problems with the bill” and said he did NOT support the rest of the bill.

But it was all too lawerly.

As Megyn Kelly told Cruz on her post-debate show, for a guy running against the Washington cartel, his play-acting at the time that he was sincerely trying to improve the immigration legislation he now condemns, when in fact he was actually trying to kill it, sounds a bit too “cartelly.”

Rubio, Paul and, subsequently Cruz, were all elected  to the Senate as tea party heroes. It’s one thing for Cruz to attack a creature of Washington like Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who Cruz called a liar on the Senate floor.

But he is running for president as the only one who kept faith with the movement, and the combination of Rubio and Paul both expressing their irritation with Cruz’s preening purity rang true.

From University of Houston political scientist Brandon Rottinghaus:

Overall it was pretty subdued affair, proving that Donald Trump is right:  it’s boring without him.  The biggest targets ended up ISIS and Hillary Clinton, rather than Donald Trump as expected.   

It was Ted Cruz’s moment to shine but he came off as too lawyerly and strident.  Substance-wise, Ted Cruz was on point.  Cruz got tough on national security issues, talked about military readiness.  Some of the immigration tet-a-tet winged him.  Style-wise he came off as unlikable and strident.  This might be a rare case where a candidate’s likability factor hurts their vote share.  Rand Paul, fan club filling the hall, most likely to strike against Cruz on security but Cruz didn’t take the bait.  

Marco Rubio won, slightly by default.  He did a good job channeling the JFK-Reagan nexus, but not as well as debates past.  Rubio charged up the ISIS rhetoric, prodded the strengths of the US military, countered only by Paul on respecting civil rights. 

Christie come in at a close second, again railing against the Washington double speak and playing up executive experience in the wake of 9/11. 

The moderate lane got a little more crowded as several candidates merged in.  John Kasich pleaded for support from across the aisle.  Christie much the same.  Bush talked up building consensus.  All looking past Iowa to New Hampshire where prospects are better.

The audacity of hoping that Ted Cruz can be sold as ‘a man of humility’

Good evening Austin:

Standing at the back of the overflow crowd at Ted Cruz’s gala pro-life rally in West Des Moines last night, I was reminded of the timeless wisdom of Rodney Dangerfield: Want to look thinner? Stand next to fat people.

What brought this to mind was the obvious effort last night, by Cruz and by the Who’s Who of those who preceded him, most especially Texas Gov. Rick Perry, to present Cruz as the preferred choice for president because of his humility.


Cruz is routinely described as the smartest guy in the room. But the humblest guy in the room?

How humble can you be when you’re constantly being told that you’re the smartest guy in the room?

And, if you read a lot about Ted Cruz, one of the themes that emerge in a lot of the coverage is that humility is among the least of his virtues. In fact, it is more often characterized as a fatal flaw. To celebrate Cruz’s humility is kind of like an ancient Greek going, “You know what I like about that Achilles? His heel. The guy has the most awesome heel.”

But this effort to raise Cruz’s humility quotient makes a certain amount of sense.

One rule of politics is to go after your opponents’ greatest strength. In 2004, John Kerry relied on his record as a hero of the war he opposed, and Swift Boat Veterans for Truth set about, (in the lingo of Lee Atwater, on using Willie Horton against Michael Dukakis in 1988) “stripping the bark off” Kerry’s hero story and turning Kerry’s strength into a liability.

What is going on here is the inverse. If Cruz’s perceived lack of humility is seen as a weakness, go right at, and make the case that, lo and behold, Cruz is actually a most humble man.

Now, this is obviously all in the context of making the case for Cruz against Donald Trump, which, of course, is a gift. Compared to Trump, Cruz is a self-evident portrait in humility. Anybody would be. Compared to Trump, Kanye West is all sackcloth and ashes.

Woven into the depiction of Cruz’s humility, is his religious faith. He is obedient to Jesus, a man who humbles himself before the Lord. Trump, meanwhile, has said he can’t recall ever asking God’s forgiveness.

With that, some excerpts from last night’s rally.

The Temptation of Louie Gohmert

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First up was U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert from Tyler, Texas.

I’ve known Ted Cruz for a number of years now and everybody talks about how brilliant he is. Yes, he’s incredible as a debater, as an attorney arguing before the Supreme Court, an attorney arguing before his wife.

He is absolutely incredible and I know that I have had temptations, like a lot people, to want to support the second person in the history of humanity not to need to ask God for forgiveness. I know that’s a struggle but I have settled on an endorsement that is not moving. It’s for the guy who knows who he is. He knows who God is. And he knows that Creator that our Founders wrote about. He knows that our rights don’t come from government, they come from God, and our job is to protect them, every one of those rights.

As Gohmert finished, Rick Perry came out on stage.

“Oh my Aggie buddy, Rick Perry,” said Gohmert, who was a freshman when Perry was a senior at Texas A&M.

Rick Perry: Seeking Forgiveness Before Breakfast

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Perry explains that Cruz was solicitor general for Texas when he was governor.

He is powerfully incredibly sharp intellect.

But he’s also man that I’ve really gotten to know over the last four moths. Frankly, just because he was my lawyer, didn’t mean that I knew that much about him.

(After Perry dropped out of the presidential race) he called me multiple times and said, `Governor, i want to sit down with you and, 80 miles out of Austin, Texas (at the governor’s home in Round Top) he took a day off from his presidential and I can’t tell you how precious that it is. Outside of his family and his faith, his time is the most precious thing that he has, and he gave a day to me so that I could talk to him, not to talk about politics, not about the election not about philosophy. I wanted to know who Ted Cruz, the man was.

And I wanted to come back to Iowa to tell you I know this man, I’ve had the opportunity to sit down and talk to him and here’s what I found.

One of he great gifts that he has, this man may be the best listener of anyone that I have been involved with in public office. That is a gift

And the other thing that I found out in that conversation and phone calls subsequently, Ted Cruz knows what he does not know. You know how important that is in the in the Oval Office in he most powerful job in the world to know what you do not know, to realized you’ve got to have people around you, you’ve got to have people around you that are experts that you trust, that you empower to go deal with those agencies of government, to go deal with those foreign countries, to deal with military and foreign affairs. There are some people who don’t know what they don’t know. Know what I mean? That scares me.

I don’t want someone in the Oval Office who thinks they know everything, because that person hasn’t been born yet. That person is not alive and never will be. I want somebody who puts a team together.

I’m gonna wrap up with three things that are incredibly important from my perspective about the characteristics of a leader. In my 35-plus years of public service, as a pilot in the United States Air Force, and working int Texas state government, I’ve had the opportunity to observe a lot of people and a real leader, a real leader, a great leader is a person of humility, a person who understands they work of you, not the other way around. All too often people go to Washington, D.C. or they want to be the governor of a state so they can wield that power, they can have the trappings of that office. Ted Cruz will understand that

he works for you, that he’s your hired hand. He’s going to do your will. He’s going to tell you what he’s going to do and then he’s going to go do it.


I want a president of the United States in the Oval Office who is grateful, grateful to God almighty, and knows that they are there in that place by the grace of god and those of you who know Ted Cruz’s story – his father, an alcoholic, left his family, but by the grace of God came back convicted, understands the concept of grace, probably gets up every morning and asks God for forgiveness at least a couple of times even before breakfast, is my bet. Some people don’t have to do that, most of us do.

But, by the grace of God, this man knows that he could be in a lot of different places had Jesus Christ not convicted his father.


I want a man of humility, I want an individual of courage and I want someone who is grateful to God for where they find themselves in life . that is the characteristics of a great leader

Bob Vander Plaats: Exodus, Donald Trump, John Lennon and Jesus

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Vander Plaats is the president and CEO of the Family Leader, the influential Christian conservative organization in Iowa.

This race has come down to two individuals – Donald Trump and Ted Cruz,, and we need to choose well. So if you want to vote for anybody else I would say that vote goes to Donald Trump if you don’t vote for Ted Cruz.

Vander Plaats recalled meeting in Israel with a top aide to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who, when he learned Vader Plaats was from Iowa, told him to “choose well.” Vander Plaats said, that Exodus 18:21 offers people of faith guidance on how to “choose well” in looking for a leader.

You are to look for capable men among the people, men who fear God, men of integrity who hate dishonest gain.

Vander Plaats said:

When I read Exodus 18:21 and I apply to the two different candidates, I’m going to  be very transparent here with you, with Donald Trump this is what we’re going to get. In July of 2015, on the stage of the Family Leader, he said he has never asked God for forgiveness. He has also said he liked veterans who weren’t captured, disparaging every prison of war that there is.

Many of you know my story. Darla and I have four boys. She argues she has five but we have four. Our third son, Lucas, is very uniquely gifted. He was severely disabled by birth. So it really rocked my world when I saw a candidate for the president of the United States openly mocking and insulting people with disability. This country must have a higher standards than that .

But then, just last weekend at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa, he said he could go out into New York City and shoot somebody and he would not lose any support and, right away, I thought of John Lennon and the Beatles saying we’re more popular than Jesus.

That’s a pride and an arrogance and temperament that’s a role of the dice to be president of the United States.

Ted Cruz: We Cannot Have Another Narcissist Replace `The Chosen One’


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On Trump skipping tonight’s debate:

It is an amazing statement for a presidential candidate to say I am not willing to show up for a debate

This entire process is a job interview. We’ve spent seven years with a narcissistic, self-involved president in Washington who thinks the American people work for him, who behaves like an emperor who decrees something, it must be so. It has been all about Obama, the Chosen One, for seven years.

What does it say if a presidential candidate is not wiling to stand in front of the men and omen of Iowa. What does it say if Donald says, `My time is more important than your time.’

You know, Monday we will complete the Full Grassley, having gone to all 99 counties of Iowa, standing in front of the men and women of Iowa, looking you in the eye and answering the hard questions, that any candidate who hopes to win the state of Iowa owes the men and women of this state.


And I believe for any candidate to have a chance of winning Iowa, you have to have the humility to stand in front of the people of this state, and I believe for any president to have the right temperament to be an effective president, not an imperial dictator like we’ve seen for the last seven years, you have to demonstrate the humility to understand you work for the American people and not the other way around.


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So who says Ted Cruz lacks humility?

Frank Bruni of the New York Times caught one of the first stops Tuesday on the Cruz-Perry humility tour, at a bull barn in Osceola.

His column was headlined, The Twinned Egos of Cruz and Trump

OSCEOLA, Iowa — For a few minutes I wondered if I’d wandered into the wrong barn.

Rick Perry, the former Texas governor, was introducing the candidate I’d come to see, but with descriptions that bore no relation to the candidate I’d come to know.

He called this man “one of the great listeners that I’ve ever been around in my entire life.” He praised him as “a person who is full of humility.”

Then it hit me: Perry was playing defense and asserting the precise virtues that the candidate famously lacks.

Because when most people think of Ted Cruz, they don’t think: listener.

And when Cruz took the microphone and made his remarks, I hardly thought: humble.


Every successful politician is a self-promoter. Every campaign is a sequence of boasts. In an ideal political environment, the narcissism is tempered and the worst narcissists foiled.

But the current ecosystem is toxic, and Trump and Cruz flourish. Neither demonstrates an especially robust appetite for listening, though listening is important. Both are full of a great many things. Humility isn’t among them.

A couple of weeks ago it was David Brooks, in the New York Times, on The Brutalism of Ted Cruz.

Ted Cruz is now running strongly among evangelical voters, especially in Iowa. But in his career and public presentation Cruz is a stranger to most of what would generally be considered the Christian virtues: humility, mercy, compassion and grace.


Traditionally, candidates who have attracted strong evangelical support have in part emphasized the need to lend a helping hand to the economically stressed and the least fortunate among us. Such candidates include George W. Bush, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum.

But Cruz’s speeches are marked by what you might call pagan brutalism. There is not a hint of compassion, gentleness and mercy. Instead, his speeches are marked by a long list of enemies, and vows to crush, shred, destroy, bomb them. When he is speaking in a church the contrast between the setting and the emotional tone he sets is jarring.


The best conservatism balances support for free markets with a Judeo-Christian spirit of charity, compassion and solidarity. Cruz replaces this spirit with Spartan belligerence. He sows bitterness, influences his followers to lose all sense of proportion and teaches them to answer hate with hate. This Trump-Cruz conservatism looks more like tribal, blood and soil European conservatism than the pluralistic American kind.

Evangelicals and other conservatives have had their best influence on American politics when they have proceeded in a spirit of personalism — when they have answered hostility with service and emphasized the infinite dignity of each person. They have won elections as happy and hopeful warriors. Ted Cruz’s brutal, fear-driven, apocalypse-based approach is the antithesis of that.

OK. Bruni and Brooks. The New York Times. Haters.

What else?

A couple tidbits from his Ivy League and George W. Bush campaign days from a 2013 Jason Zengerle profile of Cruz in GQ.

As a law student at Harvard, he refused to study with anyone who hadn’t been an undergrad at Harvard, Princeton, or Yale. Says Damon Watson, one of Cruz’s law-school roommates: “He said he didn’t want anybody from ’minor Ivies’ like Penn or Brown.”


Cruz’s personal style earned him many detractors in BushWorld. He was infamous for firing off mundane work e-mails in the middle of the night—it happened so often that some in the Bush campaign suspected him of writing them ahead of time and programming his computer to send while he was asleep. He was also known for dispatching regular updates on his accomplishments that one recipient likened to “the cards people send about their families at Christmas, except Ted’s were only about him and were more frequent.”

From Shane Goldmacher and Daniel Lippman at Politico.

Almost from his arrival at Bush’s headquarters, colleagues say Cruz flashed many of the same assets and liabilities still on his political balance sheet: acumen and ambition, combative and conservative instincts, elbows as sharp as his smarts, a knack for self-promotion and rubbing colleagues the wrong way.


But Cruz acknowledges he made mistakes. “Listen, I am neither the first nor the last person to learn lessons when you’re young,” he said. “And maturity and humility are two of the most important lessons that most young people need to learn, and I certainly needed to learn.

Sure. People grow and mature. Cruz may have a late-blooming humility.

But that is not suggested by the portrait of how Cruz navigated the immigration issue – in which he now portrays himself as the hero of the anti-amnesty forces – written by  Slate’s William Saletan in The Real Ted Cruz.

It’s subhed: I studied nearly every word the Texas senator uttered during the immigration showdown. He may be the most spectacular liar ever to run for president.

Ted Cruz is the only true conservative running for president. That’s the message of his campaign: He’s the only senator who stood and fought against amnesty, Obamacare, and Planned Parenthood. His finest hour was the defeat of immigration reform three years ago. Democrats wanted to give illegal immigrants a path to citizenship. Cruz said no. He took on the establishment and won.

It’s a good story, and the immigration fight tells us a lot about Cruz. But the fight didn’t happen the way he says it did. Cruz didn’t marshal the opposition or even take a firm stand. He’s a lawyer, not a leader. He chose his words exquisitely so that down the road—say, in a future campaign for president—he could position himself on either side of the immigration debate. And he delivered, with angelic piety, speeches that he now claims were lies.

Cruz told his version of the story last month at a campaign debate in Las Vegas. The “battle over amnesty,” he said, was “a time for choosing.” In that battle, Cruz stood with Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama to secure the border. Sen. Marco Rubio, Cruz’s Republican presidential rival, stood on the other side, colluding with Democrats to push “a massive amnesty plan.” “I have never supported legalization,” Cruz told the debate audience. In fact, he asserted, “I led the fight against [Rubio’s] legalization and amnesty.”

I’ve studied nearly every word Cruz uttered during the immigration showdown. I’ve put it together in a timeline that runs from January 2013, when Cruz was sworn in, to the end of June 2013, when the Senate passed the bill. The timeline, which you can read here, shreds Cruz’s mythical account. But it also paints an unsparing portrait of how Cruz—who has now clawed his way to the front of the Republican presidential pack—thinks and operates.

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You get the idea.

A lot of people don’t see a lot of  humility in Ted Cruz.

I think for many of his supporters, that humility is embedded in his religious faith. He is humble before god.

But, to detractors, that kind of humility can come across as sanctimony.

As Cruz told a New Year’s Eve conference call to supporters, “I want to tell everyone to get ready, strap on the full armor of God, get ready for the attacks that are coming,. Come the month of January we ain’t seen nothing yet.”


Cruz in for a bruisin’; Ted tries to taunt Trump into mano a mano fight

Good day Austin:

Thursday’s seventh Republican presidential debate Thursday night in Des Moines was going to be huge.

The setup could hardly be better.

The caucuses – the first actual voting of the 2016 presidential campaign – are Monday.

Donald Trump is the front-runner by a wide margin nationally and probably a small margin in Iowa, where, because they are caucuses, turnout is especially low and hard to predict.

About the only thing that stands between Trump and the Republican nomination and perhaps the presidency and, I guess, world domination, is Ted Cruz and his amazing, Princeton-debate-sharpened, and Texas-solicitor-general-arguing-before-the-Supreme-Court-Bar-honed brain.


One could imagine Thursday night all the previous American presidents up in presidential heaven leaning over their clouds and cheering, Go Ted Go, lest their hallowed office be retroactively devalued by an absurdist Trump reign.

High drama.

And Trump did his part, starting the day Tuesday with some superior smack talk on Morning Joe to hype the fight.

Great stuff.

I think Ted’s a nasty guy. People don’t like him at all.

And Ted Cruz lies. He’s a liar. That’s why nobody likes him.

And much, much more.

But then, hours later, Trump announces he’s out – bye-bye – he won’t participate in the debate, that he’ll hold his own event, opposite it, and raise money for Wounded Warriors.

Trump wasn’t happy because Fox wouldn’t budge on his insistence that they drop Megyn Kelly as one of the debate moderators, because he doesn’t feel she treated him fairly at the first Fox debate and since then.

But, as the New York Times reported:

(W)hat seemed to really draw the ire of Mr. Trump was two statements put out by the network Tuesday morning. In one, Roger Ailes, the chairman and chief executive of Fox News, personally weighed in, saying in a statement that “Megyn Kelly is an excellent journalist and the entire network stands behind her — she will absolutely be on the debate stage on Thursday night.”

A statement from the network was even harsher, invoking President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and Iran’s supreme leader: “We learned from a secret back channel that the Ayatollah and Putin both intend to treat Donald Trump unfairly when they meet with him if he becomes president — a nefarious source tells us that Trump has his own secret plan to replace the Cabinet with his Twitter followers to see if he should even go to those meetings.”

Mr. Trump alluded to those two statements in a news conference on Tuesday before an event here, calling them “wise guy” and adding, “I said bye-bye.” He did not mention his decision not to attend the debate at his two rallies in Iowa.

My first reaction was letdown.

I was looking forward to the Trump-Cruz showdown as an observer and as a reporter.

It was gonna be great.

And, my initial impulse was that Trump wasn’t seeing the forest for the trees.

All the momentum seemed to be with him. Here he was on the precipice of what could be a decisive victory. And he was getting distracted by this argument over Megyn Kelly, who got the better of Trump in their last confrontation in every venue except the one that  mattered – Trump’s public.

That’s pretty much the way it’s gone since Trump announced June 16. Everything he has done or said was supposed to kill him, and every single time, almost without exception, it made him stronger.

The day after Donald Trump announced his candidacy, First Reading began as follows:

First there was Andy Kaufman, wrestling women.

Then there was Joaquin Phoenix, pretending to abandon acting for hip hop.

Now comes Donald Trump, announcing yesterday that he is running for president.

As with Kaufman and Phoenix, it is impossible, as it is happening, to know for sure whether what he is doing is for real or performance art.

That’s the whole point. That’s central to the art form.

Indeed, we may not know until well into his second term as president whether Trump is putting us on.

But the performance is so broad, so over-the-top, that one has to assume Trump is winking at us all, that we all are, in essence, in on the joke.

That winking is what’s called, in professional wrestling, kayfabe, and Donald Trump, a member of the pro wrestling Hall of Fame, has to be the King of Kayfabe

Just think of Ted Cruz as Vince McMahon.

Here from Dan O’Sullivan in a 2014 piece in Jacobin magazine, Money in the Bank: The story of pro wrestling in the twentieth century is the story of American capitalism.

There are competing theories as to the origin of the term “kayfabe,” beyond its provenance in the strange lingo of the carnivals from which American pro wrestling emerged. But as to the meaning, there is no confusion; it is the central axiom of the business. As explained by journalist David “The Masked Man” Shoemaker, kayfabe is “the wrestlers’ adherence to the big lie, the insistence that the unreal is real . . . the abiding dogma of the pro wrestling industry.”

And the flip side of kayfabe is that, in an industry where the unreal is real, where Hulk Hogan is a “real American” fighting for the rights of every man, truth wears a mask.

At the end of December I wrote a First Reading: From WrestleMania to the White House, is Donald Trump the kayfabe candidate for president.

Trump’s pro wrestling Hall of Fame status as well as anything explains the otherwise seemingly inexplicable political spectacle that has been unfolding in the space usually occupied by the quadrennial presidential campaign.

After news broke that Trump was bailing on the debate, Ted Cruz, on Marc Levin’s radio show and Sean Hannity’s FOX TV show, and in his subsequent appearances on the campaign trail, ridiculed Trump’s decision and challenged him to a “mano a mano” debate.


I was there when he did it at his last stop of the day, last night at a well-attended event hall in Koesaqua, Iowa.

It’s not fair to judge a place on a first impression on a very cold winter’s night, but Koesaqua, home to 1,000 souls, looked a little rough around the edges, and more Pottersville than Bedford Falls, with a bounty of taverns within a couple blocks of the Cruz event.

Here was Cruz delivering his challenge to Trump.

One or the other of us is going to win the state of  Iowa, and I’ll tell you right now, that’s why Donald is not showing up. It has nothing to do with Megan Kelly and some questions she asked back in August. I mean good God, nobody is that trivial. Nobody is – `You said something mean to me back in August I’m going to take my toys and go home.’

After challenging Trump to a one-on-one debate, Cruz invited his audience to go his campaign’s new Ducking Donald  page to try to coax Trump to accept the challenge.

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“By the way,” Cruz said. ” You have to have fun in a campaign.”


On MSNBC today, Cruz spokesman Rick Tyler, picked up the trash talk about Trump

His debate performances have been mediocre at best.

People are now finding out what the real Donald Trump is. Who he is and what he’s like. This is not very becoming of a presidential candidate.

I don’t know how he endears himself to Iowa voters when he won’t get on the stage. It’s the one opportunity  voters have to see all the candidates together. It’s the best opportunity for them to make a decision.

He’s not going to be there.

It’s sort of typical of Donald Trump.

Now, he’s talking about ratings and how much Fox makes. That has nothing to do with it. This is about the men and women who are running for the nomination of the Republican party and the voters who want an opportunity to discern for themselves who is the best leader.

It’s a shame that Donald Trump’s erratic behavior is becoming a story instead of the issues that Iowans care about.

The whole thing looks sort of petty, small and childish, because now it’s, `let’s see how many people watch if I’m not there, let’s see how much money you make if I’m not here.’ This has to do with who is going to be the leader of the free world.

He’s supposed to be a greatest negotiator in the world. But he’s lost this negotiation because he’s not even going to be on the stage.

If Donald Trump wants to make this about himself, and do a competing event, instead of about the country, he is welcome to do that, but I think he is going to pay a price.

Well, we’ll see.

On Morning Joe, the consensus was that, once again, Trump was winning – dominating news coverage, “showing strength – that’s his brand,” and leaving Cruz as the most likely target of all the other candidates on the debate stage.

“This is the fattest fastball down the middle of the plate for Trump,” said Joe Scarborough.

And, Willie Geist suggested that Trump might yet make a late, pro wrestling-style entry into the ring for Thursday’s debate.

I discount the idea being promoted by Cruz and Co. that they have Trump on the ropes and he’s running scared. Cruz is a more skilled, classic debater, but Trump has done fine and his steady climb has come along with unprecedented viewership for those debate, mostly thanks to him.

Skipping the debate is a gamble for Trump. Fox is the prime news source of the Republican base and, beginning with Sean Hannity last night, it is devoting a lot of time to bashing Trump since he said he won’t participate.

But the flip side of that, is that Trump is showing off that, whatever his motivation, he is willing to take on, in Fox, a powerful interest in his own party that no other Republican would dare to (and that kind of “courage” is supposed to be Cruz’s franchise).

But the primary setback for Cruz if Trump is a no-show is that it denies him the opportunity to deliver a knockout punch against Trump, to have that, “You are no Jack Kennedy” debate moment that would be endlessly replayed and might have a decisive impact on the outcome of the caucuses.

No matter how well crafted and well delivered Cruz’s lines are Thursday, they will not land with quite the same impact if Trump is not there on the stage.

And, at this point, Cruz’s campaign is as much about stopping Trump as promoting himself.

As David Brody of the Christian Broadcast Network reported,  Cruz said as much during a gathering of pastors Monday in Des Moines.

Ted Cruz: “We talked before about the politics of this being effectively a two-man race between me and Donald Trump, let me talk for a moment if you happen to be thinking about another candidate beyond the two of us. There are a lot of good people in this race. There are a lot of people who I like, who I respect, who are friends of mine, who I have no intention of insulting or denigrating. But I will say right now, between Donald and me, this is neck and neck. It is an absolute dead heat. And if Donald wins Iowa, he right now has a substantial lead in New Hampshire, if he went on to win New Hampshire as well, there is a very good chance he could be unstoppable and be our nominee. And the next seven days in Iowa will determine whether or not that happens. So even if you’re thinking about another candidate, the simple reality is there’s only one campaign that can beat Trump in this state, and if conservatives simply stand up and unite, that’s everything.”



Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry spoke passionately on behalf of Cruz in Koesaqua.

Before he spoke, a young man asked Perry to sign his Bible, and Perry, with careful attention, obliged.



Afterward, I saw the young thumbing through his Bible.

I introduced myself and asked if I could see where Perry signed it.


Here is the scripture Perry cited.

Matthew 22:37-38New International Version (NIV)
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment.


The boy’s name is David Clark.

I asked if he was from Koesaqua.

He said, no, he was from Centerville, an hour west of here.

I had just come from Centerville, where Cruz and Perry had an event earlier in the day at the elegant old Continental Hotel on “the largest continuous town square in the world, earning that designation because there are no stoplights or stop signs in the Square.”

The square was dedicated in 1904 and seemed in great shape.

Centerville brought to mind River City  in The Music Man.

I lit up when David mentioned Centerville, and told him what a sweet place I thought his hometown was.

No, David said, it’s not.

“It’s the meth capital,” he said.

I caught my breath. I was stunned.

But, I said, it seemed such a sweet and innocent place.

“You wouldn’t think so if you’d been there as long as I have,” he said.

David is nine.

There really is trouble in River City.

(From Iowa Public Television, a report on meth addiction in Southeast Iowa.)






As Rick Perry returns to Iowa, Sam Clovis opines on Trump’s `patriotic altruism’

Good morning Austin:

The way I figure it, sometime about a year ago, Rick Perry went to a fortune-teller in Austin and said, “Oh swami, I want to run for president again, but last time it didn’t work out so well. Can you peer into the future and tell me what you see?:

To which the psychic replied, “Please don’t call me swami. But, looking into my crystal ball, I see you, amid the snow and bitter cold of Iowa next January, days before the caucus, the eyes of the nation upon you, appearing in a single day before adoring crowds  in Osceola, Albia, Centerville, Bloomfield, Ottumwa, Fairfield and Koesauqua.”

And so that will come to pass, only the former Texas governor will be in all those places today, and a few more tomorrow, to campaign not for himself but for his fellow Texan, Sen. Ted Cruz.

The governor endorsed Cruz in a video yesterday.

Here’s the text:

Howdy, I’m Rick Perry.

2016 is a critical election and I’m here to stress to you how important it is for conservatives to rally together and support a consistent conservative candidate who will take on Washington and who can defeat the Democrat nominee.  

That is why I support Ted Cruz for President. 

As an Air Force Veteran, I understand the sacrifices that our men and women in the military make every day to keep us safe.  

They deserve a commander-in-chief who values their service, who will keep our military strong, and who will always put America’s national security interests first.

He has proven that he is ready to serve as Commander-in-Chief on Day One.

He has also proven the willingness to take on the Washington Cartel and restore power and opportunity back to the people.

He has proven that he will do what is necessary to secure our borders, to defeat radical Islamic terrorism, and to ensure our brave veterans receive the care they have earned.

Ted is the leader that we need to reignite the promise of America.

This is why I am supporting Ted Cruz and asking Iowa Republicans to Caucus for Cruz next Monday, February 1st!

Not bad, though, I’m not sure I would have had him use the Cruz coinage Washington cartel.

From the Washington Post:

Cruz, a former college debater, is known to take great pride in his oratory, and it’s clear that he enjoys landing on phrases that make newspaper headlines and Twitter hashtags. But in contrast to “Make D.C. listen,” a rallying cry so entwined in the shutdown battle that it later became the name of a pro-Cruz PAC, the phrase “Washington cartel” can stick out awkwardly on the debate stage and on the stump.

Like “promptly opined,” from Cruz’s stump speech – and super PAC ad:

You know, when we launched our campaign, the New York Times promptly opined, ‘Cruz cannot win, because the Washington elites despise him’. I kinda thought that was the whole point of the campaign. If you think things are going great in Washington, and we need to keep going in the same direction and maybe just fiddle around the edges, then I ain’t your guy.

Somehow “promptly opined,” and “ain’t your guy,” don’t quite parse.

And, if we were to substitute Austin cartel for Washington cartel, well, Perry kind of personified the cartel. The Ted Cruz of Austin is Jonathan Stickland, albeit without the Ivy League pedigree and $500 words, and Perry has endorsed Stickland’s primary opponent.

Stickland is more fifty cent words. Like Donald Trump.


I talked to Jamie Johnson yesterday, as good a participant-observer in Iowa politics as anyone, who was alongside Rick Santorum every step of the way in his out-of-nowhere win in the 2012 caucuses, and was the senior director of Perry’s short-lived campaign last-year.


Johnson is not backing a candidate, post-Perry, but he sees Trump surging toward a big victory Monday, and says a lot of it has to do with the brilliant, positive simplicity of his four-word slogan.

I quoted Johnson in today’s story.

“The author of ‘The Art of the Deal’ is closing the deal,” said Johnson,

Which brings us to Sam Clovis.


From a First Reading at the end of August:

On Monday, Sam Clovis announced he was no longer chairman of Rick Perry’s presidential campaign in Iowa.

Wow. That was fast.

On Tuesday, he introduced Donald Trump at his big rally in Dubuque. He was now national co-chairman of the Trump campaign and senior policy adviser.

One day, Clovis is saying that he would fly “through the gates of hell,” for Perry, and the next he is forsaking him to join the campaign of the man who Perry has called a “cancer on conservatism.”

How terrible. How treacherous.


Not really.

First a little background.

Clovis’ politics make him, ideologically, something like the Ted Cruz of Iowa – the true blue conservative standard – only a big bear of a guy with a big laugh and altogether more cuddly and huggable than our Ted.

Here is an ad that Iowa Democrats put out when he was running for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate in 2014. (He lost to Jodi Ernst, who is now in the Senate.)

From the ad


Clovis: I would align myself with Sen. Ted Cruz, but maybe after a few months Sen. Cruz would want to be like Sam Clovis.


So, why Trump, Clovis was asked at the Trump press conference.

I’m excited about the opportunity to change the status quo in America and that’s why I’m here.

I spoke with Clovis yesterday by phone. He had been waylaid by the snowstorm in Washington, D.C. but had made his way to New York City by train and was heading back to Iowa for two big Trump rallies today.

Screen Shot 2015-08-25 at 6.37.57 PM

Clovis is a big man with a big, infectious laugh, and it is plain that he has no regrets about signing on with Trump.

Clovis dismissed the “Against Trump” issue of the National Review  issue devoted to making the case, as Rick Perry did back in a July 22 speech, that Trumpism is a “cancer on conservatism.”

Clovis said he canceled his subscription to National Review months ago “totally independent of Mr. Trump.”

“Talk about somebody who’s lost their way. I couldn’t take it any more … They are as much a part of the establishment as the establishment is … They are more establishment than the establishment … Bill Buckley would be spinning in his grave.”

Of Trump’s shifting politics, from left to right.

What we have seen is a classic case of someone who has evolved in their views and positions.

As a young man, Clovis said, Trump “may have not been paying close attention to politics.” He was immersed in his business.

As people get older and raise children and then have grandchildren their view the world changes, they take stock of where they are and what’s happening in  their lives,and take sock stock of what’s being handed to the next generation..

That’s what happened with Trump, Clovis said, and Trump has, “the courage to do something about it.”

That’s one of the reasons he’s stepped up. There is a sense of altruism in this race that I don’t think a lot of people appreciate. This man is a true patriot. This is a man who truly, deeply loves this country.

He sees what this country is going through and that’s the country his grandchildren will inherit

I think where a lot of conservatives have trouble with Trump_ is he is not one of them. He is not one of the Beltway Conservatives. He is not one  of them and that bothers them a great deal and they really don’t know how to brand him, don’t know how to look at him and the populism that is there.

Talking to a lot of people about this across the country, this populist approach that we’re taking is one that is connecting with the American people across every possible sphere of the voting population. It is that part that the establishment or the National Review conservatives have the most trouble accepting because they don’t have a clue what’s going on in this country.

I don’t know how anybody who has been out with the people can miss it.

Of Trump, Clovis said, “He has reached deep within the soul of the American people.”

Of those who claim that Trump will under-perform in the caucuses because his fans, many of whom have never participated before, are unlikely to turn out, Clovis says:

They’re going to stand in line in subzero – not subfreezing but in subzero temperatures — for five hours to get into a gymnasium to wait two more hours to hear people talk for another hour and a half, you’re going to tell me they are not going to come out to caucus? I think we are going to have such a huge night it will be historic.

I’ve been watching politics since I was 7 years old, and I’ve never seen anything like this. This is not your father’s campaign, and I couldn’t be happier, and I couldn’t be prouder. We’re changing politics in America, and I think that’s something we’ve needed for a long time.

After Perry’s bid fizzled, Clovis said, “I had seen the last straw with a classic politician. I just felt like Mr. Trump was different. I felt that if we went with another traditional politician, we weren’t going to see anything change, and I honestly don’t think we will, if anyone other than Donald Trump wins.”

Clovis dismisses the idea that Trump should be more specific. He said Cruz put out a 17-page tax plan and he hasn’t found anyone who knows what’s in it. He says a lot of the other candidate’s issue foreign policy threats that are premature and ill-advised.

“We’re going to defend the national interest,” he said, but with a “more deliberative approach.”

Of Cruz’s criticism that Trump’s readiness to make deals means he will forsake conservative principles as president, Clovis said, “God love him, Sen. Cruz is a good guy, but'”with how his Senate colleagues perceive him, I think it would be difficult for him to get anything done. I think Mr. Trump is a very tough negotiator.”

Trump’s deal-making will be about giving in but about getting things done.

(Trump struck this theme relentlessly on Morning Joe this morning. Of Cruz, “I don’t think anybody likes him … he’s a whack job … Ted’s a nasty guy … he won’t get anything done … he’s a more strident loner than Obama.” Trump even boasted of his good relationship with Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer, not a usual Republican talking point.)

I asked Clovis if there are a lot of people who don’t talk to him any more since he went with Trump.

Some, he said, but there are others who talk to him now who didn’t used to.

“It’s zero sum,” said Clovis, an economics professor at Morningside College.

But Clovis said, “I don’t have to keep score. Here’s the thing. I’m too old to care anymore. Either they get me or they don’t get me.”

Screen Shot 2015-08-25 at 6.36.09 PM
















I would align myself with Sen. Ted Cruz, but maybe after a few months, Ted Cruz would want to be like Sam Clovis,


Rand Paul goes Xtranormal to `Audit the Ted;’ Abbott flying Air Adelson to Israel/Davos

Good day Austin:

A week ago today, the Senate blocked Sen. Rand Paul’s bid to enact the Paul family’s signature Audit the Fed legislation. The  Senate voted 53 to 44 to invoke cloture, seven votes shy of the 60 needed to permit an up-or-down vote on Paul’s bill.

Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 5.27.30 AM

Who were the three senators who didn’t vote?

Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 8.45.30 AM

Coats, Cruz and Franken.

Wait. Cruz?

Cruz was a co-sponsor of Paul’s bill.

He has talked about that on the campaign trail.

But on Tuesday, he was on the campaign trail instead of voting in the Senate.

From the Hill:

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) ripped Sen. Ted Cruz on Tuesday after the Texas Republican skipped a vote on his “Audit the Fed” proposal.
Paul, who is competing with Cruz for the Republican presidential nomination, said he was “disappointed” Cruz “didn’t show up for work” for a procedural vote on Paul’s legislation.
Cruz missed the vote because he is campaigning in New Hampshire. Even if he had voted in favor of Paul’s bill on Tuesday, the legislation would have still been short of the 60 votes needed to overcome Tuesday’s procedural hurdle. 
Paul has repeatedly criticized Sen. Marco Rubio for skipping Senate votes to campaign for president. The Florida Republican voted in favor of Paul’s legislation. 
According to GovTrack, Cruz has missed 24 percent of Senate roll call votes over the past year, second only to Rubio.
Rubio wasn’t the only presidential candidate who took time away from the campaign trail to vote with Paul. So did Bernie Sanders, the Vermont Independent who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, and was one of only two non-Republicans to vote to audit the Fed. The other was Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin.
Here was what Cruz told Glenn Beck explaining his missed vote:

Unfortunately, it was clear early on that yesterday’s vote wasn’t going to succeed (it fell 7 votes short),” Cruz wrote in an email, which Beck later published on his Facebook profile. “And, at the same time that the vote was scheduled, I had longstanding commitments to be in New Hampshire.”

Cruz went on to write that he was speaking at a Second Amendment rally in the Granite State and was delivering a State of the Union town hall, which the GOP hopeful says was to be attended by 1,500 people.

“If my vote would have made a difference in it passing, I would have cancelled my campaign events to be there,” Cruz reassured Beck. “Because the vote was not going to succeed, I honored my commitments to be with the men and women of New Hampshire.”

Cruz did offer one major conciliation, though, for those who are angry with him for skipping the vote: “As President, I look forward to signing Audit the Fed legislation into law.”

Paul, of course, would rather be the one to sign Audit the Fed legislation, and on Monday, the Paul campaign upped the ante against Cruz with a very clever web ad.

He – Did you hear about audit the Fed.

She – Yes, Rand Paul is trying to audit the out-of-control Fed.

He – Do others support the audit the Fed?

She – The Ted Cruz said so but did not show up to vote.

He – Why did he not show up?

She – He was too busy campaigning.

He – Campaigning costs money. Where does the Ted Cruzz get his money from?

She – I hear Wall Street money. Millions. Even $1 million from the Goldman Sachs.

He – Does the Goldman Sachs want to audit the Fed?

She – I don’t think so. They are the Fed.

He – Why does Ted Cruzz take their money if they are the Fed?

She – I don’t know. That is strange.

He – When Ted Cruz ran for Senate he did not legally disclose a loan he got from the Goldman Sachs.

She – How much did Ted Cruz take from the Goldman Sachs?

He – Over one million dollars.

She – Wow. What does this mean?

He – It means Ted Cruz received favors from the special interests.

She – So why do they call him a grassroots candidate?

He  – I don’t know.

She – But doesn’t he claim to be against the establishment?

He – Yes.

She – Then which candidate for president is the grassroots candidate?

He – I hear good things about the Rand Paul. He is for individual liberty, the free market and auditing the Fed.

She – Yes. I like this Rand Paul. And his hair. Maybe he should audit the Ted as well.

He – Yes. I think we need to audit the Ted.

Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 6.01.00 AM

The spot was created by Vincent Harris of Austin, who said it was Paul’s idea and he worked with Paul land Doug Stafford, the campaign’s senior chief strategist, on the script.

Here is something about Vincent Harris from Harris Media’s website.

Vincent Harris is CEO of Harris Media and Chief Digital Strategist for Senator Rand Paul. Previously he has worked on the digital side of three Presidential races, having run all online operations for Texas Governor Rick Perry and Speaker Newt Gingrich’s 2012 campaigns. In 2014 Vincent was hired by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to oversee the digital operations for his Likud party’s successful campaign. Vincent spent over three years working with Ted Cruz, whom many have credited his successful use of the web as part of his incredible underdog win. Under Vincent’s watch, the nationally acclaimed firm, Harris Media, has grown into a successful company with over 20 employees proudly headquartered in Austin, Texas. Vincent is a strong believer in the power of the internet as a tool to influence the public arena, and his firm’s successes have been noted in numerous publications and news outlets. His expertise stretches from practical application into academia where he is working towards a PhD at the University of Texas and is blessed to be guest faculty at Baylor University. He was named the youngest “Rising Star” in Politics by Campaigns & Elections Magazine and was recently profiled in Bloomberg, where he was dubbed “The Man Who Invented the Republican Internet.”

I had an email interview with Harris this morning.

FR: That’s  in the style of Xtranormal, right?

VH: Yes it is!

FR: It works so well, but why is that?

VH: Works so well in the sense of fitting together and being a little funny? I think it’s because Xtranormal already has a fan base out online, one that a lot of libertarian-minded folks love, so the campaign piggy-backed on top of that. This style of video has been something Senator Paul has been aiming for his campaign to do for a while now. A reason I continue to love working for Senator Paul is that he pushes everyone on staff to be creative. He’s generating constant ideas, and it’s amazing to be able to work for him and see some of them played out like this one.

FR: Why the British accents?

VH: Why not!

FR: Why the article “the” before Goldman Sachs, and Ted Cruz, and why the alternate pronunciations of Cruz/Cruzz?

VH: To make the video more fun to watch and more entertaining to viewers. Uniqueness and small items that lend themselves to those in the know always help virality of web videos. The average person in a recent study released watches videos on Facebook for :22 seconds long before discarding them. If we can keep people watching longer by having more fun and being spontaneous, then it’s a success.

FR: Am I reading too much into it that, based on the British accents, the trees and the resemblance of the characters to South Park Canadians, you are subtly planting the idea of Canada in viewers’ minds?

VH: “What we see depends on what we look for”- Sir John Lubbock

FR: I’m transcribing the text and I’m not getting what comes between “I like this Rand Paul” and “maybe he should audit the Ted as well.” Is it “I like this Rand Paul, and his hair?”

VH: Yes it is! 🙂

FR: Any sense of response yet to the new ad?

VH: Great response across age demographics. The campaign is spending some money promoting the spot in early states and to the Senator’s fans nationally. It’s the kind of unique spot that plays very well online with sharing and interaction. It’s gotten some on the left fired up as well calling it stupid, but the attention and name-calling is appreciated and we on the right wear it with a badge of honor.

When every ad seems to be the same. :30 seconds of trash talk with black and white clips of opponents and swirling text bashing them, this is a different and more subtle and fun way to make a point.

In today’s digital age, if a voter doesn’t want to watch something, they can simply flip it off. The Senator’s goal for this spot was to create something that folks online would actually watch to completion and keep their attention. So far from the metrics we’ve seen, this is doing exactly that.

FR: Any other unique content you are doing for the Paul campaign that I should mention?

VH: We were the first campaign to do a day long live-stream, the first campaign to release a vector file of his logo, the first campaign to crowd-source a TV ad that money was put behind, and I would guess the only Republican campaign that has a plurality of website visitors and engagement on social media be from the 18-35 demographic. Keep on the look out for some more to come in the last couple of weeks here before Iowa!

What is Xtranormal, or, more accurately, what was Xtranormal, which shut down two years ago”
Here is a press release explanation of Xtranormal from 2011:

REDMOND, Wash. — Xxtranormal’s  tagline, “If you can type, you can make movies,” describes both the company’s mission and how to use its text-to-speech system to create animated movies. The Microsoft BizSpark One member is working to transform movie-making into an everyday activity, as simple and commonplace as composing a text message.

“We want to make animated movies ubiquitous,” says Graham Sharp, CEO of Xtranormal . “I’d like to see people using the Xtranormal platform like they use Microsoft Word: just opening a document and starting to type.”

You might have already seen a video created using the Xtranormal system. The most recognizable characters are large-headed bears who speak in measured tones, using whatever words each video’s creator has typed in.

Several Xtranormal videos gone viral on the Internet, receiving millions of views. Xtranormal estimates that during an average month, 10 percent of its 4 million registered users are actively creating videos, with an unknown number of people using the service for free without registering. At that rate, more than 5 million Xtranormal videos are being produced each year. And Sharp reports the site gets between 200,000 and 250,000 new registered users a month.

Although many people use Xtranormal to make videos for their own entertainment — to poke fun at their workplaces, to make a political statement or in hopes of creating a viral sensation — others have more serious goals.

“We reckon about 60 percent of our paying users are making videos for education or business,” says Sharp. “Teachers or students use the videos to spice up coursework, while companies use them to promote or advertise products, for training or as part of their public relations efforts.”

To inspire potential users and show what’s possible with its technology, Xtranormal also creates and posts its own animations on its website, via the Xtranormal Studio.

The Paul universe is no stranger to Xtranormal

In his video from 2011, Steve, an over-programmed Ron Paul supporter, responds to every interaction in Paul babble.


Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 6.27.02 AM

Liberty, Constitution. Liberty, Constitution. Liberty, Constitution.

Straw poll. Straw poll. Money bomb. Money bomb. Straw poll. Straw poll. Money bomb. Money bomb. Straw poll. Liberty. Constitution. Straw poll.


She: What about Rick Perry or Jon Huntsman? Do you think they have a chance?

Steve: Alex Jones. Bilderberg. Liberty. Big banks are out of control. Don’t regulate the big banks. Free market. Alex Jones. Money bombs Liberty. Republicans suck. Ron Paul is Republican. Liberty. Liberty. Ron, Paul, George and Ringo. Liberty. The end. I win the debate.


She: Steve, You are not making sense.

Steve: When Ron Paul becomes president I will be riding my jet patch to Washington to work in the Department of Liberty and Free Wheat. We should meet up.

And on and on.

And here is Ron Paul being pestered by a reporter about whether he actually wrote the newsletters that bore his name.

Here also are a couple of other Xtranormal classcis.



Meanwhile, Rand Paul had a town hall on MLK Day yesterday at a Platinum Kutz, a black barbershop in Des Moines.

Paul didn’t get a haircut.



Greg Abbott flies `Air Adelson’ to Israel/Davos.

From the Jewish Insider yesterday:

Israeli Delegation at Davos: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, former President of Israel Shimon Peres, American Jewish Committee’s Rabbi David Rosen, Bank Hapoalim’s Yair Seroussi, Bank Leumi’s David Brodet, Yossi Vardi, Sami Sagol, Ehud Shapiro, Matan Hoffman.

AIR ADELSON: Also on the guest list for Davos is Texas Governor Gregg Abbott. Yesterday, Haaretz’s Avi Scharf tweeted asking why Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands’ 737 flew from Austin to Tel Aviv and who was on board? Well, a source confirmed that the plane brought the Texas Governor’s delegation to Israel prior to his trip to the Swiss Alps. Last night, Abbott tweeted a picture from the King David Hotel in Jerusalem and we’re told he plans to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Education Minister Naftali Bennett today. Unclear if Adelson’s plane is also flying the delegation from Israel to Davos and, if so, who else might hitch a ride.

And then, from Jewish Insider today:

JI’s SCOOP: “Abbott’s office confirmed that the governor flew on Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands 737 after it was initially reported Monday by Jewish Insider… After his stop in Israel, the governor will fly to Switzerland later this week for a stop at the World Economic Forum in Davos. An Abbott spokesman said Monday that flight will be made on Adelson’s plane as well.” [DallasMorningNewsTexasTribune]JERUSALEM SCENE: After a day packed with meetings, including with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, and a visit to the Western Wall, Texas Gov. Abbott attended a reception last night in his honor at a penthouse apartment in the Rechavia neighborhood of Jerusalem. According to a source, attendees included former Gen. Yaakov Amidror and his wife Dorith, Saul & Wendy Singer, Cecilia Abbott, Aryeh Lightstone, Rabbi Steven Burg, Rabbi Avi Berman, Shmuel Winiarz, Miriam Peretz, Sderot Mayor Alon Davidi, and Rivka Kidron.

How It Played: ”In Israel, Abbott affirms block on Iran investments” [Chron] • “Governor Abbott Meets Israel’s Netanyahu” [CBSlocal] • “Greg Abbott Meets With Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu” [TexasTribune]

From Brandi Grissom at the Dallas Morning News:

Adelson has invested generously in GOP candidates, spending at least some $93 million on primarily GOP-related causes during the 2012 presidential election, according to the Washington Post.

Adelson and his wife, Miriam Adelson, are also prolific philanthropists, supporting Jewish causes and Israel through the Adelson Family Foundation.

The casino magnate has made appearances in Texas before, urging lawmakers in 2009 to allow resort-casino-style gambling here. Those efforts failed, as have casino gambling proposals before and since.

Abbott and the conservative Texas Legislature have been vociferous opponents of gambling expansion.

From Edgar Walters at the Texas Tribune:

The billionaire recently made national headlines when he was revealed to be the mysterious purchaser of The Las Vegas Review-Journl in December. He also owns the newspaper with the largest circulation in Israel, a free daily.

Here from Jason Zengerle at New York Magazine in September:  Sheldon Adelson Is Ready to Buy the Presidency. He just hasn’t decided which Republican candidate to back.

And here is Adelson a few years ago talking about dropping an atomic bomb in the Iranian desert, and then telling the Iranian regime that, unless it ends its efforts to make nuclear weapons, the next atomic bomb will be dropped in the middle of Tehran.

Overnight, I sent the governor’s press office a few questions about why the governor flew on Adelson’s plane?

How come? Is Adelson bearing the cost or being reimbursed? Was it the whole Texas delegation on the flight, and have you put out a list of those in the delegation? Was Adelson, or were some of Adelson’s people, on the flight? How did this come about? Do the governor and Adelson have a relationship?
Is Adelson providing transportation to Davos as well, and then from Davos back to Texas?


Abbott spokesman John Wittman replied, “I can confirm the Governor took Adelson’ plane to Israel,” and would be flying on Adelson’s plane to Davos and back home to Texas.

Here is the governor’s press release advancing the trip:

Governor Greg Abbott will lead a business development mission to Israel and Switzerland from Monday, January 18th through Friday, January 22nd, 2016. Governor Abbott’s trip will focus on increasing foreign direct investment in Texas. During the trip, the Governor will tour businesses, hold meetings with public officials and business executives in both countries, and participate at the World Economic Forum in Davos. This will be Governor Abbott’s third international business development trip since taking office.

“The combination of Texas’ low-tax, low-regulation environment and our skilled workforce is attracting more foreign direct investment to make the Lone Star State a hub for global commerce,” said Governor Abbott. “Our proven model stands out among states and, indeed, among nations as a beacon for free enterprise and economic prosperity. I look forward to building ties with new international business partners and strengthening Texas’ economic relationships across the globe.”

Governor Abbott’s trip comes after IBM’s 2015 Global Location Trends Facts & Figures report named Texas the #1 state in the United States for foreign and domestic investment, based on the number of jobs.

“TexasOne is proud to support Governor Abbott in his efforts to expand business relationships and create additional trade opportunities for the State of Texas in Israel and Switzerland,” said Tracye McDaniel, President and CEO of Texas Economic Development Corporation and TexasOne. “We look forward to further strengthening economic ties in these key markets and to identifying opportunities to grow Texas’ target industries—life sciences, financial services, manufacturing and energy.”

“Israel appreciates the close relationship that Governor Greg Abbott has nurtured, both economically and politically. We look forward to many more collaborations, especially in the areas of water, energy and technology,” said Consul General Eitan Levon, Consulate General of Israel to the Southwest United States.

The trip will be sponsored and paid for by TexasOne, the state’s Economic Development Corporation.





At the Democratic debate, Hillary Clinton stands by her man – Barack Obama

Good morning Austin:

Just as last night’s four Democratic presidential debate was about to get underway, NBC”s Chuck Todd promised “it’s going to be a doozy.”

Afterward, he seemed satisfied that it had delivered.

I don’t know.

For sheer histrionics and drama, the Republican primary campaign – and especially last Thursday’s debate – is just in a different league than the Democrats

And, let’s face it, as the upset-the-applecart outsider, Bernie Sanders is no Donald Trump or Ted Cruz.

From Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo:

One of my big questions going into tonight was whether Clinton would really bring her recent kind of hard-charging, aggressive, almost cartoonish attacks on Sanders into the debate hall. Mostly she didn’t. She hit hard at a few points at the beginning. But her critiques, especially on health care were more subtle and refined and sounded less desperate than recent headlines generated by her campaign.

On the other side of the equation, I think she’s somewhat defused by Sanders himself. He simply doesn’t have that kind of brass knuckle politics in him. Even when he gets his hackles up a bit, every response from him is inherently defusing. There’s less charge in the air, less animus after he speaks than before. And I mean all this in both the good and bad senses in which you might understand what I’m saying. At a very basic level, just temperamentally, he doesn’t seem to have time for this stuff.

He simply has no instinct for the jugular, bringing not a knife but a tourniquet to his debates with Clinton.

At the first debate he famously said, much to Clinton’s delight, that he and the American people were sick and tired of hearing about her “damn emails,” which Republicans feverishly hope  is going to lead to her imminent indictment.

And then last night, it was Sanders saying he was not going to use Bill Clinton’s sexual behavior against her.

ANDREA MITCHELL: Senator Sanders, let me ask you a question. You called Bill Clinton’s past transgressions, quote, “totally, totally, totally disgraceful and unacceptable.” Senator, do you regret saying that?

SANDERS: I was asked a question. You know, one of the things, Andrea, and I — that question annoys me. I cannot walk down the street — Secretary Clinton knows this — without being told how much I have to attack Secretary Clinton, want to get me on the front pages of the paper, I’d make some vicious attack.

I have avoided doing that. Trying to run an issue-oriented campaign.


SANDERS: I was asked a question.

MITCHELL: You didn’t have to answer it that way, though. Why did you?

SANDERS: Well — then if I don’t answer it, then there’s another front page, so it’s yes


And I mean this seriously. You know that. We’ve been through this. Yes, his behavior was deplorable. Have I ever once said a word about that issue? No, I have not. I’m going to debate Secretary Clinton, Governor O’Malley, on the issues facing the American people, not Bill Clinton’s personal behavior.


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And, as Bernie Sanders spoke last night, there was Hillary Clinton again nodding gratefully, as her rival for the presidential nomination said he wasn’t going to use her husband’s “totally, totally, totally disgraceful and unacceptable” behavior against her.

On January 26, 1992 – two dozen years ago – in an act of public mortification, Bill and Hillary Clinton went on 60 Minutes following the Super Bowl to confront reports of his sexual transgressions.

Steve Kroft: . . . {The} question of marital infidelity is an issue with a sizable portion of the electorate. According to the latest CBS News poll . . . 14 percent of the registered voters in America wouldn’t vote for a candidate who’s had an extramarital affair.

Bill Clinton: I know it’s an issue, but what does that mean? That means that 86 percent of the American people either don’t think it’s relevant to presidential performance or look at whether a person, looking at all the facts, is the best to serve.

Kroft: I think most Americans would agree that it’s very admirable that you’ve stayed together – that you’ve worked your problems out and that you’ve seemed to reach some sort of understanding and arrangement.

Bill Clinton: Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute. You’re looking at two people who love each other. This is not an arrangement or an understanding. This is a marriage. That’s a very different thing.

Hillary Clinton: You know, I’m not sitting here – some little woman standing by my man like Tammy Wynette. I’m sitting here because I love him, and I respect him, and I honor what he’s been through and what we’ve been through together. And you know, if that’s not enough for people, then heck, don’t vote for him.

Kroft: . . . One of your campaign advisers told us the other day, “Bill Clinton has got to level with the American people tonight, otherwise his candidacy is dead.” You feel like you’ve leveled with the American people?

Bill Clinton: I have absolutely leveled with the American people.

Kroft: . . . You came here tonight to try to put it behind you . . . . Do you think you’ve succeeded?

Bill Clinton: That’s up to the American people and to some extent up to the press. This will test the character of the press. It is not only my character that has been tested.

Clinton went on to a better-than-expected performance the New Hampshire primary, labeled himself “the comeback kid,” and went on to the presidency.

The most memorable line, of course, was HRC’s You know, I’m not sitting here – some little woman standing by my man like Tammy Wynette.

But, of course, she was standing by her man, a la Tammy Wynette.

“Stand By Your Man”

Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman
Giving all your love to just one man
You’ll have bad times, and he’ll have good times
Doin’ things that you don’t understand
But if you love him, you’ll forgive him
Even though he’s hard to understand
And if you love him, oh be proud of him
‘Cause after all he’s just a man.
Stand by your man, give him two arms to cling to
And something warm to come to
When nights are cold and lonely.
Stand by your man, and show the world you love him
Keep giving all the love you can.
Stand by your man.
Stand by your man, and show the world you love him
Keep giving all the love you can.
Stand by your man.

Bill Clinton’s past transgressions will remain the wild card in the 2016 race, but probably not until the general election, and especially if the Republican candidate is Donald Trump, friend of Roger Stone, author of The Clintons’ War on Women.

From Ross Douthat at the New York Times:

There’s the official Clintonite narrative, in which the former president strayed with Gennifer Flowers and Monica Lewinsky, was forgiven by his wife and daughter, and deserves to have his repentance respected.
Then there’s the narrative that I suspect most Americans believe, in which the former president was much more of a tomcat in Arkansas, and probably has tomcatted occasionally in his post-presidency — but always consensually, and lately in ways that have minimized exposure or embarrassment.

If either of these narratives are true, then Clinton’s sex life will be a non-issue in 2016. If an adulterer, even a frequent adulterer, is all he is, then an America that didn’t want him impeached in the 1990s isn’t going to object to having him as the First Gentlemen today.

But suppose you believe the (Juanita) Broaddrick story. Liberals dismissed it during the impeachment days, but if you read the summary of the case from the (mostly liberal) Dylan Matthews at the (mostly liberal) website Vox, this dismissal looks unfair. There’s an inescapable he-said/she-said dynamic, but one need not be a “believe all rape allegations” absolutist to find her claim persuasive.
If she’s telling the truth, then Clinton’s sexual past becomes something more predatory. The slippage between a powerful man’s dalliances and straightforward predation is something that could happen just once. But looked at in the light of a credible rape allegation, there are all sorts of Clinton stories — the Willey and Jones cases, the rumors collected by Jones’s lawyers, the old tales of state troopers being used as procurers, the 2002 globetrotting on the jet of a billionaire who’s also a convicted statutory rapist — that could suggest a darker pattern, tending toward the Cosby-esque.

Eight years ago, Hillary Clinton lost the nomination that seemed to be her destiny to an upstart by the name of Barack Obama. Obama’s  victory in the caucuses in the very white state of Iowa proved to black voters that Obama was a serious enough candidate to override their loyalty to the Clintons in the hopes of electing America’s first African-American president.

Clinton rebounded in New Hampshire, but Obama crushed her in South Carolina with its large black electorate, after an acrimonious campaign in which Bill Clinton, especially, demeaned Obama and infuriated many black leaders.

Eight years later, as last night’s debate made abundantly clear, Hillary Clinton is going full Tammy Wynette, standing by her man, though, now, that man is Barack Obama.




From the Washington Post
From the Washington Post

From Jonathan Martin at the New York TimesHillary Clinton Turns, Repeatedly, to a Democrat Not on the Debate Stage: Obama

Hillary Clinton may have been flanked by Martin O’Malley and Senator Bernie Sanders at the presidential primary debate on Sunday night in South Carolina, but she wanted voters to see her as shoulder-to-shoulder with another Democrat: the one living in the White House.

Seeking to stabilize her 2016 campaign in the state where her 2008 contest with Barack Obama took its nastiest turn, Mrs. Clinton linked herself to the president again and again. And again.

She praised Mr. Obama for having “led our country out of the Great Recession.”

She praised Mr. Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran: “I was very pleased to be part of what the president put into action.”

She praised Mr. Obama’s handling of the Assad government in Syria — even though she fought with him over whether to arm and train Syrian rebels when she was his secretary of state.

Over and over Sunday night, Mrs. Clinton turned to Mr. Obama as both sword and shield — sometimes even in the same breath.

LESTER HOLT: What do you see as the difference between what you would do about the banks and what Secretary Clinton would do?

SANDERS: Well, the first difference is I don’t take money from big banks. I don’t get personal speaking fees from Goldman Sachs. What I would do…


What I would do is understand that when you have three out of the four largest banks today, bigger than they were when we bailed them out because they were too big to fail, when you have the six largest financial institutions having assets of 60 percent of the GDP of America, it is very clear to me what you have to do.

You’ve got to bring back the 21st century Glass-Steagall legislation and you’ve got to break up these huge financial institutions. They have too much economic power and they have too much financial power over our entire economy. If Teddy Roosevelt were alive today, the old Republican trust buster, what he would say is these guys are too powerful. Break them up. I believe that’s what the American people to want see. That’s my view.

HOLT: Secretary Clinton, help the voter understand the daylight between the two of you here.

CLINTON: Well, there’s no daylight on the basic premise that there should be no bank too big to fail and no individual too powerful to jail. We agree on that. But where we disagree is the comments that Senator Sanders has made that don’t just affect me, I can take that, but he’s criticized President Obama for taking donations from Wall Street, and President Obama has led our country out of the great recession. Senator Sanders called him weak, disappointing.

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He even, in 2011, publicly sought someone to run in a primary against President Obama. Now, I personally believe that President Obama’s work to push through the Dodd-Frank…


Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 6.53.39 AM

The Dodd-Frank bill and then to sign it was one of the most important regulatory schemes we’ve had since the 1930s. So I’m going to defend Dodd-Frank and I’m going to defend President Obama for taking on Wall Street, taking on the financial industry and getting results.


Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 6.55.13 AM

SANDERS: OK. First of all…

HOLT: Senator Sanders, your response.

SANDERS: Set the record right. In 2006 when I ran for the Senate, Senator Barack Obama was kind enough to campaign for me, 2008, I did my best to see that he was elected and in 2012, I worked as hard as I could to see that he was reelected. He and I are friends. We’ve worked together on many issues. We have some differences of opinion.

But here is the issue, Secretary touched on it, can you really reform Wall Street when they are spending millions and millions of dollars on campaign contributions and when they are providing speaker fees to individuals? So it’s easy to say, well, I’m going to do this and do that, but I have doubts when people receive huge amounts of money from Wall Street.

SANDERS: I am very proud, I do not have a super PAC. I do not want Wall Street’s money. I’ll rely on the middle class and working families…

From Dylan Matthews at VOX:

It was only eight years ago that Hillary Clinton was repeatedly attacking Barack Obama as a dangerously inexperienced naif who would be unable to get anything of consequence done as president. Now, she presents herself as a defender of his sundry accomplishments, and attacks Sanders for being insufficiently supportive of the president.

“The fact is, we have the Affordable Care Act,” Clinton declared. “That is one of the greatest accomplishments of President Obama, of the Democratic party, and of our country, and we have already seen 19 million Americans get insurance.” She also cited Sanders’s past criticisms of the president and flirtation with supporting a primary challenge against him in 2011/2012.


Clinton’s message is clear: I am the true defender of Obama’s legacy, I will preserve his gains, while Sanders dismissed them.

It is a message that is intended to make sure that black voters, this time, do not stray from the Clinton fold the way they did eight years ago.

From the Hill two years ago:

Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) revealed in a new memoir that he received a tongue lashing from former President Clinton after the 2008 South Carolina primary, according to a report. 

Clinton blamed the South Carolina representative for his wife’s primary loss in the state to President Obama, then an Illinois senator. Clinton, during a 2 a.m. phone call, also said: “If you bastards want a fight, you damn well will get one.”

U.S. News and World Report highlighted the exchange that is part of Clyburn’s memoir slated for publication in the summer titled: Blessed Experiences: Genuinely Southern, Proudly Black.

Clyburn had remained publicly neutral throughout the Democratic primary, though he voted for Obama in his state’s primary. 

“I had kept that promise. I asked [Clinton] to tell me why he felt otherwise,” Clyburn writes. “He exploded, used the word ‘bastard’ again, and accused me of causing her defeat and injecting race into the contest.” 

He added: “It was clear that the former president was holding me personally responsible for his wife’s poor showing among South Carolina black voters, and it was also clear that our heated conversation had not changed his mind.”

The day after the conversation, Clinton famously compared Obama’s win in the state to Jesse Jackson’s, who had previously won the Democratic primary there but lost the overall contest. 

“Bill Clinton wasn’t just defining his wife’s loss in South Carolina as a ‘black political event,’ he was defining it as a ‘Jim Clyburn black southern event.’ So this is what he meant when he said he’d show us a fight,” Clyburn wrote.  

Clinton later apologized to Clyburn, which the congressman “halfheartedly” accepted, according to the report. 

Hillary Clinton remains 25 points ahead of Obama in the latest national poll.

But Sanders is pressing Clinton in both Iowa and New Hampshire and, as Paul Kane wrote in the Washington Post at the end of last week – Clinton’s lead is evaporating, and anxious Democrats see 2008 all over again:

Just as Barack Obama’s stunning upset there helped assure Democrats in later states that a black man could win votes from whites and propelled him to victory in South Carolina and other places, so, too, could a Sanders victory on Feb. 1 in Iowa and then Feb. 9 in New Hampshire ease doubts about the viability of a self-described “democratic socialist,” some said.

“It’s just like the weak spot for Barack Obama was his skin color, but he got cured of that in Iowa,” said Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), the party’s leading African-American in Congress.

“If [Sanders] comes out of Iowa and New Hampshire with big victories — if it’s close in both places, that’s one thing — but if he comes out of there with big victories, hey, man, it could very well be a new day,” Clyburn added.

There was Clyburn last night, after that “doozy” of a  debate on MSNBC, saying that Clinton was much more knowledgeable on world affairs than Sanders, that South Carolina ought to be Clinton’s fire wall, that it probably is, even if she loses in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Except, he said, if she loses Iowa by 10 points or more.

That, he said, “would redefine the race.”

It was a little bit ominous, coming from Clyburn, who spoke expressionless.

Beyond that, the peril for Clinton is that even if she prevails over Sanders by running for Obama’s third term, she will have enshrined herself as the candidate of the status quo at an angry and restless moment in American history.







Does Trump represent `New York values?’ Is Cruz a natural-born Texan?

Good morning Austin:

Early last summer, in the first weeks of the Trump campaign, I did an interview with KURV 710 News Talk in the Rio Grande Valley in which, in an intemperate moment, I heard myself saying that Donald Trump was not going to be the Republican nominee for president because, after all, he was the candidate from Sodom.

It just seemed to me that the candidate of glitz and ego and casinos and tabloid divorces wasn’t going to be the choice of a party in which evangelical Christians played such a pivotal role.

Well, I was wrong. I think. He may well end up being the Republican nominee.

But, if he isn’t, that candidate from Sodom line may prove prescient, only with New York values a place holder for Sodom.

Or at least, that it is what Ted Cruz is banking on (and this is not a sly Goldman Sachs reference.).

Thursday night, it seemed to me – and this was a commonplace observation – that Trump got by far the better of the exchange about New York values, and that Cruz had set Trump up for the best, most presidential, moment of his campaign.

On Real Time with Bill Maher yesterday, Nicolle Wallace, White House communications director under George W. Bush, said ,of  New York values, “I think they just became Donald Trump’s path to the nomination,” and that Trump’s compelling reply to Cruz “made it a lot easier for people to envision him as the Republican nominee.”

She was hardly alone.

And from Josh Marshall at the liberal Talking Points Memo:

In last night’s debate we saw the battle finally, fully joined. And while I’d never seen a smackdown quite on the scale of the one Trump used to crush Ted Cruz, I was surprised at how much day two energy the story had and how many surrogates the Cruz campaign was sending out to clean up the mess.

The Cruz camp seemed to realize that that exchange was highly damaging. In part it was damaging on the substance. 9/11 is the pulsing 50 million volt wire at the center of the gas-filled early 21st century GOP worldview. Once it’s invoked, everyone has to run for cover, bow down, run, clap. There’s no fighting it. And here Cruz walked right into it, totally unaware of what was coming. It was Cruz at his nastiest, smarmiest, callowest best. And BAM! He didn’t know what hit him.

But there’s another element to this beyond getting angled into insulting the city that endured the brunt of the 9/11 attacks. Always in Republican politics but especially in this cycle, much of the meta-messaging of the campaign is about dominating and being dominated. It is the central theme of Trump’s whole message and he has used his competitors as the canvas on which he paints the picture. Trump didn’t just catch Cruz out with 9/11, he crushed him. He dominated him. Completely. If you watch the video below (actually above here), you can see Cruz’s face start subtly to wilt as he sees what’s happening and is helpless to defend himself. And not half way into Trump’s assault Cruz starts clapping. Cheering the man who is in the midst of eviscerating him. That kind of weakness can’t go unanswered in the battle to be the nominee the Republican base is looking for. That’s why Cruz is running around so stung today.

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Actually, the exchange ended with a little bit of a smirk from Cruz, which Jennifer Mercieca, a professor of communication at Texas A&M, notes is part of a champion college debater’s arsenal – selling to the debate judges that you won an exchange even if you didn’t.

But that smirk might have also been a genuine expression of his delight that Trump had just strode into this trap.

The fact is that Cruz, the consummate debater, pressed forward with the New York values issue against Trump at the debate, and even more furiously since the debate, because he thinks it helps him, particularly in Iowa, because it is predicated on Trump’s October 1999 appearance on Meet the Press, in which  Trump explained what were then his liberal views on gay rights and abortion as follows:

I mean, hey, I lived in New York City and Manhattan all my life, OK? So, you know, my views are a little bit different than if I lived in Iowa perhaps …

In fact, Cruz went well beyond holding his tongue about Trump. At every turn, he praised Trump and persisted in praising Trump because, up until a week or two ago, that served his political interests.

If, as Starnes puts it – in that land New Yorkers like to call fly-over country – character counts. A man’s word matters –  Cruz’s sudden turn on Trump, while tactically understandable, is hardly testament to his character.

There’s this.

And this.

What we are talking about here is situational ethics.

And, market-tested situational ethics.

And then there’s this.


From Saturday Night Live last night.


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“SNL Ted Cruz”:

I think most people know exactly what New York values are, and, frankly, they are not the rest of the country’s values. Instead of celebrating Christmas, they celebrate a pagan holiday called Festivus. Instead of watching American football, they challenge each other to masturbation contests. In New York, people don’t say “hi” to their neighbors. they say, “Hello, Newman.”

“SNL Neil Cavuto”:

Sounds like you’re talking about the TV show, Seinfeld. Is that what you were talking about.

“SNL Ted Cruz”:

Believe me if I could say, liberal Jews, I would.

From Real Time:

Bill Maher: When they asked him at the debate, `what do you man by New York values?’ He said, “I think people here in South Carolina know what I mean,” and then he went on to say people in New York, they dominate the media and money. Who dominates, what ethnic group. I can’t put my finger on it. Is it the Armenians?

Ralph Reed, founder and chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition:  I don’t think that’s it at all

Maher: Is the Muslims? Who dominates the media and money? I’m wracking my brain?

Reed: Bill, pull out a calendar. It’s two weeks before the Iowa caucuses. They’re in a dog fight, and he was trying to say to people of faith in Iowa, I share your values.

As a native-born New York Jew (albeit from Long Island and not the city), I think what’s going on here is pretty evident.

From the Pew Research Center in July 2014:

Both Jews and Atheists Rate Evangelicals Negatively, but Evangelicals Rate Jews Highly

Attitudes among religious groups toward each other range from mutual regard to unrequited positive feelings to mutual coldness. Catholics and evangelicals, the two largest Christian groups measured here, generally view each other warmly. White evangelical Protestants give Catholics an average thermometer rating of 63; Catholics rate evangelicals at 57. Evangelicals also hold very positive views of Jews, with white evangelical Protestants giving Jews an average thermometer rating of 69. Only Jews themselves rate Jews more positively. But that warmth is not mutual: despite evangelicals’ warm feelings toward Jews, Jews tend to give evangelicals a much cooler rating (34 on average).

A lot of Jews suspect that what Christian conservatives love about them is not them personally, but the role Jews, and particularly the state of Israel, play, in the end times and the second coming of Christ, in which Jews won’t fare so well.

From Glenn Beck’s The Blaze last month:

A new survey found that the vast majority of evangelical Christians believe that violence across the Middle East “is a sign that the end times are nearer,” according to a new survey from the Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings.

The study, titled, “American Attitudes Toward the Middle East and Israel,” found that 79 percent of evangelicals embraced this notion, with 43 percent of non-evangelical Christians agreeing.

 When it came to more specific details about the end times, 5 percent of Christians said that they believe the end times and the return of Christ would happen in their lifetime; 72 percent said that they were not sure if it would unfold soon or in a thousand years.

Those same proportions among evangelicals were 12 percent and 81 percent, respectively.

The majority of Christians (55 percent) and evangelicals (75 percent) believe that things must happen concerning Israel before Jesus’ return — sentiment that is derived from Old and New Testament analysis. Probing deeper, the Center for Middle East Policy found that one of the key events would be the ability of Israel to include all of the land that was once promised to the Israelites in the Old Testament.

Overall, 51 percent of non-evangelical Christians and 63 percent of evangelicals said that they believe this is essential before the rapture or second coming could unfold, according to the survey results.

Also concerning Israel, 73 percent of evangelicals posited that the world would turn against Israel as the end times approaches; 49 percent of non-evangelical Christians agreed. That in mind, it isn’t surprising that evangelicals expressed views that were more favorable toward Israel.

Overall, 45 percent of Americans sampled said that they believe that the modern-day Jewish people are God’s “chosen people,” though 49 percent disagreed; 55 percent of Republicans answered affirmatively, with just 33 percent of Democrats saying the same.

I don’t mean to be harsh, but the Jews evangelical Christians love the most are those living in Israel who support Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party, and not the one million Jews in New York City, who mostly vote Democratic (though the more conservative Orthodox Jewish population in New York is surging), and have a lot to do with the city’s liberal New York values.

In his set speech, Cruz asserts that, “If I am elected President, on my first day in office, I’ll begin the process of moving the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem — the once and eternal capital of Israel.”

That promise has less to do with drawing the votes of American Jews than sending a signal to evangelical voters and funders.

Cruz expounded on Trump and New York values on Hannity.


‘Those aren’t Iowa values’ – and this is Donald Trump speaking.  `Those aren’t Iowa values. That’s what New Yorkers believe and that’s why I believe it.” So Donald used that as an explanation for his own views. And you know what, he’s right. Those aren’t Iowa values. Those aren’t South Carolina values. They are not even New Hampshire values.

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And, if you look at the media elite, if you look at the elite in New York who try to set the stage, and New York Daily News is a great example,  you know where they ran another headline blasting me because i was lifting up the victims of violence in prayer and they find prayer offensive.

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And that’s what people understand when you talk about – I’m reminded of the old Pace Picante commercial where they’re looking at some picante sauce and saying where was this made. New York City? Get a rope.


People understand elite, out-of-touch, media opinion.


The debate wasn’t the coolest part of this week.

I started by going duck hunting with Phil Robertson and the whole Duck Dynasty clan. Phil is an amazing shot. That man knows how to handle a shotgun.

And Phil ended up endorsing me, which was incredibly cool, and we ended up putting together this video of me with face paint and camo, and my girls, Caroline and Catherine, thought it was the funniest thing in the world to see daddy in face paint with Phil Robertson.

But you know what. That represents the working men and women, the backbone of this country. Those are who we are fighting for and if we get back to those values in that duck blind in Louisiana, that’s how we turn the country around.


Alrighty then. Cruz is fighting fire with fire, invoking his own reality TV star to defeat the reality TV star who he finds himself competing against.

Phil Robertson:

Cruz, the reason we are going to vote for you, all of us, is because you’re one of us, my man.

When the story of the 2016 campaign is written, the Robertson endorsement and the attack on New York values at the South Carolina debate may be seen as breathtakingly brilliant, a trap that Trump, whose political instincts to now have been unerring, raced into.

FromNew York Times

Mixing folksy stories that illustrated his business acumen and chest-thumping promises to bring America back, Donald J. Trump spent more than 40 minutes drawing laughs and charming the crowd at a Tea Party convention in South Carolina on Saturday.

But at the end, there was just one person who was really on his mind: Senator Ted Cruz.

“You give a campaign contribution to Ted Cruz, you get whatever the heck you want,” Mr. Trump said.

Boos poured in from large sections of the crowd, which included many people who wore red shirts bearing Mr. Cruz’s campaign logo and had come to hear the Texas senator speak.

Raising his voice, Mr. Trump pressed on.

“He didn’t report his bank loans,” he said over the jeers. “Say whatever you want. He’s got bank loans from Goldman Sachs, he’s got bank loans from Citibank, and then he acts like Robin Hood.”

Be careful Donald. That last rap on Cruz is pretty close to the central theme of his campaign.

But the Cruz campaign’s presentation of Ted as “one of us,” and Trump as “one of them” is audacious, and not without risk.


Ted Cruz is pretty clever, but he walked right into that trap. All (Trump) had to say was, “You’re telling me who’s a real American? You’re from Canada and Cuba. You missed America twice.”

I am perfectly prepared to accept that Ted Cruz meets constitutional muster as a “natural born citizen,” of the United States, and is therefore qualified to serve as president.

But I don’t think he has any claim to being a natural-born Texan.

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His ostrich-skin cowboy boots notwithstanding, he was born in and spent his first few years in Canada (see especially  this story from Maclean’s), his mother was born in Wilmington, Delaware, and his father in Matanzas, Cuba. He went to Princeton and Harvard. He may have successfully inculcated Texas values, but the exoticism of his back story has more in common with Barack Obama (born in Hawaii of a Kansan mother and Kenyan father) than with LBJ.

Cruz’s Texan-ness may now be complete and sincere, but Trump seems determined, with his birther questions, to make the case that Cruz is ultimately, to borrow a term Stalin once applied most especially to Jews, a “rootless cosmopolitan.”


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And does Cruz really have an adequate answer to this performance by the USA Freedom Kids of Freedom’s Call, the official Donald Trump campaign jam, at Trump”s big rally last week in Pensacola, Florida?


[Verse 1]
Cowardice, are you serious?
Apologies for freedom, I can’t handle this!
When freedom rings, answer the call!
On your feet, stand up tall!
Freedom’s on our shoulders, USA!
Enemies of freedom
Face the music, come on boys, take ’em down!

President Donald Trump knows how to make America great
Deal from strength or get crushed every time

Over here, USA!
Over there, USA!
Freedom and liberty everywhere
Oh say can you see
It’s not so easy
But we have to stand up tall and answer freedom’s call

[Verse 2]
We’re the land of the free and the home of the brave, USA!
The stars and stripes are flying
Let’s celebrate our freedom
Inspire proudly freedom to the world
Ameritude, USA!
American pride, USA!
It’s attitude, it’s who we are, stand up tall
We’re the red, white and blue
Fiercely free, that’s who!
Our colors don’t run, no sir-e

Over here, USA!
Over there, USA!
Freedom and liberty everywhere
Oh say can you see
It’s not so easy
But we have to stand up tall and answer freedom’s call




Win-win. After last night, it’s Trump v. Cruz.

Good morning Austin:

I thought the results of last night’s debate were remarkably clear.

Both Ted Cruz and Donald Trump emerged as the winners, with the race coming into focus ahead of the start of voting on Feb. 1 with the Iowa caucuses, as really a two-man race.

This was especially a triumph for Cruz because he was really being tested, and on the defensive, for the first time in the campaign coming into the debate, and because, in the moment, he did something that hadn’t been done before by any candidate in any of these debates – gone one-on-one with Trump and clearly won, forcefully challenging Trump’s raising birther claims against the Canadian-born Cruz.

Yet Trump also did well and had perhaps his best and most measured moment of any debate with his sober umbrage at Cruz’s slight about New York values, which was really a misbegotten gambit by Cruz.

Other candidates had their moments, but none did anything to divert the media and public gaze from the very interesting Cruz-Trump dynamic – the Ivy League debate champion vs. the natural.

And, while they will obviously be savaging each other in the weeks to come, it is a much healthier relationship than the way-too calculated, self-interested sycophancy that Cruz had displayed toward Trump, hiding the light of his killer instinct under a bushel.

“This is a two-person race,” Joe Scarborough said today on Morning Joe.

It may get uglier, but I also glimpsed the makings of a kind of buddy-movie chemistry that could ultimately yield a ticket, though I suppose it would have to be Trump-Cruz because a Trump vice presidency simply doesn’t compute.

“I guess the bromance is over,” Trump said afterward. “He didn’t have to go so aggressive.”

“He’s a good debater, but he’s very strident,” Trump said of Cruz on Morning Joe today. Of his attack on New York values, Trump said, “He lost about 20 million votes last night.”

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But I think it’s just possible that this could gestate into a reborn bromance, a la Robin Hood and Little John.

Cruz and Trump seem a lot more organically simpatico than, for example, Ronald Reagan and George Bush, who had blasphemed the Gipper as a snake-oil salesman of voodoo economics.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s performance won a lot of praise, like this from Charles Krauthammer on Fox.

The clear winner, would have been — as always, as usual — Rubio. … Rubio, as always, had a combination of articulateness and passion. And that passion is there all the time.

But I really didn’t see it.

Rubio failed to muscle in on the real Trump-Cruz action.

His answers always seem a little too rehearsed and too determined to prove that he’s a big boy.

My suggestion is that at the next debate he gray his hair to approximate what he’ll look like after eight years of aging at the astonishing Obama rate.

And his big barrage against Cruz came too late in the overlong debate, and had a rushed, desperate kitchen-sink quality to it, though, for example, Joe Scarborough thought he had, with it, “eviscerated” Cruz’s inconsistent conservative record.

“That was a really damning moment for Cruz,” he said.

Maybe it was a fusillade that will launch a thousand memes, but I’m skeptical.

Here was the back and forth between Cruz and Trump on whether Cruz is constitutionally eligible to serve as president.

Neil CAVUTO: All right. Welcome back to the Republican presidential <debate>, right here in North Charleston, South Carolina. Let’s get right back to the questions. And I’ll start with you, Senator Cruz.

Now you are, of course, a strict constitutionalist — no one would doubt that. And as you know, the U.S. Constitution says only natural-born citizens are eligible for the office of president of the United States. Stop me if you’ve heard this before. Now, you were born…


… you were born in Canada to an American mother. So you were and are considered an American citizen. But that fellow next to you, Donald Trump — and others — have said that being born in Canada means you are not natural-born, and that has raised questions about your eligibility.

Do you want to try to close this topic once and for all tonight?

CRUZ: Well, Neil, I’m glad we’re focusing on the important topics of the evening.



You know, back in September, my friend Donald said that he had had his lawyers look at this from every which way, and there was no issue there. There was nothing to this birther issue.


Now, since September, the Constitution hasn’t changed.


But the poll numbers have.


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And I recognize — I recognize that Donald is dismayed that his poll numbers are falling in Iowa. But the facts and the law here are really quite clear. Under longstanding U.S. law, the child of a U.S. citizen born abroad is a natural-born citizen.

If a soldier has a child abroad, that child is a natural-born citizen. That’s why John McCain, even though he was born in Panama, was eligible to run for president.

If an American missionary has a child abroad, that child is a natural-born citizen. That’s why George Romney, Mitt’s dad, was eligible to run for president, even though he was born in Mexico.

At the end of the day, the legal issue is quite straightforward, but I would note that the birther theories that Donald has been relying on — some of the more extreme ones insist that you must not only be born on U.S. soil, but have two parents born on U.S. soil.

Under that theory, not only would I be disqualified, Marco Rubio would be disqualified, Bobby Jindal would be disqualified and, interestingly enough, Donald J. Trump would be disqualified.


(UNKNOWN): Not me.

CRUZ: Because — because Donald’s mother was born in Scotland. She was naturalized. Now, Donald…

TRUMP: But I was born here.

CRUZ: … on the issue — on the issue of citizenship, Donald…

TRUMP: (inaudible). Big difference.

CRUZ: … on the issue of citizenship, Donald, I’m not going to use your mother’s birth against you.

TRUMP: OK, good. Because it wouldn’t work.

CRUZ: You’re an American, as is everybody else on this stage, and I would suggest we focus on who’s best prepared to be commander-in-chief, because that’s the most important question facing the country.


CAVUTO: Mr. Trump…


CAVUTO: … that you raised it because of his rising poll numbers.

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TRUMP: … first of all, let me just tell you something — and you know, because you just saw the numbers yourself — NBC Wall Street Journal just came out with a poll — headline: Trump way up, Cruz going down. I mean, so don’t — so you can’t — you can’t…


… they don’t like the Wall Street Journal. They don’t like NBC, but I like the poll.


And frankly, it just came out, and in Iowa now, as you know, Ted, in the last three polls, I’m beating you. So — you know, you shouldn’t misrepresent how well you’re doing with the polls.


You don’t have to say that. In fact, I was all for you until you started doing that, because that’s a misrepresentation, number one.

TRUMP: Number two, this isn’t me saying it. I don’t care. I think I’m going to win fair and square (inaudible) to win this way. Thank you.

Lawrence Tribe and (inaudible) from Harvard — of Harvard, said that there is a serious question as to whether or not Ted can do this. OK? There are other attorneys that feel, and very, very fine constitutional attorneys, that feel that because he was not born on the land, he cannot run for office.

Here’s the problem. We’re running. We’re running. He does great. I win. I choose him as my vice presidential candidate, and the Democrats sue because we can’t take him along for the ride. I don’t like that. OK?


The fact is — and if for some reason he beats the rest of the field, he beats the rest of the field (inaudible). See, they don’t like that. They don’t like that.


No, they don’t like he beats the rest of the field, because they want me.

Screen Shot 2016-01-15 at 4.40.54 AM


But — if for some reason, Neil, he beats the rest of the field, I already know the Democrats are going to be bringing a suit. You have a big lawsuit over your head while you’re running. And if you become the nominee, who the hell knows if you can even serve in office? So you should go out, get a declaratory judgment, let the courts decide. And you shouldn’t have mentioned the polls because I would have been much…


CAVUTO: Why are you saying this now — right now? Why are you raising this issue now?

TRUMP: Because now he’s going a little bit better. No, I didn’t care (inaudible). It’s true. No, it’s true. Hey look, he never had a chance. Now, he’s doing better. He’s got probably a four or five percent chance.



CRUZ: Neil…


TRUMP: The fact is, there is a big overhang. There’s a big question mark on your head. And you can’t do that to the party. You really can’t. You can’t do that to the party. You have to have certainty. Even if it was a one percent chance, and it’s far greater than one percent because (inaudible).

I mean, you have great constitutional lawyers that say you can’t run. If there was a — and you know I’m not bringing a suit. I promise. But the Democrats are going to bring a lawsuit, and you have to have certainty. You can’t have a question. I can agree with you or not, but you can’t have a question over your head.

Screen Shot 2016-01-15 at 4.41.08 AM

CAVUTO: Senator, do you want to respond?

CRUZ: Well, listen, I’ve spent my entire life defending the Constitution before the U.S. Supreme Court. And I’ll tell you, I’m not going to be taking legal advice from Donald Trump.

TRUMP: You don’t have to. Take it from Lawrence Tribe.



TRUMP: Take it from your professors…


Screen Shot 2016-01-15 at 4.53.31 AM

CRUZ: The chances of any litigation proceeding and succeeding on this are zero. And Mr. Trump is very focused…

TRUMP: He’s wrong. He’s wrong.

CRUZ: … on Larry Tribe. Let me tell you who Larry Tribe is. He’s a left-wing judicial activist, Harvard Law professor who was Al Gore’s lawyer in Bush versus Gore. He’s a major Hillary Clinton supporter. And there’s a reason why Hillary’s supporters are echoing Donald’s attacks on me, because Hillary…

TRUMP: He is not the only one.

CRUZ: … wants to face Donald Trump in the general election.

TRUMP: There are many lawyers.

CRUZ: And I’ll tell you what, Donald, you — you very kindly just a moment ago offered me the V.P. slot.

(LAUGHTER) I’ll tell you what. If this all works out, I’m happy to consider naming you as V.P. So if you happen to be right, you could get the top job at the end of the day.

TRUMP: No — no…


… I think if it doesn’t…


I like that. I like it. I’d consider it. But I think I’ll go back to building buildings if it doesn’t work out.

CRUZ: Actually, I’d love to get you to build a wall.


TRUMP: I have a feeling it’s going to work out, actually.

Screen Shot 2016-01-15 at 4.54.27 AM

Cruz showed confidence and wit. It was much better for him to be answering these questions toe-to-toe with Trump than having to answer Trump’s questions posed by reporters on TV or at press gaggles on the trail. And Trump almost sweetly conceded that he had only played the birther card because Cruz was gaining some traction in the campaign.

This is probably not an issue that is going to go away. Indeed, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews – he of the odd passions – seems all-in on a crusade that Cruz is a natural-born Canadian, but not a natural-born American citizen.

But Cruz managed to turn an existential threat to his candidacy last night into a debate triumph.

Cruz’s performance was especially effective coming directly after delivering a state-of-the-art reply to questions raised in a New York Times story in Thursday’s paper about loans he had received for his  2012 Senate campaign against David Dewhurst.

MARIA BARTIROMO: Senator Cruz, the New York Times is reporting that you failed to properly disclose a million dollars in loans from Goldman Sachs and CitiBank. During your senate race, your campaign said, “it was inadvertent.” A million dollars is inadvertent?

CRUZ: Well Maria, thank you for passing on that hit piece in the front page of the New York Times. You know the nice thing about the mainstream media, they don’t hide their views. The New York Times a few weeks back had a columnist who wrote a column saying, “Anybody But Cruz.” Had that actually — that same columnist wrote a column comparing me to an evil demonic spirit from the move, “It Follows” that jumps apparently from body to body possessing people.

So you know the New York Times and I don’t have exactly have the warmest of relationships. Now in terms of their really stunning hit piece, what they mentioned is when I was running for senate — unlike Hillary Clinton, I don’t have masses of money in the bank, hundreds of millions of dollars. When I was running for senate just about every lobbyist, just about all of the establishment opposed me in the senate race in Texas and my opponent in that race was worth over 200 million dollars. He put a 25 million dollar check up from his own pocket to fund that campaign and my wife Heidi and I, we ended up investing everything we owned.

We took a loan against our assets to invest it in that campaign to defend ourselves against those attacks. And the entire New York times attack — is that I disclosed that loan on one filing with the United States Senate, that was a public filing. But it was not on a second filing with FDIC and yes, I made a paperwork error disclosing it on one piece of paper instead of the other. But if that’s the best the New York Times has got, they better go back to the well.

BARTIROMO: Thank you.

For a Republican candidate, being able to tee off on the New York Times is really a gift, and Cruz exploited it to a tee.

But Cruz really kind of blew it when he persisted in his attack on New York values – when he really didn’t have to and when he and Trump had already rehearsed their parts in public in a way that precisely forecast that it was a loser for Cruz and that the exchange that would reveal something heretofore unseen in Trump – a soul.



… let me follow up and switch gears.

Senator Cruz, you suggested Mr. Trump, quote, “embodies New York values.” Could you explain what you mean by that?

CRUZ: You know, I think most people know exactly what New York values are.


BARTIROMO: I am from New York. I don’t.

CRUZ: What — what — you’re from New York? So you might not.


But I promise you, in the state of South Carolina, they do.

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And listen, there are many, many wonderful, wonderful working men and women in the state of New York. But everyone understands that the values in New York City are socially liberal or pro-abortion or pro- gay-marriage, focus around money and the media.

And — and I would note indeed, the reason I said that is I was asked — my friend Donald has taken to … playing Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA”, and I was asked what I thought of that.

And I said, “well, if he wanted to play a song, maybe he could play, ‘New York, New York’?” And — and — you know, the concept of New York values is not that complicated to figure out.

Not too many years ago, Donald did a long interview with Tim Russert. And in that interview, he explained his views on a whole host of issues that were very, very different from the views he’s describing now.

And his explanation — he said, “look, I’m from New York, that’s what we believe in New York. Those aren’t Iowa values, but this is what we believe in New York.” And so that was his explanation.

And — and I guess I can — can frame it another way. Not a lot of conservatives come out of Manhattan. I’m just saying.


BARTIROMO: Are you sure about that?

(A Texan learns New York values.)

CAVUTO: Maria…

TRUMP: So conservatives actually do come out of Manhattan, including William F. Buckley and others, just so you understand.


(When William Buckley ran for mayor of New York)
(When William Buckley ran for mayor of New York)

And just so — if I could, because he insulted a lot of people. I’ve had more calls on that statement that Ted made — New York is a great place. It’s got great people, it’s got loving people, wonderful people.

When the World Trade Center came down, I saw something that no place on Earth could have handled more beautifully, more humanely than New York. You had two one hundred…


… you had two 110-story buildings come crashing down. I saw them come down. Thousands of people killed, and the cleanup started the next day, and it was the most horrific cleanup, probably in the history of doing this, and in construction. I was down there, and I’ve never seen anything like it.

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And the people in New York fought and fought and fought, and we saw more death, and even the smell of death — nobody understood it. And it was with us for months, the smell, the air.

TRUMP: And we rebuilt downtown Manhattan, and everybody in the world watched and everybody in the world loved New York and loved New Yorkers. And I have to tell you, that was a very insulting statement that Ted made.


Well, my go-to person for debate tweets is, of course, Mia Farrow.

A new NBC-Wall Street Journal poll released Thursday suggested the interesting state of the race – with both Trump and Cruz improving their positions.

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Donald Trump has more than doubled his national lead in the Republican presidential race ahead of Thursday night’s GOP debate here, according to the results from a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

Trump is the first choice of 33 percent of national Republican primary voters – his highest percentage in the poll. He’s followed by Ted Cruz at 20 percent, Marco Rubio at 13 percent and Ben Carson at 12 percent. Chris Christie and Jeb Bush are tied at five percent. No other Republican presidential candidate gets more than 3 percent.

Trump’s 13-point lead over Cruz is an increase from last month, when he held a five-point advantage over the Texas senator, 27 percent to 22 percent.

But, keep reading:

Yet in a hypothetical one-on-one race between the two Republicans, Cruz tops Trump, 51 percent to 43 percent, while Trump beats Rubio in their one-on-one matchup, 52 percent to 45 percent.

In a three-way contest featuring the Top 3 Republicans in the poll, Trump gets 40 percent, Cruz 31 percent and Rubio 26 percent, underscoring the overall strengthen out of the outsider/insurgent wing of the Republican Party.

Maybe the most striking finding in this NBC/WSJ poll is the growing GOP acceptance of Trump. Back in March, only 23 percent of Republican primary voters said they could see themselves supporting the real-estate mogul. Now that number stands at 65 percent.

So, if Cruz doesn’t want to end up on the bottom end of a Trump ticket, he needs to lose Rubio.

And, conversely, Rubio has got to wound Cruz.

RUBIO: Ted Cruz, you used to say you supported doubling the number of green cards, now you say that you’re against it. You used to support a 500 percent increase in the number of guest workers, now you say that you’re against it. You used to support legalizing people that were here illegally, now you say you’re against it. You used to say that you were in favor of birthright citizenship, now you say that you are against it.

And by the way, it’s not just on immigration, you used to support TPA, now you say you’re against it. I saw you on the Senate floor flip your vote on crop insurance because they told you it would help you in Iowa, and last week, we all saw you flip your vote on ethanol in Iowa for the same reason.



That is not consistent conservatism, that is political calculation. When I am president, I will work consistently every single day to keep this country safe, not call Edward Snowden, as you did, a great public servant. Edward Snowden is a traitor. And if I am president and we get our hands on him, he is standing trial for treason.


Screen Shot 2016-01-15 at 6.08.50 AM

And one more point, one more point. Every single time that there has been a Defense bill in the Senate, three people team up to vote against it. Bernie Sanders, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz. In fact, the only budget you have ever voted for, Ted, in your entire time in the Senate is a budget from Rand Paul that brags about how it cuts defense.

Here’s the bottom line, and I’ll close with this. If I’m president of the United States and Congress tries to cut the military, I will veto that in a millisecond.


Screen Shot 2016-01-15 at 6.08.04 AM

BUSH: There’s — look, there’s —

CAVUTO: Gentlemen, gentlemen —

CRUZ: I’m going to get a response to that, Neil. There’s no way he launches 11 attack —

CAVUTO: Very quick, very quick.

CRUZ: I’m going to — he had no fewer than 11 attacks there. I appreciate your dumping your oppo research folder on the stage.

RUBIO: No, it’s your record.

CRUZL But I will say —

CAVUTO: Do you think they like each other?

CRUZ: — at least half of the things Marco said are flat-out false. They’re absolutely false.


CRUZ: So let’s start — let’s start with immigration. Let’s start with immigration and have a little bit of clarity. Marco stood with Chuck Schumer and Barack Obama on amnesty. I stood with Jeff Sessions and Steve King. Marco stood today, standing on this stage Marco supports legalization and citizenship for 12 million illegals. I opposed and oppose legalization and citizenship.

And by the way, the attack he keeps throwing out on the military budget, Marco knows full well I voted for his amendment to increase military spending to $697 billion. What he said, and he said it in the last <debate>, it’s simply not true. And as president, I will rebuild the military and keep this country safe.

CAVUTO: All right, gentlemen, we’ve got to stop. I know you are very passionate about that.

I thought it was impressive that Cruz kept a count – 11 – on how many attacks Rubio had just launched on him, and, quickly did the math in his head that “at least half” were untrue, suggesting that almost half were true.

But, as I said earlier, it seemed too much too late from Rubio.

From Matthew Yglesias at VOX:

Ted Cruz dominated the Fox Business News Republican primary debate in South Carolina. He went toe-to-toe with Donald Trump and with Marco Rubio. He didn’t slay either of them, but they didn’t slay him. Best of all, he was centrally positioned throughout the evening — someone who speaks for grassroots discontent with the GOP establishment, but someone who does so from a standpoint of a conservatism that is much deeper and more authentic than Donald Trump’s.

The center of the party is a good position to hold in a primary, and Cruz firmly seized that middle ground. With Trump exerting a gravitational influence on the shape of the race, a guy who stood on the margin of the Senate Republican caucus suddenly looks like a useful bridge between Republican officialdom and the conservative grassroots. He’s not well-liked by the party leadership in Washington, but he’s intensely in touch with what committed conservatives think and care about.

 He combines disloyalty to the party with intense loyalty to the cause in a way that makes him well-positioned to further rise as the field inevitably narrows. 2015 was all about Trump, but 2016’s first debate showed that the main concrete impact of Trump has been to transform Cruz into a potentially unifying figure.


Of Duck Dynasty and the Golden Goose. In us vs. them, Ted Cruz is both

Good morning Austin:

In what Rachel Maddow- Rachel Maddow! – described as the best political ad of the 2016 campaign, Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson endorsed Ted Cruz yesterday.


Screen Shot 2016-01-14 at 7.10.21 AM

It is a great ad.

“Ted Cruz is my man, I’m voting for him,” says Robertson.

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From WND:

Cruz reportedly had dinner with the Robertson family on Sunday and joined Robertson duck hunting on Monday. The endorsement was reportedly agreed upon in a duck blind.

Robertson weaved the duck hunt into his endorsement.

“My qualifications for president of the United States are rather narrow: Is he or she godly, does he or she love us, can he or she do the job, and finally, would they kill a duck and put him in a pot and make him a good duck gumbo?” he said in a video posted Wednesday.

“I’ve looked at the candidates. Ted Cruz is my man. He fits the bill,” Robertson said. “He’s godly, he loves us, he’s the man for the job and he will go duck hunting … because today we’re going.”

“Ted Cruz is my man, I’m voting for him.”

But here’s the kicker from Robertson:

You’re one of us, my man.

One of us. That’s what it’s all about.

Red v.  Blue America.

Fox v. MSNBC.

Roe v. Wade.

Obergefell v. Hodges

Quinoa v. Cheesy Grits.

And who better embodies Red Fox America than Phil Robertson.

From Drew Magary’s December 2013 profile of Robertson in GQ:

Phil calls himself a Bible-thumper, and holy shit, he thumps that Bible hard enough to ring the bell at a county-fair test of strength. If you watch Duck Dynasty, you can hear plenty of it in the nondenominational supper-table prayer the family recites at the end of every episode, and in the show’s no-cussing, no-blaspheming tone. But there are more things Phil would like to say—”controversial” things, as he puts it to me—that don’t make the cut. (This March, for instance, he told the Christian-oriented Sports Spectrum magazine that he didn’t approve of A&E editing out “in Jesus” from a family prayer scene, even though A&E says that the phrase has been uttered in at least seventeen episodes.)

Out here in these woods, without any cameras around, Phil is free to say what he wants. Maybe a little too free. He’s got lots of thoughts on modern immorality, and there’s no stopping them from rushing out. Like this one:

“It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.”


I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field…. They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, I tell you what: These doggone white people—not a word!… Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”


Well, in Robertson’s worldview, America was a country founded upon Christian values (Thou shalt not kill, etc.), and he believes that the gradual removal of Christian symbolism from public spaces has diluted those founding principles. (He and Si take turns going on about why the Ten Commandments ought to be displayed outside courthouses.) He sees the popularity of Duck Dynasty as a small corrective to all that we have lost.

“Everything is blurred on what’s right and what’s wrong,” he says. “Sin becomes fine.”

What, in your mind, is sinful?

“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men,” he says. Then he paraphrases Corinthians: “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”


Okay, so perhaps it’s not exactly shocking that a deeply religious 67-year-old hunter from rural Louisiana would have, shall we say, enthusiastic ideas about what constitutes good Christian morality. That’s the unspoken red-state appeal of Duck Dynasty. They’re godly folk. “Real” folk. It helps explain why people flock to Monroe in droves to visit the Duck Commander store (which, shockingly, does not sell firearms). It’s why Willie Robertson can walk out of work on a regular Thursday afternoon and be greeted by a cheering crowd that seemingly stretches back to the horizon.

OK. So, the question really is, in the age of Trump, why Phil Robertson is endorsing a candidate for president instead of running for president?

(Phil Robertson at Cruz-Trump September 9 Capitol rally against the Iran nuclear deal)

But as much as Phil Robertson loves and identifies with Ted Cruz, would he put his money where his mouth is? Let’s say Ted Cruz had turned to him in the duck blind and said, “Phil, the future of America is on the line. Can I borrow a million bucks?” What would he say?

Who knows? What we do know, thanks to a New York Times story today – Ted Cruz Didn’t Disclose Loan From Goldman Sachs for His First Senate Campaign – is that when Cruz asked Goldman Sachs for that loan in 2012, they said yes.

As Ted Cruz tells it, the story of how he financed his upstart campaign for the United States Senate four years ago is an endearing example of loyalty and shared sacrifice between a married couple.

“Sweetheart, I’d like us to liquidate our entire net worth, liquid net worth, and put it into the campaign,” he says he told his wife, Heidi, who readily agreed.

But the couple’s decision to pump more than $1 million into Mr. Cruz’s successful Tea Party-darling Senate bid in Texas was made easier by a large loan from Goldman Sachs, where Mrs. Cruz works. That loan was not disclosed in campaign finance reports

Those reports show that in the critical weeks before the May 2012 Republican primary, Mr. Cruz — currently a leading contender for his party’s presidential nomination — put “personal funds” totaling $960,000 into his Senate campaign. Two months later, shortly before a scheduled runoff election, he added more, bringing the total to $1.2 million — “which is all we had saved,” as Mr. Cruz described it in an interview with The New York Times several years ago.

A review of personal financial disclosures that Mr. Cruz filed later with the Senate does not find a liquidation of assets that would have accounted for all the money he spent on his campaign. What it does show, however, is that in the first half of 2012, Ted and Heidi Cruz obtained the low-interest loan from Goldman Sachs, as well as another one from Citibank. The loans totaled as much as $750,000 and eventually increased to a maximum of $1 million before being paid down later that year. There is no explanation of their purpose.

Goldman Sachs? Citibank?

Hmmm. OK. Very good.

But to boil this down to its essence, this is kind of like getting a loan from The Great Satan in order to do battle with The Great Satan – El Diablo – which is either diabolical, or diabolically clever.

A day earlier, Cruz was attacking Donald Trump for his New York values.

From Talking Points Memo:

In audio flagged by BuzzFeed, Cruz was asked by conservative radio host Howie Carr about the real estate magnate playing Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” at rallies—a clear knock on Cruz’s Canadian birth. Cruz responded that Trump will probably start playing Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York.”

“Well, look, I think he may shift in his new rallies to play ‘New York, New York’ because Donald comes from New York and he embodies New York values,” Cruz said.

The senator did not elaborate on exactly what “New York values” Trump embodies, but the line suggested Trump was out of step with the Republican base

From CNN:

Cruz also appeared on “The Kelly File” on Fox News on Tuesday night, and when asked about his “New York” remarks, he repeated that his campaign’s success has “really rattled Donald” and cracked, “The rest of the country knows what New York values are.”

I don’t know. This sounds vaguely familiar to me. As a native New Yorker, do we really want to go there? Actually, I’m from Long Island – Roosevelt, Long Island, hometown of Eddie Murphy.

The New York line was a bad move by Cruz. Perfect setup for Trump, who responded in an obviously heartfelt way about New York and 9/11.

You wanna knock New York, you gotta go through me.

Joe Scarborough, criticizing the Cruz line, on Morning Joe this morning:

Would you like to talk about Goldman Sachs values? Do you want to talk about Harvard values, Princeton values, lawyer values?

And, in any case, it’s really hard to make New York, New York a loser anthem. I mean, the whole point is, if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.

Also, just as Cruz borrowed money from Goldman Sachs, he has raised big money for his presidential campaign in NYC.

 From Mike Allen at Politico:

In June, Ted Cruz promised on NPR that opposition to gay marriage would be “front and center” in his 2016 campaign.

In July, he said the Supreme Court’s decision allowing same-sex marriage was the “very definition of tyranny” and urged states to ignore the ruling.

 But in December, behind closed doors at a big-dollar Manhattan fundraiser, the quickly ascending presidential candidate assured a Republican gay-rights supporter that a Cruz administration would not make fighting same-sex marriage a top priority.

In a recording provided to POLITICO, Cruz answers a flat “No” when asked whether fighting gay marriage is a “top-three priority,” an answer that pleased his socially moderate hosts but could surprise some of his evangelical backers.

While Cruz’s private comments to a more moderate GOP audience do not contradict what the Republican Texas senator has said elsewhere, they demonstrate an adeptness at nuance in tone and emphasis that befits his Ivy League background. Indeed, the wording looks jarring when compared with the conservative, evangelical rhetoric he serves at his rallies, which have ballooned in size and excitement as he has moved to the front of the pack in Iowa.

And this is the nub of it. That adeptness at nuance in tone and emphasis, is sheer, pure, essence of Obama. With Obama, it has been called code-switching – the practice of shifting the languages you use or the way you express yourself in your conversations.
In politics, it is a gift.
And, as a an evangelical at Princeton and Harvard, Ted Cruz learned to code switch in a place where he was even more a minority than Barack Obama.
In 1999, I visited Harvard and wrote a story about how its vaunted appreciation of diversity did not extend to evangelical Christians:
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – If the Ivy League had a mantra, it would be diversity. For 20 years it has sustained rhetorical and legal efforts to increase the representation of blacks and Hispanics at America’s most prestigious institutions of higher education.

But hidden in plain sight in Harvard Yard, and at elite campuses across the country, is a dilemma of diversity that may test that mantra in complex and confounding ways: the overrepresentation of Asian and Jewish students and the underrepresentation of the white, non-Jewish majority, especially such white ethnics as Italian-Americans and religious groups as Southern Baptists and other evangelicals.

 It is a touchy subject, largely unexplored and undebated, if it is noticed at all. But with America’s Asian population growing, and the admissions decisions of the nation’s most selective universities ever more in the cross hairs of lawsuits and public debate, it won’t go away.

Right now at America’s most elite school, Harvard, an estimated 20 percent of undergraduate students are Jewish, and almost the same percentage are Asian. Together, Jews, only 2 percent of the U.S. population, and Asians, only 3 percent, comprise nearly 40 percent of Harvard College enrollment. That is about the same as the percentage of Harvard students who are non-Jewish whites, a group that makes up more than 70 percent of the U.S. population.

That means that Christian whites are far more underrepresented at Harvard, relative to their numbers in the general population, than even blacks and Hispanics. Of course not all white Christians are underrepresented. The old white elite _ Episcopalians, for example _ are bearing up well, abetted a bit by the admissions preference for children of alumni. But it appears that groups like Italian-Americans and Southern Baptists do not fare so well.

I also looked at an evangelical Christians’ unfortunate experience when he ran for president of the Harvard Undergraduate Council:

Chris King, a sophomore from Winter Park, Fla., is an evangelical Christian, though he resents being put in some Jerry Falwell box that presumes because of his faith he is a political conservative.

But King believes that is what happened to him when he ran, and narrowly lost, a race for president of the Harvard Undergraduate Council in December. King ran his campaign on the unusual  – for campus politics – and faintly spiritual terrain of  “community-building,” “shared vision” and “values-driven leadership.”

“In my private life I was a Christian and that was part of who I was,” says King, who belongs to a Harvard prayer group called Christian Impact. But King says he assembled a very diverse campaign – people of every race, faith and even no faith – and did not inject his religion into the race.

But then Megan White, a member of the student government election commission, wrote a fateful e-mail to fellow members of the thriving Harvard-Radcliffe Christian Fellowship. In the e-mail, White noted that she had to remain neutral in the election, but went on to ask for prayers for King and his running mate, Fentrice Driskell. “Please pray for their protection from Satan’s tactics,” White wrote, adding, “I know that God’s hand is directing them to run.” She signed the e-mail, “In Jesus’ grip, Megan.”

“Evangelicals have a real talent for alienating people,” says Andy Crouch, the Christian Fellowship chaplain, noting that language that would seem perfectly normal to someone in the fellowship, or from a part of the country where evangelicals are in abundance, can sound strange and scary to the uninitiated. In this case, he was certainly right.

White may actually be an Episcopalian from Greenwich, Conn. – hardly an oddity at Harvard – and she may have felt she was doing nothing but asking friends to be thinking about other friends, but her talk of Satan probably cost King the election.

The e-mail became the subject of a Harvard Crimson story, and ultimately the Crimson did not endorse King’s ticket, noting that “their ties to religious groups have raised concerns among students.”

Oppenheim says that while his own politics are conservative, “I’d be lying if I didn’t say that the Crimson has a secular, fairly left-wing editorial staff that wouldn’t want a Christian fundamentalist student government leader.”

But King felt prejudged and condemned. “This could have never happened in the South. I don’t think it would have happened to a person of any faith,” says King, who was shaken by the experience.

“I was nailed to the cross,” says King. “And most of the editorial staff that was so hard on me, the vast majority were Jewish.”

“I don’t really believe this is a healthy place,” he says of Harvard.

A former executive editor of The Crimson, Molly Hennessy-Fiske – she is Irish working class on her mother’s side and Mayflower ruling class on her father’s – says she knows firsthand how little tolerance many Harvard students have for the language of faith. Hennessy-Fiske, who is a Catholic from upstate New York, says that when she told some fellow students last year that she had been “praying about” whether to nominate someone for a position at The Crimson, they all “burst out laughing.”

But Cruz adjusted.

From a Jason Zengerle GQ profile of Cruz in October 2013.

It’s hard for Ted Cruz to be humble. Part of the challenge stems from his résumé, which the Texas senator wears like a sandwich board. There’s the Princeton class ring that’s always on his right hand and the crimson gown that, as a graduate of Harvard Law School, he donned when called upon to give a commencement speech earlier this year. (Cruz’s fellow Harvard Law alums Barack Obama and Mitt Romney typically perform their graduation duties in whatever robes they’re given.)
Princeton turned out to be as alien to Cruz as Austin had been to his father some thirty years earlier: “I did not know anybody there; I didn’t know anybody who had gone there.” Like his father, he needed to earn tuition money. Unlike his father, he didn’t do it by washing dishes. He got a job with the Princeton Review, teaching test-prep classes.
The elite academic circles that Cruz was now traveling in began to rub off. As a law student at Harvard, he refused to study with anyone who hadn’t been an undergrad at Harvard, Princeton, or Yale. Says Damon Watson, one of Cruz’s law-school roommates: “He said he didn’t want anybody from ’minor Ivies’ like Penn or Brown.”
Ted Cruz, Goldfield, Iowa.


I asked Cruz on his campaign bus last week about being evangelical at Princeton and Harvard.

There’s no doubt that evangelical Christians are almost non-existent on the faculties of at major universities. There are 90 million evangelical Christians in America and zero on the United States Supreme Court. That is one manifestation of how elite opinion and opinion makers are grossly unrepresentative of the actual American people and the political left, both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in many ways look down on much of this country.

They view – well that was captured in one candid moment in 2008 when Barack Obama was at a fundraiser in San Francisco and he described how a significant percentage of America as bitter and angry and clinging to their God and their guns. Now that is an arrogant and condescending view of what used to be called America’s heartland. And I have joked before, we’re not bitter, but we are angry and he can’t have either our God or our guns.











The `great white hope?’ Behind the white nationalist robocalls for Trump in Iowa

Good morning Austin:

William  Johnson lives on a ranch near Los Angeles with horses, ducks and chickens, and various stone fruit he grows, including pomegranates, olives and persimmons.

William D. Johnson

He is also a devoted white nationalist/separatist.

Here, from his dossier with the Southern Poverty Law Center:

William Daniel Johnson, a Los Angeles corporate lawyer, is an uninspiring but determined white separatist. As early as 1985, Johnson proposed a constitutional amendment that would revoke the American citizenship of every nonwhite inhabitant of the United States. A quarter century later, in 2010, he was still actively supporting white nationalist causes, serving as chairman of the racist American Third Position political party (renamed American Freedom Party in 2013), established the prior year. The party wants to run racist candidates nationwide.

The SPLC will now have to add to Johnson’s file that he is the guy who in 2016 produced and paid for white nationalist robocalls that every Iowan with a landline will receive at least once between now and the Feb. 1 caucuses, promoting Donald Trump for president.


In a press release yesterday, Johnson refers to Trump as “the great white hope.”

Here is the call Iowans are receiving.

And here is the text of the call, on which three persons – Rev. Ronald Tan, Jared Taylor and Johnson – speak sequentially.

The American National Super PAC makes this call to support Donald Trump.  My name is Reverend Ronald Tan, host of the Christian radio talk show program, For God and Country.  First Corinthians states:  God chose the foolish things of this world to shame the wise and God chose the weak things of this world to shame the strong.  For the Iowa caucuses, please support Donald Trump.  He is courageous and he speaks his mind.  God Bless. 

I’m Jared Taylor with American Renaissance.  I urge you to vote for Donald Trump because he is the one candidate who points out that we should accept immigrants who are good for America.  We don’t need Muslims.   We need smart, well-educated white people who will assimilate to our culture. Vote Trump. 

I am William Johnson, a farmer and a white nationalist.  Support Donald Trump.  I paid for this through the super PAC.  Telephone (213) 718- 3908.  This call is not authorized by Donald Trump.

In yesterday’s press release, Johnson also announced that:

Des Moines Radio Group, a major media player in Iowa with nine major Iowa radio stations is beginning to air pro-trump radio shows in the month of January to urge voters to caucus for Donald Trump on February 1, 2016.  The radio show, For God and Country, is hosted by Filipino American minister Ronald Tan and co-hosted by William Daniel Johnson, chairman of the white separatist political party, the American Freedom Party, formerly known as the American Third Position.

But, after news about the robocalls broke and spread, the Des Moines Radio Group yesterday canceled broadcast of six shows of For God and Country on Praise 940 radio, and returned to Johnson his check for $2,100.

Here is one of the pre-recorded shows that would have aired.

And here is a second show that has already been recorded, and will be broadcast elsewhere, but not, as of now, in Iowa.

I talked to Johnson yesterday, and he explained what he is up to and why.

I was one of the earliest contributors to the Trump campaign.

But the Trump campaign indicated that they were self-funding and didn’t need or want contributions.

They put out a press release that Trump is funding his own campaign with his – get this – his vast resources. He’s such a blowhard.

So, instead, Johnson formed the American National Super PAC to promote Trump.

Of Trump, Johnson said:

I’ve known about him for 25, 30 years. My wife, she came to me, she was in love with Donald Trump and she said, `Listen to what he’s saying about the Mexicans on the border.’ And, up to that time, I didn’t really like Donald Trump. In fact I kind of disliked him, but then he said the stuff about the Mexicans coming in, the Muslims coming in, and my wife was just praising him up and down, so then, I began to think this guy is the real deal and this slowly kind of changed over the last four or five months to now where I really like him.

This guy’s as close to a nationalist as we’ve got.

The thing that I’m pleased with him is that he does not back down.

Like just the other day there was some sort of peaceful Muslim lady standing up (at a Trump rally) and saying, `This is what the face of a Muslim looks like,’ protesting in silence very peacefully, and people were yelling at her, `Do you have a bomb? Do you have a bomb?’ So he kicked her out. And she was saying, `This shows the hate of people for the Muslims.” And he said, “No, you’re the ones that hate.” And he never apologized for anything he said. That’s so refreshing and so unique.

A normal politician would have apologized.

I like very much what he’s saying and what he stands for and mostly, l I like the fact that he doesn’t back down.

To a degree, Johnson said Trump reminds him of Ron Paul, who he supported in the past, though Paul distanced himself from Johnson after Johnson had a big fundraiser for Paul at his home in 2007. (see coverage here and here an here.) Johnson said Paul distanced himself, and then apologized to him for distancing himself, and then redistanced himself.

Only Trump, unlike Paul, doesn’t feel obliged to do any distancing and redistancing.

The robocalls blanketing Iowa are costing Johnson only $8,000, which seems to me remarkably cheap, and, in terms of the publicity he is receive, an absolute bargain.

But, does Johnson think that his explicitly “white nationalist” radio ads will actually help Trump?

I want to present to everyone that the white race is going to die out if we don’t do something.

Will it hurt Donald Trump? Nothing hurts Donald Trump and what I do won’t hurt and it might help. But it doesn’t matter whether it hurts or helps. I’ve bot to get the message out that these mainstream Democrats and mainstream Republicans are helping to destroy our country.

When white nationalists got behind Ron Paul there was a lot of legitimate criticism of him, much more criticism of him than Donald Trump.

Granted, Donald Trump is not a white nationalist and some of his views are dramatically opposed to white nationalism – for example he is for a strong military and continued Republican interventionism, whereas white nationalist support George Washington’s advice to not get involved  foreign entanglements. So we fear that Donald Trump needs to be schooled more on foreign entanglements, and there are other areas he is not strong on, but overall he is the best candidate a nationalist could have for a long time.

I am doing this is an independent person who cares about this country>

Instead of wringing my hands about the direction of the country, I’m doing something. I sleep better at night because I’m doing something. Every time I do something I write it down in my Bible and then when I get really old I’ll give it to my grandkids and say, `Here look, I tried, don’t blame it on me.’

Times have never been worse, they’ve never been better. Our backs are against the wall. I think the white race will wake up.

We need successful professional people standing with their hands on their hips, saying, `I’m a white nationalist and I’m proud of it.’ I  think that will turn the political tide. I want people to know I’m proud of my political views.’ And that will help I thinks soften some of the criticism of other people when they begin to think like us. That’s my calling, just to be upfront about it.

Screen Shot 2015-08-25 at 7.28.37 PM

The white race has been subject to anti-white propaganda for at least 50, probably 60 years, so there is a lot to overcome.

At least they will hear it.

Johnson said it is even better when no one his home to receive the call because then it ends up on voicemail and gets shared with friends neighbors.

As for the radio shows, I asked Johnson what the Rev. Tan, a Filipino-American living in Los Angeles, had to do with white nationalism.

“I called Reverend Ron and asked him your question.  This is what he said:  “I support the stand of the American Freedom party on the platform of the Constitution and conservative family values.”

And, For God and Country is his show.

When I asked Johnson how long he has held his views on race, Johnson, 61, said that In high school in Eugene, Oregon, “we had to pick a presidential candidate to write about. I was the only person in my class who picked George Wallace.”

It should be noted that while he is backing Trump, Johnson’s American Freedom Party has its own candidate for president, Robert Whittaker.

His slogan: “Diversity is the code word for white genocide.”

The SPLC describes Whittaker as “a curmudgeonly segregationist with a history of drug abuse.”

Though he claims on his blog to have been the message man in the Reagan administration responsible for crushing communism, bringing down the Berlin Wall and saving the Hubble Space Telescope, Whitaker is seen by many in the movement as a hard-drinking though harmless, grandfatherly Forrest Gump.

James Edwards, host of the racist “Political Cesspool” radio show, wrote, “The next time anyone talks with Bob, ask him about the time we closed down that bar in Charleston.” To his disciples, though, Whitaker is nothing short of a propaganda “genius,” a word that can be found more than 600 times on his blog.

“There is not a modest bone in my body,” Whitaker wrote in 2004. “I AM a genius. I was born with one hell of a brain, and I scare our enemies because I am so smart I can laugh them to shame. I am at so high a level that a PhD or a big-time news anchor doesn’t mean a thing to me.”

A far-right propagandist for more than a half-century, the former economics professor and Reagan appointee to the Office of Personnel Management has been linked to radical, often racist, populist campaigns for most of his career. He once claimed to have a swastika poster on his wall when he was young in protest of desegregation. In fact, his advocacy of segregation and racist ideology seems rooted in his opposition to America’s early civil rights struggles.

Johnson said Whittaker will stay in the race even if Trump is the Republican nominee.

He wants to keep Donald Trump honest.

I asked Johnson what he thinks about Ted Cruz.

He has some good points but he’s a Cuban. I’m a little bit hesitant to support a Cuban.

The Trump campaign has not commented on Johnson’s robocalls.

I also talked with Jared Taylor, the founder and editor of American Renaissance last night, who I have talked to and written about over the years. I last interviewed in June, after the church shooting in Charleston, S.C.,  for a First Reading because, as I wrote:

Taylor was back in the news when he emerged as the designated spokesman for the Council of Conservative Citizens – a like-minded if rougher-around-the-edges white nationalist organization that he has been a member of for the last 20 years. The Council made one of its occasional forays into national consciousness with news that Dylann Roof’s apparent manifesto suggested that it was the Council’s website that had “informed” his thinking on race and propelled him toward the massacre at the Charleston, S.C., church of which he stands accused.



Al Jazeera America
(Al Jazeera America)

“Donald Trump,” Taylor has written,”may be the last hope for a president who would be good for white people.”

From our conversation last night:

To me the wonderful effect of Trump is to reopen all these questions that the smug liberals had considered closed for all these decades – the whole question of who do we want to come to America, do we dare make a choice, do we dare express ourselves and have a preference. I think single-handedly he has done in just a few months what scores of us have spent decades trying to do – reopen this question. I think it’s absolutely marvelous.

Whether he himself has any kind of really developed racial consciousness, frankly I doubt it. I think it’s just instinct, he goes on his instincts, and his instinct, like most white Americans, is that he prefers European civilization. But whether or not once he was in office he might start  saying things about how he likes being around white people or that there wasn’t anything wrong with an immigration law that was designed to keep America majority white, whether he would say things like that, I have absolutely no idea.

On the prospect of Trump facing Hillary Clinton in debate.

I can just imagine the kind of havoc he would wreak with her in debates. On the one hand. I cringe to think of the ungentlemanly attacks he might make in today’s vulgar society, but an ungentlemanly attack might be a success, I don’t know.

I said that talking to some conservatives in Iowa last week, I got the feel that they would love for Trump to be elected and see what happens, but are a bit skittish and would like some kind of money-back-guarantee if Trump, once elected, swings wildly in another direction and doesn’t do what they think and hope he is going to do.

I am convinced that what we do have a money-back guarantee on is this whole question of illegal immigrants. I think it would be impossible for him to go back on that, and I think his heart is actually in it, unlike some of these Johnny-come-latelies who are talking tough on illegal immigrants. That is clear, that this was the wind that pushed him out in front and he genuinely feels that way. And for him to double back on that, that would be absolutely unforgivable.

Jared Taylor
Jared Taylor

He’s got to have a wall and he’s got to deport the illegals. If he doesn’t do that, well then, my gosh, he’ll be a laughingstock.

Wouldn’t Ted Cruz be every bit as hard-line as Trump on immigration?

Do you think he would build a wall and deport 13 million illegals? I don’t think he would. I don’t think he has the heart for it. It’s an incredible thing to actually send people back across the border. That’s a very tough thing to do. You have to have grit, determination, you to be prepared to take New York Times stories and CBS stories of all these crying families that are being separated. I just don’t think Ted Cruz – Ted Cruz is too conventional, he couldn’t put up with that.

It’s the imitator I don’t trust. I trust the originator.

The other thing that I think people like about Trump is that he is unpredictable. People are tired of these blow-dried, cut-out candidates who have to take five polls before they decide what to say about something. There’s a genuineness about Trump. Sometimes he says things that make us effete types cringe a little bit, but there’s something refreshing about a guy being such a natural.

Of the robocalls potential impact:

I really don’t think that it can hurt Donald Trump. Can it help? I’m not so sure about that either, but it once again circulates an aspect of the question that I think needs to be circulated. It publicizes the whole demographic implications of what Donald Trump is talking about  and the kind of revolution he’s effected in the national conversation on this.

On how he describes himself.

I’ve started using Identitarian.

I don’t like the term white nationalist because people think of Basque nationalists and Kurdish nationalists, throwing bombs. I don’t like that.

White advocate, that’s a term I sometimes use. It’s very frustrating not to have an expression that I can settle on as one that’s comfortable. The word ‘racist,’ that word can absolutely not be rehabilitated. It comes  with just too much more opprobrium.

Maybe, in years to come, a Trump Republican.

For someone to buck the zeitgeist so consistently and so powerfully as he has done, I think it probably is unprecedented, for someone to have so successfully frustrated and baffled all the people who tell us what to think.

This utter flouting of convention, spitting on orthodoxy, I think it’s simply fantastic.

He could be washed away in the Iowa caucuses, his campaign could completely fizzle out, and he would still have achieved an enormous amount.