The GOP and China

So a not surprising thing has happened in response to the reality TV star dominating the news in the GOP primary, but also in response to recent economic volatility around China and their growth slowdown. In fact, it happens every election cycle on the other side of the aisle. The China-bashing has begun.

Now, my kind of China-bashing involves thoughtful and sensible critiques of their deplorable human rights record. Instead, we have gotten a barrage of comments forcing observers to take notes on various candidates economic IQ’s.

Gov. Scott Walker, a respectable foe of union thugs, said that he has hardened on China in recent weeks because they have recently devalued their currency. He also called on them to implement free market reforms. Apparently, not a single aide of Gov. Walker’s mentioned that the currency devaluation came about as a result of them increasing market mechanisms towards such, meaning, laying off the interference that had been propping it up! The United States has threatened to call China a currency manipulator for two decades; now, they do as asked, and some candidates don’t like it?

The reality is that Sen. Rubio is right to hammer China for their piracy violations and massive flow of iniquities in the observance of human rights. But beyond standard politico-pandering, any suggestion that the United States is going to start a trade war with China any time soon is pure poppycock. If the United States wants to give China less leverage, she can shrink her deficit and balance her budget so as to regain the upper hand. In the meantime, the various threats Republican candidates are making against China remind me of what President Bush said to us at the SALT conference a few years ago about Obama’s campaign promise to shut down Guatanamo Bay:

“Oh. That never bothered me for a minute. I knew there was absolutely no chance he’d really do it once he got his very first national security briefing. No chance.”

Pandering to a low information voter on matters of economics is par for the presidential course. But the global state of affairs matters, and China is not a subject merely to score campaign points with at this time. Sober and sensible reflection of matters of global economic urgency are the need of the hour. Obama may run the full two terms of his presidency without China dominating the headlines. I assure you, the candidate we elect at the end of 2016 will not be so lucky.

Tapping into Something Serious: Tales of a Carnival Barker

I can handle a guy like Sean Hannity and a gal like Ann Coulter uttering the new stock answer all conservative talk radio types feel compelled to utter, but when the hyper-brilliant Mark Steyn said the same thing the other night, I knew the world had gone mad. There are folks actually willing to say they like Trump (Coulter is one of them). They represent the not very bright part of conservatives. There are people who just know he will flame out and that then this race can begin. George Will, National Review, the main GOP candidates, and if anyone cares, yours truly, are in this camp. And then there is this mealy-mouth, pitiful, irrational, sad tale of backboneless pandering that has taken over most everyone else (from people I think about not at all to people I actually like), and their approach is the:

“Well, you know, Trump has really tapped into something, and I think we have to look at the frustration the people have with Washington and the anger over immigration and look at that this all means …” (blah blah blah).

Look, if credible and intelligent people feel the need to legitimize the illegitimate and validate the invalid, the train has left the station. I remain resolute that there aren’t enough sociologically fragile people to take this carnival barker seriously into the primary win column come next winter/spring. His 22-25% is a shock to many of us, but it is far less than what Perry had in September 2011 and far less than what Guiliani had at this time in 2007. The clutter of the field has made this rise possible, together with a highly complicit media, a lowest-common denominator viewer, and the skill of a remarkable celebrity. A thrice-married, pro-choice until the debate, serial adulterer, single payer advocate, 75% wealth tax advocate, hyper protectionist, reality TV star has convinced 26% people he is a spokesperson for conservatism.

And we criticize Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner for saying he is a female?

Dear Lord. The chorus of Laura Ingraham and now my friend Mark Steyn, who are legitimizing Trump with those irresponsible and somewhat incoherent comments need to take a breath. Kim Kardashian has 38 million twitter followers and I feel no need to wonder what she her popularity means to our society. Some people get an audience because some people in an audience are not very bright. Is this news? The 2016 election is a serious election with serious implications for national security, personal liberty, economic growth, and a future vision for America. The Democrats are threatening to support the most corrupt cronyist degenerate their party has ever put forward, and that is saying something! We have several very, very good candidates, and there is no time for a carnival barker reality star narcissist like Trump. It is embarrassing for our party, our movement, and frankly, for our country.

That’s all I have to say about Trump for the time being.

Debate #1 Comes and Goes: Two Tiers Emerge

There is a sense where I am less excited for this coming election cycle than I have ever been – there are candidates I just KNOW can and will beat Hillary Clinton, and there are candidates I just KNOW cannot – and yet I am too entrenched in my political junkieism to do anything but engage. The big distraction to the race that this Donald Trump sideshow has been is probably immaterial in the long run, but I confess to just wanting it to go away so that the actual race can begin. I want Marco Rubio to talk about a 21st century jobs program. I want Jeb Bush to talk about a sensible immigration policy. I want Scott Walker to talk about the threat to democracy that today’s public employee unions represent. And I really don’t need to hear Trump talk about how “they’re all just stupid. Let’s face it, I mean, they’re stupid. They’re so stupid. And people have told me, and you know what, they’re idiots. And yeah I have been bankrupt a lot, but you know what, I mean, you need ME to fix this mess.” I want to hear more about Rubio’s vocational school ideas and who exactly sees natural gas exports as the environmental and economic boon that it is. But I digress.

Last night was a good night for those of us wanting to see this Trump sideshow come to an end. He gave the entertainment a lot of people hoped he would, but his lone raised hand at the debate’s first question forced him to reveal himself as the self-promoting hack that he is. Will he actually run as an independent? I suspect his eventual reality TV contract with Fox or whatever it is he’s in this for will not allow that. But to see him stand in the middle of that stage and own his own narcissism probably accelerated his demise a bit. If that moment didn’t, perhaps his proud declarations of “using the country’s bankruptcy laws to my favor” and “giving money to politicians and then they do what I want” will.

The night was a debacle for Trump, and that is true no matter what a single media outlet says this morning. The press has a bigger vested interest in keeping this clown going than anyone. He is fun. He is big. And he is known. But the amount of people with a pea-brain and consequent appreciation for “how Trump says stuff differently” (which is surely true, in that I have never seen someone tackle policy with his intellectual prowess before – “this is just dumb; you know what I will do, I will fix it, because, this is it, we just have to fix this”) is actually not that large. Trump will stand around a little while, but he did not pivot last night and give a single grown-up a moment of “oh wait, he may have something going on after all”. Trump’s days are numbered. In the meantime, just hope for some good laughs.

There is no question I am biased in that I look at that stage and have absolutely no doubt that Marco Rubio is the most capable of defeating Hillary Clinton, and I am typing this morning that Marco Rubio stood out last night as the winner … I am not searching for the conclusion I want to be true – Rubio really did shine. He presents an incredible contrast between stale and fresh, old and new, academic and practical, asleep and alive. On policy he was alert and competent, but in his presentation he was personal, connectable, and likable. He helped himself immensely last night.

The Christie/Paul wrestling match was hysterical, and I did rewind Christie’s moment calling Paul out as blowing air in a sub-committee room three or four times. It also was the classic case of your presupposition determining who you think bested who: If you hold to the Chris Christie view that a vigorous, modern defense is needed against terror you applauded Christie’s takedown of Paul; if you hold to the view that the government is spying on your love life and must stop you applauded Rand Paul saying “the bill of rights” four times in one sentence. It was a good debate moment but not a victory for either guy other than giving them both a little more camera time than they otherwise would have had.

Jeb Bush was everything I thought he would be, with one exception. He was smart but stale. He was prepared but boring. He was competent but not compelling. His answer on his education record in Florida was OUTSTANDING, though. I still turned off the debate believing he just does not have the mojo to win this election. I like him. I respect his immigration approach immensely. But I believe the Bush risk combined with the general lack of, well, lack of SOMETHING, is not going to cut it.

Ben Carson really struggled at first and then was ignored for quite a while, but then wow did he shine at the end with both of his final two moments. He will continue to be in the conversation and did not break out last night, but did keep himself alive so that a breakout may be possible in the future.

Kasich had some good moments and benefitted from the hometown crowd, but he also laid it on a bit thick at moments. He should be discarded only by those who really underestimate his political skill and leadership abilities, but I think he has a ways to go.

Huckabee did well, and the pre-scripted line about the “candidate leading in polls, engulfed in scandal, capturing all the media … and of course I am referring to Hillary Clinton …” was outstanding. But as a candidate, he’s dead in the water. But he did not accelerate his demise last night, frankly, to my surprise.

I am more and more convinced, despite my genuine fondness for him, that Scott Walker lacks the charisma and connectability to win this election. He has the policy and accomplishment chops, but when he speaks, I get a vibe that he just doesn’t click the way a Rubio does. I want to be wrong here, but I do not think i am.

For those who missed the warm-up act, Carly Fiorina was every bit as outstanding as you have heard and read and will be coming into the top 10 shortly.

All in all, I would say the top 10 last night broke into three camps:

Leadership material – Rubio, Walker, Bush, Kasich
Stayed alive and may have staying power – Carson, Christie, Huckabee, Cruz
Just need to go – Trump, Paul

If Cruz wasn’t the smartest guy on that stage he would fall into the third camp, as he really is a heavy underdog in terms of the attributes I think will be needed to carry this election. But he is sharp and in the case of his closing line last night, can be very compelling.

My assessment of the debate matches my own preferences and biases way too much to take any of it too seriously. I think we need a top five in the next three months, and I think we will get it (before Iowa). I remain steadfast: Jeb Bush would make a great President, but he does not make a great candidate. Marco Rubio is the man I see so far who invokes the most certainty of a win over Hillary Clinton. Buckle up.

Donald Trump’s Accidental Contribution to the Cause

Sometimes folks on the “kooky” right (I won’t use the term “far” right, because it begs the question about what is “truly right”, and it seems geographically and geometrically confused) can force some serious head-scratching out of those of us trying to change the world, and who have read a book or two in our journey. But other times their hugging of bizarre ideas and obsessions pales in comparison to their political naivete. The latest case du jour involves the man-crush some of these nitwits have on the intolerable Donald Trump, he of universal health care advocacy and so forth and so on. This reality TV star narcissist could have never, ever guessed that there would be this level of useful idiots available in his objective of, well, being on TV. Is he seeking any notable public policy change? Of course not. Does he believe he has an iota of chance to win the nomination? I doubt he will even spend one dollar on this campaign and never, and that he will ever dare how REAL financials (since this blog was published, another of his entities declared bankruptcy). He jumped in this race for some headlines and profile, and voila, the bottom 10% played right into it. Well done. But what is the political naivete of which I speak?

Those in that Breitbart/Ann Coulter/anti-immigrant/”we have to stick it to China” camp for whom economic education is to be thought of the way small children think of lima beans are not likely to support some of the more credible Republican candidates in this field at first glance. Their hope of an outlier “pure” conservative who meets many of the wish list items they have probably goes through Ted Cruz or Rand Paul. And who is Donald Trump going to take votes and attention from the longer he stays in this race? Well, it’s Ted Cruz, my friends. Ted Cruz is not likely to be your President any time soon, but he is a serious candidate until proven otherwise. And Ted Cruz, the one candidate most mysteriously trying to play footsies with this nitwit Trump, is by far the candidate with the most to lose with Trump lingering around priming the pump for a reality show on Fox.

So go ahead tea partiers – celebrate a guy who once favored a 75% tax rate and is threatening to stick a fork in free trade all over the globe. It is YOUR people who will suffer. And when this news cycle ends, there will still be some grown-ups in the room, many of which have a chance of being elected President (Marco Rubio most certainly would be; Jeb cannot win in a general; Scott Walker we shall see; etc.). And what does this little three-week reign of embarrassment bring those of you who jumped on the bandwagon? Shame and pity, and that’s it.

Why I Cannot Support Jeb Bush as the GOP Nominee (Warning: Some on the Right Will Not Be Happy)

If a man named Jeb Smith was running for the GOP nomination, had been the Florida Governor for two terms with the exact same record as the man we know as Jeb Bush, had the exact same immigration policy prescriptions as the man we know as Jeb Bush, and had the support of the same people the man we know as Jeb Bush, I would be interested in monitoring the primary campaign of this Jeb Smith.  The man we know as Jeb Bush is a conservative, who governed to the right of former California Governor, Ronald Reagan, and who has policy prescriptions in the areas of school choice and immigration that I frankly adore.  He is extremely intelligent, articulate, and abundantly qualified to serve as this nation’s leader.  Jeb Bush has voiced some things about common core that are either in desperate need of clarification or outright walk-back, but as far as “conservative credentials”, there is nothing remotely concerning to me about the idea of him being our President.  I have sat quietly for 120 days giving the vocal side of the Jeb opposition to make a substantive case against him.  I have heard nothing but platitudes, empty rhetoric, and mostly incoherent venom.  This is the state of much of the conservative right these days.  And alas, no matter how much it pains me, I have to join them in opposing the nomination of Jeb Bush, NOT because of common core (I think he clarifies this to a point of reasonable understanding at some point, or at least I hope he does), and NOT because of immigration policy (where his views are simply grown-up, realistic, wise, and frankly, inevitable).  Rather, I join the Jeb-haters (not in hating Jeb but in not supporting his nomination) because I believe he will lose to Hillary Clinton, and unlike the 2012 state of nominees, I think we have better candidates available.

If Jeb wins the nomination, a not-at-all unlikely  but certainly not guaranteed prospect, I will have no choice but to pray I am wrong.  That is because I love this country, and part of loving this country means wanting the side which more represents the values and ideals of this country to win.  Today’s obstructionist belligerents on the right are happy to lose, and I oppose their defeatism and insane ideology.  Hillary Clinton is a corrupt, disingenuous, power-hungry, obsessive radical, and I mean all of that charitably.  If I were a member of the left I would move heaven and earth to keep this elitist hypocrite from representing my ideology for a generation.  Today’s left is not my grandparent’s Democratic Party.  They have sunk into a bifurcated party of either ideological radicals like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, or corrupt public employee unions who have taken the exploitation of under-privileged in our society to a level never before thought possible.  The voting base is actually neither of these two groups, but rather hopelessly misguided low-information voters who rightly believe one party is offering them more free cookies than the other party.  I prefer an honest ideological debate with the ideological left, but it is mostly elusive.  The political climate in the country is bad, right now, really, really bad.  Which means that absent a very solid GOP candidate I believe the money of the corrupt leftist unions, the noise of the ideological radicals, and the electoral strongholds of the uninformed will lead to a Hillary Clinton victory.  This is a horrifying prospect to me, and I want to win.

Jeb Bush has solid conservative credentials and an extremely impressive resume to run on, but he has the wrong last name, the wrong age, and the wrong reputation to be our candidate to beat Hillary Clinton.  For right or for wrong, he has been branded as the “establishment” guy, the term people use only when they actually don’t have anything smart to say about anything, ever.  It is a dope’s term – someone who has no argument to make and no analysis to rely on – but it is rhetorically effective.  The GOP cannot win with such a high percentage of voters throwing around terms like “moderate” and “establishment”.  They cannot win spending six months tarring and feathering a good conservative Governor and then hoping their voters will show up to beat Hillary Clinton.  They cannot win with the perception out there that Jeb Bush is soft, weak, and outside the core of their excitable virtues.  They cannot win with the right’s version of the low information voter – mostly on the blogosphere and Twitter – bashing the candidate.  The cliché of clichés – that perception is reality – is just plain true when it comes to politics, and I do not believe Jeb Bush can overcome the enthusiasm deficit his candidacy represents to capture the nomination.

His last name will kill him in a general election.  This idea that Jeb needs to find a way to run away from his brother is absurd.  Do you think the media will let him do that, really?  Do you think there is any chance that his candidacy will not be made out to be the third term of George W. Bush throughout the entire campaign?  There is no amount of money he can spend to overcome what the press will do to him.  So why risk it?  Why go there?  Why take on the baggage of that Presidency if we don’t have to?  Well, the answer would be valid if it were “our only choices are Rand Paul or Mike Huckabee”.  Yes, sure, then you really don’t have a choice, but that is not the dilemma we face.  This year, the right has the likes of Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, John Kasich, and Rick Perry in the race (or potentially in the race).  This year we have solid pedigrees, track records of electoral success, and phenomenal executive achievement.  Jeb’s reputation, deserved or not, is not a risk we need to take on.  And neither is his last name.

There is also the issue of charisma, personality, and connectivity.  Jeb is lacking in all three, and another candidate from the great state of Florida is a 20 on a scale of 1-10 in those three categories.  I do not know who will win the nomination, but I do know this: Jeb Bush sees his most viable opponent as Marco Rubio, and Hillary Clinton most certainly sees her most viable opponent as Marco Rubio.  In fact, I do not believe Hillary believes there is any candidate she cannot beat but Rubio, and I do not believe she thinks she has a chance against him.  Most of the country does not know Marco Rubio.  When they meet him, she knows they will like him, because everyone likes Marco Rubio.  Everyone.  Likeability wins elections.  Hillary is to likeability what Elizabeth Warren is to native-American.  And the only way for Hillary’s intrinsic unlikeability to not do her in is, in my opinion, to render that category a draw.

I work in the business of risk/reward propositions each and every day, and for my money, the trade-off in a Jeb Bush candidacy is a bad risk/reward bet.  I’d be more inclined to take that bet on my hypothetical Jeb Smith, but with all the cards we have, I believe we need to play the best hand towards defeating Hillary Clinton.  Whether that candidate be Rick Perry (best economic record of any Governor you will find and stunning ability to make that case), John Kasich (win Ohio, win the election), Scott Walker (seems to have tea party right and more center-right folks needed to win an election happy with him), or Marco Rubio (youth, energy, eloquence, charisma, magnetism, solid conservative ideology), we have candidates better suited to take the fight to Hillary and win this election.  And for that reason, and that reason only, I cannot support the nomination of Jeb Bush.