Not suitable for a blog, a white paper on the subject of the election and markets penned by yours truly is found HERE. Enjoy.
I believe this was debate #4 in the Republican primary but I confess I am getting to that point where I will soon start to lose count. It was not as exciting of a debate, but I am not sure “excitement” is supposed to be the objective. By far this debate featured the most actual policy discussion, and while it was low on fireworks it was a revealing debate for those wanting to dig deeper into who has the policy depth to be President. The moderators did a good job keeping the debate on subject, and that subject was the economy. At the end of this review I have a link to a white paper I have written on that very subeject – the policy implications in the economy of this election – but let’s take a look at the festivities in Milwaukee first.
The debate started with a question on the minimum wage, one that can easily lend itself to class angst and populist rage if there is not a proper explanation and education to accompany the answer. I expected this to be something above Ben Carson’s head, but frankly his response was simply fantastic. A $15/hourt federally required minimum wage law is a DISASTER, but not because it will hurt business; because it will decimate the people the law pretends to help. Carson hit the needed points here and I was impressed. Carson would have his chance to flub on something rather substantial later. Responding to a few answers on the minimum wage law, John Kasich responded with this gem: “Economic theory is fine, but people need help”. I’m not sure why Kasich doesn’t recognize that this logic can be used to rationalize any full-blown epic redistributionism. He can be forgiven for merely trying to play to a sort of populist denominator, but I think Kasich’s problem in these debates has NOT been that he wants to reconcile high level policy with street level problems (we all should want that); it is that he swings and misses in attempting to do so. This flaw would hit an apex later in the debate with Kasich.
I never say anything nice about Rand Paul, but frankly his answer about income inequality was one of the highlights of the night. If people don’t realize that income inequality is greatest in the bluest of cities and bluest of states, well, they should. Rand did a fine job last night, but in true Paul family fashion he took the one or two important things he had to contribute in matters of free markets and flushed them down the toilet by voluntarily choosing to instead focus on his radical isolationism. The idea that the great enemy of freedom right now is, um, Marco Rubio’s view of national defense, is absurd, and it fell on deaf ears with the audience.
The immigration issue is still the one I see most likely to cost the Republicans the election, and it won’t be the candidates fault if it happens. Trump doubled down on his preposterous lie that he will deport over 11 million illegal immigrants. He also threw in a garbled and historically confused reference to Dwight Eisenhower’s Operation Wetback (I hope it will be a theme in my writing for decades to come that HISTORY MATTERS). Kasich had the courage to say the truth about the prospects for deporting 11 million people. We’re smarter than that. We’re better than that. I don’t know how the guys who have this policy right can message it to a fuming group in the supposed base of the party. Rubio’s prescription remains the most compelling and most palatable, and he stayed out of that fray last night. Cruz took the cheap route – saying everyone believes in amnesty. Trump was consistent, authentic, and idiotic. A low point of the night all the way around.
One of the more revealing parts of the night came when the moderators turned to the financial crisis of 2008, how they would have handled things, what would be different next time, etc. I say it is “revealing” because, being an obsessive about this very topic, I believe it provides incredible encapsulation of one’s view of history, worldview in economics and finance, and so much of how one foresees policy prescription going forward. Jeb Bush said one of the stranger things of the night, and I am sure only a few people would have cared or caught it. Jeb said in clear English that the capital requirements of banks were not high enough now under Dodd-Frank. He certainly has it right that the small banks are being unfairly hammered by Dodd-Frank with newfound compliance costs, but of all the massive problems Dodd-Frank has, this is the first time I’ve heard anyone say inadequate capital requirements for the big banks is one. Tier One Capital is up 98% since the crisis (no typo). He either has a wildly off-center view of what capital requirements ought to be (I doubt that, but maybe), or he is totally ignorant over what Dodd-Frank did and did not do (something which would be shocking from the “policy wonk” on stage. Let me be clear – I think Dodd-Frank is the second worst law passed in this country in 25 years, if not longer. But alleging that the banks are under-capitalized now because of it is simply untrue. Ted Cruz’s grandstanding on the gold standard and overt refusal to answer Neil Cavuto’s question about bank bailouts was sad for a man of Cruz’s debate ability. But nobody fluffed on this worse than Ben Carson. Ben Carson said that when corporations buy back their own stock we let them “artificially prop it up”. Perhaps he could explain this to someone with an 8th grade understanding of markets. How are stock buybacks artificial? Real money being used to buy real stock at actual market levels. And what in the world does that have to do with the financial crisis (the subject at the time?). I want to assume he misspoke but I know he didn’t; he simply grabbed onto a bunch of rhetoric of which he has no idea what it means whatsoever. THIS is the kind of thing that serves as my foundation for seeing him lacking the depth to be President. Now Kasich’s foot-in-mouth moment of the night was saying that if a bank was going to fail he would figure out “which depositors could afford it” and pick which depositors were saved around those lines. Dear Lord. His lack of an actual economic ideology has totally overpowered the strengths he has as a candidate.
Cruz really whiffed tonight. His attempt at generating applause fell flat the first couple times he tried, particularly on the preposterous amnesty claim. And by the way, for an educated man, he reiterated the economic absurdity that immigrants were driving down wages – something I actually thought even he wouldn’t stoop to. He certainly had strong moments as someone of his debate skill is bound to have, but I am more and more seeing a TV evangelist every time he speaks, and I can’t even imagine what someone not in my political worldview sees. How come Ted Cruz doesn’t get Rick Perry’d over the agencies he said he’d cut??? Perry couldn’t remember one; Cruz said he had five to cut but repeated one of those twice (the Dept of Commerce). What’s the difference? Was I the only one who caught that?
Rubio was strong as always, and I keep waiting for him to have a disappointing night. Jeb Bush very wisely chose not to make Marco Rubio the target of his attacks. Rubio does well because the things you need to do well in this setting are not things you can develop, coach, train, or learn: You have to have a true command of the issues, and you have to have a God-given ability to articulate that command. Each candidate I criticize in these settings either lacks that command (Carson at times, Trump nearly always, etc.), or lacks any semblance of eloquence and conviction when it comes to portraying their point of view (Bush would be the worst in this case). In other words, I do not commend Rubio because he is a good debater (as Cruz is); I point out that Rubio is a good debater BECAUSE he is a good candidate (which Cruz is not).
Last night each candidate had highlights, but overall I would say it helped Rubio, helped Rand Paul, and at least didn’t hurt Jeb Bush (which isn’t enough at this point). Carson really can’t hurt himself with his own base, but he has definitely reached a ceiling in my humble opinion. I have given up commenting on how Trump does, but I guess he did better last night than he has in the previous debates, but what does that matter for his core fan base. I am saddened by the way Kasich has played this campaign; he is a good Governor and needs a voice, but he is not getting through and much of his problems are self-induced.
If I were a betting man right now I would say that if ANY candidate we are not talking about has a chance to get into contention in the next sixty days it is Chris Christie. He had a great week and is a better orator and has a more natural voice than just about anyone running. He can’t win; he won’t win; but he just seems to me (intuition only) to be one I can see coming up the ranks. I suspect Jeb stays in long enough to finish 5th place in New Hampshire and totally humiliate himself, but there are talks that at Thanksgiving dinner the family will be, um, having a frank talk. Carson and Trump have peaked, and as long as they both stay in, neither is likely to break through (in terms of where delegate counts would actually be needed).
So it is still fluid, and I still think we are heading to a Rubio-Cruz run-off for the primary in the end. And if I am right (I may not be), how the GOP resolves that nomination question will determine whether or not Hillary Clinton becomes the next President of the United States.
I think I have been pretty consistent in my take on Ben Carson throughout this election cycle: I like him personally (if you spend any time with him, you will see he is a charming and gentle and sincere man), and at the same time I do not support his candidacy. I am probably sympathetic to a good percentage of his views, but my concerns have been entirely outside of the realm of policy. There has not been, in my opinion, a necessary respect for the need of savvy coming from his campaign. His decision to gleefully walk into that “would you support a Muslim in the White House” question was staggering to me. He has not shown a seriousness around foreign policy that I think should be at the co-heart of this campaign. He has the soft-spoken ability to articulate the accurate message of American freedom in an opportunity society, but he has put little meat on the bone, and with no political or policy experience at all, he needs to have MORE meat, not less. Ultimately, while I admire much of his story and life testimony, he would be minced meat in a general election, in my humble opinion.
All of this forms the background for my opinions on the last week of issues. I hate writing pieces like this because basically I think his defenders are going to hate me and his opponents will too. But that doesn’t mean I am not right.
Ben Carson is not likely to get knocked out of the primary over this present hubbub. It is too much of a mix of seemingly fair questions with truly weird criticism with blatant overreach. The West Point claim in the biography is, at first glance, a very fair question. The pyramid video is, based on the context of past Palin’s in our cause, weird and not surprising. And the whole “we found a friend of yours from 50 years ago and he said he remembers you being nice” is, um, retarded. So what you have is a PERFECT landscape for Carson to dismiss it ALL as media bias overreach. The truth is somewhere in the middle.
Reasonable people know that interviewing “some friend” from fifty years ago to ask if Carson was nice or not is idiotic and of no use to anyone in this charade. The pyramid deal is a mystery to me, because on one hand I’ve grown used to people like Carson having bizarre opinions on stuff like this, but I also am not sure what the context or relevance was in that old video. The more fantastic things in the biography, though, do warrant scrutiny, and I think I have read enough and listened enough to have wrapped my arms around it.
Pretty simply put: He exaggerated. Would he have been accepted into West Point with open arms? Of course. Did ROTC recruiters and other mucky-mucks tell him to go there. Of course. And did that get into his biography a couple decades later with hyperbole attached to it? Sure. Was it deliberate? Who knows. I don’t see how a man of his story could have “aided” his story by flowering up this little detail. It makes no sense. My suspicion is that they added on to the story when the book was being written not believing anyone would care. It was a fair bet.
I don’t think anyone is wrong to call him out for exaggerations or even “misremembering” things. A grown-up can safely conclude that some things are misremembered because we’re all old now and don’t remember all the details perfectly. I suspect the West Point deal exceeded that – that there was some editorial license taken to flower it up. Not like “I fled gunfire in Bosnia” kind of stuff, but more “I was offered a deal to West Point when really I was just told I would be offered a deal to West Point kind of stuff”. The freaking horror.
Carson is doing the only thing he can do now and that is blaming the media. He has on his side the fact that it is obviously true. Obama’s book is filled with so many b.s. lies it isn’t even funny (google how his grandfather died, by the way, vs. what he said in the book). Hillary’s entire life and career is one of overt deception, secrets, corruption, quid pro quos, and bribery, it isn’t even funny. She is filthy dirty. No one has the guts to say that about Carson. He became a professional autobiographer and in that autobiographicing he colored up a few details. I’m still stuck in Bosnia with Hillary getting shot at, but I’m a conservative Republican, so what did you expect.
But the blame the media schtick, while true, is a two-edged sword. On one hand, it raises money, it fires up the base, and it angers people already preconditioned to be angry. But it also exposes a few things that the pro-Carson side needs to realize. Substance matters. Savvy matters. Technique matters. Being unfairly treated is enough to generate sympathy and emotion, but at the end of the day we have gone full circle.
1 – Carson’s campaign lacks the substance and gravitas and experience to rationalize a Presidency (my thesis)
2 – Media goes after him for combination of small ball things.
3 – His supporters get fired up because of #2. His opponents get fired up because of #2, in the other way.
4 – Carson’s campaign lacks the substance and gravitas and experience to rationalize a Presidency (my thesis)
So yes, the press is immorally unfair in how they go about things, and some of this Carson affair illustrates that. Yes, there is some exaggeration that took place in his book. And yes, people side on all of this with how they naturally line up.
And when all is said and done, I don’t think this man will be our President, but I say that for no other reason than the reason I did three weeks ago and three months ago.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I am being shot at by Bosnian terrorists right now and my grandfather just gave his life fighting Dutch colonialists in Indonesia.
What a crazy week. Jeb Bush sets out to reset his failing $120 million campaign, and does so by taking on not Barack Obama, not Hillary Clinton, not Bernie Sanders, and not Donald Trump … But Marco Rubio. And he does it as if a kidnapper is holding a gun to his back and he is a hostage forced into it.
The former frontrunner, Trump, armed with four “very impressive” bankruptcies to his list of accomplishments (one more than his marriages), attacks Rubio’s finances. Rubio responded the only way he should.
Kim Strassel responded with class and information, as she generally does. I am in the camp that believes all of this is a positive for Rubio in the general election. When the $100 million queen of corruption and bribery, having not driven a car since 1994, has to prosecute a campaign on the basis of class warfare and income inequality against a guy who just paid off his student debt in the last eight years (as opposed to a billionaire who inherited all of his money and the $22 million Jeb Bush), trust me, it’s a good thing for the Republican.
Rubio has the truth on his side with these things about his finances, and politically has solid answers. Americans do want someone who can relate to them, and they do love aspirational success stories. There is no “there, there” on the credit card deal. Jon Stewart himself has mocked the heck out of this whole thing.
BUT I will personally point out one error in Rubio’s script … He deftly said this week:
“I think it would be good for this country to have a president that knows what it is like to have your house lose its value because of irresponsible and reckless behavior by Fannie and Freddie, by the Federal Reserve.”
It’s the right thing to say politically. But the truth is in the inversion – the Fed/Fannie/Freddie did not make prices fall; they made them artificially rise. They fell because all things fall when their rise was artificial. Important distinction? Probably not. But I’m making it anyways. Who said I am not objective?
There are fair reasons to be disappointed with the pro-life movement in this great country of ours. The movement has often lacked strategy. It isn’t unfair to say it has often favored piety over technique. Too often, it has relied on politics (unsuccessfully) to advance it’s cause, and ignored or de-emphasized the real opportunity to advance the cause of life: Culture, Health Care, and Relationships. For a small few, tactics have often been obnoxious (though the media loves portraying that small few as indicative of something systemic). Either way, I am a pro-lifer, and I am a pro-lifer for no other reason than the fact that I believe life begins at conception. I do not believe anyone is NOT a pro-lifer if they also accept that premise (i.e. “I also believe it is human life at conception, BUT I favor the right to end it”). The issue is, always and forever, when life begins. I support a lot more choices than my left-wing friends do. I actually think people should have choice about where they educate their kids, choice about how they set up a business, and choice in various economic and personal parts of their lives. The pro-choice movement has built itself around just one choice, and for the reason I have just stated (my belief that life begins at conception), I cannot and do not support that choice. You would think the other side would be content to say, “well, we disagree that life begins at conception, but as long as you believe that, we respect your opinions on this issue.”. I would say that I am not out of bounds to say that respect and understanding are not characteristics of how the other side has treated us pro-lifers.
But here’s the thing: My objective is NOT to win an argument here, it is not just to pass a piece of legislation or celebrate an election result, and it is not to widen the cultural divide. From the bottom of my heart, my objective is to defend the sanctity of life, and celebrate the miracle of children and families and healthy babies (and mothers) in our society. When a woman finds herself with an unwanted pregnancy, I am not a pro-lifer who believes that we have done our job if we merely take away the legal access to abortion. What I want – what all pro-lifers should want – is for that woman to receive REAL care, real counseling, real support, and real medical attention. From that process, guided by true medical professionals who actually follow the oath to “do no harm”, I am confident life will be preserved, women will be cared for, and our society will benefit.
Enter Obria Medical Clinics.
We sponsored a table last night at their Annual “Legacy of Life” Gala, and were just so touched by their focus on providing all the medical care that Planned Parenthood claims to offer (HIV testing, STD testing, prescriptions, prenatal care, etc.). But what they are doing is rooted in a real care for women and a real care for babies. It is an actual alternative – it is not shouting and it is not toxic – and with 200 medical clinics to be opened over the next five years, it is going to save lives. We heard last night from the gentleman behind the now famed Planned Parenthood tapes. I don’t really know what to say when people defend what took place on their tapes. It is the most grotesque thing I have seen in a first world country in my lifetime. But all the efforts to fight their atrocities will still at best only represent 50% of the objective. Obria is not merely against Planned Parenthood; they are FOR something – for a healthy and nurturing alternative rooted in quality medical care and true holistic love.