Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Politics of War

This Memorial Day the nation remembers all those people who died while serving in the American armed forces.  More than 1,316,000 military personnel have died during military conflicts in this nation's history.  

The mission of the U.S. military is to fight and win our nation's wars.  The U.S. has the most powerful military in the history of the world, but it should not be utilized as a political tool, or for retribution.  The government and its leaders must do their best to make the right decisions, to be truthful with the American public, and to provide all the necessary support needed to fulfill the military's mission.  Unfortunately, this has not always been the case. 

Following the al-Qaeda terrorist attacks on New York and Washington DC on September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush began to plan a response.  Vice President Dick Cheney and neo-con members of the administration, including Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, immediately set their sites on Saddam Hussein, Iraq's tyrannical ruler.  They were disappointed that Hussein had not been toppled during the first Gulf War in 1991.  Soon the administration made the claim that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, and that Hussein was linked to the terrorist group al-Qaeda. 

But the Bush administration was cherry picking raw intelligence, much of which was unverified.  The "evidence" against Hussein was presented to Congress, which on October 11, 2002, passed the Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Forces Against Iraq.  In early 2003, the British and Spanish governments proposed a U.N. resolution that gave Iraq a deadline for compliance with previous resolutions on WMDs or face military actions.  The resolution was withdrawn because France, Germany, Canada and Russia were opposed to military action; instead they called for further diplomacy.  In early March, Chief U.N. Weapons Inspector Hans Blix said that progress had been made with the inspections and no WMD's had been found in Iraq.

The administration, which had rejected Blix's assessment, began making the case for war to the American people.  In February, President Bush conducted a series of interviews with news organizations, including the Spanish language channel Telemundo.  I was the head of news for Telemundo at that time, and I was present for our session.  The president told Telemundo's Pedro Sevcec that he had not made a decision to go to war.  Following the interview, I asked the president, "What about Jacques Chirac," referring to the French president.  President Bush swatted me on the shoulder with the back of his hand and said dismissively, "Oh, he'll come around."   "We're going to war," I thought.  
White House Photo

The American invasion of Iraq began on March 20.  Vice President Cheney had predicted we would be greeted as liberators.  He was wrong.  The Iraqi forces were quickly defeated but the administration mismanaged the occupation.  The Ba'athist government had collapsed, Hussein's military was disarmed, and a power vacuum ensued.  Sectarian violence broke out between the Shias and the Sunnis.  U.S. backed Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, became Prime Minister in 2006, but his government alienated the country's Sunni minority.   
In 2007, President Bush implemented a troop surge in Iraq.  By adding 20,000 additional U.S. troops, primarily in capital city Baghdad, the president hoped to buy time for reconciliation among the factions.  The situation on the ground stabilized, but Sunnis still distrusted the Maliki government. 

In 2008, the Bush administration negotiated a Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq granting U.S. troops in the country legal immunities with the understanding they would be withdrawn by 2012.  When negotiations began to extend U.S. military presence, only a smaller number, Maliki and various Iraqi party leaders agreed to the extended troop deployment, but did not want to continue the legal immunities.  These immunities are a condition everywhere U.S. troops are based.   

Some critics said President Barack Obama could have done more to secure the legal immunities, but that is debatable.  In an interview on CBS News' Face the Nation Sunday, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) once again claimed an agreement could have been reached with Maliki through negotiations.  Nonetheless, President Obama withdrew American combat troops and fulfilled a campaign promise.

The Maliki government collapsed in 2014.  In the summer of 2014, ISIS, an Islamic terrorist group that had been incubating for more than a decade in Syria, launched a military offensive in Northern Iraq and declared an Islamic caliphate.  ISIS, which is Sunni, has slaughtered thousands of people in its expansion in the region.  Many Iraqi Sunnis find it preferable to the Shiite government in Baghdad.

Iraq under Hussein had served as a counter balance against Iran, its bitter enemy.  With Hussein gone Iran, a Shiite country, was working closely with the Shiites in Iraq.  Iran's influence in the region had grown, especially with the spread of ISIS.   Iraq is in turmoil and it is unlikely all of the factions, including the Kurds in the north, will come together again.

The Iraq War has been costly.  More than 4,500 members of the U.S military have been killed since the invasion.  Hundreds of thousands of casualties have been suffered by Iraqis.  Two years ago the "Costs of Wars" project, part of the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University, estimated that the Iraq War had already cost America more than $2 trillion.  And many veterans of Iraq, who have returned home, are unemployed, suffering from postraumatic stress disorder, or have committed suicide.  

Former Vice President Dick Cheney and many Republican presidential candidates blame President Obama for today's chaos in Iraq and the region.  Yet these candidates do not offer a plan or a solution.  In fact, former Senator Rick Santorum recently said, "If these folks (ISIS) want to return to a 7th-century version of Islam, then let's load up our bombers and bomb them back to the 7th century."   ISIS and Iraq have turned into political fodder for the Republican base.  

The 2003 invasion of Iraq, and subsequent mismanagement by the Bush administration, is the biggest mistake the U.S. has made since Vietnam.  It has led to a series of unintended and disastrous consequences.  And there is no light at the end of this tunnel for America.  

Perhaps the architects of the Iraq War should have heeded the counsel of their spiritual leader, President Ronald Reagan.  In a 1985 Veterans Day speech he said, "We endanger the peace and confuse all issues when we obscure the truth." 

Friday, May 15, 2015


The King of the Blues, BB King has died.

He got the nickname BB as a young musician playing in Memphis -- it stood for "Blues Boy".  Over the years I have seen him in concert several times.  Because of his diabetes, in his later years he had to be helped on stage, and seated in a chair.  But when he played, the riffs and strums were just a fresh, passionate and vibrant as always. 

I met him once at the Kennedy Center Honors in 1993.  It was intermission during the taping of the program.  We both approached the men's room at the same time, and immediately struck up a conversation about music. 

It was funny that we were next to each other in a long line waiting to use the facilities.  Ahead of us were Henry Kissinger, numerous politicians, and Laurence Tisch, my ultimate boss at CBS back then.  But my total attention was focused on The King. 

We continued to talk as we slowly worked our way into the restroom.  As Congressmen and dignitaries walked past us, they took little notice of this legendary musician.  It occurred to me that these folks were more interested in being seen than in acknowledging others. 

When we completed our visit to the men's room we stood at the back of the magnificent Kennedy Center theater and continued our conversation.  A few minutes later the lights were dimmed, and an announcer asked that everyone take their seats. 

BB King and I shook hands.  He said, "Wait a minute."  He then reached for his wallet, dug deep inside one of the pockets, and pulled out a guitar pick with BB King inscribed on the front.  "Here," he said, "it's been nice talking with you."  I examined the pick and enthusiastically expressed my gratitude.  We shook hands and parted ways.

I framed the pick and placed it on a table in my living room at home.  A couple years later I added a Gibson to the guitars that I own.  BB played a Gibson he call "Lucille."

BB King had a remarkable influence on music over the past six decades.  He was an inspiration to many great musicians, including Eric Clapton.   

BB King a dear friend and inspiration to me....
Posted by Eric Clapton on Friday, May 15, 2015

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Tom Terrific and Yogi

Tom Brady, quarterback for the New England Patriots, has a lot to learn from one of the sporting world's wisest men, New York Yankee great Yogi Berra.   Brady has been suspended for four games, his team has been fined $1 million, and they have lost two future draft picks because they played with footballs that were underinflated.

The penalties were assessed as the result of a lengthy investigation by the NFL following the Patriot's victory over the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship game this past January.   After the game it was determined that the footballs used by the Patriots were not inflated to the minimum standard required by the league. 

A few days later Brady addressed the allegations at a press conference.  "I didn't alter the ball in any way," he said.   "I feel like I have always played within the rules," and he continued, "I would never break the rules."  Later, in an interview with sports radio WEEI, Brady said, "I was very shocked to hear it, so I almost laughed it off thinking that was more sour grapes than anything," he said. "And it ends up being a very serious thing when you start learning the things that were ... just the integrity of the game."

Subsequently, the NFL hired attorney Ted Wells to investigate the incident.  His report, which was released last week, slammed Brady.   "It is more probable than not" that Brady was "at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities" of locker room attendant Jim McNally and equipment assistant John Jastremski, the report said.  Jastremski, who has been with the Patriots for 14 years, was in charge of preparing the balls.  Underinflated balls can make it possible for the quarterback to get a better grip.  Brady threw for three touchdowns in the Patriots 45-7 rout over the Colts, and they went on to win the Super Bowl over the Seattle Seahawks.

The Wells report said that Brady answered questions from investigators over the course of one day, however, he did not turn over personal information such as texts and emails, and that he was not totally forthcoming about the incident.  NFL Executive President Troy Vincent, in a letter to Brady, said the quarterback's actions were detrimental to the integrity of the sport.  "Each player, no matter how accomplished and otherwise respected, has an obligation to comply with the rules and must be held accountable for his actions when those rules are violated and the public's confidence in the game is called into question," Vincent wrote.

Brady has won four Super Bowls, and he is considered by many to be the NFL's best quarterback.  The man with the nickname "Tom Terrific" has won scads of awards in his NFL career.   He is certain to be a Hall of Famer, although Deflategate, as it is now known, is likely to be a black mark on his career.

This week Yogi Berra celebrates his 90th birthday.  He was a baseball All-Star for 15 seasons, and is considered one of the best catchers in baseball history.  He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972.  He is a sports icon who is beloved for his humility and integrity. 

Brady can learn a lot from Berra, who once said of his sport, "90% of the game is half-mental."  While Brady and his attorney, who says they will appeal the NFL's decision, may feel "It ain't over till it's over," another Berra quote, they should take Berra's counsel, "When you come to a fork in the road, take it."  Then Brady can say, "Thank you for making this day necessary."

After all, Tom Brady,"You can observe a lot by watching."

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Clinton and Trust

The 2016 Presidential Election is eighteen months away, yet the race already has become very intense for both political parties.   Republican candidates, of whom there are more than a dozen so far, are busy raising money and vying for attention.  On the other hand, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the favorite for her party's nomination, is being battered by conservatives on the issue of trust.

It is no wonder Clinton is her party's overwhelming choice.  A New York Times/CBS News Poll released this week shows the magnitude of Clinton’s strength.   Of the Democrats asked, 84% agreed that Clinton shared "the values that most Americans try to live by."  The poll showed 91% of Democrats surveyed believe that she "has strong qualities of leadership."   Democrats polled were also asked, "Do you think Hillary Clinton is honest and trustworthy?"  The results showed 82% of the Democrats polled said yes.  However, the poll finds that only 48% of all Americans say Clinton is honest and trustworthy, while 45% say she is not honest and trustworthy.

Clinton's trustworthiness is the issue Republicans and conservative media outlets are pounding hardest at.  And Clinton has given her opponents ammunition.  She used a personal server for all of her emails while serving as Secretary of State, which did not comply with Obama administration policies.  Subsequently, she had all of her "personal" emails from that period destroyed, more than 55,000 pages of them.  Was there a "smoking gun" related to Benghazi, or with some scandalous dealings with a foreign country.  For sure, Republicans will ask that question again, again and again.

In fact, they will also have yet another chance to question Clinton about Benghazi, as she has agreed to appear before the House Select Committee on Benghazi later this month.  She insisted that the meeting be open so she would not have to deal with selective leaks from Republicans.  Nonetheless, the Republicans have kept Benghazi alive through more than a dozen hearings and millions of taxpayer dollars in a so far fruitless effort to turn a great and painful tragedy into a scandal.  That's politics.

Now Republicans are proffering allegations that Secretary of State Clinton did favors for foreign countries while she was in office in exchange for huge speaking fees and contributions to the Clinton Foundation.  A newly released book, "Clinton Cash" by conservative author Peter Schweizer, has fueled the attacks.  The book does not offer any hard evidence of sweetheart deals, but it does strongly suggest there is a pattern.  The Clinton campaign is now aggressively attacking the book's allegations.  Earlier this week, former President Bill Clinton, while on a two-week Africa trip, said there was "no evidence" of wrongdoing.  The Clinton Foundation has been widely praised for the work it does in the area of public health around the world. 

Hillary Clinton has long been a polarizing figure on the American political scene.  Those who love her do so with great passion.  And those who hate her absolutely detest her. A Pew Research Center Poll showed that Clinton's term at State might be her strongest positive.  And more older white women, a demographic that usually is heavily Republican, are supporting her.  So it's no wonder Republicans are trying to turn her strengths, her service at State and her leadership, into negatives.

But can voters trust each of the GOP candidates?  After all, they are politicians.   For example, Senator Ted Cruz pandered to his supporters' fears that a U.S. Special Forces exercise was a cover for a plan to impose Marshall Law in Texas.  “My office has reached out to the Pentagon to inquire about this exercise," he said in an interview.   Is he kidding?  This from the man who led a government shutdown, but then denied he was responsible for it.

The Bradenton Herald, a Florida newspaper, last month published a story with this headline: "Senator Marco Rubio claims rated 41 percent honest."   USA Today ran this story in November 2013:  "Rand Paul admits his plagiarism 'is my fault.'"  Paul had been caught lifting other people's work for his speeches and his book.  Of course, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie didn't know about the lane closure on the George Washington Bridge.  

Republicans are out of sync with a majority of Americans on issues like income inequality, how to increase employment, immigration, marriage equality and national security.  Attacking Clinton's trustworthiness is their default position.  The more each of these flawed Republican candidates goes after Hillary Clinton on the issue of trust, the more their hypocrisy will be exposed to all Americans.   And they will give Hillary Clinton the opportunity to talk solutions and her ideas for moving the country forward.

Who do you trust?

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Baltimore-A City of Neighborhoods

The rioting in Baltimore is heartbreaking.  This great and proud city has struggled for decades to overcome lost manufacturing jobs, decaying blocks and long neglected neighborhoods.  All of the ingredients were in place for an explosion.  

The unjustified death of Freddie Gray while in police custody was the catalyst that set off rioting and destruction.   Many residents in Freddie Gray's neighborhood say that police harassment is constant.  Just in the past four years 100 people have won court judgments or settlements against the Baltimore police related to allegations of brutality or civil rights violations.  

Half of the residents between 16 and 64 are unemployed, while the greater Baltimore area unemployment rate is much lower.  More than 30% of the homes in Freddie Gray's neighborhood are vacant or abandoned, while the average for the city is about 8%.   The median household income in the neighborhood is about $24,000, compared to about $42,000 for the city.  Almost 35% of its residents do not have a high school diploma.  

There is no excuse for the senseless violence that has broken out in Baltimore.  But there are underlying causes that have been left for fester and now explode.  The people, officials and business leaders of Baltimore know it.  

For instance, Baltimore Orioles COO John Angelos vented his feelings Saturday in a series of Twitter replies to a local sportscaster.  Angelos began by tweeting, "the principle of peaceful, non-violent protest and the observance of the rule of law is of utmost importance in any society."  He added, "Further, it is critical that in any democracy, investigation must be completed and due process must be honored before any government or police members are judged responsible."

But then he offered a defense.  When edited together, his tweets read: "my greater source of personal concern, outrage and sympathy beyond this particular case is focused neither upon one night’s property damage nor upon the acts, but is focused rather upon the past four-decade period during which an American political elite have shipped middle class and working class jobs away from Baltimore and cities and towns around the U.S. to third-world dictatorships like China and others, plunged tens of millions of good, hard-working Americans into economic devastation, and then followed that action around the nation by diminishing every American’s civil rights protections in order to control an unfairly impoverished population living under an ever-declining standard of living and suffering at the butt end of an ever-more militarized and aggressive surveillance state."

Forty miles away, at the White House on Tuesday, President Barack Obama said there was no excuse for the violence in Baltimore, but he blamed it on economic inequality and police brutality.  "This is not new. This has been going on for decades. And without making any excuses for criminal activities that take place in these communities, we also know if you have impoverished communities that have been stripped away of opportunity, where children are born into abject poverty, they've got parents, often because of substance abuse problems or incarceration or lack of education, and themselves can't do right by their kids, if it's more likely that those kids end up in jail or dead than that they go to college, and communities where there are no fathers who can provide guidance to young men, communities where there’s no investment, and manufacturing's been stripped away, and drugs have flooded the community and the drug industry ends up being the primary employer for a lot of folks, in those environments," the president said with great passion.  

He concluded forcefully, "if we think that we're just going to send the police to do the dirty work of containing the problems that arise there without, as a nation, and as a society saying what can we do to change those communities to help lift up those communities and give those kids opportunity, then we're not going to solve this problem, and we'll go through this same cycles of periodic conflicts between the police and communities, and the occasional riots in the streets and everybody will feign concern until it goes away and we just go about our business as usual."

Baltimore was once the home of the great abolitionist and social reformer Frederick Douglass.  Douglass famously said, "I would unite with anybody to do right and nobody to do wrong."  Will this episode in Baltimore's storied history be a time when a nation unites to do right?

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Hillary Clinton: Getting Started

“I’m running for president,” former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced in a video released Sunday afternoon.  “Everyday Americans need a champion. And I want to be that champion,” Mrs. Clinton said. “So I’m hitting the road to earn your vote — because it’s your time. And I hope you’ll join me on this journey.”  

Clinton's highly anticipated announcement video, called "Getting Started," at first features appearances from a diverse cross section of working class Americans.  It is positive, hopeful and family-oriented.   Clinton, who first appears 90 seconds into the two-minute and eighteen second video, is warm, confident and upbeat.  But her message is clearly targeted, "Americans have fought their way back from tough economic times, but the deck is still stacked in favor of those at the top. " 

Clinton offered no specific plans on how she will champion everyday Americans.  But Clinton is expected to focus her campaign on stagnant wages and income inequality.  The U.S. economy has improved greatly since the recession of 2008, but many Americans have not benefited from the progress.  And, while likely and declared Republican candidates have forwarded the argument for income equality, their proposed solutions are viewed with suspicion.   However, Clinton will have to more clearly articulate her plans for growing the economy in order to connect with lower and middle class voters. 

While Clinton is not likely to face serious opposition for her own party's  nomination, she, nonetheless, faces a serious challenge in differentiating herself from her predecessor.  Democrats have failed four of the last five times to win three consecutive terms as president.   And more Americans disapprove President Barack Obama's performance than approve it according to most recent polls.  President Obama does poorest among those polled on foreign policy.  Clinton will have to navigate the tricky shoals of separating herself from President Obama while not alienating his many supporters, especially African Americans.   And she has to hope that President Obama does not have a serious enough foreign policy setback to drag her candidacy down.

Even though her service as Secretary of State would seem to be a strength, Republican candidates will do all they can to diminish this advantage.  They will pair her with the president on policy problems in Syria, Libya, Iraq, Iran and Ukraine.  They will describe her stint at the State Department as a failure.  They will say she achieved nothing while in office except frequent flyer miles.  Clinton will need a stronger answer to these charges than she had for ABC's Diane Sawyer last year when she did not cite a single accomplishment during her term at State. 

Perhaps no other presidential candidate is as well known to voters as is Hillary Clinton.  She is viewed favorably by almost half those recently polled.  But her unfavorable numbers are also very high.  Hillary Clinton is a polarizing figure in American politics.  Maybe that is why she frequently references her identity as a woman, and better yet, a grandmother.  Nonetheless, she will need to make it clear she can accomplish her goals despite a recalcitrant Congress.   Americans are tired and frustrated with the Congressional gridlock that has characterized the previous six years on Capitol Hill.  

But Congressional Republicans have been attacking Clinton for years, and, with her announcement, those attacks will be more amplified.   From Whitewater to Benghazi, Clinton continues to be a lightening rod for a litany of charges that galvanize GOP party members and donors against her.  Just last week Republican Senator Rand Paul, who announced his candidacy for president, dropped hints in a campaign appearance of a scandal with the Clinton Foundation.  While none of these scandals have to date panned out, Republicans will continue their barrage of attacks.  But the more they attack her for these so-called scandals, the more they risk angering and energizing Democrat and independent voters to support her. 

Clinton's challenge will not be fighting off Republican attacks.  Rather, it will be to connect with America's working class by clearly laying out what she will do as president to make their lives better.   Yes, if elected, she would be the first woman president.  Yes, she has no challengers for her party's nomination.  But if she campaigns as a front-runner, or as someone who is entitled to the presidency, she will falter.

Her unconventional announcement video indicates that this time will be different.  But, with about eighteen months to go before the 2016 elections, a loaded field of Republican candidates attacking her, and record amounts of campaign money being spent, this campaign will no doubt be most unconventional.

And they are only getting started!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Senator Ted Cruz

Republican Texas Senator Ted Cruz has announced his candidacy for President of the United States. While critics, including some in his own party, dismiss him, Cruz is a smart, shrewd and brash politician. He is also arrogant, self-confident and power-hungry. Cruz recently told Fox News host Sean Hannity that his critics call him "crazy." Well?

In September 2013, Senator Cruz spoke in opposition of the inclusion of the Affordable Care Act in a continuing resolution to fund the government. His faux-filibuster lasted more than 21 hours, and he opened with, "I rise today in opposition to Obamacare." Then, after being recognized, he said he would speak "until I am no longer able to stand." His effort was not a filibuster because the Senate had already scheduled its cloture vote. But the Cruz show went on, including reading from the Dr. Seuss's classic, Green Eggs and Ham. His daughters watched from home on C-Span as he read from the book, “You do not like green eggs and ham?”

But Cruz was so angry with Republican supporters of the Senate vote he played the appeasement card in his rant from the Senate floor. "If you go to the 1940s, Nazi Germany," Cruz said. "Look, we saw in Britain, Neville Chamberlain, who told the British people, 'Accept the Nazis. Yes, they'll dominate the continent of Europe but that's not our problem. Let's appease them. Why? Because it can't be done. We can't possibly stand against them.'"

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) was furious with Cruz's remarks. "I resoundingly reject that allegation," McCain said. "That allegation, in my view, does a great disservice. A great disservice to those brave Americans and those who stood up and said, 'what's happening in Europe cannot stand.'"

Mr. Cruz became one of the architects of the 2013 government shutdown that ran from October 1 to October 16. As many as 800,000 government employees were furloughed and another 1.3 million had to work without pay. It is estimated that the shutdown cost the U.S. economy at least $12 billion. Representative Peter King (R-NY) reacted brusquely to Cruz's presidential announcement. "Shutting down the federal government and reading Dr. Seuss on the Senate floor are the marks of a carnival barker not the leader of the free world," King said in a statement.

Unapologetic, Cruz has continued his relentless attacks Obamacare. So it was ironic that Cruz made this announcement Tuesday: "We'll be getting new health insurance and we'll presumably do it through my job with the Senate, and so we'll be on the federal exchange with millions of others on the federal exchange." Because Cruz's wife was taking a leave of absence from her banking job at Goldman Sachs the family will no longer be covered by their health plan. But his spokesman said Senator Cruz wouldn't take the government contribution he is entitled to as a member of Congress under the ACA.

Senator Cruz, a Harvard educated lawyer and Princeton debate champion, is quick to come up with a witty quip. For instance, when the White House announced its support for net-neutrality. "In short, net neutrality is Obamacare for the Internet," he said. "It would put the government in charge of determining Internet pricing, terms of service and what types of products and services can be delivered, leading to fewer choices, fewer opportunities and higher prices." But experts say his comparison is inaccurate. "It takes a special kind of wrongness to look at a plan that is focused on making sure that no one can be blocked and argue that it means the government gets to pick what services can be delivered," the site TechDirt wrote.

In a 2010 speech, Cruz launched a McCarthy era attack on Harvard. The New Yorker reported that he said, “There were fewer declared Republicans in the faculty when we were there than Communists! There was one Republican. But there were twelve who would say they were Marxists who believe in the Communists overthrowing the United States government.” A Harvard spokesperson was quoted as responding, "We are puzzled by the Senator's assertions, as we are unaware of any basis for them."

Cruz can be too clever by half. For instance, take his opposition to those who are advocating measures to reduce global warming. "What do they do? They scream, 'You're a denier.' They brand you a heretic," Cruz told Texas Tribune reporter Jay Root. "Today, the global warming alarmists are the equivalent of the flat-Earthers. It used to be [that] it is accepted scientific wisdom the Earth is flat, and this heretic named Galileo was branded a denier." On this issue Cruz is a flat-wronger. According to NASA, "Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities, and most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position."

"Imagine abolishing the IRS," Senator Cruz said in his announcement Monday, "abolishing the IRS ain't all that tough." But the IRS collects $2.4 billion in taxes used to pay for the military, Social Security, Medicare and other entitlement programs. Cruz proposes a flat tax. However, if there are going to be federal taxes some agency will need to collect them!

Ted Cruz, 44, was born in Canada, but he has since given up his Canadian citizenship. His father, Rafael Cruz, is a controversial evangelical Texas pastor who believes his son is the anointed one. In a 2013 interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network, Pastor Cruz recalled he told his then four-year old son, “'You know Ted, you have been gifted above any man that I know and God has destined you for greatness.' And I started making declarations about the Word of God to him every day.”

Pastor Cruz has reportedly embraced the Christian Dominionism theology, which believes that Christians are called to take "dominion" over every aspect of the American culture and use them to create God's kingdom on Earth in order to bring about the return of Jesus Christ.

In his announcement Monday, Senator Cruz said, “God’s blessing has been on America from the very beginning of this nation, and I believe God isn’t done with America yet.” He continued, “I believe in you. I believe in the power of millions of courageous conservatives rising up to re-ignite the promise of America.”

Cruz, a first-term Senator, is the first Republican candidate to throw his hat into the ring. He will try to consolidate his support among conservatives and Christian evangelicals. He has repeatedly said that a moderate Republican cannot win the presidency. In January he said, "If we nominate another candidate in the mold of Bob Dole or John McCain or Mitt Romney...the same people who stayed home in 2008 and 2012 will stay home in 2016 and the Democrats will win again. There is a better way."

But many Republicans already believe that if Senator Ted Cruz is their party's nominee there is no way they will win the White House in 2016.