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.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Hillary Clinton Stumbles

Democrats may be getting a little anxious.  Hillary Clinton is stumbling into the starting gate.  Since she became the prohibitive favorite for her party's nomination she has made some mistakes.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has yet to explain why she used a personal email account during her entire tenure at State (2009-2013) instead of using an official government email account.  On the face of it, this makes no sense and calls in to question her judgment.   Putting aside whether she complied with regulations, a private email server does not have the same level of security against hacking that a government managed server does.  

The Russians, Chinese and Iranians very likely could have gotten access to Secretary Clinton's email traffic.  And there was plenty of traffic, especially considering the 55,000 pages of emails she turned over to the State Department are only a portion of those she wrote while in office.  

While Clinton has not talked about the controversy, her aides are fighting back by attacking the media.  Her supporters also point out that she complied with the regulations (maybe), and that former Secretary of State Colin Powell also used a private email account.  But that was five years earlier, when the State Department system wasn't as robust.  

Leading Democrats are pressing for an explanation.  Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-CA, said on NBC's Meet the Press, "From this point on...the silence is going to hurt her...She is the leading candidate, whether it be Republican or Democrat, to be the next president."  Republicans have seized the issue with gusto.   Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-SC, is chairman for the House Select Committee on Benghazi.  He told CBS's Face the Nation, his committee doesn't have all of Clinton's emails.  "It's not up to Secretary Clinton to decide what is a public record and what is not," he said, adding: "I don't want everything. I just want everything related to Libya and Benghazi."

President Barack Obama, in an interview about the 50th anniversary of the historic march in Selma, Alabama, had to address the subject in an interview with CBS News.  He said the policy of his administration was to encourage transparency.  “My emails, the Blackberry I carry around, all those records are available and archived,” Mr. Obama said. “I’m glad that Hillary’s instructed that those emails about official business need to be disclosed.”  President Obama was referring to a post on Twitter by Clinton Wednesday night in which she wrote, “I want the public to see my email. I asked State to release them. They said they will review them for release as soon as possible."   Really, that's it?  How long will it take for State to sift through 55,000 pages of email?  

Secretary Clinton's email-capade has opened up speculation as to her motive.  The conservative National Journal reasons, "its greatest relevancy is what the emails might reveal about any nexus between Clinton's work at State and donations to the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation from U.S. corporations and foreign nations."  Did the ultimate power couple leverage their positions of power for donations?  Even Saturday Night Live got into the act.  Cast member Kate McKinnon, doing an impression of Clinton, said, "Those emails are clean as a whistle. This is not how Hillary Clinton goes down." 

Senator Chuck Schumer found himself defending Secretary Clinton on CBS's Face the Nation.  "The bottom line is she's a national figure, a potential presidential candidate. People are going to shoot at her," he said calling it a “slight bump in the road six months from now.”  

Hillary Clinton is rumored to be putting her campaign team together, and she may announce her intention to run for president sooner rather than later.  However, her handling of the controversy over her use of private emails while at the State Department has exposed one of her great weaknesses: transparency.  This may well be her Achilles heel.