Thursday, October 29, 2015

Jeb Bush's Last Stand?

Perhaps no candidate needed a strong performance in Wednesday's CNBC's Republican Presidential debate more than former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.   However, this one-time front-runner's poor debate performance may have devastating consequences for his struggling campaign.  Once again, Bush often appeared ill at ease and self-conscious, even when he mustered an attack on an opponent.  

Take the sharp exchange over Florida Senator Marco Rubio's poor Senate voting record.  CNBC's Carl Quintanilla raised the issue concluding his question, "Why not slow down, get a few more things done first or least finish what you start?"  Rubio was ready with a well-rehearsed answer, "That's exactly what the Republican establishment says too. Why don't you wait in line? Wait for what? This country is running out of time. We can't afford to have another four years like the last eight years."

Quintanilla pointed out that a Florida newspaper, The Sun-Sentinel, had called on Rubio to resign his Senate seat.  Rubio cited precedents, "Back in 2004, one of my predecessors to the Senate by the name of Bob Graham, a Democrat, ran for president missing over 30 percent of his votes. I don't recall them calling for his resignation."  He then added, "John Kerry ran for president missing close to 60 to 70 percent of his votes...the Sun-Sentinel endorsed him."  He continued,  "In 2008, Barack Obama missed 60 or 70 percent of his votes, and the same newspaper endorsed him again. So this is another example of the double standard that exists in this country between the mainstream media and the conservative movement."  

Bush jumped in, pointing out that the Sun-Sentinel endorsed Rubio for the Senate.  "But Marco, when you signed up for this, this was a six-year term, and you should be showing up to work," Bush asserted. "I mean, literally, the Senate -- what is it, like a French work week? You get, like, three days where you have to show up? You can campaign, or just resign and let someone else take the job."  

But Rubio turned the tables on Bush, sharply responding, "Well, it's interesting. Over the last few weeks, I've listened to Jeb as he walked around the country and said that you're modeling your campaign after John McCain, that you're going to launch a furious comeback the way he did, by fighting hard in New Hampshire and places like that, carrying your own bag at the airport. You know how many votes John McCain missed when he was carrying out that furious comeback that you're now modeling after?"  

Bush's feeble response was brief, "He wasn't my senator."  The man he had mentored had upstaged the former governor.   Bush, who has slipped into the single digits in the polls, needed a strong debate performance, but he failed to deliver.  The top debate performers were Rubio, Texas Senator Ted Cruz and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.  Donald Trump and Dr. Ben Carson did well enough not to disappoint their followers.

Bush has seemed uncomfortable since the beginning of his campaign.  His body language and frequent gaffes have consistently betrayed a politician who wasn't fully committed.  He has been easily rattled throughout the campaign by taunts from Trump, like calling Bush a "low-energy" candidate.  Last week, Bush expressed his frustration for the current state of partisan politics.  “If this election is about how we’re going to fight to get nothing done, then I don’t want any part of it.”  He continued, “I’ve got a lot of really cool things I could do other than sit around, being miserable, listening to people demonize me and me feeling compelled to demonize them. That is a joke. Elect Trump if you want that.”

The fact that Trump and Carson have such a large lead in recent polls of likely Republican voters strongly indicates that they are looking for an outsider to lead their party to the White House.  Wednesday's debate was a must win for Jeb Bush, an opportunity to prove his critics wrong, to seize momentum by demonstrating he could lead the party to victory next November.  Instead, his puzzling debate performance lacked passion, fight and self-confidence. 

Perhaps Bush was just too preoccupied thinking about all the other cool things he could be doing?

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Carson Plays Politics

Dr. Ben Carson, the Republican candidate for president and former neurosurgeon, says, "I am not politically correct.  I will not be politically correct."  This approach to his campaign has helped him secure second place in polls taken of likely Republican voters, trailing only Donald Trump.  But will it play well in a national election?

Carson recently explained his non-PC attitude in an interview with The Hill.  “I want people to see me as an honest person, a person who is actually willing to express what they believe” Carson said. “The way I look at it, if people don’t like that, I’d rather not be in office."  But are the things Carson is saying really what most Americans believe?

For instance, Carson drew criticism for remarks he made about the Nazis.  In his new book, Carson writes that the Holocaust would have been less deadly had the German citizens been armed.  Last week, he told CNN,  "The likelihood of Hitler being able to accomplish his goals would have been greatly diminished if the people had been armed."  And, this past Sunday on CBS' Face the Nation, he explained his remarks were not "hyperbole at all."  He continued, "Whether it’s on our doorstep or whether it’s 50 years away, it's still a concern and it’s something that we must guard against. That’s one of the real purposes of having a constitution. I think the founders were really quite insightful into looking at possibilities and understanding what has happened in other places and trying to put together something that would prevent that from happening here."

The Nazis slaughtered more than six million Jews, and no group would be more sensitive to such a threat than the Anti-Defamation League, which monitors anti-Semitism.  But they oppose using the Nazis in America's gun control debate.  The organization's director, Abe Foxman, said in 2013, "The idea that supporters of gun control are doing something akin to what Hitler’s Germany did to strip citizens of guns in the run-up to the Second World War is historically inaccurate and offensive, especially to Holocaust survivors and their families."  

Apparently, the Nazis are Carson's go-to metaphor.  In March, 2014, he was asked by Breitbart News about his claims that Americans are living in a "Gestapo age."  He responded, “Very much like Nazi Germany - and I know you’re not supposed to talk about Nazi Germany but I don’t care about political correctness - you had a government using its tools to intimidate a population,” he said.  “We now live in a society where people are afraid to say what they actually believe.”   Is Carson really being honest, or is he pandering to an audience?

Carson got headlines when he said a Muslim should not be elected president of the United States.  "I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that," he told CNN.  He further explained that Islam is not compatible with the Constitution, saying that a president's faith should matter depending on what that faith is. 
"If it's inconsistent with the values and principles of America, then of course it should matter," he clarified.  But Article VI of the U.S. Constitution specifies, "The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."  Is Carson being honest, or is he playing on people's fears?

Earlier this year Carson said on CNN he "absolutely" thinks being gay is a choice.  He further explained, “A lot of people who go into prison go into prison straight and when they come out, they’re gay.”  A few days later Carson apologized for his response, saying,  “I do not pretend to know how every individual came to their sexual orientation. I regret that my words to express that concept were hurtful and divisive. For that I apologize unreservedly to all that were offended.”  Is Carson's apology honest, or is it disingenuous?

On marriage equality, Carson wrote in his book, America the Beautiful, “if we can redefine marriage as between two men or two women or any other way based on social pressures as opposed to between a man and a woman…(it) is a slippery slope with a disastrous ending, as witnessed in the dramatic fall of the Roman Empire.”  Of those ten million Americans who have enrolled in the Affordable Care Act, Carson has said that Obamacare is “the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery.”  And when asked what he would have done to keep a gunman from going on a killing spree, he said, "Not only would I probably not cooperate with him, I would not just stand there and let him shoot me."  Carson continued, "I would say, 'Hey guys, everybody attack him. He may shoot me, but he can't get us all.'"  His remarks understandably offended some family members of the recent mass shooting at Umpqua Community College.  Is Carson truly being honest with these comments?

Carson has attacked the press for the criticism he has received for his controversial remarks, observing, “It seems like the more they attack me, the better we do.”  Last week he told journalists at the National Press Club in Washington, “I will continue to expose them every time they do something, so that as more people understand what they are and what they’re doing, it will negate their affect.” He concluded, “Until they have the kind of transformation that’s necessary for them to become allies of the people, we have to know what they’re doing.”  Is Carson being honest, or is he just blaming the messenger?

Dr. Ben Carson has said, "I don’t want to be in office under false pretenses, just saying things people want to hear so I can get elected.”

 But isn't that exactly what he has been trying to do?