A High Floor And A Low Ceiling

Rand Paul has been on my short list for a long time.

And like the rest of my presidential short list as of four months ago – Walker and Jindal – Paul is out.  Apparently my short list is a kiss of death.

Anyway…:

Paul had become an increasingly marginal figure in the still-sprawling GOP field. He finished fifth in Iowa, with less than 5 percent of the vote, but is projected to do much worse in next week’s New Hampshire primary, with recent polls showing him in ninth place.

The Kentucky senator was facing a dismal money situation, and ended the fourth quarter with $1.3 million in the bank for his presidential campaign. He raised roughly $2.1 million in the quarter, while spending $2.9 million. His super PACs ended the year with a little more than $4 million in cash on hand.

He’s off to focus on his Senate re-election bid.

My two cents?  Paul had two major handicaps:

  1. He had the above-mentioned “high floor and low ceiling”; a fair number of people, many inherited from his father’s campaigns, others from the Tea Party, who supported him.  But their idea of ‘working for a candidate” seemed to involve mostly vigorous tweeting and taking online polls (which Paul, like his father, routinely swept).
  2. His followers shared many of his father’s followers’ worst traits; an almost personality-cultish focus on the candidate rather than the issues, and in all too many cases an entitled arrogance about their candidate’s superiority.   If I had a nickel for every Rand supporter I see online this morning claiming that “the electorate is just too stupid for us”, I could buy that Les Paul I’ve been eyeing.

Anyway – it’s a crummy world, where Rand Paul is out but Rick Santorum is still in.

What If?

On the weekend before the official kickoff of the GOP nomination season, Donald Trump would seem to have the momentum.  Now, both of “my guys” for this race – Walker and Jindal – are long gone, so my short list is (in very rough order) Rubio, Cruz, Paul, Christie.

Trump’s ascendancy has, of course, brought out the usual jeremiads about the oncoming implosion of the GOP (to which cooler and more historically-grounded heads reply “What?  Again?  This happens every eight years or so“).

But I keep getting asked – what if Trump is, at the end of the day, the nominee?

Simple.  I’ll hold my nose and vote for Trump.

It’s not just because I regard third-party candidacies as irrelevant exercises in personal philosophical navel-gazing – that’s between you and your conscience, and is none of my business.

And it’s not that I’m a “my party, right or wrong” guy; I’m a Tea Party Conservative who votes GOP because it is, to evoke Buckley, the most conservative party that can win.  And if Trump, heaven forefend, is the most conservative person on the ballot who can win next November, then I’ll vote for him.

But Trump promises to be a rerun of the Jesse Ventura years, only coast-to-coast.   So why bother?

Three reasons:  Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Scalia – one of the better conservative minds in the history of the court – lamentably can’t last forever.  Having Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders nominate his “replacement” – or that of Kennedy, the most powerful “Moderate” in the history of the universe – would turn the SCOTUS bright blue for decades to come.  Kiss any chance of rolling back Obamacare, getting control of immigration or voting or the borders, or the Second Amendment, goodbye right now.

And by the opposite token, if Kennedy retires, or Ginsburg gets called by her overlords back to her mothership, during a GOP administration, there’s at least a chance of getting a much better, more conservative justice on the bench.  And don’t be caterwauling at me about what disappointments Roberts and Souter turned out to be as conservatives; without a GOP president and GOP Senate, “eventual disappointment” is the best you can hope for.

Remember – Trump may well nominate a complete idiot.  But the Senate has to confirm them.  And if both a hypothetical President Trump and a GOP Senate are idiots, then we’re screwed – but those are both “maybes”; you can bet a hypothetical President Sanders will nominate Saul Alinksky, and Clinton’s nominees will make Sonia Sotomayor look like John Marshall.

So yeah.  I’ll hold my nose and vote Trump.

And then set to work on fixing the rot that led us to this point.

Pretense Aside

SCENE: Mitch BERG is waiting in line at the Rack Shack on South Robert.   Stephanie Marie ANNAN – Community organizer for the 5th CD Libertarian Party – enters with a great clatter, vigorously stomps off her boots, and gets in line, finally noticing BERG. 

ANNAN:  Hey, Merg!  I don’t like all that stuff you’ve been saying about how us Ron Paul people just like to throw…what do you call it?”

BERG:  “Turd bombs”.

ANNAN:  Yeah!  The GOP did it first, back in 2008!

BERG:  Yeah, so I’ve been told.  That was about three years before I got involved in the GOP beyond going to caucuses, by the way.  I know there’s been going on eight years of tit-for-tat between the Ron Paul clicque and the “establishment”, which I’m told I’m part of, even though I got involved in the party after the Tea Party.

ANNAN:  You’re already boring me.

BERG:  That seems to happen a lot.  You all apprently got “bored” with Kurt Bills after you you all went to Tampa in 2012…

ANNAN:  Hey – there’s a special primary coming up in a house district 68B!

BERG:  Yeah, it’s been in all the papers.

ANNAN:  I suppose you’re supporting the Republican candidate, like some mindless sheeple?

BERG: No, I support the endorsed Republican candidate because I’m an intelligent, informed voter. I think the endorsed candidate, Mindy Pilph, is an excellent choice.  Although I don’t actually live in the district.

ANNAN:  I plan on supporting her primary opponent!

BERG:  Who?  Jesse Duff?

ANNAN:  Yes!

BERG:  Duff supports doubling the gas tax, banning civilian firearm ownership, rolling back school choice and instituting an entirely grievance-based curriculum, and adopting the North Korean style socialist philosophy of “Juche“, an isolationist firm of Stalinism based on all-seeing, all-knowing, omnipotent state.  Which seems – pardon me for saying so – counterintuitive for someone who was a high ranking functionary in the Ron Paul campaign four years ago.  Since Duff would seem to be the polar opposite of Libertarian, I gotta say, that’s a zig when I expected a zag.

ANNAN:  But he’s independent from the Minnesota Republican Party.

BERG:  Well, with good reason. He stands for everything the party rejects.

ANNAN:  But he’s independent!

BERG:  But he’s the exact opposite of Libertarian.

ANNAN:  So?

BERG:  So yet again, it seems that “libertarian principle” isn’t really as big a deal as trying to TP the MNGOP….

ANNAN:   Squirrel!

(ANNAN leaves the room.  And SCENE)

Un-Abeler To Compute

I rarely if ever endorse candidates, per se.  I figure it’s not my job – who am I, after all?   I inform; you decide.

But I live in Saint Paul.  The Fourth Congressional District; Senate District 65; House 65A.  I’m “represented” by Betty McCollum, Sandy Pappas and Rena Moran.   And while I do my best to get involved in politics in my own neighborhood, let’s be honest; I probably have a greater  impact elsewhere.

Of course, Andy Aplikowski is a longtime friend of this blog.  And of mine, for that matter.  One of the co-founders of True North, one of the smartest political numbers guys I know, half of one of the genuinely nicest couples I know.  Andy’s running to replace Brandon Petersen in the Senate.  And I hope he wins.

Andy’s got the endorsement of the SD35 party apparatus.  But he’s gotta get through a primary against long-time former rep. Jim Abeler.

Now, I’ve interviewed Abeler a few times.  He’s a great guy; there are those who choose to demonize those they disagree with, and neither Abeler nor I are them.  And in his interviews, Abeler makes a solid case for some of the votes he’s taken.  Not solid enough to convince me, but nothing to brush aside, either.

But one vote that concerned me, as someone who’s gone around and around with the public school system, is a vote he took that ended up denying vouchers to students in Minneapolis and Saint Paul schools. Did Abeler have his reasons?  I’m sure he did – but they pale against the opportunity that arises when you allow the free market, personified by giving the parents the fiscal clout to say “no” to the district system, to have its effect.

So while I’m not sure what Abeler’s policy reasons are, I know that the vote did earn him some powerful friends. No, I mean some very powerful friends, friends with deep pockets and heavy-duty outsized clout in Minnesota politics.

Anyway – if you’re in SD35, or have friends there, by all means let ’em know where the School Choice vote goes.

The GOP’s Keystone Kommittee

One of the downsides of being a GOP activist and officer is that you have to get involved, even passively, in GOP inside baseball.   Ever.  For any reason.

And of course, it’s important; without a viable challenge to the DFL, Minnesota is a few downturns away from turning into California.  Or Minneapolis.

So I go to the meetings.  I vote on stuff.  I do my bit to try to help get better people elected to office; not just Republicans, but conservative Republicans who support limited government.

And I try to get as informed as I can about some of the “inside baseball” issues in the GOP; the budget deficit (how the hell…?), the collapse in the Cities, the turnout issues in the first and second ring ‘burbs…

…and of course, the Judicial Elections Committee.

That Buzzing Sound That Never Goes Away:  The JEC is an obscure fixture in the MNGOP, focusing both on endorsing judicial candidates and fighting for judicial reform.

As re the second?  The subject is a deadly combination of intensely technical and very important.   It’s intensely picayune – and absolutely vital.  The judiciary has turned into an unaccountable, opaque, lifetime sinecure in Minnesota; judges have extremely disproportionate power as a result, and the ability to make sweeping decisions with almost no accountability.  And the power extends beyond just the courtroom; the past several state redistricting processes, including the 2010 redistricting – gerrymandered enough to make Bull Connor and George Wallace sit up in the grave and say “Hey, bucko, you’re getting a little carried away, here”.  “Shall Issue” carry reform was struck down in 2004 by a judge whose home was a DFL hamster wheel and who, ignoring the fact that every state budget is a combination of omnibus bills full of unrelated amendments, struck down the law because it wasn’t closely enough related to the bill that was originally amended.

So there is a problem that needs to be solved.

There’s a lot of history to the notion of judicial endorsements, and the creation of the JEC, and its activities since it was established; I’ve written about them in the past, and I won’t rewrite it all now (search my site for references to the phrase “My brain went blank and my ass went numb”).

But it’s the JEC’s recent history that concerns me most.

Last Saturday was the GOP’s State Central Committee meeting.  I didn’t attend – but the future of the JEC was one of the subjects up for discussion.  And my butt went a little numb just reading the accounts on Twitter.

Business:  Of course, the JEC’s main claim to “fame” was the endorsement of Michelle McDonald to run for State Supreme Court.  This happened at the MNGOP State Convention in Rochester in May of 2014.  McDonald turned out to have a pending year-old DUI charge – about which the convention was not told.   We’ve written about this at some length in the past.

Let’s fast forward to last Saturday.  A series of handouts was waiting for the SCC delegates as they arrived at the event, or distributed during the convention; a friend scanned and sent them to me (the scan is included below the jump).

In it, the JEC explains the reasons for its existence – and, to be honest, does it fairly well, in places (and let’s be honest – the handout was written by logorrheacs, and you have to dig to find the good stuff.  But it’s in there).  In all my years of listening to JEC members trying to explain why judicial endorsements, and judicial reform, are good and vital, and why retention elections are bad, this is the first time even the faintest hint of a light has gone off above my head.

And so partly as a result of this handout, my previous determination to tear down the JEC, with flamethrowers if necessary, has been tempered just a bit.

I said “the JEC”.

The JEC’s membership is another story.

Twenty Octogenarians Driving A Clown Car:  If you recall – and I completely forgive you if you do not – the history of and beef with the McDonald endorsement goes a little something like this:

  1. The JEC recommended Michelle McDonald – a controversial family-law lawyer – for nomination to run for the Supreme Court (SCOM).
  2. At the State Convention, after the delegates had endured a 20-odd-hour endorsement battle for Senate, the JEC brought McDonald to the stage for a speech and a motion for endorsement by acclamation.  Many delegates were out – grabbing a bite, or in the bathroom, or stretching their legs after the endless Senate battle – and many that were in the room reported feeling bum-rushed – but the motion for acclamation passed, and McDonald was endorsed.
  3. The following week, the media reported that McDonald had a pending DUI charge awaiting trial.
  4. Reports emerged that the JEC had been aware of this charge, but had voted to nominate McDonald anyway, and had voted to not inform the delegates, including blocking an attempt to issue a minority report to the convention that would have brought up the legal issues for the delegates’ consideration.
  5. McDonald and the MNGOP brass spent the next five months fighting each other, under a blazing media spotlight, rarely managing or bothering to engage the DFL’s candidate, Darth Lillehaug, on any level.
  6. McDonald went on to lose the election against Lillehaug.  According to some reports, her campaign raised less that $1,000, and spent about $8,000.

The handouts give a couple of insights into the JEC’s performance – or “performance” – at the 2014 State convention, in the first two pages (the pink ones, whose order is reversed; page 2 is actually page 1).   It’s also full of opinion-driven weasel words – “the chair appeared…”, “in the committee’s opinion, the chair…” and the like.

There are two quotes from the handout, though, that display…something about the JEC’s opinion of itself; whether that something is arrogance, incompetence or malfeasance, I’m not sure and I’ll leave it to better judges than I.

It should be noted that the purpose of any endorsing committee is to spare the convention the task of sorting through a candidate’s personal life.  the job of any endorsing committee is to do the work in confidence and present a yes or no to the convention.  Committees focus on a candidate’s message, their willingness to campaign hard and their ability appeal (sic) to voters.  The idea that the Judicial Election Committee (or any other nominating committee) should air a candidate’s personal information to the convention is badly misinformed.

Exactly what a nominating committee is supposed to do is a subject worthy of discussion. And the passage may be right; a nominating committee should concern itself with competence and electability.

But a legal proceeding that is guaranteed to provoke a media feeding frenzy is both not “personal information” – it’s a public record, available online from the courts – and of direct impact to the candidate’s electability.

So this quote – along with the rest of the information in the handout, brings up three possibilities:

  1. The majority of the JEC genuinely believed that an arrest record is “personal information” that was nobody’s business.  If this was the case, then we’re dealing with some stupid people.  Arrest records are public!  Public!  Public!  Anyone who thought this was “personal information”, and believed that the media and DFL would treat it that way, needs to be publicly (rhetorically) horsewhipped.
  2. They knew about the arrest record, but figured it wouldn’t be a problem, since McDonald assured them the charge was BS:   You’ll note how many media figured led with the whole “Michelle McDonald is innocent until proven guilty, and gosh, she looks like she has a strong case” tack, right?  Somewhere less than zero?  Part of a nominations commission’s job is to try, as far as possible, to prevent media poo-storms like…the one we had.
  3. The JEC figured the news would be a problem, but wanted to jam McDonald down anyway, leading a supermajority to vote against the issuance of a minority report.   This is the worst kind of malfeasance.

We also see in another quote that the JEC is wallowing in either wishful thinking or an arrogant desire to bullshit the rest of the party:

…in spite of the flap over a now resolved (not guilty) DWI case, Michelle McDonald for Supreme Court won 46.54% of the vote.  This is higher than Johnson, McFadden, Severson, Gilbert and Newman – all the other MNGOP endorsed candidates

How stupid do these people think the rest of the party is?

The DWI is “now resolved” – but it wasn’t at election time.  And the media certainly didn’t harp on “innocence until proven guilty”.

As to her turnout?  As we pointed out the first time the JEC tried to use this chanting point to gull the gullible, it was BS.  McDonald got 46% against Lillehaug, it’s true – but John Hancock got 42% against Mimi Wright, and virtually every contested judicial race in the state got 35-40%.  McDonald outscored random, obstinate, uninformed noise by 4-6%. And while it’s possible she outperformed “background noise” due to her brilliant campaign, it’s also possible that a few thousand shooters voted against Darth Lillehaug, and would have no matter who was nominated.

My Conclusion, For Those Who Care?:  The JEC exists for good reason.  Minnesota’s judicial system needs changes, and the GOP needs to help drive those changes.

But most of its members need to go.  Decency would involve resignations of the sitting membership for their malfeasance, or at least stupidity, in the McDonald flap.   The JEC process is almost completely opaque to delegates, and even officers at the BPOU and Congressional District level.   I’m an officer, and I have no idea how Judicial Districts elect officers and do business.  It’s not just me.

The JEC, in my opinion, is a nook and cranny of the GOP that was built by, and is controlled by, a group of people who have turned it into their little political playground.  This doesn’t serve the mission that the JEC has set out for itself.

Just my opinion.  But I’m not alone.

As we’ll see, I’m sure, come the next State Convention.

 

Telling Tangent: Want to know something ironic?  I might well have voted for McDonald even with the pending DUI charge, had the JEC tried a little honesty, and had McDonald spent more time tackling Darth Lillehaug than Keith Downey.  But if I’d known about her involvement in the Grazzini-Rucki custody battle, I’d have voted for Charles Manson before I’d vote for McDonald.   If McDonald was involved with kidnapping and brainwashing a couple of kids against their custodial father, she deserves much worse than losing an election.

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Donald The Body

Joe Doakes from Como Park emailed me something I’ve been saying myself:

Trump reminds me of Jesse Ventura.  He says what the crowd wants to hear so they’ll vote for him and does it really well; plus, he’s running against a legacy putz in Jeb and a bitterly hated crone in Hillary just as Jesse ran against legacy Skip and hated Turncoat Coleman.  But once Trump gets in office, will he have trouble getting his ideas into action, as Jesse did?

“I want to bomb ISIS.”  Okay, but how?  I’m guessing that means ask the White House secretarial staff to call the Joint Chiefs to schedule a task force meeting with group commanders who will prepare a battle order . . . might also want to mention it to the countries who own the airspace you’ll be flying through, which means somebody at the State Department . . . possibly the Russians, too . . . and do we alert the Press or not and who handles those questions . . . ooh, that whole War Powers thing might require notification of Congressional leaders, somebody ought to call whoever we need to call about that . . . .

In a new Republican Administration, the campaign staff would know the policies, know the Establishment crowd, know the insiders, know who to appoint to run the bureaucracy, know who to call to get things done.

Jesse ended up filling offices with Democrats hastily rebranded as Independents, because Jesse had no list of party faithful to appoint.  Who will Trump end up with?

That’s not enough of a concern to make me vote for the putz or the crone, but it does make me wonder if throwing out the present rascals will result in any better rascals getting in?

Joe Doakes

Trump has the same problem Ron Paul had; talk is not only cheap, it’s easy.  Anyone can do it.

Actually getting it done when and if you get elected?  That’s the hard part.

And I suspect neither Ventura nor Trump ever expected they’d have to deliver on their bluster.

Doakes Sunday: Buried

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Why would Senate Republicans vote on a budget bill at 1:00 am?

Because they’re ashamed of it.  They know the line “I’ll gladly pay you in 2025 for $85 billion today” is a lie, the same lie they told in every other “out-years” budget going back for decades.

Kudos to Ted Cruz for speaking the truth about it.  Shame on Senate Republicans for going along with it.

Joe Doakes

Keeping freedom is a full-time job.  The bulk of it involves keeping your side on the right side.

Enter Horserace

All the usual stipulations apply; it’s a year before the election, and the polling so far pits one candidate with with near-universal name recognition against a bunch of unknowns who just represent ideals (and one celebrity).  The unknowns have no negatives; most voters barely know their names.

With all the caveats out-of-the-way? The latest KSTP poll – which has tended in recent cycles to be the better poll of Minnesota’s preferences – shows Hillary losing to pretty much any GOP nominee

In Minnesota.

Which has to be a smack upside the head for an “inevitable” candidate.

The GOP candidates will get negavies – especially once the Democrat noise machine starts sounding off.

Still – not what I expected at this stage of the election.

Evolved

For years, I’ve been listening to my various liberal friends grunt and shriek in horror as various school boards around the country adopt policies that call for their various school districts to recognize, in one curricular form or another, the existence of creationism.

To which I’ve responded with two questions:

“First – if someone who’s refinishing your driveway, or checking out your groceries, or working on the app that you use to calculate your heart rate, is a young earth creationist [because the type of liberals who always huff and puff about creationism tend to own fitbits, naturally, believe everyone who isn’t like them is in the service class], what difference does it make to you?”

The answer, generally, is something with pretensions to altruism with overtones of intellectual thuggery; “we want everyone in our society to start with the same basis of actual knowledge,” or some such.

Which leads to my second question: “So – let’s say that you go to the hospital with a life-threatening aneurysm in your brain.  And as you’re getting ready for surgery to stent a weak spot in a cranial artery to prevent it blowing like a water balloon, killing you in less time than it takes me to say this, you find out that your brain surgeon – a person who spent four years in a hypercompetitive hard-science-based pre-med program vying for a seat in a medical school, and then four more in a medical program designed to weed out the non-hackers, and not only surviving the cut but doing it brilliantly enough to get accepted to post-doctorate training and residency as a brain surgeon, and then years of experience operating on peoples’ brains – is a creationist?  Do you get up off the operating table, loudly proclaim “you, madame, have no respect for science!” and walk away, looking for a non-creationism brain surgeon?”

There was a time when it was a hypothetical question.  Ben Carson, the media is jumping up and down to remind us, is an old-earth creationist (who abjures ruling out a very old earth).  And – as the Clinton’s praetorian guard is reminding us these days, he believes a few other oddball things.

Now, Carson isn’t my guy at this point, although he’d be a better President than anyone on the Democrat ticket.

But let’s acknowledge a few things; he’s a very smart guy.  Literally, a brain surgeon.  To quote a less brilliant candidate, “that’s f****ng huge!”    But he believes in creationism, and that pyramids were used as granaries.

Hmm.

But I have a quesiton: is that any wackier than believing you can offer free college tuition without blowing up the deficit and distorting the higher education market out of recognition?  Or in believing that storing classified emails in a bathroom and telling the American people that the Benghazi attack was caused by an anti-Muslim video were good ideas?

Trump Card

A longtime correspondent of this blog writes:

I note that the MSM is promoting Latino group offers $5K for calling Trump a racist on ‘SNL’”
By a Norman Mailer I’m referring to a description of his contact with feminist protesters from this article in Salon:

“For example, back when I was in college at Berkeley, I attended a lecture by then bad-boy, self-advertised anti-feminist, self-proclaimed macho-man, world-famous novelist and essayist Norman Mailer. I should mention that he had been preceded a week before by Gloria Steinem. The stage was set.  As soon as Mailer took the podium there was a smattering of shouts, signs flashed up, a protest began. He looked over the crowd and held his hands up, and said, “OK, OK.  I get it.” Things quieted down a bit.  Mailer continued,  “So everyone who thinks I’m an asshole, hiss.”  Of course the room was soon filled with violent hisses.  When they stopped Mailer smirked and said, “Obedient little bitches.””

My hope would be that Trump would come out for the opening monologue and ask everyone in the audience to join together and call him a racist, he could even hold up a cue card with the exact words, then he could hold up another cue card with the contact information for Deport Racism PAC and assure the audience that each one of them is eligible for/guaranteed a $5,000.00 reward. I figure Studio 8H has about 200 seats in it so at $5k a head that could cost the Deport Racism PAC $1.2million. Its a safe bet they would renege on the offer giving Trump & the GOP in general a lot of counter attack ammunition.

Whatever you can say about Trump – he’s not my guy – he’s one I could actually see bringing this kind of thing to the campaign.

Debateable Impressions: Let Me Be The Two Millionth To Say…

Finally:  the evening’s host, CNBC

What the conservative pundocracy says:  The performance of the CNBC panel –  the smirky, mugging Carl Quintanilla, the smug and snarky Becky “Not Very” Quick, and Mike “Where Have You Gone, Candy Crowley?” Harwood, with an appearance by Jim Cramer (who sounded like he’d just lost a UFC match) was a laughingstock – even when mentioned in the same breath as CNN’s loathsome performance four years ago.

What I say:  The conservative pundocracy was too kind.  I got the impression that the media has settled onto a “strategy” of turning debates (well, the GOP ones, anyway) into political reality shows.  Part of me expected Flavor Flav or Khlamidia Khardashian to show up to ask a question [1].  It was clearly a goldmine for CNN last month – to me, it looked like CNBC wanted to make their panel the stars of the debate.  Here’s hoping that the rumors of the backfire on CNN aren’t exaggerated.

Verdict:  News flash: anyone who expects anything from the MSM but sniping and hackery is deluded.  And you can tell Reince Preibus I said so.

[1] Khlamidia is one of the sisters – right?

Debateable Conclusions: Populosity

Up next:  Mike Huckabee.

What the conservative pundocracy says:  He did well.

What I say:   I didn’t see it.  Granted, I missed half the debate – but my signal impression of Huckabee was his resounding rejection of…means testing.

I get it – he’s a “Southern” conservative; socially conservative, but not especially afraid of big government or spending.

It was just an odd moment at a debate for the support of a party that’s getting more hawkish on budgets and spending.

Verdict:   Back to talk radio, Mike.

Debateable Impressions: Walter Rising

Up next:  John Kasich.

What the conservative pundocracy says:  Kasich kept himself in the running with a strong, if cranky, performance.  Others point to his fairly bald-faced, McCainish up-sucking to the media.

What I say:  My short list, two months ago, was Walker, Jindal, Kasich.  With Walker gone and Jindal mired in the undercard and barely running a campaign, it looks like Kasich is the last man standing.  He gave a strong showing last night.  But am I the only one who saw his cranky demeanor and though about Jeff Dunham’s puppet-character “Walter”?

Verdict:   Let’s hope he can morph into something other than the campaign’s resident senior scold.

Debateable Impressions: Punching At His Weight

Next up:  Marco Rubio.

What the conservative pundocracy says:   Rubio came back from what could have been a very tough night, and did it with style.

What I say:  His take-down of the moderators’ harping on the Orlando Sun-Sentinel’s loathsome hatchet-job editoral call for his resignation (for missing about half as many votes as President Obama or Secretary of State Kerry, both of whom the Orlando SS endorsed) was sharp-eyed and surgical; his turn back to his actual policy – against the moderators’ wishes, natch – was smooth and authoritative.

Verdict:   I’ve been trying to figure out who’d replace Scott Walker on my short list.  Rubio might be it.

Maybe.

Debateable Impressions: Speaker Points

Up next:  Ben Carson.

What the conservative pundocracy says:  He held steady.

What I say:   While I respect virtually everything Carson stands for (he’s pretty hopeless on the Second Amendment), I’m always amazed when I see him at debates; quiet, unprepossessing, like an amiable professor who dropped into a WWE match.

Verdict:  He did well.  Not much more to say.

Debateable Impressions: Howling Into The Void

Up next:  Rand Paul

What the conservative pundocracy says:  He’s a dead issue, and should start focusing on holding his Senate seat forthwith.

What I say:   I’ve been a Rand Paul fan for a long time now.   But I sensed that his support was similar to his father’s in Minnesota during the last convention season; a mile deep and twenty feet wide.   Not to say he’s done poorly in any debate – he’s stated his case just fine.  But at no point has he gotten anyone to say “he’s the man” who wasn’t saying it two years ago.

Verdict:  I think the party needs Rand Paul in the race for the same reasons it needs Christie.  I’m just not sure how much longer he can justify it.

Debateable Impressions: Smooth As His Combover

Next on the agenda:  Donald Trump.

What the conservative pundocracy says:  He did well, repairing some previous gaffes and not harming himself – at a time when some polls show him slipping and needing to not screw up.

What I say:  Major points for fixing his Mexican gaffe from the Reagan Center debate by noting that the President of Mexico was a smarter, better executive than Barack Obama -which would seem to be the truth.  I think he made fewer mistakes than in the second debate.

Verdict: He didn’t hurt himself, and left himself in a good position to try to duke it out for Carson and Rubio for the lead.

Debateable Impressions: You Talkin’ To Me?

Up next:  Chris Christie.

What the conservative pundocracy says:  Solid performance – but not enough to vault him onto the short list.

What I say:  By all rights, Christie shouldn’t have gotten this far.  He’s not the darling of the establishment, and conservatives fear him because he’s a “northeast” conservative; strong on business and security, adequate on entitlement and fiscal policy (and hampered by both a Democrat power stranglehold and a fairly inept New Jersey GOP), weak on civil liberties.   Heck – go back and forth on Christie.

Verdict:  I think the party needs him on the short list, just to keep the short-listers on their toes.

Debateable Impressions: The Lady’s Not For Turning Away

Up next:  Carly Fiorina.

What the conservative pundocracy says:   She does well in debates, but is having a hard time keeping excitement going – and last night’s performance was good enough for no more than holding steady.

What I say: Every time I see Carly Fiorina talk, I get more impressed.  Trump and Carson are sucking all of the “anti-establishment” air out of the room – and it’s a shame, because I think Fiorina has the best potential as a chief executive among the three “antis” on the list (along with Trump and Carson).

Verdict:   The debate didn’t give her a huge boost, but in a just world she’ll remain a contender.

Debateable Impressions: Cruz Missile

As i noted earlier, I only watched perhaps 90 minutes of last night’s cage match.

I’m going to give my impressions anyway  – one candidate at a time.  I’m going to start with Ted Cruz.


What the conservative pundocracy says:  It was the performance he needed to stay on the short list.

What I say:  And how.  His jeremiad against the media was a watershed, both within the debate and (I can dream), within the party; it’s restarted the discussion about getting the GOP out of the major-media “debate” / reality show racket.  If he serves no other purposes in this campaign, last night’s contribution could turn out to be a fantastic thing.

Verdict:  Excellent.

 

Well, Crap

Walker’s out of the race.

And I couldn’t  be more bummed.

Walker was the *only* candidate in the race that has actually walked the walk when it comes to pushing back on the public employee unions, whose pensions are going to bankrupt this nation long before any war will.

But he built a stadium for the Bucks!”, some chant. Yeah, he’s not perfect. No candidate is.

“But he’s weak on foreign policy”. He could appoint his motorcycle Secretary of State and have a better foreign policy team than the current occupant.

“He’s a warmonger!” No, he isn’t. Appearing strong and resolute leads to peace; begging for peace brings war.

 

But he’s got no charisma!”. Good God, people – voting for charisma is as likely to get you Barack Obama as it is Ronald Reagan. I’ll take an “uncharismatic” president who not only knows how to *talk* about drawing and holding lines, but *has done it, successfully, against brutal, ruthless opposition*, over some “charismatic” candidate for whom it’s all theory, however charismatically expressed.

Given a choice between Calvin Coolidge – an uncharismatic president who shrank government, getting it out of the way of epic prosperity – and a “charismatic” hamster like our current president, is it even a choice?

This is a lousy day for America.

OK, Fiorina and Rubio people. I’m listening