Saturday, February 6, 2016

Live-blogging the last Republican debate before the first primary

I'm going to live-blog tonight's Republican debate, the only one in between the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary. Keep reloading this post for more updates.

For more live-blogging, check out National Review, TPM, the New Republic, and the New American Perspective (a new website co-founded by Alex Knepper).

As always, I'll be writing down quotes on the fly without a transcript, so they might not be word-for-word, but I'll try to keep them reasonably accurate.

8:17 — As the candidates are announced and most of them walk to their podiums, Donald Trump and Ben Carson stay near the back! When Carson finally walks up to the stage but Trump stays back, the moderator announces Trump again, saying: "Lastly, we welcome . . . Donald Trump" — but there are two empty podiums! Chris Christie points out who's missing: "What about Kasich? Can I introduce Kasich?" [Added later: Carson explains it — he just couldn't hear his name being called.]

8:20 — Trump says he has "the best temperament" to be president. "I talked about Muslims. We have a problem. Nobody wanted to talk about the problem." He also reminds us that he was against the Iraq war — "others would be much faster" on the "trigger."

8:23 — Ted Cruz keeps tapping his lectern, making a loud, annoying noise in the mic.

8:24 — Trump is referring to himself in the third person more often than in the past: "We're going to win, with Trump. We're not going to back down, with Trump." Does he think he lost Iowa because he didn't have enough name recognition?

8:26 — Ben Carson eloquently addresses the false rumors spread by the Cruz campaign on the night of the Iowa caucus that Carson was dropping out. Carson points out how absurd it would be for him to drop out at the last minute after so many people had put so much effort into supporting him. "One of them even died." Cruz apologizes. Alex Knepper says:

“Easier to ask forgiveness than permission,” isn’t it, Sen. Cruz?
8:29 — Marco Rubio is asked about the fact that he's a first-term Senator, as Obama was when he was elected. After listing his legislative accomplishments, he argues that Obama's inexperience wasn't the problem — "he knew exactly what he was doing!" Christie responds sharply: "You have not been involved in a consequential decision where you had to be held accountable." Christie also points out that one of the things Rubio listed about his experience was a bill he didn't even vote on. "That's not leadership — that's truancy!" When Rubio tries to respond, Christie keeps ridiculing Rubio for his "25-second memorized speeches."

Most of the commentary seems to be that Christie is getting the better of his tussles with Rubio. Rubio does seem more weak and on the defensive than usual. But remember, Cruz had a weak debate shortly before the Iowa caucus, and that didn't stop him from winning.

Alex Knepper seems to think Rubio had a good response to the inexperience question:
The 'Republican Obama' attack might fall flat with Republican voters because a lot of them would love a Republican Obama: they think Obama has fundamentally transformed the country in the image of progressivism, and they would love someone who can fundamentally transform the country in the image of conservatism.
8:38 — Cruz blames "the first Clinton administration" (an odd phrase at this point) for North Korea's launch of a long-range missile earlier today.

8:42 — When John Kasich is asked about the North Korean missile, he starts out weak and tone-deaf, changing the subject to saying his "town hall meetings" are more "fun" than this debate has been.

8:48 — Christie says Obama is "for paying ransom for hostages."

8:52 — On immigration, Cruz says: "We're going to build a wall . . ." Trump makes a face at this, which gets a laugh. Cruz says: "Since Donald enjoyed that, I've got somebody in mind to build it!"

8:56 — Rubio and Christie are tangling again, this time on immigration, with the same dynamics we've seen in this and other debates: Rubio justifies his Senate record, while Christie mocks the whole idea of Congress and says only someone who's held an executive office, like Christie, can lead.

9:01 — When Carson is asked about health care, he says: "I was hoping to get a chance to talk about North Korea. I was the only one who didn't get a chance to do that." He hasn't been saying much in this debate.

9:03 — Trump is asked about eminent domain. "Eminent domain is an absolute necessity . . . for our country. Without it, you wouldn't have roads, you wouldn't have schools, you wouldn't have bridges." He also points out that compensation is constitutionally required: "When eminent domain is used on someone's property, that person gets a fortune!" Jeb Bush says those kinds of things are fine because they're for a "public purpose," but Trump tried to take an "elderly woman's" property and use it for "a limousine parking lot for his casinos." Trump says he didn't do that, but Bush says: "You tried!"

9:16 — Trump is asked about the charges that he's not a real conservative. He says "conservative" is "a very important word," and it's rooted in the word "conserve." "We want to conserve our money. We want to conserve our wealth."

9:18 — The moderator tells Trump that Christie has encouraged people who go to Trump rallies to ask Trump a simple question: "How?" So the moderator asks Trump "how" he'll create jobs. That question is framed to sound tough, but it's actually a softball — all Trump has to do is pitch his tax plan and claim it'll create jobs.

9:20 — Kasich says: "We have grown government at the rate of inflation." I understand that this is supposed to mean he's kept a tight rein on government, but he could have phrased that more effectively for the Republican primaries. Republican voters are going to be turned off by hearing: "We have grown government . . ."

I missed some stuff here because the ABC News feed keeps cutting out and going to an ad.

9:26 — Cruz is asked about his plan to "carpet-bomb" ISIL. He says it would be "targeted," not "indiscriminate." Cruz says ISIL has something called "Jihadist University." "Why is that building still standing? It should be rubble. However, I would be willing to wait until freshman orientation before launching those bombings."

9:31 — While Rubio is giving a long answer about how to fight ISIL, I'm thinking Carson must feel like he's getting the O'Malley treatment. [Added later: Indeed, Carson spoke the least.]

9:33 — Trump talks about the need to cut off ISIL's "banking channels." "Nobody knows banking like I do. . . . It's going to dry up very quickly."

9:35 — Bush says America has to get more aggressive against terrorism — but he sounds lackluster when he says this. That's Bush's problem: his style doesn't match his substance. For instance, he's called himself a "disrupter" — but he seems as conventional as anyone.

9:36 — A few minutes after I commented about how Carson hasn't had much to say (9:33), Carson quips: "I'm not here just to add beauty to the stage!"

9:38 — Cruz says he's "joined with Senator McCain" by opposing waterboarding as a general matter, but he doesn't consider it torture and wouldn't rule it out in dire circumstances.

9:39 — Trump: "I'd bring back waterboarding — and I'd bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding!"

9:48 — Kasich makes a contrived attempt at generating excitement: "If I'm president, go out and get a seatbelt, because there's going to be so much happening in the first hundred days, it'll make your head spin!"

9:51 — Cruz tells the wrenching story of his half-sister's heroin addiction, which ended with her death a few years ago.

9:53 — Christie on drug addiction: "This is a disease. It's not a moral failing. . . . I'm pro-life, not just for the nine months in the womb. It gets a lot harder after that."

9:54 — Trump is asked how he'll run against Hillary Clinton considering her potential to make history by being the first female president. Trump doesn't specifically address the gender angle; he simply declares that he's going to beat her by a lot.

9:57 — Carson is asked the same question. He doesn't talk about gender — or race. He says he'd turn the election into "a referendum about honesty vs. deceitfulness."

10:11 — Christie is asked whether he'd quarantine Americans to prevent the spread of the Zika virus. "You bet I would!"

10:13 — Rubio is asked whether women should be required to register with the military in the event there's a draft. Rubio says yes — including for combat. Bush agrees.

10:17 — Christie says: "There's no reason young women should be discriminated against in registering for the Selective Service." He talks as if it's just discrimination against women — but it's mainly discrimination against men, who are the only ones required to stand ready to be enslaved to fight in a war.

10:25 — Trump says if he's president, "waste, fraud, and abuse" in government will "disappear quickly." That's preposterous — every politician claims to be against government waste. If it were so easy to get rid of, that would have happened a long time ago.

10:31 — There's a "lightning round" of questions about the Super Bowl. Why does the media think it's a good idea to bring up sports on a political show?

10:44 — After Cruz gives his closing statement, Trump says: "He got Ben Carson's votes, but we won't say that . . ."

Alex Knepper's verdict:
Winners: Christie, Kasich, Bush; Wash: Trump, Cruz, Carson; Loser: Rubio. There’s just no question that Rubio among all the candidates suffered the greatest number of blows. Rubio simply was not prepared for the onslaught from the governors, who demonstrated a real hunger.
I agree that Rubio was weak and had the worst night. But I also thought Kasich was pretty awkward — I don't understand why people are saying he did well.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Live-blogging the last Democratic debate before the first primary

I'll be live-blogging tonight's Democratic debate — the first debate since the Iowa caucuses revealed how close the race is between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, and the only Democratic debate between then and the New Hampshire primary.

Keep reloading this post for more updates. For more live-blogging, check out TPM.

9:03 — This is the first debate with just the two of them. Unlike in previous debates, when each candidate would walk out one by one, this time we see them both walking toward the camera, side by side.

9:05 — Sanders gives an opening statement hitting his familiar notes: the economy is "rigged"; campaign finance is "corrupt."

9:06 — In her opening statement, Clinton says "yes, of course" those things Sanders said are true — but we also need to focus on racism, sexism, and discrimination against LGBT people (implying that Sanders is less concerned about those issues since he didn't mention them in his opening statement).

9:07 — Clinton says she and Sanders "share big progressive goals." But she doesn't "believe in free college." This is an implicit response to Sanders's recent comments that Clinton can't call herself both "progressive" and "moderate." She cleverly argues that "a progressive is someone who makes progress," and Sanders's agenda isn't "achievable."

9:11 — Clinton repeats her usual argument that she'd "improve" Obamacare, but Sanders would scrap the system. Sanders points out that he participated in writing Obamacare — "The idea that I would dismantle health care in America, while we're getting ready to have Medicare for all, is just not accurate."

9:14 — Clinton lists other Democrats who wouldn't be considered "progressive" under Sanders's definition — including Obama, Biden, and Senator Paul Wellstone (who died in 2002) — because Wellstone "voted for DOMA." The point about Wellstone and DOMA seems like an odd one for Clinton to make. The Defense of Marriage Act is now universally reviled among liberals, and Clinton has to worry that Democratic primary voters will be turned off by the fact that she used to be passionately opposed to same-sex marriage, and was pretty late in coming around to the right position.

9:22 — Rachel Maddow asks Sanders about the fact that he's not really a Democrat. Sanders proudly declares: "I am the longest-serving independent in the history of the United States Congress." Maddow says Sanders was a spoiler in a race in the '80s that was won by a Republican, but Sanders points out that he only lost that race by a few points — "the Democrat was the spoiler!"

9:25 — Sanders says "almost the entire establishment" is supporting Clinton, while millions of "people" have supported Sanders by giving him contributions averaging $27. Clinton says Sanders is the only person who'd describe Clinton as "exemplifying the establishment" when she's "a woman running to be the first woman president."

9:28 — Clinton says "it's time" to end Sanders's "artful smear" and "innuendo" about her donations and speaking fees from Wall Street. "If you've got something to say, say it, directly!" The audience gets riled up, going "Ooooh!" when Clinton says the word "smear." [VIDEO.]

9:31 — Clinton says Sanders voted for financial deregulation in 2000 which led to the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008. Apparently she realized that she's seemed too defensive on this issue and she needed to go on the offensive.

9:40 — Clinton is asked again about her Wall Street speaking fees. She says Wall Street clearly knows where she stands since Wall Street has been spending millions of dollars against her primary campaign, at which point Sanders rolls his eyes.

9:42 — Sanders goes on a diatribe against Wall Street. "Kid gets caught with marijuana — that kid gets sent to jail. A Wall Street executive destroys the entire economy — $5 billion settlement, no criminal record."

9:43 — Clinton tries to move to Sanders's left by saying she'd "take us further" in taking action against "corporate power."

9:46 — Chuck Todd asks Clinton if she's release all the transcripts of all her paid speeches. Clinton seems slightly little taken aback by that sweeping request, which she quickly brushes off — "I don't know, I'll look into it" — before using the rest of her time to get back to her talking points.

Bill Scher responds to the question about transcripts of Clinton's speeches:

Pro-tip: conspiracies don't have transcripts
9:49 — Sanders: "The business model of Wall Street is fraud."

9:57 — Clinton says it's "off the table" to deploy ground troops against ISIL. She agrees with President Obama's current strategy except that she'd give "more support for the people on the ground."

9:59 — Sanders "agree[s] with much" of what Clinton said about ISIL. In fact, he doesn't suggest that there's any difference between them on that. Instead, he switches to reminding us that he was against the Iraq war and Clinton voted for it.

10:00 — Todd asks Sanders how long he'd leave the 10,000 troops in Afghanistan which Obama will leave for him. He doesn't specifically answer the question. He goes back to talking about ISIL, saying we need "Muslim troops on the ground" to fight ISIL; American ground troops would be targets.

10:02 — Clinton gets into a lot more details of what's going on in Afghanistan. She also doesn't give a specific answer about how long she'd leave our troops there, but her answer on Afghanistan sounds much more impressive than Sanders's.

10:03 — Todd asks Sanders why foreign policy doesn't seem to be one of his big issues, and why he hasn't given a major foreign-policy speech. "I gave a speech about democratic socialism and foreign policy. Maybe I shouldn't have combined the two of them into the same speech!" Only the former part got any attention.

10:06 — Clinton brings up a couple of Sanders's past statements on foreign policy and says they're very questionable. Clinton says it's "not acceptable" for Sanders to say "I'll get to that when I can." Sanders: "I fully concede that Secretary Clinton, who was Secretary of State for 4 years, has more experience . . . on foreign affairs." But Sanders again reminds us . . . she voted for the Iraq war.

10:10 — Sanders bring up Clinton's dispute with Obama from 2008 about whether to "talk to our enemies." Clinton says she's going to "correct the record": the question in 2008 was about whether to meet with them "without conditions." It's unusual to see Clinton (implicitly) criticizing Obama like that now, 8 years later. Clinton points out that the Obama administration talked with Iran only after satisfying various conditions — effectively saying "Told ya!" to Obama.

10:14 — Clinton refers to the Iran deal with an incomprehensible string of jargon: "That's an enforcement consequence action-for-action follow-on."

10:18 — Sanders reels off his accomplishments on veterans' issues. This seems like an implicit comeback to Clinton's line that only she can get things done.

Bill Scher makes a good point:
Everyone who says Elizabeth Warren would be winning this primary, ask yourself how she'd be doing with these foreign policy questions
10:25 — Sanders is asked about the results in Iowa, and Sanders emphasizes that he got 20 delegates to Clinton's 22 — and they need about 2,500 to get the nomination. "This is not the biggest deal in the world." He does point out that some of the results were based on coin flips, but he hastens to add: "I love and respect the caucus process in Iowa. And I don't have to say it, because they've already voted! And I love the New Hampshire primary, because they haven't voted yet!"

10:27 — In response to a question for Sanders about how he'd do in the general election, he cites some general-election polls that have him doing much better than Clinton against Donald Trump.

10:29 — Clinton tells Sanders she's "thrilled by the numbers of people . . . who are coming to support your campaign," which is a little hard to believe. As for the general election, Clinton says: "I've been vetted. There's hardly anything you don't know about me."

10:33 — Todd asks Clinton if she's "100% confident that nothing is going to come" of the FBI investigation into her email practices. Clinton says yes, "I'm 100% confident! . . . This just beggars the imagination!"

10:34 — Todd asks Sanders if he still feels the same way about Clinton's emails as he did in the first debate, when he famously said: "The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails!" Sanders says: "I'm feeling exactly how I felt at the first debate. There's a process underway — I will not politicize it."

10:41 — Clinton is asked if she still supports the death penalty. She says she does, but she has much more confidence in it at the federal level than the state level. As an example, she says she's glad that Timothy McVeigh was executed for blowing up 168 people, "including 19 children in a day-care center."

10:43 — Sanders is firmly against the death penalty: "There is so much killing out there. I don't believe that government should be part of the killing. . . . We should lock them up and throw away the key."

10:47 — Todd points out that Clinton has taken stands against trade agreements (NAFTA and the TPP) while campaigning in 2016 and 2008, but has supported them at other times. And Todd points out that Sanders has "never supported a trade deal" in the decades he's been in Congress! Sanders says he believes in "trade" — but not "free trade."

10:56 — Todd asks Clinton which of three issues she'd prioritize — immigration, guns, or climate change. "History shows, whichever you pick first, you have the best shot of getting." Clinton simply rejects that premise. Sanders says Todd missed the most important issue: campaign finance reform.

11:00 — Maddow asks Clinton if she'd eliminate any government agencies — or create any new ones. Clinton says no, she'd just make the existing ones work better.

11:02 — Todd asks Clinton if she'd pick Sanders as her running mate — which is a dumb question, since she's obviously not going to answer it. But if she is the nominee, "the first person" she'll call "will be Senator Sanders."

11:04 — In her closing statement, Clinton urges voters to use their "head" and their "heart." "We have a lot of work that can only come because your heart is moved."

11:06 — Sanders, in his closing statement: "I'm running for president because I believe it is just too late for establishment politics and establishment economics. We need a revolution."

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Flipping coins to decide the Democratic Iowa caucuses

My friend Ben Wikler, the Washington Director of (which is supporting Bernie Sanders), describes how one of the Iowa caucus precincts was decided:

[T]he first vote was roughly evenly split between Bernie and Hillary. (Nobody for O'Malley.) There are five delegates at stake, divided between the candidates in proportionate to their votes in the room. So it'll be two and two, with one delegate at stake.

The four undecideds go into a corner to hear pitches from supporters of either side. The rest of the crowd mills around; a few go to the bathroom; one or two don't come back.

Three people make up their mind for Bernie; one for Hillary. Back to seats.

Final vote. 61 for Bernie. For Hillary it's 59... 60... 61. Tie!

Recount. Slower this time. Still 61-61. Whoa.

So how do you break a tie? At this precinct, the answer is apparently: COIN FLIP.

Bernie's people call it: heads. Up goes the coin. Back down. Everyone clusters around to look.


Cheers go up on the Hillary side, frustration on Bernie side, and boom, that's it: three delegates for Hillary, two for Bernie, a bajillion fail points awarded to the people who left in the middle of the caucus, and we're off the Bernie victory party.

Ben caught it on video (if this video doesn't show up properly, click here):

Iowa Caucus precinct awards delegate to Clinton based on coin ...

Watch it happen: #IowaCaucus delegate awarded to Clinton based on coin flip in tied precinct. w/'s Benjamin O'Keefe

Posted by Ben Wikler on Monday, February 1, 2016

Here's another video of the same coin flip, shown on C-SPAN. You can hear Ben Wikler say, "What?!" at about 0:25, and a couple seconds later he shows up just to the right of the woman who's explaining the procedure.

This also happened five other times. Hillary Clinton won all six coin tosses.

Megan McArdle comments:
Hillary Clinton is a terrible candidate. . . . That doesn’t mean she won’t eventually end up being president, but if she does, it will be despite her lackluster political skills, rather than because of them. The woman has had almost incumbent levels of support from her party, which paved the way for an easy coronation . . . and saw her come to a statistical tie with a self-avowed socialist.

Think about this: she started up 30 percent over Bernie Sanders, and ended up winning six precincts by a coin toss. Clinton seems to have a stronger base of support among Iowa coins than she does among Iowa caucus voters.

Pocket Change We Can Believe In!

A Facebook friend pointed out that the real problem seems to be that Sanders supporters are terrible at calling coin flips. Why, I can see the attack ad now . . .
(Narrator, speaking slowly with a tone of voice expressive of deep concern, over grainy black-and-white footage of slow-motion coin flips in Iowa auditoriums:) "The Bernie Sanders campaign . . . has consistently called coin flips wrong. How can we expect Bernie Sanders . . . to do what's right for America?"

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Live-blogging the last 2016 Republican debate before the voting starts

It's also the first time Donald Trump hasn't participated in a 2016 Republican debate. I'll be live-blogging it here. Keep reloading this post for more updates.

For more live-blogging, check out National Review, TPM, the New Republic, Althouse (my mom), and Alex Knepper.

9:03 — Megyn Kelly starts by asking Ted Cruz about "the elephant not in the room tonight — Donald Trump." Cruz responds: "I'm a maniac. Everyone on this stage is stupid, fat, and ugly. And Ben, you're a terrible surgeon. Now that we've gotten the Donald Trump portion out of the way . . ." [VIDEO.]

9:06 — Marco Rubio says Trump is "the greatest show on earth," but the election isn't about him — it's about America, "the greatest country in the world." He also takes a jab at Hillary Clinton for her recent suggestion that future-former-President Obama could be a good choice for Supreme Court.

9:07 — Jeb Bush: "I kind of miss Donald Trump! He was a little teddy bear to me!"

9:08 — Bush breaks some news: he's part of "the establishment."

9:10 — Chris Christie brushes off a question about whether he's too much about compromising and reaching across the aisle. He says that kind of thing just doesn't matter to the 45-year-old construction worker who's lost money under the Obama administration.

9:11 — Rand Paul is asked if he made a mistake by not getting an earlier start in embracing his father, Ron Paul, who might have caused more of the excitement of his 2008 and 2012 campaigns to rub off on his son.

9:12 — Cruz gives a shout-out to the Pauls for trying to audit the Federal Reserve.

9:13 — Rubio says: "I respect Rand." Rubio's tautological reason for this: "He believes in everything he stands for."

9:16 — John Kasich is asked if he's too establishment. He says he isn't in the outsider lane or the establishment lane; he's in "the Kasich lane." However, he sounds pretty establishment, talking about how he's worked with Democrats and balanced the budget.

9:17 — Carson: "I don't think you have to be a politician to tell the truth. In fact, sometimes it's the other way around." He actually said something a little different because he jumbled his words — staying true to his statement that he wouldn't have any "polished political speeches."

9:19 — Cruz talks about how he's going to destroy ISIL, but denies that he's "talking tough" on ISIL. Rubio responds by saying Cruz's record on military spending is the same as Rand Paul's.

9:20 — Rubio refers to Dabiq, Syria, then clarifies: "Not Dubuque[, Iowa]! I pronounced that incorrectly last time!" Alex Knepper wonders why he'd say that, other than "nerves." My answer: So viewers won't mishear it — especially Iowa viewers who are going to caucus in 4 days.

9:26 — Christie forcefully attacks Hillary Clinton for saying she used a private server for email "for her convenience." "She put the nation's security at risk — for her convenience. . . . Hillary Clinton is not qualified to be president."

9:27 — Cruz tussles with a moderator, Chris Wallace, over whether Cruz is allowed to respond after Wallace's question to Christie mentioned Cruz. Wallace says no, because Christie's answer didn't attack Cruz. Cruz keeps trying to cut in, as if he doesn't understand the rule Wallace explains over and over. [VIDEO.]

9:30 — After Bush criticizes Cruz, Wallace finally lets Cruz respond. But Cruz doesn't have a substantive response — instead, he whines about how many of the questions have asked the candidates to attack him. (This prompts loud booing from the audience.) Wallace retorts: "It is a debate, sir!" Cruz coyly threatens to walk off the stage if there are too many negative questions about him — an allusion to Trump's absence. [Added later: After I point out that Cruz was being facetious, Alex Knepper says, "I thought he was being serious! I guess not. Didn't deliver the line very well." My response: "It's safe to say that if as savvy a political observer as you thought he was being serious, his sarcasm wasn't effective enough to work on prime-time TV a few days before Iowa."] [VIDEO.]

9:34 — Rubio says he's open to closing down mosques, diners, etc. where people are being "radicalized," despite the concerns raised by Megyn Kelly about infringing on the First Amendment right to free speech. Rand Paul strongly disagrees with Rubio.

9:38 — Megyn Kelly asks Ben Carson about a Muslim woman who recently asked Hillary Carson whether America is the best place for her to raise her children. Carson responds toughly: "We need to stop allowing political correctness to dictate our policies — because it's going to kill us if we don't!" 

9:49 — Christie is asked if he can name just one thing the federal government does that he doesn't think it should do. "Yeah! Ya want one? . . . Let's get rid of funding for Planned Parenthood." The moderator, Brett Baier, asks if he has "anything bigger than that." Christie says he can't think of anything "bigger than the murder of children in the womb."

9:52 — Why does Bush always seem to get the questions about minor issues? He's asked about statehood for Puerto Rico. Earlier, he was asked about allegations that the Wounded Warrior Project spends too much of its money on itself. In an earlier debate, he was asked about whether to regulate betting on fantasy football.

9:59 — Megyn Kelly plays a long clip show of Rubio in about 2009 talking about how phrases like a "path to citizenship" are "code" for "amnesty." Then Kelly suggests he then supported amnesty once he later became a Senator. Rubio denies he's flip-flopped. Bush responds that he's "kind of confused" by what Rubio's said — although Bush admits: "I supported you, 'cause you asked me to!" Bush also plugs his book on immigration — "You can get it for $2.99 on Amazon!" [A little later, an Amazon reviewer gave the book 1 star for being much more expensive than $2.99.]

10:04 — Kelly plays a clip show of Cruz talking about what he now claims is a poison pill he used to kill Rubio's immigration reform. In the clip, Cruz passionately declares: "I don't want immigration reform to fail! I want immigration reform to pass!" After the clip, Kelly asks a devastating question: "Was that all an act? It was pretty convincing!" Cruz starts his response by talking about the short word count of his amendment to the bill relative to the long length of the bill. How many voters really care about those kinds of legislative metrics? [VIDEO of the Cruz and Rubio clip shows.]

10:08 — Paul and Rubio both say Cruz is lying on immigration. Rubio to Cruz: "You want to trump Trump on immigration! We're not going to beat Hillary Clinton with someone who's willing to say or do anything to win an election!" Cruz responds with back-handed compliments about Rubio: "He's very charming. He's very smooth." [VIDEO.]

10:10 — Christie says it's fine for Rubio or Cruz to "change their mind," but the difference is that Christie, as a governor, will "admit it."

10:12 — Carson seems so irrelevant by this point.

10:17 — Bush takes a veiled shot at Trump: "This is bean bag compared to what the Clinton machine is going to do to the Republican nominee."

10:17 — For the second time, Rubio criticizes Hillary Clinton's comments about the possibility of appointing Obama to the Supreme Court. I understand why he's bringing it up, but is that really important enough to be his repeated refrain in this debate?

10:19 — Rubio: "I think Bernie Sanders is a good candidate for president — of Sweden!" [VIDEO.]

10:20 — Christie is asked about the New Jersey bridge closing scandal. He says three investigations were done and showed: "I knew nothing." [But WaPo's Fact Checker says only one of the investigations reached that conclusion.]

10:25 — The moderator announces that they're going to start talking about "social issues" to appeal to evangelicals. This is where I tune out . . .

10:30 — Rubio: "I will always allow my faith to influence everything I do."

10:38 — Kasich might be the best-qualified but the least interesting to listen to.

10:43 — Rand Paul is asked if we should hold Hillary Clinton responsible for Bill Clinton's behavior toward women. Paul says if any CEO acted toward a 22-year-old intern the way Bill Clinton acted toward Monica Lewinsky, the CEO would be fired and never hired again. Paul suggests that this could make it harder for Hillary Clinton to call for women's rights, but he doesn't address the tougher issue of whether Hillary had any role in enabling or defending Bill's treatment of other women.

10:56 — Christie starts his closing statement with something he's said in a previous debate — that on September 11, 2001, he didn't hear from his wife for hours, while she was trapped in her building near the World Trade Center, and he had to contemplate the possibility of becoming a single father of three. "I've faced it. I've prosecuted terrorists."

10:56 — Bush has a bad habit of tripping over his prepared words. He's just not a compelling speaker, and he's running against several compelling speakers.

10:58 — In Cruz's closing statement, he mentions that it's now going to be "up to the men and women of Iowa to decide." The phrase "men and women" has long been used to refer to the military, but I feel like this election it's been used to refer to voters more than ever before. Has "people" become a bad word?

The Washington Post lists the "winners and losers." I agree that Cruz was one of the latter:

Cruz did the thing I hate the most in debates -- complain about the rules -- when he tried to game a bit more talking time and got shut down by moderator Chris Wallace. The Texas Senator's joking threat that if he kept taking incoming from the other candidates he might leave the stage (Donald Trump reference!) fell flat. He was on the wrong end of a scolding by Paul over his conservative righteousness. And, time and time again, Cruz found himself insisting that on a panoply of issues -- military spending, immigration etc. -- everyone was either wrong about his position or didn't understand it well enough. That's too much defense for Cruz to play -- especially in a debate without Trump.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

"John Althouse Cohen is just sick, sick, sick, sick, sick."

This is what happens if you go ahead and freely express yourself on the internet: If you Google my full name, you'll see this on the second page of results (unless you're logged in to Google, which can affect the results). According to that post, I'm "a gay man" who thinks President Obama "isn't normal" because he's "black." (The fact that I've never said those things is apparently beside the point.) And I'm an example of "the problem of white supremacist's [sic] seriously dangerous mental problems." In conclusion: "John Althouse Cohen is just sick, sick, sick, sick, sick." LOL.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

"The case for antidisestablishmentarianism"

Jeffrey Tucker writes at FEE:

The state power we oppose is not identical to the establishment we reject. You can overthrow the establishment and still be left with a gigantic machinery of legalized exploitation. All the agencies, laws, regulations, and powers are still in place. And now you have a problem: someone else is in charge of the state itself. You might call it a new establishment. It could be even more wicked than the one you swept away. Indeed, it usually is. . . .

Here’s the problem with political revolutions. One group leads the revolution, while others follow. If the revolution succeeds, the leaders expect a payout. The main payout is the control of the state apparatus that outlives the establishment’s overthrow. It makes sense that the results will tend to be more ruthless, vengeful, and bloody than anything that came before.

This is not a case for the establishment. It is a case against disestablishmentarianism as an ideal. The ideal is liberty, not the overthrow of existing elite structures as such. Rampant and unchecked populism can be as much an enemy of liberty as unchecked rule by an entrenched power elite.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Why Cruz's attack on "New York values" was both wrong and against the Republican party's interests

National Review's Kevin Williamson writes:

What to make of Senator Ted Cruz? He is a very, very smart man who apparently believes that the median Republican presidential primary voter is very, very dumb. There’s some evidence for that proposition — Donald Trump still leads in the national polls. . . .

But sneering at New York values isn’t very smart for conservatives. Not in the long run.

It has been said that you cannot understand America without understanding New York City, and the first thing to understand about New York is that it isn’t very much like the rest of America. That is true, unquestionably. But New York’s traditional virtues — its brashness, its hustle and enterprise, its anything-is-possible attitude — are the traditional American virtues, just as the city’s vices — its materialism, its self-importance, its fascination with the transitory and the impermanent — are the American vices, too. Conservatives, of all people, should be more attuned to the virtues of the nation’s commercial center; let the nation’s art-school dropouts sneer at that great collision of money and culture. . . .

To the extent that “New York values” is another way of saying “urban values” — and it is, to a great extent — conservatives would do well to develop a keener appreciation of them. (Never mind, for the moment, the notion that Donald Trump’s values are identical to the values of New York, in which he is a figure of fun rather than a figure of respect.) From a matter of pure self-interest, Republicans would be in much better shape if their presidential candidates did not start in an electoral hole, with California, New York, New Jersey, and Illinois wrapped up in a bow for the Democrats. It isn’t California ranchers and Illinois farmers who have handed those states to the Left, but city-dwelling people who believe with some reason — Ted Cruz has just given them another — that Republicans hate them. . . .

When Ronald Reagan was elected, 74 percent of the U.S. population lived in cities; today it is 82 percent. From 2000 to 2010, the nation’s population grew by 9.7 percent — but the city population grew by 12.1 percent. And those urbanites are not entirely pleased with the Democratic monopolies that govern most of them: In Flint, the Democrats are literally poisoning the children; in Atlanta, the schools are so corrupt that teachers and administrators had to be sent to prison; elsewhere, urban Americans are literally up in arms (Molotov cocktails, at least) over their treatment at the hands of the city powers they interact with most often: the police. New York City is sliding back into pre-Giuliani chaos. And what are Republicans doing? Sneering at “New York values,” when they should be seeking to satisfy the best of those values, such as the entrepreneurial spirit and the hunger for advancement — which are, after all, the best of American values, too.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Live-blogging the Republican debate

I'll be live-blogging the debate here. Keep reloading this post for more updates.

This will be the first main debate without Rand Paul, and the first debate without Carly Fiorina since . . . the first debate.

For more live-blogging, check out National Review, TPM, the New Republic, and Alex Knepper.

As always, I'll be writing down quotes on the fly, so they might not be perfectly verbatim, but I'll try to keep them reasonably accurate.

9:06 — Ted Cruz is asked why he disagrees with what President Obama said in his last State of the Union — that anyone who says the economy is declining is "peddling fiction." Cruz goes populist, saying the economy is getting better — for "lobbyists, millionaires, and billionaires."

9:08 — John Kasich takes a more pro-business, more technocratic, and less populist tone: the standard conservative line about how we need to cut taxes in order to stimulate economic growth and have "fiscal discipline."

9:09 — Chris Christie, in response to a question about when he'd use military action, starts out: "On Tuesday night, I watched story time with Barack Obama, and it sounded like everything in the world is just amazing!" His answer to the question is that he'd use it only when "absolutely necessary" to protect America — not to be "the world's policeman."

9:12 — Jeb Bush says Obama's claim that things are better now than when he took office is "totally an alternative universe."

9:13 — Bush says: "Terrorism is on the run." Wait, isn't that a good thing?

9:14 — Bush reminds us that Hillary Clinton is under investigation, and says her "first 100 days" might be "going back and forth between the White House and the courthouse."

9:16 — Marco Rubio is really on fire in his first answer. He says Clinton would not only be "a disaster" — "she's disqualified" by her email debacle and by "lying" about the Benghazi attacks.

9:21 — Cruz is asked about an apparent financial impropriety which was reported in the New York Times. He takes this as an opportunity to lambaste the Times for being biased against him. He admits to a "paperwork error" but says it isn't important.

9:27 — Cruz is asked about his constitutional eligibility to be president. Cruz sarcastically responds: "I'm glad we're focusing on the important issues." Cruz says the law is clear that he's eligible, and says some would even argue that Donald Trump isn't eligible since his mother was born in Scotland and later naturalized. Trump forcefully argues that Cruz shouldn't keep running without going to court to ask for a "declaratory judgment" to resolve the issue. Rubio starts talking but apologizes for "interrupting this episode of Court TV."

9:38 — Rubio and Christie go after each other. Rubio says: "Governor Christie has endorsed many of the ideas that Obama supports." He says someone like that can't be the nominee. Christie throws Rubio's past words back in his face, recalling a prior debate when Bush attacked Rubio, and Rubio responded that someone must have convinced Bush the attack would work. Christie also quotes Rubio's past praise of him as a "conservative reformer." Then, Bush finds a loophole, saying he was mentioned by Christie, so he's allowed to respond — but wait a minute, that doesn't really make sense. No one was attacking Bush, and Bush wasn't responding to any criticism of him. Carson satirizes Bush by jumping in: "I was mentioned too — he said 'everybody'!" And the moderators actually let Carson use that to take a turn!

9:44 — Kasich tells us about how his parents instilled the American dream in him — by saying: "Johnny, we don't hate the rich — we want to be the rich."

9:46 — Carson is asked whether "Bill Clinton's indiscretions" are "a legitimate issue" (to which several audience members yell, "Yeah!"), and what he thinks of the theory "that Hillary Clinton is an enabler of sexual misconduct." Carson dodges the question by responding purely in abstractions, like "Our strength is in our unity" and "There is such a thing as right and wrong."

9:55 — Rubio is asked about the fact that he's said Obama wants to take Americans' guns away, yet gun ownership has actually skyrocketed during the Obama administration. "That sounds like people are afraid the president's gonna take their guns away!" Rubio also cleverly reminds the audience of Obama's statement during the 2008 campaign that Americans "cling" to guns out of bitterness.

9:59 — Christie speaks directly to Obama: "We are going to kick your rear-end out of the White House come this fall!" Alex Knepper has a good catch about how part of Christie's message to Obama was a bit self-contradictory:

"Obama, we think you're a petulant child and a dictator. But we aren't against you - just your policies!" - Christie
10:03 — Maria Bartiromo asks Cruz what he meant when he said that Trump "embodies New York values." Cruz says most people know what that means. Bartiromo retorts: "I'm from New York, and I don't!" Cruz ripostes: "You're from New York, so you might not know!" Cruz ends by saying: "Not a lot of conservatives come out of Manhattan" — a twist on Trump's odd stump-speech line that not many evangelicals come from Cuba (like Cruz). Trump points out that many conservatives have "come out of Manhattan" — including the founder of National Review, William F. Buckley. Trump goes into an extended, emotional account of how New York rebuilt after the attack on the World Trade Center, and ends by saying that Cruz's statement was "very insulting." Cruz doesn't even try to respond.

Earlier, Christie said the Second Amendment was put second because it's so important. Bill Scher is skeptical: "The amendments are ranked in order of importance? My response: Sure, I'd much rather lose my right to a trial by jury than have soldiers non-consensually quartered in my house!

10:19 — Trump is asked if he'll rethink his ban on Muslims entering the US. He says, "No," but emphasizes: "I said temporarily — I didn't say permanently." He adds that his "Muslim friends" have been thanking him for the proposal. Bush says he hopes Trump will reconsider it, since the ban would make it "impossible" to work with our allies to "take out ISIS." Instead, Bush would tighten up our visa policies.

10:26 — Christie criticizes Trump's proposal as simplistic: "You can't just ban all Muslims. You have to ban radical Islamic jihadists."

10:27 — Rubio takes a more understanding approach toward Trump's proposal: "Donald's tapped into some real anger about this issue." Rubio says he wouldn't allow anyone into the country if we didn't know why they're coming here.

10:37 — I've been spacing out during the discussion of China, tariffs, currency fluctuations, tractors, and soybean sales.

10:55 — Christie says everyone else has been avoiding answering the question on entitlements "because it's hard — it's a hard problem." I don't know if he's right, because I missed a bunch of stuff when Fox Business's live stream stayed on the break for too long. Rubio meekly offers to answer the question, but Christie shouts him down: "No, you already had your chance, Marco — you blew it!"

11:12 — The breaks keep staying away for too long, so I've missed more stuff. It comes back in the middle of Rubio giving a litany of Cruz's flip-flops. "That is not consistent conservatism — that is political calculation." As Cruz defends himself, the audience yells over him.

11:25 — Cruz lists things that need to "end," including Clinton "apologizing for saying 'all lives matter.'"

11:26 — Trump uses his closing statement to talk about the "terrible sight" of American sailors being held hostage by Iranians, and says we got them back only because we made such a bad deal with Iran. Of course, this wouldn't have happened under Trump, who would make great deals and "win" at everything.

"If elected, Clinton will be another 'war president' at a time when America desperately needs peace."

So says the Nation, endorsing Bernie Sanders — only the third presidential endorsement the magazine has made in 150 years. Excerpt:

Hillary Clinton is a candidate who combines unmatched experience with intelligence, grit, and strength. She has responded to the populist temper of the times: questioning the sort of free-trade deals that Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have championed; calling for reforms on Wall Street and tax increases on the wealthy; courageously defending Planned Parenthood; challenging the National Rifle Association; and supporting trade unions. If nominated, she would be far more preferable to any of the extremists running for the GOP nomination (and so would former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley). We understand that keeping the presidency out of the hands of right-wing Republicans is crucial, especially when the next president will reshape the Supreme Court. And there is no denying that if she were elected, Clinton would shatter the thickest glass ceiling and champion women’s rights in a way that no other president has.

But the limits of a Clinton presidency are clear. Her talk of seeking common ground with Republicans and making deals to “get things done” in Washington will not bring the change that is so desperately needed. Clinton is open to raising the Social Security retirement age, and her plan falls short of increasing benefits for all. She rejects single-payer healthcare and refuses to consider breaking up the big banks. We also fear that she might accept a budgetary “grand bargain” with the Republicans that would lock in austerity for decades to come.

On foreign policy, Clinton is certainly seasoned, but her experience hasn’t prevented her from getting things wrong. Clinton now says that her 2002 vote to authorize George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq was a mistake, but she apparently learned little from it. Clinton was a leading advocate for overthrowing Moammar El-Gadhafi in Libya, leaving behind a failed state that provides ISIS with an alternative base. She supported calls for the United States to help oust Bashar al-Assad in Syria, an approach that has added fuel to a horrific civil war. She now advocates a confrontation with Russia in Syria by calling for a no-fly zone. Her support for President Obama’s nuclear agreement with Iran was marred by an explicit rejection of better relations with that country and bellicose pledges to provide Israel with more arms. If elected, Clinton will be another “war president” at a time when America desperately needs peace.

Sanders’s approach is different and better. The senator hasn’t talked as much as we would like about global challenges and opportunities, and we urge him to focus more on foreign policy. But what he has said (and done) inspires confidence. An opponent of the Iraq War from the start, he criticizes the notion of “regime change” and the presumption that America alone must police the world. He rejects a new Cold War with Russia. He supports the nuclear-weapons agreement with Iran, and he would devote new energy to dismantling nuclear arsenals and pursuing nonproliferation. He has long been an advocate for normalizing relations with Cuba and for reviving a good-neighbor policy in the hemisphere. Sanders’s foreign policy would also create conditions for rebuilding a broadly shared prosperity at home. He would lead an international effort to end the crippling austerity that threatens to create another global recession, and he would champion a green New Deal to combat climate change. And as a leader of the opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, he would undo the corporate-defined trade regime that has devastated America’s middle class.

Critics of Bernie Sanders dismiss him as an idealist (he is!) on a quixotic crusade. Meanwhile, the corporate media has paid shamefully little attention to his campaign’s achievements, instead lavishing attention on the latest outrageous pronouncements by Donald Trump and the Republican candidates struggling to compete with him. Nonetheless, polls show that Sanders—even as he still introduces himself to many voters—is well poised to take on the eventual GOP nominee, frequently doing better than Clinton in these matchups. Moreover, in contrast to the modest audiences at Clinton’s campaign stops, the huge crowds at Sanders’s grassroots rallies indicate that he’ll be able to boost turnout in November.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Hillary Clinton is asked about her "white privilege"

I'm less interested in her answer to that question than I am in knowing when and how the word "privilege" started to take over virtually all discussions of race, gender, sexual orientation, class, etc. It seems to have happened fairly recently — I'd say within about the last 10 years. When you hear the explanations of what it's supposed to mean, you can probably think of other words that would have been used in the past. But today, simply uttering the word "privilege" has become a signal that you're one of the enlightened ones.

I have some thoughts on what might be motivating the constant use of this word, but I'll have to get to that another day.

Monday, January 11, 2016

David Bowie (1947 - 2016)

David Bowie has died of cancer at age 69.

The New York Times notes that his musical career was active until the very end:

The multitalented artist, whose last album, “Blackstar,” was released on Friday — on his birthday — was to be honored with a concert at Carnegie Hall on March 31 featuring the Roots, Cyndi Lauper and the Mountain Goats. He also has a musical, “Lazarus,” running Off Broadway.
More from the NYT obit:
"Mr. Bowie was his generation’s standard-bearer for rock as theater: something constructed and inflated yet sincere in its artifice, saying more than naturalism could. With a voice that dipped down to baritone and leapt into falsetto, he was complexly androgynous, an explorer of human impulses that could not be quantified."

He also pushed the limits of “Fashion” and “Fame,” writing songs with those titles and also thinking deeply about the possibilities and strictures of pop renown. . . .

In the late 1960s, Lindsay Kemp, a dancer, actor and mime, became a lasting influence on Mr. Bowie, focusing his interest in movement and artifice. Mr. Bowie’s music turned toward folk-rock and psychedelia. The release of “Space Oddity,” shortly before the Apollo 11 mission, gained him a British pop audience and, when it was rereleased in 1973 in the United States, an American one.

By then, with the albums “Hunky Dory,” “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars” and “Aladdin Sane,” Mr. Bowie had become a pioneer of glam rock and a major star in Britain, playing up an androgynous image. But he also had difficulties separating his onstage personas from real life and succumbed to drug problems, particularly cocaine use. In 1973, he abruptly announced his retirement — though it was the retirement of Ziggy Stardust, not of Mr. Bowie.

He moved to the United States in 1974 and made “Diamond Dogs,” which included the hit “Rebel Rebel.” In 1975, he turned toward funk with the album “Young Americans,” recorded primarily in Philadelphia with collaborators, including a young Luther Vandross; John Lennon joined Mr. Bowie in writing and singing the hit “Fame.” Mr. Bowie’s 1976 album “Station to Station” yielded more hits, but drug problems were making Mr. Bowie increasingly unstable; in interviews, he made pro-fascist pronouncements that he would soon disown.

For a far-reaching change of environment, and to get away from drugs, Mr. Bowie moved in 1976 to Switzerland and then to West Berlin, part of a divided city with a sound that fascinated him: the Krautrock of Kraftwerk, Can, Neu! and other groups. Mr. Bowie shared a Berlin apartment with Iggy Pop, and he helped produce and write songs for two Iggy Pop albums, “The Idiot” and “Lust for Life.”

He also made what is usually called his Berlin trilogy — “Low,” “ ‘Heroes’ ” and “Lodger” — working with Mr. Eno and Mr. Bowie’s collaborator over decades, the producer Tony Visconti. They used electronics and experimental methods, like having musicians play unfamiliar instruments, yet songs like “ ‘Heroes’ ” conveyed romance against the bleakest odds.

As the 1980s began, Mr. Bowie turned to live theater, performing in multiple cities (including a Broadway run) in the demanding title role of “The Elephant Man.” Yet he would also reach his peak as a mainstream pop musician in that decade — particularly with his 1983 album “Let’s Dance,” which he produced with Nile Rodgers of Chic; the Texas blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan also performed on the album. But by 1989, Mr. Bowie was determined to change again; he recorded, without top billing, as a member of the rock band Tin Machine.

His experiments continued in the 1990s. In 1995, he reconnected with Mr. Eno on an album, “1. Outside,” — influenced by science fiction and film noir — that was intended to be the start of a trilogy. Mr. Bowie toured with Nine Inch Nails in an innovative concert that had his band and Nine Inch Nails merging partway through."
This is from a 2002 article based on an interview with Bowie and others:
"You can still put on 'Ziggy Stardust' and it [sounds] like it could have come out last month," commented [Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails], for a Bowie "Biography" to run on A&E later this year. "It set the foundations for a lot of trends that are happening now."

Following "Ziggy Stardust," Bowie began shifting personae "like an actor rather than a singer," as Glover puts it. Without such moves, a later chameleon like Madonna would have been unimaginable. Small wonder it was she who inducted Bowie into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. . . .

In 1978, Bowie was asked by a British journalist to assess his greatest contribution to rock. "I'm responsible for starting a whole new school of pretension," he famously quipped.

But looking back now at his first theatrical elaboration of the music, he reacts with both bemusement and pride. "It's 30 years ago," he says. "But it feels like 60. Everything, and everyone, has changed. I was recently looking at an old cover of New Musical Express from 1973. It's me and Mick [Jagger], and he's just found glam a little late. He's wearing this jumpsuit with epaulets, and he's dripping in makeup and mascara. And I'm on the other half of the page with this net costume with hands stuck everywhere. You look at it and think, 'What was that all about?'

"But it really did look great, and it was so exciting. My God, that period will never be repeated. It was a hell of a fk off to what came before."

To be specific, to hippie-dom.

"God, I hated the hippie period," Bowie says with a laugh. "They talked about being so creative, but there was so little creativity to it. Glam really did plant seeds for a new identity. I think a lot of kids needed that that sense of reinvention. Kids learned that however crazy you may think it is, there is a place for what you want to do and who you want to be.

"And I needed that myself," Bowie continues. "Even though I was very shy, I found I could get onstage if I had a new identity. And then I learned to discard that identity to become a real self maybe not real to the point of Bruce Springsteen," he adds sarcastically. "But at least an approximation of reality on stage." . . .

Today, he says, "I'm frighteningly happy. I don't see ever wanting to change things in my personal life. Iman and I are very happy, and we have the most fabulous baby."

Yet, as a consequence, he says, he's lost what younger men have namely, "a sense of becoming. At a certain age, you realize you are no longer becoming. You are being. I like knowing what's up. But I do miss the excitement of not knowing quite what's around the next corner."

However content he is in his day-to-day existence, and while he may have "fewer and fewer questions about life," Bowie says this has focused him on "the questions that are unresolvable."

Namely, the existential ones. "I'm approaching those questions in the new songs," he says. "At first, I thought, 'Well, if I write about this, I won't have anything left to write about.' But then I realized that what life is about is quite a subject to take on. "And at the moment," he says, "I feel like I've only scratched the surface."

Bowie with Arcade Fire, performing the band's song "Wake Up":