Archive for the ‘Debates’ Category

One of the major things to come out of this week’s GOP debate on CNN is that Donald Trump doesn’t look like the behemoth that can’t be beat anymore. While I give lots of the credit for puncturing that image to Carly Fiorina, it isn’t fair to say that she’s the only one to draw blood against him.

When Hugh Hewitt asked Mr. Trump if the three senators on stage shared the responsibility for the refugee crisis in eastern Europe by not authorizing the use of military force, Mr. Trump said that they should accept part of the responsibility for the crisis. The minute Mr. Trump finished his statement, Sen. Rubio pounced, saying “We bear no responsibility. Let’s remember what the President said. He said that the attacks that he would conduct was going to be a pin prick. Well, the United State’s military wasn’t built to conduct pin prick attacks. If the United States military is going to be engaged by a commander-in-chief, it should only be engaged in an endeavor to win and we’re not going to authorize the use of force if you’re not going to put them in a position to win. And, quite frankly, people don’t trust this president as commander-in-chief because of that.”

Here’s the exchange between Mr. Trump and Sen. Rubio:

While that won’t dissuade Mr. Trump’s true believers, it’s something that will resonate with those activists who aren’t already infected with Trumpmania Syndrome. In the past, lightweight candidates like Lindsey Graham and ultra-establishment candidates like Jeb Bush haven’t hit Mr. Trump with the lethal hits that were required.

That changed prior to this week’s GOP Debate. It isn’t surprising that the 2 consensus winners of Wednesday night’s debate, Mrs. Fiorina and Sen. Rubio, got in the best shots against Mr. Trump. It isn’t surprising because their messaging has always been the most crisp, the most hard-hitting on the GOP side.

There’s an old hunting saying that teaches that ‘you don’t want to track a wounded grizzly’, which applies to Mr. Trump. If you aren’t going to rhetorically hit Mr. Trump with lethal force, don’t hit him at all. I’d argue, though, that you don’t belong in the race if you can’t hit Mr. Trump with lethal force.

The campaign, in its truest form, should be a clash of titans. Those that can’t compete at that highest level needn’t apply.

According to this CNN article, Carly Fiorina bullied Chris Christie during Wednesday night’s debate. According to Gov. Christie, “Carly Fiorina talked too much [Wednesday] night about herself and not enough about the issues.” Apparently, this is part of Christie’s post-debate spin. That’s rich considering the fact that the CNN article noted that “From the moment he took the stage, Christie tried to emphasize the idea that he was focused more on voters than himself.”

This reeks of sour grapes and spin. First, it’s foolish to think that Carly Fiorina didn’t talk about the issues. When asked about military preparedness, Mrs. Fiorina gave one of the most comprehensive answers in debate history, speaking about how many divisions the Army needed and how many ships the Navy needed.

Put differently, Mrs. Fiorina answered the questions on point. Not only were Mrs. Fiorina’s answers on point. They displayed a grasp of the minutiae and the big picture. Other than that, Mrs. Fiorina’s answers were what you’d expect of a typical politician.

From a different perspective, Gov. Christie isn’t a stranger to this process. While it’s good form to let the person answer the question, it’s often the person who jumps into the conversation that benefits the most. Mr. Christie hasn’t shown a reluctance to interrupt people at townhall meetings. Why wouldn’t he take this opportunity?

Last night, Donald Trump was exposed as a wimp with a glass jaw. After the debate, he whined that Megyn Kelly “behaved very nasty to me.”

That’s rich.

The man who insists he’ll get China, Mexico, Russia and Iran to buckle can’t take tough questions from a moderator. While he didn’t crumble, he lost his temper. Then he lied. Ms. Kelly started by saying “You’ve called women you don’t like ‘fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals.’” Mr. Trump insisted that he’d said that about “only Rosie O’Donnell” as though that was ok. Ms. Kelly re-asserted herself, saying “No, it wasn’t. Your Twitter account – For the record, it was well beyond Rosie O’Donnell.” Mr. Trump’s condescending response was “Yes, I’m sure it was.”

Ms. Kelly continued on track, saying “You once told a woman on Celebrity Apprentice that ‘it would be a pretty picture of her on her knees. Does that sound to you like the temperament of the man we should elect as president and how will you answer the charge from Hillary Clinton that you are part of the war on women”?

Mr. Trump replied that “This country’s problem is being politically correct” before saying that “we’re $19,000,000,000,000 in debt.” Poor little rich boy. A debate moderator criticizes him for playing into Hillary Clinton’s ‘War on Women’ storyline but that’s somehow mean-spirited and out-of-bounds? Trump calls women “fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals” but that’s ok? Which universe was Mr. Trump born in that that makes sense?

Mr. Trump has tried portraying himself as a Master of the Universe type of omnipotent being. RealClearPolitics’ Tom Bevan posted this pitch-perfect tweet, saying “Trump is going to bust balls of Putin, China & Mexico – right after he recovers from having his feelings hurt by @megynkelly’s questions.”

It’s impossible to not mock Mr. Trump after he told MSNBC “I’m very surprised at Fox News that they would do that because, you know, I would say it’s pretty unprofessional.” Saying that “it would be a pretty picture” to see a female celebrity “on her knees” is presidential but getting asked tough questions is unprofessional?

Mr. Trump isn’t a man of integrity. He’s foul-mouthed. He’s as egotistical as Obama. Like Bill Clinton, Mr. Trump treats some women properly while treating others like trailer trash. There’s nothing presidential about him.

The national media, like the Washington Post, thinks that Carly Fiorina is having a moment. What will they think if Ms. Fiorina’s moment lasts? Imagine their disgust if they had to start reporting that she’s a policy wonk and a great communicator.

Clinton is Fiorina’s foil and chief raison d’etre in the crowded Republican primary field. The only woman among the Republican candidates, she tells crowds that her business background makes her the more accomplished choice to become the first woman president.

And she is having a moment this week, trying to capitalize on Clinton’s frequent reluctance to take questions at her campaign events and on general press grumpiness. Clinton is avoiding questions about Iraq, her family foundation and her record at the State Department, Fiorina said Wednesday. “The Republican Party needs a nominee who will ask these questions on a general debate stage” and answer them from reporters, Fiorina said outside the hotel.

This isn’t a prediction but I wouldn’t be surprised if Ms. Fiorina wound up being the fourth (and last) top tier candidate. She’s a great communicator. She’s a policy wonk that’s especially well-versed in explaining the negatives about regulations. The other thing she has going for her is that she can rip on Hillary without coming across as mean. The fact that she’s shadowing Hillary and grabbing lots of free press tells me that she’s a savvy media person, too, which is important.

One thing that’s clear is that Ms. Fiorina isn’t a sliver candidate like Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum or Chris Christie. Earlier this week, Rand Paul made another foolish accusation against his presidential opponents when he accused Republicans of creating ISIS. Statements like that immediately identify him as a fringe candidate. The GOP won’t nominate someone who is to the left of Hillary on national defense.

Rick Santorum doesn’t bring anything special to the field. On the positive side, he’s pro-life. On the negative side, he’s lost like his last half dozen elections, usually by wide margins. Simply put, people won’t take a Johnny One-Note candidate who hasn’t won an election since 2000. He won the Iowa Caucuses in 2012, defeating Mitt Romney by a handful of votes. To tell you how pathetic that is, Mike Huckabee defeated Mitt Romney by almost 11,000 votes and by 9 points. In 2012, Rick Santorum defeated Romney by 34 votes.

When your signature victory is by 34 votes over a candidate who didn’t work the state that hard, it’s a telling sign.

Carly Fiorina is a talented politician with lots of smart. That isn’t just my opinion. It’s shared by Jazz Shaw over at Hot Air, too:

I’m waiting to see some fresh numbers either nationally or in the early primary states which is less than a couple of weeks old. I don’t know how much Fiorina has moved the needle yet – assuming there’s been motion – but she’s picking up a ton of earned media everywhere she goes. And yet again, the way she’s doing it isn’t by starting a private, internecine grudge match such as the one between Rand Paul and Lindsey Graham. She’s taking the battle to Hillary Clinton’s doorstep… literally in this case.

I couldn’t put it better myself, Jazz.

Paul Waldman’s illogic is painful reading:

And the Kochs aren’t the only ones trying to do this winnowing. Fox News, which always keeps the long-term interests of the Republican Party in mind, recently announced that in the first debate of the season, it will be refusing admittance to all but 10 candidates. The excluded ones will in all likelihood find themselves caught in a vicious cycle where they can’t get coverage because they aren’t being taken seriously, and the can’t get taken seriously because they aren’t getting coverage. Ten is still a large number of candidates, but that first debate will be a key moment in the winnowing process.

Let’s analyze this sentence:

The excluded ones will in all likelihood find themselves caught in a vicious cycle where they can’t get coverage because they aren’t being taken seriously, and the can’t get taken seriously because they aren’t getting coverage.

The “excluded ones” won’t be taken seriously because they can’t appeal to more than a niche within the Republican Party. Think Rand Paul, Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee. Fox News made the right decision because having 16 candidates on the same stage is worthless. Assuming that each candidate got 2 minutes to answer their questions, 2 questions would eat up an entire hour. That’s assuming that the candidates’ answers don’t run long, which is a foolish assumption.

The activists wouldn’t benefit from a scattershot format. Neither would the candidates.

Finally, the winnowing process is part of the cycle. This isn’t about a competition where each of the participants gets a trophy or medal for participating. These candidates are interviewing to be the leader of the free world.

After watching this video from this morning’s Secretary of State debate, it’s difficult to determine whether Steve Simon is dishonest or unqualified for the job:

Here’s part of what was said that makes me think that Rep. Simon is a Sharpton-like race-baiter:

STEVE SIMON: I really don’t support this idea of a sort of Lexus lane for voting or the so-called “Express Lane Voting. First of all, it seems intended to be a separate but equal system. All I have to go on are Dan’s own words when he characterized on a TEA Party TV show in the spring when he said “If you don’t want to show an ID, be my guest. You can go over to the side and wait 2 hours in the cold. That’s fine.”

Rep. Simon’s reciting the separate but equal line was an intentional race-baiting statement. It’s intent was to frighten African-Americans. That’s partisanship at its disgusting worst. Politicians that play on people’s fears aren’t public servants; they’re politicians.

People that play hardball politics do it to win political fights. They aren’t particularly cunning. They just push hard to win. Politicians that play on people’s fears, fears that were created by decades of oppression prey on the vulnerable.

That’s what fascists do.

Next, Rep. Simon was reading from his script the entire time. If he’s upset with Rep. Severson’s remarks, he shouldn’t need to bury his head in a script for 10 seconds. FYI- 10 seconds is long enough to say 45 words. It’s apparent that Rep. Simon’s hissy fit is 75% schtick meant to frighten minorities into voting, 25% Rep. Simon being a less-than-impressive candidate. A top tier candidate, at this late stage of the campaign, would rattle facts off without hesitation and with confidence that he knows his facts.

Though it’s clear Rep. Simon isn’t a top tier candidate, that doesn’t mean Republicans shouldn’t work hard right through the last minute of Election Day. Candidates that get the most votes, whether they’re qualified or not qualified, still win.

At this point in the campaign, the right attitude is to outwork the DFL every minute through the closing of the polls.

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I know it’s a high expectation to hope that a Democrat politician to tell the truth about Obamacare but Sunday morning’s free-for-all featuring Al Franken and Mike McFadden was too much. Here’s the video of that part of the debate:

One of the first things Sen. Franken said was that 95% of all Minnesotans are now insured, which is misleading but statistically true. It’s misleading because 93% of Minnesotans were insured in 2012. Another 60% of Minnesotans were eligible for taxpayer-subsidized health insurance, either through medical assistance, which is Medicaid in Minnesota, or through MinnesotaCare. Based on a population of 5,300,000, that means 97.2% of Minnesotans would’ve been insured or eligible for taxpayer-subsidized health insurance. It’s worth noting that it wouldn’t have required spending $160,000,000 on a failed website, too. It would’ve only required an advertising campaign that would’ve cost less than $5,000,000 to highlight these programs.

Another of Franken’s chanting points was that Mike McFadden wants to totally repeal Obama, “which means people with pre-existing conditions” wouldn’t get covered. That’s BS on multiple levels. First, it’s impossible to believe that people with PECs wouldn’t get coverage if 97.2% of Minnesotans were insured or eligible to be insured. I know Minnesota is a healthy state but I’m betting that more than 2.8% of Minnesotans have PECs.

Then there’s the myth that Republicans were unwilling to vote for legislation that would’ve guaranteed insurance for people with PECs. If a bill would’ve been written that guaranteed that people with PECs couldn’t be denied insurance, 95%-99% of House and Senate Republicans would’ve voted for it.

If we were to start over and do health insurance reform right, there’s no question that covering people with PECs would be in the bill.

Next, Franken was questioned about health insurance premiums going up. Predictably, he said that “some people’s rates are going up but some people’s rates are going down”, suggesting that there was just as much a chance of a person’s rates going down as there was of them skyrocketing. That’s extremely dishonest and Sen. Franken knows it. Almost 75% of people will see their premiums go up dramatically while less than 25% of Minnesotans will see their premiums shrink marginally.

Franken said this after McFadden talked about a woman he met in Rochester who told him that her premiums are going up 50% and that her deductibles were increasing by 220%.That’s why McFadden called the ACA a “train wreck.” That’s why Minnesotans are increasingly calling it the Unaffordable Care Act. McFadden added that this woman “had a look of fear and anger” on her face.

One thing that came through clearly was Franken’s dishonesty. His faux outrage was contemptible. Major industry organizations like MAHU, aka Minnesota Association of Health Underwriters, have testified under oath to the MNsure board that health insurance premiums are skyrocketing.

If Sen. Franken wants to ignore the truth, then that’s proof that he’ll say anything to get elected. That immediately disqualifies him from elected office. It’s one thing to make statements with statistically accurate information that’s misleading. That happens during a campaign. Franken started by telling outright lies. Those lies were quickly discredited statistically. That didn’t cause him to stop the lies. He’s just continued repeating his refuted lies.

The simple solution to this is to elect Mike McFadden. He’s got a pro-prosperity plan to get Minnesota heading in the right direction. He’s got a plan to do health care reform right. Finally, he’s honest so we won’t have to worry whether he’ll lie to us.

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Friday night, Collin Peterson collided with Torrey Westrom in a debate. Here’s the video for the entire debate:

Saying that it was contentious is understatement. It was also inspirational and infuriating. This clip fits into the infuriating category:

Here’s what Collin Peterson said in defending his decision not to vote for Obamacare:

PETERSON: I didn’t vote for this bill. The reason I didn’t vote for it — the reason I didn’t vote for it is because I actually read the bill, which a lot of people didn’t.

That’s the first time Peterson said he’d read the bill prior to passing it. That runs contrary to what then-Speaker Pelosi said:

Here are her infamous words:

But we have to pass the bill so you can find out what’s in it.

The key point in all this is that, if it’s true, Collin Peterson knew what was in the bill but didn’t criticize the ACA. It’s one thing to stay silent on a bill you mildly disagree with. It’s almost justifiable if you think it might work. There was nothing in the ACA that suggested it would work.

For instance, if Peterson actually read the bill, he would’ve known that people couldn’t keep the plans they liked. Sitting silent while that abomination hits the American people is despicable. Edmund Burke got it right with this famous quote:

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Collin Peterson did nothing. As a result, people in the Seventh District are getting bad news. Torrey Westrom is definitely speaking up about it:

“All you need to do is travel the district and talk to the small business owners that are getting renewal notices from their employees,” Westrom responded. “They’re seeing 40, 50, 60, 80% increases. I just talked to a person in my home county two weeks ago at the coffee shop, and they said they’re seeing a 100 percent increase because of Obamacare. That is a critical, a big concern, and why I am pushing that we need to repeal Obamacare, different from the congressman.”

Torrey Westrom’s closing statement was inspirational. Here’s that closing statement:

Saying that he returned to bailing hay on the family farm just a year after permanently losing his sight is inspirational. I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that I appreciated Westrom’s statement that “even I can see that Washington is broken.”

Torrey’s sense of humor, combined with Torrey’s can-do attitude speak to one thing: that Torrey will be a positive, powerful force in Washington, DC.

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I’ll risk saying this but the professional political punditry needs to get start seeing things through a policy impact perspective, not through a ‘will it play politically’ perspective. During this morning’s gubernatorial debate, Gov. Dayton said that he’s long advocated for a single-payer health care system.

What was the collective reaction from the professional political punditry? Crickets. No big deal. Keep moving.

The government, whether we’re talking about the Obama administration or the Dayton administration, is incapable of handling anything that complex. In too many instances, it’s incapable of handling fundamental responsibilities.

That professional political pundits think it isn’t a big deal to advocate for a system that’s never worked anywhere because that’s been his standard answer is shameful. Style points seem to matter more than character, policy impacts and what’s best for Minnesota.

It’s time to tune out the professional political pundits because they’re too interested in election outcomes. Unfortunately, they aren’t interested enough in policy outcomes. Jeff Johnson’s policies will make life better in Minnesota. Unlike Gov. Dayton, Jeff Johnson will fight to build the Sandpiper Pipeline because that’ll free up railcar space so farmers can get their crops to market. That makes life better for hard-working Minnesota farmers. Unlike Gov. Dayton, Jeff Johnson will fight to open PolyMet because that’ll create hundreds of good-paying jobs. That’d make life significantly better for miners and mining communities.

Apparently, these things don’t matter to the professional political punditry from both sides of the aisle. Their tweets didn’t speak to what’s best for Minnesota. They just spoke to who won or lost based on game-changing moments and style points. That isn’t responsible journalism. That’s the type of partisanship that’s rotted our institutions and corrupted the political process.

If Republicans retake the House of Representatives and Gov. Dayton gets re-elected, Republicans will have a mandate because they spoke about issues. Gov. Dayton will have retained his title but he won’t have a mandate because he hasn’t spoken about what he’d do in his second term.

The DFL isn’t the party of no. They’re the party that won’t say no to their special interests that are driving Minnesota’s economy into the ground. Ask an Iron Ranger if they’re better off now than when Gov. Dayton took office. If they’re honest, they’ll say they aren’t. Their median household income has increased marginally. The percentage of people living below the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) grew by roughly 50%.

Health insurance premiums have skyrocketed. It’s virtually impossible to get changes made to policies to include or drop people from coverage. Still, Gov. Dayton insists that “it isn’t perfect” but that it’s getting better. Once a month, if not more often, we hear of another MNsure-related disaster.

Meanwhile, the professional political punditry insist that Gov. Dayton is winning because Jeff Johnson didn’t have that big game-changing moment. With all due respect, these political junkies are missing the point. Jeff Johnson has been solid. He’s provided sensible solutions to Minnesota’s biggest problems. Gov. Dayton has been dismissive, arrogant and utterly incompetent. He’s Minnesota’s version of Jimmy Carter.

It’s time to ignore the political junkies because they’re worried more about gamesmanship than doing what’s right for Minnesota. While we’re at it, it’d be great to get rid of the incompetent in the Governor’s Mansion, too.

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Last night, I watched the Almanac Roundtable debate featuring the candidates for Secretary of State. The lasting impression I left with was straightforward. Steve Simon is Mark Ritchie in an expensive suit. He’s thoroughly indoctrinated in liberal ideology with regards to voting fraud. The other thing about him is that he apparently thinks voters are incredibly stupid.

Let’s take that last one first. After Dan Severson highlighted the vulnerabilities of Minnesota’s election system, Rep. Simon replied, saying “Would Minnesota have the highest voter turnout rate in the nation if people didn’t trust it?” That’s a nice-sounding answer but it doesn’t have anything to do with whether the system is secure. The fact that Democrats continually talk about Minnesota’s election system as the nation’s gold standard is because they don’t want people checking out the details of whether the system is fraught with vulnerabilities.

Rep. Simon’s answer totally ignores the vulnerabilities in Minnesota’s voting system. I know more than a little about this since I wrote a series of articles highlighting those vulnerabilities. (See here, here, here and here.)

Part IV is particularly disturbing because it shows how protective the election machine is of their system:

Thanks to KSTP-TV’s reporting, we learned that cities threw “up legal roadblocks” to their investigation. We learned that Bloomington “even suggested that felony charges could be pursued against” KSTP-TV if they “reported what [they] found.”

A system that’s the gold standard for election participation shouldn’t threaten people examining the system. They especially shouldn’t threaten reporters investigating Minnesota’s election system. The thought that they’d throw up legal roadblocks and suggest that they’d file felony charges against KSTP’s reporters strongly suggests that Minnesota’s election system is anything but impervious to voter fraud.

The DFL says that there’s little proof of fraud existing. That isn’t true but let’s say it is. The video shows that there’s a number of vulnerabilities in the absentee ballot system. Why wouldn’t we want to eliminate those vulnerabilities?

Another of the DFL’s chanting points is that we should want high voter participation rates. That sounds nice but it comes with a catch. The insinuation always comes with the suggestion that everyone who requests a ballot should get a ballot. There’s never a mention that this should be done within the context of the requirements in Minnesota’s constitution.

Steve Simon doesn’t have Mark Ritchie’s history of corruption. Still, Simon is nothing if not a puppet doing the same things Mark Ritchie did. That’s a step sideways after a major step backwards in 2006. We don’t need Mark Ritchie in a better suit. We need a man of integrity who won’t blindly incorporate the DFL’s chanting points into Minnesota state statutes.

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