It seems voters in Iowa are liking what they see in Ted Cruz more and more. The headline number in last week’s Quinnipiac poll has Cruz coming in a mere 2 points behind the still-leading Trump, at 23% vs. 25%. And on the key issues like the economy, terrorism, and foreign policy, Ted Cruz comes in with very solid numbers. Unlike Dr. Carson, who sits in 3rd with 18% but scores much lower on most individual issues.

So Iowa is fluid to say the least – Carson fell 10 points from first to third in just a month – but we are arguably in the home stretch. As far as Iowa goes that is. Will the winter caucus again throw up a winner who quickly fades when the “real” primaries begin? Given the GOP race so far, it may very well be.

But it’s getting a little late to say that anything is possible. Jeb is solidly stuck around 5%. Will he slog it through Iowa and New Hampshire and then take stock of what he needs to do? Carly is an invigorating force and one hopes she will stick it out as long as her relatively meagre funds allow.

Trump and Carson, however, are still running focused, successful campaigns. The fact that neither is the least bit wonkish on the debate stage – surprisingly perhaps on the part of Ben Carson – seems to still be convincing a portion of the party that Rubio and even Jeb will rise eventually. Is Rubio, at least, a serious contender still?

Rubio’s problem is precisely what endears him to establishment GOP types. He can take the undecideds away from Hillary. He can take enough of the identity politics vote to keep Hillary from winning. And by extension, no one else can.

Assuming this is even true, this is exactly what makes Rubio such a tough sell to many voters. As impressive as his debating skills are, he has some convincing to do to when it comes to conservatives. Voters are not likely to rally round Rubio if they doubt his credentials.

Ted Cruz does not have that problem. His integrity, his laser focus, his conservative beliefs, are all undoubted. His enemies seem to exist because he hasn’t worked his way up the ladder the way, say, a Bob Dole did. And the establishment cannot forgive him for his tactics in the senate.

At least up to now. They may have no choice but to forgive him in a few months. Could the GOP establishment eventually find themselves making peace with Senator Cruz? Rather than conservatives being forced to support Rubio? It’s more than just a thought as we enter December.

Can Obama now blame Centcom supervisors for his deadly stumbles with regards to containing Islamic State forces in Iraq? Apparently documents were edited to make Iraqui army defeats look like re-deployments, thus sparing the military the embarrassment of having their trained Iraqi allies make a mess of things on the battlefield.

That seems a stretch, even if military intelligence was doctored to put it in a more positive light. That is a serious charge, and Congress has promised to investigate. But Obama’s philosophy in the Middle East, and especially in Iraq, was one of disengagement from the get go. He promised to withdraw the US military presence in Iraq, and he did.

Would the Obama Administration have taken Islamic State threats more seriously, absent the alleged editing of emails and perhaps other documents? That’s an unknowable, but it might have made some impact. Obama’s philosophy, however, has been a combination of civil engagement and apology. A disastrous combination in the case of the Iran deal.

Once again, a little over a decade later, military intelligence and intelligence in general over Iraq is under scrutiny. And that may lead, again, to the questioning of the Iraq war. It’s helpful, however, to remember what had occured before the Iraq invasion.

The van full of explosives in 93. The embassy bombings in East Africa. The USS Cole. 9/!!. And the Taliban in Afghanistan with suspicions of support from Pakistani security forces. The Bali bombing in 2002. And while it was in 2008, the Mumbai attacks were the culmination of various acts of islamic terror in India over the years. That’s a partial list, and yet it shows a spreading wave of violent, fanatical attacks by islamic terrorists. Was Iraq the right point to engage? That’s a theoretical that – unless it spins off useful ideas on dealing with the situation in Iraq here and now – is best left to military historians.

We’re still arguing in the West how to win this war. It’s unsettling that is was apparently a tip from Morrocan intelligence sources that led the French to the main suspect in the Paris terrorist attacks. But it also shows that good sources on the ground in areas where it counts is, and always will be, key.

Was Rumsfeld’s vision of a mobile, tech-heavy force the wrong one in dealing with Iraq? Should we have this current debate in full public view so that Yale Students, for example, can do a sit-in to protest prejudice among military analysts?

As Carson said to George Stephanopoulos this past Sunday, “I’m not real big on telling them what we would or would not do.” True enough, but the debate over intelligence and tactics and strategy has to be had – whether behind closed doors or partially open to the public. It’s proving a difficult war to win. But first it has to be fought. And then won.

Happy Thanksgiving

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Filed Under Latest News on Nov 26 

Happy Thanksgiving wishes to all from Political Derby. Have a healthy and safe day giving thanks and celebrating with your family and friends.

“A new light shines about us. The great duties of a new day awaken a new and greater national spirit in us. We shall never again be divided or wonder what stuff we are made of. And while we render thanks for these things, let us pray Almighty God that in all humbleness of spirit we may look always to Him for guidance; that we may be kept constant in the spirit and purpose of service; that by His grace our minds may be directed and our hands strengthened; and that in His good time liberty and security and peace and the comradeship of a common justice may be vouchsafed all the nations of the earth.” Woodrow Wilson (1917)

Rubio and GOP Moderates

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Filed Under Latest News on Nov 24 

How much of the GOP establishment – measured by endorsements and fundraising – have switched to Rubio or are about to? Assuming that in a perfect world as viewed by traditional Repbulican stalwarts, Jeb Bush would have been steadily climbing back up in the polls, ready to retake his rightful spot. And given a world with imperfect information – no one really knows what’s going to happen, although sometimes some predictions do turn out to be uncannily accurate – who could have predicted that Jeb would have underperformed in the debates?

Yes, GOP voters and the relevant issues are not what they were a decade ago. But had Jeb showed more skill in the cut and thrust of the debates, he might have been able to hold his own. Or at least not remain at 5%.

So is Rubio now Mr. GOP Endorsements? If the choice – given their political experience – is between Cruz and Rubio, big money does not seem to want to back Ted Cruz. Both have performed well in the debates, but the Texas senator is seen as too divisive. That means Rubio’s advantage in a head-to-head with Hillary is a deciding factor. And his stance on immigration and the hoped for traction with Latino voters is pulling supprt towards Rubio as well.

But guess what? Trump is still leading. Trump’s numbers are not falling and are up slightly from 26% to 28%, according to the latest Fox poll. That’s double Rubio’s numbers. And the only person who really fell a significant amount was Ben Carson, slipping back to 18%. Apparently those stories on West Point did do some damage.

The thing is, if you do break down support among Tea Party voters, Evangelicals, and Conservative Talk Radio listeners, Cruz beats Rubio handily with all 3 groups. Especially with Conservative Talk Radio listeners where Cruz comes in first beating even Trump.

So who are the GOP voters who will propel Rubio into a 2nd place position, ready to finally topple Trump in the final stretch of the nomination battle? At least according to the new Establishment Playbook. It would have to be moderates: the unseen, somewhat-silent-but-sizable minority among GOP voters. Remember Reagan Democrats?

But who do GOP moderates support? Some suggest that they’re with Trump. That his maverick status, the skepticism over his conservative credentials, are what in fact attracts moderates to his candidacy. Even if they’re angry moderates.

Do moderate GOP voters matter? If they do, Rubio may have to win them over from Trump, in order to have any chance of surging ahead of Cruz and leaving Carson to settle in 3rd or 4th spot. That, as they say, is a theoretical at this point.

We’re at war. How many ways does this have to be restated? How many planned and horrifically executed suicidal attacks on democratic societies, on societies around the world, will be needed for Obama to state this simple truth? When will he realize that politically correct appeasement on the grounds of diversity, cultivated within the exclusive confines of Harvard and other academic institutions is counter productive? That it endangers lives, rather than provides the essential security necessary for any state to function.

Terrorist attacks decades ago had clear objectives. A marxist state, for example. ISIL is equally clear: a caliphate whose bloody borders seem to continually expand within the fanatical hate-filled minds of its leaders and followers. A return to a distant past where the only authority is a crazed man. They are hypocrites of course. Their lives have little to do with the world as it existed under the Ottoman Empire centuries ago. But their need for vengeance against a system that requires rationality and personal responsibility, will clutch at any excuse necessary.

Our kingless kingdoms for a liberal with Tony Blair’s clarity. But that type of language that stated the problem with passion and focus in the hours following the attack on 9/11, has been absent from Obama’s administration. It’s like a forbidden zone, where they fear to tread. Just in case they might find themselves agreeing with Senator Graham, or Ted Cruz.

Obama’s response is to label the media as hysterical for its coverage of the events of days past. It makes sense doesn’t it? If one digs – reluctantly – into Freud’s work with the term one finds that hysteria seems to be – for Freud and others – a social disease caused by a poor early childhood environment. Entirely psychological. Rather than a feminine physiological malfunction, a concept which was used as a sickening weapon against women in the early and mid 20th century. Both conceptions of hysteria have done a great deal of damage.

Perfect isn’t it? Just like that screaming student in the quad at Yale, we are all victims of unsafe environments. Why does the media insist that ISIL or ISIS is a grave danger to our free societies? Because we didn’t get enough hugs before kindergarten.

As the brave and dedicated men and women in various security forces in Europe and over here, stay up all night gathering the data, or risk their personal safety, in order to prevent further attacks and track down these crazed terrorists, one does not feel they are too worried about the hugs they got in early childhood.

Mr. President, leave Freud wallowing in the sewers of the unconscious world that he dreamed up. Say it clear. We are at war.

Equivalency is a fetish with the not-so-new left and it’s new adherents or offshoots, like Black Lives Matter. Terrorism, or capitalistic oppression as their forbearers would have said, lives equally at U of Missouri as it does in Paris. At least according to Black Lives Matter.

A symbol of hatred in a dorm washroom is an idiocy and even a danger and one that must be dealt with. It is not, however, equivalent to 139 lives taken by terrorists in a planned attack on the very marrow of Western freedom. And hundreds wounded, and thousands targeted.

Is this a case of Millennials’ propensity for demanding “safe” environments everywhere? It is certainly hysterical to construct such an absurd equivalency. As an American citizen, would an aid worker in Syria for example, who was or had been a BLM member, be afforded any freedoms by IS captors? We are brothers, spare my life! Give me a safe home! Unlikely that such a request be granted by a hooded fanatic full of hatred for the very freedoms that any American, or Westerner, represents to them.

But this is one more detail in long litany of moral relativism. Look at BBC World News. Try to find the word “terrorist” right after the word “attack.” Can’t find it can you? Paris attacks; yes they’ll write that. Is it true that their editorial guidelines prohibit calling an islamic terrorist attack a terrorist attack? The word does appear as: “anti-terrorist,” referring to a police squad for example. A very precise context where it can be permitted apparently.

So they are merely attacks. One side of a two-sided war. Paris deserves it because of the targeted attacks in Syria. We deserve it. We do not have a better form of government, and we are often wrong in the West. We ignorantly blame the lack of tolerance in Muslim societies, betraying our own intolerance.

And Israel, of course, is always to blame aren’t they? If only Israel had never been founded. The Middle East would be stable. This insidious undercurrent bursts into the open often enough, as it did at the World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa. A few short weeks before 9/11.

If human rights are to mean anything, they must be based on agreed principles. The apologetic sloppiness of moral equivalency undermines human rights and the rule of law – law forged in the parliaments of democracies. We don’t even have to accept, though we clearly should, the Christian and Jewish faiths’ central role in providing the philosophical perspectives necessary for the emergence of western democracy. We merely need to start calling islamic terrorism what it is. At the BBC for example.

If the Department of Homeland Security was run by the ACLU, what would it look like? Or more accurately, would it even exist? In an age of radical islamic terrorism, continually morphing into new and ever more violent forms, how do you balance the nation’s security against openness and freedom of movement?

More specifically, how do you show compassion towards Syrian refugees when IS members are almost certainly amongst their huddled masses?

Aside from bringing to bear the best screening possible, and waiting until it’s in place and ready to accept thousands of people, you have to realize this. Many will arrive without documentation, seeing they are fleeing a collapsed state. Who they are. Where they may have been. Who they may have associated with. All of it will be unclear. So, you have to ask whether resettlement in America is the right thing to do. The right thing for America.

If a deadly virus breaks out somewhere abroad, do we rush every possible patient to the best health care centers in Manhattan, Los Angeles, Dallas, and Chicago? Do we encourage the community to help re-settle the possible bearers of a deadly disease in their own communities? Given that the percentage of possible patients who will actually get sick and infect others is very low, why not?

Is it heartless and discriminatory to screen arriving passengers for disease? Of course not. Is it a slippery slope to invoke this type of an analogy, given the history of mid-20th century Europe? Of course it is. But we screen anyway for possible terrorists, as if they were a deadly disease. One of hatred and violence. The comparison is silent, but present.

Are you infected with radical islamic ideology? Are you a potential suicide bomber? Will you attempt to carry out an attack on people going about their daily business? These are the questions in the back of the minds of every member of any security operation – from immigration officials, to spymasters & analysts, to police officers – when they review a case in front of them.

At the very least a pause is in order, rather than raising the ante to 65,000 refugees as Hillary has stated should be done.

The idea of freedom has to be defended by defending those who live free lives, precisely by going about their daily business in places like Manhattan and Dallas. They are the embodiment of freedom. Not the detached floating ideal that must be appeased with bloody sacrifices at its altar of absolute diversity. Holding hands as yet more bombs go off.

As they left the stadium in Paris, knowing that a deadly attack had been unleashed on their city of lights, the French sang La Marseillaise. The very embodiment of virtue and patriotism in the face of the disease of terror and hatred of freedom.

Is this finally it? The moment that Trump’s indestructible campaign really starts skidding? Comparing Carson’s temper to the pathology of a child molester in his Fort Dodge speech was hardly an ex abrupto on The Donald’s part. He has been hammering home, if you will, the point about Carson’s self-confessed temper as a youth in Detroit, in interview after interview.

The poll numbers give the reason why, and it is now up to Trump’s supporters to “process” his latest rants, as one supporter was heard saying as she left the event. While Trump has hardly seen a collapse of support, it has steadily weakened in the last month or two. Will his latest insulting controversy accelerate this slow erosion of his support in the polls?

While Trump’s gruff and obnoxious dismissals of the virtues of Carson might previously have resonated with the skeptic within some GOP voters, this was likely a bridge too far. Except, if you think back to his juvenile idiocy regarding Carly Fiorina and her concise, devastating response at the CNN debate, it was Carly who fell in the polls. Perhaps for other reasons, but the point being that Trump has gotten away with murder – character assassination in fact – on more than one occasion.

The question is who will benefit from Trump’s rants? Will Carson hover like a saint above this mud wrestling? Or will his numbers stay firm but stable, while Cruz and Rubio are the ones who take market share from Trump? Assuming that Trump loses market share as a result of his attack on Carson.

Trump’s insults are not just the nastiness of a tough, blustery billionaire who has to have it his way. They are meant to insert doubts about the credibility of his rivals, like any negative ad campaign. But it’s not with slick multi-million dollar ads. It’s Donald being Donald in an interview or on stage, and just “speaking his mind.” It’s a smart strategy and has been working, at least until recently.

The problem is, when it stops working, voters may turn on the man doing the trash talking. Thing is, they haven’t yet. Some have drifted away, and some never wanted Trump anywhere near the nomination race. But he still has a strong core of supporters. Let’s see how’s he’s doing by Christmas.

It will be Tax Time Tuesday on Fox Business. Here’s what the GOP candidates who will be debating all things economic and fiscal, as well hopefully as personal finances, have said about their tax plans. All courtesy of the taxfoundation.org.

On income taxes it’s Senators Cruz and Paul who battle it out to see who has the lowest flat tax. Cruz actually is proposing a 10% flat rate while Paul favors a 14.5% flat rate but with better deductions and exemptions. Carson’s flat tax is to be between 10% and 15%, but is to be phased in over time, which may mean “we’re working on it folks.”

Rubio and Bush’s plans are structured almost identically – but Bush’s rates are a little more taxpayer friendly. Rubio’s rates, in fact, are not that much lower than what Americans pay right now. Trump has a more flexible version of the other two’s progressive rate structures, with top rates kicking in at much higher income levels.

For capital gains and dividends, Bush and Trump have very similar plans with both promising to eliminate the net investment income surtax. Carson has no details, and Cruz and Paul both propose capital gains and dividend income taxes identical to their flat income tax rates. Fair ‘n square all round, as they might say.

Rubio is the one who stands out here. He would eliminate both the capital gains and dividend income taxes. A bold step towards encouraging investment again in America. Will it fly? Will it cause corporations to start spending their countless billions of cash balances in plant, equipment and people again?

On corporate taxes, Bush and Rubio are in near-lockstep again with Bush favoring slightly lower rates (20% vs. 25%). Again. Carson? No details. Rand and Cruz? The senate former-still-kinda-bros-in-arms have very similar proposals. They both propose a business transfer tax which basically is a value added tax on stuff that actually gets consumed or sold by businesses.

Estate taxes would be eliminated by Jeb Bush, that patriarch! He clearly favors letting families – wealthy and not so wealthy – keep the money. Just like every other GOP candidate. At least among the front runners.

Carly Fiorina is an anomaly here. According to taxfoundation.org, she has no specific policy plans on any of the taxes mentioned above. It’s time for some convincing from the former CEO. Unless some of the fight has gone out of her. It might be premature to say that, however. Tuesday Tax Time will tell.

Is the dig-up-the-dirt model of campaign journalism no longer working? The attacks on Carson’s credibility by means of stories that quibble with relatively minor details in his past life seem not to be working. At least so far. Some of the attacks have been proven mostly wrong, as in the case of the West Point full scholarship story. Rich Lowry delving into Carson’s years at Yale haven’t caused much of a storm at all, coming on the heels of the other attacks.

But is it too early to come to any conclusion to how voters decide on a candidate’s suitability and credibility? An anonymous campaign staffer – maybe calling from South Florida? – told the media that these stories will eventually lead voters to realize that Ben Carson does not have the experience, consistency, or political chops to be president. And that their anonymous candidate has all of those things in abundance.

As Carson builds his lists of donors – like an online marketing guru deciding how much to spend to garnish leads for his grand launch – he has come a long way in his fundraising. But he has nowhere near the war chest of someone like Jeb Bush. His top asset is not his mind and skills as a surgeon, but rather seems to be his authenticity. His supporters trust him as an outsider and a man of faith. One would assume they believe strongly that he also has the mind to deal with a job like the presidency. And that he will be wise enough to choose his advisors well.

Does Carson have to amp up his debate performances? He has managed to have a precious handful of memorable moments in every debate. But they have not been those nail-the-topic policy ideas. Rather they have tended to display humor and graciousness over the process itself of campaigning. Carson is about social media and direct marketing, not mic-drop sound bites. Is his the new model of a successful campaign? It’s as if Carson’s campaign was designed by millennials, while targeting evangelicals and other conservatives. So very 2015.

To use Michael Lind’s opinions on how to renew conservatism in order to renew conservatism, is a little like asking Benedict Arnold to lead the Continental Army, having reached him before he boarded the British sloop in the Hudson River. But that is unfair to General Arnold who fought many battles on the side of the his native land, before turning against the colonies.

Nonetheless, the long-proclaimed apostate has ideas on what is wrong with legacy conservatism in 2015. Of course, he’s essentially had those ideas for years but they might bear some listening to. Writing in Politico.com he states that there is a divide between GOP donors who tend to be libertarian and globalists, and GOP voters who tend to be populist, protectionist and nationalist. No kidding.

Having made your money by being good at providing something to America and the rest of the world, you have no desire to bind down the economic body of the nation with an ever-increasing maze of taxes and trade regulations. Even if you have the overhead to play those dense and complex rules to your favor. On the other side, having seen your job outsourced to often inferior and always cheaper foreign labor, you want an administration that keeps value in America on main street and not just in the financial centers, both at home and abroad.

As Ben Domenech wrote 2 years ago, populism today is about limiting the (mostly) federal government’s role in deciding winners and losers – or redistributing opportunity as he put it. But as Michael Lind states, medicare and medicaid are popular with much of America’s paycheck earners. How popular with how many of GOP voters is an interesting question to ask in 2015.

Think of this: Trump does not spend a lot of time detailing his plans for entitlement reform. If he has any. Christie has done his best in the debates and the campaign to do what Trump doesn’t bother to do. Or what Trump knows is not a winning proposition with his voters. And Christie’s numbers show the political expediency of his brave attempts at true reform of entitlements. Should Christie look at Carson’s numbers – considering Carson’s views on health savings accounts – and take heart?

At the corporate end of entitlements, does the Export-Import Bank bother working voters? Or is it’s abolition a quixotic libertarian crusade to use Lind’s wording? If it doesn’t bother voters to any appreciable extent compared to other areas of federal waste, and if medicare and medicaid can only be tweaked slightly, then maybe Trump is the new conservatism, rather than just an opportunistic media mogul. If ex-im is seen as a symbol of much of what’s wrong in the beltway, then Cruz may be the future instead. If people trust Carson enough to follow him down the path of entitlement reform, then a novice politician of faith may hold the future of conservatism.

But some change in what conservatism means seems inevitable, beyond who wins the nomination.

Maybe Rich Lowry is right to shine a light on Rubio’s immigration policy. It makes sense to force the Florida Senator to be clear on what he promises as far as immigration goes. Maybe Rubio will win the GOP nomination. Maybe Jeb Bush will win. Maybe Rich Lowry will be President Bush’s Press Secretary. Maybe he will instead have to decide on what kind of editorial to write in the National Review when Trump wins the nomination.

The future is uncertain to say the least, and immigration needs to be defined as an issue with doable policy proposals. It seems the absolute size of the illegal immigrant population in America dictates a we-can’t-do-that attitude on the part of many analysts and politicians. So what could be done in terms of border security, and more to the point, border enforcement?

While E-verify, entry & exit tracking systems, and prosecution of illegals upon entering the country are concrete steps, they need to be seen as coming from a united front. Not just from the White House and Congress, but from business as well. And that means filtering legal immigration through a points-based skills test that means America gets workers it needs.

Does America need immigrant workers? Toll Brothers says yes indeed. Fast food franchises, hotels, casinos and other recreational industries say yes. Tech says yes because they’re cheaper and we can fire Americans and pay less. If the answer to this question is to be based on evidence, then a light needs to be shined on hiring practices. That’s fairly simple to do and has been suggested repeatedly: significant penalties for hiring illegals, and strict standards for H1-B visa holders.

Will Marco Rubio agree to all that and be judged on his words of promise? The question is: how much does illegal immigration really bother many in the GOP? If it doesn’t, then Rubio can basically promise what he thinks is expedient and get away with it.

In 1967 Donald Trump was still at Wharton finishing up his economics degree. Roger Ailes was a young producer telling Nixon why media – especially television – mattered. Things do come full circle eventually, if imperfectly. Nearly 50 years later, the question is: does the media star and now political star fear the media magnate? Ok, CEO would in fact be more accurate. The magnate is Murdoch of course, but Roger Ailes nearly 50 years later continues to shape the media landscape.

The Sunday get-together of GOP candidates (including Trump and Carson’s teams) declined, it seems, to impose the conditions they are seeking for future debates on Fox News. They will do so, apparently, with other channels. All this because of the nature of the questioning at the last debate, and the genuine anger of the audience at some of the CNBC moderators in Boulder.

There was tough questioning at the Fox debate in Cleveland, but the audience seemed to love it, and never turned on the moderators the way they did in Colorado. Is it Fox’s brand? And their relationship with their viewers? That has to be part of the answer. Maybe it’s also a case that Fox just knows better how to stage a debate.

Trump and Kelly, of course, started a dust-up that continued well after the debate. With cease-fires and then a resumption of hostilities. That hardly seems to be fearful behavior on the the part of the Donald. But regardless, the candidates decided not to try and dictate terms to Fox. Has media become so powerful that the following words no longer apply?

Intending to correct the licentiousness of the press and to restore the use of orderly language, you first try the offender by a jury: but if the jury acquits him, the opinion which was that of a single individual becomes the opinion of the whole country.

De Toqueville’s meditations on freedom of the press in the then young republic of America continue to resonate. Correcting abuses of the press could lead you to the feet of a despot, as he famously wrote. The problem with these wise words is that many nowadays feel media is the despot. Ted Cruz’s laser guided attack on the moderators was something that was dying to be said. Yet the youthful French aristocrat’s warnings still hold true.

So are the GOP candidates attempting to exert an unwarranted amount of influence on the media? Or just trying to restore a small semblance of orderly language? With the only jury being ratings and poll numbers. If Roger Ailes could sit down with De Toqueville in a television studio in 2015, what would advice would he give the best-selling author? Maybe something like: Alex, look at our ratings.