Let’s Stop the Government Bashing

That Old Anti-Government Mantra

Bashing “big” government is easy and effective – and out of touch with reality.

Demonstrators with the Tea Party protest the Internal Revenue Service targeting of the Tea Party and similar groups during a rally outside the Capitol in Washington, DC, on June 19, 2013.

Out-of-control bureaucracy? Not so fast.

By Nov. 9, 2015 | 2:30 p.m. EST+ More USNews & World Report

It is easy. It is simple. It plays into the current cynicism of Americans.

Bash government. Tear into not just Washington and the gridlock but into the federal government itself.

If you listen to this crop of Republican presidential candidates you will get an earful – constantly.

Carly Fiorina, for example, said in the CNBC debate, “And this big, powerful, corrupt bureaucracy works now only for the big, the powerful, the wealthy and the well-connected.” Heck, she sounds like Huey Long, what a populist. But coming from Fiorina, the epitome of the super wealthy, this statement is, indeed, rich.

And Chris Christie couldn’t resist: “The government has lied to you, and they have stolen from you.”

The debate went on and on with each candidate trying to outdo the other with attacks on government. So, you say, what’s new about that – it has been going on for decades.

Aside from being destructive and counterproductive, the attitude towards government as a big, bad, out-of-control bureaucracy increasingly does not fit reality.

[SEE: Editorial Cartoons on the 2016 Presidential Elections]

First, let’s take a look at what constitutes the current federal government. Across the U.S., there are about 2,750,000 executive, legislative and judicial employees (federal civilian employees). There are another approximately 1,400,000 uniformed military employees. These numbers don’t include contractors or the postal service.

But here is a very interesting fact: Of those 2,750,000 civilian employees in government, 1,232,000 are employed in a military or homeland security capacity – about 60 percent. And the vast majority are employed outside the Washington area.

Veterans Affairs leads the list with 326,000 civilian employees, followed by the Army with 257,000, Homeland Security with 193,000, the Navy with 192,000, the Air Force with 166,00 and the Department of Defense with 98,000.

Thus, when we add those to the uniformed military we come up with about 2.7 million, which leaves only about 1.5 million working for the federal government in traditional non-defense/security-related agencies or for Congress or the judiciary.

[SEE: Political Cartoons on Congress]

And many of those employees whom voters typically associate as “government” have seen serious reductions over the last decade.

For those who constantly complain about government’s growth, from 2003 to 2013 we have seen workforce reductions of 17 percent at Housing and Urban Development, 14 percent at Agriculture, 11 percent at Treasury, 10 percent at Education, 10 percent at Environmental Protection Agency, 8 percent at Interior and the list goes on.

[READ: The Rapid Radicalization of the Republican Party]

In addition, when considered as a percentage of the overall workforce, the 2,750,000 constitute just 2 percent, and the 1.5 million non-defense/security-related, just about 1 percent.

The bottom line, too, is that most of these people are working hard to do more with less, are committed to serving the public and care about contributing to society. They may not be glamorous jobs, or very high paying, but they are fulfilling because civil servants know that they are there to make a difference in people’s lives. The vast majority simply care and care deeply. And they don’t deserve the derision of politicians. Government is not the problem, and it is not bloated; sadly, that may be more of an apt description of some of the politicians.


Debate Moderators Should Be Tougher on Candidates’ Substance…or Lack Thereof in the Case of Republicans

Failure to Fact Check

The real problem with the CNBC debate was the moderators’ inability to call out the GOP’s nonsense.

Editorial cartoon on CNBC GOP debate

By Nov. 2, 2015 | 5:30 p.m. EST+ More

Big applause lines: “lamestream media,” a la Sarah Palin, or “Democrats who have the ultimate super PAC, it’s called the mainstream media,” a la Rubio. When in doubt, bash the media.

And it didn’t take long before the Republican National Committee blasted out a press statement that because of the CNBC debate, it was ready to cancel the party’s upcoming NBC debate. Over the weekend, the various campaigns met to “set the rules” about future debates.

Now let me get this straight: the Republicans get 24 million viewers on Fox, 23 million viewers on CNN and 14 million viewers on CNBC – up against the second game of the World Series – and they are complaining? Trump bragged about how he and Ben Carson changed the rules of the CNBC debate by threatening to pull out. Maybe this group would like to determine not only who asks the questions but what the questions are?

But make no mistake, it plays to their base to bash journalists and it also serves to intimidate the media. Sad but true.

[SEE: Republican Party Cartoons]

If there was a fault with CNBC it was that the moderators were not tough enough on this crowd of candidates. They raised questions that were answered falsely or not at all and did not hold the candidates’ feet to the fire. There simply weren’t enough follow up questions. Whether they were intimidated or did not have the full research in front of them is hard to say, but they should have pushed harder.

Some examples: Cruz would not answer the question about his opposition to the debt limit and instead used his time to attack moderator Carl Quintanilla. Finally, Cruz shot back: “You don’t want to hear the answer.” It reminded me of the great scene in “A Few Good Men” when Jack Nicholson loses it on the stand and shouts, “You can’t handle the truth!”

Cruz should be forced to compare his position on raising the debt limit to Ronald Reagan’s and to that of every other president who understood what it would do to the country if we were to default.

Becky Quick asked Donald Trump about his criticism of Mark Zuckerberg for urging an increase in visas and Trump shot back that it was false. She backed off, but in fact it was true. Trump’s claim got a “Pants on Fire” from Politifact.

Carly Fiorina made the outrageous statement that 92 percent of jobs lost during President Barack Obama’s first term were women’s jobs. Politifact rated that false, and noted that the number of women with jobs actually increased by 416,000.

[SEE: Editorial Cartoons on the 2016 Presidential Elections]

Ben Carson said it was “total propaganda” to assert he was involved with the disgraced nutritional supplement company, Mannatech, and the anchors had the evidence but, again, did not push back. Politifact also rated Carson’s statements false.

Probably the most important debate should have been on the various tax plans from the candidates. The New York Times editorialized against them,citing the absurdity of the 10 percent and 15 percent flat tax proposals. The effect of the Republicans’ economic policy is the same old trickle down with the biggest tax benefits going to the wealthy who, lord knows, don’t need it. As the Times’ editorial made clear none of the Republicans “has a tax plan coherent enough to be the basis of a substantive discussion, let alone one that could meet the nation’s challenges.”

It is the job of the press and, let’s face it, the Democrats, to point out that this crew of emperors has no clothes.

With all their bashing of the media and the attempt to use it to mobilize their base, it became clear that the Republicans simply did not have the answers. Pollyanish predictions of astronomical economic growth was all they could offer.

The candidates complained afterwards that there wasn’t enough time to talk about substance. Baloney. They simply don’t want hard questions. The most destructive result of all the back and forth after the CNBC debate, complete with the Fox Business Channel attacking CNBC in paid ads, would be if the Republicans intimidate the press and control the format and the questions. After all, this isn’t Russia, the last time I looked.


Republican Benghazi Backfire

The Big Benghazi Backfire

The American people finally got a glimpse into what the GOP’s Benghazi hullabaloo is really all about.

The Associated Press

Spoke the truth. Oops.

By Oct. 7, 2015 | 2:30 p.m. EDT+ More USNEWS & WORLD REPORT

In the life imitating art department, the hilariously funny Amazon series “Alpha House” has right wing Sen. Peg Stanchion (Janel Moloney) proposing a “permanent Benghazi Committee.” She also brings a loaded gun into the Capitol with a group of tea party supporters to brandish her support for the Second Amendment, shutting the Capitol down.

And now we have the speaker-to-be, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, admitting that the charade of eight investigations into Benghazi was keyed to bringing Hillary Clinton down. As they say, the truth comes out, not only that there was no conspiracy or wrongdoing on Benghazi but that the “Alpha House” portrayal of a politically motivated hatchet job was the goal all along.

Big surprise.

One thing that the hard-core Republicans know is that there is only one way to go after Hillary Clinton – make it personal. They know that they can not defeat her on the issues: who fights for the middle class; who favors comprehensive immigration reform; who supports expanding college education for working families; who has a plan for family and medical leave; who supports a higher minimum wage; who has a record of standing up for kids, their health and education. Make it about scandal, even if you have to make it up. Go negative early and often.

[SEE: Editorial Cartoons on Benghazi]

The Republicans know that the demographics are killing them: fewer and fewer angry white males, more and more diversity. How can they win a national election when they lose Hispanics, blacks and Asians by nearly three to one? How can they be a majority party when they are viewed as intolerant towards the GLBT community, when young people find their ideas old and tired, when women understand what being anti-women’s health and anti-Planned Parenthood really means?

So the Republicans in Congress continue to believe that Benghazi and Clinton’s emails are their ticket and they appropriate more money for investigations and create more committees to request more documents. The Benghazi probe has now lasted even longer than the investigation into Watergate.

The New York Times editorialized that it is time to shut down the Benghazi committee. It even suggested that the House Republicans “should rename their laughable crusade ‘the Inquisition of Hillary Rodham Clinton.'” Benghazi investigations have cost American taxpayers $4.6 million, more than critical committees, including the intelligence and veterans’ committees, according to the Times. All for one reason: to attack Hillary Clinton.

Of course, McCarthy’s statement tells it all: “Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today?”

[SEE: Republican Party Cartoons]

The sarcasm and humor of “Alpha House” and the Freedom Caucus imitation had it basically right. A permanent Benghazi committee (or at least one that lasts through the elections) may be what the real House Republicans were thinking!

But the American people are catching on. They get the joke that is suddenly not so funny. They are beginning to see the investigations for what they are: an effort to destroy the integrity, the character and the commitment of a serious and very capable public servant. This is not about issues or helping make our embassies more secure or serving the memories of those killed, it is a tawdry political trick.

The Benghazi investigations are backfiring and one can hope that on Oct. 22 when Hillary Clinton appears before the committee and the big lights and cameras go on, the American people will see what they saw so many year ago during the Army-McCarthy hearings. On June 9, 1954, after 30 days of hearings, the notorious Joseph McCarthy was confronted by the attorney Joseph Welch with these famous words: “Senator, you’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency.”

Decency, indeed.

2016 Outsiders Trump, Fiorina and Carson Will Fade Away – US News

Outsiders Looking In

It’s just a matter of time before Trump, Fiorina and Carson fade away.

Editorial Cartoon on the Republican Debate

By Sept. 25, 2015 | 10:10 a.m. EDT+ More

I get the outsider schtick. America has seen it over the years, but rarely have the American people elected someone who is truly off the rails.

In this field of Republican candidates for president, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina are off the rails. Their current polling advantage is due to their outsider persona, no question, but none of them have, to use Richard Ben Cramer’s book title from the 1988 campaign, “What it Takes.”

[READ: Editorial Cartoons on the 2016 Presidential Elections]

Wendell Willkie ran as an outsider/insider business guy in 1940 against Franklin Roosevelt. He was an experienced, viable national figure, knowledgeable on the issues, but lost to FDR in his bid for a third term.

Dwight D. Eisenhower was hardly an outsider, though he had never held elective office before. He was an immensely popular general who had helped mastermind D-Day and was courted at times by both political parties.

Jimmy Carter was surely an outside Washington candidate. That did him enormous good in 1976, but he was still an accomplished governor, two term state senator and experienced politician.

Popular General Ulysses S. Grant and experienced government hands William Howard Taft and Herbert Hoover were other presidents never to hold elective office, but few questioned their experience or qualifications.

In 2015, you have to ask yourself when examining the candidacies of Trump, Carson and Fiorina whether they are truly presidential. Do they have the temperament, experience, knowledge and understanding of “what it takes” to run for president and be president?

[READ: Amateur Hour]

Trump is clearly number one in the off the rails category. Everything is an attack, everything is a show, and everything is about him and his outsized ego. There is no uplifting message of substance, no indication he understands the nation’s problems or is ready to offer any concrete plans to solve them. This is a soap opera on steroids, “Entertainment Tonight” that is rapidly ceasing to be entertaining. It is a candidacy that is no longer, if it ever was, meaningful. Trump has no where to go but down and with each passing day of his antics he drops in the public’s estimation.

Carson is totally out of his league. There is truly no reason for him to be a candidate. He does not understand the issues. He appears not to have read the Constitution on just who can be president or even how the government works. He may understand brain surgery, but he doesn’t have the slightest understanding of basic foreign or domestic policy. His participation in debates and as a candidate subjecting himself to scrutiny will doom any future campaign faster than the Washington Nationals got swept by the New York Mets.

[READ: Meet the New Republicans]

As for Fiorina, she is no wunderkind, as her career at Hewlett-Packard can attest. In fact, most analysts are appalled at her performance. Jeffrey Sonnenfeld pointed out that during her tenure the value of HP fell 55 percent, 30,000 people were laid off, and she invested $25 billion in the dying Compaq computer company. She walked away having made $100 million after her failure and her firing. Not exactly a record to run on.

But, more important, she does not appear to have the leadership skills or the temperament to be a strong leader in the political world. She does study her briefing books, she does prepare for the debates more than some of the others, and she is not shy and not afraid to mix it up. But at the end of the day, she shows her true inexperience by stating that she will refuse to talk to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and shows very little understanding of issues, from Planned Parenthood to Iran.

So my guess is that even though these three have taken the lead in some of the polls they will fade quickly and then we will be back to more serious Republican candidates: Bush, Kasich, Christie, Rubio and Cruz. When voters get serious, Trump, Carson and Fiorina will be the outsiders, looking in, and wondering what hit them.


Even Reagan Would Have Been Appalled

Absolutely Unpresidential

The extremism on display at the GOP debate would have horrified anyone who’s actually been president.

The Associated Press


By Sept. 18, 2015 | 5:30 p.m. EDT+ More—USNewa & World Report Blog

I woke up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat after the last Republican debate. I had a vision of President Ronald Reagan sitting in the front row at his library watching the debate. Alongside him were fellow Presidents Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, Gerald Ford and even Richard Nixon.

Very quickly the blood drained from their faces. They began to fidget, to shift awkwardly in their chairs. They began to look around for the exits. These men who had led our nation, made difficult decisions and participated in politics their entire lives were appalled at what was going on before them.

Sure, they were shocked at the nastiness and vitriol among the candidates – this was way over the top. Sure, they were amazed that the front-runner was one Donald Trump, who belonged on “Entertainment Tonight,” not a presidential debate. Sure, they understood that how the candidates were behaving was counter to everything they knew about getting elected in America.

[SEE: Editorial Cartoons on the 2016 Presidential Elections]

But my guess is what really frosted these men was that the substance of what most of these candidates were saying was so unreasonable, so off base, so totally devoid of reality, that it was downright scary.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, and others, saying they would tear up the Iran agreement on day one of his presidency, thereby ensuring that no foreign leader would trust the U.S. to keep its word in the future. Former CEO Carly Fiorina stating flatly she would not ever talk to Russian President Vladimir Putin. No negotiating, no contact, nada. That would surprise Reagan and the others who always talked to our enemies and kept the lines of communications open – from the Soviet Union to “Red” China.

[SEE: Republican Party Cartoons]

And how about blanket threats, with Fiorina’s phone call to the “Supreme Leader” of Iran that we will throw out the agreement and “move money around the global financial system.” Trump showed no knowledge of foreign policy and simply said he would hire great advisers – where are they now, the ones he watches on cable TV? And then there was the suggestion that we deport 11 million people because “the good ones will come back.” And, of course, there was the fight about who was the worst CEO or who could attack Planned Parenthood with the most vengeance.

The sheer level of ignorance, lack of preparation and categorical, extreme statements on critical policy matters was astounding. My guess is that these former presidents, had they been present, would have truly wondered what had happened to their country and the quality of the candidates running for the highest office in the land.

The Long Slog

2016 Will Be a Long Slog

It’s too early to read into the polls.

 GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump exits a news conference in Manhattan after he signed a pledge Thursday to support the Republican nominee in the 2016 general election, ruling out a third-party or independent run on Sept. 3, 2015 in New York City.

Short-term popularity won’t win elections.

By Sept. 10, 2015 | 2:00 p.m. EDT+ More

As of today, 1,079 presidential candidates have filed with the Federal Election Commission. And you thought the 17 Republicans covered by major media was a lot! Among those registered are Rocky Balboa, AKA The Prophet, Frosty Chicken, Buddy the Cat – even Underage Candidate. Also listed were candidates Bill Clinton and Fidel Castro; maybe they could form a ticket?

Of course, these candidates and some who will seek minor third party nominations in the general election – like the Libertarian or Green Party – are largely ignored as the debates begin and as the jockeying for name recognition ratchets up.

But make no mistake: This is going to be a long campaign on both the Democratic and Republican side. The hype we have seen for so-called outsider candidates, like Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina and Bernie Sanders, may last for a while, or at least until voting starts. Heck, it may last all the way to the party conventions.

[SEE: Editorial Cartoons on the 2016 Presidential Elections]

But here is the funny thing about presidential elections, especially with funding restrictions blown apart: It is not all about Iowa and New Hampshire. In the entire month of February, there are four contests – those two states plus South Carolina and Nevada. That’s four states in four weeks.

All primary and caucus states aren’t finalized, but it looks as if Super Tuesday, March 1, will see at least 11 states decided. A host of key southern states, plus Texas, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Colorado, will have primaries or caucuses. In the following two weeks, big states like Michigan, Ohio, Florida, Illinois and Missouri will select delegates. We go all the way to June 7, when six states are slated to vote, including the big states of California and New Jersey.

The point is this: Be careful reading too much into one or two states’ polls. Be careful not to treat this contest as who is up or who is down at any particular moment. Campaign 2016 will be a long slog.

[READ: The Blemish on 2016]

Voters are just beginning to pay attention, and most of the candidates have yet to be really tested. According to a new CNN poll of Republicans, 75 percent say they are backing a candidate because of his or her view on the issues, while only 16 percent say experience. I would venture to say that a fairly small minority is aware of the candidates’ positions on the issues, especially those of poll leader Donald Trump or the runner-up Ben Carson.

In addition to the debates, the public appearances, the fundraising and the press coverage, candidates have to pay serious attention to delegates, filing deadlines and choosing their slates. This is where the long slog comes in, and where time is critical. According to an analysis by Elaine Kamarck and Ashley Gabriele at Brookings, if a candidate misses Democratic primary deadlines, he or she can lose 500 delegate votes by the end of November, more than 1,000 by the end of December, 600 by mid-January and about 850 by the second week in February. Since a Democrat needs nearly 2,250 delegate votes to win, missing deadlines, even early ones, is costly. The same principles are true for the Republicans.

[READ: Fiorina’s Rise Has Just Begun]

It is hard to imagine, but in 2008, then-Sen. Barack Obama netted more delegates by winning the Idaho caucuses than Hillary Clinton did by winning the New Jersey primary. At the end of the day, this can turn out to be a serious numbers game.

It is true that in politics we do tend to be drawn to the shiny objects, the flash, the headlines, but there is the hard, day-in and day-out campaigning that goes on for months and relies on organized perseverance. Arizona Sen. John McCain, a Republican, was dead as the nominee in the summer of 2007, and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean was the front-runner going into the winter of 2004. This is a long game, and we are just getting out of the gate.

Donald Trump: The American People Will get the Joke – US News

President Trump? Not Just a Joke, a Bad Joke

He may have a chance in the primaries, but American voters will catch on eventually.

The Associated Press

Never going to be president

By Aug. 31, 2015 | 9:30 a.m. EDT+ More

I am getting hit on Twitter for forecasting Donald Trump’s demise a couple months ago in this space. As he has risen in the polls and dominated the news media since the Fox News debate, I have been told what an idiot I am to have underestimated The Donald. Even my wonderful cousins, who have lived in Italy for over 40 years, warn me that if former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi can do it over there, Trump may be able to get elected over here.

First of all, it is important to point out that Trump has galvanized support from a disaffected electorate for his blunt talk, in-your-face attitude and refusal to talk and act like a traditional politician. That is enough to scare the pants off Republicans, especially the country club set. “Could he really get the nomination?” they ask. Second, his supporters are getting increasingly passionate and involved and attending his speaking events in ever larger numbers. And third, he is dominating the news cycle. One reporter told me that they turned off the cameras when he started to speak to the Conservative Political Action Conference earlier in the year; now, they are carrying his press conferences live.

[SEE: Editorial Cartoons on Donald Trump]

My colleague Bill Press made the point about the news media in a column: “As long as he brings them top ratings, they’ll give him all the time he wants. CNN’s Brian Stelter compared coverage given GOP candidates by CBS, NBC and ABC between Aug. 7 and Aug. 21. On the evening news, Trump talk consumed 36 minutes, 30 seconds. Jeb Bush came in a distant second with 9 minutes and 22 seconds. Marco Rubio, 1 minute, 35 seconds. And poor Lindsey Graham, only one second.”

Now, there is no doubt that outrageous talk, bluster and playing P.T. Barnum result in serious ink. But, as many columnists have pointed out, that does not make him a serious candidate. Nevertheless, it may not matter in the short term.

He may win a large number of primary and caucus states. Could he get the nomination? I doubt it. It’s not impossible, though. But, after all, when practically all the candidates drop out, and we are left with Donald Trump, any member of the Republican Party would jump at the opportunity to be the Trump-alternative.

[SEE: Political Cartoons on the Republican Party]

There is one interesting question, however. If Trump can draw 24 million people to watch a debate in the summer on Fox News, what does that say about his ability to bring people into the system who are not traditional participants in the early stages of nominating a president? Could he flood the states in the winter and spring with new voters? Unclear.

But, at the end of the day, the American people will get the joke: Donald Trump is not emotionally or substantively fit to be president of the United States. He may run a company, but he can’t run the country. He may be appealing as a protest figure, as the “I’m mad as Hell, and I’m not going to take this any more” character, Peter Finch, in the film “Network.” But, ultimately, we are electing a president, we are not participating in a game show or dealing in reality TV or watching “Entertainment Tonight.”

Issues matter, plans for the country matter, ability to govern matters – and none of those things are strengths of Donald Trump. He is first and foremost a man with a tremendous ego that needs to be fed, not a man of serious ideas or well thought out positions that go beyond sound bites. His bluster and unvarnished rhetoric have gotten him farther than I would have thought but, at the end of the day, the American people will not buy what he is selling.

[READ: Views You Can Use: Trump vs. Ramos]

The scary thing for the Republican Party is whether its voters will get the joke. Will he ruin the party’s chances in 2016? Will he be their nominee or decide to run as a third party candidate? Regardless, Donald Trump is not good news for the Republican Party or the country, for that matter.

Bush Trumped in Debate

Jeb Can’t Play It Safe

Bush needs to do more to prevent his campaign from fading into the woodwork.

CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 06: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump listens as Jeb Bush (R) fields a question during the first Republican presidential debate hosted by Fox News and Facebook at the Quicken Loans Arena on August 6, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. The top ten GOP candidates were selected to participate in the debate based on their rank in an average of the five most recent political polls. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Bush needs to take advantage when and if Trump fades.

By Aug. 7, 2015 | 1:45 p.m. EDT+ More USNews & World Report Thomas Jefferson Street Blog

I have to admit that I loved reading the so-called Republican insiders’ views on how Donald Trump failed to impress in last night’s debate. They need him to exit stage left (or is it stage right?) as soon as possible. Methinks they doth protest too much.

From the opening question on whether anyone would consider a third party candidacy to Trump’s assertion that they wouldn’t be talking about immigration if it weren’t for him, he was indeed center stage. Did he hurt himself with his base? I doubt it. Did he channel much of the anger of a sizable number of Americans towards politics and politicians? Absolutely. Ohio Gov. John Kasich admitted as much. One fact is clear: Donald Trump is not going anywhere anytime soon. He will be a factor into next year, big time.

[SEE: Editorial Cartoons on the 2016 Presidential Elections]

My sense is that Kasich, New Jersey Gov. Christie, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, despite his pretty poor performance, may still be in the game for future debates. As will Carly Fiorina after her success in the “kid’s table” debate. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is a master debater but scares the pants off many Republicans. My guess is the rest of the crowd will fade.

And that leaves us with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush – still the favorite of the establishment and a formidable candidate. But his performance was anemic to say the least. One debate does not a candidate make or break, as we know. Nevertheless, Bush’s decision to play it safe, not confront Trump, and bob and weave on Iraq and Common Core, puts him in an awkward position as we move into the fall. He is desperately trying to run a general election campaign and still appeal to the base of the Republican Party, which, as it is currently constituted, would make Ronald Reagan blush. He wouldn’t recognize the collection of extremists on the two stages last night.

[SEE: Political Cartoons on the Republican Party]

Bush may succeed by not engaging with Trump and, for that matter, many of his opponents, but what he does not need is to recede into the woodwork in this campaign. He faces real trouble in Iowa, should he choose to compete there, and this could steamroll into a series of second-, third- or even fourth-place finishes. His $100 million-plus helps, but only so much – everyone else having a super PAC changes the rules of presidential politics these days.

Bush needs to up his game and not play the presumptive inside-the-beltway front-runner, especially when Trump has taken a sizable lead. When, and if, Trump fades, Bush needs to be the one voters turn to, and after last night, that is far from pre-ordained.

Bush did not make any glaring gaffes (“I’m not sure we need half a billion dollars for women’s health issues”), but he did not stand out in a positive way either. He got lost. With this Republican field, playing it safe may be playing it wrong.

There is a REAL Difference Between D’s and R’s When it Comes to Our Kids


100 Percent of the Future

Candidates should have to explain how they’ll ensure life is better for the next generation.

Kindergarten children eating lunch smiling at camera

Think of them first.

By July 30, 2015 | 11:00 a.m. EDT+ More

Good grief, Charlie Brown! We Americans are inundated with polls – state polls, national polls, online polls, polls testing the who’s up and who’s down of the 20-plus candidates, even the quickie polls after a speech or event. And sometimes polls actually do a decent job of testing the critical issues before the country.

I just came across one such poll, taken in the key state of Iowa, that focused on our children’s future – imagine, looking seriously at our kids, our political system, the economics of what lies ahead. What a novel idea! Having just read noted author Robert Putnam’s latest book “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis,” I was very interested in the Iowa survey. It tracks very closely with Putnam’s analysis and conclusions: 65 percent express skepticism that “the life for the next generation will be better than for us.” In fact, only 7 percent are “very confident” that our kids’ lives will be better.

What is happening to the notion of upward mobility and the American Dream? And why are we not focusing more on our children? This survey was commissioned to explore those issues by the Child and Family Policy Center and Every Child Matters Education Fund and done by Seltzer & Company, the firm that does the highly respected Des Moines Register poll.

[READ: It’s Just an Illusion]

I am usually skeptical about polls that ask “mom and apple pie” questions such as do you support our kids, are you in favor of a strong national defense, do you care about the elderly? But this poll does not do that.

It shows that voters have a nuanced view of the issues, party affiliation does matter and, most important, the candidates for president in 2016 need to be confronted with what they are going to do to bring back a strong middle class and restore the American Dream for the younger generation.

As the Its About Our Kids website puts it: “Children are 24 percent of the population and 100 percent of the future.”

Here are some surprises from the poll: “Improving the health, education, and wellbeing of children” ranks as the most important issue with 29 percent, followed by “creating jobs and improving the economy” at 23 percent, “pursuing terrorists in the U.S. and abroad” at 20 percent and “balancing the federal budget and reducing the deficit,” also at 20 percent.

[READ: Call the COPS]

There are big differences between Democrats, Republicans and independents, however. Democrats rank kids’ issues as number one with 35 percent, and independents put them at 33 percent. Republicans rank kids much lower at 16 percent and put pursuing terrorists at 36 percent and reducing the deficit at 30 percent, much higher.

We see similar results in differences with the question of investing more in kids, investing less or keeping it the same. The overall numbers are 52 percent more, 32 percent the same and 11 percent less. But Democrats support investing more by 69 percent and only 1 percent say less with 27 percent saying the same. For Republicans, only 34 percent want to invest more, 38 percent say the same and 21 percent want to invest less.

The biggest division between the two parties is on the question of choosing whether you believe “Government efforts to make health care, education, and child care more affordable are integral in helping parents raise their children responsibly” or you believe “A responsible parent should not look to government for any help in raising their children.”

[SEE: Political Cartoons on the Economy]

Overall, 42 percent favor government efforts and 40 percent not looking to government. While Democrats support the first statement by 70 percent to 17 percent, the Republicans favor the second by 66 percent to 12 percent. Pretty close to polar opposites.

The candidates should take these results to heart and truly engage in a debate about how best to restore the American Dream and increase upward mobility for our children. Democrats appear to favor action and a strong role for government and communities; Republicans seem to embrace more trickle down and leave it to the families.

With more and more Americans seeing their incomes stagnate, with a lack of education and support for those on the lower rungs of the income ladder and with more and more people locked into dead end jobs, all of which effects our children, it is time for candidates to answer the simple question: What are you going to do about it?

I hope they will start in Iowa.

Trump: No Filter, No Chance….But Could he Destroy Republicans?

No Filter and No Chance

Donald Trump will only become a factor in 2016 if he self-funds a crazy independent campaign.

Editorial Cartoon on Donald Trump


Now, seriously, does anyone other than “The Donald” truly believe his fame and fortune are going to get him anywhere in a Republican presidential primary, let alone a general election?

His candidacy has been a joke from the start. He makes for great copy, but so did Jack the Ripper.

He has no filter. His ego couldn’t begin to fit inside the Empire State Building. He has no knowledge of the issues confronting the country. He has no experience that would propel him to be taken seriously as president. He is all hat and no cattle, as they say in Texas. He was born on third base and thought he hit a triple. The lines on Trump could go on and on.

Now, I have to confess that his extremism and issue positions – on immigration, on same-sex marriage, on climate change, on Muslim-Obama-born-in-Kenya – do define a certain segment of the Republican Party. And a certain segment probably does spend too much time watching, and being enamored with, “The Apprentice.”

[SEE: Editorial Cartoons on Donald Trump]

But, really, does anyone in his or her right mind believe that Trump is a serious candidate for president of the United States? Of course not. Just as Herman Cain or Michele Bachmann never stood a chance yet, at one point, led in the polls.

So, Democrats who are rejoicing due to this Trump foot-in-mouth disease should step back and realize that it is July, 15 months out from the election, and there is little likelihood that he will be a factor in November 2016 or that most Americans will even recall the bizarre back and forth on John McCain’s war record. My Democratic friends can enjoy it while it lasts, but my guess is that it will be fleeting.

Now, of course, there are a couple of scenarios where I may be terribly wrong. Number one: Trump goes all in by self-funding his campaign, participates in debates and remains a candidate well into next spring. Not impossible, but a clear embarrassment to the Republican Party and the field of candidates.

[READ: Trumping His Negatives (for Now)]

Number two is even more serious for the Republicans: the independent candidacy of Donald Trump. The worry is that he gets so mad and frustrated with his Republican cohorts that he jumps ship, starts writing checks a la Ross Perot, and runs as an independent candidate in the general election.

He does not even need to garner the 19 percent of the vote that independent Perot got in 1992, but could get closer to the nearly 3 percent Ralph Nader received in 2000 and still drain votes from the Republican nominee. And if he puts serious millions into the race (Perot spent $60 million in 1992) and plays on the frustrations of the American people, he could be a real factor.

Will he do that? I doubt it, but with Trump you never know.

The conclusion: Trump could be a has-been or he could be a true albatross around the neck of the Republicans. My guess is the former, but what a wild year it would be if it turned out to be the latter.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 857 other followers