What Hillary Needs to Do Post New Hampshire

Hillary’s Path Forward



The sky isn’t falling on Hillary Clinton’s campaign, but she needs to focus on distinguishing herself from the GOP and Bernie Sanders.

She has the solutions, just not the messaging.

By Peter FennFeb. 10, 2016, at 4:37 p.m.+ More–USNews & World Report

Don’t panic. Don’t overreact. Don’t lash out. And, most importantly, don’t listen to the sky-is-falling crowd. This will be a long slog, so deal with it. Lord knows, Hillary Clinton is used to long slogs. There are many things that the Clinton campaign should do mechanically, but I would suggest two big ones on the message front.

[SEE: Editorial Cartoons on Hillary Clinton]

First and foremost, go after the Republicans. The speech last night in New Hampshire was strong and tough and had the right tone. But this is about focusing this campaign on the Republicans’ overreach and where they want to take the country. Every debate and every speech and every question that Hillary gets should make the choice crystal clear. Who stands up for tax breaks for the wealthy and proposes flat taxes that screw the middle class? Who refuses to change our campaign finance system and favors secret money? Who will oppose a woman’s right to choose, even in the cases of rape and incest? Who opposes LGBT rights at every turn? Who prefers to carpet bomb, not producing coalitions? Who denies climate change and refuses to act on the global crisis? Who is against raising the minimum wage, even against the minimum wage? Who refuses to support equal pay for equal work? Who is against a path to citizenship for immigrants, and who demonizes Muslims at every turn?

I could go on and on, but the issue positions and rhetoric of the Republican candidates is not where the majority of the American people are, and they reject these extreme right-wing positions. Hillary should take them on, every day, every way. This campaign is about two very different futures for America, and the core of her message should be about making this clear to voters now and in the general election.

[READ: Hillary Clinton Has the Most Compelling Life Story in the 2016 Campaign]

Second, it is time for the campaign to show the clear differences between reality and fantasy with Bernie Sanders. This is not about idealism or revolution or just channeling anger. It isn’t even about real change. It is about a candidate who is extremely well-meaning and who has values that many of us can admire, but who is proposing ideas that are not only beyond vague and have zero chance of becoming law, but that are the wrong ideas for the country.

When we need to put in place the Affordable Care Act, we don’t need to focus on “Medicare for all.” When we need to fix the student loan problem and find ways to get more people ready and into an affordable college, we don’t need to propose a loosey-goosey free-college-for-all program. When we need to tighten rules on Wall Street, we don’t need to talk about going back to a bygone era that didn’t work anyway.

So far, the Clinton campaign has been reluctant to take Bernie Sanders on directly. They have been reluctant to pull in experts and third-party supporters who can provide cogent, clear arguments that highlight the problem between the rhetoric and the reality. But you can be sure that the Republicans would have no compunction to tear into Sanders.

[READ: Win One for the Revolution]

You don’t have to be Lee Atwater or Karl Rove to figure this one out – a high school sophomore could do it. Here is what the Republicans will say: Bernie Sanders is a committed and consistent socialist who wants to radically expand government in Washington, create new and vast federal programs in education and health care and increase regulation, thereby raising taxes so high that we resemble the socialist countries of Europe.

Fair or not, it will be tough to defend. I remember so well George McGovern’s $1,000-for-all plan in 1972 when he ran against Richard Nixon. It didn’t go over well. The result was the “Don’t Blame Me, I’m from Massachusetts” bumper sticker for the one state he carried.

The bottom line is that Hillary Clinton has proposals that actually solve the problems that Bernie is talking about in this campaign. But it is time to call him out on his when-pigs-fly plans that he has laid on the table, and let voters make the call.

Look Beyond Iowa


Don’t Overdo the Iowa Analysis

There are probably plenty of surprises to come in the 2016 race.

Feelin’ the Cruz in Iowa.

By Peter FennFeb. 2, 2016, at 2:00 p.m.+ More

The press seems to be “feeling the Bern.” And certainly feelin’ the Cruz.

First, Hillary vs. Bernie.

Be careful not to overdo the results from last night. Young, first-time caucus goers came close to carrying the day over the traditional, older attendees. According to the Des Moines Register poll Hillary Clinton was getting 65 percent of the older demographic (65+) and Bernie Sanders was getting 63 percent of the under 35 voters. Younger voters turned out, but the Clinton organization produced a narrow victory.

The “enthusiasm factor” was certainly important but remember this: Of all voters, 81 percent were still favorable to Clinton, while 82 percent were favorable to Sanders. Thus, Democrats were extremely positive towards both candidates.

But let me address the elephant in the room when it comes to Iowa. And it isn’t just the lack of diversity in the voting population, which many have mentioned. It is the fact that in the last Des Moines Register poll before the caucuses, 68 percent agreed with the following statement: “It would be OK to have a President who describes himself as a democratic socialist.”

[SEE: Editorial Cartoons on the 2016 Presidential Elections]

Now, somehow I question whether that number – two-thirds of Democratic voters – will hold in many of the other primary states, especially the South and West.

In an earlier Des Moines Register poll this year, 43 percent of Democratic caucus goers identified themselves as socialist and 38 percent as capitalist. Again, such a large number certainly did bode well for Sanders. But despite the high turnout of young people and despite the very liberal bent of the caucus, Clinton still managed to emerge with a win. No small feat.

Will this allow Sanders to raise more and more money? Of course. Will it guarantee that this race will go on for several months? Probably. Will there be a lot more debates between these two candidates? Surely. Does this mean the Democrats are going to resemble a warring faction? Doubt it.

The spring primaries will give the Democrats a real chance to show the difference between a forward looking, progressive agenda that embraces economic fairness, tolerance of all citizens, openness to solving the immigration problem, serious education reform, equal rights and women’s rights – all in contrast to a Republican party that will take America backward.

A Clinton-Sanders contest will be good for the party, good for the general election and good for the country.

[SEE: Editorial Cartoons on Donald Trump]

And, at the end of the day, Clinton will be nominated because she represents the mainstream of the Democratic party and can win in November and govern in January. Also, as the Gallup poll last year indicated, 50 percent of Americans said that “if their party nominated a generally well-qualified person for president who happened to be a socialist” they would not vote for him. This is a much higher “no vote” than someone who is gay or lesbian (24 percent), Muslim (38 percent), even an atheist (40 percent).

Socialism, big government and new taxes is not a viable platform despite the appeal of Sanders’ message. Convincing Americans to buy that platform would be like getting them to abandon their cell phones. Bernie would have to talk a lot more about entrepreneurship, innovation, capitalism and investment if he were to stand any chance.

The Republican upset of Donald Trump, meanwhile, proved the value of a superb and sustained statewide organization, plus the importance of motivating very conservative, evangelical, outsider voters. Cruz turned anger into action; Trump didn’t.

The conventional wisdom was that a huge Republican turnout – which is what happened – would benefit Trump. More than 180,000 Republicans turned out; in 2012 the turnout was 121,503. That is a huge jump and, though it was close, Cruz was victorious with 28 percent.

Big rallies, as was the case with the Democrats too, don’t necessarily translate into big victories. And Trump’s temper tantrum with the last Fox News debate was probably a bad move – the spoiled child syndrome doesn’t work too well in politics.

[SEE: Editorial Cartoons on Ted Cruz]

But don’t count Trump out and don’t think that this is going to be a particularly civil affair between Trump and Cruz. One big potential story coming out of the Iowa aftermath is that Cruz precinct captains allegedly announced in a number of the caucuses that Ben Carson was about to drop out and that they should look for another candidate. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, Cruz’s chairman, even tweeted that out on Monday night. Doesn’t sound like a very Christian thing to do to me.

So fasten your seat belt for this donnybrook. We will see what happens in New Hampshire, but Sen. Marco Rubio may be the big winner of the night for the Republicans. If he can emerge soon as the alternative to Trump and Cruz, he may be able to raise the funds and carry on into Super Tuesday and beyond. Remember that there are a host of winner-take-all states starting in mid-March that Rubio could position himself to sweep (Florida, for example) if he is the lone so-called “establishment” candidate to take on Trump and Cruz. In many, he wouldn’t need a majority of the vote and assuming Bush, Christie and Kasich are out after Super Tuesday there is a big, wide opening to fill.

Rubio did much better than the polls predicted and his seizing the national news with his speech before anyone else was a tactical coup. And for some, like poor Jeb Bush, who spent $2,884 per vote in Iowa, this was a night he would love to forget.

On to New Hampshire and beyond, with more surprises I’m sure!

http://www.usnews.com/opinion/blogs/peter-fenn/articles/2016-02-02/dont-overdo-2016-iowa-caucus-analysis-on-clinton-sanders-or-trump?int=a3d208All Things Topical and Political.

Source: FennDaily | All Things Topical and Political.

Lots of Scenarios to Come

A Long Slog or a Quick Knockout?

Here are all the ways the 2016 primaries could go once voters start casting ballots.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and businessman Donald Trump stand during the Fox Business Network Republican presidential debate at the North Charleston Coliseum, on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016, in North Charleston, S.C.

Ready to really rumble.

By Jan. 29, 2016, at 3:00 p.m.+ More

I wanted to write this before any votes were cast.

I am not sure that predictions and prognostications do much more than make fools out of a lot of us these days. Lord knows, I have done enough of that in this space. But those of us in politics can’t resist. So here goes.

On the Republican side, polls and reason would dictate that Donald Trump triumphs in Iowa and probably New Hampshire. The angry vote is angrier than ever and folks don’t care much what he says, just how he says it.

This leads many Republicans to the first phase of their hopeful plan: vanquish Ted Cruz. Get him off the stage and out of the race as quickly as possible. We see many senior statesman and wise counselors seeing Trump as the candidate who can initially rid the Republican Party of a dangerous force. Former Sen. Bob Dole has endorsed Jeb Bush but supports Trump right now as the most likely candidate to “repeal and replace” a Cruz candidacy. The hope of many Republicans is that in the course of these early primaries and caucuses, up through March 1 and March 15, we will see a reasonable Republican rise to challenge Trump.

Possible. But let’s look at the likely outcomes.

Out of all these early Trump wins, I see three basic scenarios.

[SEE: Editorial Cartoons on the 2016 Presidential Elections]

The first is one that many Republicans clearly fear: We may have gotten rid of Cruz but Trump begins to roll through the February states, goes into March with a big wind at his back and begins to rack up delegates and put himself in a strong position to be victorious in the key winner-take-all states like Florida, Illinois and Ohio. Before any organized establishment candidate can emerge from the pack, Trump becomes nearly unbeatable by simply winning delegates. This is part of his steamroller strategy – a lot of candidates stay in, split the vote and he rolls down the tracks. Result: a fairly early wrapping up of the nomination for Trump.

The second is more complicated. A lot of attention is given to the candidate or candidates who come in right behind the front-runners in the early states – second, third, even fourth place. Close finishers matter. This is much different from previous modern races for president. This allows a candidate to emerge as the alternative to Trump – a Rubio, Kasich, Bush, even Christie. This becomes what analyst Charlie Cook calls the battle between the establishment candidate and the insurgent candidate (or candidates).

The quicker one establishment candidate emerges, the more likely he can stop Trump. Many Republicans tire of his antics, most think he can not win, and congressional Republicans and candidates out on the stump are terrified that he will cost them their elections. He is the political Barry Goldwater of 2016, not the Ronald Reagan. This likely results in a coalescing around a Republican other than Trump.

The third scenario is a bit of a version of the second but is a longer slog, with candidates staying in the race into the spring and even June. In this scenario, Trump is the leader but does not pick up enough delegate support to go over the top and does not have a majority of the delegates going into the July convention. Other candidates win states and the unpledged delegates become more of a factor. Polling begins to show Trump’s weaknesses among independents in the general election and his claims of causing a sea change in turnout begin to look unrealistic. The folks who “are mad as hell and not going to take it any more” appear to be staying home and not voting. The convention turns to a conventional candidate and Trump fades.

Who the likely establishment candidate is may be the hardest prediction of all: I still don’t completely write Bush off; Rubio is possible but my gut tells me he doesn’t have it; Kasich, despite the fact he is not the best debater, has a lot to offer the Republican party in a general election; Christie has an outsider message and a bit of the “in your face” of Trump, but one senses it is forced and his baggage is still rolling off the carousel.

[READ: Editorial Cartoons on Donald Trump]

At the end of the day, I think we either have a fairly quick Trump wrap-up of the nomination or a very long slog. I still can not believe the Republicans will choose a Donald Trump (or a Ted Cruz), but this primary and caucus electorate is as extreme and radical a group as I have ever seen.

Turning to the Democrats, it’s not quite as much of a circus. But a similar scenario could unfold in the sense that it could be quick or turn out to be a long slog. In my view, the same outcome prevails: a Hillary Clinton nomination. If Clinton wins Iowa, I think it is over fairly quickly. Bernie Sanders then wins New Hampshire and some states in March, but the party pulls together and she wins the bulk of the states. There’s no winner–take-all on the Democratic side, so the two split delegates. But it becomes clear that voters are coming together around Clinton. Martin O’Malley is gone by the end of February in any case. And by the end of March Clinton is pulling away.

If Clinton loses Iowa and New Hampshire, doesn’t win South Carolina by as much as pundits believe she should and Nevada is up for grabs, this will go on for a while. But Sanders has had more or less a free ride, at least up until now. His stump speech, his Internet fundraising and his organization have taken him a long way. But now he will be researched, criticized and forced to defend his views and his past actions. Socialist won’t sell despite his efforts to redefine it. Having a hero like Eugene V. Debs won’t fly – heck, I liked him too in college and Herbert Marcuse as well, but I was 20 years old. There is no one better to lead a demonstration on the mall than Sanders, but when it comes to sitting in the Oval Office, Clinton better fits that chair. His message is strong and he has made Clinton a stronger candidate, but at the end of the day as we go to March and April and May and maybe even June, it will be Clinton. She can win and she can govern.

So there you have it – and as I say every election cycle, we come out with our armchair analysis and then the voters vote and nearly every time, surprise us!


http://www.usnews.com/opinion/blogs/peter-fenn/articles/2016-01-29/3-ways-the-gop-primary-could-go-after-iowa?int=a3d208All Things Topical and Political.

Source: FennDaily | All Things Topical and Political.

Republicans Go Down Rabbit Hole!

Down the GOP Rabbit Hole

The Republican race is becoming ‘curiouser and curiouser’ in all the worst ways.

Don’t follow the white rabbit.

By Peter FennJan. 7, 2016, at 5:15 p.m.+ More–USNews & World Report

I too often feel as if I have fallen down the rabbit hole in “Alice in Wonderland” when I view the dysfunction that is the Republican primary contest. Maybe you remember the quote from Lewis Carroll’s wonderful book:

“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.

“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here, I’m mad. You’re mad.”

“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.

“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”

Well, those of us political junkies, and even those who can’t avoid the daily news bursts, are fast wondering if we are embroiled in the Alice in Wonderland of politics.

[SEE: Editorial Cartoons on the 2016 Presidential Elections]

Ted Cruz reads “Green Eggs and Ham” on the Senate floor – anything to shut down the government. Donald Trump says very little that is actually true and doubles down when questioned. (He’s been awarded PolitiFact’s “Lie of the Year”; 60 of his 79 statements were labeled mostly false, false or pants on fire.)

The other candidates are trying desperately to keep up with the self-proclaimed outsiders Trump and Cruz, bashing immigrants, eviscerating President Barack Obama for “taking away our guns,” each trying to out-macho the other: Ben Carson says a Muslim shouldn’t be president, contrary to our Constitution; Marco Rubio helps write immigration reform legislation and then rejects it; Chris Christie called opponents of an assault weapons ban “dangerous”, “crazy” and “radical” in 1995, yet he now totally agrees with them; Carly Fiorina won’t even meet with President Vladimir Putin.

The madder you are, the louder your voice, the more outrageous your statements, the greater the likelihood that your poll numbers will rise in the Republican primaries.

[VIEW: 2015: The Year in Cartoons]

Trump does take the cake: attacking John McCain for being a war hero, calling to ban Muslims from entering the U.S., suggesting building a fence and making Mexico pay for it, wanting to carpet bomb our enemies and target their families. Even hard-core conservatives wonder whether he has become the candidate most likely to tear up our Constitution, violate international law and shred the rules of the Geneva Conventions.

Maybe Trump deserves the title Mad Hatter in this race, but most of the others aren’t far behind. The Republican Party has truly become the Mad Tea Party – maybe a more appropriate description than any reference to the Boston Tea Party.

And throughout it all, this race is becoming, as in Alice in Wonderland, “Curiouser and curiouser!” Like Alice, maybe we could all wake up from this dream?

“Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself”

Put Fear in Perspective

Don’t let the Republican candidates fool you – the U.S. has dealt with much worse than the Islamic State group.

By Peter FennDec. 18, 2015, at 2:30 p.m.+ More–USNews & World Report blog

“We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”

Franklin Roosevelt’s historic statement was not exactly the mantra at this week’s Republican presidential debate.

As I listened to the apocalyptic predictions from the Republican candidates Tuesday night, I could not help but compare the concerns about the Islamic State group to what many of us faced during the Cold War – the very real threat of nuclear Armageddon and fear of the mushroom cloud.

The fallout shelters that people were building in their backyards (they make nice wine cellars now), the drills where we crouched under our desks at school, the sounds of air-raid sirens testing the early warning system, the fear we felt during the Cuban missile crisis, living with the mutual assured destruction policies of the U.S. and the Soviet Union – these all combined to create much more of a threat than a group like the Islamic State group – the nuclear arms race was viewed as truly potentially catastrophic.

[OPINION: Fear and Fighting in Republican Las Vegas Debate]

The devastation of the world-wide 1930s depression that FDR was addressing was truly catastrophic.

The 1918 flu pandemic that infected 500 million people across the globe, killing 50 to 100 million and 500,00 to 675,000 in the U.S. – that was catastrophic.

I understand the fear of the Islamic State group, but in comparison, please, this we can deal with rationally and pragmatically.

Sadly, this past Republican debate leads us to the conclusion that when it comes to using fear to incite voters, this field of candidates will go to nearly any lengths.

Not to go over the top here, but this is what noted Nazi official Heinrich Himmler said about the use of fear: “The best political weapon is the weapon of terror. Cruelty commands respect. Men may hate us. But, we don’t ask for their love; only for their fear.”

This is what the Islamic State group is counting on – bringing America to its knees simply by using terror to create fear. By reacting with a “war on Muslims” as many Republican candidates seem to be advocating, the real terrorists gain control and are handed a golden recruiting tool.

[MORE: Editorial Cartoons on the Islamic State Group]

This makes no sense. We can defeat this movement. We can organize the nations of the world to unite against their terrorism. We can surely be victorious without resorting to scare tactics and whipping the American voter up into a frenzy.

We have faced much worse, but just as the spread of Ebola became a daily concern and created close to a panic a year ago, the reality is our media and out politics whip the public into a frenzy when calmer heads should prevail.

During the Republican debate the words terror, terrorist and terrorism were used 81 times. The word attack was used 50 times, according to reporting from Rex Huppke of the Chicago Tribune.

As he pointed out, here are just a few quotes from this week’s debate:

“We need to understand that our nation is in grave danger.”

“We have people across this country who are scared to death.”

“ISIS and Iran have declared war on America, and we need a commander in chief who will do everything necessary to keep our children safe.”

“Our country doesn’t win anymore. … We can’t defeat ISIS.”

[SEE: Editorial Cartoons on the 2016 Presidential Elections]

OK, I get the politics of all this. I get the perceived need of these performers to out-do one another, but isn’t it time we had some reasoned leadership that acted responsibly to understand the true nature of the threat and deal with it properly? Isn’t there one person on that stage who could put this in perspective and not demagogue the Islamic State terrorists?

The threat is real but does not deserve the draconian response of nearly every Republican candidate for President. If we ever needed cooler heads like FDR, Eisenhower, and Kennedy, certainly that time is now.

Trump: Viewed As a True Disaster From Abroad

The Real Danger in Trump’s Rhetoric

His Muslim ban talk will hurt America’s standing with allies and help recruit more extremists.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign stop Monday, Nov. 16, 2015, in Knoxville, Tenn.

Making America look not great again.

By Dec. 8, 2015 | 1:45 p.m. EST+ More  USNews & World Report Thomas Jefferson Street Blog

September, 2015: “I love the Muslims, I think they’re great people.”

Would he appoint a Muslim to his cabinet? “Oh, absolutely, no problem with that.”

Yes, that was Donald Trump three months ago. Now, his campaign’s Dec. 7 press release states: “Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” This comes in addition to his calls for surveillance against mosques and the possible creation of a national database of Muslims in the U.S.

Many of the Republican candidates for president have not hesitated to echo Trump’s bellicose rhetoric on immigration or other anti-Muslim statements. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz even introduced legislation to keep refugees from coming to the U.S. for at least three years who are from countries where there is a “substantial” amount of control by the Islamic State group or al-Qaida.

But, now, they seem to have had enough: Jeb Bush tweeted that Trump is “unhinged”; Ohio Gov. John Kasich condemned Trump’s “outrageous divisiveness that characterizes his every breath”; former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore called it “fascist talk”; Sen. Lindsey Graham tweeted “every candidate for president needs to do the right thing & condemn” Trump; and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said “we do not need to resort to that type of activity.”

[READ: Editorial Cartoons on Donald Trump]

Even Dick “Darth Vader” Cheney said, “I think this whole notion that somehow we can just say no more Muslims, just ban a whole religion, goes against everything we stand for and believe in. I mean, religious freedom has been a very important part of our history and where we came from. A lot of people, my ancestors got here, because they were Puritans.”

But the real danger of Trump’s rhetoric and policies is not domestic or political here at home – though one can argue that it makes us less safe and more vulnerable – it is from our friends and allies abroad.

Here is what the French prime minister tweeted: “Mr. Trump, like others, strokes hatred; our ONLY enemy is radical Islamism.” A spokeswoman for British Prime Minister David Cameron called the remarks “divisive, unhelpful and quite simply wrong … what politicians need to do is to look at ways they can bring communities together and make clear that these terrorists are not representative of Islam and indeed what they are doing is a perversion of Islam.”

A columnist for Israel’s Haaretz wrote: “For some Jews, the sight of thousands of supporters waving their fists in anger as Trump incited against Muslims and urged a blanket ban on their entry to the United States could have evoked associations with beer halls in Munich a century ago.” In Pakistan it was called “the worst kind of bigotry mixed with ignorance” by a leading human rights activist.

[SEE: Editorial Cartoons on the 2016 Presidential Elections]

Trump’s ban would even include world leaders who are Muslim. They would not be allowed into the United States, let alone tourists or relatives of Americans or world renowned individuals coming for a scientific meeting here.

Just like his plan to deport 12 million people, the absurdity is readily apparent. But put yourself in the shoes of of one of the 1.7 billion people across the globe who is a Muslim, 23 percent of the world’s population; you are watching the leading Republican candidate for president of the United States making these statements.

How many recruits will the Islamic State group gain from Trump’s move toward fascism? How confused will young, angry, poor Muslims in the war-torn Middle East be, and how many Muslims will believe “successful” Donald Trump represents American thought and values and our approach to the world?

How long will it take for us to undo this damage? How many years? What price will we pay?

Those may be the scariest questions of all.

We Underestimate the Damage Trump is Already Causing

A Problem Already

Donald Trump is a problem for the GOP and the U.S. regardless of his political prospects.

The Associated Press

Not helping

By Nov. 25, 2015 | 1:45 p.m. EST+ More USNews & World Repoft Thomas Jefferson Street Blog

For months pundits, including myself, have been predicting that Donald Trump lacks a serious, sustained path to the presidency. I still doubt he can win the Republican nomination and am totally convinced that if he became the general election candidate, the November elections would be a bloodbath for the Republican Party.

Others argue that Trump’s anti-immigration, xenophobic, outsider message combined with his celebrity status will be enough to squeak through this crowded field of candidates and secure the nomination.

But this is not just a political parlor game anymore. It is not enough to argue, as Robert Schlesinger did here, that Trump too shall pass or, as Nate Silver does at FiveThirtyEight, that Trump’s support now constitutes only about 6-8 percent of the electorate and that in the last two elections in Iowa and New Hampshire close to half of Republicans made up their minds during the last week before the caucus and primary. Polls will change he says, voters will pay more attention as we approach February and Trump is likely to fade.

[SEE: Editorial Cartoons on Donald Trump]

More important than Trump’s ultimate fate is his impact on the American psyche, and the world’s.

The real question is the influence that Trump is having on the electorate – with other Republican candidates doing their best to imitate his bluster and outrageousness. From his early criticism of Arizona Sen. John McCain for being a captured war hero, to his repeated demonizing of immigrants as rapists, to his totally false claim that thousands of Muslims in New Jersey were cheering 9/11, Trump does not let up. He is clear about his desire to surveil and even close mosques, to create “watch lists” of Muslims, tobring back waterboarding and more.

The other candidates follow suit: Ben Carson rejects electing a Muslim as president, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush believe, as The Washington Post’s Ruth Marcus writes, “Syrian Christians should be admitted in preference to Muslims.”

Imagine, if you will, a good portion of the over 1.6 billion Muslims (23.4 percent of the world’s population) watching television as this parade of Republican candidates bash them, treat them as pariahs, misrepresent their goals and aspirations and place in the world. And imagine, further, that this becomes their image of America, of what we stand for, of who we are. What are they to do, how do they respond, how are they to act towards us?

[LINK: Donald Trump Drifts Closer to Anti-Muslim Fascism]

Our fear of the terrorists and outrageous ad hoc rhetoric does nothing but create more terrorists. Just as the misguided war in Iraq created more terrorists than it killed what we are facing today in this campaign for president is harming our goals of peace and stability.

It is important to take on the terrorists, to root them out, to build a large and meaningful world coalition against them. But the approach of Donald Trump and others undermines this goal and makes it much more difficult to win the hearts and minds as well as win the battlefield.

The sooner we put an end to the irresponsibility of Trump and the others in this Republican field the better. Then, we can get on with solving the problem of radical jihad in the world.


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.


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