Watched both debates last night.

I know. I know. Still, here’s my report.

Florina. Best of the pack.
She replaces Trump’s faux outsider mythology with a true disdain for DC Dealing. Replaces Trump’s bluster with intelligence, articulateness, specificity and credibility. Would destroy Hillary or Bernie (or Bloomberg, Biden or Warren). Electable. Few care.

Christie-Cruz-Rubio. Tie for second.
Focus group apparently thought Rubio was awesome. I didn’t see that, but 75% of them switched their allegiance to Marco.

Many focus group people really didn’t like Trump skipping the debate. It’s possible they desperately want an alternative to Trump, and Cruz didn’t do well enough – thus Rubio. If the sample applies generally, Monday will be quite surprising.

Carson. Surgeon General.

Paul. The conscience of the debate. Should be on stage no matter his poll numbers.

Kasich. Should be on the Democrat undercard by himself. Or somewhere by himself.

Bush. His best performance. The bar is set below sea level, of course.

Gilmore. Who?

Huckabee-Santorum. Scurried over to carry Trump’s coat (as Gilmore said) after their typical performances.

Trump. Best debate performance yet.

Two other notes.

1- Having watched some old video of Trump, I wonder what happened to the far more articulate (relatively speaking) and polite guy in them.

He’s assumed his Apprentice persona. Or maybe I should say it has assumed him. We can be thankful he stayed away from the Honey Boo Boo show, I guess.

The election has morphed completely into a ‘reality’ show.

Next: Real Housewives of Chappaqua and Authentic Old Socialists of Somewhere that should be in Sweden.

2- Anybody starting to react to the sound of Trump’s voice they way they do to Hillary’s or Obama’s? I’m probably much more susceptible to Trump fatigue than most, but you gotta wonder how long even his acolytes can tolerate Trump 24/7. TV shows do get cancelled on short notice, and I’m disinclined to attribute persistent attention spans to the politically suddenly interested.

Dear Mr. Speaker,

Paul Ryan
Speaker of the House

Just received your “Personal Request” asking for my contribution to the NRCC. You say, “We must have every conservative step up…”

Since 2000, what did conservative voters get from “our conservative candidates?” Let me make a partial list.

Another huge, ineffective alphabet bureaucracy – DHS. A near quadrupling of the national debt. John Roberts. No Child Left Behind. Mortgages for the credit-challenged, leading to the financial collapse of the Western world in 2008.

The largest entitlement expansion since 1965. Hundreds of thousands of earmarks.

The nomination for president of John McCain, the ideal bipartisan statist. The self-styled Maverick who enjoys sticking it to conservatives.

McCain-Feingold. TARP. Cash for Clunkers. Sarbanes-Oxley.

Barack Obama. Obamacare.

In 2010, tea party conservatives gave Republicans control of the House and +7 seats in the Senate. Did the tea party get a thank you? No, they got blamed for not taking the Senate after the Republican Party abandoned Christine O’Donnell, Sharron Angle, and John Raese.

Mitt Romney. Barack Obama.

Common Core. A weaponized EPA.

Skipping ahead to 2014… You’re welcome.

What do I get next? – Your promises: “fixing a broken tax code, replacing Obamacare, strengthening our military, reducing our soaring debt. However, NONE of that is possible without your support.” Ha. None of it’s apparently possible with my support, either. (Oh, and you misspelled “repealing.”)

So last year, on your watch, we pass an Omnibus budget bill giving the Democrats everything they want. Right now, Majority Leader McConnell is preparing a perpetual AUMF, unrestricted by geography, our Constitution-busting president didn’t think to ask for.

Iowa Gov. Terry Bran­stad is demanding to be allowed to continue looting for ethanol. Bob Dole says he’ll forget to vote if the conservative who enjoys sticking it to self-styled Mavericks is nominated. Orrin Hatch predicts “we’ll” lose if Cruz is the nominee, “For us to win, we have to appeal to the moderates and independents.” Who’s us? What’s win? You keep using those words. It’s being amply demonstrated they don’t mean what you think they mean.

We have “conservatives” threatening to vote Clinton/Sanders if Cruz is nominated. Who’s us? What’s win?

These same fine conservatives are stepping up to support a crony capitalist friend of Nancy Pelosi. A Progressive until the last 2 years, who never uses the words “liberty” or “freedom” in a speech, but does tell us what he’s going to force a lot of other people/countries/businesses to do. With him, “conservatives” can “deal.”

Just how stupid do you have to be to think conservatism matters to the Republican party? Pretty stupid. I’ll bet that’s why the word “Republican” appears nowhere in your letter.

Looking into the void

There’s one star and couple of dust clouds that might become stars.

“The larger the mob, the harder the test. In small areas, before small electorates, a first-rate man occasionally fights his way through, carrying even the mob with him by force of his personality. But when the field is nationwide, and the fight must be waged chiefly at second and third hand, and the force of personality cannot so readily make itself felt, then all the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre—the man who can most easily adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum. The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”
– H. L. Mencken

Huckabee, Christie and Kasich made good showings last night. Too bad. See above.

Bush comes to mind when reading “the man who can most easily adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum.”

Trump should be seen to have destroyed himself, but I’m doubting it will turn out that way.

Paul seemed pinched and sour, and it’s hard to imagine him as president.

Rubio and Cruz should pick up from their performances, but probably won’t gain enough.

Carson is such a very nice man.

Walker is unflappable. To the point of appearing passionless.

Some are complaining about the gotcha nature of the Fox questions, and that the moderators blathered for over 30% of the debate time. The latter I agree with, the former makes me ask the question, “If friendly questioning is necessary for a Republican to become president, what’s the GOP nominee going to do in the actual election?”

Stop whining about Fox and check out how it’s done: Carly Fiorina’s handling of Chris “tingly leg” Matthews (This is the full exchange, so even if you’ve seen an edited version of it already, you might find it worthwhile.)

And debate watchers are complaining that Megyn Kelly’s questioning was too aggressive?

As entertainment B-, as a debate D+.

So you don’t have to…

Last night, I watched fourteen (no Trump, no Gilmore, no Huckabee) of the GOP presidential candidates on C-SPAN in NH for 2 hours.

It was a discussion format (not a debate) with some local radio guy asking questions of each candidate in a random (they drew numbers) sequence. Strictly timed. Questions were half change-ups, a quarter sliders, twenty percent curves and five percent fastballs. No serious follow-up, but mostly that wasn’t necessary.

The audience was not moved to cheers, but they had been asked to restrain themselves: Like good NH Republicans, they did. C-SPAN’s shots of the audience showed serious faces engaged in quite a bit of head nodding. No reading of the atmosphere from that. There were a few empty seats, and I’d guess there were several hundred in attendance. Demographically, they looked like NH, not NYC.

In the following short summary, I’m talking about the performance in this ‘cattle call;’ not about records, positions expressed in other venues or past actions. Of course, I did bring expectations.

Overall, you have to have come away with a feeling that the GOP has an embarrassment of riches in their field of presidential hopefuls.

Rubio looked and sounded most presidential by a fair margin. Very good answers. Nailed the immigration issue, which is his Achille’s heel, so he’d better. If Nixon lost to JFK because he didn’t shave, Rubio ‘won’ because he looked as if he were already speaking from the Oval Office. That impression was probably reinforced by the fact he was on satellite and looking directly into the camera. (He, Paul and Cruz were on via satellite from DC due to the Planned Parenthood defunding vote. It occurred to me later; Why wasn’t Graham?)

Walker and Fiorina were just good, not great. They tied Rubio for second in the 30 seconds of free time each candidate finished up with, but both blanded out during Q&A. Maybe it seemed that way because there were many others who said similar things.

Walker lost points on a question about whether global warming climate change is anthropogenic. Didn’t answer it, just called Obama’s regs bad. This is one place where follow-up from the moderator would have been welcome.

Maybe my familiarity with Fiorina’s message raised my expectations and my impression suffered from not hearing it with fresh ears. She is a lot better when she’s under some pressure and can press an attack by flipping the premise of ‘gotcha’ questions from the Democrats with bylines. No opportunities for that last night. It was a target free environment.

Carson’s humility, humanity and character were front and center. His final 30 was probably the best, ahead of the 3 already mentioned. He criticized Obamacare not just for its oozing sores and suppurating heart, but as something antithetical to the Founders vision.

Lindsey Graham was surprisingly good, maybe the ‘winner’ overall. Turned everything into National Security/Military. Engaging, and had the best one liners (there were few), and I seriously doubt they could have been rehearsed. Just proves these things are more entertainment than substance.

Perry better than expected, but outclassed by the field. Ditto Paul and Jindal.

Cruz very good, but maybe too earnest. Not fake, just earnest. He’s not selling you his used car, he’s trying to save the country. To me, that was a credible message. For those worried he is ‘radical’ it would just confirm their bias.

Bush, Pataki, Christie, Kasich, Santorum – better than any Democrat, but that’s saying not much. They all whiffed on change ups about “what the Government should do.” One way or another, they just have a different Big Government in mind. None of them will get my vote.

Trump’s name was never spoken.

Open Letter to Senator McConnell

Dear Mr. Majority Leader,

I watched Senator Cruz speak on the Senate floor about your vow that there would be no vote allowed on renewal of the Export-Import Bank. Either Senator Cruz suffers from a catastrophic hearing impairment combined with serious cognitive disability, or your assurance was akin to “if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor:” You’ve decided there will be such a vote. The Ex-Im renewal amendment will be coupled with an amendment to repeal Obamacare that you’ve personally offered.

How generous of you. Some Republicans (who, I will remind you, comprise the party of which you are Senate Majority Leader) helped you pass Obamatrade based on your promise Ex-Im would die without a vote. Now they have to fight a battle you told them wouldn’t happen. Crony capitalist leaning “Republicans” who want Ex-Im renewal get another kick at the can, but can symbolically vote against Obamacare.

You provide an easy choice for Democrats. They know the President has their back and will veto any Obamacare repeal. Democrats can vote to renew the Ex-Im Bank and even to repeal Obamacare, knowing only the former would ever be allowed to stand.

You’ve called this a “compromise,” giving Democrats and corporatist-state Republicans their chance to perpetuate a give away of taxpayer funds, and giving Republicans the chance to play-vote to repeal Obamacare. What a sham. And a shame.

I also understand you will not allow Senator Paul’s amendment to stop taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood to come to a vote. Given Planned Parenthood’s recently revealed nonchalance about selling dismembered babies’ organs, which they view as clumps of waste tissue with a market, Senator Paul’s amendment seems to me a timely, winning and principled one. A good issue with which to challenge the modern eugenicists’ newspeak about “tissue samples”, ”calvarium” and “less crunchy.”

But beyond merely opposing these horrors on principle, did it ever occur to you that a compromise might be to fund the Ex-Im Bank with the half a billion tax dollars annually given to Planned Parenthood? That would be a compromise amendment. One where the Democrats are forced to pick their poison. It would have been far better than offering the hemlock to your fellow GOP Senators while serving milk and honey to the opposition.

By the way, if I were writing such an amendment, I would also include a provision to subtract from any future Ex-Im Bank funding the $10.3 million the bank provided as a loan guarantee to subsidize the installation of some solar panels in Belgium. Those panels were made by Solyndra, perhaps the poster child for public-pirate partnership. The installation was completed a year prior to the issuance of the loan guarantee and created exactly zero jobs. Ex-Im didn’t facilitate this export, they shoveled money into a failing company as a matter of political policy.

The Ex-Im Bank is a tool for politicians and lobbyists. It is a highly visible example of the unholy alliance between the Federal government and the corporate-welfare queens laughingly calling themselves capitalists. The private sector is more than up to the task of financing viable business ventures, but apparently provides insufficient opportunities for graft and corruption.

Bad though Ex-Im is, I’d rather waste the money on failing “green” energy companies than on “non-profit” mega-abortion mills. Planned Parenthood is the single largest perpetrator of abortions in the world. It commits an estimated third of a million abortions per year. About as many abortions as the total of half the remaining G7 nations (Germany, France, Canada) combined. Most of those abortions are performed on black and hispanic women in our inner-cities, where the number of abortions typically exceed the number of live births. How about shoving the #WaronWomen and #BlackLivesMatter memes back in the faces of the hypocrites who excuse this leisurely genocide?

In short, Mr. Majority Leader, I agree with Senator Cruz: You are acting like Harry Reid. Senator Cruz is also right that introducing your own Obamacare amendment is a distraction, intended to fail. And intended to muddy the waters.

I am in full-throated agreement with Senator Cruz’ assessment of the GOP leadership. I’ve been disillusioned for many years, and your personal betrayal of your fellow Senators is, sadly, just a small example of the wider corruption which is driving me from the party.

The public adulation for Donald Trump (R?, Blowhardville), should be telling you something about how alienated much of your base already feels. I urge you to reconsider how you are handling this matter, rather than further destroying the brand.