The principles that rule this blog

Principles that will govern my thoughts as I express them here (from my opening statement):

  • Freedom of the individual should be as total as possible, limited only by the fact that nobody should be free to cause physical injury to another, or to deprive another person of his freedoms.
  • Government is necessary primarily to provide those services that private enterprise won't, or won't at a price that people can afford.
  • No person has a right to have his own beliefs on religious, moral, political, or other controversial issues imposed on others who do not share those beliefs.

I believe that Abraham Lincoln expressed it very well:

“The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do, at all, or cannot
so well do, for themselves — in their separate, individual capacities.”

Comments will be invited, and I will attempt to reply to any comments that are offered in a serious and non-abusive manner. However, I will not tolerate abusive or profane language (my reasoning is that this is my blog, and so I can control it; I wouldn't interfere with your using such language on your own!)

If anyone finds an opinion that I express to be contrary to my principles, they are welcome to point this out. I hope that I can make a rational case for my comments. Because, in fact, one label I'll happily accept is rationalist.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Chris Christie endorsed Donald Trump?

I got a surprise today. One of the two candidates I considered my favorite at the start of this campaign, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who withdrew after the New Hampshire primary, gave his support to Donald Trump.

I guess, on the issues, they are not far apart. When I did a CNN questionnaire a while ago, it showed Christie #2 and Trump #3 in closeness to me. But Trump is someone without any governing experience (something I would think Christie would consider important), and he really turns off a lot of people. (Of course, Christie turns off a lot of people too, but not in quite the same way.) It's not a development I expected — I figured if anyone would get Christie's endorsement, it would be another governor, John Kasich.

Which should drop out? Kasich or Rubio?

I had lately been thinking that even though I preferred John Kasich to Marco Rubio as a candidate, the best thing for the Republican Party this year would be for Kasich to drop out and let the reasonable people in the Republican Party coalesce around Rubio to prevent Donald Trump, or even worse, Ted Cruz, from gaining the nomination. But I saw a post yesterday by Tom Bevan entitled “The Case for Kasich Staying In” which makes a case for the reverse, and I quote it in full:

Admittedly, 2016 is a year in which the electorate—especially the rebellious voters who have turned the GOP primary season upside down—aren’t putting a premium on political experience. But of the five Republican candidates left in the field, there's one person who has the traditional résumé indicative of a president of the United States.

That would be 63-year-old John Richard Kasich of Ohio. He’s a pro-life conservative who emphasizes the working poor. He’s a fiscal conservative who helped maneuver President Bill Clinton into balancing the federal books in the 1990s budget wars. He is also, not to put too fine a point on it, governor of a big Midwestern state with a significant distinction: No Republican has ever ascended to the White House without carrying Ohio.

And the Republican “establishment” is trying to force him out of the race.

I don’t have a horse in the GOP nomination fight, but it was hard to argue with Kasich, who said yesterday that anyone calling for him to leave the 2016 race needs to “chill out.” He has as much right to stay in this race as anyone else—and more than some. I’ll come back to that in a minute.

First, let’s talk about the panic that has gripped vast swaths of the Republican Party in the wake of Donald Trump’s smashing victory in Nevada on Tuesday. After months of denial about the strength of Trump’s appeal and wishful thinking about his imminent demise, the GOP establishment now fears that Trump is on the verge of running away with the nomination. Hence the frantic calls for some sort of “unity ticket,” or for Kasich and Ben Carson to get out—or even for Rick Perry, freshly cleared by the courts Wednesday of bogus and politically motivated charges, to get in as a third party alternative. Republicans are grasping for something, anything, to stop Trump before it’s too late.

The trajectory of this race reminds me of the plot of the classic 1983 anti-war movie “WarGames.” The film starts innocently enough, with a teenager trying to pirate the latest video games accidentally hacking into the U.S. defense network. The computer responds by asking the now iconic question in its halting, robotic voice: “SHALL WE PLAY A GAME?”

This is more or less how the Republican establishment viewed Trump’s entry into the 2016 race: a harmless diversion that would be over in a few weeks. Eight months later Donald Trump is at DEFCON 1, threatening to nuke the Republican establishment and win the nomination, and GOP elites are running around shrieking like Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy trying to break into NORAD and pull the plug on the whole thing.

Except it’s looking more and more like this movie ends with the computer winning. Trump heads into Super Tuesday on March 1 with the wind at his back. He’s leading in 10 of the 11 states up for grabs that day, with a combined 595 delegates in play.

The only state where Trump isn’t leading is Texas. Ted Cruz currently has a 5.2-point lead in the RealClearPolitics Average, though the most recent poll, by TEGNA/SurveyUSA, shows the two candidates tied.

Obviously, Texas is a must win for Cruz. If he loses his home state to Trump, his rationale for being the Trump-stopper is demolished. Similar tests awaits Rubio and Kasich on March 15, when both Florida and Ohio are up for grabs as winner-take-all states, for 99 and 66 delegates, respectively.

In Florida, polls taken in late January show Trump with massive leads and, equally as stunning, with support over 40 percent in a multi-candidate race. A new poll is expected later this morning from Quinnipiac University, which will take into account most of what has transpired in February and will give us a better understanding of where Marco Rubio stands in his home state.

In Ohio, there’s not much data to work with either. The most recent poll, also conducted by Quinnipiac last week, shows Kasich trailing Trump by five points, 31 to 26. Things could, and probably will, change by mid-March, but at the moment Kasich remains within striking distance.

Imagine we wake up on Wednesday morning, March 16, to find that Sen. Rubio has lost Florida to Trump, while Gov. Kasich has beaten Trump in Ohio. If that happens, how do Rubio’s supporters, which include much of the existing GOP officialdom, make the case that Kasich should defer to Rubio? Why wouldn’t the logical argument be the other way around?

Kasich bolsters his argument by pointing to the fact that he runs far better against Hillary Clinton in general election match-ups than either Cruz or Rubio. So why wouldn't establishment Republicans rally behind the most "electable" candidate who carries his home state in the primary?

As we’ve already seen, anything can happen in a race as crazy and unpredictable as this one. Which is why John Kasich has every right to stay in this contest through March 15 and let Republican voters in Florida and Ohio have their voices heard. Until then everyone should listen to Kasich and chill out.

An interesting point. And perhaps that is right. Let's see where things stand on March 15.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Mark Salter's vew of Donald Trump… is it John McCain's?

There is a posting by Mark Salter dated yesterday, entitled “Donald Trump, the Anti-Patriot,” which I've been reading. Now Salter's name is not widely known, but he has co-authored a number of Senator John McCain's books, and I suspect that he and Sen. McCain have very similar views on many political topics. In Salter's post, there are a number of points, and one of the counts he has against Trump is the remarks he has made about Sen. McCain:

By his own admission, the closest he came to combat was his sexual adventurism in the 1980s, when HIV/AIDS was claiming the lives of better men than him. It was his “personal Vietnam,” he told shock jock Howard Stern in 1997. “I felt like a great and very brave soldier.”

While Americans with little wealth and few family connections were dodging bullets, mortars and booby traps in the jungles and rice paddies of Vietnam, our Sergeant York of well-appointed bedrooms was bravely jumping in harm’s way, armed only with the aphrodisiac of his daddy’s money.

From his brush with mortality in service to his libido he acquired the self-regard to find John McCain’s heroism wanting, and by implication the heroism of all POWs. What’s to admire about being shot down, imprisoned in solitary confinement and tortured? Losers.

But there is a real concern there as to Trump's own proposals on how he might treat our enemies:

His cluelessness about what a genuine love of country entails seems to have liberated Trump from other conventional scruples including a respect for the inherent dignity of human beings that is central to Judeo-Christian values.

Trump is also ignorant, it seems, about just what constitutes a war crime; what is and is not permissible in lawful warfare. Or worse, he vaguely knows and doesn’t care.

Trump’s ignorance is a distinctive kind, familiar to schoolyard bullies everywhere. It’s indifferently stupid and reflexively brutal, a dumbass cruelty exercised by people too emotionally incontinent to let reason govern passions, too selfish to develop a conscience, and too insecure to relate to others by means other than base instinct.

In the war against terrorists, he’s recommended deliberately killing their wives and children. He promises to waterboard captured prisoners and torture them even more severely though the practice of waterboarding was ended by executive action and outlawed by congressional legislation. He can’t reinstitute it without new legislation and without changes to war crime conventions.

Were he to order military and intelligence officers to employ torture, as he insists he would, they would resign rather than comply, as they would if he ordered them to take innocent lives on purpose. He would deserve to be impeached. He would belong in an international court of justice, on trial for his life, the fate met by enemies in World War II who authorized the torture of our prisoners.

Trump recently cited as an example of how to deal with captured Muslim insurgents an anecdote from America’s occupation of the Philippines in the beginning of the 20th century. Gen. John J. Pershing ordered 49 of 50 Muslim prisoners shot with bullets dipped in pig’s blood, defiling them under Islamic law, and ordered the survivor to report to his confederates what he had witnessed. After which, Trump assured his audience, “for 25 years there wasn’t a problem.”

In fact, Salter points out,

The story is fiction. Pershing did nothing of the kind. He was a disciplined general officer, whose sense of honor remained intact through the trials of war, as did his loyalty to our country and values. See what I mean about dumbass cruelty? Trump’s never more ignorant then when he’s playing at being a tough guy.

And I did some checking. Salter is right about this story being fiction; perhaps Trump actually believed it, however, as such a story has been circulating on the Internet:

On Friday in South Carolina, Donald Trump told a story of how General John J. Pershing executed 49 Muslim prisoners in the Philippines.

In the early 1900′s, Trump said, Pershing “caught 50 terrorists that did tremendous damage and killed many people.” So Pershing “dipped 50 bullets in pig’s blood” and executed 49 of the men. Then he released the 50th prison to tell others what had happened. Trump’s point was that America needs to get tough on terrorism.

But the story is not true. There was no mass execution led by Pershing. That is a rumor created on the Internet.

A Chicago Daily Tribune article from 1927 reports the true story that Pershing was holding prisoners from the Moro Rebellion in the Philippines. The Moros were Muslims who resisted American or any other occupying force. The Moros included swordsmen, called Juramentados, who were killing Christians in the uprising. It had to be stopped.

The Tribune story reports that Pershing sprinkled some prisoners with pig’s blood, which the Juramentados believed would condemn them for eternity. But then Pershing let the prisoners go. He issued a warning to others about being sprinkled with the pig’s blood. And, according to the Tribune story, “those drops of porcine gore proved more powerful than bullets.”

There were no executions as described by Trump.

In fact, Pershing was more inclined toward peace talks with the Moros rather than violence. The general met with the Moros and read from the Koran with them. Pershing wanted to build bridges. An illustration accompanying the story shows the general in peace talks in the jungles of the Philippines.

Salter continues:

Wars have brought out the worst as well as the best in Americans. We have struggled at great cost to uphold the values that distinguish us from our enemies. In every war, soldiers under enormous strain have committed atrocities. In some cases they had been ordered to. But those instances were aberrations, considered a national disgrace and are remembered that way. Except, I guess, by Donald Trump, the man who fought his war in the discos of New York and would have American soldiers commit atrocities as a matter of national policy.

Much of what Salter says has validity. However, his final conclusion gives me pause:

Trump is not trying to make great America great. He’s trying to make us the worst we can be to satisfy his own vainglory. There’s no dealing with him, no trying to encourage him to behave like a grown-up, much less a statesman. If you can see him plainly and you love our country, you must vote against him. Even if that means electing Hillary Clinton.

That last sentence goes, in my mind, too far. “Even if that means electing Hillary Clinton”? I hope that Sen. McCain does not agree with this part of what Salter says here. For she has her own problems. She may not plan to torture our enemies. However, she has a direction for this nation that goes counter to our greatest needs. She has said,

I'm a progressive, but I'm a progressive that likes to get things done

and “progressive” is a term that here means “extreme leftist, possibly socialist.”

I do not know whether Sen. McCain agrees with Mark Salter on this position. I strongly respect Sen. McCain, and wish he had been elected eight years ago and was now coming to the end of two terms as President, rather than the man who is actually in that office today. But if he agrees with Salter's remark that Hillary Clinton is preferable to onald Trump, I must there respectfully disagree.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The South Carolina results

I'm not unhappy with the results of yesterday's South Carolina primary. Yes, the winner was Donald Trump, whose nomination would be a disaster. But I am glad to see that Marco Rubio beat Ted Cruz for second place, and this in a state where Cruz' extremist conservatism might be expected to do well. Since Jeb Bush (who has now withdrawn) and John Kasich got together over 16% of the vote, and Trump's plurality over Rubio was only 10%, if the supporters of so-called “establishment” candidates combine, Trump can be beaten.

And he will be. Trump, even in “winning,” got only a third of the vote. A lot of commentators seem to think this was a big win for Trump, but they don't seem to understand that he only “won” because there was a split in the opposition. As it consolidates, and it looks like Rubio will be the one it consolidates behind, Trump will lose the nomination.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Will Rubio be the candidate?

For a long time, I've been saying that while I preferred Chris Christie (now dropped out) or John Kasich as the candidate, I thought Marco Rubio was the actual probable winner. Then, along came New Hampshire, and Rubio stumbled badly, leaving me in doubt as to the likelihood of his win. Now at least one post that I've seen seems to imply that Rubio has once more emerged as the candidate to beat Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.

Possibly. But we will have to see what happens in South Carolina tomorrow.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Sen. Grassley is right!

On the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, there was a response by Sen. Mitch McConnell:

The American people‎ should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new President.

President Barack Obama, of course, does not agree:

The Constitution is pretty clear about what is supposed to happen now. I am amused when I hear people who claim to be strict interpreters of the Constitution suddenly reading into it a whole series of provisions that are not there. I am going to present somebody who indisputably is qualified for the seat and any fair minded person, even somebody who disagreed with my politics[,] would say would serve with honor and integrity on the court.

Frankly, I find it hard to believe that President Obama, given his far-left ideology and his record on nominations to all those posisions where he has the power to nominate, could come up with “somebody who indisputably is qualified for the seat and any fair minded person, even somebody who disagreed with [his] politics[,] would say would serve with honor and integrity on the court.” But I think he should be given a chance. This is why I agree with Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee:

I would wait until the nominee is made before I would make any decisions [on holding hearings]. In other words, take it a step at a time.

It is interesting that when Bruce Braley was running to become a Senator, he addressed a gathering of lawyers in Texas with the following words:

If you help me win this race, you may have someone with your background, your experience, your voice — someone who’s been literally fighting tort reform for 30 years in a visible and public way on the Senate Judiciary [Committee]. Or you might have a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school, never practiced law, serving as the next chair of the Senate Judiciary. Because if Democrats lose the majority, Chuck Grassley will be the next chair of the Senate Judiciary.

It looks to me that this “farmer from Iowa who never went to law school” is doing a pretty good job as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

I have to note that former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor has taken the position that Pres. Obama should pick the next nominee and have him approved. Much as I respect Justice O'Connor, who was probably closer to my own views than any other Supreme Court Justice during her tenure on the Court, I think she is partly wrong here. Yes, President Obama should be accorded the right to nominate a replacement for Justice Scalia. But the Senate should heed Obama's own words, uttered when he was a Senator:

I believe firmly that the Constitution calls for the Senate to advise and consent. I believe that it calls for meaningful advice and consent that includes an examination of a judge's philosophy, ideology, and record.

Monday, February 15, 2016

The Senate's role in evaluating a President's Supreme Court nominees

There is an interesting article, dated today, by David Harsanyi entitled “GOP Has A Duty To Reject Obama’s SCOTUS Pick.” It furnishes a good rejoinder to Harry Reid's quote, posted here yesterday:

The President can and should send the Senate a nominee right away. With so many important issues pending before the Supreme Court, the Senate has a responsibility to fill vacancies as soon as possible. It would be unprecedented in recent history for the Supreme Court to go a year with a vacant seat. Failing to fill this vacancy would be a shameful abdication of one of the Senate's most essential Constitutional responsibilities.

Harsanyi points out that when President Barack Obama was a Senator, and Samuel Alito's name came up before the Senate in 2006, then-Senator Obama made a floor speech (of which I quote even more than Harsanyi does) including these words:

As we all know, there's been a lot of discussion in the country about how the Senate should approach this confirmation process. There are some who believe that the President, having won the election, should have the complete authority to appoint his nominee, and the Senate should only examine whether or not the Justice is intellectually capable and an all-around nice guy. That once you get beyond intellect and personal character, there should be no further question whether the judge should be confirmed.

I disagree with this view. I believe firmly that the Constitution calls for the Senate to advise and consent. I believe that it calls for meaningful advice and consent that includes an examination of a judge's philosophy, ideology, and record. And when I examine the philosophy, ideology, and record of Samuel Alito, I'm deeply troubled.

I have no doubt that Judge Alito has the training and qualifications necessary to serve. He's an intelligent man and an accomplished jurist. And there's no indication he's not a man of great character.

But when you look at his record — when it comes to his understanding of the Constitution, I have found that in almost every case, he consistently sides on behalf of the powerful against the powerless; on behalf of a strong government or corporation against upholding American's individual rights.

If then-Sen. Obama could use such language, the Republicans in the Senate have every reason to follow his words that “I believe firmly that the Constitution calls for the Senate to advise and consent. I believe that it calls for meaningful advice and consent that includes an examination of a judge's philosophy, ideology, and record.” And assuming that President Obama's nominee has an unacceptable “philosophy, ideology, and record” in the opinion of the Senate majority, they have every reason to reject that nominee. I agree with Harsanyi.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Justice Scalia has passed away. Now what?

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has passed away at the age of 79. President Barack Obama has nearly a year remaining in his term, so he will certainly send a nominee to the Senate. (He has already announced that he will.) The nominee will likely be so far to the political left that the Republican-controlled Senate will not confirm him. This will probably mean a 4-4 tie on a lot of Supreme Court votes. What will this mean?

Of course, Senator Harry Reid has sounded off:

The President can and should send the Senate a nominee right away. With so many important issues pending before the Supreme Court, the Senate has a responsibility to fill vacancies as soon as possible. It would be unprecedented in recent history for the Supreme Court to go a year with a vacant seat. Failing to fill this vacancy would be a shameful abdication of one of the Senate's most essential Constitutional responsibilities.

Note that Senator Reid says “unprecedented in recent history.” President John Tyler had a situation much like Obama's, where his term was coming to an end and the Senate kept rejecting his nominees, so the position remained vacant for more than two years. But Senator Reid has a point: a lot of cases will end up in tied votes if the vacancy remains unfilled. But given that President Obama may well nominate a left-wing extremist, the Senate obviously would have a difficult time confirming someone whose views are so contrary to theirs. It will be very interesting

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Our long election campaigns

People have been pointing out that Canada, for example, has much shorter campaigns than the United States; for example, the most recent election campaign that made Justin Trudeau Prime Minister was 11 weeks long, and people complained that this was too long! But they are comparing apples and oranges. In countries like Canada, with parliamentary systems, everyone knows who the candidates for Prime Minister will be — a party has a recognized leader. Our long campaigns are a result of the fact that we first have to choose the candidates who will run for President. Yes, Ted Cruz filed over a year and a half before the election, but this was as a candidate for the Republican nomination, not for the actual election this coming November. Justin Trudeau became leader of the Liberal Party on April 14, 2013, winning on the first ballot with nearly 80% of the vote. So in effect he has been able to define himself as the Liberal candidate since that time. The Republican and Democratic candidates for the presidency will be officially chosen this summer. This makes a difference. One can really say that Trudeau's campaign for the Prime Ministership began in 2013 and lasted until October 19, 2015, when Trudeau's Liberals defeated Stephen Harper's Conservatives — about 2½ years. This compares with about three months that our candidates for the Presidency (whoever they will be; Hillary Clinton probably for the Democrats, but who knows for the Republicans?) will have after the conventions. Now whose campaigns are longer?

Friday, February 12, 2016

It's now down to six

It starfted with 17 candidates for the 2016 Republican nomination. Now there are only 6: Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, and John Kasich. Of course, if you've read my earlier posts, you know I prefer Kasich among those six. But I could support anyone but Cruz if he were the nominee. I prefer that it not be Trump (who has a limited knowledge of what the Constitution says a President can do) or Carson (who, with Trump, has little relevant experience, though I think he'd make an excellent chair of a task force studying how to replace Obamacare). Jeb Bush is, as that CNN questionnaire I took showed, quite close to me on the issues; I'd think he'd make a good President, but I'm afraid that many whose opinion of his brother's Presidency is poor would not vote for him, so my only objection to Jeb Bush is electability. Rubio is somewhat more conservative than I'd prefer. However, he's still within the bounds of acceptability. And running against either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, of course Rubio would get my vote: both of those prospective Democratic nominees are far further to my left than Rubio is to my right.

That is my current take on this election.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Christie withdraws… I'm sorry to say, but…

Chris Christie has withdrawn from the race for the 2016 Republican nomination. It's sad to see this — I thought he was really the best choice, but John Kasich finished very strongly in the New Hampshire primary and the two candidates appealed to a lot of the same voters, I'm sure, as they did to me. So faced with having to vote for one, they settled on Kasich.

And if you look at the three Governors, Kasich, Christie, and Jeb Bush, they got as many votes combined as Donald Trump, the winner. If the people who want an experienced candidate, as I do, unite behind a single candidate, Kasich is a good choice, and could well win the nomination.

Another candidate who also withdrew was Carly Fiorina. I thought she was a promising choice, but needed some political experience. If she had won the California Senate race a few years ago, she might well have been my choice for President this year. But I think she's still a voice that should be heard in the future: perhaps a Cabinet post or the Vice-Presidency.

Monday, February 08, 2016

It isn't an "either-or" choice!

This past Saturday, there was a debate in New Hampshire among the candidates for the Republican nomination for the Presidency. And the most talked-about exchange was between Chris Christie and Marco Rubio.

Now as I've said before, Christie is among my favorite candidates for the nomination, while Rubio is the one that looks like the actual winner. So I'm a bit uncomfortable with such a degree of hostilities between them; should Rubio actually get the nomination, I should hope that Christie could support him against the far worse candidate (probably Hillary Clinton) that the Democrats will nominate. But the gist of the exchange was that (according to Christie) Rubio's short experience in the Senate — comparable to Barack Obama's when he first ran eight years ago — is insufficient preparation for the Presidency. And Rubio's retort was that Obama's failure is not from inexperience, but that there is a “fiction that Barack Obama doesn't know what he's doing. He knows exactly what he's doing.”

Well, in my estimation, it is not an either-or choice. Obama's inexperience has led to many problems in the past seven years or so, thus Christie is right in pointing to Obama's election and saying, “What we need to have in this country is not to make the same mistake we made eight years ago.” But Obama has chosen a direction for this country that is contrary to its best interests, as Rubio has implied.

So both Christie and Rubio have valid points to make. And we should recognize this.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

According to CNN, I agree most with Jeb Bush!

There is a page on CNN's site called the Election Candidate Matchmaker. You answer a series of questions, and it finds the candidate whose positions are closest to your own. I took the quiz, and was interested to see that the candidate it picked out for me was Jeb Bush. Not too bad a choice, but a little surprising. I was a little happier with its 2nd choice for me, which was Chris Christie. But the third was Donald Trump, a big surprise. But I guess it is clear, my opposition to Trump is not based on his positions on the issues. I think he is not acquainted with the limitations imposed on the Presidency by the Constitution, and his manner is unbecoming to a President. And this is why, unlike my wife (who is so opposed to Trump to the point that she could never vote for him against anyone being discussed) I am more willing to accept Trump than some other politicians. In particular, we've discussed a Trump vs. Hillary Clinton matchup, and though she mistrusts Clinton, she would vote for her over Trump. I would vote for Trump over Clinton, because he would at least take the country more in a direction I favor than she would.

The page only gives the top three matches; it doesn't rank them all. So it doesn't put John Kasich in a rank that I could find. And yet I like him about as much as Christie. I wonder where we differ most.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Nothing much has changed, but...

More and more, it looks as though the Republican nominee will be Marco Rubio. That at least two former candidates who have dropped out, Rick Santorum and Bobby Jindal, have specifically endorsed Rubio (though, from my point of view, Santorum's support is a negative!) shows that Rubio is collecting support in the way he needs to be nominated.

But this is really what I've been thinking for some time, and most recently stated in a post a few days ago. While I would prefer to see Chris Christie or John Kasich, I can certainly back Rubio if he is the nominee. And so nothing is really any different. There isn't much more to post about this election.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Montel Williams' post on John Kasich

On Fox News' site, dated yesterday, is a post by Montel Williams entitled “John Kasich is the only GOP candidate who can unite America.” It makes interesting reading.

In it, among other things, Williams says, “I don’t agree with John Kasich on everything.” And I don’t agree with Montel Williams on everything either. In fact, I don't think Kasich is the only good choice. But the column is worth reading, and it points out why Kasich is a much better choice for the Republicans than Donald Trump or Ted Cruz. And in fact, Williams doesn't say in his column what he has against any of the other candidates besides those two, so it isn't clear why he says Kasich is the only one.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Mike Bloomberg

The Wall Street Journal has an article dated February 3 entitled “Why Mike Bloomberg Can Win,” by Douglas E. Schoen. It makes the case that the Republican Party has moved so far to the right, and the Democratic Party so far to the left, that Bloomberg, running as an independent, could win. I admit that if the Republicans nominate Ted Cruz they would lose my vote, and Bloomberg would get it if he ran. However, against any other Republican now running (since both Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum have withdrawn) I could not support Bloomberg, in part because our electoral system is so biased against third parties and independents that I do not give him a chance, unlike Schoen.

But Bloomberg is an attractive candidate. He certainly did a good job as Mayor of New York, extending the accomplishments of Rudy Giuliani, who in fact recruited him. I'd rather see Bloomberg as president than anyone the Democrats could come up with. And although I would probably still vote for Trump or Rubio against Clinton or Sanders even if Bloomberg were in the race, I think in some ways I'd actually prefer Bloomberg. But unless Cruz is the nominee and I vote third party/independent in protest, I can't see leaving the Republican fold this year — the real task is to defeat the Democrats, and unlike Schoen, I hardly believe Bloomberg can win.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Is Ted Cruz ineligible for the Presidency?

An argument has been made that since Ted Cruz was born in Canada (of an American mother and a Cuban father) he is not a “natural born citizen,” and therefore ineligible under Article II of the United States Constitution for the Presidency. This question was addressed at some length by Daniel Jack Williamson, whose “Buckeye RINO” blog always makes interesting reading, whether I agree or not with his positions.

The key to the discussion is the provision in the United States Constitution, in Section 1 of Article II, which spells out the eligibility of presidential candidates:

No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.

The problem is that the Constitution never defines “natural born citizen.” It is true that Congress passed, in 1790, the Naturalization Act, which contains the following passage:

And the children of citizens of the United States, that may be born beyond sea, or out of the limits of the United States, shall be considered as natural born citizens: Provided, That the right of citizenship shall not descend to persons whose fathers have never been resident in the United States […]

Under the terms of this statute, Senator Cruz is demonstrably a citizen of the United States. His Cuban-born father did reside in the United States for a few years in advance of Ted Cruz’s birth in Canada. But what does the phrase “shall be considered as natural born citizens” mean? If it were “are natural born citizens,” this would settle the question, or so it would seem. However there is even an ambiguity there. Does Congress, after the fact, have the right to change the meaning of a passage in the Constitution (other than by amendment, which requires a two thirds vote and ratification by three fourths of the States)? Actually, the key there is whether this is a change. I would maintain that, since the Constitution does not have a definition of “natural born citizen,” Congress is acting within its rights, merely clarifying the Constitution's specification of eligibility. But, as Williamson points out, “shall be considered as natural born citizens” is not the same as “are natural born citizens.”

But why say “shall be considered as” rather than “are?” If the statute were to read, “And the children of citizens of the United States … are natural born citizens,” then no question would remain about Cruz’s eligibility. But “shall be considered as” might signify that a person in such circumstances is naturalized at birth, not needing to follow the same processes of naturalization that others born off of U.S. soil must go through, but it still falls under the auspices of naturalization law. Does this statute create a “naturalized at birth” citizen separate from a “natural born” citizen, with the one being “considered as” the other? Is there a distinction there? Or does “shall be considered as” equal to “are,” relegating the concept of “naturalized at birth,” in an instance such as this, to mythology?

In fact, this is a question that could only be settled by the Supreme Court. And the Supreme Court never gives advisory opinions. A court case would have to be raised, and this could only take place after Cruz were nominated and elected, because the Court does not rule on hypotheticals. This in turn raises a question: who would raise a case? Some might say the Democrats. But in that situation, even if Cruz were ruled ineligible, this would simply make his vice-presidential nominee the President — not a very satisfactory outcome for a Democrat!

In any case, even if a Court case were to be set up, what would the Court do? Remember that in 2012 the Supreme Court (in the case Department of Health and Human Services v. Florida) upheld the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, because the Constitution gives Congress the right to levy taxes, even though the Adminstration maintained that the penalty was not a tax.

Chief Justice Roberts went on to say that the penalty for failing to carry insurance met the criteria for a tax. Because of the court's duty to defer to the elected branches when possible, the mandate must be upheld, he wrote.

Neither the label of "penalty" nor the fact it was intended to influence behavior mattered, he wrote. The penalty functioned like a tax—and other taxes, such as those on cigarettes, are enacted principally to create incentives rather than raise revenue, he said.

Note the words “the court's duty to defer to the elected branches when possible.” I believe that in a challenge to ine eligibility of Ted Cruz, Congress's right to define “natural born citizen” would be upheld. So the question of Cruz's ineligibility is really a non-starter.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Sorry for my absence

I haven't been posting here for a few months, in part because of my own life's being complicated (including a surgery and more than a month in a rehabilitation facility), and in part because I do not know what to make of the large support being gathered, according to the polls, by Donald J. Trump in his candidacy for the Presidency. I see him as a very poor choice, though if he is nominated against Hillary Clinton he will get my vote in November, mostly because his direction for the country is closer than hers to what I would like to see. He has no political experience (which his supporters see as a positive! and seems not to understand the Constitution (based on some of his proposals), and thus I see him as really poorly qualified for the office of the Presidency. I certainly would prefer Chris Christie or John Kasich.

However, the Iowa caucus just completed inspired me to resume posting. I was, on the one hand, glad to see Trump receive a lot less support than the polls indicated, though, on the other hand, not very happy that the man who beat him was Ted Cruz, who I like even less than Trump. Yet Cruz' victory is not a big surprise. Iowa seems to be very hospitable to the religious Right; in the two most recent previous elections it gave its support to Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum.

I do not, however, expect Cruz to be the nominee, any more than were Huckabee and Santorum. For some time, I have been predicting that the eventual nominee would be Marco Rubio. And Rubio's near-tie with Trump for second place makes me even more convinced that this will be the outcome in the end. And while Rubio is not my first or second choice (or even my third or fourth!) I see him as certainly a nominee I can live with.

But New Hampshire may tell a different story next week. We will have to see.