Paul Ryan

September 28, 2016

We’re seeing it: Nothing brings Republicans together better than the threat of a Hillary Clinton Presidency. Gosh, what a unifying force she’s turning out to be!

What appeared to be hopeless fragmentation --- wildly played up in the media --- within the GOP is morphing into cohesiveness as we get closer to the finish line. Evidence of this comes in the form of post-debate support from none other than Paul Ryan.

The Speaker had positive things to say about Trump’s first big one-on-one debate. We all wish Trump had offered more detailed responses and had dared to bring up a host of issues that the moderator, unbelievably, failed to mention at all. But in a strong and hopeful statement at a news conference Tuesday morning, Ryan praised him as a “spirited voice” and one who “showed that for 90 minutes he could go toe-to-toe with Hillary Clinton.”

It seems obvious that Donald Trump saw this debate as his “warm-up” for the contests to come. He’s a political novice, pitted against the Politician Of All Politicians, and there’s been a learning curve, to be sure. But now, when Hillary Clinton smugly says, “One down, two to go!” I can just hear him thinking, “You better believe it, sister.”

This post is sponsored by Iris Plans.

By now, you’ve probably heard debate analysis until you’re tired of it (I heard from a number of people who got tired of the debate itself and tuned out halfway through), but I’ll throw in my two cents. I think I have a unique perspective most of the talking heads don’t have, since I’ve actually participated in Presidential debates, including debates with Donald Trump.

First of all, when you listen to all the armchair quarterbacking about who won or lost, remember that there are two scales for determining that, and the one the pundits use is almost entirely irrelevant. They like to judge the winner on points, as if it were a UIL high school debate. By that measure, I think we can all agree that Hillary did everything a good, practiced debater should do. She obviously studied for days, memorizing what stand-up comics call “hunks,” or carefully-crafted pieces of a monologue, each word painstakingly honed to accomplish the multiple goals of making herself look steady, experienced and well-informed and her opponent seem dangerous and unready. You could easily imagine her rehearsing into her bathroom mirror, practicing smiling while sticking in the shiv.

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Trump, on the other hand, often seemed to be winging it. He’s great at that, and he landed some solid hits, but he also let a lot of softballs whiff by. He sometimes went into rhetorical cul-de-sacs, repeating the “we make bad deals” theme that can make him sound like a one-trick pony. And he let Hillary (and moderator Lester Holt, but more on that later) put him on the defensive too often. For instance, he could have brushed off some of the piddling attacks on non-issues like birtherism or what he once allegedly said about a beauty pageant contestant by reminding viewers of the serious issues America faces and how such petty nonsense pales in significance to Clinton’s demonstrated record of failure on national security and the economy. But he missed many such opportunities. Plus, Hillary made it all the way through the debate without fainting or having a seizure. I know that sounds facetious, but a lot of people were watching very closely for signs of ill health, and she managed to “power through” admirably. So on the “Tracy Flick” high school debate “win through doing homework” scale, I’d have to give the debate to Hillary.

However…

The only judges who really matter are the undecided voters in the viewing audience. And I doubt that many of them were watching to hear what Hillary said (although if she had passed out, that might have influenced their votes.) After more than 30 years in politics, Hillary Clinton is known only too well. Her carefully focus-grouped speeches about all her government experience and her 25-point plans don’t impress anyone who knows that it was bad experience and that her plans are nothing but more of the same foreign policy weakness that’s letting ISIS, Iran, Russia, China and North Korea eat our lunch and the same old big government control policies of tax/regulate/spend (sorry: “investments”) that have exploded the debt, crippled small business and put Obama on track to be the first President in history never to preside over a single year of GDP growth above 3 percent (One of Trump’s best moments came when he declared that America can’t afford four more years of her kind of experience.) And does anyone with a memory longer than a housecat’s truly believe that the 2008 meltdown was caused by tax cuts and not by Clinton/Carter policies that forced banks to give home loans to people who couldn’t pay them back? Hofstra University should’ve issued a “trigger warning” to conservatives that they might hear some revisionist history that would cause them to do double-takes that could induce whiplash.

No, undecided voters likely won’t be swayed by Hillary’s shiny new plans to deal with the disasters caused by her previous plans. Many of her claims were downright laughable, such as her smug assurance that she’s uniquely qualified to fight cyber threats from foreign governments, when we all know she thinks you “wipe” a server with a dust cloth and destroy data by hitting smartphones with a hammer, and all her own emails are all over WikiLeaks. I would also hope everyone knows that there’s no such thing as a “nuclear button” – the only person who ever traveled to Russia with a Staples-like prop push-button was Hillary. And her attempts to spark Internet memes with painful canned groaners like “trumped-up trickle down” – she said that twice, as if it would sound wittier the second time – landed with a clunk and just drew attention to her lack of spontaneity.

After 30 years of exposure to Hillary, anyone who has still not decided to support her is likely someone who really doesn’t want to but is scared of the alternative, after hearing the non-stop Democrat/media depiction of Trump as a crazy, fire-breathing, sexist, racist fascist or any other “ist” the liberals can think up. Trump proved to fence-sitters that he can show restraint when attacked, which was the whole point of goading him. For instance, when Hillary brought up some left-field accusations of sexist things he’d allegedly once said, he could have pointed out the bull elephant in the room – her husband Bill -- but he declined in deference to Chelsea being present. That may have frustrated conservatives who wanted to see blood drawn, but Trump was appealing to the undecideds who wanted to be reassured that he was a palatable alternative to Hillary. Not taking the bait helped him clear that low bar. By that far more important standard, Trump was the winner, because he was playing for votes, not an A+ from the media debate judges.

By the way, one of the best comments I saw online was from a poster on the Yahoo News comments section, who said that Trump reminded him of a doctor with no bedside manner. He tells you that you need to lose 100 pounds and stop smoking. You’re offended, you’re angry, you come up with 10 reasons why he’s crazy…and then you finally realize that he’s the only one telling you the truth.

Finally, a word on moderator Lester Holt. I’m hearing a lot of complaints about bias, and they’re not unjustified. Some of the bias was by omission; for instance, Holt devoted a ridiculous amount of time to the long-past-its-shelf-date birtherism story (news flash: Obama isn’t even running this year), yet never brought up the Clinton Foundation and its pay-to-play scandal, the immunity deals the FBI handed out like pizza discount coupons to Hillary insiders, her family’s enrichment through speeches to Wall Street banks and foreign nations with business before the government, her plan to greatly increase the flow of Syrian refugees and many other issues far more relevant to this election. And as Clinton kept giving shout-outs to her “fact-checkers” (the greatest misnomer of 2016) to save her, Holt answered her call, repeatedly arguing with Trump on her behalf (actual fact-check: Trump’s claim about the constitutionality of stop-and-frisk was correct). But there’s no point in a Republican whining about the moderator being a biased liberal. It goes with the territory. Besides, if Holt didn’t slant the questions and drill down harder on Trump, he might find himself exiled to the Siberia of TV news channels, MSNBC. Who can blame him for wanting to avoid that?

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The New York Times, to the surprise of absolutely nobody with a pulse, endorsed Hillary Clinton for President.  Here’s the full story.

It’s no surprise that the Times editors think America would be better off with Hillary. Check out the link below to their previous presidential endorsements. You have to go all the way back to 1956 and Dwight Eisenhower to find a Republican that the Times deemed worthy of the White House. That’s right: the Times editors, in their infinite wisdom, seriously believed that what America needed down through the decades was Presidents McGovern, Mondale, Dukakis, Gore and, of course, a second term of Jimmy Carter instead of that crazy cowboy actor, Ronald Reagan. Read through their rationales for endorsing each one, and imagine the words being pontificated at you in the condescending, know-it-all tones of Professor Kingsfield from “The Paper Chase.”

I particularly love the excerpt from their reasoning for reelecting Bill Clinton in 1996: “The presidency he once dreamed of is still within his reach if he brings the requisite integrity to the next four years.” Yes, let’s give the Clintons four more years and see if they develop any integrity. And how did that work out? Is “integrity” the word you associate with the second Clinton term? The Times now yearns for yet another term of the Clintons in the White House. Over the ensuing 16 years, have Bill and Hillary demonstrated any growth in the area of integrity, or have their more recent exploits managed to make their lies and scandals of the ‘90s look like a kid cheating on a spelling test in comparison?

My advice for Hillary

September 23, 2016

Having run for President a couple of times myself, I could offer the candidates some tips on things they don’t want to do. One tip I’d give to Hillary Clinton is, “Don’t remind voters of Michael Dukakis. And especially don’t remind them of SNL comic Jon Lovitz’s impression of Dukakis.”

During an oddly strained video message for the Laborers’ International Union of North America, Hillary blurted out in frustration, “’Why aren’t I 50 points ahead,’ you might ask.” Frankly, I don’t think anyone other than her was wondering about that. To most pundits, it immediately brought to mind Lovitz’s Dukakis in a 1988 SNL debate sketch, lamenting about Dana Carvey’s George Bush, “I can’t believe I’m losing to this guy!” Whether that led to comparisons of Dukakis’ technocratic aloofness or Lovitz’s parody of his oblivious egomania in the face of electoral catastrophe, it’s not a comparison any candidate wants to face.

It also provided an open invitation for Internet wags to suggest answers to her question of why she’s not 50 points ahead – and they did. Even Trump weighed in. Some of the suggestions are at the link, along with video and some more excerpts from her speech, including a promise to fight all “so-called right-to-work” laws that prevent people from being forced to join unions to hold a job. BTW, according to Gallup, right-to-work laws are supported by 7 in 10 Americans, including 65% of Democrats. Personally, I can’t fathom why she’s not 50 points behind.

If you'd like to offer your suggestions for why she's not 50 points ahead, that's what the comments are for. Have at it.