Prager and the Wolf

Part of what is so disheartening about President Donald Trump leading the Republican Party is discovering that thoughtful people–perhaps even people who you admire–will ignore, excuse, or even endorse Trump’s worst aspects. The kinds of people who saw profound meaning in Barack Obama’s annoying idiosyncrasies (omitting the words “our Creator,” when quoting the Declaration of Independence, for example) appear curiously unable to connect the dots on President Trump’s most troubling behaviors.

Conservative commentator, Dennis Prager, is one such person who I once very much admired. He does not know whether President Trump holds racist views in his heart that inform his policy decisions. Neither do I. Nor would Mr. Prager or I look to the mainstream American left for any elucidation on the issue. But the question is serious enough that Prager writes a piece arguing that the evidence against Mr. Trump is specious.

Here’s why Prager is wrong:

In the first place, Prager argues that the left has lost credibility on using the word “racist,” writing:

“The left labels anyone who opposes race-based quotas, or all-black college dorms, or the Black Lives Matter movement ‘racist.’”

Therefore, he argues, because liberals call so many innocuous things racist, they threaten to embolden “real” racism.

This is mostly true.

I think of the braindead attacks on Senator John McCain, calling him a racist, for referring to then-Senator Barack Obama as “that one,” when distinguishing between their voting records. I think of the many attacks calling President George W. Bush a racist despite the diversity of his cabinet, his electoral successes among Latinos, and his tireless work improving conditions in many African nations–improvements that are recognized across the political spectrum.

But Prager’s argument has two sides: while liberals may overcharge racism, conservatives underestimate it with the same zeal.  A Pew Research Study released last year expresses that very point. It finds that Democrats believe that not enough attention is paid to “real” instances of racism, while Republicans argue that too much attention is paid to “fake” racism. Both can be true: Democrats may pay too much attention to “microaggressions,” while Republicans prefer to ignore racial disparities in police shootings and incarceration.

But all this really means is that the right has lost just as much credibility on the issue of racism as the left.

Prager writes:

“On race the Left has cried wolf so often that if real wolves ever show up, few will believe it.”

And, so here we are: The Left is calling Mr. Trump a wolf, and Mr. Prager suspects that they might be seeing a giraffe.

The event in question finds President Trump in negotiations about DACA recipients and the future of a diversity lottery immigration program. The bipartisan negotiation would have ended the diversity lottery, in exchange for allowing the people who used that program to live legally in the United States (some, for decades) to join the class of DACA recipients and earn the chance to be granted permanent status. Upon learning that some of the people who benefited from the diversity lottery were from Haiti and Nigeria, President Trump asked why the U.S. should allow those people from “shit hole” countries to stay. He reportedly followed up by asserting that we needed more people from countries like Norway.

If whatever subtlety that exists eludes you, as it has Mr. Prager, what the President reportedly said is that if these people were from European countries–regardless of their value to the United States–they should be allowed to be incorporated into the DACA program. Otherwise, they should be sent home at government expense because of where they came from, not because of who they are and what they have contributed.

This sounds like racism to me, but not to Prager who defends Trump’s assertion by tying an imaginary “moral state of an immigrant’s country” to the likelihood that immigrants from those countries would use American welfare benefits.  (Remember, Mr. Trump did not say that the United States needed fewer immigrants who would use welfare benefits– that would have been more tenable.) As it were, none of Prager’s other arguments have anything to do with Trump’s statement, in fact, as nimbly as he claims not to know what Trump actually said, he more boldly asserts to know what Trump meant.

The point still remains, that Prager appears to suffer from the same affliction that the Pew study finds among conservatives more generally. It is true: if this were the only insensitive thing that Mr. Trump said, then one could plausibly deny that Trump is a racist. Just as sharp teeth, alone, do not a wolf make.  

But if only Mr. Prager would touch the pelt of the man who lied about knowing who David Duke was; if he would let the teeth of the man who precluded blacks from living in his developments pierce his fingertips; if Prager would listen to the howl of the beast who said that a Republican judge could not do his job professionally because he is of Mexican descent; study the scat of this animal that peddled a lie about Barack Obama’s birthplace. If only Prager would enter his picture into the Google Arts and Culture app, he would see that Mr. Trump keeps coming back–wolf.

How the Left Dodges Personal Responsibility

Republicans have a problem in a candidate who will not win the nomination–Donald Trump. Democrats have a problem in a candidate widely expected to win their nomination–Hillary Clinton. This reality worries Democrats, because Clinton continues to run an embarrassingly opaque and inept campaign. Ron Fournier in National Journal writes a brutal plea to Clinton, laying the embarrassing elements of her bumbling campaign at her feet.

“We can’t make it any plainer,” Fournier writes. “You’re the problem, Hillary.”

Interestingly; amid falling poll numbers and a general worry among Democrats that Mrs. Clinton lacks the liberal credentials or ethical principals of her longshot rival, Bernie Sanders; Clinton rejects Fournier’s assertion, blaming her political misfortunes on institutional discrimination. Nowhere can Clinton’s reticence to accept responsibility for her perception be more visible than in her CNN interview with Brianna Keilar. Fournier remarks on Clinton’s interview, calling it cringeworthy.

Keilar asks, “We see in our recent poll that nearly six in 10 Americans say they don’t believe that you’re honest and trustworthy. Do you understand why they feel that way?”

Clinton bristles and blames Republicans for this “misperception.”

“I think when you are subjected to the kind of constant barrage of attacks that are largely fomented by and coming from the Right…”

Keilar interrupts, pushing further.

“Do you bear any responsibility for that,” Keilar asks. At this, Clinton tries to pivot and talk about her election history and her current commitment to fight for “everyday people” (as opposed to us every other day people), but Keilar heroically refuses to give up.

“Trusting someone to fight for them,” she says, “and trusting someone, these are two different things. Do you see any role that you’ve had in the sentiment that we’ve seen, where people are questioning whether you’re trustworthy?”

Clinton denies her contribution to her own negative ratings three times before the cock crows. This time, blaming the media.

“I can only tell you, Brianna, that this has been a theme that has been used against me and my husband for many, many years…I mean, people write books filled with unsubstantiated attacks against us…But of course, it’s your job to cover it. So of course that’s going to raise questions in people’s minds.”

Keilar does a good job at pushing Clinton on the issue of trust, making the interview more difficult for Clinton supporters, like Fournier, to stomach. For me, a conservative, Clinton’s answers point to a destructive liberal tendency–an inability or unwillingness to self-critique, and to, instead, blame structures for personal failings or poor outcomes. To Fournier’s credit, he recognizes this tendency as it pertains to Mrs. Clinton.

“You’ve made some poor choices,” he writes, “and, rather than fix them, you blamed the GOP and the media. You wouldn’t let Chelsea say the dog ate her homework, so why do you think this is a good idea?”

In truth, this strategy of blaming structures rather than individuals characterizes the liberal mindset. Blacks, according to liberals, face longer prison sentences and troubles with law enforcement not because of personal decisions to commit crimes, but because of a structural deficiency with the American legal system. Women make lower wages than men, not because they tend to enter the workforce later than men and interrupt their work life to meet other demands, but because, says the liberal, a sexist system discriminates against women. Poverty cannot be explained by bad personal choices; like failure to graduate high school, parenting children out of wedlock or drug or alcohol dependence; but rather, poverty emanates from the structural deficiencies of our capitalist economic system.

On issue after issue, liberals tell their constituents that “the dog ate their homework.” After a while of these excuses, the student fails the class. This terrifies the left about Clinton, and it is my hope that their fears are actualized.

Carson for Fuhrer

Ach du Liebe, Dr. Carson!


From the moment Ben Carson entered the public eye, bashing Obamacare at the National Prayer Breakfast in 2013, many conservatives clamored for him to run for president. Even when Carson indicated that he would not run, groups–often nefarious groups–collected money in his name, claiming that they needed the money to urge Carson to run. His soft-spokenness, unapologetic appeal to principle and religious dedication endear him to conservatives tired of the self-promotional bombast of typical politicians. For Republicans looking to change the Party image, the black Carson offers a rebuttal against the stereotype that the GOP regards blacks with hostility. Carson writes about his successful career as a neurosurgeon in “Gifted Hands,” the most popular of his books. Before him, no one had ever successfully separated craniopagus twins. That said, it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to see that Dr. Carson’s newly announced presidential campaign’s greatest weaknesses may be the candidate himself.

In any presidential campaign, the potential nominee must be supremely accomplished, as is Dr. Carson. However, Americans have yet to decide what kind of experience best translates to being a good president. So far, we appear to favor Ivy League lawyers (sorry, Scott Walker), governors (sorry, Rand Paul), and distinguished military service personnel (sorry, John Kerry). Each of those fields, and elements of others, correspond to some responsibility of the Executive office. This means less to Dr. Carson whose success in an admirable profession will hardly disqualify him. The point, though, is that in the absence of knowing what profession best predicts the skill set necessary to be a successful president, Americans faced with fields of accomplished candidates look for more superficial traits–namely those that make a candidate a good campaigner. Dr. Carson, for all of his accomplishments, fails where it matters the most–as a politician.

“I gotta tell you something. I’m not politically correct,” Carson said during his official presidential announcement. “I’m not a politician. I don’t want to be a politician. Politicians do what is politically expedient. I want to do what’s right.”

Carson’s line, appropriately striking a populist tone, attempts to cover him for some egregious remarks he’s made–remarks that he must renounce. Saying that “Obamacare is really…the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery,” and then doubling down, saying that “it is slavery,” represents a monumentally stupid statement. Todd Akin stupid. (Abortion ranks higher than Obamacare on the spectrum of morally reprehensible policies, I think.) In March, Carson apologized for saying that prison turns straight men gay. This statement brought such a backlash, that Carson refuses to address gay rights issues (a pivotal topic in America right now) for the rest of the presidential campaign.

Then, there is his comparing America to Nazi Germany–implying that the IRS equates to the SS or the Gestapo. One needn’t be Jewish to take offense to a comparison that trivializes the most sinister part of Nazism–the genocide. Still, Carson stands by his comments, and this represents a problem for Republicans who want to win the 2016 election.

Clearly, Democrats have a problem: their wealthiest candidate also has the best name recognition and potentially gives the Party four more years to develop new talent that is sorely lacking. This candidate, though, is Hillary Clinton: the secretive, corrupt, overly-ambitious, unaccomplished Hillary Clinton. Democrats look across the aisle and see formidable Republican candidates assembling to take control of the third branch of our three branch government, and potentially secure further control in the Supreme Court by replacing aging conservative judges and perhaps even Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The left’s best chance to denigrate the Republican Party is to paint the candidates as out of touch extremists, as clowns, as unserious. Just as Akin’s comments hurt the entire Republican field in 2012, forcing candidates outside of Missouri to speak to Akin’s gaffe, Democrats are always on the lookout for another candidate that can help them advance their narrative and direct the electorate to discuss a stupid statement rather than the issues at hand. Alexandra Jaffe, writing about Carson’s Nazi Germany statement for CNN.com, writes: “Carson’s unapologetic, outspoken style has contributed to his meteoric rise within the conservative movement and the Republican Party more broadly…” The subtext of Jaffe’s statement  is that conservatives like Carson’s crazy statements, and his egotistical refusal to walk them back. Between Ted Cruz’ government shutdown and Ben Carson’s “wrong-but-strong” proclamations, Democrats have strong opportunities to smear the party–perhaps even well enough to damage our aspirations.

While I hope that Dr. Carson contributes positively to the 2016 race, I highly doubt that Republicans will make the mistake of nominating him to represent the party in this important election. The accomplished, Dr. Carson may do well as Surgeon General; or as a beloved conservative speaker, campaigner, and writer. Whether or not he wins the nomination, though, I don’t foresee him leading the United States into a Fourth Reich.

Rubio in the Running

Yesterday is Over


Standing before a throng of supporters chanting his name, Marco Rubio delivered his inspiring campaign kickoff speech. The young Florida senator spoke movingly about his family’s history and about how that history coincided with the American Dream. The most important parts of his speech illustrate the everyday people Rubio’s campaign seeks to champion–among them: maids, janitors, bartenders, single mothers, and students. These illustrations demonstrate his superb ability to connect with people beyond cold statistics. Touching on policy positions, highlighting his ability to speak Spanish, expressing his Christian faith and defining his campaign as forward-looking did much to connect his message to Republicans who want to grow the party and win the 2016 presidential race. National Review’s editors rightly declare Rubio “the most charismatic potential Republican nominee,” and “the most articulate advocate of strong American leadership in foreign affairs.”

But, can he win the nomination?

Jamelle Bouie, writing for Slate, argues that Rubio will likely fail.

“It’s not that [Rubio] can’t win. It’s that he’s almost no one’s first choice…56% of Republican voters say they could vote for him,” but “just 5.4% list him as a top choice.”

Bouie argues that a phenomenon Republicans typically regard as a strength–the vast field of candidates–may harm Rubio’s ability to stand out from the pack.

“…depending on your place in the GOP, there are potentially better options. If you’re a conservative who wants consensus and a more inclusive message, you have Jeb Bush, who melds Rubio’s potential appeal to Latino voters (his wife is Mexican, and he speaks fluent Spanish) with executive experience, fundraising prowess, and the all the benefits (and burdens) of the Bush name. Likewise, if you want a more aggressive choice—someone with the chops it takes to beat Democrats and advance a conservative agenda—you have Walker…If you’re a conservative evangelical…there’s Cruz (and potentially Mike Huckabee)…if you want a more libertarian choice, there’s Paul. Rubio may appeal to every base, but every base is already covered.”

Crystal Wright’s editorial appearing on CNN laments the potential crowded field:

“Instead of sitting on the sidelines and helping the party win the White House with a small, electable candidate pool, Republicans are threatening to dive into 2016 like spawning salmon,” she writes.

“When the Republican nominee finally emerges in the middle of 2016, the public’s perception of him or her will be negative, like it was of Romney, because the candidate will have had to defend against accusations of being a RINO (Republican in Name Only) from ideologues like [Ted]Cruz.”

Wright’s comments concern Rubio, whose first order of business before launching a presidential bid was to offer a mea culpa on immigration reform that sets him right with the Party, but wrong on the issue.

However, these hurdles facing Rubio may not embody the challenges skeptics predict. While Jeb Bush (still unannounced) boasts the deepest pockets and a similar ecumenical appeal, Bush lacks popular support. Rand Paul must square many of his positions–especially on foreign intervention at a time when the GOP has reaffirmed its hawkish foreign policy views in the face of ISIS, Iranian nuclear talks, Russian aggression, and decline in Syria, Libya, Egypt and Yemen. Cruz’ short Senate tenure is marked by a long list of enemies within the GOP, and Walker may lack the appeal to Latino voters that the GOP wants to attract to the party.

In short, if Republicans take Wright’s advice and refrain from damaging each other in the primary, everyone comes out on top–possibly even Marco Rubio.

David Harsanyi writes:

“the most vital skill any candidate can have is the ability to transcend coverage and make his case to voters…is there any other Republican who could do that more effectively than Rubio?”

We shall see.