Note: Sorry I’ve been gone so long. Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday last week I was away, then while I was recovering from that my website was being migrated to another server. I should have been able to get in again on Sunday, but the WordPress software didn’t like the change, and it’s taken another 4½ days to get it up and running.
It’s Wednesday night in the US and this is the first of two CNN Town Halls ahead of the South Carolina primary on Saturday (US time). CNN’s Anderson Cooper, host of AC360 is to host both, which are in Greenville, South Carolina. This one features Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Ben Carson. Tomorrow night we’ll see Donald Trump, Jeb Bush and John Kasich
As usual, the Town Halls and Saturday’s primary are being touted as events that could change history. However, I remember the South Carolina debate in the lead up to the 2012 election. Newt Gingrich abused the media and won big. He announced confidently that he would be the GOP nominee and he couldn’t see how anyone else could win.
The Town Hall format is favourable to the candidates as they basically get to say what they want. They are asked questions of course, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen Ted Cruz in particular answer the question he’s asked. (I’m writing this bit before watching the Town Hall.) Especially if answering the question truthfully would portray him in a negative light, Cruz either lies, obfuscates, or answers a question he was not asked. Both Rubio and Trump have been directly accusing Cruz of lying over the last few days, and their accusations are true. However, neither is exactly squeaky clean in that direction, and when it comes to Trump, the word “hypocrite” comes to mind. However, we’ll leave him until tomorrow.
First up was Dr Ben Carson. I expected that – you always get the most boring guy out of the way first so not everyone leaves half way through the event. (I predict now that Trump will be the last up tomorrow night.)
Cooper asked Carson whether brain surgery or politics was harder. Carson gave the answer that brain surgery was a lot harder but (predictably again) he loved meeting the people. (The way he says “people” always sounds like “little people who aren’t as smart as I am” to me.) But, he added, it “hadn’t been so great dealing with … the media.” This is the problem with Carson – he spends a lot of time moaning and complaining.
Cooper then asked his opinion on the Apple case, where Apple are refusing a judge’s order to provide the data from the cell phone of one of the California terrorists. Carson suddenly stood up in the middle of his answer here, forcing Cooper to stand up too. I think he was trying to do what the Democratic candidates did in their Town Hall and connect more with the voters, but it just wasn’t natural coming from him, and he got the timing all wrong. Carson looked more relaxed perched on the high chair provided, and he should have stayed there. Anyway, he went on about the “people not necessarily trusting the government these days,” and having good reason not to trust them. So he played into the GOP voters hands. Then he told those same voters they had to “get over” that because “we’re faced with tremendous threats. … Apple needs to sit down with trustworthy members of the government,” he said, “and that may have to wait until the next election, I don’t know.”
Five minutes in, and if he had any supporters in that Hall, he’s probably lost them already. His comment about not liking the press shows in everything he says – everything is couched with something like a “necessarily,” or a “probably,” or a “maybe,” whether it’s needed or not. It makes him come across as indecisive, and that’s not going to win votes. It’s too late now, but Carson needs some media training. If he doesn’t bomb on Saturday, I’ll be very surprised.
Carson was then questioned on whether he would nominate someone to fill Justice Scalia’s seat if he were currently president. (Excellent way to ask the question Anderson!) Carson was honest enough to say that he “probably would take the opportunity to nominate someone.” That’s something you can say in Carson’s favour – for all his faults he is at least honest. Then he pointed out a whole lot of obvious things that were a waste of time such as it didn’t mean his nominee would be appointed, and how important the Supreme Court, and what they were there for, how partisan it has become. He went on about how the court has to become non-partisan again, but when Cooper asked him if he would apply a litmus test to judges, he said he would. Carson stated what he would look at and those things were the types of rulings they made, what their associations were, how they have lived their lives. Cooper specifically mentioned abortion, and Carson said he could find out what their opinions were by looking back at their lives. Carson even got a Bible verse in here: Matthew 7:20 – “By their fruit you shall know them.”
As Carson is anti-choice and has previously stated he would like Roe vs Wade overturned, he would clearly be looking for a judge with the same opinion. Despite insisting he wants to go back to a non-partisan Supreme Court, the way he would choose judges would continue the partisanship. Republican voters surely prefer a Supreme Court that rules according to their opinion, just as Democrats do, but Carson idea that everyone will sing Kumbayah just because he’s president is fantasy.
The first question from the audience was about how Carson reconciled Biblical teachings of looking after others with the current GOP stance. Carson rejected that the GOP stance was un-Biblical – he stated:
My stance is that we the people have a responsibility to take care if the indigent in our society. It’s not the government’s job. And if you can read the Constitution all you want, it never says it’s the government’s job, and I think that’s where we’ve gotten confused. In the old days in America when communities were separated by hundreds of miles, why were they able to thrive? Because if it was harvest time and the farmer was up in the tree picking apples and he fell out and broke his leg, everyone pitched in and harvested his crops for him. Somebody got killed by a bear – everybody took care of their family. So we have a history of taking care of each other.
Now for some strange reason starting in the ’20s with Woodrow Wilson, the government started getting involved in everything. It kept growing, metastasizing, and by the time you got to the ’50s LBG was saying, “We the government are going to eliminate poverty,” Now how did that work out? You know $19 trillion later, ten times the number of people on food stamps, more poverty, more welfare, broken homes, out-of-wedlock births, crime, incarceration. Everything is not only worse, it’s much worse. And that’s because it’s not their job, it’s our job.
I wish the government would read the Constitution. I think that would probably help quite a bit, and maybe they did read it, and maybe they got confused, when they read the preamble which says one of the duties is to promote the general welfare – they probably thought that meant putting everyone on welfare. (Laughs along with the audience.) But in fact, I don’t think it means that at all, and what we need to do is level the playing field, but the government play a very important role in facilitating what We The People do.
Let me give you one quick example. You know, look at all the out-of-wedlock births that are going on, particularly in the inner cities. I’ve been speaking at a lot of the non-profit organisations that support these women, so that they don’t have an abortion, so that they have the baby. But usually their education stops when they have that baby. Now if you not only support them through that pregnancy, but now provide childcare, for them so they can go back to school so they can get their GED, or their associate’s degree or their Bachelor’s degree or their Master’s degree, learn how to take care of themselves, teach their baby how to take care of themselves, so that you break the cycle of dependency, that’s the only way that we’re going to get through these programmes. That is true compassion – having people become dependent on others is not compassion at all.
That got a bit of weak applause, and it made me feel a bit ill.
The next questioner wanted evidence that Carson had what it took to be Commander-in-Chief, especially in relation to the Middle East. His answer was completely unconvincing. He presented himself as a problem solver, and tried to persuade everyone that running a paediatric surgery team gave him the transferable skills to be Commander-in-Chief.
Question three came from someone who has recently bought a gun because he felt the need to protect himself. He wanted to know Carson’s plan to protect his right to own a gun. Carson:
The 2nd Amendment is there for a very good reason. It was so that the people could assist the government in case of an invasion. More importantly, it was so that the people could protect themselves in case the government itself ever became tyrannical and tried to rule the people. So we’ve had guns for hundreds of years, and we’ve been free for hundreds of years. I think there may be a correlation there.
I think, you know, after the San Bernardino attacks and the Paris attacks, you know, the current administration their ideal of solving the problem was to take guns away from the people. Somehow that’s going to solve your problem – because there are terrorists trying to kill you, take your guns away. It makes absolutely no sense.
What they should be doing is offering free classes in gun safety to all of the citizens who want to take it so they can protect themselves. It is the fundamental right that we have to be able to protect ourselves, but we also need to take safety into account. And as long as we do that in a reasonable way, your right, my right, all of our rights should be preserved.
At this point, Anderson Cooper asked Carson if he had a gun. Carson responded in the affirmative. He said:
I don’t know that I felt a need to have a gun, but I liked having a gun. It’s a nice thing. You know I have multiple marksmanship awards from ROTC, and very much in favour of preserving those rights.
The fourth questioner wanted to know if Carson had a Big Idea to unite the country like Kennedy’s moon shot. Carson couldn’t answer that in the affirmative. He waffled on about multiple big ideas, and generalisations around things like education, reducing incarceration rates etc that are the same sort of thing that all candidates on both sides are talking about. There were no specifics on how he was going to achieve his goals.
Question five came from someone wanting to know whether Carson would be prepared to serve as Surgeon-General or head of Health and Human Services in the administration of one of his competitors. Carson stuffed up that one by starting off saying, “I’m not looking for a job.” Cooper sort of rescued him by saying, “Well, there is one job you’re looking for.” Carson continued:
After 15,000 operations and a very arduous career I’m definitely not just looking for something to do. I feel that our country is on a precipice and it’s about to go over the edge and if we continue with politics as usual, Democrats or Republicans, we are going to go over that edge. And I think we have to reach down and recognize that we can’t just tinker ’round the edges. We’re gonna have to have some real ideals here. Ideals of how we get that economic engine, which is the most powerful and dynamic economic engine that the world has ever known, rolling again.
I’ve got good ideas about that. BenCarson.com. I can explain them if anyone asks me that question, but you also, when we look at what’s happening to our nation in terms of our vision for who we are, I think we’re starting to lose sight of who we are. We are so busily giving away our identity, our values, and our principles, for the sake of political correctness, we don’t know who we are. And the Bible says, “Without a vision, the people perish.” So I have a vision that I share with a lot of ‘We the People’ and that’s the direction I want to go in. It would be very difficult for me to serve in an administration that didn’t have that same philosophy.
We’re having heavy rainstorms in Taumarunui today. The signal from my useless provider wasn’t strong enough and I got no more of Carson. I missed all of Rubio. I think I’ve got some Cruz, but I’m not sure if it’s enough to do a write-up.
Carson isn’t a strong candidate, and I doubt he can last much longer. If his result in South Carolina is as poor as I expect it will be, I expect he’ll suspend his campaign.