The Post Is At It Again

It doesn’t matter ultimately, and they’re entitled to whatever opinion they want, but it’s clear this morning that the Post isn’t satisfied to simply have an opinion – they want readers, particularly casual ones, to believe that everyone else shares their view. Which leads them to some pretty heavy duty cherry picking and deception.

Our favorite hack Chris Cillizza says Sanders won.

More than anything he said, though, it was the passion and disruption that Sanders oozed from every pore over the two hours that should push Democrats on the fence about the race into his camp. Sanders effectively positioned himself as the anti-status-quo candidate, a very good position to have in this electoral environment.

That paragraph makes no sense. Sanders has been oozing “passion and disruption” for eight months now, and yet Cillizza has judged Clinton the winner of every prior debate. Suddenly, he feels differently, and in conclusory fashion. What’s changed? My feeling: now that the consensus has shifted and Sanders is viewed as “having a shot,” Cillizza feels more comfortable judging Clinton more harshly on the debates, as he does in other areas.

And Clinton is the loser per Cillizza.

So, why is she in the loser column? Because she did nothing in the debate to slow the momentum that Sanders is building in Iowa and New Hampshire. Aside from guns, where Clinton scored a clean win against Sanders, she was unable to effectively cast him as a pie-in-the-sky idealist and herself as the only person who could truly fight  — and win on — for Democratic priorities.

What debate was Cillizza watching? On health care, on Sanders’ criticisms of President Obama and on his threats to run against Obama in 2012, Clinton scored direct hits on Sanders. Yes, he had some good moments, and I wouldn’t care if Cillizza believed Sanders won, but this idea that a debate is the place to “slow . . momentum” is just stupid.

Not, however, as stupid and quite frankly mendacious as the Post’s morning summary of opinions on the debate. The headline is “Bernie Sanders won the Democratic debate, say pundits and social media.” Well, I watched about a dozen talking heads on CNN – MSNBC was rerunning the debate, a stupid decision that left them out of the conversation – all say that Clinton won, and comfortably so. How did the Post deal with this? Ignore the talking heads and select a group of mostly people you’ve never heard of, plus a few Republicans, to create a false consensus. How bad was it? Instead of even a single one of the CNN talkers, the Post cites a tweet from a CNN producer: 

You think if Teddy Davis said Hiklsry Clinton won the debate that he’d have been quoted in the Washington Post this morning? Hahaha, sure. Right.

And since they couldn’t quote him saying Sanders won – because he didn’t say it – they quote the one thing former Obama svengali David Axelrod said all night that was critical of Clinton, ignoring his several tweets about other issues and the fact that he opined last night that Clinton won the debate.
Not five minutes earlier, Axelrod tweeted this, which the Post didn’t see fit to mention.


And again, David Axelrod believes Hillary Clinton won the debate. This kind of cherry picking to create a false impression of consensus is embarrassing for a high school journalist. For the Post to do it smacks of ulterior motives.

I’m not criticizing the Post for having a different opinion than mine. I’m criticizing them for reporting that there was a consensus of opinion on Chris Cillizza’s side of the issue when there wasn’t. The Post is entitled to its opinion, as I am to mine. What they’re not entitled to is to claim a false consensus to validate their opinion. Their reporting this morning of only pro-Sanders opinions is inaccurate to the point of mendaciousness. Here’s David Axelrod with a final – and accurate – assessment this morning.  

Debate Quick Takes

Clinton did a good job pinning down Sanders on guns and health care, as well as pointing out Sanders’ opposition to many Obama initiatives. Sanders scored some good points on Clinton’s connections to big money. O’Malley had a hard time getting a chance to speak but was very good on the few occasions he did.

Verdict: Sanders’ points will earn him prose from those who already support him. I don’t think he did a lot to persuade anyone who wasn’t already on his side. Clinton hit Sanders in way that will help persuade winnable voters. Advantage: Clinton on points. No knockout blows.

Trump Or Cruz: Who’d You Rather Face? 

It’s becoming increasingly clear that the GOP nominee is going to be either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz (or as the Post recently referred to them, syphillis or gonorrhea). So from the perspective of Democrats, who’d make the more favorable opponent? I vote for Trump. Ted Cruz may be unpleasant but he knows what it’s like to be a candidate, how it feels to be the subject of intense scrutiny and criticism. Trump doesn’t – at some point, he’s likely to simply lose his shit under the glare of the lights of a national campaign.

Dave Asche has a different view. Despite his being wrong, he’s a really good guy. Here’s his take on why Cruz is the opponent of choice.
I was talking with a friend the other night about a laundry list of issues before it eventually, of course, turned into a conversation about the current race for the White House. Of all the different topics we discussed about the election, one in particular stuck in my mind. And it is the question of whether Democrats would rather face Donald Trump or Ted Cruz in the general election.

 The first answer to pop in many people’s heads, is likely Trump. All Hillary (or Bernie) would have to do is play all of the offensive comments he has made about women, African Americans, Mexicans, Muslims, and POW’s, to name a few, on a loop throughout the summer and fall. But even with all of that in mind, I am coming around to the opinion that Trump would present a unique danger to the Democratic nominee and Cruz would be the easier opponent.

 Bear with me here. Donald Trump has almost unanimous name recognition. I realize Hillary Clinton is well known too, but if you were to ask the average American voter if they have heard of Trump or Clinton, my guess is Trump wins out. For better or worse, name recognition is major factor in winning elections.

 Second, Trump has an ingenious way of knowing how to probe for weakness in his opponents, and applying the pressure if and when the story starts to get legs. In the early part of the campaign, Trump hammered Jeb Bush for being weak, “low energy,” and simply not up to the job of being president. Primary voters started buying into the argument and, well, we have all seen Jeb’s poll numbers lately. He responded to Hillary’s charge of sexism by linking her to Bill Clinton’s well documented foibles and completely turned the story around on her. And he turned what most of us thought was a ridiculous issue about Ted Cruz’s eligibility, and put Cruz on the defensive for weeks. And he managed to reign in Cruz’s momentum in Iowa in the process.

 He knows how to get stories into the media, and thus, into the mainstream. He has very effective skills as an offensive puncher and a counterpuncher. Just imagine the effectiveness he will have attacking Hillary over sticking up for her husband during his affairs, Benghazi, and her email server at the State Department.

 Third, and perhaps most important, is while Trump is a billionaire CEO, it will be very hard to paint him as the 2016 version of Mitt Romney. Trump is not campaigning as the rich oligarch who bashes the poor or calls for privatizing entitlement programs. Yes, he is proposing massive tax cuts on the wealthy. He is a Republican afterall. But during this campaign he has railed against proposals to cut Social Security and Medicare. He even went as far as to say he and other rich people around the country should sacrifice their benefits so they go to working people.

 Trump has also been an opponent of free trade agreements. When he talks about how bad these agreements have been for the country and how they ship blue collar jobs overseas, Trump sounds more like Bernie Sanders than he does a rich conservative. His rantings against illegal immigration are tied to the same theme. That illegal immigrants are flocking across the border and taking good jobs away from hard working Americans. He is tapping into the populist, blue collar anger better than anybody in the GOP field right now and it is resonating with people. Does he sound like George Wallace while doing it? Yes. But to many people, it doesn’t matter.

 Ted Cruz on the other hand is the face of everything that is wrong with Washington. He led the government shutdown in 2013 and has been a lead GOP obstructionist on just about every piece of legislation making its way through Congress. The American people are tired of gridlock, and Ted Cruz is the best guy to link to it.

 In June of 2015 when the Supreme Court decided same sex marriage was legal, he called it one of the darkest days in American History. He is far to the right on other issues such as women’s health, taxes, regulations, guns, and to top it all off, he is a proud denier of the science behind climate change. An issue more and more Americans are seeing as a major problem.

 And while Trump is far from likeable, he can come off as affable and charming at times. Ted Cruz does not. He isn’t even liked by his colleagues in the Senate.

 Cruz has also shown he can be rattled when attacked. Aside from his response to Trump on the birther issue, in the last debate, Cruz was thrown off message and on the defensive when he was directly challenged. It was apparent as soon as Trump backhanded him on his New York values comments. His response to Marco Rubio’s opposition research on his immigration record come off as him being annoyed and again, on defense. The same goes for his answer to the questions about the undisclosed loans from his 2012 Senate campaign. Attacks on Cruz are far more effective than they are on Trump.

 None of this is to suggest I think Trump would definitely beat Clinton or Sanders in the general election. But if people really sit down and think about it, they should come to the realization that facing Trump would not be the cakewalk they have been led to believe it would be.

 Ted Cruz is the opponent the Democratic nominee should most want to face off against in November.

Dave Asche Grades The Debate

I gave quick grades last night that as it happens mainly coincide with Dave’s view. I’ll have more later today, but for right now I’ll throw in Politico Playbook’s lead paragraph this morning, an anonymous quote from a “smart Republican” on the debate:

PLAYBOOK IN-BOX – A smart Republican’s take on last night Fox Business debate: “To me the morning story is that if GOP was worried about Trump or Cruz on Monday, today they’re terrified. These two dominated the debate. … Cruz and Trump separated even further from pack … Rubio/Christie 3rd place draw, Jeb/Carson/Kasich might as well stay home. … [It’s] Cruz and Trump, rest fighting to stay alive. Sad – but true. … Trump has had his best debate performance to date. It pains me, but its true. … Marco was fine. Always looked polished. But Trump and Cruz controlled conversation … Marco had to interject to be involved …

“The party is starting to look like the banks on Wall Street did in April 2008: ‘What did we do?’ … There’s no fixing this — buckle up.”

That’s a cheering thought on a frosty Friday morning, hmmmm?

Anyway, here’s Dave:
The first GOP debate of 2016 was quite the show. With three weeks left until Iowans go to the polls, the seven candidates on stage tonight did not pull any punches. I think we can safely say the Cruz/Trump bromance is officially over.

 The first half of the debate featured the candidates fielding questions on how they would defeat ISIS. Their answers included policy proposals such as: telling everybody how awful Hillary Clinton is, how President Obama hates the US as a global power, a Benghazi reference, and some serious sabre rattling over Iran detaining 10 US sailors. I am not sure they heard the good news about said sailors being released a day later. Listening to them, you would think there was another Iranian Hostage crisis on our hands.

 The second half of the debate actually had some substantive arguments over tax policy, entitlements, and immigration. This was made easier by the fact there were only seven candidates on the stage tonight. Not 10 or more as we have seen in previous debates. It’s nice when candidates have a chance to actually speak for some length of time, is it not?

 As usual, this debate also featured its share of winners and losers. On to the debate grades.

 Chris Christie – A: Say what you want about Chris Christie, but he is a very skilled politician. His skills especially shine through in debate formats. Christie had a great night. His answers were polished and on message. He is clearly trying to portray himself as the anti-Washington grown up in the room and he is doing it to great effect. His best moment of the night was getting in the middle of the “debate on the Senate floor” and actually answering a question on entitlement reform. Rubio and Cruz took the same question and turned it into an argument about the VAT tax.

 Christie will likely earn some good press with this performance. If he can continue with his blue collar “tell it like it is” theme that worked so well for him in two elections in New Jersey, he could win the Establishment Primary in New Hampshire and maybe give Trump a run for his money there too.

 Donald Trump – A-: I think this was Donald’s best debate performance to date. Sure he had some Trumpisms. He’s Donald Trump afterall. But he clearly won the exchange with Ted Cruz over “New York Values” by reminding people how the city came together after 9/11. And his answer on not caring about his business once he is president, because he’ll be focused on Making America Great again, was very good as well.

 The only reason I have him an A- was due to the fact Ted Cruz wiped the floor with him on the birther exchange. And it wasn’t close. Trump was the frontrunner coming into the debate and he did nothing to hurt his standing tonight.

 Ted Cruz – B+: As usual, Ted Cruz proved to be a very capable debater. The aforementioned exchange with Trump over his eligibility will likely quiet the noise surrounding the issue. His campaign has been losing steam over the last few weeks as a result of it and stopping the bleeding is exactly what Cruz needed to do.

 However, it’s becoming pretty apparent that attacks tend to get under his skin a little bit. His answer to the question on his failure to disclose a 2012 loan from Goldman Sachs was a meandering line of excuses and attacks on Hillary and the “liberal” New York Times. And he was clearly annoyed and on the defensive after Marco Rubio dumped a truckload of opposition research on him about his flip-flops on immigration. It won’t hurt him in the short term, but you can bet other candidates have noticed this and will start to needle him more often.

Marco Rubio – B: I’ve said it a thousand times, but he is the most talented politician in this race. His answers are usually well timed and very well delivered. That being said, he gives the same memorized answers over and over again. I am waiting for one of these candidates to ask him “where’s the beef?” like Walter Mondale did to Gary Hart in 1984. He is not great when pressed on his answers and that reared its head when he gave a very weak answer to moderator Neil Cavuto’s fact check on his assertion that President Obama wants to take everybody’s guns.

 However, he more than made up for that slip up when he launched a full frontal assault on Ted Cruz’s record on immigration and national security. It put Cruz on defense and deflected the immigration issue, clearly his biggest vulnerability, away from him. So he certainly did not hurt himself tonight. But I am beginning to wonder if Rubio is just a slick talker and not much else. In other words, is he just another John Edwards?

 Jeb Bush and John Kasich – C: Both of them needed breakout moments tonight and neither came close to delivering. Kasich gave long, meandering, yet substantive answers that focused more on the 1990s than anything else. I’m not sure why he thinks it helps him. It makes him seem like a relic of the past.

 Jeb Bush had a couple of good moments. His rebuttal to Trump on his proposed Muslim ban was very good, and I think he gave one of the better closing statements of the night. But aside from that he was very “meh.” Debates are just not his strong suit.

 These two are clearly in the back of the pack among the four establishment candidates. They would have made great GOP candidates in 1996; but in 2016, the voters just do not seem to be buying what they are selling. As I said previously, I don’t expect either of these two to be in the race after the New Hampshire primary.

 Ben Carson – D+: Remember the scene in Tommy Boy where Chris Farley is overcome with excitement when he finally passed his college class by the skin of his teeth? I bet those same feelings are permeating in what remains of the Ben Carson campaign. He had some pretty good one-liners early in the night and actually seemed awake throughout the entire debate. That alone earns him a passing grade in my book. Aside from that, he was still the meandering blank slate we have grown accustomed to seeing. I have yet to hear a convincing reason as to why he is still in the race?

 Bottom line, I don’t see too much changing after tonight in terms of where the polls stand. It’ll still be Cruz and Trump locked in a tight race in Iowa, and Trump will maintain his lead in New Hampshire. The only change I can see coming is Rubio and Christie starting to separate themselves a little bit from Kasich and Bush in the New Hampshire polls.

 18 more days until Iowa. It is only going to get more exciting from here.

GOP Debate

30 second analysis: Trump wins, Cruz second, Christie third. Rubio was manic, maybe on amphetamines. Bush was better but that’s a low bar. Kasich was annoying and Carson was atrocious. No great changes likely from this event. More tomorrow.

O’Malley Invited To Sunday Debate

It really shouldn’t have been a question, and it took far too long to resolve, but former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley has been invited by NBC to participate in the Sunday night debate in Charleston.

NBC News invited all three Democratic presidential candidates to debate Sunday night in Charleston, S.C., including Martin O’Malley.

There had been some doubt whether O’Malley would be included under polling criteria announced by NBC last week, but the network included the former Maryland governor, along with Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, when it made its formal announcement Thursday.

There’s only THREE of them. This shouldn’t have been hard. I understand it when there were 17 GOP candidates in the clown car, and even now, six is a lot. Up to a point, more is better – bring in different ideas, voices, opinions. I’m glad O’Malley’s going to be there. 

Ted Cruz Is Not A Natural Born Citizen

I’m not a birther, but as the Cruz situation has evolved, as a lawyer I’ve been uncomfortable with the arguments put forth asserting that “of course” Cruz is eligible to be president. The term “natural born citizen,” used in the Constitution, but not in any immigration or naturalization statute since 1795, has to mean something different than “citizen” or “naturalized citizen,” because after the Constitution was established, it was recognized that  a child born abroad to one or even two US citizen parents still needed to be naturalized before accruing all the rights of citizenship. While this is not true anymore, it shows that in the early years of this country, the only way to be a citizen at birth was to be born here. 

Finally, someone has put forth a coherent and persuasive legal argument picking up the points I mention above, as well as several more. Is Ted Cruz a citizen? Yes. Was he a citizen at birth? By way of the laws enacted on the subject beginning in the 19th century, yes. Was he a “natural born citizen” for purposes of the constitutional requirement to be president? No. Thus says Widener University’s Delaware Law School constitutional law professor Mary Brigid McManamon.

Donald Trump is actually right about something: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) is not a natural-born citizen and therefore is not eligible to be president or vice president of the United States.

The Constitution provides that “No person except a natural born Citizen . . . shall be eligible to the Office of President.” The concept of “natural born” comes from common law, and it is that law the Supreme Court has said we must turn to for the concept’s definition. On this subject, common law is clear and unambiguous. The 18th-century English jurist William Blackstone, the preeminent authority on it, declared natural-born citizens are “such as are born within the dominions of the crown of England,” while aliens are “such as are born out of it.” The key to this division is the assumption of allegiance to one’s country of birth. The Americans who drafted the Constitution adopted this principle for the United States. James Madison, known as the “father of the Constitution,” stated, “It is an established maxim that birth is a criterion of allegiance. . . . [And] place is the most certain criterion; it is what applies in the United States.”

For those of you who are gluttons for detailed legal wankery, the op-ed in the Post is based on and drawn from the author’s 2014 law review article on the subject. By the standards of law review articles, I will say that it is one of the more accessible, and understandable to a lay audience, articles I have ever read.

Full disclosure: for those who want to read the earlier article that McManamon (convincingly in my view) disagrees with, it is here. One of the things that disturbed me as this issue bubbled up was the vehemence with which so many commentators rushed to judgment – see Jonathan Adler last week here (only “folks on the fringe” question Cruz’s eligibility and “there is no question about” his eligibility). This is what happens when uncomfortable questions arise that “respectable” journalists and others don’t want to be taken seriously. Define the questioners as “out of bounds” for even asking the question and hope like hell the issue goes away.

I’ll say this – as a lawyer, I’ve won far worse legal arguments than this one. I’d be more than comfortable walking into a courtroom with McManamon’s article as my argument. I can’t promise I’d win – there would be an enormous interest in defining the problem away for many like Adler and others – but it’s a solid, well-grounded and well-reasoned argument. And I for one happen to think it’s the better argument.

Not Even Pretending

As the presidential primaries crash headlong toward the first votes in three weeks, our pal Chris Cillizza has dropped any pretense of objectivity, today speculating about a Sanders sweep of both Iowa and New Hampshire. His fig leaf basis for indulging this fantasy scenario this is two polls yesterday, one showing Hillary Clinton leading in Iowa by 48-45 and the other showing Sanders leading in New Hampshire by 50-46. From this, Cillizza gushes:

Consider two polls conducted by the Wall Street Journal, NBC and Marist College in Iowa and New Hampshire that were released Sunday. In Iowa, Clinton has 48 percent, Sanders has 45 percent, and former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley has 5 percent. In New Hampshire, it’s Sanders in the lead with 50 percent, with 46 percent for Clinton and 1 percent for O’Malley.

Even if you accept that these surveys are a snapshot in time and take a step back to look at the broader polling picture, the idea of Sanders sweeping the first two states remains plausible.

Ummm, not really. As Cillizza acknowledges deeper into the article, the NBC/WSJ poll in Iowa is out of whack with the trend line in Iowa which shows Clinton with a larger lead. Her lead in the Real Clear Politics average in Iowa is 10.6 points. The new poll is the closest of the five being used in the current average. Sanders has not led an Iowa poll since early September, and out of 43 polls in the state since late April, he has led in precisely two of them.

In New Hampshire on the other hand, Sanders’ RCP lead is a mere 4.7 points, Clinton leads two of the most recent polls, and she’s led in 16 out of 35 polls since early May. Sanders’ current lead is the product of one poll – by Fox News – showing him with a  13 point lead in early January. But at the same time, the new NBC/WSJ poll shows Sanders ahead by 4, while Clinton leads by 3 in a PPP poll.

From all this data, Cillizza spins out a “nightmare scenario” of Clinton losing both Iowa and New Hampshire. If anything, however, the data argues for precisely the opposite – if Sanders can’t win in either Iowa or New Hampshire, he’s pretty much done. And the chances of him losing New Hampshire are growing with each new poll recently.

But that’s not the story that Chris Cillizza wants to tell. What he suggests certainly isn’t impossible, but absent his transparent cherry picking of a single poll this morning, there’s no evidence to indicate that it’s any more likely now than it was a week or a month ago. Leading me to wonder why this story wasn’t headlined “Sanders lead slipping in New Hampshire.”

Actually, upon 2.3 seconds of reflection, I don’t wonder at all. Chris Cillizza is a hack.

I Think I’ll Take The Over On This One

Economist Arthur Lafferty, the “brains” behind discredited theories of increasing revenue through tax cuts (the Laffer curve)’ yesterday predicted a GOP landslide in the 2016 general election. Given his track record in economics, I’m not exactly sure why anyone should care what he says about elections.

Supply-side economist Arthur Laffer is predicting Republicans will win the White House in a landslide this year, regardless of the nominee.

“I would be surprised if the Republicans don’t take 45, 46, 47 states out of the 50,” Laffer told host John Catsimatidis on “The Cats Roundtable” on New York’s AM-970 on Sunday. 

“I mean, I think we’re going to landslide this election.”

Laffer, who served in various positions in the Nixon, Ford and Reagan administrations, said he is bullish on the entire Republican primary field.

“When I look at these candidates, I don’t see one of them who wouldn’t do a great job as president,” he said.

“I think Donald Trump is phenomenal, I think Rand Paul has done a great job, I even like Jeb Bush — I think Jeb Bush is great, he did a wonderful job in Florida,” he added. “Chris Christie – phenomenal.”

He said Democratic primary front-runner Hillary Clinton’s “day is over.”

“She would be defeated handily. I don’t think Hillary’s going to win this election no matter whom she runs against,” he said. “I mean, Hillary’s day is over.

“I think she’s a very impressive person, she’s very articulate, very well educated, got a great resume and all of that, but her policies are not good. And it’s about issues, not about people, and her day has gone,” he added.

I’ll take the over on Laffer’s five state prediction with great confidence. Putting aside his glowing tributes to Donald Trump and Rand Paul, not to mention Jeb Bush, and based on the fun to play with map here, I’d say the likely Democratic is 19 states with 247 electoral votes. You can quibble with that a bit if you’re so inclined, but getting from 19 to five or fewer states is pretty much delusional. But for a guy whose whole career is based on a curve he drew on a napkin in 1974, delusional is probably just about right.