Friday, September 30, 2016

'Stop and frisk' and the presidential campaign

A brouhaha involving police “stop and frisk” policies has erupted since the presidential debate. In a moment reminiscent of Candy Crowley’s exchange with Mitt Romney from 2012, moderator Lester Holt and Hillary Clinton faced off against Donald Trump over Trump’s stance in favor of “stop and frisk” searches. Holt and Clinton claimed that the tactic was ruled unconstitutional while Trump argued that it was not.

Both sides were correct in their statements, but the bottom line is that “stop and frisk” is constitutional. Factcheck.org explains that in Terry v. Ohio (1968) the Supreme Court found that “stop and frisk” was constitutional when there was a “reasonable suspicion.” Trump was correct on this point. Clinton and Holt were correct that a U.S. District Court judge found that the way New York applied the “stop and frisk” tactic was unconstitutional. Holt and Clinton were correct that the New York searches were ruled unconstitutional, but not the tactic itself.

The story doesn’t end there, however. The Wall Street Journal pointed out that, as Trump said, New York appealed the decision and was granted a stay of the injunction. The Journal notes that such a stay is a good indication that, in the court’s opinion, the lower court ruling is likely to be reversed. The appeals court never ruled on the issue because New York mayor Bill De Blasio took office and changed NYPD policy to stop the searches.

Donald Trump was right on the facts in this case, but a larger question is why “stop and frisk” is an issue in the presidential campaign at all. The tactic would be more appropriately discussed in state and local elections since the federal government does not operate a national police force that conducts routine patrolling of urban neighborhoods.

In essence, the debate becomes one of the expansion of presidential power into local policing. It is by constitutional design that the federal government is separate from the NYPD and other local police forces. The president does not and should not have a role in telling local law enforcement what tactics they should use in their own communities.

Some believe that federal control of local police has been a goal of the Obama Administration. Lance Eldridge of the Police One blog points out that the federal government exercises control over local police by lawsuits that directly affect police procedures. More insidious, Eldridge continues, “federal intervention is through the use of federal grant money, which in turn demands that receiving departments comply with federal standards of implementation and accountability.” As local police become more dependent on federal funds, the federal government exerts more control.

The framers of the Constitution limited the role of the federal government and reserved most governmental powers to the states. The power to determine the tactics of local police forces is not one of the delegated powers of the Constitution. The basis for federalism is that leaders at the state and local level are best equipped to know and determine what policies work best for their communities.

In pushing “stop and frisk,” Donald Trump scored a rare victory on the facts, but nevertheless loses on the basis of exceeding the president’s constitutional authority. President Trump would have no legal ability to force police departments to use his preferred tactic. Under the separation of powers, he would not even be able to influence courts to rule in favor of “stop and frisk.”

In the end, the debate is likely to hurt Trump more than help him. Trump has tried to make appeals to the black community, but promoting “stop and frisk” may backfire. A 2013 Quinnipiac poll found that 67 percent of black New Yorkers opposed the tactic. Last week, a Morning Consult poll found voters nearly split on the issue, but did not offer a racial breakdown.

Given the unpopularity of “stop and frisk among black voters, Trump may have damaged his already tenuous appeal to minority voters with his backing of the strategy. The damage was unnecessary since President Trump would have little, if any, authority to carry out his program of expanded police stops.

Originally published on The Resurgent  



  

'Stop and frisk' and the presidential campaign

A brouhaha involving police “stop and frisk” policies has erupted since the presidential debate. In a moment reminiscent of Candy Crowley’s exchange with Mitt Romney from 2012, moderator Lester Holt and Hillary Clinton faced off against Donald Trump over Trump’s stance in favor of “stop and frisk” searches. Holt and Clinton claimed that the tactic was ruled unconstitutional while Trump argued that it was not.

Both sides were correct in their statements, but the bottom line is that “stop and frisk” is constitutional. Factcheck.org explains that in Terry v. Ohio (1968) the Supreme Court found that “stop and frisk” was constitutional when there was a “reasonable suspicion.” Trump was correct on this point. Clinton and Holt were correct that a U.S. District Court judge found that the way New York applied the “stop and frisk” tactic was unconstitutional. Holt and Clinton were correct that the New York searches were ruled unconstitutional, but not the tactic itself.

The story doesn’t end there, however. The Wall Street Journal pointed out that, as Trump said, New York appealed the decision and was granted a stay of the injunction. The Journal notes that such a stay is a good indication that, in the court’s opinion, the lower court ruling is likely to be reversed. The appeals court never ruled on the issue because New York mayor Bill De Blasio took office and changed NYPD policy to stop the searches.

Donald Trump was right on the facts in this case, but a larger question is why “stop and frisk” is an issue in the presidential campaign at all. The tactic would be more appropriately discussed in state and local elections since the federal government does not operate a national police force that conducts routine patrolling of urban neighborhoods.

In essence, the debate becomes one of the expansion of presidential power into local policing. It is by constitutional design that the federal government is separate from the NYPD and other local police forces. The president does not and should not have a role in telling local law enforcement what tactics they should use in their own communities.

Some believe that federal control of local police has been a goal of the Obama Administration. Lance Eldridge of the Police One blog points out that the federal government exercises control over local police by lawsuits that directly affect police procedures. More insidious, Eldridge continues, “federal intervention is through the use of federal grant money, which in turn demands that receiving departments comply with federal standards of implementation and accountability.” As local police become more dependent on federal funds, the federal government exerts more control.

The framers of the Constitution limited the role of the federal government and reserved most governmental powers to the states. The power to determine the tactics of local police forces is not one of the delegated powers of the Constitution. The basis for federalism is that leaders at the state and local level are best equipped to know and determine what policies work best for their communities.

In pushing “stop and frisk,” Donald Trump scored a rare victory on the facts, but nevertheless loses on the basis of exceeding the president’s constitutional authority. President Trump would have no legal ability to force police departments to use his preferred tactic. Under the separation of powers, he would not even be able to influence courts to rule in favor of “stop and frisk.”

In the end, the debate is likely to hurt Trump more than help him. Trump has tried to make appeals to the black community, but promoting “stop and frisk” may backfire. A 2013 Quinnipiac poll found that 67 percent of black New Yorkers opposed the tactic. Last week, a Morning Consult poll found voters nearly split on the issue, but did not offer a racial breakdown.

Given the unpopularity of “stop and frisk among black voters, Trump may have damaged his already tenuous appeal to minority voters with his backing of the strategy. The damage was unnecessary since President Trump would have little, if any, authority to carry out his program of expanded police stops.

Originally published on The Resurgent  



  

Is Trump really better than Hillary?

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As we wind down to the final weeks before the election, a large percentage of voters remain undecided on whether to vote for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton or someone else. Unlike previous elections, many undecided voters are educated, savvy conservatives who have not committed to Donald Trump, a Wall Street Journal analysis reported. Like me, many of these voters are repelled by both candidates.

Donald Trump may not be perfect, the argument goes, he may say silly and offensive things, but he’s still better than Hillary Clinton. It’s true that the one thing that Donald Trump has going for him is that he isn’t Hillary, but that doesn’t mean that he is necessarily better than Hillary. As we learned from Barack Obama in 2008, “change” doesn’t always mean “better.” Let’s look closer at Mr. Trump to find out whether he truly is the lesser evil.

My problems with Trump can be boiled down to three areas: character, policy and judgment. It isn’t just that Trump says silly and insulting things. He seems to be a genuinely bad and untrustworthy person.  On many levels, his character flaws are astonishingly similar to those of Hillary Clinton. His ideas are as flawed and half-formed as his character, often seemingly thrown out on a whim, only to be retracted or disavowed later. Likewise, Trump’s judgment is quick, brash and often wrong.

Uncharacteristically bad

The most obvious character flaw of both candidates is their propensity for lying. Their relationships with the truth are so nebulous that they both lie about small, stupid, easily disprovable things. They lie even when they don’t have to. The Daily Wire compiled a list of 101 of Trump’s lies, hardly all inclusive, and, after analyzing his speeches, found that, on average, he lied every five minutes. In 2015, after half a year in politics, Politifact gave Trump the “Lie of the Year” award, not for one specific fib as it did for President Obama, but for lifetime achievement. The sheer volume of Trump falsehoods floods the zone of anyone trying to keep him honest.

Trump’s fundamental untrustworthiness is underscored by corruption that also rivals that of the Clintons. The most famous instance of Trump’s corruption is the Trump University case where Trump stands accused of being a literal con man who bilked novice real estate investors out of tens of thousands of dollars of their hard-earned money. That is not the full extent of his corruption, however.

Trump has a long history of using eminent domain, the government seizure of private property, to take homes from the poor to build or expand his luxury properties. In one famous case, Trump tried to use eminent domain to bulldoze the home of Vera Coking, an elderly widow, in order to build a parking lot for his Trump Plaza hotel and casino in Atlantic City. Trump lost that case in court.

The Trump Plaza was one of several Trump casinos that went bankrupt in the early 1990s, leaving investors and creditors on the hook for most of the losses. Trump’s casinos were funded with debt that left them unprofitable when most casinos were thriving. Trump also left a trail of unpaid bills from contractors and employees in his wake, according to an investigation by USA Today. Among the people he allegedly stiffed were bartenders, waiters and other hourly employees who sued Trump – and won –  for unpaid wages.

In 1973, Trump and his father were named as defendants in a suit by the federal government for violations of the Fair Housing Act. The charge was segregating the company’s rental buildings by refusing to rent to minorities like Maxine Brown, a 33-year-old black nurse. A New York Times investigation found a long list of racial complaints against Trump Management on file at the New York Commission on Human Rights. The Trumps settled and agreed to desegregate their buildings in 1973.

In spite of having illegal immigration as a signature issue, Trump also has a long record of violating immigration law at his companies. In the 1980s, Trump used illegal Polish immigrants on construction projects. Several former models have also accused Trump of exploiting them and hiring them to work without U.S. work visas. The women say that Trump Model Management taught them how to circumvent U.S. immigration and labor laws. As recently as last year, many Hispanic workers on at least one Trump construction project were reported to be illegal aliens.

Trump also has a corrupt foundation to compete with the corrupt Clinton Foundation. In a serious scandal that is just emerging, the Donald J. Trump Foundation made an illegal payment of $25,000 to Florida attorney general Pam Bondi a few days before she decided not to pursue a case against Trump University. Shortly after the decision, Trump held another fundraiser for Bondi at his Mar-a-Lago mansion. The Trump Foundation also gave $100,000 to a group that sued the New York attorney general who sued Trump over Trump University.

Numerous reports indicate that Trump has invested little in his charity foundation yet has profited handsomely from it. The Washington Post found that Trump used the Trump Foundation’s charitable funds as his own piggybank. Trump used charity funds to settle a legal dispute with the city of Palm Beach, Florida. The agreement had stipulated that Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club would pay for the settlement. Trump also used charity funds, which were almost entirely donated by others, to buy portraits of himself and advertise his hotels.

If that were not enough, Trump is accused of having ties to the mafia resulting from his use of mob-owned firms in construction projects and his days as an Atlantic City casino operator. Trump also took $150,000 from a September 11 fund earmarked to help small businesses recover from the attack. Trump said that the payment was for helping victims of the attack, but the New York Daily News found that the funds were issued for “rent loss,” “cleanup” and “repair.”

Trump and Hillary both share a lack of character that is disturbing to see in a possible president. Further, the scale of corruption is not an indication of who is more corrupt. As Jesus said, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much” (Luke 16:10). One bit of corruption makes a person completely corrupt.

Left of center

Even if Trump’s character is just as bad as Hillary’s, who has no shortage of corruption and incompetence charges herself, it might still be tempting to vote for Trump if he could be trusted, under close supervision, to enact a broad agenda of conservative reform. What does Trump stand for?

Several issues stand out where most reluctant Trump supporters say he is preferable to Hillary Clinton. Unlike Hillary, they say, Trump won’t threaten the Second Amendment or raise taxes. He’s better on religious liberty and abortion, they argue. Is he?

On many issues Trump is incoherent and the Second Amendment is no exception. CNN chronicles his “evolution” on gun control. Prior to running for president, Trump supported assault weapons bans and waiting periods. Even today, Trump takes the Democrat position that people on TSA watch lists should be banned from buying guns. In contrast, Hillary supports expanding background checks and reinstating the same assault weapons ban that Trump supported before he ran for president.

On taxes, the Trump campaign has advanced a plan that would cut income taxes, but at the same time he has left open the possibility of another tax increase, saying last May,” “I am willing to pay more, and you know what, the wealthy are willing to pay more.” Trump has refused to reveal exactly how much he does pay in taxes. In August, he revised his tax plan with higher rates than he had proposed in the primary. Clinton has proposed a bevy of tax hikes that would fall primarily on wealthy Americans and businesses.

Often not discussed as taxes are Trump’s tariffs, huge tax increases on trade. Trump bragged that his views on trade were “very similar” to those of Bernie Sanders. Trump’s massive tariffs on trade with Mexico, China and Japan and the possible destruction of NAFTA, one of the most successful trade agreements in history, would be devastating. Trump’s trade policy would make items more expensive for American consumers and businesses. One study found that Trump’s tariffs would cost Americans more than $11,000 per year. This is much more than they would save from income tax rate cuts. The Wall Street Journal, the most conservative paper in the country, found that Trump’s trade policy would likely start a trade war and fuel a recession that could cost 5 million jobs.

On religious liberty, Trump was the sole Republican of the final four not to pledge to sign the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA) to protect gay marriage dissidents from federal action. Trump was critical of Kentucky county clerk, Kim Davis, for her faith-based refusal to issue same-sex marriage licenses. When asked about protections for Christian businesses in a meeting with evangelical leaders, Donald Wildman said, “Either he doesn’t understand it or he doesn’t agree with us and he doesn’t want to tell us that.” Trump’s main focus in the battle for religious liberty seems to be allowing churches to endorse candidates without losing their tax-exempt status.

On the subject of abortion, Trump is particularly incoherent. As late as March, Trump was praising abortion provider Planned Parenthood and was the sole Republican to resist cutting funding for the group. Trump may have set a personal best for flip-flops when he took five different positions on abortion in three days. Most recently, two months before Election Day Trump reinvented himself as a staunch abortion opponent.

The flip-flops and liberal positions don’t stop there. Trump said that he wants to repeal Obamacare. The hitch is that he has said he wants to replace it with government-funded, universal healthcare.

On spending and the debt, Trump said just last month that “this is a time to borrow.” Trump would use those borrowed funds on an infrastructure stimulus spending package that is twice as big as the one that Hillary proposes. Entitlements are the largest driver of deficit spending, yet Trump refuses to consider entitlement reform.

For those who would like to see pro-business regulatory reform, Trump does not look promising. He has advocated more banking regulation by reviving the New Deal-era Glass-Steagall Act, which prohibited banks from diversifying into insurance. He also unveiled a plan to require businesses to offer paid maternity leave, a tax-and-spend plan to be paid for through state unemployment taxes.

On the economy, Trump did a full flip-flop with a half twist when he suddenly decided to back another progressive position and call for an increase to the minimum wage. Trump advocates an increase in the federal minimum wage to $10 per hour. In the past, he has advocated a minimum wage as high as $15 per hour while also arguing that “wages are too high.”

Trump dislikes other treaties in addition to NAFTA. He has threatened to reconsider American defense alliances with both NATO countries and South Korea. In spite of Trump’s criticism of Obama’s not-a-treaty with Iran, he has no plans to scrap the nuclear deal. When it comes to fighting ISIS, Trump’s call for attacks with aircraft and drones and the establishment of a coalition are essentially the same strategy that President Obama has employed.

What makes Trump especially dangerous…

Trump is a liar and a man of poor character. He also does not exhibit core principles and tends to default to leftist positions. So does Hillary. But wait, as they might say in a Trump University infomercial, there’s more! Donald Trump displays several difficulties that are so uniquely bad that they should disqualify him from the presidency, even if the only other alternative is Hillary Clinton. Many of these problems stem from Trump’s poor judgment.

When most people think of Trump’s lack of judgment, they think of things like how he mocked a disabled reporter or set about with the character assassination of the parents of a fallen American soldier. In reality, his errors in judgment go far beyond such trivialities to attacks on civil liberties and statements that would be matters of war and peace if he were president.

In statements reminiscent of Barack Obama, Trump threatened Washington Post and Amazon owner Jeff Bezos with an antitrust investigation after the Post assigned 20 reporters to investigate The Donald. Trump also has said that he wants to “open up” libel laws to make it easier to sue the press.

Those who dislike President Obama’s abuse of his executive authority to bypass Congress, should expect more of the same from Donald Trump. Trump has said that Obama “led the way” on Executive Orders and that he is “going to do a lot of things” with executive actions.

Trump’s embrace of conspiracy theories also sets him apart from other politicians. Trump has advocated theories ranging from birtherism to 9/11 trutherism to the bizarre claim that Ted Cruz’s father was involved in the Kennedy assassination. Trump is either very gullible or cynically exploits believers in conspiracy theories for publicity. Perhaps both.

It may be Trump’s poor judgment that garnered his endorsement from ISIS. Yes, the terrorist group ISIS has expressed support for Trump according to multiple sources cited in “Time.” One ISIS supporter said, “The ‘facilitation’ of Trump’s arrival in the White House must be a priority for jihadists at any cost!!!” [emphasis his]. “I ask Allah to deliver America to Trump,” wrote another.


From the Middle East to Mexico, where Trump refused to rule out the possibility of going to war over payment for his wall, Trump’s errors of judgment are the product of willful ignorance and a bully mentality. Interestingly, the bully backed down when he actually met Mexican President Nieto face-to-face, only to launch a salvo of bombast when he was safely back across the border in Arizona.

The final two problems between Trump ‘s judgment are egregious. Either one should disqualify a candidate even without the consideration of any other issue.

First, Trump’s affinity for Vladimir Putin is na├»ve and dangerous. Trump’s admiration for Putin is seen in his campaign staffing and may have impacted his proposed foreign policy on Ukraine. Trump has surrounded himself with pro-Putin advisors such as Paul Manafort, Carter Page and Michael Flynn. There is strong evidence that the Russians are trying to influence the election on behalf of Trump. Donald Trump has an obvious blind spot when dealing with Vladimir Putin and Russia that could be dangerous. In fact, Trump’s affinity for Putin is already making the precarious situation in the Ukraine worse.

In the first presidential debate, Trump became the first person to ever seriously suggest that Iran could be used to rein in North Korea. Trump was apparently not aware that the two rogue nations have long cooperated on their missile and nuclear programs.

Finally, there is the fact that Trump has openly advocated political violence on numerous occasions. In my near-half century, I cannot remember a single candidate who has encouraged his supporters to “rough up” political opponents as Trump did. Trump also made a veiled threat that there would be “riots” if Republicans contested his nomination at the convention. Violence has been mostly absent from American politics since the 1968 riots at the Democratic convention in Chicago. Until Trump. For that reason alone, he cannot be trusted with power.

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are both poor choices. They are both progressive. They are both liars. They are both corrupt. The both have poor judgment. They would both be destructive for America.


Originally published on The Resurgent

GOP will likely keep control of Senate


A possible bright spot for Republicans this election year are Senate races. Once widely believed to be ripe for a Democratic takeover, the Senate looks likely to remain in Republican hands, although the Republican majority will almost certainly be diminished. Even though Donald Trump is struggling in the presidential race, voter dissatisfaction with Trump does not appear to be trickling down to most Republican Senate candidates.

This year Republicans are defending 24 Senate seats while Democrats only defend 10. This gives a structural advantage to Democrats. Half of the Republican seats were considered safe from the outset, while seven Democrat seats are safe. Six Republican seats were considered at risk, rated as either tossups or leaning Democrat. Only the Nevada seat of Harry Reid, who is retiring, is considered a possible Republican pickup.

Many defending Republicans are members of the Tea Party class of 2010 and are up for reelection for the first time. These candidates were part of a wave and may have won office in states that are not typically as conservative as the Republican Party. This could give another edge to Democrat challengers.

The current division of the Senate is 54 Republicans to 46 Democrats (including two independents who caucus with Democrats). The Democrats would need a net pickup of five seats to win control of the Senate.

Here are summaries for the six threatened Republican seats:
  • ·         In Florida, Marco Rubio has established a six-point lead in the Real Clear Politics average over Democrat Patrick Murphy. At this point, the state is leaning Republican.
  • ·         In Illinois, Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D) has a slight lead over Republican incumbent Mark Kirk. Many analysts consider the race a tossup, but given the status of Illinois as a deep blue state, this seat will probably be a Republican loss.
  • ·         In New Hampshire, incumbent Kelly Ayotte has a margin of error lead over Gov. Maggie Hassan. The race must be considered a tossup.
  • ·         In Ohio, where Donald Trump is performing better than expected, incumbent Rob Portman has established a double-digit lead over former governor Ted Strickland. Republicans are likely to hold Portman’s seat.
  • ·         In Pennsylvania, Pat Toomey is in a dead heat with Katie McGinty, a former business executive and lobbyist who ran an unsuccessful campaign for governor in 2014.
  • ·         In Wisconsin, Ron Johnson is being challenged by the Democrat that he unseated in 2010, Russ Feingold. Feingold leads by an average of 10 points. This seat will almost certainly be a Republican loss.

As the campaign unfolded, other Republican seats were threatened as well. Seats previously considered safe in Georgia, North Carolina and Missouri became very close in polling over the summer. At this point, Johnny Isakson seems safe with a double-digit lead in Georgia. Roy Blunt has a slight lead in Missouri, but the race should still be considered a tossup since the most recent poll shows a nine-point shift toward Democrat Jason Kander. The North Carolina average is a dead heat with the most recent polls show Republican Richard Burr trailing Democrat Deborah Ross. The Charlotte riots and North Carolina’s gender bathroom controversy may be impacting the race as polling shows a 10-point swing in the past week.

The sole Democratic seat vulnerable to a Republican takeover is the Nevada seat of Minority Leader Harry Reid. Republican Joe Heck, a congressman, is facing Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto, the state attorney general. This race is also a tossup with Heck with a 4-point lead in the Real Clear Politics average.

Democrats are favored in Illinois and Wisconsin for two of the five seats required to win the Senate. There are four remaining tossup races in Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. Democrats would need to win three of these four tossups, as well as holding Nevada, to take control.

Given the unusual election season and the unpopularity of the presidential candidates in both parties, it is not impossible for the Democrats to sweep the tossup races and become the majority party in the Senate. The looming government shutdown may also impact races. Present trends suggest that the Republicans can expect to lose at least some of these tossup races and emerge with more tenuous control of the Senate if they are able to hold onto majority status at all.

The odds are long that Democrats will sweep the tossup races to win the necessary seats. Nevertheless, Republicans should not be too confident of maintaining Senate control. They need only look back to 2014 to find an example of a time when a party made a sweep of tossup races to flip Senate control… against the odds.


Originally published on The Resurgent

You probably missed Trump's worst debate mistake

Donald Trump’s performance in this week’s debate with Hillary Clinton has been widely panned by most political analysts. The criticisms of Trump range from sniffling too much to not attacking Hillary enough to not focusing on his own positive agenda and explaining exactly how he plans to “make America great again.” One offhand remark reveals much deeper problems with Trump as a potential commander-in-chief, yet most haven’t even considered the impact of what may be Trump’s worst mistake during the debate.

The moment came after moderator Lester Holt had asked Trump whether he supported America’s current policy on first use of nuclear weapons. After seeming to agree with the goal of total elimination of nuclear weapons and forswearing a first strike, Trump veered into uncharted territory:

At the same time, we have to be prepared. I can't take anything off the table. Because you look at some of these countries, you look at North Korea, we're doing nothing there. China should solve that problem for us. China should go into North Korea. China is totally powerful as it relates to North Korea.
And by the way, another one powerful is the worst deal I think I've ever seen negotiated that you started is the Iran deal. Iran is one of their biggest trading partners. Iran has power over North Korea.
And when they made that horrible deal with Iran, they should have included the fact that they do something with respect to North Korea. And they should have done something with respect to Yemen and all these other places. (Transcript from Washington Post)

Yes, you heard that right. Donald Trump actually seemed to call for a Chinese invasion of North Korea and then suggested that Iran could be used to help bring North Korea into line on nuclear weapons.

Donald Trump may not be aware of China’s expansionist actions in the South China Sea where China has been building military bases on small islands in international waters. Regardless, it is almost always a bad idea to let another country think that the United States is okay with them invading their neighbors. Both the Korean War and the Persian Gulf War were kindled by similar muddled statements by U.S. diplomats.

Next, Trump suggests that Iran could use their influence with North Korea to bring the hermit state into compliance with its international agreements. Mr. Trump’s famed deal making notwithstanding, it is unlikely that the two surviving members of the Axis of Evil could be turned against one another. In fact, there is reason to believe that the two rogue states are cooperating in their nuclear and ballistic missile programs. Given the hard bargain that Iran drove for President Obama, it is not realistic to think that they would restrain their partner-in-international-crime.

As Trump again criticizes President Obama’s Iran deal, he leaves out a detail crucial to voters. For all his railing against the nuclear deal, Donald Trump apparently has no plans to end it. Trump advisor Walid Phares said in The Hill in July that “he’s not going to get rid of an agreement that has the institutional signature of the United States.”

How serious was Trump’s North Korea gaffe? Max Boot wrote in USA Today “That he is saying something so outlandish before one of the biggest TV audiences in history suggests that he is not only ignorant but also — and even more worrying — uneducable.”

Boot also noted, “It’s hard to imagine that any aide suggested this talking point to Trump. He came up with it on his own. As he said back in March, when asked about his foreign policy advisers: ‘I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things.’”

Trump has deflected concerns about his inexperience in government and foreign policy with claims that he knows how to hire the best people. At this point in his campaign, with a majority of the Republican Party behind him, Trump should have access to many of the best foreign policy minds in the conservative movement.

The problem is that hiring the best people is only half of the solution. The executive must be willing to listen to those experts and take their advice, even when the executive has “a very good brain.” Mr. Trump clearly has not been listening.

Originally published on The Resurgent





Monday, September 26, 2016

Poll: Hillary and Trump are both untrustworthy

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As Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump head toward their first debate on Monday, they accuse each other of being dishonest and untrustworthy. A new poll by Gallup shows that voters agree with both candidates on this issue. Most don’t believe that either candidate is honest or trustworthy.

About a third of 1,033 adults polled considered each of the candidates honest and trustworthy. Thirty-three percent felt the terms applied to Clinton and 35 percent agreed that they described Trump. The difference was well within the four percent margin of error.

The candidates were closely matched on many of the other questions asked by the survey as well. Voters were almost evenly split on whether the candidates “can get things done,” are a “strong and decisive leader,” or “can bring about the changes this country needs.”

Donald Trump’s largest edge over Hillary was on the question of who “is healthy enough to be president.” He led that question with a 17-point margin. He also edged out Mrs. Clinton on who “stands up to special interest groups” by six points.

Hillary Clinton won four categories by comfortable margins. Voters felt that she had the experience required to be president by a 69 to 29 margin, the largest split of any question in the poll. When asked who “would display good judgment in a crisis,” Hillary beat Trump by 15 points. Respondents also felt that Hillary “cares about the needs of people like you” by an eight-point margin.


Mrs. Clinton also won on the question of who was more likable by 12 points (50-38 percent). Perhaps then-Senator Barack Obama was right when he condescendingly told her in a 2008 debate, “You’re likeable enough, Hillary.”

Friday, September 23, 2016

It's still Hillary's race to lose

(Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia)
Numerous stories over the past few weeks have shown a surge in the polls for Donald Trump. Trump now leads Clinton in a number of polls and the Real Clear Politics average shows Hillary ahead by a scant one percent, a statistical dead heat. In spite of Trump’s surge, the race remains Hillary’s to lose and if the election were held today, she would almost certainly win. The reason is the Electoral College.

The Clinton advantage is derived from the fact that the presidential election is not a single election but a series of 51 separate elections in the states and the District of Columbia plus a final election in the Electoral College. The entire election hinges on a handful of swing states. To win the Electoral College election, Donald Trump has to win several states that Barack Obama won twice. The states of Florida and Ohio, won both times by Obama, are particularly important due to their large number of electoral votes. Without winning these two states there is almost no chance that Mr. Trump can win the presidency.

The typical list of swing states includes Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia. The problem for Trump is that all of these states, with the sole exception of North Carolina in 2012, were won twice by Barack Obama.

The crux of the problem for Trump is that any Democrat starts with a lock on more electoral votes than a Republican does. This is thanks to the Democratic strongholds in the Northeast and on the West Coast, population centers that are rich in electoral votes.

Trump’s first task is not to lose any red states from previous elections. Unfortunately, polling shows that Clinton is threatening Trump’s lead in both Georgia and Arizona. She has also polled strongly in Missouri and Texas.

After securing the red states, Trump’s next chore is to turn swing states red. He is having some success in Florida and Ohio. Florida, which was very close in 2012, is currently in a dead heat. Trump has also surged in Ohio in recent weeks, but the state is still a statistical tie, as is North Carolina. Trump does hold a convincing lead in Iowa, where he holds a six-point advantage in the RCP average.

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, holds convincing leads in New Hampshire and Virginia. She also has a two-point advantage in the RCP average for Colorado.

Even if Trump holds the red states and wins all of the swing states where he leads or is in a dead heat today, he would still lose the election. Trump victories in Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, and Ohio would not give him the 270 electoral votes needed to become president. Without losing any red states, Trump would have 264 electoral votes.

Three states would provide a possible pickup of six more electoral votes. Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are all considered to be in play. Each of these Rust Belt states has been considered a possible Republican pickup in recent elections, but they have all remained in the Democrat column.

Trump has pinned his hopes on Pennsylvania from the beginning. It still looks like a long shot. Hillary leads in all recent polling by seemingly comfortable margins. The story is similar in Michigan and Wisconsin where Clinton leads, but by slightly smaller margins than Pennsylvania. As it stands, these states will all stay blue.

It will take a near sweep of the swing states by Donald Trump to win an Electoral College victory. With the debates looming and the possibility of more embarrassing email releases for Hillary Clinton, a continuing Trump surge is not impossible.


Considering the number of states that Trump needs to flip, the odds are against Trump running the table to pull off an upset victory. A win by Trump would require victories in states that have trended more and more blue in past elections. Hillary still has a distinct advantage even as Trump surges in the polls.    

Thursday, September 22, 2016

How to vote "None of the Above"

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Early voting will begin soon in many states. This year beginning of the voting season poses a problem for many voters who fall into the “None of the Above” category. If you’re like me, you can’t vote for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, but you still want to do your civic duty and cast a ballot in the election. There are several ballot options and one final chance to prevent a Clinton or Trump presidency.

Not voting at all is not a pleasant option for a patriotic American. When you don’t vote at all, you don’t count. You aren’t a part of the mandate that either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton might receive, but you don’t figure into the opposition either. The absence of your vote just means that no one knows where you stood. You are assumed to be one of the roughly half of eligible American voters who sit out every election and assumed to be apathetic.

There is another reason to vote. The presidential election isn’t the only one on the ballot. Even if you can’t stand either presidential candidate, there are good candidates down the ticket in state and local elections. Many of them deserve your vote.

Your vote counts for more in state and local elections than in a presidential election. A presidential election has never been decided by one vote. Smaller elections have.

In state and local elections, the pool of eligible voters is smaller so your vote is more valuable. In a presidential election, you are one out of the millions in your state, which is only one of 50. In a local election, your vote might be one out of a hundred. Even if you completely skip the presidential race, educate yourself on state and local candidates and then go vote.

If you absolutely don’t want to cast a ballot for Trump or Clinton, but still want to vote in the presidential election, there are several options. Among the options is a strategy for the last ditch effort to prevent either Lying Donald or Crooked Hillary from becoming president.

Contrary to popular belief, the presidential election is not a binary choice. There are other parties and the race only becomes a binary race if we refuse to consider the other options. If ever other options should be considered, it is this year.

The most well-known of the other options is Gary Johnson who, together with Bill Weld, forms the Libertarian ticket. Both men are former Republican governors with real world legislative experience. The Libertarians normally poll at less than one percent, but this year Johnson is flirting with the 15 percent threshold needed for inclusion in the presidential debates. The Libertarians combine a platform of economic freedom and with social liberalism and isolationist foreign policy.  

A second option is Green Party candidate Jill Stein and her running mate, Ajamu Baraka. The Greens have been described as “watermelons” because they are green on the outside and red on the inside. The Green Party tends toward socialism and is merely a blip in the polls.

For conservatives, there is the Conservative Party and its nominee Darrell Castle. Castle is probably the most unknown of the major third party candidates, not having registered in a single poll that I have seen. The Conservative Party platform is conservative with a bent toward conspiracy theories. They list opposition to Agenda 21 as a “key issue.”

There is also a fourth option. Independent conservative Evan McMullin was a late entry to the race. McMullin announced his candidacy in August after an alternative to Trump failed to emerge at the Republican National Convention. McMullin is a congressional staffer and former CIA agent. McMullin is conservative who seeks to represent the free trade, small government, foreign policy hawks of the GOP who are disillusioned with Trump as well as anyone who wants an honest candidate.

The third party candidates serve two purposes. They are both potential spoilers and protest votes.

If you’re like me and don’t want either Trump or Hillary to win because you view them both as equally unfit for office, then a third party candidate is a way to vote against them both. If enough voters vote against both major party candidates this way, then a third party candidate might win a state’s electoral votes and impact the results of the election. Even without winning a whole state, the mere presence of third party candidates impacts the race as shown by a number of polls that show a diminished lead for Hillary when third party candidates are included.

How would one of these third party candidates win? It’s obvious that none of them could hope to garner the 270 electoral votes required to win outright in the Electoral College. The answer lies within the Constitution. The 12th Amendment specifies that if no candidate receives a majority of electoral votes, the election then goes to the House of Representatives. Each state’s House delegation would get one vote and the top three electoral vote recipients would be eligible.

The rub comes in when the House of Representatives decides on the winner. How would split House delegations vote? Would they simply elect the unpopular candidate with the (R) after his name? Would they elect the candidate with the most electoral votes, regardless of party? Would they acknowledge that the voters have rejected both unpopular main party candidates and elect a third party candidate?

There are those who say that a third party vote is a wasted vote. They say that a vote for a third party is a vote for whichever candidate they don’t happen to support. In the past, I have agreed with them and said the same things. 2016 is a year with its own rules, however.

This year, my view is that wasting your vote is using it to vote for a candidate that you don’t like, who says things that you don’t agree with and who you don’t trust to lead the country. With two equally deplorable alternatives to choose from, I plan to use my vote to vote against them both.

If either Trump or Clinton ends up winning, and the odds are that one of them almost certainly will, then at least I can point to the larger than normal percentage of third party votes and say that I rejected them both. The parties will know that many, many voters looked at their flawed, dishonest candidates and refused to give their consent to be governed by them. Maybe the parties will learn from this election. Maybe they won’t.

My advice is to pick the third party candidate with the best chance to deny your state’s electoral votes to both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. That may require voting across ideological lines for strategic reasons. If you live in Oregon, Jill Stein might be the strongest choice. Gary Johnson should be strong in the “Live Free or Die” state of New Hampshire. Evan McMullin may do well in his home state of Utah, a red state where Donald Trump is not popular. Check your state polling at Real Clear Politics to find out how the candidates stack up.

In the end, if no third party candidate is close to winning, you can vote your conscience. If the parties have cast aside their principles to nominate two corrupt progressives, voters are not required to cast aside their principles to affirm those poor choices.


For what does it profit a party to win an election, but to lose its soul?

Originally published on The Resurgent

Sunday, September 11, 2016

How September 11 gave us Obama, Clinton and Trump

(Michael Foran/Wikimedia)
The memory of September 11, 2001 is burned indelibly into the minds of anyone who was old enough to remember it. In the space of a few hours, the course of American history changed and the country was set on a new course that diverted drastically from where we saw ourselves going as a nation. Everyone knows that the September 11 attacks started the War on Terror, a conflict that is still going on today, but they did much more than that.

The fall of 2001 saw America at peace and prosperous. Both soon changed. An often forgotten result of the attacks was the crash of the stock market on September 17 after markets reopened. At the time, this was the largest single-day stock market crash in U.S. history. The response of the Federal Reserve to the impending recession was to lower interest rates to stimulate the economy. Prosperity soon returned amid the fighting in Afghanistan and, two years later, Iraq.

One segment of the economy that was aided by the low interest rates was real estate. Together with government policies that encouraged subprime mortgage lending, the low interest rates fed a housing bubble. The bubble burst in 2008 and led to the Great Recession. Almost seven years to the day, two more stock market crashes displaced the 2001 crash as the largest in American history.

As the economy sputtered to a halt, a relatively unknown senator surged forward in the polls. Barack Obama emerged from the stock market crash as a beacon of hope for the country. Although he started as an antiwar candidate, without the economic crisis and John McCain’s missteps in responding to it, it seems unlikely that the radical and inexperienced Obama would have been elected president.

Obama’s presidency fundamentally transformed America. His Supreme Court nominees redefined marriage and overturned thousands of years of tradition. His government takeover of the health insurance industry caused healthcare prices to skyrocket. His regulation of business strangled the economic recovery and left millions without jobs. Obama added more to the national debt than all other presidents combined.

His foreign policy was felt around the world. His withdrawal from Iraq allowed ISIS to flourish. His failure to intervene in Syria allowed that civil war to fester and become a humanitarian and security crisis. Under Obama’s watch, Vladimir Putin set out to recapture the Soviet sphere of influence from the Cold War and invaded Ukraine, an American and NATO ally. Likewise, China expanded into the South China Sea with manmade islands to serve as military bases. Iran continued on the course to become a nuclear power.

In the middle of Obama’s first-term foreign policy was Hillary Clinton, the new secretary of state, who he had bested for the Democratic nomination in 2008. The truce between the two rivals established Hillary as the almost certain successor to Obama as the Democratic standard bearer in 2016.

If Obama’s administration led to problems around the world, it also caused the crackup of the Republican Party at home. Without a majority in Congress that could override the presidential veto or overcome a Democratic filibuster, Republicans were powerless to stop the president’s abuse of executive power. Republicans were able to block new legislation, but unable to roll back laws that the Democratic Congress had passed early in Obama’s first term.

The impotence of the Republican opposition led to anger from the conservative grassroots. First, Ted Cruz rose to prominence as a first-term senator who made a name for himself by dividing the party against the “establishment” that he claimed was in a league with the Democrats. When Cruz’s strategy of a shutdown failed in 2013, he only became more popular by using the Republican leadership as a scapegoat. As the 2016 presidential race formed, Cruz was an early favorite. He was trumped by another outsider candidate, however.

Businessman Donald J. Trump emerged from nowhere to seize the mantle of the anti-establishment candidate. To many Republicans, it didn’t matter that Trump was a New York liberal who had supported Hillary Clinton up until he decided to become a Republican candidate. Trump capitalized on voter anger at both Obama and the Republicans.

Without Osama bin Laden and the September 11 attacks, U.S. history would be very different. Obama would not have risen to prominence without the war. Without the attacks, the housing correction might never have become the Great Recession. John McCain might have been elected in 2008. Without eight years of Obama, America would not be faced with the choice of Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, the two most unpopular and unqualified candidates in history.

In 2001, we could scarcely see how destructive the legacy of attacks would be or how long their consequences would impact the country. War, recession, bad leadership and national division all stemmed from the actions of 19 hijackers.

The country has not been the same since September 11 and never will be.

(Michael Vadon/Wikimedia)
One surprising aspect of Donald Trump’s road to the Republican nomination is the role of evangelical Christian voters as core his supporters. In spite of Trump’s secular lifestyle and unfamiliarity with Christianity and even basic conservative issues,  a substantial percentage of Christian voters put Trump on top of experienced conservatives like Jeb Bush and former Tea Party favorites like Ted Cruz. An obvious question is whether Christian conservatives have abandoned their principles, both of conservatism and religious righteousness, for Trump and moral relativism.

The case against Donald Trump is well known. Beyond his abrasive personality, there are serious questions about his character and political beliefs. The “savior” of the conservative cause is a three-times married man, a serial liar and a flip-flopper who has openly claimed to have bought the influence of elected officials, notably Hillary Clinton.

Alan Noble compiled a list of Trump’s immoral behavior at Vox: “Trump has boasted of infidelities, profited off gambling, mocked the handicapped, cheered and offered financial assistance for his supporters who fight protestors, supported abortion (until his fortuitous change of heart before the election), called for war crimes against innocent people, demonized minorities and immigrants, knowingly played upon racist fears, promoted open racists through social media, promoted conspiracy theories, and crudely treated women. And the list grows every single day.” Much of Trump’s behavior, both during the campaign and before, would be denounced by Christian conservatives in a normal political cycle.

This is not a normal year.

Trump supporters can be divided into two broad categories. There are the “true believers,” also called “Trumpkins,” who supported Trump from the early days of the primary. Alternatively, there are the “anyone but Hillary” voters, who don’t necessarily like Trump, but who believe that, with all his flaws, he is better than Hillary Clinton.

To issue-oriented conservatives, the second position is understandable. The first is not. That’s why it is surprising to find that many of Trump’s earliest supporters were Christians and conservatives who would normally have rejected someone like Trump as impure both morally and politically. In truth, it was these voters who provided the core of support that enabled Trump to defeat many more reliable conservative politicians.

One of my coworkers, Jay, is among the group of true believers. When Trump emerged as a candidate last year, Jay, a conservative Christian, was enthralled. When we were on business trips together, Jay watched Trump press conferences on a daily basis and chortled at Trump’s witticisms. Like most Republicans, Jay didn’t seem to think that Trump could win, but he enjoyed the show.

At some point between last summer and the winter and spring primaries, it became acceptable for Christians not only to be amused by Trump, but to vote for him. An analysis of exit polls by Christian Post found that an average of 36 percent of evangelical Christians voted for Trump. This was a large enough segment of the Christian vote to give Trump victories in many of the early states, such as South Carolina, where Trump came in first among evangelicals.

The story of how Trump made the transition from pariah to messiah among a third of conservative Christians begins with and endorsement by Jerry Falwell, Jr., son of the Moral Majority and Liberty University founder just before the Iowa caucuses last January.

In Rolling Stone, Falwell defended his endorsement, saying many evangelicals see how “personable” Trump is “and how generous he's been to a lot of people in his personal life. I think that's what makes somebody a good Christian.” This in spite of the fact that Trump seemed not to understand basic tenets of Christianity such as forgiveness and repentance.

Indeed, forgiveness was lacking when Mark DeMoss, a longtime chief of staff to Jerry Falwell, Sr., spoke out against the junior Falwell’s Trump endorsement. DeMoss was allegedly forced to resign his position at Liberty University. “As I consider the matter,” DeMoss said in Charisma News, “I wonder why it is acceptable to the Liberty board for Jerry Falwell to endorse a candidate as an individual not speaking for the university, but it is not fine for a board member to express an opinion as an individual not speaking for the university.”

Moral relativism, the belief that ethics depend on situations rather than objective truth, seems to have been at play in much of the Christian support for Donald Trump as well as in Liberty’s dismissal of DeMoss. Hillary is admonished for her lies, but Trump’s numerous falsehoods are glossed over. Hillary’s corruption is denounced, but Trump’s corruption is excused. Hillary is a liberal, but so are many of Trump’s stated positions on the issues. Trump is excused for these and other sins because he is “not Hillary.”

In his defense of his endorsement of Trump, Falwell said Trump is “ethical and honest” in spite of numerous charges of shady business dealings. At the same time, he said that the country needed “experienced and capable leaders,” yet Trump was the only Republican candidate with no legislative experience whatsoever.

Falwell also noted that Ronald Reagan, although divorced, “saved this nation when it was in nearly the same condition as it is today.” Falwell failed to note that Reagan’s divorce occurred in 1948 after an affair by his wife, Jane Wyman. To Falwell, this is morally equivalent to Trump’s divorces and his own extramarital affairs, conquests that Trump has bragged openly about. Nevermind the details, it is a similar enough situation to justify the endorsement in Falwell’s mind.

Penny Young Nance, president and CEO of Concerned Women for America, attended a meeting between Trump and evangelical leaders in June. She wrote in Christian Post that not a single Christian leader present questioned Trump about his alleged conversion from pro-choice to pro-life. This in spite the fact that Trump was the only Republican candidate to favor continued funding for Planned Parenthood, saying that the abortion provider “has done very good work” only three months earlier. Trump’s pro-choice history was ignored by Christian leaders, even as they criticize Hillary’s pro-choice platform.

How does Jay reconcile his Christian beliefs with his support for Donald Trump? He gave me an article by James Patrick Riley which likened Trump opponents to the Biblical Pharisees. Jesus denounced the “holier-than-thou” Pharisees for being hypocrites. Riley accuses Never Trump Christians being “dismissive” and “self-righteous” people who “have imbibed legalism as doctrine.” He also argues that Trump is “more righteous than you think” because he wants to enact a conservative agenda. Moral relativism rears its head once again. Trump is acceptable because he says the right things.

In the end, the exit polls suggest that those Christians who supported Trump early on were Christians who did not place a great emphasis on having a candidate who shared their religious beliefs. What kind of Christian would not prefer a Christian president? Perhaps those whose faith has been driven underground by the secular culture and divorced from practical day-to-day living, Christians who believe they are “rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing” but do not know that they “are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked” (Rev. 3:14-22).

In any case, regardless of the outcome of the election, “lukewarm” Christians will share a large part of the blame. Without their support for an obvious charlatan, Trump would never have been nominated. Without the nomination of Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton would not have stood a chance.


The irony is that Trump supporters, both Christian and secular, may be enabling that which they fear most. No matter who wins in November, the country is likely to be stuck with a lawless leftist who will be destructive for America.