Friday, January 15, 2016

Opportunities Passed Up

Donald Trump is a bad politician. Sure, he's leading the pack among Republicans but most people don't like him.

In the latest CNN poll, 57% of adults expressed an "unfavorable" opinion about Trump, while only 39% had a favorable opinion. By contrast, more individuals are favorable than unfavorable toward Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Ben Carson.

That may be because Donald Trump is a horrible debater. Whatever the impact of Thursday night's debate in South Charleston, South Carolina upon the race, Trump could have, should have, buried his direct rival, Ted Cruz,

Pundits are applauding Cruz because of how he handled Neil Cavuto's question about his eligibility to be President given the constitutional restriction to "natural-born Citizens" Cruz emphasized

At the end of the day, the legal issue is quite straightforward, but I would note that the birther theories that Donald has been relying on -- some of the more extreme ones insist that you must not only be born on U.S. soil, but have two parents born on U.S. soil.

Under that theory, not only would I be disqualified, Marco Rubio would be disqualified, Bobby Jindal would be disqualified and, interestingly enough, Donald J. Trump would be disqualified.

A moment later, Trump would protest "but I was born here." However, he did not stress the point, wherein he might have said "where your parents were born does not bear on this question. I was born in the USA. You were born in Canada. Case closed."

The case is not closed on behalf of either Cruz's position or Trump's notion, thrown against the wall to see if it sticks. Opinions vary. However, instead of citing Widener law professor Mary Brigid McManamon as someone who argues that only individuals born in this country are "natural-born citizens," Trump cited Laurence Tribe, whom Cruz was able to  label "a left-wing judicial activist, Harvard Law professor who was Al Gore's lawyer in Bush versus Gore" and "a major Hillary Clinton supporter."

Even the issue on which most analysts believe Donald trumped Cruz, that of "New York values," was handled poorly by Trump.  The Texas senator maintained "everyone understands that the values in New York City are socially liberal or pro-abortion or pro- gay-marriage, focus around money and the media." He added "And -- and I guess I can -- can frame it another way. Not a lot of conservatives come out of Manhattan. I'm just saying."

Trump reminded Cruz that the late "William F. Buckley and others" have "come out of Manhattan." Nonetheless, he might have informed Cruz that New York City is not only Manhattan, but Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Staten Island- a traditionally Republican borough. He could then have added some (albeit condescending, rarely acknowledged) boilerplate that would have made residents of the outer boroughs sound like the stereotypical Iowan: "hard-working, middle-class men and women who take a lunch pail to work and come home in the evening to their families."

A better politician would have offered a paean to the firefighters and police officers of New York City. And he would have quoted a Republican member of Congress, Peter King, who was born in Manhattan and stated "Memo to Ted Cruz: New York Values are the heroes of 9/11; the cops who fight terror; and the people you ask for campaign donations...."

That would have, however, opened up the matter of the funding sought byTed Cruz, who in an earlier debate rhetorically asked "Why would you then bail out rich Wall Street banks and not Mom and Pop?"  He was recently found to have relied on $500,000-$1,000,000 loans from Goldman Sachs in his first Senate race, in 2012.   A sharp rival would have asked "how can our candidate confront Hillary Clinton on her close ties with Goldman when he himself dances to their tune. I, however, have enough money to pay for my own campaign. Nobody owns me and nobody ever will."

That would have been a win-win but Trump didn't go there, which was nearly- nearly- as curious as why he did not fully exploit the question of Cruz's eligibility for the office.  "If you're playing the drinking game tonight, you must guzzle a gallon of Cuba Libres every time the word 'natural born' comes up," Digby predicted before the debate. Make that a quart and if not sober, you at least would have gone to bed alive.

"Natural-born" came up only three times- and all by Cruz, responding to Cavuto's question. Donald Trump avoided the phrase, which should tell us a lot about his competence as a debater, if not as a campaigner generally.

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