The Bookworm Beat 2/9/16 — the “nothing about New Hampshire here” edition and open thread

Woman-writing-300x265All of the posts I’ll link to pre-date today’s New Hampshire primary. This is a NH primary-free zone. You might find it refreshing. And now, to the good stuff:

Trump could destroy conservativism in America for decades.  I think Charles Krauthammer hits the ball out of the park on this one (not to mention hitting the nail on the head):

The threat to the GOP posed by the Trump insurgency is not that he’s anti-establishment. It’s that he’s not conservative. Trump’s winning the nomination would convulse the Republican party, fracture the conservative movement and undermine the GOP’s identity and role as the country’s conservative party.

There’s nothing wrong with challenging the so-called establishment. Parties, like other institutions, can grow fat and soft and corrupt. If by establishment you mean the careerists, the lobbyists, and the sold-out cynics, a good poke, even a major purge, is well-deserved.

That’s not the problem with Trump. The problem is his, shall we say, eclectic populism. Cruz may be anti-establishment but he’s a principled conservative, while Trump has no coherent political philosophy, no core beliefs, at all. Trump offers barstool eruptions and whatever contradictory “idea” pops into his head at the time, such as “humane” mass deportation, followed by mass amnesty when the immigrants are returned to the United States.

Turning our military into a vast climate change boondoggle. The worst news this week was the announcement that, as Islamic jihad gets more aggressive around the world, climate change will become the military’s top priority. Only old-fashioned war-mongering fascists will cling to the outdated notion that the military’s top priority is defending America against foreign enemies.

A couple of comments. First, I’ve already seen this pivot to climate change in action during Fleet Week in San Francisco. The Navy ships I’ve visited, rather than boasting about their military capacity, boast about their carbon footprint (or lack thereof).

Second, this will turn the military budget into the greatest, and most corrupt, slush fund ever in the history of American government. The only good thing will be that, once the military is a giant green machine that can’t fight, but does use little batteries to power its tanks, we’ll stop hearing from inane Leftists horrified by the thought that their children, who enjoy the benefits of a nation under the protection of the greatest military in the world (and one, moreover, subject to constitutional control), might actually view our military as a blessing, rather than a curse.

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Post-Debate impressions and open thread *UPDATED*

Republican debate South CarolinaUnusually for me, I had time to watch some of the debate and I had access to a television.  (Yes, I can watch debates on my computer monitor, but I do my best debate watching stretched out on the couch staring at the big screen.)  I lasted all the way through to the fight over trade with China, and then my family called me away.  Once they were done calling, I discovered that I was too tired to resume.  I just couldn’t get my head back in the game.

Since I wasn’t taking notes, I can only comment on a few specific and memorable phrases, issues, and arguments.  Otherwise, the best I can do is give my impressions of the candidates.

Preliminarily, Kasich and Carson should not be on that stage — especially Carson.  I like Carson.  I think he’s a very intelligent man and a good human being.  I thought his response about Obama’s rules of engagement against ISIS was spot-on.  (Speaking of Obama’s refusal to bomb oil tankers that are funding ISIS, meek, mild Carson said “Tell them if you put people in them, we’re going to bomb them, so don’t put people in them.”  Exactly.)

Other than that, though, Carson was passive.  In response to each question, he basically said, “I’ll put the experts on it.”  Well, yes, that’s what a manager should do, but a really good manager sits down with his experts and begins with his own goals and ideas, before then asking for ways his plan can be done or reasons it cannot or should not.  Leadership begins with the leader, not the advisers.  A bad manager, such as Obama, listens only to himself and ignores the experts entirely.

My favorite drug in the world is Valium.  That’s the reason I never take it.  I’m a fairly tightly wound person, and Valium is the only thing that leaves me slow and mellow.  If I take Valium, I probably look just like Dr. Carson.  Again, he’s a good man, but he’s not presidential material.

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Obama’s Middle Eastern policy is a bad replay of Woodrow Wilson’s post-WWI efforts (and we know how that ended)

Arrogant ObamaYesterday, I got around to reading Michael Crowley’s ‘We Caved’ : What happened when Barack Obama’s idealistic rhetoric collided with the cold realities of war and dictatorship in the Middle East and beyond. I recommend it. It’s a depressing look at what happens when the Progressive Ivory Tower meets the real world. Or if you don’t have time to read it, I can sum it up in one sentence: The Ivory Tower loses every time.

The article is filled with statements reflecting the fatal combination of cluelessness, hardcore ideology, and arrogance characterizing the Obama administration from its first day in office, and from the top man down. Even those who weren’t blinded by seeing their own glorious brilliance reflected back from the Ivory Tower’s windows were too damaged in other ways to change the horrible Obama dynamic.

The article begins with Obama’s many missteps in Egypt: First telling Mubarak, a long-time American and Israeli friend to leave because, despite his fair dealings abroad, he was a horrible man at home. Then inviting in Morsi, who was an enemy to America and Israel, and a horrible man at home. And finally trying to kneecap Sisi, despite the fact that he was once again a friend to America and Israel (although, as with all Egyptian leaders, a horrible man at home), as well as one of the few prominent Muslims to speak in favor of Islamic reform. Get a gander of this paragraph:

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Vote for Ted Cruz — because he’s the one your political opponents fear most *UPDATED*

Ted CruzSometimes, the best way to figure out what politician will best serve your values and interests is to look at what those antithetical to your interests are trying to force upon you.  In this election, the Leftist media and the decidedly non-conservative GOP are steering conservative voters either to Donald Trump or Marco Rubio.  At the same time, they are using every available tactic to destroy Ted Cruz’s candidacy.  This should tell us something, and the something it tells us is that Ted Cruz should be the conservative candidate of choice.

Let me start with the media’s manipulations. To appreciate how subtle they’re being, let me go back to Obama’s longing statement a few years ago that he wished he could go full Bulworth. For those who missed the remarkably silly eponymous movie, it stars Warren Beatty as a suicidal politician who gains success when his existential despair leads him to speak the truth — in hip-hop prose.  The movie message is that the electorate likes a candidate who not only doesn’t lie but who actually speaks the unfiltered truth.

You realize, of course, who’s the Bulworth in this election: It’s Trump, who is remarkably unfiltered when it comes to saying what he thinks at any given moment. It’s understandable that Americans, tired of politicians lying to them through out-and-out untruths or smarmy mis-statements, as well as disgusted by the fishwife scolds on the Left who shut down debate about relevant subjects by playing the PC card, find Trump’s Bulworthian pronouncements appealing.

The problem is that his invariably self-centered faux oracular pronouncements say nothing about a “President Trump.” Given Trump’s big business, big government, big Democrat background, and his florid narcissism, the reality of a Trump presidency is that it will probably look remarkably like an Obama presidency.  Trump will promote big business and big government; he’ll be led by his ego, not the Constitution; he’ll be incapable of working with the People’s representatives in Congress (which, as Obama does, he’ll marginalize); and he’ll have no learning curve even as his self-centered policies fail.

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The fundamental national security differences between Cruz and Rubio

cruz_rubioDuring the fifth Republican candidates’ debate, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio clashed repeatedly over national security issues, with each accusing the other of having been weak on national defense in the past and following the wrong path into the future. Because American voters identify national security as their primary concern going into the 2016 election, the differences between Cruz and Rubio deserve close analysis. A good starting point for this analysis is to compare Ted Cruz’s recent address on national security to the Heritage Foundation with Bret Stephens’ Wall Street Journal hit piece attacking that speech – and, moreover, doing so using talking points that precisely reflect Marco Rubio’s national security talking points.

If you don’t have the time to watch this comprehensive speech, here’s an executive summary of the first four factors Cruz holds are necessary to achieve America’s security goals (interwoven with Bookworm commentary), all of which Stephens challenges using Rubio talking points.

First, Cruz states that our government’s top priority must be to keep us safe at home and strong abroad. Rubio would agree with this priority but, as this post develops at greater length below, he and Cruz differ on the specifics. Cruz contends that the front line of America’s national security is her own border. America must address her porous borders, visa overstays, and immigration policy.

The last factor is particularly important vis-à-vis Syria, given terrorist attempts to infiltrate America. As the Tashfeen Malik experience demonstrates, our current visa process is more concerned with political correctness than national security. Malik’s Facebook page was a neon sign advertising her allegiance to ISIS, but Homeland Security policy barred anyone from checking it before inviting her into America.

Second, Cruz emphasizes that protecting our nation does not (and should not) require us to surrender our Constitutional liberties. He specifically addresses NSA’s government bulk data collection, which many people (Rubio included) believe aids in the fight against terrorist attacks.

The reality, though, is that the government is collecting so much metadata from everybody that it is impossible to analyze the data in real time in order to head off future attacks. What happens instead is that, without any probable cause, the government collects a vast amount of information on every American, information that is then stored away for the government to cherry-pick for later use on an as-needed basis. There is nothing benign about this last fact.

This stored data means that when the government has you in its sights for whatever reason, it’s got a go-to repository that it can mine without any tiresome Fourth Amendment due process interference. For those who doubt that the government can be so malevolent, Cruz brought up the case of Lois Lerner. The long list of charges against her includes the claim that she culled confidential IRS information from Tea Party proponents and handed it over to their Progressive political opponents.

Cruz also points out that one cannot justify this constitutional overreach by claiming that metadata collection protects Americans. Unfortunately, it doesn’t. Indeed, it has proven wholly ineffective in stopping terrorist attacks on our soil, as the attacks at Fort Hood, in Boston, in Chattanooga, in Garland, and in San Bernardino have shown.

Moreover, when the government has managed to prevent an attack, as it did with Mohamed Osman Mohamud, a Somali Islamic refugee who planned to blow up a Portland, Oregon, Christmas tree lighting festival, the government did so by monitoring email communications to and from a known terrorism recruiter. That is, the FBI did not randomly stumble across Mohamud’s emails by distinguishing them from the trillions of other communications the NSA swept in.

Cruz’s dislike for sweeping NSA metadata surveillance, however, has not meant that he’s requiring America’s national security law enforcers to fumble about entirely in the dark.

As he explains during the Heritage talk, Cruz co-sponsored the USA Freedom Act, which passed into law in June. Among other provisions, the USA Freedom Act, although it bans the government from collecting bulk data, allows the government to subpoena the same data from communications providers — subject to approval from a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (“FISC”). As another bulwark to protect American’s constitutional rights, the Act also creates a special advocate to represent those interests before the FISC.

Cruz believes the Act strikes the proper balance between security, Constitutional rights, and protection against government abuse. Cruz also points out that DNI James Clapper has praised the law as an improvement and one that will function more effectively to keep us safe. Rubio disputes this conclusion. Senator Mike Lee, friends with both Rubio and Cruz, disagrees strongly with Rubio’s claim:

Look, Marco Rubio has been attacking Ted Cruz on the USA Freedom Act, for his vote in favor of the USA Freedom Act, and he’s been doing so by suggesting that this has somehow made America less safe,” Lee said. “It simply is not true, and look, I’m really good friends with both of these guys, I really like both of them, but Marco’s wrong on this.”

Lee, who was a co-sponsor of the bill alongside Cruz, added that Rubio is just “dead wrong.”

“The USA Freedom Act has not made us less safe at all, and in fact, I had a discussion last week with FBI Director James Comey,” he continued. “I asked him point blank, ‘Did this, in any way, impair our ability to follow up on the San Bernardino attack?’ And of course, the answer was no.”

“This is a law that, in many ways, enhances our ability to protect the homeland,” Lee concluded. “And it does so in a way that is respectful of the privacy interests and the Fourth Amendment interests of the American people.”

The USA Freedom Act, which was signed into law by President Barack Obama in June, suspended the NSA’s bulk collection of phone metadata.

The other constitutional liberty at issue in the current national security debate is the Second Amendment. Undeterred by the fact that California’s gun laws (the most stringent in the nation) would have done nothing to stop the San Bernardino shooting – although they did ensure that the victims, trapped in a “gun free zone,” were appropriately helpless when the terrorists arrived — Obama is leading the charge to “prevent” ISIS attacks by disarming law-abiding Americans. Fortunately, Americans are recognizing that this argument is a non sequitur, and are arming themselves as quickly as they can.

Third, Cruz says that our government must act with moral clarity — by which, he means the government must openly identify radical Islamic fundamentalism as both the source of the terrorist attacks on our country and the wellspring of ISIS. If the government continues to refuse to identify Islam as terrorism’s source, it cannot possibly address terrorism.

Once the government finally escapes metaphor, denial, and avoidance, it can directly counter Islamic fundamentalism (for example, by supporting Dr. Zuhdi Jasser) and use military force to destroy its militant adherents. Doing so will requires a combination of air power, unconstrained by concerns over environmental damageand boots on the ground from our Middle Eastern allies, such as the Kurds, Egypt, and Jordan.

Fourth, Cruz holds that our government must reach outside of American borders to repair relations with our allies and it must protect our interests by projecting strength. As Osama bin Laden highlighted, people – especially people kept ignorant and debased by a zero-sum totalitarian ideology – will always be drawn to or bow down before the strong horse. Defeating the ideology matters because, while ISIS and the Middle East are current Ground Zero for Islamic fanaticism, it is a worldwide problem.

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The Republican primary debate — open thread

Republican debateI watched about 30 minutes of the debate.  I missed the beginning because I was taking care of business, and I tuned out after 30 minutes because my feed broke down.  What little I did watch still left me with a few impressions about the field.

Before I begin, let me recommend to you an article from Breitbart that is really a predicate to deciding which of the Republican candidates you like best: “A Stark Choice: Ted Cruz’s Jacksonian Americanism vs. Marco Rubio’s Wilsonian Internationalism.

The article boils the foreign policy issue (which the Constitution gives to the president) down to two world views: The Wilson world view is that we have to intervene all over the world to make it a better place, and that it’s shameful to win wars; instead we have to make peace.  The Jackson view is that we shouldn’t fight a war that doesn’t directly benefit us, but when we fight, we fight to win. Wilsonians would say a safer world indirectly benefits us, making intervention wars worthwhile. Jacksonians would say that too many of our wars have not only failed to give us any benefit, they’ve been very bad for us, especially because — as Obama exemplifies — we shouldn’t win.

Given ISIS’s role in the world, it’s useful to get a handle on the candidates’ fundamental foreign policy orientation.

(The rest of what I’m going to say is un-researched stream-of-consciousness stuff, based solely on my own often faulty memory.  If I’ve made mistakes (and I’m sure I have), feel free to correct me.  I only ask that you be kind when you do.)

I tried to use this Jackson/Wilson divide as a filter by which to view 20th century wars and found it a little confusing, to say the least. America automatically sided with England against Germany because America had her roots in England. In fact, though, from the standpoint of America’s interests, there really was little to choose between England and Germany. If it weren’t for German perfidy, as revealed in the Zimmerman telegram, it’s entirely likely that Wilson really would have kept his pledge to keep America out of the continental war.

As it was, once Wilson got a taste of American military power, he began to believe that it was America’s manifest destiny to bring goodness and light to the whole world — without any actual benefit to America, something that would have been just too, too crass and self-interested. Ironically enough, given Wilson’s “world peace” vision, it was because America tilted the war in Britain’s favor that Germany not only lost, it ended up so destabilized that the anarchic 1920s created the perfect power vacuum for the rise of the Nazis.

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The Wall Street Journal’s hatchet job on Ted Cruz

Ted CruzI’ve made no secret of the fact that I support Ted Cruz. I realize he’s not perfect, but no candidate is. What matters to me is that his political values most closely align with mine, that he’s not scared of a fight (and, especially, he’s not scared of the media), and that he is truly smarter than just about everyone else out there. I learned yesterday, though, that Kimberley Strassel at the Wall Street Journal most definitely does not like Cruz. She wrote a savage hit piece on him essentially blaming him for ISIS’s ability to spread throughout the United States. (That spread, of course, has nothing to do with Obama’s open borders policy and the contempt he shows for every person and idea that suggests that Islam might have a problem.)

But before honing in on her perception about Cruz’s alleged security failures, Strassel first lambastes him as a rank opportunist who cares only about self-aggrandizement and refuses to take care of the GOP’s needs:

The senator’s supporters adore him because they see him in those moments when he has positioned himself as the hero. To them he is the stalwart forcing a government shutdown over ObamaCare. He’s the brave soul calling to filibuster in defense of gun rights. He’s the one keeping the Senate in lame-duck session to protest Mr. Obama’s unlawful immigration orders.

Mr. Cruz’s detractors see a man who engineers moments to aggrandize himself at the expense of fellow conservatives. And they see the consequences. They wonder what, exactly, Mr. Cruz has accomplished.

ObamaCare is still on the books. It took the GOP a year to recover its approval ratings after the shutdown, which helped deny Senate seats to Ed Gillespie in Virginia and Scott Brown in New Hampshire. Mr. Obama’s immigration orders are still on the books. The courts gained a dozen liberal judges, all with lifetime tenure, because the lame-duck maneuver gave Democrats time to cram confirmation votes through. Mr. Cruz’s opportunism tends to benefit one cause: Mr. Cruz.

So it’s Cruz’s fault we have Obamacare and it’s his fault because . . . he took a principled stand against it?  (I admired that stand when he took it and I still do.) The fact is that Cruz is one of the few Republicans in Congress who actually stood by the party planks and actual promises he and other alleged conservatives made to voters since 2008. He is the only one in Congress on the right who shows the slightest bit of spine. So when Strassel writes, “but Obamacare is still on the books,” the real question shouldn’t be “How do we blame Ted Cruz?”  Instead, the real question should be “How did this happen when Republicans control Congress and the purse strings?”

Strassel’s claim that, following Cruz’s principled stand, it took Republicans “a year to recover,” is patently ridiculous. Republicans have enjoyed greater electoral success in the past six years than the party ever has — and she is going to blame defeats in Virginia and Massachusetts on Cruz. That is infuriating.

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The Bookworm Beat 11-5-15 — Guy Fawkes edition, Part 2

Woman-writing-300x265I’ve still got a few more things I want to share with you tonight, so consider this Part 2 for the day (with Part 1 here).

The coming (and inevitable) Leftist implosion

Every time I read a Kevin Williamson article, I like his writing and thinking just a little bit more. In one of his latest outings, about the inevitable fissures on the Left (as exemplified by (1) the way Black Lives Matters activists are attacking old, white Bernie and Hillary, and (2) the way the black/Hispanic majority in very Leftist Houston nevertheless voted down men in women’s restrooms), Williams has the following wonderful lines:

The challenge for the Left is that while the Republican party is mainly a coalition of ideologies, the Democratic party is mainly a coalition of interest groups, and the current model of Democratic politics — poor and largely non-white people providing the muscle and rich white liberals calling the shots — is unsustainable. The social attitudes of non-white voters are pretty plainly not those of white liberals, and, at the same time — and probably more significant — the economic interests of white liberals are pulling away from those of the people in whose interest they purport to act. Hispanic immigrants and urban blacks make below-average wages; public-school administrators and other government employees make wages that are well above average. There aren’t a lot of people in Cleveland’s Glenville who give a fat furry rat’s patootie how much interest Caitlyn from Bryn Mawr is paying on the student loans that financed her women’s-studies degree. If you’re wondering why Democrats lean so deeply into the racial rhetoric — Joe Biden’s shameful “They want to put y’all back in chains!” etc. — that’s a big part of your answer.

Rich Lowry’s article nails why I don’t trust Rubio

Marco Rubio is bright, articulate, focused, conservative, and telegenic. I ought to like him . . . but I just don’t. I’ve been pfumphering around for a while trying to put my finger on my problem with him and I think it really does boil down to his support for amnesty:

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I support Ted Cruz for President

Ted CruzI’ve now had some time to consider the top Republican contenders for next year’s presidential election, and I’ve decided that nothing has changed my mind in the past few months — I still like Ted Cruz best. Based on what I perceive are the strengths and weaknesses of the various candidates, Ted Cruz comes out at the top.

Before I walk you through my thinking, please believe that I don’t mean to denigrate the other people vying for the nomination. They all have their strengths and, to a man (and woman) I can see why they have their supporters. I just think that, in the long run, Cruz has the most to offer, as well as the most carefully crafted path to victory.

In no particular order, here’s what I think of the other candidates who are still registering as blips on the radar:

Donald Trump: I totally understand the passion Trump’s followers feel for him. After decades of seeing Republicans run scared before the Leftist media, Trump doesn’t run. He doesn’t pussy foot around with political correctness and sides with Americans on deeply felt issues, especially the complete breakdown of sovereignty at the Southern border, something that exposes us to economic damage, terrorism, and the loss of our American identity. I wish the other candidates would show his fearless courage before the press. Having said that, I could not vote for Trump in a primary because too many of his economic and social views are indistinguishable from the Democrats’ views, including his support for varying types of crony fascism. I acquit him of hypocrisy. I think that he’s careless with his ideas and leads with his emotions, two things that would be disastrous in a nation’s chief executive. He’s also vindictive and hypersensitive, and we’ve had enough of that with Obama.

Carly Fiorina: The woman has balls and I love her for that. She’s incredibly quick thinking and, unlike Trump, she won’t back down. She also has a virtue Trump lacks: rather than just being reactive, she can articulate core conservative principles, which makes her an invaluable person for the conservative cause. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, while conservatives have some of the best and most articulate thinkers around, Newt Gingrich has been the only articulate, principled conservative since Reagan — and Reagan’s been gone from the political scene for almost 30 years, while poor Newt was savaged by ostensible friends and real foes alike.  She’s good Veep material, though, although that may be a political dead-end for a genuine political talent.

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The Bookworm Beat 10-14-15 — the hot quick links edition, and open thread

Woman-writing-300x265So much to share with you, and so many demands on my time. I’ll make it quick, tantalizing you with short links to wonderful things:

We know the other media outlets are hostile to Israel, but is it possible that Fox News is also turning on Israel? CAMERA has caught it doing exactly the same thing as CNN or the BBC — blaming Israel, the only pluralist, democratic, modern, humanitarian country in the region for the ferocious, malignant, blindly hate-filled upsurge in terrorism unleashed against ordinary Israelis. (As you know, a Saudi owns a significant share in Fox TV. Israel’s friends have long been concerned that this might affect Fox’s objectivity with regard to Israel. I’m not saying that this ownership explains Fox’s slip-ups, though. I just note the ownership in passing.)

Here’s the deal:  When Fox News and John Kerry are agreed about something, you know that (a) Fox is in error and (b) there’s the possibility that something is very, very, very wrong over at Fox.

For those who like stories about dystopian futures, Richard Fernandez has a humdinger, imagining the year 2030 in a world lost to Obama’s foreign policies.

Just this past weekend, a national conference for teachers and administrators convened in Baltimore to discuss what’s really wrong with America’s education system. If you thought they were focusing on fatherless families, union depredations on school districts and students, and meaningless, politically correct education, you thought wrong. It’s you — you, the white person over there, hiding in the corner — who is what’s wrong with education. Zombie explains what’s going on, but you’d have to be crazy or a Leftist really to understand the dynamic.

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#GOPDebate — one person’s score card on the candidates’ debating chops

CNN GOP DebateI was in the hospital taking care of a sundowning mom, so I forgot about the debate entirely. My anonymous friend, though, watched and sent me some impressions. Please note that he was remarking upon their debate performance and not on each person’s general merits as a candidate:

I’ve been watching the debate. As a threshold matter, I find that I prefer Jake Tapper to the now thankfully absent Candy Crowley.

Fiorina looked really good. She’s gotten the big applause lines on several issues and she was loaded for bear when Trump brought up her time as CEO of HP. Jake Tapper treated her pretty poorly actually, repeatedly cutting her off more so than he did with the other candidates. She also brought up a point I didn’t know. Trump has declared bankruptcy four times. Wow. And yet the bastard is a billionaire. He really is slimy.

Dr. Carson . . . not too good on foreign policy. He sounds quite weak.

Rubio . . . very strong foreign policy chops and good on gun laws / 2nd Amendment.

It was slimy watching most of them try to claim some special connection to 9-11 to burnish their commander in chief / foreign policy chops. As I left the room for a moment, I swear that I heard Trump claim that his time at a military high school gave him more military experience than all of the other candidates. I’ll check later whether I imagined that line.

Mike Huckabee looked real good when he got a chance to speak.

Cruz is not getting asked enough questions. He sounds good when he answers but he could stand to be a bit more aggressive and interrupt more.