Monday, September 21, 2015

Carson Goes Rogue, Trump Shrugs & 'Saint Scott' Helps "Clear the Field"

Ben Carson points to where he's going: way off the ranch
Is the word 'ironic' sufficient enough to describe the fact that the lone African-American Republican presidential candidate for the 2016 race, a former pediatric neurosurgeon and devout Christian, is being publicly accused of religious bigotry and intolerance?

During an interview on NBC's 'Meet the Press' on Sunday, Dr. Ben Carson declared that a U.S. President who was a practicing Muslim was not "consistent with the Constitution", and that he could not agree with America having a Muslim President.

No doubt Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison, a practicing Muslim and respected Democratic leader, found Carson's comments interesting.

Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, promptly called for the soft-spoken GOP candidate to resign on the grounds that he was not fit to hold office.

Now I'm not really sure what Carson was thinking when he said that.

The good doctor was coming off a pretty decent performance in the latest GOP presidential debate in California.

Maybe he felt he had to do or say something to put some space between him and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina after she stood up to both Russian President Vladamir Putin and Donald Trump during the debate and boosted her standing in the polls up into the top three.

Or maybe Carson was simply following in the footsteps of other GOP candidates and trying to "out-Trump" Donald Trump after the Republican front-runner made headlines last Thursday for refusing to correct the comments of a right-wing "Birther" who stood up in front of an audience of about 3,000 Trump supporters and said:  

“We have a problem in this country, it’s called Muslims. We know our current president is one — you know he’s not even an American. But anyway, we have training camps growing where they want to kill us. That’s my question, when can we get rid of them?”

The idea that there are people in this country who want to "get rid" of Muslims is obviously disturbing on a number of levels, but hardly surprising given the right wing media's role in actively promoting anti-Muslim hatred since the 911 attacks.

So far Trump has refused to disavow or clarify the statements made by his supporter in New Hampshire last week; how can he? Especially given his own role in actively spreading discredited fringe "Birther" theories.  

A stunning 52% of Trump supporters incorrectly believe President Obama is a Muslim.

Republican town hall meeting in Maryland, 2013
Some of the folks still riding around in the 2016 Republican Clown Car are so intent on pleasing the amorphous living mass called the "Republican Base" that they seem to have lost sight of the fact that the much larger American middle is far more moderate in its views.

The Republican Base may be strong, and God knows it's opinionated, but as Mitt Romney learned in 2012, it's simply not big enough on it's own to get someone elected to the White House - Gerrymandering and voter suppression of Democratic votes are only going to take you so far. 

The backlash against two of the leading Republican presidential candidates over the tone of intolerance so prevalent in the GOP message is proof positive that the Republican's post-2012 presidential election self analysis mea-culpa exists only in a distant past that is unrecognizable.

The racial, ethnic and religious divisiveness that GOP leaders vowed to steer the party away from just three years ago in an effort to make the party more inclusive, is now a legitimate plank in the current Republican platform.

A platform that's so out of step with the current demographic makeup of the United States in terms of the ethnic diversity of its population, that it's very close to rendering the Republican party irrelevant.

The number of seats they hold in Congress is in part, an illusion that helps to disguise the total lack of optimism in their outlook for the nation and the non-existence of any meaningful or substantive policy proposals or broad initiatives to move the country forward.

Wisconsin Gov Scott Walker drops out
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's announcement earlier this evening that he's dropping out of the 2016 GOP race was about as anti-climatic as it was unsurprising given his anemic Presidential campaign message and the fact that he's polling at zero %.

According to multiple sources, the press conference to announce his dropping out of the race was hastily planned.

Based on his comments earlier this evening and his lackluster performances at both GOP presidential debates, maybe his entering the 2016 race in the first place was hastily planned too.

Frankly it's laughable that the same candidate who just recently was touting the same kind of "Trump-ian" anti-immigrant hysteria as planks of his own campaign (erecting walls on the border of Canada, saying only a "handful" of the 1.6 billion Muslims in the world are moderate...) is now trying to spin his dropping out of the 2016 presidential race as some kind of half-ass pseudo-religious epiphany.

In his farewell statement, Walker said,  “The Bible is full of stories of people being called to lead in unusual ways, I believe I am being called to lead by helping clear the field.” 

Like former Texas Governor Rick Perry before him, Walker seemed to try and use his exit as some kind of clarion call for the Republican party to wake up and "smell the Donald" before it's too late.

But that ship has already sailed for the Wisconsin Governor with a 40% approval rating in his own state. But hey, that's 10 points better than the 30% home-state approval rating of another Republican presidential hopeful in the 2016 race. (We see you Chris Christie)

Walker had plenty of opportunities to stake out a position across the ideological field from Trump to try and force the GOP to distance itself from Trump's unabashed courting of right-wing extremists, anti-immigrant hate mongers, fringe loonies and white nationalists.

But he didn't. Instead Walker went for the same low-hanging fruit Trump revels in feasting on;
and he reaped exactly what he sowed.

In another display of Republican irony, it was only in his final statement as a 2016 presidential candidate earlier this evening that Walker said something that actually made sense:

“Sadly, the debate taking place in the party today is not focused on an optimistic view of America. Instead, it has drifted into personal attacks. In the end, I believe that the voters want to be for something and not against someone.”
You got that one right Governor, but no one is going to consider you "Saint Scott" for saying it; if you'd said it on stage during one of the two prime-time Republican debates in front of millions of people on television it might have meant something.

It might have changed the scope of the race and your own campaign.

Instead you waited until you were on your way out of the race to mention the truth as an afterthought on a Monday evening when most people's focus is on Monday night football, the humanitarian crisis in Europe, the vilification of a Muslim kid in Texas who built a clock that some people saw as a bomb, or their own problems.  

The kinds of problems a real honest to God presidential candidate with vision and guts might offer some solutions to.

But you weren't that candidate.

Instead you were just an unpopular Governor propped up by millions in Koch brothers dark money who stripped hard-working union workers of their right to collective bargaining, stripped your state's college system of critical funding even though you never graduated from college yourself, and contradicted your own "government is too big and intrusive" philosophy by signing a ban on abortions after 20 weeks into law.

You said it best yourself earlier tonight Governor Walker, "... the debate taking place in the party today is not focused on an optimistic view of America." 

You yourself were part of that lack of optimism; and clearly you were not part of the solution. 

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