Sunday, July 31, 2016

Andy Beshear Needs to Man Up

I just watched an especially good episode of Bill Goodman's One on One show on KET.  He hosted Scott Jennings and Jonathan Miller on a preview of next week's Fancy Farm debatapalooza (Scott will be emceeing).

I was shocked to learn that Attorney General Andy Beshear will not be attending Fancy Farm. As the highest ranking Democrat to hold a constitutional office in Kentucky, his absence will be glaring.

Given how relentless Young Beshear has been in trying to stonewall every move by Gov. Matt Bevin, it's odd that he won't take the stage to attack Bevin.  Of courser, most of his efforts against Bevin have been done in court filings.

Looks like Andy is a paper tiger.

Fancy Farm occurs the same time every year; the date is no surprise. So Beshear cannot plausibly claim an previous engagement.  Perhaps Hillary Clinton is so toxic in Kentucky -- after her remarks about putting coal miners out of work -- that Andy doesn't want any videotape of him defending her. So much for taking one for the team.

Andy has made a calculated decision to skip Fancy Farm. Maybe he'll send Daddy Beshear. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

ISIS Kills French Priest - Performing Mass

The number of terrorist attacks world-wide seems to be increasing exponentially, to the point where each seems less shocking:  we are getting numb to the horror.

Today's fatal attack on a French priest in Normandy, in the midst of the mass, is different.

There can be no doubt that these terrorists are truly evil. This is no just a war between Western Civilization and Radical Islam; it is a war between good and evil.

The attack happened in a church in Rouen, not far from where American soldiers launched their D-Day invasion to free Europe from Nazism. Rouen is also associated with Jean d'Arc.

If only we had a Jean d'Arc or a General Patton to lead us now.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Law and Order Candidate

Donald Trump's theme tonight has been law and order, and almost everything else he has addressed -- immigration, public safety, his indictment of Hillary related to her misuse of classified material, even LGBTQ rights -- has revolved around the law and order theme.

It is striking that Trump didn't address social issues at all other than protection of LGBTQ rights. 

He did say he wants to repeal the Johnson amendment to allow churches to engage in political speech without losing their tax exempt status. But he gave no direct support of any of the social issues they advocate, in particular, the restriction of abortions. 

He said he would appoint to the Supreme Court a person with a judicial philosophy similar to Justice Scalia. Perhaps that was code speak for the abortion issue. But I don't think so. Instead he used the second amendment as an example of where he and Hillary differ as far as the Supreme Court goes. 

In short it looks like this campaign is going to steer clear of a conservative social agenda and push a law and order theme to frame virtually every other issue. That and, of course, the theme of winning. And making America great again. 

"I Humbly and Gratefully Accept Your Nomination for President of the United States"


Ivanka Signals Trump's Pivot to the Center

Ivanka Trump described herself as a millennial who doesn't always vote Republican but who knows she is voting for the Republican nominee this year. Her father is "color blind and gender neutral." No red-meat right wing rhetoric from her. 

 Ivanka gave the same vibe as did Thiel about the nominee: Trump is pivoting to the center politically for his campaign. In this sense, for a new type of candidate, Trump will be running for president in an old school way. Rather than focus only on turning out the base in red states, ala Karl Rove-like strategery, Trump will go after Independents and Democrats who haven't voted for a Republican nominee in a long while, if ever. 

Peter Thiel's Big Republican Tent

Peter Thiel just brought another surprise to this most unconventional convention. He proclaimed what we already knew existed but nonetheless had never been so publicly acknowledged at a Republican Convention before: a gay Republican who supports the nominee. Thiel's self identification drew no boos and much applause in the arena. And with the New York delegation cheering in the front section, it got me to thinking some heretical thoughts. Might we be seeing a revival of the Rockefeller Republican? We all want to make Trump in our own image. But Trump will be Trump. And with his choice ofspeakers  of all varieties, it seems that Trump is going to have a political tent big enough for a lot of different types, including (dare we say it?) social liberals. 

Twitter For Trump

Twitter has a huge presence at the Convention. That is no more evident than in the arena, where video screens with Twitter feeds are almost everywhere you look. Though Twitter says it is nonpartisan, it is currently under fire as having a left-wing bent for having banned tweets from Milo the Breitbart guy. But judging by Trump's popularity on this medium, one would think it has become his number-one mouthpiece. Indeed we learned earlier today from someone at Twitter that Trump has been killing Hillary in the number of tweets pertaining to a particular candidate for many weeks. While tweets can of course be either good or bad, Trump's dominance of this totally decentralized messaging tool favored by younger voters suggests a strength in the Trump media campaign that is widespread, innovative and far more in touch with the next generation than is Hillary's.


Preaching to the Choir and Football Fans

Now that's my kind of sermon! I hope Senator Cruz was taking notes. Pastor Mark Burris had the Convention on its feet like a gospel choir shouting "Trump! Trump! Trump!" This after Burris, an African American, preached that "all lives matter," which also brought everyone out of their seats.

Fran Tarkington followed with a joke that backstage he had tell Pastor Burris to "loosen up." The former Minnesota quarterback followed up on the theme that Pastor Burris had emphasized: that jobs are the only way the poor are going to improve their lot. And jobs can only be produced by a business leader like Trump: "He gets stuff done!"

I Love the Media

While others simply counted to 10 during their sound checks, Trump had a special message to the media gathered to catch a glimpse of him as he prepares for his speech tonight:

Testing the Mic

Donald and Ivanka are doing a dress rehearsal for tonight. 


WSJ Interviews Leader McConnell

In a piece entitled "No-Worries Mitch" in today's issue, the Wall Street Journal reports on its interview yesterday with Senate Majority Leader McConnell. When asked about how yesterday evening went (presumably the WSJ had Ted Cruz on its mind), the Leader wouldn't take the bait: "Oh, I'll leave that for others to judge." Nor would McConnell step on Trump's message, while at the same time reminding us of what the party is about and will remain: "I think the right of center will constantly renew as some leave and others come on. I'm not worried about that. We're not going to change what the Republican Party is. It's America's right-of-center part, it's the private sector party."  The Democrats  "are the government party, and the left-of-center party. That ain't gonna change."

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

"A Christian, Conservative and Republican, In That Order"

Indiana Governor Mike Pence just delivered a speech replete with self deprecating humor and modesty. He also came across as trustworthy and solid while embracing his role as the "softer" side of the ticket, as well as the man who will bring most if not all of the voters that Cruz has claimed -- those who are "Christian, conservative and Republican, in that order," as Pence described himself. Three attributes that Cruz would have us believe aren't "New York values." Regardless of the truth of that claim, any perception that Trump doesn't represent the rightward side of the party is dispelled by his choice of a running mate. Pence gave a reliable Midwestern stump speech for the New Yorker. Pence confirmed that Trump made the right choice to balance the ticket both geographically and politically. As the delegates chanted, "We like Mike!"

Who Needs Cruz Anyway?

Newt Gingrich tried to rehabilitate Ted Cruz by arguing Cruz meant to say vote for Trump when Cruz said to "vote your conscience for the candidate who will uphold the Constitution." It is interesting that Newt felt the need to translate Cruz-speak. If Newt's efforts are the result of a backstage request from the Trump campaign, they shouldn't bother. Trump doesn't need Cruz's endorsement. In fact it may help Trump in the blue states not to have Cruz's endorsement. Texas is already in the bag for Trump, so Cruz is irrelevant for Trump to win Cruz's home state in November.Cruz's debacle at the podium tonight is just another example of how a very smart guy can exercise remarkably poor judgment.

Cruz Doesn't Endorse Trump!

We all know Cruz isn't exactly #TrumpTrain, but I thought he would bite his tongue and endorse Trump as almost every other Republican primary contender has. But he didn't. In fact, he mentioned Trump's name just once in a shallow congratulations on officially earning the Republican nomination. 

Midway through his speech, when it was becoming clear Cruz may not endorse Trump, members of the New York delegation (sitting just feet in front of Cruz) began chanting "Endorse Trump!" As they chanted, Ctuz awkwardly stood there for what seemed like an eternity before finally remarking that he appreciated their enthusiasm. 

As Cruz continued, other delegates began to demand an endorsement. But at the end of Cruz's speech, with no endorsement, the entire arena went crazy and erupted in boos. As Cruz walked off the stage, leaving perhaps one of the most uncomfortable moments of his life, he hesitated and looked back, wondering if Trump really is just a brief phase. Perhaps Cruz has as much to gain from a Hillary presidency as anyone else. 

Cruz is a Sore Loser

Senator Ted Cruz began by praising LeBron James and slain policemen. He didn't praise Trump. The winner of the nomination was hardly even mentioned in Cruz's sermon, I mean speech.

"We are not fighting for one particular candidate or one campaign," he intoned. No mention of the party's nominee other than to congratulate him for winning the nomination.

Cruz got what he wanted: A lot of attention without having to endorse Trump. Maybe Cruz was trying to channel Ronald Reagan's speech at the end of Barry Goldwater's failed campaign, where in the party's defeat, Reagan laid the groundwork for future victory. But Trump is no Goldwater and Cruz is certainly no Reagan. Cruz's failure to announce his support for Trump made him look more like a sore loser than a future president.

The boos in the arena following Cruz's speech were deafening. 

State Senator Ralph Alvarado Impresses

Kentucky state Senator Ralph Alvarado delivered an impressive defense of Trump, including a message of support delivered in Spanish that brought the delegates to their feet. Kentucky has a new political star!


"No Hillary, You're the Problem!"

Laura Ingraham delivered a powerful speech. Laura was one of Trump's earliest supporters in the media, but tonight she delivered a stump speech for Trump like a seasoned politician. Her rhetoric got the crowd on their feet. And fired up. A nice contrast with Hillary.

Her calling out the media for their hostility towards Trump received a sustained standing ovation. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.

Party Time

This place is more like a rock concert than a political convention. Republicans party!


The Power of Unpredictability

One thing that continues to impress me about the RNC is the controlled unpredictability, especially in regards to the nominee. In a normal cycle (because face it, this is hardly a normal cycle) the nominee would not appear in any major sense until his acceptance speech on the final night. 

Trump, as always, is the exception. Between his silhouetted walkout to "We Are The Champions" on night one, to his recorded interjection on the monitors last night, you can't quite tell when "the Donald" will appear. 

Like his primary campaign, Trump has crafted an unorthodox convention style that keeps everyone guessing. Earlier today, the press waited in the sun for his 2 o'clock press conference. At 2 speakers blasted Italian opera and the Trump jet roared by. Then the nominee took a helicopter to the press conference green and spoke maybe 100 words before ducking into the motorcade. One reporter exclaimed, "is that it?!" 

Clearly the Donald is doing his best to keep the Fourth Estate on its toes. Now that major groups of protestors are arriving in Cleveland, lets's hope the unpredictability doesn't spill past what's been scripted. 

Trouble Has Passed

Earlier the Secret Service had closed all but one exit from the security perimeter as well as a section within the perimeter close to protestors. We were told that protestors were burning flags near the perimeter. Apparently seven people were arrested. 

By the time we made it to 4th street, the protests appeared to have passed. So far we have yet to witness any protests get out of hand and the massive assembly of law enforcement officers has kept things under control. 

The security perimeter around convention facilities almost forms a mini city, secured by a Trump-worth wall. Border security around here is excellent. 

There have only been two protestors within the arena who had smuggled in contraband signs. They were quickly escorted out with few evening noticing. 

Worried About Fourth Street

The secret service has cordoned off an area of the parameter next to Fourth Street. Another reporter told us that security on this street is the weak link in security at the convention. We shall see. 

A Real Political Commentator

You know you've arrived as an amateur political commentator when you arrive with a professional one: Charles Krauthammer.

Trump's Dramatic Entrance

After a morning tour of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, we saw a crowd gathering next to the Science Center. Unsure of what was happening, we went over and soon discovered it was for Trump's dramatic arrival to Cleveland. Trump's family, along with Mike Pence, stood ready to greet him. 


Soon classical music was blaring from speakers as Trump's plane made a theatrical pass. 

Minutes later, Trump's helicopter flew by and continued to circle the area in a spectacle only Trump could be behind. After Trump landed, he greeted Pence and his family and spoke briefly before departing in a Trump-worthy motorcade. All around me, press from across the world could not help but laugh at this incredibly ostentatious sight -- I can only imagine the reaction if Hillary tried the same thing next week in Philadelphia. 



Trump Staffer Apologizes for Plagiarism

The Eagle Has Landed

We just witnessed the Trump plane fly past all the media next to Lake Erie. He has landed and presumably is about to fly over in his helicopter. Mike Pence and the Trump children are here waiting to greet him. They just played the Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want."

Trump Helicopter Watch

More evidence that this is not your typical political convention. We were at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and learned Donald Trump is flying in next door at the Science Center in about a half an hour. We've scurried over, given up our souvenirs to security and are now waiting for the man in a crowd of a few hundred, mostly media. They are playing an opera aria. We are on the look out for the helicopter with Trump emblazoned on it to make a grand touch down. You've got to admit, he is quite the showman!

Senator McConnell and Secretary Chao entering the floor

Majority Leader McConnell at the Podium

Mike Lee

At the Federalist Society Lunch. He avoided discussing any plots to derail the Convention and instead focused on protecting the Constitution.

Donald Trump Officially Nominated

McConnell and Bevin announce Kentucky's vote

Yesterday, Donald Trump was officially nominated after a roll call vote of all the states. Kentucky was represented by Governor Matt Bevin and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. While Monday's rules vote may have been contentious, Kentucky Bourbon was unanimously approved when Bevin declared Kentucky "the state that produces all the bourbon that is fit to drink in the world." Here was Bevin's full statement:
Mr. Chairman, from the Commonwealth of Kentucky, home of Churchill Downs and American Pharaoh; the source of Bluegrass music and the home of Bill Monroe; an auto manufacturing state with the largest Toyota manufacturing plant, the maker of the Ford Super Duty and the Chevy Corvette; from the state that produces all of the bourbon that is fit to drink in the world; from a state where our citizens still respect God, the Constitution, our military and our police officers, it is our honor to cast 17 votes for the next president of United States of America, Mr. Donald J. Trump.
Convention Chair Paul Ryan allowed New York to vote out of order, allowing it to push Trump over 1,237 into the nomination. Donald Trump Jr. announced his state's vote.

The Trump children entering the arena to vote for their father

The band played "New York, New York"
as soon as Trump earned enough votes to become the nominee

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Majority Leader Offers The Best Reason To Vote for Trump

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell drew his biggest response from the crowd when he reaffirmed his pledge to deny any hearing for President Obama's Supreme Court nominee. On a night when an earlier speaker suggested that Hillary and Ruth Bader Gunsburg both go into retirement (to put it nicely), the Supreme Court was a topic on many delegates' minds. McConnell forcefully delivered exactly what they wanted to hear. The decision of who will replace Justice Scalia -- and perhaps others on the high court -- is the top reason why the choice between Trump and Hillary is a no brainier.

Start Spreading the News

if you can make it there, you'll make it anywhere. This election year especially.  New York will be the home state of the next president.  Their delegates just put Trump over. Next week their Democratic counterparts will do the same for Hillary.

Judging by Applause, Bourbon Edges Out Trump for the Nomination

Governor Matt Bevin just announced the delegate votes from Kentucky. "The state that produces all the bourbon fit to drink" got the most votes from the other convention delegates.

Ohio Delegation is Shunted to an Obscure Corner

Paul Ryan announced that the New York delegation may vote out of order. In other words, they will be casting their votes presumably to put Trump over top. The New Yorkers also have the best seats in the house -- immediately in front of the podium. Normally the host state would be there but Ohio went for Kasich, who isn't even showing up for the convention. Very bad form for the Ohio governor!

Senator Sessions Gets a Second Chance

No one is ignoring Senator Sessions tonight. He now is taking advantage of his second chance at the podium. He just nominated Trump, and he's drawing cheers. No distractions from his message this time. "A movement has started . . . Together we will make America great again!" Time to roll with the changes. Time to roll with Trump.

Roll With the Changes

The convention band opened today's session with a cover of "Roll With the Changes,". How fitting. I wonder if REO Speedwagon is represented by the same lawyers as Queen, who have already sent a cease and desist letter to the Trump campaign protesting last night's use of "We are the Champions." As if Freddie Mercury at this point really cares.

By the way the best dancers by far on the convention floor last night were the Georgians. The Kentucky delegates better step it up!

We are all Federalists; we are all Republicans

What would Thomas Jefferson do? If he were attending the Republican National Convention, I should add. The group named after the party of his arch nemesis gathered at the Hilton Garden Inn for a luncheon featuring US Senator Mike Lee, who of course cited to Hamilton at the convention -- the constitutional one, that is. The Federalist Society lunch produced a most refreshing talk by Senator Lee about the need to reinvigorate federalism and separation of powers. He showed no signs of fatigue or discouragement from having lost the floor fight yesterday in opposition to the Trump nomination. No one at the lunch asked him about it. The questions, from an audience of mostly lawyers, asked questions more about the constitution than public policy. But Senator Lee offered an intriguing infusion of the two when he advocated for members of Congress to voluntarily cabin their lawmaking according to traditional views of constitutional powers rather than as liberally interpreted by the Supreme Court in recent decades. Senator Lee is clearly a talented constitutional law scholar, not to mention a lawmaker who presents himself as modest with a great sense of self deprecating humor. Let's hope that Trump, should he get elected, lets bygones be bygones. Trump would do well to have Lee on his side, putting his constitutional mind to work on initiatives both Federalists and Republicans of the Trump variety can support.

The Remarkable First Day

It was a day that began rather unremarkably, like this column. First came finding the place. Thanks to an app called Waze, we navigated around all of the many streets cordoned off for what we were affectionately calling "Republicanville" by the end of the day.

The crowd cheered when a speaker thanked the Cleveland police for doing such a good job protecting the Convention -- applause that was well deserved. But after a silent protester was escorted out of the building for unfurling a sign supporting Syrian refugees, it was clear that more than just our safety was being secured.

I am too harsh. This is, after all, a convention to celebrate and promote the Republican nominee. It's the winner's victory lap, and he should be entitled to a unanimous -- in perception at least -- cheering crowd. That's what party conventions are for.

And that's why there was little sympathy for last minute efforts to derail the Trump nomination.

In any event, it seemed hypocritical for those claiming to speak in the name of the people to be advocating that party insiders use the rules to snatch victory from the candidate who received millions more votes than any of his competitors.

The mainstream media kept political opinions to themselves except when we were standing in line for the shuttle. We learned from a Buffalo television reporter that Trump may in fact have enough support from upstate and renegade Manhattanites to carry New York. But then again, that's the kind of thing I imagine any smart political reporter in an habitual blue state would say to retain viewer interest.

We met a Clevelander who'd also made the climb up the steep hill from the riverfront, home to our cheap parking space ($10, in contrast to the $50-$80 parking closer to the arena). She confirmed that the city this week is nothing like normal Cleveland. It sounded like this young woman is a lone Republican in a neighborhood of Democratic wolves. She said she had supported Rand Paul, but when he dropped out, she crossed over to vote for Bernie because she hated Hillary so much.

Maybe hating Hillary so much will win this election. That certainly was the theme for many of the speakers last night. A Gold Star mother seethed in contempt for what she said were Hillary's lies to her about the circumstances of her son's death. In a night when a former fashion model would be the keynote speaker, debate raged over whether Hillary would look better wearing pantsuits in orange or black stripes.

The Benghazi rescuers spoke way too long. I never thought an account of rescuing Americans from the embassy could become boring, but by the end of their speech, I noticed a sea of cell phones receiving more attention. They weren't taking pictures of the speakers either.

Senator Jeff Sessions also was a victim of delegate distraction. Someone walked into the arena in the middle of his speech. Not sure who it was because the focus of attention was below the balcony where we were sitting. Was it Donald Trump, Mike Pence, Gollum? Whoever it was, more people were interested in taking his photograph than paying attention to Senator Sessions. We ran into the senator afterwards on his way back to the hotel. He first ignored us, then waved an acknowledgment without turning around. He clearly was not happy with the way his speech had been received.

More content was Senator Tom Cotton, who did a much better job delivering his first convention speech than had that other Arkansan when he first appeared on a national stage. There is no need for Senator Cotton to play the saxophone on the Tonight Show; he did a commendable job. He was spotted smiling, holding his wife's hand, strolling down the hallway afterwards.

The speakers who really were on fire were Rudy Giuliani and the Milwaukee police chief. They both gave stirring talks focusing on why blue lives matter.

Notwithstanding the meandering speeches by the Benghazi rescuers, most of the evening was tightly produced and effective. I had been dubious about the speaker line-up, which was light on professional politicians and heavy on ordinary folk. I was wrong. The large number of persons of color and accent on that podium support Trump's claim that he has constructed a sufficiently broad tent for victory.

The speaker with the most striking accent -- both in appearance and speech -- was, of course, Melania. It is hard to say the candidate is anti-immigrant when his number one fan is a naturalized citizen. It will be hard to say the candidate is anti-Semitic when his daughter Ivanka -- who converted to Judaism -- will introduce him Thursday night.

Melania's speech writer should be fired if he/she plagiarized Michelle Obama's speech, as is being reported. But despite this mar, Melania  did a superb job humanizing her husband and bringing a little of, dare we say, Jackie Kennedy-like glamour to the stage. He won't like for us to say this, but she really upstaged her husband, who made cameo appearances before and after her speech. (For a host of reasons, they could have done without Queen's "We Are the Champions" as background music.)

The only former GOP presidential candidate in attendance was former Senator Bob Dole, who Melania rightly singled out for a standing ovation. None of the famous Bush family was there. The only sighting of 41 and 43 was in a joint photograph in the hallway, along with pictures of other Republican presidents from the past. I spotted only one photograph of Abraham Lincoln, one of Ronald Reagan, several of Richard Nixon. Go figure.

But this convention isn't about the past or politicians, at least not in the usual sense. This convention is going exactly how I had expected, and that was what made the first day so remarkable.

Day One of Convention Shatters Expectations

Leading up to the convention, many doubted Donald Trump's ability to assemble an all star convention speaker lineup. If tonight is any indication, that could not be further from the truth. 

Tonight's speakers made us laugh, made our hearts mourn for unnecessary death and suffering caused by Obama and Clinton's failed leadership, made us frustrated at the damage our country has suffered over the last eight years, but most importantly made us hopeful for the change that is ahead. 

I was particularly moved by Mary Ann Mendoza, Sabine Durden, and Jamiel Shaw's stories of their children who were killed by illegal immigrants. In all three circumstances, the killers were felons who did not face appropriate punishment for their crimes or deportation, which would have prevented the death of three innocent men. Pat Smith spoke of her son's death in Benghazi in an emotional speech in which one could not help but empathize with the pain she felt, especially with Hillary Clinton lying to her face about the cause of her son's death. We've heard a lot about Benghazi since the attack in 2012, but tonight really showed the consequences in a way in which any American could relate.

Darryl Glenn, Republican nominee for Senate from Colorado, delivered an impressive performance. Glenn, an African American, began by attacking Obama as a divider, a contributor not remedy for recent racial tensions. Later, in a moment of comic relief, Glenn spoke of Hillary's love of pantsuits; he suggested that perhaps she'd look good in an orange one!

In one of the best performances of the night, Rudy Giuliani energetically spoke directly about the night's theme -- Make America Safe Again -- and laid out the need for a leader dedicated to supporting the police who protect us at home and our military who protects us abroad. He also spoke of his personal relationship with Trump. "You deserve to know this about your next president. He’s been great a great father, father-in-law, grandfather, and friend to me, my wife Judith, and my family for now almost 30 years." Giuliani continued, "I know him personally, and this is a very good and decent man. And he will be a great president!"

Giuliani in an unusually energetic speech

In a dramatic climax, Donald Trump unexpectedly took the stage to introduce his wife, Melania, who eloquently spoke of her experience immigrating to America and attempted to show voters her husband's human side. She said: "Yes, Donald thinks big, which is especially important when considering the presidency of the United States. No room for small thinking. No room for small results. Donald gets things done." She followed up, saying: "If you want someone to fight for you and your country, I can assure you, he is the 'guy'. He will never, ever, give up. And, most importantly, he will never, ever, let you down."

Donald Trump unexpectedly emerging to introduce his wife, Melania

Melania was confident and poised

Unfortunately, Melania's speech has been overshadowed by accusations of plagiarism which the Trump campaign has denied. Any resemblance to Michelle Obama's 2008 speech must almost certainly be coincidental, as it would be absurd to plagiarize in such a high profile speech. It's really a shame because Melania's speech was so excellent, and many will miss her incredible story in light of these accusations.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Unofficial Delegate Photo

This was taken at the same time as the official photo. Look for the Kentucky delegation on the right side.


Never Trump has formally fizzled; now say cheese!

Contrary to what Politico is reporting, the convention floor has been rather tame during the so-called revolt against Trump. A delegate from California has just offered a resolution that the secretary of the convention publish its report from the rules committee. This should effectively cut off the never Trump effort. They are moving on to taking the official photograph of all the convention delegates. We  will post the unofficial one taken from our vantage point soon.

Did the protesters get the date wrong?

As I write this, the weather outside is a bit overcast, but not enough to limit the humidity and heat. For such a large city, Cleveland felt a bit empty this morning. As we drove to pick up Secret Service credentials, there was nary another car for most of the trip. Granted, many fellow RNC-goers were probably taking the opportunity to catch up on some sleep after last night's Lynyrd Skynyrd concert. Many of the main streets have barricades, security checkpoints, and and an iron wall (maybe eight feet tall?) encasing the convention perimeter. This writer is grateful for the efforts by local and national law enforcement agencies to keep the convention running safely and smoothly

Nevertheless, the few hours before the official start at 1:00 lacked what I expected would be a staple at this convention -- Where are the protesters?! As we wandered the perimeter, I expected to see crowds of people giving the usual spiel: Trump's a racist, the GOP is racist, they need to condemn him as a racist, etc. etc. Side note: I find it interesting that liberals can simultaneously hold the view that the GOP is completely racist yet still insist that it must condemn the frontrunner to save the "soul of the party". Kind of a chicken and egg argument, but I digress. 

Anyways, I finally got a glimpse of the throngs of protesters just behind the great, big, iron wall as we travelled from the Quicken Loans Arena to the Huntington Convention Center to mingle with the rest of the Fourth Estate. Hopefully there will be time to interact with the crowds outside the perimeter. 

Today's forecast, cloudy with a chance of crowd control.

Dr. Ben Carson

Just ran into Dr. Ben Carson, who was just as friendly in person as he comes across on TV. He graciously stopped for a photo with my brother Christian and me. 

Hello Mr. Rather

You never know who you will meet at a political convention. Soon after we arrived in the media area, I looked up and who did I see other than the last person I'd expect: Dan Rather. I reached out and shook his hand. "Hello Mr. Rather. Nice to meet you." He seemed genuinely pleased to be recognized. No one else seemed to be paying attention to him as he headed towards a concession stand. The man he tried to take down -- W -- is not showing up this week. Who would have imagined it a few years ago?

We need a cup of coffee

I just arrived at the U.S. courthouse to obtain secret service clearance. Outside there is hardly anyone in the streets. No protesters. Nothing. A reporter from the UK I just met described the city as a "ghost town". He said he was going to get a cup of coffee. The whole city seems to need one too.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Baring My Pre-Convention Thoughts

It's been eight years since the last national Republican convention I attended, and I wonder how this one will compare.

At the last one, in Minneapolis, McCain was the nominee, but really Palin was the focus of attention. And Romney was so off the radar screen that I almost bumped into him alone on a sidewalk outside the arena after McCain's acceptance speech. That he couldn't find a friend to walk with him that night should have been a sign of things to come. This year Romney won't even be at the convention. McCain will be in the Grand Canyon both literally and metaphorically, given how far away he is from everyone's attention these days.

Eight years ago Ron Paul brought the most motley band of supporters. I remember attending their outdoor rally in a park, where a couple of fellows in whitey tighties were preaching libertarianism and passing out copies of the Constitution. This time those standing with Rand (in business suits) probably won't be noticed. That's too bad. Maybe in another four years.

In Minneapolis there were a few protesters. But it was nothing compared to what has been hyped for this week. When McCain was nominated, the nation yawned, except for its momentary interest in Palin. But she seemed more like a Hail Mary than a solid player in a game where the Republicans were badly behind. The Democrats were making history with the first serious African American candidate. McCain wasn't the first anything. Only the most diehard of protesters thought it worth their time to protest him.

This year is different. The Democrats are trying to win with the same game plan as in 2008, only substitute woman for Black. But the Republicans have stumbled upon a nominee who is even more intriguing than a first female president. Forget the question of whether America is ready for a woman as commander in chief. What has the thousands of media and the anticipated protesters all in a dither is a far more interesting question: is America ready for a Trump in the White House?

That query will drive all the discussion both inside and outside the arena this week.

I don't expect to run into a future presidential nominee in an unguarded moment as I did in 2008, but by definition you never know at the time it happens.

Speaking of unguarded moments, there were more than a hundred bare naked ladies protesting something earlier today. You know Trump is onto something huge when he causes people to shed their underwear. Not even Ron Paul could pull that off.

Republicans Need to Come Together this Week

Kentucky Republicans may remember just one year ago when we found ourselves in our own unity crisis. Matt Bevin had just won a heated four-way primary by a mere 83 votes that had pitted Kentucky Republicans against each other. 

I remember some republicans who were so dissatisfied their candidate lost that they planned write off this election and hope a better candidate could defeat a presumably  Governor Jack Conway in four years. Immediately after that primary election, few had hope that Bevin would win, much less that Kentucky Republicans could heal their divisions. 

Fortunately, most Kentucky Republicans eventually supported Bevin and helped propel him to a surprisingly large victory. Hal Heiner earned a place in Bevin's administration, James Comer is the nominee for the 1st district congressional seat, and Will T. Scott is presumably still telling jokes and jumping out of airplanes. Most importantly, Governor Bevin is making critical changes that will save our state from fiscal ruin. 

Republicans across the country find themselves in a similar position today to that of Kentucky Republicans a year ago. We faced a primary which at one time featured candidates numbering in the double digits, almost all of whom were well qualified. There were real differences between each of the candidates, but so many more commonly held beliefs. 

Ultimately, Donald Trump will officially emerge as our nominee this week in Cleveland. Perhaps he isn't your first choice, or second choice, or even fifth choice, but he is our man. There is so much at stake that we simply cannot afford to not support him.

Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and other liberals want to deny us our basic liberties —our right to free speech (that opposes their radical ideals), free exercise of religion (especially if that religion is Christianity), and our sacred right to defend ourselves and our property with firearms. 

Senator McConnell brilliantly announced that the Senate will not consider an Obama nominee to the Supreme Court, thereby preventing a progressive takeover of an institution that can make or break our most important freedoms. This election is about so much more than Trump vs. Hillary; it's about preserving our Constitution. 

Trump released a list of potential Supreme Court nominees filled with proven conservatives who would take seriously their oath to defend and uphold the Constitution. 

Our nation depends on the rule of law, and the Constitution is the essence of it. Hillary Clinton has repeatedly demonstrated that she thinks she's above the law; we cannot afford a Court that would vindicate a President Clinton's illegal actions, much less Obama's. 

It is imperative that Republicans come together this week and support our democratically chosen nominee. The alternative is quite simply more than our nation can bear. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Rand Paul to Skip Convention

 Laura Ingraham is reporting that Sen. Rand Paul will not attend the Republican National Convention; instead, he will campaign in Kentucky.

His opponent has tried to make an issue of Rand's presidential run. That issue has no traction here, so I don't think Rand needed to skip the convention.

Will his opponent skip the Democratic National Convention?  Was he even invited?

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

My C-J Column on Bevin's Prison Reform

My most recent column is up in print in today's C-J:  Reprinted with permission:

A great deal of energy goes into the debate about whose lives matter in criminal justice. But perhaps too much focus has been on the front end — the arrest of the criminal — and not enough on what should be the back end — his rehabilitation. Kentucky’s burgeoning prison population reflects that we do a good job catching, convicting and incarcerating criminals, but a lousy job preparing them to re-enter free society.
Gov. Matt Bevin is doing something about this by forming Criminal Justice Policy and Assessment Council.
Bevin explained the need for the council: “We must continue to hold people accountable for their crimes, but also find ways to cut re-offense rates, improve reentry after incarceration, increase drug treatment and effectively treat mental illness – all while helping victims and improving public safety.”
The composition of this council illustrates Bevin’s pragmatic and innovative style of governance. This is not business as usual in Frankfort.
The council includes professionals from all levels of the criminal justice system: prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, a former FBI special agent and a jailor, among others.
Most encouraging, Bevin included several members of the clergy. Criminal justice reform should include an element of grace and redemption. It should manifest that most American of values – the hope for a better life – and its corollary: we are the land of second chances.
Local churches and faith-based groups like Prodigal Ministries can play an important role in supporting inmates in becoming law-abiding – and tax-paying – members of the community.
Violent criminals should go to prison for punishment and to deter others, but not all crimes are violent. Further, incarceration is expensive; Kentucky spent nearly half a billion dollars on corrections last year. The high number of people who return to prison suggests that this model is not working. Simply put, it’s not a good return on our tax dollars.
Kentucky houses nearly 24,000 inmates. That’s up from 15,000 in 2000. The heroin epidemic will surely increase that number further. Unless the trend is reversed, Kentucky will have to build more prisons that we cannot afford.
Releasing a heroin addict who has not dealt with his addiction often results in that individual getting rearrested. This cycle is expensive for taxpayers and devastating in human terms. Every prisoner, after all, is someone’s family member – maybe their parent.
Far better to treat the mentally ill and addicted, perhaps with community-based treatment, than to simply warehouse them.
Bevin promised in his inaugural address to see what other states are doing well and then copy their successes. To that end, the council can take the concept  “tough on crime” and update it to make Kentucky “smart on crime,” by using data-driven solutions from states like Texas.
The prison population in Texas had tripled from 1990 to 2010; the price for the new prisons necessary to hold all these people would have been $2.5 billion.
So Texas instead invested a fraction of that cost into drug courts to divert non-violent drug offenders into community-based treatment. It focused on rehabilitation to help reentry. The results: a 14 percent drop in the state’s prison population and a 29 percent reduction in crime. That is, Texas found a model that saved money, improved safety and gave former inmates with the desire a new trajectory for their lives.
It’s a little counter-intuitive. One would think that fewer people in prison would mean more criminals on the streets. Here’s the missing piece that Kentucky needs to include: Public policies that turn lives around reduce the crime rate by cutting recidivism.
Former inmates who cannot find a job upon their release resort to old familiar patterns that land them back in jail. The cycle cannot be broken without jobs.  However, two-thirds of ex-inmates still don’t have a job one year after they’ve served their sentence. That’s where the private and non-profit sector can help.
The American Printing House for the Blind is setting an example for Kentucky employers to hire released inmates. Its pilot program uses ex-convicts who received Braille training in prison to work as book transcribers after they leave prison.
Likewise, the Charles Koch Institute has developed a Prison Entrepreneurship Program that teaches business classes and culminates in a business plan competition. It gives inmates who so desire the skills and support to work for themselves.
Bevin has seized an opportunity to transform Kentucky, one life at a time by focusing on its most important resource: our peopl

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

KY Chamber Takes on Health Insurance Tax

The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce has written to the Kentucky delegation to express concern about the Health Insurance Tax component of Obamacare, a topic this blog recently addressed.

Essentially, the HIT taxis a sales tax on health insurance plans that will be born by consumers and businesses that purchase the plans. It is projected to cost families approximately $5,000 a year.

The Chamber highlights the devastating effect HIT will have on small businesses. That is, it will ultimately kill jobs, at a time when they are scacre enough thanks to seven years of the Obama economy.

Here's what the Chamber posted:

The Health Insurance Tax acts like a sales tax on health-insurance policies purchased in
the market by individuals and employers. While the tax, when implemented, is supposed
to be paid by the insurance companies, the real cost will be passed through to the
customers who pay for the insurance.

“Kentucky families depend upon a growing economy and a strong private sector to ensure
they can meet their needs today and reach for their goals tomorrow. When a tax or
regulation targets the business community, it doesn’t just hurt the entrepreneurs and
owners: whatever holds the businesses back also holds back their employees and the
people who might have become employees,” Kentucky Chamber Vice President of Public
Affairs Ashli Watts wrote.

According to the National Federation of Independent Business, the tax will cost nearly
250,000 jobs – with 59% of the job losses falling on small businesses. Large employers
will also experience considerable job loss, resulting from the residual effect of initial
cutbacks made at small businesses.

“Collectively, these impacts on jobs and growth, coupled with fewer investments, will
cause a ripple effect on the already fragile Kentucky economy,” Watts said.

Watts also stated that the tax will lead to higher premiums for individuals and their
families as a study by the Joint Committee on Taxation states that “a very large portion”
of the tax will “be borne by consumers” in the form of a 2 to 2.5 percent increase in
premium cost by 2016. As a result of the tax, families could experience a $5,000 increase
in the cost of their premium over a decade.

Because of the negative impacts to come from this provision, Watts expressed the
Kentucky Chamber’s appreciation that Congress has delayed implementation of the
Health Insurance Tax but asked that members of Kentucky’s federal delegation seek
permanent repeal of the measure.