Carly Fiorina has had the wind at her back after the first Republican presidential debate. The former Hewlett-Packard CEO earned high marks for her appearance at the "kids table" forum for the least-popular GOP candidates, and she has been rising in the polls ever since. So it was only a matter of time before the knives came out.
On Sunday evening, former Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), who herself was doing well in the GOP presidential polls this time four years ago, drew her followers' attention to a 14-year-old speech Fiorina had given in Minneapolis, in which she defended the cultural, legal, and scientific heritage of the Muslim world. The catch: It was delivered just weeks after 9/11. What nerve!
Fiorina's speech reads as a thoughtful defense of the faith of many of her employees at Hewlett Packard. Her respect for Islam seems to come from personal experience. In her 2006 book, Tough Choices, she described the soothing effect of listening to Muslim prayers when she was a teen and her family lived in Ghana. (Her father was a law professor then on a teaching sabbatical at the University of Ghana). She wrote:
I remember hearing, for the first time, Muslims pray, and how over time their sound evolved from being frightening in its strangeness to comforting in its cadence and repetition—I would feel the same peace when I listened to the sound of summer cicadas around my grandmother's house. I grew to love being awakened in the morning by the sound of the devout man who always came to pray under my bedroom window.
Uh-oh. That reminiscence may well provide Bachmann with more ammo. And it's not just Bachmann who has called out Fiorina for being soft on Islam. Fiorina's comments on Islamic civilization have also been criticized by fringe-right outlets like the American Thinker and Western Journalism Review.
Islam has once again become a wedge issue in the Republican primary. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, for instance, has called for a ban on certain kinds of Muslim immigrants. Fiorina, who tried (and failed) to ride the GOP tea party wave into the Senate in 2010 by fashioning herself as a stalwart conservative—is now the target of the extremists she once courted.
Donald Trump spent most of the weekend saying awful things about Megyn Kelly, after the Fox News host had the temerity to question him at last Thursday's debate about his history of saying awful things about other women. That shouldn't come as too much of a surprise: Hurling insults at people who cross him is basically the entire point of Donald Trump.
But when he's not saying bad things about Kelly, Hillary Clinton, Rosie O'Donnell, women more generally, black people, Mexicans, President Barack Obama, various members of the press, John McCain, or Mohawks, Trump also makes a lot of good points.
Here are 13 things Trump has been right about:
The invasion of Iraq: In 2003, he told the Dallas Morning-News that the Iraq War had been a "disaster" that "should not have been entered into." "To lose all of those thousands and thousands of people, on our side and their side, I mean, you have Iraqi kids, not only our soldiers, walking around with no legs, no arms, no faces," he said. "All for no reason. It is a disgrace."
Katy Perry shouldn't have married Russell Brand:
.@katyperry Katy, what the hell were you thinking when you married loser Russell Brand. There is a guy who has got nothing going, a waste!
Campaign finance: Although Trump bragged (falsely) about having cut checks to most of the Republican candidates with whom he shared the stage last week, he also made some smart points about the corrupting influence of campaign contributions. "I will tell you that our system is broken," he said during the debate. "I give to many people. I give to everybody, when they call I give, and you know what? When I need something from them, two years, three years later, I call, they are there for me."
Material excess: "While I can't honestly say I need an eighty-foot living room, I get a kick out of having one," he wrote in his most famous book, The Art of the Deal. Both of these statements sound pretty true.
The merits of his cologne, which is actually called "Success" and features notes of juniper, iced red currant, frozen ginger, vetiver, and tonka bean: Granted, you can't buy it in stores anymore because no one bought it, but Success gets 4.5 stars on Amazon.com. User "Kim" writes:
My boyfriend LOVES this cologne. They used to sell it at Macy's but it was discontinued and he was running low around Christmas time...when I told him it was discontinued he was sad that he would have to find another cologne now..but then I found it online here and I was so happy! And it was ALOT cheaper than I used to pay at Macy's! ($62) and it was the big sized bottle like he wanted and it was perfect and he was so happy.
Dick Cheney: "He's very, very angry and nasty," Trump said in a 2011 review of Cheney's book. "I didn't like Cheney when he was a vice president. I don't like him now. And I don't like people that rat out everybody like he's doing in the book. I'm sure it'll be a bestseller, but isn't it a shame? Here's a guy that did a rotten job as vice president. Nobody liked him. Tremendous divisiveness. And he's gonna be making a lot of money on the book. I won't be reading it."
The Drug War: In 1990, well before the political tides had shifted in favor of pot legalization, Trump was declaring the federal government's mass-incarceration campaign a waste. "We're losing badly the war on drugs. You have to legalize drugs to win that war. You have to take the profit away from these drug czars."
RedState's Erick Erickson, who disinvited Trump from the conservative site's confab last weekend due to his remarks about Megyn Kelly:
It's just one poll—the polling average still favors Clinton by a lot in the Granite State and nationally. But it's another indication that the enthusiasm that greeted the Vermont senator's candidacy out of the gate has only grown as he's taken his campaign on the road (nearly 28,000 people came to see him in Los Angeles on Monday).
Sanders, for his part, has taken steps to improve on a set of issues that dogged him early in the campaign. In response to feedback from Black Lives Matter activists, who have disrupted two of his events, he recently unveiled a "racial justice" platform. He also hired a Symone Sanders, a young black activist who had criticized his rhetoric on race and inequality, as a national press secretary. It's looking like a campaign that thinks on its feet. And after Tuesday, Team Clinton is officially on notice.
An outspoken Cantabrigian is launching an exploratory committee for president on a platform of breaking a "rigged system" that's fueling runaway inequality. Unfortunately for progressive activists, it's Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig, not Elizabeth Warren.
Lessig, who says he'll jump into the race if he can raise $1 million by Labor Day, has spent much of the last four years fighting what he considers the pernicious influence of money in politics ushered in by the Supreme Court in the Citizens United case. The two leading candidates for the Democratic nomination, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, have both promised to appoint Supreme Court justices who oppose Citizens United. But Lessig thinks Sanders et al. aren't going far enough. His platform consists of one item—the "Citizens Equality Act of 2017," which is sort of an omnibus bill of progressive wish-list items. It would make election day a national holiday, protect the right to vote, abolish political gerrymandering, and limit campaign contributions to small-dollar "vouchers" and public financing. After Congress passes his bill, Lessig says he'll resign.
Lessig has to hope his newest political venture will be more successful then his 2014 gambit, in which the Harvard professor started a super-PAC for the purpose of electing politicians who supported campaign finance reform. The aptly named Mayday PAC raised and spent $10 million, but only backed a single winner—Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) who was virtually assured of re-election in a deep-red district.
The undercard to the first Republican presidential primary debate featured a motley crew of long-retired politicians (Jim Gilmore, George Pataki, Rick Santorum); fallen stars (Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal); former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina; and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham. Participants qualified for the B-team debate by default; all candidates were in the low-single digits in national polls.
But if the Fox News moderators ever considered taking it easy on the Republican also-rans, they didn't show it. Instead, Bill Hemmer and Martha MacCallum appeared focused on whittling down the weak links in the 17-person field by asking them—over and over and over again—why no one seemed to like them.
Here were the first seven questions of the debate:
Perry: "Welcome, governor. You were in charge of the fourth-largest economy in the world. And you recently said that four years ago you weren't ready for this job. Why should someone vote for you now?"
Fiorina: "You were CEO of Hewlett Packard. You ran for Senate and lost in California in 2010. This week you said, 'Margaret Thatcher was not content to manage a great nation in decline, and neither am I.' Given your current standings in the polls, was the Iron Lady comparison incorrect?"
Santorum: "Sen. Santorum, you won the Iowa caucus four years ago and 10 other states, but you failed to beat Mitt Romney for the nomination. And no one here tonight is going to question your conviction or love for country, but has your moment passed, senator?"
Jindal: "Gov. Jindal, you're one of two sitting governors on the stage tonight. But your approval numbers at home are in the mid-30s. In a recent poll in which you were head-to-head with Hillary Clinton in Louisiana, she beat you by seven points. So if the people of Louisiana are not satisfied, what makes you think the people of this nation would be?"
Graham: "Sen. Lindsey Graham. You worked with Democrats and President Obama when it came to climate change, something that you know is extremely unpopular with conservative Republicans. How can they trust you based on that record?"
Pataki: "Gov. Pataki. Four years ago this month, you called it quits in a race for the presidency in 2012; but now you're back. Mitt Romney declined to run this time because he believed that the party needed new blood. Does he have a point?"
Gilmore: "You were the last person on stage to declare your candidacy. You ran for the White House once and lost. You ran for the Senate once and lost. You haven't held public office in 13 years. Is it time for new blood?"
The hits kept coming after the opening round. When the subject turned to Donald Trump, the Fox News moderators took a few more opportunities to twist the knife. "So Carly Fiorina, is he getting the better of you?" the former California Senate candidate was asked. Perry came in for the same Trump treatment—"Given the large disparity in your poll numbers, he seems to be getting the better of you."