Grading the Republican presidential candidates | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, November 21, 2015 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, November 21, 2015


Grading the Republican presidential candidates

Fox Business Channel hosted the fourth Republican Presidential candidates' debate on November 10. Here is an assessment of the top five candidates: real estate tycoon Donald Trump (25 percent support), Dr. Ben Carson (24 percent), Florida Senator Marco Rubio (11 percent), Texas Senator Ted Cruz (10 percent), and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush (5 percent).

Donald Trump and the gift of gab: The so-called experts had predicted a short shelf life for Trump at the top. They contended that like Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain, who had also led the Republican race in 2012, Trump is a flash in the pan. But, Trump, who never held elective office, has confounded conventional wisdom. He has led the field for four months now, and shows no sign of decline. And the dastardly terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13 will only enhance Trump's appeal.

Xenophobia, especially towards Latino illegal immigrants, is at the core of Trump's candidacy. Defying political correctness, Trump has called the illegal immigrants drug dealers, rapists and worse. Instead of hurting him, the derogatory pronouncements have endeared Trump among the Republican base. 

The Republican base, consisting primarily of aging, conservative whites, feels under siege. Here is why. In 1980, 83 percent Americans were white (12 percent were black, 6 percent Latino, 1.5 percent Asian); in 2012 only 72 percent were white (15 percent Latino, 13 percent black, 5 percent Asian). America's dwindling white population is a major source of perturbation for these voters.

Trump has tapped into that reservoir of discontent by promising to build a wall along the US-Mexican border to stem the tide of illegal immigrants, and force Mexico to pay for it!  In the last debate, Trump doubled down and promised to draft a “Deportation Force” to deport every man, woman and child (estimated to be 11 million) who entered the US illegally, back to Mexico.

Trump cited 1954's “Operation Wetback” when the Eisenhower administration forcibly deported thousands of illegal (and some legal) immigrants back to Mexico. (“Wetback” is a derogatory term for Mexicans who enter US illegally by swimming across the Rio Grande.) Challenged by the press that deportation will be brutal, Trump countered that it would be “humane.” 

Well-known since the 1970s, Donald Trump has the gift of gab. He easily “explains” absurd comments. He is capable of talking an enraged cobra out of biting him! Trump is not going away any time soon.

Ben Carson and the bliss of ignorance: Retired neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson operates in the fact-free zone. His outlandish comments/observations leave the informed speechless, and his supporters ecstatic! Devoid of political experience, Carson has built his candidacy around his biography, especially his “integrity.” The press is allowed only to accept his narrative, not question it.

The Christian Evangelical right finds Carson's biography compelling, and are his primary supporters. Supposedly, Carson was a violent youth, who once attempted to hit his mother with a hammer, and stabbed a schoolmate with a knife (a waist belt saved the poor victim). Then he found Jesus, became a Christian, and now sports a painting of himself with Jesus! Nothing is sweeter to the Evangelicals than the story of redemption.  The problem is: CNN investigated Carson's claim of stabbing; no one corroborated it. And Carson's mama said that it was she who tried to hit Carson with a hammer!

Carson claimed in the last debate that Chinese military is operating in Syria, drawing a sharp rebuke from the White House. He also claimed that the pyramids were built by Prophet Joseph (Yusuf) to store grains! No Dr. Carson, I have been inside a pyramid; it is 99 percent solid, with a narrow passageway leading to burial chambers for the kings, who hoped to ascend to heaven!

In the third debate Carson denied having any relationship with Mannatech, the company that sells supplements consisting of aloe vera and tree bark, which the scientific community calls junk. Carson claimed that the supplements cured his prostate cancer, and admitted to giving paid speeches for the company. Carson was caught on video hawking their products for ten years. “Ever since I have been using the product I have not been sick,” claimed Carson. This is like touting the medicinal benefits of roshgolla by claiming, “Ever since I have been taking one roshgolla per day, I have not been sick!”  Dr. Carson, for 10 years you hawked Mannatech products. If this is not a relationship, what is it then? A one-night stand? Every time Carson speaks, he sounds like a quack doctor!

Marco Rubio, the Neocon: Just like the neoconservatives who had hijacked President George W. Bush's presidency, Senator Rubio wants to use American military power to achieve its foreign policy objectives. Like the neocons of the Bush era, many of Rubio's supporters are Jewish and supporters of Israel, e.g. Sheldon Adelson (who founded Israel's largest-circulated and pro-Netanyahu newspaper, Israel HaYom (Israel Today)). In every debate, Rubio pays tribute to Israel. The problem for Rubio is that he is a member of the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” that co-authored a comprehensive immigration bill in 2013; an anathema to the Republican base. Although Rubio now opposes his own bill, that may not be enough to assuage the base.

Ted Cruz, the Bomb Thrower: Elected in 2012, Senator Cruz single-handedly shut down the US government in 2013. He wants to disrupt, not govern. He has offended just about everyone in the Senate. He too, is a pro-Israeli, anti-Muslim hawk. The problem for Cruz is that like Rubio, he is a Latino who opposes immigration reform -- the top priority among the Latinos, 71 percent of whom voted for Barack Obama in 2012. Besides, the Republican base will have to hold their nose to vote for a Latino.

Jeb Bush, the Establishment candidate: Oh how the mighty has fallen! The presumed nominee is barely hanging on. The Republican base is fed up with the establishment candidates. That is why political novices like Trump and Carson lead the field, and newcomers like Rubio and Cruz are polling far ahead of Bush. Unless the Republican establishment devises devious schemes to cheat the nomination away from the top four, Jeb Bush is cooked!

The writer is a Rhodes Scholar.

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