Thursday, September 28, 2023

A Quick Post Mortem

In the "I watched it so you won't have to category", here are some quick thoughts on the winners and losers of last night's Republican Presidential Debate:

A winner, sort of: Tim Scott, who sleepwalked through the first debate last month, woke up last night and scored a few points by directly going after some of his rivals on the stage. He took swipes, as did practically everyone else, at Vivek Ramaswamy on his business dealings with China, and at Ron DeSantis on his state's controversial guidelines for history education. That exchange produced the highest moment of gravitas in the evening when Scott who is black said: "there is not a redeeming quality in slavery." He said that because the Florida guidelines put in place by DeSantis suggest there was.

This led to a brief discourse by the junior senator from South Carolina on how despite the injustice and depravity of the institution, black people in this country survived slavery, discrimination, poll taxes and literacy tests "woven into the laws of our country." He went on saying that black people have had a much harder time surviving Lyndon Johnson's "Great Society" and the welfare system it produced which according to Scott, did much to destroy the black family and create a permanent underclass. This is a classic, traditional conservative argument that will certainly win him some votes as much as bring out the the wrath of the left.

Scott looked downright silly though when he challenged his former mentor Nikki Haley about expensive curtains she supposedly bought for her office at the UN when she became the U.S. Ambassador. Haley correctly pointed out that the curtains preceeded her. "Did you send them back?" was Scott's response.

A loser: I was less than impressed with Mike Pence this time, perhaps because I over-estimated him after his last debate performance. While he thanked the moderators for every question sent his way, more often than not he refused to answer those questions. He is however the surprise winner of my bat-shit crazy idea award, when he proposed as a solution to mass shootings, a fast track to execution for the perps.

Runner up to that award and clear-cut winner of my constitution schmonstitution award is Ramaswamy's plan to eliminate birthright citizenship in the United States, something that is guaranteed in Section One of the Fourteenth Amendment.  

Best line of the evening goes to Nikki Haley for this response to Vivek Ramaswamy: "honestly, every time I hear you, I feel a little bit dumber for what you say." Second best line goes to moderator Dana Parino. I don't remember the exact line but after one of Mike Pence's many end runs around one of her questions, she interrupted him saying, "yes that's great Mr. Vice President but what about (then she restated the original question)", which again, he failed to answer.

Biggest lost opportunity of the evening goes to there being not one mention of the exPOTUS's recent comment about executing the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Oh, wait a minute, this debate was hosted by FOX News, how silly of me. As if...

OK the biggest lost opportunity goes to Ron DeSantis for once again failing to man up and just, as Tim Scott suggested, drop the line that suggests that people benefited from slavery from his school guidelines. Instead, while intentionally mispronouncing her name, DeSantis claimed the whole issue was dreamed up by Kamala Harris. No, it wasn't Ron, it's right there in black and white, if you'd only bother to read the guidelines you insisted forcing upon the schools in your state.

The lamest attempt at humor goes hands down to Chris Christie for two clunkers. First was his comment that went something like this: "Trump ducks out of these debates so much we're gonna start calling him Donald Duck."  If he had said it like that it may have sounded a little funnier but he added a lot of words between the ducking out part and the punchline so that if you were drifting off like I was, you might have missed the connection. "Oh I get it!"  I  said to myself this morning when I heard it replayed on the radio 10 hours after the fact, once again proving that in comedy, timing is everything. 

The other was his rather cringy line reacting to the problem with education in this country: "Joe Biden is literally in bed with a member of a teachers union" (his wife).

Bad humor plus a real slap in the face to union members including this new union member, makes Christie in my book, the biggest loser of the evening.

The I still can't remember his name without looking it up award goes to, wait a minute...oh yeah, goes to Doug Burgum.  

Once again I have to say the overall winner of this race to second place in the Republican primary goes to Nikki Haley who so far at least, seems able to run circles around the rest of the competition in a debate. In marked contrast to her last appearance where she appeared to be looking ahead to the general election by talking about consensus and reasonable goals, this time she went all in on the issues Republicans want to hear such as border security and energy independence (there is no such thing by the way). She went in lockstep with DeSantis and his idea to send troops into Mexico to stop illegal immigration and the flow of fentanyl. She even out-flanked DeSantis to the right when she challenged him on his resistance to fracking and off-shore drilling in his state. In characteristic fashion, rather than reasonably explaining his position, DeSantis huffed, puffed and shrugged it off, claiming Haley was wrong. 

She wasn't.

Many pundits are claiming that these candidates slugging it out against each other in a race they know they can't win are auditioning for vice president. Some of them perhaps are, such as Ramaswamy whom I imagine would be thrilled to be Donald Trump's second fiddle. I'm betting that DeSantis is still going for all the marbles in this go around, and sticking to my call in a previous post that Haley is running for the 2028 nomination. Trump would be wise to pick her as his running mate if he wants to actually win the general election fair and square, but I think he's looking for more of a toady, someone without a shred of integrity like Marjorie Taylor Greene or Matt Goetz to do his bidding and nothing else. 

For her part, being Trump's running mate would be a lose-lose proposition for Nikki Haley. If a Trump/Haley ticket should lose in the general election, that probably would not bode well for her future aspirations. If they win, she would more than likely end up being the next Mike Pence, which would be even worse.  

As for Mike Pence, well I don't think he's looking to be the next Mike Pence either.                                

Nikki Haley certainly understands that things have not worked out well for anyone who has ever gotten close to Donald Trump, and she'd be foolish to accept the offer if it comes her way.

I think she's way too smart for that. 

But I wouldn't bet money on it, I could be wrong, I certainly have been before.

Let the good times roll.

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Saving Democracy from Itself?

During the reign of the 45th president of the U.S., I often contemplated who would have made a better chief executive. One of the many candidates was my cat.

"That's ridiculous..." you say, "a cat can't be president." 
Really? Well, here's what Article II, Section I, Clause 5 of the U.S. Constitution has to say on the matter:
No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.
Notice the restrictions apply only to persons. It says nothing about similar restrictions applying to cats, dogs or any other animal, vegetable or mineral. 

In other words, nowhere in the Constitution does it explicitly stipulate that the President of the United States has to be a human being.

So why can't my cat Ziggy serve as president? And if the logic of many Americans holds true, if I were able to convince a critical mass of my fellow citizens that Ziggy would indeed be a fine president and got her onto the ballot, wouldn't it be considered "election interference" if people sued to get her off the ballot, claiming she was ineligible to run for president due to her catness?

Yes, that is ridiculous, but not a whole lot more ridiculous that a convicted felon serving time in prison being elected president, something the Constitution also doesn't mention. I guess the Founding Fathers must have assumed Americans would be smart enough to not consider voting for pets or incarcerated criminals for president, so they didn't bother with those stipulations. 

A cat being president is also not much more far-fetched than a president who took an oath to support the Constitution, blatantly violating that oath while in office, then expecting to be eligible to be president again. The U.S. Constitution does say something about that:
No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.
If you've been paying attention to the news lately, this text, Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, (here with my added emphasis) should be familiar. 

If you haven't been paying attention, calls from a wide range of folks representing different ideologies and political parties, have brought up that Article Three of the Fourteenth Amendment, also referred to as a "Disqualification Clause", clearly states that because of his actions on January 6th, 2021, Donald Trump is ineligible to be president again, short of two thirds of both chambers of Congress voting to reinstate his eligibility, an unlikely scenario.

As you can imagine, like the four criminal indictments encompassing 91 felony counts of wrongdoing that preceded the calls to declare him ineligible for office, the exPOTUS has dismissed the proposition as nothing more than an act of "election interference." Here's a quote from one of his campaign spokespeople:
The people who are pursuing this absurd conspiracy theory and political attack on President Trump are stretching the law beyond recognition much like the political prosecutors in New York, Georgia, and D.C.

I'm not sure what any of this has to do with a "conspiracy theory" or even a "political attack". Section Three is unequivocal and at least according to my non-legal mind, it is not stretching the law one bit when it comes to applying it to Trump who.... 

  • took an oath on January 20, 2017 to preserve. protect and defend the Constitution of the United States then...
  • following his reelection loss, took extraordinary measures to remain in power, all the while misleading the American public (those who would listen) by claiming without any evidence that the election was a fraud, then...
  • as a last-ditch effort to remain in office, summoned thousands of people who believed his lie to the U.S. Capitol to interfere with the formal certification of his opponent, and petitioned his Vice President to violate his proscribed constitutional duty to officially confirm the results of the election, then... 
  • did nothing when many of his supporter/rioters stormed the Capitol, even after they chanted to hang the vice president.
None of these acts are disputed. While the facts of the case could be challenged in a court of law as worthy of constituting criminal incitement of an insurrection, the majority of both chambers of Congress in bi-partisan votes agreed that Donald Trump did in fact, incite an insurrection. 

Regardless of one's take on the matter, there can be no doubt that without the president's lie of a stolen election and his call to fight it in his speech earlier that day, the dreadful events of January 6, 2021 would never have happened. The kicker is this: once the protest got out of hand and the Capitol was attacked and vandalized leaving dozens of Capitol Police officers and others severely injured, some of those injuries resulting in death, despite having the power to stop the violence and bloodshed by a simple tweet telling his supporter/rioters to cease and desist participating in an uprising against the government, he chose to remain silent and enabled the occupation of our Capitol to go on for hours.

If that does not constitute "engaging in an insurrection" I don't know what does.

Now let's see: taking an oath to defend the constitution, then engaging in an insurrection, put the two together and what do you have? According to our Constitution, ineligibility to hold office. So simple, a first grader could understand it. Heck even Ziggy the cat who is not particularly bright, even by feline standards, might understand it.

Donald Trump and his supporters don't or won't understand it.

Of course, the question arises if declaring Trump ineligible is worth pursuing. 
Author, staff writer for the Atlantic, and former Republican speechwriter (but no fan of Trump by a longshot), David Frum, argues it is not. In his August 29th article for the publication titled, The Fourteenth Amendment Fallacy: The Constitution won’t disqualify Trump from running. The only real-world way of stopping him is through the ballot box., Frum argues that the move to disqualify the former president is little more than a stunt based upon a heretofore obscure section of the Constitution intended specifically to prevent Confederate politicians from holding office in the post-Civil War South. Because of that, Frum claims that Section Three has little bearing today. Much better he contends, that the issue of Trump be settled at the polls. 

The real problem in Frum's mind are the repercussions that would result if the move to disqualify Trump would succeed. Would his supporters Frum asks, reject the results of a general election where their candidate lost because his name was left off the ballots in select states? *
Considering Trump supporters have already rejected the results of the 2020 election, probably the most scrutinized election in American history, the potential 2024 rejection Frum suggests is a forgone conclusion.

Frum goes on:
the use of the section to debar candidates would not stop at Trump. It would become a dangerously convenient tool of partisan politics...

If Section 3 can be reactivated in this way, then reactivated it will be. Republicans will hunt for Democrats to disqualify, and not only for president, but for any race where Democrats present someone who said or did something that can be represented as “aid and comfort” to enemies of the United States.
Well guess what?
The Republicans have been hunting for Democrats to disqualify for years.
Here are just some recent examples:
  • As we speak there is a movement underway in the House of Representatives to impeach Joe Biden. On what grounds you ask? "Don't worry, we'll think of something" is the general response. 
  • Trumplicans in Georgia are seeking to impeach Fulton Country District Attorney Fani Willis for doing her job in her role in the prosecution of Donald Trump and 18 co-defendants in their attempts to defraud that state's election process.
  • There's something even more sinister going on up in Wisconsin where newly elected State Supreme Court Justice Janet Protasiewicz is threatened by impeachment by the Republican legislature because she refuses to recuse herself from a gerrymandering case that benefits those same Republicans. Their grounds are that she called the newly Republican drawn legislative map, "rigged" in public during her election, admittedly not wise but certainly not grounds for impeachment, according to precedent in that state. Silencing her, which is a distinct possibility, will allow them to keep their map that has more twists and turns than Chubby Checker in a blender, (sorry, I couldn't resist), thereby ensuring minority rule in the state for at least another decade.
The reality is this: if the "disqualification clause" is invoked, nothing will change, it would only be one more weapon in the Republicans' toolbox to hold on to power by dismantling our democracy. 
The other day, Frum was featured in an NPR interview with Kim Whele, a constitutional scholar from the University of Baltimore. Whele is of the opinion that it's worth a shot to attempt to disqualify Trump:
...there's a faith in the electoral process that perhaps has failed us in this moment... the framers of the Constitution did include Section 3... I don't have confidence that it's worth the gamble to see if the process is going to work in the old-fashioned way, in getting people out to vote and having, in this instance, the front-runner with 60% of the Republican voter base... (and) hope at the edge of our seats that democracy is going to prevail and not put someone like (Trump) in office. Because in my view, if that happens, it's over.
I don't quite see eye-to-eye with Whele either, as she appears to be saying here that democracy is great when it yields acceptable results, but we need to shift course when it doesn't. In other words: we need to save democracy from itself.
I think she's missing a huge point which is this: democracy is never absolute; it is governed by rules. If the majority of the American people voted to bring back slavery, that would be a non-starter because of the Thirteenth Amendment
As we saw above, the Constitution, while it doesn't explicitly exclude cats from serving as president, (maybe we'll have to do something about that someday), does restrict the office to people over 35 and naturally born U.S. citizens. Which means that Congressman Maxwell Frost, currently 26 years old, and former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, born in Austria to Austrians, would both be ineligible to serve as president, for now at least in Frost's case. And the Twenty-Second Amendment disqualifies Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama from serving third terms. Are any of those disqualifications, examples of unjust election interference or threats to our democracy? Certainly not, they're just the rules. 

It should not matter in the slightest that Article Three of the Fourteenth Amendment has not been used to date to disqualify someone from the presidency. It is as much a part of the Constitution as any other. It's not a new-fangled strategy to get rid of someone we don't like, but rather a very sensible rule proscribed by the Constitution 155 years ago that keeps elected officials, including presidents, from abusing their power by violating the will of the people and attempting to overthrow the government.     

What a novel idea.


* Here Frum is assuming the move to disqualify Trump would happen after the Republican nomination, leaving Republican voters out in the cold with a candidate who would ultimately be declared ineligible to serve. I agree that would be unreasonable. However, the Republican Convention is a little less than a year away and Republican voters have a large field of candidates to choose from who are not criminal defendants that engaged in an insurrection to overthrow the government. I'd say at least five of them have as good a chance to win the 2024 general election as Donald Trump, which is to say, not a very good chance. And there is one Republican candidate who in my book at least, has a very good chance to win the general election in 2024. You can read my previous post to see which one. 

I'd say it is incumbent upon those who are of the opinion that Section Three should be invoked, and can do something about it, to act quickly and let the matter be decided by the Supreme Court before the nomination process begins. If the Court agrees that Trump is ineligible to serve as president again, then Republicans will only have themselves to blame if they choose the one candidate of the bunch who cannot serve. 

If the Court does not agree, all we can do then is rely on the wisdom and common sense of the American electorate. 
Because without either of those, one day we might end up with this: 

Friday, September 8, 2023

And Then She Raised Her Hand

A couple weeks ago I said to a co-worker that the night before I had done the geekiest of things, I watched the Republican Presidential Debate in its entirety. "Why would you do that?" she asked.  Siting a bit of ancient wisdom filtered through Michael Corleone I responded: "because it's good to keep your friends close and your enemies closer."

But in all seriousness, while I may never vote for any of these candidates for anything, ever, I always find it a good idea to keep an open mind because as I've pointed out in this space time and again, I might actually learn something.

There were a few surprises for me this go around. Perhaps the biggest was the number of times the word "woke" was mentioned by Ron DeSantis in the debate, zero. It seemed clear in this reboot of his campaign, the third or fourth (I've lost count), his handlers must have advised him that his incessant use of the term had become tiresome. That bit of advice was sound. 

I do question his general approach to the debate however. He seemed like a carnival automaton, whenever called upon by the moderators, it was as if they were putting coins into the slot, and out would come a diatribe on one the of talking points near and dear to the hearts of the limited scope of Americans he hopes to attract. 

You could tell he was playing to the crowd with lines such as leaving drug cartel members "stone cold dead."

Unfortunately, for the Americans whom he is not trying to attract, stone cold dead best describes the feelings they have for him. To them, me included, Ron DeSantis is Donald Trump without the charm. 

Vivek Ramaswamy's star both rose and fell, depending upon which side you're on. He was certainly the most visible and audible of all the folks on the stage in Milwaukee that night, in both the number of words coming out of his mouth, and those coming out of his opponents attacking him. As his hero the exPOTUS, Ramaswamy understands that any attention, good or bad, works in his favor. 

He spent an endless amount of time talking in circles uttering nonsense, proving himself to be the true heir apparent to the former president. I must say though, he was slick, he handled the barbs coming his way from Mike Pence, Nikki Haley and especially Chris Christie with aplomb with perfectly timed comebacks. But I suspect his comment that Climate Change is a hoax didn't win him any support outside of the MAGA base, or even inside it with younger voters. It was certainly a deal breaker for a large segment of Americans. 

I thought Mike Pence gave a solid performance, perhaps because I didn't have particularly high expectations for him. He had the best one-liner of the evening when asked if presidents over a certain age should be required to take a mental competency test. Pence dispensed with that thought by saying perhaps everyone in Washington should be asked to take one. He made a good case convincing at least some of the MAGA faithful that he did the right thing on January 6th. When confronted by the question of Pence's actions on that fateful day, most of the candidates on the stage talked around the issue but at least grudgingly paid lip service to the former vice president. The exception was Chris Christie who said unequivocally that Americans owe Pence a great deal of gratitude. He's right.

Speaking of Christie, his role along with Asa Hutchinson (interestingly positioned together on the far left of the dais) as flies-in-the-ointment, attacking the former president, made them persona-non-grata among the highly partisan MAGA audience, drawing jeers and boos every time they opened their mouths. Christie was a little disappointing, probably because the opportunities to address the issue were few and far between. He had to interject his Mike Pence comment because the moderators were ready to move on to another topic before he got a chance to respond. In what seemed to be an obvious attempt by the FOX News moderators to limit Christie's time slamming the exPOTUS, late in the debate, Christie was asked about UFOs. The most memorable Christie moments were his jabs at Vivek Ramaswamy, at one point saying the 38 year old entrepreneur and presidential wannabie sounded like "ChatGPT". That made me feel really old and out of touch because I had to look up a contemporary cultural reference made by a Republican presidential candidate. 

The real disappointment of the night was Tim Scott who didn't manage to set himself apart from the pack in any way, shape or form. The biggest response to one of his remarks came when he stridently proclaimed that his first act as president would be to fire Attorney General Merrick Garland. Of course, being a Cabinet position, every new president appoints a new AG, so saying that is like saying the first thing he would do after being sworn in is give a speech. Duh.

North Dakota Governor Doug Bergum seemed like a nice and reasonable guy. His biggest moment came when it was revealed that he had suffered a torn Achilles tendon while (at 67), playing in a pickup basketball game in Milwaukee earlier that day. He made it through the debate, standing the whole time and turning in a respectable if not particularly memorable performance. He may not exactly be the Willis Reed of politics, but his calm demeanor was a welcome relief from all the noise and the fact that he made it through the two-hour ordeal enduring what must have been incredible pain was impressive by itself. The dark horse candidate made himself known to everyone who watched the debate. Unfortunately, most of them have forgotten him by now. 

I've given up trying to predict the future, especially the outcomes of elections. There's plenty of evidence in this space that practically right up to the 2016 election, I didn't think Donald Trump had a snowball's chance in hell of ever becoming president.

Recalling that, I'm not going to bother to predict what will happen in November, 2024.

Instead, I will offer an opinion that you can easily discount but can't possibly prove wrong which is this:  if a general election for president were to be held in the coming few weeks between Joe Biden and any of the men standing on the stage in Milwaukee (and the one who didn't show up), Joe Biden would probably win.

The woman is another story.

In my book, the hands down winner of the first Republican presidential debate was Nikki Haley. I'll add this: if a general election were held today between her and the president, she could beat Joe Biden, perhaps handily. 

Obviously, that's a moot point because she would have to win her party's nomination before she could run in a general election. And at least judging by the way things look now, that ain't gonna happen because A) Donald Trump is leading the polls by a whopping margin and B) Haley said little in the debate that would sway anyone in the Trump base away from him and towards her.

So how could Nikki Haley have possibly won the debate? 

It's simple, because she and the dudes who participated in the debate, with the possible exception of DeSantis, are running for the 2028 nomination, not the current one. 

There's the answer to the question many of us have which is why so many Republican candidates are running in an election they know they have no chance of winning.

It's the future stupid (I'm talking to myself here), and the road to the White House is a long haul that typically spans several election cycles. I can't count the number of times Joe Biden ran for president before he won in 2020*. Donald Trump was publicly talking about running for president (albeit as a pro-choice Democrat) all the way back in the eighties. His predecessor Barack Obama, while a relative newbie in the public eye, gained national attention four years before his election as a newly elected senator from Illinois in 2004 when he introduced himself to the nation by giving this inspirational keynote address to the DNC in Boston.

The cold reality is that it takes more than public support to become president, it takes money, gobs of it. The candidates we saw on that stage in Milwaukee beyond trying to get the public's attention, are all vying for funds to build up their campaign treasury. The folks with gobs of money on hand willing to contribute to a political candidate, do so because they expect some kind of payback in the end. That payback only comes if the candidate they support can actually win the general election, not just the party nomination.

Naturally the big contributors not only look for candidates who might give them something they want, but they also hedge their bets on the candidates they feel have the best chance of winning.

It was clear from her performance during the debate that Nikki Haley was looking beyond the Republican primary to the general election.

For example, Haley understands that the draconian anti-abortion stance Republicans have taken is not a winning strategy, not at the state level, even as we recently discovered in red-trending states like Kansas, Wisconsin, Ohio and others, and certainly not at the national level. 

Despite classifying herself as "pro-life", Haley advocated in the debate for consensus and above all compassion on the issue. I have not heard that kind of nuance advocated by any major candidate, Democrat or Republican. She focused on the issues all Americans "should agree upon" such as contraception being readily available, the promotion of adoption, not punishing women for having abortions, not forcing doctors with moral objections to perform abortions and banning late term abortions.** She dismissed the idea of a federal ban (even though she claims to support one), because the necessity of finding 60 votes in the Senate to make that happen is simply not attainable. In response, Mike Pence said that "consensus is the opposite of leadership" implying a more authoritarian approach he would take on that issue. That stance is music to the ears of the far right and may help him in the Republican primary but will prove fatal in the general election. 

Haley's personal highlight from the debate came during the topic of our Ukraine policy. Vivek Ramaswami advocated becoming closer to Vladimir Putin, suggesting we give up Eastern Ukraine to Russia, as if it were ours to give. Single-handedly taking a direct swipe at Ramaswami and an indirect swipe at her former boss the exPOTUS, his foreign policy and his love affair with the Soviet dictator, Haley said this:

You don't do that to friends. What you do instead is you have the backs of your friends. Ukraine, it's a front line of defense... Putin has said… once Russia takes Ukraine, Poland and the Baltics are next. That's a world war. We're trying to prevent war. Look at what Putin did today. He killed Prigozhin. When I was at the U.N., the Russian ambassador suddenly died. This guy is a murderer. And you are choosing a murderer over a pro-American country. 

Haley's schooling of Ramaswami and her implicit dig at Trump were noteworthy indeed. 

It was in fact, she, not Hutchinson nor Christie who delivered the harshest blows against Trump. When the economy, especially the debt and the natural Republican impulse to blame Joe Biden and the Democrats came up, Haley said this:

Donald Trump added 8 trillion to our debt and our kids are never going to forgive us for this. And so at the end of the day, you look at the 2024 budget, Republicans asked for 7.4 billion in earmarks, Democrats asked for 2.8 billion. So you tell me who are the big spenders.

Later in the debate, she laid it all on the line for any Republican willing to listen:

We have to look at the fact that three-quarters of Americans don't want a rematch between Trump and Biden. And we have to face the fact that Trump is the most disliked politician in America. We can't win a general election that way.

So consensus building was her debate performance that the conservative Haley garnered the notice and even the tepid praise of many liberal commentators. That is, until she raised her hand in the affirmative when the question was posed of the candidates if they would support Donald Trump were he the 2024 Republican nominee AND was convicted in one or more of the 92 felony counts he's facing. That was too much to handle for most of the left of MAGA tribe where the general consensus in the end was that Nikki Haley is a hypocrite. 

Is she? 

Cynical as it may sound, Nikki Haley is a traditional politician, and a damned good one. Show me a politician who could never be charged with hypocrisy, and I'll show you a losing politician.

Later, when Haley was questioned about that response, she retorted it was irrelevant because she would be the Republican nominee in 2024, not Trump. 

She has chutzpah too. 

Here's my take on Haley's M.O. 

She knows well that Donald Trump is more than likely to be the Republican Party's nominee for president in the 2024 election, regardless of the outcome of his plethora of legal issues.

She also figures that Trump is likely to lose the 2024 general election to Biden, just as he did in 2020. Haley and her team are banking on that and the logic that except for the most steadfast of Trump supporters, most Republicans will have to come to the conclusion that supporting the two-time loser and very likely jailbird Trump is not a good recipe for winning elections or the future of the Republican Party. 

If that comes to pass, Nikki Haley may be very well situated to be the Republican standard-bearer in four years, at least compared to the folks who shared the stage with her in Milwaukee two weeks ago. If the results of the last debate are any indication, Haley proved she is capable of standing up to her opponents, often leaving them in the dust. She may not have said a lot to sway the MAGA tribe to her side, but by not discounting Trump entirely, she's shown that while she may not be MAGA, she's also not a RINO. She's also one of the very few Republican candidates who have not been on the receiving end of the wrath of the exPOTUS, thereby maintaining her street cred among the faithful. That may not be enough to help make her the Republican nominee in this cycle, but it may in the next one where the party will be theoretically focusing on someone who can actually win the general election. 

History almost guarantees that 40 percent of the voters are assured to vote for the Republican candidate in a presidential election and 40 percent are assured to vote for the Democrat.

That means the election comes down to convincing the remaining 20 percent of the voters who could vote either way.

Nikki Haley showed the nation and potential donors that she is willing to look at the big picture beyond the ultra-right wing talking points that might be helpful to win the Republican nomination but won't work in the general election.

Issues like banning books, endless culture wars, climate change denial, embracing Vladimir Putin, punishing women for having abortions, teaching kids that black people benefited from being slaves, and a whole slew of other extreme positions, just won't cut it with the 20 percent.

But won't her gesture showing tacit support for Donald Trump hurt her? 

No, I don't think so. To the 40 percent Republican-or-bust voters, that gesture showed her loyalty to the Party. The twenty percent in the middle, many of whom would vote for a Republican were he or she not so extreme, will have long forgotten it. The only folks who will remember the gesture like me, are in the other forty percent and wouldn't vote for her anyway.

What I just described is only one of many possible scenarios that might take place over the next four years. For one reason or other, I won't speculate which, Trump could drop out of the election and leave the Republican nomination up for grabs. I'm not convinced Haley could pull off a nomination in this cycle, with or without Trump in the race. Or Trump could win the election in November and we may not have any more presidential elections. I say that only partly tongue-in-check. Or Trump could lose and the lunatic fringe could take complete control over the Republican Party. If that happens, all logic gets thrown out the window. 

We'll just have to see.

I strongly believe that our democracy thrives with a strong two-party system. For that to work, both parties have to respect one another, to some degree at least, and agree to play by the same set of rules. Right now, one of those parties has gone off the rails and as a result, we are as divided as a nation as we have ever been. 

I have lots of issues with Nikki Haley. Beyond ideology is her tendency to speak out of both sides of her mouth whenever it's convenient. Sometimes it's difficult to determine where she truly stands.

Given that, I can't see ever voting for her. 

But I could live with a President Haley as someone with whom I could agree to disagree, as I have with all the presidents in my lifetime before the 45th one. The bottom line is I believe she is the best person the Republicans have at the moment to get their party back on track to a semblance of respectability, and perhaps the best person in either party to help bring us back together (as much as that is humanly possible) as a nation. 

And boy would that be a good thing.


*OK I looked it up, Joe Biden ran unsuccessfully for president twice, in 1988 and in 2008. It just seems like more.

**The idea that there are several issues regarding abortion that all of us can agree upon is a little naive as all Americans do not agree that contraception should be readily available, that women should not be punished for having abortions, or that late term abortions should be banned. But I agree with her that we need to reach some kind of consensus on the issue.