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The POTUS/SCOTUS Election of '16

The Huffington Post logo The Huffington Post 22/02/2016 Mark Green

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By Mark Green
Ron Reagan and Ron Christie debate a week of huge news -- will the Nevada and South Carolina contests lead to a Clinton-Trump showdown that'd determine control of two branches of government? By refusing to consider any nominee this year, is the Senate GOP treating Obama as "three-fifths of a president?" And is Scalia's legacy "colossal"(GWill) or, "Like the confederate flag, a venerated relic," (MGreen)?
The GOP Race. Listening to the GOP presidential debates is like a screening of a literal "Liars Poker" given how leading candidates are shouting "liar, liar," mostly at Cruz. Q: Who came up with the GOP "11th Commandment" that Republicans shouldn't speak ill of their competitors? Ron Reagan cops to the fact that it was indeed his father "because he thought it a bad idea to give ammunition to Democrats in a general election and personally was not comfortable with that approach. Clearly, today's Republican candidates didn't get that memo and sharply contrast with the Democrats' debates."
Ron Christie too laments this spectacle. "They should tell us what they're FOR rather than provide sound-bite after sound-bite to help Hillary or Bernie this Fall." Ok, that's nice, but what do you do as if a candidate and your opponent is a "sociopathic liar?" Christie sticks to his guns and suggests they do as [his friend] Kasich does, say you're not going to dignify their charges and get back to policy. [Host: How's Kasich doing again?]
He's then asked the hard question for a principled Republican: Is Trump a once-in-a-century freak, or does he reflect something bad about his party? He thinks 50 percent of each, "Yes, he's a carnival barker, and a good one, but Republican voters understandably don't believe their leaders any more since they were promised various conservative things which never materialized. [End Obamacare!]" Reagan and Host are more in the camp that Trump's ascendance reflects the reality that half the GOP base is fringy and, well, a bit intolerant when it comes to racial minorities and Muslims.
Host: Won't Trump become a near prohibitive favorite to win the nomination if it becomes a three-person contest and neither Rubio nor Cruz exit the race before Super Tues/SEC primaries in 10 days? And why would either quit since each thinks he was destined to be president from in utero and each probably loathes the other more than they dislike Hillary? Neither disagrees with that analysis though Reagan provocatively asks, "Does anyone think that Trump actually wants to be president of the United States?" At this point, yeah! Reagan argues instead that it's all about the attention and his brand. (Maybe at the start, but now? Be careful what you wish for...) The Democratic Race. Ok, it's clear the contest involves two progressive candidates (one more so), though temperamentally it's inspiration versus perspiration - a heart-felt idealist versus a deeply experienced pragmatist.
In that context and before the Democrats' South Carolina primary contest next week -- when half the votes with be from African-Americas -- what does our panel think of Clinton's sharp language chiding Sanders for saying that Obama was "weak" and a "disappointment"?
Christie: "speaking obviously as the black panelist, I think that it's disgusting to see the Democrats pandering to one ethnic group rather than on general policies. With Hillary all I hear is 'I'm a woman, hear me roar' and a sense of entitlement for a coronation." Both Rons agree that Sanders is not an ideal candidate personally -- sorta old and grumpy -- but "running with the clarity of a message that's resonating."
Host: Yes great message, with Pew poll showing 63 percent of all Americans, including majority of Republicans, agreeing that the economy and elections are rigged by special interests, but he questions Christie on Hillary's so-called "coronation." "She might have shown some of that in 2008 but not this round. She's working her tail off. And for those belittling her as a unethical phony, if a martian landed knowing nothing but how she presents herself in town hall meetings, they'd conclude she was a candidate who was smart, poised, versed and ready to be commander-in-chief."
Predictions: Each thinks that in a hypothetical Trump-Clinton, there's a 90 percent chance Clinton wins by a margin approaching 10 points. (Unasked was a Rubio-Sanders contest, which Republican leaders to a person hope is the case.)A Supreme Test for Congress and the Court. So who's right on choosing Scalia successor -- McConnell-Grassley saying let voters decide by electing the next President or Obama-Sandra Day O'Connor thinking that it's this President's and Senate's obligation?
Reagan says the Constitution and precedent are clear since all six nominees in the past century who were considered in the last year of a presidential term got a vote in the Senate, including his father's nominee, Anthony Kennedy. "How can the Senate refuse to even consider Appeals Court judge Svi Srinivasan who was unanimously confirmed by the Senate only a few years ago?"
Christie, on the other hand, points out the hypocrisy of Senators Obama, Schumer, Biden urging a filibuster of Samuel Alito yet now insisting on President Obama nominating someone who's then voted on. Putting aside that they objected to a specific person named Alito versus an entire party today objecting to anyone named by a two-term president and even if x,y,z were hypocrites, that doesn't answer the question of whether this Senate should or will consider a nomination. Christie then urges that "the American people should decide by electing a new president this year rather than by a lame duck president going out the door."
Ron Reagan then wonders why Obama is chopped liver since he's twice won the office and still is the president. We then have a spirited conversation about why the Republican Senate, according to a 61-year-old black woman quoted in the New York Times, is in effect "treating him as three fifths of a president." Whoa.
The Apple of their Ire. When Clinton and Sanders were asked where they stood on the battle between federal prosecutors asking Apple to help de-encrypt the San Bernardino killers' cell phone and Apple. The candidates firmly agreed with both since privacy and security were paramount.
Our panel took sides: Christie said that eventually Apple would have to comply with a subpoena while Reagan thought that privacy should triumph because otherwise a precedent would be set allowing China, Russia etc to also demand that Apple create a "back door" to cell phones to investigate their criminals. On such fundamental matters of privacy, argued Reagan, "we shouldn't assume that we have the government we trust the most but the government we trust the least."

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