Thursday, October 8, 2015

The question for Biden: "Why are you running?"

John Dickerson writes:

If [Joe Biden] does decide to jump in the race, there will be one critical question for which he doesn’t quite have an answer: Why are you running?
Well, let's look at Hillary Clinton's answer to the question:
I'm running to be the champion for Americans and their families, so that we can not just worry about treading water, but you can get ahead and you can stay ahead.
I'm sure Biden and his staff can write an answer at least as convincing as that.

Biden is no political novice — he was a Senator for decades, ran for president twice, and has been vice president for almost a full two terms. He's going to anticipate the "Why are you running?" question, and he'll have an answer that sounds good. It'll be entirely positive — focused on how his experience, policies, and principles will allow him to tackle the challenges facing the country. There's no way he's going to say that the reason he's running is that he noticed Hillary Clinton's poll numbers have been dropping, she's become surprisingly vulnerable, and none of the other candidates are viable. People think of Biden as a bumbling gaffe machine, but they forget that he was outstanding in the 2008 primary debates. So I don't think this one question is going to hold him back from running.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Guess the source of this quote!

Guess before clicking this link for the answer (and please don't give it away in the comments):

We cannot tolerate illegal immigration and we must stop it. For years . . . , Washington talked tough but failed to act. . . . [O]ur borders might as well not have existed. . . . Drugs flowed freely. Illegal immigration was rampant. Criminal immigrants, deported after committing crimes in America, returned the very next day to commit crimes again.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Guns and mental illness

Politico runs an article with this headline and subheading:

Allowing the Mentally Ill Guns Is Insane

The Oregon shooting is a tragic reminder that the laws on the books are woefully inadequate.
The article says:
The National Alliance on Mental Illness and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration caution against creating special laws aimed at the mentally ill, including laws related to gun violence. SAMHSA indicated that subjecting the mentally ill to extra scrutiny perpetuates the misconception that the mentally ill are especially violent. This stigma, mental health professionals warn, increases the tendency of the mentally ill to avoid treatment and counseling. Though this is a valid concern, the safety of the public must be weighed against it.
But if that's a "valid concern" weighing against barring the mentally ill from owning guns, how are current laws "insane," as the headline says? If there were a law saying no one who's been diagnosed with a mental illness (or any mental illness out of a certain list) can own a gun, wouldn't this predictably cause many people who want to own guns to avoid getting any mental-health treatment? And if mental illness is so strongly linked to mass shootings, then couldn't discouraging gun enthusiasts from getting treatment lead to an increase in mass shootings?

Sunday, October 4, 2015

On gun control, it's "heads, conservatives win; tails, progressives lose"

This blog post in National Review points out that the Oregon mass murderer obtained all of his guns legally, then snarkily concludes:

Presumably this will stop precisely nobody linking the incident to their preferred firearms-purchasing reforms.
Of course, if he had obtained the guns illegally, National Review and other conservatives would be saying that shows the gun laws were ineffective at stopping murder, because murderers brazenly violate the law.

That the current laws allowed him to obtain the guns is consistent with those who say the laws should make it harder to obtain guns.

Now, I don't know whether there's any good reform that would have stopped him from obtaining his guns, since this isn't a big issue of mine and I'm just not very well-informed about it. But I can state the obvious: pointing out that the law allowed a mass murderer to possess the gun he used to kill people does not make the case against cracking down on gun possession!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Yeonmi Park's escape from North Korea and "journey to freedom"

I first posted about Yeonmi Park's escape from North Korea last year. As I quoted from her back then:

I lived in North Korea for the first 15 years of my life, believing Kim Jong-il was a god. I never doubted it because I didn't know anything else. I could not even imagine life outside of the regime. . . . I had to be careful of my thoughts because I believed Kim Jong-il could read my mind.
When I posted that, I had no idea she would ever go to America, let alone that I’d have the pleasure of meeting her in NYC. Her memoir, In Order to Live, came out this week, and I just started reading it.

At a talk by Yeonmi the other day, my friend Peter Prosol took these notes (using first and third person):
Is it that difficult for other leaders to say one sentence to Xi Jinping when they meet him: if you encounter North Korean refugees in China, can you please not send them back?

If I had the things Americans throw away, I wouldn't have left North Korea. The way people have to live is unimaginably, indescribably bad.

A refugee she met in China was trying to injure herself to induce an abortion so as to be able to escape a man who kept her in captivity, enabled by the legal shadows China keeps refugees in.
Everyone should read this book.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Two great albums by British rock bands came out on this day.

Radiohead released their fourth album, Kid A, 15 years ago, on October 2, 2000.

Oasis released their second album, (What's the Story) Morning Glory?, 20 years ago, on October 2, 1995.

Johnny Carson explains how shyness made him want to perform

Johnny Carson: I grew up in the Midwest . . . I guess what you'd call a normal upbringing. . . . My folks were supportive of what I wanted to do.

Interviewer: Did you always know what you wanted to do?

Carson: Oh yeah, oh sure.

Interviewer: From the very beginning? How old?

Carson: I must have been about 12 or 13 years old, and I knew I wanted to entertain.

Interviewer: You liked the attention?

Carson: Oh, sure.

Interviewer: But why? Why you? I mean, why at age 12 or 13?

Carson: Because I was in a play or something and I got up, and people laughed . . . so it makes you the center of attention.

Interviewer: Yes, but why did you want the attention?

Carson: Why did I want the attention? Because I was shy. Because I was shy. Now, that sounds like ambivalence, right?

Interviewer: No, not at all.

Carson: On stage, you see, when you're on stage in front of an audience, you are kind of in control. When you're off of the stage, or you're in a situation when you're with a lot of people, you are not in control. And I felt awkward. So I went into show business thinking . . . I could overcome that shyness.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Whole Foods to stop using prison labor

Whole Foods has been selling products made with prison labor, creating the potential for inmates to leave prison with some savings and a recent line on their resume. But left-wing protesters have prompted Whole Foods to shut this down on the grounds that the prisoners' wages are, of course, very low. NPR reports:

Whole Foods Market has announced that by April of next year it will stop sourcing foods that are produced using prison labor.

The move comes on the heels of a demonstration in Houston where the company was chastised for employing inmates through prison-work programs.

Michael Allen, founder of End Mass Incarceration Houston, organized the protest. He says Whole Foods was engaging in exploitation since inmates are typically paid very low wages.

"People are incarcerated and then forced to work for pennies on the dollar — compare that to what the products are sold for," Allen tells The Salt.

Currently, Whole Foods sells a goat cheese produced by Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy in Longmont, Colo., and a tilapia from Quixotic Farming, which bills itself as a family-owned sustainable seafood company.

These companies partner with Colorado Correctional Industries, a division of the Colorado Department of Corrections, to employ prisoners to milk goats and raise the fish.

CCI's mission is to provide inmates with employment and training. The intent is to give them skills that could help them find employment once they're released. CCI employs about 1,600 inmates, according to a report by the Colorado state auditor. . . .

In an email, Whole Food's spokesperson Michael Silverman tells [NPR] that the company liked the idea of employing inmates. "We felt that supporting supplier partners who found a way to be part of paid, rehabilitative work being done by inmates would help people get back on their feet," he writes.

But Silverman says, "we have heard from some shoppers and members of the community that they were uncomfortable with Whole Foods Market's sourcing products produced with inmate labor."

And in order to stay "in-tune" with customers' wishes, the company came to its decision to stop selling the goat cheese and tilapia. . . .

And there are also questions about the justness of prison-work programs. Allen and other protesters in Houston hung signs that said: "End Whole Foods Market's Profiting From Prison Slave Labor."

By some accounts, though, they're progressive. For instance, CCI supporters point to a lower recidivism rate among inmates who are employed while they're incarcerated.

Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy's John Scaggs says the farm will begin to source more milk from dairies that don't rely on inmate labor — so that it can continue to sell some cheeses to Whole Foods. But Scaggs says he's still a supporter of the prison labor program that CCI has created in Colorado.

"This is a model example of a prison-work program," Scaggs says. "By purchasing goat's milk from the facility [that uses prison labor], we're supporting ... rehabilitative incarceration." He says prisoners are taught teamwork and getting job training.

Scaggs says the inmates make about $1,500 to $2,500 a year, but he isn't sure what the hourly rate of pay is.

"If an inmate is serving a sentence for a few years, they can come out with a few thousand bucks [in savings] and a whole new skill set," he says.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Trump's tax plan

I keep hearing that Donald Trump isn't a serious candidate, that he's a joke, that he's too egotistical and bombastic, etc.

I'm not a fan of Trump, and I don't plan to vote for him. But I don't think he's a joke, and I think the tax plan he announced today deserves serious consideration.

Oh, I'm not convinced by his statements that his plan won't increase the debt — I'm always unimpressed by politicians who argue, essentially, that their policies are so brilliant that they'll lead to so much economic growth that we won't have to worry about fiscal responsibility. That strikes me as wishful thinking.

However, I commend Trump for breaking with the Republican orthodoxy that there must be no tax increases: Trump has admitted that some rich people's taxes will go up, including his, while most people's taxes will go down.

I'm also glad to see that he's not cowed by Republican attacks on those who don't pay any net federal taxes as freeloaders or moochers; he calls for eliminating income taxes for single people earning $25,000 or less and married couples jointly earning $50,000 or less.

And here's something else I'd like to know, especially if you're someone who writes off Trump as unserious or crazy or a joke: Why isn't Trump exactly right in what he says shortly after 12:30 in this video — that we've been losing a ridiculous amount of money by maintaining bases in other countries like Germany and Saudi Arabia, and it's time to renegotiate those deals? How does it make sense for us to provide security to a variety of countries around the world without getting paid back? Why isn't the status quo crazy? Why isn't the status quo a joke?

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Live-blogging the second main Republican presidential debate of 2016

I'm live-blogging tonight's main debate, which has all but a few of the Republican candidates. This is the first debate where Carly Fiorina is on the same stage as the other top candidates. A CNN announcer tells us that Fiorina is the only one who "graduated" from her last debate.

Keep reloading this post for live updates.

I'm going to write down quotes on the fly, so they might not be verbatim, but I'll try to make them reasonably accurate. (I might go back and correct some of them later.)

You can see more live-blogging by Althouse (my mom), Alex KnepperTPMNational Review, and Jim Gilmore.

[Here's the transcript.]

8:11 — They're debating in front of Ronald Reagan's presidential airplane.

8:14 — Marco Rubio uses his opening statement to make fun of himself: "I'm aware that California has a drought, which is why I brought my own water" — he holds up a water bottle.

8:16 — Donald Trump starts his opening statement by reminding us — but "not in a braggadocious way" — that he's made "billions and billions of dollars," and promising to bring the talents that let him earn all that money to the job of president.

8:20 — Carly Fiorina is asked whether Trump can be trusted with nuclear weapons. "All of us will be revealed over time and under pressure. I look forward to a long race."

8:21 — Trump: "Rand Paul shouldn't even be up here on this stage. He's got 1% in the polls." Trump wasn't asked about Paul, so that seems to be a brazen ploy to give more time to Paul — the moderator now has to let Paul speak since he was directly attacked.

8:22 — Paul calls out Trump for making fun of people's looks: "Short! Tall! Fat! Ugly!" Paul says Trump sounds like he's "in middle school." Trump responds: "I never attacked him on his look [sic], and believe me, there's plenty of subject matter there." [VIDEO.]

8:25 — Scott Walker pulls out a prepared zinger: "Mr. Trump, we don't need an apprentice in the White House — we have one right now."

8:26 — Trump attacks Walker's fiscal record as Governor of Wisconsin. "When people found that out, I went up in the polls; you went down the tubes."

8:28 — John Kasich says if he were watching the debate at home, which so far has been almost entirely about Trump and other candidates squabbling with each other, he'd "be inclined to turn it off."

8:29 — Chris Christie pithily deflects the charge of being a political insider: "I am a Republican in New Jersey — I wake up every morning as an outsider."

8:31 — Fiorina on "why people are supporting outsiders": "A fish swims in water — it doesn't know it's water. It's not that the politicians are bad people — it's that they've been in that system forever."

8:34 — Jeb Bush interrupts Trump, and Trump says: "More energy tonight — I like that!"

8:34 — Bush and Trump get into an extended, hostile dispute over Trump's supposed contribution to Bush in connection with Trump's casino project. Trump: "Don't make things up!" Bush: "Don't cut me off!"

8:36 — Trump is asked how he would get Russia out of Syria. His answer is that he would "get along with" Russian President Vladimir Putin, and President Obama doesn't.

8:37 — Marco Rubio has a sharper answer on Syria and Russia. Excerpt: "[Putin] is exploiting a vacuum that this administration has left in the Middle East."

8:38 — Fiorina tries to flaunt her foreign-policy fluency, reeling off several specific tactics she'd used against Russia.

8:42 — Ted Cruz promises to "tear up" our deal with Iran; Kasich says that "doing it on our own" would be the wrong policy.

8:43 — Paul suggests that Cruz's approach is "reckless." Paul would check to see if Iran is complying before he'd tear up the deal.

8:45 — Walker on Obama: "I'd love to play cards with this guy, because he folds on everything."

8:48 — Trump is asked if Obama should have bombed Syria after Syria crossed Obama's "red line." Trump says Obama had to do so after he made the "red line" statement, but Trump wouldn't have declared the red line in the first place.

8:49 — Paul: "ISIS would be in charge of Syria if we had bombed Assad."

8:53 — Huckabee predictably defends Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who refuses to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and attacks the Supreme Court's decision in Obergefell v. Hodges as "legislating from the bench." Since "we made an accommodation for the Fort Hood shooter to let him grow a beard," Huckabee thinks we should let a government official deny couples their constitutional rights under Obergefell.

8:56 — Bush says someone else in Kim Davis's office should issue the same-sex marriage licenses instead.

8:59 — Cruz says we shouldn't be funding "a criminal enterprise," referring to Planned Parenthood.

9:00 — Christie: "I have vetoed Planned Parenthood funding 8 times in New Jersey." He says Hillary Clinton "supports systematic murder of children in the womb to preserve their body parts in a way that maximizes profit."

9:02 — Fiorina gets very passionate when challenging Obama or Clinton to watch a video in which Planned Parenthood employees talk while a live fetus is on the table. She gets huge applause for this, although the audience has otherwise been pretty reserved. Alex Knepper says:

Fiorina is killing it, and may have sucked all the air Walker needed away from him.
9:05 — Trump attacks Bush for saying we shouldn't spent too much money on "women's health issues." Bush says he was only referring to Planned Parenthood, but Trump keeps asking why Bush made the comment.

9:07 — Fiorina is asked about Trump's infamous comment about her: "Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?!" (Trump later said he was being "jocular" and was talking about her "persona.") Fiorina's response is perfect, and maybe the best line of the night: "Mr. Trump said that he heard Mr. Bush very clearly in what Mr. Bush said [about women's health]. I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said." Trump tries to salvage himself by saying: "I think she's got a beautiful face and she's a beautiful woman." [VIDEO.] My mom observes:
Carly utterly refrains from giving an appreciative smile. She's got her game face.
9:14 — Ben Carson talks about visiting the Mexican border and seeing "the kinds of fences that, when we were kids, would have barely slowed us down."

9:15 — Carson says it would be "worth discussing" deporting all illegal immigrants — if anyone had a practical way to do it.

9:16 — Bush: "My wife is a Mexican-American. She's an American by choice. She wants to embrace the values that make this country unique." Bush asks Trump to apologize for suggesting that his views on immigration are influenced by his wife's background.

9:18 — Bush says Trump's immigration plan would "destroy community life" and "tear America apart." Trump responds: "They'll come back legally!"

9:19 — Trump is asked about his comment that Bush should speak English. "I did it a little bit half-heartedly but I did mean it to a large extent. . . . This is a country where we speak English! Not Spanish."

9:26 — Trump is asked about birthright citizenship. Trump says that the Constitution doesn't provide for birthright citizenship and that an act of Congress could undo the policy. He says the 14th Amendment issue would probably need to be decided by the Supreme Court. Fiorina responds that getting rid of birthright citizenship would involve a very "arduous" process of amending the Constitution (which, she doesn't mention, the President has nothing to do with).

9:30 — Fiorina is asked why a voter who cares about private-sector experience should prefer her over Trump, since she was "viciously fired." Fiorina says her company, Hewlett-Packard, had to make "tough choices" (firing lots of people), but she lists the ways she improved the company. [Fact-check: She was apparently misleading about that.] "Steve Jobs called me the day I was fired to say: hey, been there, done that." Trump disagrees: "The company is a disaster. They still haven't recovered." Then Trump has a devastating line: "She can't run any of my companies." Fiorina fires back hard: Trump ran his casinos by "running up debt with other people's money," so why should we expect him to be any more careful with the American people's money? Alex Knepper notes that the details of this Fiorina vs. Trump tiff probably matter less than the candidates' demeanor:
Voters might not necessarily understand the ins-and-outs of the details thrown around in the Fiorina-Trump dispute over their business histories, but they surely noticed that she was able to get him flustered while she kept her cool and defended herself confidently.
9:34 — Christie snaps at Fiorina and Trump: "We don't want to hear about your careers! You're both successful people — congratulations!" Christie says he's more interested in talking about the career of the "55-year-old construction worker" watching this debate. Fiorina points out that Christie has been talking about his career.

9:39 — Mike Huckabee tries to cut the Gordian knot of the candidates' claims about their experience: "We've all done great things, or we wouldn't be on this stage." Reagan "didn't get elected telling everyone how great he was. He got elected by talking about how great the American people were."

9:41 — Carson, a neurosurgeon, accidentally refers to Huckabee as "Dr. Huckabee." Huckabee wryly comes back: "You don't want me operating on you."

9:42 — Trump says hedge-fund managers "all know" him, but won't like him as much as president. "I know people making a tremendous amount of money and paying almost no tax, and I think it's unfair."

9:44 — Carson says "both sides" should "negotiate a reasonable minimum wage, and index that, so that we never have to have this conversation again in the history of America."

9:46 — Moderator Hugh Hewitt asks Kasich why he doesn't attack Clinton. This is a softball question because it's basically asking him to give a speech about what's so great about him (which, of course, is what he's more interested in talking about than Clinton). "Don't worry about me and Hillary. I'm from Ohio — she won't beat me there."

9:47 — Fiorina says Clinton has to "defend her track record" — "her track record of lying about Benghazi, lying about emails . . ."

9:49 — Christie says there should be a "former federal prosecutor," like him, on the debate stage in the general election. "I will prosecute her. She knows she's wrong and she cannot look in the mirror at herself, and she cannot tell the American people the truth."

9:51 — I just realized this debate isn't two hours, like the last one, but three hours! Alex Knepper says:
Time to pop out whatever Carly Fiorina is on so I can stay up.
9:53 — Moderator Jake Tapper brings up Rubio's attack on Trump for flunking a pop quiz in a radio interview by one of the other moderators, Hugh Hewitt. "We had a misunderstanding about his pronunciation of a word. Hugh was giving me name after name — Arab name, Arab name, Arab . . . And there are few people anywhere who would have known those names." [VIDEO.]

9:56 — Rubio bears down on Trump's lack of knowledge, and Trump comes back: "I am not sitting in the Senate with the worst voting record." Trump says he'll know more by the time he's president. Rubio shows that a politician can make an uplifting speech about anything by saying he missed so many Senate votes because "the political establishment is completely out of touch with the lives of the American people."

9:59 — Hugh Hewitt points out Bush's "last name," and asks if his foreign-policy advisors would include anyone who hasn't also advised his family members. Bush says he "has to look to 41 and 43 — my dad and my brother." It's not really true that he's limited to the last two Republican presidents — Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have both had Republicans as foreign-policy advisors.

10:02 — Trump tells Bush: "Your brother gave us Barack Obama, because it was such a disaster in those last three months, Abraham Lincoln couldn't have been elected." Bush defends George W. Bush: "There's one thing for sure: he kept us safe." (With one exception.)

10:05 — Trump repeats his line from the last debate that he's the only candidate who opposed the Iraq War from the beginning. Carson points out that he urged George W. Bush not to invade Iraq. Trump leans over to shake Carson's hand. [ADDED: Carson wasn't an advisor to George W. Bush; Carson just sent him a letter.]

10:08 — When the moderator asks about our invasion of Afghanistan, Christie tells a chilling story about how his wife went through the World Trade Center to go to work two blocks away on September 11, 2001, and he spent 5 hours wondering if he was going to be a single parent.

10:21 — Ted Cruz says he shouldn't have voted to confirm Chief Justice John Roberts, because he isn't conservative enough. Cruz touts his experience clerking for former Chief Justice William Rehnquist.

10:31 — Paul says he won't enforce federal marijuana laws against states that have repealed their marijuana laws. Paul says there's at least one candidate on the stage who's been hypocritical on this issue, since that "privileged" candidate has smoked pot, but "wants to put poor people in jail." A moderator asks if Paul will identify that candidate by name, but Bush does it for them: "40 years ago, I smoked marijuana. My mom isn't happy about me admitting that. . . ." Of course, Bush emphasizes that this was 40 years ago, so it's not a big deal. He's 62. Has he stopped to think about the 22-year-olds today, who are the same age he was 40 years ago, who could be thwarted by the government from having the opportunity to have anywhere near Bush's success?

10:32 — Christie supports mandatory drug treatment for first-time drug offenders. "I'm pro-life, but . . . it gets a lot tougher when they get out of the womb."

10:34 — Christie suggests that Paul is wrong to paint him as a hardliner on medical marijuana, since Christie has supported New Jersey's medical-marijuana laws. As Paul points out, that doesn't change Christie's stated position on what he would do as president, which would be to enforce federal law against the states regardless of state policy. So President Christie would presumably crack down on medical marijuana in New Jersey, which, of course, is illegal under federal law.

10:35 — Fiorina: "My husband Frank and I buried a child to drug addiction. . . . We are misleading [Americans] when we tell them that smoking marijuana is just like drinking beer. And the marijuana today is not the marijuana that Jeb Bush smoked 40 years ago."

10:40 — Trump, a multi-billionaire, generously offers to stop receiving Social Security.

10:43 — While Christie speaks in defense of Rubio on climate change, Rubio appears nervous, grimacing and rubbing his hair. I'm sure he doesn't realize CNN is keeping him on camera in a split screen.

10:46 — Jake Tapper asks Carson about Trump's comments linking vaccines to autism, "which the medical community adamantly disputes." Carson agrees that the studies don't support that connection. "I think [Trump] is an intelligent man who can make a decision after reading the facts." Trump says: "I am totally in favor of vaccines — but I want smaller doses over a longer period of time. . . . And I think you would see a big impact on autism." Carson agrees that there are too many vaccines given in too short a period of time. [VIDEO.]

10:49 — Paul calls vaccines "one of the greatest medical discoveries of all time." "I'm all for vaccines, but I'm also for freedom."

10:55 — The candidates are asked what woman they'd put on the $10 bill. Huckabee says he'd put his wife, and Trump says he'd put his daughter. (They'd need to be dead for two years first.) Fiorina says she wouldn't put a woman on the $10 or $20 bill, because "women aren't a special-interest group." Multiple candidates say Rosa Parks, and others say Susan B. Anthony, Clara Barton, and Abigail Adams. No one gives the right answer.

10:59 — The candidates are asked what their Secret Service code name should be. Bush: "Everready. It's very high energy, Donald!" Trump sticks out his palm, and Bush gives him a low five. Then Trump says he'd want his code name to be "Humble." [VIDEO.]

10:04 — Carson admits: "I was a radical Democrat before I started listening to Ronald Reagan. And he didn't sound like other Republicans — he sounded logical."

10:07 — Trump, asked to talk about what will happen if he's president, adopts a gentle tone: "The world will respect us, and it'll be, actually, a friendlier world."

10:09 — Fiorina sums up her candidacy with an inspiring extended metaphor, expounding the meaning of "Lady Liberty and Lady Justice." Lady Justice wears a blindfold because "it doesn't matter who you are; it doesn't matter what you look like. . . ." This seems to be not just an obvious reference to the potentially historic nature of her candidacy, but also a subtle reprise of her retort to Trump's comments about her face.

Without reading any mainstream punditry, I feel confident in saying that Carly Fiorina won the evening.

Alex Knepper agrees:
Winners: Carly Fiorina

Losers: Scott Walker, John Kasich, Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee, Donald Trump

Wash: Everyone else
My mom's verdict:
Who most improved his case? I asked the question out loud and immediately thought: Rand Paul. Meade answered: Rand Paul. But he's got a long way to go. Did anyone hurt his case significantly? I don't think so. It's more: Who needed to make some real progress here and didn't? Maybe Walker.
I don't agree that Paul especially helped himself. He was good, but he was also good in the first debate, and that didn't improve his poll numbers. With such a crowded field, I don't expect Paul to get any bump from tonight. If some more candidates were to drop out and Paul had a great debate night, then I could see him getting a boost.

I agree that Walker needed to make something happen tonight, and he didn't do much of anything.

Rich Lowry says:
Carly had a terrific night. . . . I’d be shocked if she doesn’t keep rising in the polls.

Rubio was excellent. Everything he said was well-received. He knows the issues and is a smooth, relatable communicator. Of course, he got good reviews last time, but didn’t get a bump in the polls, perhaps because he didn’t have one signature moment. He didn’t tonight, either. But it’s clear that he is going to excel in these forums.

Bush had a tough time grappling with Trump. Even when he had cutting points to make about Trump, even when he had cause to be righteously indignant over Trump’s attacks on his wife and brother, he couldn’t quite pull it off. He had nice moments–his reminder that W. kept us safe, his jokes about his mom probably being disappointed in his admission he smoked pot and about “everready” being his prospective Secret Service name because it’s high energy. But he didn’t show mastery. The contrast with how Mitt Romney manhandled Rick Perry in the debates and Bush’s inability to wrestle Trump to the ground is striking.

As for the others: Carson seemed much more like he was during most of the last debate, without the strong finish; Cruz was good, although a number of his answers got cut off at the end by Jake Tapper and I’m not sure he made a big impression; Christie was crisp and forceful; Kasich seems in a rush to occupy the Jon Huntsman space in the race; Walker was fine, but didn’t stand out; Huckabee was his fluid, folksy self, but there don’t seem to be anything transformative; Rand Paul isn’t much of a factor.

Finally, Trump. He wasn’t any better than last time, and he presumably won’t be able to spin a narrative of victimhood coming out of this debate. One hopes for his sake that there is someone around him who can approach him tomorrow and say, “Sir, I regret to inform you that you actually have to know something to run for president and that I have no choice [but] to recommend that you read a policy briefing or two.”
Jonah Goldberg had a similar reaction:
I’m pretty much on the same page as Rich. . . . I think Fiorina was the winner. Rubio was, again, surefooted and relatable (except for that awful water joke at the beginning). I actually think that, after Fiorina, Chris Christie may have helped himself the most. He doesn’t need a huge pop in the polls right now. He merely needs people to be open to giving him a second look, and I think he did that. Maybe he’ll gain a point or two in the rankings, but the real sign he helped himself will be whether he gets bigger crowds in New Hampshire and an uptick in donations.

I am very disappointed in both Ben Carson and Rand Paul for not being more forceful on the issue of vaccinations — one of the only topics Trump discussed with any specificity. Both of these guys claim to be unconventional politicians — Carson more plausibly than Paul — and legitimately tout their medical careers. But their response to Trump smacked of political pandering.

As for Trump, who knows? From my perspective he continued to confirm that he has no place on the stage. He was boorish, uninformed and often pretty tedious. But he was also at times entertaining, and his fans have a keen gift for editing out the parts of his act they don’t like. I don’t think he’ll go down in the polls because of anything that happened last night. But I suspect his ceiling of support got a little lower and a little thicker.
"GOP insiders" agree with me:
Carly Fiorina nailed it in the second Republican debate.

That's the assessment of GOP insiders in a special edition of the POLITICO Caucus, our weekly survey of the top operatives, activists and strategists in Iowa and New Hampshire. . . .

Sixty percent of Republican insiders called Fiorina the biggest winner of the evening — no one else was even close — pointing to everything from how she handled Donald Trump to her grasp of policy issues. . . .

Republicans were divided by geography over who was the biggest loser of the evening. Trump had the worst night, according to 40 percent of New Hampshire Republicans. Walker came in second with 20 percent. But in Iowa, Republicans thought Walker had the worst night — 42 percent said the Wisconsin governor flopped.

"Walker who? Was he even in the debate?" jabbed one Iowa Republican.

"It's hard to believe he was once the frontrunner in this race," agreed another.

The early Republican debate tonight

I'm not live-blogging this debate. I'll blog the main debate, starting at 8:10 pm. I just have one thing to say about the early debate:

The moderator notes that Rick Santorum is the only one of the four candidates on the stage of the early debate who supports increasing the federal minimum wage, and Santorum passionately defends his position on that issue, calling for more "income support" for "American workers."

Santorum reminds me of Liz Lemon's terrible boyfriend, Dennis Duffy (the beeper salesman). There's an episode of 30 Rock where he's asked what his politics are, and he answers, in his smarmy, sleazy tone: "Social conservative, fiscal liberal."