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Week 1: Cabinet picks contradict Donald Trump stands on some issues

The lack of fireworks surrounding Senate consideration of President-elect Donald Trump‘s Cabinet picks may reflect a slew of statements his choices have made contradicting the billionaire businessman’s position on key issues.

Trump acknowledged the differences early Friday, posting a message on his Twitter account saying: “All my Cabinet nominee are looking good and doing a great job. I want them to be themselves and express their own thoughts, not mine!”

This week’s confirmation hearings produced an odd political chemistry where, for instance, one of the harshest examinations of a Trump Cabinet choice came from one of Trump’s fellow Republicans, presidential campaign rival Sen. Marco Rubio.

Despite Democrats’ dismay over some of Trump’s selections, the hearings were relatively tranquil, with Democrats generally restrained even in quizzing the more contentious picks. The reason, according to a few Democrats: The nominees are proving more palatable than Trump himself.

“As I meet members of the Cabinet I’m puzzled because many of them sound reasonable,” said Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Senate Democrat. “Far more reasonable than their president.”

That could change in weeks to come, because some of the most potentially explosive hearings are still pending, including the scrutiny of former Goldman Sachs partner Steven Mnuchin for Treasury secretary.

Several of Trump’s Cabinet selections this week made statements this week contradicting policy stances espoused by their soon-to-be boss on issues ranging from Russia and NATO to climate change and Muslims.

Sen. Jeff Sessions, picked for attorney general, said he’s against any outright ban on immigration by Muslims, in contrast to Trump’s onetime call to suspend admittance of Muslims until U.S. officials could learn more about nature of the threat of extremism.

His secretary of state candidate, Rex Tillerson, took a relatively hard line on Washington’s dealings with Russia, even though Trump has been talking about improving relations between Washington and Moscow and held out for days before saying he accepted the intelligence community’s conclusion that Moscow meddled in the U.S. election process.

Tillerson demurred, however, when one senator tried to lure him into calling President Vladimir Putin, whom he knows, a “war criminal,” although he emphasized support for NATO commitments that Trump had questioned. The secretary-of-state designate also said the United States should not back away from its efforts against nuclear proliferation, notwithstanding Trump’s suggestion earlier this year that some key U.S. allies like Japan and South Korea provide their own defense.

Some of the toughest questioning of Tillerson came not from Democrats but from Rubio, who grilled the Exxon Mobil executive on human rights issues.

As Mnuchin’s confirmation hearing approaches, Democrats have set up a website to solicit stories from the thousands of people whose homes were foreclosed on by OneWest Bank while he headed a group of investors who owned the bank. They hope to use Mnuchin’s nomination hearing to attack Trump’s populist appeal with working-class voters and cast themselves as defenders of the middle class.

Thus far, though, Republicans are congratulating themselves for generally smooth sailing. And overall, the lack of drama may also be due to the decision by Democrats while in the Senate majority to lower the vote threshold for Cabinet nominees and others from 60 votes to 50, allowing Republicans to ensure approval as long as they can hold their 52-seat majority together.

“The purpose of confirmation hearings is to examine the record and views of potential nominees and I think that’s what these hearings are doing,” said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. “I think it’s likely that all of the Cabinet nominees are going to be confirmed, I think the hearings have gone quite well this week.”

A hearing Thursday for neurosurgeon Ben Carson to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development featured some pointed questioning from Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, but also warm exchanges between Carson and other committee Democrats. Afterward Carson thanked the panel and said that it “was actually kind of fun.”

Sessions was denied confirmation once before by the Senate, but that was three decades ago for a federal judgeship. This time around the Alabaman is a sitting senator and was treated gently, for the most part, by his colleagues, even when Democrats brought up the racial issues that brought him down him last time around. There was potential for drama as Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., broke with Senate tradition to testify against his colleague, but it came on the second day of the hearing after Sessions had finished testifying, so he was not even in the room.

Tillerson had the rockiest outing thus far, with Rubio pressing him on Russia and Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon confronting him about climate change and other issues. With Rubio and others undecided on supporting Tillerson, his ultimate confirmation is in question. But even with Tillerson, Democrats seemed to pull their punches at times.

“I don’t want to argue with you,” Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico remarked at one point, seeming to speak for several colleagues.

And it was practically bipartisan lovefests at the hearings for the choices for Central Intelligence Agency, Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo; retired Gen. James Mattis for Defense; and retired Gen. John Kelly for Homeland Security.

“Pompeo’s very popular, Mattis, Kelly — these are popular selections,” said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

The hearings seemed to underscore some emerging dynamics of Trump’s relations with Capitol Hill. Despite his highly unconventional approach, and his lack of Capitol Hill experience, many of his appointees and aides could have been selected by any other Republican, and the Senate is responding accordingly.

And even where Trump’s surprising approach raises the potential for problems, congressional Republicans are working overtime to paper them over, not highlight them.

“We are in complete sync,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., insisted Thursday in a discussion about a different topic, health care.

That could change in weeks to come, as the Senate holds hearings on Mnuchin and other more divisive selections. These include conservative Rep. Tom Price for Health and Human Services; Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, a vocal denier of climate change science, to lead the Environmental Protection Agency; and fast-food executive Andrew Puzder to head the Labor Department.

Still, given that it’s the Senate, not daytime TV, there may be a limit to the potential for conflict, said Ben Marter, Durbin’s communications director. “You have to adjust your excite-o-meter down a little bit, because it’s a Senate hearing. It’s not Maury Povich.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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Donald Trump nominates Ben Carson as Housing and Urban Development secretary

Palm Beach neurosurgeon and former Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson is Donald Trump‘s pick to be secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

Trump’s transition office announced the nomination Monday, bringing his once rival but early supporter into the cabinet discussion for his administration.

“I am thrilled to nominate Dr. Ben Carson as our next Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Ben Carson has a brilliant mind and is passionate about strengthening communities and families within those communities,” Trump stated in a news release. “We have talked at length about my urban renewal agenda and our message of economic revival, very much including our inner cities. Ben shares my optimism about the future of our country and is part of ensuring that this is a presidency representing all Americans. He is a tough competitor and never gives up.”

“He is a tough competitor and never gives up.”

Carson ran a up-by-your-bootstraps campaign that placed him briefly among the top challengers to Trump’s steamroll primary bid last winter.

Frequently, Carson spoke of finding ways to get people, particularly African-Americans such as himself, out of government-supported lives. His conservative views also extended to science, as he has questioned tenants of science ranging from evolution to the Big Bang Theory, leading Democrats to ridicule him widely.

A Detroit native, Carson, 65, is a retired neurosurgeon, educated at Yale University and trained as a doctor the University of Michigan. He served as director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Maryland and retired in Florida.

After dropping out of the presidential race in March, he quickly endorsed Trump in a news conference, declaring they had buried their hatchets. That news conference sparked immediate talk of the prospect Carson might serve in a Trump administration.

Carson said both he and Trump committed to working together if Trump won.

“I am honored to accept the opportunity to serve our country in the Trump administration,” Carson said. “I feel that I can make a significant contribution particularly by strengthening communities that are most in need. We have much work to do in enhancing every aspect of our nation and ensuring that our nation’s housing needs are met.”

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Donald Trump may revisit Trump Country during a victory tour

Donald Trump may take a victory tour to states that elected him president, an aide said Saturday, as boisterous protests unfolded outside the tower where he holed up with members of his transition team and fielded calls congratulating him.

While he’s announced one decision — putting Vice President-elect Mike Pence in charge of the transition instead of Chris Christie — Trump must identify other people for top White House jobs and Cabinet posts. The president-elect remained out of sight at Trump Tower, with streets outside swarming with thousands objecting to the results of Election Day.

At one point, documentary filmmaker Michael Moore, a liberal critic of Trump who nevertheless had predicted his victory, entered the tower lobby with a camera crew in tow and asked to see Trump. “I just thought I’d see if I could get into Trump Tower and ride the famous escalator,” said Moore, who did just that until he reached the fourth floor and the Secret Service told him he could go no higher.

Kellyanne Conway, who was Trump’s campaign manager and is almost surely in line for a prominent job in his presidency, told reporters in the tower lobby that Trump’s choice of a chief of staff was “imminent,” though not coming Saturday. Whoever fills that post will set the tone for Trump’s White House and be a main conduit to Capitol Hill and Cabinet agencies.

Trump is said to be considering Steve Bannon, his campaign chairman and a conservative media executive, and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus for the job. Neither has significant policy experience, though Priebus is well-liked in Washington and has ties with lawmakers.

Conway said Trump’s next public appearance was expected “in the next couple of days.” When asked if he’d take a victory tour soon, she said: “It’s possible. It’s possible. We’re working on the schedule.”

She described his day as “meetings, phone calls, conversations, interviews. What you would expect from a normal presidential transition.”

In one gesture of normalcy, Trump pledged to be “very restrained” in the White House with his use of Twitter, “if I use it at all.” But he did not sound convinced that he could leave it behind, when asked in a “60 Minutes” interview to be broadcast Sunday. Some of Trump’s most inflammatory comments, in a campaign loaded with provocation, came in his late-night tweets.

“I have a method of fighting back,” Trump said of social media. He said Twitter is “tremendous” and helped him win races in states where he was vastly outspent. He said he thinks he’s proved that social media can be more powerful than money.

Moments after Moore’s uninvited visit to Trump Tower, Nigel Farage, head of the “Leave” movement that won Britain’s vote to exit the European Union, also arrived. Trump frequently linked his campaign to the Brexit movement.

“It was a great honor to spend time with Donald Trump,” Farage said of his hourlong meeting with Trump, according to a statement from his UK Independence Party. “He was relaxed and full of good ideas. I’m confident he will be a good president. His support for the U.S.-UK relationship is very strong. This is a man with whom we can do business.”

For Trump, who ran on a pledge to “drain the swamp” of Washington insiders, the transition team is strikingly heavy on those with long political resumes.

Another apparent contradiction emerged Friday as Trump, who repeatedly vowed to achieve the repeal of President Barack Obama’s health care law, said he would be open to maintaining portions of it.

Christie was a loyal adviser to Trump for much of the campaign, offered a key early endorsement and came close to being the businessman’s pick for running mate. But Trump ultimately went with Pence, Indiana’s governor and a former congressman with Washington experience and deep ties to conservatives, to take the transition forward.

Christie will still be involved in the transition, joining a cluster of other steadfast Trump supporters serving as vice chairmen: former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions.

In addition, three of Trump’s adult children — Don Jr., Eric and Ivanka — are on the transition executive committee, along with Jared Kushner, Ivanka’s husband. Kushner was an influential adviser in Trump’s campaign.

The children’s inclusion raised questions about Trump’s ability to sever ties between the administration and the sprawling family business — after the billionaire repeatedly said during the campaign that his grown children would not follow him to Washington but instead run the Trump Organization.

Trump told The Wall Street Journal that after speaking with Obama at the White House, he was considering keeping the provision of the health law that allows children to stay on their parents’ insurance policies until they turn 26. He said previously he may also keep the prohibition against insurers denying coverage because of patients’ existing conditions.

Presidents-elect don’t often appoint their running mates to lead their transition team. Trump and Christie grew apart through the last stretch of the campaign.

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Joe Henderson: Convention wrap up — is it November yet?

A convention two weeks that marked plagiarism from Donald Trump’s wife and a small-but-noisy insurrection by Bernie Sanders’ supporters has concluded with, what?

Good question. It appears the American public is flummoxed over the choice of an obnoxious and potentially dangerous billionaire against a scandal-coated representative from the nation’s ruling class.

Or, maybe it’s a huuuugely successful businessman against a woman of considerable accomplishment who is shattering the glass ceiling.

Definitely one or the other.

The most recent Rasmussen poll with a 3-point margin of error showed 28 percent of voters have switched their preferred candidate since the start of the year. Hillary Clinton has a 43-42 percent lead nationally over Trump in that poll, which doesn’t mean squat. It’s all about electoral math and that’s too fuzzy right now to hazard anything more than a guess that’s likely to be wrong.

At least the conventions this year were able to clearly present the themes of their respective parties.

Republicans seem to be trying to convince voters that we’re all going to die if Clinton is elected because she is weak, crooked and, if Ben Carson is to be believed, a devotee of Satan.

Democrats counter with a vision of Donald Trump as a man of with no principles who is campaigning to be dictator-in-chief and will unleash nuclear holocaust while playing footsie with Vladimir Putin.

With the trend toward early voting taking hold around the country, neither party has much time to change the negatives about their candidate. That’s why the conventions were perhaps their best opportunity to make an impression.

So, let’s go to the tale of the tape. Who won?

SIGNATURE QUOTE — Trump: “I alone can fix it.”

Clinton: “I will be a president for Democrats, Republicans and independents. … For those who vote for me and those who don’t. For all Americans.”

Winner: Draw. Clinton as a unifier is tough to picture, and Trump already doesn’t care if anyone likes him.

QUOTE THEY’D LIKE YOU TO FORGET — Trump: “America is far less safe and the world is far less stable than when Obama made the decision to put Hillary Clinton in charge of America’s foreign policy. I am certain it is a decision he truly regrets.”

Clinton: “The truth is, through all these years of public service, the service part has always come easier to me than the public part.”

Winner: Trump. Even after President Obama’s vigorous endorsement of his former secretary of state, Clinton’s renowned penchant for secrecy, right down to her private mail server, makes her quote likely to show up in an attack ad.

BEST ACCEPTANCE SPEECH — Trump’s rambling, lengthy and cataclysmic forecast for America may have boosted Xanax sales but it also probably did scare the bejeebers out of at least some people who might vote for him now. Clinton laid out specifics in a speech that was surprisingly liberal but plodding. And like her or not, the speech was history unfolding.

Winner: Clinton, for making history while not making viewers crawl under the covers while listening to her.

BEST NONCANDIDATE MOMENT — Republicans: Donald Trump Jr. emerged as a possible rising star, both with his impassioned speech for his father and the fact that he got to announce the votes that officially gave his father the nomination.

Democrats: Several candidates, starting with first lady Michelle Obama’s landmark speech and including Rev. William Barber’s drop-the-mic firebrand address Thursday and the one-for-the-ages address by Kazir Kahn, father of a Muslim American soldier killed in action.

Winner: Democrats, if only for this quote by Kahn directed at Trump: “Have you ever been to Arlington cemetery? Go look at the graves of brave patriots who died defending the United States of America. You will see all faiths, genders and ethnicities. You have sacrificed nothing.”

NEW CAMPAIGN SLOGAN — Republicans: “If Hillary wins, the nation is doomed.”

Democrats: “If Trump wins, the nation is doomed.”

Americans: “When does November finally get here?”

Winner: No one.

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Liar. Lucifer. Lock her up. GOP denounces Hillary Clinton

Liar. Lucifer. Lock her up.

Republicans may have mixed feelings about nominating Donald Trump for president, but one thing they can all rally around is a deep dislike for Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Convention speakers have “prosecuted” Clinton at a mock trial, accused her of being a serial liar and even linked her to the Devil himself. Throughout the campaign, Trump has reveled in referring to his opponent as “Crooked Hillary.”

The attacks are an echo of the 1990s when conservatives denounced President Bill Clinton as the chief executive dealt with scandal and impeachment.

The most blistering assault at the GOP convention came Tuesday night when New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie took on the role of prosecutor and put Clinton on trial “for her performance and her character.” The audience responded with chants of “Lock her up! Lock her up!”

But others have piled on. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told the crowd scandal follows Clinton and former President Bill Clinton “like flies.”

“She lied about her emails. She lied about her server. She lied about Benghazi. She even lied about sniper fire. Why, even she lied about why her parents named her Hillary,” McConnell said.

And Wednesday, Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort said the airport meeting between former President Bill Clinton and Attorney General Loretta Lynch last month probably helped Clinton’s wife escape criminal charges over her use of a private email server. He told ABC that Lynch “probably” gave Bill Clinton special information that helped his wife.

Manafort even tried to blame Clinton for the controversy over Melania Trump lifting passages of her convention remarks from a speech that Michelle Obama delivered in 2008.

“For people to try and disparage that speech and say that it was something that it wasn’t is once again politics,” he told Fox News. “It’s Hillary Clinton once again feeling threatened by a woman and trying to destroy the woman and demean her as a way of positioning her own fate.”

Perhaps the wildest attack on Tuesday came from former GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson, who told the crowd that one of Clinton’s “role models” — community activist Saul Alinsky — “acknowledges Lucifer” in a 1971 book.

“So are we willing to elect someone as president who has as their role model somebody who acknowledges Lucifer?” Carson said. “Think about that.”

Clinton wrote a college thesis about Alinsky and has said she agreed with some of his opinions on social change, but disagreed with his view that the system could only be changed from the outside.

Some Republicans are wary of going too far. Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, one of the more prominent Trump skeptics, Tweeted late Tuesday: “@HillaryClinton now belongs in prison? C’mon. We can make the case that she shouldn’t be elected without jumping the shark.”

But attacking Clinton may be the most effective tactic with polls showing high unfavorable ratings for both candidates. An Associated Press-GfK poll this month found that three-quarters of voters say their pick for president is motivated by a desire to cast their ballot against Clinton or Trump.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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Former rivals, military leaders, actors to take stage at RNC

Former presidential candidates Ted Cruz, Chris Christie, Scott Walker and Marco Rubio — the latter by video link — are among those set to speak at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Military leaders, members of Congress, actors, faith leaders and family members of presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump are also set to speak in what the Republican National Committee calls “an unconventional lineup” that will challenge the status quo and press for Trump’s agenda.

Speaker highlights at the four-day convention, which begins Monday at the Quicken Loans Arena.

MONDAY

Theme: Make America Safe Again

Headliners: Trump’s wife, Melania; Lt. Gen. (ret.) Michael Flynn, U.S. Army; Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa; and Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Mont.

Others: Willie Robertson, star of “Duck Dynasty”; former Texas Gov. Rick Perry; Marcus Luttrell, retired U.S. Navy SEAL; Scott Baio, actor; Pat Smith, mother of Sean Smith, killed in the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya; Mark “Oz” Geist, member of a security team that fought in Benghazi; John Tiegen, member of Benghazi security team and co-author of the book “13 Hours,” an account of the attacks; Kent Terry and Kelly Terry-Willis, siblings of Brian Terry, a Border Patrol agent whose shooting death revealed the botched “Fast and Furious” gun-smuggling operation; Antonio Sabato Jr., actor; Mary Ann Mendoza, Sabine Durden and Jamiel Shaw, immigration reform advocates; Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas; David Clarke, sheriff of Milwaukee County, Wis.; Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis.; Rachel Campos-Duffy, LIBRE Initiative for Hispanic economic empowerment; Darryl Glenn, Senate candidate in Colorado; Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark.; Karen Vaughn, mother of a U.S. Navy SEAL killed in Afghanistan; Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.; former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani; and Jason Beardsley of Concerned Veterans for America.

___

TUESDAY

Theme: Make America Work Again

Headliners: Tiffany Trump, candidate’s daughter; Kerry Woolard, general manager, Trump Winery in Virginia; Donald Trump Jr.; Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.; former GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson; and actress Kimberlin Brown.

Others: Sharon Day, co-chairwoman of Republican National Committee; Dana White, president, Ultimate Fighting Championship; Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson; Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge; former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey; Andy Wist, founder of Standard Waterproofing Co.; Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis.; Chris Cox, executive director, NRA Institute for Legislative Action; golfer Natalie Gulbis; Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis.; House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.; New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

___

WEDNESDAY

Theme: Make America First Again

Headliners: Former presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio; Eric Trump, son of the candidate; former House Speaker Newt Gingrich; and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, Trump’s pick to be vice president.

Others: radio host Laura Ingraham; Phil Ruffin, businessman with interests in real estate, lodging, manufacturing and energy; Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi; retired astronaut Eileen Collins; Michelle Van Etten, small business owner; Kentucky state Sen. Ralph Alvarado Jr.; Darrell Scott, senior pastor and co-founder of New Spirit Revival Center Ministries, Cleveland; Harold Hamm, oil executive; Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker; Lynne Patton, vice president, Eric Trump Foundation; Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. (by video); Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas; Callista Gingrich, wife of Newt Gingrich.

___

THURSDAY

Theme: Make America One Again

Headliners: Peter Thiel, co-founder PayPal; Tom Barrack, CEO of Colony Capital; Ivanka Trump, daughter of the candidate; and Donald Trump, GOP nominee for president.

Others: Brock Mealer, motivational speaker; Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.; Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin; Dr. Lisa Shin, owner of Los Alamos Family Eyecare in New Mexico; RNC Chairman Reince Priebus; Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University and evangelical leader.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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Rick Scott gearing up for GOP convention speech

Gov. Rick Scott brushed off questions about whether Donald Trump would be able to secure the nomination next week, saying the New York Republican is the clear winner.

“He clearly won the delegates,” said Scott during a stop in Naples on Friday. “My goal is that we have a great convention, and we highlight where we’re going as a country and a party, and we have a big win and change the direction of this country.”

Scott is one of dozens of people slated to speak during the Republican National Convention next week. The Naples Republican praised Trump early in the primary cycle but did not endorse him until after Florida’s March 15 primary. Since then, he has been a vocal supporter of the New York Republican and was often mentioned as a potential running mate.

Trump announced Friday he selected Indiana Gov. Mike Pence to be his running mate. During his stop in Naples, Scott told reporters he had made it clear to Trump he wasn’t interested in the No. 2 spot.

“I’ve been clear all along,” he said. “I have a great job, and I want to keep this job.”

Scott said he is excited to go to the convention, noting he missed most of the 2012 Republican convention in Tampa because of a hurricane. Republicans cut the conference short by a day because of the storm threat. Scott was also scheduled to speak at that event.

“I’m going to talk about why we ought to elect Donald Trump,” said Scott. “We need a business person. We need someone who is going to destroy ISIS. We need someone who is going to focus on jobs. And that’s what he’s going to do.”

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is also scheduled to speak at the convention.

Floridians heading up to Cleveland for the event will have a jam-packed schedule, including breakfasts, tailgate parties and a reception.

The Republican Party of Florida released a rundown of events Friday morning. Delegates will be able to participate in a breakfast speaker series hosted by the state party and Speaker Designate Richard Corcoran. Speakers at the breakfasts include Frank Luntz, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Dick Morris, and former Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Presidential hopeful Ben Carson is scheduled to attend a breakfast hosted by Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

“With Florida being front and center as the largest swing state, we are excited to welcome these great speakers to the conversation of Making Florida Red Again and Making America Great Again,” said Blaise Ingoglia, the chair of the Florida GOP and a state representative.

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Diane Roberts: Donald Trump is no Muhammad Ali, and never will be

The great Muhammad Ali is dead, but that won’t stop Donald Trump trying to make political hay out of him.

Trump, who famously doesn’t like Muslims or black people (except Dr. Ben “Sleepy” Carson and that poor dude Trump called “my African-American”), allowed as how Muhammed Ali, a Muslim and a black man, was “a truly great champion and a wonderful guy.”

Of course, Trump WOULD attach himself to the outpouring of tributes honoring the late champion. Like an orange barnacle. Actually, Ali might not have been flattered: in December 2015, after Trump announced he’d ban Muslims from entering the country, Ali appeared to rebuke him, stating, “Speaking as someone who has never been accused of political correctness, I believe that our political leaders should use their position to bring understanding about the religion of Islam …”

Trump and Ali knew each other, often showing up at the same charity events and awards ceremonies, presenting each other with checks and trophies. Yet Ali’s religion and his eminence often seemed to slip Trump’s mind. After Barack Obama gave a speech reminding the country that Muslims are part of America’s fabric. Trump tweet-snarked: “Obama said in his speech that Muslims are our sports heroes. What sport is he talking about? And who? Is Obama profiling?”

Hmm: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, maybe? Shaquille O’Neal, Ahmad Rashad, Hakeem Olajuwon, Oday Aboushi, Hasim Rahman? And yeah, Muhammad Ali.

Just wait: Trump will soon complain that it’s very, very unfair, disgraceful, and REALLY WEAK that Bill Clinton, the King of Jordan and Sen. Orrin Hatch were invited to speak at Ali’s funeral but he, Donald Trump, was not.

Some Trumpsters are drawing parallels between their man and Ali: hey — big mouths, right? And lots of self-confidence. Plus, Ali said way more racist stuff than the Donald!

OK, let’s compare: Ali scared the be-Jesus-heck out of tradition-minded white people, like in 1964 when he converted to Islam, a protégé of Malcolm X.

Then right after he beat Sonny Liston to become the Heavyweight Champion of the world, he announced he was no longer Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr.: “Cassius Clay is a slave name. I didn’t choose it, and I don’t want it. I am Muhammad Ali, a free name — it means beloved of God, and I insist people use it when people speak to me.”

Donald Trump scares the bejesus-heck out of everybody else, what with saying that if Ivanka weren’t his daughter he’d like to, ahem, “date” her, the U.S. should bring back torture, and “If Hillary Clinton can’t satisfy her husband, what makes her think she can satisfy America?”

Consider that last statement for a moment. Then go bathe in Lysol.

As for military service, Trump got multiple draft deferments: bone spur on his right foot — or was it his left? Which is OK, because five years at the New York Military Academy (a prep school where rich boys get to wear made-up fancy feathered hats and play soldier) gave him “more training militarily than a lot of the guys that go into the military.”

West Point and Annapolis, take note.

Ali, on the other hand, got called up in 1967 and refused to go, saying, “No Viet Cong ever called me nigger.”

He went on: “Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on Brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights? … If I thought the war was going to bring freedom and equality to 22 million of my people they wouldn’t have to draft me, I’d join tomorrow. I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. So I’ll go to jail, so what? We’ve been in jail for 400 years.”

It’s true that Muhammad Ali called Caucasians “blue-eyed, blond-headed devils.” Slavery and Jim Crow and racial injustice will do that to you. But he didn’t practice hatred in his life. He left the Nation of Islam in 1975 and became a Sufi. Outside the ring, at least, he was a man of peace.

Ali had wit. He had charm. Intelligence. Integrity. Humor. He had a way with language: “I’m so mean I make medicine sick,” and “I’ve wrestled with alligators. I’ve tussled with a whale. I done handcuffed lightning. And thrown thunder in jail.”

Yeah, he boasted. Boasting is OK if 1. It’s funny; and 2. You have something to boast about. Or, to put it the way Ali (unless it was Dizzy Dean or Bear Bryant — scholars differ) did: “It ain’t braggin’ if you done it.”

This is what Trump and his howling mob of pissed-off white folks can’t grasp. Trump ain’t done it. He’s not funny. And he’ll never understand what Ali meant when he said: “I am America. I am the part you won’t recognize. But get used to me. Black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own; get used to me.”

___

Diane Roberts is the author of “Tribal: College Football and the Secret Heart of America.” She teaches at Florida State University.

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Diane Roberts: Moving Andrew Jackson to the back of the bill was a no-brainer

That Barack Obama. He’s at it again, dividing the country, fostering racial strife.

What is it this time, you ask? Why, only the most sacred of things, our best beloved, our central obsession — money.

The double sawbuck, to be precise, the one currently sporting Andrew Jackson, seventh president of the United States. Obama’s Treasury Secretary is sending him to the back of the $20 bill, while ex-slave Harriet Tubman gets to go on the front.

Planet Fox (that lightless but loud satellite orbiting the vast Murdoch Spatial Anomaly) is puffing and squawking. Greta Van Susteren used her April 21 “Off the Record” segment (which, since it’s broadcast to a lot of people, is actually ON the record) to get emphatic, if not coherent, about keeping Old Hickory right where God intended: “We could put a woman on a bill! Tubman — acknowledge her courage, and not stir up the country. But give Tubman her own bill! Like a $25 bill! We could use a $25 bill! Put her picture on that and we could all celebrate!”

The Brain Trust that is “Fox and Friends” also came out strong for leaving Andrew Jackson alone. He’s an American hero. Brian Kilmeade called him “one of the best generals we ever had.”

Kilmeade might want to ask the Cherokee, the Creeks, the Choctaw and the Seminoles about that.

Co-host Heather Nauer fussed that Alexander Hamilton got to remain on the $10 bill just because he’s the subject of a hit Broadway musical: “If that is the standard, next thing you know, folks, we’re going to have cats on money!”

Ben Carson (how soon we forget!) and Donald Trump (how we wish we could forget!) decided that Harriet Tubman deserved maybe the $2 bill. Trump allowed as how Tubman was “fantastic,” but dismissed the Jackson-Tubman switch as “political correctness,” adding that Jackson had “been on the bill for many, many years and really represented — somebody that was really very important to this country.”

A cynical person might wonder if Herr Drumpf had actually ever heard of Harriet Tubman. Or Andrew Jackson.

For Herr Drumpf’s information, Jackson wasn’t merely a plantation master, a proslavery Southerner. He was a government terrorist.

In 1816, he orchestrated the destruction of what was called the “Negro Fort” in Spanish Florida. More than 300 Choctaw, Seminole and African Americans were killed, many of them women and children.

Hundreds more refugees who lived around the Apalachicola River settlement were rounded up and sent back into slavery in Georgia and the Carolinas.

He violated international borders raiding Seminole villages in Spanish Florida, burning and murdering. The Seminoles harbored runaway slaves.

As president in 1830, he pushed the Indian Removal Act, setting in motion the Trail of Tears, the forced removal of native people from their lands east of the Mississippi so that white people could establish plantations worked by black people.

I guess you could say that was “really very important to this country.” You could also say it was genocide: 10,000 died of typhus, cholera, dysentery and starvation before they ever made it to “Indian Territory.”

Compare Jackson’s career with that of Araminta Ross (she later called herself “Harriet,” and “Tubman” was her husband’s last name), born a slave on a Maryland plantation c. 1822, escaped to freedom in Pennsylvania in 1849.

She became a “conductor” on the Underground Railroad — a very successful one — returning South again and again to help free people.

The white abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison nicknamed her “Moses.” During the Civil War, Harriet Tubman spied for the Union, and in the decades after (she died in 1913), advocated for women having the right to vote.

Yes, Andrew Jackson was elected President of the United States. But a number of dodgy people have held that office: Millard Fillmore. Richard Nixon. George W. Bush. Doesn’t mean we have to celebrate them.

No, history is not being buried: Jackson’s simply getting parked in a less prominent place on the money. He’s still there, so all you white men who feel threatened by the elevation of a bad-ass brave little black woman who believed that the words of the Declaration of Independence — the part about everyone being created equal — should govern America, need to get over it.

It’s not “political correctness.” It’s not pandering. It’s righting an old wrong.

Come join America, white guys. You might learn something.

***

Diane Roberts is the author of “Tribal: College Football and the Secret Heart of America.” She teaches at Florida State University.

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Ben Carson endorses Ron DeSantis for U.S. Senate

GOP Senate candidate Ron DeSantis scored a major national endorsement Thursday, in the form of Dr. Ben Carson, whose name was linked with a potential Senate run weeks back.

“I am pleased to endorse Ron DeSantis for U.S. Senate. Ron is a thoughtful man of strong character and faith who has served our country in the military and who is dedicated to restoring America’s founding principles,” said Dr. Carson. “In the Senate, he will fight for the Constitution and for a strong national defense. He knows we must repeal ObamaCare, protect life and defend religious freedom.  Floridians don’t need to guess if Ron DeSantis will fight to change Washington – all you have to do is look at his proven conservative record. I urge all of my supporters in Florida to do everything they can to elect him. Ron DeSantis has my vote.”

“It’s an honor to receive the support of Dr. Carson, who has inspired millions of Americans with his incomparable life story and hopeful vision for America’s future,” said DeSantis. “Dr. Carson has been a clear and consistent voice regarding the need to repeal ObamaCare and restore the Constitution.  Dr. Carson’s support will magnify the fact that I’m the only candidate in this race with a proven record of standing up to the permanent political class in Washington. In Congress, I declined a pension, fought for term limits, and rejected special treatment for members of Congress under ObamaCare. In the Senate, I’ll continue to fight to make sure Washington lives under the same rules as everybody else.”

DeSantis, who faces a competitive primary to replace Marco Rubio against Carlos Lopez-CanteraDavid JollyCarlos Beruff, and Todd Wilcox, has combined a strong fundraising operation, savvy political moves, and grassroots outreach to catapult to the first tier of the race for the GOP nomination.

Carson, however, is an especially important endorsement.

A March poll showed enthusiasm for a hypothetical Carson candidacy among a staggering 56 percent of Republican voters.

Carson, however, has disclaimed interest in a Senate run. And Thursday’s key endorsement shows that DeSantis aligns with his vision for the GOP.

Of course, DeSantis’ opponents have their own takes.

The Carson endorsement played into the ongoing back and forth between the Florida GOP Senate campaigns of Reps. David Jolly and DeSantis. 

“Dr. Ben Carson says ‘Floridians don’t need to guess if Ron DeSantis will fight to change Washington.’  I’m not so sure about that, Doctor,” said Jolly’s spokesperson, Max Goodman, who also sent along a Friends of David Jolly 41 second digital ad asserting that DeSantis is “part of the problem in Washington D.C.

The ad begins with the stentorian voice of DeSantis addressing supporters, saying that “the difference is when you get up there, are you going to do what you say you were going to do, or are you going to drink the Kool-Aid and start to become part of the problem.”

From there, DeSantis’ voice cuts out, and a series of damning headlines that imply that the Ponte Vedra Republican has become part of the “problem.”

The ad hits DeSantis for attending the Koch Brothers’ “big money conclave in California,” for having skipped House votes to “campaign in Vegas,” for carrying the most debt in the Senate race, and for sometimes prioritizing fundraising over making votes.

The spot closes with a graphic promoting the Stop Act, authored by Jolly, which would preclude officeholders from fundraising. DeSantis, who has been the most active fundraiser on the Republican side, obviously diverges from Jolly’s position.

The video is below:

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