Republican candidates false perceptions

Published 10:08 am Friday, September 18, 2015

This week’s second Republican debate was as much personal attacks as policy prescriptions, more entertainment than education. The Donald managed to be both sixth grade bully and policy bankrupt during the exchanges with his more informed colleagues. It was not a good night for Trump whose best case is “I will hire really smart people.”

We did learn from Donald that he does not like the face of Rand Paul any more than he likes the face of Carly Florina, which explains the kind of depth Mr. Trump brings to the debate.

But beyond Trump it was a night of the power of perception over reality as the candidates shared so many false assumptions about the condition of the country and the issues they would face as president. How can one govern effectively if they cannot find the facts surrounding the issues of the day?

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Some of the more general assumptions most candidates shared included:

The world view of the U.S. is at a very low point.

Several candidates noted this claim and blamed the Obama administration for damaging the worldwide perception of the U.S. Unfortunately, their claims are fact free. Pew Research, who tracks this topic, notes that America’s overall image remains positive, with 69 percent holding a favorable view of the U.S. and 24 percent holding an unfavorable view. This stands in stark contrast with the perception of the U.S. during the last Bush administration when Pew reported “The U.S. image is suffering almost everywhere” and U.S. approval dropped in 26 of 33 countries measured between 2002 and 2007.

The Southern border is out of control.

The Pew Hispanic Center determined in 2012 that net migration between the US and Mexico has reached zero percent, with as many Hispanics leaving the country as coming into the US. Further, in the first six months of the 2015 federal fiscal year, apprehensions were down 28 percent over 2014 with an annual rate of illegal migration estimated at 300,000, (offset by voluntary immigrations to Mexico) compared to 1.4 million in 2000, the first year of the Bush administration.

The Border Patrol reports that 87 percent of the detected illegal immigrants are caught and expelled. The facts do not suggest a border out of control, but a border with superior control over any time in recent decades.

Planned Parenthood must be de-funded.

No candidate on the stage disagreed with this statement, but their claims for de-funding PP remain unsubstantiated and seemingly un-informed of the actual function of PP for poorer Americans with limited access to healthcare.

Politifact reports that between 3 percent and 12 percent of PP’s functions are abortion related. Those functions are providing legal abortions and saving fetal tissue for research where viable. Beyond abortion services, increasingly difficult to access in many parts of the U.S., PP does STD testing and treatment, contraception services, cancer screenings, pregnancy tests and other services for general health issues.

The Iran agreement is a bad deal.

None disagreed here, yet none offered a viable alternative to the agreement. Ohio Gov. John Kasich, offered the “close to truthful” admission of the night on this topic, suggesting that the next Republican president should monitor the deal and give it a chance to work…exactly the position of the Obama administration and the only rational view suggested at the debate on this topic.

The problem here is that either the candidates simply do not bother to gather the facts on these topics or they care not about the facts, they care about sound bites conservative primary voters want to hear.

In either case, we should hope for candidates that value the facts, and those candidates were in short supply this week at the CNN debates.