Report from the Reagan Library at the debate

I had the privilege of attending the Republican Presidential Debate at the Reagan Library.  This beautiful place is a reminder of the days when Republicans like Ronald Reagan and Newt Gingrich stood up to their adversaries and opponents, having plans in place to support their visions. 

As I drove up to the debate I first encountered about 100 demonstrators. When asked why they were there they did not respond.  Then I asked what was their purpose of demonstrating; they said, “We are just here.” The United Service Workers West had signs supporting anchor babies, and “There is no hope without the Latino vote.”  Later I found out that they did not answer any questions because they were asked to be there by their supervisor and should have instead been at work.

After arriving I went to look at the breathtaking view and surprisingly saw Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FLA).  I had a conversation with her about the Iranian Nuclear Deal, trying to pressure her to give accurate answers:

AT:  I thought you were here because you might be thinking of switching parties.

DWS:  I’m this close.

AT:  Seriously, how do you feel about the proposed bill of Congressman Brad Sherman and the vote tomorrow in the Senate, both tying sanction relief to Iran’s recognition of Israel and the release of the four hostages?

DWS:  The next steps we need to take now that a deal is going forward is to make sure Israel’s security is enhanced and to repair some of the strains that occurred.  I am thrilled Prime Minister Netanyahu is going to meet with President Obama when he comes in November.

AT:  How is it Democrats were not willing to put their money where their mouth is and put a vote forward in the Senate.  If they support the bill why would they not be willing to go on record?

DWS:  I am a member of the US House of Representatives so I can’t speak for them.

AT:  But aren’t you also the Democratic National Committee Chairwoman so you can speak for them?

DWS:  Right.  If you look at the Iranian Deal as extensively and exhaustingly as I did it was the best thing we could do to ensure that Iran never has the ability to achieve a nuclear weapon.

AT:  But the President has gone on record saying he would not be surprised if Iran cheats.

DWS:  What I was saying, as does the President, that we believe strongly that this is the most likely way of Iran not achieving a nuclear weapon.  Yes, they are going to cheat, which is why there are extensive and the most intrusive monitoring inspections that has ever been agreed to in any international agreement. 

AT:  What about the IAEA allowing Iran to basically inspect themselves?

DWS:  No they are not.  With all due respect you just do not know what you are talking about.  I do because I have seen classified information.  

AT:  Then why don’t you settle this by having President Obama declassify it and release the information?

DWS:  I am going to go.  To sit and explain to you the intricacies of agreements of other nations is going to take more time than I have.  But I can assure you Iran in no way, shape, or form is allowed to inspect.  Not in Parchin or any other military site that is already known.

After this encounter I went to the pressroom, waiting for the debate to begin, and saw only half of them standing for the National Anthem. At the conclusion of the first debate I saw some of the candidates in the “spin room.” Unfortunately, because of the magnitude of the press surrounding them unless you were in the first of the concentric circles formed you could not be seen or heard.  Both Governor Bobby Jindal and former Senator Rick Santorum answered one question as they were leaving.

AT:  Would you ever use the military option on Iran?

Jindal:  Every option is on the table to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear power.  They will not get a bomb on my watch.

AT:  Republicans rightly argue that the rule of law needs to be applied to illegal immigrants but shouldn’t it also be applied to Kim Davis?

Santorum: With immigration the rule of law is very clear:  Congress passed it, the President signed it, yet the President has not enforced it.  The question on this rule of law with Davis, can the court create a Constitutional right outside of its Constitutional authority?  Many of us, including Justice John Roberts think the court acted unconstitutionally.

While watching the second debate I was struck with the attitude of the “establishment” candidates compared to those “outsiders.”  Michael Steele, the former chairman of the Republican Party, and former California Republican Chairman, Ron Nehring, were asked their opinions on this obvious rift.

AT:  Do you think the Republican leadership is too risk averse?

Steele:  There is a delicate balancing act that needs to occur between the leadership in the House/Senate and the Presidential candidates.  The party has to navigate so it does not favor one side or the other.  Leading up to this Presidential cycle the Republican Party should have set a narrative, a broad based national message.

Nehring:  I know many are frustrated that Republicans win elections and don’t put ideas into action.  We expected to see change once we controlled the Senate/House.  But that change we were promised never happened. 

AT:  Do Trump, Carson, and Fiorina have support because people are sick and tired of things not getting done?

Steele:  The base has cynical responses toward the party because it is disillusioned.  They are tired of being lied to when Republican leadership in the House/Senate say one thing and then do nothing at all.  Trump is appealing to the emotional questions: why have you, why didn’t you, with his response I will.  For example, why didn’t you build the wall and Trump answers I will build it.  Regarding today’s debates, I believe both Carly and Senator Graham moved it so substance was discussed.  The next step is where will the candidates, leadership, and the party activists meet?

Nehring:  I think even though a Senator, Ted Cruz represents exactly what the Republican Party is looking for, a consistent Conservative.  He has challenged both Democrats and Republicans.  He is prepared to put Republican ideas into action. 

While leaving I saw someone I had previously spoken with and whom I highly respect, Chad Sweet, the Chief Executive Officer at The Chertoff Group and the former Chief of Staff to Homeland Secretary Michael Chertoff.

AT:  What influenced you to be a part of Senator Cruz’s campaign?

Sweet:  I consider the establishment part of the Washington cartel.  When someone comes in and tries to fight it they are put down.   We are having a fundamental fight for the soul of the party.  Look at what Senator Cruz has tried to do.  He was accused of being crazy for actually trying to shut down the government.  They acted like Chicken Little, predicting the sky would fall, we would lose in 2014, and destroy the Republican Party.  In fact, we won the widest majorities in the Senate, House, Governorships, and state legislatures. 

AT:  Why do you think the Democrats were able to get the upper hand in the Senate concerning the Iranian Deal?

Sweet:  That happened because of our leadership.  Every time they attempt to negotiate with this President they consistently start with a position of weakness, presuming we are not going to win.  Wouldn’t it be great if we had a Conservative leader as committed to our principles as the Democrats and President Obama is to theirs. What we are seeing is this pattern by the Republican leadership to say one thing and behind closed doors make another agreement.  Senator Cruz believes we should not start with a presumption we will lose, but find a way to win.

As the evening came to an end it was surprising that not all the candidates came into the spin room, especially those who were at less than two percent.  It will be interesting to see how everything unfolds before the first primary.

The author writes for American Thinker.  She has done book reviews, author interviews, and has written a number of national security, political, and foreign policy articles.

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