Opinions, Context & Ideas from the TPM Editors TPM Editor's Blog

Let's Keep This Real

No getting around it, this debate is just amazingly boring. I have to imagine it seems that way from a variety of political perspectives. True, debates aren't judged properly by entertainment factors. But 'boring' in this case is largely a matter of its not being engaging because nothing is actually happening. TPM Reader JB says this debate is like watching serial infomercials. I have to imagine that the audience for the next GOP debate will drop off dramatically. Engagement, tough questions, quite simply fighting generates new information. You learn things. This debate is painfully awful.

Live Blogging the Awesomest Debate in the History of Debates

And here we go.

9:07 PM: Trump: "Taxes too high, wages too high. We're not going to be able to compete against the world."

9:13 PM: The moderators have definitely gotten the message from the post-CNBC debate freak out. All questions seem to be some form of, how do you propose to be conservatively awesome?

9:38 PM: The only thing I can think to say about this debate so far is that the most probing questions come from the guy Murdoch brought in to run The Wall Street Journal.

9:44 PM: I'm not sure I can think of any example in this debate where one of the moderators has challenged any factual claim any candidate has made. That was the message coming out of the last debate certainly. But it gives a surreal atmosphere to the debate since there's nothing actually being discussed, no effort on the part of the moderators to make the candidates address any of the questions.

9:55 PM: I'm curious what Rand Paul just said about where the money for Social Security and Medicare come from if you get rid of the payroll tax. It sounded like he was saying you could pay for Social Security out of the business side contribution to payroll tax?

10: 00 PM: It's worth noting that there's really no reputable economist who thinks you can have average growth rates of 4%.

10:04 PM: It's painful to see that we had to wait for Rand Paul to fact check something in this debate. Indeed, where do you get this money from?

10:06 PM: Finally, is a debate actually breaking out?


As we get ready to watch tonight's main debate, lets focus on this point. Over the last week or so Ben Carson has been revealed as at best a serial teller of tall tales and spouter nonsense and conspiracy theories. It hasn't affected his standing with his core supporters in the GOP base electorate. But there's little question these revelations are a big problem in the broader electorate that a presidential candidate has to compete in to actually win the White house. And yet I think there's a decent chance that neither the other candidates or the moderators will even touch the subject, all because of the 'media bias' feedback loop that's taken hold of the GOP nomination race since the last debate. Even touching the subject risks sparking a riot.

Meanwhile Lou Dobbs can't seem to decide which is better, the Republican candidates or the Fox Business News debate production.

Fox Business Refuses To Be CNBC'd

Fox Business determined not to get caught in the conservative crosshairs like CNBC was for the last GOP debate. It's culture of dependency, crushing federal debt, and out of control taxes as the premises -- often stated -- for the questions from the moderators so far in the undercard debate.

The Archeology of Our Time

As I mentioned last week, TPM has commissioned a four part series on the rise of wealth and income inequality in the United States over the last fifty years. Yesterday we published the first full length article in the series. Written by Rich Yeselson this first article looks at the decline of the labor movement over the last half century as a key driver of flat incomes for the great majority of the population and spiraling inequality which continues to accelerate today. I was excited to commission this piece and was gratified to read it because it was so packed with details and stories about the arc of our recent political past which I either only knew dimly or didn't know at all. If you want to understand one part of how we got here or if you're just into history, I really think you'll enjoy this piece. You can read it here.

A Self-Awareness Mr Magoo

In case you missed the late news yesterday evening, the Carson-Yale mystery has taken a paradoxical turn in which all can apparently rejoice: new evidence both suggests the possibility that Ben Carson may be telling some version of the truth as he remembers it (good for supporters) while also showing him to be a pompous buffoon (good for opponents and consumers of comedy). As you'll remember or as you may have heard in recent days, Carson's autobiography tells the story of an incident during Carson's days at Yale in which a psychology professor engineered a ruse to find the most hardworking and honest student in his class. Unsurprisingly, it turned out to be Ben Carson.

Read More →

This Caught My Eye

One thing I've been very focused on with Ben Carson is his relationship with Armstrong Williams. Williams has been out of the spotlight for a while, or at least not nearly as visible as he was a decade ago. But he's a longtime conservative columnist. And he has a very close relationship with Carson, the details of which have been a bit obscure to me. A few months ago, the Post referred to him a man "who for decades has been Carson's business manager and gatekeeper." He's now the "business manager" for Carson's campaign, which got my attention since I've never seen a campaign, ever, that has a "business manager."

Read More →


It's a bit brutal to watch so many of Ben Carson's self-glorifying stories from his biography turn out to be either wildly exaggerated, completely bogus or as in the case of this Yale exam story, as Catherine Thompson explains here, so utterly byzantine and convoluted as to defy categorization. Adding to the surreal situation is what I noted last week which is that Carson's operation looks very much like a direct mail fundraising scam gone wrong - or actually horribly right. When I was researching this last week, I was struck that not only did Carson's campaign seem like a fundraising scam but that his campaign had attracted a slew of nominally 'pro-Carson' SuperPacs trying to grab some of the tons of money off the Carson phenomenon, run a few nominal ads and pocket the rest as costs. Now one of the many 'pro-Carson' SuperPacs is out asking patients to come forward to say good things about him.

Read More →

More Problems

The Wall Street Journal just published a story with several more problems in Ben Carson's biography. They range from stories which simply cannot be confirmed (doesn't mean they're false) to ones that appear more or less definitively not to have happened (i.e. made up), based on contemporary evidence, and some in between. Here's the Journal's piece.