As promised, my “review” of last night’s Republican Debate…
Debates like this bother me. Scripted questions, the “rules,” timed responses and rebuttals… it just comes off as political theater where, like in a movie theater, the audience is there to watch and be quiet. What bothers me the most is what the moderator of last night’s debate said at the beginning: “… a platform for the candidates to talk about what’s important to their campaigns.”
What about what’s important to us? I think in-person Town Halls are a much better way to connect with people during a campaign. No rules, no time limits… just let it all flow naturally, spontaneously. And it ain’t over ‘til all the folks’ questions are asked and satisfactorily answered.
Ahem… regarding last night’s Republican Debate in Cumming:
Rob Woodall, two thumbs up. Shane Hazel, well, to say “two thumbs down” would be a compliment.
I haven’t been impressed at all by Shane Hazel, even before last night’s debate, and meeting him briefly before it started and watching his performance during the debate confirmed what I had already figured out. Based on my observation, he comes across as arrogant, aloof, boastful, pompous – a bully who seems to think he’s the smartest person on the planet. That’s just not who we are, so why would we want a representative who seems to blatantly disrespect us? In my view, Shane Hazel is the personification of the lesson from the Bible’s book of James – “Pride Goeth Before Destruction.”
The Republican challenger approached me before the debate and forced a handshake. “Hi. I’m Shane Hazel. Thanks for coming.”
“I didn’t come for you,” I said, then asked, “Do you recognize me?” (I knew he did.) “I’m Toddy Lentz.”
“Oh yeah,” he replied in that condescending way he’s got going on. “I’m still waiting for your phone call.”
And I thought to myself, “Say what?!? What makes you think I want to call you?!?” Instead, I just told him, well, rather warned him, “Do not bait Rob. Be nice.”
He said he would be cool, then just grinned an evil looking grin and walked away. That’s when I knew that Hazel was going to turn the debate into a full-on assault. I knew he would look for any opening to make jabs and take cheap shots. For Hazel, I presumed, and correctly so as it turned out, this wasn’t a Republican Debate; it was The Shane Hazel Show!
And so for about an hour I listened to Mr. Big Stuff take his shots while I got angrier with each one. Toward the end of the event, when the candidates were given the opportunity to ask each other a question, I finally reached my boiling point. Hazel’s question was the hook, the ultimate slap that he likely figured would embarrass Rob into finally taking the bait.
He began with a patronizing “Congressman… “ with a pause for effect, I suppose, then rattled off some silly “grades” of Rob’s performance. Then the punch: “Why aren’t you running as a Democrat?”
Wellllllll, that was it! I totally lost it! I sprang from my seat and went out to the aisle and shouted down Hazel for his grandstanding. I don’t remember all of what I said (I know I didn’t curse like Hazel had earlier in one of his responses) but it was worth almost getting escorted out by security to see the instant shell-shocked look on Hazel’s face when I pointed at him and yelled, “JUST WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?!?”
But I digress…
Hazel’s repulsive behavior last night notwithstanding, some of the planks in his platform are, in my opinion, rather flawed and warped. For example…
He wants to abolish the VA. He cites isolated incidents in the VA healthcare system, many of which have already been resolved, as the basis for that position. Gee, one would think that as a veteran himself he would know that the Department of Veterans Affairs provides other services to our vets: college education assistance, vocational training, VA-guaranteed mortgages, just to name a few.
He also wants to eliminate the IRS. Cute talking point, despite the great results of the Republican Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. Apparently, he doesn’t understand what the IRS is. Think of it like this: the Internal Revenue Service is like the “Accounts Receivable” department of the federal government. It is not the “Income Reduction Strategy” plan, and individual income tax is not the only revenue stream. Here’s the laughable part of this particular pipe dream: Apparently, Mr. Constitutionalist forgot about the Sixteenth Amendment, adopted on February 3, 1913, that established the federal income tax. Good luck getting a Constitutional amendment to repeal that!
Speaking of the Constitution, of which Hazel claims to be such an expert (he teaches classes on the subject), it appears to me that he seems to arrogantly interpret it to match his agenda, or to ignore the parts of it that are the core principles of our democracy. He preaches “returning the federal government to Constitutional requirements only” but seems to forget that Article 1 – The Role of Congress – exists in part to allow the legislative branch to create new laws when necessary and appropriate.
He also wants to eliminate the Department of Education. I got a headache trying to follow his logic on that one. I agree that education curriculum is best handled at the local level, but at the federal level there are good programs in place and better resources to address college loan guarantees and other grants, in addition to public school infrastructure.
(Don’t ya just hate it when politicians make such grandiose promises when they know darn well they can’t keep them? After all, they know – and hope you don’t – that it takes a majority of the House to pass legislation, assuming a bill even makes it to a committee and emerges for a floor vote. And then it has to go to the Senate! I think some candidates make promises just to appeal to a certain base, then when they can’t keep their promises, or don’t even try to, they just blame their failure on the rest of the House.)
Moving on… I found it shameful in Hazel’s performance last night (and that’s what it was, literally) that while he accused Rob of using “rhetoric” he himself had a rather good handle on “rhetoric” …
He cherry picks parts of legislation to criticize Rob’s voting record while ignoring the context of the entire legislation; legislation that likely would or would not have passed even without Rob’s vote.
He shames Rob for the recent omnibus spending bill while he rattles off a few of the more disturbing parts of it as though Rob alone was responsible for that bill’s passage, while obviously not understanding what an “omnibus” really is.
He talks tough about immigration – “abolishing the welfare magnet” as if that alone will stop the flow of illegal immigrants – and doesn’t seem to recognize that there is an enormous difference between legal and illegal immigrants.
He talks about our military presence overseas as “unnecessary” and a “travesty” and a waste of $700 billion because there’s no “mission.” (I would argue that the “mission” is readiness, deterrence, protection of our allies, and “Peace through strength” really works.)
Again, these are all just based on my observations over the past few months or so; of his debate performance last night, his website, and his Facebook posts. Aside from all that I’ve detailed here in this post, and there are more examples but I don’t feel like watching his Facebook capture of the debate or wading through his bully pulpit, it won’t be Shane Hazel’s flawed platform and rhetoric that costs him the nomination. It will be his pride. And I’m not talking self-confidence; I’m talking pride in the Biblical sense – the worst of the seven deadly sins kind of pride. (Even if he changes his current strategy and apologizes, what serious person could believe he’s sincere? Once that ugly pride shows itself, it can’t be unseen in the same way a bell can’t be unrung.)
Hazel seems to want people to see him as important. He seems to think he’s entitled to the GA-07 seat as evidenced by his “oath” to “only serve eight years.” What a conceited thing to say, like he’s certain he’s going to win the primary in May and the general election in November, and that he likewise expects he’ll win the next three elections too!
He talks a lot about “fighting” this or that, and even “standing up to the President.” (Yeah, right. I can just imagine Shane Hazel being on the losing side of a Twitter war with President Trump!) And then there’s his outrageous pledge: “I’m not going to Washington to make friends!”
And this, the most insulting, Hazel says he absolutely won’t vote for certain things. [FOX NEWS ALERT FOR SHANE HAZEL…] You will vote the way we tell you to vote! (Assuming, of course, that he even gets the chance, which he probably won’t) A military sergeant is by definition a leader. That’s his job. A Representative in Congress, or any legislative body, is a follower. He is compelled to follow the will of the people. That’s his job.
But wait, there’s more! I lost count of how many times Hazel quipped, “Sunshine and Rainbows.” Each time he said it was like fingernails on a chalkboard. Talking to a packed auditorium of adults, many older than himself, as if they were children unable to fully comprehend the point he was trying desperately to make was, quite frankly, abhorrent and disrespectful. And if that wasn’t bad enough… add toenails to the fingernails on the chalkboard every time he addressed the crowd by saying “people.” That’s not who they are. They are “friends,” or “neighbors” and mostly “fellow citizens of Georgia’s Seventh District.” (Using the plural pronoun “you” or “y’all” would have been more appropriate.) “People” is what they are (as opposed to other groups of mammals.)
I’m not by nature a mean-spirited person. Truth is, I’m really kind of shy. This kind of a post is the exception, not the norm. While I will not engage in mudslinging against any candidate, I will not hesitate to call out bad behavior, political grandstanding, and other such nonsense designed to misrepresent facts and otherwise mislead or out-right lie to you. You deserve total transparency… from me, and everyone else in this race.
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I would be remiss in my reporting if I didn’t mention my impression of Rob Woodall. I met him for the first time before the debate began and we had an awesome conversation. I find Rob to be genuine, sincere, gracious and humble. He is a decent human being and an honorable man. I have to tell you, I was mighty proud of Rob for staying on the high road and not taking Hazel’s sneaky, snarly bait. I was impressed at how quickly Rob responded to the scripted questions and debunked a lot of Hazel’s talking points – with facts and logic, and without following Hazel into the gutter.
While Rob and I are on many of the same pages regarding our conservative values and points of view, there are differences in certain other opinions. I eagerly look forward to more honest discourse and dialogue with him after the primary, and who knows, as he has time available in the district maybe we can co-host some Town Halls and Listening Sessions. (We can take turns bringing the donuts.) 😊
UPDATE: "Pride goeth before destruction." See what I mean? I find it interesting that he doesn't dispute anything in this post. What do you think?