That unfamiliar sound you heard coming out of Florida last night? An insult-free Republican presidential debate without a single reference to reproductive anatomy.
Which allowed you to concentrate on what was actually said. The exchange between Donald Trump and CNN’s Jake Tapper over the 1989 massacre of protestors in and around Tiananmen Square may be the most disturbing bit of foreign policy discussion in the campaign:
Tapper: Mr. Trump, some of your Republican critics have expressed concern about comments you have made praising authoritarian dictators. You have said positive things about Putin as a leader, and about China’s massacre of pro-democracy protesters at Tiananmen Square, you’ve said: “When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it, then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength.” How do you respond?
Trump: That doesn’t mean I was endorsing that. I was not endorsing it. I said that is a strong, powerful government that put it down with strength. And then they kept down the riot. It was a horrible thing. It doesn’t mean at all I was endorsing it.
Just for the record, the June 4 assault by Chinese military was a response to a peaceful, month-long occupation of Beijing’s largest public space, which started with a hunger strike. Thousands died. It might have been an uprising, but it was no riot. “Riot” is the term the Chinese government has used in sweeping the massacre under the rug.
Trump rival John Kasich, governor of Ohio, was in Congress at the time: “I think that the Chinese government butchered those kids,” he said.
In today’s Wall Street Journal, Ralph Reed has a column defending the choices of evangelicals in this year’s Republican presidential contest. A taste:
Former George W. Bush White House aide Pete Wehner has bemoaned his coreligionists’ joining Mr. Trump in an angry politics of grievance that seeks “scapegoats to explain their growing impotence.” Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore offered a simpler, half-in-jest explanation in a Washington Post op-ed: Many evangelicals “may well be drunk right now.”
But something larger and more interesting than resentment (or spirituous liquor) explains Mr. Trump’s performance among evangelicals.
First, a reality check: Mr. Trump is currently winning about one-third of evangelicals—about the same share of self-identified evangelicals who supported the primary campaigns of Sen. John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012. An impressive performance for Mr. Trump in a crowded field, to be sure, but hardly a majority. If the race narrows to Messrs. Trump and Cruz, expect a fierce, neck-and-neck battle for voters of faith.
The state Senate today will almost certainly take up and pass House Bill 859, the measure that would allow students and faculty over the age of 21 to carry concealed weapons on the campuses of Georgia’s public universities.
The only question is whether the legislation will be engrossed, preventing any changes on the Senate floor. If that happens, a vote by the Senate would send the bill directly to Gov. Nathan Deal.
If you want to stop gun legislation, you might want to try the House Banking Committee. S.B. 282, a bill to prohibit lending discrimination by banks against the gun industry, received a decidedly cool reception in a hearing-only session on Thursday.
Immigration activist D.A. King had a bad day on Thursday. A House subcommittee killed Senate Resolution 675, a proposed constitutional amendment that would have made English the official language of Georgia. Then there was the sign at the entryway of Senate Rules Chairman Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga:
Mullis said he was just having a little fun.
Our AJC colleague Aaron Sheinin has picked up word that state Rep. Virgil Fludd, D-Tryone, will not seek re-election.
After reading Mike Griffin’s Hitler-referenced piece on “religious liberty” legislation, a parade of House lawmakers all but compared the Georgia Baptist lobbyist to the devil himself on Thursday. But this morning, Griffin has martyrdom in mind:
Bebe Heiskell, the four-term sole commissioner of Walker County, says she’ll run for a fifth term – but as an independent rather than a Republican. Tea partyers are to blame, according to Chattanoogan.com:
She said, “I haven’t had a whole lot of luck with them. They want a more radically conservative candidate than I am.”
Over in North Carolina, an ugly tussle is happening under the bigger tent that Republicans are trying to build. From the Raleigh News & Observer:
N.C. Republican Party Chairman Hasan Harnett’s party email account was shut off this week, and he blamed Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse in a racially tinged episode that highlights strife between the two leaders days before the state’s primary.
Harnett sent Woodhouse a scathing email from a personal account accusing him of trying to undermine the party’s elected leadership.
“I mean seriously, is this some form of ritual or hazing you would put the first black chairman of the NCGOP State Party through?” Harnett wrote. “Or is it because I am not white enough for you? You keep pushing the limits. I guess time will only tell what your real plot and schemes are all about against me.”
The hundreds of candidates who qualified this week to seek GOP offices and more than 100 new big-ticket donors have helped buoy the state party’s flagging financial fortunes.
We’re told that the party, which recently reported it was saddled with more than $200,000 in debt, is poised to show at least $400,000 this cycle.
Justin Tomczak, a Republican activist who has been one of the most vocal critics of the party’s finances, said the haul is “great news” and credited former Rep. Jack Kingston, who co-chairs the Georgia GOP’s fundraising committee, with the turnaround.
“We will be watching closely that these critical resources are spent wisely and that there are meaning spending cuts following the November election,” he said.
Georgia Sens. Johnny Isakson and David Perdue fired a new warning shot to party leaders this week: they will not support any government spending bill that tips the balance of power in the ongoing water wars with Alabama and Florida.
As you recall, most of the Georgia delegation banded together and threatened to oppose a wrap-up federal spending bill late last year in in a bid to strip out innocuous-sounding language from Alabama GOP Sen. Richard Shelby that they said could have harmed the Peach State. Their gamble ultimately paid off.
In a letter to Senate leaders and top members of the Appropriations Committee, Perdue and Isakson promised to do the same this year. From the letter:
“Although we remain firm in our belief that this issue has been settled, please consider this letter our formal notice that there is no circumstance in which we would vote for cloture on or final passage of an appropriations bill if it includes any language regarding the (Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint) and the (Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa) river basins or if it directs the (Army Corps of Engineers) to make any changes to its existing policy affecting water rights for any state.”
Since the spending bill passed in December, Shelby, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, announced that the spending panel he oversees will investigate Georgia’s water withdrawals from reservoirs upstream of Alabama and Florida.