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GOP Debate: Republican presidential candidates introduce themselves

Ask me to name a member of Congress that I actually like and you’ll have time to go get a cup of coffee — in Colombia, no less — before I could give you an answer. I guess you could lump me in with the three-fourths of the country that disapprove of the job that Congress is doing in the District.

Yet, as much as I feel spurned, ignored, and somewhat played like a fiddle by our elected leaders in Washington, I’m still fascinated with our democratic process and I’m enthralled by election season every four years.

Thursday night featured the first of what will seem like a marathon of presidential debates as the leaders in the Republican field of candidates met on stage in Cleveland, Ohio, to present themselves to the country.

In an effort to be transparent and honest with you, I’m not the world’s leading political analyst. In fact, if political pundits were a pack of marathoners, I’d be smushed somewhere near the back, way behind the Kenyans.

However, I try to stay educated and informed on the topics, platforms and positions of the candidates running. I’d recommend you read articles from fact checkers for accuracy and truth behind what is proclaimed in these debates.

With that said, here are my opinions and assessments of each of the candidates and where they stand after Thursday night’s debate.

Chris Christie, New Jersey Governor

Politicians are naturally in the public eye because they’re supposed to be relatable to their constituents. What bothers me is when they seep into popular culture for non-business reasons. I really didn’t need to see Christie hugging Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones during an exciting moment of a football game last year. What does this have to do with his policies? Well, nothing, really. Just an observation. Christie spent a lot of time last night referencing his role in going after terrorists in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. While I am sympathetic to all those affected by the tragedy, and while I will live by the motto “Never Forget” for the rest of my life, I’m not interested in a one-trick pony. He touched on how he brought New Jersey from a being in a state of despair into much better conditions, and I’d like to hear more on how he can translate that success to America’s economic troubles.

Marco Rubio, Florida Senator

Rubio was one of my favorite candidates of the evening from a presentational standpoint. He was polite, direct, articulate, well-spoken and seemed genuinely compassionate toward the American people. I don’t know enough about his policies, though, and would like to hear more about his record and how he intends to fix our nation’s problems. He’s an up-and-comer of the Republican party, who was even chosen to deliver the GOP response to President Obama’s State of the Union address in 2013, but is he still too raw at age 44?

Ben Carson, retired neurosurgeon

Every election cycle there is a “flavor of the month” candidate who captures the attention of the nation and may even lead in some polls based on his success in debates and making headlines. Last election cycle it was Herman Cain, a former pizza company CEO, whose use of the “9-9-9” slogan resonated with the general public. He led the polls for a short while before ultimately fizzling out because he wasn’t prepared for office. I suspect this year’s version is Dr. Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon and political pundit, who is very intelligent — obviously! — and clearly has well-thought-out plans. But he was also asked an introductory question by the debate moderators, prefaced by his relatively minuscule familiarity with foreign policy and American political history. He has the capacity to learn, but do we have the patience for growing pains in such an important office?

Scott Walker, Wisconsin Governor

Living just across the border in Illinois, I’ve become more familiar with the governor of Wisconsin in recent years. He seems to have a loyal, passionate fan base, at least within his state. He’s the son of a Baptist minister, so his positions are rooted in faith. He doesn’t quite come off as presidential, but that’s only an appearance and that can change with time. I think he had strong opinions on issues that Christians would be concerned with and I hope his answers weren’t standard lines from a stump speech, but instead strong convictions on his policies.

Donald Trump, real estate magnate

Clearly the highlight of the evening, the brash business owner was positioned center stage and was the focal point for much of the evening. I have severe reservations about Trump as a presidential candidate. For starters, I don’t trust his character or integrity. He’s brash and often abrasive, and has insulted many throughout his life in the public spotlight. He’s got no experience in government — which some say might be a positive, but I won’t concede that. Experience is not the problem in Washington; it’s policies and procedures that matter. Nowhere in his rambling drivel last night did it sound like he was a man who cared deeply about the people of this country. Instead, he sounded like an angry businessman who was upset the government was taking too much of his money. I will say that his best response of the evening was that he thinks this country is worried too much about political correctness.

Jeb Bush, former Florida Governor

I don’t have quite the same concerns that many in America have about “dynastic politics,” as one moderator phrased it last night. For instance, my refusal to accept Hillary Clinton as president has little to with her husband already serving that role and more to do with her insane political positions. I understand that much of America might still be suffering from “Bush fatigue” but I won’t hold that against Jeb. My observation of the younger Bush brother last night was that he didn’t quite seem presidential. Maybe it was opening night jitters, but he didn’t seem to have the same conviction and resolve that his older brother had. From my understanding, he seemed to have a relatively successful run as Florida Governor and helped lead the state into the top five in job growth. It never hurts to have two family members lending presidential ideas and support, which is one reason why I’m encouraged and intrigued by Jeb. But let’s see how he carves out a name for himself during this process.

Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas Governor

Huckabee was one of my favorite candidates during the 2008 election season but I’m a little less interested in him this time around. He served as a pastor early in his life and I love his devout faith. Much — if not all — of his platform is influenced by his faith, which I think is the best way to lead, even if it makes some of his ideas sound radical by the secular nation. What I also like about him is his courage and conviction and his directness in the way he communicates his stance on tough subjects.

Ted Cruz, Texas Senator

I had known very little about Ted Cruz prior to last night’s debate, but his performance definitely won me over. He’s probably near the top of my candidate preference list at this point, but that could vary in the months ahead. I was confused how a man born in Canada could run for president, but apparently he’s okay to do so. I would imagine that if he somehow “made the cut” after this large list of candidates has dwindled down, that the controversy over his birth place would pick up, but let’s first see if he gets that far. As Senator in Texas, Cruz obviously has strong opinions on immigration and trying to keep out the illegals, which would definitely help the job sector.

Rand Paul, Kentucky Senator

I was extremely turned off by Rand Paul before the debate and all the more put off afterward. The son of perennial third-party presidential candidate Ron Paul, Rand has made a name for himself the past several years as an outspoke critic — of just about everything. I like a candidate to have convictions and stand by what he believes, but I also can’t stand one that is overly confrontational. Paul got into it with Chris Christie last night, among other candidates on the stage, and his annoying southern drawl only further damaged his likeability. (Don’t take that to mean I don’t like southern accents; I actually think they’re by and large charming). Paul seems to me like too much of the establishment politician and I want to find a candidate with a different voice who is less interested in fighting across the aisle and more interested in helping his constituents.

John Kasich, Ohio Governor

Ironically, Kasich had a “home court advantage” last night because the debate took place in Cleveland — one of the cities he currently governs — and yet he was my least favorite candidate next to Paul. His constituents may have cheered his responses but I found nothing he said to be noteworthy. He seems too wishy-washy on many of his policies and I don’t find anything in him personally endearing that would captivate my attention and devotion. He’ll have to do a better job communicating where he stands on the issues and tell me why he can help the country focus less on social issues and more on fixing the economy.

Peter Jennings died 10 years ago today

There are certain moments in time, whether single acts or a series of familiar events, that help illustrate the story of our lives. Maybe it’s a national pastime like going to baseball games as a kid and watching your heroes play. Perhaps it’s a family vacation or nightly conversations at the dinner table. It could be watching any number of television sitcoms throughout their duration, reading a good book that had a profound impact on your life, or taking part in any number of time-sensitive fashion and music trends.

For me, I’ve experienced all of the above. But one more moment in time that I’d like to pay tribute to was that of Peter Jennings’ tenure at ABC News. Jennings died ten years ago today after losing his battle with lung cancer.

Jennings spent four decades with ABC and was a staple of not only the network but of the entire industry as well. Jennings’ sooth tones and demeanor are forever synonymous with television news for that period of my life, right up until the time his voice became raspy and gravelly and his health waned. His steady, on-air presence defined his poise and confidence in front of the camera, and was perhaps best exemplified by his live coverage of the terrible events of the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington.

Everybody of reasonable age remembers where they were when the planes hit the towers and the Pentagon. Me, I was a college sophomore, sitting at first in my dorm room and then later in my journalism class, eyes glued to the TV all day. What better real-life example of broadcast journalism for a communications major than witnessing live coverage of an ongoing national tragedy, narrated by one of our nation’s greatest anchors?

I was saddened by his passing a decade ago and cannot believe how fast time flies.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt to produce, star in ‘Fraggle Rock’ Movie

Dance your cares away,
worries for another day,
let the music play,
down at Fraggle Rock!

“Down At Fraggle Rock”, Fraggle Rock TV show

There’s good news for children of the 80s who grew up watching Jim Henson’s Fraggle Rock. The live action puppet television series featuring Muppet creatures called Fraggles now will be coming to the big screen, in a movie adaptation of the television series, according to Variety magazine.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, perhaps one of my favorite actors, who has appeared in movies such as Angels in the Outfield, 10 Things I Hate About You, 50/50, and The Dark Knight Rises among others, will not only star in the new Fraggle Rock movie but he’ll produce it as well.

Those who grew up watching the television series — I often found myself running toward the bus stop in the morning to catch the school bus because I didn’t want to miss the end of the show — are now old enough to have children of their own. I expect many from that generation to take their kids to see this movie.

While I don’t personally expect to see this in a theater — I don’t have kids and probably would feel pretty goofy paying to attend a showing of this as an adult — you can bet I’ll try to catch it if and when it ever gets to television.

‘The Simpsons’ co-creator Sam Simon passes away at 59

If you once were, or perhaps still are, a fan of the long-running animated comedy, The Simpsons, then you owe a great debt of gratitude to one of the show’s most influential men, Sam Simon.

It’s with great sadness that we’ve learned that Simon passed away Sunday at the age of 59, following a long battle with colorectal cancer.

As most Simpsons fans know, the show began as a series of short cartoons on The Tracey Ullman Show, for which Simon was a writer and executive producer. Soon after, the show became a series and took off after that into one of the best television shows of all time.

It’s sad to see anybody pass on from cancer, especially those who are at a relatively young age, as 59 certainly qualifies to be. But we are forever grateful for the legacy he left and for his contribution to a show that most of us grew up with, and with which we associate so many great memories, quotes, and sound bites.

The Seven Dwarfs Names: ‘Wheel of Fortune’ contestant botches list

What are the names of the seven dwarfs from ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’? Doc, Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy, Bashful, Sneezy, and Dopey.

I think most Americans are well acquainted with the fairy tale, but reciting the dwarfs’ names by memory, however, might be a little trickier for everybody to do.

But what if all seven dwarfs’ names were listed in a row for you to see, each missing only a letter or two? That should be easy enough that you should still be able to recite them all, right?

Well, apparently not easy enough for everybody. A woman on the Wheel of Fortune game show elected to solve a puzzle from the category “Characters” in which the answer was the name of the seven dwarfs. She botched the name “Sneezy” with “Sneeky.”

Two things concern me about this. First, host Pat Sajak told her before she began her answer, “Carefully, go ahead.” But that didn’t stop the woman from nervously rushing through it. Secondly, the word “sneaky” is spelled with an A, not with two E’s, which was displayed on the game board.

It’s hard to say how I’d react if I were nervous and on TV, but I have a hard time believing I’d botch that one.

Adam Sandler and Bob Barker resume fight from 19 years ago

Adam Sandler is one of the most decorated actors and celebrities of this generation. He’s appeared in so many popular movies from Billy Madison to The Wedding Singer, The Waterboy, Big Daddy, Anger Management, 50 First Dates, Click, Bedtime Stories, Grown Ups (ignore the sequel to that one), Just Go with It — and many others.

But perhaps one of my favorite Sandler films of all time is Happy Gilmore, the story of struggling hockey player who takes up golf to help save his grandmother’s house.

In that movie, Happy — played by a much younger Sandler — plays in a Pro-Am tournament with celebrity Bob Barker. When Happy gets heckled by a bystander, he plays so poorly that Barker teases him mercilessly. It reaches a point where Happy loses his cool and gets into a fight with Barker.

That feud apparently isn’t over! Sandler and Barker paired up to film a segment for the Night of Too Many Stars, Comedy Central’s annual fundraiser for autism education programs.

Take a look at what unfolded…

Leonard Nimoy, Mr. Spock of ‘Star Trek’, passes away at 83

Leonard Nimoy, the Star Trek actor who played the role of Mr. Spock, who made famous the Vulcan salute and the phrase, “live long and prosper,” has died at the age of 83. According to his wife, the cause of death was end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Nimoy was a cultural icon. Aside from his popular Star Trek role, he had parts in many movies, sadly, most of which were before my time. But he’ll be remembered most as Spock and he had a tremendous effect on many lives.

One more time, you can ‘Be Like Mike’

In honor of their 50th anniversary, Gatorade will be bringing back their iconic “Be Like Mike” commercial during the NBA’s All-Star Weekend.

Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player of all time, signed an endorsement deal with Gatorade and started a revolutionary movement throughout the 1990s. This catchy commercial and jingle became the rallying cry for children all throughout the country, who sang the lyrics in their driveways and neighborhood playgrounds, with the hopes that they could fly as high as “His Airness”, hit game-winning jump shots, and “Be Like Mike.”

I get goosebumps every time I hear the song or see the commercial. It’s very nostalgic for me.

Jimmy Fallon, ‘Saved by the Bell’ cast return to Bayside High

For those of us lucky enough to be born in the 70s, 80s, and even 90s, we got to grow up watching the television show, Saved by the Bell, either live or in syndication reruns. We got to follow the gang of six as they pretty much owned Bayside High School and stuck their noses in every club, sport, or extracurricular activity one could imagine.

On Wednesday night, we got to relive a piece of the glory days as five members of the cast — Zack Morris (Mark-Paul Gosselaar), A.C. Slater (Mario Lopez), Jessie Spano (Elizabeth Berkley), Kelly Kapowski (Tiffani Thiessen) and Principal Richard Belding (Dennis Haskins) — did a skit with Jimmy Fallon on the Tonight Show.