The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

The Morning Jolt Holiday Shopping Guide


From the last Morning Jolt of the week:

The Morning Jolt Holiday Shopping Guide

Welcome to the Black Friday edition of the Morning Jolt. I just wish we could go back to those simpler, less commercial, more spiritual Christmas seasons from when I was a kid, when parents stepped on each other and threw punches to get a Cabbage Patch doll.

Now for the gift ideas and listings for those of you who want to get your Christmas or Hanukkah shopping done quickly . . .

Start with the obvious: Shouldn’t there be a copy of The Weed Agency under the Christmas tree or Menorah this year? $13 bucks at the store, a mere $10.59 with Amazon Prime and $7.99 in Kindle form. If you’re interested in a signed copy, e-mail me; the easiest way is probably for you to send a copy to me (with preferred inscription) with a self-addressed, stamped envelope with shipping postage. I’ll sign and inscribe it, and then mail back to you.

In the unlikely chance that you find yourself clamoring for my earlier, nonfiction work, Voting to Kill is available on Kindle, and you can find used copies for the low, low price of . . . a penny. (I won’t tell your gift recipients if you won’t.) The topic is perhaps newly relevant in light of the Islamic State, its beheadings, the collapse of the Iraqi army, the Iranian nuclear talks . . .

If you have seen me doing appearances on via Skype, you may have seen the faux-movie poster for “Bedtime for Brezhnev” behind me, featuring Ronald Reagan and Nancy Davis, George H.W. Bush, Alexander Haig, Henry Kissinger, Fidel Castro, Leonid Brezhnev, and Moammar Qaddafi.

Over at the National Review store, we’ve got the National Review Treasury of Classic Bedtime Stories (a two-book set), autographed copies of Rich Lowry’s Lincoln Unbound, and Richard Brookheiser’s Right Time, Right Place. A National Review sweatshirt is only $29.99. Mugs are $12.99, two for $19.99.

I fear listing some of my colleagues’ books, because I’ll inevitably forget some, but I should mention them as good gift ideas: Kevin Williamson’s The End Is Near and It’s Going to Be Awesome: How Going Broke Will Leave America Richer, Happier, and More Secure is now just $17.98 with Amazon Prime; Jonah’s The Tyranny of Clichés is just $9.09, Victor Davis Hanson’s The Savior Generals is just $11.74, Michael Walsh’s The People v. The Democratic Party is just $5.99, and Ramesh’s 2006 work, The Party of Death is $23.06. The Seven Deadly Virtues, which features Jonah, Rob Long, James Lileks, and other familiar faces, is $16.45.

Unfortunately for fans of our Charlie Cooke, his book The Conservatarian Manifesto doesn’t come out until March. But you can pre-order it now!

Books from non-NR friends: Lisa de Pasquale’s Finding Mr. Righteous ($19.71 with Amazon Prime), Kurt Schlichter’s Conservative Insurgency ($15.60 with Amazon Prime) John Bicknell’s America 1844 ($20.50 with Amazon Prime).

A lot of Roman Genn’s best artwork is available for purchase, both prints and originals. I’ll bet there’s somebody who wants Roman’s original watercolor, The Second Amendment, for $575:

The National Republican Senatorial Committee had a good 2014, and they’ve got some neat stuff in their store. They’ve got “Reagan-Bush 84” t-shirts, “Romney Was Right” bumper stickers, and a “Make D.C. Squeal” sticker for Joni Ernst fans…

Macintosh HD:Users:jimgeraghty:Desktop:Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 3.31.12 PM.png

A very Lando Calrissian-esque “This deal is getting worse all the time” t-shirt:



If you enjoy my way-too-enthusiastic writings on Twin Peaks, Brad Dukes’ Reflections: An Oral History of Twin Peaks is a spectacularly detailed look at the series from its conception to cancelation. If you enjoyed my trip down memory lane discussing Max Headroom, the complete series is available for $31.69 with Amazon Prime.

Have safe travels this weekend.

Tags: Something Lighter

It’s Thanksgiving. Be Thankful. And Happy.



It’s Thanksgiving. Be Thankful. And Happy.

Moe Lane offers short, succinct advice on “How to talk politics with liberal family members at Thanksgiving this year.

You’ll recall that last year Organizing for Action urged its members to talk up Obamacare at the dinner table. My assessment still stands:

Here’s a crazy idea: Treat your family members as people you love and appreciate — or at least tolerate — instead of targets for political conversion. You only get one or two families in this life — the one you’re born into, and the one you marry into. Maybe if you’re lucky, you become “like a son” or “like a sister” to another. There’s a lot to talk about in this world beyond politics, and chances are you’re not going to persuade disagreeing relatives, anyway.

From one of my favorite, and most personal essays, from 2008:

By midday, the first round of relatives will start showing up at your door. From California to Maine, families will begin the complicated logistics of who parks where, and who will box in whom in the driveway. Does this need to be put in the oven? Is there room for this in the fridge? Have you basted recently? Has anyone seen the gravy boat?

Down the hall from the kitchen, Americans across the country will check in to Detroit to see if its NFL team has gotten any better. The early afternoon game of the Lions against the Team That Isn’t the Lions has had little meaning or playoff implications — at least since Barry Sanders retired. But that means football fans are able to watch objectively, just to appreciate the game as it is played — and there’s a good chance that a player you’ve never heard of will have an unexpectedly good day, claiming a Turkey-related award from a network color commentator. A few hours later — having established that, no, Detroit has not gotten any better — football fans will bid farewell to the Motor City for another year.

Later in the day, Dallas plays Not Dallas in a game that often matters — but by that time, America’s Team is competing with America’s Feast. Those who care about the game’s outcome will drop utensils conspicuously in order to dart into the den and check the score before returning to the table with their third or fourth clean fork.

By early evening at my house, my father-in-law will offer to continue our bizarre tradition of a shot of Thanksgiving tequila. There will be toasts, laughter, prayers.

You can probably guess the topics of conversation and points of contention around your table already, as every family has its hardy perennials. If you’re reading this site, you might be discussing the election. In my case, I’ll rejoin my efforts to trigger a reenactment of the Titanic brawl of a few years’ back over whether Philadelphia is a dead city.

Nobody’s arguing politics at this table. Don’t they look happy?

Tags: Something Lighter


What Is America’s Worst Airport?


Safe travels, everyone. Today’s Jolt also discussed the airports you don’t want to get stuck in this weekend:

May Your Thanksgiving Travel Not Pass Through America’s Worst Airport

In preparation for the busiest travel day of the year, Gizmodo polled its readers on their choice for the country’s worst airport, and their top eight include:

8) Kansas City International Airport
7) Dulles International Airport
6) Philadelphia International Airport
5) Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport
4) Newark Liberty International Airport
3) O’Hare International Airport
2) Los Angeles International Airport
1) LaGuardia Airport

The first observation: Are bookstores dying in airports? Do people on planes not read anymore? If so, this strikes me as a strikingly depressing development for our society. It’s one of the few places where you can get relative peace and quiet, you’re out of cell-phone range, and you probably don’t have Internet access (and if you do, it’s pretty slow). Heck, reading is one of the few things you can do comfortably in an airline seat. Yes, perhaps everything has shifted to e-readers and Nooks, but there’s something so inviting about seeing an actual bookstore, as opposed to a newsstand, near your gate with time to kill.

The second observation: I realize dining in an airport is rarely going to be good. The frequent traveler’s best hope is that it be not bad. A variety of options is nice. I seem to recall perfectly acceptable burger-and-a-beer dining experiences in Raleigh, Charlotte, Miami, and Savannah.

In my experience, Dulles is very hit-and-miss. For some trips the TSA line moves pretty smoothly (particularly on mornings and weekdays), other times it’s an interminably slow-moving ordeal. Some corners of Dulles have a decent selection of eateries and at least one small bookstore, but other far-off gates leave you with a Dunkin’ Donuts and that’s it. My new home in Authenticity Woods is roughly equidistant from Dulles and Reagan National Airport, and Reagan always seems to offer a much smoother departure.

Fort Lauderdale is strikingly bad for departures, considering how busy it is (at least when a cruise ship arrives). Somebody needed to turn up the air conditioning, every gate seemed crowded, the dining options were pretty limited, and each gate area just seemed too small for the amount of passengers waiting for their flight.

Leaving from Orlando is a mess every time — lots of families with a ton of carry-on luggage taking forever to get through the TSA scanners. There are a lot of shopping and dining options before the security lines, but I figure most travelers — particularly if they’ve experienced Orlando’s tedious lines — just want to get through security and then grab a bite or browse the stores. Of course, on the other side, the pickings are a lot slimmer.

Houston seemed to work fine on my recent business trips, although I recall one family trip there a couple years ago when we decided, “we’ll eat after we get our luggage.” Surprise! No food options after the luggage carousels. That led to a long drive through Houston’s labyrinthine highway system, at night, with two very cranky boys.

Denver seems to have a pretty decent selection of eateries and stores. Dallas seems laid out oddly, in that giant ring form, but it has worked okay, and it still has a decent bookstore. Both Portland and Seattle had smaller airports than I expected, but I got in and out pretty easily both times.

If you see this man waiting at your gate, your flight is probably going to be delayed.

Tags: Something Lighter

The Democrats’ Convention City Is...


The fact that Democrats are no longer considering red-state cities like Phoenix, Arizona and Birmingham, Alabama is not a surprise. The remaining cities — Columbus, Ohio; New York and Philadelphia – are a bit surprising.

Columbus, Ohio is a potentially problematic choice. It’s not as small a city as you may think, and it has its charms. But hosting a convention is a massive financial, logistical, and security challenge. The city has no mass transit beyond buses. (Perfectly appropriate for the party of money-losing high-speed rail projects, no?) There are some corporate headquarters there, but one has to wonder if it has enough Democrats with deep pockets willing to donate the money to run all of the events. Keep in mind, Republicans just swept the 2014 midterms in Ohio, and the Ohio Democratic Party is in rough shape. 

Admit it, you couldn’t pick this skyline out of a lineup.

Philadelphia hosted the Republicans in 2000, and handled most of the logistics well. It’s probably the “safest” choice, although not a particularly bold or glamorous one.

New York City is obviously used to handling large events and conventions. (Minor complication: The convention would be held in Brooklyn, and the biggest and fanciest hotels are in Manhattan. Do you picture all of those big party donors, fixers, hangers-on, and other crowds taking the subway?) 

If you think Hillary Clinton will be the nominee, there’s a historical symmetry there. The last time Democrats held their convention in New York City was 1992… when they nominated Bill Clinton. One can’t help but wonder if Mayor Bill de Blasio, crusader against horse-drawn carriages and charter schools, could create some embarrassing headlines in the run-up to the convention. 

Tags: Democratic Convention

Chuck Schumer: Obamacare Was a Mistake, but Only in the Timing!


From the Wednesday edition of the Morning Jolt:

Chuck Schumer: Obamacare Was a Mistake, but Only in the Timing!

Let’s take a story like this and figure out what the real angle is:

Sen. Chuck Schumer upbraided his own party Tuesday for pushing the Affordable Care Act through Congress in 2010.

While Schumer emphasized during a speech at the National Press Club that he supports the law and that its policies “are and will continue to be positive changes,” he argued that the Democrats acted wrongly in using their new mandate after the 2008 election to focus on the issue rather than the economy at the height of a terrible recession.

There’s some truth to Schumer’s theory, of course. Obamacare never polled well. Deep-rooted national economic anxiety exploded in late 2008 and never dissipated completely.

Remember that thing called “the stimulus”? Schumer’s theory of “How It All Went Wrong” requires us to think the stimulus was a success, and Obamacare was a success, and that the problem for the Democrats was just the order of things:

“After passing the stimulus, Democrats should have continued to propose middle-class-oriented programs and built on the partial success of the stimulus, but unfortunately Democrats blew the opportunity the American people gave them,” Schumer said. “We took their mandate and put all of our focus on the wrong problem — health care reform.”

If Americans continue to feel such widespread, deep-rooted economic anxiety, just how much of a success was that “partial success” of the stimulus?

Most Democrats — following the lead of their president — passed the stimulus and believed they had fixed the economy. Do not forget this anecdote from New York magazine, November 29, 2009:

But the most damaging consequence of all may have been inside the White House, where bullishness about how rapidly the stimulus would kick in led to foolish projections that unemployment would peak at 8 percent — and where the bill’s passage bred a certain cockiness and complacency about the need to drive a sustained economic message in the months thereafter. “I recently talked to a very senior friend of mine in the White House, and I said, ‘How did we not spend a year talking about the economy?’ ” a Democratic think-tank maven recalls. “And he said, ‘Look, I think Barack did the stimulus and he thought he checked the box and he moved on.’ I said, ‘That’s not governing, dude. That’s some other thing.’ ”

The ailments of the American economy are too big, interconnected, and complicated for any one giant Keynesian spending spree to fix — particularly one that that ends up as the usual crony-capitalist, special-interest giveaway. Do enough of our workers really have the skills to compete against foreign competition? How can we expect wages to increase when we’re importing workers — particularly low-skilled and unskilled workers — from other countries? Are great ideas being born in some big dreamer’s garage? Haven’t underwater mortgages made it harder for workers to move to areas of the country with job growth? Are our universities churning out too many sociology majors and not enough engineers? Aren’t too many schools at every level failing to prepare students for the workforce?

Schumer needs an explanation for two consecutive blowout losses in the midterms that indicate Democrats have a difficult time winning without Obama’s personality on the ballot. He’s in the right neighborhood, by recognizing that economic fears are still strong, but he can’t quite bring himself to acknowledge that neither the stimulus nor Obamacare lived up to the hype for the average American.

Tags: Chuck Schumer , Barack Obama , Obamacare , Stimulus


The Brutal Truth: As Obama Goes, So Go the Democrats


John Dickerson, attempting to get Democrats, and Hillary Clinton, to acknowledge the obvious:

Each Democratic candidate who hopes to have a chance will run supporting Obama’s positions on health care, immigration, and climate change. Given those positions on the big things, any move to distance themselves from Obama will seem puny by comparison. In newsrooms, editors will monitor the micrometers between the faintest policy differences, and they will shout emergency orders to make a big deal about it. But despite all the talk about distancing, candidates will learn what Democratic senators up for re-election learned this fall: Resistance is futile. If there is a D next to your name, you can’t really get that far from the president. Over the next two years, if you could capture the relative political distance between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in Hyperlapse, it would look like two figures standing in place with a blast from the flash cameras every time one or the other made the smallest wiggle but retaining their essential original posture.

Democrats can’t escape Obama any more than McCain could escape Bush. Running for a metaphorical “third term” is hard, even during a time of relative peace and prosperity. It worked for George H. W. Bush but didn’t work for Al Gore.

How likely is it that the autumn of 2016 seems like a time of peace and prosperity? How likely is it that when Election Day 2016 rolls around, a majority of Americans like the job Obama is doing?


Tags: Barack Obama , Democrats , Hillary Clinton

Will the Violence in Ferguson Have Any Lasting Impact?


With violence breaking out on Monday of Thanksgiving week, amidst a busy news cycle, it’s possible that most of the rest of the country moves on and forgets about the events in Ferguson, Mo.

How much does the community of Ferguson get tainted with the actions of the violent protesters, even though, initial arrest reports indicate, most of those arrested didn’t live in Ferguson?

President Obama weighed in on the grand jury’s decision last night. Will other key political figures feel the need to do the same — or to say anything beyond platitudes — or will they prefer to let the events fade into history? Hillary Clinton didn’t address Michael Brown’s shooting until 19 days after the event. Kentucky senator (and potential presidential candidate) Rand Paul has made extensive efforts to reach out to the African-American community, including emphasizing their concerns that the criminal-justice sentencing guidelines are biased against members of that community.

One thing we should not expect from these events is a change in how Americans view relations between blacks and whites in the United States; polling on race relations has remained remarkably stable for the past decade:

The time period in the above chart includes Hurricane Katrina, Obama’s election and reelection, the Trayvon Martin case, the coverage of Jeremiah Wright’s sermons, the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., and high rates of unemployment among all groups, but particularly African Americans, during the Great Recession. And yet, views on race relations seem pretty positive and pretty stable.

Tags: Ferguson

The Protesters in Ferguson, Living Down to Your Worst Expectations


From the Tuesday edition of the Morning Jolt:

The Protesters in Ferguson, Living Down to Your Worst Expectations

Awful, predictable, and awfully predictable:

Shortly after 1:30 a.m., St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar spoke with reporters at a press conference after a night of looting and burned-out businesses after the grand jury announcement. He said he was grateful nobody was killed but disappointed at the amount of damage in the Ferguson area.

“What I’ve seen tonight is probably much worse than the worst night we ever had in August, and that’s truly unfortunate,” he said.

He said that there was basically “nothing left” along West Florissant between Solway Avenue and Chambers Road. “Frankly, I’m heartbroken about that,” he said.

Missouri Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson said, “We talked about peaceful protest, and that did not happen tonight. We definitely have done something here that’s going to impact our community for a long time . . . that’s not how we create change.”

Belmar said that officers did deploy tear gas near West Florissant and Chambers roads and a highway patrol lieutenant was hit by a glass bottle. He said as far as he knew police did not fire shots but there was plenty of gunfire in the area. He said he personally heard at least 150 shots.

Crazy thought here; next time you have a controversial announcement to make, do it at 7 a.m.; the hooligans are still sleeping.

For all of the people who see the events in Ferguson, Mo., as deeply symbolic, an example of giant, pressing national problems and deep-rooted injustices and discrimination against the African-American community, particularly in poorer communities . . . I cannot help but suspect that millions of Americans don’t find it symbolic of much of anything at all. Correction; if it symbolizes anything, it reflects the media’s appetite for a preconceived storyline involving a “gentle giant” and a villainous cop:

Teachers described Brown as a “gentle giant,” a student who loomed large and didn’t cause trouble. Friends describe him as a quiet person with a wicked sense of humor, one who loved music and had begun to rap. He fought an uphill battle to graduate.

Above: The “gentle giant” assaulting a convenience-store worker.

Liberals struggle with this as well; Daily Kos commenters turned on each other in discussing whether the convenience-store video revealed something meaningful about Brown. At issue is the inability to simultaneously rectify the notion that Brown wasn’t a “gentle giant” and was in fact a bully and a thief and the notion that whatever Brown did, it’s an awful tragedy for an 18-year-old to get shot and killed. Maybe the shooting was justified, but that doesn’t mean it was a good thing.


Greg Gutfeld mentioned a New York Times reporter who seemed to object to reporting that the coroner’s report that Michael Brown had marijuana in his system at the time of death, by asking, “Why does it matter that he had marijuana in his system?”

Gutfeld answered: It matters because it’s a fact.

He further noted that the media seemed very interested in a “clean narrative” — not accurate reporting, but a clean, Aesop’s Fable-like tight little narrative that proved a particular point in an ongoing Morality Play called “the news.”

He’s right: The “narrative-makers” of the media are interested in writing Aesop’s Fables with a political agenda item, and not so interested in reporting the facts of incidents and events, which are often messy, complicated, contradictory, amenable to multiple interpretations, and hard to fix into a specific Morality Play “lesson” — Because life itself is messy, complicated, contradictory, amenable to multiple interpretations, and hard to fix into a specific Morality Play “lesson.”

Life is complicated — when the New York Times reports on progressive agenda items, less so.

Reporting used to be about real life.

But it’s not about real life anymore. It’s about simplified, sharp-corners-sanded-down fables — like children’s stories.

The media is writing their reports like Children’s Stories because they conceive of their audience as essentially children, whom you must protect from jarring facts which might teach “the wrong lessons.”

People were willing to set strangers’ cars on fire because they were absolutely certain what happened, in a sequence of events they did not personally witness.

Tags: Ferguson

Report: Hagel Stepping Down; ‘He Wasn’t Up to the Job’


From the November 17 Morning Jolt:

Bing West thinks that someone in the Obama administration’s national-security inner circle will leave in the not-too-distant future, perhaps Chuck Hagel or Susan Rice.

To be honest, I thought that was unlikely. Why now? Obama’s foreign policy, defense policies, and national-security team performed badly throughout all of 2014. What changed? Then this morning we see . . . 

Always listen to Bing West!

UPDATE: Jim, back in February:

[With all the national security crises going on], maybe this isn’t the right time for a quiet, disregarded cipher to be running the Pentagon?

Politico’s Morning Defense newsletter, shortly thereafter:

FOUND — AN ANTHEM FOR HAGEL . . . AND IT’S NOT ‘NOWHERE MAN’: Your Morning D correspondent finally caught up on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon over the weekend. Particularly awesome was U2’s concert on the roof of Rockefeller Center, where they sang their new song, “Invisible.” Well, having just read the fourth op-ed/article about how Hagel is “invisible” as defense secretary, your correspondent thought this song (and this performance) could become Hagel’s anthem of sorts. “You don’t see me but you will. I am not invisible,” Bono sings.

— SOMEONE CALL JIM GERAGHTY: The fourth Hagel-is-invisible installment comes from The National Review’s Jim Geraghty He ends his piece with a photo of Hagel and the line, “Have you seen this man? If so, call (202) 456-1111.” No, that’s not Geraghty’s cell phone number, but the White House comment line (thank you, Defense News’ John Bennet (@BennettJohnT) for calling). Anyway, after today’s press briefing, can someone give Geraghty a ring . . . let him know we’ve found Hagel. He’s at the Pentagon. Fancy that.

An unnamed administration official, today:

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is stepping down amid criticism of the president’s national security team on a series of global issues, including the threat posed by the militant group known as ISIS.

Senior defense officials confirmed to NBC News Monday that Hagel was forced to resign.

The officials say the White House has lost confidence in Hagel to carry out his role at the Pentagon. According to one senior official, “He wasn’t up to the job.”

Remember which news sources are telling you the administration’s line that everything is hunky-dory!

Tags: Chuck Hagel

Early Voting Begins in Louisiana’s Runoff Election for Senate


In Louisiana, early voting for runoff elections — including the U.S. Senate runoff between Democrat Mary Landrieu and Republican Bill Cassidy — began Saturday. (There is no early voting on Thanksgiving or Friday.)

Every runoff poll so far has put Cassidy ahead, with his lead ranging from 11 to 21 points. Senator Cory Booker, a New Jersey Democrat, campaigned for Landrieu this weekend.

Landrieu’s campaign is airing an ad aimed at young voters, hitting Cassidy for opposing a minimum-wage increase and enforcing equal pay for women; Cassidy is pledging to fight Obama’s “amnesty plan”:

If the election doesn’t turn out well for Landrieu, perhaps she can get a job with her brother Mitch Landrieu, the mayor of New Orleans.

Tags: Bill Cassidy , Mary Landrieu

R.I.P. Marion Barry, Beloved D.C. Figure and Very, Very, Very Bad Mayor


From the first Morning Jolt of Thanksgiving Week:

R.I.P. Marion Barry, Beloved D.C. Figure and Very, Very, Very Bad Mayor

The vast majority of the coverage of the death of former Washington, D.C. Mayor Marion Barry offered variations of “he shouldn’t be remembered or judged just by his arrest for smoking crack cocaine in 1990.”


But let’s not forget it, huh? Yes, we are more than the consequences of our worst act at our worst moment. But this was a pretty spectacular failure of judgment, in a life that had plenty of those moments:

Marion Barry Jr., the Mississippi sharecropper’s son and civil rights activist who served three terms as mayor of the District of Columbia, survived a drug arrest and jail sentence, and then came back to win a fourth term as the city’s chief executive, died early on Nov. 23 at United Medical Center in Washington. He was 78.

Mr. Barry, who also served on the D.C. Council for 15 years and had been president of the city’s old Board of Education, was the most influential and savvy local politician of his generation. He dominated the city’s political landscape in the final quarter of the 20th century. There was a time when his critics, in sarcasm but not entirely in jest, called him “Mayor for Life.” Into the first dozen years of the new millennium, he remained a highly visible player on the city’s political stage, but by then on the periphery, no longer at the center.

His personal and public life was fraught with high drama and irony. He struggled with alcohol and drug addiction, relapse and recovery. He was married four times, divorced three times and separated from his fourth wife. His extramarital liaisons and legal trouble over unpaid taxes made news.

Yes they “made news” because they reflected a lifelong assurance that the laws and the rules didn’t apply to him.

I lived in Washington, D.C., during the Barry comeback in the early 1990s. On both of his mayoral watches, life in the city got worse. Here’s how Washingtonian magazine delicately puts it:

“As an elected official, Marion often misconstrued the mission of his government as one to provide reparations to black Americans,” says Jarvis. “Somehow he came to believe the government was the employer of first resort. He hired without much criteria. His greatest failure was in not training city workers for their jobs. It would have helped the government and in their own lives.”

Barry made sure that African-American companies got their share of city contracts, though he did a poor job of holding them accountable. In the process, he enriched many political allies.

But wait, there’s more!

Along the way, his management of the government suffered even more. In the halls of the District Building, aides had to deal with a chief executive who was losing control. In 1986, former city administrator Tom Downs stopped into the office of Herb Reid, then Barry’s political adviser.

“How’s Marion?” Downs asked.

“If it walks, he f***s it,” Reid responded. “If it doesn’t, he ingests it.”

Up in Toronto, Rob Ford’s a mess, but a lot of folks think he’s actually been a good mayor. You have to look far and wide to find any indicators moving in the right direction during the Barry terms.

Reflecting an attitude quite common among those who sing the virtues of government, Marion Barry seemed to think he was exempt from paying for it:

After leaving the mayor’s office, he had quit paying taxes. Federal prosecutors went to court to force him to pay back taxes, and in 2005 he pleaded guilty to not filing federal or DC returns after 1999. A judge gave Barry three years’ probation. When he continued to ignore his tax bills, federal prosecutors asked a judge to give him jail time, but she declined. Prosectors brought Barry back to court in 2009 for failing to file his 2007 return. The federal government garnished his council paychecks to collect nearly $200,000 in taxes, penalties, and interest. The District put him on a voluntary payment plan to pay back about $50,000 in back taxes.

Meanwhile, Barry got caught twice crossing ethical lines as a council member.

In February 2010, he admitted to awarding a $15,000 contract to a girlfriend. “I apologize for my actions and lack of sound judgment and for causing great embarrassment to the city and the city council,” he said. His girlfriend had paid him “several thousand dollars,” he said, which he claimed was repayment of a loan. His council colleagues saw it as a kickback, censured Barry, and stripped him of his chairmanship.

In September 2013, the council censured Barry again, this time for accepting $6,800 in cash from two city contractors.

He was not a nice man:

As his health began to fail, Barry’s prejudices went on display. In April 2012, he lashed out at Chinese merchants in his ward: “We’ve got to do something about these Asians coming in, opening up businesses, those dirty shops.” His comments were caught on camera the night he won another Ward 8 council primary. He suggested African-American “businesspeople” take their places.

RIP, Marion Barry – may his family and friends find some peace as they cope with their loss. But let’s not let the sadness of his death alter our perception of the historical record. 

Don’t speak ill of the dead… but don’t lie, either.

Tags: Marion Barry

Obama Insists Old System of Deporting Illegals Is the Real Amnesty


Perhaps the most galling line in last night’s speech:

I know some of the critics of this action call it amnesty. Well, it’s not. Amnesty is the immigration system we have today — millions of people who live here without paying their taxes or playing by the rules.

Yes, but before last night, they feared deportation. Which is the opposite of an amnesty! Obama said this in a speech right after he boasted of increasing the number of deportations of illegal immigrants for criminal offenses.

Last night Obama insisted that the previous system that attempted to deport people who enter the country illegally is “amnesty,” and letting them stay and giving them work permits isn’t amnesty.

This clearly ranks among the all-time most Orwellian statements by an American president. 

Tags: Illegal Immigration

The Democrats’ Giant Bet on Voters’ Short Memories


From the last Morning Jolt of the week:

The Democrats’ Giant Bet on Voters’ Short Memories

The Democrats’ plan: Hope that Latino voters love the the executive order quasi-amnesty and “middle-of-the-road” voters forget about it:

The president’s decision to use his executive powers to protect some 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation is bound to draw a backlash from middle-of-the-road white voters. Republicans assailed Obama’s handling of immigration in the midterm elections, catering to a conservative and notably less diverse electorate with ads in states such as Arkansas and New Hampshire. Early polling shows significant suspicion of Obama’s unilateral action: An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found 48 percent of Americans preemptively opposed to the executive actions, versus 38 percent ready to endorse them.

As a political matter, then, the president’s wager is this: that the voters with the longest memories will be those in the rapidly-growing, next-generation national electorate, heavily inflected by socially progressive young people and a growing Latino population.

Will those middle-of-the-road white voters forget? Note the concession by Politico that one doesn’t have to be an “extreme” “right-wing” “xenophobic” voter to object to this policy.

Mo Elleithee, the Democratic National Committee’s communications director, vowed that the GOP would pay a price for its heated attacks on the White House’s policy: “The rhetoric coming out will come back to haunt them. We are capturing every bit and will make them answer for it. They are not just alienating, they are offending, the [Hispanic] community.”

Republicans believe that Obama is inviting deep punishment with his actions this week. Not only does the GOP sense genuine anger among voters about the ongoing mess on the border, but party leaders say that Obama’s orders will look like pure arrogance, the brazen actions of a discredited president.

Though the GOP has struggled to assemble a viable, diverse coalition in national elections, the party is on a hot streak in large, traditionally Democratic states across the Midwest – big, blue-collar battlegrounds like Ohio, Wisconsin and Michigan, where a certain segment of Democratic-leaning, populist white voters may recoil from what they perceive as overreach on the border.

How confident are they that union members and African Americans will be such long-term fans of this plan? How certain can the administration be that these 3.7 million adult newly not-so-illegal immigrants will find jobs?

A few other points to throw in here. Obama promises:

So we’re going to offer the following deal: If you’ve been in America for more than five years; if you have children who are American citizens or legal residents; if you register, pass a criminal background check, and you’re willing to pay your fair share of taxes – you’ll be able to apply to stay in this country temporarily, without fear of deportation.

How many illegal immigrants will be able to get the documents they’ll need to make their case about length of time in the United States, or ties to family in the United States? How many are literally “undocumented” and came here with the shirts on their backs, or lost their documents during their journeys or life in the U.S.?

For those immigrants who qualify, Salas said it will be important for them to begin securing original copies of documents that will prove how long they have been in this country as well as establish legal family ties that may be important to their case. They may need to go to the consulate of their country of origin, or to their school districts or places of former residence to obtain proof.

Supporting evidence that may be required include birth certificates, family and adoption records, legal guardianship records, school records, passports and other official documents, Salas says.

They may need to prove continuous residency over a period of years, which can be established with pay stubs, utility bills, rental agreements or other ordinary records.

Yes, this decision occurs in the context of the rebuke to the president in the midterms. But this also comes after the president’s promises have been proven to be worthless — if you like your plan you can keep your plan, if you like your doctor you can keep your doctor, your premiums will go down, the “red line” in Syria, al-Qaeda is “decimated” and ISIS is the “jayvee team”, and so on. (Michael Graham identifies some of Obama’s “if you like your plan” moments in last night’s speech.)

How many illegal immigrants want to come out of the shadows and identify themselves to law enforcement based upon this promise?

Then the question of unforeseen complications arises. After the stimulus, Obamacare, our alleged breakthrough with Iran, our coalition against ISIS and so on, we see a pattern with this administration dealing with complicated problems with an even more complicated solutions. These solutions rarely proceed exactly as planned, and the administration seems blindsided by the surprise complications and problems. They set up the executive-order DREAM Act, then are surprised by droves of unattended children crossing the border. They pass Dodd-Frank; we learn in June, “regulators still haven’t completed key parts, including standards for the mortgage-securities market and tougher regulations for credit-rating firms,” four years after passage. They make grand promises about taking care of veterans and then are shocked to learn about widespread hidden delays and unreported problems. We pledge a few months of “advise and assist” to the Iraqi army, hoping that will change the equation in the fight against ISIS.

What’s going to be the unforeseen consequence of this decision?

Tags: Illegal Immigration , Barack Obama , amnesty

Hillary Clinton’s Deafening Silence on Obama’s Immigration Executive Order


Boy, Hillary Clinton has been quiet since the midterms, huh?

Hillary’s past comments on illegal immigration indicate that she is the champion of spectacularly generic comments:

Hillary Rodham Clinton had just finished telling the crowd that North Carolina families could count on Senator Kay Hagan when the chants of Oliver Merino — a 25-year-old whose mother, an undocumented Mexican immigrant, faces deportation — grew louder. He held a sign that read, “Hillary, do you stand with our immigrant families?” and shouted that his mother lives in constant fear of deportation. “I have to say that I understand immigration is an important issue, and we appreciate that,” Mrs. Clinton said. “We thank you for your advocacy.”

Earlier this year, in a “town hall” on CNN, hosted by Christiane Amanpour, Hillary Clinton boldly staked out a position opposing child abandonment as a consequence of deportation policy. On immigration, she pronounced:

The horror of a father or a mother going to work and being picked up and immediately whisked away and children coming home from school to an empty house and nobody can say where their mother or father is, that is just not who we are as Americans.

Her hesitation may be driven by the fact that her spectacular collapse from her position of heavy favorite in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary was triggered in part by her sudden reversal in her position supporting giving driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. She said the policy proposed by then-governor of New York Eliot Spitzer to give illegal immigrants licenses “made a lot of sense,” and then said, moments later, “I did not say that I thought it should be done.”

UPDATE: Hillary Clinton issued a supportive statement last night.

Tags: Hillary Clinton , Barack Obama , Illegal Immigration

The Administration Remains a Die-Hard Liar About Obamacare Enrollment Figures


It was all a giant scam . . . 

The Obama administration included as many as 400,000 dental plans in a number it reported for enrollments under the Affordable Care Act, an unpublicized detail that helped surpass a goal for 7 million sign-ups.

Without the dental plans, the federal government would have had 6.97 million people with medical insurance under the law known as Obamacare, investigators for the House Oversight and Government Reform committee calculated, using data they obtained from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Federal officials said in September they had 7.3 million people enrolled in coverage through new government-run insurance exchanges. They didn’t distinguish between medical and dental plans, breaking from previous practice without notice.

Blending dental and medical plans let the administration assert that enrollment remained greater than 7 million, the original projection of the Congressional Budget Office. The move also partly obscured the attrition of more than 1 million in the number of people enrolled in medical insurance.

Kevin Griffis, a spokesman for the U.S. Health and Human Services Department, said he didn’t have a comment yet, hours after being asked for one.

. . . which continues the family tradition of elaborate deceptive efforts designed to collect ill-gotten financial gains, aimed at taking advantage of the “stupidity” of Americans.

Worst sequel ever?

Tags: Obamacare

What if Employers Don’t Want to Hire the 5 Million Illegal Immigrants?


Hugh Hewitt offers an unexpected argument: The quasi-amnesty the president offers tonight may actually make it tougher for illegal immigrants to find jobs:

The people in the country illegally will know shortly that this stunt tonight does not help them and may in fact hurt them — badly. The collision of what is in essence a letter of recommendation from the president to employers with their genuine worries about liabilities under state law and about their fiduciary duties to their customers is going to be instant, and not to the good of the illegal population. Employers are going to flee the president’s testimonial that, if he were king of the forest, not queen, not duke, not earl, he’d let this person have a green card. Because he’s not king, he cannot bless this person’s employment in the real world of tort liability and state law. He cannot solve the issue of Social Security and unemployment insurance withholding. What he can [do] — and will do tonight — is mark the illegal as someone not worth the trouble of hiring.

The president simply cannot bestow a green card. Just a blessing. An Obama blessing. The blessing of a cheater.

The president’s lawless act will have the apparently contradictory impact of both making life harder for “those in the shadows” by increasing the reluctance of employers to hire the obviously illegal, while at the same time attracting millions more north across the fenceless border. Employers are simply going to be less willing to hire the obviously illegal because of a host of other laws the president cannot change.

Separately, we have to wonder how much of an illegal immigrant’s value to a unscrupulous employer comes from their inability to go to government authorities and complain about mistreatment or unjust employment contracts. They are also much less likely to ever make workman’s-compensation claims, take their entitled meal breaks, or complain about illegal deductions from their pay for work-related tools or materials or transportation, harassment, and other violation of workplace laws.

This 2008 survey found that 37 percent of illegal immigrants were paid wages that violated minimum-wage law; nearly 85 percent of illegal immigrants were not paid the legally required overtime rate by their employers.

Giving a worker this new quasi-legal status also gives them the incentive to complain about low wages, employer mistreatment, and so on. An illegal immigrant who comes forward to take the quasi-amnesty may find himself no longer wanted at his old employer, while the boss keeps using his buddy who didn’t take the quasi-amnesty.

Tags: Barack Obama , Illegal Immigration

Jim Webb, Former Bored Senator, to Run for President


Jim Webb, the former senator from Virginia who grew bored, frustrated, and uninterested in the Senate after one term, announces he’s running for president in 2016:

In his 14-minute video, he begins with the trite stance that “Americans want solutions, not rhetoric.”

Later he does make a point not heard quite so often in Democratic presidential primaries:

Travel to the Appalachian Mountains where my own ancestors settled in, and whose cultural values I still share, and view the poorest counties in America — who happened to be more than 90 percent white, and who live in the reality that ‘if you’re poor and white, you’re outta sight.’ We cannot sit idly by and accepted that such economic and power divisions are permanent. The Democratic party used to be the place where people like these could come, not for a handout, but for honest respectable handshake, good full-time jobs, quality education, health care they can afford, and a vital overriding reassurance that we are all in this together.

Then again, six years ago, we elected a Democratic senator who found the Senate boring, and we see how that turned out.

Tags: Jim Webb

Obama to Unilaterally Rewrite Immigration Policy With 38 Percent Support


From the Thursday Morning Jolt:

Obama to Announce Plan to Vastly Expand National Pool of Legal Low-Skilled Labor

John Boehner’s office collected 22 times President Obama said he couldn’t ignore Congress and/or create his own immigration law. A couple of the most glaring and sweeping declarations:

“I take the Constitution very seriously. The biggest problems that we’re facing right now have to do with [the president] trying to bring more and more power into the executive branch and not go through Congress at all. And that’s what I intend to reverse when I’m President of the United States of America.” (3/31/08)

“I swore an oath to uphold the laws on the books. . . . Now, I know some people want me to bypass Congress and change the laws on my own. Believe me, the idea of doing things on my own is very tempting. I promise you. Not just on immigration reform. But that’s not how our system works. That’s not how our democracy functions. That’s not how our Constitution is written.” (7/25/11)

That one’s particularly vivid, because President Obama appears to tee up his own impeachment, declaring that changing the laws on his own violates the Constitution and would represent a high crime or misdemeanor. Of course, Obama would welcome that; he could play the victim, it would awaken and stir a depressed Democratic base, and there’s just no way the two-thirds of the Senate would vote to remove President Obama from office. If, as you suspect, President Obama wants Republicans to try to impeach him, this raises the disturbing prospect that the next two years will feature Obama attempting to provoke an impeachment fight by committing more and more acts that violate the Constitution.

“This is something I’ve struggled with throughout my presidency. The problem is that I’m the president of the United States, I’m not the emperor of the United States. My job is to execute laws that are passed. And Congress right now has not changed what I consider to be a broken immigration system. And what that means is that we have certain obligations to enforce the laws that are in place even if we think that in many cases the results may be tragic.” (2/14/13)

In light of this, it is not the least bit outrageous for critics of Obama to accuse him of acting like an emperor.

Plus, you know, he’s starting to walk around in black robes with an ominous John Williams score behind him.

The Oval Office remodeling is finished.

Moving along . . . 

What I’ve said in the past remains true, which is until Congress passes a new law, then I am constrained in terms of what I am able to do. What I’ve done is to use my prosecutorial discretion, because you can’t enforce the laws across the board for 11 or 12 million people, there aren’t the resources there. What we’ve said is focus on folks who are engaged in criminal activity, focus on people who are engaged in gang activity. Do not focus on young people, who we’re calling DREAMers. . . . That already stretched my administrative capacity very far. But I was confident that that was the right thing to do. But at a certain point the reason that these deportations are taking place is, Congress said, ‘You have to enforce these laws.’ They fund the hiring of officials at the department that’s charged with enforcing. And I cannot ignore those laws any more than I could ignore, you know, any of the other laws that are on the books. (3/16/14)

Paraphrasing something Jonah said on the cruise, the motto of progressives when it comes to political power is that they always run for daylight — whatever avenue to enacting their desired policies is the proper one. If they can get what they want through a referendum, they’ll tout that as the most natural expression of the popular will. If they can get what they want through legislation, they’ll do it legislatively. If they can get what they want through a president’s executive orders, they’ll do it that way. If all of those avenues are blocked, they’ll try to do it through the courts. If none of those work, they’ll do it through bureaucratic regulations.

The silver lining: All of this can be undone by an executive order from the next president. And just as the White House seemed to have no idea of the kind of Republican wave they would experience in the midterms, they are walking around with way too much confidence about the popularity of this move:

Forty-eight percent oppose Obama taking executive action on immigration — which could come as soon as later this week — while 38 percent support it; another 14 percent have no opinion or are unsure.

This decision will get less popular after dominating a news cycle.

If this were really a good idea, Obama would have done it before the election. He knows this is going to invite a backlash, which is why he had to wait.

Republicans an issue that we can use to drive a wedge right down the middle of the Democratic coalition — liberals on one side, unions and African-Americans on the other. While some Republicans want a path to citizenship and some don’t, just about everybody on the Right loathes the idea of the president doing this by fiat. They have a ready-made argument, that President Obama and his allies took action to make life easier for illegal immigrants, while they make life harder for you.

Also note this detail in NBC News poll:

A majority of Americans (56 percent) want Congress to take the lead role in setting policy for the country, versus those who prefer President Obama to do so (33 percent).

. . . 39 percent support creating legal status for immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally…

That’s not likely voters, that’s not registered voters; that’s respondents.

Tags: Barack Obama , Illegal Immigration

Casual Attire for a Casual Ending of the Separation of Powers


If you want to stretch the powers of the presidency beyond all recognition, to insist “prosecutorial discretion” now means not enforcing the law for millions of people who violated the law by entering the country illegally, and to claim unilateral power to change the makeup of American society in the face of stiff public and congressional opposition . . . at least wear a suit jacket, right? This is a special occasion.


Tags: Barack Obama

Obama Staffer: Before Jarrett, Our Campaign Ignored Minority Staffers


Joshua DuBois, former head of the Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships under President Obama, writes in the Daily Beast that Valerie Jarrett “saved the Obama campaign” and is “indispensable.” He paints an ugly picture of Obama’s presidential campaign before her arrival:

Our young, diverse campaign staff didn’t always feel heard by the powers that be. There were strategic recommendations, views on where the candidate should go, and political intelligence among these lower and middle ranks of staffers, but few places to send them. This resulted in missed opportunities, depressed morale — and declining poll numbers in states where the support of young people, African Americans, Latinos, and other minorities was key.

That’s when Valerie stepped in. She had functionally been a volunteer and an occasional advisor up to that point, but after the Lewis disaster it was clear she needed to take a larger role. So she more formally joined the ranks of the campaign’s senior leadership. And as soon as she became a regular presence at our Michigan Avenue headquarters, things started to change.

Young, black, Latino, women, and gay staffers felt like they had a listening ear and advocate in the upper tiers of the campaign — at times after making a quiet trip to Valerie’s office . . . 

Valerie brought a level of empathy and spirit to the hardened machinery of elections that we sorely needed in order to match our hopeful rhetoric with the reality of the campaign. Perhaps more importantly, she protected and elevated causes and voices — diverse voices — that would have otherwise never been heard.

Does he realize what he’s saying? That without the presence of Valerie Jarrett, the Barack Obama for President campaign would have excluded, ignored, or taken for granted young, black, Latino, women, and gay staffers and, by extension, voters with the same characteristics? That the only thing that kept the black, relatively young candidate in touch with these staffers, and treating them with appropriate respect and appreciation was Jarrett?

How do you feel about that characterization, David Axelrod? How about you, Robert Gibbs? David Plouffe? Penny Pritzker? Jon Favreau?

Tags: Valerie Jarrett , Barack Obama , David Axelrod


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