The Campaign Spot

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

Obama to Campaign in States Where His Job Approval Is In the Mid-40s


President Obama’s autumn campaign schedule feels a lot like President Bush’s safe-state only itinerary in 2006: “The White House is putting the finishing touches on a post-Labor Day schedule that will send the president to states where he’s still popular, such as: Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Illinois and California, Obama officials and Democratic operatives said this week.”

Michigan is the only state with a competitive Senate race on that list. Republican Terri Lynn Land is keeping it close with Democrat Rep. Gary Peters. In the governor’s race, incumbent Republican Rick Snyder has held a small lead over Democrat Mark Schauer. Note that PPP found Obama’s approval rating in Michigan at 43 percent in early July.

Democrats are feeling cheerier about their odds in Wisconsin’s governor’s race, where Mary Burke is neck-and-neck with incumbent Republican Scott Walker. (Obama held a Labor Day rally in Wisconsin Monday.) But recent polling puts President Obama’s approval rating in Wisconsin at 44 percent

In Pennsylvania, Democrat Tom Wolf appears set to easily beat incumbent Republican Tom Corbett. (NRO’s John Fund dissects the Corbett implosion here.) Wolf may not particularly want the presidential help; the most recent Franklin & Marshall poll put President Obama’s approval at 34 percent

Illinois, President Obama’s home state, offers a Senate race that is not expected to be competitive, with incumbent Dick Durbin heavily favored over Jim Oberweis. But Republicans appear likely to win the governor’s race, with Bruce Rauner enjoying a solid lead over beleaguered incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn.  An early August poll put President Obama’s job approval at 45 percent among Illinois registered voters.

In California, Jerry Brown is expected to win reelection over Neel Kashkari. The Field Poll released today found Obama’s job approval at 45 percent — which doesn’t sound so bad, but it’s the lowest ever recorded in that poll.  

​Back in 2006, the Washington Post looked at then-President Bush’s schedule in deep red states and concluded, “The politician who has done more than anyone else over the past decade to build and expand the Republican Party has become a liability to Republicans in many parts of the country.”

Eight years later, the politician who as done more than anyone else over the past decade to build and expand the Democratic Party has become a liability to Democrats in many parts of the country — perhaps even in some states he won twice.

Tags: Barack Obama , Michigan , Wisconsin , Pennsylvania , Illinois , California

‘Mark Pryor Is a Stand-In for a National Power Grab...’


A Super PAC called Conservative War Chest will begin a new barrage of ads Tuesday against Arkansas Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor. A 60-second spot and “a groundbreaking 2-minute commercial will run on the 10 p.m. news this week and blanket the Sunday morning political shows in the Little Rock and Fort Smith media markets.”

The commercial is a soup-to-nuts cavalcade of criticism of Pryor — runaway federal agencies, Obamacare, an assault on the First Amendment, persecution of Little Sisters of the Poor, driving mentions of God in the public square, abortion on demand, degrading military readiness, taxes, debt, and a closing ”Tell the Gang of Five, ‘you can’t have America and the U.S. Senate!’” The mainstream media will probably scoff at the ad for being over the top, but by tying Pryor to the most liberal, extreme, and divisive elements of the Democratic coalition, it’s just a mirror image of the Democrats’ approach to Todd Akin in 2012. 

A similar “Gang of Five” ad ran against Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe in last year’s Virginia gubernatorial race.

Tags: Mark Pryor , Advertising


President Obama Is Always Telling Us to Not Worry.


From the first post-Labor Day edition of the Morning Jolt:

President Obama Is Always Telling Us to Not Worry.

The “unfortunate contrasts” for the White House are piling up like planes waiting on the tarmac at Dallas Fort Worth Friday afternoon. We have a president keeping a summer 2008 schedule while a high-profile American enemy speaks like it’s autumn 2001:

President Obama flies to Europe on Tuesday ahead of talks with NATO allies over the crisis in Ukraine. But they will also discuss the growing threat posed by ISIS, the Islamic extremists who have seized control of large sections of Iraq and Syria.

While Mr. Obama was touting an improving economy in Wisconsin, the terror group released the third issue of its English language online magazine, complete with pictures of the group executing Syrian soldiers and blowing up the homes of those who cooperated with police.

It’s no longer some crazy right-wing notion to wonder if the president is in denial about the seriousness of the threats building overseas. The editorial board of the Washington Post openly wonders if President Obama is ignoring what his cabinet is telling him about Russia’s aggression and ISIS:

One can only imagine the whiplash that foreign leaders must be suffering. They heard U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power denounce Russia as “today . . . they open a new front . . . Russia’s force along the border is the largest it has been . . . the mask is coming off.” An hour later, Mr. Obama implicitly contradicted her: “I consider the actions that we’ve seen in the last week a continuation of what’s been taking place for months now . . . it’s not really a shift.”

Similarly, his senior advisers uniformly have warned of the unprecedented threat to America and Americans represented by Islamic extremists in Syria and Iraq. But Mr. Obama didn’t seem to agree. “Now, ISIL [the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant] poses an immediate threat to the people of Iraq and to people throughout the region,” he said. “My priority at this point is to make sure that the gains that ISIL made in Iraq are rolled back.” Contrast that ambition with this vow from Secretary of State John F. Kerry: “And make no mistake: We will continue to confront ISIL wherever it tries to spread its despicable hatred. The world must know that the United States of America will never back down in the face of such evil.”

His advisers are only stating the obvious: Russia has invaded Ukraine. The Islamic State and the Americans it is training are a danger to the United States. When Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. says the threat they pose is “in some ways . . . more frightening than anything I think I’ve seen as attorney general,” it’s not because he is a warmonger or an alarmist. He’s describing the world as he sees it. When Mr. Obama refuses to acknowledge the reality, allies naturally wonder whether he will also refuse to respond to it.

NBC News’ Richard Engel Sunday: “I speak to military commanders, I speak to former officials, and they are apoplectic. They think that this is a clear and present danger. They think something needs to be done. One official said that this was a Freudian slip, that it shows how the United States does not have a policy to deal with Syria, even when you have ISIS, which has effectively become a terrorist army, roughly 20,000 strong.”

One quick note: The United States military is the best in the world, and while fighting terrorists is always difficult, the Pentagon is pretty spectacular and thorough when it comes to defeating opposing armies. House-to-house urban warfare, determining friend from foe in densely-packed chaotic environments full of civilians – everybody struggles at that. But once an American enemy gets big enough to have groups of guys standing around in one place, and lots of vehicles, and permanent structures – well, then it’s just a matter of establishing air superiority and then targeting and bombing them to oblivion. Ask the Iraqi army, either the 1991 edition or the 2003 edition.

What makes ISIS different – its ability to openly hold and control territory with heavier weapons – also makes it much more vulnerable from the West’s preferred style of combat.

Back to our resolutely oblivious president.  Obama at a DNC event, late last week: “I promise you, things are much less dangerous now than they were 20 years ago, 25 years ago or 30 years ago.” He said this the day UK Prime Minister David Cameron declared that his country faced “the greatest and deepest terror threat in its history.”

Ace of Spades, articulating an increasingly common fear:

For some time I have had concerns about Obama. And not all of these concerns are political.

I have wondered if he simply snapped.

He continues to make me wonder.

The less menacing possibility is that he is determined to create a happy, false reality for his LIV supporters.

The more frightening possibility is that he was so successful in creating that Happy Place, he decided to move in, and now lives in his own delusions as well.

I don’t know if this will make Ace feel any better, but what we’re seeing now is an old and steady Obama habit, more pronounced against horrific events. “It’s not as bad as it seems!” is an Obama trademark.

Remember, the Benghazi terror attack was a “bump in the road.” ISIS is the JV squad.  “Because Israel is so capable militarily, I don’t worry about Israel’s survival.”

If you were worried about Putin in 2012, “the 80s called, they want their foreign policy back.” All that U.S.-Russia relations needed was “more flexibility.” In May, he spoke about the invasion and occupation of Crimea as if it had been properly resolved: “Our ability to mobilize international opinion rapidly has changed the balance and the equation in Ukraine.”

The private sector is “doing fine.” People who already have health insurance “don’t have to worry.” Increases in the unemployment rate are, similarly, just “bumps in the road.”

Relax, America. This pair is on the case!


Tags: Barack Obama , ISIS , Russia

The Creepily Accurate Dystopian Forecast of Max Headroom


Today’s Jolt featured some lighter thoughts, suitable for the Friday before Labor Day weekend…

And now for something completely different (again) . . .

This concludes the last week of August, traditionally America’s vacation season, and with the cavalcade of bad news, we could all use a mental vacation . . .

Last November, I interrupted the usual Jolt offerings and marked my anniversary trip to the Pacific Northwest with a long-percolating essay on Twin Peaks, the short-lived, much-debated ABC television series.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my favorite abruptly-canceled cult hits. There’s a special place in our minds for those creative works that we loved, and seemingly no one else did. Sure, modern television history offers some long-running works of indisputable quality and widespread appeal — The Cosby ShowFamily TiesCheers24. But there’s something about discovering, and relishing, that show that you love and that most of the people around you don’t enjoy or understand. It’s as if the creators are speaking in a code that only you can translate. When you meet a fan of one of those shows, it’s like finding another member of a secret society.

Looking through my favorites in this style — Twin PeaksMax HeadroomThe Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, and Firefly — there are a few common elements: an impassioned, detailed vision of a world quite different from the one outside our window, oftentimes with a sense that there’s a lot going on off-camera we’re not seeing. They’re complicated, and not every development is explained or it takes a while to get explained. They all had a mix of tones and styles and a wide range of emotional beats — some intensely funny moments, some chillingly dark ones. They featured particularly heroic protagonists in particularly strange, dangerous worlds.

Perhaps these television shows stand out because while books and film have always had enough room for really unusual visions, the traditional format and culture of television favored the vanilla. Particularly before today’s 500-channel world, prime-time network television seemed designed to sand off the rough edges, to water down the spice, to expand a show’s mass appeal by making it more like everything that came before. It’s almost as if we weren’t supposed to see these off-the-wall visions, and that they were accidentally transmitted to us.

So, if you’ll let this newsletter be even more self-indulgent than usual, a look back at the late-80s phenomenon Max Headroom, and why it rose and fell . . .

A few years ago, the complete Max Headroom series  a pilot produced as a stand-alone movie in the United Kingdom, then reinvented as a series for ABC was finally released on DVD.

The gist, for those who never watched, don’t remember, or were too young:

In the unspecified not-too-distant future — “Twenty Minutes into the Future” — the world is dominated by corporate television networks who fight relentless ratings battles. Off switches are banned and televisions are given away for free to the needy.

The world’s top channel, Network 23, strides atop the globe, driven largely by the work of its crusading journalist Edison Carter. The star reporter begins investigating his own network’s experimental and unethical new technology, “Blipverts,” 30-second ads compressed into three seconds, “too fast for the viewer to change the channel.” We learn Blipverts cause spontaneous combustion in particularly sedentary viewers, but Grossberg, Network 23’s ruthless CEO, is reluctant to stop using an effective, if slightly murderous, form of advertising. Network security goons chase Carter and he ends up slamming his head into a parking-garage sign — “Max Headroom, 2.3 m” — leaving him seemingly comatose. Grossberg orders the network’s teenage tech genius Bryce Lynch to copy Edison’s mind into a computer in an effort to determine what he learned about the Blipverts. The process doesn’t work quite as expected, and accidentally creates an irreverent entity that exists only on television screens: Max Headroom, a stuttering, wise-cracking talking head.

Carter is saved by his new partner/producer Theora, and the pair, along with Lynch and Max, expose the dirty secret of the Blipverts. Grossberg is fired and the rest of the series follows Carter’s adventures uncovering corruption and crimes in a bizarre future world.

Many others have written about the astounding prescience for a mid-to-late 1980s science fiction show. One point I haven’t seen discussed was that within a decade, someone had effectively invented the “Blipverts”: The flashing lights in a 1997 episode of the Japanese animated series Pokemon caused seizures in 685 viewers.

It’s easy — and in fact, probably intended — to see the series as a cautionary tale or a warning of what the future could be. But it’s one of the rare cautionary tales that refuses to specify what, precisely, made this future world so dysfunctional, other than too many people watching too much television. It’s a funny, self-mocking theme for a television show, but maybe that’s one reason it was destined for early cancellation.

The world of “Max Headroom” is visually fascinating and yet indisputably grim. The cityscape consists of giant skyscrapers, crumbling industrial sections, and impoverished slums — back when shows built models of cities instead of relying on computer graphics.

Network 23’s newsroom looks like a dramatically-lit computer junkyard, while the network executives meet in a darkened boardroom fit for a James Bond villain. The streets are filled with trash and many seem homeless (yet still enjoying functioning televisions); a recurring ally of our heroes are the rebels of “Big Time Television,” a small pirate station broadcasting from a giant bright pink bus.

It’s worth noting that while each episode is introduced with the tagline “Twenty Minutes into the Future,” the show never specified when and where everything was taking place. Sharp-eyed viewers noticed that a teenage character’s birth date is listed in a background graphic as 1988, suggesting the series is set in 2004 or so.

The technology of this world is a strange mix of the advanced video phones, hacking, and a primitive Internet system of inter-connected computers — remember, this is airing in 1987! The outdated computer keyboards look like typewriters and most of the cars are from the 1950s. In one episode, a car salesman says, “We used to make cars. Then we became like your [television] industry, we just kept re-using the ones we already made.”

Certain institutions survived to this future date; an episode dealing with the rise of television-based religions mentions that the Catholic Church and the 700 Club are the two largest faiths, and Islam, Judaism, Scientology and “IBM” are still around.

Other institutions no longer exist, such as movie theaters. The U.K. pilot offered a brief glimpse of news headlines suggesting global chaos beyond the city we’re watching:

  • Whites should be permitted the same access to South African public areas as the majority population.
  • Top secret prototype missile stolen from AKG by terrorists.
  • Nuclear waste disposal space shuttle DMP.5 in difficulty over failed computer link; controller was watching the Polly Show at the time.
  • Bolivian freedom fighters killed a 20-person medic team trying to reach starving peasants.
  • Colonial USSR government in New Delhi ordered military suppression of food riots.

But the ABC series avoided referring to events outside the city almost entirely.

The governing of this future world was strangely only half-explained. There are “tele-elections” — people vote by tuning in to the channel affiliated with the candidate but we never get a sense of whether these elections are local, state, national or global. The elected official does get authority over the city’s armor-clad “Metrocops,” who, over the course of the series, exhibit a wide range of ethics and methods. There’s an indication that the elections are rigged:

Network Executive Ben Cheviot: This signal disruption could be your rival trying to disrupt your victory.

Tele-Politician Simon Peller: Nonsense, my rival and I negotiated the election results weeks ago.

But in a subsequent episode, Peller is defeated and very much surprised by his defeat, suggesting that election results aren’t so predictable.

Illiteracy is so widespread that a young character doesn’t recognize what a book is.

A short bit of dialogue suggests that there’s been a society-wide airbrushing of history so thorough that even our hero, Edison Carter, remains oblivious to certain not-so-long-ago events:

Max: ”And interrupting your breakfast… -fast -fast… breakfast… for those cold mornings, why not try . . . Chernobyl Pops! Pops-Pops! Give you that warm glow all over. Just-Just-Just the stuff to feed your kids!”

Carter: ”What is he talking about?”

If the “when” of the series is tough to determine, the “where” is purposely vague as well. In the original pilot made for U.K.’s Channel Four, there are a couple clues that it’s taking place in London. In subsequent episodes of the series aired on ABC, a few quickly-glimpsed maps suggest the city is somewhere in the middle of the United States. (Most of the actors in the ABC series were American.) Other episodes referred to Neo-Tokyo and Novo Zurich . . . new names for existing cities or new cities? And if they’re new . . . what happened to the old Tokyo and Zurich?

I suspect this dystopian world without clear explanation is why most viewers found it too strange to be engrossing; it’s a vivid warning about our potential future that refuses to say much about how this world arrived at that future. There is a brief reference to a helicopter pilot serving in “the war” — with no specifics of who was fighting who — and at one point the anarchist pirate broadcaster Blank Reg tells his audience, “Remember how we said there was no future? Well, this is it.”

Or perhaps the satire cut too close to the bone for all involved — the depictions of a ruthless television network and amoral executives, obsessively rapacious advertisers selling crap, draconian standards-and-practices censors, and ignorant, couch-potato viewers. As many others have noted, in some ways it is amazing that it ever aired, never mind 13 of the 14 episodes produced.

The irony is that the world we live in is eerily similar to that of Max Headroom, once you adjust for the creation of the Internet. This 1987-era show envisioned computer data manipulation and identity theft, a populace amusing itself to numbness with visual entertainment and largely oblivious to major scandals and corruption, terrorists ensuring their attacks occur on live television, television networks closely tied to terrorist groups (COUGHaljazeeraCOUGH), television networks acting as affiliates of political campaigns, organ-harvesting, cyber-warfare, anonymous anarchist groups, hand-held video entertainment devices, international corporations that are so powerful they’re indistinguishable from governments, and designer children and genetic engineering. Whew! Imagine if they had been able to make more than 14 episodes.

Re-watching the series recently, I was struck by how the dystopian setting and atmosphere and generally cynical view of society clashed with the heroism, humor, and warmth of the protagonists. If it’s a miserable future, our main characters seem to be doing okay. Edison Carter is a virtual superhero journalist, guaranteeing justice will be done once he puts his camera in the face of the villain and confronts him with wrongdoing. Theora is clearly a male fantasy — beautiful, super-competent, quick-witted, devoted to her duties and yet occasionally flirtatious.

Macintosh HD:Users:jimgeraghty:Pictures:maxheadroom04.jpg

Indulge us.

Edison’s editor, Murray, is amusingly irritable but always backs up his reporter up when push comes to shove. For a show that’s supposed to be about malevolent corporations, Network 23 chairman Ben Cheviot appears consistently conscientious and grandfatherly (other executives are outright cackling evil-CEO stereotypes or dim-witted oafs). Big Time Television’s Blank Reg may be a burned-out, menacing-looking punk rocker/biker, but his heart is in the right place.

In the U.K. pilot, Network 23’s in-house teenage genius Bryce Lynch was a creepy menace; in the U.S. series, he was reinvented as a painfully naïve savant, always coming up with some innovative solution but blissfully ignorant of how the rest of the world works. Sometimes he reminds me of my six-year-old son:

Grossberg: Unfortunately, Edison Carter nearly stumbled onto the incident, and if people knew about this…

Bryce: Then don’t tell them.

Later, over the unconscious Edison:

Grossberg: Just how much did Carter uncover, Bryce?

Bryce: Why not just ask him when he wakes up?

And then there’s the title character Max, who plays a surprisingly limited supporting role in most episodes. This likely stemmed from the difficulty of having actor Matt Frewer play both roles (and the inability to talk to himself in real time), the time and financial costs of putting Frewer in the heavy latex Max makeup, and the challenge of writing an action role for a character that can only pop up on video screens and talk to other characters.

But think about how science fiction usually treats the creation of an artificial intelligence. Most often audiences get The Terminator’s SkyNet, Battlestar Galactica’s Cylons, Prometheus’ David, or some other creation that turns upon mankind for creating it. Yet in Max Headroom’s world, one that offers a pretty dark and cynical view of the path society was on, the creators of this show suggested that mankind’s first non-biological offspring might reflect some of our better attributes: irreverence, joy, a playful disregard for authority — and perhaps a wee bit of egomania. Max’s jokes ranged from the silly (“Do Eskimos ever get tired of their weather forecasts?”) to wry (“Have you any idea how successful censorship is on TV? Don’t know the answer? Hmm. Successful, isn’t it?”) He was fascinated by his human creators, and poked fun at them, but never wanted much more than attention.

On the DVD commentary, some of Max’s British creators say they set out to mock what they saw as the 80s era of rampant consumerism, soulless corporations, a populace sedated by television, and “Reagan” and “Thatcher.” At no point do these aging leftists — who I would still say had at least one moment of indisputable creative genius — even attempt to rectify the fact that their anti-corporate, anti-consumerism, anti-television icon became featured in television commercials for New Coke.

Tags: Something Lighter

‘I Defer to the President’s Judgment..’


With President Obama briefly returning to the issue of veterans’ care this week — very briefly — it’s good to remind the voters of Georgia that Michelle Nunn, aspiring Democratic senator declared during the heat of the VA scandal: “I defer to the president’s judgment about the leadership that will be necessary to ensure that accountability and that transparency, and that we actually change the system.”

She defers judgment to the guy who only learned about the problem from media reports. (Remember, the Obama administration is the “greatest threat to press freedom in a generation, according to a New York Times reporter who covers the government. Thus, the Obama administration is cracking down on the institution that most frequently informs the White House about scandals and problems within the federal government.) 

Tags: Barack Obama , Michelle Nunn


Another Day, Another White House Effort to Ignore the Constitution


From the Thursday edition of the Morning Jolt:

Another Day, Another White House Effort to Ignore the Constitution

How many Democrats are beginning to realize what they’ve done, and what kind of man they’ve put in the Oval Office?

Both political parties are in a state of high anxiety about the possibility that President Obama will allow millions of illegal immigrants to remain in the country, fearing that White House action on the issue could change the course of November’s midterm elections.

In the past few days, Democratic candidates in nearly every closely fought Senate race have criticized the idea of aggressive action by Obama. Some strategists say privately that it would signal that he has written off the Democrats’ prospects for retaining control of the chamber, deciding to focus on securing his legacy instead.

Keep in mind, by assuming that he, alone, has the power to legalize millions of people who entered the country illegally, he’s taking another hatchet to the concept of checks and balances in the Constitution.

Just yesterday we learned this White House asserts it can join international treaties that the U.S. Senate will not ratify.

Don’t take it from me; take it from the New York Times staff:

A New York Times reporter who has been fighting off a US government demand that he reveal a confidential source has described the Obama administration as “the greatest enemy of press freedom that we have encountered in at least a generation.”

James Risen, who has been ordered to testify in the criminal trial of a former CIA official Jeffrey Sterling, was speaking at a New York conference, “Sources and secrets” .

He argued that he administration wants to “narrow the field of national security reporting,” and that its prosecutions have created “a de facto Official Secrets Act.”

Or all nine justices of the Supreme Court: “The Supreme Court has ruled in Noel Canning v. NLRB, No. 12-1115, and found that President Obama had indeed violated the constitution in his recess appointment. The decision was unanimous.”

In fact, some of these coming changes come in policy areas where the administration has already lost, 9-0, at the Supreme Court. Let Ted Cruz explain:

The defeats include cases such: as Judalang v. Holder, when the court faulted the Obama team for making an “arbitrary and capricious” attempt to rewrite the rules governing who is eligible for relief from deportation; Henderson ex rel. Henderson v. Shinseki , in which Obama’s lawyers argued wrongly “that the Department of Veterans Affairs can wholly ignore a veteran’s appeal of a VA regional office’s benefits ruling when the appeal was not filed within the 120-day deadline”; and Bond v. United States, in which the “DOJ argued that an international treaty gave Congress the power to create federal criminal law for wholly local conduct.”

“If the Department of Justice had won these cases, the federal government would be able to electronically track all of our movements, fine us without a fair hearing, dictate who churches choose as ministers, displace state laws based on the president’s whims, bring debilitating lawsuits against individuals based on events that occurred years ago, and destroy a person’s private property without just compensation,” Cruz explained.

“When President Obama’s own Supreme Court nominees join their colleagues in unanimously rejecting the administration’s call for broader federal power nine times in 18 months, the inescapable conclusion is that the Obama administration’s view of federal power knows virtually no bounds,” he concluded.


Tags: Constitution , Barack Obama

How Many Unaccompanied Minors Did HHS Release to Sponsors in Your County?


Also in today’s Jolt:

How Many Unaccompanied Minors Did HHS Release to Sponsors in Your County?

Here’s a nice way to localize a national issue:

Congressman Bill Cassidy (R-LA) denounced the Obama Administration’s practice of sending illegal immigrants to Louisiana. The Obama Administration released state-by-state and county-level breakdowns of the number of illegal immigrants, showing there were 1,275 UAC released to sponsors in Louisiana between January 1 to July 31, 2014.

Parish-level breakdown of UAC in Louisiana:
East Baton Rouge Parish (Baton Rouge) — 173
Jefferson Parish (Southwest of NOLA) — 533
Lafayette Parish (Lafayette) — 51
Orleans Parish (New Orleans) — 237
St. Tammany Parish (Slidell, N. of NOLA) — 54
Total in Louisiana — 1,275

Cassidy released the following statement:

“The Obama Administration announced that more than 1,200 illegal immigrants have been placed in Louisiana. This highlights how President Obama’s failure to secure the borders and properly enforce our immigration laws has impacted Louisiana. This crisis has further highlighted the inability of President Obama to lead on important issues. Senate Democrats are equally responsible. They left Washington without taking action. We must secure our borders and stop President Obama’s executive amnesty.”

That’s aspiring senator Cassidy, of course.

See how many unaccompanied border children HHS released to sponsors in your county here. For example, HHS announced they released 1,023 unaccompanied border children to sponsors in Fairfax County, Virginia.

Morning Jolt reader William Perry Pendley, an attorney and president of Mountain States Legal Foundation, writes in to point out that the government is not actually legally obligated to provide a free education to children who come here illegally.

The administration contends it is simple:

Under Federal law, State and local educational agencies (hereinafter “districts”) are required to provide all children with equal access to public education at the elementary and secondary level. Recently, we have become aware of student enrollment practices that may chill or discourage the participation, or lead to the exclusion, of students based on their or their parents’ or guardians’ actual or perceived citizenship or immigration status.

Not so, says Pendley:

“The Obama administration is asserting that a Supreme Court decision in 1982, Plyler v. Doe, mandates that all schools in the country educate kids who are here illegally free of charge,” he said. “They’re taking it a step further and saying you can’t even ask about a student’s citizenship. They are also saying the Civil Rights Act says we have to educate people regardless of their citizenship, but that’s untrue, what the Civil Rights Act says is that we cannot discriminate on the basis of national origin, but what that means is ethnicity.”

Pendley said times have changed drastically since the Plyler decision, and government policies should reflect that.

U.S. taxpayers pay taxes to create public-school systems to educate American children. While it may be nice or generous or charitable to educate children here illegally, it is hard to conclude that it would be criminal for a school system to bar children who entered the country illegally. A school system does not have unlimited resources. (There are more than a million children on the wait lists for charter schools nationwide.) Our lax border-security policies are adding tens of thousands of children — most of whom are ESL — to America’s school systems.

Tags: Illegal Immigration , Public Schools , Border Security , Bill Cassidy

Obama Unveils New Plan to Work with Foreign Governments to Ignore the Constitution


From the midweek edition of the Morning Jolt:

President Obama’s a big NBA fan, right? What if he’s tanking this year of his presidency because he thinks he gets a better lottery pick in the draft next year?

Obama Unveils New Plan to Work with Foreign Governments to Ignore the Constitution

You know why Obama seems so disconnected and disinterested in the presidency? Because he doesn’t want to be president, he would rather be king:

The Obama administration is working to forge a sweeping international climate change agreement to compel nations to cut their planet-warming fossil fuel emissions, but without ratification from Congress.

In preparation for this agreement, to be signed at a United Nations summit meeting in 2015 in Paris, the negotiators are meeting with diplomats from other countries to broker a deal to commit some of the world’s largest economies to enact laws to reduce their carbon pollution. But under the Constitution, a president may enter into a legally binding treaty only if it is approved by a two-thirds majority of the Senate.

To sidestep that requirement, President Obama’s climate negotiators are devising what they call a “politically binding” deal that would “name and shame” countries into cutting their emissions. The deal is likely to face strong objections from Republicans on Capitol Hill and from poor countries around the world, but negotiators say it may be the only realistic path.

“If you want a deal that includes all the major emitters, including the U.S., you cannot realistically pursue a legally binding treaty at this time,” said Paul Bledsoe, a top climate change official in the Clinton administration who works closely with the Obama White House on international climate change policy.

Look at how these people speak. If you cannot get the Senate to ratify a treaty (technically, passing a resolution of ratification), then the United States is not a party to that treaty. Period. Full stop. The Constitution is not iffy on this. This part is not a suggestion. There is no wiggle room.

There are a lot of nonsensical or highly exaggerated chain e-mails accusing the president of working with foreigners to subvert the U.S. Constitution. But this time you’ve got the foreigners and administration officials themselves confirming it on the front page of the New York Times!

“There’s a strong understanding of the difficulties of the U.S. situation, and a willingness to work with the U.S. to get out of this impasse,” said Laurence Tubiana, the French ambassador for climate change to the United Nations. “There is an implicit understanding that this not require ratification by the Senate.”

“The difficulties of the U.S. situation” is a reference the fact that we have a Senate that opposes the treaty.

The Times casually notes that President Obama ignored the legislative process in his domestic climate-change agenda, too:

In seeking to go around Congress to push his international climate change agenda, Mr. Obama is echoing his domestic climate strategy. In June, he bypassed Congress and used his executive authority to order a far-reaching regulation forcing American coal-fired power plants to curb their carbon emissions. That regulation, which would not be final until next year, already faces legal challenges, including a lawsuit filed on behalf of a dozen states.

“ . . . days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America . . . ”

Tags: Barack Obama , Climate Change , Constitution , Global Warming , United Nations

Democratic Senate Candidates Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff . . . Like Israel, Iraq, the Border . . .


Running for Senate is difficult. Sooner or later, you’ll get asked a question about an issue you haven’t researched. So you can try to wing it, as Kentucky Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes did, and suggest that Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system protects the country from Hamas tunnels . . . 

. . . or you can try the approach of Montana Democrat Amanda Curtis:

When asked her position on the situation in Iraq, Curtis told CNN, “Give me a little more time.” On the border crisis, “I’ll need more time, you know only 11 days ago I was painting my storm windows.”

Or, as that campaign memo for Georgia Democrat Michelle Nunn described her position on Israel, “TBD” (To Be Determined).

Shifting to Curtis’s preferred topics, how did the storm windows turn out?

Tags: Michelle Nunn , Alison Lundergan Grimes , Amanda Curtis

‘He’ll Give Everything He’s Got for New Hampshire.’


Here’s a new ad from Scott Brown’s campaign, featuring Senator Kelly Ayotte, New Hampshire Republican:

Notice the issues mentioned: the economy, the debt, and Obamacare. Ayotte says Brown stands for “fiscal responsibility, accountable government, a health-care plan that works for all of us.”

A few fans of Obamacare perceived/hoped that Republicans were starting to talk about the health-care plan less often . . . also note that while Brown has talked about immigration reform and border security in recent weeks, it’s not mentioned in this ad.

Tags: Scott Brown , Kelly Ayotte

Not Many Public Polls Released This August!


Also in today’s Jolt, hitting e-mailboxes now . . . 

Hey, Pollsters, Can We Get Some Fresh Ones in These Key Senate Races?

Assessing the state of the midterm elections, in just a few sentences.

Larry Sabato: “In every single one of the Crystal Ball’s toss-up states, (Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Louisiana and North Carolina), the Republican Senate candidate has not yet opened up a real polling lead in any of them.”

(Number of public polls in August in Alaska: 1. Number of public polls in August in Arkansas: 1. Number of public polls in August in Iowa: 0. Number of public polls in August in Louisiana: 0. Number of public polls in August in North Carolina: 3, two of which have Republican Thom Tillis ahead.)

Nate Silver: “Since 2000, the average Senate poll has missed the final margin in the race by about 5 percentage points.”

Sean Trende: “Individual pollsters can easily find results suggesting that a race is opening up when, in fact, it is tightening, and vice-versa.”

Carl Cameron of Fox News: “Democrats who, earlier this year, thought they could defend their majority, now fear GOP momentum could cost them even more than six seats.”

Tags: Polling

Coming Soon to Syria: Some Sort of U.S. Military Action Against ISIS


Do we do covert surveillance anymore? Do we really need somebody to announce every step we take to keep an eye on the bad guys?

U.S. surveillance flights over Syria have started with President Obama’s go ahead, a step that will provide potential targets if airstrikes against Islamic State militants are approved.

The Associated Press reported Tuesday that an unnamed U.S. official said the flights had begun. USA TODAY reported Monday that the flights will provide information on potential targets for strikes in Syria if Obama approves.

What next, a formal announcement?

Dear ISIS,

You are cordially invited to air strikes on Syrian territory beginning Friday, September 29, just after dusk. Please keep all personnel, vehicles, command posts, artillery, and stockpiles of weapons in place until that time. Your cooperation is appreciated.

Courtesy, the United States of America

Meanwhile, the editorial board of the Washington Post calls for U.S. “boots on the ground” in Iraq and Syria:

No serious approach to the group can focus only on Iraq, as the United States has done thus far. The extremists treat Iraq and Syria as one area of operations, and the United States must do the same. In that theater, as Mr. Obama has said, the United States must find partners: Kurds in Iraq and Syria, Sunni tribal leaders in Iraq, the Iraqi government if it can become more inclusive, what is left of the Free Syrian Army. Aiding them does not require a U.S. invasion, but it will need “boots on the ground,” as Mr. Obama already has acknowledged by sending close to 1,000 special forces back to Iraq. They will be needed for training, to assist in air targeting and perhaps more. As The Post’s Greg Miller reported Sunday, the United States suffers from “persistent intelligence gaps” in Syria; these can be filled only with a human presence in the region, not by drones or satellite technology alone.

Peggy Noonan offered a wise thought that will probably be ignored by the administration: “Go to Congress for authorization of force, showing the world we have gained at least some semblance of unity.”

If President Obama asked Congress for authorization for expanded operations against ISIS, would congressional Republicans vote “yes”?

If President Obama asked Congress for authorization for expanded operations against ISIS, would congressional Democrats vote “yes”?

For President Obama, the easiest option, thought not the wisest, is to go ahead with any operations he deems necessary and ignore congressional complaints about the War Powers Act.

Tags: Syria , ISIS , Congressional Democrats , Congressional Republicans , President Obama

The Key Demographic of America’s Wrong-Information Voters


From the Tuesday Morning Jolt:

The Key Demographic of America’s Wrong-Information Voters

Liz Sheld, examining some Pew survey results and confirming our worst suspicions, that a significant minority of the electorate walk around believing that certain political terms mean the opposite of what they really do:

Looking just at the first question, which Pew has used to determine whether people who say they are libertarians actually know what the term means, 57% correctly identified the definition of “libertarian” with the proper corresponding ideological label. Looking at the other answers, an astonishing 20% say that someone who emphasizes freedom and less government is a progressive, 6% say that is the definition of an authoritarian and 6% say that is the definition of a communist.

As E. Strobel notes, “The term ‘low-info voter’ is inadequate. . . . More like ‘wrong-info voter.’”

Perhaps when we’re trying to persuade the electorate as a whole, we have to toss out terms like “conservative” or “libertarian.” Not because they’re not accurate, but because they represent obscure hieroglyphics to a chunk of the people we’re trying to persuade.

If you’re one of these perpetually tuned-out voters, maybe words like “conservative” or “libertarian” are signals that indicate, Hey, this is that politics stuff that you don’t like to hear about, so you can stop paying attention now. This is frustrating, and I understand and feel the irritation that we have to water down or dumb down our arguments because some voters can’t be bothered to understand some concepts we find pretty basic.

We political junkies love political philosophies, and keep subdividing ourselves into smaller and more precise groupings. (Crunchy Cons! Neoconservatives! Libertarian Populism! Reform Conservatives! Eisenhower Anarchist!) We love these labels and terms, because we feel that they help explain a coherent way of looking at the world, government, the Constitution, human rights, society, etc. But to a lot of people, they might as well be Dungeons & Dragons character classes. They don’t know which political philosophy best matches how they see the world because they flat-out don’t understand the terms and, perhaps most maddeningly, are not convinced that they need to know them — nor much about anything else.

Recall Jonah Goldberg’s column to those self-proclaimed “socially liberal, fiscal conservative” types who are, in fact, actually “socially liberal and fiscally liberal”:

When George W. Bush added nearly $5 trillion in national debt in two terms you were scandalized. When Obama added more than that in one term, you yawned. When, in 2006, then-senator Obama condemned Bush’s failure of leadership and vowed to vote against raising the debt ceiling, you thought him a statesman. Obama, who wants to borrow trillions more, now admits that was purely a “political vote.”

A little while back, I talked about celebrities who are not closely identified with the Republican party or conservative movement, who can articulate a conservative approach to an issue, and enjoy widespread applause: Adam Carolla, HGTV host Nicole Curtis, CNN host/chef Anthony Bourdain, Mike Rowe of “Dirty Jobs,” Gene Simmons of KISS . . . They say what they think, directly, but they rarely if ever frame their arguments in terms of political philosophies.

Which argument is likely to be most effective?

A) School choice is a good idea because it is consistent with the conservative principles that the government that is closest to the people is most likely to make the best decisions, is most accountable for those decisions, and is easiest to correct those decisions.

B) School choice is a good idea because it is consistent with the libertarian principles that the power of the state should be limited and the power of the individual should be maximized.

C) School choice is a good idea because it puts decisions in the hands of parents, who know what is best for their children.

Tags: Polling , Political Philosophy

New Poll Gives GOP’s Sullivan Small Lead in Alaska Senate Race


Rasmussen, with the first poll of Alaska’s Senate race since the August 19 GOP primary:

A new Rasmussen Reports statewide telephone survey of Likely Alaska Voters shows Republican Dan Sullivan with a 47% to 45% lead over incumbent Democratic Senator Mark Begich.

Some politics watchers contend Alaska is a uniquely difficult state to poll accurately, but this is disputed. Most previous polling of a then-hypothetical Sullivan-Begich matchup showed a close race, except for a July CBS News/New York Times poll putting Begich up 12.

Tags: Dan Sullivan , Mark Begich

Meanwhile, in Book News . . .


The latest issue of National Review offers a review of The Weed Agency, written by A. J. Delgado, that is essentially every author’s goal — a reviewer who “gets” the book at every level intended.

Meanwhile, The Weed Agency is currently $9.81 on Amazon, $7.99 for Kindle edition. I’ve got 99 reviews on Amazon, but “kitsch” ain’t one.

Tags: Something Lighter

Who’s Saying Veterans Can’t Trust the Obama Administration?


You almost have to admire the opportunism of Senator Kay Hagan as she suddenly turns into a full-throated critic of the Obama administration, months from Election Day: 

Ahead of President Obama’s speech Tuesday before the American Legion, a vulnerable senator in his own party voiced skepticism about the commander in chief’s commitment to veterans. Sen. Kay Hagan, who is locked in a tight re-election race against Republican Thom Tillis in North Carolina, said in a statement that the Obama administration “has not yet done enough to earn the lasting trust of our veterans and implement real and permanent reforms at the VA.”

The American Legion is holding its convention in Charlotte this week; Obama is scheduled to speak there tomorrow. Hagan is scheduled to attend the event.

The CQ/Roll Call study found that Senator Hagan voted with the Obama administration’s position 96 percent of the time

Senator Kay Hagan, left, with an unidentified supporter.

UPDATE: Here’s Kay Hagan back in 2008, talking about how she’s heard first-hand about how veterans are having difficulty getting care at VA hospitals, and how, “we really need to honor them for their service and make it a seamless transition from the time they get out to when they get their care. And that’s one of the things that we’ve got to correct.”

How’s she doing on that, huh? 

Tags: Kay Hagan , Veterans , North Carolina

In Maine, GOP Governor Paul LePage Still Neck-and-Neck


Only one pollster has released a survey of Maine’s gubernatorial race since June; the Maine People’s Resource Center found Democrat Michael Michaud ahead of Republican incumbent governor Paul LePage, 42.6 percent to 41.4 percent. (LePage won a four-way race in 2010 with 38 percent of the vote.)

This morning, the Republican Governors Association offers a new ad showcasing LePage’s record: cutting taxes, reforming welfare, paying off debt for hospitals, and presiding over an economic recovery:

Tags: Paul LePage , Michael Michaud , Maine

Are Democrats Set to Win the Get-Out-the-Vote Fight in 2014?


Hmmm. The Atlantic’s Molly Ball takes a long look at the respective get-out-the-vote operations of Democrats and Republicans in Arkansas and sees a familiar disparity:

Republicans now have 11 offices open across Arkansas, party officials told me, all of them staffed by field organizers. They have recruited “hundreds” of volunteers, and the RNC has had staff here for almost a year. This effort is indeed bigger than anything the party previously built in this state. “We clearly have the largest mobilization we’ve had in my memory, which is pretty good,” the state GOP chairman, Doyle Webb, tells me, crediting the RNC for stepping up its game. “We’ve been waiting for the cavalry, and now it’s here.”

But the Republicans’ effort pales in comparison to what the Democrats have built: Democrats are spending more than five times as much money in Arkansas, and have four times as many field offices and triple the number of staff. In the month of July alone, the Arkansas Democratic Party reported nearly $900,000 in federal campaign spending, while Arkansas Republicans reported $155,000. (Most of the money the Democrats are spending has come directly from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.) Democrats listed 64 staffers on their payroll; Republicans listed 22. The RNC claims it has 50 people on the payroll in Arkansas, including some being paid by other GOP committees, but I could not find a record of them and staffers on the ground were not aware of them. According to public records, there are Democratic staffers in places like Cabot (population 24,000), Marion (12,000), Arkadelphia (11,000), and Dardanelle, Tom Cotton’s hometown, with fewer than 5,000 residents.

It’s possible that there’s a law of diminishing returns with field offices; after a while you’re renting space and hiring staffers for a smaller and smaller increase in the number of votes for your side. Or perhaps candidate quality and charisma matters; it’s probably a lot easier to get irregular or newly registered voters to show up to vote for President Obama in a presidential election year than for Senator Mark Pryor in a midterm-election year.

But if those aren’t true, and Pryor does better than expected on Election Day . . . the GOP will have relearned a hard lesson from 2012.

Why do Democrats win more? Because they want it more. And their donor class is willing to spend more money to insure that they win — at least in most cases:

The RNC has raised $11 million more than the DNC, but the DCCC has raised $37 million more than the NRCC, and in the race for control of the Senate, the Democrats are a whopping $27 million ahead of the Republican’s senatorial committee. Wasn’t winning the Senate the top GOP priority this year? Wouldn’t you think Republican donors would be flooding that committee with cash and resources?

Is it that Republicans prefer to give to the candidate’s campaign? In Arkansas, Pryor is handily outraising and outspending Cotton.

Is it that Republicans prefer to give to outside groups? How good are those outside groups at getting out the vote on Election Day? Or in absentee and early voting?

Tags: NRSC , DSCC , NRCC , DCCC , RNC , DNC , Arkansas

Are ISIS ‘External Operations’ Already Under Way?


The ominous opening notes of the first Morning Jolt of the week . . . 

What Does ISIS ‘External Operations, I Believe, Under Way’ Mean?

Get ready for war:

The Islamic State presents the greatest terrorist threat to Americans since 9/11, and fighting it will take more than airstrikes in Iraq, according to a top member of Congress and a retired four-star general.

The Islamic State, also referred to as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, has vaulted in notoriety after the beheading of American journalist James Foley last week. On ABC’s This Week, Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, who chairs the Homeland Security Committee, called Foley’s murder a turning point.

“I do think they present the greatest threat we’ve seen since 9/11,” McCaul said. “This has been festering for the last year, and now it’s culminating with the killing and the beheading of an American journalist. . . . The American people — it has sort of opened their eyes to what ISIS really is, the true character of ISIS, how savage they really are and . . . their intent to harm Americans.”

Retired Marine general John Allen, who served in Iraq and commanded all allied forces in Afghanistan, said attacking militant support areas in Syria will be necessary. The limited U.S. airstrikes that have helped Kurdish and Iraqi forces retake a strategic dam near Mosul in northern Iraq are not enough, he said.

Another ominous comment from McCaul, which makes one wonder whether it is based upon intelligence reports or speculation:

Their focus right now is establishing the caliphate. But don’t kid yourself for a second, they are [sic] intent on hitting the West. And there are external operations, I believe, under way. . . . We have tens of thousands of foreign fighters from all over the world pouring into this safe haven that’s now been established, including hundreds of Americans with Western passports and legal travel documents, which would enable them not only to travel to Western Europe, but to the United States.

On Friday, local police received this generic warning from the Feds:

In a joint bulletin issued to local, state and federal law enforcement, the Department of Homeland Security and FBI said that while they are “unaware of any specific, credible threats against the Homeland” and find most threats to the U.S. homeland by supporters of ISIS “not credible,” they cannot rule out attacks in the United States from sympathizers radicalized by the group’s online propaganda.

“[B]ecause of the individualized nature of the radicalization process — it is difficult to predict triggers that will contribute to [homegrown violent extremists] attempting acts of violence,” the bulletin states. Moreover, such lone offenders “present law enforcement with limited opportunities to detect and disrupt plots, which frequently involve simple plotting against targets of opportunity,” according to the bulletin.

I don’t want to alarm anyone. But somebody sympathetic to ISIS is taking pictures of U.S. landmarks and holding up a very clear ISIS message: we’re already here.

Maybe it’s just some nut. Or two nuts. Or a network of nuts.

But . . . 

If you’re ISIS, hitting the U.S. homeland is the jackpot, right?

We’re about three weeks away from an early September date that means a lot to Americans and Islamist extremists. Wouldn’t you figure the bad guys would want to do something that day?

Tags: ISIS

Forget the Pink Cookie Interdiction, Washington.


Dear United States federal government, 

More of this

… and less of this: “New federal nutritional guidelines for school cafeterias has meant the end of a favorite — and locally famous — treat in one northeast Ohio school district. The federal government’s edict to provide healthier foods and cut fats and cholesterol put an end of the sale of the traditional Elyria pink cookie — a buttery sweet treat with pink icing.”

Public enemy number one. 

Tags: ISIS


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