Duck Dynasty’s Willie Robertson Makes Fundraising Pitch for Jindal

by Jim Geraghty

We’re nearly at the end of an FEC fundraising quarter, so there’s a good chance your e-mailbox is filling up with fundraising requests, with each campaign announcing they’re oh-so-close to their goal and how they need a donation from you right now to put them over the top.

Most of these requests all look the same, but Bobby Jindal’s newly-announced campaign called in one of their celebrity endorsers, Duck Dynasty’s Willie Robertson:


Last week, my friend Bobby Jindal announced his campaign for President. I’m excited he is running. Bobby has my vote.

Bobby hasn’t even been in the race a week, but today’s already the first fundraising deadline for his campaign.

I first met Bobby before he was Governor. He spoke at our church, and just preached. My family was so impressed, and we have been a fan of his ever since.

I know the values Bobby has. He is a good man. An honest man. A Godly man. And I’m proud to call him a friend.

That’s why I’m asking everyone to help my friend Bobby and chip in $100, $50, even $25 before this important fundraising deadline.

We are blessed to live in the greatest country in the world. We need Bobby’s leadership to help fix the mess in Washington. I’m the kind of guy who really likes smart people – and Bobby’s one of the smartest people I’ve ever met in my life.

Can I count on you to help my friend Bobby?

Thank you,

Willie Robertson President, Duck and Buck Commander

Robertson, left, and Jindal.

The Campaign Spot Closes, Moving Over to the Corner . . .

by Jim Geraghty

As mentioned in today’s Morning Jolt, The Campaign Spot will stop being updated and you’ll see my blogging over in NRO’s The Corner. We had debated this move for a few years, and it makes sense, particularly with campaign coverage heating up, to bring 2016-related blog posts to the Corner instead of making readers click through twice on a menu to get from Campaign Spot from the NRO home page. You can still find any blog post or article I write at NRO here.

The good folks running the ship here at National Review are also now calling me “senior political correspondent” . . . because that’s what you call a political correspondent who gets old. The Morning Jolt will remain the same, my articles at NRO will remain the same, Three Martini Lunch will remain the same.

The Kerry Spot began back in May 16, 2004. It’s been a spectacular eleven-year run, and not really much of a “goodbye”; similar gig, different office.

See you over there!

Pension Costs, Health Insurance Costs, Illegal Immigration: They All Hit Home.

by Jim Geraghty

From the Thursday Morning Jolt:

Pensions Costs, Health-Insurance Costs, Illegal Immigration: They All Hit Home.

Here in Fairfax County, property taxes are up . . . 

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted 7 to 3 to raise taxes on Fairfax County homeowners. This year’s $185 dollar property tax rate increase on the average homeowner results in a 16 percent tax increase over the last 3 years.

Sales-tax revenues are up . . . 

Sales-tax receipts distributed to the Fairfax County government by the state government in April totaled $12.3 million, up 4.6 percent from a year before.

For the first nine months of the Fairfax County fiscal year, sales-tax receipts are up 6.6 percent from a year before.

And yet the school district informs me that they’re going to be forced to reduce spending by a bunch:

Fairfax County Public Schools expects the school year 2016-17 (FY 2017) budget to be a tremendous challenge with an anticipated deficit of more than $100 million.

Without additional funding, FCPS will be forced to have some very difficult conversations with the community to determine which programs to consider for reduction. In the coming months, there will be opportunities for the community to provide feedback on the potential cuts. In order to provide parents with accurate information and help you communicate about how we can work to #saveFCPS, a list of frequently asked questions about FY 2017 and other information is now online.

The school district’s explanation:

The cost drivers for the school year 2016-17 (FY 2017) budget include both items outside of FCPS’ control, like retirement and enrollment increases, and providing competitive compensation for our teachers. The cost drivers include:

  • a growing student population with diverse needs.
  • increased state-required retirement contributions rates.
  • increased health insurance costs.
  • increased compensation for our teachers.

Gee, what’s got the school enrollment in Fairfax County jumping so high? Ohhhh . . . 

Three counties in the Washington region have received among the highest numbers of unaccompanied minors fleeing Central America since January, according to the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement.

Fairfax, Prince George’s and Montgomery counties have taken in more children from the recent border surge than all but five other cities and counties across the nation, largely due to their sizeable populations of Central American immigrants. Most arriving children are placed with relatives or other guardians while awaiting deportation hearings.

According to the agency, only Los Angeles, Miami, one border county in Texas and two counties near New York City have received more such children in the past seven months. Fairfax has received 1,023 children . . . 

Where else is all of that surging tax-revenue money going? I mean, I can see one expenditure that just shot up more than 25 percent:

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Tuesday voted to raise the salaries of future supervisors by $20,000 a year.

The vote was 6 to 4. Each member of the next board will make $95,000 a year, up from $75,000. The chairman will make $100,000, up from $75,000.

And there’s a cost-of-living increase for county workers:

The county’s 12,000 employees will receive cost-of-living raises of 1.10 percent — which is short of the actual 1.68 percent increase in the cost of living from last year.

So, let’s review:

  • Underfunded pension plans.
  • Rising health-insurance costs despite all the promises of Obamacare.
  • A deluge of new children who, adorable and innocent as they are, entered the country illegally and now are requiring more resources to educate.
  • Tax hikes.
  • Higher salaries for lawmakers.

All conservatives deserve a throw pillow embroidered with “I TOLD YOU SO” on their couches.

Life ain’t easy for a conservative in “The Burbs.”

The Obama Era of Unresolved Scandals and Outrages

by Jim Geraghty

From the midweek Morning Jolt:

The Obama Era of Unresolved Scandals and Outrages

We’re in the era of “The Unresolved.”

Remember Fast & Furious? The first of many embarrassing scandals, one that put American guns in the hands of drug cartels, used to kill a U.S. Border Patrol agent and numerous innocent people — 211 deaths and injuries in Mexico. Was there ever any sign that anyone in the administration or our government as a whole learned anything, or went about their jobs any differently, from that?

Probably not. “The Committees and the Department of Justice Office of Inspector General found that ATF employees in Phoenix and Washington bore responsibility for the conduct of Operation Fast and Furious and that the Justice Department failed to adequately supervise ATF’s conduct of the case. It remains unclear, however, whether and to what extent additional disciplinary actions were taken,” wrote Senator Chuck Grassley and Representative Jason Chaffetz to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, in a letter in April of this year. Brian Terry was killed in December 2010. It’s been four and a half years, and the U.S. Senate still doesn’t know who was punished and how.

Remember The president goes out, tells the American public the site is working at the precise moment it is thoroughly dysfunctional. The inspector general later confirms the obvious: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services “did not perform thorough reviews of contractor past performance when awarding two key contracts.” The contractor, of course, was CGI Federal.

Here’s CGI Federal, getting a 10-year, multi-billion contract from the General Services Administration in July 2014. Here’s CGI Federal, getting half of a $2.5 billion contract from the U.S. Navy in January of this year.

Remember the Syrian red line? It’s broken again.

International inspectors have found traces of sarin and VX nerve agent at a military research site in Syria that had not been declared to the global chemical weapons watchdog, diplomatic sources said on Friday.

Samples taken by experts from the Organisation for the Prohibition and Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in December and January tested positive for chemical precursors needed to make the toxic agents, the sources told Reuters on the condition of anonymity because the information is confidential.

“This is a pretty strong indication they have been lying about what they did with sarin,” one diplomatic source said. “They have so far been unable to give a satisfactory explanation about this finding.”

Remember the VA scandal? Remember how outraged everyone was, and how adamant President Obama and the new VA secretary were to get to the bottom of it and hold everyone accountable? Well, now we know:

Then in February, the new secretary, Robert A. McDonald, asserted in a nationally televised interview that the department had fired 60 people involved in manipulating wait times to make it appear that veterans were receiving care faster than they were. In fact, the department quickly clarified after that interview, only 14 people had been removed from their jobs, while about 60 others had received lesser punishments.

Now, new internal documents show that the real number of people removed from their jobs is much smaller still: at most, three.

The documents given this month to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, which provided them to The New York Times, show that the department punished a total of eight of its 280,000 employees for involvement in the scandal. One was fired, one retired in lieu of termination, one’s termination is pending, and five were reprimanded or suspended for up to two months.

Remember Benghazi? No one at the State Department was ever fired for making the decision to turn down Ambassador Chris Stevens’s requests for additional security. Because four employees were put on paid leave, as Darrell Issa put it, the administration’s review “ends in a game of musical chairs where no one misses a single day on the State Department payroll.”

One perpetrator of the Benghazi attack has been caught and is facing trial. There were reportedly 150 armed attackers involved.

We don’t get resolutions anymore. Really terrible things happen, people get outraged — often entirely justifiably — pledges of full investigations are made, partisan defenses get deployed, it gets chewed over for a news cycle or two . . . and then it gets replaced by some other outrage. If the axe ever falls, it falls on those darned rogue low-level employees in Cincinnati.

We Need a Real Debate About American Immigration Levels.

by Jim Geraghty

From the Tuesday Morning Jolt:

We Need a Real Debate About American Immigration Levels.

A thought on Monday’s piece about Scott Walker, Jeff Sessions, and legal immigration . . . 

As noted in the article, the United States brings in about one million legal immigrants per year, a figure that is at or near record levels. A lot of Americans, asked for their ideal immigration policy, would envision no illegal immigration, and a smooth, fast-moving, efficient system for legal immigration.

I suspect a lot of people would like to say, “as long as you haven’t committed any crimes and you’re willing to work hard and play by the rules, if you want to be an American, we’ll let you become an American citizen.” That’s a nice and heart-warming philosophy. It’s a policy of rarely ever saying “no.” For anyone who’s a descendant of immigrants, it means never shutting the door on anyone else. The Wall Street Journal editorial board wrote, in 1984 and again in 2001, that the U.S. should adopt a constitutional amendment declaring, “there shall be open borders.”

The problem is that there are millions, probably tens of millions, of foreign citizens who would like to become Americans if they were given the chance.

If we permitted 1.5 million immigrants to become American citizens per year, we would find enough applicants, or 2 million or 3 million.

And no matter how much we love legal immigrants, the country couldn’t take them all in at once without going through a wrenching social and economic upheaval. That 2001 Journal editorial saluted the country’s capacity for assimilating new immigrants, and I suspect that a lot of Americans aren’t so confident in our ability to do that in 2015. (Do we even have a common, unifying culture anymore?) How many new jobs per year can our economy generate? How many empty slots do we have in our schools and hospitals? How’s our infrastructure doing handling the influx?

If you say that the million-a-year rate should be reduced to some lower level . . . does that ipso facto make you a xenophobe? Hateful? Racist?

The boss has a column about illegal immigrants working in New York City’s nail salons and concludes . . . 

There has been booming growth in nail salons in New York City during the past 15 years, and prices haven’t really changed since the 1990s, according to the Times. This is a boon to women who want an affordable reverse-French manicure. In this case, and in many others, illegal immigration is a subsidy for the upper-middle class that can enjoy cheaper services than it would if the country had a strictly legal labor market and lower levels of overall immigration. No one wants to hear it, though.

When Wisconsin governor Scott Walker suggested that the effect on wages of American workers should be the first concern in considering levels of immigration, the political class recoiled in horror. Surely, one reason that salons can pay so poorly is that the supply of illegal workers is so plentiful. And this supply of labor must, at least at the margins, crowd out workers already here who might consider working in salons if pay and conditions were better.

The country deserves a serious, hard-minded debate about what level of legal immigration is appropriate for our economy – and how well we can bring legal immigrants into the full embrace of American culture. But we’re probably not going to get that. We’re going to get a lot of accusations about “xenophobia.”

UPDATE: The perfect illustration of this issue:

About 13 percent of the world’s adults — or about 630 million people — say they would like to leave their country and move somewhere else permanently. For roughly 138 million people, that somewhere else would be the U.S. — the No. 1 desired destination for potential migrants.

Obama to Announce Presidential Library Site Tomorrow

by Jim Geraghty

If you’ve been wondering where President Obama’s presidential center/library will be located . . . you will know tomorrow:

Tomorrow, The Barack Obama Foundation will announce the home of the future Barack Obama Presidential Center. The Foundation will release the announcement at 6am ET/5am CT and convene a press conference in Chicago — where the Foundation is based — at 1 p.m. ET. The press conference will also be webcast live on the Obama Foundation website:

The Barack Obama Foundation was formed in January 2014 by close family and friends of the President and First Lady in order to oversee the building, construction, design, and planning processes for a future Obama Presidential Center. Over the last 14 months, the Foundation has evaluated more than a dozen potential sites through an RFP process and considered a number of key factors, such as transportation and accessibility, economic development opportunities, community interest and engagement and the potential for academic and programmatic collaboration.

That Awful Interview of Ted Cruz, and Why We Can Expect More

by Jim Geraghty

From the first Morning Jolt of the week:

That Awful Interview of Ted Cruz, and Why We Can Expect More

Credit Reuben Navarrette for noticing a glaring double standard.

Watching Mark Halperin of Bloomberg Politics interview Cruz recently, I wasn’t just uncomfortable. I was actually nauseated . . . 

He told Cruz that people are curious about his “identity.” Then, the host asked a series of questions intended to establish his guest’s Hispanic bona fides. What kind of Cuban food did Cruz like to eat growing up? And what sort of Cuban music does Cruz listen to even now?

I’ve known Ted for more than a decade and I could tell he was uncomfortable. But he played along, listing various kinds of Cuban food and saying that his musical taste veers more toward country.

I kept waiting for Halperin to ask Cruz to play the conga drums like Desi Arnaz while dancing salsa and sipping cafe con leche — all to prove the Republican is really Cuban.

Just when I thought I’d seen the worst, it got even more offensive. Earlier that day, independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, of Vermont, had entered the presidential race. So, Halperin said: “I want to give you the opportunity to directly welcome your colleague Sen. Sanders to the race, and I’d like you to do it, if you would, en español.”

What nerve, treating a U.S. senator like a trained seal! Who does this guy think he is, trying to evaluate how well a Hispanic speaks Spanish? And what does that have to do with being authentic anyway?

Navarrette points out that Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro and his twin brother, Representative Joaquin Castro (D., Texas), don’t speak Spanish well, and that hasn’t harmed their political careers nor their sense of “authenticity.” Reporters can look pretty silly when they make assumptions about their interview subject’s heritage. A little while back, Andrea Mitchell asked Julian Castro about his “Cuban-American background,” to which he replied, “Well, I’m Mexican-American.”

I can understand the desire to go beyond the “tell us about your tax plan” line of questions. But Halperin came across as snide, presumptive, and arrogant, with the underlying tone of the questions suggesting Cruz was somehow faking his status as a Cuban-American.

Jonathan Tobin: “With two Republican presidential candidates of Hispanic background (Cruz and fellow Cuban-American Marco Rubio) and one GOP hopeful that is a woman (Carly Fiorina) and another an African America (Ben Carson), the liberal authenticity police will be out in force. But rather than merely ignore them as Cruz, who kept his cool with Halperin did, this insidious bias needs to be shown for what it is: a desire by the media to delegitimize anyone who doesn’t conform to their ideas about identity politics as interpreted through the catechism of liberal ideology.”

BuzzFeed’s Katherine Miller observes, “nothing really happened after the interview! Besides Rush Limbaugh, no one on the Internet seems to have noticed this happened for . . . nine days.” Maybe that says something about who’s watching Halperin’s program?

UPDATE: Today Halperin apologized.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Ted Cruz responds:

Mark Halperin is a serious and fair-minded journalist. Today he kindly issued an apology for some silly questions he asked me in an interview. The apology was unnecessary — no offense was taken, nor, I believe, intended — but is certainly appreciated.

Greg Abbott Could Be a 2016 Kingmaker — But He May Not Want to Be

by Jim Geraghty

From the last Morning Jolt of the week:

Greg Abbott Could Be a 2016 Kingmaker — But He May Not Want to Be

Texas governor Greg Abbott met with some of NR’s Washington staff yesterday, and discussed what he’s hoping to see in the GOP presidential nominee.

He said he doesn’t know if he’ll endorse before the Texas primary. Part of me would be surprised if he did. In Washington yesterday, Abbott said he had met with Senators Ted Cruz and Jon Cornyn, along with Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell. Of course, Abbott’s predecessor, Rick Perry, is almost certain to launch a bid in the near future. Perry and Abbott worked closely as governor and attorney general for about 14 years, and while they occasionally disagreed, the two men think well of each other. And of course, the Bush family is still quite well-regarded, connected, and influential in Texas; both President Bushes have their presidential libraries in Texas, and George P. Bush, Jeb’s son, is currently commissioner of the Texas Land Office.

In short, by endorsing one, Abbott would do some damage to his relationship with the other two; the media both nationally and in Texas would interpret an endorsement of one as a slap in the face of the other two. If Cruz doesn’t win the presidency, he’s likely to be a senator from Texas for a very, very long time, and George P. Bush is likely to be a significant player in Texas politics for just as long or even longer.

As our Joel Gehrke laid out, Texas offers about 10 percent of all of the delegates needed to win the nomination. It costs $1.5 million a week to buy television ads in every media market in the state, and the allocation of the delegates is . . . complicated:

Seventy percent of the 155 delegates will be allocated based on the March 1 election results, following a winner-take-all by congressional district formula: If a candidate fails to earn more than 50 percent of the votes in a given congressional district, the delegates will be divided two-to-one between the first-place and second-place finishers. The remaining 30 percent will be awarded by a caucus at the state convention in May.

For the local candidates Cruz and Perry, the Texas primary is like “playing the Game of Thrones”: you either win or you die (metaphorically). An Abbott endorsement of one candidate could be seen as an insurmountable setback for the other.