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The Campaign Spot

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

With Midterms Four Months Away, Dashboard Is Blinking Red for Democrats



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Big week ahead! The first Morning Jolt of the week kicks off with “Reform Conservatives” getting the rock-star treatment, a prescription and a forecast for a Conservative Insurgency, a 1980s-minded pep talk for the Right, and then this look ahead to November . . . 

With Midterms Four Months Away, Dashboard Is Blinking Red for Democrats

John Couvillon of JMC Enterprises in Louisiana examined the turnout in states that had contested primaries for both Democrats and Republicans in statewide races this year and four years ago — 14 states so far.

Here’s what he found, compared to four years ago:

Republican enthusiasm (percentage-wise) is stronger than it was in 2010, and (2) overall turnout volume is lower than in 2010, although Democratic turnout volume has deceased far more than Republican turnout.

Republicans made up 55 percent of the turnout four years ago; this year they’re 63 percent of the turnout. Of course, Democrats may have a particularly boring or lopsided set of primaries this cycle.

Politico concludes:

With four months until Election Day, Republicans are as close to winning the Senate as they’ve been since losing it in 2006. They’ve landed top recruits to take on first-term senators in New Hampshire and Colorado, nominated credible female candidates in open-seat contests in Michigan and Iowa, protected all of their incumbents from tea party challenges and thwarted more conservative candidates that could have hurt the GOP’s chances in states like North Carolina and Georgia.

You notice how it feels like Obamacare dropped out of the news, right? Don’t worry. You’ll be hearing about it again in the fall:

Most state health insurance rates for 2015 are scheduled to be approved by early fall, and most are likely to rise, timing that couldn’t be worse for Democrats already on defense in the midterms.

. . . With Democrats looking to hang on to Senate seats in many Republican-leaning states, they’ll be hoping that the final numbers don’t come in anywhere near the 24.6 percent hike that report from the anti-Obamacare Heritage Foundation projected for a family of four in Arkansas, or even the 13.1 percent increase in Alaska or 12.4 percent in Louisiana.

So far, although no state has finalized its rate, 21 have posted bids for 2015. Average preliminary premiums went up in all 21, though only a few by double digits.

We know the Democrats will want to change the discussion to a new set of issues — climate change! Infrastructure spending! Workplace inequality!

But the “shiny object” strategy may not work well with so many worsening crises at home and abroad, as Da Tech Guy notices:

It’s hard to fathom now, but one of the major issues of the 2012 presidential campaign was Mitt Romney’s 15-year leadership of the Boston-based private equity firm Bain Capital, which he co-founded.

Two years later President Obama, who of course defeated Romney in ’12, faces multiple crises, including scandals involving IRS targeting of conservative groups, deadly waiting lists at VA hospitals, as well as a collapsing Iraq, Russia’s seizure of Ukraine, a still stagnant economy, and 300,000 illegal alien children crossing over our lightly watched southern border.

None of these hotspots have anything to do with Bain Capital, other than, remotely, the rotten Obama economy.

Above, the rabbit that attacked President Jimmy Carter
in his canoe on April 20, 1979
, is pardoned by President Obama

at the White House Fourth of July ceremony.

Tags: Barack Obama , Senate Democrats , Midterm

Missing the 1980s Era of Nationally Shared Cultural Experiences



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Today’s Jolt also featured a look at our ongoing 1980s pop-cultural revival. Readers of The Weed Agency probably noticed the music and other little cultural markers of the decade in the early chapters, revealing a bit of my Eighties obsession.

This Section of the Morning Jolt Comes With Its Own 80s Music Playlist

The other night I caught a few episodes of National Geographic Television’s series,The 80s: The Decade That Made Us and found myself feeling intense nostalgia.

We’re in a boom time for 80s flashbacks. AMC is offering “Halt and Catch Fire,” an intriguing drama series set in the nascent personal-computer industry in Dallas in 1983.


This is a commanding haircut.

There’s a new album out from Michael Jackson. The multiplex features the Transformers again, as well as a remake of 21 Jump Street, and a slew of more 1980s remakes are on the way. A new Star Wars film will be back in a few more years. The Duke Boys are riding again in a commercial for Auto Trader. Two summers ago, Gotye gave us a song that feels like it came from a long-lost Sting or Peter Gabriel cassette. You can’t tell me that those robots of Daft Punk wouldn’t have fit in well with Devo’s red plastic flowerpot hats, Thomas Dolby’s blinding science, or Toni Basil’s so-fine cheerleader Mickey.

Macintosh HD:Users:jimgeraghty:Pictures:Daft Punk x Storm Troopers.jpg
“The Emperor has judged you overplayed.”

Even the iconic A-ha “Take on Me” video reappeared in the form of a Volkswagen commercial late last year.

Watching National Geographic’s fast-moving documentary series on the major world events and cultural trends of the 1980s, I was struck by how many events seemed like truly nationally shared experiences. It is entirely possible that I am misremembering and romanticizing my years of childhood and early adolescence. But am I wrong that almost everybody who was old enough to understand the event remembers the Challenger explosion? Or how about Hands Across America? Laughing about “New Coke”? I wasn’t old enough to watch The Day After, but I remember some of the hubbub and news coverage of it. I was stunned to learn that an estimated 100 million Americans watched it. (The U.S. population in 1983 when it aired was 233 million!)

We have a cornucopia of entertainment, news, lifestyle, and media options that were absolutely unthinkable back in the 1980s, and there are a lot of advantages to the modern world. Today Bruce Springsteen’s “57 Channels and Nothing On” would be considered a crappy basic-cable package. We’re in the era of a couple hundred channels, and as a result, very little, if anything, gets our collective attention anymore. This means nationally shared experiences are fewer and far between.

When VH1 creates its “I Love (whatever we end up calling this decade),” the comedians and minor celebrities will spend time discussing “major” pop-culture phenomena, figures, and, trends that I simply never encounter.

For example, as far as I can tell, the Kardashian family consists of Kim . . . and the other ones. Breaking Bad was one of the most-discussed television shows of recent years — a cover subject in National Review! — and its biggest audience was . . . 6.4 million viewers.

The performers of the top five singles on iTunes right now:

1) Five Seconds of Summer
2) MAGIC!
3) Sam Smith
4) Ariana Grande
5) Nico & Vinz

I have never heard of any of these people. “Ariana Grande” is something I hear called out at Starbucks.

I don’t think this just reflects me being an old fogey. (“You mean older fogey!” — The Couch. Shut up, Jonah’s couch! Get back in the Goldberg File where you belong.) This isn’t me complaining that these kids today play music that sounds like noise. I’m saying that you can have a top-five single in the U.S. and not permeate my cultural bubble, and I think there’s a good chance that these five haven’t permeated your bubble, either.

We’ve seen this Balkanization in the news world, where conservatives believe that there is some sort of news that they think is hugely important, and extensively covered by the media they consume — Kermit Gosnell, Benghazi, the IRS scandal —and that same news barely makes a ripple among the apolitical or “low-information voter.” (Perhaps the threat of nuclear war with the Soviet Union prompted Americans to ensure they remained “steady-baseline-of-information voters.”)

Maybe the only truly shared national experiences we have in today’s America are in the realm of sports. Perhaps U.S. national-team goalkeeper Tim Howard is the new little baby Jessica stuck in the well.

Tags: 1980s , Culture , Pop Culture

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The Tax-Deductible Donation That Enabled Hillary Clinton’s UConn Speech



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This morning I Tweeted . . . 

. . . based upon this article in the Washington Post.

University of Connecticut deputy spokesman Tom Breen Tweeted back and wrote in, insisting that it’s inaccurate to say the university paid to bring Hillary Clinton to campus; instead a donor fund specified for guest speakers, the Edmund Fusco Speaker Series, paid the fee.

The university insists that these particular funds are not fungible. Kevin Edwards, the university’s vice president of finance, explained in a letter to the university’s communications office,

the donations supporting the speaker series are restricted to be used for the Speaker Series as defined by the donors in making their donation. Utilizing these contributions for any other purpose would be a breach of donor intent.

The speaker series is administered by the UConn Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization “separate and distinct from the university, but existing solely to support the university.” So the donation that helped fund Hillary Clinton’s speech at the university was tax-deductible.

According to the University’s web site,

The program is sponsored by the Fusco family of New Haven, who created the contemporary issues forum at UConn through a philanthropic gift to celebrate their family’s 90th year in business, as well as the 90th birthday of Edmund Fusco.

Hillary Clinton was the second speaker brought to the campus under the Fusco Speaker Series program. The previous one was historian Doris Kearns Goodwin in October 2012. According to Washington Speakers Bureau, Goodwin is a “category 6″ speaker, meaning a fee of $40,001 and up.

It’s a free country, and the Fusco family is free to specify how their donation is to be used, any way they like. Some may wonder whether using $250,000 to bring in a speaker for one hour of remarks and a question-and-answer session afterwards is really the best or most cost-effective way to help the university in the long run.

​At the close of fiscal year 2013, the University of Connecticut’s endowment was valued at approximately $357.6 million. In 2013, tuition, room and board at the university cost $23,496 for in-state students, $42,444 for out-of-state students.

Tags: Hillary Clinton , Connecticut

Cleveland vs. Dallas: Winner Hosts the Republicans in 2016!



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From the last Morning Jolt of this holiday week:

Cleveland vs. Dallas: Winner Hosts the Republicans in 2016!

Say it with me: Hosting the GOP national convention, officially nominating the presidential candidate in a state does not help that presidential candidate win the state. Republicans did not win Florida in 2012 (Tampa). They did not win Minnesota in 2008 (St. Paul). They did not win New York in 2004 (New York City). They did not win Pennsylvania in 2000 (Philadelphia). They did not win California in 1996 (San Diego).

So when Hugh Hewitt says picking Cleveland to host the 2016 Republican National Convention is the first step to winning Ohio, history does not bolster his argument.

And yet, if Republicans pick the other city, Dallas, the narrative for the lazy media is written: Republicans are the party of the South, the party of rural America, the party of rednecks, gun-owners, country music, J. R. Ewing and big oil companies, cowboy boots, and so on. The party may want to embrace the Texas jobs boom, the energy boom, and the fact that so many Americans are flocking to the state to live their American dream.

So then there’s Cleveland.

This Lake Erie city has suffered some bad public relations over the years and has made headlines for all the wrong reasons: poverty, pollution, foreclosure, bizarre crimes and a fleeing population. Yet, thanks to billions of dollars spent burnishing the city’s image and its physical face, Cleveland is one of two finalists for the Republican national convention in 2016 and a longshot candidate to host the Democrats, as well.

Hugh will be ecstatic if they pick Cleveland, of course:

I spent this past Saturday morning touring the new convention center — on Twitter @clevemtgs — built on the lakefront across from the Browns’ FirstEnergy Stadium, the Great Lakes Science Center and, of course, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. The lakefront sparkles as does the whole downtown.

The convention center, which would host the media stiffs, contains hundreds of thousands of square feet of exhibition space, meeting rooms and ballrooms, and is a mere 10 minute, 0.9 mile walk from Quicken Loans Arena, where the formal proceedings would be gaveled in, a walk that goes down 4th street past the House of Blues and scores of restaurants and bars that would no doubt be second home to the scribblers and Tweet legions. Beautiful new hotels are already open and more rising and stately old ones as well, and the Tower City Center — soon no doubt to be the Manziel Center — brings the city’s excellent red, green and blue lines into the heart of the center, providing the mass transit for further out delegations that St. Paul, Minn., and Tampa Bay, Fla., lacked in 2008 and 2012 respectively.

The decision should be announced and/or leaked in late July or early August.

Tags: 2016 Republican National Convention , Cleveland , Dallas

Why Americans Want Politicans to Push Around Their Employers



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There’s a thread that ties the Democrats’ arguments on the employer-covered contraceptive coverage mandate and their push to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour: We’re going to make your employer give you something you want.

People rarely turn down things that they’re offered for free.

Before those of us on the Right commence fuming about “makers” and “takers,” we probably ought to think about why swaths of the electorate are so receptive to this message, and so eagerly buy into a narrative where they are the victims of their miserly bosses, and the heroic white knight of Democrat-run big government must come in and give them what they deserve.

Throughout the past three decades, without any real national debate or referendum, American workers found themselves in an era of fierce foreign competition. Goods are easily imported, and services increasingly can be handed elsewhere as well. First your telemarketer or help line was serviced from Bangalore, then it became an electronic voice menu. (“I’m sorry. I did not understand your answer. Please try again.”) Companies periodically embraced “outsourcing” and “offshoring,” utilizing cheaper labor in other countries. Mass illegal immigration increased the supply of labor, particularly manual labor.

“Chainsaw Al” Dunlap, a corporate executive who built a notorious reputation for mass layoffs at Scott Paper and then Sunbeam, helped create the modern iconic villain of a corporate executive willing to throw away his own workers in pursuit of a higher stock share price. The perception of callous and greedy corporate executives long outlasted Dunlap, who was tossed out at Sunbeam in 1998. American workers feel that their employers aren’t loyal to them, so they feel no need to reciprocate that loyalty.

Wage growth is “down from the end of 2008, broadly flat over the past decade, and on an inflation-adjusted basis, wages peaked in 1973, fully 40 years ago. Apart from brief lapses, like in the late 1990s, wages have been falling for a generation.”

There are times when those thriving the most will observe the difficult time that those once considered “middle class” are having, and rather openly say that they don’t care or that it reflects some meritocratic punishment for Americans who have grown too entitled:

The U.S.-based CEO of one of the world’s largest hedge funds told me that his firm’s investment committee often discusses the question of who wins and who loses in today’s economy. In a recent internal debate, he said, one of his senior colleagues had argued that the hollowing-out of the American middle class didn’t really matter. “His point was that if the transformation of the world economy lifts four people in China and India out of poverty and into the middle class, and meanwhile means one American drops out of the middle class, that’s not such a bad trade,” the CEO recalled.

I heard a similar sentiment from the Taiwanese-born, 30-something CFO of a U.S. Internet company. A gentle, unpretentious man who went from public school to Harvard, he’s nonetheless not terribly sympathetic to the complaints of the American middle class. “We demand a higher paycheck than the rest of the world,” he told me. “So if you’re going to demand 10 times the paycheck, you need to deliver 10 times the value. It sounds harsh, but maybe people in the middle class need to decide to take a pay cut.”

Easy for him to say!

Note that a striking percentage of Americans don’t like their jobs: “Approximately 70 million Americans either hated their jobs or were simply ‘checked out,’ according to a recent Gallup survey of America’s workforce.”

That Gallup survey found that one of the biggest factors in an employee’s engagement is the opinion of the boss – more consequential than pay level, hours, benefits, and workload. “Managers from hell are creating active disengagement costing the United States an estimated $450 billion to $550 billion annually,” wrote Jim Clifton, the C.E.O. and chairman of Gallup.

Obviously, these things are subjective, but maybe Americans really have worse bosses than a generation ago. Mocking the boss has always been a comedy staple — Office Space, Dilbert, Horrible Bosses — but maybe people laugh because they relate all too well. They feel like their hopes, dreams, and life’s path are blocked, indefinitely, by the pointy-haired micro-manager. No wonder they cheer a Democratic officeholder who pledges to make the boss give you more stuff.

Mitt Romney and other Republicans spent a good portion of 2012 singing the praises of “entrepreneurs,” and perhaps many Americans heard that as singing the praises of their bosses — or more likely, the founder of the company that hired them, whom in most cases they’ve never even met.

Of course, you won’t get very far in life if you see your boss as your enemy. Ideally, it’s a partnership. But that requires a positive, flexible, mature attitude on the part of the employee — and the boss as well.

Companies will argue that no one sets out to hire a bad manager — true enough — and that they’re giving their workers the best deal that they can, setting their wages at the market rate. Still, some of America’s businesses are sitting on piles of cash — $1.64 trillion among U.S. non-financial companies at the end of 2013. If America’s businessmen are worried about the growing atmosphere of resentment, populist anger, demonization of the wealthy, then throwing that money around — whether it’s on higher wages, new hires, new product research and development, or plant expansion — might persuade frustrated, increasingly cynical Americans that the companies that employ them aren’t such bad guys.


Is this the face of America’s employers?

Tags: Economy , Business , Office Space , Barack Obama , Hobby Lobby , Minimum Wage

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The Multi-Billion Dollar Institution That Is ‘The Clintons, Inc.’



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If you have trouble receiving the Morning Jolt newsletter this morning, it’s because Team USA goalie Tim Howard blocked it the first 16 times.

The Multi-Billion Dollar Institution That Is ‘The Clintons, Inc.’

Yeah, tell us again how “dead broke” you were, Hillary:

Bill and Hillary Clinton helped raise more than $1 billion from U.S. companies and industry donors during two decades on the national stage through campaigns, paid speeches and a network of organizations advancing their political and policy goals, The Wall Street Journal found.

Those deep ties potentially give Mrs. Clinton a financial advantage in the 2016 presidential election, if she runs, and could bring industry donors back to the Democratic Party for the first time since Mr. Clinton left the White House . . . 

The Journal tallied speaking fees and donations to Mr. Clinton’s 1992 and 1996 presidential campaigns; the Democratic National Committee during Mr. Clinton’s eight years in the White House; Mrs. Clinton’s bids for Senate and president; and the family’s nonprofit entity — The Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation.

The Journal was aided by the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that tracks election contributions. The center provided an industry breakdown of campaign donations.

Finding an exact total is difficult because the Clintons aren’t required to make public any details about donations to their foundation. They voluntarily report donor names, however, and donation amounts within broad ranges.

In total, the Clintons raised between $2 billion and $3 billion from all sources, including individual donors, corporate contributors and foreign governments, the Journal found. Between $1.3 billion and $2 billion came from industry sources.

“Clinton Inc.” is a fitting term for the family, and perhaps that’s a good way to describe the endeavor to make her the next president.

It’s a free country, but everyone else is also free to ask what these institutions think they’re getting for those donations . . . and why, say, a public university would be paying Hillary Clinton hefty six-figure speaking fees:

Some students at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas are upset over Clinton’s speaking fee for a school-related fundraising event while members of the state’s board of regents are defending the decision.

“We’re dishing out nearly a quarter million dollars to invite a speaker to our campus and that money could be spent in so many other, better ways for our university,” said Elias Benjelloun, student body president.

Clinton is scheduled to speak at a fundraiser for the non-profit UNLV Foundation at the Bellagio Hotel in October. The reported speaking fee: $225,000. The university said the fee will be paid for with money raised privately through the school’s foundation. While it’s not student money, some UNLV students are not happy given a recent approval to hike tuition.

“As tuition has consistently gone up, we can’t recklessly spend money — whether it’s private or public — there’s just no excuse,” Benjelloun said.

The students have put their complaints in writing and plan to overnight a letter to the Clinton Foundation.

What does UNLV, or Goldman Sachs, or a grocer’s convention get for their $200,000 to $225,000 to $400,000 they pay Hillary Clinton for a speech? For that price, one would think she is a whirling dervish of raw political charisma that delivers an audience the financially equivalent thrills of a live joint performance of Cirque de Soleil, the Harlem Globetrotters, David Copperfield, and Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. Whatever the official explanation, the rest of us who don’t get offered six figures to come talk to people will have our own suspicion — that this is a legal way of buying goodwill with a potential future president, from a likely candidate all too eager to sell that goodwill.

Tags: Hillary Clinton

Plurality of Registered Voters: We Would Be Better Off With Romney



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Good morning, Mr. President. Quinnipiac polling has some news that may depress you:

President Barack Obama is the worst president since World War II, 33 percent of American voters say in a Quinnipiac University National Poll released today. Another 28 percent pick President George W. Bush.

Ronald Reagan is the best president since WWII, 35 percent of voters say, with 18 percent for Bill Clinton, 15 percent for John F. Kennedy and 8 percent for Obama, the independent Quinnipiac University poll finds.

Obama has been a better president than George W. Bush, 39 percent of voters say, while 40 percent say he is worse. Men say 43 – 36 percent that Obama is worse than Bush while women say 42 – 38 percent he is better. Obama is worse, Republicans say 79 – 7 percent and independent voters say 41 – 31 percent. Democrats say 78 – 4 percent that he is better.

Voters say by a narrow 37 – 34 percent that Obama is better for the economy than Bush.

America would be better off if Republican Mitt Romney had won the 2012 presidential election, 45 percent of voters say, while 38 percent say the country would be worse off.

Wait, Mr. President, don’t go back to bed! There’s more!

The economy and jobs are the most important problems facing the country today, 35 percent of voters say, with 12 percent listing politicians/campaigns/corruption, 6 percent each for healthcare and foreign affairs, 5 percent for the budget and 4 percent each for education and immigration.

Obama gets negative grades for his handling of most key issues:

• Negative 40 – 55 percent for handling the economy;

• Negative 37 – 57 percent for foreign policy;

• Negative 40 – 58 percent for health care;

• 50 – 40 percent for the environment;

• Negative 44 – 51 percent for terrorism.

The poll was conducted from June 24–30, surveying 1,446 registered voters nationwide with a margin of error of +/- 2.6 percentage points, and used live interviewers to call land lines and cell phones.


Don’t worry, Mr. President. Tee time gets closer every minute.

Tags: Barack Obama , Mitt Romney

The Intolerance at the Heart of the Hobby Lobby Decision Fury



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Quick observation on the Hobby Lobby case . . . 

How many of us who aren’t Orthodox Jews would like to tell an Orthodox Jew, “you have to work on the Sabbath”? How many of us would like to tell a Muslim, you absolutely have to handle pork products? How many would like to tell a Mormon that they have to drink alcohol, or a Christian Scientist that they have to smoke?

I hope you don’t have desire to tell other people to violate their religious beliefs and consciences. You may not share those beliefs, and you may think they’re weird, or strange, or silly, but respecting others’ religious beliefs has been a core component of the United States of America going back to Plymouth Rock. (Yes, there are times in U.S. history when the country hasn’t always lived up to this ideal. This doesn’t mean that there’s no longer any point to attempting to live up to that ideal.)

The folks who run Hobby Lobby believed that these four forms of birth control, out of 20, amount to abortifacients, and thus they are, from their perspective, killing innocent human life. You can disagree with them. But all Hobby Lobby wanted to do was not pay for them. They didn’t ban them (although they may prefer that option, someday down the road). They didn’t swear to fire or punish any employee who used them. All they sought was to follow their consciences and not pay for something they believed equaled murder. Considering how any employee had the option of A) paying for those methods themselves or B) finding another employer, that doesn’t seem like an outrageous expectation on the part of the company.

There is a big difference between disagreeing with Hobby Lobby’s assessment of these four forms of birth control — or even concluding this view is cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs — and saying, “I want to use the power of the state to compel you to violate your conscience and religious teachings.” You would think that using the government and the force of law — fines and imprisonment! — to compel people to violate their conscience is something we want to avoid as much as possible. The law permits conscientious objectors to war. Certain states permit the use of peyote during religious ceremonies. The Supreme Court upheld the right to sacrifice animals in Santeria. As long as your practice of religious isn’t directly infringing upon the rights of others, the law is going to let you worship your God as you see fit.

On Facebook yesterday, I saw someone respond to the news by muttering, “Stupid religious people!” Whether or not you think this belief is stupid, a core part of America is the right to hold and practice that belief!

What we’re seeing in the reaction to the Hobby Lobby decision is some liberals’ desire to not allow people to be “stupid religious people” anymore; we must all be reconditioned, to bow before the will and judgment of our betters, who control the levers of the government.

Tags: Supreme Court , Obamacare , Hobby Lobby

More U.S. Troops to Iraq, but Don’t Call It ‘Mission Creep’!



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President Obama, June 19:

I think we always have to guard against mission creep, so let me repeat what I’ve said in the past: American combat troops are not going to be fighting in Iraq again.

The news this morning:

. . . Another 100 troops, who had been on standby in the Middle East since mid-June, also will move into Baghdad to provide security and logistics support.

That raises to about 470 the number of U.S. troops providing security in Baghdad.

Those forces are separate from the teams of up to 300 U.S. military advisers that Obama authorized for deployment to Iraq earlier in June. Of those 300, about 180 had arrived as of Monday, the Pentagon said. They are assessing the state of Iraqi security forces and coordinating with Iraqi authorities.

The U.S. also has a permanent group of about 100 military personnel in the Office of Security Cooperation, at the U.S. Embassy, to coordinate U.S. military sales.

That adds up to about 870 U.S. military personnel in Iraq.

How many times can the president send another couple hundred troops before it starts becoming “mission creep”?

UPDATE: Another thought — when President Obama declares, “American combat troops are not going to be fighting in Iraq again,” has ISIS gotten that memo? What happens if (when?) ISIS starts taking shots at our embassy or other Americans in the area?

Tags: Barack Obama , Iraq

We’re Back to ‘Crumbling Roads and Bridges’ Again



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From the Tuesday Morning Jolt:

Boy, That’s New! Another Call for More Infrastructure Spending!

Hope you didn’t need to use the Key Bridge today, Washington-area commuters:

WH offl: Tomorrow, the President will make remarks at the Key Bridge in Washington, DC

— Zeke Miller (@ZekeJMiller) June 30, 2014

WH offl: Obama will call on Congress to act to invest in America’s infrastructure to create good jobs across the country.

— Zeke Miller (@ZekeJMiller) June 30, 2014

You may have forgotten President Obama touted the stimulus as “the largest new investment in our nation’s infrastructure since Eisenhower.” The current fight on Capitol Hill is about renewing “MAP-21,” the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act signed into law by President Obama on July 6, 2012. That bill funded surface transportation programs at over $105 billion for fiscal years 2013 and 2014.

Back in 2009, Congress made “the largest new investment in America’s infrastructure since the Interstate Highway System” and then spends about $52 billion per year, and yet we’re still hearing the same complaints about “crumbling roads and bridges.”

A Google search shows 111 news articles in recent weeks using the phrase, “crumbling roads and bridges.” (Overall on the web, 321,000.)

No matter how much we spend, we keep getting told that our infrastructure is crumbling like a stale doughnut and we absolutely must spend more. What, have we been building bridges out of balsa wood? Are we resurfacing our roads with graham crackers?

It’s easy to suspect that this spending isn’t really driven by physical demands but by a desire to keep the money flowing. As for those fantastic jobs, as the president later acknowledged, “Shovel-ready was not as . . . uh . . . shovel-ready as we expected.”

Tags: Barack Obama , Infrastructure , Highway , Roads and Bridges

A Well-Founded Loss of Confidence in American Government



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Today from Gallup: “Americans’ confidence in all three branches of the U.S. government has fallen, reaching record lows for the Supreme Court (30 percent) and Congress (7 percent), and a six-year low for the presidency (29 percent). The presidency had the largest drop of the three branches this year, down seven percentage points from its previous rating of 36 percent.”

Considering the state of the economy and economic opportunity, health care, the Middle East ablaze, scandals, screw-ups and corruption at the IRS, NSA and VA with a crackdown on whistleblowers, chaos on our southern border with a deluge of unattended children, and gas prices hitting a six-year high despite a boom in domestic oil production… that lack of confidence appears spectacularly well-founded.

This is not a good environment to be a longtime government official — say, a former senator and Secretary of State asking Americans to see you as the right person to clean up the mess. As stated in today’s Jolt, “the problem for Hillary is that acknowledging the obvious would showcase her as the anti-populist candidate of 2016. She became immensely wealthy because of her political power, which smells a lot like cashing in on one’s elected office — toxic at a time when Americans feel like their elected officials don’t listen to them and don’t understand their struggles in this persistently lousy economy.”

Or as Kevin Williamson puts it:

Political power outlasts political office: Hillary Clinton is no longer secretary of state or a senator or in any of the other positions she has held as a form of tribute paid to her husband; but she very well may be a future president. She has been paid an enormous advance on a book that almost certainly will not justify that expenditure, and collects speech honoraria that are, if not quite up at her husband’s stratospheric levels, nonetheless substantial. What is she being paid for? It is hard to see how economic value, strictly understood, explains that… Political power is worth investing in, and worth renting when it is needed.

Considering the evidence, why should Americans have confidence in their government?

Governing is a lot harder than it looks from the outside.

Tags: Barack Obama , Supreme Court , Congress , Gallup

Administration Fears ‘New Generation of Bombs’ Coming from Syria



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President Obama, speaking at the National Defense University, May 23, 2013:

That’s the current threat — lethal yet less capable al Qaeda affiliates; threats to diplomatic facilities and businesses abroad; homegrown extremists.  This is the future of terrorism. We have to take these threats seriously, and do all that we can to confront them.  But as we shape our response, we have to recognize that the scale of this threat closely resembles the types of attacks we faced before 9/11. 

The news today:

The Obama administration may ask overseas partners to enhance security measures at airports and is weighing whether to do the same here at home to address deepening concerns that terrorists in war-ravaged Syria are trying to develop a new generation of bombs that could be smuggled onto commercial planes, ABC News has learned.

“[This threat] is different and more disturbing than past aviation plots,” one source said. The issue was discussed this past week at the White House during a meeting of top-level officials from intelligence agencies, sources said…

Specifically, U.S. officials learned that associates of the al Qaeda affiliate in Syria — the Al Nusrah Front — and radicals from other groups were teaming up with elements of the Yemen-based group Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which built such innovative devices as the “underwear bomb” that ultimately failed to detonate in a plane over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009.

Bolstered by more recent intelligence, U.S. analysts believe the “subset” of extreme terrorists in Syria could be looking to down a U.S.- or European-bound plane, with help from one of the thousands of Americans and other foreign fighters carrying U.S. and European passports who have joined Al Nusrah Front and other groups in the region.

The scale of that threat doesn’t seem like pre-9/11 anymore, now does it?

Tags: Terrorism , Syria , Barack Obama

Carly Fiorina’s New Effort to Find Women Voters for the GOP



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Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard and former GOP Senate candidate, has a new rallying cry: “We need to name and to shame every Democratic candidate or group that uses this dishonest, divisive rhetoric in the service of defending terrible policies that leave women out of work, or underemployed.”

Her new Unlocking Potential Project “seeks to invest in a robust and aggressive grassroots organizing operation that will train activists, deploy field staff, and utilize the best technologies to identify, persuade and turnout voters in 2014.”

The game plan is for a hands-on approach: “Having studied some of the most aggressive field operations of recent campaigns, we have concluded that a robust investment in a field program that prizes a genuine dialog with voters over a contact based approach will yield dividends for our candidates. Personal interactions, face-to-face, person-to-person interactions are one of the most effective ways to grow a party and turnout the vote — and we don’t do enough of it.” Some may scoff at a losing Senate candidate launching a new voter outreach program, but Fiorina can brag she achieved something not many Republicans have done — persuade 4.2 million people to vote for her in 2010. Of course, 10 million Californians voted in the Senate race that year.

Meanwhile, the New York Daily News noticed that Hillary Clinton’s new book is almost indistinguishable in its design from Fiorina’s book from a few years ago:

 

Tags: Carly Fiorina

Republicans Have to Stand for More Than ‘Just Win, Baby.’



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The first new Morning Jolt in a week is packed to the gills with news — but a key section looks at the fallout from last week’s Mississippi GOP Senate primary runoff: 

The Steep, Steep Price of Thad Cochran’s Victory in Mississippi

The Republican Party has to stand for more than “just win, baby.”

If you’re a Republican who went all out for Thad Cochran’s win last week, I hope you’re looking at yourself in the mirror and asking yourself whether Cochran’s victory was worth it. Because the price looks awfully steep – i.e., having a Republican candidate denounce the conservative positions of his opponent and a big chunk of the grassroots.

Great, a 76-year-old who wanted to retire is now a favorite to return for a seventh term. Look, I get it, Chris McDaniel had more rough edges than sandpaper origami, and yes, there was always the likelihood that the Democrats would attempt to turn him into the Todd Akin of this cycle. But anytime a Republican tries to beat another Republican by adopting the rhetoric of the Democrats, they’re playing with fire.

Was Thad Cochran’s victory worth having a Republican explicitly running on the glory of earmarks and the value of large federal spending projects in the state? Why not just hold up a giant flashing neon sign saying “WE DON’T REALLY CARE ABOUT THE SIZE OF GOVERNMENT”?

Was it worth running radio ads declaring, “By not voting, you’re saying, ‘Take away all of my government programs, such as food stamps, early breakfast and lunch programs, millions of dollars to our black universities”?

Was Cochran’s victory worth a flyer like this one, contending that the Tea Party is racist?

Yes, yes, the Cochran backers will insist they themselves had nothing to do with those radio ads or flyers. They just happened to benefit from messaging that demonized the positions of the grassroots.

Once a Republican candidate is running on those messages…how many differences with the Democrats are left? “Hi, I’m the candidate of bringing home the bacon and higher spending, and I think the Tea Party is racist. But I’m completely different from the Democrat, I swear!”

When a candidate campaigns on limited government and other conservative positions, he’s making a sales pitch for policy positions and a philosophy that some other candidate can run on in the future. When a candidate campaigns on his spot on the Appropriations Committee, and his seniority, and his long history of bringing back federal funding for state projects, he’s making a sales pitch that is completely non-transferrable to any other candidate, now or later. Next time around, some Democrat – some liberal Democrat! – will be able to make the plausible case that they’ll bring back more pork than the other guy. The arguments of the Cochran campaign helped their man – and by contending this is the proper criteria for electing senators, they’re also helping some populist Democrat in a couple of years.

Is this is the new strategy for Republicans? Abandon any pretense of being the party of limited government in an effort to win over the Democratic base?

Consider Ronny Barrett, a 56-year-old mechanic from Jackson and a black Democrat who voted for Cochran on June 3 and again Tuesday.

“Sen. Cochran has done a lot of things for the black community, and a lot of people in the black community know that,” Barrett said at Cochran’s victory party. “First time in my life I voted Republican. … I think I’ll vote Republican again.”

Because Mississippi voters don’t register by party, it’s impossible to know exactly how many Democrats or independents voted for Cochran. But turnout increased by almost 70,000 votes over the June 3 turnout, and Cochran improved his vote totals substantially in several key counties, including about 7,000 additional votes in Hinds, the seat of state government; more than 1,000 in Harrison and more than 1,200 in Jackson, both coastal counties.

The good news is that Ronny Barrett voted Republican and may vote Republican again. The bad news is that it doesn’t appear that the Cochran campaign made much of an argument to Barrett and other Democratic-leaning African-American voters other than, “I’ll bring home the federal spending that matters to you.”

A few Cochran backers are insisting this is a triumph of GOP outreach to minorities. But the methods of Cochran’s campaign aren’t transferrable to candidates who aren’t veteran porkmeister Appropriations Committee members. And what good is this method? Denounce your base and promise to give the other party’s base what they want? You might as well switch parties. Arlen Specter and Charlie Crist did.

Now Cochran’s new allies expect him to oppose efforts at voter ID:

NAACP Mississippi State President Derrick Johnson said in an interview that they are looking for Cochran’s support.

“Two things that we think should come immediately after the election [are] his support of the Voting Rights act… free of any provisions that would allow for voter ID and, second, to get the presidents of the black colleges to ask for his offices for help to make sure the mission of those institutions are carried out,” he said.

We can find all this frustrating, but not surprising. From the February 11 Morning Jolt:

McDaniel says he’s willing to draw a hard line on pork, but that’s another issue that seems to be more appealing in the abstract than when actual projects, jobs, and dollars are at stake. Bringing home federal spending hasn’t hurt Cochran in any of his previous six Senate campaigns, nor was it much of an issue for, say, former Mississippi senator Trent Lott. 

The “Just win, baby” motto is attributed to the late Al Davis, owner of the Oakland (and briefly Los Angeles) Raiders. Davis’ approach did work quite well for a while… and then from 1990 to 2010, they had seven seasons above .500. 

Tags: Thad Cochran , GOP , Chris McDaniel , Conservatism

National Journal: ‘The Once-Soaring Avatar of Change Crashing Earthward’



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From the last Morning Jolt until June 30 . . . 

300 More U.S. Troops in Iraq. So . . . Are We At War With ISIS?

I’m not saying this move from President Obama is the wrong one

Obama said he would send up to 300 additional U.S. Special Operations troops to better assess the situation on the ground, where forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have moved ever nearer to Baghdad, and to determine “how we can best train, advise and support Iraqi security forces going forward.”

But what do we do if some of those 300 guys get attacked? If ISIS ambushes some of our guys in a Black Hawk Down Mogadishu-style scenario . . . doesn’t that drag us into this war even further? I’m all for killing ISIS, but are we sure we want to pursue this path? Is the president sure?

We all know that our Special Operations guys are the best of the best, but they can’t win the war for the Iraqi government.

I suppose if there’s a chance you’ll run across Persians, 300 guys is a good number to have.

James Oliphant of National Journal acknowledges what so many in Washington have tried to deny for about six years now: the world doesn’t work the way Barack Obama thought it did.

[Sending 250 troops to Iraq to help secure the embassy] is a tacit acknowledgment that many of the assumptions that Obama and his foreign policy team made about the world have proven to be incorrect:   

• That without the leverage of U.S. military power in the country, Iraqi leaders would pursue political change that wouldn’t leave Sunnis alienated and antagonized and that its security forces could counter internal threats

• That Afghanistan would be stable enough for the U.S. to end that war and depart with confidence the government can keep the nation on a stable path;

• That the U.S. could pursue a “reset” with Vladimir Putin’s Russia — but then watched his troops take Crimea and threaten the rest of Ukraine;

• That the civil war in Syria could somehow be contained within its borders — and could reach a resolution without American intervention.

More than anything, these events and others have served as a rebuke to Team Obama’s worldview that a new generation of leadership could move on from both the Clinton-era and Bush-era policies. Both of those administrations were more hawkish and aggressive about the exercise of American power, whether it was to intercede in regional conflicts in the Balkans or take down Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq.

Disdainful of much of Washington’s foreign policy establishment, Obama and his close-knit circle of advisers, on the other hand, talked about engaging Iran diplomatically, using sanctions to punish bad actors, “pivoting” to Asia, and neutralizing the threat of terrorism more bloodlessly through the use of drones. They viewed American power in terms of limits. This was a president, after all, who opposed the U.S. “surge” that arguably stabilized Iraq to the point where Obama could pull the troops out.

Yet here was Obama on Thursday using the language of presidents past such as John Kennedy and George W. Bush, talking of sending “advisers” into a global hot spot and warning of the need to deny “safe haven” to terrorist groups. “Right now, this is the moment when the fate of Iraq hangs in the balance,” he said — something that sounded So 10 Years Ago.
That’s why Obama’s remarks had to have left such a bitter taste. Iraq was a box that his administration had checked. And already, the unrest there is casting fresh doubt on his decision to leave Afghanistan just a few years removed from calling for his own “surge” there. Americans are giving his handling of foreign policy the lowest marks of his presidency. With Syria on fire, Egypt and Libya in turmoil, and Russia meddling in Ukraine, the world has reached up and pulled the once-soaring avatar of change crashing earthward.
Icarus, we told you so.

The odds of President Obama’s drastically changing his foreign-policy worldview are slim . . . but even if he did change his approach to the likes of Russia, Iran, Assad in Syria and the rest . . . would the Democratic party’s base revolt against those changes?

Tags: Barack Obama , Iraq , ISIS , Foreign Policy

‘I’m a little worried she might try to hurt me.’



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The rape victim of Hillary Clinton’s legal client from back in 1975 speaks to the Daily Beast:

Whether or not Clinton was just doing her duty as a defense lawyer, for the victim, Clinton’s behavior speaks to her character, her ambition, and her suitability to be a role model for women or president of the United States.

“I think she wants to be a role model being who she is, to look good, but I don’t think she’s a role model at all. . . . If she had have been, she would have helped me at the time, being a 12-year-old girl who was raped by two guys,” she said. “She did that to look good and she told lies on that. How many other lies has she told to get where she’s at today? If she becomes president, is she gonna be telling the world the truth? No. She’s going to be telling lies out there, what the world wants to hear.”

The victim is concerned that speaking out will make her a target for attacks but she no longer feels she is able to stay silent.

“I’m a little scared of her. . . . When this all comes about, I’m a little worried she might try to hurt me, I hope not,” she said. “They can lie all they want, say all they want, I know what’s true.”

That’s your front-runner for the U.S. presidency, America.

Tags: Hillary Clinton

Terrific: VA Routinely Fails to Respond to Reporter Inquiries



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In addition to the usual political headlines and polling updates, the midweek Morning Jolt checks in on some of those stories that dominated the news cycle a few weeks ago — Russia and Ukraine, the Taliban Five, and so on. Just because those stories are off the front page doesn’t mean there aren’t new developments; it just means the media moved on, probably prematurely and in a manner unlikely to generate real accountability.

For example, remember the VA scandal? Remember how that was a huge deal for a week, and then disappeared?

Terrific: VA Routinely Fails to Respond to Reporter Inquiries

Hey, remember the VA scandal? There’s a new aspect:

Because the Department of Veterans Affairs is a taxpayer funded organization, it has a responsibility to fully explain itself to the press and the public. Unfortunately, in many cases VA is failing in this responsibility, as department officials — including 54 full-time public affairs employees — routinely ignore media inquiries.

VA Honesty Project documents nearly 70 recent instances in which VA has failed to respond to reporters’ requests for information or refused to answer specific questions. The department’s apparent disregard for the press has become an object of reporters’ scorn, leading some to openly accuse VA of “thumbing their nose at us” and others to write entire articles focusing on VA’s stonewalling tactics.

Nobody but the best working over at the VA, I tell you!

An official at a New York Veterans Affairs facility was arrested Monday for allegedly taking tens of thousands of dollars in improper gifts from a telecommunications firm doing business with the center. The arrest was announced by the office of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.

I’ll bet you did not expect this figure to call for the VA to be shut down entirely:

A visibly emotional and heated Montel Williams slammed the Veterans Affairs health care system and the handling of the scandal surrounding the agency, saying it needs to be shut down.

“It’s too big and we’ve created a structure where again, if you can’t fire somebody we’ve got a problem and we’ve got a bigger problem, when a group of people can vote themselves a bonus just for keeping track of numbers that they lie about?” Williams said Monday on Fox News’ “Your World with Neil Cavuto.”

If the VA answered reporters’ questions more frequently and more promptly, perhaps these sorts of scandals wouldn’t spiral out of control so horrifically.

Tags: VA

GOP’s Ernst Trails Slightly in Iowa



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This is not a bad place for the GOP’s Senate candidate in Iowa, Joni Ernst, to start:

State Sen. Joni Ernst, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senator in Iowa, trails U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, the Democrat, 44 – 40 percent, as an unusual gender gap shows women supporting the man while men support the woman, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. This compares to a 42 – 29 percent Braley lead over Ernst in a March 13 survey by the independent Quinnipiac University.

We’ll see how things play out in the coming months, but the survey suggests a familiar gender divide: “Today, women back Braley 47 – 36 percent, while men back Ernst 44 – 40 percent.” This, and past results, suggest the “to win over more women voters, Republicans need to nominate more women candidates” approach is a bit too simplistic a strategy.

Tags: Joni Ernst , Bruce Braley

The Echo-Chamber Effect, Hobbling Obama as Much as the Right



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

The Echo-Chamber Effect, Hobbling Obama as Much as the Right

Conservatives sometimes lament that we can become our own echo chamber, convinced that we’re reaching a larger audience than we really are, unable to relate to or persuade those who don’t already agree with us. It’s a fair criticism. We need to address it.

But the same phenomenon does occur on the other side, and arguably with more severe consequences. Here’s the president, speaking at UC Irvine this weekend, discussing his climate-change and carbon-emission proposal:

It’s pretty rare that you’ll encounter somebody who says the problem you’re trying to solve simply doesn’t exist. When President Kennedy set us on a course for the moon, there were a number of people who made a serious case that it wouldn’t be worth it; it was going to be too expensive, it was going to be too hard, it would take too long. But nobody ignored the science. I don’t remember anybody saying that the moon wasn’t there or that it was made of cheese.

President Obama is really, really, really bothered by the fact that some Americans don’t believe that human activity can significantly impact the climate. To him, this is something to fume about in public. It’s a top priority to him — even if climate change ranks near the bottom of the electorate’s priorities.

Here’s a Tweet from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Monday morning:

Macintosh HD:Users:jimgeraghty:Desktop:Screen Shot 2014-06-16 at 11.55.50 AM.png

The link is to an e-mail signup list for a U.S. State Department conference on oceans.

An audit of the Department of Veterans Affairs found that “more than 57,000 patients have been waiting more than three months for medical appointments at hospitals and clinics run by the VA, and nearly 64,000 others have been enrolled in the system for a decade but have still not been seen by doctors despite their requests,” and Monday brought new revelations of “dozens” of allegations of punishing whistleblowers who balked at falsifying records. One can reasonably argue that VA staffers ought to pay more attention to their actual jobs than to climate-change issues.

The U.S. State Department is currently evacuating nonessential personnel from Iraq, and by the time you read this, we may be evacuating essential personnel, too. They, too, may have more pressing concerns than promoting a conference on oceans.

But the Obama administration has set its agenda for 2014, and it’s not going to let little things like world events get in the way. Obama intends to run upon climate change, the minimum wage, the need for “common sense” gun control, and workplace equality.

He’ll campaign upon the need for “comprehensive immigration reform,” complete with a “path to citizenship,” even though we’re facing a humanitarian crisis on the border from a sudden influx of unattended children — an entirely predictable response to a policy change that provides a path to U.S. citizenship to children who enter the country illegally.

And he’ll spend the summer on his traditional golf and fundraising schedule.

If you ask a conservative what issues are on his mind, you might get a list that included the administration’s shameless dishonesty about the Benghazi terror attack, the national shame that is the VA scandal, and the sense that crises from Ukraine to Syria to Iraq to the South Pacific are spinning out of control. The border is unsecured. Obamacare is a mess, forcing people to buy coverage they don’t want, paying higher premiums than they expected, forced into narrow networks where they can’t keep the doctor they like. We’re letting the worst of the worst out of Guantanamo Bay for one imprisoned American.

You and I know those are legitimate concerns, but a lot of Americans don’t think about those topics much. If you asked those folks either in the middle or tuned out what worries them, and what they wish lawmakers would address, you would probably get a much simpler list.

People are having trouble finding jobs. The jobs don’t pay particularly well. It’s tough to find a good job with manageable hours and decent benefits. There’s no guarantee that your local public school will educate your kids particularly well. If your kids do make the grades they need to get into college, most schools are way too expensive. You can take out student loans, but you’ll spend half your life paying them back, and a college degree is no longer a guarantee of a well-paying job. Are young people able to start their lives, start their careers, get married, start families of their own? How long can young adults last in a perpetual adolescence? With all of these financial pressures coming at people from all directions, retirement seems like a more faraway goal.

It feels like a covenant with Americans, set a generation or two ago, is broken. Perhaps this is what Salena Zito is getting at when she describes the populist storm building in America’s heartland:

It is a cautionary thread — yet most people in Washington do not understand this moderate-in-tone populist wave. First, the wave is not going to take out every incumbent, so no “secret sauce” can “fix” it; second, it will have broad impact on both parties; third, it is relatively invisible because it has no name, no brand or party allegiance.

The problem is that while it’s easy to articulate what feels wrong about modern American life, it’s hard to put together a set of policy proposals that have a decent shot at fixing it. Ultimately, a lot of us would like to live in the America of the 1980s again — a booming economy capable of creating 500,000 new jobs in a month, a military buildup with no actual shooting wars going on, and Bill Cosby on our television screens.

It’s frustrating that the country’s middle or apolitical chunk of the electorate doesn’t share the concerns and priorities of the conservative grassroots. But they also don’t share the concerns and priorities of the progressive grassroots, either. President Obama is going to spend the next few months trying to get a country, beset by crisis after crisis, mess after mess, to ignore what’s worrying them and adopt the priorities of the Left.

Here’s the U.S. State Department home page right now:

Tags: Barack Obama , GOP , Conservatives

Irony You Can Believe In: Obama Sends U.S. Troops to Iraq



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In the Tuesday edition of the Morning Jolt . . . 

Irony of Ironies: President Obama Sends U.S. Troops to Iraq

This job is hard, isn’t it, Mr. President?

It’s hard to disagree with the decision to move troops to protect our people in country. It’s also hard to stifle a chuckle that the man whose entire rise in national politics was driven by the insistence that we had to get all U.S. troops out of Iraq, and that the fate of that country was no longer America’s concern, finding himself sending more troops into that country and realizing that control of Iraq is indeed very much an American concern.

As Islamic militants continue their murderous advance in Iraq, the Pentagon is moving more firepower and manpower into the region to prepare for whatever U.S. President Barack Obama orders.

Already at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, dozens of Marines and Army troops have moved in to beef up security.

The aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush and five other warships are now in the Persian Gulf. More than 500 Marines and dozens of helicopters are on standby.

A top priority: evacuate all Americans at the embassy if it comes to that.

It’s nice to see the Obama administration taking the security of American diplomats in an unstable, dangerous Muslim country seriously for a change, isn’t it?

Of course, we may see more than just embassy protection: “On Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry, in an interview with Yahoo! News, acknowledged that airstrikes on Iraqi targets are under consideration.”

To quote William Shatner in Airplane 2, “Irony can be pretty ironic sometimes.”

The scene in the Fox News Washington Bureau Green Room last night: A producer walks in: “General, we’re ready to take you to the set!”

Two men look up. “Which one?”

For what it’s worth, in the military community, there’s some skepticism that the several thousand guys of ISIS will be able to conquer Baghdad. Maybe it’s time for those guys to get bogged down in the nightmare of urban fighting.

But they are getting close:

Iraqi government forces are engaged in heavy clashes with Sunni insurgents who have made major advances in the past week.

Reports say parts of the city of Baquba — just 60km (37 miles) from Baghdad — were briefly taken over by the rebels.

Of course, sectarian killing may arrive in Baghdad before ISIS does:

The first recent sign of sectarian killing appeared in Baghdad late Monday when police found the bodies of four young Sunni men shot to death and left on a street in a mainly Shiite area of eastern Baghdad.

They were between 25 and 30 years old and had been shot numerous times, according to a police source in the Interior Ministry.

Iraq’s largest oil refinery is now shut down.

Oh, and bringing together all of our recent big War on Terror news together:

Spanish police are holding 10 people including a former Guantanamo Bay detainee for allegedly recruiting jihadi militants to fight abroad, mainly in Iraq and Syria.

Tags: Barack Obama , Iraq

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