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The Campaign Spot

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

Painful New Polls for Obama and Obamacare . . .



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Elsewhere in today’s Jolt . . . 

Obama Job Approval Hits . . . 40 Percent in Latest AP Poll

Does anyone else hear a quacking sound coming from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue? Take it away, AP:

Asked about world trouble spots:

42 percent say the conflict between Israel and Hamas is “very” or “extremely” important to them; 60 percent disapprove of the way Obama has handled it.

40 percent consider the situation in Afghanistan highly important; 60 percent disapprove of Obama’s handling of it.

38 percent give high importance to the conflict in Ukraine; 57 percent disapprove of what Obama has done about that.

38 percent find the situation in Iraq of pressing importance; 57 percent disapprove of Obama’s handling of it.

Opinion of Obama’s foreign policy has slid nearly as low as his overall approval rating.

Just 43 percent were OK with the president’s handling of foreign relations in the new poll, while 40 percent approved how he’s doing his job overall. AP-GfK polls in March and May show a similar picture.

Talk about burying the lede! Obama’s approval rating hit 40 percent in the AP poll! And in a likely related note . . . 

Remember How Americans Were Going to Warm Up to Obamacare?

Yeah, not so much:

Even after survey after survey has recently shown a major drop in the nation’s uninsured rate, Obamacare just had its worst month in a key health-care poll.

Kaiser Family Foundation, which has done arguably the best and most consistent polling on the health-care law in the past four-plus years, found that public opinion on the law sank to a record low in July. More people than ever (53 percent) last month said they viewed the law unfavorably, an increase of 8 percentage points since June — one of the biggest opinion swings ever.

Was this an unusual sample? Or is reality setting in?

As the foundation notes, more people seemingly made up their minds about the law last month. The rate of those without an opinion on the Affordable Care Act dropped from 16 percent in June to 11 percent in July.

Tags: Barack Obama , Obamacare , Polling

Call Us When an Israel-Hamas Cease-fire Lasts Longer Than a Peter Jackson Movie



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From the last Morning Jolt of the week, wrapping up a late July packed to the gills with bad news . . . 

Call Us When an Israel-Hamas Cease-fire Lasts Longer Than a Peter Jackson Movie

Forget these 72-hour cease-fire proposals, guys. Try a 72-minute one, see how that works out.

Because we could just run “Cease-fire Broken” headlines in an endless loop for the foreseeable future. Here’s how it went down:

Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a spokesman for the Israeli military, said that government forces were moving to destroy a tunnel, as the terms of the cease-fire allowed for, when several militants came out of the ground.

Colonel Lerner said the militants included at least one suicide attacker, that there was an exchange of fire on the ground and that initial indications were that a soldier was apparently dragged back into the tunnel. He was unable to offer details about the soldier’s condition or whether others were killed in the attack. He said the episode began at around 9.30 a.m., about 90 minutes after the 72-hour cease-fire came into effect.

“The cease-fire is over,” Colonel Lerner said, adding that the military was carrying out “extensive operations on the ground” to try to locate the missing soldier. He did not identify the soldier but said his family had been notified.

Moussa Abu Marzouk, a senior official in the political wing of Hamas, the Islamic group that dominates Gaza, told the Turkish news media that Hamas had taken a soldier captive but claimed the event took place before the cease-fire began.

Did they check their watches? There’s no Hamas equivalent of Daylight Savings Time, is there? Since they’re not really in the business of saving anything or anybody, perhaps, “New Day Endangerment Time”?

It’s Day 25 of Israel’s “Operation Protective Edge,” by the way.

Charles Krauthammer, summarizing the counterproductive work of our secretary of state:

Kerry did not just trample an Egyptian initiative. It was backed by the entire Arab League and specifically praised by Saudi Arabia. With the exception of Qatar — more a bank than a country — the Arabs are unanimous in wanting to see Hamas weakened, if not overthrown. The ceasefire-in-place they backed would have denied Hamas any reward for starting this war, while what Kerry brought back from Paris granted practically all of its demands.

Is everybody who voted for him in 2004 proud now? Or did they have more faith in his running mate?

Tags: Hamas , Israel , John Kerry , Middle East

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Clintons: Behavior of Our Critics ‘Should Not Be Allowed’



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The Clintons — Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea — release a joint statement on recent books critical of them by Ed Klein, Daniel Halper, and Ronald Kessler:

Their behavior should neither be allowed nor enabled, and legitimate media outlets who know with every fiber of their being that this is complete crap should know not to get down in the gutter with them and spread their lies. But if anyone isn’t sure, let’s strap all three to a polygraph machine on live TV and let the needle tell the truth.

Got that? “Should not be allowed.” I can’t wait for Hillary to take the oath and pledge “to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution . . . except for the First Amendment rights of authors who criticize me.”

Because the Tuzla Dash/“dead broke”/“did not . . . have . . . sexual . . . relations” Clintons are just the right folks to accuse others of lying, right? Are Hillary and Bill willing to subject themselves to live, televised polygraph tests?

UPDATE: Michael Blum reminds me of this past comment from Hillary Clinton, discussing her successful legal defense of an accused rapist:

On the tapes, Clinton, who speaks in a Southern drawl, appears to acknowledge that she was aware of her client’s guilt, brags about successfully getting the only piece of physical evidence thrown out of court, and laughs about it all whimsically.

“He took a lie detector test. I had him take a polygraph, which he passed, which forever destroyed my faith in polygraphs,” Clinton says on the recording, failing to hold back some chuckles.

Tags: Hillary Clinton , Bill Clinton

New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo Is Having a Very Bad Morning.



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Well, that’s the end of New York governor Andrew Cuomo’s presidential ambitions:

In an escalation of the confrontation between the United States attorney in Manhattan, Preet Bharara, and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo over the governor’s cancelation of his own anti-corruption commission, Mr. Bharara has threatened to investigate the Cuomo administration for possible obstruction of justice or witness tampering.

Heck, this might give a shot in the arm to the steep underdog GOP gubernatorial nominee Rob Astorino. After all, not every challenger gets to use a New York Times headline:

On page A1, no less. More:

The warning, in a sharply worded letter from Mr. Bharara’s office, came after several members of the panel issued public statements defending the governor’s handling of the panel, known as the Moreland Commission, which Mr. Cuomo created last year with promises of cleaning up corruption in state politics but shut down abruptly in March.

Mr. Bharara’s office has been investigating the shutdown of the commission, and pursuing its unfinished corruption cases, since April.

Tags: Andrew Cuomo

Obama Hits 36 Percent Approval in Ohio, 31 Percent National Approval on Immigration



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From the Thursday edition of the Morning Jolt:

Yes, Even More New Lows for President Obama’s Polling Numbers.

Good morning, Mr. President! Let’s see what Quinnipiac has to say about Ohio . . . 

Ohio voters give President Barack Obama a negative 36 – 59 percent job approval rating today, close to his all-time low score in any of the nine states surveyed by Quinnipiac University

Elsewhere . . . are we sure President Obama wants to implement a unilateral de facto amnesty by executive order?

Immigration has emerged as perhaps President Obama’s worst issue — definitely for today, and maybe of his entire presidency — when it comes to public perception.

A new poll from AP-GfK shows more than two-thirds of Americans (68 percent) disapprove of Obama’s handling of the immigration issue in general. Just 31 percent approve — down from 38 percent two months ago.

When you separate;those most passionate about the issue, the difference is even more stark, with 57 percent opposed and just 18 percent in favor. That’s more than three-to-one.

Tags: Barack Obama , Ohio , Immigration

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Never Ask Alison Lundergan Grimes for Defense Advice



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Wow. “The Iron Dome has been a big reason why Israel has been able to withstand the terrorists that have tried to tunnel their way in.” — Alison Lundergan Grimes, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, Kentucky.

The “Iron Dome” is an anti-missile air-defense system that shoots down incoming rockets, similar to the Patriot-missile batteries that the U.S. used in the Persian Gulf War.

It does not work underground.

Funny, she always looked like an expert on
military and national-security issues.

Tags: Alison Lundergan Grimes

Why the Pajamahadeen Shouldn’t Worry About the Rathergate Movie



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From the midweek edition of the Morning Jolt:

Why the Pajamahadeen Shouldn’t Fear Hollywood’s Take on ‘Rathergate’

Megan McArdle spits hot fury over the news that Mythology Entertainment is making a movie about the Rathergate memo scandal . . . based upon the book of CBS producer Mary Mapes, who contended that the story was true and that those bloggers in pajamas who kept proving it wrong — including, ahem, me — are all mean and liars and right-wing maniacs and so on.

Mapes will be played by Cate Blanchett. Robert Redford is playing the man who reported the story on air, CBS News anchor Dan Rather.

I’ll give you a moment to process that.

As I noted, by playing Dan Rather, this will mark the second time Redford has played a character who was secretly a member of Hydra.

Above: Robert Redford, standing beside a decorative artwork
in his office, depicting the original logo for CBS News.

I should be outraged by this. As I mentioned in Raleigh, this is a good example for young journalists of how you can work hard, get your big break, help expose a lie, reveal the truth, and have a small role in changing the way people look at the world and powerful people . . . and then watch Hollywood stars glamorize the liars and make you the bad guy. (I’m guessing they’ll cast Jerry O’Connell to play some guy in little elephant pajamas. )

But I suppose that I shrug and dismiss this as sort of liberal cosplay. They really enjoy having glamorous actors put on costumes and make-up and reenact recent events, emphasizing the heroism of the people they like and often ludicrously caricaturing those they don’t like. You may recall Valerie Plame, whose identity as a CIA officer was leaked to columnist Robert Novak by Colin Powell’s right-hand man, Richard Armitage. She had her life turned into an action thriller . . . with car chases and explosions . . . where a sinister conspiracy at the heart of the Bush administration leaks her name . . . and Richard Armitage is never mentioned.

The Washington Post editorial board felt compelled to call out the myth-making:

In fact, “Fair Game,” based on books by Mr. Wilson and his wife, is full of distortions — not to mention outright inventions. To start with the most sensational: The movie portrays Ms. Plame as having cultivated a group of Iraqi scientists and arranged for them to leave the country, and it suggests that once her cover was blown, the operation was aborted and the scientists were abandoned. This is simply false.

There’s practically a whole branch of HBO devoted to this sort of instant revisionism and dramatization: Recount, Game Change, Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom, where Sorkin basically rewrote news events and coverage of Obama’s early presidency the way he thought it should have gone . . . 

What the hell is with these smug revisionist historians, who take facts, take their own imagination, mix them together, slip in some cameo appearances by big-name political figures and think they can create a memorable, vivid, dramatic story that will influence the public’s viewpoint and memories of recent events . . . 

What’s that?

Oh. Yeah. That.

I guess I shrug because this is just the latest in Robert Redford’s series of exercises in moral inversion. His recent self-directed film The Company You Keep tried to argue that the 1960s radicals who planted bombs weren’t such bad guys . . . by making the convenient plot change that the wanted 1960s radical played by Redford didn’t actually commit the crime. Gee, that kind of changes things, doesn’t it? William Ayers doesn’t have the excuse of blaming the one-armed man.

And trying to rewrite Rathergate so that Rather and Mapes are the heroes is, I suspect, too much of a moral inversion for audiences to accept, in a story that will have no car chases, sex scenes, fistfights, gunfights, or aliens. (I mean, as far as I know.) They’ll have to argue that the famous network news anchor, with the giant network backing him, is the plucky heroic underdog, and that the bloggers — bloggers! — are the powerful, sinister villain.

When Robert Redford is pulling off a sting, running from the Bolivian police, hitting a baseball, whispering to a horse, or offering a million dollars to sleep with Demi Moore, everybody loves him. When he gets preachy, the work is usually insufferable. Lions for Lambs flopped. Come to think of it, so did Fair Game, and The Newsroom is in its final season. The appetite for making these instant revisionist-history pieces is significantly larger than the appetite for watching them.

So that’s why I’m not that worried about the Rathergate movie.

Tags: Dan Rather , CBS News , Bloggers , Hollywood , Pajamhadeen

Psst: Ohio Governor John Kasich’s Reelection Bid Isn’t So Vulnerable Anymore



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Hey, remember when everyone talked about how vulnerable Ohio governor John Kasich was in his reelection bid? Yeah, not so much, it turns out.

Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald, the Democratic challenger in the race for Ohio governor, remains largely unknown and is gaining little ground against Republican Gov. John Kasich who leads 48 – 36 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

This compares to a 50 – 35 percent Kasich lead in a May 14 survey by the independent Quinnipiac University.

The traditional gender gap exists as men back the Republican 53 – 31 percent, while women are divided, with 43 percent for Gov. Kasich and 41 percent for FitzGerald. Kasich leads 92 – 2 percent among Republicans and 47 – 28 percent among independent voters, while Democrats go to FitzGerald 78 – 9 percent.

There are some on the right who are quite irked with Kasich for agreeing to expand Medicare as part of Obamacare’s implementation. Note that it’s not costing him much Republican support in his reelection bid.

The survey found 52 percent are “somewhat satisfied” with the way things are going in Ohio today, with 8 percent “very satisfied.” (Those 8 percent are probably Cleveland Cavaliers fans.) This is in fact the highest score Quinnipiac has found on this question in recent years.

Tags: John Kasich , Ohio , Ed Fitzgerald

The Coming Republican Takeover of . . . Illinois?



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How will President Obama feel when a Republican wins the governor’s race in his home state of Illinois?

Gov. Pat Quinn is facing an increasingly uphill battle against Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner, a new We Ask America poll shows.

Rauner is now sitting on a 14-point lead in the poll that was conducted July 28, which is up from his 10-point lead he had in a June poll. Rauner’s boost can be attributed to his economic plan, which includes a state income tax reduction. A poll showed while people don’t believe Illinois can afford this plan, a majority say it makes them more likely to vote for him.

Reboot Illinois, which was founded by hedge fund manager Anne Dias Griffin, commissioned the poll by We Ask America, an independent polling subsidiary of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association.

Overall, if the election were held today, Rauner would pull in 47 percent of the vote, compared to Quinn’s 33 percent. Of those polled, 20 percent said they’re still undecided.

All 118 seats in the Illinois house of representatives and about one-third of the state-senate seats will also be on the ballot this year. Democrats have a 40-to-19 margin in the senate and a 71-to-47 margin in the house. But a big win by Rauner could create coattails, and it appears he and his campaign are investing money in an effort to make that happen:

Crain’s Chicago Business columnist Greg Hinz:

Thanks to heavy spending by wealthy gubernatorial nominee Bruce Rauner — and disgust within the GOP that it let the governor’s mansion slip away four years ago despite the Rod Blagojevich scandal — Illinois Republicans appear to be disciplined, organized and moving to win in a way they haven’t been in decades. And the Democrats know it.

One insider tells me that a combination of the state and national parties and the Rauner campaign is prepared to spend as much as $2 million just on an absentee ballot operation — perhaps seven or eight times as much as in 2010, when Republican state Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington lost to Gov. Pat Quinn.

Another source reports that the party has opened 20 field offices just in the collar counties. In comparison, Mr. Brady had three offices in the entire state.

Notice the momentum and bandwagon effect:

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie came to Chicago Friday and gave Republican Bruce Rauner $2.5 million.

With that the Republican Governors Association more than doubled its financial support of Rauner’s campaign for governor.

Tags: Illinois , Pat Quinn , Bruce Rauner

Can We Reach the Point of ‘No More Hamas’?



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From the Tuesday edition of the Morning Jolt:

Can We Reach the Point of ‘No More Hamas’?

The number one export of the Gaza Strip is textiles. Number two is rockets. Number three is headaches. They have a particularly enthusiastic immigration policy, consisting of kidnappings.

The whole region’s full of other people digging for archeological relics, antiquities, minerals, and oil . . . and somehow Hamas digs massive tunnels just so they can kidnap people.

Everybody else on the Mediterranean makes a killing on tourism; the Palestinians and their allies kill tourists. The Palestinians have Bethlehem — the birthplace of Christ! One of the biggest potential tourism attractions in the history of the world! — and beachfront property, and yet somehow they continue to have a struggling economy. Maybe if the children’s programming featured less encouragement of mass murder and more basic economics and entrepreneurship.

Killer bees.

We’re used to these brief, intermittent rocket-firing spats between Israel and the Palestinians. Israel crosses over into Lebanon in 1978 to hunt the PLO, Israel moves out later that same year; they annex the Golan Heights in 1981; they move back into Lebanon in 1982, withdraw in 1986. They move into Hebron, they withdraw from Hebron. They withdraw from the Gaza Strip. Hezbollah kidnaps two soldiers in 2006, and a second war against Hezbollah begins and ends a few weeks later.

What if this one doesn’t end after a few weeks? What if this one goes on longer, until there’s effectively no more Hamas?

At least there would be some sense of resolution to this mess, wouldn’t there?

It sounds like Israel wants to attempt something like that:

Israel slammed Gaza with a barrage of airstrikes overnight in what was the heaviest bombardment in the three-week conflict. At least 60 died in the strikes in Gaza overnight.

Symbols of Hamas control came under fire, including TV headquarters, government offices and the home of a top leader. Israel said it targeted more than 70 sites and hit 10 “terror operatives.”

The Gaza Strip’s only power plant was struck by a tank shell, hitting a fuel tank and causing the plant to shut down, the head of the power station told ABC News. Fire burned following the attack, with heavy smoke rising over Gaza City. Engineer Fatahi Khalil, from the electricity company, confirmed to ABC News that it will take a year to fix the power plant. The damage will be assessed at a later time, he said.

The pounding came hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned in a televised speech of a “prolonged” campaign in Gaza.

John Podhoretz scoffs at the emerging “Israel is really losing the conflict” narrative:

How is Israel losing? Oh, it seems Israel is getting bad press.

What else is new? What else is new about any of it?

Is Israel isolated in Europe? That isolation has been deepening for a decade. Has Barack Obama turned unfriendly? Well, his unfriendliness is far from new, as this piece of mine from July 2009 would suggest. Has the incursion led to an increase in overt anti-Semitism? Well, if so, any effort to excuse away such monstrousness by citing this war is nothing less than an act of blaming-the-victim. If Israel were to restrain itself from countering a mortal threat because it feared the promulgation of documents like this, it would be betraying its own reason for existence: a homeland for the Jewish people that needed and needs to exist precisely because of sentiments that help create documents like these — sentiments that are then turned into action, and into Kristallnacht, and into gas chambers.

See, anti-Israel folks? When you guys sound like a broken record, and can barely mumble some pro forma denunciations of Hamas, all of the pro-Israel folks tune you out. Most of us like Israel, for a whole host of reasons: the democracy, the religious pluralism, the freedom of expression, the nation’s seemingly endless stockpiles of attractive women carrying automatic weapons, Wonder Woman.

But even if we didn’t like Israel, for the average American, there’s nothing admirable about the other side. What, did Yassir Arafat stir warm feelings of admiration? Hamas? Hezbollah? Iran? Syria? Sure, not every Palestinian danced in the street on 9/11. But some did. Enough did to earn the enmity of millions of Americans.

Trust me, Hamas, that’s not an image Americans will find warm and fuzzy.

Also note that the world is at outrage overload right now. Russia’s buddies just shot an airliner out of the sky. Every Central American “Oliver Twist” just showed up on our doorsteps in the past few weeks. Those Nigerian schoolgirls are still missing. ISIS and their allies are clear-cutting Christians in the Middle East. The death of 1,000 Palestinians is awful . . . but right next door, in Syria, about 170,000 have been killed in the civil war there. In Iraq, ISIS is implementing mandatory genital mutilation for women.

And we’re supposed to get upset about Israel’s tactics against Hamas being too harsh?

Why does that seem to bother our secretary of state more than every other abominable crime going on in the world?

And why is he so determined to implement a cease-fire when Israel might be on the verge of changing the dynamics on the ground by actually removing Hamas from the situation?

David Ignatius:

Secretary of State John Kerry has made a significant mistake in how he’s pursuing a Gaza cease-fire — and it’s not surprising that he has upset both the Israelis and some moderate Palestinians.

Kerry’s error has been to put so much emphasis on achieving a quick halt to the bloodshed that he has solidified the role of Hamas, the intractable, unpopular Islamist group that leads Gaza, along with the two hard-line Islamist nations that are its key supporters, Qatar and Turkey. In the process, he has undercut not simply the Israelis but also the Egyptians and the Fatah movement that runs the Palestinian Authority, all of which want to see an end to Hamas rule in Gaza.

Tags: Israel , Hamas , Middle East , Palestinian Authority , John Kerry

Come See Me in Raleigh Today!



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A gentle reminder: I’ll be speaking and signing books today at noon at the John Locke Foundation
 in Raleigh, N.C. The title of my remarks is “The Weed Agency — The Funny and All Too Real Struggle Against Big Government,” but who knows what I’ll end up speaking about during the Q&A. A $10 fee includes lunch.

The John Locke Foundation is at 200 W Morgan St., Suite 200, in Raleigh.

Tags: Something Lighter , The Weed Agency

New CBS and CNN Polls That Should Frighten Democrats



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From the first Morning Jolt of the week:

The Massive New York Times & CBS Poll That Should Frighten Democrats

The New York Times and CBS News tried a massive endeavor to collect a lot more polling data from everywhere in the country. The results — even if they’re iffy, and it’s only late July — should send a chill down the spine of every Democrat:

On Sunday, the research firm YouGov, in partnership with The New York Times and CBS News, released the first wave of results from an online panel of more than 100,000 respondents nationwide, which asked them their preferences in coming elections. The results offer a trove of nonpartisan data and show a broad and competitive playing field heading into the final few months of the campaign.

The Republicans appear to hold a slight advantage in the fight for the Senate and remain in a dominant position in the House. They need to pick up six seats to gain Senate control, and they hold a clear advantage in races in three states: South Dakota, Montana and West Virginia. The data from YouGov, an opinion-research firm that enjoyed success in 2012, finds the G.O.P. with a nominal lead in five additional states.

The five states where the Republicans hold a slight lead in the YouGov panel include three Southern ones — Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina — where Democratic incumbents face tough re-election contests and where Mitt Romney won in 2012. Republicans also have a slight edge in Iowa and Michigan, two open seats in states that usually vote for Democrats in presidential elections.

At the link, they discuss their methodology, the steps they took to ensure their online sample reflected the population of offline voters, etc. If you want to dismiss that, and conclude it’s just an online poll, fine. That’s your choice.

A couple of reasons to find these results plausible:

It’s not all roses and sunshine for Republicans. In Colorado, Cory Gardner, one of the stronger GOP challengers, trails Sen. Mark Udall, 47 percent to 51 percent. In Alaska, Begich leads both challengers listed. In the two GOP-held seats that the party needs to keep, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is up 4 and in Georgia, Purdue is up 6 on Michelle Nunn — neither margin is particularly overwhelming in states that are deep red in presidential elections.

There aren’t a lot of results that look wacky. In four of the Senate races where the GOP candidate leads, the margins are 2 percentage points or less — Thom Tillis in North Carolina, Joni Ernst in Iowa, Bill Cassidy in Louisiana, and Terri Lynn Land in Michigan. Flip those, and Republicans only gain four seats, a sum most on the Right would find disappointing.

If there’s a thumb on the scale, it’s the wrong one. If you think of the New York Times and CBS News as liberal news organizations, these results are an argument against interest.

Now throw in this poll result:

Americans are so down on President Obama at the moment that, if they could do the 2012 election all over again, they’d overwhelmingly back the former Massachusetts governor’s bid. That’s just one finding in a brutal CNN poll, released Sunday, which shows Romney topping Obama in a re-election rematch by a whopping nine-point margin, 53 percent to 44 percent. That’s an even larger spread than CNN found in November, when a survey had Romney winning a redo 49 percent to 45 percent.

Two years ago, Obama won re-election with about 51 percent of the vote.

An electorate that’s disappointed and frustrated with Obama is not going to turn out to vote for Democrats. They’ll either vote for Republicans or stay home.

Tags: Polling , Midterms , Barack Obama

Special IG Report: Afghans Losing Track of U.S-Provided Weapons



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The U.S. special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction just released a report revealing that the Afghan military and police forces are doing a poor job of keeping track of the weapons provided to them by the U.S. Department of Defense.

The report by Special Inspector General John F. Sopko
offers a chilling conclusion:

Given the Afghan government’s limited ability to account for or properly dispose of these weapons, there is a real potential for these weapons to fall into the hands of insurgents, which will pose additional risks to U.S. personnel, the Afghan National Secrity Forces, and Afghan civilians.

As of December 30, 2013, the Pentagon had provided more than 747,000 weapons and auxiliary equipment to the Afghan military and police, valued at approximately $626 million. That sum includes 465,000 small arms — rifles and pistols — and the report concludes that controls over the accountability of small arms provided to the Afghans are insufficient both before and after the weapons are handed over to them.

The Department of Defense uses two weapons-inventory systems, the Security Cooperation Information Portal and the Operational Verification of Reliable Logistics Oversight Database (OVERLORD). The two systems are not linked to each other, and the review found missing, duplicate, and incomplete information within both systems.

The report does not offer a reassuring portrait of the Afghan National Police, reporting that the police don’t have an established and reliable system for keeping track of weapons and limited prospects for developing one:

With regard to the ANP, it currently has no standardized or automated system to account for weapons. Per [U.S.] officials, the record accounting system called the “Universal Listing of Transactions for Record Accounting” has been under development since 2010 for ANP depot inventories, but the system has yet to be fielded as of the time of our audit report, and DOD has not determined an implementation date. The ANP instead rely on a combination of hard copy, hand written records, and some Microsoft Excel spreadsheets to maintain inventory records.

According to [U.S.] officials, efforts to develop the capabilities of ANSF personnel to manage the central depots have been hindered by the lack of basic education or skills among ANSF personnel and frequent turnover of Afghan staff.

Auditors from the Inspector General’s office checked the inventories of weapons at four facilities in Afghanistan: the Afghan National Army Kandahar Regional Military Training Center, the Afghan National Police National Supply Depot, the 1st Afghan National Civil Order Police Garrison Facility, and the Afghan National Army Central Supply Depot. The inspectors found satisfactory results at the first three sites, but the total number of weapons ANA Central Supply Depot differed greatly from the available records.

Checking the inventory at the supply depot against the records, the inspector general’s staff found 24 M2 machine guns, four M48 machine guns, and 740 M16 rifles missing from the depot. The inventory also found 80 more M24 sniper rifles than the records indicated should be there, 191 more M48 rifles, and 82 M9 Beretta pistols.

The report also found that the problem of lost weapons is likely to get worse in the coming years. The Afghan National Army and police forces changed the weapons that they use several times in recent years, leading to a surplus. According to the analysis of the inspector general’s office, the Afghan military and police force already have more than 112,000 weapons that exceed their current requirements. Records for disposing of excess weapons are spotty at best.

In a written response to the IG report, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Michael J. Dumont said he concurred in part, and aimed to communicate the concerns to the Afghan government. But he cautioned that the U.S. has no authority to require the Afghan forces to “perform a 100 percent inventory of small arms transferred to them by DoD” and that “the DoD does not have the authority to recover or destroy Afghan weapons.”

This morning’s release is the latest in a series of reports from the IG office offering a troubling portrait of the U.S. effort to leave a stable Afghan government after its military withdrawal. Other reports have detailed U.S.-provided planes unlikely to be used by the Afghan Air Force, U.S.-built barracks and medical facilities made of particularly flammable materials, a U.S. Department of Agriculture program to promote soybean farming that may not be viable, and a $2.89 million food-processing facility that was never used.

Have you seen this M2 machine gun, and 23 like it?

Tags: Afghanistan

William F. Buckley, Recurring Pop Culture Icon



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In today’s Morning Jolt, I asked readers for any long-forgotten references to National Review in popular culture. The other day in the office, other NRO-niks and I tried to come up with all the movies and television shows that have referenced or mentioned National Review Annie Hall, obviously; spider-killing is proud tradition at NR. Tom Selleck picked up a copy of National Review in an episode of Magnum, P.I. Robin Williams’s Genie briefly imitated William F. Buckley in Aladdin. NBC’s Community offered a bizarre reference, although perhaps the magazine needs a “Make-Out Meter.”

Readers already offered three we missed.

First, perhaps the best thing you’ll see all day: This bit of brilliance from the old Canadian sketch comedy series, SCTV, featuring Joe Flaherty as William F. Buckley, Catherine O’Hara as Jane Fonda, and Martin Short as Tom Hayden:

Then, from the old WB animated series Animaniacs, Yakko Warner briefly morphs into “William Yakkley, Jr.” in a segment that features a Sam Donaldson clone, “Fonaldson.”

Finally, Dustin Hoffman said he based his Captain Hook in 1991’s big-budget “Hook” upon Buckley’s voice and mannerisms.

Tags: WFB , Pop Culture , Something Lighter

Strange, Obama Never Seems Disengaged from Partisan Politics



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The last Morning Jolt of the week notes worsening developments with Russia, as the president visits fundraisers and a deli in Los Angeles.

This morning Charles Krauthammer tries to explain what’s going on with our president:

The preferred explanation for the president’s detachment is psychological. He’s checked out. Given up. Let down and disappointed by the world, he is in withdrawal.

Perhaps. But I’d propose an alternate theory that gives him more credit: Obama’s passivity stems from an idea. When Obama says Putin has placed himself on the wrong side of history in Ukraine, he actually believes it. He disdains realpolitik because he believes that, in the end, such primitive 19th-century notions as conquest are self-defeating. History sees to their defeat.

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice” is one of Obama’s favorite sayings. Ultimately, injustice and aggression don’t pay. The Soviets saw their 20th-century empire dissolve. More proximally, U.S. gains in Iraq and Afghanistan were, in time, liquidated. Ozymandias lies forever buried and forgotten in desert sands.

That’s probably a piece of the puzzle; Obama, like most of us, gravitates towards a perceived solution that doesn’t require him to do anything difficult. But notice Obama doesn’t rely on “the arc of the moral universe” in the domestic sphere or dealing with his opponents in the United States. He’s not relying on karma, fate, or the law of unintended consequences in his push for a domestic agenda.

Tags: Barack Obama , Russia

Judge Tosses GreenTech Lawsuit Against Watchdog.org



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Good news for the good folks at the Franklin Center and Watchdog.org:

A U.S. judge in Mississippi on Thursday threw out an $85-million lawsuit in which an electric car company founded by Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe alleged Watchdog.org had libeled the firm.

Judge Michael P. Mills said GreenTech Automotive failed to prove his Mississippi court had jurisdiction over Watchdog.org’s parent, Virginia-based Franklin Center, and Watchdog’s Virginia reporter, Kenric Ward.

The judge’s order noted that Watchdog’s “articles were not aimed at Mississippi” or even GreenTech itself.

“The articles were aimed at McAuliffe and his bid to become Governor of Virginia, and McAuliffe sustained the ‘brunt of the harm’ of the published articles while GreenTech allegedly suffered from the residuary effects of the articles,” Mills said.

McAuliffe, of course, will have to console himself with the governorship for the next three and a half years.

Tags: GreenTech , Terry McAuliffe

Even Obama’s Big Donors Are Getting Tired of His Fundraisers



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Inevitable:

President Obama hit the Bay Area for a fast cash-and-grab fundraising drive Wednesday, but there were signs that even in one of the nation’s most reliable Democratic ATMs, donor fatigue is setting in.

That SFGate article notes that Obama has made 18 trips to the Bay Area during his presidency.

There’s even an indication that the president is just going through the motions:

The president’s perfunctory stump speech at the fundraiser — at least the portion witnessed by the press pool, which was ushered out for the question-and-answer session — reprised the same themes he addressed in his last visit to the Bay Area. He made no mention in his public remarks of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in Gaza, the downing of a Malaysian passenger plane over Russian separatist-controlled territory in Ukraine or other current events.

Tags: Barack Obama

$34 Million USDA Program to Grow Soybeans in Afghanistan ‘May Not Be Viable’



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All of what you are about to read is true; this is not a giant promotional scheme for the book.

The special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction published a review of its inquiry into the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s $34.4 million soybean program in Afghanistan. The American Soybean Association submitted the program proposal and a funding request to USDA. The inspector general’s office report expressed “concerns about the viability of the project and the apparent lack of analysis and planning performed prior to the project’s initiation.”

The report found:

* Scientific research conducted for the UK Department for International Development between 2005 and 2008 concluded that soybeans were inappropriate for conditions and farming practices in northern Afghanistan, where the program was implemented by ASA.

* The ASA did not conduct feasibility studies prior to initiation of the project in 2010.

* USDA provided $34.4 million to ASA despite the lack of prior planning and analysis, and despite evidence that may have put the success of the program in doubt.

* The sustainability of the soybean-processing facility is in serious doubt because Afghan farmers are not cultivating soybeans in sufficient quantity to make it economically viable, nor is there any significant demand for soybean products in Afghanistan.

* The significant problems creating a market for soybean products in Afghanistan should have been expected, since Afghans apparently have never grown or eaten soybeans before.

Inspector General John Sopko wrote to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack:

I understand that Afghanistan’s operating environment poses daunting challenges for reconstruction and development programs, and that any project in the country is bound to meet its fair share of difficulties. However, what is troubling about this particular project is that it appears that many of these problems could reasonably have been foreseen and, therefore, possibly avoided.

He recommended “that USDA thoroughly review the process by which the Food for Progress program evaluates project proposals and makes its final selections.”

Above: Part of your $34 million in tax dollars at work in Afghanistan.

Had I written about this in the book, everyone would have said the novel jumped the shark and became implausible.

Tags: Afghanistan , Government Waste

In Sum, the Morning’s News Is Bad. Bad, Bad, Bad.



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No getting around it; the roundup in today’s Morning Jolt is grim.

Today’s News: Bad. Bad, Bad, Bad.

Let me save you a bunch of time: All the news overseas is bad this morning. Bad, bad, bad.

Breaking news out of Algeria:

An Air Algeria-operated MD83 carrying 116 passengers and crew disappeared en route from Burkina Faso in Africa to Algiers, the aircraft’s owner said.

The plane, which took off in the west African country shortly after midnight, was supposed to land at 05:10 a.m. local time, Swiftair, a charter company based in Spain said in a statement today. The plane carried 110 passengers and six crew.

“There has been no contact with the plane until now,” Swiftair said. “Emergency teams and the company’s personnel are working to figure out what happened and will notify people as further information is available.”

Ukraine:

While Kiev made significant advances against rebels in the country’s east in recent days, Ukrainian and U.S. officials say Russian weapons are continuing to pour over the border. The escalation in fighting suggests Russian President Vladimir Putin has no intention of dialing back his support for the separatists, denting Western hopes that international attention from the airliner crash would force him to change course.

Russia:

On almost any other issue you can think of, Russian views differ radically from the consensus here in America. Russians have extremely different opinions about the conflict in Syria, viewing the war in that unlucky country not as a brave struggle for freedom but as a chaotic war of all against all. They have different views about the war in Libya, where they see the overthrow of Gaddafi not as a new beginning but as the start of chaos and disorder. They have different views about 9/11, with shockingly large numbers of Russians supporting “alternate” explanations of one of history’s most carefully studied and well-documented terrorist attacks. (I was recently asked what “theory” of the attacks I supported only to be told that it was “my opinion” after I noted that al-Qaeda was clearly and obviously responsible.) Even something as seemingly straightforward and non-political as a meteor strike attracted a range of bizarre theories and pseudo-scientific “explanations” like the onset of an alien invasion or the testing of a new American super weapon. These wacky ideas (“the aliens are attacking Siberia!” “The grand masons are responsible for 9/11!”) would be extremely funny if they didn’t represent such a tragic deficit of reason.

A tiny bit of good news in Israel:

Israel Defense Forces said it hit 35 terror targets overnight. A day earlier, the number was 187.

The Israeli military also reported a sharp fall in the number of rockets fired from Gaza in the early hours of Thursday, although as the day wore on, more rockets were lofted toward Israel, some in the direction of the international airport in Tel Aviv.

The Israeli military said it captured 150 “terrorist suspects” in Gaza Wednesday.

Another tiny bit of good news:

Under pressure from Israeli and American officials, the Federal Aviation Administration lifted a temporary ban on flights by American carriers to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport late on Wednesday night.

The European airlines are reinstating flights.

Now back onto the bad news . . . 

France:

Unable to reach the Grand Synagogues of Sarcelles, some of the rioters smashed shop windows in this poor suburb where tens of thousands of Jews live amid many Muslims. They torched two cars and threw a firebomb at a nearby, smaller synagogue, which was only lightly damaged. It was the ninth synagogue attack in France since Israel launched Operation Protective Edge in Gaza two weeks ago.

Belgium:

Police removed a sign from a Belgian cafe saying that Jews were not allowed following a complaint by an anti-Semitism watchdog.

Germany:

The German government reassured Jews living in Germany that they should feel safe in the face of anti-semitic chants and threats heard at some of the protests against Israel’s conflict with Hamas in Gaza, and said such behavior would not be tolerated.

From now on, no Europeans are allowed to brag about how sophisticated they are.

Tags: Israel , Europe , Russia

Bruce Braley, Missing a Few — Okay, 75 Percent — of Veterans Committee Meetings



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Tough day for Democratic Senate candidates. Below you see the news about Montana senator John Walsh, and now bad news for Representative Bruce Braley, running in Iowa:

Over a two-year period, Democratic U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley missed 75 percent of meetings for a committee that provides oversight over the Veterans Administration, including one meeting on a day he attended three fundraisers for his 2012 campaign.

Look, it’s not like the VA needed a lot of close oversight in recent years, right?

Tags: Bruce Braley

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