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The Campaign Spot

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

America At War in Iraq, Day Four



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Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, speaking in Sydney, Australia, today: “On the assessment of the effectiveness of the air strikes, they have been very effective, from all the reports that we’ve received on the ground. I will be speaking with General Austin here in a couple of hours. I spoke with Chairman Dempsey this morning. I have been talking with our people on a — on a regular basis, not just on those assessments, but all the other dimensions of — of what we’re doing and how we’re doing and future operations in Iraq.”

Above, in this AP photo, President Barack Obama laughs while golfing with former NFL player Ahmad Rashad at Farm Neck Golf Club in Oak Bluffs, Mass., on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014.

Tags: Chuck Hagel , Barack Obama , Iraq

FLASHBACK: Three Weeks Ago, White House Asked Boehner to Repeal Authorization to Use Military Force in Iraq



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Three weeks ago National Security Adviser Susan Rice wrote to House Speaker John Boehner, asking him to repeal the Authorization for the Use of Military Force in Iraq:

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard P. “Buck” McKeon said that when he heard from Boehner about Rice’s letter, “I thought he was joking.

The White House contends that the current military operations in Iraq are not covered by the 2002 Congressional authorization of military force, and are instead consistent with the War Powers Act, which gives the president broad authority to authorize the use of the military in operations that last fewer than 60 days.

Tags: Susan Rice , Iraq , ISIS

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If Only Hillary Had Been In a Position to Influence U.S. Foreign Policy!



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This morning we hear Hillary Clinton make her most explicit criticism of her old boss, President Obama, telling The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, “Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle.”

If only she had been in some sort of official position where she could offer and establish a set of organizing principles for U.S. foreign policy!

She also laments, “One issue is that we don’t even tell our own story very well these days.”

If only she had some position or role where she could help tell the American story!

She tells Goldberg, “One of the reasons why I worry about what’s happening in the Middle East right now is because of the breakout capacity of jihadist groups that can affect Europe, can affect the United States.”

Indeed, which is why one would think our State Department would listen to the warnings of our ambassadors in places, like, say, Benghazi.

Then she told Goldberg: “I think Israel did what it had to do to respond to the rockets… Israel has a right to defend itself. The steps Hamas has taken to embed rockets and command-and-control facilities and tunnel entrances in civilian areas, this makes a response by Israel difficult.”

 “[J]ust as we try to do in the United States and be as careful as possible in going after targets to avoid civilians,” mistakes are made, she said. “We’ve made them. I don’t know a nation, no matter what its values are—and I think that democratic nations have demonstrably better values in a conflict position—that hasn’t made errors, but ultimately the responsibility rests with Hamas.”

She went on to say that “it’s impossible to know what happens in the fog of war. Some reports say, maybe it wasn’t the exact UN school that was bombed, but it was the annex to the school next door where they were firing the rockets. And I do think oftentimes that the anguish you are privy to because of the coverage, and the women and the children and all the rest of that, makes it very difficult to sort through to get to the truth.”

She continued, “There’s no doubt in my mind that Hamas initiated this conflict. … So the ultimate responsibility has to rest on Hamas and the decisions it made.”

A lot of friends of Israel will applaud those words, but imagine how the world would have reacted if she had said that, say, a week and a half ago. Hillary Clinton’s comparably pro-Israel views may still get her in trouble with the Democratic Party’s base, but she sure was quiet these past two weeks, wasn’t she?

Above: Hillary, quietly yearning for an organizing principle.

 

 

Tags: Hillary Clinton

NRSC: Look Who Else Is Skipping Official Duties to Attend Fundraisers!



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From the first Morning Jolt of the week, a first look at a new NRSC ad hitting the opposition – both President Obama and several Senate candidates – for attending fundraisers and missing official duties:

NRSC: Look Who Else Is Skipping Official Duties to Attend Fundraisers!

All summer long, folks on the Right and more than a few in the center have criticized President Obama for keeping up with a relentless pace of attending political fundraisers while major crises at home and abroad explode and worsen. By July 26, he had attended 399 fundraisers during his presidency. In eight years, George W. Bush attended 328.

This morning, the National Republican Senatorial Committee unveils a new ad that reveals that several Senate Democrats and Senate Democratic candidates – Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Rep. Bruce Braley of Iowa, skipped hearings and votes to attend fundraisers.

A nice closing line: “Barack Obama and Senate Democrats are prioritizing their pocketbooks over yours.”

Tags: NRSC , Bruce Braley , Barack Obama , Jeanne Shaheen , Mark Begich

Can the Right Never Tell Obama He’s Making the Right Decision?



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If a conservative or Republican thinks air strikes against ISIS are a good idea… how loudly should they commend the president? Do most grassroots conservatives so strongly oppose this president and what he has done in office, that they cannot bring themselves to support any of this policies? Do they fear that any words of praise will somehow strengthen the president’s hand in other policy areas?

Or is it that after “leading from behind” in Libya, the Benghazi attacks and the false explanation of the YouTube video, a slow and ineffective response to Putin’s aggression, futile cease-fire efforts in the Middle East, a withdrawal from a worsening mess in Afghanistan, a quickly-forgotten “red line” in Syria, and so on, grassroots conservatives with hawkish instincts simply have no faith in Obama’s ability to successfully execute a policy they agree with?  

Republican foreign policy gurus gave President Obama and his administration considerable grief for not maintaining a significant U.S. military force in Iraq and not successfully negotiating a long-term status of forces agreement with the Iraqi government. Today, his remarks indicated that the United States may be making a long-term military commitment to fighting ISIS in the country: “I don’t think we’re going to solve this problem in weeks. … This is going to be a long-term project.”

President Obama makes brief remarks and answers a few questions from reporters about U.S. operations in Iraq, before leaving for his two-week vacation at Martha’s Vineyard. 

 

Tags: Iraq , ISIS , Barack Obama

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The Pride of Ill-Informed Protest



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The Left’s capacity to avert its eyes from human rights abuses that violate its principles is quite astounding:

“Ma’am, do you know anything about how Hamas treats homosexuals?”

Quick refresher:

The Hamas-controlled Gaza strip has declared lethal homophobia to be its policy. Hamas cofounder Mahmoud Zahar has said, “You in the West do not live like human beings. You do not even live like animals. You accept homosexuality. And now you criticize us?”

In an April broadcast on Hamas’s Al-Aksa TV, which was translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), Syrian academic Muhammad Rateb al- Nabulsi said, “Homosexuality involves a filthy place, and does not generate offspring. Homosexuality leads to the destruction of the homosexual. That is why, brothers, homosexuality carries the death penalty.”

 

Tags: Gaza Strip , Hamas , Israel

Suddenly, the Most Important Dam in the World



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See this dam?

That is the Mosul Dam, “a gargantuan, poorly-constructed dam in Iraq that, if breached, could launch a 65-foot-tall wall of water into one of the country’s largest cities and send flood waters all the way to Baghdad.”

Baghdad is 220 miles away — akin to blowing up a dam in Boston and flooding New York City.

And now ISIS controls it, according to Kurdish authorities: “Fuad Hussein, the chief of staff of the president of the Kurdistan region, confirmed on Friday that Islamic State militants had seized control of Iraq’s biggest dam in their latest offensive in the north of the country.”

Back in 2007, U.S. engineers warned about the dam’s poor conditions and the risk of failure: 

“A catastrophic failure of the Mosul Dam would result in flooding along the Tigris river all the way to Baghdad,” the US military commander General David Petraeus and the US ambassador Ryan Crocker warned the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, in a letter on 3 May this year. “Assuming a worst-case scenario, an instantaneous failure of Mosul Dam filled to its maximum operating level could result in a flood wave 20m deep at the city of Mosul, which would result in a significant loss of life and property.”

At that time, the death toll of a catastrophic failure was estimated to reach a half-million people.

Tags: Iraq , ISIS

After a Summer of Horrors, America Prepares to Punch Back



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From the last Morning Jolt of the week:

We’re Dropping Aid, and Maybe Some Bombs, if ISIS Gets Frisky.

We give President Obama a lot of deserved grief. But last night, facing  a tough choice, he finally did something besides vote “present.”

President Obama said Thursday that he authorized “targeted airstrikes” if needed to protect U.S. personnel in Iraq, as well as airdrops of food and water to religious minorities in Iraq who are under siege from Islamic militants and trapped on a mountaintop.

“Today, America is coming to help,” Obama said.

The administration has been weighing options for weeks, but the issue has come to a head with a mounting humanitarian crisis and unrelenting progress by Islamist extremists.

The most immediate crisis involved the Yazidis, a small religious minority, who have fled their homes and are trapped on a mountaintop surrounded by Islamist militants and are facing dehydration and starvation.

The U.S. military made an initial airdrop of meals and water to thousands of civilians threatened by militants on Thursday. The aircraft that made the drop safely exited the region after conducting a low-level flight and staying over the area for 15 minutes.

Three U.S. cargo aircraft delivered 72 bundles of supplies, including food and water, the Pentagon said. The aircraft were escorted by two FA-18 fighter attack jets.

The United States “cannot turn a blind eye” while innocent families face the prospect of “genocide,” Obama said, justifying U.S. military action that could eventually include airstrikes.

This is not “meddling” where we’re not wanted. The situation is simple. The Iraqis and Turks have made their own limited airborne efforts to save those refugees, but nobody has the abilities we have. Either we do it, and save lives, or most of those lives don’t get saved.

We shouldn’t fool ourselves into believing that ISIS would steer clear of attacking Americans. We know who these guys are.

“This is about America’s national security,” said Ryan Crocker, who was ambassador to Iraq under Mr. Bush and to Afghanistan under Mr. Obama. “We don’t understand real evil, organized evil, very well. This is evil incarnate. People like Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi,” the ISIS leader, “have been in a fight for a decade. They are messianic in their vision, and they are not going to stop.”

But if not, then the question arises: How far is Mr. Obama willing to go? He said on Thursday that there is “no American military solution” to the Iraqi insurgency, pointing again to the need for a new politically inclusive government in Baghdad. What he might do if that fails he did not say. And while aides stressed this is a narrow mission, they acknowledged scenarios in which it could expand.

Here’s what we could be doing in the coming days:

A senior administration official described the airstrike authorization as “narrow,” but outlined a number of broad contingencies in which they could be launched, including a possible threat to U.S. personnel in Baghdad from possible breaches in a major dam Islamist forces seized Thursday that could flood the Iraqi capital.

U.S. aircraft also are authorized to launch airstrikes if the military determines that Iraqi government and Kurdish forces are unable to break the siege that has stranded tens of thousands of civilians belonging to the minority Yazidi sect atop a barren mountain outside the northern town of Sinjar.

“As we can provide air support to relieve that pressure, the president has given the military the authority to do so,” the senior official said. He said that congressional leaders had been consulted, but that Obama had the legal authority as commander in chief to launch the strikes to protect U.S. personnel and national security interests.

And now, the ominous news

The consensus among ex-CIA analysts, former military officers, and Iraq veterans who spoke with The Daily Beast is that the Peshmerga’s abilities were overrated. No one questions the Kurds’ willingness to fight, but their military prowess appears to have degraded in the years since the U.S. military stopped training them and withdrew from Iraq.

Douglas Ollivant, a former Army officer who advised Gen. David Petraeus in Iraq and served under two presidents in the National Security Council, expressed a view common among military and intelligence officers: “I think the general consensus among the American military people in country is that the Kurds just aren’t any better than any other military force in Iraq, and we shouldn’t be surprised that they’re having the same lack of success as the rest of the Iraqi army.”

A former Special Forces officer in Iraq who maintains extensive contacts among the Kurdish forces points out another factor affecting their performance. “The Kurds’ biggest weakness is the size of the border they have to protect from ISIS and the imperative they are under to yield nothing,” he said. “ISIS can give up territory, but the Kurds cannot.”

Air strikes against ISIS targets can weaken the group, buy time, and prevent it from massing on Kurdish forces, but according to military and CIA veterans, air power alone will not be decisive.

This summer we’ve seen one evil force after another acting with impunity – ISIS crucifying people and committing religious cleansing and blowing up Christian shrines and churches, Russian separatists blowing airliners out of the sky, Taliban agents infiltrating the ranks of the Afghan army and killing our troops, Hamas launching rockets and hiding behind kids.

It is heartening to see America finally punching back.

Tags: Iraq , ISIS

Montana Democrats Still Looking for a Senate Candidate



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Sen. John Walsh, Montana Democrat, ended his reelection bid today. Attention turned to former governor Brian Schweitzer, who just made his decision clear:

 

Schweitzer’s mouth had gotten him in trouble recently, anyway.

Tags: Montana , Brian Schweitzer

‘The American Spectator’: Once a Magazine, Now a Foreign Policy



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ISIS reportedly took control of the Mosul dam in Iraq, and is approaching the oil fields of the Kurds:

The price of Brent crude rose above the $105 mark on Thursday after reports that Islamist militants were creeping closer to the semi-autonomous Kurdish region’s oilfields. Two car bombs killed nine people in the Kurdish-held Iraqi oil city of Kirkuk after an offensive by Isis fighters that has put Kurdish forces under pressure.

Meanwhile, in Washington: “The White House confirmed Thursday that President Obama’s vacation on Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., will include a campaign fundraiser and a brief return to Washington, D.C., for business meetings.”

That’s the president’s two-week vacation. 

Until then, the president is reviewing U.S. options… and reviewing them… and reviewing them…

President Obama is considering options to assist trapped minorities in Iraq, including possible airstrikes and airdrops of food and medicine, a government official said.

The administration has been mulling options for weeks…

As mentioned in today’s Jolt, “The American Spectator” used to refer to a magazine. Now it’s our foreign policy. 

’The American Spectator’ Used to Refer to a Magazine; Now It’s Our Policy

Anchoress’ latest is phenomenally depressing, so I’ll just link and mention the quote from an Iraqi Yazidi member of Parliament: “Our sisters are being taken and sold as slaves in the slave market! . . . I speak here in the name of humanity! Save us! Save us! Genocide in the 21st Century! We are being slaughtered! We are being exterminated! An entire religion is being exterminated from the face of the earth!”

The plight of the Yazidis, as of this morning:

Politicians appealed Wednesday for emergency aid for thousands of minority Iraqis who have been stranded with little food on a mountaintop in the country’s north, surrounded by al-Qaeda-inspired rebels.

For nearly two months, Kurdish forces had managed to protect the area from the Sunni extremists, who have rampaged through much of northern Iraq, slaughtering opponents, destroying ancient shrines and demanding that people of other religions convert or die. But last weekend the famously tough Kurdish fighters suffered their first setbacks in the Sinjar region, prompting hundreds of thousands of civilians to flee.

An estimated 10,000 to 40,000 of them sought refuge on the craggy peaks of Mount Sinjar — largely members of the minority Yazidi sect. They fear death if they descend into areas controlled by the extremist rebels, who consider them apostates. Kurdish forces have so far failed to break through the militants’ lines to reach them, despite launching a counteroffensive early this week.

The Iraqi government conducted two airdrops of aid to the desperate refugees on Wednesday, but humanitarian workers said they did not come close to meeting the growing need. Some of the water bottles in the aid bundles cracked open.

Remember when we had an administration that referred to people as “evildoers”? And how all of our social betters scoffed at how simplistic and insufficiently nuanced and childish that was? Anybody else have a better term for ISIS, and those pro-Russian separatists shooting down airliners, and Hamas leaders hiding in schools and hospitals, and that Taliban sleeper agent who killed our major general? How about those illegal immigrants who just killed a border patrol agent?

Now, today:

“I think it is important to remember that Hamas acts extraordinarily irresponsibly,” Obama said, “putting civilians at risk” with its taunting of Israel, and its placement of rocket launchers in civilian areas during conflict with the Jewish state.

Tags: ISIS

Mark Pryor, Campaigning on Saving the Export-Import Bank



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Is corporate welfare an easy sell on the campaign trail? In Arkansas, embattled Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Pryor is “traveling to a Hot Springs water company to talk about jobs legislation he’s proposed and to call for the reauthorization of the Export-Import bank.”

Our Veronique de Rugy calculated that Arkansas businesses received four-tenths of one percent of Export-Import Bank expenditures from 2007 to 2014. The largest share, by far, was Washington state — more than 43 percent! — because of Boeing, one of the bank’s biggest beneficiaries.

The Export-Import Bank backs 1.5 percent of exports generated in Arkansas.

Mark Pryor may not be so great at representing Arkansas, but he sure gives 100 percent to help big companies in Washington!

Our ​John Fund called the Export-Import Bank “essentially a form of corporate welfare for giant multinationals,” and called the coming fight over the bank “a moment of truth on corporate welfare.”

Pryor’s rival, Rep. Tom Cotton, offered potential reforms for the Export-Import Bank at a 2013 hearing

Tags: Mark Pryor , export-import bank , Tom Cotton

Democrats on a Hunt for a John Walsh Replacement



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Looks like Montana Republicans should prepare themselves for “The Torricelli Maneuver“: “Sen. John Walsh hasn’t made a public appearance since the weekend, and Montana Democrats are reviewing the steps they would need to take to replace him with another candidate if he decides to withdraw from the Senate race.”

Probably feeling a bit nervous right now.

No need for panic; the GOP’s candidate, Rep. Steve Daines, has led handily all year

 

UPDATE, 3:55 p.m. Eastern: And it’s official:

Tags: John Walsh , Montana , Steve Daines

NextGen: Hey, Our Attack Ad Is ‘Mostly True’!



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Liberal billionaire Tom Steyer’s environmental group, NextGen Climate Action Committee, ran a nasty ad against GOP Senate candidate Joni Ernst out in Iowa. PolitiFact rates the “ad” false and one of the sources cited in the ad calls the commercial ”inaccurate in its representation of my column.”

The group’s response?

WHAT NEXTGEN SAYS: “KCRG rated the first ad mostly true,” NextGen spokesman Bobby Whithorne said, referring to a fact-check of the ad released last week called “Joni Ernst’s Pledge.”

Nice defense: Our attack ad is mostly true!

Tags: NextGen , Tom Steyer

Our Political Elites’ Deadly Lack of Interest in a Secure Border



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From the Thursday Morning Jolt:

Another Fatal Consequence of Our Political Class’ Disinterest in a Secure Border

Awful, predictable, and awfully predictable:

Two illegal immigrants from Mexico who were charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of an off-duty U.S. Border Patrol agent in front of his family in Texas have been arrested and deported numerous times, police sources told FoxNews.com.

One suspect has been arrested no fewer than four times for entering the U.S. illegally, according to federal court records. The other has been deported twice after entering the U.S. illegally, sources said.

Gustavo Tijerina, 30, and Ismael Hernandez, 40, were arraigned Tuesday afternoon inside the Willacy County jail library. They were ordered held without bail after being charged with capital murder of a peace officer, attempted murder, and a variety of lesser charges.

The pair, who have been living in Texas illegally, confessed after being interviewed multiple times Monday to killing Border Patrol agent Javier Vega Jr. in front of his wife and two kids and his parents Sunday night while they were fishing in Santa Monica, Sheriff Larry Spence told FoxNews.com. The National Border Patrol Council, the union that represented Vega, has set up a memorial fund on behalf of his widow and three young children.

Let’s face it, a murdered U.S. Border Patrol agent isn’t necessarily something new for this administration.  We’ll have to wait and see if the gun used in this crime was one from Fast & Furious.

The lack of a secure border is an entirely theoretical problem for most of our political class. Lawmakers rarely if ever encounter illegal immigrants, much less dangerous ones, on Capitol Hill, or at their high-dollar fundraisers. Illegal immigrants don’t climb over the fence of Camp David or the White House.  The President isn’t likely to run into many illegal immigrants in his upcoming two-week vacation at Martha’s Vineyard.

This administration likes to brag about the number of deportations going up, but as the example of these men show, a deportation doesn’t mean much if, after they arrive in their home country, they can just turn around and cross the border into the United States. We need a border that is difficult to breach; otherwise our deportation policy amounts to a revolving door. 

Tags: Border Crisis , Illegal Immigration

Another Projection of a GOP Senate Majority in the Midterms



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The latest midterm election projection from The Monkey Cage over at the Washington Post will surely cheer Republicans, predicting the GOP will win control of the Senate.

They predict Republicans win currently Democrat-held seats in Arkansas, Louisiana, Alaska, Montana, South Dakota, West Virginia and Iowa. Republicans keep their seats in Kentucky and Georgia; Democrats hold onto seats in Colorado, Michigan, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Oregon.

However, the certainty of the projection seems a little… odd. They contend there’s a 98 percent chance that embattled incumbent Democrat Sen. Kay Hagan wins in North Carolina… and they also project Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell enjoys equally high odds of victory. Neither incumbent is likely to be so confident; polls show a close race in North Carolina and a small lead for McConnell in Kentucky

Tags: Senate Elections

Remember When Obama Called ISIS ‘Jayvee’?



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James Robbins reminds us that back in January, President Obama referred to ISIS as “jayvee,” as in, “junior varsity.”

In the 2012 campaign, Obama spoke not only of killing Osama bin Laden; he also said that Al Qaeda had been “decimated.” I pointed out that the flag of Al Qaeda is now flying in Falluja, in Iraq, and among various rebel factions in Syria; Al Qaeda has asserted a presence in parts of Africa, too.

“The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant,” Obama said, resorting to an uncharacteristically flip analogy.

The group President Obama dismissed as ”jayvee” now “controls a volume of resources and territory unmatched in the history of extremist organizations,” makes $3 million per day selling oil on the black market,  are battling for control of Iraq’s largest dam and the power supply for the city of Mosul, are spreading into Lebanon, are threatening to starve or slaughter “at least 40,000 members of the Yazidi sect,”, is organizing protests in the Netherlands and is stepping up its recruitment of Westerners.

Tags: Barack Obama , ISIS

Ed Fitzgerald, Driving Himself Out of a Competitive Governor’s Race



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By golly, Ohio Democratic gubernatorial nominee Ed Fitzgerald, if you’re going to get caught in parked car with a woman that isn’t your wife at 4:30 a.m. by a cop, make sure you have a valid driver’s license!

Who does he think he is, Jose Antonio Vargas? 

 

Tags: Ed Fitzgerald , John Kasich

The McDonnells and Our Increasingly Insane Political Class



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From the midweek edition of the Morning Jolt:

The McDonnells and Our Increasingly Insane Political Class

Ladies and gentlemen, I suspect you’ll understand that my kind words for former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell rank among my biggest professional regrets.

This is for several reasons, but preeminently, it appears the governor and his wife turned themselves into walking infomercials for the dietary supplements produced by one of the governor’s top donors. And they may very well have behaved in a manner you and I would consider… not quite sane:

A day earlier, a onetime aide testified that after then-governor McDonnell endorsed Mitt Romney for president in 2012, McDonnell’s wife sought out the candidate at a news media session in South Carolina to promote the dietary supplement.

Phil Cox, Robert McDonnell’s chief political adviser at the time, said that he put a stop to that plan but that Maureen McDonnell went on to talk up the supplement to Romney’s wife on a campaign bus. He said she told Ann Romney that the anti­-inflammatory supplement could “potentially cure MS.”

While Ann Romney, who has multiple sclerosis, listened politely, Cox said, he feared the episode would reflect poorly on his boss, who at the time was considered a possible Romney running mate.

“I was horrified,” Cox testified. “I thought it was a train wreck.”

How do you do that? How do you go up to a woman with multiple sclerosis and tell her that a dietary supplement produced by one of your top donors might cure her disease?

Are people crazy when they get into politics, or does the process of politics drive them crazy?

Every profession has their share of people who are “crazy”, and your garden variety of eccentricity and odd behavior is in the eye of the beholder. (In the first Blackford Oakes novel, Saving the Queen, a character declares, “Other people’s rituals always seem strange.”) But doesn’t it feel like, with increasing regularity, we hear about behavior on the part of elected officials that might get them steered to a psychiatric clinic, or at least counseling?

Yes, politics always had its share of Jim Traficants and Jesse Venturas. Some would toss Marion Barry into that mix, although I’m not sure mere poor impulse control and disregard for the law necessarily meet the threshold of “crazy” we’re examining. Jim Bunning’s behavior in his later years, perhaps. Mike Gravel’s campaign ad.

Perhaps Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee’s belief that Neil Armstrong planted a flag on Mars qualifies, or her assertion that “Today, we have two Vietnams, side by side, North and South, exchanging and working.” Or perhaps Rep. Hank Johnson expressing a fear during a hearing that the island of Guam could “tip over and capsize” if too many military personnel were stationed there.

How do we explain the behavior of, say, Anthony Weiner? Or David Wu?

“It’s the eye of the tiger, it’s the thrill of the fight, rising up to the challenge of our rival…”

I suppose politics requires a person to be particularly good at two sometimes challenging tasks: 1) being particularly charming and appealing to immensely wealthy people, so charming and appealing that they’re willing to write checks to your campaign and 2) being appealing to the electorate at large.

There’s undoubtedly stress, fear of defeat, desperation, a widening gulf between the private self and the public face held up for approval. Does this, at some point, wear down one’s mental health? Is shamelessness such a prerequisite for running for office that candidates and their spouses lose a sense of what’s abnormal human behavior? Or is political ambition by itself a bit of abnormal human behavior?

Tags: Bob McDonnell , Politics

Those Strange Hipsters Who Prefer Hamas...



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Young Americans (age 18 to 29) blame Israel more than Hamas for the current violence — 29 percent to 21 percent, and Democrats are about evenly split on who is more responsible for the current violence — 26 percent blame Israel, 29 percent blame Hamas. Liberals split evenly, 30 percent to 30 percent, on who is more responsible. 

For all of those young liberal Democrats angrier at Israel than Hamas… 

Tags: Hamas , Israel , Democrats , Young Voters

Gillespie Campaign: If Only We Could All Fly ‘Air Warner’!



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In Virginia, the Ed Gillespie for Senate campaign unveils a new video hitting Sen. Mark Warner for charging taxpayers for charter flights around the state:

The ad stems from this report in USA Today:

Last summer, Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., embarked on what his office trumpeted as a four-day, 1,000-mile trip across his state, with press releases noting he “woke up early to hit the road,” making stops at a minor league ballpark, a craft brewery and a Roanoke rail yard, among others.

But for several hundred of those miles, Warner was not hitting the road — he was flying a chartered plane at a cost to taxpayers of $8,500.

Warner was one of two dozen U.S. senators who flew taxpayer-funded charter airplanes to, from or around their home state last year at a total cost of just under $1 million, according to a USA TODAY analysis of Senate spending records compiled by the nonpartisan Sunlight Foundation

Senators pay for their official duties from taxpayer-funded accounts set aside for them to cover costs of staff, travel, office supplies and the like. The rules allow them to use these accounts to pay for charter aircraft for official travel when commercial flights “are not such that reasonable schedules may be kept.” Senators decide which way to travel, and some eschewed private jets in favor of flying commercial or simply driving.

Warner’s 1,000-mile trip took him to the far reaches of western Virginia, which is pretty remote territory with no commercial airports. But a month earlier, Virginia’s other U.S. senator, Tim Kaine, made a swing to the same corner of the state by car; his travel cost taxpayers $691. Both Warner and Kaine are Democrats representing the state that is closest to the U.S. Capitol.

 

Tags: Mark Warner , Ed Gillespie

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