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The Campaign Spot

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

What to Watch For in Nebraska and West Virginia Tomorrow



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Also from today’s Morning Jolt, which you would have by now if you were a subscriber:

GOP Primary Voters Feeling Sasse-y in Nebraska

Nebraska and West Virginia hold their primaries tomorrow.

The title fight in GOP circles is the fight in Nebraska’s GOP Senate primary, with not a heck of lot of polling so far. For what it’s worth, here is the most recent poll, one from a reliable pollster but contracted by an organization with a dog in the fight:

The Magellan Strategies poll of 525 likely Republican voters was conducted May 8 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percentage points. The poll was conducted one day after Bruning received endorsements from Gov. Dave Heineman and Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert. The results were posted online by the Legacy Foundation Action Fund, a group supporting Sasse.

In the Senate race, Sasse received the support of 38 percent of respondents, well ahead of banker Sid Dinsdale’s 24 percent. One-time front-runner Shane Osborn, a former Nebraska state treasurer, had 20 percent. Attorney Bart McLeay brought up the rear with 6 percent.

The undercard fight is the battle for the GOP nomination for governor; the crowded field includes state attorney general Jon C. Bruning, state senator Tom Carlson, Auditor of Public Accounts Mike Foley, state senator Beau McCoy, former Ameritrade COO J. Peter “Pete” Ricketts, and lawyer Bryan Slone.

From that May 8 poll:

In the governor’s race, Ricketts received the support of 25 percent of survey respondents, while Bruning received 24 percent — well within the margin of error. State Auditor Mike Foley, meanwhile, trailed with 18 percent and State Sen. Beau McCoy won the backing of 16 percent. Bryan Slone and Tom Carlson rounded out the pack, with both earning 5 percent.

West Virginia’s Senate primaries won’t be as exciting:

The outcome in the race to succeed retiring U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, (D., W.Va.) — a showdown between Republican Rep. Shelley Moore Capito and Democrat Secretary of State Natalie Tennant — is all but certain. And on the state level, among the six Northern Panhandle delegate districts, only two —the 3rd and 4th — feature contested primaries.

In fact, there’s some argument that the general election won’t be all that exciting, either. Stu Rothenberg of Roll Call concludes, “I don’t currently see a path for West Virginia Democrat Natalie Tennant.”

Tags: Nebraska , Ben Sasse , Sid Dinsdale , Shane Osborn , West Virginiia

‘We Only Get to Make a Hire Every Four or Five Years.’



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Take a moment to ponder the irony in this statement, in an article on the lack of diversity in the staffs of liberal publications by Gabriel Arana in The American Prospect:

The stagnation of the industry also means there are few opportunities to increase diversity. “The staff here is unionized, which means there is little job turnover,” says Richard Kim, executive editor at The Nation, who is Asian American and gay.  “We only get to make a hire every four or five years.” Among the progressive publications I examined, The Nation scored the lowest, with slightly over 4 percent of its staff hailing from ethnic minority groups.

If unionization leads to fewer turnover and openings, and an anemic rate of new job creation… why would we want unionization to be as widespread as possible in our economy? Could our friends on the Left at least acknowledge that unionization of workforces at companies includes considerable downsides, and that not everyone who opposes unionization is some greedy, malevolent, ruthless little guy from Monopoly?

The article also notes, “While publications like The Atlantic and The Nation have begun to pay their interns minimum wage—in the case of the latter, after an intern revolt last year—most publications offer a meager stipend or do not pay at all. The New Republic, Slate, Salon, Harper’s, the Washington Monthly, and Vox’s* internships are all unpaid. The Prospect pays its interns a stipend of $100 per week.”

So just to refresh, magazines that furiously denounce those who oppose raising the minimum wage have people working for them who do not get paid the minimum wage. 

Do the editors ever assign the unpaid interns to research sweatshops?

* After this post went up, The American Prospect added a correction that Vox does pay its interns. Also, Jacob Weisberg says Slate does pay its interns and blames me for getting it wrong

Tags: Unions , Liberals

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Congressional Democrats Agonize Over Which Course Will Best Prove They Matter



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From the first Morning Jolt of the week:

Congressional Democrats Agonize Over Which Course Will Best Prove They Matter

There’s a certain sweetness in watching a cynical, ruthless political opposition frozen in indecision because they can’t decide which option is more politically advantageous:

House Democrats on Sunday made it clear that they do not expect fair proceedings from the Republican-led panel newly tasked with investigating the 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, but offered no definitive answer on whether they would appoint any of their own members to participate.

It doesn’t really matter. The Democrats seem to think that their participation comes with some sort of nebulous sense of “validity” stapled to it, and that their participation is a bargaining chip that the Republicans greatly desire. They also seem convinced that they can somehow strong-arm special committee chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C. into giving them the power to veto subpoenas in exchange for this nebulous sense of “validity.”

Congressional Democrats greatly overestimate the value of their presence, both in this particular example and as a general rule.

Still, with or without Democrats, the House panel faces the steepest of uphill climbs because it’s trying to reintroduce a concept that this administration rejects on a cellular level: accountability. This is the administration where Kathleen Sebelius stays on the job after she blind-sides the president on the condition of Healthcare.gov, IRS employees retire early and go on paid administrative leave, and the four State Department officials most directly responsible for not acting on Ambassador Chris Stevens’ warnings were put on paid administrative leave. For a while. Then they were reinstated. This is an administration where it is commonplace for Cabinet secretaries and other high-profile officials to conduct official business on “alternative” e-mail accounts that somehow never get included in responses to Freedom of Information Act requests. This administration collectively shrugs when they learn that the president spent enormous political capital – and $10.5 billion in taxpayer money – to save a car company that made cars that killed people if their key chains were too heavy.

If there were any pulse left in the idealistic guy who ran for president in 2008, who promised a vastly improved federal government to the American people, the president would be saying something like this:

When the uprising against Qaddafi began in Libya, it was clear to me that it was in our national interest to stand with the people against an autocratic ruler who had sponsored terrorism against Americans in the past and whose long history of irrational and brutal rule meant he could never be a reliable U.S. ally. Our effort to help the Libyans build a decent and just form of government was spearheaded by one of the very best of our diplomatic corps, Chris Stevens. Chris and his team, along with our intelligence community, had a separate, difficult and dangerous mission: securing the now-loose weapons of Qaddafi’s arsenal, rapidly flowing to the wrong hands in and out of Libya. We knew that during Libya’s civil war, our Qatari allies had sent anti-aircraft weapons to help the rebels – and those weapons could lead to a massacre if they ended up in the hands of a terrorist. I know many Americans feel like we’ve already spent too much blood and treasure trying to help these far-off corners of the world turn the corner from bloody chaos to order and peace. But this was a danger we felt we needed to address, because someday it might threaten the lives of Americans  – and that meant we had to have Americans on the ground in dangerous places like Benghazi.

We now know our State Department underestimated the threat, and did not take the warnings from the staff on the ground seriously enough. Our military took the first steps to mobilizing forces for a rescue that night, but our efforts didn’t move nearly quickly enough as our brave men and women in harm’s way have a right to expect. And our explanation to the American people in the days afterwards blurred the lines between a protest in Egypt and what clearly was an opportunistic, barbaric attack by terrorists, hell-bent on killing Americans.  The suddenness of the attack, and the challenges of geography and the murky, shifting alliances in far-off lands with little functioning government are factors, but not an excuse. The American people deserve better, and we must perform better in the future.

We’ll never get anything resembling that speech from President Obama. He’s just not capable of it. 

Tags: Benghazi , Congressional Democrats , Barack Obama

Senator Mary Landrieu’s Worst Poll of 2014 . . . So Far.



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Senator Mary Landrieu hasn’t polled particularly well all year, but this latest one from Southern Media and Opinion Research is disastrous for her:

Sen. Mary Landrieu’s approval ratings have taken a major hit, but she still enjoys a 36-35 percent lead over Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, according to a poll Thursday by Southern Media & Opinion Research.

The poll says that 58 percent of the 600 likely voters surveyed rated the three-term Democrat’s performance as either poor or “not so good,” while 39 percent rated her performance excellent or good. The polling firm said negatives for Landrieu, who has been attacked recently in a series of ads by Americans for Prosperity and two other conservative advocacy groups, increased from 28 percent to 58 percent in a little over 18 months.

That 36 percent to 35 percent lead doesn’t mean much. Louisiana has a “jungle primary,” where all candidates are listed on the ballot in November and if no candidate gets 50 percent plus one — a good possibility — there is a runoff between the two top finishers on December 6. You could interpret this poll as Landrieu getting 36 percent and 46 percent for Republican candidates.

It’s a tough issue environment for Landrieu:

The poll found that 62.5 percent were opposed to the Affordable Care Act, a 2010 law that Landrieu voted for and continues to support, though she’s called for changes to make it work better. Cassidy, Maness and Hollis continue to urge that the law be repealed.

The poll, conducted April 28–30, has a margin of error of +/– 4 percentage points.

Tags: Mary Landrieu , Bill Cassidy , Paul Hollis , Rob Maness , Louisiana

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s Culture of Complacency



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From the last Morning Jolt of the week:

Signs of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s Culture of Complacency

Of course:

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has not yet said whether Democrats will boycott or participate in the [House Special Committee to investigate the Benghazi attacks]. An initial request for an even-partisan split on the committee was rebuffed. Many leading Democrats have advocated for a boycott, but that would create a vacuum of Democratic response to the GOP-led investigation that is likely to call for testimony from Obama administration officials.

“We’re so sure there’s not a cover-up, and so committed to getting the truth, that we’re not going to participate!”

In Benghazi, we have the spectacle of Democrats insisting that by forming a special investigative committee, the Republicans are making a huge, self-destructive mistake that will end in their own embarrassment and humiliation . . . 

. . . and then doing everything possible to prevent the Republicans from doing that. They must be doing it out of brotherly love!

Gee, fellas, if there’s nothing more to learn about why Ambassador Stevens’ warnings were ignored, if there’s nothing more to learn about our response that night and whether more could have or should have been done, and if there’s nothing more to learn about why the administration spent the first days after the attack telling the public a false explanation . . . then there’s nothing for Democrats or the Obama administration to worry about right? They wouldn’t have any reason to withhold anything. In a year or so, when the special committee offers their final report, everyone will see it’s just the same old stuff, yawn, and scoff that this was a giant waste of time.

But Democrats seem to be doing everything possible to prevent that from happening. Almost as if they think a full investigation wouldn’t lead to that humiliation for the special committee.

Notice this from Jeryl Bier:

In 2012, even U.S. State Department diplomats in Nigeria seemed mystified about why the government was “reluctant” to issue the designation.

On September 20, 2012, then Bureau of African Affairs Assistant Secretary Johnnie Carson appeared on a State Department “Live at State” webchat regarding “U.S. Policy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa.” Questions from journalists and other individuals via webchat were posed to Carson by the host, Holly Jensen. At one point, a question was asked by the “U.S. Consulate in Lagos [Nigeria]“:

MS. JENSEN: The U.S. Consulate in Lagos wants to know: Why is the government reluctant to designate the Boko Haram sect as a foreign terrorist organization?

AMBASSADOR CARSON: Thank you very much. We look at the issue of Boko Haram as a major concern not only to Nigeria but also to Nigeria’s neighbors and Niger and Cameroon and Benin as well. Boko Haram, we believe, is not a homogenous, monolithic organization, but it is comprised of several different kinds of groups.

. . . In the September 2012 webchat, Carson seemed to suggest that the State Department did not even consider the “Boko Haram movement,” as he called it, to necessarily be a terror organization, but rather several groups simply “focused on trying to discredit the Nigerian Government”:

As I laid out on Campaign Spot yesterday, Boko Haram’s terror tactics were crystal clear by 2009; by 2012, it was ludicrously inaccurate to characterize them as “focused on trying to discredit the Nigerian government.”

With Benghazi and now in Nigeria, we have two examples of State Department people on the ground sending back warnings of gathering terrorist threats . . . and in both cases, the warnings were ignored.

Remember all the talk about New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s alleged culture of bullying within his administration? How about the signs of a culture of complacency in Hillary Clinton’s State Department?

How carefully did Hillary Clinton’s State Department
monitor terror groups overseas?

Tags: Hillary Clinton , State Department , Boko Haram , Benghazi

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Hillary Staffer Still Fears ‘Moving’ on Boko Haram Will ‘Give Them a Recruitment Boost’



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The American public is largely isolationist and tunes out the rest of the world . . . until some Islamist nut-job kidnaps a couple hundred schoolgirls and promises to sell them as slaves.

Because the Boko Haram abduction story now tangentially involves president-in-waiting Hillary Clinton — in that Hillary Clinton and her staff at the State Department consistently resisted calls to declare Boko Haram a terrorist group — the story is going to take a dramatically different turn in some outlets.

Some outlets will take a sudden interest in the corruption, dysfunction, and allegations of human-rights abuses within the Nigerian government, suggesting that the State Department was wise to minimize its interaction with this country and its internal fighting.

Some will offer the State Department’s fear that declaring Boko Haram a terrorist group would make the situation worse. This is a baffling assertion, because if it were true, the United States should never label any organization anywhere a terrorist group. As Andy McCarthy notes elsewhere on NRO,

The main point of having the list, and the sanctions that accompany a terrorist designation, is to weaken the organization by depriving it of assets and material support. The logic of what Clinton supporters are claiming is that U.S. counter-terrorism law — much of which was put in place by the administration of President Bill Clinton — does more harm than good.

Some senior members of Hillary Clinton’s staff still contend that putting an organization on the terrorism list helps it with recruitment:

“At the time — and I still think it’s very true — we didn’t move on Boko Haram because we thought it would give them a recruitment boost,” former Obama administration Undersecretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson told ABC News on Thursday.

Perhaps it is true that any U.S. action will call more attention to the group, and the ruthless men of Boko Haram will take perverse pride in being called a terrorist by the United States. But so what? Are we trying to lower their self-esteem, or mitigate and impede their reign of terror? If we’re concerned about calling more attention to them, it’s a bit late for that, with the global coverage of their mass kidnapping.

As Jeryl Bier noticed, a staffer from the U.S. Consulate in Lagos asked Carson in September 2012, “Why is the government reluctant to designate the Boko Haram sect as a foreign terrorist organization?” Carson offered an answer that suggested doubt about whether they met the definition of terrorist:

We believe that the bulk of the Boko Haram movement is — they’re focused on trying to discredit the Nigerian Government, trying to do everything in its power to show that the government is ineffective in the defense of its people and in the protection of government institutions, so we have not designated the entire organization.

Finally, the State Department — under John Kerry — designated Boko Haram a terrorist group in November 2013, noting:

While the group’s principal focus is Nigeria, the United States cites links to the al Qaeda affiliate in West Africa, and extremist groups in Mali. Gen. Carter Ham, then the commander of U.S. Africa Command, has warned Congress that Boko Haram elements “aspire to a broader regional level of attacks,” including against United States and European interests.

So if designating a terrorist group a terrorist group empowers them, why was it such a good thing for the U.S. government to do it in 2013?

Some may try to argue Boko Haram wasn’t as ruthless, dangerous, or as serious a threat until recently. This is nonsense; the group was founded in 2002, had been referred to as Nigeria’s Taliban in 2004, announced its explicitly Islamist agenda in 2009. Their name literally means “Western education is a sin,” so it’s not like these guys are vague about their agenda or ideology.

And their methodology became increasingly dramatic during Hillary’s time at the State Department:

There is no doubt that the suppression operation of 2009, and the killing of Muhammad Yusuf by Nigerian security forces in July of that year, was a turning point for Boko Haram. The group was frequently said at this time to be defunct.[6] In September 2010 (coinciding with Ramadan), however, Boko Haram carried out a prison break (said to have released some 700 prisoners),[7] and the group began operations again. Its major operations since that time can be divided into the following attack categories: 1) military (three operations); 2) police (at least 16 operations); 3) teachers/university (five operations); 4) banks and markets (two operations); 5) carrying out al-amr bi-l-ma`ruf attacks on beer drinkers, card-players, etc. (at least five operations); 6) attacks on Christian preachers and churches (at least three operations); and 7) targeted assassinations (at least five major operations) . . . 

Most dramatic has been the transition of Boko Haram toward the use of suicide attacks, starting with the attack on the police General Headquarters in Abuja on June 16, 2011 and then culminating with the attack on the UN headquarters, also in Abuja, on August 26, 2011.

That suicide bombing attack on the UN headquarters killed 21 people.

Finally, we will undoubtedly see people accusing Republicans of “politicizing the girls” or “politicizing the issue.” This is the pundit equivalent of punting on fourth down; if the decision-making of our government is ruled out of bounds for discussion, we might as well shut down the news business entirely.

Of course, Hillary defenders have one last response in their arsenal:

Tags: Hillary Clinton , Boko Haram , State Department

Obama Administration Advocated ‘Social Justice’ Response to Boko Haram



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As noted in today’s Jolt, the worldwide concern and outrage over the abduction of nearly 300 Nigerian schoolgirls is putting the spotlight on an awkward decision on the part of the U.S. government in the not-so-distant past:

The State Department under Hillary Clinton fought hard against placing the al Qaeda-linked militant group Boko Haram on its official list of foreign terrorist organizations for two years.

For what it is worth, Hillary Clinton called the perpetrators’ actions “terrorism” in a tweet a few days ago:

And then there’s Michelle Obama’s contribution to the effort to recover the kidnapped girls:

Recall that Hillary’s persona, from 2008 to today, supposedly featured toughness and military hawkishness. But if you wanted to argue that the State Department under Hillary was . . . reticent and all too lax about gathering threats, you can point to Benghazi and now this:

The Obama administration has been critical of the military approach of the Jonathan government, which is dominated by Christians from the country’s south, in dealing with the insurrection in the predominantly Muslim north.

Washington has advocated a wider economic and social-justice agenda to counter the dogmatic Islamists and increase national loyalty among disaffected northern Nigerians. Jonathan has mostly ignored the advice, [Johnnie Carson, who was assistant secretary of state for Africa until last year] and others said.

Would “a wider economic and social-justice agenda” really have proven effective against a ruthless Islamist leader who issues taunting videos declaring, “I abducted your girls. There is a market for selling humans. Allah says I should sell. He commands me to sell”?

Carson tells the Post:

There has always been a security response to these problems, and that security response generally has been very, very heavy-handed — brutal in many instances.

A reminder of what Boko Haram is doing besides kidnappings:

Boko Haram members had gunned down or bombed worshipers in at least 16 church services in 2012. The group also burned schools, bombed newspaper offices, and assassinated Muslim clerics, politicians, and traditional leaders. In the first 10 months of 2012 alone, more than 900 people died in suspected attacks by the group — more than in 2010 and 2011 combined.

With foes like this, can you blame the Nigerians for being “heavy-handed”?

Tags: Boko Haram , Hillary Clinton , Nigeria

Pointing Out the Social Cocoon of the Progressive Aristocracy



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From the Thursday edition of the Morning Jolt:

Why It’s Worth Pointing Out, and Mocking, the Progressive Aristocracy

Naturally, some folks didn’t quite grasp the point of yesterday’s column that offered a tongue-in-cheek denial of the existence of a Progressive Aristocracy. That denial offered gobs and gobs of examples of high-ranking lawmakers and their offspring who have gone into lucrative and/or powerful consulting gigs, lobbying jobs, appointed government positions, elected offices of their own, or other rewards from being related to a lawmaker.

“This is nothing new!” was the most common cry. Neither is murder, larceny, racism, bad manners, or a host of other bad things in life; a problem’s long history doesn’t mean we ignore it or shrug and accept it.

Then there were the “Republicans do it too!” Indeed, and it doesn’t make it right. I do suspect that Progressives’ certainty that they’re fighting for all that is good and just and noble simply by drawing breath prompts them to cut themselves a bit more slack when it comes to using their offices to help out their relatives. I did appreciate the commenter who added, “When government becomes the family business, the whole idea is to preserve and sustain it, which is inherently a Progressive project.”

Others asked how this differed from garden-variety nepotism. Look, if you build the family business, you’re entitled to hand it down to your children. To contradict our president, “you built that. Somebody else didn’t make that happen.” If you do build something, you’ll have a lot of discretion about how you spend the money that comes in.

But once credit and responsibility for building and maintaining an institution is more diffuse – say, a large public corporation or university – there should be much less tolerance for a head honcho taking bites out of the budget to set up limited-responsibility, limited-accountability jobs to help out his friends and relatives. Sure, you can do it here and there, but at some point, it becomes a problem. Corporate or university boards don’t appoint CEOs and presidents so they can use their power and resources to help out their buddies and hapless nephews. If it’s done, it must be done on the minimal scale.

Public office is a completely different matter. Yesterday, discussing Bill Clinton, I wrote, “We don’t elect a man into the Oval Office so he can score with women more frequently.” We don’t elect people to public office so their relatives can score sweet gigs in the lawmaker’s support network.

(If nepotism is so harmless, why does no one ever want to admit it’s been done? Why do we so rarely hear anyone admitting, “I got the job because my dad has connections”? Why didn’t Chelsea Clinton begin her first appearance at NBC News, “Thanks Brian, it’s great to be here, and I hope that in this position I’ll offer something beyond providing the news division a closer connection to my parents”?)

These little helping hands given to the children of the best-connected parents make a difference. Companies only have so many slots open at any one time; any one handed to a connected relative is one that doesn’t go to an otherwise qualified applicant. Maybe those sons and sons-in-laws of prominent Democratic congressional leaders are brilliant lobbyists – or maybe they represent a legal way of buying goodwill with a powerful lawmaker. Maybe a five-figure fee for “campaign outreach” services paid to a lawmaker’s cousin represents money well spent, but if it isn’t, it’s money that could have more wisely been spent elsewhere. Maybe the offspring of prominent congressmen really are the best choices for various federal boards and agencies – but anyone who isn’t related to a senator or House member then has a tougher hill to climb to achieve that position.

Nepotism isn’t the only way that America’s most wealthy and powerful ensure that their children will also be wealthy and powerful, but it’s a piece of the puzzle. It’s a thumb-on-the-scale bit of legal cheating that everyone averts their eyes from because acknowledging it too openly would raise the question of how many of the folks in the highest positions of our country actually earned them.

About a year ago, Ross Douthat had a fantastic column about this . . . 

The intermarriage of elite collegians is only one of these mechanisms — but it’s an enormously important one. The outraged reaction to her comments notwithstanding, [Susan] Patton wasn’t telling Princetonians anything they didn’t already understand. Of course Ivy League schools double as dating services. Of course members of elites — yes, gender egalitarians, the males as well as the females — have strong incentives to marry one another, or at the very least find a spouse from within the wider meritocratic circle. What better way to double down on our pre-existing advantages? What better way to minimize, in our descendants, the chances of the dread phenomenon known as “regression to the mean”?

That this “assortative mating,” in which the best-educated Americans increasingly marry one another, also ends up perpetuating existing inequalities seems blindingly obvious, which is no doubt why it’s considered embarrassing and reactionary to talk about it too overtly. We all know what we’re supposed to do — our mothers don’t have to come out and say it!

Why, it would be like telling elite collegians that they should all move to similar cities and neighborhoods, surround themselves with their kinds of people and gradually price everybody else out of the places where social capital is built, influence exerted and great careers made. No need — that’s what we’re already doing! (What Richard Florida called “the mass relocation of highly skilled, highly educated and highly paid Americans to a relatively small number of metropolitan regions, and a corresponding exodus of the traditional lower and middle classes from these same places” is one of the striking social facts of the modern meritocratic era.) We don’t need well-meaning parents lecturing us about the advantages of elite self-segregation, and giving the game away to everybody else. . . . 

And this social cocoon of America’s best-educated, wealthiest, and best-connected has serious impact on our national politics. Examine Matthew Continetti’s brilliant dissection of a profile piece of MSNBC host Alex Wagner and White House chef Sam Kass:

Wagner is pretty, bubbly, and informed, and though her show reminds me of an interminable seminar on theories of representation in the West, I’d rather watch an hour of her than any of the other MSNBC hosts. Yet I cannot help being struck by the disjunction between her attitude toward conservative elites and her attitude toward herself, toward her own part of the upper crust. I cannot help being struck by the unknowingness with which she and her guests establish categories such as “rich” and “elite” that exclude everyone they know.

The game is rigged,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) famously told the 2012 Democratic National Convention. What an odd situation in which we find ourselves, where the most influential figures in politics, media, culture, and the academy, the leaders of institutions from the presidency to the Senate to multinational corporations to globally recognized universities, spend most of their time discussing inequalities of income and opportunity, identifying, blaming, and attacking the mysterious and nefarious figures behind whatever the social problem of the day might be. This is the way the clique that runs America justifies the inequalities endemic to “meritocracy,” the way it masks the flaws of a power structure that generates Brown-educated cable hosts and personal chefs who open ballparks with a phone call. This is how a new American aristocracy comes into being, one as entitled and clueless as its predecessors, but without the awareness of itself as a class.

Progressive aristocrats don’t like it when you call them an aristocracy for two reasons. First, it asserts that they think they’re better than everyone else; they often do think that, but they recognize the potential risk in saying so openly. But secondly, it suggests they don’t really deserve that high perch that’s so central to their sense of identity.

Tags: Progressives , Culture of Corruption

Hillary Clinton: Soon Americans Will Execute Each Other for Chewing Gum



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One final section of today’s Jolt worth sharing over here . . . 

Hillary Clinton: Soon Americans Will Execute Each Other for Chewing Gum

In other Clinton news . . . 

Speaking at a National Council for Behavioral Health conference outside of Washington, [Hillary] Clinton was asked about the role guns play in suicides. While Clinton said she supports Second Amendment rights, she added that there needs to be a proper trade-off between safety and freedom, and that things have swung too far toward the latter.

“I think again we’re way out of balance. We’ve got to rein in what has become almost an article of faith that almost anybody can have a gun anywhere at any time. And I don’t believe that is in the best interest of the vast majority of people,” she said.

She referred to recent high-profile incidents of minor disputes in movie theaters or parking lots that escalated into lethal shootings, saying, “That’s what happens in the countries I’ve visited that have no rule of law.”

She decried new laws proliferating across the country that allow people to carry weapons in churches, bars, and other public places, saying that they will only lead to more deadly violence that could otherwise be avoided. “At the rate we’re going, we’re going to have so many people with guns,” she continued, “in settings where . . . [they] decide they have a perfect right to defend themselves against the gum chewer or the cell-phone talker.”

What a wonderful faith she has in her fellow citizens!

She wants to lead us, but that doesn’t necessarily mean she trusts us or particularly likes us.

She’s talking nonsense, of course. No one needs to draw a firearm because of a loud, rude, or obnoxious cell-phone talker. That’s what Kevin Williamson is for.

Tags: Hillary Clinton , Gun Control

Charlie Crist of 2014 Denounces Charlie Crist of 2010



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Charlie Crist, the Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat candidate for governor in Florida, declares the GOP is “anti-woman, anti-immigrant, anti-minority, anti-gay, anti-education, anti-environment.”

Does Crist’s effort to beat Marco Rubio in the 2010 Senate race count as “anti-minority”?

When he says, anti-immigrant, does he mean a position like this?

The first thing we need to realize about immigration reform is to make sure that we seal the border. Everything else is an academic conversation unless and until we do that. Second, we need to make sure that we’re enforcing the law. Laws on the books don’t mean anything if they’re not being enforced. And third, those who are already here shouldn’t be advantaged by the fact that they got here illegally.

That of course, is what Charlie Crist said on immigration back in 2010.

Charlie Crist is appalled by the past positions and party affiliation
of Charlie Crist.

Tags: Charlie Crist , Marco Rubio

Ten Conclusions from the Lewinsky Scandal, 16 Years Later



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Also in today’s Jolt:

Marty! Set the Flux Capacitor to . . . 1998!

Tuesday we learned that Monica Lewinsky will be telling her side of the story in Vanity Fair:

After 10 years of virtual silence (“So silent, in fact,” she writes, “that the buzz in some circles has been that the Clintons must have paid me off; why else would I have refrained from speaking out? I can assure you that nothing could be further from the truth”), Lewinsky, 40, says it is time to stop “tiptoeing around my past — and other people’s futures. I am determined to have a different ending to my story. I’ve decided, finally, to stick my head above the parapet so that I can take back my narrative and give a purpose to my past. (What this will cost me, I will soon find out.)”

Ten conclusions on the Lewinsky scandal, 16 years later:

One: Many Americans were or are wary of judging a president caught in a sex scandal too harshly because they can recall times when they themselves did something stupid, or unwise, in the realm of sex.

Two: Nonetheless, our sympathy and empathy for those who make stupid mistakes because of their sex drives may prompt us to too casually dismiss the consequences of those mistakes.

The fascinating writer on philosophy Alain de Botton:

Only religions still take sex seriously, in the sense of properly respecting its power to turn us away from our priorities. Only religions see it as something potentially dangerous and needing to be guarded against. Perhaps only after killing many hours online at youporn.com can we appreciate that on this one point religions have got it right: Sex and sexual images can overwhelm our higher rational faculties with depressing ease. Religions are often mocked for being prudish, but they wouldn’t judge sex to be quite so bad if they didn’t also understand that it could be rather wonderful.

Three: Given the opportunity, some powerful men will choose to live like a sultan with a harem. Some Americans may vehemently disagree with an arrangement like this, but it is legal. (Think of Hugh Hefner, Tiger Woods pre-scandal, and Charlie Sheen.) But it’s one thing for a powerful man to accumulate his harem from the fortunes of a publishing empire or celebrity status; it’s another to do so from the stature acquired from being elected to public office. We don’t elect a man into the Oval Office so he can score with women more frequently.

Four: Bill Clinton was more like his idol John F. Kennedy than he knew; while he was president, at age 45, Kennedy had a sexual affair with a 19-year-old White House intern.

Five: In retrospect, Clinton’s wrongdoing in the Lewinsky scandal pales in comparison to his intermittent, weak, and insufficiently consequential responses to al-Qaeda attacks, which rank as the most consequential failure of his presidency.

Six: A lot of politicians have attempted to run plays from the Clinton playbook when caught in sex scandals (deny, delay, insist it’s a private matter, accuse the accusers of partisanship, and hope the public forgets): John Ensign, John Edwards, Larry Craig, Gary Condit, Eliot Spitzer, and Anthony Weiner. Most of the time the Clinton playbook doesn’t work for them because members of their party are nowhere near as emotionally invested in the success of them the way they were with Clinton in 1998.

Seven: It’s hard to feel much animosity towards Lewinsky, 16 years later. She made a dumb mistake at age 21, and yes, for a few years after the scandal, she made some crass attempts to cash in on her notoriety, but by the mid-Bush years she had attempted to live a normal life away from the spotlight. (Apparently her Vanity Fair article will detail how difficult it is to live a normal life once you’re known for a scandal such as this.)

Eight: I’m going to outsource this point to Ace:

Monica Lewinsky was a good soldier on Clinton’s behalf throughout the scandal, protecting him until she was credibly threatened with a perjury/obstruction of justice charge for telling lies to protect him. Since then she has remained largely silent.

And throughout this, the Right has generally been kinder to Lewinsky than the progressive/Democratic press. Not because we’re angels, mind you, but because of politics: Our target was Bill Clinton, not Monica Lewinsky.

But she was a threat to Bill Clinton, so Monica Lewinsky did in fact become a target for the progressive/Democratic press. As did all of Bill Clinton’s previous sexual conquests — the press routinely referred to women who spoke about their affairs with Clinton as “bimbo eruptions,” as if they were the ones solely at fault, and they were the ones solely worthy of mockery and scorn.

These damned Jezebel bimbos taking advantage of this poor, defenseless governor and then president.

Perhaps partisans grow to hate whatever harms their preferred presidents. Quite a few deficit hawks and fiscal conservatives held their tongues during the high-spending, high-deficit years of the Bush presidency, then re-embraced thriftiness with a passion once Obama took office. Since Bush left office, quite a few Republicans are much, much less enthusiastic about foreign military interventions and democracy promotion.

For Democrats, Monica Lewinsky nearly took down Bill Clinton’s presidency, so she’s the enemy, no matter how she felt about the president or what she did for him.

Nine: Bill Clinton is a class-A jerk. From Monica’s Story, the authorized biography by Andrew Morton:

The part that jumps out is, “All I think about is you and your job. I’m obsessed with you and finding you a job. I wake up in the morning, and it makes me sick thinking about it. My life is empty, except for you and this job search. All I have is my work and this obsession.”

His life is empty? What about his daughter?

Ten: We may be less judgmental about infidelity in politicians’ marriages — see Dennis Prager’s columns here and here — but we would still be wise to be wary of a potential president with a history of philandering as wide-ranging, lengthy, and notorious as Clinton’s was. It speaks to maturity, it speaks to impulse control, it speaks to how a potential president treats people, and it speaks to judgment.

Tags: Bill Clinton , Monica Lewinsky , Hillary Clinton

Time for Republicans to Unite to K-O Kay in North Carolina



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From the midweek edition of the Morning Jolt:

Time for Republicans to United to K-O Kay in North Carolina

Tuesday’s primary elections offered one big, somewhat surprising result:

N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis, who had full-fledged support from the state and national Republican establishment, beat back challengers favored by tea party activists and Christian conservatives to win the right Tuesday to take on Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan in November.

With percent of the precincts reporting, Tillis, who lives in Huntersville, received about 45 percent of the vote. He needed 40 percent to avoid a July 15 runoff that would have forced him to spend precious time and money that he’ll now get to spend trying to unseat Hagan.

Dr. Greg Brannon of Cary, whose campaign was propelled by the tea party, finished second with 27 percent. And the Rev. Mark Harris, pastor of First Baptist Church of Charlotte and a champion of socially conservative issues, was third at 17.5 percent.

The usual suspects will argue that this result is one more sign of the decline of the Tea Party. But this continues the chaotic classification system, in which all a candidate needs to be considered the “Tea Party” candidate in the narrative is to say, “Hi, I’m the Tea Party candidate.” Tillis is hardly a squish, and 59 percent of self-identified Tea Party supporters felt positively about Tillis; 24 percent felt unfavorably.

A more accurate interpretation is that “Establishment” candidates — read, those who have actually been elected to office before — are getting better at adapting to a political environment shaped by “Tea Party” supporters and making the case that they will indeed fight for conservative reforms.

In Tillis’ victory speech, delivered in front of an American flag at an uptown Charlotte hotel, he wasted no time in framing the fall campaign as a fight to not only retire Hagan, but also strike a blow against President Barack Obama’s policies and wrest control of the Senate from the Democrats.

“Kay Hagan and (Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid are nothing but an echo chamber for President Obama’s worst ideas,” Tillis said. “If we want to change the mess of Obamacare, we have to change our senator.”

Good news on the GOP party unity front, from Rand Paul:

Congratulations to Thom Tillis. Now that the primary is over, it is time for our side to unite to defeat the Democrat who cast the deciding vote for ObamaCare, Kay Hagan, in November. I endorse Thom Tillis and look forward to working with him in the Senate. I congratulate my friend Greg Brannon on a well fought race and encourage all the candidates to unite for victory in November.

Oh, by the way, Kay Hagan . . . took 77 percent in the Democratic primary. More than 100,000 North Carolina Democrats voted for one of two other little-known options.

Beyond that, little drama on primary day:

So much for roiling anti-incumbent sentiment. Every House member with a challenge won, most of them pretty comfortably. Only two under 60 percent.

Also make sure to check out Eliana Johnson’s reporting on the race over on the homepage.

Tags: Kay Hagan , Thom Tillis , Greg Brannon

Confronting Democrats’ Identity Politics Head-On in Connecticut



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Also in today’s Jolt:

Confronting Democrats’ Identity Politics Head-On in Connecticut

A recent Gallup poll found that half of Connecticut citizens said that if they could leave the state, they would, second only to Illinois.

Those of us outside the state, leaning to the right, would suggest that the residents’ misery stems in part from the broad center-left to far-left consensus that has run the state for the past few decades.

The state Senate currently consists of 22 Democrats and 14 Republicans and the state House of Representatives has 98 Democrats and 53 Republicans. Democratic Gov. Daniel Malloy was preceded by two Republicans, Jodi Rell and John Rowland (convicted and now charged with new crimes), and before then (sigh) Lowell Weicker.

So how do Republicans win in places that are drifting towards one-party states? One of this year’s lieutenant governor candidates, Penny Bacchiochi, echoes Michigan Senate candidate Terri Lynn Land’s recent ad by taking the Democrats go-to identity-politics maneuvers off the table.

“People see me as someone who can unite people with diverse opinions and who has great listening skills,” Bacchiochi said in a recent interview. “I have a unique and interesting family; my husband is Nigerian-born, black; I have four black stepsons and two white sons of my own. I think people see me as having the qualities to unite, understand, and listen … All those Republican-bashing comments — war on women — kind of hard to say I have a war on women, hard to say I’m a racist when I have a blended, modern family. Those things really can’t work when I’m on the ticket.”

“Republicans need women on their ticket — most of the frontrunners for governor are men from Fairfield County; I think I bring some gender and geographic balance, being a woman from eastern Connecticut,” Bacchiochi said. “A lieutenant governor is really going to help the governor get elected — this is the number two person who’s going to be out on the stump, every day between now and the election.”

A woman on a ticket can’t guarantee better GOP fortunes; Romney and Ryan did better among women than McCain and Palin did. And Democrats will insist that Republican women candidates are indeed some sort of self-hating creature pushing laws that are bad for women as a whole. It may even spur complaining about playing the gender card, now that it’s being used by a Republican. The Land commercial, featuring the female candidate laughing off the accusation that she’s part of a “war on women” has spurred accusations she’s “hiding behind her skirt” — a column headline that would undoubtedly be deemed sexist if a male columnist had written it.

Whatever the gender of the candidates on the GOP ticket, there are signs that Connecticut desperately needs an interruption to the tax-and-spend cycle common among the deep blue states.

“We’re looking at a $1.4 billion budget deficit, and that’s after the historic, largest-in-history tax increase when [Malloy] came in,” Bacchiochi said. “That’s important to every Connecticut resident. Connecticut is at a crossroads; we need to elect a fiscally conservative Republican and a lieutenant governor who can get that agenda through the legislature, passed into law, and get the state back on track.”

“We have to address our unfunded liabilities,” Bacchiochi says. “It’s one of our biggest problems. It’s projected at $17 billion, but insiders believe it could be as high as 50. If we switch our state employees and retirees to a defined-contribution program [like an IRA or 401(k)] from a defined-benefit program [a monthly pension calculated by position and years of service] — that would bring immediate relief to our crisis.”

Could it happen? Well, even Illinois enacted a pension-reform package once the consequences of an unreformed system became dire enough, despite volcanic opposition from public-sector unions.

“Hey, we spend too much money,” Bacchiochi says. “Taxpayers can’t afford it. Connecticut is one of the few states that has a social-service dual-delivery program. We use nonprofits to deliver social-service programs, but we also pay state employees to deliver the same programs at a cost … that’s almost twice as much. The state of Connecticut needs to get out of the process of delivering social-service programs and let the private nonprofit sector do it. They do it just as well, and they do it at half the price — and that’s a big part of our budget.”

Tags: Penny Bacchiochi , Connecticut

The Climate Change Consequences the Left Doesn’t Talk About



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In light of the White House’s doomsday-themed report on climate change, a quick reminder of some . . . inconvenient truths.

Whether the phenomenon is exaggerated or whatever the cause, the uncomfortable fact is that very few climate scientists believe that the process is significantly reversible, and certainly not by unilateral U.S. action. As the Heartland Institute’s James Taylor noted in Forbes, data released by the Environmental Protection Agency earlier this year indicate that even if the United States and the entire Western Hemisphere immediately and completely eliminated all carbon dioxide emissions, the growth in Chinese emissions alone would likely render this action moot within a decade.

Despite the doomsday talk, global warming will be a net economic benefit to the United States, in at least the short term and probably for several decades. Really.

Back in 2008, Thomas Fingar, chairman of the National Intelligence Council, briefed the House Select Committee on Intelligence about the national security implications of climate change and noted, “net cereal crop yields likely will increase by 5 to 20 percent, for example, and most studies suggest the United States as a whole will enjoy modest economic benefits over the next few decades largely due to the increased crop yields.” He added, “The growing season has lengthened an average of two days per decade since 1950 in Canada and the contiguous United States.”

. . . Besides a longer growing season, Americans will see economic benefits from the opening of the Northwest Passage, a sea route connecting the Pacific and Atlantic running north of Alaska and Canada. Rising temperatures will thaw out the frozen course and offer a much faster and cheaper method for transoceanic shipping — saving perhaps $1 million per trip.

Adm. Gary Roughead, the U.S. Navy’s chief of naval operations, calls the phenomenon “the opening of the Fifth Ocean” and foresees it being a “profitable sea route” in a matter of two decades. With this thawing will come access to a treasure trove of resources — from nearly a quarter of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas reserves, to large deposits of rare earth minerals that power everything electronic, to perhaps the oil of the 21st century: fresh water supplies in the form of polar ice.

That’s good news for farmers, which should make everybody happy, because everybody likes farmers. Well, except for Iowa Senate candidate Bill Braley.

The Obama administration promises tireless efforts to prevent
a longer growing season and increased crop yields.

Tags: Climate Change

A Lying Administration’s Endless Benefit of the Doubt on Benghazi



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From the Tuesday edition of the Morning Jolt:

A Lying Administration’s Endless Benefit of the Doubt on Benghazi

Those who deny the existence of a widespread, deep-rooted liberal bias in most “mainstream” media institutions can and will point to periodic tough coverage of the Obama administration’s explanation on Benghazi.

We get lots of individual cases of this. CNN’s Jake Tapper will accuse Jay Carney of being “dissembling, obfuscating, and often, you know, insulting.” Ron Fournier of National Journal will declare that Carney reminds him of “Baghdad Bob.” ABC News’s Jonathan Karl will rip into him for giving false information during the briefing. CNN’s Dana Bash will point out that the administration is withholding documents from congressional subpoenas. Slate’s John Dickerson will state, matter-of-factly:

The Obama administration’s story has never been straight on the Benghazi attack. Press Secretary Jay Carney once said the White House and State Department had only been involved in changing one word in crafting the first public response about the attack — the infamous Susan Rice talking points. Emails released in May showed that wasn’t the case. This new batch underscores the White House’s involvement in shaping the story. The Obama administration left the impression that everything related to the Benghazi attack had been released to the investigating committees months ago. That is also clearly false.

White House defenses earned scores of Pinocchios, and fact-checkers have corrected the president repeatedly, again and again.

You would think this repeated mendacity, on topics ranging from keeping doctors to red lines, would add up; that the media would greet White House statements with increasing skepticism. You might think the coverage would characterize White House statements as assertions, not proven facts. The White House shifts to “trust us” quite a bit. Trust us, we’ve held everyone in our government responsible for security in Benghazi accountable. Trust us, we’ve determined why no rescue effort was launched. Trust us, we’ve turned over all relevant documents to congressional investigators. Trust us, all of the false information we told the public after the attack stemmed from a series of innocent mistakes and miscommunications.

Instead, we live in a world that feels as if someone has picked up our national Etch-a-Sketch and shaken it on a regular basis. After getting caught in a lie, the administration goes to work the next day and deals with a press corps as credulous as the day before. We’re living in a world where the villagers never wise up about the boy who cried “wolf!”

The current administration line is that they may simply refuse to cooperate with the House’s special committee investigating the Benghazi attacks, concluding it doesn’t meet the Obama administration’s standard as “legitimate.”

Obama’s top spokesman on Monday gave no indication that the White House would participate in the latest investigation — but the implicit answer seemed to be that it would not.

“We have always cooperated with legitimate oversight,” Carney said, adding that the GOP committee didn’t meet that test.

When you’ve been caught lying to the American public about life-and-death matters so often, you don’t get to decide which congressional investigations are legitimate and which ones aren’t. You have forfeited the benefit of the doubt. If it’s really that illegitimate, or a fishing expedition, the American people will let Congress know in November.

The notion of checks and balances in the Constitution is not dependent upon each branch’s opinion of the legitimacy of the questions of the other. Nixon didn’t think highly of Congress, either. You don’t get to ignore the Supreme Court if you don’t think their decision was “legitimate.”

What are the consequences of losing all credibility? It turns out, not much.

Tags: Benghazi , Barack Obama , Jay Carney

Drawing a Blank on the Obama Administration’s Benghazi Disclosure



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White House press secretary Jay Carney is bragging that the administration has released 25,000 pages of documents related to Benghazi.

That number sounds like a lot, but Carney didn’t mention how many of those documents actually have text on them.

For example, the documents recently obtained by Judicial Watch were scrubbed of information the executive branch decreed secret, making some of them . . . less than edifying. Out of 110 pages of documents released because of Judicial Watch’s FOIA lawsuit, 36 are partially or entirely redacted because of classified information.

Redaction turns this page into a blank slate, for example:

And then there are the pages offering only a smidgen of text from the preceding page, such as this separate page with just the word “Erin.”

Some documents detail an e-mail exchange where the entire text is redacted:

Out of those 110 pages released to Judicial Watch, 30 pages are transcripts of news reports about Benghazi and Rice’s interviews with the media, 14 pages collect official statements from administration officials and lawmakers on Capitol Hill in response to the Benghazi attack, five pages collect reactions to the attack from Libyans on Twitter, and two pages are an e-mail of a press release of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

In short, Carney wants the administration to get credit for disclosure — which they complied with only after a lawsuit — even though they’re releasing a lot of documents that only repeat public news reports, don’t say much the public didn’t already know, and in some cases, literally don’t say anything.

Tags: Jay Carney , Benghazi

With Worsening Messes at Home and Abroad, Obama Brags of ‘Year of Action’



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On the White House home page right now:

Had you noticed we were enjoying a “Year of Action”? Are you enjoying it?

On Saturday President Obama enjoyed his 11th golf outing of the year before heading off to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Today the president meets with President Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti and then hosts a Cinco de Mayo reception in the Rose Garden. Later this week, the president will attend four Democratic fundraisers in California.

But perhaps the clearest sign of the “Year of Action” is in the results.

USA Today this morning:

By more than 2–1, 65 percent to 30 percent, Americans say they want the president elected in 2016 to pursue different policies and programs than the Obama administration, rather than similar ones…

By more than 2–1, Americans are dissatisfied with the direction of the country. They remain downbeat about the economy. They aren’t persuaded that the Affordable Care Act is going to help them and their families. Even the president’s supporters worry he is a political liability for fellow Democrats. The president’s job approval rating remains anemic in the new survey, at 44% approve, 50% disapprove.

Bloomberg: “Workforce Participation at 36-Year-Low as Jobs Climb”

Time: “U.S. GDP Slows to a Crawl in First Quarter of 2014″

Meanwhile, overseas . . . 

Tags: Barack Obama , Economy

The Keystone Pipeline’s Utterly Useless Democratic Friends



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From the first Morning Jolt of the week:

USA Today National Poll Conclusion: Duck and Cover, Democrats!

BOOM, breaking this morning:

A nationwide USA TODAY/Pew Research Center Poll shows the strongest tilt to Republican candidates at this point in a midterm year in at least two decades, including before partisan “waves” in 1994 and 2010 that swept the GOP into power. Though Election Day is six months away — a lifetime in politics — at the moment, Democrats are saddled by angst over the economy, skepticism about the health care law and tepid approval of the president.

The Keystone Pipeline’s Utterly Useless Democratic Friends

The National Republican Senatorial Committee is getting a little tired of hearing Mary Landrieu talk about how hard she’s fighting to build the Keystone Pipeline. This morning they’re detailing her sudden interest in the pipeline, and her efforts which appear to be a lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing — or at least nothing all that consequential or influential, as the pipeline remains tied up in reviews and red tape, no decision is expected before 2015, and Rolling Stone reports that the president has already decided to kill the project, but doesn’t want to announce it until after the midterms.

The NRSC lays out the case:

In fact, Mary Landrieu was virtually silent on Keystone for the two years prior to her political campaign — until January 2013 when Landrieu began to see signs of her reelection hopes in dire straits.

The truth is, Mary Landrieu has a record of ignoring Keystone, that is, until it became politically convenient for her to “champion” in light of an extremely competitive reelection campaign. Since that time Landrieu has stepped up into election mode to give the appearance that she’s delivering on Keystone:

44 – Tweets From Mary Landrieu About The Keystone Pipeline

17 – Press Releases Sent By Landrieu’s Office About Keystone

3 – Press Conferences With Landrieu About Keystone

2 – Letters To The Obama Administration About Keystone Landrieu Has Signed

3 – Floor Speeches By Landrieu About Keystone

1 – Declarations By Landrieu That She Is “Indispensable” Because Of Her Influence In The Senate

Yet in all that time serving on the Energy Committee, Mary Landrieu hasn’t been able to accomplish anything on Keystone. The fact is that now, as Energy Chair, Landrieu is beholden to the radical, anti-energy agenda of Barack Obama and Harry Reid.

That Rolling Stone article featured this quote:

But Jane Kleeb, founder of Bold Nebraska and one of the leaders of the anti-pipeline movement, described the move to me as “a pretty brilliant move” that will give red state Democrats like Mary Landrieu and Mark Begich an easy and highly theatrical way to distance themselves from the president in the mid-terms, as well a rallying point for oil and gas money to support them. “Obama just used oil and gas to get red state dems elected,” Kleeb wrote. “No way will gas and oil push against Landrieu and Begich.”

Oil and gas back Democratic senators who can’t help them with their pipelines; the health-insurance industry backs Obamacare, only to find out later that they’re at risk for a death spiral. God save us from businesses t6hat are utterly convinced they’ll be able to tame the Democrats’ anti-business instincts.

“Yeah, yeah, Keystone, jobs, blah blah blah. Whatever, Mary, just smile and wave.”

Tags: Mary Landrieu , Keystone XL Pipeline

Sharp Elbows as Nebraska Republicans Approach Primary Day



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Nebraska holds its Senate primary a week from Tuesday. Ben Sasse — National Review cover boy — holds the lead, but it’s possible that this will be the closest and most dramatic GOP Senate-primary finish of 2014.

One poll, out May 1 and conducted by NSON Opinion Strategy for the Tea Party Express, showed Sasse taking 29 percent support among likely GOP primary voters and Shane Osborn taking 27 percent. Sid Dinsdale, the former president of the second-largest bank in Nebraska, comes in third with 13 percent support. Another poll, commissioned by the Sasse campaign, showed Sasse at 31 percent, Osborn at 25 percent, and Dinsdale at 22 percent. Polls in February and earlier put Osborn narrowly ahead and Dinsdale a distant third.

If the Sasse internal is correct, and Osborn is sliding while Dinsdale is rising, it probably reflects a common consequence of negative ads. When Candidate A attacks Candidate B, oftentimes the real beneficiary is Candidate C; this is how John Kerry surprised everyone in Iowa in 2004 after Dick Gephardt threw a ton of negative ads at Howard Dean. A negative ad is probably more likely to do self-inflicted damage when it features the candidate himself making the attack, speaking directly into the camera. (There’s a reason most negative ads feature anonymous gravelly-voiced narrators.)

Backers of Sasse are not warmly welcoming Dinsdale to the race’s upper tier. Erick Erickson of Red State called Dinsdale “Planned Parenthood’s Republican,” first contending that Dinsdale’s daughter served on the board of the group; he later corrected his report, clarifying that Dinsdale’s wife has contributed to groups that fund pro-abortion groups (Komen and Girls, Inc.) but is not on the board of Planned Parenthood. Dinsdale’s sister is on the board of Planned Parenthood.

It is unclear if the actions of the Dinsdale’s relatives will carry serious consequences among pro-life voters; Nebraska Right to Life endorsed all four Republican candidates running, including Dinsdale.

Other aspects of Dinsdale’s record are tougher to classify. As the Omaha World-Herald noted in a profile,

The longtime banker opposes the controversial 2010 financial regulations known as Dodd-Frank. But his Pinnacle Bancorp worked with Congress to modify the bill at a time when other banks were trying simply to kill it or to weaken it considerably.

As Jeffrey Anderson of the Weekly Standard noted, Pinnacle Bancorp PAC donated to Democratic senator Ben Nelson after he voted for Obamacare — while Dinsdale was president of the bank.

That World-Herald profile also noted:

While Dinsdale’s wealth gives him the ability to pour millions of dollars into his race for U.S. Senate, he hasn’t done it yet. With a little over four weeks left in the campaign, Dinsdale has been outspent on the airwaves — but he’s reluctant to pull out his checkbook.

“Doesn’t feel right. It’s not the way it’s supposed to be,” he says. “I think you have to talk to Nebraskans and get their support.”

That profile piece was dated April 9. As Watchdog.org reported,

The Republican candidate loaned [his Senatorial campaign] $75,000 in late March, and another $925,000 on April 1, according to his pre-primary election report to the Federal Election Commission.

Apparently it “feels right” after all.

Another new wrinkle is a slew of campaign spending — $103,526, to be exact — going after Sasse from Freedom Pioneers Action Network. This is, so far, the only expenditure of this cycle by this group, which was formed in 2012 to help out then–Senate candidate Rick Berg. The PAC’s treasurer is Justin Brasell of Jackson, Miss., a veteran GOP consultant whose past posts include campaign manager at Friends of John Thune and campaign manager at McConnell for Senate back in 2008.

These days Justin Brasell is . . . managing the Senate campaign of Republican Tom Cotton in Arkansas.

The filing detailing the anti-Sasse spending is dated April 30, 2014.

So a campaign manager of one conservative favorite of this cycle, Tom Cotton, is working for a PAC that is attacking one of conservatives’ other favorites of this cycle, Sasse.

The $103K in spending from Freedom Pioneers Action Network is classified as “against Sasse” in official records; there’s some indication the group will spend money on pro-Osborn messages as well. The group’s YouTube account currently has only one video on it; a pro-Osborn ad that can be found here.

Tags: Ben Sasse , Shane Osborn , Sid Dinsdale

Hawaii’s Exchange Spent $87 on ‘Consumer Assistance’ for Every Uninsured Person in State; District of Columbia Spent $163



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Did states get their money’s worth when they spent large federal grants on “assisting” customers using their insurance exchanges?

Hawaii’s exchange was particularly troublesome for users from its beginning. Perhaps almost as infuriating for residents is the small fortune that the state spent on efforts to help people sign up; the state is spending $87.86 in “consumer assistance funding” for every eligible uninsured person in the state, according to a new report by the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Hawaii’s insurance exchange ranked among the nation’s most dysfunctional, not working at all for the first two weeks. It was supposed to be self-sustaining starting next year but enrollment — 8,742 as of mid-April — fell short of projections; state lawmakers approved another $1.5 million in spending to prop up the exchange for the next year.

But Hawaii wasn’t the champion spender. The District of Columbia spent $163.90 per eligible uninsured person, according to the report. Exchange managers may argue the expenditure is paying off; D.C. did surpass its projected totals handily, enrolling 10,714 people.

Delaware spent $67.39 per eligible uninsured — that enrolled 14,807 in its exchange — and Vermont rounded out the top four with nearly $60 for every eligible uninsured person in the state. That state enrolled 24,888 people in its exchange.

You paid for this, even if you don’t live in those states. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services created an “In-Person Assister (IPA)” program that states could fund through the federal block grants, which totaled more than $3 billion. Sixteen states and the District could decide how much to spend on IPAs and how to disburse the funds through September 2015.

The report found that those states running their own exchanges spent way more per uninsured person than states using the federal exchange. States on the federal exchange spent from $4.24 per uninsured in Georgia to $17.22 in Alaska. As the report notes, the funds allocated to states using the federal exchange were allocated based upon the number of insured, beyond certain minimums.

The lowest amount of spending per insured by a state running its own exchange came in Nevada, which spent $6.18.

Spending was high in the other states with particularly troublesome or unworkable exchanges. Maryland spent more than $50 per eligible uninsured, placing it in the top ten. That state spent $130 million on its exchange, never successfully signed up anyone through the online process, and now plans to replace it, spending another $40 million to $50 million.

Minnesota spent $30 per eligible uninsured; that state’s exchange also suffered from technical issues making it unworkable early on and lengthy waits for help from its call center.

Oregon recently decided to completely scrap its exchange, which failed to sign up anyone and was mocked on comedian John Oliver’s new HBO show last weekend for wasting money.

“That has to be a bitter pill to swallow for the people of Oregon, or it would be, if they could get the pill, which they can’t, because their [expletive] web site is broken,” he cracked.

The state can at least point to a relatively low expenditure in this area; Oregon spent just over $10 per eligible uninsured.

Big differences from state to state.

Tags: Obamacare , Hawaii , District of Columbia , Maryland

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