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The Campaign Spot

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

Examining the Website of the USDA’s Agency of Invasive Species



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Greeting Morning Jolt readers today . . . 

You Must Check Out the Website of the USDA’s Agency of Invasive Species

Forgive me, dear readers, but the book publication date is about three weeks away and I must turn into a relentless self-promotional machine.

Thankfully, I can direct readers to the website of the subject of the book, the sordid and twisted history of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agency of Invasive Species, and its serving as a metaphor for the growth of the federal bureaucracy over the past 30 years. The recently redesigned website for the USDA AIS can be found at TheWeedAgency.com.*

There you can learn more about the agency’s staff, official statements, logo changes through the years, and headquarters:

Hidden somewhere on the site is the book’s first 32 pages.

(Minor detail: My book is a novel, a work of fiction set against the backdrop of recent Washington history, and the USDA Agency of Invasive Species does not, technically, exist.)

If you have already pre-ordered, thank you very much. I have wanted to write fiction for a long time, and I figure each sale gets me closer to the opportunity to do this again. I was asked by the good folks Crown Forum/Random House to take one of the world’s driest, most infuriating topics — the federal bureaucracy, and how it works (or doesn’t work) — and turn it into a fast-moving comic satire in the tradition of Christopher Buckley, P. J. O’Rourke, and Yes, Minister. Either I succeeded, or enough well-known people feel the need to say nice things about me:

“A conservative comic romp through the toughest corridors of federal bureaucracy . . . a fun glimpse into the fake-but-accurate world of bureaucratic infighting.” — Jake Tapper, CNN Anchor and Author of The Outpost



“Jim Geraghty is smart, funny, compelling, entertaining . . . and his book does real damage to liberals if thrown hard enough.” — Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana

The Weed Agency brilliantly captures the absurdity of the real Washington. It is, as they say, funny because it’s true.” — Jonah Goldberg, author of The Tyranny of Clichés



“Geraghty captures the hilarious realities of Washington waste brilliantly. And we all need to laugh at Washington to stop from crying.” — S. E. Cupp, author of Losing Our Religion and CNN Host

“No matter your politics, Jim provides an entertaining look at just how the good intentions of a federal law or regulation can get misused over time to become more of a problem than a solution. Interestingly, lock any two veteran Washington politicians from opposite parties in a room and they’ll admit that some federal agencies need to be reined in. Like anything with Washington these days, sometimes all it takes is a little sunlight to grab their attention.” — Chuck Todd, NBC News

“Jim Geraghty absolutely nails it. You’ll want to believe this book is fiction, but in your heart you know so much of it — too much of it — is all too hilariously real.” — Brad Thor, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Hidden Order

If you haven’t ordered a copy yet, and you’re on the fence . . . well, think of this as an easy way to say “thanks” if you’ve liked anything I’ve done for the past few years on this newsletter, or the past ten years blogging at NR (my official ten-year anniversary is Friday). It’s pretty cheap; only $13 cover price, $9.75 on Amazon, $9.99 on Nook, and $7.99 on Kindle.

If you feel like pre-ordering in the near future, I am contemplating asking everyone to order it on the same day — say, the official publication date, June 3. (You may see copies on bookstore shelves before the “official” publication date.) Your kindness in response to NR Publisher Jack Fowler’s imperative to purchase the book already drove it to rank around 1,700 on Amazon a few weeks ago. If everyone bought, say, the morning of June 3, the book could — briefly, at least! — rank even higher:

While Amazon keeps their exact formula for picking the top books under wraps, it is clear that it weighs heavily on how many books you can sell in a short period of time.

In fact, a recent campaign by Seth Godin for his book We Are All Weird was able to hit the #2 spot on Amazon by selling less than 2000 copies of his hardcover in a day.

Another author I worked with was able to generate 500 sales of his book in a single day and this put him in the top 100 on Amazon.

On the other hand, you might forget to order on June 3. So maybe I should urge you to go ahead and make that purchase right now.

Tell you what, since you’re doing me a favor, you pick the time and place that’s most convenient for you. The good news is that all sales up to one week after the official publication date count towards getting on the bestseller lists. So if you buy before June 10, you’re helping me out a lot.

* Right around here, discerning and wise readers said, “Hey, wait a minute, if it’s a federal agency, why doesn’t it have a .gov address?”

** More discerning readers are remembering November has 30 days.

Tags: Something Lighter , Shameless Promotion

Environmentalist Billionaire Made His Fortune From Asian Coal Mines



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It’s a safe bet that environmentalist billionaire and big-time Democratic donor Tom Steyer has a bigger carbon footprint than you do:

Steyer, 56, stepped down as co-managing partner of Farallon in 2012 to devote himself to full-time activism because, as he later wrote, he “no longer felt comfortable being at a firm that was invested in every single sector of the global economy, including tar sands and oil.”

But he has provided few details of the extent of those fossil fuel investments or how he profited from them. He said in July 2013 that when he had left Farallon, which manages much of his estimated $1.6 billion wealth, he had instructed the fund to divest his holdings in fossil fuels. Neither he nor Farallon has said whether that process has been completed. Farallon declined to comment.

A spokesman for Steyer declined to comment for this article.

Until now, most of the conservative ire against Steyer has focused on Farallon’s energy investment record in the United States. Little attention has been paid to foreign investments such as its forays into Asian coal.

During Steyer’s tenure, Farallon helped finance coal project acquisitions in Indonesia and Australia valued at more than $2 billion and covering some of the region’s biggest mines, some of which swiftly ramped up production afterward, according to a close examination by Reuters of company disclosures and interviews with people involved in the deals.

Of course, Steyer made clear that this year he would not run ads against Democrats who voted to build the Keystone Pipeline — even though that’s at the heart of his objection to Republicans. Democratic strategist Chris Lehane, who advises Steyer, told The Hill that Steyer’s group would not run ads against Democrats, even if they support Keystone. “We aren’t going to go in to try to undermine and hurt Democrats.”

To sum up, it’s okay for him to make a fortune from Asian coal mines, and it’s okay for Democrats to vote to build the Keystone Pipeline; all of our environmental problems can be blamed on Republicans and you eating a Big Mac today.

The only thing that’s green in this picture is the background.

 

 

Tags: Tom Steyer , Global Warming , Democrats

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Don’t Do That, Congressman!



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Also from today’s Jolt… Rep. Joe Garcia, Democrat of Florida, may be the nicest guy on the world and/or not so bad on the issues.

But this video, found by America Rising, depicting him doing something phenomenally embarrassing… well, I just feel sorry for the guy.

I’m pretty sure whatever he’s ingesting is not, in fact, approved by Michelle Obama’s healthy eating initiative. Even though it is organic.

Tags: Joe Garcia , Something Lighter

Why Conservatives Have Well-Founded Doubts About Sid Dinsdale



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From the Tuesday edition of the Morning Jolt:

Why Conservatives Have Well-Founded Doubts About Sid Dinsdale

Nebraska Republicans pick their Senate and gubernatorial nominees today; a lot of conservatives outside the state will be watching the Senate primary results closely.

To a lot of grassroots conservatives, President Obama and his allies are about as bad as it gets. They’ve managed to steer the country pretty darn far down the wrong path in the past five-and-a-half years. They’re wildly ambitious, shamefully arrogant, politically ruthless and dangerously close to, as President Obama put it (perhaps by accident) “fundamentally transforming the United States of America.”

To many of America’s apolitical folk, the fury of the conservative grassroots is a bewildering, not-quite-rational, discomfort-inducing overreaction – or at least it was. But the evidence is starting to pile up, and Obama’s approval rating continues to slide and sputter.

Obama and his allies will promise the moon –  “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan!” – and then deliver the opposite, and then shrug off the complaints as naysayers. If a part of a law becomes politically inconvenient, they’ll ignore it.

They’ll talk about the need for open government and then be more secretive than any preceding administration. They’ll talk about the need for clean government and then go to unprecedented lengths to reward donors.

They’re just flat-out nasty. IRS abuses. Lying to the American public about the cause of the Benghazi attack. Presiding over an out-of-control NSA that makes a mockery of the Fourth Amendment. Attempting – and perhaps succeeding – in intimidating Supreme Court justices. They do what they want and attack anyone who stands in their way. “Don’t think we’re not keeping score, brother.”

This is why a lot of Republicans aren’t interested in a deal with President Obama on immigration. They simply don’t trust him to keep his end of the bargain once the bill is signed into law. They’re not willing to go along with any Obama plan that requires GOP concessions now in exchange for Obama concessions later.

This conservative grassroots distrust developed early – “All statements from Barack Obama come with an expiration date, all of them” and so the backlash against Republicans who sought to make a deal with Obama came early and furiously: Arlen Specter. Charlie Crist. Dick Lugar.

Now there’s Sid Dinsdale. He may not deserve a spot alongside Specter and Crist, but there’s some past evidence to suggest that Dinsdale’s willing to make a deal with the administration. If an article from American Banker from December 2010 is correct, Dinsdale’s bank helped persuade Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, a Democrat, to sign on to the Dodd-Frank financial regulation bill. (The law’s a mess, and only about half its regulations have been written, four years after its passage.) The president of the bank said at the time that because Congress was certain to pass a banking regulation bill, they preferred to have a hand in shaping it rather than fighting it every step of the way.  For what it’s worth, Dinsdale denies personally lobbying Nelson. However, a lot of conservatives have a hard time believing that Dinsdale’s bank would expend much effort lobbying for a policy result he strongly opposed.

The Omaha World-Herald, endorsing Dinsdale, stated he was a “pragmatist” and saluted his willingness to reach out to the other side of the aisle. Yes, that’s precisely what a lot of conservatives fear; sometimes no deal is better than a bad deal.

Apparently Dinsdale has a shot at winning today:

Sasse remains the favorite, but strategists in the Cornhusker State say Dinsdale has a chance to pull the upset thanks in part to staying off the airwaves and out of the fray until the race’s final weeks—a decision that kept him out of the crosshairs of his opponents. Sasse’s campaign has targeted him more aggressively of late, redirecting fire that it (and Sasse’s outside allies) had previously aimed at Osborn. Most of the advertising in play this past week has been either for or against Dinsdale.

In a state with notoriously fickle voting habits, Dinsdale is betting his late-breaking, local campaign will appeal to a plurality.

“Nebraskans know the Dinsdales from the community bank franchises and their agribusinesses,” said Dinsdale campaign strategist Sam Fischer (who is also a nephew of the state’s junior U.S. senator). He pointed to Pinnacle Bank locations across the state as being known for their community involvement, from banking to supporting local Little Leagues.  

Dinsdale’s campaign is also putting his father’s household name to use, featuring Roy Dinsdale in some of the campaign ads.

Young said that kind of Main Street messaging is what resonates with Nebraskans, not outside ads.

“It’s a small enough state, you can win a campaign with grassroots here,” Young said. “There’s a lot of other means of messaging that carry weight.”

NR’s enthusiasm for Sasse is clear. If Dinsdale wins the primary tonight, he would be the heavy favorite in November; if elected, he would still be a Nebraska Republican and he would probably vote the right way most of the time. But there would still be that nagging doubt that he might want to reach a deal with an administration that so many conservatives find impossible to trust.

The man is behind the bank, and the bank is behind the man.

Tags: Ben Sasse , Sid Dinsdale , Nebraska

In Illinois, 67% Oppose Spending $100 Million on Obama Presidential Library



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The people of Illinois may still feel fond of their former resident, President Barack Obama. They’re just not eager to spend $100 million to host his presidential library:

A new poll from Capitol Fax’s Rich Miller reveals that a whopping 67 percent of prospective voters here in Illinois oppose the Michael Madigan-sponsored plan to earmark $100 million for Barack Obama’s presidential library and museum.

Results showed that just 29 percent of likely voters approve of the state-financing proposal, which Illinois House Speaker Madigan successfully pushed last month amid vocal opposition from Republicans and just about everyone who thinks that offering nine figures as bait to attract the library here is perhaps not such a great idea given how strapped for cash we are. Also: Obama, a fundraising machine with an arsenal of super-rich Democratic donors, is likely going to sign off on Chicago as the location, with or without the $100 million in taxpayer money. (Take that, Honolulu.)

Federal tax dollars partially foot the bill for all presidential libraries: “These libraries — now 13 in all — cost taxpayers $75 million to operate in the last fiscal year.” That’s for maintenance and operating it once its open; private donors cover the construction costs.

 

Tags: Barack Obama , Illinois

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The Better Homes and Gardens of Populist Democrats, Part Six



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Senator Claire McCaskill, discussing a tax bill in 2011:

“It’ll maybe save me some money but cost my husband money — and that sounds like a good equation to me,” she quipped, referring to her husband, Joseph Shepard, a wealthy businessman. “We file separately, and I would be considered middle class — upper middle class. … I’m not at his level, but I think it’s fair. It will cost him money, but it’s the right thing to do.”

McCaskill is way, way, way beyond most people’s definition of “middle class” with her $174,000 annual salary. Of course, because of her husband’s wealth, McCaskill lives a lifestyle well beyond a $174,000 salary… 

The Missouri Democrat bought the development’s priciest unit yet for $2.7 million in early February, Washington Business Journal reports… The condos at CityCenterDC come with features like Miele appliances in the kitchen and adjustable wardrobe systems in the bedrooms. The building includes amenities such as a party room with private wine storage and a fitness center with private spa services.

McCaskill also recently unloaded her previous Washington apartment, a two-bedroom unit in a Massachusetts Ave., NW, building she purchased shortly after she was sworn in to her first term in 2007. Her old place sold for about $750,000 and nearly $123,000 above its assessed value, according to DC property records…

McCaskill’s husband, Joseph Shepard, is a St. Louis developer whose companies received nearly $40 million in federal housing subsidies between 2007 and 2011.

McCaskill’s most recent financial disclosure form estimates her net worth to be between $15 million to $26 million. In 2011, she got in some hot water over her private plane and need to pay back $287,273 for four years of unpaid taxes on the single-engine turbo-prop Pilatus PC-12. After paying the back taxes, she boasted, “This problem came to light because of the kind of transparency that I have worked for.”

The Better Homes and Gardens of Populist Democrats, Part One: Harry Reid.

The Better Homes and Gardens of Populist Democrats, Part Two: Mary Landrieu.

The Better Homes and Gardens of Populist Democrats, Part Three: Mark Begich.

The Better Homes and Gardens of Populist Democrats, Part Four: Elizabeth Warren.

The Better Homes and Gardens of Populist Democrats, Part Five: Hillary Clinton.

 

Tags: Claire McCaskill

Five Years Later, the Federal Government Is Still Spending Stimulus Money



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Also in today’s Morning Jolt:

Five Years Later, the Federal Government Is Still Spending Stimulus Money

The U.S. government is still spending money that it classifies as part of the “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act,” a.k.a. the stimulus, signed into law February 19, 2009.

 

For example, the Department of Veterans Affairs is spending $219,117.11 to remove a dumbwaiter elevator near the Biomedical and Dietetics Area on the second floor in the Miami Veterans Affairs Healthcare System.

 


The expenditures go on, even though Recovery.gov is no longer updating its information: “When Congress passed the Federal Government’s Fiscal Year ‘14 Omnibus Spending Bill in January 2014 it included a clause repealing Section 1512 of the Recovery Act which required recipients of ARRA awards to report quarterly on the status of those awards. The result was the recipients reported for the last time January 1–14, 2014.”

Tags: Stimulus

President Drone-Strike Wishes He Could ‘Reach Out’ in Nigeria



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In between Democratic Party fundraisers in California last week, President Obama told an audience, ”Every day when I wake up and I think about young girls in Nigeria or children caught up in the conflict in Syria, when there are times in which I want to reach out and save those kids.”

You might think the president who joked about his authority to kill the Jonas Brothers with a drone strike if they got too close to his daughters might have an actual ability to “reach out” and, if not save the abducted girls, rain a little hellfire upon their captors. After all, during Obama’s presidency, he’s authorized roughly 400 drone strikes that have killed an estimated 2,700 to 4,100 people.

Tags: Barack Obama , Nigeria , Drones

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

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

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

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