Pleading the Fifth Is the New Black

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I look at this news and think . . . Yeah, Biden’s in.

A former State Department staffer who worked on Hillary Rodham Clinton’s private e-mail server tried this week to fend off a subpoena to testify before Congress, saying he would assert his constitutional right not to answer questions to avoid incriminating himself.

The move by Bryan Pagliano, who had worked on Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign before setting up the server in her New York home in 2009, came in a Monday letter from his lawyer to the House panel investigating the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

Who Thought the Syrian Civil War Was a Good Idea?

Twitter user Brandt reminds us that some key figures in Obama’s inner circle were convinced that the Syrian civil war was in America’s interest:

By April, senior officials said, one of the major skeptics, Tom Donilon, had shifted in favor of arming the rebels. Another strong opponent in the fall, Ms. Rice, had also shifted her position, partly because of the alarming intelligence about the state of the rebellion.

[Current Chief of Staff Denis] McDonough, who had perhaps the closest ties to Mr. Obama, remained skeptical. He questioned how much it was in America’s interest to tamp down the violence in Syria. Accompanying a group of senior lawmakers on a day trip to the Guantánamo Bay naval base in early June, Mr. McDonough argued that the status quo in Syria could keep Iran pinned down for years. In later discussions, he also suggested that a fight in Syria between Hezbollah and Al Qaeda would work to America’s advantage, according to Congressional officials.

Sorry, Syrian boy whose body washed ashore.

Human-rights monitors estimate 5,000 people were killed in Syria’s fighting last month. The previous month, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimated the death toll at about 240,000; 2 million wounded, 11 million displaced.

Problems that seem far away tend to show up at your doorstep eventually:

In the years that followed Obama’s shortsighted decision to abandon Syria (and the entire region, it would turn out) to violence, Europe would find itself in the midst of a refugee crisis. A great human tide has descended upon the continent as teeming masses of Middle Easterners and North Africans displaced by warfare take flight into Europe. The Czech Republic and Hungary, finding themselves on the frontlines of the crushing mass of terrorized Syrians, have taken emergency measures. Prague revealed this week that it simply lacked the manpower to detain those refugees racing for Northern European havens. Budapest has shut down rail lines and has created de facto detention centers in order to cope with the crisis. Italy is prepared to re-impose border controls at Germany’s request.

Look, it’s just trains full of desperate people in central Europe and an atmosphere of anger, resentment, and fear. What’s the worst that could happen, right, McDonough?

It Turns Out Democrats Don’t Really Care About Policy, Either

Maybe I’m not giving Donald Trump a fair shake. He’s one of the few men who can get Democrats to abandon their support for universal health care.

No, really, when Democrats are told Trump supports the idea, they reflexively oppose it:

Republican support for universal health care rose 28 points thanks to Trump’s seal of approval. Democratic support for universal health care dropped, however, by . . . 36 points. How many Dems out there are true believers in the ObamaCare dream and how many are mindlessly in favor for no better reason than that Barack Obama thinks it’s a keen idea? Note too that it’s not just a matter of the sheer number of Dems changing their position here, it’s a matter of going from heavy majority support to less than 50 percent in favor. Trump’s backing can turn an 82 percent Democratic consensus into a 46 percent plurality. And if you think that’s a fluke result, try this one . . .

Republican support for affirmative action rises 18 points with Trump’s backing but it’s still a small share of the party that’s in favor. Democratic support for affirmative action drops 19 points with Trump’s endorsement, once again crossing from a majority consensus (64 percent) to a plurality one (45 percent). Many more issues would need to be surveyed in this way to try to draw a firm conclusion about which party has more hacks willing to go along with whatever their leadership says, but there’s at least as much reason from this to believe Democrats would win that contest as Republicans would.

Runaway Executive Power Grabs: Catch the Fever!

One more reason Obama’s executive power grabs are bad . . . every other executive thinks they can do the same:

After failing to persuade his Legislature to expand Medicaid, Gov. Bill Walker of Alaska said Thursday that he planned to unilaterally accept the federal funds available to cover more low-income residents under the program.

Mr. Walker, an independent who took office in December, said in a news conference in Anchorage that he could not wait any longer to offer health coverage to the roughly 42,000 people his administration projects will be eligible under the expansion. Expanding Medicaid — an option for every state under President Obama’s Affordable Care Act — was a campaign priority for Mr. Walker, who couched it as a “common-sense decision” for the state’s economy and for the health of its people.

Mr. Walker said he had sent a letter to the state’s Legislative Budget and Audit Committee on Thursday, giving it a required 45-day notice of his intention to accept the federal expansion funds. The committee can issue a recommendation, but Mr. Walker said he had the authority under state law to proceed even if the committee did not approve.

Full speed ahead, legislative process and separation of powers be damned!

State officials processed 356 new applications for Medicaid Sept. 1, the first day of an expansion of the program, and another 27 individuals were approved for health care under the expansion.

“It was a very good day, with a lot of hard work by many folks, especially in the field. We also saw a significant increase in phone volume at 5 p.m. directly related to Medicaid expansion inquiries,” said Dawnell Smith, spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Social Services.

About 40,000 Alaskans became newly eligible for Medicaid Sept. 1 after the Alaska Supreme Court acted a day earlier, refusing to temporarily block the state from expanding the health care program.

The Alaska State Legislature now has to go to court to fight to remind the governor that he doesn’t get to make a move like this all by himself.

ADDENDA: Because we desperately need some lighter news . . .

Io9 fears that the forthcoming Captain America: Civil War will stink because of the core concept, beloved groups of super-heroes battling each other.

The idea can work if you do it right, which is make each side have a reasonable point. Nobody wants to see half their favorite heroes become the de facto villains for no good reason.

First, keep in mind that the world of the Marvel Universe has seen a New York City World’s Fair-type event shot up by runaway robo-drones (Iron Man 2); a New Mexico town get torn apart by a giant metallic monster (Thor); New York City suffer considerable damage from an alien invasion (The Avengers); Air Force One blown out of the sky and the Vice President arrested for participating in an evil conspiracy (Iron Man 3); a giant spaceship crash into a city in England (Thor: The Dark World) ; giant flying aircraft carriers crashing into the Potomac River and the revelation that the world’s preeminent global security organization, SHIELD, was deeply infiltrated by neo-Nazis (come on, HYDRA are Nazis, even though they soft-pedal it) in Captain America: The Winter Soldier; and then some Balkan city blasted into the atmosphere and then destroyed in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Oh, and Hulk tore apart a good chunk of a city and Ultron smashed a lot of a South Korean city.

The public around the world should be freaking out; every summer some major city gets torn apart by these battles. At least half the world should be adamantly demanding the registration and policing of all “super-powered” beings and technology. In the comic books, the “Civil War” storyline was about registering super heroes by their real names, which as Io9 points out, seems like a small thing to have an all-out “civil war” about. No, the better point of contention should be an effective ban on “vigilantes,” a declaration that anybody with powers has to either sign up with SHIELD/The Avengers or stay out of the heroism business entirely.

A slew of heroes might rightfully say, “Wait, I’m now required to sign up with the secretive, unaccountable giant bureaucracy that was infiltrated to the core by neo-Nazis? No thank you.” Suddenly you’ve got your publicly-beloved government-sanctioned team and your rogue, mysterious, work-in-the-shadows team. (Kind of like the Avengers and X-Men for us early-1990s fans.)

And of course, what begins as a reasonable disagreement of opinion about super-heroic codes of conduct could be exacerbated by any one of many villains who want to throw gasoline on the fire. HYDRA, Loki, the real Mandarin . . . there’s no shortage of bad people in the Marvel universe who would see a superhero civil war as to their advantage, and set up “false flag” attacks. Of course, in the final act, the heroes discover this and re-team up to stop the real bad guys.

You’re welcome, Marvel.

Carly’s In: CNN Makes the Right Decision

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A new Washington Post/ABC poll finds 45 percent of all adult respondents have a favorable view of Hillary Clinton, and 53 percent have an unfavorable view. The survey also finds that almost twice as many having a “strongly unfavorable” view of her (39 percent) as “strongly favorable” (21 percent).

Note that traditionally Democratic groups aren’t so fond of her, either: “Her ratings are 48 percent favorable to 51 percent unfavorable among women . . . Among adults aged 18-to-39, Clinton splits 47 percent favorable to 50 percent unfavorable.”

Donald Trump is at a 37–59 split — but note that at the end of May, it was a 16–71 split. And while we shouldn’t be surprised to see Trump having high negative numbers among minorities . . . yeesh:

Trump’s strong unfavorable marks spike in groups the Republican Party has been hoping to reach out to in presidential elections — Hispanic and African Americans. More than eight in 10 in each group rate him unfavorably, and 68 percent of each group says they have a “strongly unfavorable” impression of the businessman.

Jeb Bush is at a pretty sad 38 percent favorable, 55 percent unfavorable.

Carly’s In: CNN Makes the Right Decision

Lets give credit to CNN. They realized their criteria for a September debate was going to use a lot of polls conducted in July, and that simply didn’t make much sense. So they revised the rules.

In May, we announced criteria for our September 16th Republican debates at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. We said that we would use the average of approved national polls from July 16th through September 10th to determine the makeup of the debates. At the time, we expected there to be many more national polls following the first Republican debate, in August, than there appears there will be. In fact, in 2007 and 2011, there were 16 and 15 approved national polls in the comparable August-September time frame. This year, there have been only three such national polls released. We learned this week that there will likely be only two more polls by the deadline of September 10th.

In a world where we expected there to be at least 15 national polls, based on historic precedent, it appears there will be only five. As a result, we now believe we should adjust the criteria to ensure the next debate best reflects the most current state of the national race. In the event that any candidate is polling in the top 10 in an average of approved national polls released between August 7th and September 10th, we will add those candidates to our top tier debate, even if those candidates did not poll in the top 10 in an average of approved national polls between July 16th and September 10th. We have discussed these changes with the Republican National Committee and the Reagan Library and they are fully supportive.

In short, barring some dramatic turn of events in those next few polls, Carly Fiorina will probably be up on that stage.

If the eligibility window closed today, CNN’s analysis of polls conducted from July 16 shows that Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, John Kasich and Chris Christie would qualify for the top-tier debate. With today’s change, Fiorina would also qualify for the top-tier debate.

You may notice that’s . . . eleven participants.

Pollster: Americans Don’t Actually Pay Attention to Policie

Oh, come on, America. Come on! This shows you’re not even paying attention to the questions!

Republicans are more likely to oppose repealing the 1975 Public Affairs Act — which doesn’t actually exist — when they’re told that President Barack Obama wants to do so, while Democrats object when they’re told it’s a Republican proposal.  But even when it comes to real issues, reactions to polls can vary greatly, depending on the wording.

How much can namedropping a politician matter? Conveniently, Republican front-runner Donald Trump shares a couple of policy positions with Obama and other leading Democrats. In a new HuffPost/YouGov poll, we randomly assigned one half of the 1,000 Americans surveyed to say whether they agreed with positions Trump held. The rest were asked whether they agreed with positions held by Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry or current Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. The trick: the positions were actually the same.

Yet respondents’ reactions were decidedly different. Hearing that Trump supported a certain policy was enough to cause Democrats to reconsider ideas they’d otherwise support, and for Republicans to endorse positions they’d usually avoid.

Although most Republicans say they strongly disagree with Democrats on health care, Iran and affirmative action, fewer than a quarter of Republicans strongly disagreed when those positions were presented as Trump’s. Democrats, a majority of whom said they strongly agreed with their party on health care, were less supportive when Trump was the one endorsing the policy.

As you may have sensed, Charlie Cooke is more than a little irked that so many self-identified conservatives don’t actually care whether the nominee has a record of consistent conservatism.

An array of self-described “true conservatives” have put themselves in the awkward position of supposing that an “assault weapons” ban isn’t that big a deal after all. Thus have the pioneers of litmus testing lined up obediently behind a guy whose position on Planned Parenthood is identical to Hillary Clinton’s. Thus have the Scalia-citing “constitutional conservatives” taken to lionizing a man whose primary criticism of the liberty-shredding Kelo v. New London ruling was that it didn’t go far enough. Thus have the screaming eagles of Twitter and beyond taken to contending that the class-conscious tax hikes that the America-hating Communist Bernie Sanders proposes are akin to apple-pie-and-motherhood when they’re floated by Donald Trump.

Yeah, we’re the Republicans, and we’re the party that wants to raise your taxes:

In recent weeks, Mr. Trump has threatened to impose tariffs on American companies that put their factories in other countries. He has suggested he would increase taxes on the compensation of hedge fund managers. And he has vowed to change laws that allow American companies to benefit from cheaper tax rates by using mergers to base their operations outside the United States.

Then again, maybe the Trump agenda on taxes is pretty incoherent:

As with many of Mr. Trump’s policy ideas, confusion seems to be keeping interested parties from knowing exactly how to respond. In an interview with Fox News last week, Mr. Trump said a flat tax would be a viable improvement to America’s tax system. Moments later, he suggested that a flat tax would be unfair because the rich would be taxed at the same rate as the poor.

“The one problem I have with the flat tax is that rich people are paying the same as people that are making very little money,” Mr. Trump said. “And I think there should be a graduation of some kind.”

So he wants a flat tax, as long as not everyone is paying the same percentage . . . which makes it no longer a flat tax.

Michael Brendan Dougherty makes the argument that the Republican base is now one of the forces defending the entitlement state now:

The party’s base is older white voters who rely on Social Security and Medicare. Many of these people are not in the wealth-creating phase of their lives. According to the elite Republican consensus, they are part of the “47 percent” that Mitt Romney so cavalierly dismissed as takers. But these voters say a cut to their “earned” benefits is an insult to their honor, and their willingness to work hard and play by the rules. We are a long way from the time that George W. Bush claimed a mandate to create privatized Social Security accounts.

If Trump’s poll numbers ride high into Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, he may prove that perhaps one-third or more of the party’s primary voters are no friends of conservative economic views. He may knock out several of the non-Bush conservatives this way. His duel will show that there are alternative routes to the nomination for men of means. And the aggrieved reaction of party elites to the insult given them by Trump and his voters will also prove toxic in a general election and beyond.

How many Republicans who never stopped supporting tax cuts and entitlement reform will have that Reagan-esque feeling, “I didn’t leave the party, the party left me?”

ADDENDA: AEI’s Charles Murray is sick of politics. For some reason, I don’t think he’s alone. 

Hillary at State: Boehner’s a Drunk, Let’s Impeach Clarence Thomas!

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Our Brendan Bordelon reads Hillary Clinton’s e-mails so that you don’t have to:

New e-mails from Hillary Clinton’s private server released late Monday night by the State Department reveal the increasingly nasty tone and tactics deployed by her shadow adviser, Sidney Blumenthal, with the close Clinton confidant blasting Obama senior adviser David Axelrod, savaging Republican leader John Boehner, and suggesting ways to impeach African-American Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas . . .

Blumenthal was an equal-opportunity offender, singling out Republican John Boehner — then still Republican minority leader — for scorching criticism. “Boehner is despised by the younger, more conservative members of the House Republican Conference,” he wrote in a post-midterm autopsy on November 2, 2010. “They are repelled by his personal behavior. He is louche, alcoholic, lazy, and without any commitment to any principle. . . . He is careworn and threadbare, banal and hollow, holding nobody’s enduring loyalty.”

Then she and Blumenthal discussed a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United decision.

So these are the non-personal, work-related e-mails she didn’t delete?

Generational Economic Changes Are Bigger than Any Presidential Candidate

These are the sort of thoughts that come to mind when a bunch of conservative bloggers get together and start arguing about Donald Trump . . .

Americans came to think of the economic conditions of the postwar boom — low unemployment, easy entry into the workplace, job stability, considerable purchasing power and lots of consumer goods, high exports, good pensions, etc. as “normal.” What no one wanted to really acknowledge was how rare our advantage of that era was: We were an intact first-world economy on a planet where almost every other country was rebuilding from being blasted to hell during World War II.

Decade by decade, the rest of the world caught up and offered economic competition, primarily in the form of cheaper labor. The debate between trade and protectionism was largely one among elites. Non-wonk Americans lamented the decline of manufacturing jobs while buying Japanese (and then Chinese, Korean, and Taiwanese) electronics, German and Japanese cars, etc. Free trade is terrific for consumers but not so great when somebody overseas can do your job for less money. From where I sit, it’s on the whole advantageous but horrible if it’s your job being “outsourced” overseas.

The public’s interest would briefly stir for NAFTA or Most Favored Nation status for China, but by and large, Americans either applauded globalization, loved its benefits but lamented its costs without ever connecting the two, or just ignored it.

For a while, Americans were told that the graduate-high-school-and-go-to-the-widget-factory-assembly-line life model was disappearing, but was being replaced with a better one: graduate-from-college-and-go-to-the-white-collar-job. In fact, it was so much better, it was worth taking on tens of thousands or even $150,000 in debt, because you would make more money over the course of your lifetime.

And then, sometime around the Great Recession, that deal changed, too. Companies realized they didn’t need that many entry-level positions (or they could shift it to unpaid labor in the form of internships). Undoubtedly, some colleges let their standards slide, and too many young people focused on basket-weaving, gender studies, or humanities majors and found themselves with a degree that didn’t translate well to the needs of the job market. A dramatic expansion of unskilled labor in the form of illegal immigration put the squeeze on another corner of the workforce; automation did even more. For many, that path to the good life seems steeper, rockier, and less clear than their parents ever faced.

Some folks at the top of the economic pyramid were or are quite comfortable with the new arrangement, offering perspectives like, “if the transformation of the world economy lifts four people in China and India out of poverty and into the middle class, and meanwhile means one American drops out of the middle class, that’s not such a bad trade,” and, “We demand a higher paycheck than the rest of the world. So if you’re going to demand 10 times the paycheck, you need to deliver 10 times the value. It sounds harsh, but maybe people in the middle class need to decide to take a pay cut.” An American company may not self-identify as all that American anymore, and certainly doesn’t feel much obligation to put a national interest ahead of the bottom line.

These are giant, sweeping problems that are best measured on generational time-frames and go well beyond one law or one president or lawmaker. This change is tied to our nation’s long, slow, painful slide from a system of public schools where kids were likely to get at least a “good enough” education to prepare them for the workforce to one where public schools range from excellent to abysmal. It’s tied to the U.S. going from a nation of 14 million immigrants in 1980 (both legal and illegal, 6.2 percent of the population) to 40 million immigrants in 2010 (12.9 percent). It’s tied to changing from a world with one primary, stable, relatively predictable antagonist (the Soviet Union) to an asymmetric, multinational, amorphous, adaptive slate of demonic foes like ISIS and al Qaeda. And it’s tied up in going from a relative monoculture influenced by Judeo-Christian values and identities to a cultural Balkanization where the counterculture became the dominant culture, then shattered itself.

Ultimately, electing a better president is one step on the road — an important one, but only one. A lot of this comes down to what Americans expect of themselves. Do we want to compete in the global economy, and if not, are we willing to live with the consequences of closing ourselves off from the rest of the world? Are we willing to study hard to be qualified for good jobs and work hard once we get them? Are our companies willing to see themselves as national institutions instead of global ones? Are employers willing to show greater loyalty to their employees, and are their employees willing to reciprocate?

It would be spectacular if we could shake the country out of its fascination with caudillo-like figures. You would hope people would have learned from the experience of electing Barack Obama the Lightworker, the Munificent Sun God, the first man to step down into the presidency. But no, for far too many people, the lesson is not that we shouldn’t look to a president to be our savior, it’s that we chose the wrong one — but Hillary, or Donald Trump, or Bernie Sanders will be the right savior.

Hey, Remember When Conservatives Opposed Bailouts, Stimulus, & Pay Limits?

Does it matter to Trump fans that their man was a pretty big cheerleader for the stimulus, bailouts, and limiting executive pay? Here he is back in February 2009:

Larry King: Is Obama right or wrong to go after these executives with salary caps?

Donald Trump: Well, I think he’s absolutely right. Billions of dollars is being given to banks and others. You know, once you start using taxpayer money, it’s a whole new game. So I absolutely think he’s right.

King: What about the whole concept of bailouts?

Trump: Well, it’s a little bit different. A lot of people are not in favor of bailouts. You know, we talked about all the different things going on in this country. Let’s face it, Larry, we are in a depression. If they didn’t do the bailout, you would be in depression No. 2 and maybe just as big as depression No. 1, so they really had to do something. The problem is they’re giving millions and billions of dollars to banks and the banks aren’t loaning it . . .

King: If you were in the Senate, would you vote for the stimulus plan?

Trump: Well, I’d vote for a stimulus plan. I’m not sure that all of the things in there are appropriate. Some of the little toys that they have are not really appropriate, and they’re a little surprising that they seem to want it, because the publicity on it has been terrible.

And then he said to Greta Van Susteren, after the president made the pitch for his plan, “This is a strong guy, knows what he wants, and this is what we need.”

He sounded pretty amenable to the final package when talking to Neil Cavuto . . .

CAVUTO: Are you for this Obama stimulus that was signed into law today?

TRUMP: Well, something had to be done. And whether it’s perfect or not, nothing is perfect. And it’s a whole trial-and-error thing, Neil.

Talking to Wolf Blitzer, Trump contended it was too small.

BLITZER: What about the president of the United States? How is he doing?

TRUMP: Well, he’s having a little bit of a tough time. I have great respect for him. And I love the way he ran the campaign. He’s having a few stumbles now and then. But I think he’s going to be really terrific. I certainly hope he’s going to be great. And I think he will be.

BLITZER: And you like this economic stimulus package? The banking package? The home foreclosure package? God knows, there’s so many economic issues out there.

TRUMP: Wolf, it’s a step. And it’s a big step. But relatively speaking, it’s not very much money when you look at the overall economy. But it is something he inherited, a total mess from Bush. And you know, we have to remember, he didn’t cause this problem. He’s trying to fix the problem. It’s not going to be easy. It’s very deep seeded, and it’s even beyond this country.

Do we not care about this stuff anymore? How does the guy who allegedly represents fury with business and economic elites get to endorse TARP? Why do the other guys’ deviations from conservative orthodoxy disqualify them, but Trump gets a pass?

ADDENDA: Kevin in Albequerque, a big help with the pop-culture podcast, writes up a generous review of The Weed Agency.

For regular readers of Geraghty and of conservative Twitter, there are multiple easter eggs hidden throughout the book. (I won’t give them away here, go buy a copy!) There are also numerous appearances by people you’re familiar with from C-SPAN, or cable or network news, their dialogue written so much to the way you would expect to hear as to be frightening. A certain HUD Secretary’s ability to string words and sentences together without pause for breath made me laugh out loud in-flight. A House Speaker’s ability to get caught up in discussions of technology and philosophy, to his own detriment, just makes you shake your head. These elements of dialogue benefit from Geraghty’s interactions with the subjects in his capacities at NR.

Let’s just say there’s a former House Speaker who has an admirable ability to laugh at himself and take a joke:

Most importantly, as Geraghty notes through regular references, many of the words and actions of politicians and career agency staffers are driven by actual references and occasional quotes from other . . . well, they’re not scandals, in the traditional sense . . . but they’re examples of the hand-in-glove relationships between appropriators and agencies that exist in real life. The story in The Weed Agency is fictional, but the barest sheen exists between the fiction and fact so as to both make the tale completely believable and exceptionally depressing at the same time.

In other book news, Cam and I are wrapping up the copy edits, acknowledgements, and other finishing touches on Heavy Lifting, now with the subtitle, “Grow Up, Get a Job, Raise a Family, and Other Manly Advice.” I see the pre-order price is only $20.99 with Amazon Prime, down from the cover price of $27.99, so you may want to grab it, I don’t know how long that price will last. 

Obama: Hey, I’m Going to Start Renaming Stuff, Just Because I Can

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We’re deep into the “YOLO” stage of this presidency. Finally, for all of you who felt that naming the country’s highest mountain after President McKinley represented some sort of intolerable outrage . . .

President Obama announced on Sunday that Mount McKinley was being renamed Denali, using his executive power to restore an Alaska Native name with deep cultural significance to the tallest mountain in North America.

The move came on the eve of Mr. Obama’s trip to Alaska, where he will spend three days promoting aggressive action to combat climate change, and is part of a series of steps he will make there meant to address the concerns of Alaska Native tribes.

The central Alaska mountain has officially been called Mount McKinley for almost a century. In announcing that Sally Jewell, the secretary of the interior, had used her power to rename it, Mr. Obama was paying tribute to the state’s Native population, which has referred to the site for generations as Denali, meaning “the high one” or “the great one.”

Mr. Obama, freed from the political constraints of an impending election in the latter half of his second term, was also moving to put to rest a years long fight over the name of the mountain that has pit Alaska against electorally powerful Ohio, the birthplace of President William McKinley, for whom it was christened in 1896.

(If you’re wondering about the contradiction, it was called McKinley since 1896, but officially declared “Mount McKinley” in 1917.)

You know that if Obama had the power, he would rename the Washington Redskins.

He does this as Americans grow increasingly frustrated and angry with the state of the country:

A total of 71 percent of American voters are “dissatisfied” with the way things are going in the nation today, including 41 percent who are “very dissatisfied,” according to a Quinnipiac  University National poll released today. Only 2 percent are “very satisfied,” with 26 percent “somewhat satisfied.”

Looking at the federal government, 49 percent of voters are “dissatisfied, but not angry” with Washington, while 27 percent are “angry,” the independent Quinnipiac University poll finds. Only 2 percent are “enthusiastic” about the federal government, while 21 percent are “satisfied, but not enthusiastic.”

Only 2 percent of voters trust government “almost all the time,” while 13 percent trust government “most of the time.” Another 51 percent trust government “some of the time” and 34 percent trust government “hardly ever.”

As Allahpundit would say, “Nice work, champ.”

Donald Trump Is Pat Buchanan without the Social Conservatism

Politico asked a group of historians to assess Donald Trump and draw parallels to past figures: “Some maintained that he is a unique product of the era of reality TV, social media and the 1 percent. But others saw similarities to politicians, personalities and tycoons past, from Italy’s former bunga-bunga prime minister Silvio Berlusconi to the last billionaire to disrupt presidential politics, Ross Perot, to segregationist populists like George Wallace.”

I was surprised no one compared him to Pat Buchanan; I write about Trump as Buchanan without the social conservatism today.

As much as he really likes Trump, Buchanan loves Trump’s supporters, describing them as needed revolutionaries. “People are agitating for the overthrow of the old order and a new deal for America,” Buchanan writes. “For there is a palpable sense that the game is rigged against Middle America and for the benefit of insiders who grow rich and fat not by making things or building things, but by manipulating money.” . . .

Buchanan became politically radioactive in some circles in the 1990s, largely because of the perceived anti-Semitism of his occasional qualified praise for Hitler, his flirtations with Holocaust denial, and his ceaseless criticism of Israel and its supporters. While he remained a constant presence on cable news and in print, he never really regained his ability to influence the GOP’s ideological direction. By the presidency of George W. Bush — with its pro-free-trade stances, dramatic expansion of U.S. military action abroad, dismissal of mass deportation, and support for guest-worker programs — Buchananism seemed all but dead.

It’s not surprising, then, that Buchanan sees Trump’s rise as sweet revenge on a Republican establishment that wrote him off as a political liability and a hatemonger.

“Whatever becomes of Trump the candidate, Trumpism, i.e., economic and foreign policy nationalism, appears ascendant,” Buchanan wrote. Considering how much Trumpism sounds like the old Buchananism, that assessment must have brought a smile to his face.

You can take that as a good thing or a bad thing, but I think it’s safe to conclude that the basic philosophies of Buchananism in the 1990s — wariness of free trade, supreme skepticism of immigration, disinclination to use military force abroad — were only stifled during the Bush years, not renounced.

Bernie Sanders and the Left’s Unshakable Faith in International Community

Appearing on ABC’s This Week Sunday, Bernie Sanders didn’t just boast about his opposition to the Iraq War that began in 2003; he touted his opposition to the first Persian Gulf War.

“I think historically, in too many instances the United States has gone to war, often unilaterally, when we should not,” Sanders said. “I think my vote against the first war in the Gulf region was the right vote I think we could have gotten Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait in a way that did not require a war, and I think certainly–”

At this point, anchor Martha Raddatz felt obligated to interrupt the kumbaya talk.

“Even though he had invaded Kuwait?”

“But the point was you had the whole world united against him, Martha,” Sanders snapped. “Do we need to go to war in every instance, or can we bring pressure of sanctions and international pressure to resolve these conflicts?”

Take that, straw man who calls for going to war in every instance!

“Look, I am supporting President Obama’s effort to make certain that Iran does not get a nuclear weapon, but I get very nervous about my Republican friends who keep implying that the only way we could do that is through another war,” he said. “War is the last resort, not the first resort.”

Notice Sanders talks about the awesome power of sanctions, and then applauds a deal that takes away sanctions on Iran. The sanctions were working. The White House insists that it’s the deal or war, no options in between, and Sanders goes right along with it.

It’s fascinating that years after Saddam Hussein died, Sanders still believes the Iraqi dictator could have been coaxed or persuaded to relinquish control of Kuwait . . . when we know from what happened that Hussein thought keeping Kuwait was worth a war with the coalition forces. Despite the fact that Iraq violated 16 U.N. resolutions, Sanders still thinks that “international pressure” could have cajoled old Saddam into changing his ways.

A big chunk of the world — or at least a big chunk of the world’s governments — oppose ISIS. But there’s much less will to confront them in ways that involve risk — i.e., sending troops to go fight them. The insistence that “the whole world united” is enough holds us back from actually solving the problem.

ADDENDA: In case you missed it on Sunday, here’s my appearance on Howard Kurtz’s program.

A bit earlier we mentioned the Redskins. Today in Washington, the team is coming to terms with a twist that would be unimaginable two years ago: “It is becoming increasingly apparent that Griffin has lost his starting quarterback job, and depending on the events and conversations in the coming days, possibly his roster spot. Outside of ownership, there has been a groundswell of support from a strong segment of football people within the organization to change quarterbacks, but there is a question about whether they have the authority to part ways with Griffin, sources said.”

Use Our Senatorial Nuclear Option to Stop Iran’s Radioactive Nuclear Option

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A simple proposal: To stop Iran’s nukes, use our own nuclear option. Scrap the filibuster, pass a resolution declaring the Iran deal a treaty that requires Senate authorization, introduce the text of the Iran deal, and vote it down.

Remember, Democrats got rid of the filibuster for nominations in 2013, arguing that GOP obstructionism was interfering with the president’s constitutional authority to make judicial appointments. The Constitution requires Senatorial consent to treaties. The administration claims the Iran deal isn’t a treaty because they think it has “become physically impossible“ to pass a treaty in the Senate.

Do you think Iran will honor their side of the agreement? Probably not, right?

Even if they do, do you think Iran will attempt to build a nuke quickly when the deal expires? Certainly, right?

Do you think that if Iran gets a nuke, they will use it? Pretty darn likely, right?

So, congressional Republicans . . . what are you willing to do to prevent a mushroom cloud either in the Middle East or closer to home?

Why Did Bill Clinton Consider a Speaking Gig in North Korea?

How . . . screwed up is it that North Korea invited President Clinton to give a paid speech, and he wanted to do it?

A second email thread in May 2012 shows another potentially thorny event — subject line: “North Korea invitation.”

“Is it safe to assume [the U.S. Government] would have concerns about WJC accepting the attached invitation related to North Korea?” Desai wrote in an e-mail to Mills and two other State Department officials — Jake Sullivan, then-director of Policy Planning Staff and Deputy Chief of Staff, and Michael Fuchs, then a special assistant to the Secretary of State who now serves as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Strategy and Multilateral Affairs in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs.

Mills two-word response? “Decline it.”

But the Clinton Foundation followed up three weeks later, saying the invite came via Hillary Clinton’s brother Tony Rodham.

“We would be grateful for any specific concerns that we could share,” Desai wrote. “Tony is seeing WJC in a couple hours.”

Mills wrote back to tell Bill Clinton, “If he needs more let him know his wife knows and I am happy to call him secure when he is near a secure line.”

There is no further explanation of what the North Korea related event entailed in the documents provided to Citizens United by the State Department.

We know he didn’t need the money. That ABC News report notes, “Bill Clinton delivered 215 speeches totaling over $48 million in the four years Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State.”

It reminded me of this long-lost chapter of history:

CNN has learned that President Clinton’s half-brother Roger Clinton is scheduled to visit North Korea in the first week of December. Roger Clinton and his band were invited to play in a concert in Pyongyang that will include artists from South Korea and North Korea.

Korecom, company based in Seoul, South Korea, has been working to make arrangements for the event. The six-day visit would include sightseeing.

Clinton administration officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Roger Clinton did not tell the White House of his plans to participate in the concert.

They pointed out that the president’s half brother does not need approval and did not seek it, though the U.S. officials said it would be preferable if he or any other high-profile person would seek the administration’s input in planning a trip to the communist country.

But, said one of the officials, “We’ve been down similar paths with Roger before — he is his own unique person.”

Are Americans Becoming Grievance Collectors?

Over on the home page, I look at the rush to find societal scapegoats for mass shootings on both the left and the right, and the possibility that this ignores the more proximate issue of individuals’ becoming “grievance collectors.”

There are disturbing ramifications if media discussions are indeed driving us to become a more grievance-minded society. Willard Gaylin, one of the world’s preeminent psychology professors, writes about the dangers of “grievance collecting” in his book Hatred: The Psychological Descent into Violence:

Grievance collecting is a step on the journey to a full-blown paranoid psychosis. A grievance collector will move from the passive assumption of deprivation and low expectancy common to most paranoid personalities to a more aggressive mode. He will not endure passively his deprived state; he will occupy himself with accumulating evidence of his misfortunes and locating the sources. Grievance collectors are distrustful and provocative, convinced that they are always taken advantage of and given less than their fair share. . . .

Underlying this philosophy is an undeviating comparative and competitive view of life. Everything is part of a zero-sum game. Deprivation can be felt in another person’s abundance of good fortune.

At the heart of the grievance collector’s worldview is that he is not responsible for the condition of his life; a vast conspiracy of malevolent individuals and forces is entirely at fault. There is always someone else to blame, and the Virginia shooter quickly finds ways to excuse his actions and deflect the responsibility to others.

A lot of people on the right will read that and say, “Ah-ha! A ‘grievance collector’ is exactly what liberals want people to be! That’s what they’re stirring up with their class warfare, their portrait of a relentlessly racist society, ‘Occupy Wall Street,’ and so on!” Except this is not just a matter of politics, it’s a matter of personal worldview. Nobody can brainwash you into being angry at the world for slights and injustices, real or perceived. Everyone who embraces fury and resentment makes the choice to do so.

Also . . . is this really a phenomenon of the Left? Isn’t it fair to say the right side of the spectrum is more grievance-minded in 2015 than in, say, 1980 or 1988? Perhaps the reasons for anger are more legitimate — illegal immigration, monstrous activities within Planned Parenthood’s walls, a deal that legitimizes Iran’s nuclear program . . .

. . . and then there’s the deliberate provocations.

Hillary Clinton’s Insane ‘Terrorism’ Charge against the GOP

What does Hillary Clinton have in common with terrorist groups? Well, they’re both being investigated by the FBI.

Hillary Clinton wants to get out of trouble. So she calls Republicans terrorists . . .

During a riff Thursday where Clinton name checked Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Clinton said Republicans are “dead wrong for 21st century America.”

“Now, extreme views about women, we expect that from some of the terrorist groups, we expect that from people who don’t want to live in the modern world, but it’s a little hard to take from Republicans who want to be the president of the United States,” Clinton said at a speech in Cleveland. “Yet they espouse out of date, out of touch policies. They are dead wrong for 21st century America. We are going forward, we are not going back.”

It sounds like she’s practicing a version of the “stray voltage” theory — say something deliberately over-the-top provocative to shift the conversation. John Fund explains:

Major Garrett, the CBS White House correspondent, has talked with White House aides who confirm that the administration is working from the theory of “stray voltage,” as developed by former White House senior adviser David Plouffe.

“The theory goes like this,” Garrett wrote. “Controversy sparks attention, attention provokes conversation, and conversation embeds previously unknown or marginalized ideas in the public consciousness,” Deliberately misstating information about key issues in order to keep certain issues before the public is often a premeditated strategy.

“The tactic represents one more step in the embrace of cynicism that has characterized President Obama’s journey in office,” John Dickerson wrote at Slate. “Facts, schmacts. As long as people are talking about an issue where my party has an advantage with voters, it’s good.”

There are a lot of reasons why Hillary Clinton shouldn’t be the next president of the United States. But a pretty big one is illuminated by this; at the moment that the country has a bursting-at-the-seams list of real problems — low workforce participation, a ticking time bomb of entitlement programs, turbulent markets, an insecure border, Russian aggression, saber-rattling all over the Pacific Rim, sputtering schools, crushing student debt — she chooses to pour gasoline on the fire, comparing her opponents to terrorists. When she’s in a jam, her instinct is to take public divisions and make them worse. If you’re tired of public discourse resembling a cross between a bar fight between bikers and a YouTube comments section, President Hillary Clinton will do nothing to improve that.

ADDENDA: I’m scheduled to appear on MediaBuzz with Howard Kurtz this Sunday morning. Topics to be determined.

The Rush for Scapegoats in the Aftermath of the Awful Virginia Shooting

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Dinesh D’Souza tweets, “I predict our mainstream media will be VERY SLOW to report that the #VirginiaShooter was reprimanded for wearing an Obama badge on the job.”

Yeah, probably. Still, take a look at the article that mentions it . . .

Warped TV reporter Vester Lee Flanagan exasperated bosses with his ‘stiff and nervous’ delivery, his inability to use a teleprompter — and by wearing a President Obama badge during an election report, Daily Mail Online can reveal.

Management at WDBJ dubbed the failed newsman the ‘human tape recorder’ because he frequently parroted what interviewees had told him rather than doing his own journalism.

Flanagan, 41, clashed repeatedly with photojournalists, belittling them in public and intimidating them with his violent temper, according to internal reports.

He was also censured for wearing an Obama sticker while recording a segment at a polling booth during the 2012 US Presidential Election — a clear breach of journalistic impartiality . . .

The station filed the documents to rebut a wrongful termination claim which he had brought, claiming he was the victim of discrimination because he was black and gay. The station won the case.

In a sometimes-rambling account of his time at WDBJ Flanagan accused co-workers of racially harassing him by placing a watermelon around the office. ‘The watermelon would appear, then disappear, then appear and disappear, then appear and disappear again only to appear again,’ he wrote in a May 2014 letter to presiding Judge Francis Burkart.

‘This was not an innocent incident. The watermelon was placed in a strategic location.’

He demanded a jury comprised entirely of African American women and independent investigations by the FBI and Justice Department.

Is the fact that he’s a partisan hack in his Election Day reporting relevant? Eh, maybe. But it seems less relevant than the fact that the guy was cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs.

When there’s an awful shooting, Democrats call for gun control yet again. Charlie Cooke observes:

They want an “assault weapons” ban; they want a magazine-size limit; and they want background checks on private sales. And, clearly, they are quite happy to point to this incident in order to make their case. But, as we now know, this shooting has nothing to do with any of these things. The killer used a Glock 19 handgun, which is not an “assault weapon” in any universe. He fired eight shots in total. And he bought his gun legally from a dealer. In other words, he did nothing that even intersects with their coveted laws.

When a gay black man murders his white colleagues out of a sense of racial grievance, a lot of folks on my side seem to want the same rush to find the true cause, i.e., “The black shooter was radicalized by the constant media race-baiting.”

We’re now seeing the Right’s version of “Sarah Palin’s Facebook page map caused the Tucson shooting.” Maybe turnabout is fair play, but it’s every bit as illogical. Conservative adoption of this argument probably further legitimizes the philosophy that when something horrific happens, we should look at controversial media sources as the real source of the problem. We’ve seen a rotating cast of media scapegoats — violent video games, rap music, heavy metal music, even Dungeons and Dragons. It’s never enough to blame the person who pulled the trigger or committed the crime; we want to apply the transitive property to point the finger at some other force we don’t like.

But whatever you define as media race-baiting — let’s take, for example, Al Sharpton’s show — we don’t know if this guy watched Sharpton’s show; even if he did, he’s one of . . . 416,000 total viewers or so.

What if, like the Tucson shooter, the Virginia shooter was a paranoid schitzophrenic?

Allahpundit:

He sued both news outlets for racial discrimination but the complaints went nowhere, said Marks, because no one could corroborate the anti-black and/or anti-gay comments allegedly made to him. Makes me wonder, per the tidbit in the excerpt above, if “Jehovah’s” wasn’t the only phantom voice Flanagan ever heard.

‘Their Tie to Him Is Almost Mystical.’ [Cue Ominous Music]

Fred Barnes observes a group of Donald Trump fans in a focus group, and his first observation is a doozie:

A focus group of Trumpies on Monday night in Alexandria, Virginia, was just that—quite revealing. It was organized by Frank Luntz, Mr. Focus Group himself. He’s conducted more than a thousand of them. Yet he was at times surprised by how the gang of 29—17 women, 12 men—talked about Trump.

They view Trump as different from all the other presidential candidates. He’s not just their favorite candidate. Their tie to him is almost mystical. He’s a kind of political savior, someone who says what they think. Luntz asked them for the one word that comes to mind when they think of Trump. The word cited most was “leader.” Other words mentioned were “not a politician” and “not PC” and “decisive.”

I can’t think of anything more unnerving than being told that a group of people believe they have an “almost mystical” tie to their leader.

Next you’ll be telling me people are seeing Donald Trump appear in — oh, wait, you’ve got to be kidding me . . .

Treating garden-variety political figures as quasi-messianic saviors is insufferable enough, but what’s worse, we just went through this. Do we not remember Mark Morford writing in the San Francisco press . . .

Many spiritually advanced people I know (not coweringly religious, mind you, but deeply spiritual) identify Obama as a Lightworker, that rare kind of attuned being who has the ability to lead us not merely to new foreign policies or health care plans or whatnot, but who can actually help usher in a new way of being on the planet, of relating and connecting and engaging with this bizarre earthly experiment. These kinds of people actually help us evolve. They are philosophers and peacemakers of a very high order, and they speak not just to reason or emotion, but to the soul.

Jesus isn’t coming back just to run for president.

Speaking of crazy, some people think I’m crazy for contending Joe Biden will be more difficult for the Republican nominee to beat than Hillary Clinton.

But for starters, if Hillary’s not the nominee, a whole bunch of major GOP arguments against her effectively disappear:

Suddenly, the classified information Hillary Clinton stored on a private, insecure e-mail server is just grist for a juicy FBI investigation — not a defining issue in the presidential race. Suddenly, Clinton’s problematic record at the State Department is downgraded to a minor sub-section of the Republican argument against President Obama’s foreign-policy performance as a whole. Suddenly her pledge to Charles Woods, the father of a Navy SEAL killed in Benghazi, that she’d “make sure that the person who made that film is arrested and prosecuted” is a historical footnote, not a key revelation into the character of the Democratic nominee.

With Biden as the nominee, the Clinton Foundation and its shady, favor-seeking foreign and domestic donors vanish as a campaign issue. So do the thorny questions of quid pro quo impropriety, real or apparent, created by those donors’ favor-seeking while Clinton sat atop the State Department.

But put most simply, Joe Biden is liked by a lot of people, and Hillary isn’t.

In Quinnipiac’s hypothetical head-to-head matchups, Biden polls as well or slightly better than Clinton, although some may wonder about the value of such surveys this early in the cycle. Perhaps a better measuring stick is overall favorability, which makes Biden look much better than Clinton, at least for the moment. In late July, Quinnipiac found Biden at 49 percent favorable, 39 percent unfavorable. Clinton sat at 41 percent favorable, 50 percent unfavorable. Earlier this month, Gallup recorded the vice president’s favorable/unfavorable split at 47 percent to 40 percent, his most positive ratings in their surveys since immediately after the 2012 election. Meanwhile, Gallup finds Clinton now underwater at 43 percent favorable, 46 percent unfavorable.

Even people who think Biden is wrong about everything end up liking the guy.

Washington reporters immediately latched on to [Defense Secretary Robert] Gates’ portrayal of Vice President Joe Biden. Biden, he said, is a nice guy — “simply impossible not to like” — but “wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.”

ADDENDA: I’m scheduled to appear in-studio on NRANews.com with Cam Edwards. Edits for the book are largely done

Ramos Makes the Immigration Debate Angry and Bitter, Too

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For those who think I never write anything nice about Donald Trump . . . boy, it’s just delicious to watch him respond to Jorge Ramos, a Univision reporter who hadn’t yet been called upon, but who decided to stand up and harangue Trump at an event in Iowa Tuesday night.

“Okay, who’s next? Excuse me, sit down. You weren’t called. Sit down. Sit down. Siddown! Go ahead. No, you’re not. You haven’t been called. Go back to Univision. Go ahead. Go ahead. Sit down, please. You weren’t called.”

The media probably will eagerly turn this story into “aspiring fascistic dictator Trump uses Stasi tactics on minority reporter,” but the video indicates it’s nothing of the sort. It’s difficult to hear exactly what Ramos is saying on the video, but it sounds more like a diatribe than a question. When Ramos was allowed back in the room, and was permitted to ask a question, he began, “Here’s the problem with your immigration plan: It’s full of empty promises.”

Last week Ramos declared, “Right now Donald Trump is, no question, the loudest voice of intolerance, hatred, and division in the United States.”

Once you’ve called a candidate the epitome of modern evil . . . I don’t think they’re obligated to grant you an interview! And for all of the howling and fury over Trump’s comment about Mexican immigrants, Ramos is the flip side of the coin in making the immigration debate angry, ugly, and bitter. He never acknowledges that Americans who want their border laws enforced have a legitimate point or are good people. He routinely uses the term “anti-immigrant” to describe those who disagree with his stance, when just about all of them support legal immigration.

He never acknowledges that there’s something wrong with entering the country illegally. He sneeringly simplifies the debate to immigrants and their friends on one side and irredeemable hateful xenophobes on the other.

He’s declared, “what Republicans don’t understand is that for us, the immigration issue is the most pressing symbolically and emotionally, and the stance a politician takes on this defines whether he is with us or against us.”

One might say Ramos’s disregard for waiting his turn during the press conference is a metaphor for the disregard for the law implied in his position. You may recall another reporter passionate about the issue, Jose Antonio Vargas — legal citizen of the Philippines who came to the U.S. at age twelve and who has been living here in violation of the law since. Vargas has been eager to turn himself into the face of illegal immigrants facing deportation to home countries they barely remember. But as I wrote last year, Vargas’ determination to remain in the country led him to violate all sorts of laws: document forgery, making false statements on legal documents (signed under penalty of perjury), driving without a driver’s license, using fraudulent documents to enter White House grounds, and driving a car with headphones on. Last week we learned he was “hit with a $41,945.44 tax lien in a court notice on Jan. 7, 2015 for failing to pay taxes in 2010.” Vargas said he paid the debt in February and showed Red Alert Politics the check.

When you begin thinking your position is so righteous that the rules don’t apply to you, trouble follows.

If You’re Wondering What’s on Roger Ailes’s Mind These Days . . .

A look inside the new Fox News from the Hollywood Reporter:

Still, there have been changes at the network since the 2012 election, with Ailes clearly wooing a younger brand of conservative. (The network’s median age — over 65 — is the oldest of the news networks, though Fox News still outrates the competition among the advertiser-coveted 25-to-54 demographic.) In 2013, he moved Kelly into the 9 p.m. slot occupied for more than a decade by conservative firebrand Sean Hannity. And he built [Shephard] Smith — an empathic reporter often suspected of being liberal — a $7 million studio and made him the network’s on-call anchor throughout the evening.

“Nobody else has this — it’s very expensive,” says Smith of his show’s News Deck, which is staffed by dozens of producers who monitor news feeds and social media for what amounts to a perpetual news factory. “We’re paying a lot of people in case something happens. It’s an enormous commitment, and nobody else is making it. But those things don’t get talked about. What gets talked about is O’Reilly bloviating about something.”

I suspect there’s a lot about Roger Ailes that would surprise people:

Ailes’ laissez-faire attitude extends to his workers, sometimes in seemingly willful ways. After [Juan] Williams was dumped by NPR in 2010 for admitting (on Fox News) that he viewed Muslims with some trepidation when he boarded an airplane, Ailes promoted him. And he stood by weekend anchor Gregg Jarrett throughout a very public battle with alcoholism (Jarrett appeared on the network slurring his words). “I like talent and think they’re vulnerable,” says Ailes. “They get out there in front of the public and take all the criticism. They do a lot of hard work. So one of my jobs is to protect them.” . . .

In fact, Ailes’ sympathy for anchors in trouble goes beyond his own troops; when NBC’s Brian Williams got suspended for embellishing his own war reporting, Ailes sent word to his shows to lay off. “He said to us, ‘OK, we covered it, I don’t think we need to kill the guy,’”recalls O’Reilly. Ailes, in fact, believes Williams should get his job back. “I think Brian’s a talent who made a dumb-ass error,” he says. “When you spend your life around CEOs and generals and presidents, you can start to feel less than, particularly if you don’t have a college education, you never joined the service. And so you get tempted to do something stupid. So I think he can admit that and say, ‘I screwed up.’ And most people are willing to forgive. I’m a great believer in giving people a chance. If you haven’t actually killed someone or done something that’s irreparable, then it’s a matter of going on a little journey and never ever doing anything like that again.”

What Kind of a Future Do the Millennials Have?

Michael Brendan Doherty reads Kristen Soltis Anderson’s new book and comes away with fear for the Millennials:

The Selfie Vote puts a tremendous amount of emphasis on the opportunities that exist for Republicans among millennials. But reading the book, I became less concerned with the electoral prospects for the GOP and more concerned with the fate of a generation, and the nation that will be entrusted to it. Beneath the polling is a sad story of a generation that is more indebted at a younger age, and is less invested in any of its nation’s civil, religious, and state institutions.

Millennials are just not participating as much in the institutions of public life. They are more likely to remain chronically unemployed, less likely to invest money, and less likely to marry, now or ever. Despite a culture that has come to romanticize the entrepreneurial spirit of young Silicon Valley kids, millennials as a whole are less likely to start businesses. Many of these trends are related: It is harder to start a business if family bonds and family support are weaker. It is harder to invest if you lack even a day job.

Sure, some of this reflects the economy. But what if it’s more?

Anderson has lots of great policy recommendations for Republicans, showing that they can win the future by fighting the outdated structures built by progressive victories in the last century. But millennials aren’t just one or two policy tweaks away from becoming Schwab-account-having, tassled-loafer-wearing Bush voters. This is a generation whose social capital has been drained away before it could even be invested. Chronically high youth unemployment, declining religious participation, lowering marriage rates, lowering birth rates, massive debt, a sense that the existing systems are corrupt — in European countries, these have been the signs of extinction for traditional center-right and center-left parties, not mere decline.

Maybe they need to hear that growing up, getting married, and having kids isn’t so bad after all.

ADDENDA: Rolling Stone reports on the “avant-garde industrial group Laibach” which recently performed in North Korea.

Did the government provide handlers or minders to watch over you?

Our group of 30 people was taken care by five Korean “helpers, guides and translators,” who also made sure that we did not act “too freely” and vanish in the night. They were all very helpful and not at all a nuisance.

Hey, fellas, what’s the next album called? “Useful Idiot”?

Group member Ivo Saliger declares, “Entering North Korea is not that difficult at all. As a matter of fact, it is generally easier than entering U.S.” No, it’s leaving that is the hard part for the American citizens they keep illegally detaining

No Big Deal, Just a $1.8 Trillion Loss . . .

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CNN, back in April: “President Barack Obama might give Hillary Clinton the best gift any sitting president can offer their potential successor: a strong economy.”

The news this morning:

As of March 31, households and nonprofits held $24.1 trillion in stocks. That’s both directly, and through mutual funds, pension funds and the like. That also includes the holdings of U.S.-based hedge funds, though you’d have to think that most hedge funds are held by households.

Using the Dow Jones Total Stock Market index, through midmorning trade, that number had dropped to $22.32 trillion.

In other words, a cool $1.8 trillion has been lost between now and the first quarter — and overwhelmingly, those losses occurred in the last few days. This will probably be the worst quarter for stock-market destruction since the third quarter of 2011, when $2.8 trillion was wiped away.

Again, the stock market is not the same as the economy, but everybody who looks at their 401(k) or other financial statements is probably feeling some grim tension this morning.

The Homicide Rate Is Skyrocketing in America’s Big Cities

Over on the home page, an examination of whether the conservative push for criminal-justice reform can survive when America’s cities are enduring a sudden spike in homicides and shootings:

This year’s urban murder statistics range from unnerving to jaw-dropping. In Milwaukee, 86 people were killed in 2014; 101 have been killed so far in 2015. In St. Louis, the number of homicides has increased from 120 in 2013 to 157 in 2014 to 127 so far this year. In New York City, the murder rate is up about 11 percent from last year’s pace, and shootings increased 2.8 percent. (Overall, crime in the city is down 5.6 percent.)

Baltimore, torn apart by riots in late April, is experiencing one of the worst crime surges. New York City has 13 times the population of Baltimore, but the smaller city actually has more homicides this year: 213 to New York’s 208. Baltimore’s murder rate through August 19 is an astounding 34 per 100,000 people. Chicago is on a quicker pace, too, with more than 299 homicides so far this year, after witnessing 426 last year. Washington, D.C., homicides are up 41 percent from last year.

Even in cities where the homicide rate isn’t up, crime is increasing. Take, for example, Los Angeles, which had 135 homicides in the first six months of 2014, compared with 126 in the same period this year: overall crime in the city is up 12 percent and violent crime is up 20.6 percent.

Every Day Is Old-Timers’ Day in the Democratic Party

From our perspective, this is delicious . . .

Biden has another card to play in soliciting Warren’s support. He would be 74 years old if he were elected president in 2016, an issue he may have a way of addressing. “One thing that I keep hearing about Biden is that if he were to declare and say, because age is such a problem for him if he does, ‘I want to be a one-term president. I want to serve for four years, unite Washington. I’ve dealt with the Republicans in Congress all my public life,’” liberal journalist Carl Bernstein told CNN this month.

A one-term pledge by Biden would also interest Elizabeth Warren. She is 66 years old, and if a Democrat wins in 2016, she will be 74 herself by the time someone else has served two terms in office — and facing her own age issues. But if Biden won, after pledging to serve only one term, Warren would be the front-runner for the Democratic nomination in 2020. If Biden made her his vice-presidential choice, as Yale’s Professor Kahn and others have suggested, she might be a virtual lock for the Democratic nomination.

By the way, how do Democrats feel that the party allegedly in touch with young people is selecting among a menu of 73-year-old Bernie Sanders, 67-year-old Hillary, 72-year-old Biden, and 66-year-old Warren? Sure, the party has other leaders, like 75-year-old Nancy Pelosi, 64-year-old Chuck Schumer, and 77-year-old Jerry Brown . . .

Has any party ever had a top tier so aged?

Anyway, this morning, there are signs the Obama team is lining up behind Biden: “Sources tell CBS News that President Obama has given Vice President Joe Biden the green light to mull a White House run.”

The AP:

Some White House officials were irked by revelations that Clinton sidestepped administration guidelines by using a private email account on her own computer server to do State Department business. Privately, some Obama allies also say they’re miffed at Clinton’s handling of the email controversy, which continues to dog her campaign.

“Biden, as the president’s partner, would be closely identified with the Obama legacy,” said David Axelrod, a longtime Obama political adviser. However, he added that “any Democrat will carry the benefits and burdens of Obama into this election.”

Three weeks ago, Axelrod was saying he would urge Biden not to run in 2016.

Is Schumer Trying to Save the Democrats from the Iran Deal?

I knew the Iran deal was unpopular, but wasn’t sure it was unpopular enough to be consequential. Pollster (and NR cruiser!) Pat Caddell and Douglas Schoen, a former pollster for President Bill Clinton, contend the Iran deal could end up haunting the Democratic party for a long time to come:

For all the abuse he’s taking, Schumer may actually be protecting the Democratic Party from the real political danger inherent in Obama’s actions. The contempt that the president and John Kerry showed by taking this agreement to the UN before submitting it to Congress and the American people was reckless.

They are not only thumbing their noses at the American people and Congress, but they are showing contempt for the primacy of our system of checks and balances and they could be setting up the Democratic party for years of attacks of “you caused this!” every time Iran behaves in a threatening manner.

Should Obama veto a bill blocking the Iran deal and defy the will of Congress, he would once again find himself on the wrong side of public opinion: 61 percent of voters would want a veto overridden. If a veto is sustained solely by Democrats two-thirds of respondents, including a plurality of Democrats say they would blame the Democratic party if Iran got a nuclear weapon or used the money from sanction relief to support terrorist attacks on Israel.

The Iranian mullahs are probably smart enough to keep their nuclear program very, very secret and quiet for the next ten years. If you’ve just gotten a sweet deal from an administration eager to avoid confrontation, and a giant infusion of cash, and relief from sanctions, why do something as overtly game-changing as testing a nuclear weapon? Why not do everything you can (enrichment, etc.) short of overt testing, and then, after fifteen years, when the agreement puts no real limits on Iran, go to “breakout mode” and hit everybody with everything you’ve got? (Then again, the Iranians appear to be the masters of the needless provocation.)

But as for financing terror . . . heck, even the administration is admitting that Iran is going to use the money from this deal to finance more terrorism. Noah Rothman noticed Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz blurted out the obvious earlier this month:

“We are concerned about some possible escalation in their support for terrorism, meddling in the region in terms of stability,” Moniz said Thursday in a webcast organized by the Jewish Federations of North America and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. “Obviously Hezbollah terrorism is an example.”

Obama administration officials have acknowledged under congressional questioning that part of the at least $56 billion that will be freed up in the sanctions relief for nuclear restrictions deal reached last month between Iran and six major powers could be directed toward Iranian disruptive activity.

But the concern expressed by Moniz, a top negotiator at the talks, was unusual in that, unprompted, he said directly that the administration anticipates an increase in terrorist activity. He also said the regime’s rhetoric on Jews and Israel was a concern.

“We find extremely bothersome to put it mildly the strong anti-Israel, anti-Semitic rhetoric coming out of Iran,” he said.

Moniz also cited the prospect of increased Iranian disruption in Syria and Yemen.

So every time Iranian-backed terrorists and militants strike, somebody’s going to point at the Obama administration and say, “Your fault!”

ADDENDA: Crazy but strangely compelling pop-culture theory du jour: The story in the original Karate Kid is morally inverted; the villain, Johnny, is always attempting to de-escalate the fight with the protagonist Daniel, and the alleged hero keeps provoking fights and lashing out.

The previous, better Karate Kid theory: It loused up the outlooks of young people for a generation by subconsciously creating the expectation that difficult tasks could be mastered in the amount of time it takes for one montage

Three Forces Pushing Trump Forward . . . and Three More Pulling Him Back

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When you get together 3,600 or so conservative activists in one place — like, say Defending the American Dream Summit in Columbus this weekend, Donald Trump’s name comes up pretty frequently.

After those conversations, I see three reasons Trump could go far — or all the way . . .

1. Airwave domination: A question I heard more than once at the conference was, “Sure, Trump has a lot of fans, but will they really get active and knock on doors for him?” At this point, it’s an open question — but if you can get 30,000 people to show up on a Friday night, that’s a pretty good sign.

Whatever weaknesses Trump has in the realm of grassroots organizing, it can be significantly offset by near-complete domination of the television airwaves when it counts. If he needs to go negative on a rival, he can go negative on a massive scale; if he needs to go positive about his agenda, he can do that. He can turn almost any showdown with a rival into McAuliffe-vs.-Cuccinelli-level mismatch during commercial breaks. Maybe Jeb Bush or Ted Cruz could stay in the ballpark. Yes, running lots of ads doesn’t guarantee victory, but every candidate would give a kidney in exchange for a near-unlimited ability for broadcast and cable advertising.

2. Gaffe immunity: Campaigns usually fear the candidate saying something controversial, outlandish, or outrage-generating. For the Trump campaign, that’s a big part of the appeal. Trump has spoken dismissively at John McCain’s time as a POW, referred to Holy Communion as “the little cracker,” given out Lindsey Graham’s cell-phone number, and he once joked, “She does have a very nice figure. If Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.” For Trump, all of this is priced-in already.

One could argue Trump has scandal immunity, too. The messy breakup of Trump’s marriage to Ivana and time with Marla Maples made him tabloid fodder for months in the 1980s. (That must be a sort of fuel to Trump’s fearlessness; when you’ve been relentlessly mocked and ridiculed, why hold back saying what you think? You survived, and everything passes eventually.) The Daily Beast story about a retracted allegation of a heinous crime would ordinarily destroy a candidate. (Think about one-time Illinois senate candidate Jack Ryan.) On Trump, it barely made an impact.

Ordinary campaigns fear the revelation of a sex scandal, shady business partners, or a temperamental meltdown caught on camera. Fans who forgive Trump’s donations to Democrats, his past embrace of liberal positions, and his refusal to rule out a third-party bid are not going to abandon him over any of those.

3. Tapping into the zeitgeist: You see it in the much-denied “Trumpification” of the other candidates. Most of the rest of the field, particularly Rubio, Bush, and Cruz, launched their bids with heavy doses of sunny optimism — my fellow Americans, our best days are ahead of us, etc. Except a lot of Americans aren’t feeling that way right now.

Enter Donald Trump, declaring, “This country is a hellhole. We are going down fast.” Right there in his slogan “Make America Great Again” is the assertion we’re not great anymore. And any Republican can point to a pile of evidence that the country is slipping fast: the number of Americans on food stamps, the workforce-participation rate, an Office of Personnel Management that fails to protect its most important data, a Veterans’ Administration that doesn’t take care of veterans, a Washington culture that protects its own and never holds anyone accountable. We saw Obamacare passed, even though it never had popular support, and now the Iran deal is about be enacted despite popular opposition. A lot of Republicans have felt an atmosphere of crisis since, oh, Election Night 2012 or even earlier.

But I also see three reasons Trump-mania may burn itself out:

1. Wearing out his welcome: While Trump has been a celebrity for decades, Americans rarely gave him a serious look through the political lens. He’s something remarkably new on the political scene — a populist billionaire, entertainingly combative in every interview, offering stream-of-consciousness commentary in his speeches, calling in to major news programs and appearing on television all that time. He’s devouring all the media oxygen. No candidate on either side generates that “what’s he going to say next?” curiosity.

But how will people feel about his larger-than-life personality after three months, six months, a year? How will people feel about his style when it’s not new? Will Americans want this in their living rooms for four years or eight years?

2. His overall polling isn’t that great. He’s still got some fervent Republican opposition:

A Quinnipiac national poll taken before the debate, for example, found that 30 percent of Republican-primary voters would never support Trump, the highest number among all the candidates. A late-July Fox national poll similarly found that 33 percent of GOP voters would never support Trump in the primary.

He’s got a 58 percent unfavorable rating among registered voters; 58 percent of registered Republicans and Republican-leaning independents think the party has a better chance with someone else. Among women in the sample, it splits 34 percent to 61 percent.

(Note Jeb Bush has a 57 percent unfavorable rating; a wise voice said to me this weekend, “If Jeb Bush gets the nomination, it means everything the Tea Party stood for was for naught. It means conservative activists don’t really matter, and we really are a monarchist party with a royal family.” If the race comes down to Trump, Bush, and somebody else, there are going to be a lot of Republicans gravitating to that somebody else.)

3. The 3 a.m. phone call: Who advises Trump on military policy? Perhaps no one, really:

When Donald Trump, the reality show tycoon turned GOP front-runner, appeared on Meet the Press this past Sunday, host Chuck Todd asked him, “Who do you talk to for military advice right now?” At first, Trump had no direct answer. He replied, “Well, I watch the shows. I mean, I really see a lot of great—you know, when you watch your show and all of the other shows and you have the generals and you have certain people that you like.” Todd pressed him: “But is there a go-to for you?” Trump said he had two or three “go-to” advisers. He named John Bolton, one of the most hawkish neoconservatives, and retired Army Col. Jack Jacobs, who is a military analyst for MSNBC and NBC News. “Col. Jack Jacobs is a good guy,” Trump said. “And I see him on occasion.”

There’s just one problem with Trump citing Jacobs as a national security adviser: Jacobs says he has never talked to Trump about military policy.

“He may have said the first person who came to mind,” Jacobs tells Mother Jones. “I know him. But I’m not a consultant. I’m not certain if he has a national security group of people. I don’t know if he does or if he doesn’t. If he does, I’m not one of them.”

Jacobs, who received a Medal of Honor (and two Silver Stars, three Bronze Stars, and two Purple Hearts) for his service in Vietnam, notes that he has attended numerous charity events where Trump was present. “I’ve seen him at a number of functions,” he says. But Jacobs adds that he has had no discussions with Trump about national security affairs—at those events or anywhere else.

Trump’s style is indisputably appealing to many Republican voters, but can they picture him in the White Situation Room during a crisis? Would he resolve the situation or exacerbate it? Because from the South China Sea . . .

China has asserted ownership of nearly all of the South China Sea and is building at least seven artificial islands in the key waterway. Parts of the region are also claimed by five other countries, including three of this year’s training partners.

U.S. officials say they do not take sides in territorial disputes. But they worry that China could use the new islands — at least one of which includes a military-grade runway and deepwater harbor — to assert control over air and sea navigation and have called on China to halt construction.

Not only are U.S. forces training with more countries in the region than in past years, but the exercises — most of which fall under a program known as Cooperation Afloat and Readiness Training, or CARAT — are more ambitious.

. . . to Russia and Ukraine…

In a speech in Kiev for Independence Day celebrations, [Ukrainian president] Poroshenko accused Russia of having sent a total of up to 500 tanks, 400 artillery systems and up to 950 military armoured vehicles to pro-Russian rebels, apparently talking about the whole conflict, although he did not specify the time period for these deliveries.

Poroshenko said that 50,000 Russian soldiers are deployed on the border with Ukraine and 9,000 Russian servicemen are among the 40,000 fighters of the separatist force.

. . . to Iraq . . .

U.S. military officials in Iraq have issued preliminary confirmation that Islamic State militants used mustard gas in a mortar attack on Kurdish forces in August, a Defense Department official said.

. . . to North Korea . . .

Marathon negotiations between North and South Korea dragged into a third day Monday, with the South demanding an apology and alleging unusual military activity from its northern neighbor.

The situation deteriorated earlier this month after land mines injured two South Korean soldiers. Seoul then began blasting propaganda from speakers along the border, followed by an apparent exchange of fire and North Korea saying Friday had entered a “quasi-state of war.”

. . . it’s near-certain that sooner or later, a foreign crisis will hit.

ADDENDA: I just got my copy of our friend Michael Walsh’s The Devil’s Pleasure Palace: The Cult of Critical Theory and the Subversion of the West. I think you’re going to enjoy this one like a fine steak. Take a bite:

Political correctness, for all its notoriety, has not received the full scrutiny it deserves, in part because, like everything else the Marxists touch, it wears a tarnhelm, a magic helmet — in this case, of kindness, politesse, and sheer righteousness. Busily formulating new lists of what can and cannot be said (lest it offend somebody, somewhere, either now or at some future date) and always in light of the Critical Theory imperative to be perpetually on the attack, political correctness’ commissars resemble no one more than Dickens’ implacable Madame Defarge in A Tale of Two Cities, clicking her knitting needles as heads roll into baskets. Common words, common terms, even the names of venerable sports franchises come under fire as they march ever forward towards the sunny uplands of perfect totalitarian utopia.

Michael’s book is hitting bookstore shelves now. I see from the Encounter Books catalog that our friend Jay Nordlinger has Children of Monsters: An Inquiry into the Sons and Daughters of Dictators coming out next month, too!

How Difficult Will It Be for Republicans to Win Ohio in 2016?

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Greetings from Columbus.

We all know Ohio is arguably the single-most important state in the presidential-election contest. Obama visited the state 22 times in the 2012 election cycle; Mitt Romney visited 51 times. The Obama campaign had 131 offices in this state, more than in any other. The Obama camp ran 100,674 ads; Romney ran 41,162 ads.

Obama won by three percentage points, about 104,000 votes.

Franklin County, which includes Columbus, went for Obama 60 percent to Romney’s 38 percent. It’s not that surprising that Obama won big here; Columbus is 28 percent black, is dominated by government (federal, state, local, public schools make the public sector the biggest employer in the metro area), and is home to Ohio Sta—er, excuse me, THE Ohio State University.

If you fail to use the “THE,” this guy pops out of nowhere and fines you $50.

This is where John Kasich was a congressman from 1983 to 2001, and he’s riding pretty high right now. Quinnpiac found him winning his home state in the presidential contest, with 27 percent; Donald Trump at 21 percent; and everybody else in single digits. Kasich enjoys a 55 percent favorable rating, his highest in their poll yet. He’s at 56 percent among independents.

It’s easy to overstate the sense of Kasich’s “momentum” or bump. He’s at 4.3 percent in the national RealClearPolitics average right now. Yes, he’s probably going to stay on the “top tier” stage, but he’s hanging around the bottom of that top tier.

One of the stranger and less-discussed phenomenon in the Obama era is the near complete collapse of the Democratic party in a state you would think no one could ignore: “Democrats are at their lowest ebb in modern history (since the one-man, one vote Supreme Court decision in 1965) in the legislature. They hold only 10 seats in the 33-person Senate and 34 in the 99-seat House.”

Fascinatingly, there’s some evidence that the state Democrats have been way weaker than their presidential candidates for a long while now:

Numbers compiled by veteran Ohio Republican strategist Mike Dawson show an amazing 44-percent drop in the number of voters who came out for the presidential election in 2012 and those who came out for the gubernatorial election two years later. There were 5.6 million votes cast for president and only 3.1 million for governor.

Strategists in both parties place much of the blame on Democratic failures to recruit strong or attractive candidates for governor. In the seven gubernatorial contests since 1990, Strickland is the only Democrat to reach 45 percent of the vote. In 1994, the nominee drew an embarrassing 24.9 percent; in 2002, the nominee got 38.3; and last year, nominee Ed FitzGerald ran an inept campaign that could muster only 32.8 percent against an unpopular Kasich.

And yet Bill Clinton won the state twice, Barack Obama won the state twice, and we know how close John Kerry came in 2004.

Reuters: Hey, Doesn’t ‘Classified’ Mean, You Know, Classified?

Reuters takes the long route in calling Hillary Clinton’s excuses a bunch of nonsense:

For months, the U.S. State Department has stood behind its former boss Hillary Clinton as she has repeatedly said she did not send or receive classified information on her unsecured, private email account, a practice the government forbids.

While the department is now stamping a few dozen of the publicly released emails as “Classified,” it stresses this is not evidence of rule-breaking. Those stamps are new, it says, and do not mean the information was classified when Clinton, the Democratic frontrunner in the 2016 presidential election, first sent or received it.

But the details included in those “Classified” stamps — which include a string of dates, letters and numbers describing the nature of the classification — appear to undermine this account, a Reuters examination of the emails and the relevant regulations has found.

The new stamps indicate that some of Clinton’s emails from her time as the nation’s most senior diplomat are filled with a type of information the U.S. government and the department’s own regulations automatically deems classified from the get-go — regardless of whether it is already marked that way or not.

In the small fraction of emails made public so far, Reuters has found at least 30 email threads from 2009, representing scores of individual emails, that include what the State Department’s own “Classified” stamps now identify as so-called ‘foreign government information.’ The U.S. government defines this as any information, written or spoken, provided in confidence to U.S. officials by their foreign counterparts.

This sort of information, which the department says Clinton both sent and received in her emails, is the only kind that must be “presumed” classified, in part to protect national security and the integrity of diplomatic interactions, according to U.S. regulations examined by Reuters.

“It’s born classified,” said J. William Leonard, a former director of the U.S. government’s Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO). Leonard was director of ISOO, part of the White House’s National Archives and Records Administration, from 2002 until 2008, and worked for both the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations.

“If a foreign minister just told the secretary of state something in confidence, by U.S. rules that is classified at the moment it’s in U.S. channels and U.S. possession,” he said in a telephone interview, adding that for the State Department to say otherwise was “blowing smoke.”

The Clintons corrupt what they touch. They get otherwise normal government employees to insist that the law means the opposite of what it says.

Two more revealing sentences close out the article. First, “Spokesmen for Clinton declined to answer questions, but Clinton and her staff maintain she did not mishandle any information.” Uh-huh. Then, “The State Department disputed Reuters’ analysis but declined requests to explain how it was incorrect.”

What Aspiring Authors Ought to Know

Today I’m speaking to conservative activists and aspiring writers and authors about how to take their idea to a completed, published book. Here’s a basic overview:

Where should I start? There are a lot of “How to write a Book Proposal” articles, samples, outlines, and examples that you can find online. The basics would be the elevator pitch (On this last book, Regnery wanted the message of the book boiled down to 50 words), a detailed chapter outline, at least one or two sample chapters, a sense of how to market the book (or something indicating you’ve thought about the potential markets for it), and a detailed biography, including what you bring to the table in the ability to sell books.

Do I need an agent? Probably. You get an agent because the agent has two things you probably don’t have: First, knowledge of the publishing industry, and which editors at which publishers are most likely to be receptive to the proposal. Second, a familiarity with publishing contracts to ensure you’re protected and you get the best deal that you can. Most agents don’t require any up-front fees; the standard rate is 15 percent. It strikes me as a bargain. If you already have a lot of contacts in the publishing industry and you already know publishing contract legal language, then no, you don’t need one . . . but if that’s the case, have you ever thought about becoming a literary agent?

How do I get an agent? Just about every literary agency has a web site with contact e-mails, but there’s no point in e-mailing an agent that works with poets for your proposal for a book on the history of gubernatorial veto power. What I did with Voting to Kill was go to the bookstore and look at the acknowledgements for every book by every author that I thought was even remotely similar to me. When they thanked their agent, I wrote down the name and sent off a query. (Queries are single page cover letters introducing you and your proposal, not the full proposal.)

I sent queries to 31 agents; 29 rejected it or said they weren’t taking new proposals. In the long run, it doesn’t matter how many doors you knock on, as long as the one that opens turns out to be the right one.

What a lot of first-time authors don’t know going in is . . . well, for starters, you’re probably not going to make a lot of money at this. Maybe you do, and if so, good for you, and/or I hate you. But the odds are good that what you get in your last advance check is the last money you ever make from the book. You can’t write a book based on an expectation of financial or critical success. You have to love the process of writing, and believe the book has value even if only ten people end up reading it.

Good editors don’t grow on trees. You want somebody who’s going to punch holes in your arguments, who can be honest when your writing isn’t good enough, and can push you to make your text the strongest it can be. Book writing is different that article writing and blogging.

The publishing industry seems to have a lot of churn. On my previous two books, I’ve had three editors move to new jobs at other publishing houses. On the first one, the handover to a new editor was completely bobbled. Sometimes life just gives you lemons. On the second and third, it was a lot smoother. This is why, if you can, getting to know someone at the publishing house besides your editor — anybody in the management, sales, or publicity hierarchy is good.

Selling books is hard. You may have an online audience of thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or even millions, but only a small percentage of your audience will pay money to read what you write. I don’t mention this to whine, just to say that this is the way it is.

I don’t want to sound too negative; it is an unparalleled thrill to walk into a Borders (I’m dating myself) or Barnes and Noble and see your book on the shelf or on the table. Makes it all worthwhile. But you’ll see it, and then you’ll see lots and lots of people . . . walking around not buying your book. They’re picking up George R.R. Martin’s books from the giant display with a life-size dragon and the DVDs, and you’ll be asking, “Wait, why does he get all this promotion? Doesn’t HBO basically run an hour-long ad for his books ten times a year?”

ADDENDA: Barack Obama’s Teleprompter — a.k.a., TOTUS — is blogging again!

A ‘Formal Criminal Investigation’ of Hillary’s E-mails Is ‘Under Consideration’

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Greetings from somewhere over the Eastern United States, on my way to Columbus, Ohio for the Defending the Dream Summit . . .

A ‘Formal Criminal Investigation’ of Hillary’s E-mails Is ‘Under Consideration’

Either the FBI is going to take Hillary Clinton’s e-mail server and the classified information in e-mails extremely seriously . . . or a whole bunch of former FBI agents are going to be disappointed with their former employer.

For now, federal authorities characterize the Justice Department inquiry into Hillary Clinton’s private email server as a security situation: a simple matter of finding out whether classified information leaked out during her tenure as secretary of state, and where it went.

Except, former government officials said, that’s not going to be so simple.

“I think that the FBI will be moving with all deliberate speed to determine whether there were serious breaches of national security here,” said Ron Hosko, who used to lead the FBI’s criminal investigative division.

He said agents will direct their questions not just at Clinton, but also her close associates at the State Department and beyond.

“I would want to know how did this occur to begin with, who knew, who approved,” Hosko said.

Authorities are asking whether Clinton or her aides mishandled secrets about the Benghazi attacks and other subjects by corresponding about them in emails.

For her part, Clinton said she did not use that email account to send or receive anything marked classified.

“Whether it was a personal account or a government account, I did not send classified material, and I did not receive any material that was marked or designated classified which is the way you know whether something is,” she said Tuesday in a question-and-answer session with reporters.

Why is Clinton emphasizing the idea that none of those messages were marked? Because what she knew — her intent — matters a lot under the law. If the Justice Department and FBI inquiry turns into a formal criminal investigation.

Are we really to believe that when she’s reading about — you name it, drone strikes, satellite images, evacuation plans for staffers in Benghazi — that Hillary Clinton never thought that any of that information was classified?

The inspector general’s report said that the classification labels had been removed . . .

“We note that none of the emails we reviewed had classification or dissemination markings, but some included [intelligence community]-derived classified information and should have been handled as classified, appropriately marked, and transmitted via a secure network,” wrote McCullough, the inspector general for the intelligence community, who described his review as incomplete.

A spokeswoman for McCullough, Andrea Williams, said Friday that there are at least four emails of concern, which have yet to be released by the State Department under the Freedom of Information Act. “They were not marked at all but contained classified information,” she wrote in an email to TIME Friday.

. . . which suggests some staffers were taking off the classified label and then sending it to Hillary.

Here’s the bombshell:

Two lawyers familiar with the inquiry told NPR that a formal criminal investigation is under consideration and could happen soon — although they caution that Clinton herself may not be the target.

In other words, look out, staffers.

Here’s Michael Hayden — former director of the NSA, and former director of the CIA — declaring that the e-mail system would be “a very juicy target” and “not very difficult if you have the resources and talented people to go after it. The NSA does this all the time against, I would suggest, better defended targets.”

You Know, Protests Are Not the Worst Thing in the World

Look, my criticism of Trump — characterized by one reader as near-religious — is well-established. But note this comment of his in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter:

Those comments [about illegal immigrants from Mexico] have drawn a firestorm of criticism.

As Rush Limbaugh said, “Trump received more incoming [criticism] than any human being I’ve ever seen, and what did he do? He doubled down.” [Limbaugh] said any human being would have dropped to their knees and apologized to the world, but I didn’t say anything wrong. For one week, it was brutal. Macy’s choked [announcing it would phase out his line of suits, shirts and ties]. It wasn’t a big deal, selling ties, but still, [CEO] Terry Lundgren choked and said, “Oh, we’re going to have pickets in front of the store!” I said, “So what? So you have an hour of pickets, and then they’re going to go and have lunch and everyone’s going to be happy.” I said do whatever you have to do. But that was very disloyal.

In a world where big corporations are so determined to avoid anything perceived as controversial or alienating a segment of their target markets, doesn’t it feel almost stunning to hear someone just kind of accept the existence of protests and continue going about their business?

Of course, as soon as I give The Donald the benefit of the doubt . . .

Whose side are you on in Deflategate — Tom Brady or Roger Goodell?

Tom Brady. Tom is an unbelievable guy. He’s a very good friend of mine. I have his number right here someplace. Whatever. Here, look, he just called me. (He holds up a Post-it that says “Tom Brady’s New Cell #.”)

ADDENDA: You may have encountered the critique of Raiders of the Lost Ark from a character on The Big Bang Theory:

“Indiana Jones plays no role in the outcome of the story. If he weren’t in the film, it would turn out exactly the same . . . If he weren’t in the movie, the Nazis would still have found the Ark, taken it to the island, opened it up, and all died, just like they did.”

Even worse, had Indy not shown up, maybe the Nazis would have taken it back to Berlin, where they would have opened it in front of Hitler himself, and every Nazi in Berlin would have his face melt/explode from the wrath of God, etc.

Now take a look at the interesting, unnerving theory that Han Solo doesn’t know what the heck he’s doing:

For the captain of a spaceship, Han actually [stinks] at all things technological. When he tries to fix the Falcon in Empire, he tells Chewie to start her up, and everything short circuits. On Endor, at the end of Jedi, there’s a battle going on in which Jim Henson puppets are dying everywhere, and he manages to make the bunker they’re trying to infiltrate more secure. His solution for nearly every problem is either to hit something really hard or shoot it.

Han is headstrong, reckless, and totally inept at loads of stuff. When trying to lure one of the stormtroopers away from their speeder bikes, he stupidly steps on a branch, alerting them all to the rebels’ presence. When told that his tauntaun will freeze to death if he takes it outside to find Luke, he doesn’t even hear what the guy is telling him.

Sure, Han got himself in terrible debt to Jabba the Hutt, and managed to get cornered by Greedo in the cantina — requiring him to shoot first, Mr. Lucas! – and he pursues the TIE fighter until he’s caught in the tractor beam . . . fails to notice Boba Fett is following him . . . hey, wait a minute. Maybe eight-year-old me had terrible taste in leadership. 

What If Donald Trump Really Is . . . Electable?

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Do a dance, Donald Trump fans, because the “he’ll lose a general election in a landslide ” argument just took some damage in the CNN poll out this morning:

The poll finds Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton ahead of Trump by just 6 points, a dramatic tightening since July. Trump is the one of three Republican candidates who have been matched against Clinton multiple times in CNN/ORC polling to significantly whittle the gap between himself and the Democratic frontrunner. He trailed Clinton by 16 points in a July poll, and narrowed that gap by boosting his standing among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (from 67% support in July to 79% now), men (from 46% in July to 53% now) and white voters (from 50% to 55%).

It will be fascinating to see if applying likely voter screens changes these numbers. Usually, Republican candidates do a few points better among a sample of likely voters than overall registered voters. But Donald Trump’s name identification among the general population is so high, his numbers might be the same.

Why Democrats Can’t Confront What Hillary Has Done

The Democratic party is about to have a breakdown.

For at least the past four years, if not longer, the average Democrat, when asked about the nominee-in-waiting, will respond, “Hillary Clinton is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I’ve ever known in my life.” Oh, sure, they may not be able to think of any accomplishments, and they may gripe about her ties to Wall Street. They may openly acknowledge that she lied about her e-mail server. Her team may openly gloat that no one cares whether she followed the rules or the laws about government archiving. But most of that they hand-wave away. She’s just doing it because she has such ruthless enemies. Everybody does it, she’s judged by an unfair, harsher standard than everyone else.

The problem is that there isn’t really a good reason to keep lots of classified information on a private server. We’re talking about information from the National Security Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (spy satellite images), the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the Central Intelligence Agency.

The Director of the DIA at the time Hillary was at the State Department said there’s a “very high” chance her e-mails were hacked by foreign intelligence — Chinese, Russians, or others. “Likely. They’re very good at it. You know, China, Russia, Iran, potentially the North Koreans. Other countries that are quote-unquote our allies, because they can.”

And here’s who was running the server:

The IT company Hillary Clinton chose to maintain her private email account was run from a loft apartment and its servers were housed in the bathroom closet, Daily Mail Online can reveal.

Daily Mail Online tracked down ex-employees of Platte River Networks in Denver, Colorado, who revealed the outfit’s strong links to the Democratic Party but expressed shock that the 2016 presidential candidate chose the small private company for such a sensitive job.

One, Tera Dadiotis, called it “a mom and pop shop” which was an excellent place to work, but hardly seemed likely to be used to secure state secrets. And Tom Welch, who helped found the company, confirmed the servers were in a bathroom closet.

This sort of decision is just stupid. It’s dangerous for herself, for everyone she e-mails, for the Obama administration, and of course, for national security. It’s an astonishingly short-sighted risk-reward calculation, to escape Freedom of Information Act requests and Congressional subpoenas by putting your communications at risk of being read by Russia’s foreign-intelligence service or the Chinese Ministry of State Security or God knows who else.

The problem for Democrats is that their worldview rests upon their leaders’ being the smart ones. They’re the ones who are wrapped up in “smart power.” They’re the ones sophisticated enough to “empathize with our enemies.” It’s those knuckle-dragging Republicans, those neocon warmongers, those paranoid xenophobes, those backwards hicks who just don’t understand how the world works. All it takes to get Russia to behave better is a reset button. The fall of Muammar Qaddafi in Libya deserves a “victory lap.” Syria’s Bashir Assad is a “reformer” and “the road to Damascus is the road to peace.”

If Democrats acknowledge Hillary made a stupid and consequential decision, everything else built upon that perception of intellectual and judgmental superiority crumbles. Yes, it erodes the case for her to be commander-in-chief. But what’s more, it forces Democrats to look at what their foreign-policy philosophy has really generated. Has the outstretched hand really thawed relations with hostile states? Have the concessions made to hostile states changed their behavior, rhetoric, or policies? Are international institutions really responsive to horrific mass violence? Is the world safer? Are human rights more respected? Are extremist groups waning or thriving and expanding?

Coming to terms with all of that is just too hard. So many Democrats will choose to believe that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is involved in a partisan witch hunt.

Meanwhile, in that CNN poll:

Clinton maintains this edge in the general election race despite a growing perception that by using a personal email account and server while serving as secretary of state she did something wrong. About 56% say so in the new poll, up from 51% in March. About 4-in-10 (39%) now say she did not do anything wrong by using personal email. Among Democrats, the share saying she did not do anything wrong has dipped from 71% in March to 63% now, and just 37% of independents say she did not do wrong by using the personal email system.

And positive impressions of Clinton continue to fade. Among all adults, the new poll finds 44% hold a favorable view of her, 53% an unfavorable one, her most negative favorability rating since March 2001.

‘Trying to Trap Candidates into ‘Gotcha’ Answers Does Not Serve GOP Primary Voters’

In case you missed it, Hugh Hewitt gave me a sense of how he’ll approach his role as a questioner in the next Republican presidential debate:

Hewitt tells NR he’ll be more willing to let the candidates confront each other — to a point. “Getting out of their way if they want to debate each other seems to me to be a good strategy as well, within the constraints of limited time and fairness to all on the stage,” he says. “Trying to trap candidates into ‘gotcha’ answers does not serve GOP primary voters. Allowing the candidates to speak directly to voters on electability and their plans if they win does.”

ADDENDA: If you’re in the Columbus, Ohio area, I hope to see you at the Defending the Dream Summit in the coming days. Friday morning I’ll be talking about how to take your idea from an outline to a published book, along with Guy Benson, Kristen Soltis Anderson, and Christopher Malagisi, editor of the Conservative Book Club. Then in the afternoon I’ll be signing copies of The Weed Agency

CNN Poll: Trump Still Leads, Christie Out of Top Ten

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A new poll from CNN this morning:

The survey finds Trump with the support of 24% of Republican registered voters. His nearest competitor, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, stands 11 points behind at 13%. Just behind Bush, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson has 9%, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker 8%, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul 6%, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, former tech CEO Carly Fiorina and Ohio Gov. John Kasich all land at 5%, with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee rounding out the top 10 at 4%.

Notice who’s not in the top ten.

Jim Gilmore remains an asterisk, making it increasingly likely he will not be invited to the debate at the Reagan Library. The threshold is one percent. Ominously for Bobby Jindal, he’s at asterisk status right now, too.

Logan Dobson points out that “independents that lean Republican” aren’t the same as “registered Republicans”, and that CNN’s article mixes the two.

Deep in the CNN poll, we find Donald Trump has a 31 percent favorable rating among all women, and a 65 percent unfavorable rating.

And Now, an Argument for Trump . . .

Okay. I have to give credit where it’s due, and this letter-writer to The Atlantic offers the most compelling argument for Trump that I’ve encountered:

Many would probably question why, of all people, a decadent, rude, and pompous billionaire should be trusted to meddle with American culture? I think it comes down to a perception that America has already drowned in a post-modernist nightmare of moral relativism, from which extreme political correctness and protest culture stem. Trump, on the other hand, is all absolutes. Everything he says, accurate or not, is stated in absolute, definitive terms. His personal morality is clear: He respects people who work hard, are loyal, innovate, and “win,” and he shuns those who don’t meet the criteria. Cruel as it may sound, I think America needs to reenergize these fundamental cultural values before we can ever hope to create a better society.

Why Is Donald Trump Uniquely Credible on Promises of Border Security?

The other day, debating Charlie Cooke, Donald Trump–fan Ann Coulter said this:

A much more appalling flip-flop — except it isn’t a flip-flop, it’s a lie — that almost every one of the other Republicans running keeps insisting that yes, they want to do something about illegal immigration, and “Oh boy, we are going to secure the border first,” and [Marco] Rubio promised for, you know, three years that he would not vote for an amnesty bill until the border was secure and ha-ha! We read the bill and first step, everyone’s amnestied. Second step, they all get to bring their relatives! When do we get to the wall? Well, never, because you can build a tunnel under the wall. These are flip-flops that aren’t flip-flops, they’re direct lies to the American people!

The idea is that because Republicans have promised border security in the past and not delivered, everybody who shows up in the 2016 primary is not believable on this issue. Scott Walker’s suspect. Bobby Jindal’s suspect. Rick Perry’s suspect. Rand Paul’s suspect.

Somehow Donald Trump’s promise to secure the border is believable because he’s good at building hotels, office towers, and casinos.

Did you know that hundreds of miles of border fence have been built? In October 2014, DHS indicated that it had constructed a total of 352.7 miles of pedestrian fence (in addition 36.3 miles of secondary fencing), and 299 miles of vehicle fencing along the southwest border.

Read this entire post from Taylor Millard about how much of the border fence has been constructed and which portions of the border don’t have a fence. The portions without fences are the mountains and the hottest, driest, most dangerous desert territory. The Border Patrol says they find about 200 dead bodies per year, illegal immigrants dying of dehydration and occasionally due to flash floods.

Separately, it’s hard not to notice that Coulter got a few things in her defense of Trump just flat wrong.

After Charlie scoffed that Trump “decided a few minutes ago he wanted to be a Republican,” Coulter responded, “He’s been a Republican since 1988! He was at the Republican National Convention!” That statement requires us to ignore his periods as a registered member of the Independence Party (1999), a registered Democrat (2001), a Republican (2009), no party affiliation (2011) and finally back to the GOP (2012).

“He’s never been anti-gun.” That’s hard to square with his past support for the Assault Weapons Ban and longer waiting periods.

The Sudden Taint of Experience

Leon Wolf makes the key point at RedState that if you’re voting for a candidate because they’ve never been tainted by the compromise and deal-making that constitutes governing, then you really have no idea how they’ll respond to the environment of compromise and deal-making.

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) — at one point, these guys were all outsiders. Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) himself was at one time not too long ago a guy with a compelling story of having risen through poverty as one of 12 kids to become President of the company he had worked for for 13 years. He ran successfully as an outsider and won.

The problem is, almost none of them actually were, after they got to office. Easily 95% of these political neophytes, once they got to office, were lured by the trappings of power and corrupted. And then they became the people you hated and the reason to send new political neophytes to power.

Here is the salient fact that many people are missing in this particular logical chain. It’s easy to say and do all the right things and to be non-corrupted when you are a political neophyte. Literally everyone who has ever run for office their first time has done it. What’s hard (apparently, at least based on the evidence) is to remain true to your principles after you win your election and actually get to power.

So what we ought to be looking for isn’t really someone who’s never been tested by the allure of power. History tells us that almost all people fail that test. What we ought to instead be looking for is people who have already been tested, to determine which ones have passed the test with the most success.

The best way to tell whether someone will remain true to their principles is not to listen to their campaign speeches during their first run for office. History shows us those are almost entirely lies (or, more charitably, they are well-meant platitudes that wilt under the harsh glare of reality). Rather, the best way to tell is to look at the actual records they compile after running for office and winning.

I realize it’s quite stylish for aspiring presidents to run against “Washington” right now. I’d just ask everyone to notice that Barack Obama, having been in the Senate two years before running for president, actually surrounded himself with veterans of Capitol Hill once he was in office. Sure, he ran against “the same old faces in the same old places,” but he picked Joe Biden and his decades of friendships and connections on Capitol Hill as his veep, and once he was elected, he had Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff. He put Hillary Clinton, top Democrat in Washington since 1993, at State; he kept on Robert Gates at the Pentagon. He wanted Tom Daschle — former Senate Majority Leader — running the health-care push. In other words, when Democrats want to get their agenda enacted, they go to the crusty veterans who have been there forever, have connections and relationships and favors to call in and who know where all the bodies are buried. I notice that we on the right are adamantly rejecting this approach.

ADDENDA: Death toll from the Iraq War, according to Iraq Body Count: 219,000.

Death toll from the Syrian Civil War as of June 9, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights: 230,618.

The Trump Plan: Stop Illegal Immigrants by Hiking Fees on Legal Ones

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Donald Trump unveiled his “how we get Mexico to pay for the wall” plan. A key portion:

Mexico must pay for the wall and, until they do, the United States will, among other things: impound all remittance payments derived from illegal wages; increase fees on all temporary visas issued to Mexican CEOs and diplomats (and if necessary cancel them); increase fees on all border crossing cards – of which we issue about 1 million to Mexican nationals each year (a major source of visa overstays); increase fees on all NAFTA worker visas from Mexico (another major source of overstays); and increase fees at ports of entry to the United States from Mexico [Tariffs and foreign aid cuts are also options].

Question: If we increase the fees on legal immigration and entry, doesn’t that make illegal immigration and entry look more appealing? Without sufficient border security — because we’re insisting Mexico pay for it — aren’t we shutting the door of legal immigration and leaving the window of illegal immigration open? (Maybe the border will be significantly more secure after President Trump triples the number of ICE officers; he says he’ll pay for it by eliminating tax-credit payments to illegal immigrants.) Still, increasing fees on legal immigration does amount to punishing people who are doing it the right way – and not-so-subtly implies that Americans don’t want Mexicans coming into the country period.

Regarding the effort to impound remittance payments, anytime a lot of people want to move a significant amount money from one place to another, someone will seek to fill that need. Trump fans scoffed at the idea of Mexicans using Bitcoin or some other electronic system for moving money across the border, beyond the reach or view of U.S. authorities. Perhaps we would see the creation of a Hawala-style system, where a Mexican illegal immigrant would give money to a black market broker in Los Angeles, who would contact his counterpart in, say, Mexico City to distribute the sum to the worker’s family (minus the commission, of course).

Regarding tariffs, Mexico is our third-largest trading partner. We imported $293 billion in goods and services from there. We import $49 billion more than we export, but that’s still quite a bit.

If we put tariffs on Mexican goods, Mexico will almost certainly put tariffs on American goods and services.

U.S. goods exports to Mexico in 2013 were $226.2 billion, up 4.7% ($10.2 billion) from 2012, and up 132% from 2003. It is up 444% since 1993 (Pre-NAFTA). U.S. exports to Mexico accounted for 14.3% of overall U.S. exports in 2013.

The top export categories (2-digit HS) in 2013 were: Machinery ($38.5 billion), Electrical Machinery ($36.7 billion), Mineral Fuel and Oil ($23.0 billion), Vehicles ($21.6 billion), and Plastic ($15.3 billion).

U.S. exports of agricultural products to Mexico totaled $18.1 billion in 2013, the 3rd largest U.S. Ag export market. Leading categories include: corn ($1.8 billion), soybeans ($1.5 billion), dairy products ($1.4 billion), pork and pork products ($1.2 billion), and poultry meat (excluding eggs) ($1.2 billion).

Meanwhile, Trump’s plan to end birthright citizenship, if ever enacted, will be challenged to the Supreme Court.

Trump makes reference to a legal-immigration pause: “Before any new green cards are issued to foreign workers abroad, there will be a pause where employers will have to hire from the domestic pool of unemployed immigrant and native workers.” How long would this be? What’s our criteria for determining the “pause” has gone on long enough?

There’s a lot to Trump’s immigration plan to like: Nationwide e-verify, mandatory return of all criminal aliens, defunding sanctuary cities. There is room — in fact, there’s a need! — for a serious debate about legal-immigration levels. The United States brings in about 1 million legal immigrants per year, a figure that is at or near record levels. About 13 percent of the world’s adults — or about 630 million people — say they would like to leave their country and move somewhere else permanently. For roughly 138 million people, that somewhere else would be the U.S. — the top desired destination for potential immigrants.

At some point, we have to say “no” to some people who want to immigrate to the United States.

What You Probably Don’t Know about Carly Fiorina

You’re hearing it already: If Carly Fiorina gets the nomination, they’ll play the Romney card against her: She’s wealthy, she’s out-of-touch, she’s laid people off, she’s this heartless, soulless embodiment of corporate greed.

In the near future, you’ll hear some Democrat — or perhaps a Republican rival — suggest, “Carly Fiorina’s been living the high life in corporate corner offices for a long time; she has no idea what real life is like for everyone else.”

And perhaps then, Carly Fiorina will discuss the death of her stepdaughter, Lori, whom she had raised from an early age, after years of struggling with alcoholism and drug abuse. She writes in her book, Rising to the Challenge:

In the midst of all this, on October 12, 2009, that we learned of Lori’s death. For the second time in nine months, time stopped. We had spent the last months of her life desperately trying to intervene with her doctors to make sure they understood the depths of her illness. Because of the way privacy laws are written, we couldn’t learn anything from Lori’s doctors that she didn’t want us to know. Finally, we found a doctor who kindly told us she could listen, although she could not tell us anything. But by then it was too late.

I have thought often since then how poorly we deal with mental illness and addiction as a nation. Like Lori, those who are ill frequently fight against help. Medical privacy laws, although perhaps well intentioned, make it easier for an addict to continue down a destructive path. These laws make it very difficult for those who worry that a loved one is a danger to themselves or others to get the help so desperately needed. They also make it difficult for concerned physicians to raise a warning flag. And criminalizing addictions, or minimizing the devastating impact of mental illness on friends and communities, only makes these problems worse.

We had pleaded with Lori to move closer to her family in those last months. But as many addicts do, she literally ran away from the people trying to help her. She insisted on moving to New Jersey. In my last conversation with her on the phone, I begged her again to let us get her help. She put me off. Now all I could think of, staring at the policemen standing in my living room, was what else I could have done to save her.

That reference to “the second time in nine months” was a reference to Carly’s cancer diagnosis. (Tell me again how she doesn’t know tough times.) Every Republican candidate is going to argue against Obamacare’s changes. But she’s going to have a unique perspective:

Many long days and multiple scans, MRIs and mammograms later, we finally had a more definitive diagnosis: it was breast cancer, stage II. It hadn’t been detected in the mammogram I had had weeks earlier, because the tumor in my left breast was very small. At the same time, the cancer was very aggressive and had spread to lymph nodes that are not captured in a mammogram. It was, without a doubt, a very close call. Later, after Obamacare was passed, the Health and Human Services Administration changed the protocol for breast cancer screening. They recommended that women get a mammogram every other year and that they not do self-examinations. The Obama administration had concluded that this change in protocol would minimize false alarms and cost. I remember being insulted when HHS justified these changes by saying the old protocol caused too much trauma and concern. Women are tough. We can handle it. I remember thinking that if I had followed this protocol, I would probably be dead.

ADDENDA: For those of us with long memories of the pre-Giuliani New York, it feels like we’re in a time machine: The Guardian Angels are patrolling Central Park again. Crime in Central Park is up 26 percent this year. 

Al Gore Needs a Photo Opportunity; He Wants a Shot at Redemption

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He doesn’t want to end up a cartoon in a cartoon graveyard . . .

For one, bright shining news cycle, America was no longer in danger of having a presidential contest that would bring us to endless “we’re back in 1992” jokes. No, we were going to have endless “we’re back in 2000” jokes.

Alas, it’s not to be:

A high-level Democratic source has poured cold water on rumors that former presidential candidate Al Gore has been considering a second run for the White House.

A BuzzFeed report on Thursday linked the 67-year-old’s name with the 2016 presidential race, saying his supporters had begun internal conversations and were “figuring out if there’s a path financially and politically.”

However, a top source within the Democratic Party told NBC News that there was nothing substantive happening in the Gore camp.

Gore’s name has been floated as a possible candidate for every primary since he lost the election to George W. Bush in 2000.

I just had this gut feeling that in a race between Jeb Bush and Al Gore, Florida would be important. Check your ballot carefully.

The good news is . . .

Meanwhile, Vice President Joe Biden appeared to be giving the 2016 race some thought, according to two Democratic sources.

The sources said the 72-year-old has started to reach out to close friends and allies to discuss a possible run. He would not make a decision until the end of this month, the sources said . . .

We all know how damaged Hillary is, and we know that Bernie Sanders may never get the microphone back from #BlackLivesMatter at his rallies ever again . . .

Yes, yes. If you wait patiently enough, maybe they’ll give you a turn when they’re done.

By the way, thinking about the #BlackLivesMatter objections to Sanders . . .

Insert all the standard caveats — African Americans vote heavily Democratic, they’re among the party’s most loyal and reliable bases of support, they’re unlikely to vote in significant numbers for any Republican and so on.

How stirred will African-American voters feel looking at a field of Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Jim Webb, Lincoln Chafee, and Martin O’Malley? The polling says Hillary’s the favorite in this field, but . . . do any of them really generate enthusiasm?

Nuclear, Biochemical Experts and IAEA Heading to China Blast Site

Does this sound a little unnerving to anyone?

Meanwhile, more than 200 nuclear and biochemical experts from the Chinese military and a team from the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Beijing environmental emergency response centre are assessing the area surrounding the blasts.

Oh, it wasn’t a nuke, surely. Witnesses described a “mushroom cloud,” but you don’t need nuclear or atomic material to generate a mushroom cloud. Of course, if you were shaken out of your bed and saw this . . .

. . . you might think it was a nuclear explosion, too.

When ordinary chemicals can do epic damage like this, who needs a nuke?

It looks like something out of some apocalyptic movie. Or this:

Those are shipping containers tossed around and crushed like cardboard boxes on the left, fire trucks on the right for scale.

At this point, there’s a lot of worry about dangerous chemicals still at the disaster site in the air around it.

Not a nuke . . . but maybe close enough.

Speaking of the unthinkable . . .

Pentagon: We’re Investigating Whether ISIS Used Chemical Weapons

Pentagon officials believe ISIS used chemical weapons against Kurdish Peshmerga fighters in northern Iraq Wednesday. Fox News:

One official who had seen the latest intelligence reports from the region told Fox News Thursday that the victims had “blisters” that matched the symptoms of other victims of mustard gas. The intelligence community was continuing to investigate the reports, which were first made public by the German defense ministry . . .

Similar reports of chemical-weapons use by ISIS had surfaced in July. Intelligence agencies have also stated that they believe ISIS used chlorine gas as part of attacks in Iraq.

You’re probably wondering, “Where would they get this stuff?’ Right next door, it seems:

The officials said Islamic State could have obtained the mustard agent in Syria, whose government admitted to having large quantities in 2013 when it agreed to give up its chemical-weapons arsenal.

U.S. intelligence agencies thought Islamic State had at least a small supply of mustard agent even before this week’s clash with Iraqi Kurdish fighters, known as the Peshmerga, U.S. officials said. That intelligence assessment hadn’t been made public.

The attack in question took place late Wednesday, about 40 miles southwest of Erbil in northern Iraq. A German Defense Ministry spokesman said about 60 Peshmerga fighters, who help protect Kurdish areas in northern Iraq, were reported to have suffered injuries to their throats consistent with a chemical attack while fighting Islamic State.

Obama, back in May:

Assad gave up his chemical weapons. And that’s not speculation on our part. That, in fact, has been confirmed by the organization internationally that is charged with eliminating chemical weapons.

Meanwhile, back in Syria:

A Syrian civil defence group has accused the government of President Bashar al-Assad of using napalm on a town near Damascus, the latest escalation in a conflict that has seen the use of chemical weapons and indiscriminate aerial bombing campaigns.

If true, the attack would be the second serious allegation of napalm use in the Syrian war. In 2012, a BBC crew in Aleppo province witnessed what they described as a “napalm-like” attack on a school.

Napalm is a combination of gasoline or petroleum and some sort of jelling agent. Use at or near civilian targets is a violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention.

The chemical-weapons genie is out of the bottle.

ADDENDA: For those who think I write too much about you-know-who, notice who doesn’t appear in this edition of the Jolt.

My book with Cam has a draft cover. Editing proceeds apace.