The Morning Jolt

Meet Your New Front-Runner in Iowa: Ben Carson!

Between Quinnipiac’s result yesterday, and the Des Moines Register poll, it now seems safe to say Ben Carson is the new front-runner.

Separately, from this opening, do you think the Register political staff detests Trump?

Donald Trump is the biggest loser in the new Iowa Poll.

The pious Ben Carson has plowed past the braggadocious New York businessman to take the front-runner crown, unseating Trump as the most popular choice for president among likely GOP caucusgoers, the new Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics poll shows.

Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, is the favorite choice for 28 percent — 9 percentage points ahead of Trump’s 19 percent.

Even Carson’s most controversial comments — about Muslims, Hitler and slavery — are attractive to likely Republican caucusgoers. The poll shows just two perceived weaknesses: his lack of foreign policy experience and his research using fetal tissue during his medical career.

Some people interpreted this post from yesterday as a prediction that Rick Santorum will come roaring back in Iowa. I really just meant that when a guy can go from 2 percent to the winner between October and January, we should recognize we could still see a lot of movement in the coming months.

Bingo: ‘Two of Our Officers Were Killed in Benghazi by an Al-Qaeda-like Group’

Hillary Clinton, in an e-mail to Chelsea Clinton, September 12, 2012:

Two of our officers were killed in Benghazi by an al Qaeda-like group: The Ambassador, whom I handpicked and a young communications officer on temporary duty w a wife and two young children. Very hard day and I fear more of the same tomorrow.

Then there’s a readout of a call between Hillary Clinton and Egyptian prime minister Hisham Kandil, where Hillary tells him, “We know the attack in Libya had nothing to do with the film. It was a planned attack — not a protest.”

Oh, look, a smoking gun!

Keep in mind, the night of the attack, as it was still going on, Hillary issued a statement declaring, “Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet.” Meaning the “it was all because of a video” explanation to the public originated in Foggy Bottom the night of September 11.

In Thursday’s hearing, Clinton said, “When I was speaking to the Egyptian prime minister or in the other two examples you showed, we had been told by Ansar al-Sharia [a militia group] that they took credit for it. It wasn’t until about 24 more hours later that they retracted taking credit for it.”

So when Ansar al-Sharia retracted taking credit for it, September 13, why did she then conclude that it was NOT a terror attack at all, and a protest over a video? Why did she find it so unthinkable that it was a terror attack — particularly when no one on the ground had ever reported any protest — and why did she go back to the immediate video explanation?

By September 14, she was declaring at the transfer of remains ceremony, “We’ve seen the heavy assault on our post in Benghazi that took the lives of those brave men. We’ve seen rage and violence directed at American embassies over an awful Internet video that we had nothing to do with.”

Charles Woods, the father of Navy SEAL Tyrone Woods, said Clinton told him when his son’s body returned to Andrews Air Force Base, “We will make sure that the person who made that film is arrested and prosecuted.”

It was not until September 21 that Hillary Clinton used the words “terrorist attack” to refer to Benghazi. So for the first ten days after the attack, we have a series of private comments from Hillary Clinton sounding quite emphatic that this was a terror attack, and then a series of public comments that blame it on an angry mob reacting to a video.

Our old friend Byron York thinks this is already “priced in” in the public’s mind: “The documents were still more evidence that the blame-it-on-the-video story was lies and spin. But the public has known for a while that it was lies and spin. It seems unlikely to strike many Americans as very big news.”

If the American public knows that it was lied to about a terror attack, and doesn’t really care . . . then maybe we are doomed.

Where Conservatives Stand as the 2016 Election Looms Ahead . . .

The following is adapted from my remarks to the Heritage Foundation Thursday . . .

Do you remember, not so long ago, when it looked like the 2016 Republican presidential election field would be the best crop of candidates ever?

We were going to have the architect of the Texas economic miracle, Governor Rick Perry, making the case to the entire country how a low-tax, low-regulation, free-market approach had unleashed this wave of job creation and rising wages and better quality of life. And we were going to hear from one of the most surprising and unflinching Republican leaders of the past generation talk about how he had liberated state government from the chokehold of public-sector unions: Scott Walker!

And Bobby Jindal was going to have us riveted with how he took a state utterly devastated by Hurricane Katrina and a generation of corrupt, incompetent state management and turned the state around. And we would have a serious debate about how to handle the national-security challenges of the coming era, hearing from Rand Paul on protecting civil liberties and Marco Rubio on standing up to malevolent forces.

You notice we’re not really having that debate.

Instead, we’re debating things like . . . if there was a Muslim presidential candidate, would you vote for him?

Could gun ownership have stopped the Holocaust?

Just a few days ago, “Did President Bush know about 9/11 before it happened?”

Where do you think Megyn Kelly had blood coming out of her?

What do you think of Carly Fiorina’s face?

You know how your teacher used to say, “There are no stupid questions?” She lied. Some of these are stupid questions. And the party and the country are not well served when our candidates are being forced to talk about these questions, instead of why the labor-force participation rate is at an all-time low for men, or what people are supposed to do with these skyrocketing insurance premiums under Obamacare, or what we should do about ISIS.

You’ve seen how this cycle works. Donald Trump is such a ratings magnet, the media are willing to have special rules for him. He gets to call in to Meet the Press! Do you think Rick Santorum or Lindsey Graham will ever get to do that?

Trump does the interview, and he says something controversial, and for the next 24 to 48 hours, when other candidates do get media attention, they get asked about what Trump just said. It’s a double-level media domination — he gets a lot more earned media and air time, and when he’s not being interviewed, he’s often the topic of conversation.

We’ve been on this repeating cycle for about three or four months now. The consistent plurality of support for Trump — sometimes as high as a third, more recently around a quarter, leading nationally, leading in Iowa until recently, leading in New Hampshire, leading in South Carolina — indicates that there is a giant gap between a chunk of the self-described conservatives and conservatism as it has always been known.

So we have one front-runner or near-front-runner, Ben Carson, who seems to have the right instincts, probably the right general philosophy, but who seems to have not much familiarity with the policy details, and another front-runner whose thinking is in this irregular planetary orbit, sometimes passing through the conservative realm of space, and sometimes not.

I know what the Trump fans see in him: He’s a man to restore accountability. Every week on The Apprentice, he reviews what his teams have done, he gets down to what went wrong, he holds people accountable, he figures out who failed most consequentially, and he fires them. It’s a delightful contrast to our president, who never fires anyone, even after Healthcare.gov, the Veterans’ Administration scandals, the OPM hack, the EPA spill that turned that river mustard yellow, Benghazi . . . If I thought Donald Trump could do what his supporters think he will do, I would be much more enthusiastic.

Is it safe to say there’s a broad consensus among Republicans that Kelo vs. New London is the worst decision since George Lucas came up with Jar-Jar Binks? See, we get this, because if the government can buy your land at metaphorical gunpoint to give it to some big developer whenever it wants, then you don’t really own anything.  Your ownership is conditional on somebody with deep pockets and friendly lawmakers not wanting your land.

The GOP establishment has earned its bad reputation, and keeps forcing some of these bad arguments.

Paraphrasing my colleague Charlie Cooke, Jeb Bush is a walking referendum on his brother’s presidency. If Donald Trump says, “Iraq was the worst decision ever!” then Jeb has to go out and defend his brother.

Now, I understand that if somebody talks smack about your brother, you’ve gotta step up. If I go to anybody in this room and say, “Your brother is a miserable failure,” you’re going to punch me. But Jeb’s driven to defend the Bush presidency and all of its decisions because he’s family, and for the rest of us, George W. Bush is that president who stirs generally fond memories and some serious policy disagreements. We can be more objective and dispassionate and say — eh, bailouts, created some moral hazard there. Spending went up way too far. John Roberts . . .

When we argue about Bush, Democrats cheer. They would much rather see 2016 be a discussion of the Bush record than the Obama record.

Did you see the Democratic debate? Did it feel like you were watching history go backwards? I’ll avoid the obvious Bernie Sanders-is-Doc-Brown-from–Back to the Future joke here. They spent a lot of time debating Hillary’s vote for the Iraq War. And then Jim Webb and Bernie Sanders discussed deferments during the Vietnam War. I kept waiting for them to ask about the War of 1812. No questions about ISIS.

I get the anger at Republican leadership in Congress. You feel like the country is coming apart at the seams, you want somebody to stand athwart the Obama administration shouting “Stop!” . . . and the House speaker always looks like he’s just watched Brian’s Song. There’s a staffer following behind him with a supply of Kleenex. I get it, it’s not exactly the General Patton you’re looking for, when the night is dark and the dawn is far.

ADDENDA: So the official publication date for Heavy Lifting is Monday. The good folks at Regnery want to see how high they can drive the book’s Amazon ranking that day. Once again, if you’ve already pre-ordered, thank you very much. If you’ve been thinking about it, Monday might be a good day to place that order. Amazon Prime is offering it at $19.40, which is more than 30 percent off the cover price. 

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