Recently in Politics, Government & Public Policy Category

Scott Walker was my first choice for President out of the available candidates, so I'm sorry to read that he's withdrawn from the race. I agree with Byron York's assessment however -- Walker just didn't seem ready for the national stage. He's young, only 47, and I hope he regains his footing and has another opportunity to run for the presidency.

Walker was not a candidate prepared to deal with national policy in the context of a presidential campaign. In an interview, I asked him whether things had moved too quickly, whether the ground had shifted under his feet after the Iowa speech. His answer was instant: "Totally."

"We thought all along if we got in, it would be kind of this slow and steady, don't worry about the other guys, just keep focused on moving forward, and as candidates chose not to get in or fell off, we'd be in a position to make a compelling case to them," Walker explained. "We had no idea that after that Iowa summit there would be that kind of acceleration to the race. But we're here, and we're not going to complain about it."

Still, many Walker supporters thought the problems were fixable. So did Walker. He could get those experts together, dive into the briefing books, and find his footing.

It didn't work. As the campaign went on, Walker made error after error, all based in the fact that he wasn't well versed in national issues.

The Daily Beast reports some details on the investigation into dumbed-down intelligence reports on ISIS. The story accurately but incompletely attributes the alterations to the U.S. military. The "officials" mentioned are military officers, and high-ranking officers are not merely "military", they are also political. If, as alleged, senior military officials doctored intelligence reports to fit President Obama's desired message then the decision was a political one -- and the senior officers believed the alterations would aid their careers more than the truth would.

Senior intelligence officials at the U.S. military's Central Command demanded significant alterations to analysts' reports that questioned whether airstrikes against the so-called Islamic State widely known as ISIS were damaging the group's finances and its ability to launch attacks. But reports that showed the group being weakened by the U.S.-led air campaign received comparatively little scrutiny, The Daily Beast has learned.

Senior CENTCOM intelligence officials who reviewed the critical reports sent them back to the analysts and ordered them to write new versions that included more footnotes and details to support their assessments, according to two officials familiar with a complaint levied by more than 50 analysts about intelligence manipulation by CENTCOM higher-ups.

Ron Radosh has a few campaign predictions that I find eminently plausible. Read the whole thing; I'm going to excerpt the predictions.

No candidate for president can win without Ohio. Florida is crucial as well, and if Marco Rubio ran as Kasich's vice president, the Republicans likely would have a successful ticket.

Kasich/Rubio would be a very electable and respectable ticket. Kasich doesn't seem likely to win the nomination right now.

I believe Trump's support will erode and the people will choose a conservative candidate with actual political experience. [...] I pick Walker as the eventual winner because of his record and his proven ability to win elections in the blue state of Wisconsin.

Walker is still my top candidate, and I'm rooting for him to pull things together. I don't think Trump will end up with the nomination, but I do worry about him running as an independent.

I believe Hillary Clinton will be forced to pull out of the campaign -- for personal health reasons, of course -- and the Democratic field will be wide open.

I agree that Hillary is doomed, even if the axe hasn't fallen yet.

If Joe Biden enters, he will pass Clinton quickly in the polls even if she does not drop out.

A Joe Biden / Elizabeth Warner ticket seems very plausible.

I don't have to make a prediction, but I will anyway: Walker/Rubio vs. Biden/Warner in 2016.

Democrats are growing frustrated that Hillary Clinton isn't making the controversy around her private email server go away.

Rosalind Wyman, a veteran Democratic national committeewoman from California who is also a Clinton supporter, said Mrs. Clinton had not shown enough urgency in battling questions about her judgment, and complained that the campaign's responses to the controversy -- and the federal inquiries that have followed -- were becoming only more muddled.

"The only thing Hillary can do, I think, is get out there in front of reporters and take five hours of questions -- if that's what it takes -- until people understand her, at least, and hopefully believe her," Ms. Wyman said. "And we have to have people who are talented, independent experts on classified secrets defending her on television, rather than who we have now."

But Hillary can't just say "sorry" and answer a few questions when her apology will constitute an admission of guilt to a series of crimes. She has to dodge and weave to try to avoid prosecution.

In Kentucky, where a hard-fought governor's race will be decided in November, some Democrats are privately fretting that Mrs. Clinton's problems could damage the party's brand. The departing Democratic governor, Steven L. Beshear, said he believed that Republican attacks over Mrs. Clinton's email use would continue through the fall and beyond -- and that the Clinton campaign had to devise a strategy of more effective countermoves.

"Honestly, at this point there isn't any great way to handle it," Mr. Beshear said. "While Hillary Clinton has been straight up from the very beginning, the Republicans will not let the issue die, and they will conduct as many witch hunts as possible. She will really have to start addressing those attacks as the campaign becomes more active."

Beshear is delusional or lying. It's President Obama's DOJ and inspectors general who are investigating, and they're hardly Republican hatchet men. Hillary isn't being "straight up", and she can't be without going to jail.

Scott Adams (author of Dilbert) writes about Donald Trump, clown genius. Adams is now predicting that The Donald will be our next president.

Allow me to describe some of the hypnosis and persuasion methods Mr. Trump has employed on you. (Most of you know I am a trained hypnotist and this topic is a hobby of mine.)

For starters, Trump literally wrote the book on negotiating, called The Art of the Deal. So we know he is familiar with the finer points of persuasion. For our purposes today, persuasion, hypnosis, and negotiating all share a common set of tools, so I will conflate them. ...

For example, when Trump says he is worth $10 billion, which causes his critics to say he is worth far less (but still billions) he is making all of us "think past the sale." The sale he wants to make is "Remember that Donald Trump is a successful business person managing a vast empire mostly of his own making." The exact amount of his wealth is irrelevant.

When a car salesperson trained in persuasion asks if you prefer the red Honda Civic or the Blue one, that is a trick called making you "think past the sale" and the idea is to make you engage on the question of color as if you have already decided to buy the car. That is Persuasion 101 and I have seen no one in the media point it out when Trump does it.

Via an anonymous journalist who writes to Instapundit, thoughts on Hillary's vulnerability to blackmail:


Hillary will be totally blackmail-able if elected. Here's the logic:

1. It's safe to say that there were things on that server which could cause Hillary tremendous harm politically - which is why she destroyed the evidence that would have been exculpatory if you believed her explanation. In my mind, it's also why she used a private server to begin with.

2. She is lying about what was on that server, potentially to include while under oath in her upcoming congressional testimony.

3. If someone had all the copies of her emails and those of her staff, they could readily blackmail her because of the above. They'd have proof of her wrongdoing and her lying about it.

4. Hillary Clinton, as both a future Presidential candidate and a sitting Sec. of State would have been one of the Top 100 intelligence targets in the world and probably one of the top 10.

5. It's thus certain that the Chinese and Russians would each have had a team focused on accessing her communications.

6. Every security expert I know of has said it's a virtual certainty the Chinese and Russians both gained access to her server and all her emails. From what I know about their capabilities, I'd agree.

There are probably a bunch of folks in China and Russia who are praying (even if they're atheists) for Hillary to be elected. If she wins, they own the President of the United States. I can just imagine in a meeting with Putin, Hillary being told to back off supporting Ukraine or he'll release her emails (as he hands her a folder containing the most damaging ones for her to peruse). Put in that position, would Hillary fall on her sword or sacrifice a country like Ukraine? I don't know, but I wouldn't want to be living in Ukraine...

Someone with that kind of vulnerability to blackmail shouldn't be allowed to sweep the floors of the NSA, much less run our country.

The inspector general investigation into Hillary's use of a private email server for top secret communications has expanded to her top aides, and Hillary is no doubt looking among them for a scapegoat with enough importance to distract the public from her misdeeds. Who will be sacrificed so that Hillary can go free?

As pressure builds on Hillary Clinton to explain her official use of personal email while serving as secretary of state, she faced new complications Tuesday. It was disclosed her top aides are being drawn into a burgeoning federal inquiry and that two emails on her private account have been classified as "Top Secret." ...

At least four top aides have turned over records, including copies of work emails on personal accounts, to the State Department, which is collecting them in response to a subpoena from Capitol Hill, according to the department. Lawmakers have demanded records, including personal emails, from six other aides, but it's unknown whether they used personal email for work.

And now Hillary has decided she has no choice but to surrender her email server to investigators. A proper forensics investigation will help us understand the use, configuration, and breaches that occurred on the server over the past six years, but it will also be interesting to see what is discovered about about the cover-up that's been going on for the past few months.

Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential campaign casts her decision to turn over her personal email server to the Justice Department as cooperating with investigators. Her Republican critics suggest that the move and new revelations about classified information points to her malfeasance as secretary of state. ...

Federal investigators have begun looking into the security of Clintons' email setup amid concerns from the inspector general for the intelligence community that classified information may have passed through the system. There is no evidence she used encryption to prevent prying eyes from accessing the emails or her personal server.

Will the three million gallons of toxic waste spilled by the Environmental Protection Agency at Gold King Mine slow down the Obama administration's pseudo-environmental agenda? Maybe we'd be comfortable with government regulation if the regulatory agencies were competent. Unfortunately, they're staffed by fallible humans (just like us!), which is why we shouldn't give them so much power.

The political fallout from last week's toxic spill at Colorado's Gold King Mine intensified Monday, with critics saying the incident has exposed clear hypocrisy within the Obama administration while threatening the credibility of the Environmental Protection Agency at a crucial moment.

Rather than express outrage as it has done in the wake of previous environmental disasters, the White House would not comment on the spill and instead directed all questions to the embattled EPA.

The agency, meanwhile, remains under intense fire after its contractors accidentally breached a dam at the mine last week and sent toxic sludge flowing into the Animas River. The contaminated water has spread to New Mexico, Arizona and Utah, and EPA officials were forced to concede that more than 3 million gallons were released into the river -- a much higher amount than the agency's initial estimate of 1 million gallons.

The fluid contains lead, arsenic and other heavy metals.

Why is Donald Trump running for president? Marc Hodak nails it. Trump is planning to auction the Presidency to the highest bidder.

Sure, he may be happy to win the presidency. He can go for it, and see how far he gets. But what happens when it becomes plain that he can't win, that he is only polling ten percent of the vote, or five percent of the vote? No matter; he still has what every dealmaker wants--huge negotiating power.

If his support would largely draw from a Republican candidate, he can go to, say, Jeb (or whoever wins the R slot), and propose to drop out if Jeb gives him X*. Or, he can got to his old pal Hillary (assuming she wins the D slot), and propose to stay in the race if he gets X.

The art of the deal is to have something that other people desperately want, and get them to bid on it. Imagine holding the keys to the White House, and the top candidates have to get them from you.

The IRS scandal marches on -- new Lois Lerner emails have been found three years after we were told they'd all be "accidentally" destroyed. At least one of the emails gives conclusive proof that the IRS intentionally harassed conservative groups and evaded Congressional and judicial scrutiny.

The email shows that the IRS sent out intrusive inquiry letters to at least one organization purely as a stall tactic.

As Glenn Reynolds says: Tar. Feathers.

In one Nov. 3, 2011, exchange between Ms. Lerner and Cindy Thomas, a program manager in the Cincinnati office that was handling the cases and was involved in a back-and-forth with Washington, the IRS admitted to having hundreds of cases stacked up and awaiting action.

Afraid of congressional pressure, Ms. Thomas ordered one of the inquiry letters to be sent, just to prevent one of the organizations being held up from complaining.

"Just today, I instructed one of my managers to get an additional information letter out to one of these organizations -- if nothing else to buy time so he didn't contact his Congressional Office," she wrote in the email released by Judicial Watch.

Ms. Thomas said she feared a judge would get involved soon and order the IRS to move the applications more quickly.

That email exchange did confirm that IRS employees in Washington were deeply involved in making decisions about the nonprofit groups' cases.

I've tried hard not to write about Donald Trump. He's a circus act, and the only thing he cares about is himself. He blathers on, talking "tough" and insulting everyone in sight, but it's all a show, and it's all about him. Despite all that, if he breaks from the Republicans and runs on a third-party ticket he will deliver the presidency to Hillary Clinton. Is it time for despair? I don't know. I've had high hopes for a while (years?) that we'd get a great, patriotic president in 2016, but maybe it's just a fantasy.

And while happy talk (some of which I've indulged in myself) may dismiss Trump as this year's flash-in-the-pan like the 2012 Republican also-rans, right now he's more likely a version of Ross Perot in 1992 -- the man who got Bill Clinton elected. Perot managed to convince people he was only in it to talk about the deficit and the national debt when it was probably more the case he was running out of a long-standing personal animus toward George H.W. Bush and a desire to deny him the presidency based on an imagined slight. Trump doesn't even have a real issue to bring in Democrats and Republicans dissatisfied with their choices. Trump is Trump's issue.

These are unhappy times in the United States, and unhappy times generate unhappy political outcomes. Last week I made the case for despair following the Iran deal. I know people always want commentary that offers a path forward, a way out of trouble, a hope for something better. Sometimes, though, you just have to sit back and despair at the condition of things, and maybe from the despair some new wisdom may emerge.

Forget the Presidency -- will Hillary Clinton even be the Democrat's nominee? Hang in there Hillary!

Earlier, D.C. Whispers reported on federal investigators' request to initiate a full on CRIMINAL investigation into the Hillary Clinton email scandal due, at least in part, to Mrs. Clinton's alleged and purposeful destruction of classified material she kept on a private email server. Apparently this development is but one of several now plaguing a Hillary Clinton campaign that has a candidate who often appears "lost, confused, tired, and angry." ...

This past week saw campaign operatives trying to figure out how to break the news to candidate Clinton regarding her sudden drop in several battleground states that show her losing by wide margins to potential rivals like Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and Scott Walker. When that news was finally delivered, Hillary Clinton is said to have initially brushed it off.

Mere hours later she proceeded to lash out her handlers, and then went on to blame what she perceives to be "unfair media coverage."

The Inspector General of the Intelligence Community says that Hillary Clinton send classified emails through her personal email server. The IG only checked 40 out of 30,000 emails, and he found 4 classified emails.

An internal government review found that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sent at least four emails from her personal account containing classified information during her time heading the State Department.

In a letter to members of Congress on Thursday, the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community concluded that Mrs. Clinton's email contains material from the intelligence community that should have been considered "secret" at the time it was sent, the second-highest level of classification. A copy of the letter to Congress was provided to The Wall Street Journal by a spokeswoman for the Inspector General.

The four emails in question "were classified when they were sent and are classified now," said Andrea Williams, a spokeswoman for the inspector general. The inspector general reviewed just a small sample totaling about 40 emails in Mrs. Clinton's inbox--meaning that many more in the trove of more than 30,000 may contain potentially confidential, secret or top-secret information.

Argh! Being a conservative is maddening sometimes. Ok, frequently. Trump jumps to top of Republican candidate field, followed by Jeb Bush and Rand Paul. Really? Look... any of these people -- almost anyone at all -- would be better than Hillary Clinton ( ed. -- that's what you thought in 2008) but these guys are hardly my first choices. Trump would be an interesting President I guess, but he feels like a sideshow. Nominating another Bush would be intentionally throwing the race. Rand Paul is a smart guy, but some of his policy views are just wrong for America.

The more I read about the candidates, the more I like Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, and Carly Fiorina.

rope press.jpg

This is pretty hilarious: Hillary herds reporters with a rope. The text doesn't really do the included video justice. It's not just that the press was contained in a roped-off area... Hillary's aides hold ropes in their hands, surrounded the reporters, and then pushed the herd along by moving the ropes as Hillary walked.

Campaign aides for Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton on Saturday roped off reporters from the candidate as she walked and talked with potential voters during a July Fourth parade in New Hampshire, sparking frustration from the press corps and outrage from the state Republican Party.

"Hillary Clinton continues to demonstrate her obvious contempt and disdain for the Granite State's style of grassroots campaigning," New Hampshire Republican State Committee Chairman Jennifer Horn said in a statement. "The use of a rope line at a New Hampshire parade is a sad joke and insults the traditions of our first-in-the-nation primary."

President Obama is now pedaling an emotional appeal to the Supreme Court, hoping that the facts on the ground will be allowed to stand despite their illegality. Just as a reminder, zero Republicans voted for Obamacare; the law's shoddy crafting is a product of the Democrats' deception, intransigence, and reckless disregard for the will of the people.

In a speech to the Catholic Health Association, Obama will talk about the hundred years it's taken to reform healthcare in the United States, and the millions it has helped over its five years of implementation. With a ruling due by the end of the month that could potentially send the new insurance marketplaces into a tailspin, Obama will warn, the social contract is at stake.

"The rugged individualism that defines America has always been bound by a set of shared values; an enduring sense that we are in this together," Obama plans to say, according to excerpts released Tuesday morning by the White House. "That's we have an obligation to put ourselves in our neighbor's shoes, and to see the common humanity in each other."

He continues, "Five years in, what we're talking about is no longer just a law. This isn't about the Affordable Care Act. This isn't about Obamacare. This isn't about myths or rumors that won't go away. This is reality. This is health care in America."

"This is reality" he says, but it's a reality built on lies.

Charles Murray has a novel suggestion for overcoming the suffocating rules our American bureaucracy foists on us free citizens: insure yourself against penalties and ignore the absurd regulations. I'd really like to read an analysis by an expert on insurance and insurance law who can tell us if this proposal is plausible.

Seen in this perspective, the regulatory state is the Wizard of Oz: fearsome when its booming voice is directed against any single target but, when the curtain is pulled aside, revealed as impotent to enforce its thousands of rules against widespread refusal to comply.

And so my modest proposal: Let's withhold that compliance through systematic civil disobedience. Not for all regulations, but for the pointless, stupid and tyrannical ones. ...

The risk in doing so, of course, is that one of the 70-odd regulatory agencies will find out what you're doing and come after you. But there's a way around that as well: Let's treat government as an insurable hazard, like tornadoes.

People don't build tornado-proof houses; they buy house insurance. In the case of the regulatory state, let's buy insurance that reimburses us for any fine that the government levies and that automatically triggers a proactive, tenacious legal defense against the government's allegation even if--and this is crucial--we are technically guilty.

Why litigate an allegation even if we are technically guilty? To create a disincentive for overzealous regulators. The goal is to empower citizens to say, "If you come after me, it's going to cost your office a lot of time and trouble, and probably some bad publicity." If even one citizen says that, in a case where the violation didn't harm anything or anyone, the bureaucrat has to ask, "Do I really want to take this on?" If it's the 10th citizen in the past month who says it and the office is struggling with a backlog of cases, it's unlikely that the bureaucrat's supervisor will even permit him take it on.

It's whack-a-mole, but the government doesn't have enough hammers to hit all of us.

More from Michael Barone.

The New York Times carries a river-full of water for the Democrats' argument that the words of the Affordable Care Act don't mean what they say. The NYT invokes the phrase "drafting error" four times and the words "intend" or "intent" five times in the story, as if these magic talismans can protect the sloppy law from itself. Jonathan Gruber is not mentioned even once!

The story opens with a juvenile non sequitur:

They are only four words in a 900-page law: "established by the state."

It's crazy how just a few words can change the meaning of a whole document! You'd think that a journalist who works with words would grok the power of words, rather than be astonished.

But it is in the ambiguity of those four words in the Affordable Care Act that opponents found a path to challenge the law, all the way to the Supreme Court.

How those words became the most contentious part of President Obama's signature domestic accomplishment has been a mystery. Who wrote them, and why? Were they really intended, as the plaintiffs in King v. Burwell claim, to make the tax subsidies in the law available only in states that established their own health insurance marketplaces, and not in the three dozen states with federal exchanges?

The "ambiguity" only exists insofar as the reader wills it into existence by invoking "drafting errors" and ex post facto "intent".

The answer, from interviews with more than two dozen Democrats and Republicans involved in writing the law, is that the words were a product of shifting politics and a sloppy merging of different versions. Some described the words as "inadvertent," "inartful" or "a drafting error." But none supported the contention of the plaintiffs, who are from Virginia.

If every single person you talk to falls on one side of "the most contentious" issue at hand, perhaps there's some selection bias at work? The only elected Republican quoted is former Senator Olympia Snowe, who was always extremely liberal but voted against Obamacare anyway.

Also, "who are from Virginia" is apropos absolutely nothing.

The Senate bill was on the floor for 25 consecutive days before it was approved on Christmas Eve 2009 by a party-line vote of 60 to 39. Senators always assumed that their bill would be polished and refined in negotiations with the House. But the expected conference between the two chambers never occurred. Democrats switched their plans after Scott Brown, a Republican, won a special election in January 2010 to fill the seat long held by Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, who had died the previous year.

Having lost a filibuster-proof majority, Democrats believed they could not afford to make significant changes in the Senate bill; it was then approved by the House and sent to the president, with an agreement that lingering questions could be answered separately. Some were, though these four words were unaddressed.

Elections have consequences?

Anyway, it's completely nonsensical to enforce what someone claims ex post facto the law was "intended" to say. That's rule by men, not rule by law. The written word is the shared understanding that Congress voted on and the President signed. If the written words don't reflect the intent, then the solution is to pass a new law with the correct intent. Problem solved.

We humans use writing to coordinate all kinds of shared activities: contracts, laws, regulations, procedures, religious beliefs, etc. The point of writing things down is to make sure that there's a common understanding that everyone can rely on. If you can't rely on what's written down to mean what it says, then what's the point?

Real Clear Politics has constructed an election index that attempts to quantify Republican and Democrat party strength based on five values. I think it's a valuable tool for analyzing the disparate numbers.

Our index is the sum of five parts: presidential performance, House performance, Senate performance, gubernatorial performance and state legislative performance. The first is measured by the party's performance in the previous presidential popular vote (NB: In this, and all other measurements, third parties are excluded).

House performance is the average of the popular vote for the House and the average of the share of the House won by the party. This helps mitigate the effects of gerrymandering. Senate performance is the share of the Senate held by the party.

Gubernatorial performance is the party's share of governorships (again, with third party candidates excluded). We do not weight for population, for reasons explored further below. For state legislatures, we average four numbers: the share of state Houses and state Senates held by each party along with the share of state House seats and state Senate seats held by each party.

This gives us five metrics, all of which run on a scale from 0 to 100. Adding them together gives us a scale from 0 to 500. We then subtract 250 from the total. All this does is assign a score of zero to a situation where the parties are evenly matched, rather than 250. A positive score then means that the Republican Party is stronger while a negative score means the Democratic Party is stronger.

Congress has passed the first budget in a decade thanks to the new Republican majority. I haven't read the details, so who knows if it's a good budget, but at least it's something we can look at and debate. That's better than the omnibus spending bills and continuing resolutions we've had for years. Good job! But, of course, President Obama will stonewall.

The White House signaled in statement Tuesday evening that the budget has no chance of getting Obama's approval. "The president has made clear that he will not accept a budget that locks in sequestration going forward, nor one that reverses sequestration for defense - whether explicitly or through backdoor gimmicks - without also reversing sequestration for non-defense," the White House said.

Sequestration is law and will require an act of Congress to reverse, so it looks like the President is going to hold it hostage.

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