We’ll see how long Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) keeps this up.
Senate Democrats have completely lost it over the Supreme Court’s narrow ruling granting some for-profit religious employers exceptions under Obamacare’s HHS mandate. You’d be hard pressed to learn from them, for example, that Hobby Lobby provides 16 of the 20 forms of contraception required by federal law to its employees, and only objected to compulsorily providing the other four because, in their view, such drugs are abortifacients. In other words, freedom of conscience was the central argument in Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby, and the plaintiffs ultimately won. But the Left cannot abide by or accept this ruling.
Most egregiously, Senate Democrats continue to lie and mislead the public about the Hobby Lobby decision for political gain. Hence this:
In point of fact, the type of birth control shown in the infographic above was freely provided to Hobby Lobby employees before the controversy even began. Perhaps, then, the California Democrat should take it down.
When Ezra Klein and friends launched Vox as an "explanatory journalism" site this spring, conservative catcalls and ridicule began promptly. The project's critics have been vindicated time and again. Though the site sometimes produces solid content, it's run by hard-left ideologues who lack the capacity to present "just the facts, ma'am"-style reporting. Over the last 24 hours or so, Vox has beclowned itself on four separate occasions. First, see Mollie Hemingway's brutal take-down of co-founder Matt Yglesias' stupefyingly ignorant attack on conservatives and religious liberty. His asshattery was so acute that even a junior Vox colleague publicly rejected Yglesias', er, "point." Confronted with facts, Yglesias retreated into the realm of non-sequiturs and snark. A separate Vox post suggested that even though Hamas is using human shields to protect their terrorist arsenal and leaders -- a point conceded by the author, and again confirmed by very recent events -- Israel "doesn't have to bomb them." This sharp take demands that Israel lie back and endure a terrorist bombardment, while rewarding its enemy's inhuman tactics with pointless, suicidal "restraint." On healthcare, Yglesias was back at it with a piece whose title I quoted in the headline. It's only partially tongue-in-cheek, a riff on one of his most infamous Obamacare tweets:
Laying down the marker—Obamacare implementation’s going to be great and people will love it: http://t.co/itm6J3BixD— Matt Yglesias (@mattyglesias) July 17, 2013
In yesterday's "anaylsis," Yglesias congratulates himself for having been "pretty much right." His evidence is Gallup's finding that the US uninsured rate has dropped under Obamacare, plus a poll showing that most people with subsidized coverage through Obamacare's exchanges are at least "somewhat satisfied" with their plans. Ahem. At the Weekly Standard, Jeffrey Anderson explains how the law "misses its original target by half," and we've run through the reasons why the enrollment numbers are artificially and significantly juiced. Beyond those details, though, reducing the uninsured rate by passing a hugely expensive law that requires people to buy health insurance, and uses taxpayer money to buy it for a lot of people, doesn't qualify as a grand success. By a double-digit margin, more Americans were hurt by the law than helped by it. The "satistfaction" chart Yglesias presents fails to mention that people who were booted off of their existing coverage (in violation of a core political promise) are much, much less likely to be pleased with their new deal. And his "people love it" happy talk entirely ignores widespread and enduring public disapproval of the law. Some people, a very specific subsection of the population, do love Obamacare. Most people do not, thanks in large part to the shattered promises and lies employed by people like Yglesias in the selling of the law. By no reasonable definition has the implementation of Obamacare been "great." Indeed, Reason's Peter Suderman reports that major portions of Healthcare.gov still aren't built, and won't be until sometime in 2015:
The back end of Obamacare’s federal exchange—the guts of the system designed to communicate with and manage payments to health insurers—still isn’t finished, despite explicit promises from the administration that it would be finished months ago. A document posted by the administration yesterday lists requirements for the next tech contractor to work on the federal insurance portal, according to Politico, which reports that whichever company wins the next contract, which would begin when the administration’s current contract with Accenture, the company that replaced the original contractor CGI earlier this year, runs out in 2015, "is also slated to help construct major back-end components of the site that insurers need to get paid accurately." It’s the latest indication that the administration is having a serious problem completing work on the federal exchange’s crucial back-end payment systems.
These increases are directly due to Obamacare's costly coverage mandates and the older, sicker insurance risk pools the law has generated. "People love it." I'll leave you with this. He's on a roll, folks:
The math on this adds up to 116 percent. pic.twitter.com/oX9NsPWXpW— Ryan Teague Beckwith (@ryanbeckwith) July 17, 2014
London-based Russia Today reporter Sara Firth announced her resignation this morning in protest of the politicized coverage of yesterday’s shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.
Firth said the manner in which Russia Today announced the tragedy was the “straw that broke the camel’s back for me.” Press Gazette has more:
Russia Today has been criticised for suggesting the crash is the fault of Ukraine. Most other media outlets have suggested that a more likely explanation is that pro-Russian separatists were responsible for shooting down the passenger jet. So far it is estimated that around 300 people died in the crash.
“Yesterday when the story broke you get the kick in your stomach when you’re going to get the facts and it’s this huge story,” she told Press Gazette.
“And I walked into the newsroom and they were running an eye-witness account of God-knows who the person was blaming the Ukrainian government, and it is such a volatile situation.”
She explained that Russia Today encourages reporters to place the blame on Ukraine or anywhere else to avoid tarnishing Russia’s image.
“I said it then, if I was asked to burn the facts and not tell the truth I’d be a goner, and so I’m gone...
And it’s the level of disrespect for the facts that really bugs me.
And so I made my decision yesterday when we started covering the story and this morning woke up and I just knew that I can’t go back in any more."
She added: “The thing is once I made the decision, you have to be honest with yourself and it’s so difficult.... Once you start telling the truth it’s brutal.”
Firth declared her resignation publicly via Twitter around 8:00 AM EDT:
I resigned from RT today. I have huge respect for many in the team, but I'm for the truth. pic.twitter.com/mZ1g0R7N0D— Sara Firth (@Sara__Firth) July 18, 2014
Before resigning, she engaged in a blunt exchange with one of her colleagues, Polly Boiko, after another Twitter user accused Boiko of spreading lies:
@Polly_Boiko How do you sleep at night, taking money to spread Putin's lies? All those dead children on that plane.— Tanos (@ukTanos) July 18, 2014
@ukTanos what am i spreading?— Polly Boiko (@Polly_Boiko) July 18, 2014
Firth basically had a choice between quitting her job or being fired after this Tweet:
RT style guide Rule 1: It is ALWAYS *Ukraine's fault (*add name as applicable)— Sara Firth (@Sara__Firth) July 18, 2014
Russia Today has not commented on Firth's accusations or resignation.
New York Times columnist Ross Douthat has written a generous and fair response to the suggestion made yesterday that Republicans should not pass a border crisis response bill this month. Douthat writes:
I share Carroll’s frustration with the president’s conduct of immigration policy, but I don’t think the logic here quite makes sense. Republicans would be responding to a presidential power grab in one area by essentially demanding that he expand that power grab even further, and washing their own hands of a crisis situation while they wait to see if he’ll act without them. Wouldn’t that kind of stand-down legitimize presidential overreach muchmore than passing the actual bill that Republicans believe is legally and constitutionally required?
In short, no. DACA is an unprecedented expansion of executive power while suspension of the 2008 Trafficking Act is justified by the statute itself.
Obama's DACA program has no basis in federal statute. All presidents can exercise prosecutorial discretion to grant administrative relief from deportation on a case-by-case basis. But DACA transformed that case-by-case discretion into a broad based generally applicable program whose outlines were specifically rejected by Congress.
By contrast, the 2008 Trafficking Victims Protection Act explicitly contains an "exceptional circumstances" clause allowing a president to suspend the requirement that unaccompanied minors must be turned over to HHS.
In other words, Obama already has the authority to suspend the 2008 Trafficking Act, he just doesn't have the political will to do it.
But there is a larger point Douthat only mentions in passing: this border is taking place in the middle of a much larger battle over Obama's abuse of executive power.
From his drive-by war on Libya, to the NSA, to the Obamacare employer mandate delays, to the unlawful spending on Obamacare exchanges, to the impending Obamacare risk corridor bailout, to Obama's rewrite of federal education law, to his illegal NLRB appointments, to his illegal net neutrality regulations, Obama has repeatedly thumbed his nose at Congress and dared them to hold him accountable for his lawless actions.
"So sue me," Obama has taunted.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has since moved to do exactly that, but Boehner's suit is based on a novel theory of legal standing that might be rejected by courts.
And if a court does throw out the Boehner lawsuit, that court will say disputes between Congress and the Executive Branch are meant to be settled politically. If Boehner doesn't think Obama is enforcing the law, then he must use what limited power he does have as Speaker, to make him.
And one power Boehner does have is to just say 'no'. Just say 'no' to everything Obama wants until Obama starts executing the law faithfully.
Doing nothing absolutely is politically risky. But pretending Obama will faithfully execute whatever Congress does pass will arguably only enable Obama's lawlessness more.
How many more hits can the Wendy Davis campaign withstand? That is the question the state senator from Texas will have to ask herself as she deals with yet another PR disaster.
The official Davis campaign reports released Wednesday revealed the discrepancy:
Instead of $13.1 million in cash on hand as claimed, the reports Davis and her allies filed show there was actually $12.8 million in the bank at the end of June, a difference of about $300,000.
A more detailed report suggests how those numbers became so skewed:
Davis has invited criticism in part because she counts money contained in four separate accounts — her campaign for governor, her old Senate campaign account, a joint fundraising operation and the Democratic turnout operation known as Battleground Texas.
It was the cash-on-hand figure from Battleground Texas that came in lower than advertised. In the press release, the Davis campaign said Battleground would report $1.1 million in the bank. But Battleground told the Ethics Commission it only had $806,000 in the bank.
Battleground Texas also helps out other Democratic candidates, so it can be argued it’s unfair for the Davis campaign to count their funds in the first place.
Her campaign figures from the latest period were enhanced as well:
The $11.2 million that Davis had reported raising included $500,000 in in-kind donations, where a donor offers services instead of money, including $250,000 that was the cash value of a concert that country music legend Willie Nelson performed at a campaign fundraiser.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the ring, Abbott has reported an impressive $35.6 million in cash on hand.
Despite these hard-to-argue with numbers, Battleground Texas just released an email to supporters today bragging about how Davis is “shattering expectations”:
Wendy Davis is keeping pace with Greg Abbott's fundraising, and Leticia Van de Putte outraised Tea Party favorite Dan Patrick, gaining a cash-on-hand advantage as well.
For a dose of reality, here’s a little recap: Wendy Davis’s campaign has thus far featured an exaggerated rags-to-riches story, a spokesman quitting, a staffer mocking her Republican opponent Greg Abbott for being in a wheelchair, fuzzy math - and now more fuzzy math.
Senator Davis, do yourself and all of Texas a favor by throwing in the towel.
The president’s unimpressive response to the downing of Malaysian Airline Flight 17 yesterday (all passengers on board lost their lives, some of whom were reportedly Americans) was met with distain from pundits all across the political spectrum. But two regular critics of the current administration, in my view, were particularly and memorably incensed.
As Guy noted yesterday, mere hours after the Benghazi terrorist raid shocked the nation, the president was off fundraising for Democrats in Las Vegas. He was plainly and roundly criticized for obvious reasons. And yet he has finally outdone himself, or so it seems, after attending two Democratic fundraisers last night on perhaps the biggest news day of the year. He just couldn't cancel them. Hence why conservative talk radio host Mark Levin went ballistic:
Charles Krauthammer, for his part, was less viscerally outraged than Levin. But his words were no less incisive. He took issue not with the fact that the president attended two separate fundraisers (although, in fairness, surely he recognized the optics were less-than-ideal) but for refusing to make “a damn decision” about arming the Ukrainians, thus leaving them vulnerable and defenseless:
Lest you think only conservatives were outraged by the president's disinterested response yesterday, think again: most people were, including this guy.
West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin (D) has some explaining to do. Although the senator has proclaimed to be pro-life, his recent support of a Democratic bill to overturn the Supreme Court’s ruling on Hobby Lobby v. Burwell, suggests otherwise. This failed legislation would have reversed a decision that protects the Christian company’s religious freedom and avoid providing employees abortion-inducing drugs.
Manchin explained his support for the bill as such:
“Today, I voted in support of overturning the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision that ruled for-profit companies can opt out of providing contraceptives to their employees because of religious beliefs,” Manchin said. “As Governor and U.S. Senator, I have always fought to protect the sincerely-held religious views of non-profit organizations, like soup kitchens, colleges, hospitals and similar non-profit organizations. However, for-profit corporations do not have the same legal privileges as non-profits, and therefore they should not have the same protections as non-profits recognized by law as being a religious organization. This legislation strikes a balance between allowing non-profit organizations to hold onto their religious views while ensuring that Americans have access to safe, affordable and reliable preventative health benefits.”
I don’t understand how someone who considers himself pro-life can add his name to this bill. The drug ella, one of the four contraceptives Hobby Lobby refused to offer employees, can cause the demise of an embryo already implanted in its mother's womb, according to the Family Research Council. It should not fall under the term "health benefits." Clearly, the pro-life movement is overwhelmingly on the side of Hobby Lobby, who is simply trying to avoid violating its religious convictions by offering drugs that could cause abortions.
We’re waiting for an explanation, Mr. Manchin.
Israeli forces on Thursday launched a ground offensive in the Gaza Strip, the military said.
The operation came after 10 days of intense fighting between Israel and the Islamic militant Hamas, in which Israel hit more than 2,000 targets in Gaza and Hamas launched nearly 1,500 rockets at Israel.
BREAKING NEWS: A large IDF force has just launched a ground operation in the Gaza Strip. A new phase of Operation Protective Edge has begun.— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) July 17, 2014
The Israeli prime minister himself evidently green lighted the operation:
The Israel Prime Minister's Office has released a statement confirming that Netanyahu has ordered the IDF to launch a ground offensive.— Avi Mayer (@AviMayer) July 17, 2014
The reason for the invasion? To take out Hamas's "underground terror tunnels."
BREAKING: Israel PM Netanyahu says objective of ground operation is to destroy #Hamas underground terror tunnels— Lisa Daftari (@LisaDaftari) July 17, 2014
Or perhaps this had something to do with it:
Heavy barrage of rockets on Tel Aviv— Noga Tarnopolsky (@NTarnopolsky) July 17, 2014
UPDATE: Or this:
A statement from the Israeli military said the operation will include "infantry, armoured corps, engineer corps, artillery and intelligence combined with aerial and naval support."
Before dawn on Thursday, about a dozen Palestinian fighters tunnelled under the border, emerging near an Israeli community. At least one was killed when Israeli aircraft bombed the group, the military said.
Stay tuned for updates.
View of an explosion following an Israeli strike in Gaza City pic.twitter.com/1Rr5aEvSUt— Agence France-Presse (@AFP) July 17, 2014
UPDATE: At least 48,000 Israeli reservists have been "called up" and ordered to report for duty, according to Politico. Furthermore, the offensive has been described as "open-ended," and will be initiated on multiple fronts.
Israeli forces have not stormed Gaza since 2009.
And now, a short, tweet-based summary of our Commander-in-Chief's actions in the immediate aftermath of today's developing disaster in Ukraine:
Meanwhile... MT @markknoller: "I'm starving," said Pres Obama as he sat down to lunch...He order a cheeseburger and fries. (Medium well)— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) July 17, 2014
President's schedule unchanged - he's now at the Charcoal Pit near Wilmington where he ordered the "Pit Special" - burger & fries.— Jonathan Karl (@jonkarl) July 17, 2014
"Mr. President, 23 Americans appear to have been murdered in the Ukraine conflict. Perhaps we should cut short this burger photo op."— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) July 17, 2014
Remember, we were just told that this president disdains photo ops...such as surveying the current border crisis in person. Following lunch, Obama proceeded to make a (very) short statement, which included an odd formulation, and a behind-the-curve comment:
Obama on plane crash: "It looks like it may be a terrible tragedy."— John McCormack (@McCormackJohn) July 17, 2014
Obama says they're trying to determine if any Americans were on on plane, segues to prepared speech.— John McCormack (@McCormackJohn) July 17, 2014
Obama, in sum: A plane crashed. It may be tragic. We're trying to see if US citizens were on board. Hey, great to be in Delaware!— Matt Viser (@mviser) July 17, 2014
Obama now talking about the real enemy: Republicans in Washington.— John McCormack (@McCormackJohn) July 17, 2014
Obama’s full exit quote: “Thank you, God bless you, let’s build some bridges, let’s build some roads, God bless America"— Charlie Spiering (@charliespiering) July 17, 2014
President Obama massively dropped the ball just now. 23 Americans killed and he says 'it looks like a terrible tragedy' then back to jokes?— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) July 17, 2014
Let me help, Mr President - it IS a terrible tragedy, and it's more probably mass murder of your citizens & many other nations' citizens.— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) July 17, 2014
President Obama attended a political fundraiser in Las Vegas the day after the deadly Benghazi terrorist attacks, did the same immediately after delivering his eulogy for the Fort Hood victims, raised a toast to "happy hour with the Democratic Party" minutes after issuing a statement on Russia's invasion of Crimea, golfed through the shutdown crisis, and led a conga line through the White House at his lavish birthday party in the midst of major economic upheaval -- just hours before Standard & Poors downgraded the United States' credit rating for the first time in history. I'll leave you with the punch line from today:
Of course. RT @markknoller: AF-1 wheels up from Delaware. Pres Obama en route to NYC for two Dem fundraisers. Both closed to press coverage— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) July 17, 2014
UPDATE - Initial news reports from multiple agencies regarding the American death toll appear to have been inaccurate. President Obama said on Friday that "at least one" US citizen was aboard the flight, not the 23 that was originally reported. Some lefties have jumped all over this alteration as an instance of conservatives -- including yours truly -- "lying" about Obama, or jumping the gun to criticize him. They're missing the point entirely, of course, intentionally or otherwise. See my Twitter timeline from this afternoon for my response. One tweet:
(2) # of US deaths in *no way* impacts my point, which was that carrying on w/ photo op, partisan speech, fundraiser was inappropriate.— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) July 18, 2014
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Below is an excerpt from Kevin Glass's August feature story, "Rand Paul vs Marco Rubio for the Foreign Policy Soul of the Republican Party."
On March 6, 2013, Sen. Rand Paul (R- KY) rose to take the floor and speak on the subject of President Obama’s nomination of John Brennan for CIA director. Brennan was the architect of Obama’s drone program, which the White House had been using to assassinate terrorists overseas.
Over the course of the next 13 hours, Paul made his objections widely known. From his discomfort with the broad unilateral authority that Obama claimed, to the controversy surrounding targeted killings of American citizens overseas, to the scary potential that military-style drones might be brought to American shores.
Paul’s skepticism when it comes to expansive foreign policy is and was well-known. But his half-day filibuster, the second-longest in history, vaulted him into the national conversation and sparked interest across party lines. What was also surprising was the cadre of senators who joined in, and one in particular: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL).
Rubio and Paul have offered divergent views of American foreign policy ever since they were both elected to the Senate in 2010. Their disagreements are cordial and their offices maintain a good working relationship. But there is nonetheless an ideological battle occurring, not only on Capitol Hill, but throughout the Republican Party and across the country.
A new crop of Republicans have comprehensive ideas for how security policy should evolve in the 21st century, and while they by and large are conducting these debates jovially, they are nonetheless fighting for nothing less than the soul of the Republican Party.
A LONG WAY FROM THE BUSH ERA
In 2001, in the wake of the worst terrorist attack on American soil in the nation’s history, the United States made some monumental changes in how we conducted international affairs.
After 13 years, two formal wars, multiple tertiary conflicts, and two presidents, Americans’ attitudes about national and international security have changed. There is a cold war brewing in the Republican Party over the utility of our security measures and how conservatives should approach the future.
President Bush chose to implement broad security powers in the U.S. and to aggressively pursue terrorists and state- sponsored terrorism abroad. The Republican Party had few dissidents from these policies in the Bush years, but Obama’s conduction of the War on Terror has caused more people to doubt the effectiveness of our post-9/11 security measures.
Opposition to the Iraq War has hovered above 50 percent since early in Bush’s second term and Republican support for the war has steadily fallen. Obama has made winding down the war in Afghanistan a priority as support for our military force there has fallen. Some of the domestic intelligence operations undertaken by Bush and Obama have also come under fire from both Republicans and Democrats.
We’re a long way from 2007, when former-New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani put his mark on his bid for president by stamping out the anti-interventionist rhetoric of former- Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX). With the shift in partisan control of the White House, more Republicans have become skeptical of broad security powers emanating from the White House. The anti-Washington sentiment that motivated 2010’s midterm electoral victories sent a new wave of Republicans to the Senate who have begun shaping the GOP’s future security vision. People like Rubio, Paul, along with Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Ted Cruz (R-TX) have taken an active role in our security policy.
The only catch is that they’re not always pulling in the same direction.
FROM MCCAIN TO RUBIO
For decades Republicans had dominated Democrats on foreign policy. And Bush’s decisive action in the wake of 9/11 only increased that dominance. Even after the American public turned against the war in Iraq, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) still enjoyed a small lead over Obama on foreign policy issues as he headed for defeat in November. ...
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