On this week's Townhall Weekend Journal:
Hugh Hewitt's guest Peter Baker is the New York Times’ White House Correspondent. He’s the author of a prophetic book entitled “Kremlin Rising: Vladimir Putin’s Russia and the End of Revolution.” Michael Medved and Charles Krauthammer on Putin's Ukraine invasion and Obama's response. Mike Gallagher and AEI's Arthur Brooks discuss envy in America. Medved and Paul Ryan confront the way our government programs are threatening our identity and actually hurting the poor. Hewitt's guest, former Judge Michael McConnell, who directs the Constitutional Law Center at Stanford University, has authored a supporting brief focused on one very important point: the free exercise rights of a corporation. Gregory Feifer, author and former Moscow Correspondent for NPR, is the author of “Russia: the People Behind the Power,” he explains the mindset of the Russian people to Dennis Prager. John McCain and Medved discuss Russian aggression in Ukraine.
If you ever wanted to know why pro-amnesty Republicans failed to get immigration reform passed, Thursday's immigration panel at CPAC was a great place to start.
Not that the panel itself was against immigration reform. It was definitely for it. Including moderator-lobbyist Mercy Viana, the panel consisted of four pro-amnesty speakers (Viana, Helen Krieble of the Krieble Foundation, Alfonso Aguilar of Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, and the Rev. Luis Cortes), while featuring only one anti-amnesty voice (The Heritage Foundation's Derrick Morgan).
The pro-amnesty slant of the speakers, however, was not a surprise. Ever since Al Cardenas succeeded David Keene as chairman of CPAC's sponsoring organization, the American Conservative Union, CPAC organizers have pro-actively worked to shutout anti-amnesty voices. The inclusion of a Heritage speaker on this year's immigration panel was a big improvement over previous CPAC-sanctioned immigration discussions.
But for this reporter, the insight into what went wrong for pro-amnesty Republicans began well before the official program. Facebook lobbyist John Shadegg, an unidentified woman, and panelist Cortes shared some pre-game notes on where the pro-reform campaign stood, and they didn't seem to care who else in the admittedly almost empty room heard them.
Shadegg and Cortes both agreed that immigration reform was still a real possibility this year, and that Republicans could get most of what they wanted on the issue, if only House Republicans would show some leadership and pass a bill. Contrary to popular belief, Shadegg claimed, most conservatives support immigration reform, including many scholars at The Heritage Foundation. Shadegg and the unidentified woman even started listing names of Heritage staffers that they believed supported legalizing illegal immigrants.
Shadegg then explained why the Senate bill, S. 744, died in the House. The problem, Shadegg said, was that the NFIB, NAM, and other pro-reform business groups let the Chamber of Commerce's Tom Donahue negotiate for them with Senate Democrats. As a result, the final bill was nothing more than a carbon copy of the wish list unions came up with after immigration reform failed in 2007.
The first speaker on the panel, Krieble, echoed this criticism, calling S. 744 textbook "central planning" that did to immigration policy exactly what Obamacare did to health care. Instead, she pushed a "Red Card Solution," which she said offered a "market-based" solution to the problem. She did not mention, however, that her Red Card plan would involve repealing the 14th amendment so that children born to guest workers would not receive birthright citizenship.
When they spoke, Aguilar and Cortes both agreed that illegal immigrants must be offered a path to citizenship, although they disagreed as to why. Cortes claimed that few illegal immigrants would want to become citizens because they just wanted to work here legally, provide for their families, and then go back home. But Aguilar insisted that Hispanics were born conservatives who would become fiercely patriotic for their adopted country.
So which is it? Are illegal immigrants fiercely patriotic Republicans-to-be? Or are they all just dying to go back home? Cortes and Aguilar never settled this contradiction.
The reality is that there is zero political benefit for Republican in passing immigration reform while President Obama is still in the White House. Obama can simply veto any bill that isn't exactly what labor unions want and then expand his DACA program instead. If immigrant activists really want to end deportations they should focus their efforts there.
“A little rebellion now and then is a good thing.”
Governor Rick Perry took the words out of Thomas Jefferson’s mouth to rally the CPAC 2014 crowd to save America from the liberal policies that are leading our nation away from the freedom it’s supposed to represent. After he declared he was “proud to be standing in the presence of American patriots,” the governor of Texas wasted no time in describing just how that would look.
Perry laid out two futures for America: One in which the state plays a large role in the lives of its citizens, and another in which the freedom of the individual comes first.
He pointed to New York and Texas as his poor and prime examples. In the former, where “regulations are larger than a 30 oz. Big Gulp,” according to Perry, Big Government is stifling freedom with high taxes, unfair regulations and an ever increasing nanny state.
In Red states like Texas, however, Perry beamed that spending was under control, taxes are some of the lowest in the nation and the state is home to almost 30 percent of the nation’s jobs.
The Texas Way is what Perry suggests freedom-loving Americans need for “a little rebellion on the battlefield of ideas,” insisting the red state strategy needs to be employed on a national level. He then named a number of institutions in which the government needs to “get out!”
“Get out of the education system, get out of health care!”
The audience responded with a standing ovation and Perry ended with a final proposal.
“The future of America is based on state vision that wins out […] We don’t need to change history. We just need to change the presidency.”
Time will tell who Perry has in mind to fill that role.
In the meantime, it looks like his laissez-faire government strategy is doing its job in Texas.
Thursday was a very bad day -- perhaps even the worst possible day, in fact -- for President Obama to say the following about his signature healthcare overhaul: "At this point I think, actually, it is working the way it should." Here he is advancing that assessment, in living color:
Obama's statement would sound wildly out-of-touch based solely on the recent announcement of his administration's 30th (!) politically-motivated Obamacare delay -- the repercussions of which expert Bob Laszewski discusses here. Adding insult to injury many of these on-the-fly changes have occurred after White House officials pledged the delay parade was over. But it gets worse. A lot worse. The Washington Post has published an absolutely devastating report about the administration's progress, or lack thereof, in signing up previously uninsured Americans under Obamacare. Which, you may recall, was the primary stated purpose of this $2 trillion law. This is what abject failure looks like:
The new health insurance marketplaces appear to be making little headway so far in signing up Americans who lack health insurance, the Affordable Care Act’s central goal. A pair of surveys released on Thursday suggest that just one in 10 uninsured people who qualify for private health plans through the new marketplace have signed up for one — and that about half of uninsured adults has looked for information on the online exchanges or plans to look. Taken together, the snapshots shown by the surveys provide preliminary answers to what has been one of the biggest mysteries since HealthCare.gov and separate state marketplaces opened last fall: Are they attracting their prime audience? One of the surveys, by the consulting firm McKinsey & Co., shows that, of people who had signed up for coverage through the marketplaces by last month, just one-fourth described themselves as having been without insurance for most of the past year...The McKinsey survey also found, as it had during the previous few months, that, of people who are uninsured and do not intend to get a health plan through the marketplaces, the biggest factor is that they believe they could not afford one.
It's difficult to overstate the scope of this failure. Fully 90 percent of uninsured Americans who are eligible for plans under Obamacare have declined to sign up for one. About half of those people simply haven't bothered looking. Four out of every five who have browsed their options elected to take a pass. And if you're waiting for a statistical rebuttal from the White House, don't hold your breath:
CMS' Cohen, asked how many uninsured signing up for ACA: “That's not a data point we are really collecting in any sort of systematic way”— Sam Baker (@sam_baker) March 6, 2014
Among uninsured Americans who've said 'no thanks' to Obamacare, the number one factor (by far) cited is lack of affordability, even after all of the taxpayer subsidies are calculated:
CHART: McKinsey survey shows 50% who shopped exchanges and did not purchase cited affordability as the reason. pic.twitter.com/SqJMvqciL3— Phil Kerpen (@kerpen) March 6, 2014
According to a review by eHealthInsurance.com, average unsubsidized individual premiums have increased 39 percent for individuals and 56 percent for families compared to pre-Obamacare levels. The former finding aligns closely with the Manhattan Institute's research. So the overwhelming majority of "new" Obamacare enrollees are people who already had coverage before the law was passed. Millions of those people were uprooted from their preferred coverage (a major broken promise) and forced into new plans, for which many are paying more. Disaster. And again, it gets worse: Of those few previously-uninsured Americans who have "selected plans" under Obamacare (thus fitting the administration's loose definition of "enrolled"), nearly half haven't paid their premiums. Those people are not covered:
CHART: McKinsey survey shows 50% who shopped exchanges and did not purchase cited affordability as the reason. pic.twitter.com/SqJMvqciL3— Phil Kerpen (@kerpen) March 6, 2014
And as a final indignity, Gallup is out with new polling on Obamacare. Fox News' national survey released last night showed Obama's approval rating on healthcare underwater by 23 points, with 57 percent of Americans saying that his administration has failed to improve America's healthcare system. Gallup asks different questions, but the results are just as ugly. Approval of Obamacare remains terrible (40/55) with more than twice as many Americans saying the law has hurt their family's situation (23 percent) than helped it (10 percent). And this speaks for itself:
Obamacare is failing to insure the uninsured, driving Americans' healthcare costs up, and hurting twice as many people as it's helping. How many voters would agree with the president's assessment that this law is "working the way it should"?
According to a new poll out of Arizona, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) is the least popular incumbent in the United States. Put simply, PPP surveyed incumbent senators in various states, and as they put it, “McCain [had the] worst poll numbers in the country.”
PPP’s newest Arizona poll finds that John McCain is unpopular with Republicans, Democrats, and independents alike and has now become the least popular Senator in the country. Only 30% of Arizonans approve of the job McCain is doing to 54% who disapprove. There isn’t much variability in his numbers by party- he’s at 35/55 with Republicans, 29/53 with Democrats, and 25/55 with independents.
McCain trails in hypothetical general election match ups with both 2012 nominee Richard Carmona (41/35) and former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords (42/35). He would lead though in a match-up with former Governor Janet Napolitano, 44/36. This has the potential to be an interesting one in 2016.
I’m not sure how Team McCain spins these numbers. Across the board, voters in Arizona overwhelming disapprove of the job he’s doing. Presumably, then, if and when he runs for re-election in 2016, he’ll need to rely heavily on Republicans and independents to carry him to victory. But the problem is only one-quarter of independents currently think he’s doing a good job, and what’s more, the Republican base is seemingly fed up with his “disastrous and harmful” voting record. Indeed, the Arizona Republican Party actually voted to censure him just two months ago:
Delivering a strong rebuke to U.S. Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republicans passed a resolution to censure the one-time presidential nominee for what they characterize as a liberal record that has been "disastrous and harmful" to the state and nation.
While McCain is a political star on the national stage, for years he has had to contend with vocal critics in his home state, who accuse him of betraying the Grand Old Party's principles.
Does this sound like a party willing and able to go to bat for John McCain in 2016? Hardly.
Now, of course, as Allahpundit notes, if the poll was taken from a national sample, perhaps his numbers would be higher, in part because he has national name recognition, and in part because Americans in general are probably more inclined to overlook his "liberal" voting record. But here’s the problem: he needs to convince the people of Arizona that he deserves to be re-elected.
And that will be difficult since, two years out, his approval ratings in his home state are lower than the president’s.
Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., discussed the power of education in transforming lives, including his own, at CPAC on Thursday. Scott talked about the difficulties of growing up a poor kid in a single parent household and his struggles in school. “I failed civics. Now think about that—a United States Senator who failed civics. I used to think I was the only one and then I became a member of the Senate and I realized there might be a few more who didn’t pass civics either,” he joked.
It was a mentor Scott met that would change his life and teach him that he could think his way out of poverty. “[He] taught me that if you really want to escape poverty, it comes through the power of education,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons why my Opportunity Agenda understands the necessity of a good education … it believes that kids, not unions, should be the focus of our public education. That parents and not bureaucrats in Washington should decide the path of their child’s education … because when it’s the parents' choice, the kids have a chance.”
In an exclusive interview with Townhall after his speech, Scott elaborated on some of the points he made on stage. He explained why education really does open the door to opportunity and the American Dream, and how his Opportunity Agenda will help all Americans realize their potential.
Lois Lerner has answered questions for the DOJ investigation into the IRS targeting scandal, but continues to invoke her Fifth Amendment rights before the congressional committee.
It's an interesting decision, albeit not without precedent. Either Lerner feels that the committee is doing nothing but setting "perjury traps" for her, or else she's assured that the DOJ "investigation" is little more than an exercise in making the scandal disappear, and thus is helping the department craft a narrative designed to do just that. Or both.
There are, of course, a number of good reasons for objective observers to suspect that Lerner's motives are less than pure:
(1) The DOJ investigation is being led by an Obama donor -- a highly unusual circumstance
(2) Attorney General Eric Holder himself has a checkered history when it comes to favoritism among non-profits.
(3) The FBI has already signaled that it won't file charges against anyone, even though none of the victims of the harassment have been interviewed.
(5) In short, the DOJ IRS investigation is a sham:
One suspects the cagey Ms. Lerner knows exactly what she is doing.
"What happened was so outrageous, so demeaning, so un-judicial, so awful in every respect, that we just absolutely have reached a boiling point," said Rep. Louise Slaughter (N.Y.), senior Democrat on the House Rules Committee.
House Democrats are up in arms because Chairman Darrell Issa quickly adjourned a committee hearing on the IRS targeting of tea party groups without letting any Democrat speak. Lois Lerner, former head of tax-exempt groups at the IRS, had once again exercised her Fifth Amendment right and refused to answer questions during the hearing so Issa saw “no point in moving forward.”
However, because the committee chairman cut the microphone on Rep. Elijah Cummings as he tried to speak, House Democratic leaders are now saying that Issa “not only violated House rules, but also undermined the workings of democracy,” reports The Hill.
Cummings accused Issa of staging a politically motivated attack on the Obama administration without allowing the Democrats to respond — a dynamic he characterized as "un-American."
"Basically, what happened yesterday is Chairman Issa wanted to hold a hearing, and then shut it down before the Democrats could [utter] one syllable. There's definitely something wrong with that picture," Cummings said. "It is un-American, it is unfair, and I reminded Chairman Issa that each one of my colleagues on the Democratic side, we too are elected by 700,000 people, and they deserve a voice."
"The fact is, Mr. Cummings came to make a point of his objections to the process we've been going through," Issa said on Wednesday. "He was actually slandering me at the moment that the the mics did go off -- by claiming that this has not been a real investigation.
"This has been a bipartisan investigation by multiple committees in which we had testimony in multiple hearings...in which it was very clear there was targeting of conservative groups -- in which there were people acting outside the norm," he continued.
"We're going to continue our investigation. But just because Mr. Cummings would like to have a more convenient truth, doesn't give him the right to make a speech."
The House rejected a Democratic resolution on Thursday that condemned Issa’s conduct.
“While we are facing true challenges and real obstacles, there is no other nation that I would trade places with. There is no other country that I would rather be.”
Florida Senator Marco Rubio spoke to a packed house Thursday afternoon at the Conservative Political Action Conference. Although not as riveting as the Cruz speech or as well-received as the Christie speech, Rubio was all business, making excellent points concerning the global impact of American leadership.
“I am convinced that despite the bad leadership that we are getting today, we are literally on the verge - if we make a few right decisions - of a new American century.”
Rubio then went on to illustrate a world in which the totalitarian regimes of China, North Korea, Iran, and Russia were left unchecked to make whatever decisions they wished:
“Without American engagement, the world I just painted for you is not only a possibility, it is a real probability.”
The highlight of his speech came when he called out the Obama Administration for its foreign policy failures that have put both the economy and the American people at risk.
“We have a president who believes that by the sheer force of his personality he could be able to shape global events. We have a president that believes that by going around the world and giving key speeches in key places, he can shape the behavior of other nations,” Rubio said. “We do not have the luxury of seeing the world the way we hope it would be. We have to see the world the way it is." He continued, "We need leaders that understand clearly what our role in the world is in an unapologetic way, and we also need to be able to afford it - which means that we need an economy has sustains it.”
On another note, conspicuously absent from Rubio’s address was any mention of immigration reform. Redemption narrative? We’ll soon see.
We also find out that she is a former Hannity intern who gives a "maybe" when asked if she would go to MSNBC.