tipsheet
Matt Vespa - Are We At War With Radical Islam?
Posted: 1/29/2015 8:30:00 PM EST

It’s important to identify your enemy. That’s like rule number one concerning engaging in an armed conflict with another nation, or in this case; a network of non-state actors called al-Qaeda and other Islamic terror groups. After the horrific Paris shootings, MRCTV’s Dan Joseph ventured into the Washington D.C. to ask folks if they felt we were at war with radical Islam. A vast majority said, “yes.” Just one woman gave a rather incoherent answer, which we won't go into because I really can't.  

[Watch:]

Another man interviewed by Joseph said he was embarrassed that the U.S. didn't send any high-ranking official to represent us at the Paris Unity Rally.

Daniel Doherty - Townhall/Gravis 2016 Poll: Romney's Still Cruisin' in SC
Posted: 1/29/2015 7:30:00 PM EST

South Carolina traditionally votes third in the presidential primary process. But according to the tentative and already-released 2016 Republican primary schedule, the Palmetto State is apparently holding its elections much latter than expected next year.

Nevertheless, given the historic importance of the state's quadrennial primary, Townhall (in coordination with our partner Gravis Marketing), sponsored an in-state, South Carolina survey in order to begin polling perceptions of the burgeoning 2016 field.

"The former governor of Massachusetts leads a large pack of potential Republican presidential nominees in the Jan. 21-22 Townhall/Gravis poll of 831 likely Republican and Independent voters," Neil W. McCabe reports. See the full graphic below:

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

A second survey was also conducted by Townhall/Gravis:

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

For obvious reasons, virtually every presumed GOP hopeful does better without Mitt Romney in the running. But perhaps the most striking difference between the former and latter sample is that when the former GOP nominee is taken off the list, nearly one-fifth of primary goers become undecided. This five percentage uptick suggests that if Romney ultimately bucks the spotlight in 2016 -- a decision that will presumably dissatisfy most Republicans -- candidates at the tail-end of the popularity spectrum could find some much-needed wiggle-room to rise.

All in all, however, the race is exceedingly close with or without Mitt Romney in it. But make no mistake: Most GOP hopefuls are praying he stays out.

Matt Vespa - Bushwhacked: Top Romney Strategist Boards The Jeb Express
Posted: 1/29/2015 5:45:00 PM EST

So, is this a sign that Romney really isn’t running for president in 2016? A top strategist for Romney in 2012– Dave Kochel–has decided to jump onboard the Jeb Express; he’s been selected to be senior strategist to Bush’s political action committee–and could be Jeb’s national campaign manager if the former Florida governor wants to get more serious about 2016 (via NYT):

David is one of the most talented state-based operatives in the nation and brings a different focus and different set of priorities to our effort to communicate Governor Bush’s focus on economic and social mobility,” said Sally Bradshaw, Mr. Bush’s longtime strategist.

The move to tap Mr. Kochel, who advised Mr. Romney for over six years, represents a shot across the bow of the 2012 Republican nominee, who is now considering a third bid for the White House.

Mr. Kochel offered only praise for Mr. Romney, while also promoting Mr. Bush’s strengths.

“I really believe Governor Bush is the right person for the right time,” he said. “He has a successful conservative record in Florida, and I’d put that record up against anybody else.”

Mr. Kochel is moving this spring to Miami to join Mr. Bush’s national effort, but his hiring also indicates that Mr. Bush is likely to compete aggressively in Iowa, where hard-line conservatives are a force in Republican contests.

“There are a number of people here who will be interested in signing up,” Mr. Kochel said. “You compete everywhere because that’s how you win delegates.”

Mr. Kochel got his start in Iowa state politics; his most recent job being a senior adviser on Joni Ernst’s successful 2014 senate campaign. So, does this mean Romney isn’t running? Salena Zito of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review tweeted that this is a “sure sign.” Yet, Romney continues to give signals that he’s trying for a third run in 2016 (via Boston Globe):

Mitt Romney staged a campaign-style swing Wednesday through a Deep South state that spurned him in the 2012 Republican primary, calling for a national war on poverty, testing a few attack lines directed at Hillary Rodham Clinton, and declaring his fondness for pulled pork.

It was the first opportunity for Romney to show off a new, somewhat looser stump style as he weighs whether to seek the White House for a third time. He appeared more at ease than he typically did when he was the 2012 Republican nominee, joking about his personal wealth and discussing his Mormon faith.

He told offbeat tales of his failed presidential bid and quipped about advice he got during the last campaign from a man who urged him to grow a little stubble to appear “more sexy.”

“As if I needed that,” Romney deadpanned.

In a trip to the poorest state in the union, Romney also renewed his call for a national fight against what he calls “chronic generational poverty,’’ and began elaborating on the kinds of policies he would push if he mounts a third presidential campaign.

Top Republican activists and donors have been eager to hear Romney provide a clearer rationale for why he thinks he deserves another shot — and how this campaign would be different.

Now, no matter how well intentioned Mr. Romney might be about addressing the issues of poverty, his comments about the “47 percent” will probably undercut him here, along with the stories about his car elevator in his garage. He also continues to struggle with evangelical voters, which is something that Mr. Bush could’ve capitalized on if his views on immigration and Common Core didn’t split that demographic down the middle.  Yet, right now, Bush commands a significant lead in Iowa. There’s also the issue of health care, where Romney is certainly not the guy to be our standard-bearer in that conversation.

Don’t get me wrong; Hillary has similar issues with portraying herself as a woman of the people. She really hasn’t been since Bill Clinton was elected Governor of Arkansas.

Nevertheless, one would think that Romney would keep his top guys on his side, or at least be more aggressive in doing so, if he was considering a third run for the presidency.

Or, is this the prelude to a Bush/Romney ticket? Okay, Okay, I’m just trolling with that one. Yet, these two titans of the GOP establishment had a meeting in Utah last week, but no agreement could be reached regarding issues relating to  their possible presidential ambitions.

“Governor Bush enjoyed visiting with Governor Romney today in Salt Lake,” said Bush spokeswoman Kristy Campbell. She did not go any further than that.

Translation: a bloodbath is possible.

In the meantime, let’s just wait and see what Gov. Scott Walker plans to do.

Katie Pavlich - Surprise: Taliban Leader Obama Swapped For Alleged Deserter Bergdahl Suspected of Going Back to Fight
Posted: 1/29/2015 5:05:00 PM EST

According to an exclusive obtained by CNN, one of the five Taliban commanders President Obama swapped for alleged Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl last year has attempted to reengage in "militant activity": 

The details:

The U.S. military and intelligence community now suspect that one of the five Taliban detainees released from Guantanamo Bay in return for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in May of last year has attempted to return to militant activity from his current location in Qatar, CNN has learned exclusively.

The development has led to an ongoing debate inside the administration about whether there is a new threat from this man, and potentially the other four.

The officials would not say which of the five men is suspected. But an ongoing U.S. intelligence program to secretly intercept and monitor all of their communications in Qatar turned up evidence in recent months that one of them has "reached out" to try to encourage militant activity, one official said. The official would offer no further details.

Under current law, this act placed the man in the category of being "suspected" of re-engaging in terrorist or insurgent activities. However, several officials say there is now a debate inside the administration that the intelligence may be stronger than the "suspected" classification. Some elements of the intelligence community believe the information is strong enough to classify the man as "confirmed" for returning to illegal activities. All five men are having their communications even more closely monitored right now, but the belief is there is no current threat, one official told CNN.

As a reminder, the Taliban 5 were supposedly going to be monitored and kept from returning to the battle field, either traditionally or through radicalizing future fighters over the internet. 

Over to you, Hillary Clinton.

"As long as they're in Qatar, they’re not a threat to the United States...in Qatar with an agreement that has been entered into, they are supposed to be constrained from what they can do, and certainly they are not supposed to be permitted to travel, that is as my understanding, tells me what the deal is and in that situation, they are not a threat.”

Meanwhile, the White House is still trying to clarify how exactly the Taliban isn't a terrorist organization.

Daniel Doherty - BREAKING: Keystone XL Pipeline Passes Senate, 62-36
Posted: 1/29/2015 4:30:00 PM EST

After years of lobbying for its passage -- and significant setbacks along the way -- the Keystone XL Pipeline has finally passed the upper chamber:

The bill needed 60 votes to pass. It is now heading to the White House. Stay tuned for updates.

UPDATE: This victory will be short-lived:

The White House promptly declared that Mr. Obama would veto the measure — which would force the approval of a proposed 1,179-mile oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico — in a stroke of the pen that is expected to be the opening shot in a series of vetoes of Republican measures.

UPDATE: The legislation earned bipartisan support:

Nine Democrats joined with Republicans to support the bill despite President Barack Obama's promise to veto it because he thinks the decision should remain up to the executive branch.

UPDATE: Senate Republicans are already putting pressure on the White House to sign the bill:

UPDATE: More details.

UPDATE: National Journal reports:

Here are nine the Senate Democrats who voted for Keystone:

1. Michael Bennet, Colo.

2. Thomas Carper, Del.

3. Robert Casey, Pa.

4. Joe Donnelly, Ind.

5. Heidi Heitkamp, N.D.

6. Joe Manchin, W. Va.

7. Claire McCaskill, Mo.

8. Jon Tester, Mont.

9. Mark Warner, Va.

Conn Carroll - White House Says Taliban Does "Pursue Terror Attacks" But Is Not A Terrorist Group
Posted: 1/29/2015 4:00:00 PM EST

For the second day in a row the White House struggled to explain when they considered the Taliban terrorists and when they didn't.

Yesterday, ABC's Jon Karl pressed White House Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz to explain why it was wrong for Jordan to negotiate with the Islamic State for hostages, but perfectly acceptable for President Obama to negotiate with the Taliban for United States Army soldier Bowe Bergdahl.

Schultz said that the Taliban was not a terrorist group but an "armed insurgency" and that since they were not a terrorist organization, Obama could negotiate with them over prisoner swaps as is common at the end of any war.

Today, Karl was back again, asking, "Yesterday it was said that the United States government, that the White House, does not consider the Taliban to be a terrorist organization. I'm just wondering how that is consistent with what I believe is the designation that the Treasury Department has on its list of Specially Designated Terrorist Groups which clearly lists the Taliban. So, does the administration consider the Taliban a terrorist organization or not?"

Earnest responded, "Jon, the reason that the Taliban is listed on this description that you have put forward here, is for two reasons. One is they do carry out tactics that are akin to terrorism. They do pursue terror attacks in an effort to advance their agenda and by designating them in the way that you have described, does allow the United States to put in place some financial sanctions against the leaders of that organization in a way that has been beneficial to our ongoing efforts against the Taliban."

"Now what is also true though," Earnest continued, "is that it is important to draw a distinction between the Taliban and al Qaeda. The Taliban has resorted to terror tactics, but those terror tactics have been principally focused on Afghanistan. ... Al Qaeda is an organization that has aspirations beyond just the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Al Qaeda and its affiliates around the globe, have sought to carry out terror attacks against Americans and American interests all around the globe. And that explains the difference between the classification." 

First of all note that Earnest declined to use Karl's "Specially Designated Terrorist Groups" description of the Treasury's terror list. Instead, Earnest refers to it as "listed on this description that you have put forward here" and "by designating them in the way that you have described."

The list is in question is referred to by the Treasury Department as the Specially Designated Nationals List which Treasury says "lists individuals, groups, and entities, such as terrorists and narcotics traffickers" whose assets have been frozen by Treasury.

Is the Taliban on this because of their narcotics trafficking? No. 

As Earnest admits the Taliban does "pursue terror attacks in an effort to advance their agenda" and the Obama administration uses this Treasury list to "place some financial sanctions against the leaders of that organization in a way that has been beneficial to our ongoing efforts against the Taliban."

So if the Taliban carries out terror attacks, and the Obama administration uses those terror attacks as justification to freeze their assets, why aren't the Taliban terrorists?

Earnest says the Taliban are not terrorists because their "terror tactics have been principally focussed on Afghanistan" while al Qaeda attacks American interests around the globe.

But the official State Department list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations is chock-full lot groups that only focus on local grievances. The Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA), the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), and the Irish Republican Army are just some of the terrorist groups listed by the State Department that are "principally focussed" on local disputes.

The reality is that Obama does consider the Taliban a terrorist group, but he just can't admit it because then his trade for Bergdahl would violate America's longstanding principle against negotiating with terrorists for hostages.

Guy Benson - Poll: Americans Want Congress to 'Fix' Obamacare Flaw if SCOTUS Sides with Conservatives
Posted: 1/29/2015 3:01:00 PM EST

new poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that a large majority of Americans would want Congress to fix Obamacare's subsidy eligibility flaw if the US Supreme Court sides with conservative challengers (by embracing Jonathan Gruber's hastily-discarded argument) this spring.  Here's Allahpundit's helpful primer on the issues at play:

There’s a section in the ObamaCare statute that says federal subsidies to pay premiums are available to anyone who buys their insurance through “an Exchange established by the State.” But that phrase is vaguely worded. Is the federalObamaCare exchange, Healthcare.gov, an exchange established by the state? Or was the idea that subsidies should apply only to exchanges created by the individual states, as an economic incentive to encourage state governments to create their own insurance marketplaces? You know what Jonathan Gruber thinks, or thought, about that. By this summer, we’ll know what John Roberts and the gang think too. If subsidies for federal consumers are suddenly illegal, people who can’t afford the unsubsidized premiums will begin dropping their plans and bailing out of the program. The whole scheme could collapse. Which puts Mitch McConnell and John Boehner in a spot. If SCOTUS sides with conservatives and ends up nuking subsidies for millions of federal exchange consumers, this hot potato will land squarely in their laps.

And here are Kaiser's findings:


Nearly two-thirds of Americans say they'd want Congress to step in and fix what Democrats will misleadingly call a "typo," ensuring that Obamacare enrollees aren't denied taxpayer subsidies on a technicality -- which would lead to collapsing healthcare markets in the effected states. We anticipated this thorny political predicament late last year when SCOTUS decided to take up this case.  Many conservatives will demand that Boehner and McConnell effectively do nothing, which would help ruin Obamacare....but it would also be massively unpopular with the general public.  Democrats would step in with shrill, and likely effective, demagoguery, and Republicans would be targeted with anti-Obamacare anger for the first time.  Here's the basic structure of the plan I floated in November:

Not responding isn't a viable option. My suggestion -- and this is just early stage spitballing -- is for the GOP to consider offering a package of "fixes" that includes the rudimentary change for which Democrats will be howling (remember, this all assumes that repeal/replace was already attempted and blocked by Obama). Included in the package deal would be a series of alterations to the law that Republicans have been seeking for some time, that are very popular with the public, and that would ultimately serve to undermine the law. For instance, eliminating the individual mandate tax, restoring the 40-hour work week, and repealing the medical device tax. The GOP would have real leverage and popular opinion at their backs on these points. Message: "Because we care about the people who are once again getting screwed by Obamacare, we're willing to make the fix President Obama is demanding. But while we're at it, we must make some other necessary changes that enjoy broad popular support. This is what compromise looks like in divided government, which is what the American people decisively voted for. And in case you've forgotten, American, we've been against this trainwreck from the start, and we've since passed a much better alternative, which the president has stubbornly vetoed."

Executing this play, or something like it, would reverse some of the political pressure dynamics. Obama and the Democrats would have to decide whether they're willing to reject the fix they're vociferously demanding in order to kill popular additional "fixes" to the law. Conservatives could benefit from whatever decision is made. If Obama vetoes the package, Republicans can hammer away at him, credibly casting him as the recalcitrant, uncaring ideologue. At the very least, they'd have a strong, easily-explained counterpunch argument at their disposal that would complicate Democrats' turnkey spin. If Obama begrudgingly signs it (which I suspect is unlikely), the GOP walks away with a string of policy victories that weaken the overall law.

Remember, there are lots of Americans who want significant pieces of the law repealed.  Republicans could aim to pluck the lowest hanging fruit as part of a deal, and mitigate their political dilemma in the process.  While I'm certainly sympathetic to the contention that trying to bargain with Obama while his law is self-destructing would be a betrayal of principle, conservatives cannot afford to ignore the consequences of inaction: They'd get hammered for doing and offering nothing, plus the core of the law would still remain in place, just waiting for that easy "fix," to get the subsidies flowing again.  It might be worth sustaining a major political hit if enduring the PR furor would lead to the law's repeal, but it wouldn't.  And Democrats would finally have a popular, pro-Obamacare cause on which to campaign.  For now, though, the law is still unpopular -- and will likely remain so for some time.  The ranks of those who believe they're unaffected by the law will dwindle considerably as one central Obamacare promise keeps blowing up in millions of consumers' faces for years to come:

Thanks to ObamaCare, the CBO now expects that 10 million workers will lose their employer-based coverage by 2021. This finding stands in sharp contrast to earlier CBO projections, which at one point suggested ObamaCare would increase the number of people getting coverage through work, at least in its early years. The budget office has, in fact, increased the number it says will lose workplace coverage every year since 2011.

"If you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan. Period. No one will take it away. No matter what.” I'll leave you with this chart from Investors Business Daily displays how the Congressional Budget Office's (whose Obamacare and deficit findings we discussed yesterday) projections have worsened over time on lost employer coverage and the number of insured Americans under the law:



Leah Barkoukis - After Zuckerberg Proclaims 'Je Suis Charlie,' Facebook Censors Images of Mohammed
Posted: 1/29/2015 2:30:00 PM EST

It wasn’t long after the attack on Charlie Hebdo that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg took to his personal page to decry what the “extremists” did to “silence the voices and opinions of everyone else around the world.”

“I won’t let that happen on Facebook,” he pledged. “I’m committed to building a service where you can speak freely without fear of violence.”

Facebook’s record of censorship be damned, “#JeSuisCharlie” he signed off.

Fast-forward two weeks, and we have Facebook agreeing to censor images of Mohammed in Turkey, including the very Charlie Hebdo cartoons that precipitated the attack to begin with!

The BBC has learned that Facebook has complied with a Turkish court order demanding the blocking of a page it said offended the Prophet Muhammad.

If the social media platform had refused, the court had threatened to block access to the entire site.

The site is believed to have around 40 million members in Turkey.

Facebook declined to comment but it does have a policy of blocking access to content within a country if it breaks local law.

Surely, running a social networking site in countries around the world that have vastly different laws governing online speech is complicated, or a “tricky calculus,” as Zuckerberg has acknowledged. But if the company refuses to buck oppressive laws in favor of defending free speech, then please, spare us all the hypocritical grandstanding.

Katie Pavlich - Sharyl Attkisson Testifies: If You Cross The Obama Administration, You Will Be Attacked and Punished
Posted: 1/29/2015 2:00:00 PM EST

Investigative reporter and author of Stonewalled: My Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama's Washington Sharyl Attkisson testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday as part of attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch's confirmation hearing. 

During her testimony, Attkisson detailed government intimidation she has endured under the Obama administration, particularly through the Department of Justice, for pursuing investigative stories unfavorable to the administration. Attkisson has been an investigative reporter for decades and has pursued stories of government corruption, waste, fraud and abuse in both political parties. 

"The job of getting at the truth has never been more difficult. Facets of federal government have isolated themselves from the public they serve. They covet and withhold public information that we as citizens own. They bully and threaten access of journalists who do their jobs, news organizations that publish stories they don't like and whistleblowers who dare to tell the truth," Attkisson said. "When I reported on factual contradictions in the Administration's accounts regarding Fast and Furious, pushback included a frenzied campaign with White House officials trying to chill the reporting by calling and emailing my superiors and colleagues, using surrogate bloggers to advance false claims, one White House official got so mad he angrily cussed me out. The Justice Department used its authority with building security to handpick reports allowed to attend a Fast and Furious briefing, refusing to clear me into the public Justice Department building."

"Let me emphasize that my reporting was factually indisputable, government officials weren't angry because I was doing my job poorly, they were panicked because I was doing my job well," she added.

Attkisson detailed revelations about the government monitoring her work and personal computers with keystroke software, password capture technology and through Skype, which was used to listen in on audio conversations. DOJ and the FBI have stonewalled Freedom of Information requests submitted more than 500 days ago. 

"It matters not that when caught government promises to dial back, or that James Rosen gets an apology, the message has already been received: If you cross this administration with perfectly accurate reporting they don't like, you will be attacked and punished. You and your sources will be subjected to the kind of surveillance devised for enemies of the state," she said. "The nominee, if confirmed, should chart a new path to reject the damaging policies and practices that have been used by others in the past. If we aren't brave enough to confront these concerns, it could do serious long-term damage to the supposedly free press."

On Wednesday, Lynch tried to distance herself from Holder during her own testimony to the Committee.

Matt Vespa - Civitas Institute Maps The Sordid Web Of Left-Wing Extremism Infesting North Carolina
Posted: 1/29/2015 1:45:00 PM EST

Honestly, this couldn’t be better news for conservatives, especially those living in the Tar Heel state. The Civitas Institute, a right-leaning North Carolina-based think tank, has created Mapping The Left, a website dedicated to identifying the web of left-wing extremism that threatens the state. They point to the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation as one of the main organizations funding this radical liberal agenda. While the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation is known for funding parks and hospitals, they’ve doled out tens of millions of dollars to the political left.

Civitas states:

Since 2003, more than 300 foundations have contributed more than $425 million to the organizations included in the Mapping the Left Project. Of those foundations, 65 are North Carolina-based, providing over $153 million to advocacy groups in the state. The Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation alone doled out $76.3 million to NC groups.

In North Carolina, left-wing nonprofits command an alarming amount of power in the media, state politics, and government. They work together in and out of networks to influence and control public policy.

“For too long, radical and well-funded activist groups have been able to operate in the state without the level of scrutiny that is routinely applied to the Right,” said Civitas Elections Policy Analyst Susan Myrick. “The Mapping the Left project not only provides that scrutiny, but also puts to rest the misguided notion that there is a vast right-wing conspiracy in North Carolina. In fact, it is the Left, through its complex web of funding and coordination, that is exerting massive power and influence throughout the state.”

The Mapping the Left project is an ongoing research project. The Civitas Institute will be adding new revelations to the site throughout the spring, and will continually update the website as new information is uncovered going forward.

Liberal detractors will undoubtedly point to the Koch Brothers as a source for right-leaning causes. Yes, that’s right, except they don’t produce memos instructing activists to “eviscerate” the political leadership, and “weaken their ability to govern.”

In 2013, Blueprint NC, which is featured in the video, had its confidential memos leaked citing such goals. They subsequently disavowed writing them.

Now, the right has a tool to follow the money, and see who’s connected to this sordid web of leftism.