Daniel Doherty - Louie Zamperini's Son on "Unbroken": "It’s Terrible and Beautiful at the Same Time”
Posted: 12/20/2014 9:00:00 AM EST

“Unbroken” retells the incredible and deeply moving story of Louis “Louie” Zamperini, a former Olympic runner and WWII bomber who survived 47 days adrift at sea after his plane crash-landed in the South Pacific. From there, he drifted all the way to Japan, where he was eventually interned in several POW camps, and singled out for torture by a sadistic madman nicknamed “The Bird." The best-selling book, written by Laura Hillenbrand, has since been turned into a forthcoming major motion picture directed by Angelina Jolie. I recently spoke to Luke Zamperini by phone, Louie’s only and surviving son, about the best-seller, the movie in general, and his extraordinary late father.

Townhall: When did you first learn of your father's survival story? Did he talk about it often when you were younger, or was it something he preferred to keep private?

Zamperini: Well, I think I’ve always known my Dad’s survival story as long as I can remember. He talked about it quite often to a lot of people. [He] had a comic book that would tell his story which he would pass out to kids -- and I had a copy of that. These were the subjects of my bedtime stories. I’d ask him: ‘Dad, tell me about wrestling the sharks again' and he’d go into the detail about diving overboard off the raft [and] so on and so forth. I was just always aware of it.

Townhall: When I read "Unbroken" last February on a family vacation, I couldn't put it down. It was one of the most incredible stories I had ever come across. I have not, however, seen the movie. Do you think the film lives up to the book's expectations? I know you recently wrote an op-ed for us titled: “Unbroken Film Gets My Dad’s Faith Right.” But did the filmmakers get everything else right, so to speak?

Zamperini: Well, yes. These are two different mediums, and one you can go into much more detail than the other. In the film, you’ve only got X amount of time to get a story across and get people interested in the characters. [W]ith the book, I read it in two days. That was 12 hours of reading, and so you can’t make a 12 hour film. Angelina [Jolie] did a marvelous job. She of course had to leave out some scenes one would expect to be in the film. But she needed to be able to bring it in under two and a half hours -- and have it be as complete as possible. I’ve seen the film five times now and I love it.

Townhall: The trailer looks great. I can’t wait to see it.

Zamperini: Oh yeah, this thing is just beautifully shot. Rogers Deakins [the director of photography] has done an excellent’s got a fantastic score that is just mesmerizing. You’re taken on this beautiful journey through this odyssey that quite frankly has some real grim aspects to it. It's terrible and beautiful at the same time.

Townhall: Laura Hillenbrand writes movingly about your father's conversion to Christianity. He was in a bad place when he returned from the war, almost succumbing to alcoholism. How did his faith change him, other than helping him quit drinking?

Zamperini: Prior to his conversion his drinking was always self-medicating. The real problem was his hatred for the Bird and former prison guards. [A]s a juvenile delinquent he was always pretty resourceful and pretty clever and he was really defiant. And that defiance kind of got him through the prison camp. Yet he ends up with what we now know to be Post Traumatic Stress Disorder [PTSD]. It was manifesting itself in a recurring nightmare. He started having this nightmare -- almost the day he met the Bird -- which always involved Louis being attacked by the Bird, and Louis trying to kill the Bird, usually with his bare hands.

(Luke proceeded to explain that his father in November 1949, after hearing a Billy Graham sermon his wife dragged him to against his will, finally remembered a promise he made to God years earlier on the raft in his hour of need: If he beat the odds and survived his ordeal, he told God, he would honor and serve Him for the rest of his life. Of course, he survived. So it was at this moment -- when he finally remembered that binding promise inside Billy Graham's tent -- that he became a devoted Christian).

Zamperini: After his conversion, he was done getting drunk. He was done fighting. He had forgiven his captors, including the Bird. And he went home that night and that was the first night in almost five years that he didn’t have that nightmare -- and he never had it the rest of his life. His PTSD was gone immediately. So instead of harboring all this hatred and this vengeance and this desire to get back and kill the Bird he was able to forgive him. This was the completion of Louis Zamperini. The turnaround started when he discovered sports, but it was completed when he discovered God.

Townhall: That was one of the most amazing parts of the book. The bird, scene after scene, torments Louie and goes after him specifically, and by the end of the narrative, Louie was able to forgive him. It’s really quite an amazing story. 

Zamperini: What was so incredible about the book is that this was not a Christian book. [At] the end, you start feeling sorry for this guy who is destroying his life -- and boom -- the conversion hits you right in the face. I feel like the same thing happens in the film. You witness this terrible treatment and suffering he goes through, and in the end, you find out he forgave these people based on his faith. It’s just super powerful. I think it will be resonating with generations to come.

“Unbroken” opens in theaters everywhere on Christmas day.

Sarah Jean Seman - Castro's Daughter: America is Dreaming, Cuba Will Never Return to Capitalism
Posted: 12/20/2014 9:00:00 AM EST

Mariela Castro, Cuban president Raul Castro's daughter and a member of parliament, scoffed at the idea that Cuba would return to capitalism in the wake of the two countries' newly restored relations.

President Obama said Wednesday that Cuba should not put American businesses at a disadvantage and that increased commerce would do good for both countries. He explained that the U.S. would facilitate transactions and make it easier for America to export and sell goods to Cuba. 

Castro's daughter, however, seemed skeptical of Obama's motives. From Havana on Thursday, Mariela Casto said the United States "must be dreaming" it if thinks Cuba will return to "being a servile country to the interests of the most powerful financial groups in the US."

Watch her full comment here:

Matt Vespa - The Worst Liberal Lies Of 2014
Posted: 12/19/2014 7:15:00 PM EST
As 2014 comes to a close, what were the biggest liberal lies of the year? Luckily, our friends at the Media Research Center compiled the top five lies made by liberals this year that range from the missing Lois Lerner emails to not knowing who Jonathan Gruber is, or what he did regarding health care policy.

Let's just say this year was exceptionally awful in terms of the garbage the left spewed to some in the media.  

Kevin Glass - Neighboring States Sue Colorado Over Marijuana Legalization
Posted: 12/19/2014 6:15:00 PM EST
The Attorneys General of two neighboring states, Nebraska and Oklahoma, are suing Colorado in order to have their marijuana legalization policy declared unconstitutional.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt said in a statement that Colorado's policy has "injured Oklahoma's ability to enforce our policies against marijuana." Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning held a news conference, as the Associated Press reported:

"This contraband has been heavily trafficked into our state," Bruning said at a news conference in Lincoln. "While Colorado reaps millions from the sale of pot, Nebraska taxpayers have to bear the cost."

In a policy statement last year, the U.S. Justice Department noted it doesn't have the resources to police all violations of federal marijuana law. It laid out eight federal law enforcement priorities that states need to protect if they want to authorize "marijuana-related conduct." They include keeping marijuana in-state — something Oklahoma and Nebraska says Colorado has failed to do.

That last part is important. President Obama's Department of Justice has refused to enforce federal drug laws in allowing Colorado's legalization to go forward. They've effectively said that they won't follow the laws laid out by Congress when a state effectively tries to nullify those laws.

The Colorado Attorney General declared that he thought the suit has no merit but, if the provision about keeping the drug in-state is to be taken seriously, there might be something to be concerned about. As USA Today reported:

In June, USA TODAY highlighted the flow of marijuana from Colorado into small towns across Nebraska: felony drug arrests in Chappell, Neb., just 7 miles north of the Colorado border have skyrocketed 400% in three years.

A 400% increase in drug crimes might be considered a big deal.

Sarah Jean Seman - Unbelievable: Students Back Deporting Americans in Exchange for Illegal Immigrants
Posted: 12/19/2014 4:44:00 PM EST

How would you feel about deporting one American citizen in exchange for one illegal immigrant? The idea sounds absurd, right? Well apparently not to everyone. 

Campus Reform asked students roaming the George Washington University campus in Washington, D.C. to petition President Obama to "deport one American citizen, in exchange for one undocumented immigrant."

After all, the fake petition reasoned:

"Everyone must be allowed a shot at the ‘American Dream.’ Americans should not be greedy. Let us right the wrongs of our past and make another’s dreams come true."

Unbelievably, more than two-thirds of the students approached by Campus Reform signed the petition. While signing , one man even asked how his fellow Americans would be selected for the deportation process. How thoughtful. 

"I think our immigration rules are crazy and I think it's important," another woman told reporter Maggie Lit. 

Just watch: 

Guy Benson - Five Thoughts on Obama Final 2014 Press Conference
Posted: 12/19/2014 4:05:00 PM EST

President Obama just wrapped up his traditional year-end press conference, wishing the media a Merry Christmas as he prepares to depart for a Hawaiian vacation. A few comments on his performance:

(1) Obama repeated his now familiar spiel about the country being in much better shape now than when he took office, praising what he termed an "American resurgence." He claimed improvement by almost any conceivable measure; "pick any metric," he said. Setting aside numerous metrics like the national debt, poverty rates, median household income, wage growth, workforce participation, and (still) rising healthcare costs, Obama is advancing an argument that Americans just don't believe. Right track/wrong track numbers are in the toilet. His job approval rating is weak. Americans don't believe the country is better off, nor do they feel as though our standing in the world is stronger. But he's welcome to use his bully pulpit to try to convince them otherwise -- if they're still listening to him.

(2) The president's answer on the North Korea/Sony situation was solid. He stated in no uncertain terms that Pyongyang was responsible for the "cyber assault," and vowed that "we will respond." Obama said he wouldn't spell out what that response would be, or when it might come, for public consumption.  Despite expressing some sympathy for the tough spot in which the company finds itself, the president condemned Sony for caving to the terrorists' demands by canceling the release of a comedy film that drew North Korea's ire.  Obama forcefully stated that free societies cannot censor themselves to placate the threats and demands of violent actors. Yes, he can be criticized for hypocrisy here, and I'd be curious about his thoughts on Western media suppressing the Mohammad cartoons, but his tone and message were on point in this case.

(3) He didn't come out and say it, but the president telegraphed an inclination toward vetoing the Keystone Pipeline if and when Republicans pass legislation next year. Obama listed the alleged drawbacks of the popular project, sniffing that it would only create "a few thousand" temporary jobs. At another point in the press conference, he demanded more government spending on infrastructure projects (ignoring his failed "stimulus" altogether, of course). So Obama is unimpressed with temporary, private sector infrastructure jobs, but he's insistent upon taxpayers funding other temporary infrastructure jobs.   Hmm.

(4) Aside from the North Korea exchange, none of my suggested questions were asked. One reporter touched on executive power, but her question was weak. It basically asked if he's worried about Republicans working with him less as a consequence of his unilateral action -- a political process question that skirts around the core issue. On immigration, Obama again claimed that Congress' refusal to carry out his will 'forced' him to act on his own, via an executive decree that he'd repeatedly averred was beyond his presidential authority.

(5) I counted eight total questions (or question sets), all of which came from women. The president did not call on any male reporters, nor did any television reporters get a question. Many of the questions were sharp, and there's obviously nothing wrong with selecting female interrogators, but it's worth noting that Obama's picks ensured that three of the journalists who consistently ask the toughest questions in White House briefings (Fox's Ed Henry, CBS' Major Garrett and ABC's Jonathan Karl) were all shut out. Make of that what you will.

Conn Carroll - Obama Blames Sony
Posted: 12/19/2014 3:45:00 PM EST

President Obama blamed Sony, Inc. for the demise of the movie "The Interview" today at his end of the year press conference.

"I think they made a mistake," Obama said in answer to a direct question as to whether Sony made the right decision to pull the movie from theaters.

“We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States,” Obama continued. "I wish they had spoken to me first. I would have told them, ‘Do not get into a pattern in which you’re intimidated by these kinds of criminal attacks.’”

Obama did not elaborate as to why, if not being intimidated is so important, he did not call Sony to offer his administration's full support. 

Obama also made it clear he has little intention of working with Republicans in Congress on anything in 2015. Asked if tax reform is possible in 2015, Obama launched into a speech about the importance of investing in infrastructure. 

What does infrastructure have to do with tax reform? 

It has long been the Obama administration's position that any tax reform must include new revenues (a.k.a. higher taxes) that can then be immediately spent on new spending programs. Higher taxes has always been a complete non-starter for Republicans in Congress.

Obama also signaled that he will veto any bill in Congress that tries to force him to approve the Keystone pipeline. 

The oil from the Keystone pipeline is "not American oil, it is Canadian oil," Obama noted. “That oil currently is being shipped out through rail or trucks and it would save Canadian oil companies, and the Canadian oil industry enormous amounts of money if they could simply pipe it all the way down to the Gulf,” he continued. 

"It’s very good for Canadian oil companies, and it’s good for the Canadian oil industry but it’s not going to be a huge benefit to U.S. consumers, it’s not even going to be a nominal benefit to U.S. consumers,” Obama said.

Obama did not say if a new pipeline would benefit American consumers who currently have to put up with oil-train derailmentsPipelines have long been proven to be the safest way to transport oil and gas.

Considering Obama's steadfast opposition to infrastructure programs that Republicans support, like Keystone, and his insistence on higher taxes to pay for more infrastructure spending, it does not look like a deal on either issue is very likely.

Matt Vespa - MRCTV Discovers That 'Principle Is More Important' Than Fact At Black Lives Matter Rally
Posted: 12/19/2014 3:15:00 PM EST

Earlier this week, MRCTV’s Dan Joseph ventured into Washington D.C. for the Black Lives Matter protest promoted by Al Sharpton’s National Action Network. Michael Brown and Eric Garner were the focus of this demonstration–and Joseph got a chance to speak with a few protesters. For starters, some felt that Brown didn’t charge then-Officer Darren Wilson, who then shot him reportedly in self-defense last August.

Of course, the “hands up, don’t shoot” theme was pervasive at the rally. Yet, Joseph noted that narrative is probably not correct (via MRCTV):

Multiple eyewitnesses who testified before the grand jury in Ferguson claimed that Brown’s hands weren’t up at all and that he was charging Officer Wilson when he was shot. Forensic evidence and multiple autopsies that were conducted concluded a similar pattern of events transpired that run contrary to the protesters' mantra.

Despite the doubt cast on the favored slogan, most of the protesters that MRCTV talked to at the Sharpton rally continued to insist that the original narrative is the correct one.

Citing “various news sources,” Sharpton’s protesters defended the notion that Michael Brown had his hands up and was surrendering when he was shot and killed.

Sharpton’s protesters rejected eyewitness testimony and forensic evidence that Brown did not have his hands up and may have been charging the officer who shot him:

  • “No, no, the autopsies don’t have anything to do with that.”
  • “That’s not true; I’ve read the whole report, too.”
  • “No, he didn’t resist arrest.”

“It’s not necessarily the exact motion of ‘hands up, don’t shoot’ – it’s the idea that Mike Brown was an unarmed, innocent man who was shot multiple times,” said one protester, arguing that the principle is more important than the precise details of the event.

Leah Barkoukis - Friday Filibuster: The Cuba Libre Edition
Posted: 12/19/2014 2:17:00 PM EST

The Friday Filibuster: The one-stop-shop for everything you need to know about this week in politics.

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Closing Numbers:

51% of Americans say tough CIA interrogations on suspected terrorists after 9/11 were appropriate.

47% have a favorable opinion of the Republican Party after the midterm elections.

19% of self-identified Republicans favor Mitt Romney for the GOP presidential nomination, dominating the field of Republican candidates

62% of self-identified Democrats want Hillary Clinton to get the Democratic presidential nomination.


Terror Around the World: The hostage situation by an Islamic terrorist and Iranian refugee at a café in Sydney, Australia came to an end Tuesday morning (Sydney time) when police stormed the building after hearing gunfire from inside. The lone gunman, Man Haron Monis, who had a long rap sheet that included murder and rape, was shot dead by police. Two hostages died and several others were wounded. Later on Tuesday, nearly 7,000 miles away, the Taliban gunned down 132 children and nine staff members at a school in the Pakistani city of Peshawar. The Pakistani military took swift action, launching massive airstrikes against the Taliban in retaliation. And in Iraq’s Fallujah, one member of ISIS singlehandedly killed more than 150 women and girls.

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Cuba: President Obama’s unilateral move to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba was criticized by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle this week who saw it as a vindication of brutal behavior. Sen. Marco Rubio blasted the new policy, calling it a concession to a tyranny, and slammed fellow Republican Sen. Rand Paul for being 'utterly clueless' on the issue. The Cuban American senator also pointed out that by saying the U.S. was trying to colonize Cuba, Obama was using the same talking point as the Castro regime. Sen. Ted Cruz, whose father escaped the country in 1957 after undergoing beatings and torture, said the move will be remembered as a tragic mistake. Meanwhile, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest dismissed threats to defund the move, claiming the administration has all the money it needs to move forward with the plan. Many are also wondering if the new “normalization” means Cuba will return cop killer Joanne Chesimard.

The Interview: After hackers released Sony’s films, salary information of top executives, embarrassing emails, social security numbers, employee medical records, and finally, threatened 9/11 style attacks on movie theaters that screen the comedy, Sony caved and pulled the film. The White House called the Sony hack a “serious national security matter” and House Cybersecurity Chairman warned the U.S. power grid and Wall Street could be next. Unsurprisingly, the North Korean government turned out to be behind the ‘cyber warfare.’ One “journalist” said having First Amendment rights comes with the responsibility to not offend dictators, which apparently Paramount, in their decision to ban showings of “Team American,” has taken note of. Meanwhile, we learned this week that the Obama administration tried to open up talks with North Korea last year and failed.

Immigration: A federal judge issued an opinion this week classifying Obama’s executive amnesty as unconstitutional. And a New York Times story shows why an injunction against the program is the only way to stop it. Interestingly, however, the nominee to head Immigration and Customs Enforcement doesn’t seem to have a problem with it.

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Elections and campaigns: The 2014 midterm elections have officially come to an end with Rep.-elect Martha McSally winning the recount in Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District. On the presidential front, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren insists she’s not running, although she only responded in the present tense. And Joe Biden still hasn’t made up his mind. On the Republican side, Rand Paul may have to jump through legal hoops if he decides to run. Jeb Bush is actively exploring a shot at the White House, even though policy and history are against the Florida governor. Meanwhile, his Floridian protégé Marco Rubio is quietly laying the groundwork for a run. Mittmentum isn’t gone yet, however.

Health Care: Insurers are extending another Obamacare deadline. Costs will now spike in 2016. Meanwhile, Vermont had to abandon plans to establish a single payer system because it’s too expensive. And the guy who outed Jonathan Gruber came forward to reveal another hidden agenda in Obamacare: It’s actually a $250 billion tax grab per year. 

Gun Control: The Senate confirmed Dr. Vivek Murthy, President Obama’s anti-Second Amendment nominee for surgeon general this week. And families of the victims of Newtown are suing Bushmaster, whether or not the case will go anywhere is a different story.

EITs: Discussions about the CIA’s Enhanced Interrogation Techniques continued this week, with a former CIA officer saying that Nancy Pelosi and her Democratic colleagues raised no objections to the practice in 2002. And former Vice President Dick Cheney went on Meet the Press to defend the CIA and EITs. 

Year-End Presser: Townhall editors Guy Benson and Conn Carroll have a few questions for the president before he heads off on his 17-day vacation in Hawaii. 

Graphics by Feven Amenu. 

Guy Benson - Video: Exposing the White House's Dumb 'Executive Action' Numbers Game
Posted: 12/19/2014 1:22:00 PM EST

Whenever the White House is pressed on President Obama's promiscuous and impactful use of executive action to achieve his policy objectives, they fall back on a specious talking point: Contrary to Republican claims, they say, Obama has issued significantly fewer executive orders than his predecessors from both parties over the last century. The goal is to paint critics as hypocritical, foolish, and blinded by irrational opposition. Many journalists seem to have swallowed Team Obama's story whole. But not USA Today reporter Gregory Korte, or Fox News' Ed Henry, who challenged White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest on the president's math, exposing the cynical and contradictory "rules" by which the administration has been playing in order to sustain their misleading claim:

EH: You will remember some months ago the president claimed he was using executive orders at the lowest rate in more than 100 years. 195 executive orders less than Democratic and Republican predecessors but when you add on 198 presidential memorandum, it actually turns out he is using a lot more than his predecessors, right? ...

JE: It was true because the number of executive orders is lower, as you pointed out, than executive orders that have been issued by many of his previous predecessors.

EH: Presidential memoranda have essentially the same effect, despite being called something different. The fact of the matter is that he is taking a lot more executive action.

JE: There is an important difference between executive orders and presidential memorandums. I would grant the premise that the president has used every element at his disposal to use -- to move the country forward and he has done that in a way consistent with the law and precedents and is often carried out in the face of pretty rigid Congressional obstruction….Generally speaking, presidential memoranda are associated with more technical issues and often directives related to a subset of agencies. Executive orders are often more sweeping and impactful...

EH: Generally they are more sweeping, but in the case of immigration, which you will announce was pretty sweeping, it was a presidential memorandum. So by your definition, I am slightly confused? You said the executive order was quite sweeping. The Immigration one actually was not. The point that I was trying to make them the matter what you call it, he was kind of misleading people about how often he was using executive actions.

JE: I think the president was being explicit that his predecessors have issued far more than he has. I do not think anyone has made the case come here that he is not willing to use executive authority to move the country forward. In fact, he has. Thank you, Ed.

"Thank you, Ed.  I've had enough of your questions on this subject."  That is some weak sauce spin from Earnest, parsing terms and harping on semantics to obscure the larger truth.  But as I said on Fox earlier, the numerical quantity and technical categories of executive action are far less relevant than the legality, propriety and consequences of the action being taken:

Even if a president almost never issued any executive orders or memoranda, if he then turned around and exceeded his authority with one giant violation of the separation of powers, those raw numbers don't matter.  They're a distraction.  And while this president's comprehensive hypocrisy on issues from campaign finance, to transparency, to executive power is well established at this point, I couldn't help but quote him as a presidential candidate in the 2008 cycle:

Notice that he wasn't troubled by President Bush's excessive issuance of executive memos vs. executive orders, or whatever.  He was (or at least claimed to be) worried about what he saw as Bush's improper arrogation of power, vis-a-vis Congress.  That Barack Obama is long gone.  Because Barack Obama's guiding principle is employing whatever argument or behavior Barack Obama needs in the moment.  His own standards and previous statements don't matter when the 'greater good' is at stake.