Matt Vespa - Hall Pass: Dems Force Press To Have Bathroom Buddies At Philly Retreat
Posted: 1/30/2015 4:15:00 PM EST

All I can say is that I’m thankful I’m covering the Franklin Center’s school choice conference in Alexandria, Virginia, rather than the House Democratic Retreat in Philadelphia. The press has described “police state” conditions, where Capitol Police and Democratic staffers were unusually heavy handed with reporters responsible for covering Capitol Hill. Reporters in need of the restroom facilities were escorted, and barred from entering the hotel except for the scheduled events. But, bathroom buddies for the press? (Via Politico):

Reporters are being escorted to and from the restroom and lobby and are being barred from entering the hotel outside of scheduled events, even if they've been invited by a member of Congress.

During Vice President Joe Biden’s remarks at the retreat Friday, reporters were required to have a staff member, usually a junior member of the press team, escort them when going to the bathroom or to the lobby. The filing center for reporters was at a separate hotel from where the retreat was taking place, so access was limited to members of Congress specifically made available to the press.

“It was a police state. It was absurd how heavy handed the capitol police and Democratic staff were in trying to control everywhere the press went,” New York Times reporter Jeremy Peters said in an interview.

Peters said at one point he was also barred from entering the hotel where the retreat was taking place, despite the fact he had an invitation to eat breakfast with a member of Congress.

“I was an invited guest into this hotel, into the restaurant of the hotel. The staff from the Democratic caucus refused to let me into the hotel, and the Capitol Police told me to leave, even after the congressman went to them and said 'no, he is my invited guest,'" Peters said.

Peters said he was told by a staffer they were being escorted to prevent them from talking to members of Congress.

Amy Chozick, also of The New York Times,  noted that such events always had security, but the stringent limits placed on the press were instituted when Hillary’s possible 2016 bid became a point of interest. Still, as in her case, it’s incredibly awkward that a staffer waited outside the stall as she used the bathroom.

Guy Benson - Polls: Is 'Ready for Hillary' Narrative a Mirage?
Posted: 1/30/2015 3:30:00 PM EST

We'll touch on some of the action on the GOP side of things in a moment, but first, a few notes on Democrats' presumptive nominee.  Earlier in the week we noted that Hillaryworld views their candidate as so inevitable, and believes the rest of the prospective field to be so weak, that they are openly toying with the idea of skipping primary debates and are already discussing vice presidential selections.  Matt writes this afternoon on Team Hillary's  internal deliberations over when to officially launch her campaign; some in her camp are convinced that time isn't of the essence and that she's "better off as a non-candidate" anyway.  Better off as a non-candidate.  I think what that nameless senior aide meant was that there is no reason for Hillary to rush into official candidate hood and prematurely take on all the baggage that status entails.  If there's no risk of being outflanked by primary opposition, why pull a Jeb and fire the opening gun sooner than later?  Jeb had reasons to do so -- and his aggression seems to have paid dividends.  Hillary, for the most part, doesn't.  Another advantage to waiting is that once she jumps in, it'll be the Hillary Clinton Show, 24/7.  Even if she waits until the summer to declare, she'll still run as the obvious nominee for a full year before the Democratic National Convention.  'Hillary fatigue' will become a media narrative at some point, so why needlessly subject voters to three more months of that product at the front end?  Finally, Hillary's advisers know that she tends to be more appealing as a concept (First! Woman! President!) than as an actual candidate.  Her skills as a campaigner are hugely overrated, in part because of her husband's preternatural political gifts.  To wit, the sky-high favorable ratings she amassed while carrying out the largely apolitical role as America's top diplomat have come crashing back to earth as she re-emerges as an explicitly political figure:

The Washington Post's recent polling data gave Mrs. Clinton wide leads over several potential Republican opponents, but Democratic firm PPP (which has a spotty reputation) has published some rather different findings:

The automated poll of nearly 900 registered voters, conducted last week by Public Policy Polling, found that 48 percent of respondents had an unfavorable opinion of Clinton, compared to 43 percent who viewed the former secretary of State favorably...While Clinton — the prospective favorite for the Democratic presidential nomination should she enter the race — holds leads over every major GOP candidate tested in the poll, she doesn’t break 50 percent against any, and some are well within striking distance. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker comes closest, with Clinton leading him by a margin of 45 percent to 42 percent (with 14 percent not sure who they’d vote for) – within the survey’s margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percent.

Walker fever. That survey, incidentally, was commissioned by supporters of Elizabeth Warren, the hardcore Massachusetts liberal who's ruled out a 2016 run. The Hillary folks had better hope she sticks to that decision, because she's the only major figure in the mix who could cause the Clinton machine any real headaches from the left. Meanwhile, David Axelrod is reportedly going around expressing bewilderment as to what the animating idea behind a Hillary campaign would be:

Axelrod was saying, "we have a group called 'Ready for Hillary' that we've all been talking about. But what does that mean? What are we ready for?"

I suspect the answer to that two-part question is pretty simple, actually: "We're ready for a woman president, and Hillary Clinton is a super famous female politician, so it's her turn." She'll toss out a few key initiatives, of course, but we're going to hear a lot about glass ceilings and the "historic nature" of her candidacy. Identity politics works pretty well for Democrats at the national level, so while this strategy may be groan-worthy and distasteful, I'm not convinced it'll be ineffective in the end. And Axelrod of all people should recognize that mindless slogans ("change we can believe in!") with a whiff of self-fulfilling prophesy ("we are the ones we've been waiting for") aren't necessarily a handicap. Over in Republican land, the major news of the day, obviously, is Mitt Romney's decision to bow out of the 2016 sweepstakes, which is the right call.  He's achieved the status of respected and admired elder statesman within the party, and he'd be opening himself up to humiliation by pursuing the presidency for a third time and failing.  His strong polling at the moment wasn't likely to last, and Jeb's been working hard behind the scenes to marginalize Romney through a show of brute political force.  The drama now shifts to watching Mitt's next moves, which may involve throwing his operation behind Chris Christie (the two are dining this evening). That could set off a heavy duty battle on the center-right between Jeb and Christie.  Oh, and just for good measure, CNN's Jake Tapper isn't fully persuaded that Romney has comprehensively pulled the plug on 2016:

If he's out, Tapper asks, why all the hedging and parsed language? In reality, the only way Mitt 3.0 happens now is if he somehow emerges from a brokered convention, the prospect of which is stronger than it's been in decades, Sean Trende argues in a much-discussed piece this week.  But even if there isn't a clear nominee-in-waiting by the time the GOP rolls into Cleveland, how would Romney end up as the standard-bearer, as opposed to the declared candidates left standing -- who'd have spent months and millions earning delegates and votes by that point?

Katie Pavlich - New Legislation Introduced to Stop DHS "Catch and Release" Policy For Dangerous Criminal Aliens
Posted: 1/30/2015 3:30:00 PM EST

The Department of Homeland Security currently has a policy in place known as "catch and release," meaning violent illegal aliens are arrested, processed and put back onto American streets if their home countries won't take them back. 

According to Judicary Comimittee Chairman Chuck Grassley's office, the policy was "created by a 2001 Supreme Court decision (Zadvydas v. Davis), which prohibits immigrants who had been ordered removed from being detained for more than six months. The Court expanded this decision to apply to all illegal immigrants in Clark v. Martinez in 2005."

This catch and release policy is not only demoralizing to Immigration and Border Patrol Agents, but it's dangerous and deadly. There are countless examples of violent assault and murders committed by illegal aliens after being arrested and released by federal authorities. 

A man accused of shooting a convenience store employee in Mesa, Arizona last Thursday faced deportation proceedings for two years prior to his arrest, authorities announced Tuesday.

After being convicted for facilitating a second-degree burglary, 29-year-old Apolinar Altamirano was released on a $10,000 bond in January 2013, the Arizona Republic reports. Since then, Altamirano, who has claimed ties to the Mexican Mafia, has been the subject of two separate injunctions for harassment because of death threats, but has not been detained. 

Newly re-introduced legislation, the Keep Our Communities Safe Act, would put an end to at least one type of catch a release policy by extending the amount of time DHS can detain "non-removable" illegal aliens whose home countries won't accept them. The legislation is co-sponsored by senators Jim Inhofe, David Vitter, Jeff Sessions, Chuck Grassley and Ted Cruz. 

The Keep Our Communities Safe Act would allow the Department of Homeland Security to detain non-removable immigrants beyond six months if:

the alien will be removed in the reasonably foreseeable future;

the alien would have been removed but for the alien’s refusal to make all reasonable efforts to comply and cooperate with the agency’s efforts to remove him;

the alien has a highly contagious disease;

release would have serious adverse foreign policy consequences;

release would threaten national security; or

release would threaten the safety of the community and the alien either is an aggravated felon or has committed a crime of violence.

According to Grassley's office, more than 36,000 criminally convicted illegal aliens were released in 2013. Since their release, 1,000 of these criminal aliens have been convicted of crimes like assault with a deadly weapon, child-rape, rape, participating in street gangs, aggravated assault, robbery, DUI, terroristic threats and more.

"The Zadvydas decision ties the hands of the federal government, forcing law enforcement to release dangerous criminals onto our streets because their home country won’t allow them back. The Obama administration has relied upon this ruling to release thousands of criminally convicted aliens, yet they’ve done nothing to fix the problem. This legislation corrects a very real problem with serious public safety implications,” Grassley said in a statement.

Daniel Doherty - "Chris Kyle Day" Coming to Texas
Posted: 1/30/2015 3:30:00 PM EST

The late Chris Kyle has been unfairly slandered and vilified since the release of the blockbuster film American Sniper. The movie, among other things, profiles his life through four tours of duty in Iraq, stressing his unparalleled marksmanship as a sniper and his constant -- and at times painful -- struggles to overcome the horrors of war.

Now, however, as a way to honor his memory, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) is declaring a new state holiday bearing his name:

Learn more about Chris Kyle -- and the amazing film which tells his story -- here, here, and here.

Conn Carroll - White House To Put DHS At Center Of Budget Fight
Posted: 1/30/2015 2:45:00 PM EST

President Obama will officially unveil his 2016 budget at the Department of Homeland Security Monday, making the funding of the agency the centerpiece of his administrations immediate fiscal priorities.

"That will be an opportunity for the president to make the case once again that it is important for Republicans to not allow funding for the Department of Homeland Security to lapse at the end of February," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Friday.

Unlike the rest of the federal government which has been fully funded through the end of September, funding for DHS is set to expire at the end of February. Republicans chose a shorter funding term for the departments as part of an effort to push back against Obama's November executive action on immigration which could grant up to 4 million illegal immigrants temporary amnesty over the next two years.

A Congressional Budget Office letter released Thursday estimated that 1.5 million illegal immigrants will take advantage of Obama's amnesty program through 2017. That same document also estimated that illegal immigrants granted amnesty by Obama will pay just $5.2 billion in income taxes through 2025, while consuming more than $10.2 billion in tax credits. Factoring in other spending programs, CBO estimates that Obama's amnesty programs will cost taxpayers $8.8 billion on net through 2025.

The letter also notes that amnestied immigrants will pay $17 billion in Social Security payroll taxes through 2025, but they will receive far more in Social Security payments when they retire then what they paid into the system. The White House previously acknowledged in December that illegal immigrants amnestied by Obama would be eligible for Social Security benefits

Earnest did not say if Obama's budget would identify how the administration planned to pay for the increased spending caused by his amnesty programs.

Leah Barkoukis - The Friday Filibuster: Mitt's Out, Who's In?
Posted: 1/30/2015 2:38:00 PM EST

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

Closing Numbers

64% of Americans want Congress to fix Obamacare's subsidy eligibility flaw if the U.S. Supreme Court sides with conservative challengers this spring.

71% of registered Virginia voters support decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana.

4.6—the percentage decrease in violent crimes reported for January through June of 2014, compared to the same period in 2013, according to the FBI.

70 years ago Auschwitz was liberated.

$2 trillion – the amount Obamacare will cost taxpayers over the next decade.

$10.2 billion – the amount Obama’s executive amnesty will cost taxpayers in Earned Income and Additional Child tax credits over the next decade.

62-- the number of senators who voted to pass the Keystone XL Pipeline bill, enough to finally pass in the upper chamber.


Campaigns and Elections

Well, Mitt Romney has decided he will not run for president a third time, saying that he doesn’t want to make it “more difficult for someone else to emerge who many have a better chance of becoming … president.” Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker on the other hand made a splash at the Iowa Freedom Summit this past weekend, and a pro-Walker PAC unveiled its debut ad. Team Hillary, meanwhile, can’t agree when to make her 2016 announcement. And since the potential opposition is so weak, she may end up skipping out on primary debates altogether. At the state level, Matt Bevin, Sen. Mitch McConnell’s primary challenger last year, decided to run for governor in Kentucky at the last minute.


House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul introduced a new “very tough, very strong” border security bill late last week. The National Border Patrol Council spokesman called it ineffective, however, which may have something to do with the fact that Border Patrol agents weren’t even consulted. Also a problem is that no one can really say how secure our borders really are. Although it’s safe to say they aren’t very secure, as the White House’s immigration policy left one dead in Arizona this week. Nevada and Tennessee, meanwhile, have joined Texas’ challenge to Obama’s executive amnesty, bringing the total number of states fighting it to 26. The White House said this week, though, that preserving Obama’s executive amnesty is the only ‘bright line’ for them in the upcoming DHS funding bill.

School Choice Week

National School Choice Week kicked off on Sunday, the time each year when the spotlight is on providing all children effective education options. At a rally in Washington, D.C., House Speaker John Boehner shared his story, explained why he’s for school choice, and encouraged the students at the rally to keep up the good fight. Townhall also caught up with Jim DeMint, Ben Carson, Newt Gingrich, Carly Fiorina, and Mike Huckabee to hear what their solutions are to Common Core.

Loretta Lynch Takes the Hot Seat 

Loretta Lynch, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, testified on Wednesday as part of her confirmation process for U.S. attorney general, replacing outgoing AG Eric Holder. Lynch dodged questions from lawmakers about the DOJ’s role in the IRS targeting scandal, arguing that since she hasn’t been briefed, she cannot comment. Also notable was that she believes illegal immigrants have the right to work in the U.S., and that Obama’s executive amnesty is, in fact, legal. During a separate follow-up confirmation hearing on Thursday, a number of heavy hitters were witnesses, including investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, True the Vote founder Catherine Engelbrecht, among others. Clarke testified about the broken relationship between the DOJ and local law enforcement and called on Lynch to repair the rift; Attkisson detailed the government intimidation she has experienced under the Obama administration and called on the new attorney general to reject such damaging policies and practices. Sen. Chuck Grassley wonders if her qualifications can transfer to correcting the many serious problems at the DOJ.

The White House

It wasn’t a great week for the Obama administration. They’re still pretty mad House Speaker John Boehner invited Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu to speak. And piling on to some of the terrible figures you saw in the Closing Numbers section, a new study found that Obama’s unemployment policies have actually increased unemployment. A new CBO report also shows that thanks to spending increases in major health care programs (yes, Obamacare included), deficits are set to explode in 2017, just as Obama leaves office. And much to the president’s dismay, most of his SOTU proposals have a very slim chance of becoming law, which is great news for the rest of us. One of his proposals to raise taxes on the middle class was a totally hypocritical reversal anyway though. 

Global Terror

Terrorism seems to be gripping every corner of the world, and yet the White House continues to deny it. Rather than heed objections from top military and intelligence officials to release five high-ranking Taliban commanders for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl (who’s now being charged by the Army with desertion), the White House moved forward anyway. They were OK with that swap because according to White House Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz, the Taliban is not a terrorist group. Rather, they’re using the term ‘armed insurgency,’ even though that very terrorist group killed three Americans in Afghanistan the next day. While we’re on the topic of terrorist groups, let’s not forget about the Islamic State, which continues to hold an American aid worker hostage; and Boko Haram, which AFRICOM’s commander is waiting on U.S. officials to develop a counterinsurgency plan. As if Nigeria wasn’t dealing with enough already given the terror group’s increased attacks, experts are warning that the upcoming elections may trigger even more bloodshed in the nation. We’re all going to need the war on terror survival guide.

This week’s Townhall exclusives:

I had a chance to catch up with the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, which is doing amazing work to help our nation’s military and first responders. You may have heard about a group raising enough money to pay off the mortgages for the families of slain NYPD Officers Ramos and Liu; well, this is that group. Take a minute to get to know them—it’s worth it.

In a feature-length article, Cortney O'Brien and Sarah Seman make the case for why everyone should be a feminist. Don't cringe, you'll see what they mean.  

In this week’s edition of Capitol Source, Sarah interviews advocates on both sides of the marijuana debate as they discuss the pros and cons of legalization.

The NRA invited Townhall to their headquarters in Virginia this week. Check out photos of some members of the team trying out a number of different firearms.

And finally, if you need a Friday pick-me-up, check out Katie’s photos of all the wonderful service dogs that were at this year’s SHOT Show in Las Vegas last week.

Graphics by Townhall Graphic Designer Feven Amenu

Matt Vespa - Schism: Team Hillary Arguing When To Make 2016 Announcement
Posted: 1/30/2015 2:00:00 PM EST

There’s a bit of internal strife within the Team Hillary camp. When should they launch her expected 2016 bid? Some say this spring; others say as late as possible, like this summer. Right now, the spring wing of Team Hillary seem to be broadcasting that this will be the likely course of action (via CNN):

Several Democrats have told CNN that there is a desire on the part of Clinton and her innermost circle to go as late as possible. But the potential for a summer start to the official Clinton 2016 campaign, first reported this morning by Politico, is only one of the options on the table. The spring launch plan is still seen by most Clinton watchers as the most likely timing scenario. Under the spring scenario, Clinton could form an exploratory committee or other official vehicle, which has FEC-regulated restrictions for potential candidates, but would enable Clinton to publicly indicate her intentions and begin a new phase of the process without formally launching a full blown campaign until later in 2015.

There is some concern among Clinton loyalists that as the increasingly crowded Republican race heats up, the attacks on Clinton could begin to stick without an apparatus in place to answer them.

The liberal superPAC American Bridge has been countering Republican attacks on Clinton's behalf but the cover has not necessarily been to the satisfaction of all in Clinton's orbit. The Democratic National Committee is beginning to take on a larger role in an effort to protect Clinton and the party brand but many Democrats are concerned even that won't be enough.

Politico reported that a “delay until summer, from the original April target, would give her more time to develop her message, policy and organization, outside the chaos and spotlight of a public campaign.”

The fact that no one is standing in her way presents another host of problems for Democrats; they have a dearth of new blood to replace the party heavyweights - most of which are on their way to the Home of The Merciful Rest. Who else is there that could pose a threat to her coronation?

You have former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, whose 2012 DNC performance wasn’t all that impressive. Former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer pretty much torpedoed his 2016 chances when he implied that Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) was a prostitute. There’s also some “baggage” revolving a nonprofit that had ties to two of then-Gov. Schweitzer’s appointees. Former Democratic Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia has announced an exploratory committee, but has since dropped off the face of the earth. He could gain traction with the rural, white Democratic voters, but he fares poorly with the culture of the Democratic Party. Nevertheless, Team Hillary is “keeping an eye” on him. There’s possibly Elizabeth Warren, who despite reports that she will not run, could toss her hat in the ring. David Frum argues that the U.S. Senate is not an institution built for her progressive sensibilities. Oh, and don’t forget about Joe Biden.

With this crew, Democrats should worry about life after the Clinton-era has come to an end; some could argue that it has already. Yet, given her lead in the polls, she could easily avoid debating any of these possible contenders, suffocating them quickly from what would be a joke of a Democratic field, and prevent any gaffes on a national debate stage for the entire country to witness. On the other hand, if Vice President Biden runs, she has to agree to a debate; you can’t avoid the Vice President of the United States, regardless of the polls. By the way, that debate would be wildly entertaining.

The more Clinton stays in the spotlight, the faster her approvals sink. She’s a highly polarizing figure, a poor campaigner, and what would be the start of her road to 1600 began with dismal books sales. The revelation that she was “dead broke” upon leaving the White House didn’t help. It stupefied the nation, even her most ardent supporters; everyone knows the earning potential of an ex-president is amazing.

Regardless, Iowa is where she could turn things around, sharpen her skills, and avoid the mistakes of 2008. Despite Iowa Democrats hoping for a challenge to Hillary, they seem prepared to throw their support behind her (of course), Salena Zito noted (via Pittsbugh Tribune-Review):

Linda Nelson, chairwoman of the Pottawattamie County Democrats and former state teachers union president, said she, too, is comfortable with the pace of the race. A former Obama supporter, she said former U.S. Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia and Martin O'Malley, who just stepped down as Maryland's governor, visited the county during the midterm elections; the Run Warren Run folks — supporters of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts — will meet with her shortly.

“But when Hillary announces, everything will change around here,” she said.

John Dickerson, CBS News Political Director, noted that ignoring Iowa would be a mistake; it’s a battleground state. He added that Hillary is at risk of being pegged as a limousine liberal, and this is a great time to test her skills as a retail politician with no one within miles of her in the polls:

The argument for Clinton to play hard in Iowa is rooted in the general election to come. In my time in Iowa, a few Democrats compared Clinton to Bruce Braley, the failed Democratic Senate candidate. The consensus view is that Braley waited too long to present himself, and as a result he was defined by his opponent.

Republicans are already running against her like she’s an announced candidate anyway. Why let them define her first?

If Clinton looks like she’s willing to fight for the vote now and give Iowans the attention that they have come to expect, they will remember that when she’s fighting for those six electoral votes.

Finally, Iowa is well-designed for the precise kind of personal campaigning Clinton needs to do. The knocks against Clinton are that she thinks she’s owed the presidency and that she has no message other than her inevitability. If she campaigned hard in Iowa, it would show that despite her Olympian position in the polls, she’s willing to fight hard and take no vote for granted.

At the moment, Clinton’s image conjures visions of wealth and black SUVs. The frequent fundraising trips she will take will add photos and datelines like New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco to this storyline. If the general election turns on a conversation about which candidate cares most about the life of the regular voter and the challenges he faces, Clinton needs to show she can participate in that conversation.

Then again, while running against Obama in 2008, the then-Illinois Senator clinched more net delegates in the Idaho Caucuses with 21,000 participants, than Hillary’s New Jersey Primary win with over 1 million voters. She’s still beatable, even without a strong Democratic challenger. Whether she’ll succeed in the sharpening her campaign skills in Iowa remains to be seen.

Greg Hengler - "We Are Shocked by Spectacular Evil--When It Continues We are Less Shocked"
Posted: 1/30/2015 1:10:00 PM EST

On this week's Townhall Weekend Journal:

Senator Tom Cotton and Hugh Hewitt discuss Netanyahu's up-and-coming visit to speak to the U.S. Congress. Bill Bennett and former Pentagon official, Michael Rubin on the turmoil in Yemen. Bill Kristol and Hugh Hewitt on the Middle East mess, beginning with Iran. Dennis Prager challenges guest Atheist Michael Shermer on how the stupidity of secular ideology heavily outweighs the absurdities coming from religious orthodoxy. Prager on Bill Nye "The Science Guy's" failed attempt to connect global warming with the failed NYC "blizzard". Michael Medved looks at the non-Mitt/Jeb GOP candidates. Hewitt speaks with possible 2016 presidential candidate, Gov. John Kasich. Prager on how the conscience softens to evils such as beheadings from Islamic terrorists.

Cortney O'Brien - Wow: MSNBC Reporter Suggests Chris Kyle Was Racist
Posted: 1/30/2015 12:00:00 PM EST

It still blows my mind that people can so thoughtlessly slander our soldiers.

Chris Kyle, as many know, is credited as the Navy SEAL with the most kills in US military history. He shared his incredible story in detail in his book “American Sniper,” which made the New York Times bestseller list in 2013. Clint Eastwood’s film with the same name is currently breaking records as freedom loving Americans flock to the theater to witness this patriot’s life.

Just a quick summary: Kyle went through hellish training to have the opportunity to fight in Iraq. While in combat, he saved countless of his fellow comrades’ lives by scouting out terrorists who were targeting Americans and killed them before they had the chance to fire first.

Unfortunately, not everyone appreciates the sacrifices Kyle made for his country. On MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” NBC foreign correspondent (and frequent guest) Ayman Mohyeldin had the audacity to taint Kyle’s legacy with vicious accusations. With a straight face and even tone of voice, Mohyeldin suggested the real Chris Kyle – the one not shown in theaters – was ‘racist’ against Iraqis and Muslims and went on ‘killing sprees.’

Mohyeldin joins an unfortunate group including Michael Moore, Seth Rogen and Howard Dean who dared to dismiss Kyle’s heroics with their asinine comments.

As for me, I stand by this tweet.

Guy Benson - Reports: Obama Campaign Operatives Working to Defeat Netanyahu
Posted: 1/30/2015 11:16:00 AM EST

This revelation is, on some level, far less dramatic than my  headline might indicate.  American political consultants of all stripes regularly take on international clients, so the fact that a team of Obama 2012 field organizers -- including one senior operative -- is playing a role in the upcoming Israeli elections isn't especially out of the ordinary.  But there's nothing ordinary about the current US-Israeli political row.  We have a president who has been uniquely hostile (by American standards) to Israel's leader and interests from day one.  We have an administration that has openly criticized Israel's internal policies, and has ignored Jerusalem's pleas vis-a-vis ongoing nuclear negotiations with the Iranian regime -- which have even begun to irritate top Congressional Democrats.  We have a White House that has flagrantly insulted the Israeli leader in the media, which may not be much of a surprise given the president's accidentally-revealed attitudes.  We also have an Israeli Prime Minister who once publicly lectured the president on matter of Israeli national security, certainly deepening the frosty nature of their relationship. And we have a planned speech by that same PM to a joint session of Congress scheduled for later this year, over which the White House is almost comically apoplectic.  Team O says they're seething about the scheduled address because it was arranged without their advance knowledge (because they're such  sticklers for the separation of powers), and because it could give the appearance of "unprecedented" US meddling prior to Israel's elections.  For that latter reason, they say, Obama won't meet with Netanyahu during the visit.

But is it really unprecedented?  Obama has met with various European allies in the months preceding their election campaigns, but Netanyahu's appearance on Capitol Hill will come just weeks before Israelis go to the polls.  The White House pretends this is unimaginably inappropriate, evidently failing to recall President Clinton's decision to host former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres a few weeks before that country's 1996 elections.  Maybe they mean unprecedented in the Obama era?  Nevertheless, the White House has pronounced itself furious and scandalized over the appearance of meddling.  Well, what appearance does this convey?

An organization known as “One Voice” has brought in what has been called a "five-man Obama team" to defeat Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Included in that five-man team is Jeremy Bird, the national field director for Obama's 2012 campaign...That group...will run the anti-Netanyahu effort out of offices taking up the ground floor of a Tel Aviv office building. The campaign, known as V-2015, is careful not to support a specific party, but is working to ensure Netanyahu does not win Israel's March election. Because the effort is not supporting any specific candidate or party, Dr. Lerner said, foreign funds -- meaning monies coming from outside Israel -- raised by the campaign are not subject to that country's campaign finance laws. Jersusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick...noted that Obama said he wouldn't meet with Netanyahu during his upcoming visit citing the proximity to the Israeli elections. "And Obama, of course believes in protocol and propriety which is why he won't get involved," she wrote on Facebook. "No, he's not getting involved at all. He's just sending his 2012 field campaign manager to Israel to run a campaign to defeat Netanyahu. That's all. No interference whatsoever." News of the team's arrival in Israel comes just days after the administration accused House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, of “breaking protocol” by inviting Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress.

Again, American politicos working for foreign clients is nothing new.  But since we're terribly concerned about appearances and sensitivities, perhaps the president ought to make a public effort to call off his dogs, or at least strongly distance himself from V15's work.  (He presumably can't prevent these consultants from doing their work or collect their paychecks, despite his rather broad view of his own authority on most matters).  Also, what's this all about?

A U.S. State Department-funded group is financing an Israeli campaign to oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and has hired former Obama aides to help with its grassroots organizing efforts. U.S.-based activist group OneVoice International has partnered with V15, an “independent grassroots movement” in Israel that is actively opposing Netanyahu’s party in the upcoming elections, Ha’aretz reported on Monday. Former national field director for President Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign Jeremy Bird is also reportedly involved in the effort. OneVoice development and grants officer Christina Taler said the group would be working with V15 on voter registration and get-out-the-vote efforts but would not engage in overtly partisan activities. She said OneVoice and V15 are still formalizing the partnership. While V15 has not endorsed any particular candidates, it is working to oppose Netanyahu in the March elections.

OneVoice insists that none of the State Department grant money is being used for activities related to the Israeli elections, but good heavens, aren't these appearances quite problematic?  Protocol, optics, and such.  As for the timing of Netanyahu's speech, Jennifer Rubin points out that the administration's extensions with Tehran and the timetable on new sanctions outlined by a group of Senate Democrats have upped the stakes of the address, which will now occur before a key Senate vote.  Still, Jeffrey Goldberg wonders if Netanyahu is unwisely compromising the bipartisan support his country has always enjoyed in Washington by "ruining" his relations with Obama and accepting what could be seen as a partisan invitation from Boehner.  It's a fair question, perhaps, but isn't President Obama (by far) the primary culprit in fomenting the recent upheaval in US-Israeli relations?  It's no coincidence that Obama's ratings are abysmal among Israelis.  Indeed, by throwing this conniption fit -- replete with dramatic attacks against the Israeli ambassador in the New York Times -- might the White House be boosting Netanyahu's standing at home?  Defying a US president is risky for any Israeli leader.  Defying this US president might prove fruitful, electorally.  Might.  I'll leave you with Pete Wehner flat-out calling Obama "anti-Israel."  This has gotten very ugly.  Smart Power at work, as the clock ticks on Iranian nukes.