Matt Vespa - Ted Cruz 2016?
Posted: 9/1/2014 3:34:00 PM EST

Is Sen. Ted Cruz considering a 2016 presidential bid? Politico insinuated that Sen. Cruz's new hires might have been made with 2016 in mind. But, of course, his staff tried to quell rumors:

Ted Cruz is beefing up his political staff as speculation heats up that the Texas senator may run for president in 2016.

Joel Mowbray, a consultant for a foreign policy think tank, has been volunteering for the political operation and “will end up playing a role” on the paid political staff, the adviser said. Nick Muzin, a former top House Republican Conference aide that now works in Cruz’s congressional office as a deputy chief of staff, will be working on coalitions building and outreach for Cruz’s political operation.

Jason Miller, who’s advised prominent conservatives like Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), has been brought on to “to put together a more robust communications operation,” the adviser said, while longtime GOP presidential campaign hand and Axiom Strategies founder Jeff Roe has been brought on board to build out the political organization. Lauren Lofstron will work on fundraising. Those three hires were first reported by the Washington Examiner.

Chip Roy, Cruz’s chief of staff, also received $1,100 in July for political consulting for the senator’s leadership PAC — though this is not Roy’s first work on the political side for Cruz, the adviser said. Both GOP Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida have moved their chiefs from their congressional offices to their political operations — but Roy isn’t going anywhere yet.

Several Cruz aides sought to dispel rumors that Roy is stepping away from Cruz’s congressional office to engage in politics full-time. Roy remains Cruz’s chief of staff, they said.

His address at Defending The American Dream Summit over the Labor Day weekend had some on Twitter predicting that he will toss his hat in the ring. It’s about half an hour. Sen. Cruz’s mantra of “retiring” Harry Reid was a hit with the attendees. He said 2014 is about defending our constitutional rights, namely the right to bear arms, defeating Common Core, protecting the First Amendment, ending the IRS targeting of conservatives, and holding the overly-politicized Department of Justice accountable. He called for the impeachment of Attorney General Eric Holder.

He added this election is also about defending the Fourth and Fifth Amendments’ right to privacy. I’ll let you debate if that’s a bit of a stretch. There is no explicit right to privacy in the U.S. Constitution.

Sen. Cruz also eviscerated Obama’s foreign policy and our lack of leadership around the world, specifically with how we’re dealing with ISIS and controlling Russia’s current belligerent state in Eastern Europe.

He gets the base energized. He surely got the freedom fighters attending Defending The American Dream excited, but is this setting the stage for a 2016 campaign? His address was very 2014-centric, but a lot remains to be seen.  Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, who's name's been floating around as a potential 2016 candidate could be taken out of the running if he loses re-election this November.  Rep. Paul Ryan will probably want to stay in Congress to be the point person on policy.  Sen. Marco Rubio's immigration stance could be a liability with base voters. Regardless, let's do one election at a time.  We can start to speculate after November 4.

Cortney O'Brien - "Emergency Regulations": NY's Latest Attempt to Suppress Free Speech
Posted: 9/1/2014 2:00:00 PM EST

Remember when President Obama touted the Affordable Care Act by claiming if you "liked your plan you could keep it"? He earned Politifact's 2013 "Lie of the Year" for that whopper. Amazingly, several other Democrats made the same false promise. Knowing what we know now, wouldn't you want to expose any politician who stood behind that misleading statement? Well, if someone uttered those words in the state of New York, you may now be forced to let it slide. A new law in the Empire State, which some are calling the 'shut up rule,' could allow such lofty claims to go unchallenged.

The New York Board of Elections, in an attempt to regulate political spending by special interest groups during campaigns, has enacted "emergency regulations" that would make it much more difficult to challenge political speech:

The new regulations require individuals and groups spending on races -- independently of candidates and political parties -- to register with the state as a political committee and file financial reports that list so-called “independent expenditures.”

If citizens fail to register as a political committees when trying to voice their political opinions, the Board can fine them at least $1,000.

A $1,000 fine. For exercising your First Amendment right.

New York may be trying to reign in campaign spending, but it doesn't justify suppressing New Yorkers' free speech. Critics say that the regulations would even affect someone simply trying to hand out fliers in his or her neighborhood. 

When politicians stretch the truth - either by falsely accusing their opponents of wrongdoing or exaggerating their own accomplishments - they should be held accountable by their constituents. Yet, in New York, it seems like it's about to get a whole lot easier for politicians' to get away with outright falsehoods. Thanks to this new law, I guess we'd have to accept as fact whenever a politician claims they "took the initiative" in creating the internet.

Guy Benson - The Collapse of Libya and the Failure of 'Smart Power'
Posted: 9/1/2014 12:01:00 PM EST

When conservatives criticize the Obama administration over the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attacks, much of the attention is trained on the security failures preceding the raid, the dishonest public spin campaign after the fact, the lack of accountability nearly two years later, and the still-unanswered questions on a host of fronts.  But that lethal event was merely a symptom of the White House's broader, unraveling foreign policy.  The president intervened in Libya in 2011, deploying US military resources to help a rebel fighting force depose and dispatch murderous dictator Muammar Gaddafi.  The Libya conflict was paradigmatic of Obama's approach to war: 'Leading from behind,' aerial bombardment, extremely light footprint.  War from the air.  War without Congressional approval.  And war, in this case, with no clear strategic objective.  The result of that conflict was, in Obama's judgment, an example of how the international "community is supposed to work," as he declared at the time.  Lesson: Libya was a model of how "smart power" leads.  Well, the struggle to fill the power vacuum triggered by Gaddafi's fall has raged ever since the US "won" in Libya.  The victors, it appears, are many of the radical Islamists that America aided in toppling the regime.  The country has been awash in hardcore radical elements, with Benghazi emerging as a Jihadi hotbed.  When terrorists sacked the US compound on 2012's anniversary of 9/11, that massacre was merely the most high-profile evidence of Libya's descent into ungovernable chaos.  Today, several years on, the journey to full-blown failed state status seems to be complete.  Radicals have seized control of much of Libya's capital city, including the international airport, and -- as Matt noted over the weekend -- the abandoned US embassy:

And Benghazi, for those interested, also remains a bubbling cauldron of violence and mayhem.  The terrible status quo in Libya that we helped to uproot has given way to an even worse reality on the ground.  What was the core American national security interest at stake that justified our involvement there?  Yes, Gaddafi was slaughtering elements of his own population, some of whom were Islamist rebels, so perhaps there was some humanitarian interest -- but what was our geopolitical strategy for life in Libya after Gaddafi?  By the looks of it, there wasn't one.  We intervened minimally, then hoped for the best.  We failed to secure our personnel in Benghazi along the way, perhaps in order to keep up those all-important 'light footprint, no boots on the ground' appearances.  There was no strategy.  In Syria, the president drew a red line against the Assad regime, threatened an air campaign when Assad repeatedly defied it, then failed to follow through on his public threats.  Obama's escape hatch was an accidental policy of chemical weapons disarmament, which we're now told has been successful.  Buying that line requires (a) ignoring the fact that multiple deadlines were missed along the way as chemical weapons were used again, and (b) believing that all of Assad's illegal weapons were throughly catalogued and handed over, which seems highly unlikely.  Again, there was no strategy. One year later, the president is weighing military options in Syria, but this time in de facto support of Assad, against his malignant enemies.  In the fight against ISIS -- which quickly metastasized from a JV squad into a "cancer," in Obama's parlance -- the president openly admitted on Thursday that "we don't have a strategy yet."  The White House has been flailing to walk that phrase back ever since it escaped the Commander-in-Chief's lips, but those efforts are in vain.  The candid admission confirmed every stereotype of his foreign policy: Reactive, aloof, dithering, feckless and incoherent.  On that score, click through to this tough Washington Post analysis of Obama's foreign affairs meltdown.  Read the whole thing, or else you'll miss criticism from a prominent Senate Democrat, and an administration source touting Obama's Iran policy -- yes, this Iran policy -- a "perfect example" of "disciplined" and successful diplomacy.  An excerpt: 

As events cascaded, Obama juggled rounds of vacation golf with public statements addressing the conflicts. But his cool demeanor, and the split-screen imagery of a president at play and at work, seemed ill-matched to the moment. Then came a Thursday news conference and a comment that only reinforced criticism of a president neither fully engaged nor truly leaning into world problems. Speaking of the Islamic State, he said, “We don’t have a strategy yet.” The statement may have had the virtue of candor, as Obama weighs the military and diplomatic components of a U.S. response and seeks support from other nations. But it hardly projects an image of presidential resolve or decisiveness at a time of international turmoil….events seem to have spun out of his control, and Obama must react to the actions of others. Putin’s aggression in Ukraine has sparked the greatest East-West crisis since the Cold War. Islamic State advances have swallowed up a large swath of the Middle East and threaten a global upheaval far beyond the shock of al-Qaeda’s 2001 attacks.

As the crises mount, so do the excuses:

Jim Lindsay, senior vice president at the Council on Foreign Relations, said Obama’s inability to inspire confidence among critics has more to do with the complexity of the problems than the president’s leadership style. “He has a sort of perfect storm of messy problems, lousy options, ambivalent allies and a skeptical public,” he said….[Historian David Kennedy] said that Obama, in dealing with multiple crises, also is trying to change perceptions of what U.S. leadership and any president can realistically accomplish. “It’s difficult virtually to the point of impossibility to have a grand strategy in a world that is so fluid and in which we no longer yield the power we once had. In a sense that is Obama’s strategy, a recognition of that fact. So that rhetorically as well as in reality, he’s trying to diminish the expectation that we can control events.”

These points have merit to some extent.  But the posture, attitude, leadership, priorities and policies of the President of the United States aren't irrelevancies.  The quote from the foreign policy analyst above wrongly suggests that Obama's actions have had nothing to do with the messiness of the problems, the lousiness of the options, the ambivalence of our allies, or the skepticism of the public.  He's just the victim of events.  Kennedy's assessment that Obama is simply recognizing America's diminished influence for what it is absolves the president of presiding over, if not encouraging, that new reality.  When America abdicates its leadership role in the name of "smart power," people take notice.  When American chooses weakness and rudderlessness, unscrupulous global actors sense an opportunity to step into the resulting void. Obama's apologists are reduced to suggesting that America has become ungovernable on the domestic front, and that the world is hopelessly complex and messy on the geopolitical front.  Obama hasn't failed as a leader, they insist; new realities have failed him.

Sarah Jean Seman - Follow Your Money: New App Scores Businesses for Conservative Values
Posted: 9/1/2014 10:38:00 AM EST

What would you do if you found out your money—the money you spend buying coffee at Starbucks, furniture at IKEA, and gas at Exxon Mobile—was being used to fund abortions, advertise for Common Core State Standards, and limit our Second Amendment rights? Would you change your consumer habits to align them with your voting values? A new innovative app called "2nd Vote" gives you the power to decide. 

Launched in October, the free application contains scorecards for more than 450 commonly used stores and companies such as Netflix, Whole Foods, CVS, U.S. Airways, and Ford Motor. The app explains the scoring in its "How to Use" section: 

"Higher score = more conservative. Lower score = more liberal. Scores are based on financial support to third part organization." 

One of the core founders of 2nd Vote helped conceptualize the app after he was told that March of Dimes, a pro-life organization to which he was making donations, actually sent funds to Planned Parenthood. This shocking discovery made him wonder what else his money was unconsciously funding. 

"When we started taking a look and building our database we realized that it's not just March of Dimes; it's Starbucks and Levi's jeans, and Apple, " 2nd Vote Executive Director Chris Walker told Townhall. 

"All of the companies that we shop with on a day-to-day basis typically fund a lot of left-wing causes. What we wanted to do is figure out how we can educate people and show them that 'look, where you're shopping with your second vote is funding causes and issues that you may not support on your own."

The non-profit organization is currently run by a team of individuals who have a background in politics and public policy. They dig to uncover each company's financial support on issues of pro-life, marriage, the second amendment, the environment, and education. The work is often very labor intensive, Walker stated. 

"We look at tax documents, 990 forms for non-profit organizations, we go through a lot of public statements made by the leadership or by the company itself. A lot of times the companies will put right on their website who they support and why."

In the future, 2nd Vote wants to create scorecards for thousands of companies and provide the general public with information they need to actively hold their dollars accountable. So pull out your phones, and here's to snubbing the claim that conservatives are missing the tech wave. Staff - Happy Labor Day
Posted: 9/1/2014 8:37:00 AM EST

Why is Labor Day so important to us?

That's a good question. Perhaps it's because Labor Day gives the American worker a chance to spend some additional quality time with friends, family and loved ones. It’s also, supposedly, the last day you’re allowed to wear white, and, as Karl Rove points out, it's “the unofficial start of the fall campaign season.

These are all good things, or at least good things to know. But its true meaning and purpose is actually quite fascinating (via the US Department of Labor):

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

Through the years the nation gave increasing emphasis to Labor Day. The first governmental recognition came through municipal ordinances passed during 1885 and 1886. From these, a movement developed to secure state legislation. The first state bill was introduced into the New York legislature, but the first to become law was passed by Oregon on February 21, 1887. During the year four more states — Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York — created the Labor Day holiday by legislative enactment. By the end of the decade Connecticut, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania had followed suit. By 1894, 23 other states had adopted the holiday in honor of workers, and on June 28 of that year, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories.

I don't think Labor Day has quite the same pop as other national holidays. But it is a federal holiday nonetheless, one meant to honor and celebrate American individual achievement and accomplishment:

The vital force of labor added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known and has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy. It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pay tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation's strength, freedom, and leadership — the American worker.

So there you have it. That’s why we celebrate Labor Day. It isn’t to honor Big Government or organized labor, as some might believe; it's to "pay tribute" to individuals working for -- and fighting for -- the American Dream.

So, from all of us here at Townhall, we hope you have a safe, relaxing, and work-free holiday.

Enjoy the day off.

Matt Vespa - Federal Judge Blocks Louisiana's New Abortion Law
Posted: 8/31/2014 10:33:00 PM EST

A federal judge temporarily blocked the implementation of Louisiana’s new abortion law since it could’ve led to the closure of Louisiana’s five abortion clinics. The law required doctors to have admitting privileges for hospitals within 30 miles of an abortion clinic (via Associated Press/Huffington Post):

A federal judge has temporarily blocked enforcement of Louisiana's restrictive new abortion law.

District Judge John deGravelles says the law can still take effect Monday but officials cannot penalize doctors or clinics for breaking it while a challenge is heard.

The law would require doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges to a hospital within 30 miles of their clinics. A Center for Reproductive Rights lawsuit claims doctors haven't had enough time to obtain privileges and the law likely would force Louisiana's five abortion clinics to close.

The law would've fined non-compliant doctors $4,000 and the loss of their medical license.  While the law goes into effect without enforcement measures, the judge noted that it's unclear if the regulatory fallout would lead to abortion clinic closures:

However, deGravelles wrote, clinics' lawyers have not proven that enforcing the law would shut down most, if not all, of Louisiana's clinics, eliminating access to legal abortions in Louisiana. Because the doctors' applications haven't all been acted on and the attorneys don't represent two clinics, that's speculative, he said.

"How many patients do these other two facilities treat? How many doctors practice there? How many of these doctors have applied for admitting privileges and what is the status of their applications?" he wrote. He said he needs answers to those and other questions, including how far patients would have to travel for care if the other two clinics stayed open.

Admitting privileges laws have passed across the South.

A panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over Louisiana, upheld a similar Texas law. But in July, a different panel of the 5th Circuit voted to overturn Mississippi's law, which would have shuttered the state's only abortion clinic, saying every state must guarantee the right to an abortion.

Editor's note: This post has been updated.

Matt Vespa - For Romney, Is It Third Time's The Charm?
Posted: 8/31/2014 8:35:00 PM EST

So, should Mitt Romney run again? It’s a question that frustrates conservative since Mr. Romney wasn’t the best candidate to discuss things, like health care, that could’ve really energized the base in 2012. As Dan wrote last week, Romney’s killing it in the polls. In Iowa, one-third of the respondents would drop support of their current candidates in the 2016 field to back him.  Is this the beginning of Romney 2.0?

I admit that Romney’s “I told you so” platform could play well; Americans like comeback stories.  He's been right about pretty much everything, especially on foreign policy. But then there’s the issue about his stiffness as a candidate and his inability to fully unite the base. 

Also, health care and immigration will continue to plague Romney. On immigration, we have his statements supporting self-deportation, which would be replayed on a loop by Democrats. We could then say goodbye to Hispanic outreach efforts. 

On health care, even if Romney has a more detailed plan to fix Obamacare, he’ll once again be pelted with how Romneycare was the blueprint for Obamacare. Here’s a 2007 clip of him saying how Romneycare should be taken nationwide.

Lastly, the Heartland Institute’s Ben Domenech tore into the narrative that Romneycare’s economic effects were confined to the Bay State. In 2012, while on the Blaze, he listed off numerous figures showing how Romneycare was just bad policy. “Massachusetts spends more per capita on health care than anywhere else in the industrialized world,” he said. “Right now, under its current track–by 2020–health care costs will make up more than 50 percent of the state budget.” He also noted that within a few years Romneycare has gone over budget. Gov. Deval Patrick went down to Washington to ask for more money and got $4.3 billion more than they had asked for from federal taxpayers. Domenech also mentioned that Romney’s own advisers at the time admitted that his health care plan increased the cost of premiums when he was governor. That's not the best track record for the person who would be running against the president’s health care plan...again.

Oh, as for reaching single, urban women, none of us should expect him to perform better with that demographic either.

Nevertheless, there’s the comparison with Ronald Reagan. Reagan was governor and ran for president twice before his successful 1980 campaign. Supporters of Romney think he could do the exact same thing (via Business Insider):

There is precedent for a two-time loser finally winning the presidency on his third try. Ronald Reagan made a last-ditch effort to secure the GOP nomination in 1968. He nearly wrested it from an incumbent president in 1976. But it was only in 1980 that Reagan, at age 69, finally won. Of course, Reagan was famously charismatic, and he had been a conservative folk hero for years by the time he finally won the Republican nomination. The same can’t be said of Romney.

Nevertheless, there is something to the Reagan parallel. Though he commanded the loyalty of conservatives, Reagan was a decidedly pragmatic governor of California who acquiesced to tax increases, the liberalization of the state’s abortion laws, and other measures that should by all rights have scandalized the right.

By the time Reagan ran against Gerald Ford in 1976, however, he presented himself as a conservative purist, devoted to devolving power to state governments and taking a tougher line against the Soviet empire. Between 1976 and 1980, he again underwent another subtle but important shift, smoothing some of his ideological rough edges and offering a more optimistic brand of conservatism tailor-made to appeal to voters who had grown tired of Carter-era malaise.

Could Mitt Romney pull off a similar feat? I wouldn’t rule it out.

All we can do is hope that Ann Romney and the rest of the family shoot down another presidential run with another emphatic "NO" vote. Then again, as Dan mentioned in his post, Romney “left the door kind of open to running again -- but not really” in his interview with Hugh Hewitt.  Maybe it'll all just be a bad dream.

Kevin Glass - Is Your Food Conservative?
Posted: 8/31/2014 3:45:00 PM EST

Every major corporation has a leader, and most of them have political views. This shouldn't come as a shock to anyone. Many of them also have Political Action Committees that are actively involved in politics. Again, should not be shocking.

A new mobile phone app allows you to scan the barcodes of consumer products to discover whether their leaders donate to political causes - and which ones they do donate to. John Brownlee went to Whole Foods and made a discovery: many products that fill the Whole Foods shelves could be associated with conservatism:

Spoiler: it's almost impossible to buy anything in Whole Foods without, in a roundabout way, supporting the Republican Party.

Checking my list, I noted the missus also wanted me to pick up some cereal. I grabbed a bag of Bob's Red Mill. *Gleeeble-fleep!* 49% Republican, 31% Democrat, 20% Other. Okay, how about Kashi? *Hooble-dee-zlorp!* That's better, I guess: 37.25% Republican to 33.5% Democrat, which means that the Kellogg's-owned Kashi brand bleeds bluer blood than that malevolently cackling, oatmeal-loving oligarch, Bob Moore.

The intense need for people to associate consumer brands with political ideology is so, so tiresome. We as conservatives should know this. Nearly every film that comes out of Hollywood is laden with a liberal message - and let's not get started on rock and pop music. We learn to appreciate these things if we enjoy them - so we can listen to Bruce Springsteen and eat organic granola without considering the political implications of either.

So I happily shop at Costco and buy Progressive insurance and don't really worry about what causes my money is going to support. If the product is good enough, it shouldn't really matter. So while Koch Industries manufactures Brawny paper towels, I usually buy Bounty - or just generic store brands like Target's.

Obsessing over the political leanings of the leaders of companies whose products you buy is a recipe for going crazy and cutting yourself off completely from society. Don't do it.

Matt Vespa -  New Tenants: Islamist Militia Secures A U.S. Embassy Residential Compound In Libya UPDATE: They Had A Pool Party
Posted: 8/31/2014 11:32:00 AM EST

More than a month after American personnel was evacuated from Tripoli due to ongoing fighting in Libya, Islamist militants report that they’ve “secured” a U.S. Embassy residential compound. The Islamist group now in charge of the compound said they’ve been there a week, and told the Associated Press that a rival militia has also set up shop there before they took over (via Associated Press):

An Islamist-allied militia group "secured" a U.S. Embassy residential compound in Libya's capital, more than a month after American personnel evacuated from the country over ongoing fighting, one of its commanders said Sunday.

An Associated Press journalist walked through the compound Sunday after the Dawn of Libya, an umbrella group for Islamist militias, invited onlookers inside. Some windows at the compound had been broken, but it appeared most of the equipment there remained untouched. The journalist saw treadmills, food, televisions and computers still inside.

A commander for the Dawn of Libya group, Moussa Abu-Zaqia, told the AP that his forces had entered and been in control of the compound since last week, a day after it has seized control of the capital and its strategic airport after weeks of fighting with a rival militia. Abu-Zaqia said the rival militia was in the compound before his troops took it over.

U.S. personnel were evacuated on July 26, but Dawn of Libya has called on all foreign entities to return to Tripoli and resume their embassy operations since fighting has “subsided,” according to AP.  

UPDATE: This video reportedly shows the militants having a good time in the compound's pool.

Sarah Jean Seman - Labor Daze: Majority of Americans 'Strongly Dissaprove' of Obama's Job Performance
Posted: 8/31/2014 11:30:00 AM EST

This semi-retired president is not impressing anyone. Americans are more than twice as likely to "strongly disapprove" of President Obama's overall job performance than they are to "strongly approve," according to a recent Gallup poll: 

In the first year of Obama's presidency, the percentages of Americans who had strong views about the job he was doing were essentially tied, but the strongly negative responses now significantly outweigh the strongly positive ones. The largest segment of Americans today, 39%, strongly disapprove of Obama's job performance, while 14% moderately disapprove. Another 27% moderately approve, while 17% strongly approve.

Obama's voter base has been crumbling piece by piece as his term ticks along. Millennials stepped back as Obama created one of the worst economies in history for youth opportunity; super-sizing the national debt and fostering high unemployment rates. Hispanics, Blacks, women and almost every other demographic have also begun distancing their praise from the commander-in-chief. 

So who is left in the waning 17 percent who "strongly approve" of Obama's broken promises, failed foreign policy tactics, and negligent oversight of his administration? A few proud Democrats. Yet the poll's trajectory shows even this demographic is fast dissipating. 

Additionally, whereas Democrats were nearly three times as likely to strongly approve as moderately approve of Obama in 2009, the ratio is now about 1-to-1. 

The honeymoon is long over. Time to retire?