A cautious, but strong, statement from the president at the White House briefing room, moments ago:
President Obama didn't use the word "terrorism" to characterize today's bombings, but the White House has since confirmed that the administration considers the twin bombings acts of terror.
**SEE UPDATES FOR BREAKING DEVELOPMENTS**
Terror in Boston, with (verified and unverified) reports flooding the zone by the second. As of this moment, we know that authorities believe two powerful explosions were detonated in fairly rapid succession near the finish line of the Boston marathon earlier this afternoon. Dozens have been injured, and there are conflicting reports of fatalities. Twelve dead? Three? None? Boston police say they've detonated a third "controlled explosion," and several downtown Boston hotels have been evacuated. Here's terrifying early video of the first explosion:
Some images of the resulting carnage immediately flashed across Twitter; the photos are graphic and disturbing. No one can confirm if this is an act of terrorism -- and if so, by whom. Initial details are sketchy, but some certainly point to a possible terrorism link: Back-to-back detonations at a crowded, high-profile public event sounds awfully deliberate. It's important not to jump to any conclusions during these early stages, but the terrorism question is undoubtedly on many Americans' minds. More details as they come...
UPDATE - CNN has confirmed at least two deaths.
UPDATE II - IED's = improvised explosive device = terrorism, if true:
NBC: Law enforcement officials who spoke to @nbcnews believe the explosion was at least 1 small IED - a homemade bomb— Sarah Boxer (@Sarah_Boxer) April 15, 2013
There are no reports regarding claims of responsibility or possible motive -- *if* this is terrorism.
UPDATE III - Thus begins the shameless, knee-jerk politicization:
explosion is a reminder that ATF needs a director. Shame on Senate Republicans for blocking apptment articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-02-01/wor…— Nicholas Kristof (@NickKristof) April 15, 2013
UPDATE IV - Precautionary safety measures at the White House.
UPDATE V - Multiple devices found, per NBC News:
BREAKING: Multiple explosive devices found, at least 2 which exploded, officials tell NBC News— NBC Nightly News (@nbcnightlynews) April 15, 2013
UPDATE VI - Associated Press: Two unexploded bombs found in Boston, being dismantled by police. This absolutely has all the hallmarks of a coordinated terrorist attack. ABC News is now reporting that police are concerned the devices may have been triggered by cell phones. NEW: Ball bearings in the explosive devices? CBS: "Hell yes they are bombs."
UPDATE VIII - Boston's Police Commissioner confirms three "incidents," calls the attack an "ongoing event" moments ago at a press conference. Says there was a third explosion at the JFK Presidential Library that they believe "was related." Asked if this is a terrorist attack, the commissioner told viewers to "draw your own conclusions."
UPDATE IX - The NY Post -- again, with an exclusive -- is reporting that the alleged suspect is a Saudi national.
UPDATE X - Oh God. Video of both explosions.
UPDATE XI - Boston PD now backing away from the claim that the third explosion was related. It may have just been an accidental fire across the city. CBS News has some interesting new details:
According to CBS News correspondent Bob Orr, two bombs were inside trash cans near the viewing area close to the finish line. One unexploded device has been recovered, according to CBS. Orr is reporting that authorities have recovered surveillance video from the area which shows a man with what looked to be two backpacks near the scene just moments before the blast.
No one has confirmed the Post's story that there's a Saudi national in custody, though they've updated their reporting to add that this individual is 20 years old. Fox News
has confirmed quotes a source saying there's a person of interest being "guarded" at a Boston hospital. NEW: Now NBC News, too.
NBC News: Boston Police are "guarding" a wounded man at a Boston hospital as a "possible suspect" in the blast— Jesse Rodriguez (@JesseRodriguez) April 15, 2013
The NY Post had this first, with Fox News and NBC following. We'll see if the Post is also right about the nationality of the suspect. Multiple networks now officially labeling today's events a terrorist attack. President Obama will address the nation just after 6pm ET.
UPDATE XII (Kevin): The Boston police have disputed the New York Post's account of a suspect being held in custody.
In a 6:10 pm EDT statement from the White House, President Obama addressed what increasingly looks to be an attack, though stopped short of calling it terrorism. "On days like this there are no Republicans and Democrats. We still do not know who did this or why. Any responsible individuals or responsible groups," the President said, "will feel the full weight of justice."
UPDATE XIII (Guy) - CBS News is now echoing the Post's reporting about a Saudi national being held as a person of interest in these attacks:
JUST IN: @johnmillercbs reports that individual is in custody after Boston blast, a Saudi national. Reported cooperative/denies involvement.— CBS News (@CBSNews) April 15, 2013
A Boston news station and NBC News are reporting that an eight-year-old child is among the dead. Horrific.
UPDATE XIV (Kevin) - The death toll has now risen to three people dead and almost 150 people injured - many of them severely. Initial reports surfaced that investigators had found five additional unexploded devices, but the Wall Street Journal now writes that those may be unconnected to the initial explosions:
Counterterrorism officials found five additional suspect devices, but a law-enforcement official said late Monday that investigators now doubt the devices were bombs.
In a 10pm press conference, medical professionals held a press conference and announced that they're working at full capacity and expect to use a lot of blood - and said they'll need all the blood they can get. Time Magazine has a good roundup of how to donate blood if you or anyone you know is in the Boston area.
Happy tax day, America. Uncle Sam is processing more than $2.4 trillion in 2012 tax receipts -- which, all told, would less than 70 percent of the federal government's expenditures during fiscal year '12, resulting in a deficit of approximately $1.1 trillion. Evidence that the government needs to tax us more? Hardly. As Philip Klein explained in February, we don't have a "revenue problem:"
Between 2014 and 2023, according to CBO estimates, annual tax receipts will soar by 65 percent. During that time period, revenue collected by the federal government will average 18.9 percent of the economy. That's 1 point higher than the 17.9 percent average from the end of World War II to the year 2000 (just before George W. Bush's first round of tax cuts was passed.) At the same time, due to negotiated budget caps and automatic cuts known as the sequester, defense spending is projected to grow relatively modestly -- by about 20 percent over the next decade. By 2023, defense spending will account for only 12 percent of the overall federal budget. Not only is this well below the historical average, it's the lowest level since at least 1940, when the White House Office of Management and Budget data begin. (It's almost certainly the lowest level in history, given that the modern welfare state didn't begin until 1935 with the passage of Social Security). Previously, the lowest level recorded was in 1999, toward the end of the post-Cold War military drawdown, and even then defense represented 16.1 percent of the budget. Despite the fact that new tax revenue will be drastically outpacing growth in the defense budget, the nation is still projected to accumulate an additional $7 trillion in deficits over the next 10-year period, bringing the public debt to $20 trillion. The cause of that debt, therefore, cannot be taxes that are too low or defense spending that's too high. In fact, by 2020, Congress could vote to eliminate all military spending and it wouldn't even be enough to cover interest payments on the national debt.
Between 2012 and 2023, tax revenues are projected to double, and military spending will hit an eight-decade low as a percentage of the budget...and yet, we'll still have humongous deficits, as even bigger long-term unfunded obligations continue to accrue. We have a spending and promising problem. The trouble is, the American people tend to like much of that spending and many of those illusory promises. The public can abide relatively minor cuts and theoretical across-the-board reductions, but they broadly oppose touching the programs that most desperately cry out for reform. That's why Paul Ryan's bipartisan Medicare reform plan was demagogued ferociously, and even President Obama's recent minor proposed tweaks have sustained blows right and (mostly) left. On the revenue side of the ledger, a near-unanimous majority of Americans believe their current tax rates are currently either just right or too high:
Memo to that last two percent of people: Pony up, guys. But don't expect those funds to actually pay down any debt. Over the weekend, Dan flagged a Rasmussen poll showing that 63 percent of Americans say additional tax hikes are unnecessary, as opposed to 28 percent who disagree. One can only reconcile the Gallup and Rasmussen numbers by acknowledging that what an overwhelming majority of the "we need more tax hikes" crowd means to say is, "someone other than me needs to pay more taxes." On that note, I'll leave you with some perspective on two tax day buzz-phrases and one stark reality bulletin from Mark Steyn:
(1) "Balanced approach." There are three federal budget proposals on the table in Washington. Two of them accelerate spending, raise taxes by at least $1 trillion, and never balance. These blueprints are offered by the same party responsible for at least $1.6 trillion in tax increases since President Obama took office, during which time they've added more than $6 trillion to the national debt. The other does not raise taxes, reduces the rate of spending increases, and balances within ten years -- in accordance with the wishes of more than eight in ten Americans.
(2) "Fair share." The Washington Times reported in July (note, these figures aren't limited to federal income taxes, but the entire federal burden):
Wealthy Americans earn about 50 percent of all income but pay nearly 70 percent of the federal tax burden, according to the latest analysis Tuesday by the Congressional Budget Office — though the agency said the very richest have seen their share of taxes fall the last few years. CBO looked at 2007 through 2009 and found the bottom 20 percent of American earners paid just three-tenths of a percent of the total tax burden, while the richest 20 percent paid 67.9 percent of taxes. The top 1 percent, who President Obama has made a target during the presidential campaign, earns 13.4 percent of all pre-tax income, but paid 22.3 percent of taxes in 2009, CBO said.
(3) "[A] fundamental dishonesty is the heart of the crisis. You cannot simultaneously enjoy American-sized taxes and European-sized government. One or the other has to go."
UPDATE - An important message on tax reform from Jim Pethokoukis.
UPDATE II - Joe Scarborough notices that despite his relentless class warfare rhetoric about "fair shares," mutlimillionaire Barack Obama pays a relatively low effective tax rate of 18.4 percent:
Over the last two decades, maligned richy-rich Mitt Romney surrendered nearly 40 percent of his adjusted gross income in taxes (local, state and federal) and charitable donations.
UPDATE III (Flashback) - Over to you, Howard Dean:
UPDATE IV - The president's latest budget includes a regressive cigarette tax on the poor to "pay for" a new universal pre-K system. Policy analysts on the left and right agree that the math won't work.
In the wake of President Obama's re-election, the public opinion dam has seemingly begun to burst on one hotly-contested social issue: Same-sex unions. Are Americans moving decisively leftward on abortion, too? I spent the last week in Boulder, Colorado at the annual Conference on World Affairs. It's an overwhelmingly liberal crowd, so one of my more challenging tasks was discussing "reproductive rights" on a panel comprised of pro-choice women and me. In order to inoculate myself against the inevitable "you're not a woman" critique, I cited statistics demonstrating that (a) being pro-life is a mainstream, if not majority position; and (b) women are statistically just as likely to be pro-life as pro-choice. I drew on a pair of 2012 polls. The first, from Gallup, recorded a record-low 41 percent of Americans self-identifying as pro-choice, with a +2 pro-life "gender gap" among women. The other was from CNN, which pegged pro-life sentiment at 52 percent overall, with women deadlocked on the issue. Here's a snapshot of the Gallup stats:
Since last fall, however a number of public surveys have detected a lurch to the left on these questions. Rasmussen has measured a fairly sharp turnabout, while NBC/WSJ found a majority in favor of legal abortion in "all or most" circumstances for the first time. But the NBC/WSJ polling partnership released a new poll last week, which I linked in passing. I didn't dig into the numbers too thoroughly beyond Obama's weak approval numbers; luckily, Allahpundit did, and he discovered an about-face on abortion, with the new data reflecting the prevailing attitudes mentioned above:
That's a 52/45 pro-life split, with a sizable plurality (42 percent) embracing most Republicans' mainstream stance. Question, then: Why did pro-choice sentiment spike in late 2012 and early 2013? I'd submit that blanket coverage of Todd Akin's egregious comments really poisoned the well for the pro-life brand. People said to themselves, "I'm not comfortable with abortion in a lot of circumstances, but if that's what they believe, I don't want to be a part of that." This, skeptics of abortion-on-demand went "pro-choice" to avoid being lumped in with the (barely existent) no-exceptions, "legitimate rape," anti-biology crowd. AP also links to a WaPo infographic showing that large majorities support abortions under limited and rare scenarios, including the life of the mother being at risk, rape, and birth defects. On the other hand, near super-majorities oppose abortion for the most common reasons. I'd love to see the numbers on gender-selective abortions -- which House Democrats refused to oppose last year. Or repeats, which account for roughly 50 percent of abortions in America today. Or full-stop infanticide. The vast majority of abortions are obtained for reasons of convenience, and approximately half are performed on women who've terminated at least one previous pregnancy. Pro-lifers faced a backlash when one of their own made ignorant remarks that were covered ad nauseam. Will pro-choicers see the same effect now that one of their extremists is on trial for murdering seven infants and an adult patient? Lurid revelations of newborns being decapitated at birth amidst horrific conditions might be rather bad for business for the abortion industry, which may explain why their media supporters did their level best to bury the Gosnell story. The ghastly truth is finally winning out, thanks to a coordinated PR push from abortion opponents. And it's grisly. It turns out the sanitary conditions were so breathtakingly poor because the Philadelphia clinic never faced inspections...for entirely political reasons. That's why Gosnell felt comfortable keeping his victims' detached feet in jars as trophies; he was confident no one would ever ask questions. Unable to ignore the Gosnell horror any longer, abortion proponents are dismissing it as an isolated instance. As I asked last week, is it?
Can't or won't? You be the judge. Either way, Sen. Jeff Sessions isn't pleased:
“Your budget increases the deficit by $8.2 trillion over ten years, yes or no?” Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., asked Zients during a hearing. “I need to check the numbers,” Zients said. “There are a lot of numbers there. What I can tell you is we should focus on — this is exactly what Bowles-Simpson does and other groups. What is the deficit as a percent of our economy? We are less than 2 percent at the end of the window, at 1.7 percent.” Sessions pointed out that the Obama budget would raise taxes by $1 trillion and increase spending “by almost that same amount, virtually having no deficit reduction.”
Zients is either demonstrating incompetence or calculated evasion here. I suspect it's probably the latter option. This administration has a history of declining to state basic statistics about deficits in public, for fear of creating a YouTube moment. Yeah, of course there are "a lot of numbers" in the document. It's a budget of nearly $3.8 trillion. But this guy is the director of the White House's budget office. It's pretty much his entire job to produce this puppy...which he and the president finally did, nine weeks late. Are we to believe that Zients doesn't know how much the proposal adds to the deficit? Of course he does. He must. $8.2 trillion is a big number, which is why he doesn't want to say it out loud for the cameras. By the way, Zients' predecessor made statements that were either totally ignorant or flagrant political lies. That individual has been promoted to Treasury Secretary. Sessions does a nice job hammering away at this point; the tail end of the clip is important, too. The ranking Republican uses the budget's own data to show how Obama's unbalanced plan achieves negligible deficit reduction, despite calling for $1 trillion in tax hikes. The answer to that riddle is a familiar one by now: The taxes are primarily used to finance higher, accelerated levels of federal spending.
This is my shocked face. The price tag of Obamacare has already jumped at pretty much every level -- for families, individuals, businesses, and the federal government -- so stories like these are par for the course:
The $1.3 trillion U.S. health-care system overhaul is getting more expensive and will initially accomplish less than intended. Costs for a network of health-insurance exchanges, a core part of the Affordable Care Act, have swelled to $4.4 billion for fiscal 2012 and 2013 combined, and will reach $5.7 billion in 2014, according to the budget President Barack Obama yesterday sent to Congress. That spending would be more than double initial projections, even though less than half the 50 U.S. states are participating. The unanticipated spending is a consequence of an ambitious timetable dictated by Congress and a complex new way of offering people medical coverage, say analysts, lobbyists and administration officials. Combine that with a majority of Republican governors declining to cooperate with a Democratic president and U.S. regulators are left grasping to get the 2010 health law up and running by a Jan. 1, 2014, deadline. For the areas that money can’t solve, the Obama administration is opting for delay. It temporarily backed off some provisions of the law, including restrictions on coverage for executives and a promise to offer small businesses greater choices of health plans.
Costing more, and doing less. What a deal. Remember, the federal government simply assumed that every state would set up its own exchange -- despite strong public opposition to the law, and high associated costs coupled with heavy-handed federal mandates with scant flexibility. More than half of the states have thus declined to bear the burden of these exchanges, requiring the feds to step in. This outcome was apparently unforeseeable to Obamacare's brilliant advocates and administrators. Today's news of ballooning costs arises from items within the president's new budget, which includes a new regressive cigarette tax on the poor. (Yes, smoking has also been deemed to be a protected pre-existing condition under Obamacare). While there are a lot of elements to attack within Obama's extreme budget proposal, his very modest entitlement reforms shouldn't be among them -- even though he's insisting on additional enormous tax hikes as the price of admission to needed reforms. I cautioned Republicans last week against taking cheap shots over Obama's miniature olive branch on Social Security and Medicare, and yet:
Remember those warnings about how instead of welcoming President Obama’s adoption of Chained CPI, Republicans would continue to deny him a budget deal and attack him for proposing to cut Social Security? Well Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) — who also happens to be chairman of the House GOP’s re-election committee — just showed how it’s done, saying Obama’s budget “lays out a shocking attack on seniors.” “I’ll tell you when you’re going after seniors the way he’s already done on Obamacare, taken $700 billion out of Medicare to put into Obamacare and now coming back at seniors again, I think you’re crossing that line very quickly here in terms of denying access to seniors for health care in districts like mine certainly and around the country,” he said on CNN Wednesday afternoon.
No, no, no. Reforms to these programs are essential. Conservatives must resist the temptation to bury their heads in the sand for possible short term political advantage. That's what liberals are for. To underscore this point, Paul Ryan and the Club for Growth defended the president and denounced Walden's ham-fisted and wrong-headed attack.
Stupid, but way too fun to ignore (via the LA Times):
If presidential politics ever involved time travel, President Obama might be in a little trouble. If an election between Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama were held today, 58% would vote for Reagan over Obama, according to a survey of 1,000 Americans age 18 and older conducted by Kelton Research for the National Geographic Channel. Though when the field is narrowed to people ages 18-34 -- those either too young to have known Reagan as president or too young to remember much -- the gap shrinks to 51% in favor of Reagan.
Reagan and the modern youth vote for the win! (Reagan won the youth in his day). Who's responsible for this feel-good silliness?
The survey was conducted by NatGeo to promote its upcoming miniseries "The '80s: The Decade That Made Us." And, in what appears to be good news for the ratings of the series, Americans surveyed seem to have re-embraced the decade of big shoulder pads and breakdancing.
There are precious few political lessons to learn from this hypothetical time-traveling survey, except that Reagan's reputation and accomplishments endure -- even among those who are too young to really remember him, myself included. Reagan was a conservative, but he was also the Great Communicator, which allowed him to persuade people of the rightness of his policies. Too much Reagan nostalgia is probably unhealthy for the current GOP, and the search for the "next Reagan" erects an impossible standard for candidates to achieve . But Republican voters should think about the personal qualities -- not just the issue positions -- that made Reagan such a success, and try to apply those lessons when selecting future nominees. All that being said, the "Reagan Crushes Obama" headline was irresistible content. I suspect Reagan and Thatcher are smiling somewhere. Over to you, Mr. President:
Appalling (via ABC 6 WVPI):
A local abortion clinic is under fire, facing allegations of unsafe and unsanitary conditions. A series of emergency calls made from the Planned Parenthood of Delaware this year are raising concerns about what's happening behind the closed doors. Two former nurses who both quit are speaking exclusively with Action News about what they saw inside. ayne Mitchell-Werbrich, former employee said, "It was just unsafe. I couldn't tell you how ridiculously unsafe it was." Werbrich alleges conditions inside the facility were unsanitary. "He didn't wear gloves," said Werbrich. Another former employee, Joyce Vasikonis told Action News, "They were using instruments on patients that were not sterile." The former nurses claim that a rush to get patients in and out left operating tables soiled and unclean. Werbrich said "It's not washed down, it's not even cleaned off. It has bloody drainage on it." "They could be at risk of getting hepatitis, even AIDS," added Vasikonis. Both of these nurses said, they quit to protect their own medical licenses, stunned by what they called a meat-market style of assembly-line abortions.
Another relevant fact:
In Delaware, abortion clinics are not subject to routine inspections. The state only steps in when they have a patient complaint. Planned Parenthood is essentially in charge of inspecting itself.
Such is the case in many states, where elements of the pro-choice movement fight tooth and nail to block efforts to regulate these clinics more strictly, in accordance with medical standards of most hospitals. Meanwhile, the Gosnell trial continues in Philadelphia, where more horrifying details about the accused serial killer's "abortion clinic" emerge with each passing day. (Warning: Those last two links are heartbreaking and brutal). Gosnell's string of murders finally came to light when he killed an adult patient, too, and the prosecution is relying on whiste-blowers employed by the "doctor" to secure his conviction. Now we have two whistle-blowing nurses willing to describe the third-world "meat-market" conditions in their Delaware Planned Parenthood clinic. How many more Planned Parenthood abortion mills operate this way? This is an organization that receives nine figures in taxpayer funding each year, and whose officials defend infanticide in public, under oath:
The media blackout on both that skin-crawling performance and the Gosnell massacre has been extraordinary. We're often told that there's no such thing as liberal media bias; the press is just biased toward conflict and sensationalism. I'm not sure how much more sensationalistic the Gosnell trial could get. Blood, gore, severed heads, severed feet in jars, "aliens," and a remorseless serial killer. Not interested, say the vast majority of America's journalists. Hmm. It's almost as if they'd prefer to ignore stories that are inconvenient to the causes they hold dear. Meanwhile, women and babies are suffering in macabre, unsanitary dens of death. "Safe, legal and rare," has been the Democrats' mantra for years. They've recently dropped "rare." It seems "safe" is an afterthought, too, when push comes to shove. The paramount element is "legal."
As you read through Kevin and Ed Morrissey's write-ups on the president's FY 2014 budget proposal, consider this: Obama's new plan is only a smidgen better than Senate Democrats' risible offering last month. It's a tepid improvement because the new tax hikes "only" amount to $1.1 trillion, rather than $1.5 trillion, and because it includes a handful of modest entitlement reforms -- which, unfortunately, the White House is holding hostage to the tax hikes. The new tax increases would be piled atop all the Obamacare taxes and the fiscal cliff deal's $600 billion hike on "the rich." In other ways, the president's new plan is worse than Harry Reid's. It somehow spends more than Senate Democrats' blueprint over the next few years, and when the sequester elimination and other gimmicks are factored in, the total amount of theoretical deficit reduction over ten years is less than $120 billion. By comparison, the House Republican budget would slice deficits by $4.6 trillion over the same period. In short, despite the addition of a handful of good ideas on entitlement changes and after a delay of nine weeks, President Obama has put forward yet another unserious budget. His ideas aren't only bad economics, they're extreme politics. Here are a few stats about the new plan -- via a joint report from House and Senate budget committee Republicans -- coupled with some relevant public opinion polling:
(1) Obama's budget never balances at any point, now or in the near or distant future. According to a recent poll, 85 percent of the American people said the federal government should be required to balance its budget. This is a bipartisan sentiment. The GOP budget balances within ten years.
(2) The Obama plan barely reduces deficits at all (on paper), and actually increases them in the short term. Under this proposal, the US national debt would top $25 trillion by decade's end, adding $8.2 trillion in new debt along the way. The public overwhelmingly demands deficit reduction; this budget does not deliver.
(3) If enacted, this budget's $1.1 trillion tax increase would bring the president's tax hike haul to $2.7 trillion, factoring in Obamacare and the fiscal cliff deal. The American people have had enough of tax increases. As Kevin notes, the Obama document proposes a heavily regressive cigarette tax on the poor to fund a universal pre-K program of historically dubious value.
(4) Despite near-universal support (88 percent) for spending cuts, Obama's budget increases spending significantly. Over a ten year window, it spends more than the already-unsustainable current path...by hundreds of billions of dollars -- basically matching the rate of Senate Democrats' accelerated spending. The Ryan budget calls for $41 trillion in spending over ten years. The current trajectory calls for $46 trillion. Obama's plan wants to spend $46.5 trillion over that time horizon. This includes more than $200 billion in new spending over the next two years alone, wiping out the scheduled sequester reductions, and then some. When push comes to shove, there are zero genuine deficit reductions in this budget, due to nearly $1 trillion in additional spending. There are only higher taxes to (partially) fund ever-ballooning Washington spending.
(5) There are potentially exploitable entitlement reform elements within this budget, but as I wrote last week, Republicans should resist that temptation. In fact, they should support and applaud these narrow efforts, especially as the Left throws head-in-the-sand hissy fits about them.
UPDATE - A friendly reminder that quibbling over targeted tax hikes and the sequester is all pretty much academic in light of our larger fiscal reality.
The editors of Mother Jones, the Left-wing magazine that damaged Mitt Romney's presidential bid by releasing the infamous "47 percent" video last year, think they have another scoop on their hands. The publication's Washington bureau chief published a breathless story this morning, revealing that Sen. Mitch McConnell's re-election campaign...discussed possible ways of defeating Ashley Judd if she became the Democrats' nominee. The horror. Even the MSM was forced to dismiss the non-bombshell:
This — as any campaign operative will tell you — is the basic blocking and tackling of opposition research that every candidate does both against their potential opponents and against themselves. And, the average voter won’t a) follow this story or b) care all that much if they do — especially since this news is breaking on the day after the Louisville Cardinals won the NCAA basketball tournament...The audio of the McConnell meeting is exactly the reason why we — and many Democratic operatives — believed that Judd would be a poor candidate to challenge the Senate Minority Leader. McConnell has made his political living by savaging his opponents and Judd — as the tape makes abundantly clear — was an embarrassment of riches in terms of her past public statements.
Which is precisely why national Democrats eagerly pushed her out of the race. Mother Jones seems to think that the McConnell campaign's spit-balling session about exploiting Judd's vast reservoir of outlandish comments amounts to a scandal of some sort. They were considering making an issue of her religious beliefs! And what might those be? Verbatim quote:
“I still choose the God of my understanding as the God of my childhood. I have to expand my God concept from time to time, and you know particularly I enjoy native faith practices, and have a very nature-based God concept. I’d like to think I’m like St. Francis in that way. Brother Donkey, Sister Bird.”
Oh, and she sees Christianity as a "vestige of patriarchy." I'm sure that would have been a big hit in Kentucky. The audio goes on to demonstrate that Team McConnell weighed if and how to use Judd's history of mental illness -- a nugget of vicious oppo-research they unearthed by, er, reading Judd's book. In any case, after the scoopless scoop landed with a thud, the story has now become about how the audio recordings were obtained in the first place. The strategy session in question was private and only attended by a handful of McConnell loyalists. The Republican's campaign is alleging an illegal recording or wiretap, and calling for a federal investigation. The FBI is now officially involved. Tables turned:
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell put on a clinic in crisis communications Tuesday, turning a potentially explosive secret recording of his campaign's strategy session into a political bludgeon to beat Democrats — and the campaign cash bushes. "Last week they were attacking my wife's ethnicity and apparently also bugging my headquarters, much like Nixon and Watergate," McConnell told reporters on Capitol Hill...McConnell's strategy with the tapes, which included calling in the FBI as well as accusing his opponents of illegally bugging his office, has awed Republican political observers. "McConnell took their faux-drama and busted a cap in their ass. He turned it within minutes into a legal, political and fundraising attack on MoJo, the DSCC, American Bridge and the rest," said Rick Wilson, a GOP consultant based in Florida. "Really, quite impressive. Don't let that softspoken thing fool you. He'll cut a bitch." While accusing progressives of bugging his campaign office Plumbers-style could come back to haunt him if he's not right, the early indications are McConnell has fired up his base and turned the story into a cash cow for his reelection campaign. And he's succeeded in quickly turning the discussion away from the substance of the tapes — a task made easier by the fact that there was no smoking gun in the recording.
Beyond the masterful politics are the legal implications. Who made the tape? Was a bug planted? (If so, it could be a felony). Will Mother Jones explain its provenance? Are they willing to risk prison time to protect their source, even if it's an unlawful one? Democrats have been strangely silent on requests that they denounce the surreptitious recordings. I say "strangely" because even though they may detest McConnell, does any elected Democrat want to foster a political environment in which secret recordings of private meetings become politically acceptable? I'll leave you with the Senate Minority Leader teeing off on the Left in his presser this afternoon. This is what we call "on message:"