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Daniel Doherty - Obama: 'ISIL and al Qaeda are Not Religious Leaders; They're Terrorists'
Posted: 2/18/2015 7:45:00 PM EST

On Wednesday afternoon President Obama addressed the Countering Violent Extremist (CVE) summit at the White House. The event was explicitly convened to discuss ways faith and political leaders can begin combating terrorist recruitment efforts and the growing appeal of radicalism in the years ahead.

“As Americans, we are strong and we are resilient and when tragedy strikes – when we take a hit – we pull together and we draw on what’s best in our character," he began his remarks. "I say all this because we face genuine challenges to our security just as we have throughout our history.”

He then spent the remainder of his speech discussing four of them.

“First, we have to confront squarely, and honestly, the twisted ideologies that these terrorist groups use to incite people to violence,” he said. “Just as leaders like myself reject the notion that terrorists like ISIL genuinely represent Islam, Muslim leaders need to do more to discredit the notion [there’s] an inherent clash in civilizations. Everybody has to speak up very clearly that no matter what the grievance, violence against innocents doesn’t defend Islam or Muslims; it damages Islam and Muslims.”

Furthermore, the second challenge the West faces, he explained, is recognizing and understanding the vulnerability of would-be terrorists.

“We have to address the grievances that terrorists exploit, including economic grievances,” he said. “Poverty alone does not cause a person to become a terrorist. [W]hat’s true is that when millions of people –especially youth—are impoverished and have no hope for the future [resentments] fester. The risk of instability and extremism grow.”

This of course is directly relevant to a third and related challenge, one that breeds both alienation from civilized society and interest in Jihadism.

“We also need to [address] the political grievances that are exploited by terrorists,” he continued. “When governments oppress their people, deny human rights, stifle dissent more marginalized ethnic and religious groups [it] sows the seeds of extremism and violence. It makes those communities more vulnerable to recruitment.”

“The essential ingredient to real and lasting stability and progress is not less democracy," he emphasized, "it’s more democracy.”

Finally, he urged faith leaders and communities to be more vigilant and involved in the lives of young people.

“We have to be honest with ourselves,” he declared. “Terrorist groups like al Qaeda and ISIL deliberately target their propaganda in the hope of reaching and brainwashing young Muslims. [W]hen someone starts getting radicalized family and friends are often able to see something’s changed in their personality [and therefore able to] make a difference.”

In conclusion, he described ISIL’s ideology as a “generational threat." However, he expressed both hope and optimism that, not unlike communism and Nazism before it, it too would someday be defeated.

Let us hope he's right.

Cortney O'Brien - Ethics Go Out the Door as Clinton Foundation Accepts Foreign Funds
Posted: 2/18/2015 6:30:00 PM EST

When Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State under President Obama, she and husband Bill decided it would be best if the Clinton Foundation rejected financial gifts from foreign countries. Now, it appears they have lifted that sensible ban.

Instead of publicly announcing the decision, the Clintons accepted these outside gifts quietly. It was up to the Wall Street Journal to do a bit of digging to break the news. Perhaps the powerful political couple remained mum because the decision was a controversial one. Among the Clintons’ new donors are the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Australia, Germany and Canada's Foreign Affairs, Trade, and Development, which openly promotes the Keystone XL pipeline. While some claim the Keystone-linked contribution is the source of the real controversy, I would argue the foundation’s other donors are even more suspicious:

Another donation that could raise eyebrows comes from the Qatari government committee preparing to host the 2022 soccer World Cup, which gave between $250,000 and $500,000 last year. Human rights groups have claimed that over 1,000 migrant workers have died in the process of constructing the infrastructure to host the tournament.

Accepting money from countries riddled with human rights abuses doesn’t exactly square well for the potential 2016 Democratic presidential nominee.

The Clinton Foundation offered a rather generic response to the funding revelation:

“The Clinton Foundation is a philanthropy, period. As with other global charities, the Clinton Foundation receives the support of individuals, organizations and governments from all over the world because our programs are improving the lives of millions of people by strengthening health systems, improving access to lifesaving medicines, helping communities confront the effects of climate change, creating economic opportunity and reducing childhood obesity and other preventable diseases.”

“The Clinton Foundation has strong donor integrity and transparency practices that go above and beyond what is required of U.S. charities and well beyond the practices of most peer organizations. This includes the voluntary, full disclosure of all donors on our website for anyone to see. The bottom line: these contributions are helping improve the lives of millions of people across the world for which we are grateful.”

It won't be long before we find out if this will make headlines during the 2016 campaign.

Christine Rousselle - Oklahoma Votes to Ban A.P. U.S. History, Is Dumb
Posted: 2/18/2015 5:30:00 PM EST

Dear Lawmakers in Oklahoma,

It is not a good idea to vote to eliminate funding for A.P. U.S. History (APUSH) classes in high schools.

Why?

  • This makes you look ridiculously stupid and overreactive.
  • A.P. courses are a way for students to save money for college, and removing these opportunities is not a good thing.
  • A.P. courses add to the rigor of a student's college application, making them a more competitive applicant, and it's pointless to limit these opportunities.
  • This kind of vote distracts from the real issues at hand in regards to education and the content of the APUSH course, and instead leads to people mocking your vote rather than actually look at the issue that you're trying to address.

Sincerely,

Christine Rousselle

(Scarborough High School Class of 2009, A.P. U.S. History, 2008)

---

In all seriousness, though, this is dumb and irresponsible legislating. 

While the College Board's updated APUSH guidelines have raised ire last year, it's important to note that these are a framework, not a set syllabus or curriculum. The A.P. exam, administered in May, has fairly broad essay questions and multiple choice that covered a wide spectrum of American history. (Plus, to take the exam and potentially receive college credit, you don't actually have to take the class during the year.) This legislation could put high school students at a disadvantage simply because a lawmaker was being a drama queen and trying to score some political brownie points. That's not good.

There are legitimate problems with education in the United States that are worth looking in to and legislating changes. Reducing history class options for high-achieving students is not one of them.

Conn Carroll - Biden To Skip Netanyahu Speech With Trip To Guatemala and Uruguay
Posted: 2/18/2015 5:00:00 PM EST

Vice President Joe Biden will not attend Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech before a Joint Session of Congress next month, instead choosing to travel to Guatemala and Uruguay.

Biden's trip to attend a summit in Guatemala and the inauguration of President Tabare Vazquez in Uruguay solves a sticky problem for the White House since Biden is constitutionally obligated to preside over Joint Sessions of Congress, yet Obama did not want to associate himself with Netanyahu before the latter's election in Israel later in March.

Netanyahu and Obama have strong disagreements over Obama's nuclear weapon negotiations with Iran and Netanyahu is widely expected to criticize Obama's strategy in front of Congress next month.

Dozens of House Democrats are considering joining Obama and Biden in snubbing Netanyahu as well. The White House has told Democrats to make up their own minds about whether to not to attend the Match 3rd speech.

Guy Benson - Jeb on Bush Brand: "I'm My Own Man"
Posted: 2/18/2015 4:16:00 PM EST

Jeb Bush is a successful, conservative, multi-term governor of a major swing state. He speaks fluent Spanish, and is positioning himself as a forward-looking reformer.  He's raising staggering sums of money, a show of force that helped convince Republicans' 2012 nominee to walk away from the 2016 fray.  He's also aggressively courting the media, making himself accessible and available -- very much unlike Democrats' insular presumptive nominee, whose campaign strategy may entail skipping her party's primary debates.  Tabulate all of those factors in a vacuum, and one might safely conclude that a clear, early GOP frontrunner is emerging.  Not so fast.  The Republican race is "wide open" in crucial early primary states (as it should be at this stage) with Jeb Bush pulling respectable, but not eye-popping numbers.  That picture might change once Team Jeb starts deploying all the cash they're stockpiling, but Governor Bush's standing among the Republican electorate hardly fosters an air of invincibility.

Perhaps the biggest reason why GOP voters aren't as excited about Jeb as the donor class seems to be -- setting aside policy vulnerabilities on immigration and Common Core -- is the baggage associated with his last name.  President George H.W. Bush, Jeb's dad, was defeated after one term, and President George W. Bush, Jeb's older brother, left office with terrible approval ratings.  Both former presidents have since rehabilitated their images, but the family's political reputation isn't exactly rock solid.  And even if it were, a substantial percentage of Americans may just be fundamentally uncomfortable with the dynastic aftertaste of a Jeb Bush presidential run.  The all-but-declared candidate sought to stake out an independent image during a hawkish foreign policy speech today, assuring voters that he's his "own man:"

Bush, who is proceeding to a presidential campaign of his own, delivered his first major foreign policy address in Chicago and took swipes at the "inconsistent and indecisive" leadership of President Obama and his administration. The former Florida governor acknowledged he is "lucky" to have a father and brother whose presidential legacies are rooted in the way they tackled wars and conflicts. He addressed the challenge of his last name head on in his remarks. "I love my brother, I love my dad, I actually love my mother, too," Bush said. "I admire their service to the nation and the difficult decisions they had to make. But I am my own man. My views are shaped by my own thinking and own experiences."

As far as lovingly distancing oneself from one's immediate family members goes, this is a laudable and classy effort.  But will it work?  A new CNN poll suggests that voters are likely to see Bush as typifying the politics of the past, far more so than fellow Famous Surname candidate, Hillary Clinton:


Only Joe "McGrabby" Biden fares as poorly.  A spate of new swing state Q-polls reflects a similar broad-based hesitancy about Bush on this score (although a majority still answers that his family history would make "no difference" to their voting decisions).  Allahpundit is right that part of this phenomenon is explained by Democrats' built-in "progressive" image, as well as the fact that a lot of people just hear the word "Bush," and automatically think, "been there, done that" -- including more than a few conservatives.  Perhaps Bush's enormous war chest can help mitigate these numbers a bit, but the GOP must know that if Jeb secures the nomination, the Democratic attack machine will spin 24/7 with messages about "turning back the clock to the failed Bush record."  Writing at the Washington Examiner today, Philip Klein surmises that if the 2016 election comes down to a head-to-head rumble between two political brands -- "BUSH" and "CLINTON" -- Republicans aren't likely to compare favorably:

In the primaries, a new crop of Republican politicians can run change-themed campaigns. In a general election, nominating Bush would neutralize one of Hillary Clinton's biggest liabilities (the idea that she, too, is a figure from the past trying to ride her last name to power). Instead of having the clear contrast that would be possible if Republicans were to name a fresh candidate, the 2016 election would devolve into a proxy battle over whether Americans want to restore the Bush or Clinton presidencies. Whether the GOP likes it or not, that isn't a matchup that favors Republicans.

Klein also references an infographic circulating online that illustrates Jeb's current foreign policy orbit. The overlap from previous Bush administrations is almost universal. Brit Hume slaps down WaPo's loaded "eerily" characterization, but this image doesn't require much editorializing :


Expect to see a lot of this sort of thing with a Bush atop the Republican ticket next year. Some of the resulting fallout might be canceled out by Hillary Clinton's own complicated history (with fresh problems cropping up), but make no mistake: It'll present a hurdle. Jeb's two-pronged task, therefore, is persuading Republican voters that his "Bush Baggage" isn't insurmountable, while convincing the general electorate that today's "my own man" line is authentic. Heavy lifts, both -- but can Bush's overflowing coffers and political skills pull it off? Stay tuned.

Matt Vespa - Marie Harf: My ISIS Remarks Were Just 'Too Nuanced' For You Little People
Posted: 2/18/2015 4:15:00 PM EST

Deputy State Department spokesperson Marie Harf is kind of having a rough week.

In an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, she said the United States couldn’t win this war against ISIS by killing them, which set off a firestorm of criticism and mockery in the conservative blogosphere (via Mediaite) [emphasis mine]:

“We’re killing a lot of them, and we’re going to keep killing more of them. So are the Egyptians, so are the Jordanians — they’re in this fight with us,” Harf said. “But we cannot win this war by killing them. We cannot kill our way out of this war. We need in the medium to longer term to go after the root causes that leads people to join these groups, whether it’s a lack of opportunity for jobs.”

“We’re not going to be able to stop that in our lifetime or 50 lifetimes,” Matthews interrupted. “There’s always going to be poor people. There’s always going to be poor Muslims, and as long as there are poor Muslims, the trumpet’s blowing and they’ll join. We can’t stop that, can we?”

In return, Harf suggested a soft power-like approach: “We can work with countries around the world to help improve their governance,” she said. “We can help them build their economies so they can have job opportunities for these people.” She conceded, however, that there is “no easy solution.”

As many of you already know, poverty doesn’t cause terrorism. Some of the most infamous terrorists–and leaders of such organizations–are well educated and wealthy. Why? They have the time to elaborate, plan, and disseminate their extreme messages. The poor only have one thing on their minds: survival. They have absolutely no time to think about global jihad.

Even the left-leaning Nation magazine admits that poverty doesn’t cause terrorism. Princeton economist Alan Krueger said it’s the lack of civil liberties that breeds such extremism:

"There is no evidence of a general tendency for impoverished or uneducated people to be more likely to support terrorism or join terrorist organizations than their higher-income, better-educated countrymen," he said. The Sept. 11 attackers were relatively well-off men from a rich country, Saudi Arabia.

He [Kreuger] began poking around this sordid subject a decade ago when he and a colleague found little connection between economic circumstances and the incidence of violent hate crimes in Germany. Among the statistical pieces of the puzzle a small band of academics have assembled since are these:

  • Backgrounds of 148 Palestinian suicide bombers show they were less likely to come from families living in poverty and were more likely to have finished high school than the general population. Biographies of 129 Hezbollah shahids (martyrs) reveal they, too, are less likely to be from poor families than the Lebanese population from which they come. The same goes for available data about an Israeli terrorist organization, Gush Emunim, active in the 1980s.
  • Terrorism doesn't increase in the Middle East when economic conditions worsen; indeed, there seems no link. One study finds the number of terrorist incidents is actually higher in countries that spend more on social-welfare programs. Slicing and dicing data finds no discernible pattern that countries that are poorer or more illiterate produce more terrorists. Examining 781 terrorist events classified by the U.S. State Department as "significant" reveals terrorists tend to come from countries distinguished by political oppression, not poverty or inequality.
  • Public-opinion polls from Jordan, Morocco, Pakistan and Turkey find people with more education are more likely to say suicide attacks against Westerners in Iraq are justified. Polls of Palestinians find no clear difference in support for terrorism as a means to achieve political ends between the most and least educated.

Nevertheless, in the wake of these statements, Harf doubled down on them with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, saying they were “too nuanced” for her detractors to understand. Oh, and George W. Bush also said poverty was a catalyst for extremism. He did; and he was wrong too.

As Noah Rothman wrote over at Hot Air, the poverty = terrorism hypothesis is a liberal fantasy:

Many on the left seem, consciously or otherwise, married to the notion that you can win a war by airdropping bales of money over hostile targets. It’s a lovely fantasy, and there is nothing “nuanced” about it. In fact, it’s a rather unsophisticated concept. Those who think that an enemy needs to be defeated before they can be converted are not missing Harf’s infinitely complex point. That she would flatter herself into believing that she had spoken over the nation’s heads reflects the hubris that explains her insultingly naïve belief that this abhorrent ideology can only be defeated by an army of career counselors.

At the same time Harf and her superior, Jen Psaki, are the voices to an administration that holds an egregiously unserious foreign policy.  As Katie wrote, Obama thinks that Islamic extremists have "legitimate grievances," and that governments who deny human rights only fan the flames of Islamic extremism.  Sounds like Kreuger's hypothesis until you read Graeme Wood's excellent piece about ISIS in the Atlantic, where the grievances are anything but legitimate.     

To add to the mental detachment, outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder said that we're not at war with ISIS, which the Daily Beast's Tim Mak noted was kind of an odd statement.

"This isn’t the first time an Obama administration official has tried to argue that the war against ISIS is not, in fact, a war," he wrote.

"Last September, Secretary of State John Kerry told CBS, 'If somebody wants to think about it as being a war with [ISIS], they can do so, but the fact is that it’s a major counterterrorism operation.' The remarks were quickly walked back."

As the data shows, finding members of ISIS and al-Qaeda a job isn’t going to halt global terrorism. It’s a repudiated hypothesis. That point isn’t nuanced at all.  Harf was offered a "mulligan" on Morning Joe–she declined.

Daniel Doherty - Townhall/Gravis Iowa Poll: With Romney Out, Walker Dominates GOP Field
Posted: 2/18/2015 3:45:00 PM EST

Gov. Scott Walker’s (R-WI) stock is rising. A new Townhall/Gravis Marketing survey shows him eclipsing his closest GOP presidential rival by…14 percentage points in Iowa. To be sure, the sample is rather limited in scope (only 343 self-described Republicans participated) but at this early stage, he's trouncing the competition despite the fact that 15 percent of respondents are still undecided:

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Interestingly, Walker does especially well with men and therefore "white men." Why? Because some 84 percent of total respondents self-identify as Caucasians:

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Perhaps Walker’s lead can also be attributed to his enormous name recognition after taking on the unions and winning three times in his home state. Nevertheless, in a Clinton-Walker electoral showdown—that is, if Americans went to the polls today—he would lose the election handily:

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No Republican hopeful beats Hillary Clinton in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup (although Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee, and Jeb Bush do a little better than Walker against her one-on-one), according to the poll. Bear in mind, however, that the D/R/I sample breakdown is D+7 (37/30/33). Given Party ID turnout rates (R+1) in 2014, however, that seems unfairly skewed in favor of Democrats.

The survey had a margin of error of ± 3% and just under one thousand registered voters participated.

UPDATE: Quinnipiac University's latest Iowa offering is similar to ours. Hillary edges every single Republican surveyed.

Conn Carroll - White House Still Undecided On Emergency Appeal For Amnesty Injunction
Posted: 2/18/2015 3:45:00 PM EST

Despite reportedly expecting United Stated District Court Judge Andrew Hanen to rule against President Obama's Deferred Action for Parental Accountability program for weeks, the White House still has no idea how it will handle the injunction Hanen issued late Monday.

Asked Wednesday whether or not the Department of Justice will seek an emergency stay from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals that would allow Obama's amnesty program to go forward, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said no decision had been made.

"Our legal strategy going forward is something that is going to be determined by the Department of Justice," Earnest said, "and they have indicated that in the next couple of days they will have more information about how we will pursue that strategy, but that strategy will certainly include an appeal of this ruling because we don't believe that it is a fair or accurate reading of the law." 

Obama's hesitance in seeking an emergency stay is well founded. Not only were almost two-thirds of all the judges in the 5th Circuit appointed by Republican presidents (15 of 23), but appeals courts rarely overturn most temporary injunctions, instead deferring to the judgment of the trial court. ABC News reported later Tuesday that the DOJ was in fact leaning towards not seeking an emergency stay.

Without such a stay, it is almost certain that Obama's DAPA amnesty program will never be implemented. First, a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit would have to rule on the injunction, then an en banc panel of the 5th Circuit, and then the Supreme Court would have to elect to hear the case, hear the case, and then issue an opinion. 

At the very earliest, this would delay implementation of Obama's DAPA program until June or July of 2016, and that is assuming everything else goes right for Obama.

Katie Pavlich - NYT Journalist James Risen Rips Holder: He's Sent a Message to Dictators That It's Okay To Jail Journalists
Posted: 2/18/2015 1:30:00 PM EST

New York Times investigative reporter James Risen has been embroiled in an ugly court battle with the Department of Justice for years (including prior to the Obama administration). DOJ and Attorney General Eric Holder have been fighting with the power of the federal government to get him thrown in jail and have gone to extensive lengths to find out who his sources are. 

Yesterday, Holder attended a free press event at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. where he claimed to know the importance of a free press in a properly functioning democracy and that the administration has gone easy on whistleblowers and leakers. The opposite is true. 

Risen took to Twitter to respond to Holder's remarks, saying the Obama administration has essentially eliminated the First Amendment and press freedom. 

Just two weeks ago Reporters Without Borders published its latest press freedom index. The United States has dropped to 43rd, down 29 spots since 2010. 


Daniel Doherty - Walker Responds: Only Elitists Say a College Degree Is Necessary for Success
Posted: 2/18/2015 12:30:00 PM EST

Howard Dean’s snobbery was on full display last week when he questioned Gov. Scott Walker's (R-WI) intelligence on national television for dropping out of college shortly before graduation. Ironically, such condescension was coming from an Ivy Leaguer who once defended the proposition that ISIS terrorists are as Islamic as he is. For a man so well educated, perhaps he should edify himself before making such uninformed and dangerous declarations.

Nevertheless, his hypothesis that Walker is somehow “unknowledgeable” and thus could not possibly be a good president is an article of faith on the American Left. On The Kelly File Tuesday night, however, he had a chance to respond publicly to his supposed intellectual betters—and he didn’t squander the opportunity.

“That’s kind of the elitist, government-knows-best top-down approach from Washington we’ve heard for years,” he told host Megyn Kelly after she replayed Dean’s derisive comments for him. “We’ve had an Ivy League-trained lawyer in the White House for the last six years—who is pretty good at reading off a teleprompter—but done a pretty lousy job leading this country.”

“I'd rather have fighter who’s actually proven he can take on the big government special interests and win,” he continued. “I think there’s a lot of Americans out there that scratch their heads and say we have people who helped found Microsoft, Apple, Facebook—plenty of other successful businesses and enterprises across this country—that did exactly the same sort of thing I did.”

He went on to explain that he obviously isn’t anti-college, either. Far from it. But because a job opportunity opened up at the American Red Cross when he was a few credits shy of graduating, he took it and never looked back.

“I have two sons in college," he said. "I hope they finish—I expect that—my wife and I are helping to fund their pathway along with the hard work they put in. So we value college for those who pursue that career. But in the end you don’t have to have [a college degree] to be successful like many Americans have [proven] over the years.”

Watch the full clip below:

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