tipsheet
Daniel Doherty - Benghazi Rescue Team Told to "Stand Down": We Could Have Saved Amb. Stevens' Life
Posted: 9/5/2014 11:00:00 AM EST

The tragedy of Benghazi has been largely dismissed, in some circles, as a “phony scandal.”

And yet a “senior intelligence official” provided Fox News this questionable statement ahead of the release of their new special, 13 Hours At Benghazi: The Inside Story: “There were no orders to anybody to stand down in providing support.”

This assertion, however, is belied and disproven by creditable witnesses who were on the ground the night of the Benghazi raid.

Remember, all the way back in May 2013, State Department official/whistleblower Gregory Hicks testified under oath that Lt. Colonel Gibson “was not authorized,” at Hicks’ behest, to bring his cache of security forces from Tripoli to Benghazi to rescue Ambassador Stevens and others the night of the attack. (Intrepid journalist Sharyl Attkisson, by the way, later reported that anonymous "administration officials" told her a military response was “ruled out from the start”). And yet a second whistleblower, Mark Thompson, also testified to that same effect.

"When I heard that the situation had evolved to them going to a safe haven and then the fact that we could not find the ambassador, I alerted my leadership indicating that we needed to go forward and consider the deployment of the foreign emergency support team,” he said, according to CBS News, in sworn testimony.

He then “notified the White House” about the urgency of deploying US rescue forces, which is when the administration told him, essentially, to back off.

"I called the office within the State Department that had been represented there asking them why it had been taken off the table and was told that it was not the right time and it was not the team that needed to go right then," he said.

Question: If no order was given to prevent US operatives in Tripoli from deploying to Benghazi, why on earth did two highly credible witnesses testify to the contrary?

Which brings us to this: Several members of the foreign emergency support team (who will appear in Fox's forthcoming special), claimed that, if they weren’t told to “stand down,” Ambassador Chris Stevens and Sean Smith would “still be alive today”:

The Fox special will premiere tonight at 10:00 PM EST.

Townhall Magazine - Why Obama's Majority Can't Govern
Posted: 9/5/2014 9:30:00 AM EST

In the September issue of Townhall Magazine, where this article originally appeared, New York Times bestselling author David Freddoso explains why President Obama can't govern.

"President-elect Obama will take office in January with a weapon no president has ever had at his disposal: an online army of more than 10 million supporters who can now be put to use to help carry out a sweeping agenda.”

ABC News’ Rick Klein wrote these words on November 11, 2008, just days after President Obama’s historic election victory. And Klein was not alone in offering such descriptions of what was then expected by nearly everyone: an enduring digital afterlife for Obama’s campaign that would give him a presidency like no other.

“Howard Dean used the Web to raise money,” wrote Newsweek’s Daniel Stone around the same time. “But Obama used it to build an army. And now, that army of digital kids expects to stick around and help him govern.”

Democrats loved the sound of this. At that time, Americans had already been deluged with articles about the cutting-edge nature of Obama’s victory. He had used all the latest technology—texts, emails, social media—to drive voters to the polls, run his campaign efficiently, and identify unprecedented numbers of small-dollar donors. All this list-gathering and online activity had produced something that at least seemed lasting.

“The online tools in My.BarackObama. com will live on,” wrote Chris Hughes, one of Facebook’s founders who had helped run Obama’s online operation. “Barack Obama supporters will continue to use the tools to collaborate and interact.”

THE GREATEST POLITICAL ORGANIZATION EVER
For Republicans, still stinging from their second straight electoral repudiation, this all had an apocalyptic ring. Rush Limbaugh warned of an “Internet onslaught.”

“No one’s ever had these kind of resources,” Republican campaigner Ed Rollins told the Los Angeles Times’ Peter Wallsten in January 2009. “This would be the greatest political organization ever put together, if it works.”

Just think: 10 million highly engaged and excited Obamians, ready to take up talking points and be deployed at a moment’s notice. Were this actually possible, it would fundamentally change America. 

At the very least, such an army could dominate public opinion online, but there was potential for so much more than that. A truly engaged army of that size could mow down resistance. It could canvass anywhere for any reason. It could produce “spontaneous” demonstrations in favor of anything Obama needed at almost any place or moment. It could put on large enough public displays to boost his public support in his more difficult moments.

Most importantly, it would force everyone to approach governing differently. This new White House would not have to settle for the traditional strategy of making bold proposals and then waiting to be overwhelmed by attacks, as George W. Bush had done with his Social Security reform plans, or as Bill Clinton had done with his failed health care bill.

This time things would be different. Obama would go on the offensive, and his well-organized, massive, perpetual campaign apparatus meant he would never have to let up.

Or so people said, because it seemed right at the time. 

#OFA #FAIL
Perhaps the hysteria over Obama’s online success was just a result of political reporters not knowing enough yet about technology and its limitations in sustaining public interest. Perhaps it was America’s innocent optimism about the Internet’s potential. Whatever it was, it was abundantly clear two years later that Obama’s digital army had been a paper tiger: overestimated by those cheering it and those fearing it alike.

As Obama began his presidency in 2009, his online campaign machine (folded into the Democratic National Committee as “Organizing for America”) kept up an outward appearance of activity. In April of that year, supporters on his email list were urged in stark terms to take action (i.e., donate money) to make sure a clean version of President Obama’s budget passed Congress. “This week, our future is at stake,” OFA Director Mitch Stewart wrote of that long-forgotten budget battle.

OFA would keep sending emails every week or two, mostly for small-dollar fundraising. To boost morale, they interspersed their fundraising pitches with local calls to action and praise for supporters (presumably real people) like “Nita L. in Longmont, Colorado, who organized hundreds of supporters in her town to come with her to talk with their member of Congress about how much this fight means to them.”

In August 2009, the group claimed to have organized 100,000 phone calls to members of Congress supporting what would become Obamacare. That same month, OFA staged an online/telephone town hall on health care reform featuring Obama himself. They claimed to draw 280,000 participants—less than 3 percent of the army they had boasted, but still quite a decent number for an event of that nature.

Meanwhile, OFA had slashed its real-world staff by 95 percent—from 6,000 at its campaign height to just 300. This organization, to the extent that it did anything, would rely on its invisible, digital fan club, not a professional campaign structure.

The real question is what came of all this marginal involvement by a relative handful of online volunteers. Did they hang up the phone and go talk to their neighbors? Did they get in people’s faces? Did they actually persuade anyone? Did they do anything to shape the public debate, as so many had expected?

One OFA morale-boosting email from September 3, 2009 boasted that the organization had spent August packing real-life congressional town hall meetings all over America, so that “supporters of reform at times outnumbered opponents by 10-1.”

But the news coverage from that period told a very different story. During the August recess, right after both houses of Congress had begun work on Obamacare, Democratic members returned to their districts only to find themselves under siege from vocal, disorganized, passionate, and at times uncouth tea party conservatives.

As this rabble seized control of the public discussion, polls in the off-year governor races in Virginia and New Jersey began showing that Democratic voters were dangerously disengaged compared to their Republican counterparts. This “enthusiasm gap” was a national problem and would persist through the next year’s midterms. Gallup’s daily approval rating for Obama, once sky-high, also fell to 50 percent for the first time that August, down from 61 percent at one point in mid-July.

Democrats—most notably then- Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) reacted to the tea partyers by labeling them an astroturf operation. But this is especially interesting in the context of the expectations surrounding OFA. Was someone out-astroturfing (or even just genuinely clobbering) an established, well-funded 10-million strong digital organization? Or was there just a lot less to OFA than ever met the eye?

Far from directing or changing the nation’s political conversation, OFA was a mere spectator when Obama lost control of the health care debate; when public opinion swung wildly against both Obama and Obamacare that summer and fall. All it took was a bit of genuine public anger, and poof—it was gone.

WHAT WERE THEY SMOKING?
By mid-2010, when his approval ratings finally turned negative (they would more or less stay that way through Election Day), Obama had been battered by more than a year of non-stop attacks on Obamacare, his 2009 stimulus package, and his shared involvement in George W. Bush’s bank and auto bailouts. No one had his back or ran any kind of effective interference for him. These issues would become the foundation of fall campaigns that gave the GOP its largest House majority in six decades and rescued the party from irrelevance.

In September 2010, expert political handicapper Charlie Cook laughed off the idea of a late rescue by Obama’s online organization. “There’s no chance that OFA is going to have the slightest impact on the midterms,” he told Time’s Jay Newton-Small in September 2010. His statement was by then the conventional wisdom. Newton-Small noted that although OFA had knocked on 200,000 doors a month earlier, it was one-tenth of what the organization was able to do when Obama was on the ballot.

OFA’s failure to shape the debate or contribute meaningfully to the 2010 election outcome produced a tough moment of introspection for the media, which had overestimated both Obama and the importance of his technological juggernaut. Newsweek’s Daniel Lyons wrote a very sincere public confession, acknowledging that he and his colleagues had been taken in: 

“Swept up in the euphoria of the moment, we foresaw online brainstorming sessions where Netizens would generate ideas and vote them up or down in a free-flowing, collaborative, open-source manner. We imagined Web sites where regular folks could propose legislation. We even suggested that maybe the very nature of democracy was changing because of the Internet. What were we smoking?”

#OFA #FAIL #AGAIN
Whatever they were smoking, there was some of it left over in January 2013. Once again, Obama had won an election with a smart and technology-driven campaign. And once again, political reporters—even those as sharp as The Atlantic’s Molly Ball—wondered whether this time, it might be different for OFA. This time, it might really last and help Obama govern.

Ball noted that the organization—now re-formed as a non-profit called “Organizing for Action”—“could be the key enacting the president’s agenda” and “Obama’s best hope for his aggressive program” to move measures on immigration, minimum wage, climate, and gun control through Congress. Of course, Congress has had other ideas, and OFA hasn’t exactly had Republican members quaking in their boots.

In summer 2014, with Obama’s second-term agenda vanishing beneath domestic scandals, world crises, and rock- bottom approval ratings, his perpetual campaign operation continued to fizzle. OFA’s fundraising take of $3.9 million in the second quarter of 2014 was the smallest in its reincarnated existence. The group cut its staff again in May, now down to just 100 employees. In June, OFA stopped soliciting large donations. As for its visible effects this year, there just isn’t much to write about.

And OFA isn’t much in the virtual world either. Consider the group’s YouTube account, whose user engagement can be directly observed and quantified. OFA is in the habit of making short, high-quality videos on important issues. It made one in mid-July promoting a minimum wage increase, which it tweeted out to the 44 million followers of President Obama’s OFA-controlled Twitter account. Four days later, the video had been viewed by fewer than 7,000 people. 

And that’s a typical result for OFA videos, even though many of them appear to have been made at great expense. A similarly high-quality piece on Obama’s climate efforts got fewer than 4,000 views in its first month online—again, after being tweeted to a population larger than California, which goes to show that one can build an online community of any size that is completely disengaged. Incredibly, you can have 44 million Twitter followers, yet remain so irrelevant that neither fans nor foes will so much as bother to click your links.

Even if outside measurements of web traffic are somewhat unreliable, Alexa’s web analytics tool suggests that BarackObama.com’s best days are behind it. During election season, the website was briefly among the top 1,000 in America. Immediately afterward, it resumed its status as a dead-end on the information superhighway. As of July 2014, OFA’s site ranked 7,474 in the U.S.—far behind Townhall.com (ranked 1,010), HotAir (1,077), PetSmart (1,180), the official website of Major League Soccer (1,435), the children’s educational site ABCMouse.com (2,497), and the official website of the Department of Justice (3,875).

Yet for all the indicators that it is nothing special anymore, OFA has obviously been something quite real when it mattered most for Obama. Obama’s digital dominance surely helped him win in both 2008 and 2012. His online armies have, at very particular moments in time, proven that they really are out there somewhere and can make a difference.

So how and why do they seem to collapse into virtual non-existence after each election is over?

DISENGAGED VOTERS DISENGAGE
On election night 2012, Mitt Romney’s top advisers were quietly optimistic about their candidate’s chances. Sure there were a slew of polls showing Obama with a comfortable lead. But all of those poll results were built on samples that looked nothing like the electorate Romney’s team expected to turn out. When pollsters used samples that better matched how Republican strategists thought the electorate would look, Romney had a strong chance of winning.

Of course, we now know that the electorate that turned out in November 2012 was nothing like what Republican strategists thought it would be. The Obama campaign had poured millions of dollars into a sophisticated digital voter contact and outreach operation. “The power of this operation stunned Mr. Romney’s aides on election night,” The New York Times reported, “as they saw voters they never even knew existed turn out in places like Osceola County, Fla.”

But while Obama has proved a master at turning out marginal disengaged voters once every four years, the repeated failures of OFA show that progressives have completely failed at keeping these people engaged politically when they don’t have hundreds of millions of dollars to organize them.

As the promoters of books, movies, and rock music albums are well aware, one can build up temporary enthusiasm for any reasonably good product with the right advertising budget. Obama, already an attractive product as early as 2004, had a $730 million campaign to build him up in 2008, and a billion-dollar campaign to pull up his popularity in 2012.

A PROBLEM UNSOLVED
But when the money and the traditional campaign infrastructure go away, so does all the excitement. As with all marketing, the hype eventually dies out. There’s nothing magical about the Internet that could change this. The Internet is just one more marketing tool—albeit a very advanced and useful one. It makes it easier to reconnect with an audience, at least until your dozens of ignored messages end up in the spam filter.

This phenomenon presents a fundamental problem for the Obama majority. Yes, they can manufacture a quadrennial spectacle popular enough to send a celebrity candidate to the White House.

But the progressive movement has now repeatedly failed to produce the broad and sustained commitment to their agenda necessary to actually change how Washington is governed.

The United States is still a republic. Power is divided among branches of governments and elections are purposefully staggered so that big changes require real consensus.

Until the progressive movement can locate the funds necessary to fund a non-stop, billion-a-year voter engagement campaign, they will continue to fail in Washington. 

Matt Vespa - Game On: Hagan and Tillis Duke It Out In First Senate Debate
Posted: 9/5/2014 8:50:00 AM EST

On Wednesday night, Sen. Kay Hagan and North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis duked it out in their first debate moderated by CBS News’ Norah O’Donnell. One thing was clear: both weren’t the best debaters. Throughout this campaign, Hagan has been trying to tie Tillis to the happenings in Raleigh, especially with the half-truth that the state legislature doled out $500 million in education cuts. Tillis has been attacking Hagan for being part of the Washington establishment, voting with Obama 95 percent of the time, and not spending enough time in North Carolina. In this fight for which political class is worst, it’s Raleigh vs. Washington D.C. And that’s the point. If you have watched every single political ad in the Tar Heel state, you probably could’ve missed this hour-long debate last night.

The first question dealt with the growing threat of ISIS and whether the U.S. should conduct airstrikes to protect our national security interests.

Tillis said that we’re seeing a backward trend on this front–and that Kay Hagan allowed this to happen. He added that the world is less safe than it was when Kay was elected in 2008. Tillis stressed the need to use all available means to us to protect Americans.

Hagan said she wants the president to have a course of action; she wants to see the plan. She also said it was a mistake that we didn’t arm the moderate Syrian rebels and called ISIS the most serious threat we face as a nation since 9/11. Hagan also declared that the beheadings of American journalists were a direct attack on the United States.

On healthcare, Hagan hit Tillis, saying he would return to the broken health care system of the past where seniors would pay more, women would pay more, insurance plans would be cancelled due to pre-existing conditions, and the return of costlier prescriptions.

Mediscare tactics were deployed when Hagan said Tillis would turn Medicare into a voucher program. All of this was used to paint Tillis as out-of-touch with the needs of North Carolina residents.

Tillis struck back, citing the 24 instances where Hagan said if you like your doctor or health care plan, you could keep it; the 475,000 cancellation notices issued throughout the state; and the fact that Obamacare is only solvent if you cut $700 billion from Medicare. The last claim is a bit shaky, but that’s for a different time.

Hagan mentioned Tillis' refusal to expand Medicaid, which prevented 500,000 North Carolina residents from getting access to healthcare. Tillis didn’t respond to these allegations; he pivoted towards the fact that many Americans liked their healthcare before Kay Hagan and Washington deemed it insignificant with their support for Obamacare.

Education was one of the main focal points in this debate. Even when other issues were being debated Sen. Hagan brought us back to the Tillis-sponsored cuts in education, the exodus of teachers, and the phantom pay raise the state legislature passed. Tillis touted the 7 percent pay increase, which he says is the largest in 20 years. Hagan rebuked that point, saying it’s really a 0.3 percent pay raise if you’re a senior teacher. She continued saying how education is a bipartisan issue in the state, we get nowhere by gutting it, and how Tillis’ decision to make those cuts to subsidize a tax cut for the wealthy shows where his priorities rest.

Tillis stressed the freedom to let the teacher teach instead of being stifled by bureaucrats at the Department of Education, allow them to innovate in the classroom, paying them well, and quit forcing tests and reports that hamstring progress.

He also hit Hagan for her 10-year tenure in the state legislature, saying she let the same tax breaks stay on the books. He added that Hagan supported a temporary sales tax increase when times got rough.

With immigration being a hot issue, Hagan touted her bipartisan bill in the Senate that passed last year. She listed off the details; it doubled the amount of border agents, provided a 700-mile long fence, and electronic surveillance to track people with visas. She’s against the president’s use of executive action and noted that while Tillis is complaining; he has no plan.

The "War on Women" raised its ugly head with the question about Hobby Lobby and contraception coverage. Tillis aptly noted that the case was about religious freedom, not access to contraception. Hagan, of course, disagreed; saying that Tillis has an abysmal record with women, he doesn’t understand women, and is out-of-touch with them. She announced her support for equal pay, and hit Tillis for killing an equal pay bill in the state legislature. Again, focusing on the sins of Raleigh. Also, she would never back down when women’s interests are on the line.

Tillis actually thinks we should make contraceptives more widely available, especially over the counter oral contraceptives that he thinks should not require a prescription. In all, Tillis backs the American Medical Association on this front. Hagan struck back that North Carolina defunded Planned Parenthood; a point Noah Rothman noted might not be viewed as a terrible decision with voters.

As for Veterans Affairs, Tillis touched on Hagan’s failed promise to reform the institution when she ran in 2008. He called for accountability and strong leadership. Hagan brought up her family’s roots in the military; her father-in-law was a Major General in the Marine Corps, she has two nephews in the military, her father and brother were in the Navy, and her husband is a Vietnam War veteran. Hagan said she took action when news of the incompetence at the VA was becoming known.

While education is an issue national Democrats are using against Tillis, his waffled answer on the minimum wage could cause trouble. O’Donnell asked him if $7.25 was enough. Tillis said that it’s better left to the states, but then attacked Hagan over Obamacare and new EPA regulations.

The minimum wage is one of the few issues, if any, that Democrats can possibly make inroads with white, working class men, who support minimum wage increases.

In some races, male voters will decide the outcome. In Kentucky, they’re the reason why Mitch McConnell is leading Grimes.

In 2006, then-Republican Sen. Jim Talent was in a tight race with Claire McCaskill. That year, Proposition B, a ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage, was on the ballot. It easily passed with 76 percent of the vote, but Talent opposed it. He subsequently lost re-election by 2-points. Some blame his opposition for his loss. Tillis’ state-based solution answer might not satisfy voters who are hurting economically this year.

Additionally, it was an issue that galvanized voters in 2006. Could there be a replay here?

It’s just after Labor Day and the 2014 election cycle is winding down, although it’s more like a sprint to the finish line. As Nate Cohn noted in the New York Times, races will be won or lost based on who’s more unpopular–Obama or the GOP? That trend really isn’t known at present. But, as Guy wrote yesterday, a new Politico/GWU showed Republicans enjoyed a 16-point advantage in states with competitive senate races. And Obama was considered a drag on the party.

On spending, taxes, immigration, foreign policy, and taxes, the GOP hold healthy advantages, with the Politico/GWU Republican analysis indicating that “for voters worried about their pocketbook, their safety from foreign threats, or the sovereignty of their nation, the GOP is winning the battle of ideas.”

But, Democrats are more trusted in handling entitlements, like Medicare, and defending the middle class. So, we should not be surprised if Hagan becomes more aggressive in mobilizing the geriatric brigade. From the Democratic perspective [emphasis mine]:

[F]or Democrats to make any gains in November, they must increase their advantage among women. Democratic candidates can do this by emphasizing a broad range of women’s issues—including the economy, reproductive health care, and Social Security and Medicare—and weaving these issues into existing advantages among women on such key dimensions as “standing up for the middle class” (+14 Dem overall, +20 Dem among women) and “representing middle class values” (+12 Dem overall, +15 Dem among women).

While Election Day draws ever closer, the political landscape continues to shift, and so even at this late date, the outcomes of the elections are very much up for grabs. Despite disadvantages due to the sheer number of seats Democrats must defend in the Senate, Democrats still have the ammunition they need to stave off a united Republican Congress.

The next debate is on October 7.

Kevin Glass - July's Jobs Report Points To Dragging Economy As Summer Ends
Posted: 9/5/2014 8:36:00 AM EST
The Bureau of Labor Statistics at the U.S. Department of Labor is out with their jobs report on August's economic situation. The report is a huge, huge miss. The BLS reported that 142,000 jobs were added in the month of August, the lowest number so far in 2014 and the the first time in six months that the economy added fewer than 200,000 jobs.

The unemployment rate declined slightly to 6.1%, but that's misleading. The labor force declined, slightly, and there are more peoploe not in the labor force. Fewer people are entering the labor force now than they were in July.

On the more mixed side of the equation, the number of long-term unemployed declined, the number of people employed part-time (underemployed) was unchanged, and the broader U-6 measure of unemployment dropped from 12.2% to 12.0%.

The usual caveats apply here: this report is subject to upward revisions - but also downward revisions. In this jobs report, the BLS lowered their estimates for previous months, with their estimates of June and July combined being lowered by 28,000 jobs. So this isn't the final word on the economy, but it is a sluggish finish to the month.

Kevin Glass - Billionaire Liberal Donor Shifts Midterm Election Strategy
Posted: 9/4/2014 9:10:00 PM EST

While Harry Reid rants about the Koch Brothers, big money liberal donor Tom Steyer escapes the scrutiny of the money-in-politics crowd. But make no mistake, Steyer is every bit the force in politics that the Koch brothers are. Steyer's relative anonymity just proves that the left doesn't care about money in politics - it's about the wrong money in politics.

Steyer is also finding that it's a bit harder to just pour money into races and win. As the Associated Press reports:

When he vowed to spend as much as $50 million of his own money, and raise the same from like-minded donors, billionaire Tom Steyer electrified the political world with his promise to make climate change an issue in this year's midterm elections.

"Our strategy is to do direct voter contact," Steyer said in a recent interview. "Particularly in an off-year election, which depends more on turnout, actually having people going out and directly speaking with voters face to face is actually the thing that changes elections."

But Steyer's burgeoning political operation will focus on only a handful of races, bypassing several coal- and-oil rich states where Democrats are in highly competitive Senate contests that could determine control of the chamber.

See how many times progressives - and especially, Democratic politicians like Harry Reid - condemn progressive money in politics and you'll see what they actually care about.

Matt Vespa - KS Secretary Of State: Democrat Chad Taylor Stays On The Ballot
Posted: 9/4/2014 6:15:00 PM EST

Last night, Sen. Pat Roberts became the most vulnerable senator in the country when his Democratic challenger, Chad Taylor, decided to drop out of the race. With Taylor out of the running, things looked more difficult for Roberts' re-election as Taylor’s supporters were probably going to swing towards Independent Greg Orman, the other candidate running in the race. Orman and Taylor have a lot in common politically, but all the future analyses about an Orman-Roberts match up should be nixed. Today, Kansas’ Secretary of State said Taylor’s name must remain on the ballot (via Roll Call):

Taylor’s exit could drastically change Sen. Pat Roberts’ re-election prospects, paving the way for independent Greg Orman to galvanize the state’s political center and left. In short, without a Democrat on the ballot, Roberts is the GOP’s most vulnerable senator this cycle.

But Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Republican who backs Roberts, said at a Thursday news conference that Taylor did not provide evidence that he was incapable of “performing the duties of office” if he were elected, per state election rules.

Taylor released a statement shortly after the decision, saying he was told by Kobach’s office Wednesday afternoon that he had fulfilled the necessary measures for removal from the ballot, according to Kansas First News.

Operatives in the state say the decision is likely to proceed to court.

However, the state GOP is divided along moderate and conservative lines. Almost 170 Kansas Republican lawmakers, both former and current officeholders, have endorsed Greg Orman and Paul Davis, who’s the Democrat running against Gov. Sam Brownback. These divisions could lead to a 2002 replay, which saw Kathleen Sebelius winning the governorship in this red state.

What does this mean for Orman?  How do you poll a race like this?  These are just a couple of questions surrounding this race.

UPDATE: National Republicans are moving in to help Roberts (via NYT):

National Republicans on Thursday moved to take control of the campaign of Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas by sending a longtime party strategist to the state to advise him, a day after his hopes for re-election and those of his party for taking control of the Senate were threatened by the attempted withdrawal of the Democrat in the race.

Also on Thursday, the Kansas secretary of state, Kris Kobach, ruled that the Democratic nominee, Chad Taylor, could not withdraw his name from the ballot, a move likely to set off further legal challenges in the race. The National Republican Senatorial Committee is dispatching Chris LaCivita, who has served as a political troubleshooter in past Republican campaigns, to counsel Mr. Roberts and help oversee his campaign.

The committee will also seek to hire a local lawyer in any legal challenge against Mr. Taylor, who had tried to drop off the ballot on the last day candidates were allowed to do so. Pat Roberts faces a tougher Senate re-election fight than might be expected, considering his advantages: incumbency, and being a Republican in a conservative state.

Mr. LaCivita is expected to be in Kansas by this weekend.

Greg Hengler - Andrea Tantaros on DWS: "I Wish She Were A Man, I'm So Embarrassed!"
Posted: 9/4/2014 6:09:00 PM EST

Could this actually be a new low for the hyphenated huckster?

Conn Carroll - Americans Rightly View the Federal Government as the Greatest Threat to Their Liberty
Posted: 9/4/2014 5:00:00 PM EST

The New Republic's Franklin Foer wants you to believe that local governments, not the federal government, are the greatest threat to your liberty. Foer writes:

The libertarian’s jeremiads about creeping tyranny often seem the ravings of a paranoid. Then along comes Ferguson to confirm the dark warnings: Warrior cops stalk suburban streets, dressed in Desert Storm green and wielding automatic weapons aimed to fire. They detain journalists, hurl smoke bombs into unarmed crowds, and bury incriminating details.
...
Centuries ago, in the age of monarchs, the preservation of liberty required constraining the power of the central state. In our era, protecting rights requires the opposite. Only a strong federal government can curb the autocratic tendencies burbling across the country. Libertarians worry about the threat of local tyrants, too, but only abstractly. In practice, they remain so fixated on the perils of Washington that they rigidly insist on devolving power down to states, cities, and towns—the very places where their nightmares are springing to life.

Foer does makes some decent points in between these opening and closing paragraphs, but none are as clear cut as he lets on:

  • Thanks to ideological sorting, more localities are controlled by one party (although the examples he uses of recent local government corruption - New Jersey and Virginia - are both purple states on the local level).
  • There are fewer professional journalists covering local public policy issues (but there are many more amateurs using social media to inform their peers).
  • Americans know less about their local government than they do the federal government (although American knowledge about the federal government is nothing to brag about).
  • And minorities are more vulnerable from local majorities than national ones (but African-American voting turnout is up in the jurisdictions he complains about ,and illegal immigrants are free to move to sanctuary cities as they often do).

Whatever you think about Foer's case, the American people don't think much of it. They've been telling pollsters for years that they trust local governments far more than the they trust federal government, and that gap is only growing

And while it is true that Democrats are more favorable to the federal government than Republicans are, Democrats still prefer their own local government to the federal government.

Gallup also finds that distrust in the federal government is at all time highs, although trust in state and local governments has dipped too recently (but they are still viewed much more positively).

Either way, when put head to head on fundamental issues like education and the economy, the vast majority of Americans trust their local leaders more than their federal ones.

Of course, there are some bad local governments that govern poorly That is probably why only 28 percent of the people of Illinois trust their state government

But the federal government has its problems too. Foer tries to sweep these under the rug reasoning:

The national government, after all, has a less than impeccable record, especially during wartime, when it produces the likes of the Patriot Act or worse. Yet its abuses, unlike those of its smaller counterparts, tend to quickly emerge into public view, as they did with the National Security Agency scandal. They are raked over by a feisty national press, interrogated by congressional committees, and reviewed by layers of courts.

Which is nice, but the VA has had well publicized problems for decades and yet the federal government hasn't been able to fix them. And despite all the press the NSA has received, Americans don't seem to think that problem has been fixed either. A majority of Americans now view the federal government as a threat to their personal rights and freedoms. Oh, and more Americans also now believe the federal government has too much power than ever

One reason American might have warmer feelings about their state and local governments is that they can always leave if they don't like them. Did your reform candidate in California lose? You can always move to Nevada, or Texas.

Americans simply do not have this option when it comes to the federal government. If the federal government fails, or is abusive, there is nowhere Americans can exit to, unless they want to stop being Americans.

That is why the federal government will always be the biggest threat to American liberty.

Guy Benson - Trainwreck, Continued: Eight New Pieces of Bad Obamacare News
Posted: 9/4/2014 3:56:00 PM EST

Who's up for the latest batch of bad Obamacare-related news?

(1) Consumers brace for the second full year of Obamacare implementation, as the average individual market premium hike clocks in at eight percent -- with some rates spiking by as much as 30 percent.


(2)
"Wide swings in prices," with some experiencing "double digit increases."(Remember what we were promised):

Insurance executives and managers of the online marketplaces are already girding for the coming open enrollment period, saying they fear it could be even more difficult than the last. One challenge facing consumers will be wide swings in prices. Some insurers are seeking double-digit price increases…


(3) A nightmarish tax season, via Philip Klein:

The top executive for H&R Block, the nation’s largest tax preparer, on Wednesday said he expected President Obama’s health care law to add “significant complexity” to next year’s tax season...“As expected, the forms are very detailed and can present significant complexity, depending on a filer’s coverage status during the year, income level, and household composition,” Cobb said. “Depending on their situation, there are instances where filers may need to file multiple new tax forms and complete additional worksheets.” Starting with next year’s tax season, individuals who do not have health insurance that meets federal requirements will be subject to penalties. But there are various categories of individuals who could be exempted. “Depending on the type of exemption, the process to claim it could be quite cumbersome and time consuming,” Cobb said.

(4) Rural hospitals closing down:

Small, rural hospitals like Linden have always struggled to remain viable, but things are getting worse, fast. Rural communities are shrinking at a time when healthcare providers are being pressured to cut costs and release patients sooner. Twenty-four rural hospitals have closed across the country since the start of 2013, double the pace of the previous 20 months, according to the North Carolina Rural Health Research Program….Now the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, is bringing additional pressure. Obamacare is designed to fold the poor and uninsured into the healthcare system, but changes in how the federal government pays for the disadvantaged are already pressuring the hospitals that cater to them, such as rural ones.


(5) Thanks, taxpayers.  Please enjoy the unironic use of "unlikely:"


With an $8 billion tax on insurers due Sept. 30 — the first time the new tax is being collected — the industry is getting help from an unlikely source: taxpayers. States and the federal government will spend at least $700 million this year to pay the tax for their Medicaid health plans. The three dozen states that use Medicaid managed care plans will give those insurers more money to cover the new expense. Many of those states – such as Florida, Louisiana and Tennessee – did not expand Medicaid as the law allows, and in the process turned down billions in new federal dollars. Other insurers are getting some help paying the tax as well. Private insurers are passing the tax onto policyholders in the form of higher premiums. Medicare health plans are getting the tax covered by the federal government via higher reimbursement.


(6) One of Obamacare's chief architects is proudly predicting that 80 percent of employer-based healthcare plans will disappear within the next decade.  Administration officials offered similar projections in private, even as Democrats repeatedly promised that Americans could keep their existing coverage, with which the vast majority were satisfied:



(7) The federal health spending "cost curve" continues to point up, not down (as promised), as health spending increases, via the government's own actuaries:


The combined effects of the Affordable Care Act’s coverage expansions, faster economic growth, and population aging are expected to fuel health spending growth this year and thereafter (5.6 percent in 2014 and 6.0 percent per year for 2015–23)...Because health spending is projected to grow 1.1 percentage points faster than the average economic growth during 2013–23, the health share of the gross domestic product is expected to rise from 17.2 percent in 2012 to 19.3 percent in 2023.


(8) Hampering the economy:

Last month, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York published two surveys of regional employers—one focused on manufacturing businesses, one on service companies—and asked them how Obamacare was affecting their businesses. For 2015, 33.3 percent of service firms said Obamacare was increasing their costs “a lot,” whereas 51.2 percent of manufacturing firms said the same. While almost no firms said they would be dropping health coverage for their workers, 16.9 percent of service firms and 21.6 percent of manufacturers said they would be reducing their workforce due to Obamacare. 21.8 and 20.5 percent, respectively, said they would be reducing wage and salary compensation. 25 and 36.4 percent, respectively, said they would be raising prices for their customers.


Avik Roy spells out the three primary ways in which the "Affordable" Care Act acts as a wet blanket on the US job market: (a) Obamacare is one of the largest tax increases in U.S. history; (b) Obamacare increases the cost of employing workers; (c) Obamacare’s exchange subsidies encourage many workers to drop out.  Click through for details.  In fact, the nonpartisan CBO released new numbers this week that underscore our halting economic progress:


Daniel Doherty - It's Come to This: Welfare For Medical Marijuana Recipients is Now a Thing
Posted: 9/4/2014 3:05:00 PM EST

The city council in Berkeley, California has finally figured out how to provide medical marijuana to low-income residents who can't afford it: Just give it to them for free.

Weed welfare?

That's what the Berkeley City Council in California has unanimously approved, ordering medical marijuana dispensaries to donate 2 percent of their stash to patients making less than $32,000 a year.

The new welfare program in the liberal-leaning city is set to launch in August 2015.

The ordinance, which passed in August and is the first of its kind in the country, comes at a time when several states are debating how to handle a growing movement to legalize marijuana for both medical and recreational use.

Obviously, furnishing poor Americans with a possible gateway drug free of charge probably strikes most Americans as abhorrent. This may lead to increased dependency, lethargy, and even addiction in some cases. On the other hand, there are clearly people who rely on -- and need -- medical marijuana. And therefore because prescriptions for the drug aren’t covered under any insurance policies in California, according to the New York Times, free weed is one possible solution to making it more accessible and available to those in need.

At the same time, it is well known that at least one dispensary in the area has already been handing out free medical marijuana for a period of years. Legally permitting this practice, in other words, would legalize a long-standing tradition that is, for better or worse, already quite common.

Parting question: Is this new ordinance a mistake that will further impoverish low-income Californians, and waste taxpayer dollars, as the good bishop suggests? Or is it providing a valuable public service to those who can’t afford their doctor-prescribed medicine? Hmmm.