|8:02 AM, Jul 30, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Yuval Levin, writing for National Review Online:
Many people in Washington seem to be talking about the prospect of the president unilaterally legalizing the status of several million people who entered the country illegally as though it were just another political question. But if reports about the nature of the executive action he is contemplating are right, it would be by far the most blatant and explosive provocation in the administration’s assault on the separation of powers, and could well be the most extreme act of executive overreach ever attempted by an American president in peacetime.
I am more open to some form of amnesty than most people around here, I suspect, though the form I could support (as part of a deal that included more serious border control and visa enforcement) would involve legalization short of full citizenship, for reasons well articulated by Peter Skerry here. But the question of how to address the complicated problem of the status of the more than 10 million people who are in our country without legal authorization is a matter for the political system as a whole to address. That system has made several serious efforts to do so in recent years, so far without success. The most recent such effort (which resulted in a bad bill, in my view) took place while President Obama has been in the White House. He knows that as things now stand in Congress the question is not about to be resolved, and that the 2014 election is not likely to lead to its being resolved in the way he would prefer. Presumably this disappoints him. But the notion that the president can respond to a failure to get Congress to adopt his preferred course on a prominent and divisive public issue by just acting on his own as if a law he desires had been enacted has basically nothing to do with our system of government.
3:11 PM, Jul 29, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
If the midterm elections were held today, the Republican party could expect a three-seat majority in the Senate next year, according to the new poll from the New York Times, CBS News, and YouGov. The poll, which surveyed voters across the 34 states with Senate races via an online panel, finds GOP candidates leading in 8 races for seats currently held by Democrats. The Times gives the Republican party a "60 percent chance" at wresting control of the Senate.
Three races are relatively solid for the Republican candidates—Mike Rounds of South Dakota (27 points ahead), Steve Daines of Montana (16 points) and Shelley Moore Capito (8 points). In Arkansas, Republican congressman Tom Cotton has a 4-point lead over Democratic senator Mark Pryor. In Michigan, Louisiana, Iowa, and North Carolina, the Democratic candidates, including two sitting senators, trail the Republicans by only a point. Meanwhile, the Democrat in Colorado, Mark Udall, leads GOP challenger Colorado by just four points, and Republicans appear to be within striking distance of vulnerable Democrats by trailing by 10 points or fewer in New Jersey, Virginia, and New Hampshire.
In Alaska, leading GOP candidate Dan Sullivan trails Democratic senator Mark Begich by more than 10 points, while another GOP candidate, Mead Treadwell, is within 2 points of Begich. But the Times’s Nate Cohn urges caution with the poll’s Alaska results, noting that poor Internet penetration in the state made it much more difficult to get a representative sample, and a few other polls show a closer Sullivan-Begich race.
What else does the Times/CBS News/YouGov panoramic snapshot reveal about the state of the race four months out? Overall, the Democrats’ firewall appears to be eroding. While South Dakota, Montana, and West Virginia have been long gone as far as Democrats were concerned, the objective for the GOP has always been to win at least three of the four reddest states with Democratic incumbents—Arkansas, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Alaska—in order to win an outright majority. Already Republicans are ahead, by a little, in the requisite three, which tracks with other polls of the races in Arkansas, Louisiana, and North Carolina.
In addition, the risk that Republicans could lose one of their own seats, possibly in Kentucky or Georgia, appears less likely than it did earlier in the year. Kentucky Republican and Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell polls at 50 percent against Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes’s 46 percent, while newly minted Republican nominee David Perdue of Georgia leads Democrat Michelle Nunn 50 percent to 44 percent. McConnell and Perdue aren’t exactly in landslide territory, but in what’s shaping up to be a Republican year, the relative weakness of Grimes and Nunn may be difficult to overcome.
2:13 PM, Jul 29, 2014 • By WHITNEY BLAKE
In a surprising decision, a federal judge overturned Washington, D.C.’s open and concealed carry ban this past weekend. While the ruling has received some fanfare, few reports have paid attention to the section in the order that invalidated D.C.’s firearms residency requirements. Just lifting the ban would have affected the approximately 630,000 residents living within the District of Columbia, but the judge went a step further with his little noticed residency decree.
Legal experts say this is the first time a judge has ruled on—or even been presented with in this manner—the hot-button firearms issues of residency and reciprocity. The judge determined that non-residents cannot be barred from carrying handguns in D.C. simply because they do not live there. This establishes an uncharted precedent that has the potential to affect gun laws across the country. In the interim, it has already made huge waves inside our nation’s capital.
The immediate implications are significant, according to John Lott, a preeminent gun law expert and president of the Crime Prevention Research Center. “We have a big experiment now, where people who come into work in D.C. are going to be able to carry....In fact, even more people can carry now in D.C. than can carry in Virginia or Maryland. In Maryland, it’s very difficult to get a permit, but I can go and lock my gun in my trunk in Maryland, drive into work in D.C., and as soon as I cross the border, take the gun out and put it in my pocket.”
In light of the judgment in Palmer v. District of Columbia, D.C. police chief Cathy Lanier issued a memorandum Sunday that in effect makes the District of Columbia a “constitutional carry” entity—meaning that anyone who legally possesses a handgun can carry it, openly or concealed, within D.C.’s boundaries. This puts the District in the company of a handful of states that do not require carry permits, including Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Vermont, Wyoming (which still requires permits for non-residents), and 99.4 percent of Montana.
12:12 PM, Jul 29, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
If you like going out in the sun or, perhaps, must do so because of your work and you don’t want to get burned, there is good news. Of a sort.
As Sophie Novack of National Journal reports:
In the final week of session before Congress takes its summer vacation, lawmakers have come one step closer to protecting American consumers from the sun's harmful rays. For years, the United States has lagged behind other countries in sunscreen technology because of backlogs in approval of new ingredients by the Food and Drug Administration. While new sunscreen technologies have been available in Europe, Asia, and Central and South America for up to 15 years, they remain stalled awaiting any kind of decision in the U.S. The last time an over-the-counter sunscreen ingredient was approved by the FDA was in the 1990s; there are eight ingredients currently stuck in the system.
Fifteen years? To approve sunscreen? When we know that,
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S., with nearly 5 million people treated each year, at an annual cost of $8.1 billion, according to the Health and Human Services Department. Most of these cases could be prevented with better skin protection.
Well, we now have relief in the form of the “Sunscreen Innovation Act [which] would require final decisions on pending ingredient applications within one year, and decisions on new applications within one and a half.”
The FDA, meanwhile, says that it is trying and has “prioritized reviewing the safety and effectiveness of additional sunscreen ingredients as quickly as possible given the agency's resources."
Translation: “Give us more money."
11:38 AM, Jul 29, 2014 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
Ayatollah Seyed Hossein Kazemeyni Boroujerdi has been incarcerated, mainly in Tehran’s ignominious Evin Prison, since 2006. He is accused of “combat against God” for his criticisms of the Iranian clerical dictatorship, and is serving an 11-year sentence. Now kept in the “special clerical ward,” he has suffered numerous ailments, has accused his jailers of torture, and is among the most famous Iranian prisoners of conscience.
Boroujerdi was born in 1958, an heir to a distinguished Shia clerical family prominent before the Khomeini revolution of 1979. He studied at the theological center in Qom but rejected the ideology of Khomeini. He was arrested in 1995 and 2001 because of his popularity with Iranian believers. His father, Ayatollah Seyed Mohammad Ali Kazemeyni Boroujerdi, was executed by the regime in 2002.
In 2006, state-backed agitators organized an assault on Hossein Boroujerdi’s house, during the campaign ending in his trial, and he declared, “Today in the morning we were attacked. It is surprising that some people accuse America and Israel of attacking the Shia Muslims, but I, who come from the most prominent family of Shias, am attacked in the capital of a Shia country.” When he was brought to court, according to his relatives, he faced more than 30 charges, including, aside from “combat against God,” the curious allegation that he “fabricated a new religion which he called ‘traditional religion.’ ”
Since he began his path of dissent, Hossein Boroujerdi has remained outspoken in detailing the sins of the Iranian theocracy. He was so under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; in 2010, he took pains to direct greetings to the Jewish people on the festival of Hanukkah, as reported here. Boroujerdi’s position has not changed since the coming to power last year of Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, the widely-advertised “reformer.” Constantly threatened, Boroujerdi has, if anything, widened his field of dissidence.
In April this year, Ayatollah Boroujerdi charged that “war, meddling in other countries, liquidation of the nation’s assets and the exporting of terrorism have been the only products of this regime.” He chastised the clerical rulers for their support of the bloodthirsty Syrian dictatorship of Bashir al-Assad and assistance to the Damascus regime by Hezbollah, the Iranian clients in Lebanon. Boroujerdi wrote that Assad’s survival in power came “at the price of destitution of the people of Iran” and that the opportunism of Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah chief, would bring about the “willful death” of Iranian society.
10:33 AM, Jul 29, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
The U.S. has been at war for 13 years and according to General Michael Flynn, outgoing head of the Defense Intelligence Agency:
America is less safe today in large part because of the emergence of terrorist groups like the Islamic State, formerly know as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
As Anna Mulrine of the Christian Science Monitor reports, Flynn believes that:
The chaos and violence now reigning in Iraq after the Islamic State invasion points to a US intelligence failure, but, on the upside, it offers a key cautionary tale for Afghanistan … “The speed that [ISIS] came into this northern city of Iraq, into Mosul, and they were able to, you know, kind of [cut through Iraqi security force defenses] like a hot knife through butter through really about four [Iraqi Army] divisions … I would say that, yeah, that caught us – that level of speed that they were able to do that – caught us by surprise.”
But Mullah Omar is talking like a winner. As Thomas Joscelyn reports in Long War Journal:
In a message celebrating the end Ramadan, Taliban emir Mullah Omar crows about the jihadists' recent gains in Afghanistan, says the exchange of the Taliban's five top leaders once held at Guantanamo for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was a "spectacular achievement," and speaks of the Taliban's plans for governing Afghanistan. The "military situation is in favor of [the] mujahideen," Omar claims, because the "blanket of invasion has rolled back from vast areas." The mujahideen "are now more well-organized, active and unified in contrast with the past," Omar adds, and "vital centers of the enemy have come under successful attacks in cities."
As for the future:
Much of Omar's message focuses on the Taliban's governance efforts in Afghanistan. The Taliban emir clearly expects his forces to control even more territory in the near future. Thus, he informs his followers that the resurrection of his Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, as it calls itself, is at hand.
Delaware responds.9:20 AM, Jul 29, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
Vice President Joe Biden inadvertently may have produced the worst public service announcement for a state since Maryland's Governor William Donald Schaefer referred to the Eastern Shore of his state as the "[outhouse]" of Maryland. Biden recently recorded a White House White Board video to boost the president's latest plan to spend billions on those ubiquitous "crumbling roads and bridges." To provide an example, Biden turned his sights on his home state, the "little state of Delaware":
[Transcript, 2:50 to 3:29] Take a look at my little state of Delaware. I'm very proud of Delaware because I know it so well having represented it for so long. There are 6,357 miles of public roads in the state of Delaware. Sixteen percent of them are in poor condition. How does that little state compete? Why would a business go, why would an enterprise get engaged in a place where there wasn't sufficient rail, or the roads weren't good, where the bridges were in disrepair? Businesses go where they can increase productivity. Productivity relates to how rapidly they can get things to market, how cheaply they can get 'em to market, and how often they can get 'em to market.
Asked to comment on the vice president's remarks, Kelly M. Bachman, press secretary for Governor Jack Markell responded:
The Vice President has been as great a champion for Delaware as we have and has only helped improve the image of our great state across the country and around the world. We should always want to do better, but we're encouraged that our economy is improving and our job growth is outpacing the nation's.
I don't speak for the Vice President, but I suspect he did not view his words as disparaging and we do not take them that way. As a point of comparison, Delaware's 16% of roads in poor condition, although certainly not good, is better than our surrounding states.
Both the President and Vice President continue to show the necessary sense of urgency to strengthen our transportation system and Governor Markell appreciates their support and advocacy. The condition of infrastructure in parts of the country are in an unacceptable condition and our advantages in the global economy will shrink rapidly if we don't make needed investments.
Businesses and entrepreneurs have more choices than ever about where to locate, expand and hire - and a safe, reliable transportation infrastructure plays an important role in their decision making process. If we want to successfully compete for jobs in the global economy, we must invest in our people and our infrastructure.
In spite of the benefit of the doubt the governor's office gave the vice president, it seems a safe bet that after Biden returns to Delaware for good, he won't be looking for work designing welcome signs for his home state.
8:48 AM, Jul 29, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
In Tuesday's Wall Street Journal, W. James Antle III reviews Daniel Halper's new book, Clinton, Inc. Here's an excerpt:
At the core of "Clinton, Inc.," however, is not gossip or innuendo but a history of the family business. The Clintons have built a power bloc within the Democratic Party; they have also enriched themselves personally and launched a complex set of foundations and subsidiaries. The 2012 revenues for the flagship Clinton Foundation were estimated at $214 million. It focuses on issues like "health security" and "economic empowerment." One of its projects, the Clinton Global Initiative, with its summits and conferences, has put the Clintons in touch with world leaders and top CEOs. Throughout there is a mixing of fundraising, influence-seeking, hobnobbing, do-goodery and political ambition. What ties it all together is access to the Clintons.
Mr. Halper concedes that, as Mrs. Clinton said to great mockery, the Clintons were technically "broke" when they left Washington in 2001—not least because of Bill's legal fees—but he notes that their earning potential more than wiped out any cash-flow problems. Bill Clinton alone, he reports, has "earned well over $100 million in speaking fees . . . including $17 million in one year alone." He received a $15 million advance for his 2004 autobiography, "My Life," which, Mr. Halper writes, was "largely considered a bulky, self-absorbed tome with moments of sparkle and brilliance." In this way, it "reflect[ed] its author."
Read the whole review here, then buy a copy of the book here.
8:06 AM, Jul 29, 2014 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
Publicly, President Obama loves to demonize insurance companies. But behind the scenes, Big Government and Big Insurance maintain a cozy alliance that the Obama administration actively nourishes, often at taxpayer expense. Indeed, as emails recently obtained by the House Oversight Committee show, Big Government and Big Insurance have worked together to promote Obamacare. They’ve also worked together to make sure taxpayers will help bail out insurance companies who lose money selling insurance under Obamacare — that is, unless Republicans stop this from happening. Moreover, Obama senior advisor Valerie Jarrett is among the prominent White House officials who’ve been in the middle of this collaboration between insurers and the administration — between those driven by the profit motive and those driven by the power motive.
As is detailed in the Oversight Committee’s report, shortly after the disastrous Obamacare rollout began, White House communications director Tara McGuiness and Chris Jennings, Obama’s deputy assistant for health policy, “traded talking points with numerous insurance company CEOs.” According to the report, “Ms. McGuiness and Mr. Jennings collaborated closely with Florida Blue Cross and Blue Shield CEO Patrick Geraghty. After a CBS Evening News appearance on October 11, 2013, Ms. McGuiness emailed Mr. Geraghty, ‘You were great! I watched. Thanks for the help.’”
Twelve days later, Geraghty and the respective CEOs of Aetna, Humana, the Health Care Services Corporation, Centene Corp., Wellpoint, Kaiser Permanente, Tufts Health, Health Net, CareFirst, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, and America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) all met with Jarrett and Obama chief of staff Denis McDonough at the White House.
A few days after that, the report reveals, Jennings emailed Geraghty in advance of an appearance on Meet the Press, writing, “Pat: Tara McGuiness will probably reach out to you directly today to give you latest info and suggestions for press prep. Please advise if you need anything from me. I may call you later to make sure all is ok. Thanks so much for all.” Both McGuiness and Jennings then followed up with specific advice. After Geraghty’s appearance aired, Jennings emailed him and said, “Pat: You were extraordinary.…We were all impressed. Thank you so much! Would like to talk soon….”
Meanwhile, the Obama administration was coming under increasing political pressure — as millions of Americans found out that (contrary to Democratic messaging across the years), if they liked their health plan, that didn’t necessarily mean they could keep their health plan. After Obama lawlessly empowered himself to un-ban the plans that Obamacare had banned by law, insurers weren’t happy, so the administration responded by paying them off.
9:14 PM, Jul 28, 2014 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
Our friends at the admirable Italian newspaper, il Foglio, have announced a rally in front of their headquarters in Rome Wednesday night. The rally has two goals: First, to support the right of Israel to defend itself -- something that will be a useful challenge and rebuke to the anti-Israel rallies elsewhere in Europe. And second, to increase awareness of the persecution of Christians in Iraq and beyond. As a friend involved in organizing the rally put it in his email, "both the threats to Israel and to the Christians come from the same radical ideology."
8:13 PM, Jul 28, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
Thousands of illegal immigrants are streaming across America's southern border, but on Wednesday the chief of the Department of Homeland Security will be attending an educational event with schoolchildren in Washington, D.C.
In an email to reporters with the subject line reading, "SECRETARY JOHNSON TO PARTICIPATE IN A LET’S READ! LET’S MOVE! EVENT," the department announced that Jeh Johnson will be attending an event Wednesday morning at the library of Congress, along with other government officials, a chef, and a retired NFL player. Here's an excerpt from the email:
On July 30, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson will participate in a Let’s Read! Let’s Move! event with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Acting Surgeon General Boris D. Lushniak, Deputy Librarian of Congress Robert Dizard, Jr., National Football League Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon and Chef Pati Jinich of PBS’s “Pati’s Mexican Table.” At the Library of Congress, Secretary Johnson will read to pre-kindergarten through third grade students from the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.
Tens of thousands of immigrants from Central American countries have illegally crossed the Mexican border into the United States in recent weeks. Many of them have been unaccompanied children.
Hosted by Michael Graham.5:48 PM, Jul 28, 2014 • By TWS PODCAST
The WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with editor William Kristol on President Obama's track record on the rule of law, Israel, Immigration, and more.
This podcast can be downloaded here. Subscribe to THE WEEKLY STANDARD's iTunes podcast feed here.
3:56 PM, Jul 28, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
The economic numbers roll in ceaselessly and some are good. As with last week’s initial unemployment claims. But then there comes a number that makes it plain that it would be premature to break out the champagne and sing “Happy Days Are Here Again.”
As Anna Bernasek of the New York Times reports:
The inflation-adjusted net worth for the typical household was $87,992 in 2003. Ten years later, it was only $56,335, or a 36 percent decline,
And there is short term news that is also sobering. As Fox Business reports:
Contracts to buy previously-owned U.S. homes unexpectedly fell in June, casting a cloud over the housing market recovery.
A recovery, it should be said, that continues to take its sweet time.
A Parody.1:57 PM, Jul 28, 2014 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
The following is a transcript of a conversation in the Oval Office passed to me simultaneously by the German, French, and British intelligence services, along with copies of their governments' complaints about the immorality of American spying on its allies.
Rice: Mr. President, I have some bad news.
POTUS: They haven’t canceled all my fundraisers set for tomorrow, have they?
Rice: Nothing that serious, but bad enough.
POTUS: What then. Spit it out, I have a golf date in 10 minutes.
Rice: The Mexicans have started massing troops on the Texas border, and providing arms to a group of illegal immigrants.
Rice: They say that we illegally annexed Texas and they plan to take it back as part of the New Mexico.
POTUS: New Mexico? Why would anyone want that?
Rice: Not our state, Mr. President, the New Mexico nation, with all the territory we stole from them reunited with the current Mexican state.
POTUS. If that’s what they want, can we accommodate them by ceding a few thousands of acres?
Rice: No, Mr. President. They want it all and they also want to move their troops in to protect the Hispanics living in our country. They say we are abusing them.
POTUS: Ridiculous. Haven’t I made it unnecessary for them to build tunnels to get here: all they have to do is wade across a river and they’re here, probably for good. Didn’t I grant millions an amnesty? Don’t we provide many of them with benefits? Haven’t we printed all government documents in Spanish as well as English? Don’t we hold back our own students so that Hispanic kids who don’t speak English can catch up? What more do they want?
Rice: They want you to make them all citizens, and now.
POTUS: I would love to – that would give us permanent control of both houses and the White House. And the attorney general is doing all he can to prevent states from demanding identification from Hispanic voters. But I don’t have the power to do make all the illegals – oops, undocumented – Mexicans in this country citizens.
Rice: President Peña says you have a pen and a telephone, and have used them to change laws passed by Congress and even the Constitution. So use your pen.
POTUS: I will give that some thought.
Rice: Please be quick about it. El Presidente says you have 24 hours before he starts launching rockets into Texas and California.
POTUS: He’s crazy. Our Iron Dome system will shoot them down.
Rice: We don’t have any such system. And the Israelis can’t help because the Senate voted against a bill that would have waived the coming mid-terms, to which you had Harry attach authorization for funding to resupply the Israelis. So they mothballed their system and are relying on ground troops to take out the launchers.
POTUS: Can we borrow the missile defense system we lent the Czechs and the Poles?
Rice: I am afraid not. You canceled that as part of the reset with your pal Valdimir.
11:49 AM, Jul 28, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
Lamar Alexander, the two-term Republican senator from Tennessee, is in a strong position to win reelection this November. But only if he can get through his August 7 primary.
Polling has been scarce in the race between Alexander and his GOP primary challenger, state representative Joe Carr, though the incumbent enjoys advantages in fundraising and name recognition (Alexander twice served as governor in the 1980s). An independent poll in January found Carr down by 40 points.
But with Carr getting somewhat of a boost from endorsements by radio host Laura Ingraham and former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, an independent outside group supporting Alexander isn't taking any chances. Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions has a new TV ad running in the Nashville and Knoxville markets that, according to Politico, is a $257,000 buy over the final week and a half of the primary.
The spot refers to Alexander as a "conservative leader" and references unrest in the Middle East and the border crisis. Watch the ad below:
The ad attempts to address the chief argument Carr is making in the primary: that Alexander has been too soft on immigration. The voiceover says Alexander is "working to secure our nation [and] strengthening our borders" before moving on to tout the senator's record on energy.
But Carr and those who oppose Alexander cite his vote for the Senate's Gang of 8 immigration bill as evidence that the Republican incumbent isn't on their side. Alexander defended his vote for the bill in an interview with THE WEEKLY STANDARD last week:
“I voted to end amnesty,” he says. “By doing nothing, you perpetuate amnesty for 11 million people who are here illegally. I voted to double border security, end amnesty for those 11 million people, and create a legal immigration system.”
Tennessee is a conservative state, but there was some indication its residents might have supported Alexander’s vote. In a June 2013 poll sponsored by a pro-immigration-reform organization, 63 percent of respondents from Tennessee said they approved a description of the Gang of 8’s proposed legislation.
Nevertheless, Carr says Alexander’s vote for the reform bill is out of step with the views of most Tennessee voters and an example of how the senator “capitulated” to the Chamber of Commerce. “When both senators are promoting an alternative other than securing the border and the rule of law and advocating for the American worker, vis-à-vis amnesty, then it gives you a distorted picture about what Tennesseans really want,” Carr says. On August 20, 2013, Carr formally entered the primary against Alexander, with the senator’s immigration reform vote chief among his complaints.
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