How Obama Will Bypass Congress On His Iranian Nuclear Arms Deal

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave up trying to change President Obama's mind about a nuclear deal with Iran long ago. He knows Obama is determined cut a deal with Iran on nuclear weapons, at any price, on the belief that Tehran will then become a reliable ally in the region

That is why Netanyahu chose to speak to Congress personally Tuesday. He knows Congress is the only institution in America that has a chance of stopping Obama's Iranian plans. But, as The New York Times' David Sanger first reported in October, Obama has already decided to bypass Congress on his Iranian arms deal entirely.

But doesn't Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution read, "The President ... shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur."

How can Obama sign a nuclear arms deal with Iran without submitting that agreement to the Senate?

The same way that Obama has rewritten federal immigration and education law without Congress: by expanding executive power.

Obama will claim that his deal with Iran is not a treaty but a "sole executive agreement" that requires no approval from Congress. Sole executive agreements have been used by presidents since the early 1800s, but the exact scope of this power has long been in question. The Supreme Court has allowed many such agreements to stand (e.g. Dames & Moore v. Regan or American Insurance Ass'n v. Garamendi), but the Court has always required at least some evidence that Congress at least acquiesced to those policies.

The sole executive agreement power has also been used to end formal arms treaties, most recently by President Bush in 2001 when he unilaterally exited the Anti-Balistic Missile Treaty with Russia. However, new arms deals have almost always been submitted to the Senate for approval, including Bush's 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty with Russia. 

Obama's nuclear arms deal with Iran would be an unprecedented expansion of this sole executive agreement power.

But the Treaty Clause of the U.S. Constitution is not the only congressional hurdle Obama must clear. There are also existing sanctions regimes that have been passed by both chambers of Congress and signed into law by the president. One was even signed by Obama himself.

But each of those laws also contains generous waiver provisions that allow Obama to suspend enforcement of the sanctions for up to six months at a time.

Also, remember that Obama's agreement will not only be with Iran, but many other countries that are currently enforcing sanctions against Iran as well. Those countries could lift their sanctions up front, while the U.S. sanctions would not be scheduled to be lifted till then end of the agreement, which is rumored to be up to ten years. Here is how White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest explained how the deal would work Monday:

What we envision is an agreement that puts in place a series of steps where Iran takes some steps to demonstrate their compliance with the agreement, and a little bit of sanctions relief is offered, and that that is the process that continues until we can have a lot of confidence in Iran’s willingness to live up to their end of the bargain. And once they do, then we will ultimately get to a place where we want to start to make changes to the statutory sanctions regime that was passed by Congress.

And, yes, removing those sanctions, as passed by Congress, would require an act of Congress and I do think could plausibly be interpreted as Congress signing off on the deal. ... And it’s why as we move forward in this process -- ultimately it’s closer to the end than the beginning -- that we're going to need Congress to weigh in on this. And again, the reason for that is that the administration does not envision a scenario where substantial sanctions relief is offered right away.

(emphasis added) So what Obama will do is announce his agreement, let other countries lift their sanctions for the first few years of the agreement, and then, years from now, long after Obama has left office, the next president will have to deal with Iran's nuclear program.

New Yorkers Propose New Amendments to ‘Chip Away’ at Anti-Gun SAFE Act

Gun-toting New Yorkers who feel burdened by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D-NY) anti-gun New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act, have introduced new amendments to get rid of some of the law’s most unpopular provisions.

As opposed to repealing the entire law, which has proved to be unfruitful, Sen. James Seward (R-Milford) and Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi (D-Utica) are launching a bipartisan effort to bid farewell to a few of the most ‘onerous parts’ of the SAFE Act. Here are the specifics of their three proposed amendments:

· Allow gun owners to load 10 cartridges into 10-round magazines. The Safe Act put that maximum at seven cartridges in some circumstances, at 10 in others. A federal judge in Western New York in late 2013 struck down the number as arbitrary; the state is appealing that decision. The proposed legislation would make it clear that shooters could legally fill 10-round magazines.

· Make it easier for owners of long guns to gift those guns to family members or people who hold a pistol permit.

· Cancel the requirement for background checks for all ammunition sales. New York State Police have not yet created a system, Superintendent Joseph D'Amico told lawmakers late last month.

Gov. Cuomo signed the SAFE Act into law a month after the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2013. Although the liberal governor claimed the bill would help keep New Yorkers out of danger, the law was unpopular from the moment Cuomo set down his pen. Among other heavy regulations, it banned the use of “assault weapons” – this was the state’s definition of guns such as AR-15 semi-automatic rifles – and demanded stricter registration requirements. These rules created an environment in which almost 1,200 felonies were documented against gun owners in just one year after the law was enforced.

New Yorkers who cherish their Second Amendment rights have refused to let the state turn them into criminals, organizing large scale protests to give Cuomo a piece of their minds. Unfortunately, however, their demands have not carried far past Albany. The SAFE Act is still very much reality.

While protesters and legislators have failed to get rid of the entire law, this new baby step strategy just might work.

WH: Why Yes, Obama is Looking into Raising Taxes by Executive Order


I'm re-upping Conn's report from yesterday because it deserves amplification. We already knew that President Obama was happy to continue waging war in Libya even after his lawyers told him he needed Congressional approval. We already knew that he was willing to alter and delay major portions of Obamacare, regardless of the statutory language. And we already knew that he was eager to indefinitely suspend deportations for millions of illegal immigrant adults -- and proactively give them legal work papers, making them eligible for billions in tax credits -- despite years of explicitly arguing that he didn't have the authority to do so.  In an effort to illustrate the consequences of this lawlessness for liberals, some conservatives have argued that the "Obama precedent" may well be exploited by future Republican chief executives to justify highly dubious end-runs around the Constitution's separation of powers to achieve conservative goals.  Many liberals don't seem too bothered this, alas, secure in the knowledge that such an attempt would be treated by the press as full-blown national crisis, as opposed to an interesting Beltway process fight. One idea that's been floated is that a GOP president could issue an executive action ordering the IRS to cease enforcing all tax collection over a certain percentage of income, thus implementing a flat tax by fiat. If the media rules were equal for both sides, Congressional Democrats would complain bitterly, file lawsuits, and try to use the power of the purse to defund or reverse their nemesis' actions. Republicans would respond by calling Democrats unhinged and hyperbolic, the lawsuits would drag on, and Congressional push-back would be filibustered or vetoed.  It now looks like the Obama administration is looking into to beating hypothetical future power abusers to the punch:

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest confirmed Monday that President Obama is "very interested" in the idea of raising taxes through unilateral executive action. "The president certainly has not indicated any reticence in using his executive authority to try and advance an agenda that benefits middle class Americans," Earnest said in response to a question about Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) calling on Obama to raise more than $100 billion in taxes through IRS executive action. "Now I don't want to leave you with the impression that there is some imminent announcement, there is not, at least that I know of," Earnest continued. "But the president has asked his team to examine the array of executive authorities that are available to him to try to make progress on his goals..."

In the new season of Netflix's House of Cards (no spoilers), one of the major plot conflicts revolves around President Underwood's illegal decision to direct federal appropriations for purposes that suit his political interests, but for which Congress did not approve them.  What's cute about the fictionalized depiction of this Constitutional power struggle is that Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill angrily push back against Underwood's overreach, uniting in an effort to block his designs.  On principle.  Back in the real world, Congressional Democrats are writing letters to Obama imploring him to arrogate more power.  Since the Republican Congress is opposed to tax increases, they say, Obama must use executive orders to find ways to increase the tax burden on corporations, which would help pay for other initiatives Obama wants.  This anti-Constitutional cheerleading isn't just coming from a self-described Socialist outlier from Vermont; a top member of the party's leadership, and the Left's current Senate darling are also on board.  Senators Durbin and Warren must believe that if our current president decides he has the power to increase taxes through executive order, future presidents surely can use "enforcement discretion" and other such fig leaves to justify cutting taxes by decree, yes?  This is the path President Obama is establishing as acceptable, with minions in Congress egging him on.  As for Congress' specifically enumerated spending powers, surely this administration isn't quite brazen enough (yet) to simply appropriate funds that weren't approved by Congress, right?  Wrong. Sometimes the ends just justify the means:

The U.S. Treasury Department has rebuffed a request by House Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R- Wis., to explain $3 billion in payments that were made to health insurers even though Congress never authorized the spending through annual appropriations. At issue are payments to insurers known as cost-sharing subsidies. These payments come about because President Obama’s healthcare law forces insurers to limit out-of-pocket costs for certain low income individuals by capping consumer expenses, such as deductibles and co-payments, in insurance policies. In exchange for capping these charges, insurers are supposed to receive compensation. What’s tricky is that Congress never authorized any money to make such payments to insurers in its annual appropriations, but the Department of Health and Human Services, with the cooperation of the U.S. Treasury, made them anyway.

And before you ask, yes, this is part of Congressional Republicans' Obamacare lawsuit, which Democrats are amusingly decrying as a waste of taxpayer money. I'll leave you with a golden oldie of our Constitutionalist-in-Chief diagnosing America's biggest Bush-era problem:



Surprise: Hillary Clinton Went Around Federal Law, Used Her Personal Email Account For Official Business as Secretary of State

What difference does it make if you conduct your entire State Department career as secretary on personal email? A huge difference. 

According to a new report in the New York Times, (yes, the New York Times), Hillary Clinton used her personal email account to conduct pretty much all of her official government business during her time at the State Department. 

Hillary Rodham Clinton exclusively used a personal email account to conduct government business as secretary of state, State Department officials said, and may have violated federal requirements that officials’ correspondence be retained as part of the agency’s record.

Mrs. Clinton did not have a government email address during her four-year tenure at the State Department. Her aides took no actions to have her personal emails preserved on department servers at the time, as required by the Federal Records Act.

It was only two months ago, in response to a new State Department effort to comply with federal record-keeping practices, that Mrs. Clinton’s advisers reviewed tens of thousands of pages of her personal emails and decided which ones to turn over to the State Department. All told, 55,000 pages of emails were given to the department. Mrs. Clinton stepped down from the secretary’s post in early 2013.

Her expansive use of the private account was alarming to current and former National Archives and Records Administration officials and government watchdogs, who called it a serious breach.

This isn't the first time the Obama administration has been caught evading federal records laws by using personal email, which ultimately allows officials to escape scrutiny under the Freedom of Information Act and Congressional investigation. During Operation Fast and Furious, former Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer got caught fowarding and editing official information about the scandal to his personal email account. Former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano claimed she didn't have an email account. IRS officials caught up in the targeting of conservatives, including Lois Lerner, used a personal email account to conduct official government business. Former DOJ Civil Rights attorney and current Labor Secretary Tom Perez used his personal email account during his time at DOJ for official business. Just yesterday, a federal judge ruled the EPA lied about transparency in response to FOIA requests, and in the past, EPA officials have been caught violating federal records laws by using personal email to conduct government business. 

But back to Hillary. Here's another interesting and very telling nugget.

The existence of Mrs. Clinton’s personal email account was discovered as a House committee investigating the attack on the American Consulate in Benghazi sought correspondence between Mrs. Clinton and her aides about the attack.

The Benghazi Select Committee, headed by Congressman Trey Gowdy, is continuing its investigation. In the meantime, Clinton will certainly have to answer for her non-transparency and years of federal law violation should she announce a run for the White House in April. 

House Judiciary Chairman: ATF Attempt to Ban AR-15 Ammo By Executive Order is "Preposterous"

Last week on behalf of the bipartisan House Judiciary Committee, Chairman Bob Goodlatte sent a letter to ATF Director B. Todd Jones demanding answers about a pending ban on commonly used AR-15 ammunition, better known as 5.56 M855 ball ammunition. ATF recently proposed the ban and broadly cited law enforcement officer safety as its justification, saying the ammunition is "armor piercing," but provided zero evidence to back up their endangerment claim. 

In the letter, Goodlatte points out ATF's efforts to broadly claim legal jurisdiction over commonly used sporting ammunition. Here's some legal background from the letter about ATF's conclusion: 

As you know, the ban on “armor piercing” ammunition was created by the Law Enforcement Officers Protection Act (LEOPA) of 1986. The Act was conceived to protect police officers from the hazards presented by so-called "armor piercing" projectiles–originally designed for law enforcement and military use—that can be fired from handguns and penetrate the sort of soft body armor typically worn by police officers.

To do this, LEOPA bans various sorts of non-lead projectiles or projectile “cores” that “may be” used in handguns. As LEOPA’s authors realized, however, bullets fired from most common rifle cartridges can penetrate soft body armor, and some rifle bullets can be loaded into ammunition for handguns. Congress therefore incorporated an exemption into LEOPA for projectiles “which the Attorney General finds [are] primarily intended to be used for sporting purposes” to protect ordinary rifle ammunition from being swept up in the ban.

The “Framework” is intended to answer the question of how the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) will make “sporting purposes” determinations. It creates a two-prong test. First, ATF will exempt a “.22 caliber projectile … if the projectile weighs 40 grains or less AND is loaded into a rimfire cartridge.” Second, ATF will exempt other projectiles if they are “loaded into a cartridge for which the only handgun that is readily available in the ordinary channels of commercial trade is a single shot handgun.” Even then, ATF –under this supposedly “objective” test – “retains the discretion to deny any application for a ‘sporting purposes’ exemption if substantial evidence exists that the ammunition is not primarily intended for such purposes.”

"The proposed “Framework” purports to establish an “objective” test for determining whether certain projectiles otherwise considered “armor piercing” under federal law qualify for an exemption allowing them to be lawfully manufactured, imported, and sold on the civilian market in the United States. The 'Framework,' however, establishes an unduly restrictive standard, does not comport with the letter or spirit of the law, and will interfere with Second Amendment rights by disrupting the market for ammunition that law abiding Americans use for sporting and other legitimate purposes," Goodlatte wrote in the letter. "The effects of these restrictive interpretations are untenable. For example, since 1986 ATF has considered the M855 5.56 x 45mm cartridge to be “exempt” under the sporting purposes test (although its core contains a substantial amount of lead, raising questions about its classification as “armor piercing” in the first place). ATF has now rescinded that exemption because repeating handguns that fire the M855 round are commercially available. Yet this round is amongst the most commonly used in the most popular rifle design in America, the AR-15. Millions upon millions of M855 rounds have been sold and used in the U.S., yet ATF has not even alleged – much less offered evidence – that even one such round has ever been fired from a handgun at a police officer. The idea that Congress intended LEOPA to ban one of the preeminent rifle cartridges in use by Americans for legitimate purposes is preposterous."

"The “Framework” does not comport with LEOPA’s meaning and intent and should be abandoned. ATF should refocus its efforts on serious threats to law enforcement officers from specially designed armor piercing projectiles that are intended for use in the sort of handguns commonly carried and concealed by criminals. Under no circumstances should ATF adopt a standard that will ban ammunition that is overwhelmingly used by law-abiding Americans for legitimate purposes," Goodlatte concluded.

ATF is taking public comments through March 16, 2015 about the proposed ban through email at APAComments@atf.gov and by fax at (202) 648-9741. Comments can also be sent through the mail to: 

  • Denise Brown, Mailstop 6N-602, Office of Regulatory Affairs, Enforcement Programs and Services, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, 99 New York Avenue, NE, Washington, DC 20226: ATTN: AP Ammo Comments

The National Shooting Sports Foundation has requested ATF extend the commenting period for an additional 60 days. 

"Given the breadth of the impact this new framework will have on the industry and the number of calibers in question, we believe the 30 days allotted by the ATF is not sufficient for companies in the industry and the general public to provide meaningful comments and suggestions," NSSF Senior Vice President and General Counsel Larry Keane wrote in a separate letter to ATF Director Jones last week.

Lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle are decrying ATF's efforts.

The bottom line: This is a backdoor attempt by the Obama administration to make AR-15 sporting rifles, which the President and gun control zealots in Congress have tried to ban for a decade, inoperable. Guns are no good without ammunition and you can bet the Obama administration is fully aware of that fact.

Hillary Clinton's Private Email: Possibly a Security Breach

While at the State Department, former U.S. senator and possible 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton did not use a government email address, corresponding almost entirely via a personal email account - a blatant violation of government rules and possibly a dangerous security breach.

As the New York times reports:

Her expansive use of the private account was alarming to current and former National Archives and Records Administration officials and government watchdogs, who called it a serious breach.

“It is very difficult to conceive of a scenario — short of nuclear winter — where an agency would be justified in allowing its cabinet-level-head officer to solely use a private email communications channel for the conduct of government business,” said Jason R. Baron, a lawyer at Drinker Biddle and Reath who is a former director of litigation at the National Archives and Records Administration.

Under federal law, however, letters and emails written and received by federal officials, such as the secretary of state, are considered government records and are supposed to be retained so that congressional committees, historians and members of the news media can find them. There are exceptions to the law for certain classified and sensitive materials.

This would be a major breach of protocol and a good way to put government information in dangerous hands - how secure are emails available to the general public, after all? - but it was a long time ago. Clinton left the State Department two whole years ago. What difference, at this point, does it make?

As the New York Times documents further:

Regulations from the National Archives and Records Administration at the time required that any emails sent or received from personal accounts be preserved as part of the agency’s records.

But Mrs. Clinton and her aides failed to do so.

Mr. Blanton said high-level officials should operate as President Obama does, emailing from a secure government account, with every record preserved for historical purposes.

“Personal emails are not secure,” he said. “Senior officials should not be using them.”

Sharknado 3 To Feature Ann Coulter as Vice President

It was announced today that political commentator Ann Coulter will play the role of vice president in SyFy's Sharknado 3. The movie, which is the third in SyFy's "so-bad-it's-good" Sharknado franchise about a tornado that sparks a series of shark attacks, is set to debut on the network on July 1.

Coulter will be joined by Mark Cuban, who has been cast as president.

From The Hollywood Reporter:

Launching in July, Sharknado 3 will be set in Washington, D.C., this time and, per Syfy, will "cause mass destruction in the nation's capital" before it roars down the Eastern Seaboard.

Entrepreneur/Dallas Mavericks owner Cuban of Shark Tank will play the president, while conservative commentator/author Coulter will play the vp.

Per IMDB, Coulter's other movie credits include a few documentaries and Fox's short-lived 1/2 Hour News Hour. This appears to be her first scripted role playing someone other than a parodied version of herself.

WaPo: Four Pinnocchios for Obama on Keystone Spin


In case you'd forgotten -- perhaps thanks to this fiasco sucking up political oxygen last week -- President Obama has taken the dramatic, out-of-the-mainstream step of vetoing Congress' overwhelming and bipartisan approval of the Keystone Pipeline.  All told, 332 members of Congress voted to green light the job-creating infrastructure project, including dozens of Democrats.  Keystone has the strong backing of our Canadian allies, would help North American energy production, has passed environmental and legal muster over years of study, and would cost taxpayers nothing.  Approving the pipeline merely involves getting government out of the way, and letting the private sector take things from there.  It's a political and policy no-brainer, which is why it consistently attracts lopsided support from the American people in public polling. But the president has an extreme agenda to protect, and self-interested "green" billionaire donors and special interests to reward.  So he wielded his veto pen, laughably citing separation of powers concerns as a pretext to nix the plan.  This from a man who's unilaterally rewriting immigration laws without Congressional input, and who's apparently eyeing similar power grabs in order to raise taxes on his own.  In an effort to justify his extreme veto, Obama is relying on dishonest arguments, eliciting a 'Four Pinocchios' ruling from the Washington Post's fact-checker:

President Obama, seeking to explain his veto of a bill that would have leapfrogged the approval process for the Keystone XL pipeline, in an interview with a North Dakota station repeated some false claims that had previously earned him Pinocchios. Yet he managed to make his statement even more misleading than before, suggesting the pipeline would have no benefit for American producers at all...The president’s latest remarks pushes this assertion into the Four Pinocchios column. If he disagrees with the State Department’s findings, he should begin to make the case why it is wrong, rather than assert the opposite, without any factual basis. Moreover, by telling North Dakota listeners that the pipeline has no benefit for Americans, he is again being misleading, given that producers in the region have signed contracts to transport some of their production through the pipeline.

The Post notes that Keystone pipeline absolutely would benefit American producers and consumers, despite the president's factually inaccurate insistence that it "bypasses" the US completely.  The fact-checker quotes an independent study, which happens to be reinforced by the Obama State Department's own findings on the matter.  Obama "appears to be purposely ignoring the findings of the lead Cabinet agency on the issue," the piece concludes.  That's because the evidence -- the "science" -- doesn't comport with Obama's political agenda, so he's simply ignoring it, and celebrating his intentional ignorance in public pronouncements.  USA Today's editorial board is joining many others in urging Congress to override the president's veto:

Obama has sent conflicting signals about whether he'll ultimately approve or reject Keystone. Last November, he gave pipeline critics hope by buying into the argument that the oil Keystone would deliver to U.S. refineries will simply be exported, rather than be used domestically. Politifact.com rated that claim "mostly false," and The Washington Post's Fact Checker gave it three out of four Pinocchios for inaccuracy, noting that the best evidence is that "at least half" the oil would remain here. Congress ought to end this drama by overriding Obama's veto, just the third of his presidency and his first since 2010. If the votes can't be mustered on Capitol Hill, the president has more than enough information to bring down the curtain. It is long past time to just say yes.

Saying "yes" to a privately-funded, job-creating, environmentally-sound infrastructure project shouldn't be difficult for a president who pays much lip service to "getting things done," and demanding "bipartisanship."  But it's a problem for Obama because he's a hardened ideologue.  His pragmatism persona is, and has always been, a fraud.  Incidentally, you may have noticed that the above USA Today house editorial mentions WaPo's previous 'Three Pinocchios' assessment, which has since been upped due to bonus presidential mendacity.  The Post also points out that Obama sneers at the several hundred permanent jobs Keystone would create, effectively dismissing tens of thousands of construction jobs as a non-factor in the cost/benefit analysis.  Most Americans don't believe our leaders are in aposition to turn up their noses at any jobs in the midst of a tepid and frustrating economic recovery.  Senate Democrats, for their part, are bizarrely planning to filibuster Mitch McConnell's effort to proceed to a veto-override vote. Superseding the president's veto requires 67 votes -- seven more than the filibuster threshold. Why launch a doomed filibuster against something that will almost certainly fail anyway?  Perhaps because Reid and company have quickly become the very nihilistic obstructionists they've so often accused Republicans of being in recent years.  Proponents of the Keystone Pipeline appear to be four votes shy of overcoming Obama's veto in the US Senate.  I'll leave you with Majority Leader McConnell marveling at the idiocy of Reid's redundant, pointless filibuster plot:



Are We Really Surprised Democrats Who Booed Jerusalem Will Boycott Netanyahu's Speech?

On Tuesday Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will fulfill his invitation from House Speaker John Boehner to warn the world about the grave threat Iran poses to the Jewish State and the United States.

Because Boehner didn't consult the White House about the invitation, Democrats are throwing a fit about Netanyahu's planned address to a joint session of Congress. The Congressional Black Caucus has loudly proclaimed its members will not attend Netanyahu's speech, citing a perceived disrespect from the Prime Minister toward President Obama. Dozens of other Democrats also plan to skip out. Vice President Joe Biden will be jetting off to another country at the exact same time Netanyahu will start speaking and Secretary of State John Kerry will also be overseas. 

Surprising? It shouldn't be. During the 2012 DNC convention in Charlotte, Democrats in attendance loudly booed after God and Jerusalem were placed back into the Party platform after being deliberately left out. I remember because I was there. 

Just two weeks ago, President Obama referred to Jews murdered in Paris by an Islamic terrorist as some "folks in a deli."

Are we really surprised Democrats are boycotting Netanyahu's speech because Obama didn't approve it? Hardly. After all, they're part of the Party that booed God and Jerusalem as Israel's capitol city.

It's Here! Clinton To Announce Presidential Bid Next Month

So, the official announcement is here (well … sort of). Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to announce her presidential bid, according to close advisers. As Christine wrote last September, the former New York Senator said she would make up her mind about mounting another national campaign for the White House by the first of next year; a date that has long passed by.

There were some disagreements within the Clinton camp regarding when to announce her probable 2016 bid. Some were arguing for a summer rollout, while others said the former First Lady should announce in the spring. As Politico noted, a spring launch would give Clinton an infrastructure to plant a defense against attacks from a growing Republican 2016 field. Whereas, the advisers who wanted a summer announcement said it gives Clinton more time to organize, fundraise, refine herself on policy, and keeps a target off her back. It seems the spring faction has won (via WSJ):

Hillary Clinton and her close advisers are telling Democratic donors that she will enter the presidential race sooner than expected, likely in April, a move that would allay uncertainties within her party and allow her to rev up fundraising.

Clinton aides have spoken of the earlier timetable in private meetings, according to people engaged in recent discussions about the presumed Democratic front-runner’s emerging 2016 campaign. Many within her camp have advocated her staying out of the fray until the summer.

Jumping in sooner would help the Democratic field take shape, reassuring party leaders and donors that the former first lady, senator and secretary of state is running. A super PAC loyal to Mrs. Clinton has faced hesitation from donors who don’t want to make big pledges until she is a candidate. Such concerns would evaporate after she announces.

But Mrs. Clinton would become an even larger target for Republicans when she enters the race. She also would be pressed to opine on a raft of thorny issues in the news, including how to combat the military advances of Islamic State militants in the Middle East.

Clinton is already being questioned by some in the media regarding the Middle East. The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf wrote that Hillary’s “hawkishness” could cost her the presidency. She voted for the Iraq War, an act that the anti-war left (who are growing in number) has pretty much viewed as unforgivable. As Friedersdorf noted, the Russia reset is almost laughable at this point–and the Libya intervention, that occurred during her tenure as Secretary of State, is devolving into a total disaster [bold text indicates NYT]:

In 2016, Hillary Clinton will be a formidable candidate, and experience is once again her biggest asset. Voters are warily eyeing ISIS, Vladimir Putin, Al Qaeda, and Iran. And she has added a stint as Secretary of State to her impressive resume.

But her claim to possess sound judgment for tough decision-making is once again vulnerable to attack.

I don't mean her Iraq vote, though it could certainly come up again (especially if she ultimately meets Rand Paul, the one Republican who could exploit it). When Obama showed that he didn't really believe the Iraq War to be a decisive judgment test by elevating Iraq hawks to numerous, prominent national-security positions throughout his administration, he all but guaranteed that Democratic Iraq hawks would be embraced rather than discredited going forward. (Even erstwhile anti-war candidate Howard Dean has joined the bandwagon.)

On Libya, however, I strongly suspect that Clinton will be attacked by Democrats in the primary and most Republican opponents in a general election (if she makes it that far). Her rivals can hardly resist.

...

How bad is Libya? In the summer of 2012, it was clear that Western intervention helped to destabilize Mali. Last year, The New York Times reported this about Libya itself:

The country is coming undone.

Relentless factional fighting in Tripoli and in the eastern city of Benghazi has left dozens of people dead. Well-known political activists have been killed, diplomats have been kidnapped, and ordinary citizens fear bandits on the roads. Water and electricity shutdowns have become more frequent than at any time since the chaos after Colonel Qaddafi’s fall, and fuel has disappeared from Tripoli’s gas stations.

With all that in mind, the Libya intervention will be extremely hard to defend, especially given that the Obama Administration ordered it without Congressional permission and in violation of the War Powers Resolution. Clinton will have no good answer for a Democratic rival who says, "I'd forgive your Iraq vote if you'd learned your lesson. But with that debacle fresh in mind, you urged the overthrow another dictator without any idea what would happen afterward. Once again, that empowered Islamist terrorists who now thrive in that country."

Let’s see how she does once April is upon us. At the same time, I don't think "hawkishness" in itself is a disqualifying factor. Americans are wary about ISIS; it's one of the issues that turned the tide of some the elections in 2014, specifically in North Carolina's Senate race. I get a sense that Republicans want to tap back into the foreign policy realm and reengage with those national security bona fides that helped them steamroll Democrats during the mid-2000s.  After all, Barack Obama's model for counterterrorism operations–Yemen–has collapsed. Along with ISIS controlling huge swaths of land, and the collapse of Libya, Jeffrey Goldberg aptly noted that by 2017, hundreds of thousands of square miles could potentially be in the control of terrorists. That's a huge problem. Then again, the GOP should keep in mind that nation-building probably isn't going to resonate well with the 2016 electorate.  A self-awareness about the shortfalls in the occupation after the Iraq War is probably in order since, despite the revelation that Saddam did have WMDs, the post-war reconstruction wasn't necessarily the smoothest of operations.  

A robust national security is a constitutional obligation, but both sides would do well to walk slowly when processing future interventionist policy on the stump regarding countries where there are deep tribal or sectarian ties.  We've gone into three countries–Libya, Afghanistan, and Iraq–which have such elements woven into their socioeconomic fabric–and we haven't been all that successful in eliminating the very terrorist elements due to that lack of understanding.    

Obama "Very Interested" In Raising Taxes Through Executive Action

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest confirmed Monday that President Obama is "very interested" in the idea of raising taxes through unilateral executive action.

"The president certainly has not indicated any reticence in using his executive authority to try and advance an agenda that benefits middle class Americans," Earnest said in response to a question about Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) calling on Obama to raise more than $100 billion in taxes through IRS executive action.

"Now I don't want to leave you with the impression that there is some imminent announcement, there is not, at least that I know of," Earnest continued. "But the president has asked his team to examine the array of executive authorities that are available to him to try to make progress on his goals. So I am not in a position to talk in any detail at this point, but the president is very interested in this avenue generally," Earnest finished.

Sanders sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew Friday identifying a number of executive actions he believes the IRS could take, without any input from Congress, that would close loopholes currently used by corporations. In the past, IRS lawyers have been hesitant to use executive actions to raise significant amounts of revenue, but that same calculation has change in other federal agencies since Obama became president.

Obama's preferred option would be for Congress to pass a corporate tax hike that would fund liberal infrastructure projects like mass transit. But if Congress fails to do as Obama wishes, just as Congress has failed to pass the immigration reforms that Obama prefers, Obama could take actions unilaterally instead. This past November, for example, Obama gave work permits, Social Security Numbers, and drivers licenses to approximately 4 million illegal immigrants.

Those immigration actions, according to the Congressional Budget Office, will raise federal deficits by $8.8 billion over the next ten years.

He Wants YOU, Ladies! The Psychology of Guys Checking Out Girls.

On this week's Prager University:

Men look at pretty women. That goes for men who are married, men who are dating, and men who are single. That's their nature. But is this built-in attraction with the female body a threat to their spouse, girlfriend, or partner?

Why Did ISIS Release 19 Christian Hostages?

By now, the Islamic State’s brutality has become as predictable as the noonday sun. Rarely, if ever, have we seen the group show mercy toward captives—until now.

On Sunday, 19 Christian hostages were released, according to multiple reports. All but one were part of a group of 220 Assyrians that were captured last week.

The news provided a modicum of relief to a Christian Assyrian community that has been devastated by the abductions, which saw Islamic State fighters haul off entire families from a string of villages along the Khabur River in Hassakeh province. But fears remain over the fate of the hundreds still held captive.

Bashir Saedi, a senior official in the Assyrian Democratic Organization, said the 16 men and three women arrived safely Sunday at the Church of the Virgin Mary in the city of Hassakeh. He said the 19 -- all of them from the village of Tal Ghoran -- had traveled by bus from the Islamic State-held town of Shaddadeh south of Hassakeh.

While this is certainly welcome news, many are wondering why they released them. Some speculate that age played a role in the decision, as those released were middle aged and older. Others, however, point to the Islamic State’s justice system.

According to the Assyrian Human Rights Network, the 19 Christians were released because a Shariah court ordered they be freed after paying a tax for being non-Muslims.

"ISIS has claimed for a long time to follow rules, and it claims that these Sharia courts will impose limits," Graeme Wood, author of the recent hit piece in The Atlantic on ISIS, told CNN. "They can attempt to get credibility by showing that they follow rules and that they have some kind of transparent process that follows their particular implementation of Sharia law."

Even in the strictest interpretation of Islam, there is a provision for sparing Christians, Wood wrote.

Social media posts indicate that ISIS carries out mass killings regularly, but "exempted from automatic execution, it appears, are Christians who do not resist their new government." They are required to pay a special tax and acknowledge the new ruling power.

That's exactly what the judge ruled, Edward said.

The released Assyrian Christians agreed to acknowledge ISIS as their new masters and to pay the tax.

ISIS is still holding two of Tal Goran's Christian villagers, Edward said. They should be released as soon as the taxes are paid.

Meanwhile, there are still 200 Christians in captivity whose fate is uncertain. The release of the others, however, has sparked a sense of hope among Assyrian leaders and Sunni tribal sheikhs that the Islamic State may be more willing to negotiate a deal to release the remaining captives. 

Artist Reveals Bill Clinton's Official White House Portrait Has Monica Lewinsky Reference

While the internet broke this past weekend over a debate regarding the color of a dress (#TeamWhiteAndGold), Nelson Shanks, the artist who painted President Bill Clinton's portrait, revealed in an interview with the Philadelphia Daily News that the painting contains an Easter egg reference to another infamous blue dress: the one worn by Monica Lewinsky. The portrait currently hangs in the National Portrait Gallery.

From Philly.com:

If you look at the left-hand side of it there's a mantle in the Oval Office and I put a shadow coming into the painting and it does two things. It actually literally represents a shadow from a blue dress that I had on a mannequin, that I had there while I was painting it, but not when he was there. It is also a bit of a metaphor in that it represents a shadow on the office he held, or on him.


While the artist claims that the Clintons have tried to remove the portrait, the National Portrait Gallery disputes this claim.

While this seems like a bit of a low blow, artists inserting their beliefs into their work isn't exactly a new concept. Shanks has a point—the Lewinsky scandal definitely cast a shadow over Clinton's presidency, and one could argue that the perception of the office of the president was changed drastically by the whole affair. My first memory of anything political was asking my mother about why everyone was mad at this Monica Lewinsky woman. Given that I was six years old at the time their "relationship" became public, there was no way my mother could explain the scandal to me without any sort of permanent emotional scarring and/or complete loss of childhood innocence. Clinton was the president I grew up with, and he wasn't exactly the leadership role model the president should be.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski: "I Will Not Be Seeking a Sixth Term"

This is genuinely surprising. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) – who has served in Congress longer than any other woman in American history – announced today she is calling it quits after 2016.

“Service for me is about solving problems, helping my constituents, making sure that they not only get by, but they get ahead,” she said at a press conference in Baltimore, Maryland Monday morning. “Now, in 2016, my reelection would be on the horizon. I have thought long and hard about the next two years and I had to ask myself this question: ‘Who am I campaigning for?’”

“Do I spend my time raising money, or do I spend my time raising hell?” she asked rhetorically. “Do I focus on my election, or do I focus on the next generation?”

Clearly, after giving serious thought to her political future, she chose the latter course.

“I’m here today [to announce] that I will not be seeking a sixth term in the United States Senate,” she declared. “This has been a hard decision to make. I have served in the Senate for a while and at the conclusion of this term, I will have served over 30 years [in Congress]. That’s hard to believe.”

She made sure to emphasize, however, that she is not retiring because she is ill or disenchanted with Washington. Instead, she is retiring because she wants to focus on the job she was elected to do: Serving her constituents.

“I want the people of Maryland to know there’s nothing gloomy about this announcement: There’s no health problem, I’m not frustrated with the Senate — the Senate will always be what the Senate is,” she intoned. “But I have decided … I want to give 120 percent of my time [to] my constituents. Because it’s never been about me, it’s always been about them.”

Caring: Lengthy Obamacare Application Process is Leaving Newborns Uninsured

Rep. Alex Mooney (R-WV) wasn’t prepared for the lengthy battle he was about to endure when he and his wife Grace tried to put their newborn girl Camille on their health insurance plan. Yet, thanks to the overbearing bureaucratic process of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, that seemingly simple action became World War Three.

Appearing on Fox News’ “Varney & Co.” Friday, Rep. Mooney explained why their daughter, born in October, wasn’t added to their insurance plan until late January.

The Mooneys’ headache was brought on by Obamacare’s bureaucratic procedure. You see, in order to add your newborn to your insurance plan you have to apply for the Children’s Health Insurance Program and be either accepted or denied. It is an income-based plan, yet even if you know your income is above the threshold and you won’t qualify for CHIP, you nonetheless have to fill out an application and wait for a response. The entire process often takes longer than the 30-day period parents have to add their newborns to their plans.

Since parents aren’t getting their rejection letters back until after the 30-day deadline, they can’t add a child to their plan until the open enrollment period. This means, they are responsible for any medical costs until that period.

Mooney is not the only parent who has had to battle the HHS. KUTV.com reported on the plights of three families with newborns who tried to sign their children up through CHIP and similarly missed the deadline. One mother, Maggie, lamented the fact she knew she wouldn’t qualify and saw no reason for submitting an application, “but they said we had to.” The reporter concluded it is “impossible” for many of these parents to add their new babies to their plans:

“They are getting stuck with massive labor and delivery bills they should not have to pay.”

After their report on how newborns are being rejected insurance, KUTV reached out to the Department of Health and Human Services for an explanation. The agency responded with this helpful information:

“It is important to answer all the questions on the application, so the child can receive a correct eligibility determination…To avoid a delay in coverage, parents are encouraged to return to the marketplace to report a birth…as soon as they can.”

In case you couldn’t tell in my lead in to the quote, my use of “helpful” was sarcastic.

After KUTV contacted HHS, the local news station received at least 15 calls from other parents dealing with the same Big Government obstacles. Oh yeah, and each of the three families featured in the segment suddenly heard back that their newborn children had been added to their plans.

Fancy that.

Seeking to draw attention to Obamacare’s unfair bureaucratic process, Rep. Mooney is writing a letter to HHS Secretary Silvia Mathews Burwell asking for clarification on the marketplace website. For instance, online it says you have 60 days to report a new birth, but in reality it’s being treated as a regular life event that you have 30 days to report. Mooney also wants clearer language regarding CHIP, as well as the process for getting covered if you miss the deadline – right now there is no clear alternative option.

“This is the latest highlight of the terrible effects of putting federal bureaucracy in between a family and their healthcare decisions, “ Mooney said. “The terrible financial impact of having a newborn go uncovered is wreaking havoc on struggling young families. I can attest to the absurdity of this process having lived through it myself in the last year, and being prevented from adding my newborn baby to my family’s insurance plan.”

Moral of the story? Bureaucracy and babies don’t mix.

Why Obama Fears Netanyahu's Speech

President Obama does not want Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak in front of a joint session of Congress Tuesday.

His National Security Advisor Susan Rice even told PBS last week that the speech was "destructive to the fabric" of the Israeli-American relationship.

The Obama administration has consistently maintained that their objection to Netanyahu's visits is due to the upcoming Israeli elections. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest has repeatedly claimed that the White House has a firm policy of not meeting foreign leaders too close to an election. The White House also claims that Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) breached protocol by inviting Netanyahu to speak without first consulting with the president.

But the real reason Obama fears Netanyahu's speech is because he knows the Israeli prime minister will make a forceful case against Obama's imminent nuclear deal with Iran. I

Netanyahu believes this too. Which is why posted this tweet before he left Israel for the United States Sunday:

The "mission" Netanyahu is referring to, is an end to Obama's emerging nuclear deal with Iran, which Netanyahu and many Israeli's believe would be detrimental to their country's national security. 

“What was achieved last night in Geneva is not a historic agreement, but a historic mistake,” Netanyahu said after Obama inked an interim agreement with Tehran in November. "Today the world has become a much more dangerous place because the most dangerous regime in the world has taken a significant step toward attaining the most dangerous weapon in the world," the prime minister continued.

Netanyahu has also signaled that he has new information for Congress about the Iranian deal that Obama has not shared with his country. "We know many details from the agreement being put together, details that we feel members of Congress are unaware of," an Israeli official told Haaretz. "According to the information we have, the deal currently taking shape will leave Iran with the capability to build a nuclear weapon, if Khamenei make a decision to do so."

The existing information on the deal is alarming to even those sympathetic to the White House. Former-Mossad official Meir Dagan, a critic of Netanyahu, told The Atlantic, "Two issues in particular concern me with respect to the talks between the world powers and Iran: What happens if and when the Iranians violate the agreement, and what happens when the period of the agreement comes to an end and they decide to pursue nuclear weapons?”

Expect Netanyahu to hammer both of the points in front of Congress Tuesday. 

And if the White House has an answer to these concerns, they haven't shared it yet.

Capitol Source: Guy Benson On His New Book 'End of Discussion'

Townhall's Guy Benson shares stories and facts from his forthcoming book: End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun!), which was coauthored by Hot Air's Mary Katharine Ham.

"Frankly, we wrote End of Discussion primarily for Conservatives. But we really went out of our way to try to write it, first of all, in a way that is fun and at times funny to read," Benson explains. 

"But we also wanted to be as fair to the other side as possible, to be intellectually honest. So people can give this book to their Moderate or Liberal friends and say: 'Hey if you really believe yourself to be open-minded and tolerant, this is an issue that affects all of us.'" 

Be sure to pre-order your copy (and maybe a few for your friends) here.  



Netanyahu Arrives in U.S. Ahead of Controversial Address to Joint Session of Congress

As negotiations over a deal with Iran continue, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has arrived in the United States ahead of his address to a joint session of Congress Tuesday night. 

A senior Israeli official told reporters on Netanyahu's flight that Congress could be "the last brake" for stopping a nuclear deal with Iran.

Saying it was Israel's impression that members of Congress "do not necessarily know the details of the deal coming together, which we do not see as a good deal," the official said Netanyahu in his speech would give a detailed explanation of his objections to an Iran deal.

House Speaker John Boehner extended the speaking invitation to Netanyahu earlier this year without consulting the White House, prompting boycotts of his speech by the Congressional Black Caucus and a number of liberal Democrats. Last week former ambassador to the United Nations and current White House National Security Advisor Susan Rice claimed publicly that Netanyahu's speech, which is expected to be focused on the threat of a nuclear Iran, will be "destructive to the fabric" of the U.S.-Israeli relationship. 

During his visit, Netanyahu will not be hosted by President Obama at the White House and has turned down an invitation to meet with Senate Democrats. Vice President Joe Biden will not attend the speech and Secretary of State John Kerry will be in Geneva for meetings. 

Meanwhile, Speaker Boehner continues to stand by his decision to invite Netanyahu and said yesterday on CBS' Face the Nation that tickets to the speech are in high demand. 

“The demand for seats in the House, the demand for tickets – I’ve never seen anything like it. Everybody wants to be there. What I do wonder, is why the White House feels threatened because the Congress wants to support Israel, and wants to hear what a trusted ally has to say? And it’s been frankly remarkable to me the extent to which, over the last five or six weeks, the White House has attacked the Prime Minister, attacked me, for wanting to hear from one of our closes allies," Boehner said. "The threat coming from Iran and the Iranians having a nuclear weapon is a threat to the region, it’s a threat to the United States, and it’s a threat to the rest of the world. This is a serious issue and we’re not going to resolve this issue by sticking our heads in the sand. The prime minister can talk about this threat, I believe, better than anyone. And the United States Congress wants to hear from him, and so do the American people.”

Saturday Night Live Skit Mocks ISIS

Saturday Night Live sparked a bit of controversy last night when the show released a sketch that portrayed a daughter being dropped off at the airport by her father to join ISIS.

The skit was modeled after a Toyota commercial that showed a girl growing up from her father's point of view, culminating with him dropping her off at the airport to join the military. On the SNL version, the daughter is instead greeted by a truck full of ISIS militants armed with machine guns.

Personally, I thought the SNL sketch was funny, and this "outrage" (while relatively minor) is kind of ridiculous. To borrow a line from comedian Margaret Cho, "you imprison, starve and brainwash my people, you get made fun of by me." ISIS wants to destroy the west. ISIS has beheaded journalists. They've beheaded Christians on a beach. Polio is making a resurgence in areas under ISIS control. Yet despite these atrocities, Americans are still attempting to join up with them. These people are worthy of being mocked. They are scum. We should not be worried about offending a group of people who would have zero issue with killing the entire cast of Saturday Night Live.

Expressing outrage over a skit like this is elevating ISIS to an untouchable level. That's what they want. This shouldn't happen.

Jeb Bush: I’m A 'Practicing Reform-Minded Conservative' Named ‘Veto Corleone’

Friday, at the Conservative Political Action Conference, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush decided to venture into less than friendly territory by having a Q&A session with Fox News’ Sean Hannity that lasted almost 30 minutes. Bush was originally supposed to give a speech, but that was scrapped at the last minute.

Hannity asked the potential 2016 candidate about his quotes criticizing conservative Republicans for being too focused on what they’re against, which Bush feels has made the party look “anti-woman, anti-science, anti-gay, and anti-worker” to the rest of the electorate.

Bush said he feels that Republicans have fought in a principled way against the overreach of the Obama administration (Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, and the Stimulus), but there needs to come a time when the party should be for things, like a strong national defense. He also mentioned being for an agenda that focuses on growth; offering alternatives to the failed tax, regulatory, and education polices of this administration.

So, what about immigration and Common Core, the two issues that seems to be hurting Gov. Bush with the Republican base? Well, here’s what he had to say:

SEAN HANNITY: You [Jeb Bush] said, “Yeah, they broke the law, it’s not a felony, it’s an act of love.” You also said that you support a path to citizenship. And when you were governor, two other things, when you were governor, you supported drivers licenses for illegal immigrants and you supported in-state tuition prices for those children of illegal immigrants that weren’t citizens. I want to give you an opportunity to address that

JEB BUSH: So, on immigration, I wrote a book about this -- instead of people pining about what I believe, that might want to read the book. It’s called ‘Immigration Wars.’ You can get it on Amazon for probably $1.99; it’s probably deeply discounted. And in that book, I talk about first and foremost the need to enforce the borders. A great country needs to enforce borders for national security purposes, public health purposes, and the rule of law. First and foremost we have to do that. Secondly, we need to narrow family petitioning so that it’s the same as every other country, spouse and minor children. Not this broad definition of spouse, minor children, adult siblings and adult parents, that crowds out what we need, which are economic-driven immigrants. Those who come here to work, to invest in their dreams in this country, to create opportunities for all of us, and that’s what we need to get to.

And so -- the plan also includes a path to legal status. I have not seen anybody, and I know there’s disagreement here–some of these people are angry about this–and, look, I kind of feel your pain. I was in Miami this morning; it was 70 degrees. So, the simple fact is there is no plan to deport 11 million people. We should give them a path to legal status, where they work, where they don’t receive government benefits, where they don’t break the law, where they learn English, and where they make a contribution to our society. That’s what we need to be focused on.

On Common Core:

HANNITY: The second big issue that always comes up when you read about Governor Jeb Bush is the issue of Common Core. It was interesting. I didn’t know until I was researching you that you were the first governor to institute vouchers in the country, was eventually overruled by the Supreme Court of Florida. But, you were the first governor to allow a voucher system. I think a lot of conservatives believe in vouchers. I want you to address the Common Core issue.

BUSH: I’ll do it in the context of comprehensive reform because high standards, by themselves, aren’t meaningful, they’re helpful, they’re better than lower standards, but by themselves, if there is no accountability around this, if there is no consequence for mediocrity and failure or excellence, then the system won’t move forward. In Florida, we took a comprehensive approach.

Yes, we did have the first statewide voucher program, and we have more school choice in Florida, both public and private than in any state in the country, and we have the largest virtual school. We have the largest corporate tax scholarship program. We have 30,000 students, that if their parents…if their child has a learning disability, they can take the dollars, the state and local dollars, and send them to any private school of their choice. We have all of that–and that’s improved public schools. We eliminated social promotion in third grade, which was a pretty difficult thing to do. We did all this, and we raised standards. And my belief is that our standards have to be high enough, where a student going through our system is college or career ready, and that’s not what’s happening right now.

HANNITY: Is Common Core a federal takeover?

BUSH: No.

HANNITY: It’s not?

BUSH: And it shouldn’t be. Here’s where I think conservatives–and myself–all of us are deeply concerned with this president and this Department of Education, there’s a risk that they will intrude and they have, as it relates to Race to the Top. What we should say quite clearly in the authorization of the K-12 law– that is just…I think it may have actually been on the floor in the House of Representatives today, is to say, the federal government has no role in the creation of standards, either directly or indirectly. The federal government has no role in the creation of curriculum and content. The federal government should have no access to student I.D. or student information. The role of the federal government, if there’s any, is to provide incentives for more school choice. Take the Title 1 money, and the IDEA money. And if states want to innovate with their own programs–give them the money to let them create their own programs. That is a better approach.

Hannity then discussed Gov. Bush’s record, which he took tremendous pride in that fact that he issues $19 billion in tax cuts and vetoed $2 billion in spending in his eight years as governor of Florida. This earned him the nickname “Veto Corelone” in the state legislature. Bush also said he made Florida business-friendly–and they noticed. The Sunshine State grew at 3.9 percent, whereas the national average hovered around 2.6 percent.

The governor also mentioned that under his watch 1.3 million net new jobs were created in his eight years. On education, Bush noted that Florida has been an example of rising student achievement–and that kids in poverty are the leaders in education, outperforming their peers in various areas.

Bush referenced his executive order that eliminated affirmative action, “but through hard work, we ended up having a system where more African-American and Hispanic kids attending our university system than prior to the system that was discriminatory,” he said.

On fiscal matters, Gov. Bush took pride in the fact that he left the governor’s mansion with a huge surplus for his successor. He told the crowd, “I left the state with $9.5 billion of reserves–no drunken sailors were around.”

“We left my successor $9 billion+ of cash for a rainy day,” he added.

Hannity then asked his top five primary action items if he were to be elected president. Bush said he would 1. Roll back Obama’s executive actions 2. Institute a regulatory reform agenda 3. Do something about taxes 4. Have policies that focus of rebuilding America’s economic growth at high rates and sustaining them and 5. Have a robust national security, telling the world we will be their partners to maintain peace and security.

Before they exited the stage, Hannity and Bush did some word association for fun.  Hannity described himself as a Reagan constitutional conservative.  Bush said he's a practicing reform-minded conservative. When Barack Obama’s name came up, the first two words that came to mind for the former governor was “failed president.”

From the looks of it, one might think Jeb Bush did well at CPAC. Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post wrote that Bush did “very, very well” at the conference. The reported attendee walk out on Jeb fizzled fast–and the ballroom was packed. This was probably due to the fact that Jeb supporters were bused in from K Street.

Many will probably agree more with National Review’s Jim Geraghty’s (who was honored as Conservative Journalist of the Year at CPAC) assessment of the Bush Q&A, which is that as long as he didn’t trip up on the issues that are plaguing him thus far–Common Core and immigration–he would be fine.

Bush ended up in fifth place in the CPAC straw poll.

VIDEO: What is the Left's Biggest Misconception About Conservatives?

During CPAC, we asked attendees what they believed the left misunderstands the most about the conservative movement. Townhall's Ky Sisson reports: 

Kerry: It Was 'Odd' Boehner Invited Netanyahu to Address Congress

Secretary of State John Kerry is awfully frustrated with House Speaker John Boehner’s decision to invite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress this Tuesday.

Here’s what Kerry had to say about Boehner’s daring invitation Sunday morning on ABC’s "This Week:

“It was odd, if not unique, that we learned of it from the speaker of the House and that an administration was not included in this process," he said. "But the administration is not seeking to politicize this.”

While insisting the White House has no political desires in regards to the foreign leaders' appearance (Kerry said they don't want it to become a "poltical football"), some have suggested that Netanyahu may have political motivations, seeing as his visit is taking place just two weeks before Israeli elections.

Kerry isn’t the only member of the Obama administration to express frustration with Netanyahu’s visit. Speaking with PBS’s Charlie Rose, National Security Advisor Susan Rice said Netanyahu’s speech will be “destructive” to the America-Israel relationship.

As for Netanyahu, he clearly seems to have other motives – and deadlines – in mind. Speaking to the Conference of Presidents last week, the prime minister passionately explained that he is going to Washington now because of the important nuclear arms deal with Iran that is approaching at the end of March.

“Israel has been offered the opportunity to make its case on this crucial issue before the world’s most important Parliament. A speech before Congress allows Israel to present its position to the elected representatives to the American people and to a worldwide audience.”

America, he continued, has the ability to place needed pressure on Iran. Netanyahu then asked an important question:

“How could any responsible Israeli Prime Minister refuse to speak to Congress on a matter so important to Israel’s survival?”

Yet, the Obama administration continues to suggest Netanyahu’s visit is an unwelcome one and some Democrats have even threatened to boycott the speech.

Perhaps sensing backlash for the Obama White House's irritated reaction to Netanyahu's upcoming surprise speech, Kerry tried to defend the administration’s relationship with Israel. He did this by pointing out that America has intervened on behalf of Israel a couple of hundred times in just the past two years. 

Well, numbers tell one story, but President Obama and his administration’s exasperated attitude toward Netanyahu and Israel suggests our nations are not so close after all. Can you remember any other administration daring to say this about our long term friend in the Middle East?

After all this, President Obama, the Secretary of State and other senior officials in the White House continue to claim they are Israel’s friend.

Well, if that’s true, then they have an “odd” way of showing it.

Beast Is Slain, Publication Admits Walker Was ‘Unfairly Attacked On College Rape’ In Hit Piece

Yesterday, Daily Beast, acting off of the piece in Jezebel, reported that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker had removed a provision in his proposed budget that required universities to report rapes on their campuses. I bet you can guess what the reaction from some (I know I’m being generous with some) on the left. Well, it turns out the University of Wisconsin asked the governor to remove the provision since it was redundant since the Clery Act and Title IX cover reporting and responding of rapes on college campuses.

It took the Beast and Jezebel hours to get their act together andoffer retractions. Beast retitled their discredited story saying Walker was “unfairly attacked.” Jezebel did not change the headline, but their reporter, Natasha Vargas-Cooper, eventually apologized on Twitter for screwing up.

The Beast’s retraction and correction:

A Daily Beast college columnist at the University of Wisconsin based this article off a Jezebel posting which was incorrectly reported. Jezebel updated their post on Saturday with the following after USA Today published a story debunking Jezebel's account and clarifying Gov. Scott Walker's position. "UPDATE: After Jezebel ran this item yesterday, a spokesman for the University of Wisconsin came forward—over two weeks after the budget was released—to clarify: the University requested that Gov. Walker delete the requirements because efforts were redundant with their compliance of the Cleary Act. Scott Walker's camp assures that he's committed to protecting victims.”

The Daily Beast is committed to covering the news fairly and accurately, and we should have checked this story more thoroughly. We deeply regret the error and apologize to Gov. Walker and our readers. This story should be considered retracted.

Jezebel:

[Editor's Note: After Jezebel ran this item yesterday, a spokesman for the University of Wisconsin came forward—over two weeks after the budget was released—to clarify: the University requested that Gov. Walker delete the requirements because efforts were redundant with their compliance of the Clery Act. Scott Walker's camp assures that he's committed to protecting victims. We reported this piece without full context, and while this piece conveys factual information, omission of that context for that information presents an unfair and misleading picture. We regret the error and apologize.]

Vargas-Cooper got a little huffy on Twitter regarding her debunked piece. On Twitter, she at first refused to apologize since it was in the budget, instead saying that we should blame Walker for bad optics. She eventually relented later that day.

Oh, and the $300 million cut to the public university system, which is amongst his other reforms that Walker proposes, still equals a meager 2.5 percent of their operating budget. Brian Weidy, the Daily Beast reporter who wrote about this, has gone silent on Twitter since the story was published on February 27. Oh, and let’s not forget the New York Times foul-up, blaming teacher layoffs on Walker … before he was governor.

Was Gang Member Who Allegedly Committed Quadruple Homicide a DREAMer?

Sen. Chuck Grassley is demanding answers from DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson about the immigration status of Emmanuel Jesus Rangel-Hernandez, the suspected gang member who allegedly murdered four people, including a former “America’s Next Top Model,” in Charlotte, North Carolina earlier this week.

“Mr. Rangel-Hernandez allegedly applied for and received deferred action under the President’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program,” he wrote in a letter to Johnson on Friday. Grassley then requested files on Rangel-Hernandez from DHS and its sub agencies be sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Illegal immigrants have killed tens of thousands of Americans—deaths that were entirely preventable had our nation’s leaders enforced immigration laws already on the books. If Congress loses the battle to defund President Obama’s executive actions on immigration, this trend will sadly continue in the years ahead.

As Ann Coulter argued in her column this week, Americans are much more likely to be killed, raped, or maimed by illegal immigrants than they are by ISIS. Yet, we continue to have a laser-like focus on international threats that, so far, have killed only a few Americans. While those deaths are tragic, and the threat from ISIS should by no means be ignored, “ISIS is not at our doorstep,” Coulter pointed out. On the other hand, “illegal immigrants are not only at our doorstep, but millions of them are already through the door, murdering far more Americans than ISIS ever will.”

Couldn't we please focus on Americans for a bit? Can't a Republican Congress do anything to stop the surge of foreign criminals, viruses and parasites crossing our border? Will politicians ever stop gassing on about what's happening 7,000 miles away and worry about us?

But politicians and the media only want to give us war, while aiding the enemy in the war we're already in, here at home.