FLASHBACK: Secret Service Missed Fake Interpreter Charged With Murder on Stage With Obama During Mandela Funeral

The Associated Press is out with a list of Secret Service failures today but there's one big incident that they missed. On top of the agency failing to investigate a 2011 shooting at the White House, failing to stop reality TV D-listers from cashing a White House party, failing to keep President Obama out of an elevator with a convicted felon who was carrying a gun, falling down drunk on the job, hiring Colombian prostitutes during an official trip and failing to stop a man carrying a knife from jumping the fence and running all the way across the lawn deep into the White House, the Secret Service also failed to catch the murder, rape and kidnapping charges belonging to fake sign language interpreter Thamsanqa Jantjie, who stood next to Obama on stage during Nelson Mandela's 2013 funeral.

The "fake" sign language interpreter who said he suffered a schizophrenic fit onstage at Nelson Mandela's memorial service has a criminal history that includes charges of rape and murder, according to a report.

Thamsanqa Jantjie - who stood near several world leaders, including President Obama, during the event at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg - has been arrested at least five times since the mid-1990s, but he allegedly dodged jail time because he was mentally unfit to stand trial, the South African news station eNCA reported Friday.

The station found that Jantjie, 34, who has a long history of mental illness, has been arrested on suspicion of rape, theft, housebreaking and malicious damage to property. His most recent collar was in 2003, when he faced murder, attempted murder and kidnapping charges, the news station reported.

Here is a photo of Jantjie standing next to the President. 

And for good measure, SNL mocking the incident.

ICYMI: Trey Gowdy Destroys Director of Secret Service Over 2011 Shooting Incident

Yesterday Secret Service Director Julia Pierson fielded questions from furious and skeptical lawmakers after a number of serious failures by the agency to properly protect the President. Pierson started her testimony by saying she "takes full responsibility" for the failures, especially the most recent incident of fence jumper Omar Gonzales making it all the way inside the White House, but failed to answer a number of questions. 

Republican Congressman Trey Gowdy questioned Pierson on a shooting incident that occurred at the White House in 2011. Pierson failed to provide adequate answers as to why that incident was first classified as simply backfire from a car after agents drew their weapons, smelled gun powder and why it was left to a housekeeper to find broken glass and evidence of a shooting. Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez was eventually arrested for the shooting. More background:

A federal judge in Washington sentenced Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez on Monday.

Prosecutors had asked he spend 27 1/2 years in prison for the shooting. No one was injured, but prosecutors say Ortega-Hernandez hit the executive mansion about eight times and did nearly $100,000 in damage.

Ortega-Hernandez's lawyers argued he was suffering from extreme depression and mental stress at the time of the shooting and was under the misguided belief that Armageddon was coming. They asked for a 10-year sentence.

Gowdy asked Pierson to explain why a housekeeper was able to find evidence of a shooting while agents failed to search the premise. Pierson responded by saying the incident occurred at night and that "it's difficult to see at night."

Reporter 'Creeped Out' by Obama Aide

The White House was recently accused of changing press pool reports and pressuring journalists to modify their stories. And now, another journalist has been told what to do by an Obama aide.

Read more on the White House's paranoid control over the press.

Meg Kissinger, a reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for 35 years, was covering Michelle Obama's campaign visit for Wisconsin gubernatorial Democratic candidate, Mary Burke. She was told by aides for the first lady that she could not talk to people in the crowd.

Take a look at Kissinger's Twitter and Facebook posts:

Meg is spot on! "This is what reporters do in America: we speak to people." One of the key elements to journalistic storytelling is reaction. What do the people like? What did the people not like?

The Obama staff's continued shady behavior with the press has got to stop. What a random crowd member at a campaign event might say to reporters should be the least of their worries (or so you would think). The uncontrollable nature of interviewing people in the audience must have been unsettling for the Obama aides. It seems to me like they were on edge because they couldn't manipulate or stage the person being interview. What a shame.

Barely a Third of Democrat Congressional Candidates Support Obamacare

As we rapidly approach the one year anniversary of Obamacare's implementation and the horrendous launch of HealthCare.gov, a new report from the Brookings Institution shows that Democrat candidates for Congress aren't exactly embracing the law—in fact, most are avoiding it entirely.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic Brookings Institution

We coded candidates as supporting the Affordable Care Act if they lauded the bill or its effects. We coded candidates advocating to repeal or fully replace the Affordable Care Act (also known as “Obamacare”) as opposing it. Candidates with “Complicated Positions” included those that forwarded moderated positions (i.e. the Act needs to be fixed or simply delayed), as well as those with positions outside the scope of the question (e.g. advocating for single-payer health care). Finally, if the candidate did not mention President Obama’s health reforms they were coded as “No Information.”

I think it's significantly interesting that approximately 79 percent of Republican candidates for Congress are discussing the law, as opposed to only roughly 63 percent of Democrats discussing President Obama's flagship piece of legislation. While it's fairly obvious that many Republicans are opposed to Obamacare, I think it's more telling that a sizable chunk of Democrats are not even willing to discuss their feelings about it to avoid frightening voters. With public opinion polls showing that more than half of Americans are opposed to Obamacare, can you really blame them?

As Snyder Launches Town Hall Tour, Michelle Obama Plans To Stump For Schauer

Yesterday, Gov. Rick Snyder launched his town hall tour in Kalamazoo, which will be focused on touting the accomplishments his administration has made in Michigan. It will also be a forum for voters to discuss issues that matter to them most and what Gov. Snyder will do if re-elected this November.

Recently, Snyder released this ad featuring Linda Thaler, a retired teacher, who says that Snyder increased funding for education programs and “shored up” pensions for teachers. As an educator for 31 years, Thaler says she’s confident in Snyder’s record on education. But Democrats might have some fun cutting into it since Thaler is Snyder’s vacation home neighbor at Gun Lake.

Nevertheless, besides education, poor infrastructure will probably come up during this tour –and in the debates–as Michigan voters may not be willing for pay for a new gas tax; a tax Schauer hasn’t really ruled out on the campaign trail, according to the Detroit Free Press:

When Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer took questions during a recent visit to a union hall in suburban Detroit, meat cutter Jim Mesich brought up a long source of frustration for Michigan drivers: crummy roads.

Why not, he asked Schauer, repeal a business tax cut and put all the money toward improving roads? Better that, he said, than asking "common guys" to pay more at the pump.

Schauer criticized Republican Gov. Rick Snyder for being unable to persuade the GOP-led Legislature to pass a road-funding fix and said Snyder's "trying to raise taxes on you" through proposed higher gasoline and vehicle registration taxes. But Schauer was less specific in detailing how he as governor would raise the minimum $1.2 billion more a year that Snyder said is needed to avoid drastic deterioration of roads and bridges.

Schauer, who voted for Michigan's last state gas tax hike as a freshman lawmaker in 1997, may be leaving the door open to another one. He criticized the idea when unveiling his jobs plan in July, but when asked this month by The Associated Press if he was ruling out gas tax or license plate fee increases, he said: "I'm just saying we have to do this fairly."

Both gubernatorial candidates agree something must be done.

In the meantime, Michelle Obama and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie plan to visit The Great Lake State this fall to stump for their party’s candidates; Christie was there last Friday as part of his month-long tour across the country campaigning for GOP gubernatorial candidates. Christie, along with Snyder, met with a group of entrepreneurs in a local coffee house that drew some protestors. "I love campaigning for candidates who have protestors. That means they're doing something," Christie said. He later attended a fundraiser for Snyder later that afternoon. As for Michelle Obama’s visit to help out Mark Schauer and Senate candidate Gary Peters, that’s to be determined.

Concerning engaging voters, Schauer and Snyder are heavily utilizing social media, although experts say they could be doing more. Snyder’s presence is described as “gubernatorial, positive, and slightly nerdy,” while his Schauer is “in attack mode, edgier, engaging, and often negative” (via Detroit Free Press):

"Both are very engaged, but they're using very different methods," said Nick De Leeuw, communications director for the public relations firm Resch Strategies and a Republican political operative. "They couldn't be more different."

"Schauer is far more aggressive than Snyder is in several ways right now, which kind of goes with his whole campaign," said Graham Davis, who is director of digital media at the public relations firm Truscott Rossman in Detroit and formerly handled social media for Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

De Leeuw, Davis and other social media experts say Snyder and Schauer are both doing a solid but unspectacular job of covering the basics on what is becoming an increasingly important element of election campaigns.

"Both are doing very well playing to their bases," said Kristin Sokul, a senior account manager at the Tanner Friedman public relations firm in Farmington Hills.

Both Snyder and Schauer are active on Facebook and Twitter and have YouTube channels where they post their campaign ads and some media interviews.

On the campaign side, Schauer has the numerical edge on social media with close to 40,000 likes on Facebook and more than 5,000 followers on Twitter, compared with more than 18,000 Facebook likes and fewer than 4,000 Twitter followers for Snyder.

But those numbers don't tell the whole story. Snyder also has Facebook and Twitter accounts he uses as governor, which by law can't be used for campaign purposes but do feature posts about government accomplishments. On his official sites, Snyder is ahead of Schauer with close to 60,000 Facebook likes and close to 38,000 Twitter followers. As governor, he also is active on Instagram and Google Plus, where he's held "Google Plus hang-outs" — online group chat sessions that can include voice and video — and has more than 308,000 followers on his official governor site.

"The official (social media) efforts provide a big boost to the campaign," De Leeuw said. In many ways, "the message is the same."

By the numbers, the Press added that Schauer has spent $150,000 on online advertising, $65,000 on Facebook, and $52,000 on Google. Snyder has spent $125,000 on social media engagement, with $15,000 going to Google and $7,000 on Facebook.

BREAKING: First Confirmed Case of Ebola U.S.

UPDATE 5:50: According to the CDC, the patient being treated came back from Liberia after attending a funeral on September 19. The patient's symptoms started on September 24 and hospitalization began on September 28 in Dallas. Several family members to the patient may have been exposed. Because the patient did not get sick until four days after getting off the airplane, nobody who flew with the patient is at risk. CDC Director Tom Frieden said during a press conference this afternoon, "There is no doubt in my mind that we will stop it here." 

"The bottom line here is that I have no doubt that we will control this case of Ebola so that it does not spread widely inside the U.S." he added.

The CDC has had a plan in place for awhile now about how to deal with a case should one show up in the U.S.

"We are well prepared to deal with this crisis," a health official said.

Ebola is not transmitted through the air, but only through direct contact with bodily fluids. It can be killed by soap. CDC goals moving forward include the following: 

-To care for the patient. 

-To provide the most effective care possible and safety possible to minimize spread of the virus

-Identify all people the patient was in contact with while infectious.

5:00 pm ET: The first case of Ebola in the United States has been confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control. More from CNN

A patient being treated at a Dallas, Texas, hospital is the first case of Ebola virus diagnosed in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Wednesday.

Several other Americans were diagnosed in West Africa and then brought to the United States for treatment.

Two weeks ago, President Obama announced he was sending U.S. troops to West Africa to combat the spread of the virus. He has also announced partnerships with multiple countries to combat the deadly disease. Officials have expressed concern about the virus mutating into an airborne illness.

A CDC press conference is scheduled for 5:30 pm ET.

This post has been updated.

Confirmed: Obama Couldn't Have Been Surprised by Iraq's Meltdown


Yes, I'm going to continue hammering on this issue because the Commander-in-Chief cannot be allowed to skate by with baseless deflections of blame as a means of papering over his own grave errors in judgment.  The president accuses a detached "they" of misjudging the frightening rise of ISIS, which was a direct result of America's premature and total withdrawal from Iraq.  The chief White House spokesman insists that if the president underestimated the threat, it was because "everybody" had done the same.  But that's not true.  The Washington Free Beacon has produced a montage of relevant public warnings and assessments from high-ranking officials, spanning two administrations and seven years:


Again, that's just what was said in public -- and the clip doesn't include additional quotes from sources like former DIA director Michael Flynn or the State Department's Brett McGurk .  It's simply inconceivable that Obama wasn't privy to frank private assessments.  Indeed, CBS News' Norah O'Donnell describes intelligence officials "bristling" at the president's assessment of blame, pointing to a "paper trail" of threat assessments:


While he was certainly aware of big-picture risks, the question of whether President Obama was up-to-date on all available intelligence regarding ISIS and Iraq remains open.  Katie linked to a new report that reveals that Obama has skipped more than half of his 2014 in-person Presidential Daily Briefings (PDBs).  When similar figures were released in 2012, his aides assured reporters that the president pores over the written PDB's every day, but that brings us back to the comment from an ex-intelligence official in the Daily Beast: “Either the president doesn’t read the intelligence he’s getting or he’s bullshitting.”  The New York Times offers a deep-dive into the administration's failures and lengthy periods of paralysis on ISIS, painting a picture of a distracted and diffident White House -- which is par for the course regarding Obama and Iraq):

By late last year, classified American intelligence reports painted an increasingly ominous picture of a growing threat from Sunni extremists in Syria, according to senior intelligence and military officials. Just as worrisome, they said, were reports of deteriorating readiness and morale among troops next door in Iraq. But the reports, they said, generated little attention in a White House consumed with multiple brush fires and reluctant to be drawn back into Iraq. “Some of us were pushing the reporting, but the White House just didn’t pay attention to it,” said a senior American intelligence official. “They were preoccupied with other crises,” the official added. “This just wasn’t a big priority.” ... In interviews in recent weeks, administration officials privately agreed that they had not focused enough on the Islamic State’s territorial ambitions but said they were hamstrung in responding by an Iraqi government that was fanning the sectarian divide that helped give rise to the Sunni extremists in the first place...The Islamic State was born out of the ashes of Al Qaeda in Iraq, which was crippled by the time Mr. Obama withdrew American forces from Iraq at the end of 2011.

Victory squandered; gains reversed.  And then some.  The UK Daily Mail quotes unnamed national security officials within the administration pushing back against Obama's blamestorming, noting that the intel trail on ISIS dates back to pre-election 2012.  McClatchy published a similar report in July.

Is This Vulnerable Senate Democrat Dodging Debates?

Certainly, the Brown campaign has insinuated as much. The Boston Herald has the scoop:

Democratic incumbent Jeanne Shaheen and GOP challenger Scott Brown yesterday engaged in long-distance warfare in their U.S. Senate battle as Shaheen launched a new attack on Brown but refused to do it face-to-face. Brown, the former Massachusetts senator, appeared at Franklin Pierce University for what was originally slated as a Senate faceoff, one of several election debates co-sponsored by the Marlin Fitzwater Center for Communication, but he ended up being alone on stage because Shaheen had declined to show up.

“I am disappointed,” Brown said in a talk to first-time voters. Shaheen also is refusing to appear on stage with Brown in another planned debate next month sponsored by the Manchester and Nashua Chambers of Commerce, debate organizers reportedly confirmed yesterday.

In fairness, Team Shaheen maintains they declined the invitation to debate yesterday -- and next month -- because they have already acquiesced to three separate, state-televised debates before voters cast their ballots. So it's not as if the New Hampshire Democrat is totally running scared and hiding from the public. Voters, for their part, will ultimately decide whether she is or not.

On the other hand, her refusal to host open (i.e., non-"telephone") town hall-style meetings -- or agree to more debates, as the Brown camp has proposed -- is telling. Perhaps voting with the president 98 percent of the time, supporting amnesty, and distinguishing herself as the deciding vote for Obamacare are facts that can be better hidden by shunning the limelight.

By no means, however, is Shaheen the only Senate Democrat avoiding public debates. Other vulnerable incumbents have boldly followed suit, one of whom experienced some rather ugly and embarrassing headlines in his hometown newspaper for doing so.

Still, maybe Senate Democrats believe infuriating their constituents is a price worth paying to avoid tough questions. But even if it is, such strategies rarely go unnoticed.

Movie Producer Shares Personal Decision to Produce Faith-Based Film ‘The Good Lie’

The Lost Boys of Sudan are not your typical leading men. But, their painful yet powerful story is the focus of a new film creating some buzz in Hollywood. “The Good Lie” follows the lives of three Sudanese refugees who escape their home country during the brutal Second Civil War to come to America. The film stars newcomers Arnold Oceng, Ger Duany and Emmanuel Jal, who are actual Sudanese actors. Duany was once a Lost Boy before becoming a model and Jal is a hip-hop artist who was a child soldier in Sudan. Reese Witherspoon also stars as the employment agency counselor who helps the refugees acclimate to their new life in America. 

As you can tell, the story is pretty unique to Hollywood, which often cranks out sappy romantic comedies and action-packed thrillers. But, it was the Lost Boys’ inspiring and personally touching story that encouraged producer Molly Smith to sign on to the project. She spoke to Townhall about her emotional decision.

Faith plays a role in this film and that’s not something we typically see in the theater. That seemed to be a trend this year, with films like “Heaven is for Real” and the “Son of God” movie. Do you think this is an indication that there is more of a demand for faith-based films?

“Absolutely. I think it’s a direct answer to that and I think it’s really that these audiences are craving entertainment. This film and story of the Lost Boys is an incredible story of faith and has all of the values I feel will appeal to faith-based audiences.”

You’ve talked about how your own family adopted a Lost Boy from Sudan when you were younger. Can you talk about how much of a role this personal experience played in your decision to produce the film?

“I was really lucky to know some of the Lost Boys that came over and were resettled in Memphis, Tennessee, where I’m from. My sister actually met three of the guys three months after their arrival, at church and invited them to our holidays that year with my family. One of them in particular, a guy named Joseph Atem, just really became instantly a part of our family. He’s a wonderful guy and worked several jobs, trying to save up to go to school and my parents ended up helping him achieve that. He went to Christian Brothers University in Memphis and he’s now a Ph.D. engineer. He’s just an incredible guy and when I got the script I was really touched to be reading his story and felt kind of like it was fate. It came at the perfect time when my partners and I were in a new indie production company and we felt like we had to make this our first film.”

I’m sure Joseph learned a lot from you and your family, but is there one thing you learned from him?

“His spirit. To have gone through – this is what I’ve learned from so many of the Lost Boys – to have gone through what they’ve gone through and their journey, and the fact that they are here, with a huge smile on their face and inspired, wanting to learn more every day and work harder. It really is his spirit and work ethic that has touched me in a huge way.”

Why should audience goers choose this film over the typical chick flick or something like that?

“It’s rare a film can be entertaining but also educational and inspiring. I think, I hope this film has all of that in one. You leave this film, it’s really kind of an emotional experience this movie and when you see the film you’ll see what I mean. But, the screenwriter really does a really beautiful job of taking you on their journey with them as children and I think it’s unique in that way. And also, she told it in a way that there is a lot of humor in the film too. I think people expect when they hear ‘Lost Boys of Sudan’ something really heavy, but it’s also a really entertaining, fun film as well and so I hope audiences will respond to that.”

The film is rated PG-13, but would you say this is a film for the whole family?

“I do believe it’s a film for the whole family. The only reason it’s PG-13 is some obvious violence in the beginning of their journey. These are children of war. But I do believe it’s absolutely for the whole family and you know we have been screening for children and audiences and they’ve loved the film. It’s educational.”

This film is similar to "The Blind Side" in that it also has an inspiring message. Are these the kinds of films you prefer choosing over other films?

“I like stories that are going to move you in one way or another into an emotional experience and you know I guess I’m drawn and my partners and I are drawn to stories with heart and stories with substance, and this was certainly one of that.”

Any new projects?

“We’ve got a film in production right now called 'Demolition,' with Jake Gyllenhaal and Jean-Marc Vallee, who did 'Dallas Buyers Club' and 'Wild' and we’re shooting that currently in New York. We’ve got a couple things in the works that’s in production now."

Kudos to Smith for continually choosing to produce films that offer audiences more than explosions. ‘The Good Lie’ is packed with substance and heart. It opens October 3 - make sure to set a family date for this one.

For more insight into the presence of faith in Hollywood, read "Lights! Camera! Evangelism!," which was featured in the June issue of Townhall Magazine.

Oof: Alaska Gubernatorial Candidate Declines to Reciprocate Begich Endorsement


Well, this is awkward. Sen. Mark Begich is fighting for his political life up in Alaska, where he's trailed Republican challenger Dan Sullivan in the last four public polls.  At a recent candidate forum, the man with whom Begich will (sort of, see below) appear at the top of the ticket clumsily side-stepped a question about the state's US Senate race. After Republican Gov. Sean Parnell told the audience he'll be backing Sullivan for Senate, challenger Bill Walker was...noncommittal:


Question: I'd be interested in who each of you plan to vote for Senate.

Parnell: I'm voting for Dan Sullivan for US Senate. [Applause]

Walker: "I've heard that question asked in more creative ways, like what sign would be in our yard? The sign in my yard is going to be the Walker/Mallott for Governor and Lt. Governor sign, so that's what I'm going to say about that."

Walker, himself a (former?) Republican, is a running on an independent so-called "unity ticket" alongside a Democratic running mate.  His prospects depend on attracting enough Republican voters to oust the sitting GOP incumbent, so embracing Begich would be a major tactical error.  It would very well be the case that Walker's a Sullivan supporter, while his ticket-mate will vote for Begich.  Hence the maladroit evasion.  It's also not in the Walker/Mallott team's interests to tie themselves to a Democratic incumbent who's voted with an unpopular president 97 percent of the time. Begich has endorsed Walker; it appears the favor will not be returned.  Meanwhile, Begich is still fighting off criticisms over a highly controversial attack ad aired, then pulled, by his campaign, which has been denounced by everyone from Republicans to Jon Stewart.  The spot dishonestly tried to tie Dan Sullivan to an unspeakably brutal crime.  Politico explains the context:


The crime occurred in 2013. Jerry Active, who is charged with murdering the elderly couple and raping the young girl, had been released from prison after serving four years as part of a plea deal stemming from a 2009 sexual assault. The plea deal for the 2009 incident, arranged by prosecutors who worked under Sullivan, happened because of a clerical error that took place before Sullivan became attorney general. Sullivan was still on active duty in the Marines when the incorrect information was entered into the computer.

So the plea deal in question was rooted in a mistake that took place while Dan Sullivan was away from Alaska, serving the country in the Marines. He had nothing to do with it.  Oops. It also turns out that Begich didn't seek permission from the victims' family to highlight the crime in his advertisement, prompting an irate letter from the family's attorney.  In a contentious interview on local radio this week, Begich was pressed on whether he'd apologized to the grieving family for dragging their tragedy into the Senate race.  The Senator tried to deflect the question ("we're not going there") before finally admitting that he "didn't personally" apologize, sending an emissary instead:


I'll leave you with a few notes from other hot Senate races.  Mitch McConnell is out with a new, positive ad in Kentucky:


Colorado's Mark Udall, who's getting hammered for voting with President Obama 99 percent of the time, has already pledged to throw his full backing behind Obama's new Attorney General nominee...who hasn't been named yet.  He's pre-pledging blind support for whomever Obama nominates.  The definition of an unthinking rubber stamp:


And in Arkansas, a Tom Cotton commercial highlights the deleterious impact Obamacare is having on a local business, noting that Mark Pryor cast the deciding vote for the law:


A new poll out of North Carolina shows the Tar Hell State's Senate race virtually tied at (41/40), though Kay Hagan opens up a modest edge when leaners are pushed one way or the other.  The electoral models are looking good for Republicans at the moment, but it appears as though the GOP is once again getting swamped with ground game spending:

Science Proves Limited Government is the Best

He almost certainly did not intend to do so, but National Journal's Brian Resnick has written an article inadvertently making the case for limited government. Under the header, "The Battle for Your Brain: We're partisans by nature, and once we pick a side, we see the world in red and blue," Resnick writes:

America's partisan divide is as old as America's democracy. And it's neither feasible nor desirable to hope for a national consensus on every issue. Even if we all worked from the same set of facts, and even if we all understood those facts perfectly, differences of opinion would—and should—remain. Those opinions are not the problem. The trouble is when we're so blinded by our partisanship that it overrides reason—and research suggests that is happening all the time.

With just a hint of partisan priming, an Arizona State University researcher was able to instantly blind Democrats to a noncontroversial fact, leading them immediately to fail to solve the easiest of math problems. In the 2010 experiment, political scientist Mark Ramirez asked subjects two similar questions. The control group saw this question: "Would you say that compared to 2008, the level of unemployment in this country has gotten better, stayed the same, or gotten worse?" A separate group saw this one: "Would you say that the level of unemployment in this country has gotten better, stayed the same, or gotten worse since Barack Obama was elected President?"

The key difference between the two: the first mentions the time period for assessing unemployment, while the second frames the issue around President Obama. When asked the first question, Democrats and Republicans responded similarly, with most saying unemployment had remained about the same. But among subjects who got the second question, opinions shifted along partisan lines: Around 60 percent of Democrats said unemployment had gotten better or somewhat better, and about 75 percent of Republicans said the opposite.

In fact, the unemployment rate increased between Obama's election and Ramirez's study. ... Essentially, once Democrats focused on Obama, most of them largely ignored the facts.

(emphasis added)

This is not meant to be a hit on Democrats. Resnick does not mention it, but Republicans are almost certainly just as likely to ignore inconvenient facts when primed to think politically too.

But the fact that politics primes humans to let tribalism overcome their rational thinking suggests that maybe politics is not the best way to coordinate human behavior. Maybe the government, particularly the federal government, should not be so active in so many areas of American life. Maybe markets are better, not perfect but better, at incentivizing rationale human thinking.

In fact, Resnick accidentally reports this is just the case. Later in the article he writes:

There's an easier way to help people look past their innate partisanship: Pay them to do it.

A 2013 study out of Princeton found that monetary incentives attenuate the partisan gap in answers to questions about the economy. The researchers designed an experiment similar to Ramirez's unemployment study but with a modification: Some participants were plainly informed, "We will pay you for answering correctly." All it took was $1 or $2 to dramatically improve the chances of a right answer, cutting the partisan gap between Republicans and Democrats in half—half!

Imagine that: When people are offered monetary incentives to recognize the reality around them, they tend to see the world more accurately, and less tribally. 

Maybe policy makers should work harder at not politicizing everything and let Americans organize more of what they do voluntarily.

 

Election Models: 2014 Could be Good Year For Senate Republicans

Without glazing over the fact that Republicans could surprise no one and blow this historic opportunity, three separate election models indicate that the GOP’s chances of demoting Harry Reid and reclaiming majority control of the U.S. Senate have improved markedly over the past few days. The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza reports:

The most bullish model for Republicans is Washington Post's Election Lab, which, as of Monday morning, gives the GOP a 76 percent chance of winning the majority. Leo, the New York Times model, pegs it at 67 percent while FiveThirtyEight shows Republicans with a 60 percent probability. A week ago, Election Lab gave Republicans a 65 percent chance of winning the majority, Leo put it a 55 percent and FiveThirtyEight had it just under 55 percent.

All three models give Republicans very strong odds of winning the open seats in Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia as well as beating Sens. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.). That would net Republicans five seats, one short of the number they need for the majority.

For the sake of argument, let’s say Republicans pick up all five of those seats. They may not, but let’s say they do. They would therefore need to pick up just one more to effectively end the Obama presidency from a legislative standpoint. After all, any meaningful legislation he'd hope to sign into law would need to pass both chambers of Congress -- and how likely is that to happen if Republicans are in control?

That being said, outside of Montana, South Dakota, West Virginia, Arkansas, and Louisiana, there are several states where Republicans are gaining steam. Republican hopeful Joni Ernst in Iowa has widened the gap in her race significantly while Sens. Mark Begich (D-AK) and Mark Udall (D-CO) are faltering. (Udall’s gaffes and Begich’s scurrilous attack ads have damaged them both). And while Republican hopefuls in North Carolina and New Hampshire are currently behind, those races are tightening too.

Nonetheless, given these three election models have changed so drastically over a 7-day window, perhaps we shouldn't read too much into them. But with campaign season in full swing and Election Day mere weeks away, at least the experts broadly agree the trends are moving in the right direction.

Wow: Clinton Global Initiative Partners with Groups that Promote Thousands of Abortions

In 2012, Mitt Romney’s history at Bain Capital was scrutinized with an 80 percent zoomed in magnifying glass. An article entitled, “Greed and Debt: The True Story of Mitt Romney and Bain Capital” garnered over 160,000 shares on Rolling Stone. Bain trampled on smaller companies in its pursuit of wealth and power, according to the media. Yes, Romney was a merciless businessman. Well, with Hillary Clinton now in the election spotlight, shouldn’t the organizations she’s heavily involved in also be placed under the spotlight?

The Clinton Global Initiative’s annual meeting took place in New York last week. While the media reported CGI’s donations to boost education, HIV treatment, and aid to fighting Ebola, they perhaps didn’t mention the fact that CGI also helps fund organizations that promote thousands of abortions. Pathfinder International and Population Services International are two of the controversial foundations that CGI supports.

On Pathfinder’s website, you’ll read this description about the organization’s efforts, “peer counselors to help decrease unplanned pregnancies, and reduce prevalence of sexually transmitted infections and HIV among university students in Kampala, Uganda.” You have to dig a little deeper, however, to discover the more painful truth: Pathfinder touted 4,000 abortions in 2013, according to its latest report.

As for PSI, its website insists the group works to prevent “unsafe abortions” by marketing abortion drugs, or “contraceptives to avoid unintended pregnancies,” as they like to describe it.

Based on CGI’s mission, the Clintons should be ashamed that their foundation is partners with these groups. CGI claims to bring together world leaders to solve today’s most pressing challenges. By promoting a dangerous procedure like abortion, groups like Pathfinder and PSI are exacerbating, not ending the world’s challenges. Abortion has ended over 1 billion lives worldwide and left many women with emotional trauma and heartache. Perhaps among those lost lives were people who could have sat on CGI’s many panels and come up with answers they’re searching for to address the world’s problems.

Another hypocritical aspect of CGI’s connection to abortion, is the fact that the foundation has pledged to “empower girls and women.” Promoting and indirectly funding abortion does not empower women. Instead, CGI should be encouraging women that, should they find themselves with unplanned pregnancies, they are more than capable of giving birth and being fantastic mothers.

Pathfinder and PSI isn’t where the abortion connection ends, unfortunately. A conservative shopper app named 2nd Vote has been investigating corporate brands that receive financial help from the Clinton Global Initiative. Several of the corporations have a “1” (1 being most liberal on a scale of 1 to 5) rating on pro-life issues. IBM and Microsoft, for instance, give matching gifts to Planned Parenthood.

Some voters may consider Hillary Clinton a moderate. After all, she is pretty hawkish on foreign policy. But, the Clinton Global Initiative’s connection to radical abortion groups proves she is anything but. Let’s see if the media questions her like they interrogated Romney over Bain.

NC SEN: CNN Poll Has Hagan Up Three Over Tillis

Is the needle moving in the right direction for Thom Tillis? A recent CNN poll has Democratic incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan up by only 3 points. Amongst likely voters, Hagan and Tillis have favorable ratings that are underwater. Hagan registers at a 46/47 favorable to unfavorable, while Tillis is at 47/40. Not the best, but certainly an improvement from a poll of registered unaffiliated voters conducted by the right-leaning Civitas Institute, which has Tillis at 17/43 favorable to unfavorable; 24 percent didn’t know who Thom Tillis was when asked.

Obama’s approval rating is at 38 percent, but 25 percent of North Carolina likely voters might change their minds before Election Day. As I’ve said previously, there’s wiggle room for Tillis.

Tillis, Hagan’s Republican opponent, has been unable to make significant headway due to the state legislature being in session over the summer; Tillis serves as North Carolina’s House Speaker. The first debate was lackluster at best, with Tillis positioning himself nicely as the anti-Obama candidate. But as conservatives learned in 2012, that’s not enough.

Tillis is tapping into the fledgling neo-populist wave (that will probably mature by 2016) by discussing his working-class upbringing; he mentioned it in last week’s Republican Address. He lived in a trailer park with his parents and five siblings; worked various minimum wage jobs; and didn’t get his college degree until he was 36. He eventually became a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers and an executive at IBM. Economic struggle, perseverance, hard work, and success in the end; these are the things voters are becoming more attuned as they listen to candidates from both parties make their case.

This narrative of overcoming struggle and hardship is one of the reasons why South Dakota Rep. Kristi Noem, who dropped out of college to manage the family farm upon the death of her father, was able to defeat Democratic incumbent Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin in 2010.

It’s this formula that could help Republicans make headway with women voters. While men are set in their ways–and now reliably Republican–women are willing to listen to both sides. If Tillis overcame financial difficulties, what policies from Republicans can help them? This could be a better way to conduct outreach than showing women voters why Republicans aren’t “anti-woman.”

At the same time, Tillis has been hammered on education. National Democrats and the Hagan campaign have attacked him incessantly on a $500 million cut to education, which left-leaning Politifact labeled as a “half-truth.”

The Washington Post looked at the numbers (via WaPo):

As we have said before, the jet and yacht claim is taken out of context. A major tax law negotiated under Tillis’s watch in 2013 eliminated a number of loopholes to help finance a tax cut, including a $20,000 cap on deducting property taxes and home mortgage interest that was aimed at the owners of large homes and estates. But lawmakers, under pressure from the state’s boat building industry, did not eliminate a $1,500 cap on the sales tax for boats and planes.

In other words, Tillis did not give a special tax break to jets and yachts at the expense of school children; it was already in the tax code.

As for the $500 million figure, close observers will note that every single ad attributes this figure to the same source — an editorial in Charlotte Observer that ran in 2013. “The Senate and House budget plan … cuts education spending by almost $500 million in the next two years, including a decrease in net spending for K-12 public schools,” the editorial said.

That’s right, this is a two-year number — and the second year is adjusted as circumstances warrant. Moreover, the $500 million figure is comparing the figures over two years against a “continuation budget” — what would be needed to maintain the same level of spending based on inflation, population growth and other factors. In Washington parlance, this is known as “the baseline.” It’s an important concept, but it is simply an illustration; it not does not reflect actual budget numbers.

[V]oters should be wary of raw numbers without proper context. This is not a real budget number but one based off a baseline. The ads all feature children, but this is a number for all education funding, not just K-12. Moreover, funding was increased — and teachers got a pay raise — in this summer’s budget, but the ads still cite the old 2013 baseline figure.

Additionally, there’s the development that Sen. Hagan’s husband may have profited from Obama’s stimulus program (via Politico):

JDC Manufacturing, a company co-owned by the Democratic senator’s husband, Chip, received nearly $390,000 in federal grants for energy projects and tax credits created by the 2009 stimulus law, according to public records and information provided by the company.

Financial disclosure statements show that the Hagans’ income from JDC Manufacturing increased from less than $201 in 2008 to nearly $134,000 in 2013. Company representatives said higher rental income account for the uptick, not the stimulus-funded projects that were completed during that span.

In statement to POLITICO, the Hagan campaign said the senator did not help her husband win the federal funding and disputed any suggestion they have profited off the law.

Once she learned of her husband’s dealings, Hagan never involved herself in his efforts to obtain the stimulus grants, her campaign said. She consulted with veteran Democratic attorney Marc Elias over the matter, according to spokeswoman Sadie Weiner.

“Kay is not involved in her husband’s business and had no part in helping JDC apply for or receive these grants,” Weiner said. “Her only involvement was when she made sure that a respected ethics attorney was consulted to ensure that it was appropriate, and the attorney found that it was.”

Senate rules give senators significant leeway in voting for legislation that could benefit them financially, as long as a wider class of investors is affected. They must recuse themselves only if a narrowly targeted bill would specifically benefit a limited class of people that includes the senators themselves. Spouses of senators may enter into contracts with the government so long as improper influence is not exerted by the lawmaker.

Legal experts said there’s nothing improper about Hagan’s actions if the senator, as she says, removed herself from the process of securing the stimulus money. But some argue it spotlights a serious weakness in the ethics rules.

Politico added that Tillis also voted for a federal renewable energy tax credit program, which benefitted a bank where he had financial interests. Of course, Sen. Hagan’s ethical questions are greater given that she voted for this massive spending bill–all $767 billion dollars–at the federal level. Moreover, to say her family did not profit from this cash injection looks frivolous, which could hurt her authenticity amongst North Carolina voters in the last days of the 2014 cycle.

Then, there’s ISIS. With ISIS becoming more of a concern, Democrats are right to be concerned that the issue could hurt them by Election Day; we could be seeing the return of the “security moms.” Tillis recently released an ad hitting Hagan for reportedly skipping out on classified ISIS hearings to attend a fundraiser in New York City last February.

The past few days have been better for Tillis. The “sins of Raleigh” strategy Hagan has employed could implode, Sen. Lindsay Graham is coming to campaign for him, and some ad money from Karl Rove’s Crossroads group is coming into North Carolina.

One thing both sides need to watch out for is Libertarian Brian Haugh, who is drawing an impressive 7 percent of the vote. He could be a spoiler. As Noah Rothman wrote for Hot Air, it would be impressive if he does garner that much of the vote, but noted that third-party supporters often pull the lever for the challenger–even if they don’t like him/her–since they can’t stand the incumbent:

Libertarian Senate candidate Sean Haugh. In that survey, 7 percent of likely voters said they would back Haugh, a condition which could make him the “spoiler” of this race. More worrying for Republicans is the fact that Haugh draws more votes among self-identified Democrats (4 percent) than Republicans (3 percent), suggesting that Haugh’s support would not collapse even if a few GOP voters “come home” in November.

It would, however, be surprising to see a major third party candidate draw 7 percent in November. In statewide races with an incumbent on the ballot, respondents are often more inclined to tell pollsters that they support a third party candidate than they are to vote for them. A famous recent example of this phenomenon took place in New Jersey in 2009 where independent gubernatorial candidate Chris Daggett routinely polled in the double digits before the election. Real Clear Politics showed Daggett had an average of 10.4 percent support across the many polls of that race. At the ballot box, however, he received just 5.8 percent of the vote.

The majority of Daggett’s support went to Chris Christie for one simple reason: As a general rule, voters who are keen to back a third party candidate dislike the challenger but they despise the incumbent. When the curtain closes, they reluctantly pull the lever for the candidate that has the realistic chance of unseating the unpopular incumbent.

Also, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is hearing arguments over the state’s new voter laws, which some say suppresses the vote. Could this be something that motivates the liberal base come November? It remains to be seen; it does seem like lofty speculation for those who believe that it will drive Democratic turnout. 

Though the needle has barely moved, it seems to be moving in Tillis' direction–one point at a time.

Secret Service Director Testifies: I Take Full Responsibility

Testifying on Capitol Hill Tuesday in front of the House Oversight Committee Secret Service Director Julia Pierson said she takes full responsibility for the fence jumping incident that occurred on September 19 when Omar Gonzales ran 70 yards across the White House lawn and made his way deep into the Green Room. 

"It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly. I take full responsibility; what happened is unacceptable and it will never happen again," Pierson said. "The review began with a physical assessment of the site and personnel interviews. All decisions made that evening are being evaluated, including decisions on tactics and use of force, in light of the totality of the circumstances confronting those officers."

Due to the sensitivity of information surrounding the work of the Secret Service, Pierson informed lawmakers she would answer questions as thoroughly as possible, but would provide additional details in a closed door hearing. 

"As I have informed you and your staff, given that much of what we do to protect the President and the White House involves information that is highly sensitive or classified, I will be limited in what I can say in a public hearing. However, I will share as much information as I responsibly can during the open portion of today’s hearing. I am willing to give more complete responses in a closed session after this session is complete," she said. "With respect to the many questions that have been raised and opinions proffered in the wake of the September 19 the incident, I do not want to get ahead of the investigation that is underway."

In the aftermath of the fence jumping incident last week, Secret Service officials said agents showed "tremendous restraint" in addressing the situation as it played out. 

"How could Mr. Gonzalez scale the fence and why didn’t officers immediately apprehend him? How was he able to sprint 70 yards, almost an entire football field, without being intercepted by guards inside the fence line? Why didn’t security dogs stop him in his tracks?" Chairman Darrell Issa asked. "What about the SWAT team? Why was no guard stationed at the front door of the White House? And why was the door left unlocked?"

Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz echoed Issa's sentiments.

"Tremendous restraint sends a mixed message...the message should be overwhelming force," Chaffetz said. 

During her opening statement, Pierson committed to doing the following: 

I am committed to the following:

1. A complete and thorough investigation of the facts of this incident , to include necessary personnel actions;
2. A complete and thorough review of all policies, procedures and protocols in place
that govern the security of the White House Complex and our response to this
incident; and
3. A coordinated, informed effort to make any and all adjustments necessary to properly ensure the safety and security of the President and First Family and those who work and visit the White House.

"Whether deficient procedures, insufficient training, personnel shortages, or low morale contributed to the incident, this can never happen again," Issa said. 

In the past four years, the Secret Service has experienced a series of breakdowns. The most recent fence-jumping incident is hardly a first.

Video: Journalist Grills WH Spokesman on Obama's ISIS Blame Game


ABC News correspondent Jonathan Karl -- who has distinguished himself as one of the few consistently tenacious members of the White House press corps -- engaged in a lengthy exchange with Obama spokesman Josh Earnest yesterday over the president's craven ISIS spin. Karl wanted to know why Obama is blaming the intelligence services for failing to predict events and trends that they had, in fact, been warning about for some time. Did pertinent information never make it into the president's daily briefings?  Reporting from McClatchy and Fox News indicates that it had.  So had Obama failed to notice what was happening, even as members of his administration were offering alarming public testimony on the ascendance of ISIS?  Earnest's answers made three major points -- (a) "everybody" was surprised by the swiftness of ISIS' advance, (b) one of the biggest shortcomings was missing the extent to which Iraqi security forces were incapable of handling ISIS, and (c) he can't comment on private discussions between the president and intelligence officials:


Earnest also scolds Karl for pointing out that Obama called ISIS a "jayvee" team around the same time that the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency made chillingly accurate predictions about ISIS' trajectory. "We've been through this," Earnest complains, asserting that the president wasn't referring to ISIS. Well, every major fact-checker has "been through this" dispute, unanimously ruling against the White House's tale.  Karl followed up on this back-and-forth with a blog post highlighting three instances in which the administration was warned about ISIS by its own officials, dating back to last year.  Here's one of them:


On Nov. 14, 2013, State Department official Brett McGurk testified before a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee extensively about the growing threat of ISIL/ISIS. “We face a real problem,” McGurk said. “There is no question that ISIL is growing roots in Syria and in Iraq.” McGurk was quite specific about the extent of the threat. He cited the group’s alarming campaign of suicide bombings, its growing financial resources and its expanding safe haven in Syria. “We have seen upwards of 40 suicide bombers per month targeting playgrounds, mosques, and markets, in addition to government sites from Basra to Baghdad to Erbil,” he said. He was also specific about the inability of the Iraqi government to deal with it. “AQ/ISIL has benefited from a permissive operating environment due to inherent weaknesses of Iraqi security forces, poor operational tactics, and popular grievances, which remain unaddressed, among the population in Anbar and Nineva provinces.”

That last bolded quote undermine's Earnest's claim that "everybody" was caught off guard by the Iraqi army's unpreparedness to handle the burgeoning threat.  Allahpundit flags another instance of an administration source sounding the alarm about the Iraqi army's weakness in the face of ISIS...from last October:


Al Qaeda's violent resurgence in Iraq and expansion into Syria now represents a "transnational threat network" that could possibly reach from the Mideast to the United States, according to the White House. The teaming of al Qaeda's Iraqi cell and affiliated Islamic militant groups in Syria into the new Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) has developed into "a major emerging threat to Iraqi stability . . . and to us," a senior administration official told reporters on Wednesday. "It is a fact now that al Qaeda has a presence in Western Iraq" extending into Syria, "that Iraqi forces are unable to target," the official said. That growing presence "that has accelerated in the past six to eight months" has been accompanied by waves of bombings and attacks that threaten to throw Iraq into a full-blown civil war.

Again, those quotes were printed eleven months ago.  This crisis didn't sneak up on anybody, let alone "everybody."  It developed over time and was willfully ignored by a president who seemed primarily concerned with clinging to precious political narratives.  Obama only perked up when the media started noticing developments like, say, Mosul falling to a terrorist army. And he only started dropping bombs when the press reported heavily on religious minorities being starved to death in graphic detail.  And he only expanded the conflict when Americans were outraged by multiple ISIS beheadings of their fellow citizens.  Now that he's playing frantic catch-up, he's duplicitously fingering the intelligence community for missing the boat on ISIS while deploying his lackeys to lie about his embarrassing 'jayvee' miscalculation.  I'll leave you with this, from another honest journalist:

Good News: Obama Skips the Majority of His Intelligence Briefings

According to a new report from the Government Accountability Institute, President Obama skips 60 percent of his intelligence briefings. Breitbart breaks down the data: 

A new Government Accountability Institute (GAI) report reveals that President Barack Obama has attended only 42.1% of his daily intelligence briefings (known officially as the Presidential Daily Brief, or PDB) in the 2,079 days of his presidency through September 29, 2014.

The GAI report also included a breakdown of Obama’s PDB attendance record between terms; he attended 42.4% of his PDBs in his first term and 41.3% in his second.

This information comes shortly after Obama blamed the intelligence community for underestimating ISIS during an interview on 60 Minutes. That assertion prompted a visceral reaction from people inside the intelligence community, who have been warning the President about ISIS for years. A former official told The Daily Beast's Eli Lake over the weekend, "Either the president doesn’t read the intelligence he’s getting or he’s bullshitting." 

Now we know, Obama isn't reading the intelligence and we're seeing the consequences of his failure to be informed or involved. ISIS has beheaded two Americans on camera, controls a huge portion of the Middle East, has billions of dollars in black market funding and is driving around in U.S. military equipment as they conquer more territory.

You can bet Obama would never miss 60 percent of his tee-times.

Head of Secret Service to Face Tough Questions From Lawmakers on White House Security Breach

Secret Service Director Julia Pierson will face tough questions from lawmakers on the House Oversight Committee shortly after new details emerged that the agency wasn't upfront about how severe the latest security breach at the White House really was. 

Yesterday the Washington Post reported fence jumper Omar Gonzalez, who was carrying a knife and had 800-rounds of ammunition in his vehicle, made it all the way into the Green Room of the White House and half-way up the stairs to the quarters of the first family. Initially, the Secret Service said Gonzalez had only made it just inside the North Portico doors.

The man who jumped the White House fence this month and sprinted through the front door made it much farther into the building than previously known, overpowering one Secret Service officer and running through much of the main floor, according to three people familiar with the incident. An alarm box near the front entrance of the White House designed to alert guards to an intruder had been muted at what officers believed was a request of the usher’s office, said a Secret Service official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The female officer posted inside the front door appeared to be delayed in learning that the intruder, Omar Gonzalez, was about to burst through. Officers are trained that, upon learning of an intruder on the grounds, often through the alarm boxes posted around the property, they must immediately lock the front door.

After barrelling past the guard immediately inside the door, Gonzalez, who was carrying a knife, dashed past the stairway leading a half-flight up to the first family’s living quarters. He then ran into the 80-foot-long East Room, an ornate space often used for receptions or presidential addresses. Gonzalez was tackled by a counter-assault agent at the far southern end of the East Room. The intruder reached the doorway to the Green Room, a parlor overlooking the South Lawn with artwork and antique furniture, according to three people familiar with the incident.

Pierson will surely face a grilling about why the Secret Service jumped to cover-up the incident on top of questions about how the incident could have ever happened in the first place. There will no doubt be follow-up hearings about the incident as well.

Pierson was appointed by President Obama in March 2013 to head the agency after fall-out from the Colombian prostitute scandal. She is the first female director in history for the agency.

"Julia is eminently qualified to lead the agency that not only safeguards Americans at major events and secures our financial system, but also protects our leaders and our first families, including my own,” Obama said in a statement at the time. 

We'll see if President Obama, who is defending the agency, has the same level of confidence in Pierson after testimony today. The hearing starts at 10 a.m. ET. You can watch live here.

By The Way, White House Intruder Nearly Made It...Inside the Green Room

Last week, when we first wrote up this story, the narrative was relatively straightforward: Omar Gonzalez was detained shortly after jumping the White House fence ten days ago. And while it was abundantly clear that there was some sort of egregious breakdown in security and communication -- the guy made it inside, after all -- it was implied that the president and his family were not in any real danger if they had been at home.

Obviously, we now know that’s not true. The Washington Post has the exclusive:

The man who jumped the White House fence this month and sprinted through the front door made it much farther into the building than previously known, overpowering one Secret Service officer and running through much of the main floor, according to three people familiar with the incident. An alarm box near the front entrance of the White House designed to alert guards to an intruder had been muted at what officers believed was a request of the usher’s office, said a Secret Service official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The female officer posted inside the front door appeared to be delayed in learning that the intruder, Omar Gonzalez, was about to burst through. Officers are trained that, upon learning of an intruder on the grounds, often through the alarm boxes posted around the property, they must immediately lock the front door.

After barrelling past the guard immediately inside the door, Gonzalez, who was carrying a knife, dashed past the stairway leading a half-flight up to the first family’s living quarters. He then ran into the 80-foot-long East Room, an ornate space often used for receptions or presidential addresses. Gonzalez was tackled by a counter-assault agent at the far southern end of the East Room. The intruder reached the doorway to the Green Room, a parlor overlooking the South Lawn with artwork and antique furniture, according to three people familiar with the incident.

In other words, a knife-wielding Gonzalez ran through numerous parts of the White House and almost made it up to where the First Family sleeps. That, of course, is unacceptable and a very different narrative from the one we were first presented with.

Fortunately, no one was injured or killed. But if the Secret Service doesn't systemically and comprehensively review what happened (and take the findings seriously), this might not be the last time an armed intruder gains access to the people's house.

Party Bigwigs Chris Christie, Michelle Obama Go To Mat In WI Gov Race

In what's been a surprisingly tight and back-and-forth race in Wisconsin between incumbent GOP governor Scott Walker and Mary Burke, a few top party advocates have hit the trail for their respective candidates.

Chris Christie and Michelle Obama both have gone to Wisconsin for campaign events, as the Associated Press reports:

In two western Wisconsin appearances, Christie held Walker up as someone with both honesty and integrity. He contrasted that with Burke who is being criticized by Walker and Republicans as a plagiarist for having language and ideas in her jobs plan also used by four other Democratic gubernatorial candidates.

Burke blamed a consultant who worked for all of the campaigns and cut ties with him.

"If you can't trust her honesty and her integrity when she tells you this is her plan, why would you trust her on anything else she tells you about what she'll do for Wisconsin or Scott's record?" Christie said at a local Republican Party headquarters.

Burke addressed the plagiarism allegations only indirectly while criticizing Walker for failing to fulfill his jobs promise from his first campaign.

The plagiarism allegations have continued to haunt Burke even as the polls have vacillated. An exclusive new Townhall/Gravis Marketing poll out today has Scott Walker trailing Mary Burke by five points:

Townhall's PollTracker has the race a dead heat:

Strip Club Controversy in Kansas Gov. Race Could Help Trailing GOP Incumbent

In the past thirteen presidential elections, the state of Kansas has given all of its electoral votes to the Republican nominee. The state's House of Representatives is comprised of a GOP super-majority at 73.6 percent and both U.S. Senators are red. So why is the incumbent GOP governor, Sam Brownback, behind in the polls? 

During Brownback's first term, he supported substantial tax reform that reduced the top income tax rate by 25 percent, lowered the state sales tax, and did away with a tax on small business income. Though many liberal opponents disagreed with his approach, the advocacy group, Americans for Tax Reform praised Governor Brownback and said that the "tax cuts are working."

This August, Standard & Poor downgraded the state's credit rating from an AA+ to AA citing the controversial tax overhaul. The decrease in state income did not help the budget's bottom line leaving uneven income and outcome numbers to blame for the credit downgrade.

Kansas Democrats have anchored their campaign in what they believe is failed tax reform and have cornered Brownback for his small government, low taxes platform. According to a recent Rasmussen Reports poll, Gov. Sam Brownback is down 4 points against Democratic candidate, Paul Davis who has been running a spotless campaign thus far.

And now, finally, Governor Sam Brownback has something to hoot and holler about.

The Kansas City Star reported:

After weeks of giving Republican Gov. Sam Brownback a strong challenge in GOP-leaning Kansas, his Democratic opponent is on the defensive over disclosures that he was inside a strip club during a 1998 meth raid and an officer reported finding him in a dark back room with a nearly naked woman.

Democrat Paul Davis was 26 and single, a young attorney in a firm representing the owner of the club near Coffeyville in southeast Kansas. The owner spent six years in federal prison after the raid, but Davis was not arrested.

Now the deeply conservative voters of Kansas will have to decide: Do moral convictions outweigh controversial tax reform? Are they okay with a gubernatorial candidate caught with a stripper during a meth raid? I think conservatives could go either way on this issue, but one thing is for sure: Governor Brownback's attack ad with a guy getting a lap dance will be easy for voters to understand and possibly turn their stomachs.

Mrs. Abedini: I Believe My Husband Has Been 'Abandoned' by the Obama Administration

For the past two years, Pastor Saeed Abedini has been suffering in one of the world’s cruelest prisons, Iran’s Evin Prison, simply for practicing his Christian faith. Pastor Saeed’s wife, Naghmeh, attended and spoke at this year’s Values Voter Summit in Washington, DC. I asked her about her family’s struggles, the president’s inaction and, most importantly, her and her family's unwavering faith.

Is there a certain Bible verse you’ve gone to for comfort during this trial?

“The one that has spoken to me the most has been 2 Corinthians 12: 8-10, where Paul is talking about a thorn in his side and he wants it removed. I felt with Saeed’s imprisonment, it was painful, was something in our life I wanted removed. And I felt God telling me that His grace is sufficient for me and His strength is made perfect in my weakness. And then the following verse where God says, 'Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities and distress and persecution and need' and all of that. I just have learned to really – even when I feel things are distressed or hard – to really learn to embrace, as Paul said, because it just helps me discover God in a deeper way, it breaks me in a way and takes me to more dependency on Him and prayer and more intimacy. Knowing this is being used for the gospel, it makes it really comforting.”

Pastor Saeed has refused to deny his faith and has even converted some of his fellow prisoners. Can you talk more about that?

“He’s not denied his faith and under intense persecution and torture, especially early on in his imprisonment, and he’s who he is. No matter where he’s at, loving people means sharing about how God has changed his life. So that’s been who he is. It’s not because he’s being confined. He’s just sharing about hope and life that he’s found in Christ – wherever he’s gone.”

Last year, President Obama called Iranian President Rouhani expressing his concerns about Saeed’s imprisonment. A lot of people think that he and his administration could be doing even more. Do you agree with this? (emphasis mine)

“I agree. It’s been frustrating. It took a lot of pressure from the American people for him to say something, make a phone call and then – he did mention Saeed at the prayer breakfast. But, I feel like that decision hasn’t been made to use leverage or to put pressure to bring Saeed home. I don’t know if his statements have been made to just appease me or the American people. Deep down I don’t think there has been a decision made to bring him home because I do believe if that decision had been made, he would be home right now. I believe they’re going to use all the leverage that they have for nuclear talks, and I do believe Saeed has been abandoned and forgotten in this process. Again I’m thankful for those statements, but there has to be action to back that up. It’s been two years too long.”

You’ve also spoken about how your faith in Christ has been strengthened through this trial and it’s given you an opportunity to share your faith. At the UN, you shared it with millions of people. Can your experience encourage other Christians going through trials?

“When you’re going through trials, you reach a point of desperation. And the trails can be here in America. Maybe we have fears of future, how’s my life going to look, what is my future going to look like. Fears of finances, of course a lot of families going through divorce and trauma, different things, relationship issues and I think you allow it to take you into a deeper intimacy with God. A lot of times we believe in Christ, but have we really experienced Him? One of my favorite sections of the Bible is John 15, where it talks about the vine and the branches and for the first time – I’ve been a Christian for over 30 years, I felt like I connected to the vine and when we connect to that source, God brings the fruit. We don’t really have to try too hard, we just rest in Him and are in communion with Him and I think that’s what God is calling the church to do. To just seek Him deeper and walk into a deeper intimacy. And you mentioned, I think God uses your life, anyone, it’s not necessarily how many connections you have or who you know or how much money you have. It’s once you can dig deeper to Him and connect to Him, then He can take you before the United Nations and countries and ambassadors and human rights groups, just all over. I think once you discover Him in a deeper way, you become a testimony for Christians and non-Christians alike. Like knowing Christ and making Him known. You have to know Him first, you really have to know Him. You have to experience Him, taste Him, before you can even present it to anyone else. It has to be so real in your life. Persecution and hardships, really you have to know when you’re going through a hardship. When you’re going through cancer, when you have a loved one who’s dying, when you’re going relationship trauma, whatever, you have to connect. Either you walk away and say, 'my faith is empty,' or you have to discover God and the reality of Him. Once you discover that, nothing can stop you to become a light. People are drawn to you to know about God.”

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Mrs. Abedini says she's received at least 10,000 letters of support from people hoping and praying for her husband's safe return.

If anything, this trial has highlighted the importance of religious freedom. How can we not take that for granted here in the US?

“This is a core value. Of course one of the frustrating parts, is Saeed is an American citizen whose religious freedom is trampled upon and we’ve allowed Iran to do that for the past two years. But this is an important value for our nation. If we don’t speak out, if we’re not vocal about it, if we’re not taking action to defend our religious freedom, it will be taken from us. It’s slowly approaching our borders and I think it’s something that we should defend. There were lives that were paid - people paid a heavy price for freedom here. This is what makes America great. When I was a child, I came to America and discovered Christ. That’s the most beautiful part of America for me. I had the freedom to choose my religion and so it’s something we have to defend. If we don’t fight for it, it’s something we will lose. It’s not a guarantee our children will enjoy the same freedom we’re enjoying – or our children’s children. It’s a value, it’s a core value. It what makes this great nation great – allowing people to live freely, which a lot of countries don’t and it’s something we really have to stand up for.”

You have so many people praying for you and for your husband. What would you like to say to them?

“Thank you. Honestly, it gives me a lot of strength to know I’m not alone. Hebrews 13:3 says, 'Remember those as if you’re in chains with them.' A lot of times where it talks about the body of Christ that’s hurting or in prison or in chains, it just says remember. And when people are praying, or when people tell me they’re praying, or write letters, it just reminds me they’ve not forgotten us. Two years doesn’t mean Saeed’s forgotten or our family’s forgotten. That’s really what you need to hear. I know people going through a lot of suffering, I know that’s the number one comfort. At least that’s what it’s been in my family – to know you’re not alone. People are there with you, you’re not forgotten. They’re standing with you, and that’s the most comforting part of the journey.”

Abedini estimated she’s received at least 10,000 notes in the past two years.

“A lot of people send to (The American Center for Law and Justice), then some send to my church, then directly to me. I literally pick up boxes and boxes from my church every week and initially it was 20, 30, 40, 50 coming in and I would try to answer them and then it just became so overwhelming I pick and choose and answer some of them.”

She is dedicated to answering them because she knows they are sincere.

“I feel like people took the time to write, they’re pouring out their heart, they’re sharing verses. I feel like I could dedicate a day or two and answer as much as I can. There’s literally days that I feel so discouraged, that I just open my messages or open my letters and start reading them and it’s like water to a thirsty soul. Literally every letter I read, it gives me hope.”

At the Values Voter gala Saturday night, Meriam Ibrahim was honored for her courage in escaping Sudan after being sentenced to death for her Christian faith. During her special remarks, Ibrahim spoke directly to her "sister" Mrs. Abedini, encouraging her to keep the faith that her husband would escape religious persecution as well. Earlier in the evening, when it was her turn to speak, Abedini shared a video of her children pleading for their father’s return. Attendees were attempting to dry their eyes even before the video finished playing.

Maybe a plea straight from the Abedini children will convict the president to help bring their father home. Keep writing and keep pressuring the Obama administration to take action.

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, remarked at Saturday's gala that perhaps this time next year, they would be celebrating Saeed's return.

Access Shock: California's Shrinking Obamacare Coverage Networks


The Obamacare program in America's largest state may be called "Covered California," but simply holding an insurance card in one's wallet does not guarantee one access to needed health appointments. Obtaining "coverage" is distinct from receiving actual care.  The Los Angeles Times reports that the state's Obamacare provider networks will remain narrow in 2015, with some contacting further:

Finding a doctor who takes Obamacare coverage could be just as frustrating for Californians in 2015 as the health-law expansion enters its second year. The state's largest health insurers are sticking with their often-criticized narrow networks of doctors, and in some cases they are cutting the number of physicians even more, according to a Times analysis of company data. And the state's insurance exchange, Covered California, still has no comprehensive directory to help consumers match doctors with health plans. This comes as insurers prepare to enroll hundreds of thousands of new patients this fall and get 1.2 million Californians to renew their policies under the Affordable Care Act. Even as California's enrollment grows, many patients continue to complain about being offered fewer choices of doctors and having no easy way to find the ones that are available.

One major insurer is hiking rates and dramatically curtailing access, explaining that costs would have shot up even more if they'd simply maintained their previous network:


Health Net has proposed the most dramatic change for 2015, the data show. It's dumping the PPO network that Edwards and others purchased and switching to a plan with 54% fewer doctors and no out-of-network coverage, state data show. Yet premiums for that stripped-down policy are going up as much as 9% compared with pricing for the PPO. State regulators have questioned the company's moves. Health Net said its cutbacks were necessary to avoid even steeper rate hikes and it's confident the smaller network will be sufficient. Its separate HMO network is unchanged for 2015 after about 4,000 doctors were added this year. The insurer is following the lead of its two rivals Anthem and Blue Shield, which opened last year with sharply limited networks.

"Covered" California.  Adding to the frustration, beneficiaries still can't access a reliable provider directory, as the state pulled down its initial version following complaints of rampant inaccuracies.  The resulting confusion has caused real financial consequences for consumers:


There's no timetable for a state provider directory after the exchange scrapped an initial version that was riddled with errors. Instead, Covered California refers people to insurance company websites that vary in usefulness...Some consumers have been saddled with huge medical bills after insurers refused to pay for care deemed out of network...Mary Edwards, a 63-year-old librarian in Mar Vista, was excited about a Health Net PPO she picked out last fall because it offered a wide selection of doctors at a reasonable price. But it turned out that several physicians listed on her plan didn't accept the insurance or weren't taking new patients. "This is part of the Affordable Care Act that doesn't quite work yet," Edwards said. "This game of who's in and who's out is tiresome."

Perhaps California officials should redouble their efforts to get this critical information into the hands of existing consumers before spending tens of millions of taxpayer dollars in an expensive effort to attract new ones.  According to the Wall Street Journal, “to get new enrollees, the California exchange...in September launched ads featuring residents talking about how coverage under the health law has benefited them, part of a $46 million statewide advertising campaign.”  Meanwhile, "there's no timetable" for an accurate state provider directory.  But remember, friends, the law is "working well" in the real world because the alleged experts say so.

David Limbaugh: 'Give The Bible A Chance...See What You Find In Your Own Discovery'

Last week, Townhall had the opportunity to ask David Limbaugh a few questions about his new book Jesus on Trial, which has become a New York Times bestseller. Despite being the most religious country in the industrialized world, America has a deep anticlerical bias in politics and culture. Is there a war on faith being waged here? If so, does this book serves as one of many tools aimed to fight this trend?

Mr. Limbaugh, an attorney and nationally syndicated columnist (you can find his works here too!), noted that he was a skeptic before becoming a believer twenty years ago. He believed in God, but wasn’t sold that Christ was divine.

He also said he wasn’t putting “Jesus on trial,” but noted that this book documents his own spiritual journey. Moreover, he hopes that it will invite skeptics to give the Bible a second look, look at the evidence, and “give it a chance.” Most importantly, he stresses that readers should use their own intellect on this spiritual journey. Forget what others have told you about how the Bible is a myth; use your own logic to come to your own conclusions about the most influential book in human history.

Far too often, we hear about the close-mindedness of atheists. Limbaugh stressed that this book doesn’t ridicule, mock, or aim to be judgmental. It invites skeptics to open their hearts and minds to these stories. Moreover, Limbaugh said his book also includes Christian doctrine in various chapters to give new Christians a “jump-start” in theology.

1. Why put Jesus on trial? What caused you to write a book affirming the Gospel?

The truth is I didn’t put him on trial. I put – I examined Christianity’s truth claims and of course, I did that twenty years ago or more–and I’ve been studying it on and off; this book is a chronicling of my own spiritual journey. The publisher wanted to call it Jesus on Trial; I wanted to call it Beyond A Reasonable Doubt. I thought people might be misled by the title, but when the subtitle reads “A Lawyer Affirms The Truth Of The Gospel,” it’s clear that I’m not really challenging him. But, ultimately, I’m examining the validity of Christianity’s truth claims, not putting him on trial.

2. How long were you a skeptic? Was there any event that pushed you towards becoming more open to the Christian faith?

Well, this book is a chronicling of my own spiritual journey and then I examine the reasons–the evidence that support Christianity’s truth claims. So, I became a believer by studying all this stuff and overcoming my doubts. But that occurred twenty years ago. Of course, I’ve continued to study theology and apologetics in the Bible since, which has reaffirmed my belief in my faith, but I became a believer some–twenty years ago at least.

I always believed in God, but I wasn’t convinced that the God in the Bible was “The” God, or that Christ was divine. After studying the Bible; studying theology; studying Christian apologetics–finally the thing that put me over the tipping point was exposure to the Messianic Prophecies. How Micah 5:2 prophesized the town that Jesus would be born in–Bethlehem–and Isaiah 53 and Psalms 22 talk about Christ’s crucifixion in minute detail; that his side will be pierced, that no bones would be broken. That he would be punished along with the transgressors (i.e. the thieves); that he would not lift a finger to defend himself; that he would die for our sins. All of these pointed to me unmistakably towards a supernatural writing of the Bible.

It was a bunch of things, but if there was one culminating event many, many seeds were planted over the years in my spiritual journey, but that’s the one final one that I think–if any–took me over the top.

3. Do you think there is a war on faith in America and how can we push back against it?

Christianity has been under attack by the popular culture–and by the Left for a long time. I wrote a book about it ten years ago. And it continues to be under attack and all throughout the world with the rise of radical Islam–and the rise of new atheism and secularism; Christianity is a primary target–Christians and Christianity throughout the world. I think we Christians need to stand up for what we believe and we need to speak and we need actively engage in the culture and try to fight for our own values. But one of our values is religious liberty; we don’t believe in coercion. We don’t believe in forcing people to convert to our faith. We believe in people coming to the faith by their own volition. And, so, we evangelize, but we don’t do any coercion at all. So, I don’t want us to get involved in the culture so we can compete in a coercive way.

...

I don’t want to force people; I don’t think any Christian does.

4. What do you hope readers get out of reading your book? Do you seek to persuade non-believers and skeptics towards being more open to a higher order?

Not a higher order; that’s nebulous spirituality. I want to open the minds of skeptics. I want to invite skeptics to take a second look at the Bible, and theology, and Christian apologetics. Examine the evidence and weigh it. Don’t abandon your rational faculties–use them. Christianity supports using your reason and rationality it is not contrary to faith. And I think if they give the Bible a chance and give the evidence a chance; they just might find that the God of the Bible is true and they might then decide to place their trust in Jesus Christ. But I also wrote it not just for the skeptic, but also for the believer because studying these things reaffirms our faith–and also for the new Christian, who I think needs a jump-start in theology. I’ve included a lot of Christian doctrine and theology here in a few other chapters to help give new Christians a jump-start as to what the faith really stands for.

So, it’s written for pretty much everyone. It's primarily targeted though at the non-believer with the idea that if he really looks at this and give it a second look; it’s not hectoring. It’s not judgmental. It doesn’t ridicule. It doesn’t mock; it invites skeptics respectfully to take a look at the Bible. Read it with an open mind and an open heart; it promises the power of conversion. Give it a chance to fulfill that promise. Give the Bible a chance. Don’t believe what other people have said that it’s myth; give it a chance for yourself with an open mind and an open heart and see what you find in your own discovery using your intellect.

Check out Jesus On Trial: A Lawyer Affirms The Truth Of The Gospel  here.

Netanyahu: "Hamas is ISIS; ISIS is Hamas"

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took to the podium today at the United Nations to confront Israel’s enemies directly and expose their fanatical ideology.

“I come here from Jerusalem on behalf of my people, the people of Israel,” he began. “I’ve come here to speak about the dangers we face, and the opportunities we seek. I’ve come here to expose the brazen lies spoken from this podium against my country and the brave soldiers who defend it. “

“Militant Islam is on the march,” he declared. “To protect the security and peace of the world, we must remove this cancer before it’s too late.”

He explicitly said that Hamas and militant Islam are “branches from the same poisonous tree,” and that the “same global ambition” that actuates Hamas -- namely, world domination -- runs through all terrorist organizations ... including ISIS.

“Hamas is ISIS; ISIS is Hamas,” he boldly declared. “They all share a fanatical ideology where there is no freedom and tolerance.”

And yet he acknowledged that this concept would be difficult for some ideologues to comprehend.

“Militant Islam’s ambition to dominate the world seems mad,” he admitted. “But so too did the global ambitions of another fanatical ideology.”

“The Nazis believed in a master race,” he said. “The radical Islamists believe in a master faith.”

As expected, he left no stone unturned and therefore publicly eviscerated the Republic of Iran, condemning their faux concerns about the rise of global terrorism.

“To say that Iran doesn’t practice terrorism is like saying that Derek Jeter didn’t play short stop for the New York Yankees,” he said. “So don’t be fooled by Iran’s manipulative charm offense. It’s designed for one purpose and one purpose only: to lift the challenges and lift the obstacles to Iran’s path to the bomb.”

“Once Iran produces atomic bombs, all the charms, and all the smiles, will suddenly disappear,” he continued. “And it’s then that the ayatollahs will show their true face and unleash their aggressive fanaticism on the entire world.”

Thus, he implored the international community to take this threat seriously and work with Israel to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear weapons.

He also addressed the recently-concluded, 50-day war between Israel and Hamas.

He defended his country’s right to defend itself while also confronting the lies spread about Israel’s war practices. Moreover, he blasted the UN Human Rights Council for investigating Israel for war crimes, when Hamas routinely fired rockets from UN schools, executed political dissidents, and used children as human shields.

“No other country and no other army have gone to greater lengths to avoid casualties against the civilian populations of their enemy,” he intoned. “Israel’s soldiers do not deserve condemnation, but admiration from decent peoples everywhere.”

And yet, despite Israel’s attempts to save innocents, the rise of anti-Semitism in supposedly civilized countries worldwide is unmistakable, he said.

“We hear mobs today calling for the gassing of Jews, we hear some national leaders compare Israel to the Nazis,” he averred. “This is not a function of Israel’s policies; it’s a function of diseased minds.”

He therefore labeled this age-old and ugly hatred by its rightful name: anti-Semitism.

“In the past outrageous lies against the Jews [led to] the wholesale slaughter [of my people],” he added. “But no more. Today, the Jewish people have the power to defend ourselves, and we will defend ourselves on the battlefield [and] in the court of public opinion.”

“Israel will continue to stand proud and unbowed,” he said.