No Throwback Thursdays For Clinton, But Warren…

Okay. I know we’ve been over this before about the presidential ambitions of Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Guy’s written about it; I’ve written about it. It’s etched in stone: she’s not running. Yet, she doesn’t seem to be a person who will be happy serving in the Senate. She likes to get things done, speak her mind, and proudly represent the ever-growing progressive wing of the Democratic Party. Clinton’s views are anathema to any progressive; she’s heavily reliant on donors from the financial sector, she’s overly cautious on policy (thanks to the defeat of ClintonCare in 1993), and she voted in favor of the Iraq War. The last one is especially infuriating to left-wing Democrats.

David Frum, Bush’s former speechwriter and senior editor at The Atlantic, penned a piece where he essentially says that Warren’s persona isn’t compatible with the dynamics of the Senate, which moves slowly; something that progressives hate in politics. She isn’t really driving the debate, despite what some Washington insiders think, and if she wants to drive the debate, she should run for President. She can, and she probably will by Frum's calculations. After all, this is it. Presumably, the time will pass her by if she sits out 2016. The new blood of the Democratic Party will rise up to take the reins in 2020. By then, Warren will be 71. Lastly, Warren has spoken openly about how Clinton has turned her back on the core principles of Democrats:

Warren has suggested that President Bill Clinton’s administration served the same “trickle down” economics as its Republicans and predecessors.

Warren has characterized Hillary Clinton herself as a conscienceless politician who betrayed her professed principles for campaign donations.

Could Warren do it? Of course she could. More than almost anybody running in 2016—more even than Republican insurgents like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul—Warren has both her message and her constituency ready to hand. Hillary Clinton speaks to those Democrats who feel that Barack Obama went too far. Elizabeth Warren speaks to those Democrats who feel he didn’t go far enough. And if Warren’s supporters aren’t as spectacularly wealthy as Clinton’s, together—as Barack Obama proved in 2008—they can give more than enough to fund a winning campaign.

What about the general election? Not since 1960 has the Democratic party won the presidency with a Massachusetts liberal, and even that victory proved a squeaker. But elections are comparisons, and if Warren has weaknesses in such a contest, Hillary Clinton has more. Suppose the Republicans nominate Jeb Bush, as seems at least plausible. What’s the Clinton message in such a contest? “My husband had a better job creation record than your brother”? She won’t be able to portray him as a candidate who owes everything to his famous last name. She won’t be able to ask questions about how he made so much money so fast without delivering any real world good or service to anybody. She won’t be able to dismiss him as out-of-touch with the realities of everyday life. She can’t say that he’s a throwback to the politics of 20 years ago. Each and every one of those most promising lines of attack on Jeb Bush will be foreclosed to Hillary Clinton, because every one of them will be even more damaging to her than to him. But Elizabeth Warren can speak to them. There’s no national Democrat who can draw a sharper contrast with Jeb Bush than Warren; no Democrat who has more in common with him than Hillary Clinton.

By now Warren knows (assuming she didn’t know before she arrived there) that the only thing the Senate can offer somebody like her is the velvety asphyxiation of every idealistic hope. If what you like best is the sound of your own voice and the deference of those around you, then a senatorship is a wonderful job. If you’re in politics to accomplish things, the institution must be almost unbearable. Can Warren bear it? The endless talk, talk, talk? The scoldings from White House aides whenever she says or does something they deem unhelpful? The merciless editing of her speech at the next Democratic National Convention —and the surgical exclusion from the innermost council of the party leadership? That’s the “unique role in the national conversation” in which a Hillary Clinton led Democratic party will cast Elizabeth Warren. Warren's got nothing to gain from staying put in the Senate except drudgery, ineffectuality, and humiliation.

So, it really doesn’t matter if Warren feels she has a shot to win the presidency. She’s might be in it–as Frum noted–to escape the overly packaged atmosphere in the Senate. She has nothing to lose, which is something that the Clinton team might be weary about in the primaries.

Frum added that if Warren runs in the race, she could force Hillary to the left, but, unlike how conservatives shifted Romney to the right on some things; he failed in 2012. A more left-leaning Hillary could win in 2016, which is a terrifying thought.

Moreover, Liz is something new and fresh, albeit with a progressive zest. There’s nothing new about Hillary–zilch. So, there’s no throwback Thursdays with Rodham, but Warren could be an interesting wild card in the primaries. On the other hand, while Warren could muster a scrappy progressive grassroots army, her biggest donors would probably abandon her if Hillary's running.

We shall see what happens, but given that Democrats, especially those in Iowa, want to see someone–anyone–to challenge Hillary, we shouldn’t be shocked if Warren does take the plunge when the 2016 campaign season gets serious.

Video: Scott Walker's Breakout Performance in Iowa

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker may have taken a step toward catapulting himself into the presidential top tier with a well-received performance at the Iowa Freedom Summit over the weekend, generating raucous applause from the grassroots audience and rave reviews from the attending media.  The summit -- billed by some as the unofficial kickoff to the 2016 election cycle -- featured a list of rumored Republican hopefuls, including Ted Cruz, Walker, Chris Christie, Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee, John Bolton, Rick Perry, Carly Fiorina, Rick Santorum and Sarah Palin.  A handful of heavy hitters such as Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney, Marco Rubio and Rand Paul did not attend.  Though many speakers were welcomed warmly, a consensus emerged that Walker had won the day.  Major Iowa figures praised his speech, while national and Wisconsin politicos noted that Walker seems to have kicked his message and delivery into a new gear:

When rumors of 'Walker 2016' began to circulate in earnest a few weeks back, I mentioned that a source close to the governor's camp had pegged the chances of the governor jumping into the race stood at 70 percent or higher.  The Weekly Standard's Stephen Hayes, a native Wisconsinite, now believes

the die has been cast:

The theme of Walker's remarks was that America needs "big and bold" leadership centered around conservative reforms.  As you watch, pay special attention to the roster of conservative accomplishments (money quote: "how many governors can say that?") he ticks down, as well as his analogy about discount shopping at Kohl's (message: I'm not a scion of privilege, unlike some other people who shall remain nameless):

The Left's infamous histrionics and frightening threats against his family during the budget reform fight and subsequent recall election only emboldened him to complete the job he was elected to do, Walker said, drawing hearty applause from the crowd.  I've been run through the gauntlet.  I've been tested repeatedly, and I've gotten the job done in a blue state.  Oh, and that blue state's economy has "wind in its sails" as Walker begins his national push.  By stepping out in such an eye-opening and buzzworthy way, Walker is laying down an early marker that he's coming to play, and that he won't be intimidated by anyone else in the race. Establishing himself as a powerful contender comes with risks and rewards. In the former category, Walker is guaranteeing that he won't sneak up on anyone. He's now clearly demonstrated the threat he poses; any element of surprise is gone. One also supposes that there's always a risk of peaking early, but those concerns are wildly premature. In the latter camp, Walker has strategically confronted an early media knock against him -- that's he's too bland or boring -- head on, displaying some passion and dynamism that caught even longstanding supporters off guard (although he's shown flashes of it before). Also, in order to compete in the critical "money primary," the more conservative alternatives to Jeb and Mitt will need to make a splash and showcase their chops. Even though this weekend's talk was delivered in a grassroots setting, it's generated enough talk that the party's major donors will take notice.

As for the rest of the Freedom Summit crowd, Ed Morrissey says that in addition to Walker, a pair of Texans -- Rick Perry and Ted Cruz -- distinguished themselves among the featured guests.  Chris Christie also seemed to have done himself some good, even earning high marks from a most unlikely source:

Cruz's speech is HERE.  Christie's is HERE.

'Asleep At The Switch:' WH Chief Of Staff Reveals Name Of Third American ISIS Hostage

This hasn’t been a good week for the Obama administration in the realm of foreign affairs. Members of President Obama’s own party seemed aghast at his talking points on Iran; New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez said they sounded like they were drafted from Tehran. In Yemen, U.S. officials suspended counterterrorism operations due to the state’s security apparatus now being in rebel control. The Shiite rebels–the Houthis–allegedly have ties to Iran, and are in control of the Yemeni capital, Sanaa. Yemen’s president, prime minister, and cabinet all resigned en masse last week; the country is virtually in anarchy.

ISIS is still capturing and beheading people, the latest victims being two Japanese citizens; one of which was beheaded over the weekend. Given this tragic news, what about the third American hostage still in ISIS’ hands? We know she's a 26-years old woman, who was as an aide worker in the Syrian city of Aleppo. Now, thanks to White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough’s slip of the tongue on ABC News' "This Week," we know her first name; he was doing a marathon circuit on the Sunday morning talk shows yesterday. Bernadette Meehan, National Security Council spokesperson, said, “We don’t have anything to add, other than to request again that you not use the name of the individual.”

ABC News still lists her name on the transcript of the January 25 broadcast of "This Week." On a side note, I’m following what our sister site­–Twitchy–has done and will not publish her name, though as I’m writing this at 11:30pm; ABC News has yet to redact their transcript.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: We also have that threat from ISIS.

Any hope of saving that second Japanese hostage?

And do we have any information on the American woman still being held?

DENIS MCDONOUGH: Well, the president had a good talk overnight, our time here, with Prime Minister Abe, underscoring our continued support for and partnership with the Japanese, they making this huge investment of, you know, halfway around the world, like we are, in Iraq and Syria against ISIS.

And as it relates to our hostages, we are obviously continuing to work those matters very, very aggressively. We are sparing no expense and sparing no effort, both in trying to make sure that we know where they are and make sure that we're prepared to do anything we must to try to get them home.

But [redacted]’s family knows how strongly the president feels about this and we will continue to work this.

As Foreign Policy magazine pointed out, “This is the first time that any part of the aid worker’s name was revealed by the administration. U.S. officials and the hostage’s family maintain the release of her identity draws more attention to the case, making it harder to negotiate her release.” They also didn’t publish her name.

Is this administration “asleep at the switch?” That’s pretty much what the panel discussed with CBS News’ Bob Schieffer on "Face The Nation."

The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank noted the “extraordinary disconnect” this administration exudes on the foreign policy front, citing that there were less than 65 words dedicated to counterterrorism. The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg noted that by the time Obama leaves in 2017, he could leave hundreds of thousands of square miles open for Islamic terrorists to plot attacks against the United States. USA Today’s Susan Page also mentioned the intelligence failures of this administration, with CBS News’ political director John Dickerson noting that Obama had used Yemen as a model for counterterror operations. That’s looking incredibly awkward now.

“You are just not aware of what’s going on,” said Dickerson, channeling the critics of the critics of Obama’s “smart power” foreign policy. It seems to be right though.

Oh, and let’s not forget this administration didn’t know the Pentagon was sending Israel munitions without their approval.

In the meantime, the White House has denied reports that they've suspended counterterror operation in Yemen.

As we are seemingly heading towards a geopolitical disaster in the Middle East and the greater Islamic world, this tweet from Guy never gets old:

Capitol Source: the D.C. Marijuana Debate

Washington, D.C. Councilman David Grosso (I) has vowed to confront Congress about an issue his city voted overwhelmingly in favor of—marijuana legalization. 

Last November 70 percent of Washington D.C. residents voted to approve to sale and use of marijuana for legalization purposes in the nation's capital. Their support, however, held little meaning. While D.C. may sport a mayor, an elected city council, and even have its fair share of ballots and measures, the District is ultimately controlled by the federal government. 

Only one month after approving the measure, Congress banned all taxpayer funds from being used towards cannabis legalization. Without the means to create a regulated marketplace the city's hands are tied.

If Grosso's legislation passes, it would make marijuana taxation and sales legal in the District. 

But why is Congress against regulating drugs? In today's "Capitol Source," we hear from advocates on either side of the marijuana debate as they discuss the pros and cons of marijuana legalization. 

Man's Best Friend: Service Dogs of SHOT Show

Every year 60,000 people attend the annual National Shooting Sports Foundation SHOT Show in Las Vegas. Many of those people are veterans and when I was there last week, I noticed a number of service dogs also in attendance at the show. 

As Leah has extensively documented through her writing, dogs not only play an essential role in military operations overseas, they are crucial in helping veterans at home recovering from PTSD and other issues after returning from combat. In fact, A&E just launched a new reality series about man's best friend called "Dogs of War."

Canines aren't a cure for PTSD, of course, but Sarge and other service dogs can be trained to help veterans suffering from anxiety, depression, flashbacks, and night terrors. However, it's the emotional support and unconditional love the furry companions provide that's perhaps the greatest way they help veterans move on with their lives.

"We as individuals, we take a lot of things for granted." Jim explained. "Whether it’s going out to dinner, going to a baseball game with your kids, [or] getting involved with the family ... it’s very difficult for a veteran dealing with PTSD and a brain injury to partake in that stuff because we want to isolate, we don’t want to socialize."

"[But] now you’ve got your battle buddy with you, your service dog that gets to run with you everywhere you go," he continued, "and get you back in and live the life you deserve to live."

Here are some of the buddies I ran into at the SHOT Show last week. 

1. This is "Wilson the PTSD saver." He was pretty tired near the end of the week, after all, there were 12.5 miles of aisles to walk through. 

2. This St. Bernard can tell when his owner is about to have a seizure and lets him know ahead of time so he can take the necessary precautions. 

3. This guy is a "helping paws" service dog. 

4. This helpful canine is part of the Warrior Dog Foundation. 

One of the best parts of SHOT Show is seeing and meeting veterans. We thank them for their service.

Federal Judge Accuses DOJ Attorneys of Defrauding The Court, Threatening Witness in Case of ATF Whistleblower Jay Dobyns

Late last week reporter Tim Steller of the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson published a piece about alleged serious misconduct and intimidation from DOJ attorneys during the trial and lawsuit of former ATF agent and whistleblower Jay Dobyns against the government. 

One of the recently unsealed documents, a Dec. 1 opinion by Judge Allegra, finally explains why in October the judge voided his original decision, made in August, to award Dobyns $173,000. (He later reversed his decision to void the judgment, which still stands.) The reason: The judge believed that Justice Department attorneys had “committed fraud on the court.”

One area in which Allegra decided deception had occurred was in the treatment of Thomas Atteberry, the special agent in charge of ATF’s Phoenix office, and Carlos Canino, then the assistant special agent in charge of the agency’s Tucson office. In 2012, a Justice Department attorney, Valerie Bacon, asked both Atteberry and Canino not to reopen the investigation into the arson at Dobyns’ Tucson home because it could hurt the Justice Department’s defense in this case.

Atteberry and Canino were listed as witnesses in the case, but the judge didn’t hear about the DOJ effort to squelch the investigation until the trial, which he considered a concealment by the Justice Department. They went ahead and reopened the case, which remains unsolved, anyway.

More alarming was the other “fraud on the court” that Allegra cited: “An ATF agent who testified in this case may have been threatened by another witness during the trial.” Justice Department attorneys ordered the agent not to report the threat to the court or he would face repercussions, Allegra said.

As a refresher, Dobyns is the first law enforcement agent to ever successfully infiltrate multiple layers of the notoriously dangerous and violent Hells Angels motorcycle gang through "Operation Black Biscuit." After doing so and after his identity was exposed, he received death threats against himself and his family. ATF did nothing to protect him. When his house was burned to the ground at 3 a.m., ATF supervisors tried to frame him for the arson after Dobyns blew the whistle and exposed supervisors had done nothing to address serious and credible threats against his family. (You can read a detailed account of the situation here). As a result, Dobyns sued the Bureau.

In August 2014 that lawsuit and trial came to an end with Federal Judge Francis Allegra ruling in Dobyns' favor and awarding him $173,000 in damages. 

After a long six year court battle with the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, Special Agent and whistleblower Jay Dobyns says he as been vindicated after Federal Judge Francis Allegra ruled in his favor late Tuesday. Dobyns, who infiltrated the dangerous and deadly Hells Angels gang as an undercover agent years ago, brought a lawsuit against the Bureau after supervisors ignored death threats to his family, which included plans to murder him either with a bullet or by injecting him with the AIDS virus, kidnapping and torturing his then 15-year-old daughter and kidnapping his wife in order to videotape a gang rape of her. Contracts were solicited between the Hells Angels, the Aryan Brotherhood and the MS-13 gang to carry out these threats, which were laid out in prison letters and confirmed through FBI and ATF interviews of confidential informants inside numerous detention centers. In 2008, his Tucson home was burned to the ground. When the fire was started, his wife and children were inside. Luckily, they escaped. Instead of investigating, ATF supervisors accused Dobyns of being the arsonist.

"I have been vindicated. First, I must thank God who provided me with strength and faith during these events. I thank those who have supported me; family, friends, peers and strangers but mostly my wife and kids – they have been the true victims here and been forced to suffer too needlessly," Dobyns wrote about the ruling on his website, where he released the news. "An agency I spilled my own blood for and enthusiastically accepted every dirty assignment on behalf of for twenty-seven years, knowingly and intentionally accused me of a crime I did not commit; being a person who would murder his own wife and children by fire."

In his opinion, Allegra said ATF exhibited "organizational weaknesses," in handling the threats against Dobyns and described ATF officials as demonstrating misfeasance in the case "rooted in the sorry failure of some ATF officials."

“The violations occurred because of the way officials like ASAC Gillett and RAC Higman functioned – and were allowed to function – after the arson, especially in terms of how Agent Dobyns was treated”; “In the courts view, the evidence showed that ASAC Gillett and Agent Higman knew that Agent Dobyns was not responsible for the fire, and still allowed him to be treated as a suspect as a form of payback. Moreover, ATF officials knew, or should have known, that individuals like ASAC Gillett and Agent Higman should not have been allowed to participate in the investigation – as it turned out their conduct was not only reprehensible, but predictably so. In donning blinders in this regard, ATF officials compounded potential harm that might have befallen the Dobyns family,” the opinion states.

It seems that this apparent misconduct by the DOJ attorneys is what led Allegra to make a dramatic ruling on Oct. 24. That day, he barred seven Justice Department attorneys who had led the case until then from making any further filings in the case. The DOJ is fighting that ruling.

Shortly after the ruling, Allegra withdrew his opinion without explanation, now we know why. Court documents show DOJ attorneys allegedly intimidated a key witness in Dobyns' case against the government, threatening that if he testified, his career at would be over. 

“On October 29, 2014, the court, invoking RCFC 60(b) and other provisions, issued an order voiding the prior judgment based upon indications that defendant, through its counsel, had committed fraud on the court," Allegra wrote in an unsealed opinion from December 2014. "The Sixth Circuit has indicated that fraud on the court consists of conduct: 1. On the part of an officer of the court; 2. That is directed to the ‘judicial machinery’ itself; 3. That is intentionally false, willfully blind to the truth, or is in reckless disregard for the truth; 4. That is a positive averment or is concealment when one is under a duty to disclose; 5. That deceives the court."

After the opinion was issued, ATF's lead internal affairs investigator Christopher Trainor, a key witness in the Dobyns' case who testified at the Tucson and Washington D.C. portions of the trial, told Judge Allegra he had been threatened by a DOJ attorney and witness for the government, Charles Higman, in 2013 for his work in compiling evidence against ATF in the case. An internal criminal investigation was opened against Higman in 2013 after Trainor's allegations and Higman was accused of perjury in Allegra's August 2014 opinion, which was withdrawn after new revelations.

According to a letter to Judge Allegra from the DOJ Office of Professional Responsibility, OPR has "received multiple inquiries regarding whether the Federal Circuit's December 18, 2014 Order remanding the case of Jay A. Dobyns v. United States, No. 08-700C (FMA), to the Court of Federal Claims for further proceedings will affect the inquiry recently initiated by OPR into allegations that Department of Justice attorneys committed misconduct in the Dobyns case," and "the court will order depositions of at least some of the attorneys and other witnesses in this case, as well as the receipt of other relevant evidence."

Further, DOJ has allegedly been intimidating and conducting harassing surveillance of Dobyns' attorney Jim Reed. More from Steller:

Perhaps the most bizarre and worrisome allegations emerged in Reed’s Jan. 11 filing, which was originally filed under seal but unsealed by the judge except for a few redacted words. Reed, who is based in Phoenix, wrote that he “has felt himself under extreme surveillance for the last sixty days, both fixed and moving, and under lesser levels of surveillance for many months before that.”

“In the last 30 days,” Reed wrote, “counsel’s automobile has been broken into but with nothing stolen, as apparently has been his home, for which counsel has filed Phoenix Police Department complaints.”

DOJ is standing by it's attorneys as "outstanding civil servants." Attorney General Eric Holder has been informed by Allegra of the alleged defrauding of the court by DOJ attorneys. 

"I said all along they were cheating. Everyone was like, "sour grapes, disgruntled agent, whiny narcissist, etc." Just a fraction of the dirty games ATF and DOJ played on me are coming out. Reporters are finding it all on their own with no prompting from me (below). This is only the portion of what Judge Allegra has unsealed and allowed to be exposed. More and better dirt on these people is coming. The evidence of abuse from the trial? That's old news and minor compared to DOJ / ATF attorneys and witnesses defrauding federal courtrooms and judges. Jones and Brandon knew/know about this and did NOTHING, yet they call themselves "leaders". They are executive bagboys. DOJ is defending the reputations and careers of corrupt attorneys - the very same attorneys who tried to frame me and lied, cheated and stole to do it. They are all paid to cover for Holder and his "team" and do so shamelessly. Justice and truth are not their missions. Coverup and self protection is. To them "Justice" and "Truth" are meaningless words carved in the facades of their buildings. This is the tip of the iceberg of what is yet to come," Dobyns wrote on his website about the revelations. "I can only make one guarantee. Its not of victory. Its that I will not quit and will not be broken."

The House Oversight Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committees both have new chairmen, Rep. Jason Chaffetz and Sen. Chuck Grassley, who should both be looking into this is and demanding answers, especially with confirmation hearings for attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch later this week.

David Codrea has also written a piece about these revelations that's worth reading.

CDC, NASA Have Highest Favorability Ratings of Federal Agencies

According to a new Pew Research Center survey, Americans have little trust in the government as a whole, but have high favorability ratings for several individual agencies. Seventy percent surveyed approve of the Centers for Disease Control, and 68 percent approve of the job done by NASA. The IRS and the NSA had the lowest favorability ratings, with 45 and 51 percent, respectively, having a favorable view of those agencies.

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted Jan. 7-11 among 1,504 adults, finds that 70% have a favorable view of the CDC, which came under criticism last fall for its handling of the outbreak of the Ebola virus. Nearly as many (68%) have a favorable view of NASA, and 65% hold a favorable view of the Department of Defense.

While overall favorable ratings for most of the agencies tested have changed little over time, there has been a sharp decline in positive views of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Currently, 52% have a favorable view of the VA, down 16 points since October 2013. The agency has been widely faulted for delays in health care for veterans; the scandal led to the ouster last year of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.

Among Republicans, the agency viewed most favorably was the Department of Defense, followed by the CIA and NASA. The CIA was the only federal agency that Republicans favored more than Democrats.

While the CDC got a bad rap late last year when the Ebola virus was discovered in Dallas, there has been no major outbreak of the disease and the agency did its job well containing diagnosed cases, and I'll give them credit for that. NASA has had its budget slashed, yet they've still accomplished some pretty amazing feats and made important discoveries.

We’ve Never Been This Close To Armageddon Since 1984

We’re now three minutes to midnight on the Doomsday Clock, which is used to determine how close human civilization is to the apocalypse. This is the closest we’ve ever been to midnight since 1984. The reason is not nuclear war anymore. It’s the threat humanity faces from bioterrorism, climate change, and our lethargic response towards addressing it. But, nuclear weapons still play their part as well (via Slate):

That’s the closest it has been to midnight since 1984, at the Cold War’s peak. The only time humanity has been closer to self-destruction, according to the clock, was from 1953 to 1960, when it read 11:58 p.m. thanks to the nuclear brinksmanship between the United States and the Soviet Union. The Cold War’s end turned the clock all the way back to 11:43 p.m. in 1991. So how did we end up right back at 11:57 p.m., just 24 years later?*

The answer is that nuclear war is no longer the only plausible, existential threat we face, according to the Bulletin’s science and security board. The other: climate change. And, more specifically, the world’s lackluster response to climate change.

As Lawrence Krauss explained in Slate two years ago, climate change was added to the clock-setting calculations in 2007, along with the dangers presented by biotechnology and bioterrorism. Despite ever-growing public awareness of the problem, global inaction on climate change has only darkened the picture since then.

Remember, it isn’t only climate change that has us poised precipitously at 11:57 p.m. today. It’s the combination of climate change and some discouraging recent developments on the nuclear-proliferation front. At a press conference Thursday, Bulletin executive director Kennette Benedict emphasized both. About the nuclear threat, she said:

The arms-reduction process has ground to a halt, with the United States and Russia embarking on massive programs to modernize their nuclear forces—thereby undermining existing nuclear weapons treaties. At the same time, other nuclear-weapons states are joining this expensive and extremely dangerous modernization craze.

The two threats may seem unrelated, but it’s worthwhile to think about them in the same breath, because there are some interesting parallels between them. The greatest danger posed by nuclear bombs is not their explosive power. It’s the prospect of a nuclear winter—that is, a form of very sudden, human-caused, climate change.

There’s that, and the fact that radiation will kill us all, too. Yet, the Slate piece did note that the Doomsday Clock’s methodology is subjective to the “biases and interests” of the scientists who move the clock handles.

While it’s a bit unnerving that we are so close to the end of the world, I’m still skeptical about climate change being the biggest existential threat humanity has faced in generations.

In other news, Mad Max: Fury Road will be released this summer; a franchise that pretty much became the blueprint for post-apocalyptic media. Here’s the trailer:

Ohio Gov. John Kasich's Tour: "Nothing To Do" With 2016

Ohio Gov. John Kasich is on tour in the west promoting a constitutional balanced budget amendment - but before you make any presumptions, the former GOP-nomination-chaser says it isn't about 2016.

As the Wall Street Journal reports:

Fresh off his inauguration to a second term as governor, Mr. Kasich is travelling from South Dakota to Wyoming to Idaho in a tour that ends Friday. He is trying to round up support for a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced federal budget — even as fiscal issues seem to be fading in Congress.

Mr. Kasich, who ran briefly for the GOP presidential nomination in 2000, says this budget campaign has nothing to do with his thinking about whether to try again in 2016. The tour may help build his national profile in a field crowded with ambitious Republicans, but he deflects questions about his plans.

“My options are on the table but I don’t have any more to say about that,” he said. When someone in Pierre, South Dakota raised the question, he joked about other Republicans who are eyeing a bid: “They are all in New Hampshire and here I am in South Dakota!”

Kasich won re-election in Ohio in 2014 by an impressive margin - more than 30 points - and such a strong showing in a purple state suggests an across-the-aisle appeal that would theoretically be helpful in any national election. Still, he's largely a dark horse in a race that is, to this point, led by household names like Bush and Romney.

Black Lives Matter: Abortion Killed 19 Times as Many Blacks as Murder

After the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Eric Garner, protesters took to the streets across the nation declaring that ‘Black Lives Matter.’

It wasn’t a moment, they argued, but a movement.

“Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise,” states. “It is an affirmation of Black folks’ contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.”

They are right: Black lives are intentionally targeted for demise—though not necessarily in the way they are protesting.

CNS News explains:

For every black murder victim in 2011 there were 19 blacks killed by abortion, according to data from the FBI and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). 2011 is the latest year for which the data is available.

The CDC’s Abortion Surveillance Report for 2011 shows that 117,293 black babies were aborted that year in the 32 states and the District of Columbia that report abortion numbers to the CDC.

The FBI’s Uniform Crime Report for 2011, shows that 6,329 blacks were murder victims that year (5,416 males, 910 females, and 3 unknown gender).

In other words, for every black American killed by homicide in 2011, there were 19 (18.5) blacks killed by abortion--and that’s just in the jurisdictions that report their abortion data. (See Table 13 in CDC report.)

Also, the 117,293 aborted babies is 1,753% higher than the 6,329 black murder victims.

Black lives do matter—beginning in the womb. It’s well past time the movement shift its focus.

Obama Targets Americans At The Pump

Last week, the Obama administration announced it was proposing new rules for methane regulations. The Environmental Protection Agency will unveil the new regulations this summer.

The Obama administration’s goal is for methane emissions to be cut 40 to 45 percent by 2025. Yet, it was unclear how such an objective could be achieved, given that methane escaping from pipelines wouldn’t be subject to regulation, according to Politico. As Erik Telford of the Franklin Center wrote, this regulatory onslaught will only hurt Americans and small businesses; not to mention that the energy industry has taken steps to reduce emissions:

According to the EPA, methane accounts for about 9 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from human activities, making it the second most prevalent greenhouse gas emitted in the United States. It’s also the primary component in natural gas, which has helped lower energy prices substantially in the U.S. and around the world.

In fact, the boom in natural gas production is a key factor driving down prices at the pump and giving Americans a much needed respite after an extended recession. And experts have predicted that prices will drop even lower--anticipating an average of $2 a gallon by spring of 2015. However, those forecasts may not be accurate if the administration has its way.

The energy industry has reduced methane emissions by at least 16 percent since 1990, despite impressive increases of natural gas production--rising 37 percent during the same period. Furthermore, despite the natural gas industry being the target of the administration’s latest attack, more than 71 percent of methane emission are produced by other sources.

As energy costs increase for small businesses and prices start rising at the pump, it should be very clear to everyday Americans that Obama’s incursion on the energy industry is really an attack on them.

Tom Pyle of the Institute For Energy Research also commented on the pending new rules concerning methane emissions:

“EPA’s proposed methane regulation is redundant, costly, and unnecessary. Energy producers are already reducing methane emissions because methane is a valuable commodity. It would be like issuing regulations forcing ice cream makers to spill less ice cream.

“The Obama administration’s latest attack on American energy reaffirms that their agenda is not about the climate at all—it’s about driving up the cost of producing and using natural gas, oil, and coal in America. The proof is in the EPA’s own research on methane, which shows that this rule will have no discernible impact on the climate. Like most of the regulations coming out of this ideologically driven EPA, the environmental benefits of this new methane rule are virtually non-existent, but the economic costs for American families are very real.

“In 2012 President Obama dismissed and mocked the notion that we could drill our way to lower oil and gasoline prices. He was wrong. Thanks to increases in oil production on private and state lands, Americans are feeling some relief from high energy prices. Today, this administration has issued yet another crushing regulation aimed at driving energy prices right back up again.”

VA State Bar Kicks Bob McDonnell When He’s Down

Former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell (R-VA) has already suffered the embarrassment of an arrest, a heated court battle, and a two-year sentence in prison as a result of an unethical relationship he and his wife had with a businessman who worked for a drug supplement company. Now, the embattled governor must humble himself once again. On Friday, the Virginia State Bar announced it was suspending McDonnell’s law license. More from The Virginian Pilot:

The Virginia State Bar announced today it has suspended former Gov. Bob McDonnell’s law license effective Jan. 29.

The bar’s Disciplinary Board decided the suspension as a result of McDonnell's conviction on 11 federal corruption charges, according to a public notice. His license was already administratively suspended because McDonnell hasn't paid his dues since mid-October, it said.

The former governor hasn’t practiced law since 2009 and it’s not clear if he would have in the near future, but the suspension is just another stain on his already tarnished reputation.

McDonnell’s fall from grace began when it was revealed that he and his wife had accepted thousands of dollars in gifts and bribes from Jonnie R. Williams Sr., the CEO of Star Scientific, in return for promoting his company’s dietary supplement. In September, McDonnell was convicted on 11 counts of corruption. His wife Maureen is facing eight counts for her sentencing on February 20.

When the judge announced McDonnell’s verdict, he did so reluctantly, saying "It breaks my heart, but I have a duty I can't avoid." After all, the former governor served the Old Dominion well during his time in office and was once even considered a contender for the 2016 presidential race. 

There’s something even more humbling about being behind bars. After McDonnell serves his time, perhaps he will start to earn back some respect and dignity.

Sarah Palin: I'm "Seriously Interested" in a White House Run


Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin told The Washington Post in an interview Friday that she is “seriously interested” in running for the White House in 2016.

“You can absolutely say that I am seriously interested,” Palin said, when asked to clarify her thinking about a possible presidential bid.

Palin, the GOP’s 2008 vice-presidential nominee, said she stood by comments she made Thursday in Las Vegas to ABC News, where she first expressed enthusiasm about potentially competing for the Republican presidential nomination.

“I am. As I said yesterday, I’m really interested in the opportunity to serve at some point,” Palin said Friday, as former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, a potential 2016 rival, looked on.

Exit question: Should Sarah Palin run for president in 2016? Or should she sit this one out and serve the nation in other ways?

Walker Watch: Governor Plans To Be In New Hampshire, Nabs Ernst Strategist

Yes, I’m sure a lot of you are waiting–or hoping–for Gov. Walker to announce his 2016 candidacy. His answer will probably come around the summer, but he’s scheduled to be a keynote speaker in New Hampshire on March 14 at an in-state Republican Party event (via RCP):

As he continues to gear up for a likely Republican presidential bid, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is planning his first trip to New Hampshire of the 2016 campaign season.

On March 14, Walker will be the keynote speaker at an event that is being hosted by the New Hampshire Republican Party in the first-in-the-nation primary state.

"We have enacted bold, successful reforms in Wisconsin and we have a great story to tell," Walker said in a statement announcing his visit. "I look forward to sharing our common sense conservative message with grassroots activists, and I thank the New Hampshire GOP for this exciting opportunity."

According to multiple Republican sources, Walker’s tightknit political team has been conducting interviews recently for high-level positions in what is likely to become an official campaign organization in the coming months.

Additionally, Walker’s political team recently nabbed David Polyansky, a Republican strategist who worked on Sen. Joni Ernst’s successful 2014 Senate election in Iowa. He’ll be responsible for the ground game there (via NRO):

Polyansky’s history in Iowa goes back to Mike Huckabee’s 2008 campaign: He helped orchestrate the former Arkansas governor’s surprise victory in the Iowa caucuses that year, and in then in 2012, while working for former congresswoman Michele Bachmann, he helped her win the state’s straw poll.

Walker is in Iowa this weekend for the Iowa Freedom Summit cosponsored by congressman Steve King and Citizens United. The news was first reported by the Des Moines Register.

Within political circles, Walker seems to be a candidate that could clear the 2016 field, despite Marco Rubio’s “concrete steps” towards a 2016 bid of his own. He has a fundraising network that could be one of the largest in the GOP, executive experience in a purplish state, pushing through an agenda, and will already be warmed up for the campaign season, since his entire first term was pretty much one long election (2010, 2012 recall, 2014 re-election). He’s a solid, pro-life conservative as well. Yet, as John Fund wrote in National Review, right-to-work and gambling could steer the Walker ship towards rocky shoals.

In Madison, both chambers of the state legislature are Republican–and they want a more aggressive right-to-work law that prohibits private sector employees from paying dues to unions. There’s also a $800 million dollar gambling project that awaits his approval or disapproval:

A total of 24 states — including Iowa — are right-to-work. The latest additions to the list were heavily unionized Michigan and Indiana.

Yet Governor Walker has made it clear that he views the push for right-to-work as a distraction from his buttoned-down agenda of business, tax, and education reforms. Wisconsin state-senate majority leader Scott Fitzgerald told WISN-TV last Sunday that “not much will happen” on the issue in the next few months. Fitzgerald said he understood Walker’s desire to avoid large protests like those seen in 2011, when Act 10, a law restricting public-sector unions, passed.

Still, he has also warned Walker that “we can’t tiptoe through this session without addressing this.”

Another issue where Governor Walker will have to tread carefully in Iowa is the expansion of state-approved gambling. Walker will have to decide by February 19 whether to approve a proposed $800 million Menominee Indian tribal casino in Kenosha. “Influential social conservatives in Iowa are warning Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker that approving a proposed Kenosha casino next month could hurt his presidential bid” was the lead paragraph of a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article this month. Newly elected Iowa U.S. senator Joni Ernst joined 600 other Republicans in sending Walker a petition urging him adopt a “No Expanding Gaming” policy. Bob Vander Plaats, a prominent social conservative in Iowa who led the successful defeat in 2010 of three Supreme Court justices who had approved same-sex marriage, has also written a letter to Walker highlighting the “increased societal problems of divorce, bankruptcy, debt, depression, and suicide” that gambling can produce. In 2012, Vander Plaats’s last-minute endorsement of Rick Santorum helped propel the former Pennsylvania senator to a photo-finish victory over Mitt Romney in Iowa.

Iowa political activists tell me that Walker is taking real risks of leaks in his Iowa coalition if he either approves expanded gambling or chokes on approving right-to-work — especially in a state such as Iowa that has had such a law on its books for more than 60 years.

Hey, there are risks with any national campaign. We’ll just have to see how this plays out. It still doesn’t diminish the fact that Republicans have a conservative governor from a purple state that can make a conservative agenda law, raise money, and appeals to both wings of the GOP. He has a political network ready–all we have to do is wait for Walker.

Livestream: Iowa Freedom Summit

The Iowa Freedom Summit is being livestreamed. Watch it below:

Change: Only Romney Edges Rubio in New Poll

The establishment is taking over.

Just kidding. But this poll is interesting:

A new Zogby Analytics of likely Republican primary voters shows that the 2012 nominee is in the lead for 2016, but only three points ahead of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and current Florida Senator Marco Rubio.The poll of 223 likely primary voters was conducted online January 16-18 and has a margin of sampling error of +/-6.6 percentage points.

Romney is on top with support from 16% of the voters, followed by Bush and Rubio with 13% each. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is next with 11%, followed by former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee with 9%, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker at 6%, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindahl with 4%, and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, former Texas Governor Rick Perry, and Texas Senator Ted Cruz all at 3%. Other names included South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, Ohio Senator Rob Portman, New Mexico Governor Susanna Martinez, and former Pennsylvania Rick Santorum --- all receiving less than 1%.

For months, Rubio has been scraping the bottom of the barrel in 2016 polls. As far as I can tell, this is the first poll showing him exceeding double-digit support in months. But there is something far more interesting about this poll than just the top-line numbers. Rubio, for his part, is earning 13 percent overall largely -- and almost entirely -- because women support him.

“Rubio is receiving 22% support among women to only 4% of men and does equally well (16% each) among both self-identified Republicans and conservatives,” the pollsters write. By contrast, Romney and Bush are only earning 13 percent and 10 percent among women, respectively. That’s a huge advantage. For a party that has struggled to make inroads with this key demographic, Rubio is showing early signs of promise.

Another point to emphasize (and the Zogby pollsters did as well) is that, besides maintaining support-levels far above his rivals among female voters, Rubio’s broadly appealing. He doesn’t strictly fit the mold of a "tea party" candidate (think his advocacy for and defense of comprehensive immigration reform) but nor is he an "establishment" type, either. In 2010, he ran as a staunch conservative and was even featured on the cover of National Review magazine early in the campaign. So his support among both tea party and more moderate respondents -- in this particular survey, at least -- typifies his growing appeal and unique ability to transcend party labels. This realization may have also been one factor which led him to essentially take the plunge already.

Guy has written an extensive post titled “Rubio’s Gamble.” Go read it. In sum, he argues that the Florida senator’s path to the nomination is hardly clear-cut. But as this poll shows, he seems to have the potential and ability to make a huge splash in 2016.

We'll see if he sinks or swims.

Dem Poll: Nearly 70 Percent Support School Choice

If there’s one issue that has virtual approval from everyone, it’s school choice. Beck Research, a Democratic polling firm, found that nearly 70 percent of Americans support the concept of school choice, 45 percent strongly support it, and only 27 percent oppose it. These poll results were unveiled at a press conference held by the American Federation for Children at the National Press Club yesterday.

From their press release [emphasis mine]:

“The findings of this poll reflect what we saw in the 2014 midterms and what I am seeing in communities across the country – a demand from parents for more options in deciding how their children are educated,” said Kevin Chavous, AFC’s executive counsel. “Educational choice through opportunity scholarships and charter schools provide these options. As communities from New Orleans to Milwaukee to Miami have learned, educational choice is an immediate solution for parents’ who have children trapped in underperforming schools. Americans know that a zip code should not dictate a child’s future.”

Chavous cited other signs of school choice momentum – the resounding victories of prominent school choice advocates in the 2014 elections and a growing sense that national education unions are losing their influence with voters. Teachers unions spent at least $80 million in 2014 to express opposition to candidates supportive of such education reforms – and lost every race.

Chavous, a Democrat, former DC City Councilman and one-time mayoral candidate, urged his party to recognize the importance of the survey’s results. “As the 2016 primary fights begin, education reform is certain to take center stage – especially as a number of Republican candidates tout their records supporting expanded parental choice. As the civil rights issue of the 21st century – I urge the candidates in my party to recognize the shift in public opinion and embrace parental choice by putting the needs of students first.”

Deborah Beck of Beck Research said, “The poll clearly shows widespread support, among both political parties, for school choice. Any public official – or potential candidate for President -- who ignores these numbers does so at their own peril.”

Five key findings from poll:

  • 69 percent support the concept of school choice, including 45 percent who strongly support it, 27 percent oppose it.
  • 76 percent support public charter schools, with only 20 percent opposing it.
  • 54 percent of those surveyed believe that giving parents more choices of schools will improve the education system.
  • 65 percent believe choice and competition among schools improves education.
  • 62 percent believe we need to make major changes to the ways that public schools are run.

Some Republicans in blue states, like Gov. Chris Christie, have pushed for school choice initiatives–and it has yielded exceptional political dividends. Christie cruised to re-election in 2013, netting 60 percent of the vote, along with winning pretty much winning every demographic in the state. He also doubled his support amongst African-American voters, possibly due to his support for school choice policies.

On the other hand, Christie is way too moderate to win the GOP nomination. While he’s taken on the teachers unions, New Jersey’s economic picture is still awful, making any positive narrative about the state’s fiscal health close to laughable.

Nevertheless, Republicans have found an issue, like the Keystone Pipeline, that is insanely popular with Americans. Democrats seem to be onboard as well, but the left’s relationship with unions could have left-leaning allies looking over their shoulders more, especially during election years (i.e. every year).

Maybe this should be on the docket for this session after the Republican fumble on the bill restricting late-term abortions which was–though well-intentioned–straight up embarrassing.

Michael Bloomberg To Buy New York Times?

It would be a match made in heaven: amid multiple rounds of layoffs at the New York Times, New York Magazine is reporting that Michael Bloomberg has been idly speculating about buying the Grey Lady:

Near the end of Bloomberg's time as mayor, he told Times chairman and publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. that he was interested in buying the Times, according to a source with direct knowledge of the conversation. Sulzberger replied that the paper was not for sale.

Bloomberg’s overture, previously unreported, might be one reason why talk of a Bloomberg-Times eventuality has flared up among insiders in the wake of the most recent round of Times’ layoffs. Given the fact that both sides vehemently deny that there have been recent conversations (Sulzberger “can’t remember the last time he spoke with Bloomberg,” said a spokesperson), this may very well be wishful — or apprehensive — thinking being played out in the echo chamber of media gossip.

But it does seem that Bloomberg is in fact interested in the Times and that his interest has not waned. "Mike has muttered a lot about the Times to a lot of people," a Bloomberg adviser told me.

The Republican-turned-independent-turned-gun-grabbing-activist would find a natural home at the New York Times. He already shares their progressive cosmopolitan worldview. Their editorial page might as well all be written by Bloomberg.

Indiana Congressman Creates Quiz Mocking "Deflategate" and White House

Unless you've been living under several rocks, you've heard by now that the New England Patriots were investigated for under-inflating the footballs used during the first half of their 45-7 victory in the AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts. The whole matter has come to be known as "Deflategate" or "Ballghazi," and has dominated the national news this past week.

In response to all of this, Rep. Todd Young (R-IN), a Colts fan, published a "Who said it?" quiz on his official website comparing the rhetoric used in DeflateGate with the White House's official response to several scandals during the Obama administration.

For a little Friday fun, see if you can pass our "Who Said It: The Obama White House or New England Patriots?" quiz. Below are eight statements that refer to either DeflateGate or one of the Obama administration scandals. Can you guess who said each of the following in response?

Full disclosure: I am a (admittedly casual) New England Patriots fan and I still managed to get one wrong.

While this quiz is quite silly, it's rather troubling that the White House is giving shockingly similar answers to a professional football player and coach on scandals that are far more serious than the amount of air pressure in a football. It's also disgusting to me that network news is spending an absolutely absurd amount of time covering a "scandal" about the amount of air in a football compared to, you know, actual world news.

Surprise: 'Average' Mom Showcased at SOTU was a Democratic Operative

If you watched the president's speech on Tuesday, you're already somewhat familiar with Rebekah Erier, the hard-working Minnesota mother whom Obama referenced on several occasions as a living testament to how his policies are benefitting middle class Americans. Erier was seated next to the First Lady and received quite a lot of camera time.  The idea was to highlight an average, everyday family for the national audience, and to drive home Obama's "middle class economics" messaging.  Unbeknownst to viewers, however, were a few details about Ms. Erier's background that suggest she isn't quite the 'everywoman' she was presented to be:

The woman whose story of economic recovery was showcased by President Barack Obama in his State of the Union address is a former Democratic campaign staffer and has been used by Obama for political events in the past. Rebekah Erler has been presented by the White House as a woman who was discovered by the president after she wrote to him last March about her economic hardships. She was showcased in the speech as proof that middle class Americans are coming forward to say that Obama’s policies are working. Unmentioned in the White House bio of Erler is that she is a former Democratic campaign operative, working as a field organizer for Sen. Patty Murray (D., Wash.). This also wasn’t the first time the White House used the former Democratic campaign staffer as a political prop.

Rebekah is just like you, America!  If you've worked as a partisan campaign operative and have been featured at multiple presidential events, that is!  I discussed this development with Gretchen Carlson on Fox News:

As I noted in the segment, this president has an anecdote problem dating back to the Obamacare debate.  He cynically fabricated details about his own cancer-stricken mother's (!) supposed fight with her health insurance company, and told two emotional stories in his 2009 healthcare speech to Congress key elements of which turned out to be factually wrong upon further inspection.  But hey, "larger truths" are far too important to be bogged down by actual facts.  Incidentally, we also discussed the intriguing meeting between Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush this week.  I wonder if they talked about, say, Marco Rubio at all.

DC Police Wanted To Charge David Gregory, DC AG Killed The Request

Remember that time when then-host of NBC’s Meet The Press, David Gregory, famously showed a high-capacity magazine on live television in Washington, D.C.? For those you aware of DC’s abysmal gun laws and disrespect for the Constitution, you know that possessing magazines that hold more than ten rounds is illegal within city limits.

After the horrific Sandy Hook shooting in 2012, Gregory showed the magazine while speaking with NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre. This prompted an investigation by DC police as to whether the NBC host broke DC gun laws. The statute is quite clear: “No person in the District shall possess, sell, or transfer any large capacity ammunition feeding device regardless of whether the device is attached to a firearm."

Nevertheless, Gregory escaped prosecution. 

Prof. William Jacobson of Legal Insurrection filed a FOIA request for all documents relating to the investigation. It took two years, assistance from Judicial Watch, and a lawsuit to obtain the documents in question. In short, DC police wanted to charge Gregory for illegally possessing a high-capacity magazine, a move that was squashed by DC Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan who said that Gregory–as Jacobson put it– was just “too nice a guy,” and had no criminal intent or something (Via Legal Insurrection):

The short version is that the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department warned NBC News that it could not possess an actual high-capacity magazine, but NBC News went ahead and did it anyway. The MPD recommended a warrant for Gregory’s arrest, but that request was nixed by the D.C. Attorney General Irvin Nathan because — my paraphrase — Gregory was just too nice a guy and had no other criminal intent.

That attitude stood in stark contrast to the D.C. Attorney General’s vigorous prosecution of other lesser-known people who also were nice people and had no other criminal intent, but violated D.C.’s gun laws.

D.C. eventually produced more documents, but refused to give us the Arrest Warrant Affidavit. We eventually won a court decision, and today D.C. produced the Affidavit, with some personal information redacted. (Affidavit Below)

The Affidavit demonstrates the facts as to NBC News’ open defiance of the law. This was no innocent error. Yet no prosecution.

Here is an excerpt from the Affidavit:

So, there you have it; gun control acolytes support laws supporting their agenda, until one of their own–you know– breaks them.

Blue State Chaos: California Senate Seat Up For Grabs

Well, let’s start with some good news; Tom Steyer, the billionaire global warming crusader, has decided not to run for Barbara Boxer’s seat in 2016. Steyer would have had a huge money advantage, given his personal wealth, if he had tossed his hat into one of the most expensive campaign rings in the country. Some folks are saying this could be a $1 billion race. California Lieutenant Gov. Gavin Newsom also decided not to run in 2016, possibly looking towards moving into the Governor’s mansion in 2018.

Right now, the only person to officially declare their candidacy for Boxer’s seat is California Attorney General Kamala Harris. Yet, there are A LOT of potential candidates that have yet to make their intention known. Of course, Harris is the frontrunner, but if enough Democrats run and split the vote; then it’s possible–given California’s jungle primary system–that two Republicans could be the two top vote getters for the 2016 election. Also, the poll showing Harris dominating the field didn’t include former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who is seriously considering running as well (via the Hill):

Harris pulls 27 percent of support in the automated poll, with billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer at 6 percent, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (D) at 7 percent and Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.) at 6 percent.

In California's unusual primary system the top two vote-getters of any party advance from the June primary to the general election, meaning in the blue state there's a possibility of two Democrats facing off in the general election — or potentially two Republicans if enough Democrats run and split up the vote.

But the poll suggests it's unlikely that two Democrats will face off if a respectable Republican mounts a challenge. Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) leads, with 28 percent support, with 2012 GOP gubernatorial nominee Neel Kashkari at 12 percent, suggesting that a Republican with some statewide name identification would likely make a runoff.

Then, there’s the Villaraigosa effect (via LA Times):

Villaraigosa has previously expressed interest in running for governor. But according to a source close to the former mayor, he sees a path to victory in the Senate run as the only major political figure from the Los Angeles area considering a run. And the race will take place during a presidential campaign, with expected higher voter turnout among Latino, African American and Asian voters -- constituencies he successfully tapped during his mayoral contests.

Among political observers and some of his supporters, Villaraigosa is viewed as a better legislator than an executive. Before serving as a two-term mayor of Los Angeles, he was speaker of the California Assembly. Potential obstacles for his candidacy include business decisions he has made since leaving office, as well as personal baggage that led to the dissolution of his marriage.

But being the only Latino candidate to run for the seat would be a boon.

The Hill also noted that Villaraigosa has the highest name recognition in the Democratic field, and if he runs; “his campaign could play on the traditional north-south California political split and potentially rally the state's large bloc of Hispanic voters to his corner.”

Other Democratic contenders are San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, Rep. Loretta Sanchez, State Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, State Treasurer John Chiang, former Congresswoman Jane Harman and Rep. Karen Bass.

So, yeah, there are a lot of people running for this seat. It’s the wild bunch.

Friday Filibuster: The Hypocrite in Chief Edition

The Friday Filibuster: The one-stop-shop for everything you need to know about this week in politics.

Closing Numbers: 

50%- Obama’s job approval rating. 

35– The number of people in a recent Pew survey that described Obama as a ‘good man.’

33– The number of people in a recent Pew survey that described Obama as ‘incompetent.’

59% - The percentage of Republicans who want to see Mitt Romney run again.


Republicans knew heading into Tuesday that the president was going to deliver a defiant State of the Union speech, and that he did. Among the litany of policy proposals were raising the death tax and a new tax credit plan for select middle class families. But perhaps most memorable was the president demanding a better politics—the hypocrisy of which is so extreme, Guy can’t decide if it’s ‘acute self-delusion or masters-level trolling.’ Conn aptly referred to the speech as Obama’s State of Disunion. He also did a little fact-checking on education, health care, bail outs, test scores, and gas prices, and broke down the problems with Obama’s tax plan and community college plan. Based on ratings, it seems even Democrats have already turned the page on Obama’s presidency.

Earlier in the day during the SOTU luncheon, the White House couldn’t resist taking a childish swipe at Fox News. And less than 24 hours after the speech, the Obama effect kicked in, as a company the president touted during the speech announced layoffs for thousands of employees.

Culture & Guns:

More than 12 miles of guns, gear, and educational products were on full display at the annual SHOT Show in Las Vegas, which kicked off on Tuesday. Sarah Palin made an appearance to launch the second season of her reality show, “Amazing America,” on the Sportsman Channel. But the former Alaska governor isn’t the only female gun enthusiast. According to a new report released by the National Shooting Sports Foundation at the SHOT Show, women have become the fastest growing demographic of firearms owners and those becoming involved in the shooting sports. The study also found that the main reason women decided to own a gun was for self-defense. Speaking of defense, with the rise of terror threats across Europe, law enforcement agencies there are beginning to think differently about how, when, and which police should be armed.

American Sniper shattered box office records during its opening this weekend. Michael Moore wasn’t happy about it, apparently, as he took to Twitter to indirectly slandered American hero Chris Kyle.

Campaigns & Elections:

Former presidential hopeful Rick Santorum started the week off with some jabs against potential rivals Sens. Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, dismissing them as ‘bomb throwers’ with ‘no track record of any accomplishments.’ The shots seem to have fallen on deaf ears, as Cruz is revving the 2016 engine. On the establishment side of things, Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush appear to be trying to figure out how to avoid a 2016 bloodbath of sorts. Many Republicans, meanwhile, are waiting for Gov. Scott Walker to throw his hat in the ring. And it’s looking like Rubio already has. On the Democratic side, VP Joe Biden says there’s a chance he’ll run. And looking ahead to 2016 Senate elections, Harry Reid’s probably going to seek reelection, Pennsylvania’s race will prove to be a competitive one, and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s allies are already making moves to ensure the upper chamber remains in Republican hands. And Americans for Prosperity has layed out their agenda to ‘reform America.


Two years after American pastor Sayeed Abedini was arrested in Iran for his Christian faith and thrown into a brutal prison, President Obama has finally agreed to meet with his family. Speaking of Iran, Senate Democrat Bob Menendez slammed Obama for his policy toward the country, saying the administration’s talking points sound like they’re coming straight out of Tehran. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has agreed to address a joint session of Congress on the threats Iran and radical Islam pose, much to the White House’s dismay.

Marching for Life:

Hundreds of thousands of pro-life advocates took to the streets of Washington, DC on Thursday for the annual March for Life, marking the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Sarah Seman caught up with Live Action president Lila Rose to talk about why the pro-life movement is for everyone. And prolifers got a shoutout from Pope Francis, who tweeted his support (and also happens to be coming to the U.S. in September.) The White House, for its part, celebrated abortion on the anniversary. On the Hill, even with a historically pro-life Congress, Republicans passed on introducing the Pain Capabale Unborn Child Protection Act, which was seen as a betrayal by the very prolifers who worked hard to elect them. And in typical fashion, the White House issued a veto threat against Rep. Chris Smith’s No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.


A top White House adviser this week took responsibility for the administration’s decision not to send any high level officials to the Paris unity rally. Not long after three days of terror swept France, Israel broke up an ISIS cell that was operating right in their backyard. And in total disregard for the very real terror threat the U.S. and our allies face around the world, the administration quietly released a convicted al Qaeda operative from a U.S. prison (not GITMO).

In other news:

The Department of Justice will not file civil rights charges against former Officer Darren Wilson; a powerful New York Democrat was actually arrested on corruption charges; immigration enforcement officers oppose the House Border Security bill; and the 2015 GOP Senate has already surpassed all of 2014 in amendment votes.

Graphics by Feven Amenu. 

White House Tells 529 Savers To Go To Community College

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Friday that middle-class families concerned about President Obama's plan to raise taxes on their college savings should just send their children to community college. 

Obama's plan raises taxes on families saving for college by eliminating the tax-free status of money withdrawn from a 529 savings accounts. "I was very surprised by the Obama 529 proposal because in many ways it is anti-middle class for families trying to afford college," founder Joe Hurley told The New York Times

Asked to "square" Obama's State of the Union claim that he wanted to make college more affordable for middle-class families with his 529 tax hike, Earnest said, "The reforms the president has proposed for the 529 program are reforms that he would consider only in the context of the other education reforms that he put forward."

"And there are a variety of proposals the president put forward," Earnest continued, "some related to the tax code, but some also related to the president's proposal to make community college free for hard working students that are getting good grades. That would have the benefit of essentially cutting the cost of a four year education in half. If you can do the first two year at a community college and have them paid for then the next to years are something you can pay for and essentially your tuition costs have been cut in half."

Over one million middle class college students are currently benefitting from 529 plans and the median income for those families was $140,000Ninety-five percent of all 529 plan users have incomes below $250,000.

Rubio's Gamble

As Dan wrote earlier, ABC News is reporting that Marco Rubio is taking "concrete steps" toward running for president in 2016, forgoing a Senate re-election campaign in Florida.  He'd been shuffling forward with baby steps previously; this seems like a leap in that direction.  He has stated unambiguously in the recent past that he would not run for two offices simultaneously and denied that he'd angle for the state's Republican-controlled legislature to change existing law to allow him to do so.  This would be an all-in proposition.  It's conceivable that he could run in the presidential "proto primary," gauge how he fares, and possibly file in time for a Senate re-election effort if he gets the sense that his chances of securing the nomination are less robust than he'd hoped.  But if he proves to be major player this cycle -- and given his talent and existing brand, with the 'beware Zogby polls' caveat in place, that's a strong possibility -- he'll either end up as President (or Vice President) of the United States, or out of government.  Rubio has obviously weighed all of the various factors carefully and decided to take this gamble, but it most assuredly is a gamble.  Why?

(1) The Jeb and Money Factor: He'll be challenging his mentor, Jeb Bush, head-to-head, bucking the conventional wisdom that this scenario was far fetched.  The Senator has been pouring cold water on the notion that the two couldn't run against each other for a few months, but the potential setbacks Rubio might incur by doing so aren't insubstantial.  Bush is honing a fundraising juggernaut, gobbling up crucial major Florida donors; can Rubio raise the type of cash he needs to run a serious primary campaign with one of his arms tied behind his back?

(2) Primary Pitfalls: Rubio was elected to the Senate in the 2010 wave as a Tea Party candidate.  He's developed a conservative voting record over four years in the upper chamber and is a powerful advocate on behalf of conservative causes.  But in many conservative voters' minds, his membership among the so-called 'Gang of Eight' on immigration reform is a serious black mark on his score card.  Some may respect his effort to tackle a difficult problem, but the base was almost uniformly against the flawed legislation that ultimately emerged, which Rubio tirelessly promoted and defended.  He's changed his tune a bit since the bill died in the House, sharply criticizing President Obama's executive amnesty; might this quasi flip-flop assuage conservatives' concerns?  By the same token, might it be a general election vulnerability?  In any case, it seems clear that there will be room to his left and right in the primary field -- which may actually end up being a sweet spot for him.  He's one of a handful of prospective candidates who could eventually fit the bill as a consensus/compromise nominee, with another being Scott Walker.

(3) Senate Landscape: Given the strength and size of the field that's shaping up, as well as Hillary Clinton's very formidable early position, even Rubio's most ardent fans must concede that there's a good chance that he will not be the next president. If that's the case, and assuming that he's not selected as a running mate on a successful ticket, Rubio is probably doing Senate Democrats a favor.  His seat is up in 2016, and it'll be a battle either way.  Rubio won a three-way race decisively in 2010, but only secured a plurality of the vote at 49 percent.  In a presidential year, he would be the favorite, but not a shoo-in, to win a second term.  Recall that Florida went blue in 2008 and 2012, and red in 2010 and 2014.  If the state GOP needs to find someone else to hold that now-vacant seat (especially if the Democrats put forward a competitive/tough to pigeonhole nominee), there is a much greater chance of it being lost than if Rubio stays put.

(4) The Youth Factor: Rubio will be 45 on Election Day 2016, having served in the Senate for nearly one full term.  He's emerging as an important and influential voice in that body, earning respect from his colleagues as a serious person.  Walking this high-stakes tightrope places all of this work and his still-ascendant role within the party in jeopardy.  Let's say he were to sit out the 2016 race, and a different Republican won.  His earliest shot at another White House bid would be eight years later, when he'd be all of 53 years old.  The same timeline could apply if Hillary wins and becomes a two-term president. Another wrinkle could be a 2020 challenge if Rubio decides she looks vulnerable.  Either way, 12 to 16 consecutive years of Democrats in the White House would make the GOP desperate to win, and Rubio could present himself be a attractive option who checks an awful lot of 'boxes' for the party -- and who had never run previously.  If he were to wait, Rubio could use the intervening years to burnish more credentials, consider a run for governor, and develop a few gray hairs that may help offset his very youthful appearance.  His options, in other words, would be wide open. Sure, new and competing "rising stars" will certainly emerge over time, but Rubio's seasoning could put him at the head of the class well into the future.  But, however, if he really is running in 2016, he'll be putting a lot of eggs into a single basket and potentially limiting his political future if he doesn't prevail.

As I stated at the outset, Marco Rubio is a smart man and a skilled political operator.  Let's stipulate that nothing mentioned above comes as news to him.  He's undoubtedly considered and agonized over all of the evidence, hypotheticals and dynamics, and has apparently arrived at the conclusion that 2016 is his moment.  We'll know soon enough whether his gamble pays off.