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Updated: Thu, 14 Dec 2017 11:58:02 -0600

 



Recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's Capital Is Recognizing Reality

2017-12-14T00:00:00Z

I’ve been quite critical of Donald Trump, in part because of his sustained attacks on reality. But in the case of his decision last week to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the president did the opposite: He recognized reality, even as his critics insist that we inhabit the world of make-believe. Jerusalem is the de facto capital of modern-day Israel. It has been since the nation’s establishment in 1948. Today it’s the home of the Israeli parliament and Supreme Court, the residence of both the president and prime minister, the location of many...I’ve been quite critical of Donald Trump, in part because of his sustained attacks on reality. But in the case of his decision last week to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the president did the opposite: He recognized reality, even as his critics insist that we inhabit the world of make-believe. Jerusalem is the de facto capital of modern-day Israel. It has been since the nation’s establishment in 1948. Today it’s the home of the Israeli parliament and Supreme Court, the residence of both the president and prime minister, the location of many government ministries. It’s worth noting here that Jerusalem was a divided city from 1948-1967, with the eastern section annexed by Jordan. The city was reunited after Israel’s victory in the Six Day War. While under Arab rule, East Jerusalem -- which includes Judaism’s holiest monument, the Temple Mount -- was entirely closed to Jews. Since Israel reclaimed control of the entire city, it has been open to people of all faiths. Jerusalem was the capital of ancient Israel as well, the center of the Jewish people’s spiritual and national life since King David made it the capital of his kingdom 10 centuries before the birth of Jesus – and more than 1,500 years before there even was Islam. Jerusalem has been the capital of only one sovereign nation in history: Israel. Despite this history, we’ve been told we need to accept the fiction that Jerusalem is not the capital. The argument has been that if the United States did so, it would undermine the Israeli-Palestinian “peace process” and America’s role as an “honest broker.” Set aside the fact that the “peace process” is moribund. Set aside, too, the fact that the main concern of many Arab nations isn’t Israel but Iran; not the lack of a Palestinian state but the establishment of a “Shiite Crescent.” In his speech recognizing Jerusalem as the capital, President Trump embraced a two-state solution. He did not refer to Jerusalem as an “undivided city,” saying, “We are not taking a position of any final status issues, including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty of Jerusalem, or the contested borders. Those questions are up to the parties involved.” For the record, on multiple occasions – in 2000, 2001, and 2008 -- Israel offered the Palestinians an independent state that included the division of Jerusalem. Each time it was met by Palestinian rejectionism. Which really gets us to the heart of the problem. To this day, Palestinian leaders have never made their own inner peace with the existence of a Jewish state. Even during the much-celebrated signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993 – on the very day the accords were signed, in fact – Yasir Arafat addressed the Palestinian people on Jordanian television telling them that this was the first step toward the phased elimination of Israel. The Palestinian hatred for Israel is implacable. Refusing to recognize Jerusalem as the rightful capital has done nothing to change that; it probably emboldens that hatred, convincing Palestinians that the West will indulge in delusion and self-delusion in order not to derail the chimerical “peace process.” Not recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is of a piece. Israel has been made to live in an imaginary world created by its enemies. In this imaginary world it is Israel, not its enemies,[...]



AP Sources: Pence to Delay Trip to Mideast Over Tax Bill

2017-12-14T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON (AP) — Vice President Mike Pence is delaying his weekend departure for the Middle East as Congress nears completion of a tax overhaul. White House officials say Pence now plans to leave for Egypt on Tuesday so he can preside over the Senate during a vote on the tax package. Pence had planned to leave Saturday for Israel, following President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. White House officials say Pence will travel first to Egypt and then to Israel. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they...

WASHINGTON (AP) — Vice President Mike Pence is delaying his weekend departure for the Middle East as Congress nears completion of a tax overhaul.

White House officials say Pence now plans to leave for Egypt on Tuesday so he can preside over the Senate during a vote on the tax package.

Pence had planned to leave Saturday for Israel, following President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. White House officials say Pence will travel first to Egypt and then to Israel.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to publicly describe scheduling details.

The officials say Pence’s trip will be abbreviated after Palestinian officials and Muslim and Christian clerics in Egypt refused to meet with him.






Ala. Winners & Losers; 2018 Template? Hail, Jerusalem; GW's Passing

2017-12-14T00:00:00Z

Good morning, it’s Thursday, December 14, 2017. On this date in 1799, the “father of our country” passed away at Mount Vernon. George Washington was 67 years old. In those three score and seven years, Washington the soldier led his countrymen in battle as they shed the yoke of empire, and Washington the statesman helped establish a republic. He would have preferred to spend his golden years on his precious farm, but remained in government service for another eight years. George Washington had one last duty: inventing the office of the presidency. During my years...Good morning, it’s Thursday, December 14, 2017. On this date in 1799, the “father of our country” passed away at Mount Vernon. George Washington was 67 years old. In those three score and seven years, Washington the soldier led his countrymen in battle as they shed the yoke of empire, and Washington the statesman helped establish a republic. He would have preferred to spend his golden years on his precious farm, but remained in government service for another eight years. George Washington had one last duty: inventing the office of the presidency. During my years as a White House correspondent who covered the beat with one eye toward history, I was often struck by how many of the customs and protocols of the job were established by the first man who held it. He knew this, too. “I walk on untrodden ground,” Washington once said. “There is scarcely any part of my conduct which may not hereafter be drawn in precedent.” I hope it doesn’t sound partisan of me to say, but watching another modern president trod uneasily through his first year in office, the thought occurs that it’s helpful for a chief executive to have a thorough understanding of what came before. I also wonder in the aftermath of last year’s presidential campaign featuring two candidates who offered ambition as their main qualification, whether George Washington’s reluctance to serve is a quality we should ever let leave our politics. I’ll have more on GW in a moment. First, I’ll point you to RealClearPolitics’ front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion pieces spanning the political spectrum. We also offer original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following: * * * Alabama Special Election: Winners and Losers. I offer this assessment of Tuesday’s outcome. Democrats Assess “Me Too” Impact on Their 2018 Push. Caitlin Huey-Burns reports on the party’s response to Doug Jones’ victory and the implications for next year’s midterms. Dems Urge GOP to Delay Tax Vote Until Jones Takes Seat. James Arkin has the story. Recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital Is Recognizing Reality. Peter Wehner is no fan of President Trump’s, but finds something substantial to praise in his decision announced last week. 5 Things to Know About Trump's Jerusalem Decision. In RealClearReligion, the bipartisan organization No Labels places the president's move in historical context. With Russia, Try, Try Again. In RealClearDefense, Michael Nordeen advocates negotiating the elimination of Crimea-related sanctions in exchange for a series of small wins that benefit the U.S. and the global order. GOP Tax Bill’s Hidden Consumer Tax. In RealClearPolicy, Matthew Kandrach urges Republicans to drop an excise tax provision from their final bill. Which Strategist Will Get S&P 500 Right in 2018? In RealClearMarkets, Michael Cannivet explains the difficulty in predicting the direction of markets. Kirk Cousins Reminds Us How Frugality Creates Businesses and Jobs. Also in RCM, editor John Tamny cites the example of the Redskins quarterback. Betsy DeVos and the Soft Bigotry of Low ESSA Expectations. In RealClearEducation, Anne Hyslop takes the Cabinet secretary to task for not holding states accountable to federal law[...]



Democrats Assess 'Me Too' Impact on Their 2018 Push

2017-12-14T00:00:00Z

Republican Roy Moore's defeat in Alabama Tuesday signaled the power of sexual misconduct, even when only alleged, as an issue in U.S. politics. The dynamics at play seemed to provide a winning formula for Democrats after a previous string of red-state election losses. But the party is not ready to claim "Me Too" as its midterm campaign slogan just yet. Instead, Democrats assessing the fallout from the Senate special election insist there was more to Moore's fatally flawed candidacy, and to their winning message, than what the shifting cultural ground on sexual assault and...Republican Roy Moore's defeat in Alabama Tuesday signaled the power of sexual misconduct, even when only alleged, as an issue in U.S. politics. The dynamics at play seemed to provide a winning formula for Democrats after a previous string of red-state election losses. But the party is not ready to claim "Me Too" as its midterm campaign slogan just yet. Instead, Democrats assessing the fallout from the Senate special election insist there was more to Moore's fatally flawed candidacy, and to their winning message, than what the shifting cultural ground on sexual assault and harassment exposed. "I think Moore had something to do with it, and obviously a party that clings to a candidate like that has something wrong with them, but it wasn't the whole story," Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters Wednesday. "The lesson of this election is that the Republican policies are all wrong.” Perhaps underscoring Schumer's point, the victorious Doug Jones ran as a mainstream Democrat, focusing on local and federal policy issues as well as Moore's alleged transgressions. He also had a well-funded organization aimed at turning out the voters he needed. Indeed, he outperformed Hillary Clinton in key areas while Moore underperformed Donald Trump. But the allegations against Moore were also at center stage in a race that became nationalized by both parties. Two percent of voters wrote in a candidate not named Moore or Jones, and that 2 percent happened to be the margin of victory. Exit polling suggests women also made a difference. The Democrat won 57 percent of the female vote, including 98 percent of black women. While Moore won white female voters, Jones still garnered 34 percent of their support, vastly overperforming Barack Obama's showing among this demographic. One exit survey also included the unusual question of whether voters had children under the age of 18 living at home. Among mothers for whom that is the case, 67 percent voted for Jones, while Moore won 56 percent of fathers in that category. National Democrats have seized on all of those numbers, and also credit high turnout among African-American voters as key to the victory. A week before the election, Democrats took the unusual step of pushing out one of their own, Sen. Al Franken, when allegations of his own misconduct mounted. After Franken -- and Rep. John Conyers before him -- announced his resignation, Democrats claimed ground from which to spotlight Republicans on this issue, particularly Moore and the president, who had endorsed the GOP nominee. A chorus of Democratic senators, including Kirsten Gillibrand, even called for the president to resign. And Trump himself helped rally the liberal troops by going after the New York senator through a controversial tweet. Taken all together, the allegations against Moore and the Democrats' newly established "no tolerance" policy on alleged harassment raised questions about whether Alabama would serve as a test case for voter mood on the subject. And the results seem to offer an answer. A year after 63 percent of Alabama voters backed Trump, who at the time was facing sexual harassment allegations of his own, Jones won almost 50 percent of the vote. Yet even amid this apparent cultural sea change, Democrats seem wary of campaigning explicitly on the issue of sexual assault. Attempts to focus on cultural issues in the last election or the so-called War on [...]



Why Trump Should Consider a Post-Twitter Presidency

2017-12-14T00:00:00Z

Almost every supposedly informed prediction about President Donald Trump's compulsive Twitter addiction has so far proved wrong. He did not tweet his way out of the Republican nomination. Spontaneous social media messaging did not lose Trump the general election race with Hillary Clinton. Nor has Trump tweeted his presidency into oblivion. Instead, Trump's tweets have not just bypassed the mostly progressive media but sent it into a tizzy. In near-suicidal fashion, networks such as CNN have melted down in hatred of Trump, goaded on by Trump's Twitter digs. Trump has often...Almost every supposedly informed prediction about President Donald Trump's compulsive Twitter addiction has so far proved wrong. He did not tweet his way out of the Republican nomination. Spontaneous social media messaging did not lose Trump the general election race with Hillary Clinton. Nor has Trump tweeted his presidency into oblivion. Instead, Trump's tweets have not just bypassed the mostly progressive media but sent it into a tizzy. In near-suicidal fashion, networks such as CNN have melted down in hatred of Trump, goaded on by Trump's Twitter digs. Trump has often bragged that having a large following on social media -- he has more than 44 million Twitter followers and connects with millions more via Facebook and Instagram -- is "like having your own newspaper." He has a point. While the media goes ballistic over Trump's inflammatory Twitter attacks on "fake news," the vast majority of Trump's electronic messaging simply reports on his daily activities and various agendas. Trump has created a Twitter empire with a reach that far exceeds the combined subscriber base of the New York Times and Washington Post, and he has vastly expanded on Barack Obama's use of a presidential Twitter feed to connect with voters. Almost all of the people who have climbed into the Twitter ring with Trump -- from Hillary Clinton to the take-a-knee millionaire National Football League players -- have come out on the losing end. Trump has proven far better than seasoned journalists and ego-driven celebrities at creating go-for-the-jugular putdowns of 240 characters or less. Trump's stream-of-conscious Twitter observations have sometimes proved eerily prescient. He tweeted warnings about the dangers of illegal immigration shortly before the tragic murder of Kate Steinle by an undocumented immigrant with a lengthy criminal record. Soon after Trump retweeted incendiary and controversial videos about radical Islamic violence, earning him condemnation from British Prime Minister Theresa May, it was announced that two men had been arrested in London for plotting a terrorist attack and assassination -- of none other than May herself. Why, then, should Trump ever consider pruning back his controversial tweets or confining them to the reportage of his daily achievements, in the manner of every other mostly boring politician? Because personal dueling with journalists, celebrities and politicians is not only becoming superfluous, but it is now distracting Trump's audiences from a growing record of achievement. Nine months ago, critics left and right were writing off Trump as an irrelevant buffoon without a clue of what to do in the White House. They predicted perennial sloth and Not now. Trump's Cabinet and judicial appointments, executive orders and deregulation measures are systematically overturning the progressive Obama project. Abroad, the Trump national security team has recalibrated U.S. foreign policy from an apologetic recessional to engaged, principled realism. Republican politicians once grumbled about the utopian Paris climate accord but never thought of doing much about it. Trump, like him or hate him, summarily withdrew America from the agreement -- and shrugged off the ensuing green outrage. Members of Congress occasionally expressed support for the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel -- but on the expectation that no barnstorming candidate w[...]



Trump's 'Abysmal' Poll Numbers? What About Those of Merkel, Macron, May and Trudeau?

2017-12-14T00:00:00Z

About a year into President Donald Trump's first term, the jury for much of the country and for most of the major media has returned its verdict: Trump is a failure. Trump is incompetent. Trump cannot lead. Trump has no legislative victories. Even former President Jimmy Carter said he had never seen a president so maligned in the media. Meanwhile former President Barack Obama all but compared Trump to Hitler. Trump endures a nightly beating from the cast of late-night comedians who take turns calling Trump racist, sexist, dumb, inarticulate, overweight, overwrought and, of course,...About a year into President Donald Trump's first term, the jury for much of the country and for most of the major media has returned its verdict: Trump is a failure. Trump is incompetent. Trump cannot lead. Trump has no legislative victories. Even former President Jimmy Carter said he had never seen a president so maligned in the media. Meanwhile former President Barack Obama all but compared Trump to Hitler. Trump endures a nightly beating from the cast of late-night comedians who take turns calling Trump racist, sexist, dumb, inarticulate, overweight, overwrought and, of course, clueless. His reported consumption of 12 Diet Cokes per day provided material for the comics' writers. Nothing seems to be off limits, not even first lady Melania's choice of White House Christmas decor. Based on the beating Trump endures daily from a hostile "news" media, coupled with the nightly drubbing at the hands of Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel et al, one could reasonably assume that Trump's approval ratings must be among the worst any leader could have. Trump got pounded by much of the left for his decision to move the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Never mind every president since 1995 has promised to do so. Trump got hammered for backing Judge Roy Moore in the Alabama Senate race. Trump first backed Moore's Republican primary opponent. When Moore won, Trumped switched his support to him. But when several allegations came out about Moore's alleged sexual misconduct, Trump called on him to drop out "if the allegations are true." The Republican National Committee pulled its endorsement and funding. Trump then did a 180, presumably fearing the loss of a Republican Senate vote in a chamber that is only 52-48 Republican versus Democrat. Democrats used the allegations against Moore to remind voters of the "Access Hollywood" tape in which Trump made crude remarks about women and fame. When the Rasmussen poll put Trump's approval rating at 46 percent a month ago, comedian Jimmy Fallon quipped: "Did you see this? Trump just went on Twitter and bragged about a poll showing that he has a 46 percent approval rating. Really? That's like posting a math quiz on the fridge where you got a D-plus." But how many Trump haters know that his "D-plus" is still better than the grades of leaders of other important countries? Take Germany's internationally respected Chancellor Angela Merkel, the leader of her party since 2000 and the head of the federal government since 2005. According to The Times of London, the approval number for her and her party just three weeks ago was an all-time low of 29.2 percent: "Angela Merkel's poll ratings fell to an all-time low yesterday after the breakdown of talks on forming a coalition government as the German president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, stepped up efforts to avoid new elections." How about France's President Emmanuel Macron? According to the U.K.'s Daily Express headline in October, "Emmanuel Macron Loses France's Trust: Poll Shows Majority Questioned Have No Faith in Him." The Express reported: "The majority of French people -- 54 per cent -- 'do not trust the head of state to fix the country's social and economic problems,' according to the Elabe poll for Radio Classique and Les Echos. ... His current approval ratings, however, pale in comparison to his high po[...]



Republican Civil War Could Hand Senate to Democrats

2017-12-14T00:00:00Z

With Doug Jones' victory in Alabama, Democrats now have at least a plausible path to winning control of the U.S. Senate in the 2018 elections. It's a difficult path to be sure, but it could happen. The first step will be for Democrats to successfully defend all of their Senate incumbents next November. That's not going to be easy because the list includes 10 running in states that voted for Donald Trump. But, the results from Alabama suggest that it could happen. If it does, all Democrats would need to win the Senate is to pick up a pair of GOP seats. And they definitely have a...

With Doug Jones' victory in Alabama, Democrats now have at least a plausible path to winning control of the U.S. Senate in the 2018 elections. It's a difficult path to be sure, but it could happen.

The first step will be for Democrats to successfully defend all of their Senate incumbents next November. That's not going to be easy because the list includes 10 running in states that voted for Donald Trump. But, the results from Alabama suggest that it could happen. If it does, all Democrats would need to win the Senate is to pick up a pair of GOP seats. And they definitely have a chance to do so in Arizona and Nevada.

The Alabama results indicate that Democrats might be positioned for a very strong midterm election. Especially notable was the strong African-American turnout that lifted Jones to victory. If minority voters remain engaged at similar levels next November, Republicans will have an enormous challenge on their hands.

Not only that, many Republicans chose to stay home rather than vote for Moore. If Republican turnout is depressed and minority turnout is up, the Democrats could win both Houses of Congress. And, if that wasn't enough, nearly half of college educated white women in Alabama showed up and cast a vote for the Democrat.

If the same trends continue in 2018, it will be a nightmare election for the GOP.

While some would like to write off the stunning upset in Alabama to a flawed candidate who ran a terrible campaign, the Moore candidacy was really just the symptom of a much deeper problem: Republican voters have little trust or confidence in the Republican establishment.

It's hard to blame them. After all, the establishment spent seven years collecting votes on a promise to repeal Obamacare. Voters gave the GOP control of Congress and the White House only to learn that the elected politicians didn't really mean it. For many, that wasn't really a surprise. It simply confirmed what they had seen before. Politicians are good at making promises but not so good on delivering.

Since GOP voters have come to see little value in sending traditional Republicans to Washington, they have become more and more attracted to people who will fight the status quo. Occasionally, that leads to a quality Senator like Mike Lee from Utah. More often, however, it leads to candidates like Roy Moore, Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock who lose elections that Republicans should win.

Establishment leaders are correct to point out that a more careful vetting process and thoughtful candidate selection would lead to more Republican victories. But that doesn't mean they are blameless in the party's Civil War. Quite the opposite, in fact; a health leadership would seek out quality candidates who can truly represent their voters, run a successful campaign, and then deliver on their promises.

Until the Republican leaders can change their tune and earn the trust of their voters, the party's Civil War will continue. That will lead to losing other elections they should win, and quite possibly to the Democratic control of the United States Senate.

COPYRIGHT 2017 CREATORS.COM






Alabama Was a Win, and Not Just for Democrats

2017-12-14T00:00:00Z

The Democratic conquest of a senate seat in Alabama produced a lot of winners other than the victor himself, Doug Jones. Many were Republicans, including some who voted for the inexplicable Roy Moore. The obvious celebrants, of course, are Democrats. For them, it wasn't all dumb luck. The state party had a strong candidate in place even when the race seemed a long shot. (There's a lesson there for Democrats in all 50 states.) Democrats also had the good sense to discourage an invasion by out-of-state liberals 'splaining what's what to the locals. Other big winners were...The Democratic conquest of a senate seat in Alabama produced a lot of winners other than the victor himself, Doug Jones. Many were Republicans, including some who voted for the inexplicable Roy Moore. The obvious celebrants, of course, are Democrats. For them, it wasn't all dumb luck. The state party had a strong candidate in place even when the race seemed a long shot. (There's a lesson there for Democrats in all 50 states.) Democrats also had the good sense to discourage an invasion by out-of-state liberals 'splaining what's what to the locals. Other big winners were blacks and the organizers who spurred them to the polls. The African-American turnout tends to fall in special elections. This time they came out in force, delivering Jones victory with the help of appalled suburbanites. The winners included Republicans who refused to go there -- there being a candidate known for primitive racism, homophobia and xenophobia (never mind the credible charges that he sexually stalked girls). Many Alabama Republicans really did want a Republican to replace Atty. General Jeff Sessions. Their willingness to vote for a Democrat, or write in a name other than Roy Moore, was a tribute to principle. And the Republican who outshone them all was Alabama's senior senator, Richard Shelby. Even when most predictors were expecting Moore to prevail, Shelby refused to support him. And he went a step beyond, announcing that he would not vote for him. Alabama's economy was undoubtedly a winner. The election of Moore would have greatly shocked many of the foreign companies who've been setting up shop in the state. (Foreign manufacturers currently employ over 87,000 Alabamians.) People around the NASA space facility in Huntsville must also be breathing easier today. More than a reprieve, the remarkable election of Jones could actually be a boost for Alabama's economy. If the executives at Amazon aren't treating Birmingham's quest to host its second headquarters with more respect, I'd be surprised. The results in Alabama should be a blessing for sane Republican leaders everywhere. If they add in the lesson of their party's recent blowout losses in Virginia, they'll know to start getting tough with the alt-right knuckle-draggers. Speaking of which, there is no way to massage the results in a pleasing way for President Trump. He backed the Republican who lost the primary to Moore, and then backed loser Moore. Many are stunned at a recent poll showing as many Alabamians disapproving of Trump as approving. Alabama was supposed to be the heart and soul of Trump country. Something's changing, you think? But Trump came out well next to Steve Bannon, the man most responsible for handing a reliably Republican senate seat to Democrats. When it looked as though Moore would win, the ringmaster of right-wing ugliness rushed down to a rural corner of the state to lead the parade. Unshaven and dressed like slob, the native of New Jersey commandeered the stage, 'splaining what's what to the country folk of the Deep South. With the election results in, Bannon -- a creature of Hollywood, alumna of Goldman Sachs and graduate of Harvard -- can be crowned the fraud he always was. The voters in Alabama may have actually done the Republican Party a service by cutting Bannon down to size. But they've also done th[...]



Sweet Home of Progress

2017-12-13T00:00:00Z

Alabama. Who knew it would become one of the most beautiful words in American politics? It turns out there could have been no better place to test the limits of indecency, the limits of Trumpism, the limits of Republican partisanship and, yes, the limits of racial subjugation. If the angry ideology of the far right cannot make it in one of our most loyally conservative states that was a center of resistance to civil rights, it cannot make it anywhere. First, let us pay tribute to the new Alabama busy being born. There were many reasons why Democrat Doug Jones defeated Republican Roy Moore,...Alabama. Who knew it would become one of the most beautiful words in American politics? It turns out there could have been no better place to test the limits of indecency, the limits of Trumpism, the limits of Republican partisanship and, yes, the limits of racial subjugation. If the angry ideology of the far right cannot make it in one of our most loyally conservative states that was a center of resistance to civil rights, it cannot make it anywhere. First, let us pay tribute to the new Alabama busy being born. There were many reasons why Democrat Doug Jones defeated Republican Roy Moore, but younger voters who insisted that the old ways are not their ways were decisive. Jones overwhelmed Moore among Alabamians under 45, taking over 60 percent of their ballots, according to the media exit poll. Moore took about three-fifths of those 65 and over. This augurs poorly for Republicans, and President Trump is deepening this generation gap. The GOP is throwing away its future. And its present isn't so hot either. In 2016, Trump took 62 percent in Alabama. But with those who voted on Tuesday, his approval rating was 48 percent. Such numbers -- in, let's repeat, Alabama -- demonstrate that Trump is hemorrhaging support everywhere. This electorate may well have been more anti-Trump than the state as a whole, but that is the point: In combination with the results of November's elections in Virginia and elsewhere, Tuesday revealed that the Democratic base has an energy unseen since Barack Obama's election in 2008, while Republicans are demobilized and demoralized. If the 2010 Senate special election victory in Massachusetts by Republican Scott Brown warned Democrats how much trouble they were in, Jones' victory ought to do the same for the GOP. African-Americans were a central part of the uprising. Remember the news stories (plainly created out of nothing but tired preconceptions) that the black vote was not mobilized? Oops. In fact, black voters in large numbers were ready to make a statement in a place where so many fought, and even died, for the right to cast ballots. As MSNBC's Steve Kornacki noted, turnout in heavily African-American counties was more than 70 percent of what it had been in the presidential election of 2016. In core white Republican counties, those figures were in the 50 percent-plus range. This was also a vote against a deep cynicism that assumes the right wing's skill at bamboozling rank-and-file citizens. Many expected that Moore would succeed in persuading enough voters either to overlook or disbelieve allegations about his abuse of young teenagers when he was in his 30s. But mothers were not distracted. In one of the most extraordinary exit poll findings ever, 66 percent of mothers with children in their households under 18 voted for Jones; only 41 percent of fathers in such households did. This 25-point parental gender gap is powerful evidence that a rebellion led by women has become one of the most formidable forces in our politics. Yes, whites in Alabama are still loyal Republicans, but loyalty had its limits on Tuesday -- particularly for women. Jones got 26 percent of the votes cast by white men, but 34 percent from white women. Richard Shelby, Alabama's senior Republican senator, also played a[...]



It Wasn't All Steve Bannon

2017-12-13T00:00:00Z

Republican politics was starting to feel like a version of Mel Brooks' "The Producers." In the play, two scammers devise a tax write-off scheme in which they will make a killing by losing money on a Broadway show. They reach for the most grotesque, tasteless musical the human mind can conceive -- "Springtime for Hitler" -- and are undone when it's a surprise hit. Roy Moore could have sprung from the imaginations of Democratic operatives hoping to find the embodiment of every stereotype that liberals cherish about conservatives. Ignorance? In a July radio...Republican politics was starting to feel like a version of Mel Brooks' "The Producers." In the play, two scammers devise a tax write-off scheme in which they will make a killing by losing money on a Broadway show. They reach for the most grotesque, tasteless musical the human mind can conceive -- "Springtime for Hitler" -- and are undone when it's a surprise hit. Roy Moore could have sprung from the imaginations of Democratic operatives hoping to find the embodiment of every stereotype that liberals cherish about conservatives. Ignorance? In a July radio interview, the anti-immigration hardliner couldn't say who the Dreamers are or what DACA refers to. He did not know that the U.S. Constitution, which he purports to revere, forbids religious tests for public office. In the Republic of Moore, Muslims would be barred from serving their country. Conspiracy monger? He trafficked in the birtherism about Barack Obama and suggested that parts of the Midwest are ruled by Sharia law. Anti-gay? Moore is not just a traditionalist who opposes same-sex marriage; he wants to put homosexuals in prison, and claims that the U.S. is the focus of evil in the modern world for permitting gays to marry. Irresponsible? Moore was twice removed from office for failing to obey the law. Anti-Semitic? When your wife defends against the charge by saying, "One of our attorneys is a Jew," it's not a good sign. Racist? Anti-woman? Here's where the Moore show veered into wild satire territory, or would have if we hadn't actually seen it unfold. Moore said he agreed with Trump about making America great again. When, exactly, a voter asked, was America at its greatest? "I think it was great at a time when families were united, even though we had slavery, they cared for one another," said the dolt Steve Bannon chose as the kind of Republican who would stick it to Mitch McConnell and the establishment. Remember how we all spat out our coffee when Joe Biden accused Republicans of wanting to put black folks "back in chains"? As for women, Moore was the Democrats' jackpot -- a supposedly religious conservative flamboyantly fulminating against immorality who was himself a child molester. You could not write this as fiction, because it's too incredible. In the aftermath of Doug Jones' victory, many Republicans are saying they "dodged a bullet" because if Moore had been elected to the Senate, Democrats would have used him to discredit the entire Republican Party. Their relief is understandable but premature. Though the morning-after commentary has tended to focus on Steve Bannon's noxious role, the Moore candidacy was not his responsibility alone. A number of key Republicans -- Richard Shelby, Mitch McConnell, Mitt Romney, Mike Lee, Cory Gardner and others -- treated Moore as radioactive, but an amazing percentage were willing to say that a sleazy bigot was fine as long as he would vote for the president's agenda. Prominent "family values" conservatives such as James Dobson, Tim Wildmon and the infinitely flexible Jerry Falwell Jr. stood by their endorsements of Moore. Sean Hannity issued what seemed to be an ultimatum to Moore to give an account of himself regarding the teens he dated/molested, but then, Obamalike, backed away from his own red line. He said the peop[...]



Alabama Special Election: Winners and Losers

2017-12-13T00:00:00Z

WINNERS: Doug Jones: Little-known inside Alabama and utterly unknown outside the state, the Democratic candidate finally found his voice in the waning days of the campaign. “I’ll never embarrass you” hardly has the ring of “It’s Morning Again in America,” but it nicely summed up what this election was about — and got the job done. Jones didn’t hedge on his party’s litmus-test social issues, including abortion, which means that he managed to win while running as a generic national Democrat in one of the...WINNERS: Doug Jones: Little-known inside Alabama and utterly unknown outside the state, the Democratic candidate finally found his voice in the waning days of the campaign. “I’ll never embarrass you” hardly has the ring of “It’s Morning Again in America,” but it nicely summed up what this election was about — and got the job done. Jones didn’t hedge on his party’s litmus-test social issues, including abortion, which means that he managed to win while running as a generic national Democrat in one of the most solidly Republican states in the nation. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer woke up with a smile on his face Wednesday. Mitch McConnell: The Senate majority leader is almost as happy today as his Democratic counterpart. After revelations that Roy Moore had stalked girls in successive senior classes at Gadsden High School in the 1970s -- not always restricting his advances to seniors -- Moore inexplicably blamed McConnell for his troubles. “Mitch McConnell and the GOP establishment, the Obama-Clinton Machine and their cohorts in the fake news liberal media are ramping up and doubling down on their vicious and nasty attacks against me,” Moore asserted in a fundraising solicitation. McConnell isn’t one for fist bumps, but he owes one to Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby, whose public opposition to Moore was a deciding factor in this race. Mike Pence: The vice president has managed to negotiate the human minefield known as Donald J. Trump with great skill. Pence has been as tactful as the president is impolitic. But his luck might have run out if this election had gone the other way. It would have fallen to the vice president to swear in Roy Moore as a new senator. Not Pence’s fault, but that picture would have been posted on the Facebook pages of millions of liberals, who would have gleefully joined the two men at the hip. Investigative Reporting. It was just a month ago, believe it or not, that Roy Moore was cruising toward victory when The Washington Post published a stunning scoop: In the late 1970s, when Moore was an assistant district attorney in Gadsden, Alabama, he made sexual overtures to a series of high school girls, one as young as 14. Moore denied it, while his campaign went on the attack. But this wasn’t “fake news.” The Post articles were air-tight, as were its follow-up pieces with revelations from additional accusers. And when conservative provocateur James O’Keefe sent undercover operatives to try and compromise the paper’s reporters, the Post exposed that effort, too. The establishment news media has a lot to answer for in the Trump era, especially the Russia-influence story. But the Post’s Roy Moore investigation is a classic example of scrupulous and public service-minded journalism. Alabama: In the early 1990s, when former Klansman David Duke made the runoff against ethically challenged Edwin Edwards in the Louisiana governor’s race, one bumper sticker captured the dilemma: “Vote for the Crook. It’s important!” Louisianans followed that advice, averting disaster. Duke’s election would have prompted mass boycotts, crippling New Orleans’[...]



Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith Named to Fill Franken Seat

2017-12-13T00:00:00Z

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton appointed Lt. Gov. Tina Smith on Wednesday to fill fellow Democrat Al Franken’s Senate seat until a special election in November, setting up his longtime and trusted adviser for a potentially bruising 2018 special election. Smith was widely seen as Dayton’s top choice from the moment Franken announced his resignation last week. But her previous decision not to run for governor had raised questions about her appetite for a closely watched and expensive Senate campaign. Smith said she is in and fully...ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton appointed Lt. Gov. Tina Smith on Wednesday to fill fellow Democrat Al Franken’s Senate seat until a special election in November, setting up his longtime and trusted adviser for a potentially bruising 2018 special election. Smith was widely seen as Dayton’s top choice from the moment Franken announced his resignation last week. But her previous decision not to run for governor had raised questions about her appetite for a closely watched and expensive Senate campaign. Smith said she is in and fully committed. “I can tell you I shouldn’t be underestimated and if I weren’t confident I wouldn’t be doing this,” she said. It’s not clear when Smith will head to Washington. Franken, who resigned under pressure from his own party after he was accused of improper behavior by at least eight women, announced last Thursday that he would resign “in the coming weeks.” His office hasn’t set a final departure date yet; Smith indicated it would likely be in early January. In a statement, Franken called his successor the perfect choice but didn’t shed light on his formal resignation plans, saying only that he would work with Smith to ensure “a speedy and seamless transition.” Smith will be the second Democrat on a path to the Senate in as many days, after Doug Jones’ victory in Alabama in Tuesday’s special election. Smith, 59, served as Dayton’s chief of staff for four years before ascending to become his No. 2 when his previous lieutenant chose not to join him in seeking a second term in 2014. Dayton has long treated Smith as an equal in the office, and it was that deference that fueled speculation she was being groomed to succeed him. Her path to politics was unconventional. A native of New Mexico, she graduated from Stanford and earned an MBA from Dartmouth. A marketing job with General Mills brought her to Minnesota, where she eventually started her own marketing and political consulting firm. She managed Ted Mondale’s unsuccessful campaign for governor in 1998, then ran the short-lived 2002 Senate campaign for his dad, former Vice President Walter Mondale. Smith served as chief of staff to Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak before eventually taking the same job with Dayton in 2011. Smith, a soft-spoken, smiling presence at the Capitol, is credited with quiet but key roles in the response to the 2007 bridge collapse in Minneapolis and in the building of a new Vikings stadium. Dayton made her his point person on a massive public-private partnership to work with Mayo Clinic on an ambitious expansion in Rochester. Next year’s race to fill the final two years of Franken’s term is certain to be one of the nation’s most closely watched and expensive, and Dayton was under pressure from fellow Democrats in Washington to ensure his pick would use the appointment as a springboard for that election. Meanwhile, Republicans immediately floated former two-term Gov. Tim Pawlenty as a possible candidate, but many others were said to be weighing a race. Republicans said Dayton’s selection of Smith for the seat coul[...]



The True Tax Gap: How About $12 Trillion!

2017-12-13T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- When historians examine President Trump's tax program, they will surely be struck by a large and momentous contradiction. Although the nation faces endless budget deficits -- and although the president purports to speak about the future -- his tax program does little or nothing to curb long-term deficits and, arguably, might make them worse. It is said that the tax gap of the Trump-Republican program -- the net amount of the tax cut -- is somewhere between zero (the administration's position -- the tax cut will pay for itself through stronger economic growth) and $1.5...WASHINGTON -- When historians examine President Trump's tax program, they will surely be struck by a large and momentous contradiction. Although the nation faces endless budget deficits -- and although the president purports to speak about the future -- his tax program does little or nothing to curb long-term deficits and, arguably, might make them worse. It is said that the tax gap of the Trump-Republican program -- the net amount of the tax cut -- is somewhere between zero (the administration's position -- the tax cut will pay for itself through stronger economic growth) and $1.5 trillion over a decade (the position of many economists who doubt much of a boost to economic growth). Wrong, on both counts. A more realistic estimate of the tax gap is somewhere between $7 trillion and $12 trillion, again over a decade. How do I get these fantastic figures? The answer is that I ignore Trump's program altogether and simply deal with existing deficits, as estimated by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). It's not that I believe that Trump's program will work as promised. I don't. My real point is that, in many ways, it's too small to matter. Even if it works, it won't cure chronic deficits. And neither party is pretending it will. Both find it more convenient to argue over the plan's distributional effects -- are the rich and well-to-do unfairly favored? -- than to close the gaping deficits. Here's some basic arithmetic that reinforces my point. Although it's a bit tricky, stick with me. Our economy -- the annual production of goods and services, or gross domestic product (GDP) -- is now approaching $20 trillion. So every 1 percent of GDP is worth about $200 billion. In fiscal 2017, the deficit was 3.5 percent of GDP, or almost $700 billion. Over a decade, and assuming unrealistically that the deficit doesn't rise, taxes would need to increase by $7 trillion in today's dollars to balance the budget. But what if the deficit does rise? By the late 2030s, the CBO estimates that annual deficits will reach 6 percent of GDP, almost doubling from their present level. The increase mainly reflects the growing number of elderly drawing Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, in addition to swelling interest payments on the existing debt. To balance the budget would require annual tax increases averaging $1.2 trillion, or $12 trillion over a decade, both in today's dollars. Either way, the required tax increase would be enormous, ranging from about a fifth of today's tax burden to about a third. If instead Congress tried to balance the budget by cutting spending, the reductions -- including defense -- would be huge. Some tentative conclusions emerge from this exercise: -- Plausible rates of economic growth aren't fast enough to eliminate massive deficits, though they would help. The required growth to do more than Trump has already proposed is simply too high. The present and estimated-future deficits are so large that they can only be reduced through the politically painful process of raising taxes or cutting spending. -- The presumption of politicians of both parties, despite some loud rhetoric to the contrary, is that large deficit[...]



Still Dawdling Over Deadly Diversity Visas

2017-12-13T00:00:00Z

Capitol Hill's national security priorities are screwier than a Six Flags roller coaster. Instead of immediately shutting down one of America's stupidest visa programs, which helped bring us yet another murder-minded jihadist this week, bipartisan Beltway politicians are pushing to preserve and expand the illegal immigration pipeline. Republicans and Democrats in Congress want a "fix" for the Obama administration's executive amnesty covering nearly 700,000 illegal immigrants -- and they want it pronto. Translation: Protecting border-hopping "DREAMers" is a...Capitol Hill's national security priorities are screwier than a Six Flags roller coaster. Instead of immediately shutting down one of America's stupidest visa programs, which helped bring us yet another murder-minded jihadist this week, bipartisan Beltway politicians are pushing to preserve and expand the illegal immigration pipeline. Republicans and Democrats in Congress want a "fix" for the Obama administration's executive amnesty covering nearly 700,000 illegal immigrants -- and they want it pronto. Translation: Protecting border-hopping "DREAMers" is a more important priority in Washington than protecting Americans from infiltrators exploiting the diversity visa lottery. You remember the hue and cry over the diversity visa lottery, right? It was just seven short weeks ago when America discovered that New York City truck jihadist Sayfullo Saipov, who ruthlessly mowed down eight people on a bike path, had entered our country from Uzbekistan in 2010 by pure, random luck through the DV lottery program. President Donald Trump called on Congress to end it. Saipov followed in the footsteps of Hesham Hadayet, the Egyptian-born LAX jihadist who gunned down two people at Israel's El Al airlines counter in 2002 and gained entry through his lottery-winning wife; Imran Mandhai, the Pakistan-born jihadist who plotted National Guard armory bombings in Florida and gained entry through his parents' lottery luck; Abdurasul Hasanovich Juraboev, another Uzbek jihadist and lottery winner convicted of supporting terrorism; Syed Ahmed, a Pakistan-born jihadist and DV recipient convicted of terrorism-related activities in the U.S. and abroad in 2009; and Mousa Mohammed Abu Marzook, a Hamas leader deported for terrorism activities in 1997 who had snagged a green card thanks to the DV lottery program's original iteration. Up to 55,000 lucky winners a year have secured permanent residency visas (green cards) through the diversity visa lottery since 1990, which put them on the path to American citizenship ahead of millions of other foreigners patiently waiting to come to this country. The green card lotto winners' spouses and unmarried children under 21 all get lottery passes into the country, too, no matter where they were born. Chain migration extends the families' winnings. And so on, and so on, and so on. As I've reported tirelessly since 9/11, when counterterrorism experts and immigration watchdogs united against the fraud-riddled, ill-conceived DV lottery, applicants don't even need a high school education. No outstanding abilities, training or job skills are necessary. Illegal aliens are eligible if a legal family member wins the jackpot. Tens of thousands are pouring in from terrorism breeding grounds through the lottery unvetted, unmonitored and unassimilated. Justice Department investigators recently discovered one Somali woman who won the DV lottery and subsequently recruited an entire fake family, including a phony husband and two fictitious adult children, all of whom came to the United States and later gained U.S. citizenship based on their false claims. A U.N. probe found human traffickers forcing dozens of diversity visa [...]



Dems Urge GOP to Delay Tax Vote Till Jones Takes Seat

2017-12-13T00:00:00Z

Jubilant after their surprise victory in the Alabama Senate election Tuesday night, Democrats called on Republicans to delay any further action on their tax overhaul until Doug Jones is seated in the upper chamber. Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader, said at a press conference that Jones deserves to cast a vote on the legislation. “Doug Jones will be the duly elected senator from the state of Alabama,” Schumer said. “The governor didn’t appoint him. He won an election. It would be wrong for Republicans to jam through the tax bill without giving...Jubilant after their surprise victory in the Alabama Senate election Tuesday night, Democrats called on Republicans to delay any further action on their tax overhaul until Doug Jones is seated in the upper chamber. Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader, said at a press conference that Jones deserves to cast a vote on the legislation. “Doug Jones will be the duly elected senator from the state of Alabama,” Schumer said. “The governor didn’t appoint him. He won an election. It would be wrong for Republicans to jam through the tax bill without giving the newly elected senator from Alabama the opportunity to cast his vote.” The GOP is unlikely to agree. The House and Senate both passed separate versions of tax reform in recent weeks and are currently conferencing to iron out the differences. The conferees will meet publicly Wednesday, and Republican senators on the conference committee will have lunch with President Trump at the White House Wednesday afternoon. Both chambers are expected to vote on the legislation early next week; the New York Times reported Wednesday morning that Republicans had reached an agreement on a consensus version of the bill. Asked on Tuesday if the Alabama election had any bearing on his timing for the tax bill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell answered simply, “No.” A spokesman pointed to that comment Wednesday. Still, the issue became a rallying cry for Democrats eager to slow progress on what would become the Republicans’ key legislative victory of 2017. Schumer pointed to similar arguments McConnell made seven years ago when he called for Democrats to slow their efforts on the Affordable Care Act after Republican Scott Brown won a Senate special election in Massachusetts, dropping Democrats below a supermajority in the chamber. Sen. Harry Reid, the Democratic leader at the time, said then that they would “wait until the new senator arrives before we do anything more on health care.” It will be several weeks before Jones enters the Senate. The Alabama secretary of state told Time the state would certify the election results sometime between Dec. 26 and Jan. 3, when the Senate is scheduled to be out of session. That means Jones is likely to be seated sometime after Congress returns for its new session early next year. Republicans currently have a 52-48 majority in the Senate and were able to pass their tax bill losing only one Republican vote earlier this month. If Jones were sworn in before a final vote, they would not be able to lose any other Republican senators, making the negotiations over the final version much more difficult. “Doug Jones should be seated immediately — before we vote again on the tax bill. Alabama voters deserve to have their voice heard in this fight,” California Sen. Kamala Harris tweeted Tuesday night. “You shouldn’t have a lame duck like Luther Strange being able to deliberate,” said DNC Chairman Tom Perez, referring to the Alabama Republican appointed to the seat after Jeff Sessions became attorney general earlier t[...]



The Undervalued Art of Bowing Out Gracefully

2017-12-13T00:00:00Z

Losing Alabama senatorial candidate Roy Moore didn’t acknowledge his defeat Tuesday night, which is understandable given the closeness of the vote. Award the man points for consistency, if nothing else: He quoted Scripture instead of making a concession speech. The verses he chose come from the 40th Psalm, which was fitting enough. In an interesting passage near the end -- not the part recited by Roy Moore -- we are warned not to take joy at another’s comeuppance. Although I’ll honor that admonition, I’m put in mind of the events of 17 years ago, when...Losing Alabama senatorial candidate Roy Moore didn’t acknowledge his defeat Tuesday night, which is understandable given the closeness of the vote. Award the man points for consistency, if nothing else: He quoted Scripture instead of making a concession speech. The verses he chose come from the 40th Psalm, which was fitting enough. In an interesting passage near the end -- not the part recited by Roy Moore -- we are warned not to take joy at another’s comeuppance. Although I’ll honor that admonition, I’m put in mind of the events of 17 years ago, when Al Gore was forced by circumstances to make one of the most painful concession speeches in American political history. The presidential campaign that resulted in George W. Bush becoming the 43rd U.S. president revealed something about elective democracy: The concession speech by the losing candidate is more than classy conduct. It is an essential part of the democratic process. It tells partisans on the losing side that the election is truly over. On December 13, 2000, it was time for Gore to send that signal. He more than did his duty. He did his country proud. Speaking from the vice president’s office, Gore began with a lighthearted quip: “I promised him that I wouldn't call him back this time,” a reference to the election-night concession to Bush that Gore retracted an hour later. “I offered to meet with him as soon as possible so that we can start to heal the divisions of the campaign and the contest through which we just passed.” In cadences and prose that evoked Abraham Lincoln, Gore added: “Neither he nor I anticipated this long and difficult road; certainly neither of us wanted it to happen. Yet it came, and now it has ended -- resolved, as it must be resolved, through the honored institutions of our democracy.” Bush, too, subtly invoked Lincoln that day, saying in a speech delivered in Austin, Texas that the nation “must rise above a house divided.” “Americans share hopes and goals and values far more important than any political disagreements,” Bush continued. “Republicans want the best for our nation, and so do Democrats. Our votes may differ, but not our hopes.” Bush also included some personal grace notes for his rival, lauding Gore’s “distinguished record of service” as a veteran, congressman, senator, and vice president -- and wished him success in future endeavors. That wish came true, for both men. George W. Bush served two terms in office, teamed up as an ex-president with Bill Clinton in fighting AIDS in Africa and raising money for victims of tsunamis in Asia, and taught himself to paint. Gore went on to become a spokesman for our planet’s ecology, an Academy Award winner, and a Nobel laureate. In other words, F. Scott Fitzgerald wasn't just wrong about there being no second acts in American life, he was conspicuously wrong: There are second, third, even fourth acts. Which raises the question: What will Roy Moore do now? After seeing him uncertainly astrid[...]



A Loss Is a Win? Mitt vs. Orrin; Resignation Calls; Bowing Out Gracefully

2017-12-13T00:00:00Z

Good morning, it’s Wednesday, December 13, 2017. Aren’t special elections fun? When is the next one? Losing Alabama senatorial candidate Roy Moore didn’t acknowledge his defeat last night, which is understandable given the closeness of the vote. Award the man points for consistency, if nothing else: He quoted Scripture instead of making a concession speech. The verses he chose come from the 40th Psalm, which was fitting enough. In an interesting passage near the end -- not the part recited by Roy Moore -- we are warned not to take joy at another’s...Good morning, it’s Wednesday, December 13, 2017. Aren’t special elections fun? When is the next one? Losing Alabama senatorial candidate Roy Moore didn’t acknowledge his defeat last night, which is understandable given the closeness of the vote. Award the man points for consistency, if nothing else: He quoted Scripture instead of making a concession speech. The verses he chose come from the 40th Psalm, which was fitting enough. In an interesting passage near the end -- not the part recited by Roy Moore -- we are warned not to take joy at another’s comeuppance. Although I’ll honor that admonition this morning (and readers of this Morning Note would expect no less), I’m put in mind of the events of 17 years ago, when Al Gore was forced by circumstances to make one of the most painful concession speeches in American political history. Gore did his part. I’ve written about this in the past, as recently as last year. But it seems so apropos this morning, I cannot resist. So I’ll have more on the 2000 presidential aftermath in a moment. First, I’ll point you to RealClearPolitics’ front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion pieces spanning the political spectrum. We also offer original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following: * * * To Both Parties, Moore’s Loss Is a Potential Win for 2018. Caitlin Huey-Burns and James Arkin have this analysis. Romney Should Take On Hatch & Bannon -- They’re the Swamp. A.B. Stoddard has words of advice for the 2012 presidential nominee (and the senator he might just replace). “Me Too” Fervor, Politics Fuel Dems’ Calls for Trump to Resign. Caitlin reports on the rationale behind the growing chorus. Tax Bill Is Christmas Present Americans Have Been Waiting For. Alfredo Ortiz writes that the reform measure will aid ordinary citizens more than the wealthy. Liberals’ Sexual Harassment Crusade Cloaks a Divisive Bent. Kim R. Holmes argues that identity politics is fueling the left’s facing down of sexual predators within its ranks. AT&T Lures Public Servants to Payroll in Drive for SOS Network. In RealClearInvestigations, James Varney reports that the communications company is snapping up government insiders to work for its national first-responders system. Assisted Suicide Is No Choice at All. In RealClearPolicy, Lawrence Carter-Long contends that a common justification for these state laws is not backed by evidence. Let Consumers Fly the Open Skies. Also in RCPolicy, former Congressman Ron Paul asserts that weakening international agreements for commercial airlines will harm consumers and small businesses. It's Time to Revamp Medicare ACOs. In RealClearHealth, James C. Capretta argues that Accountable Care Organizations are inefficient and in need of reform. Bitcoin Mania Will End Badly. Gary Smith explains in RealClearMarkets. The Top 10 T[...]



Trump Bets on Moore and Suffers Stinging Defeat

2017-12-13T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON (AP) — Rarely has a sitting president rallied behind such a scandal-plagued candidate the way Donald Trump did with Alabama’s Roy Moore. And rarely has that bet failed so spectacularly. Moore’s defeat Tuesday in Alabama — as stalwart a Republican state as they come — left Trump unapologetic and his political allies shell-shocked. Trump had dug in on his support for Moore after a wave of allegations about the former judge’s alleged sexual misconduct with teenagers when he was in his 30s, becoming one of the...WASHINGTON (AP) — Rarely has a sitting president rallied behind such a scandal-plagued candidate the way Donald Trump did with Alabama’s Roy Moore. And rarely has that bet failed so spectacularly. Moore’s defeat Tuesday in Alabama — as stalwart a Republican state as they come — left Trump unapologetic and his political allies shell-shocked. Trump had dug in on his support for Moore after a wave of allegations about the former judge’s alleged sexual misconduct with teenagers when he was in his 30s, becoming one of the candidate’s most ardent national supporters in the race’s closing days. Now, out of the wreckage of Moore’s defeat to Democrat Doug Jones, Trump faces mounting questions about the limits of his own political capital. He’ll head into his second year in office with one less Republican senator, narrowing a margin already so slim that it has so far left him unable to push major legislation through Congress. Democrats, who started the year as a deeply wounded minority party, press toward the midterm elections with a burst of momentum from the most unlikely of states. To be sure, the Alabama race was highly unusual, and as with all special elections, there’s no guarantee it will prove to be a barometer for contests a year from now. A perfect storm of controversies helped Jones overcome Alabama’s strong Republican bent, most notably the sexual misconduct allegations that surfaced against Moore. The matter left the Republican Party deeply divided over whether holding a Senate seat was worth the potential long-term risks of supporting Moore. Some Republicans did pull their support from Moore after the allegations surfaced, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Many more GOP officials in Washington privately preferred the prospect of a Moore defeat over having to deal with daily questions about his actions and the possible cloud of a Senate ethics investigation hanging over the party. But Trump is the Republican Party leader, and he jumped in with both feet. In a moment of national reckoning over sexual misconduct, where hardly a day passes without a prominent man being ousted from a powerful position, the president made it impossible for the GOP to disassociate itself from Moore and the accusations swirling around him. Trump’s immediate response to Jones’ victory was a tweet congratulating him Tuesday night, surprisingly magnanimous for a president who lashes out at the smallest perceived slight and often seems to prioritize winning above all else. But by Wednesday, Trump was on the defensive, reminding his followers that he had originally endorsed Moore’s Republican primary opponent, Sen. Luther Strange. “I said Roy Moore will not be able to win the General Election. I was right!” Trump wrote in a pre-dawn tweet. “Roy worked hard but the deck was stacked against him!” The president offered no immediate insight into whether he viewed the r[...]



To Both Parties, Moore's Loss Is a Potential Win for 2018

2017-12-13T00:00:00Z

Doug Jones’ victory over scandal-plagued Republican Roy Moore in Alabama’s Senate special election delivered a gut punch to Donald Trump, putting the president’s legislative agenda -- and the GOP’s already tenuous grip on the upper chamber -- in jeopardy. Once Jones is seated early next year, Republicans will hold just a perilous 51-49 majority. And while Democrats’ path is narrow, their upset victory in Alabama gives them a shot at gaining control in 2018.  But Republicans who opposed Moore have characterized the loss as a...Doug Jones’ victory over scandal-plagued Republican Roy Moore in Alabama’s Senate special election delivered a gut punch to Donald Trump, putting the president’s legislative agenda -- and the GOP’s already tenuous grip on the upper chamber -- in jeopardy. Once Jones is seated early next year, Republicans will hold just a perilous 51-49 majority. And while Democrats’ path is narrow, their upset victory in Alabama gives them a shot at gaining control in 2018.  But Republicans who opposed Moore have characterized the loss as a longer-term gain for the party. In a sign of the cockeyed dynamics of the race, some are breathing sighs of relief as they no longer face the liabilities that were sure to come if the alleged sexual predator became their colleague. Some GOPers are also pointing fingers at former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, who championed Moore through the election. “Tonight’s results are clear – the people of Alabama deemed Roy Moore unfit to serve in the U.S. Senate,” said National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Cory Gardner, who withdrew support from the candidate amid the scandal. The Jones win comes as the country faces a reckoning on the issue of sexual misconduct, with the political world catching up to a significant cultural shift. Allegations against Moore hovered over the campaign in the final weeks and caused a rift within his party, with many lawmakers distancing themselves from the GOP nominee while Trump and the Republican National Committee embraced him. The loss stunned the political world, leaving even Jones speechless. “I think I have been waiting all my life and now I just don’t know what the hell to say,” he said at his victory party in Birmingham, reflecting the shock many in both parties felt at the prospect of a Democratic senator representing ruby-red Alabama. Democrats immediately seized upon the victory as a harbinger of things to come in 2018. In a fundraising pitch for the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, Sen. Chris Van Hollen wrote, “If we can win in Alabama, we can win anywhere.” Sen. Elizabeth Warren put forward a similar message in a fundraising email for her affiliated PAC. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who is challenging Sen. Ted Cruz next year in Texas, also attempted to raise money off Jones’ once-unlikely win. “Tonight, the eyes of the nation were on Alabama,” O’Rourke wrote to supporters. “Tomorrow, Texas and 2018.” The party also saw reflections of its victories in Virginia last month in the Alabama results -- and more importantly, foreshadowing of a strategy for 2018. Turnout among black voters surged in highly Democratic areas, helping fuel the massive swell of support for Jones among the Democratic base. In Dallas County, the area including Selma that is overwhelmingly black, Hillary Clinton won with two-thirds of the vote, but Jones won nearly three-quarters. On the flip side, Moore also performed poorly [...]



Mitt Should Take On Hatch, Bannon -- They're the Swamp

2017-12-13T00:00:00Z

Judge Roy Moore's defeat in the Alabama Senate race won’t stop Steve Bannon. He doesn't care about being discredited; he cares only about destruction. Nihilists can’t be chastened -- Bannon's "war" continues. Somewhere in one of his many mansions, Mitt Romney is waiting in gentlemanly deference for Sen. Orrin Hatch to announce plans to retire or run again. He shouldn’t. The 2012 GOP presidential nominee has also maintained a dignified silence since Bannon viciously assailed him, his family, and his faith last week. He shouldn’t....Judge Roy Moore's defeat in the Alabama Senate race won’t stop Steve Bannon. He doesn't care about being discredited; he cares only about destruction. Nihilists can’t be chastened -- Bannon's "war" continues. Somewhere in one of his many mansions, Mitt Romney is waiting in gentlemanly deference for Sen. Orrin Hatch to announce plans to retire or run again. He shouldn’t. The 2012 GOP presidential nominee has also maintained a dignified silence since Bannon viciously assailed him, his family, and his faith last week. He shouldn’t. Romney should run against Hatch and take on Bannon. No more Mr. Too Nice Guy. First Hatch was going to get through the tax debate without diminishing his influence with a retirement announcement, then was going to likely announce by the end of the year his plans to leave. Yet Hatch, despite criticizing Bannon’s attack, has now flirted with a Bannon dalliance that illustrates not only an interest in running for an eighth term but a desire for Bannon’s protection in case he faces a primary opponent. Hatch has enjoyed heir apparent Romney’s patience and relative silence, but also relishes the attention he’s receiving as President Trump and his former chief strategist go all in on another Hatch run out of spite for Romney. Last Monday Trump traveled to Utah and announced he would reduce the amount of protected lands at the Bears Ears National Monument, a conservative wish-list goody in the Beehive State. But in reality, the taxpayer-funded trip was all “scripted” to convince Hatch to stay in the Senate in order to stop Romney, a White House aide who helped plan it told the Washington Post. As of last week, before Bannon’s assault, Romney reportedly still didn’t want to challenge the incumbent for the GOP nomination. But he doesn’t have to -- a Romney campaign as an independent would likely send Hatch packing ahead of the election. Doug Jones’ victory will enrage Bannon, not humble him. Moore’s loss is therefore an opportunity to further divide the party and the country, blaming establishment Republicans for helping to elect a liberal Democrat to represent conservative Alabama in the U.S. Senate. The elite-bashing elitist will try to use Romney’s criticism of Moore against him, to be sure. Yet it's more than rich that Bannon, who has traveled the country on his billionaire pals’ private jets to seek “outsiders” to knock off GOP incumbents, champions his cause to the forgotten man everywhere except Utah. There he suddenly is all in for a 40-year incumbent who is tight with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Bannon’s nemesis and purported poster boy of the Washington swamp. Speaking of powerful people using the system to enrich themselves (a chief complaint of Bannon’s), the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee has powerful allies helping him raise millions for an eponymous foundation that will soon create a cen[...]



Liberals' Sexual Harassment Crusade Cloaks a Divisive Bent

2017-12-13T00:00:00Z

American liberals appear finally to be facing down sexual harassment in their own ranks. The awakening has led some to conclude that feminism and American liberalism in general may be turning a corner. Younger people, particularly younger women, are no longer willing to play Hillary Clinton and Gloria Steinem’s game of covering for sexual predators in liberal ranks. Could it be that liberals are waking up to the divisive and destructive nature of identity politics, which, after all, is the ideological centerpiece of American liberalism? Sadly, I doubt it. Although the exposures seem...American liberals appear finally to be facing down sexual harassment in their own ranks. The awakening has led some to conclude that feminism and American liberalism in general may be turning a corner. Younger people, particularly younger women, are no longer willing to play Hillary Clinton and Gloria Steinem’s game of covering for sexual predators in liberal ranks. Could it be that liberals are waking up to the divisive and destructive nature of identity politics, which, after all, is the ideological centerpiece of American liberalism? Sadly, I doubt it. Although the exposures seem long overdue and are certainly for a good cause, they are being processed by the media and body politic in the same old divisive narratives of group versus group -- in this case, men versus women. They are making us more fearful of one another, and they are escalating a sense of social grievance that is at the heart of identity politics. To understand this phenomenon as an escalation of identity politics and not a turn away from it, we must understand the nature of modern American liberalism. As I argue in my book, “The Closing of the Liberal Mind,” the essential emotion of liberals today is an absolute intolerance of any idea or behavior they deem offensive. American liberals have been doing “zero tolerance” for years, against, for example, conservative speakers and sexual harassment charges on campuses. What is different now is not the tactic but the target — liberal figures who have been hiding behind liberal protection. But here is the rub: The change is not an abandonment of militant feminism. Rather, it is a purification. It is a purge of elements within feminism's ranks that are violating its most basic principles. By abandoning the political corruption of Gloria Steinem and Hillary Clinton, who stood beside Bill Clinton, the new feminists are embarking on a new crusade. All this is true. But despite the new targets and purification campaigns, there really is less change going on here than meets the eye. For starters, we will see how far it goes go to unseat actual sitting liberal politicians. For another, the new crusade is merely doubling down on the identity politics of modern American liberalism. Over the past 60 years, American liberalism has moved consistently to the far left. Progressive liberalism today has left the old-style progressivism of Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and even Lyndon Johnson far behind. Today, liberalism is not so much a coherent political philosophy as it is a radical social movement intent on upending morality, transforming gender and sexual relations, and overturning social traditions like marriage. It aims to revolutionize the culture, and by so doing to create a new social order governed by an increasingly illiberal, authoritarian state. This new type of leftism, born in the 1950s and 1960s, invented modern feminism, but i[...]



Sex Vigilantes Trash Due Process

2017-12-13T00:00:00Z

New York's Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is spearheading a McCarthyite purge of sexual harassers from Congress, throwing the nation's capital into turmoil. What counts as sexual harassment? Good question. Men accused of boorish gestures or vulgar remarks face the same disgrace as outright rapists. And never mind if the accusations lack proof and the accusers remain anonymous. Consider the charges dredged up again this week against President Trump. You heard them last year when he was campaigning for president. One accuser, Jessica Leeds, said that more than 30 years ago Trump groped...New York's Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is spearheading a McCarthyite purge of sexual harassers from Congress, throwing the nation's capital into turmoil. What counts as sexual harassment? Good question. Men accused of boorish gestures or vulgar remarks face the same disgrace as outright rapists. And never mind if the accusations lack proof and the accusers remain anonymous. Consider the charges dredged up again this week against President Trump. You heard them last year when he was campaigning for president. One accuser, Jessica Leeds, said that more than 30 years ago Trump groped her on a plane. But reporters were not able to confirm the flight, date or even year the incident was supposed to have occurred and couldn't track down one witness to support her story. The same was true with the other accusers. No facts. No wonder the public dismissed the claims and elected Trump. Monday, Leeds and two other accusers reiterated their old, unsubstantiated charges at a press conference. In response, six Democratic senators, including Gillibrand, are calling for Trump to step down from the presidency. It's as if the #MeToo movement lessens the standard of proof and makes due process unnecessary. That's what's happening in Congress. Take the anonymous former campaign worker who's accusing Rep. Ruben Kihuen, D-Nev., of touching her thigh twice, making her feel uncomfortable. Kihuen denies it, but House minority leader Nancy Pelosi commends the woman for coming forward (anonymously?) and demands that he resign. What about Kihuen's right to a fair hearing and the presumption of innocence? Pelosi and the sex vigilantes are all too ready to toss due process in the wastebasket. Gillibrand conceded Senator Al Franken, D-Minn., was entitled to a Senate Ethics Committee investigation, but last week, she was out front bullying him into resigning. That's like saying the accused is entitled to a fair trial, but let's execute him first. Same thing happened to John Conyers, D-Mich., who insisted on his own innocence and at first rejected calls to resign. Ultimately, he was forced out on Dec. 5. Franken's alleged to have forcibly kissed a fellow actor, and touched several women inappropriately during photo-ops. One accuser says when "we posed for the shot he immediately put his hand on my waist, grabbing a handful of flesh. I froze. Then he squeezed. At least twice." That's it? Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, is accused of bantering that he had "wet dreams" about a female staff member, who says she was fired for complaining about it. Farentholdt denies it. Yet Republican Mia Love, R-Utah, striving to keep up with sex bully Gillibrand, is calling on Farenthold to step down immediately, without a House Ethics Committee hearing. Then there's Rep. Trent Franks, R-Texas. Distressed that he and his wife can't conceive, he asked two office aides to bear his child as a surrogate, offering one of them $5 mil[...]



Tax Bill Is Christmas Present Americans Have Been Waiting For

2017-12-13T00:00:00Z

Pending tax cut legislation will eliminate the federal income tax burden on the average American family earning $59,000 a year. It will halve the tax bill for the average family earning $75,000.  And it will allow the overwhelming majority of small businesses to protect nearly one-quarter of their income from taxes. That’s the bottom line of the tax bill that needs to be said up front. Given the critical media coverage of the bill, these benefits have largely gone overlooked. Rather than reporting on its provisions to double the standard deduction, double the child tax...Pending tax cut legislation will eliminate the federal income tax burden on the average American family earning $59,000 a year. It will halve the tax bill for the average family earning $75,000.  And it will allow the overwhelming majority of small businesses to protect nearly one-quarter of their income from taxes. That’s the bottom line of the tax bill that needs to be said up front. Given the critical media coverage of the bill, these benefits have largely gone overlooked. Rather than reporting on its provisions to double the standard deduction, double the child tax credit, and eliminate the 15 percent tax bracket in favor of a vastly expanded 12 percent rate, media coverage has claimed the bill is a gift to the rich. Rather than reporting on the new 23 percent tax deduction for small businesses earning less than $500,000 a year, media coverage has claimed the bill is a budget buster. That’s a shame because these benefits would bring long overdue relief to hardworking taxpayers who have borne the brunt of the slow growth Obama economy from which the country is finally emerging. Median wages were essentially flat between 2009 and 2016, while economic growth sputtered along at roughly 2 percent – both of which the tax bill would also meaningfully address. The thousands of additional dollars in the pockets of ordinary Americans as a result of this tax bill will finally give them more financial breathing room. It will allow them to cover an unexpected $400 expense, something the Federal Reserve finds nearly half of Americans currently cannot. For small businesses, the new tax deduction will allow them to more easily compete with their big business and international competitors, which face much lower tax rates and therefore enjoy a competitive advantage. The bill’s provisions to allow for immediate capital expensing and interest expense write-offs will make expansion cheaper and easier. And these are just the direct impacts of the tax bill. Ordinary employees will not only see an immediate raise in their paycheck due to less federal tax withholding, but many will also receive raises or new job opportunities because small businesses will have more funds at their disposal. According to a recent national poll of small business owners conducted by the Job Creators Network, most respondents said they’d use their tax cut savings to raise wages, create jobs, or expand operations. Less money taken out of paychecks and more money put in -- that’s the recipe to cure the wage stagnation that is a priority for policymakers from across the political spectrum. Just as tax cuts would increase paychecks, they’d also jump-start the country’s local economies, which have largely been passed over by the economic recovery. More money on Main Street and less sent off to Washington, D.C., would stimulate local investment, cons[...]



The GOP's Mad Dash to Pass a Tax Bill Proves That Haste Makes Waste

2017-12-13T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- Of all the follies of 2017, the most tawdry may be the GOP's headlong rush to pass a tax bill that even its proponents don't understand. What's especially sad is that otherwise sensible Republicans seem to be capitulating to the tax-cut frenzy. Political desperation is the mother of this legislation. Despite Republican control of both houses of Congress, the Trump administration has failed in its first year to enact legislation that deals with major problems, such as health care and immigration. So at year end, we have the spectacle of Trump & Co....WASHINGTON -- Of all the follies of 2017, the most tawdry may be the GOP's headlong rush to pass a tax bill that even its proponents don't understand. What's especially sad is that otherwise sensible Republicans seem to be capitulating to the tax-cut frenzy. Political desperation is the mother of this legislation. Despite Republican control of both houses of Congress, the Trump administration has failed in its first year to enact legislation that deals with major problems, such as health care and immigration. So at year end, we have the spectacle of Trump & Co. bellowing a populist message about lower taxes, even as special-interest lobbyists drive the legislation toward a chaotic conference and final passage. The tax bill is a Rubik's Cube of potential problems, but the difficulties begin with the fact that it has been pushed through Congress in two months without hearings or careful analysis. The provisions were crafted in secret and passed on party-line votes, without a chance for assessment or analysis. This haste guarantees confusion later. Without a clear legislative history, tax lawyers at the Internal Revenue Service won't have adequate guidance when they try to write regulations implementing the law. Courts won't have a record of congressional intent, other than press conferences, tweets and hurried floor and committee statements. The centerpiece of the legislation is a big cut in corporate taxes, down from 35 percent to roughly 20 percent. The theory is that this will encourage companies to invest in job-creating plants and equipment. But there's little evidence to support this assumption, and lots to challenge it. Companies may instead use the windfall to buy back their own stock, boosting stock prices and inflating executives' personal compensation, as Steve Clifford explains in his recent book, "The CEO Pay Machine." The premise is that by stimulating growth, the tax cuts will pay for themselves. But there's no good evidence for this claim, either. Congress' bookkeeper, the Joint Committee on Taxation, predicts that over 10 years, the tax law would balloon the deficit by roughly $1 trillion, even assuming that it stimulates new growth. An even more pessimistic estimate was issued Tuesday by the Wharton School, which President Trump is always bragging about having attended. The Treasury Department on Monday offered a one-page rebuttal asserting that Trump administration policies, including the tax cuts, would grow the economy by 2.9 percent over the next 10 years (much higher than most other forecasters have projected) and reduce the deficit by $300 billion. Take a bow, Rosy Scenario. The capricious effects of the bill are becoming clearer as Congress races to marry the House and Senate versions. Tech companies are howling that they will lose the benefits of research credits if they have to pay an alternative minimum tax (as [...]



Jones Wins in Stunning Alabama Upset

2017-12-12T00:00:00Z

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — In a stunning victory aided by scandal, Democrat Doug Jones won Alabama’s special Senate election on Tuesday, beating back history, an embattled Republican opponent and President Donald Trump, who urgently endorsed GOP rebel Roy Moore despite a litany of sexual misconduct allegations. It was the first Democratic Senate victory in a quarter-century in Alabama, one of the reddest of red states, and proved anew that party loyalty is anything but sure in the age of Trump. It was a major embarrassment for the president and a fresh wound for the...MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — In a stunning victory aided by scandal, Democrat Doug Jones won Alabama’s special Senate election on Tuesday, beating back history, an embattled Republican opponent and President Donald Trump, who urgently endorsed GOP rebel Roy Moore despite a litany of sexual misconduct allegations. It was the first Democratic Senate victory in a quarter-century in Alabama, one of the reddest of red states, and proved anew that party loyalty is anything but sure in the age of Trump. It was a major embarrassment for the president and a fresh wound for the nation’s already divided Republican Party. The victory by Jones, a former U.S. attorney best known for prosecuting two Ku Klux Klansmen responsible for Birmingham’s infamous 1963 church bombing, narrows the GOP advantage in the U.S. Senate to 51-49. That imperils already-uncertain Republican tax, budget and health proposals and injects tremendous energy into the Democratic Party’s early push to reclaim House and Senate majorities in 2018. Still, many Washington Republicans viewed the defeat of Moore as perhaps the best outcome for the party nationally despite the short-term sting. The fiery Christian conservative’s positions have alienated women, racial minorities, gays and Muslims — in addition to the multiple allegations that he was guilty of sexual misconduct with teens, one only 14, when he was in his 30s. A number of Republicans declined to support him, including Alabama’s long-serving Sen. Richard Shelby. But Trump lent his name and the national GOP’s resources to Moore’s campaign in recent days. Had Moore won, the GOP would have been saddled with a colleague accused of sordid conduct as Republicans nationwide struggle with Trump’s historically low popularity. Senate leaders had promised that Moore would have faced an immediate ethics investigation. Jones takes over the seat previously held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The term expires in January of 2021. Republicans on Capitol Hill have expressed hopes of scheduling a vote on their tax legislation before Jones is sworn in, but lawmakers are still struggling to devise a compromise bill to bridge the divide between the House and Senate legislation that can win majority support in both chambers. The Republican loss also gives Democrats a clearer path to a Senate majority in 2018 — albeit a narrow one — in an election cycle where Democrats are far more optimistic about seizing control of the House of Representatives. Ultimately, Tuesday’s contest came down to which side better motivated its supporters to vote. Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill said turnout likely would not exceed 25 percent of registered voters. Jones successfully fought to cobble together an unlikely coalition of African-Americans,[...]



After Bitter Campaign, Alabama Senate Race Goes to Voters

2017-12-12T00:00:00Z

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — The bitter Senate race in deeply conservative Alabama went to the voters Tuesday as they chose between an embattled but well-known Republican accused of child molestation and a Democrat who hopes to break the GOP’s lock on the state and uphold “decency.” Roy Moore, the 70-year-old GOP nominee who was twice ousted as state Supreme Court chief justice after flouting federal law, was attempting another political resurrection amid accusations of sexual misconduct with teenage girls when he was in his 30s. Democrat Doug Jones, 63, is...BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — The bitter Senate race in deeply conservative Alabama went to the voters Tuesday as they chose between an embattled but well-known Republican accused of child molestation and a Democrat who hopes to break the GOP’s lock on the state and uphold “decency.” Roy Moore, the 70-year-old GOP nominee who was twice ousted as state Supreme Court chief justice after flouting federal law, was attempting another political resurrection amid accusations of sexual misconduct with teenage girls when he was in his 30s. Democrat Doug Jones, 63, is best known for prosecuting two Ku Klux Klansmen who killed four black girls in a 1963 church bombing. The winner will take the seat previously held by Jeff Sessions, who resigned to become attorney general. Republicans hold a narrow 52-48 Senate majority. And a routine election in Republican-dominated Alabama would not normally be expected to alter that balance because the state has not sent a Democrat to the upper chamber of Congress since 1992. But the allegations against Moore created doubt about the outcome. Although the race has commanded intense national attention for weeks, it was not likely to draw large numbers of people to the polls. Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill predicted that turnout would not exceed 25 percent of registered voters and could be as low as 18 percent. Teresa Brown, a 53-year-old administrative assistant at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said she’s voting for Jones. “We don’t need a pedophile in there,” said Brown, who was among more than two dozen people in line in the chilly morning air at Legion Field, a predominantly black precinct in Birmingham. “We need someone that’s going to represent the state of Alabama, work across party lines ... just be there for all the people, not just a select few of the people.” Al Bright, 63, who does refrigeration repair, voted for Moore. “I just believe regardless of the allegations against him, I believe he is an honorable man,” Bright said. Bright said he realized that Moore was removed from office because of actions he took to try to block same-sex marriage in the state. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that because I believe in that as well,” he said. “I feel the same — marriage is between a man and a woman.” Mary Multrie, 69, who works at a children’s hospital and voted for Jones, said she was not influenced by accusations of sexual misconduct against Moore because she already did not like him. “He’s not a truthful man,” Multrie said. “He talks about God, but you don’t see God in his actions.” Both President Donald Trump and former President Barack Obama weighed in with last[...]



'Me Too' Fervor, Politics Fuel Dems' Calls for Trump to Resign

2017-12-12T00:00:00Z

Democrats know President Trump is not going to resign amid renewed sexual misconduct allegations, some of which he famously talked about on a recording released during the 2016 campaign. But a growing number of them are calling on him to quit anyway. Having established a no-tolerance policy in their party by pushing out Sen. Al Franken last week, Democrats believe they have grounds to shine the spotlight not just on the other side of the aisle, but also at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. The calls for Trump to step aside started among a few senators with their presidential ambitions of...Democrats know President Trump is not going to resign amid renewed sexual misconduct allegations, some of which he famously talked about on a recording released during the 2016 campaign. But a growing number of them are calling on him to quit anyway. Having established a no-tolerance policy in their party by pushing out Sen. Al Franken last week, Democrats believe they have grounds to shine the spotlight not just on the other side of the aisle, but also at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. The calls for Trump to step aside started among a few senators with their presidential ambitions of their own, raising the possibility of a new litmus test for holding the nation’s highest office. Such a demand does carry risks for party members, making them look overtly political on a significant and emotional issue. In addition, it could force them to reckon with Bill Clinton's transgressions while in office and evoke the impeachment effort waged by Republicans against the then-president in the 1990s, which backfired at the ballot box. Indeed, many Democratic lawmakers have been exercising caution regarding resignation talk, instead condemning the president's behavior while stopping short of urging him to leave office. But others see more of an imperative, given the cultural sea change on sexual harassment, and a political benefit for the party. And unlike calls for impeachment, calls for resignation are much easier, legally and rhetorically, to make. On Tuesday, Trump appeared to help the latter cause by going after Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand on Twitter. After the New York Democrat joined caucus colleagues Bernie Sanders and Cory Booker in saying the president should resign, Trump called her a "lightweight" who "would come to my office 'begging' for campaign contributions not so long ago (and would do anything for them)." Trump also said she was being "disloyal to Bill," referencing the criticism Gillibrand garnered from fellow Democrats by saying recently the former president should have resigned during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. The tweet amounted to a sort of in-kind donation to a potential Gillibrand presidential campaign. Her colleagues immediately came to her defense in vigorous terms, raising questions about what the president implied with the words "begging" and "would do anything." "Are you really trying to bully, intimidate and slut-shame @SenGillibrand? Do you know who you're picking a fight with?" wrote Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Kentucky Rep. John Yarmuth described the president's tweet as an attempt to "publicly shame yet another woman" and called Trump "a cancer on the country, and a truly disgraceful human being." For her part, Gillibrand, who has been outspoken on the issue of sexual assault in the military, fir[...]



For Once, the Joke Is on Al Franken

2017-12-12T00:00:00Z

There is a strong argument to be made that Sen. Al Franken's central reason for resigning is he knew he would be reduced to being shunned by his peers and the press if he were to continue representing Minnesota in the congressional upper chamber. In short, he would have become a joke, an afterthought, a pariah, a no one. For the egocentric Minnesotan who was courted by everyone in the Democratic Party to headline their fundraisers -- both for their re-elections as well as their state party's coffers -- and fawned over for his Hollywood pedigree and admired by progressives for his...There is a strong argument to be made that Sen. Al Franken's central reason for resigning is he knew he would be reduced to being shunned by his peers and the press if he were to continue representing Minnesota in the congressional upper chamber. In short, he would have become a joke, an afterthought, a pariah, a no one. For the egocentric Minnesotan who was courted by everyone in the Democratic Party to headline their fundraisers -- both for their re-elections as well as their state party's coffers -- and fawned over for his Hollywood pedigree and admired by progressives for his notorious grilling of Republican Trump Cabinet appointees, the mere thought of being reduced to zero status in American politics was a bridge too far. In truth, it likely repulsed him. He is a man used to being center stage, needed, wanted, catered to, fawned over and courted. If you have any doubt to the validity of this argument, consider his speech on the floor of the Senate last Thursday during which he announced he was resigning. He never once admitted doing anything wrong. He also never said he was sorry. Franken said: "I, of all people, am aware that there is some irony in the fact that I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office, and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls campaigns for the Senate with the full support of his party." This is not the mark of a leader, but candidly, was Franken ever elected to be a leader? He was a celebrity, a bulldog, a bully who was ironically heralded by feminists as a hero for women. But the truth is he never was a hero for women; that was just code for being staunchly pro-choice. And for many feminists, being staunchly pro-choice can cause them to overlook character flaws. It is interesting how people have forgotten his first campaign for Senate in 2008. Voters knew he was coarse, vulgar and unapologetic for bad behavior and elected him anyway, narrowly in that election but overwhelmingly in 2014. It's just like voters in Alabama know that senatorial candidate Roy Moore has his own set of disturbing issues but are considering electing him anyway. But it is important to look at Franken outside of Moore because these are two separate and different issues. Franken resigned because no one had his back anymore, and without that he would have become the David Vitter of the Democrat Party: the guy who did distasteful things no one wanted to be associated with again. I often say we get the elections we deserve. We also get the candidates we deserve. Minnesotans knew who they elected to the Senate: a former Hollywood writer and actor, former provocative talk-show host and satirist. His prominence in the Senate was pretty reflective of hi[...]



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2017-12-12T00:00:00Z

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Alabama Impact; Moderates Wanted; Disaster Spending; Father Flanagan

2017-12-12T00:00:00Z

Good morning, it’s Tuesday, December 12, 2017. Exactly 100 years ago today, an Irish immigrant living in Omaha, Nebraska borrowed $90 to rent a house at the corner of Dodge and 25th Streets. The man’s name was Edward J. Flanagan and he was a Catholic cleric. The drafty Victorian home was to be a sanctuary for wayward or neglected children. The priest called it Father Flanagan’s Home for Boys. It met a pressing need, which Flanagan knew to be the case from his work among Omaha’s homeless. The house was quickly filled with six boys in need of a warm bed,...Good morning, it’s Tuesday, December 12, 2017. Exactly 100 years ago today, an Irish immigrant living in Omaha, Nebraska borrowed $90 to rent a house at the corner of Dodge and 25th Streets. The man’s name was Edward J. Flanagan and he was a Catholic cleric. The drafty Victorian home was to be a sanctuary for wayward or neglected children. The priest called it Father Flanagan’s Home for Boys. It met a pressing need, which Flanagan knew to be the case from his work among Omaha’s homeless. The house was quickly filled with six boys in need of a warm bed, regular meals, and some guidance. But more boys kept coming. Within a year, the house was too small, so Father Flanagan looked for more room. He found a sprawling facility in South Omaha that was perfect -- and inexplicably vacant. Well, not so inexplicably: It was the German-American home, which had been abandoned during World War I because of fierce anti-German prejudice. Two years after the war’s end, and in need of yet more space, Father Flanagan moved his operation to Overlook Farm, 10 miles west of town. Soon this facility would become famous as “Boys Town.” Spencer Tracy would play the priest in a movie and win acclaim for his performance. His signature line in that film, a faithful rendition of Father Flanagan’s famous mantra, was: “There are no bad boys.” I’ll have more on this inspirational man -- and how the church views his work today -- in a moment. First, I’ll point you to RealClearPolitics’ front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion pieces spanning the political spectrum. We also offer original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following: * * * Alabama Result Likely to Impact 2018 Senate Races. James Arkin previews today’s Senate special election, which, whatever the outcome, could boost Democrats’ chances in next year’s midterms. The Seeds of a Moderate Movement Must Be Nurtured. In an op-ed, Morton Kondracke hails efforts to change our politics, which he says are needed to solve problems, work with adversaries and encourage civility. Congress Must Offset Disaster Spending. In RealClearPolicy, Jake Grant contends that budget cuts are needed to keep the deficit from growing further. Cruise Missiles Pose Greater Threat Than North Korean ICBMs. Sandy Clark explains in RealClearDefense. Trump Drone War Against al-Qaeda Paying Dividends. Also in RCD, Rathna K. Muralidharan spotlights gains made in Yemen. In a related piece, Bonnie Kristian sees peril in the stepped up U.S. alliance with Saudi Arabia in the region. [...]



Give the Gift of Coordinated Care to Dialysis Patients

2017-12-12T00:00:00Z

The holiday season is a time for reflection and a time for giving. We should reflect on the things we are thankful for, and on what we have done to improve the lives of those around us. We should push ourselves to give more to our families, our friends, and our communities. As the Chief Medical Officer for DaVita Kidney Care, a leading provider of kidney care in the United States that serves nearly 200,000 patients with kidney failure, I am thankful for the opportunity to improve the lives of those living with End Stage Renal Disease. People with kidney disease are one of the most vulnerable...The holiday season is a time for reflection and a time for giving. We should reflect on the things we are thankful for, and on what we have done to improve the lives of those around us. We should push ourselves to give more to our families, our friends, and our communities. As the Chief Medical Officer for DaVita Kidney Care, a leading provider of kidney care in the United States that serves nearly 200,000 patients with kidney failure, I am thankful for the opportunity to improve the lives of those living with End Stage Renal Disease. People with kidney disease are one of the most vulnerable populations in our country, and one of the populations most in need of a gift this holiday season. That is why I am calling on Congress to pass the Dialysis PATIENTS Demonstration Act (H.R. 4143/S. 2065). The PATIENTS Act would allow dialysis providers, nephrologists, and other members of the kidney care community to better coordinate care for our kidney patients, the vast majority of whom are dependent on Medicare. Patients on dialysis face a dizzying array of medical complications, often dealing with other chronic illnesses like diabetes and hypertension, managing appointments with many different doctors, and taking roughly 18 pills per day. Worst of all, these patients spend an average of 11 days per year in the hospital. That is exactly why patients on dialysis need coordinated care, and therefore, need the PATIENTS Act. We know that coordinated care works for dialysis patients because we have the results to prove it. In select counties across the country, dialysis patients participate in ESRD Chronic Condition Special Needs Plans, or C-SNPs. Dialysis patients enrolled in these programs have 25% fewer hospital stays, 51% fewer readmissions, and 66% fewer central venous catheters than dialysis patients in Medicare Fee-for-Service. This means that dialysis patients with coordinated care are spending less time in the hospital and more time at home. What better gift could we give to our patients?                 The PATIENTS Act is essential to giving this gift. Today, only a fraction of Medicare dialysis patients have access to coordinated care. The PATIENTS Act takes the most effective elements from today’s various coordinated care programs, and creates a demonstration program that could scale across the country. More patients will benefit when coordinated care is available to them. As a physician, I’ve asked the same questions that any caring clinician would ask about this program: How would it affect my patients’ benefits? How would it affect my[...]



4 Ways to Improve the Tax Bill

2017-12-12T00:00:00Z

The Senate-passed tax bill is a policy triumph that will provide a shot of performance-enhancing drugs to the veins of the economy. It's not perfect, but with the combined effect of cutting business tax rates, eliminating the state and local tax deduction and repealing the Obamacare individual mandate tax, we are at the precipice of the biggest conservative policy victory since the Reagan years. If Republicans were wise, the House would vote immediately to approve the Senate bill and get it to President Donald Trump's desk for signing before anything can go wrong. (Think Obamacare...The Senate-passed tax bill is a policy triumph that will provide a shot of performance-enhancing drugs to the veins of the economy. It's not perfect, but with the combined effect of cutting business tax rates, eliminating the state and local tax deduction and repealing the Obamacare individual mandate tax, we are at the precipice of the biggest conservative policy victory since the Reagan years. If Republicans were wise, the House would vote immediately to approve the Senate bill and get it to President Donald Trump's desk for signing before anything can go wrong. (Think Obamacare repeal fiasco.) But since they are insisting on a conference, there are still a number of ways to further improve the bill, grow the economy even faster and counteract some of the liberal complaints against it. Some of these reforms were in the original campaign tax plan that Larry Kudlow and I helped draft for then-candidate Donald Trump. Here they are: 1) No stealth capital gains tax hike. The Senate bill changes the rules for capital gains taxation. It requires shareholders to sell their oldest shares in a company before their newest purchased shares. The older the share, the larger the taxable capital gain. This might make sense, except that the gains on long-term stocks are not adjusted for inflation. So on many sales of long-held stock, as much as half of the reported and taxable "gain" is due only to the compounding effect of inflation. This new "FIFO" (first in, first out) rule will require millions of Americans to pay additional tax on phantom gains and will discourage the very long-term investment that the economy needs now. Worse, under the Senate bill, there is an exception for mutual funds and other institutional funds. Companies such as Fidelity and Vanguard would be exempt from the tax, but not the little guy who wants to buy and sell stock on his own. Unfair. Kill it. 2) Repeal the corporate state and local deductions. Big companies, such as Boeing and Microsoft, will get to continue to deduct their state and local taxes. Small businesses won't. This is absurd and only shows the continued power of K Street swamp lobbyists. This deduction requires taxpayers in low tax states to subsidize companies in high tax states. Get rid of the corporate state and local deductions, and states such as New Jersey, Iowa and Pennsylvania will be forced to cut their corporate tax rates to stay competitive. It's a win-win for everyone. 3) Cut the highest income tax rate. The money raised by eliminating the state and local tax deduction for corporations should be used to pay for a reduction in the highest income tax rate. This would provide[...]



The Seeds of a Moderate Movement Must Be Nurtured

2017-12-12T00:00:00Z

Ten years ago, The Atlantic’s Ron Brownstein wrote a book, “The Second Civil War,” describing and lamenting the polarization and paralysis afflicting American politics. Since then, America has become an even more divided country, its political partisans split into tribes that literally hate each other. The trend has been well-documented, and is constantly exacerbated by tribal chieftains who purify their ranks by the purging of moderates who stray from the party line. If this is a new civil war in the making, the old roles have been reversed. The GOP is now the...Ten years ago, The Atlantic’s Ron Brownstein wrote a book, “The Second Civil War,” describing and lamenting the polarization and paralysis afflicting American politics. Since then, America has become an even more divided country, its political partisans split into tribes that literally hate each other. The trend has been well-documented, and is constantly exacerbated by tribal chieftains who purify their ranks by the purging of moderates who stray from the party line. If this is a new civil war in the making, the old roles have been reversed. The GOP is now the white Confederacy party and Democrats are the minority-friendly Radicals. Republican Roy Moore’s election in Alabama would confirm it. So far, Fort Sumter hasn’t been fired upon and we haven’t yet arrived in a W.B. Yeats-like’ dystopia where “things fall apart, the centre cannot hold,” “the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity” and “mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.” But things are headed in the wrong direction. When one party gains power, it immediately acts unilaterally to undo the policies of the other. America’s serious problems never get solved and the nation becomes weaker in the face of adversaries. Donald Trump may yet provoke a constitutional crisis. If Democrats took over Congress, he’d probably be impeached. Yet seven in 10 Americans say they want the parties to work together, not stick to their positions and get nothing done. If America is to save itself from political chaos, “the best” had better get busy — not by sounding off and then leaving the scene, as Sens. Bob Corker and Jeff Flake and others are doing, but by helping out groups that are trying to bolster the “centre.” As I’ve written before, a bevy of groups are working to hold the center -- organizing nationally, raising money and setting forth moderate policy ideas. Several have made significant progress, but they still need help. They need consistent vocal support from respected ex-military, corporate, and government heavyweights who recognize current divisions as dangerous not just to the country’s governance, but to national security and social stability -- but so far are standing on the sidelines. They need money to compete with passionately intense ideological and special interest groups. And they need to become national political players. In short, America needs a powerful, passionate Moderate Movement comprised of “the best” -- those willing to solve problems, work wi[...]



When Government Calls the Shots

2017-12-12T00:00:00Z

"China Celebrates Xi Jinping With Fervor Not Seen Since Mao." -- The Wall Street Journal, Dec. 10, 2017 And oh, what zeal!: Street-side banners and billboards; a Communist Party publicity tour to celebrate "General Secretary Xi's words"; official choral performances and song-and-dance routines. "As performers," says the dance troupe director, "it's our duty to educate the masses about how they benefit from party and state policies." Whenever government starts coercing belief in government's stated beliefs, the wise citizen will hug his..."China Celebrates Xi Jinping With Fervor Not Seen Since Mao." -- The Wall Street Journal, Dec. 10, 2017 And oh, what zeal!: Street-side banners and billboards; a Communist Party publicity tour to celebrate "General Secretary Xi's words"; official choral performances and song-and-dance routines. "As performers," says the dance troupe director, "it's our duty to educate the masses about how they benefit from party and state policies." Whenever government starts coercing belief in government's stated beliefs, the wise citizen will hug his liberties hard, before political wind gusts hurl them away. Those winds blow not just in China but here as well, in the land of the free... I mean, perhaps, "supposedly free." The wedding cake case heard last week by our own country's highest court centers, as media coverage and Twitter reaction would have It, on the gay marriage question. May a Colorado baker deny, out of religious conviction, a gay couple's request that he bake their cake? Not so, says the state of Colorado. The U.S. Supreme Court's decision will be close -- likely 5 to 4, with Justice Anthony Kennedy playing, as he does so frequently, the role of decider. There will be time, when decision day dawns, to sort through the court's majority and minority opinions. There is meanwhile an even larger question to weigh, preparatory to weighing the justices' words. Where is the stopping point for the promulgation, the promotion and especially the enforcement of views backed more by government power than by popular consensus? In Xi Jinping's China the question is no question. Government's power is limitless. What the party says, goes: Got that? In the United States of America, consent of the governed has long been known as our political pole star. Which is well enough, in theory, until arguments break out over how much consent is enough consent -- and by whose reckoning? Governmental attempts to impose conformity in a theoretically beneficial cause can spread showers of sparks on the dry tinder of public agreement. A good example is busing for racial balance. Dogmatic federal judges, half a century ago, fell into the habit of railing at school districts whose black and white students were distributed "unconstitutionally" -- too few blacks in majority white schools and vice versa. Well! The federal courts weren't going to put up with such. Students would go to the schools their judges designated for them, all for the sake of racial balance in the classroom. And if they or their parents didn't like it, that was just too bad. Busing, wherever and whenever practiced, turned into the greatest educational disaster [...]



Alabama Result Likely to Impact 2018 Senate Races

2017-12-12T00:00:00Z

Regardless of outcome, the high-stakes and volatile Alabama Senate special election Tuesday will likely ripple through the 2018 midterm elections and have a significant impact on the race for the Senate majority. For Democrats, the stakes are clear: If Doug Jones pulls off an upset in deep-red Alabama, it will mark a clean sweep of statewide elections for the party this year. But more importantly, claiming the seat would swing a Senate map tilted heavily in Republicans’ favor just slightly more in the other direction, making the difficult task of winning back the Senate next year...Regardless of outcome, the high-stakes and volatile Alabama Senate special election Tuesday will likely ripple through the 2018 midterm elections and have a significant impact on the race for the Senate majority. For Democrats, the stakes are clear: If Doug Jones pulls off an upset in deep-red Alabama, it will mark a clean sweep of statewide elections for the party this year. But more importantly, claiming the seat would swing a Senate map tilted heavily in Republicans’ favor just slightly more in the other direction, making the difficult task of winning back the Senate next year slightly more achievable -- though only slightly. For Republicans, a loss by Roy Moore would deprive them of a critical seat in the chamber, narrowing their majority to one and making their task of passing legislation even more difficult than it has already proved to be. A victory, though, could be just as perilous because Democrats will seek to tie other GOP candidates to Moore, who has been accused of harassing or assaulting multiple women decades ago, when they were teenagers. (Moore has denied the allegations.) Republicans have promised an Ethics Committee investigation if their nominee becomes a senator, which could linger deep into 2018 and prolong GOP divisions and Democratic attacks as the midterms approach. Some strategists caution that it will be difficult to extrapolate any on-the-ground lessons from Tuesday’s outcome. The Alabama electorate is unpredictable, with an unpopular and polarizing Republican running and Election Day falling squarely between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The RealClearPolitics average gives Moore a 2.2 percentage-point advantage, but polls in the race’s final days varied by as many as 19 points. Any analysis of how many Republicans stayed home because of Moore’s negatives, or how many didn’t support him but cast a vote against the Democrat, would be difficult to translate to contests across the country -- in fact, Alabama allows straight-ticket voting, which means some voters could back Moore without actually having to cast a vote specifically for him. Still, even if the race doesn’t prove to be a test case for other campaigns next year in terms of strategy, it still has massive implications for both parties. Republicans currently hold a 52-48 majority in the Senate, and 25 of the 33 seats up for re-election next year are held by Democrats. Ten of those Democrats are running in states President Trump won last year, while only one Republican is up for re-election in a state won by H[...]



What Should We Fight For?

2017-12-12T00:00:00Z

"We will never accept Russia's occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea," declaimed Rex Tillerson last week in Vienna. "Crimea-related sanctions will remain in place until Russia returns full control of the peninsula to Ukraine." Tillerson's principled rejection of the seizure of land by military force -- "never accept" -- came just one day after President Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital and pledged to move our embassy there. How did Israel gain title to East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Golan Heights? Invasion, occupation,..."We will never accept Russia's occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea," declaimed Rex Tillerson last week in Vienna. "Crimea-related sanctions will remain in place until Russia returns full control of the peninsula to Ukraine." Tillerson's principled rejection of the seizure of land by military force -- "never accept" -- came just one day after President Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital and pledged to move our embassy there. How did Israel gain title to East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Golan Heights? Invasion, occupation, colonization, annexation. Those lands are the spoils of victory from Israel's 1967 Six-Day War. Is Israel being severely sanctioned like Russia? Not quite. Her yearly U.S. stipend is almost $4 billion, as she builds settlement after settlement on occupied land despite America's feeble protests. What Bibi Netanyahu just demonstrated is that, when dealing with the Americans and defending what is vital to Israel, perseverance pays off. Given time, the Americans will accept the new reality. Like Bibi, Vladimir Putin is a nationalist. For him, the recapture of Crimea was the achievement of his presidency. For two centuries that peninsula had been home to Russia's Black Sea Fleet and critical to her security. Putin is not going to return Crimea to Kiev, and, eventually, we will accept this new reality as well. For while whose flag flies over Crimea has never been crucial to us, it is to Putin. And like Israelis, Russians are resolute when it comes to taking and holding what they see as rightly theirs. Both these conflicts reveal underlying realities that help explain America's 21st-century long retreat. We face allies and antagonists who are more willing than are we to take risks, endure pain, persevere and fight to prevail. This month, just days after North Korea tested a new ICBM, national security adviser H. R. McMaster declared that Trump "is committed to the total denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula." If so, we are committed to a goal we almost surely are not going to achieve. For, short of a war that could go nuclear, Kim Jong Un is not going to yield to our demands. For Kim, nuclear weapons are not an option. He knows that Saddam Hussein, who had given up his WMD, was hanged after the Americans attacked. He knows the grisly fate of Moammar Gadhafi, after he invited the West into Libya to dismantle his nuclear program and disarm him of any WMD. Kim knows that if he surrenders his nuclear weapons, he has nothing to deter the Americans should they choose to use their arsenal on his armed forces, [...]



Simeon Booker, a Courageous and Persistent Advocate of Truth

2017-12-12T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- The great Simeon Booker, one of the bravest journalists of our time, faced dangers far worse than a petulant president's social media feed. Booker refused to be cowed -- and ultimately helped change the nation. His life's work should be a lesson to us all about the power of truth to vanquish evil. Booker died Sunday at 99. At the height of his career, few could have imagined he would live so long. As Washington bureau chief for the Chicago-based Johnson Publications, publisher of the newsweekly Jet and the monthly magazine Ebony, Booker went to the Deep South to cover...WASHINGTON -- The great Simeon Booker, one of the bravest journalists of our time, faced dangers far worse than a petulant president's social media feed. Booker refused to be cowed -- and ultimately helped change the nation. His life's work should be a lesson to us all about the power of truth to vanquish evil. Booker died Sunday at 99. At the height of his career, few could have imagined he would live so long. As Washington bureau chief for the Chicago-based Johnson Publications, publisher of the newsweekly Jet and the monthly magazine Ebony, Booker went to the Deep South to cover the most tumultuous events of the civil rights movement -- life-threatening work for an African-American journalist. In 1961, he accompanied the Freedom Riders on a bus journey from Washington to New Orleans, testing whether Southern states would comply with a federal mandate against segregated interstate travel. In Alabama, the protesters were firebombed once and beaten twice by white mobs before federal officials, acting on orders from attorney general Robert F. Kennedy, flew them to safety. Booker covered the seminal 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery. He was there when Alabama state troopers savagely attacked demonstrators with billy clubs and police dogs -- images that shocked the nation and helped shift public opinion outside of the South from indifference to outrage. As The Washington Post reported in its obituary, Booker returned many times to the South to report on the struggle: "For his safety, he sometimes posed as a minister, carrying a Bible under his arm. Other times, he discarded his usual suit and bow tie for overalls to look the part of a sharecropper. Once, in an incident retold when Mr. Booker was inducted into the National Association of Black Journalists' Hall of Fame in 2013, he escaped a mob by riding in the back of a hearse." Booker was the Post's first full-time black reporter, hired by publisher Philip Graham, who gave him an admonition similar to the one Brooklyn Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey had given to Jackie Robinson: "If you can take it, I'm willing to gamble." Washington was a segregated city in 1952 -- Booker recalled that when he went out to cover a robbery, "they thought I was one of the damn holdup men" -- and ultimately he found the work unsatisfying. In 1954, Johnson Publications offered him the bureau chief job, and he took it. He kept it for five decades. Booker is best known for the story he wrote for Jet about Emmett Till, the Chicago teenager brut[...]



Trump's Chief of Staff Is on Alert for 'Contraband Newsprint' and Other Hijinks

2017-12-12T00:00:00Z

NEW YORK -- In August, Donald Trump asked for a certain newspaper clipping, thus throwing the White House went into the Trump version of DEFCON 2. Chief of Staff John F. Kelly dispatched two aides to investigate how the clipping had gotten to the president without being "cleared." These aides, anonymous but clearly brave, determined that Keith Schiller, a former New York City cop and Trump's longtime body man, had slipped the "contraband newsprint" to the commander in chief. Soon, Schiller was gone from the White House. Kelly, a former Marine general but an American...NEW YORK -- In August, Donald Trump asked for a certain newspaper clipping, thus throwing the White House went into the Trump version of DEFCON 2. Chief of Staff John F. Kelly dispatched two aides to investigate how the clipping had gotten to the president without being "cleared." These aides, anonymous but clearly brave, determined that Keith Schiller, a former New York City cop and Trump's longtime body man, had slipped the "contraband newsprint" to the commander in chief. Soon, Schiller was gone from the White House. Kelly, a former Marine general but an American Sniper at heart, had picked off another. This account of the "contraband newsprint" comes from Sunday's New York Times and was written by three of the paper's best reporters. Their reporting brings to mind Napoleon on St. Helena -- his newspapers coming three months late and his days so empty that he took four hours of baths. Trump's newspapers arrive promptly, but the rest of his reading is censored and, instead of taking four-hour baths, he devotes at least as much time to watching TV. We also learned from the Times that Trump consumes about 12 Diet Cokes per day. A new book by former Trump campaign staffers added other culinary details. On the road, the future president typically ate for dinner two Big Macs, two Filet-O-Fish sandwiches and a chocolate malted. Since the McDonald's delivery system is both quick and direct, this diet poses a greater threat to the nation than the North Korean nuclear program. But it is not, apparently, what the president eats that concerns Kelly. It is what he sometimes reads. Understandably, Kelly is constantly on the alert for a presidential friend slipping Trump a highly unauthorized newspaper article. This happened over Thanksgiving at Mar-a-Lago. Some of Trump's guests "passed him news clips that would never get around Kelly's filters," the Times reported. These guests were probably Trump's old pals from New York and Palm Beach, billionaires with a nose for the oncoming socialist apocalypse who fear the president does not know how crooked Hillary Clinton really is or that the press is still insisting that Trump lost the popular vote or maintaining that it was his own voice on that "Access Hollywood" tape when, upon repeated hearing, it just could be Arnold Schwarzenegger. Trump himself begins the day commendably early. (It's the farmer in him.) The Times says he rises at 5:30 and turns on the TV. For some reason, he watches CNN -- monitoring fake news, no doubt -- an[...]



'Darkest Hour' Proves That History Can Hinge on a Single Leader

2017-12-12T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- The Winston Churchill biopic "Darkest Hour" is a movie that should be seen, but not entirely believed. Gary Oldman's alternately fierce and vulnerable Churchill is a triumph of both acting and the cosmetician's art. Just hearing him deliver snippets of Churchill's speeches is worth the ticket price. (Am I the only one who tears up at the words "We shall fight on the beaches"? My wife: "Probably.") But the central conceit of the film -- that a deflated, defeated Churchill required bucking up by average Brits -- is a fiction. Very...WASHINGTON -- The Winston Churchill biopic "Darkest Hour" is a movie that should be seen, but not entirely believed. Gary Oldman's alternately fierce and vulnerable Churchill is a triumph of both acting and the cosmetician's art. Just hearing him deliver snippets of Churchill's speeches is worth the ticket price. (Am I the only one who tears up at the words "We shall fight on the beaches"? My wife: "Probably.") But the central conceit of the film -- that a deflated, defeated Churchill required bucking up by average Brits -- is a fiction. Very nearly the opposite was true. The policy of appeasement was broadly popular in Britain during the early to mid-1930s. In 1938, a majority supported Neville Chamberlain's deal at Munich (which ceded much of Czechoslovakia to Nazi Germany in return for ... nothing). It is more accurate to say that Churchill summoned British courage and defiance by his intense idealization of British character. He saw heroic traits in his countrymen that even they, for a time, could not see. This is not to say that May and June of 1940 weren't dark times, even for Churchill. As resistance in France collapsed and Italy seemed destined to enter the war on Germany's side, Churchill asked his chiefs of staff if it were possible to continue the war at all (they gave a conditional "yes"). The despair implied in that question still startles. But on June 3, even as British troops were being evacuated at Dunkirk, Churchill's private secretary Jock Colville wrote in his diary: "Winston is tired of our always being on the defensive and is contemplating raids on the enemy. 'How wonderful it would be,' he writes to [Gen. Hastings] Ismay, 'if the Germans could be made to wonder where they were going to be struck next instead of forcing us to try to wall in the Island and roof it over.'" In the midst of catastrophe, Churchill was dreaming of Normandy (and North Africa, and Italy). Not the thoughts of a defeated man. Where "Darkest Hour" shines is in presenting the alarming, inspiring contingency of great events. In the spring of 1940, Europe was being shaken by massive, impersonal, world-historic forces -- the apparent failure of liberal democracy and free markets, the rise of communism and fascism, the unleashing of anti-Semitism. Millions marched, line by line, to the "Horst Wessel" song or the "Internationale." And yet, in saving the remnants of the British Army at Dunkirk, it fell to 665 private British boats (along with 222 British warships) to rescue th[...]



Whom Do We Thank for Today's Strong Economy?

2017-12-12T00:00:00Z

A president deserves partial credit for a strong economy. The current economic numbers are good, so to the extent that gratitude is due, let us offer it. Thank you, President Obama. The economic gauges have been improving steadily for the eight years of the current recovery. Barack Obama was president for seven of them. As the first year of the Donald Trump presidency draws to a close, the economy's growth has continued -- but it has not accelerated in a meaningful way. In the world as presented by the tweetmaster himself, Trump has already delivered on the economy, and the only...A president deserves partial credit for a strong economy. The current economic numbers are good, so to the extent that gratitude is due, let us offer it. Thank you, President Obama. The economic gauges have been improving steadily for the eight years of the current recovery. Barack Obama was president for seven of them. As the first year of the Donald Trump presidency draws to a close, the economy's growth has continued -- but it has not accelerated in a meaningful way. In the world as presented by the tweetmaster himself, Trump has already delivered on the economy, and the only direction from here on is up, up, up. Savvy investors, however, are asking, "When do we get out?" Though the U.S. stock indexes have been hitting highs, stock markets around the world have been doing as well as ours, some better. The economies of Japan and Germany are performing at higher levels (a reason the dollar has been falling against the yen and euro). The latest unemployment rate, 4.1 percent, is definitely positive. But Obama left the White House with a still-strong unemployment rate of 4.7 percent. That was down from a high of 10.2 percent in 2009. Candidate Trump dismissed Obama's falling unemployment rates as "phony." Trump kept citing the labor participation rate -- the percentage of American adults working or actively seeking jobs -- which he said was low. Thing is, that number factors in not only people who've given up looking for work but retirees, whose ranks are growing. In any case, the labor participation rate when Obama left office was 62.7 percent. After almost a year of Trump in office, the labor participation rate is ... 62.7 percent. As for America's working stiffs, Trump's contribution to their economic well-being is likely to be zilch -- or, actually, less than zilch. Wages are inching up under Trump, but they were inching up under Obama. Workers may be asking why that is, with the unemployment rate so low. The reasons are complex. The more pressing question is: What will the Republican tax package do for them? Trump keeps tweeting that slashing corporate tax rates will enable companies to use their soaring profits to build, hire and give workers raises. But profits have been soaring for years, and little of the wealth has trickled down to workers. It's been kept by the executives and investors. Nothing in the tax bills would change that. What they would do, however, is raise taxes on many working- [...]



Chronicler of Islamic State 'Killing Machine' Goes Public

2017-12-11T00:00:00Z

The historian carried secrets too heavy for one man to bear. He packed his bag with his most treasured possessions before going to bed: the 1 terabyte hard drive with his evidence against the Islamic State group, an orange notebook half-filled with notes on Ottoman history, and, a keepsake, the first book from Amazon delivered to Mosul. He passed the night in despair, imagining all the ways he could die, and the moment he would leave his mother and his city. He had spent nearly his entire life in this home, with his five brothers and five sisters. He woke his mother in her bedroom on the...The historian carried secrets too heavy for one man to bear. He packed his bag with his most treasured possessions before going to bed: the 1 terabyte hard drive with his evidence against the Islamic State group, an orange notebook half-filled with notes on Ottoman history, and, a keepsake, the first book from Amazon delivered to Mosul. He passed the night in despair, imagining all the ways he could die, and the moment he would leave his mother and his city. He had spent nearly his entire life in this home, with his five brothers and five sisters. He woke his mother in her bedroom on the ground floor. “I am leaving,” he said. “Where?” she asked. “I am leaving,” was all he could say. He couldn’t endanger her by telling her anything more. In truth, since the IS had invaded his city, he’d lived a life about which she was totally unaware. He felt her eyes on the back of his neck, and headed to the waiting Chevrolet. He didn’t look back. For nearly two years, he’d wandered the streets of occupied Mosul, chatting with shopkeepers and Islamic State fighters, visiting friends who worked at the hospital, swapping scraps of information. He grew out his hair and his beard and wore the shortened trousers required by IS. He forced himself to witness the beheadings and deaths by stoning, so he could hear the killers call out the names of the condemned and their supposed crimes. The blogger known as Mosul Eye kept his identity a secret as he documented Islamic State rule.He wasn’t a spy. He was an undercover historian and blogger . As IS turned the Iraqi city he loved into a fundamentalist bastion, he decided he would show the world how the extremists had distorted its true nature, how they were trying to rewrite the past and forge a brutal Sunni-only future for a city that had once welcomed many faiths. He knew that if he was caught he too would be killed. “I am writing this for the history , because I know this will end. People will return, life will go back to normal,” is how he explained the blog that was his conduit to the citizens of Mosul and the world beyond. “After many years, there will be people who will study what happened. The city deserves to have something written to defend the city and tell the truth, because they say that when the war begins, the first victim [...]



Transgender People Can Enlist in Military Jan 1

2017-12-11T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Pentagon is allowing transgender people to enlist in the military beginning Jan. 1, despite President Donald Trump’s opposition. The new policy reflects growing legal pressure on the issue, and the difficult hurdles the federal government would have to cross to enforce Trump’s demand to ban transgender individuals from the military. Two federal courts already have ruled against the ban. Potential transgender recruits will have to overcome a lengthy and strict set of physical, medical and mental conditions that make it possible, though...WASHINGTON (AP) — The Pentagon is allowing transgender people to enlist in the military beginning Jan. 1, despite President Donald Trump’s opposition. The new policy reflects growing legal pressure on the issue, and the difficult hurdles the federal government would have to cross to enforce Trump’s demand to ban transgender individuals from the military. Two federal courts already have ruled against the ban. Potential transgender recruits will have to overcome a lengthy and strict set of physical, medical and mental conditions that make it possible, though difficult, for them to join the armed services. Maj. David Eastburn, a Pentagon spokesman, says the enlistment of transgender recruits will start Jan. 1 and go on amid the legal battles. The Defense Department also is studying the issue. Eastburn told The Associated Press on Monday that the new guidelines mean the Pentagon can disqualify potential recruits with gender dysphoria, a history of medical treatments associated with gender transition and those who underwent reconstruction. But such recruits are allowed in if a medical provider certifies they’ve been clinically stable in the preferred sex for 18 months and are free of significant distress or impairment in social, occupational or other important areas. Transgender individuals receiving hormone therapy also must be stable on their medication for 18 months. The requirements make it challenging for a transgender recruit to pass. But they mirror concerns President Barack Obama’s administration laid out when the Pentagon initially lifted its ban on transgender service last year. The Pentagon has similar restrictions for recruits with a variety of medical or mental conditions, such as bipolar disorder. “Due to the complexity of this new medical standard, trained medical officers will perform a medical prescreen of transgender applicants for military service who otherwise meet all applicable applicant standards,” Eastburn said. Last year, then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter ended the ban on transgender service members, allowing them to serve openly in the military. He said that within 12 months — or by July 2017 — transgender people also would be able to enlist. Trump, however, tweeted in July that the federal government “will not accept or allow” transgender troops to serve “in [...]



Republicans' Tax Plan Takes a Quirky Swipe at the Little Guys

2017-12-11T00:00:00Z

Republicans are supposed to be the party that cuts the job-killing capital-gains tax, not raises it. But because of a quirk in the Senate-passed bill, the tax on capital gains may go up — and for some types of long-held assets, fairly substantially. Most members of Congress don’t even know of this stealth capital-gains hike. Here’s the story. At the start of the year, Republicans promised to reverse the near-60 percent rise in the capital-gains tax under President Barack Obama — a hike that helped bring investment rates to historic lows. The...Republicans are supposed to be the party that cuts the job-killing capital-gains tax, not raises it. But because of a quirk in the Senate-passed bill, the tax on capital gains may go up — and for some types of long-held assets, fairly substantially. Most members of Congress don’t even know of this stealth capital-gains hike. Here’s the story. At the start of the year, Republicans promised to reverse the near-60 percent rise in the capital-gains tax under President Barack Obama — a hike that helped bring investment rates to historic lows. The GOP plan was to eliminate the ObamaCare 3.8 percent investment-tax surcharge on capital gains and dividends‎. That repeal never happened. But now the Senate tax reform proposes to raise several billion over the next decade by changing the rules on how stocks are taxed. It would require shareholders to sell their oldest shares in a company before their newest purchased ones. The older the share, the larger the taxable capital gain. This is called the first-in-first-out accounting system. Consider this example. Let’s say you bought 100 shares of Apple stock in 1998 at $100 a share‎. And let’s say you bought another 100 shares in 2008 at $300. If you sold 100 shares at $500 a share, you would have to “sell” the oldest stock and pay a $400 per share capital-gains tax, versus $200 a share under the current law. Now this accounting change may actually make sense, except that the gains on long-term stocks are not adjusted for inflation. So on many sales of long-held stock, as much as half of the reported and taxable “gain” is due to the compounding effect of inflation. The actual capital-gains tax paid could more than double for many stock and asset sales. So the Senate rules will require millions of Americans to pay taxes on phantom or illusory gains. That is patently unfair and will discourage the very long-term investment that economists and politicians agree that we need. If you give me $1,000 today, I would be glad to give you $1,500 25 years from now, because inflation is likely to run ahead of that pace. Believe me, you haven’t made a $500 profit on this transaction. But the government thinks you have. There are other huge inequities in this new policy. Under the Senate bill, there’s an exception for mutual [...]



High Court, High Stakes; News 'Ferret'; Jobs and Trade; Royal Romance

2017-12-11T00:00:00Z

Good morning, it’s Monday, December 11, 2017. Eighty-one years ago today, a thin and handsome man known to his beloved as “David,” but to the British people as Edward VIII, became the first English monarch to voluntarily abdicate the throne. He did so for love, which seems quaint today. As Tina Turner might say, what’s love got to do with it? What I mean is this: Just where in Britain’s Constitution does it even say that a king can’t marry a twice-divorced American? I’ll have more on that -- and how different things are...Good morning, it’s Monday, December 11, 2017. Eighty-one years ago today, a thin and handsome man known to his beloved as “David,” but to the British people as Edward VIII, became the first English monarch to voluntarily abdicate the throne. He did so for love, which seems quaint today. As Tina Turner might say, what’s love got to do with it? What I mean is this: Just where in Britain’s Constitution does it even say that a king can’t marry a twice-divorced American? I’ll have more on that -- and how different things are eight decades later -- in a moment. First, I’ll point you to RealClearPolitics’ front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion pieces spanning the political spectrum. We also offer original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following: * * * All Bets Are Off at the Supreme Court. In a column, I consider the facts behind, and implications of, two cases argued last week before the high court. The Exploits of Jack Anderson’s “Senior Ferret.” RealClearInvestigations revisits the work of Les Whitten, dogged and unscrupulous legman for the legendary columnist. Whitten died earlier this month at age 89. Jobs Surge Shows Trade Deficit Hand-Wringing as Misguided. In RealClearMarkets, Allan Golombek writes that the latest numbers provide a strong counterpoint to administration policy. Should Tax Reform Dictate What Stocks Investors Should Sell? Also in RCM, Paul Atkins offers an answer. The Key to North American Dominance in a Global Economy. In RealClearEducation, Matthew Rooney and Tiffany Melvin emphasize the importance of skills training and certification.  Repatriation for Education: A Tax-Reform Game Change. Also in RCEd, Rafi Musher proposes a novel idea for incentivizing companies to invest more in education. The Unexpected Drug That Can Mitigate the Opioid Crisis. In RealClearHealth, Joseph Pergolizzi spotlights the effectiveness of buprenorphine in combating addiction. Telemedicine: Answering the Call of Those Who Need It Most. Also in RCHealth, Raymond March asserts that expanding the technology will save lives. In Post-Weinstein World, Sex Parties Are the New Safe Spaces. Meagan Drillinger trains a light[...]



Start the Clock for Trump, Republicans in Last Push on Taxes, Budget

2017-12-11T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON (AP) — Start the countdown clock on a momentous two weeks for President Donald Trump and the GOP-run Congress. Republicans are determined to deliver the first revamp of the nation’s tax code in three decades and prove they can govern after their failure to dismantle Barack Obama’s health care law this past summer. Voters who will decide which party holds the majority in next year’s midterms elections are watching. Republicans are negotiating with Democrats on the contentious issue of how much the government should spend on the military and...WASHINGTON (AP) — Start the countdown clock on a momentous two weeks for President Donald Trump and the GOP-run Congress. Republicans are determined to deliver the first revamp of the nation’s tax code in three decades and prove they can govern after their failure to dismantle Barack Obama’s health care law this past summer. Voters who will decide which party holds the majority in next year’s midterms elections are watching. Republicans are negotiating with Democrats on the contentious issue of how much the government should spend on the military and domestic agencies to avert a holiday shutdown. An extension of the program that provides low-cost health care to more than 8 million children and aid to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico, Texas and Florida need to be addressed. And further complicating the end-of-year talks is the fate of some 800,000 young immigrants here illegally. Lawmakers are trying to get it all done by Dec. 22. A look at the crowded agenda: ___ TAXES Republicans are upbeat about finalizing a tax bill from the House and Senate versions for Trump’s first major legislative accomplishment in nearly 11 months in office. “I feel very confident we’re going to get this done ... at the end of the day we’re going to get this to the president’s desk and he’s going to sign it,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said Sunday in an interview on Fox News Channel. The House and Senate bills would cut taxes by about $1.5 trillion over the next decade while adding billions to the $20 trillion deficit. They combine steep tax cuts for corporations with more modest reductions for most individuals. Republican leaders have struggled to placate GOP lawmakers from high-tax states like California, New York and New Jersey whose constituents would be hit hard by the elimination of the prized federal deduction for state and local taxes. Repeal of the deduction added up to $1.3 trillion in revenue over a decade that could be used for deep tax cuts. Lawmakers finally settled on a compromise in both bills — full repeal of the state and local deductions for income and sales taxes, but homeowners would be able to deduct up to $10,000 in local property taxes. And yet it’s still not a done deal. &ldqu[...]



Our Institutional Crisis Is Upon Us

2017-12-11T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- Our democratic republic is in far more danger than it was even a few weeks ago. Until this point, there was an underlying faith in much of the political world that if Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian collusion in the election of Donald Trump turned up damning material about the president, Republicans in Congress would feel obligated by their commitment to the country's well-being to take him on. We would often hear recollections of how Republicans during Watergate -- Sen. Barry Goldwater would inevitably come up -- decided that the smoking guns were too smoky...WASHINGTON -- Our democratic republic is in far more danger than it was even a few weeks ago. Until this point, there was an underlying faith in much of the political world that if Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian collusion in the election of Donald Trump turned up damning material about the president, Republicans in Congress would feel obligated by their commitment to the country's well-being to take him on. We would often hear recollections of how Republicans during Watergate -- Sen. Barry Goldwater would inevitably come up -- decided that the smoking guns were too smoky and that Richard Nixon had to go. They made clear to him that he no longer had the support of his party. Surely, said the optimists, we have not drifted so far from decency that this sort of patriotism is beyond us. Well, it sure seems to be. It's not surprising that Trump and those on his payroll want to protect him at all costs. But we learned last week that Republicans are deepening their complicity in derailing Mueller's investigation and burying the facts. The more Mueller imperils Trump, the more McCarthyite the GOP becomes. The apotheosis of Republican congressional collusion with Trump's efforts to hang on at all costs came at a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee. One Republican after another attacked Mueller and the Federal Bureau of Investigation as if the latter should be placed on a new compendium of subversive organizations. The occasion was testimony before the committee by Christopher Wray, the Trump-appointed FBI director. It was heartening to see Wray stand up for his colleagues, which made you wonder if Wray may soon go the way of his predecessor, James Comey. Deserving an Academy Award for the most striking imitation of a member of the old House Un-American Activities Committee was Rep. Louie Gohmert. The hard-right Texas Republican went through a roll call of investigators, name-by-name, asking Wray if each had shown political bias. Wray defended every one of them he knew, and wryly smiled when he was unfamiliar with one of the five names on Gohmert's hit list. Gohmert might as well have echoed the favored question of the congressional inquisitors of the early forties and fifties: "Are they now or have they ever been ... supporters o[...]



Why We Must Raise Defense Spending

2017-12-11T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon and the welfare state have been locked in brutal combat for decades, and the Pentagon has gotten clobbered. Protecting the country was once the first obligation of government. No more. Welfare programs -- Social Security, Medicare, food stamps and other benefits -- dwarf defense spending. As a result, we have become more vulnerable. Here is the assessment of Mackenzie Eaglen, a defense specialist at the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute: "The United States now fields a military that could not meet even the requirements of a benign Clinton-era world....WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon and the welfare state have been locked in brutal combat for decades, and the Pentagon has gotten clobbered. Protecting the country was once the first obligation of government. No more. Welfare programs -- Social Security, Medicare, food stamps and other benefits -- dwarf defense spending. As a result, we have become more vulnerable. Here is the assessment of Mackenzie Eaglen, a defense specialist at the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute: "The United States now fields a military that could not meet even the requirements of a benign Clinton-era world. The services have watched their relative overmatch and capacity decline in almost every domain of warfare ... for nearly two decades. As rival nation-states have accelerated their force development, the Department of Defense has stalled out, creating a dangerous window of relative military advantage for potential foes. ... While the United States continues to field the best military personnel in the world, policy makers have asked them to do too much with too little for too long." Politically, the vaunted military-industrial complex has been no match for the welfare state's personal handouts. There has been a historic transformation. In the 1950s and 1960s, defense spending often accounted for half of the federal budget and equaled 8 to 10 percent of gross domestic product (the economy). In 2016, defense spending was 3 percent of GDP and 15 percent of the federal budget, according to the Office of Management and Budget. Meanwhile, welfare programs -- called "human resources" by the OMB -- accounted for 15 percent of GDP and 73 percent of federal spending. (A note for policy wonks: Some military spending occurs outside the Defense Department, but including this spending would not much change trends or conclusions.) There are many telltale signs that defense spending, though now exceeding $600 billion annually, is being squeezed. A new study by Todd Harrison and Seamus Daniels of the Center for Strategic & International Studies reports the following: -- "For FY [fiscal year] 2015, the Army's active duty end strength reached the lowest level since the end of World War II." -- "The Army has noted in Congressional testimony [...]



All Bets Are Off at the Supreme Court

2017-12-10T00:00:00Z

What a week at the Supreme Court. There was something for all us sinners -- gamblers, abstainers, gays, straights, and church-goers alike. Even New Jersey’s unpopular lame duck governor had his day in court. Whether you care more about gay rights or religious liberty, the oral arguments in a Supreme Court case involving a Christian who declined to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex Colorado couple were fascinating. To hear the ACLU tell it, this is an easy case in line with long-settled law stemming from civil rights cases in the South: private businesses open to the public simply...What a week at the Supreme Court. There was something for all us sinners -- gamblers, abstainers, gays, straights, and church-goers alike. Even New Jersey’s unpopular lame duck governor had his day in court. Whether you care more about gay rights or religious liberty, the oral arguments in a Supreme Court case involving a Christian who declined to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex Colorado couple were fascinating. To hear the ACLU tell it, this is an easy case in line with long-settled law stemming from civil rights cases in the South: private businesses open to the public simply cannot discriminate against their customers. There were compelling facts on the other side, too. Jack Phillips, the proprietor of Masterpiece, a bakery in suburban Denver, is a devout Christian who expresses his faith, in part, through his work. He considers cake decoration an art form, his calling, through which he honors God. He doesn’t use his artistic talents to bake cakes for Halloween, which he considers sacrilegious, or for same-sex marriages. In July 2012, when the precipitating incident took place, gay marriage was still illegal in Colorado (and most states). President Obama had only tepidly announced he’d changed his mind about it two months earlier. Obama’s change of heart was indicative of a sea change in public opinion. Judges and politicians followed suit, which is to say they got in line with the millennial generation. Gay marriage is now the law of the land in this country. It came about because esteemed Republican lawyer Theodore Olson teamed up with Democratic attorney David Boies and forced the matter to a vote of the Supreme Court. The high court heard oral arguments last week in another intriguing lawsuit, this one involving sports betting. By any standard, Christie v. the NCAA impacts vast numbers of Americans, some 47 million of whom placed a bet on a U.S. sporting event last year. The overwhelming majority of those wagers -- 98 percent, according to the American Gaming Association -- were made illegally. Does it sound like legitimate business -- and by extension, government -- are leaving a lot of money on the table? It sounded that way to the governor o[...]



How Does a First-Year National Monument Become an Institution? It's the Obama Touch

2017-12-10T00:00:00Z

WASHINGTON -- The New York Times' graphic said it all. On one side, the map displayed the "original boundaries" for Bears Ears National Monument with 1.35 million acres in green. On the other side was the drastically scaled-down monument with less green representing 201,876 acres, thanks to a recent proclamation by President Donald Trump reducing the national monument. The Times stipulated in smaller print that the "original" boundaries were set in December 2016 by President Barack Obama. The date actually was Dec. 28. That is, the "original" boundaries were...WASHINGTON -- The New York Times' graphic said it all. On one side, the map displayed the "original boundaries" for Bears Ears National Monument with 1.35 million acres in green. On the other side was the drastically scaled-down monument with less green representing 201,876 acres, thanks to a recent proclamation by President Donald Trump reducing the national monument. The Times stipulated in smaller print that the "original" boundaries were set in December 2016 by President Barack Obama. The date actually was Dec. 28. That is, the "original" boundaries were less than a year old. Activists who supported the Obama proclamation also have referred to the "original" lines with little or no reference to the inception date. And while it is accurate to use the term because Obama did designate the Bears Ears National Monument boundaries, when the word "original" is attached to land, readers instinctively think of something as really old. "Original" is not a term for something in its infancy. Has the news cycle sped up so totally that news organizations treat a first-year project as an institution? In April, Trump directed Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to review the designation of 22 land national monuments. This month Zinke recommended revising the boundaries of four monuments, including Nevada's Gold Butte National Monument, which also was created during Obama's last month in office. The Zinke report did not specify how much land should be cut from Gold Butte, but its language on historic water rights suggests some 24 square miles would be cut from the roughly 460-square-mile monument. Those opposed to the Zinke review overall argued passionately that their beloved monuments deserved protection based on their value as historic landmarks or prehistoric structures or for their scientific interest. But also, underlying their arguments was the sentiment that once the government creates an entity, it has a right to exist in perpetuity. There's a legal argument to that effect. A letter signed by 121 law professors cites the 1938 opinion of Attorney General Homer Cummings that said the Antiquities Act of 1906 does not authorize presidents to abolish national monuments "after they have b[...]



Trump's Bold Recognition of Jerusalem a Game-Changer

2017-12-10T00:00:00Z

With his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on Wednesday, US President Donald Trump gave a Hanukka gift to the Jewish people. But he also gave a Christmas gift to the American people. Trump’s gift to Israel is not merely that 68 years after Israel declared Jerusalem its capital, the US finally recognized Israel’s capital. In his declaration, Trump said, “Israel has made its capital in the city of Jerusalem, the capital the Jewish people established in ancient times.” By stating this simple truth, Trump fully rejected the anti-Israel...With his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on Wednesday, US President Donald Trump gave a Hanukka gift to the Jewish people. But he also gave a Christmas gift to the American people. Trump’s gift to Israel is not merely that 68 years after Israel declared Jerusalem its capital, the US finally recognized Israel’s capital. In his declaration, Trump said, “Israel has made its capital in the city of Jerusalem, the capital the Jewish people established in ancient times.” By stating this simple truth, Trump fully rejected the anti-Israel legacy of his predecessor Barack Obama. In his speech in Cairo in 2009, Obama intimated that Israel’s legitimacy is rooted in the Holocaust, rather than in the Jewish nation’s millennial attachment to the Land of Israel. Whereas the Balfour Declaration and the League of Nations Mandate rooted the Jewish people’s sovereign rights to the Land of Israel in its 3,500-year relationship with it, Obama said that Israel is nothing more than a refugee camp located in an inconvenient area. In so doing, he gave credence to the anti-Israel slander that Israel is a colonialist power. By asserting the real basis for Israel’s legitimacy, Trump made clear that the Jewish people is indigenous to the Land of Israel. He also made it US policy to view Israel’s right to exist, like its right to its capital city, as unconditional. Trump’s extraordinary gift to Israel was an act of political and moral courage. It was also a stroke of strategic brilliance. To understand why it was both courageous and wise, consider the political, institutional and geopolitical contexts in which Trump acted. Politically, Trump made his declaration in a poisonous political environment at home. The Democrats responded to Trump’s victory last year over Hillary Clinton by seeking to delegitimize his victory. To this end, they chose to oppose everything that he says and does. And so, despite their long-held and recently voiced support for US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, leading Democratic senators including New Jersey’s Cory Booker and California&[...]