Friday, October 16, 2015

Cruising the Web

Daniel Henninger writes that Bernie Sanders may not win the Democratic party's nomination, but a man who says he's an Independent is actually the future of the Democratic Party. They are now the party of isolationism and opposition to free trade.
Most evident from Mr. Sanders and the leftward-running Mrs. Clinton in this debate is how completely the Democratic Party’s politics have devolved into nonstop moralistic ranting about the domestic economy. It is bleeding into demagoguery.

Barack Obama, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and of course Hillary Clinton have committed the party to a course of individual legal retribution long demanded by the party’s left. Mrs. Clinton: “My plan would have the potential of actually sending the executives to jail.”

These candidates’ nonstop holier-than-thou-ism is in fact a feint. Its purpose is to conceal the reality of seven years of economic under-performance during the Obama presidency. The labor-force participation rate, at 62.4, is where it was in 1977. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ own vocabulary describes the real world out there: discouraged workers, employed part time, not currently looking for work.

With chutzpah one has to admire, the party that in two terms weakened, if not wrecked, the economy, now presents itself as its savior.

What is striking about the candidates’ economic proposals is how disconnected they are from a private-sector economy. The Democrats have disappeared into a sealed world of public-sector economics, running the spectrum from prescriptive mandates, like the $15 minimum wage (a $10 min-wage commitment destroyed Wal-Mart’s earnings this week), to wishful thinking, like Bernie Sanders’s “tuition-free” public-college education. In Mrs. Clinton’s version, college would be “debt-free.”

CNN’s uncurious Anderson Cooper didn’t ask the senator how it could be “free.” But Mr. Sanders answered it himself: “I pay for my program, by the way, through a tax on Wall Street speculation.”

It is so fantastic. The Democrats, not least Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton, seem to have discovered El Dorado itself in “Wall Street,” a city of infinite gold dust to finance their economic pyramids in perpetuity.

Bernie Sanders may not become the nominee, but the Vermont socialist represents the logical ending point of the modern Democratic Party’s belief system: It’s all free!

But can Hillary win? Of course. See, “Republicans, circular firing squad, 2015-16.”
Liberals like to say that Ronald Reagan couldn't win the nomination in today's Republican Party. I don't think that John F. Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, or even Bill Clinton could win their party's nomination today. But Hillary Clinton hopes to steal Bernie Sanders' talking points and win it this time.

Ah, the unending benefits of the Obama presidency.
The portion of the federal government’s debt that is held by the public—as opposed to the portion that is borrowed out of government trust funds such as the Social Security and Medicare trust funds—has more than doubled during President Barack Obama’s time in office, according to official data published by the U.S. Treasury.

Since Obama’s inauguration, the Treasury has increased the federal government’s debt held by the public by $6,739,201,661,284.21—or about $57,431.65 for each household in the United States....

As of the close of business on Tuesday, the total debt of the federal government was $18,150,481,620,363.39. Of this, $13,046,512,400,965.87 was debt held by the public, and $5,103,969,219,397.52 was intragovernmental debt.

The $13,046,512,400,965.87 in debt held by the public was an increase of $6,739,201,661,284.21—or 106.8 percent--from the $6,307,310,739,681.66 in debt held by the public on the day Obama was inaugurated.

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One thing all the Democrats on the debate stage agreed on was that the economy that President Obama has presided over for almost seven years really stinks.
All of this amounts to a searing indictment of what was supposed to be a transformational Democratic Presidency. So even as they painted scenes of an economy that could have been ripped from “Les Miserables,” the candidates were at pains to let Mr. Obama off the hook for these results.

Mr. O’Malley explained that the President shouldn’t be held accountable for today’s economy because he’s not a “magician.” And no Democratic Party debate would be complete without blaming a Republican Congress for blocking even more Obama spending and regulation, not to mention that old standby, “the Bush tax cuts”—though they were enacted more than 12 years ago and were long ago erased by Mr. Obama’s tax increases.

Look past the pro forma Republican bashing, and Tuesday’s message is stark: After nearly seven years of Barack Obama in the White House, America’s working families are struggling in an economy with fewer good jobs, stagnant paychecks, growing inequality and a system that rewards billionaires while hard-working Average Joes are left behind.

And this is the Democratic talking point. If Republicans want to make the case against Obamanomics, they can start by quoting Democrats.

Another lie from Hillary Clinton.
“Well, let's remember what was going on,” Hillary Clinton told Anderson Cooper Tuesday night in Las Vegas in response to his question about the bombing of Libya. “We had a murderous dictator, Qadaffi, who had American blood on his hands, as I'm sure you remember, threatening to massacre large numbers of the Libyan people.”

Before going any further, we might want to note that In April 2009, Qaddafi’s son Mutassim had a cordial meeting with Secretary of State Clinton in Washington. At that time she was apparently not too squeamish about the blood on his old man’s hands. “We deeply value the relationship between Libya and the United States,” Hillary told the press with the tall, Western-looking young man standing beside her.

Back to Las Vegas. “We had our closest allies in Europe burning up the phone lines begging us to help them try to prevent what they saw as a mass genocide, in their words,” Hillary continued with a straight face.

When the late William Safire called Ms. Clinton a “congenital liar,” he knew whereof he spoke. Mendacity is in Hillary’s DNA. There was no genocide in Libya, nothing close.
Our support for rebels against Qadaffi was premised on stopping a massacre. But that isn't what was really happening.
In fact, Qaddafi did not attack peaceful protesters. The rebels started the violence, and Qaddafi responded. Barely six weeks after the rebellion started, Qaddafi had all but suppressed it at the cost of about one thousand lives. Then Obama authorized NATO intervention. That intervention prolonged the war seven months and cost roughly seven thousand more lives. At war’s end, rebels killed scores of the former enemy in reprisal killings and exiled some 30,000 black Africans.

During the insurrection, the Obama administration had been funneling money to Qatar to help arm Libyans rebels. As the Times reported more than a year after the fact, “The weapons and money from Qatar strengthened militant groups in Libya, allowing them to become a destabilizing force since the fall of the Qaddafi government.” After the fall of Qaddafi, these groups refused to disarm and continued to resist government authority.

For all those admirers of socialism and Cuba's supposedly exemplary health system, IBD notes how many elderly Cubans are moving to the United States because we have more generous benefits for the elderly.
A relatively little-noted investigation from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports Castro is shipping Cuba's old to the U.S. in soaring numbers — because the Cuban Adjustment Act entitles them to free housing, free Medicaid, free Supplemental Social Security and even welfare. No matter if they have relatives who can care for them, a free retirement plan is theirs for the taking.

That's quite an enticement, given that Cuban old-age pensions run about $7 a month, and Cubans live in shambling misery with shortages, ration cards, broken-down transport and long lines. By contrast, the lowest SSI package is about $700 a month.
With free housing, free health care and free spending money added on, Cubans have a retirement plan unlike anything they can imagine in Cuba, all without having contributed a penny.

The Sun-Sentinel found that in Cuba, knowledge of these benefits is widespread. A surge of elderly Cubans coming to the U.S. for benefits has already begun, nearly doubling from 1,460 to 2,685 so far this year. And Castro has encouraged the emigration of the most costly.

It's part of an overall surge in migration, ever since President Obama announced normalization of relations. Customs and Border Protection data show that from October 2014 to June 2015, 27,296 Cubans entered the U.S. for residency, a 78% rise over last year.

More are coming. Cuba has the hemisphere's oldest population. The average age is 47, and nearly 24% of the population is above age 55, according to CIA data.

The Sun-Sentinel reported arrivals of Cubans over age 60 have risen fivefold since 2010, based on data from Florida's Department of Children and Families. So long as Cuba's economy continues to fail, as socialism always does, and the U.S. welfare spigots remain turned on, the trickle may become a Europe-style flood.

It's become a convenient pressure valve for the Castro regime to rid itself of its old people, with all their costs of aging, while holding on to power.

The cost to U.S. taxpayers for this retirement plan for Castro's castoffs is likely billions. The Sun-Sentinel found welfare alone for all Cuban refugees is about $685 million, and Cubans are the No. 1 recipients.

This makes a mockery of the increasingly suspect system of instant asylum to any Cuban who makes it here. Castro has rapidly learned to use that law to dump his high-cost elderly on us, laughing all the way to the bank.

The cash enables them to fly back and forth from Miami to Havana, belying claims to asylum from an oppressive communist regime, which is the whole reason they're granted instant asylum. Some have so much cash that they set up second apartments in Cuba.
By contrast, the report notes, legal immigrants from other countries, such as the Dominican Republic, some of whom have spent 45 years cleaning houses, get nothing as lavish, even after paying for years into the system. And they can't afford to visit their homelands at all.

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Secretary of State John Kerry is going to have do a lot to smooth over the irritation that his department's diplomatic ineptness as spokesmen from State and the White House have indicated over and over that they think both Israel and Palestinians are responsible for the deteriorating situation in Israel.
In Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pushed back against U.S. accusations of excessive force by Israeli authorities, noting that a 13-year-old Palestinian boy Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas claimed Wednesday had been "executed" was in fact alive and being treated in an Israeli hospital.

Israeli officials released photos and video of the hospitalized youth, Ahmed Mansara, who's suspected of taking part in an attack that wounded two Israelis.

"We expect all our friends, and anyone concerned with the facts and the truth, to look at these facts, to see the truth, and not to draw false symmetry between Israeli citizens and those who would stab them and knife them to death," Netanyahu told reporters.
I hope the Israelis aren't holding their breath waiting for this administration to abandon his moral equivalence.

And yet another Kerry error.
The State Department today said Secretary of State John Kerry was “misspeaking” when he referred to the four Americans held by Iran as “hostages” — multiple times.

Lawmakers opposed to the regime in Tehran and advocates for the release of the four Americans — Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, Marine vet Amir Hekmati, pastor Saeed Abedini and retired FBI agent Bob Levinson — often refer to the four as hostages. All have been held longer than the 1979 U.S. hostages.

At a Boston news conference Tuesday with Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and their Australian counterparts, Kerry insisted that “not a meeting went by, literally not a meeting, where we did not raise the issue of our citizens who are being held in Iran.”

“I’m not going to, you know, go backwards except to say that the families themselves of these hostages knew exactly what our strategy was and why it was important not to hold a nuclear agreement hostage to hostages, and in our judgment, it was the right thing to do because it could have complicated both significantly and perhaps have resulted in nothing happening on either.”

Kerry added that “it was the right strategy to pursue.”

....Asked about those words at today’s State Department briefing, press secretary John Kirby said the administration has not changed its policy of referring to the Americans as detainees instead of hostages.

“The word ‘hostage’ was simply misspeaking. There’s no change of policy,” Kirby said.

“So neither the secretary nor the administration believed that these Americans are hostages?” a reporter asked.

“We continue to — we continue to talk about Americans that are being detained in Iran,” Kirby replied.

When it was noted that Kerry used “hostage” three times, Kirby said, “I understand. There’s no change to our policy.”
They are hostages, but the administration doesn't want to abandon the fantasy that the Iranian government is an honorable one with whom we could make a deal and hand over $150 billion without getting anything in return except for promises.

Walter Russell Mead and Nicholas M. Gallagher explain how President Obama's actual goals in the Middle East are being accomplished. The problem is that these are the wrong goals for our country and the region.
Some of President Obama’s critics accuse him of lacking a strategy for the Middle East. This is far from the truth. From where the President sits, the Administration has a Middle East strategy, and it is just given him a huge success. The Iran nuclear deal, a deal that the President rammed through in defiance of his domestic critics, leaving them helplessly wringing their hands, is, the President believes, a triumph of American order building. Taking the nuclear issue off the table, and opening the door to a different kind of U.S.-Iran relationship will, President Obama believes, lead to a more peaceful region that requires less U.S. presence and power to police.
So how is this strategy working? The Iran deal was signed last Bastille Day, July 14, 2015—yet few observers are hailing that event as the kind of turning point the President wants. Post-deal, Iran and Russia are more hostile, and are working together in unprecedented ways to obstruct U.S. interests in the region and undermine U.S. leadership globally, America’s allies are less and not more confident in the value of the alliance, and from Turkey to Libya the forces of chaos are making more visible progress than the forces of order....

One problem is that while President Obama saw the nuclear deal as an opportunity to bridge divides with Iran, both Russia and Iran saw the negotiation as an opportunity to advance an anti-American agenda. While President Obama and his negotiating team were hunting for compromises and mutually face-saving agreements. Russia was looking for ways to turn the deal into a formula for destabilizing the region at Washington’s expense. Thus Russia insisted at the 11th hour in the negotiations on the lifting of a conventional weapons export ban. And even as President Obama scrambled to dodge Congressional scrutiny of the deal, Iran unhelpfully insisted that U.S. domestic debate consisted a material breach of the deal and rattled its sabers at home.

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Carl M. Cannon expresses what I've come to think about the Freedom Caucus in the House and how they forced John Boehner to resign without their having any replacement plan.
So what’s the moral of the story—and the path ahead for Republicans? The answer starts with the intentions of the four dozen conservative zealots who made Boehner’s professional life a living hell, and who torpedoed McCarthy before he could even get to purgatory. They call themselves the “Freedom Caucus,” but a better name would be the “We’ll Hold Our Breath Until We Turn Blue” Caucus.

These birds believe the government spends too much money. So does every other Republican on Capitol Hill. But the Freedom Caucus will not acknowledge a few basic facts of life. For starters, a national election was held in 2012 and Democrats won. The fruit of that victory occupies the Oval Office, and doesn’t share their spending priorities. Neither does any Democrat in Congress, all of whom have a vote. Yes, Republicans enjoy a majority, but that’s not the same thing as unanimity. Moreover, longstanding Senate rules mean that a simple majority in the upper chamber isn’t enough to enact sweeping change. And even before the Senate went Republican, these GOP radicals acted as though controlling one half of one of three co-equal branches of government gave them effective veto power. That’s just bad math.

They aren’t so good at history, either. These Tea Party types express a fetish for constitutional originalism, but denounce political compromise as the work of the devil. This is absurd. The document they claim to love was forged through compromise. That’s how politics still works.

Jonathan Rauch has an article about the 14-Year Rule which observes that successful presidential candidates have more than 14 years to get from their first gubernatorial or Senate victory. It works pretty well going back to the beginning of the 20th century except for Taft, Hoover, Eisenhower, and George H.W. Bush. This time both Bush and Clinton are past their "sell-by dates." And now we seem to be considering candidates who have too few years of experience.
tarting in 1996, the candidate with more experience begins consistently losing. Moreover, as the trend lines show, the inexperience premium has increased over time. That makes some sense: As voters have grown angrier with government, they have become more receptive to outsiders. Republicans, in general, are especially angry with government, so no one will be surprised to learn that since 1980 their presidential candidates have had, on average, three to four years’ less experience than the Democrats’ candidates.
People talk about Marco Rubio's short political experience on the national stage, but Ted Cruz was elected two years after Rubio.
Two generations ago, in 1962, the great political scientist James Q. Wilson wrote a prescient book, The Amateur Democrat, in which he pointed out that political amateurs who were unyielding in their righteousness had begun supplanting the political professionals who were willing to make deals and compromise. The ascendency of amateurism, he predicted, would cause social friction and governmental gridlock: “Political conflict will be intensified, social cleavages will be exaggerated, party leaders will tend to be men skilled in the rhetorical arts, and the party’s ability to produce agreement by trading issue-free resources will be reduced.”

That is a disagreeably accurate description of where we find ourselves today. It suggests why amateurism is a much better qualification for The Apprentice than for high political office. Being fresh is one thing. Half-baked is another.
I am not surprised that James Q. Wilson, one of the political thinkers I admire most and the author of the textbook I use for my A. P. Government and Politics class, would have so exactly foreseen what would be happening 50 years on.

It's good to be a politician.
No matter how they exited — a loss, a resignation, a retirement — former members of Congress can pretty much do whatever they want with leftover campaign cash as long as it's political or charitable.

Evan Bayh has kept $10 million in campaign contributions since leaving the Senate in 2011, raising plenty of questions about the Indiana Democrat's political future or perhaps his children's.

Mary Landrieu has more than $146,000 since her Senate loss last year and the Louisiana Democrat is talking about giving some of it to former Republican colleagues, much to the chagrin of Democrats.

Mark Foley, the Florida Republican who resigned in disgrace in 2006 after the revelation that he had sent sexually suggestive electronic messages to former male pages, is holding onto $1 million — and hoping for a political miracle.

In an age of furious fundraising, dozens of former senators and House members are sitting on tens of millions of dollars in unspent campaign money. They can't use it for personal expenses, but they can hold onto it indefinitely, donate it to political causes or give it to charity, as former Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman did when he gave $815,000 to a college scholarship program.
They should all be forced to hand it over to charities instead of hanging on to all that money. The speculation is that Senator Bayh is hanging on to all that money in case of any of his children run for office some day. It's the family business after all.

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Charles C. W. Cooke points to all the useless calls from politicians for amendments from the right or left that will never make it out of Congress, much less through three-fourths of the states. But there is one proposed amendment that might have bipartisan support (except for Donald Trump, of course).
Acknowledging this reality, it has become fashionable for commentators to predict with resignation that the United States Constitution will never be formally amended again and that, in consequence, the Supreme Court is now the whole game. At times, I have entertained this supposition myself. On closer inspection, however, I’m not entirely sure this is true. What would happen, I wonder, if Americans were presented with an important issue that had no obvious ideological or partisan home? What would happen if a supermajority were broadly opposed to a given court ruling? What would happen if a proposed amendment related to an extensively recognized individual protection?

What if the question were, say, property rights?
As he explains, the Court has been watering down the protections in the Fourteenth Amendment in several decisions culminating in the infamous Kelo v. New London decision, "which, as Robert VerBruggen has pithily put it, held not only that governments could take private property in order to eliminate pronounced social harms ('blight,” etc.), but “that ‘public use’ could include, well, private use, so long as the new property owner paid more in taxes than the previous one.'" It was a decision that angered those on the right and left.
Writing in Kelo for the four-justice minority, Sandra Day O’Connor consciously traced the NAACP’s primary objection, submitting that “the beneficiaries” of the ruling “are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms,” while the losers would be the weak and the poor. In a dissent of his own, Clarence Thomas concurred enthusiastically with this proposition, lamenting that “extending the concept of public purpose to encompass any economically beneficial goal guarantees that these losses will fall disproportionately on poor communities” — communities that “are not only systematically less likely to put their lands to the highest and best social use, but are also the least politically powerful.” That the court’s supposed “conservatives” sided with the NAACP while the court’s alleged “progressives” aligned with the state and with big business is instructive. Although it has yet to manifest itself at the highest judicial level, there is a growing split between younger progressives — who tend to be suspicious of the role that governments can play in enforcing unequal power dynamics — and older progressives, who are still wedded to a New Deal–era judicial ideology that is highly averse to the striking down of any economic regulation at all.

The case for a coalition is thus self-evident. For many progressives, the reversal of Kelo would deliver a blow to powerful, profit-seeking corporations and represent a boon to the powerless and the weak — the vast majority of whom are minorities, the NAACP notes. For independents, it would guarantee a reduction in the scope of that particularly pernicious form of cronyism that aids the reelection campaigns of the well-established (candidates would have less power to earn corporate funding, as they couldn’t help deliver property to corporate interests), as well as an assurance that they were safe in the ownership of their homes. And for conservatives — especially for those who bang on and on about individual liberty and the original meaning of the Constitution — it would serve as a momentous victory against the would-be architects and insatiable busybodies within America’s once-flourishing civil society.

RELATED: Colorado Couple May Lose Home in ‘Open Space’ Eminent Domain Seizure

Doubt that such an alliance exists, at least embryonically? Take a look around the country. Since the Kelo ruling was delivered in 2005, 45 states have sought to reverse it in at least some way, 22 of them seriously. “No other Supreme Court decision in all of American history,” Ilya Somin notes, “has generated so much state legislation.”

With this in mind, Somin has drafted an amendment, which he was kind enough to share for the first time here:

Section 1: Private property may not be taken by the United States or by any State except for a public use.

Section 2: For purposes of this amendment, a public use exists only if the condemned property is transferred to government ownership and control, if the general public has a legal right to access or utilize the property, or if the condemning authority proves by clear and convincing evidence that the use of eminent domain is necessary to eliminate a substantial threat to public health or safety.

Section 3: This amendment applies only to condemnations filed on or after the date of ratification.
I love it. Perhaps one of the GOP senators running for president could introduce it into the Senate and take a stand that would get bipartisan support and differentiate him from Donald Trump's self-serving support for taking private property to benefit companies that pay more taxes.

Ah, the neutrality of MSM employees as one NYT staffer tweets out an FU to Jeb Bush for saying that intergenerational poverty is not due to racism and that one solution would be to have stronger families.

The media also continue to be biased against Israel.
Among Palestinians, stabbing Israelis is in vogue at present — as are shooting them, ramming them with vehicles, and bludgeoning them with meat cleavers, all of which have also taken place in the “unrest” of the past few weeks. Seven Israelis have been killed and dozens wounded in attacks since Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year celebration, ended on September 15. The purported reason for the renewed violence is the rumor, despite Benjamin Netanyahu’s assurances to the contrary, that the Israeli government plans to reopen the Temple Mount to Jews. But the rash of violence is better explained by a century-long virus of hatred.

Western media outlets, as this latest flare-up reminds us, suffer their own mild case of this virus, manifested in their headlines. NBC News recently published a story entitled, “Dispute Over Viral Video of Shot Ahmed Manasrah Sums Up Israel-Palestinian Conflict.” What it summarizes is nothing; what it omits — that the wounded 13-year-old Palestinian and his 15-year-old cousin were shot after stabbing and seriously wounding two Israelis — is quite a bit. At the New York Times, there was, “Israeli Police Officers Kill Two Palestinian Men.” (Guess why). On its website, CNN blared, “Palestinian Youth: ‘Now We’ll Fight,’” with the subtitle, “Israeli-Palestinian Tensions Escalate with Four Violent Attacks.” Yahoo News got in on the action with, “Israeli Police Shoot Dead Palestinian at Entrance to Jerusalem’s Walled Old City,” which is both biased and grammatically ambiguous. And while no one expects Al Jazeera to be fair and balanced on this subject, its Twitter tease for a (less egregious) article on a stabbing that killed two Israelis in early October was nothing short of extraordinary: “Palestinian Shot Dead after Fatal Stabbing in Jerusalem; 2 Israeli Victims Also Killed.”

Overseas, coverage has been, if possible, worse. Earlier this month, the BBC titled an article “Palestinian Shot Dead after Jerusalem Attack Kills Two.” (The tweet advertising the article simply read, “Attacker kills two in Jerusalem.”) When that headline garnered the wrong kind of social-media attention, the BBC modified it — “Jerusalem Attack: Israelis Killed in Old City ‘By Palestinian’” — making use of what can only be called unorthodox punctuation. Soon, they stripped the quotation marks, then later changed the headline again: “Jerusalem: Palestinian kills two Israelis in Old City.” Meanwhile, the Independent wailed, “Israel Kills Pregnant Mother and Her Baby in Revenge Attacks,” a curious way of describing “airstrikes in Gaza targeting Hamas weapons manufacturing facilities,” as the article eventually acknowledges. (Links in original)
So why do so many journalists choose to downplay the violence perpetrated by these Palestinians and cast blame on Israel. How, besides bias and bigotry, to explain this twisting of news.
Conscious manipulation is on display here...but one senses, more than intent, the inevitable results of an implacable mindset. The New York Times and the BBC and the rest see what the Palestinians are doing; but they long ago committed themselves to making Israel’s legitimacy a matter of debate. They believe that the Jews have oppressed and occupied and reduced the Palestinians to poverty and despair. In such circumstances, they think, who wouldn’t lash out?

For nearly 70 years the Left has trafficked in false moral equivalences between terrorists and those in Israel defending themselves from terrorism. A responsible media would expose that unconvincing narrative. The one we’ve got has decided to participate in its propagation instead.

If you need more evidence, just tune in. The intifada will surely be televised.

And now Facebook is in trouble for allowing posts in Arabic that call for killing Jews.Carly Fiorina had a much better response than Donald Trump to a person in the audience spouting an anti-Muslim rant.

The media announced that Ben Carson was suspending his campaign so that he could go on a book tour. The campaign denies this and says he will be campaigning while having book signings. This is so silly. Any appearance he makes on behalf of his book would double as a campaign event. Any interview about his book would double as an interview of a presidential candidate. They aren't separate. It will probably be a helpful synergy for both.