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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Cruising the Web

Who was the brilliant GOP operative who scheduled a debate opposite both the World Series and the start of the NBA season with San Antonio playing Oklahoma City?

My, it's getting testy out there. First we had Jeb Bush exclaiming that he doesn't have to be running for president and could be doing unnamed cool things instead. He's ticked at Trump and annoyed that he has found it necessary to respond to Trump's jibes at him. Even Bush's advisers and supporters are cringing at Bush's outburst. Now we have John Kasich losing his temper with some of his GOP rivals complaining that "I've about had it with these people."
"We got one guy that says we ought to take 10 or 11 million people and pick them up, where the — I don't know where, we're gonna go in their homes, their apartments," Kasich said. "We're gonna pick them up and take them to the border and scream at them to get out of our country. That's just crazy. That is just crazy."

But Kasich did not stop there and also went after Ben Carson for his 10 percent flat tax proposal. Kasich has previously flirted with flat tax proposals.

"We've got one person saying we ought to have a 10 percent flat tax that'll drive up the deficit in this country by trillions of dollars that my daughters will spend the rest of their lives having to pay off," he said. "You know what I say to them is why don't we have no taxes, just get rid of them and then a chicken in every pot on top of it."

Kasich's rant continued as he reportedly called out former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush for taking pride in the nickname "Veto Corleone," for his usage of the line item veto as governor.

The Ohio governor told the crowd he was done being polite and listening to the "nonsense," before lamenting the state of the Republican Party.

"What has happened to our party?" he said. "What has happened to the conservative movement?"
Come on! What did they think running for president was going to be like? Kasich got into the race a month after Trump and, by the time he got in, Trump was already leading in the Real Clear Politics average of polls. Kasich might have been like most political observers and expected that Trump would soon collapse, but it shouldn't have been a surprise to him.

Both Bush and Kasich would be well advised to keep their cool. I understand that running for president is an exhausting, aggravating, and often demoralizing. But so is being president. Get over yourselves.

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The 538 folk discuss whether or not Ben Carson could actually "take out Donald Trump>" Henry Enten writes,
On average, Trump’s net favorability is +18 percentage points in the last four Iowa polls. That’s basically the same as it was the last time the same four pollsters were in the field (late August/early September), when it was +22. But there’s always been this sort of discord between Trump’s topline (horse race) numbers and his net favorability. We’d have thought, based off his net favorability, that he wouldn’t be leading the horse race.

Carson’s net favorability is +77 points! He’s much better liked. Net favorability isn’t always linked to doing the best in the horse race, but better-liked candidates generally do better. So I’ve always been skeptical of Trump’s numbers....

To a degree, but Trump’s net favorability wasn’t good to start off with. What’s finally happened, it seems, is that as voters are paying more attention, the better-liked Carson has jumped in front. Trump could remain just as popular as he is now and still lose — because he isn’t that popular. Voters just need to pay attention to the other candidates.
Enten also points out that Trump dos better in non-live-interview poll. Maybe people are a bit embarrassed to tell pollsters that they support Trump, but they can loosen up with an automated poll. Who knows? And who knows if Carson's lead in one national poll is an outlier or an augury of what is to come. What is hilarious is how Trump, the man who has rested his whole shtick on leading the polls, now questioning the science underlying the polls when they show Carson leading him.
“I think you have to understand polls…” Trump said. “I believe in polls. I generally believe in polls. The thing with these polls, they are all so different. They are coming from all over the lot where one guy is up here, somebody else is up there, you see swings of ten and twelve points immediately, even the same day.”

“So right now its not very scientific,” he said. “I think it’s very hard when you have this many. But over all Mark, I am a believer in polls, they say something.”
But what if they say that people aren't as crazy about Trump as they were a few weeks ago? Would that still be scientific?

Meanwhile, Philip Bump at The Fix answers all the criticisms that Trump's supporters have about polls that don't show him in the lead.

I think all the polls now are quite questionable. They might be okay for seeing the positions of candidates in general, but there is just too much doubt about what the electorate will be for the primaries to put much faith in these polls at this point. And the margins of errors are just too large to rely on these polls.

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Byron York reports that some GOP strategists are puzzled by Trump's decision to pivot to attacking Rubio seeing him as the one who has the most possibility of blocking Bush's path to the presidency since they occupy the same lane.
Trump is killing Bush. And Bush is fixating on Rubio. The Bush campaign has made an apparently irrevocable decision to focus on potential future threats instead of immediate, mortal danger. "They're talking about winning Florida," the unaffiliated strategist said. "They're not going to be in the race."

....Bush wants to tell the public about his solid, conservative record as governor of Florida. It's true. He was a solid, conservative governor of Florida. But Bush was first elected 17 years ago and left office almost nine years ago. After that, he mostly sat out the battles of the Obama years that so galvanized today's conservative activists.

That, along with his name, has made Bush seem like a figure from the past. "It's just the wrong cycle to have the last name Bush and be talking about what you did 10 or 15 years ago," says a strategist for another GOP campaign. Even if there were no Trump, voters might gravitate toward a newer candidate.

Bush is in deep, deep trouble, but he still has the resources to make it a good fight — if he stops thinking about March and starts thinking more about today.

William McGurn refutes the idea that Hillary is inevitable.
Mrs. Clinton’s record is a reminder that she is neither as fatally flawed as she was presented a couple of months ago nor as unbeatable as she may now appear. The truth is closer to what Mr. Obama, then the junior senator from Illinois, faced in 2008: an imposing candidate with at least three key weaknesses the GOP would do well to exploit.

First, and unlike in 2008, Hillary 2.0 has moved sharply left, to the point where she is now the candidate of a third Obama term. This will work well in Democratic primaries but will be a harder sell in the general campaign, where she will be tagged with every Obama failure, from the rise of Islamic State to the record number of Americans out of work.

Consider her assault on Bernie Sanders. In 2008, Mr. Obama deftly avoided playing the race card even as he benefited from it. By contrast, Mrs. Clinton has now made gender her signature credential. But it may not play the way she clearly expects: In April, the conservative political action committee American Crossroads released a survey reporting that eight out of 10 voters in battleground states say that Mrs. Clinton’s pitch to become the first woman president “makes no difference” to their support or opposition.

Second, Republicans don’t have to prove that Hillary Clinton is not to be trusted. Polls confirm the American people already know that. The challenge for a GOP nominee is to connect this fact—that Mrs. Clinton’s default mode is to deceive—with what this would mean if she became president.

Finally, as the former Obama adviser David Axelrod pointed out in his memoirs, Mrs. Clinton has two huge flaws: She’s polarizing and is a candidate of the past. In 2008 the Obama campaign attacked her in ads noting her coziness with Wall Street and accusing her of the “same old politics of phony charges and false attacks.”
Republicans should stop waiting for scandal to take her out. Instead keep remember how really unappealing she is.
Better to keep in mind that Mrs. Clinton has had only two victories at the ballot box, both in blue-state New York against GOP lightweights: former House member Rick Lazio in 2000 and former Yonkers Mayor John Spencer in 2006.

The only time Hillary Clinton ever faced a serious candidate—Barack Obama—she lost.

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Bernie Sanders has decided to start attacking Hillary. He missed his opportunity during the debate when he would have had a much bigger audience, but maybe he's decided not to roll over and be a prop in Hillary's coronation. James Taranto comments,
One wonders why Sanders didn’t say all these things during the debate two weeks ago in front of 15 million viewers. The simplest answer is that he’s essentially an amateur, never having run for office outside his eccentric home state. One wonders, too: If Sanders is willing to criticize Mrs. Clinton for her lack of ideological principles, will he also be willing to bring up her lack of ethics?

Sanders could be doing the GOP a big favor by pointing out Hillary's inconsistencies and flip flops. He's right that she flipped on gay marriage. And her twisting of the facts doesn't make her spin true.
Clinton defended her husband’s Sept. 21, 1996 signing of the bill on Friday, implying that it was a noble effort undertaken to prevent Republicans from pushing for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage altogether.

“On Defense of Marriage, I think what my husband believed — and there was certainly evidence to support it — is that there was enough political momentum to amend the Constitution of the United States of America, and that there had to be some way to stop that,” Clinton told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow.

But those who were familiar with deliberations in the Clinton White House say that that’s not what happened. Clinton’s presidential papers also show no evidence that fear of a constitutional amendment factored into support for the bill. Instead, Clinton signed DOMA when it landed on his desk — it passed both houses of Congress with ease — because it was politically convenient and because he was publicly opposed to gay marriage.

And though Clinton and his aides clearly believed that the bill was ginned up by Republicans as a wedge issue, he touted his support for the law in Christian radio ads leading up to the 1996 election.

The Washington Blade, a publication that focuses on LGBT issues, pointed to a 2013 op-ed from Elizabeth Birch, who served as executive director of the Human Rights Campaign when DOMA was signed into law.

“In 1996, I was President of the Human Rights Campaign, and there was no real threat of a Federal Marriage Amendment,” Birch wrote after Bill Clinton penned an op-ed of his own claiming that he signed DOMA in order to appease Republicans who sought a constitutional amendment.

When Mike McCarry, Clinton’s press secretary, discussed his former boss’ decision to sign DOMA, he also did not mention fear of an amendment.

“His posture was quite frankly driven by the political realities of an election year in 1996,” McCarry told The New York Times in 2013.
And Bill Clinton told his friend and biographer, Taylor Branch, said that he signed DOMA because he "thought it was right at the time." And he also told Branch that Hillary wasn't as comfortable with gays as he himself was.

Hey, the truth is a very malleable substance in Clinton hands.

Maybe Sanders just got fed up with Hillary's playing the gender card by saying that when Sanders says that "all the shouting in the world" wouldn't keep the wrong people from getting guns was actually a sexist taunt against Clinton. As Rich Lowry points out - all Hillary has these days is the gender card.
If Hillary is perfectly willing to use this tack against Sanders, a down-the-line supporter of the feminist policy agenda who has spent his adult life soaking in left-wing pieties, just wait until she gets into a race with Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, or any other Republican. No microaggression will be too “micro” to try to use to win a news cycle. Hillary will pretend to have the exquisite sensibilities of a campus feminist insisting she needs a “safe space” from the bristling hostility all around her.

Hillary has already broadcast that she’s going to wield her gender as an all-purpose argument for her candidacy. At the Democratic debate, she said she’s an outsider — because she’s a woman. She said she wouldn’t simply be the third term of Barack Obama — because she’s a woman. Hillary clearly doesn’t want anyone to be mistaken about what her gender is, as if we were living in 16th-century England when someone on the street exclaimed upon seeing Elizabeth I for the first time, “Oh Lord, the queen is a woman!”

There’s no doubt that there is appeal in “making history” with the first woman president. But Hillary also will need to do all she can to motivate women voters to make up for what may well be a historic poor showing among men. In the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, her favorable rating among white men was an abysmal 26 percent.

Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway says that there are three positive attributes that voters tend to attribute to women candidates in general: They are warm and understanding; they are new and fresh; they are honest. Hillary, a partisan warrior who’s been on the national stage for decades, usually trailed by an ethical cloud, is an imperfect vessel for all of those qualities. Which is why she’ll use her gender as a means of attack as much as a selling point.

In Iowa over the weekend, she defended playing the “gender card,” saying if that’s what it’s called when you stand up for women’s rights, then “deal me in.” Actually, she’ll be doing the dealing, and it will be from the bottom of the deck.
I can't bear the thought of hearing Hillary's sort of nonsense on gender for all next year and then for a potential four years while in office.

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You knew it had to happen that, as Carson rose in the polls, the media would start focusing on his religion. And Trump's clumsy knock on Seventh Day Adventists gave them the opportunity. I well remember all the wondering by pundits in 2012 if being a Mormon would hurt Romney among evangelical voters and now we're seeing some of the same murmuring. I really, really hate the inject of a candidate's religion into politics. Maybe it's because I am of a minority religion myself, but I find it very uncomfortable. I didn't like all the discussion of Joe Lieberman's faith in 2004 and the questions of whether he could step into the presidency when he keeps the Sabbath. It's disgusting enough when the media do it, but candidates should stay far away from that. Carson stepped in it himself by saying that he would support a Muslim for president. He should know better than making a blanket condemnation of some unidentified Muslim. He wouldn't like it if someone said they wouldn't support a Seventh Day Adventist for president. And I don't think that Trump will win points with evangelicals to bring up Carson's religion because evangelicals have already made it clear that they're crazy about Carson.

Though I have learned more about Seventh Day Adventists in the past couple of days than I ever expected to be learning this year. An employee at the world headquarters of the Seventhy-day Adventist Church has an informative column in USA Today celebrating some famous members of his faith and their contributions.

Ben Carson wants to have the federal government start policing political bias on college campuses. That might appeal to conservatives who are very, very tired of the liberal bias in our nation's universities. But conservatives shouldn't be supporting government investigation of political ideology. J. Christian Adams writes,
Carson trusts federal employees to “investigate” campus biases? Oh brother.

If Carson genuinely believes that, he hasn’t been paying attention to the last decade of behavior by lawyers at the Justice Department Civil Rights Division, as documented by PJ Media and others. Simply, if my former co-workers at the Justice Department or Department of Education were to “police bias” on college campuses, Dr. Carson can be assured that the thought-policing would be aimed only in one ideological direction. And now Carson wants to give them more power.

Attorney General Michael Mukasey, in contrast, has an understanding of the lawless mischief caused by the bureaucrats Carson would empower. Before Dr. Carson makes any more dangerously naive civil rights policy announcements, he should bone up on some of the expansive coverage of the Civil Rights Division’s abuse of power, under both Republican and Democrat administrations.
He links to a lot of stories about the abuse of power by federal bureaucrats as they insert their political biases into their actions.
Perhaps Carson thinks that if he were president, he could lord over these bureaucrats and ensure a neutral administration of the federal government’s Ben Carson Bias Policing. Such confidence demonstrates an even more misguided naivete.

For starters, the bureaucrats make imposing telephone calls to targets that their career superiors never learn about, much less their political superiors.

These telephone calls can be a form of enforcement that escapes oversight. But that’s just one of many tricks and tools used inside the federal government by partisan bureaucrats to enforce their worldview.

If Carson wants to unleash swarms of federal government Ben Carson Bias Cops against ideological “biases” on college campuses, Carson must not understand what would inevitably happen if the federal government gets involved. He can be sure the bias policing would be aimed at “micro-aggressions” by conservatives, not at the actual campus culture of suffocating left-wing bias.

Conservatives have an appreciation of how power is granted, and then abused. Let’s hope Dr. Carson begins to appreciate it. Let’s also hope Carson reverses course on his latest policy blunder. Until that happens, he can probably count on the newfound support of the ideological federal bureaucrats he would empower to police what few conservative campus biases remain.

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Donald Trump seems to be having a hard time figuring out how to attack Ben Carson. The "low energy" attack didn't seem to work and trying to raise questions about his religion probably backfired. So now he's left attacking Carson for what he, Trump, is even more guilty of.
Trump challenged Carson's strict anti-abortion position, which Trump said wasn't always the same.

"Ben was pro-abortion not so long ago as everybody has told me," Trump said.

Trump was most likely referring to Carson's tenure as a pediatric neurosurgeon when he referred pregnant patients with genetic abnormalities to doctors who also perform abortions - a decision Carson defends pointing to the importance of "qualified medical supervision."

But the problem with Trump's statement is that his own record is not very consistent. In an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press" in 1999, Trump said that while he "hates" the idea of abortion he is "very pro-choice."
So that's not going to work. So he's left with making vauge threats that there is something awful in Carson's record, yet he won't tell us what that is.
"I think Ben Carson has a lot of problems with his record. If you look at his record, including going back in past and, you know, those problems are going to start to come out," Trump said in his "Morning Joe" interview. "I think people will look at that and they will look at lots of other things including what happened in hospitals and what he was working on and a lot of things I hear."

Trump's campaign did not respond to a request for clarification...
Next, Trump will be heading to Wheeling, West Virginia to tell us that he's holding a list of Carson's problems with his record. And he'll deserve as much respect for these sorts of unnamed allegations as Joe McCarthy did for his.

It used to be that the argument for Donald Trump was that "he fights." That's changed. Now, "he begs."
He claimed that political analysts kept telling him to skip Iowa — a place where evangelical voters play an outsize role in the GOP caucuses. He insisted that he told them no. But Trump struck a wounded role.

"Will you get these numbers up?" he pleaded. "I promise you I will do such a good job. First of all, I am a great Christian. And I do well with the evangelicals, but the evangelicals let me down a little bit this month. I don't know what I did.

To underscore his credentials as a Christian, the campaign handed out a picture of Trump at his 1959 Confirmation ceremony.

Ed Morrissey takes on Hillary Clinton's bizarre downplaying of the VA scandal in order to blame it on the Republicans' scandalmongering.
Clinton's claims that the fraud wasn't "widespread" depends on the definition of the word. Would 64 percent of all VA facilities be considered "widespread"? That was the finding from the VA itself. More than six in 10 facilities kept unofficial wait lists to prevent oversight of their lack of responsiveness to the veterans trapped within the VA system. The Los Angeles VA destroyed records to cover up their own fraud. The same VA audit blamed a demand for a 14-day average wait for access (which it called "simply not attainable" with the resources provided) "an organizational leadership failure" — which certainly sounds "widespread."

Even President Obama, whose administration failed to deal with this fraud for more than five years despite having been warned specifically about it during the 2008 transition to the White House, didn't try to defend the indefensible. "What they've found is that the misconduct has not been limited to a few VA facilities, but many across the country," Obama said in May 2014. The exposure of this scandal led to a singular moment of executive accountability in this administration as Obama demanded and received Eric Shinseki's resignation as secretary of Veterans Affairs. Shinseki remains the only Obama Cabinet official forced to resign for poor performance.

This was all over the systemic fraud that Clinton argues now was mostly a figment of Republican imaginations.

Why is Clinton defending the VA and dismissing the real and admitted plight of veterans? Maybe to distinguish herself from Bernie Sanders, who seemed open to allowing for private care based on lack of access at VA facilities in the spring of 2014. More likely, though, is that Clinton decided to ride the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy for one too many victory laps around the track after the Benghazi hearings.
Morrissey ties her seeming indifference to the miseries suffered under the VA to her exclamation about "What difference does it make" to find out what had gone on in Benghazi.
Clinton had already come under fire for her cavalier attitude in the initial Benghazi Senate hearings, with her infamous "what difference at this point does it make" rejoinder to Sen. Ron Johnson over the deaths of four Americans in a poorly secured State Department facility operating in an area known to be rife with radical Islamic terror groups. After having established the argument that Republican probes into what led to those deaths are nothing more than election-year politics, Clinton now suggests that the deaths of dozens if not hundreds of veterans in a badly managed government monopoly matters less than defending the big-government approach to health care.

That doesn't sound presidential. It sounds paranoid and ignorant, and it should cause the media to take a second look at the so-called triumph last week. At the very least, perhaps news outlets might wonder just what qualifies for accountability in Clinton's world.

Wow. This is quite a confession.
Lenny Dykstra says his prodigious walk totals didn’t come from a great eye, but hiring great private eyes.

The former Met told Fox’s Colin Cowherd that – in his effort to get a huge contract – he spent $500,000 to hire private investigators to turn up dirt on Major League Baseball umpires, and then used that intel to coerce them into giving him a favorable strike zone.

“I said I need the umpires, [so] what do I do? I just pulled out half a million bucks and hired a private investigate team to follow them,’’ said Dykstra, who won the 1986 World Series with the Mets.

“Their blood is just a red as ours. Some of them like women, some of them like men, some of them gamble, some of them do whatever.’’
Why come out and brag about this now?

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