Thursday, December 17, 2015

Cruising the Web

Leon Wolf, who admires and likes Ted Cruz, writes at Red State that Cruz has a problem. Refusing to criticize Donald Trump makes perfect sense from a political perspective. He wants to win those supporters if/when they leave Trump. And it makes political sense for him to attack Marco Rubio who is his chief competitor. He is also selling himself as the one man in Washington who is a true principled conservative.
And all I will say is this – it’s Sen. Ted Cruz's prerogative to attack whoever he wants, wherever he wants, for whatever reason he wants. After all, he is trying to win a race. But if he continues to go after the actually conservative Sen. Marco Rubio, while at the same time playing public footsie with the fraudulent Donald Trump, I’m less and less going to consider him one of two equally acceptable choices for the nomination.

Having called Marco Rubio a liar, unprincipled, and someone who doesn’t understand the issues, he better discover soon that Donald Trump is without question a much bigger unprincipled liar who has no understanding of the issues, and muster the testicular fortitude to say so in public. If you’re going to be a happy warrior who doesn’t attack other Republicans no matter what they say about you, then be that happy warrior. If you’re going to be an attack dog when attacked, then turn the same vitriol on Trump that you turned on Rubio last night. You can’t have it both ways.
If Cruz really believes in the principles that he says he does, he shouldn't be so blithely accepting and complimentary to Trump who is only pretending to be a conservative and a Republican. This is what has so infuriated me about Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin's praise of Donald Trump. Trump is not a conservative. Ted Cruz is demonstrating that he's placing political expediency over principle.

The word that I've been thinking of to describe Cruz's maneuvering is "slick." Charles C. W. Cooke also thinks that Cruz is sounding "like a slick lawyer" in the way he "parsed his words on the question of amnesty."
. Asked by Rubio whether he had ever fought “to support legalizing people that are in this country illegally?” — and, moreover, whether he would “rule out#….#legalizing people that are in this country now?” — Cruz eschewed the “straight talk” for which he so desperately wants to be famous and retreated into the worst of lawyers’ poses: “I have never supported legalization,” he claimed, “and I do not intend to support legalization.” Then, for good measure, he suggested that Rubio was trying to confuse his viewers.

As one might imagine, the veracity of Cruz’s statement rests heavily upon what he means by “legalization.” Had he been pressed further, Cruz would presumably have argued that, unlike Marco Rubio, he has never supported a “path to citizenship.” As far as I can see, that’s absolutely true. But — and this matters a great deal — that’s not really what most Republican voters mean by “legalization,” is it? Over the last few years, that word has been wielded by border hawks as a catch-all criticism of any proposal that would yield governmental recognition of those who are in America illegally. By that standard, Cruz’s asseveration was clearly false. And, one suspects, he knew it.
We are now being reminded about the amendment that he offered to the Gang of Eight bill to make those 11 million people who are here to be "eligible for legal status and indeed under the terms of the bill they would be eligible for LPR status as well, so that they are out of the shadows.” You can watch him say this in the Judiciary Committee in 2013 on Senator Cruz's youtube channel. Now he's trying to sell us that this amendment that he spoke about publicly at the time as the way to make sure that the Gang of Eight bill would pass was really just a poison pill amendment.
Coming from anybody in public life, this duplicity would be disappointing. But from Ted Cruz, the self-styled anti-politician, it is disastrous. This is the sort of slimy behavior that we expect from Bill Clinton or Harry Reid, not from the straight-talking, Churchillian foe of all that is unholy about Washington, D.C. There is a time for parsing the difference between “legalization” and “citizenship,” and for debating the strength of “intend to” versus “will never.” But primary season is not it. Now is the summer of strong promises and bold visions. The negotiating can come later.

Unfortunately, indulging in clever linguistic games is rather a hobby of Cruz’s. Asked earlier this year to comment on the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, Cruz suggested on NPR that “those who are not parties to the suit are not bound by it.” In the American system of law, he continued, there is “no legal obligation” on the part of either citizens or the government “to acquiesce to anything other than a court judgment.”

Narrowly speaking, this was of course true. Practically, though, it was willfully misleading. Because both federal district and circuit courts are required to follow the Supreme Court’s precedents, those who rebel against a given ruling will inevitably find their recalcitrance short-lived. As an accomplished lawyer and an extremely smart man, Cruz understood this well. That he chose to mislead his supporters nonetheless betrayed a certain disrespect for their intelligence. If, as his truest advocates continue to suggest, he is the “only one” who can beat the mistrusted front-runner on the other side of the aisle, he’ll have to do better next time around.
Is Ted Cruz really endorsing the idea that citizens ignore Supreme Court decisions and try and see if they'll get pulled into court? What about decisions that conservatives like? Is Cruz telling us that he would endorse civil disobedience by anyone for any Court decision that they're not a party to and they don't like? Imagine the chaos that would ensue?

I used to really like Cruz when he was Solicitor General in Texas and when he was running for the Senate. I wasn't all that fond of his grandstanding to shut down the government in order to defund Obamacare. But maybe his effort did a bit more than grab headlines and perhaps people heard a sentence or two about why Obamacare is bad. Maybe it made those who voted for Republican senators feel that, at least someone was expressing their anger. Who knows? However, I suspect that most people just remember that he read his daughters "Green Eggs and Ham." For all Cruz's derision toward Rubio, Rubio's amendment to the budget to shut down government bailouts of insurance companies did a whole lot more to endanger Obamacare than anything any other Republican has done.

Now read this transcript from a visit Ted Cruz made to Princeton to talk with his former professor Robert P. George and Cruz's description of his proposed amendment. It seems pretty clear what Cruz was saying about legalization of illegal immigrants back then.
George followed up, “If I’ve understood you correctly, you would actually grant current illegal immigrants, or at least some substantial portion of those who are here unlawfully, permanent status? Green card status? So this is not a deportation bill, proposal or self-deportation as Romney called it, or anything like that. The disagreement is about whether they should be granted citizenship, through some mechanism, through some process, not whether they should be moved from illegal status to legal status?”

Cruz replied, “The amendment I introduced affected only citizenship; it did not affect the underlying legalization in the Gang of Eight bill.”
Jim Geraghty comments,
Asked directly, Cruz had every opportunity to state that he didn’t intend for his amendment to be adopted or for the Gang of Eight bill to pass at all and in fact replied the opposite. At no point did he describe his amendment as a poison bill or procedural maneuver to derail the bill. He had every chance to say he opposed a legal status for illegal immigrants and didn’t do so.

At this point, there is no reason to believe that in 2013, Ted Cruz opposed a path to legalization (not citizenship) for illegal immigrants.
I just saw Bret Baier question Ted Cruz on Fox News and Cruz seemed very slippery trying to explain away his 2013 amendment. He had a lot of trouble explaining away what he said on tape in 2013. If youi watch the tape of that interview, Cruz seems...slick.
He could admit that he changed his mind, but then he'd sound just like Marco Rubio who claims to have changed his mind since the Gang of Eight bill.

After the success of the Clintons and Barack Obama and now Donald Trump, I've gotten very cynical about how the public will ignore the exposure of hypocrisy and outright lies for politicians they like. So those who like Cruz will either not see or ignore this clear evidence that >Cruz is being dishonest about his record on immigration while accusing Rubio of being dishonest about his record. Guy Benson concludes,
Cruz wants to bash Rubio as pro-'amnesty' (again, there's ample material to work with) while preserving rhetorical wiggle room for himself to tack back to the center by proposing widespread, non-citizenship legalization. This has been stance for some time, even as he's been exceedingly cagey about it in recent weeks. Cruz is likely concerned that by conceding this point, his criticism of Rubio would be less potent and might allow Rubio to further "muddy the waters," as he puts it in the debate clip. And that is what Rubio's trying to do, by the way. Unfortunately, in order to frame primary voters' choice in the most politically advantageous way possible, Cruz is being dishonest -- while accusing Rubio of being dishonest. Disappointing.
Marco Rubio might never be able to recover from his work in the Gang of Eight. There are enough people in the Republican electorate who will not forget it. He rolled the dice to try to achieve a comprehensive reform and thought the way to do it was to compromise with the Democrats. And he will pay for that choice the rest of his political life.

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If Donald Trump insults a candidate, wait a day or two and he'll take it all back. He said that Ben Carson was pathological and compared him to a child molester, but now Carson is one of the finest men he's known. And on Sunday, he said that Cruz acted like a maniac. And during the debate he took it all back because he has "gotten to know him over the last three or four days. He has a wonderful temperament." John Fund comments,
Hmmm. Of course, perhaps Trump’s answer was just a complete joke. (He and Cruz have not been together since Sunday). But even in politics, shifting from outright condemnation to the warm embrace of an opponent in a matter of days just shows how improvised and insincere the Trump political operation is. Can we take seriously ANYTHING that he says about others and, if so, for how long?
Remember that when he swears that he won't run as an independent as long as the GOP treats him fairly in some undefined way that is clear only in Trump's mind.

I'm right on board with Ian Tuttle's criticism of Carly Fiorina's playing the gender card.
She struck one very sour note, though. Outlining her counter-terror strategy, and addressing her qualifications to be commander-in-chief, she wrapped up this way: “I’ll just add that Margaret Thatcher once said, ‘If you want something talked about, ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman.’”

I’m all for emulating the Iron Lady, but that particular line, employed in anything more than a tongue-in-cheek way, is fairly hideous given current political realities. Across the aisle, the Democratic frontrunner has made clear that her fitness for executive office has an extraordinary amount to do with her genitalia. She’s called her critics sexist, aired an ad with elementary-age girls declaring Hillary should be president because girls rule and boys drool, and, when asked how her presidency would differ from President Obama’s, responded, “Well, I think that’s pretty obvious: Being the first woman president would be quite a change from the presidents we’ve had, including President Obama.” She doesn’t want you to vote for her because she’s a woman . . . but she wants you to vote for her because she’s a woman.

That men and women bring different natural inclinations and casts of mind to positions of responsibility seems to me obvious. (And if you’re not convinced, there are plenty of studies on this subject, perhaps the best being Harvey Mansfield’s perceptive book, Manliness.) But Hillary is not making philosophical arguments about gender differences; she’s simply plying the playground tribalism of those aforementioned elementary schoolers. And you can be sure that, as the election comes closer, women who don’t support Hillary will be condemned as “traitors” to their sex, much like Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz and Clarence Thomas and Tom Sowell are traitors to their race.

Carly does not have to stoop to that, even momentarily. She is an accomplished, thoughtful, articulate woman; if she thinks men are from Mars and women aren’t, and that her Venusian virtues are an advantage, she is fully equipped to make the case. But that Lady Thatcher line doesn’t do it. Conservatives are respecters of individuals, and of reasoned arguments over mating calls, and should act and speak accordingly.
Yes! If we despise Hillary's acting as if being a woman is a major reason why people should vote for her, we shouldn't buy it from a Republican woman.

Chris Matthews tried to pin Donald Trump down on whether he still thinks Barack Obama was not born in the United States. Trump refused to answer because he doesn't want the media to focus on that craziness instead of on the other Trump craziness they can focus on. THis is the question I'd like answered by all the Obama Birthers. If Obama supposedly being born in Kenya to an American citizen and her African husband somehow disqualified him from being president, do they think that Ted Cruz being born in Canada to an American citizen and her Cuban-born husband is similarly disqualified? I never got the whole birther controversy. As long as Obama's mother was an American, and no one said she wasn't, then he is an American citizen wherever he was born. I think both Obama and Cruz are "natural born citizens." But Trump was fully on board all that birther craziness when it was about Obama; why isn't he doing the same thing for Cruz?

Meanwhile, you can read this explanation Gabriel J. Chin of the University of Arizona's law school of what the phrase "natural born citizen" means in history and the law.

Michael Barone disappoints political aficionados and punctures the balloons of excitement about a possibly brokered GOP convention.
I have bad news for those looking forward to a deadlocked convention. It. Isn't. Going. To. Happen.
His argument is that conventions used to be the only place where all the delegates could gather together and negotiate among themselves to pick a candidate. But now we have modern communications and delegates talk to each other before they get to Cleveland.
So what happens if no Republican candidate emerges with a delegate majority from the 2016 primaries and caucuses? Does everybody wait for the convention to convene in Cleveland to see who emerges as the nominee?

The answer is yes — if you do a few other things first. Like ban long-distance phone calls, jet travel, and media delegate counts and of course shut down the Internet. Then the national convention can function again as national conventions did up through the 1950s.

Otherwise the negotiations that used to take place only at national conventions will be going on all around us — as they already are and have been for months.

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Ronald Brownstein has an interesting analysis of states
other than New Hampshire and Iowa that could be determinative to the election. He puts the states on a chart with two axes on percentage of college-educated citizens and the number of evangelical voters. That can perhaps give us an idea of which states Cruz, Trump, and Rubio would be most competitive in.

Paul Waldman argues in The Week t
hat we shouldn't be so impressed with political campaign's use of microtargeting of voters such as Obama used in 2012 and Cruz is using this year.
This vision of highly sophisticated, algorithm-driven campaigns isn't completely inaccurate. But it's missing an important piece, the piece that is supposed to make it all seem either exciting or sinister, depending on your perspective. That missing piece is persuasion. In short, campaigns know how to find you in ways they never did before. But once they've found you, they haven't gotten any better at winning you over.
Waldman points out that we've had voter-targeting for decades; it is just so much more powerful now when they can get so much more information about us and then classify what issues we might be interested in and what message might persuade us.
The problem is what happens after they've identified you.

That's because once they've employed all that 21st century technology to decide who you are and what you believe, the tools at their disposal to change your vote are pretty primitive. They might have a volunteer call you on the phone and read from script 16A instead of 16B or 16C. They might send you a flyer — one tailored to you, of course, but still a flyer in your mailbox that you'll probably glance at before tossing in the trash. Or they might even put an ad in your Facebook feed, after they've carefully mapped your social network. And you'll pay as much attention to it as you do to the rest of the ads you see on Facebook. They may have fancy new tools of analysis, but their tools of persuasion are still pretty mundane.

And, of course, those tools are dependent in large part on voter ignorance to have an impact, just like most campaign communication. If the Cruz campaign has discovered that you have a concealed weapon permit and sends you an email saying, "Did you know that Ted Cruz is a fervent supporter of the Second Amendment?", the only way you're going to say, "Wow, I think Ted Cruz is my guy!" is if you're unaware that every Republican candidate is a fervent supporter of the Second Amendment.

Maybe you are unaware, in which case that email might do its job. But this is a difference in degree, not in kind, from what candidates have always done: tailored their message to whomever they're talking to. The candidate will emphasize his military hawkishness when he's at the VFW hall, or talk about health care on a visit to a hospital, or blurt out "Who let the dogs out? Hoo! Hoo!" upon finding himself amidst a group of African-American teens. Those appeals are the same kind of probability assessment: These are the type of people who probably care about this sort of thing, so that's what I'll talk to them about. But it doesn't mean they'll change their minds.

Fortunately, persuasion always has its limits. A well-run data operation can help a campaign keep in touch with its voters efficiently, and figure out what kinds of emails are better at bringing in donations and getting people to volunteer, and help the campaign spread its message as widely as possible. But microtargeting can't turn Ted Cruz into a likeable human, or make Ben Carson knowledgeable about policy, or give Jeb Bush charisma. In the end, the candidacy depends on the man or woman whose face is on all those flyers and web pages and ads.
In some ways, I think he's right about how people ignore all the ads and mailers and phone calls. I still think that one of the best Get-Out-The-Vote techniques I've heard about was what George W. Bush used in 2004 by having volunteers in key neighborhoods go door-to-door to talk to their neighbors about why they were supporting Bush. I remember reading about how the Republicans were using neighbors in Ohio to make their arguments while the Kerry campaign was sending in college kids to make their arguments. It seems that people would at least listen to their neighbor, but be relatively unimpressed with the college kid knocking on their doors. Obama's campaign used microtargeting to goose up their GOTV efforts in 2012 and seemed to have been very successful in bringing out voters who might not have voted before. Sasha Issenberg wrote a book, The Victory Lab, about how much better the Obama campaign was at microtargeting. Maybe that only worked because Barack Obama had a special appeal. Who knows, but Reince Priebus put a lot of effort into updating the Republicans' operation and bragged that it paid off in the 2014 elections. Turnout surges in key Senate elections that year for Republicans seem to be proof that it worked. So I'm going to hold off on accepting Waldman's premise that microtargeting is much overrated.

Nate Silver explains Donald Trump's poll numbers by pointing a finger at media coverage. Trump has received so much more media attention than all the other candidates out there of both parties. And poll numbers at the point in the election correlate with media coverage.
Trump has received about the most disproportionate media coverage ever for a primary candidate. The risk to Trump and candidates like him is that polling built on a foundation of media coverage can be subject to a correction when the news environment changes.
Silver estimates that, since July, Trump has received 54% of coverage of the GOP primary. Leon Wolf estimated back in September that CNN has spent 78% of its time covering the GOP primary on Trump. Chris Stirewalt reports that, in the week following Trump's plan to refuse to allow Muslims into the country, he received 25 times mentions on air than the rest of the GOP field combined.
On Monday, the day before he proposed the religious test for entry, there were 19,355 unique mentions of Trump across all media in the U.S. Way more than his rivals, but within a measurable range.

His average for the Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday was 64,638 mentions, a 234 percent increase in the size of his already huge media footprint. The combined score of every other candidate combined added up to the paltry average of 2,566 mentions over the same time.

We’ve always known that Trump’s skill at creating and exploiting media hysteria gave him an advantage over his rivals. Now we know how big that advantage is: about 62,000 more mentions than everyone else put together.
Silver then goes on to point out how media coverage corresponds to poll numbers.
Historically, in fact, there has been nearly a one-to-one correspondence between a candidate’s share of media coverage and his share of the vote in the polls. That is, other things held equal, a candidate earning 30 percent in national polls tends to get about 30 percent of the media coverage, while one polling at 10 percent will get 10 percent of it instead. It’s just that simple.8

Thus, we can readily compare a candidate’s share of media coverage to his polling average. Trump, for example, has received an average of 28 percent of the Republican vote in national polls since July, according to HuffPost Pollster. Prorate that number upward to exclude undecided voters and candidates who have exited the race, and you get him up to 32 percent. By comparison, Trump has received 54 percent of the media coverage of the GOP race, so his media coverage has exceeded his share in the polls by 22 percentage points.
Silver then points to other candidates like Jesse Jackson, Virginia Governor Douglas Wilder, Rick Perry, and Howard Dean whose media coverage overbalanced their poll numbers. His analysis of those candidates' campaigns points to some dangers for Trump.
But media-dependent candidates have considerably more volatility and uncertainty in their results once the voting takes place; a higher share of media coverage is correlated with a higher error in predicting a candidate’s eventual vote share.

Here’s how that could be a problem for Trump. Despite how contentious the Republican race has become, the overwhelming majority of Republican voters are still considering multiple candidates and have a favorable impression of several Republicans. Trump has consistently led in polls when voters are asked for their first choice, but his net favorability ratings are only in the middle of the pack. In other words, he’s converting an unusually high percentage of potential supporters into people who list him as their first choice.

How is he managing to pull that off? Some of it may be because he excites voters more than other candidates do — and differentiates himself more from the pack. But some of it may also be because he comes up first in voters’ minds because of the way he’s so dominated news coverage of the race.
Silver models the predicted polling average for a candidate based on their net favorability rating and their share of media coverage. His analysis explains the jump that Trump received in the polls following his proposal about barring Muslims from entering the country.

The real question is if Trump can sustain his strategy of dominating the media coverage. Trump has a built-in advantage as long as he's leading in the polls, because the media will pay more attention to him.
But that will change as debates occur more frequently (there are three scheduled between now and Iowa) and other candidates begin to drop out of the race. Ted Cruz is also emerging as a potential foil to Trump, when one may have been lacking before. Most importantly, Republicans will begin going to the polls, starting Feb. 1 in the Iowa caucuses.

My guess is that most of these eventualities represent more downside than upside for Trump, simply because his dominance of the news cycle is so complete right now that other candidates almost can’t help but catch up. One of the usual rewards for winning Iowa or New Hampshire is a massive increase in media coverage, but Trump already has plenty of it. If Cruz or Rubio were to win one of those states, conversely, the newly won attention could help them convert their broad acceptability across the Republican electorate into first place in the polls and in future states.

So far, however, Trump has exploited every opportunity to keep his momentum going. And even if his candidacy is a bubble, there’s a chance that it won’t burst until after he’s started racking up delegates and primary wins.
The one concern I have is that the media will continue their obsessive focus on Trump because it helps their ratings. Read this lengthy essay by Dan McLaughlin to apply military strategy to the GOP race. It's fascinating and he draws on Silver's analysis to also predict that Trump's bubble will burst. But that is only if the media changes their focus and if Trump doesn't alter his tactics as the terrain of the campaign changes once people start voting.

It's a fascinating essay. We regularly use military terminology to apply to political campaigns. That's why they're called campaigns. It's interesting to see what military strategy would say about the campaign.

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This is troubling. John R. Schindler reports on the impact that Edward Snowden's leaking of information about the NSA has damaged our counterterrorism efforts.
While the importance of metadata to American counterterrorism will continue to be a hot-button topic, the disastrous effect of the Snowden affair and its political aftershocks on our intelligence agencies is not up for debate. Neither is the fact, as attested to by several Western intelligence chiefs, that Snowden’s leaks have made terrorists more careful in their communications, and therefore more difficult to intercept. Just as bad, several top secret NSA programs, beyond metadata, that assisted counterterrorism have been downscaled since 2013 out of fears they may “look bad” if leaked.

“Before Snowden we had a definite bias for action,” explained a senior NSA official with extensive experience in counterterrorism. “But now we all wonder how the White House will react if this winds up in the newspapers.” “It’s all legal,” the official added, “the lawyers have approved, and boy do we have lots of lawyers – but will Obama throw us under the bus again?”

That concern is widespread in American counterterrorism circles, where the Obama administration’s worries about appearing “Islamophobic” are well known. This White House early on warned intelligence personnel about using the term “Islamic terrorism” even in classified reports that would never be released to the public. “Since 2009 we’ve opened investigations of groups we knew to be harmless,” explained a Pentagon counterterrorism official, “they weren’t Muslims, and we needed some ‘balance’ in case the White House asked if we were ‘profiling’ potential terrorists.”
Now we learn that the DHS banned looking at the public postings of visa and immigration applicants because they feared that it would make us look bad. It's not clear that anything that Tashfeen Malik posted would have been available to view through her public settings. But the Obama's concern over bad PR is really laughable. Why shouldn't our officials use everything available when they're screening such applicants? If it's public and can be located, just google the person. What we're coming to realize is that the screening procedures are rather cursory. I don't think we're in the world of the movie Green Card where Gerard Depardieu and Andie MacDowell are grilled by INS officials to see if they are in a real marriage and not just pretending so he can stay in the U.S. The whole premise of that very enjoyable movie would be ridiculous in light of what we've learned about DHS and INS.

David Harsanyi has some good recommendations of Muslims that Republicans should invite to the State of the Union address.
In addition to the numerous Muslim-born heroes and heroines who’ve escaped the extremism and the rigid illiberalism of Islam who deserve a seat at SOTU, be sure to bring Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the famed Somali women’s rights advocate. She has an incredibly compelling personal story to tell about overcoming the intolerance of radical Islam. Let her talk about the battle against female genital mutilation and her fight for the reformation of Islam. She would be the sort of courageous woman whose actions epitomize the much-needed pushback against extremism that Barack Obama mentioned in his speech after San Bernardino attacks.

Bring Taslima Nasrin, who was forced to flee Bangladesh in 1994 when extremists threatened to kill her after publication of the novel “Shame,” which explored the Muslim persecution of Hindus. And bring Nonie Darwish, the Egyptian-American human rights activist who is trying to bring together Jews and Muslims. Or invite Wafa Sultan, the doctor and activist who in 2006 famously told her misogynistic interviewer on the Al Jazeera to “shut up.” Maybe bring Ibn Warraq, who writes on the secularization of Islam. It’s about time average Americans see that Muslims are represented by people other than CAIR.
We know that the Democrats will have some Muslim guest in the audience to bolster their talking points about how the Republicans are anti-Muslim. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is already urging her colleagues to do so. Harsanyi is exactly right that the Republicans should invite their own guests to bolster their message that there are courageous Muslims around the world who are risking their lives in order to fight back the murderous tyranny of radical Islamists.

Jonah Goldberg ponders why the war on guns hasn't succeeded in the way that the war on tobacco has. He reminds us how cool smoking used to be in the movies. That was one of the premises in one of the funniest movies I've ever seen, Thank You for Smoking, as Aaron Eckhart plays a cigarette lobbyist arranging to get a movie-maker to insert scenes of cool people smoking. Goldberg has a theory that I hadn't thought of.
There are, of course, a great many reasons why we’ve seen such a remarkable shift in such a short span of time, though medical science is probably the biggest. But there’s another factor that doesn’t get its due. Smoking was, until recently, a very bipartisan habit. City mice and country mice alike would walk a mile for a Camel.

The universality of smoking made it possible to proselytize against it without unleashing a full-blown kulturkampf. Sure, conservatives and libertarians complained — often correctly by my lights — about lost liberties, but an attack on smoking, backed up by solid evidence, didn’t simultaneously feel like an attack on one cultural group by another.

Because nonsmokers knew smokers, the war on tobacco could be fought face-to-face in our homes, businesses, movie theaters, planes, trains, and automobiles. And when nonsmokers pleaded with their friends and loved ones to give up tobacco, they at least understood the appeal of smoking. Cigarette America wasn’t a foreign country. You can’t say the same thing about Gun America....

The absence of guns in urban liberal environments leads to a kind of Pauline Kaelism. Kael is — apocryphally — credited with saying she couldn’t believe Richard Nixon won the election because she didn’t know anyone who voted for him.

Likewise, many urban liberals only hear about guns when they’re used in crimes, and simply can’t imagine why anyone would want one. As a result, they’re tone-deaf in their arguments.

Even worse than the tone-deafness is the arrogant condescension. In the 2008 campaign, when Barack Obama tried to explain why some rural voters were not supporting him, he infamously said that it was out of bitterness — a bitterness that caused them to “cling” to their guns and their religion. Obama has been trying to unring that bell ever since.

To urban liberals, guns are like cigarettes — products that when used as intended only hurt or kill people, and that are also low-class and crude. The Second Amendment, Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten wrote, is “the refuge of bumpkins and yeehaws who like to think they are protecting their homes against imagined swarthy marauders desperate to steal their flea-bitten sofas from their rotting front porches.”

Such smugness doesn’t help, but the real reason the war on guns has been such an abysmal failure is that guns and cigarettes aren’t alike after all. You can’t hunt or, more importantly, defend yourself or your family with a cigarette. That’s why, in the wake of San Bernardino, millions of Americans didn’t think, “We’ve got to get rid of guns.” They thought, “Maybe I should get one.” I know I did.

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Whenever you hear the Democrats talk about how much they care about veterans, remember this.
Two high-level officials at the Phoenix VA medical center have completely escaped punishment for allegedly retaliating against whistleblowers who brought to light serious patient care problems.
There is clear evidence of those officials punishing whistleblowers and the investigation establishing that was finished 15 months ago. Yet the chief of staff and the associate director still have a job.

You know those science fiction movies where aliens are attacking earth and all the countries ban together to defeat the invaders? Well, David Harsanyi asks a good question about why the leaders of the world who are so concerned about the apocalyptic threat to the earth from climate change are not acting as if they truly think it's such a world-ending threat.
Which got me wondering: what coercive state power do Democrats believe would be a step too far in fighting climate change? I mean, if global warming is truly the most devastating and treacherous threat that mankind has ever faced — indisputably proven by science — wouldn’t it be morally acceptable to ignore the archaic constraints of an 18th century constitution if it meant saving billions of people from their own lethally irresponsible behavior?

Separation of powers? Congress? If you accept that entire nations are mere decades away from being swallowed up by the ocean (as the president does), that severe storms will annihilate millions, that droughts will inflame more terrorism and war, and that global warming will make large swaths of the earth completely uninhabitable, don’t those who hold power have a moral obligation to agree to international deals without concerning yourself with what the majority party in Congress has to say?

The “coercive power of the central state” is available to do all types of things that are technically legal.

Would liberals be willing to regulate the making of certain appliances and electronics if it meant slowing climate change? Would they be willing to ration electricity to each residence to help slow the spewing of carbon into the air? Would they be open to limiting the number of cars the average America family could own? Would they limit how many miles a citizen can fly every year? How about regulating the size of houses?

....Climate change is a more precarious threat to humanity than terrorism. This has been repeatedly explained to me by the some of the brightest minds of our generation.

So, if developing nations — after we’ve paid them climate reparations — start building coal-powered plants that allow citizens to enjoy modern conveniences like affordable electricity, cars, and air conditioning, and ignore those theoretical strictures on emissions that they signed on to in Paris, shouldn’t the U.S. consider invading? Should we not, at the very least, bomb them into compliance, as we do ISIS? Or perhaps we should sanction them and destroy their economies as we tried to do with Iran and South Africa? If countries that shelter and fund terrorists fear lethal force from world powers, why would climate-change deniers and propagators be immune from retribution if their sins are, in the aggregate, even worse?
Harsanyi argues that their actions haven't matched their apocalyptic rhetoric. They celebrated their phony agreement that has no enforcement mechanisms because none of the countries wanted that. Heck, they couldn't even tone down their own carbon emissions in attending the conference. If they really thought this threat was real, couldn't they have Skyped the conference and concluded their phony deal that way? But that would have denied them a few weeks in Paris and the attention of the media to celebrate their self-congratulations.

John McCormack covers the alternative that the GOP have put forth to the Democratic gun ban for those on the terror watch list. It seems like such a reasonable compromise.
What's been lost in the debate is the fact that Republicans have an alternative to the Democratic proposal. Under Republican legislation sponsored by Senator John Cornyn, the federal government may delay the sale of a firearm to someone on the watch list for up to 72 hours. During that time, if the government can show a judge there's "probable cause"--the same legal standard used to obtain a search warrant--that the individual is plotting terrorism, then the gun sale is denied outright. The measure received 55 votes in the Senate. It it secured the backing of staunch conservatives like Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and Marco Rubio as well as moderate Republicans Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski and moderate Democrats Joe Manchin and Joe Donnelly. The only Republican to oppose it was Mark Kirk.

The Democratic bill sponsored by Senator Diane Feinstein, by contrast, simply allows the federal government to ban anyone on the watch list from buying a gun. The government's decision may be challenged in court by the prospective gun buyer, but the government's decision will be sustained if a "preponderance of evidence" indicates that the attorney general has a "reasonable belief" that the prospective gun buyer may be engaged in terrorism.

In other words, the GOP bill puts the burden on the government to get judicial clearance, while the Democratic bill puts the burden on the individual to prove his innocence. The GOP bill requires the government to show "probable cause" to a judge, while the Democratic bill relies on a lower legal standard that a "preponderance of evidence" shows the attorney general has a "reasonable belief" that the prospective gun buyer may be a terrorist.
The Democrats oppose the GOP's reasonable proposal that takes into account due process concerns and would keep guns out of the hands of those the government has real terror concerns about while letting those who have been placed on the list by mistake their full Second Amendment rights. The fact that the Democrats oppose such a common-sense compromise demonstrates that they just want a talking point and campaign issue rather that a real solution. They would prefer to put politics over any supposed concern over potential terrorists buying guns.