Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Cruising the Web

How stupid is the head of the Veterans Affairs, Bob McDonald, to compare the wait times at VA hospitals to waiting in line at Disneyland?
"When you got to Disney, do they measure the number of hours you wait in line? Or what's important? What's important is, what's your satisfaction with the experience?" McDonald said Monday during a Christian Science Monitor breakfast with reporters. "And what I would like to move to, eventually, is that kind of measure."

McDonald's comments angered House Speaker Paul Ryan, who tweeted out Monday afternoon, "This is not make-believe, Mr. Secretary. Veterans have died waiting in those lines."
When waiting for appointments imperils the health of veterans, then the length of wait time is a crucial question, sometimes a literal life-or-death question. It's not a measure of customer satisfaction. That McDonald thinks of the problems at the VA in this manner indicates he really doesn't understand the scope of the problem he is in charge of fixing.

Here's a tricky question for Hillary to address:
Is the country better off than it was eight years ago? For Democrats, the answer is tricky.

President Obama and likely Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton have not always been on the same page when talking about the economy, at times sending a mixed message to voters ahead of the November elections.

Obama has emerged as an unabashed cheerleader of the economic recovery during his time in office, seeking to cement a legacy as the president who dug the country out of the Great Recession.
Clinton frequently praises Obama, but she’s more apt to mention that people are still hurting, bowing to the reality that nearly seven in 10 Americans believe the country is on the wrong track.

She has even made comments that are implicitly critical of the performance of the economy on the president’s watch.

The disparity indicates that Democrats face a tough task in presenting a united front on the economy, an issue that voters rank as their top priority.

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Apparently, Newt Gingrich is actively campaigning to be chosen as Donald Trump's running mate. Why not have two blowhard, media manipulators?
Among the similarities between the two men, they share a genius for exploiting mass media. In his 1990s heyday, Gingrich was able to dominate the news cycle by harnessing the newfound power of talk radio, much as Trump has done with television and social media this year. “I don’t know two other people who can command more media attention than Newt Gingrich and Donald Trump,” says Rick Tyler, who served as Gingrich’s campaign spokesman in 2012. For Trump, Tyler says, naming Gingrich vice president would simply be “doubling down on an already successful strategy: keeping your enemies constantly on defense, constantly off balance, constantly explaining themselves. Newt knows how to do that.”

Gingrich has a reputation for insinuating himself into campaigns by firing off dozens of e-mails brimming with ideas that range from brilliant to insane. While it’s a quality that has irritated previous presidential candidates such as John McCain and Mitt Romney, sources say that Trump has come to value the former speaker’s opinions.

“They talk every day,” says a source familiar with the relationship, who claims that Gingrich e-mails Trump, campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and campaign manager Corey Lewandowski “countless times a day.” On Friday, the source says Gingrich sent five messages after lunch, musing on everything from Fox host Megyn Kelly’s interview with Trump to Trump’s recently announced list of potential Supreme Court nominees to ideas for targeting Bernie Sanders’s voters.
Are we ready for the all-septuagenarian ticket?

John Hart, an aide to former senator Tom Coburn, explains why Republicans need more than running against the Clintons to win this year. Republicans, under Gingrich, tried this in the 1990s and it didn't work then.
As an aide to Representative Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, I had a front-row seat to the impeachment process. We recall in Coburn’s 2003 book, Breach of Trust: How Washington Turns Outsiders into Insiders:
Many Republicans expected that President Clinton’s colossally foolish act of having an affair with a twenty-one-year-old intern, and then lying to cover it up, would cause the public to vote for Republicans in large numbers. Our consultants and leaders reinforced this expectation. In fact, in one meeting of the Republican conference, [Newt] Gingrich told restless conservatives that we did not need to mobilize our base with a bold agenda because Clinton had already motivated our base for us.
The project was a dud. Republicans lost seats in 1998 after the impeachment ordeal. Our base was not “motivated” and Bill Clinton emerged from the confrontation more popular than before. The cautionary tale for today is that scandalism — the politics of exploiting your opponent’s weakness — is no substitute for substance.

The Trump campaign is susceptible to this trap for two reasons. First, Trump lacks substance and has no clear principles, world-view, or policy agenda to pivot to. Second, one of Trump’s chief adviseors, Newt Gingrich, was the architect of the failed anti-Clinton strategy in the ’90s.

Gingrich, no doubt, is a bright and talented person. He’s also been the beneficiary of — as Mark Leibovich and others have observed — our nation’s acceptance of second, third, and even fourth acts in American politics. Newt has gone from insurgent to speaker of the House to exiled philosopher. Newt’s latest incarnation as base whisperer — a great diviner and interpreter of the will of the people — is a bit insufferable for those who recall his failed tenure as speaker.

As Coburn recalled, Newt referred to the Class of 1994 rebels who wanted Republicans to offer an aspirational agenda as “you conservatives” who lacked his tactical and intellectual sophistication. Newt’s strategy for 1998 was to run on scandalism and hope that would distract the base from Republican support of a pork-laden transportation bill and an omnibus spending bill that included seven C-130 transport planes for Newt’s congressional district (the Pentagon had requested only one).

Newt’s senior role in today’s Trumpstablishment illustrates the conceit of Trump supporters who want to dismiss skeptics as out-of-touch insiders. But the record shows skeptics like Coburn, who literally wrote the book on how to be an effective outsider and spent a decade cleaning up Newt’s mess, were much better listeners, tacticians, and policymakers.
He reminds us of the corruption that grew under Gingrich's leadership.
Newt not only tolerated cronyism but also expanded the earmark favor factory and filled the hot tub for Jack Abramoff and future felons like Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski’s old boss Representative Bob Ney. (Lewandowski urged leniency for Ney when the voter revolt Trump is now harnessing was beginning to form.) Is this what the Trumpstablishment means by “listening” to the base?
It's fine to point out Clinton corruption, but it will not be enough to win the campaign. It just seems that Trump is much more comfortable with running a campaign based on bringing up Bill's past as a sexual predator and Hillary's enabling of his behavior than running on actual issues or even on the Clintons' financial corruption since leaving the White House. There are so many reasons that Hillary would be a disaster as president and Trump should indeed bring those up. But he also needs a positive message. He needs to be more than the candidate who can troll the media and his opposition.
The media would love 2016 to be a race between an alleged playboy-predator (Trump) and an alleged predator-playboy (Clinton) and the women who love and loathe them. But the glare of easy earned media around the Clinton scandals is the event horizon of a political black hole. If Trump presses this case too aggressively, Democrats will employ easy counter-attacks. After all, we’re the party that elevated a child molester to speaker of the House (Dennis Hastert). We’re the party that allowed a hypocritical philanderer (Gingrich) to prosecute a hyper-partisan impeachment. (And, by the way, if Trump was so disturbed by “Rapist Bill” and his enabler wife, why did he donate money to Hillary and allow Bill to put his arm around his wife at a wedding?)

The ’90s showed that voters don’t really care about Clinton scandals. Voters care far more about their own problems. The candidate who focuses on those problems will win.

If Trump wants to win he should tune out Newt and tune in Ryan. It’s fine to try to define Hillary — for now. But he should quickly move on to telling the country what exactly he is for.

Meanwhile, Trump is running ads about Bill and women and he's bringing up Vince Foster's suicide. Why not play into every conspiracy theory from the 1990s even the ones that have no evidence whatsoever? It makes sense that a campaign that was based on whatever Trump heard on "the shows" and was built on what he read in his Twitter feed should pull out whatever he found in the depths of the blogosphere. Because it's much better to run a campaign based on rejected scandals of the 1990s instead of anything about the future. Right? Voters don't actually care about what candidates might be do when they get in office, do they? And the Clinton campaign will retaliate with bizarre or distasteful things that Trump said and did in the 1980s and 1990s. It's not as if there aren't any current problems facing the country and world in 2016.

We're already seeing this as a pro-Hillary super PAC is airing ads in key states using his own words about women.

William McGurn unearths what Donald Trump was saying during the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
Here’s the kicker: Donald Trump was on the Bill Clinton side of the argument.

For Mr. Trump, this was all much ado about Monica. Mr. Clinton’s mistake, he said, was that he’d lied about the sex instead of sticking with the argument it was irrelevant. In a September 1998 New York Times forum that ran under the headline “Can Clinton Find the Road Back?” Mr. Trump gave this advice:

“Accept complete responsibility for personal failures, be lucky enough to have enemies with their own shortcomings, and hold steadfast to your political agenda. After the initial shock is past, the American people are less interested in sexual transgressions than they are in public achievements.”

Nearly two decades later, Mr. Trump continues to live by this reading of the American people.
That certainly explains why he's so indifferent to criticisms of his behavior with women.
It appears to have escaped the Hillary faithful that Mr. Trump may be winning in good part because he has proved a more steadfast adherent of the Clinton argument of the 1990s than she has.

While at Wellesley, a young Hillary Clinton famously wrote her senior thesis on Saul Alinsky, the community organizer and author of “Rules for Radicals.” The two kept up a correspondence after she entered law school at Yale, and Alinsky is said to have been a great influence on her thought.

But while Mrs. Clinton may have studied Alinsky, Mr. Trump is showing himself the better Alinskyite. Especially with his use of Rule No. 4: Force your opponents to live up to their rules and values.

There’s no better example than the war on women. Mrs. Clinton started out all set to run the standard playbook against what she presumed would be a standard Republican opponent. But Mr. Trump has now turned it on her, putting her in the position of running against her husband.

Whenever Mrs. Clinton brings up women, Mr. Trump throws Bill Clinton right back at her. Indeed, on Monday Mr. Trump released a new attack on Instagram featuring an audio of Clinton rape accuser Juanita Broaddrick over the caption: “Is Hillary really protecting women?”

Mr. Trump is doing all this, moreover, without the slightest apology for his own playboy boorishness. Think of him as Mr. Clinton minus the credible rape and harassment allegations.

The difference is that where Bill lies, The Donald boasts. “Beautiful, famous, successful, married,” Mr. Trump wrote about women in his 2008 book “Think Big.” “I’ve had them all.”

In the 1990s, when President Clinton found himself fighting for his presidency after he was caught in a sexual relationship with an intern, he and his allies relentlessly pushed the idea that a pol’s private life was just that, private, and all that mattered was his agenda.

These many years later, by choosing Mr. Trump, GOP primary voters have given their answer: Message received.
But let's spend time talking about Vince Foster's suicide due to depression because no conspiracy theory should be left untouched. Remember this is the same man who talked about crackpot theories that Ted Cruz's father was connected to Lee Harvey Oswald when he was on the eve of putting Cruz away and wrapping up the nomination.

As Michael Gerson writes,
the whole Trump campaign and phenomenon is fueled by his beliefs in conspiracy theories whether it be vaccines causing autism or "thousands and thousands" of Muslims in New Jersey celebrating 9/11.
And then there are the black criminals who are responsible, according to a Trump retweet, for 81 percent of homicides against whites. Except that this turned out to be a racist myth from a white supremacist source.

And then there is the death of justice Antonin Scalia. “They say they found a pillow on his face,” responded Trump, “which is a pretty unusual place to find a pillow.”

Does Trump really believe that liberals may have ordered a hit on a Supreme Court justice? Who knows? We do know he finds such ideas useful. Trump emerged in conservative circles by questioning Barack Obama’s citizenship, and thus the legality of his presidency. This required the existence of a conspiracy to hide the circumstances of Obama’s birth. “They cannot believe what they’re finding,” he said of “people that have been studying it.” Having actually discovered nothing, Trump doubled down on a deception.

As a leader, Trump has succeeded by appealing to stereotypes and ugly hatreds that most American leaders have struggled to repress and contain. His political universe consists of deceptive experts, of scheming, of criminal Mexicans, of lying politicians and bureaucrats and of disloyal Muslims. Asked to repudiate David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan, Trump hesitated, later claiming a “bad earpiece.” Asked to repudiate the vicious anti-Semitism of some of his followers, Trump responded, “I don’t have a message to the fans.” Wouldn’t want to offend “the fans.”

This is not flirting with the fringes; it is French-kissing them. Every Republican official endorsing Trump should know: This is the company he keeps. This is the company you now keep.
Wise words for Republicans who are now trying to convince themselves that Trump wouldn't be so bad and that they can control him if he became president.

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In a review of the new book by Kim R. Holmes, The Closing of the Liberal Mind: How Groupthink and Intolerance Define the Left, Michael Warren writes in the WSJ about the intellectual history that explains how progressives have grown to believe in coercive measures to enforce their preferred beliefs.
How did liberals become so hopelessly illiberal? In “The Closing of the Liberal Mind,” Kim R. Holmes suggests that “the loss of historical memory as to what liberalism was is actually a key to understanding what it is today.” Mr. Holmes, a scholar at the conservative Heritage Foundation, does an admirable job of reminding readers of that intellectual history, drawing a line from the political philosophy of John Stuart Mill to the original progressive spirit of Herbert Croly and Woodrow Wilson to the Third Way liberalism of John Rawls and Bill Clinton that synthesized Wilsonian progressivism with Mill’s classical liberalism. This tradition is communitarian, pluralistic, rational and universal. It idealizes freedom of thought and speech, distrusts institutional power, and believes in the goodness of humanity.

Today’s postmodern progressives have only superficial similarities with these liberal forebears. They are more accurately the descendants of radical abolitionists like William Lloyd Garrison; radical egalitarians, like the utopian socialist communities of the 19th century; and egalitarian anarchists like Lysander Spooner and Benjamin R. Tucker. Like those radicals, postmodern progressives “sanction the use of coercive methods, either through legal means or public shaming rituals, to deny certain people their rights and civil liberties . . . in ways that undermine American democracy and the rule of law.”

Perhaps the fundamental difference between yesterday’s liberals and today’s postmodern progressives is each side’s conception of truth. Liberals believe truth is external and can be determined through reason. A good liberal uses his reason to achieve justice and equality for all. But postmodern progressives are moral relativists. For them, truth is internal, discerned by and specific to particular individuals. Today a good progressive defends the individual’s internal truth—particularly if the person is an “oppressed minority”—against all foes, including reason. Small wonder that the postmodern left has turned on its own.

The competition between individualized truths—“an unending conflict between identity tribes trying to capture the state for their own narrow group interests”—is what Mr. Holmes believes makes postmodern progressivism a cousin of radical libertarianism. But while radical libertarianism tends toward anarchy, postmodern leftism has a totalitarian impulse. The goal of a postmodern progressive isn’t universal truth, which supposedly doesn’t exist, but power, which is presented in the guise of equality and social justice. The left’s quest for power isn’t of the goose-stepping, arsenal-building kind employed by 20th-century dictators, Mr. Holmes takes great pains to insist. But, he allows, progressive liberals are “willing to dip into the totalitarians’ illiberal tool box.”

Look no further than the effort to gain power over language and debate on college campuses, through concepts like microagressions, trigger warnings and safe spaces, which police the expression of ideas. This is done in the name of inclusiveness and diversity, but in reality it’s a demonstration of power over those who think differently.

So how libertarian really is Gary Johnson? It seems that he's willing to endorse government coercion for causes that he approves of. His record as governor of New Mexico was one of increased government spending and gimmicks to appear to have balanced the state budget.

What a bizarre move by Target.
In 2013, Michael Turner saved the life of a 16-year-old girl who had been viciously attacked and stabbed in a Target store in Pennsylvania. And instead of thanking him for protecting its customers and preventing them from being murdered, Target is now suing him for his heroism and alleging he acted irresponsibly.

The attacker, Leon Walls, was convicted of attempted homicide for stabbing then-16-year-old Allison Meadows in 2013.

Security footage from the store shows Walls grabbing Meadows and stabbing her before Turner tackles the knife-wielding perp and chases him out of the store with a baseball bat.

Meadows and her family vehemently disagree with Target’s legal assault on Turner, calling Turner’s actions heroic and crediting them with preventing Meadows’ murder. The Meadows family has sued the store, claiming that the retail company had inadequate security, and alleging that the store, by suing Turner, is just trying to blame someone else for Target’s own refusal to protect the safety and security of its customers.
Is Target really against people saving a young girl from a knife attack?

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Oh, the fun of visiting France during strike season.
France has been hit by a wave of strikes over the past week aimed at pressuring the socialist government of President Francois Hollande to withdraw labour reforms that unions consider unfavourable to workers.

One out of five gas stations in the country were facing fuel shortages, Transport Minister Alain Vidalies told France 2 television. He also said earlier that more than 800 stations, out of a total of 11,500, were totally out of fuel.

Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma points to the hypocrisy of the Obama administration's delayed action in fighting Zika while criticizing the Republicans in the House.
If there was a way to both respond to Zika and prevent new debt spending, wouldn’t it be reasonable to do that? The Department of Health and Human Services, Department of State, and International Assistance Programs currently have about $80 billion in unobligated funds.

A small fraction of this could be reprogrammed and redirected to respond to the Zika emergency and not add any additional debt to our nation’s children. This is exactly the type of authority the Obama administration asked for in 2009 during the height of the H1N1 virus scare.

This is not a partisan idea, it is a reasonable one in light of the medical emergency and the financial reality of our nation.

In a floor speech last week, I also shed light on the fact that Congress last December provided the Obama administration with authority to pull money from bilateral economic assistance to foreign countries.

They can use those funds to combat infectious diseases, if the administration believed there is an infectious disease emergency. In the middle of the Zika epidemic, the administration did use their authority to pull money from foreign aid and spend it, but they didn’t use it for Zika.

You might ask—so what did the administration spend the infectious disease money on earlier this year?

You guessed it… climate change.

In March, President Obama gave the United Nations $500 million out of an account under bilateral economic assistance to fund the U.N.’s Green Climate Fund.

Congress refused to allocate funding for the U.N. Climate Change Fund last year, so the president used this account designated for international infectious diseases to pay for his priority.

While I understand that intelligent people can disagree on the human effects on the global climate, it is hard to imagine a reason why the administration would prioritize the U.N. Green Climate Fund over protecting the American people, especially pregnant women, from the Zika virus.

Unfortunately, it gets worse.

The U.N. Green Climate Fund is connected to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), an affiliated organization of the United Nations.

The UNFCCC recently accepted the “State of Palestine” as a signatory, which should trigger a U.S. funding prohibition. U.S. law forbids any taxpayer dollars to fund international organizations that recognize “Palestine” as a sovereign state.

So, the administration found a way to offend our ally Israel, delay the Zika response and, if Congress allows him, add another billion dollars to our national debt. That is a busy month.

As American officials celebrate the killing of a Taliban leader, Paul Mirengoff reminds us of how Hillary thought we could negotiate through peace talks with the Taliban.
I believe it’s widely known, though also widely forgotten, that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton orchestrated “peace talks” with the Taliban. Clinton discussed her role in some detail in her book, Hard Choices.

Robert Potts at the American Thinker provided a good summary of Clinton’s involvement, as described by her, in this article. Clinton’s goals were to “shatter the alliance between the Taliban and al Qaeda, end the insurgency, and help produce a more stable Afghanistan and a more stable region.”

The talks were a total failure. They served only to undermine Afghan confidence in the U.S. Clinton seems to believed that the Taliban might end its insurgency and help produce a more stable Afghanistan, but the Afghans never did.

The Taliban’s goal was, of course, to obtain concessions while carrying out its insurgency. It gained some. According to Clinton, “as a first step, we agreed to begin working with the United Nations to remove a few key Taliban members from the terrorist sanctions list, which imposed a travel ban.” The Taliban also wanted to be allowed to open a political office in Qatar. The U.S. permitted this shortly after Clinton left office.

Throughout the period during which the “peace talks” occurred — November 2010 through at least mid-2013 — the Taliban engaged in the worst sorts of terrorism. Potts describes some of it in his American Thinker article.
Of course, peace talks with the Taliban had no more success than her husband's attempt to end North Korea's nuclear armament program by giving them more money or Hillary's "reset" of relations with Russia or Obama's deal with Iran.
I believe it’s widely known, though also widely forgotten, that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton orchestrated “peace talks” with the Taliban. Clinton discussed her role in some detail in her book, Hard Choices.

Robert Potts at the American Thinker provided a good summary of Clinton’s involvement, as described by her, in this article. Clinton’s goals were to “shatter the alliance between the Taliban and al Qaeda, end the insurgency, and help produce a more stable Afghanistan and a more stable region.”

The talks were a total failure. They served only to undermine Afghan confidence in the U.S. Clinton seems to believed that the Taliban might end its insurgency and help produce a more stable Afghanistan, but the Afghans never did.

The Taliban’s goal was, of course, to obtain concessions while carrying out its insurgency. It gained some. According to Clinton, “as a first step, we agreed to begin working with the United Nations to remove a few key Taliban members from the terrorist sanctions list, which imposed a travel ban.” The Taliban also wanted to be allowed to open a political office in Qatar. The U.S. permitted this shortly after Clinton left office.

Throughout the period during which the “peace talks” occurred — November 2010 through at least mid-2013 — the Taliban engaged in the worst sorts of terrorism. Potts describes some of it in his American Thinker article.

In 2012 alone, 341 American military members were killed, along with 92 coalition forces members. American wounded numbered 2,877. More than 2,700 Afghan civilians were killed, with 80 percent of these deaths attributed to the Taliban and other anti- government elements.

According to Clinton, “At the end of 2012 the door to reconciliation remained open, but only part way.” Why only “part way”? Was it because the Taliban’s murderous conduct had soured Clinton on the prospects for reconciliation? No. It was because Afghanistan’s president Hamid Karzai, having had enough, “effectively pulled the plug” on peace talks in late 2011. Clinton says she “wanted him to reconsider.”

As for Clinton’s goal of “shattering the alliance between the Taliban and al Qaeda,” we know this didn’t happen either. The Guardian, among other sources, has reported that documents found in the house where Osama bin Laden was killed “show a close working relationship between top al-Qaida leaders and Mullah Omar, the commander of the Taliban.” The two groups “frequently discussed joint operations against coalition forces in Afghanistan, the Afghan government, and targets in Pakistan.”

Indeed, Steve Hayes said tonight on Fox News’ Special Report that, according to the documents, the Taliban man with whom Clinton was discussing “reconciliation” and the shattering of the Taliban-al Qaeda alliance was one of the leaders with whom bin Laden’s team was working.

Do Muslim terrorist leaders have a sense of humor? If they do, bin Laden’s folks and Hillary’s Taliban negotiating partners must have shared some good laughs.

Hillary Clinton’s record at the State Department is a target rich environment for Donald Trump. Libya seems like the prime target. The Russian reset also comes to mind. And there is the “Clinton Cash” scandal, which fits Trump’s “crooked Hillary” narrative perfectly.

But there may also be room for the Afghan “peace talks.” To me, it’s scandalous that Clinton viewed the Taliban as a potential peace partner in Afghanistan. And if Clinton’s personal negotiating partner was working with bin Laden while negotiations were underway, the scandal may be one the public, aided by Trump, can dig its teeth into.
That would be a much more relevant topic for Trump to explore than excavating Vince Foster's sad history.

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Universities are reaping what they have sowed
on discrimination.
A coalition of Asian-American organizations asked the Department of Education on Monday to investigate Brown University, Dartmouth College and Yale University, alleging they discriminate against Asian-American students during the admissions process.

While the population of college age Asian-Americans has doubled in 20 years and the number of highly qualified Asian-American students “has increased dramatically,” the percentage accepted at most Ivy League colleges has flatlined, according to the complaint. It alleges this is because of “racial quotas and caps, maintained by racially differentiated standards for admissions that severely burden Asian-American applicants.”
Of course, this Education Department will bury the complaint. But anyone who knows anything about college admissions know that this is true.
The complaint filed Monday by the Asian-American Coalition for Education, which consists of more than 100 organizations, makes many of the same points as the previous complaint against Harvard. It charges that the number of Asian-Americans at the three schools is capped and a special “just-for-Asians admissions standard” is in place. Admissions officers “often treat Asian-American applicants as a monolithic block rather than as individuals, and denigrate these applicants as lacking in creativity/critical thinking and leadership skills/risk taking.”

In an accompanying petition, the group said it filed this complaint because even if it hits a legal wall it will generate social and political pressure. After the Department of Education started investigating Harvard in 1988, its admission rate of Asian-Americans jumped to 16.1% in 1991 from 10.8%. After students filed a complaint against Princeton in 2006, its admission rate increased to 25.4% in 2014 from 14.7% in 2007.
And while the top schools are limiting qualified Asian-American students, here is a trend that has to worry many college administrators. Suddenly, it seems that the influx of foreign students whose tuition payments have been bolstering colleges' bottom lines might be bottoming out.
U.S. colleges have lured a wave of foreign students in recent years to boost tuition revenue and offset state budget cuts. The influx of students paying two to three times what locals do has brought controversy, with some Americans complaining that slots for U.S. students are becoming harder to get, while some of the international students, particularly from Muslim countries, can face a hostile reception.

But these cash cows are exposing schools to a slew of new business challenges, including foreign-currency fluctuations, the ups and downs of far-flung economies and even competition from burgeoning university systems in the students’ home countries.

China supplied nearly one-third of the record 974,926 foreign college students in the U.S. in the 2014-15 school year, according to the latest data from the Institute of International Education. But China has been building its own education infrastructure to keep students at home, while students from India, another top source of applicants, remain vulnerable to currency volatility that can put an American education out of reach.

So U.S. colleges turned to what seemed like two other safe bets, Saudi Arabia and Brazil, which both had robust, government-sponsored international study programs. Saudi Arabia quickly rose to the No. 4 country of origin for foreign students in the U.S.

Pinched by shrinking oil revenue—crude prices fell by more than half since their summer 2014 peak—the Saudi government has turned its student pipeline down to a trickle. And Brazil, facing economic and political crises, hasn’t decided whether to renew its program.

The relatively abrupt changes have “laid bare schools’ naive strategies,” said Rahul Choudaha, chief executive officer at DrEducation, a higher education research and consulting firm.