Thursday, June 22, 2017

Cruising the Web

So Planned Parenthood spent over three-quarters of a million dollars for the moral victory of contributing to Jon Ossoff's defeat. It's hard to see that the organization is in such dire need of government aid if it can use supporters' contributions for political donations that would have, at most, elected a guy for a year and a half. Alexandra DeSanctis comments,
That failure underscores another important point. Planned Parenthood consistently argues that, if it were to be stripped of its federal funding, millions of women would lose “vital health care.”

If money is really so tight over at Planned Parenthood — and if American women are truly in desperate need of life-saving care that they can’t get anywhere else — perhaps the abortion-rights group should think twice before dropping hundreds of thousands on insignificant political races, whether or not those races end in bitter defeat.

Josh Kraushaar makes an interesting observation about Jon Ossoff's campaign.

Jon Ossoff has the chutzpah to complain about there being "too much money in politics." He's also upset that super PACs have been spending so much money in Georgia's Sixth Congressional District. Apparently, he figured the voters who spent the past few weeks being inundated with ads from groups supporting Ossoff would believe him when he made the same tired calls for campaign finance reform that Democrats who outspent their opponents such as Obama and Hillary have been making for years.
Simple arithmetic shows the stupidity of that sentiment. According to campaign finance documents compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, Ossoff spent six times more money than Handel. His campaign raised more than $24 million to her $4.5 million.

At that point, Ossoff groupies will protest that Handel benefited from super PAC spending. After all, they argue, the Republican benefited from $18.2 million in outside spending compared to the Democrat's $8 million from outside groups.

But while it's true that dark money donors were with her, that cash only helped Handel narrow the gap. It didn't make up the difference. If you take the sum of campaign and outside spending together, it's clear that millions more flowed to Ossoff's cause.


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Matt Lewis has some advice for Democrats - get Nancy Pelosi to retire. He points out how the GOP's main strategy in the Georgia race was to tell voters that Ossoff would just be another vote for Pelosi. And, in a majority Republican district, Nancy Pelosi's name is still poison.
This raises the question about why Nancy Pelosi is still so toxic.

We can’t discount the accretion of scar tissue and baggage that piles up when one has been turned into a boogeyman. Just as Hillary Clinton had a tough time overcoming decades of negative attacks directed at her, Pelosi’s brand has been tarnished, especially in Republican districts, for more than a decade now. That takes a toll.

It’s also fair to say that the way people are promoted to leadership positions (long tenure, helping elect other Democrats, courting special-interest groups) lends itself to leaders emerging who represent safe districts. And people who represent safe districts tend to be less moderate. So, on the Democratic side, you end up with a liberal foil who exudes “San Francisco values” being a straight-out-of-central-casting villain who doesn’t play well in Peoria.

The long-term danger for Democrats is that this is a vicious cycle that keeps them in the minority. It works like this: Nobody can internally oust Pelosi from her perch, because her fellow Democratic members (the ones who vote on leaders) are from districts just like hers. The Catch-22 is that Pelosi’s baggage prevents the election of the kinds of red-state Democrats who might someday be a large enough bloc to replace her.
Lewis then goes on to argue that part of the dislike of Pelosi is just sexism. I would disagree with that. The dislike of Harry Reid was just as intense as that of Nancy Pelosi. The same thing was true of Tom Daschle. And the Democrats disliked Newt Gingrich, Tom DeLay, John Boehner, and Mitch McConnell. It has nothing to do with gender.

Sean Trende, as usual, has some intelligent comments
analyzing the special election. This point is one I hadn't seen elsewhere.
3. The distribution and enthusiasm gaps could be problems for Democrats. A developing scenario is this: Democrats have a highly energized core of supporters who would walk through a hurricane to vote against a Republican. In polling parlance, they make up the “tens” of enthusiasm (races for which tens of millions of dollars are raised). The strata below them, however, may be disproportionately Republican, who typically make up a larger percentage of high-propensity voters but are apathetic because of Trump, or at least displaced by Democrats.

This makes it easy for Democrats to overperform in races that slide under the radar, explaining results like KS-4 earlier this year and SC-5. But as the election gains visibility, those lower-propensity Republican voters become activated. The problem is that these special elections serve as shots across the bow for complacent Republicans and could reduce the number of Democrats who might sneak through in 2018.

One other possibility here: If those unusually energized Democrats are disproportionately distributed in heavily Democratic or rural Republican districts, it could reflect an especially large distributional issue for Democrats.


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Charles C. W. Cooke points out that the report that the FBI just released yesterday on the shooting at the Congressional baseball game debunks the hot takes that liberals had been making on gun control as soon as news of the shooting became public. They wanted to argue that the shooter had bought his gun in Virginia which does not have strict gun control laws. However, it turns out that he bought his two guns, legally, in Illinois, a state with some of the strictest gun control laws.
For a start, the guns weren’t bought in Virginia; they were bought in Illinois, which has some of the strictest gun laws in the country. And they weren’t purchased privately, illegally, or without attendant background checks, but “legally through federal firearms licensees” that are obliged under federal law to run checks. Moreover, Hodgkinson only got the weapons after he obtained an additional possession-and-purchase license (FOID) of the sort that more extreme gun-control advocates want to see made mandatory in all states.

Or, put another way: Illinois has stricter rules than even Barack Obama endorsed — it quite literally licenses all gun-owners in the state — and those rules made no difference to this case. This is typical.

Alas, the errors don’t end there. Frum and co. also berated Virginia for being among the 40+ states to permit open carry. But Alexandria, where the shooting took place, doesn’t permit open carry, a fact that prompted one of the most hilariously convoluted arguments I have seen in my life. Others talked about both “assault weapons” and “high-capacity” magazines. But as the FBI notes, the firearm used was an SKS in 7.62mm, which has never been classed as an “assault weapon,” and which wasn’t included in the ban that obtained from 1994-2004. Further, when he bought it, Hodgkinson’s SKS was unable to take “high-capacity” magazines at all; rather, it came with an internal 10-round box magazine. Per the report, Hodgkinson seems to have modified it to take external magazines after the purchase, a change that raises the fair question of how effective any at-sale restrictions can really be in stopping the determined. Either way, even after he modified it there is no evidence that Hodgkinson introduced a larger than 10-round external magazine (that’s the standard for the modified SKS), or that, if he did, it had any effect on the outcome.
The problem with Twitter and TV is that people can go make allegations based on assumptions without waiting for the facts.

Daniel Depetris argues, quite rightly, that Congress should put a stop to how presidents Bush, Obama, and Trump have all based military action on the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) that was passed after 9/11 to give President Bush the authority to engage in military action against those responsible for the 9/11 attacks. Since then, that authorization has been used for military actions far removed in location and motivation for going after the perpetrators of the 2001 attacks.
nearly 16 years later, a war resolution that was designed to combat the terrorist group behind 9/11 has transformed into a carte blanche to fight every Sunni jihadist group on the face of the earth. All the executive branch needs to do is provide a decent enough case that the terrorist group being targeted is connected in some way, shape, or form to al Qaeda or the Islamic State.

The executive branch has been incredibly successful in convincing members of Congress to buy into that logic—knowing full well that the actual text of the 2001 resolution is quite restrictive. The George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump administrations have all taken advantage of their constitutional authority as Commanders-in-Chief to increase their war powers to the detriment of every other branch of government.
Depetris argues that Congress should take back their Constitutional authority over war-making powers by issuing a new AUMF to limit the military action that the President can take unilaterally. There are bipartisan proposals in Congress, but I suspect they'll continue to do nothing since that is easier than taking difficult votes that would give each member some responsiblity with what follows.

Holman Jenkins tries to examine how so many people, mostly on the left, have become so convinced that Trump was guilty of treasonous collusion with the Russians to undermine the election given that the facts, as we know them, demonstrate that the actions taken by Trump's associates were not different from what other politicians have done.
How did it become widely believed in the first half of 2017 that a U.S. president committed treason with Russia?

Consider what has passed for proof in the media. Tens of thousands of Americans have done business with Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union, not to mention before.

In 2009 President Obama made the first of his two trips to Russia with a gaggle of U.S. business leaders in tow.

Of these many thousands, four were associated with the Trump campaign, and now became evidence of Trump collusion with Russia.

Every president for 75 years has sought improved relations with Russia. That’s what those endless summits were about. Mr. Trump, in his typically bombastic way, also promoted improved relations with Russia. Now this was evidence of collusion.

Russian diplomats live in the U.S. and rub shoulders with countless Americans. Such shoulder-rubbing, if Trump associates were involved, now is proof of crime.

....We would probably not be having this Russia discussion today if not for the so-called Trump dossier alleging improbable, lurid connections between Donald Trump and the Kremlin.

It had no provenance that anyone was bound to respect or rely upon. Its alleged author, a retired British agent named Christopher Steele, supposedly had Russian intelligence sources, but why would Russian intelligence blow the cover of their blackmail agent Mr. Trump whom they presumably so carefully and expensively cultivated? They wouldn’t.

Yet recall the litany of Rep. Adam Schiff, who declared in a House Intelligence Committee hearing: “Is it possible that all of these events and reports are completely unrelated and nothing more than an entirely unhappy coincidence?”

His litany actually consisted of innocuous, incidental and routine Trump associations interspersed with claims from the Trump dossier to make the innocuous, incidental and routine seem nefarious.

Maybe Mr. Schiff is a cynic, or maybe Harvard Law sent him back into the world with the same skull full of mush with which he arrived. But ever since, every faulty or incomplete recollection of a meeting with a Russian has been promoted in the media as proof of treason by Trump associates.

The president’s obvious irritation with being called a traitor is proof that he is a traitor.
Of course, Trump has made the whole situation worse with his intemperate tweets and clumsy firing of FBI director Comey. But this was all supposed to be about real allegations of collusion, but when you look at what makes up the foundation for those allegations, it's all very insubstantial.

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