Paul Ryan: Of Course Republicans Won’t Force Another Government Shutdown...

...before the 2014 midterm elections, that is. After that all bets are off, it seems, and there are no guarantees.

Inspiring.

And yet public opinion shows pretty convincingly that Republicans were on the losing end politically of last year’s partial-government shutdown. For two weeks, government offices, major tourist attractions, and even the open-air World War II Memorial in D.C. were temporarily closed. And while Republicans did their best to expose the White House’s calculated and incredibly petulant efforts to exploit the crisis, most Americans pinned the blame squarely on congressional Republicans. No surprises there. You might even recall that's exactly what happened the last time congressional lawmakers found themselves negotiating during a government shutdown.

Nonetheless, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) recently told Roll Call that House Republicans have supposedly learned from their past missteps. To that end, he said, they are committed to passing a spending resolution funding the government at least through December:

On a possible government shutdown: In his book, Ryan calls the 2013 shutdown a “suicide mission” for the House GOP, and on Wednesday he told CQ Roll Call he agreed that Republicans were easy to blame for the events that transpired.

But House Republicans won’t repeat that mistake this September, Ryan predicted: “We will pass a clean [continuing resolution], and if for some reason the Democrats don’t take that, then they will clearly have shut the government down … it will be patently obvious … that they are playing politics with this, and trying to trigger a shutdown so they can blame us, but we’re really blameless in this particular situation.”

Ryan’s confidence that his conference will cooperate in passing a stop-gap spending bill free of controversial policy riders — ”until Dec. 11 is what we’re thinking,” said Ryan — contradicts Democrats’ cries over the past few days that the GOP is spoiling for another shutdown that could cost them the election in November.

The last thing the GOP needs, I think, is to be blamed for another government shutdown just before Election Day 2014.

What, if anything, could damage or diminish their electoral prospects more?

CNN's Lemon Battles Rapper Over Ferguson--Let's "World Run By White Supremacy" Comment Slide

Another example of the "how would this be handled if a Tea Partier were the jerk" question [Please read Mary Katharine Ham's excellent post from yesterday on this]. It sure wouldn't be patience, toleration, extended coverage in order to reconcile matters, and a long-extended bro handshake. G'me a break! Note how the "white supremacy" line is not even noticed by Don Lemon.

McCain Calls for More ISIS Airstrikes

Senator John McCain (R- Ariz.) expressed his anger with President Obama's reaction to the beheading of American journalist James Foley and called for a dramatic increase of airstrikes to the region. He believes that this tragic incident should be a "turning point" for the president's strategy in defeating the Islamic terror group. 

McCain said to Reuters:

"First of all, you've got to dramatically increase the airstrikes. And those airstrikes have to be devoted to Syria as well...We have to defeat them, not stop them."

McCain's aggressive and passionate denouncement of the ISIS group in light of Foley's murder has been much more than what American's have seen from President Obama. The president eulogized Foley yesterday in a statement, but didn't speak of how America plans to fight what McCain calls "the most vicious terrorist organization that we've ever encountered."

To The Arizona Republic, McCain said:

"This president has ignored the threat for a long period of time, and now we're paying the price."

McCain reports that ISIS is now the world's largest terror organization and has a large inventory of stolen Iraqi military equipment:

"The more he (Obama) delays and the more he acts incrementally, the more ISIS adjusts and the more difficult they will become," McCain said. "And one of the decisions that he has to make is to attack ISIS in Syria because they are moving the captured equipment there and they are fighting there and their enclaves are there. They have erased the border between Iraq and Syria. They are now an enclave larger than Indiana."

Poll: Americans Favor Criminalizing Kids Playing Unsupervised

According to a new Reason/Rupe poll, an astounding 68 percent of Americans surveyed said that it should not be legal for children under the age of nine to play outside unsupervised. A smaller, yet still sizable, percentage of people surveyed agreed that 12-year-old children should also not be allowed to be outside unsupervised.

A whopping 68 percent of Americans think there should be a law that prohibits kids 9 and under from playing at the park unsupervised, despite the fact that most of them no doubt grew up doing just that.

What's more: 43 percent feel the same way about 12-year-olds. They would like to criminalize all pre-teenagers playing outside on their own (and, I guess, arrest their no-good parents).

A woman in South Carolina was arrested for letting her nine-year-old play outside at a park while she was at work, and a woman in Connecticut was arrested for leaving her preteen alone in a car.

Growing up in Maine, I spent a decent amount of time outside by myself as a child without parental supervision. I went sledding and ice skating without my mother hovering over me—way before I ever had a cell phone. I biked through the neighborhood without parental guidance. I babysat children starting around age 11. Nobody died.

Parents should be trusted to know what's best for their children. Crime rates are at their lowest in decades, and arresting parents for letting their children play unsupervised is doing nothing but waste valuable police time. Society needs to lighten up a little, and these poll numbers are very troubling.

Unbiased: 'SNL' Team Calls Sarah Palin 'Ridiculous,' 'Pageant Winner'

A new edition of the "Saturday Night Live" oral history reveals what everyone already knew: the show has a liberal bias.

In the 200 new pages of the updated book, which first published in 2002, the writers, the cast and, heck, probably even the light technician, explain their distaste for conservatives and how they looked forward to mocking them on Saturday night. I've included just a taste of their comments.

Cast member Horatio Sanz, who I used to think was funny, explained why he had qualms about Will Ferrell's impression of George W. Bush, but loved Tina Fey’s Palin:

I always kind of felt bad when Will Ferrell did his Bush impression because he was such a good old boy that you really didn't think, "Oh, this evil little rich prick whose dad and his friends got him in office." You thought, "Oh, he's just a good old guy I'd like to drink beer with." As funny as Will's impression was, the audience as a whole, the whole country, would probably see that as, "Oh, I like Bush. Because he's Will." You know, if Will hadn't done that impression, or at least made him likable, it may have tipped it the other way. I honestly think so. We made up for it. I think Tina's impression basically killed Sarah Palin.

Whether or not the show’s interpretation of Palin did play a part in the 2012 presidential election, there’s no denying she was a favorite target at the NBC studio. Take, for instance, writer Paula Pell, who explained her confrontation with the former governor as such (emphasis mine):

I planned that I was going to come up and talk to [Palin] and shake her hand and welcome her and say, "My wife and I are very good people, and we live a very socially conscious life, and we do a lot for our community, and I just want you to know the face of gay couples and gay people," and I had this whole speech planned. Then I just kind of came up to her in the chaos in the hallway and just nodded and said "hi" and walked off. I thought to myself, "I'm such a chickenshit." I was like, "Wow, she's pretty." I just got overwhelmed by the fact that this character who was everywhere on TV was in front of me, and she was real and just ridiculous. So I didn't get my big political moment.

"SNL" Producer Lorne Michaels, who one would hope would stay nonpartisan, offended Palin by insisting he wasn't offending her:

[Palin] has wonderful manners — and I honestly don't mean this in a condescending way — but it's that pageant-winner thing.

Then, of course, we can't forget the woman who started it all. Tina Fey's opinion of the Alaska mom and governor she so hilariously, yet insultingly portrayed can be summed up by Michaels:

Tina was terrified of anything where they would be together looking like an endorsement.

But, as we all know, Palin isn't one to remain silent:

I know that they portrayed me as an idiot, and I hated that, and I wanted to come on the show and counter some of that.

As easy as it seemed to mock conservatives, "SNL" producers shared how hard it was to try and make fun of the current president, who can seemingly do no wrong. Producer-writer James Downey explained the challenge:

If I had to describe Obama as a comedy project, I would say, "Degree of difficulty, 10 point 10." It's like being a rock climber looking up at a thousand-foot-high face of solid obsidian, polished and oiled. There's not a single thing to grab onto — certainly not a flaw or hook that you can caricature. [Al] Gore had these "handles," so did Bush, and Sarah Palin, and even Hillary had them. But with Obama, it was the phenomenon — less about him and more about the effect he had on other people and the way he changed their behavior. So that's the way I wrote him.

In other words, Obama has no flaws. Downey did at least offer a rare glimpse of truth regarding the show’s agenda (emphasis mine):

The last couple seasons of the show were the only two in the show's history where we were totally like every other comedy show: basically, an arm of the Hollywood Democratic establishment. [Jon] Stewart was more nuanced. We just stopped doing anything which could even be misinterpreted as a criticism of Obama.

Downey isn’t alone. Former cast member Chevy Chase admitted to CNN’s Alina Cho he intentionally portrayed President Gerald Ford as a bumbling buffoon in the 1970s because he wanted Jimmy Carter in the White House.

For more proof of how biased the satire show is, read my article from Townhall Magazine, " Saturday Night Lies."

I'm going to give Palin the last word. Unlike the 'SNL' cast, she needs no script to throw a few zingers:

Palin: If I ran into Tina Fey again today, I would say: "You need to at least pay for my kids' braces or something from all the money that you made off of pretending that you're me! My goodness, you capitalized on that! Can't you contribute a little bit? Jeez!"

CNN Refuses Anti-Hamas ad

Put this in the "you can't make it up department." CNN refused to air an ad condemning Hamas which showcases their disdain for human life. Here is the ad, which Fox News did run, below:

The NRA Is Going After Michael Bloomberg

President Barack Obama isn’t the most helpful politician to Democrats this election cycle, but there could be another “boogeyman” in this election cycle: Michael Bloomberg. The National Rifle Association launched an offensive against this anti-gun activist earlier this week–and it’s about time (via Washington Post):

The National Rifle Association announced Tuesday that it is kicking off a multimillion-dollar campaign that will extend beyond November to tar the reputation of Michael Bloomberg, perhaps the country's most powerful gun control activist. The NRA launched a TV ad that slams Bloomberg not only on his gun policies, but also over his push as mayor of New York City to ban large sugary beverages.

In other words, they want to give you lots of reasons to dislike the guy.

The NRA is aiming at Bloomberg, not specific candidates, the organization says. But the ad campaign -- which includes both online and television components -- just happens to be headed for some of the biggest battleground states of the 2014 election, like Colorado, North Carolina and Kentucky.

Personality often complements policy in campaigns. The NRA is wagering that by casting Bloomberg as a wealthy Northeastern elitist who wants to tell people how much soda they should have, they'll arouse more anger about his gun control agenda.

With Bloomberg’s defeats in the Colorado recall and most recently in the primary for Milwaukee County Sheriff, the nation’s oldest civil rights organization sees that they can cut the Achilles tendon of the anti-gun left.

Even Milwaukee County Sherriff David A. Clarke Jr. touched upon these points in his op-ed for the Washington Times, slamming Bloomberg for his hubris and having little political acumen when it comes to pushing his agenda via his effete organization [emphasis mine]:

Mr. Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York, made a huge political miscalculation when he sauntered into my territory of Milwaukee County, Wis. — a solid-blue county that overwhelmingly votes Democrat — expecting an easy signature win for his failing crusade to disarm law-abiding Americans.

According to one Democratic Party source, Mr. Bloomberg said of his attempt to knock me off in my re-election primary for sheriff, “This one is personal with me.” That is a sign of desperation. Yes, even billionaires can be greedy. Surely, Mr. Bloomberg saw me as an easy win that he could parade around the country as a warning to other pro-gun candidates to either get in line with his anti-gun movement or face defeat at the polls. He saw picking off a big-city, pro-gun sheriff as a prize worth landing.

This was no ordinary defeat for Mr. Bloomberg’s “Mayors Against the Second Amendment” group. Losing to a local sheriff in a county dominated by Democratic Party voters just might have set his futile movement back to a point of no recovery.

BOOM!

As for Bloomberg’s hubris, it’s almost stomach churning; the guy thinks he’s earned himself a spot in heaven. Yet, the NRA could potentially disseminate a devastating narrative against the pro gun control crowd with this urban/rural dichotomy they’re aiming to highlight.

In December of 2012, then-Mediaite editor Noah Rothman noted that even squishy New York Times Republican David Brooks warned that Bloomberg being at the helm of the anti-gun movement isn't going to work:

One of the problems with this debate; it’s become a values war. It’s perceived as urban versus rural. And, frankly, it’s perceived as an attack on the lifestyle of rural people by urban people. And, I admire Mayor Bloomberg enormously – there’s probably no politician I agree with more – but it’s counterproductive to have him as the spokesperson for the gun law movement. There has to be more respect and more people, frankly, from rural and red America who are participants in this.

Given Second Amendment rights’ success–legally and legislatively–in the past couple of years, Mr. Brooks seems to have hit the bullseye with this prediction.

DOJ Launches Criminal Investigation Into Foley's Murder

Attorney General Eric Holder announced Thursday that the Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation into the execution of American photojournalist James Wright Foley.

Holder's comments were prompted by a question asked at a press conference in Washington, D.C. where he was discussing the $16.5 billion settlement with the Bank of America Corporation.

“The Justice Department is actively pursuing justice in this case. We have an open criminal investigation....

[T]hose who would perpetrate such acts need to understand something. This Justice Department, this Department of Defense, this nation — we have long memories and our reach is very wide. We will not forget what happened and people will be held accountable, one way or the other.”

In his response, Holder dubbed Foley "a symbol of what’s right about the United States." 

The FBI confirmed Wednesday that the YouTube video showing an ISIL adherent boorishly beheading Foley was authentic. President Obama even took a slight reprieve from his vacation at Martha's Vineyard Wednesday to offer condolences. In a short, but poignant, speech, he vowed that the United States would continue to "confront terrorism" and to protect its "people and timeless values."

Let us hope that the Obama administration breaks character in this situation and acts on its promise to hold this terrorist organization accountable for the barbaric beheading. 

Yes, Uber is a Highly Ideological and Political Issue

The American Prospect's Paul Waldman does not think highly of recent Republican Party efforts to expand their appeal by promoting "sharing economy" companies like Uber. It's not that Waldman has anything against Uber, he just thinks their is no political salience to the issue. Waldman writes:

I have no problem with the Republicans embracing Uber. Taxi regulations usually have a logic to them, but they can also be ridiculous. In the places where Uber is being fought, it's a pure battle of interests, with the existing businesses fighting to keep their privileged position. It's really not an ideological contest at all.

Not all progressives, however, seem to agree with Waldman. Dean Baker, co-founder of the progressive Center for Economic and Policy Research, recently wrote for The Guardian:

But the downside of the sharing economy has gotten much less attention. Most cities and states both tax and regulate hotels, and the tourists who stay in hotels are usually an important source of tax revenue (since governments have long recognized that a modest hotel tax is not likely to discourage most visitors nor provoke the ire of constituents). But many of Airbnb's customers are not paying the taxes required under the law.

Airbnb can also raise issues of safety for its customers and nuisance for hosts' neighbors. Hotels are regularly inspected to ensure that they are not fire traps and that they don't pose other risks for visitors. Airbnb hosts face no such inspections – and their neighbors in condo, co-ops or apartment buildings may think they have the right not to be living next door to a hotel (which is one reason that cities have zoning restrictions).

Insofar as Airbnb is allowing people to evade taxes and regulations, the company is not a net plus to the economy and society – it is simply facilitating a bunch of rip-offs. Others in the economy will lose by bearing an additional tax burden or being forced to live next to an apartment unit with a never-ending parade of noisy visitors, just to cite two examples.

The same story may apply with Uber. Uber is currently in disputes with regulators over whether its cars meet the safety and insurance requirements imposed on standard taxis. Also, many cities impose some restrictions on the number of cabs in the hopes of ensuring a minimum level of earnings for drivers, but if Uber and related services (like Lyft) flood the market, they could harm all drivers' ability to earn even minimum wage.

So far from a harmless and isolated "battle of interests" in the transportation sector, it turns out that "sharing economy" companies like Uber and Airbnb challenge the very legitimacy of many government fixes to supposed market failures. 

Consumers are essentially being offered two economies: 1) a traditional, highly regulated economy that supposedly ensures their safety, protects them from fraud, and promises a minimum level of quality, but at a higher cost and with limited flexibility; 2) a modern, essentially unregulated economy where people rely on information provided by their peers to ensure their own safety, protect them from fraud, and secure valuable services.

The more younger voters use, choose, and identify with the second model for organizing human behavior, the more likely they are to be sympathetic to Republican limited government messages.

Does the spread of Uber and Airbnb guarantee Republican dominance? No. But by embracing the sharing economy Republicans have found an innovative way to introduce their brand to a wider population of voters that are normally told, in Waldman's words, that Republican only like "cutting taxes" and "trying to keep gay people from getting married."

NYT: U.S. Commandos Tried to Rescue James Foley

Reportedly captured by an affiliate of the Free Syrian Army and turned over to ISIS, the late journalist James Wright Foley was held in captivity for a period of years before he was brutally executed earlier this week. But the U.S. government didn’t forget about him; on the contrary, the president himself green-lighted a top-secret operation to rescue him and other hostages in Syria. Alas, the mission failed.

The New York Times reports:

A secret nighttime military mission authorized by President Obama to rescue Americans held captive in Syria failed early this summer when a team of two dozen Delta Force commandos raided an oil refinery in the northern part of the country but found after a firefight with Islamic militants that there were no hostages to be saved, administration officials said Wednesday.

The officials — speaking a day after the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria posted a video showing the American journalist James Foley being beheaded — described what they called a “complicated operation” in which the commandos were dropped by helicopter into Syrian territory in an attempt to rescue Mr. Foley and others being held by the Sunni militant group.

The Army commandos fought their way to the spot where they believed that ISIS was hiding the hostages, the officials said. But when the team swooped in, the hostages were gone. “We’re not sure why they were moved,” a Defense Department official said. “By the time we got there, it was too late.” The official said it may have been “a matter of hours, perhaps a day or two” since the hostages had been there.

So U.S. intelligence officials had the correct location, but for some reason, the hostages were moved just before Army commandos could get to them. Devastating. Still, the article notes that although one U.S. soldier was “slightly wounded” during the attempted extraction, no Americans died. The raiders, meanwhile, took out at least a handful of Islamic terrorists.

And yet while the rescue attempt was daring, laudable, and dangerous, some at the Defense Department are questioning why the administration released information about the raid in the first place:

Two Defense Department officials, who spoke separately on the condition of anonymity because of the operation’s delicate nature, expressed anger at the administration for revealing the mission. One of the officials said the aborted raid had alerted the militants to the Americans’ desire and willingness to try to rescue the hostages, and, in the aftermath, had probably forced the captors to tighten their security.

But, the official said, the conference call on Wednesday revealed new details that ISIS is not likely to have known. “This only makes our job harder,” the official said. “I’m very disappointed this was released. We knew any second operation would be a lot harder.”

Although this, perhaps, is a plausible reason:

Caitlin Hayden, the National Security Council spokeswoman, said the administration had “never intended to disclose this operation” but had felt that its hand was forced by news media outlets that were preparing to report on the mission. “An overriding concern for the safety of the hostages and for operational security made it imperative that we preserve as much secrecy as possible,” she said in a statement on Wednesday evening.

Still, how could “media outlets” have access to this sensitive information if someone from the administration hadn't first leaked it? This explanation therefore doesn't address the underlying problem; namely, classified information continues to find its way into the hands of journalists and reporters. Why? Nevertheless, the Defense Department released this statement yesterday confirming the mission, and vowing to never leave captured American citizens behind when they can plausibly be rescued:

As we have said repeatedly, the United States government is committed to the safety and well-being of its citizens, particularly those suffering in captivity. In this case, we put the best of the United States military in harms' way to try and bring our citizens home.

The United States government uses the full breadth of our military, intelligence and diplomatic capabilities to bring people home whenever we can. The United States will not tolerate the abduction of our people, and will work tirelessly to secure the safety of our citizens and to hold their captors accountable.

Sadly, there is still another American journalist being detained by ISIS. And unsurprisingly, his fate remains uncertain.

ISIS, Mexican Drug Cartels Teaming Up?

The relationship between drug trafficking and terrorism has long existed, and can take many forms depending on the goals and needs of each party. Sometimes hybrid criminal-terrorist organizations form in which terrorist groups become involved in the drug trade to fund operations, purchase equipment, and pay foot soldiers. In return, they provide safe passageways for the drugs and give traffickers tips for circumventing customs and security forces. Other times a localized criminal organization or terrorist group lacks expertise, so increased contacts and business with major drug cartels helps advance the sophistication of their operation. Ultimately, though, both have logistical needs and working with or even talking to each other allows the groups to share lessons learned, important contacts to corrupt officials, and operational methods.

Thus, it’s not surprising to hear that the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) is already talking to Mexican drug cartels. Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX), a member of the House Judiciary Committee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, said as much on Newmax TV’s “America’s Forum” on Wednesday when asked if there’s any interaction between the two.

“My opinion is yes,” he replied. “There seems to be at least a talking to each other. How much? I don’t know. But ... drug cartels use the same operational plan as terrorist groups do. They kill their opponents, they behead their opponents, they brag about it and they have operational control of many portions of the southern border of the United States. Mexico doesn’t. The United States doesn’t. Otherwise they wouldn’t be crossing daily with their drugs. They’re as vicious as some of these other terrorist organizations. We need to recognize them that this is an organized international crime group. And we have to deal with them as such.” 

Even amid all the domestic and international crises going on at the moment, it’s important that the American people and lawmakers not give up on putting pressure on this administration to beef up border security. The crisis at the Southwest border is about more than just the illegal immigration of tens of thousands of Central Americans—it’s about national security. Criminals, violent gang members, drug cartel members, and yes, terrorists, are also coming in and will continue to do so as long as this administration puts politics and political correctness ahead of security.

Romney: Heck, Even I Never Thought Obama Could Be This Bad

During the last election cycle Mitt Romney was crushed by President Obama in the Electoral College and lost by nearly 5 million popular votes. That’s to say, the public overwhelmingly decided that the incumbent president was the better and more qualified of the two candidates, and safely re-elected him.

Still, even if that’s how history ultimately unfolded, the former Republican presidential nominee isn’t putting his disagreements aside -- or rallying to his defense -- during these difficult times. On the contrary, he recently told a crowd of enthusiastic supporters in West Virginia that even he was surprised by how much of a failure President Obama’s second term has become (via The Washington Times):

The former Massachusetts governor has some pointed words for the man who defeated him two years ago, saying President Obama was doing “a good deal worse than even I expected.” He cited the U.S. economy and troubles abroad in such hot spots as Iraq, Syria and Russia.

“I was not a big fan of the president’s policies, as you know, either domestically or internationally,” he said, “but the results of his mistakes and errors, in my opinion, have been more severe than even I would have predicted.”

That’s about as uncharitable as Mitt Romney gets. Still, the past few weeks have been anything but easy for the president and his advisers. The death of Michael Brown and the subsequent rioting in Ferguson, Missouri has only added to the president’s growing list of unresolved problems. Abroad, we’ve also witnessed the slaughtering of innocent civilians in northern Iraq and the execution of the first American citizen by the terrorist organization ISIS. To make matters worse, the resumption of hostilities between Israel and Hamas -- and Ukraine and Russia -- also threaten global stability and security.

Despite these challenges, however, there’s a reason why my colleagues over at Hot Air routinely describe Obama as “semi-retired.” That’s because he often gives off the impression that he is. He frequently delivers concise statements on important subject matters, only to jet off to a fundraiser or hit the links shortly thereafter. Still, even if the president isn’t “semi-retired” as some claim, his actions suggest he’s not totally engaged, either. As ABC News openly wondered: Does he even care about optics anymore?

It’d be one thing if President Obama was merely a floundering president way over his head; it’s quite another (and a real problem perhaps) when nearly half the country thinks he’s “already checked out.”

Bernie Sanders 2016?

This certainly would be a surprise if Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, runs in 2016. The self-described democratic socialist said last week we shouldn’t “anoint” Hillary just yet.

Sen. Sanders also isn’t afraid of being called a socialist. And said he had a “damn good platform” for a presidential run (via Yahoo!):

"If the American people understand what goes on in countries like Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and other countries, they will say, ‘Whoa, I didn't know that!’” Sanders said, pointing out that health care is considered a right, “R-I-G-H-T,” among even the most conservative politicians in Denmark.

Sanders described his credo as a fight to protect America’s working class from what he sees as the threat of an approaching “oligarchic form of society.”

“You have today in America more income and wealth inequality than any time in this country since 1928 and more than any major country in the world,” Sanders said. “So, you got the top one percent owning 38 percent of the wealth in America. Do you know what the bottom 60 percent own? 2.3 percent.”

“You know what that is?" he said. "That's called oligarchy."

Though Sanders isn’t making any secret of his possible 2016 presidential bid, he said he’s still determining whether he could generate a sufficient level of grassroots support on which to build a campaign.

One of Sanders’ most likely competitors, should he choose to seek the Democratic nomination, is Hillary Clinton. And while Sanders praised Clinton for a successful career, he was critical of the Democratic Party’s seeming coronation of the former secretary of state.

"She has accomplished a lot of very positive things in her career, but I'm not quite sure that the political process is one in which we anoint people,” Sanders said.

Though he stopped short of criticizing Clinton directly, he said she is not a sufficient champion of his message for the middle class.

Well, even “the most conservative politicians” in Denmark would be labeled liberal here in the U.S. Also, the senator should know that conservative means something entirely different across the pond. As for presidential ambitions, Sanders, like Warren, is hinting at making challenges so that more centrist–or perceived centrist– candidates, like Hillary Clinton, make sure their leanings veer towards the left.

Allahpundit made a note of this last June after Sen. Warren’s interview with Huffington Post Live:

What she’s really doing here, I think, is preserving a little strategic ambiguity to keep the pressure on Hillary to pander to the left. She’s not going to run and she wouldn’t win if she did, but if she starts speaking campaign-ese, she can make sure that Hillary invests in plenty of income inequality rhetoric next year that the left can hold her to later.

Alas, Sen. Warren isn’t going to run. But the progressive challenge threat remains. Hillary still hasn’t sharpened her already dull campaign skills from 2008–and don’t expect anything once 2016 rolls around. She’s not a good campaigner, who could struggle if Sanders decides to channel his inner-Warren. Even if he is in the race just to raise the issues adored by the far left of the Democratic Party.

Although, given her recent gaffes, especially about her wealth, and the outrageous demands Hillary makes when making speeches; it's not totally insane (we’re talking Democratic politics here) to say that he could siphon some of Hillary’s grassroots support. At Netroots Nation, the crowd went nuts when Sen. Warren gave her keynote address; a sign that shows she’s where the Democratic base aligns on the issues. And that’s a bit unnerving. Sen. Sanders also fits in with this crowd very well.

Additionally, Hillary also isn’t looking as invincible as she once did in February. The left-leaning Washington Post documented her precipitous decline last week:

A new poll from McClatchy and Marist College documents that decline pretty well. In hypothetical matchups with potential 2016 Republican candidates, Clinton has seen her lead decline from 20-plus points in February to the mid-single digits today. She leads Chris Christie by six points after leading him by 21 points six months ago. She leads Jeb Bush 48-41 after leading him by 20 in February. She leads Rand Paul 48-42 after leading him by the same margin early this year.

But for right now, Sen. Sanders is defending Israel, telling people to “shut up” at town halls about the Gaza conflict. I guess we can assume his position on Israel won’t be a hostile one if he mounts a 2016 campaign, right?

(Warning: mild language)

The fireworks begin around 3:15. One woman says Hamas' tunnels in Gaza were for "survival purposes."  

Grand Jurors Say Gov. Perry Is Being 'Disrespectful,' Or Something

Several members of the grand jury that indicted Texas Gov. Rick Perry on abuse of power charges are a little hurt that the governor labeled their actions as politically motivated (via Houston Chronicle):

Several members of the grand jury that indicted Gov. Rick Perry said Tuesday that his claim the indictment was based more on politics than substance is unfair and disrespectful to the months of work they put in.

The jury, which met weekly for four months, "really tried to keep an open mind and come to a fair decision given all the testimony that we heard," said Janna Bessin, one of the 12 Travis County residents appointed to serve on the grand jury.

"It's too bad," Bessin said, calling the criticism unfair. "But I guess that his side's job – to really spin it."

Perry was indicted on one count of abuse of official capacity, a first-degree felony punishable by five to 99 years in prison; and on one count of coercion of a public servant, a third-degree felony carrying a punishment oftwo to 10 years in prison.

The charges are related to Perry's threat to veto funding for the Travis County District Attorney office's Public Integrity Unit unless District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg resigned following her drunken-driving arrest and the widely-viewed video of her booking in which she was belligerant with police officers. Lehmberg refused and Perry vetoed the $7.5 million in state funding for the Public Integrity Unit.

Gov. Perry turned himself in Tuesday, got his mug shot taken, and said outside the courthouse "I'm here today because I believe in the rule of law. And I'm here today because I did the right thing.” 

Gov. Perry has actually seen commentaries and editorials from across the political spectrum saying how this indictment is a gross exercise in overreach. Former White House adviser David Axelrod called it “sketchy.” The New York Times, which isn’t a fan of Gov. Perry, criticized the charges as “overzealous.” Jonathan Chait, former editor of the New Republic, called this whole fiasco “unbelievably ridiculous.”

Oh, as for the jurors speaking out, it seems like you're breaking the law. Bryan Preston over at PJ Media has what Texas law says about the oath of grand jurors:

Now, as to Texas law. Here’s what it says.

Art. 19.34. [365] [416] [404] OATH OF GRAND JURORS

When the grand jury is completed, the court shall appoint one of the number foreman; and the following oath shall be administered by the court, or under its direction, to the jurors: “You solemnly swear that you

will diligently inquire into, and true presentment make, of all

such matters and things as shall be given you in charge; the

State’s counsel, your fellows and your own, you shall keep secret,

unless required to disclose the same in the course of a judicial

proceeding in which the truth or falsity of evidence given in the

grand jury room, in a criminal case, shall be under investigation.

You shall present no person from envy, hatred or malice; neither

shall you leave any person unpresented for love, fear, favor,

affection or hope of reward; but you shall present things truly as

they come to your knowledge, according to the best of your

understanding, so help you God”.

Bold added. For the grand jury misconduct.

"Ice Bucket Challenge": Don't Waste Water

Scrolling through your Facebook or Twitter feed hasn't been the same in the last few weeks. 

Rich, poor, young, old, Dr. Dre, and your uncle you haven't seen in years have all been participating in the nationwide phenomena known as the "Ice Bucket Challenge." In the name of finding a cure for Lou Gehrig’s Disease (also known as ALS), the "Ice Bucket Challenge" has raised $31.5 million in just over 3 weeks. The idea is simple: donate to the ALS Association or pour ice water on your head, challenge someone else to do the same, and post to social media.

Governor Jerry Brown of California was challenged by Sacramento mayor, Kevin Johnson and instead of taking on the challenge himself, he volunteered his Welsh corgi, Sutter. Ironically, the bucket of water is poured out in front of the California Capitol Building with what appears to be a water conservation sign in the background. Watch the video here.

The "Ice Bucket Challenge" has been scrutinized by critics in California where the state is experiencing the worst drought in recored history. The Long Beach Post estimates that 6 million gallons of water have been wasted on the challenge worldwide, but any water wasted in California is intolerable. State-mandated fines of $500 are in effect for those wasting water for any reason.

Many people don't understand that the challenge is meant to be a punishment for not donating to charity. Instead it has become an excuse to post a silly video on social media. 

Will Oremus of Slate.com wrote:

"As for 'raising awareness,' few of the videos I’ve seen contain any substantive information about the disease, why the money is needed, or how it will be used. More than anything else, the ice bucket videos feel like an exercise in raising awareness of one’s own zaniness, altruism, and/or attractiveness in a wet T-shirt."

The 1.2 million "Ice Bucket" videos shared on Facebook show little knowledge of what ALS is (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) from their creators. They mostly consist of "Hi, my name is so-and-so and I challenge so-and-so." Giving a little education on the disease would at least justify those who are doing the challenge and not donating, which is what many younger people are doing. 

While there is probably people who do the challenge and donate to ALS research, the "Ice Bucket Challenge" is being called a ploy by those who claim to support a cause and aren't really doing anything. Some call it "slacktivism," a play-on-words for people who don't do much for the cause they are supporting (post a Facebook video, for example) and claim to be an activist for. 

REPORT: Fracking Doesn't Create Destructive Earthquakes

The debate is over; fracking doesn’t cause destructive earthquakes. The highly non-controversial way of extracting natural gas, which has been used since 1947, has been a focal point of some absurd claims that they’re a threat to the environment (via Associated Press) [emphasis mine]:

Man-made earthquakes, a side effect of some high-tech energy drilling, cause less shaking and in general are about 16 times weaker than natural earthquakes with the same magnitude, a new federal study found.

People feeling the ground move from induced quakes — those that are not natural, but triggered by injections of wastewater deep underground— report significantly less shaking than those who experience more normal earthquakes of the same magnitude, according to a study by U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist Susan Hough.

Fracking and natural gas exploration has been a huge issue for the environmentalists. They claim fracking contaminates water, which was disproven by the Environmental Protection Agency when they tested the water in Dimock, Pennsylvania in 2012. They said the water was safe to drink (emphasis mine):

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today [July 25, 2012] that it has completed its sampling of private drinking water wells in Dimock, Pa. Data previously supplied to the agency by residents, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and Cabot Oil and Gas Exploration had indicated the potential for elevated levels of water contaminants in wells, and following requests by residents EPA took steps to sample water in the area to ensure there were not elevated levels of contaminants. Based on the outcome of that sampling, EPA has determined that there are not levels of contaminants present that would require additional action by the Agency.

Between January and June 2012, EPA sampled private drinking water wells serving 64 homes, including two rounds of sampling at four wells where EPA was delivering temporary water supplies as a precautionary step in response to prior data indicating the well water contained levels of contaminants that pose a health concern. At one of those wells EPA did find an elevated level of manganese in untreated well water. The two residences serviced by the well each have water treatment systems that can reduce manganese to levels that do not present a health concern.

As a result of the two rounds of sampling at these four wells, EPA has determined that it is no longer necessary to provide residents with alternative water. EPA is working with residents on the schedule to disconnect the alternate water sources provided by EPA.

Overall during the sampling in Dimock, EPA found hazardous substances, specifically arsenic, barium or manganese, all of which are also naturally occurring substances, in well water at five homes at levels that could present a health concern. In all cases the residents have now or will have their own treatment systems that can reduce concentrations of those hazardous substances to acceptable levels at the tap. EPA has provided the residents with all of their sampling results and has no further plans to conduct additional drinking water sampling in Dimock.

Dimock became the epicenter for the drinking water contamination hysteria thanks to Josh Fox’s 2010 documentary Gasland.

Right now, environmentalists and green energy advocates have to solve a few problems with their own pet projects, specifically in solar fields where 28,000 birds are bursting into flames over the intense heat emitted from the plants. Additionally, wind turbines are killing hundreds of thousands of migratory birds and turning nearly a million bats into burgers (via NRO):

California’s massive Ivanpah solar power plant can produce enough electricity for 140,000 households — but the environmental cost is nothing less than an avian slaughter.

Temperatures near the towers can reach up to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, heat certainly sufficient to fry a fowl.

That’s a common occurrence, the AP continues; federal investigators saw a bird burn roughly every two minutes. Ivanpah owner BrightSource estimates that “about a thousand” die each year, and one environmental group says the plant kills up to 28,000 birds each year.

Ivanpah isn’t the only green darling with a lot of bird blood on its hands, either. The American Bird Conservancy estimates wind turbines slay 440,000 birds each year, and the an analyst writing in the Wildlife Society Bulletin says it’s closer to 573,000 — in addition to 888,000 bats.

So, does this mean we should all live in teepees? 

Low Approval Ratings Prompt More Obama Press Conferences

President Obama has held more press conferences this year than all of 2013 in light of constant national and international turmoil that has plagued the president's second term. Republicans believe it is due to Obama's record-low approval rating, which according to  Real Clear Politics reached an average of 41.8 percent. 

For a president that has been criticized for being out of touch and hard to reach, Martha Joynt Kumar, a political science professor at Towson University, told  USA TODAY that Obama has held 16 press conferences up until July of this year, more than 2013, which totaled 14 appearances.

Kumar in  USA TODAY said:

"You need to have the public know who you are...That's an issue for him." 

The White House is quick to say that the trend is more about the issues and less about the president making a renewed PR stunt to slow his bleeding legacy.

Republican strategist Rich Galen told USA TODAY:

"They're looking for anything that can stop the slide...If you don't define yourself, your opponents will do it for you."

Even while on vacation, President Obama has made five press statements during his time at Martha's Vineyard. Earlier today, he spoke on the tragic beheading of American journalist James Foley by ISIS militants. 

Why It Matters That Obama Doesn't Hold Much Sway On Capitol Hill

Many analysts subscribe to the theory that the Congressional GOP is the main source of all dysfunction on Capitol Hill. Their monolithic will to block progress, this theory goes, impedes legislation on Capitol Hill and there's really nothing anyone can do about it but ask constituents to apply pressure.

Vox's Ezra Klein writes that Capitol Hill Democrats' frustrations with President Obama are "ridiculous." This is in reference to a New York Times article that described those frustrations. While the NYT got multiple Democrats on the record with those complaints, Klein cites "a lot" of conversations he has with members of Congress, saying that all of them agree that their voting pattern has not been changed by President Obama's behavior.

Putting aside one obvious thing - no legislator wants to admit that their ideals that underlie their voting behavior is so shallow and malleable that a cup of coffee with POTUS will change it, especially to a member of the press - we could find a myriad of examples in which President Obama's lack of sway within his own party may have impeded legislative action on the Hill.

Just this year, Democrats on the Hill led action against a bipartisan piece of trade legislation that the White House was publicly in favor of. As the Financial Times reported, Sen. Sherrod Brown and other pro-labor Democrats helped block legislation sponsored by Max Baucus and Dave Camp for the Trade Promotion Authority.

Now, this is a relatively small-bore issue, and it might be that no amount of Obama politicking would have caused Democrats to back off their opposition to trade legislation. Democrats can be quite monolithic and uncompromising when it comes to free trade agreements. (Why, one might be surprised that Democrats are often just as monolithic and uncompromising as one thinks Republicans to be!) But it's not just here. President Obama's relationship with Harry Reid has proven to be fractious, and it's not hard to imagine a better working relationship resulting in Harry Reid himself working harder for Democratic comity. Obama politicking might not be enough to pass gun control measures (though some have said that a more shrewd White House might have found victory on extended unemployment benefits extension), but to point out that Republicans have a few pet issues on which they won't compromise is not to excuse the White House.

As Joe Manchin told the New York Times, sometimes a little introspection is a good thing. It might be possible that there is literally nothing President Obama could have done over the previous six years that would have resulted in a better working relationship and more of his pet legislation passed. But no amount of anonymous conversations that Klein has with unnamed legislators will change that legislators, by and large, do think Obama could do better.

Republicans Shift Gears On Obamacare Attack Ads

Just as Democrats are shying away from “War on Women” tactics since American women see them as too divisive, Republicans are shifting away from attacking Obamacare directly in attack ads. Now, they’re pivoting towards the law’s impact on the economy (via Bloomberg):

The shift -- also taking place in competitive states such as Arkansas and Louisiana -- shows Republicans are easing off their strategy of criticizing Democrats over the Affordable Care Act now that many Americans are benefiting from the law and the measure is unlikely to be repealed.

“The Republican Party is realizing you can’t really hang your hat on it,” said Andrew Taylor, a political science professor at North Carolina State University. “It just isn’t the kind of issue it was.”

In April, anti-Obamacare advertising dwarfed all other spots in North Carolina. It accounted for 3,061, or 54 percent, of the 5,704 top five issue ads in North Carolina, according to Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group. By July, the numbers had reversed, with anti-Obamacare ads accounting for 971, or 27 percent, of the top issue ads, and the budget, government spending, jobs and unemployment accounting for 2,608, or 72 percent, of such ads, CMAG data show

It is a recognition that there’s more going on in this state and also nationally than just frustration over Obamacare,” said Jordan Shaw, Tillis’s campaign manager. “We have never had an approach to make this campaign all about the Affordable Care Act. You can’t have a conversation about Obamacare without talking about its impact on the economy.”

The Republican approach, long defined by a “repeal and replace” mantra, is also challenged by a policy void, said Jennifer Duffy, a Senate analyst at the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. “You can’t really repeal it without creating a mess,” she said, “and the problem is they’re not entirely sure what to replace it with.”

The reason for pivoting on the Obamacare ads could be Gallup noting that “the rate of uninsured people has dropped in all except five states. Two critical states, Arkansas and Kentucky, had the biggest declines. In Arkansas, the rate of people without health insurance fell from 22.5 percent in 2013 to 12.4 percent in mid-2014,” according to Bloomberg.

As more people enroll under the Affordable Care Act, the harder it’ll be for conservatives to campaign against Obamacare. Whether we like it or nor, the larger electorate will see these ads as Republican attempts to take away their health care. That problem will be magnified once more Americans are enrolled under the ACA by 2016. Will our 2016 GOP nominee really campaign on a platform that seeks to take away insurance from millions of Americans–or at least that’s how the media will frame it? If that’s the case, Election Day 2016 will be a short night, with a Democrat back in the White House.

Yet, that doesn’t mean conservatives should just stop fighting Obamacare legally on what are legitimate constitutional issues. The second front in that war is having a replacement plan; something to tell voters besides “repeal it!”

Avik Roy released his white paper of the subject last week. It’s worth a read. But, Republicans have had alternatives to fix our health care system since the Clinton administration. Chris Conover at Forbes provided a history of Republican health care alternatives last summer, most notably Bushcare. 

In 2007, President Bush had a “reform plan that would have replaced the current tax exclusion for employer-provided coverage with standard tax deductions for all individuals and families,” Conover wrote. “The Bush plan called for a tax deduction that would have applied to payroll taxes as well as income taxes. Moreover, if one were worried about non-filers, the subsidy could easily have instead been structured as a refundable tax credit in which case even those without any income taxes would have gotten an additional amount.”

If Democrats were willing to work with Republicans back in the day, the reward could’ve been reducing the number of uninsured Americans by 65%, compared to Obamacare’s 45% when the law is fully-implemented by 2016. Oh, and the Bush plan had no mandate.

Right now, Republicans could continue to bash the president’s signature domestic achievement; the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is still having trouble getting the Open Payments database off the ground. But what will get independents to tilt towards the right come Election Day is focusing on the law's impact on jobs and the economy, according to Republican pollster Whit Ayers. It’ll probably get even better once Republicans reach a consensus on how to replace Obamacare.  There's plenty of ideas out there.

Obama: “No God Would Stand For What [ISIL] Did Yesterday”

Speaking from Martha’s Vineyard on Wednesday, President Obama delivered a somber yet moving speech eulogizing the life of the late American journalist James Wright Foley, who U.S. intelligence officials confirmed today was beheaded by ISIL.

“Jim was taken from us in an act of violence that shocks the conscience of the civilized world,” the president said before eviscerating the evil and gruesome tactics of his killers.

“Let’s be clear about ISIL,” he said. “They have rampaged across cities and villages killing innocent civilians.”

“They’ve murdered Muslims [by] the thousands,” he continued. “They target Christians and religious minorities, driving them from their homes whenever they can.”

He also noted that ISIL massacres, rapes, tortures, and even enslaves their victims -- describing their ideology as both “bankrupt” and of no “value to human beings.”

“ISIL speaks for no religion,” he said. “No God would stand for what they did yesterday and what they do every single day.”

Curiously, the president didn’t address how the U.S. would fight this growing terrorist threat. He did say, however, that the U.S. has no illusions about the dangers ISIL poses to the West and civilized societies everywhere.

“We will continue to confront this hateful terrorism,” he said. “We will do everything we can to protect our people and the timeless values we stand for.”

Still, the president didn’t take any questions from reporters, nor comment on the fact that an American journalist is almost certainly still being held prisoner by ISIL.

Instead, after reading his prepared remarks, he went "straight to the golf course."

Editor's note: This post has been updated.

Who Was Journalist James Wright Foley?

The Islamic terrorist group ISIS boorishly murdered American freelance photojournalist  James Wright Foley, decapitating him on camera in an attempt to shock the United States and President Obama into military stagnance in Iraq. Foley, a native of New Hampshire, lost his life to the very type of primitive and sadistic people he was attempting to expose.

This was not the first time Foley had been captured while working in the Islamic world. He was  abducted previously in 2011 by Qaddafi loyalists and held in Libya. After 45 days, he was released and sent a letter to his alma mater, Marquette University, a Roman Catholic institution in Wisconsin. He thanked the school for challenging him to “do more and be better.” After taking a volunteer trip to South Dakota and Mississippi with Marquette, Foley said he realized he was a “sheltered kid and the world had real problems.” 

During his imprisonment, Foley wrote that he prayed every day and even said prayers out loud with his imprisoned colleague, Clare. Here is a portion of the letter:

One night, 18 days into our captivity, some guards brought me out of the cell. In the hall I saw Manu, another colleague, for the first time in a week. We were haggard but overjoyed to see each other. Upstairs in the warden’s office, a distinguished man in a suit stood and said, “We felt you might want to call your families.”

I said a final prayer and dialed the number. My mom answered the phone. “Mom, Mom, it’s me, Jim.”

“Jimmy, where are you?”

“I’m still in Libya, Mom. I’m sorry about this. So sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry, Jim,” she pleaded. “Oh, Daddy just left. Oh … He so wants to talk to you.

How are you, Jim?” I told her I was being fed, that I was getting the best bed and being treated like a guest.

“Are they making you say these things, Jim?”

“No, the Libyans are beautiful people,” I told her. “I’ve been praying for you to know that I’m OK,” I said. “Haven’t you felt my prayers?”

“Oh, Jimmy, so many people are praying for you. All your friends, Donnie, Michael Joyce, Dan Hanrahan, Suree, Tom Durkin, Sarah Fang have been calling. Your brother Michael loves you so much.” She started to cry. “The Turkish embassy is trying to see you and also Human Rights Watch. Did you see them?” I said I hadn’t.

“They’re having a prayer vigil for you at Marquette. Don’t you feel our prayers?” she asked.

“I do, Mom, I feel them,” and I thought about this for a second. Maybe it was others’ prayers strengthening me, keeping me afloat.

The official made a motion. I started to say goodbye. Mom started to cry. “Mom, I’m strong. I’m OK. I should be home by Katie’s graduation,” which was a month away.

“We love you, Jim!” she said. Then I hung up.

I replayed that call hundreds of times in my head — my mother’s voice, the names of my friends, her knowledge of our situation, her absolute belief in the power of prayer. She told me my friends had gathered to do anything they could to help. I knew I wasn’t alone.

James Foley chose to continue exposing the problems in the Islamic world after his initial release and was  captured again in Syria in November 2012. The Committee to Protect Journalists began a petition for his freedom after his second abduction. Sixty-six journalists have died covering the conflict in Syria and seven have been murdered, according to CPJ’s site. It is the most dangerous country for the media. 

In a Facebook post Tuesday,  Foley’s mother, Diane Foley, said she has never been more proud of her son:

We have never been prouder of our son Jim. He gave his life trying to expose the world to the suffering of the Syrian people.

We implore the kidnappers to spare the lives of the remaining hostages. Like Jim, they are innocents. They have no control over American government policy in Iraq, Syria or anywhere in the world.

We thank Jim for all the joy he gave us. He was an extraordinary son, brother, journalist and person. Please respect our privacy in the days ahead as we mourn and cherish Jim.

President Obama was briefed about Foley’s murder while flying back on Air Force One to his vacation spot at Martha’s Vineyard. He is expected to address Foley’s death during a press conference at 12:45 PM EST Wednesday. 

FBI: We Think the Foley Video Might Be Genuine

The video in question has already been taken down from YouTube. Nevertheless, after analyzing and appraising its authenticity, the FBI has reportedly reached this tragic conclusion: it’s real.

Reuters has the details:

The FBI believes the Islamic State video purporting to show the beheading of American journalist James Foley is authentic, GlobalPost reported on Wednesday.

"The FBI on Wednesday morning told the Foley family they believe the video is authentic," according to GlobalPost, a Boston-based online publication that employed Foley as a freelancer.

U.S. President Barack Obama, who is on vacation on the Massachusetts island of Martha's Vineyard, is likely to comment on the video later in the day, a U.S. official told Reuters.

U.S. authorities had previously said they were trying to verify the contents of the video, which was released on Tuesday.

Remember, we haven’t received any official confirmation that the man executed in the video is James Foley. But if the FBI is supposedly already telling Foley’s family the rumors are true, that’s an ominous sign. Presumably, too, when the president updates the nation today at 12:45 PM EST (or, perhaps more realistically, 1:15 PM or later) we’ll know more about what happened.

Sit tight for our write-up.

UPDATE: U.S. intelligence has confirmed the video is genuine.

Contrast: David Cameron Suspends Vacation Over Foley Killing; Obama Heads Back To Vineyard

Yesterday, a video depicting the beheading of American journalist James Wright Foley was posted on YouTube. The jihadist in the video spoke with a London accent, prompting questions about whether the man was in fact a British national.

In response to these questions, British Prime Minister David Cameron suspended his vacation and vowed to get to the bottom of the situation. Obama, on the other hand, returned to Martha's Vineyard late Tuesday evening to rejoin his family on vacation. A statement was released through a spokesman late last night that said Obama was "appalled" by the gruesome beheading.

Compare:

The Prime Minister has broken off his holiday in Cornwall after just a day, having previously said that he would return "immediately" if the situation in Iraq deteriorated.

He made the announcement after Philip Hammond said that it appeared that the Islamic State extremist who beheaded Mr Foley is British.

Meanwhile:

President Obama went back to his vacation on Martha’s Vineyard Tuesday evening following less than 48 hours in Washington, leaving people puzzled over why he came back in the first place.

Obama’s two days in Washington were mostly quiet, and concluded with the president receiving his daily national security briefing in the morning, and joining Vice President Biden to huddle with members of his economic team in the afternoon.

Administration officials have insisted for weeks that the president just wanted to return to the White House for a series of meetings, but the explanation was met with a healthy dose of skepticism, since Obama rarely interrupts his vacations.

This is unacceptable behavior from the president, and he should look to Cameron for guidance on how to handle a situation like this. It isn't even confirmed that the man in question is British (for all we know, he could have been taught English by a Londoner or is a heck of an impressionist), yet Cameron recognized the gravity of the situation and did the appropriate thing by suspending his vacation.

It's no wonder ISIS thinks they can walk all over us.

McDonnell's Sister-in-Law Calls His Wife A "Vitamin Nut" During Corruption Trial

Former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell's (R) corruption trial became a testy family affair Tuesday when his sister-in-law had nothing but harsh words for her brother's wife. The former First Family has been charged with accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts from business executive Jonnie R. Williams Sr. in exchange for promoting his company, Star Scientific, which sells dietary supplements, and offering him access to the governor's office. On the witness stand this week, McDonnell's sister tried to  place the blame for the unethical relationship on her sister-in-law:

“There are two sides to Maureen,” she testified. “You’re not sure which one you’re going to get — which one will show up.”

One, she said, was “very sweet, very tender.” She recalled how the former first lady sat with her husband’s mother as she lay dying, rubbing lotion on the elderly woman’s legs and head.

But, Maureen C. McDonnell added: “She could be very manipulative. She could be very unpredictable. She could be very deceptive.”

McDonnell's sister also referred to his wife as a "vitamin nut," suggesting she is the likely culprit in wanting to promote Williams' products. She isn't the only who had an unflattering description of the First Lady. On Monday, one of Governor McDonnell's longtime aides accused his wife of being so "diva-ish" that her staff once threatened to quit. 

So, why is McDonnell's defense team employing a strategy that is so critical of his spouse? Well, if they make the case that McDonnell was simply a victim of his wife promoting Williams' company behind his back, it could earn him some sympathy from the jury.

Whether or not the jury takes the bait remains to be seen. Until then, this is one Family Feud that will not end in cheers from a studio audience.

Rubio: It's Clear ISIS Has Already Declared War on the U.S.

The horrible barbarism of ISIS is just starting to impact and affect Americans directly. Katie wrote up the grisly news yesterday that 40-year-old American journalist, James Wright Foley, was allegedly beheaded by the terrorist group. (I haven’t seen the video, nor do I intend to, but the carnage speaks for itself).

As of this writing, ISIS' savage claims cannot be substantiated -- but the administration is nonetheless "appalled" by these recent developments. Meanwhile, Al Qaeda’s newest ally now claims to have another American in captivity, and is threatening to kill him too if the U.S. doesn’t stop their ongoing and effective airstrike campaign against ISIS in northern Iraq.

Even so, former CIA Director Mike Morell argued that even if he is assassinated, “we cannot let something like this stop us” from taking the fight to the enemy (via Noah Rothman):

In fact, we should pick up the pace here. The definition of terrorism is political violence…so we should mark this date down because this is ISIS’ first terrorist attack against the United States.

Meanwhile, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), a presumed presidential hopeful himself, condemned ISIS today in clear and unequivocal terms. Here is what he said:

“The brutal execution of American journalist James Foley by ISIL is the latest example of the evil and barbarism of these terrorists. My thoughts and prayers are with the Foley family and with other Western hostages who at this hour are still being held.

“Just as Al Qaeda’s initial killings of Americans abroad foretold the carnage they would unleash within our borders, this barbaric beheading of a defenseless hostage is the clearest indication to date that ISIL has declared war on the United States, on the American people, and on freedom loving people everywhere.

“For more than a year, ISIL has been murdering civilians, raping women and young girls and enslaving them, and carrying out a systematic genocide of anyone who does not share their warped and extremist Islamist views. ISIL cannot be reasoned with, they can’t be negotiated with, and their view of the world is irreconcilable with civilized society.

“I remain deeply concerned that despite the preponderance of evidence that proves ISIL is a fundamentally evil and dangerous terrorist threat to the United States, President Obama continues to appear unwilling to do what is necessary to confront ISIL and communicate clearly to the American people about the threat ISIL poses to our country and to our way of life.

The president will convene a press conference today to address the alleged beheading of James Wright Foley, and its implications. Stay tuned.