Rumor Mill: Rubio Could Announce His Presidential Run on April 13

Dan has been following the 2016 rumblings being made by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. He’s reportedly “frustrated” with the Senate, and doesn’t plan to run for re-election. Polling shows the young Republican can be a formidable force next year. He’s also been courting Romney and his donor network, which–if successful–could shift things in his direction.

Now, the Freedom Tower in Miami has been reserved for an event on April 13, which could be where Sen. Rubio makes his 2016 intentions official (via Tampa Bay Times):

A Rubio adviser stressed nothing has been nailed down for any kind of announcement, but the timing makes sense: Likely presidential candidate Rand Paul is expected to make things official April 7, to be followed by a five-day, five-state announcement tour, so Rubio presumably would not want to share the spotlight during that period.

All-but-announced candidate Jeb Bush appears to be in no rush to shift more formally into campaign mode, but Texas Sen. Ted Cruz made his announcement this week and Democrat Hillary Clinton is expected to make her campaign announcement in April as well, though nothing has been set.

Rubio, 43, has been preparing for a potential presidential run for at least a year. While behind in most early polls, he has generated considerable buzz as a top-tier contender who offers the party a fresh face, foreign policy experience, charisma and substance.

The Freedom Tower, a Mediterranean Revival landmark beside Biscayne Bay, is apparently one of several venues under consideration by Rubio, but it could be an ideal postcard setting to kick off a presidential campaign promoting the promise and greatness of America by the son of Cuban immigrants.

The building is reserved for 5:30 p.m. that Monday, which also happens to be Thomas Jefferson's birthday.

Over at FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver wrote that Sen. Rubio has a path to the nomination, noting that his numbers in Iowa aren’t bad, and that his relative anonymity with the general electorate allows him to shape his image. He also has some of the best approval ratings in the 2016 field, which overall, aren’t good. At the same time, Gov. Scott Walker has many of the same qualities as Rubio:

There’s still plenty of room for Marco Rubio. Two years ago, I described the Florida senator as the “electable conservative.” While Rubio has taken fewer tangible steps toward officially running for president than rivals like Jeb Bush and Scott Walker, he still does reasonably well by that rubric. Perhaps along with Walker, he can make the most credible case for meeting William F. Buckley’s standard as the most viable conservative candidate.

He’s quite conservative, but not ultraconservative — instead he’s close to the median of Republicans who have been elected to Congress in recent elections.

Another way is to talk to Republican voters directly — or at least to poll them, as The Des Moines Register and Bloomberg Politics recently did in Iowa. That poll asked potential Republican caucusgoers whether they saw each of their candidates as “too conservative,” “too moderate” or “just right.” I’ve re-created that data below, removing voters who said they weren’t sure about the candidate from the sample.

These numbers look really good for Walker. Among voters with an opinion about him, 85 percent rated his ideological views as “just right,” the highest in the Republican field. But Rubio isn’t far behind; 74 percent of voters described him the same way, placing him in a tie for third place with Perry.

Rubio and Walker, being lesser known, have more chance to shape their image. And they can make some electability arguments of their own. In Rubio’s case, it’s about being a Hispanic candidate from a swing state with a good life story; in Walker’s, it’s about having been elected in a blue-leaning swing state three times in four years.

They also have vulnerabilities. Walker so far has not gotten a great reception from the mainstream media, which is fond of playing up the “crazy tea partyer” characterization of him. Pushing back against alleged or actual media bias is a part of the Republican playbook, but it requires some dexterity; it worked well for George W. Bush but not so well for Sarah Palin in the end, for instance. Rubio, for his part, has not shown a lot of political dexterity either, having lost more than he gained when he advocated for immigration reform.

Silver ends his analysis by saying that Republican primary voters could push Bush to the side easily in the primaries, leaving Rubio and Walker fighting for the nomination.

We shall see what happens. Then again, Rubio and Cruz running in 2016 undercuts the narrative we’ve been disseminating about Obama, which centered on him being a one-term senator with no experience before he ran and won in the 2008 election.

Regardless, with Cruz and the probable Rubio and Paul presidential announcements coming shortly next month, the Tea Party GOP is the point of the lance for the GOP in 2016–for now.

The Clinton Comeback Begins … With The Email Server Being ‘Wiped Clean’

Chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi has received an answer from Clinton’s lawyers about turning over her server to an independent third party for review; it’s not worth it because everything on it was deleted. That’s including the backup systems connected to the server as well. In short, her legal team said that all work-related emails between 2009-2013 have been turned over and are in the State Department’s possession (via AP):

Hillary Rodham Clinton wiped her email server "clean," permanently deleting all emails from it, the Republican chairman of a House committee investigating the 2012 Benghazi attacks said Friday.

Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., said the former secretary of state has failed to produce a single new document in recent weeks and has refused to relinquish her server to a third party for an independent review, as Gowdy has requested.

Clinton's attorney, David Kendall, said Gowdy was looking in the wrong place.

In a six-page letter released late Friday, Kendall said Clinton had turned over to the State Department all work-related emails sent or received during her tenure as secretary of state from 2009 to 2013.

"The Department of State is therefore in possession of all Secretary Clinton's work-related emails from the (personal email) account," Kendall wrote.

Kendall also said it would be pointless for Clinton to turn over her server, even if legally authorized, since "no emails ... reside on the server or on any backup systems associated with the server."

Kendall said in his letter that Clinton's personal attorneys reviewed every email sent and received from her private email address — 62,320 emails in total — and identified all work-related emails. Those totaled 30,490 emails or approximately 55,000 pages. The material was provided to the State Department on Dec. 5, 2014, and it is the agency's discretion to release those emails after a review.

The committee had subpoenaed Clinton’s emails relating to the Benghazi terrorist attack in 2012 on March 4, but Kendall noted that the 300 emails, which amounted to 900 pages, Clinton had turned over satisfied the order.

“Secretary Clinton failed to provide a single new document to the subpoena issued by the Committee and refused to provide her private server to the Inspector General for the State Department or any other independent arbiter for analysis,” he said his statement yesterday.

“We learned today, from her attorney, Secretary Clinton unilaterally decided to wipe her server clean and permanently delete all emails from her personal server. While it is not clear precisely when Secretary Clinton decided to permanently delete all emails from her server, it appears she made the decision after October 28, 2014, when the Department of State for the first time asked the Secretary to return her public record to the Department.”

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), the ranking member on the committee, said:

This confirms what we all knew—that Secretary Clinton already produced her official records to the State Department, that she did not keep her personal emails, and that the Select Committee has already obtained her emails relating to the attacks in Benghazi. It is time for the Committee to stop this political charade and instead make these documents public and schedule Secretary Clinton’s public testimony now.

So, while some are reporting the makings of a Clinton comeback are in the works, this fiasco has done damage to her numbers. Guy dissected the CBS News poll showing that two-thirds of the respondents felt it was inappropriate for the former Secretary of State to use a private email account to conduct official business, she scored low marks on honesty, and her favorables are under water by double-digits.

As RNC Chairman Reince Priebus aptly noted, “Even Nixon didn't destroy the tapes.”

ICYMI: DC's Congressional Delegate Has Some Issues With Parking

The other day, D.C.'s Congressional Delegate Elanor Holmes Norton was caught on video failing miserably at parking her car near the Capitol.


In response to becoming the laughingstock of the internet (at least in the D.C. area), Norton has promised that she will take a refresher course on how to properly park a car.

She told FOX5 that she was running behind for a TV interview and that she doesn’t normally park in that area. Construction, she said, also caused her to make an unfamiliar move.

“Don’t worry! I have signed up for parking lessons, and I’m even thinking about upgrading to one of those self-parking cars,” Norton said.

This isn't Norton's first snafu with a vehicle. In 2014, she accidentally hit the "kill switch" on a demonstration driverless car and forced the vehicle to reboot, ending the demo.

To be fair to Del. Norton, parking in the District of Columbia can be a challenge, especially on those diagonal spaces. Let's hope she's got a good teacher lined up so she can avoid this embarrassment in the future.

When Smoking Is Involved, Liberals Suddenly Care About Unborn Babies

It has taken a pack of cigarettes to convince pro-abortion liberals that unborn babies are not just fetuses without feelings. A study produced by England's Durham and Lancaster Universities has put a face to the negative effects of smoking during pregnancy. The researchers produced ultrasound scans of unborn babies shielding their eyes and moving their faces uncomfortably as their mothers smoked. It is this batch of telling images that suddenly has liberals up in arms about the well being of the preborn - you know, those tiny lives they had previously dismissed as “masses of cells?”

Here were the study's findings:

Observing 4-d ultrasound scans, the researchers found that fetuses whose mothers were smokers showed a significantly higher rate of mouth movements than the normal declining rate of movements expected in a fetus during pregnancy.

The researchers suggested that the reason for this might be that the fetal central nervous system, which controls movements in general and facial movements in particular did not develop at the same rate and in the same manner as in fetuses of mothers who did not smoke during pregnancy.

It's interesting that one group especially outraged over this research, is the liberal media. Cosmopolitan, a women’s publication unapologetic about its pro-abortion agenda, responded to the study with this article, “Disturbing Ultrasounds Show How Unborn Babies React When Their Mothers Smoke.” 

Why all of a sudden do liberals care about unborn babies? Some would argue it’s only politically expedient now because it fits their anti-smoking agenda. It’s hard for anyone to defend the health effects of smoking, but it is nonetheless an unfortunately apt opportunity for Big Government liberals to promote a nanny state culture. In 2009, President Obama made this demographic happy by signing an anti-smoking bill that gave the Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate tobacco the same way the government regulates cereals and pharmaceuticals.

So, I have a hard time believing liberals are suddenly sincere in their concern for unborn babies. This new study simply gives liberals more ammunition in their anti-smoking campaign.

Smoking endangers an unborn life, but abortion ends one. It’s obvious that if liberals truly cared about protecting innocent lives, they’d direct more of their outrage toward the latter.

The unborn babies in this study shielded their faces from smoke. Shouldn't the ubiquity of abortion make us all do the same thing?

Latest: Germanwings Co-Pilot Suffered From "Illness," Ripped Up "Sick Notes" Day of Crash

Another twisted turn in the curious case of Andreas Lubitz, the unstable German airline pilot who purportedly crashed Germanwings Flight 9525 into the side of a mountain in southeastern France on Monday. For days, authorities and investigators have been trying to figure out (a) why Lubitz deliberately locked the captain out of the cockpit and (b) subsequently and slowly took the plane off course. Perhaps, however, they're getting closer. New details suggest that Lubitz was excused from flying the day of the crash for health reasons, even obtaining a series of doctors notes which he subsequently and reportedly ripped up and kept secret:

Torn-up sick notes for the day of the crash "support the current preliminary assessment that the deceased hid his illness from his employer and colleagues," Duesseldorf prosecutors' office spokesman Ralf Herrenbrueck said Friday. Such sick notes from doctors excusing employees from work are common in Germany, even for minor illnesses.

Prosecutors didn't say what type of illness — mental or physical — Lubitz may have been suffering from. German media reported Friday that the 27-year-old had suffered from depression.

The New York Times also reports that officials have not yet determined a clear motive, but several hypotheticals have already been taken off the table:

The German investigators said they had not found a suicide note or “any indication of a political or religious” nature among the documents from Mr. Lubitz’s apartment. They also played down the possibility that his actions were the result of a romantic breakup, saying he was in a long-term relationship at the time of the crash.

“However, documents were secured containing medical information that indicates an illness and corresponding treatment by doctors,” Ralf Herrenbrück, a spokesman for prosecutors in Düsseldorf, said in a statement.

Even more strange, by all outward appearances Lubitz seemed to be a normal person, according to The Wall Street Journal:

Mr. Lubitz’s motive for crashing the plane remain unclear. People who knew him described him as quiet, pleasant and responsible, and Lufthansa said it had no indication why he would have deliberately crashed the aircraft. People who saw him recently said he didn’t appear burdened.

But clearly he was; otherwise, he would not have allegedly murdered so many innocent people.

Meanwhile, this tragic act of mass murder has convinced the airline to overhaul it’s safety regulations; from now on, at least two "authorized persons" will be required to be “in the cockpit at all times”:

The disclosure of torn medical documents at the co-pilot's home came shortly before Germanwings' parent company, Lufthansa, announced that it would be changing company policy to require two crew members remain in the cockpit at all times during the flight, in light of the finding that co-pilot Andreas Lubitz apparently stopped the captain from re-entering the cockpit and forced the plane to crash.

Implementing this change is a no-brainer, of course. And yet it's profoundly tragic that such regulations weren't already in place before this reported killer got behind the wheel.

A Conservative Immigration Agenda

When it comes to immigration reform, we all know what conservatives are against. We are against the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. We are against the 2013 Gang of Eight bill. And we are against the 2014 Deferred Action for Parental Accountability program.

But what are we for? The system is clearly broken. It takes way too long for law-abiding immigrants to become citizens, the wealthy and powerful game the system for their friends, and, now that the economy is revering, the number of illegal immigrants is rising again.

Sure every conservative wants to "secure the border." But when it comes to how that should be done (a wall, mandatory e-verify, doubling the border patrol, etc.), consensus quickly falls apart. And don't even ask about what to do with those illegal immigrants already in the country.

Establishment Republicans are locked into the amnesty-for-enforcement model. Details may vary but the plans are still fundamentally the same: Devote more resources to some border security efforts now ("secure the border") and then grant legal status to the 11 million illegal immigrants currently in the United States.

There are two main problems with this position. 

First, border security is not a one-and-done proposition. It is not like going to the moon. "Securing the border" will always be an ongoing process. You could build a wall. But then that wall has to be maintained, improved, and monitored. Even then, roughly 45 percent of illegal immigrants currently in the United States entered legally with a visa, and then overstayed that visa. A wall to keep illegal immigrants out is worthless if you let half of them in legally. 

Second, it is not fair or credible to pick some arbitrary date and say every illegal immigrant in the United States before said date will be put on a path to citizenship, but every immigrant who comes after said date will be deported. Such a policy is not fair to those immigrants who are patiently going through the existing legal immigration process and potential immigrants have no reason to believe that if we don't have the political will to deport people today, we will somehow magically find the will to do it tomorrow.

So if amnesty-now-for-enforcement-later is not a workable immigration solution, what is?

Before we get to what the specifics of such a policy could look like, here are some principles which should guide us.

Security - The first duty of any government is to protect its citizens. That is why security must be the first principle of immigration reform. The federal government must prioritize preventing national security threats from entering the country and deporting them when they are found already in the country. Threats to public safety (like violent criminals and felons) must also be deported whenever they are found as well.

Equality - We must treat all immigrants equally no matter what country the come from or when they arrived. Treating all nationalities equally is part of our founding creed, and it is simply not credible public policy to treat some immigrants differently based solely on when they arrived in the country.

Family - Nobody likes to break up families. Everyone has empathy for those who are in this country already and are struggling to keep their families together. Deporting otherwise law-abiding family members of legal U.S. residents, who present no threat to national security or public safety, is simply not politically sustainable. The American people just do not have the political will to do it. It is time everyone admitted this, especially proponents of legalization who claim they want to deport illegal immigrants who fail to pay a fine, fail an English test, or lose a job

Prosperity - Our immigration policies should help all Americans prosper, not just employers looking for cheap labor. That is why it is important that we raise the costs for employers to hire illegal immigrants. But we must also seek to minimize the regulatory costs for employers who do want to hire U.S. citizens.

Simplicity - Lawyers, lobbyists, and community activists are the only ones who gain from a complicated immigration system. The simpler the rules are, the better everyone understands them and the more likely it is that everyone follows them.

The challenge of immigration policy is finding the most politically sustainable way for raising the cost of entering or staying in the United States illegally without unduly burdening our economy 

For centuries the Atlantic and Pacific oceans mostly did this job for us. It was expensive to get here and information about where to go once you got here was hard to come by. But, as technology has improved, it is now far easier and cheaper to travel great distances. Thanks to technology it is also far easier to find jobs in the United States from thousands of miles away and it is also far easier to send the money earned in the United States back home. Since technological growth shows no signs of slowing, especially on the transportation and communications fronts, the trend of more people trying to enter, live, and work in the United States will only grow.

This is yet another reason why the amnesty-now-for-enforcement-later policy framework is destined to fail again as it already failed after it was tried in 1986. The main mechanism that we have for controlling illegal immigration, deportation, simply isn't working. Except for demonstrable national security or public safety threats, the political will just isn't there to deport anyone.

There is no comprehensive package of policies that can solve this problem. But there are some incremental steps we can take to better align everyone's incentives.

Turn Unauthorized Immigrants Away At The Border - One of the driving forces behind the 2014 border crisis was the Bush administration policy of turning away illegal immigrants from Mexico at the southern border, but taking in immigrants from all other countries. Smugglers figured out that if they could overwhelm a section of the border with illegal immigrants from a country other than Mexico, then Customs and Border Protection would be forced to release those illegal immigrants in the United States. That is why you had illegal immigrants flagging down border patrol agents. They wanted to be caught! You can have the biggest wall in the world but it is worthless unless we treat everyone equally and turn all illegal immigrants away.

Require Visa Holders To Post Bond When They Enter The Country - Not only did more than 40 percent of all illegal immigrants currently in the United States first enter on a legal visa, but visa-overstayers are also the driving force behind the recent rise in illegal immigration. The Department of Homeland Security should absolutely develop a comprehensive system for tracking visa holder entry and exit, but that is not enough. Who will track all the visa overstayers down? Who will deport them? How do we know if future presidents will be diligent about updating the system and tracking overstayers down? Conservatives can improve the chance that immigrants will honor their visa terms by making them or their sponsoring employer or educational institution post a bond, say $50,000 when they enter. When said visa holder then leaves, they, or their sponsoring institution, can get their money back. But if they don't then taxpayers get to keep the money.

Tax Remittances - How did Jeb Bush put it? Illegal immigration is "an act of love." "They come to our country because their families, the dad who loved their children," Bush said, "was worried that their children didn’t have food on the table." And he's right. Most illegal immigrants do come to this country to earn money that they can then send back home to their families. But when illegal immigrants take those jobs, they drive down the wages for U.S. citizens with similar skills. And when they send their earnings home, that is money that is escaping the U.S. economy and helping another country's economy. U.S. immigration policy should serve U.S. workers and the U.S. economy. Immigrants sent more than $120 billion a year back to their home countries. We should raise taxes on remittances out of the United States and use that revenue to cut the payroll tax for all working Americans.

Allow Injured Parties To Get Compensation From Employers Who Hire Illegal Immigrants - E-Verify is a highly successful program that empowers employers to check the legal status of their potential employees. Any conservative immigration policy should make E-Verify mandatory. But even in states that already have mandatory E-Verify laws, compliance is often spotty. And enforcement would depend entirely on whoever was in the White House. A president controlled by the Chamber of Commerce and/or amnesty activists wold not enforce an E-Verify law. That is why U.S. Citizens must be empowered to hold employers who hire illegal immigrants accountable. A federal cause of action could be created allowing anyone who could show they were harmed by the hiring of an illegal immigrant, through a loss of job or decreased wages, to collect damages from an employer who is proved to have hired an illegal immigrant.

Create a Z Visa For Non-Security Threats - No border security system will be perfect. No visa tracking system will be perfect. No E-Verify system will be perfect. As long as the United States is the best country on Earth immigrants will always come here in greater numbers than the system can handle. So what should we do with those that are here illegally? The easy answer is "deport them all" but history has shown that that is just politically and practically impossible. The current establishment answer, both on the right and left, is for serial amnesty. We give those in the country here now a path to citizenship, promise to deport all illegal immigrants in the future, and then when we don't deport those future illegal immigrants, we give them amnesty too. Wash, rinse, repeat. This approach is dishonest and undermines the rule of law.

Instead, we should create an alternative to deportation. Every illegal immigrant would still have to go through a deportation process, and those who were found to be threats to public safety or national security would still be deported. But for those who were not threats to public safety, they could be issued a Z Visa granting them protection from deportation. This new Z Visa would not entitle anyone to a work permit, a Social Security number, or a driver's license, but it would allow them to remain with their families.

None of the above policy ideas are dependent on one another. All could be implemented one-by-one in a piecemeal process. Even if they all became law our immigration system would still not be perfect. But it would function far better than it does today.

What Is It With Federal Officers Soliciting Prostitutes and Having Sex Parties?

Federal law enforcement seems to have an accountability problem within their ranks regarding allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct. The fact that internal affairs within these departments have a history of refusing to investigate these allegations is bad enough, but it reached a whole new level when it was discovered that agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reportedly participated in soliciting prostitutes; a throwback to the Secret Service’s scandal in Cartagena, Colombia. A report from the Department of Justice’s Inspector General released a damning report citing sex parties, and agents accepting money, gifts, and weapons from the drug cartels (via WaPo) [emphasis mine]:

Drug Enforcement Administration agents allegedly had “sex parties” with prostitutes hired by local drug cartels overseas over a period of several years, according to a report released Thursday by the Justice Department’s watchdog.

The report did not specify the country where the parties occurred, but a law enforcement official familiar with the matter identified it as Colombia.

Seven of the 10 DEA agents alleged to have participated in the gatherings — most of which took place at an agent’s “quarters” leased by the U.S. government — admitted to having attended the parties, the report found. The agents, some of whom had top-secret security clearances, received suspensions of two to 10 days.

Former police officers in Colombia also alleged that three DEA supervisory special agents were provided with money, expensive gifts and weapons from drug cartel members, according to the report.

“Although some of the DEA agents participating in these parties denied it, the information in the case file suggested they should have known the prostitutes in attendance were paid with cartel funds,” according to the 131-page report by Justice Department Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz.

The findings were part of a much broader investigation into the handling of allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct from fiscal 2009 to 2012 at federal law enforcement agencies — the DEA, the FBI, the U.S. Marshals Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Horowitz said the investigation was “significantly impacted and unnecessarily delayed” by repeated difficulties his office had in obtaining relevant information from the FBI and the DEA. When he did receive the information, he said, it “was still incomplete.”

At the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service, the internal-affairs offices “chose not to investigate” some allegations of sexual misconduct, the report said. At the FBI, in 32 of 258 accusations of sexual misconduct and sexual harassment, supervisors failed to report the allegations.

The DEA’s internal-affairs office did not always fully investigate allegations of solicitation of prostitution. There were 26 allegations involving DEA agents soliciting prostitutes abroad between 2009 and 2012, the report said.

“We found that the DEA lacks clear policy on whether to report alleged misconduct to headquarters and the DEA provides supervisors discretion when deciding whether to do so,” the report concluded.

In one case that also appeared to be based in Colombia, a DEA regional director, an acting assistant regional director and a group supervisor failed to report to their superiors repeated allegations of special agents paying prostitutes for sex and “frequenting a brothel while in an overseas posting,” treating the accusations as “local management issues.”

Over at the Washington Examiner, they report that DEA agents were also cited for arranging prostitutes for two Secret Service agents.

In 2012, the Secret Service’s PR nightmare began when agents from the advanced security detail were caught with prostitutes at the five-star Hotel Caribe, where members of the White House Staff and Press Corps would eventually stay as well. Business Insider  had a great breakdown of the incident that took place amongst this group of agents that arrived a week in advance of the planned Sixth Summit of the Americas. Drinking heavily throughout the week, the hotel staff noticed the agents’ solicitation prostitutes when one of them wasn’t paid. When confronted by the hotel manager, the agent refused to cooperate prompting a call to the police.

In all, 22 members of the Secret Service, including five members of U.S. Special Forces were reportedly involved in this night of fun gone awry, according to Insider. As you could imagine, there were some personnel changes, and the secret Service affirmed that the president’s security had not been compromised.

In an ironic twist on the whole incident, the investigator from the Department of Homeland Security, David Nieland, resigned his position last year over allegation that he visited … a prostitute (via NYT):

Sheriff’s deputies in Broward County, Fla., saw David Nieland, the investigator, entering and leaving a building they had under surveillance as part of a prostitution investigation, according to officials briefed on the investigation. They later interviewed a prostitute who identified Mr. Nieland in a photograph and said he had paid her for sex.

Mr. Nieland resigned after he refused to answer a series of questions from the Department of Homeland Security inspector general about the incident, the officials said.

A spokesman for the Homeland Security Department’s inspector general said in a statement that he could confirm only that Mr. Nieland resigned in August. But the spokesman added that department officials “became aware in early May of this year of an incident in Florida that involved one of our employees.”

While prostitution is quasi-legalized in Colombia, I honestly have no words. The DEA is accepting gifts and sex parties with the help of local drug cartels. The Secret Service solicited prostitutes in Cartagena, and their failure to stop Omar Gonzalez when he jumped the White House fence, which led to the resignation of Secret Service Director Julia Pierson; only added another embarrassment to their history. They dodged a bullet with the White House gate incident, where it appears that they didn’t crash into the gate–the agents more or less tapped it–and they weren’t drunk. Still, it's probably not the best time to be asking for $8 million to build a fake White House in Maryland in order to properly secure the real one.

It's really not a good time for federal law enforcement. 

Hillary Just Avoided The 'Pepsi Throwback' Of Presidential Primaries

Hillary’s email trainwreck has some of Hillary’s staunchest supporters “really freaked out,” according to National Journal’s Ron Fournier. He said on CNN earlier this month that he got calls from Democrats in awe of the email development and unimpressed with how the former first lady conducted herself at the UN presser explaining her actions. Even die-hard Clinton supporters, people who want her to run unchallenged for the Democratic nomination, are worried, or at least very uneasy about the whole situation. As Cortney aptly noted, some Democrats are saying this is what happens when you “put all your eggs in one basket.”

So, does Clinton’s email flap mean Democrats are lining up to challenge her? Well, sort of -- there’s some folks trying to motivate California Gov. Jerry Brown, Al Gore (I’m not kidding), Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and Vice President Joe Biden to consider 2016 runs. Yes, it’s quite the motley crew of people who’ve never been successful in mounting national campaigns for president and one senator who won because her state is insanely Democratic.

First, let’s go to every progressives favorite, Sen. Warren. In February, Warren sent a rather enigmatic letter to Democrats through the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) saying, The question is whether enough Democrats will stand up -- stand up to corporate money and powerful interests and stand up for regular people, working families, and progressive values…I’m in — what about you? Will you donate by midnight to take back the Senate?" Many on the left, like and Democracy for America are taking this as a sign that she could be swayed to run in 2016. Hillary’s ties to the financial industry has drawn the ire of the more progressive wing of the Democratic Party, and this email fiasco has given them fuel to fan the flames of a potential Clinton challenge–with Warren leading the way:

Democracy for America, and Ready for Warren all issued statements within minutes of each other, touting Warren’s record as a middle-class advocate and urging her to run.

Timing notwithstanding, the three groups disavowed any interest in the ongoing email flap, but instead said their efforts to draft Warren were driven by the issues. And they all agreed that Warren’s harsh criticism for Wall Street and middle-class advocacy is the right prescription for the party.

“Primaries are decided on the issues, not where candidates store their emails,” said Neil Sroka, communications director for Democracy for America.

“The draft Warren movement is less concerned with the frenzy surrounding Secretary Clinton's emails than we are with standing up, on behalf of millions of working families, to those who are rigging the system in favor of the rich and powerful,” added Erica Sagrans, campaign manager for Ready for Warren.

“A contested nomination will strengthen the Democratic Party by holding candidates accountable,” said Ready for Warren’s Sagrans. “Senator Warren is already shaping the national conversation on key issues, but not having her in the race would weaken our chances of having a real warrior for working families in the White House.”

Well, for starters, Warren has said she isn’t running for president. Though she has friends, many will simply not give the money necessary to mount a successful challenge. Why? They won't leave Hillary. Then again, it's reported that Warren could split the moneyed interests in Hollywood; a lot of folks in the business have soured on Hillary, thinking she's too centrist. David Frum noted that the Senate isn’t an institution designed for a raging progressive like Warren. So, she could toss her hat into the ring.  As Dan wrote earlier today, The Boston Globe wants her to mount a challenge to Clinton. Clinton knows her growing influence in the party given that she and Warren had a sit down in February to discuss, amongst other things, policy ideas. Is this the beginning of Clinton/Warren 2016?  

In a throwback to the 1990s, California Gov. Jerry Brown, who’s pushing 80, was giving off 2016 vibes of his own until this Sunday’s Meet The Press. Citing his age, Brown said if he were 10 years younger, he would mount a campaign for the 2016 Democratic nomination. Bad blood reportedly still exists between the two camps; Brown accused then-Gov. Bill Clinton of funneling money to Hillary's law firm for state business in the 1992 presidential election, which drove Bill into a rage.

Al Gore was creating buzz. Noah wrote about it. Ezra Klein of Vox  had a post saying the former vice president should run, citing his ability to fundraise his possible 2016 bid thanks to his resume as a credible candidate:

Hillary Clinton is crushing her rivals in the invisible primary. The result will be a lopsided race once the campaign turns visible: her likely challengers don't have the name recognition, party support, campaign organization, or funding necessary to force a real contest.

Gore does. He begins with a powerful asset in presidential politics: credibility. As a long-serving senator and a two-term vice president, Gore has more direct political experience and at least as much claim to the triumphs of the 1990s as Clinton. He's also won more elections than Clinton — including the popular vote in a presidential campaign. There are few Americans who don't at least know his name. There is no one in the Democratic Party who won't at least take his call.

But Gore's experience and contacts now reach beyond politics — and into venues that would be enormously helpful to him if he wanted to fund an expensive race. He serves on the board of Apple, as a senior adviser to Google, and at the mega-venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers. He's also carved a path through finance and telecommunications, becoming fabulously wealthy — richer, even, than Mitt Romney — as an investor and mogul.

The problem, Klein notes, is Gore. Oh, and the fact that he’s probably not running for president.

Lastly, there’s Vice President Joe Biden. Though he hasn’t made any of his 2016 intentions known, Draft Biden is up and running. It’s also “appropriately unpolished,” according to National Journal:

The new Draft Biden 2016 effort is a PAC and a fledgling website,, with a full-time staff of two. When the site went live, an unfortunately cropped photo of the vice president's chest—cutting off his head—greeted viewers, and the "Donate" page trumpeted a goal of just $5,000, while showing that $5 had been raised by Tuesday afternoon.

What the effort does have, though, is a network of former Obama for America volunteers who are resolved to boost someone with a last name other than Clinton or Bush to the White House. That includes Draft Biden PAC's organizing director, William Pierce, a 26-year-old who has worked as a field organizer for Democrats, most recently Chicago mayoral candidate Bob Fioretti.

Despite the vice president's lack of a campaign operation, Draft Biden hopes to persuade him to run. For starters, there's a petition—which currently has roughly 2,000 signatures—urging him to get in the race. The group plans to build on what Pierce said is Biden's grassroots support throughout the country, eventually hiring field staff in key primary states "who can mobilize the grassroots army that we're going to have in those states."

Draft Biden isn't deterred by the millions raised by other candidates. With a stated fundraising goal of just $5,000, the group isn't planning to produce "glitzy TV commercials" or an expensive bus tour, because, Pierce said, "money is the root of all evil, we feel."

Allahpundit wrote, “It’s not capital-C Crazy” if Biden runs, though he aptly noted that we should probably drink some special Kool-Aid if he–in some bizarre alternate reality–becomes an unstoppable juggernaut in the general. At the same time, despite being saddled with Obama’s baggage, there really isn’t a reason for Biden not to mount a 2016 bid. Yes, he’s old, so this would be his swan song–win or lose. Vice presidents are usually lost to history after their service, and seldom does the vice president achieve a higher office than having the honor of being a pulse away from occupying the Oval Office.

Last December, I wrote that if he does run, Hillary has to debate him, whereas she could sit idly by and let her would-be opponents asphyxiate from a lack of oxygen from the media and donors. You can’t say the same for the Vice President of the United States, even if he’s trailing you. Also, can you imagine that debate? “Dead broke” lady vs. “butt buddy” Biden; where’s the popcorn?

Lastly, Biden has often told this to his colleagues about his secret to winning.

“You have to figure out what’s worth losing over,” he says. In 2016, he really has nothing to lose by running other than one last stab before probably retiring from public life.

So, in the end, the fledgling 2016 Democratic field (Biden/Brown/Gore) that was mostly a throwback to the 1990s has died a quick death.

With Biden, it’s a wait and see, although I wouldn’t be surprised if he just decides to bow out. With Warren, despite her firm statements to the contrary, we shouldn’t be surprised if she does toss her hat in the ring. This is her only window of opportunity. She will probably be considered too old after the ’16 cycle.

 At the same time, she pales in comparison to Barack Obama when gauging the two as insurgent candidates:

Think back to this time in 2007. Mr. Obama already had emerged as a strong candidate. He had announced his candidacy in February 2007, and surged to about 25 percent in the polls. His early rallies drew large crowds. By April, he was already tied with Mrs. Clinton in Iowa (although John Edwards led them both), and he matched her first-quarter fund-raising tallies.

The numbers, if anything, underestimated his position. His political identity, intentionally or not, was forged from anti-Clinton kryptonite. Early opposition to the war in Iraq positioned him to challenge Mrs. Clinton on her biggest liability. His youth, unifying message and relentless criticism of special interests contrasted perfectly with Mrs. Clinton, who was seen as a polarizing, transactional candidate tied to the past.

The enthusiasm for Ms. Warren’s candidacy on the left is real, but it probably doesn’t compare with the support for Mr. Obama. She isn’t as sharp a contrast with Mrs. Clinton, particularly when it comes to youth. Ms. Warren may be a new face, but, at 65, she doesn’t represent generational change against Mrs. Clinton, who is 67.

And Mr. Obama had an advantage that Ms. Warren can’t replicate: the possibility of becoming the country’s first black president. Ms. Warren’s similar appeal as a possible pathbreaking president, as the first woman to win, would be matched by Mrs. Clinton.

Again, Clinton/Warren 2016 could help Hillary shore up the progressive elements skeptical of her on policy. Myra Adams wrote in National Review that it also has the added bonus of removing Warren from the Senate should this highly hypothetical ticket win in 2016. As a result, progressive obstructionism by Warren to Clinton's pragmatic, sometimes secretive, approach to policy can be avoided. What say you?

**Crossposted over at Hot Air**

Illinois Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D) To Seek Senate Seat

Illinois Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D) is expected to announce Monday that she intends on running for Senate. Duckworth, a veteran of the Iraq War, was the first Asian-American woman elected to Congress from Illinois and was first elected to Congress in 2012.

The Chicago Sun Times had the exclusive:

On Monday evening, Duckworth will gather some of her top donors at a home in the Hancock Center to discuss securing the Democratic nomination to run against Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., who is seeking a second term.

In the letter to her best fundraisers about the Hancock meeting, they were told “contributions are encouraged but not required. We realize it is early in the election cycle, but we are asking our top supporters to consider a donation. The maximum an individual can give before March is $5,400. If Tammy decides to not to run for Senate, we will offer you a refund. If she does run, this support will be key in keeping up with Senator Kirk’s $2 million and counting campaign war-chest.”

Duckworth is a new mother to a daughter, Abigail, and recently returned to Congress following maternity leave. Prior to Abigail's birth, a minor controversy erupted over Rep. Nancy Pelosi's refusal to let Duckworth (who was on bed rest) vote by proxy.

Reid: I'd Like to Pass The Leadership Torch to Chuck Schumer

Now that Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) has done a complete about-face and opted not to run for re-election, questions abound about who will succeed him in his leadership role. Reid, however, has a candidate in mind: Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

The Washington Post interviewed the Nevada Democrat this morning:

Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) has endorsed Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) to succeed him after he retires at the end of 2016.

"I think Schumer should be able to succeed me," Reid said in a Friday morning interview at his home in Washington's West End.

Reid predicted that Schumer, the No. 3 Senate Democrat in leadership and a close friend, would win the Democratic leader post without opposition. He said that the other likely contender, Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), would stand down for Schumer.

We'll see.

Why Iran Has All The Leverage Over Obama

Sometime next week, perhaps as early as Tuesday, President Obama will most likely announce that his administration has reached a political agreement with Ayatollah Khamenei's regime on nuclear weapons.

The deal may not be signed, it may not have any real specifics, but Obama will hail it as the only way to stop a war with Iran and delay them from getting a bomb. 

Whatever the contours of the "agreement" Obama announces next week, it will look far weaker than it was supposed to look just months ago. Over the past week alone, U.S. negotiators reportedly have conceded to Iran: 1) the need for a written agreement; 2) the ability of Iran to use nuclear centrifuges underground; and 3) the need for Iran to disclose the full range of its current nuclear capabilities.

Why, as Lando Calrissian might ask, is this deal getting worse all the time?

The simple answer is that Obama's broader Middle East strategy leaves him with zero leverage over Iran. The New York Times Thomas Friedman explains:

The Obama team’s best argument for doing this deal with Iran is that, in time, it could be “transformational.” That is, the ending of sanctions could open Iran to the world and bring in enough fresh air — Iran has been deliberately isolated since 1979 by its ayatollahs and Revolutionary Guard Corps — to gradually move Iran from being a revolutionary state to a normal one, and one less inclined to threaten Israel.

If one assumes that Iran already has the know-how and tools to build a nuclear weapon, changing the character of its regime is the only way it becomes less threatening.

The only reason Khamenei's regime is negotiating with Obama at all is because they want the world's economic sanctions on Iran lifted. In return for lifting those sanctions, Iran is supposed to give up its ambitions for a nuclear weapon. That's the basic outline of the deal: Iran gets the sanctions lifter and Obama gets an end to their nuclear weapons program.

But read the above Friedman paragraphs again. Obama's Middle East strategy is premised on "transforming" the current Iranian government by ending sanctions on Iran. This means that Obama wants the sanctions on Iran lifted just as badly as Ayatollah Khamenei.

Now, granted, Obama and Khamenei have very different ideas about what the outcome of the end of sanctions will be. Obama believes an Iran without economic sanctions will lead to if not Kamanei's demise, than it least the marginalization of him and his followers. Khamenei, on the other hand, believes an Iran without sanctions will allow his regime to strengthen their control over not just Iran, but also the entire Middle East.

Who has a better understanding of Iran, its politics, its people, and the impact of ending economic sanctions? Is it Khamenei, who has ruled his country for over two decades? Or is it Obama, who honestly thought the power of his own celebrity could save Democrats from crushing defeat in 2010? We'll see.

The answer to that question is ultimately irrelevant though when judging who currently has more leverage in the nuclear weapons talks. Since both Obama and Iran want sanctions on Iran to be lifted, Obama has no way to force any real concessions from Iran on nuclear issues. His threat to continue the current sanctions, or enact new ones, are hollow. Everyone knows he wants the sanctions lifted anyway. Why should Iran concede anything?

That's why they are not.

White House Clears Obama's Schedule For Iranian Nuclear Deal Next Week

President Obama has nothing scheduled after Monday next week, a blank space that just happens to coincide with the deadline Obama set for his nuclear weapons deal with Iran.

"The president's schedule for the rest of the week actually remains pretty fluid," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said at the daily press briefing Friday. Asked why he wasn't able to provide any information on Obama's activities next week, Earenst replied, "We've got some more details on the schedule that need to be hammered out."

Earnest did say that Obama will be traveling to Florida on Saturday, but he assured reporters that no news was planned to be made on that trip. On Sunday, Obama will return to Washington before going to Boston on Monday to deliver remarks at the opening of a building in honor of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA).

But after that, the White House had no information to offer about what Obama would be doing Tuesday or for the rest of the week. That timing just happens to overlap with the March 31st deadline Obama set for a deal with Iran on their nuclear weapons program.

The March 31st deadline is a complete invention of the Obama administration and Iran has made it abundantly clear they feel no pressure to sign any written agreement with Obama until later this June.

Obama, however, would like to have something he can take to the Americans people before then, regardless of firm or verifiable any real agreement with the Iranians actually is.

The Friday Filibuster: Cruzin' for the White House

The Friday Filibuster: The one-stop-shop for everything you need to know about this week in politics.

Closing Numbers

150- The number of people who died in the Germanwings Airliner crash this week, 3 of whom were Americans.

7-The number of pro-lifers arrested while praying outside of Speaker Boehner’s office.

0 inspector general was at the State Department when Hillary Clinton was there.

3- The number of Shiite militias in Iraq that have decided to stop fighting.

37 percent of Americans view Hillary Clinton unfavorably.

Abortion & Human Trafficking

In New York, a pro-abortion provision in a human trafficking bill, which held up its passage for years, has finally been severed, clearing the way for this important legislation to advance. Meanwhile in Washington, Senate Democrats continued to block a vote on legislation meant to stop human trafficking and help victims because of a provision that prevents public funds from paying for abortions. Guy debunks their false talking points here. Reid’s also preparing to block another bipartisan bill over abortion funding.


As we marked the five year anniversary of Obamacare this week, the president said the law is a stunning success: “Every prediction they made about it turned out to be wrong,” he said in Cleveland on Wednesday. “It’s working better than even I expected.” National Journal’s Ron Fournier took conservatives to task over their continued efforts to repeal and replace the law—and things escalated quickly

Campaigns & Elections

Election season has officially gotten underway with Sen. Ted Cruz announcing on Monday that he is running for president, thus becoming the first entrant into the GOP race. Though, like President Obama, Cruz is only a one-term senator and lacks the executive experience, he defended his candidacy on “The Kelly File” this week and stressed the importance of a conservative win in 2016. While there are naysayers, Cruz is constitutionally eligible to be president; even Al Sharpton had to concede he’s “allegable.” Next up to announce their candidacy? Sen. Rand Paul, who will formally declare in early April. He’s also already taking some soft shots at Cruz. And DNC "factivists" are already getting to work. 

And in other election news: Sens. Harry Reid and Dan Coats announced they plan to step down in 2016; the Democratic representative who unseated Allen West will be running for Rubio’s Senate seat; and Boston Globe’s editorial board is practically begging Elizabeth Warren to run. 

Foreign Policy

Nuclear negotiations with Iran went from bad to worse this week. Just one day after President Obama urged Iran to seize a ‘historic opportunity’ to reach a deal, the country’s supreme leader chanted ‘Death to America’ after telling a crowd in Tehran that it would ‘not capitulate to Western demands.’ And they certainly aren’t. The U.S. not only brushed this off rhetoric, but also agreed to allow Iran to maintain centrifuges in a fortified underground bunker…oh, and any “deal” we come to likely won’t even be in writing. Both Rubio and Walker said that if they became president they’d immediately scrap Obama’s Iran deal. In related news, the White House found out this week that Israeli intelligence had been eavesdropping on our negotiations and then used that information to try to lobby Congress against a deal. Meanwhile, the White House continues to believe we’ve “succeeded” in Yemen even as its president fled rebels and al Qaeda took control of a key city.


The U.S. Army announced official charges against Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl this week, including one count of desertion and one count of misbehavior before the enemy. If convicted, Bergdahl could face life in prison. After Bergdahl was released this summer in a swap for five Taliban prisoners, members of his platoon came forward with details about Bergdahl’s disappearance. They claimed he violated his oath and left on his own accord. Now, even though their statements have been vindicated, State Department Deputy Press Secretary Marie Harf refuses to apologize to the platoon members for previously dismissing them as non-credible. 

Graphics by Townhall Graphic Designer Feven Amenu. 

Senate Passes Budget on Straight Party-line Vote, Cruz and Paul Vote 'No'

Working late into the early morning on Friday, Republicans in the U.S. Senate narrowly passed a budget that balances, cuts the size and scope of the federal government, and doesn’t raise taxes. Before the measure passed, however, Congressional Democrats predictably described it as “an absolute farce” and “insensitive.” Nevertheless, since Senate Democrats failed to even introduce a budget for years when they controlled the upper chamber (although they did pass a budget in 2013) perhaps a few plaudits are in order:

The 52-46 vote came at 3:28 a.m., after the Senate considered hundreds of amendments and voted on dozens — many of them politically freighted, some of them contradictory, but none of them binding. No Democrats voted for the budget. Among Republicans, only Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who is likely to seek the White House, and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who has announced his intention to do so, voted no.

Senator Michael B. Enzi of Wyoming, chairman of the Budget Committee, hailed a plan that he said would “protect the nation’s most vulnerable citizens, strengthen national defense and bring robust economic growth.”

Democrats said it would be a disaster — if it ever happened.

But will it happen? Unlikely, my friends, as it will never reach the president’s desk:

The budgets themselves are nonbinding and do not require a presidential signature. Once each chamber passes its version, the House and Senate will try to agree on a common plan, something that last happened in 2009. Then lawmakers will draft separate legislation to implement the programs.

While the Senate budget is imperfect and therefore did not earn universal GOP support, it is a much better alternative than what the president served up, which was deemed “dead on arrival” by Republicans because of its massive spending increases and failure to balance. Surprise. And unlike Senate Democrats, at least Senate Republicans are following the letter of the law and governing.

“The real fights on the budget will come this summer, as those appropriations bills work their way through a similar process,” Ed Morrissey explains to readers over at Hot Air. “Still, it’s the first time in six years that Congress has done its job at all, let alone on time.”

And that, of course, is commendable. Embarrassingly, the normal budget process was all but jettisoned under the heavy-handedness of then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) when Democrats controlled the upper chamber.

Perhaps this is why so few Republican lawmakers will be sorry to see him go.

Amnesty International: Hamas Rocket Attacks Amounted To War Crimes

Yes, you read that right; Amnesty International has declared Hamas’ rocket attacks against Israel amounted to war crimes.

Last summer, the bloodshed began when Hamas claimed responsibility for the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers. Soon afterwards, Israel began operations in the West Bank to bring the perpetrators to justice. The “crackdown” prompted Hamas to increase rocket attacks from Gaza, which led Israel to invade the Gaza Strip to prevent further attacks on its citizens last summer. Close to 5,000 rockets were fired into Israel from Gaza.

Last November, Amnesty International reported that Israel had committed war crimes, which they rejected. According to the Associated Press, Israel's Foreign Ministry said Amnesty's report"ignores documented war crimes perpetrated by Hamas."

"The report does not mention the word terror in relation to Hamas or other armed Palestinian groups, nor mentions tunnels built by Hamas to infiltrate Israel and perpetrate terror attacks," the ministry said.

Well, in this new report, Amnesty says Hamas’ attacks were "unlawful" and "displayed a flagrant disregard for international humanitarian law" (via BBC)

Militants displayed a "flagrant disregard" for the lives of civilians during the 50-day war, a report found.

According to UN data, more than 4,800 rockets and 1,700 mortars were fired from Gaza towards Israel between 8 July and 26 August. Around 224 projectiles are believed to have struck Israeli residential areas.

Amnesty said that all the rockets used by Hamas and other militant groups, some of which have ranges of up to 160km (100 miles), were unguided projectiles which could not be accurately directed at specific targets and were "inherently indiscriminate".

The majority of Israel's 8.3 million people live within reach of the long-range rockets, and the report pointed out that as a result the "circle of fear has widened" in Israel.

"Palestinian armed groups, including the armed wing of Hamas, repeatedly launched unlawful attacks during the conflict," said Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa director, Philip Luther.

"In launching these attacks, they displayed a flagrant disregard for international humanitarian law and for the consequences of their violations on civilians in both Israel and the Gaza Strip.

Amnesty's report also detailed other violations of international humanitarian law by Palestinian groups during the conflict, such as storing rockets and other munitions in civilian buildings, including UN schools, and cases where armed groups launched attacks or stored munitions very near locations where hundreds of civilians were sheltering.

Of course, Hamas’ spokesperson Tahir al-Nounou said the report was inaccurate, made “false allegations,” and was “based on the Israeli narrative.”

Hamas broke the ceasefire during the war, and was caught by the French Press firing rockets from densely populated areas in Gaza. Gallagher Fenwick, a reporter with FRANCE 24, took advantage of the seven-hour humanitarian ceasefire, which occurred in early August, to “snoop around.” It’s was during this time that he stumbled upon a rocket launching pad 50 meters from the hotel where most of the international press was staying and 100 meters from a UN building, clearly marked with its blue flag.

During the conflict, a network of tunnels used by Hamas were discovered and destroyed by Israeli Defense Forces. Yet, it wasn’t a cheap undertaking. Each tunnel cost between $2-3 million to build and there were at least 30 of them. 
It was money that could’ve been spent on medical clinics, infrastructure, schools, and supplies, but Hamas decided to spend it on operations to fund their terrorist activities.

Uh Oh: CBS Poll Shows Hillary Favorability Underwater, Most Say She's Not Honest

A few interesting nuggets in CBS News' new poll, which is all about Democrats' inevitable 2016 nominee:

(1) Hillary Clinton's favorability rating is upside down by double-digits, at (26/37), with a staggering 36 percent of respondents declaring themselves undecided or insufficiently informed to say either way. The less-than-impressive favorables isn't great news for Team Hillary, but I wonder how they view that huge number of uncommitteds. On one hand, she'll pound the First! Woman! President! drum loudly and proudly from wire to wire in an attempt to make the election a referendum -- not on her, per se, but on the idea of having any 'her' as president. There's upside there. On the other hand, Hillary is about as known a commodity as exists in American politics, yet about a third of voters at least claim that they're waiting for someone to help define Hillary Clinton in their minds. That's an opening for Republicans, obviously.

(2) Hillary fares better on leadership qualities (57/38 favorable), meaning that the GOP has a long way to go to discredit her very rocky tenure at State. Voters are more likely to say that she "cares" about people like them than not (56/39), but the gap isn't as comfortable as she'd like it to be. There's fertile ground to attack here, too, given the Clintons' deep Wall Street ties and immense wealth -- to say nothing of Hillary's out-of-touch aloofness, or the controversy surrounding the Clinton Foundation's finances. Barack Obama crushed Mitt Romney on this metric in 2012.

(3) She earns low marks on honesty, with voters splitting (42/47) on whether she's "honest and trustworthy." Those numbers are kept afloat by Democrats overwhelmingly pretending they see her as honest; Republicans and independents break sharply in the other direction. Her performance trying to spin away her reckless and opaque email scheme could not have resonated as forthcoming to any fair-minded person who actually watched that spectacle.

(4) Speaking of emails, nearly two-thirds of respondents say Hillary's use of a private email system to conduct official business was inappropriate, though they split evenly on whether they're satisfied by her "convenience" explanation. I continue to believe that the most potent argument the GOP has at its disposal is to highlight how utterly reckless and risky this practice was from a national security perspective. Sure, they can add that she was breaking the rules, and possibly the law -- and that her State Department sacked an ambassador in part for violating the "clear-cut" rules -- but sacrificing national security for your own "convenience" (her explanation) or to thwart transparency protocols (the real explanation) packs the biggest punch.

A pro-Hillary front group, meanwhile, is already warning people that they're going to be on the hunt for sexist criticisms of their candidate, with "sexism" being very broadly defined:

Why, it's almost as if the Left's Outrage Circus wants to shut down debate by delegitimizing opponents' arguments, rather than having an open and robust discussion. Someone should really write a book about that insidious phenomenon. Over on the GOP side of the world, a Wall Street Journal analysis suggests that the 2016 may be the longest and most expensive Republican primary in recent memory:

The candidate field looks unusually crowded, with more than a dozen contenders appealing to different slices of the GOP. The rise of super PACs allows candidates to stay in the race longer than before. And nominating rules meant to compress the process may complicate a front-runner’s ability to amass the delegates necessary to win…The potential for an extended primary stems from what many Republicans believe to be a positive development: a crowd of viable candidates expected to run in 2016 and a set of GOP donors who appear eager to finance their bids...The size of the GOP field and the absence of an obvious front-runner means campaigns will have to devote more time and money to the often-grueling hunt for individual delegates, veteran strategists say. Some warn that if three or four candidates emerge from the early nominating contests in February and early March with a significant share of convention delegates, none may claim the roughly 1,100 to 1,200 delegates needed to clinch the nomination.

This is why some smart folks like Sean Trende are talking about a brokered convention as a potential reality, not a farfetched, dream-come-true scenario for political nerds. For what it's worth, here are the latest numbers out of New Hampshire:

There’s about ten months to go before New Hampshire’s first in the nation presidential primary, but a new poll in the Republican race was released Thursday. Former Florida governor Jeb Bush leads the Suffolk University poll of likely GOP Primary voters with 19-percent. Scott Walker was second with 14-percent and Rand Paul was third at 7-precent. Donald Trump had 6-percent. Chris Christie and Ted Cruz were tied with just 5-percent.

Trump is ahead of Christie and Cruz? Yeesh.

‘The Weaker Sex?’ Girls Are ‘Outclassing’ Boys In Education

The “boy crisis” has been the subject of debate amongst educators, policy wonks, and feminists. Yet, when you look at the data, girls have been getting better grades than boys for years. And by years, I mean for nearly a century. Feminists contend that while there is a double-digit gap between eighth grade boy and girl scores, the “crisis” disappears in the real world, where men are paid more [insert shoddy 77¢ statistic here] regardless of their grades, their alma mater, or their field of study. Then again, an education system where boys underperform, or lag behind, shouldn’t be taken seriously because they, you know, end up coming out on top in the real world isn’t a serious argument. Yet, it’s not all doom and gloom. In math, a new study shows that boys are about three months ahead of girls in schooling. In science, the genders are about equal, but when it comes to reading; the female gender is supreme (for now). And that lack of reading for boys is the root of the problem (via the Economist):

The OECD [Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development] deems literacy to be the most important skill that it assesses, since further learning depends on it. Sure enough, teenage boys are 50% more likely than girls to fail to achieve basic proficiency in any of maths, reading and science.

To see why boys and girls fare so differently in the classroom, first look at what they do outside it. The average 15-year-old girl devotes five-and-a-half hours a week to homework, an hour more than the average boy, who spends more time playing video games and trawling the internet. Three-quarters of girls read for pleasure, compared with little more than half of boys. Reading rates are falling everywhere as screens draw eyes from pages, but boys are giving up faster. The OECD found that, among boys who do as much homework as the average girl, the gender gap in reading fell by nearly a quarter.

Once in the classroom, boys long to be out of it. They are twice as likely as girls to report that school is a “waste of time”, and more often turn up late. Just as teachers used to struggle to persuade girls that science is not only for men, the OECD now urges parents and policymakers to steer boys away from a version of masculinity that ignores academic achievement.

Boys’ disdain for school might have been less irrational when there were plenty of jobs for uneducated men. But those days have long gone. It may be that a bit of swagger helps in maths, where confidence plays a part in boys’ lead (though it sometimes extends to delusion: 12% of boys told the OECD that they were familiar with the mathematical concept of “subjunctive scaling”, a red herring that fooled only 7% of girls). But their lack of self-discipline drives teachers crazy.

Perhaps because they can be so insufferable, teenage boys are often marked down. The OECD found that boys did much better in its anonymised tests than in teacher assessments. The gap with girls in reading was a third smaller, and the gap in maths—where boys were already ahead—opened up further. In another finding that suggests a lack of even-handedness among teachers, boys are more likely than girls to be forced to repeat a year, even when they are of equal ability.

What is behind this discrimination? One possibility is that teachers mark up students who are polite, eager and stay out of fights, all attributes that are more common among girls. In some countries, academic points can even be docked for bad behaviour. Another is that women, who make up eight out of ten primary-school teachers and nearly seven in ten lower-secondary teachers, favour their own sex, just as male bosses have been shown to favour male underlings. In a few places sexism is enshrined in law: Singapore still canes boys, while sparing girls the rod.

Once reading proficiency is dropped due to the perception that reading is girly, amongst other things, the female advantage over their male peers, unsurprisingly, continues into higher education. Changing social factors has contributed to the deluge of women entering higher education, but men still dominate the fields that maximize the income from their degrees, such as computer sciences and engineering:

According to the OECD, the return on investment in a degree is higher for women than for men in many countries, though not all. In America PayScale, a company that crunches incomes data, found that the return on investment in a college degree for women was lower than or at best the same as for men. Although women as a group are now better qualified, they earn about three-quarters as much as men. A big reason is the choice of subject: education, the humanities and social work pay less than engineering or computer science. But academic research shows that women attach less importance than men to the graduate pay premium, suggesting that a high financial return is not the main reason for their further education.

At the highest levels of business and the professions, women remain notably scarce. In a reversal of the pattern at school, the anonymous and therefore gender-blind essays and exams at university protect female students from bias. But in the workplace, says Elisabeth Kelan of Britain’s Cranfield School of Management, “traditional patterns assert themselves in miraculous ways”. Men and women join the medical and legal professions in roughly equal numbers, but 10-15 years later many women have chosen unambitious career paths or dropped out to spend time with their children. Meanwhile men are rising through the ranks as qualifications gained long ago fade in importance and personality, ambition and experience come to matter more.

So, is this the “end of men?” Hanna Rosin, the author who delved into this topic, thinks that women are ahead of the curve educationally and professionally. She uses the cardboard man/plastic woman model to describe the changing economic dynamics between the genders. In short, women are adapting more efficiently.

A multitude of social factors has allowed this to happen:

The Pill and a decline in the average number of children, together with later marriage and childbearing, have made it easier for married women to join the workforce. As more women went out to work, discrimination became less sharp. Girls saw the point of study once they were expected to have careers. Rising divorce rates underlined the importance of being able to provide for yourself. These days girls nearly everywhere seem more ambitious than boys, both academically and in their careers. It is hard to believe that in 1900-50 about half of jobs in America were barred to married women.

Additionally, we’ve become a more technologically focused economy, thus the beginning of a steady loss in the job opportunities for men without higher education degrees. For decades, America’s strong manufacturing base has allowed men with no college education to succeed and work their way into the middle class, usually through back-breaking work.

Though it’s really not the end of men. Jessica Bennett, formerly of the Daily Beast, mentioned that it might be the end of the “Don Draper” type of dude:

In the end, what it may well be is not the end of men at all, but the end of a certain kind of man: the Don Draper, bringing-home-the-bacon, gender role–specific kind of guy who refuses to do the laundry, pick up the kids, and can’t quite come to terms with his wife being behind an executive table, and not a blender. And perhaps it’s that kind of man that we’ve said goodbye to a long time ago.

Rosin says her goal is to help men and women learn to navigate these changes, not draw battle lines based on gender. Which is a noble effort … as long as you can get past that pesky title.

Indeed, that is true. America is a majority two-income household nation. Yet, back to the “boy crisis,” some say it’s really not happening at all–and that all-male classrooms, male teachers, and “boot camp” style teaching are not the solutions (via WaPo):

[S]ome are advocating boys-only classrooms in which boys would be taught in boot-camp fashion. In a recent Newsweek cover story, Houston neurologist Bruce Perry described today's co-ed classes as a "biologically disrespectful model of education." In the New Republic, Richard Whitmire wrote of a "verbally drenched curriculum" that is "leaving boys in the dust." New York Times columnist David Brooks suggested that boys ought to be given books about combat, to hold their interest. (Forget Julius Caesar, give them GI Joe?)

There's actually not much evidence that most boys lack verbal skills. In 2005, University of Wisconsin psychologist Janet Hyde synthesized data from 165 studies on verbal ability and gender. They revealed a female superiority so slight as to be meaningless. And psychologist Diane Halpern of Claremont McKenna College looked at many studies of verbal and math abilities and found that, overall, the gender differences were remarkably small.

Judith Warner at Time wrote in 2013 about gearing schools to stress academic achievement and–on the domestic front–emphasizing the importance of fatherhood:

Thomas A. DiPrete and Claudia Buchmann, sociologists at Columbia and Ohio State universities respectively, spent 10 years digging through all the data on boys’ and girls’ academic achievement, trying to figure out what’s true and what’s false in the boy-crisis story. Drawing together all the best research, they found that, indeed, girls now take more advanced college-preparatory classes than boys, and earn higher grades in those classes. They go on to earn more bachelor’s and master’s degrees than men.

Yet they also found that the academic discrepancy isn’t new. Surprisingly enough, girls have been outperforming boys in school for a century — so much so, Buchmann tells me, that when the first U.S. colleges and universities began admitting young women and quickly saw that they were winning the lion’s share of academic honors, some actually reversed their co-educational policies. What has changed, they say, isn’t the relative status of boys (a devaluing of maleness in the classroom) or a feminization of education (that much cursed need to shut up and sit still) or a dearth of men in the teaching profession (boys, it turns out, do equally well with female and male teachers). Instead, they say, there has come to be a real discrepancy in boys’ and girls’ attitudes and effort — backed up by the messages that boys and girls are getting about academic achievement at home.

Girls, it turns out, spend more time studying than boys do and are more likely to say that good grades are very important to them. Boys, on the other hand, particularly if they’re from working-class or low-income backgrounds, often suffer socially if they work hard to get good grades. They’re considered “fags” if they do the things that are associated with higher academic performance — participate in music, art or drama, for example. And while girls are hearing the message loud and clear that their hard work in school will lead to success in college and, later, in the workplace, that lesson just isn’t getting through to boys, particularly boys whose fathers didn’t go to college.

“When you look for differences among boys, rather than just differences between boys and girls, the boys who are achieving well are different. They’re more likely to come from families where a father is involved and the father is highly educated and has a white-collar job. The fathers are so important because they help boys understand that being a man isn’t just about acting tough or showing physical prowess but that academic achievement is something that’s very desirable for men, and they make that connection between doing well in school and doing well in today’s economy,” Buchmann says. “These boys haven’t gotten the message or have gotten the wrong message about what it takes to be successful.”

How to fix this? Ten years of research shows that change won’t come through all-male classrooms or more male teachers or a more boy-centric curriculum, the authors say. We need instead to change our schools so that they consistently promote a culture of high academic achievement — a goal that should be obvious but is clearly lacking in many of our sports-obsessed learning institutions. Schools need to promote that culture consistently and evenly for all students. Set high standards and expect students to reach them — and provide extra support for those who need it.

So, while women are academically dominating the education scene, that’s mostly grounded in historical precedent. It’s nothing new. At the same time, reforms need to be made to ensure boys are able to more or less catch up to girls, especially when reading becomes a larger part of the curriculum. It’s not feminization of education, but the problem is not going to be solved any sooner unless we tackle the disintegration of the family, particularly the rise of fatherless homes.

Yet, as George Will wrote in 2010, these reforms could be hard to institute since 90 percent of a school’s performance–and success–revolves around the family structures of the student body:

In 1966, the seismic Coleman Report concluded: "Schools are remarkably similar in the way they relate to the achievement of their pupils when the socioeconomic background of the students is taken into account." (Emphasis added.)

Subsequent research suggests that about 90 percent of the differences among the proficiency of schools can be explained by five factors: days absent from school, hours spent watching television, pages read for homework, the quantity and quality of reading matter in the home -- and the presence of two parents in the home.

Rebuilding family structures is a problem that can't be fixed with a new federal law, nor any direct action by the federal government.  

Vindicated: Bergdahl Platoon Members React to Desertion Charges, Obama Administration Smears

Earlier this week the U.S. Army officially announced desertion charges for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was traded by the Obama administration for five Taliban commanders last summer after five years in captivity. Shortly after the prisoner swap, which was celebrated by President Obama with a White House Rose Garden ceremony, Bergdahl's platoon mates started to publicly come forward with desertion allegations. They were quickly dismissed and smeared by the administration. Now, they're speaking out about the new charges. 

"The truth has been out there the entire time. We've been telling everybody that wants to listen what the truth is from shortly after Bergdahl disappeared to the initial Army investigation to when he was traded back last year. Everybody that was around him, knew what the truth was and it's just a relief that the United States Army did the right thing in charging Bergdahl with desertion and misconduct," former Army medic Josh Cornelison, who served in Bergdahl's platoon, said last night on The Kelly File.

"If they would have brought him back, and we had an American soldier back and they had released a statement or a memo saying, 'Hey we got him back, there's some circumstances that are surrounding him, we're going to investigate them,' that would have been great. We got him back and we're going to seek justice, but instead they parade his parents out in a Rose Garden ceremony and you have cabinet members come out and say he served with honor and distinction, basically calling him a hero, when they knew that wasn't true. The facts have been the same for five years, but yet you have solders that are missing limbs or paid the ultimate price over there and they don't get a Rose Garden ceremony. They served honorably," Army Specialist Cody Full, who also served in Bergdahl's platoon, added. 

Army Team Leader Evan Buetow said charges represent a step toward closure. 

"We came forward to let people know what really happened," Buetow said.

Yesterday State Department spokeswoman and incoming White House Communications advisor Jen Psaki doubled down on the Obama administration's decision to trade Bergdahl for the enemy, saying it was "absolutely worth it."

Under the Uniformed Code of Military Justice, a preliminary Article 32 hearing has been scheduled for Bergdahl and will be held at Ft. Sam Houston, Texas. When the hearing will take place will be announced at a later date. Bergdahl faces up to life in prison for his actions if convicted.

BREAKING: Former Majority Leader Harry Reid Announces Retirement

In a video message released on Twitter this morning, former Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has announced his retirement after 30 years on Capitol Hill. He has served five Senate terms and will leave the Senate in 22 months at the end of his current term.

"We've got to be more concerned about the country, the Senate, the state of Nevada than us and as a result of that, I am no I'm not going to run for re-election," Reid said in the announcement. “My life’s work has been to make Nevada and our nation better. Thank you for giving me that opportunity.”

Reid stressed in the announcement that his retirement has nothing to do with recently sustained injuries from a workout accident when a piece of equipment broke, causing him to fall. He suffered broken ribs and lost sight in one of his eyes. 

Reid will leave the Senate with a controversial legacy. In 2010 he was a key component in the passage of Obamacare, when he changed the Senate rules to get the legislation through. He also got rid of the filibuster during his tenure, something Republicans have said they want to bring back.

This post has been updated with additional information.

Afghan Woman Who Was Beaten To Death By Mob For Allegedly Desecrating The Koran Was Innocent

Last week, Caleb Howe at Truth Revolt posted a brutal video of an Afghan woman being beaten to death by an angry mob for allegedly desecrating the Koran.

“The crowd can be seen beating and kicking her, hitting her with sticks, and even dropping large bricks and blocks of stone on her. Her body was then burned, and thrown into a river,” he wrote.

The woman, Farkhunda,is known by only one name, and she was in her late 20s to early 30s. Some sites, like the AP, have her being 27 years old, while CBS News reported she was 32. Her family said she was suffering from mental illness.

After an investigation, it’s been confirmed that she was completely innocent for desecrating the Koran:

Hundreds of people gathered in the north of the capital for the funeral of 27-year-old Farkhunda, who like many Afghans is known by only one name.

She was killed late on Thursday by a mob of mostly men who beat her, set her body on fire and then threw it into the Kabul river, according to police accounts.

President Ashraf Ghani condemned Farkhunda’s killing as a “heinous attack”. The authorities are still investigating what prompted the mob assault.

Following allegations that police stood by and did nothing to stop the attack, Ghani said it revealed “a fundamental issue” – the country’s police were too focused on the fight against the Taliban insurgency to concentrate on community policing.

His comments followed widespread condemnation of the killing. In Afghanistan, despite constitutional guarantees of equality, women are generally treated as inferior and violence against them often goes unpunished.

Some Afghan officials and religious leaders sought to justify Farkhunda’s killing, alleging that she had burned a copy of the Qur’an.

But at her graveside, the head of the interior ministry’s criminal investigation directorate, Gen Mohammad Zahir, said no evidence had been found to support those allegations.

“We have reviewed all the evidence and have been unable to find any single iota of evidence to support claims that she had burned a Qur’an,” Zahir said. “She is completely innocent.”

The crowd was reportedly shouting anti-American and anti-democracy slogans as they stomped on her.

The Re-Education of Hillary Clinton? – Not Really

UPDATE: Maybe it's really not a comeback at all

Progressive Change Campaign Committee has launched, which aims to push Hillary towards the left on policy issues such as Social Security, campaign finance reform, and reining in Wall Street, according to The New York Times. Over 200 Iowa and New Hampshire Democrats, including former Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin–a firebrand liberal–, have signed the site’s petition.

Democracy Alliance, a group of the left’s biggest donors, has recently signaled their plans for the future; they want to be the driving progressive force in the Democratic Party. As Politico noted, this group hasn’t had the best of relations with the Clintons. In 2006, Bill Clinton got into a spat with Guy Saperstein, a part owner of the Oakland A’s, over then-Sen. Clinton’s vote over the Iraq War; a vote for which the anti-war progressive wing of the party has yet to offer their forgiveness. Saperstein left the Alliance in 2008, but remains close with its members. Last year, Saperstein gave $1 million to a PAC spearheading a Draft Warren movement. The Alliance has invited Hillary to speak at one of their closed-press gatherings in San Francisco next month, but she declined. It’s around the time she’s expected to announce her 2016 bid for president (via Politico):

An influential coalition of the biggest liberal donors is quietly distancing itself from the national Democratic Party and planning to push its leaders — including Hillary Clinton — to the left.

It aims to steer more than $30 million a year toward groups committed to fighting income inequality, climate change and the influence of political money. A particular focus is on groups fighting those issues at the state level, reflecting a sense among donors that national political gridlock limits chances for progress on their issues, regardless of the specific candidates.

“The Democracy Alliance donors, as I read them, while they are almost all Democrats and they are electorally active, want to be a progressive force independent from the Democratic Party,” said the group’s president, Gara LaMarche. “That’s not about Hillary Clinton as such, or about Barack Obama as such. It’s about standing for certain core concerns on the economy and climate and pushing that in the states.”

LaMarche wouldn’t comment on plan specifics, expected to be completed in early April, except to say that it reflects broad “alignment” among progressive donors on “key economic issues and climate change.”

But other sources with knowledge of the plan characterize it as more aligned with Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, the dream presidential candidate for many Democracy Alliance members, than with Clinton, the leading Democratic presidential candidate. And for some liberals, it foreshadows an emerging rift that could hamper efforts up and down the ballot in 2016, and possibly lay the groundwork for a liberal version of the tea party, resulting in years of factionalism.

Clinton might have been an uncomfortable fit at the San Francisco meeting because it would highlight issues on which her centrist sensibilities clash with the Alliance’s more liberal views.

For instance, according to a draft agenda obtained by POLITICO, the meeting will feature sessions on reducing the influence of big money politics and reforming the criminal justice system, including ending the death penalty. Clinton, an unparalleled fundraiser, hasn’t led the charge on campaign finance reforms and supports capital punishment — unlike potential 2016 Democratic presidential rival Martin O’Malley.

Wait, they’re trying to start a liberal tea party? Wasn’t that Occupy Wall Street? Yet, while it’s been reported that Warren’s biggest donors won’t turn their backs on Hillary, it seems that Warren has a potentially large reserve of campaign cash she can tap into, along with her reported Hollywood faction that would support her if she runs. Then again, it could be just a pipe dream.

“Hillary did not fare well in the Democracy Alliance eight years ago, and I don’t think there is going to be much more support for her this time, other than people thinking that she is the horse we’ve got, so we better not criticize her because it could weaken her,” Saperstein told Politico.

It seems for now; both groups are more focused on influencing and shaping Hillary’s 2016 platform than actively searching for candidates to challenger her in the primaries. Though, I’m sure a lot of people in the progressive wing want someone to challenge the Clintons. Then again, a Republican victory in 2016 would put much of what Obama has accomplished in jeopardy, which is why Team Obama–though aghast at the fact she deleted over 30,000 emails willy-nilly because she deemed them private–want her to win next year. So, that logic could be factored into this “we don’t really like her, but oh well” attitude the left has toward Hillary.

Regardless, Hillary is projected to raise over $1 billion for her campaign, but is only focused on raising for the primaries at present:

Clinton's campaign-in-waiting is developing a stable of fundraisers and finance aides for a race likely to exceed the more than $1 billion President Barack Obama raised for his 2012 re-election. If Clinton announces in April, as expected, her campaign would be required to release its first fundraising report in July.

The Democratic National Committee plans to set up joint fundraising committees with any primary campaign that wishes to do so, as it did in 2008 with Clinton and Obama. The joint events will allow donors to give money to both the campaign and the DNC, one of the Democratic officials said.

The ex-secretary of state's finance team will be led by Dennis Cheng, a former top fundraiser for the Clinton Foundation and Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign. Under Cheng, the planned finance operation is making changes from its previous incarnation.

The Democrats familiar with the planning said Clinton's campaign is expected to focus on raising checks of $2,700-per-person for the primary and is not expected to create a single finance chair or national co-chairs.

Instead, the campaign is likely to have a merit-based national finance committee of top donors that will be similar to the arrangement under Obama. The campaign also plans an early focus on online fundraising, the officials said.

So, for those hoping that Hillary might veer to the left, it appears she doesn’t need to with regards to raising campaign cash. There doesn’t seem to be any indication that there will be a reeducation of Hillary Clinton. Yet, the notion that she’s running from her true self (a progressive liberal vs. a centrist Democrat) remains a point with Republicans, as Mike Murphy noted in 2000 on Meet The Press; it’s also a reason why he doesn’t respect her since she opts to be a centrist Democrat when he feels she's not. He said Clinton veered into that "doctrinaire liberal" territory a little bit when she said there's a "vast right wing conspiracy" against then-President Clinton in 1998. 

It's going to be the same ole' Hillary, folks. For conservatives, we already knew this, but for progressives; hey, it's the only person you've got. 

As for Clinton, some are reporting she's undergoing what her family has done before in American politics: mounting a comeback.  Though we shouldn't take much stock in polls this early in the game, Clinton is assembling a campaign team that's highly respected, has experience, and has good relations with the press. And while I thought the email scandal might have her limping out of the gate, that seems to have dissipated in the media. Then again, the emails can make their way back into the forefront once the 2016 campaign season get serious. 

Common Core Opt-Out Included in Senate Budget

Thanks to the efforts of Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), as part of the larger budgetary process, Senate Republicans have passed an amendment giving all states the right to refuse to implement the Common Core curriculum in their schools. The amendment, however, will be one of many provisions included in the Senate's final budget, which will be voted on by the full Senate at a later date:

The measure passed by a margin of 54 to 46.

I'll leave you with this statement from Vitter's office:

“Parents, along with local teachers, principals, and education leaders in our communities, know best on how to best educate our kids,” Vitter said. “We should reduce the size and scope of the federal government in our classrooms and return curriculum decision-making and use of taxpayer dollars to those closest to the students – and my legislation would do just that.”

The Obama administration granted states that adopted Common Core standards waivers from No Child Left Behind mandates. Vitter’s legislation would ensure that any state with an existing waiver will keep its No Child Left Behind waiver without penalty if the state opts out of Common Core. His bill would also make these states eligible for Race to the Top grant funding, which has only been offered to states in compliance with Common Core standards.

White House: Pope Francis, Obama To Discuss "Shared Values" During Papal Visit

Pope Francis will visit the United States on a papal visit in late September and his itinerary is already chalked full of events. Naturally, the official announcement was made public months ago. Today, however, we learned that the Bishop of Rome was also invited to the White House to meet with President Obama and the First Lady—an invitation he has evidently accepted.

“The President and the First Lady will welcome His Holiness Pope Francis to the White House on Wednesday September 23,” the White House press secretary said in a statement today. “During the visit, the President and the Pope will continue the dialogue, which they began during the President’s visit to the Vatican in March 2014, on their shared values and commitments on a wide range of issues, including caring for the marginalized and the poor; advancing economic opportunity for all; serving as good stewards of the environment; protecting religious minorities and promoting religious freedom around the world; and welcoming and integrating immigrants and refugees into our communities. The President looks forward to continuing this conversation with the Holy Father during his first visit to the United States as Pope.”

Of course, these are all issues Pope Francis and President Obama broadly agree on. It will be interesting to see, however, if they discuss issues that divide them—as they did during the president's first encounter with Pope Francis in Rome roughly a year ago.

“During the cordial meetings, views were exchanged on some current international themes and it was hoped that, in areas of conflict, there would be respect for humanitarian and international law and a negotiated solution between the parties involved,” the Vatican said in a statement following the world leaders’ first face-to-face meeting. “In the context of bilateral relations and cooperation between Church and State, there was a discussion on questions of particular relevance for the Church in that country, such as the exercise of the rights to religious freedom, life and conscientious objection, as well as the issue of immigration reform. Finally, the common commitment to the eradication of trafficking of human persons in the world was stated.”

Will these issues be raised again? In all likelihood, yes.

After all, during their last in-person discussion, Pope Francis reportedly expressed grave concern that taxpayer dollars were funding abortion services under Obamacare—which studies show is inevitably happening. So don't be surprised if he does again, as this is an issue very close to the hearts of (conservative) American Catholics.

For what it’s worth, Pope Francis will also deliver remarks in front of Congress and the United Nations, attend a Catholic conference, and hold a public Mass in Philadelphia during his papal visit.

Click through to learn more.

Rubio, Walker: Yep, I'd Immediately Scrap Obama's Iran Deal As President

A no-brainer on politics and substance alike. President Obama's rumored deal (which got worse today) with Iran's terroristic regime is causing bipartisan heartburn on Capitol Hill, is worrying even typically skittish allies, is viewed as unacceptable across the board in Israel (and certain Arab capitals), and isn't likely to find a receptive audience among American voters. Leaked details reveal that Iran's nuclear program will gain international legitimacy under the bargain, which keeps the country's nuclear infrastructure in place, as well as 6,000 centrifuges spinning. It demands nothing of Iran on its illegal missile program, its sponsorship of terrorism and outsourcing of chaos in the region, or its abysmal human rights record. It reopens the money spigot to pump money back into Iran's economy, which has been battered by sanctions (the primary reason they're at the negotiating table in the first place). And its restrictions begin to phase out after ten years, regardless of Tehran's behavior. Also, Iran's team is now insisting on more immediate sanctions relief, before they've demonstrated any meaningful or lasting compliance. In return, the West gets the world's leading exporter of terror to essentially press the "pause" button on their rogue nuclear weapons program, and the mullahs might agree to so-called "snap" inspections, which they're currently calling "illegal."  Of course, Iran agreed to those intrusive inspections after the US invasion of Iraq, then reneged a few years later and forged ahead in hot pursuit of nukes.  First up, Marco Rubio -- last heard from mounting a stirring defense of Israel on the Senate floor -- chatting with Hugh Hewitt:

Rubio says that as president, he'd "absolutely" vitiate any agreement Obama strikes with Tehran without Congressional approval. Allahpundit wonders if geopolitical realities would allow the next president to just summarily flush the deal down the toilet, which goes to the heart of Obama's myriad executive power grabs: Take actions that may not have the binding force of law beyond January 20, 2017, but that would be politically difficult to roll back. What a President Rubio could do here is urge Congress to pass a brutal battery of sanctions that would be triggered by any amount of Iranian cheating, "accidental" or otherwise. He could also seek to expand the terms of the deal to shut down Tehran's long-range missile program, then use their furious objections as a very good excuse to walk away and lower the sanctions boom. Here's Scott Walker, also with Hewitt, torching the reported deal:

Questions for Hillary: Does she support the reputed terms of Obama's deal with Iran, in full?  Does she believe Iran deserves to keep its nuclear infrastructure in place, and that Western restrictions should begin to sunset after a decade?  Does Iran's ICBM program have any legitimate purpose, and if not, should it be permitted to exist under any US deal?  Does she agree with the White House that Yemen is still an American foreign policy "success" -- even as Iran-backed rebels have overthrown the government (hello there, Iran), ISIS is bombing mosques, Al Qaeda is seizing cities, American special forces are being evacuated, and US intelligence is being compromised?  It would be instructive to hear her answers on these, and many other, topics.  Alas, her appearance before a room full of journalists this week featured jokes about her insecure secret email server and destruction of official emails, but no questions:

‘He’s Had His Run’: Group Wants to Replace Andrew Jackson with Influential Women on Twenty Dollar Bill

How would you like to keep a picture of Rachel Carson in your wallet? is a new campaign effort to replace our seventh president, Andrew Jackson, with women who have somehow influenced society. 

I’m not kidding.

Here’s Tuesday’s CBS News report:

"There's a movement afoot to see that women get their fair share of money."

We can thank Barbara Ortiz Howard for the new effort to boot Jackson from the twenty.

"There are no women on the money and I thought gee this is a crazy omission," said Howard.

That’s when Howard, who works near New York City maintaining apartment buildings, decided it was time for President Jackson to move over. 

Why is she targeting our seventh president?

Andrew Jackson was celebrated for his military prowess, for founding the Democratic party and for his simpatico with the common man. But as the seventh president of the United States, he also helped gain Congressional passage of the "Indian Removal Act of 1830" that drove Native American tribes of the Southeastern United States off their resource-rich land and into Oklahoma to make room for white European settlers. Commonly known as the Trail of Tears, the mass relocation of Indians resulted in the deaths of thousands from exposure, disease and starvation during the westward migration. Not okay.

In other words: because of his sinful, racist past.

The Womenon20s list to replace Jackson includes some admirable trailblazers. For instance, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks and Susan B. Anthony are figures I’d be proud to see on our currency. Yet, there are a few controversial figures included on the list as well - perhaps none more so than Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger. Pro-life groups have often exposed Sanger’s obsession with eugenics, which went hand-in-hand with her racist beliefs. (Jackson doesn’t seem so bad now, huh?) Oh yeah, and the organization she is responsible for is now the country’s biggest abortion provider. As for other candidates, I’m sure more than a few people would grimace to carry around bills featuring radical environmentalist Rachel Carson.

I’m all for acknowledging the amazing efforts of our country’s most iconic female figures. But why do we have to kick one of our presidents to the curb? Surely, there are other ways to notice our female heroines without undermining the accomplishments of our Founding Fathers and Commanders-in-Chief.

Womenon20s is asking people to vote for who they want to see on the twenty dollar bill. Once they’ve narrowed it down to one, they’ll ask President Obama to put the winner on a new bill by 2020, which will mark the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage.

I doubt their campaign will make it past the survey, but if Sanger happens to make it onto the twenty, let’s just say I’ll be getting a whole lot more credit card statements.