Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America welcome Arizona Sen. John McCain back to Capitol Hill despite the grim diagnosis he received last week, and are happy that Republicans now have a full roster as the health care debate continues. They also bemoan President Trump’s continued use of Twitter to attack Attorney General Jeff Sessions for being “weak” in failing to investigate Hillary Clinton over her emails and alleged collusion with Ukraine during the 2016 campaign. And they analyze a surprising new Michigan poll showing rock star Kid Rock leading incumbent Sen. Debbie Stabenow.
Archives for July 2017
One college is now handing out punishment to students for disrupting free speech on campus, and while the speaker impacted says she is glad there are some consequences for those protesters, she still believes colleges may be hopelessly immersed in the movement of racial victimhood.
On April 6, Manhattan Institute scholar Heather Mac Donald was prevented from giving her scheduled address at Claremont McKenna College. Protesters denounced Mac Donald over her best-selling book, “The War on Cops,” and physically prevented students from attending the lecture. They also led chants of “F— the police.”
Unlike other disruptions at schools like the University of California-Berkeley and Middlebury College, Claremont McKenna is now handing out punishments. In a statement, the school condemned the blockade.
“The blockade breached institutional values of freedom of expression and assembly. Furthermore, this action violated policies of both the College and The Claremont Colleges that prohibit material disruption of college programs and created unsafe conditions in disregard of state law,” read part of the statement.
While acknowledging 170 students were involved in the demonstration, just seven were disciplined: three were suspended for a year, two others for one semester and two more were put on conduct probation.
Mac Donald sees the results as a mixed bag. On one hand, she’s grateful that Claremont McKenna was willing to take action.
“For once, I’m gratified that there’s some discipline with teeth, unlike in Middlebury. True academic suspensions are serious punishment. That’s going to show up on a student’s record,” said Mac Donald.
But while seven students are paying the price, she’s a bit puzzled as to why there weren’t more discipline cases stemming from the event.
“It’s a very small number of people who have been punished. Five receiving suspensions is much less than (the number) people complicit in the blockade. There’s no explanation by Claremont as to how they reached that number and whether it’s because they didn’t have evidence for other people or not,” said Mac Donald.
But while giving the school leaders some credit, Mac Donald says the larger response to the chaos surrounding her visit shows the administrators still don’t get it.
“Ironically, the Claremont-McKenna statement said that it was calling on its faculty to try and help us understand how to mitigate the forces that divide our society. What divides our society is precisely this preposterous idea that to be a minority student at an American college today is to be the victim of oppression,” said Mac Donald.
Mac Donald says that approach is only hurting the very students it intends to help.
“CMC and every other college has vast bureaucracies dedicated to that proposition. Students that are brainwashed with that idea in college are going to go on into American society unable to see the opportunities that are available to them, with a big chip on their shoulders. We’re going to see racial tensions and possibly even racial violence continue,” she said.
“This is ludicrous,” said Mac Donald. “There is no more privileged position in society today than to be a student at an American campus.”
Far from seeing Claremont-McKenna’s actions as a turning point in tolerance for differing opinions on campuses, Mac Donald believes things are worse than ever because the people who should be standing up for free speech and free expression are on the other side of the debate.
“We’re fast approaching a critical mass, where the majority of faculty are themselves perpetrating this idea that speech from a student from a favored victim category finds disagreeable is itself a form of violence,” said Mac Donald.
She says faculty at the University of California-Berkeley were even defending the rioting that forced the cancellation a Milo Yiannopoulos event on campus.
“There were two faculty at Berkeley, in an email chain, that were dismissing the Antifa black block fascists as just doing what was necessary and in a very nice, surgical manner of trashing buildings and creating fires,” said Mac Donald.
She also says no one should expect college administrators to suddenly get a surge of courage and stand up for academic and constitutional freedom in the face of hostile students.
“Ever since the ’60s, they caved in then in a very, very bad way and they’ve absolutely been cowards since then,” she said.
Mac Donald believes a major alumni revolt could change the minds of administrators on some campuses. But even if the money dries up, she fears some schools are too far down the social justice pathway to turn back now.
“It’s a real tension because by now the universities have really been taken over by this left-wing zealotry. I’m not even confident that a drop in alumni donations would lead them to say, ‘OK, no more of this nonsense,'” said Mac Donald.
She says the only true recourse is for parents with children at all levels of education to demand better.
“You’ve got to fight back against it and give your children alternative sources of knowledge,” said Mac Donald.
President Trump made an “unfortunate mistake” by re-certifying the Iran nuclear deal on Wednesday and he was pushed into a decision he didn’t want to make through the power of an entrenched government bureaucracy, according to former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton.
On Monday, after almost an hour of animated debate with his national security team, President Trump reluctantly declared that Iran is complying with the terms with the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, hammered out by the Obama admnistration, Iran, and five other nations.
“It was an unfortunate decision for the administration to issue this certification,” said Bolton. “I think the president was blindsided by the bureaucracy.”
Bolton, who served in the State Department during the first term of the George W. Bush administration, says the foreign policy bureaucracy is a powerful force in Washington.
“It was the bureaucracy on autopilot from the Obama administration. If you don’t tell them to change direction, they just keep doing what they were doing before,” said Bolton.
But it’s not just Obama holdovers pushing the status quo. Reports confirm that Defense Secretary James Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford all pleaded with Trump to re-certify the agreement.
Bolton says the bureaucracy has a way of winning over new cabinet members to embrace existing policy.
“The bureaucracies have a way of capturing the appointees. Some of those (Trump officials) are still in the bureaucracy or never really left it. It’s an art form. People who know Washington, particularly who have watched the State Department seduce political appointees, especially Republicans and they make reasonable-sounding arguments that are simply justifications for continuing the prior policy,” said Bolton.
The Iran deal has now been re-certified twice in the first six months of the Trump administration. Each time, the official recognition of Iranian compliance has been accompanied by a Trump administration denunciation of Iran’s human rights record and sponsoring of terrorism.
Bolton says the disconnect is jarring.
“It’s a committee camel that came out and it reflects the confusion that happens when you don’t give the president options and when you don’t allow time for a full debate. Those mistakes will not be made again,” said Bolton, who firmly believes Trump will not certify the agreement again.
Those who applauded the decision to re-certify say abrogating the deal would create a great deal of chaos, particularly with our allies who were part of the negotiations with Iran.
Bolton doesn’t think that should be a deterrent from doing the right thing.
“If the allies are going to be upset by something, what you do is a vigorous diplomatic campaign to explain why we think the deal was a mistake, indeed why they made the same mistake we did, and why we’ve got to correct it before it’s too late,” said Bolton.
“The consequences of a bad deal are a regime of religious fanatics in Iran getting nuclear weapons,” said Bolton.
Bolton says the problems with the JCPOA are legion, starting with the painfully unclear language that he says Iran can manipulate and insist it is meeting its obligations.
“Many provisions of the deal are so badly worded, they’re so ambiguous, that a reasonable person could say, ‘The Iranians came right up to the line of their interpretation of the deal and they didn’t cross it so it’s hard to say it’s really a violation.’ That’s the argument,” said Bolton.
“That argument fails for several reasons. First off, the fact that the agreement is badly worded is one more reason to junk it. It shows just how poorly our negotiators, including Secretary of State John Kerry, did. It shows the leeway that it affords Iran. And it shows the way forward. They’re going to press the ambiguities right to the outer limit,” said Bolton.
And he expects Iran to eventually blow right past those limits.
“If they can hide what they’re doing, they’re going to press beyond the outer limits and make it impossible to enforce the deal strictly. That’s part of the problem. The deal is so bad that trying to enforce it strictly is like trying to nail jello to the wall,” said Bolton, while also nothing the deal offers no inspections of Iranian nuclear sites and has no binding provisions concerning ballistic missile development.
Bolton says the bottom line is that nothing has changed as a result of this agreement.
“Iran has never abandoned its policy to get deliverable nuclear weapons. It’s exploiting this deal. It’s made temporary, easily-reversible concessions. It’s cooperating with North Korea, which is getting ever closer to its own deliverable nuclear weapons capability,” said Bolton.
“We’re living in a delusion if we think this deal is slowing Iran down,” he added.
So what is the right U.S. posture? Bolton says the U.S. bring back economic sanctions immediately and be prepared to do whatever needs to be done to prevent Iran from being able to deploy nukes.
“To be realistic, if we don’t want Iran to have deliverable nuclear weapons, if that’s really what we believe, we and Israel have to look at a military option,” said Bolton.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has resigned from his position. Sarah Huckabee Sanders will take over his position, but he will stay on staff until the end of August. His resignation follows the addition of Anthony Scaramucci to the Trump team as White House Communications Director. — Jenna Suchyta
One of the newest members of the Presidential Commission on Election Integrity says he is impressed that the bipartisan group appears to be on the same page of protecting the rights of eligible voters while putting provisions in place for those who shouldn’t be casting ballots.
He also categorically rejects assertions from the political left that the commission’s actual intent is to disenfranchise vulnerable segments of the population who are unlikely to support President Trump, such as minorities, immigrants and the poor.
On Wednesday, the commission held its first meeting, a public session at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building adjacent to the White House. Vice President Mike Pence is chairman of the commission, while Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach serves as co-chairman.
Hans von Spakovsky is among the most recently appointed members and is excited that the group seems clear on its task.
“This is a bipartisan commission but I was really struck by the unanimity of all of the commissioners on all of the issues we need to look at, the kind of data we need to gather, and the work that needs to be done,” said von Spakovsky, who also serves as the manager of the Election Law Reform Initiative at the Heritage Foundation.
He says the goal of the commission is clear.
“This commission is going into this with an open mind, no preset conclusion, and we were directed to do everything we can to take a look at, review, and examine the American election process and make sure, in essence, that every American who’s eligible can vote and no one’s vote is stolen through voter fraud or administrative mistakes,” said von Spakovsky.
President Trump has ordered the commission to report on its findings and offer recommendations by next year. Von Spakovsky says gathering data is the first big step and getting voter information from the states is the key to understanding whether people who shouldn’t be voting are gaining access to ballots anyway.
“That’s obviously important data when it comes to looking at the kind of problems that may be out there,” said von Spakovsky.
However, the request for data is sparking significant controversy, with many Democratic state officials refusing to comply with at least parts of the request. Critics of the president’s decision to create the commission allege that the commission will end up sparking action to disenfranchise poor and minority voters, who are unlikely to back the president or have the means to protect their rights.
Von Spakovsky says that assertion is ridiculous.
“That’s really an absurd claim,” he said. “It’s really just a nutty claim, frankly. Look, this is an advisory commission. It has no power of any kind. It has no ability to tell anyone what to do. It’s only purpose is to research the issues. And all it can do at the end is to make recommendations to the president, to the states,” said von Spakovsky.
When the formal recommendations come next year, von Spakovsky says there could well be calls for Congress or the Justice Department to take action, but he says any meaningful clean-up of the voter rolls will have to happen state by state.
While the data continue to come in, von Spakovsky’s own research shows three major areas of concern when it comes to election integrity: non-citizens voting, citizens voting in multiple jurisdictions, and the names of dead people remaining on the rolls and being vulnerable to abuse.
Von Spakovsky says getting everything right is a major task.
“It is a big job. About five years ago, the Pew Center did a study and they found almost three million people registered in more than one state and almost two million people who were dead still on the voter rolls,” said von Spakovsky.
Reactions abound as Nevada officials granted parole to former football star O.J. Simpson Thursday. The Nevada Parole Board verdict clears the way for Simpson’s release after nearly nine years of his 33 year sentence elapsed. Although acquitted in his 19-95 murder trial, Simpson was sentenced to prison on armed robbery and kidnapping charges in 20-08. According to CBS News, while Commissioner Tony Corda stated that Simpson had committed a “serious crime, and there was no excuse for it,” he still voted in favor of parole based on evidence that Simpson complied with prison rules and has no prior conviction among other items. Similar to the aftermath of the murder trial verdict, responses from the public are polarized. While one of the robbery victims ended up supporting Simpson in his petition for parole, those affected by the earlier murder trial are apprehensive as to how this new ruling will affect them. Simpson is scheduled for release as early as October 1st. ~ Sarah Schutte
Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America start with an appetizer by cheering the U.S. Navy’s use of a new laser weapon meant to target small watercraft and drones. They also praise the Trump administration for its success in halting hundreds of regulations that would stifle job growth and business expansion. They also address the tragic news that Arizona Sen. John McCain is diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, and they express disgust at the tasteless and nasty reactions from both sides of the political spectrum. And they sigh over President Trump griping to the media about his frustrations over Attorney General Jeff Sessions recusing himself from the Russia investigation.
Senate Republicans appear unable to pass a straight repeal of Obamacare or a more comprehensive plan, and one of the most fiscally conservative members of Congress says the GOP either needs to do what it promised or prepare to watch the rest of the Trump agenda wither away.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he still plans to hold a vote on repeal, identical to the one that passed Congress in 2015. However, four Republicans are already opposed, including three who voted for the the 2015 plan which was ultimately vetoed by President Obama.
Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Shelley Moore Capito, R-West Virginia, are the ones now opposing the plan they backed two years ago. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, is also opposed, but she also opposed the 2015 bill.
For those pounding the table for repeal, the dashing of hopes in the Senate is stunning.
“I thought there would be some movement toward the 2015 plan, but then the three senators who previously voted for the 2015 bill came out and said they were going to vote against the 2015 bill. That is fairly shocking,” said Rep. Dave Brat, R-Virginia, a member of the House Freedom Caucus and the House Budget Committee.
“When you vote 50 times to repeal and you say you’re going to repeal, then it’s fairly simple. You ought to do what you told the American people you were going to do. So now these folks are really, really hurting the Republican brand,” said Brat.
He says the GOP needs some serious soul-searching.
“What do we stand for? Do we stand for small federal government? Do we stand for free markets? Do we stand for fiscal responsibility or are we just going down the Democrat path and bankrupting the country?” asked Brat.
“The rest is just pure politics and I don’t care for that realm. The first principles are what made us the greatest country on earth. You put Adam Smith and James Madison together and you get some great outcomes. We’re departing from those first principles every day,” said Brat.
He says what many Republicans are focused on in Washington is a far cry from what voters want from them.
“I just don’t understand how you can be that far off the reservation politically and that tone deaf to what the American people want. Everybody back home is just yelling to get it done. We’re once again tone deaf up in the bubble,” said Brat.
Brat is also frustrated by how Republicans have tortured a simple policy approach into something far more complicated.
“Once you change the definition of repeal…to a health care thing run by the federal government with all sorts of subsidies and billions of dollars for other programs attached, you’re getting too far away from Republican first principles. The messaging hasn’t been good because we keep twisting the meaning of common sense words,” said Brat.
Brat is also concerned about how the failure to pass health care legislation will impact other major priorities in this Congress, especially major tax reform. He says between not eliminating Obamacare taxes and the expected scuttling of the border adjustability tax, Congress is already starting with a two trillion dollar disadvantage.
As a result, the Trump administration is now adjusting it’s push for a corporate tax rate. Instead of dropping it to 15 percent, Brat says the president’s team is now gunning for the 20-25 percent range.
He says the GOP simply cannot screw up tax reform.
“The worst thing we can do is to goof up tax reform and not get this economy rolling again. Everything hinges on that,” he said.
Brat still hold out hope for a health care bill since President Trump is still energized to get something done, although Brat suggests the president has been more “transactional” in his approach and needs to be more specific about what he wants.
However, Brat is not enthused about bringing Democrats into the talks since that would lead to government in health care.
“I think he’s starting to recognize that when you move toward the Democrat side, the policy end up utterly complex and fails,” said Brat.
The congressman also laughs off the assertion of Democrats that Republican opposition to Obamacare – and not the law itself – is responsible for uncertainty that drives up the cost of premiums and deductibles for many Americans.
“What’s a central planner going to say about the monopoly. It’s never their fault because they own it,” said Brat. “They have to give that kind of response because they don’t have a free market system that is sustainable over the long run.”