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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Obama Administration "Appalled" at Beheading of American Journalist "If True"

Late yesterday news broke that the terrorist group ISIS beheaded American photojournalist James Wright Foley and issued a challenge directly to President Obama. ISIS has also threatened to execute American journalist Steven Sotloff, who is still in their custody. 

When news broke last night, President Obama was on his way back to Martha's Vineyard. In a statement this morning, the Obama administration has said that "if" Foley was killed then they are "appalled." More from the Washington Examiner:

“If genuine, we are appalled by the brutal murder of an innocent American journalist and we express our deepest condolences to his family and friends. We will provide more information when it is available,” National Security Council spokesman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement.
We still have not heard directly from President Obama about the gruesome, savage murder of Foley. Foley's family has asked for privacy during this difficult time.

UPDATE: The White House knew ISIS was threatening to execute Foley. From ABC News: 

ISIS had recently threatened to kill U.S. journalist James Foley to avenge airstrikes the United States has conducted in Iraq, a senior U.S. official told ABC News.

The White House had been aware of the threat prior to the release of a video Tuesday night that appears to show the beheading of Foley and warns that militants will carry out a similar act against U.S. journalist Steven Sotloff, who went missing in August, the official said.

"Establishment" Candidate Dan Sullivan Secures GOP Senate Nod in Alaska

Former Natural Resources Commissioner, Bush administration official, and state Attorney General Dan Sullivan won the Republican U.S. Senate primary last night in Alaska, the Associated Press reports. The AP notes that the Karl Rove-backed outside spending group, American Crossroads -- and the conservative Club for Growth, both endorsed him.

He also won, in part, because he crushed his two GOP rivals in the fundraising game:

A tea party attempt to overcome a mainstream Republican came up short in Alaska as former state Attorney General Dan Sullivan won the GOP primary to become his party’s candidate to take on U.S. Sen. Mark Begich in the fall.

Sullivan entered the primary the presumed front-runner, with the backing of national GOP powerbrokers and a huge cash advantage over his rivals.

Sullivan won by a rather comfortable margin:

With 80% of precincts reporting, the Associated Press projected that Mr. Sullivan would top the Republican primary field. He had 40.2% of the vote, compared with 31.8% for tea party candidate Joe Miller and 25.1% for Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell.

Mr. Sullivan said in a statement that he looks "forward to painting a clear contrast between Mark Begich's inability to move our state forward and my vision for a brighter and better Alaska."

Speaking of Begich, a SuperPAC supporting him spent roughly $4 million during the late primary campaign attacking Dan Sullivan. At the same time, some of the attack lines used against him sound eerily familiar:

“Alaska’s bitter and divisive Republican primary exposed that Dan Sullivan does not look out for what’s in the best interests of Alaskans,” said Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee deputy executive director Matt Canter in a statement from Washington early Wednesday. “After carrying water for Sarah Palin and trying to restrict access to public lands for hunters and fishers, Sullivan is now hoping to do the Koch brothers’ bidding in the U.S. Senate.”

Begich attacked Sullivan and Treadwell over women’s health issues — a recurring theme in races across the country this year, driven in part by the ongoing Obamacare debate — and joined the other Republicans in attacking Sullivan over his Alaska roots. (Sullivan is originally from Ohio and worked for the George W. Bush administration.)

Par for the course for Democrats these days, I suppose. But the goods news is -- and unlike, say, in Missouri -- there doesn’t seem to be any lasting ill-will between the Republican candidates. Both of Sullivan’s rivals called to congratulate him after he was declared the winner.

Hopefully now Republicans can unite in preparation for the general election campaign, and therefore pick up a seat they are more than capable of winning:

Alaska is a red-leaning state that could become one of the six Republicans need to net in order to win control of the Senate. John McCain defeated Barack Obama there by almost 22 percentage points in 2008. Begich, a former mayor of Anchorage, that year unseated GOP Sen. Ted Stevens, who had just been convicted in an ethics case that was later thrown out. Obama lost by a narrower but still large margin, 14 points, to Mitt Romney in 2012.

That's to say, it would be a painful loss to swallow if Republicans don't unseat Begich; after all, their chances of recapturing the upper chamber would be seriously diminished.

Hence why party elders (and grassroots activists alike) will be monitoring this race very closely through Election Day.

Islamic State Is Not a Terrorist Group, It's an Army

Earlier this month, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said that inaction toward the radical Islamic State “is no longer an option.” She also appropriately called them what they are: an army.

“It takes an army to defeat and army, and I believe that we either confront ISIL now or we will be forced to deal with an even stronger enemy in the future,” she said in a statement. The Islamic State is “operating with military expertise, advancing across Iraq, and rapidly consolidating its position.”

According to a monitoring group's estimates, we now have numbers to confirm Feinstein's assessment. Including fighters in both Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State is  80,000 strong and growing by the day.

The Islamic State group has an army of more than 50,000 fighters in Syria, and recruited 6,000 people in the last month, a monitoring group has said.

Rami Abdel Rahman, the director of the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said on Tuesday that the group's recruitment push was gathering pace every month.

"July saw the largest recruitment since the group appeared in Syria in 2013, with more than 6,000 new fighters," he said.

"The number of IS fighters has passed 50,000 in Syria, including 20,000 non-Syrians," he said.

Al Jazeera cannot verify the observatory's figures. However, an Islamic State source backed the statement and told Al Jazeera that the group also had 30,000 fighters in Iraq.

Abdel Rahman said the new recruits in Syria included more than 1,000 foreign fighters from Chechnya, China, Europe and Arab countries. He said most had entered Syria from Turkey.

IS is not a problem that will remain in the Middle East if left unchecked. They have taunted President Obama and America at large on numerous occasions, and most recently released a video with the theme of “breaking the American cross.” In the video, they boast about “emerging victorious over “crusader” America,” Reuters reports. explains further:

The Islamic State jihadis think of the U.S. as a Christian nation, and so they think of destroying it as breaking the cross, which language is also reminiscent of this:

Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Apostle said, “By Him in Whose Hands my soul is, son of Mary (Jesus) will shortly descend amongst you people (Muslims) as a just ruler and will break the Cross and kill the pig and abolish the Jizya (a tax taken from the non-Muslims, who are in the protection, of the Muslim government). Then there will be abundance of money and no-body will accept charitable gifts. (Bukhari 3.34.425)

Meanwhile, IS continues to warn that if U.S. airstrikes continue, Americans will be attacked “in any place.” The gruesome video of an IS militant purportedly beheading journalist James Foley in retaliation for airstrikes is one such example, and the executioner threatened to do the same to fellow American journalist Steven Joel Sotloff, depending on President Obama’s next move.

Millennials Aren't As Liberal Once They Start Making Money

There may be a glimmer of hope for the Millennial Generation–my generation– when it comes to attitudes about government and the welfare state. In 2008, young Americans got drunk on Barack Obama. I mean, insanely drunk over Mr. Hope and Change, who bamboozled them not once, but twice. So, it should come as no surprise that after Obamacare’s disastrous rollout and the president’s ineffectiveness as a leader that  a majority of young Americans would support recalling him from office.

Ouch! But, so what if they agree to this? They're still hopelessly liberal on everything, right? Emily Ekins at Reason says not so much, especially once millennials become employed and, you know, start making money:

Millennials also become more fiscally conservative as they age, make more money, and learn they will become responsible for paying for things. In fact majorities begin to oppose income redistribution and increased spending on financial assistance to the poor, and support for government guarantees drops once millennials start making between $40K-60K a year. Moreover, as they roll off their parents' health insurance policies and begin paying for their own, they no longer are willing to pay more for insurance even "if it helped provide health insurance coverage for the uninsured," flipping from 57 percent in support to 59 percent opposed.

When it comes to Social Security, 71 percent of millennials support creating private accounts:

Similarly, Pew found 67 percent of all Americans also favor allowing younger workers invest in private accounts. However, if allowing younger workers to opt out of Social Security meant reduced benefits to seniors, only 38 percent of all Americans would favor while 55 would oppose, according to Reason-Rupe. Millennials’ willingness to cut entitlements simply doesn’t comport with strong economic liberalism.

As for health care, 54 percent of millennials believe that government should ensure access, but Ekins noted “GenX was also more supportive when they were in their 20s and have since changed.”

You can read the rest of Reason’s report on millennials here.

Although, while millennials might go the way of the generations before them, they’re largely “unclaimed.” While Republicans’ espousing of social conservatism might turn them off, the GOP’s advocacy for free markets and economic independence might be a magnet. Yet, they’re unsure if such a system is the best for social mobility, according to the report. That’s an area conservatives can surely win, but only if we make the argument. Demography isn’t destiny–and it seems the notion of young Americans being lost to liberalism is a bit premature. 

After all, the majority of 18-year-olds voted for Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election.

I double-checked this and found a Washington Post article from March 10 that touched upon this, saying Democrats have a young people problem as well:

Among self-reported voters who were 18 years old in 2012, Mitt Romney, not Obama, won the majority: 57 percent. Romney also won 59 percent among 19-year-olds, and 54 percent among 20-year-olds. These youngest voters of 2012 had entered the electorate in 2010-2012, when Obama’s popularity was much lower than the high point of his inauguration.

In other words, they saw the Obama agenda in action. 

Republicans have an inroad; let's see if they take advantage of it.

Uh, That's Possibly An Illegal In-Kind Contribution, Ms. Grimes

The Kentucky Senate race is going to be close, but Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes might have to explain an in-kind campaign contribution that could be illegal. Ms. Grimes has been traveling across the state in a 45-foot long bus, which was acquired by her father, Jerry. He’s renting it to her campaign for a fraction of the market price, which violates campaign finance laws (via  Politico):

Federal campaign finance law bars a campaign from receiving goods and services below the fair market value from a corporation, regardless of whether it is owned by a family member.

A review of Federal Election Commission records shows Grimes paid less than $11,000 through June to rent the bus for at least 24 days, amounting to about $456 per day. Officials at four bus companies said they typically charge $1,500 to $2,000 a day to rent a similarly sized bus, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s campaign said it spent at least $2,200 per day to rent essentially the same bus during a swing earlier this month. That would amount to a savings of tens of thousands of dollars for the Democrat’s campaign.

The spending highlights the central role that Jerry Lundergan, a gregarious former Kentucky Democratic Party chairman and state lawmaker, is playing in his daughter’s bid to unseat McConnell. Polls show the GOP leader maintaining a very small lead in the race, one of the most closely watched in the country this year.

The difference between what the company is charging her campaign and the fair market value of the bus rental could be considered an illegal in-kind contribution, according to legal experts.

“If it’s coming from a corporation, it’s illegal,” said Larry Noble, who served as general counsel of the FEC for 13 years and now works at the Campaign Legal Center, a watchdog group. Corporations are prohibited from donating cash or gifts to a campaign, while individual donors’ limits cannot exceed $5,200 per election cycle.

Lundergan, Noble added, “can volunteer himself to the campaign, but what he can’t do is volunteer his company.”

Ms. Grimes isn’t the only person facing scrutiny for possible campaign finance violations. Incumbent Democratic Senator from Louisiana, Mary Landrieu,  billed a charter flight to taxpayers, but it seems this wasn't the first time. Politico also reported that Sen. Landrieu has ordered her staff to review all travel records during her three terms as senator:

A review of Landrieu’s office expenditures and campaign records reveals two trips from 2012 that may have been improperly billed to her Senate office rather than her reelection campaign.

On Aug. 23, 2012, Butler Aviation charged $6,787 for an in-state flight for Landrieu that included multiple stops. The flight was from New Orleans to Vidalia to Shreveport to Alexandria and back to New Orleans, according to official disbursement records Landrieu filed with the secretary of the Senate.

On Oct. 18, 2012, Butler Aviation charged $3,437 for a Landrieu flight from New Orleans to Opelousas to Patterson and back to New Orleans.

Both trips included campaign-related events that raise questions about whether some or all of the costs of the charter flights should have been covered by Landrieu’s reelection campaign, rather than her official office.

Landrieu is facing a barrage of bad press over this issue. USA Today reported in July that she spent $47,000 last year on in-state flights using her official Senate office to cover the cost.

Landrieu has now ordered her staff to complete a review of all official travel she has taken during her three terms as a senator in an effort to limit the political damage by disclosing any improperly billed trips all at once.

Hence, why Republicans are calling her “Air Mary." Additionally, Mitch McConnell said Grimes  "cannot be trusted," citing the discount she received over her campaign bus.  Grimes has insisted she's paying rent for her transportation at market rates.

After Breaking Ceasefire Hamas Fires 50 Rockets Into Israeli Population Centers

Jerusalem - Since breaking another ceasefire agreement just hours ago, Hamas terrorists have launched at least 50 rockets into Israel. Populated areas like Tel Aviv and Jerusalem have been targets and two rockets made it through the Iron Dome. 

Rocket sirens in areas close to Gaza have been sounding all night and will no doubt continue into the morning and day tomorrow. The war continues.

RickPAC Sets 'Record Straight' On Bogus Abuse Of Power Indictment

It’s no holds barred in RickPac’s latest video, which continues to eviscerate the legitimacy of the abuse of power indictment made against Gov. Rick Perry over a budget veto within the Travis County District Attorney’s office.

Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg was arrested for drunk driving; she refused to resign, and Gov. Perry vetoed her Public Integrity Unit. And that’s how this whole circus began.

As Dan noted earlier today, the New York Times labeled the indictment "overzealous:"

 Gov. Rick Perry of Texas is one of the least thoughtful and most damaging state leaders in America, having done great harm to immigrants, abortion clinics and people without health insurance during his 14 years in office. But bad political judgment is not necessarily a felony, and the indictment handed up against him on Friday — given the facts so far — appears to be the product of an overzealous prosecution.

For more than a year, Mr. Perry has been seeking the resignation of the Travis County district attorney, Rosemary Lehmberg. He had good reason to do so: Ms. Lehmberg was arrested in April 2013 for driving with a blood alcohol level of more than three times the legal limit, and she verbally abused the officers who found her with an open bottle of vodka. She ranted and raved at the local jail, threatening sheriff’s deputies, and she had to be restrained in a chair with a hood over her head. She pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 45 days in jail. In addition to endangering people’s lives, she instantly lost her credibility as a prosecutor of drunken-driving cases.

Bloomberg-Funded Gun Control Advocacy Group Targets Kroger Stores

Moms Demand Action, a gun-control advocacy group funded by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, want guns out of the grocery store. The group has challenged the nation’s largest supermarket retailer, Kroger Co., to ban open-carry policies in all of their  2,640 locations across America. 

The petition states that grocery stores are the last place mothers with their children want to see someone openly carrying a gun. One advocate even tweeted that she has instructed her kids to run if they see a man with a gun (question: does this mean they run from police officers?). 

Attached to the petition is the the picture shown below: 

The scenario used in the group’s media campaign undoubtedly is ridiculous. No one carries around an AK-47 in a grocery store. Even the  NRA acknowledged that carrying such weapons is abnormal and “downright weird and certainly not a practical way to go normally about your business while being prepared to defend yourself.”

This is hardly the first company Moms Demand Action has tried to force a gun-ban on. The group has recently petitioned Staples, Starbucks, Chipotle, Sonic, Target, Sonic, Chili’s, and Jack-in-the-Box to accept gun-bans. These have hardly been well-received. Staples actually  called in security to remove the group. Additionally, companies that have endorsed the ban have failed to create safer spaces for their customers. 

Ironically, there were two robberies and a shooting at Jack-in-the-Box restaurants within weeks of their request that law-abiding citizens visit unarmed, and a Sonic in Topeka, Kansas was robbed the very day on which that chain asked law-abiding citizens to leave their guns home.

Target stores experienced two robberies within weeks of "respectfully" asking law-abiding citizens to leave their guns home at home, and on July 22, the retailer had their first post-gun ban murder when a man was fatally shot at a Los Angeles-area target.

Kroger Co. seems unfazed by the petition. Spokesperson Keith Dailey claimed they have customers on both sides of the argument and trust them to act responsible in stores. 

BREAKING: ISIS Beheads American Journalist James Wright Foley

The terrorist group ISIS has allegedly beheaded American journalist James Wright Foley on video in Iraq in order to send a message to the United States. I'm not going to dignify the terrorists by posting the video here, you can look it up on your own if you'd like. A warning, extremely violent and difficult to watch. 

Wright's fellow journalist Ihan Tanir gave some background on the situation on Twitter.

More from Noah Rothman:

The American photojournalist James Wright Foley was working for Agence France Presse when he was captured crossing the Syria-Turkish border in 2012. The American war reporter had previously been held for six weeks by pro-Gaddafi forces in Libya while covering that conflict. Some believed that his capture would be similarly short-lived. Tragically, that would not be the case.

“On November 22, 2012, James Wright Foley, a freelance photo journalist, was taken by an organized gang after departing from an internet café in Binesh, Syria,” the FBI noted in November, 2012. “Foley had employed a translator to help him travel across the Syrian-Turkish border. The translator was also taken, but later released.”

Swift justice is in order. Immediately. May his family find peace in this extremely difficult time. 

Meanwhile the JV terror team, I mean ISIS, is threatening to kill American journalist Steven Sotloff next.

By the way, where is President Obama right now? On Air Force One headed back to vacation.

Oh My: Al Qaeda and ISIS Joining Forces?

It would seem so.

And while al Qaeda once famously severed ties with ISIS for its barbarism, now one of its most dangerous affiliates has come out publicly in support of them (via The Hill):

Al Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen is declaring its support for the Sunni extremist group that has taken over large swaths of Iraq and Syria, creating the potential for a new alliance against the United States.

“We announce solidarity with our Muslim brothers in Iraq against the crusade. Their blood and injuries are ours and we will surely support them,” said a statement published by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the Yemen Times reported Tuesday.

“We assert to the Islamic Nation [all Muslims worldwide] that we stand by the side of our Muslim brothers in Iraq against the American and Iranian conspiracy and their agents of the apostate Gulf rulers," the statement continued.

AQAP is believed to pose the most dangerous threat to the U.S. of all the al Qaeda affiliates, because it has tried to stage attacks against the United States several times.

Was this not bound to happen at some point? Both al Qaeda and ISIS share the same goal of killing Americans and waging war against the U.S. This is beyond dispute. Meanwhile, ISIS has publicly taunted the president, vowing to "raise the flag of Allah in the White House” while al Qaeda, everybody knows, masterminded the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

I suspect, also, that al Qaeda operatives aren't universally opposed to ISIS’ decision to slaughter young Christians and ethnic minorities and sell the rest of their victims into slavery. Though perhaps, for now, maybe some are:

One expert, Saeed Al-Jamhi, head of the Al-Jamhi Center for Strategic Studies, told the Yemen Times that there were ISIS gunmen training fighters in Yemen, and some AQAP members fighting in Iraq.

Al-Jamhi also said there were divisions within AQAP over whether to support ISIS, but predicted that division would fade as ISIS increases its stature.

And its stature is indeed increasing. President Obama once dismissed them as “jayvee,” but their military capabilities, coupled with their bloodthirsty tactics, makes them a serious national security threat. President Obama himself has already said explicitly that they pose a danger to the Middle East and our diplomatic and military personnel stationed there. Now, apparently, AQAP is advising ISIS on how best to avoid US airstrikes, and maximize their influence in the region.

Worse, ISIS just released a video pledging to “drown all [Americans] in blood”:

The Islamic State militant group that has seized large parts of Iraq and drawn the first American air strikes since the end of the occupation in 2011 has warned the United States it will attack Americans "in any place" if the raids hit its militants.

The video, which shows a photograph of an American who was beheaded during the U.S. occupation of Iraq and victims of snipers, featured a statement which said in English "we will drown all of you in blood".

Parting question: Two terrorist organizations have apparently joined forces to wage jihad against the United States. So what, if anything, will be the administration's response?

If the Senate Splits, Biden Takes the Gavel

If neither Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) nor Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) are allowed to claim victor over the coveted Senate Chamber gavel come election day, Vice President Joe Biden will play tie-breaker. 

In the event a 50-50 Senate is the outcome this November of an already polarized Washington,  Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution has the Vice President as the president of the Senate. Though it has only happened twice, the VP would then give the gavel to his or her party. 

Biden would be in high-heaven if this were to happen  says Senator Ted Kaufmen (D-Pa.), Biden's long time chief of staff. 

“He’d like two years of being the deciding vote, back in the cloakroom, in the Senate gym...I think he would revel in that.”

If this were to become a reality, Biden would be back in the spotlight and would hope to be seen as the savior of Obama's last two years in office where the loss of a Democratic-controlled Senate means further trouble for the Obama administration. 

Politico breaks it down this way: 

To hit a tie, Democrats would need a net loss of five seats, and most of them have already written off the seats in Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia. That leaves two, and between the races they’re facing in Iowa, Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina, Democrats say losing two seems a pretty safe bet. They’re not counting on pickups in either Kentucky or Georgia, where their prospects are best.

There are Democratic strategists that say this situation is realistic, which means the only way for Republicans to take the Senate is to win fair and square this November.  

Reidiculous: Dems ‘Doing Really Well In Montana,’ Will Hold Senate Majority

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is simply living in an alternate universe. While yelling into the clouds over the Koch Brothers’ evil plot to destroy America, he said today that Democrats “are doing really well in Montana.” And is optimistic that they'll maintain control of the Senate (via the Hill):

Reid predicted Democrats would lose a seat in South Dakota, but was optimistic about Montana despite Sen. John Walsh's (D-Mt.) recent decision to drop out of the race after a plagiarism scandal. We are doing really well in Montana," Reid told reporters on Monday.

If the election were held today, we'd be in the majority without any question, but the election is not today," said Reid, who argued "it's not going to be easy" for Republicans to win the Senate.

Democrats hope to take GOP seats in Georgia and Kentucky, where Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is facing a difficult challenge.

Of those two races, Reid added, “we are holding our own.”

In both Georgia and Kentucky, Republicans David Perdue and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell are leading. Georgia Democratic Senate candidate Michelle Nunn had the unfortunate mishap of having campaign memos leaked, which described her as a “lightweight, too liberal, and not a real “Georgian.” Oh, and those critiques are by her own staff. Her Republican opponent, David Perdue, leads with a comfortable seven-point lead, according to Insider Advantage’s poll.

In Kentucky, the race is going to be a tight one for Mitch McConnell, who’s battling for his political life, but even Huffington Post pollsters give him the advantage in that contest against Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, who infamously said that Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system protects Israelis from Hamas’ underground tunnels.

McConnell’s campaign has worked hard to define Ms. Grimes, flooding the Bluegrass state with negative ads calling her “Barack Obama’s Kentucky candidate” and saying she supports “Barack Obama's anti-coal environmental platform,” according to the Wall Street Journal. And, they're working:

Those ads are having an impact. In a July poll sponsored by local media outlets, 33% of voters viewed her negatively, up from 27% in May, while the share of voters who view her positively, which was higher, stayed relatively flat.

In an interview, Ms. Grimes said she has attempted to spend time with people in Kentucky, not "pandering to the press."

"We are no better off for having Mitch McConnell there," she said, referring to his seniority in Washington. "It's not about the lines on a résumé. It is about the passion that you have to work in a bipartisan manner to put the people of this state first."

At the same time, McConnell isn’t doing too badly in the latest Bluegrass poll. He’s virtually tied with Grimes amongst women voters (46/47) and he’s winning the youth vote–those between the ages of 18 and 34–(49/44) over Grimes. Additionally, the poll finds that 27% of likely African-American voters would vote for Mitch McConnell.

As for Ms. Grimes slamming of McConnell’s service in the Senate, She does know that Democrats have been in the majority for the past eight years, right?. And since 2008, the working class of America has seen their average incomes drop by 6.5%, African-American median incomes falling by 9.5%, and Hispanic income dropping consistently every year since the 2008 presidential election, according to WPA Research.

That’s not a shining statistic if you’re running as a Democrat.

Over at FiveThirtyEight, Harry Enten threw cold water on Democratic hopes in Georgia and Kentucky last month:

In Georgia, the FiveThirtyEight projection is far more pessimistic about Democratic prospects than the polls. Here’s why: No Democrat holds an elected statewide office in Georgia. No Democrat has won a U.S. Senate race in the state in 14 years. No Democrat has won a presidential race in the state in 22 years. The Democratic candidate, Michelle Nunn, is probably benefitting from name recognition; her father, Sam Nunn, was a well-regarded senator from the Peach State. That edge may disappear once voters realize Michelle is not Sam. Moreover, Republicans may coalesce around the winner of the contentious GOP primary between Jack Kingston and David Perdue.

Kentucky is a similar case — the polls show a Democrat holding her own a in a deeply red state. But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, has all the fundamentals going for him: President Obama is deeply unpopular in Kentucky, McConnell is an incumbent, and Democrats haven’t won a statewide federal race in Kentucky in 18 years. They haven’t won a Senate race in 22 years. In May, I estimated that these factors knocked down Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes’s chances of winning by nearly 30 percentage points, from the low 40s into the teens.

Enten described Senate Democrats’ position in the 2014 elections as “perilous,” saying, “A tiny shift could tip the canoe and spill a lot of Democrats overboard.”

As for Colorado, need I say more about the candidate who even Montana Democrats say doesn’t “have a chance in hell?”

Republicans need to win six seats; they’re probably going to pick up Montana, West Virginia, and South Dakota. Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu’s re-election bid is a bellwether for Arkansas and North Carolina. If she goes, most likely incumbent Democratic Senators Mark Pryor and Kay Hagan go as well. There’s also Jodi Ernst in Iowa, who could possibly fill retiring Democrat Sen. Tom Harkin’s seat. And don’t forget about Rep. Cory Gardner in Colorado. Plenty of room for Republicans to maneuver and create upsets.

Election 2014 is 77 days away.

Granted, Reid is part of the Democratic leadership going into an election cycle hostile to his party. He needs to be Mr. Positive, the guy who keeps the liberal base at ease. In 2010, then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi filled this role when she said Democrats would maintain their majority in the House, despite the red tsunami that washed 63 of them out of office that November.

Nevertheless, it still makes Reid’s optimism look as insane as the alleged Koch Brothers' double secret probation plan to overthrow the country. 

NYT Editoral Board: The Indictment Against Rick Perry "Appears" to be "Overzealous"

Add the New York Times editorial board to the growing list of constitutional scholars, journalists, and political operatives who find the curious indictment against Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) to be a farce. The board doesn’t go as far as defending his tenure or his policies (in fact, they do the opposite) but they do nevertheless feel as if he is the victim of an “overzealous prosecution”:

Gov. Rick Perry of Texas is one of the least thoughtful and most damaging state leaders in America, having done great harm to immigrants, abortion clinics and people without health insurance during his 14 years in office. But bad political judgment is not necessarily a felony, and the indictment handed up against him on Friday — given the facts so far — appears to be the product of an overzealous prosecution.

For more than a year, Mr. Perry has been seeking the resignation of the Travis County district attorney, Rosemary Lehmberg. He had good reason to do so: Ms. Lehmberg was arrested in April 2013 for driving with a blood alcohol level of more than three times the legal limit, and she verbally abused the officers who found her with an open bottle of vodka. She ranted and raved at the local jail, threatening sheriff’s deputies, and she had to be restrained in a chair with a hood over her head. She pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 45 days in jail. In addition to endangering people’s lives, she instantly lost her credibility as a prosecutor of drunken-driving cases.

Yes, one wonders how the county’s district attorney -- who herself served time for drunk driving -- can reasonably be expected to effectively prosecute other loaded drivers. Meanwhile, her refusal to resign after overtures from the governor's delegates prompted the whole lawsuit in the first place. Now it’s no secret that Perry tried to entice her to resign the only way he knew how (cutting funding to her department) but did he also break the law? Even the NYT editorial board doesn’t think so:

But his ill-advised veto still doesn’t seem to rise to the level of a criminal act. After a complaint was filed by a liberal group, a judge appointed a special prosecutor, Michael McCrum, a San Antonio lawyer and former federal prosecutor, to take the case. A Travis County grand jury indicted Mr. Perry on two felony counts: abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public servant. The indictment says he exceeded his veto power by combining it with a threat to Ms. Lehmberg if she didn’t quit.

Governors and presidents threaten vetoes and engage in horse-trading all the time to get what they want, but for that kind of political activity to become criminal requires far more evidence than has been revealed in the Perry case so far. Perhaps Mr. McCrum will have some solid proof to show once the case heads to trial. But, for now, Texas voters should be more furious at Mr. Perry for refusing to expand Medicaid, and for all the favors he has done for big donors, than for a budget veto.

In other words, there’s no evidence at present that suggests Perry is guilty of criminal wrongdoing. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t. Still, as former Clinton advisor Lanny Davis argues in a recent Newsweek op-ed, the indictment itself doesn’t really mean a whole lot:

It is even more outrageous to anyone who cares about due process and civil liberties to read the comments from local and state Democrats in the state Texas Democratic Party about the Perry indictment. Most of the comments I read used language of guilt or a presumption of wrongdoing because of the fact of the indictment.

In fact, an indictment is evidence of nothing. It is literally just an accusation, not even close to proven facts. Yet I read some Texas Democrats calling for Perry to resign — resign!

These cannot be Democrats who care about civil liberties or due process, much less the credibility of our party, which has always denounced those who presume guilt or even suggest wrongdoing after an indictment alone.

In my opinion, silence by Democrats about the Perry indictment and Democratic comments rushing to assume wrongdoing isn't acceptable.

Indeed, calls for Perry to resign are misplaced and premature at this point in time – as even prominent Democrats (and the New York Times editorial board) are more than willing to concede.

Awesome: Reporter Asks "Who Gets to Hold Hillary's Crown" When She Speaks?

Sometimes reporters just  tell it like it is. Nevada reporter Jon Ralston offered an epic rant to viewers Monday when he spared no insults against Hillary Clinton and her “royal” speaking demands: 

“We don’t have kings and queens in America, or at least we shouldn’t. But when I see the red carpet UNLV is rolling out for Hillary Clinton in two months I start to wonder. Unless you’re a mindless partisan, the details of that contract with the UNLV Foundation should disturb you.”

In case you weren't familiar with the revelation,  The Las Vegas Review-Journal obtained documents detailing Clinton's speaking demands ahead of her appearance at a University of Nevada, Las Vegas Foundation fundraiser. Here were a few of her totally normal requests:

She insists on staying in the “presidential suite” of luxury hotels that she chooses anywhere in the world, including Las Vegas.

She usually requires those who pay her six-figure fees for speeches to also provide a private jet for transportation — only a $39 million, 16-passenger Gulfstream G450 or larger will do.

And she doesn’t travel alone, relying on an entourage of a couple of “travel aides,” and a couple of advance staffers who check out her speech site in the days leading up to her appearance, much like a White House trip.

In the 2012 presidential election, it's safe to say former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney's wealth was a handicap. Liberals accused him of being a one percenter who couldn't relate to the average American. A clever and relevant piece, “ Yes, Hillary Clinton Has a Mitt Romney Problem” suggests Clinton may face the same issue were she to run in 2016. The difference, however, is that the mainstream media will likely fail to make the same connection: 

In many ways Hillary is the perfect embodiment of this liberal mindset. She’s committed to fighting poverty and income inequality one charity gala at a time, growing increasingly confident in her moral superiority over her ideological opponents. Her multiple mansions are her just reward for being a good person. She has earned the presidency. Her multiple mansions are her just reward for being a good person. She has earned the presidency.

Come 2016, will voters distance themselves from Clinton for her red carpet treatment? Who knows. Until then, have a bit of fun watching all of Ralston’s stellar report:

BREAKING: Hamas Violates Another Ceasefire, Israel Responding With Strikes on Terror Targets

Jerusalem - The terrorist organization Hamas has violated yet another ceasefire just hours before an extended 24-hour ceasefire agreement was scheduled to end. Israel is responding accordingly.

Before the violation, an Israeli official talked about a push to demilitarize Hamas. You can read more about that here.

Democrats Accused of "Meddling" Alaska Senate Primary

The feud between Democrats and Republicans in Alaska's heated Senate race has potential make-it-or-break it consequences in the fight to control the Senate. 

Nearly $4 million in attack ads mudslinging GOP front-runner Dan Sullivan have been spent by supporters of Democratic Sen. Mark Begich, a ploy Republicans call "meddling" the Republican primary for an easier win in the general election. 

The Begich campaign and their supporters deny these claims, as Sullivan and his allies fire back with ads calling out Sen. Begich and his coercive tactics to beat Sullivan in November. 

Recent polls show that Sullivan is in the lead against opponents Lt. Governor Mead Treadwell and Joe Miller. Art Hackney, an Alaska Republican operative who has been running a pro-Sullivan super PAC, told Politico that these attacks could have an impact on Tuesday's primary: 

“They’re trying simply to make sure Dan Sullivan is damaged goods,” said Hackney. “They’ve put a lot of money behind it, and, frankly, they’ve turned it into a primary that’s possible to go almost any way."

Netanyahu Spokesman on Looming Ceasefire Deadline/Deal: Israel Wants Demilitarization of Hamas

Jerusalem - As a midnight ceasefire deadline looms with just hours to go, Israeli officials and their allies are pushing for the demilitarization of Hamas in a final attempt to avoid future conflict with the terror organization. 

"What we're hoping to have is a situation where Hamas is demilitarized and we have allies, the American administration, the American Congress, the Europeans, the Egyptians and even the official Palestinian government in the West Bank [in agreement], but is Hamas going to voluntarily going to turn in their weapons? It's tough," Mark Regev, chief spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an interview Tuesday. "Ronald Reagan once said about the old Soviet Union, and I'm old enough to remember, he said, 'Trust but verify.' When dealing with Hamas in contrast you have to verify and you have to verify again and Hamas has broken ceasefires as recently as last week."

On the issue of a preemptive decrease in militarization of Hamas, officials are happy to report while not all Hamas weapons resources have been destroyed, they have been heavily depleted over the past two months.

"First we took out a lot of it, secondly they shot a lot of it at us and what's left is a residual capacity still there that's much less than what they had two months ago," Regev said. "Part of our challenge in this ceasefire is to make sure they [Hamas] don't rebuild tunnels and don't replenish their supply of rockets."

According to a report from Haartz, a Hamas spokesman said the latest 24-hour ceasefire extension, will be the last. As a reminder, the Hamas charter states, "Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.”

Negotiations for a long term peace deal are ongoing in Egypt. 

UPDATE: Immediately after I filed this story, this happened.

Editor's note: I am in Israel on a trip being sponsored by the National Religious Broadcasters and hosted by the Israel's Ministry of Tourism.

Three Family Members of Pope Francis Killed in Auto Accident

Part of the human condition is experiencing profound tragedy and anguish. It’s inevitable. And yet at the same time it’s also impossible to understand how Pope Francis must be feeling today after learning that three of his relatives (two of whom were just babies) died in a traffic accident in his home country of Argentina. The Associated Press reports:

The Vatican says a road accident in Argentina has killed two young great-nephews of Pope Francis as well as their mother, the wife of the pope’s nephew.

Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said the accident occurred Tuesday morning in the area of Cordoba, a major Argentine city. One nephew was 2, the other was 8 months. The age of their mother wasn’t immediately available. Lombardi said the nephew survived; local news reports said he was injured. Lombardi didn’t have the victims’ names.

The cause of the crash is unknown. All we know, at this point, is that there was some sort of rear-end collision early this morning, and that the pontiff’s nephew is alive, but in serious condition:

For reasons that are under investigation the car hit a truck from behind.

The pope's nephew has been hospitalized with multiple injuries. Official details of his condition have not been released.

He is the son of Alberto, the pope's late brother.

The pope is now urging those who “ share in his grief” to pray for him:

Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said "the pope was informed about the tragic accident. He is deeply pained." He added the pope asks "all who share in his grief to unite with him in prayer."

In the Catholic tradition, like many traditions, life is a precious and inviolable gift from God that must be cherished. But at the same time, tragedies befall families all the time for no discernible or logical reason. It’s especially heartbreaking to learn that Pope Francis’s great nephews were so young; they were barely children and had their whole lives ahead of them. I therefore share in his grief today, and hope that through the power of prayer and human solidarity he will find some solace.

Incidentally, Pope Francis isn’t blind to the preciousness of life, either. Reflecting on his own mortality recently, he stated that he believes he himself has only “ two or three years” to live:

Pope Francis on Monday publicly broached the prospect of his own death for the first time, giving himself "two or three years" but not ruling out retirement before then.

Talking to reporters on a flight back to the Vatican from South Korea, the 77-year-old pontiff, who seemed in good spirits, was asked about his global popularity, which was evident again during his five-day visit.

"I see it as the generosity of the people of God. I try to think of my sins, my mistakes, not to become proud. Because I know it will last only a short time. Two or three years and then I'll be off to the Father's House," he replied light-heartedly.

The Argentine pope said he could handle the popularity "more naturally" these days, though at first it had "scared me a little".

The crushing burden of responsibility must take its toll on any world leader over time. That's especially true for Pope Francis today.

So let us pray for him, and his family, as they cope with this profound tragedy and loss in the days and years ahead.

Democrats Decry Obama's Lack Of Interest In Working With Congress

"Aloof." "Cool." "Above the fray." These are all characteristics that have been used to describe President Obama and likely characteristics he would use to describe himself. President Obama came to Washington promising to end the partisan rancor that has come to define lawmaking in the nation's capitol. But instead of addressing it, he just pretends like he never has to get his hands dirty.

A New York Times article today reveals that lawmakers in the President's own party are fed up with his refusal to actually work with Congress:

With Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, sitting a few feet away, Mr. Reid complained that Senate Republicans were spitefully blocking the confirmation of dozens of Mr. Obama’s nominees to serve as ambassadors. He expected that the president would back him up and urge Mr. McConnell to relent.

“You and Mitch work it out,” Mr. Obama said coolly, cutting off any discussion.

Mr. Reid seethed quietly for the rest of the meeting, according to four separate accounts provided by people who spoke with him about it. After his return to the Capitol that afternoon, Mr. Reid told other senators and his staff members that he was astonished by how disengaged the president seemed... the impression the president left with Mr. Reid was clear: Capitol Hill is not my problem.

This cuts to the heart of the matter when longtime Washingtonians decry President Obama's inability to "lead." Leadership isn't about declaring your intentions and letting those you deem to be your underlings sort out the specifics. It's about working with them, as individuals, to chart out a path and, when necessary, make compromises along the way.

The NYT goes on to quote Democratic lawmakers Joe Manchin, Claire McCaskill, Richard Blumenthal, Steny Hoyer and Dick Durbin on President Obama's aloofness. Democratic-caucusing but technically independent Sen. Angus King was also quoted:

“Maybe if something isn’t working, you’d say, ‘What can I do better?’ ” said Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, expressing dismay that the president seemed to have little interest in taking a warmer approach with Democrats. “Maybe we wanted something different. But it kind of is what it is.”

“In order to work with people, you need to establish the relationship first before you ask for something,” said Senator Angus King of Maine, an independent member of the Democratic caucus. “And I think one of the things the White House has not done well and the president has not done well is the simple idea of establishing relationships before there is a crisis.”

The NYT report also features push-back from the White House, with a spokesperson counting the number of times that the President has reached out on a personal level for White House invitations and events, though that's little comfort to some of the Democrats quoted in the story.

It might be true that these stories of White House disengagement are overhyped - that, when it comes to actually quantifying "reaching out," this White House is as active as any. What matters, though, is that the lawmakers feel slighted. It should come as no surprise to anyone that the type of people who ascend to powerful political positions of national importance are egotistical, petty, and insecure. Perhaps our politicians should not be so egotistical, petty, and insecure - but this is the world that we are living and operating in. President Obama came to Washington pledging to mend partisanship. The way to do that isn't to tell our ego-driven elected representatives to suck it up and deal with it. It's to, as Manchin put it, ask yourself what you can do better. President Obama is wholly uninterested in that kind of introspection.

This isn't a new complaint from lawmakers, by the way. Pieces throughout the Obama era have described " the perils of being aloof" and "the loner president." In the most recent negotiations over our illegal immigrant crisis, the Associated Press reported:

House and Senate lawmakers in both parties plus several senior congressional aides said this past week that the handling of the proposal by Obama and the White House is emblematic of the administration's rocky relationship with Congress: an ad hoc approach that shuns appeals to opponents and doesn't reward allies.

Again: it should come as no surprise that lawmakers are fickle, petty, egomaniacal humans who perceive slights where there are none and hold grudges. If President Obama had been elected promising to end face-to-face meetings with legislators, promising tough love when it comes to interpersonal relationships and ending any semblance of White House intervention in Congress, that would have been fantastic. But that's not what President Obama has done, and the White House has continued to insist that they're doing all they can to smooth over their rocky relationships with legislators. When the legislators themselves don't feel that way, it's hard to lend credence to President Obama's claims that he is indeed being an effective leader of his party.

Hospital Network Hacked, 4.5 Million Patient Records Stolen

Any online record of a person’s name, date of birth, Social Security number, and address automatically becomes a prime target for hackers, and a hospital system is no exception.

One of the largest U.S. hospital groups, Community Health Systems Inc, revealed on Monday that it was a victim of a major cyber attack from China. The personal data and Social Security numbers of 4.5 million patients was stolen, making it the largest breach of its kind since HHS began tracking breaches in 2009, Reuters reports.

Security experts said the hacking group, known as "APT 18," may have links to the Chinese government.

"APT 18" typically targets companies in the aerospace and defense, construction and engineering, technology, financial services and healthcare industry, said Charles Carmakal, managing director with FireEye Inc's (FEYE.O) Mandiant forensics unit, which led the investigation of the attack on Community Health in April and June.

"They have fairly advanced techniques for breaking into organizations as well as maintaining access for fairly long periods of times without getting detected," he said.

The information stolen from Community Health included patient names, addresses, birth dates, telephone numbers and Social Security numbers of people who were referred or received services from doctors affiliated with the hospital group in the last five years, the company said in a regulatory filing.

The stolen data did not include medical or clinical information, credit card numbers, or any intellectual property such as data on medical device development, said Community Health, which has 206 hospitals in 29 states.

In April, the FBI warned the health care industry that their cyber protections lagged behind other sectors, making it particularly vulnerable to attacks. As of 2013, there were 804 large-scale breaches of protected health information reported to HHS since 2009, affecting nearly 30 million patient records, reports Redspin, a leading IT security assessment company.

Video: Iraqi Anchor Openly Weeps For Persecuted Christians

I could be wrong but I don’t think any journalist ever intends to break down on live television. But the realization that Iraq’s diminishing Christian population was emigrating en masse (or suffering martyrdom for their faith) was obviously too much for Asia TV anchor Nahi Madhi to bear.

The segment below covering persecuted Christians in Iraq aired about a month ago, and is itself raw and moving, I think, because it reminds us that the prevailing sentiment in the country is not one of hatred and exclusion, but tolerance and pluralism (via The Blaze):

Remember, it’s not just those of us in the West who weep for Iraq’s Christian and Yazidi populations; it’s their compatriots as well. As one anchor put it in the video, “The Christians have done nothing wrong. They haven’t hurt a soul. On the contrary, they are peaceful people, who love all sects. They are honorable people, with high moral values.”

And yet they are being displaced and exterminated by ISIS at alarming rates. Such terrible human rights atrocities are difficult to grasp, let alone comprehend. But at least ethnic minorities in the region refuse to submit quietly to ISIS' barbarism: some are even undergoing military training and fighting back.

Former Israeli Ambassador Yoram Ettinger: The Goal of Israel Should Never Be Ceasefire

JERUSALEM - The current ceasefire between Israel and Hamas has been extended for an additional 24-hours as negotiations surrounding a long-term peace agreement between the two sides continue in Egypt. 

Speaking in an interview with Townhall and members of the National Religious Broadcasters last night, former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Yoram Ettinger said that until Israel has finished necessary attacks against Hamas resources, including on tunnels and missile launch sites, the job against the terrorist organization is not done.

"Some thirty plus tunnels were destroyed by Israel. I have no doubt, no doubt, that since we, so far, have not chosen to go deeper into Gaza that there are definitely are many more tunnels in Gaza and therefore this is still an unfinished agenda, unfinished business," Ettinger said. "Not only that, there are hundreds of underground manufacturing facilities for the missiles, especially for the long range missiles. They not only rely on smuggling in, they're also manufacturing and the manufacturing facilities are underground just like their headquarters, just like their inventories."

Ettinger stressed that the discovery of extensive tunnels from Gaza to Israel was a bi-product of a larger goal for Israel against Hamas, which includes destroying the main missile and rocket launching capabilities underground, in neighborhoods and near or in schools and hospitals. He also said that until those capabilities are completely destroyed, Israel should not be agreeing to any kind of ceasefire deal.

"The aim of the war, the goal of the war as far as I have seen was not to take of the tunnels, this was absolutely not part of the initial goal of the war. The initial goal of the war was to take care of their launching capabilities, of their missile capabilities and in that respect my position has been not only from day one of this war but for number of years that the goal of Israel should never be ceasefire, the goal of Israel should always be the annihilation of the infrastructure of fire and when I say infrastructure I mean especially the ideological and political as well as the military and the manufacturing," he said. "This unfortunately has not been obtained yet."

Editor's note: I am in Israel on a trip being sponsored by the National Religious Broadcasters and hosted by the Israel's Ministry of Tourism.

Report: Where Do You Get the Most Bang for Your Buck?

How much is $100 dollars worth? The answer to this varies greatly depending upon where you live. For example, $100 is worth 40 percent more in Mississippi than it is in the District of Columbia based on the value of available goods. 

The Tax Foundation compiled data this week from the Bureau of Economic Analysis to find out "which states offer the biggest bang for your buck." 

According to the chart, $100 is worth the most in Mississippi ($115.74), Arkansas ($114.16), Missouri ($113.51), Alabama (113.51), and South Dakota ($113.38). In other words, Mississippi residents are about 15 percent richer than their "nominal incomes suggest." 

Lefty Writer: Perry Indictment 'Unbelievably Ridiculous'

In case you missed it, Gov. Rick Perry was hit with an abuse of power indictment by a grand jury in Austin, Texas. It stems from his veto of a state prosecutorial unit, whose District Attorney refused to resign after she plead guilty and served a jail sentence for drunk driving (via WSJ):

Texas Gov. Rick Perry was indicted by a grand jury in Austin on Friday on charges of abuse of power, a possible setback to the Republican governor as he considers a second bid for president.

He was accused of improperly withholding money from a state prosecutorial unit because its Democratic district attorney refused to resign after pleading guilty to drunken driving.

The complaint was filed last year by Texans for Public Justice, a liberal watchdog group.

Mr. Perry vetoed $7.5 million in funding for the Travis County Public Integrity Unit, which handles political corruption investigations, following the drunken-driving arrest of District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg. Travis County includes Austin, the state capital. "The person charged with ultimate responsibility of that unit has lost the public's confidence," he said at the time of his veto.

Earlier today, Dan  reported that liberal lawyer Alan Dershowitz slammed the indictment against Gov. Perry as “un-American.” Over the weekend, former editor of the New Republic, Jonathan Chait, called this whole circus “unbelievably ridiculous” (via NYMag):

I do not have a fancy law degree from Harvard or Yale or, for that matter, anywhere. I am but a humble country blogger. And yet, having read the indictment, legal training of any kind seems unnecessary to grasp its flimsiness.

Perry stands accused of violating two laws. One is a statute defining as an offense “misus[ing] government property, services, personnel, or any other thing of value belonging to the government that has come into the public servant's custody or possession by virtue of the public servant's office or employment.” The veto threat, according to the prosecutor, amounted to a “misuse.” Why? That is hard to say.

The other statute prohibits anybody in government from “influenc[ing] or attempt[ing] to influence a public servant in a specific exercise of his official power or a specific performance of his official duty or influenc[ing] or attempt[ing] to influence a public servant to violate the public servant's known legal duty.”

But that statute also specifically exempts “an official action taken by the member of the governing body.” The prosecutors claim that, while vetoing the bill may be an official action, threatening a veto is not. Of course the threat of the veto is an integral part of its function. The legislature can hardly negotiate with the governor if he won’t tell them in advance what he plans to veto. This is why, when you say the word “veto,” the next word that springs to mind is “threat.” That’s how vetoes work.

The theory behind the indictment is flexible enough that almost any kind of political conflict could be defined as a “misuse” of power or “coercion” of one’s opponents. To describe the indictment as “frivolous” gives it far more credence than it deserves. Perry may not be much smarter than a ham sandwich, but he is exactly as guilty as one.

Here’s a copy of the Perry indictment.

Rick Perry Indictment by Dave Weigel

And here’s Rosemary Lehmberg acting like most people after way too many drinks.

Gov. Perry said, "I’m going to fight with everything that I have against those who would erode our state’s constitution purely for political purposes."

On MSNBC's Morning Joe earlier today, Mark Halperin called this  Perry indictment “the stupidest thing I’ve seen, I think, in my entire career.”