Polls in Maine Gubernatorial Election Show Close Race

Current Maine Governor Paul LePage won the 2010 election on the slimmest of margins, with just 38.2 percent of the vote in a competitive three-way race. This time around, he's up for re-election against Democrat challenger and U.S. Representative Mike Michaud and independent candidate Eliot Cutler, and polls are showing that the 2014 election is likely going to be another nail biter.

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Current polls show Michaud with a scant +1.7 lead, although a series of CBS/NYT/YouGov polls had LePage up by a point. If Michaud is elected, he will be the first openly gay U.S. governor.

Maine is an unusual state when it comes to gubernatorial elections, and has a strong tradition of viable third-party candidates. Since 1970 there have only been two gubernatorial elections in which the victor received over 50 percent of the votes.

In 2010, Democrat candidate Libby Mitchell effectively played spoiler to left-leaning independent Cutler's bid for the Blaine House, but Cutler has failed to garner the same level of support this election cycle.

Things could get very interesting as November gets nearer.

WATCH: Boehner's 5 Points for Resetting America's Economic Foundation in 3 Minutes

House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) lays out 5 points he believes will restore America's economic foundation and put the United States on the right track for several generations.

This event was held at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington D.C.

Report: Secret Service Weighing Security Changes After Break-in

Last week, an Iraq War veteran, allegedly with PTSD, hopped the White House fence wielding a three-and-a-half inch pocketknife. The break-in was captured on camera and, alarmingly, the perpetrator made it all the way inside the building before he was taken into custody. Thankfully, the first family was not at home at the time of the breach -- but many of the protocols put in place to prevent against dangerous and malicious actors from accessing the White House were not followed. This failure in communication and judgment is reportedly leading top brass at the Secret Service to weigh sweeping policy changes that will ensure something like this never happens again (via the NYT):

The Secret Service is considering screening tourists and other visitors at checkpoints before they enter the public areas in front of the White House in response to the episode Friday in which a man with a knife managed to get through the front door of the president’s home after jumping over the fence on Pennsylvania Avenue, according to law enforcement officials. As part of the screening, the Secret Service would establish several checkpoints a few blocks from the White House, the officials said. The screening would likely be limited to bag checks and not include measures taken at airports by the Transportation Security Administration, which include metal detectors and body scans.

Along with giving Secret Service agents and uniformed Secret Service officers a chance to check for explosives and weapons in bags, the screening would allow them to interact with the visitors and try to identify those who may pose a problem, the officials said. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they did not want to be identified discussing a continuing investigation or security measures under consideration.

In all honesty, how could this happen? That’s pretty much what everybody is asking. This man not only breached the fence; he made it inside. How?

As noted above, one reason, it seems, is because standard operating procedures were inexplicably abandoned:

According to officials briefed on the review, one of the biggest questions senior Secret Service officials want answered is why officers on the grounds did not deploy attack dogs that are specifically trained to stop intruders, even those sprinting across the White House lawn. At all times, there are several muzzled Belgian Malinois on the White House grounds, officials said. The early assessment by senior agency officials is that the dog handlers should have quickly removed the muzzles and unleashed the dogs.

Agency officials are also puzzled as to why the guard at the front door of the White House did not follow procedure and lock the door as soon as an alarm signaled that someone had breached the fence.

“[I]n my wildest dreams," David Axelrod said today on MSNBC, "I never imagined that someone could do what this guy did.”

For what it's worth, I'm sure most Americans feel the exact same way.

US Census Data: Uninsured Rate…Increased in 2014?

Wait, what? We've expressed a healthy skepticism of the administration's "official" enrollment numbers, and for good reason -- but even I must admit to being a bit flummoxed by the United States Census Bureau's new findings that America's uninsured population increased in 2014 over 2013.  That data, via Phil Kerpen:

A separate government metric indicated that the uninsured population has decreased by 3.8 million overall, which falls far short of the administration's alleged numbers, but is at least an uptick.  Writing at Forbes, policy analyst Joseph Antos delves into the numbers:

This week’s double-barreled release of government statistics on health insurance coverage leaves us with only one question: How many Americans are insured because of Obamacare? Remarkably, the two highly regarded government surveys released this week do not even agree whether the number of uninsured increased or decreased. The survey that received a great deal of attention said there were 3.8 million fewer uninsured. The other, which was hardly noticed, found that there were 1.3 million more uninsured…The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported preliminary results on the expansion of health insurance coverage. Its National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) interviewed 27,000 people in the first three months of this year. The survey estimates that the number of uninsured dropped by 3.8 million since 2013. That represents a 1.3 percentage point decline in the uninsured rate, from 14.4 percent last year to 13.1 percent early this year. Estimates from an even larger survey of the uninsured from the nation’s premier statistical agency, the Census Bureau, were released a few hours later. The Census Bureau has been collecting information on health insurance for decades based on the Current Population Survey (CPS).

Data were collected from a sample of 68,000 households in February, March, and April of 2014. That survey found that 42 million—13.4 percent of the population—were uninsured in 2013. Interesting, but last year’s uninsured rate tells us nothing about how much the Affordable Care Act (ACA) expanded health insurance coverage this year. A day after the two main reports were issued, the CDC quietly placed another table on its website. The new table compares estimates from the NHIS and the CPS for the early months of 2014. It reports the NHIS result that 13.1 percent of the population lacked health insurance when they were interviewed in the January through March time period of 2014. But it also reports the CPS estimate that 13.8 percent were uninsured during the February through April interview period.

Antos calls the timing suspect and discusses the reliability and implications of the dueling surveys:

It is no accident that the administration released CDC’s estimates early on September 16 followed shortly by the Census Bureau’s routine report on last year’s insurance coverage, delaying the comparable Census estimates to the next day. Good news about coverage gains drowned out the Census report. The high reliability of the NHIS was front and center in the press coverage. The contradictory evidence from Census was buried. Although the NHIS is a highly reliable survey, the CPS is even more reliable. Its sample is 150 percent larger than that of the NHIS, which means that its estimates have significantly lower statistical variance. If the NHIS is the gold standard, then the CPS must be the platinum standard.

You may recall that the Census bureau recently uprooted decades of tradition by changing its formula for measuring uninsured rates in America, sparking deserved criticism from several quarters.  Why disrupt the system at the precise moment that a massive new health program is coming on line, diminishing the usefulness of the new data by making the established base line obsolete?  Those concerns still stand, but what's surprising is that the initial figures under the new system -- which experts expected to dramatically improve insured rates -- point in the opposite direction, at least for now.  I'm…skeptical of that trend continuing, but those are the hard numbers so far.  On the CDC data, an increase in the insured population of 3.8 million is obviously better than a drop of 1.3 million, but it's still remarkably weak.  The Congressional Budget Office projected a surge of 12 million newly insured Americans in 2014, and the administration has been bragging about 14 million "new" "enrollees" between the exchanges and Medicaid expansion.  (Reminder: They've been using dishonest math to significantly inflate both numbers).  Just shy of four million newly insured Americans over, as estimated by the CDC, is obviously a far cry from the administration's stats.  One Obamacare-friendly expert objected that the 3.8 million figure doesn't reflect the big influx of enrollees that happened in March -- a fair point, but Antos responds:

The difference between the NHIS estimate of the reduction in the uninsured count and the administration’s enrollment total is about 10 million. If one assumes that March enrollment would double the number of people who are newly covered by insurance, then one might guess that a survey conducted later in the year would find that the insured had declined by 7.6 million instead of the NHIS’s 3.8 million. But exchange coverage accounts for less than half of the increase in insurance according to the Administration. There is no indication of a similar surge in Medicaid enrollment, which is permitted all year around rather than being confined to an open enrollment period. If Medicaid enrollment continued at a steady pace, then the NHIS figure should be adjusted to reflect only the exchange surge. That translates to a decline in the number of uninsured of 5.4 million.

That's still a fraction of CBO projections and the White House's politicized estimates.  Speaking of which, HHS announced last week that the current number of exchange enrollees is 7.3 million, down from the much-touted "eight million" number.  How could that official statistic differ so dramatically from the CDC and Census data?  Well, the large majority of exchange enrollees previously had insurance.  They're signing up for Obamacare having lost their existing plans, in violation of the president's promise.  Those people don't count as "newly" insured, except in the administration's imagination.  Also, that 7.3 number does not reflect the hundreds of thousands of ineligible people who are in the process of losing their coverage and/or subsidies, nor does it account for the significant attrition of once-paying customers that major insurers are reporting.  Also, the government's estimates still can't be verified by a functioning "back end" of the federal data hub because it's still being built.  As Bob Laszewski says, we still don't know how many people are actually enrolled in Obamacare. Before you go, be sure to read Philip Klein's recent stories on the two million families who may be impacted by Obamacare's "family glitch" (which we wrote about years ago), and a national survey of doctors -- roughly half of whom assign the new law a 'D' or F.'  Just 25 percent of American doctors give Obamacare an 'A' or 'B.'

Hmm: Governor’s Race in Left-leaning Massachusetts Surprisingly Close

Could Republicans finally wrestle control of the governorship from Democrats in Massachusetts? If these two recent polls are any indication, the answer is ‘yes.’

WBZ-TV’s Jon Keller, for his part, argues in his column today that although the odds are firmly stacked in Martha Coakley’s favor, he doesn’t necessarily rule out the possibility of an upset:

That’s two polls in a row showing the race for Governor of Massachusetts in a virtual dead heat. And while matching polls in September don’t prove much with the meat of the campaign still ahead, it wouldn’t surprise me if those results were right on target for the moment.

As the Democratic nominee in a state that has elected only three Republicans to statewide office in the last 20 years, you’d expect Martha Coakley to be a frontrunner in this race, and that may still happen. Massachusetts Democrats know how to organize and get out the vote, as does organized labor.

Add in the frustration many women feel about the state’s failure to ever elect a female governor and you’ve got a path to victory for Coakley that is easier than Charlie Baker’s.

But there are circumstances under which a Republican can win here.

There sure are. You’ll recall that many Democrats believed Coakley would be the next U.S. Senator from Massachusetts in 2010. That...didn't happen. Amazingly, after boasting an enormous early lead in the polls, she lost the “Kennedy seat” to a little-known Republican state lawmaker named Scott Brown. Some later questioned whether she was the right candidate for the job; perhaps some are even asking the same kind of questions today.

Nevertheless, Keller points out that many voters are not necessarily disenchanted with Coakley, per se, but with the Democratic Party establishment. “A solid 40% tell pollsters the state is going in the wrong direction,” he wrote in his Monday op-ed.

This gives outsider Charlie Baker some grounds for optimism. Whether he can channel that inner optimism into an effective campaign message, however, remains to be seen.

Walker Surges as Burke Fires Campaign Staff for Plagiarism

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has surged ahead of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke, as Burke has been forced to fire campaign staff responsible for copying her campaign's job plan from other failed candidates.

The most recent Marquette Law School Poll, conducted September 11-14, found Walker enjoying a 3-point, 49-46 percent lead over Burke. This was a marked improvement for Walker who trailed Burke in Marquette's earlier poll, conducted August 21-23, by 49-47 percent.

Burke's week only got worse after BuzzFeed's Andrew Kaczynski reported that portions of Burke's jobs plan had been copied from four other Democratic candidates, three of whom went on to lose their elections. 

Burke had made her jobs plan the centerpiece of her campaign, telling reporters back in March, “I brought Gov. Walker’s plan from 2010. This is 4 pages. I’ve seen 8th grade term papers that had more work put into them."

Faced with evidence that portions of her own jobs plan had been copied from other candidates, Burke fired the consultant, Eric Schunrer, who had produced the offending passages. "The language is not the language that should have been used," Burke told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

Walker is no stranger to come from behind victories. In 2012, the same Marquette poll found Walker trailing his then-oppnenent Tom Barrett 46-47 percent. But Walker soon surged ahead of Barrett in Marquette's final poll before the election 50-44 percent, before beating Barrett easily 53-46 percent.

John Kerry: Threat From Climate Change is Just Like ISIS

Secretary of State John Kerry, the world's top diplomat, is warning that global warming climate change poses as much of a threat to the world as ISIS. More from The Hill:

Secretary of State John Kerry said the threats posed by climate change should be addressed with as much "immediacy" as confronting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and the Ebola outbreak.

During a meeting with foreign ministers on Sunday, Kerry said global warming is creating "climate refugees."

"We see people fighting over water in some places. There are huge challenges to food security and challenges to the ecosystem, our fisheries and ... the acidification of the ocean is a challenge for all of us," Kerry said.

"And when you accrue all of this, while we are confronting ISIL and we are confronting terrorism and we are confronting Ebola and other things, those are immediate," he added, using an alternate acronym for the terrorist group.

"This also has an immediacy that people need to come to understand, but it has even greater longer-term consequences that can cost hundreds of billions, trillions of dollars, lives, and the security of the world," Kerry continued.

While there isn't much evidence to support Kerry's claim that climate change is creating "climate refugees," over the past four days more than 130,000 people have fled Syria because of ISIS.

The number of Syrian refugees who have reached Turkey in the past four days after fleeing advancing ISIS militants now totals 130,000 and could rise further, Turkey’s deputy prime minister warned on Monday. “A refugee wave that can be expressed by hundreds of thousands is a possibility,” said Numan Kurtulmus warned. …

“This is not a natural disaster… What we are faced with is a man-made disaster,” Kurtulmus said. “An uncontrollable force at the other side of the border is attacking civilians.”

And then of course there was the horrifying situation last month when 40,000 Christian Yazidi refugees were stranded on a mountain top as ISIS climbed to slaughter them.

Tens of thousands of members of Iraqi religious minority groups driven from their homes for fear of the jihadist group Islamic State are dying of thirst and heat on a desert mountainside in the north of the country, according to the United Nations and human rights groups.

Some 40 children have already died from the heat and dehydration, the UN children’s organisation Unicef says, while upwards of 40,000 more are sheltering in the bare mountains, without food or water or access to supplies. It says 25,000 children may be stranded.

Back in February and prior to ISIS beheading two American journalists, Kerry made similar comments when he classified climate change as the world's "most fearsome" weapon of mass destruction. 

Exit question: When Kerry will have the nerve to get out of the cushy UN board room and into a refugee camp to make his asinine climate change comments? 

MI GOV: Snyder Announces New Jobs Initiative, Schauer Hits Him Over Outsourcing

Today, Gov. Rick Snyder is at Gentex Corporation Headquarters in Zeeland to announce a new jobs initiative called Talent 2025. The event comes right after news broke that Michigan’s unemployment rate fell to 7.4 percent, the lowest level since 2008. Nevertheless, Michigan’s unemployment rate is still higher than the national average of 6.1 percent.

Also, First Lady Sue Snyder said she will help her husband in his re-election bid, but doesn’t like campaigning all that much. Nevertheless, with the last of her children off to college, she can be a more active First Lady, according to MLive [emphasis mine]:

She said she’d love to star in a commercial, but the campaign hasn’t asked her to yet.

She’s flown under the radar as First Lady up until a few months ago, choosing family life over the limelight. But now that the couple’s youngest child is off to college, Snyder has taken a more active role as First Lady.

She has taken on a number of causes recently, and appeared at Sparrow Hospital Thursday to talk about safe sleep. She’s also advocated for vaccinating children, gotten involved in a foster care organization and served as a spokesperson for Ele’s Place, a center for grieving children.

“Most of my issues, besides breast cancer, have a lot to do with families and kids. And I just think it’s so important that I can use my voice, my position as First Lady to raise awareness to these things, and they all so important,” Snyder said.

On some level, she’s lived and breathed issues in the state for the past four years. The governor brings his work home with him “every night,” Snyder said. She has disagreed with some of Governor Snyder’s decisions, but only until he’s fully explained them to her.

I wish that these people could be there to understand what he tells me. Why can’t he just stand up and say ‘people this is the way it is and this is why it happened’? And I’m constantly telling him that,” she said.

One of those issues he may have to explain to conservatives regarding his decision to expand Medicaid in the state. Last week, Gov. Snyder reiterated his support for this policy initiative, saying it has helped low-income Michigan residents.

His Democratic opponent, former Congressman Mark Schauer, agreed with Gov. Snyder’s decision to expand Medicaid, but said, “it took him a long time to get it done.”

In an ad from the Democratic Governors Association, Schauer hit Snyder saying he “gave $1.8 billion in tax breaks to businesses -- even if they send jobs overseas.” That benefits the wealthy in Michigan, according to Schauer. And he noted how in Congress he supported “Buy American” laws to curb outsourcing.

A fact check noted Schauer’s claim about Snyder’s tax breaks benefiting only the wealthy wasn’t entirely accurate. Also, the claim about tax breaks for businesses even those who ship jobs overseas is “mostly true, but misleading” (via Detroit Free Press):

Claim: "Gov. Snyder gave $1.8 billion in tax breaks to businesses -- even if they send jobs overseas."

Reality: Mostly true, but misleading.

In 2011, the Republican-controlled Legislature passed, and Snyder signed, what amounted to a $1.8-billion tax cut when fully implemented by eliminating the Michigan Business Tax and replacing it with a 6% corporate tax only paid by "C" corporations, which have shareholders.

A "tax break" generally connotes a deduction or loophole allowing certain taxpayers to avoid taxes that would otherwise be owed. Elimination of the MBT was an across-the-board elimination of a tax and in that sense not a tax break. Also, the 6% corporate tax that replaced the MBT was designed as a much cleaner tax that did away with the myriad credits and other "tax breaks" that characterized the widely loathed MBT.

It's true the MBT was eliminated for all businesses, whether they move jobs overseas or not. But it's worth noting the only companies that have opted to continue paying the MBT are those who received significant MBT tax credits under the former administration of Gov. Jennifer Granholm, a Democrat, and want to be able to use them.

Claim: "That helps the wealthy, but not the rest of Michigan."

Reality: Mostly false. Most businesses who paid the MBT were small businesses. Most businesses that pay the 6% corporate tax -- "C"

The race is a statistical dead heat.

IRS Official Who Called Conseratives A**holes Says She "Isn't a Political Person," Plays Victim in New Interview

“Regardless of whatever else happens, I know I did the best I could under the circumstances and am not sorry for anything I did,” former IRS official Lois Lerner told POLITICO in an exclusive interview released today.

In the piece, Lerner portrays herself as being unfairly attacked by the very groups she spent years inappropriately targeting. 

Lerner, for her part, assumes she is at the center of the storm because “I was the person who announced it. I assume the other part of it is because I declined to talk, and once I declined to talk, they could say anything they wanted, and they knew I couldn’t say anything back.”

Oh, and she wants everyone to know how apolitical she is too. This is the same woman who was in contact with the Department of Justice about putting tea party leaders behind bars for "lying" about political activity and the same woman who called conservatives crazies and a**holes in an email. Speaking of those crazy a**holes, according to Lerner and her husband, Mark Levin and his listeners were the source of that comment.

They’ve released partial emails, including one after President Barack Obama’s reelection in which she and Miles bemoan far-right conservative talk radio, calling them “crazies” and “a—holes.”

The couple said the exchange was taken entirely out of context. Miles wrote the email after listening to callers on the “Mark Levin Show” rant about stockpiling food and guns to fight because Obama was going to run the country into the ground. Lerner, then in London, responded from her work email about hearing chatter about the U.S. being a broken system for its fiscal brinkmanship over the debt ceiling.

Lerner said she is “not a political person,” has voted for candidates of both parties and that the only campaign contribution she ever made was $25 to a fellow law school student running for judge.

And, let's not forget "non-political" Lerner discussing the possibility of joining President Obama's 2012 re-election machine Organization for Action. 

Lerner, the director of Exempt Organizations, emailed a colleague about OFA on January 24, who noted that they would primarily operate out of Chicago - but would have an office in Washington D.C.
“Oh--maybe I can get the DC office job!” Lerner emailed back.

Unfortunately, Lerner isn't playing the victim card all on her own. EO Tax Journal Editor Paul Streckfus is helping her.

“By taking the Fifth, Lois put a sign on her back: Kick me," Streckfus told POLITICO for their story.

Lois Lerner isn't a victim, she's a bully backed up by America's most powerful federal government agency, the Justice Department and the Obama administration. People like Becky Gerritson and hundreds of regular Americans like her who were targeted by Lerner and her goons are the real victims and they deserve justice. 

Poll: So Far, GOP "Winning" Enthusiasm Battle

Before we get to the poll itself there are some obvious caveats worth repeating. For starters, it’s not set in stone that 2014 will be a wave election year. Nor is it a foregone conclusion that Republicans will flip majority-control of the U.S. Senate. What we can say with some degree of certainty, however, is that self-described Republicans are much more enthusiastic about voting this fall than Democrats:

A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Annenberg poll shows that 54 percent of Republicans say they’re highly interested in the upcoming elections, compared to 44 percent of Democrats who say the same.

Another way to look at the GOP intensity advantage: Democrats hold a four-point lead on the generic ballot, 46 percent to 42 percent. But among high-interest voters, Republicans have the edge, 51 percent to 43 percent.

“Off-year elections are about intensity, which becomes a question of which set of voters cares most,” said Democratic pollster Peter Hart. “In the opening lap of the general election, the GOP is winning.”

The D/R/I sample breakdown (32/24/33) is rather interesting, too: 37 percent of respondents describe themselves as “somewhat” or “very” conservative whereas just 29 percent of respondents describe themselves as “very” or “somewhat” liberal. What does this mean?

It means, I think, that even though respondents are much more likely to self-identify with the “conservative” label, the D+8 sample nevertheless greatly favors Democrats. (As a side note, however, it’s increasingly improbable that Democratic turnout will be this high in November, in part because many millennials aren't expected to vote).

Still, the question remains: Will Republicans keep their eyes on the prize and stay engaged through November 4? The answer to that question, after all, will greatly determine how many seats Republicans ultimately pick up.

Watch: Wendy Davis Doesn't Know How Debates Work

We all know Texas State Senator Wendy Davis likes to talk. She spoke in support of abortion rights for 12 hours straight on the Senate floor last year. But, Davis seemed to forget that she was in a debate and not giving a filibuster Friday night when she debated Attorney General Greg Abbott in the Rio Grande Valley.

At one point during the debate, Davis asked Abbott a question on education. After he responded, the moderator is supposed to step in. But, Davis had other ideas and refused to stop talking. Here was the painful and awkward exchange (via Breitbart Texas):

Usually, when a candidate is interrupted by the moderator, the candidate plays by the rules. Not Davis. Abbott could do nothing but stare at the moderator as Davis continued her strange tirade.

Since its inception, Davis' campaign has been full of interruptions. Her spokesman quit in May, members of her staff mocked Abbott for being in a wheelchair, and reports revealed the state senator had exaggerated her success story. It's no wonder that summer polls revealed she had hit a new low.

Davis' temper tantrum is just her most recent gaffe. If Davis can't control her temper, how will she control one of the largest states in the nation?

Video: Cutting Biden Some Slack Amid Gaffe Spree

Vice President Joe Biden outdid himself by committing a string of four gaffes in the span of two days last week.  Uncle Joe is known for his miscues and malapropisms, but such a highly-concentrated dose of mistakes is extraordinary, even for him:

First he uttered the word "shylock." Then he referred to the Far East as that mystical land known as "the Orient." And now he has praised a Republican senator who resigned in disgrace over charges of sexual harassment — in a speech that was meant to shore up the Democratic Party's bona fides on women's issues. In his remarks to the DNC's Women's Leadership Forum, Biden gave a shout-out to Bob Packwood, a former Republican senator from Oregon, as an example of a more moderate kind of Republican politician. The problem is that Packwood was forced to step down in 1995 after he was accused of harassment by 10 different women.

Then came this misfire in Iowa, wherein the Vice President ladled another helping of incoherence onto the administration's Iraq incoherence:

After leaving a rally in Des Moines, Biden unexpectedly made news at a diner when he seemingly opened the door to committing ground troops to fight the Islamic State in Iraq, an option the Obama administration has diligently batted down as it has moved to expand air strikes in the region -- and that President Obama himself rejected anew in remarks at MacDill Air Force Base Wednesday. "The American forces that have been deployed to Iraq do not and will not have a combat mission," he said. A reporter asked Biden whether he agreed with the comments of Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who on Tuesday left the door open to the possibility of boots on the ground. "He said that if in fact he concluded that was needed he would request it from the president. His conclusion is that it is not needed now," Biden responded...But might it be needed? "We’ll determine that based on how the effort goes," said Biden.

Oops. That casual suggestion undermined President Obama's numerous attempts to slam the door shut to combat troops -- a distinction that seems increasingly technical in nature.  Obama reportedly overruled the military's best advice for an anti-ISIS mission, intent on assuring the American people that he was not reigniting a full ground war in Iraq.  But because comprehensively ruling out potential options in our arsenal sends problematic signals to the enemy, some high-ranking officials have been unable to resist hedging, before being directed to walk back their remarks.  The administration effectively ignored the rise of ISIS until their reign of terror started making unavoidable headlines.  The president has disclaimed responsibility for the mess he's presided over.  For years, Iraq was regarded as little more than a political talking point, with Obama delegating 'day to day' US policy in the country to, um, Joe Biden.  Of the quartet of 'gaffes' committed by the Vice President, his Iraq flub is by far the most serious, as it underscores how lost and muddled Team Obama is on a major foreign policy front.  But as I argued on Fox and Friends, the remaining trio of face-palms are pretty inconsequential (video via Steven Laboe's Right Sightings):

Tucker Carlson is absolutely right.  Intent and context should be the biggest factors in these circumstances. While I'm no fan of his, I don't believe Biden was accidentally revealing latent anti-Semitism by using "shylock," or deliberately insulting Asians with "the orient," or applauding Packwood's misogyny in that speech.  What he was doing was classic Biden: Speaking without a filter, which more than occasionally results in inanity, insensitivity and inaccuracy.  Is it sometimes concerning that such an aloof, undisciplined and impulsive person is "one heartbeat away" from the presidency, to employ a term invoked repeatedly about Sarah Palin? Yes.  Should we gin up a bunch of phony outrage to suggest Biden's a bigot while indignantly demanding apologies?  No.  Perpetual 'gotcha' outrage and the imputing of malicious motives is poisoning our politics.  The Left traffics in this sludge, of course, and people like Joe Biden shamelessly and shamefully play the race and gender cards at the drop of a hat, so perhaps responding in kind is reasonable comeuppance.  Live by the smear, die by the smear, etc (although Democrats rarely pay as high a price for their terrible comments than Republicans).  I get it: His tone deaf praise for Packwood at an event specifically designed to demagogue Republicans on "women's issues" is probably too juicy an irony for the GOP to pass up.  But the arms race of outrage is a pernicious, counter-productive force and should be resisted whenever possible.

Capitol Source: Federal Immigration Judge Claims Courts Are 'Resource Starved'

Immigration courts receive less than 2 percent of the $18 billion dollars annually allocated to immigration law enforcement, according to federal immigration judge Dana Leigh Marks. In this week's Capitol Source, two federal immigration judges explain why their courts are underfunded, understaffed, and overflowing with pending cases.

Be sure to visit Townhall.com on Oct. 6 for our birthday tribute to former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Former Head of Marine Corps: Obama's ISIS Strategy Doesn't Have a Snowball's Chance in Hell

As President Obama continues to openly state U.S. ground troops on Iraq to combat terror army ISIS are not an option, a number of top military commanders have openly criticized or questioned his strategy, both in the press and in congressional testimony. Now we can add former head of the Marine Corps, General James Conway, to a long and growing list. 

Speaking at the Maverick PAC Conference in Washington D.C. last week, Conway didn't hold back or mince words about how he views current strategy against ISIS. The Daily Caller has the story: 

“I don’t think the president’s plan has a snowball’s chance in hell of succeeding,” retired Marine General James Conway, who served as the 34th Commandant of the Marine Corps during the end of the Bush administration and the beginning of the Obama administration, said at the Maverick PAC Conference in Washington, D.C. Friday, according to a source in attendance.

Conway joins Generals James Mattis, General Loyd Austin, General Ray Odierno, General Thomas McInerney, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey in questioning how the United States plans to move forward as military leaders become increasingly at odds with the President over strategy. Many have said arming Syrian rebels is not enough and could lead to arming enemies of the United States. 

Is Arming the Syrian Rebels to Fight ISIS a Good Idea?

Last week the House and Senate voted to give President Obama the authority he needs to arm "moderate" Syrian rebels to fight ISIS as fears among Americans about the terror group striking at home continue to rise. Syrian rebels have openly admitted they won't necessarily use weapons provided by the United States to fight ISIS, but instead against President Bashir Assad. Is arming and training Syrian rebels a good idea? Will it be enough? How will vetting of rebels actually work to prevent arming terrorists? And who exactly are these people? 

For some clarification of the issue, the Heritage Foundation's Steven Bucci joined Fox News' Lisa Daftari over the weekend to discuss the situation. Bucci argued that arming the rebels is the "weakest and riskiest" part of a three-piece strategy.

"We've had a heck of a time since the beginning of the Syrian civil war determining who the so-called moderates are in the very broad, very diverse field of resistance forces working against the Assad regime. The group that we're dealing with now, there's a lot of question marks as to whether they're as moderate as they say they are, some dealing they've done with ISIS, perhaps with Assad, there's a lot of questions and remember America has not proven itself to be really adept at sorting out the real motivations of some of these groups in this part of the world," Bucci said.

When pressed for details last week on this issue, State Department Deputy Spokeswoman Marie Harf kept answers vague and said, "It's a complicated process."

Complicated and risky indeed.

Meanwhile former head of the Marine Corps, General James Conway, is piling on with other top military leaders against Obama's ISIS strategy.

So, It Seems Sen. Hagan Chose A NYC Fundraiser Over A Classified Hearing On ISIS

new Elon University poll found something interesting regarding the most important issue on the minds of North Carolina’s likely voters [emphasis mine]:

When asked “what is the most important issue in the United States?” many likely voters mentioned something related to international affairs or national defense. Not since 2007 has the Elon Poll found foreign affairs to be a top issue on the minds of North Carolinians. Tillis and Hagan supporters tend to differ on what is the most important issue. Hagan supporters seem to see education as the most important issue, while Tillis supporters were more likely to mention international affairs and national defense.

So far, Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan has been leading her Republican opponent, Thom Tillis, in the polls, but a recent revelation that she skipped a classified hearing on ISIS to attend a New York fundraiser may not sit well with voters (via Washington Free Beacon):

Records indicate that Sen. Kay Hagan (D., N.C.) did not attend a classified hearing that focused on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) due to a fundraiser that was held for her in New York City.

The issue of ISIL has been thrust into the spotlight of the race between Hagan and her Republican opponent, Thom Tillis, who accused Hagan of not doing enough to stop the terrorist group during its rise.

On the morning of Feb. 27, Hagan missed an Armed Services committee hearing that began at 9:36 in the morning.

Later that day, the subcommittee held a closed-door hearing on “current and future worldwide threats” at 2:30 p.m. The meeting was a classified continuation of an open hearing on Feb. 11 that Hagan also did not attend.

Attendance records are not made available for closed-door Senate hearings, but Hagan may have had other plans for the night of Feb. 27.

That night there was cocktail reception fundraiser for Hagan in New York City with tickets going for up to $5,200. It was scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.

Hagan’s office did not respond to multiple requests for it to clarify Hagan’s attendance at events on the day.

Yeah, talk about bad optics.

Texas Clinics Say Goodbye to Planned Parenthood

Planned Parenthood continues to lose momentum in the state of Texas. Planned Parenthood Association of Hidalgo County, now named Access Esperanza Clinics, has ended its partnership with Planned Parenthood. Patricio C. Gonzales, CEO of Access Esperanza, explained the significant move:

"Changing our name and affiliation allows our agency to apply for state health programs and make low-cost services more available for thousands of our low-income women, men and teens," said Patricio C. Gonzales, CEO of Access Esperanza, in a letter posted on the group's website, where she added that it was "a difficult but practical solution."

In summary, renouncing its association with Planned Parenthood now gives Access Esperanza the opportunity to receive government funds.

Governor Rick Perry signed Senate Bill 7  in 2011. This law barred Planned Parenthood from receiving government assistance. In light of this legislation, Access Esperanza had to close four of its eight clinics. Statewide, the bill led to the closings of 76 clinics.

Access Esperanza's break with Planned Parenthood is evidence that Senate Bill 7 is working. While supporters claim the majority of Planned Parenthood's services are related to women's health and not reproductive services, the fact remains that the organization performs over 300,000 abortions annually and a near 12 percent of Planned Parenthood's clients get abortions. These statistics leave little to the imagination as to why pro-life legislators are trying to revoke taxpayer funding to the infamous organization. As for Access Esperanza, it has not stated whether or not it performs abortions.

Perhaps Access Esperanza's decision to be independent of Planned Parenthood is proof that the organization is being brought down a peg. Similar changes can and should be copied in other states.

Confirmed: Most Americans Need Remedial Civics Lessons

Give yourself a giant pat on the back, guys.

I hope (and trust) if you've already troubled yourself enough to read this far, then unlike two-thirds of your fellow citizens, you can honestly say with a straight face that you paid attention during social studies class.

Wednesday marked national Constitution Day, the 227th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution. But only 36 percent of Americans can actually name the three branches of government the Constitution created. That’s according to a new survey from the Annenberg Public Policy Center, and it shows a huge percentage of Americans might need to take a civics refresher course.

Only 38 percent of Americans knew the Republican Party controls the U.S. House of Representatives, while 17 percent think Democrats are still in charge. The number of people who knew Republicans were in charge has dropped 17 percent since the last time Annenberg asked, back in 2011, right after Republicans reclaimed control. An identical number, 38 percent, knows Democrats run the Senate, while 20 percent believe Republicans control the upper chamber. Only 27 percent knew it takes a two-thirds majority of the House and Senate to override a presidential veto.

Americans are thus more familiar with which political parties are in power than with which branches of government comprise our political system. Interesting. I wonder, then, how many of us also know that the "U.S. House of Representatives" and the "U.S. Senate," when taken together, make up the "U.S. Congress"?

In all seriousness, these are the kinds of results one might expect to find when polling, say, eight-year-olds. The fact that this was a national sample of adults is pretty scary.

For a nation with so many smart people in it, it’s amazing how little some of us know.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers Fundraises For Garcia's NH Congressional Race

New Hampshire State Rep. Marilinda Garcia's congressional campaign is expected to get a boost from Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who is projected to raise at least $500,000 for 10 Republican women running for office this year (via Politico):

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers is flexing her fundraising muscles for nearly 10 GOP female candidates.

McMorris Rodgers, the GOP Conference chairwoman, is expected to raise more than $500,000 for the congressional hopefuls Tuesday at the American Trucking Associations townhouse. Republican Reps. Ann Wagner of Missouri, Diane Black of Tennessee and Renee Ellmers of North Carolina also played key roles in putting together the event, according to a source. House Republican Conference Vice Chairwoman Lynn Jenkins of Kansas, GOP Conference Secretary Virginia Foxx of North Carolina, Ellmers and Rep. Martha Roby (R-Ala.) are listed as hosts on the invitation.

The contributions will go to top candidates, including Barbara Comstock of Virginia, Elise Stefanik of New York, Mimi Walters of California and Marilinda Garcia of New Hampshire. Nan Hayworth of New York, Mia Love of Utah, Martha McSally and Wendy Rogers of Arizona, Mariannette Miller-Meeks of Iowa and Darlene Senger of Illinois will also be recipients of the fundraiser.

In the meantime, State Rep. Garcia is still waiting for her Democratic opponent, incumbent Congresswoman Ann Kuster, to respond to her invitation to a town hall event. If Rep. Kuster agrees, it will be the first town hall event with her constituents since she took office in 2013.

Recently, Rep. Kuster sent out this email, which included a survey asking her supporters what issues matter most to them; something that could have been gauged at a town hall event.

Friend --

Since day one, I've been listening to the needs, concerns and desires of the people who elected me to represent them.

Our campaign is about you, that is why I wanted to take a moment to ask what matters most to you. It doesn’t matter if it’s cutting through the gridlock in Washington, standing up for woman’s rights or even raising the minimum wage, I want to know what issues you care about.

Can you click here to take our one question survey?

Thanks for standing with us,


Climate Change Demonstrators Hold Rallies Across the World

Thousands of people, including actors and politicians, marched today in cities across the world to encourage world leaders to take greater action on the issue of climate change. The United Nations Climate Summit is set to begin in two days.

From AP:

The march was one of a series of events large and small held around the world — organizers said 40,000 marchers took part in an event in London, while a small gathering in Cairo featured 50-foot art piece representing wind and solar energy — two days before the United Nations Climate Summit. More than 120 world leaders will convene Tuesday for the meeting aimed at galvanizing political will for a new global climate treaty by the end of 2015.

The New York march drew people from all over the country. A contingent from Moore, Oklahoma — where a massive tornado killed 24 last year— took part, as did hundreds of New Yorkers affected by Superstorm Sandy, which the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the British meteorological office said was made more likely by climate change.

While I'm not here to argue about the legitimacy of climate change and will agree that people should be environmentally conscious, some of the people at the march in NYC were a smidge hypocritical.

For instance, Katie noticed this gem:

...and The New York Times included the following quote in their piece about the marches (emphasis added):

Participants from across the country began arriving early on Sunday morningat the staging area near the American Museum of Natural History. Rosemary Snow, 75, stretched her legs after a nearly 14-hour bus drive from Georgia.

“I thought we’d have a lot of younger people on the bus,” said Ms. Snow, who made the trip with her grandson. “There’s a really great mix of people.”

While it's possible that Snow came to New York City on a hybrid-powered (or some other "green" fueled) bus, regardless, a bus isn't the most fuel-efficient vehicle. Is it really that environmentally friendly to go on a 28-hour round-trip bus ride to protest climate change?

I'll leave you with this:

Kansas Supreme Court May Swing KS Senate Race

The national Democratic Party was celebrating this week after a ruling from the Kansas Supreme Court will allow the Democratic Party to remove its candidate from the race to represent Kansas in the U.S. Senate.

Chad Taylor, the Democratic Party nominee, is withdrawing from the race because of pressure from Democrats. Greg Orman, an "independent" candidate who has been a Democrat for his whole life, will for the time being be opposing incumbent Republican Sen. Pat Roberts with no Democrat on the ballot. (A Libertarian Party candidate is also in the running but polling poorly.)

Greg Orman will likely caucus with the Democratic Party in the Senate.

A poll from liberal outfit Public Policy Polling this week placed Orman with a ten-point lead in a head-to-head matchup with Roberts:

Orman leads Roberts 41-34, with Democrat Chad Taylor — who announced plans to end his campaign earlier this month — capturing 6 percent of the vote. Libertarian Randall Batson earned 4 percent support in the poll, which was first provided to the Huffington Post. The automated phone and online survey of 1,328 likely voters was taken between Sept. 11 and Sept. 14. The margin of error is plus-or-minus 2.7 percentage points.

In a head-to-head matchup, Orman’s lead grows to 10 percentage points, according to the poll.

Republican secretary of state Kris Kobach insists that Democrats must nominate a replacement candidate if Taylor is removed from the ballot, but that has not proven to be binding so far.

Mich. Senate Race: Terri Lynn Land Promises to ‘Turn the Page on Washington’

Republican Senate hopeful Terri Lynn Land is out with a new ad campaign, “Turn the Page,” touting her Michigan First plan.

“How will Terri Lynn Land put Michigan first?” the narrator asks, before going on to say she will ask for trade deals, work to secure the borders, and keep tax dollars in Michigan.

The ad spot began running statewide on Friday.

According to the most recent poll, the former secretary of state, who’s up against Democratic Rep. Gary Peters for the seat held by retiring Sen. Carl Levin, is closing in on her opponent's lead.

A September 14 poll conducted by Mitchell Research has Peters up 2 points, 43 percent to 41 percent, which is within the margin of error.

The most recent poll comes amid reports of Peters’ petcoke hypocrisy.

Democratic Michigan Congressman and Senate candidate Gary Peters refused to sell his stock in the substance petroleum coke (petcoke), despite the fact that he has called petcoke “dirtier than the dirtiest fuel” and launched a public campaign to highlight the evils of a petcoke buildup in the area around the Detroit River.

Peters owns $19,000 in stock in the French oil company Total S.A., which produces petcoke, among other things. Peters’ 2014 Republican Senate opponent, Terri Lynn Land, has been hammering Peters on the investment.

“Am I going to sell it? I have no plans of it, no,” Peters said in comments Monday to The Detroit News. “It is an investment in the fourth largest oil company in the world. It has nothing to do with the Detroit situation.”

Peters had previously been ahead of Land by seven to nine points. Real Clear Politics ranks the race as leaning Democratic, but with 44 days until the election and Peters continuing to slip in the polls, the race is still very much in play.

Obama's ISIS Tap Dance

Don’t let a rare act of bipartisanship fool you. Just because Congress came together (miraculously and quickly before, ahem, their midterm elections) in passage of a continuing resolution which also authorizes the training and arming of Syrian troops, doesn’t mean that the American people - or the military for that matter – are fully buying into the president’s plan.

All the hustle and bustle on Capitol Hill this week laid bare the confusion and political calculation behind the White House’s recent push to go after the ISIS (ISIL) terrorist group, which increases its threats against the U.S. and its allies every day. Despite overwhelming support in both the House and Senate, many members of Congress continue to push for additional details from administration officials on just exactly what the U.S. is getting into.

One major point of contention is whether or not President Obama has the legal authority to carry out the airstrikes that are currently taking place. Secretary of State John Kerry hashed this out with both the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week, saying that the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) grants the president the authority he needs to go after “Al Qaeda and associated forces.” He argued that ISIS is a direct offshoot of Al Qaeda, only recently changing its name because of an internal disagreement.

Some members of Congress buy this, others don’t; but most have requested that the President seek a new AUMF – a request that Kerry said was welcomed and encouraged by the President. Although with Congress out of session for the next 45 days, just when that measure might be taken up remains in the air.

Many questions remain concerning the international coalition and the viability of Syrian ground forces. 40 - 50 countries have been reported as partners in the fight, but very little detail has been released on exactly what each nation plans to contribute - particularly from the Arab countries. Both Republicans and Democrats have expressed their hesitancy to ally with Saudi Arabia, who has funded terrorist activity, and have expressed concern over the potential impact this operation will have on empowering enemies such as Iran, Assad, and other regional terrorist organizations.

But, despite having already moved forward with airstrikes and building an international team of (somewhat questionable) allies, the most baffling moments of last week’s PR push for support was that administration officials still prefer to say that the U.S. is in the process of degrading and destroying, rather than engaging in war, and cannot determine the most politically correct way to refer to the enemy at hand. 

The White House has taken great effort to structure talking points that separate ISIS from the Islamic religion, instead of highlighting the very real threat that radical Muslim extremists continue to pose to the American way of life. President Obama told the nation that ISIS “is not Islamic,” and Secretary Kerry made several statements while on the Hill that ISIS is a cult “masquerading” as a religious movement.

Even when directly asked if the U.S. is at war, Secretary Kerry could only stammer a roundabout response that referred to ISIS as “the enemy of Islam” and “the enemy of humanity.” (See Townhall.com Web Editor Sarah Jean Seaman’s footage from Thursday's House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing below.)

Right now, the country needs a strong Commander-in-Chief instead of a political tap dancer. It has long been a plague of this administration – which has resulted in an even more gridlocked and bitterly political culture within Washington - that the American people get nothing but loose rhetoric and false promises.

But, taking into account that it took two American beheadings (and several rounds of golf) for the president to react to this “jayvee” enemy, it does not seem likely that change will occur soon.

The president must be clear-eyed about the reality of the world we live in. The U.S. cannot afford for its leaders to focus more on political correctness than dealing head-on with the sometimes harsh, but definitive, red lines that provide for greater national security.

Pray for this country. We need it.

Louisiana School System Says Educating Illegal Immigrant Children Will Cost $4.6 Million

The cost of educating illegal immigrant children who are residing in the United States will cost one school district in Louisiana almost $5 million, according to the Louisiana Department of Education. State Superintendent of Education John White crunched the numbers in response to a request from Senator David Vitter (R-LA).

According to White:

The Jefferson Parish School System estimates the total cost associated with educating these students to be $4.6 million. The district will receive an estimated $2.2 million toward this cost through the state funding formula based on the October 1 enrollment count adjustment (533 students x $4,261 per student). The other affected districts are calculating their estimated costs and will report them to the state next week.

In addition to normal cost of sending a child into the public school system, these aliens often need additional aid to address the language barrier. White noted that to serve the 533 illegal immigrants, the district would need to hire several additional English as a Second Language teachers.

The Washington Free Beacon, the media outlet that broke the story, has more:

Louisiana is among the 10 states that have received the most unaccompanied alien children, according to data compiled by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). The state will pay $25.8 million to educate 1,250 illegal alien children this school year.

Unaccompanied alien children have been relocated to every state in the nation, stressing local education budgets. Costs of accepting the young illegal immigrants range from $147.7 million in New York with the addition of 4,159 students, to $18,630 in Montana, which will enroll just one child.

Sen. Vitter attributed the sharp increase in illegal immigrant minors to the Obama administration policies, and in particular to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive action in 2012.

As I noted in a previous post, communities are required by law to educate illegal immigrants in public schools. So, taxpayers are being forced by law to pay to educate the very individuals who have broken the law. Something about this just seems terribly amiss.

Report: GOP Leadership Considering Rules To Punish Party Disloyalty

A new congressional delegation will bring a new vote for leadership. With Democrats needing a miracle to gain a few seats, much less actually take the House, Republicans are close to a sure bet to be in control come November. That'll mean elections, and elections means a John Boehner who needs to have the support of his caucus.

There are a lot of members of the GOP caucus who don't very much like John Boehner. He's taken a lot of heat for being insufficiently conservative. To avoid an embarrassing vote, leadership might have some "rules tweaks" in the pipeline, as National Journal reports:

House Republicans are quietly discussing a proposal that could fundamentally alter the way future speakers of the House are chosen, according to multiple GOP sources, with the objective of avoiding a repeat of John Boehner's embarrassing reelection vote in 2013.

The rule tweak began as an informal discussion but has morphed into a concrete proposal that is beginning to circulate in the House. According to people briefed on it, any Republican who votes on the House floor in January against the conference's nominee for House speaker—that is, the candidate chosen by a majority of the House GOP during its closed-door leadership elections in November—would be severely punished. Specifically, sources say, any dissenters would be stripped of all committee assignments for that Congress.

"There's a real concern that there's between 30 and 40 people that would vote against the speaker on the House floor, so they're trying to change the conference rules to make sure that doesn't happen," said a GOP member familiar with the proposal.

The last time, as National Journal notes, there were 12 members who voted against Boehner's speakership on the House floor. The GOP leadership wants to present a more united front this time around.