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Koch Bros to Spend $889Mil on 2016 Elections

Koch-backed network aims to spend nearly $1 billion on 2016 elections

— A network of conservative advocacy groups backed by Charles and David Koch aims to spend a staggering $889 million in advance of the next White House election, part of an expansive strategy to build on its 2014 victories that may involve jumping into the Republican primaries.

The massive financial goal was revealed to donors during an annual winter meeting here hosted by Freedom Partners, the tax-exempt business lobby that serves as the hub of the Koch-backed political operation, according to an attendee. The amount is more than double the $407 million that 17 allied groups in the network raised during the 2012 campaign.

The figure comes close to the $1 billion that each of the two parties’ presidential nominees are expected to spend in 2016, and cements the network’s role as one of the country’s most potent political forces.

The $889 million goal reflects the budget goals of all the allied groups that the network funds. Those resources will go into field operations, new technology and policy work, among other projects.

The group — which is supported by hundreds of wealthy donors on the right, along with the Kochs — is still debating whether it will spend some of that money in the GOP primaries. Such a move could have a major impact in winnowing the field of contenders but could also undercut the network’s standing if it engaged in intraparty politics and was not successful.

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BigTimeFootball - Super Bowl Week

Super Bowl Week

BigTimeFootball.com

 
Has Netanyahu Finally Gone Too Far With His Contempt for Obama?

Has Netanyahu Finally Gone Too Far With His Contempt for Obama?

By Kevin Drum

I keep wondering if it's ever possible for Benjamin Netanyahu to go too far. He's treated President Obama with truly astonishing levels of contempt and disdain for nearly his entire tenure, and he's done it in the apparent belief that his political support in the US is so strong and so bipartisan that he'll never be held to account for it. And so far he hasn't been.

But what about his latest stunt? The fact that John Boehner invited him to address Congress is hardly surprising. Boehner needed to poke Obama in the eye to demonstrate his conservative bona fides, and this was a perfect opportunity since he knew Netanyahu would deliver plenty of trash talk about Obama's Iran policy. But the fact that Netanyahu kept the invitation a secret from the administration and failed to even notify them he was planning a visit—well, that's a whole different story. As former US ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk put it, "Netanyahu is using the Republican Congress for a photo-op for his election campaign....Unfortunately, the US relationship will take the hit. It would be far wiser for us to stay out of their politics and for them to stay out of ours."

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Obama’s Appearance at India’s Republic Day Sends Message to China

U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the pouring rain as he arrives to attend the Republic Day parade in New Delhi Jan. 26, 2015.

Obama’s Appearance at India’s Republic Day Sends Message to China

Obama’s Attendance at Parade Was a Display of Solidarity in Face of Increasingly Assertive China

By Gordon Fairclough

U.S. President Barack Obama joined Indian leaders on the reviewing stand at a military parade here Monday in a display of strengthened ties between the world’s largest democracies as an increasingly assertive China shifts Asia’s power balance.

The American president’s appearance at India’s symbolically important Republic Day celebrations came a day after a summit meeting at which the two countries agreed to deepen cooperation on defense and economic-development at a time of mounting global tensions.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Sunday there had been a “transformation” in the two nations’ relations, adding: “We are prepared to step forward firmly to accept the responsibility of this global partnership for our two countries and toward shaping the character of this century.”

This is the first time India—which spent much of the Cold War espousing non-alignment and nurturing ties with Russia as the U.S. cultivated New Delhi’s rivals, Pakistan and China—has invited an American head of state for the event.

Mr. Obama’s attendance is a sign of U.S. hope that as Washington makes its pivot to Asia, India—under the leadership of Mr. Modi—will be able overcome hurdles that have long constrained its economy and prevented it from becoming an effective strategic counterweight to China.

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Inside Hillary Clinton’s 2016 plan

BOSTON, MA - DECEMBER 04:  Former United States Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks on stage at the 2014 Massachusetts Conference for Women at Boston Convention & Exhibition Center on December 4, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Lisa Lake/Getty Images for Massachusetts Conference for Women)

Inside Hillary Clinton’s 2016 plan

New campaign takes shape, with ‘big-tent mentality’ and ‘good cop’ for press.

By Mike Allen

Not only is she running, but we have a very good idea of what it will look like.

Hillary Clinton is in the final stages of planning a presidential campaign that is likely to launch in early April, and has made decisions on most top posts, according to numerous Democrats in close contact with the Clintons and their aides.

Campaign advisers say the likelihood of a campaign, long at 98 percent (she never really hesitated, according to one person close to her), went to 100 percent right after Christmas, when Clinton approved a preliminary budget and several key hires.

Most of the top slots have been decided, with one notable exception: communications director, a job that is now the subject of intense lobbying and jockeying by some of the biggest names in Democratic politics. One top contender is White House Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri, who is close to likely campaign chairman John Podesta.

Numerous lessons from Clinton’s failed ’08 campaign are being baked into the 2016 plan, including a determination to improve relations with the press – or, at the very least, to have a “good cop” role to help her get off on a better foot with the journalists who will help shape her image.

...............................

Bill Clinton is already deeply engaged in the campaign, warning that Jeb Bush is a real threat, while New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is probably just a sideshow.

The former president got a “heads-up” from the camp of President George H.W. Bush a few days before Jeb Bush made his surprise Facebook announcement in December that he would “actively explore” a campaign. The two former presidents have developed a friendly bond, partly because of their work together on earthquake relief for Haiti.

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Islamist Terrorism Is Obama’s No-Go Zone

Islamist Terrorism Is Obama’s No-Go Zone

 Gil Troy

Can America’s ‘I’m-Ok-You’re-OK’ overly-psychological culture handle Islamism’s ‘I’m-Ok-Die-Infidel!’ death cult.

Barack Obama seems ready to fight. In his State of the Union address he boasted about “assisting people everywhere who stand up to the bankrupt ideology of violent extremism.” To demonstrate his determination, he will host a conference on the subject on Feb. 18. The White House announcement emphasized that this summit will study strategies for involving “education administrators, mental health professionals, and religious leaders.”

The sounds of Islamists’ teeth chattering can be heard worldwide … or perhaps that’s snickering instead. In his 1946 essay “Politics and the English Language,” George Orwell warned that slovenly and vague language encourages “foolish thoughts.” Fighting terrorism with a conference which obscures the Islamist dimension of much terrorism today is like trying to fight cancer with Band-Aids to avoid saying the C-word out loud. Islamism is an ideology celebrating jihad, seeking an Islamic state, fusing Islamic fundamentalism with Western fascism, as Paul Berman explains in Terror and Liberalism.

The double-think of 2015 continues a longstanding pattern of Obamaniam Orwellianism. In fairness, Obama’s allergy to the “T-word” and the “I-word” is rooted in the bipartisan failure during the 1990s to confront Islamist terrorism systematically.  Before 9/11, few Americans were willing to muster the effort required to crush Osama Bin Laden, despite al Qaeda’s terrorist attacks against Americans in Africa and the Middle East. The 9/11 Commission Report would later confirm, “The nation was unprepared,” psychologically, ideologically and politically.

Even after the 9/11 attacks, some Americans resisted bin Laden’s own framing of the assaults as Islam versus the West. In Chicago, Obama, then a 40-year-old state senator, was evacuated from the Thompson Center, the Illinois state government office building, on that awful day. He watched the horrifying images at his law firm’s townhouse. “The essence of this tragedy…” he wrote a week later in the Hyde Park Herald, “derives from a fundamental absence of empathy on the part of the attackers: an inability to imagine, or connect with, the humanity and suffering of others. Such a failure of empathy, such numbness to the pain of a child or the desperation of a parent, is not innate; nor, history tells us, is it unique to a particular culture, religion, or ethnicity.” Obama explained that it “most often… grows out of a climate of poverty and ignorance, helplessness and despair.” Filtering reality through the therapeutic culture’s gauzy belief system, Obama reduced Islamism to a psychological shortcoming, while rationalizing a particular form of violence as a logical, if insensitive, response to poverty and illiteracy.

Beyond insulting billions of poor people who never turned violent, Obama’s 2001 reaction raises questions about whether America’s I’m-Ok-You’re OK overly-psychological culture can handle Islamism’s I’m-Ok-Die-Infidel! death cult. Our pluck, our grit, our occasional righteous anger, our absolute sense of right and wrong, has been counseled out of millions of us. One 2013 survey estimated that a third of Americans have sought “professional counseling for mental health issues.” Some estimates run as high as eighty percent of Americans having received some form of psychological counseling during their lifetimes.

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Rand Paul’s 2016 White House aspirations face a real risk: His dad

Daddy issues: Are Ron Paul’s hard-core stands a problem for son’s presidential bid?

While Rand seeks donors, his father talks secession

  Rand Paul wants to lead the United States. On Saturday in Texas, his father was speaking at a conference about how to leave it.

“A lot of times people think secession, they paint it as an absolute negative,” said former representative Ron Paul (R-Tex.). After all, Paul said, the American Revolution was a kind of secession. “You mean we should have been obedient to the king forever? So it’s all in the way you look at it.”

This weekend was a crucial one for Rand Paul, the Republican senator from Kentucky and un­declared candidate for the presidency. He was in California, trying to line up donors at an opulent retreat organized by the billionaire Koch brothers.

At the same time, his father — retired after 12 terms in Congress and three presidential runs — was in the ballroom of an airport hotel here, the final speaker at “a one-day seminar in breaking away from the central state.” He followed a series of speakers who said that the U.S. economy and political establishment were tottering and that the best response might be for states, counties or even individuals to break away.

“The America we thought we knew, ladies and gentlemen, is a mirage. It’s a memory. It’s a foreign country,” Jeff Deist, Ron Paul’s former press secretary and chief of staff, told the group. “And that’s precisely why we should take secession seriously.”

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Security alert at White House as device – possibly a drone – found in grounds

white house security secret service drone

Security alert at White House as device – possibly a drone – found in grounds

Amanda Holpuch

The White House was temporarily on lockdown on Monday after a device – perhaps a drone – was discovered on the premises.

US secret service agents, already under pressure following recent breaches at the home of the first family, were digging through bushes on the premises following an early-morning security shutdown while Barack and Michelle Obama were travelling in India.

Without confirming or denying whether the device was or was not a drone, the White House press secretary, Josh Earnest, told reporters in New Delhi that an object had been recovered on the grounds of the residence. “The early indications are that it does not pose any sort of ongoing threat to anybody at the White House,” he said.

Though drones have been tied to warfare, hobbyists can easily obtain unmanned aerial vehicles for recreational or professional purposes. CNN announced earlier this month that it would be experimenting with camera-bearing drones for news gathering, joining movie studios and other commercial enterprises getting a foothold in the market for the increasingly prevalent technology.

Emergency vehicles surrounded the White House on Monday and the perimeter was locked down until about 5am. Agents were scattered across the property, scouring the lawn on a drizzly Monday morning.

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Jameis Winston's alleged rape victim, Erica Kinsman, tells her story.

splash

Jameis Winston's alleged rape victim, Erica Kinsman, tells her story.

Erica Kinsman, 20, has broken her silence on the alleged 2012 assault

College football star Jameis Winston's alleged rape victim waives anonymity to tell the full story of her 'ordeal'

By Pete D'amato For Daily Mail Online

The woman who accused Florida State University star Jameis Winston of raping her has come forward for a new documentary that premiered Friday at the Sundance Film Festival.

Eric Kinsman, 20, speaks publicly in the film for the first time, claiming she came to after drinking at a bar to find Winston on top of her having sex in his apartment while she pleaded with him to stop.

In the film, Kinsman says one of Winston's roommates also allegedly begged him to stop before the quarterback took her into the bathroom and pinned her head to the floor to continue the assault. 

 Acceptable conduct: Winston has avoided criminal charges, and a Florida State University conduct code hearing found there was not enough evidence to determine whether he was guilty

Kinsman fights tears as she details her account of the December 2012 night, when as a freshman, she remembers running into a man at a Tallahassee Potbelly's.

She says someone was creepily following her around the bar throughout the night and only stopped when a second man put his arm around her and told her pursuer he was her boyfriend.

Kinsman says that man then bought her a shot, after which she began to feel dizzy, though she faintly recalls taking a cab to an apartment.

She says the next thing she remembers is coming to while the man on top of her penetrating her, and claims that she asked him to stop.

The man allegedly ignored both her and his roommate, who Kinsman says entered the room and told him to stop, and took her into the bathroom.

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From Fake Rapes To Petty ‘Microaggressions,’ American Colleges Have Lost Their Way

From Fake Rapes To Petty ‘Microaggressions,’ American Colleges Have Lost Their Way

From Fake Rapes To Petty ‘Microaggressions,’ American Colleges Have Lost Their Way

U.S. colleges foster and encourage lynch mobs and thought police in place of actual education. It’s time for serious reform.

By Daniel Payne

For anyone still keeping up with the University of Virginia’s fraternity gang-rape fiasco, this month brought a bit of good news: the Charlottesville Police Department announced it could find no proof that the alleged gang rape had occurred at Phi Kappa Psi. UVA subsequently reinstated the fraternity after having shut it down a few months before.

This is small comfort to a debacle that has been both shameful and injudicious from start to finish. If there is anything good to be had from the entire mess, it is that a slapdash and irresponsible publication has been justly humiliated, and that an incompetent and malicious journalist has been perhaps permanently outcast from the good graces of the Fourth Estate. So far as I can tell, Sabrina Rubin Erdely has not been heard from publicly since last tweeting at the end of November. That is fine by me; indeed, if she finishes out her career as an obscure copy editor at a small-town bi-weekly, I do not think journalism as a whole will be worse off, even if the small-town bi-weekly suffers.

Yet the Rolling Stone fiasco is on the main depressing and discouraging, if for no other reason than it has starkly highlighted the fundamental hollowness of our institutions of higher learning, saturated as they have become by the often-toxic influence of academic leftism.

Indeed, UVA provided a perfect example of the moral bankruptcy one often finds at the average American college. In the wake of the Rolling Stone article, the university suspended Greek life on campus with no due process whatsoever; a University of Virginia law school student demanded that Phi Kappa Psi be treated as a “criminal street gang” subject to asset seizure by the government; the fraternity house was vandalized; and effectively the entire university lined up against a group of young men who had been viciously slandered in a national media outlet based on the strength of one uncorroborated and unexamined accusation. “The whole [fraternity] culture,” claimed UVA English professor Alison Booth, with no irony whatsoever, “is sick.”

The University of Virginia, in other words, behaved shamefully and with no civic decorum: from its administration to its faculty to its studentry, the entire institution displayed the aplomb of a sulky teenager unwilling to think critically about even the most basic of ethical considerations. UVA’s president, Teresa Sullivan, should be apologizing profusely to the members of Phi Kappa Psi along with the whole fraternity community. Instead, she’s forcing fraternities to adopt pointless new rules on the basis of a single allegation that even the police now dispute.

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Castro brothers: The Power of Two

 Rep. Joaquin Castro, left, and his twin brother, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro.

The Power of Two

America has never seen a political team quite like the Castro brothers.

By Andy Kroll

"The whole idea that they could be governor, senator, vice president, president—it excites people," Rosie Castro told me. "Everybody is waiting for the first Latino governor of Texas. Everybody is waiting for that first Latino president or vice president." And no two Democrats are better placed to realize such expectations than Rosie's sons. The Republican Party, despite its struggles to attract Latino voters, has more Latino politicians with national profiles and prospects—Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, for starters, along with Govs. Susana Martinez and Brian Sandoval. For Democrats, at least for the time being, such hopes hang mostly on the Castro brothers.

They are, it seems, the chosen ones: whip-smart, telegenic politicians who've arrived in the right political place at the right political time. Their life story has a fairy-tale quality that reporters and mythmakers can't resist: Born on Mexican Independence Day. Raised by a grandmother who immigrated to the United States as an orphan with a fourth-grade education and a mother who agitated, organized, and was twice jailed for civil disobedience in the cause of giving the next generation—her sons, in particular—opportunities she never had. Worked their way up from the barrios to Stanford, then Harvard, then one of the country's most prestigious law firms. Elected to political offices before age 30. Washington darlings at 40. Even if Julián never becomes vice president or president—even if neither brother ever wins a statewide office in Texas—theirs is already so quintessential an American success story that Eva Longoria, best known for her role in Desperate Housewives, has sold ABC on a political and family drama series she's producing based on the Castros. Working title: Pair of Aces.

The brothers understand the power and usefulness of the larger-than-life stories that have grown up around them. But there is at least one that they're eager to shoot down: the "we're going to be mayor" anecdote that Lionel Sosa tells. "That's not true," Julián Castro says flatly. "I was never so arrogant to say that I would someday be mayor. Maybe I said, 'Oh, I'm thinking about running for city council.' " Sure, he says, "I certainly think that's [Sosa's] recollection. But I seriously, seriously doubt that." It's the type of fable, he says, that "people develop in their mind, and it sounds good. But it's the stuff of embellishment."

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Juan Williams: Obama moves to offense in fourth quarter

Juan Williams: Obama moves to offense in fourth quarter

By Juan Williams

Dan Pfeiffer’s office is next to the Oval Office. The cheek-by-jowl location reflects the importance of his job as senior adviser guiding President Obama’s image and message going into his final two years in the White House.

At the moment, the president and Pfeiffer are on a hot streak. Polls show Obama’s approval numbers climbing. 

“It’s an 18-point gap [better than] Bush and the same as Reagan’s,” Pfeiffer said, comparing  Obama’s current approval rating to that of President George W. Bush and President Reagan at the equivalent point in their second terms. 

Strong public support is central to the president’s strategy of keeping the loyalty of Senate Democrats. If large numbers of Democrats in Congress run away from a president with bad poll numbers, Republicans can put the president on the defensive for the remainder of his time in office.

Major defections by Senate Democrats will also allow the Republican majority in the Senate to stop filibusters and potentially override Obama’s vetoes. The issues at stake range from construction of the Keystone XL pipeline to efforts to change and repeal Obamacare, as well as undo immigration reform, financial regulation, the opening of new relations with Cuba and new limits on greenhouse gases. 

Pfeiffer does not see any issue where Republicans can expect to undo a presidential veto: “Not one,” he emphasized.

The Keystone XL pipeline is the one instance in which Pfeiffer acknowledges that veto may have to be used in the first place. But he does not expect such a move to hurt the president’s revival in the polls. It is an issue, Pfeiffer argued, often cited by Republicans who don’t like the president anyway.

But most “people don’t have super-strong feelings about it,” he said. “They are not energized about it, especially at a time of low gas prices. [Polls show] people generally prefer it but this is not a huge issue in their lives.”

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Lt. General Russel L. Honoré has declared war on Lousiana's biggest polluters.

How a Hard-Charging General Became an Environmental Crusader

Lt. General Russel L. Honoré has declared war on Lousiana's biggest polluters. Is a gubernatorial run next?

By Tim Murphy

Lt. General Russel L. Honoré first noticed something was deeply wrong in his home state of Louisiana in September 2005, a few weeks after Hurricane Katrina slammed the Gulf Coast. Honoré, commander of the military's disaster response operation, was choppering back to his floating headquarters aboard the USS Bataan when he saw a ribbon of rainbow on the water beneath him. "What in the heck is that?" he recalls asking the pilot. "He said, 'Those are old oil wells, General—you see the derricks knocked down.'" Honoré was staring down at one of the storm's little-noticed consequences—millions of gallons of oil spilled into the state's fragile coastal wetlands. "And my heart almost stopped."

As he recounts the story one Saturday morning outside a coffee shop near his home in Baton Rouge, Honoré's eyes widen incredulously. "Come to find out later, many of those oil wells were actually abandoned," he explains. "And even today—listen to me—the derricks are still on the ground. They've never been picked up."

In the past couple of years, the 67-year-old Army lifer has undergone an almost religious awakening, throwing himself into one of the largest environmental combat zones in the United States. Louisiana has given oil and gas companies carte blanche to carve up its southern coast. Things aren't much better on dry land, where some of the state's poorest residents live in the shadow of some of the country's largest polluters. In response, Honoré has formed the Green Army, an organization that's advocated for some of the state's most threatened communities while clashing with the petrochemical lobby and its champion in Baton Rouge, Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal. Now he might be aiming for something even bigger—the governor's mansion.

The general was born during a hurricane in 1947, on his family's subsistence farm in Pointe Coupee Parish. Honoré, who is African American and identifies as Creole, attended colored schools, paid his way through college, and enlisted in the Army in 1971 over his parents' protests. By 2004, he'd become a three-star general in charge of the First Army and responsible for the deployment of National Guard divisions heading to Iraq. When Katrina hit, his Louisiana roots and local patois made him a natural pick to head Joint Task Force Katrina. Amid the flailing of FEMA and local authorities, Honoré earned respect as a hard-ass—"a black John Wayne dude," as then-New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin put it. He eased the fears of New Orleans' black residents by ordering his soldiers to "put those damn weapons down" and ended his television interviews by shouting, "Over!" Honoré, a Times-Picayune reporter wrote, was a "salty-mouthed, cigar-chompin' guardian angel in camouflage."

After he hung up his fatigues in 2008, Honoré had expected to spend his retirement writing books and giving speeches about disaster preparedness, a subject he has obsessed over since Katrina. Then, in 2013, he got a call from an acquaintance in Bayou Corne, where an underground salt mine had collapsed a year earlier, creating a 30-acre sinkhole that forced 300 people from their homes. Honoré began showing up at the residents' weekly support group, coaching them on how to take their case to the public. "If this had happened in Boston, the world would have stopped," he says. "But the fact is that it's happening in a Southern bayou, in a place that people in the rest of America are just willing to write off." With Honoré's signal boost, the sinkhole became a nationally known eyesore, and state legislators pushed through new regulations on salt caverns. The residents have since settled with the company that had mined the cavern for $48.1 million.

After that, other communities worried about pollution in their backyards started pleading with Honoré for help. Before crisscrossing Louisiana to assist them, "I had no idea what was going on," Honoré says. Since then, he's had an awakening: "Our state's been raped."

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Pelosi gropes for a game plan

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 08:  House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) walks to her weekly press conference at the U.S. Capitol January 8, 2015 in Washington, DC. Pelosi discussed legislative priorities for the House Democratic caucus during the press conference.  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Pelosi gropes for a game plan

Heading into a retreat in Philadelphia, House members say Democrats have no message and no clear strategy to retake the majority.

By Lauren French and Anna Palmer

Nancy Pelosi has big problems in her ranks.

The California lawmaker is facing some of the most serious unrest she’s ever seen in her dozen years as the leader of the House Democrats: Members complain that the party has no message and no clear plan to retake the majority, despite good news on the economy that should have brought rewards at the polls. They also accuse senior lawmakers of failing to pull their weight in dues as they occupy coveted committee slots.

Pelosi remains the pre-eminent force in her caucus, and nobody is stepping up to challenge her. But the heightened criticism comes at a time when she has few cards to play to win members’ loyalty, thanks to big losses in November that shrank the number of Democratic seats on highly sought-after committees.

The discontent will be at the forefront of the House Democratic Caucus’ three-day retreat this week in Philadelphia. Based on public and private conversations with more than a dozen Democratic lawmakers, the complaints range from the way the party fills top committee slots to its seeming inability to craft an economic message that appealed to voters.

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Behind Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s Treasury takedown

Sen. Elizabeth Warren is pictured. | AP Photo

Behind Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s Treasury takedown

How the Massachusetts senator rallied the left and blindsided the White House.

By Ben White

Supporters of Antonio Weiss knew the Wall Street banker’s nomination for a top job at the Treasury Department was in deep trouble the morning of Dec. 5.

Kirsten Gillibrand, Democratic senator from New York, went on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and refused to say if she would back the Lazard banker. And she made clear who was really calling the shots. “I think Senator Warren’s very clear,” Gillibrand said, sounding a bit like the Massachusetts senator’s press secretary. “She believes that, as the person responsible for how consumers are affected, his background and his experience don’t fit the requirements.”

Weiss supporters in the White House and on Wall Street were stunned. They expected some opposition from the left but not the explosion that greeted the nomination. Never mind that, as undersecretary for domestic finance, Weiss would not be the person chiefly responsible for consumer financial protection — Warren created a whole separate agency for that — or that neither Gillibrand nor Warren had ever met or spoken to the man.

The verdict was in. And it was bad.

“That moment stunned me,” said one close friend of Weiss. “For a senator from New York who is ostensibly part of the sensible center to say this, I was just flabbergasted.”

Senior White House officials, led by chief of staff Denis McDonough and counselor to the president John Podesta, would continue to work the phones and argue in public and private for Weiss’ nomination for the next several weeks.

But as Democrats kept coming out in opposition — while Republicans sat back and relished the show — it became clear that Weiss would have a very hard time getting confirmed.

The game in Washington had changed.

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What ‘American Sniper’ Gets Right

What ‘American Sniper’ Gets Right

Mike Barnicl

Lost in the right/left debate over the new Clint Eastwood film is how few Americans fought this century’s wars, and how the suffering of their families has often gone unnoticed.

People on the left go back and forth with those on the right about the movie’s merits. Is it pro-war? Is it anti-war? And while a platoon of professional essayists, film aficionados and all around ‘I’m smarter-than-you’ folks attack one another’s opinions, there seem to be a couple items that have been forgotten along the side of the long road we’ve traveled for 15 years—15 years!—in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The most obvious is the lack of attention paid to the fact that only about one percent of our population has borne the weight of war. Then there are the families left behind while those fighting are deployed multiple times to both theaters—Iraq and Afghanistan—breaking the military and too often breaking those who sit state-side, worrying, waiting, while 99% of everyone around them dances through the day without any real prospect of danger or death knocking on their door.

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Are today's Millennials a new Victorian generation?

Are Millennials a new Victorian generation?

Are today's Millennials a new Victorian generation?

By Michael Barone

Public policymakers and political pundits tend to focus on problems — understandably, because if things are going right they aren’t thought to need attention. Yet positive developments can teach us things as well, when, for reasons not necessarily clear, great masses of people start to behave more constructively.

One such trend is the better behavior of the young Americans of today compared to those 25 years ago. Almost no one anticipated it, the exception being William Strauss and Neil Howe in their 1991 book Generations, who named Americans born after 1981 the Millennial generation and predicted that “the tiny boys and girls now playing with Lego blocks” — and those then still unborn — would become “the nation’s next great Civic generation.”

The most obvious evidence of the Millennials’ virtuous behavior is the vast decline in violent crime in the last 25 years. The most crime-prone age and gender cohort — 15-to-25-year-old males — are committing far fewer crimes than that cohort did in 1990.

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Border Bill Brings More Headaches for Embattled GOP

Border Bill Brings More Headaches for Embattled GOP

Immigration dominates this week's House agenda, while the Senate finishes a long Keystone debate.

By Daniel Newhauser and Fawn Johnson

House Republicans have weathered three tough weeks to start the 114th Congress, and this week won't be any easier, as GOP leaders try to tamp down conservative opposition to a border security bill meant to be the core of the party's immigration reform plan.

Republican leaders are billing the legislation—which Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mike McCaul called the "toughest border security bill ever—as the gateway to their long-promised, step-by-step immigration rewrite. But Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson called it "extreme to the point of being unworkable," meaning Democratic support will be hard to come by, and that may confront Republicans with a dilemma in which they don't have enough votes in their own party to pass it.

The controversial immigration bill comes just days after GOP leaders pulled an antiabortion bill from the House floor amid complaints from women and moderates. The party has also had to endure a an earlier immigration vote that saw more than two dozen GOP defections, and a divisive reelection vote for Speaker John Boehner.

Passing the McCaul bill through a House Republican Conference that has long espoused a secure-the-border-first approach to immigration reform will not be intuitively easy, either. Sen. Jeff Sessions, a leading voice in the far right on immigration issues, has been rallying opposition, and that may translate into problems with House conservatives.

"No enforcement plan can be successful that does not block the president from continuing to release illegal immigrants into the United States and provide them with immigration benefits," Sessions said in a statement. "A 'border security' plan that does not include these elements may end up as nothing more than a slush fund used by the administration to resettle illegal immigrants in the U.S. interior."

In response to those concerns, McCaul and Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte issued a rare joint statement Thursday noting that interior issues, such as electronic verification of employment eligibility, are under Judiciary's jurisdiction and will be dealt with in turn.

"We join our colleagues to secure our borders and ensure our immigration laws are not unilaterally ignored by President Obama and future presidents," they said. "We will continue working on these issues, and the Judiciary Committee will work on legislation to deliver results on interior enforcement."

Such objections have Republicans and Democrats alike privately musing that this is the exact reason leaders had sought to rework the immigration system in a comprehensive manner. But the problems for leaders do not end there.

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Why it matters that Donald Trump is attacking Mitt Romney

Why it matters that Donald Trump is attacking Mitt Romney

By Mark Sappenfield

The Iowa Freedom Summit Saturday was a platform for conservatives considering a run for president, and Donald Trump was on the attack. It hinted at what lies ahead.

With all due respect, the Republican Party could probably do with a lot less of what was heard at the Iowa Freedom Summit Saturday.

On one hand, that might seem strange, considering that the Iowa Freedom Summit was all about getting America back to its "core principles of pro-growth economics, social conservatism, and a strong national defense," according to the event website.

What could be more Republican than that?

Combine that with the fact that a number of potential Republican presidential candidates appeared to see the event as the unofficial kickoff for the 2016 campaign, and it seemed a snapshot of the immediate future of American conservatism.

But then Donald Trump spoke.....

 
McCain: Obama has 'no strategy' to defeat terrorist groups

McCain: Obama has 'no strategy' to defeat terrorist groups

By Tim Devaney

President Obama on Sunday took criticism from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle over his administration’s strategy to combat the growing terror threat posed by the Islamic State in Iraq (ISIS) and Syria and al Qaeda.

The Obama administration is “delusional” to think it is winning the fight against these terror groups, said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the new chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“I’m afraid that (White House chief of staff Denis McDonough) and the president have lost touch with reality,” McCain told CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

“There is no strategy,” he added. “It is delusional for them to think that what they’re doing is succeeding.”

The Obama administration has been dealing with the threat from ISIS for months, and is facing a new threat from al Qaeda in Yemen, where the government there has just fallen to terrorist forces.

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Santorum blames struggling economy on immigration

Santorum: Immigration adds to economy woes

Santorum blames struggling economy on immigration

By Sarah Westwood

Immigration — both legal and illegal — is causing many of the country’s economic woes, former Sen. Rick Santorum said Sunday.

“The reason you’re seeing wages dropping is because we have surging immigration,” Santorum told CNN’s "State of the Union."

“The overwhelming majority" of immigrants "are folks who are lower-skilled or unskilled,” the Pennsylvania Republican said. “We’re bringing people in who will compete against a lot of Americans.”

His remarks echoed a speech he delivered Saturday at the Iowa Freedom Summit, where he sought to stake out territory in an already crowded field of potential presidential candidates.

Debate over immigration in the U.S. has increased in recent weeks after President Obama announced an executive action that would halt possible deportations for millions of immigrants who are here illegally.

When asked why he isn’t mentioned among 2016 frontrunners, Santorum joked, “Why don’t you ask the reporters?”

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How Europe Won The '70s War On Terror

How Europe Won The '70s War On Terror

Barbie Latza Nadeau

From the Red Brigades to ISIS, Aldo Moro to Charlie Hebdo, lessons learned and unlearned.

On May 7, 1978, five-time Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro wrote a farewell letter to his wife from the secret cell in a Roman apartment where he was being held by Italy’s notorious Red Brigade terrorists.  "They have told me that they are going to kill me in a little while,” he wrote.  “I kiss you for the last time.”

Two days later Moro’s blood-soaked body was found in a rusted red Renault 4 on Rome’s Via Michelangelo Caeteni, across the street from the American Studies Center on the edge of the city’s Jewish ghetto.  He had been killed with 11 bullets to the chest. 

Aldo Moro’s murder marked a watershed moment in the so-called “Years of Lead,” when radical extremists from both the right and left of the political spectrum routinely engaged in the sort of urban warfare echoed by the terrorism Europeans have experienced in recent months and fear will continue to grow. And while the ideological pretexts that surround the current threat in Europe are vastly different, counter-terrorism experts say there are indeed lessons to heed today. 

Jacco Pekelder, a professor of Political Violence and Terrorism at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, says that Europe needs to remember its past to survive the current threats.  “In the end, Islamists have a different ideology than the left wing terrorists of the 70s had, but in basic human affairs, there are a lot of similar processes going on when you consider group dynamics, social psychology, and the environment in which they operate,” Pekelder told The Daily Beast. “We can try to learn something by stepping back and looking at the situation from a certain distance.”

Pekelder also sees similarities in the way the general public and those in power react.  He says that terrorism—whether kidnapping a prime minister or shooting cartoonists—elicits a gut reaction that destabilizes society, but which some politicians sometimes are tempted to echo and to share.

Pekelder praises British Prime Minister Tony Blair for his reaction to the 7/7 bombings in London.  “I though it was great that, after the London bombings, Prime Minister Blair, in a very short statement explained to the public which trick the terrorists tried to play and called upon the Brits to remember to just go on with their lives,” he says. “These short statements are so important to calm nerves, and to not play into the terrorists hands.  Leaders need to explain to the public what happened and then function as a model for citizens to find a productive reaction, but often you see in politics that it is hard to maintain this kind of reaction. Instead a lot of politicians repeat that they are scared, too, playing into the terrorists’ hands.”

The way that played out in Italy at the height of the Red Brigades’ terrorism could be shameful, as pointed out by the self-described mastermind of the Moro kidnapping, Mario Moretti. He wrote in his prison memoirs that these Brigate Rosse, by far the most powerful terrorist group in Europe during the 1970s and early 1980s, often made things up as they went along, taking the lead from their targets based on their response to the terrorism. 

If Moretti is to be believed, the Red Brigades had hoped not to kill Moro at all, and instead planned to use him as currency to negotiate.  But for reasons he speculates have to do with fear, collusion and complicity by everyone from the Italian government to the CIA, all of whom had their own agendas, nobody wanted to talk to the Brigades about freeing Moro, and nobody even seemed interested in finding him. So, says Moretti, the only response left for the Brigades was to kill him.

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How FDR, Reagan, and Ike Almost Lost

By Jeff Greenfield

If three of the most dominant political figures of the last century all came perilously close to political defeat, it should remind us to take a “determinist” approach to politics—“this is what will happen, this is what can’t happen”—with several pounds of salt.

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Abolish West Point — and the other service academies, too

Abolish West Point — and the other service academies, too

Most Americans are familiar with the prestige that surrounds the United States military service academies. Various names and phrases, spoken like solemn incantations, attest to their sacrosanct status: the Point, the Long Gray Line, Annapolis, cadets. Their graduates constitute a who’s who of American greatness, including Ulysses Grant, Jimmy Carter, novelist James Salter and sci-fi writer Robert Heinlein, to name a few. Gen. Douglas MacArthur, in a 1962 address at West Point, typified the veneration when he told the cadets that they were “the leaven which binds together the entire fabric of our national system of defense.”

The service academies — the U.S. Military Academy for the Army (West Point), the U.S. Naval Academy, the U.S. Air Force Academy and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy — promise to educate and mold future officers charged with leading the enlisted members of the military.

But they are not the hallowed arbiters of quality promised by their myths. Their traditions mask bloated government money-sucks that consistently underperform. They are centers of nepotism that turn below-average students into average officers. They are indulgences that taxpayers, who fund them, can no longer afford. They’ve outlived their use, and it’s time to shut them down.

The most compelling and obvious argument is the financial one. It officially costs about $205,000 to produce a West Point graduate, although a 2003 Government Accountability Office study put the price tag at more than $300,000; officers at the Air Force and Naval academies are minted for $322,000 and $275,000, respectively. According to at least one measurement, that’s about four times as much as it costs to produce an officer through the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, which trains officers-to-be while they attend civilian colleges.

One reason for the expense is that attendance at the academies is free for cadets. In fact, since they’re technically members of the armed forces, the students get paid for going to school. As Bruce Fleming, a heretical professor at the Naval Academy, wrote for Salon, they receive “a government-sponsored guarantee of a golden ticket to life: college at taxpayer expense with no student debts, the highest salary of any set of graduates, and guaranteed employment and . . . health benefits for at least five years, frequently well beyond.”

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The Iowa kickoff show

Sen. Joni Ernst is greeted by Rep. Steve King. | AP Photo

The Iowa kickoff show

What you need to know from the first big event of 2016.

By James Hohmann

After nine straight hours of speeches from some two dozen Republican politicians Saturday, Iowa congressman Steve King had a question for the still-packed auditorium of activists here: “Do you believe the next president of the United States spoke from this stage today?”

The crowd roared.

With the first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses now a year away, Saturday’s “Iowa Freedom Summit” kicked off the 2016 season in earnest, as a long line of presidential hopefuls made their case to some of the most influential voters in the nation. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie tried to reassure the crowd he’s not too “loud” or “blunt” for Iowa. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz touted himself as the one conservative in the field who’s more than just talk. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker recalled death threats he received as he took on public employee unions: “They said they were gonna gut my wife like a deer.”

There were also some big names absent from the cattle call: Jeb Bush, a frequent punching bag for speakers, as well as Mitt Romney, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio.

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