theodore M I R A L D I mpa ... editor, publisher, writer. katherine molé mfa ... art director

Friday, February 28, 2014

Diplomacy by Donorism

America's top overseas appointments go to status-seeking campaign cronies.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.K. presents his credentials. United States Embassy, London

During my time in government many of us would refer to the United States as “Uncle Sugar.” We were implying that the sweet government largesse extended far and wide for those who knew how to exploit the system. It was something we saw nearly every day as highly paid government appointees, with no discernible qualifications or aptitude, flooded the corridors of power after each change of party at the presidential level. It was also much in evidence whenever one had to interact with massive government departments like Agriculture or HEW or the Pentagon, where every potential decision was analyzed based on the likely support of key Congressmen who were in turn responding to lobbyists. One dollar spent lobbying produced a thousand-fold return.  Uncle Sugar indeed.
The increasing prevalence of political appointees at the Defense Department and even in the intelligence agencies should raise serious questions about the overall integrity of the system even when they are only allowed limited ability to shape policy. And sometimes they have a great deal of influence. One recalls the emergence of the ideologically driven Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, and Paul Wolfowitz at the Pentagon, all political appointees.
And bad decisions in rewarding friends go back much further. When Ronald Reagan was elected president he appointed William Casey as his Director of Central Intelligence and Casey in turn brought in businessman Max Hugel as his Deputy Director for Operations, a line of work for which he was completely unqualified. Fortunately, the actual spies rebelled and were instrumental is exposing Hugel’s somewhat shady business dealings, forcing him to resign after only six months. The Hugel appointment has never been repeated at CIA even though Director John Deutch made a valiant effort to pack the senior ranks with his cronies.
One additional area where one would expect the government to proceed with some deliberation would be the management of foreign diplomacy, where a false step could have unforeseen consequences for American businessmen and travelers. A bad Ambassador not only produces a poor impression of the United States, he can do serious damage to the bilateral relationship even when he is being carefully guided by a professional diplomat on his staff attempting to avoid embarrassment all around.
Unfortunately the record of President Barack Obama on ambassadorial political appointments has been worse than that of any of his predecessors, for the first time ever exceeding 50 percent of all appointments. As of February 6, posts in 39 countries, mostly in Europe, have political ambassadors either in place or pending. The general rule that an ambassador designate should have some plausible connection with the country he or she is being sent to, whether as a visitor or in language or a business relationship, has been ignored by Obama. The situation is so bad that even the Washington Post has taken notice with afront page article “Gaffes prompt diplomatic debate” on February 15.
In a recent hearing of the Foreign Relations Committee Sen. John McCain could barely conceal his disdain for what he saw in front of him, commenting “I have no more questions for this incredibly highly qualified group of nominees.” Noting that candidates appeared to have no knowledge of or connection with the countries they were nominated for he called the situation “truly alarming.” Recent ambassadorial misfits have included an emissary to Sweden lying drunk in the snow, a current hotel chain owner nominee for Norway who did not know the country was a constitutional monarchy and who incorrectly called a party in the government “fringe,” and a TV soap opera producer pick for Hungary who had no idea what the relevant U.S. interests might be. Ambassadors to Iceland and Argentina had never visited either country and did not speak the local language. One Obama appointee Seattle investor Cynthia Stroum actually was forced to resign after running her embassy in Luxembourg into the ground, verbally abusing her staff and spending embassy funds on personal travel and alcohol. Obama appointees to Malta, Kenya, and the Bahamas have also been forced to step down after State Department inspectors filed scathing reports.
President Theodore Roosevelt called the spoils patronage system “partisan plunder” of public office. Former diplomatic service officer James Bruno observesthat “The United States is the only industrialized country to award diplomatic posts as political spoils, often to wealthy campaign contributors in an outmoded system that rivals the patronage practices of banana republics…” He guesstimates that the cost of an ambassadorship has now reached a record $1.7 million. That is the contribution to a political campaign, either directly or through bundling of donations, that has become the norm for someone seeking to be rewarded with his or her very own embassy. Several recent donors have contributed less however, though $1 million currently appears to be the cut-off point for any consideration by the White House.  Concurrently, the nouveau riche ambassador corps appears to have abandoned the venerable tradition of appointing a rich man in expectation that he would use his own personal money to embellish the post. This sense of noblesse oblige appears to have largely vanished.
If it manifestly makes no sense to appoint unqualified cronies to senior jobs in the intelligence agencies and within the military itself, why should it be acceptable to do so with overseas embassies? To be sure, some political appointments to embassies have turned out well, but they tend to be otherwise successful individuals who are named for reasons other than their fundraising. In my own experience, the best chief of mission I worked for was a highly empathetic political appointee, while the worst was a hubristic career diplomat. Former Sen. Max Baucus promises to be a good choice for China, where Jon Huntsman also was successful. Whether Caroline Kennedy will be effective in Japan remains to be seen.
And what is being overlooked completely is the cost of a sinecure appointment to Uncle Sugar. Ambassadors do not come cheap, and three years spent in a foreign capital on the American taxpayer’s dime can add up. Ambassadors are paid abase salary of $201,700, which is understandably at the top of the Foreign Service executive scale. There is also Overseas Comparability Pay on top of that, currently 16.52 percent of base salary, and in some posts like Hungary that is increased by an additional 25 percent cost of living allowance. Ambassadors also enjoy relatively free access to post entertainment allowances, government provided cars and drivers, an official residence, educational and medical allowances, and high-end travel allowances. The representational allowances in major posts like London or Berlin can be in the seven figures range. Admittedly a career diplomat would incur similar costs, but in return you get a professional, not an amateur who has to be mentored by another careerist on the staff, who must him or herself be paid.
And then there are the intangibles. Who would turn down being the U.S. Ambassador in Rome or London, with a large staff doing most of the work for you while you attend ego-inflating top level meetings and diplomatic receptions? Particularly when the types of contacts you are making can turn quite profitable down the road. Once upon a time the major embassies were a reward for Foreign Service Officers who had spent their careers learning languages, living in foreign cultures, and practicing diplomacy, but no longer. Both Rome and London currently have political appointee ambassadors.
So being rewarded with an ambassadorship can be pretty much a free ride for a donor who wants to be referred to as “The Honorable” for the rest of his or her life at the expense of the taxpayer. Appointing unqualified people to serve as United States Ambassadors as political rewards for supporters, part of what used to be referred to as the spoils system, might have made sense in 1900 when the ambassador was in a real sense the personal emissary of the president. But today it is an anachronism and just another form of political corruption. President Obama ran on a pledge to minimize the practice, so it is perhaps past time that he begins to deliver on his promise. But as is so often the case, the opportunity to use government resources to reward supporters is just too tempting.

Top 10 Abusive Executive Actions by Obama

Factsheet #138

A System of Divided Government

  • Ours is a government of laws and not of men; thus, all are subject to the law and not above it.
  • Instead of placing the legislative, executive, and judicial powers in one person, the Constitution divides federal power among three distinct but coordinate branches.
  • The Founders devised a system of checks and balances that divided the powers of government to protect the liberties of Americans from encroachment by the federal government.

A Hallmark of the Obama Administration

  • Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution requires the President to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.”
  • The President enjoys wide discretion in how to carry out the laws, but it is not within the President’s power to create the laws.
  • Time and again, President Barack Obama has signaled his willingness to “go it alone,” acting without congressional approval.
  • When Congress refuses to accede to the Obama Administration’s liberal policies, the Administration imposes “laws” by executive fiat.
  • When the Administration disagrees with duly enacted laws or finds it politically expedient not to enforce them, it ignores or skirts the law or claims to have “prosecutorial discretion” not to enforce the law.

Top 10 Abusive Executive Actions

  1. Amending Obamacare’s employer mandate, providing an unauthorized subsidy to congressional staff, and encouraging state insurance commissioners not to enforce certain requirements.
  2. Inventing labor law “exemptions” in violation of the WARN Act so that workers would not receive notice of impending layoffs days before the 2012 election.
  3. Waiving the mandatory work requirement under the 1996 comprehensive welfare reform law, which required able-bodied adults to work, prepare for work, or look for work in order to receive benefits under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.
  4. Ignoring a statutory deadline and refusing to consider an application related to nuclear waste storage at Yucca Mountain, which activists sought to block for years.
  5. Circumventing the Senate’s duty to provide advice and consent on appointments and instead making “recess” appointments in violation of Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution when the Senate was actually in session.
  6. Deciding not to defend the constitutionality of the federal definition of marriage in court.
  7. Implementing Common Core national standards through strings-attached waivers from the No Child Left Behind Act.
  8. Intimidating Florida to stop its voter roll cleanup, which included removing ineligible voters such as noncitizens, before the 2012 election.
  9. Imposing the DREAM Act by executive fiat under the guise of “prosecutorial discretion.”
  10. Refusing to enforce federal drug laws in states that have legalized marijuana.

University removes ‘God’ from plaque



Purdue University, which once defended the right of a private speaker to blaspheme Jesus, has banned an alumni donor from using the word “God” on a plaque because it might offend someone.
Dr. Michael McCracken and his wife made a $12,500 pledge to the university’s school of mechanical engineering. In return, Purdue, a large public university in Indiana, offered the McCrackens the opportunity to name a small conference room in a lab building. They were also invited to supply language for a plaque that would be installed in the room.
McCracken chose to name the room after his father, Dr. William McCracken, who graduated from Purdue with a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering, and his mother Glenda, who died recently.
Hopefully someone from Purdue University will return my telephone call so we can be enlightened on why it’s OK to blaspheme Jesus, but it’s not OK to reference God.
The plaque was inscribed with the following message:
“To those who seek to better the world through the understanding of God’s physical laws and innovation of practical solutions. In honor of Dr. William ‘Ed’ and Glenda McCracken.”
McCracken says the university had rejected the message because it amounted to an “impermissible government endorsement of religion.” He was stunned.
Without notifying the family, the university installed a plaque that only mentioned McCracken’s parents.
A staff member in Purdue’s communications office told me they were looking into the matter, but so far they have not offered an official comment.
“Purdue is not a God-free zone,” said Jeremiah Dys, a Liberty Institute attorney representing the McCrackens. “Purdue’s ban on any reference to God by a private speaker violates the First Amendment of the Constitution.”
Dys tells me they have petitioned the university to install the original message, but so far they’ve met a stone wall of resistance in Boilermaker Land.
“They said it might offend someone and might possibly cause a violation of the Establishment Clause,” Dys said.
I spoke to McCracken by telephone. He said he and his wife carefully chose the words they wanted to put on the plaque.
“My wife and I were simply trying to honor the legacy of my parents – the things they instilled in me – one being a love of education, the other being a passion for solving problems and (the) third being a desire to understand the physics that God put into motion,” he said.
They even offered an alternative that would make it quite clear the message was coming from the family and not the university. But the university still declined, he said.
Ironically, in 2001, Purdue University defended the rights of a private speaker to blaspheme Jesus in a university space, said attorney Robert Kelner, another attorney representing the McCrackens.
He reminded Purdue officials in a letter that they successfully defended a court case involving a student production of “Corpus Christi” that referenced Jesus Christ as a homosexual who had sexual relations with His disciples.
“It is difficult to imagine that the First Amendment permits a private speaker to blaspheme Jesus at length in University spaces, yet simultaneously prohibits the McCrackens from mentioning ‘God’s physical laws,’” Kelner wrote.
That certainly appears to be a double-standard. I wanted to ask the university to explain why it was OK to blaspheme Jesus, but they still haven’t returned my telephone calls.
“By permitting secular expression and expression that portrays deity in a negative context while simultaneously refusing to permit private religious speech, the university has engaged in just the type of ‘egregious…content discrimination’ that constitutes impermissible viewpoint discrimination,” Kelner wrote.
Indeed, it seems to be the case. Again, the university hasn’t called me back – so we can’t know for certain.
McCracken told me he’s not all that happy with his alma mater.
“I’ve always been a proud Purdue alum,” he said. “I was deeply disappointed in the university’s decision to refuse the words I’d chosen to honor my parents.”
So, there you have it folks – a sad situation, indeed.
Hopefully someone from Purdue University will return my telephone call so we can be enlightened on why it’s OK to blaspheme Jesus, but it’s not OK to reference God in a way that doesn’t blaspheme the Almighty.
And if for some reason I don’t answer my phone, Mr. Boilermaker, feel free to leave a message.
Wait for the beep.

Putin’s Ukraine gambit: Krauthammer


Henry Kissinger once pointed out that since Peter the Great, Russia had been expanding at the rate of one Belgium per year. All undone, of course, by the collapse of the Soviet Union, which Russian President Vladimir Putin called “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the [20th] century.”
Putin’s mission is restoration. First, restore traditional Russian despotism by dismantling its nascent democracy. And then, having created iron-fisted “stability,” march.
Use the 2008 war with Georgia to detach two of its provinces, returning them to the bosom of Mother Russia (by way of Potemkin independence). Then late last year, pressure Ukraine to reject a long-negotiated deal for association with the European Union, to draw Ukraine into Putin’s planned “Eurasian Union” as the core of a new Russian mini-empire.
Turns out, however, Ukraine had other ideas. It overthrew Moscow’s man in Kiev, Viktor Yanu­kovych, and turned to the West. But the West — the E.U. and America — had no idea what to do.
Russia does. Moscow denounces the overthrow as the illegal work of fascist bandits, refuses to recognize the new government created by parliament, withholds all economic assistance and, in a highly provocative escalation, mobilizes its military forces on the Ukrainian border.
The response? The E.U. dithers and Barack Obama slumbers. After near- total silence during the first three months of Ukraine’s struggle for freedom, Obama said on camera last week that in his view Ukraine is no “Cold War chessboard.”
Unfortunately, this is exactly what it is for Putin. He wants Ukraine back.
Obama wants stability, the New York Times reports, quoting internal sources. He sees Ukraine as merely a crisis to be managed rather than an opportunity to alter the increasingly autocratic trajectory of the region, allow Ukrainians to join their destiny to the West and block Russian neo-imperialism.
Sure, Obama is sympathetic to democracy. But it must arise organically, from internal developments. “These democratic movements will be more sustainable if they are seen as . . . coming from within these societies,” says deputy national security adviser Benjamin Rhodes. Democracy must not be imposed by outside intervention but develop on its own.
But Ukraine is never on its own. Not with a bear next door. American neutrality doesn’t allow an authentic Ukrainian polity to emerge. It leaves Ukraine naked to Russian pressure.
What Obama doesn’t seem to understand is that American inaction creates a vacuum. His evacuation from Iraq consigned that country to Iranian hegemony, just as Obama’s writing off Syria invited in Russia, Iran and Hezbollah to reverse the tide of battle.
Putin fully occupies vacuums. In Ukraine, he keeps flaunting his leverage. He’swithdrawn the multibillion-dollar aid package with which he had pulled the now-deposed Ukrainian president away from the E.U. He has suddenly mobilized Russian forces bordering Ukraine. His health officials are even questioning the safety of Ukrainian food exports.
This is no dietary hygiene campaign. This is a message to Kiev: We can shut down your agricultural exports today, your natural gas supplies tomorrow. We can make you broke and we can make you freeze.
Kissinger once also said, “In the end, peace can be achieved only by hegemony or by balance of power.” Either Ukraine will fall to Russian hegemony or finally determine its own future — if America balances Russia’s power.
How? Start with a declaration of full-throated American support for Ukraine’s revolution. Follow that with a serious loan/aid package — say, replacing Moscow’s $15 billion — to get Ukraine through its immediate financial crisis (the announcement of a $1 billion pledge of U.S. loan guarantees is a good first step). Then join with the E.U. to extend a longer substitute package, preferably through the International Monetary Fund.
Secretary of State John Kerry says Russian intervention would be a mistake. Alas, any such declaration from this administration carries the weight of a feather. But better that than nothing. Better still would be backing these words with a naval flotilla in the Black Sea.
Whether anything Obama says or does would stop anyone remains questionable. But surely the West has more financial clout than Russia’s kleptocratic extraction economy that exports little but oil, gas and vodka.
The point is for the United States, leading Europe, to counter Russian pressure and make up for its blandishments/punishments until Ukraine is on firm financial footing.
Yes, $15 billion is a lot of money. But it’s less than one-half of one-tenth of 1 percent of the combined E.U. and U.S. GDP. And expending treasure is infinitely preferable to expending blood. Especially given the strategic stakes: Without Ukraine, there’s no Russian empire.
Putin knows that. Which is why he keeps ratcheting up the pressure. The question is, can this administration muster the counterpressure to give Ukraine a chance to breathe?

NYT/CBS Poll: Six Percent Say Obamacare is Working

Guy Benson

Katie wrote up one major element of the new New York Times/CBS News poll -- namely that nearly six in ten Americans are disappointed in Barack Obama's presidency -- but there are additional pieces of data worth teasing out and underscoring as well:

(1) The president's approval rating has once again slumped to 41 percent overall, with a majority disapproving of his performance. Independents disapprove (37/53). The president is underwater by double digits on foreign policy (39/48) and on the economy (38/57).

(2) Fully 79 percent of respondents describe their attitude toward Washington, DC's politics as "dissatisfied" or "angry." Just 10 percent of the country is "very satisfied" with the Obama presidency. Hope and change is long dead.

(3) Republicans hold a three-point lead (42/39) over Democrats on the generic Congressional ballot, and that's among registered voters, as opposed to likely, voters. Likely voters tend to lean more conservative. For reference, the final NYT/CBS poll before the 2010 Republican landslide showed Democrats leading on this question by one point.

(4) The new poll poll is D+7, which is an accurate reflection of the electorate composition over the last two presidential cycles. The 2010 midterm partisan turnout breakdown, by contrast, was D+0. National Journal argues that while conservative critiques of polling samples (including from yours truly) turned out to be misplaced in 2012, our previous arguments apply more aptly in the 2014 cycle. A plurality, 38 percent, of respondents in this poll categorize themselves as independents. Among that group, they lean GOP by nine points.

(5) On Obamacare, it seems as though this pollster has stopped asking the binary support/oppose question, on which the law has consistently been upside down by 12 to 25 points in virtually all polling. They're now giving respondents three options, asking whether they support the law and want it kept intact, whether they want to see changes to the law, or whether they favor full repeal. On that question, just six (!) percent pick the first option. Half of respondents want changes, and 42 percent back full repeal. Some liberals may try to spin this into evidence of public support for the law, which couldn't be further from the truth. When offered the choice between maintaining the current law or scrapping it, repeal wins easily. A substantial majority would prefer to return to the pre-Obamacare system than continue under the new law as it exists. And super-majorities oppose the individual mandate tax, which is the tent pole of the law. Make that popular "change," and Obamacare collapses. Among the few popular elements of Obamacare are protecting people with pre-existing conditions and allowing "children" to remain on their parents' plans through age 26 -- both of which will certainly be preserved in an eventual Republican alternative to the law.

(6) On immigration reform, 53 percent say most illegal immigrants should be allowed to stay in the US and apply for citizenship. 43 percent say they should either be allowed to stay without a path to citizenship, or should be removed from the country. On global warming, slightly more people say the phenomenon is naturally occurring or doesn't exist than believe it's caused by human activity. Fifty-six percent of respondents believe same-sex marriageshould be legal (including 40 percent of Republicans), but two-thirds believe the decision should be left up to the states. A slim majority (51/46) favor marijuana legalization. A significant majority (38/61) support stricter limits or outright bans on abortion.

Let Authority of 'Hidden Law' Rule in Arizona

Jonah Goldberg

Future historians will likely be flummoxed by the moment we're living in. In what amounts to less than a blink of an eye in the history of Western civilization, homosexuality has gone from a diagnosed mental disorder to something to be celebrated -- or else.
Indeed, the rush to mandatory celebration is so intense, refusal is now considered tantamount to a crime. And, in some rare instances, an actual crime if the right constable or bureaucrat concludes that you have uttered "hate speech."
Or, if you refuse to bake a gay couple a cake for their wedding. That was the horror story that sparked much of this foofaraw.
Arizona's proposed SB 1062 would have amended the state's 15-year-old Religious Freedom Restoration Act in a few minor ways so as to cover businesses the way it already covers government. Arizona's religious freedom statute was modeled on a similar federal law signed by Bill Clinton with large bipartisan majorities in both houses. It would have allowed small businesses to decline work that violated their consciences, unless the government could show a compelling reason why such refusal was unreasonable or unjust.
Speaking of unreasonableness, according to ESPN's Tony Kornheiser, if Arizona allows bakers to refuse to bake cakes for gay couples, gays may have to wear "yellow stars" like the Jews of Nazi Germany. It would be Jim Crow for gays according to, well, too many people to list.
Now lest you get the wrong impression, I am no opponent of gay marriage. I would have preferred a compromise on civil unions, but that ship sailed. The country, never mind the institution of marriage, has far bigger problems than gays settling down, filing joint tax returns and arguing about whose turn it is to do the dishes. By my lights it's progress that gay activists and left-wingers are celebrating the institution of marriage as essential. Though I do wish they'd say that more often about heterosexual marriage, too.
But I find the idea that government can force people to violate their conscience without a compelling reason repugnant. I agree with my (openly gay and black) friend, columnist Deroy Murdock. He thinks private businesses should be allowed to serve whomever they want. Must a gay baker make a cake for the hateful idiots of the Westboro Baptist Church? Must he write "God hates fags!" in the icing?
The ridiculous invocations of Jim Crow are utterly ahistorical, by the way. Jim Crow was state-enforced, and businesses that wanted to serve blacks could be prosecuted. Let the market work and the same social forces that have made homosexuality mainstream will make refusing service to gays a horrible business decision -- particularly in the wedding industry!
When August "Gussie" Busch, the CEO of Budweiser, bought the St. Louis Cardinals in 1953, he was vexed by the Brooklyn Dodgers' success, which was due in large part thanks to Jackie Robinson. He asked Cardinals executives how many blacks they were cultivating, and when they said "None," he was appalled. "How can it be the great American game if blacks can't play? Hell, we sell beer to everyone!" he exclaimed. The next year the Cardinals had a black first baseman, Tom Alston.
In 2000, Jonathan Rauch, a (gay) brilliant intellectual and champion of gay marriage, wrote a wonderful essay on "hidden law," which he defined as "the norms, conventions, implicit bargains, and folk wisdoms that organize social expectations, regulate everyday behavior, and manage interpersonal conflicts." Basically, hidden law is the unwritten legal and ethic code of civil society. Abortion, assisted suicide and numerous other hot-button issues were once settled by people doing right as they saw it without seeking permission from the government.
"Hidden law is exceptionally resilient," Rauch observed, "until it is dragged into politics and pummeled by legalistic reformers." That crowd believes all good things must be protected by law and all bad things must be outlawed.
As society has grown more diverse (a good thing) and social trust has eroded (a bad thing), the authority of hidden law has atrophied. Once it was understood that a kid's unlicensed lemonade stand, while technically "illegal," was just fine. Now kids are increasingly asked, "Do you have a permit for this?"
Gay activists won the battle for hidden law a long time ago. If they recognized that, the sane response would be, "You don't want my business because I'm gay? Go to hell," followed by a vicious review on Yelp. The baker would pay a steep price for a dumb decision, and we'd all be spared a lot of stupid talk about yellow stars.

Democrat Senate Panic: 14 seats vulnerable

Gardner Makes A Total Of 14 

Democratic Seats Vulnerable

The GOP's probability of taking over the United States Senate increased dramatically Wednesday with the entry of Rep. Cory Gardner into the race against incumbent Obamacare enthusiast Senator Mark Udall in Colorado.
Not one GOP seat is in danger of turning blue, despite all the yammering from Democrats about Kentucky and Georgia, where Mitch McConnell will coast and will Rep. Jack Kingston will emerge from a crowded Senate primary to win handily in the fall.

The biggest loser because of this move --other than Udall who is as tightly bound to Obamacare as President Obama himself-- is Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor, whose already sinking campaign is going to quickly find itself on the wrong side of the triage tent as Democratic strategists and donors realize that Re. Tom Cotton is unbeatable in the Razorback state.
Here's the list of Democratic seats which Republicans are positioned to take, from the mortal locks at the top down to the biggest but still possible reach at the bottom:
1. West VirginiaRep. Shelley Moore Capito v. no one.
Jay Rockefeller quit after Capito got into the race. She will win, going away.
2. South Dakota: Former Governor Mike Rounds in South Dakota v. no one inSouth Dakota
This is a mortal lock for the popular Rounds.
3. ArkansasRep. Tom Cotton v. the hapless legacy senator Mark Pryor in Ark
Pryor won his seat because his dad held it for years. Now the combat veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq Tom Cotton has a lead and is building it day by day, as shrinking Pryor struggles to erase all his positive endorsements of Obamacare. Most recently he was for repealing the cuts to career military COLAs after he was for them.
4. North Carolina: A businessman and former Speaker of the North Carolina House Thom Tillis is already ahead of another Obamacare booster, Denocratic incumbent Kay Hagan.
5. Michigan: Former Lt. Governor Terri Lynne Land is contesting an open seat left so by ancient Carl Levin, who has designated a no name with a propensity to disappear even more from voters' minds. Land is running on the same ticket with popular GOP governor Rick Snyder, and has established an early lead.
6. VirginiaEd Gillespie is running against a popular former governor-turned-senator Mark Warner, in a purple state, but Warner is tightly tied to both Obamacare and the new governor Terry McAullife, and Gillespie is a pro's pro with terrific fundraising ability and genuine and deep roots in the Commonwealth.
7. Alaska: Either Mead Tradwell or Dan Sullivan will beat Mark Begich, who only won the seat six years ago because a corrupt Department of Justice prosecution of Ted Stevens hounded the late Stevens from office. Begich provided the crucial 60th vote for Obamacare, and Alaskans won't forget.
8. MontanaRep. Steve Daines must unseat the recently appointed John Walsh, who was gifted his seat when clueless Max ("Obamacare is a train wreck") Baucus was exiled to China in an obvious attempt to hang on to the seat.
9. ColoradoRep. Gardner is young, charismatic and an experienced veteran of Rocky Mountain State politics who spent years on the U.S. Senate staff of Wayne Allard, a stint in the Colorado legislature, and checked both big boxes --as a CSU undergrad and CU law grad. Mark Udall is Narack Obama in a badly fitting cowboy hat.
10. LouisianaRep. Bill Cassidy is in a dead heat with long-time hanger on Mary Landrieu, and will have to go through the "jungle primary" before facing Landrieu head-on a few weeks later. If, as expected, the Republicans already control the incoming majority, he will win in a romp. If the Senate hangs in the balance, more money will flow into the Lousiana race than has ever been seen there before.
11. MinnesotaMike McFadden is a self-funding successful businessman who has an uphill but doable battle with comedian Al Franken, who along with Bernie Sanders and Barbara Boxer, define the left edge of the United States Senate. If Gopher State voters get tired of being the butto jokes because of Franken, McFadden can win here.
12. Iowa: This is an open seat, but with popular Republican governor Terry Branstad running for an easy re-election, if the GOP nominates the right candidate from among many contenders, he or she could win in November against an off-the-shelf-left-wing Democrat, blah blah blah Bruce Braley.
13. OregonDr. Monica Wehby is a pediatric neurosugeon --exactly the sort of person Obamacrae booster incumbent Jeff Merkely didn't want to face but will in November.
14. New Hampshire: Democrat Jeanne Shaheen is praying Scott Browndoesn't get into the race, but the former Massachusetts senator has been a second-home resident of the Granite State for decades and may take the plunge. If he does --or if columnist-to-the-world Mark Steyn dives in-- Shaheen who delivered Obamacare and all its misery to New Hampshire, will be in deep trouble.
There's the list that makes Harry Reid twitch. How wonderful it will be to see him live with the rules he has enacted, all the precedents he has dashed, all the abuses he brought about. Cory Gardner made a lot of people happy yesterday, but not nearly as happy as November will make them.

Whispers persist that Hillary won’t run

Health may be worse than disclosed

Hillary Clinton. Win McNamee/Getty Images.

Alex Pappas

If you listen to the chattering class in Washington, D.C., Hillary Clinton is a virtual certainty for the 2016 Democratic nomination, and the front runner in the next presidential race.
But in private, rumors persist that the former Secretary of State may not even be capable of making it to Iowa and New Hampshire. Clinton, these skeptics often say, will not run for president again because of health concerns.
These ubiquitous rumors of her health have been fueled in part by the supermarket tabloids. The National Enquirer wrote in 2012 that Clinton had brain cancer, something a spokesman dismissed then as “absolute nonsense.” In January of this year, the Globe claimed that Clinton secretly had a brain tumor.
Asked about her health on Thursday, Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill said in an email to The Daily Caller: ”To your question, very caring of you to ask. She’s 100%.”
But these rumors suggesting otherwise date back to the end of 2012, when Clinton’s health made headlines as she finished her term as secretary of state: aides explained then that she developed a stomach virus, hit her head, suffered a concussion and subsequently developed a blood clot in her brain but was being medicated and was expected to recover.
But skeptics say there is much more the story of her health, which has recently been the subject of increased speculation in Washington.
Because of these rumors, some on the right have been convincing themselves that Hillary is sick and therefore won’t run — a bombshell that would upend the 2016 race.
Roger Stone, the GOP consultant, wrote on Twitter recently that Clinton is “not running for health reasons,” telling followers to “remember you heard it first” from him.
Conservatives aren’t the only ones skeptical about whether or not Clinton has been open about her health. At the time of Clinton’s hospitalization in 2013, Melinda Henneberger of the Washington Post wrote a piece titled, “How sick is Hillary Clinton?”
“Already,” Henneberger wrote, “reports that describe Clinton’s right transverse sinus venous thrombosis as potentially life-threatening, though apparently caught in enough time, sound a lot more serious than the word from her doctors that the secretary is ‘making excellent progress and we are confident she will make a full recovery.’ She is in good spirits, engaging with her doctors, her family and her staff.’”
Henneberger asked then if we would “really be shocked to learn down the road that reports during her hospitalization had put a positive spin on her condition?”
“Our public officials have trained us to take everything they say with a healthy dose of skepticism,” Henneberger continued, “and on a matter as sensitive as a head injury followed by denials of any neurological symptoms, I’m not sure why we would or should unquestioningly accept the word of any politician.”
Some have noted Clinton’s change in appearance, including the addition of thick glasses, since her hospitalization. “One doesn’t need to be a physician… to have seen that Clinton has not appeared exactly bright-eyed and bushy-tailed of late,” Mary Stanik, a former Minnesota health care spokeswoman, wrote in 2013. “She looks to have gained a significant amount of weight since 2008. She seems pale, tired, and yes, aged. She’s said that she would like to know again what it’s like to not be tired.”
Last year, a Clinton aide acknowledged that her health crisis caused her to stop wearing contact lenses.
“She’ll be wearing these glasses instead of her contacts for a period of time because of lingering issues stemming from her concussion,” spokesman Philippe Reines told ABC News in 2013. “With them on, she sees just fine.

Read more:

Fresh hope for GOP to take over Senate

by John Podhoretz

For months, the key question about the upcoming midterm congressional elections has been whether Republicans can overcome their six-seat deficit to become the majority party in the US Senate.
Now the question has changed somewhat — to whether the surprising strength of Republican candidates in states once considered long shots for the GOP portends disaster for Democrats hobbled by ObamaCare and the president’s weak approval ratings.
No one doubted the GOP would come close or better than close to a Senate takeover in November. But every day, the map looks more favorable for the Republicans.
First, four races feature wounded Democrats in states that went against President Obama in 2012: Mark Pryor (Arkansas), Mary Landrieu (Lousiana), Kay Hagan (North Carolina) and Mark Begich (Alaska).
The GOP challenger in Arkansas, the extremely impressive Rep. Tom Cotton, may already be running away with his race; he’s ahead anywhere from four to seven points over Pryor. Every potential Republican challenger to Hagan is beating her in head-to-head polls. In Alaska, Begich is losing to both possible GOP candidates and has a job-approval rating around 40 percent, which is basically death for an incumbent. Landrieu is essentially tied with her leading challenger, Rep. Bill Cassidy; that’s better than her colleagues, but not where you want to be when you’ve served as a senator for 18 years.
Among seats held by retiring Democrats, the likely Republican candidate in West Virginia, Shelley Moore Capito, is up by 14 points in the latest poll. In South Dakota, a popular Republican ex-governor, Mike Rounds, is favored to win the seat being vacated by Democrat Tim Johnson.
In Montana, Max Baucus announced his retirement and then left the Senate early to become ambassador to China — solely, it seems, so that the Democratic governor could appoint this year’s candidate, Jim Walsh, to the Senate to give him incumbent status in the race. But Walsh is down double-digits to the two Republican contenders even so, and this one will almost surely go GOP.
Right there are the six seats Republicans need to take over. The best hope of a Democratic takeaway might be in Georgia, where the Democrats have fielded a potential star in Michele Nunn — and where it appears most likely the GOP might field an unacceptable nutball in the mode of the disastrous candidates (Christine O’Donnell, Sharron Angle, Todd Akin, Richard Mourdock) whose bids in 2010 and 2012 made a Senate takeover impossible then.
So the GOP might need a seventh win to offset that one. And in Colorado, where there’s another first-term incumbent named Mark Udall, something fascinating just happened. The 2010 nutball who lost that Senate race for the GOP and seemed poised to run and lose again dropped out in favor of the strongest potential rival, Rep. Cory Gardner. That’s now winnable for the GOP.
And this is where it gets really interesting. Republicans are coming on strong in other races no one expected. In Michigan, where another Democratic incumbent is retiring, Republican Terri Lynn Land has shown strength for months, leading her likely Democratic rival, Gary Peters, by a few points in a state Obama carried by eight points in 2012. In New Hampshire, the one-term ex-Gov. Jeanne Shaheen seems to have a formidable foe in Scott Brown, who won the surprising January 2010 special election for Ted Kennedy’s seat in Massachusetts that portended the huge GOP wave later that year.
Brown, who lost to Elizabeth Warren in 2012, surely wouldn’t be running again in the state next door so soon after a painful defeat if he didn’t see a serious path to victory. The same is surely true of Ed Gillespie, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee, who has decided to take on first-term Sen. Mark Warner in Virginia.
And I haven’t even mentioned Al Franken in Minnesota, who won his race by a mere few hundred votes in 2008. Although the state seems more Democratic than ever, Franken only has a 39 percent approval rating, and if the GOP gets itself a solid candidate, he could be in real trouble.
Republicans have “expanded the playing field,” as they say. Democrats are on defense. It’s always possible GOP primary voters will knock off a solid sitting senator (like Thad Cochran in Kansas) for a crackpot and make it more difficult for the party to triumph. But if those voters keep a cool head, Nov. 6 could be a humbling day for Obama Democrats.