Reid And Co. Get ‘Four Pinocchios’ For Koch Brothers Lie

Last week, we touched on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) growing fixation on the Koch brothers as the Democratic Party’s anointed “Bad Guys”: faces that Democratic voters can pair with their party leaders’ rhetoric to damage the evil Republican agenda during the 2014 Congressional election season.

By the time you read this, Reid will likely have gotten around to blaming the Koch brothers for everything from rigging conservative media to propagating the bubonic plague. His Twitter campaign to itemize his righteous grievances with the Koch influence is part of a calculated, if ill-conceived, general strategy to set Democrats everywhere on a months-long talkathon of Koch-bashing. It’s supposed to help them keep the Senate, or something.

One of the Koch-haters’ latest gripes stems from Democrats’ insistence that the Kochs are backing GOP candidates who seek new tax breaks for companies that move U.S. jobs offshore. Campaign ads for at-risk Democratic incumbents in the Senate, like Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, have alleged exactly that — despite the unmentioned fact that Landrieu has received a lot of money in past election cycles from a Koch-funded political action committee.

On Friday, The Washington Post’s “Fact Checker” blog entered the fray — and gave the Reid camp’s sinister claim its dubious Four Pinocchios award for setting a high standard for deceptive speech.

The pro-GOP group Americans for Prosperity has relentlessly attacked Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), so the pro-Democratic group Senate Majority PAC has made AFP’s main backers, the Koch brothers, the subject of a new attack ad. This is all part of a larger Democratic strategy of tying GOP candidates to the conservative billionaires, as witnessed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s near-daily attacks on them.

…For the purpose of this fact check, we will examine the claim that the Koch brothers have an agenda of protecting “tax cuts for companies that ship our jobs overseas.” That’s a new one.

…Upon examination, this claim crumbles into dust. The [Landrieu] ad not only mischaracterizes an ordinary tax deduction as a special “tax cut” but then it falsely asserts that “protecting” this tax break is part of the Koch agenda. It turns out this claim is based on a tenuous link to an organization that never even took a position on the legislation in question.

The Post admits it has found Americans for Prosperity’s conservative agenda distasteful in the past, but concludes that Democrats are reaching blindly: “[I]f you want to join a gun fight, don’t fire blanks,” the paper chides.

It’s The Economy, Stupid — We’ve Got Plenty Of Labor

A report released last week indicates there is an abundance of legal, able-bodied, employment-age people who aren’t participating in the American workforce, continuing a trend of decline dating back at least to the turn of the century.

According to the report, issued by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), there are presently 50 million people who could be — but aren’t — working or seeking a job, a figure that’s climbed from roughly 40 million in 2000.

The far-ranging immigration and employment survey, titled “Still No Evidence of a Labor Shortage,” drew heavily on data from the Census Bureau’s most recent Current Population Survey, which asks residents about their employment status, education level, housing situation and a host of other demographic markers.

From that information, CIS made several key determinations about whether the American labor pool would benefit, either in terms of supply or of income, if the government permits an even greater infusion of cheap labor into the country through amnesty and more lenient immigration policy:

In the fourth quarter of 2013, the standard unemployment rate (referred to as U-3) for native-born adults who have not completed high school was 16.6 percent, while for those with only a high school education it was 8.5. The U-3 unemployed are people who have looked for a job in the last four weeks.

The broader U-6 measure of unemployment — which includes those want to work, but have not looked recently, and those forced to work part-time — was 28.7 percent for native-born adults who have not completed high school and 16.5 percent for those with only a high school education.

The total number of native-born, working-age adults (18 to 65) of any education level not working (unemployed or out the labor force) was 50.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2012 — 8.8 million more than in the fourth quarter of 2007, and 14.7 million more than in the same quarter of 2000.

The share of working-age (18 to 65) natives holding a job has not recovered from the Great Recession. In the fourth quarter of 2013, 31 percent were not working, something that has barely improved in the last five years.

In the fourth quarter of 2013, there were only two working-age natives holding a job for every one that was not employed. This represents a huge deterioration. As recently as 2000, there were three working-age adults holding a job for every one not working.

The report finds that the domestic supply of dormant labor for low-skilled jobs — precisely those that an opening of the border would help to fill — is particularly large, if Americans fitting the demographic were offered sufficient economic incentive to choose working over not working.

“Congress is currently considering immigration reform packages that include work permits for those in the country illegally, as well as substantial increases in future legal immigration,” the study concludes. “Yet the latest employment data continue to show an enormous number of working-age Americans not working, particularly those with modest levels of education.”

The Articulate Argument Against ‘Immigration Reform’

The Republican Party is obviously at war with itself over whether, and to what extent, to close ranks with Congressional Democrats and the Obama Administration to address the myriad problems stemming from the presence of millions of illegal aliens who now reside in the United States.

The progressive left bolsters its pro-legalization, pro-amnesty position with ad hominem attacks on conservatives that portray them, too successfully and too often, as closet racists and apologists for the big-business status quo.

So if you happen to have a principled reason for believing it’s not a good idea for the GOP to go anywhere near an immigration deal proffered by a Democrat-led consortium of Congressmen – and yet, somehow, you’re not a racist or a fat cat – it can sometimes be tough to offer a cogent, well-articulated argument that’s nearly bulletproof against all but the most obvious of ad hominem attacks from the left.

Enter Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who penned a column this week for National Review.  He’s got it all down in one place. It’s a long read, but anyone who finishes it should have no doubt that being against amnesty isn’t about racism or poor-bashing: it’s about the American economy and the dignity of every able-bodied American who wishes to achieve a better life through hard work and free-market opportunity.

Here are some snippets:

Republicans have a clear path to building a conservative majority if they free themselves from the corporate consultants and demonstrate to the American public that the GOP is the only party aligned with the core interests, concerns, and beliefs of everyday hardworking citizens.

But the immigration “principles” offered by House GOP leaders imply that record immigration levels must be increased further to meet “the needs of employers.” One such GOP proposal — to provide the food industry with half a million low-skilled workers each year — was polled by Rasmussen. Nearly 70 percent of independent voters opposed it.

“Most business leaders have long favored more open immigration. Different businesses want different kinds of people,” a prominent GOP fundraiser declared on TV. “A restaurant may want waiters and cooks; a hospital wants nurses and doctors; a university wants physicists; a business like Exelon needs more engineers.” Asked by the interviewer about hiring U.S. workers for open jobs, he replied that many of those now unemployed are “unable to compete for them.”

Is that the message of a winning party? It might win a majority of votes at a dinner party in a gated community in Bel Air, but it is an act of profound delusion to think that plan can form the basis of a nationwide Republican resurgence.

Good so far? Here’s more:

…Republicans have a choice. They can either join the Democrats as the second political party in Washington advocating uncontrolled immigration, or they can offer the public a principled alternative and represent the American workers Democrats have jettisoned. Republicans can either help the White House enact an immigration plan that will hollow out the American middle class, or they can finally expose the truth about the White House plan and detail the enormous harm it will inflict.

Republicans could then illustrate how, on every policy front, the Left embraces an agenda that benefits only the fortunate few.

…Wherever the policies of the Left have been faithfully implemented, as in Detroit, human tragedy has followed. The future offered by the Left — a shrinking work force struggling to fund a growing welfare state — is not only unsustainable but uncompassionate. Compassion demands that we spare no effort in helping millions now jobless to realize the dream of financial independence. This is the urgent economic task of the 21st century.

Too often, Republicans have offered a passive reply to the Left’s refrain that the GOP does not care for those in need. The usual GOP responses — that the Left is engaged in “class warfare,” or is not presenting “credible solutions,” or is “kicking the can down the road” — fail to rebut the underlying slander. Instead, Republicans should hold the Left accountable for the social and moral harm its policies have inflicted on every community that has suffered for decades under its disastrous policy regime.

Now we’re almost home:

Currently, the federal government administers roughly 80 means-tested poverty-assistance and welfare programs, on which it spends $750 billion a year — that’s a larger cost than defense, Medicare, or Social Security. It is a sprawling, growing bureaucracy with almost no meaningful oversight or guiding vision.

…If these myriad programs were combined into a single manageable credit, with clear job-training and work requirements, not only would it cut down drastically on fraud but it would help struggling Americans rise out of poverty and into good-paying jobs — uplifting the worker while reducing costs for the taxpayer.

What if, instead of applying for guest workers, companies applied to hire workers receiving job training at a local welfare office? Able-bodied adults, in turn, would be required to accept employment or lose benefits. In other words: instead of a guest-worker program, a welfare-to-work program.

Would that not be in the national interest? Would that not improve the quality of life in struggling families, schools, and communities?

Such a plan should be combined with a series of conservative policies all united by that common theme: shrinking the welfare rolls and growing the employment rolls. This pro-worker conservative agenda would create millions of good-paying jobs without adding a dime to our dangerous debt[.]

Sessions goes on to outline at least eight specific policy points that shore up that overall goal – but there’s much more to his argument.

We’ve bookmarked this one. Check out Senator Sessions’ full column at National Review.

What He Said And What He Means: Obama Has Obamacare Where He Wants It Now

President Obama continued his linear march from fuzzy credibility toward brash deception today, telling an Internet audience that Obamacare has achieved the critical enrollment mass necessary to sustain itself.

“At this point, enough people are signing up that the Affordable Care Act is going to work,” Obama said during an interview at WebMD. “The insurance companies will continue to offer these plans. We already have 4 million people, over 4 million people, signed up…The pool is already large enough, the number of people who have signed up is large enough; I’m confident the program will be stable.”

Oh really? There’s no way that is true – or that it will be true anytime soon.

What he must really mean is that enough people have signed up – even if he’s not telling the truth with his “4 million” claim – to make repeal or sweeping alterations to the law a monumentally uphill struggle against a government program that’s deeply entrenched. If nothing else, Obamacare may have already built a small base of government dependents whose expectation is to now rely on free insurance, courtesy of an expanded Medicaid program, that conservative politicians won’t want to alienate. Who cares if the majority begrudges Obamacare? The few who stand to lose free stuff will hate that prospect far more, and GOP cruelty is great political fodder for tender-hearted progressives.

But Obamacare hasn’t built a financially solvent, self-sustaining base of paying customers – and Obama knows it. Every piece of evidence suggests the opposite, and the Administration’s own evasive behavior when confronted with questions about hard enrollment demographics only confirms it. Both insurance companies and the White House know that the Obamacare customer matrix is an inverted pyramid comprised mostly of free-care beneficiaries, followed by paying customers with ongoing medical issues and, comprising the very tiny tip, a few healthy young people whose insurance premiums are expensively out of proportion with their modest health care needs.

But Obama has the confidence that “enough” people have now signed up. That’s a disturbing tell, because it means he believes it will be hard to get rid of, even after the Congress turns against him or after he leaves office.

Government programs are a campaign tool of the left, and only a massively disruptive change in the progressive cycle of dependency will end that sinister truth.

Confiscating Camera Phone Costs Cops $250,000

It goes without saying that the only policy that’s needed to ensure citizens have a right to document the actions of their public servants is the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

But the Baltimore Police Department, fresh off an embarrassing encounter with a bystander who sued the agency after officers confiscated and altered his camera phone in a 2010 incident, has reformed its internal policy in an evident attempt to reassure the public that the police won’t be allowed to fabricate a pretense for abusing that right again.

According to The Baltimore Sun, the Baltimore PD has agreed to a $250,000 settlement to end a lawsuit filed by Christopher Sharp after the police confiscated his phone and deleted video he’d recorded of Baltimore officers making an arrest at the Preakness Stakes in 2010.

From the story:

The case centered on officers’ actions on May 15, 2010, at the Pimlico Race Course. There, Christopher Sharp said, officers violated his First and Fourth Amendment rights when they took his phone after the “arrest and beating” of his female friend.

Sharp, who was represented by the ACLU, sued the city, saying officers deleted videos on his phone.

“It took a long time, but … the Baltimore Police Department became very serious about resolving this case,” Sharp said. “What happened was wrong, but the Police Department is not my enemy. They have made great strides to correct this.”

Sharp originally wanted nothing more than an apology. But once the American Civil Liberties Union got involved, Sharp agreed to file a lawsuit against the department. A Federal judge lent the case momentum in 2012, ordering the police department to pay $1,000 in damages for attempting to assassinate Stephens’ character through follow-up intimidation tactics the judge described as a “witch hunt.”

That same year, the department attempted some damage control by codifying its policy on filing police officers in the line of duty. But the ACLU pushed back, saying the department hadn’t gone far enough. The revised policy reaffirms the public’s 1st Amendment right to film and record audio of police in the field, “unless such recordings interfere with police activity.” Maybe that wording invites some wiggle room for bad cops to interpret the rules as they see fit. Time will tell.

The department isn’t in the clear in complying with the 1st Amendment, or with its own revised rules.  The Sun story relates two other recent incidents in which police have attempted to stop people from filming what they were doing — one involved a Sun photographer snapping pictures at a crime scene.

The most encouraging takeaway from the department’s attempt at reform is its recognition of citizen journalism as an inherent right indistinguishable from that of organized news-gathering agencies. The new policy states that police “shall allow all persons the same access for photography and recording as is given to the news media.”

Did Sebelius Lie To Congress About How Many People Have Enrolled In Obamacare?

On Wednesday, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius played ignorant when Congressional Republicans asked her, point blank, how many alleged Obamacare enrollees have actually paid for the insurance plans they browsed through an online marketplace. “I can’t tell you because I don’t know that,” she replied.

Nah, she knows — or she’s intentionally sequestering herself from solid enrollment statistics the insurances companies have indeed provided to the government, one insurance industry source told POLITICO Thursday.

“They have a lot more information than they’re letting on,” the unnamed source said of President Barack Obama’ HHS Secretary’s feigned ignorance. “They have real hard data about the percent [of shoppers] that have paid … If they have not processed those yet and compiled the data, that is a choice they are making. But they have that data now.”

The Obama Administration is touting an Obamacare enrollment figure of 4.2 million, a number that it grudgingly admits reflects shoppers who made it all the way to an online shopping cart — but not those who actually bought anything.

But insurance officials “at four of the big national plans tell POLITICO that about 15 to 20 percent of people who have signed up have not yet paid their first monthly premium — the final step to get coverage,” according to Thursday’s report. “And they’ve told the White House the same.”

It’s obvious that Obama Administration officials tasked with enacting whichever parts of the law the President feels like enacting are being forced, by election-season political expediency, to conceal the fact they’re having to hold their noses even as they carry out the President’s dirty work of rolling out the government-managed insurance scheme.

Despite her ostensible cluelessness about how many people have truly enrolled, Sebelius nonetheless was armed with sufficient data Wednesday to predict an increase in Obamacare premiums for 2015.

That, of course, comes as belated news to anyone who heard candidate Obama’s repeated, repeated, repeated pledge to drop premiums “by up to $2,500 per family, per year” in the run-up to the 2008 Presidential election.

Another City Scamming People With Red Light Ticketing Cameras

Placing traffic cameras to catch speeders or red light runners in the act, a go-to strategy for lazily lining the coffers of municipal governments, is already controversial enough. But one Florida city has figured out a way to virtually guarantee a steady income stream, while it’s still legal, from its red light (s)cam: set the camera up in front of a hospital emergency room.

Florida Watchdog.org relates the story of Jacob Alcahe, a Miami-area man who drove himself to University Hospital in Tamarac because he was having chest pains. Believing he might be having a heart attack, fully stopping at the red light directly in front of the ER obviously wasn’t the first thing on his mind last October:

With the emergency room in sight, he stopped at the traffic light at the intersection of University Drive and 72th Street and waited anxiously for the light to turn green. After several minutes, he decided he’d waited long enough.

“I was desperate to get to the hospital because I felt very nervous,” Alcahe said.

Fortunately for him, the episode wasn’t life threatening. Alcahe was prescribed some medicine and was told to go home and rest.

The real heart stopper came a few days later when he received a fine of $158 for running the light.

“I went to court trying to show the judge medical records. I explained that it wasn’t intentional, but it was a medical emergency,” Alcahe said.

But he was told his medical emergency wasn’t a “sufficient excuse” and was charged an additional $125 for the judge’s time.

In total, his rush for help cost him $283.

“I expected at least a fair (trial), but I think the camera is put there intentionally to capture violations of the people who actually have a medical emergency,” he said. “It’s a scam to get the city more money. It’s unfortunate because local authorities should be for us and seem to be against us. I don’t understand and don’t think it’s fair.”

Other States have seen recent legislative action to block cities’ reliance on traffic cameras to ticket motorists, even as the private contracting companies that equip the cameras and manage the ticketing system (and legally reap a share of each mailed fine) have come under increasing scrutiny.

Two Republican State Legislators are moving to add Florida to that list: according to Watchdog.org, Florida Senator Jeff Brandes and Representative Frank Artiles have introduced legislation that aims to prohibit cities from installing new traffic light cameras Statewide – even though it would grandfather existing cameras installed before July 1 of this year.

 

Harry Reid Has All The Democrats Bashing The Koch Brothers – Even The Ones Accepting Their Money

While you may be weary of seeing the Koch brothers’ political influence called out at every turn, get ready to see a lot more of it before the year’s out.

Castigating the Koch brothers for their political action committee spending has evidently become a key Democratic Party red herring for the 2014 Congressional midterm election season, despite the Kochs’ relatively low ranking among a union-dominated list of top political donors that heavily – very heavily – favors Democrats.

And what’s fashionable doesn’t necessarily have to be right. Undoubtedly taking cues from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who is becoming increasingly fixated on blaming the Koch brothers for everything he can think of, Democrats are even beginning to criticize the wealthy oil magnates for donating to Republicans in instances in which they have, in fact, supported Democrats.

Take embattled Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu, a Democrat who’s facing an uphill climb to hang on to her seat this year. The Democratic Senate Majority PAC has begun slamming one of Landrieu’s Republicans challengers, Bill Cassidy, for his alleged connections with the Koch brothers.

The only problem? Koch Industries has been one of Landrieu’s biggest donors throughout her Senate career, and a Koch-funded PAC has supported her in previous election cycles. From The Washington Free Beacon Thursday:

…Sen. Landrieu has received $27,000 in campaign contributions since 2000 from Koch Industries and its subsidiaries and employees, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Koch’s political action committee has given Landrieu’s another $35,000, including $15,000 during the current election cycle, making the company one of her PAC’s top 20 donors.

While the company or its employees have not donated to Landrieu in this cycle, they have donated to the Louisiana Democrat in every other election cycle since 2000—even when she was not actually facing reelection.

Landrieu’s campaign isn’t the only example. Her colleague, Democrat Mark Pryor of Arkansas, has also taken public swings at the Koch brothers, even though his campaign accepted $5,000 from their political action committee late last year. “Pryor’s PAC took a total of $25,000 from the company,” notes the Beacon.

Midterm Baggage: Obama’s Endorsement A Curse For Democratic Candidates In 2014

An explicit endorsement by President Barack Obama is far more likely to cast a pall over the campaign of any Democratic candidate seeking office this year than to help them get elected, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey.

According to the results of the 1,000-person survey, released Wednesday, 42 percent of voters said they would be less likely to vote for a candidate if that candidate had received an endorsement by Obama. That’s nearly double the proportion of voters — 22 percent — who said they’d be more likely to vote for an Obama-endorsed candidate.

NBC News/ Wall Street Journal poll

The same survey also saw Obama’s general approval rating drop to 41 percent — the lowest point, using the same polling methodology, of his entire two-term Presidency.

Obama’s not the only one with an image problem, though: Tea Party candidates fared equally poorly in the same survey, with 21 percentage points separating those who said they hold a negative view of the movement from those who view it favorably. That kind of negativity may indicate that national progressives have been successful in portraying Tea Party candidates and their supporters not as small-government Constitutional conservatives, but as reactionary legislative obstructionists with a sinister social agenda.

Obamacare Is Turning Barack Obama Into A Conservative

Can’t afford Obamacare? Do a better job of organizing your priorities. Cancel your cable. Scale back your cellphone plan. Realize that your health is more important than your stuff. Control yourself.

That’s the message President Barack Obama sent this week at a town hall-style media event targeted at Spanish-speaking American audiences.

Responding to a question from a person who earns $36,000 per year but can’t find a health plan for less than $315 per month for his family, the President offered some sage advice. According to the website of conservative Hispanic group the LIBRE Initiative, Obama “responded that ‘if you looked at their cable bill, their telephone, their cell phone bill… it may turn out that, it’s just they haven’t prioritized health care.’ He added that if a family member gets sick, the father ‘will wish he had paid that $300 a month.’”

Obama said all this with a straight face, only one week after proposing an ambitious 3.9 trillion Federal budget for 2014 — and blaming Congressional Republican obstructionism for preventing him from padding it out even more. His belief in budgeting and self-restraint evidently applies to individuals, but not to governments.

“If the President actually believes that a family earning less than $40,000 per year can afford nearly $4,000 in health insurance premiums, then he truly does not understand middle-income families,” said LIBRE executive director Daniel Garza:

Americans do not need the President to tell them how to Budget their households. People are already cutting back on things like cable television and cell phones, just to compensate for an awful economy. This President promised he would deliver on affordable health care. Instead, premiums are up, out-of-pocket expenses are up, and overall cost of living is up. The President simply doesn’t get it. And his condescending attitude adds insult to injury.

While he was dispensing financial advice, Obama might as well have gone ahead and mentioned that Obamaphones can be had for free, and that anyone who’s eligible for a free Obamaphone is often eligible for a hoard of other free government stuff, too. But maybe that would have subverted the inherent logic, however fleeting, behind his puzzling dalliance with conservative financial values.

Sheila Jackson Lee Grateful For 400-Year-Old Constitution

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), a woman the Congressional Black Caucus floated last year as its pick to replace former DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, believes the U.S. Constitution was written 176 years, give or take, before Rhode Island ratified it in 1790.

Lee’s patriotism got the better of her erudition on the House floor Wednesday, where she bloviated about the providential foresight for stable governing written into our Nation’s founding legal document. She praised the Constitution for reliably ensuring free legislative deliberation for these past 400 years, and expressed appreciation that we have “a constitution that clearly defines what is constitutional and what is not.”

Maybe I should offer a good thanks to the distinguished members of the majority, the Republicans, my chairman and others, for giving us an opportunity to have a deliberative constitutional discussion that reinforces the sanctity of this nation and how well it is that we have lasted some 400 years, operating under a constitution that clearly defines what is constitutional and what is not.

Using Lee’s math, the Constitution would have been written in or around 1614, when things like Pocahontas marrying John Rolfe and Jamestown’s settlement as the capital of the Virginia colony were considered current events.

McConnell Boasts GOP Establishment Will ‘Crush’ The Tea Party In 2014

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who left last week’s CPAC audience members scratching their heads by…well, by being there at all, and by sheepishly brandishing a rifle on the stage, didn’t take long to return to form after handing the weapon over to retiring Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) By Saturday, he was back in front of the mainstream media, boasting that the GOP establishment would mop the floor with Tea Party candidates in the 2014 midterm elections.

“I think we are going to crush them everywhere,” McConnell said in a weekend interview with The New York Times. “I don’t think they are going to have a single nominee [win a primary] anywhere in the country.”

Of course, McConnell is himself hoping the midterms will come soon enough to ward off an upstart Tea Party challenge to his own Senate seat.

Matt Bevin, who’s challenging McConnell from the conservative right in the Kentucky Senate race, didn’t let McConnell’s gun gaffe at CPAC go unnoticed. He posted a photo of McConnell with the rifle to his Facebook page – alongside an infamously awful shot of failed Democratic Presidential candidate Michael Dukakis, who in 1988 made a laughable attempt at earning some National defense credibility by allowing himself to be photographed grinning like an idiot atop an M1 Abrams tank.

George H.W. Bush soundly defeated Dukakis in the Presidential election that year. McConnell leads Bevin rather comfortably in the polls this year, so far. But just ask Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) about the infallibility of pre-election polls.

What’s interesting is that the American Conservative Union (ACU), the organization that sponsors CPAC, may have been smarter than attendees and observers first believed in inviting McConnell to the conservative conference. According to a Friday report in National Journal, the gun stunt wasn’t even McConnell’s idea – it was the ACU’s. And, while making a gift of a gun is a CPAC tradition, the circumstances leading to McConnell’s awkward moment this year seemed almost pre-ordained to maximize McConnell’s discomfort onstage.

“Thanks, ACU!” Bevin must be saying.

If junior Kentucky Senator and fellow Republican Rand Paul – unquestionably the star of this year’s CPAC – is going to continue tapping into whatever support network McConnell has access to by endorsing McConnell in his reelection bid, he has to be praying for McConnell to avoid any more of these public gaffes. They aren’t just hurting McConnell’s conservative credibility anymore – they’re hurting the conservative credibility of everyone McConnell touches. And, as his NYT comments illustrate, McConnell probably likes it that way.

And p.s. – For all you eagle-eyed gun fans perpetuating last week’s rifle-versus-musket debate: yes, it was a rifle.

Rand Paul Stakes Out His Reagan Territory Before The Other Presidential Candidates Can Get There

President Ronald Reagan’s name is always in vogue among conservatives around this time each year, as the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) elicits invocations of our 40th President from a fresh batch of political operatives attempting to associate their names with Reagan’s legacy.

This year, with CPAC taking place as foreign tensions escalate under the nervous eye of President Barack Obama’s blind diplomacy, Reagan’s name has been thrown around even more. One might even say Reagan-worship has become passé among conservative political aspirants: everybody’s doing it.

So credit Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.), at least, with being the first Presidential hopeful to notice the potentially muddling effect that trend could have, and for trying to draw a sharp line around “his” Reagan – one that other Reagan-flogging conservatives, like Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) can’t – or won’t – mimic.

On the heels of his second consecutive victory in the CPAC Presidential straw poll, Paul decided he’d establish his boundaries when it comes to what he’ll be meaning over the next two years as he talks about getting back to Reagan diplomacy. So he penned a piece for Breitbart over the weekend under the headline “Stop Warping Reagan’s Foreign Policy.”

What timing: Paul’s flag-planting had as much to do with setting himself apart from the potentially crowded 2016 Presidential field as it did with Reagan’s diplomacy – though he had plenty to say about that, too.

But let’s stay with the politics. “Every Republican likes to think that he or she is the next Ronald Reagan,” Paul states right from the start.

Cynical translation: “Don’t believe the impostors – all those other guys. They’ll all be saying the same thing. The GOP reform movement loves to talk about the big tent and finding consensus, but somebody has to get elected President, and that’s not going to happen if Reagan’s name becomes cheap currency.

Paul follows up later:

I don’t claim to be the next Ronald Reagan nor do I attempt to disparage fellow Republicans as not being sufficiently Reaganesque. But I will remind anyone who thinks we will win elections by trashing previous Republican nominees or holding oneself out as some paragon in the mold of Reagan, that splintering the party is not the route to victory.

I met Ronald Reagan as a teenager when my father was a Reagan delegate in 1976. I greatly admire Reagan’s projection of “Peace through Strength.” I believe, as he did, that our National Defense should be second to none, that defense of the country is the primary Constitutional role of the Federal Government.

Cynical translation: When I invoke Reagan’s name and legacy, it’s not debasing the conservative lingua franca. When other guys do it, it is. I may not be the next Ronald Reagan – but I met him at an impressionable age and he left an indelible impression on me, and now I’m telling you all about it. Who else can say that? I’ll forgive you if, right now, you’re imagining him handing me a baton.

Again, this is all cynicism on our part. Paul is, of course, smart to recognize an early need to stake out his Reagan territory, and to put up a high wall that will keep other conservative candidates off his turf. Let them have their Reagan talking points: these are mine, and I was here first.

Paul does offer a good take on Reagan’s “peace through strength” diplomacy throughout his column, and if you’re interested in that, it’s certainly worth reading.

But when conservative politicians use the public stage to dismantle, examine and reassemble Ronald Reagan’s Presidency like a kid reverse-engineering a toy, they’re not doing it in a vacuum. They’re doing it for an audience.

At the end of the day, really, they’re doing it for themselves.

Atkisson Quits CBS News Over Network’s Liberal Bias, Complicity In Promoting White House Narratives

Sharyl Atkisson, one of the few reporters in mainstream media who has never strayed far from the lessons they (presumably) still teach in J-school, has agreed to an early resignation from her investigative correspondent’s position at CBS News.

The Obama Administration must be thrilled. Atkisson has been a major thorn in the side of the White House ever since she began doggedly pursuing oft-ignored threads in the official narrative of the timeline of the events that claimed four American lives during the terror attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya – and she’s remained outspoken about the Obama Administration’s stonewalling tactics to ensure she never inched near the truth.

CBS News was never comfortable with that sort of investigative determination, and both parties had been in negotiations for the past several months over whether, and how, to clear her a graceful exit path from the network, according to POLITICO:

Atkisson, who has been with CBS News for two decades, had grown frustrated with what she saw as the network’s liberal bias, an outsize influence by the network’s corporate partners and a lack of dedication to investigative reporting, several sources said. She increasingly felt that her work was no longer supported and that it was a struggle to get her reporting on air.

… Feeling increasingly stymied and marginalized at the network, Atkisson began talking to CBS News President David Rhodes as early as last April about getting out of her contract. Those negotiations intensified in recent weeks, and her request was finally honored on Monday.

Of course, the network has questioned her impartiality – chiefly because Atkisson is working on a book that narrates her struggles to get the Obama Administration to talk to her (and CBS News to air her reports). Crying foul inside the Washington, D.C. echo chamber apparently now constitutes conservative bias, so far as the suits at mainstream networks are concerned.

It will be interesting to see whether Atkisson lands at a smaller new media outlet that either claims a serious commitment to investigative reporting, or, at the very least, wears its political biases openly for all to see.

Who’s Ready To Talk About Climate Change All Night? Senate Democrats

Why this sounds like a good idea during an election year is anybody’s guess, but a bunch of Senate Democrats are planning to stage a faux-filibuster tonight to draw attention to the evils of man-made climate change.

The effort, headed by Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) is supposed to last until 9 a.m. Eastern time tomorrow. The intent, according to Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), is to “wake up Congress” on how close to the brink the U.S. stands from an avoidable weather-related, man-made calamity.

The idea doubtless sprang from Democrats’ observation of the viral sensation that ensued from Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) faux-filibuster against Obamacare and raising the debt ceiling late last year.

There’s no piece of legislation attached to tonight’s talk-a-thon, and, reports USA Today, there’s no Democrat-led “timetable for action this year” for Congress to legislate against anthropocentric global warming.

In other words, the motives for the scheduled speechifying are nakedly political. Whether those motives will be embraced in a spontaneous, viral fervor of grassroots support is another question altogether. It seems an odd issue to flog during an election season that already has a number of Senate Democrats on the ropes.

Convict Cop Who Tipped Off Terror Suspect Now An IRS Employee

A dirty Fairfax County, Va. cop who pleaded guilty in Federal court for tipping off a terrorism suspect and compromising an ongoing FBI investigation is now a financial analyst for the IRS, according to a report that emerged last week.

According to PJ Media, former police officer Weiss Rasool, who has since changed his last name to Russell, pleaded guilty in 2008 to a misdemeanor count of illegally accessing a government computer by letting himself into the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database and letting an al-Qaida-linked associate know the Feds were watching him.

Rasool entered the U.S. from Saudi Arabia in 1983, and became a naturalized citizen in 1996.

From the report:

In 2008, Russell/Rasool was prosecuted for his role in tipping off Abdullah Alnoshan, a close associate of al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and a friend of Russell’s from their mosque. According to the Justice Department’s Statement of Facts filed at the time of Russell’s indictment, Alnoshan provided license plate numbers to Russell for cars he believed were conducting surveillance on him. Russell then checked those plate numbers in the FBI’s NCIC database, which came back to a leasing company which federal prosecutors claimed would have tipped off Russell to the bureau’s surveillance.

He left a phone message for Alnoshan that the FBI intercepted.

Prosecutors also claimed that on more than a dozen instances, Russell checked his name, the names of relatives, and other friends to see if they were listed on the Violent Crime and Terrorist Offender File on NCIC without an authorized reason for doing so.

Rasool remained on the Fairfax County police force while serving out part of a two-year probation, before being forced to resign after an internal affairs investigation concluded.

Then he ended up at the IRS – even though Federal employment screening procedures and background checks are supposed to root out candidates whose histories suggest a direct conflict of interest over matters of National Security.

Former ThinkProgress Blogger: I Quit Over White House Censorship

A former blogger for ThinkProgress, the online mouthpiece for the far-left Center for American Progress policy outfit, revealed last week he quit in frustration after being repeatedly stonewalled by supervisors on how to approach topics the White House deemed sensitive.

Zaid Jilani joined ThinkProgress in 2009 to blog about national security issues, but it didn’t take long for him to realize that he faced insurmountable obstacles from within the CAP who wished to sell President Barack Obama’s narrative on the escalating U.S. involvement in Afghanistan.

Reacting to two separate incidents last week in which reporters for Russia Today faced consequences (or quit) after criticizing Russia’s involvement in the Ukrainian conflict, Jilani posted a Tumblr blog entitled “How Working In Washington Taught Me We’re All A Little Like RT America.”

I’m writing this post to explain how working in Washington taught me we’re all a little bit like the good folks who work at RT America — struggling against editorial censors, doing our best to follow our conscience despite sometimes suffocating pressures from our publishers and sponsors.

When I started working at ThinkProgress at the Center for American Progress Action Fund in 2009, I did so because it was an awesome platform to do good journalism. I knew that I disagreed with CAP on a number of issues, and that I wouldn’t be allowed to write things too harshly critical of President Obama — which half of senior CAP staff had worked for or wanted to work for — or the Democratic Party, or CAP’s corporate sponsors in the “Business Alliance.”

One of the controversial topics that was very constrained in our writing at ThinkProgress in 2009 was Afghanistan. CAP had decided not to protest Obama’s surge, so most our writing on the topic was simply neutral — we weren’t supposed to take a strong stand. Given that I had just moved up from Georgia, and the American South has a much higher proportion of its population in the Armed Forces, I felt particularly strong that we should oppose the continuation of the war. The people who ran CAP didn’t really agree.

Flash forward a couple years, and the Democratic Party’s lawmakers in Congress were in open revolt over the Afghanistan policy. Our writing at ThinkProgress had opened up a lot on the issue, and I was writing really critical stuff. I worked with our art and design team at CAP to put together a chart showing that Obama’s supposed “withdrawal” plan from Afghanistan would leave more troops in the country than when he began his presidency.

The post was one of the most successful things I had ever written to that point. It was featured by MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell and the Congressional Progressive Caucus used it in their briefings to criticize Obama’s plan. I felt great — like I was actually doing the right thing about Afghanistan for once at an institution that had remained quiet or supportive of Obama’s policy there, which in my view was accomplishing little but more bloodshed.

But then phone calls from the White House started pouring in, berating my bosses for being critical of Obama on this policy. Obama’s advisor Ben Rhodes — speaking of a staffer who follows policy set by others for his career path — even made a post on the White House blog more or less attacking my chart by fudging the numbers and including both the Iraq and Afghan troop levels in a single chart to make it seem as if the surge never happened (the marvels of things you can do in Excel!).

Soon afterwards all of us ThinkProgress national security bloggers were called into a meeting with CAP senior staff and basically berated for opposing the Afghan war and creating daylight between us and Obama.

It got worse. Jilani eventually left his ThinkProgress gig, in part, he wrote, “for reasons of other censorship dealing with both corporate sponsors and that institution’s fealty to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).” He concludes by noting that every news outlet with which he’s since been affiliated has suffered under some degree of unspoken subjective slant or conflict of interest.

“[D]on’t judge those who work there [at RT], claiming they are just Kremlin Robots out to rebuild the Soviet Empire,” said Jilani. “They’re not that anymore than I was an Obamabot arguing for a long, pointless war in Afghanistan.”

Sunday News Show Roundup

U.S. foreign policy ruled Sunday’s TV talk.

Although they didn’t quite see eye to eye, two standout Republican Senators with possible 2016 Presidential ambitions kept yesterday’s roster of television punditry squarely on the topic of America’s role in policing the rest of the world.

Senators Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas), fresh off an invigorating CPAC welcome that saw them finish first and second, respectively, in the conservative conference’s annual Presidential straw poll, each sat for interviews on major networks Sunday to talk about whether, and how, the U.S. should weigh in on Russia’s continued intervention in the tumultuous political affairs of another former Soviet state.

Both men invoked former President Ronald Reagan’s tough-but-approachable brand of diplomacy as they criticized President Barack Obama’s weak-sauce rhetoric toward Russian President Vladimir Putin. However, Paul and Cruz interpreted the reach of Reagan’s language a little differently.

“[Reagan] said to [Mikhail Gorbachev] our potential adversary, ‘Don’t mistake our reluctance for war for a lack of resolve.’ People knew that with Ronald Reagan,” Paul told “Fox News Sunday.”

“They still need to know that with the United States. And part of the problem is, I think, this President [Obama] hasn’t projected enough strength, and hasn’t shown a priority to the national defense. That is something that, were I in charge, I would.”

Sounds like Paul is thinking about life in the White House.

Cruz was a bit more definitive in his Reagan-channeling Sunday, insinuating to ABC’s “This Week” that the United States has a proper moral justification to act, at pivotal historic moments, as a global police force.

“… I think there’s a vital role [for U.S. intervention], just as Ronald Reagan did,” said Cruz, invoking the GOP’s favorite President on his own terms. “When Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union an ‘evil empire,’ when he stood in front the Brandenburg gate and said, ‘Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,’ those words changed the course of history.”

Like Paul, Cruz used his post-CPAC TV junket to play upon the idea that, were he the current occupant of the White House, America would be handling international crises differently. He described the Obama White House as a friend to foreign aggression and an enemy of America’s own diplomatic corps.

“You’d better believe that Putin sees that in Benghazi: four Americans murdered, and nothing happens,” said Cruz. “No retribution. You’d better believe that Putin sees that in Syria: Obama draws a ‘red line,’ and ignores it.”

On the whole, Cruz sounded a lot more hawkish than Paul — even though each relied on the Reagan diplomatic legacy to make his point.

Elsewhere, the talking heads cast about to give the Obama Administration a pass on yet another week of inaction and mixed signals concerning what, if anything, will spur the U.S. to action in the awkward Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Deputy National Security adviser Tony Blinken appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press” to describe how Obama is employing his community organizing philosophy to the rest of the world in fomenting a consensus-based opposition to Russia’s Ukrainian encroachment.

“[T]he President [is] mobilizing the international community in support of Ukraine, to isolate Russia for its actions in Ukraine, and to reassure our allies and partners,” Blinken said. “We’ve seen the President put together a major international support package. He’s invited the Ukrainian prime minister, [Arseniy] Yatsenyuk, to come to the White House on Wednesday, to further demonstrate that support, and to consult with him.”

Hoo, boy. Putin, look out.

Gay Conservatism A Non-Issue At CPAC 2014, But Progressives Take Shots Anyway

Whether to cast the canopy of the conservative Big Tent wide enough to welcome homosexuals into the fold has largely been a non-issue at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, thanks in no small part to the controversial dis-invite of another marginal group: conservative atheists.

This year’s spat between the American Atheists and the American Conservative Union, which organizes CPAC, assured homosexual conservatives, perhaps only temporarily, a lower profile in the ongoing battle to define the territorial boundaries of organized conservatism. There’s been little coverage of any GOP-versus-the-gays controversy emanating from CPAC this year.

But that hasn’t stopped the progressive left from taking shots from afar. The Huffington Post released a predictable article today bashing CPAC’s atmosphere of alleged intolerance, carrying the flag for the subversive leftist tactics that label all conservative organizations and gatherings an exclusionary form of so-called “hate speech.”

A tiresomely disproportionate amount of ink (pixels?) gets wasted on the inclusion/exclusion argument when it  comes to homosexuality in the GOP, largely because the percentage of homosexuals – both conservative and otherwise – who make up the American population is far smaller than the abundance of sensational eyeball-seeking headlines would suggest.

But here we are yet again, staring down another progressive rant that seeks to take an important, but marginal, issue and co-opt the argument by painting with the broadest possible brush.

“The few times the issue of gay rights has come up at CPAC were indirect mentions – and they weren’t in the direction of inclusion,” the HuffPo story states. “On Thursday, for example, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) referenced his support for the star of the reality TV show ‘Duck Dynasty,’ who faced a backlash after making anti-gay remarks.”

Nice try, noted Breitbart’s Joel B. Pollak.

Having just published a column in which I called the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference “the gayest CPAC ever,” I was surprised to read a piece by Amanda Terkel at the Huffington Post claiming that gay rights were “missing” at CPAC. Terkel claims that gay issues weren’t mentioned at all at the conference.

…Terkel appears to have filed her story from the conference (the dateline is “NATIONAL HARBOR, Md.”) at 1:15 p.m. EST. Perhaps she should have waited about 25 minutes, because the topic of gay rights came up on a panel discussion about the relationship between libertarians and social conservatives.

One of those on the panel was conservative talk show host Michael Medved, who earned applause from the audience for defending the right of gay couples to adopt children.

But why let the facts ruin a good story attack, right? So file early, and file often.

Of course, the left comes at the gay rights issue primarily with a strategy of defending gay marriage. That’s a red herring for many libertarians, who wish for a government that bows out of the marriage “recognition” game for all Americans who want their personal business, including the rituals they embrace without any need for government recognition or sanction, to remain personal.

Is Arizona Finally Turning On John McCain?

Should Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) seek another Senate term in 2016, all that matters, perhaps, is that he’s popular in his State. But according to a new poll from the Public Policy Polling Institute, that’s about the only place he can still lay claim to broad-based voter support — and that’s on the strength of an election turnout that’s now nearly four years stale.

In fact, the Institute declared McCain the least popular Senator in the country Thursday, based on the results of a three-day phone survey carried out in late February and early March.

The Institute finds McCain is universally reviled across the party spectrum — and being a Republican doesn’t give him any real standing with most Americans who identify politically as Republicans. Only 35 percent of Arizona Republicans surveyed said they approve of the job he’s doing, compared with 55 percent who said they don’t. That barely exceeds his abysmal approval rating among Democrats and independents.

From the summary: 

Only 30% of Arizonans approve of the job McCain is doing to 54% who disapprove. There isn’t much variability in his numbers by party — he’s at 35/55 with Republicans, 29/53 with Democrats, and 25/55 with independents.

“The low opinion both Republicans and Democrats have of John McCain now means he could be vulnerable in both the primary and the general election next time around,” said Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling. “George McGovern lost his Senate seat 8 years after losing his Presidential bid and McCain could suffer a similar fate.”

Is Arizona finally turning the corner on McCain? The Institute indicates Arizona voters might send him home if an election were held today. In hypothetical pairings against Richard Carmona and Gabrielle Giffords (yes, Gabrielle Giffords), McCain trails by 6 and 7 percentage points, respectively. He’s still slightly more popular than former Arizona Governor and DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, leading his hypothetical race against her by 8 percentage points.

McCain has remained coy about his intentions after his current term ends, but has hinted that he’s already considering another run. If these poll numbers hold, though, we could be reading stories next year announcing his retirement from an illustrious Senate career.

Out with the old.

Obamacare Sign-Up Rate For The Uninsured: One In Ten

Two new surveys reveal something President Barack Obama and his Congressional yes-men (and women) should have known – indeed, according to some single-payer prognosticators, have known – all along: uninsured Americans, the people intended to benefit the most from Obamacare, are all but refusing to sign up for it.

As The Washington Post reported today, the two surveys – one from The Urban Institute; the other from consultants McKinsey & Co., indicate that as few as one in every ten uninsured Americans has volunteered their information, and their money, to enroll in an Obamacare plan through Federal or State-operated insurance exchanges.

“One of the surveys, by the consulting firm McKinsey & Co., shows that among people who are uninsured and do not intend to get a health plan through one of the exchanges, the biggest factor is that they believe they cannot afford it,” observes the Post.

And therein lies the rub. The law requires that these people – people who aren’t eligible for Obama’s swollen new Medicaid – sign up and pay their own money for insurance they couldn’t afford, even back when it was cheaper than it’s become under Obamacare.

What in the world is going to force them to pay more now that Obamacare is the law of the land?

Of course, recruiting paying customers from the ranks of previously-uninsured Americans is the crux of Obamacare’s success. Without them, Obamacare simply becomes a gigantic unfunded mandate that individuals nullify by preferring a tax penalty to the high cost of insurance.

And it looks like de facto nullification is just fine for nine out of every ten uninsured Americans.