Traditional marriage supporters vow civil disobedience if Supreme Court recognizes same-sex marriage

Signers of a pledge of “solidarity” in support of traditional marriage are vowing to not abide by any Supreme Court ruling that imposes the recognition of same-sex marriage on Americans who harbor religious objections to such unions.

The Liberty Council’s Mathew Staver, one of the pledge’s organizers, told Fox News’ Todd Starnes this week that its supporters are unequivocal in their promise to defy a ruling favoring universal recognition of same-sex marriage. Staver said he and other signees are encouraging the type of resistance encouraged by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during the Civil Rights era.

“Yes, I’m talking about civil disobedience,” Staver told Starnes. “I’m talking about resistance and I’m talking about peaceful resistance against unjust laws and unjust rulings.

“…I’m calling for people to not recognize the legitimacy of that ruling because it’s not grounded in the Rule of Law…They need to resist that ruling in every way possible. In a peaceful way – they need to resist it as much as Martin Luther King, Jr. resisted unjust laws in his time.”

The group’s statement of solidarity defends marriage by invoking appeals to natural law, divinity and human reason – all of which is to be expected from those who bear conscientious objections to changes in a law that, from their point of view, would subvert a divinely-established set of moral absolutes.

Yet, crucially, the group also emphasizes the practical ramifications of reshaping the law.

“Experience and history have shown us that if the government redefines marriage to grant a legal equivalency to same-sex couples, that same government will then enforce such an action with the police power of the State,” the statement asserts. “This will bring about an inevitable collision with religious freedom and conscience rights. The precedent established will leave no room for any limitation on what can constitute such a redefined notion of marriage or human sexuality. We cannot and will not allow this to occur on our watch. Religious freedom is the first freedom in the American experiment for good reason.”

Fox’s Starnes described the pledge’s highest-profile signers as “a who’s who of religious leaders” – Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, Tom DeLay, Brent Bozell and  Franklin Graham, among others. You can view a list of other prominent signees at the group’s website.

Inspector General finds more missing Lerner emails

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) has disclosed the discovery of a fresh batch of previously-unknown emails tied to former IRS administrator Lois Lerner’s email account.

TIGTA unearthed approximately 6,400 Lerner emails in its ongoing effort to recover Lerner’s allegedly missing computer data. The Inspector General has been collaborating with independent information technology experts to assist in retrieving the data, which Lerner alleged was permanently lost when her computer’s hard drive crashed. Lerner retired from the IRS after the scandal reached a media zenith in 2013.

No criminal charges have ever been filed against IRS officials for the roles they may have played in perpetuating the political discrimination scandal. The House voted to hold Lerner in contempt in May of last year, after she invoked the 5th Amendment and refused to continue testifying.

According to Fox News, roughly 650 of the emails date from 2010 and 2011; the remainder date from 2012.

According to a spokesman for Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, congressional investigators do not yet know what the emails contain. But, he said, the new information will receive the same scrutiny that Lerner’s previously-revealed emails have so far received.

“These emails will be carefully examined as part of the committee’s bipartisan IRS investigation,” Hatch’s  spokesman told The Hill. “After TIGTA produces their report regarding the missing data later this year, the Committee hopes to follow suit and move forward with the release of its bipartisan report on this issue.”


The Clinton Foundation spent more on office supplies than on charity gifts in 2013

A new review of the Clinton Foundation’s recent expenditures challenges the foundation’s boast that most of the money it spends goes “directly to our life-changing work.”

The foundation took to social media last week to counter recent revelations about its omission of foreign donations from the IRS, as well as the general scandal surrounding the possibility that Hillary Clinton’s State Department policy may have been influenced by those same donations.

The foundation’s official Twitter account sent out an April 25 message boasting that “[m]ore than 88% of our expenditures go directly to our life-changing work,” and linked to an infographic purporting to break down its 2013 expenditures by category.

That graphic claimed 88.4 percent of the foundation’s outlay went for “Program” expenditures, 7 percent went for “Management and General,” and 4.5 percent went for “Fundraising” – with “Program” encompassing the catch-all category of charitable giving.

But The Federalist took a look at the information the Clinton Foundation provided on its 2013 IRS Form 990 and quickly concluded that the foundation’s claim was egregiously misleading.

From The Federalist:

There’s only one problem: that claim is demonstrably false. And it is false not according to some partisan spin on the numbers, but because the organization’s own tax filings contradict the claim.

In order for the 88 percent claim to be even remotely close to the truth, the words “directly” and “life-changing” have to mean something other than “directly” and “life-changing.” For example, the Clinton Foundation spent nearly $8.5 million – 10 percent of all 2013 expenditures – on travel. Do plane tickets and hotel accommodations directly change lives? Nearly $4.8 million–5.6 percent of all expenditures–was spent on office supplies. Are ink cartridges and staplers “life-changing” commodities?

Those two categories alone comprise over 15 percent of all Clinton Foundation expenses in 2013, and we haven’t even examined other spending categories like employee fringe benefits ($3.7 million), IT costs ($2.1 million), rent ($4 million) or conferences and conventions ($9.2 million). Yet, the tax-exempt organization claimed in its tweet that no more than 12 percent of its expenditures went to these overhead expenses.

The report went on to envision a scenario in which the Clinton Foundation could receive the benefit of the doubt for lumping in office chairs and IT expenses with “life-changing” work. The result? There’s still no way the foundation could be telling the truth.

“Even using the broadest definition of ‘program expenses’ possible, however, the 88 percent claim is still false,” the report asserts. “How do we know? Because the IRS 990 forms submitted by the Clinton Foundation include a specific and detailed accounting of these programmatic expenses. And even using extremely broad definitions–definitions that allow office supply, rent, travel, and IT costs to be counted as programmatic costs–the Clinton Foundation fails its own test.”

Using a permissive interpretation of what the Clinton Foundation might claim as “program” expenses, the report found it impossible to locate more than 80 percent of the nonprofit’s total financial information, as reported on Form 990,that might qualify.

Using a more restrictive – or, as The Federalist describes it, a “more realistic” – interpretation, the ratio fell to a mere 10 percent. “The amount [the foundation] spent on charitable grants – $8.8 million – was dwarfed by the $17.2 million it cumulatively spent on travel, rent, and office supplies,” the report indicates. “Between 2011 and 2013, the organization spent only 9.9 percent of the $252 million it collected on direct charitable grants.”

In a separate story, The Federalist also debunked the Clinton Foundation’s claim that its activity in Canada is shielded by Canadian privacy laws from any obligation to disclose its list of donors. Using the foundation’s own supporting documentation, reporter Mollie Hemingway corrected the Clinton Foundation’s inept and misleading defense of its own disclosure practices:

After this article was initially published, the Clinton Foundation sent The Federalist two links (here and here) allegedly supporting its contention that federal law in Canada prohibits public disclosure of the names of charitable organization donors. Unfortunately for the Clinton Foundation, neither link supports the organization’s rationale for deliberately withholding donor information from the public. In fact, one of the links actually includes information that directly contradicts the Clinton Foundation’s assertion.

According to a guide for non-profit compliance that is prominently linked on the page provided by the Clinton Foundation, fundraising activities of non-profits are specifically exempt from the privacy protections in Canada’s federal privacy law. Why? Because, as the article below states, public disclosure of non-profit donors does not constitute “commercial activity” and is therefore not at all prohibited[.]

New Canadian law forces government to abolish an old regulation each time it creates a new one

Here’s an idea that should spread: forcing the federal government to do away with an old regulation every time it enacts a new one.

In Canada, it’s now the law. The Red Tape Reduction Act cleared its final hurdle last week, paving the way for a future in which new regulations, at least at the federal level, will be offset by the eradication of old ones at a 1:1 ratio.

Well, that’s the spirit of the law, at any rate. In practice, the new law does leave some wiggle room by framing the benefits of new regulations in terms of the projected costs they will incur, vis-à-vis the old regulations they replace.

“Minister Tony Clement, who has championed the bill, can be proud that Canada is now the first country in the world to require that for every new regulation introduced one of equivalent burden must be removed,” reported the Financial Post.

“C-21 (the Red Tape Reduction Act)…essentially caps the cost of rules coming directly from regulations. Government rules can also come from legislation and policy so the one-for-one rule is not a cap on the cost of all government rules. Still, it is a very good start.”

The law received “near-unanimous support,” according to the Post, “with some opposition critics arguing that it doesn’t go far enough.”

Maybe Canada can export some of that common sense down south, along with the Moosehead beer and Tim Horton’s coffee.

Baltimore chief begs parents to control their rioting teens

Anthony Batts, police chief for the City of Baltimore, ended his long day Monday by pleading with local parents of rioting teens to take charge of their kids.

Responding at a press conference to a question about one local mom who was captured on a (now-viral) video apparently berating her hooded son for taking part in the mayhem, Batts appeared to welcome the direct approach.

“Take control of your kids,” he said. “This is our city. Let’s make a difference.”

The chief emphasized his belief that the rioting began as a result of a social media campaign urging students at a local high school to take part in “The Purge” – a scheduled period of violence inspired by a 2013 movie of the same name.

The film posited the fantastical idea of a future society that permits a single 12-hour period of grassroots violence one night out of every year, with services from law enforcement and emergency personnel  suspended.

Reports Monday evening indicated the movie’s real-world emulators were indeed attempting to stifle response crews by cutting firefighters’ hoses and burning police vehicles.

There’s been a lot of internet discussion about where the rioters are coming from – whether a significant portion of the Baltimore chaos is being imported from out of town and fueled by social media.

But if this video tells the story it appears to tell, at least one Baltimore mom wants no part of home-grown destruction and looting – even if she has to smack her kid around to get the point across:


The Clinton Foundation is a ‘slush fund’ for the Clintons, says watchdog

The Clinton Foundation operates under an “atypical business model” and serves as a “slush fund for the Clintons,” according to a pair of nonprofit watchdog groups.

In the midst of a series of revelations that the Clinton Foundation failed to appropriately report controversial donations from foreign governments to both the White House and to the IRS, one group has watchlisted the Clinton family’s charity organization; another has dismissed the Clinton Foundation as a back avenue for the Clintons to enrich themselves.

“It seems like the Clinton Foundation operates as a slush fund for the Clintons,” Sunlight Foundation senior fellow Bill Allison told the New York Post recently for a piece on the Clinton Foundation’s tax scandal. The Sunlight Foundation, notes the Post, is a government watchdog with progressive roots.

Meanwhile, philanthropy watchdog group Charity Navigator won’t even rate the Clinton Foundation as a nonprofit entity because the foundation’s “atypical business model…doesn’t meet our criteria,” the Post reports:

In all, the group reported $84.6 million in “functional expenses” on its 2013 tax return and had more than $64 million left over — money the organization has said represents pledges rather than actual cash on hand.

Some of the tens of millions in administrative costs finance more than 2,000 employees, including aid workers and health professionals around the world.

But that’s still far below the 75 percent rate of spending that nonprofit experts say a good charity should spend on its mission.

… Charity Navigator put the foundation on its “watch list,” which warns potential donors about investing in problematic charities. The 23 charities on the list include the Rev. Al Sharpton’s troubled National Action Network, which is cited for failing to pay payroll taxes for several years.

Warning donors away from outfits like the National Action Network and the Clinton Foundation might count as a service to good-hearted wealthy folks looking for a place to invest their conscience. But no amount of watchlisting is going to dissuade foreign governments from taking Hillary Clinton up on her invitation to essentially bribe the State Department by giving to her family’s charity.

A Washington journalist looks in the mirror; loathes the reflection

This year’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner was a typically obscene and obsequious affair, celebrated in ways that suggest there’s no line demarcating professional reporters from professional propagandists.

The fanfare surrounding the event has, in recent years, begun to approach that of a major awards show, with celebs vamping alongside reporters and politicians. Here’s some VOGUE-ing; here’s CNN’s rating of how funny the president was; here’s something similar from TIME; and here’s Jezebel paying a special homage to Obama for getting satisfyingly mad at his ideological adversaries.

Former POLITICO staffer and documentarian Patrick Gavin was allowed space at his former employer to publish an opinion piece, in advance of this year’s correspondents’ dinner, reflecting on all this.

In a remarkable bit of introspection, Gavin concluded the event has become a cynical metaphor for the deepening disconnect between Washington – including the press – and the nation under its governance.

“Something has to change,” wrote Gavin:

Everyone knows the White House Correspondents Association dinner is broken. What started off decades ago as a stately formal celebration of the best of presidential reporting has morphed into a four-day orgy of everything people outside the Beltway hate about life inside the Beltway — now it’s not just one night of clubby backslapping, carousing and drinking between the press and the powerful, it’s four full days of signature cocktails and inside jokes that just underscore how out of step the Washington elite is with the rest of the country. It’s not us (journalists) versus them (government officials); it’s us (Washington) versus them (the rest of America).

Something has to change.

I’ve watched the whole rise of the weekend over the last decade, as it sprawled increasingly out of control and increasingly out of touch — first as a blogger at FishbowlDC and a reporter at the Washington Examiner, then later as a reporter here at politico. Last year I left my job at politico to work on a documentary about White House Correspondents’ Week in Washington, D.C., the year’s most momentous week in arguably the world’s most powerful city. I thought I knew what I’d find, but even I was surprised — much of what I discovered wasn’t pretty. The week acts as a tacky and vainglorious self-celebration at a time when most Americans don’t think Washingtonians have much to be commended for.

Gavin’s piece published on the Thursday before this year’s April 25 dinner, so he had no way of anticipating just how starkly the event, held Saturday, would contrast with the Baltimore “protests” unfolding at the exact same time.

The juxtaposition, on social media, between the Washington revelers’ velveteen isolation and the violent chaos unfolding just a few miles up the road in Baltimore amplified the degree of separation between Washington, D.C.’s political class and everyone else. It helped that self-avowed news outlets like CNN urged viewers to get their fill of the Baltimore riots by following Twitter instead of watching CNN – where the network was “covering” the correspondents’ dinner.

Gavin, the ex-POLITICO curmudgeon fed up with the dinner’s frivolity and unintentional self-parody, made a few suggestions on how the event could be reformed. They include things like forcing the celebrities to bone up on their knowledge of politics and current events, and eliminating the red carpet portion altogether.

But his best suggestion was to audit the White House Correspondents’ Association.

“I asked Ken Berger, the CEO of the non-profit watchdog Charity Navigator, to review the Association’s finances for the first time,” he wrote. “He came back with a tough rebuke of how the Association does business. His criticisms include the fact that there are no independent audits done, nor is there an audit committee. There are no conflict of interest policies in place. Most disturbing is the fact that almost half of the Association’s annual outlays go to its executive director, a ratio that Berger called disturbing. In many years, the executive director gets paid more than gets doled out in scholarships.”

Scholarships, by the way, are ostensibly what the dinner’s all about…even though this picture of the 2015 recipients represents less than 1/1,000th the amount of whorish exposure the press celebs elected to bestow on themselves.

Study credits nature for recent variation in global temperatures

A new study that analyzes existing data instead of relying on the predictions of computer models finds that global warming has stalled. It also finds that much of the climate variability attributed to man-made causes is, in fact, a product of natural processes that aren’t initiated through human influence.

The Duke University study predicts that future vacillations in global temperatures will likely result from natural variations, repeating an observable cycle in the data the researchers analyzed.

“A new study based on 1,000 years of temperature records suggests global warming is not progressing as fast as it would under the most severe emissions scenarios outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC),” the study summary reports.

As pundits on both sides of the climate change debate rush to appropriate the findings to suit their agendas, the study itself does not dismiss the phenomenon of global warming.

Rather, it attributes the warming that’s so far been observed to “natural variability in surface temperatures — caused by interactions between the ocean and atmosphere, and other natural factors…”

The Duke researchers also don’t dismiss the theoretical contribution human activity might make, under the right circumstances, to exacerbate naturally inevitable increases in temperatures.

“At any given time, we could start warming at a faster rate if greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere increase without any offsetting changes in aerosol concentrations or natural variability,” researcher Wenhong Li stated.

But the study gives nature the lion’s share of the credit for recently observed increases in global temperatures, as well as the current “hiatus” in the present global warming “wiggle.”

“Statistically, it’s pretty unlikely that an 11-year hiatus in warming, like the one we saw at the start of this century, would occur if the underlying human-caused warming was progressing at a rate as fast as the most severe IPCC projections,” said researcher Patrick T. Brown.

As trucks and SUVs surge, Ford can’t sell enough hybrids and crossovers to keep plant at capacity

Ford Motor Co. isn’t having problems selling large vehicles. Gas is relatively cheap at the moment, making it an especially good time for customers to indulge their preferences. But Ford can’t sell enough fuel-efficient and hybrid cars to justify keeping the plant where they’re assembled at full capacity.

Customers, who’ve been reluctant to flock to small crossover vehicles even in times when fuel costs are higher, are avoiding the compact Ford Focus and its variants, as well as the company’s two C-Max minivan models (one’s a hybrid; the other is a hybrid with a plug-in feature).

The Detroit Free Press reports that Ford is planning to scale back its production capacity and lay off 700 workers at the company’s Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Michigan, beginning this June. As many as 200 of the laid-off workers will be shifted to other assembly plants in the area in short order; the remainder may take up to a year to reassign to other locations.

“The automaker told workers and notified the state of Michigan that it will lay off 700 workers, starting June 22. The decision affects 675 hourly workers and 25 salaried employees who make the Focus, Focus ST, Focus Electric, C-Max hybrid and C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid at the Wayne plant,” the Free Press reported.

“The first 200 workers will be laid off in June, another 200 at the end of July and the remainder at the end of September.”

The company acknowledges that its problems with the Wayne plant are model-specific.

“All our other plants are doing well,” company spokesman Kristina Adamski said. “We can’t build enough trucks or SUVs.”

But, she added, “[w]e need to make sure we are building the cars people are ordering.”

Hillary OK’d Russian uranium deal while its financiers kept Clinton Foundation in the money

The short version is that Hillary Clinton’s State Department signed off on a deal that handed Russia a perpetual chunk of America’s uranium resources and benefited foreign megadonors to the Clinton Foundation, all while the Clinton Foundation accepted multiple megadonations from those very same foreign megadonors.

The long version is exactly the same as the short version, with names, dates, timelines and dollar amounts rounding out the details.

About those dollar amounts — they’re huge. While Clinton officially remained separate from the Clinton Foundation for the window of time when she served as president Obama’s secretary of state, the foundation accepted $2.35 million from the uranium deal’s foreign brokers. Bill Clinton, meanwhile, accepted another $500,000 from a Russian bank linked to the deal as payment for a speaking engagement in Moscow.

The New York Times, giddy in the conviction that it has itself a real story, fleshed out with real facts, published a narrative of these exchanges in a stylized, page-turner-type article Thursday that borrows heavily from the reporting of author Peter Schweizer.

The NYT story is indeed long and detailed, but here’s the setup:

At the heart of the tale are several men, leaders of the Canadian mining industry, who have been major donors to the charitable endeavors of former President Bill Clinton and his family. Members of that group built, financed and eventually sold off to the Russians a company that would become known as Uranium One.

Beyond mines in Kazakhstan that are among the most lucrative in the world, the sale gave the Russians control of one-fifth of all uranium production capacity in the United States. Since uranium is considered a strategic asset, with implications for national security, the deal had to be approved by a committee composed of representatives from a number of United States government agencies. Among the agencies that eventually signed off was the State Department, then headed by Mr. Clinton’s wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

As the Russians gradually assumed control of Uranium One in three separate transactions from 2009 to 2013, Canadian records show, a flow of cash made its way to the Clinton Foundation. Uranium One’s chairman used his family foundation to make four donations totaling $2.35 million. Those contributions were not publicly disclosed by the Clintons, despite an agreement Mrs. Clinton had struck with the Obama White House to publicly identify all donors. Other people with ties to the company made donations as well.

And shortly after the Russians announced their intention to acquire a majority stake in Uranium One, Mr. Clinton received $500,000 for a Moscow speech from a Russian investment bank with links to the Kremlin that was promoting Uranium One stock.

At the time, both Rosatom and the United States government made promises intended to ease concerns about ceding control of the company’s assets to the Russians. Those promises have been repeatedly broken, records show.

Schweizer’s name has been in the news a lot this week, as several media outlets have teased their standing commitments to delve more deeply into revelations uncovered in his forthcoming book, “Clinton Cash.” Pro-Hillary detractors who’ve attempted to throw barbs at Schweizer’s alleged partisan motives were thrown a curve of their own Thursday, when several sources reported that he’s planning another book that focuses on Jeb Bush.

Republican presidential hopefuls have pounced on the stories so far put forward by Schweizer (even as the book awaits publication) and by media affiliates, like NYT, that have signed on for followup reporting.

But Hillary’s GOP adversaries face the same challenge they routinely face when attempting to message Hillary’s tedious, wordy and bureaucratically arcane scandals and alleged crimes: Hillary’s wrongdoing, while egregious, is hopelessly bogged down by miles of paper trails and data that defy sound-bite encapsulation and elude a ready appreciation from the general, media-consuming public.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) may have achieved a measure of success with his relatively succinct restatement of this latest scandal, telling Breitbart Thursday why Americans should be alarmed, and why the allegations against Clinton suggest a motive that makes her highly unfit to seek elected office (at least in the United States). Paul accomplished this by calling on our current president to recognize that her alleged actions warrant an investigation.

“If I were President Obama, I would want to know what other potential deals was she in charge of where she received donations to the foundation during the same period of time,” he said. “Really it is a question — there is a sense of impropriety, or an appearance of impropriety here, where they’re accepting money from shareholders of a company that was then sold to the Russians at the same time. So I just don’t see any reason why the Clinton Foundation should be accepting any money from foreign countries or from foreigners.”

No duh.

There’s much more in the Times’ report, including a much more detailed rundown of the known donations the Clinton Foundation received before and after the uranium deal. Read the entire thing, but remember that the Clinton Foundation’s documentation — some of which has supplied the data underpinning Schweizer’s book and stories like the Times’ — is incomplete at best, and possibly criminal at worst.

“Hillary Clinton’s family’s charities are refiling at least five annual tax returns after a Reuters review found errors in how they reported donations from governments, and said they may audit other Clinton Foundation returns in case of other errors,” Reuters reported Thursday.

“… The [Clinton family] charities’ errors generally take the form of under-reporting or over-reporting, by millions of dollars, donations from foreign governments, or in other instances omitting to break out government donations entirely when reporting revenue, the charities confirmed to Reuters.”

Hmmm… wonder if similarly sloppy accounting practices were par for the course while Hillary had control of the State Department.

Oh, that’s right — they were — and then some.

Carly Fiorina to announce campaign for GOP presidential nomination

Former Hewlett Packard CEO and Senate candidate Carly Fiorina is expected to announce on May 4 that she will seek the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

Fiorina, among the GOP’s most outspoken critics of Hillary Clinton, will couch her candidacy as a study in contrasts with Clinton’s presidential ambitions, according to The Wall Street Journal.

“… Mrs. Fiorina, likely the lone woman in the 2016 Republican field, has a unique ability to attack Mrs. Clinton,” the Journal observed Wednesday. “Mrs. Fiorina has impressed activists at early-state candidate events by making the argument that by nominating a woman — namely her — the party would undercut the historic nature of Mrs. Clinton’s campaign.”

Fiorina certainly hasn’t been shy about attacking Clinton. At February’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), she told a friendly crowd that Clinton lacks a substantive track record and has, in fact, overplayed her reliance on identity politics to the detriment of the very women whom she so often claims to support.

“She tweets about women’s rights in this country and takes money from governments that deny women the most basic human rights,” accused Fiorina. “She tweets about equal pay for women but won’t answer basic questions about her own offices’ pay standards — and neither will our president. Hillary likes hashtags. But she doesn’t know what leadership means.”

Since her CPAC appearance, Fiorina hasn’t let up on Clinton, using every available media opportunity to highlight the Hillary campaign’s facile dependence on the “first woman in the White House” gimmick.

“If Hillary Clinton were to face a female nominee, there are a whole set of things that she won’t be able to talk about,” she said during a breakfast speech last week. “She won’t be able to talk about being the first woman president. She won’t be able to talk about a war on women without being challenged. She won’t be able to play the gender card.”

Fiorina lost a bid to unseat Sen. Barabara Boxer (D-Calif.) in 2010. Before that, her political career was that of a pro-business hobbyist with a penchant for playing a supporting role.

But her Senate seat loss may have been a boon for her presidential campaign, because it buffers her from the “professional politician” criticisms she’s now leveling at Clinton.

“I’m not a neophyte in government … but I’m not a professional politician,” she told last week’s breakfast audience. “… People who have been in politics all their lives are somewhat disconnected from the rest of us.”

IRS intentionally dialed back ‘customer service’ in ploy to seek greater funding

A congressional report released Wednesday accuses the IRS of intentionally hobbling its taxpayer assistance budget in order to invite the public to believe that the agency is underfunded and understaffed — and, therefore, unable to respond adequately to taxpayers’ inquiries.

The scathing report, delivered by the House Ways and Means Committee, blasts the agency for allocating funds for nonessential and often frivolous uses, even as IRS commissioner John Koskinen repeatedly told members of Congress the agency was crippled by Congress’ refusal to increase the IRS’s budget for fiscal year 2014.

Here’s a portion of the report:

During the 2015 tax-filing season, the IRS provided what its own Commissioner described as “abysmal” customer service, blaming skyrocketing wait times for telephone and in-person assistance on agency budget cuts. The IRS even called budget cuts “a tax cut for tax cheats.” But a close review of the agency’s spending shows the IRS deliberately cut $134 million in funding for customer service to pay for other activities. Spending decisions entirely under the IRS’s control led to 16 million fewer taxpayers receiving IRS assistance this filling season…

… The IRS’s spending choices and mismanagement of resources raise serious questions about the nature and extent of the agency’s self-described budget crisis and its commitment to serving the taxpayer.

… The IRS collects nearly $500 million in user fees each year that it can spend (and raise) without congressional approval, and the agency has broad flexibility to allocate that funding as it sees fit. Typically, a significant share of those user fees is dedicated to customer service activities. Yet, this year, the agency decided to make drastic cuts to taxpayer assistance. Instead of prioritizing customer service or boosting its enforcement budget, the IRS spent the bulk of its user-fee receipts on other priorities. As Commissioner John Koskinen announced to IRS employees in January 2015, the IRS is doing “less with less.” This, despite the fact that appropriations for assistance were constant from fiscal year 2014 to 2015.

… The IRS’s congressionally allocated budget for taxpayer assistance remained flat from fiscal year 2014 to 2015. Nevertheless, the level of service, especially for over-the-phone customer service, decreased drastically. In January 2015, the IRS commissioner estimated that taxpayer service would decline while delays in tax refunds would increase. While the IRS commissioner has blamed this solely on budget cuts, in reality the IRS deliberately diverted resources away from taxpayer services.

The report does more than rant, though, offering some unsolicited advice the IRS might put to good use — if its bosses truly want to get the most mileage out of the agency’s annual budget. Here’s a graphic the committee introduced to demonstrate how the agency could have adjusted its priorities last year in order to save money on a number of fronts:


“These examples are not theoretical,” the report states. “The IRS has the power to use these resources to help taxpayers.”

Press keeps pleading with ‘transparent’ Obama White House to loosen its grip on media access

The bipolar White House press corps, which regularly vacillates between “Hope and Change” and frustration over its limited access to the president, is on a depressive swing at the moment.

Representatives of the press corps released a draft last week of a newly crafted list of suggestions it’s asking the Obama administration to adopt. The list amounts to a series of pleas for the Obama White House to loosen its grip on a heavily orchestrated regimen that, so far, has carefully prescribed what the press corps can and can’t do.

Some of the requests are as facile as you might expect — the press corps is still smarting over not getting to hang out on the golf course with Obama. Under a section devoted to coverage of the president’s leisure activities, the media folks propose this:

Leisure: The WH discloses when the President is engaging in a leisure activity outside the residence (golf, for example) and releases the names of those accompanying him or her on these trips, either in advance or as the events happen. The WH allows some reasonable amount of video and still photo access and coverage, which should never be less than the access and perspectives given to any unilateral photographers or public onlookers at the site. The full pool accompanies the President on these outings. In cases where leisure events include a politician, prominent official or head of state, a pool spray is allowed at minimum.

On the other hand, the press corps is making a concerted effort to persuade Obama to curb his practice of bypassing the media by using social media platforms as a way of directly reporting to — or propagandizing, depending on your point of view — the American people.

“WH social media accounts should not be used to circumvent the press corps,” the draft advises under its “Twitter and social media” item.

The press corps is also hoping the Obama administration will end its controversial practice of scrutinizing press pool reports before they’re released into the wider world.

“Print pool reports are the responsibility of the pooler, and the White House shall not exercise any editorial role or delay dissemination,” the draft asserts. “Staffers may point out factual inaccuracy, but the decision on any changes rests with the independent print pooler. The print pool and the WHCA board take responsibility for sending corrections and clarifications.”

The draft will go through an internal comment period before the press corps agrees to a final proposal. After that, look for the Obama administration to acknowledge receipt of these demands — and then forget about them.

Check out the full draft proposal here.

State lawmaker introduces flat income tax bill in Alabama

A Republican Alabama lawmaker has introduced a bill that would do away with the state’s tiered income tax assessment method, replacing it instead with a 2.75 percent flat tax.

Alabama State Sen. Bill Hightower announced the proposal Tuesday, taking care to emphasize that the overhaul is not intended to adjust the amount of revenue the state receives from income tax payments. Rather, Hightower said, it’s about simplicity and staying competitive with other states.

“By ensuring a simplicity and fairness in our tax code, we will improve the opportunities and lives of every Alabama family,” Hightower said at a Tuesday press conference.

The bill has strong support from GOP leaders in a state where Republicans hold a supermajority in both legislative chambers. According to right-leaning Yellowhammer News, it also enjoys support from several Alabama academics and economists:

The plan is endorsed by six economists from Troy University, as well as Americans for Tax Reform (ATR).

“Senator Hightower’s proposal to lower Alabama tax rates, including the personal income tax and corporate income tax by ending and/or phasing out credits and deductions in the Alabama tax code is an important step in the right direction for tax reform and Alabama taxpayers,” said William Upton, the ATR’s state affairs manager. “The bill’s goal is clear, to create a lower, flatter, fairer tax code that is simple to understand and easy to comply with.”

The bill would do away with staggered income tax deductions, which currently vary depending on a resident’s earnings. While most Alabamians’ incomes are presently assessed at a rate close to 5 percent, proponents of the flat tax bill claim that many still receive exemptions that create a lot of actual disparity, the Anniston Star reports.

“Proponents of the flat tax say the current tax code is riddled with exemptions that reduce income tax collections by 45 percent and corporate collections by 40 percent,” wrote the Star.

“Eliminating those exemptions would allow the state to lower personal income tax to 2.75 percent and corporate income tax to 4.59 percent across the board, supporters of the proposal said. Hightower said the state would bring in the same amount of revenue under the new system.”

If approved, the bill would put the proposal before Alabama voters as a referendum to amend the state’s constitution to reflect the change.

Conservative British MEP asks Americans to beware our creep toward hereditary political nobility

In a sobering bit of perspective from across the pond, a conservative British politician is hoping to remind Americans that we’re in danger of losing our grasp on one of the biggest principles that helped define our nation’s painful separation from the monarchy.

In an opinion piece this week for the Washington Examiner, Dan Hannan — a British Conservative Party member and Member of the European Parliament (MEP) — warned Americans against embracing hereditary political dynasties. Focusing specifically on the likely continuation of the Bush-Clinton family power struggle, Hannan argued there’s little difference between a class system imposed through state power and one accepted through the slow acquiescence of the people.

Here’s a sample:

… These days, the British Establishment is not made up of dukes or bishops, but of radical lawyers, politically correct broadcasters, avant-garde artists, heads of government agencies and, behind them, the mass of licensors, regulators, inspectors, officials and judges who run the country without the bother of getting themselves elected to anything. They’re the ones who truly radiate entitlement.

David Cameron’s opponents might be on firmer ground if they pointed to his relatively slight experience outside government. But they’ll never do it, because that criticism applies far more strongly to their own side. Neither Ed Miliband, the Labor leader, nor Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat, has ever had a job beyond politics.

That’s the kind of entitlement that should worry us. Not the supposed swagger of the posh, but the world-view of politicians who are so much a part of the governing class that they can no longer discharge the primary purpose of the elected representative — to ensure that the state machine works for the rest of the country rather than the other way around.

Can you think of anyone in American politics who might have that problem? Here’s a clue. On the day she announced her candidacy, I had a look at Hillary Clinton’s Twitter page. What, I wondered, might it tell me about her likely priorities in government? She followed nine other accounts: Clinton Global Initiative, Clinton Foundation, Clinton School, Clinton Library, Bill Clinton, Chelsea Clinton, Women in Public Service, Too Small to Fail and Beyond Differences. (To be fair, five more accounts have since been added: @HillaryforSC, @HillaryforNV, @HillaryforNH, @HillaryforIA and @HillaryforNY.)

And why not? When you’ve been in and around government at the highest level for long enough, you’re bound to start taking it for granted. You forget that you are passing through institutions that are greater than you are. It becomes all about you.

… Are we really contemplating another Bush-Clinton contest in 2016?

If you couldn’t tell, Hannon is disappointed by this phenomenon in the United States. The American system, by design, “depended on constantly changing the people at the top,” he writes. “If certain families got it into their heads that the republic was their plaything, America would descend into oligarchy as surely as if it had a hereditary nobility.”

“If,” he states.

Aren’t we past that?

Read Hannan’s whole piece at Washington Examiner.

Fewer than 10 percent of journalists confess to being Republican

While most U.S. journalists describe themselves as independents, those who identify as Democrats overwhelmingly outnumber those who admit to being Republicans.

That’s one of the conclusions featured in a new study about the U.S. media, published by a pair of faculty members at the Indiana University School of Journalism.

The study, titled The American Journalist in the Digital Age, revisited a number of previous national surveys conducted by ABC News and The Washington Post, comparing the earlier findings with those from 2013, the poll’s most recent iteration. In the 2013 version, only 7.1 percent of journalists identified themselves as Republicans, whereas nearly four times that number — 28.1 percent — identified as Democrats.

Compare that with the earliest version of the poll, conducted in 1971. That year, the two parties were far more evenly represented among members of the press. Self-identified Republicans accounted for 25.7 percent of the politically affiliated media, while Democrats made up another 35.5 percent.

Almost as dramatic as the massive disparity between Republicans and Democrats in 2013 is the dramatic jump in the number of journalists who claim no affiliation with either party. In 2013, 50.2 percent said they regard themselves as political independents, compared with 32.5 percent.

The study also notes a number of other traits that appear to unite journalists in their thinking: dissatisfaction with the direction of the profession as a whole, concern over shrinking newsrooms and a continuing drop in job satisfaction.

Read the full study here.

[We should note that this study’s two authors — Lars Willnat and David H. Weaver — don’t appear to have anything to do with another controversial media project, Truthy, run by Indiana University. We’ve written about that media-monitoring project here and here.]

MSM outlets pledge to pursue Clinton Foundation allegations

So many of the books that claim to reveal the Clinton family’s dirty personal and political secrets end up selling well, despite being packed with more anecdotal sensationalism than with found facts. Wouldn’t it be great if a well-researched book — one that scoops the mainstream media’s caste of lazy, chatterbox journalists with real reporting — would compel the rest of the reporting world to pay attention?

That appears to be what’s expected of a forthcoming book about the Clinton Foundation’s conflicts of interest. The New York Times’ Amy Chozick revealed Sunday that the new book, “Clinton Cash” by Peter Schweizer, will stand apart from a crowd of other Clinton scandal books — because the mainstream media is on board to keep reporting on whatever Schweizer’s uncovered.

Chozick wasn’t shy about touting the book’s promises — or about the Times and other media outlets obligating themselves to follow up on them:

The book does not hit shelves until May 5, but already the Republican Rand Paul has called its findings “big news” that will “shock people” and make voters “question” the candidacy of Hillary Rodham Clinton.

“Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich,” by Peter Schweizer — a 186-page investigation of donations made to the Clinton Foundation by foreign entities — is proving the most anticipated and feared book of a presidential cycle still in its infancy.

The book, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times, asserts that foreign entities who made payments to the Clinton Foundation and to Mr. Clinton through high speaking fees received favors from Mrs. Clinton’s State Department in return.

… In the long lead up to Mrs. Clinton’s campaign announcement, aides proved adept in swatting down critical books as conservative propaganda, including Edward Klein’s “Blood Feud,” about tensions between the Clintons and the Obamas, and Daniel Halper’s “Clinton Inc.: The Audacious Rebuilding of a Political Machine.”

But “Clinton Cash” is potentially more unsettling, both because of its focused reporting and because major news organizations including The Times, The Washington Post and Fox News have exclusive agreements with the author to pursue the story lines found in the book.

So there’s money to be made in airing Clinton’s dirty laundry, or so it seems. The article makes it appear as though NYT, Fox, WaPo and other outlets’ motives are pure, so there’s plenty of reason for skepticism. But newspapers and TV news media, liberal-leaning or not, love notoriety more than adhering to a script. If the book leads to a slew of truly informative MSM stories that unearth more information on the Clinton Foundation’s role as a simony bureau for Hillary Clinton’s State Department, that’s a good thing.

For now, it’s all promises — even though they’re of the sort capable of getting Rand Paul all fired up.

Public opinion swings toward gun ownership; away from gun control

In a short amount of time, public opinion polling in the gun rights/gun control debate has swung convincingly in favor of gun ownership, a sign that the Obama administration’s multifaceted legal and cultural push to restrict Americans’ access to firearms has backfired.

A Pew Research Center poll released April 17 shows that public opinion favoring gun rights over restrictions has been moving toward a tipping point — a point it finally reached in December of last year.

“For most of the 1990s and the subsequent decade, a substantial majority of Americans believed it was more important to control gun ownership than to protect gun owners’ rights,” Pew reported. “But in December 2014, the balance of opinion flipped: For the first time, more Americans say that protecting gun rights is more important than controlling gun ownership, 52% to 46%.”

General anxiety about the Obama administration’s gun control agenda gets a lot of the credit for the shift. But so does Americans’ views on protecting themselves from crime — and the increasing number of Americans who associate crime prevention with the free exercise of the right to bear arms.

“Over the past 25 years or so, there has been a divergence between American perceptions about crime and actual crime rates,” Pew observed. “And those who worried about crime had favored stricter gun control; now, they tend to desire keeping the laws as they are or loosening gun control. In short, we are at a moment when most Americans believe crime rates are rising and when most believe gun ownership — not gun control — makes people safer.”

Another factor may also contribute to Americans’ growing embrace of 2nd Amendment rights: a diversifying, hard-to-pigeonhole demographic of people who appear to be more open than ever to owning and using firearms.

“[W]hat the demographics show is that while women, blacks, gays, and liberals are not traditionally gun owners, at least some are open to joining our community,” wrote Greg Camp in a column at “If we play into the perception that owning guns is something only what one group does — white, male Republicans — we’ll lose new supporters of gun rights.

“… Broaden the tent, and welcome in anyone who will join us.” also offered this video to illustrate the increasingly diverse population of Americans who own — and are enthusiastic about owning — firearms.

For Al Sharpton, the tax man’s shadow just keeps growing

Among other (mostly shameful) reasons, Al Sharpton is famous for somehow continuing to live well while staying indebted to the state. The race-hustling MSNBC host and his businesses reportedly owe more than $4 million in unpaid taxes and penalties to the federal government and the State of New York.

How, then, does he continue to elude the same punishment and aggressive collection efforts that government tends to visit on other alleged tax delinquents?

That’s a question the New York Post posed recently, noting that “[d]ozens of pages of tax warrants and liens show that, at best, Sharpton has been deeply negligent, and at worst, he’s gaming the system.”

Unfortunately, anyone who has an answer hasn’t come forward with an explanation, the Post concludes.

“New York’s Limited Liability Company Law says when an out-of-state business like Sharpton Media Group is dissolved or terminated at home, it has to file paperwork to shut down in New York, too — presumably to safeguard New York from businesses that have failed to meet obligations elsewhere,” the Post observed.

“But Sharpton Media Group remains active here [in New York], with no termination papers filed, according to the state’s Division of Corporations.

“… Why has New York let Sharpton Media Group remain registered as active with impunity?”

The only answers the Post was able to obtain were of the deflective sort. “A Divisions of Corporations official says her agency is ‘not a regulatory or enforcement office,'” it reported. The state attorney general’s office didn’t respond when the newspaper asked the same question.

As Sharpton (presumably) works through the various delinquent payment plans he’s had to negotiate through years of late and missed payments, perhaps he can take comfort in the knowledge that — at least for this tax year — he’s got some sympathetic company.

Melissa Harris-Perry, Sharpton’s ideological and TV colleague at MSNBC, is reportedly behind on federal taxes to the tune of $70,000.

“The Internal Revenue Service has placed a tax lien on Melissa Harris-Perry and her husband, James Perry, for about $70,000 in delinquent taxes,” the Winston-Salem Journal reported on April 17.

Harris-Perry has a residence in North Carolina, where she’s a professor at Wake Forest University.

Iowa legislators grapple with changes to civil forfeiture law

Iowa — the same state where petty application of civil forfeiture law has all but ruined restaurant owner Carole Hinders — may finally be taking up reform legislation that could scale back or end the practice.

The Iowa legislature’s House Government Oversight Committee held an April 15 hearing to gather input from forfeiture critics and supporter alike, zeroing in on a number of ways in which various feature of the current law could be modified or abolished.

According to The Des Moines Register, the committee “brought in concerned members of the public, law enforcement and policy experts to testify and answer questions,” an information-gathering move intended to serve as a “building block for a bill,” as Republican State Rep. Bobby Kaufmann put it.

Pressure to change civil forfeiture law in Iowa has increased since The Des Moines Register began publicizing the practice through a series of investigative stories. The Register kept the topic going with a public forum event, which the paper hosted only a day after legislators fielded comments at the committee hearing.

The Register noted that reforming the law has bipartisan support. Democratic State Rep. Steve Sodders told forum attendees that Iowa should at least pay attorney fees for citizens caught up in a forfeiture case.

At the same forum, Republican U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley gave a videotaped introduction in which he acknowledged “the [civil forfeiture] practice up to this point had perverse incentives. That’s why I’m working on bipartisan legislation in the United States Senate that will protect innocent people from being caught in the dragnet.”

At a Senate judiciary hearing, which took place in Washington, D.C., on the same day that Iowa’s lawmakers held their hearing, Grassley repudiated a police organization that claimed doing away with the law would threaten “hundreds of millions” of dollars in needed police funding.

That argument, he said, “dismisses the need for real reform and demonstrates the absurdity of a system of justice in which some in law enforcement appear to value funding their own operations over protecting civil rights,” The Washington Post reported.

You can read more about Grassley’s involvement in crafting a federal asset forfeiture reform law here.

And here’s a bit more on the civil forfeiture horror story of Hinder, that Iowa restaurateur who had $30,000 in assets seized following a particularly zealous application of the current law.

More than one-fourth of former college borrowers are in default

A new report from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis reveals a substantial increase in the default rate for former college borrowers who are now having to pay back their federal student loans.

In an April 10 essay titled “Student Loan Delinquency: A Big Problem Getting Worse?” two Fed analysts noted the “the percent of student loan borrowers who are not making their debt payments on time has increased significantly.”

While they may be late to the college-loan-bubble speculation game, authors Juan M. Sánchez and Lijun Zhu posed a watered-down version of the bazillion-dollar question: “This trend has generated a large debate because the government subsidizes a very significant share of that debt. This essay analyzes the evolution of some key statistics relevant to this debate.”

Not to worry, though — the authors reassure the public that, while “[s]tudent loan delinquency is a big problem … it is not getting worse.”

That’s a funny assessment, considering their numeric findings:

For 2010:Q4, we find that about 45 percent of student loans were not in repayment; this implies that only about 55 percent of student loans were in repayment. As a consequence, if we adjust the delinquency rate to consider that only a fraction of the borrowers have payments due, this level of delinquency is very concerning: A delinquency rate of 15 percent for all student loan borrowers implies a delinquency rate of 27.3 percent for borrowers with loans in repayment. This level of delinquency is much higher than for any other type of debt (credit cards, auto loans, mortgages, and so on).

The authors cite a commensurate 2 percent decrease in the percentage of borrowers whose loans aren’t currently in repayment as evidence that “the trend in delinquency is not as problematic as it seems.”

But how much higher can the ratio naturally climb, given that it’s been steadily climbing — by the Fed study’s own observation — over the past decade?

“The delinquency rate increased significantly over the past 10 years — from 11 percent to slightly above 17 percent,” the report states. “Delinquency was monotonically increasing before reaching 15.8 percent in 2010. Thus, about 77 percent of the increase over the past 10 years occurred between 2004 and 2010. The delinquency rate decreased during 2011 and then increased sharply during 2012; since then it has remained quite stable at about 17 percent.”

Now, go back and compare that “stable” 17 percent with the authors’ findings for the fourth quarter of last year. Notice much of a difference?

Casual voters take note: Clinton can’t even competently run her own campaign

It’s early days yet, leaving plenty of time to set things right, but there’s reason to suspect that postmortem election pundits may someday blame a Hillary Clinton defeat on voters’ conviction that she must be incapable of managing the country if she can’t even manage her own campaign.

Less than a week into Clinton’s campaign start, she’s already giving her GOP opponents — many of them perfectly capable of their own gaffes and out-of-touch messaging — a terrific blueprint for how not to conduct their own campaigns, if they care to take notes.

There’s a laundry list of Week 1 missteps, tone-deaf decisions, misstatements of fact and plain old bad PR. But Clinton’s camp may have committed its greatest offense with its approach to so-called “small donors” — regular people who can’t cough up Tom Steyer or Koch Brothers money, but who want to chip in.

Clinton’s official campaign website reached out to such donors with a request for small incremental donations, and that’s great. If there’s true grass-roots support for Clinton, here’s the one-stop place for the small money to go into the till.

But the come-on for English-speaking donors presumes they’re capable of donating more than their Spanish-speaking counterparts. As of Tuesday, the donations page was asking English speakers to donate amounts of $5, $25, $50, $100, $500, $1,000 and $2,700. But the Spanish-language version of the same online donation form solicited donations of $3, $5, $10, $25, $50, $100 and $250.

“Based on the campaign’s website … expectations for those ‘small-dollar donors’ who speak Spanish are considerably lower than those for their English-speaking counterparts,” The Weekly Standard observed in a report Tuesday.

That article must have pinged on the Clinton campaign’s radar, because the amounts on the Spanish donation page were promptly changed. “Since this article ran, the Clinton campaign changed the Spanish language donations page to match the English language page,” the Standard reported in an update to its original story. You can still see a screenshot of the alleged original, which reflects the differing amounts, at the Standard website.

Bad as that appears, it’s only one of many pieces of present-day baggage that Clinton continues to accumulate:

  • The Clinton Foundation won’t stop taking money from foreign governments.
  • When asked this week how she plans to weed out shadow donations made to her campaign super PAC, Hillary reportedly shrugged and said, “I don’t know.”
  • She misremembers (or is flat-out lying about) whether her grandparents were born in the U.S. or immigrated here.
  • She reportedly has told people that her Welsh ancestors were even evangelized by John Wesley himself.
  • Her free and easy, populist road trip to Iowa was an ersatz, choreographed sham. Her Iowa meeting with supporters was preceded by a confiscation of everyone’s cellphones.
  • Hell, the Hillville camp can’t even agree on who should take credit for producing her campaign’s launch video — a bit of housekeeping that should be mundane enough, except, as it turns out, it’s the sort of thing that actually matters to the FEC.
  • And then … well, and then there’s this.

Valerie Jarrett hugs and kisses MSNBC hosts before fielding the tough questions

Maybe the Obama administration really is the most transparent in history.

On Wednesday, Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett made no effort to conceal her affection for her interlocutors on a televised MSNBC interview, making a beeline for hosts Katty Kay, Cokie Roberts and — we suspect — Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough.

Judging from her on-camera behavior, Jarrett appears to harbor a genuine and personal affection for these people.

Jarret started on the near end of the news desk and moved down the line, hugging and courtesy-kissing her seated hosts before a commercial-break graphic obstructed the full exchange.

She crept up behind Kay (who anchors the BBC’s “World News America” show in her full-time gig), embracing her warmly and giving her a cheek peck before moving on, with open arms, to Roberts. She was headed straight for Brzezinski when the shot cut away.

From the look of things, all four hosts were in line for some sugar, though the televised portion only shows Jarret doting over the first two. If only the editors hadn’t thrown up that pesky screen-covering graphic, we might have been treated to an embrace between Jarrett and token MSNBC Republican Joe Scarborough, the “Morning Joe” show’s namesake. Cats and dogs living peaceably, and all that.

After the break, and with the XOXOs out of the way, Jarret remained seated for the rest of the segment, fielding some down-the-middle questions from the Lean Forward network’s assembled posse of aloof, detached political journalists.