Below is my column in the Hill newspaper on the allegations that Attorney General Bill Barr is now somehow “implicated” in the Ukraine controversy because he spoke with counterparts in England, Italy, and Australia about assisting in the investigation by U.S. Attorney John Durham. If those calls were truly about the Durham investigation, it would be entirely proper for Barr to ask for such assistance. I have always maintained that the Congress has a legitimate interest in investigating the Ukraine controversy. However, the chorus of recriminations on the Barr matter reveal the hype triggering much of the hypoxia.
Here is the column:
With all of the breathless headlines of the last two weeks, it is astonishing that the entire city of Washington is not swooning from hypoxia. Much of the media have blasted out the news that Attorney General William Barr is “implicated” in the Ukraine scandal, after sources said he pressed leaders in Australia, Italy and England to supply evidence about the origins of the Russia investigation. Esquire Magazine was a tad more descriptive, proclaiming Barr was now “far up s–t creek” because of his calls.
Yet not only is there a valid reason for such calls, but they could indicate that the creek could become a storm of sorts for Democrats over the coming weeks. The calls made by Barr were reportedly linked to the ongoing investigation by United States Attorney John Durham into the origins of the Russia investigation. It is not uncommon for an attorney general, or even a president, to ask foreign leaders to assist with ongoing investigations. Such calls can shortcut bureaucratic red tape, particularly if the evidence is held, as in this case, by national security or justice officials. A call to request assistance for the Durham investigation would “implicate” Barr in nothing other than an official investigation.
I supported the appointment of a special counsel after President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. I also supported an investigation into the origins of the FBI investigation. The country is divided on the merits of both with legitimate concerns raised on each side. With the start of a House impeachment inquiry, it is more important than ever to have transparency along with a review of both investigations.
Moreover, Durham could answer some disturbing aspects of the origins of the Russia investigation, including the mysterious role of Professor Joseph Mifsud. Efforts by Durham to gain cooperation from Australia, England, and Italy likely concern figures such as Misfud. The professor seemed eager and focused in revealing that there were “thousands of emails” in the hands of the Russians in conspicuously opportunistic meetings with key figures.
An academic from Malta, Mifsud has long been tied to Russian interests and appears at critical moments throughout the Russia investigation. He met with former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos in both Rome and London. In one of those meetings, he referenced the existence of hacked emails.
We have never established the real facts or loyalties of Mifsud. Some have suggested that he may have been a Western asset working for American, British, or Italian intelligence services. Fueling that speculation was the fact that the special counsel report indicates Mifsud lied repeatedly to investigators on sensitive national security issues. While Robert Mueller charged others for minor discrepancies in the stories that they told investigators, Mifsud somehow escaped any such charge.
Information on Mifsud would be found in countries like Australia, England, and Italy, as would be information on the work of former British spy Christopher Steele. The Clinton campaign paid him and an American opposition research firm a large sum of money to seek dirt on Trump, including Russian and other foreign sources. Such information is not easily shaken loose without a high level prompt from someone like Barr.
However, many of the very same figures in Congress and in the media who previously called for full disclosure of every aspect of the Russia investigation are now criticizing the effort to gather evidence in the Durham investigation. It appears the public “right to know” does not extend that far. The reason is that a key report by Durham likely would come at a most importune time in advance of the 2020 election.
Democrats already are moving to impeach Trump on the Ukraine matter. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others have told fellow Democrats to focus on Ukraine instead of on Russia conspiracy or obstruction, which led to more than two years of investigation. One reason for this is that Trump would be able to call his own witnesses during a Senate trial, particularly with a Republican majority dictating the rules. If the Russia investigation winds up as part of an impeachment trial, then Trump would be able to use these reports and earlier disclosures to place the conduct of the Obama administration under the spotlight before the public.
Trump would have plenty to work with in such a trial. The original focus was on his campaign aide Carter Page, who ultimately was not indicted on any crime. Mueller could not find a single crime by George Papadopoulos other than a marginal false statement that led to a whole 12 days in jail. Mueller ultimately found that no Trump official knowingly dealt with Russian hackers or trolls. If Durham finds irregularities and improper conduct in the Russia investigation, it will reinforce the claim by Trump that his campaign was improperly targeted by hostile FBI officials.
Even worse is there could be a one two punch coming on the Russia investigation. Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz is said to be close to releasing his report on the secret surveillance targeting Trump officials. The report is expected to be both comprehensive and damaging for many involved in the start of that investigation. Durham and Horowitz will not be easily dismissed. Both are widely respected and are working with career investigators. If either finds improper conduct, it could reinforce the position of Republicans and moderate Democrats in voting against the impeachment or removal of Trump, who strongly maintains that the Obama administration not only improperly targeted his campaign for investigation but proved lax in investigating allegations against Democrats ranging from Hillary Clinton to Joe Biden.
Convicting a president in an impeachment trial requires evidence and clarity. Even if Democrats only proceed on the Ukraine call, Trump will be able to claim that he sought evidence tied to the Russia investigation to assist Horowitz and Durham in their own investigations. He will be able to call witnesses like Hunter Biden on his business dealings in Ukraine while his father handed out more than a billion dollars in aid.
It is doubtful that Democrats could resist references to the Russia investigation in an impeachment trial, which would trip the wire for Trump to bring in countervailing evidence from the Horowitz or Durham reports. Esquire Magazine could right about the nature of this river, but while it may lead to many things, clarity is not likely one of them.
Column: What's behind the Democrats' power play
Democrats are rushing into impeachment despite the knowledge that, given what we know now, the Senate will not remove Donald Trump from office. Why is Nancy Pelosi doing this?
Because she has resigned herself to the argument that impeaching Trump is the way for Democrats to win the presidency and Senate 13 months from now. Pelosi’s bank shot isn’t aimed at Trump’s conviction on the Hill. It’s aimed at his loss at the polls.
American University professor Allan Lichtman best expressed the political logic in a recent op-ed. His “13 keys” model, along with most quantitative forecasts, currently favors Trump’s reelection. Lichtman says impeachment would change that by tarnishing the incumbent with scandal. The facts of the case, and whether the Senate convicts, do not matter.
Impeachment alone would not doom Trump according to Lichtman’s model. What it might do is trigger additional events that would help Democrats. The cumulative effect would be a Republican loss.
The conventional wisdom that impeachment backfired on the Republicans in 1998 has been overturned. Yes, the argument goes, the GOP gave up some House seats. That did not stop them from winning the presidency and both chambers of Congress two years later. Impeachment contributed to “Clinton fatigue.” It boosted the chances of a candidate who promised to restore dignity to the White House. The same could happen in 2020.
Advocates of impeachment say the inquiry, whether an official “proceeding” or not, might damage Trump’s approval rating to such an extent that he will draw forth a significant primary challenger, a third-party candidacy, or both. Nor is political tumult and uncertainty helpful for a global economy roiled by trade war and lack of investment. Recession would make Trump’s downfall even more likely.
If impeachment comes to a vote in the House, Democrats representing Trump districts will be risking their political futures. Pelosi seems willing to take that risk. She knows this knife cuts both ways.
Mitch McConnell says that if the House votes to impeach, the Senate will hold a trial. It won’t just be Democrats Doug Jones (who is in cycle) and Joe Manchin, Jon Tester, and Kyrsten Sinema (who are not) in awkward positions. So will Republicans Susan Collins, Martha McSally, Cory Gardner, and Thom Tillis, all up for reelection. Democratic victory in the Senate is critical for progressives. McConnell is Horatius standing between Elizabeth Warren and structural reform of the Senate, the judiciary, and the U.S. economy.
Pelosi has fixed impeachment on the July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky for three reasons. The scandal fits on a television chyron: “Trump pressured Ukraine for dirt on Biden.” The process can be run through her ally Adam Schiff’s Intelligence Committee rather than through the obstreperous Jerry Nadler’s Judiciary. And the national security connection provides cover for the seven moderate freshmen with backgrounds in defense and intelligence agencies.
What makes Ukraine different from the Russia investigation is the simplicity of the alleged wrongdoing. Everyone can read the transcript of the Trump-Zelensky phone call and decide whether its contents warrant impeachment and removal from office in an election year. The Democrats need to move quickly, however, and maintain focus. Otherwise they risk losing the plot.
Speed is essential if Ukraine is to avoid the fate of other supposedly Trump-destroying scandals that collapsed from either a dearth of outrage or internal contradictions. Stormy, Avenatti, Omarosa, Scaramucci, Cohen have all gone the way of the dodo. The Russia investigation was too confusing, its results too murky, its special counsel too confused to end or cause lasting damage to Trump.
For Ukraine to be different, the Democrats must uncover evidence that will convince independents and some Republicans the president abused his office. That hasn’t happened yet. Already there are signs of overreach: the attempt to rope in William Barr and Mike Pompeo, tenuous arguments that the Zelensky call somehow broke the law, and calls for canceling Rudy Giuliani’s media appearances and for shutting down the president’s Twitter feed. Pelosi is moving quickly under the assumption that the longer the process takes, the more opportunities Trump will have to wriggle out of this vise, and the more Democrats will become distracted and dissolute.
“How can I lose?” asked Paul Newman’s character Fast Eddie in The Hustler. Pelosi might ask the same question as she enters her own high-stakes tournament. Eddie thought he had a pretty good bank shot, too.
Comedian Ellen DeGeneres and former President George W. Bush were spotted enjoying a Sunday afternoon together watching the NFL game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Green Bay Packers in the Dallas stadium.
After the cameras televising the game put the two on screen, the moment immediately went viral with many Twitter users quick to shame the liberal comedian and television host for spending time with the former conservative president.
On Monday, DeGeneres addressed the backlash on her show, giving Americans a much needed lesson in civility, quipped with humor and humility.
“During the game, they showed a shot of George and me laughing together, and so, people were upset,” DeGeneres explained. “They thought, why is a gay Hollywood liberal sitting next to a conservative Republican president? Didn’t even notice I’m holding the brand-new iPhone 11.”
DeGeneres continued to make a point that Americans would do well to live by in an age of historic levels of political polarization saturated with contempt.
“Here’s the thing. I’m friends with George Bush. In fact, I’m friends with a lot of people who don’t share the same beliefs that I have,” DeGeneres said. “We’re all different. And I think that we’ve forgotten that that’s okay that we’re all different.”
DeGeneres analogized to having friends who wear fur, saying that while she also didn’t like it when people wear fur, it doesn’t stop the former vegan from being friends with those who do.
“Just because I don’t agree with someone on everything, doesn’t mean that I’m not going to be friends with them,” DeGeneres said. “When I say be kind to one-another, I don’t mean only the people that think the same way that you do. I mean be kind to everyone.”
The message to be kind is simple. In fact, it’s a lesson learned as children, but often appears to be forgotten in the political world as America’s growing addiction to contempt continues to sow division in a deeply divided nation.
According to a 2016 poll from the Pew Research Center, 55 percent of Democrats said they had a “very unfavorable” view of Republicans while 58 percent of Republicans held the same view of Democrats. A more recent Pew survey published in July shows 85 percent of American adults believing the “tone and nature” of our political discourse has become more negative in recent years.
The deterioration of civil discourse in America has led to the destruction of genuine relationships essential to the human condition, which, as DeGeneres explains is unnecessary. A Reuters/Ipsos poll found that 15 percent, or one in six Americans, reported that they had either stopped talking to a close friend or family member over the result of the 2016 presidential election.
It is not however, simply the restoration of American civility that will save the country from further division, but it is the eradication of contempt for one another. The country has developed a sick addiction to deeming people with different political beliefs as less than human, and not worth listening to. Perhaps even, “deplorable.” One can be civil and tolerant with another and still avoid discourse.
DeGeneres’s monologue is an important message that is so simple yet so easily forgotten in the modern political environment, but is imperative to healing the nation. DeGeneres’s speech is a good reminder for many that life should not be defined by one’s political preferences.
The ongoing civil war, the sixth since unification on May 22, 1990, of the Yemen Arab Republic of the north and the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen of the south, has hugely exacerbated the already deeply ingrained tribal, sectarian, intra-religious, social as well as geographic differences within the country. Moreover, the most recent civil war has brought untold human suffering to the entire population, has devastated the economy, and has destroyed the infrastructure of Yemen. As a consequence, Yemen is a failed state. To add insult to injury, both the indigineous and foreign forces involved in the present chaotic situation have lost their strategic compass. In the absence of a clear vision, all is downhill from here.
In spite of the broad international efforts to counter Tehran’s unrelenting support for the Houthis, none of the major issues that have thus far prevented the consolidation of the security situation look any closer to a satisfying resolution. Thus, maintaining the present status quo will surely lead to the breakup of Yemen, which will be accompanied by enduring political and existential tragedies.
For these reasons, the only path to success is to forge a strategy that will decisively break with the ineffective methods and the failed policies of the past. Clearly, continuity is not an option. Thus, before it is too late, either the current or a new leadership must focus its collective attention on three areas. First, enforce the authority of the central government by establishing security uncompromisingly throughout the entire country. Next, adopting a new constitution that is based on the principle of checks and balances among the three branches of government. Finally, create the conditions of an economic recovery that must also include the restoration of universal education and the rebuilding of the health industry.
More specifically, the central government must get rid of all extremist Islamists. Furthermore, it must secure the borders and coastlines. And above all, the central government must fight and gradually eradicate the all pervasive corruption.
Strategically speaking, the Islamic Republic of Iran is the major source of conflict. The enduring successes and longevity of the Houthis have already emboldened countless Islamist and ethnic terrorist organizations. Protracted chaos in Yemen will only facilitate more terrorism. Clearly, unless it is stopped, what transpires in Yemen will inevitably metastasize and eventually engulf the region. Again, it is time to realize that Iran is determined to achieve regional hegemony and foment chaos across the globe.
For these reasons, focusing almost exclusively on the humanitarian crisis will be limited in its effectiveness and might only contribute to passive toleration, and even concealed legitimization of terorrism. Attempting to build a democratic order will take a long time without the guarantee of ultimate success. This, in turn, will again only prolong the suffering of the people, while stretching the limited resources of the various organizations. Therefore, without first establishing a solid foundation for a secure society, such an effort will only present a house of cards that will surely collapse very quickly. For, in the absence of a strong central government and smart international support, nothing will change in Yemen.
In closing, President Hadi’s administration must abandon its passivity, start to exercise proactively its powers, and turn its attention decisively to gradually solve Yemen’s formidable problems. In case the Hadi administration will prove incapable to do its job, plan for a smooth transition to a new president and a new administration must be prepared. Meanwhile, the question remains, could the present government commit to the needed reforms rather than get lost in the vicious circle of endless infighting? If it will be the latter, President Hadi would prove that he is not the cure, but the symptom of Yemen’s political convulsions. The challenge for the United States of America is to analyze the situation rationally and act accordingly. Yemen is a strategically pivotal state in the Arabian peninsula, the greater Middle East, and east Africa. It deserves the United States’ and the rest of the world’s undivided attention.
By OAN Newsroom•
There was a time when the opioid crisis was blamed mostly on prescription painkiller abuse, but new data suggests that opioid deaths in America are now largely due to an illegal synthetic form of the drug smuggled into the U.S.
One America’s John Hines has more from Washington.
Why do we, as a nation, react the way we do anytime a lone gunman opens fire in a public space, killing and injuring multiple people? It can’t be because of the numbers alone. In the same week as El Paso and Dayton, one year prior, more people were killed and injured in separate incidents in Chicago.
No, it’s something else. Something tougher gun control laws or increased awareness of mental illness will not by themselves resolve. The carnage in Ohio and Texas—like at the Parkland, Florida, high school, the Las Vegas music festival, the Fort Hood Army base and elsewhere—was so seemingly random, it struck at our sense of personal safety.
These mass shootings are so threatening in an existential sense because each of us could just as easily be a victim as those who were. Any of us could be in the wrong place at the wrong time, defenseless against the madness that suddenly surrounds us.
The folks pushing for stricter gun control laws—for a ban on the sale of certain kinds of guns because they look particularly dangerous (in reality, all guns are dangerous), the expansion of gun-free zones or the creation of tougher “red flag laws” that may not pass constitutional muster because they short-circuit the due process each one of us is guaranteed in the Bill of Rights—are wasting their time and energy. None of these proposals do anything to get us to the real solutions that come about by bridging the gap between technology, physical safety issues and information sharing in times of crisis.
That’s what John South, a man with more than 25 years of managerial experience in security and large-scale business operations who served in both the U.S. military and law enforcement, is trying to do. After the April 2013 Boston bombing, when two homemade devices detonated 12 seconds and 210 yards apart, killing three and injuring hundreds gathered near the finishing line of the city’s famous marathon, South started thinking about the need to apply new technology to the problem of keeping people safe.
“In today’s world, ‘safety’ is a term we hear more often with the increase in soft target attacks in the U.S. and abroad,” the U.S. military veteran and former law enforcement official told me. “In any emergency, everyone wants to be saved. My goal was to find a way to do that using existing technology, as well as the tools we have built to enhance the process of saving lives.”
His solution, marketed through the company he founded, Patrocinium Systems, is already at work saving lives. According to company officials, after the Paris stadium bombing in 2015, the Patrocinium’s technology—which was still being beta-tested at the time—found and accounted for all its users in under 20 seconds. And it’s all based on smartphones.
“Almost everyone walks around with a phone in their pocket. Our phone has become the platform we use in social and work interaction almost every moment of every day. I realized the same device could and should be used for communications and location data in emergencies. My goal from inception, with a great understanding of security from my past, is to provide real-time awareness of emergency data, as well as the ability to respond to people faster with more accurate information to save more lives,” South told me.
It is, in a sense, astonishingly simple. It relies on existing sensors and software to generate information about what’s happening as it happens when an event takes place. South suggests thinking of it as being like Waze—the smartphone mapping app that partially relies on user inputs to provide a real-time picture of what’s happening on the roads—but for crisis situations like bombings, shootings, fires and other events that trigger the need for first responders.
According to South, the system notifies users if they are in danger based on their location, allows people to check in as being “safe” or “unsafe,” and visualizes the real-time location of users for a heightened response. “In the fire in Paradise, California, the system could have been deployed in 10 minutes, used for communication and location of people in need by neighborhood in seconds, creating a triage of greater response,” he said.
This is the kind of thinking America needs to take on the challenge posed by mass shootings. The frenzied demands made by politicians and anti-gun advocates in the aftermath of the latest tragedies might win them votes, but it won’t make us any safer. For that, we need visionaries like John South and others in the technology sector taking the lead.
The Democrats clearly don’t need to spend a dime on the 2020 presidential election campaign when they have almost the entire mainstream media doing free infomercials for them, and with just about the same level of authenticity and reliability as you would expect from those ads for Miss Cleo’s Psychic Friends Network.
It’s hard to know why the networks and cable news channels don’t have to declare their in-kind contributions to the Democratic Party when it is so obvious that their No. 1 goal is getting Donald Trump out of office. You can’t really blame the First Amendment because neither you nor I can make unlimited donations to the candidate of our choice or else it’s called (cue the scary music here) “daarrrrrrk money.” Our political speech is not protected by the First Amendment, so neither should the blatantly biased political speech of phony journalists who are less interested in reporting facts than expressing outrage.
Take this example from last week on MSNBC:
“If it’s Tuesday: Divide and conquer. The White House offers up a few changes to the famous Statue of Liberty poem about immigrants, putting the spotlight once again on the president’s campaign to stoke racial division.”
No. If it’s Tuesday, it’s Kasie Hunt making up stuff on “MTP Daily” to hurt President Trump because Chuck Todd is too busy stroking his own ego to do the job. There, I fixed it.
And in case you missed the meme, the new libel on President Trump is that he is a racist. This campaign may not have the traction of the Russian treason libel, which was able to last for three years on the basis of a phony dossier paid for by his political opponents in the Democratic Party, but NBC and the rest of the Democrat cheerleaders in the Fake News Media don’t care. They know they just need the public to buy their lie about Trump being a racist for a little over a year, and with their experience in spreading manure — er, I mean propaganda — they are no doubt confident that they can add Trump’s scalp to their closet of Republican trophies.
So back to the deplorable Kasie Hunt (and I mean that in the original sense of someone loathsome) and her campaign of hate against Trump. Here was how she started her program last Tuesday:
“There is no longer any question about what kind of campaign the president is running. He is staking his reelection on stoking racial division — with megaphones and with dog whistles. After just yesterday announcing a plan to penalize legal immigrants who rely on public benefits like Medicaid or food stamps, a top immigration official suggested a rewrite to the poem on the Statue of Liberty.”
Actually, he didn’t. In response to a question by Rachel Martin on NPR, Ken Cuccinelli agreed that the words “Give me your tired, your poor” are part of “the American ethos,” but he pointed out that we expect immigrants to “stand on their own two feet, and … not become a public charge.”
This is hardly a novel idea. In fact, it has been on the books in one form or another since 1882, when the United States government passed its first comprehensive immigration law. The idea is simple, too. Don’t expect to move to the United States if you can’t support yourself. This seems like a pretty reasonable request from a country with a $22.5 trillion national debt.
It also, by the way, has nothing whatsoever to do with race. It applies to all people without regard to race. If anyone has a campaign “to stoke racial division,” it is MSNBC, which hears a dog whistle every time the wind blows. (By the way, why is it OK to refer to Trump voters as dogs? I never did figure that one out.)
After making her case that President Trump is following a “strategy of stoking racial division” that supposedly worked in 2016, Hunt said, “The question now: Will it work it 2020, and what are Democrats doing to fight against it?”
Cue the all-Democrat infomercial panel to confirm Ms. Hunt’s anti-Trump bias and repeat back to her that Trump is indeed a racist pig, or dog, or some such non-human species. They dutifully responded as expected, but not to be outdone by her guests, Hunt then raised the stakes by stating as a matter of fact that “clearly the president is ready to wage a race war.”
Say what? Did she really just say that? Yep, and if you are like most Americans, this is the point where you turned off MSNBC and asked what planet these people live on! President Trump’s war is against Fake News, not against people of color.
Again, immigration reform has nothing to do with race, and the United States is not obligated to allow entry by everyone who wishes to move here. Indeed, the government has a responsibility to vet those who seek visas and those who seek green cards. To presume otherwise is insane.
When you move to a new country, before you become a citizen you are essentially in the position of a potential tenant hoping to rent a bedroom. That metaphor allows people to see the illogic of the leftist position, which is based on the idea of giving the tenant more power than the homeowner.
If, as a homeowner, you decide to rent out a room in your home, you will commonly ask for references from the prospective tenant, and usually a credit check as well. Why? To make sure that the person can support him- or herself and will not prove to be a drag on you and your family. For peace of mind, it’s also worth checking to see if they’ve ever murdered anyone. That’s called a background check.
To think that the greatest country in the world would do any less to protect the safety and security of its citizens is just plain wrong. Anyone who would invite a stranger into their own home without knowing anything about them is a chump. If you want to pay the stranger’s way, that’s your business — but don’t ask the taxpayers to do it!
There’s no race war, and what’s worse, there’s no outrage at MSNBC for having a host who says there is without evidence. No repercussions, no discipline, no nothing. Crickets. Maybe that’s because everyone already knows that MSNBC isn’t a news organization at all — just a fully owned subsidiary of the Democratic Party.
Why ban BDS supporters?
Israel’s decision to ban Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib from entering the country is, while controversial, the right one. Yes, America is Israel’s foremost ally and members of Congress, the elected representatives of the American people, must always be respected.
Like America, Israel is a nation of laws, and the democratically elected government adopted a law in 2017 which prohibits the entry into Israel of any foreigner who makes a “public call for boycotting Israel” or “any area under its control.” This includes proponents of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS).
Why ban BDS supporters?
The answer is that their objective is the destruction of Israel. They make no secret of this goal. As As’ad AbuKhali has said,” “The real aim of BDS is to bring down the state of Israel….That should be stated as an unambiguous goal. There should not be any equivocation on the subject. Justice and freedom for the Palestinians are incompatible with the existence of the state of Israel.”
Who said that Israel is obligated to invite people into the country who seek its destruction?
Since entering Congress just a few months ago, and in the years before, Omar and Tlaib have waged war against Israel and the Jewish people. They have made disgustingly anti-Semitic comments, including accusations that the Jewish people are not loyal to the United States but to Israel; that the Jewish people buy politicians with their money; that Israel hypnotizes the world with its evil actions, and that Israel is an apartheid occupier which must be boycotted.
We can only assume that what Omar and Tlaib would be doing in Israel is simply inciting and inflaming the Palestinian population, or at the very least trying to visit upon Israel the most negative possible media coverage in order to delegitimize the Middle East’s only democracy before the eyes of the world.
Israel does not have to prove its commitment to freedom of speech by allowing foreigners into the country who want to exploit that liberty to propagandize against the state and advocate measures to undermine its democracy. Omar and Tlaib could have asked to travel with the other 40 Democrats who recently visited Israel, but they preferred to go separately to avoid the discomfort of meeting with Israeli leaders and experiencing an Israel that does not comport with their preconceived notions. Unlike their colleagues, they were uninterested in learning about Israel; they prefer to speak from ignorance. The two were clearly out for publicity and hoped to find opportunities to embarrass the Israeli people and their government while highlighting their anti-Israel agenda.
Israel is also not unique in determining who should be allowed to enter the country. Applicants for visas to the United States, for example, are asked several questions about their political views and activities. The USA Patriot Act allows the Secretary of State to bar admission to the United States to “any alien whose entry or proposed activities in the United States the Secretary of State has reasonable grounds to believe would have potentially serious adverse foreign policy consequences for the United States.”
The list of people barred or excluded from the United States includes Irish politician Gerry Adams, British singers Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens) and Austrian diplomat Kurt Waldheim. And none of them supported movements advocating the destruction of the United States.
Israel is under constant attack, not just from terrorists, but from boycotters and others who seek to smear Israel in any way they can, via social media, mainstream media, and public relations stunts. Omar and Tlaib have every right to disparage Israel, but they cannot disguise their anti-Semitism by claiming to be merely criticizing the Israeli government. No one is silencing them, but they cannot have it both ways; they cannot promote a movement that denies the Jewish people the right to self-determination in their homeland and then complain when they are not allowed into that home.
If Israel made an exception for two promoters of BDS because they are members of Congress, it would make a mockery of the law passed by Israel’s parliament and its democratic principles. And being a member of Congress does provide license to work to destroy the world’s only Jewish state.
President Donald Trump planned on seeking a second term based largely on the strength of the economy. Unemployment is down to a 50-year low. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the creation of nearly 6 million new jobs since he came into office. Wages and profits and revenues to the federal Treasury are up. The stock market is generally surging, and economic growth is once again the order of the day.
It’s an enviable economic record, especially when compared with his two most recent predecessors. Things are going so well, some of the president’s bitterest foes predict it’s strong enough to carry him across the 2020 finish line first.
The naysayers—those who’ve never liked Trump—point to a few statistics to suggest the fundamentals of the economy are softer than they appear. The inverted yield curve that appeared this week, now that the yield on 10-year U.S. government bonds is lower than that for two-year notes, has some people saying a recession sometime in the next two years is possible.
The U.S. economy is the world’s strongest right now but, says the president, would be even stronger had the Federal Reserve not raised interest rates too high too fast. Others say if things head south, it will be because of the ongoing trade war with China.
“I think we’re going to have a very long period of wealth and success,” Trump told reporters on Thursday. “Other countries are doing very poorly, as you know. China is doing very, very poorly. The tariffs have really bitten into China. They haven’t bitten into us at all.”
In response to the U.S. imposition of tariffs on its exports, Beijing weakened the yuan, effectively blunting their effect. Trump countered by delaying until December the next round of tariffs, mostly on consumer goods, scheduled to take effect on September 1 until mid-December.
That’s right in the middle of U.S. retailers’ most profitable period and could cause trouble at home. These and other moves have caused dramatic fluctuations in the stock market. The U.S. Trade Representative says everything’s just “next steps” in the process of getting China to do a deal.
Whether that’s true is a subject for debate. Capital Alpha Partners’ James Lucier counseled investors to view the delay of the tariff imposition as being as advertised and not as “backtracking in policy or a ‘blink’ by the U.S.” and “a case of the White House and President Trump, in particular, getting ahead of his own administrative machinery.”
If the economics are sound, the politics are shaky. A second Trump term depends on Midwestern farmers and industrial workers and others whom the tariffs potentially affect adversely in critical states like Florida, Michigan, and Ohio.
These are places where the economy is always issue No. 1, where the three things voters care about most are jobs, jobs and more jobs. And, as of now, the tariffs are not working to the president’s advantage. As much as the China-bashing rhetoric may excite his base, it’s not helping them make ends meet.
Florida’s exports to China total about $1.6 billion annually. That includes $533 million in gold because Miami is now the leading hub for refiners and processors who then sell to China for use in manufacturing. Civil aircraft parts, the state’s second-biggest export, brings in $126 million now and more in the future as China becomes, over the next 20 years, the world’s largest single market for civilian aircraft sales.
The Miami Customs District alone did $7 billion worth of business with China in 2017. In South Florida, manufacturers are suffering because of the steel and aluminum tariffs.
Michigan has a $3.6 billion export relationship with China, with $1.2 billion comprising car parts. The Wolverine State contains 75 percent of North America’s auto R&D, and China is, by volume, the world’s largest automaker. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers says higher-priced cars resulting from the tariffs could potentially lead to the loss of 700,000 American jobs.
It’s not just cars. Over half of all U.S. soybeans are exported, with 60 percent of them going to China and $700 million coming from Michigan. “The noose is getting tighter,” Jim Byrum, president of the Michigan Agri-Business Association, told the Detroit Free Press in May. “We have lost market opportunities. We’re not shipping soybeans around the world like we normally would. We’re not shipping them to China. China was our biggest soybean consumer, and they’re not moving.”
Ohio’s exports to China total $3.9 billion, with more than $691 million worth of soybeans—the state’s top agricultural export—shipped to China in 2017. “This will be tough to take. China takes one out of every three rows [of soybeans],” Bret Davis, a Delaware County farmer and governing board member of the American Soybean Association of China, told The Columbus Dispatch about proposed tariffs in 2018. An Ohio Manufacturing Extension Partnership survey of 457 Ohio manufacturers conducted in January found that 14 companies were hurt by tariffs for each it helped.
The Trump tariffs have already impacted negatively states that were key to him winning the presidency in 2016 and will be just as important in 2020. If the president wants to continue his record of economic success, he should focus on ending the trade war before Florida, Michigan and Ohio swing in the other direction.
When the federal government sets out to solve a problem, it often begins by making the problem larger.
For example, lawmakers may want to reduce pollution. Or cut down on the use of fossil fuels. So they pass a “Clean Air Act,” or mandate the use of renewable fuels. But now they need inspectors. And lawyers to file (and respond to) lawsuits. The big problem gets bigger as it gets bogged down in bureaucracy, and a solution may seem ever further away.
As a Microsoft blogger once joked, “if the solution begins with ‘First, install…’ you’ve pretty much lost out of the gate. Solving a five-minute problem by taking a half-hour to download and install a program is a net loss.” The same can be said about Washington. If the answer is “First, pass legislation…” then your problem probably isn’t going to get solved, especially in today’s environment of divided government.
But bad things keep happening to good people. For example, anyone with insurance can be sent to a care center that’s not covered by their network and end up with a big bill. That isn’t fair. So how can policymakers bring down their health care costs?
As always, Washington’s response begins with a big bill, the “Lower Health Care Costs Act of 2019,” penned by Tennessee Republican Lamar Alexander. One goal of the bill is to set prices in cases of surprise billing, so insured patients that are taken to out-of-network facilities without their knowledge aren’t hit with huge bills. The bill plans do to so by capping provider costs at the median in-network rate.
If the LHCC gets the prices wrong -and if the history of price controls provides any indication, it will – it could lead to yet another Obamacare-esque death spiral, where premiums rise, hospitals lose money, and doctors stop seeing patients.
The legislation’s big-government, top-down solutions won’t amount to a very effective way to push back against high prices. The faster and more effective way is to encourage competition. One way to do that is by allowing market negotiations to proceed.
The STOP Surprise Medical Bills Act, introduced by Sen. Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-La.) and Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), would do just that. When cases of surprise medical bills pop up, The STOP Surprise Medical Bills Act would allow all players in the healthcare industry to submit proposals to an arbiter, who would ensure that the best offer for consumers wins the day. This process will create far more informed, data-driven decisions than the LHCC’s blanket price controls ever could.
We also need more doctors, which would increase competition among physicians and help force prices down. Instead, we’re chasing doctors out of the profession. “The United States could see a shortage of up to 120,000 physicians by 2030,” warns the Association of American Medical Colleges.
Well, federal policies can make it more difficult than ever to practice medicine. For example, it can cost more to treat Medicaid patients than the federal government is willing to pay. That squeeze is an example of the wrong way to approach price cuts, yet it’s the one that Washington usually turns to. It’s at least partially responsible for the decline in the number of doctors.
Big medical bills are a big problem. Together we can solve that problem. But first, let’s prevent Washington from making it even bigger by imposing the LHCC Act.
Their falsehoods were immoral, divisive, and quite possibly unlawful.
On Friday afternoon, two of the leading contenders in the Democratic presidential primary lied. There’s no other fair way to put it. They flat-out spread fiction, libeled an innocent man, and stoked American divisions — all for political gain.
Five years ago, a Ferguson, Mo., police officer named Darren Wilson shot a young black man named Michael Brown to death after an altercation in the street. False rumors about Brown’s death — namely that he was shot in cold blood while trying to surrender with his hands in the air — ignited violent protests in Missouri and revulsion across the United States.
“Hands up, don’t shoot” became a national rallying cry — until the Obama Department of Justice comprehensively and thoroughly debunked it in a lengthy report published on March 4, 2015. Writing in December of the same year, the Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler called the slogan one of “the biggest Pinocchios of the year.”
But Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren ignored the Obama DOJ. They blew straight through the facts of the case and published these accusations:
Michael Brown’s murder forever changed Ferguson and America. His tragic death sparked a desperately needed conversation and a nationwide movement. We must fight for stronger accountability and racial equity in our justice system.3,0322:24 PM – Aug 9, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy4,925 people are talking about this
5 years ago Michael Brown was murdered by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. Michael was unarmed yet he was shot 6 times. I stand with activists and organizers who continue the fight for justice for Michael. We must confront systemic racism and police violence head on.36.4K2:59 PM – Aug 9, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy32.2K people are talking about this
To demonstrate just how preposterous it is to accuse Wilson of murder, it’s worth revisiting the actual facts of the case, according to the best evidence available to the investigators. On August 9, 2014, Michael Brown and a friend were walking in the middle of the street shortly after Brown had stolen cigarillos from a local market and shoved away the store clerk when he tried to intervene.
When Wilson first spotted Brown and his friend, he told them to walk on the sidewalk. He then realized that they matched the description of the theft suspects and blocked their path with his vehicle.
Wilson tried to open his door, but it either bounced off Brown or Brown slammed it shut. Brown then reached into the vehicle and started punching Wilson. As Wilson fended off the blows, he reached for his gun. Brown allegedly tried to take the gun from Wilson, and Wilson managed to get a shot off, injuring Brown in the hand. Eyewitnesses corroborated Wilson’s claims that Brown was reaching in the car, and these claims were further corroborated by “bruising on Wilson’s jaw and scratches on his neck, the presence of Brown’s DNA on Wilson’s collar, shirt, and pants, and Wilson’s DNA on Brown’s palm.”
Brown then started to run away. After a brief pause Wilson pursued, ordering Brown to stop. Brown then turned back to Wilson and started running toward him. According to the report, “several witnesses stated that Brown appeared to pose a physical threat to Wilson as he moved toward Wilson.” Wilson fired again, striking Brown several times, yet Brown kept moving toward Wilson until the final shot hit him in the head, killing him.
The report’s conclusion was crystal clear:
Given that Wilson’s account is corroborated by physical evidence and that his perception of a threat posed by Brown is corroborated by other eyewitnesses, to include aspects of the testimony of [Brown’s friend], there is no credible evidence that Wilson willfully shot Brown as he was attempting to surrender or was otherwise not posing a threat. [Emphasis added.]
The report flatly declared that Wilson “did not act with the requisite criminal intent.”
“No credible evidence” is a powerful statement, but if you read the report, it’s a powerful statement based not just on extensive forensic evidence but also on the courageous testimony of witnesses who feared reprisal for speaking the truth. One witness, a 58-year-old black male, told prosecutors that there were signs in the neighborhood that said “Snitches get stitches.” Yet he spoke the truth anyway. Other witnesses overcame their fears and spoke the truth.
How do we have confidence that they spoke the truth? Because, as the report notes, their statements “have been materially consistent, are consistent with the physical evidence, and . . . are mutually corroborative.”
To be sure, there were other witnesses. Some neither incriminated him nor fully corroborated him. And there was an entire category of witnesses whose accounts were “inconsistent with the physical and forensic evidence,” the report noted, adding:
Some of those accounts are materially inconsistent with that witness’s own prior statements with no explanation, credible [or] otherwise, as to why those accounts changed over time. Certain other witnesses who originally stated Brown had his hands up in surrender recanted their original accounts, admitting that they did not witness the shooting or parts of it, despite what they initially reported either to federal or local law enforcement or to the media.
There are few more fraught issues in American public life than the question of police shootings — especially police shootings of black men. I’ve written about the issue time and time again and have come to believe not only that too many American police officers resort to deadly force too quickly but also that there is an unacceptable pro-police bias in our criminal-justice system. There is also evidence that race plays a more malignant role in policing than many of us hoped.
Indeed, while we must of course remember the DOJ’s report exonerating Darren Wilson, we should also remember that there was a second DOJ report in 2015 that found systematic misconduct at the Ferguson Police Department, misconduct that disproportionately affected Ferguson’s black citizens. I urge you to read both reports, and if you read the second report with an open mind, you’ll almost certainly come to believe that Ferguson’s black residents possessed legitimate grievances against their police department.
That’s the complicated nation we inhabit, but the complexity does not mean there aren’t simple obligations that attach to every politician, activist, and member of the media. And the simplest of those obligations is a commitment to the truth. We know that lies and falsehoods can cause riots. They can cause city blocks to burn. They can destroy a man’s life. At the very least, they can further embitter an already toxic public discourse. When issues are most fraught, the obligation of courageous, honest leadership is most imperative.
But Warren and Harris’s failure is more than a failure of leadership. The publication of a false accusation of a crime like murder is libelous under American law. In other words, their lies may well have been illegal. Democrats — especially Democrats who seek to address the very real challenges surrounding police violence in the United States — should demand better. Harris and Warren should do better. They should correct and retract their false statements. There is no excuse for their inflammatory lies.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, who has been critical of President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, previously expressed similar views, saying a barrier at the southern border was needed to stop “tons” of drugs from coming into the United States.
Speaking to a South Carolina rotary club in November 2006, then-Sen. Joe Biden (D., Del.) touted his support for the Secure Fence Act, a bill that authorized “700 miles of double-layered fence on the border through more than a billion dollars in appropriations,” CNN reported Friday. Biden made the comments in the run-up to his failed presidential bid in 2008.
“Folks, I voted for a fence, I voted, unlike most Democrats—and some of you won’t like it—I voted for 700 miles of fence,” Biden told the group. “But, let me tell you, we can build a fence 40 stories high—unless you change the dynamic in Mexico and—and you will not like this, and—punish American employers who knowingly violate the law when, in fact, they hire illegals. Unless you do those two things, all the rest is window dressing.”
“Now, I know I’m not supposed to say it that bluntly, but they’re the facts, they’re the facts,” Biden continued. “And so everything else we do is in between here. Everything else we do is at the margins. And the reason why I add that parenthetically, why I believe the fence is needed does not have anything to do with immigration as much as drugs.”
“And let me tell you something folks,” he added, “people are driving across that border with tons, tons, hear me, tons of everything from byproducts for methamphetamine to cocaine to heroin, and it’s all coming up through corrupt Mexico.”
Biden’s comments may prove to be an obstacle in the crowded 2020 Democratic primary, as he faces several progressive Democrats who have been vocal against a border wall and have supported sanctuary cities.
CNN noted that Biden’s previous comments are similar to Trump’s current positions on border security and sanctuary cities, and that he could face backlash from some of his fellow Democratic opponents. Andrew Bates, a spokesman for Biden, said the former vice president wants border security but to get there without “abandoning our values.”
“As then-Senator Biden said at the time, ‘we can build a fence 40 stories high,’ but it will not address the real issues here. Vice President Biden believes we have to stop trying to scare people and instead have an immigration discussion based on facts,” Bates said. “He believes that we can secure our borders without abandoning our values, and that we should do that by addressing the root causes of immigration abroad and working toward comprehensive immigration reform at home, including a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and smart border security. He also believes that the Trump administration’s approach to immigration, including its crackdown on sanctuary cities and especially its repugnant treatment of migrant children, is contrary to our values as a nation.”
Column: Why impeachment isn't going away
Trump supporters are right to feel vindication after Robert Mueller’s testimony before Congress. At times the special counsel seemed unfamiliar with the contents of his own report. He came across as aloof and confused and often unable to answer both Democratic and Republican questions to the lawmakers’ satisfaction. The same media figures that began the day saying Mueller’s appearance might be the game changer ended up calling it a flop. “Democrats now have one option to end Trump’s presidency,” read the headline of Dan Balz’s analysis in the Washington Post. “The 2020 election.” Trump, as always, put it more memorably: “TRUTH IS A FORCE OF NATURE!”
The real truth is Mueller’s testimony was never going to interrupt preexisting trends. Support for impeachment has been stable for a year at around 40 percent in the Fox News poll of registered voters. Fox asks, “Do you think President Trump should be impeached and removed from office, or not?” In June 2018, 39 percent of respondents answered yes. Last week, 42 percent said the same. Opposition to impeachment has hovered around 50 percent during all this time. When the most recent Fox News poll asked if Mueller’s testimony might cause voters to change how they felt about Trump, only 8 percent said there was a strong chance of that happening. Forty-nine percent said not at all.
Views of President Trump are cast iron. Mueller might have overturned this equilibrium by offering new evidence incriminating Trump or by saying definitively that Trump obstructed justice. He did neither. Nor was he going to. It was clear from his May press conference that Mueller did not want to appear before Congress and that he had said all he was willing to say in his report. The negotiations over his testimony that stretched into midsummer, the sudden delay of his testimony by a week, and the addition of his chief of staff as counsel further indicated his reluctance as well as his lack of assurance before the cameras. The presence on the committee of Republicans hostile to Mueller’s investigation and to his findings meant that the hearing would not be entirely favorable to Democrats. Sure enough, Mueller’s performance was a disappointment.
But President Trump and Republicans would be wrong to assume that the Democrats’ drive to impeachment has ended. The will to overturn the 2016 election never depended on Mueller. He was merely the most likely instrument of Trump’s undoing. Democrats have called for impeachment since Trump’s inaugural. What they have lacked is the means. Maxine Waters raised the idea in February 2017, months before Trump fired James Comey and set in motion the train of events culminating in Mueller’s appointment as special counsel. Tom Steyer launched Need to Impeach in October 2017, a year and a half before Mueller filed his report. Last January, on the first evening of the House Democratic majority, Rashida Tlaib declared her intention to “impeach this m—f—r.”
The impeachment resolution the House voted on last week had nothing to do with Mueller or his report. It found Trump guilty “of high misdemeanors” and “unfit to be president” because of his “racist comments that have legitimized and increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color.” The measure didn’t even pretend to have a relationship with actual criminal or civil law. It received 95 votes nonetheless, all Democrats, including the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. The same man who, after Mueller’s belly flop, argued before the Democratic Caucus that he has enough material to begin impeachment right now. Mueller’s testimony might not increase the number of House Democrats for impeachment from less than half (40 percent) to a majority. But it’s not as if that percentage is about to decrease, either.
Democrats overwhelmingly support impeachment. Forty percent of adults in the most recent Economist/YouGov survey say Congress should try to impeach President Trump. That number rises to 70 percent among Democrats. It is no wonder why. Trump is a one-man rebuke of progressivism, of political correctness, of a humanitarianism that does not recognize citizenship or national borders. Since 2016 an entire media-political infrastructure has been built to push the messages that Trump’s election was illegitimate, Trump’s actions in and out of office are criminal, and Trump ought to be excised from the government as quickly as possible. Even if Mueller and his report fade from view—and there is no guarantee they will—the president’s adversaries will continue to search for the annihilating angel who will deliver them from Donald Trump.
Why? Because the impeachment debate is not about what Trump has done, is doing, or might do. It is about whether he and the social forces he represents are entitled to rule.
American’s trust in our politicians’ ability to handle domestic and international problems is at its lowest point in more than two decades. A Gallup poll in January showed 35 percent of Americans do not trust the U.S. government to handle domestic problems, and only 41 trust it to handle international problems.
If Americans’ faith could be restored in our politicians’ ability to make prudent decisions, we would no doubt see an increase in trust. To be this trusted politician, the Greek philosopher Aristotle said requires practical wisdom, also called prudence. Such a man or woman must be able to choose the clever choice of action and have good intentions.
There are two components to our choices. One is our moral goal, the other is our practical goal. What moral thing do we want? Good choices not only involve good moral intentions, but they also involve practical decisions that pick through the circumstances to determine the correct action.
Dr. Larry P. Arnn said in his free online lecture at Hillsdale College that prudence “is the facility to calculate circumstances and find and issue true command.” It is practical wisdom about things that are always changing.
“Statesmanship is the scene where practical judgment is demanded intensely all the time,” Arnn said. Things are constantly changing, demanding good judgement of situations.
Practical wisdom is different than knowledge, however. Aristotle defines knowledge as “knowing a thing that is fixed and can be relied on,” Arnn said. Practical wisdom and judgement, on the other hand, are adaptable, as they are about changeable things.
Practical judgement is “a truth-disclosing active condition involving reason that governs action, concerned with what is good and bad for a human being,” Aristotle wrote in “Nicomachean Ethics.” It finds the truth about what to do and then does it. It is key that the judgement fit the circumstance.
We learned in Book One of “Ethics” that something is good only if it fulfills its purpose. A cup is only good if it has a bottom; otherwise it is not a cup. Likewise, a judgement is only good if it fits the circumstance that it is in. It requires wisdom because accurately placing judgement on ever-changing circumstances is difficult.
This is how we can determine a good politician in these always changing circumstances. Those who can calculate means and ends, and can understand evolving circumstances, tend to serve their nations well.
There are three distinctions to practical judgement. Astuteness is understanding the moving parts of a situation but does not issue action. Cleverness does issue action, as it knows how to insert oneself to get what one wants. Prudence, or good judgement, pursues action with good intent.
Arnn pointed to Adolf Hitler and Winston Churchill as examples of cleverness and prudence. Both were lethal individuals who knew how to get their way, yet used their discernment and action for opposite ends. Hitler used his charisma and cleverness for evil ends, while Churchill used his for good.
Alas, astuteness does not guarantee possession of all virtues. Hitler can be considered brave, but not just. To be clever but not prudent is incredibly dangerous. While not many are as dangerous as someone like Hitler, politicians without prudence may only pursue their own gain.
Perhaps our politicians can learn something from Aristotle, and learn to pursue a good beyond themselves and for the country.