Progressive Insinuations About Graham’s Sexuality Continue Recent Trend

Washington Free Beacon - Tue, 01/15/2019 - 10:54

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), a lifelong bachelor, is once again dealing with progressive insinuations that he is a closeted gay man, part of a pattern of attacks going back several years.

MSNBC anchor Stephanie Ruhle suggested Tuesday that Graham was being blackmailed by President Donald Trump over "something pretty extreme" to gain his support, as he was once a staunch critic of Trump during the 2016 primaries:

Graham has become one of the President Donald Trump’s staunchest allies in the Senate, although he has criticized him for some key decisions, such as the military pullout from Syria. Ruhle seemed to imply there’s more to their relationship than politics, however, during a discussion about Graham with former Rep. David Jolly and professor Eddie Glaude.

"Or it could be that Donald Trump or somebody knows something pretty extreme about Lindsey Graham," Ruhle said. "We’re gonna have to leave it there."

This followed a recent tweet by Jon Cooper, the chairman of the Democratic Coalition Super PAC, saying Graham was being blackmailed over "some pretty serious sexual kink," while also calling his orientation "an open secret" without saying what it was.

A Republican just told me that he doubts @LindseyGrahamSC is kowtowing to Trump (and indirectly Putin) because he’s being blackmailed over his sexual orientation (an open secret) or even financial corruption. Rather, he thinks it probably involves some pretty serious sexual kink.

— Jon Cooper (@joncoopertweets) January 13, 2019

Liberal comedian Chelsea Handler made a pair of jokes last year quipping Graham was in the closet, drawing sharp blowback both times.

"If you’re wondering why Republicans took a sick day today, it’s probably because it’s #NationalComingOutDay. Looking at you @LindseyGrahamSC," she wrote on Oct. 11.

If you’re wondering why Republicans took a sick day today, it’s probably because it’s #NationalComingOutDay. Looking at you @LindseyGrahamSC

— Chelsea Handler (@chelseahandler) October 11, 2018

Hitting Graham last January for defending Trump's conduct, she wrote, "Holy, fuck fuck. I just [sic] the video of trumps bipartisan "meeting" yesterday. Hey, @LindseyGrahamSC what kind of dick sucking video do they have on you for you 2 be acting like this? Wouldn’t coming out be more honorable??" she asked.

Holy, fuck fuck. I just the video of trumps bipartisan "meeting" yesterday. Hey, @LindseyGrahamSC what kind of dick sucking video do they have on you for you 2 be acting like this? Wouldn’t coming out be more honorable?

— Chelsea Handler (@chelseahandler) January 11, 2018

Former "The View" host Rosie O'Donnell tweeted "fuck u u closeted idiot" in September in response to a tweet Graham sent last year attacking attorney Michael Avenatti, whose client made dubious claims of attending high school parties with Brett Kavanaugh where gang rape occurred and suggesting without evidence Kavanaugh spiked women's drinks.

fuck u u closeted idiot – this is the patriarchy exposed – this is reality deal with it !!#NoKavanaughConfirmation #NotMyPresident

— ROSIE (@Rosie) September 26, 2018

HBO host Bill Maher said around the same time that Graham needed his "dead boyfriend" John McCain to provide "stabilizing influence." At the time, McCain, one of Graham's closest allies and friends in the U.S. Senate, had died about a month earlier at age 81.

Rumors about Graham's orientation from the left and the right go back years, but he has long maintained he is straight, joking in 2010 that he was going to make a lot of gay men jump off a bridge in devastation over the news.

Graham is the new chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is holding a hearing Tuesday over the confirmation of attorney general nominee William Barr.

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Jim Rome Discovers the True Controversy of Trump Serving Clemson Players Fast Food

Washington Free Beacon - Tue, 01/15/2019 - 10:43

Sports radio talk show host Jim Rome discovered on Tuesday the true controversy of President Donald Trump serving fast food to the Clemson University football team.

Trump hosted the Clemson football team on Monday after they won the national championship. But due to the partial government shutdown, some of the White House staff is furloughed, so Trump announced that he would pay for a spread of fast food for the players to feast on. Before the event, Trump told reporters the White House would be serving "McDonald's, Wendy's and Burger King's with some pizza."

"Because of the shutdown, you know we have the great Clemson team with us, the national champions. So we went out and we ordered American fast food, paid for by me," Trump said. "Lots of hamburgers, lots of pizza."

Pictures of Trump behind the buffet of fast food went viral on social media.

President Donald Trump talks to the media about the table full of fast food in the State Dining Room of the White House, yesterday in Washington, for the reception for the Clemson Tigers. | Photo Susan Walsh

— AP Images (@AP_Images) January 15, 2019

Everyone at the event appeared to have fun, including Clemson quarterback Taylor Lawerence, who said he couldn't wait to go back to the White House.

But the event wasn't without controversy. While opponents of the president tried to "fact-check" his remarks or claim that it was beneath the presidency to serve this food, Rome discovered the real controversy is not serving fast food when it is hot.

"I am not here to argue about whether or not it was a good idea to order a bunch of fast food to celebrate a national championship. You can argue about that some place else … My beef with this beef is not about the quality of it, or even the quantity of it. What I am about to say is fact, and there is no room for debate. Fact number one, everybody loves fast food. Fact number two, nobody loves fast food that has been sitting out for even a second. You see, ordering fast food is not the problem. Not giving it to the guests the second they arrive is."

Rome continued on how serving fast food cold is the problem.

"Eating fast food at the White House is totally fine and in fact, better than fine. Eating fast food off White House china is cool. Eating cold fast food off anything is horrible," Rome said.

Rome also stated his disdain that the fish filet was served at the White House.

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CNN Analyst Accuses Fox News Contributor of Benefiting From ‘White Privilege’ (He’s Black)

Washington Free Beacon - Tue, 01/15/2019 - 10:36

CNN analyst Areva Martin incorrectly assumed Fox News contributor and Sirius XM radio host David Webb is white and suggested he has benefited from "white privilege" during a debate on his radio show.

Martin and Webb were debating what qualifies people for certain jobs, and Webb said expertise and experience were more important than race, in his view, Mediate reports.

"Shouldn't their requirement, their primary requirement, regardless of ethnicity, regardless of network, be that they are capable of covering politics?" Webb said. "For instance, if you're going to cover political campaigns, sports may not be the most qualified background. And that brings to the point of if people want to get into these fields regardless of color, I've chosen to cross different parts of the media world, done the work so that I'm qualified to be in each one. I never considered my color the issue. I considered my qualifications the issue."

"Well David, you know that's a whole ‘nother long conversation about white privilege and things that you have the privilege of doing that people of color don't have the privilege of," Martin responded.

"How do I have the privilege of white privilege?" Webb asked.

"David, by virtue of being a white male, you have white privilege, which is a whole long conversation I don't have time to get into," Martin answered.

"Areva, I hate to break it to you, but you should have been better prepped, I'm black," Webb said.

"Okay, then I stand corrected," Martin responded.

Webb then called out Martin for appealing to white privilege in response to his argument.

"See, you went to white privilege. This is the falsehood in this. You went immediately with an assumption. Your people obviously, or you, didn't look. You're talking to a black man," Webb said.

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Senate Democrats Frustrated Over Ocasio-Cortez Becoming Face of Democratic Party

Washington Free Beacon - Tue, 01/15/2019 - 10:15

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.), who was sworn into Congress for the first time less than two weeks ago, is already facing scrutiny from some Democratic senators who say her views don't represent those of their constituents.

Over the course of the last couple weeks, Ocasio-Cortez has accused Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, of "death," castigated the media and fact checkers for their coverage of her, and proposed a 70 percent tax rate for the wealthy. Centrist Democrats are worried about the party adopting these and other controversial positions for their platform, saying it will hurt their chances for reelection in upcoming races, the Hill reports.

Democrats have to pick up at least three seats in 2020 to gain control of the Senate, so they will focus on winning in centrist or Republican-leaning states like Alabama, Colorado, New Hampshire, Iowa and North Carolina. Some of the bipartisan issues Democrats would prefer to focus on in those states include helping veterans, lowering health care costs, and focusing on the federal deficit, but Ocasio-Cortez is driving the party to focus on other issues, according to some lawmakers.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D., N.H.), who faces a competitive reelection in 2020, said Ocasio-Cortez's "views don’t represent a lot of my constituents."

Sen. Doug Jones (D., Ala.), one of the most vulnerable incumbents up for reelection in 2020, said he's not happy Ocasio-Cortez is becoming a sort of spokesperson for the party, saying, "I think it skews what’s really there for the Democratic Party."

"If the House did all the crazy things on the left that the House did on the right for the last two years, that’s not going to happen," he said, referencing the prospect of getting reforms enacted into law. He also mentioned he was focused on a much less ambitious agenda than the New York Democrat, who has likened herself to former President Franklin Roosevelt and his historic New Deal.

"I’m going to continue to focus on HBCUs, health care, rural health care and the tariff is still going to be a big issue for us," Jones added.

The criticism from Senate Democrats follows frustration from their colleagues in the House who began questioning Ocasio-Cortez's staying power last summer after she upset then-Rep. Joseph Crowley (D., N.Y.) in the Democratic primary. Many lawmakers publicly advised her to work with House incumbents.

Rep. Alcee Hastings (D., Fla.) said last summer that "Meteors fizz out. What she will learn in this institution is that it’s glacial to begin with, and therefore no matter how far you rise, that’s just how far you will ultimately get your comeuppance."

Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.), who won reelection in a state President Donald Trump won by 42 points, echoed Jones' sentiment, saying that while liberals in the party might be getting widespread media attention now, it will be the centrist Democrats who get bills passed into law.

"They’ll all find out, if you want to get something done, you got to work together. If they want someone to get something to done, I’ll be happy to do it," Manchin said.

Ocasio-Cortez has not held back from criticizing Trump, but centrist Democrats have warned the approach isn't a recipe for victory in 2020.

Former Sens. Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.) and Joe Donnelly (D., Ind.), who both lost during the 2018 midterms, expressed concern "Trump bashing" will hurt Democrats' chances of taking back the Senate and defeating Trump in 2020.

"I worry that the Democrats are majoring in Trump bashing. And we’ll have to do more than that in order to win the confidence of enough Americans to regain the Senate and importantly the presidency," McCaskill said.

"There’s perception and there’s reality. The reality is so much of the hard work was done by people like Abby Spanberger in Virginia, who did a wonderful job in her campaign," Donnelly said in an interview during one of his last days in office. "That’s how we bring America together."

Ocasio-Cortez's chief of staff Saikat Chakrabarti hit back at Democrats in the House last week who criticized her tendency to butt heads with members of her own party. Chakrabarti compared them to King George III during the American Revolution, and he approvingly shared a tweet comparing them to people who opposed civil rights demonstrations in the 1960s.

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DNC Withdraws Its Sponsorship of the Women’s March

Washington Free Beacon - Tue, 01/15/2019 - 09:27

The Democratic National Committee has withdrawn its sponsorship of the Women's March, amidst controversy over the ties of the group's co-chairs to Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and allegations of anti-Semitism.

The DNC joins other groups that have withdrawn sponsorship, such as the Southern Poverty Law Center and EMILY’s List, Jewish News Syndicate reports. The National Organization for Women and the NAACP also appear to have removed their official support for the Women's March.

Tali Goldsheft, a Brooklyn-based critic of the Women's March leaders, said on Twitter that about 300 other groups are no longer listed as partners with the march.

AFL-CIO, NARAL, GLAAD, Human Rights Campaign, NRDC, OXFAM, Greenpeace, Amnesty and other major orgs are no longer listed as @womensmarch partners.

Out of over 500 orgs that were previously listed as a sponsor or partner of the @womensmarch, only 200 remain affiliated. (1/2)

— Tali Goldsheft (@TaliGoldsheft) January 12, 2019

The Women's March has been embroiled in controversy over its leaders' affiliation with Farrakhan. In October, Farrakhan referred to Jews as "termites." He has also attacked "that Satanic Jew," called Jews "the mother and father of apartheid," and said that "when you want something in this world, the Jew holds the door."

On Monday, Women's March organizer Tamika Mallory defended her past praise of Farrakhan during an appearance on ABC's "The View." She and co-founder Bob Bland also denied allegations made in a Tablet report last month.

According to the report, Mallory and fellow organizer Carmen Perez "allegedly first asserted that Jewish people bore a special collective responsibility as exploiters of black and brown people—and even, according to a close secondhand source, claimed that Jews were proven to have been leaders of the American slave trade." Both of these claims were popularized in Louis Farrakhan's book, The Secret Relationship between Blacks and Jews.

"The people that the journalist spoke to did not tell the truth, period. full stop," Bland said.

Mallory also refused to condemn Farrakhan's anti-Semitic remarks, such as calling Jews "termites," despite being pressed by "The View" co-host Meghan McCain.

A leader of the Jewish Democratic Council of America released a statement saying the "JDCA supports the objectives of the Women's March and stands with sister marches across the country this weekend. At the same time, we welcome the DNC, SPLC, Emily's List, and other organizations' decision to not sponsor and participate in the Women’s March and take a principled stand against anti-Semitism."

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How Democrats Become Democrats Again After Trump

Commentary - Tue, 01/15/2019 - 08:55
Awaiting a reversion to the mean. View Post

The post How Democrats Become Democrats Again After Trump appeared first on Commentary.

AG Nominee William Barr: ‘Vitally Important’ for Mueller to Complete His Investigation

Washington Free Beacon - Tue, 01/15/2019 - 08:36

William Barr, President Donald Trump's nominee for attorney general, said on Tuesday during his confirmation hearing that it is "vitally important" special counsel Robert Mueller be allowed to conclude his Russia probe.

"I believe it is vitally important that the special counsel be allowed to complete his investigation," Barr said. "I have known Bob Mueller for 30 years. We worked closely together throughout my previous tenure at the Department of Justice. We have been friends since. And I have the utmost respect for Bob and his distinguished record of public service."

If confirmed, Barr will have oversight over Mueller's investigation, a fact that has raised concerns among some Democrats because of a memo Barr wrote about the Mueller investigation. In a 19-page memo, Barr wrote that Trump's publicly reported interactions with former FBI Director James Comey do not constitute obstruction of justice.

"I wrote the memo as a former attorney general who has often weighed in on legal issues of public importance, and I distributed it broadly so that other lawyers would have the benefit of my views. My memo is narrow, explaining my thinking on a specific obstruction of justice theory under a single statute that I thought, based on media reports, the special counsel might be considering," Barr said. "The memo did not address or in any other way question the special counsel's core investigation into Russian efforts to interfere in the election, nor did it address other potential obstruction of justice theories or argue, as some have strongly suggested, that a president can never obstruct justice."

Barr, if confirmed, would replace former Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Trump became increasingly frustrated with the attorney general over his recusal from overseeing the Russia investigation, and he ultimately removed Sessions from the post last November.

Barr said he will not interfere with the special counsel investigation and that the country needs a credible resolution to the issue.

"I believe it is in the best interest of everyone, the president, Congress and the American people, that this matter be resolved by allowing the special counsel to complete his work. The country needs a credible resolution to these issues. And if confirmed, I will not permit partisan politics, personal interests or any other improper consideration to interfere with this or any other investigation," Barr said. "I will follow the special counsel regulation scrupulously and in good faith. And on my watch, Bob will be allowed to finish his work."

He added that he will make Mueller's report public to Congress and the American people.

"I also believe it is very important that the public and Congress be informed of the results of the special counsel's work. My goal will be to provide as much transparency as I can, consistent with the law. I can assure you, that where judgements are to be made, I will make those judgments based solely on the law," Barr said.

Barr held the attorney general position previously under President George H.W. Bush.

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MSNBC Anchor Suggests Trump Is Blackmailing Graham Over ‘Extreme’ Secret

Washington Free Beacon - Tue, 01/15/2019 - 08:09

MSNBC anchor Stephanie Ruhle implied without evidence Tuesday that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) has something to hide and the president is blackmailing him over it.

Graham has become one of the President Donald Trump’s staunchest allies in the Senate, although he has criticized him for some key decisions, such as the military pullout from Syria. Ruhle seemed to imply there’s more to their relationship than politics, however, during a discussion about Graham with former Rep. David Jolly and professor Eddie Glaude.

"Before Don got elected, Lindsey Graham called Donald Trump a racist, xenophobic bigot. Those are Lindsey Graham's words," Jolly said. "I doubt Lindsey Graham could tell you Donald Trump has had a change of heart in the last 24 months, I bet the change of heart has been with Lindsey Graham, not the president."

"Or it could be that Donald Trump or somebody knows something pretty extreme about Lindsey Graham," Ruhle replied. "We’re gonna have to leave it there."

The smirk Ruhle produced when she spoke suggests she was referring to rumors about Graham’s sexuality, which some Democrats have been trumpeting anew recently. Jon Cooper, chairman of the Democratic Coalition super PAC, explicitly accused Graham on Saturday of letting himself be blackmailed for "some pretty serious kink."

A Republican just told me that he doubts @LindseyGrahamSC is kowtowing to Trump (and indirectly Putin) because he’s being blackmailed over his sexual orientation (an open secret) or even financial corruption. Rather, he thinks it probably involves some pretty serious sexual kink.

— Jon Cooper (@joncoopertweets) January 13, 2019

Cooper went on to argue there’s a public interest in outing Grahams' sexual secrets because national security is at stake, on account of "the Russians" who could be blackmailing him.

By the way, as an openly gay man myself, I couldn’t care less about Lindsey Graham's sex life (gay, straight or otherwise). However, Graham is the Senate Judiciary Chair and there’s a strong likelihood that he's being blackmailed by the Russians. If so, that needs to be revealed.

— Jon Cooper (@joncoopertweets) January 14, 2019

This is, coincidentally, the same logic used to justify barring LGBT people from government intelligence positions in the past. Supposedly because of how open they could be to Soviet blackmail, LGBT people hoping to work for the government often had to strenuously guard their secret during the Cold War.

Democrats, who blasted Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney for his "Cold War foreign policy" toward Russia back in 2012, have made conspiracy theories about Russia a key part of their opposition to Trump. Cooper’s Democratic Coalition bills itself as the group that "help[s] run #TheResistance."

"We investigate Trump/GOP, campaign for Democrats & fight foreign influence & fake news [and] Helped uncover #TrumpRussia scandal," the group’s Twitter bio reads.

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Hundreds of Hondurans Set Off Toward United States in New Caravan

Washington Free Beacon - Tue, 01/15/2019 - 07:58

SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras (Reuters) – Hundreds of Honduran migrants began the long trek north on Monday, part of new U.S.-bound caravan that hopes to succeed even as a previous wave of Central Americans were unable to quickly enter the United States.

Central American migrant caravans have become a flashpoint in the debate over U.S. immigration policy, as President Donald Trump has remained adamant that the migrants will be barred from crossing the border.

Television footage on Monday showed several hundred people in the violent city of San Pedro Sula huddled together and waving Honduran flags as they began a journey that will likely take weeks or even months to reach the U.S.-Mexico border.

Between 600 and 800 Hondurans have joined the caravan, according to an estimate provided by Miroslava Serpas, head of migrant affairs with the CIPRODEH human rights research center that is accompanying the group.

Last October, another migrants caravan left Honduras made up of men, women and children, mostly claiming that they were fleeing entrenched poverty and gangland violence back home.

While some 2,500 people from that caravan remain in the Mexican border city of Tijuana, more than 7,000 have returned to Honduras, according to Honduran officials.

"I'm determined to find a good job in the United States," said 24-year-old caravan member Darwin Perez.

"It's a difficult road ahead but I hope President Trump's heart might soften, and that he won't be so hard and will let us enter," he added.

Other migrants, some traveling with spouses and children, echoed Perez's dream to find work in the United States.

Trump has repeatedly vowed to stop the Central American caravans, sending troops to reinforce the border and describing the migrants as an invading force.

(Reporting by Jorge Cabrera and Gustavo Palencia; Writing by David Alire Garcia; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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Judge Blocks Trump Plan to Ask Citizenship Question in Census

Washington Free Beacon - Tue, 01/15/2019 - 07:52

A federal judge on Tuesday blocked the Trump administration's plan to put a question about citizenship on the 2020 census, setting up the Supreme Court as the ultimate arbiter of whether it can remain on the nationwide demographics survey.

Placing the citizenship question on the survey has deep implications for U.S. elections, how many congressional seats each state receives, as well as federal funding levels.

For instance, if the citizenship question survives the long court battle, it could cost California several congressional seats by removing illegal immigrants from the re-districting population counts.

After a two-week trial in Manhattan, U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman said Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross's decision to add the question about a person's legal status to the census violated the law and "the public trust," the Los Angeles Times reported.

"Hundreds of thousands—if not millions of people will go uncounted in the census if the citizenship question is included," Furman said in a 277-page opinion.

In ruling that the citizenship question is unlawful, Furman was referring to the Administrative Procedures Act, which requires an agency to "consider all important aspects of a problem," commission studies to produce relevant evidence for their conclusion and explain the facts behind a decision that carries such a significant impact on U.S. elections and funding decisions.

Ross's decision "fell short on all these fronts," the judge said.

Furman's ruling was a response to the first round of several lawsuits filed by numerous states and cities to block the question from the national, once-a-decade survey. The question was once included on the census but hasn't appeared since 1950.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has defended the citizenship question as nothing out of the ordinary. She and other Trump administration officials have said it has been included in every census for decades.

Conservative advocates for its inclusion and others have pointed out that the citizenship questions has been included in the long-form questionnaire but not the short form since 1970. The short form goes to most households in America while the long form is sent to a much smaller sample of households, 1 in 6, and asks far more detailed questions on everything from household income to plumbing.

The long form also has not been used to determine the number of congressional districts each state should have.

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McCaskill Joins MSNBC, NBC as Political Analyst

Washington Free Beacon - Tue, 01/15/2019 - 07:50

Former Sen. Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.) has joined MSNBC and NBC News as a political analyst.

The network announced the new addition to its team during an interview with McCaskill on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" early Tuesday.

McCaskill, who lost her Senate seat to Republican challenger Josh Hawley back in November, released a statement expressing her excitement about being a political analyst on the networks, according to the Hill.

"I’m looking forward to bringing my experience from the Senate, hard fought campaigns, and Midwest common sense to the coverage of breaking political events. And, as always, I won’t hold back," McCaskill said.

"Morning Joe" co-host Mika Brzezinski quipped she looked forward to having McCaskill’s "really good, sharp elbows" at the table to fend off fellow host Joe Scarborough.

The two-term senator and former ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee also tweeted out a picture of her arriving at Manhattan's Rockefeller Center to report for her first day of work.

Reporting for work. First day of my new gig.

— Claire McCaskill (@clairecmc) January 15, 2019

McCaskill's new position will entail her providing political analysis on the two networks, including during MSNBC's coverage of President Donald Trump's State of the Union address on Jan. 29.

She isn't the only former lawmaker to be hired at a news network in the aftermath of the 2018 elections. Former Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D., N.D.), who lost to Republican challenger Kevin Cramer, is joining CNBC as a contributor.

"Off to an interesting start! Looking forward to talking with you all as a @CNBC contributor," Heitkamp tweeted on Tuesday.

Off to an interesting start! Looking forward to talking with you all as a @CNBC contributor. #NewBeginning

— Heidi Heitkamp (@HeidiHeitkamp) January 15, 2019

Former Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R.) announced on Twitter Tuesday that he would be joining CNN as a "regular contributor."

Excited to share that I'll be joining @CNN as a regular contributor starting today! Tune in to @CuomoPrimeTime at 9PM ET tonight!

— John Kasich (@JohnKasich) January 15, 2019

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Time To Go

First Things - Leithart - Tue, 01/15/2019 - 06:54
This is my last blog post at Patheos. In the future, I will post now and then at Look for me there.

In Lebanon, U.S. State Department Official Calls Hezbollah ‘Unacceptable’

Washington Free Beacon - Tue, 01/15/2019 - 06:07

BEIRUT (Reuters) – The U.S. State Department criticized Lebanon's Iran-backed Hezbollah group on Monday for digging tunnels into Israel and stockpiling rockets, as Washington steps up efforts to isolate Tehran.

In recent weeks, Israeli forces uncovered tunnels they said were dug by Hezbollah, and Lebanon complained about Israel's construction of a barrier along disputed parts of the border.

The United States, Israel's closest ally, regards Hezbollah as a terrorist group and has pledged tougher steps to counteract Iranian influence in the region, but it has also reiterated its backing for the Lebanese government – which includes Hezbollah representatives – and army.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last week vowed to expel "every last Iranian boot" from Syria, where Iran has been fighting alongside Hezbollah, and where Israel has been carrying out strikes against both.

"While Lebanon has the right to defend itself, that is the right of the Lebanese state alone," said David Hale, U.S. under secretary of state for political affairs, after meeting Lebanese prime minister designate Saad al-Hariri.

"It is unacceptable to have a militia outside the control of the state, and unanswerable to all people of Lebanon digging attack tunnels across the blue line to Israel or assembling an arsenal of over 100,000 missiles with which to threaten regional stability," he added.

Israel, which regards Hezbollah as the biggest threat on its borders, on Sunday said it had completed efforts to find and destroy tunnels under the frontier that it said the group had dug to infiltrate fighters during a future war.

Hezbollah has not commented on the tunnels. Lebanon's National Security Council last week said an Israeli border wall that crosses into territory claimed by Lebanon, constitutes an act of aggression.

However, both sides appear ready to contain matters for now. "Israel's interest is to keep the (situation) quiet. I think for them (Hezbollah), that interest is even greater," Lieutenant General Gadi Eizenkot said last week after completing his term as Israeli army chief.


Hezbollah was set up by Iran in the early 1980s to fight Israel's occupation of south Lebanon, but it retained its weapons after Israeli forces withdrew in 2000 and has become the strongest political force in the country.

The last conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, fought on Lebanese soil, was in 2006. A United Nations Security Council resolution ending that conflict called for work to delineate the border, but the frontier has still not been agreed.

The border dispute has also affected Lebanese plans to drill for oil and gas near an area of sea claimed by both countries.

Hale's visit comes as Lebanese politicians continue to jostle over the formation of a new coalition government more than eight months after an election.

Hezbollah is part of Lebanon's caretaker government and is expected to be included in any new coalition formed by Hariri.

Lebanon's failure to form a new government was dragging down the economy and "endangering the country", Hale said, and urged the caretaker government to move forward on the economy to maintain international confidence.

(Reporting By Angus McDowall; Additional reporting by Maayan Lubell in Jerusalem; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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Brzezinski Responds to Question of Whether Trump Is Russian Asset: ‘100 Percent’

Washington Free Beacon - Tue, 01/15/2019 - 06:04

Mika Brzezinski, co-host of MSNBC's "Morning Joe," responded "100 percent" to a question from fellow host and husband Joe Scarborough about whether Trump was a Russian asset.

The comment came Tuesday morning as the hosts discussed a New York Times report that President Donald Trump discussed pulling the United States from NATO with administration officials.

"I think, you know, it's not I think sometimes helpful to discuss the notion of Trump as a Russian agent, only because I think people think that makes him somehow an undercover spy or something," MSNBC analyst John Heilemann said. "I do think that the notion he's an asset, unwittting or witting … I just think agent, doing the work of the Soviets technically could be true, but I do just think asset is probably the word that doesn't cause people to immediately shut their ears sometimes. Whether it's witting, whether it's unwitting, it's the big question that's on the table right now, about him."

"John is right. It is asset and not agent. That's me at 6:03 in the morning," Scarbourough said in reference to his use of the word "agent" earlier in the conversation. "But let's just state what's obvious: Donald Trump could never be an agent for Russia. I'm serious. He doesn't have the bandwidth to do it. He doesn't have the discipline to do it. He blurts out everything that's in his mind. But is he an asset? You know what?"

"One-hundred percent," Brzezinski said.

"One-hundred percent he might be. Let's put it that way, Mika," Scarborough responded. "But again, you judge a tree by its fruits. You look at what Donald Trump has been trying to do on the international stage, and there is not a Republican on Capitol Hill today that wouldn't say that what he has been doing is trying to help Putin, praising Putin. Willie, his words and deeds leave no doubt that this guy is trying to help Russia any way he can."

The New York Times reported last Friday that the FBI began to investigate if Trump was a threat to national security and was working with Russia in 2017 after he fired then-FBI director James Comey.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the notion Trump is a threat to national security "absolutely ludicrous."

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Omar Accuses Crenshaw of ‘Virtue Signaling’ for Refusing Salary During Shutdown

Washington Free Beacon - Tue, 01/15/2019 - 04:44

Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) accused fellow Congressman Dan Crenshaw (R., Texas) of "virtue signaling" on Monday for refusing his congressional salary during the partial government shutdown.

"We aren’t paid until Feb 1st, so no pay to withhold now," Omar wrote in a tweet. "Vote to reopen the government like we did & give hardworking Fed employees their paychecks. That’s caring! Stop with the virtue signaling Congressaman, the American people need this to end now, not Feb 1st."

1) We aren’t paid until Feb 1st, so no pay to withhold now.

2) Vote to reopen the government like we did & give hardworking Fed employees their paychecks. That’s caring!

Stop with the virtue signaling Congressaman, the American people need this to end now, not Feb 1st.

— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) January 15, 2019

Earlier on Monday, Crenshaw tweeted that he was asking to have his salary withheld during the shutdown.

"If Houston’s hardworking federal workers aren’t getting paid, then I shouldn’t be paid either. My pay will be withheld until the government reopens. Democrats have still not put forth any border security proposals. They can end this right now, and secure our border. Win-win," Crenshaw tweeted.

Many Republican and Democratic congressmen and senators have decided to reject pay during the shutdown, while others are donating it to charity.

Rep. Angie Craig (D., Minn.), one of Omar's fellow Minnesota Democrats said she will not accept pay, while Sen. Tina Smith (D., Minn.) is donating her pay to a nonprofit.

Other freshman Democrats are also rejecting or donating their pay, including Rep. Chris Pappas (D., NH), Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D., Va.), and Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D., Mich.). Omar has yet to call out any of her fellow Democrats for "virtue signaling."

Congress and President Donald Trump are at an impasse over funding for a border wall which has resulted in a partial government shutdown which is now in its 25th day. During the government shutdown in 2013, government workers received backpay after it was resolved. Congress passed similar legislation on Thursday, so federal workers will receive the paychecks they missed because of the shutdown.

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Richard John Neuhaus, Teacher

First Things - web exclusives - Tue, 01/15/2019 - 03:00

This essay was originally delivered on January 8, 2019, as a homily for the Richard John Neuhaus Memorial Mass at Church of the Immaculate Conception in New York.

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Minn. Union Settles Suit Over Withdrawal Window

Washington Free Beacon - Tue, 01/15/2019 - 02:00

A Minnesota police clerk has won the right to cut ties from the union that attempted to continue deducting money from her paycheck even after the Supreme Court dubbed such payments unconstitutional.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 31 agreed to settle a suit with Brainerd Police Department Clerk Sandra Anderson after the 15-year veteran sued to obtain her resignation. In June, the Supreme Court ruled in Janus v. AFSCME that public sector agencies could no longer mandate union membership or agency fee payments as a condition of employment. Within days of the ruling Anderson attempted to cease paycheck deductions, but the union insisted she was required to make the payments until January 2019 when her contract expired.

"I consulted with our attorney and was told that the dues deduction authorization form and its conditions still apply," the official said in an email. "This means that if you wish, you can opt out of paying union dues in writing during the ten day period prior to the expiration of the current contract."

Anderson was represented by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, the same group that successfully argued the Janus case. Her attorneys said that the union should not be able to enforce the contract terms that the Supreme Court had declared unconstitutional. The suit said the union and state government should be forced to end all future dues deductions without Anderson's affirmative consent to join the union and pay full or partial.

"IBEW Local 31's maintenance and enforcement of its revocation policy violates Plaintiff Anderson's First Amendment rights to free speech and association," the November complaint says.

The union, which did not respond to request for comment, settled the case and acknowledged that it would no longer make deductions from Anderson's paychecks "unless and until she affirmatively chooses to become a member of Local 31 and authorize the deductions." The union also agreed to pay Anderson $474 for her back dues deductions.

"Local 31 agrees that it will neither seek to collect nor accept any future dues or fees deducted from the Plaintiff's wages," the settlement says. "It will remove Plaintiff from its membership rolls."

Foundation President Mark Mix said the settlement was a major victory for workers, as many face small window periods in which they are allowed to cut ties with labor organizations. Many unions and employers agree to contracts that minimize the ability of workers to resign, allowing workers to continue collecting smaller paychecks until the terms expire.

"Ms. Anderson is the first of thousands of government employees to successfully challenge union boss ‘window period' schemes designed to limit workers from exercising their First Amendment rights under Janus," Mix said in a statement. "This victory serves as an inspiration for civil servants across the country who are stepping up to challenge union bosses' coercive tactics to limit public employees' constitutional rights."

The Minnesota settlement is just the latest hit that public sector unions have taken following the Janus decision. Workers have filed dozens of suits in state and federal courts challenging withdrawal policies and attempting to recover back dues collected prior to the decision.

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Are Kids Too Expensive in America?

Washington Free Beacon - Tue, 01/15/2019 - 02:00

New data, released last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, attracted attention by showing the wide variation in fertility among states. They also prompted commentators to ask: Are kids getting too expensive for Americans to have?

That Americans are having fewer babies is not exactly news. The "total fertility rate," a measure demographers use that estimates the number of children a woman can expect to bear in her lifetime, has been declining since the Great Recession. The rate for the whole population has been below "replacement"—2.1, the number needed to keep the population from shrinking—more or less continuously for decades.

Data in fact show that the U.S. fertility rate has hit a 42-year low. The rate has risen above replacement for just a couple of years between 1972 and today.

What the most recent CDC report contributes to the conversation is a picture of the way that fertility rates vary among states. Two—South Dakota and Utah—have rates above replacement (2.27 and 2.12, respectively).

The remaining states differ wildly in how fertile they are. North Dakotans, for example, enjoy slightly more than two children per woman; Massachusettsans, by contrast, have just over 1.5.

This between-states variation allows us to explore what other variables about those state might affect their relative fertility levels, in turn giving a clue as to what has driven down U.S. fertility rates. Ricochet editor Bethany Mandel, writing at the New York Post, pointed to one variable of particular interest: the surging cost of childcare in the United States.

"It's logical," Mandel writes. "Couples aren't having as many kids because they don't have enough time or money. Is it any wonder such limitations lead to fewer children born in more expensive areas of the country, areas where parents have to work longer hours to provide for the children they already have?"

Childcare costs have risen steadily since the 1970s, and are now broadly recognized as a major issue for Americans. Estimates from Child Care Aware of America, an advocacy group, indicate that the average cost of one child's daycare rose 7.5 percent last year, to $9,600 annually.

Data from the New York Times, which Mandel cites, indicate that expense is one of the major reasons that Americans are having fewer kids. In a survey last year, 64 percent said they expected to have fewer children than they considered ideal because "child care is too expensive," the most common response. Forty-four and 43 percent said they were having fewer children because they "can't afford more children" or "waited because of financial instability."

In fact, according to the Times survey, some are opting out of having children altogether because of the cost. Thirty-one percent of respondents who said they didn't want or weren't sure about having children claimed they could not afford child care; others cited the cost of housing or student debt burden.

Looking at the state-by-state data, Mandel points to the disparity between low-birth-rate, high-cost D.C. and its mirror opposite, South Dakota, to make her point. We can take advantage of more systematic data to better explore this relationship.

The left-leaning Economic Policy Institute published a report in 2016 calling for an "ambitious national investment in America's children." As part of this project, it estimated the cost of childcare at the state-by-state level, for both infants and four-year-olds, and in comparison to the cost of housing and education.

Comparing those figures to the state-level fertility rates shows a notable negative relationship—as cost of infant care grows, fertility rate drops. (A similar pattern emerges when using childcare costs for four-year-olds and the associated variable of housing cost.)

There is some evidence from other countries to support this connection. Researchers working on data from Swedish mothers estimated that an increase in childcare costs of 1000 Swedish Krona (about $100) reduces the number of births by about 0.05 per 1,000 women.

Although the relationship between childcare costs and fertility may seem straightforward, their interrelation with other factors makes the picture more complicated. That is because both are affected by one of the most important trends of the past fifty years: rising female wages and labor force participation.

As women have left the home and entered education and the workforce, they have been likely to have fewer children, later, than their mothers. This same trend is linked to rising childcare costs, as the decline of the stay-at-home mom means families need to pay someone to care for their children.

"Women with higher educational attainment and higher potential wages face higher opportunity costs to childbearing. Social scientists have understood that for decades," Samuel Hammond, Director of Poverty and Welfare Policy at the Niskanen Center, told the Washington Free Beacon. "The question is whether the rising cost of child care is an independent factor in women's fertility decisions, or a symptom of these other deeper trends."

Hammond further pointed out that the urbanization of the United States, and its concurrent effect on of how Americans live and work, may be driving childcare up and fertility down.

"In the past, young people would move to cities to go to school but then move out of cities to start a family. Recently, however, the clustering of jobs for highly educated workers in urban areas has reverse that trend," Hammond said. "Urban child care is much more expensive for a variety of reasons, including higher rent and higher labor costs. America's cities simply weren't built with families in mind."

While the underlying causality may be murky, the link between childcare costs and fertility provides a potentially fruitful avenue for policy makers worried about the long-run impact of a baby bust (including tax shortfalls and shortages of young workers to contribute to social security). Proposals like Sens. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) and Mike Lee's (R., Utah) expansion of the Child Tax Credit could help lower the burden of childcare costs on already struggling families.

Hammond's research into the impact of other nations' cash transfers to new parents indicates that, depending on their form, baby payments can have small but notable impacts on fertility. They also may suppress abortion rates, something for social conservatives to cheer.

What is more, because the decision to have a child is multifactorial, other policy interventions may indirectly make childcare cheaper. For example, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson's housing affordability plan could help lower sky-high housing prices, which in turn would reduce barriers to entry for those looking to start a family.

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Michigan Housing Authority Ending Race and Gender Quotas Ruled Illegal by Attorney General

Washington Free Beacon - Tue, 01/15/2019 - 01:55

The Michigan State Housing Development Authority is changing its race and gender quota policies that former Attorney General Bill Schuette determined were illegal before leaving office.

"MSHDA is reviewing its documents and policies to ensure they comply with the Attorney General opinion," Katie Bach, communications director for the MSHDA, said. "We will work with the Office of Attorney General to ensure that the letter and spirit of the opinion is followed."

The policies Schuette ruled illegal had required contractors to ensure that a certain percentage of the work was done by minority groups and by women.

Bach said that this ruling only affects developments that receive 100 percent of its funds from the MSHDA, but not developments that are only partially funded by the MSHDA. About five percent of MSHDA projects receive 100 percent of its funding from the agency. In total, Bach said that approximately three projects would be impacted, which amounts to about $42 million of the total $630 million of statewide investments.

Projects that receive federal funds have certain federal requirements by which contractors must abide. Projects that receive tax credit financing assistance already have no equal employment opportunity requirements.

These affirmative-action-style policies by public institutions became illegal in Michigan after the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative passed as a ballot initiative in 2016, successfully amending the state constitution. The text banned a public institution being able to "discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting."

Leon Drolet, a Macomb County Commissioner and former state representative, helped lead the initial effort for the ballot proposal and led the effort to get the attorney general’s ruling.

"[The MSHDA’s] illegal use of race/gender quotas undermines efforts to achieve a society where a person's ethnicity and gender is not held against them," Drolet said in a news release. "How can we make progress toward ending race and gender discrimination when our own government embeds race and gender criteria in awarding contracts and benefits? No person should have to worry that their ethnicity or gender will be used against them by their own government."

Drolet told it is unfortunate that the agencies need someone else to tell them what’s in the state constitution, which is a document they are meant to abide by. He also expressed skepticism that the violation is accidental and said that "they know what they are doing" and "they just hope they don’t get caught."

Many who push for these quotas are well-intentioned people trying to right a past wrong, Drolet said. However, discriminating based on ethnicity and gender does more harm than good, he added.

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First Things Junior Fellows Program 2019

First Things - first thoughts - Mon, 01/14/2019 - 21:00

Graduating college seniors and recent graduates are invited to apply for the  First Things  junior fellows program. The junior fellows work closely with the editors to produce the magazine and its website. The one-year, full-time fellowship (which can be extended to a second year) includes housing and a modest stipend.

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