Poll: Cotton: 43; Pryor: 38

A new, left-leaning poll conducted on behalf of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee shows Republican Senate hopeful Tom Cotton (R-AR) trailing incumbent Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) by three percentage points.

But is he?

For what it’s worth, a new (also left-leaning) Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey has thrown cold water on that notion.

PPP’s latest offering (which has a D+8 sample, by the way) shows Cotton edging his opponent by five percentage points (43/38).

Cotton, one might say, is ahead for two reasons: (1) He’s attracting large swaths of independent voters (53%) compared to his opponent (20%); and (2) his opponent’s approval ratings are dreadful (36/51), as are the president's (31/62). That latter figure is almost certainly weighing Pryor down.

“Arkansas is leaning toward supporting the GOP ticket right now,” PPP’s president Dean Debnam said in a statement. “The silver lining for Democrats is that they’re only down by 5 or 6 points in the key races, leaving some room for a comeback.”

Stay tuned tomorrow for Quinnipiac University’s soon-to-be-released findings. If anything, that poll should give us a better understanding -- and more insight -- into who's actually the front-runner.

Hypocrites: Speakers Fly More Than 1 Million Miles to Attend Climate Change Summit

Environmentalists gathered in New York City on Tuesday for the UN Climate Summit 2014, which, according to its website, “will serve as a public platform for leaders at the highest level … to catalyze ambitious action on the ground to reduce emissions and strengthen climate resilience and mobilize political will for an ambitious global agreement by 2015 that limits the world to a less than 2-degree Celsius rise in global temperature.”

And to attend this important meeting, speakers from across the world flew a total of 1,036,537 miles. That’s awfully hypocritical considering environmentalists believe air travel to be the “most serious environmental sin,” don’t you think?

CNS News reports:

The UN Climate Summit 2014 is a glaring example of hypocrisy. Just the speakersalone, not the attendees or notable guests for the summit, traveled a grand total of 1,036,537 miles from locations as distant as China, India and Peru. That's enough miles to circle the equator41.6 times.

According to the UN itself, in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, "more than95 percentof our total carbon footprint resulted from air travel."

Filmmaker and journalist Phelim McAleer pointed this very hypocrisy out at the UN Climate Change Conference in 2009.

If you’d like to check out more of McAleer’s short films on environmental hypocrisy, click here.

Obama Saluted Marine With a Coffee Cup

Our Commander-in-Chief saluted a member of the Marine Corps today while clutching a coffee cup:

Per the U.S. Military Protocol Saluting, a salute should be performed as follows:

Execution of the Hand Salute is performed as follows: "the right hand is raised smartly until the tip of the forefinger touches the lower part of the headdress or forehead above and slightly to the right of the right eye, thumb and fingers extended and joined, palm to the left, upper arm horizontal, forearm inclined at 45 degrees, hand and wrist straight; at the same time turn head toward the person saluted. To complete the salute, drop the arm to its normal position by the side in one motion, at the same time turning the head and eyes to the front".

Furthermore, the protocol adds (emphasis added):

It has been said that a sloppy salute is worse than not saluting at all.

This isn't the first time Obama has run into an awkward situation saluting a Marine. Last year, Obama made headlines when he shook a Marine's hand instead of saluting him.

It's been nearly six years, Mr. President. Figure it out.

Syria: US Bombs Al Qaeda Group Recruiting ISIS Fighters to Attack Western Targets

The US military, along with a coalition of Arab states, expanded its anti-ISIS bombing campaign into Syria last night, reportedly with the tacit endorsement of the Assad regime in Damascus. The New York Times reported yesterday that weeks of bombing inside Iraq has "scarcely budged" ISIS, which still maintains control over roughly one-fourth of Iraq's territory. We'll see if and how the new rounds of warfare-from-the-sky work to "degrade" the radicals.  Though the bulk of the operation is aimed at the Islamic State, American security officials have become increasingly worried about an Al Qaeda cell that's been capitalizing on the chaos and influx of western jihadists into the region. This Islamist terror group, known as Khorasan, was also a target of yesterday's scaled-down 'shock and awe' air campaign (which administration officials are for some reason assuring the media will become less shocking and awe-inspiring in the coming days):

American airstrikes in Syria have taken out members of a shadowy al Qaeda unit known as the Khorasan Group who were planning "imminent" attacks against targets including the U.S., the Pentagon said today. Pentagon spokesperson Rear Admiral John Kirby declined to go into specifics, but told ABC News' George Stephanopolous, "We had very good indications that this group, which is a very dangerous group, was plotting and planning imminent attacks against Western targets to include the U.S. homeland and it was on that basis that we struck targets, Khorasan targets inside Syria." "We believe that the individuals that were plotting and planning it have been eliminated and we’re going to continue... to assess the effectiveness of our strikes going through today," Kirby said. The Khorasan Group -- consisting of about 50 or so hardened fighters of mixed past and current jihadi affiliations -- has been holed up in Aleppo, Syria under the protection of al Qaeda's official wing in the country, Jabhat al-Nusra, developing cutting edge weapons of terror with the help of al Qaeda's Yemen affiliate to strike Western civilian aviation targets, according to a half-dozen officials with knowledge of the group who spoke to ABC News.

The Pentagon confirmed that the Khorasan network sustained "at least eight" airstrikes last night, all of which were carried out by the United States alone.  And we may have decapitated the cell's leader. With thousands of Western passport-holders flooding into Iraq and Syria to fight on behalf of the 'caliphate,' Al Qaeda is working to recruit some of these would-be fighters to carry out deadly attacks in the West, using what ABC News refers to as "cutting edge" tools of terror.  Jihadi women have used social media to help direct Westerners how to successfully travel to the region by posing as tourists entering Turkey.  The British government is moving to prevent its nationals' ingress and egress into Iraq and Syria, debating measures such as passport seizure, detention and aggressive refusal of re-entry.  The American security establishment faces a similar task, though reportedly on a smaller scale.  That being said, for the first time, the Obama administration is admitting that some American ISIS fighters have successfully returned to the homeland from the battlefield.  Disquieting, to say the least (via Time):

The Obama Administration believes some Americans who have fought alongside the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) have returned to the United States, a senior Administration official said Monday. During a briefing for reporters Monday in the ornate Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the Administration’s efforts to address the issue of so-called foreign terrorist fighters, the official said that the latest assessment from National Counterterrorism Center is that more than 100 Americans have attempted to fight in Iraq and Syria alongside ISIS, the al-Qaeda affiliated al-Nusra Front or other groups. “It includes those who’ve gone, those who’ve tried to go, some who’ve come back and are under active—the FBI is looking at them,” the official said. “These are FBI matters, I refer you to them on specifics.” It marked the first official government confirmation that at least some of the Americans fighting alongside the Islamist extremist group have returned to the U.S.

Hopefully the FBI is keeping closer tabs on these returning violent extremists than the military did with those missing Afghan soldiers, who've finally been found.  American officials believe Khorasan poses a more immediate threat to the United States than ISIS.  The White House has come under increasing criticism for its ISIS posture, including from two of President Obama's former Secretaries of Defense.  Skeptics say an air campaign will not be sufficient to dislodge and defeat ISIS (see the NYT link above), while high-ranking administration and military officials have offered contradictory statements on the possibility of deploying American ground troops -- which Obama has ruled out, discarding military recommendations.  In his speech to the nation earlier this month, the president said US actions would build on his preferred 'light footprint' intervention and counterterrorism model, citing Yemen as a success story.  Let's check in on Yemen, shall we?

In a stunning sweep of the Yemeni capital, the country's Shiite rebels seized homes, offices and military bases of their Sunni foes on Monday, forcing many into hiding and triggering an exodus of civilians from the city after a week of fighting that left 340 people dead. It was the latest development in the Hawthi blitz, which has plunged volatile Yemen into more turmoil, pitting the Shiite rebels against the Sunni-dominated military and their Islamist tribal allies.

Full speed ahead to a failed state -- not unlike the disaster playing out in another nation that benefited from Obama's vision of armed conflict.  I'll leave you with this:

Smart power.

Republicans Amend Party Platform in NH; Now They Support "Personhood"

Granite State Republicans have officially taken a more hard-lined stance on the issue of abortion.

The Washington Examiner reports:

The New Hampshire Republican Party amended its platform this weekend with stricter abortion provisions, including support for "personhood," which defines life as beginning at conception. Personhood has become a hot-button issue in Senate races across the country this year, such as Colorado, where Democrats have successfully attacked Rep. Cory Gardner for having supported such a measure in the past.

Now, the issue could spread to New Hampshire, following the state party's decision at its convention. The platform now states: "Support the pre-born child's fundamental right to life and personhood under the Fourteenth Amendment, and implement all Constitutional and legal protections."

It added: "Support a Life at Conception Act guaranteeing the protections of Life and Personhood to the pre-born under the Fourteenth Amendment of the US Constitution." The platform previously used the term "unborn" rather than "pre-born," and did not refer to personhood.

So how, exactly, will this affect Republican hopeful Scott Brown, the nominee for U.S. Senate in the Granite State, who is pro-choice?

Well, a veteran GOP campaign operative in New Hampshire told the Examiner the following: "I know very few Republicans that support every plank of the platform.” Nor, of course, can they be expected to. Still, if Democrats turn this relatively insignificant news story into a campaign issue, Brown could suffer the consequences.

For instance, read this press release from the Shaheen campaign about the state GOP’s platform change:

“The message from Scott Brown and his Republican Party is disturbing, alarming and clear: they believe they should make the decisions about birth control and health care for women in New Hampshire and around the country. They are dangerously wrong, and by signing on with Tea Party extremists, they’re showing just how irresponsibly out of touch they are with the needs and rights of women.”

This is a lie. The truth is that Brown actually disagrees with his party on the issue of abortion. But of course, that won’t stop Shaheen & Co. from lumping him in with the so-called “Tea Party extremists” for political gain. This relatively minor development, then, has the potential to become a much bigger issue if and when Democrats resurrect and revive their “war on women” rhetoric. Which they will.

Thus, it is up to Brown himself to deftly neutralize these specious attacks. If he does not, I suspect he will suffer the same electoral fate in New Hampshire that Ken Cuccinelli experienced in Virginia.

Don't Limit Tax Relief to Families

Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Mike Lee (R-UT) have a fine op-ed up at The Wall Street Journal today outlining the "pro-family, pro-growth tax reform" they plan to pursue November. Rubio and Lee write:

The current tax code taxes too much, taxes unfairly, and conspires with our outmoded welfare system to trap poor families in poverty, rather than facilitate their climb into the middle class. Our reforms seek to simplify the structure and lower rates. How? By consolidating the many existing income tax brackets into two simple brackets—15% and 35%—and eliminating or reforming deductions, especially those that disproportionately benefit the privileged few at everyone else's expense.

In addition, our plan would eliminate the well-known marriage penalty, which imposes higher taxes on married couples than if they had filed individually. It would also take aim at another pernicious distortion—the parent tax penalty—that is more prevalent, if less understood, even by its victims.

Today, parents are, in effect, double charged for the federal senior entitlement programs. They of course pay payroll taxes, like everyone else. But unlike adults without children, they also shoulder the financial burden of raising the next generation of taxpayers, who will grow up to fund the Social Security and Medicare benefits of all future seniors.

This hidden, double burden on parents isn't offset anywhere else in the system, and so true conservative tax reform needs to account for it. Children aren't consumer goods—they are investments parents make in their futures, and in the future of America, and therefore deserve to be treated as such in our tax code.

Our proposal would account for this and level the playing field for working parents by augmenting the current child tax credit of $1,000 with an additional $2,500 credit, applicable against income taxes and payroll taxes—i.e., the taxes that most burden lower- and middle-income families. The credit would not phase out, and would be refundable against income tax and employer and employee payroll tax liability.

Eliminating deductions "that disproportionately benefit the privileged few at everyone else's expense" is a worthy goal. 

But why do Rubio and Lee insist on plowing those savings right back into other tax credits that benefit just a few select Americans? Why not take those resources and use them to cut the payroll tax for all working Americans?

Not only is cutting the payroll tax a proven job creator, but such a tax cut would appeal to a far broader group of Americans. In 2012, just 36 percent of voters had a child under age 18 living in their home. Compare that to the 60 percent of Americans who work full time for pay.

And the Republican Party already has a lock on married households with kids. In 2012, Mitt Romney won the married with children vote 54 - 45 percent. Meanwhile, Obama won unmarried Americans 62 - 35 percent. Why are Lee and Rubio so intent on running up the margins among married voters with children? Wouldn't it be better to offer all working Americans the chance to take home more of every paycheck?

A payroll tax cut is also effective against Democratic calls for fighting inequality by raising the minimum wage. When asked to choose between a payroll tax cut and a minimum wage hike, voters preferred the payroll tax cut by double digits.

It just does not make any political or economic sense to confine the benefits of tax cuts to those who currently care for young children.

BREAKING: Judge Rules Dinesh D'Souza Will Not Face Prison Time

U.S. District Court Judge Richard Berman has sentenced conservative author and filmmaker Dinesh D'Souza to eight months in a community confinement center and five years probation. D'Souza will not face prison time. What this essentially means:

Community confinement is a condition of probation or supervised release. It involves residence in a halfway house, restitution center, community treatment center, mental health facility, alcohol or drug rehabilitation center, or other community facility. It also includes participation in gainful employment, employment search efforts, vocational training, treatment, community service, educational programs, or similar other facility approved programs during their nonresidential hours. Basically community confinement is imposed as a condition of pre release custody and programming, before serving the last ten percent of the prison sentence. Community confinement is given for a period not exceeding six months.

Federal prosecutors argued D'Souza should have been sentenced to 10-to16 months in prison after pleading guilty in May to one count on federal charges detailed in an indictment accusing him of violating campaign finance laws. 

This post has been updated.

RELATED - Documents: Federal Prosecutors Misled Judge in Pursuit of Prison Time For Dinesh D'Souza

The UN Has Renamed Global Warming/Climate Change Again

When "global warming" data was exposed as a fraud a few years ago, big government control freaks changed its name to climate change, enabling the anti-capitalist movement to blame pretty much any natural disaster on the phenomenon and justify limiting the use of fossil fuel energy. Polling shows that not only is global warming/climate change not a major concern for most Americans, but that the use of the different terms doesn't make a difference in peaking a person's interest on the issue.

Now, the UN is changing the name of global warming, climate change again.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who also marched on Sunday, said people ought to "act every day as though every week should be a climate week".

France has been chosen to host key U.N. climate talks in December 2015, where governments are due to agree a new global deal to tackle climate change. Paris is already working to bring nations together in a united effort, Fabius said.

"If we let emissions grow, catastrophic climate change will accelerate," he said. That would mean more droughts, floods, human misery and international security challenges.

"I don't use the term climate change - I think the more accurate term is climate disruption," he added.

Same propaganda, different name. 

President Obama is at the UN in New York Tuesday to give a speech about climate disruption/change/warming.

Obama: Five Countries Helped us Bomb ISIL in Syria

President Obama delivered a rather short statement from the White House this morning defending and explaining his decision to launch U.S. airstrikes into Syria last night.

“We were joined in this action by our friends and partners,” he said, noting how five Arab countries also participated in the operation.

“America is proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with these nations on behalf of our common security.”

“Meanwhile, we will move forward with our plan, supported by partisan majorities in Congress, to move and train the Syrian opposition,” he added. “More broadly, 40 nations have offered to help [to] take out terrorist targets, to cut off ISIL’s financing, to counter its hateful ideology, and to stop its flow of fighters into and out of the region.”

He also said over the coming days he will meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, and other world leaders, to discuss the ISIL threat at the United Nations.

“The overall effort will take time [and] there will be challenges,” he added. “But we’re going to take the fight to this terrorist group.”

Flashback: "My New Best Friend…Barack Obama!"

Iowa Democratic Senate nominee Bruce Braley -- perhaps best known for demeaning farmers at out-of-state fundraisers with fellow trial lawyers, whining about interrupted towel service at the Congressional gym, and threatening legal action against neighbors -- is in a nip-and-tuck battle with Republican Joni Ernst. The race is a pure toss-up, perhaps leaning ever so slightly in Ernst's direction recently. In a Quinnipiac poll released last week, Ernst led Braley by six points. Part of the reason? Barack Obama. The president's stock is lower than ever in Hawkeye country. In the Q-poll, more than twice as many respondents said their Senate vote will be an expression of opposition to Obama, as opposed to a tally in support of his agenda. And here's Gallup's September tracker of the president's standing in the state:

All of which is to say that this clip from 2007 may not be particularly helpful to Bruce Braley's campaign:

Republicans should think twice before overplaying this hand, as many Iowans retain fond memories of the 2008 campaign, when their state catapulted Obama from longshot to contender status. But as the polling nuggets above demonstrate, most of those same voters have long since lost that loving feeling to one degree or another. Bruce Braley would be a lockstep vote for Harry Reid on behalf of Barack Obama's agenda. The ineffectual, liberal president would love to have a "new best friend" in the Senate. Iowans will decide whether to give Obama what he wants, or to try something new.  Parting fact: If elected, Joni Ernst would be the first woman to serve Iowa as a Senator, governor or US representative.

AK Senate Race: Sullivan Slams Sen. Begich for Passing Only One Bill in Congress

Opponents of Alaska Senator Mark Begich have criticized him for being a no show in Congress. Last year, Begich missed more votes than 80 percent of all senators. His GOP opponent Dan Sullivan now has more ammunition to target the senator’s absenteeism. In an infographic on his Facebook page, the Republican accused Begich of being an “ineffective lawmaker” for only passing one bill in Congress during his first term.

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Politifact graded Sullivan’s charge as “half true.” Although Begich has originated only one bill, Politifact points out that Begich has co-sponsored almost 40 bills. A politician’s legislative success isn’t exactly a defining marker of his or her effectiveness in Congress, however, and for what it's worth, Begich has since sponsored more bills since Sullivan's Facebook message posted.

Yet, that doesn’t mean Sullivan doesn’t have an effective strategy in this race. After all, it’s not exactly a matter of boasting for Begich to have just one bill to his name in his first term - and that was the naming of a building.

Our poll tracker currently shows Sullivan with a two-point lead over Begich. Keep checking back for more updates as they arrive.

Issa: If IRS' Lois Lerner Talks to The Press, She Should Talk to Congress Under Oath

Yesterday POLITICO published a lengthy interview with former IRS official Lois Lerner, the woman at the center of the IRS' inappropriate targeting of tea party groups. Lerner has refused to testify about her role in the scandal and has plead the Fifth twice in front of Congress, maintaining that she has "done nothing wrong." 

In response to her interview, Chairman of the House Oversight Committee Darrell Issa says if Lerner can talk to the press, she should also be talking to Congress under oath. The American people deserve answers. 

“The American people deserve the opportunity to hear Lois Lerner’s testimony under oath,” Issa said in a released statement. “If Lerner had nothing to hide and did nothing wrong in the IRS targeting scandal, she would have chosen to answer basic questions about her conduct instead of obstructing Congress’ investigation. Her decision to make unsubstantiated claims to a media outlet while claiming Fifth Amendment protections from answering Congress’ questions is telling. She appears to have great confidence that her allies in the Obama Administration will not consider legal action after she resigned and declined to discuss the IRS’ actions against private citizens.”

Lerner retired early from her position at the IRS last year with a full, $100,000 per year pension. She lives in a $2.5 million home and spends her days volunteering and gardening. 

Documents: Federal Prosecutors Misled Judge in Pursuit of Prison Time For Dinesh D'Souza

According to court documents, federal prosecutors working on behalf of Attorney General Eric Holder and the Department of Justice misled U.S. District Court Judge Richard Berman in the case against conservative filmmaker and author Dinesh D’Souza during their pursuit of 10-to-16 months of prison time for a federal felony charge.

In a reply sentencing memo submitted to the Court on behalf of D'Souza last week, his counsel argues federal prosecutors excluded and misrepresented the facts of “similar” cases in the Government's sentencing proposal to Judge Berman, leaving out crucial facts key to fair and equal sentencing for D’Souza compared to other cases. The prosecution has a duty to present comparable cases and crimes when arguing for a prison sentence. In their presentation of “similar” cases to the Judge for consideration during his deliberation, the prosecution ignored all truly similar cases without prison time but did present cases that included prison time without a full set of facts to justify sentencing.

“The Government, in this case, has chosen to consciously omit from its submission critical facts from most of the cases they cite which make it clear that those cases are substantially distinguishable from the facts in D’Souza’s prosecution,” the memo states. 

D’Souza’s counsel provided the court with a chart detailing “the 'limited’ facts from each case that the Government highlights” and then provided the missing facts the Government failed to include in order to avoid undermining their own argument against a prison sentence. With all the facts in place, the Government doesn’t have a case that adds up to a sentence that includes imprisonment.

In the chart submitted to the Judge by D’Souza’s counsel, you’ll notice the “facts” on the left submitted to the Judge by the Government to be used for sentencing consideration. On the right, you’ll find the full facts of the case the Government deliberately failed to include. Below are three of eight examples provided. You can read the rest here.

The prosecution's distortion of the facts in "similar cases" backs up long held suspicions that D’Souza was selectively prosecuted by the Department of Justice for political purposes and shows deceitful, malicious tactics being used to impose an unjust sentence.

“To be candid, counsel were surprised to see that in the Sentencing Memorandum, the Government cavalierly treats and then distorts critical issues so important to the Court’s decision. In doing so, to the Government ironically provides further support for more vigorous prosecution and now, for more severe punishment than virtually any other defendant whose crime is ‘similar’ to that of Mr. D’Souza’s, especially when his case is devoid of any element of corruption or personal greed that is at the heart of every case the Government cites,” the memo states. “Indeed, so determined is the Government in its effort to convince your Honor to imprison Mr. D’Souza, that they supplied the Court with a list of cases in support of their argument on sentence parity, but did so in a manner that was disingenuous. When one carefully examines the facts in each and every one of the case cited by the government in support of their sentence parity argument, it soon becomes clear that prison was imposed in each of those cases for a variety of aggravating factors that have nothing whatsoever to do with the prosecution of Mr. D’Souza."

The government failed to present any case, all facts included, comparable to D’Souza’s which involved illegally using two straw donors to donate a total of $20,000 to an ill-fated campaign. Back in May, D’Souza pled guilty to one count on federal charges detailed in an indictment accusing him of violating campaign finance laws and making false statements. D'Souza admitted in front of the Court that he did in fact ask two people to make contributions in their name and later reimbursed them, knowing it was not proper under the law. D'Souza submitted a plea deal on May 19 and the charge of making false statements was dropped. D’Souza’s defense team has argued that although criminally culpable, their client should not be imprisoned.

“After studying the chart and cases cited, we respectfully ask that the Court completely reject the Government’s argument that sentence parity supports a prison sentence for Mr. D’Souza. Simply put, their argument on this issue must be rejected because it is not sound,” D’Souza’s counsel argues in the document. “A good man who is 53 years old, with no criminal record and a genuine scholar, should not be sent to prison for a non-violent technical violation of the Federal Election Law where he was not trying to obtain an advantage or any personal benefit and where the case is devoid of any corruption whatsoever.”

D’Souza’s counsel has asked for a sentence of probation and community service. D'Souza is set for sentencing in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, today at 9 a.m. ET. Judge Berman said earlier this year he will consider D'Souza's character and history in his sentencing.

Polls in Maine Gubernatorial Election Show Close Race

Current Maine Governor Paul LePage won the 2010 election on the slimmest of margins, with just 38.2 percent of the vote in a competitive three-way race. This time around, he's up for re-election against Democrat challenger and U.S. Representative Mike Michaud and independent candidate Eliot Cutler, and polls are showing that the 2014 election is likely going to be another nail biter.

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Current polls show Michaud with a scant +1.7 lead, although a series of CBS/NYT/YouGov polls had LePage up by a point. If Michaud is elected, he will be the first openly gay U.S. governor.

Maine is an unusual state when it comes to gubernatorial elections, and has a strong tradition of viable third-party candidates. Since 1970 there have only been two gubernatorial elections in which the victor received over 50 percent of the votes.

In 2010, Democrat candidate Libby Mitchell effectively played spoiler to left-leaning independent Cutler's bid for the Blaine House, but Cutler has failed to garner the same level of support this election cycle.

Things could get very interesting as November gets nearer.

WATCH: Boehner's 5 Points for Resetting America's Economic Foundation in 3 Minutes

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) lays out 5 points he believes will restore America's economic foundation and put the United States on the right track for several generations.

This event was held at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington D.C.

Report: Secret Service Weighing Security Changes After Break-in

Last week, an Iraq War veteran, allegedly with PTSD, hopped the White House fence wielding a three-and-a-half inch pocketknife. The break-in was captured on camera and, alarmingly, the perpetrator made it all the way inside the building before he was taken into custody. Thankfully, the first family was not at home at the time of the breach -- but many of the protocols put in place to prevent against dangerous and malicious actors from accessing the White House were not followed. This failure in communication and judgment is reportedly leading top brass at the Secret Service to weigh sweeping policy changes that will ensure something like this never happens again (via the NYT):

The Secret Service is considering screening tourists and other visitors at checkpoints before they enter the public areas in front of the White House in response to the episode Friday in which a man with a knife managed to get through the front door of the president’s home after jumping over the fence on Pennsylvania Avenue, according to law enforcement officials. As part of the screening, the Secret Service would establish several checkpoints a few blocks from the White House, the officials said. The screening would likely be limited to bag checks and not include measures taken at airports by the Transportation Security Administration, which include metal detectors and body scans.

Along with giving Secret Service agents and uniformed Secret Service officers a chance to check for explosives and weapons in bags, the screening would allow them to interact with the visitors and try to identify those who may pose a problem, the officials said. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they did not want to be identified discussing a continuing investigation or security measures under consideration.

In all honesty, how could this happen? That’s pretty much what everybody is asking. This man not only breached the fence; he made it inside. How?

As noted above, one reason, it seems, is because standard operating procedures were inexplicably abandoned:

According to officials briefed on the review, one of the biggest questions senior Secret Service officials want answered is why officers on the grounds did not deploy attack dogs that are specifically trained to stop intruders, even those sprinting across the White House lawn. At all times, there are several muzzled Belgian Malinois on the White House grounds, officials said. The early assessment by senior agency officials is that the dog handlers should have quickly removed the muzzles and unleashed the dogs.

Agency officials are also puzzled as to why the guard at the front door of the White House did not follow procedure and lock the door as soon as an alarm signaled that someone had breached the fence.

“[I]n my wildest dreams," David Axelrod said today on MSNBC, "I never imagined that someone could do what this guy did.”

For what it's worth, I'm sure most Americans feel the exact same way.

US Census Data: Uninsured Rate…Increased in 2014?

Wait, what? We've expressed a healthy skepticism of the administration's "official" enrollment numbers, and for good reason -- but even I must admit to being a bit flummoxed by the United States Census Bureau's new findings that America's uninsured population increased in 2014 over 2013.  That data, via Phil Kerpen:

A separate government metric indicated that the uninsured population has decreased by 3.8 million overall, which falls far short of the administration's alleged numbers, but is at least an uptick.  Writing at Forbes, policy analyst Joseph Antos delves into the numbers:

This week’s double-barreled release of government statistics on health insurance coverage leaves us with only one question: How many Americans are insured because of Obamacare? Remarkably, the two highly regarded government surveys released this week do not even agree whether the number of uninsured increased or decreased. The survey that received a great deal of attention said there were 3.8 million fewer uninsured. The other, which was hardly noticed, found that there were 1.3 million more uninsured…The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported preliminary results on the expansion of health insurance coverage. Its National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) interviewed 27,000 people in the first three months of this year. The survey estimates that the number of uninsured dropped by 3.8 million since 2013. That represents a 1.3 percentage point decline in the uninsured rate, from 14.4 percent last year to 13.1 percent early this year. Estimates from an even larger survey of the uninsured from the nation’s premier statistical agency, the Census Bureau, were released a few hours later. The Census Bureau has been collecting information on health insurance for decades based on the Current Population Survey (CPS).

Data were collected from a sample of 68,000 households in February, March, and April of 2014. That survey found that 42 million—13.4 percent of the population—were uninsured in 2013. Interesting, but last year’s uninsured rate tells us nothing about how much the Affordable Care Act (ACA) expanded health insurance coverage this year. A day after the two main reports were issued, the CDC quietly placed another table on its website. The new table compares estimates from the NHIS and the CPS for the early months of 2014. It reports the NHIS result that 13.1 percent of the population lacked health insurance when they were interviewed in the January through March time period of 2014. But it also reports the CPS estimate that 13.8 percent were uninsured during the February through April interview period.

Antos calls the timing suspect and discusses the reliability and implications of the dueling surveys:

It is no accident that the administration released CDC’s estimates early on September 16 followed shortly by the Census Bureau’s routine report on last year’s insurance coverage, delaying the comparable Census estimates to the next day. Good news about coverage gains drowned out the Census report. The high reliability of the NHIS was front and center in the press coverage. The contradictory evidence from Census was buried. Although the NHIS is a highly reliable survey, the CPS is even more reliable. Its sample is 150 percent larger than that of the NHIS, which means that its estimates have significantly lower statistical variance. If the NHIS is the gold standard, then the CPS must be the platinum standard.

You may recall that the Census bureau recently uprooted decades of tradition by changing its formula for measuring uninsured rates in America, sparking deserved criticism from several quarters.  Why disrupt the system at the precise moment that a massive new health program is coming on line, diminishing the usefulness of the new data by making the established base line obsolete?  Those concerns still stand, but what's surprising is that the initial figures under the new system -- which experts expected to dramatically improve insured rates -- point in the opposite direction, at least for now.  I'm…skeptical of that trend continuing, but those are the hard numbers so far.  On the CDC data, an increase in the insured population of 3.8 million is obviously better than a drop of 1.3 million, but it's still remarkably weak.  The Congressional Budget Office projected a surge of 12 million newly insured Americans in 2014, and the administration has been bragging about 14 million "new" "enrollees" between the exchanges and Medicaid expansion.  (Reminder: They've been using dishonest math to significantly inflate both numbers).  Just shy of four million newly insured Americans over, as estimated by the CDC, is obviously a far cry from the administration's stats.  One Obamacare-friendly expert objected that the 3.8 million figure doesn't reflect the big influx of enrollees that happened in March -- a fair point, but Antos responds:

The difference between the NHIS estimate of the reduction in the uninsured count and the administration’s enrollment total is about 10 million. If one assumes that March enrollment would double the number of people who are newly covered by insurance, then one might guess that a survey conducted later in the year would find that the insured had declined by 7.6 million instead of the NHIS’s 3.8 million. But exchange coverage accounts for less than half of the increase in insurance according to the Administration. There is no indication of a similar surge in Medicaid enrollment, which is permitted all year around rather than being confined to an open enrollment period. If Medicaid enrollment continued at a steady pace, then the NHIS figure should be adjusted to reflect only the exchange surge. That translates to a decline in the number of uninsured of 5.4 million.

That's still a fraction of CBO projections and the White House's politicized estimates.  Speaking of which, HHS announced last week that the current number of exchange enrollees is 7.3 million, down from the much-touted "eight million" number.  How could that official statistic differ so dramatically from the CDC and Census data?  Well, the large majority of exchange enrollees previously had insurance.  They're signing up for Obamacare having lost their existing plans, in violation of the president's promise.  Those people don't count as "newly" insured, except in the administration's imagination.  Also, that 7.3 number does not reflect the hundreds of thousands of ineligible people who are in the process of losing their coverage and/or subsidies, nor does it account for the significant attrition of once-paying customers that major insurers are reporting.  Also, the government's estimates still can't be verified by a functioning "back end" of the federal data hub because it's still being built.  As Bob Laszewski says, we still don't know how many people are actually enrolled in Obamacare. Before you go, be sure to read Philip Klein's recent stories on the two million families who may be impacted by Obamacare's "family glitch" (which we wrote about years ago), and a national survey of doctors -- roughly half of whom assign the new law a 'D' or F.'  Just 25 percent of American doctors give Obamacare an 'A' or 'B.'

Hmm: Governor’s Race in Left-leaning Massachusetts Surprisingly Close

Could Republicans finally wrestle control of the governorship from Democrats in Massachusetts? If these two recent polls are any indication, the answer is ‘yes.’

WBZ-TV’s Jon Keller, for his part, argues in his column today that although the odds are firmly stacked in Martha Coakley’s favor, he doesn’t necessarily rule out the possibility of an upset:

That’s two polls in a row showing the race for Governor of Massachusetts in a virtual dead heat. And while matching polls in September don’t prove much with the meat of the campaign still ahead, it wouldn’t surprise me if those results were right on target for the moment.

As the Democratic nominee in a state that has elected only three Republicans to statewide office in the last 20 years, you’d expect Martha Coakley to be a frontrunner in this race, and that may still happen. Massachusetts Democrats know how to organize and get out the vote, as does organized labor.

Add in the frustration many women feel about the state’s failure to ever elect a female governor and you’ve got a path to victory for Coakley that is easier than Charlie Baker’s.

But there are circumstances under which a Republican can win here.

There sure are. You’ll recall that many Democrats believed Coakley would be the next U.S. Senator from Massachusetts in 2010. That...didn't happen. Amazingly, after boasting an enormous early lead in the polls, she lost the “Kennedy seat” to a little-known Republican state lawmaker named Scott Brown. Some later questioned whether she was the right candidate for the job; perhaps some are even asking the same kind of questions today.

Nevertheless, Keller points out that many voters are not necessarily disenchanted with Coakley, per se, but with the Democratic Party establishment. “A solid 40% tell pollsters the state is going in the wrong direction,” he wrote in his Monday op-ed.

This gives outsider Charlie Baker some grounds for optimism. Whether he can channel that inner optimism into an effective campaign message, however, remains to be seen.

Walker Surges as Burke Fires Campaign Staff for Plagiarism

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has surged ahead of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke, as Burke has been forced to fire campaign staff responsible for copying her campaign's job plan from other failed candidates.

The most recent Marquette Law School Poll, conducted September 11-14, found Walker enjoying a 3-point, 49-46 percent lead over Burke. This was a marked improvement for Walker who trailed Burke in Marquette's earlier poll, conducted August 21-23, by 49-47 percent.

Burke's week only got worse after BuzzFeed's Andrew Kaczynski reported that portions of Burke's jobs plan had been copied from four other Democratic candidates, three of whom went on to lose their elections. 

Burke had made her jobs plan the centerpiece of her campaign, telling reporters back in March, “I brought Gov. Walker’s plan from 2010. This is 4 pages. I’ve seen 8th grade term papers that had more work put into them."

Faced with evidence that portions of her own jobs plan had been copied from other candidates, Burke fired the consultant, Eric Schunrer, who had produced the offending passages. "The language is not the language that should have been used," Burke told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

Walker is no stranger to come from behind victories. In 2012, the same Marquette poll found Walker trailing his then-oppnenent Tom Barrett 46-47 percent. But Walker soon surged ahead of Barrett in Marquette's final poll before the election 50-44 percent, before beating Barrett easily 53-46 percent.

John Kerry: Threat From Climate Change is Just Like ISIS

Secretary of State John Kerry, the world's top diplomat, is warning that global warming climate change poses as much of a threat to the world as ISIS. More from The Hill:

Secretary of State John Kerry said the threats posed by climate change should be addressed with as much "immediacy" as confronting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and the Ebola outbreak.

During a meeting with foreign ministers on Sunday, Kerry said global warming is creating "climate refugees."

"We see people fighting over water in some places. There are huge challenges to food security and challenges to the ecosystem, our fisheries and ... the acidification of the ocean is a challenge for all of us," Kerry said.

"And when you accrue all of this, while we are confronting ISIL and we are confronting terrorism and we are confronting Ebola and other things, those are immediate," he added, using an alternate acronym for the terrorist group.

"This also has an immediacy that people need to come to understand, but it has even greater longer-term consequences that can cost hundreds of billions, trillions of dollars, lives, and the security of the world," Kerry continued.

While there isn't much evidence to support Kerry's claim that climate change is creating "climate refugees," over the past four days more than 130,000 people have fled Syria because of ISIS.

The number of Syrian refugees who have reached Turkey in the past four days after fleeing advancing ISIS militants now totals 130,000 and could rise further, Turkey’s deputy prime minister warned on Monday. “A refugee wave that can be expressed by hundreds of thousands is a possibility,” said Numan Kurtulmus warned. …

“This is not a natural disaster… What we are faced with is a man-made disaster,” Kurtulmus said. “An uncontrollable force at the other side of the border is attacking civilians.”

And then of course there was the horrifying situation last month when 40,000 Christian Yazidi refugees were stranded on a mountain top as ISIS climbed to slaughter them.

Tens of thousands of members of Iraqi religious minority groups driven from their homes for fear of the jihadist group Islamic State are dying of thirst and heat on a desert mountainside in the north of the country, according to the United Nations and human rights groups.

Some 40 children have already died from the heat and dehydration, the UN children’s organisation Unicef says, while upwards of 40,000 more are sheltering in the bare mountains, without food or water or access to supplies. It says 25,000 children may be stranded.

Back in February and prior to ISIS beheading two American journalists, Kerry made similar comments when he classified climate change as the world's "most fearsome" weapon of mass destruction. 

Exit question: When Kerry will have the nerve to get out of the cushy UN board room and into a refugee camp to make his asinine climate change comments? 

MI GOV: Snyder Announces New Jobs Initiative, Schauer Hits Him Over Outsourcing

Today, Gov. Rick Snyder is at Gentex Corporation Headquarters in Zeeland to announce a new jobs initiative called Talent 2025. The event comes right after news broke that Michigan’s unemployment rate fell to 7.4 percent, the lowest level since 2008. Nevertheless, Michigan’s unemployment rate is still higher than the national average of 6.1 percent.

Also, First Lady Sue Snyder said she will help her husband in his re-election bid, but doesn’t like campaigning all that much. Nevertheless, with the last of her children off to college, she can be a more active First Lady, according to MLive [emphasis mine]:

She said she’d love to star in a commercial, but the campaign hasn’t asked her to yet.

She’s flown under the radar as First Lady up until a few months ago, choosing family life over the limelight. But now that the couple’s youngest child is off to college, Snyder has taken a more active role as First Lady.

She has taken on a number of causes recently, and appeared at Sparrow Hospital Thursday to talk about safe sleep. She’s also advocated for vaccinating children, gotten involved in a foster care organization and served as a spokesperson for Ele’s Place, a center for grieving children.

“Most of my issues, besides breast cancer, have a lot to do with families and kids. And I just think it’s so important that I can use my voice, my position as First Lady to raise awareness to these things, and they all so important,” Snyder said.

On some level, she’s lived and breathed issues in the state for the past four years. The governor brings his work home with him “every night,” Snyder said. She has disagreed with some of Governor Snyder’s decisions, but only until he’s fully explained them to her.

I wish that these people could be there to understand what he tells me. Why can’t he just stand up and say ‘people this is the way it is and this is why it happened’? And I’m constantly telling him that,” she said.

One of those issues he may have to explain to conservatives regarding his decision to expand Medicaid in the state. Last week, Gov. Snyder reiterated his support for this policy initiative, saying it has helped low-income Michigan residents.

His Democratic opponent, former Congressman Mark Schauer, agreed with Gov. Snyder’s decision to expand Medicaid, but said, “it took him a long time to get it done.”

In an ad from the Democratic Governors Association, Schauer hit Snyder saying he “gave $1.8 billion in tax breaks to businesses -- even if they send jobs overseas.” That benefits the wealthy in Michigan, according to Schauer. And he noted how in Congress he supported “Buy American” laws to curb outsourcing.

A fact check noted Schauer’s claim about Snyder’s tax breaks benefiting only the wealthy wasn’t entirely accurate. Also, the claim about tax breaks for businesses even those who ship jobs overseas is “mostly true, but misleading” (via Detroit Free Press):

Claim: "Gov. Snyder gave $1.8 billion in tax breaks to businesses -- even if they send jobs overseas."

Reality: Mostly true, but misleading.

In 2011, the Republican-controlled Legislature passed, and Snyder signed, what amounted to a $1.8-billion tax cut when fully implemented by eliminating the Michigan Business Tax and replacing it with a 6% corporate tax only paid by "C" corporations, which have shareholders.

A "tax break" generally connotes a deduction or loophole allowing certain taxpayers to avoid taxes that would otherwise be owed. Elimination of the MBT was an across-the-board elimination of a tax and in that sense not a tax break. Also, the 6% corporate tax that replaced the MBT was designed as a much cleaner tax that did away with the myriad credits and other "tax breaks" that characterized the widely loathed MBT.

It's true the MBT was eliminated for all businesses, whether they move jobs overseas or not. But it's worth noting the only companies that have opted to continue paying the MBT are those who received significant MBT tax credits under the former administration of Gov. Jennifer Granholm, a Democrat, and want to be able to use them.

Claim: "That helps the wealthy, but not the rest of Michigan."

Reality: Mostly false. Most businesses who paid the MBT were small businesses. Most businesses that pay the 6% corporate tax -- "C"

The race is a statistical dead heat.

IRS Official Who Called Conseratives A**holes Says She "Isn't a Political Person," Plays Victim in New Interview

“Regardless of whatever else happens, I know I did the best I could under the circumstances and am not sorry for anything I did,” former IRS official Lois Lerner told POLITICO in an exclusive interview released today.

In the piece, Lerner portrays herself as being unfairly attacked by the very groups she spent years inappropriately targeting. 

Lerner, for her part, assumes she is at the center of the storm because “I was the person who announced it. I assume the other part of it is because I declined to talk, and once I declined to talk, they could say anything they wanted, and they knew I couldn’t say anything back.”

Oh, and she wants everyone to know how apolitical she is too. This is the same woman who was in contact with the Department of Justice about putting tea party leaders behind bars for "lying" about political activity and the same woman who called conservatives crazies and a**holes in an email. Speaking of those crazy a**holes, according to Lerner and her husband, Mark Levin and his listeners were the source of that comment.

They’ve released partial emails, including one after President Barack Obama’s reelection in which she and Miles bemoan far-right conservative talk radio, calling them “crazies” and “a—holes.”

The couple said the exchange was taken entirely out of context. Miles wrote the email after listening to callers on the “Mark Levin Show” rant about stockpiling food and guns to fight because Obama was going to run the country into the ground. Lerner, then in London, responded from her work email about hearing chatter about the U.S. being a broken system for its fiscal brinkmanship over the debt ceiling.

Lerner said she is “not a political person,” has voted for candidates of both parties and that the only campaign contribution she ever made was $25 to a fellow law school student running for judge.

And, let's not forget "non-political" Lerner discussing the possibility of joining President Obama's 2012 re-election machine Organization for Action. 

Lerner, the director of Exempt Organizations, emailed a colleague about OFA on January 24, who noted that they would primarily operate out of Chicago - but would have an office in Washington D.C.
“Oh--maybe I can get the DC office job!” Lerner emailed back.

Unfortunately, Lerner isn't playing the victim card all on her own. EO Tax Journal Editor Paul Streckfus is helping her.

“By taking the Fifth, Lois put a sign on her back: Kick me," Streckfus told POLITICO for their story.

Lois Lerner isn't a victim, she's a bully backed up by America's most powerful federal government agency, the Justice Department and the Obama administration. People like Becky Gerritson and hundreds of regular Americans like her who were targeted by Lerner and her goons are the real victims and they deserve justice. 

Poll: So Far, GOP "Winning" Enthusiasm Battle

Before we get to the poll itself there are some obvious caveats worth repeating. For starters, it’s not set in stone that 2014 will be a wave election year. Nor is it a foregone conclusion that Republicans will flip majority-control of the U.S. Senate. What we can say with some degree of certainty, however, is that self-described Republicans are much more enthusiastic about voting this fall than Democrats:

A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Annenberg poll shows that 54 percent of Republicans say they’re highly interested in the upcoming elections, compared to 44 percent of Democrats who say the same.

Another way to look at the GOP intensity advantage: Democrats hold a four-point lead on the generic ballot, 46 percent to 42 percent. But among high-interest voters, Republicans have the edge, 51 percent to 43 percent.

“Off-year elections are about intensity, which becomes a question of which set of voters cares most,” said Democratic pollster Peter Hart. “In the opening lap of the general election, the GOP is winning.”

The D/R/I sample breakdown (32/24/33) is rather interesting, too: 37 percent of respondents describe themselves as “somewhat” or “very” conservative whereas just 29 percent of respondents describe themselves as “very” or “somewhat” liberal. What does this mean?

It means, I think, that even though respondents are much more likely to self-identify with the “conservative” label, the D+8 sample nevertheless greatly favors Democrats. (As a side note, however, it’s increasingly improbable that Democratic turnout will be this high in November, in part because many millennials aren't expected to vote).

Still, the question remains: Will Republicans keep their eyes on the prize and stay engaged through November 4? The answer to that question, after all, will greatly determine how many seats Republicans ultimately pick up.

Watch: Wendy Davis Doesn't Know How Debates Work

We all know Texas State Senator Wendy Davis likes to talk. She spoke in support of abortion rights for 12 hours straight on the Senate floor last year. But, Davis seemed to forget that she was in a debate and not giving a filibuster Friday night when she debated Attorney General Greg Abbott in the Rio Grande Valley.

At one point during the debate, Davis asked Abbott a question on education. After he responded, the moderator is supposed to step in. But, Davis had other ideas and refused to stop talking. Here was the painful and awkward exchange (via Breitbart Texas):

Usually, when a candidate is interrupted by the moderator, the candidate plays by the rules. Not Davis. Abbott could do nothing but stare at the moderator as Davis continued her strange tirade.

Since its inception, Davis' campaign has been full of interruptions. Her spokesman quit in May, members of her staff mocked Abbott for being in a wheelchair, and reports revealed the state senator had exaggerated her success story. It's no wonder that summer polls revealed she had hit a new low.

Davis' temper tantrum is just her most recent gaffe. If Davis can't control her temper, how will she control one of the largest states in the nation?

Video: Cutting Biden Some Slack Amid Gaffe Spree

Vice President Joe Biden outdid himself by committing a string of four gaffes in the span of two days last week.  Uncle Joe is known for his miscues and malapropisms, but such a highly-concentrated dose of mistakes is extraordinary, even for him:

First he uttered the word "shylock." Then he referred to the Far East as that mystical land known as "the Orient." And now he has praised a Republican senator who resigned in disgrace over charges of sexual harassment — in a speech that was meant to shore up the Democratic Party's bona fides on women's issues. In his remarks to the DNC's Women's Leadership Forum, Biden gave a shout-out to Bob Packwood, a former Republican senator from Oregon, as an example of a more moderate kind of Republican politician. The problem is that Packwood was forced to step down in 1995 after he was accused of harassment by 10 different women.

Then came this misfire in Iowa, wherein the Vice President ladled another helping of incoherence onto the administration's Iraq incoherence:

After leaving a rally in Des Moines, Biden unexpectedly made news at a diner when he seemingly opened the door to committing ground troops to fight the Islamic State in Iraq, an option the Obama administration has diligently batted down as it has moved to expand air strikes in the region -- and that President Obama himself rejected anew in remarks at MacDill Air Force Base Wednesday. "The American forces that have been deployed to Iraq do not and will not have a combat mission," he said. A reporter asked Biden whether he agreed with the comments of Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who on Tuesday left the door open to the possibility of boots on the ground. "He said that if in fact he concluded that was needed he would request it from the president. His conclusion is that it is not needed now," Biden responded...But might it be needed? "We’ll determine that based on how the effort goes," said Biden.

Oops. That casual suggestion undermined President Obama's numerous attempts to slam the door shut to combat troops -- a distinction that seems increasingly technical in nature.  Obama reportedly overruled the military's best advice for an anti-ISIS mission, intent on assuring the American people that he was not reigniting a full ground war in Iraq.  But because comprehensively ruling out potential options in our arsenal sends problematic signals to the enemy, some high-ranking officials have been unable to resist hedging, before being directed to walk back their remarks.  The administration effectively ignored the rise of ISIS until their reign of terror started making unavoidable headlines.  The president has disclaimed responsibility for the mess he's presided over.  For years, Iraq was regarded as little more than a political talking point, with Obama delegating 'day to day' US policy in the country to, um, Joe Biden.  Of the quartet of 'gaffes' committed by the Vice President, his Iraq flub is by far the most serious, as it underscores how lost and muddled Team Obama is on a major foreign policy front.  But as I argued on Fox and Friends, the remaining trio of face-palms are pretty inconsequential (video via Steven Laboe's Right Sightings):

Tucker Carlson is absolutely right.  Intent and context should be the biggest factors in these circumstances. While I'm no fan of his, I don't believe Biden was accidentally revealing latent anti-Semitism by using "shylock," or deliberately insulting Asians with "the orient," or applauding Packwood's misogyny in that speech.  What he was doing was classic Biden: Speaking without a filter, which more than occasionally results in inanity, insensitivity and inaccuracy.  Is it sometimes concerning that such an aloof, undisciplined and impulsive person is "one heartbeat away" from the presidency, to employ a term invoked repeatedly about Sarah Palin? Yes.  Should we gin up a bunch of phony outrage to suggest Biden's a bigot while indignantly demanding apologies?  No.  Perpetual 'gotcha' outrage and the imputing of malicious motives is poisoning our politics.  The Left traffics in this sludge, of course, and people like Joe Biden shamelessly and shamefully play the race and gender cards at the drop of a hat, so perhaps responding in kind is reasonable comeuppance.  Live by the smear, die by the smear, etc (although Democrats rarely pay as high a price for their terrible comments than Republicans).  I get it: His tone deaf praise for Packwood at an event specifically designed to demagogue Republicans on "women's issues" is probably too juicy an irony for the GOP to pass up.  But the arms race of outrage is a pernicious, counter-productive force and should be resisted whenever possible.