RNC Launches "The Road to Six" Campaign

Keep the number "six" in mind this fall, my friends; it's the total number of Senate seats Republicans must win (without losing any) to demote Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and retake control of the upper chamber.

As a result, the Republican National Committee has launched a new effort to mobilize voters and explain certain initiatives the group has recently undertaken to win more races. Yesterday, for example, the RNC released this promotional video -- and this memorandum -- as part of their "Road to Six" campaign:

FROM: Chairman Reince Priebus

TO: Republican National Committee Members

RE: The Road to Six

As we head into the final stretch of this election, I wanted to send along an update of where we stand—as a party and as a committee—in our effort to take back the U.S. Senate.

As you know, six is the key number in the battle for control of the Senate. Republicans have to flip six Democrat-held seats, and the good news is we have multiple paths to get to six.

But I want to emphasize that even as we hear growing predictions about a Republican “wave,” we have to remember this won’t be easy. To take back the Senate, we have to beat at least three incumbent senators. As others have rightly observed, that would be something of a historic upset. Not since the 1980 Reagan landslide have Republicans defeated more than two incumbent senators.

That’s why the RNC has made such a significant investment in supporting our candidates in 2014: $100 million. We began investing in the states earlier than in midterms past. As I noted at the Summer Meeting, for months, we’ve been quietly expanding the map. That’s partly why the party is now competitive in states that people did not expect us to be. As I’ve visited Victory 365 offices and Co-Chairman Day has gone door-knocking with volunteers and precinct teams, we’ve seen firsthand that these early investment are paying off.

Chairman Priebus went on to say that the RNC has invested significantly in new technologies and data mining operations to improve candidates’ chances in closely-contested races. At the same time, he reiterated the RNC’s commitment to tying vulnerable Democrats to the current administration.

“In these final weeks,” Priebus wrote, “our focus will be reminding voters that the Democrat candidates’ agenda is no different from President Obama’s.”

He also mentioned that, although Democrats will most likely outspend the GOP this fall, the Republican Party has a golden opportunity to make history by putting conservatives back into power.

You can read the whole memo by clicking here.

Dempsey: If Coalition Fails, We'll Need U.S. Boots on Ground Against ISIS

Testifying on Capitol Hill Tuesday in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey said that although "we're not there yet," the United States may eventually need to deploy U.S. ground troops to fight ISIS if a coalition and airstrikes fail to get the job done against the terror army. 

“My view at this point is that this coalition is the appropriate way forward. I believe that will prove true but if it fails to be true and if there are threats to the United States then I of course would go back to the President and make a recommendation that we include the use of U.S. military ground forces. To be clear, if we reach the point where I believe our advisers should accompany Iraqi troops on attacks against specific ISIL targets, I will recommend that to the president," Dempsey said.

President Obama has been adamant about keeping U.S. combat troops from re-engaging in conflict in Iraq. Currently 1600 U.S. troops and military personnel are stationed in Iraq as advisors to local forces. Last week in a speech to the nation, Obama said he was sending nearly 500 more advisors to the region.

Thanks to Jim Hoft for the video.

Ibrahim: “There Are Many Meriams in Sudan…I’m Not the Only One”

We followed this terribly-sad-yet-ultimately-triumphant story as it unfolded last spring and summer. In brief, a Sudanese Christian mother of two was sentenced to death for worshiping her Christian faith. Although she never self-identified with the religion of Islam (the religion of her father, as it happens) her marriage to an American Christian was considered apostasy under Islamic law. She was therefore condemned to die. Her case sparked international indignation, and only after overcoming some major hurdles was she finally released. Eventually, she flew from Sudan to Rome where she met with Pope Francis (who was deeply moved by her “courageous witness to perseverance in the Faith”). From there she sought asylum in the United States, where she was warmly welcomed with her husband and two children last month.

On The Kelly File last night she told her side of the story. But before you watch the clip below, make sure to have some tissues handy: after all, this is an incredibly moving story of suffering, courage, sacrifice, and triumph:

Benghazi Whistleblower: We Were Ordered to Withhold Documents from Review Board

Ahead of the House Select Committee on Benghazi's first public hearing tomorrow, former CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson is out with a significant new report centered around new claims from a former State Department official. Raymond Maxwell -- whom you may recall as one of the lower-level employees disciplined, then reinstated, in the wake of the Benghazi firestorm -- says he was ordered to cull damaging documents from a file of evidence being handed over to the State Department's 'independent' Accountability Review Board (ARB):

A former State Department diplomat is coming forward with a startling allegation: Hillary Clinton confidants were part of an operation to “separate” damaging documents before they were turned over to the Accountability Review Board investigating security lapses surrounding the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attacks on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya...According to former Deputy Assistant Secretary Raymond Maxwell, the after-hours session took place over a weekend in a basement operations-type center at State Department headquarters in Washington, D.C....Maxwell says the weekend document session was held in the basement of the State Department’s Foggy Bottom headquarters in a room underneath the “jogger’s entrance.” ... When he arrived, Maxwell says he observed boxes and stacks of documents. He says a State Department office director, whom Maxwell described as close to Clinton’s top advisers, was there. Though the office director technically worked for him, Maxwell says he wasn’t consulted about her weekend assignment. “She told me, ‘Ray, we are to go through these stacks and pull out anything that might put anybody in the [Near Eastern Affairs] front office or the seventh floor in a bad light,’” says Maxwell. He says “seventh floor” was State Department shorthand for then-Secretary of State Clinton and her principal advisers. “I asked her, ‘But isn’t that unethical?’ She responded, ‘Ray, those are our orders.’ ” A few minutes after he arrived, Maxwell says, in walked two high-ranking State Department officials.

According to Congressman Jason Chaffetz, who interviewed Maxwell for the Select Committee, one of those "high-ranking State Department officials" was Cheryl Mills -- Hillary Clinton's Chief of Staff:

Mills famously castigated Gregory Hicks, murdered Ambassador Chris Stevens' second in command in Libya, for cooperating with Congressional investigators.  The ARB supposedly undertook a "fiercely independent" investigation with "unfettered access" into the facts surrounding the Benghazi massacre.  Based on Maxwell's accusation of explicit whitewashing and meddling, the ARB's inquiry would appear to be anything but "unfettered."  The panel has faced challenges to its credibility in the past, including questions over whether it was stacked by the probe's subjects, and the admission of a lead investigator that he'd engaged in some behind-the-scenes collusion with Mills:

The House Oversight Committee report suggests there may be a conflict of interest in having the ARB rely so heavily on the State Department that it's investigating for staff and resources. For example, Under Secretary Kennedy supervised the selection of the Benghazi ARB staff; and the State Department appointed four of the five members of the Board. Further, Mullen acknowledged giving Cheryl Mills, Secretary Clinton's Chief of Staff, "a head's up" prior to her interview with deputy assistant secretary for international programs Charlene Lamb. Mullen said: "I thought [Lamb's] appearance could be a very difficult appearance for the State Department."

That would be the same Under Secretary [Patrick Kennedy] who has been identified as one of the officials directly responsible for denying requests for an increased on-the-ground security presence in Libya leading up to the deadly terrorist raid. Secretary Clinton, for her part, was never interviewed by the ARB.  A subsequent Senate report on Benghazi was much more critical of the State Department's role in the 'preventable' attacks, and scolded Sec. Clinton's department for "unnecessarily hamper[ing] the committee's review."  Internal email exchanges have also revealed private efforts by top-level State Department officials to scrub relevant details from Susan Rice's inaccurate talking points, very clearly for the purposes of political damage control.  Additional emails that were initially withheld from investigators directly contradicted previous administration assertions, producing frantic, risible spin from the White House.  Mr. Maxwell's allegations add a new layer to the emerging picture of a Benghazi cover up.  If and when he offers public testimony, Democrats will almost certainly accuse Maxwell of being a liar with an axe to grind.  What they can't accuse him of is Republican partisanship:

Maxwell, 58, strongly supported President Barack Obama and personally contributed to his presidential campaign. But post-Benghazi, he has soured on both Obama and Clinton, saying he had nothing to do with security and was sacrificed as a scapegoat while higher-up officials directly responsible escaped discipline.

Insinuating that an African-American Obama donor was somehow part of some GOP conspiracy will be a tough sell. Then again, I must say that this quote from Maxwell rings a bit too 'perfect:'

Several weeks after he was placed on leave with no formal accusations, Maxwell made an appointment to address his status with a State Department ombudsman. “She told me, ‘You are taking this all too personally, Raymond. It is not about you,’ ” Maxwell recalls. “I told her that ‘My name is on TV and I’m on administrative leave, it seems like it’s about me.’ Then she said, ‘You’re not harmed, you’re still getting paid. Don’t watch TV. Take your wife on a cruise. It’s not about you; it’s about Hillary and 2016.’

Was the 2016 bit his inference, or is he claiming that this woman spelled out a cartoonishly political calculus to a furious employee who felt he was being unfairly scapegoated? C'mon. We'll know soon enough: “I’m 100 percent confident the Benghazi Select Committee is going to dive deep on that issue,” Chaffetz says.  Stay tuned.

Paul Krugman Is Wrong Today

Esteemed New York Times opinion writer and Nobel Prize Winner Paul Krugman doesn't think it's necessary to be nice to people. He's displayed this time and time again, and again today writes that he feels no particular urge to be nice to people:

First, picturesque language, used right, serves an important purpose. “Words ought to be a little wild,” wrote John Maynard Keynes, “for they are the assaults of thoughts on the unthinking.” You could say, “I’m dubious about the case for expansionary austerity, which rests on questionable empirical evidence and zzzzzzzz…”; or you could accuse austerians of believing in the Confidence Fairy. Which do you think is more effective at challenging a really bad economic doctrine?

We writers and journalists shouldn't shy away from "picturesque language;" Krugman is right that when it's used correctly, writing - journalism and nonfiction, even - is much better to read.

Where he's wrong is his last sentence about "effectiveness" of challenging wrong ideas. We don't have to speculate or ask our readers about this. We have studies.

In a recent study, a team of researchers from the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication and several other institutions employed a survey of 1,183 Americans to get at the negative consequences of vituperative online comments for the public understanding of science… The text of the post was the same for all participants, but the tone of the comments varied. Sometimes, they were “civil”—e.g., no name calling or flaming. But sometimes they were more like this: “If you don’t see the benefits of using nanotechnology in these products, you’re an idiot.”

The researchers were trying to find out what effect exposure to such rudeness had on public perceptions of nanotech risks. They found that it wasn’t a good one. Rather, it polarized the audience: Those who already thought nanorisks were low tended to become more sure of themselves when exposed to name-calling, while those who thought nanorisks are high were more likely to move in their own favored direction. In other words, it appeared that pushing people’s emotional buttons, through derogatory comments, made them double down on their preexisting beliefs.

The use of "picturesque language," in Professor Krugman's terminology, actually makes people less likely to be convinced by an argument. (Funny how Krugman's "picturesque language" always manifests itself in name-calling rather than, I don't know, landscape metaphors about Federal Reserve charts, but c'est la vie.)

In this way, incivility is not designed to actually convince anyone in argumentation. It's a performance art, designed to close minds, inflame passion, and rally your own troops (who are already on your side) to your side. One would think that a Nobel Prize winner in economics wouldn't need to name-calling - or at the very least, that he'd read the academic literature on the subject.

GAO Report Confirms Obamacare Subsidizes Abortion

For years pro-life activists have raised concerns about President Obama's healthcare overhaul and the way it forces taxpayers to subsidize abortion. The administration has long assured Americans Obamacare does not subsidize abortion services, despite the White House's close ties to abortion giant Planned Parenthood. President Obama promised repeatedly that not a dime of taxpayer money would go toward funding abortions through Obamacare. 

"Under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions," Obama promised in 2009.

Further, Obamacare received its final and necessary 60th vote from former Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson based on the promise abortion subsidies wouldn't be included in the bill. 

Now, a new report from the Government Accountability Office shows that Obamacare does in fact force taxpayers to foot the bill for abortion services by simply ignoring strict regulations and laws put in place to prohibit subsidization. The report shows more than 1000 Obamacare insurance plans in different states do not separate funding for abortion services from coverage as required by law. 

"We provided a draft of this report to HHS, for CMS, and to OPM for comment. In its written comments, reproduced in enclosure III, HHS stated that, in addition to issuing a regulation governing the provision of health insurance coverage by QHPs, CMS also had answered individual questions from issuers and provided limited guidance to help ensure that stakeholders, including states and issuers, understand and follow the rules relating to coverage of abortion services in QHPs. However, HHS stated that, based upon our findings, additional clarification may be needed and CMS will use our findings to address issues of concern to better ensure that stakeholders understand the laws and regulations governing the provision of non-excepted abortion services coverage," GAO recommended after its findings.

Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser is outraged, but has been warning about abortion subsidies for years. 

"Today’s report is confirmation that ObamaCare is a massive expansion of abortion on demand, paid for by the taxpayers,” Dannenfelser said in a statement. “ObamaCare breaks from the long tradition of the Hyde Amendment, which has prevented taxpayer funding of abortion with broad public support, and was not included in the law.”

“Shame on Senators like Mary Landrieu, Mark Pryor, and Kay Hagan – all of whom come from strong pro-life states and voted for taxpayer funding of abortion in ObamaCare,” Dannenfelser continued. “The GAO report is damning evidence that they betrayed their constituents in casting a vote for the largest expansion of taxpayer funding of abortion on demand since Roe. The No Taxpayer Funding of Abortion Act gives these Senators a prime opportunity to right a grave wrong, but they continue to stand with Harry Reid and the abortion lobby instead of their constituents by blocking a vote on it.”

The GAO puts Obamacare back on the map just ahead of the 2014 midterm elections and just ahead of open-enrollment, when consumers are expected to see massive increases in their healthcare premiums.


ISIS Legislation Tacked to Continuing Resolution

With four days left before House Republicans head back to their respective districts, Congress faces yet another tight deadline for funding the government and passing anti-ISIS legislation.

House and Senate leaders met with President Obama last week to discuss counterterrorism strategy prior to the president’s speech Wednesday night. Since then, members of Congress have been torn on the right approach for Congressional action. Members attended closed-door intelligence briefings, and the possibility of voting on any concrete legislation before the midterms remained up in the air.

But cautious support to back the president before heading to the campaign trail in September seems to have won out.

The House Rules Committee convened Monday evening to determine the rule for H.J.Res 124, the Continuing Resolution (CR), introduced by House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) last week. The bill packages funds for the government at the current rate of $1.012 trillion dollars until December 11, 2014, or until Congress passes FY2015 appropriations bills. The highlights include $88 million to combat the Ebola outbreak (which Rogers said in the hearing was an offset cost) and an extension of the Ex-Im Bank through June 2015.

“We have reached the point where a Continuing Resolution is necessary to keep the government functioning and avoid another shutdown,” Chairman Rogers said in a statement. “It is a critical piece of legislation, and my Committee has crafted the bill in a responsible, restrained way that should draw wide support in the House and Senate. This bill is free of controversial riders, maintains current levels, and does not seek to change existing federal policies.”

There are four amendments currently submitted for consideration with the CR, the most important being a Syrian “Train & Equip” provision introduced by Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA). This provision authorizes assistance “including training, equipment, supplies, and sustainment, to appropriately vetted elements of the Syrian opposition and other appropriately vetted Syrian groups” for the purpose of defeating ISIS (ISIL) and increasing the national security of the U.S. and its allies. It does not issue an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) and does not authorize American boots on the ground, but that could come later. The McKeon amendment also requires Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to report to Congress 15 days prior to the start of training and then every 90 days throughout the operation.

The House is scheduled to consider the CR this week, and debate could start as early as tomorrow. A domestic energy production bill and the Jobs for America Act are also on their legislative schedule for this week.

Congress should be able to pass funding legislation before the October 1st deadline, pending any surprise disaster. Members are expected to head back home after this week through midterm elections.

UPDATE (9:30 p.m. ET): The House Rules Committee reported a structured rule for H.J.Res 124, specifying that McKeon's amendment will be considered separately with six hours hours of debate prior to the vote.

WOW: ISIS Has Some Friends at George Mason University

MRCTV’s Dan Joseph returned to the hallowed grounds of George Mason University in Northern Virginia to ask members of the student body if they would support the Islamic State (ISIS). After all, they are the JV of Islamic terrorists, right?

And, yes, some students actually signed Joseph’s fake petition calling for the U.S. to support ISIS, instead of fighting them. “They’re just like us, only with slightly more beheadings,” Joseph said. “But if we support them, maybe they’ll stop.”

One girl said that murdered American journalist Steven Sotloff was a member of Mossad, Israel’s national intelligence service. She then told Joseph that he shouldn’t get her started on how Christians used to treat the non-believers.

One guy, a former member of the military, was absolutely appalled by Joseph’s petition. Another student said the petition was disgraceful and that Dan should be ashamed to live in the United States.

Luckily, Joseph doesn’t support ISIS, but it’s a sad commentary that he got 12-13 students to sign the petition. The bad news is that these kids need to do their homework on what’s happening in the Middle East. The good news goes to ISIS: you have some friends at George Mason University.

UPDATE: Due to concerns that ISIS might actually use the video for propaganda purposes, MRCTV has taken down the video.  

After Being Voted Down By The Senate, Cop Killer Advocate Officially Withdraws Obama's Nomination for DOJ Post

It's official. Cop killer advocate Debo Adegbile, who was voted down by the Democrat controlled Senate after being nominated by President Obama to head up the civil rights division of the Department of Justice earlier this year, has withdrawn his nomination

As a reminder:

The Senate has voted 52 to 47 to block the confirmation of Debo Adegbile, President Obama's nominee to head the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. All Republicans and Democrats Coons, Heitkamp, Manchin, Pryor, Donnelly, Casey and Walsh voted against the nomination.

Adegbile came under heavy fire for his voluntary advocacy of convicted and unrepentant cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal, who murdered Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner in 1981. Major law enforcement organizations, including the National Fraternal Order of Police and the National Association of Police Organizations, were opposed to the nomination. Philadelphia Democratic Prosecutor Seth Williams was also against the nomination. Daniel Faulkner's widow, Maureen Faulkner, repeatedly begged Senators to block Adegbile's confirmation. News of Adegbile's nomination first came from former DOJ attorney and whistleblower J. Christian Adams.

When Adegbile was voted down in March, President Obama called it a "travesty." According to the Associated Press, Adegbile will return to private practice at WilmerHale law firm.

Nanny State: Vermont Bans Desserts in School

In what may be the ultimate Nanny State move, Vermont has outlawed consuming or bringing brownies, cakes, or cookies to school. The mandates are part of a new program titled “Smart-Snacks-in-Schools” and will apply to lunch items, vending machines, and fundraising events between midnight and half and hour after school.

Boston.com reported:

“These changes are really supporting the types of diets that we as a country should be following to have a healthy diet and lifestyle,” said Laurie Colgan, child nutrition program director at the Agency of Education, in an interview with the Vermont Watchdog.

This healthy lifestyle has already been instated within the school.

“The new school lunch pattern has low-fat, leaner proteins, greater variety, and larger portions of fruit and vegetables,” Colgan said. Additionally, “the grains have to be 100 percent whole-grain rich.”

Colgan said this does not have to mean an end for fundraising. Rather, she is encouraging schools to turn fundraising away from schools, and focus on non-food items such as flower bulbs, cards, and wrapping paper.

So what do you bring to celebrate your birthday with your classmates? Shelley Mathias, principal of Edmunds Elementary School in Burlington, suggested fruit shish kebabs.

Mathias also confided to the Vermont Watchdog that she has never seen desserts served at her school in the four years she has been there:

“The kids like kale here, and they eat broccoli.”

Really? Now there is certainly nothing wrong with encouraging healthy habits at school, but to forbid children to eat desserts is taking supervision to the extreme. This is just another Big Government power grab where laws replace individual responsibility.

Two Vietnam Vets Receive Medal of Honor

Two American Vietnam veterans were presented with the nation's highest military decoration for valor at the White House today. Spec. Donald P. Sloat received the award posthumously having given, as Lincoln once put it, “the last full measure of devotion” more than four decades ago.

Dr. Bill Sloat, his surviving brother, attended the ceremony and thus accepted the award on his behalf:

Sloat, of Coweta, Oklahoma, was killed in action on Jan. 17, 1970, at age 20. While on patrol, a soldier in his squad triggered a hand grenade trap that had been placed in their path by enemy forces. According to the White House, Sloat picked up the live grenade, initially to throw it away. When he realized it was about to detonate, he shielded the blast with his own body in order to save the lives of his fellow soldiers.

Eighty-year-old Sgt. Maj. Bennie Adkins, for his part, attended the ceremony in person. The Alabama native served three tours in Vietnam and, unsurprisingly, his heroism and courage under fire is worth reading about in full. But if you don’t have time, here’s a short excerpt:

As many as 175 enemy troops killed, 18 wounds from enemy fire, 38 hours of battle, 48 hours evading the North Vietnamese troops in the bush -- and one tiger. Those are the numbers behind Sgt. Maj. Bennie Adkins' Medal of Honor, an award he will receive from President Obama in a White House ceremony Monday. Adkins, of Opelika, Alabama, is being honored for his actions in Vietnam's A Shau Valley more than 48 years ago. Then a 32-year-old sergeant first class, Adkins was among a handful of Americans working with troops of the South Vietnamese Civil Irregular Defense Group at Camp A Shau when the camp was attacked by a large North Vietnamese and Viet Cong force on March 9, 1966, according to an Army report.

"Adkins rushed through intense enemy fire and manned a mortar position defending the camp," the Army report says. "He continued to mount a defense even while incurring wounds from several direct hits from enemy mortars. Upon learning that several soldiers were wounded near the center of camp, he temporarily turned the mortar over to another soldier, ran through exploding mortar rounds and dragged several comrades to safety. As the hostile fire subsided, Adkins exposed himself to sporadic sniper fire and carried his wounded comrades to a more secure position."

The White House also announced that a veteran of the Civil War, 1st Lt. Alonzo H. Cushing, will soon be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor as well. Cushing was killed in action on the third and final day of fighting at the Battle of Gettysburg. He was 22-years-old.

UPDATE: Videos added.

Kerry: On Second Thought, We Are at War With ISIS

Remember this quote?  Yeah, scratch that.  Sort of.  We are basically at war with ISIS, the Secretary of State now says, but Americans shouldn't let etymological niceties cloud the big picture:

Secretary of State John Kerry backtracked on the language he had used to describe the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS, also known as ISIL), saying in an interview on CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday that, "we are at war" with the group. "I think there's frankly a kind of tortured debate going on about terminology," said Kerry, who rejected the word "war" in an interview with CBS News State Department correspondent Margaret Brennan last week and warned that people shouldn't get "war fever." "In terms of al Qaeda, which we have used the word 'war' with, yeah...we are at war with al Qaeda and it's affiliates. And in the same context if you want to use it, yes, we are at war with ISIL in that sense," Kerry said. "But I think it's waste of time to focus on that. Frankly, lets consider what we have to do to degrade and defeat ISIL."

And per Time's Zeke Miller, the White House has decided to emphasize the "degrade" half of that two-part mission statement. Kerry's stumbling reversal and the administration's rhetorical downshift are further evidence of the muddled incoherence that has typified US foreign policy under the "smart power" regime.  Here's how I described the head-spinning confusion on Friday:

One year ago, Obama delivered a prime time address calling for airstrikes against the Assad regime in Syria. We are now bombing Assad's primary enemy in Syria, and Assad is offering his assistance. Several months ago, Obama dismissed ISIS as a "JV" team. Now he calls them a "cancer" that will take years to defeat. And four weeks ago, the president ridiculed the prospect of arming "moderate" rebels inside Syria, saying the idea "has always been a fantasy." Today, it's step two in his own four-step strategy. 

The 'JV' comment was just completely inexcusable, which is why the White House spin team has been lying in overdrive about it. 'Cancer' is more like it; to that end, read this chilling piece on the ladies of ISIS' social media milieu. As for the erstwhile 'fantasy' turned official policy, Congress is currently weighing Obama's request for authorization and funds to arm "moderate" Syrian rebels to more or less act as our ground presence. Obama has ruled out deploying American combat troops, having reportedly rebuffed the military's advice to insert a small fighting force into the theater.  It looks like leadership on both sides of the aisle are lining up to back the president's plan. Boehner: “The president has made clear that he doesn’t want U.S. boots on the ground. So somebody’s boots have to be on the ground. … We ought to give the president what he’s asking for.”  Harry Reid: "It's clear to me that we need to train and equip Syrian rebels and other groups in the Middle East that need some help."  Nancy Pelosi's deputy, Steny Hoyer, also suggested that Congress might put off a "larger authorization" vote until after the elections. Courage.  Incidentally, what have those 'good' rebels been up to recently?

Moderate Syrian rebels and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) reportedly struck a cease-fire deal on Friday, according to a group that has monitored Syria's civil war. The groups agreed to a non-aggression pact in which they promised not to attack each other...The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group based in the United Kingdom, said the groups reached the agreement in a suburb of Damascus, Syria’s capital. Under the deal, "the two parties will respect a truce until a final solution is found and they promise not to attack each other because they consider the principal enemy to be the Nussayri regime,” Agence France-Presse reported. Nussayri is a negative term for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s Alawite regime.

Are we arming them to fight ISIS -- which is now proscribed by this tenuous non-aggression pact -- or to fight the Assad regime, which remains a dangerous Iranian client (we're apparently engaged in anti-ISIS discussions with Tehran) and sworn US enemy?  NBC's Richard Engel says the administration is "living in a delusion" by ostentatiously opposing Assad while carrying out airstrikes effectively on his behalf:

Contradictions everywhere, and therein lies the problem: ISIS is evil and must be stopped, just as Assad is evil and a threat to US interests.  That's why the notion of bolstering a third party at odds with both sets of villains is so appealing, at least in theory. (And we're definitely not talking about this third party, which is reportedly training bomb-makers and recruiting Western ISIS fighters to export jihad). But there's no compelling evidence that such a gambit would be practical -- rendering it, well, something of a fantasy.  There are no good options.  Here's another contradiction, this one emanating from the American people.  Voters broadly support Obama's decision to go to war with ISIS, but they have little confidence in his ability to see his own policy through: "A combined 68 percent of Americans say they have ‘very little’ or ‘just some’ confidence that Obama’s goals of degrading and eliminating the threat posed by ISIS will be achieved...just 28 percent said they had ‘a great deal’ or ‘quite a bit’ of confidence. Still, 62 percent of voters say they support Obama’s decision to take action against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, while 22 percent oppose it.”  One last contradiction for the road, also via Zeke Miller:

President Barack Obama won the White House largely on his opposition to the Iraq War and was re-elected in 2012 on having ended the conflict. But his Administration is using the never repealed authorization vote as a supplementary legal justification for the planned expansion of the campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS). The New York Times first reported Friday that Obama Administration officials believe that the 2002 law which authorized the war “would serve as an alternative statutory authority basis on which the President may rely for military action in Iraq.” The news comes just months after National Security Adviser Susan Rice said the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) was no longer operative.

So Obama is leaning on the AUMF he asked Congress to repeal last year and the AUMF he made a career out of opposing.  Neat.  

UPDATE - Has ISIS gotten its hands on some of Assad's chemical weapons (which were supposed to have been turned over and destroyed as part of the "red line" deal)?

American Matthew Miller Handed Six Year Prison Sentence in North Korea

The DPRK has arrested, tried, and sentenced another American citizen for “hostile acts” against the Kim regime, the Washington Post reported.

Matthew Miller is now the second of three detained Americans to be convicted of subversion:

North Korea has sentenced Matthew Miller to six years of hard labor for committing “hostile acts,” after the American reportedly ripped up his tourist visa upon arrival at the Pyongyang airport in April. During a show trial that lasted 90 minutes, the Supreme Court found that Miller — who had no legal representation — had committed “acts hostile to the DPRK while entering . . . under the guise of a tourist,” the state-run Korean Central News Agency reported, using the official abbreviation for North Korea.

Analysts say that Pyongyang is using Miller and two other men as bargaining chips in its dispute with Washington over its nuclear program — but that the United States is preoccupied with the turmoil in the Middle East, where Islamic State extremists are not just capturing Westerners but also beheading them . KCNA photos showed Miller, looking pale and wearing a black turtleneck despite it being summer, in a courtroom decorated with a North Korean flag.

This is a strange case, in part because we don't really know what happened. What is clear, however, is that Miller organized a trip to the country on his own through a travel agency. Beyond that, it’s impossible to determine with any degree of certainty the circumstances which led to his arrest. For example, North Korea’s state-run media accuses him of intentionally defecting and being a spy. Miller himself admitted as much in an impromptu television interview several days ago with CNN. “I expected to be detained” he told reporter Will Ripley. But did he?

It's certainly possible. But I imagine it's also difficult to speak candidly and openly in an interview about your own arrest when your totalitarian captors are watching closely. At the same time, Miller made it abundantly clear in that interview that his situation was perilous, and that he had written government leaders urging them to intervene on his behalf:

Question: Did Miller knowingly and willingly defect, only to realize later this was a poor and stupid decision? Or did he have ulterior motives for traveling to North Korea in the first place? Interestingly, the AP reports that the state's High Court believes Miller first went to the country to "experience prison life so that he could investigate the human rights situation."

If that's true, this might explain why he was both arrested and expected to be arrested when he first arrived in Pyongyang. But that explanation doesn't necessarily address why, having voluntarily jettisoned his freedom and safety, he now wants to go home.

Video: Hillary Clinton Gives Sour Answer To Immigration Advocates

I wonder if the end-all, be-all answer to America's problems in Hillary's mind is, "We need to elect more Democrats." 

That is exactly what she said in Iowa after she was asked for her stance on President Obama's decision to delay immigration reform until after the election. 

Here is the video: 

She seemed excited after Monica, a young immigrant a part of the immigration advocacy group, "DREAMer," introduced herself, but was quickly irritated by two members of the group who demanded her position on the issue. The disappointed look on their faces after her sour answer is how many immigration advocates feel after Obama delayed immigration reform once again even though he promised executive action before the end of summer. 

This letdown by the president has devastated immigration reform advocates who are finding it hard to support the president and other Democrats who have run from this issue. 

Frank Sharry, the executive director of immigration-advocacy group America's Voice, told Vox:

"It feels like, once again, the Democratic Party is saying, 'We like you when it's convenient, but if we're going to risk white voters, we're not really into you.'"

Latino voters have had overwhelming support for Democrats in the past several elections, but should ponder if electing more Democrats like Hillary Clinton is proposing is the best option to finally see effective immigration reform in the U.S.

Huh: Anti-Gun Billionaire Buys a Nazi Tank

If you've paid attention at all to the gun control debate over the past two decades, you've certainly heard the argument from gun control activists, "What do you want? For people to be able to buy and own tanks?!" 

That argument and question are red herrings. The average citizen is not trying to own or buy tanks (even though there are legal ways to do it), but an anti-gun billionaire dedicated to taking away your Second Amendment rights, just bought one. 

Co-founder of Microsoft  Paul Allen has dumped hundreds-of-thousands of dollars into anti-gun campaigns and now, he's the proud owner of a WWII Nazi tank. Chris Egar over at Guns.com has more: 

The tank in question, a Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf. H, commonly referred to as a Panzer IV, was allegedly sold in July for $2.5 million to a foundation tied to Allen. However, attention over the deal, which is now tied up in a lawsuit over non-delivery, has now earned Allen the scorn of gun rights groups when compared to the tech pioneer’s half-million dollar donation to help push gun control ballot initiative I-594.

“While Paul Allen is eager to get his hands on a genuine weapon of war … he is all-too-willing to support a measure that throws obstacles in the way of law-abiding citizens who may just want to borrow or buy a firearm from a friend or in-law,” said Alan Gottlieb, chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, in a statement Friday. “How silly is that?”

I thought "weapons of war" belonged on the battlefield, Mr. Allen?

You just can't make this stuff up.

Kentucky Democrat Senate Candidate Distances Herself From Obama in New Ad

Katie and I have written previously about the curious case of Alison Lundergan Grimes, who has the unenviable position of running for Senate as a Democrat in what is a pretty thoroughly red state. In an effort to further distance herself from President Obama, Grimes released a new ad today explicitly stating that she is "not Barack Obama" and that she disagrees with him on "guns, coal, and the EPA."

Despite the biting ad and attempts to appeal to moderate Kentucky voters, Grimes still has a lot of ground to make up for if she intends on unseating Sen. Mitch McConnell. While McConnell was once considered to be "vulnerable," he has shed that image and now has a "clear advantage" in polls. From The New York Times:

On average, Mr. McConnell leads by five points, and Leo, The Upshot’s Senate election forecasting model, now gives him a 93 percent chance of winning re-election. That’s partly because candidates usually win with such a clear lead at this stage, but it’s also because the underlying fundamentals point to a McConnell victory.

It's apparently going to take more than an ad with a shotgun for Grimes to pull out a win.

Saudi Religious Police Arrest Dozens of Christians For Worshipping at House Church

Saudi Arabia, one of the United States’ key Arab allies, rounded up 28 Christians on Friday after receiving a tip about a home-based church. The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice arrested the worshippers at a prayer meeting in the home of an Indian national in the city of Khafji. Their current whereabouts are unknown.

"Saudi Arabia is continuing the religious cleansing that has always been its official policy," Nina Shea, director of the Washington-based Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, told FoxNews.com. "It is the only nation state in the world with the official policy of banning all churches. This is enforced even though there are over 2 million Christian foreign workers in that country. Those victimized are typically poor, from Asian and African countries with weak governments."

The Saudi media reported different compositions of the arrested Christians. Some reports said the Christians were men and women, while the Saudi Gazette wrote that children, as well as men and women, were detained. It was unclear if a court date has been set in the notoriously opaque fundamentalist court system.

Saudi Arabia has gone to great lengths over the years to re-brand its image as a tolerant advocate of multi-religious dialogue. The arch-conservative monarchy funded the Vienna-based King Abdullah International Center for Interfaith and Intercultural Dialogue. Nevertheless, critics argue, Saudi Arabia’s Islamist religious police continue to expunge any trace of Christianity within its territory.

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah appears to be tied up in knots because of his conflicting messages to the international community about religious diversity.

"Such actions are especially dangerous in the current situation, where the world is seeing the rise of extreme Islamist groups in Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, Somalia and elsewhere," Shea said. "The West should demand that its strategic ally, Saudi Arabia, release the Christians at once and allow them to pray according to their own faith traditions. Otherwise, Riyadh will appear to be validating the practices of the Islamic State in northern Iraq and Syria.”

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) pledged to press the State Department and the U.S. ambassador in Riyadh to help the Christians. Meanwhile, Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to visit the Kingdom tomorrow to discuss ISIS. Whether he will bring up the recent arrests remains to be seen.

Oops: Landrieu's Campaign Pays Back $33,000 to Taxpayers for Inappropriately Billed Flights

Senators are not permitted to use Senate cash to fly to fundraisers - but that didn’t stop Democratic Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu from taking 43 trips on her Senate office account.

The Perkins Coie law firm reviewed Landrieu’s travel from her 18 years in the Senate:

The report found that Landrieu's official office paid $33,727.02 -- about 11 percent of the total amount her official office paid for chartered flights during that time -- should have been prorated and paid by her campaign.

Landrieu blamed the mistakes on "sloppy bookkeeping" in a written apology. Her constituents, however, may not be so forgiving.

The report comes at a most inopportune time: 50 days before Election Day. Unsurprisingly, Landrieu’s GOP opponents Bill Cassidy and Rob Maness have taken advantage of her campaign blunder, calling it irresponsible.

It gets worse (or better, depending on who you're voting for): The Republican National Committee claims Landrieu owes her constituents even more. Nine flights between 2000 and 2008 reportedly show that the senator owes taxpayers an additional $130,527.

Breitbart News has the detailed audit of the questionable trips. It wasn’t until after the RNC revealed these trips that Landrieu released her own report.

Will Louisianans accept Landrieu’s late apology? Or will they book her a one-way ticket home from Washington?

Update: Landrieu's GOP challenger Bill Cassidy has introduced a Charter Flight Transparency Resolution that would require members of the U.S. House and Senate to report when Congressional funds are used for private chartered planes. Here's a statement from his campaign:

“Taking charter planes unnecessarily is a waste of Americans’ hard-earned tax dollars. It makes no sense to fly on a $3,000 private jet if you can get to the same location in a few hours’ drive time and a $50 tank of gas. Washington’s spending is out of control and this is one of the reasons why. Ensuring that Washington is transparent and tax dollars are spent wisely is a priority.”

Nancy Pelosi Warns About the End of Civilization if Republicans Win in November

Back in July, former House Speaker and current Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said the terrorist group Hamas might be a humanitarian organization because the Qataris said so. Now, she's warning about the end of civilization as we know it...if Republicans win back the Senate in November. 

"It would be very important for Democrats to retain control of the Senate. Civilization as we know it today would be in jeopardy if the Republicans win the Senate. It's really important," she said on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher.

Meanwhile, former White House Press Secretary and newly minted CNN contributor Jay Carney said over the weekend that November is looking pretty rough for Democrats.

"It's not going to be a good year for Democrats by definition," he said Sunday on State of the Union.

Hunker down everyone, the Republicans are coming! The Republicans are coming!

Poll: Brown, Shaheen Dead Even in NH

Should we even be surprised?

I don’t think so. A WMUR Granite State poll released several weeks ago was (among other things) an early indication that the race was tightening. In that survey, Brown trailed his opponent, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), by only two percentage points. And while a more recent, CBS News/NYT/YouGov poll showed the incumbent enjoying a bit more breathing room, CNN’s latest offering should have Democrats worried:

Meanwhile, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is slated to release a survey of its own later today, according to New Hampshire's local affiliate WMUR-TV. The survey will show their preferred candidate with an eight point advantage. But my hunch is that given the source of the poll, and how out-of-step it is with CNN’s findings, it’s probably an outlier:

This race is close. Why? Guy posited one plausible theory when the WMUR poll dropped last month:

[Brown's] been hammering on immigration for weeks now…Meanwhile, Terri Lynn Land is also running an immigration-themed ad up in Michigan. Someone, somewhere obviously believes the resonance of the border crisis as an issue isn’t limited to red states. To wit, when an in-depth polling memo from the NRSC landed in my inbox yesterday morning (hours before the WMUR poll was released), I was a bit surprised to see Shaheen featured as one of the incumbents listed as “primed for defeat.”

That is to say, voters in purplish, northern states are exceedingly concerned about the border crisis -- and the polls show it. This, then, may be the principle reason why an anti-amnesty candidate like Brown, who was trailing by double digits early in the campaign, is now making the race competitive.

In sum, we now have, at our fingertips, two relatively recent polls showing the race within the margin of error. One poll showing a tight race would, perhaps, be chalked up as an outlier; two is an unmistakable sign that this race is close.

Why an Abortion Group is Attacking Me to Raise Money

NARAL Pro-Choice America -- an extreme abortion advocacy organization that re-branded in 2003 by scrubbing 'abortion' from its official name -- blasted out a nationwide fundraising email to supporters over the weekend, entitled, "insulting even for Fox News."  It expressed indignance over some outrageously outrageous comments made recently by a Fox News commentator: Namely, yours truly.  "There's just no making this up," the missive begins, priming recipients to be bowled over by my "unbelievable!" remarks.  Here's a screen shot of the email, which quotes the supposedly offensive question I asked while co-hosting Outnumbered in New York last week:

Screen Shot 2014-09-14 at 4.04.50 PM

Once you've recovered from the inevitable shock induced by the suggestion that perhaps women read Cosmo for fashion trends and sex tips, as opposed to political endorsements, feel free to watch the full segment:

Oddly, NARAL chose not to highlight this quote, uttered moments before the bit they lifted: "At first blush, I thought [Cosmo's effort] was a good idea.  Get more people engaged, get more women to the polls.  That sounds great."  My quarrel, quite obviously, isn't with the notion of women becoming more politically involved; it's with Cosmo's explicitly-stated editorial guidelines for issuing endorsements: No pro-lifers, period. No supporters of religious liberties upheld in the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision.  And no backers of voter ID laws -- which attract lopsided, super-majority support from the public.  These policies will result in overwhelmingly partisan preferences.  The publication's editors have the absolute right to dispense and withhold endorsements as they see fit, of course, so the focus of our discussion to critique Cosmo's arrogant, narrow definition of 'acceptable' womanhood.   Asked why the magazine wouldn't even consider recommending, say, a female candidate who favors mainstream abortion restrictions, one editor asserted that such policies are not in readers' "best interests."  Hmm.  The vast majority of American women support significant legal limitations on abortion, yet the Cosmo -- ahem -- 'brain trust' evidently refuses to acknowledge that reality, opting instead to condescend to its readers about what is, and is not, in their alleged interests.  The unambiguous point of my question (do note that NARAL didn't pluck any quotes from the ladies on the show who agreed with me) was to suggest that most women who pick up Cosmo do so to leaf through glamorous fashion photos, or to discover "8,042 ways to please their man" in bed.  They don't rush to newsstands to check out whether the mag has endorsed Alison Grimes over Mitch McConnell in the Kentucky Senate race (which they have, natch).  

Just as I wouldn't dream of taking my political cues from some force-fed Sports Illustrated feature, I strongly suspect that most women might prefer to enjoy Cosmo for what it is, and seek out more serious sources to influence their voting decisions.  That profoundly uncontroversial proposition was somehow twisted into the breathless averment that a "right wing media conglomerate" is pushing the (dangerous!) stereotype that women "only care about shopping."   That's not what I said at all, but hey: If NARAL needs to manufacture sub-moronic fake "outrages" to rile up their gullible supporters, so be it.  I, for one, consider it a genuine honor to be denounced by an organization whose sole purpose is to to deny unborn children their human rights.  And now seems like a pretty good time to reiterate that national polling consistently demonstrates that NARAL and their ilk are radically out-of-step with most Americans -- especially women and young people -- on these issues.  This special interest group supports taxpayer-funded, late-term abortion-on-demand for any reason whatsoever, and they oppose popular laws that restrict the so-called 'right' to dismember pain-capable children in the sixth month of gestation and beyond.  It's grotesque, inhumane, and extreme.  Both NARAL and Cosmo routinely deign to speak on behalf of "women's rights"… while scrupulously and obstinately ignoring what women actually believe.  There's just no making it up!

Sarah Palin Goes Rogue and the Left Goes Nuts

In the September issue of Townhall Magazine, where this article originally appeared, S.E. Cupp explains why the Left still doesn't understand Sarah Palin's connection to real Americans. 

The mainstream, or “lamestream” as she would say, media was so quick to dismiss Sarah Palin’s latest venture, you could almost smell the paranoia.

Bruce Handy at Vanity Fair wrote a scathing review titled “I watched Sarah Palin’s channel so you don’t have to.”

Stephen Colbert chided, “It’s exactly what she’s always done only, mmm, nothing else.”

And her Twitter deriders quickly generated mock names for potential shows on the network, including “Two and Half Moose,” (you know, because she’s from Alaska) and “The Big Bang Theory Is False,” (you know, because she’s Christian). A blogger named @PoliticalLine tweeted, “’I am so excited for the Sarah Palin internet channel.’ –No one with a life.” Ooh, burn.

But the Left has dismissed Palin ever since she emerged. Maureen Dowd famously nicknamed her “Caribou Barbie” just after she burst onto the scene in 2008 as John McCain’s running mate (try to overlook the glaring irony that progressive, feminist Dowd was mocking Palin’s rural roots and good looks by giving her a demeaning and sexist moniker).

And despite her massive fan base, more than 4 million likes on Facebook, and 1 million Twitter followers, it’s as if the Left thinks they can get rid of her simply by willing it to be so.

Just two weeks before she announced the Sarah Palin Channel, an MSNBC story called “Palin’s Big Flame-Out” declared her politically dead.

As unserious, irrelevant, and stupid as the liberal media insists Sarah Palin is, they sure do spend a disproportionate amount of time paying attention to her every move. And all the overcompensating can’t totally mask the fear that Palin’s new online network might actually be something. 

It’s not all that impossible to imagine that an engaging and provocative political voice with an active media platform and vocal fan base would find success in creating her own media outlet. Just like Arianna Huffington, the late Andrew Breitbart, and Glenn Beck have proven, there is a real market for alternative media.

And as an employee of Glenn Beck’s TheBlaze, a subscription-based network and model similar to Palin’s, I can tell you there is real currency in being able to capitalize on cult of personality, if it’s married with smart, incisive content that fills legitimate gaps in the marketplace. In its first year, the network gained 300,000 subscribers and generated more than $40 million in revenue.

Not only does Palin have the opportunity to deliver her unique perspectives to users who genuinely want it, but she is offering something that millennials in particular demand of their media experience and which most politicos have yet to harness: access and interactivity.

In announcing the network she encouraged a dialogue with her subscribers. “I want you to talk directly to me. That’s what I’m most anxious about, hearing from you.”

The channel will host online chat groups and she asks for users to post videos and pose questions, and she promises to engage. “Let’s go rogue together and launch our own member supported channel! This will be OUR channel, for you and me, and we’ll all get to call it like it is.”

If you’re a Palin fan, that kind of personalized experience, if it really is one, is invaluable.

But let’s also be clear about the other reason Palin and her new venture confound her detractors in the liberal media: the Left is contemptuous of Palin’s celebrity because it’s come without all the guile and defenses that their superstars have made famous.

For all the social media prowess President Obama has employed, it’s hard to imagine another politician being more opaque and less accessible, both to the public and the press. And Hillary Clinton, his appointed successor, has made a cottage industry of keeping elusive and out of reach. And her big idea to launch a presidential campaign, thus far, has been this ultra-modern new-fangled technology called...a book tour (and not a very successful one). Next to Palin, Clinton’s use of the media looks practically Jurassic.

Now, there’s hardly any guarantees that the Sarah Palin Channel will be successful. Even Oprah’s network lost $330 million in its first year. It’s uncertain whether people will pay $9.95 a month, more than a Netflix subscription as it’s been pointed out, to see Palin prognosticate.

But it’s not up to the Left or the liberal media to decide. It will be up to her and her fans. And I wouldn’t count them out just yet. •

S.E. Cupp is author of “Losing Our Religion: The Liberal Media’s Attack on Christianity.” She has a weekly column in the New York Daily News and is a co-host of CNN’s “Crossfire.”

Terrorist Linked CAIR Hack Compares ISIS to Fox News

The Executive Director of a Florida Council on Islamic Relations [CAIR] office, Hassan Shilby, took to Twitter last week to rant about how ISIS and Fox News are pretty much the same thing. 

ISIS is beheading people and has slaughtered thousands but sure, lets compare them to America's most successful news outlet. If Fox News is so "intolerant" then why does the network, producers and its hosts regularly invite CAIR representatives on air to give their point of view?

As a reminder, CAIR has a history of supporting terrorist groups like Hamas, was an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation investigation (which eventually led to five "charity" members being convicted for sending $12 million in funding to Hamas) and regularly tells Muslim-American communities not to speak to or help the FBI during counter terrorism investigations.

To make matters worse, President Obama seems to be taking the advice of the radical Islamic group on national security and how we define terrorism. 

In his speech last week about ISIS, Obama said ISIS is "not Islamic" and is not a state. Before the speech, CNSNews reported that it was CAIR who wanted him to make that distinction. 

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) wants President Obama in his speech on ISIS Wednesday night to reject the jihadists’ “misappro-priation of Islamic terms and concepts,” and to recognize that the terrorist group was created by “the lack of freedom and justice in the region.”

H/T Twitchy

Anti-Gun Groups No Longer Fighting For Assault Weapons Bans

Alas, gun control groups seem to have moved away from so-called assault weapons bans for reasons pro-Second Amendment groups have espoused for months; they’re ineffective and represent a very small fraction of firearm-related homicides. Shannon Watts of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America now calls such policy initiatives “nonstarters.” Nonetheless, that does not mean that these people have abandoned their support for such bans on certain types of firearms (via ProPublica):

Nearly two years later, Watts works full-time as the head of the group, now named Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, is a significant player in a coalition financed by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. But while polls suggest a majority of Americans still support an assault weapons ban, it is no longer one of Watts' top priorities.

"We've very much changed our strategy to focus on public safety measures that will save the most lives," she told ProPublica.

It's not just that the ban proved to be what Watts calls a "nonstarter" politically, gaining fewer votes in the Senate post-Sandy Hook than background check legislation. It was also that as Watts spoke to experts and learned more about gun violence in the United States, she realized that pushing for a ban isn't the best way to prevent gun deaths.

A 2004 Justice Department-funded evaluation found no clear evidence that the decade-long ban saved any lives. The guns categorized as "assault weapons" had only been used in about 2 percent of gun crimes before the ban. "Should it be renewed," the report concluded, "the ban's effects on gun violence are likely to be small at best and perhaps too small for reliable measurement."

With more information, Watts decided that focusing on access to guns, not types of guns, was a smarter approach. She came to the same conclusion that other gun control groups had reached even before the Sandy Hook shootings: "Ultimately," she said, "what's going to save the most lives are background checks."

While many gun control groups still officially support the assault weapons ban 2014 "we haven't abandoned the issue," as Watts said 2014 they're no longer actively fighting for it.

Last year, the assault weapons ban amendment to the Manchin-Toomey gun control bill went down in flames in a bipartisan vote. If they’re waiting for public opinion to turn, they should expect to be resting patiently for a long time. The 2013 Colorado recall elections, which booted two anti-gun State Senators was successful thanks to blue-collar workers, Hispanics, and women. As for background checks, they’re already virtually universal. Most gun owners buy from dealers with a federal firearms license who have to by law conduct a background check. Regardless, gun control advocates still perpetuate the myth that 40 percent of gun sales are conducted without a background check. John Lott tore into this narrative in January of 2013 (via NRO) [emphasis mine]:

More important, the number comes from a 251-person survey on gun sales two decades ago, early in the Clinton administration. More than three-quarters of the survey covered sales before the Brady Act instituted mandatory federal background checks on February 28, 1994. In addition, guns are not sold in the same way today that they were sold two decades ago.

The number of federally licensed firearms dealers (FFLs) today is only a fraction of what it was. Today there are only 118,000; while back in 1993 there were over 283,000. Smaller dealers, many operating out of their homes, were forced out by various means, including much higher costs for licenses.

The survey asked buyers if they thought they were buying from a licensed firearms dealer. While all FFLs do background checks, those perceived as being FFLs were the only ones counted. Yet, there is much evidence that survey respondents who went to the very smallest FFLs, especially the “kitchen table” types, had no inkling that the dealer was actually “licensed.” Many buyers seemed to think that only “brick and mortar” stores were licensed dealers, and thus reported not buying from an FFL when in fact they did.

But the high figure comes primarily from including such transactions as inheritances or gifts from family members. Putting aside these various biases, if you look at guns that were bought, traded, borrowed, rented, issued as a requirement of the job, or won through raffles, 85 percent went through FFLs; just 15 percent were transferred without a background check.

If you include these transfers either through FFLs or from family members, the remaining transfers falls to 11.5 percent.

We don’t know the precise number today, but it is hard to believe that it is above single digits.

That hardly warrants federal action, especially since gun-related violence is down 39 percent since 1993. Pew Research has the figure higher, with a 49 percent decrease in firearm-related homicides. Then again, the American public is largely unaware that gun violence is down.

Gun control has become a political graveyard for Democrats. It’s an issue that cost Al Gore West Virginia, Arkansas, and his home state of Tennessee in 2000. If he had won those states, Gore would have become the president-elect, even with Bush winning Florida.

Liberal attempts to eviscerate the Second Amendment aren’t going away, but that doesn’t mean we should not stop defending the right to bear arms. Watching anti-gun liberals fail is spectacularly entertaining, but conservatives should be vigilant in their attempts to curb gun rights.

Poll: Huckabee Clear Favorite in Iowa

Two things are worth noting in the CNN/ORC survey released Friday vis-à-vis the 2016 presidential sweepstakes: (1) Hillary Clinton, who is gearing up to head to the Hawkeye State as I write this, is leaps and bounds ahead of her fellow Democrats; and (2) former Gov. Mike Huckabee is leading all of his presumed GOP rivals by double digits:

According to a new CNN/ORC poll, 53% of all registered Democrats contacted in Iowa said they would support Hillary Clinton if the 2016 caucuses were held today. That number far outpaces the 15% that would opt for Vice President Joe Biden, 7% who would choose Sen. Elizabeth Warren and 5% who would pick Sen. Bernie Sanders. ...

On the Republican side, Mike Huckabee nearly laps the field with 21% of all registered Republicans contacted in the poll saying they would support the former Arkansas governor if the 2016 Iowa caucuses were held today. Paul Ryan is second with 12%, and there is a cadre of politicians -- including Sen. Rand Paul, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie -- with support in the single digits.

The reason why Huckabee is soaring? Well, in part because more than one-quarter of all registered Republicans who are women prefer him over everyone else:

Huckabee and Ryan are getting similar support with men -- 15% and 16%, respectively -- but it is with women that the former Arkansas governor jumps ahead of the congressman. Twenty-seven percent of registered Republican women polled said they would pick Huckabee, compared with 8% who choose Ryan.

Perhaps one reason why Huckabee is ahead, and has been for a while now, is because his unique brand of social conservatism is popular among social cons in the state. Or, perhaps, because he’s already won the Iowa caucuses before and therefore has great name recognition among voters. Whatever the case may be, however, he hasn’t yet definitely ruled out forming an exploratory committee. But if Mitt Romney doesn't run, and the former governor continues to blow away the competition in Iowa, I honestly can't see why he wouldn't.