In March, an investigation by ProPublica and Gawker revealed that a “secret spy network” that was not on the State Department payroll, run by longtime Clinton aide Sidney Blumenthal, was “funneling intelligence about the crisis in Libya directly to the Secretary of State’s private account starting before the Benghazi attack.” Now the WEEKLY STANDARD has learned that Tyler Drumheller, the former chief of the CIA’s clandestine service in Europe who was working directly with Blumenthal as a member of Clinton’s spy network, was concurrently working as a consultant to CBS News and its venerable news program 60 Minutes.
According to WEEKLY STANDARD sources, Drumheller was active in shaping the network’s Benghazi coverage. His role at the network raises questions about what went wrong with the retracted 60 Minutes report on Benghazi that aired in October 2013. Despite his former life as a high ranking CIA official, Drumheller was laden with political baggage, making him a curious choice to be consulting with a major news operation—especially so given that he was working directly with Sidney Blumenthal, whose primary occupation appears to be manipulating media coverage on behalf of the Clintons.
CBS does not deny that Drumheller was working with the network, though a CBS spokesman would only say, "Tyler Drumheller was not involved in any way on the Benghazi story." CBS was also asked if the network understood he was helping Blumenthal prepare reports on Libya for Secretary of State Clinton at the same time he was working with the network. Additionally, THE WEEKLY STANDARD asked CBS to clarify if Drumheller otherwise involved in the network's coverage sensitive national security issues while he was also apparently working on Hillary Clinton's behalf. Finally, CBS News was asked if they had done any internal review to determine whether Drumheller had influenced coverage in a way that may have unfairly benefited Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration, since the public revelation of his conflict of interest. CBS did not clarify whether their statement that Drumheller was not involved "on the Benghazi story" referred specifically to the controversial Lara Logan report for 60 Minutes or CBS's coverage of the Benghazi scandal generally. The network was given an opportunity to address these specific questions and actively declined to expand on their terse statement.
Donald Trump’s newly released tax plan would add a staggering $10 trillion to the national debt over a decade, according to scoring by the Tax Foundation, a well-respected (especially in conservative circles) nonpartisan source. To put that into perspective, that’s more debt than Barack Obama—by far the most profligate president in American history—has managed to rack up so far on his watch (although he’s not done yet). According to the Treasury Department, the national debt has risen an unconscionable $9 trillion under Obama, from $9.2 trillion when he took office to $18.2 trillion today. But all by itself, Trump’s tax plan would generate more debt than 80 months of Obama.
To be clear, that’s after accounting for the increased economic growth that Trump’s plan would spur—and it would spur a lot of growth, raising the gross domestic product by 11 percent (or about $3 trillion) in year-10 compared to what it otherwise would have been, according to the scoring. In “static scoring,” which doesn’t take into account tax cuts’ effect on growth (and hence is of rather limited use), Trump’s plan would reduce revenues by $12 trillion. The economic growth and corresponding tax revenues that his plan would generate would decrease that shortfall by about $2 trillion, to $10.14 trillion, but that’s all.
The hope would be that a good conservative tax plan would cut taxes, spur growth, and over time create enough growth that it would actually generate more tax revenue than would have been generated without the tax cut. Trump’s plan would fall an estimated $10,140,000,000,000 short of that goal.
Actually, the plan’s effects on the debt would be even worse than that. The Tax Foundation writes, “The plan would also result in increased outlays due to higher interest on the debt,” creating a 10-year deficit “somewhat larger” than $10.14 trillion.
In addition to being an incredible budget-buster, Trump’s plan raises one other major concern: It would, Trump claims, take most Americans off the income-tax rolls. It’s bad enough that about 40 percent of Americans currently pay no federal income taxes—and thus don’t help fund national defense, national parks, federal highway spending, the general cost of government, etc. Trump’s plan would turn that large minority into a majority. It’s hard to imagine how having most Americans not have skin in the game is conducive to cultivating a virtuous republican citizenry that prides itself on its self-reliance and doesn’t view government spending as a free lunch.
President Obama met with Cuban strongman Raul Castro today in New York City. The two discussed improving U.S.-Cuba relations, according to the White House.
"President Obama met today with President Raul Castro of Cuba to discuss recent advances in relations between the United States and Cuba, as well as additional steps each government can take to deepen bilateral cooperation. The two Presidents discussed the recent successful visit of Pope Francis to both countries," a White House read-out of the meeting states.
"President Obama highlighted U.S. regulatory changes that will allow more Americans to travel to and do business with Cuba, while helping to improve the lives of the Cuban people. The President welcomed the progress made in establishing diplomatic relations, and underscored that continued reforms in Cuba would increase the impact of U.S. regulatory changes. The President also highlighted steps the United States intends to take to improve ties between the American and Cuban peoples, and reiterated our support for human rights in Cuba."
Vox's Ezra Klein wrote a good piece of analysis Monday about how unpredictable politics has become. He notes that the four surprising political developments we've seen in the last few months—Speaker of the House John Boehner resigning from Congress, and Scott Walker dropping out of the presidential race early while figures such as Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders were ascendent—were totally unpredictable.The conclusion he draws is this:
So here's a hypothesis — raw, incomplete, and potentially incorrect — for why politics has been so surprising this year: The tools that party insiders use to decide both electoral and legislative outcomes are being weakened by new technologies and changing media norms. And so models of American politics that assume the effectiveness of those tools — models that weight elite opinion heavily, and give outsiders and insurgents little chance — have been thrown off.
I think there's something to this, especially in understanding how Donald Trump has become the embodiment of this unpredictability. It's not a stretch to say the Republican base has long been more conservative than the party elites, and this is especially true of Republican primary voters. Despite this, for a long time, Republican voters have been convinced by various structural voices who are more more liberal than they are—donors, party leadership, the media etc.—that they have to accept a candidate who is deemed "electable" rather than conservative.
The post-Reagan track record of GOP nominees is basically a rebuke to conservatives: George H.W. Bush raised taxes and gave us David Souter; Bob Dole was the consumate insider and moderate; George W. Bush created a new entitlement and a new cabinet-level federal agency and let debt spiral out of control; at times John McCain seemed almost ashamed to campaign on conservative ideas or push back against Barack Obama's "historic" candidacy; and Mitt Romney's history as a health care technocrat couldn't convince voters he was in actuality "severely conservative," as he (awkwardly) put it.
Not one of these five post-Reagan candidates have left conservative primary voters feeling like the GOP reflects their priorities. Essentially, party elites have managed to shift the Overton Window on the Buckley Rule, i.e. "Be for the most right, viable candidate who could win" too far to the left. And thanks to Trump, GOP voters have woken up to this fact and are not happy about it.
Today, President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America Cecile Richards, testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on PPFA's use of taxpayer funding. During testimony, she falsely asserted that, "we've never stated that we did" provide mammograms.
"An affiliate isn't a health center. I think I spoke earlier, we do not have mammogram machines at our health centers. And we've never stated that we did. As was mentioned earlier, for women who who go for a breast exam, if you need a mammogram, your referred to a radiological clinic."
However, in 2011, Richards said on CNN that if federal funding is cut off to her organization "millions of women are going to lose access, not to abortion services, to basic family planning, you know, mammograms...."
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In May 2014, French foreign minister Laurent Fabius declared during a joint appearance with Secretary of State John Kerry that "we have 500 days to avoid climate chaos." Late last week, time ran out. Fabius's original remarks were as follows:
Well, I’m very happy to be with John. There is no week without a phone call or a visit between John and myself, and we have on the agenda many items, many issues – Iran, because negotiations are resuming today; the question of Syria, and we shall meet next Thursday in London together; Ukraine as well; and very important issues, issue of climate change, climate chaos. And we have – as I said, we have 500 days to avoid climate chaos. And I know that President Obama and John Kerry himself are committed on this subject and I’m sure that with them, with a lot of other friends, we shall be able to reach success on this very important matter.
As THE WEEKY STANDARD reported in May 2014, it is unclear exactly where the foreign minister came up with 500 days, but France is hosting the "21st Conference of the Parties on Climate Change" in from November 30 to December in Paris. The conference is scheduled to begin 565 days after the foreign minister originally issued his warning.
Two days after George W. Bush was inaugurated as president in 2001, his brother Jeb sent him a nine-page letter on the subject of yielding federal power in favor of state control. Jeb Bush was still in his first term as governor of Florida at the time, but he knew the ties between Washington and statehouses had gone wrong.
“Many governors feel – and can substantiate – that the relationship…has undergone a precipitous deterioration,” he wrote, not mentioning President Clinton but clearly referring to the actions of his administration.
The problem was two fold. When the federal government was supposed to take responsibility, it often left states “to fend for themselves.” And worse, it would “extend its reach” into state matters where it lacked competence. A better balance between federal and state responsibility was needed, Jeb Bush wrote.
Things didn’t change much during his brother’s administration. In fact, many conservatives were furious with No Child Left Behind, the education program that injected the federal government into school issues, notably testing of students, at the state and local level.
Jeb Bush is still looking for that balance. He believes that after nearly seven years of the Obama presidency, “federal overreach is worse than ever,” a Bush adviser told me.
As a presidential candidate, Bush has decided to start planning to do something about it. He has appointed Scott Pruitt, the attorney general of Oklahoma, to head a group to find the best ways to “rebalance” the federal-state relationship. Along with the appointment, Bush got Pruitt’s endorsement for president.
Pruitt, 47, is a major political figure in Oklahoma and a fierce opponent of expanding federal power. He has sued the Obama administration a number of times. He targeted Obamacare in one lawsuit. He has filed suit against the Environmental Protection Agency.
He is expected to recruit other Republican attorneys general to join his group. It has been Republican AGs who have succeeded in several cases, particularly on environmental issues, against the federal government. They refer to themselves as the “last line of defense” against federal encroachment on state authority.
Bush and Pruitt are like-minded in their view of the federal government. Unlike his father, former President George H. W. Bush, and his brother, Jeb Bush is a small government conservative. So is Pruitt, who is regarded as a potential candidate for governor in Oklahoma in 2018.
For them, seeking to reduce federal sway over states is a congenial political issue. It appeals to conservative voters. And it’s also an issue they believe in strongly.
Kristy Campbell, Bush’s spokeswoman, said: “President Obama has presided over massive federal overreach and an unprecedented and abuse of federal power to coerce states…On issues across the board, whether it is education or health care or land use, Governor Bush is committed to shifting more power back to the states, where the best reform ideas originate.”
Jack Kemp never became president, but the country desperately needs a leader like him now. When Kemp died in 2009, two themes dominated tributes to his career as a star quarterback, congressman, cabinet secretary and candidate for vice president and president. Conservatives called him one of the most influential politicians of the 20th century who never made it to the White House. He was “among the most important Congressmen in U.S. history,” as a Wall Street Journal editorial put it. Liberals declared that the Republican Party needed, but didn’t have, a Kemp: a leader who cared about the poor, who wanted to make the GOP attractive to minorities and working-class voters, who never went negative and regularly worked across party lines.
Both evaluations were accurate. And both are relevant as the GOP struggles to find its 2016 presidential candidate. Republican voters—Democrats and independents, too—are looking for someone who, instead of raging at the status quo, will shake up Washington, make the economy grow again and restore hope in America’s future. A candidate working from the Kemp model could do all of that.
Kemp was a pivotal political leader because, as the foremost exponent of supply-side economics, he persuaded his party and later Ronald Reagan to adopt his tax-cut plan, known as “Kemp-Roth.” The top tax rate on individual income dropped in 1981 to 50% from 70%. Then Kemp helped pioneer tax reform, and the top rate fell in 1986 to 28%. Middle-income taxpayers enjoyed similar cuts.
After an era of “stagflation” and malaise in the 1970s, Reaganomics produced more than two decades of prosperity, restored American morale, undermined the Soviet empire and converted much of the world, for a time at least, to democratic capitalism. Kemp deserves a significant amount of credit.
Puerto Rico is an economic basket case. It’s been in a recession for nearly a decade, its skilled labor is leaving the island in droves, and the island’s government recently told its bondholders that it is unable to fully repay them. To emphasize that point, it recently failed to meet some bond payments, putting a portion of its debt technically in arrears.
Its plight has grown severe enough that Congress feels obligated to study the morass to consider whether it should act to alleviate this crisis.The Senate Finance Committee convenes this week to study the issue, and the House Judiciary Committee met earlier this year on the topic.
The island’s government should probably not hold its breath: the odds that Congress will extend Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection to the island - the government’s most fervent desire - are slim, although I’ve argued that it may very well make sense to do so. Also off the table are anything that could be remotely construed as a bailout, so there will be no federal loans, direct grants, or loan forgiveness from the feds. The Tea Party wing of the party may not be able to get who they want as the next speaker of the house, but they can put the kibosh on anything that they perceive to be government largesse.
That does not mean that the federal government is unable to help the island, however. The current crisis resulted from the combination of a profligate government abetted by the availability of low-cost capital from the mainland (thanks to beneficial tax breaks on Puerto Rico’s debt) and a dysfunctional economy with its ills exacerbated by ill-fitting regulations imposed upon it by the federal government.
While the island has undertaken some modest reform efforts - it’s privatized some government assets, trimmed the enormous public payroll a bit, and stepped up efforts to improve tax collection - giving the Puerto Ricans a regulatory exemption from some particularly ill-fitting regulations could give the island some breathing room, enough to start growing again.
In the collectivist fantasyland most liberals cling to there is no such thing as a minimum wage so high that it destroys jobs, but anyone not blinded to reality can see that the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour has wreaked havoc in the island. Wages and the cost of living in Puerto Rico are well below what they are on the mainland, and as a result the $7.25 wage floor cuts a wide swath of the populace out of the formal economy. While that wage represents slightly over ¼ of the median wage in the mainland United States, it represents fully 77% of Puerto Rico’s average per capita income. It is the equivalent of a $20 minimum wage in the mainland.
That’s not the only example of federal government munificence that’s damaging the island’s economy. Anne Krueger, former chief economist for the World Bank, wrote a report earlier this year noting that the combination of food stamp, Medicaid and other welfare benefits for which a family of three would qualify are even greater than what a minimum wage would pay.
House majority leader Kevin McCarthy officially announced his campaign for speaker of the House. In a letter sent to his fellow Republican congressmen, McCarthy promised that if elected he would lead a House of Representatives that would "have the courage to lead the fight for our conservative principles and make our case to the American people" as well as having "the wisdom to listen to our constituents and each other so that we always move forward together."
"You all know me," McCarthy wrote. "We’ve spent late nights on the House Floor together. I’ve visited your districts and met your families and constituents. More importantly, I have gotten to know your ideas, your goals, and your vision for our conference and our country."
McCarthy's candidacy begins just three days after the surprise announcement from current speaker John Boehner that the veteran Ohio congressman would be resigning his speakership and his seat in Congress at the end of October. In his remarks Friday, Boehner suggested McCarthy would make an "excellent" speaker.
McCarthy has been majority leader since 2014, after Virginia's Eric Cantor lost his Republican primary and resigned the leader post. Prior to that, McCarthy was majority whip. He was first elected to Congress from his Bakersfield, California-based district in 2006.
Among the Republicans joining McCarthy in the race for speaker is Florida congressman Daniel Webster. And Peter Roskam may be considering a run—the Illinois Republican has been leading a small movement of his colleagues to force a "closed meeting" of the conference to determine the party's future. On top of that, McCarthy is viewed suspiciously among some conservatives by virtue of his position in the GOP leadership.
A hallmark of the Boehner speakership—and one of the reasons he cited for leaving the post early—was the contentious relationship he had with members of his own conference. His margin of victory in each speaker election was smaller than the last, and the latest effort to oust him by North Carolina Republican Mark Meadows seems to have worn Boehner out.
McCarthy won’t have that problem, at least not at first. A significant number of the Republican House conference members were recruited to run by McCarthy himself, who headed up party’s recruitment efforts in 2010. Where Boehner had no qualms with publicly blaming the more conservative members of the conference when they caused trouble, it’s in McCarthy’s nature to be more conciliatory.
On the opposite wall from his Reagan painting is one of Abraham Lincoln. His approach to conflict within the conference, he says, is “malice toward none,” quoting from Lincoln’s Second Inaugural address. In McCarthy’s view, the conference, and the party, will be stronger with a more collaborative approach where each member feels a part of the process.
As with most things American literature, it all begins with Edgar Allan Poe. In 1841, Poe unleashed on an unsuspecting world “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” arguably the world’s first modern detective tale. The end result was a sensational story that coupled outrageous acts of violence (never forget that the murder victims are one nearly decapitated mother and a daughter whose corpse is stuffed up a chimney) with an even more shocking conclusion. Most importantly, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” bequeathed to mystery lovers C. Auguste Dupin, Poe’s mysterious Parisian detective and an expert on what Poe called “ratiocination,” or the scientific application of logic and reason to criminal investigations. The story’s opening, which is told to us from the perspective of an unnamed narrator who acts as Dupin’s chronicler, or rather his Boswell years before Dr. Watson would provide the same service to Sherlock Holmes, points us towards the very same detective-as-eccentric-genius prototype that is still with us today.
This young gentleman was of an excellent—indeed of an illustrious family, but, by a variety of untoward events, had been reduced to such poverty that the energy of his character succumbed beneath it, and he ceased to bestir himself in the world, or to care, for the retrieval of his fortunes. By courtesy of his creditors, there still remained in his possession a small remnant of his patrimony…
Economically independent and free from any social or occupational obligations, Dupin is a true freelancer and special operative who choses only to work when the case suits him or when the French police approach him with a particularly vexing problem. Most of the time, Dupin sits in his darkened study either reading or contemplating. In 1842’s “The Mystery of Marie Rogêt,” Dupin combines his two favorite activities—not moving and investigations—in one tale.“The Mystery of Marie Rogêt” which is Poe’s blatant re-telling of the Mary Rogers case (which remains unsolved), presents a case from start to finish from the vantage point of a seated detective. Dupin solves the murder without ever having to leave his cloistered existence. Many, many years later, other detectives would pick up this M.O., and for some reason, most of them have been American.
The incongruity of mostly motionless detectives in American literature should be obvious. After all, as a country, America has always been about motion. From westward expansion to our unparalleled car culture, Americans can’t seem to sit still. Historically, our detective fiction has mirrored this reality, with tough-talking P.I.s always on the move between flophouses and swanky mansions built by dirty oil money. Reading Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and Ross Macdonald is tantamount to reading a bloodstained map that dances between darkened city streets and sleazy suburbs.
Three in four Americans (75%) last year perceived corruption as widespread in the country's government. This figure is up from two in three in 2007 (67%) and 2009 (66%).
The public has its reasons, which are not unfounded. Consider this USA Today story about how the
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has allowed its employees to stay on the job despite internal investigations that found they had distributed drugs, lied to the authorities or committed other serious misconduct, newly disclosed records show.
Lawmakers expressed dismay this year that the drug agency had not fired agents who investigators found attended “sex parties” with prostitutes paid with drug cartel money while they were on assignment in Colombia. The Justice Department also opened an inquiry into whether the DEA is able to adequately detect and punish wrongdoing by its agents.
“Dismay?” How about outrage, indignation, or cold fury? One reads informed analysis, every day, on the question of why Donald Trump seems to have gained traction with a considerable segment of the American public? There, in part, is your answer. The government’s drug agents peddle drugs and pay for prostitutes with drug money and nobody gets fired, much less sent off for a stretch in the can?
Makes you wonder about the other 25%. Must be people who work in government.
Just about every American knows the sheer animal frustration of sitting in traffic. Numerous studies have also pointed to the serious economic toll that traffic jams exact. Less understood, however, are the major problems that congestion on the nation’s inland waterways present.
The inland waterway system – some 12,000 miles of waterways, connected by 240 locks, and used for commercial transportation by barge – are a bit like the veins and arteries of the United States. Unseen and unthought-of by most Americans, they provide vital transportation routes for chemicals, coal, petroleum, and other products. Some 60 percent of the nation’s grain exports, for example, are shipped by barge.
But the waterways are also suffering from a serious cholesterol build-up. This summer, I visited the Kentucky Lock and Dam, on the Tennessee River. The lock terminal is 600 feet long; a perfectly appropriate size for the barges that plied the waterways back in 1945, when the lock was constructed.
A barge enters the Kentucky lock. Photo by the author.But now many barges are literally twice the size. And so, in a remarkable feat that I got to witness, the cargo are literally split in half, and sent through the lock on two separate tows. This process can take as long as seven hours. It’s a remarkable feat of engineering, and the still-functioning septuagenarian lock lowers the barges by some eighty feet magnificently.
But it takes too long.
The result? Major gridlock. Standing on the shoreline of the Tennessee, I saw boats waiting to lock through as far as the eye could see. Indeed, barges waiting to lock through can end up sitting more than a day. This would be a sorry enough situation for the cascading delays it would cause through the entire system, but the slow-down at Kentucky Lock is anything but unique. For example, not far away on the Ohio River, delays currently average 80 hours, and more than 800 boats lined up waiting to pass through a lock on Friday, as it underwent maintenance.
The Army Corps of Engineers, which oversees the commercial waterways, has been agitating for increased government funding to modernize the lock system. At Kentucky Lock, for example, the Corps are currently constructing a 1,200 foot lock chamber that will ameliorate the need to split the barges in two. But the money comes only in dribs and drabs: The new lock, which began construction in 1998, was initially supposed to be open in 2007. But the funding has dried up from time to time, and it may be another decade before it opens.