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Scene above:  Constitution Island, where Revolutionary War forts still exist, as photographed from Trophy Point, United States Military Academy, West Point, New York
 

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OCTOBER 21,  2014

SHORT TAKES ON THE DRIFTING WRECKAGE – AT 11:55 P.M. ET: 

COTTON UP IN ARKANSAS – From Powerline, about the Arkansas Senate race:  A new poll, this one by Talk Business and Politics/Hendrix College, puts Tom Cotton’s lead over Mark Pryor at 48-41. The survey included more than 2,000 likely voters and was taken after the last week’s Cotton-Pryor debate (as I understand it, there will be no more debates between the two). The margin of error is plus or minus 2.2 percent."  This is a must-win for Republicans.  Cotton will be a new GOP star.

CHANGES – From The Politico:  "Eli Lake and Josh Rogin, two of The Daily Beast's top national security and foreign policy reporters, are leaving the company, Daily Beast Executive Editor Noah Shachtman announced in a memo to staff on Monday.  The Huffington Post's Michael Calderone reports the two are likely joining Bloomberg View."  Lake and Rogin are two of the journalists whose work I check very often.  They are among the best.  I hope they continue to rise.

INCREDIBLE – Eyes are on the crucial North Carolina Senate race between incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan and Republican Thom Tillis.   Hagan has been leading throughout the campaign, but the race has been tightening.  Tonight, incredibly, Hagan failed to show up for a scheduled TV debate.  This cannot help her.  With only 13 days to go before the vote, this can turn out to be the most exciting finish this year.

SCARY – From Fox:  "The FBI says it is investigating the possibility that three American teenage girls were attempting to join the Islamic State in Syria when they were detained in Germany.  A law enforcement source told Fox News Tuesday that the girls are home in Colorado after they were tracked down in Frankfurt. The three girls are all under the age of 18 and are not expected to face charges. Two of the girls are of Somali descent and one is of Sudanese descent, according to the source.  ABC News reported that a law enforcement official said the girls were planning to travel to Syria to join militant groups. The official told ABC News the teenagers planned 'to fulfill what they believe is some vision that has been put out on a slick media campaign.'"  Given the state of our schools, this probably guarantees their admission to the Ivy League.

October 21,  2014     Permalink

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WHAT THE ELECTION IS ABOUT – AT 9:04 A.M. ET:    And, ultimately, what all elections are about in the Western world.  From Britain's Telegraph: 

British Islamist terrorists plotted to kill police officers or soldiers, possibly in a drive-by shooting on London streets, it was alleged.

Four British men were said to have sworn allegiance to the terrorist group Islamic State – also known as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isil).

They had allegedly obtained a handgun with a silencer to carry out the shootings. The plot was believed to include the use of a moped.

The men had images of two police officers and two police community support officers and had conducted “hostile reconnaissance” of a police station and a Territorial Army barracks in the capital, Scotland Yard said.

They were accused of planning to follow a fatwa by a senior Isil terrorist who called for followers to kill “disbelievers” in their home countries.

Details of the alleged plot emerged on Friday as the four men were charged with terrorist offences. A fifth man was charged with firearms offences linked to the plot. They were arrested as part of a series of raids across west and central London earlier this month. Only last week, police chiefs issued an unprecedented alert to officers to be extra vigilant for their own safety because of the heightened terror threat.

COMMENT:  The law of averages is not with us.  Sooner or later, someone is going to get through with a spectacular attack.  Americans, though, seem to have awakened recently, in time for the election.  Polls show their concern over terrorism has risen dramatically.  We hope that's reflected in the vote.

October 21, 2014      Permalink

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THE UNCONTROLLED EGO – AT 8:54 A.M. ET:  The president of the United States appears to be politically delusional.  From the Weekly Standard: 

President Obama discussed the election and how "all" the Democrats running away from him "have supported my agenda" in an interview with Al Sharpton earlier today:

"Well, look, here's the bottom line," said Obama, "We've got a tough map. A lot of the states that are contested this time are states that I didn't win. And so some of the candidates there, you know, it is difficult for them to have me in the state because the Republicans will use that to try to fan Republican turn-out. The bottom line is, though, these are all folks who vote with me. They have supported my agenda in Congress. They are on the right side of minimum wage. They are on the right side of fair pay. They are on the right side of rebuilding our infrastructure. They're on the right side of early childhood education.

"So, this isn't about my feelings being hurt. These are folks who are strong allies and supporters of me. And I tell them, I said, you know what, you do what you need to win. I will be responsible for making sure that our voters turn up."

COMMENT:  For the president just to be seen with Sharpton is an embarrassment.  And his cynical statement, suggesting that some Democratic candidates are lying about their true beliefs just to get elected – which is true – won't help those candidates.  In the end, it's always about Barack.

October 21, 2014       Permalink

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CAN BROWN DO IT? – AT 8:41 A.M. ET:   It's been tough for Scott Brown in his race for a Senate seat from New Hampshire.  His negative numbers are high, in part because he's seen by some as a carpetbagger from neighboring Massachusetts, where he'd been defeated for re-election to the Senate by Elizabeth Warren.   His opponent, Senator Jeanne Shaheen, is relatively popular.  But Brown is close.  From the Boston Herald: 

U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen clings to a tenuous 3-point lead over GOP challenger Scott Brown but falls short of the magic 50 percent mark, despite an attack ad bombardment that has left Brown's public image reeling, an exclusive new Suffolk University-Boston Herald poll reveals.

With just a little more than two weeks before Election Day, the Democratic incumbent leads Brown by a 49-46 percent margin among 500 likely New Hampshire voters in a race that could tilt the balance of power in the U.S. Senate.

The margin is hardly comforting to Democrats since it shows Shaheen's support has remained stagnant over the last few months. In the last Suffolk-Herald poll in June, Shaheen held the exact same level of support - 49 percent - among likely voters.

Brown's support has increased by 7 points since June. But Brown's favorability has taken a major hit in the rough election campaign, with 48 percent of likely voters viewing him negatively. He needs a late surge to catch up, because most voters have already made up their minds, according to David Paleologos, director of Suffolk University's Political Research Center.

COMMENT:  Again, turnout is the key...and a little luck.  This may turn out to be a heartbreaker. 

October 21, 2014      Permalink

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TWO WEEKS – AT 8:28 AM. ET:  The election is two weeks from today.  What are the early indications?  From The New York Times: 

Early voting is underway in Nevada, and the numbers look bad for Democrats. Republicans and Democrats have voted in nearly equal numbers in Clark County, home to Las Vegas, where Democrats have a 13-point registration advantage. Only 10,000 voters have turned out, compared with 17,000 who turned out on the first day of 2010.

Nevada isn’t alone. The early voting numbers, a possible indicator of overall turnout, also look bad for Democrats in Ohio.

Fortunately for Democrats, Nevada doesn’t really matter. Neither does Ohio. There isn’t a Senate race in Nevada or Ohio, and the states’ Republican governors are expected to cruise to re-election.

So why am I bringing up the gloomy numbers for Democrats in irrelevant contests for them? Because they highlight the challenge of interpreting early voting data elsewhere.

Very few of this year’s competitive contests had close races in 2010. Colorado and Florida are notable exceptions, but Iowa, North Carolina and Georgia didn’t have especially competitive statewide contests four years ago.

That’s made it difficult to interpret the early voting numbers in these states. Democrats have emphasized that they’re turning out voters who didn’t participate in 2010. But the better question, and one that’s harder to know, is whether the new voters talked up by Democrats are people who would have participated in 2010 if the states had been competitive. If that’s it, I don’t see how it’s amazing news for Democrats.

The conventional wisdom is that Democrats need to outdo their mobilization efforts of four years ago, when they lost competitive contests in Wisconsin, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Illinois. If that’s right, then Democrats don’t just need voters who didn’t participate in 2010; they need people who wouldn’t have participated in a hypothetically competitive race in 2010.

COMMENT:  In other words, there are some good signs, but they're not definitive.  Most indications we have is that the GOP stands a pretty good chance of taking the Senate, but that it's far from a sure thing.  That's been the case through most of this race.  Turnout, the ground game, will determine everything.

October 21,  2014     Permalink

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OCTOBER 20,  2014

SHORT TAKES ON THE DRIFTING WRECKAGE – AT 11:44 P.M. ET:

INSPIRING – From The Guardian:  "A man who was completely paralysed from the waist down can walk again after a British-funded surgical breakthrough which offers hope to millions of people who are disabled by spinal-cord injuries.  Polish surgeons used nerve-supporting cells from the nose of Darek Fidyka, a Bulgarian man who was injured four years ago, to provide pathways along which the broken tissue was able to grow.  The 38-year-old, who is believed to be the first person in the world to recover from complete severing of the spinal nerves, can now walk with a frame and has been able to resume an independent life, even to the extent of driving a car, while sensation has returned to his lower limbs.  Professor Geoffrey Raisman, whose team at University College London’s institute of neurology discovered the technique, said: 'We believe that this procedure is the breakthrough which, as it is further developed, will result in a historic change in the currently hopeless outlook for people disabled by spinal cord injury.'"  We hope so.  Always great to report an advance like this.

DID ANYONE VOTE FOR OBAMA? – From Daily Caller:  "Move over, Alison Lundergan Grimes. Get out of the way, Michelle Nunn. Natalie Tennant?  Hop aside. Another Democrat has joined the party and refused to say if he voted for President Barack Obama.  Incumbent Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska refused to answer the question from an America Rising tracker as he entered a school for a campaign event.  'Senator Begich, did you vote for Obama in 2008 and 2012?' asked the tracker.  'Do you support Obama’s handling of ISIS?' the tracker followed up.  Begich remained silent until he saw two staffers at the end of the video, to whom he made small talk on the way into the school."  It's so silly.  Of course all these Dems voted for Obama.  But they're in trouble with someone no matter which way they answer.  Why don't they just say that they voted for Obama, but have disagreements with him? 

A BIT OF VINDICATION – From Breitbart:  "A new Politico poll finds that Americans rate former President George W. Bush as a more effective manager than President Barack Obama.  When asked the question 'Which President do you believe was more effective at managing the basic functions of the federal government?' 38% of Americans said Bush, 35% said Obama, and 26% said 'both about the same.'  The Politico poll, which surveyed districts and states with the most competitive midterm election races, also found that 64% of Americans believe the nation is 'out of control.'"  One of these days, both Bush and Cheney will receive the credit they deserve.  But you probably won't hear it on CNN.

IRANIAN DECEPTIONS – From AP:  "VIENNA — The head of the UN nuclear agency sounded a note of caution about Iran’s claims that it is not interested in nuclear arms, saying he cannot guarantee that all the country’s atomic activities are civilian in nature.  Though not new, Yukiya Amano’s comments Monday are significant amid a renewed deadlock in the 12-year probe by his International Atomic Agency of suspected nuclear weapons work by Iran.  Iran denies such activities.  Amano’s comments also come as the US and five other powers try to persuade Tehran to allow the IAEA greater sleuthing powers, allowing the agency to do snap inspections of sites suspected of possible unreported nuclear work.  Amano told an IAEA meeting in Vienna that his agency cannot 'conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities.'"  How in the world can we conclude a nuclear agreement with Iran under these circumstances?  But Barack can!

October 20, 2014       Permalink

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QUOTE OF THE DAY – AT 11:08 A.M. ET:  The great commentator Mark Steyn has written a superb column on what's wrong with the Republican approach to politics.  It's a must-read, one of the best things I've seen recently.  Here is quote: 

You can’t have conservative government in a liberal culture, and that’s the position the Republican Party is in.

After the last election, I said that the billion dollars spent by the Romney campaign on robocalls and TV ads and all the rest had been entirely wasted, and the Electoral College breakdown would have been pretty much what it was if they’d just tossed the dough into the Potomac and let it float out to sea. But imagine the use all that money and time could have been put to out there in the wider world.

Liberals expend tremendous effort changing the culture. Conservatives expend tremendous effort changing elected officials every other November — and then are surprised that it doesn’t make much difference.

Culture trumps politics — which is why, once the question’s been settled culturally, conservatives are reduced to playing catch-up, twisting themselves into pretzels to explain why gay marriage is really conservative after all, or why 30 million unskilled immigrants with a majority of births out of wedlock are “natural allies” of the Republican Party.

COMMENT:  Well said.  For too many years the Republicans, to cite an example, have essentially ignored the liberal takeover of our educational system, and the blatantly leftist takeover of our colleges.  And while they complain about press bias, they've done nothing serious to push back.  Fox News is the greatest thing to happen to our side since Ronald Reagan, and it wasn't a creation of the Republican Party. 

Steyn should be taken seriously.

October 20, 2014       Permalink

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THIS IS WHAT WE FEARED – AT 9:58 A.M. ET:   With nuclear negotiations with Iran about to come to a scheduled end, the Obama administration is apparently planning an end-run around Congress to get through a bad deal.  From The New York Times: 

WASHINGTON — No one knows if the Obama administration will manage in the next five weeks to strike what many in the White House consider the most important foreign policy deal of his presidency: an accord with Iran that would forestall its ability to make a nuclear weapon. But the White House has made one significant decision: If agreement is reached, President Obama will do everything in his power to avoid letting Congress vote on it.

Another Obaman celebration of democracy.

Even while negotiators argue over the number of centrifuges Iran would be allowed to spin and where inspectors could roam, the Iranians have signaled that they would accept, at least temporarily, a “suspension” of the stringent sanctions that have drastically cut their oil revenues and terminated their banking relationships with the West, according to American and Iranian officials. The Treasury Department, in a detailed study it declined to make public, has concluded Mr. Obama has the authority to suspend the vast majority of those sanctions without seeking a vote by Congress, officials say.

But Mr. Obama cannot permanently terminate those sanctions. Only Congress can take that step. And even if Democrats held on to the Senate next month, Mr. Obama’s advisers have concluded they would probably lose such a vote.

“We wouldn’t seek congressional legislation in any comprehensive agreement for years,” one senior official said.

White House officials say Congress should not be surprised by this plan. They point to testimony earlier this year when top negotiators argued that the best way to assure that Iran complies with its obligations is a step-by-step suspension of sanctions — with the implicit understanding that the president could turn them back on as fast as he turned them off.

“We have been clear that initially there would be suspension of any of the U.S. and international sanctions regime, and that the lifting of sanctions will only come when the I.A.E.A. verifies that Iran has met serious and substantive benchmarks,” Bernadette Meehan, the spokeswoman for the National Security Council, said Friday, referring to the International Atomic Energy Agency. “We must be confident that Iran’s compliance is real and sustainable over a period of time.”

But many members of Congress see the plan as an effort by the administration to freeze them out, a view shared by some Israeli officials who see a congressional vote as the best way to constrain the kind of deal that Mr. Obama might strike.

Ms. Meehan says there “is a role for Congress in our Iran policy,” but members of Congress want a role larger than consultation and advice. An agreement between Iran and the countries it is negotiating with — the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China — would not be a formal treaty, and thus would not require a two-thirds vote of the Senate.

The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Robert Menendez, the New Jersey Democrat, said over the weekend that, “If a potential deal does not substantially and effectively dismantle Iran’s illicit nuclear weapons program, I expect Congress will respond. An agreement cannot allow Iran to be a threshold nuclear state.” He has sponsored legislation to tighten sanctions if no agreement is reached by Nov. 24.

COMMENT:  Let's hope this is a false alarm, that either Obama gets a good agreement, which is highly unlikely considering his pathetic weakness, or that the negotiations collapse, in which case the Iranian nuclear drive is laid bare before the world.  But I don't think it's a false alarm.  Based on what I've read, from a variety of sources, Obama is perfectly willing to accept a defective deal, as long as he could sell it to the American people.  And our "allies" are, in many cases, more than eager to have any deal so they can go back to doing lucrative business with Iran.  There was even a conference in London recently to prepare businesses for a post-sanction era.

Any agreement with Iran would come after our midterms.  Obama's obligations to the Democratic Party will be over.  But the party's obligations to him would also, at that moment, be very limited, especially as the president has become so unpopular.

If there's a defective agreement, get ready for a monumental clash between Congress and president.   And get ready for Christiane Amanpour to shill for the Iranian government (she's Iranian by birth), as she's been doing regularly.

October 20, 2014      Permalink

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ON THE OTHER HAND – AT 9:19 A.M. ET:  Hillary Clinton may be the Dem frontrunner for 2016, as noted in the post just below, but her influence in the upcoming midterms is decidedly limited.  From The Hill: 

Self-proclaimed Clinton Democrats are struggling this election cycle, and not even their powerful namesakes may be enough to save them.

Both Bill and Hillary Clinton have tried to turn on their charms to help centrist Democrats in Kentucky and Arkansas. But as candidates in both states are slipping, help from the party’s preeminent power couple is falling short.

In Kentucky, Alison Lundergan Grimes has clung tightly to both Bill and Hillary Clinton as she tries to unseat Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell(R).

The former president has already campaigned with the Democratic hopeful twice and will head to the Bluegrass State again next week. The former secretary of state held a rally with Grimes on Wednesday, coming as Grimes kept emphasizing she was a "Clinton Democrat through and through” after flatly refusing to say whether she voted for President Obama.

The former president — a master of the retail politics central to places like Arkansas — is the featured guest in his native state this weekend. There, Democrats are trying to save vulnerable Sen. Mark Pryor (D) and push former Rep. Mike Ross (D) into the governor’s mansion. Pryor even took a selfie on stage with Clinton this month, in an attempt to illustrate how close he is to his state’s favorite son.

Despite their close ties to the Clintons, their efforts to distance themselves from a deeply unpopular current president may not work.

That raises questions not only for Hillary Clinton as she ponders a 2016 White House bid, but also for the Democratic Party as it finds itself increasingly unsuccessful in the Deep South and Appalachia.

COMMENT:  Read the whole piece.  It's well done.  It notes that the Clintons are probably the only prominent national Democrats who might make a race of it in 2016 in the South.  That was part of Bill Clinton's strategy in 1992 – appeal to the entire country, not just the coastal regions and big cities. 

But the Obama legacy, now vastly unpopular, and especially so in the South, hangs over the Democratic Party.  You can't sell a man as a god, then abandon him without looking like a heretic.  Remember that Hillary, or any Democrat, will need the black vote to win in 2016.

October 20, 2014       Permalink

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NEW PRESIDENTIAL POLL – AT 8:52 A.M. ET:  Our midterm is still two weeks away, but the 2016 presidential prelims are already underway.  A new poll confirms what pundits have been saying, that Mitt Romney still has political legs.  From The Hill: 

Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney leads a field of potential 2016 GOP candidates in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll, while former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton holds a commanding lead among Democrats.

Twenty one percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents would choose the former Massachusetts governor, who garnered twice the support of his closest challengers.

Former Govs. Jeb Bush (R-Fla.) and Mike Huckabee (R-Ark.) each had 9 percent support in the new poll, followed by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) with 9 percent, Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) with 8 percent and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) with 5 percent.

Sixty four percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents support Clinton. Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) trail the former first lady, according to the poll, with 13 percent and 11 percent, respectively.

COMMENT:  What must be determined is whether the results are based more on name recognition than on actual preference.  I'm guessing it's a combination.  I'm not really surprised that Romney, having already run for president, leads the GOP pack, at least for now.  He is also the only Republican who currently has presidential stature.

What does surprise me about the Democratic field is that Elizabeth Warren has not gained any traction.  Among the Dem base she is reasonably well known.   Bottom line, unless there is some dramatic change in the Democratic electorate, I think Hillary can have the nomination without too much effort.  Look, that party must nominate a woman.  It thinks in terms of groups.  Its voters can't turn down a woman again, as they did in 2008.  It'll either be Clinton or Warren, and I suspect the thinking will be that only Clinton could win a general election. 

Obviously, biology can change everything.  Hillary is not young, and she's had illnesses.  One rushed trip to a hospital, and she's probably done.  It's not pleasant to bring up, but that's the reality for any candidate.

October 20,  2014     Permalink

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