Behold: The Most Tone-Deaf Tweet in the History of Twitter

DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, whose "maximize exposure" debate schedule was so bad unauthorized debates were scheduled, has sent out what is quite possibly the most tone-deaf tweet in the history of Twitter:

*headdesk*

Let's compare, shall we?

The Republicans have had eight debates (including tonight's, in Manchester, NH) this election season, dating back to August. Exactly one of those (tonight's) has been held on a weekend, and the lowest-rated debate still had more viewers than three of the four Democratic debates.

Conversely, the DNC has hosted five debates: Three were on weekends (one on a Saturday night, one the weekend before Christmas, and another was on another holiday weekend), and one, February 4th's debate in New Hampshire, was a last-second addition and was initially unsanctioned by the party.

New Hampshire has a primary on Tuesday, so it makes sense to host a debate in the area immediately prior to the election, even if it may be the eve of Super Bowl Sunday. (To this author's knowledge, "Super Bowl Eve" is not an event that people celebrate, plus, with the Patriots not in the game, many New Hampshirites will not be watching.) Now, if the RNC had decided to hold the debate during the Super Bowl, I'd say Wasserman Schultz was on to something. However, holding debates during football games is more of a Democrat thing, anyways.

You're projecting, Debbie. It's not a good look.

Tonight's debate will be hosted byABC and IJ Review, and will feature Hot Air's Mary Katharine Ham as one of the panelists questioning the candidates.

LIVE FROM NEW HAMPSHIRE: Republicans' Saturday Night Brawl on ABC News


MANCHESTER, NEW HAMPSHIRE -- Ted Cruz has a small delegate lead and a big win under his belt. Marco Rubio is riding major momentum, both in New Hampshire and nationally. Donald Trump owns a double-digit polling lead in this first-in-the-nation primary. The three remaining governors all need big results on Tuesday, or risk suffering a fatal blow to their campaigns. And two other Republican hopefuls may be on the brink of ending their candidacies. The stage is set for tonight's high-stakes GOP debate on the campus of Saint Anselm College, where the remaining field of eight candidates has been (controversially) whittled down to seven, following Carly Fiorina's exclusion under ABC News' participation threshold formula.  Three storylines to keep an eye on:

(1) Get Rubio.  On the heels of an unexpectedly strong finish in Iowa and a flurry of endorsements, the Florida Senator is surging.  His campaign has been framing the nominating contest as a three-man race among Rubio, Trump and Cruz -- a narrative that several other candidates are heavily invested in exploding.  Jeb Bush and Chris Christie have been hammering Rubio as inexperienced, unaccomplished, and too conservative to win, with reports circulating that the two governors' aides have informally colluded to bring down the younger Senator.  For what it's worth, Ohio Governor John Kasich has effectively lived in this state for weeks, has largely eschewed attacks, and has been polling well.  He's openly conceded that a swing-and-miss here on Tuesday will doom his candidacy.  Ted Cruz also senses Rubio coming on strong, and will be eager to cement himself as the most conservative man in the race.  Rubio has earned the spotlight, which is a blessing and a curse.  He'll be the target of intense criticism tonight, under the brightest of lights: A primetime debate on a national broadcast network in the thick of a high-interest primary battle.  Team Rubio knows this is coming.  But when the red light flips on, will he be ready?

(2) "Fraud" and Trump's temperament.  Billionaire Donald Trump, the heavy frontrunner in New Hampshire according to the polls, has been all over the map over recent days.  Literally.  He's spent surprisingly little time in the Granite State, evidently betting that his polling cushion and the state's more primary voting system (which, to his advantage, includes independent voters) will carry the day on Tuesday.  He's also swung wildly from accepting his Iowa loss graciously, to accusing Ted Cruz of "stealing" the election through "fraud," to shrugging off that incendiary allegation, to reiterating it:


The Texas Senator has argued that this turbulent sore-loser "Trumper tantrum" underscores Trump's erratic behavior, directly suggesting that he's too unstable to be trusted with the presidency.  So who will show up tonight?  The Donald Trump who was furiously demanding a re-do in Iowa and branding Cruz a "total liar," or the Donald Trump who's putting the Hawkeye State in the rearview mirror and hailing Cruz as a possible running mate?   Expect questions based on both Trump's cries of "fraud," and Cruz's "nuke Denmark" retort -- probably right out of the gate.

(3) Nearing the end of the line for Carson and Carly?  Given the flare-up over the false rumors over Carson's next moves after Iowa (which I've concluded basically amounted to the Cruz campaign ruthlessly and perhaps underhandedly exploiting an odd decision by Team Carson, but that didn't significantly impact the outcome), it may be risky to raise the specter of Carson leaving the race.  Then again, his campaign has undergone significant layoffs, with more to come after New Hampshire, we're told.  Hmm.  And though I understand and mostly share Team Fiorina's frustration over Carly being the only candidate left off the debate stage this evening, her strong debating skills have not translated into growing support for whatever reason.  A poor showing on what should theoretically be favorable terrain for her may push her out of the race.

Finally, on a more personal note, our Townhall Media colleague Mary Katharine Ham -- my close friend and co-author -- will serve as tonight's conservative moderator.  I know firsthand how diligently and thoughtfully she's honed and refined her questions (I'm sworn to secrecy) and cannot wait to see her in action.  We'll see you post-debate for instant analysis.  In the meantime, follow our team's live tweets throughout the debate, and feel free to add your running thoughts in the comments section  And away we go...



Survey: Voters Still Believe American Dream Is 'Alive and Well'

Eureka College, the alma mater of President Ronald Reagan, released its first annual “American Opportunity Index,” this week, which measured how much freedom and opportunity Americans feel they have to pursue their dreams.

Based on respondents’ views, American opportunity stands at 66 percent of its full potential. These findings, carried out in partnership with national research and polling firm McLaughlin & Associates, are based on seven metrics: personal access, equality of access, compared to past generations, compared to other nations, attitude about the future, belief in the future of American Opportunity and leadership.          

“As the smallest college to graduate a President of the United States and as a college that provides opportunities for all our students, we believe it is essential to assess the general perspectives of the American people on opportunity,” said Eureka College President, Dr. J. David Arnold. “The results from the 2016 American Opportunity Index are also a litmus test whether index respondents share President Reagan’s optimism about the future—do they, like President Reagan, view America as a ‘shining city on a hill.'”

A random sampling of 1,000 adults were asked seven questions, which were then collectively scored to create the Index. Here are the findings:

-91 percent agree that America gives them the freedoms & opportunities to use their talents and skills to pursue their dreams

-2:1 agree that every American today has the same freedom and opportunity to use their talents and skills to pursue their dreams.

-54 percent agree that they have the same freedoms and opportunities to pursue their dreams today that their parents and grandparents had.

-50 percent agree that future generations will have the same freedoms and opportunities to pursue their dreams compared to today.

-90 percent agree that Americans have greater freedoms and opportunities to pursue their dreams compared to people living in other countries.

-73 percent believe the concept of the overall promise of freedom and opportunity will exist in America’s future.

-57 percent believe that leaders are working to make sure Americans have the freedom and opportunity to use their talents and skills to pursue their dreams.

The Index results varied across sub-groups, however, such as political party affiliation, race and ethnicity, and generations.

“The idea of freedom and opportunity in America is alive and well, but skepticism exists when voters are asked in a more personal fashion,” the report states, noting the lower Index score among younger voters is not surprising given the current economic and societal conditions.

“Will this translate into political disillusionment for younger voters or perhaps motivate them to turnout? The American Opportunity Index will help to answer these questions and gauge these sentiments from year to year and it will be quite instructive to see how the Index is affected one year from now, on the heels of the inauguration of our next President,” it concludes. 

You can take a sample version of the poll here and see how your answers stack up to the other respondents. 

Bernie Sanders Will Be on SNL Tonight

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who effectively tied Hillary Clinton in Monday's Iowa caucuses, will appear on Saturday Night Live tonight in a special cameo appearance. The episode is hosted by comedian Larry David, who did a hilarious impersonation of the candidate on the show in October.

A Sanders official confirmed that the appearance was happening:

Hillary Clinton appeared on the show in October, and Donald Trump was the host of the November 7, 2015 episode.

Iowa Democratic Party Capitulates, Will Review Caucus Results

After the Iowa Democratic Party rejected calls for an audit of last Monday night’s results, they have finally agreed to look at the tallies, following concerns that some precincts had irregular numbers.

Allegations of voter fraud have also been hurled. Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) said during the Democrats’ New Hampshire debate that he would welcome an audit, but he doesn’t want to blow this out of proportion; noting that both he or Hillary need 2,382 delegates to clinch the nomination.

The Iowa Caucuses allocated 23 delegates to Clinton and 21 to Sanders. This isn’t the end of the world for the Sanders camp. The self-described democratic socialist also mentioned that if an audit would occur, it would probably break even between him and Mrs. Clinton.

And that appears to be what they’re doing (via Des Moines Register):

Iowa Democratic Party officials are reviewing results from the Iowa caucuses and making updates where discrepancies have been found.

Party Chairwoman Andy McGuire the day after Monday's caucuses said no review would be conducted, and that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s narrow victory over Bernie Sanders was final.

But as errors are being discovered, the final tally is being changed, party officials confirmed to the Des Moines Register on Friday.

"Both the Sanders and Clinton campaigns have flagged a very small number of concerns for us, and we are looking at them all on a case-by-case basis," Iowa Democratic Party spokesman Sam Lau told the Register.

The latest development follows widespread questions among Iowa Democrats and national media about the accuracy of the counts reported on caucus night, which saw the second-highest number of participants and closest result in Democrats' caucus history.

The Register had previously called the Democratic Iowa Caucus a “debacle,” and implored the state party to conduct an audit, including a list of each precinct that executed a coin flip to break a tie and the results.

Pro-abortion Group Uses Zika Virus to Pressure 2016 Frontrunners to Support Their Agenda

NARAL Pro-Choice America apparently thinks the Zika virus epidemic gives them the right to shame Republican presidential candidates into promoting their abortion rights agenda. The president of the organization, Ilyse Hogue, sent a letter to the three top contenders, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, asking them to change their “dangerous” positions on women’s health.

"As the clear frontrunners for the Republican presidential nomination, you each have a responsibility to help advance a nationwide dialogue on how best to respond to this global health emergency," Hogue wrote in the letter. "This response must acknowledge that women across America ... are rightfully concerned about the safety and advisability of becoming pregnant during a viral pandemic."

The group urged the GOP candidates to not block access to Planned Parenthood because Zika has been linked to birth defects.

NARAL, a staunchly pro-abortion group, is blind to abortion’s dangerous consequences. Perhaps if they'd stop thinking about the revenue that comes from the procedure, they'd realize that using one tragedy to promote another is a despicable end.

Trump, Rubio and Cruz have all indicated they are pro-life. I doubt they’ll be swayed otherwise by a misleading piece of paper. 

FBI, Intelligence Sources: Hillary's Debate Answer On Email Scandal Was Nonsense


Yesterday, we meticulously exposed several misleading assertions Hillary Clinton offered up to deflect concerns over her email scandal at this week's Democratic debate. We cited evidence proving that she was wrong on several central facts, and that the equivalence she attempted to draw between the actions of previous Secretaries of State and her own misconduct is deeply flawed. Now, a former Assistant Director of the FBI and several additional intelligence sources familiar with the Clinton investigation are filling in more blanks -- splashing ice cold water on Hillary's deceptive spin. Fox News' Catherine Herridge, who's been dogged in her coverage, reports:

Clinton told moderator Chuck Todd that nothing would come of the FBI probe, “I am 100 percent confident. This is a security review that was requested. It is being carried out.” Not true says Steve Pomerantz, who spent 28 years at the FBI, and rose from field investigative special agent to the rank of assistant director, the third highest position in the Bureau. “They (the FBI) do not do security reviews,” Pomerantz said. “What they primarily do and what they are clearly doing in this instance is a criminal investigation.” Pomerantz emphasized to Fox News, “There is no mechanism for her to be briefed and to have information about the conduct, the substance, the direction or the result of any FBI investigation.

Clinton and her team have tried to pretend that this federal probe is not criminal in nature, but it "clearly" is, Pomerantz says. He also spells out why Hillary is bluffing when she comments on the status of the investigation, which is why flat denials on reports like this are wishful guessing, no matter how assertive they may sound. In case you were curious, here's the seasoned FBI agent running point on the expanding Clinton email affair:

Fox recently learned that one of the FBI's senior agents responsible for counterintelligence matters, Charles H. Kable IV, is working the Clinton case, another indicator the intelligence source said that the FBI probe is “extremely serious, and the A-team is handling.” Kable, known as "Sandy," was appointed special agent in charge of the counterintelligence division at the Washington field office by Director James Comey in December. He had recently served as the chief of the counterespionage section at FBI headquarters. In that capacity, a bureau press releases says the 15-year, well-respected FBI veteran, "provided leadership and oversight to the field offices engaged in espionage, economic espionage, and insider threat investigations." While his responsibilities are not publicly known, Kable was described to Fox as "tough and no-nonsense FBI." The intelligence source said analysts and agents are exploring whether the mishandling of classified information was "intentional" and who may have benefited.

Herridge also quotes sources with knowledge of the case. A few significant quotes:

Separately, an intelligence source familiar with the two prongs of the ongoing FBI probe, stressed to Fox that the criminal and national security elements remain “inseparable.” The source, not authorized to speak on the record, characterized Clinton’s statement “as a typical Clinton diversion… and what is she going to say, “I’m 95 percent sure that I am going to get away with it?” ... A separate source told Fox, "it is no less of a violation of espionage statutes if any material was classified secret or top secret....All the statute requires is national defense information or NDI,” adding "this is way past accidental spillage…(it) is being investigated as intentional mishandling…in this kind of high profile investigation, the most damaging information takes primacy.” Investigations into the compromise of classified information include damage assessments. In the recent case of former CIA Director David Petraeus, the damage was deemed to be limited, discreet, and knowable because the highly classified information was shared with his biographer, who also had a security clearance. In Hillary Clinton's case, if the private server was compromised by a third party, the extent of the damage maybe unknowable.

That's what makes Hillary's actions so much more grave than what Petraeus did -- and Petraeus was charged. Hillary Clinton operated a private, improper, unsecure email server, on which she conducted all of her official business, in violation of federal rules. Despite her claims to the contrary, that server was not set up "for convenience," and it has been revealed to have contained at least 1,600 classified emails, including dozens at the very highest levels of secrecy. Clinton's excuse that they weren't "marked at the time" is irrelevant according to the binding nondisclosure agreement she herself signed in 2009.  Plus, she carried forward with her reckless scheme even after a specific and dire 2011 warning about foreign hackers attacking top US officials' private emails.  Several high-level intelligence and national security officials say her emails were almost certainly penetrated by hostile governments.  The FBI's criminal probe has reportedly expanded twice, examining possible obstruction of justice and public corruption angles to the scandal, in addition to its national security pillar. At Thursday's debate, Clinton said she has "100 percent confidence" that there will be no repercussions from this scandal, and that she isn't concerned about it all. In a string of lies regarding this imbroglio, that last one may be her most brazen.

Rubio Scores Endorsement From Bobby Jindal

After gaining the support of Sen. Rick Santorum, Marco Rubio has earned another endorsement from a former 2016 presidential candidate. On Fox News Friday night, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal announced he is rooting for Rubio. 

Unlike his fellow governors, Jindal sees leadership potential in the Florida senator. Earlier this week, both Govs. Christie and Bush questioned Rubio's youth and inexperience, suggesting he was unqualified to be commander-in-chief. 

Rubio has also earned recent endorsements from popular conservatives like Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) and Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC).

Update: Rubio responded to Jindal with some high praise of his own:

CDC: Ladies, Don't Drink Unless You're On Birth Control

In a rare show of bipartisanship, women of all political persuasions are furious after the Center for Disease Control released an infographic and report that suggested that women of childbearing age avoid all alcohol unless they are using some form of contraception. While the goal of preventing fetal alcohol syndrome is laudable, many are criticizing the "scare tactics," "Puritanical attitude," and condescending nature of the CDC's suggestion.

Now, I know I'm not a biologist, but I feel like there's a missing step between "drinking alcohol" and "getting pregnant." I had a glass of wine with dinner last night, and I'm pretty sure I didn't spontaneously get pregnant or an STD as a result. Rather than belittle women and try to scare new moms that the glass of wine they had in the early weeks of pregnancy is going to deform their baby (it in all likelihood won't), the CDC should be using real facts and better techniques than creepy faceless women to help prevent fetal alcohol syndrome.

While alcohol certainly can lower a person's inhibitions, it definitely doesn't make a person pregnant by itself.

Christie Doubles Down on 'Boy in the Bubble' Comment, Hammers Rubio on Youth, Inexperience

A few days ago in New Hampshire, Gov. Chris Christie called his presidential rival Marco Rubio the “boy in the bubble.” He was referring to Rubio’s supposed lack of face time with voters, instead relying on manufactured town halls and scripted answers. Yet, pundits can’t help thinking the New Jersey governor was also targeting Rubio’s youth. Judge for yourself:

"We know who the boy in the bubble is up here who never answers your questions, who's constantly scripted and controlled because he can't answer your questions," Christie said. "So when Senator Rubio gets here, when the boy in the bubble gets here, I hope you ask him some questions."

The New Jersey governor had no intention of backtracking on the controversial comment in an interview with Fox News' Greta Van Susteren:

"The reason it applies to him is because he is not ready to be president of the United States. He is not ready because of the way he – not only his lack of accomplishment in his Senate career but also because he lives a very protected life as a candidate. He doesn't answer questions in gaggles." 

Rubio, who has enjoyed a surge in New Hampshire as of late, surpassing Ted Cruz to get to second place, dismissed Christie’s dis as a simple knee jerk reaction to his own slipping poll numbers.

"When people are having a tough time in a campaign, especially near the end, you see some desperation set in they start saying things," Rubio told reporters Thursday.

Christie has company in attacking the increasingly popular Florida senator. In an appearance on MSNBC’s "Morning Joe” Friday, Gov. Jeb Bush said Rubio had accomplished “nothing” in the Senate.

The timing of the two governors’ attacks against Rubio led to a New York Times report suggesting the two had a secret deal to jeopardize Rubio’s campaign. Christie denied that allegation.

Donald Trump is still well in front in New Hampshire polls, but with Rubio steadily gaining, the businessman may again find himself in a frustrating second place.

Trump: Actually, I Don't Care About That Fraudulently 'Stolen' Election Anymore


Oh:


In case you're struggling to keep up, Trump has gone from (a) "congrats, Ted, you earned it," to (b) "THIS IS FRAUD, THE ELECTION WAS STOLEN, AND I DEMAND A DO-OVER!" to (c) "meh, whatever, I don't care anymore" in the span of 48 hours or so.  From graciousness, to leveling the most serious electoral charges that exist, to a shrug.  Seriously, please try to imagine the potential consequences of electing Moodswings McGee to the most powerful office in the world. This is precisely what Cruz was getting at with his "nuke Denmark" dig at Trump: The man is erratic and unstable. Speaking of Cruz, as Mark Steyn and Ben Carson go nuclear on him for being 'dishonorable' like Hillary on Benghazi (!), it appears as though his stock is temporarily up in Trump's book. He's no longer a universally-disliked "total liar," it seems:

In a striking reversal of rhetoric, Donald Trump would not rule out Ted Cruz as his hypothetical vice-presidential pick. “Well, I don’t know. Look, I have nothing against him. It was sort of a sad thing that happened, but I’ve always liked him,” Trump told Hugh Hewitt on his radio show Thursday, after weeks of trashing his primary rival as nasty, hypocritical and disliked. Trump added that he has “always gotten along well” with Cruz, but that “I’m so much now focused on New Hampshire.”

"My fellow Americans, meet my running mate, the 'very nasty' and widely-loathed liar, Ted Cruz!" A ridiculous man. For what it's worth, Trump now says he's no longer going to sue Cruz over Iowa, but no word on whether a spurrious eligibility lawsuit is still on the table. Question: How long until Trump drops the Cruz feud and starts pummeling Marco Rubio with every insult and conspiracy that pops into his head? Per three new polls, "Marcomentum" in New Hampshire is real, which is why the collective beating is underway.  And like clockwork, Jeb's gasping campaign is about to drop even more money attacking Rubio:


I'll leave you with two additional polling notes:



Charitable: CNN Produces and Airs Hit Piece on Rubio

In what amounts to an independent expenditure on behalf of the other Presidential candidates, CNN decided to hit Marco Rubio for the high crime of having a stump speech.
If you were waiting for the video to end with "I'm (insert Rubio opponent here) and I approve this message," you were disappointed.

The intent of the piece is to leave the viewer with the impression that Rubio is a big fat phony.

I don't know if Rubio is a phony or not. However, every candidate gives virtually the same carefully crafted, poll tested speech at each location they visit on the campaign trail.

Not only is this not news, it's electioneering on the part of CNN. The only explanation seems to be that there's a producer on the show who just cannot abide a Rubio V Democrat general election.

German Spy Agency: Yes, ISIS Is Sending Fighters Disguised as Refugees

One day after hundreds of police in Germany carried out raids on suspected ISIS terrorists across the country, the head of the nation’s domestic intelligence agency, BfV, confirmed that the terror group is sending militants into Europe disguised as refugees.

"We have repeatedly seen that terrorists ... have slipped in camouflaged or disguised as refugees. This is a fact that the security agencies are facing," Hans-Georg Maassen told ZDF television.

"We are trying to recognize and identify whether there are still more IS fighters or terrorists from IS that have slipped in," he added.

According to local media reports, Maassen said the BfV had received more than 100 tip-offs that ISIS militants were disguised among the refugees staying in Germany.

Two men and a woman were arrested during Thursday's police raids, all three of whom had existing warrants out for their arrest. One man, whose wife was also detained, was wanted by Algerian authorities for belonging to ISIS. He had been trained in Syria. The other man had fake ID documents.

Police had been searching for four Algerians linked to ISIS in Syria who they said are “under investigation over suspicions that they are planning a serious act threatening the security of the state.”

Maassen warned against alarm, however.

"We are in a serious situation and there is a high risk that there could be an attack,” he said. “But the security agencies, the intelligence services and the police authorities are very alert and our goal is to minimize the risk as best we can.” 

Watch: George W. Bush Finally Makes an Appearance for His Brother

George W. Bush has been virtually silent for his brother Jeb Bush in the 2016 presidential campaign.  One would wonder why a former two-term president would be kept in the shadows and not used as leverage in a bitter fight with other candidates who have no presidential connections.  

With only four days left until the New Hampshire primary, it appears as though Bush's "Right to Rise" Super PAC  has decided to bring George W. into the game.  

"The first job of the president is to protect America. Our next president must be prepared to lead. I know Jeb. I know his good heart and his strong backbone.  Jeb will unite our country. He knows how to bring the world together against terror. He knows when tough measures must be taken.  Experience and judgment count in the Oval Office. Jeb Bush is a leader who will keep our country safe," George said.  

Poll: Sanders Has Just About Caught Up to Hillary Nationally

Hillary Clinton’s woes did not end in Iowa, where she barely eked out a win. A new Quinnipiac poll reveals that her last opponent standing, Bernie Sanders, has caught up to her - not just in Iowa and New Hampshire, but nationally.

In the Democratic race nationwide, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has 44 percent, with Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont at 42 percent, and 11 percent undecided.

This is especially bad news for Team Hillary because just a couple months ago the same poll had her ahead 61 percent to 30 percent.

Sanders nearly beat Clinton in Iowa and he is ahead in New Hampshire by double digits. In a new campaign email, Clinton’s team warned her supporters that Sanders had raised more money than her.

We just learned that the Sanders campaign raised $5 million more than ours did in January, and they raised another $3 million in a single day after the Iowa caucus.

This was the first month in the 2016 race in which Sanders surpassed Clinton in financial contributions.

Sanders has been very effective in defining Clinton as the establishment candidate and continually reminding voters of her cozy Wall Street connections. As for her email scandal, at this point Sanders doesn’t have to do anything but watch it unfold.

Most voters would still place money on Clinton securing the Democratic nomination, but with Sanders’ momentum, they would perhaps not wager quite as much. 

Email Scandal Spin: No, Hillary, Powell and Rice Didn't 'Do It Too'


Team Clinton seized on this report yesterday, claiming it was an email scandal "game-changer" that shifts the terrain of a controversy that has plagued Hillary's campaign for months. It is, and does, nothing of the sort, for reasons we'll address in a moment. First, the basics, via Politico:

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell said the FBI has contacted him about his use of personal email when he was the nation's top diplomat, as a review conducted by the State Department inspector general concluded that Powell and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice both received classified information through private email accounts...The State Department inquiry identified 10 messages sent to Rice's immediate staff that were classified and two sent to Powell, according to Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the ranking member on the House Oversight and Benghazi committees. The emails, Cummings said, appear to have no classification markings, and it is still unclear if the content of the emails was or should have been considered classified when the emails were originally written and sent. In an interview with POLITICO Thursday. Powell vigorously disputed the sensitivity of the information sent to him through personal email, but he acknowledged the law enforcement interest in his email routine. "The FBI has come to us," Powell said. Two FBI agents visited Powell in December for a discussion an aide described as a casual conversation about email practices during his term as secretary from 2001 to 2005...Powell seemed exasperated by State's latest claim. The agency has designated the two messages "Confidential," which is the lowest tier of classification. "Now, 11 or 12 years later, as part of a whole process of reviewing things somebody in the department says, 'Well, they're classified.' My response to that is no they were not," Powell said. " You can say your judgment is they should have been classified but at the time they were not classified.

Hillary pounced on this development at last night's Democratic debate, expressing "100 percent" confidence that this email nuisance will come to nothing in the end:


Nothing to see here, she assures nervous Democrats, casting the ongoing and expanded FBI investigation as a mere formality. A few points:

(1) Yesterday evening, Hillary said, "I never sent or received any classified material," without her (legally irrelevant) "marked" caveat. This is a flat falsehood. It is an established fact that she personally sent and received classified material. The State Department's review has discovered more than 1,600 classified emails on her server thus far, with another batch still outstanding -- to say nothing of the 32,000 messages she unilaterally deleted, some of which we now know did pertain to official business.

(2) She also blames this controversy on the issue of retroactive classification, which Powell complains about, too. This gripe may apply to some of Hillary's emails, and to both of Powell's, but Hillary is being deeply disingenuous here. The nonpartisan IC Inspector General has determined that a number of her classified emails were absolutely classified at the time they originated, including top secret and beyond-top-secret intelligence. There was nothing "retroactive" about these classifications. News organizations have also confirmed that scores of her emails were, in fact, classified at the time. It was her duty to identify and protect highly sensitive information, regardless of markings, a responsibility she acknowledged and swore to uphold upon assuming office:


(3) "See? Condi and Colin did it, too!" relies on a thoroughly bogus equivalency.  Above all else, neither Rice nor Powell set up and used a recklessly unsecure private emails server on which they conducted all of their official business, against "clear cut rules" implemented in 2005.  (A former CIA director and Secretary of Defense have each stated that her vulnerable server was likely penetrated by foreign powers like the Russians and Chinese).  This review identified ten -- total -- emails that have now been assigned retroactive, low-level classification levels.  Only two of them went to then-Secretary of State Powell, with the others going to Rice's aides, and both of those are now classified at the lowest level ("confidential").  As mentioned above, Hillary's server contained 1,600 classified emails and counting, including the most sensitive level of intelligence in existence (SAP, beyond-top-secret).  There is no comparison between the conduct of Hillary Clinton and that of her immediate predecessors.  Beyond her exclusive use of an improper and unsecure server, Sec. Clinton was personally and specifically warned about the vulnerability of her email scheme in 2011, when a State Department security expert sounded the alarm over foreign hackers seeking to infiltrate US secrets by targeting high-ranking officials' private emails.  Mrs. Clinton carried on with her arrangement anyway.

In summary, Hillary Clinton's server is the scandal.  It's possible that Rice's aides and Sec. Powell may have acted improperly (though the email rules were set forth after Powell left office).  They may have been sloppy with a small number of low-level classified information on an ad hoc basis.  The rules and laws pertaining to the US government's data security must be followed.  By everyone.  But Clinton mishandled hundreds upon hundreds of classified emails, which held state secrets at the highest classification levels.  In fact, just this week, the State Department deemed another seven Clinton emails too sensitive to release in any form, even with redactions, bringing that total to 29.  Intelligence officials who've seen some of the documents in question say they betray operational intelligence, the leakage of which puts covert missions and lives at risk.  A former NSA official has intelligence community sources who say Clinton's emails included the true identities of CIA operatives and assets, including foreign nationals working for the agency.  Unlike Powell and Rice, Mrs. Clinton exhibited ongoing gross negligence by exposing reams of sensitive and classified intelligence to foreign governments.  She ignored her sworn duty to safeguard secrets, "marked and unmarked," and declined to alter her behavior after she was admonished of an explicit vulnerability pertaining to personal email use.  And unlike Powell and Rice, Hillary has consistently lied about this scandal.  Her smug assertion that the (twice expanded) FBI investigation won't go anywhere amounts to waving a red flag in front of career investigators and intelligence officials, who are reportedly fuming over her irresponsible, and likely criminal, conduct.  Remember, the probe reportedly entails more than just her email misconduct, Gen. David Petraeus was charged for classified intelligence spillage that was far more limited and contained, and a former US Attorney General says there's already sufficient evidence to justify an indictment.  Clinton seems confident that her political power and privilege will shield her from accountability in the end, sending a less-than-subtle message to the Justice Department, which has already been influenced by two public White House statements. I'll leave you with an interesting point from Gabriel Malor:


Parting thought: Colin Powell says the FBI has contacted him about his two "confidential" messages sent prior to the revamped email rules being established.  Hillary Clinton recently claimed she hasn't been interviewed by the FBI in connection to its serious and growing probe that focuses on her practices. Is that still true?

Des Moines Register: The Democratic Iowa Caucus ‘Was A Debacle’

You heard about the suspicions within the Democratic caucuses in Iowa Monday night. Delegates being assigned to Clinton over Sanders via coin tosses and 90 precincts having irregular voting counts. In the words of Donald Trump, it was a "total disaster," and the Des Moines Register  seems to have agreed:

What happened Monday night at the Democratic caucuses was a debacle, period. Democracy, particularly at the local party level, can be slow, messy and obscure. But the refusal to undergo scrutiny or allow for an appeal reeks of autocracy.

[…]

First of all, the results were too close not to do a complete audit of results. Two-tenths of 1 percent separated Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. A caucus should not be confused with an election, but it’s worth noting that much larger margins trigger automatic recounts in other states.

Second, too many questions have been raised. Too many accounts have arisen of inconsistent counts, untrained and overwhelmed volunteers, confused voters, cramped precinct locations, a lack of voter registration forms and other problems. Too many of us, including members of the Register editorial board who were observing caucuses, saw opportunities for error amid Monday night’s chaos.

The Sanders campaign is rechecking results on its own, going precinct by precinct, and is already finding inconsistencies, said Rania Batrice, a Sanders spokeswoman. The campaign seeks the math sheets or other paperwork that precinct chairs filled out and were supposed to return to the state party. They want to compare those documents to the results entered into a Microsoft app and sent to the party.

“Let’s compare notes. Let’s see if they match,” Batrice said Wednesday.

Dr. Andy McGuire, chairwoman of the Iowa Democratic Party, dug in her heels and said no. She said the three campaigns had representatives in a room in the hours after the caucuses and went over the discrepancies.

McGuire knows what’s at stake. Her actions only confirm the suspicions, wild as they might be, of Sanders supporters. Their candidate, after all, is opposed by the party establishment — and wasn’t even a Democrat a few months ago.

So her path forward is clear: Work with all the campaigns to audit results. Break silly party tradition and release the raw vote totals. Provide a list of each precinct coin flip and its outcome, as well as other information sought by the Register. Be transparent.

During the Democratic debate in New Hampshire last night, Sanders pretty much said that this isn’t the biggest of issues that face the 2016 race right now (via the Hill):

“This is not like a winner-take-all thing. I think where we now stand, correct me if I’m wrong, you have 22 delegates, I have 20 delegates, we need 2,500 delegates to win the nomination," he said, regarding rival Hillary Clinton. "This is not the biggest deal in the world.”

You can read Ed’s take on the matter here.

Tinder Bans Bernie Sanders Supporters Who Were Campaigning on the App

Looks like Bernie Sanders won't be adopting any "swipe right"-themed campaign slogans any time soon. The popular dating/hookup app Tinder has banned two women who would promote Sanders to men they would match with using the app. Apparently, many thought the women were a "bot" (a fake, spam profile) and reported the accounts for their behavior.

Two women - one from Iowa and the other from New Jersey - confirmed to Reuters on Friday that they received notices from Tinder in the previous 24 hours that their accounts were locked because they had been reported too many times for peppering men on the site with messages promoting Sanders' candidacy.

Robyn Gedrich, 23, said she sent messages to 60 people a day for the past two weeks trying to convince them to support the U.S. senator from Vermont in his race for the Democratic nomination against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

"Do you feel the bern?" her message to other Tinder users read, parroting a Sanders campaign slogan. "Please text WORK to 82623 for me. Thanks."

Gedrich, an assistant store manager at retailer Elie Tahari who lives in Brick, New Jersey, said a text would prompt people to start receiving updates from the Sanders campaign, as well as a link where they could sign up and volunteer. She has been unable to sign back into Tinder since logging off on Thursday.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, many of the matches were less-than-thrilled with the Sanders message, and would reply with "Trump 2016."

While it's probably a violation of Tinder's terms-of-service to campaign for a candidate, this is actually a pretty brilliant idea to target the youth demographic. The overwhelming majority of Tinder's users are under the age of 35, and those people vote at a much lower rate than other generations. While it's unlikely that Tinder outreach would do enough to sway an election, it's still a very innovative way to get young voters involved.

The Name "Hillary" Dropped 90 Percent in Popularity While She Was First Lady

While it's normal for baby names to fluctuate in popularity over time, a Michigan State PhD student found that the name "Hillary" dropped 90 percent in popularity during Hillary Clinton's tenure as First Lady. While other names of First Ladies experienced a drop as well, the decline in popularity of the name "Hillary" was unique in that the name was experiencing a surge prior to Bill Clinton's election in 1992. The second-biggest drop in popularity of a First Lady's name was "Laura," during the eight years of the George W. Bush presidency.

When we look at Figure 1 we can see that naming popularity seems to be heavily affected by First Ladies. Most names experienced a steady downward trend in popularity. The name "Rosalynn" is an exception as it peaked in popularity during the Carter administration before falling by the end to have risen in popularity once again.

The name "Hillary" is very unique in this pattern as unlike most names, it was growing rapidly in popularity prior to the Clinton administration. However, early into the Clinton administration the popularity dropped rapidly falling to pre-1980s levels for the name. Except for a small rally in during the 2007/2008 primary campaign against Obama, it has not recovered.

While this is certainly quite silly and doesn't necessarily mean anything, it's strange to think about how many American girls could have potentially been named Hillary if Bill Clinton had lost the 1992 election. Additionally, it would be curious to see if "Melania," "Jane," "Heidi" or "Jeanette" (the spouses of Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio, respectively) experience a surge or drop in popularity in the coming years if their husbands are elected.

Obama Quips That New Low Unemployment Number Is ‘Inconvenient’ For Republican Candidates

“Americans are working,” President Obama proudly declared at a White House press conference Friday morning.

He was referring to the new jobs report that revealed unemployment has dropped to 4.9 percent – the first time it’s fallen below 5 percent in 8 years.

The president also remarked on how his administration has added 14 million new jobs over his tenure and that over the past 6 months wages have risen at an impressive rate. He couldn't help pointing to falling gas prices as well.

After gleefully sharing these new numbers, Obama quipped that the supposedly successful economy is “inconvenient” for Republican stump speeches as the 2016 candidates talk about “doom and gloom.”

“I guess you can’t please everybody,” he said.

Yet, Republicans aren’t the only ones not satisfied with the numbers.  Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have sparred about how to encourage the struggling middle class. Moreover, a majority of Americans continually say they are not happy with the direction America is heading.

As for those unemployment numbers, economists would argue it is more like 9.9 percent.

Oklahoma School Signs Warn: Teachers Are Armed and Will Use Force

In the gun friendly state of Oklahoma, one school isn't messing around when it comes to making criminals think twice. 

In the town of Okay, school district officials have purchased signs that read, "Attention: Please be aware that certain staff members at Okay Public Schools can be legally armed and may use whatever force is necessary to protect our students." The signs are posted outside of schools for everyone to see. 

More on the background for the signs from Muskogee Phoenix writer Harrison Grimwood

The Okay Public Schools Board of Education passed an “Armed School Employees” policy in August. On Monday, the district publicized that policy with signage in front of the school.

“The signs are more or less a deterrent,” Superintendent Charles McMahan said. “We don't want to be a soft target.”

McMahan said his administration looks for ways to keep students safe and secure, particularly since the Okay Police Department was disbanded in December 2014. Although Wagoner County sheriff's deputies are available, McMahan said it is “seconds, not minutes, that matter.”

Student Richard Antosh and several of his peers supported the policy, trusting their teachers should a threat arise.

You can see a photo of the signs here.

There are a number of school districts across the country that have implemented similar carry policies for teachers over the years.

Tremendous: Maryland’s Assault Weapons Ban Could Be Gutted

In deep-blue Maryland, there are 45 types of firearms that are prohibited under its assault weapons ban, along with so-called high-capacity magazines. Now, a federal court has asked that the statute be reviewed under stricter legal standard. These are baby steps. The lower courts are now tasked with reviewing the law again, but the ban is still in place until another judgment is rendered (via WaPo):

The 2-to-1 decision by a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit sends the gun-control law back to a lower court for review, but allows the existing ban to remain in place.

Chief Judge William B. Traxler Jr., writing for the majority, found that the Maryland law “significantly burdens the exercise of the right to arm oneself at home” and should have been analyzed using a more stringent legal standard.

[…]

The Maryland law was challenged by a group of gun-store owners and individuals who said the prohibited firearms are not military weapons and are used for lawful purposes such as self-defense, target practice and hunting.

Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D), who helped pass the law as a state senator, said Thursday that the court majority got it wrong.

“I think it’s just common sense that the Second Amendment does not give people a right to own military-style assault weapons,” he said.

In a strongly worded dissent, Judge Robert B. King wrote: “Let’s be real: The assault weapons banned by Maryland’s [law] are exceptionally lethal weapons of war” and as such, he said, not necessarily protected by the Second Amendment.

Bob Owens noted that this could impact the legality of assault weapons bans from other anti-gun states as well. The National Shooting Sports Foundation voiced their support in a statement released yesterday:

“We are greatly heartened by the Fourth Circuit panel's ruling today," said Lawrence G. Keane, Senior Vice President and General Counsel, National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), one of the lead plaintiffs in this case. "As this important case goes forward, NSSF will continue to work with our co-plaintiffs to ensure that our citizens' Second Amendment rights are protected and that the lawful commerce in firearms is restored in support of this constitutional protection."

Liberals keep twisting themselves into pretzels over these so-called assault weapons, which are a figment of the liberal imagination. It looks scary–that’s their argument. An AR-15 rifle has the same operating system as a handgun. They’re both semi-automatics, meaning they self-reload upon discharging a round. Hundreds of millions of these firearms are in circulation. Now, an assault rifle that has the ability to fire multiple rounds per trigger pull (aka automatic) I guess would fit the “weapons of war” term gun control wingnuts use often to curtail Second Amendment liberties. Even with this class of weapons, a civilian can own them if they pay for the tax stamp issued by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; the background check for that usually takes anywhere from 8 months to over a year.

Regardless, let’s see what happens.

Here’s a copy of the opinion via Legal Insurrection:

Kolbe v. Hogan Opinion

So Apparently Sanders Won A Few Coin Tosses in Iowa, Too

After reports surfaced out of the Iowa caucuses that Hillary Clinton went six-for-six in coin tosses to decide delegates, many, including this reporter, raised their eyebrows as to how on earth someone could have such incredible luck. As it turns out, her luck wasn't so great after all: the initial reports of her six-for-six victories were incorrect, and Bernie Sanders actually won quite a few delegates via coin toss as well. According to the Washington Post, each candidate won about 50 percent of the coin tosses.

Here's a video showing Sanders winning a delegate in Hardin Township after a coin flip:

While it's somewhat comforting that Clinton isn't some kind of wizard with the ability to make statistical improbabilities turn in her favor, it is incredibly uncomfortable that both political parties place so much importance on the Iowa caucuses. The presidential nominating process should never be reduced to a coin flip. The caucus system is outdated and should be replaced.

Barbara Bush: Women ‘Knew’ What Trump Meant By Megyn Kelly Comments

Barbara Bush, you’ll remember, said two years ago that “we’ve had enough Bushes” in the White House. She changed her tune last February. Now, she has made her endorsement even more official by joining her son Jeb on the campaign trail in New Hampshire this week to try and convince voters that the former Florida governor is the best man for the job.

At one point, Mrs. Bush defined her son as the “nicest, wisest, most caring” candidate in the race.

Is this really the best strategy though? After all, Donald Trump has been successful in questioning Jeb’s ability to be a strong leader, calling him “weak” and “low energy.”

In an interview with CBS’ Norah O’Donnell, Mrs. Bush insisted someone with such bully-like behavior is not fit to be commander-in-chief. In particular, she criticized the businessman’s treatment of women.

"I mean, unbelievable. I don't know how women can vote for someone who said what he said about Megyn Kelly," she said. "And we knew what he meant too!"

Mrs. Bush was referring to Trump’s insulting the Fox News journalist by saying she had “blood coming out of her wherever” during the first GOP presidential debate when the moderator asked him about his past demeaning comments about women. He insisted he meant Kelly’s nose was bleeding, but some women like Barbara Bush beg to differ and are of the mind he meant something a bit cruder.

Jeb’s brother, former President George W. Bush, also added his voice to Jeb’s campaign. Number 43 appeared in a new TV ad highlighting Jeb’s resume.

"Jeb will unite our country. He knows how to bring the world together against terror. He knows when tough measures must be taken,” Bush adds. “Experience and judgment count in the Oval Office. Jeb Bush is a leader who will keep our country safe."

Will Jeb gain momentum now that he is getting more help from his family?

I’m curious if, after Mrs. Bush’s comments especially, if Trump will dare to call her even half the names he calls her son. 

Despite Pressure ABC News Doesn't Budge, Refuses to Allow Carly Fiorina to Debate Saturday

ABC News announced the lineup for Saturday's GOP presidential debate in Manchester late Thursday evening. Seven candidates will take the stage just three days before the New Hampshire primary. For Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina will not be one of them despite beating rivals John Kasich and Chris Christie in the Iowa caucus. She's also beating Dr. Ben Carson in New Hampshire polling. 

Fiorina is responding with accusations the "game is rigged."

"I’ve been telling you the game is rigged. And here’s even more proof: The people of Iowa voted in an election this week, and I beat the establishment’s guys. Tens of thousands of you stood with us yesterday to demand a fair debate. But Disney’s ABC and the RNC have decided to keep me off the debate stage this weekend, caving to pressure from the same establishment candidates we beat who are afraid to debate me," Fiorina sent out in a campaign email Friday morning. "This isn’t about me. It’s about you. It’s about the people of New Hampshire who are about to vote. This is emblematic of the power that is being taken away from you every day?—?by the political class, the media establishment, and the bureaucracy. They don’t want your votes to count. They don’t want your voice to be heard. The network of George Stephanopoulos wants to tell you to sit down and shut up and elect Hillary Clinton."

"Well, guess what? ABC and the RNC and other candidates may keep me off that stage. But I will not be silenced. Our government is broken, and we know the establishment isn’t going to fix it. It’s time to stand together and say we won’t back down," she continued.

Yesterday New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and former GOP Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney publicly advocated on Fiorina's behalf.