'Humor:' Hillary Does SNL

Hillary Clinton's planned spontaneity tour brought her to NBC's Studio 8H this weekend for a widely-reported guest appearance on Saturday Night Live. This sketch provides a few laughs, and lots of cringeworthy awkwardness, particularly during the musical number:

Unsurprisingly, fake Hillary is funnier and more charming than the real deal -- who also seems almost genetically incapable of singing, or even snapping, along with "lean on me."  Clinton's self-depricating jokes fall into two categories: I'm perceived as a little uptight, and I should have adopted more liberal issue stances, sooner.  Hilarious.  Former SNL mainstay Tina Fey wrote in her memoirs that when prominent figures appear on the show  to signal that they're 'in on the joke' (she calls these bits "sneaker uppers"), it usually results in unfunny writing: "Comedy writers hate Sneaker Uppers. On a pure writing level, it's just lame.  But like other lame things…people seem to love it," Fey writes.  And so it came to pass.  Vague lameness, endured gamely by talented comic Kate McKinnon -- who's stated publicly that she's "obviously" rooting for Hillary in 2016 -- and marginally improved by a brief cameo from Darrell Hammond as Bill.  The whole vibe of the segment, alongside a number of ham-fisted 'Weekend Update' jokes, wasn't subtle:

Yeah, pretty much. The Daily Beast's Kevin Fallon describes the episode as "basically a Hillary Clinton campaign ad,' which is difficult to dispute.  The inherent comedic lameness of thinly-disguised, barely-amusing political boosterism is self evident, but much like Hillary's televised advertising to date, one suspects it wasn't especially effective.  Generating more laughs, as opposed to "clapter," would have required tackling Hillary's obvious weakness: The poll-battering, credibility-draining, national security-compromising email scandal -- about which Mrs. Clinton evidently isn't joking anymore.  Recent national surveys show that a majority of voters hold an unfavorable view of the Democratic frontrunner, with an even larger percentage deeming her to be untrustworthy.  Perhaps "Val" would fare better, but unless the current trajectory is disrupted, Democrats will be stuck with the real Hillary Clinton.

Coast Guard Believes the El Faro Sank in Storm

The container ship El Faro, with 28 Americans and five Poles on board, lost contact on Thursday en route to Puerto Rico from Jacksonville, FL. The ship sent out a distress call saying that she had lost power and was taking on water. Today, the Coast Guard announced that they believe the ship sank during Hurricane Joaquin.

As of writing, no members of the crew have been discovered, but a large debris field of cargo and an oil slick consistent with El Faro were found over the weekend. The search for survivors continues. The El Faro was equipped with state-of-the-art lifeboats and abandon ship drills are conducted weekly.

A horrible tragedy. Please pray for the crew and their families.

UPDATE: Per the USCG press conference Monday at 10 EDT, one set of human remains (in a survival suit) has been discovered as well as one life raft, which was empty. The remains have not been identified as of now. The search for any survivors continues.

New Poll: Fiorina Gains on Trump, Soars to Second in New Hampshire

Voters in New Hampshire have taken notice of Carly Fiorina's stellar debate performances and campaigning on the ground in the Granite State. 

According to a new NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll released over the weekend, Fiorina has surged to second place and has gained significant ground against frontrunner Donald Trump. Since last month, Fiorina has gained 10 percent among voters while Trump has seen a seven percent drop in support. Senator Marco Rubio has seen a seven percent jump in support. 

Fiorina is also topping the field as voters' favorite second choice. 

The new numbers are also an indication Trump's personal attacks about Fiorina's physical appearance have failed.

The next GOP presidential debate will be held Wednesday, October 28 at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

School Shooting Plot Foiled In California

Four students have been arrested for planning to commit a mass shooting at their school, according to USA Today:

Among the evidence, deputies said they found a list of the names of the targeted victims. Tuolumne County Sheriff Jim Mele said the students confessed.

When asked what they said, Mele responded: "that they were going to come on campus and shoot and kill as many people as possible."

The suspects were taken into custody Saturday and attended Summerville High School in Tuolumne, California. These arrests come after Chris Harper-Mercer committed a similar act of horror at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon last week. Mercer killed nine people in the attack before committing suicide after engaging with police.

As it’s been previously reported by The New York Times, perpetrators of mass shootings fit a profile, though it’s one that’s also shared by million of other Americans who don’t commit acts of violence. Most of the firearms used in these attacks are purchased legally, and often the shooters exhibit symptoms of mental illness. Furthermore, the perpetrators sometimes specifically target individuals, like with this foiled plot, or shoot their victims at random, which makes detection of something that’s already unpredictable more difficult.

In this instance, an alert student body alerted the authorities when they overheard the four suspects detailing their plans for this horrific attack (via the Modesto Bee):

No weapons were found, but Mele said the students were in the process of trying to obtain some to carry out the attack.

“(They were) pretty dog-gone close. (Close) enough to keep me up last night, to keep my detectives and lieutenants up last night. There was an event that would be coming up that they specifically talked about,” Mele said. “To talk about specifically what, I don’t want to, but enough to move forward ... that we took four children away from their homes in order to protect other children.”

Mele said he did not know the motive for the planned attack, though he said bullying and cyber-bullying continues to be a problem on campuses across the country. He also addressed the issue of violence in the media.

“I have no idea why a group of individuals would want to do this,” he said. “When we turn on the TV, violence is always on, or at our fingertips on the computer. I think children today have a hard time trying to understand the difference between what is reality and fiction. To say why, I don’t know why. I do know the discussion needs to start not only in our community, but throughout the nation, about what can we do to stop this violence.”

Assistant District Attorney Eric Hovatter said his office will collect the information about the case from the sheriff’s department at the beginning of the week and begin to decide what charges will be filed. The four suspects will be arraigned as juveniles before a Tuolumne County Superior Court Judge.

Nevertheless, good police work, Tuolumne County. Many lives were saved.

Even Vox Says That Mass Shootings Are ‘A Small Portion Of All Gun Violence’

In the aftermath of the horrific Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, the reaction from the pro-gun control crowd was as expected–the NRA is a terrorist organization, and we should have a nationwide gun control campaign. The former point is just plain absurdity. The latter is already happening, albeit with zero success. Mark Kelly, the husband of former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ), is already spewing the false “40 percent of gun sales are conducted without background check” talking point. Yet, while the data crunchers keep doling out information about mass shootings, even the left-leaning Vox admitted that mass shootings represents a very small proportion of all gun violence. Violent crime and gun deaths have gone down again, and this narrative that the county has a gun violence epidemic doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. 

The article’s articles second, third and fifth points about how gun violence in America detail the typical points espoused by the president and other gun control advocates. Australia is the gold standard for new gun control laws, Americans support gun control measures, but Congress prevents them from being enacted, and more guns equals more deaths. As the National Review noted through information obtained through Pew Research and the National Institute of Justice, the last point simply isn’t true. Moreover, David Freddosso at the Washington Examiner aptly noted that the data used by gun control zealots often detail overall gun deaths in America, not those specifically attributed to a violent incident.

Regarding Australia’s gun control laws, which the anti-gun left salivates over, it’s not going to happen here. It’s straight-up gun confiscation, which would require federal agents going door-to-door asking people disarm themselves. You’re on bath salts if this is within the realm of possibility. The point about Americans supporting stricter gun laws isn’t true either. According to Pew, gun rights are at a 25-year high–and Gallup noted that support for new gun control laws has sunk to 47 percent since Newtown. 

The Pew data used in the Vox piece was right after Newtown, where support for anything relating to gun control was higher than usual. While the National Rifle Association we’re getting their teeth kicked in during this time, the irony is that one of their policies–having armed guards in schools–was immensely popular. Bans on high-capacity magazines are impossible to enforce, with millions are already in circulation. It’s window dressing and fundraising fodder for the anti-gun left. Most striking was the 39/58 split in support for a ban on semi-automatic weapons. This strikes me as a wording issue with the poll, and members of the news media are show their ignorance when they say a semi-automatic handgun was discovered at crime scene x in news reports.

All handguns for civilian use are semi-automatic, or self-reloading, weapons systems. In short, semi-automatic weapons require the shooter to pull the trigger each time in order to discharge a round. An automatic weapon shoots multiple rounds per trigger pull, and those weapons are an entirely different story regarding ownership.

Civilians may own such firearms, though that person would need to get a permit from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives via the National Firearms Act, which takes almost a year to process. Additionally, all registered firearms are in a database maintained by the ATF. Banning semi-automatic weapons is a gun ban. Period. And there would be very little support for a policy if the pollster knew, or explained, the difference between automatic and semi-automatic firearms.

Yet, as I’ve mentioned before, let’s not freak out about the gun control people coming out of the bushes with their malarkey. We’ve been here before post-Newtown, where there could have been a major push to curb Second Amendment rights–nothing happened. Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly’s efforts to curb gun rights have failed. Moms Demand Action and Everytown have failed. We’ve stopped the president, and this issue does nothing more than fractures his party in Congress.

Final Note: Ian Mercer, the father of the Chris Harper-Mercer, says that guns are to blame, not his son, for the horrific Oregon shooting. As Caleb Howe of Right Scoop  wrote, “To repeat, the man who is the parent of the murderer is blaming gov’t for not preventing his child from becoming a murderer.”

The Associated Press unsurprisingly reported that Harper-Mercer showed little sympathy during his senseless attack. Yet, Jazz noted that all of the firearms recovered were purchased legally. Mercer was never in troubled with the law, nor was he mentally adjudicated. He would have passed background checks for all 14 firearms. So, expansion of background checks isn't a serious starting point.

Also, The New York Times  reported that these incidents are hard to detect, as most of the perpetrators fit a profile can be applied to millions of Americans, and yet they don’t commit mass murder. They also added that most of the guns purchased in these mass shootings were legal, and that many exhibited signs of mental illness.

Those who study these types of mass murderers have found that they are almost always male (all but two of the 160 cases isolated by Dr. Duwe). Most are single, separated or divorced. The majority are white. With the exception of student shooters at high schools or lower schools, they are usually older than the typical murderer, often in their 30s or 40s.

They vary in ideology. They generally have bought their guns legally. Many had evidence of mental illness, particularly those who carried out random mass killings. But others did not, and most people with mental illness are not violent.

They do not fit in. Their most comfortable companion is themselves. According to Dr. Fox, mass killers tend to be “people in social isolation with a lack of support systems to help them through hard times and give them a reality check.”

“They have a history of frustration,” he went on. “They externalize blame. Nothing is ever their fault. They blame other people even if other people aren’t to blame. They see themselves as good guys mistreated by others.”

Jeffrey Swanson, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Duke University School of Medicine, said these individuals often feel they do not belong, yet frequently live in “smaller town settings where belonging really matters.”

Mr. Harper-Mercer showed signs of such isolation and despair. Like others, he appeared smitten by past mass killers. “They see them as heroes,” Dr. Fox said. “Someone who wins one for the little guy.”

The article then goes on to list the personality traits from previous mass shooters, how they target their victims, some of which are completely random, while others, like Dylann Roof and Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez–sought members of the African-American community or American military servicemen. As the Times noted, “With many of the killers, the signs are of anger and disappointment and solitude,” but like gun confiscation, we’re not going to have federal agents round up young, angry, American men. 

As for those who wish to see something done, there are cases where the experts and those in Washington have no solutions (yet), though they may act like they have one. Don’t fall for it; no one has a serious policy to curb mass shootings. That's why we need to have a debate about this that doesn't end up devolving into a discussion about gun bans. Then again, we may have already reached that point; Obama is using the UK, Australia model in official remarks.

Rumor Mill: Boehner Might Postpone House Leadership Elections

Via Politico, there are rumors that outgoing Speaker of the House John Boehner might postpone elections for the House Majority Leader and Whip in order to quell unrest within the Republican Conference.  If this were to happen, only the vote for speaker would happen this Thursday. Yet, as of now, all leadership elections are still on, according to Boehner’s office.

There is serious unrest in the House Republican Conference, and delaying the elections might give more time for the mood to settle, according to sources involved in the planning.

But the move would also give the right wing of the conference more time to find a candidate to run against Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise and Georgia Rep. Tom Price.

"There is a broad interesting in discussing rule changes before we discuss leadership changes," Mulvaney and Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Ohio) said. "Conservatives and centrists alike are interested in changing the structure of the way the conference is run and the way the House is operated. If we move immediately into leadership elections, we may not have time to have the debate."

Boehner (R-Ohio) has not yet agreed to a delay, but he will discuss it with fellow leaders Monday and Tuesday.

"All leadership elections remain on Thursday," said Kevin Smith, a spokesman for the speaker.

Speaker Boehner is set to resign his speakership and his seat in Congress on October 30. He had planned to serve on through the end of last year, but former Rep. Eric Cantor’s defeat to David Brat changed the whole agenda, according to Boehner’s office. The speaker also thought of the institution as well, and how a prolonged battle over who would replace him would do irreparable damage to the office.

As Guy pointed out on Friday, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) has tossed his hat into the House speakership ring, challenging the favored Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA).

The Greatest Assassination Plot in History Comes to Life in New Book, "Operation Long Jump"

In October 1943, Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Josef Stalin had a rare meeting in Tehran. But the Nazis had another plan for the gathering of the Allied forces: Operation Long Jump, a complex plan to track the men in Iran’s capital and assassinate all three at the same time, winning the war for Hitler and drastically changing the course of world history.

Townhall had a chance to catch up with author and historian Bill Yenne, who brought this much-forgotten and incredible piece of history to life in “Operation Long Jump: Stalin, Roosevelt, Churchill, and the Greatest Assassination Plot in History.” Below you’ll find an inside look at what his inspiration for writing the book was, some surprising pieces of history discovered along the way, and why the story has all the dimensions of a blockbuster hit.

Townhall: You’ve written a number of books on World War II already, was the idea for this developed while doing research for these other books?

Yenne: Yeah, I guess everything flows together, so research I’ve done in the past has led me to pick up a lot of random tidbits for later use and this is something that I crossed the threads of a number of times and it struck my interest.

Townhall: Everyone knows about the successful assassinations of our U.S. presidents but when it comes to attempts like this one they’re hardly known at all—why is that?

Yenne: Well, I think that unsuccessful assassinations tend to be like other events that might’ve happened but didn’t and they just sort of fade away. … But there’s a lot of reasons why this particular conspiracy got overlooked. One of the things [Roosevelt] said was that there were hundreds of German agents running around the city and if they got all three of us it would’ve been a ‘pretty good haul’. He also said to the press with a twinkle in his eye “Well, there’s no use going into it.” I think that is an incredible statement, equally incredible from our own perspective in the 20th century is that the press didn’t go into it and I cite that in my discourse of this thing. They had their plates full because this was the middle of World War II, there were a lot of things to cover and so that was one reason that they probably didn’t, another was that Tehran was halfway around the world and in a place that was virtually inaccessible to the average reporter. The only flights in and out were military flights, although a lot of reporters were given access to military flights during the war, but it was a long way away and ... [also] the level of censorship was very, very dense, so a reporter who seriously wanted to pursue the story would’ve run into that. Another aspect of that is the fact that the assassination attempt was foiled not through the heroism of the Allied secret services, but through a convoluted series of clumsy almost accidents, which unfold in the book, and that made it nothing for the Allies to brag about. Meanwhile, the Germans, well they didn’t want to brag about something that they failed at and some of the key players were in allied custody after the war. ... Laid over the top of all of that, there was the Official Secrets Act of the UK, the impenetrable wall of secrecy in the Soviet Union; in fact, some of the most tantalizing tidbits that came out that I crossed paths with as I was gathering items for the book were accounts by former Soviet agents who were on the ground at the time and after the fall of the Soviet Union they started to go public with some of what they knew.

Townhall: If Roosevelt felt then that there was "no use going into details" about the foiled operation, why should people care about it now?

Yenne: On the one hand you like to know about secret things that happened in the past, people are always tantalized by those kinds of things, and I’m addressing that audience pretty heavily. And people just love conspiracies [laughing] … and I think the practical aspect of it is the history of protecting high profile people in public situations. Anybody who has deconstructed the Kennedy assassination has been able to point out all of the myriad errors committed by the secret service there, and then even in the last couple of years we have had several incidents where people got into the White House, or got across the White House fence, so I think these things are always of interest and I think there’s something that these protective agencies need to be aware of and we need to understand.

Townhall: You said that in many ways the operation had stranger than fiction twists and turns, which makes me think it’d be great on the big screen. Do you think we’ll ever see a movie come out of this?

Yenne: You’re just singing to the choir. I would love to see it on the big screen, but you know, when it comes to putting it on the big screen that’s not a decision for me to make. ... Oh, I think it would be great, I think it would be a fantastic big screen film, it’s got all of the aspects of it, it’s got romance, it’s got comedy, it’s got, well, I guess it really doesn’t have a car chase [laughing].

Townhall: Was there anything you discovered in your research that surprised you?

Yenne: I guess there were a number of things that surprised me. I don’t know that there's one huge thing, but in the earlier chapters I got into details about how thoroughly involved in Iran the Germans were before the war. As you’ll notice, the first picture in the photo section is an autographed picture of Adolf Hitler that was given to the Shah of Iran. So when you've got Hitler and the Shah exchanging autographed pictures, and it wasn’t just that, it was many things. The Germans ran the airlines, they had built the railroad, they were Iran’s biggest international trading partner. Most of the dyes that went into Persian rugs came from German chemical companies—the Germans were just so totally invested in Iran before the war and so that allowed there to be this network of agents and safe houses and there was a large pro-German contingent within the Iranian armed forces. Another aspect that they don’t teach us in school about World War II is this German presence in Iran was such that the British and the Soviets in 1941, when they had a lot of bigger fish to fry, actually invested in an invasion and occupation of Iran and that was to curb the threat behind the lines of the German influence in Iran. I had known it existed but when I started to learn the depth of that involvement and then that it was only the British and Soviet occupation that curbed that and took Iran out of the potential part of the war, the Iranians, the pro-German Iranians totally expected that the German armies when they advanced into the Soviet Union would come into Iran and throw the British and Russians out of that country as well. So that was surprising, that and the knowledge of how close this assassination plot came to being successful.

Townhall: Finally, is there anything else you’d like our readers to know?

Yenne: Well, I would hope that they would find it a great deal of fun to read. There’s a lot of information, things I’ve already mentioned, that is not widely known, and students of history like to read about things that reveal dimensions of familiar events which are obscure and, as you have pointed out to my pleasure, that it is also a very cinematic adventure story, and I would hope that people would read it and enjoy it. 

For more information on the book and how you can purchase it please click here.

Conservatives Ban 'Militant left-Wing' Israeli Boycotts

MANCHESTER, United Kingdom – British Conservatives are planning to make it impossible for public bodies to pursue boycotts of Israeli products. The move comes after Town Halls across the UK began effectively dictating foreign policy by voting to stop buying from Israeli companies.

From now on only countries that have been subject to official sanctions from the UK government can be boycotted. On the eve of their annual conference in Manchester a Conservative statement warned of risks to the “economic and national security” of the country from “municipal militancy”.
The ban will come into force in the shape of new rules on procurement for local authorities. There will also be rules governing council pension funds so they cannot avoid Israeli firms and UK defense contractors if they represent a good investment.
The move comes amidst growing concern over the militant actions of left-wing councils, spurred on by trade unions and the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Conservatives claim these actions threaten to “poison community relations” and “harm Britain’s economic and international interests”. The ban is likely to be just one of a raft of policies, announced during the conference, aimed at exposing Corbyn as a threat to national security and peace in the Middle East.
The Labour leader has already spent a week defending his position on wanting to abolish Britain's nuclear deterrent, Trident. Corbyn also described himself as a “friend” to Hamas and Hezbollah, prompting concerns he is not on Britain's side in most international disputes. He is a patron of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which is encouraging boycotts across the country.
Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, said: “Divisive policies undermine good community relations, and harm the economic security of families by pushing up council tax. We need to challenge and prevent the politics of division. Conservatives will provide the stable, competent and sensible Government that working people want to see.”
There have already been a raft of Israeli boycotts across UK local government. In November 2014, Labour run Leicester City Council passed a policy to boycott goods produced in Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Jewish groups have recently launched a judicial review against the council’s decision, asking the courts to rule on its legality. They warned the policy “amounts to a get-of-out-town order to Leicester Jews���.
In January this year, Labour councillors on Nottingham City Council debated a boycott against Israel, the council resolved to consider the issue further and “work with the Nottingham Palestine Solidarity Campaign”.
Matthew Hancock, Minister for the Cabinet Office, said: “We will take steps to stop such outdated policies being pursued through procurement and pension policies. We will safeguard the security of families at home and prevent such playground politics undermining our international security.”
Earlier this year Alex Brummer, from the British Board of Jewish Deputies, said: “Importing foreign conflicts into our local communities causes real friction on the ground and does nothing to promote peace elsewhere.”
Not every public body has taken a left-wing position when making their own foreign policy. Shortly after 9/11 the University of Reading Students' Union declared war on Iraq, only to be told by the Foreign Office they had no right to do so. Unlike the students at Reading University the boycotts of Israel are doing real economic harm.

Names of The Oregon Shooting Victims Have Been Released

Chris Harper-Mercer, the man who engaged in a senseless act of carnage at Umpqua Community College this week, took the lives of nine people. We know now from the medical examiner’s report that Mercer killed himself on the day of the horrific attack. Police had engaged Mercer–wounding him–but he was able to get away, according to The New York Times. He suffered a self-inflicted wound shortly thereafter and died in the ambulance en route to the hospital. Additionally, 14 firearms recovered in this investigation, six at the school and an additional seven at the Mercer’s residence, according to CNN. We also know the names of Mercer’s victims. The ages range from 18 to 67:

Those killed are Lucero Alcaraz, 19; Treven Taylor Anspach, 20; Rebecka Ann Carnes, 18; Quinn Glen Cooper, 18; Kim Saltmarsh Dietz, 59; Lucas Eibel, 18; Jason Dale Johnson, 34; Lawrence Levine, 67; and Sarena Dawn Moore, 44.

You can read more about their profiles here.

CNN added that Mercer was enrolled at the school, taking two courses in English and theater. As to the motive, that remains murky, though he appears to have been on angry individual, with mental health issues:

The writings include ramblings about his racial animus toward black people and general feelings of anger about being isolated and unable to make relationships, law enforcement officials briefed on the investigation told CNN.

Two officials said that after the shooting, the gunman's family told investigators that he suffered from mental health issues and had sought treatment.

The writings also reflect an apparent fascination with the Irish Republican Army, one law enforcement official said. A MySpace page believed to belong to the gunman, which included photos of him, included photos of IRA posters.

But investigators so far have found no indication he was linked with any organized groups.

The Times  reported that he was into gun and hunting, visited the range with his mother regularly, but didn’t take much about his personal life. On a side note, there are millions of Americans who own multiple firearms and go to the range and DON’T commit mass shootings:

Mr. Harper-Mercer collected handguns and rifles, and he regularly went to a shooting range with his mother, said neighbors in Torrance, Calif., where the two lived until moving to Oregon in 2013. At a barbecue shortly before they left, Mr. Harper-Mercer spent hours talking with a next-door neighbor about guns and how he and his mother were excited to leave Los Angeles and get a fresh start.

“When we talked about guns and hunting, he was real open about it,” said the neighbor, Louie Flores, 32. “But anything about what was going on in his life, he really didn’t say too much at all.”


After his parents divorced when he was about 16, he lived with his mother, Laurel Harper, a nurse who fiercely protected him from, among other things, the neighborhood sounds of loud children and barking dogs. Once, neighbors said, she went door to door with a petition to get the landlord to exterminate cockroaches in her apartment, saying they bothered her son.

“She said, ‘My son is dealing with some mental issues, and the roaches are really irritating him,’ ” Julia Winstead, 55, said. “She said they were going to go stay in a motel. Until that time, I didn’t know she had a son.”

He was listed as a 2009 graduate of the Switzer Learning Center in Torrance, a private school for students with learning disabilities, emotional issues and other special-education needs. Officials from the school declined to comment on Friday. Mr. Harper-Mercer joined the Army for a month in 2008 but was discharged before finishing basic training.

From other accounts, Mercer was reclusive and unfriendly:

One night, the Flores family, the next-door neighbors, were watching a movie when Mr. Harper-Mercer knocked on the door.

“He said: ‘Can you turn that down? Your TV is really loud,” Esther Flores said. “And he just had that look. No smile, nothing. And he just turned and walked away. My husband didn’t even have a chance to respond.”


In Winchester, Ore., Mr. Harper-Mercer and his mother shared an apartment in a dun-colored building that sat roped off behind police tape on Thursday evening, guarded by sheriff’s deputies who shooed away reporters.

Bronte Hart, a neighbor who said she lived in an apartment below Mr. Harper-Mercer’s, described a more assertive young man than his former neighbors in California did. Far from avoiding social interaction, she said, he frequently shouted at her for smoking on her balcony.

“He yelled at us, me and my husband,” said Ms. Hart, who lives with her husband and father. “He was not a friendly type of guy. He did not want anything to do with anyone.”

It’s clear that Mercer had problems. The extend of which we will know in due time.

Americans Confused Over Pope Francis' Views on Gay Marriage

When it was revealed on Wednesday that Pope Francis had a secret meeting with Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who was briefly jailed over her refusal to sign same-sex marriage licenses. People lost their damn minds. Suddenly, the "Cool Pope" seemingly lost all of his hip points.

To faithful Catholics, the fact that the pope is against same-sex marriage shouldn't even register on the "shock" scale. The Catholic Church considers matrimony to be a sacrament that can only exist between a man and a woman. While Pope Francis has taken on a softer tone when it comes to the pastoral treatment of homosexuals (which is consistent with the catechism), he has never come close to endorsing or promoting anything other than the Church's view that marriage is between a man and a woman.

survey back in August by Public Religion Research Institute showed that most American Catholics are far more socially liberal on views than the Church to which they belong. Additionally, a substantial percentage of American Catholics were either ignorant of or completely wrong about Pope Francis' attitude on same-sex marriage.

The above graph is interesting for a variety of reasons, and likely explains why people were so dismayed that the Bishop of Rome met with Kim Davis. The study notes that the number of Catholics who reported being against same-sex marriage was smaller than the number of Catholics who were in favor of same-sex marriage. A Quinnipiac Poll back in 2014 found that Catholics who attended Mass frequently (at least weekly) were more likely than Catholics who didn't go to Mass to be against same-sex marriage. Assuming (and I know I'm wandering into risky territory here) that the Catholics who were against same-sex marriage in the PRRI survey also attended Mass more often than their peers who are in favor of same-sex marriage (as there's no breakdown), it makes a good deal of sense that the faithful, Mass-attending Catholics actually understand Church teaching and would dismiss the idea that the leader of the Church would so blatantly undermine her teachings.

The other half of the infographic is also unsettling for a multitude of reasons. Nearly half of the Catholic respondents who favor same-sex marriage believe that Pope Francis supports same-sex marriage, something that has never been a part of Catholic teaching and is not consistent with the view of marriage as a sacrament. This is proof that the Church has failed to properly educate her adherents, and that's...sad, I guess. 

The same PRRI survey revealed that over half of lapsed (non-practicing) Catholics felt as though Pope Francis could bring people back into the fold. If their predictions hold true and the "Francis Effect" actually happens, it'll be very important to make sure that these new/returned members are actually aware of what the Church teaches--at the very least, to avoid feeling betrayed or blindsided when the leader of the Church refuses to adapt her teachings to popular sentiment. 

At YAF Conference, John Bolton Recommends That John Kerry Should Resign Over Iran Deal

At Young America’s Foundation’s Midwest Conference in Columbus, Ohio, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton addressed the attendees about foreign policy and America’s role in bringing stability to the world. He also mentioned the importance of YAF’s mission in bringing different opinions to various college campuses that challenge the liberal consensus in academia.

Of course, one of the areas that Bolton touched upon was the current situation in Syria, where Russia recently began their air campaign. The Russians had asked us to vacate Syrian airspace, which Secretary of State John Kerry rebuffed, though we’re now engaging in de-confliction talks to avoid aerial incidents between the U.S. Air Force and that of the Russian Federation.

Bolton noted that Israel had once asked the United States for de-confliction codes so they could deploy their air force before the first Persian Gulf War. We said no. When the Israelis said their actions would be in the defense of their country, Bolton said the U.S. position was resolute: Keep your planes on the ground; we’re protecting you.

Bolton added with Russia’s intervention in Syria, “We’re legitimizing their military presence in a region where for 50 years we’ve tried to keep them out.”

During the Q&A session, one student from the University of Central Missouri asked Bolton what should Secretary of State Kerry do regarding amending the Iranian nuclear agreement. Bolton was blunt.

“My recommendation for Secretary Kerry is that he should resign,” which drew applause from the audience.

Bolton added that he personally felt Iran was going to be successfully negotiated out of its nuclear ambitions, and that the only alternative was the use of military force–which he hoped Israel would do since it was clear that the Obama administration wasn’t going to drop bombs on their known nuclear sites.

This deal proves that point, as it gave Obama an out on the military option, though we have one in place. Bolton said there were two outcomes to this situation. One is that Iran gets the nuclear weapons; the other is that military strikes prevent that from happening. He admits that it’s a rather unpleasant scenario, with “very unattractive alternatives.” Yet, this is the consequence of 35 years of diplomatic failure with Iran.

He also said if Israel should strike Iranian nuclear sites, we should support them since they’re "doing our work for us,” and as a legitimate exercise in their self-defense. Bolton also mentioned that Iran is very close to intercontinental ballistic missile technology, which has only one purpose: to hit us. Iran already has the capability to deliver nuclear payloads to Israel.

Editor's Note: Bolton recommending Kerry resign begins at the 2 hours and 5 minute mark.

House Complicates Iran Deal by Passing Bill to Make Iran Compensate Terror Victims

The Justice for Victims of Iranian Terrorism Act (H.R. 3457), passed in the House of Representatives on Thursday, prohibits the lifting of sanctions on Iran until it pays compensation for its financing terrorism, according to language in the bill.

The legislation, introduced by Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-PA), passed 251-173, with ten Democrats voting in favor.

Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, explained why the bill was so necessary, especially in light of Obama's ill-conceived nuclear agreement with Iran:

“The Iranian regime has actively funded terrorist groups and operations that have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Americans. While U.S. courts have held Iran liable for these attacks, requiring Iran to compensate American victims, these judgments remain unpaid.

“The Obama Administration didn’t get compensation for the families of those whose lives were taken by Iranian terrorism in negotiations. U.S. officials admitted they didn’t even try. Once sanctions are lifted, Iran will hit a jackpot in the billions. And American victims will still be out in the cold. That’s wrong. This legislation addresses this injustice. There should be no sanctions relief until Iran pays up what it owes the families of these Americans.”

The National Republican Congressional Committee, meanwhile, had some harsh words for ‘nay’ votes like Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ):

“Kyrsten Sinema is putting the interests of a state sponsor of terrorism over the very people he was elected to represent and protect,” said NRCC Communications Director Katie Martin. “Instead of taking a stand against Iran and standing up for their innocent victims, Sinema has turned a blind eye to their indiscretions. Arizona families deserve a member they can trust to protect them, and not the terrorists.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned the world this week that relieving Iran from sanctions will only help to clear their path to a nuclear bomb. Any effort to slow that process, as H.R. 3457 intends, is a good start.

This is the latest effort from congressional Republicans to stymie key provisions in Obama’s nuclear agreement with Iran. Additionally, before it secured enough votes, the nuclear deal faced bipartisan rejection. Democratic senators like Chuck Schumer and Bob Menendez, for instance, came out strongly against it. Considering Obama has basically admitted that the deal will finance terror, he cannot be surprised by its number of defectors.

The president, not usually one to keep both ears open for his critics, is expected to veto the bill.

Shocker: Pretty Much Everything Obama Said About Gun Violence Was Wrong

The president’s emotional plea for us to politicize mass shootings to curb Second Amendment rights was explicitly clear Thursday night. The president cited what he considers to be the facts that support his narrative on the issue of gun violence in America. Namely, that the American people, including gun owners, want stricter gun laws, that it’s easy to obtain firearms, and that the UK and Australia have passed laws that reduced mass shootings.

Let’s start with the polling.

First, the support for gun control has waned since Newtown, with support dropping below 50 percent. Second, 60 percent feel that guns in the home make them safer. Third, the majority of American feel more guns reduce crime. Fourth, as a result, it’s no surprise that 68 percent of Americans feel safer in neighborhoods that are packing heat. Fifth, support for gun rights is at a 25-year high.

As for the ability for one to buy a firearm, it’s true that for years Americans thought it was too easy to buy guns. That’s not the case anymore; 49 percent think it’s just about right, while 41 percent think it’s too easy.

Regarding the UK and Australia, they’re our allies–yes. But that doesn’t mean they’re good at gun policy, nor does it mean we should follow their lead with policies that amount to gun confiscation--something that will be incredibly hard to pull off, and most likely unconstitutional, given that the U.S. has 300-350 million guns housed in over 100 million homes. So, sorry, Mr. President, but we’re not like them. We have a Bill of Rights that prevent us from enacting similar policies over here–for which I am eternally grateful.

As I wrote earlier today, the National Review’s Charles Cooke described this un-serious attitude liberals and anti-gun advocates have regarding solutions to these awful incidents, as if whoever shows they’re the most passionate about stopping mass shootings gets the big, stuffed panda bear in the end. Cooke stressed that this isn’t a competition for who is the most “vexed.” It’s a public policy debate, and the pro-gun control side has nothing to offer that could stop mass shootings. Again, there is a debate on how to prevent the mentally ill from obtaining firearms. The president is right that America isn’t the only nation dealing with how to treat and detect mental illness, but the vast majority of the perpetrators of mass shootings have exhibited serious signs of mental instability.

Adam Lanza, Elliot Rodger, Aaron Alexis, Jared Lee Loughner, and John Russel Houser all committed mass shootings–and all were mentally ill. In some cases, like Alexis, if he had been properly reported, his security clearance would have been revoked and the Navy Yard shooting would have never occurred. It’s a tedious debate that touches upon the right to privacy, federalism, constitutional rights, doctor-patient confidentiality, and to add more to the pile–a comprehensive rundown of mental illnesses that should prohibit one who is afflicted with mental problems from owning firearms. It's quite the Gordian knot regarding policy, but even Alexander the Great was able to untie it. We can do so here. The majority of states voluntarily submit mental health records into the federal National Instant Background Check System [NICS]. How can we improve this, given that it’s not going to be shocking if we find out that the Oregon shooter, Chris Harper-Mercer, was mentally disturbed? Both sides agree on this issue, yet it’s the gun control side that wants to shove this on the periphery so we could either tip-toe around what they really want–gun confiscation–or have another painfully ineffective talking point shouting match over background checks.

Yes, the public is for background checks. I’m for background checks. Almost every law-abiding gun owner supports background checks, but expanding them in the way prescribed by the anti-gun left is neither effective nor smart policy unless it includes something to deal with the mentally ill, and that is going to take some time to debate. At the same time, we know that gun control advocates cling onto this talking point for dear life because it’s the only part of their agenda that polls well. On the other hand, 64 percent do support a gun registry, which is depressing, though gun owners generally oppose this–and they’re the side that’s going to show up at the polls when decision time comes.

Yet, let’s entertain the gun control side’s arguments again, looking to Cato’s Trevor Burrus, who points out how much of the anti-gun left’s agenda is simply unworkable and possibly illegal [emphasis mine]:

Perhaps you think all guns should be confiscated. Okay, tell us how you will do that without stormtroopers roaming the country systematically violating our Fourth Amendment rights in a way that makes Donald Trump’s call for the mass deportation of illegal immigrants look like taking a census.

Or perhaps President Obama’s moral exhortations will work wonders on the American psyche and over the next two months an astounding 90 percent of American firearms are turned over to the government. That still leaves 30 million guns in private hands, and you can imagine how law-abiding those who didn’t turn in their weapons are. 

Perhaps you think that all guns should be registered and licensed. Again, explain how you will do that without a battalion of stormtroopers kicking down doors. Sure, some people will voluntarily register their guns, but they are unlikely to be criminals or would-be mass shooters. Canada tried to register guns and eventually gave up. New York’s attempt to register “assault weapons” has been a glorious failure.


Mass shootings should not be the centerpiece of gun-control policy. Mass shooters are motivated, difficult to detect, and commit only a tiny fraction of gun violence in America. Pretending that stopping these psychopaths is a matter of passing “commonsense” laws is just moral grandstanding for cheap political points.


The hard truth is that we have, just as we accept that deaths by automobile accidents, drowning in swimming pools, and industrial accidents are inevitable. This doesn’t mean that there is nothing we can or should do, but the first thing that we must do is to stop pretending that ending mass shootings is merely a matter of “common sense.”

Furthermore, the notion that we’re living in the midst of some gun violence epidemic is absurd. The FBI reported that gun deaths have dropped again this year in every category, though rifles and shotguns have always represented a small proportion of gun-related felonies/homicides, even before the awful 1994 Assault Weapons Ban (via Free Beacon):

The FBI Crime in the United States report found 8,124 murders committed with firearms in 2014, down from 8,454 in 2013. That represents a 3.9 percent drop year over year and the lowest rate of any year included in the report.

The report found that, as in previous years, the vast majority of gun murders were committed with handguns, but all categories of gun murders declined.

Rifles were involved in 248 murders last year, fewer than the number committed with knives, blunt objects, and fists or feet. Three percent of gun murders involved rifles.

The overall murder rate declined by 1.2 percent year over year.

All Thursday night’s remarks showed is that the president is angry, and gave a knee-jerk reaction that could potentially embarrass his administration. As Charles Krauthammer said, “He has no idea what the gun is, how it was obtained, who the person is, and what the person’s motive is.” “What does he do if it turns out he was a terrorist?” We’ll know more in the coming days on Mercer.

As for the call to Americans who change the politics in Washington on this issue, the president noted in Friday’s press conference that the NRA has the advantage; they’re good at what they do (defending our Second Amendment freedoms). The president doesn’t have the votes in Congress because Republicans are in control. They may have some explaining to do on some issues, but when it comes to passing new gun control legislation, they’re firm in their opposition. At the state-level, Republicans control the most state legislatures since 1920. Nothing is moving on that front, and Democrats have little in the talent pool to fight at the local level for new gun laws. It feels like we’re undefeated on the legal front as well, with case after case ending in pro-Second Amendment victories.

The president says he can’t affect change on this issue alone, but maybe he can–with the sober realization that this argument is over. And the folks who fought for their Second Amendment rights to be respected and expanded have won (for now*).

Last note: The president and anti-gunners know that women are the fastest growing demographic of new gun owners in the country, right? And that women applying for their concealed carry permits has surged 270 percent. You're going to try and tell them their Second Amendment rights, and their right to self-defense, are being curtailed ... good luck with that political campaign. It sure defies stereotypes, huh?

*Public opinion can change, and it’s possible it could happen here. But for now–I’m enjoying the victory lap.

ACLU Files Another Lawsuit Against Catholic Hospital System That Won't Perform Abortions

If a patient chooses to use a Catholic hospital they can expect that said hospital will not perform abortions under any circumstance. But the ACLU just can’t accept this, and is once again suing Trinity Health Corporation, one of the nation’s largest Catholic hospitals systems, for refusing to cave on this life-affirming position, which is dictated by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ethical Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services.

In the lawsuit filed Thursday in a Detroit federal court, the ACLU argues that the hospital’s policy against abortion, even when the mother’s life is in danger, violates the 1986 Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act.

It accuses Trinity of "refusing to provide pregnant women suffering emergency medical conditions with abortions necessary to stabilize them" on at least five occasions.

“Defendants permit their hospital staff members to perform the same procedures that are also used to terminate a pregnancy, such as induction of labor and dilation and curettage, in other circumstances,” so providing abortions “would not impose an undue hardship on Defendants," the lawsuit stated.

“Absent declaratory and permanent injunctive relief, Defendants will continue to withhold emergency abortion care from pregnant women,” it continued.

The Directives are clear, however: “abortion … is never permitted” and “Catholic health care ministry is rooted in a commitment to promote and defend human dignity; this is the foundation of its concern to respect the sacredness of every human life from the moment of conception until death.”

Fortunately, it seems Trinity Health isn’t too worried about the latest lawsuit. A spokeswoman for the hospital system told CNSNews.com that the “case has no merit” because “a federal court already dismissed a similar ACLU claim, and we will seek dismissal of this suit for the same reason.”

Pew Poll: Trump Leads GOP Field, Jeb Craters to Four Percent

The latest national poll from Pew Research shows Donald Trump still leading the Republican pack, attracting the support of one-fourth of the GOP-leaning electorate.  Another 25 percent of these voters are pure undecideds.  Ben Carson remains in second place at 16 percent, followed by Marco Rubio and Carly Fiorina -- who are tied at eight percent apiece.  Ted Cruz sits in the mid-single-digits, followed by Jeb Bush at...four percent:

Randworld sources say the libertarian-leaning Senator isn't packing things in, but his decision to 'take a break' from the presidential campaign to tend to his Senate re-elect bid in Kentucky -- and his notably paltry quarterly fundraising numbers -- feel ominious.  At the other end of the money spectrum, Team Bush is planning a fundraising blitz in October, holding 29 high-dollar events in 31 days.  The push will feature the biggest stars in the Bush galaxy.  This is a double-edged sword for the former Florida governor: For a candidate who feels politically compelled to insist that he's his "own man," he sure leans heavily on the ex-presidents within his nuclear family to fill his coffers.  On the other hand, he'll have the resources to make a deep run into the spring, his flagging poll position notwithstanding (though he's concerned enough to be taking shots at Marco Rubio, who's overtaken him in numerous recent polls).  Time's Zeke Miller examines the GOP's finalized 2016 calendar and nominating rules and concludes that the road to the July convention is shaping up to be a test of endurance and organization:

The 2016 Republican presidential race may turn into the most grueling campaign in two generations thanks to a series of rules and calendar changes instituted by the party in recent years. The combination of a front-loaded calendar and the expansion of states splitting their delegates among candidates, means a nominee won’t be likely be known until the spring at the earliest, according to the Republican National Committee—and perhaps months later. If three or more candidates pick up a substantial share of the early delegates in the first month of voting, the race could go all the way to early June, if not the convention.

Jeb's money machine could keep him in the game for the long haul, financing basic blocking and tackling while Jeb waits for competitors to implode or run out of money.  But what happens if Bush's donors lose faith and contributions taper off dramatically?  And what happens if Jeb's the one who self-destructs?  He's been out of the game for awhile, and sometimes it shows.  That being said, he was victimized by a media hit job today that was so unfair that it merits forceful push-back.  Follow the progression of tweets as this episode played out:

A counterfeit, manufactured "outrage," designed to make it seem as though a Republican doesn't care about victims of gun violence. And much of the press is playing along.  I'll leave you with Charles Cooke's questions for the knee-jerk "do something!" brigades:

Obama: It is With 'Deep Regret' I've Accepted Arne's Decision

President Obama held a press conference at the White House Friday to address his friend Arne Duncan’s resignation as Education Secretary.

“It is with some regret and sorrow that I have accepted his decision,” Obama declared.

The president said Duncan is leaving his post one year early because his family wanted to move back home to Chicago.

“I pushed Arne to stay but I also know how hard it is to be away from your family,” he said.

“He’s more than earned the right to return home.”

Obama then listed his education secretary’s accomplishments. As a result of Duncan’s efforts, Obama said more than 30 states have upped funding for early education, the high school graduation rate is at an all time high, and millions more families can afford college.

“He’s done more to bring the education system, sometimes kicking and screaming, into the 21st century,” Obama added. “He cares so much about our kids and he’s been so passionate about this work.”

The president couldn’t help, however, poking fun at his friend’s lackluster basketball skills:

“He has no hops,” Obama joked. “He knows it’s true.”

Obama then introduced John King Jr., current delegated deputy secretary, as the acting secretary. The president described him as the “right man to lead the department.”

Duncan hugged the president before stepping to the podium:

“I’ve cried more today than I have in awhile,” Duncan began.

“I’m deeply sad to be leaving,” he said, but “extremely proud” King will forward the efforts already made.

He thanked the president for his leadership and said he could “never repay” his kindness.

King spoke last and said he is looking forward to advancing the administration’s ambitious agenda.

Clinton: 'Supreme Court Is Wrong On The Second Amendment'

At a small private fundraiser in New York, Hillary Clinton slammed the Supreme Court and the National Rifle Association on Second Amendment issues, even going so far as to say that the Court is “wrong” regarding this provision in our bill of rights. Stephen Gutowski and Alanna Goodman at the Washington Free Beacon obtained the audio of this event:

“I was proud when my husband took [the National Rifle Association] on, and we were able to ban assault weapons, but he had to put a sunset on so 10 years later. Of course [President George W.] Bush wouldn’t agree to reinstate them,” said Clinton.

“We’ve got to go after this,” Clinton continued. “And here again, the Supreme Court is wrong on the Second Amendment. And I am going to make that case every chance I get.”


“I’m going to speak out, I’m going to do everything I can to rally people against this pernicious, corrupting influence of the NRA and we’re going to do whatever we can,” she said.

Clinton argued that the NRA has “so intimidated elected members of Congress and other legislative bodies that these people are passing the most absurd laws.”

“The idea that you can have an open carry permit with an AK-47 over your shoulder walking up and down the aisles of a supermarket is just despicable,” she said.

Yet, when one says the Supreme Court is wrong on the Second Amendment, is the former first lady referring to the Heller case? The 2008 D.C. v Heller was a landmark case that said Americans have a constitutional right to own a handgun unrelated to service in a standing militia, but it only applied to federal enclaves. In 2010, McDonald v. Chicago expanded that right to the states.

I have no doubt that Clinton agrees with these views. I’m not so sure if she has the guts to pull it off. Yes, her husband did take on the NRA and it partially contributed to the 1994 Democratic wipeout. Speaker of the House Tom Foley (D-OR) became the first sitting speaker since Galusha Grow to lose his re-election bid. Grow was booted … in 1862.

Six years later, Democrats still didn’t get the picture. The story goes that Vice President Al Gore could have easily become President Gore if he hadn’t tried to “out-gun control” his Democratic rival, Sen. Bill Bradley (D-NJ), in the primaries; a completely unnecessary move since Bradley never polled within striking distance of Gore. The consequence of this was Arkansas, Tennessee, and West Virginia going for Bush. If these three states had been etched into the Gore column, Florida wouldn’t have been an issue. Bush could have still won Florida, but Gore would have locked down more than enough electoral votes to win the presidency. Since then, the gun control movement has gone into the bunker.

All Clinton is doing is courting the most progressive elements of the Democratic base, which yearns for a candidate that will challenge the NRA and enact new gun control laws. In reality, Clinton rhetoric on SCOTUS being wrong on the Second Amendment, and her pledge to “make that case every chance I get,” is the definition of pie-in-the-sky. You need a functioning state-based Democratic political apparatus to place pressure on localities and state legislatures to change the guns laws, file lawsuits, and hope that the Supreme Court will hear arguments again on the Second Amendment. As it’s been reported before, state-based Democratic parties are all but finished in some states.

This underreported aspect of the Obama era includes the slow, bleeding death of these political operations, which have entered such a state of decrepitude in some areas that Clinton has vowed to rebuild those structures if she’s elected president. With no strong Democratic leaders at the local level, no anti-gun voices in the state legislatures, which have become more Republican since 2008, Hillary’s crusade to reverse landmark gun rights cases on the Supreme Court seems to be nothing more than slogans for fundraising. Moreover, on the legal front, those who are for Second Amendment freedom appear to be on a winning streak, winning cases in California and Illinois that either expand gun rights, or prevent governing bodies from curtailing them.

‘Giant Drop-off’: New Poll Shows Dwindling African-American Support for Hillary

A new Suffolk University/USA Today poll suggests Hillary could be losing a key demographic she had until now comfortably enjoyed. While the Washington Post notes the survey comes with a large margin of error, there’s no denying the “giant drop-off.”

Among white Democrats, Clinton is doing nine points worse since July. With black Democrats, this poll has her down 31.

Sanders’ and Biden’s trajectory, meanwhile, show slight ticks upward.

In August, Gallup showed an 80 percent favorable for Clinton among black Americans. A possible explanation for Clinton’s dwindling support, the WaPo suggests, could be her declining favorability among African-Americans. She is down 16 points.

Clinton is also not immune to challenges from the controversial Black Lives Matter group. Her very awkward meeting with the activists in August included her telling them that if they continue to practice such antagonistic rhetoric, she will “only talk to white people.”

Perhaps understanding how important it is to win over the black community, Clinton agreed to be a guest on Al Sharpton’s new “PoliticsNation” talk show on Oct. 4. Her appearance will come soon after she joined Sharpton on his radio show in August to discuss voter discrimination and criminal justice reform – two significant issues among African-Americans.

We’ll see if her talking points can point her in the right direction among black voters. As for her email controversy, that is a whole other issue – and one that transcends demographics.

It's On: Jason Chaffetz to Challenge McCarthy for House Speaker

Many of John Boehner's detractors are lamenting the likely ascension of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy to the Speakership following next week's leadership elections.  What the lower chamber needs is fresh, feisty, conservative leadership, these critics say, sighing that McCarthy represents more of the same. But as I mentioned on Fox News earlier in the week, none of the names that have typically been bandied about in post-Boehner discussions actually want the job.  Jeb Hensarling passed.  Jim Jordan passed.  Paul Ryan passed.  Trey Gowdy passed.  If you're intent on toppling your party's leader, you'd better have a plan in place to alter the intractable political dynamics that fostered the culture of frustration and disunity that drove Boehner to surrender his gavel.  This process must entail coalescing a credible leader who has the support and skills to carry out said plan.

The Fire Boehner/No McCarthy crowd has failed on both counts.  Carping and sniping is easy; presenting realistic alternatives is harder.  If you loudly demand the keys to the car, you'd better be able to demonstrate some ability to drive.  As the 'conservative insurgent' contingent stared blankly at each other, contemplating what comes next, Kevin McCarthy served up a gift.  In an ill-conceived attempt to ingratiate himself with disenchanted conservatives, he gaffed, casting the Bengahzi select committee as a partisan exercise that has damaged Hillary Clinton's political standing.  This played directly into the hands of Democrats, who've sought to undermine the committee's work and crediblity since its inception.  Boehner had to clean up after McCarthy in a press statement, with a string of top Republicans piling on with condemnations.  McCarthy appeared on Special Report last night to perform a walk-back, under tough questioning from Bret Baier:

In the wake of this "inauspicious start" for the Speaker-in-waiting, a relatively high-profile challenger has finally emerged, with less than a week to go until members cast leadership ballots:

House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz is planning to run for House speaker, taking on Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy in what appears to be a long-shot bid to lead House Republicans, according to multiple sources. The Utah Republican, first elected to Congress in 2008, is launching a campaign less than a week before the Oct. 8 leadership elections for the House GOP Conference. The date for a floor vote to pick the next speaker has not been set yet. McCarthy (R-Calif.) is the overwhelming favorite to win, and it’s unclear how many votes Chaffetz can garner...The last-minute move by the fourth-term lawmaker underscores frustration among some members of the Republican Conference with the current choices to lead the conference after Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) leaves at the end of the month.

Chaffetz has been outspokenly critical of McCarthy's Benghazi comments.  In his interview on Fox, McCarthy asserted that he's "very close" to locking up the requisite 218 votes to be elected Speaker.  Though the Majority Leader's Benghazi flub may have complicated his path to promotion a bit, Chaffetz faces a steep uphill battle.  Many members are satisfied with the current leadership team, and McCarthy has earned a reservoir of goodwill within the caucus, having been instrumental in successfully recruiting and supporting many of the party's newer members.  McCarthy's critics concede he owns the inside track, but caution that he hasn't locked up the Speakership just yet.  And now a relatively plausible second option is in the mix, likely guaranteeing several days of intense Beltway intrigue.  Stay tuned.

UPDATE - Two more points: Chaffetz was also in the news this week thanks to the Secret Service's outrageous reprisal-minded targeting of him for performing his oversight duties. And this, from Rich Lowry:

Video: Bloomberg's Mark Halperin Says We Should Do Something On Gun Violence, Offers No Solutions

The horrific shooting at the Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon has jump-started another discussion about gun control. A visibly angry President Obama issued remarks about the shooting last night, where he said we should “politicize” gun violence and human tragedies to affect change in Washington. Yet, not a single gun control policy initiative Obama put forward post-Newtown would have stopped this tragedy. So, what’s next? We can talk about expanding background checks all you want, most criminals don’t obtain their guns legally, let alone walk into a federally licensed gun shop to purchase firearms in the likes of the law-abiding public.

National Review’s Charles Cooke aptly noted earlier today on MSNBC’s Morning Joe that no one has solutions to stopping mass shootings, and that this isn’t a competition regarding who can come off as more “vexed.”

“It’s far more complicated than that,” added Cooke, who noted that it’s disingenuous to say that there are these intransigent forces in government preventing these (dubious) gun control policies from working. We have 300-350 million guns in America, and almost every instance where there has been a mass shooting; the perpetrator had either obtained them illegally–or should have been prevented from owning firearms due to mental illness.

Joe Scarborough said he supports background checks, like most of the public, but added that Oregon has background checks, and this awful event still took place. Connecticut passed more gun laws post-Sandy Hook, but they would not have prevented Adam Lanza from killing 26 people, 20 of them children, at the elementary school if they had been in place at the time.

Needless to say, Mika Brzezinski and Bloomberg’s Mark Halperin had an issue with Cooke’s analysis regarding the issue of gun violence being too complicated and current progressive gun policies being ineffective, to which Cooke asked both of them what should we do, what policies do they have in mind. Neither of them could give him an answer, which is exactly the point. There is no answer as of yet–and we need to have a long, tedious, and, at times, frustrating debate that doesn’t drift off into fantasyland. And by that, I mean the gun control supporter’s ultimate goal: confiscation.

Anytime someone loses their life to gun violence is a tragedy; anytime a mass shooting happens, especially on school grounds, is abysmal. We all agree on that; we differ regarding how much constitutional rights we should erode to prevent it. Conservatives (rightfully) aren’t willing to go there, whereas liberals issue knee-jerk reactions, like the one exhibited by our president last night, before all the facts are out.

Right now, Chris Harper Mercer, the shooter, and his motives remain unknown. He did have social media posts that showed him sympathetic to the Irish Republican Army, a terrorist group, though he claimed not to be religious (via NBC News):

The gunman who killed nine people at an Oregon college left a hate-filled note at the scene of his rampage and "felt the world was against him," law enforcement officials confirmed Friday.

Two officials familiar with the contents of the note say 26-year-old Christopher Harper Mercer, who was killed in a firefight with police at Umpqua Community College, wrote that he would be "welcomed in Hell and embraced by the devil."

He wrote that he was "in a bad way," one official said. "He was depressed, sullen."

The officials said Mercer lamented the fact that he did not have a girlfriend. "He said he had no life," another official said.

Mercer reportedly targeted Christians during his senseless rampage, which getting back to the knee-jerk reaction point, could place the Obama administration in a rather embarrassing light if this turns out to be a terrorist attack–something that Charles Krauthammer mentioned last night. Over at Hot Air, Ed mentioned that the president slipped up by mentioning the Tucson shooting, which was painted as a Tea Party attack that was inspired by Sarah Palin. It turned out that Jared Lee Loughner, the shooter, was just mentally ill.

All the firearms recovered at the scene of the shooting in Oregon were purchased legally. So, if Mercer was mentally unstable, which isn’t outside the realm of possibility, we must have the long debate about how to prevent the mentally ill from obtaining firearms. That point is agreed upon on both sides. The problem is getting progressives to come to the table.

Vatican: Pope's Meeting with Kim Davis Not a 'Form of Support'

Kentucky clerk Kim Davis, who received national attention for refusing to issue marriage licenses in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges decision, has been a polarizing figure in the U.S., and even on the Right. Some GOP presidential candidates, for example, believe she ought to just accept current U.S. law on the issue of gay marriage, thus issuing the licenses, while others believe she—and others like her—shouldn’t be forced to violate their conscience.

Now, after issuing a separate statement clarifying that the pope’s secret meeting with Davis “should not be considered a form of support of her positions,” it seems even the Vatican doesn’t want to get in the middle of the U.S.’s debate on the issue.

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said the pontiff met with several dozen people at the Vatican's embassy that day just before leaving Washington for New York and that those meetings were due to the pope's "kindness and availability."

In a statement, he added that the “only real audience granted by the pope” at the embassy that day “was with one of his former students and his family."

"The pope did not enter into the details of the situation of Mrs. Davis and his meeting with her should not be considered a form of support of her position in all of its particular and complex aspects," Lombardi said.

Davis’ attorney Mat Staver disagrees with this assessment, however, and told the Associated Press that the Vatican had initiated the meeting with her, during which he reportedly thanked her for her courage and told her to ‘stay strong.’

Thomas Rosica, who assists the Vatican press office with English-language media, said Friday that Vatican staff did not organize the meeting. According to the National Catholic Reporter, Rosica said it might have been an initiative by the Vatican’s ambassador to the U.S., Archbishop Carlo Vigano.

Rosica said that Vatican staff were not sure the pope “knew fully each of the people he was meeting” while greeting people at the nunciature. He also said Francis had personally approved Friday’s press statement after a meeting with Lombardi on the issue.

Regardless of whether they’re backtracking on what’s widely been reported as support for Davis’ position, there is no denying that in theory, at least, he does believe in ‘conscientious objection,’ which he made clear to a reporter on his flight home from his visit to the United States. 

Rubio Denies Trump’s Claim He Hates Jeb: ‘He Doesn’t Know What He’s Talking About’

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) flatly rejected Donald Trump’s claim that he and Jeb Bush "hate each other" on Fox News Friday morning.

“He doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” Rubio said, before insisting that he admires Bush and is a friend.

“I’m not running against Jeb,” he explained. “I’m running for president.”

Recent developments, however, probably have some voters wondering if Trump’s assertion has merit. On “Morning Joe” early Thursday morning, Bush compared Rubio to President Obama, suggesting he doesn’t have the experience necessary to lead the country.

MORNING JOE: You do not think [Rubio] has the skills to fix things?

BUSH: No. Barack Obama didn't end up having them, and he won an election based on the belief that people had that he could.

Some Rubio supporters think Jeb’s attack is borne out of desperation because of his poor polling. He is currently in fifth place, with Rubio just slightly ahead. The Real Clear Politics average gives the senator a .5 percent advantage. 

Panic time for Jeb?

“I don’t know if he’s desperate, but it’s starting to stink like he is,” said Peter Brown, a top Rubio donor in South Carolina. “He’s on the verge of becoming invisible in this race and all of sudden, look who he’s going after.”

Yet, Rubio’s remarks today indicate there’s no bad blood between the two Florida Republicans. As for those Trump comments, Rubio repeated “Who cares?”

Clinton Knew Blair Warned Gaddafi To 'Find Safe Place' As Regime Fell

LONDON, United Kingdom – Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair contacted Hilary Clinton in 2011 to say he had phoned Colonel Gaddafi to tell him to find a “safe place to go”. Tony Blair's “very private” call was transcribed and handed to Jake Sullivan, a senior adviser to Hillary Clinton.

Mr Blair made the call on February 11, during the period he served as peace envoy in the Middle East. He had previously been Prime Minister from 1997 until 2007, but by the time of the call his Conservative rival, David Cameron, was in 10 Downing Street.

The note was taken by Blair's head of strategy Catherine Rimmer, who claimed the former Prime Minister had delivered a “very strong message” to his ally in Tripoli to give up power. Blair had also suggested he might be able to broker a deal between the Libyan dictator and the Western powers that wanted him out.

Rimmer quoted Mr Blair as saying: “The absolute key thing is that the bloodshed and violence must stop. If you have a safe place to go then you should go there, because this will not end peacefully unless that happens and there has to be a process of change.

“That process of change can be managed and we have to find a way of managing it. I have talked to people and everyone wants a peaceful end to this.”

“The US and the EU are in a tough position right now and I need to take something back to them which ensures this ends peacefully,” the email quotes him as saying.

“If people saw the leader standing aside they would be content with that. If this goes on for another day/two days we will go past the point. I'm saying this because I believe it deeply. If we can't get a way through/out very quickly this will go past the point of no return.”

In a second email to Hilary Clinton on February 23 Blair's team touted him as someone who “might have a good relationship” with Gaddafi. This was less than one month before the US Airforce and the British Royal Airforce began attacking the Gaddafi regime.

The air strikes only ended on October 31, the day after Gaddafi's death in his home town. He had taken Blair's advice and fled the capital as the bombs began to drop. The locals that caught him and immediately killed him in punishment for the 40 year reign of terror he had inflicted on the country.

The emails make it clear that Blair did not want his involvement in the case to get into the media. They have only become public as part of the latest batch of emails released by the US State Department in response to a freedom of information request.

They shed further light on how close Blair had become to Gaddafi after his infamous “deal in the dessert” in 2004 which paved the way for Libya to rejoin the mainstream international community.

The deal was done despite the Libyan leader having been implicated in the blowing up of Pan-Am Flight 103 over Scotland in 1988. A total of 270 people were killed, mostly British and Americans.

There is no evidence the Obama White House or the Clinton State Department raised any objection to Blair's actions.

Arne Duncan Leaving Post as Education Secretary One Year Early

Education Secretary Arne Duncan is leaving his post this December just one year short of the end of his term, reports the Associated Press.

In a letter to his staff, Duncan announced he is heading home to Chicago to be with family.

John King Jr., the current delegated deputy secretary, will replace Duncan as acting secretary until the president nominates someone new.

The president will hold a press conference Friday afternoon on the sudden transition.

Duncan was one of the leading promoters of the largely unpopular Common Core. One of his most controversial defenses of the program was targeted toward “white suburban moms” suddenly realized “their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were, and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were.”

Other initiatives Duncan took the lead on during his tenure included Race to the Top, an education reform effort that put “state-level innovation at center stage,” and helping secure increases to the Pell grant program.

One factor to consider in Duncan's decision, is John Boehner's resignation. Duncan admitted that the Speaker's exit spells bad news for the No Child Left Behind Act:

"I'm very concerned with Speaker Boehner stepping down, that the odds of it being fixed went down, not up," Duncan said Thursday at the 2015 Washington Ideas Forum. "To get to a good bill that the president can support, it has to be a bipartisan bill that stays strong on accountability and helps us turn around underperforming schools. … I really, really, really hope and pray I'm wrong, but I think it's difficult for the next leader to work in a bipartisan way given the pressure of the extreme right."

'Hostage Takers:' Dems Block Bill to Fund Veterans, Demanding More Spending Elsewhere

If and when Washington is pushed to the brink of another government shutdown in December, as the just-passed stopgap funding measures approach their expiration, we'll inevitably hear a lot of sound and fury from Democrats about "extreme" Republicans holding crucial federal spending "hostage" in pursuit of an ideological agenda. Setting aside arguments over the wisdom and efficacy of using a shutdown threat as political leverage (which was attempted and failed in 2013), Senate Democrats are currently engaged in precisely this sort of conduct, for reasons that aren't likely to impress many voters.  Yesterday, Harry Reid and friends filibustered a spending bill that would fund the VA -- which Democrats routinely claim is underfunded, as a means of explaining away the department's systemic, deadly corruption and concealing the disastrous failure of government-run healthcare:

Democrats Thursday blocked the Senate from turning to a $78 billion spending measure for the Department of Veterans Affairs and military base construction. They and the White House argue that it's part of an overall GOP budget framework that shortchanges spending on other domestic programs...The White House has issued blanket veto threats against every spending bill, saying they shortchange domestic programs while exempting the Pentagon from the return of automatic spending curbs that would otherwise freeze its budget. Republicans note that many Democrats supported the bills when they were considered by the Appropriations Committee.

The Obama White House, ever eager to delegitimize Republican opposition via vitriolic smears, is running point on this "hostage taking" endeavor.  And Democrats are dutifully refusing to even permit a vote on a spending bill many of them praised and supported in committee.  Why?  Because Obama objects to GOP spending priorities, which would boost defense appropriations while enforcing caps on other domestic and discretionary spending.  Republicans won a sweeping electoral victory last year, promising voters that they'd control federal spending and strengthen America's military.  They now run both houses of Congress and have passed budgets that reflect their priorities.  Now that the GOP majorities are attempting to implement those priorities, spendthrift Democrats are resorting to filibusters and veto threats to try to force Republicans to agree to hike federal spending across the board.  To this end, they're willing to obstruct votes to fund veterans benefits as a means of coercing their opponents into doing something they campaigned against.  Republicans have responded by raising some of these points in speeches and press availabilities, but as I argued on the Iran deal vote, impactful messaging requires more aggressive action.  The Federalist's Ben Domenech recalls a very similar recent scenario in which the GOP also declined to apply intense pressure to recalcitrant Democrats:

It goes back to when Democrats decided in June to filibuster the Defense appropriations bill, as part of their strategy to filibuster any and all appropriations bills until Republicans were willing to renegotiate the sequester. This was a golden opportunity for McConnell: Democrats weren’t filibustering just any bill, they were filibustering a bill that does things like, well, pay the troops. It was an extremely aggressive and perhaps unsustainable step. Democrats took it only because they were confident McConnell would gripe about it, but ultimately cave. To understand the missed opportunity here, consider what could have happened if McConnell was not so dedicated to keeping the Senate “open for business” and working with the president on other priorities. Imagine instead what would have happened if McConnell saw the opportunity to break Reid and isolate the president on spending. He could have canceled all other Senate business, canceled the recesses, and forced the Democrats to block the Defense appropriations bill every 72 hours until September 30th. No weekends off, no holidays, keeping 75 year old men up all night for days, allowing no personal comforts until the filibuster is broken. In stark comparison to the media’s willingness to hide the ball on Planned Parenthood, Republicans would have been gifted with three months of messaging on “Democrats are so angry at the American people for taking away their majority, they are refusing to pay the troops.” Instead, McConnell did what Democrats expected him to do. He griped about it, moved on, and looked to a continuing resolution. He extracted no price at all from Reid and his caucus for shutting down the budget process.

Why would Democrats alter or abandon their ruthless tactics if they're confident Republicans will ultimately decline to do what's necessary to truly make them sweat?  Holding the line on spending caps is one of the biggest tangible accomplishments of the post-2010 Republican Party.  They've since expanded their House majority and reclaimed the Senate, thanks to voters whose rejection of Obama's policies was record-breaking in scale.  Yet Democrats are intent on increasing government spending anyway; aside from protecting unfettered abortion, this is their party's raison d'être.  In other political fights, Republicans are hamstrung by their inability to force the president to sign bills that unravel his agenda.  In this case, however, the GOP controls the process and has existing precedent and inertia on its side.  Force the Democrats to explain, over and over again, why they won't even allow votes on legislation to pay the troops and fund the VA.  Let them tell the American people that they're refusing to pay our military and care for our veterans because their bigger priority is spending more tax dollars on big government programs -- and that they're pursuing that goal by using the troops as leverage.  See how that flies.  If Republicans break Democrats on defense spending, they could proceed with additional funding bills that maintain the caps negotiated in bipartisan agreements, rooted in The Obama Sequester.  Status quo bills, in other words.  If Democrats balk, mounting additional filibusters or issuing vetoes, a potential shutdown could be laid at their feet.  The Republican script:

"We've funded the troops and our veterans, in accordance with our campaign promises.  Now we're trying to fund the rest of the government at agreed-upon levels, adhering to our pledge to rein in spending and control President Obama's debt-increasing spending binge.  Democrats now say that if we won't let them make government even bigger, they'll shut the government down.  That's irresponsible in an era of an $18 trillion national debt."

Conservative voters want a fight. This is a winnable fight -- and the short-term continuing resolution just bought GOP leaders several months in which to wage it. Victory requires playing hardball and standing unified in both purpose and message. Are Congressional Republicans capable of such things?