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Media Keep Giving Adam Schiff the Benefit of a Doubt

Mark Hemingway - January 23, 2020

On the first night of the Senate impeachment trial, Politico dropped a bombshell: “Schiff may have mischaracterized Parnas evidence, documents show.”

What followed was a fascinating story that raised another question: How many times does the California congressman who spearheaded the Democrats’ impeachment effort -- and is prosecuting the case in the Senate -- have to mislead the public before the press stops cutting him so much slack?

In the last three years, Adam Schiff has dramatically raised his profile by aggressively attempting to show that President Trump is a Russian agent or has abused his power when it comes to Ukraine. Along the way, he’s racked up a record of distortions and untruths that in a less partisan  era would have utterly undermined his credibility among journalists.

In this latest case, Schiff sent a letter to House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler alleging that Lev Parnas, the now-indicted associate of Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, “continued to try to arrange a meeting with [Ukrainian] President Zelensky.”

Sidelined Sanders; Shielded Schiff? Poll Tax

Carl M. Cannon - January 23, 2020

Good morning. It’s Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020. Six years ago, President Obama received the findings of a special commission that examined how to improve voting practices and ballot access in this country. The panel’s report reminded Americans that democracy is not a finished product, but a work in progress -- and that, to retain it, we must keep strengthening it.

A half-century earlier -- 56 years ago today -- the people of the United States took a huge step in that direction by ratifying the 24th Amendment to the Constitution, which outlawed the dreaded poll tax.

“Today, the United States witnesses the triumph of liberty over restriction,” President Johnson proclaimed at a subsequent White House ceremony. “Today, the people of this land have … reaffirmed the simple but unbreakable theme of this republic: Nothing is so valuable as liberty, and nothing is so necessary to liberty as the freedom to vote without bans or barriers.”

I’ll have more on the poll tax in a moment. First, I’d point you to RealClearPolitics’ front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion pieces spanning the political spectrum. We also offer original material from our own reporters, columnists, and contributors, including the following:

Suing California to Produce a State Checkbook

Adam Andrzejewski - January 23, 2020

Just a few of the serious financial problems facing California include unfunded public employee pension promises, a potential state credit downgrade, an unprecedented homeless crisis, and a net out-migration of 912,000 residents since 2010.

One easy step California can take is to join every other state in the union and open up its state checkbook for review. Allowing citizens, journalists, watchdogs, academics, and public policy experts to review state spending would help the state get its fiscal house in order.

Unfortunately, last fall, California State Controller Betty Yee (pictured) rejected our sunshine request for the state checkbook. Oddly, the rejection didn’t argue the law, but instead claimed that the controller couldn’t locate a single one of the 49 million bills she paid last year.

This admission provides a troubling clue to California taxpayers who are wondering how and where their money is being spent. The answer is the people spending it literally don’t know. Or they at least say that don’t.

Soft-on-Crime Liberals Are Ruining America’s Greatest Cities

Bernard Kerik - January 23, 2020

The Trump administration has made extraordinary strides in reducing violent crime in America. Democrats across the country seem intent on turning back that progress.

For more than 20 years after 1991, the violent crime rate plummeted almost without halt. Millennial Americans were largely spared the carnage that their parents and older siblings had to live with. For Generation Z, now entering adulthood, the days of widespread murders and muggings are known only through history books.

It’s easy to see why these younger people, many of whom voted for the first time within the past few election cycles, might dismiss concerns about crime. It’s understandable that they might be receptive to the sort of bleeding heart, soft-on-crime arguments we had to defeat back in the 1970s and '80s in order to restore law and order to our streets. But those of us who lived through those days know what’s at stake.

When violent crime began its most worrying spike in a generation during the final years of the Obama administration, Donald Trump promised that he would “make America safe again” if he were elected president. Through innovative new efforts to cooperate with and empower state and local law enforcement on the front lines, his administration has fulfilled this pledge. Violent crime decreased in 2017, again in 2018, and preliminary studies from major cities indicate continued success in 2019.

The Israel-U.S. Model Has Been a Resounding Success

Victor Davis Hanson - January 23, 2020

Whether by accident or by deliberate osmosis, Israel and the U.S. have adopted similar solutions to their existential problems.

Before 2002, during the various Palestinian intifadas, Israel suffered hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries from suicide bombers freely crossing from the West Bank and Gaza into Israel.

In response, Israel planned a vast border barrier. The international community was outraged. The Israeli left called the idea nothing short of "apartheid."

However, after the completion of the 440-mile border barrier -- part concrete well, part wire fencing -- suicide bombings and terrorist incursions into Israel declined to almost nil.

Democratic Attacks on Sanders Are Long Overdue

Froma Harrop - January 23, 2020

Bernie Sanders' campaign recently stabbed Elizabeth Warren in the back. She was the Vermont senator's comrade in arms. It also threw a pack of lies at Joe Biden, tarring him as corrupt with zero evidence. As former Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin told Politico, Sanders "will play dirty." The Democrat added, "I'm concerned that we're seeing a replay of the kind of dynamics that didn't allow Hillary to win."

The difference between now and 2016, though, is that Sanders' targets are finally hitting back. This outbreak of hostilities among Democrats is not hurting the party. On the contrary. An airing of these grievances is long overdue.

And whether one shares Sanders' political views is irrelevant to this conversation. (I like some of them.)

The danger Sanders poses for the party is that, to him, electing Democrats comes second to building the "movement." This explains why his sidekick, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, is pushing primary challenges to moderate Democrats who won difficult races in swing districts.

Does a Minimum Wage Hike Lower the Suicide Rate?

Larry Elder - January 23, 2020

This is a new one. The New York Times headline read: "Minimum Wage Raises Could Lower Suicide Rates, Study Says." But there was a subheadline: "It was the latest study to suggest that effects of wage increases reach beyond economic welfare, but some experts pushed back on the findings."

Let us "push back."

The study was published in January in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. The Times article noted that 47,000 Americans committed suicide in 2017 and said: "The new study examined suicide rates from 1990 through 2015 across all 50 states and Washington, and measured how they changed as the minimum wage increased. The researchers focused on adults between 18 and 64 years old with a high school education or less -- a group more likely than others to be affected by changes in the minimum wage.

"When controlling for changes in a state's economy and welfare policies, the researchers estimated that a $1 increase in the minimum wage corresponded with a 3.5 percent decrease in the suicide rate for those with a high school education or less. Without some of the controls, the decrease in the suicide rate was 6 percent. The effect was most pronounced during times of high unemployment."

A Time to Build

Mona Charen - January 23, 2020

In July 2018, Commentary published an article by Yuval Levin that caused everyone who thinks about the balance of power among the branches in Washington, D.C., to say: "Of course! That's it exactly!" It had long been observed that Congress had, over the course of several decades, relinquished its powers to the executive and the courts. That wasn't news. Others had remarked that geographic sorting and gerrymandering had increased the ideological polarization of the two parties. This spurs members of Congress to side with presidents of their own party more than with their fellow legislators.

Levin's insight went further. The piece was titled "Congress is Weak Because Its Members Want It to be Weak." During Obama's presidency, Democratic members of Congress called upon the president to change immigration law by executive decree. The Republicans had majorities in both bodies in 2018 and a president who was willing to sign nearly anything, yet the Congress passed only tax reform and then elected to sit idle "waiting to see what the president will say next." Even worse, despite unified control, the Congress came close to a government shutdown, and neither body even considered a budget resolution -- the key legislative responsibility. "Congress," Levin wrote, "is broken."

How was that possible? Aren't politicians as ambitious as the Founders expected? They are, Levin argued, but their ambitions have been poured into different vessels. The story of Congress's decline is also found in other institutions of American life -- the family, universities, churches and more, as Levin elaborates in a new book, "A Time to Build."

In the case of Congress, he argues, the weakness arises from members choosing to treat the institution not as a durable form for collective action, but rather as a platform from which to burnish one's celebrity. Thus do we find members of Congress eschewing their fundamental duties as legislators to grandstand on cable TV or social media. When members are mere performers, Congress becomes only a proscenium and this, in turn, robs the institution of legitimacy and respect. Elected members frequently seek followers by heaping scorn on the institution they represent, with demoralizing effects. Whereas 42% of Americans had confidence in Congress in the 1970s, only 11% said as much in 2018.

Sanders, Gagged in the Senate, Suffers Rivals’ Slings

Philip Wegmann - January 22, 2020

The veteran senator is running for president, but he can’t talk about it. If he does -- if Bernie Sanders so much as whispers to a colleague on the Senate floor -- he can be hauled to prison for breaking with decorum.

Well, at least in theory.

The impeachment trial of President Donald J. Trump began on Tuesday with the sergeant-at-arms declaring “Hear ye! Hear ye! Hear ye! All persons are commanded to keep silent, on pain of imprisonment.” No senator has ever faced that consequence, making it mostly a ceremonial threat.

Undeniably more dangerous to Sanders’s White House aspirations are political attacks. Rivals past and present have taken advantage of the Sanders silence to bloody the presidential candidate-turned-mute-impeachment-juror.

Trump Comes Out Swinging Against Impeachment

Betsy McCaughey - January 22, 2020

The White House fired back at Trump's impeachers Monday, taking aim at their far-fetched legal arguments and their dishonesty. Trump's lawyers called the Democrats' grounds for impeachment a "made-up theory." They singled out House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff for "lying," violating "basic fairness" and "concocting" the whistleblower complaint.

The White House brief is Trump's battle plan for his trial, which begins in earnest Wednesday. The brief also serves as a warning to Democrats that if they succeed in their demand for witnesses, then Schiff will be called to testify about his role in engineering the whistleblower complaint and then denying it, and Joe Biden and his son Hunter will be grilled about their dealings in Ukraine.

Schiff's already playing tricks, excluding the whistleblower's complaint itself from the trial documents, as if the Senators shouldn't probe how this impeachment got started.

Trump's lawyers show the framers intended impeachment only for the most serious crimes. Yet House Democrats are insisting they can impeach a president even "for doing something he's allowed to do," if he's motivated by "private self-interest" rather than the national interest. Such "an amorphous and undefined standard" would make every president a target of impeachment, Trump's lawyers warn. It would spell the end of an independent presidency and the Constitution as we know it.

The Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez School of Economics

Ben Shapiro - January 22, 2020

On Monday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., sat for a discussion with author Ta-Nehisi Coates. She dropped a number of shocking statements -- statements that elicited nothing but murmurs of agreement from Coates. AOC claimed: "No one ever makes a billion dollars. You take a billion dollars." How, pray tell, are American billionaires responsible for such massive theft? According to AOC, the very mechanisms of capitalism mandate such theft. In her view, successful businesspeople simply exploit their workers while maximizing their profits. Hypothetically speaking about billionaires making widgets, she said: "You didn't make those widgets! You sat on a couch while thousands of people were paid modern-day slave wages and, in some cases, real modern-day slavery ... You made that money off the backs of undocumented people."

This, of course, is nonsense. Voluntary exchange of labor for wages is, as stated, voluntary, and the fact that there are many people willing and able to labor in the manufacture of widgets is presumably responsible for lower wages. Companies that refuse to pay their workers market wages will soon watch those workers migrate to other businesses or other industries. It is a patent violation of free market principles to utilize force in order to compel someone to work for you; blaming the free market for coercion is like blaming free speech for censorship. Exploitation in labor markets is typically accompanied by government subsidies, regulation and interventionism.

So, how does AOC magically turn economic freedom into economic tyranny? By suggesting that true freedom lies in collective control of the means of production: "If you're a billionaire, that means that you control a massive system. ... It means that you have a massive labor force under your control, and to be ethical if you're a billionaire today, the thing that you need to do is give up control and power." But to whom would such power and control be given? AOC suggests that major companies be turned into worker cooperatives -- companies whose workers own and control the business.

But, of course, that doesn't solve her problem: If workers own and control the business, they are properly classified as capitalists. They will have to make decisions to make the business competitive, which means keeping wages competitive, for example. This is precisely what has happened with one of the world's biggest worker collectives, the Spanish Mondragon Cooperative Corporation, whose worker-owners have "learned to think like the shareholders of any other global business," according to The Guardian. In fact, most companies begin with a few workers who pool their capital and labor: Facebook, for example, handed out stock options to employees, resulting in a $23 billion valuation for their initial employees when the company went public. Does that make those workers evil capitalists?

Dems’ 'Hurry Up and Wait' Impeachment Gamble

Philip Wegmann - January 22, 2020

Speaker Nancy Pelosi last fall made it clear that Democrats would not pump the brakes on their impeachment inquiry to wait for the results of a court battle to compel Trump administration officials to testify. 

“We cannot be at the mercy of the courts,” she said in late November.  

She may not have a choice.  

Fast-forward two months to the Senate impeachment trial, which formally kicked off this week, and the House’s decision to move forward without those witnesses could become one of the most high-stakes games of "hurry up and wait" in modern political history.  

Impeachment Gamble; Whistleblower; LBJ, R.I.P.

Carl M. Cannon - January 22, 2020

Good morning. It’s Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020. I mentioned Richard Nixon yesterday, and will do so again this morning. It’s a natural reaction, I suppose, among those of us old enough to remember the momentous events of 1973 and 1974. It’s fair to say, regardless of one’s political affiliations, that Bill Clinton’s impeachment wasn’t as searing a national experience as Nixon’s fall from power. The current Senate trial seems even less so, at least to me, although it surely must be roiling the emotions of those who live and work in the White House.

We often forget that these are real people in politics, on both sides of the aisle. Much of this is their own fault: Speaking in robotically predictable partisan sound bites hardly enhances their humanity. Yet, sometimes we are reminded that these people are our very mortal brothers and sisters. Forty-seven years ago today was one of those occasions. Lyndon Baines Johnson passed away at his ranch in Texas.

I’ll have a further word on LBJ's death in a moment. First, I’d point you to RealClearPolitics’ front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion pieces spanning the political spectrum. We also offer original material from our own reporters, columnists, and contributors, including the following:

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Illegal Immigrant Caravans and Criminal Catholics

Michelle Malkin - January 22, 2020

The latest, lawless migrant caravan hurtling from Honduras to our southern border is as organic as AstroTurf.

The Central American trespassers now number between 2,500 and 4,000. Two weeks ago, slickly designed flyers disseminated on social media beckoned them to sign up for the latest journey and meet at a bus stop in San Pedro Sula. That village is caravan ground zero, where Honduras's destabilizing Libre Party and its former top legislator-turned-agitator Bartolo Fuentes, have brazenly spearheaded past caravan organizing campaigns since President Donald Trump took office.

On Monday, the throngs reached the Mexico-Guatemala border, where mobs of mostly young men threw rocks and sticks at police -- while sympathetic international "journalists" selectively captured and curated tired women and crying children on the trek with state-of-the-art cameras and livestreams.

Make no mistake: These are not desperate people suddenly seeking refuge from violence and harm. They are low-wage workers, pew-fillers and future ethnic-bloc voters being exploited by Big Business, the Vatican and the Democrat Party.

Biden Widens Black Caucus Support After Harris, Booker Exits

Bill Barrow - January 22, 2020

FORT DODGE, Iowa (AP) — Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden continued to run up his advantage among black political leaders Tuesday, with four Congressional Black Caucus members announcing their support, including three who previously backed Sens. Kamala Harris or Cory Booker.

Georgia Rep. Sanford Bishop was making his first public declaration of support in the Democratic primary. New Jersey Rep. Donald Payne previously backed Booker. Florida Reps. Alcee Hastings and Frederica Wilson previously backed Harris. Payne, Hastings and Wilson are the first Black Caucus members to pick new candidates after Booker and Harris ended their campaigns.

The Biden campaign confirmed the endorsements Tuesday, bringing the 77-year-old candidate’s roster of Black Caucus supporters to 15. That far outpaces any of his Democratic rivals and underscores his advantage with and dependence on a key Democratic constituency. Harris had peaked at 11 Black Caucus endorsements.

“He will be the kind of president who will be able to relate to every demographic in the country, north, south, middle America,” Bishop told The Associated Press in an interview ahead of his public announcement. “He’ll be able to empathize and be taken seriously by every demographic. He’s not so far to the left that he would put off anyone.”

Peters' Duty to Mich. Voters Conflicts With Mega-Donor Demands

Tori Sachs - January 21, 2020

The impeachment trial kicks off in earnest Tuesday and the national media focus have been on how Republican senators who face tough reelections will vote. But in the battleground state of Michigan, it’s Democratic Sen. Gary Peters who has a big decision to make: Side with Michiganders who voted for Trump in 2016 and remain opposed to impeachment or side with radical-left mega-funders willing to spend millions to get him reelected – and vote to impeach.

Peters, who’s held various elected offices since 1991, has already caved to some of the left’s demands to fend off a primary challenge from failed Michigan gubernatorial candidate and AOC ally Abdul El-Sayed by supporting socialist policies like the Green New Deal that would decimate auto and agriculture jobs in every corner of Michigan.

It might come as a surprise to liberal cable news, but a majority of Michigan voters remain opposed to impeachment, according to a recent poll published by the Detroit News. The same poll showed Peters within the margin of error against his Republican challenger John James – the former Army helicopter pilot and Detroit businessman who many believe is the future of the GOP.  

Aside from being in a statistically tied race in a state President Trump won in 2016, Peters is facing fundraising challenges, having been outraised by James the past two quarters, with Peters raising $5 million compared to James’ $6.7 million haul.

Addressing Business Leaders in Davos, Trump Touts 'Spectacular' U.S. Economy

Darlene Superville - January 21, 2020

DAVOS, Switzerland (AP) — President Donald Trump sought Tuesday to sell the United States to the global business community, telling an economic conference in the Swiss Alps that America’s economic turnaround has been “nothing short of spectacular.”

Trump addressed the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, hours before his historic impeachment trial was to reconvene in the U.S. Senate in Washington.

Trump reminded the audience that when he spoke here two years ago, early in his presidency, “I told you that we had launched the great American comeback.”

“Today I’m proud to declare the United States is in the midst of an economic boom, the likes of which the world has never seen before,” the president said.

Impeachment; Climate Bill; Arthur and Patsy

Carl M. Cannon - January 21, 2020

Good morning. It’s Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. The impeachment trial of the president swings into gear today. If you count Richard Nixon, who essentially copped a guilty plea by resigning, it’s the fourth such episode in U.S. history. The other three were Andrew Johnson, who barely escaped conviction when a couple of brave Republicans bucked their party’s leadership; Bill Clinton, who stayed in office on a virtual straight party-line vote; and now Donald J. Trump, who faces a jury of senators whose views on these proceedings are predictably based on a single factor: whether they have a “D” or an “R” after their names. In other words, American politics has long had a heavy partisan quotient. Too heavy, in my view.

But outside of domestic politics, events are not always so predictable. This is especially true in the performing arts, as Americans learned on this date in 1957, when a 24-year-old country singer from Winchester, Va., appeared on a CBS variety show hosted by Arthur Godfrey. Her name was Patsy Cline, and she performed a new number called “Walkin’ After Midnight.” The audience loved the song and the vocalist, and a star was launched.
I’ll have an additional word on Patsy Cline in a moment. First, I’d point you to RealClearPolitics’ front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion pieces spanning the political spectrum. We also offer original material from our own reporters, columnists, and contributors, including the following:

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Trump’s Legal Team: There Is No Crime So Senate Must Acquit. Susan Crabtree reports on the president’s messaging as the impeachment trial gets underway in earnest today.

2020 Hopefuls Stuck in D.C. Deploy Surrogates for Help

Alexandra Jaffe - January 21, 2020

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Steve Sovern had low expectations for a recent event he hosted to support Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign. Iowans are legendary for expecting to meet White House hopefuls in person — multiple times — and the candidate wasn’t going to be there, represented instead by California Rep. Katie Porter.

“Surrogates are usually not much of a draw,” Sovern said.

But 45 people crammed into Sovern’s Cedar Rapids condo, and Porter, an Iowa native, made such a strong case for Warren that several undecided voters left the event saying they planned to caucus for the Democratic senator from Massachusetts.

Porter is one of dozens of surrogates who have deployed across the early voting states in recent weeks to expand the footprint of White House hopefuls before the Iowa caucuses usher in the Democratic contest in less than two weeks. They’ll become even more important this week as four senators running for president will be stuck in Washington to serve as jurors for President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial.

Why Are So Many Young People Unhappy?

Dennis Prager - January 21, 2020

Here are some unhappy statistics:

-- In America between 1946 and 2006, the suicide rate quadrupled for males ages 15 to 24 and doubled for females the same age.

-- In 1950, the suicide rate per 100,000 Americans was 11.4. In 2017, it was 14.

-- According to Grant Duwe, director of research and evaluation at the Minnesota Department of Corrections, in the 1980s, there were 32 mass public shootings (which he defines as incidents in which four or more people are killed publicly with guns within 24 hours). In the 1990s, there were 42. In the first decade of this century, there were 28. In all the 1950s, when there were fewer controls on guns, there was one. Fifty years before that, in the 1900s, there were none.