RealClearPolitics Articles

John Durham Must Investigate 'Unmasking'

Gene Schaerr - August 22, 2019


Partisans may cheer or jeer prosecutor John Durham, appointed by Attorney General William Barr to investigate how the FBI came to investigate Russian involvement in the Trump 2016 campaign. Of deeper interest to thoughtful people across the political spectrum is the light this investigation may shed on abuses of government surveillance that have occurred under both Republican and Democratic administrations. 

Given Durham’s reputation for being both fearless and fair, the U.S. attorney for the District of Connecticut seems ideal for the job: He has investigated government misconduct ranging from the fiasco surrounding Boston mobster Whitey Bulger to CIA “enhanced interrogation” methods. 

Abuse of power is what President Trump’s defenders are hoping Durham will prove. They want him to delve into whether the government gave a secret court sufficient background about the political origins of the infamous Steele dossier used to justify warrants for Trump campaign officials under the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Act. They also want Durham – following up an internal investigation by Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz -- to investigate the FBI’s selection of investigators who, in the words of conservative commentator David French (and no admirer of Donald Trump), lived in a “toxic stew of anti-Trump bias.” 

Remembering fired FBI Agent Peter Strzok’s texted promise to Lisa Page to “stop” Trump, Republicans believe that the Fourth Amendment rights of Mafia members have been given more consideration than the rights of Trump and his people. Fair enough. But along the way, Durham should also examine other issues potentially relevant to the conduct of that investigation -- issues of interest to Americans of all political persuasions. 

Why the GOP Should Pay Attention to Gen Z

Hannah Scherlacher Blair - August 22, 2019


Entitled. Shallow. Disengaged. This is the stereotype of arguably the most misunderstood and overlooked generation participating in next year's election, Generation Z. 

Democrats would have you believe that we are another “snowflake” generation of bleeding heart Bernie lovers or — simply put — a lost cause for Republicans. Take it from Young Democrats of America President Louis Elrod, who says that what used to be seen as far-left platform positions are now “standard if you want to reach out to the next generation.”  

The truth, however, paints a very different picture and provides a tantalizing opportunity for Republicans to win over Gen Z, so long as they take it.  

A recent Zogby poll found that nearly half of Gen Z voters ages 18-24 approve of President Trump, while a separate Morning Consult survey found that their support for Bernie Sanders dropped sharply from 45% to 33% in the past three months. These findings are consistent with a number of other studies that have found young people are swinging conservative, and the reasons go far beyond the typical allure to youth of countering the prevailing culture.  

On Setting Vehicle Efficiency, California Will Win

Froma Harrop - August 22, 2019


It was almost the weirdest Trump play of the week. The president's bizarre threats against carmakers fell in the shadows after he called off a meeting with the Danish prime minister because she wouldn't discuss selling him Greenland. What we and the Danes initially interpreted as a clownish stunt turned creepy after Trump canceled his visit in an apparent snit.

Of greater significance was Trump's warning carmakers they should reject California's tighter standards for automobile emissions. Conservative arguments in the past would have centered on the auto industry's right to oppose what were deemed to be unreasonable demands for fuel economy -- specifically those set by the Obama administration and the environmentally conscious state of California.

Now Trump is demanding that other automakers not do what Honda, Ford, Volkswagen and BMW have done -- side with California on this matter. He's specifically pressured Toyota, Fiat Chrysler and General Motors to stay on his polluting side. Mercedes-Benz was also called on the carpet but is apparently joining the California club.

I don't own a Honda CR-V. And I have no financial interest in the company. Let me say that right off the bat. But this compact SUV offers stunning proof that the more stringent standards are utterly doable. The 2017 CR-V not only met the Obama administration's 2022 target for fuel economy but also did so years before the deadline.

My Instagram Growth Suddenly Stopped; Am I a Victim of Viewpoint Discrimination?

Larry Elder - August 22, 2019

My radio colleague Dennis Prager heads a nonprofit, tax-exempt charitable organization called Prager University. It shares five-minute educational videos from a conservative perspective. There have been over 2 billion views. No sex. No profanity. No chase scenes. But YouTube has placed restrictions on over 100 videos, including videos on the Ten Commandments, according to Allen Estrin of PragerU. YouTube also restricted one I wrote and narrated, "Is America Racist?" in which I refute the narrative that police engage in "institutional racism" against blacks.

In a 2016 press release, PragerU said: "YouTube is censoring these videos by placing them under 'restricted mode.' Many families and schools enable restricted mode in order to keep inappropriate language, and explicit adult and sexual content away from children -- not to prevent them from watching animated, age-appropriate, educational videos on topics ranging from economics and history to happiness and philosophy." In response, Google, which owns YouTube, said, "We don't censor anyone," adding that they "take into consideration" the video's "intent" and its "focus."

At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on "Stifling Free Speech: Technological Censorship and the Public Discourse," Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said, "What makes the threat of political censorship so problematic is the lack of transparency, the invisibility, the ability for a handful of giant tech companies to decide if a particular speaker is disfavored."

Now it appears I might well be a victim of viewpoint discrimination. Tell me I'm wrong or paranoid and there's a simple explanation. Here's my case.



Economic Reality Matters More Than Spin

Scott Rasmussen - August 22, 2019


Just over a week ago, market signals and several analysts suggested that the odds were increasing for a recession in 2020.

Given that 73% of voters consider the economy a very important voting issue, it's no surprise that the new economic assessment quickly generated an intense political debate. President Donald Trump and chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow both made public statements about the strength of the economy.

The political dynamics are pretty straightforward. If the country enters a recession prior to the next election, Trump is unlikely to get reelected, and congressional Democrats could have another big year. On the other hand, if the economy grows stronger and people believe their own personal finances are getting better, the president is a favorite for reelection, and the GOP could have a good year.

So, where do we stand?

Ranking the 2020 Democratic Candidates by Media Coverage

Kalev Leetaru - August 22, 2019


As the 2020 presidential race moves toward the fall, how do the candidates who appeared in the second Democratic debate stack up in terms of media coverage?

The bar chart below shows the number of mentions of each candidate on CNN, MSNBC and Fox News from Jan. 1, 2019 through present, using data from the Internet Archive’s Television News Archive as processed by the GDELT Project. Each candidate was searched by their last name except for Kamala Harris and Bernie Sanders who were searched by both their first and last names, and Tim Ryan who was searched by his full name. Searches for (Julian) Castro excluded coverage mentioning “anti-Castro” or “Cuba” or “Cuban”; (Marianne) Williamson excluded mentions of “Zion Williamson” and “NBA” to avoid confusion with the basketball player; and (Andrew) Yang excluded mentions of “Kraft” or “spa” or “Orchid” or “Lee” or “Cindy” or “Miami” to avoid confusion with the Robert Kraft /Cindy Yang prostitution sting. (Though the first debate was held in Florida’s largest city, excluding mentions of Yang with “Miami” had no impact on his ranking.)

For a larger view, click on the chart.

Biden is clearly the leader in terms of national television news coverage, accounting for more than twice as many mentions as the closest candidate, Kamala Harris. Sanders and Elizabeth Warren close out the top four. Cory Booker, Beto O’Rourke and Pete Buttigieg form the next cluster of candidates, followed by Castro, Amy Klobuchar, Kirsten Gillibrand and Bill de Blasio. The final cluster, headed by now-ex candidate John Hickenlooper, includes Yang, Steve Bullock, John Delaney, Tulsi Gabbard, Ryan, Jay Inslee, Williamson and Michael Bennet.

Outside Money Flows Into Race for Susan Collins’ Senate Seat

Brian Slodysko - August 21, 2019


PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Democrats vowed last year to make Republican Sen. Susan Collins pay for her vote confirming Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Republicans declared they would have her back. Neither has forgotten its promises.

Money is pouring into Maine’s high-profile Senate race, threatening to upend the state’s reputation for genteel politics and giving way to a new era of partisanship.

Observers predict the race will set a spending record in the state, with tens of millions of dollars going into the state, even though Collins has yet to officially announce that she’s seeking reelection.

Advertising data shows Democrats plan to spend at least $1.2 million on ads through December, including a spot that aired for the first time this month that accuses Collins of failing to protect Medicare. A newly formed GOP group, meanwhile, has $800,000 already in the bank, thanks to a small group of wealthy financiers. They’ve highlighted Collins’ bipartisan credentials while calling her a “strong voice to the concerns of women across Maine and the nation.”

Trump Cancels Denmark Visit Because Greenland Isn’t for Sale

Darlene Superville - August 21, 2019


WASHINGTON (AP) — Two days after he said buying Greenland wasn’t a top priority, President Donald Trump canceled an upcoming trip to Denmark, which owns the mostly frozen island, after its prime minister dismissed the idea.

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen had called Trump’s musing about buying the Danish territory “an absurd discussion” after the former real estate mogul-turned-president began to talk up the idea.

Trump said Sunday that he was interested in such a deal for strategic purposes, but said a purchase was not a priority at this time. “It’s not No. 1 on the burner,” he told reporters.

Trump even joked about his proposal as it came in for ridicule, tweeting a doctored photo of a glistening Trump skyscraper looming over a small village in the Arctic territory.



Leaving Afghanistan? Sanders and 'Ethnocide'; Boos and Beer

Carl M. Cannon - August 21, 2019

Good morning, it’s Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019. Seventy years ago today, with his team trailing 4-2 in the 9th inning against the New York Giants, Philadelphia Phillies centerfielder Richie Ashburn made a spectacular diving catch on a line drive from Giants first baseman Joe Lafata -- or at least Ashburn thought he did.

Neither team was in contention at the time, the National League pennant race that year being a two-team race between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the St. Louis Cardinals. Nor was there any particular rivalry between Ashburn and Lafata. The former was a budding 22-year-old star at the dawn of a Hall of Fame career. Lafata was a 28-year-old journeyman in his second (and last) season in the major leagues. The game of baseball is egalitarian that way. Even though Ashburn was a brilliant defensive outfielder and Lafata couldn’t hit a lick, on this day in this inning, the centerfielder couldn’t quite get his glove under the ball.

I must quickly add that Ashburn vehemently disagreed. He thought he made the play. First base umpire George Barr didn’t see it that way: He ruled it a trap, not a catch. Although Ashburn’s coaches and teammates sided with their centerfielder, in the days long before instant replay the only opinion that carried any weight was the umpire’s. This being Philadelphia, the cradle of liberty, fans joined the debate. A soda bottle came flying from the stands. Then another. And another. The bottles were soon joined by cans, newspapers, even vegetables. The umps put up with the barrage for about 15 minutes until crew chief Al Barlick had enough. He called the game, awarding a forfeit to the Giants, which means the official score of the Aug. 21, 1949 game in Philadelphia’s Shibe Park was 9-0.

I’ll have more to say on this episode -- and how it relates to participatory democracy -- in a moment. First, I’d steer you to  RealClearPolitics’ front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion columns spanning the political spectrum. We also offer original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following:

Boos and Beer: Baseball Fans' Pitch to End Prohibition

Carl M. Cannon - August 21, 2019


Seventy years ago today, with his team trailing 4-2 in the 9th inning against the New York Giants, Philadelphia Phillies centerfielder Richie Ashburn made a spectacular diving catch on a line drive from Giants first baseman Joe Lafata -- or at least Ashburn thought he did.

Neither team was in contention at the time, the National League pennant race that year being a two-team race between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the St. Louis Cardinals. Nor was there any particular rivalry between Ashburn and Lafata. The former was a budding 22-year-old star at the dawn of a Hall of Fame career. Lafata was a 28-year-old journeyman in his second (and last) season in the major leagues. The game of baseball is egalitarian that way. Even though Ashburn was a brilliant defensive outfielder and Lafata couldn’t hit a lick, on this day in this inning, the centerfielder couldn’t quite get his glove under the ball.

I must quickly add that Ashburn vehemently disagreed. He thought he made the play. First base umpire George Barr didn’t see it that way: He ruled it a trap, not a catch. Although Ashburn’s coaches and teammates sided with their centerfielder, in the days long before instant replay the only opinion that carried any weight was the umpire’s. This being Philadelphia, the cradle of liberty, fans joined the debate. A soda bottle came flying from the stands. Then another. And another. The bottles were soon joined by cans, newspapers, even vegetables. The umps put up with the barrage for about 15 minutes until crew chief Al Barlick had enough. He called the game, awarding a forfeit to the Giants, which means the official score of the Aug. 21, 1949 game in Philadelphia’s Shibe Park was 9-0.

Strange as it may first seem, this is all relevant to participatory democracy, as I'll explain in a moment.

Gabbard Victimized by DNC's Dubious Debate Criteria

Michael Tracey - August 21, 2019


Tulsi Gabbard is on the verge of being excluded from the next Democratic presidential debate on the basis of criteria that appear increasingly absurd.

Take, for instance, her poll standing in New Hampshire, which currently places Gabbard at 3.3% support, according to the RealClearPolitics average as of Aug. 20. One might suspect that such a figure would merit inclusion in the upcoming debates -- especially considering she’s ahead of several candidates who have already been granted entry, including Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke, and Andrew Yang. But the Democratic National Committee has decreed that the polls constituting this average are not sufficiently “qualifying.”

What makes a poll “qualifying” in the eyes of the DNC? The answer is conspicuously inscrutable. Months ago, party chieftains issued a list of “approved sponsoring organizations/institutions” for polls that satisfy their criteria for debate admittance. Not appearing on that list is the Boston Globe, which sponsored a Suffolk University poll published Aug. 6 that placed Gabbard at 3%. The DNC had proclaimed that for admittance to the September and October debates, candidates must secure polling results of 2% or more in four separate “approved” polls -- but a poll sponsored by the newspaper with the largest circulation in New Hampshire (the Globe recently surpassed the New Hampshire Union Leader there) does not count, per this cockamamie criteria. There has not been an officially qualifying poll in New Hampshire, Gabbard’s best state, in over a month.

The absurdity mounts. A South Carolina poll published Aug. 14 by the Post and Courier placed Gabbard at 2%. One might have again vainly assumed that the newspaper with the largest circulation in a critical early primary state would be an “approved” sponsor per the dictates of the DNC, but it is not. Curious.

Leaving Afghanistan: Hawks and Doves Weigh Risks

Susan Crabtree - August 21, 2019


The Trump administration’s push to finalize a peace deal with the Taliban over the last week was twice interrupted by deadly explosions in Afghanistan, a reality check that any serious U.S. military drawdown in the war-torn country in no way guarantees a peaceful transition.

Despite the most recent spate of violence and instability, U.S. Special Representative to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad on Tuesday headed to Doha, Qatar to resume talks with Taliban and Afghan leaders “as part of the overall effort to facilitate a peace process that ends the conflict,” the State Department announced.

Details of a peace deal are just emerging and are far from certain, but the prospect of ending the 18-year military presence in Afghanistan has reignited an intense perennial debate over U.S. interests in remaining there.

For now, President Trump seems intent on letting the talks play out, aiming to fulfill his previous campaign promise of ending the war and fending off inevitable criticism from his 2020 Democratic rivals, who largely agree that the U.S. should leave.



Ethnic Studies Latest Ploy to Brainwash Kids

Betsy McCaughey - August 21, 2019


President Donald Trump told a rally last week: "We are all Americans. We all share the same home. We all share the same heart." He cautioned that "the radical Democrats are trying to tear this country apart" with their divisive identity politics.

Warning to parents: Left-wing activists are using these same divisive tactics to target your kids' schools and co-opt their young minds. Across the country, leftists are demanding that public schools teach "ethnic studies." Don't be fooled by the title. Many of these courses demonize America's past, label whites as oppressors and convert students into "social justice organizers."

California Democrats are pushing to make ethnic studies a high school graduation requirement statewide. Their drafted curriculum defines ethnic studies as the "experiences of people of color in the United States" and the "forms of oppression" they've endured.

The California course urges students to become "agents of change" and mandates that all students complete an "engagement/action project." Astoundingly, the course guide suggests only one project to meet this requirement: promoting "voting rights for undocumented immigrant residents" in local elections.

The Media's Intersectional Embrace of Anti-Semitism

Ben Shapiro - August 21, 2019


Imagine two sitting Republican Congresspeople planned a trip to a foreign country in conjunction with a nongovernmental organization. Imagine that particular NGO had a long history of Jew hatred: It had run a piece on its website quoting anti-Semitic myths about Jews imbibing Christian blood, republished a neo-Nazi article decrying the "Jew-controlled entertainment media" and suggested that "honor" was the proper response to a terrorist who murdered 38 Israelis, including 13 children.

Imagine that these two Congresspeople tweeted a cartoon from a cartoonist so anti-Semitic he won second prize at Iran's Holocaust denial cartoon contest. Imagine that these Congresspeople had themselves engaged in anti-Semitic slurs, ranging from a suggestion that Israel supporters in America suffer from dual loyalty, to the accusation that Israel "hypnotized the world," to the suggestion that Jewish money lies behind America's support for Israel ("it's all about the Benjamins"). Imagine that these Congresspeople had expressed support for terrorist Rasmea Odeh. Imagine also that both Congresspeople had a long history of associations with open anti-Semites.

Finally, imagine that both members were supporters of the anti-Semitic boycott, divest and sanctions (BDS) movement directed against Israel -- a movement so obviously anti-Semitic that a bipartisan coterie ranging from Sen. Ted Cruz, R-T., to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., had declared it so.

Now imagine that these two Republican Congresspeople were barred from entering Israel under Israel's law that prevents propagandizing designed to destroy the state of Israel. Would the media report on Israel's reaction or on the Republican Congresspeople's associations, actions and statements? Would the narrative surround Israel's supposed free speech crackdown, or would it center on the obvious Jew hatred of the Republican Congresspeople?

Triggering the Google Social Credit System

Michelle Malkin - August 21, 2019


I learned last week from a Silicon Valley whistleblower, who spoke with the intrepid investigative team at Project Veritas, that my namesake news and opinion website is on a Google blacklist.

Thank goodness the Big Tech giant hasn't taken over the newspaper syndication business yet. Twenty years of column writing have allowed me to break news and disseminate my opinions without the tyranny of social justice algorithms downgrading or whitewashing my words. But given the toxic metastasis of social media in every aspect of our lives, especially for those who make their living exercising the First Amendment, it may only be a matter of time before this column somehow falls prey to the Google Ministry of Truth, too.

Armed with internal memos and emails, former Google software engineer Zachary Vorhies exposed how MichelleMalkin.com (online since 1999) was placed on a news blacklist banning my content from appearing on newsfeeds accessed through Android Google products. I do not advocate violence, publish porn or indulge in vulgarity or profanity (other than my occasional references to Beltway crapweasels). But I triggered the Google Social Credit System and there's no going back.

My apparent sin: Independently growing a large organic following of readers on the internet who share my mainstream conservative views on immigration, jihad, education, social issues, economic policy, faith and more.

Will '80s Stance on 'Ethnocide' Harm Sanders With Native Americans?

Philip Wegmann - August 20, 2019


It was their land first.

And while the Miskito people managed to survive Columbus and the colonialism that followed his arrival, many were driven from their homes on the Caribbean Coast centuries later by Nicaragua's Sandinista government. Eyewitnesses remembered how the communists bombed their villages and burned their homes, how the military machine-gunned and lynched their men.

“Oh, my -- it is so bad,” an old man on the edge of tears told filmmakers for a documentary that debuted at the 1986 Sundance Film Festival and later aired on PBS. “Just like there was no God.”

The overall humanitarian crisis, however, was of little concern to Bernie Sanders. “It happens,” the then-mayor of Burlington, Vt., told the Rutland Daily Herald, “not to be an area of my interest.”



No, There Will Be No Big Infrastructure Plan

Froma Harrop - August 20, 2019


Democrats running for president are vowing to bring high-speed internet to rural America. President Donald Trump campaigned on the same promise. It was to be part of his big infrastructure plan. But no, there will be no big infrastructure plan.

Responding to the Democratic candidates' reminder of a broken pledge, Trump's former infrastructure adviser, D.J. Gribbin, told Politico: "If I were in the White House right now, I would point to the fact that we had a plan. We took a big swing."

However, the one big swing that Trump actually connected with a ball was the giant 2017 tax cuts that will pile nearly $2 trillion onto the national debt over 10 years. And that pretty much buried any hope of $2 trillion for fixing roads or ports and bringing fast broadband to rural areas.

You may recall the tantrum with which Trump broke off an infrastructure meeting. He ranted against Democrats' probes of him and his administration. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, he bawled, had accused him of "horrible, horrible things."

As Rivals Head to California, Biden Chooses New Hampshire

Bill Barrow - August 20, 2019


Joe Biden won’t be among the parade of White House hopefuls in California this week, skipping the Democratic National Committee’s summer meeting to campaign in New Hampshire instead.

The former vice president will have the nation’s first primary state essentially to himself as his top rivals jockey for attention from hundreds of Democratic officials gathered in San Francisco for the party’s last national meeting before presidential voting begins in February.

Biden’s choice is partly a reflection of Democrats’ new rules that strip DNC members of their presidential nominating votes on the first 2020 convention ballot. But it’s just as much an indication of Biden’s deliberate front-runner strategy as he continues to lead national and state primary polls: The 76-year-old candidate is choosing carefully when to appear alongside the candidates who are trying to upend him, and he’s keeping a distance, at least publicly, from the party machinery that ultimately proved an albatross to Hillary Clinton in her 2016 loss to Donald Trump.

“He has a real commitment to be in the early states,” said Biden’s campaign chairman, Cedric Richmond, pointing to Biden’s recent four-day swing through Iowa, the first caucus state, along with upcoming trips to South Carolina and Nevada and a return to Iowa. “I wouldn’t make any more of the scheduling decision than that.”

Why Trump Should Stop the Reregulation of Freight Rail

Stephen Moore - August 20, 2019


Recently, two major railroad operators, CSX and Union Pacific, reported a significant drop in earnings, in part due to declining rail shipments. This was partially due to the impact of ongoing trade disputes. While we generally support a better trade relationship with China (hopefully with fewer tariffs and nontariff barriers), we need to see strong freight rail traffic if the economic expansion is going to roll on.

Legendary investor Warren Buffet once said that if he were stuck on a desert island and could only be given one number to know how the economy was doing, he would pick rail car traffic.

Our manufacturing, mining, merchandising and energy industries are dependent on freight rail and trucking. This is why we can't think of a worse time for Washington to be imposing new onerous regulations on the rail industry. One policy that could very negatively affect freight rail is the effort among some regulators inside the Trump administration and some in Congress to reregulate the rail industry during the time when it least needs additional red tape.

This is especially important because this is a president who prides himself on rolling back the regulatory surge under President Barack Obama. Remember: Two regulations repealed for every new rule passed.

Criticism of Israel Is Not Anti-Semitism; Anti-Zionism Is

Dennis Prager - August 20, 2019


Imagine a group of people who work to destroy Italy because, they claim, Italy's origins are illegitimate. Imagine further that these people maintain that of all the countries in the world, only Italy is illegitimate. And then imagine that these people vigorously deny they are in any way anti-Italian. Would you believe them? Or would you dismiss their argument as not only dishonest but absurd?

Substitute "Israel" for "Italy" and "Jew" for "Italian" and you'll understand the dishonesty and absurdity of the argument that one can be anti-Zionist but not anti-Semitic.

But that is precisely what anti-Zionists say. They argue that the very existence of a Jewish state in the geographic area known as Palestine -- there was never an independent country known as Palestine -- is illegitimate. They do not believe any other country in the world is illegitimate, no matter how bloody its origins. And then they get offended when they're accused of being anti-Semitic.

How can they make this argument?