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June 20 2017 10:48 PM

Republican Karen Handel Beats Democrat Jon Ossoff in Georgia Special Election

With a few votes left to be tabulated, CNN is calling the Georgia 6th for Republican Karen Handel.

After lagging behind in early returns, Democrat Jon Ossoff’s only hope was an unprecedented surge in mail-in ballots. That did not happen.

Democrats did not get the congressional win they had hoped for in this race to fill Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price's House seat. But could they claim a moral victory? Depends who you ask.

Republicans first won the Georgia 6th in 1979, and the seat has been kept warm by staunch conservatives ever since. In that regard, Ossoff’s performance is encouraging.

On the other hand, Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton by one measly percentage point there last November. Despite the president’s general unpopularity, this wasn’t the loud rebuke of Trump many Democrats were hoping for. It was, if anything, another little burp of mild displeasure.

Though commentators Tuesday night and Wednesday will surely look for broader takeaways, in many ways, this race was an anomaly. It was by far the most expensive congressional race in history, with roughly $55 million spent on and by the candidates. It was silly to spend that much money on one congressional seat, and let’s hope people chill out from now on.

The race also earned heavy national interest and participation (both financial and otherwise), giving it the feel of a proxy war. But the district is not exactly representative of national dynamics. It is suburban, highly educated, and firmly conservative. Ossoff played to those factors. His political leanings are heavily to the center of center, and his campaign’s focus was on small government and economic growth—not on Trump. This looked like it was working, until it didn't.

There was another special election tonight. It was in South Carolina’s 5th, a rural, conservative district. There, Republican Ralph Norman beat Democrat Archie Parnell by a surprisingly narrow margin. In what has been a flurry of special election losses for Democrats, that’s the one that may come out looking the best. For whatever that’s worth.

June 20 2017 9:33 PM

Will Donald Trump Finally Address the Comey “Tapes” This Week? A Few Possible Scenarios.

This week, Donald Trump will publicly address his claims that he may have secretly recorded conversations with fired FBI Director James Comey. At least, that’s what Sean Spicer has said. At the Tuesday press briefing, the White House press secretary responded to a reporter’s question on the subject, saying, “The president has said that he will make an announcement on this. I expect it this week.”

Trump first alleged that he recorded his conversations with Comey back in May:

Since then, White House officials have neither confirmed nor denied the existence of these “tapes.” The company line, as put forth by deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, has been ignorance: She told reporters that she had “no idea” whether or not Trump records his conversations.

When asked about the tapes earlier this month, Trump told reporters, “I’ll tell you about it over a very short period of time,” adding, “You’re going to be very disappointed when you hear the answer.” Those are very confusing statements! Does “I’ll tell you about it over a very short period of time,” mean he’ll tell us soon, or that the explanation itself will be short, i.e., a brusk “No tapes!” before sprinting out of the room? Will we be disappointed because there are no tapes, or because there are tapes, or because the tapes are over a short period of time? The exchange is open to interpretation:

Do Spicer's comments Tuesday suggest that this “very short period of time” has finally arrived? There are plenty of ways this story could unfold. I’ve cataloged a few possible scenarios for your convenience:

Trump dramatically produces the tapes like he’s the Count of Monte Cristo or something.

In this scenario, Trump spends months sitting on evidence that exonerates him from accusations made by a former FBI director under oath. This plan would take an astonishing level of calculation and patience, which seems unlikely, because all evidence points to Donald Trump being rather impatient. Take this 1997 New Yorker profile, for example, in which Trump, flying to Mar-a-Lago on his private jet, makes his son Eric man the VCR and fast-forward through all the slow, exposition-building moments in Jean-Claude Van Damme’s Bloodsport so he can go straight to the fight scenes.

Trump comes clean: There are no “tapes.”

The president’s original tweet leaves lots of room for this admission. Sean Hannity would undoubtedly praise his “frankness” and “honesty,” and it would be hailed in some corners as the moment he “truly became president.” The following morning, bored by a Trump-free segment on Fox and Friends, the president would send out a new tweet claiming that he actually does have the “tapes,” and we’d start the whole thing from scratch again.

Trump opens a new hotel.

We’ve been here before. The last time Trump promised to address highly controversial and disputed remarks was back in September, when he was to make a “major statement” regarding birtherism. Presumably, he was going to announce that he believed Barack Obama was born in the United States, which would be a public rebuke of the racist conspiracy theory he had touted for so long. With every major cable news network on hand to broadcast it live, Trump instead held what was most accurately described as an “infomercial” for his new D.C. hotel. “I think it may be one of the great hotels anywhere in the world,” he said. Could he do this with a Comey-tapes press conference? Tune in to find out!

Trump does nothing.

There will be no announcement regarding recorded conversations between the president and James Comey. Questions about it will either be ignored or swiftly dismissed. Another week will pass. Leaves will detach themselves from trees. Snow will start falling softly upon the White House and, farther north, softly fall into the water hazards of the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey. It will fall too upon the lonely house of James Comey, where the former FBI director will gaze out a window as he sees the flakes accumulating on his lawn in a universe where there may or may not be “tapes,” their existence unknown to both the living and the dead.

June 20 2017 8:04 PM

Today in Conservative Media: The Left Hated Otto Warmbier


A daily roundup of the biggest stories in right-wing media.

On Tuesday, conservatives heaped criticism on pieces published by liberal outlets in the wake of the now late Otto Warmbier’s capture in North Korea. “While Otto Warmbier Languished in North Korea, Salon and HuffPo Mocked Him for ‘White Privilege’,” read one Heat Street headline:

Salon called him “America’s biggest idiot frat boy” in a piece covering Larry Wilmore’s equally cruel coverage of him. Salon then promoted the piece in a tweet, saying, “Frat boy Otto Warmbier gets the ‘Nightly Show’ treatment he so richly deserved.”
[...]In an extensive piece at HuffPost, writer La Sha smuggly wrote, “North Korea proves your white male privilege isn’t universal.”

"While an American was rotting in a North Korean prison," Heat Street's Brooke Rogers concluded, "these partisan hacks delighted in the tragic circumstances that would lead to his death— because he was a white male."

National Review’s David French highlighted the same pieces in a post arguing that the ridicule of Warmbier was “symbolic of the left’s hate problem”:

It’s too easy to say, “This is how we get Trump.” The issues go far beyond Trump. This is how we get polarization. This is how we get cocooning. This is one way that Americans learn to hate each other. This problem preceded Trump, and it will endure long after he leaves. It’s incumbent on each of America’s great political movements to do their best to police their own, and the Left has failed, utterly, to address the hatred in its midst. Instead its great institutions celebrate it, embrace it, and grant platforms for cruelty and malice. Otto Warmbier is but one victim. There are — and will be — many more to come.

A teen publication called Affinity Magazine came under fire for tweeting that Warmbier should have respected North Korea’s laws in response to the Washington Post’s Josh Rogin tweeting that Warmbier was “an innocent kid tortured by an evil regime.” “Watch whiteness work,” Affinity’s now deleted tweet read. “He wasn’t a ‘kid’ or ‘innocent’ you can’t go to another country and try to steal from them.” “Apparently devoid of any sympathy, Affinity Magazine is blaming the U.S. teen for his own death on Twitter,” the Daily Caller’s Amber Athey wrote.

In other news

Trump's tweet: A number of conservative writers responded warily to President Trump’s tweet thanking China for its efforts to “help with North Korea,” which Trump opaquely said have “not worked out”.

Eric Holder: Multiple outlets ran posts on news that former Attorney General Eric Holder is reportedly considering a run for president in 2020. Townhall’s Matt Vespa called Holder a candidate who could get both pro and anti-Trump conservatives to unite:

Holder was put in the hot seat over the Fast and Furious scandal that embroiled the Department of Justice and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives for a botched gunwalking operation against Mexican drug cartels. The ATF allowed over 2,500 AK-47s and other weapons to be purchased by the cartels, which were then used in crimes. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed by one of the guns, which weren’t tracked. The Mexican government was also kept in the dark about the operation by the Obama administration.
Congress and the Obama White House ended up in a tug of war over documents relating to the operation, resulting in the administration invoking executive privilege and Holder being held in contempt. So, there’s political baggage, with the addition that Mr. Holder has never held public office.

The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro had this to say:

Chelsea Clinton's tweet: Finally, multiple outlets ran posts on Chelsea Clinton’s tweet calling Steve Bannon’s quip about White House briefings being curbed due to Sean Spicer’s weight “fat shaming.” In a post whose homepage headline called Clinton “Hill-spawn,” Breitbart’s Adam Shaw reposted an exchange between her and Breitbart White House correspondent Charlie Spiering over the remark:

June 20 2017 2:51 PM

Report: China Is Considering a Military Base in Pakistan as the Two Countries Grow Closer

Pakistan, a key U.S. ally in the war against terrorism, is growing closer to China. Since announcing in 2014 plans for the $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor—a trade route connecting China to the Indian ocean—the countries have become strong partners in trade, defense, and regional cooperation, leading some observers to wonder whether China is moving in to fill what has long been the U.S. role in Pakistan: providing the country with aid in return for strategic military bases.

Now, according to a report on Monday by NBC News, China is considering establishing a naval base of its own in Pakistan’s southwestern port of Gwadar. The report, authored by veteran Pakistani journalist Wajahat S. Khan, is based on accounts of unnamed insiders in the Pakistani military and intelligence community, and there is no confirmation from Chinese officials. “We need an equalizer against India,” one anonymous Pakistani intelligence official told Khan, referring to the Chinese naval base’s ability to counter rivaling India’s significantly more powerful military. “Previously, it was the U.S. and Saudi [Arabia]. Now, it's China."

On Saturday, a Chinese navy task group visited Pakistan, where, according to local media reports, the two countries conducted joint operational training activities. Pakistan’s chief of naval staff released a statement saying that the visit is “expected to enhance interoperability and maritime collaboration between the two navies.” The visit also comes on the heels of news that China’s first overseas naval base is currently being built in Djibouti.

Fears of a possible Chinese naval base in Pakistan were expressed in a new Pentagon report to Congress released in May, titled “Military and Security Developments in China.” The report noted that China may consider expanding its overseas naval presence in countries “such as Pakistan” and observed “an increase in capability and force posture by the Chinese military in areas close to the border with India.” The Pentagon concluded that these moves by Beijing may have the long-term effect of challenging U.S. interests.

Last week, a representative of China’s Foreign Ministry said that China is “firmly opposed” to the conclusions in the Pentagon report, which Beijing considers “irresponsible remarks on China's national defense development and reasonable actions in defending our territorial sovereignty and security interests in disregard of the facts.”

While the ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying did not disclose any information about a possible naval base in Pakistan, she defended China’s relationship with the country. “I would like to stress that as neighbors with traditional friendship, China and Pakistan have conducted broad cooperation in various fields for win-win results and mutual benefits for a long time. The China-Pakistan friendly cooperation does not target any third party and conforms to each other's international commitments.”

June 19 2017 7:49 PM

Today in Conservative Media: Applause for a Free Speech Victory at the Supreme Court


A daily roundup of the biggest stories in right-wing media.

There was praise across conservative media for the Supreme Court’s 8-0 ruling in Matal v. Tam, a case stemming from the government’s refusal to register the band name the Slants as a trademark given potential offense. “If you’re a lawyer arguing against free speech at the Supreme Court, be prepared to lose,” National Review’s David French wrote:

Given existing First Amendment jurisprudence, there would have been a constitutional earthquake if SCOTUS hadn’t ruled for Tam. The Court has long held that the Constitution protects all but the narrowest categories of speech. Yet time and again, governments (including colleges) have tried to regulate “offensive” speech. Time and again, SCOTUS has defended free expression. Today was no exception. Writing for a unanimous Court, Justice Alito noted that the Patent and Trademark Office was essentially arguing that “the Government has an interest in preventing speech expressing ideas that offend.”

The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro wrote that the court’s ruling in 1969’s Brandenburg v. Ohio, which found that the government’s ability to regulate speech is largely limited to cases of immediate incitement to unlawful action or violence, is being exploited by anti-speech partisans on both sides of the political spectrum. “If as a culture we begin to identify words with violence,” he wrote, “ if we begin to suggest that a production of Julius Caesar is an incitement to assassination, or if we state that Sarah Palin’s targeted district map is an incitement to violence, or if we explain that Charles Murray must be banned from campus because his research on IQ might lead to discrimination – we’re going to start banning words in the near future.”

Hot Air’s Allahpundit noted the case’s particular relevance for the Washington, D.C., NFL team:

The victorious petitioners here were the band “The Slants,” a group of Asian-Americans that chose a derogatory term for themselves in order to subvert the stigma of the word. In hindsight, that may have worked to the Redskins’ advantage: The Slants are a more sympathetic petitioner in that they’re average joes, not a well-heeled sports team, and the “disparagement” argument seems especially ridiculous in their case. No one adopts a slur for a racial group to which they belong for the purpose of “disparaging” themselves, after all. They do it to undermine the disparaging connotation. The Redskins didn’t adopt their name for disparaging reasons either—teams don’t name themselves after things they disdain—but the fact remains that the organization is an example of non-Native people using a mascot which some Native Americans find offensive.

In other news:

Many commentators criticized comedian Lena Dunham for tweeting over the weekend that people don’t necessarily need fathers. “So many families work so many ways,” she wrote.

“Dads matter,” RedState’s Amelia Hamilton responded. “Fathers Day seems like a weird day to say that they don’t.” The Daily Wire’s Amanda Prestigiacomo called Dunham a coward for later deleting the tweet and had an exchange with Dunham herself on Twitter.

“Overall, children who experience fatherlessness have lower achievement in school and higher levels of aggression and delinquency,” Prestigiacomo wrote in a post. “If Dunham truly cared about families, children and ‘feminism,’ wouldn’t it be in her best interest to advocate for more men to rightfully fulfill their duty to be present fathers? Apparently not.”

Several outlets took CBS’ Scott Pelley to task for questioning whether the congressional baseball shooting was “foreseeable, predictable and to some degree, self-inflicted” given heightened political rhetoric on all sides.

“Pelley devoted one short sentence to the GOP shooter’s support for Bernie Sanders before focusing exclusively President Donald Trump’s tweet referring to the media as the ‘enemy of the people,’ and recounting his response to reporters that language inciting violence did not ‘worry’ him,” the Daily Caller’s Will Ricciardella wrote.

Finally, the Resurgent’s Erick Erickson wrote that the political left is “becoming the American ISIS,” in a post titled “Let’s Consider Secession.” “Both the left and parts of the right are now all using the Alinsky playbook, which itself was dedicated to Satan,” he wrote.

Federalism should be the answer. Those who want gay marriage and kid killing should be allowed to do it in their state and those who want to live in state that does not allow gay marriage or the murder of children should be allowed to. The founders wanted us to solve those moral issues at the state level and allow each state its own values and ways. That is how it should work. That would be the cure for what ails us.
But let’s not kid ourselves. If Texas decided to end abortion on demand and prohibit gay marriage, three-quarters of the Fortune 500, the NCAA, and every professional sports league would boycott the state. It is not enough that each state should be able to set its own values, even here the left demands adherence to its beliefs and punishment for the beliefs of others. So there is no escape from the culture war.

June 19 2017 5:32 PM

Otto Warmbier Has Died

Otto Warmbier—the 22-year-old University of Virginia student who was in a coma when he was released from North Korean prison last week—has died, his family said in a statement:

It's not yet clear what exactly happened in North Korea that caused Warmbier, who was arrested in January 2016 during a tour organized by a Chinese company and charged with attempting to steal a propaganda poster, to become so badly hurt. Per the New York Times, doctors at the University of Cincinnati believe he suffered a "catastrophic brain injury" sometime before April 2016 that was caused by "cardiopulmonary arrest."

June 19 2017 4:50 PM

Today’s Impeach-O-Meter: Monday’s Horrible News Actually Somehow Didn’t Involve Donald Trump

In the tradition of the Clintonometer and the Trump Apocalypse Watch, the Impeach-O-Meter is a wildly subjective and speculative daily estimate of the likelihood that Donald Trump leaves office before his term ends, whether by being impeached (and convicted) or by resigning under threat of same.

Today's top stories were tragic and contributed to the general Trump-related sense that our corner of the world is tearing itself apart:

  • A man crashed a van into a group of people outside a mosque in London, reportedly screaming as he was apprehended that he wanted to "kill all Muslims." (One elderly man who was reportedly already receiving emergency medical treatment in the area prior to the attack died afterward; several other individuals were injured by the van.)
  • A 17-year-old Muslim girl in Virginia was found dead after being abducted near her mosque. (Authorities are not currently investigating her death as a potential hate crime.)
  • A pregnant black woman in Seattle was killed by police who had originally arrived at her home because she called to report an attempted burglary.

None of them, however, reflected directly on POTUS's likelihood of being impeached, so our meter remains in the same position it was last Friday. Congratulations, Mr. President?

Photo illustration by Natalie Matthews-Ramo. Photos by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images, Win McNamee/Getty Images, Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images, Drew Angerer/Getty Images, and Peter Parks-Pool/Getty Images.

Photo illustration by Natalie Matthews-Ramo. Photos by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images, Win McNamee/Getty Images, Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images, Drew Angerer/Getty Images, and Peter Parks-Pool/Getty Images.

June 19 2017 3:12 PM

Hey, Remember That Congressional Election in Georgia? It’s Finally Happening!


Why are we here?

Residents of Georgia's 6th Congressional District—a generally affluent area that includes Atlanta's northern suburbs—are voting Tuesday to decide who will replace former Republican Rep. Tom Price in Congress. (Price vacated his seat to become Donald Trump's secretary of health and human services and to maybe get prosecuted for stock-related corruption.) The ol' Fightin' 6th has been held by Republicans—including former House Speaker Newt "Snoot" Gingrich—since 1979, but the Republican Party and its president are currently unpopular enough that 30-year-old Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff actually has a slight polling lead over Republican candidate Karen Handel going into Tuesday's vote. Ossoff got the most votes in an open election for the seat that was held on April 18 but didn't reach the 50 percent total that would have been required to win the race outright. So now he and Handel are in a runoff.

Is it true that the United Kingdom scheduled and held an entire national election in less time than it took for us to get around to holding this runoff?

Yes. British Prime Minister Theresa May called for an election on April 18, the same day as the first round of voting in Georgia.* The British election was then held on June 8.

Oi! Ossoff has a slight lead, you say? How slight?

He's ahead by 1.5 points in RealClearPolitics' polling average. That's small enough that it would not be at all surprising if Handel won.

Regardless of who wins and by how much, will the results of this election be considered extremely and definitively important by a political world desperate for a "referendum" on Donald Trump's performance?

You betcha! Nate Silver has a good breakdown of what the election could mean for congressional Republicans, who might well interpret an Ossoff win as a very ominous sign for their chances in 2018 and start bailing on the Trump agenda as a result. (Of course, as Silver points out, the fact that Ossoff is even close to winning is probably just as relevant as whether he actually does pull out a victory in Tuesday night's coin flip. But narratives gonna narrative.) If Handel wins, Democrats will argue angrily with each other about whether Ossoff—a former congressional aide who has run a relatively mild-mannered campaign—was too much of an establishment moderate. In fact, they'll probably find a way to argue about that even if Ossoff does win!

Karen Handel—what's her deal?

Handel is a businesswoman and longtime Republican politico who you may remember from the controversy over the Susan G. Komen breast cancer foundation's decision to stop giving grant money to Planned Parenthood. Handel worked for the Komen foundation at the time and reportedly pushed for the move, which was quickly reversed after public outcry.

What is going on in this race in terms of horrific, degrading rhetoric and dirty tricks?

A Georgia GOP official was caught committing a Kinsley gaffe on Saturday when he boasted that last week's shooting attack on Republican congressmen by a deranged Bernie Sanders supporter "is going to win this election for us." An independent pro-Handel group ran an ad claiming that Ossoff's supporters have been "cheering last week’s shooting." Meanwhile, white powder and letters calling Handel a "cunt" and a "bitch" were left a few days ago left in mailboxes belonging to Handel and some of her neighbors. Good stuff.

How much money has been spent on this single congressional race while the United States remains trillions of dollars in debt and millions of its citizens suffer in poverty?

An estimated $50 million, making it what the AP describes as the most expensive House race in history. That's not much less than was spent by all parties and candidates combined in the U.K. elections held two years ago. (This year's totals aren't yet available.) The United Kingdom is about 93 times as big, population-wise, as the Georgia 6th.


Hell yeah!

*Correction, June 19, 2017: This post originally misspelled Theresa May’s first name.

June 19 2017 1:00 PM

Pregnant Seattle Woman Shot and Killed by Police She Called for Assistance

Police in Seattle killed a 30-year-old pregnant woman who called 911 to report an attempted burglary at her home on Sunday. From the Seattle Times:

Just after 10 a.m. Sunday, Seattle police responded after the woman had called to report an attempted burglary at her Magnuson Park apartment. At some point, police said, she displayed a knife and two officers shot and killed her.

Relatives identified the woman as Charleena Lyles.

Family members said she was several months pregnant and had been struggling with mental-health issues for the past year. They said she was concerned authorities would take her children, one of whom they said has Down syndrome.

“Police Detective Mark Jamieson said officers were alerted to ‘hazard information’ in the system after a previous encounter with the woman,” the Times’ Lynn Thompson writes, “which prompted a two-officer response Sunday morning when she called to report an attempted burglary in her fourth-floor unit at Brettler Family Place apartments.” Lyles was arrested earlier this month for “obstruction of a public official and two counts of harassment.” She was black. Relatives have said they believe her race played a role in the shooting.

June 19 2017 12:44 PM

Murder of Muslim Teen in Virginia Not Being Investigated as Hate Crime

Police in Fairfax County, Virginia, say they’ve found the body of Muslim teen Nabra Hassanen, who was reported missing early Sunday morning after leaving the area’s largest mosque. From WUSA 9:

The girl was walking from the [All Dulles Area Muslim Society Center] toward a shopping center to get food with a group of friends around 3 a.m., police said.
That is when a man driving a red car got out of his car and confronted the teens. Her friends said the man assaulted her. Police said her friends ran back to the ADAMS Center and said the girl had been left behind.

Hassanen was found floating in a pond about four miles away from the mosque. Twenty-two-year-old Darwin Martinez Torres, who was driving suspiciously in the area where her body was found, has been arrested and charged with murder. “Police said Monday they aren’t investigating the death as a hate crime,” the Washington Post reports, “but the issue was on the minds of many Muslims on Sunday”:

The ADAMS Center has a paid armed security guard at the Sterling site, according to [parishioner Arsalan] Iftikhar. He said many mosques have increased security since six Muslim worshipers were killed at a mosque in Quebec earlier this year.
Nabra’s slaying sent a chill through the community when news spread Sunday.
“People are petrified, especially people who have young Muslim daughters,” Iftikhar said.

A crowdfunding page set up for Hassanen's family met its $25,000 goal on Sunday night.