Navy SEAL Becomes Third U.S. Combat Casualty in Iraq Since America Returned
A Navy SEAL was killed in Iraq on Tuesday, marking the third combat death of a U.S. service member in the country since American forces returned in 2014, three years after the military’s official withdrawal. The Pentagon is waiting until the family has been informed to name the service member publicly.
“In October, Master Sgt. Joshua L. Wheeler, 39, of Sequoyah County, Okla., became the first American in four years to die in combat in Iraq,” notes the New York Times. “The second was Staff Sgt. Louis F. Cardin, 27, of Temecula, Calif., who was killed in March when rockets were launched at a secret fire base of about 100 Marines in northern Iraq.”
ABC has more on the latest attack:
A Defense official told ABC News that ISIS used truck bombs to break through Peshmerga lines located about 17 miles north of the ISIS-held city of Mosul. The serviceman was killed by ISIS "direct fire" after ISIS forces pushed to his position. There were no other U.S. casualties in the incident.
In line with his advise-and-assist duties with Kurdish forces, the service member was located away from the front lines.
The official said the ISIS attack was repelled by 23 airstrikes carried out by F-15, F-16, A-10 jets and drones that had been called in to support the coalition and Kurdish forces.
The death, which was confirmed to multiple news agencies, comes at a time that the U.S. military presence in the country and its “advise and assist” role in the fight against ISIS has escalated.
On Tuesday, the Washington Post reported on a new outpost made up of about 200 Marines that is less than 10 miles from the front lines in Northern Iraq, noting the recently increased U.S. role and presence:
The new firebase is part of a creeping U.S. buildup in Iraq since troops first returned to the country with a contingent of 275 advisers, described at the time by the Pentagon as a temporary measure to help get “eyes on the ground.”
Now, nearly two years later, the official troop count has mushroomed to 4,087, not including those on temporary rotations, a number that has not been disclosed.
The troops are moving outside the confines of more established bases to give closer support to the Iraqi army as it prepares for an assault on the northern city of Mosul — putting them closer to danger.
The timeline of that Mosul offensive is still very uncertain as the country faces a brand-new political crisis. Maj. Gen. Najim al-Jabouri told the Post that he expected the long-awaited counterattack to happen “soon,” but wouldn’t specify a timeline and acknowledged that the political difficulties were influencing the military planning.
Why Coaches Love Donald Trump
Donald Trump has cornered the market in surprise endorsements by coaches. Former Indiana University basketball coach Bobby Knight has been stumping for him since last week and on Monday, a trio of the state’s sideline-prowling legends announced their own endorsements: Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz, Purdue basketball coach Gene Keady, and Notre Dame basketball coach Digger Phelps. This trend extends beyond Indiana’s borders. Last month, former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka voiced his own support for Trump, and the Buffalo Bills’ Rex Ryan introduced Trump at a rally back in February.
Why are all the coaches flocking to Trump? Probably because of his relentless focus on “winning.” Also, probably because they’re old white men who like to yell a lot.
One of Trump’s biggest campaign themes—an idea that he repeats in almost every stump speech, statement, debate, and interview—is that “we don’t win anymore,” and, because of his business success, he’s the person to change that. Winning is Trump’s brand. He’s a winner who knows how to win because winning. You know who else likes to win? Coaches!
Almost every coach endorsement focuses on “winning” and being the best.
There are nothing but winners in Indiana. The main reason I’m endorsing him: I’ve played his golf course, I’ve stayed in his hotel, he does nothing but go first class in everything. He wants this country to be first class as well.
Here’s Knight describing the universal qualities of success to Fox News:
Be smart. Be tough. And want to win. Now Donald Trump has those three ingredients to the overflow.
Here’s Keady’s endorsement, talking about how Trump reminds him of Knight:
I truly believe in and always admired Coach Knight because he graduated his kids. He played hard and played the game to win, it’s what we all try to do and I think that’s what Mr. Trump wants to do.
Knight’s 1976 Indiana Hoosiers were the last Division I men’s college basketball team to win the NCAA Tournament with an undefeated record. The man is a winner. He also enjoys throwing furniture, having confrontations at salad bars, and choking his own players. He once told Connie Chung, “I think that if rape is inevitable, relax and enjoy it.” As I said, the man is a winner. All he does is win.
Here’s more from Knight’s interview with Fox:
I think that in any endeavor there are about three requirements to reach success. One is being smart. The second one is being tough. The third one is being ready to do whatever it takes to get the job done.
Trump is smart. He is tough. He does whatever it takes. He will lead America to victory in the Big Game, because he knows how to get things done.
Digger Phelps echoed that sentiment:
You know and I know, coaches know how to get things done. Donald Trump is one of the great coaches in this country and we’re all tired of what has not gotten done for us the last eight years in this country.
The fact that Trump is a winner who knows how to get things done reminds these coaches of other winners who know how to get things done, specifically, themselves.
From Phelps’ endorsement:
[In 1970] I left Penn to go to New York City and coach Fordham University. Took a team that was 10-15, we go 26-3 and those kids own New York City. But at the same time that’s when Donald started when his dad in Brooklyn gave him this one old building. That one old building is what you see today. The man got it done.
And here’s Knight comparing his methods to Trump’s:
That’s what I think I was able to do with the kind of kids that I had playing basketball on the teams that I had over the years.
When the going gets tough, Mike Ditka says, the Trump gets going:
Every once in a while you’re going to get punched in the chops, but you keep going forward, that’s all there is to it.
Compared with Trump, Knight explains, other candidates are like tiny, dumb countries:
It’s like the Boston Celtics playing Iceland.
And who can disagree with that? Go team.
“Utterly Amoral”: Cruz Lays It All Out Against Donald Trump
Sen. Ted Cruz has given Indiana his all. He tried to broker a deal with John Kasich to get the do-nothing Ohio governor out of his way. That agreement lasted a hot nanosecond before falling apart. He tried appealing to Hoosiers’ sacred idol, the Basketball Ring, only to be mocked for his imprecise terminology. He selected a vice presidential candidate, Carly Fiorina, even though he trails Donald Trump by hundreds of delegates. It came off as world-historically desperate. What else? He dragged Indiana Gov. Mike Pence kicking and screaming into a half-assed endorsement; that was good stuff. None of this seemed to improve his prospects ahead of Tuesday’s primary.
So this morning, cued up by Trump’s rumormongering about how Cruz’s father was in cahoots with Lee Harvey Oswald, Cruz just spewed out every nasty thing he could say against Trump in one final blitz.
“I'm going to do something I haven't done for the entire campaign for those of you all who have traveled with me,” Cruz said in a Tuesday morning gaggle with reporters in Evansville, Indiana. “I'm going to tell you what I really think of Donald Trump. This man is a pathological liar." Cruz continued:
He doesn't know the difference between truth and lies. He lies practically every word that comes out of his mouth. And he had a pattern that I think is straight out of a psychology textbook. His response is to accuse everybody else of lying. He accuses everybody on that debate stage of lying, and it's simply a mindless yell. Whatever he does, he accuses everyone else of doing. The man cannot tell the truth, but he combines it with being a narcissist. A narcissist at a level I don't think this country has ever seen. …
Everything in Donald's world is about Donald. And he combines being a pathological liar, and I say pathological because I actually think Donald if you hooked him up to a lie detector test, he could say one thing in the morning, one thing at noon, and one thing in the evening, all contradictory, and he'd pass the lie detector test each time. Whatever lie he's telling, at that minute he believes it, but the man is utterly amoral.
He went on to say that Trump will “betray supporters on every issue” and that he “has a real problem with women." He accused News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch and Fox News president Roger Ailes of turning “Fox News into the Donald Trump Network,” saying Murdoch “is used to picking world leaders in Australia and the United Kingdom running tabloids, and we're seeing it here at home with the consequences for this nation.” He referenced Back to the Future’s bully Biff Tannen—“a caricature of a braggadocious, arrogant buffoon,” and allegedly based on Donald Trump—and said that “we are looking potentially at the Biff Tannen presidency.”
Then there was this part about Trump and sex stuff. “Donald Trump is a serial philanderer and he boasts about it,” Cruz said. “This is not a secret. He's proud of being a serial philanderer. I want everyone to think about your teenage kids. The president of the United States talks about how great it is to commit adultery, how proud he is, describes his battles with venereal disease as his ‘own personal Vietnam.’ ”
“The entire country is looking to you right now,” Cruz pleaded. “It is only Indiana that can pull us back. It is only the good sense and good judgment of Indiana that can pull us back.”
This may be a tedious thing to keep pointing out, but Cruz spent the first six or seven months of Trump’s candidacy as Trump’s biggest booster and validator to the conservative grassroots. There’s always been some truth to the moniker of “Lyin’ Ted.” His greatest lie of all was pretending that he ever thought there was a decent bone in Trump’s body, and he went much further than that. "I’m grateful that he's in the race," Cruz said late last summer.
Trump, for his part, seems delighted. "Ted Cruz is a desperate candidate trying to save his failing campaign," Trump said in a statement released by his campaign.
It is no surprise he has resorted to his usual tactics of over-the-top rhetoric that nobody believes. Over the last week, I have watched Lyin’ Ted become more and more unhinged as he is unable to react under the pressure and stress of losing, in all cases by landslides, the last six primary elections—in fact, coming in last place in all but one of them. Today’s ridiculous outburst only proves what I have been saying for a long time, that Ted Cruz does not have the temperament to be President of the United States.
Watch Cruz's full remarks here:
Donald Trump Is Peddling Unsubstantiated Nonsense That Ted Cruz’s Dad Helped JFK’s Assassin
Republican front-runner and BS factory Donald Trump is at it again. During a phone interview with Fox News on Tuesday, Trump suggested that Ted Cruz’s father helped Lee Harvey Oswald in the months before he assassinated John F. Kennedy. Yes, that is actually something the likely nominee of one of the country’s two major political parties alleged on national television about a rival in the year 2016.
“His father was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald's being—you know, shot. I mean, the whole thing is ridiculous,” Trump said. “What is this, right prior to his being shot, and nobody even brings it up. They don't even talk about that. That was reported, and nobody talks about it.” The reality TV star continued: “I mean, what was he doing—what was he doing with Lee Harvey Oswald shortly before the death, before the shooting?”
The outlandish claim isn’t a Trump original but instead comes by way of the National Enquirer, which has endorsed Trump and churned out a string of unsubstantiated hit pieces about his rivals, including one that quasi-alleged that Cruz has serially cheated on his wife and another that claimed Hillary Clinton is an alcoholic who’s suffered three strokes and is battling multiple sclerosis. It’s no surprise, then, that Trump wants more people talking about the tabloid’s “reporting.”
This particular Enquirer story claims that Cruz’s father, Rafael, is the man in the white shirt standing next to Oswald in a video taken in New Orleans in August of 1963, several months before JFK was killed in Dallas. The Warren Commission was never able to identify the mystery man, but the newspaper had experts compare the images with photos taken of Cruz’s father during the late 1950s and early 1960s. While the results don’t sound anything close to conclusive—“there’s more similarity than dissimilarity,” said one expert; “they seem to match,” said another—the tabloid nonetheless saw fit to slap “Ted Cruz Father Now Linked to JFK Assassination!” on its front page. Trump knew what to do from there.
The Cruz camp has already dismissed the JFK story as “garbage,” which seems like a fair assessment. As the Miami Herald, which looked into the tabloid story, put it: “The explosive suggestion that Cruz’s father would have had any affiliation with Oswald is not corroborated in any other way.”
Look at Just How Quickly Republicans Are Turning Against Ted Cruz
Ted Cruz is praying for a miracle in Indiana, where a loss to Donald Trump could bring an end to the #NeverTrump movement. But even if the Texas senator pulls out a victory in Tuesday’s primary—or soldiers on anyway—he faces another major problem: Republican voters across the country appear to be turning on him.
New polling for Gallup suggests that Cruz’s image among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents has taken a serious beating in the past two weeks. The percentage that say they have a favorable view of him has now fallen to 39 percent, while the percentage who say they have the opposite view has climbed to 45 percent. That’s good for a net-favorable rating of negative-6 percent, Cruz’s worst rating ever in the Gallup tracking poll. And remember, this isn’t his image with the general public we’re talking about, but only among GOP-minded Americans. For comparison, Donald Trump—the man the Republican Party’s establishment wants to stop so badly they were willing to team up with Cruz, a man many of them clearly hate—has a net-favorability of positive-24 percent among the same group.
As you can see in the graph above, Cruz spent much of the campaign with a considerably better image among his party’s base than Trump did. Then between late February and mid-April—during which Cruz emerged as Trump’s main rival—their favorability ratings ran roughly in line with each other. In the past two weeks, though, Trump’s has taken a clear turn for the better while his rival’s has plunged below water.
What happened? The usual correlation-causation disclaimer applies here, so we can’t attribute the change to any one event. But the numbers certainly suggest that Cruz’s last-ditch efforts to derail Trump have not succeeded. Cruz’s downward trend began in mid-April, shortly after he posted major delegate gains in Colorado in a nominating contest that Trump complained was rigged against him. Following major defeats in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic later in the month, Cruz made not one but two desperation plays, striking a quasi-alliance with John Kasich and naming Carly Fiorinia as his running mate. While those two Hail Marys are arguably still hanging in the air—at least until Tuesday’s results in Indiana come in—it appears the first will fall well short and the second has sailed out of bounds.
The good news for Cruz? He doesn’t have the worst image among the men and women who ran during the 2016 cycle. Lindsey Graham and George Pataki both saw their net-favorable rating with GOP voters plunge in the negative-13 to negative-14 range last summer. The bad news? There’s still time for Cruz to fall even further.
Elsewhere in Slate: What Happens If Donald Trump Wins Indiana on Tuesday
What to Watch for in Indiana Tonight
It’s that time again! Indiana voters head to the polls on Tuesday to cast their ballots in nominating races that only feel like they’ve been going on forever. Here’s what you need to know ahead of a Democratic primary that will likely soon be forgotten, and a Republican one that may haunt the party establishment’s dreams for the next four years, if not longer.
The Democratic contest—like all of the party’s primaries—splits its pledged delegate pool proportionally based on the final results. The Republican contest, meanwhile, is a winner-take-most affair: 30 delegates go to the statewide winner and another three to the winner of each of its nine congressional districts. Voting ends at 6 p.m. local time across the state, most of which is in the Eastern Time zone and two corners of which are in the Central. That means the networks won’t call either race before 7 p.m. ET.
There’s not much more to say at this point: Hillary Clinton is the prohibitive favorite to win her party’s nomination, and nothing that happens in Indiana—or anywhere else for that matter—is likely to change that. In fact, Clinton is a good bet to leave the Hoosier State in an even better position than when she arrived. Polling in Indiana has been a little hard to come by, but recent surveys show Hillary with a lead in the mid–single digits in the state, and Nate Silver and his FiveThirtyEight team peg her chances of winning Tuesday’s primary at 86 percent or better.
Bernie Sanders, meanwhile, is already acting like a candidate who knows he won’t win the nomination, and a loss Tuesday—or even a narrow victory that nets him a handful of delegates—will make it that much more difficult for him to pretend otherwise. Sanders is promising he’ll take his progressive fight all the way to this summer’s convention, which he very well may do. But even there, the best Bernie can hope to do is help shape the party’s platform, not become its nominee.
Despite the sparse polling, nearly all of the data we do have points to a Donald Trump victory in the GOP primary, and potentially even a blowout. The celebrity billionaire is currently up by an average of more than 9 points in the RealClearPolitics rolling average and seems to be gaining steam. The two most recent major state surveys—taken after Ted Cruz and John Kasich announced their we-swear-it’s-not-an-alliance alliance in the state—found Trump up by 15 points or more. Based on the polls, Nate Silver and his FiveThirtyEight team peg Trump’s chances of winning Tuesday’s primary at 97 percent.
If the polls are right, Trump could potentially walk away with at least 54 of the 57 delegates up for grabs in Indiana, and possibly all 57 of them if everything were to break his way. (Cruz’s best chance to prevent the sweep is in the state’s 5th congressional district, which includes Indianapolis’ northern suburbs, where voters tend to be wealthier and more educated.) That type of delegate bounty wouldn’t be enough to clinch the nomination for Trump, but it would put him in an enviable position to do just that on the last day of the GOP calendar with an all-but-assured victory in New Jersey’s winner-take-all primary and a strong, but not necessarily stellar performance in California’s winner-take-most contest.
Two weeks ago—before Trump steamrolled through the Northeast and mid-Atlantic—Indiana looked like a must-win for the GOP front-runner. Today, it looks like a must-win for Cruz and what remains of the crumbling #NeverTrump movement. Even if Trump loses, he’ll still have a clear—albeit narrow—path to the 1,237 delegates he needs to effectively clinch the nomination before the convention. When you factor in the 40 unbound delegates Trump appears to have picked up in Pennsylvania last week (I say “appears” because while those delegates have suggested they’ll vote for Trump they’re not actually obligated to), the former reality TV star now has 996 delegates to his name, putting him only 241 delegates shy of the magic number. To get there before Cleveland, he only needs to win 48 percent of the 502 delegates still up for grabs in the remaining contests. A near-sweep in Indiana would knock that number down to 42 percent.
A big win in Indiana would also reinforce the idea that Republican voters—like their elected officials—are slowly but surely coming around to Trump as he gets closer to the nomination. As David Wasserman points out, in the New York primary two weeks ago, Trump carried counties that border Pennsylvania with an average of 57 percent of the vote. A week later in the Pennsylvania primary, Trump carried counties that border New York with an average of 63 percent. National polls tell a similar story. Trump was sitting at 41.6 percent in the RealClearPolitics rolling average on the day of the New York primary two weeks ago. Today, he’s at nearly 45 percent, the highest his average has ever been.
As much as Indiana could help Trump, it could do even more to hurt Cruz. The Texan’s now thrown the political equivalent of two Hail Marys in the lead-up to Indiana—the first by cutting his passive-aggressive deal with Kasich, the second by naming Carly Fiorina as his running mate—and connected with neither. It’s not clear what else he can try to shake up the race. He’s been banking on the idea that he could unite the anti-Trump voters and force a contested convention. But as the race has gone on, it’s become clear that there aren’t nearly as many anti-Trump voters as he and his allies thought.
New Tennessee Law Allows College Faculty and Staff to Carry Guns on Campus
In Tennessee, a law passed Monday will allow fulltime faculty and staff of the state’s public colleges and universities to carry guns on campus. The bill injects Tennessee into a growing national debate about guns on college campuses, but is more restrictive than similar campus carry measures proposed elsewhere, like Texas and Georgia. The law, for instance, does not allow for students to carry firearms on campus, even though Tennessee allows open and concealed carry elsewhere in the state.
Even still, the new legislation will mean some 27,000 faculty and staff will now be able to bring guns to work on Tennessee campuses. Here’s more on some of the restrictions they’ll face from the Tennessean:
Any employee interested in carrying a weapon on campus would be required to notify the law enforcement agency with jurisdiction over the property and would face some limitations as to where they can carry a gun, which would have to be concealed. Valid permit holders could not bring a weapon into a stadium or gymnasium during school-sponsored events or in meetings regarding discipline or tenure. The legislation was also amended to place liability on the permit holder rather than the university in the event of an accidental discharge.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam allowed the bill to become law without his signature because he said decisions about guns on campus should be made by the individual institutions themselves. Univ. of Tennessee President Joe DiPietro said the university’s "position has been and continues to be that we do not support, as a general premise, any measure that would increase the number of guns on college campuses other than already are allowed by law.
Months After Winning $140 Million Court Case, Hulk Hogan Sues Gawker Again
Apparently buoyed by a pair of recent legal judgments in his favor totaling $140 million, former wrestler Terry Bollea, better known as Hulk Hogan, up and sued Gawker again on Monday. Gawker is challenging the result of the original lawsuit over the site’s posting of a sex tape featuring Hogan; the latest suit accuses Gawker of leaking sealed court documents that contained a racist rant by Hogan against his daughter’s boyfriend at the time, who is black.
The National Enquirer published the comments that were part of the sex-tape case against Gawker, and World Wrestling Entertainment promptly severed all ties with Hogan. The suit claims the leak damaged the wrestler's finances and reputation. Gawker denied leaking the transcript. “This is getting ridiculous,” Gawker wrote in a statement. “Hulk Hogan is a litigious celebrity abusing the court system to control his public image and media coverage. ... It’s time for Hulk Hogan to take responsibility for his own words, because the only person who got Hulk Hogan fired from the WWE is Hulk Hogan.”
“The suit in Pinellas County Court also accuses a talent agent, two disc jockeys, a radio company and a lawyer of conspiring to send media outlets the sex tape and causing Hogan emotional distress and economic harm,” according to the Associated Press.
The Monday Slatest Newsletter
Today's biggest stories:
- President Obama is making an earnest push to support smart-gun technology that would prevent weapons from being fired by anyone except an authorized user. But in the United States, where the president doesn't have much power to advance gun control, the effort may well go nowhere.
- Donald Trump, already America's leading source of inappropriate sexual metaphors and sexist commentary, announced that "we can't continue to allow China to rape our country." (Here's today's Trump Apocalypse Watch.)
- Crazy long-shot upstart Leicester City won soccer's Premier League.
- Ted Cruz engaged in an extremely Sisyphean argument with a pro-Trump heckler, while Carly Fiorina fell off a stage on the same day that the Cruz/Fiorina ticket's poll numbers in Indiana fell off a cliff.
- And Malia Obama is going to Harvard.
Have a good night out there!
Today’s Trump Apocalypse Watch: Again With the Rape Comments
The Trump Apocalypse Watch is a subjective daily estimate, using a scale of one to four horsemen, of how likely it is that Donald Trump will be elected president, thus triggering an apocalypse in which we all die.
“We can't continue to allow China to rape our country,” Donald Trump said Monday on the subject of economic relations between the United States and its largest Asian trading partner. Trump is already viewed unfavorably by 70 percent of American women, and comments like that aren't going to help him move that number downward, particularly coming from someone who launched his campaign with a different offensive comment about rape. The real estate heir has also obtained endorsements from Mike Tyson and Bobby Knight; Knight once said that people should “enjoy” rape if it was “inevitable,” while Tyson went to prison for raping a woman. The point is that the Trump campaign is not yet turning into a juggernaut of unstoppable mainstream appeal and good judgment.
That said, nothing Trump has done recently has hurt his poll numbers in Indiana, where he is expected to roll over Ted Cruz Tuesday in a primary that will likely set him up to win a first-ballot majority at the Republican convention. Our danger level stays steady.