Rand Paul: “The Clintons think they live above the law”

Originally published at Rare

The scandal surrounding Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server during her time as Secretary of State is heating up.

CBS News reported Sunday, “The Justice Department confirmed Friday it had received a request to investigate Clinton’s email account after a report by the inspectors general of the State Department and the Intelligence Community found that her private email account had ‘hundreds of potentially classified emails’ in it.”

When it was revealed in early March that Clinton had been using a private server exclusively during her tenure at the State Department, it became clear that this would pose a problem for her presidential campaign.

The New York Times reported, “At issue are thousands of pages of State Department emails from Mrs. Clinton’s private account.” “Mrs. Clinton has said she used the account because it was more convenient,” the Times noted, “but it also shielded her correspondence from congressional and Freedom of Information Act requests.”

Rand Paul responded to this ongoing investigation on Face the Nation this past Sunday by saying, “The Clintons think they live above the law.”

“This isn’t a bunch of Republicans making a political point, this is President Obama’s government saying she may have released classified information,“ added Paul.

As this investigation into her email practices continues, it will no doubt add fuel to the fire of those claiming that Hillary Clinton has intentionally worked to avoid transparency. This could certainly have the effect of compounding her image problem among voters as being seen as too elitist and out of touch.

The first batch of Mrs. Clinton’s emails, which were sent through her private server, were revealed to the public in late May of 2015. The most recent release occurred in late June. Over 55,000 pages from Clinton’s server were turned over to the State Department. Future document dumps are expected, per a court order.

How this scandal will impact Clinton’s campaign is likely to depend upon the content of her emails, and whether voters see her actions as a simple oversight, or a brazen attempt to flout transparency standards that has potentially put classified information at risk.

What Donald Trump Left Off His Campaign Website Perfectly Explains his Candidacy

Originally published at Rare

It’s no secret that lately, Donald Trump has sucked the proverbial oxygen out of the room. His bombastic style has his supporters and detractors equally riled up. Whether it’s comments decrying Mexicans as “drug dealers and rapists,” his low-blow at John McCain’s prisoner of war status, or the spectacle of publicly announcing Lindsey Graham’s phone number, Trump knows how to make headlines.

What he doesn’t seem to know, however, is what he would actually do were he elected President.

Perfectly showcasing the depth of his candidacy is DonaldJTrump.com, his official campaign website. It contains no issues page, but helpfully informs you that “Mr. Trump has over 7 million followers on social media.”

One can read about how much expensive property he owns and learn all about his foray into reality TV. You’re out of luck however, if you’re curious about how he would handle diplomatic relations with Iran or reform our nation’s healthcare system.

That Donald Trump doesn’t have an issues section on his website shouldn’t surprise anyone.

Trump’s political speeches tend to be rambling, barely coherent declarations of self-promotion, often citing how rich he is and listing off people who allegedly ask him for favors. Trump has made vague policy commentary in the form of statements such as “I will build a great, great wall on our southern border. And I will have Mexico pay for that wall, mark my words.”

Trump also laid out a hypothetical scenario in which he will, “call up the head of Ford,” who will then wait until the next day to call him back, to “play it cool.” Suddenly, Ford will decide not to build a plant in Mexico and instead bring the jobs to the United States. Voila! How such lofty goals will miraculously be achieved is anybody’s guess.

In Trump’s mind, he appears to have the magic touch, no policy analysis or political finesse required. His campaign is, as we say in Texas, all hat and no cattle; something former Governor and presidential candidate Rick Perry has made note of regarding Trump on more than one occasion.

The best guesses we have as to Trump’s political positions come from his bumbling attempts at speech-giving, which are primarily rants about various “losers,” “morons,” and “hypocrites.” The most substance ever produced by Trump on actual policy comes from his books and prior public statements, so as informed voters, we’ll have to look there.

Take what Trump wrote in his book “The America We Deserve” about health care. He called for a single-payer system that is further to the left of Obamacare, and reflects a position held by self-avowed socialist presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. He also called for an “assault weapons ban” and described himself as pro-choice in the same book.

We can also learn about Trump’s theory on the intersection of crony capitalism and political giving with this statement from only 4 years ago “So what am I going to do — contribute to Republicans? One thing: I’m not stupid. Am I going to contribute to Republicans for my whole life when they get heat when they run against some Democrat and the most they can get is 1 percent of the vote?”  This certainly explains his wheel-greasing donations to politicians such as Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer, and his alleged rival Hillary Clinton.

Politicians can of course, have sincere and informed changes of heart from time to time. But Trump’s “evolution” and current lack of substance smacks of political opportunism. This is a man who went from hiring undocumented workers for his various real estate projects to fashioning himself as an immigration hardliner when he felt the political winds necessitated it.

All things considered, Trump sounds a whole lot more like a con-man than an outsider who “tells it like it is.”

Trump 2016: Make America Great Again! By yelling a lot and depending on people’s ignorance?

Here’s how Rand Paul’s Bill to Arm Military Personnel on U.S. Bases Works

Originally published at Rare

This week, Rare featured a story on Senator Rand Paul’s pending legislation that ensures military personnel aren’t disarmed while on duty. To accomplish that goal, Paul’s office introduced the “Service Members Self Defense Act of 2015” on Thursday. The legislation contains three key provisions, as detailed in a statement released by Paul’s office:

Requires the Secretary of Defense to amend U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) Directive5210.56, within 30 days, to allow members of the armed forces to possess firearms for defensive purposes.

Clarifies the carrying of a concealed weapon by a member of the armed forces, on DOD property, is not a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice or 18 USC 930 – Possession of firearms and dangerous weapons in federal facilities.

Allowing for the carrying of a concealed weapon by qualified members of the armed forces, with national reciprocity, in accordance with state and local law.

In the same statement, Paul explained the logic behind his bill.

“I find it ridiculous that the brave men and women serving in our armed forces are asked to defend us overseas but cannot protect themselves once they return home,” he said. “My bill ensures that our honorable service members are allowed to protect themselves while serving our nation at home.”

Given the killings at Fort Hood, Texas, the Naval Yard in Washington, D.C., and now the recent shooting at a Naval recruiting office in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the issue of whether our military members are being made easy targets has come to the political forefront.

This is an especially sensitive issue in light of threats made by hackers allegedly associated with ISIS, in which the names and addresses of 100 service members were released with a call for “homegrown jihad” against them.

Senator Paul’s bill, while comprehensive on a federal level, does not attempt to contradict existing state gun laws. Further measures to arm personnel can be taken up by states, however, especially as they pertain to National Guard installations.

Just days ago, Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker took action on this matter in his home state of Wisconsin. As governor, he issued an executive order that allows Wisconsin National Guard members to carry weapons for self-defense purposes while on duty.

Whether more states follow suit and Senator Paul’s bill gains traction remains an open question.

Exclusive Interview with Congressman Mark Sanford on Why the Cuban Embargo Should End

Originally published at Rare

This week, the United States took a giant step toward normalizing relations with Cuba when the long dormant Cuban embassy reopened in Washington, DC to mixed reviews–particularly from Republicans who still oppose the Obama administration’s diplomatic efforts toward Cuba.

Many Republicans still feel that allowing diplomacy and trade between the countries alienates the Cuban-American community and empowers a communist dictatorship. Other Republicans believe the embargo has actually helped the Castro regime keep a stranglehold on Cuba and to roadblock its progress.

Congressman Mark Sanford (R-SC) has said for almost two decades that the embargo needed to end–putting him at odds with most in his party.

Rare recently spoke with Sanford, who originally supported the embargo as a freshman congressman in the mid 1990s, about how a trip to Cuba changed his mind.

“I changed my mind (on the embargo) not so much because of what I saw in Cuba, but because of what I heard,” Sanford told Rare. “Many of the locals were afraid to open up at first, but once we got to talking, I began to understand that person-to-person diplomacy transcends government.”

“When the Berlin Wall fell, Ronald Reagan encouraged young Americans to grab their backpacks, to travel to Europe, to talk about the virtues of America and the opportunities our nation provides,” Sanford said. “(Reagan) recognized that direct engagement, face-to-face interactions, make more of a difference than restrictive government policies,” Sanford added.

During his 1990s trip, Sanford explained that he was struck by a young mother he met in one of the many small family restaurants that permeate Cuba, as larger scale industry simply does not exist in this nation that is in many ways frozen in the 1950s.

Said Sanford, “(The young woman) told me that at first, her mother was optimistic Castro’s revolution would help Cuba.”

“She was let down, and as this woman reflected on the situation, she said her priority was to make sure her own child had a better life.”

“The longing for individual liberty does not end at a nation’s borders, and I realized quickly that when it came to Cuba, we were dealing with human beings, not just politics,” Sanford explained.

Sanford believes his position on Cuba is conservative because it reflects individual liberty and allows others the pursuit of happiness. The South Carolina congressman also said that political concerns often keep too many of his fellow Republicans from embracing his view.

“Let’s address the elephant in the room,” Sanford said, matter-of-factly. “In the same way that too many presidential candidates cater to Iowa corn farmers with subsidies, there’s a contingent of the Republican Party that recognizes Florida is an important state for the election, and they pander to a special interest group when it comes to U.S. Cuba relations.”

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. This Cuba embargo has been in place for over fifty years, and we haven’t achieved the changes claimed.”

“It’s time to think about how engagement can have a positive impact,” said Sanford.

“Think about our policy when it comes to travel. Our government doesn’t stop Americans from going to Iraq, Syria, Iran. If you’re an American citizen and you to enter one of those countries, you could have a bad time. But we don’t ban it,” Sanford explained.

“The only country we restrict in the way we do is Cuba. Is that a conservative position that values individual liberty?”

“The government should not treat both Americans and Cubans the way it has,” Sanford said.

Sanford said the difference in opinion among conservatives ultimately comes down to whom one believes they’re enabling. Is it placating the Castro regime if the United States normalizes diplomatic relations and opens up trade? That’s the position many Republicans hold, including presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, both of Cuban descent.

Sanford shares the view of presidential candidate, Senator Rand Paul, that choking Cuba with sanctions gives communist apologists an excuse.

“There are many people in Cuba, especially in their government, who blame America for the economic problems in their country, because we’ve cut off relations with them,” said Sanford. “The fundamental problem is communism. But why are we giving their government fodder?”

“Why are we hurting destitute Cubans to punish a regime that has enough access to wealth?” Sanford asked.

“I look at Cuba, and I see people who are suffering under a horrific form of government,” said Sanford.

“I am the last person to defend the Castros, but I keep thinking of that young mother, of the doctors and lawyers in Cuba, of these people with advanced degrees and amazing ideas who are unable to achieve anything due to a corrupt government.” Sanford said he thinks of “the workers who can’t make ends meet because there’s no opportunity.”

“I cannot compound the problem and continue holding these people down,” said Sanford.

Sanford sees the reopening of the Cuban embassy in Washington as largely symbolic. “You could say I support the embassy, but like most government actions, it lacks substance.”

“Let’s see if we lift the travel ban, end all embargoes,” he said.

Ultimately, Sanford believes that individual liberty will prevail, but stubborn politicians and interest groups will continue to make the same pitches they’ve made for fifty years.

“It will take that Reagan-style, face-to-face diplomacy,” he said. “I hope to see more of it.”

Obama is Finally Catching Up With Libertarians on Criminal Justice Reform

Originally published at Every Joe

Barack Obama made history this summer when he became the first sitting President to tour a federal prison and meet with inmates. In remarks delivered at the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in Oklahoma, the President doubled down on a growing bipartisan consensus surrounding criminal justice reform. Speaking specifically about sitting down with non-violent offenders, Obama said:

Visiting with these six individuals — when they describe their youth and their childhood, these are young people who made mistakes that aren’t that different than the mistakes I made and the mistakes that a lot of you guys made. The difference is they did not have the kinds of support structures, the second chances, the resources that would allow them to survive those mistakes.

And I think we have a tendency sometimes to almost take for granted or think it’s normal that so many young people end up in our criminal justice system. It’s not normal. It’s not what happens in other countries.

What is normal is teenagers doing stupid things. What is normal is young people making mistakes. And we’ve got to be able to distinguish between dangerous individuals who need to be incapacitated and incarcerated versus young people who, in an environment in which they are adapting but if given different opportunities, a different vision of life, could be thriving the way we are.

That’s what strikes me — there but for the grace of God. And that I think is something that we all have to think about.

This echoed the President’s recent remarks at the 106th annual NAACP convention in Philadelphia, where he took the opportunity to discuss the nation’s criminal justice system with an emphasis on how it impacts communities of color. As the President said:

The United States is home to 5 percent of the world’s population, but 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. Our incarceration rate is four times higher than China’s. We keep more people behind bars than the top 35 European countries combined. And it hasn’t always been the case — this huge explosion in incarceration rates. In 1980, there were 500,000 people behind bars in America. Today there are 2.2 million. It has quadrupled since 1980. Our prison population has doubled in the last two decades alone.”

In conjunction with his prison trip and NAACP appearance, the President pardoned forty-six non-violent drug offenders, totaling his sentencing commutations to eighty-nine over two terms.

This reflects long overdue progress on an issue that libertarians have consistently been on the right side of. While the vast majority of Republicans and Democrats spent half-a-century promising victory in the “War on Drugs,” libertarians warned of the economic and moral consequences endemic to jailing people for non-violent behavior often linked to a lack of opportunity and addiction.

While it’s helpful to have a figurehead as important as the President speaking out on an issue, it’s unfortunate that Obama didn’t take more direct action on this matter throughout his now waning presidency. As Jacob Sullum, who covers drug policy for Forbes and Reason wrote in 2011, Obama’s first term was disappointing for reform advocates, despite his previous rhetoric.

Said Sullum:

So far this much-ballyhooed shift has not been perceptible in Obama’s drug control budgets. Even if it were, moving money from law enforcement to ‘treatment and prevention’ would hardly amount to ending the war on drugs.

Despite (Obama’s Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s) insistence that you can end the war on drugs if you stop calling it that gives you a sense of the chasm between rhetoric and reality in Obama’s drug policies, which by and large have been remarkably similar to his predecessor’s. With the major exception of crack sentences, which were substantially reduced by a law the administration supported, Obama has not delivered what reformers hoped he would.

His most conspicuous failure has been his policy on medical marijuana, which is in some ways even more aggressively intolerant than George W. Bush’s, featuring more-frequent raids by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), ruinous IRS audits, and threats of prosecution against not only dispensaries but anyone who deals with them.”

Criminal justice reform optimists responded to Sullum’s criticism by suggesting that in his second term, Obama would be more bold, as he wouldn’t have to worry about reelection. After all, he had supported strong drug reform bills as a State Senator in Illinois, and called the War on Drugs an “utter failure” in 2004.

Despite the recent past, it does appear that at this point the President is making good on some of his initial promises. The DEA, for example, has stopped raiding marijuana dispensaries, and Obama’s administration has given states the leeway to legalize the drug. It’s hard to say however if presently, the President is acting on true convictions, or simply feels more comfortable given the growing bipartisan consensus on criminal justice reform. Whatever his reasons, the results are encouraging, and libertarians in particular are happy to finally see beltway politicos catching up to us.

As for libertarian opinions on non-violent drug use, perspectives range from the most radical position of full legalization, to the somewhat conservative but reform-minded federalist approach preferred by Senator Rand Paul – to whom President Obama gave a thoughtful shoutout in his NAACP remarks:

As Republican Senator and presidential candidate Rand Paul has said – and to his credit, he’s been consistent on this issue – imprisoning large numbers of nonviolent drug offenders for long periods of time, ‘costs the taxpayers money, without making them any safer.’”

This goes to show that as a libertarian Republican, Rand Paul is making substantive, bipartisan headway with legislation such as the REDEEM Act, Justice Safety Valve Act, and the Civil Rights Voting Restoration Act, among others. Paul is very conservative as far as libertarians go on the issue of drug reform, but he appeals to a broad swathe of the electorate by showing how we can reduce taxpayer burdens and give non-violent offenders a chance to rejoin society without being forced into government dependency.

Too often, individuals who never actively aggressed upon others are thrown in prison for behavior that can be chalked up to addiction, or following a black market path that leads to prosperity in otherwise blighted communities. Upon release, often for prison terms that defy common sense due to mandatory minimum sentencing, they are stripped of their right to vote and frequently deemed unfit for a steady career as a result of criminal history inquiries during the job application process.

These factors contribute significantly to high recidivism rates, yet drugs remain on the streets, cartels and gangs are empowered, and prisons grow ever-more crowded. Hopefully, the nation can continue to learn from over half-a-century of failed policies, as well-intentioned as they may have been at their inception.

President Bill Clinton, who doubled down on the Nixon-Reagan-Bush drug policies of prior years, recently apologized for the militarization of the drug war under his administration. And Clinton isn’t the only politician rethinking the rhetorically pleasing but largely ineffective “tough on crime” policies of the past.

Rick Perry, the former Governor of notoriously “law and order” focused Texas, said:

During my leadership as governor, Texas shut down three prisons, and we saved taxpayers $2 billion. When I left office, Texas had the lowest crime rate in our state since 1968. My administration started treatment programs and drug courts for people who wouldn’t be served well by sitting behind bars. We made sure our parole and probation programs were strong. Most of all, we evaluated prisons based on whether they got results. Did an ex-offender get locked up again? Did he get a job? Is he paying restitution to his victims? In Texas, we believe in results.”

If individuals over such a broad span of the political spectrum can come together and acknowledge that criminal justice reform is imminent, there’s hope that future generations will not suffer under the unjust policies of a bygone era. President Obama’s pardons have largely been based on the contention that the sentences these recipients of clemency are serving no longer reflect current law, therefore they’re invalid.

If Obama ends his second term on a criminal justice reform high note, it will give libertarians something to reflect positively on about his time in office – despite his abject failures on issues such as government surveillance and economic freedom. As Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote of the recent case that legalized marriage equality across the nation, “The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times.” We must fight to have the same logic substantively applied to drug policy reform.

Rand Paul Calls for Elimination of Gun-Free Zones in Military Installations

Originally published at Rare

In the wake of a recent domestic terror spree in Chattanooga, Tennessee that left four Marines dead, criticism of “gun free zones,” especially in military installations, has increased. Debate over changing this policy has followed similar incidents in recent years where unarmed military personnel were murdered, both at Fort Hood, Texas in 2009, and the U.S. Naval Yard shooting in Washington, D.C. in 2013. However, trained military personnel remain disarmed, even in the wake of ISIS calling for “homegrown jihad” against U.S. service members.

The policy that led to “gun free zones” was enacted via a Department of Defense directive in 1992 by George H.W. Bush’s Deputy Secretary of Defense, and was renewed in 2011.

Presently, Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is calling for a change to this policy, telling reporters that he previously introduced a bill to arm military bases and seeks to do so again.

The Washington Post’s Dave Weigel reported,“Paul, who was elected to the Senate a year after Hasan’s 2009 killing spree on the Texas military base, has long favored a policy shift that would allow guns on bases.”

“His new bill may go even further than the versions that followed Fort Hood,” Weigel noted.

Paul told the Washington Post his bill is similar to legislation introduced to arm airline pilots against potential terror attacks. Rare was given an exclusive look at the Arming All Pilots Act of 2015 before it was released last month.

Key components include enhancing the existing Armed Pilots Program, providing pilots who seek the certification with the increased flexibility they need for the training processes, and will allow for pilots to conceal-carry their weapons to and from assignments as well as on international flights.

Paul believes the laws for armed military personnel should be applied evenly, saying, “One of the weird things is that we have 15-20 states where you can open carry. So everybody can carry, except for the military?”

“I think that’s crazy. The rules that apply to everybody should at least apply to the military,” Paul said.

It may be less politically challenging to advocate for legislation that permits trained military personnel to bear arms rather than calling for an elimination of “gun free zones,” such as those in schools, entirely. Whether a new bill allowing service members on military bases to be armed can garner sufficient bipartisan support remains to be seen.

Defending Donald Trump is a Contribution to the Democratic Party

Originally published at Every Joe

One of the most discouraging aspects of politics is its knee-jerk tribalism. While it’s natural for people to “pick sides” and find an identity in doing so, this tendency gets ugly when it devolves into hateful collectivism. Unfortunately, the left and right are equally guilty of this. Just read any comment section on an ideologically driven news site or blog. Peruse the vaguely political drivel posted on innocuous YouTube videos and Reddit threads. The internet is rife with screenshot-ready, equal-opportunity displays of ignorance.

Yet there’s something particularly irking about seeing that ugliness crop up with guns blazing on what you generally defend as “your side.” We all know hateful rhetoric bubbles through the fringes of any politically charged movement. It becomes a problem worthy of denouncing, however, when someone treated as an authority figure and acting as a member of your political party leads the charge.

Enter Donald Trump. The sometimes bankrupt, longtime Democratic donor, real-estate mogul reality-TV star hybrid who loves a good controversy. The logical next branding step in the contemporary world of infotainment politics of course, is a presidential campaign. Trump is an out-of-central-casting addition to the “I can scream louder therefore I’m right” cable news caucus. And there’s no better topic for stoking fear and heated rhetoric like his cause du jour.

Launching his campaign with an alarmingly ignorant false premise last month, Trump stated: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

Insensitive at best, racist at worst, Donald Trump knows how to create a long-lasting media firestorm. Of course, his commentary linking Mexican immigration and increased crime is questionable at best. Reason, National Review, and Washington Post explain why, if you want to get into the policy weeds. But pay no mind to the facts; he has us talking. And that’s exactly the intended result.

Trump’s behavior is so extreme in both its ignorance and anger, that it’s hard not to entertain columnist George Will’s only somewhat tongue-in-cheek contention that he might as well be a Democratic operative. As Will stated:

If Donald Trump were a Democratic mole placed in the Republican Party to disrupt things, how would his behavior be any different? I don’t think it would be. There’s all this loose talk, there’s something to it about the Republican brand. Put him on stage in at the first GOP debate. He says something hideously inflammatory, which is all he knows how to say, and then what do the other nine people on stage do? Do they either become complicit in what he said by their silence, or do they have to attack him? The debate gets hijacked, the process gets hijacked, and at the end of the day he is a one-man Todd Akin.”

Of course, the likely answer is that Trump is, as always, engaged in self-promotion and doesn’t care about how his behavior impacts either Republicans or Democrats. This comes with several unfortunate side effects. Naturally, Trump’s irrationality is being pinned on the GOP broadly, with the help of an all-too-eager media that doesn’t seem to treat the Democratic fringe as similarly relevant to their party as a whole. When faced with such media inquiries, most Republican presidential candidates have rightfully denounced Trump’s racially charged commentary, though there have been some disappointments, Ted Cruz’s “salute” to him, most notably.

Another problem lies with Trump’s defenders, who seem to take his signature crassness to an alarmingly higher level in their own attempts at discourse. To be clear, these people are a vocal minority, particularly within the GOP itself. But when you stir the hornet’s nest, they reveal themselves. The results are, to put it charitably, unflattering.

In general, I ascribe to a “Don’t Feed the Trolls” theory of politics. We all know there’s a healthy supply of crazy lurking in all ideological corners, especially on social media. Without self-restraint, you’ll get pulled into the quicksand. Suddenly, the sun starts setting and you realize you’ve wasted your day arguing with two racists and a gender-fluid social justice warrior with a combined IQ equal to that of your dog (who, incidentally, is crying because her food bowl hasn’t been replenished in several hours).

Despite my usual rule, I’ve found myself in the Trump weeds recently. “YOU’RE ONLY ENABLING THE POLITICALLY CORRECT LEFT!” his churlish band of followers bellow at any suggestion that perhaps, racially charged rhetoric actually hurts the cause of border security advocates. Never mind that Trump has materially enabled the much maligned liberal elite, particularly of the Clinton and Schumer variety, with Democratic contributions totaling in the millions. But he’s yelling about the illegals on TV now, so we must defend him at all costs!

As a person invariably “on the right” myself, I do understand the impulse that leads people to reject the left’s authoritarian attempts at shutting down discussion. I agree, however, with the refreshingly optimistic take put forth by Benjamin Domenech and Robert Tracinski that Americans dislike bullies, and the left’s ascendant neo-puritanical crusade will backfire. As they wrote at The Federalist:

History teaches us two clear lessons about the ebb and flow of the Culture War: first, that whichever side believes it is winning will tend to overreach, pushing too far, too fast, and in the process alienating the public. The second is that the American people tend to oppose whoever they see as the aggressor in the Culture Wars—whoever they see as trying to intrusively impose their values on other people and bullying everyone who disagrees.”

This is why it’s important for conservatives not to be the insensitive aggressors ourselves. Lining up behind someone like Trump (whose love for high taxes, eminent domain, and crony capitalism would make even his alleged rival Mrs. Clinton blush – but dammit he yells the loudest) will backfire. Even if you believe he’s making a valid if inarticulate point about immigration, he’s the absolute last man you should tap as your spokesperson.

If your goal is to stick it to the PC crowd, sending in The Donald is a disastrously bad idea. This is a man who apparently can’t express his concerns about illegal immigration without producing soundbites that appear to malign all Mexicans as rapists and drug dealers. That’s not a compelling border security public relations campaign. It’s more like a financial contribution to Hillary’s campaign. Maybe not one as high as Trump’s six-figure donation to the Clinton Foundation, but a contribution she plans to make use of nonetheless.

Reacting to the left’s tyrannical attempts to shut down all debate with equally hateful collectivism only adds fuel to the roaring fire of politically correct overreach. Conservatives must reject the xenophobia our ideological rivals want to pin on us. Don’t allow your valid anger at the left’s totalitarian tendencies lead you to follow an equally authoritarian con-man like Trump to the slaughter.

California Police Officers Don’t Want You to See This Video

Originally published at Every Joe

In June of 2013, police officers in Gardena, California mistook three men searching for their friend’s stolen bike as the people who had committed the crime in question. Officers approached the trio and demanded that they put their hands up. Amid likely confusion, 35-year-old Ricardo Diaz Zeferino moved his arms a few times, and tried to remove his baseball cap, perhaps in an attempt to discern what was happening. This one action tragically led to his untimely death as officers unleashed fire, fearing that Zeferino was reaching for a weapon. This scene is what’s depicted in a video Gardena police fought tooth and nail to keep sealed as part of a $4.7 million settlement deal reached with the victim’s family.

As the Los Angeles Times reports, this video was recently released as part of a challenge the publication, along with the Associated Press and Bloomberg, brought against the protective order that had kept it sealed.

As Times reporters Richard Winton and Joel Rubin explain:

“In unsealing the videos, U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson said the public had an interest in seeing the recordings, especially after the city settled a lawsuit over the shooting for $4.7 million. Wilson rejected last ditch efforts by Gardena attorneys, who argued the city had paid the settlement money in the belief that the videos would remain under seal.

 ‘The ‘defendants’ argument backfires here — the fact that they spent the city’s money, presumably derived from taxes, only strengthens the public’s interest in seeing the videos,’ Wilson wrote. ‘Moreover, while the videos are potentially upsetting and disturbing because of the events they depict, they are not overly gory or graphic in a way that would make them a vehicle for improper purposes.’”

Winton and Rubin go on to further explain that part of the settlement deal, which was taxpayer funded, was allocated by the City of Gardena on the premise that video would remain sealed. The city attempted to keep the video from public view while appealing to the higher 9th Circuit Court, but the Times received a copy from the district court, and published it accordingly.

Reason Magazine’s Ed Krayewski reacted to this situation by saying:

“Despite the judge’s clear-headed ruling in this instance, avoiding transparency and accountability are exactly why most jurisdictions agree to settlements over police brutality in the first place. Generally such settlements include no admission of guilt by the city—the cops involved usually keep their job, and the settlement money always comes from taxpayers, not from police officers, their unions, or their pension funds. Settlements effectively end discussions on police brutality because many people view them as victories even though they come without admissions of guilt and with the punitive bill being picked up by taxpayers, not cops.”

Upon the video’s release, Gardena’s Chief of Police Ed Medrano called the incident “tragic for all involved,” and further said:

“Our police officers are entrusted with sensitive and extremely personal information and we often come in contact with people under tragic situations and at their worst. We worry about the implications of this decision and its impact on victims and average citizens who are recorded by the police.”

The views expressed at Reason versus the sentiments of the Gardena Police reflect the ongoing debate about how to best balance the extremely difficult job cops have with protecting the rights of innocent citizens. Whether more transparency, in the form of tools like body cameras, will help to mitigate bad police behavior is still a topic of fierce debate and will remain as such for the foreseeable future.

Hillary Clinton is Afraid We’ll Get By Without Her

Originally published at Rare

Hillary Clinton, ironically positioning herself as in-touch with small business owners and the evaporating middle class, never ceases to contradict her towering rhetoric with glimpses into the contempt she harbors for innovation unauthorized by government bureaucrats. In a much heralded speech heavy on hyperbole and light on policy, Clinton presented her vision for the American economy in flowery terms, relying on typical left-wing talking points that amount to, “Vote for me and magically, the government will fix everything!”

A point Clinton made that has garnered specific interest was her attack on the emerging “sharing economy,” which has the potential to unlock trillions in untapped capital. This peer-to-peer universe has already harnessed technology in a way that has very effectively skirted the existing economic order, which naturally, is a threat to politicians. Calling it the “gig economy” and implying that working within this context erodes the rigid standards the political establishment prefers, Clinton sounded like an aging relic better suited for a bygone century. As National Review’s Charles Cooke astutely observed:

“Economically, the Clinton-Sanders-Warren-O’Malley project is stuck squarely in 1938. Theirs is a country in which tax rates can be set without reference to global competition; in which the taxi commission and the trade union are the heroes while the entrepreneurs and the dissenters are a royal pain in the ass; in which families can simply not be trusted to determine which services suit their needs and which do not. It’s a country in which our heinously outdated, grossly illiberal, neo-Prussian educational system is to be set more firmly in place — even as it crumbles and falls. It is a country in which the state must determine which firms are Good and which firms are Bad, and reward or punish them according to its whim. It is a country in which Upton Sinclair is an up-and-coming writer, and in which anybody who doubts the efficacy of federal control is in danger of falling headfirst into a rendering vat.”

For an alleged self-described progressive, Clinton finds herself squarely at odds with tangible examples of progress. Instead of embracing technology as a means to unlock economic potential for millions, she says things like, “[The ‘on-demand economy is] raising hard questions about workplace protections and what a good job will look like in the future.” God forbid, of course, anyone finds a way to make a living outside of the government’s preferred regulatory scheme. That might tip people off to the fact that we can live without Hillary Clinton’s dictates. Certainly, we can’t exist in a world where that revelation permeates the discourse.

Quite hilariously, Clinton’s fellow presidential candidate Rand Paul called her out for her arrogance in this realm with a series of scathing tweets:

Rand Paul has a point. And whether the central planners like it or not, permissionless innovation fuels economic growth and ignites social progress. Instead of forcing every new advancement into a one-size-fits-all bureaucratic labyrinth that would grow ever-larger in Clinton’s fantasy world, politicians ought to dismantle barriers to entry they’ve erected to protect special interests and enhance their own power.

Some degree of regulation is of course reasonable, particularly when it comes to issues like basic public safety. The regulation argument turns into a canard however, when politicians claim that only they are capable of crafting the exact standards the rest of us must adhere to in all future attempts at innovation. The argument becomes even more transparently self-serving when only government-approved groups are given the chance to compete in the marketplace, with regulatory schemes set up specifically to protect the monopolies politicians either created or favor through laws conceived in cronyism.

A regulator in a free society ought to look at the emergence of a new technology and ask, “How can we create a legal framework that safely incorporates this into the broader economic fold?” Instead, their first reaction is all too often, “This innovation doesn’t fit into our top-down, centrally-planned, government-monopoly scheme; how do we ban it?”

Hillary Clinton and those who share her worldview may not like the idea of losing their grip on our economic activity, but technology is a profoundly liberating force. Instead of treating platforms that enable people to transact absent government interference as suspect, Clinton would do well to accept that the rest of us will be okay without a self-styled benevolent dictator barking orders from the White House about whose car we’re allowed to ride in.

Can a Republican Presidential Candidate Earn the Black Vote?

Originally published at Every Joe

It’s well-known to political observers that African-American voters have long been the most loyal Democratic constituency. While President Obama garnered more of the black vote than any presidential candidate on record, it wasn’t substantially greater than what Democrats have earned in the past forty years. During the 2008 and 2012 elections, black voters broke for Obama at 95% and 93% respectively. In presidential years from 1976 through 2004, African-Americans supported the Democrat at rates between 83%-91%.

Much ink has been spilled on the topic of how Republicans, the ostensible party of Lincoln, lost the trust and support of the black community. The first popularly elected African-American Senator Edward Brooke (R-MA) who served from 1967-1979 said this of the GOP: “The Republican Party was the party that gave hope and inspiration to minorities. … My father was a Republican. My mother was a Republican. They wouldn’t dare be a Democrat. The Democrats were a party opposed to civil rights.”

There are several elements that led to the change reflected in contemporary politics, and the Civil Rights era certainly laid the groundwork. Barry Goldwater, the firebrand Republican Senator from Arizona who ran unsuccessfully against Texas Democrat Lyndon Johnson for President in 1964 said of the Civil Rights Act which was passed the same year:

I am unalterably opposed to discrimination of any sort and I believe that though the problem is fundamentally one of the heart, some law can help–but not law that embodies features like these, provisions which fly in the face of the Constitution and which require for their effective execution the creation of a police state. And so, because I am unalterably opposed to any threats to our great system of government and the loss of our God-given liberties, I shall vote ‘No’ on this bill

This vote will be reluctantly cast, because I had hoped to be able to vote “Yea” on this measure as I have on the civil right bills which have preceded it; but I cannot in good conscience to the oath that I took when assuming office, cast my vote in the affirmative. With the exception of Titles II and VII, I could wholeheartedly support this bill; but with their inclusion, not measurably improved by the compromise version we have been working on, my vote must be ‘No’.

If my vote is misconstrued, let it be, and let me suffer its consequences. Just let me be judged in this by the real concern I have voiced here and not by words that others may speak or by what others may say about what I think.”

Goldwater no doubt made what some would consider a principled limited government argument. Indeed, there’s much about Goldwater for both libertarians and conservatives to admire. Unfortunately, this isn’t one such example practically speaking, and he did later admit that his vote against the Civil Rights Act was “one of his greatest regrets.” Despite Goldwater’s recantation and the fact that the legislation received bipartisan support, perceived opposition to civil rights in an ascendent wing of the party laid the groundwork for the GOP’s mass black exodus. The next step was the fact that Nixon and many of the advisers around him, perhaps more intentionally than a well-meaning but incorrect Goldwater, solidified the trend.

Many historians and political scientists credit the “Southern strategy,” commonly defined as a mid-twentieth-century GOP attempt to stoke racially driven fear in traditionally Democratic whites to gain votes, as being the beginning of the end for black identification with the party. Some scholars and Republican advisors involved in the Nixon era however, dispute an overt appeal to racism as central to the plan.

Nevertheless, black voters largely found the Republican Party to be less welcoming as southerners who, at the time were satisfied with the segregationist status quo, began to populate its ranks. Unfortunately, the GOP hasn’t made up the ground that was ceded half a century ago. But many in the party argue that the time is ripe for bringing a message of opportunity conservatism to communities of color, especially those in economically distressed areas long run by Democrats.

In that vein, the vast majority of contemporary Republicans are attuned to the need for this style of outreach. In 2005, George W. Bush’s former campaign manager and then chairman of the Republican Party Ken Mehlman told members at a NAACP convention:

By the ’70s and into the ’80s and ’90s, the Democratic Party solidified its gains in the African American community, and we Republicans did not effectively reach out. Some Republicans gave up on winning the African American vote, looking the other way or trying to benefit politically from racial polarization. I am here today as the Republican chairman to tell you we were wrong.”

According to reports, those statements marked the first time a major Republican leader publicly renounced the so-called “Southern strategy.” This was done on the heels of Bush increasing the GOP’s still dismal share of the black vote from 9% in 2000 to 11% in 2004. Where does this leave Republicans who are now competing to succeed the nation’s first black President?

In recent years, Senator and current presidential candidate Rand Paul has taken substantive action, building relationships with black community leaders and speaking out on issues such as racially biased policing, voting rights, school choice, drug laws, and criminal justice reform. His efforts have brought him to places like Baltimore, Ferguson, and Detroit, communities long ignored by Republicans and treated like an already-checked box on the ballot by Democrats.

Just last week, in a powerful speech to the National Press Club, presidential candidate and former Texas Governor Rick Perry made a strong pitch, explaining how conservative reforms have helped African-Americans in Texas. He provided a stark example of a racially motivated murder that occurred in his home state 100 years ago, then focused on the social and economic progress that has helped the very same marginalized communities rise up in the time since. Perry also offered very blunt criticisms of Democrats for allowing African-American communities to crumble under their leadership. As he said:

Let me be clear. We haven’t eliminated black poverty in Texas. But we have made meaningful progress.

In New York, the supplemental poverty rate for blacks is 26 percent. In California, it’s 30 percent. In Washington, D.C., it’s 33 percent.

In Texas, it’s just 20 percent. Here’s how it happened.

Because we curtailed frivolous lawsuits and unreasonable regulations in Texas, it’s far cheaper to do business in Dallas or Houston than in Baltimore or Detroit. And those lower costs get passed down to consumers – especially low-income consumers – in the form of lower prices.

There’s a lot of talk in Washington about income inequality. But there’s a lot less talk about the inequality that arises from the high cost of everyday life.

In blue-state coastal cities, strict zoning laws and environmental regulations have prevented builders from expanding the housing supply. That’s great for the venture capitalist who wants a nice view of San Francisco Bay, but it’s not so great for the single mother working two jobs in order to pay rent and still put food on the table for her kids.”

In addition to Paul and Perry, both Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush have also concentrated on opportunity conservatism as an alternative to the top-down approach favored by Democrats. Bush’s announcement speech focused heavily on this very theme. Rubio’s signature discussion point is his immigrant background and the humble beginnings of his parents, which he couples with a strong push for education reform andtax proposals targeted to help the working class.

Will black voters, who have seen poverty in their communities increase during Obama’s tenure, give Republicans a listen? The outcome is likely to depend on the manner and frequency of outreach. Rick Perry and Rand Paul are right to fight very specifically for the black vote, offering substantive alternatives to the stagnation and dependency liberal economic policies have wrought.

Democrats have had over half-a-century of solid support from the black community, yet sweeping liberal policies such as Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” have had no measurable effect of decreasing black poverty. Tragically, the standard of living for African-Americans has actually decreased under President Obama.

As Elbert Guillory, an African-American Republican State Senator from Louisiana who was originally elected as a Democrat is fond of saying, a lack of competition for the black vote has led to a stagnation wherein Democrats take advantage of the community. He posits that until African-Americans stand up and make both major parties fight for their support, Democrats will allow marginalized communities they claim to be advocates for languish since they know there’s no chance the voters there will remove them from office.

Earning the support of the black community will be no easy feat for Republicans. If it is to be realistically achieved, it will take several voting cycles, a lot of hard work, and genuine outreach. But it’s encouraging to see that at least some Republicans are pushing a positive message of opportunity into black communities, and calling upon liberals to defend their failed policies. Like all voters, African-Americans deserve to have both sides presented to them, and for too long Republicans have failed to even make our case. To the extent that’s changing, even slowly but surely, progress can be made.