Rand Paul: I’m Thinking About a Presidential Run

Sen. Rand Paul, heir apparent to his father’s political movement, said he’s thinking about making a run for president.

“We are going to have to have somebody a little bit different than we’ve had in the past,” the Kentucky Republican said in a radio interview Friday with Andrea Tantaros and Jason Mattera. “Someone who can appeal to people in New England and on the West Coast. Someone who has a little more of a libertarian-Republican approach, I think, would have a better chance with independents and moderates.”

“And so, you know, we’ll think about it,” he said.

Paul won a seat last week on the influential Senate Foreign Relations Committee, meaning he would be well-placed in the national conversation should he choose to mount a 2016 bid. Following President Barack Obama’s November re-election, Paul said he wants to eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for marijuana possession and work out an immigration plan with an “eventual path” to citizenship for illegal immigrants — both signs he’s seeking broader support than just the Tea Party movement that helped put him in the Senate.

He’s also set to travel to Israel, a strong indication that he’s seeking to separate himself from his father, who faced strong criticism about his attitude toward the Jewish state, particularly as it related to foreign aid.

Paul said he believes the just-retired Texas Rep. Ron Paul was “unfairly characterized” about Israel, pointing out that his father’s intellectual heroes are all Jewish.

“There’s never been any sort of Jewish problem other than that he did talk about foreign aid and so do I, but I think sometimes that gets misinterpreted,” Rand Paul said. “People think oh, you’re just talking about Israel, and in fact I spend most of my time emphasizing that most of this foreign aid I’m talking about is going to enemies of Israel.”

Read more here.

House to shine light on AARP’s conflict of interest

Early in 2009 during the opening stages of the national debate on Obamacare, the blogosphere came alive with videos of stormy AARP chapter meetings in which angry members blasted their leaders for supporting President Obama’s signature health care reform. Reports soon followed that AARP was losing members by the thousands. Indeed, so many left the famous seniors group in protest that James Martin, head of the 60 Plus Association, which bills itself as an alternative to AARP, said his organization had to hire 150 temporary telephone operators to handle the flood of applicants and information seekers.

Something else about AARP came out in 2009 when an Examiner investigation found that the group’s well-paid national leaders were overwhelmingly Democratic campaign contributors. In fact, as The Examiner wrote, AARP “is an integral part of the tireless liberal lobbying machine that runs 24/7 in the nation’s capital pushing to protect and expand current government entitlements and to create costly new ones.”

Taxpayers will learn much more about the inner financial workings of AARP today when Reps. Wally Herger, R-Calif., and Charles Boustany, R-La., convene a joint meeting of two House Ways and Means Committee subcommittees to consider a report they wrote along with Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Wash. Titled “Behind the Veil: The AARP America Doesn’t Know,” the report reveals the massive financial windfall AARP stands to gain from full enactment of Obamacare.

Thanks to the new law’s gutting of the Medicare Advantage program, millions of seniors will have to buy MediGap policies. AARP already controls 34 percent of the MediGap market and, according to the report, the additional MediGap enrollees could fatten AARP’s treasury by more than $1 billion. In other words, the policies pushed by the nonprofit segment of AARP drive the revenues produced by the organization’s for-profit operation. AARP’s aggressive advocacy of Obamacare represented what Public Citizen described as “a significant conflict of interest.”

Read more here.

Not yet time to play ‘Taps’ for America’s backbone

President Barack Obama stands as Mexican President Felipe Calderon speaks on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington Wednesday, May 19, 2010. Notice the box near Calderon's feet. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

By: Gregory Kane

This Memorial Day, there’s one gravesite I’ll make sure to visit. The only problem is, I don’t know where it’s located.

But I’m sure the object of my search is definitely dead. That would be the thing I call the Great American Backbone. Remember when this nation, and its leaders, had backbone?

That backbone must be dead. How else do you explain Mexican President Felipe Calderon swaggering into Washington D.C. earlier this month, proclaiming Arizona’s law requiring cops to question those legally stopped about their immigration status “discriminatory,” and getting a standing ovation from some members of Congress?

How else do you explain the silence from most members of Congress after Calderon urged them to pass another law banning assault weapons, as if he had the business to presume to tell us how to run our country?

Calderon is the one who can’t get a handle on drug gangs waging a veritable insurrection in his country. You’d have thought those Democrats who cheered him on would have mentioned that, but they were too busy groveling.

It was the most craven display since Nation of Islam leader Min. Louis Farrakhan chumped members of the National Association of Black Journalists – at their own convention. That one happened in 1996.

The NABJ had invited Farrakhan as the keynote speaker. He spent most of his speech dissing the journalists, talking about how their “failure” to go to bat for him when the “white media” criticized him. After he got through telling them how worthless they were, the journalists rose to their feet and gave him a standing ovation.

I’m betting most of them were Democrats.

The nation’s leading Democrat, President Obama, was no better than those in Congress. After Calderon expressed his disapproval of Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070 during a press conference in the Rose Garden, Obama was quick to second the motion. Here’s what Obama should have said to Calderon:

“It’s inappropriate for you as a head of state to comment on our nation’s internal matters. Furthermore, Mr. Calderon, our nation liberalized its immigration laws considerably by passing the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965.

“The result has been an influx of immigrants from Asia, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East that has transformed America into the most ethnically and racially diverse country in the world. Your country, on the other hand, has mostly Mexicans, and, compared to ours, a rather draconian immigration law.”

Yes, that’s what Obama should have told Calderon, and would have told him, if he had the backbone. But Americans who cast ballots in the presidential election of 2008 didn’t go for backbone. We went for change, hope and the audacity of hope. We had little use for backbone, and in Obama, we’ll never get it.

But my search for the gravesite of the Great American Backbone may be premature. Maybe it isn’t dead. Maybe it’s simply fled the Democratic Party and taken up residence in … Sen. John Cornyn of Texas.

It was Cornyn who chided both Calderon and Obama for the Mexican president’s stepping out of line with his comments. It was Cornyn who mustered the backbone to tell Mr. “We Send Back Them” that if he wants to be part of America’s debate about illegal immigration, then he’s more than welcome to move to this country and apply for citizenship.

When Obama and the rest of the nation’s Democrats were getting seconds and thirds of wuss juice, Cornyn was in the line getting an extra dose of backbone. I hope he has enough to spread around to the Democrats.

Examiner columnist Gregory Kane is a Pulitzer-nominated news and opinion journalist who has covered people and politics from Baltimore to the Sudan.

Greek disease in the House

By: Larry Kudlow

One day Team Obama announces a plan for enhanced rescission authority to impound wasteful spending, and the next day the House surfaces a plan for $200 billion in “stimulus” spending on transfer payments for welfare, even more unemployment compensation, still more Medicaid and a bunch of special-interest subsidies.

So are we to believe that President Obama will rescind the excess appropriations? Hardly. And since pay-go is dead, most of this new spending will not be offset. It will add to deficits and debt.

It’s the Greek disease. The welfare state run amok. Right here at home.

And in true class-warfare style, a small portion of the $200 billion is supposed to be offset by jacking up capital-gains taxes for investment partnerships. If passed, this would reduce investment, jobs and economic growth, and enlarge the deficit. Higher spending and investment taxing is a true austerity trap.

This business of raising the tax rate on investment partnerships would be a particularly onerous burden on American entrepreneurs. And it would put this country at a decided disadvantage to our competitors in China and elsewhere in Asia (outside of Japan).

Increasing the tax rate on the investment portion of these partnerships (i.e., the capital gains) would boost the penalty rate from 15 percent to 38 percent — and that includes the Obamacare payroll tax on investment scheduled for 2013.

So, instead of keeping 85 cents on the extra dollar earned from high-risk investment, the House proposal would drop the return to only 62 cents — a whopping 27 percent incentive rollback. And by the same amount, it would raise the cost of new capital, draining investment liquidity from the private sector in order to finance government transfer payments.

Nothing could be worse. This is spread-the-wealth in its most crass form.

And if all that weren’t bad enough, the House proposal would tax the so-called enterprise value of these firms by applying the same penalty-rate structure on the sale of all or part of an investment partnership. In other words, it would make real-estate, venture-capital and private-equity firms the only businesses in the country that are ineligible for long-term capital-gains treatment when they are sold in full or part.

One private-equity partner tells me that this would “tear apart the incentives for innovation that have been at the foundation of American enterprise since 1921, when the capital-gains differential vis-a-vis ordinary personal tax rates was first created.”

Compounding matters, we read in USA Today this week that private-sector personal incomes are at an all-time low, while government benefits as a share of income stand at an all-time high. I believe this is called redistribution.

And then comes a study from the Harvard Business School that states: “Stimulus Surprise: Companies Retrench When Government Spends.” What a shocker. (Hat tip to economist Don Luskin.)

House Democrats apparently don’t read newspapers from Greece or the United States. And they sure don’t read Harvard B-School studies.

Examiner Columnist Larry Kudlow is nationally syndicated by Creators Syndicate.

Read more at the Washington Examiner: http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/columns/Greek-disease-in-the-House-95119989.html#ixzz0pFxlB7Mp

Sestak was ineligible for job Clinton offered

By: Byron York

In a little-noticed passage Friday, the New York Times reported that Rep. Joe Sestak was not eligible for a place on the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board, the job he was reportedly offered by former President Bill Clinton. And indeed a look at the Board’s website reveals this restriction:

The Board consists of not more than 16 members appointed by the President from among individuals who are not employed by the Federal Government. Members are distinguished citizens selected from the national security, political, academic, and private sectors.

As a sitting member of Congress, Sestak was not eligible for the job. And since the White House intended for Sestak to remain in his House seat, he would not have been eligible for the board after this November’s elections, provided he was re-elected to the House.

The statement from White House counsel Robert Bauer did not specifically mention the intelligence board, but speaking to reporters Friday, Sestak said of his conversation with Clinton, “At the time, I heard the words ‘presidential board,’ and that’s all I heard…I heard ‘presidential board,’ and I think it was intel.” In addition, the Times reported that “people briefed on the matter said one option was an appointment” to the intelligence board. But the White House could not legally have placed Sestak on the board.

Did the White House not know that? The apparent contradiction is sure to create more questions from Republicans who want an independent investigation of the affair. Why would the White House — normally pretty careful in such matters — offer Sestak a job he couldn’t take? Were there in fact other offers made to Sestak? So far, there has been little discussion of the fact that the Bauer statement said “options for executive branch service were raised with [Sestak].” The plural “options” certainly suggests that more than one job was presented to Sestak, but Sestak himself says his conversation with Clinton was very brief — less than one minute. Whatever the case, if the White House intended Bauer’s statement to put the Sestak issue to rest, it was probably mistaken.

Fawning press now gets cold shoulder from Obama

By: Byron York

Will Barack Obama go an entire year without holding a formal news conference? He’s getting close: The president’s last full-scale session with the press was on July 22, 2009, which was 307 days ago.

When Obama last held a big news conference, there had not yet been terrorist attacks at Fort Hood, Detroit, and Times Square. Scott Brown was an unknown Massachusetts state senator. There was no national health care bill, much less national health care law. Tiger Woods appeared to be a model family man.

A lot can happen in 307 days, which is far longer than George W. Bush or Bill Clinton ever went between news conferences.

In its defense, the White House says Obama answers a lot of questions from reporters, just not in the traditional news-conference setting. In fact, the president does a lot of one-on-one interviews, frequently with sympathetic reporters. But even in terms of brief question-and-answer sessions with the White House press corps, he has still done fewer than Bush or Clinton.

More troubling is that Obama makes no secret of his disdain for the press. Just look at the scene in the Oval Office May 18, when Obama invited a few journalists to watch him sign a new bill — it just happened to be the Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act.

“Speaking of press freedom, could you answer a couple of questions on BP?” CBS’s Chip Reid asked Obama after the signing.

“You’re certainly free to ask them, Chip,” Obama said.

“Will you answer them?” Reid continued. “How about a question on Iran?”

“We won’t be answering — I’m not doing a press conference today,” Obama said. “But we’ll be seeing you guys during the course of this week. OK?”

And that was that. In the spirit of the day, Obama conceded that the press had the freedom to ask questions — he just didn’t have to answer them. (By the way, Obama aides edited the exchange with Reid out of the video of the signing posted on the White House Web site.)

When the president hinted he would answer questions “during the course of this week,” he was referring to his meeting with Mexican President Felipe Calderon a few days later. After the leaders made joint statements, Obama allowed questions from just two reporters, both from Spanish-language news outlets. Obama took more than 11 minutes to respond to the questions, then said their time was up, leaving reporters frustrated yet again.

While Obama dodges questions, his spokesman stonewalls them. There’s simply no other word to describe the White House handling of Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak’s charge that the Obama administration offered him a job if he would not challenge Sen. Arlen Specter in the state’s recent primary.

Sestak, a former Navy admiral, first mentioned the matter on Feb.18. In the following weeks, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs was asked about it repeatedly. Gibbs didn’t deny the story; he simply said over and over that he didn’t have any information. Finally, on March 16, Gibbs said he had talked to “several people” in the White House and had been told that “whatever conversations have been had are not problematic.”

After Sestak beat Specter, the question arose again. “You never really explained what the conversation was,” ABC’s Jake Tapper said to Gibbs. “Then I don’t have anything to add today,” Gibbs snapped. The spokesman grew noticeably irritated when other reporters tried to follow up. Gibbs had said all he would say.

The situation amazes veterans of previous administrations. “I think it is astonishing that there isn’t carping about this from the press every day,” says former Bush White House press secretary Dana Perino. “Believe me, they would have nailed us to the wall.”

In one sense, the press, or at least some members of the press, have only themselves to blame. Obama treats them with contempt because he knows that when big tests come, they’ve always been on his side. There’s no reason for him to think they won’t be there in the future. “Most of you covered me,” he told the media elite at the 2009 White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. “All of you voted for me.”

That’s the attitude coming out of the Oval Office every day. Why does Obama do it? Because he can.

Byron York, The Examiner’s chief political correspondent, can be contacted at byork@washingtonexaminer.com. His column appears on Tuesday and Friday, and his stories and blog posts appears on http://www.ExaminerPolitics.com

No more police escorts for union thugs

It is standard procedure across the nation when officers from one jurisdiction cross into another to provide advance warning, but that was not done in the case of Bank of America Deputy General Counsel Greg Baer. (Photos.com)

Examiner Editorial

Imagine you are sitting at home on a peaceful Sunday when you hear buses pull up in front of your house and begin disgorging hundreds of angry people waving signs with threatening messages, shaking their fists and crowding onto your lawn. Soon, hundreds of screaming people are tromping on your flower beds, peering into your windows, and scaring neighbors who nervously begin placing calls to 911.

As the noise levels rise and demonstrators start banging on your front door, you begin to fear that something very bad is about to happen. Then you spot the police cars, and relief floods over you. “At least the cops will keep things under control,” you tell yourself. But your relief is shattered when you realize the cops you thought were there to protect you are actually from another jurisdiction and they are there because they escorted the mob to your address.

Sound like a fantasy, something that could never happen here? Guess again, because that exact scenario played out last week in Bethesda. The demonstrators were from the Service Employees International Union, the target of their anger was the home of Bank of America Deputy General Counsel Greg Baer, and the cops escorting the SEIU-ers were from the Metropolitan District of Columbia Police Department, which, like departments across the country, is represented by the Fraternal Order of Police union.

Although it is standard procedure across the nation when officers from one jurisdiction cross into another to provide advance warning, that was not done in this case. The only person inside the Baer home when the demonstrators and D.C. cops arrived was one of Baer’s young sons, who locked himself in the bathroom until his father arrived to rescue him after bravely forcing his way through the crowd. Eventually, the Montgomery County police appeared on the scene, and the demonstrators later departed.

There are multiple lessons to be gleaned from this highly disturbing situation. Such tactics are standard fare for SEIU, whose leaders think it’s just fine to target the private homes and families of people associated with whatever company the union has decided to demonize. These assaults are clearly meant to shock and intimidate. Congress long ago banned secondary boycotts from union tactics. It’s time to put a stop to all such assaults on private homes and families. And the conduct of the D.C. police highlights another critical question — should law enforcement officers be pawns of union bosses? Collective bargaining should no longer have a place among those sworn to protect and serve the public.

Oliver North: Indisputable service

By: Oliver North
Examiner Columnist

This year falling on May 15, Armed Forces Day was designated in 1949 to recognize active-duty soldiers, sailors, airmen, guardsmen and Marines. Memorial Day, now a “nearest Monday” federal holiday, has been observed at the end of the month since 1868 in tribute to America’s war dead. It’s ironic that this year, these two dates celebrating those who serve in our nation’s uniform are bookends for a political candidate accused of inflating his claims of military service.

On May 17, The New York Times, The Associated Press and just about every other news outlet on the planet made it known that Richard Blumenthal, the attorney general of Connecticut and a candidate for the U.S. Senate, has made a habit of portraying himself as a veteran of the Vietnam War. He is quoted as having told a Connecticut veterans group in March 2008, “We have learned something important since the days that I served in Vietnam.” At a Veterans Day event later that year, he said, “I wore the uniform in Vietnam, and many came back to all kinds of disrespect.” He has emotionally recalled being “spat on” and claimed, “We couldn’t wear our uniforms (when) we returned from Vietnam.” On other occasions, he apparently has reflected on “the taunts, the insults, sometimes even physical abuse” he suffered after coming back from Vietnam. At a 2003 rally of support for U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said, “When we returned, we saw nothing like this,” and he often has made reference to “the days that (he) served in Vietnam.” Unfortunately, none of this is true. Jane Fonda has more time on the ground in Vietnam than Blumenthal.

Confronted by the evidence that he never really was deployed overseas, the Senate candidate called a news conference to say, “I regret that I misspoke on those occasions. I take full responsibility.” He went on to explain to reporters that his claims to have served in Vietnam were “absolutely unintentional” and “a few misplaced words.” That affront to those who really did serve — and who now serve in harm’s way — was apparently acceptable to those who stood beside the attorney general in his Mark Sanford moment.

In fairness, Blumenthal did enlist in the Marine Corps Reserve in 1970 — after receiving at least five draft deferments. He apparently made it through Marine boot camp at Parris Island, S.C. — no mean feat. The publicly available record shows that after completing basic training, he never deployed overseas, but he did fulfill his obligated service in a Washington, D.C.-based Civil Affairs detachment and a Motor Transport unit in Connecticut. That entitles him to wear the same Eagle, Globe and Anchor that adorns my uniform. But that doesn’t give him the right to demean the service of the young Marines and Navy corpsmen with whom I served in that long-ago, faraway war — or those from the present fight who have volunteered to go in harm’s way.

Blumenthal’s lies about his service aren’t simply a problem of “misspeaking,” as he now claims, or just a matter of padding a r?sum?. His deceptions and distortions had but one self-serving end: to advance his political career by establishing affinity with veterans and their families, no matter what price they had really paid. Apparently, he was so good at it until now that no political opponent, veterans organization or enterprising reporter ever analyzed Blumenthal’s DD Form 214 or his Service Record Book to determine the truth of his assertions.

Blumenthal now maintains he isn’t going to talk about this matter anymore and is moving on to “issues that make a difference now and in the future to the people of Connecticut.” Whether “moving on” and “putting this behind us” will prove to be a successful political ploy remains to be seen. In the 1990s, then-Rep. Wes Cooley, R-Ore., who falsely claimed he had served in the Korean War, was thrown out of office by his constituents after being caught up in his lies. Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind., resigned this week when his extramarital affair was revealed. These men are no greater charlatans or frauds than Blumenthal, who must know that others — such as Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa — have survived self-serving “expansions” of their own military records.

Blumenthal says he is going to continue his quest for the U.S. Senate, so the issue of his credibility and his “war record” ultimately will be decided by the people of Connecticut. It will be interesting to see whether the state that gave us Revolutionary War heroes Nathan Hale and Israel Putnam wants to seat a hypocrite like Richard Blumenthal in the U.S. Senate with a real American hero like Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va.

That’s all ahead for the nice folks in the Nutmeg State. For the rest of us, please remember that Memorial Day is more than a day off. It’s our opportunity to honor those who indisputably served our country in harm’s way. They are buried in cemeteries all over this globe — including one near you.

Examiner columnist Oliver North is nationally syndicated by Creators Syndicate.