Month: September 2016

Study: Cap on charter schools hurts disadvantaged students


According to a study from the centrist Brookings Institution, the cap on the number of charter schools in Massachusetts hurts disadvantaged students.

“The evidence is that, for disadvantaged students in urban areas of Massachusetts, charter schools do better than traditional public schools,” researchers wrote (emphasis in original).

Their research shows that charters are particularly helpful for “English learners, special education students, and children who enter charters with low test scores.” They found that charters “are improving test scores, college preparation, and college attendance.” The charters double the likelihood of students taking an Advanced Placement exam and improve the odds students will pass those tests.

The study did find that charter students are 14 percentage points more likely to graduate in five years instead of four, but it’s likely because charter students enter high school far behind the state’s average test scores.

Charters in suburban or rural areas of the state, however, did not have the same positive results as urban charters. But the researchers made sure to note that, under the way Massachusetts’ cap on charters is designed, the cap currently only constrains charter school expansion in urban areas (where the study found charters are successful).

The study was based on the differences between students who entered charter school lotteries and were randomly selected or denied for admission. The researchers say the difference between charter school applicants and non-applicants is “quite small” now that more than a third of students in Boston apply for charter schools.

Massachusetts voters will decide on Election Day if they want to eliminate the cap and allow 12 new charters to be approved every year on top of the current 78 charter schools there.

The study was authored by Sarah Cohodes with Columbia University and Susan Dynarski with Brookings.

Charter schools are publicly funded and do not charge tuition, but they are privately run. Compared to traditional public schools, charters have more independence and flexibility in their operations and curricula, which is why many families find them desirable. They are open to all students, but due to demand they must often use a lottery system to allocate spaces.

Trump eats fast food to avoid being poisoned

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09/16/16 12:58 AM

Jason Russell is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.

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Hillary Clinton falsely claims it's 'legal' for employers to retaliate over pay discussions


Hillary Clinton has mentioned “equal pay for equal work” numerous times on the campaign trail, implying that women are being discriminated against regularly across the country.

The truth is, women are being paid equally for equal work (except, probably, in rare instances) but the fact of the matter is that most workers are not actually equal. Some workers have more experience, some work longer hours, some negotiated their pay better. Except in very specific jobs where pay is controlled, it’s hard to find two people with the exact same experience, working the same hours, with the same skills.

But Clinton went a step beyond that deception, saying that it was “legal” for employers to retaliate against workers who discuss their pay.

“That’s legal: If you find out about somebody else’s salary even if you’re doing exactly the same job, you can be retaliated against, including being fired, in most places,” Clinton said at a recent campaign event in Tampa.

The Washington Post’s fact checker, Michelle Ye Hee Lee, gave Clinton two pinocchios for the statement.

For starters, it’s not actually legal for employers to retaliate. The National Labor Relations Act protects employees from such retaliation. Now, Lee pointed out, there are some exceptions, such as government workers, but many of them are covered by President Obama’s non-retaliation executive order.

Lee also noted that employers can’t regulate the discussion of pay unless they have a “legitimate and substantial business reason to do so.” This usually is restricted to disallowing employers from discussing pay during work hours.

Marcia Greenberger of the National Women’s Law Center said the law is a “paper tiger in many instances” because employees don’t know about the protections.

But, Lee noted, the protection does exist, even if some employees aren’t covered.

Trump eats fast food to avoid being poisoned

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“Clinton goes too far saying that it’s ‘legal’ for employees to be retaliated against or fired after discussing their pay with co-workers,” Lee concluded. “Had she avoided the word ‘legal,’ this claim may qualify for One Pinocchio, since there are existing gaps in the law and inconsistent application of it that have led to the types of retaliation she describes.”

Bottom line: This, like the gender wage gap, is far more complex than Clinton and most other Democratic politicians want you to believe. There’s room for criticism, but to say that retaliation is “legal” is disingenuous.

Ashe Schow is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.

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Hiding the party affiliation of scandal-plagued Democrats


“Guess the party affiliation” has become a game over the years over at the Media Research Center, a right-leaning think tank that exposes liberal bias in the media.

The MRC has been documenting instances where a politician faces a scandal, but his or her party affiliation isn’t mentioned or is buried — if he or she is a Democrat. When the scandal involves a Republican, however, the party affiliation is the main driver of the story and is repeated ad nauseam.

I’ve found the latest example of this bias. In a horrible story about a former Ohio mayor indicted for allegedly raping a 4-year-old girl, the Washington Post waited until paragraph 12 to mention the mayor is a Democrat.

We’ve seen this done in the past. When it was revealed that then-governor of New York Eliot Spitzer was using an escort service, multiple news outlets reported the stories, but omitted his party affiliation. The New York Times even moved the party affiliation after publishing, from the third paragraph down to the 15th paragraph.

The same occurred with Anthony Weiner. ABC News mentioned the scandal, but neglected to say Weiner was a Democrat. The list goes on.

Compare this to Republican sex scandals, and everything changes. Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert has his party affiliation mentioned in the first sentence of this NPR report about him reporting to prison for paying hush money to cover up alleged sexual abuse.

When then-South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford admitted to an extramarital affair, his party affiliation was revealed in the third paragraph of this CNN article. The same went for David Vitter, Christopher Lee, Larry Craig and numerous other Republicans.

One could argue the former Ohio mayor’s party affiliation doesn’t matter because he is no longer in office. Neither was Hastert. Granted, Hastert was a former House Speaker, so he was a little more important. That still doesn’t excuse the mainstream media from removing the party affiliation of sitting politicians in high places of power.

Also, if it was important enough to mention he was a former mayor, then it was important enough to mention his party affiliation. At the very least, avoid mentioning anyone’s party affiliation until deep into an article. Just treat all parties equally.

Trump eats fast food to avoid being poisoned

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Ashe Schow is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.

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Some journalists think she her comments were perfectly in line with reality.

09/16/16 12:01 AM



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Some good, some bad in Ivanka Trump's defense of her father's family leave plan


Ivanka Trump, daughter of GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal promoting (and defending) her father’s paid family leave plan.

Ivanka has been a great asset to her father’s campaign, especially when it comes to women and family issues. That said, she makes one of the common mistakes when discussing statistics about gender pay equity.

“For me, motherhood is a gift and a tremendous source of joy,” she writes. “Yet it’s also the greatest predictor of wage inequality in our country,” Ivanka writes at the beginning of her article. “In 2014, single women without children earned 94 cents on a man’s dollar. Married mothers made only 81 cents.”

Ivanka doesn’t explain why this wage gap actually exists, let alone the fact that it seems to contradict the more commonly used (and even more misleading) statistic that hints at even lower pay for women compared to men.

It’s not that men and women are working side-by-side doing the same job and being paid unequally (even if that happens in some places). Men and women choose different careers, work different hours, and often have different levels of experience.

The reason married mothers earned 81 cents to the dollar that men earned is because so many married mothers leave the labor force when they have a child. That drops the average earnings if they go back to work later compared to single women. Or they work fewer hours or take a less time-consuming job, which generally pays less.

That said, there is some good in Donald’s plan. Allowing working parents to deduct child care expenses is a good idea. Society should value parenthood more. Parents are shouldering many expenses now that prevent the state from having to pay more later. Anything that helps them cover those expenses without being taxed on the extra money they have to earn to pay the costs of raising a family is a good idea.

Donald’s Dependent Care Savings Accounts idea also sounds like it could be helpful. It not only assists parents, but also those caring for an elder or dependent adult. Too often, workers must put their career on hold when a family member becomes ill. I think finding a non-government solution that helps people handle this on their own, without raising taxes, is another positive.

Trump’s tax deduction can be taken by families that don’t use commercial child care. This is nice because it means the plan doesn’t punish those families in which parents decide to (or must, in the case of those working night shifts) provide child care themselves. This makes sense when you think about it — some families make arrangements by which they bear the same costs by giving up their own time rather than cash. That cost is still real and the parents’ time is also worth a certain dollar amount.

Trump eats fast food to avoid being poisoned

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But here’s where I take issue: Trump’s plan guarantees six weeks of paid maternity leave and plans to pay for it by reforming unemployment insurance. This, I’m skeptical about. Mostly because I don’t like government mandates. And it means that the plan should satisfy the Left, but Trump is running as a Republican, so that doesn’t matter.

Ivanka says her father’s plan won’t raise taxes. Maybe not, but mandating employers do something – as opposed to incentivizing them to do so, as I mentioned earlier – will have ramifications. Paid maternity – and paternity – leave is a great thing. Some businesses provide it already, and many individuals can buy short-term leave insurance, like AFLAC, that provides it as well.

But a lot of businesses, especially those that pay low-skilled workers, can’t afford it. Under a regimen of paid leave, they will simply think twice before hiring people who arguably need jobs the most — young married people (and especially young women) who might have children. Why did he take so much care to keep the government out of most of his proposal, yet insert the government into this aspect?

I don’t think this plan will do much to win women over for Trump, but it might show that he’s listening and reacting. And while his opponent, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, has had weeks of negative headlines, Donald’s plan stands out as a positive for his campaign.

Full disclosure: Ivanka Trump is married to Jared Kushner, who publishes the New York Observer, where I also write.

Clinton rejoins the trail in crucial North Carolina

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Ashe Schow is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.

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Some journalists think she her comments were perfectly in line with reality.

09/16/16 12:01 AM



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18 things we learned from Colin Powell's leaked emails


The website DC Leaks has published more hacked emails pertaining to Hillary Clinton and her use of a private email server to conduct official State Department business while she was secretary of state.

The latest emails involve former Secretary of State Colin Powell, and there are some doozies.

1. The Clintons still dislike President Barack Obama

It’s no secret that Clinton and Obama shared a mutual animosity toward each other while both ran for president in 2008. But as recently as 2015, it seems the anger the Clintons had toward Obama still lingered.

“I think Hillary can’t believe she might not make it. It’s the one prize she wants. She has everything else,” wrote president and co-founder of Leeds Equity, Jeffrey Leeds, who is also a big donor to Democrats. “And she HATES that the President (“that man,” as the Clintons call him) kicked her ass in 2008. She can’t believe it or accept it.”

That email was sent to Powell on March 14, 2015.

2. Clinton might have been prepared to drag Obama down with her

Leeds makes many appearances in the newly leaked emails. In another email, he tells Powell that “no one likes” Clinton, after the former secretary of state lost Maine in the Democratic primary to her rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

“She’s got trouble too. No one likes her and the criminal thing ain’t over,” Leeds wrote in March 2016. “I don’t think the president would weep if she found herself in real legal trouble. She’ll pummel his legacy if she gets a chance and he knows it.”

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3. Even Democrats questioned Clinton’s health

Here is Leeds again (maybe this guy just doesn’t like Clinton), this time noting a conversation he had with Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse after the senator attended an event with Clinton.

“Sheldon Whitehouse, who is a huge Clinton supporter, said they were both giving speeches at the same event a few months back and she could barely climb the podium steps,” Leeds said in a March 14, 2015 email to Powell.

Leeds had been responding to an email Powell had written to him, discussing Clinton’s health.

“On HD tv she doesn’t look good. She is working herself to death,” Powell wrote. He added that “She will turn 70 her first year in office.”

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4. Powell didn’t want to be Clinton’s email scapegoat

Powell didn’t appreciate being Clinton’s scapegoat when it came to the use of a private email server. While Powell also used a private email account, he did not have his own private server. He used an AOL account (hey, it was the early 2000s), which was maintained by AOL’s servers.

“Dumb. She should have done a ‘Full Monty’ at the beginning. She was using email when she took over,” Powell wrote on Aug. 23, 2016. “They put the personal system in the basement a few months later… She didn’t need any advice or ok from me; she was already doing it. I gave her written guidance on why and how I had been doing it.”

He added: “I warned her staff three times over the past two years not to try to connect it to me. I am not sure HRC even knew or understood what was going on in the basement.”

In another email, Powell wrote of another instance in which he tried to get the campaign so stop connecting him to her email scandal.

Sad thing it [sic] that HRC could have killed this two years ago by merely telling everyone honestly what she had done and not tie me to it,” Powell wrote on Aug. 28, 2016. “I told her staff three times not to try that gambit. I had to throw a mini tantrum at a Hampton’s party to get their attention. She keeps tripping into these ‘character’ minefields.”

5. Powell was really upset about being tied to Clinton’s email scandal

“They are going to dick up the legitimate and necessary use of emails with friggin record rules. I saw email more like a telephone than a cable machine,” Powell wrote to Leeds on Aug. 18, 2015. “As long as the stuff is unclassified. I had a secure State.gov machine.”

6. Seriously, he was angry about the whole thing

When Democratic commentator James Carville wrote a column comparing Powell’s emails to Clinton’s, the former secretary of state under George W. Bush shot him an angry email.

“Dear James, you are the latest HRC acolyte trying to use me to cover her on the email caper. All these attempts and her dissembling has just made it Worse [sic].” Powell wrote.

He added: “She now is apologizing,” before writing that “suddenly you surface to throw another log on the fire.”

7. Powell is a quote machine

This one has staying power: “Everything [Hillary Rodham Clinton] touches she kind of screws up with hubris,” Powell wrote.

8. Leeds and Powell had concerns about Clinton’s campaign last summer

“HRC may be in serious trouble,” Leeds wrote to Powell on Aug. 18, 2015. “And she sounds terrible thing [sic] to spin. Worse every day.”

9. Powell blamed Ambassador Christopher Stevens for the Benghazi attack

This one’s pretty sick. Powell said the Benghazi investigation against Clinton was “a stupid witch hunt” and that the “basic fault” for the attack “falls on a courageous ambassador who thought Libyans now love me and I am ok in this very vulnerable place.”

Powell also blamed Clinton and Stevens’ “leaders and supporters” in Washington, DC.

“But blame also rests on his leaders and supports back here. Pat Kennedy, Intel community, [State Department] and yes HRC,” Powell wrote.

10. Clinton cost Powell a university speaking gig

“I told you about the gig I lost at a University because [Clinton] so overcharged them they came under heat and couldn’t any [sic] fees for awhile,” Powell wrote. “I should send her a bill.”

11. Powell believe Bill Clinton is still cheating and doesn’t want to vote for Hillary

“I would rather not have to vote for her, although she is a friend I respect,” Powell wrote to Leeds on July 26, 2014. “A 70-year person with a long track record, unbridled ambition, greedy, not transformational, with a husband still dicking bimbos at home (according to the NYP).”

That’s an email for the ages.

12. Powell didn’t like Gen. Michael Flynn

“I spoke at [the Defense Intelligence Agency] last month,” Powell wrote to his son. “Flynn got fired as head of DIA. His replacement is a black Marine 3-star. I asked why Flynn got fired. Abusive with staff, didn’t listen, worked against policy, bad management, etc. He has been and was right-wing nutty every [sic] since. I watched about five minutes on line of his talked [sic] and switched off.”

13. Powell thinks the FBI ‘loved’ him

In one email exchange, Powell said “several folks” had come up to him the night before to tell him Clinton “threw you under the bus.” Powell replied: “Don’t be silly, she is under bus,” and claimed “The FBI guys loved me and so did the [Inspector General] types.”

14. Powell doesn’t like Clinton, but he doesn’t like Donald Trump either

Powell really disliked Trump’s quest to uncover President Obama’s birth certificate.

“Yup, the whole birther movement was racist,” Mr. Powell wrote in one email. “That’s what the 99% believe. When Trump couldn’t keep that up he said he also wanted to see if the certificate noted that he was a Muslim. As I have said before, ‘What if he was?’ Muslims are born as Americans everyday.”

Powell also called Trump a “national disgrace” and an “international pariah.”

15. Powell also didn’t like the Cheneys

“They are idiots and spent force peddling a book that ain’t going nowhere,” Powell wrote in an email about former Vice President (whom Powell served alongside) Dick Cheney.

16. And he didn’t much care for Donald Rumsfeld

“One day when we both have had too many drinks we can discuss why [President George W. Bush] tolerated him and why Dick [Cheney], a successful SecDef, was so committed to Don,” Powell wrote in yet another email. “I must say I gagged as [President George H.W. Bush] praised him as the ‘best’ at the statuary hall unveiling.”

17. Actually, Powell pretty much despises everyone

See points 7, 9, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16.

18. He likes to use the word ‘dick’

See points 5 and 11.

Update: An earlier version left out part of an email in which Powell also blamed Clinton and others in Washington for Benghazi. He put the blame on Stevens first, but he did add that others were at fault.

Ashe Schow is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.

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Colin Powell on Clinton — what's not to dislike?


Colin Powell’s leaked emails are a treasure trove of great quotes — from his recognition that everything Hillary Clinton “touches she kind of screws up with hubris” to his accusation that former President Bill Clinton is still “dicking bimbos” in his Chappaqua, N.Y., home.

The view they offer of the uncensored opinions of a respected general not known for harsh partisanship is both amusing and piquant. Powell, thinking his emails would remain private, does not mince his words, and dishes it out hard on Donald Trump and several former Bush administration colleagues.

But Powell also reveals something about Clinton that many in the news media would rather not acknowledge, which is that even her friends don’t like her.

Those who know her personally find her off-putting, just as the public does, and for the same reasons. There’s every reason to believe that Powell’s comments reflect the unvarnished views of the political elite, which mostly go unsaid.

In one email exchange, Powell calls Clinton a “friend” whom he respects, but adds that he “would rather not have to vote for her.” He then explains why: “A 70-year person with a long track record, unbridled ambition, greedy, not transformational.” Then the general adds the bit about Bill and the bimbos.

Powell is not Clinton’s BFF, but he knows her a lot better than most people do. And his close acquaintance with her does nothing to overcome his concerns about her venality and hyper-ambition. He embodies the old maxim that familiarity breeds contempt.

And that’s what appears to have happened with voters, too. Clinton has hung around for so long in public view that people know well what she is. They have not grown to like it and they never will.

Voters watched the nastiness between Clinton and then-Sen. Barack Obama in 2008, and, according to Powell’s emails, the Clintons still hold a grudge, allegedly referring to the president as “that man.”

Voters have watched Clinton shift her position on issues including trade and national security. This makes her seem like the kind person who would say or do almost anything to get elected, which is what Obama said of her in 2008.

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She scatters blame like grapeshot to avoid accountability for her own misdeeds. For Powell, the last straw, which came long after the email quoted above was sent, came when Clinton tried to blame him recently for her email scandal. She insinuated that she was following his advice when she set up her private email server in the basement of her country house.

Voters have also noticed her self-serving lies, her cavalier disregard for the law and her transformation of public service into a multi-million dollar personal fortune.

Tellingly, Powell suggests that these flaws are not somehow balanced out by good qualities of a “real Hillary,” a good Clinton who’s in there somewhere but remains unobserved by the public. Nope, it doesn’t exist.

In other words, the popular notion that Clinton is greedy and conniving is not the result of people not knowing the real Clinton. It’s based on people observing what she’s really like, based on her actions, her statements, her excuses and her irritation at those who try to hold her accountable.

Powell didn’t write as though he were saying anything controversial or unusual when he dissed Clinton. Everyone, really everyone, recognizes what she is, even elite Democrats. Democratic megadonor Jeffrey Leeds wrote to Powell that “no one likes her” and that she would “pummel [Obama’s] legacy” if she could, perhaps just to spite him for winning in 2008.

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The more people see (and hear) Clinton, the less they like her. There are seven weeks to go before the election. Perhaps there is enough time, but only just.

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Polling and older voters' flight from the Democratic Party


Every day, a brand-new new poll emerges in the 2016 presidential race. In fact, on most days, it seems like multiple polls are released.

How is it possible, many people want to know, that polls asking the same questions and taken during the same time yield different results? The answer to that question is both complex and simple.

First, polls are based on random-sampling respondents. Those respondents are then “weighted” by a given pollster to mirror the electorate as a whole. For example, if 1,000 people participate in a poll, the pollster adjusts the actual results to reflect the assumed percentages of men voters and women voters, older voters and younger voters, Republican voters and Democratic voters that will actually vote on Election Day.

Not surprisingly, the smaller the number of respondents in a given survey, the harder that poll is to accurately weigh. But the mathematics here is not the root problem. The difficult question every pollster has to answer is: Who will actually turn out to vote on Election Day?

Some of these current polls simply assume that the voting population on Election Day 2016 will be almost identical to the 2012 electorate.

Chuck Todd at NBC recently deconstructed a CNN poll by using the weighting from the 2012 presidential electorate. Chuck’s experiment showed a massive change in the final results of the poll. The original CNN poll had Trump winning by 2 points. The dismantled and reconfigured poll had Clinton winning by 4 points.

This experiment is a very clear example of the importance of carefully and accurately weighting a poll in order for it to have any information value to voters. MSNBC viewers may have came away with the impression that the experiment was proof the CNN poll was in error. I would argue that instead the experiment proves the error of Static Electorate Theory.

It’s almost axiomatic to say that the 2016 electorate will be different than the voters of 2012. Different groups of people are angry, energized, disgusted, and apathetic.

And we already know for a fact that over the last 4 years, there have been massive shifts in voter registration numbers in certain key states. Almost everyone agrees that four critical states this November will be Ohio, North Carolina, Florida, and Pennsylvania.

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What many people do not know is that these four states have 750,000 fewer registered Democrats now than four years ago. These same four states also have 200,000 more registered Republican voters than in 2012. These shifts, in key states, could have a profound impact.

Meanwhile, the mainstream media have has written quite a bit about the growth in the Hispanic population. In fact, there is so much written about it you couldn’t read it all.

Since the election in 2000 when George W. Bush narrowly beat Al Gore, our country has changed a great deal. Nearly 30,000,000 senior citizens have died since that election. What does it mean to the American population as a whole? Don’t all seniors vote the same way?

It is a little remembered fact that senior citizens were a very strong voting base for the Democrats for about 70 years, from the time of FDR’s New Deal through the Clinton White House. Al Gore won seniors by four points in 2000.

In fact, seniors only started voting Republican in 2010. Mind you, there was no sudden change of mind for seniors. The change was the result of the long, steady demise of “New Deal Democrats.”

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Six years later, we are seeing the same shift continue today. It is almost impossible to overstate the effect of both the Great Depression and the New Deal on our politics. The Democratic Party benefited for decades from loyal folks who consistently supported the party they felt rescued the nation from economic collapse. Unfortunately for Democrats, there are not many of these voters left. Those New Dealers were white, middle class and mostly moderate.

In 2000, Al Gore won 42 perent of white voters. In 2012, President Obama won 39 percent of white voters. The latest CNN Poll has Hillary Clinton capturing only 34 percent of white voters. That’s a powerful and consistent trend line.

In 2000, white voters made up 81 percent of the electorate. This year, estimates are about 75 percent of all voters will be white.

The demise of the New Deal Democrats has resulted in white voters becoming more Republican than ever before. The CNN Poll showed 67 percent of white voters had an unfavorable opinion of Clinton. If you think that’s scary, how about the fact that 70 percent of white voters believe she isn’t “trustworthy.”

The same survey said Trump was winning senior citizens by 15 percentage points, 52-37. Those kinds of numbers were not thought possible six years ago.

The make-up of this year’s presidential electorate is changing. Ignoring those changes will make for lots of surprised voters on Election Day.

Barry Bennett is a Republican Political Consultant and CEO of Synovation Solutions. This cycle he Managed Dr. Ben Carson’s Campaign and served as a Senior Advisor to Donald Trump’s Campaign. Thinking of submitting an op-ed to the Washington Examiner? Be sure to read our guidelines on submissions.

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Criminal justice reform doesn't have to mean 'soft on crime'


The phrase “criminal justice reform” is loaded with emotional impact. To some, the words translate to “soft on crime,” which has been a political mantra and damning epithet for more than 30 years. To others, it represents subjugation of the poor and minorities. Laws passed during the 1980s under the label of “reform” created vast sentencing disparities between powder and crack cocaine offenses, with crack crimes receiving sentences up to 100 times longer than those associated with powder cocaine crimes. It was not missed that crack addicts were largely economically bereft, disproportionately black, and living in the inner cities of America.

That sentiment will no doubt come to the fore as the U.S. House of Representatives plans to take up a legislative package this coming month that takes a balanced approach to criminal justice reform. Some fear these changes, believing we are on the cusp of a nationwide crime wave. In fact, on the national level, crime continues to go down. But more importantly, conservatives should welcome these reforms as long-overdue efforts to preserve fairness, protect taxpayers and reinstate the cherished values of federalism.

The statistics most often-cited as support for the belief that a crime wave is looming deal with a recent rise of violent crime in some of the nation’s biggest cities. Perhaps most alarmingly, Chicago suffered 2,988 shootings in 2015 and has seen 2,739 through Aug. 25, 2016. But it bears noting that even in Chicago, where fears about the violent crime wave certainly are legitimate, the crimes are concentrated in a few neighborhoods on the city’s South and West sides. These are areas that have struggled with crime and poverty for generations. It would be inappropriate for Congress to view its current criminal-justice-reform package – which include bills that range from raising the standard of proof needed in civil asset forfeiture cases to mens rea reform to reducing mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses – only through the myopic lens of violent crimes in a few major cities and in a few neighborhoods of those cities.

This is particularly true when one considers that these crimes are almost solely within state and local jurisdiction and would not be affected by the federal reforms currently under consideration. Congress’ ability to micromanage criminal sentencing is limited. Most convictions are imposed at the local levels, while federal laws are more of a “meat cleaver” tool than a precision instrument.

Moreover, the modest reforms before Congress can hardly be accused of being “soft.” Not only will they save taxpayers money, but they also will help ensure at the federal level that those with violent convictions stay where they belong – behind bars. Indeed, H.R. 3713 – the measure targeted for perhaps the most criticism for allegedly being “soft on crime” – specifically excludes anyone with state or federal violent felony convictions from its mandatory minimum relief.

The legislation also increases punishment for crimes involving firearms, as well as those drug-trafficking offenses involving fentanyl or heroin, an attempt to stem the opiate epidemic seen in many parts of the United States. In short, the current criminal justice package before Congress takes a scalpel to make modest reforms that will save money and refocus attention on those who deserve to be punished.

The reforms also represent Congress’ attempt to retake ground lost in the policymaking arena and stem the tide of executive overreach. Since he took office, President Barack Obama has granted 562 commutations, including 214 issued on a single day. To put those numbers in perspective, the president has issued more commutations than the past nine presidents combined, with more likely to come. In a statement, White House Counsel Neil Eggleston boasted that “our work is far from finished. I expect the president will continue to grant clemency in a historic and inspiring fashion.” It’s important to note that many of those who received the president’s grace would not be eligible under the reforms currently before the House, because they have been deemed violent felons.

No crime should be excused and we should pursue every loss of life or property. At the same time, the 18th century English jurist Sir William Blackstone’s famous admonition was that “it is better that 10 guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.” That still rings true when addressing the justice system’s most important goal — fairness. Let’s remember that Lady Justice holds her scales of fairness in front of her and the sword of punishment behind her.

Arthur Rizer is Justice Policy Director at the R St. Institute. He is a former associate professor at West Virginia University College of Law and visiting professor at Georgetown University Law Center. He also spent nine years as a trial attorney with the U.S. Justice Department and served in Iraq (Purple Heart). Thinking of submitting an op-ed to the Washington Examiner? Be sure to read our guidelines on submissions.

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Could Hillary's health problems lead to Bill's third term?


The ongoing debate over Hillary Clinton’s health has focused on the nature and extent of her maladies, and (as a longshot) who might replace her on the presidential ticket should she be unable to continue the campaign.

But what if Clinton’s health deteriorates after she wins the presidency?

If she were to die, the Constitution calls for her vice president, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, to step in. But what if a President Hillary Clinton merely becomes unwell? Again, the Constitution provides for the ascension of the vice president not only in the case of the president’s death, removal or resignation but also in the event that he or she is unable “to discharge the powers and duties” of the presidency. But what if Clinton is rendered unable to perform the duties of the presidency but no one is told about it?

This would be unusual, of course, but not unprecedented. Just look at the case of Woodrow Wilson and his second wife, Edith Wilson.

Just look at the case of Woodrow Wilson and his second wife, Edith Wilson. (AP Photo)

On October 2, 1919, President Wilson suffered a severe stroke that rendered him partially paralyzed, unable to speak and partially blind in one eye. As the president moved in and out of consciousness, Edith was left to run the government by proxy.

Woodrow continued to suffer from the effects of his stroke until the end of his presidency two years later, but the first five months were especially trying. Wilson’s personal physician, Dr. Cary Grayson, and Edith, who was extremely protective of her husband, felt total isolation gave him the best chance of survival and recovery. During those first five months, the public didn’t see its president at all.

Edith felt it was her main task to control who had access to the president. She took on most of the decision making herself. She signed documents in Woodrow’s hand, haggled with congressmen over pending legislation, issued vetoes and helped craft a State of the Union address. She even decoded secret diplomatic codes.

In “The Strangest Friendship in History,” George Viereck writes that “While Wilson was on his back, Edith exercised the functions of the President … no senator, no member of the Cabinet, not the President’s own secretary could gain a glimpse of Wilson without her permission. Her whim decided whether a king or an ambassador was to be received, whether a bill awaiting the President’s signature would become law or not … no act of Woodrow Wilson from this period until the end of his life, was undertaken without the knowledge and consent of Edith Bolling Wilson.”

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There was no doubt that Edith had taken the reins of power. As William Hazelgrove notes in his forthcoming book, “Madam President: The Secret Presidency of Edith Wilson,” “When looking through the Papers of Woodrow Wilson, one is struck by how much correspondence from 1919 to 1921 was directed toward Edith. From the debate over America’s entry into the League of Nations to winding down World War I, to the recognition of diplomats, Edith was on the front lines.”

But much of the business of the United States simply piled up at what Hazelgrove called the “Edith Wilson dam.” Miners were striking, railroads still hadn’t been returned to their owners after World War I and Coast Rica needed to be recognized as a country. But all of that had to wait—the president needed his rest.

Perhaps Edith’s greatest feat was that she kept it all secret from the public. For months, the media were told that the president was suffering from “nervous exhaustion.” Grayson regularly fed journalists cheery medical assessments.

The public was left wondering whether their president had gone crazy. Edith felt that to reveal the true nature of her husband’s illness would only encourage a coalition of senators that had formed to oppose the League of Nations, Wilson’s signature initiative. She believed resignation would destroy his greatest reason to live.

So the public was left in the dark, and the media were left to speculate. As Hazelgrove writes, “No one, including the vice president, was to be informed that President Woodrow Wilson was now a low functioning invalid.” Only Edith and Dr. Grayson knew the full extent of the damage, and to a lesser extent Ike Hoover, the president’s valet. In his diary, Hoover wrote, “Never was deception so universally practiced in the White House as it was in those statements being given out from time to time.”

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The case of Woodrow and Edith Wilson prompted Congress to pass the 25th Amendment, which clarifies the rules of presidential succession.

Edith Wilson is sometimes referred to as the first female president. But her story prompts the following question: What would America’s real first woman president and her husband do in a similar situation?

It might seem obvious that such a deception would be impossible in today’s era of ubiquitous social media and the 24-hour news cycle.

But does anyone think that Bill and Hillary Clinton — two of the most secretive and deceptive politicians of their generation — wouldn’t at least consider orchestrating a similar cover up?

After all, Edith was able to pull it off with just two years of formal education. Bill is a former two-term president who may well be eager to assume to reins of power once again.

Daniel Allott is deputy commentary editor for the Washington Examiner

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Trump blames 'budget problems' for junk food in schools


"A lot of schools aren't providing proper food because they have budget problems and they're buying cheaper food and not as good a food," Trump said. (AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski)

While appearing on “The Dr. Oz Show,” Donald Trump blamed budget problems for schools’ failure to provide nutritious food for students.

“A lot of schools aren’t providing proper food because they have budget problems and they’re buying cheaper food and not as good a food,” Trump said, responding to a teacher’s question on childhood obesity. He also said obesity is “a hereditary thing, too.”

The teacher also asked Trump what he would do about schools that don’t give students enough exercise and recess time.

“When I went to school I always loved sports and I would always — I loved to eat and I loved sports and it worked,” Trump said. “Because I could do both. A lot of schools today don’t have sports programs and that is a big problem. I would try and open that up. I’m a big believer in the whole world of sports.”

Jason Russell is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.

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