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VOTER’S CHOICE

GOP’s Whack a Mole Addiction

The Daily Beast

For the first time in decades, there’s no clear GOP candidate to compete against Clinton in the race for the White House. Who will it be, folks? Batter up and whack-a-mole.

While the Republican presidential contenders were kumbaya-ing at CPAC, evidence continued to mount over which of them gets to suffer the embarrassment of winning 180 electoral votes. A USA Today poll found that 59 percent of respondents said they will or might vote for Clinton. It showed enormous improvements in personal qualities (Is she likeable? Is she honest?, etc.) since the first time she ran for president. Respondents even thought that she was six years younger than she actually is!What the CPAC goings on tell us, combined with a burst of polls showing Clinton wiping out Chris Christie and just mopping the floor with Jeb Bush, is that as they face 2016, the Republicans are in a situation that has almost no precedent in the party’s modern history.

SWEET 2016

GOP '16: Strong Field, No Leader

AFP/Getty

Without an obvious frontrunner to represent Republicans against Hilary in 2016, one thing is guaranteed: It’s going to be an entertaining race.

Contrary to conventional media wisdom, this week’s CPAC proved Republicans are likely going to put a formidable team on the presidential field in 2016—and they’ll have at least one advantage going into the election: Their primaries are going to be much more interesting, dramatic and entertaining than the Democratic primaries. This means Republicans are going to soak up a whole lot of press coverage and attention while the media and voters largely tune-out what is likely to be a foregone conclusion on the Democratic side.

THE GREAT DIVIDE

Demographics Or Destiny in 2016

Landov

Cultural divides, from demographics to religion, will contribute to widening the gap between party lines.

Millennials are embracing big government like no prior generation, the United States is moving away from organized religion, and older white evangelicals are yearning for yesteryear. The country grows more diverse, more tribal, and more embattled.  So, prepare for continued cultural warfare in the guise of political gridlock.Faced with these changes, Democrats have aligned their rhetoric with emerging reality, while Republicans have generally clung to their vision of Arcadia—and have lost five of the last six presidential elections in the process.

How Ike Dealt With the Russians

The Daily Beast

Like Ike before him, Obama’s non-moves against Russia are the right moves.

A regime in thrall to Moscow is forced out by a popular uprising; the Kremlin promises not to intervene, and even announces a troop withdrawal. Within days, Russian forces stealthily begin to move in, then pour across the border. A whole swath of territory is reincorporated into what Ronald Reagan called "the evil empire."The place was Hungary; the year was 1956; the American president was Dwight Eisenhower, who expressed "shock and dismay" at the Soviet invasion, but refused an armed American response.

Booted

It’s Time to Shrink the Army

Scott Olson/Getty

The crisis in Crimea shows that even the strongest U.S. land forces wouldn’t provide a military option for the President. It’s time to shrink the Army.

It was not surprising that the mass media response to the 2015 defense budget was that it would result in “the smallest Army since before World War II.” It would have been a shock had anyone continued: “and it’s a good thing.” But it is—and Russia’s current actions in the Crimea do not change that fact.Reversing the early-2000s growth in land forces is a start on what has to be a 20-year effort to forge a military that’s actually relevant for the future.

Twist of Faith

10 Religious Surprises in Congress

Chip Somodevilla/Getty

A Modern Orthodox Jew, a Buddhist and a Quaker walk into…the Capitol? No joke, the US Congress is filled with a host of representatives from all types of religions.

If you let national approval ratings tell the story, the 113th Congress is known for being divided, do-nothing and often just plain dismal. But did you know that this is also the most religiously diverse Congress in American history? There are plenty of faithful surprises in the House and Senate. Here are 10.1. When you think of Mormons in politics you generally think of...Utah. And Republicans. And of course, Mitt Romney. But did you know that the most powerful Mormon in Congress today is not from Utah at all? In fact, he’s not even a Republican, and also wasn't a huge fan of ol' Mitt!  That's right folks: To the surprise of many, the most powerful Mormon in Congress is Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV).

Outspoken

Julian Assange Invades SXSW

The WikiLeaks founder participated in a glitch-filled—but candid—live video chat from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London as part of the South By Southwest tech fest.

Introduced as “a trailblazer who has led the fight against censorship,” the White Stallion of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, was beamed into a packed hall of journalists and concerned citizens from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London where he has been staying in asylum from an extradition order for over a year, for a Skype chat with Benjamin Palmer of The Barbarian Group, an interactive marketing firm based in Boston.And the dapper Assange, who’s been in exile for 650 days, had some harsh words for President Obama on the National Security Agency revelations brought forth by Edward Snowden.

Takeover

CPAC Shifts to the Libertarians

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty

As hangovers cleared, on panels and in booths, Day 2’s momentum drained away from the GOP’s aging “values” peddlers—in favor of the young, energetic followers of Rand Paul.

Day 2 of CPAC got rolling with a more subdued crowd than Day 1. Not because folk weren’t having fun. Quite the opposite: More than a few attendees clearly had stayed up too late having too much fun Thursday night. Throughout the convention center, you heard people asking variations on the questions: “So what time did you get to bed?” In the downstairs exhibit hall, attendees of all ages slumped on the white sofas like bleary-eyed rag dolls. Standing in line at the hotel’s sundries shop, one young Citadel cadet groaned to his buddies: “I’m hung over harder than I deserve.

Zero Dark Data

What's in CIA's 'Black Site' File?

Getty

The CIA and the Senators overseeing the agency are nearly at war. And it all revolves around the contents of a secret database documenting the CIA's clandestine prisons.

At the center of CIA director John Brennan’s first major clash with the Senate is a massive database containing millions of pages of secrets about the agency's "black site" prison networks and what the CIA euphemistically labeled “enhanced interrogation.” The rest of the world called it torture. The CIA created the database in 2009 so that staffers from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence could review the documents at an agency facility as it prepared its own report ontorture.

Same Old Song

CPAC’s Weak ‘Minority Outreach’

Shawn Thew/EPA, Landov

For all the urgency in the 2012 post-mortem’s directive to reach out to minority voters, the GOP’s vanguard still isn’t offering them anything new—not that anyone’s listening anyway.

Here is a short list of the things and people present at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference: Ted Cruz, Paul Ryan, a panel on the world after Obamacare ends medicine, a session on the global-warming “hoax.” Star Wars cosplayers. A large gaggle of stressed, frustrated journalists. Awkward teenage boys in the Beltway uniform of triple-pleated khakis, oversize blue blazers, and unusually wide ties.But with all the people and conversations and exhibitions and presentations—which ran the gamut of conservative concerns and characters—there was one thing missing: a meaningful effort at minority outreach.

Props to Hillary

Hillary's Right on Putin & Hitler

Jim Watson/AFP/Getty

Calm down, everybody. Clinton's Hitler analogy was accurate—and it's hilarious to watch Republicans trying to use it to dent her foreign policy credentials.

I, for one, was sorry to see Hillary Clinton clarify her remarks comparing Vladimir Putin to Adolf Hitler. Yes, I know the rule. No Hitler analogies. No mentions of his name period. I know the rule, but I don’t like the rule. I think in some ways we need more Hitler analogies, because when political figures around the world do things like some of the things Adolf Hitler did, we ought to be able to say, for the sake of historical accuracy and for the sake of issuing warnings that will get people’s attention, “This is like that thing Hitler did.

Come for Crazy, Stay for Party

Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty

Virtual rifle ranges! Tug-o-war! Storm Troopers! And that was just the appetizer portion of what was served up at CPAC. For the main course, conservatives got a tasty helping of The Donald and the NRA’s gun-loving head honcho Wayne LaPierre. Ka-pow!

Ever been to a wedding or family reunion where the event starts out reasonably genteel, then, as the hours roll by and the attendees start to get tired and/or drunk, things start to get weirder and rowdier? The opening day of CPAC was a lot like that. Plus firearms.Now, I know what you’re thinking. How can CPAC not be gonzo from the opening bell? This isn’t some weak-tea of a party convention, where pols have to fret about whether they’re going to scare off voters in the mushy middle.

Power Broker

The Johnson (Broadway) Treatment

Evgenia Eliseeva

How LBJ passed the ’64 Civil Rights Act—by lying, schmoozing, charming, and threatening—is dramatized in the new Broadway play, starring Bryan Cranston.

Cub political reporters, if they are lucky, are told the great big secret about covering Washington D.C. soon after they arrive: it is not that the workings of government are opaque necessarily, or that politicians dissemble, or that sources are hard to come by.Rather, the great secret of covering the federal government is that politics is often really, really boring.Which makes it a little odd then that the biggest show on Broadway this season is All The Way, a theatrical biopic about Lyndon Baines Johnson, starring Breaking Bad hero Bryan Cranston.

Sexual Assault Bill SNAFU

Kevin Dietsch/UPI, via Landov

The New York Senator may have lost the vote to move prosecution of sexual assaults outside the military, but she’s still a champion in certain circles who will continue to maintain a watchful eye on reform.

Legislation that would have transferred the decision to prosecute sexual assault in the military from commanders to lawyers outside the chain of command failed to get the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster in the senate Thursday. The 55 senators that supported New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s Military Justice Improvement Act included all but three of the 20 women currently serving in the senate. Those three, Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill and Republicans Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Deb Fischer of Nebraska backed legislation crafted by McCaskill, which cruised to an easy victory after two hours of emotional debate.

Enemy of My Enemy

Christie Makes Frenemies at CPAC

Brendan Smialoski/AFP/Getty

Last year, the Republican wasn’t invited but was hated at the conservative confab. Today, he was cheered for being liberals’ newest enemy.

When a lighthearted Chris Christie faced the attendees at CPAC late Thursday morning, it felt almost as though Bridgegate was just a bad dream.The New Jersey governor arrived on stage nearly an hour late. The crowd rose to greet him as Christie first stepped to the podium and it again rose to cheer him after his brief speech, which touched on topics ranging from public unions to his own pro-life beliefs. He did not, predictably, address the scandal which has threatened to bring his political career to a premature end.

'Clinton Vs. Bush? Count Me In'

A Hillary Clinton-Jeb Bush presidential faceoff would be great for America. So says Daily Beast contributor Mark McKinnon, who joined 'Morning Joe' to explain why the U.S. needs this.

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