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FRACTURED CAUCUS: House Cancels Vote on GOP Health-Care Bill.

Mr. Trump asked Paul Ryan to pull the health care bill from the floor, an aide to the House GOP leadership said.

Mr. Ryan is scheduled to hold a news conference shortly.

And:

The House has postponed the health-care vote, a, Republican leadership aide said.

The House unexpectedly went into recess ahead of the planned vote, and is now holding an emergency GOP caucus meeting. Speaker Paul Ryan plans a press conference shortly.

Developing…

BREAKING: OUTLOOK LOOKING BLEAK FOR GOP ON ‘OBAMACARE’ REPEAL BILL.

WSJ has a liveblog going, and the no votes are still trending up.

THIS IS THE PART OF OBAMACARE THE GOP “CAN’T” REPEAL: Obamacare Regulations Drove Up Premium Costs By Up to 68%.

DON’T TREAD ON ME: At Least One Freedom Caucus Member Revolts After Trump Ultimatum.

This is what Rep. Thomas Massie tweeted moments ago: “If Exec branch tells Legislative branch “when 2 vote” “how 2 vote” & “what it will b allowed 2 work on if vote fails,” is that a republic?”

If Exec branch tells Legislative branch “when 2 vote” “how 2 vote” & “what it will b allowed 2 work on if vote fails,” is that a republic?
— Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) March 24, 2017

Should other members of the Caucus share Massie’s sentiment and feel compelled to join him, Trump’s last ditch gamble for a successful vote after the close on Friday, may yet backfire bigly.

Trump ran on keeping the popular parts of ObamaCare while getting rid of the unpopular parts which made it kinda-sorta-temporarily hold together. Ryan’s bill is an attempt to give Trump what he promised, even though the math doesn’t add up and it isn’t what his Republican caucus has been promising to do since 2010 — all in a way that might squeak through the Senate via reconciliation.

If the execution to date has been a hot mess, that’s because the plan was a hot mess from the concept stage.

GOOD: Saudis Are the Oil Market’s Biggest Losers.

The last few years have been difficult for anyone in the business of selling oil, as prices tumbled from over $110 per barrel to a nadir of just $27, before rebounding to the middle ground they reside in today, at roughly $50 per barrel. Bargain crude has forced state producers like Russia or OPEC’s members to cut budgets in an attempt to stop the bleeding, and it’s forced many private firms—especially those operating in relatively high areas like shale—out of business.

But no supplier has been harder hit by the collapse of oil prices than Saudi Arabia. Riyadh has had to dip into its sovereign wealth fund to help cover the budget deficit bargain crude has brought about, and it’s also had to do the heavy lifting for the production cut plan OPEC and 11 other petrostates agreed to adhere to during the first six months of this year. That combination—lower production and lower prices—has been nothing less than vicious to the Saudis. . . .

Perhaps it’s not surprising that Riyadh would be the one most unduly affected by cheap crude. After all, the Saudis are and will remain for the foreseeable future the world’s biggest oil power. But the kingdom’s decision to agree to production cuts—and to shoulder the heaviest burden of those cuts, as well—is having something of a self defeating effect. As prices rise, so too do the prospects of struggling shale producers, which means that the Saudis are effectively giving valuable market share to their American competitors.

I’m so old I remember when Barack Obama mocked Sarah Palin by saying that we couldn’t drill our way out of our energy problems.

Related: Canada’s Oil Sands Looking Like A Smart Bet.

SO THIS IS PRETTY MUCH A DEBACLE, ISN’T IT? Poll: Just 17 percent of voters back ObamaCare repeal plan. The GOP leadership in Congress hasn’t covered itself in glory here, and Trump’s deal-making skills so far haven’t shown much success.

THE ART OF THE DEAL? Trump’s ultimatum: If vote fails, Obamacare stays.

Budget Director Mick Mulvaney has just laid down a gauntlet to House Republicans on behalf of President Trump: pass this bill, or Obamacare remains in place.

Members of the conservative Freedom Caucus want more concessions but, according to Mulvaney, Trump will not negotiate further.

The president demanded a vote tomorrow, and now it appears he will get it. He is all but daring Republicans to vote no.

Nancy Pelosi didn’t allow a final vote on ObamaCare until she knew, privately, that she had enough to win. Is the GOP leadership or caucus that disciplined?

NOAH FELDMAN: Democrats’ Misguided Argument Against Gorsuch.

I’m not sure who decided that the Democratic critique of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch would be that he doesn’t side with the little guy. It’s a truly terrible idea. Like other liberals, I’m still shocked and upset that Judge Merrick Garland never got the vote he deserved after his nomination by President Barack Obama, and I’d rather have a progressive justice join the court. But the thing is, siding with workers against employers isn’t a jurisprudential position. It’s a political stance. And justices — including progressive justices — shouldn’t decide cases based on who the parties are. They should decide cases based on their beliefs about how the law should be interpreted.

Let’s start at the beginning. Way back in the beginning, in fact. The Hebrew Bible, which sides with the little guy a great deal, has something to say about parties to a case. Specifically, Deuteronomy 16:19 says judges shouldn’t “respect persons,” which is the King James Version’s translation of the Hebrew phrase that literally means “recognize faces.” Justice — which is mentioned in the famous next verse (“Justice, justice shalt thou pursue”) — requires judges to decide cases under the law, not based on preferences for individuals.

If the Bible doesn’t convince you, consider the whole point of a rule-of-law system: It establishes rules so that people can be confident in advance of how decisions are made. That creates regularity and predictability. And in the long run, it protects the little guy a lot better than a system rigged to favor one side, because such systems will naturally tend to favor the rich and powerful, not the poor and downtrodden.

Assuring that the rule of law is followed is in fact the specific role of appellate judges, like Gorsuch.

I think they’re mostly trying to keep their base revved up at the moment.

“I RECOMMEND READING THIS CLOSELY, LOOKING FOR THE WEASEL WORDS:” The NYT struggles to fight off Trump’s use of that NYT headline “Wiretapped data used in inquiry of Trump aides.”

Liu writes that Trump was “misleading” to say that the Times said that “wiretap data” was “used in inquiry of Trump aides.” “Misleading” is NOT the same as false, so Liu really is admitting that it was true. The reason it’s misleading, according to Liu, is that the article doesn’t say that “Mr. Obama ordered surveillance on him.” Did Trump say Obama ordered surveillance on him? There’s no Trump quote to that effect, and it makes me suspicious that Trump is being paraphrased to confine him to what can be refuted, which — talk about misleading! — feels very misleading.

It’s been hard for the press to pivot directly from Leaked Wiretaps Show Trump’s a Putin Stooge all the way to Wiretaps? What wiretaps?

Plus:

That sounds like a concession that Flynn was wiretapped! He may not have been the original target or the official target, but he got swept in, and we shouldn’t even know about that. But there was a leak, and wasn’t the leak targeted on him — a gross violation of law designed to take him down? I can’t believe we’re nitpicking Trump’s use of the term “wiretapped” rather than outraged about a shocking abuse of power for political purposes.

Well, that’s how they try to distract people. And:

Many words are dead metaphors, and “wiretapped” may be one, whether it’s in quotes or not. Who cares if there were “wires” that were “tapped”? It’s like looking for eaves when someone is said to be eavesdropping. I think the stress on the word “wiretapped” is part of an effort to say that some other party was targeted — some foreign official was listened in on — and that caused the overhearing of some Trump-associated persons. There was a wiretap, but the wires tapped (metaphorically) were not a Trump associate’s.

But to use that opportunity — that wiretap — to listen in is a terrible infringement on the non-target, and the law required the protection of these non-targets from an invasion of their privacy. Instead, the leakers did the opposite and took advantage of what they heard and deliberately exposed what they were legally required to mask. That’s what I gather from Liu’s article anyway.

Why doesn’t the NYT care about this problem!

Because it would hurt the narrative. (Bumped).

BOB WOODWARD: Obama Officials Could Face Criminal Charges For Leaking Trump Surveillance:

The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward warned on Wednesday that there are people from the Obama administration who could be facing criminal charges for unmasking the names of Trump transition team members from surveillance of foreign officials.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., said earlier that he had briefed Trump on new information, unrelated to an investigation into Russian activities, that suggested that several members of Trump’s transition team and perhaps Trump himself had their identities “unmasked” after their communications were intercepted by U.S. intelligence officials.

The revelation is notable because identities of Americans are generally supposed to remain “masked” if American communications are swept up during surveillance of foreign individuals.

Laws are for the little people. But Obama officials are little people now.

THE PLOT THICKENS: James Rosen: Potential ‘smoking gun’ showing Obama administration spied on Trump team, source says. “The intelligence is said to leave no doubt the Obama administration, in its closing days, was using the cover of legitimate surveillance on foreign targets to spy on President-elect Trump, according to sources. The key to that conclusion is the unmasking of selected U.S. persons whose names appeared in the intelligence, the sources said, adding that the paper trail leaves no other plausible purpose for the unmasking other than to damage the incoming Trump administration.”

OF COURSE THEY ARE: Liberals Suddenly Incensed About Budget Process Obama Blew Off For Eight Years.

CHAOS ON THE HILL: Health Care Vote Canceled After GOP Leaders Fail to Win Support.

House Republican leaders abruptly postponed a planned vote on the GOP health care bill Thursday as they struggled to find sufficient support to pass it. GOP lawmakers have been told procedural votes on the bill will still be held tonight and that a full vote on the measure could take place Friday.

The move to delay the vote came after House conservatives said there was no deal struck on the bill following a meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House Thursday. According to the NBC vote count, GOP leaders were still at least eight votes short of winning enough backing for passage.

Rep. Mark Meadows R.-N.C., chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, told reporters that there was no deal after the meeting, but added he was still hopeful one can be struck.

“I am very hopeful we can find a way to yes,” Meadows said.

Both houses found a way to yes last year, when they were certain President Obama would veto their full repeal bill.

BRIDGET JOHNSON: Black Caucus Gives Trump ‘We Have a Lot to Lose’ Policy Blueprint.

The White House said that during the closed-door meeting “the participants discussed various issues pertaining to the African American community, including the president’s commitment to improving conditions for distressed communities.”

“The president voiced his desire to work with the CBC to improve educational and economic opportunities, enhance public safety, reduce the cost of prescription drugs, and invest in infrastructure,” the readout added.

“Throughout my campaign I pledged to focus on improving conditions for African-American citizens, this means more to me than anybody can understand,” Trump said when the press pool was briefly allowed in the meeting room.

The CBC tweeted afterward that Richmond told Trump his comments about President Obama and inner cities were “hurtful” to the African-American community and that Carson, one of two Muslim members of Congress, told Trump “he is Muslim & Muslims shouldn’t be treated differently and #MuslimBan is not who we are.”

If that tweet is any indication, the CBC isn’t just unwilling to meet Trump halfway, they aren’t even much interested in honest negotiations.

JD TUCKER: Just repeal.

The net result of full repeal would be to allow the consumer-driven market to push competition and force insurance companies to compete. It amuses me when people say, “But repeal will only make the health insurance executives richer!” As Trump would say… “Wrong!” They love having millions of Americans who would never willingly purchase health insurance being forced to by it by their government overlords.

Get government out of health insurance and premiums will go down for a vast majority of Americans. Allow the free market economy and the crowdfunding power of 2017 (plus charities, family, and community) to help those who need it the most. Government’s only role should be as the absolute last resort. Just repeal it.

ObamaCare is a rickety structure that will eventually collapse under its own weight, but will collapse even sooner if you pull out a few of its support beams — which is what Paul Ryan’s AHCA does.

The former result would be the fault of Obama/Reid/Pelosi. The latter would be pinned, and rightly so, on Trump/McConnell/Ryan.

I’M SORRY DAVE, BUT THE DEEP STATE CAN’T ALLOW YOU TO DO THAT: Time to Investigate Obama, not Just Trump, Roger Simon writes.

OBAMA DIDN’T STOP NORTH KOREA’S NUKES: Last week SecState Tillerson called North Korea an imminent threat.

SHOCKINGLY, NOT AN ALT-RIGHT TRUMP SUPPORTER FROM MISSISSIPPI: Hoaxer behind Jewish Community Center threats arrested: 18-year-old U.S./Israeli dual citizen.

But, of course, the media won’t walk back all the hysteria because the hysteria was useful to the narrative.

UPDATE: John Nolte on Twitter: “Trump was right about Obama wiretapping him. Trump was right about these false flags.”

I FIGURE THE ANSWER IS YES, AND THAT’S WHY DEMS ARE DOUBLING DOWN ON THE TRUMP/RUSSIA THING AS DISTRACTION: Lawsuit: Did Hillary’s secret email ‘damage national security?’

A government watchdog group Tuesday demanded that the nation’s intelligence czar and State Department determine if former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s secret email server damaged national security.

In a lawsuit against the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and State, Judicial Watch demanded that they conduct an assessment of the damage and report it to the public.

“The Obama administration conspired with Hillary Clinton regarding her emails, so it is no surprise that Obama officials wouldn’t want to hold her to account for her mishandling of classified materials,” charged Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “This lawsuit is an opportunity for the Trump administration to get back to basics on the Clinton email scandal and find out what damage was done to our national security as a result of her illicit email practices.”

The suit cited a 2014 rule requiring a damage assessment if there is a suspicion that classified information was compromised and damaged national security.

Judicial Watch cited FBI Director James Comey’s statement on July 5, 2016, that Clinton’s unsecure email system contained classified information.

The people have a right to know, and a charge this serious demands an investigation.

ROGER SIMON: Time To Investigate Obama, Not Just Trump.

The facts are what they are.

What appears at this writing is that Trump transition team members and possibly Trump himself had their identities revealed, were “unmasked” in the parlance, while foreign diplomats were being surveilled. The identities of American citizens were not sufficiently “minimized,” as they are required to be by law. This is a crime one would assume would put the perpetrators in prison. So far it hasn’t. More than that, such behavior is a grave threat to a free society, to all of us.

In effect, Trump was wiretapped — if not in the corny, old sense of the word, something very close. Technologically, he was wiretapped, as were several (actually many) others.

A fair amount of this happened not long before Barack Obama suddenly changed the rules regarding raw intelligence, for the first time ever allowing the NSA to share its data with 16 other intelligence agencies, thus making the dissemination of said data (i. e. leaking) many times more likely. That was done on January 12, 2017, just three scant days before Trump’s inauguration. Why did the then president finally decide to make that particular change at that extremely late date, rather than on one of the previous seven years and three hundred fifty-three days of his presidency? You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes or Watson to smell a rat.

Read the whole thing.

FASTER, PLEASE: Trump Lays Plans to Reverse Obama’s Climate Change Legacy.

The moves are intended to send an unmistakable signal to the nation and the world that Mr. Trump intends to follow through on his campaign vows to rip apart every element of what the president has called Mr. Obama’s “stupid” policies to address climate change. The timing and exact form of the announcement remain unsettled, however.

The executive actions will follow the White House’s release last week of a proposed budget that would eliminate climate change research and prevention programs across the federal government and slash the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget by 31 percent, more than any other agency. Mr. Trump also announced last week that he had ordered Scott Pruitt, the E.P.A. administrator, to revise the agency’s stringent standards on planet-warming tailpipe pollution from vehicles, another of Mr. Obama’s key climate change policies.

While the White House is not expected to explicitly say the United States is withdrawing from the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, and people familiar with the White House deliberations say Mr. Trump has not decided whether to do so, the policy reversals would make it virtually impossible to meet the emissions reduction goals set by the Obama administration under the international agreement.

That’s from the NYT writeup, so of course they say that like it’s a bad thing, but even James Hansen — “the father of climate change awareness” — says Paris is a fraud.

LIVE BY PROCEDURAL TRICKS, DIE BY PROCEDURAL TRICKS: Surprise: House ready to change health-care bill after learning Senate reconciliation rules might let them repeal more of ObamaCare

THIS IS INCREASINGLY RELEVANT AFTER OBAMA’S IRAN DEAL: Where to Hide If a Nuclear Bomb Goes Off In Your Area.

Although, with all due modesty, I think my piece for The Atlantic is better.

VIDEO: New York Times Reporter Claims There’s a Tape of Trump’s Golden Showers Incident.

When do we get to see the Khalidi tape?

DIGITAL TERROR: Hamas tried to get more accurate maps to aim rockets.. “Shin Bet security agency says terror group sought advanced mapping program from Turkish organization.”

The Shin Bet discovered after questioning Muhammad Murtaja, who was arrested last month on suspicion of working on behalf of Hamas, that over the past two years the terror terror organization had asked the Turkish IHH organization for advanced satellite mapping programs to improve the accuracy of its rockets, the Hebrew-language Ynet news site reported.

The Shin Bet investigation reportedly revealed that during its last war with Israel in 2014, Hamas used Google Maps in order to target locations in Israel, leading to most of the rockets missing their targets. Many of the other rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.

Murtaja, the manager of the Gaza branch of the Turkish International Cooperation and Development Agency (TIKA), is accused of having taken advantage of his position in TIKA in order to direct funds and resources away from “meaningful humanitarian projects” and toward Hamas’s military wing.

One apparent scam detailed by the security service allowed “millions of shekels” to be given to Hamas members in food and cash.

Hamas is backed by Iran, whose finances were backed in violation of U.S. law by the previous Obama Administration.

LIFE SUPPORT: AFP Key Voting Against GOP Healthcare Plan.

Today Americans for Prosperity, the nation’s largest and most aggressive advocate for healthcare freedom, reaffirmed the organization’s deep concerns with core elements of the GOP healthcare bill. The group said that as currently written, it was unable to support the legislation, and would key vote against it unless significant changes were made.

Chief Government Affairs Officer Brent Gardner had this to say:

“Republicans in Congress promised a full repeal of Obamacare, but the current plan falls far short. It leaves intact some of the most harmful aspects of the law, including burdensome regulations that send insurance costs spiking and federal subsidies rebranded as tax credits. We simply cannot support this bill, and commit to standing with champions in the House who also oppose the continuation of Obamacare.”

That’s a solid no, and here’s another one from Mike Lee:

Lee doesn’t seem like the kind of senator who could have his vote budged by a tweet, and Rand Paul says there are at least 35 GOP “No!” votes just in the House.

“HACKED”: Podesta Was Board Member Of Firm Linked To Russian ‘Investors’

Podesta — best known as Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign chairman and former President Bill Clinton’s White House chief of staff — first made contact with the Russian firm in 2011, when he joined the boards and executive committees of three related entities: Boston-based Joule Unlimited; Rotterdam-based Joule Global Holdings; Joule Global Stichting, the company’s controlling interest. All are high-tech renewable energy enterprises.

Three months after Podesta’s arrival, Joule Unlimited accepted a 1 billion ruble investment from Rusnano, amounting to $35 million in U.S. currency. The firm also awarded a Joule board seat in February 2012 to Anatoly Chubais, Rusnano’s CEO, who has been depicted as a corrupt figure.

Podesta has attempted to downplay his relationship with Joule and Rusnano, but it could come to haunt him.

One potential legal problem for him relates to the time he joined former President Barack Obama’s White House staff in 2014 as a senior counselor and failed to reveal his 2011 Joule stock vesting agreement in his government financial disclosure form.

Further, he failed to disclose 75,000 common shares of Joule stock he received, as disclosed in a WikiLeaks email.

After Podesta began working at the White House, his lawyer indicated in a Jan. 6, 2014 email that he had not yet finished the legal work on the private transfer of the stock to a family-owned entity called Leonido Holdings, LLC.

Read the whole thing.

I HAVE A BAD FEELING ABOUT THIS: Ezekiel Emanuel, an ACA architect, is now advising Trump as GOP works to level the law.

With the administration and GOP leaders in Congress working to rewrite the landmark 2010 law – and Democrats displaying little appetite for negotiating with them – Emanuel appears to be one of the only members of his party with a seat at the table.

Monday’s meeting was Emanuel’s third in-person conversation on health policy with Trump since the November election. According to one person familiar with the session, who spoke on condition of anonymity about the private discussion, it took place in the Oval Office and lasted about 40 minutes. Among the others also attending were Vice President Pence, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, and the White House National Economic Council director, Gary Cohn.

Details of the conversation were not immediately available. But White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer confirmed the meeting took place – only days before Ryan hopes to bring the bill to a House vote.

FLASHBACK: OBAMACARE ARCHITECT EZEKIEL EMANUEL: Die Young, Please.

AND: RATIONING: In Top Journal, Obamacare Boosters Push ‘Global Spending Target.’

DEMOCRATS IN 2017: Susan Rice, who went on all the Sunday shows peddling the Benghazi YouTube lie, now has an oped in the Washington Post titled When the White House twists the truth, we are all less safe. Pathetic of WaPo to run this.

And speaking of less safe, “The troika made up of Susan Rice, Samantha Power, and Hillary Clinton was perhaps the most disastrous foreign policy crew in American history.”

UPDATE: Trump’s credibility is shot, says . . . Jen Psaki? Really, CNN? That’s what you’ve got?

Of course, if legacy media banned Obama officials who lied to the public, they wouldn’t be able to have many Obama officials on. . . .

BEN DOMENECH: How Trump Can Fix Health Care.

Mr. Trump won the presidency in part because of some big promises, including a vow to break from conservative orthodoxy on entitlements. If Congress fails to deliver on that promise, Mr. Trump could correct it by going boldly in a direction anathema to many on the right but potentially acceptable to some Democrats: universal coverage for catastrophic care.

Many Americans’ greatest fear is that their health care costs will bankrupt them. The quality of care we receive is high — I experienced this myself this month after a cardiac incident left me reading the Republican plan in an emergency room — but the expense is opaque, and Americans are not wrong to worry about these costs.

By providing catastrophic care for all, President Trump could ensure that everyone has an ultimate backstop against medical bankruptcy, while freeing the states to experiment with options for reform. It would also enable the private sector to offer new insurance products to supplement the basic catastrophic care coverage.

This idea has some support among conservatives. In 2012 Kip Hagopian and Dana Goldman estimated in National Affairs that to insure all 209 million Americans not already covered by public insurance programs would cost about $2,000 per person, or $7,200 per family per year — about half the projected $1.7 trillion cost of Obamacare over the coming decade. Individuals and families could then purchase additional coverage given their particular health needs, but would not be bankrupted by severe illness or accident.

Something along these lines might be the least-bad, politically feasible outcome.

PAUL MIRENGOFF: Did Obama collude with Russia in 2012? “If one applies the same sort of conspiracy thinking being used to claim that Donald Trump colluded with Russia, one can make out a case that Barack Obama colluded in 2012.”

THE PRICE OF BEING THE MINORITY PARTY: Dems Still Smarting Over Garland Snub on Gorsuch’s First Hearing Day.

During the opening day of Gorsuch’s confirmation hearing, Democrats consistently noted the GOP’s refusal to provide Garland due consideration. While several expressed their intent to keep an open mind regarding the Gorsuch nomination, several cast a shadow over his prospects because of the handling of Garland, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., nominated by then-President Obama to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

The Scalia seat has been vacant for more than 13 months as a result of the Garland snub. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the former committee chairman, said the “unprecedented obstruction” by Republicans of the Garland nomination “is one of the greatest stains on the 200-year history of this committee.”

“This was an extraordinary blockade and one backed by then-candidate Donald Trump,” Leahy said. “Committee Republicans met behind closed doors and declared that they would surrender the independence of this committee to do the majority leader’s bidding, and they ignored the Constitution in the process.”

If Senate Democrats need a reminder about what it means to be the minority, perhaps employing the Reid Option would do the trick.

UPDATE: Commenter Jukin writes, “If the donks are pissed at the republicans using the ‘Biden Rule’ they will absolutely livid when the republicans use the ‘Reid Rule.’

“Leftists hate, more than usual, when we use their tactics against them.”

Punch back twice as hard, the wise man once said.

MY USA TODAY COLUMN: The Suicide of Expertise.

In the realm of foreign affairs, which should be of special interest to the people at Foreign Affairs, recent history has been particularly dreadful. Experts failed to foresee the fall of the Soviet Union, failed to deal especially well with that fall when it took place, and then failed to deal with the rise of Islamic terrorism that led to the 9/11 attacks. Post 9/11, experts botched the reconstruction of Iraq, then botched it again with a premature pullout.

On Syria, experts in Barack Obama’s administration produced a policy that led to countless deaths, millions of refugees flooding Europe, a new haven for Islamic terrorists, and the upending of established power relations in the mideast. In Libya, the experts urged a war, waged without the approval of Congress, to topple strongman Moammar Gadhafi, only to see — again — countless deaths, huge numbers of refugees and another haven for Islamist terror.

It was experts who brought us the housing bubble and the subprime crisis. It was experts who botched the Obamacare rollout. And, of course, the experts didn’t see Brexit coming, and seem to have responded mostly with injured pride and assaults on the intelligence of the electorate, rather than with constructive solutions.

By its fruit the tree is known, and the tree of expertise hasn’t been doing well lately.

Read the whole thing!

PRIORITIES: Obama’s IRS gave ‘Satan Club’ creator fast tax-exempt status.

Documents obtained by a government watchdog show that the originator of the “After School Satan Club” received speedy tax-exempt status while conservative groups were stuck in bureaucratic red tape under the Obama administration.

Treasury Department files obtained by Judicial Watch last week show Reason Alliance in Somerville, Mass., was given nonprofit status within 10 days of its application in October 2014. The group operates the Satanic Temple out of Washington state and planned an “After School Satan Club” initiative in 2016.

It’s fair to say that by 2014, Obama’s IRS didn’t give a damn about the optics of anything.

MY USA TODAY COLUMN: The Suicide of Expertise.

In the realm of foreign affairs, which should be of special interest to the people at Foreign Affairs, recent history has been particularly dreadful. Experts failed to foresee the fall of the Soviet Union, failed to deal especially well with that fall when it took place, and then failed to deal with the rise of Islamic terrorism that led to the 9/11 attacks. Post 9/11, experts botched the reconstruction of Iraq, then botched it again with a premature pullout.

On Syria, experts in Barack Obama’s administration produced a policy that led to countless deaths, millions of refugees flooding Europe, a new haven for Islamic terrorists, and the upending of established power relations in the mideast. In Libya, the experts urged a war, waged without the approval of Congress, to topple strongman Moammar Gadhafi, only to see — again — countless deaths, huge numbers of refugees and another haven for Islamist terror.

It was experts who brought us the housing bubble and the subprime crisis. It was experts who botched the Obamacare rollout. And, of course, the experts didn’t see Brexit coming, and seem to have responded mostly with injured pride and assaults on the intelligence of the electorate, rather than with constructive solutions.

By its fruit the tree is known, and the tree of expertise hasn’t been doing well lately.

Read the whole thing!

TIM MAK: Obama’s Imperial Presidency Now Is Trump’s.

Forever and evergreen:

Limited government, checks and balances, federalism — they don’t seem so old-fashioned now, do they, Tim?

FRANK RICH: Die, you stupid red-state hillbillies, die! Plus, bonus anti-semitism:

The answer to that is yes, as a matter of morality, policy, and politics. Americans below the top of the heap, with or without college degrees and regardless of race, have been ill served by the axis of Robert Rubin, Lawrence Summers, and the Davos-class donor base that during Bill Clinton’s presidency helped grease the skids for the 2008 economic collapse and allowed the culprits to escape from the wreckage unscathed during Barack Obama’s.

Anti-semitism? Absolutely. “As David Bernstein of the Scalia Law School at George Mason University asks, imagine the reaction if a Republican had ‘singled out two Jews while talking about economic collapse and wealthy donors. It would be condemned as anti-Semitic.'”

Well, sure, if a Republican had done it.

PROLIFERATION: North Korea’s Test of Rocket Engine Shows ‘Meaningful Progress,’ South Says.

North Korea said on Sunday that it had conducted a ground jet test of a newly developed high-thrust missile engine, which its leader, Kim Jong-un, called “a great event of historic significance.” Using the characteristic bombast of such announcements, he said that the test heralded “a new birth” of the country’s rocket industry and that “the whole world will soon witness what eventful significance the great victory won today carries.”

The North’s rival, South Korea, acknowledged on Monday that the test represented a breakthrough. Lee Jin-woo, a spokesman at the Defense Ministry, said it showed that the North was developing a more sophisticated rocket engine. The model that the North tested included a cluster consisting of a main engine and four vernier thrusters — smaller engines used to adjust the craft’s velocity and stability.

“Through this test, it is found that engine function has made meaningful progress,” Mr. Lee said during a news briefing, without divulging further details.

By welcoming Iran back into the “community of nations” while giving a wink-and-a-nod to its medium-term nuclear program, Barack Obama might have effectively killed the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. How China and the U.S. choose to deal with North Korea could determine whether there’s any life left in it.

YEAH, PRETTY MUCH: “The Left hates Trump because he has destroyed the totalitarian consensus that former president Barack Obama had assiduously built over the last eight years and is now in tatters.” Though it might be more accurate to say that it collapsed under its own weight, and Trump was the beneficiary.

It’s the beginning of repairs to the Gramscian Damage.

CHANGE? Price rules out clean repeal of Obamacare.

“That is not something that the president is willing to do. It’s not something that he said he would do,” Price said of a clean repeal during an appearance on ABC’s “This Week.”

“Certainly what he has said is that repeal and replace need to occur essentially at the same time, concurrently, and that’s what we’re moving forward with in this first phase,” Price said.

Repeal-ish and replace-ish.

SLATE: Angela Merkel’s Facial Expressions Illustrate Global Bewilderment at Trump. In response to this story, my friend Robert Chandler on Facebook says that it’s like Merkel in particular — and the establishment in general — is Margaret Dumont, being flummoxed by President Groucho Marx. He writes:

Donald Trump is changing the rules.

It’s as if Groucho Marx became president of the United States. I thought the wiretapping joke was excellent.

She was indeed wiretapped by Obama.

Mrs. Merkel is the perfect foil. She’s just like one of those dowager matrons (Margaret Dumont) in Duck Soup.

President Rufus T. Firefly? We could do worse. And have, quite recently.

OOPS: Rachel Maddow’s Ratings Tank After Trump Tax Faceplant.

The night after Maddow embarrassing faceplant, her ratings dropped 36 percent.

Via Fox News Insider:

That drop was even sharper in the key demographic of 25 to 54-year-olds, the viewership of which fell 54 percent, Sandra Smith reported.

Maddow had breathlessly promoted her scoop on Twitter, and spent most of the show teasing her audience about the contents of Trump’s two-page 1040 form from 2005, which everyone by now knows revealed that he paid $38 million in taxes. That’s 25 percent on $150 million income, more than former president Barack Obama, NBC parent company Comcast, and limousine socialist Bernie Sanders have paid in taxes.

The mountain labored, and brought forth a mouse.

WE CAN’T JUST DRILL OUR WAY TO LOWER GAS PRICES, HE SAID: Low oil prices prove how wrong Obama was yet again.  (Does anyone else wonder where he thinks oil comes from, or is it just me?)

ELI LAKE: The Resistance Cheers Tactics Trump Will Likely Use Against Them.

The risk of normalization is particularly acute when it comes to selectively disclosing details of conversations monitored by U.S. intelligence agencies, such as the leaks that forced Flynn to resign last month. Such leaks violate the public’s trust in government eavesdroppers to not abuse their power to advance a political agenda.

This is why there are strict laws prohibiting the public disclosure of wiretap information. It’s why the intelligence community is supposed to take great pains not to distribute the names of American citizens who are caught up in surveillance of foreign targets widely within the government. It’s why the House Intelligence Committee is now investigating how many times the identities of U.S. citizens were unmasked in intelligence reports in the last six months of the Obama administration.

Tim Edgar, who served in Obama’s first term as the director of privacy and civil liberties at the White House, told me that it’s a mistake to conflate leaks of government-monitored communications with leaks designed to expose government wrongdoing or corruption. “J. Edgar Hoover was a prolific leaker, the Nixon White House leaked information, including information about its opponents from surveillance,” he said. “You may care somewhat if the government has intercepted your call, but you care more if they are using that information against you in some way.”

Edgar, who is now a professor in law and public policy at Brown University, is worried that the anti-Trump forces are not seeing the danger. “My message to the resistance is that you have to be careful,” he said. “These laws exist to protect all of us and our constitutional rights, and there is a difference between leaking the contents of surveillance transcripts and whistle blowing involving questionable government policy.”

In this sense, the resistance is fashioning a rod for its back. Democrats rightly howled when it was leaked that the FBI had wanted to investigate the Clinton Foundation but was stymied by the Justice Department in the run-up to the election. Trump will now have access to all kinds of damaging information on Democratic politicians. What is to stop him from selectively leaking monitored communications against the resistance?

Ideally, the rest of Washington would stop him. We don’t do that kind of thing in America. This is what police states do. But these norms are only effective if they are observed with consistency.

Deep-sixing norms is what lefties do.

AND YOU CAN SEE WHY HE KEPT HIS PRIVATE SECURITY: Why is the security around Trump so bad?

So we (rightly) feared the impact on the polity if Obama were assassinated. But I think the effect would be just as destructive if someone killed Trump. And while we might not see urban riots, exactly, I suspect we’d see violence of some sort. The only good news is that the Secret Service’s serial ineptitude suggests that not that many potential assassins are lurking out there, or someone would have succeeded by now. . . .

THIS IS CNN? CNN host Fareed Zakaria gets profane in uncensored Trump discussion.

Appearing beside host Don Lemon on CNN Tonight in a discussion about the president’s unsubstantiated claims that President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower during the election, a frustrated Zakaria said Trump is “indifferent” to the truth before launching into a profanity-laced comment about the commander-in-chief.

“He’s spent his whole life bulls———. He’s succeeded by bulls———. He has gotten the presidency by bulls———,” Zakaria said, uncensored. “It’s very hard to tell somebody at that point that bulls— doesn’t work, because look at the results, right?”

This is the same Fareed Zakaria who was once suspended from CNN for plagiarism. Given that his suspension only lasted a couple of weeks, it seems that CNN has a pretty high tolerance level for bullshit.

GROVER NORQUIST: This Week Guaranteed Trump’s Re-election, GOP Gains in 2018 and 2020.

Remember the date of March 13, 2017. It was the day President Trump was guaranteed his re-election and Republican congressional gains in 2018 and 2020.

It’s not complicated. Follow along.

The Congressional Budget Office released its study of Trump and Paul Ryan’s plan to repeal Obamacare and begin to reform our healthcare system. It had many numbers. Only two mattered: taxes and spending.

CBO announced that the repeal bill reduces taxes by almost $900 billion and reduces federal spending by $1.2 trillion over the next decade. This reduces deficit spending by $300 billion over the next 10 years. Thus the CBO, as official umpire, announced that the GOP Obamacare repeal plan may be enacted through “reconciliation,” the process that requires a simple majority in the House and only 51 votes in the Senate. No filibuster allowed.

Perhaps equally important, the $300 billion in deficit reduction gives Republicans a great deal of wiggle room to amend their basic plan to win votes in the House and Senate to win those 218 congressmen and 51 senators. Tax cuts can be added into the mix. Thanks to the CBO score and the underlying power of the legislation, Obamacare repeal will now pass. The path is clear.

Yes, Democrats tried to focus on the CBO’s guestimate as to how many Americans would choose to buy Obamacare insurance without the threat of fines and taxes. Answer: very few. This speaks to how unattractive Obamacare insurance products were and are.

True, but there are no guarantees in politics. Don’t get cocky, kid.

WHEN AGITPROP RUNS ITS COURSE: Key Democratic Officials Now Warning Base Not to Expect Evidence of Trump/Russia Collusion.

The principal problem for Democrats is that so many media figures and online charlatans are personally benefiting from feeding the base increasingly unhinged, fact-free conspiracies — just as right-wing media polemicists did after both Bill Clinton and Obama were elected — that there are now millions of partisan soldiers absolutely convinced of a Trump/Russia conspiracy for which, at least as of now, there is no evidence. And they are all waiting for the day, which they regard as inevitable and imminent, when this theory will be proven and Trump will be removed.

We’ve reached the point at which Glenn Greenwald has become a voice of sanity. But all that agitprop has borne its desired fruit: Poll: Majority of young adults view Trump as ‘illegitimate’ president.

FLASHBACK: Why Malia Obama Should Study Art History. “Art history is a subject which is often studied by the children of the elite, and it doesn’t get much more child-of-the-elite than Malia Obama.”

HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE: The Federal Government’s Student-Loan Fraud. “President Obama had a great idea back in 2010: nationalize the student loan program, and its problems would soon go away. It didn’t happen. Instead, more people are refusing to pay their student loans than ever before. . . . By taking over the student loan program, Obama in essence politicized it. Last year on the campaign hustings, both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders repeatedly talked about making college ‘free.’ That is, they want to socialize the costs, but privatize the benefits, of a college education. Still surprised people aren’t paying their loans?”

TRUMP TO MERKEL: We have something in common — we were both wiretapped by Obama.

UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES: How Donald Trump Shot The Gun Industry In The Gut.

Unfortunately, Trump’s win has had the unintended consequence of throwing the firearms industry into a deep slump, forcing major companies to lay off workers, driving prices deep into the red, and forcing some gun dealers out of business. While the Obama years might have been a dark time for gun rights, the Democrat president was a boon for gun retailers and manufacturers (a fact Obama has admitted himself). Each time the needle ticked further in the direction of gun restriction, Americans flocked to their local gun store and plunked down cash for more irons.

The industry swelled because of the “panic buying,” with new manufacturers popping up, old names in the industry swelling their ranks, and more new gun owners pushing into demographics with previously tepid interest.

After buying an AR-15 last summer for the express purpose of annoying Senator Joe “Due Process Is Killing Us” Manchin, I held off on any further purchases. But I did get a very nice deal last week on a tiny Ruger LCP II.

It’s a buyer’s market, but the good times won’t last forever.

BRANDON MORSE: It’s Rand Paul vs Paul Ryan in the battle over Obamacare — and the future of the GOP.

JOSH KRAUSHAAR: Paul Ryan’s Political Blind Spot. “By pushing through an Obamacare replacement that has little support with the public or his caucus, he’s risking a major political backlash against the GOP.”

The emer­ging mess over selling Ry­an’s ver­sion of health care re­form is ex­pos­ing an un­pleas­ant polit­ic­al real­ity for the fisc­ally re­spons­ible wing of the Re­pub­lic­an Party: People like free stuff, and it’s aw­fully dif­fi­cult to take en­ti­tle­ments away after they’re gran­ted. Ry­an’s en­tire ca­reer has been based on the sunny be­lief that well-in­ten­tioned re­forms have a siz­able con­stitu­ency of voters wor­ried about budget-bust­ing gov­ern­ment giveaways. But there’s a long trail of evid­ence that points the oth­er way. Just look at Trump’s win­ning cam­paign mes­sage, unique for a Re­pub­lic­an, pledging to pro­tect en­ti­tle­ments.

Pres­id­ent George W. Bush learned that the hard way when he tackled So­cial Se­cur­ity re­form at the be­gin­ning of his second term. Al­though Bush claimed a man­date from his reelec­tion, many nervous Re­pub­lic­ans quickly de­fec­ted as Demo­crats ef­fect­ively ex­ploited voter anxi­ety about privat­iz­ing a long-stand­ing pub­lic pro­gram. In 2012, when Ry­an was tapped as Mitt Rom­ney’s run­ning mate, Rom­ney dis­tanced him­self from the “Path to Prosper­ity” budget blue­print that Ry­an had cham­pioned in the House. That didn’t stop Demo­crats from slam­ming the tick­et for sup­port­ing cuts to Medi­care—one ma­jor reas­on why the Rom­ney-Ry­an tick­et ran poorly among work­ing-class voters, es­pe­cially in the Mid­west­ern swing states that would go on to sup­port Trump in 2016.

Congress is warped because the American electorate has yet to accept that other people’s money does eventually run out — and that we are all the other people.

PAUL MIRENGOFF: Hawaii judge’s ruling could lead to constitutional crisis. Plus: “By accepting the use of preelection statements to impeach and limit executive policy, the 9th Circuit is taking a dangerous step. The states’ argument is in essence that Trump is a bigot, and thus his winning presidential campaign in fact impeaches him from exercising key constitutional and statutory powers, such as administering the immigration laws.”

If campaign statements have judicial weight, can we file a petition for rehearing with the Supreme Court on the ObamaCare case, based on Obama’s (broken) promises about keeping your plan and lowering your premiums?

HAVEN’T YOU HEARD? THIN IS IN: Trump’s Ridiculously Skinny Budget.

In order to offset a proposed $54 billion bump in defense spending, the administration wants to take a chunk out of most other federal agencies, often in the most cartoonishly villainous ways possible. Eliminating the Corporation for Public Broadcasting? Check. The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps people pay their heating bills? Gone. The Chemical Safety Board, which investigates chemical accidents at federal facilities? See ya.

But those sort of programs amount to rounding errors in the context of the federal budget. The big proposed hits are to the State Department (nearly 30 percent), Environmental Protection Agency (31 percent), Agriculture Department (21 percent) and Department of Labor (20 percent).

And again, this is all to fund a 10 percent increase for the Pentagon, not even to reduce the precious deficit that conservatives always pretend to be worried about.

Longterm, entitlement spending is going to break us, and it’s a pity that Trump hasn’t shown any more guts on entitlement reform than any of his predecessors. But as for the rest, “elections have consequences.”

LEGAL INSURRECTION: Hawaii TRO and 9th Circuit En Banc Denial effectively strip Trump of executive powers. “At this point, only the Supreme Court can restore presidential powers.”

Makes you wonder what Hawaii TRO and the 9th thought of President Obama’s “pen and phone.”

DEEP STATE UPDATE: John Hinderaker: A Liberal Coup Is In Progress. “What we are seeing here is a coup: a coup by the New Class; by the Democratic Party; by far leftists embedded in the bureaucracy and the federal judiciary. Our duly elected president has issued an order that is plainly within his constitutional powers, and leftists have conspired to abuse legal processes to block it. They are doing so in order to serve the interests of the Democratic Party and the far-left movement. This is the most fundamental challenge to democracy in our lifetimes.”

If courts are going to apply judicial weight to campaign statements, then maybe I should file a petition for rehearing with the Supreme Court in the ObamaCare case, since “if you like your doctor you can keep your doctor” and “your premiums will go down by $2500” were integral parts of Obama’s sales pitch.

THEIR TWITTER GUY DID: Did McDonald’s Just Insult Donald Trump While Praising Barack Obama?

No word yet on whether the presumed SJW responsible has been fired, but this must be a difficult day for elitists who sneer at McDonalds.

MICHAEL BARONE: Perceptions are that Trump’s policies are working.

In contrast to the years of the Obama stimulus program, when the bulk of new jobs came in the public sector, it appears that the increase here is in the private sector. Moody’s Analytics says there were 298,000 new private sector jobs in February, far more than the 189,000 it expected.

Construction jobs were up 58,000, private educational services jobs up 29,000, manufacturing jobs up 28,000. This suggests that lots of employers, small as well as large, are taking the plunge and creating new jobs.

Can I prove that they’re doing so because of perceptions that regulations and taxes will be decreased by the Trump administration? No, and I’m not sure any economist’s statistical model could either. But that sure looks like what’s happening.

The owner of a small business doesn’t take lightly the decision to make new hires — those are real people you’re giving hope to, with the real expectation that you’ll make payroll week after week. The business climate matters a great deal, and maybe we’re finally seeing it turn around.

IT’S DIFFERENT WHEN WE DO IT: GOP Senators Ask State Dept. to Investigate Obama Admin’s Meddling in Foreign Elections.

I REMEMBER WHEN OBAMA SAID WE COULDN’T DRILL OUR WAY OUT OF HIGH ENERGY PRICES: Will Trump, Fracking Send Oil Prices Crashing?

THEY ONLY TALK ABOUT IT WHEN THEY AREN’T RUNNING FOR OFFICE: Democrats’ Sudden Amnesia about Obamacare’s Many Ills.

DANIEL GREENFIELD: OBAMA’S THIRD TERM.

After Trump secured the nomination, Obama’s people filed a wiretapping request. As he was on the verge of winning, they did it again. After he won, they are doing everything they can to bring him down.

It was always going to come down to this.

One is the elected President of the United States. The other is the Anti-President who commands a vast network that encompasses the organizers of OFA, the official infrastructure of the DNC and Obama Anonymous, a shadow government of loyalists embedded in key positions across the government.

A few weeks after the election, I warned that Obama was planning to run the country from outside the White House. And that the “Obama Anonymous” network of staffers embedded in the government was the real threat. Since then Obama’s Kalorama mansion has become a shadow White House. And the Obama Anonymous network is doing everything it can to bring down an elected government.

Valerie Jarrett has moved into the shadow White House to plot operations against Trump. Meanwhile Tom Perez has given him control of the corpse of the DNC after fending off a Sandernista bid from Keith Ellison. Obama had hollowed out the Democrat Party by diverting money to his own Organizing for America. Then Hillary Clinton had cannibalized it for her presidential bid through Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and Donna Brazile. Now Obama owns the activist, OFA, and organizational, DNC, infrastructure.

But that’s just half the picture.

Obama controls the opposition. He will have a great deal of power to choose future members of Congress and the 2020 candidate. But he could have done much of that from Chicago or New York. The reason he didn’t decide to move on from D.C. is that the nation’s capital contains the infrastructure of the national government. He doesn’t just want to run the Democrats. He wants to run America.

The other half of the picture is the Obama Deep State. This network of political appointees, bureaucrats and personnel scattered across numerous government agencies is known only as Obama Anonymous.

This will end well.

PSSSSSST, BERNIE, THOUSANDS WILL DIE ANYWAY:  It’s on account of humans being mortal, something they might have forgotten to brief you on in the mothership. Sanders Can’t Say Where He Gets His Info That ‘Thousands Will Die’ if Obamacare Is Repealed

DO YOU THINK IT’S POSSIBLE THE MSM LIKES TRUMP LESS THAN THEY LIKED OBAMA? Horrid headlines on the health-care bill are about an alternate reality.

DON SURBER: Trump’s Finest Hour Nears. “Do not worry about the repeal and replacement of Obamacare. President Trump will cut a deal that will make it so by July 31.” One hopes. To be fair, Surber’s been right about Trump more than just about anybody.

AS A WISE COMMUNITY ORGANIZER ONCE ADVISED, GET IN THEIR FACES AND PUNCH BACK TWICE AS HARD: Trump goes after Snoop Dogg’s assassination video, tweeting, “Can you imagine what the outcry would be if Snoop Dog, failing career and all, had aimed and fired the gun at President Obama*? Jail time!”

Good for him – it was a mistake for President Bush to have waited until leaving office to comment on Kanye West’s racism and slander that “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” during a Katrina fundraiser airing live on NBC. (And note that NBC’s Matt Lauer tried to argue with Bush and play gotcha games when the former president declared it “a disgusting moment.”) In contrast, if the DNC-MSM indulged Obama commenting endlessly on pop culture, there’s no reason why Trump can’t push back against the “assassination fascination” of the left.

* To be fair, Obama embraced and personally met at the White House with rappers who featured eliminatonist imagery on their album covers, just as long as the political target in question wasn’t him.

TRUMP: It’s FAKE NEWS Reporter Found My Tax Returns in His Mailbox.

So how much of a stinker is this tax thing, really? CNN is running with “Democrats urge one another not to get distracted by Trump’s taxes.” Which is probably sage advice, given that Trump paid an effective 25% rate, much higher than Barack Obama, Joe Biden, or Bernie Sanders. And we wouldn’t be talking about Democrats’ tax rates at all if it weren’t for this story, which is enough to make you wonder if the “fake news reporter” wasn’t someone on the Trump payroll.

JEFF JACOBY: Why are climate-change models so flawed?

‘DO YOU believe,” CNBC’s Joe Kernen asked Scott Pruitt, the Environmental Protection Agency’s new director, in an interview last Thursday, “that it’s been proven that CO2 is the primary control knob for climate?”

Replied Pruitt: “No. I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do, and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact. So no — I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see. But we don’t know that yet. We need to continue the debate and continue the review and the analysis.”

It was an accurate and judicious answer, so naturally it sent climate alarmists into paroxysms of condemnation. The Washington Post slammed Pruitt as a “denier” driven by “unreason.” Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii called Pruitt’s views “extreme” and “irresponsible” — proof of his unfitness to head the EPA. Gina McCarthy, who ran the agency under President Obama, bewailed the danger global warming poses “to all of us who call Earth home,” and said she couldn’t “imagine what additional information [Pruitt] might want from scientists” in order to understand that.

Yet for all the hyperventilating, Pruitt’s answer to the question he was asked — whether carbon dioxide is the climate’s “primary control knob” — was entirely sound. “We don’t know that yet,” he said. We don’t.

Accepting the unknown is a big part of what makes a scientist, a scientist. Pretending knowledge where there is none to advance a statist agenda is what makes a progressive, a progressive.

OBAMA’S “PIVOT” TO PACIFIC SCRATCHED: There’ve been a couple of prior posts on this subject. This Defense News article adds a little more information:

The Obama administration’s Pacific rebalance effort — also known as the Pivot to the Pacific — effort is officially dead, according to a top State Department official.

Asked by reporters about the future of the rebalance, Acting Assistant Secretary of State Susan Thornton said Monday that the new administration has its own plan for the region, even if that plan has yet to take shape.

“Pivot, rebalance, etcetera — that was a word that was used to describe the Asia policy in the last administration. I think you can probably expect that this administration will have its own formulation. We haven’t really seen in detail, kind of, what that formulation will be or if there even will be a formulation,” she said.

However, Thornton — speaking on the eve of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s first visit to the Asia-Pacific region — stressed that the new administration remains committed to the region, even if the flavor of that commitment may change.

CHARLES HURT: Democrats need to help fix the Disastercare they created.

Mr. Trump has noted that the politically expedient thing for Republicans to do right now would be just to stand back and watch Obamacare collapse and keep reminding voters that this is what happens when you put stupid, dishonest and power-hungry Democrats in charge.

But there is a wiser middle-ground approach to fixing the Obamacare debacle that Mr. Trump and Republicans in Congress should chart instead.

Yes, put together Republicans’ more market-based plans for salvaging Disastercare. Even include their crazy new tax credit entitlement program that should cause any decent conservative to break out in hives.

But — and this is crucial — demand that Democrats in Congress come to the table and support this rescue mission to fix the disastrous mess they created. Mr. Trump should play hardball with vulnerable Democrats and threaten to campaign against them if they do not support this plan.

Politically speaking, what possible inducement is there for Democrats to pull Congressional Republicans out of the hole they’re digging?

RELATED: Dems See Trumpcare Fallout as 2018 Opportunity.

DEEP STATE UPDATE: How John Brennan and Some Brits Tried to Tip the Election to Hillary.

What other British spies joined Brennan and Steele in their anti-Trump crusade? This is another question for Congress to address next week if it is serious about looking at the interference of foreign countries in our elections. Why is it that many of the leaked stories about an Obama administration investigation into Trump-Russia ties originated in the British press (BBC, the Guardian, anti-Trump British journalist and pol Louise Mensch)? Did the Obama administration outsource some of its spying on Trump to the Brits, who had access to the NSA database?

Yes, says Judge Andrew Napolitano, who claimed on Monday that “three intelligence sources have informed Fox News that President Obama went outside the chain of command” and made use of British intelligence with its “24-hour access” to the NSA’s database.

Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, the former chief of staff to Colin Powell at the State Department, is also persuaded that British intelligence was cooperating with John Brennan’s fishing expedition into candidate Trump. . . .

So it is entirely possible that both Comey and Brennan were investigating Trump simultaneously, with the FBI seeking warrants or using “traditional investigative techniques” (as Circa News put it) and Brennan using less traditional ones.

But at the very least we know that Christopher Steele and John Brennan, along with the British spies, journalists, and pols to whom they were leaking, were desperately trying to tip the election to Hillary.

Once, something like this would have been hard to believe.

SO. MUCH. WINNING. Trump to announce review of vehicle emissions rules.

The move by Trump would be a victory for automakers after months of pushing the new administration to reconsider the rules, which they say would be too expensive, could cost jobs and are out of step with vehicles consumers want to buy.

Trump will visit an autonomous vehicle testing facility in a Detroit suburb on Wednesday and meet there with chief executives of several U.S. automakers.

His administration has decided to review the feasibility of the vehicle emissions rules, which apply to the years 2022 through 2025, sources told Reuters last week. Former President Barack Obama moved to keep them in the final days of his administration.

Reuters reported on the planned announcement on March 3. A formal notice by U.S. regulators to restart the review is expected to be made public on Wednesday.

All these high-powered, four-cylinder, CAFE-inspired engines are technological marvels, but in the end there’s still no replacement for displacement.

ORGANIZING FOR… WHAT, EXACTLY? What’s Up? Obama Meeting with Deep-Pocketed Donors, Warren Buffet, Tech Leaders…

TRANSPARENCY! Obama’s final year: US spent $36 million in records lawsuits.

The figures reflect the final struggles of the Obama administration during the 2016 election to meet President Barack Obama’s pledge that it was “the most transparent administration in history,” despite wide recognition of serious problems coping with requests under the information law. It received a record 788,769 requests for files last year and spent a record $478 million answering them and employed 4,263 full-time FOIA employees across more than 100 federal departments and agencies. That was higher by 142 such employees the previous year.

A spokesman for former President Obama did not immediately respond to an email request for comment late Monday. The White House under Obama routinely defended its efforts under the information law in recent years and said federal employees worked diligently on such requests for records.

Uh-huh.

FASTER, PLEASE: Michelle Obama’s School Lunch Reign of Terror Is Nearly Over.

QUESTION ASKED AND ANSWERED: Why Do Corporate Leaders Became Progressive Activists? Kevin Williamson knows why:

Far from being agents of reaction, our corporate giants have for decades been giving progressives a great deal to celebrate. Disney, despite its popular reputation for hidebound wholesomeness, has long been a leader on gay rights, much to the dismay of a certain stripe of conservative. Walmart, one of the Left’s great corporate villains, has barred Confederate-flag merchandise from its stores in a sop to progressive critics, and its much-publicized sustainability agenda is more than sentiment: Among other things, it has invested $100 million in economic-mobility programs and doubled the fuel efficiency of its vehicle fleet over ten years. Individual members of the Walton clan engage in philanthropy of a distinctly progressive bent.

In fact, just going down the list of largest U.S. companies (by market capitalization) and considering each firm’s public political activism does a great deal to demolish the myth of the conservative corporate agenda. Top ten: 1) Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, is an up-and-down-the-line progressive who has been a vociferous critic of religious-liberty laws in Indiana and elsewhere that many like-minded people consider a back door to anti-gay discrimination. 2) When protesters descended on SFO to protest President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration, one of the well-heeled gentlemen leading them was Google founder Sergey Brin, and Google employees were the second-largest corporate donor bloc to President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign. 3) Microsoft founder Bill Gates is a generous funder of programs dedicated to what is euphemistically known as “family planning.” 4) Berkshire Hathaway’s principal, Warren Buffett, is a close associate of Barack Obama’s and an energetic advocate of redistributive tax increases on high-income taxpayers. 5) Amazon’s Jeff Bezos put up $2.5 million of his own money for a Washington State gay-marriage initiative. 6) Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has pushed for liberal immigration-reform measures, while Facebook cofounder Dustin Moskovitz pledged $20 million to support Hillary Rodham Clinton and other Democrats in 2016. 7) Exxon, as an oil company, may be something of a hate totem among progressives, but it has spent big — billions big — on renewables and global social programs. 8) Johnson & Johnson’s health-care policy shop is run by Liz Fowler, one of the architects of Obamacare and a former special assistant to President Obama. 9) The two largest recipients of JPMorgan cash in 2016 were Hillary Rodham Clinton and the Democratic National Committee, and the bank’s billionaire chairman, Jamie Dimon, is a high-profile supporter of Democratic politicians including Barack Obama and reportedly rejected an offer from President Trump to serve as Treasury secretary. 10) Wells Fargo employees followed JPMorgan’s example and donated $7.36 to Mrs. Clinton for every $1 they gave to Trump, and the recently troubled bank has sponsored events for the Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD, and other gay-rights groups, as well as donated to local Planned Parenthood franchises.

Even the hated Koch brothers are pro-choice, pro-gay, and pro-amnesty.

You may see the occasional Tom Monaghan or Phil Anschutz, but, on balance, U.S. corporate activism is overwhelmingly progressive. Why?

Read the whole thing.

TOM COTTON: ‘There is no three-step plan” to repeal ObamaCare.

Proponents of the American Health Care Act claim that full repeal of Obamacare cannot be accomplished in one bill due to limitations imposed by the budget reconciliation process. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc. made this point at length in a press conference held last week. Republican leadership in the House of Representatives insists that the best way to move forward on repeal is in a three-step process.

Step one is to use budget reconciliation to repeal Obamacare taxes, eliminate the individual and employer mandates, tweak the subsidies, and repeal some minor regulations. Step two is to let Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price take administrative action to repeal the rest of the regulations and administer free-market reforms via agency promulgation. Step three is for Congress to legislate further reforms that cannot be included in reconciliation.

To some, GOP leadership’s proposals may seem reasonable on the surface. Sen. Tom Cotton warns that these are all lies.

“There is no three-phase process. There is no three-step plan. That is just political talk,” Sen. Cotton told radio host Hewitt Tuesday morning. “It’s just politicians engaging in spin.”

Instapundit readers were warned of this early last week.

WHO MADE THIS MONTAGE: CNN or DNC? “In virtually any given week during the Obama administration, CNN could have put a similarly negative pastiche. Anyone remember the network doing it?”

Just think of CNN as Democrat operatives with bylines, and it all makes sense.

BOMBSHELL: Fox News Sources Say Obama Used Brits To Spy On Donald Trump.

CATO: Full Repeal Would Cover More People than House GOP’s ObamaCare-Lite Bill.

It also happens to be what every Republican has promised since 2010.

ED MORRISSEY: Senate Dems “paralyzed” over Gorsuch confirmation.

The problem for Democrats is as obvious as Gorsuch’s qualifications, and it’s that Gorsuch’s qualifications are so obvious. That hasn’t stopped Democrats from hammering Republican nominees to the Supreme Court in the past, such as John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Robert Bork. Gorsuch’s record gives them no real hook for those kinds of attacks on substance, and his personality makes it difficult to find a way to attack him personally, too. The charm offensive on Capitol Hill has been a rousing success.

So far, the only opening Democrats have is the Chevron doctrine, which Gorsuch has questioned. In Chevron, the Supreme Court held that where the law has ambiguities, deference has to be granted to federal agencies for interpretation. If Chevron got reversed by a later court more interested in forcing textual application of the law and forcing Congress to address ambiguities, it would cut sharply into the authority of these agencies, on which progressives rely for activist governance. (The irony of this, as Steven Hayward pointed out at Power Line, is that the environmentalists lost in the Chevron decision.)

Democrats are expected to hit Gorsuch on Chevron and on the application of stare decisis, as well as the usual issues of abortion and euthanasia, because … that’s all they’ve managed to dig up in six weeks — at least publicly. That esoteric issue won’t keep Americans glued to their TV screens during the confirmation hearings. If that’s all they’ve got, small wonder they’re “paralyzed.”

Senate Democrats have another problem. They had the Republicans over a barrel, or so they thought, when President Obama nominated Merrick Garland to fill Antonin Scalia’s vacancy. Republicans could either confirm a sort-of right-leaning judge who was squishy on the Second Amendment, or risk dealing with the next Wise Minority Statist that President Hillary Clinton would surely nominate.

Instead, the GOP accepted the risk and stood firm — and now the Democrats are the ones over a barrel. Their choices boil down to two extremes. They can step aside and allow the “Scalia seat” to be filled by a justice who is about as conservative as Scalia was. Or they can stonewall/Bork Gorsuch, and risk the Republicans employing the Reid Option. The Democrats would lose their filibuster for the entire four-to-eight years of President Trump, during which they could probably expect the vacancies of one or two liberal SCOTUS judges.

In their situation, you might feel paralyzed, too.

THE STUPID PARTY: GOP does damage control over healthcare score.

During the run-up to ObamaCare’s passage seven years ago, Congressional Democrats used all sorts of trickery to game the CBO score. Peter Suderman wrote in December, 2009:

After the August recess, scores for the various reform proposals improved markedly. Not only were they cheaper, requiring less total spending, they were judged by the CBO to result in net reductions to the deficit. What happened?

In large part, the answer is that Democrats became more skilled at manipulating the CBO’s scoring process. Indeed, they have become so skilled at getting what they want out of the CBO that the office has taken to including strongly worded warnings that the various bills’ real costs may not actually match their estimates.

In the House, Democrats shifted an expensive, unpaid-for “fix” to doctor’s Medicare reimbursement rates over to a separate bill. And in the Senate, they backloaded the spending so that its full effects would not be felt in the 10-year window that CBO scores. In the latest Senate bill, 99 percent of the spending would occur in the last six years of the budget window.

Nor do the scores count the cost of state level Medicaid expansions—$25 billion in the Senate’s bill—or of the private sector mandates it imposes, which, according to Michael Cannon, a health policy analyst at the Cato Institute, could add an additional $1.5 trillion to the total.

The bigger issue is that in budgeting, there are multiple realities available: The various scores put forth by the CBO are based on what might be called “legislative reality” — a fictional world in which there are no changes to current law except the bill under consideration, and new legislation is executed to the letter.

Everybody in Washington knew the numbers were no good, but they were good enough to provide the political cover needed to ram through the legislation. The press, for the most part, played along.

Today, Congressional Republicans seem to have not proactively gamed the CBO, and now are stuck in reaction mode, playing defense against the media and their own budget office.

It’s almost as though they don’t want to have to pass this bill.

HMM: To China, America Finally Looks Vulnerable.

When Chinese leaders gaze out toward the Pacific, their panorama is obstructed by a string of military airfields, naval anchorages, radar emplacements and listening posts sentineled by U.S. forces and their allies.

Breaking through what they regard as a hostile chain of containment is a national priority.

To do so Beijing must weaken the U.S. alliance network. Can Washington hold the line?

That’s the larger question hanging over the all-out struggle that Beijing is waging to prevent the installation of a U.S. antimissile battery in South Korea, meant to protect against a North Korean nuclear attack, which took a dramatic turn last week with the removal from office of South Korean President Park Gyeun-hye.

Pyongyang may well produce Donald Trump’s first international crisis. Its nuclear menace, along with missile defense, will be high on the agenda when he holds his first meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, tentatively scheduled for April in Mr. Trump’s private club in Florida, Mar-a-Lago, according to Chinese officials.

Barack Obama infuriated Beijing with his military-flavored “pivot” to Asia. To the Chinese leadership it was yet more Cold War-style gamesmanship, and to test U.S. resolve they pushed back with bullying tactics against U.S. friends and allies, for instance sending a giant oil-drilling rig into waters off Vietnam protected by a flotilla of paramilitary vessels.

Obama’s Asia pivot was a dangerously empty gesture — enraging Beijing with his intentions but without enough credible force for them to fear his capabilities.

Now comes the tense part as Beijing, in part via North Korea, tests the new Administration and our longstanding alliances with China’s neighbors.

HOWIE CARR OFFERS REMEDIAL EDUCATION FOR TREVOR NOAH:

What is an “extreme liberal”?

That was the question posed the other night on one of those late-night talk shows nobody watches by someone named Trevor Noah, or maybe it was Noah Trevor.

“I go like, what is an extreme liberal,” he said. “Like, what is that?”

Like, you’re kidding dude, right? I don’t think he’s an American, and he doesn’t seem very funny.

“What is this thing you’re afraid of?” he went on. “Health care for everybody, free education, is that what you’re afraid of?”

Free education. Yeah right. I wonder what Noah Trevor got on his SATs.

Anyway, perhaps this foreign fop needs some free education as to what an extreme liberal is.

An extreme liberal is someone like Leonardo DiCaprio, who flies around on his private jet delivering impassioned speeches on the dangers of climate change.

He or she still has a Hillary Clinton bumper sticker on the family Tesla, right next to “COEXIST.”

They run through the streets rioting and setting fires and yelling “Smash the State!” and then when they get arrested, they write on Facebook how “terrified” they are of going to jail just before spring break.

They believe that Christian bakers who won’t provide wedding cakes to lesbians should be imprisoned, but unvetted Muslim “refugees” who believe in stoning gays, Sharia law, female-genital mutilation and honor killings should be admitted to the U.S. and put on welfare, no questions asked.

Anyone who has a different point of view from them is “Hitler.”

They still really believe Elizabeth Warren is Cherokee.

They think Obama deserved his Nobel Peace Prize.

They call anyone who disagrees with Hillary a sexist, with Obama a racist, and with Barney Frank a homophobe.

They love soccer and hate football — except for Colin Kaepernick.

I think it’s too bad that late night “comedians” have just become people who disseminate hate against The Other.

FLASHBACK: The Accuracy of the CBO’s Obamacare Forecasts. “The office’s track record is, well, not very good. CBO vastly overestimated the number of Americans who would enroll on the exchanges and pay the individual mandate penalty. Each year, CBO revised their estimates lower and lower, and still never quite predicted how weak the enrollment would be. This post is not meant as a critique of CBO’s methodology, but rather a frank recognition that even the best experts cannot predict, with any accuracy, the impact of such a massive government program. Indeed, in June 2014, CBO threw in the towel on scoring Obamacare’s complete impacts.”

AND THAT IS ONLY THE DIRECT SPENDING TO PAYOFF OBAMA’S BACKER… ER, PROMOTE THE AWFUL TASTING DOG FOOD:Obama admin spent $77M to hype ObamaCare in 2016.

NOT EXACTLY A RINGING ENDORSEMENT: Voters Doubt GOP Replacement But Not As Much As They Doubted Obamacare.

MATTIS STILL SOLE TRUMP APPOINTEE IN PENTAGON: At least as of yesterday. And according to the AP as published in the Tulsa World.

When the Obama administration closed shop in January, only one of its top-tier Pentagon political appointees stayed in place — Robert Work, the deputy defense secretary. He agreed to remain until his successor is sworn in. So far no nominee for deputy has been announced, let alone confirmed by the Senate.

MORE:

There are few visible signs that the absence of Trump appointments in the Pentagon has affected its management of the counter-Islamic State campaign or military operations in Afghanistan. But the president has ordered a number of major policy reviews that require senior-level Pentagon attention, including counter-IS strategy, nuclear and missile defense plans and a blueprint for building up and improving the combat-readiness of the military.

DAVID SOLWAY: Yes, We Should Investigate Obama.

WASHINGTON FREE BEACON REPORTS: Fake Professor Calls Free Beacon ‘Fake News’

Fake professor, feminist, and activist Melissa “Mish” Zimdars has deemed the Washington Free Beacon “fake news” on a list that is now being distributed as a media guide by Harvard University.

Zimdars, a Donald Trump critic and Carly Rae Jepsen fan, is an assistant professor at Merrimack College in Massachusetts, whose research focus includes “social justice.” She has organized liberal protest rallies against student debt and refers to conservatives as the “DARK SIDE.”

She created her fake news list, “False, Misleading, Clickbait-y, and Satirical ‘News’ Sources,” shortly after Hillary Clinton’s defeat in the presidential election. The list, which Zimdars has already edited because news sites mistakenly appeared on it, features numerous conservative outlets.

Don’t underestimate these fake professors, no matter how ignorant, obtuse, or just plain wrong they might seem — one was recently a two-term President of the United States.

IRONY ALERT: ObamaCare Scammer Jonathan Gruber says Republicans setting up a ‘scam.’ “Gruber has stirred up controversy on a number of occasions after videos surfaced of him calling the American public “stupid” for allowing the Affordable Care Act to pass in the first place while being the public face of the legislation.”

GET OUTTA MY DREAMS, GET OFF OF MY CAR: Senator Praises Obama Fuel Economy Standards for Forcing Automakers to Innovate.

HAVE YOU HUGGED A FRACKER TODAY? Oil touches three-month lows, as U.S. supply swells.

The price has fallen by more than 8 percent since last Monday, its biggest week-on-week drop in four months, and analysts said the slide may not have much further to run.

“The market is bearish because sentiment has turned. The risk is still towards the downside, but we are nowhere near the precipice,” PVM Oil Associates Tamas Varga said.

Goldman Sachs said in a note it remained “very confident” about commodity prices and maintained its price forecast of $57.50 a barrel for WTI in the second quarter.

U.S. drillers added oil rigs for an eighth consecutive week, Baker Hughes said on Friday, lifting spending to benefit from an earlier recovery in crude prices since the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) agreed to cut output. [RIG/U]

OPEC and other major oil producers including Russia reached an agreement late last year to rein in production by almost 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) in the first half of 2017.

Although OPEC states have been complying with supply curbs, led by Saudi Arabia, it has not been enough to overshadow a rise in U.S. inventories to a new high.

I had been assured by no less than the (former) President of the United States that we “can’t just drill our way out to lower gas prices.”

What a noob.

But if we really want lower gas prices, let’s open another oil refinery or two and do something about the country’s crazy patchwork quilt of gasoline blends.