What We're Thankful For: Happy Thanksgiving from the Townhall Team

The editorial team here at Townhall would like to wish everyone a very happy Thanksgiving. Here are some of the things we're thankful for in 2015:


Here we are at another Thanksgiving and I am overwhelmed with gratitude for all of my blessings: good health, a loving family, supportive and loyal friends who feel like family, my dog, a warm home, incredible life experiences, fulfilling employment with a great boss, important life experiences, the United States of America and so much more.

I’m especially grateful to my friend Donal Blaney, who graciously hosted me in London this year for the first time. During my trip, I was able to see first hand the important work the Margaret Thatcher Centre is doing to preserve the legacy of the Iron Lady.

As you sit down with your families today, please remember the men and women serving in our armed forces and intelligence communities who won't be at home with theirs, I am certainly grateful for their sacrifice and dedication to keeping us safe. Happy Thanksgiving everybody.

-Katie Pavlich, Editor


I am, as ever, deeply thankful for my loving family, my amazing friends, my good health, my fulfilling career, and my wonderful colleagues at both Townhall and Fox News.  This year has been an eventful one.  I'm grateful for the support and kindness afforded to me by so many in May -- and for those who helped make our fun exhausting book tour over the summer a success. I feel particularly blessed to know my friend Mary Katharine Ham, and her two beautiful children.  

And this list would not be complete without a shout-out to the 9-2 Northwestern Wildcats.  Happy Thanksgiving!

-Guy Benson, Political Editor


When I first sat down to write what I was thankful for this year, without even realizing it I wrote the exact same first sentence as last year. Not because nothing has changed in my life but because throughout that change I have God alone to thank. Today, and each and every day, I am grateful to Him for everything I’ve gained and lost. As you gather with friends and family today and reflect on what you’re thankful for, don’t forget God’s role in all of it and give thanks to Him. Happy Thanksgiving!

-Leah Barkoukis, Online Features Editor


I’m thankful to God for blessing me with a loving, encouraging (and growing) family, lasting friendships and fun colleagues who make it so easy to come to work everyday.

I’m thankful for our men and women in uniform. Veterans Day is but a glimpse into how we should be treating our courageous soldiers. Free pancakes and discounted meals are great, but once a year perks are hardly enough to thank them. We should try to remind our vets everyday that their service is both admired and appreciated.

I’m thankful for an election season that never bores. I can’t help but be grateful to anybody willing to dedicate months of their life on a bus touring the country, meeting with Americans and giving an ear to their needs. Leading the United States is no small task.  Thank you, candidates, for applying for the job.

I’m thankful for the memories Paris gave me in 2011 while studying abroad in Europe. One of the most unforgettable moments of my semaine à Paris was watching the Eiffel Tower sparkle in the twilight. The romantic beauty of Paris can never be extinguished by terrorist thugs (to quote BBC).

Cher France, nous sommes avec vous.

Finally, I’m thankful to our readers for choosing Townhall as their news source. Thank you for not just reading the site, but engaging us with entertaining and often insightful comments, and for catching our silly errors – a seldom occurrence, of course.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

-Cortney O’Brien, Deputy News Editor


This year was one marked by some of my highest highs and lowest lows. I’m thankful, honestly, that it’s drawing to a close and that a new year and clean slate of 2016 is upon us.

I’m thankful for my friends, both near and far, and for the miracle that is the internet for keeping the world ever so small. I'm 

And, of course, I couldn't end this list without saying how I'm thankful for the Providence College Men’s Ice Hockey team, who gave me one of the happiest nights of my life last April with their insane, come-from-behind victory to win their first NCAA National Championship. Happy Thanksgiving! 

-Christine Rousselle, Managing Web Editor


There’s a lot to be thankful for this year. Of course, I’m always thankful to have a supportive and loving family who took me in at four months from South Korea. I’m thankful for our troops who are keeping us safe, our Bill of Rights, especially the Second Amendment, and for all the freedoms we have in this country (and the ones we at times take for granted). I’m especially thankful to be working with a great editorial team who keep me going every day while writing for Townhall. Besides family, one couldn’t ask for a better source of support.  Lastly, I’m grateful for the newest edition to the Vespa clan, little Graeme, who arrived in September.

I hope you all have a Happy Thanksgiving. 

-Matt Vespa, Associate Editor


I am thankful to be an American. I live in the greatest country known to man.  I am thankful for my family and proud to be a leader and mentor for my two younger brothers, John Foster and Samuel Thomas. I am thankful for having a mother and father who have taught me hard work and how to be a gentleman.  I am thankful for all those who have been apart of my life. I am thankful for my founding fathers, who risked their lives and fortunes on a cause that has granted me a wonderful life. I am thankful to all those who have died fighting for my way of life. One young man does not deserve all the blessings that I have received and it is my duty to make the most of them every single day. Happy Thanksgiving.

-Justin Holcomb, Web Editor


I’m thankful for God, Country, Family and Corps, in that order. God blessed me with my Country, my family and my brothers and sisters serving along side of me, and for that I am thankful. My Country blessed me with the opportunity to serve, and for that I am Thankful. My family blessed me with unwavering support throughout my life, and for that I am thankful. The Corps blessed me with the perspective to count my blessings and the will to protect them, and for that I am thankful.

-Leigh Wolf, Video Production Manager


This year, I'm surprisingly thankful for change -- not the kind promised by a politician or the kind you find in the street (although, that's always a welcomed surprise), but the kind of change that makes life a little crazy, but exciting, before turning a fresh page. 

2015, for me, has been marked by planned and unplanned change in both my professional and personal life, which in retrospect, has given me more joy than I could have anticipated. The Townhall Media team is enjoying new space and some new faces, and I'm enjoying learning the power of several layers of socks here in the North East. 

Despite this year's non-stop movement, I'm grateful to still be part of an amazing team led by a great boss with colleagues I cherish and respect. Of course, none of that would be possible without the love and support from my family and close friends - who, on top of everything else in their lives, are helping me plan a wedding! And I just have to give a special shout out to my momma and sisters, who from thousands of miles away, never let me forget their love. 

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Thank you for your continued support throughout the years, and we look forward to sharing an exciting 2016 with you.

-Amanda Munoz, External Relations Director, Townhall Media


2015 has been an amazing year and there’s plenty to be thankful for. Most of all I’m thankful for my amazingly supportive family (especially my Mom) and friends. I’m also very thankful to be a part of the amazing Townhall team; coming in to work with them everyday is awesome. I’d be lost without my technology and social media, so I’m obviously very thankful for those. Finally, we should be thankful all the time that we have the freedoms we do, and remember the men and women who have given so much to protect America. This Thanksgiving take the time to give back to a Vet in need, it can really go a long way. Happy Thanksgiving to all! 

-Storm Paglia, Staff Assistant


This year, I am thankful to have the opportunity to begin work as an intern at Townhall. Working alongside these incredibly talented and welcoming people has been a true blessing in my life.

This Thanksgiving, I count myself lucky to be an American, and to have a loving family to return home to. I am thankful for my friends and my education. I applaud the police officers, who risk their safety every day to protect our communities. Oh, and I'm thankful for coffee. (It's finals season.) Happy Thanksgiving!

-Stephen Self, Editorial Intern

Abortions Are at Historic Lows in U.S.

According to newly-released statistics from the CDC, the number of abortions in 2012 were at "historic lows," with approximately 13 abortions per every 1,000 women. This is a continuation of past trends, and the abortion rate has been effectively halved since 1974, the first year after the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade that legalized the procedure throughout the country.

2012 is the most recent year statistics are available.

From U.S. News & World Report:

The number of reported abortions dropped 4 percent in 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported. About 699,000 abortions were reported to the federal government that year. That's about 31,000 fewer than the year before.

Experts offer various reasons for the recent drop: Better use of birth control and the lingering effects of the economic recession. Others argue there's been a cultural shift and more women opt to continue their pregnancy.

In 2012, the abortion rate fell 5 percent to 13 abortions per 1,000 women of child-bearing age. That is about half what it was in 1974, the year after the landmark Supreme Court decision that established a nationwide right to abortion.

Excellent news. Let's hope this trend continues.

Doctors Without Borders Hospital Bombed Because of 'Technical Difficulties'

A 3,000-page investigation into the blast that accidentally struck a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, killing at least 30 people, has determined the mistake was a result of "human error." U.S. General John Campbell made the announcement Wednesday: 

The top U.S. general in Afghanistan says the investigation into the mistaken airstrike of a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz was "a tragic but avoidable accident caused primarily by human error."

As more details appeared, it seems the aircraft that launched the strike was wrought with technical issues, causing the unit in question to missed their intended target:

An Afghan special operations unit had requested an airstrike on a government building being used by the Taliban. Because of technical difficulties aboard the aircraft, the AC-130 crew relied on visual descriptions provided by U.S. special operations troops serving with the Afghan forces.

As a result of the preventable tragedy, Campbell said some of the individuals involved have been suspended from their duties and referred to U.S. Special Operations Command to be disciplined accordingly. While there will be consequences for the deadly miscalculations, it means little for Doctors Without Borders, however, who declared the airstrike was a "war crime."

Last month, President Obama called Doctors Without Borders International President Joanne Liu to apologize for the tragedy. Yet, Liu insisted they were not warned about a potential strike and that it violated the terms of the Geneva Conventions.

"This cannot be tolerated," she said.

Some States Offering Free Park Admission for Black Friday

This year, instead of waking up at the crack of dawn to try to get a cheap TV on Black Friday, some states are encouraging their residents to take a walk outside and enjoy the outdoors. Washington, Oregon, California, Missouri, and Minnesota are offering free admission (or free camping, in Missouri's case) to state parks on Friday.

This is the latest of Black Friday "backlash" against the tradition of stores opening their doors early and having sales to kick off the Christmas season. Oregon's Parks and Recreation Department alluded to outdoor retailer REI's decision to stay closed on Black Friday as part of the reason why they are also encouraging Oregonians to get outside the day after Thanksgiving.

The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department is waiving day parking fees on Friday, Nov. 27, at all 26 state parks that charge one. Normally, the day-use parking fee at those parks is $5.

Without naming the retailer, the department cited REI's announcement to close on Black Friday as a key factor in the decision. The company is paying its employees to take the day off while urging shoppers to spend the day outside.

"Rain or shine, windy or not, we're thankful Oregon's outdoors are a constant source of joy," department director Lisa Sumption in a statement. "Take a break, get out, and enjoy some fresh air."

I'm kind of liking this alternative to Black Friday shopping that's being thrown around. As I'm not the biggest fan of crowds, waking up early, or the thought of fighting with someone over an iPad, I've never gone out on Black Friday and much prefer Cyber Monday and shopping online. I applaud businesses for doing what they feel is best for their employees in regards on when to open for business for Christmas shopping. I think states offering free admission to parks is admirable, and is a fun idea to get people outside.

Students Defile Thomas Jefferson's Statue at William & Mary

The famous statue of Thomas Jefferson on the campus of William and Mary (Jefferson’s alma mater) has been covered in sticky notes by student protestors.


“Racism is a choice”


“How dare you glorify him”

These are just a few of the hateful messages that covered the statue from top to bottom.

One William & Mary student wrote about his experience in the Flat Hat News:

Walking down old campus this past week, I saw the statue of Thomas Jefferson covered in sticky notes insulting him and his legacy. Jefferson was a great inventor, a true polymath, one of the better founding fathers, former president of this country and subjectively one of the greatest figures of the 18th century. People today might not even be able to post such messages on Jefferson’s statue as they did without the right to freedom of speech that anti-Federalists like Jefferson pushed for.

Thomas Jefferson wrote our Declaration of Independence which allowed us to create our Constitution which assured us our right to express our opinion. Being a life-long champion of Jefferson, I believe that Jefferson would find no offense in people expressing their opinion. What he would find offensive is that reasonable people did not challenge them in fear of public scrutiny. Jefferson once said that, “if there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.”

Let people express their opinion as they chose to do so. However, we must have people of reason combat it.

Obama After Briefing: Currently No Threats We Know of Against Homeland

After meeting with his national security team, President Obama spoke at the White House Wednesday, hoping to quell American fears about a domestic terror threat as we near the holidays.

“Watching the events in Paris made the threat feel closer to home,” Obama said.

“We are taking every possible step to keep our homeland safe.”

He again outlined the United States’ counterterrorism strategy. “We are going after ISIL where it hides,” he said.

The coalition of 65 countries against terror, the president claimed, has been an effective force in the fight against terror. The combined nations have conducted 8,000 airstrikes, "taking out key terror leaders and territories, choking off finances and supply lines." In addition, the U.S. has supporting the efforts of other countries, such as France’s airstrikes against ISIS.

“We will not let up, adjusting our tactics where necessary,” Obama insisted.

Yet, last week, after Paris faced unimaginable terror, Obama said his administration would not be changing its strategy against ISIS. He was criticized for continuing an effort that has failed to defeat the terror group, let alone “contain” it. The president then claimed the upcoming climate summit would be an effective “rebuke” against ISIS.

After his briefing, the president insisted Americans do not need to talk about the threats of terror around the dinner table.

“Right now, we know of any plot against homeland,” he said.

He reminded Americans that national security has been strengthened since 9/11 and Homeland Security is working around the clock to prevent attacks and terrorist fighters from entering our states and other nations.

In the event of a threat, the public will be informed, he insisted. For now, "Happy Thanksgiving." 

Video: Trump Spokeswoman Clarifies Position on 'Muslim Database'

As is the case with every Trump firestorm, the 'Muslim database' kerfuffle has already been supplanted by several new controversies.  Nevertheless, a core question from last week's flare-up has remained unresolved: Was Trump open to a national registry for all Muslims in America, or just the refugees?  The campaign's ambiguity on this point spilled over into this week's news cycle, when Trump again appeared to endorse the concept of a broader database on ABC's Sunday morning chat show.  The trouble is that whenever Trump has been asked about this issue, he's responded by (a) correctly noting that it was originally raised as a non-sequitur by a reporter, and (b) answering the question as if it only pertained to refugees and border security issues.  Last night on Charles Payne's Fox Business Network program, I had the opportunity to put a very specifically-crafted question to Trump national spokeswoman Katrina Pierson.  At last, it seems, we have some clarity (skip ahead to the 1:10 mark):

GB: Katrina, if I may, just the one thing that I'm still trying to pin down a little bit here is: Setting aside the fact that a reporter sort of brought this issue up out of nowhere, and setting aside the issues of the refugees and the border, has Donald Trump ruled out the registry for other Muslims in America -- including citizens -- or is that still on the table? Can you help me with that?

KP: Sure, I'd love to help you out, Guy. He's never said he supported for all Muslim Americans. He does support a registry of refugees. And the reason why this is so confusing is because NBC [News] actually put out the video that was cropped to fit their narrative. And a lot of conservatives, just like Rush Limbaugh said, fell for it.

GB: So he's against -- to be clear -- he's against a registry for all Muslims?

KP: For all Muslims? Yes. Only for the refugees.

GB: Okay.

I'd argue that the cause of the continued confusion over all of this goes well beyond NBC's allegedly misleading editing, but that's a separate point.  It took roughly six days, but we finally have a definitive answer on this question. And it's the only acceptable answer, by the way, which is why I wouldn't mind hearing it reiterated by the candidate himself.  Incidentally, Pierson's answer makes this new Nazi-imagery-invoking ad from a pro-Kasich superPAC seem even more demagogic:

Trump frequently says odious things, but going Full Godwin on him is wildly over the top. If these Kasich people think they'll hurt the Donald with that video, they're dreaming.  Also, in almost all cases, accusations of "dangerous rhetoric" smack of End of Discussion bullying, even if the target is a bully.

Al Qaeda Operative Who Nearly Bombed UK Shopping Mall, NYC Subway Sentenced to 40 Years in Prison

An Al Qaeda operative  was sentenced to 40 years in prison yesterday after nearly carrying out a series of 2009 terror attacks in the UK and New York City. He was sentenced on a number of offenses. 

According to the FBI, Abid Naseer was within days of executing an attack on a UK shopping mall and had planned attacks on the New York City subway station. In addition, Naseer planned to attack a newspaper office in Denmark for publishing cartoons depicting Mohammed. Naseer was directed and guided by senior Al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan.

“Abid Naseer was part of an Al Qaeda conspiracy that targeted Western countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, for terrorist attack,” Assistant Attorney General Carlin said about the sentencing. “His conviction and sentence reflect our dedication to identifying and holding accountable those who seek to target the United States and its allies. I want to thank the many agents, analysts and prosecutors who are responsible for this successful result."

“Dispatched by Al Qaeda to the U.K. in 2006, Abid Naseer exploited the educational visa system not to improve his own life, but to take away the lives of many others ‘in large numbers.’ Trained in weapons and explosives, he communicated in code to hide his evil intentions. Found guilty in a court of law, he has been spared the fate of death he wished upon others and will spend considerable time incarcerated in a country he and his co-conspirators failed to take down,” FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Diego Rodriguez said in a statement.

Naseer is 29 years old.

CBC Asks Bill Bennett — How Do We Make America Strong Again?

AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH BILL BENNETT – How can Americans — especially our youth — make this country strong again? The Conservative Book Club has an exclusive podcast author interview with nationally syndicated radio personality Bill Bennett. He talks about his new book, America the Strong: Conservative Ideas to Spark the Next Generation, and how conservatives need to invest in young people and teach them patriotism and conservative values. Using a Q&A format in his book, he explains what conservatism is and how it is different from liberalism.  

Listen to our exclusive podcast below!

Learn more about Bill Bennett, his new book, and read a FREE sample chapter HERE!   

Jeb Calls Obama’s Climate, Terror Remark The ‘Most Ludicrous’ Comment Ever

At a joint conference with French President Francois Hollande Tuesday, President Obama declared that their Global Climate Conference in Paris would be a sound “rebuke” to the radical extremists who terrorized Paris last weekend.

Jeb Bush appeared on Fox News Wednesday morning shaking his head over the president’s strange counterterror strategy.

“That is perhaps the most ludicrous comment I’ve ever heard,” Bush said.

Bush also criticized Obama’s claim that the current international coalition against ISIS is working.

“Sixty-five countries doing nothing is not a coalition,” he said.

Bush laid out his strategy for defeating terrorism. First, he insisted, we should start by asking military advisers what are the options to destroy ISIS? Then, he continued, we must build a coalition inside of Iraq. Third, get European countries to join the fight and, finally, create safe zones inside Syria for refugees and help build an effective force on the ground.

Everything else, he said, is “just talk.”

I’d hope many Americans would agree that terror can’t be defeated through recycling and driving a Prius. 

Obama had already earned the disdain of Americans for failing to convey the emotion necessary to defeat and destroy ISIS in the aftermath of the Paris carnage. Instead, he seemed to save his most burning anger for journalists and Republicans. 

Mike Huckabee at The Hospital For Surgery

Former Arkansas Governor and GOP Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee is at the hospital today for knee surgery after experiencing a loud pop during a recent walk through a South Carolina airport. He is expected to return to the campaign trail next week.

A Dozen Refugees in U.S. Connected to Terrorism Just This Year

The battle over Syrian refugees is raging on as the White House doubles down on their policy to bring 10,000 refugees from terror hot spots to U.S. soil over the coming months. But a new report from Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions details 12 alarming instances of refugees being connected to terrorism just this year. Criminal complaints, arrest warrants and indictments were provided. Here are just a few examples (bolding is mine): 

On January 29, 2015, in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, a federal warrant was unsealed for the arrest of Liban Haji Mohamed – a native of Somalia who sources indicate came to the United States as a refugee, adjusted to Lawful Permanent Resident status, and subsequently applied for and received citizenship – for allegedly providing material support to Harakat Shabaab Al-Mujahidin, also known as Al-Shabaab and Al-Qaeda. Mohamed is believed to have left the U.S. on July 5, 2012, with the intent to join Al-Shabaab in East Africa. Mohamed previously lived in the metro D.C. area and worked as a cab driver, and is believed to have snuck across the border to Mexico after being placed on the no-fly list. Carl Ghattas, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Washington, D.C. Field Office emphasized the importance of locating Mohamed, “because he has knowledge of the Washington, D.C. area’s infrastructure such as shopping areas, Metro, airports, and government buildings . . . [t]his makes him an asset to his terrorist associates who might plot attacks on U.S. soil.”

On February 5, 2015, in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas, Abdinassir Mohamud Ibrahim – a native of Somalia who came to the United States as a refugee in 2007 at the age of 22 and subsequently adjusted to Lawful Permanent Resident status – was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison for conspiring to provide material support to Al-Shabaab, a designated foreign terrorist organization, and for making a false statement in his immigration paperwork. Ibrahim knowingly lied in his application for citizenship, and previously lied on his request for refugee status, by falsely claiming that he was of a member of the minority Awer clan in Somalia and subject to persecution by the majority Hawiye clan. However, Ibrahim was actually a member of the Hawiye clan and not subject to persecution. In fact, according to the Complaint, “Ibrahim’s family was famous . . . [and] [t]hrough his clan lineage, Ibrahim was related to known Somali terrorists[.]” Ibrahim also admitted he had lied on his citizenship application by having previously lied on his refugee application by falsely claiming that he had not provided material support to a terrorist group, when he had in fact provided material support in the form of cash to an Al-Shabaab member.

On February 5, 2015, in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, Ramiz Zijad Hodzic – a native of Bosnia, and a purported Bosnian war hero who came to the United States as a refugee – was charged with conspiring to provide material support and resources to terrorists, with providing material support to terrorists, and conspiring to kill and maim persons in a foreign country. According to the indictment, among other things, Hodzic obtained money that he used to “purchase materials and supplies including: United States military uniforms, tactical combat boots, military surplus goods, tactical gear and clothing, firearms accessories, optical equipment and range finders, rifle scopes, equipment, and supplies . . .  intending that the materials and supplies would thereafter be transferred to, and used to support” Abdullah Ramo Pazara and ISIS.

On February 5, 2015, in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, Sedina Unkic Hodzic – the wife of Ramiz Zijad Hodzic, and a native of Bosnia who came to the United States as a refugee – was charged with conspiring to provide material support and resources to terrorists, and providing material support to terrorists. According to the indictment, Sedina, along with her husband, collected money from third parties and wired it to terrorists abroad. Also according to the indictment, Sedina shipped six boxes of U.S. military uniforms, combat boots, tactical clothing and gear, military surplus items, firearms accessories, rifle scopes, optical equipment, first aid supplies, and other equipment to terrorists abroad.

Again, these are just cases from this year. There are many more examples of refugees being tied to terrorism since 9/11.

Last week President Obama accused Republicans of being afraid of "widows and orphans" after raising concerns, along with Democrats, about the vetting process for new refugees.

"Apparently they are scared of widows and orphans coming into the United States of America," Obama said during an overseas trip to Turkey. "Now they are scared of three year old orphans. That doesn’t seem so tough to me."

'Progressive' Hillary Skips Forum With One of Nation's Largest Progressive Groups

At the first 2016 presidential Democratic debate, frontrunner Hillary Clinton declared she was a "progressive who likes to get things done." It's something liberals on the fence needed to hear, considering Clinton has had a hard time appealing to the base thanks to her hawkish past and Wall Street ties. Left-leaning voters may wonder why then, at a time when she needs to prove her liberal credentials, Clinton chose to skip a candidate forum hosted by one of the country's most prominent progressive groups, MoveOn.org.

Anna Galland, the executive director of the group's non-profit wing, warned that the decision could hurt Clinton's ability to motivate progressives.

"It’s a shame that Secretary Clinton declined to participate in the MoveOn member forum; she missed an opportunity to speak directly to and energize the progressive base she’ll need in her corner not just to win the nomination but also the general election, if she is the party's nominee," she said in a statement. 

Meanwhile, Clinton's two opponents, Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley, were happy to field some questions.

Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz praised the idea of a forum last month, saying it was an ideal opportunity for the candidates to engage with voters. Why, then, did the party's leading lady forgo the chance to defend her supposedly progressive record?

Perhaps she's not ready to provide an answer as to why she used the tragedy of September 11 to justify her Wall Street connections. 

Or, maybe she's just scared to get more questions like this.

It's obvious the former Secretary of State is more comfortable in a safer, DNC-sanctioned environment - and the committee is happy to oblige.

Watch: An Inside Look at Obama Negotiating with Republicans in Congress

Obamacare Architect: Okay Fine, Our Law Isn't Controlling Costs

You remember Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, don't you? He's the brother of Rahm, who played an instrumental role in crafting and promoting Obamacare -- and who occasionally lets the truth slip regarding its myriad broken promises. Here he is admitting what has become painfully obvious: The so-called 'Affordable' Care Act that he helped design, and that Democrats marketed to the public as a cost-reduction measure, is failing by its own standards.  "We need to focus on cost control," means "the law isn't controlling costs."  The doctor is correct on this point:

With the open enrollment deadline for Obamacare looming next month, one of the chief architects of the president's health law said Friday the plans offered on government-run exchanges need to be more affordable in order to boost participation rates. High-deductible plans are part of the problem, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel added..."Even though I am a liberal, I think we really have to focus on cost control. Affordability is absolutely critical across the board, because if we don't have affordable plans we are not going to get universal coverage. They are intimately linked," said Emanuel...He did acknowledge: "We've overplayed the high-deductible plans. People are feeling this is less and less insurance. And just more and more, 'I'm paying out of my pocket.'"

With rates rising substantially across most of the country, consumers are also being pummeled with climbing out-of-pocket costs. They're forking over a fortune before the coverage they're paying into each month even kicks in at all -- and when it finally does, many are discovering narrow networks and difficulty securing actual care.  It's telling that Obamacare godmother and cheerleader Hillary Clinton feels compelled to offer new healthcare affordability proposals.  Democrats can repeat the empty "it's working" slogan all day long; their presumptive nominee's actions tell the real story.  Last week, America's largest private insurer signaled that it is seriously considering pulling out of the Obamacare market, citing major losses that could prove unsustainable over time.  This is a big deal, and Philip Klein has been all over it:

UnitedHealth Group, the largest insurance company in the U.S., on Thursday slashed its earnings outlook, citing new problems related to Obamacare, and told investors it may exit the program's exchanges. "In recent weeks, growth expectations for individual exchange participation have tempered industrywide, co-operatives have failed, and market data has signaled higher risks and more difficulties while our own claims experience has deteriorated," Stephen J. Hemsley, chief executive officer of UnitedHealth Group, said in a press release. The release added that, "UnitedHealthcare has pulled back on its marketing efforts for individual exchange products in 2016. The company is evaluating the viability of the insurance exchange product segment and will determine during the first half of 2016 to what extent it can continue to serve the public exchange markets in 2017."

In that single compact quote, Hemsley makes several key points.  He notes that new enrollment projections have been slashed, that a slew of state-level Obamacare co-ops have gone belly up, and that the adverse selection problem arising from older, sicker risk pools is real.  Klein goes on:

In a conference call with investors, Hemsley offered a sober assessment of the exchanges' future viability. He said that claims data have been getting worse as time has gone on, and there's no evidence pointing toward improvement. Asked about whether the company could sustain losses past 2016, he was blunt: "No. We cannot sustain these losses. We can't really subsidize a marketplace that doesn't appear at the moment to be sustaining itself." The year 2017 is significant for insurers, because that's the year when several programs designed to mitigate risk for insurers through federal backstops go away. The hope was that those programs would act as training wheels for Obamacare in its first few years of implementation, but after that, the insurers were supposed to be able to thrive on their own. UnitedHealth's statement suggests otherwise. If UnitedHealth and other insurers decide to exit, remaining insurers will be forced to take on even more high-risk enrollees, prompting them to either raise rates further or exit themselves.

That's exactly how a market "death spiral" would begin.  As for the impending expiration of Obamacare's bailout-style loss mitigation provisions Klein addresses, those programs are already falling short of expectations.  Congressional Republicans deserve real credit on this front, as Jeffrey Anderson explains at the Weekly Standard, singling out Marco Rubio and Mike Lee for their special efforts: "One of the least-reported substantial policy victories in recent years was stopping Obamacare’s insurer bailout through last fall’s CRomnibus bill.  Now we can attach a price-tag to that victory:  $2.5 billion.  That’s how much taxpayers would have been funneling to President Obama’s insurance-company allies if the bailout hadn’t been thwarted, according to Obama administration officials.  Insurers were hoping for $2.87 billion but, thanks to the anti-bailout legislation, which required Obamacare’s risk-corridor program to operate in a revenue-neutral manner, rather than as a bailout, they will be getting only $362 million—the same amount that other insurers paid in," Anderson writes. "But this victory was worth more than just that, for when companies can’t rely on having large chunks of their losses covered by taxpayers, they have to price their products accordingly.  Thus, insurers have had to price their Obamacare-compliant policies more honestly, causing premiums to rise and enrollment to slow."  Rubio is pushing for a follow-up bill to kill off the bailout program completely.  I'll leave you with two public opinion data points.  Repeat after me -- it's working:

The Dangerous Game We Play in the Middle East

We are playing a dangerous game of “who’s who” in the Middle East and we are not winning.  

Today, Turkish forces (or whoever they claim to be), shot down a Russian fighter jet. We know very little about the Turkish F-16 that shot down the Russian jet, but we do know that it was over Turkish airspace. In this video, it is clear that the men shooting at the Russian pilot look more like renegades rather than regular army.

Another video released today shows young Arab men firing an American made BGM-71 TOW missile which destroyed a Russian helicopter. There are questions that need to be asked.  How did they obtain this weapon? Why are they attacking Russia?  And why are they chanting ‘Allah Akbar’?

It is only a matter of time before someone, who ever that may be, shoots down an American jet. We need to start preparing ourselves for this scenario as it is bound to happen at some point.

For the past 15 years, we have tried every tactic in the book: invasion, persuasion, arming rebel groups, and toppling regimes.

The luxury of ineffective action by coalition forces puts little doubt in the minds and spirits of ISIS fighters.

The chaos in the Middle East is going to continue. It is not going to stop today, tomorrow, or 15 more years from now unless we radically change tactics.

Osama Bin Laden had no shame in killing almost 3,00 innocent Americans back in 2001, however, Bin Laden’s ultimate scenario was to create the madness that exists today. He wanted a world where powerful countries turn on each other and doubt each other’s every move until massive conflicts irrupt. Keeping our world stuck in the most barbaric ages, preventing mankind from ascending to new heights, and demanding that the world as we know it become an Islamic Caliphate, are all goals that extremists want to accomplish.  

Defending 9/11 Claims, Trump Says He Has 'World's Greatest Memory'

One thing anyone following the 2016 election cycle knows about GOP frontrunner Donald Trump is that he has no problem speaking the truth. In other words, he’s just not politically correct, which has often caught him a lot of flak from those on both the left and right.

His recent comments about Muslims cheering when the Twin Towers went down on 9/11 is no different.

Speaking at a rally in Birmingham, Alabama on Saturday, Trump said, “And I watched in Jersey City, New Jersey, where thousands of people were cheering as the building was coming down.”

The Anti-Defamation League said Trump’s account was “factually challenged” and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said he had no recollection of that happening.

But Trump insisted he was right, defending his comments on an ABC interview with George Stephanopoulos Sunday, and again on Twitter, where he posted a WaPo article from Sept. 18, 2001 titled, “Northern New Jersey Draws Probers’ Eyes,” which read:

 “In Jersey City, within hours of two jetliners’ plowing into the World Trade Center, law enforcement authorities detained and questioned a number of people who were allegedly seen celebrating the attacks and holding tailgate-style parties on rooftops while they watched the devastation on the other side of the river.”

Trump then went so far as to tell an NBC News reporter that he has “the world’s greatest memory” and is demanding an apology from those who doubt his recollection of the attacks.

However, the article Trump pointed to as support of his claim only says “a number of people”—not thousands.

The author of the Post article told CNN that he doesn’t remember “anyone saying there were thousands, or even hundreds, of people celebrating.” 

Mark Up Another Win for the Second Amendment in Alabama

Jason Tulley was convicted in the Calhoun Circuit Court of Alabama for carrying a pistol on premises not his own in violation of Ordinance No. 0-514-10 in the City of Jacksonville.

On March 31, 2011, Tulley entered a credit union bank in Jacksonville, Alabama with a pistol unconcealed in a hip holster. James Clayton, a Jacksonville police officer, was working as an off-duty security guard at the credit union that day. Clayton approached Tulley and told him that he could not carry the pistol in the credit union. Tulley became argumentative and asserted that it was his constitutional right to carry his firearm. Clayton testified that Tulley was defiant but but did not raise his voice or become aggressive. Tulley complied with the officer and put his pistol into his vehicle.

Tulley was arrested a few days later and was ordered to pay a $50 fine and $200 in court costs. Tulley then appealed to the Calhoun County Circuit Court.

Following two motions to dismiss the case, Tulley entered into a bench trial where he was convicted and sentenced to serve 30 days in jail and pay a $200 fine.

Tulley then took his case to the Alabama Supreme Court where, in September, the court ruled that a state law that banned the open carry of a gun on someone else’s property is unconstitutional.

Tulley’s attorney said he believes that businesses still have options available to limit people bringing firearms onto their property, but open carry advocates should not fear criminal prosecution under 13AA-11-52 going forward.

Last week the City of Jacksonville requested the Alabama Supreme Court revise its ruling that declared unconstitutional a state law that bans the open carry of a gun on someone else’s property.

Marilyn Hudson, the prosecutor for the City of Jacksonville, stated that towns and counties of Alabama have a duty and responsibility to uphold the law.

The Supreme Court Justices rejected the city’s request for a rehearing on Friday.

What people in the court system fail to realize is that America was not built on penal codes such as 13AA-11-52 and Ordinance No. 0-514-10.  We were built on that the fact that, when in doubt, choose freedom.  The courts got this one right, in whatever legal jargon that they had to use, because of people like Mr. Tulley and his attorney who refused to back down and risked being thrown in jail to defend the Second Amendment.  

Alabama Supreme Court Gun Law Case

Obama Holds Joint Presser With Hollande: "Americans Will Not Be Terrorized"

Presidents Obama and Hollande expressed their solidarity during a joint press conference in the East Room of the White House Tuesday.  

Obama said he and Hollande were here to declare the United States and France stand united and are ready “to deliver justice to terrorists.” This barbaric terrorist group and its murderous ideology poses a serious threat to all of us. “It must be destroyed and we must do it together,” he insisted.

Obama acknowledged France as our oldest ally.

“Americans love France because we dedicate ourselves to the same ideals,” he said.

“We’ll never forget how the French people stood with us after 9/11,” he remarked. “We stand with you now.”

Hollande returned the grateful words.

“Obama was the first one to call me” after the Paris massacre, Hollande said.

“After 9/11, we all felt American,” Hollande added. “Two people emerged as one, sharing the same emotion.”

The world leaders addressed the specific military responses their nations are prepared to act on after the terror attack in Paris. Obama said 8,000 airstrikes have pushed ISIL back from territory in Iraq and Syria. Yet, “we must do even more.”

The president said he and Hollande supported the French strikes in Syria and will continue to step up coordination. The U.S., he explained, will share intelligence to France to help destroy terror networks. He also called on the European Union to finally implement an agreement that requires airlines to share passenger information to stop terror fighters from entering nations.

Additionally, Hollande said we must close the border between Turkey and Syria and prevent the entry of terrorists. France also plans to support the forces fighting terrorists on the ground.

As for Russia’s role in the fight against terror in Syria, Obama said Russia’s strikes against moderate regimes only “bolster” the Assad regime.

“We agree Russia could play a role if it were to shift focus to defeating ISIL,” he said.

Obama then addressed concerns that a similar attack is imminent in the United States.

“I want you to know we will do everything in our power to protect our nation,” he said.

Our counterterrorism, homeland security, he emphasized, have “prevented attacks and they have saved lives.” As for the Syrian refugee program, which more than half the country has soundly rejected, “no one goes through more screenings than refugees,” the president ensured.

Obama concluded by insisting Americans, along with the French, must “uphold the rights and freedoms that defines our two republics.”

“We will not succumb to fear, nor can we allow fear to divide us," he said. "Americans will not be terrorized.”

“We will win and groups like ISIL will lose. Vive la France and God bless the United States of America.”

Cruz Catching Up to Trump After Passionate Anti-Terror Rhetoric

A new Iowa poll puts Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) a stone's throw away from longtime presidential frontrunner Donald Trump. Here's the breakdown of the top four:

Mr. Cruz, the Republican Texas senator, was the choice of 23 percent of likely Republican caucusgoers in the new poll, from Quinnipiac University, following Mr. Trump at 25 percent and ahead of Mr. Carson at 18 percent. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida was in fourth with 13 percent. The margin of error was plus or minus four percentage points.

Cruz has more than doubled his support in Iowa since October, The New York Times explains, crediting his momentum with the passionate anti-terror rhetoric he has voiced since the carnage in Paris. Last week, after Obama criticized him and his Republican colleagues for stirring unnecessary "hysteria" over the coming influx of Syrian refugees, Cruz told the president to "insult him to his face."

The senator's bold comments have seem to have convinced Iowans he is the candidate most capable to handle foreign policy. A majority, 24 percent, said they would trust him with those decisions. 

Foreign policy and terrorism were deemed to be the most important issues in the 2016 election. 

Arizona State Senator Switches to Republican Party

A State Senator in Arizona has announced that he is switching parties.

Carlyle Begay announced yesterday that he is leaving the Democratic Party in favor of becoming a Republican. Begay said that the Republican party better reflects the values of self-determination and self-empowerment that he holds and wants to emphasize in his district. 

Begay is part of the Navajo tribe and represents Arizona’s 7th District and also represents the tribal communities that are consumed with rampant unemployment and poverty.

Begay was appointed to the Arizona State Senate in 2013 and was reelected in 2014.

This brief video shows Begay’s plans moving forward:

Scandal: US Analysts Allege Political Manipulation of ISIS Intel, Cover-Up

We've touched on these allegations before, but now they're getting more specific and serious. The Obama administration is engaged in a storm of blame and demagoguery as Americans begin to demand answers in the aftermath of this month's deadly terrorist attacks in Paris. The president has personally assailed Republican rhetoric as the strongest ISIS recruitment tool he can imagine, while finding new ways of downplaying the threat posed by the expanding terrorist organization.  The public isn't buying it.  And now a clearer picture is beginning to emerge as to why so many Americans were caught off-guard by the strength and reach of this expanding malignant force.  The prevailing 'official' opacity and diminished sense of urgency was no an accident, US intelligence officials tell Fox News and the Daily Beast:

Analysts at U.S. Central Command were pressured to ease off negative assessments about the Islamic State threat and were even told in an email to “cut it out,” Fox News has learned – as an investigation expands into whether intelligence reports were altered to present a more positive picture. Fox News is told by a source close to the CENTCOM analysts that the pressure on them included at least two emails saying they needed to “cut it out” and “toe the line.”  Separately, a former Pentagon official told Fox News there apparently was an attempt to destroy the communications. The Pentagon official said the email warnings were "not well received" by the analysts. Those emails, among others, are now in the possession of the Pentagon inspector general. The IG’s probe is expanding into whether intelligence assessments were changed to give a more positive picture of the anti-ISIS campaign. The former Pentagon official said there were “multiple assessments” from military intelligence and the CIA regarding the “rapid rise” of ISIS in Iraq and North Africa in the year leading up to the group’s territory grab in 2014. Similar intelligence was included in the President’s Daily Brief, or PDB – the intelligence community’s most authoritative product -- during the same time period. Yet the official, who was part of the White House discussions, said the administration kept "kicking the can down the road."

Very serious stuff indeed, especially within an administration filled with people who accused the Bush White House of "cooking the books" on WMD's in the lead-up to the Iraq war.  Here we have (a) intelligence analysts alleging effective stand-down orders after their rigorous assessments were deemed unhelpfully severe, (b) accusations that those enforcing this whitewash attempted to destroy evidence to that end, and (c) confirmation that some of these warnings made it to Obama's desk.  Remember, the president's team has insisted that Obama reads the PDB every single day; this was a central piece of the White House's election-year damage control messaging after it was revealed how often he skipped his daily briefings, including the morning after the Benghazi massacre.  The New York Times reported over the weekend that a nonpartisan probe into allegations of manipulated intelligence is growing in scope, with "more investigators" being assigned to the inquiry.  The Daily Beast has more details on the cover-up aspect of this story:

In July, a group of intelligence analysts at the U.S. military’s Central Command accused their bosses of distorting and selectively editing intelligence reports about the fight against ISIS in order to portray that campaign as more successful than it really was. As a result of those complaints, the Pentagon’s inspector general opened an investigation. Now, the allegations of misconduct have extended to a possible cover-up, with some analysts accusing the senior intelligence officials at Centcom, Maj. Gen. Steven Grove and his civilian deputy, Gregory Ryckman, of deleting emails and files from computer systems before the inspector general could examine them, three individuals familiar with the investigation told The Daily Beast...At the heart of the analysts’ allegations is what they describe as a persistent effort by Grove and his team to downplay or even change reports that that questioned how much progress a U.S.-led coalition is making in the Obama administration’s stated goal to degrade, destroy, and defeat ISIS. Draft reports that contained a more pessimistic view, or that questioned the efficacy of hitting certain targets, were sent back to the analysts for more extensive rewriting.

Allahpundit correctly points out that we don't yet know who, precisely, ordered the dangerous, politicized 'sanitization' of intelligence (cui bono?) -- but he notes that there are some breadcrumbs to be followed:

Two defense officials said that some felt the commander for intelligence at CENTCOM failed to keep political pressures from Washington from bearing on lower-level analysts at command headquarters in Tampa, Florida. That pressure, while described as subtle and not overt, is nevertheless clear, the analysts said: Assessments on ISIS should comport with “the leadership consensus,” that is, top policymakers’ view, that the U.S.-led campaign against the group is paying dividends.

I'd also (againsubmit this into evidence:

If the Obama administration deliberately ignored unpleasant developments in 2012 -- as alleged by a high-ranking intelligence official in that Times piece -- in order to protect a political storyline, why wouldn't they rig the game later in the process too? I'll leave you with this juxtaposition of two headlines that emerged late yesterday. We're in the very best of hands:

Putin Warns Turkey It Will Face 'Serious Consequences' After Shooting Down Russian Plane

Turkey is facing the wrath of Russian President Vladimir Putin after shooting down a Russian fighter near the Syrian border Tuesday morning.

Turkish officials claim it only took the action after issuing several warnings to the Russian warplane reportedly violating Turkish airspace.

Russia is of a different mind.

But Russia's state-run Sputnik news agency said that, "According to preliminary reports, the plane was gunned down from the ground."

Russian officials denied that the plane had violated Turkish airspace. Both pilots ejected from the plane, but their fate is unknown, Sputnik reported.

Putin issued a warning in response to the incident. The downing, he said, is a "stab in the back that will have serious consequences for Russia's relationship with Turkey."

The pilots ejected from the plane before it crashed, but still no word on whether they survived, CNN reports.

NATO is expected to hold an emergency meeting in Brussels at 11 a.m. ET. 

John Kerry Meets With Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem as Stabbing Attacks on Israelis Continue

Secretary of State John Kerry has arrived in Jerusalem and is meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today as terrorism stabbing attacks continue to roil the Jewish State.

"Clearly, no people anywhere should live with daily violence, with attacks in the streets, with knives or scissors or cars. And it is very clear to us that the terrorism – these acts of terrorism which have been taking place – have deserved the condemnation that they are receiving. And today, I expressed my complete condemnation for any act of terror that takes innocent lives and disrupts the day-to-day life of a nation. Israel has every right in the world to defend itself and it has an obligation to defend itself, and it will and it is," Kerry said to reporters prior to a closed door meeting with Netanyahu. "Our thoughts and prayers are with innocent people who have been hurt in this process. I know that yesterday, a soldier was killed in the Mahane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family, and those who were wounded, their families. Regrettably, several Americans have also been killed in the course of these past weeks. And just yesterday, I talked to the family of Ezra Schwartz from Massachusetts, a young man who came here out of high school ready to go to college, excited about his future. And yesterday, his family was sitting at Shiva and I talked to them and heard their feelings, the feelings of any parent who lost their child."

"So I’m here today to talk with the prime minister about the ways that we can work together – all of us in the international community – to push back against terrorism, to push back against senseless violence, and to find a way forward to restore calm and to begin to provide the opportunities that most reasonable people in every part of the world are seeking for themselves and for their families. We have much to talk about," Kerry continued, adding the issue of ISIS will also be discussed during their meeting.

Kerry will also meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during his visit to the region.

According to The Media Line, Kerry arrived with an uncharacteristically pessimistic attitude. 

US Secretary of State John Kerry has been called many things during his missions to make peace between Israelis and Palestinians, but rarely “pessimistic.” So it came as an anomaly to see the SecState warn before his latest arrival to the region that “people aren’t in the mood for concessions,” presaging little expected success in lowering the level violence and the tension that has gripped Israeli and Palestinian societies. During the past two months, 23 Israelis were killed in seemingly random acts of terror carried out by Palestinians as young as 13 years of age. Most of the assailants were killed at the scene by police, soldiers or armed bystanders. Victims range in age from 13 to 80, underscoring to the public the reality that anyone and everyone is a target. Prior to his arrival in Israel on Tuesday, Kerry told reporters his reason for the trip was “to see if we can get some concrete steps in place – begin to build them, maybe – that could calm things down a little bit so people aren’t living in absolute, daily terror that they might be stabbed or driven into or shot trying to walk around their city.”

Earlier this month, the White House made the concession that a peace deal between the Israeli's and Palestinians is unlikely to happen during President Obama's final year in the Oval Office.

State Department Issues Travel Warning to All Americans Overseas

Last week the State Department issued a travel warning to Americans traveling in Brussels after the city went into lock down over an imminent terrorism threat from ISIS. Late last night, that warning was expanded to all international travel for U.S. citizens. 

The State Department alerts U.S. citizens to possible risks of travel due to increased terrorist threats. Current information suggests that ISIL (aka Da’esh), al-Qa’ida, Boko Haram, and other terrorist groups continue to plan terrorist attacks in multiple regions. These attacks may employ a wide variety of tactics, using conventional and non-conventional weapons and targeting both official and private interests. This Travel Alert expires on February 24, 2016.

Authorities believe the likelihood of terror attacks will continue as members of ISIL/Da’esh return from Syria and Iraq. Additionally, there is a continuing threat from unaffiliated persons planning attacks inspired by major terrorist organizations but conducted on an individual basis. Extremists have targeted large sporting events, theatres, open markets, and aviation services. In the past year, there have been multiple attacks in France, Nigeria, Denmark, Turkey, and Mali. ISIL/Da’esh has claimed responsibility for the bombing of a Russian airliner in Egypt.

U.S. citizens should exercise vigilance when in public places or using transportation. Be aware of immediate surroundings and avoid large crowds or crowded places. Exercise particular caution during the holiday season and at holiday festivals or events. U.S. citizens should monitor media and local information sources and factor updated information into personal travel plans and activities. Persons with specific safety concerns should contact local law enforcement authorities who are responsible for the safety and security of all visitors to their host country. U.S. citizens should:

-Follow the instructions of local authorities. Monitor media and local information sources and factor updated information into personal travel plans and activities.
-Be prepared for additional security screening and unexpected disruptions.
-Stay in touch with your family members and ensure they know how to reach you in the event of an emergency.
-Register in our Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).

Essentially, this warning doesn't do much to clarify any kind of situation. Americans have been told for months to be vigilant and aware of their surroundings. Interesting how warnings like this never include tips about how to defend yourself should something actually happen.

Meanwhile, U.S. officials are stressing this warning does not apply inside the U.S.