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Daily Digest

Feb. 19, 2016

THE FOUNDATION

“The whole art of government consists in the art of being honest. Only aim to do your duty, and mankind will give you credit where you fail.” —Thomas Jefferson, 1775

TOP RIGHT HOOKS

Clinton: ‘I Don’t Believe I Ever Have’ Lied to Voters

In an interview with CBS, Hillary Clinton tried to channel the integrity of Jimmy Carter when she said she doesn’t remember ever misleading the American public. “I … see in the eyes of the people I’m meeting with, ‘Okay, tell me something I can believe. Don’t over-promise. Tell me what I can believe you will do for me and my family.’ And that’s what I’ve tried to do.” When CBS pointed out that on the campaign trail Carter promised voters that he would not lie to them, Clinton responded, “Well, I have to tell you I have tried in every way I know how, literally from my years as a young lawyer all the way through my time as secretary of state, to level with the American people.”

The problem for Clinton is that over two-thirds of voters immediately think her statement is horse pucky. A recent Associated press/GfK poll found that Sanders is increasingly gaining traction as a viable candidate in the eyes of Democrat voters. Why? Because Democrat voters see him as more honest than Clinton. Across the spectrum of American voters, only 30% regard Clinton as honest. This reputation has always followed Clinton, too, World Magazine founder Joel Belz noted. Twenty years ago, Belz wrote a column about Clinton’s “growing disregard for telling the truth.” Today, that reputation is reflected in popular polls, and in the mainstream press. While Clinton runs on her experience in politics, her track record of lying might cost her the Democrat primary.

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Donald vs. Trump, Christian Edition

Speaking with reporters Thursday, Pope Francis criticized Donald Trump’s rhetoric and even challenged his faith. “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian,” Francis said, adding he wasn’t sure if Trump had actually expressed that kind of rhetoric.

On the policy question, the pope is just plain wrong. If our nation doesn’t enforce its borders, it will cease to be a nation — regardless of what a Marxist pope may say. He invoked the “Golden Rule,” but while that’s great for interpersonal relationships, it’s a deadly immigration policy.

As for the faith question, Trump might have simply thanked the pontiff for helping him win votes in Evangelical South Carolina. Instead, Trump issued a statement firing back at the pope. “For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful,” Trump said. “I am proud to be a Christian and as President I will not allow Christianity to be consistently attacked and weakened, unlike what is happening now, with our current President.”

Never mind the spectacle of the Catholic leader challenging a (self-proclaimed) Presbyterian. There have been more than a few disagreements about that over the years…

But in all fairness, the thin-skinned wanna-be Constantine-in-chief has a questionable track record with Christianity. You will know him by his fruits. The man wrote a book on how to screw people in business. And while he says it’s the second-best book in the world after the Bible (nice humility there), when Trump was asked his favorite passage from the Bible, he couldn’t name one. Most importantly, Trump boasts that he never asks forgiveness from his Creator, revealing that he either misunderstands Christianity entirely or rejects its tenets.

What’s perhaps most fascinating, though, is that Trump is so narcissistic that he believes whatever he says today trumps what he was actually recorded as saying previously. Less than a week ago, he wondered, “How can Ted Cruz be an evangelical Christian when he lies so much and is so dishonest?” He has also questioned Ben Carson’s faith. Could it be that Trump’s true religion is uniquely Trump-based?

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Oppose an Obama SCOTUS Nominee? You’re Racist

Published in The New York Times is an intriguing new piece, “Blacks See Bias in Delay on a Scalia Successor.” The article, as the title implies, promotes the view arrogated by Democrats — and blacks in particular — that Republicans are chauvinist for refusing Barack Obama another Supreme Court appointee.

Among those quoted in the Times is a black resident from South Carolina who said, “They’ve been fighting that man since he’s been there. The color of his skin, that’s all, the color of his skin.” Another stated, “Let’s talk like it is, it’s because of his skin color.” Similarly, adds yet another, “I guess many of them are using this in the strictest construction that Barack Obama’s serving three-fifths of a term or he’s three-fifths of a human being, so he doesn’t get to make this choice.” And North Carolina Rep. G. K. Butterfield asserted, “It’s more than a political motive — it has a smell of racism. … [I]f this was any other president who was not African-American, it would not have been handled this way.”

The Times agrees, sympathetically writing: “After years of watching political opponents question the president’s birthplace and his faith, and hearing a member of Congress shout ‘You lie!’ at him from the House floor [he did lie, of course], some African-Americans saw the move by Senate Republicans as another attempt to deny the legitimacy of the country’s first black president. And they call it increasingly infuriating after Mr. Obama has spent seven years in the White House and won two resounding election victories. … [A] growing chorus of black voices is complaining that such a refusal to even consider a Supreme Court nominee would never occur with a white president.”

The only explanation we can come up with is that their memory is borked. Note at the introduction the phrase “another Supreme Court nominee.” While Republicans fight against faux accusations of racism, both Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan were nominated by Obama and confirmed by the Senate. A Scalia successor would be Obama’s third pick to the nation’s highest court. Moreover, their confirmation votes (68-31 and 63-37, respectively) were higher than that of black Justice Clarence Thomas, who barely squeezed through after being nominated by George H.W. Bush in 1991. He took the bench after a 52-48 vote. Republicans could have played the race card, but the reality is that Thomas’ hurdle had to do with the fact that he, like Scalia, is a conservative stalwart. Democrats have sold their snake oil quite successfully when the only explanation all these folks can think of for opposing a president’s SCOTUS nominees is that he’s (half) black.

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FEATURED RIGHT ANALYSIS

Counterterrorism Logjam: Apple vs. FBI

From the National Security Desk

“They that can give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” —Benjamin Franklin

The attempt to find balance between Liberty and security is the primary challenge facing our efforts to fight terrorism in modern America. That debate is now playing out between the FBI and Apple over the iPhone that belonged to San Bernardino terrorist Syed Farook.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym gave tech giant Apple until Feb. 26 to decide whether to help unlock Farook’s iPhone (bypass the 10-attempt limit on the passcode) so that investigators can look for evidence of connections with other terrorists. “Despite … a warrant authorizing the search,” said prosecutors, “the government has been unable to complete the search because it cannot access the iPhone’s encrypted content. Apple has the exclusive technical means which would assist the government in completing its search, but has declined to provide that assistance voluntarily.”

When a warrant is served, a locked door shouldn’t stand in the way. The national security arguments for actually being able to serve this of all warrants are obvious. No one wants terrorists to succeed in killing innocents, and if the information contained on the phone could thwart future attacks, lives could be saved. And Apple notes it has already “worked hard to support the government’s efforts to solve this crime.” Apple provided all of Farook’s data in its possession and had its own engineers advise the FBI.

But Apple has refused to create a way to unlock this phone. Why? It has, on 70 prior occasions since 2008, helped investigators access other iPhones. Why, as Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) put it, has “Apple chose[n] to protect a dead ISIS terrorist’s privacy over the security of the American people”?

In a public letter, the company explained why Cotton’s is a false choice — because this locked door is different:

[T]he U.S. government has asked us for something we simply do not have, and something we consider too dangerous to create. They have asked us to build a backdoor to the iPhone.

Specifically, the FBI wants us to make a new version of the iPhone operating system, circumventing several important security features, and install it on an iPhone recovered during the investigation. In the wrong hands, this software — which does not exist today — would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession.

The FBI may use different words to describe this tool, but make no mistake: Building a version of iOS that bypasses security in this way would undeniably create a backdoor. And while the government may argue that its use would be limited to this case, there is no way to guarantee such control.

The letter goes on to explain the technical details. Here’s the gist of it: One of the major security initiatives of iOS 8 and iOS 9 (and several other recent operating systems like Windows 10) is to ensure that an OS update can’t be forcibly installed that would allow the system to be compromised. Despite its claims, the FBI isn’t just asking Apple to do this one thing for this one phone this one time. It is effectively asking Apple to undo some of its most important security efforts over the last several years. Those 70 phones Apple already unlocked were previous generation technology, and thus a different matter.

According to Apple, “Once created, the technique could be used over and over again, on any number of devices.” Building a “backdoor” to one iPhone builds one for all iPhones. The warrant wouldn’t just provide agents the key to one door, but a master key to all of them.

Apple argues, “We can find no precedent for an American company being forced to expose its customers to a greater risk of attack.”

The company has largely staked its reputation in recent years on this very security. If it were to break its security promises, the blow to the company would be enormous. It’s not for nothing that the company pleaded, “This reputational harm could have a longer term economic impact beyond the mere cost of performing the single extraction at issue.” Would you buy a safe from a company that could easily crack it open?

Moreover, the U.S. is not the only large consumer of Apple’s products. So if Apple creates a backdoor for the U.S., what’s to stop China or Russia from demanding the same thing to use against political opponents, underground churches, etc.?

Can you say Pandora’s Box?

The FBI already has loads of information on Farook and his wife. Farook used cloud backups until about six weeks before the attack, and Apple has already turned over that data. Prior to the attack, the warning signs were already there — via unencrypted information on Facebook, for example. With proper vetting, the couple could have been kept out of the country in the first place.

But by the FBI’s own admission, this is just the kind of case they’ve been looking for to argue for a backdoor to encrypted devices, which they will then use to set precedent — not just for solving terrorism cases, either. And what better case than San Bernardino? Two Islamist dogs murdered 14 Americans, and the FBI has painted Apple as unwilling to help complete the investigation. Some will indeed look askance at Apple as a result, whether the company prevails or not.

Perhaps more important than the technology is the precedent. “The law operates on precedent, so the fundamental question here isn’t whether the FBI gets access to this particular phone,” said Julian Sanchez, a surveillance law expert at the Cato Institute. “It’s whether [the All Writs Act] from 1789 can be used to effectively conscript technology companies into producing hacking tools and spyware for the government.”

Fighting terrorism is a notch above other crimes in importance, but along with the NSA’s surveillance program and other intrusive counterterrorism measures, is creating this major security vulnerability worth it?

Finally, the underreported fact is that Farook’s iPhone 5c belonged to San Bernardino County, for which he worked, not to Farook. The county doesn’t object to unlocking the phone; Apple does. There is almost surely a “cover-your-rear” angle for the county, however, and that’s even less reported than the phone’s ownership. iOS has “enterprise” functionality, and the county could have set up Farook’s phone in such a way as to allow clearing the passcode lock — which again is the specific barrier for the FBI. But bureaucratic ineptitude being what it is, the county didn’t set it up that way. In other words, if the county had set up Farook’s phone correctly in the first place, we wouldn’t even be having this debate.

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MORE ORIGINAL PERSPECTIVE

BEST OF RIGHT OPINION

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TOP HEADLINES

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OPINION IN BRIEF

Charles Krauthammer: “Appointing a Supreme Court justice is a two-key operation. The president proposes, the Senate disposes. There is no reason McConnell cannot hold the line. And he must. The stakes here — a radical generation-long reversal of direction of the Supreme Court — are the highest this Senate will ever face. If McConnell succeeds, he will have resoundingly answered the ‘what did we get for 2014?’ question. Imagine if the Senate were now in Democratic hands. What we got in 2014 was the power to hold on to Scalia’s seat and to the court’s conservative majority. But only for now. Blocking an Obama nominee buys just a year. The final outcome depends on November 2016. If the GOP nominates an unelectable or unconservative candidate, a McConnell victory will be nothing more than a stay of execution. In 2012, Scalia averred that he would not retire until there was a more ideologically congenial president in the White House. ‘I would not like to be replaced,’ he explained, ‘by someone who immediately sets about undoing everything that I’ve tried to do for 25 years.’ Scalia never got to choose the timing of his leaving office. Those who value the legacy of those now-30 years will determine whether his last wish will be vindicated. Let McConnell do his thing. Then in November it’s for us to win one for Nino.”

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SHORT CUTS

Insight: “I am certain that nothing has done so much to destroy the juridical safeguards of individual freedom as the striving after this mirage of social justice.” —Friedrich August von Hayek (1899-1992)

Belly laugh of the week: “I consider myself a strong feminist. In fact, Gloria Steinem, everyone knows she is one of the leading feminists in America, made me an honorary woman many years ago. I don’t know what that meant, but I accepted it when she came to campaign for me.” —Bernie Sanders, getting in touch with his feminine side

From today’s “Flip-Flop File”: “Yeah, I guess [I’m for invading Iraq]. You know, I wish the first time it was done correctly.” —Donald Trump in 2002 (He now claims he was always opposed to the war.)

Good question: “Has any political party ever had a candidate who is such a wrecking ball, and who isn’t a fringe candidate, but a dominant one?” —Rich Lowry

Village Idiots: “There’s so much rancor in politics and partisanship that we allow ourselves to get drawn into different corners to the extent that some people actually want to use the funeral of a Supreme Court Justice as some sort of political cudgel.” —Obama spokesman Josh Earnest

Upright: “[T]his is the same government which had no problem with the IRS auditing Tea Party groups and their donors, and tried to prosecute a reporter in a leak investigation. It’s also the same government which had the DHS focus on ‘right-wing sovereign citizens,’ considers terrorism ‘damage to Government property’ (without giving a specific definition of what ‘damage’ means), and doesn’t care about actual facts when it comes to putting people on terrorist watch lists. It seems odd to me that those complaining about the IRS and tyranny of the current administration are perfectly fine with the fact the FBI is trying to get a backdoor created to get into ‘just one phone.’” —Taylor Millard

Late-night humor: “This email problem continues to dog Hillary, but she says it’s just an honest mistake. You ever notice the only time people in Washington are honest is when they make a mistake? Why is that? But, Hillary says she has been tested. Well I hope so, you never know what Bill might bring home.” —Jay Leno

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Managing Editor Nate Jackson

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