Four Reasons the Bison Should be the National Mammal

As a rule, I despise legislation that declares “such-and-such” to be the national or state “thing.” At the state level the gestures are frequently meaningless, self-congratulatory measures that allow pols to run home and tout their fidelity to local lore. But legislation passed by Congress last week that names the bison as the national mammal is not frivolous, and President Barack Obama should sign it.

Here are four reasons the bison should be the national mammal.

1) It is robustly American

The North American Bison – or buffalo, the terms are interchangeable – is a powerful, enduring animal. The vast herds of up to 30 million bison that once roamed the North American continent thrived in the brutal climate of the Great Plains, the wooded timberland of the Midwest and the foothills of the Alleghenies, enduring fiery summers and frigid winters year after year. As Indians and pioneers moved across the nation pushing ever Westward, the herds sustained life providing a ready source of meat and hides that could be fashioned into clothing and shelters.

Theodore Roosevelt, in his multi-volume epic The Winning of The West, repeatedly speaks of the bison’s value to early settlers as they forged a nation from the raw and hostile wilderness that confronted them.

2) It is an icon of freedom

In art and life the bison represents the American West, and the rugged self-reliance and personal courage of those who ventured into the untamed frontier. Although hunted to near extinction (more on that in a minute) the bison’s very image speaks of the heroic struggle of all sides to weather hardship and wield rifle and plow to make a better life.

3) It is exceptionally tasty

Bison burgers are for real Americans. When given a choice between beef or bison, Americans choose bison. Or they should. More distinct and flavorful than beef, bison makes you feel like an American pioneer, someone ready to brave the elements. While tasty, beef is available to all and is a safe choice that nearly everyone has experienced. Bison allows the consumer to display a real panache and self-confidence in meat choices.

4) It is a free-market success story

The Daily Signal and the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) have a couple of good pieces out talking about the resurgence of the bison. Thanks to overhunting and wasteful stewardship, the bison population in the U.S. once dwindled to around 300 head. Today, there are half a million head of bison in the U.S. with the vast majority of them being in private herds. A prime driver in the bison comeback has been the consumption of bison meat.

Finally, as a pro-tip, if you want a really, really good bison burger head out to Custer State Park in South Dakota and visit the Blue Bell Lodge’s dining room. For grilling a bison burger at home, aim for rare to medium rare for best flavor and serve on a pretzel roll. You are welcome.

Trump Win Would Destroy Conservative Gains in GOP

If Donald J. Trump becomes the Republican nominee for president the two biggest losers will be the nation – which will not see a real, substantive and issue-driven debate in the general election – and the conservative movement. Yes, the Republican Party will suffer a deep and perhaps irreparable rift, but political parties are a mechanical part of the process, they are not an end in and of themselves. What matters more than political parties are the people who run for and hold office, and the philosophy they embrace and the governing record they amass.

There is no question that some Trump supporters are conservative. They describe themselves as conservative, and some even self-identify as “very conservative” when asked by pollsters about their political beliefs. But to be a conservative who supports Trump, you must suspend your beliefs and your principles to back a man who, even now, does not support conservatism as a political philosophy.

One explanation for Trump’s relative popularity among a minority of conservatives (and Republicans for that matter) is that conservatives are upset with the GOP over a real and perceived failure to stand up to President Barack Obama. This frustration manifests itself in a “tear the whole thing down” mentality that supports Trump not because of what he believes or says but because he represents a finger poke in the eye of the Republican Party.

I am all for holding the Republican Party accountable. It must be done for there are numerous weak spines and principle-free individuals who make their home in the GOP merely to secure position, power or prestige. Principles matter nothing to them outside of the principle of self-promotion. And while the GOP is not the conservative movement and vice versa, voting for a liberal candidate only because he has a loud mouth just to “stick it” to the Republican Party is a very foolish strategy.

It is one thing to champion conservative candidates who are running to change the status quo, it is another matter entirely to suspend your conservative principles just to “send a message,” particularly at a time when the Republican Party is slowly being tugged in the direction of conservative principles.

Look at the make up of the United States Senate today (disclosure: I support Sen. Ted Cruz for president and I like him as a senator). That body, which used to be home to Republicans like Trent Lott, Arlen Specter, Richard Luger, Jim Jeffords and others is now home to Mike Lee, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz (for now), Ben Sasse, Tom Cotton, and Marco Rubio. Over in the House of Representatives, conservative members pushed Speaker John Boehner out and replaced him with Speaker Paul Ryan, who is certainly far more conservative than Boehner.

Playing hardball in a GOP primary works if the stakes are between a genuine conservative and a defender of the Washington D.C. status quo. Donald Trump may have never held elected office, but he’s no outsider and he’s hardly a champion of conservative values.

Conservatives should recognize that thanks to hard work and strong contrasts, principled men and women are gaining ground in the Republican Party. Is the GOP perfect? Hardly. Do more primary fights need to be waged? Absolutely. But nominating Donald Trump would be a blow not just for the Republican Party, but far more importantly it would undermine the work of rock solid conservatives who have begun to make real inroads.

You can’t change the status quo by voting for someone who unapologetically boasts about all of his years spent advocating for the status quo.

Donald Trump’s Good People Are The Best (Not)

Donald J. Trump likes to brag about knowing good people, who are the best, and whom he will hire to help solve the nation’s problems if he is elected president. When asked about policy specifics, the ever-vague Trump eventually resorts to his “good people” line instead of talking details and substance. Since Donald Trump wants the American public – and the media – to trust his judgment in people, and since Trump (rightfully, if evasively) equates policy with personnel, it is worth looking at who Trump has surrounded himself with on the campaign trail.

Of all the people Trump consults on policy and political matters, the one who stands above the rest is Donald Trump. In March, Trump told MSNBC that he is his own number one foreign policy adviser and that he frequently speaks with himself on such matters. “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things,” Trump confidently asserted before confiding that “my primary consultant is myself and I have a good instinct for this stuff.”

On the campaign trail in Wisconsin, Trump told young voters “You’ll find that when you become very successful, the people that you will like best are the people that are less successful than you.” Sounds like somebody doesn’t really like surrounding himself with successful, smart people are good and are the best. “Always be around unsuccessful people because everybody will respect you,” Trump suggested as a recipe for greatness.

Perhaps his candid moment explaining his human resources strategy explains why Trump has surrounded himself with a truly unbelievable cast of characters including Corey Lewandowski. Trump’s campaign manager is at best a bully, and while he won’t face any legal headaches for a physical dustup with a female reporter, Lewandowski’s history of volatility towards co-workers and professional associates was apparently legendary prior to his job as the conductor of the Trump campaign.

Katrina Pearson is Trump’s campaign spokesperson, and back in January Leon Wolf at RedState dug up a gem of an e-mail Pearson once sent to Erick Erickson (she misspelled his name) fuming about an editorial written by Gov. Rick Perry. The incident long pre-dated her time on the Trump campaign, but raises a few questions about her competence. More recently, Pearson demonstrated her historical illiteracy by doubling down on Trump campaign rhetoric comparing the Cruz campaign to the Gestapo, the Nazi secret police responsible for numerous atrocities, killings, and human rights abuses prior to and during World War II.

Roger Stone, a “master of political dirty tricks” according to Politico, was fired from the Trump campaign in August 2015 despite his long and close relationship with the candidate. But his formal departure hasn’t meant that Stone has stopped working for his buddy. His latest “strategy” to help Trump at the Republican National Convention in Ohio this summer is to threaten the release of hotel addresses for each delegate who may dare to oppose Trump. A 2008 profile of Stone in The New Yorker captures Stone’s bottom feeding tactics and sleazy lifestyle quite well.

The latest addition to the Trump team is Rick Wiley, a Republican operative who is now best known for wrecking Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s presidential hopes this cycle. Under Wiley’s leadership, Walker’s cash-flush campaign managed to burn through money so quickly that the two-term governor dropped out of the race roughly two months after formally announcing his candidacy. Wiley dismissed his extravagant ways saying, “We didn’t have a spending problem. We had a revenue problem.” Shortly after the Walker campaign ended, Wiley – in a shameless act of self-preservation – gushed to Politico that his job had been hard because the candidate was someone who needed a lot of help to get ready for the national stage. The bottom line in Rick Wiley’s mind: He was the victim of an unprepared candidate.

Trump is absolutely correct when he draws a correlation between the people an executive hires and the quality of work an organization does. Looking at his track record just over the course of this campaign, the vague “good ideas” that are going to magically emanate from the great folks the Donald hires are a mirage and a fantasy.

Russ Feingold’s War on the F/A-18 Super Hornet

As darkness crept across Afghanistan on a late fall day in 2011, an F/A-18 Super Hornet flown by a U.S. Navy pilot released a single precision guided munition that killed a Taliban leader plotting to carry out attacks against U.S. ground forces. In the previous decade, F/A-18s flown by Navy and Marine aviators flew thousands of missions executing air strike after air strike in support of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

When President Barack Obama insisted on reducing the number of U.S. ground troops in the country, it was aircraft like the Super Hornet that served as a force multiplier allowing the U.S. to continue to keep insurgents at bay while protecting grunts on the ground.

Fast forward to August of 2014, and a pair of F/A-18s flying from the deck of the USS George H.W. Bush became the first U.S. warplanes to attack ISIS. Since 2001, the F/A-18 has seen service in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, and served as an important tool for both Republican and Democratic Presidents. More critically, the F/A-18’s ability to fulfill both air superiority and ground attack roles has meant that it could provide vital protection for U.S. troops waging war on the ground.

It’s not an understatement to say that the F/A-18 has saved lives.

But none of this would have been possible if Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) had gotten his way. Twice, in two successive sessions of Congress, the ultra-leftist Democrat introduced legislation to kill the F/A-18 Super Hornet.

In 1997, Feingold introduced S.520 which demanded that the Secretary of Defense immediately halt the procurement program for the F/A-18 E and F variants, which were intended to replace outdated F-14 Tomcats which were more expensive to fly and were relics of the Cold War.

“The Secretary of Defense shall terminate the F/A-18E/F aircraft program,” the legislation declared. Two years later, in 1999, Feingold introduced the exact same language in S.129.

Additionally, Feingold twice introduced amendments on the floor of the Senate to limit how many F/A-18 Super Hornets the military could buy. Large, bipartisan majorities rejected the amendments each time.

The Super Hornet is a modernized and larger version of its smaller predecessor, the F/A-18 Hornet. In the early 1990s the Navy, facing a shrinking post-Cold War budget, wanted to combine the functions of a fighter (the F-14) with an attack aircraft (A-6) and significantly upgrade the resulting plane to meet 21st Century threats.

To make the savings possible, the Navy – along with its subordinate force the Marine Corps – needed to fund the development of, and ultimately buy, the F/A-18 Super Hornet. Within the decade the military was taking delivering of the new warplane and barely into the 21st Century it would become a workhorse in the skies above the Middle East.

Why Feingold opposed the purchase of a cost-saving aircraft is unclear. According to Boeing, the current manufacturer of the Super Hornet, the plane “is the most cost-effective aircraft in the U.S. tactical aviation fleet, costing less per flight hour than any other tactical aircraft in U.S. forces inventory.” Further, upgrades to the aircraft mean it is projected to be in service until 2040, making it a relative bargain in the ever expensive world of warplane development.

Feingold’s subsequent opposition to the war in Iraq hardly offers any justification for his ardent opposition to an airplane the Clinton administration wanted for its cost savings and multi-role capabilities.

As the long-time Democratic Senator runs to regain his old seat from Wisconsin this year, national security will be – and has been – a topic of debate. Explaining to Wisconsin voters why he opposed a warplane that has kept American fighting men and women safe will be a lot more difficult than offering vague pronouncements about American policy. Voters understand the difference between opposing various wars and opposing the tools that keep American service members safe and allow them to do their job and come home. The latter is hard to justify.

Records: Ryan Challenger Hasn’t Voted in WI Since 2014

Paul F. Nehlen III is the man who wants to make Speaker of the House Paul Ryan the next Eric Cantor. Ryan, who has represented Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District since 1999, was elected Speaker of the House by his Republican colleagues in October of 2015. Now, six months into his tenure as the top Republican in the House, an obscure businessman wants to take him out in a primary.

Cantor (R-VA) lost his re-election primary in 2014 while serving as House Majority Leader.

To say that Nehlen has his work cut out for him is an understatement. In comments published by the Washington Times, Nehlen complained “Paul Ryan hasn’t been focused on his constituents for a very long time.” As it turns out, however, Nehlen hasn’t been a terribly active constituent of Ryan’s.

According to a review of Wisconsin Government Accountability Board voting records, Nehlen hasn’t cast a ballot in Wisconsin since 2014 and even then, he only voted in the fall general election, not the August primary election of that year.

Including the 2008 general election – the first time it appears Nehlen cast a ballot in the Badger State – he has only voted three times. He voted in the June 5, 2012 recall election (but not the recall election primary that proceeded it) and the 2014 general election.

Government Accountability Board voting history records are accurate, the state agency claims, from 2006 onward. No record exists in the system that shows Nehlen voting before November 2008.

From 2008 until today, Wisconsin has had numerous high profile elections that Nehlen did not cast a ballot in. Those elections include the 2010 primary and general elections that sent Republican majorities to the state legislature and elected Gov. Scott Walker and Sen. Ron Johnson, the hotly contested 2011 Supreme Court election, the 2012 recall election primary, the 2012 presidential preference primary, the 2012 August primary and the 2012 general election, the 2014 August primary, and the 2015 Supreme Court election.

In all of those elections, which saw Wisconsin conservatives turnout to oppose liberal candidates backed by labor unions and far leftwing groups, Nehlen was absent. He can make the claim Paul Ryan isn’t fighting for his constituents, but Nehlen certainly wasn’t a part of a number of high profile state level battles that Ryan himself participated in, and elections in which he at least cast a ballot.

In case you missed it, Erick wrote on Wednesday about why he is personally supporting Paul Ryan.

Below are screen shots of the voting history records.

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Kip Tom (IN-03) Lied About Academic Record

A Republican congressional candidate in Indiana’s conservative 3rd Congressional District has a history of misrepresenting his academic record. Kip Tom, a corporate farmer who has collected millions in federal farm subsidies, is running to replace conservative Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R) who is running for an open U.S. Senate seat. The other credible candidate in the IN-03 GOP primary is state Sen. Jim Banks, a highly conservative member of the state legislature and Navy Reserve officer who returned from Afghanistan just last year.

Until recently, Tom claimed that he held an associate’s degree in agricultural economics from Texas A&M. He has made his long career in corporate farming the centerpiece of his campaign, arguing that his resume and business experience set him apart from other candidates in the race. Numerous biographies, including until recently his own LinkedIn page, tout the degree from Texas A&M. “Tom has an associate’s degree from Texas A&M in agrcultural [sic] economics,” reads his bio on Farmers Feeding the World, where he serves as a board member.

His official biography on his corporate website notes “Courses of Study include: Associate Degree in Agriculture Management, Texas A&M” and that same biography with that same line also appears on the official website of Purdue University.

But now Tom is changing his tune. While a news story from early in the campaign said Tom “earned an associate degree in agricultural economics from Texas A&M University,” Tom’s campaign website makes no mention of the degree and instead references a management certificate the businessman obtained from Texas A&M.

More damaging, though, is the fact that Tom’s LinkedIn page, which once cited his associate’s degree, now calls the exact same degree a “certificate.” His page originally listed “Associate’s Degree Agriculture Management, Texas A&M” but now calls that program “Certificate of Agriculture Management, Texas A&M.”

Lying about his resume didn’t harm his chances of collecting nearly $3.3 million in federal welfare, but it may well harm Kip Tom’s ability to convince voters that they should sent him to Washington. After all, as Kip Tom says in his own ad, Washington politicians “these days. . . throw a lot of it [manure] around.” It starts with false statements made on the campaign trail.

Kip Tom’s old LinkedIn page:

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No, Donald Trump, The Military Doesn’t Have to Obey All Orders

“I’m a leader. I’ve always been a leader. I’ve never had any problem leading people. If I say do it, they’re gonna do it. That’s what leadership is all about.” – Donald J. Trump

In a remarkable display of arrogance, Donald Trump on Thursday night at the Fox News debate in Detroit declared that if he ordered the U.S. military to kill terrorist families or carry out acts of torture, they would do it. The question came from Bret Baier, who recited a list of Trump’s various public statements about torture and interrogation techniques and asked Trump if he was sure the military would carry out orders to that effect.

“They won’t refuse. They are not going to refuse me, believe me,” Trump said before going on to emphasize that he’s a great leader and nobody refuses to do what he tells them to do.

Trump is running for the presidency of the United States. The president is the commander in chief of the military, the military is a part of the executive branch and is responsible to the president and to Congress, which funds it and imposes restrictions on it through laws like the Uniform Code of Military Justice and other portions of the federal code, and treaties the Senate ratifies and makes the nation a party to.

This power structure that governs the military comes directly from the Constitution of the United States.

Officers in all branches of the military take an oath to uphold the Constitution. Like the president himself, they are responsible for fulfilling their duties in accordance with the Constitution of the United States. The officer oath reads in part:

“I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservations or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter; So help me God.”

Enlisted military members, for their part, swear an oath that reads: “I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.” [Emphasis added]

Both officers and enlisted Soldiers may refuse to carry out an order if it is an unlawful order. Just because a member of the military disagrees with an order does not make it unlawful. Lawful orders may cost lives, lawful orders may require the destruction of enemy material, lawful orders may involve extreme discomfort, danger, injury and loss of life. They may seem stupid, pointless, unnecessary, inconvenient, unwise, even irrational; but as long as the order does not violate the Constitution of the United States, the UCMJ, any regulation governing the use of force or any treaty the nation is party to, the order is lawful.

Unlawful orders would include the killing of innocent civilians – families of terrorists are not combatants, they are innocents – the killing of enemy prisoners of war, and the carrying out of torture, among other prohibited acts. If a military leader at any level issued an order mandating or requiring such conduct, subordinate leaders and military members would be allowed to ignore that order.

The ability to refuse compliance with an unlawful order is an essential part of the military’s culture, a key tenant of the ethics that govern the development and employment of services with the capability to kill the nation’s enemies. The normal due process protections that limit how the government can punish criminals who happen to be citizens don’t apply in warfare. There is no trial, no finding of fact for each individual enemy engaged; once Congress has authorized the president to use military force, within the rules of engagement those forces have the power to take human life and wreak havoc and destruction.

A force powerful enough to make war is a force powerful enough to seize control of the government, bend popular opinion to its will, and squelch civil liberties. For all of the varied missions it can and does fulfill, the military is raw power applied through different tools and systems in different ways. In our Constitutional Republic, that power is controlled by a system of checks and balances including the oath that members of the military swear to uphold and protect the Constitution of the United States.

Donald Trump does not understand our system of government. He lacks even a basic grasp of civics. To him, might makes right, and titles bestow all the credibility and moral authority needed to enforce edicts. That kind of a mentality, that worldview, may be entertaining on television, but it is the mark of a despot when backed by force.

On Friday, Trump’s campaign walked back his remarks about supporting the killing of innocents related to terrorists and other war crimes. Let’s hope his issued statement finds its way into his future debate appearances.

The consequences of a military that mindlessly executes orders up to and including ones that result in war crimes are permanent. Today’s Army leaders still look at the case of the My Lai Massacre in March 1968 amid the swamps of South Vietnam as a warning beacon for what happens when moral bankruptcy meets opportunity on the field of battle.

Justice Scalia’s Death Sets up Confirmation Fight

UPDATE: Within an hour of this piece being published news broke that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) announced, to his credit, that he does not believe the U.S. Senate should confirm any Supreme Court nominee until after the November election. Sen. Ted Cruz was the first U.S. Senator and first GOP presidential candidate to suggest the Senate hold off on any confirmation until after the election. Hopefully Republicans keep their word on this.

Multiple news sources are reporting today that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, a stalwart champion of a strict, originalist interpretation of the Constitution, has died. His death sets up what could be a confirmation fight of historic proportions as President Barack Obama looks to cement his legacy with a third appointment to the high court.

With controversial decisions often decided by the narrowest of margins on the Court, the stakes could not be higher for both sides when it comes to who will replace Scalia. First, President Obama has repeatedly seen his signature accomplishments end up before the Court in some fashion or another. Cementing his radical legacy with a decidedly liberal court would ensure that almost no legal challenge against his policies would result in their repeal.

Second, when a “conservative” decision emerges from the Court right now it is because Justice Anthony Kennedy joined the 4 generally conservative (Chief Justice John Roberts has proven he can go either way sometimes) members. Scalia was decidedly conservative, meaning that replacing him with a liberal doesn’t protect the status quo, but instead marks a landmark shift in the Court’s composition.

Third, Scalia, who was 79, and his fellow conservatives are aging while more recent appointments by Obama (Sotomayor and Kagan) are (relatively) younger, meaning they and a potential third Obama appointee will be on the Court for decades to come.

As Republicans voters look at the field of presidential contenders seeking the party’s nomination, they should ask themselves which candidate is best equipped to handle judicial nominations. Republican presidents don’t have a good batting average when it comes to Supreme Court appointments. Even Ronald Reagan got it wrong once when he appointed Anthony Kennedy who is, at best, unpredictable.

The next question Republicans should ask themselves is will Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell exercise the Senate’s prerogative to reject presidential appointments and deny President Obama his hail-mary attempt to enshrine his ideology on the Court. The U.S. Senate must “advise and consent” to presidential appointments, including federal judicial nominations, before they take effect.

Unfortunately, McConnell is hardly a warrior for conservatism or the principles so many in the Republican Party hold dear. Paranoid of crossing the Washington establishment, McConnell governs by consent of the salons, not by the courage of his convictions of the confidence of his – or his party’s – principles.

There is no requirement that Republicans in the Senate give President Obama what he wants when it comes to Supreme Court nominees. The stakes are higher in this fight than perhaps any previous judicial nomination fight, and with Republicans standing a strong chance of capturing the presidency this November, denying the President his appointment for a few months could be the most important thing Senate Republicans do all year.

Doubtlessly if Senate Republicans refuse to acquiesce to the President editorial writers will accuse them of stonewalling, of creating gridlock, of reducing the public’s confidence in government. Soon enough pollsters will crow that Republicans will certainly lose their Senate majority if they dare to stand up to President Obama and leave the Supreme Court seat vacant until a new president is sworn in.

But at moments like this it is helpful to remember where the GOP base is at right now, and where the country itself is as well. Both political parties are rewarding candidates who at least claim to be outsiders (never mind that Sanders is a career politician and Trump a career salesman who would switch principles if it meant more votes), and while a majority of GOP voters don’t like Trump, conservatives like Cruz and Rubio are also outsider (Cruz more so) candidates with serious clout and far more electoral potential.

Between the three – Cruz, Rubio and Trump – only one has proven that he is willing and able to bring the U.S. Senate to halt to stand up for what he believes in: Cruz. Another U.S. Senator, who is no longer in the race, has also brought the Senate to a halt on the grounds that principles are important: Rand Paul. When Cruz and Paul filibustered the Obama agenda others, such as Mike Lee, joined them. Even if Senate Republican leadership is hesitant to act, it could be that the rock-ribbed conservatives in that body decide to draw a line in the sand when it comes to the Obama agenda and say that they will not allow the Senate to approve the President’s Supreme Court nominee.

It will be a very interesting summer.

Meanwhile Sen. Cruz put this out on Twitter:

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