War drums are pounding in Washington, D.C. as the administration of U.S. president Joe Biden launched a major counteroffensive against the Islamic forces attacking American interests – and military installations – in the Middle East.
Biden gave the order for last week’s bombing campaign less than 24 hours before he faced South Carolina voters in the first official Democratic primary of the current election cycle.
As for the GOP presidential battle, it made its way to New York City over the weekend with former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley making a surprise appearance on Saturday Night Live. As expected, the show’s producers are doing everything within their power to legitimize Haley in her increasingly uphill bid against former U.S. president Donald Trump.
Will it work? Not according to the latest numbers out of the ‘First in the South’ presidential primary …
For the past eleven months, founding editor Will Folks and political columnist Mark Powell been tracking trajectories in this race via our Palmetto Political Stock Index. As previously noted, each installment is an assessment of how our subjects fared over the previous seven days. Positive reports don’t reflect endorsements, and negative ones aren’t indicative of vendettas. We just call ‘em like we see ‘em.
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Where should you invest your political capital this week? To the index!
It wasn’t the fact that Joe Biden breezed through Saturday’s South Carolina Democratic presidential primary without breaking a sweat that has folks talking. It was the scope of his sweep. After all, his foolproof win had been orchestrated months in advance. And it worked, too, delivering the kind of lopsided blowout one usually sees in “elections” held in banana republics.
This election was so easy to call, The Associated Press declared Biden the winner 23 minutes after the polls closed. Biden got all 55 Palmetto State delegates and a whopping 96.2 percent of the vote. The primary’s other surprise (if you can call it that) was second place. The runner-up honor went to self-help guru and author Marianne Williamson, who somehow persuaded 2,726 people to give up part of their day off work to head to the polls and vote for her. To the surprise of many pundits, she even edged out Minnesota congressman Dean Phillips, whose third-place showing with a meager 1.7 percent was a far cry from the 20 percent he got in New Hampshire two weeks ago.
So, Biden got the strong start he wanted (assuming you aren’t focused on the dreadful four percent turnout in Saturday’s election). But the rest of last week was a mixed bag for the octogenarian incumbent. There was a dose of good news in January’s economic stats, with the private sector blowing away expectations and adding 353,000 new jobs last month, far more than anticipated. Wall Street threw its hat in the air and cheered in response. And Biden also received favorable reviews for the military action he launched in the Mideast (more on that in a minute).
But the news was less rosy on the political front. Biden is scrambling in damage control mode, trying to appease his young woke/ progressive voter base. They remain furious at his support for Israel over Palestinians. After throwing his left flank a bone on climate change(more on that coming soon, too), Biden continued making nice by saying the U.S. State Department is considering recognizing the Palestinian State.
And his approval rating remains mired at a dismal 37 percent, according to left-of-center NBC News polling.
Still, the week brought more good news than bad for Biden, causing his stock to inch up modestly.
Live from New York, it’s … Nikki Haley? South Carolina’s former governor is known for a lot of things (including holding “grudges like Khomeni”) but a sense of humor isn’t among them. Yet there she was on TV screens nonetheless in Saturday Night Live’s cold open sketch.
In a parody of a Trump hall meeting held in Columbia and hosted by CNN, Haley portrayed a “concerned South Carolinian” wanting to know why the former president wouldn’t debate her. But even this obvious sop from the show’s liberal producing team wasn’t enough to help her foundering campaign. The funniest line in the scene was when actor James Austin Johnson’s devastatingly spot-on and hilarious Trump said, “I love being here in the great state of South Carolina, Frankly, one of the top two Carolinas. South Carolina, the first state to secede from the union. And not the last, I think. We’re gonna see a lot of that when I win. Fifty states—there’s way too many. I think we could get it back down to 12 or 13 again.”
In many ways, Haley’s fish-out-of-water appearance (a non-funny person on a comedy show) perfectly reflects the problem that has relentlessly hounded her presidential campaign every step of the way: authenticity, or the lack thereof.
Ultimately, it won’t make a bit of difference. The latest FiveThirtyEight polling average for the upcoming ‘First in the South’ primary shows Trump building on his already commanding lead in South Carolina, besting Haley 63.2 percent to 31.8 percent in her own backyard.
At least Haley had the satisfaction of getting to say the show’s legendary tagline toss to the opening. Which was fortunate timing for her. Because after she gets smoked on her home turf in three weeks, saying, “Live from Bamberg, it’s Saturday Night!” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.
WAR IN THE MIDDLE EAST
We Americans have the ability to let a lot of stuff roll off our national back. But when someone goes too far and finally pisses us off — watch out. The world got a fresh reminder of that late last week. Washington gave the green light for a devastating retaliatory attack following the drone strike that killed three U.S. service members the week before. There had been 158 previous attempted attacks from Iranian-backed militants since Hamas’ bloody rampage in Israel on October 7. The one that claimed the trio of American lives at a small outpost on Jordan was one too many.
The U.S. military effectively lashed out at 85 specific targets in Syria and Iraq in just 30 minutes Friday. Nearly 40 people were killed. And that’s just what was announced. These types of operations sometimes include a separate special strike kept secret from the public, a specific attack that delivers an unmistakable (“P.S. In case you missed it, we’re really pissed”) message to our adversary.
Plus, Washington says more attacks are coming. U.S. senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Illinois) summed it up best: “It is a real strong deterrence. We’re saying, ‘Listen, we don’t want to go to war. But have a little taste of what we can do.’”
But is it “message received” in Tehran? One of the main militant groups that have been making trouble says it’s taking a break from the fighting. Another vows to carry on. And what about inside Iran itself? The Muslim clerics who rule there have a precarious grip on power. The one thing they can’t afford is to look weak in the face of the Great Satan. Time, as always, will tell.
Speaking of a precarious hold on power, U.S. House speaker Mike Johnson’s job security is looking shakier with each passing week. The same forces on the GOP Right that took the gavel out of Kevin McCarthy’s hand and gave it to Johnson are threatening a repeat performance. And he knows it all too well.
That’s one reason why he announced over the weekend he’s forging ahead with a planned vote on a stand-alone $17.6 billion Israeli military aid bill. The Biden administration desperately wants this appropriation attached to a compromise immigration bill. The White House dismisses the solo Israeli bill as a “ploy” because the last thing it needs is to be seen standing up on behalf of the very government that enrages Biden’s Democratic base.
For Johnson, everything is riding on the outcome of that vote. If it fails to win House approval, the sharks already circling the speakers’ chair may just decide it’s feeding time.
WASHINGTON SEX SCANDALS
Remember the gay sex tape released a while back showing two men brazenly doing the deed in a Senate meeting room? The U.S Capitol Police threw up their hands in surrender on Thursday, saying nobody would be charged with anything in connection with this grossly disrespectful incident. It said the two men were “uncooperative,” the now ex-Senate staffer at the heart of the investigation pled the Fifth, “nor were the elements of any of the possible crimes met.”
Meaning both guys get a hall pass.
Another behind-the-scenes factor likely played a major role in reaching that conclusion. Because the tape showed graphic gay sex, Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer didn’t want to risk incurring the wrath of the LGBTQ+ community, another sacred cow constituency vital to Democratic political interests.
Welcome to Washington 2024, folks. Where federal investigators burn the midnight oil finding and charging every last person who was standing on the lawn outside the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6, 2021, yet who can’t figure out who left a small bag of cocaine inside Joe Biden’s White House.
The political water feels increasingly hot these days for several members of the so-called “Squad,” the far left core of the progressive movement in the U.S. Congress.
Take congresswoman Ilhan Omar, the Minnesota Democrat who has been in frantic back-pedaling mode for a week now. Speaking at a Minneapolis event late last month about a recent election in Somalia (her birthplace), Omar described herself as someone who knows they are “Somalian first, Muslim second.” She proceeded to say she was working “from inside the U.S. system” to protect her homeland. Those comments enraged fellow Minnesotan and House majority whip Tom Emmer.
“No sitting member of Congress should be able to blatantly spew anti-American rhetoric and get away with it,” Emmer wrote on X. “I am demanding an ethics investigation into Ilhan Omar’s appalling, Somalia-first comments.”
Omar now claims she is the victim of a faulty translation.
Meanwhile in Squad Land, fellow member Missouri congresswoman Cori Bush is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice. It wants to know if she illegally used campaign money to pay for security services. Bush says she’s cooperating and calls the allegations “false.”
Topping it all off, Squad members Bush and Michigan representative Rashida Tlaib voted against a bill Wednesday night that would ban Hamas terrorists involved in the October 7 attack on Israel from being allowed to ever enter the United States.
The Squad has reportedly been in the doldrums for a year after finding out the hard way that being the minority party isn’t fun on Capitol Hill.
ENERGY POLICY AND TIKTOK STARS
We’re learning more about the forces driving the Biden administration’s recent abrupt change in U.S. energy policy. It’s TikTok stars.
Eager to kiss and make up with the younger voters over its Israel-Hamas War position, the Biden administration gave them a huge consolation prize late last month. It announced it’s pausing approval of all new U.S. liquified natural gas (LNG) export terminals. That is a big blow to consumers in Europe, who have to rely on expensive gas from Vladimir Putin’s Russia rather than affordable gas from the Marcellus Shale region here in the U.S. to heat their homes. It’s likewise music to the ears of Gen Zers who have drunk the Climate Change Kool-Aid.
In Biden’s blatantly pandering style, his announcement shamelessly slobbered love all over the young’uns’ beloved issue. “This pause on new LNG approvals sees the climate crisis for what it is: the existential threat of our time.”
A driving force in this latest hobbling of America’s energy sector is Alex Haraus, a 25-year-old TikTok influencer in Colorado. The New York Times quoted him as saying, “We absolutely will reward or punish [Biden] on this decision.” The administration took that political threat so seriously that White House climate policy advisors met with him before drawing up the new directive.
Also in the mix was young climate activist Roishetta Sibley Ozane, whose social media mission is shutting down Louisiana’s Calcasieu Pass 2 (CP2) project and the 20 million metric tons of LNG it would provide annually. She said, “I think if this decision had not been made, we would’ve seen the youth not vote to reelect this president.”
Not taken into those young voters’ reasoning is the geopolitical reality that shutting down America’s LNG export ability means funding Putin’s war machine to continue the outrages it’s committing on the people of Ukraine.
“And a little child shall lead them,” indeed.
South Carolina’s attorney general — and the presumptive frontrunner in the 2026 GOP gubernatorial race — is on a roll these days. And with good reason. Alan Wilson has made a lot of good moves.
Let’s start with the immediate. The attorney general’s office won a huge victory when convicted double murderer Alex Murdaugh was denied a retrial last week. Hardly anyone (except Murdaugh and his defense team) wanted to relive that nightmare — perhaps none more so than Wilson himself, whose office had prosecuted the high-profile case. Being spared having to re-litigate it frees up Wilson and his attorneys to attend to other, more pressing legal matters.
His political steps have likewise been sound. Wilson is co-leading a 26-state coalition asking president Biden to stop funding the United Nations Relief and Workers Agency. Trump pulled the plug on bankrolling the organization which has uncomfortably close ties to Hamas terrorists. Then Biden plugged it back in.
Wilson logs a lot of road miles each year talking to a myriad of GOP and civic groups around the state. And on top of all that, he’s no slouch in the fundraising department.
By the time the 2026 campaign begins in earnest, having 16 years of political IOUs in his pocket, a big bundle in his bank account, and a reservoir full of goodwill will all go a long way in helping Wilson get wherever he wants to go.
Say what you will about Wes Climer, but the state senator from York County follows through with his promises. Four months ago, he vowed that unless there was meaningful reform in the state’s judicial selection progress, he would filibuster judicial nominations.
The reform hasn’t materialized yet. And thanks to Climer making good on his word, this week’s scheduled vote on would-be judges has been canceled.
Climer is at the forefront of a growing number of members in both chambers who are increasingly concerned about the all-too-cozy relationship between lawyer-legislators who elect judges and then argue cases before them … often resulting in exceedingly lenient sentences for their client defendants.
This new outlet has long advocated for a major overhaul of this corrupt process. To that end, we are grateful to see a public official like Climer following through with what he said he would do. We only wish there were dozens more like him in the General Assembly.
Political animals, like their kin in the wild, respect prowess among their own kind. And South Carolina senator Tom Davis’ prowess was on full display at a fundraiser in Columbia last week.
Davis’ event in downtown Columbia, S.C. was literally a Who’s Who of Palmetto State movers and shakers – and was arguably the most successful affair of its kind since attorney general Alan Wilson’s fiftieth birthday fundraising bash last summer (Wilson was on hand for Davis’ gathering, by the way).
Fresh on the heels of last year’s victory in inching the state toward funding school choice options for families, last week’s event was not only a financial success for Davis and his campaign but a potent demonstration of his expanding political clout as well.
WOKEISM IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Americans are world champions at taking a virtuous quality and carrying it to idiotic extremes. Fair-minded people agree it’s wrong for whites to mock blacks by wearing blackface. But leave it to liberals to carry it to an insane conclusion.
Take what happened last Oct. 13, when a middle school student identified by his initials J.A. went to a high school football game in suburban San Diego. He showed his team spirit by painting part of his face with the “eye black.”
You’ve seen it many times on white and black football players alike. Originally started to reduce glare from bright sunlight reflecting off the skin, donning “eye black” turned into an aesthetic statement of pride, a kind of modern version of war paint. J.A. wore it in that spirit and enjoyed the game without incident.
A week later, J.A. and his parents were summoned to meet with the principal at Muirlands Middle School in La Jolla, California. The family was stunned to learn that J.A. was being suspended for two days. His offense: wearing “blackface” to a school function, violating school district policy. J.A.’s disciplinary notice called the facial display “Offensive comment, intent to harm.”
Making matters worse, there was no investigation. Officials hadn’t bothered to talk with J.A. and his family to get their side of the story. Progressive Educrats simply held a secretive Star Chamber session and pronounced judgment on the boy.
The family asked FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, to help. An appeal was made asking to have the suspension expunged from J.A.’s academic record. The school district didn’t budge.
So, a lawsuit was filed in federal court two weeks ago, arguing that J.A.s right to free speech had been violated. The school principal, district superintendent, and 10 others are defendants.
J.A. now attends a different school. And we are yet again reminded that America has become so open-minded that its brain has fallen out.
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