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Facebook Presidential Announcement

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Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush announced he will "actively explore" running for President in an unusual way today -- by posting on Facebook.

Laura Meckler has this article in the WSJ on Bush's record as governor.

On crime, he backed a mandatory sentencing law for offenders using guns and enhanced the state's concealed carry law. He also signed the "stand your ground" law giving people the right to use deadly force when threatened, which later played a role in the debate over the shooting of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin. Mr. Bush has said he didn't think the law applied in that case.
Nope, it didn't, as we have noted on this blog many times.  The article's description of the law is not correct.  People have a right to use deadly force when threatened with death or great bodily injury in every state.  A "stand your ground" law abrogates the exception existing in some states that one has a duty to retreat rather than use force even if he has the legal right to be where he is.  When one person has another pinned on the ground, "duty to retreat" is a moot point.  The Zimmerman case was a standard self-defense case and would have come out the same way if the bill in question had never passed.

Also in the WSJ, Beth Reinhard and Patrick O'Connor have this story on the launch.  They note the question that everyone wonders about:

The broader question is whether the Bush family name is an asset or a liability. "I can't see the country electing another Bush," said Sen. Tom Coburn (R., Okla.) "There's still hard feelings about George W. So you start out with a negative because you've got the wrong last name. If he didn't have that last name, he'd be a pretty good candidate."
If life were fair, the family name would not matter either way.  In the famous words of President Kennedy, "Who ever said life was fair?"  Even so, I think he's a "pretty good candidate" anyway.

The NPR Broadcast and Sentencing Reform

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I want to thank NPR once more for giving me the chance to chime in about why "sentencing reform" (translation: meat-axe lowering of sentences) is a bad idea.  

As the show was presented this morning (transcript here), my principal adversaries turned out to be Judge John Gleeson of the EDNY, and Prof. (and Sentencing Commissioner) Rachel Barkow of NYU Law School.

Each made an important point, and both are dead wrong.

Good Tidings of Great Joy

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OK, that's an overstatement, but here's some welcome news, courtesy of Ed Whelan at NRO:

In January, the Senate Judiciary Committee will swing from a 10-8 Democrat-to-Republican advantage to an 11-9 Republican to Democrat advantage. Here are the eleven Republicans:

Chuck Grassley, Iowa (presumptive chairman)

Orrin Hatch, Utah

Jeff Sessions, Alabama

Lindsey Graham, South Carolina

John Cornyn, Texas

Mike Lee, Utah

Ted Cruz, Texas

Jeff Flake, Arizona

David Vitter, Louisiana

David Perdue, Georgia

Thom Tillis, North Carolina


Vitter, Perdue and Tillis are new to the committee (and Perdue and Tillis are new to the Senate). 

Yesterday the papers were filled with pictures of left-wing Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Fauxcohontas Warren as the chief Senate critic of the omnibus budget bill passed by the House.  Now it turns out to be conservative Republicans Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah who are holding up the train.  Kristina Peterson has this story in the WSJ.

Personally, I think it's unfortunate that House Republicans gave up so much leverage.  They could have funded the government for a few months and then next year, with control of both houses, structured continued funding so that it included legislative measures that President Obama does not like but does not oppose enough to veto and shut down major parts of the government.  For example, we could stop federal public defenders from engaging in litigation other than the types those organizations are created for.  See this post.
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Colby Itkowitz at the WaPo's In the Loop posts these pictures from a tweet by Michelle Bachmann, who is leaving Congress at the end of the session.  Ms. Itkowitz says,

Should I Feel Lonely?

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Not to worry  --  this post is not psychobabble about my feelings.  It's about a question I was asked by two journalists with whom I spoke recently.

The two were Ms. Carrie Johnson of NPR and Mr. Mark Obbie, a writer for Slate. The subject of their interviews was sentencing reform.  Both Ms. Johnson and Mr. Obbie were cordial, well-informed, thoroughly pleasant, and  --  most important for journalists  -- curious.  

Each asked me the same question:  Whether, as an opponent of sentencing reform, I feel lonely?

I told them I don't.

Make That 54-46

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To the surprise of no one, Republican Bill Cassidy ousted incumbent Mary Landrieu in the Louisiana U.S. Senate runoff Saturday.  Mark Barabak has this story in the LA Times.  Doesn't look like the Veep will be using his tie-breaking vote much in the next Congress.  Until just before the election, there appeared to be a good chance that His Superfluous Majesty (as Benjamin Franklin would have had it) would have made a real difference.

AG Confirmation for Next Congress

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Almost unnoticed in a busy week was a nugget dropped by Senate Majority (for five more weeks) Leader Harry Reid.  Michael Crittenden reported Tuesday in the WSJ:

The White House has said it is ready to wait until next year for Congress to consider its nominee to be the next attorney general, the top Senate Democrat said Tuesday.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) said the White House has told him the confirmation hearings of veteran prosecutor Loretta Lynch could be dealt with in the new Congress in January 2015.

"The White House through intermediaries with me have said 'don't be pushing that, we can do that after the first of the year,' " Mr. Reid said after senators' weekly caucus lunches.
"After the first of the year" means next Congress, assuming Senator Reid does not intend to hold a vote on Friday, January 2, which I very much doubt.  Chuck Grassley will begin his stint as chairman with a very important hearing.
Whether President Obama has the authority to allow the effective nullification of our immigration statutes through executive order is an interesting subject, about which I may have more to say later.  But the immediate implication is clear: Obama, toward the end of his term and perhaps before, is going to put thousands of dangerous hard drug dealers back on the street.  He'll do this via executive clemency.

The clemency program has already been announced by DOJ, but until last night, there were realistic questions about how far it would reach.  Those questions are now answered.  There will be no effective limit whatever.

Nullification through "discretionary" non-enforcement of law is of debatable legality, but the clemency power is not.  It exists, and belongs to the President alone.

There was a glimmer of hope until last night that the President would be restrained in exercising this power, and would pay at least some heed to the idea that hard drug trafficking harms America.  That is over with.  When a President openly and aggressively sympathetic to lawbreakers is willing to use a power that may be there or may not, there is no question left about his willingness to use a power that actually is there.

We saw last night what Obama will do now that he has no political accountability left. But what we saw is only the beginning.

Why It's Important to Vote

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Col. Martha McSally, USAF (Ret.) is the new Representative from Arizona District 2, in the southeast corner of the state, including much of Tucson.  Or maybe not. The final tally showed her 161 votes ahead of incumbent Rep. Ron Barber.  State law requires a recount.  Andrea Kelly has this story at Arizona Public Media.

Meanwhile, in CJLF's backyard in Sacramento County, incumbent Rep. Ami Bera has a 697 vote lead over challenger Doug Ose.  So far.  News 10 KXTV has this story.
Kent noted some of the comments of the chief Federal Defender for the EDNY, where Loretta Lynch holds forth as United States Attorney.

I was an AUSA for a few years back in the day, and I want to provide a translation of the Federal Defender's remarks.

Defender:  "I'm not saying she goes our way, but you can have a meeting with her and have your two cents about policy."

Translation:  "She goes our way, but I'm not about to say so because I'm licking my chops at the prospect of her running the show at Main Justice."

Defender:  "In a field where the prosecutorial positions can be extraordinarily adversarial, she tries to be somebody you can get along with."

Translation:  "Her Office gives away the store."

Defender:  "At a time when the Justice Department has taken the position that you've got to do something about over-incarceration, [prosecuting drug mule cases is] a step in the opposite direction. I'm pretty unhappy," 

Translation:  "If I didn't complain about something, my colleagues would run me out of town."

More on Loretta Lynch

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SJC: Take a Close Look at Ms. Loretta Lynch

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Various sources are confirming that Ms. Lynch will be the nominee to replace Eric Holder.  Presumably her nomination will go to the Senate Judiciary Committee (SJC).

Last July, the WSJ had this piece on Ms. Lynch.

Readers might recall that it was Ms. Lynch who gave in to Judge John Gleeson's unethical and baseless windfall for a repeat violent carjacker, Francois Holloway. I described the case in some detail here.  It's a scandal, there's no other word for it.

She initially resisted Gleeson's bullying, to her credit.  When he kept it up, however, she gave in.  One of her AUSA's wrote a legally and factually frivolous motion to vacate two of Holloway's convictions in order to enable Gleeson to impose the more lenient sentence he had been campaigning for for years.

I think it deeply troubling that a United States Attorney would sign a motion to vacate two perfectly valid convictions  --  indeed, convictions whose validity was not questioned.  The motion and accompanying argument were pasted together for the sole purpose of placating Gleeson's petulance.

The Senate Judiciary Committee should take a careful look at Ms. Lynch's role in the Holloway case.
Devlin Barrett reports in the WSJ:

The U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn, N.Y., Loretta Lynch, is a leading candidate to be nominated as the next U.S. attorney general, according to people familiar with the discussions.

Judges and the Filibuster: What to Do Now?

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As Kent has pointed out, one of the advantages of a Republican majority in the Senate is that it is likely to constrain the President in appointing judges who value "compassion" (or their version of compassion) over law.

In the old Senate, Harry Reid changed the rules governing how filibusters would be conducted on the nominations of court of appeals judges.  Instead of taking 60 votes to end debate, as it had for years, Sen. Reid and his party re-rigged the rules so that it took only 51.  When Democrats had a 54-seat majority, this enabled them to get Obama's nominees to the floor at will.

Now that Republicans will have their own 54-seat majority, the question has arisen whether they should bring back the old rule requiring 60 votes to end debate, or keep the rule as Reid changed it.

Very bright people have different answers.  My old boss and friend, former White House Counsel Boyden Gray, says in the Wall Street Journal (in a piece co-authored with Sen. Orrin Hatch) that we should keep the new rule.  My friend Paul Mirengoff of the influential conservative blog Powerline thinks we should restore the old rule.

This makes a big difference.  Boyden and Paul are both brilliant.  My take on it follows the break.

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