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9 months ago

Three Lessons Republicans Must Learn From That Messy Alabama Primary

Some say Judge Roy Moore’s victory over Senator Luther Strange last Tuesday was a loss for the president: “Alabama defeat leaves Trump weakened, isolated amid mounting challenges,” read a headline in the Washington Post.

Others say it was a defeat for the Senate majority leader: “Judge Roy Moore wins Alabama Senate primary, dealing a huge blow to Mitch McConnell,” declared the liberal news site Vox.

And a few even say it was all about the chairman of Breitbart News: “Steve Bannon just defeated Trump,” wrote liberal columnist E.J. Dionne Jr.

But this wasn’t about Trump or McConnell or Bannon, and it wasn’t even really about Moore or Strange.

It was about Alabama.

More precisely, it was about how Republicans in Alabama choose candidates to stand against Democrats in the general election, and then against liberalism once in office.

But if we allow a proxy war between Trump and McConnell and Bannon and whoever else to distract us, then we’ll fail to learn some valuable lessons that tumbled out of this messy but instructive race. It’d be foolish to repeat these mistakes in another Republican primary, but it could be catastrophic to do so during a general election.

So let’s remind ourselves of three big ones:

Lesson 1: Never disrespect the voters.

Like many Republicans in Alabama, I had a somewhat open mind at the beginning of the primary. And there was plenty to like.

If you like former Senator Jeff Sessions, then you’d probably love Congressman Mo Brooks. He’d carry the torch of conservatism in the Senate. If you like Senator Richard Shelby, then you’d probably love Luther. He’d protect the state’s interest and bring home jobs. Those who like Donald Trump would probably love Judge Moore. He’d give the establishment hell.

I honestly couldn’t decide … until an outside group supporting Luther released an attack ad against Brooks. And someone thought it’d be a good idea to ask veterans to carry the message.“I served my country,” said one veteran. “Mo Brooks, he voted to cut off funding to fight ISIS.” “We fought for our freedom,” said another. “Brooks, he fought to cut off funding.” “Mo Brooks was playing politics,” they went on to say, “siding with Nancy Pelosi and the liberals instead of siding with us.”Luther lost me in the primary because of that ad. Instantly.

First, because claiming that Mo Brooks was siding with Nancy Pelosi on anything is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. He’s one of the most consistently conservative voices in Congress. Hit him on whatever else – being a lifelong politician, not jumping on the Trump Train, etc. – but cozying up to liberals? Come on.

Second, they gave those veterans a script that did more than stretch the truth, and then put them on television. I respect those veterans. They’re my brothers-in-arms, but I fear they were manipulated. That turned me from annoyed to angry.

Then later during the run-off, I had to listen to another ad supporting Luther, this time saying how strong he is on the Second Amendment (which indeed he is). But then they had to blow it with another unnecessary jab.

“Roy Moore,” the narrator said, “He’s a little soft on gun rights.”

Luther lost me in the runoff because of that ad. Permanently.

There’s plenty of truthful material to use against Moore, but claiming he’s “soft” on guns was the dumbest thing I had heard since … well … someone said Mo Brooks was in cahoots with Nancy Pelosi. Do they really think we’re that stupid?

Luther’s outside supporters meant well, but they couldn’t have caused a worse reaction with the voters they were seeking to influence. I saw otherwise calm people grow red-faced with anger about those ads.Not because of where they came from. Not because they were negative, per se. But because they were taking cheap shots at well liked, and well known, conservatives.

It seems like Alabamians know Mo Brooks and Judge Moore much better than the people who created those ads. We not only felt they were being unfair to two of our movement’s most unwavering conservatives, they were insulting our intelligence by claiming they were liberals or gun grabbers.

Listen, the organizations that funded those ads are full of dedicated conservatives. Good people. Our people. And the firms that cut those ads have talented and dedicated experts who can produce amazing spots. I’m sure they poll-tested and focused-grouped the language and think all of this criticism is unfounded. Maybe ads like that worked well elsewhere in the past. But the results speak for themselves.

We can, and must, attack our opponents. Early, often, and without rest. But it must be done with integrity. Doing the research, formulating the right argument, and writing clever copy for an honest yet effective attack will be harder, but the result will be much better.

At least do this: Our ad guys should adopt that old saying from the Hippocratic Oath: First, do no harm.

Lesson 2: Negative ads still work.

Yes, those ads backfired and drove voters away from Luther, but we mustn’t believe that negative ads don’t work at all. They’re proven to be effective when done correctly, and proven to fail when not done at all.

In 2008, Senator John McCain refused to launch negative ads against then-Senator Barrack Obama until it was too late. Four years later Mitt Romney did the same thing. They played nice, and lost. Remember how we complained about that?

Besides, successfully launching and withstanding negative ads during a primary fight also shows us who can throw a punch and who can take a punch. Republicans need proven fighters and tested survivors, or else our candidates will get hammered in the general election by the Democrats (who will attack, and harshly).

Why this would normally matter: Judge Moore proved once again that he could take a punch, probably better than anyone. Steadfast doesn’t begin to describe the man. But since some voters were primarily driven into his camp by the other guy’s campaign ads, did he demonstrate an ability to effectively counterpunch? He’ll need to do that during the general election, and the time for practice has passed.

But why it doesn’t matter at all right now: Judge Moore’s opponent in the general election just said he thinks it should be perfectly legal to abort an unborn baby at any time during pregnancy, even a few minutes before birth. No restrictions. Oh, and taxpayers should fund it, he says. It’s hard to believe that my grandfather’s party nominated this guy. The only question that remains, does Roy Moore want us to still call him “judge” or will “senator” do?

Bottom line: If our future candidates walk away from this primary thinking they shouldn’t use negative ads, then they’ll follow McCain and Romney straight into the loser’s club.

Lesson 3: You’re the candidate, so control your message.

When asked by reporters, Luther would correctly say that he had nothing to do with those ads, they weren’t created or funded by his campaign, and that he couldn’t legally coordinate with the committee that produced them.

That’s all true, legally speaking. But voters still held Luther responsible for the ads because they knew he could have done something. Hearing him claim he was powerless to make them stop seemed rather unbelievable.

A couple of years ago when Congressman Gary Palmer was running for his seat, an outside group came into Birmingham and ran a misleading ad against his opponent. Palmer could have sat by and allowed the ad to continue, and remained within the law, but he made it known publically that he thought the ad was misleading. He didn’t coordinate with the outside group. He simply voiced his distaste with the ad like everyone else.

Guess what? The group heard Palmer loud-and-clear, and they pulled the ad.

Hearing Palmer say that pulled me strongly to his side. Hearing Luther say nothing pushed me further away.

Still, even if it were true that Luther couldn’t say anything to cause those outside groups to pull their insulting ads, what does that say about his ability to influence things on Capitol Hill? It begs the question, if Luther couldn’t get his friends to pull a bad ad that was insulting his voters, then how could we expect him to convince his opponents to repeal a bad law that was harming his state?

How to avoid this: Congressman Palmer showed us the way. The second an outside group strays from a campaign’s messaging strategy or releases a misleading ad, candidates should immediately make their displeasure publically known.

An old soldier once told me that there’s a big difference between a lesson learned and a lesson observed.

We observed these lessons during the past several weeks, but will we truly learn them? Time will tell.

Meanwhile, what other lessons did you take from the primary? Let us know in the comments, on Facebook, or Twitter.

(“Be bold and courageous.” – Joshua 1:9)


About the Author: Pepper Bryars is the new editor of Yellowhammer News. Pepper began his career writing for military newspapers while serving in the Alabama Army National Guard. He then became a staff reporter for the Mobile Press-Register, spent time as an aide to then-Congressman and Governor Bob Riley and served as a presidential appointee managing legislative issues for the Defense Department. Pepper was also a strategic communication advisor to U.S. military forces operating in Europe, Africa, and Latin America. He was twice awarded the Office of the Secretary of Defense Award for Exceptional Public Service, once for service in Baghdad during the early days of the Iraq War and a second time for work at the Pentagon. He is the author of two books and most recently wrote a popular conservative opinion column that was published in the Birmingham News, Mobile Press-Register, Huntsville Times, the Mississippi Press and at


1 hour ago

Explainer: How the refugee and asylum process works in the U.S.

Yesterday was World Refugee Day, an annual observance created by the United Nations to “commemorate the strength, courage and perseverance of millions of refugees.” Here is what you should know about refugee and asylum policy in the United States.

What is a refugee?

The U.S. government defines “refugee” as any person who is outside any country of such person’s nationality or, in the case of a person having no nationality, is outside any country in which such person last habitually resided, and who is unable or unwilling to return to, and is unable or unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of, that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.


What is asylum?

Asylum is government-sanctioned protection granted to foreign nationals already in the United States or at the border who meet the legal definition of a “refugee.” As a signatory to the United Nations 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol, and through U.S. immigration law, the U.S. has legal obligations to provide protection to those who qualify as refugees.

How do refugees apply for asylum in the U.S.?

The Refugee Act of 1980 allows for two paths to obtain refugee status—either from abroad as a resettled refugee or in the U.S. as an asylum seeker.

If done abroad, a refugee must receive a referral to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for consideration as a refugee. If they receive a referral, they refugee will receive help filling out their application and then be interviewed abroad by a United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officer who will determine whether they are eligible for refugee resettlement.

Asylum seekers who are already in the country (such as on a travel visa) or who have arrived at a U.S. port of entry must file the application with an immigration judge at the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) in the Department of Justice. Almost all refugee applicants who fail to apply for asylum within one year of entering the U.S. are barred from receiving asylum.

What happens if a refugee shows up a port of entry or crosses the border unlawfully?

Whether they are caught at the border crossing illegally or present themselves to immigration officials at a port of entry, refugee candidates are subject to “expedited removal,” a policy that allows the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to deport an undocumented person without giving them a chance to defend against deportation in immigration court.

To prevent immediate deportation, asylum seekers who are placed in an expedited removal process must tell a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) official they fear persecution, torture, or returning to their country, or that they wish to apply for asylum. If an U.S. asylum officer determines asylum seeker has a “credible fear” of persecution or torture, they can proceed with the asylum application process.

If a person has re-entered the U.S. unlawfully after a prior deportation order or is a noncitizen convicted of certain crimes, they are subject to a different expedited removal process called “reinstatement of removal.” Asylum seekers in this process must meet the “reasonable fear” standard in an interview with an asylum officer. To demonstrate a reasonable fear, the asylum seeker must meet the definition of refugee and show there is a “reasonable possibility” they will be persecuted or tortured in the country of removal.

All asylum seekers have the burden of proving that they meet the definition of a refugee

How many people are currently seeking asylum and how many are approved?

In 2016, the last year for which complete data is available, 20,455 people were granted asylum. In fiscal year 2018, there are 714,067 pending asylum cases in the U.S. (If the 2016 rate holds in 2018, then only about 3 percent of current asylum seekers will be granted asylum.)

How long must a refugee wait before asylum is granted?

In fiscal year 2018, the average asylum seeker will wait 721 days for their case to be resolved.

Can refugees and asylum seekers work in the U.S. while they are waiting adjudication?

Yes. Both refugees and asylum seekers who are allowed to await adjudication in the U.S. are authorized and entitled to work.

Can a refugee or asylum seeker become a U.S. citizen?

Yes. A refugee or asylee may apply for permanent resident status in the U.S. one year after being admitted as a refugee or being granted asylum status. Refugees are required by law to apply for permanent resident status one year after being admitted to the United States in refugee status. Asylees are not required to apply for permanent resident status after being granted asylum for one year, but it may not be in their best interest to do so as it may affect their benefits they would receive if granted refugee status.

Who is responsible for overseeing the resettlement of refugees in the U.S.?

The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) is the federal government agency charged with providing benefits and services to assist the resettlement and local integration of refugee populations. Some of the ORR programs include Refugee Cash Assistance and Refugee Medical Assistance (for up to 8 months); Refugee Social Services, such as job and language training (for up to 5 years); and temporary custody and care to unaccompanied refugee children. But according to a recent paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research, by the time refugees who entered the U.S. as adults have been here for 20 years, they will have paid, on average, $21,000 more in taxes to all levels of government than they received in benefits over that time span.

(Courtesy of Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission)

3 hours ago

Bilateral lung transplant gives Montgomery teen chance to graduate, better future

Quintarius Daniels has had a hard road to travel in his 17 years of life, but thanks to University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine surgeons, he now has a bright and less complicated future ahead.

On Oct. 17, 2017, Daniels, a Montgomery, Alabama, native, had a bilateral lung transplant at UAB Hospital after years of battling pulmonary fibrosis, a disease that had ravaged his lungs and compromised their function. On May 18, Daniels walked across the stage at Brewbaker Technology Magnet High School, having earned his high school diploma – not to mention ditching his oxygen tank and being crowned prom king in the past seven months.


“I’m so excited to be where I am today,” Daniels said. “Before I had my transplant, things were hard, because I couldn’t do things other kids could do.”

Daniels was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis as a child. Pulmonary fibrosis is a scarring of the lung tissue that causes permanent damage to the lungs. As the scar tissue builds up and thickens, it prevents the lungs from transferring oxygen to the blood supply and diminishes the supply of healthy, oxygen-infused blood to the heart, brain and other organs.

The reduced lung function makes it increasingly hard to breathe. While the condition may develop slowly over time, many patients diagnosed die within the first three to four years following diagnosis. There is no cure for pulmonary fibrosis, but certain medicines and therapies can help manage the disease.

Lashunda Harris, Daniels’ mom, noticed he was very sick one morning when he was about 2 years old. She quickly rushed him to the hospital, and he was later transferred to Children’s of Alabama, where he was diagnosed. For the past 15 years, Daniels has lived with an oxygen tank, which can hinder a child looking for a normal life.

“He was very limited as a child,” Harris said. “It was hard for him during P.E. at school to be able to do things every other kid could.”

In October 2017, Harris arrived at Brewbaker Tech to pick up Daniels from school. When she arrived, the school nurse brought him to the car in a wheelchair, which was unusual.

“The nurse said he wasn’t feeling good and his chest was hurting,” she said. “We went straight to Children’s.”

After a week’s stay at Children’s, Daniels was transferred to the cardiac intensive care unit at UAB Hospital. It was there they met Charles W. Hoopes, M.D., director of Lung Transplantation in the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, who told them that Daniels had been placed on the waiting list to receive a lung transplant.

After more than a week on a temporary mechanical support system to help his other organs rest and recover, and five days of being on the list, Daniels received a double lung, or bilateral, transplant.

“Dr. Hoopes is a wonderful person,” Harris said. “He’s like another parent.”

Daniels says he was excited – and maybe a little scared – for the transplant, but he knew that it would mean things might start to be a little easier for him.

“I was excited and scared because I didn’t know how it would feel to have a new set of lungs,” Daniels said.

After the transplant, Harris says, Daniels is much more of a free spirit. This spring, he was able to run for the first time and often races with his sister. Daniels was also crowned his high school’s prom king, and he’s been able to enjoy time with his friends without having to worry about an oxygen tank.

“I’m very happy that I can live a more normal life as a teenager,” he said. “After the transplant, I’m now able to do more.”

Daniels was thrilled to walk across the stage without the cumbersome oxygen tank to receive his high school diploma. He plans to enroll with the University of Phoenixand later become a video game designer.

“I’ve cried a lot since this transplant,” Harris said. “They’ve been happy tears. We still have a long way to go, but I am so happy he made it through.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 hours ago

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17 hours ago

U.S. Rep. Rogers: IG report proves Mueller probe needs to be shut down

Folks across East Alabama may have recently seen the Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General (IG) Report findings were released.

The IG report details the mishandling of the FBI investigation involving Hillary Clinton and her private email server.

Anyone that denies that the FBI’s Clinton investigation was rigged in her favor is delusional.

The political bias clearly shown during the investigation and the double standard of justice was rampant and deliberate.


 This is the same crooked group at the FBI that started the investigation of President Trump that led to the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

So here is what we know:

Mr. Comey was FBI Director at the time the investigation was started. The IG found his actions at the FBI were insubordinate and he may currently by under investigation for leaking classified material.

Deputy Director Andrew McCabe was fired and is under investigation for lying to investigators.

Special Agent Peter Strzok has clearly demonstrated his hate and contempt for President Trump through his texts.  He most recently was escorted out of the FBI headquarters.

Congressional investigators now believe FBI documents may have been altered to convict Michael Flynn after the two FBI agents that interviewed him found him to be truthful.

We are also now finding out about FBI spies being planted inside the Trump campaign along with FBI abuse of the FISA warrants.

Enough is enough.

If all of this pans out, which I believe it will, there was no original basis for appointing Robert Mueller.

As I discussed during my Fox Business interview this week, the Mueller witch hunt needs to be shut down immediately.

We cannot continue to let it go on and be a distraction for the American people and Trump Administration.

Our economy is booming, unemployment rates are low and the American Dream is back – but with this nonsense continuing on the side – it is hard to focus on our goals.

The American people deserve better.

Mike Rogers is a Republican congressman from Semmes

Please sign up for my e-Newsletter by visiting my website. To stay up to date, you can also like me on Facebook at Congressman Mike D. Rogers, follow me on Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram at RepMikeRogersAL, on Tumblr and you can also subscribe to my YouTube page at MikeRogersAL03. 

19 hours ago

These are the services that are wasting Medicare dollars

Three services categorized as “low-value care” or “care that has little or no clinical benefit” drained hundreds of millions of dollars from Medicare from 2011-2016, according to a report from the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC).

The three services highlighted in the report are: early dialysis for people with functional kidneys, proton beam centers, and H.P. Acthar Gel.

Medicare spent from $500 million to $1.4 billion in 2016 alone on early-stage kidney dialysis that “is not associated with improved outcomes.”


During that same year, Medicare spent $115 million on proton beam therapy, an external, targeted cancer treatment, that has “a lack of evidence that it offers a clinical advantage over alternative treatments” despite being “substantially” more expensive.

Medicare spending on Acthar went from $49 million to $504 million between 2011 to 2015. Acthar gel, which can be used to treat Multiple Sclerosis symptoms, has “weak evidence” of being an effective treatment. In addition to questions about its efficacy, 71 percent of physicians received payments from the manufacturer not related to research.

The report suggests tying effectiveness to coverage and payment under Medicare. Currently, “Medicare’s coverage process considers, but does not require, comparative clinical effectiveness evidence” when deciding which treatments to cover.

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