Say you're a conservative columnist who needs to produce a lot of content. And let's also say you've managed to keep your powder mostly dry thus far on the Bowe Bergdahl story. You now have basically two choices. You can repeat the criticism that almost every other conservative columnist in America (save for maybe Charles Krauthammer) has offered. Or you can make a more contrarian argument.
Enter New York Times columnist David Brooks:
The president and vice president, the only government officials elected directly by the entire nation, have a special responsibility to nurture this national solidarity. So, of course, President Obama had to take all measures necessary to secure the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. Of course, he had to do all he could do to not forsake an American citizen.
It doesn't matter if Bergdahl had deserted his post or not. It doesn't matter if he is a confused young man who said insulting and shameful things about his country and his Army. The debt we owe to fellow Americans is not based on individual merit. It is based on citizenship, and loyalty to the national community we all share. [New York Times]
Now, nobody I know of didn't want Sgt. Bergdahl to come home. The question has always been whether it was prudent to trade five Taliban members held at Gitmo for Bergdahl. There is also a legitimate question over whether Bergdahl should have been hailed as a hero who "served with honor and distinction" and was deserving of a Rose Garden announcement.
In fairness to Brooks, though, this is somewhat consistent with his brand of communitarian conservatism. It's also an example of opportunistic column trolling. It's always terrific when one's political philosophy and business interests can merge. Matt K. Lewis
After customer Danny Cadra drove away from a Chick-fil-A in Lubbock, Texas, without his $3 in change, cashier Marcus Henderson stuffed it into an envelope, knowing the regular would be back sometime soon.
For three weeks, Henderson carried the envelope in his back pocket while at work, never knowing if that would be the day he saw Cadra. He could have put it back in the cash register, but Henderson wanted to ensure Cadra received what was rightfully his. When Cadra came back to the restaurant last week, Henderson handed him the envelope. The customer was shocked, because he had no idea he'd even left the change behind.
"What a breath of fresh air," Cadra told NBC Dallas-Fort Worth. "It meant that much to him, it meant even that much more to me." He said he thought it was "the coolest thing" for Henderson to hold onto his change, and that the cashier is a "great American." Catherine Garcia
Tuesday's House Appropriations subcommittee hearing on the Housing and Urban Development Department's budget ended up largely being about HUD Secretary Ben Carson's office furniture budget — specifically, the $31,000 mahogany dining set Caron's office ordered for his office. Carson "offered a rambling, at times contradictory, explanation of the purchase of the table, chairs, and hutch," The New York Times notes, pinning the blame variously on safety considerations; his wife, Candy Carson; and staff members.
In his telling, Carson was blameless and ignorant of the cost, despite emails showing that his top aides were aware of the price tag and discussed how to get around the $5,000 office redecoration cap. "It's my understanding that the facilities people felt that the dining room table was actually dangerous," Carson said. "People are being stuck by nails, a chair collapsed with somebody sitting in it, it's 50 years old." It wasn't clear when those things happened, or if Carson was even being literal.
Claiming he's "not big into redecorating," Carson said he "invited my wife to come and help" pick out the new furniture he was told he was entitled to. "I left it to my wife, you know, to choose something. I dismissed myself from the issues," Carson said, and his wife "selected the color and style ... with the caveat that we were both not happy about the price." Candy Carson, he added, is "the most frugal person in the world," and "if anybody knew my wife, they would realize how ridiculous this was."
American Oversight, the watchdog group that requested the emails linking the Carsons to the purchase, found Carson's explanation a little ridiculous. "Setting aside the issue of whether it is appropriate for Secretary Carson to delegate decisions regarding the use of taxpayer funds to his wife, this is now at least the third version of Carson's story about the furniture," said American Oversight's Clark Pettig. HUD says Carson has tried to cancel the order. Peter Weber
Airplane window seats: They let you curl up a little easier, avoid getting hit by the beverage cart, keep an eye out for gremlins on the wing, and apparently cut your risk of catching the flu.
In a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team led by Vicki Hertzberg of Emory University wrote about the model they put together, called "Fantasy Flights," that showed how pathogens spread through airplanes. The team put together different simulations of how passengers move around the cabin during a transcontinental flight lasting three to five hours. They would make one person ill, and then see the probability of another passenger coming into contact with them.
Hertzberg told NPR that passengers overall had the greatest chance of getting ill when they sat next to or in the row in front of or behind the sick person. The window seats were safest because those passengers come in contact with fewer people, leave their seats less often, and are farther away from people walking in the aisle. "I have always chosen window seats," Hertzberg said. "But after this study, I have stopped moving around as much on flights." Germs are also on surfaces like the armrest or headrest, so wherever you're sitting on a plane, doctors advise using a hand sanitizer with 60 percent alcohol throughout the duration of a flight. Catherine Garcia
After running unopposed in Tuesday's Republican primary, it's now official: Arthur Jones, a Holocaust denier, is the GOP nominee for a House race in Illinois' 3rd congressional district.
The Anti-Defamation League says Jones has been involved with anti-Semitic and racist organizations for several decades, and he has a section on his campaign website called "Holocaust?" where a document called "The Holocaust Racket" is posted. Earlier this year, the Illinois Republican Party said it "strongly" opposed Jones' "racist views and his candidacy for any public office," and there is "no place for Nazis like Arthur Jones" in the party or country. The district represents sections of Chicago and nearby suburbs, and Jones will face off against the winner of the Democratic primary: either incumbent Rep. Dan Lipinski or anti-bullying advocate Marie Newman. Catherine Garcia
Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix was suspended by the company on Tuesday, following the release of a secret recording that features Nix talking to an undercover reporter about how to obtain compromising material on an opponent.
The data company worked for President Trump's campaign, and in the tapes, Nix and other executives hint they used bribes and other underhanded techniques to influence more than 200 elections around the world. The undercover reporter was from Britain's Channel 4, and posed as someone who wanted dirt on a Sri Lankan candidate. Nix told him he could "send some girls around to the candidate's house," and when pressed, said they would be Ukrainians. "They are very beautiful," he said. "I find that works very well."
Cambridge Analytica said on Monday the report had been "edited and scripted" to misrepresent the conversations. On Tuesday, the company said it would launch a "full, independent investigation." Catherine Garcia
Authorities in Austin, Texas, responded to an explosion at a Goodwill store in the southern part of the city Tuesday night. One person was injured.
The victim is a male in his 30s, and his injuries are described as serious but not life-threatening. The Austin Police Department later tweeted that it was "not a bomb, rather an incendiary device" that went off inside a package, and "at this time, we have no reason to believe this incident is related to previous package bombs." The injured man, a Goodwill employee, took a box of donations "around the corner, and upon looking inside of it, it had two small devices that are artillery simulators that looked like some type of military ordinance or some type of memento," assistant Austin Police chief Ely Reyes said in a press conference late Tuesday. The incendiary device was also described as a flare.
There has been a string of bombings throughout Austin since March 2, and police believe that those incidents are connected. Two people have been killed, and four others seriously injured since the first bomb exploded inside a package. Early Tuesday, a package exploded at a FedEx shipping center 60 miles south of Austin, and the FBI said a suspicious package reported at a FedEx distribution center near Austin's airport "contained an explosive device."
This is a breaking news story, and has been updated throughout. Catherine Garcia
Before he called Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, President Trump was warned in all caps by national security advisers not to congratulate Putin on his re-election, officials familiar with the phone call told The Washington Post.
Trump did congratulate Putin, and the White House later said they also discussed arms control and the situations in Syria and North Korea. His briefing materials included the note "DO NOT CONGRATULATE," and aides told Trump he needed to condemn the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in England earlier this month; several countries, including the U.S., say Moscow is likely behind the attack. Trump didn't bring this up, the Post reports. Analysts say Russia's election, which Putin won with 76 percent of the vote, was undemocratic, and there are videos showing ballot box stuffing.
One senior White House official told the Post that it's not clear if Trump read the materials, and another said National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster did not explicitly say anything about not congratulating Putin during a phone briefing ahead of the call. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was not impressed by Trump's conversation with Putin, and tweeted Tuesday afternoon: "An American president does not lead the free world by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections. And by doing so with Vladimir Putin, President Trump insulted every Russian citizen who was denied the right to vote in a free and fair election." Catherine Garcia