2014 Watch
May 7, 2014

Last night's GOP Senate primary in North Carolina was billed as a surrogate battle in the Republican Civil War between the establishment and grassroots. But it ended up being more of a surrender than a battle. And since establishment candidate Thom Tillis easily trounced his two grassroots conservative opponents, it would be easy to declare today that the tea party is toast.

The truth is probably more complicated than that. In fact, if the tea party didn't show up, or put up much of a fight, it might be because they already won the war. I'll let The Atlantic's Molly Ball explain:

[I]f Tillis represented the Republican establishment — something he denies, of course; it is not a label anyone embraces — he also represents the party's new, post-Tea Party mainstream. He was endorsed by National Right to Life and the National Rifle Association. As House speaker during a time when Republicans took over North Carolina's government for the first time since 1896, he oversaw a dramatic slate of rightward policies, from tax cuts to voter ID, that he terms a "conservative revolution."

It was hard for opponents to paint Tillis as a liberal when actual liberals were picketing his initiatives on the steps of the statehouse in Raleigh on a regular basis. If this race is any indication, the "Republican civil war" storyline so beloved of pundits in recent years may have to be retired... [The Atlantic]

The theory goes like this: In the beginning, the GOP establishment had grown old and fat and corrupt, and the tea party bench was full of young and talented and pure candidates. And so, when quality candidates like former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio and former Rep. and Club for Growth head Pat Toomey challenged moderate GOP candidates like then-Gov. Charlie Crist (Fla.) and then-Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.) — both of whom later became Democrats — it was like picking low-hanging fruit.

But there are only so many Rubios and Toomeys (and only so many Crists and Specters). So it gets increasingly harder to replicate this success. The well of quality tea party candidates goes dry, and eventually, you're scraping the bottom. What's more, the early victories send a message to the old guard that they'd better clean up their act.

And so, the tea party message gets co-opted by the establishment — which, for tea party conservatives, ought to be cause for celebration; incumbents who want to survive either get religion, or get ousted.

If the tea party is having a bad year, it's only because they are a victim of their own success. Matt K. Lewis

An interview for the ages
1:15 p.m. ET
Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Unsatisfied with how the "lamestream media" has been questioning the GOP presidential candidates, Sarah Palin has decided to take it upon herself to conduct an interview with the contenders, including, of course, Donald Trump. While the conversation topics for the Friday night One American News Network interview have not yet been revealed in their entirety, Palin made it very clear in a Friday Facebook post that she plans to defend The Donald.

WTH, LAMESTREAM MEDIA! STAY OUT OF MY BIBLEWTH? Lamestream media asks GOP personal, spiritual "gotchas" that they'd...

Posted by Sarah Palin on Friday, August 28, 2015

If you somehow couldn't make it through all of Palin's post, here are the sparknotes: Palin wants to call out the media for its harsh attacks on, namely, The Donald. She's particularly incensed about the abundance of "spiritual 'gotchas'" that are used against GOP candidates, but not against the media's "favored liberal pals," presumably referencing a reporter's recent question about Trump's favorite Bible verse.

After lavishing praise on the Republican frontrunner for "screwing with the reporter" by refusing to answer the question that he found to be "very personal," Palin makes the case for the media assuming more of the Trump attitude to "empower Americans to reject [the mainstream media] and their bias as voters run to the anti-status quo candidates daring to Go Rogue."

The status quo is starting to look a whole lot better. Becca Stanek

1:01 p.m. ET

There's nothing like the threat of nukes to help you get your way, according to North Korean leader Kim Jung-Un, who bragged that peace negotiations with South Korea last week were successful due to his nation's potential threat of nuclear attack. While Kim agrees that both nations are now on the path of "reconciliation and trust" with their "landmark" truce, North Korea's official KCNA agency quoted Kim as saying, "[The deal] was by no means something achieved on the negotiating table but thanks to the tremendous military muscle with the nuclear deterrent for self-defense." Of course, Kim would say something like that.

North Korea had threatened to use force against South Korea over propaganda broadcasts launched when a North Korean land mine maimed two South Korean soldiers earlier this month. The two countries also exchanged fire at the border last week. During talks on Monday, North Korea offered an official statement of "regret" over the land mine, satisfying South Korean officials. The extent to which North Korea has advanced in their nuclear capabilities is unknown. Jeva Lange

are we there yet?
11:14 a.m. ET
Isaac Brekken/Getty Images

Congress is only a few weeks away from a mid-September vote on the Iran nuclear deal, which the White House claims will "verifiably prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and ensure that Iran's nuclear program will be exclusively peaceful going forward." Critics, meanwhile, say the deal does not do enough to keep Iran from getting a bomb. Ten Senate Democrats remain undecided, but the Obama administration at this point basically only needs one more senator to back the deal, tipping the number of supporters to the vital 34 required for Obama to sustain a veto against the passage of a resolution of disapproval.

Thirty Democratic senators are standing as solid "yes" votes on the deal, with an additional three "leaning toward voting for the deal," by The Washington Post's count. There is even speculation that Democrats might get 41 senators in favor of the deal, which would prevent the resolution of disapproval from even coming to an up-or-down vote in that chamber.

Still, several Jewish Democrats have come out against the deal, exposing a divide in the party. "I've been accused of being treacherous, treasonous, even disloyal to the United States," Rep. Nita M. Lowey of New York told The New York Times on her decision to vote against the White House's wishes.

For more, check out this massive graphic over at The Washington Post, which shows who falls where. Jeva Lange

Clinton Emails
11:00 a.m. ET
Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Well, this could explain a lot: Hillary Clinton is the only secretary of state since 1957 to complete her time in office without ever operating under the supervision of a permanent inspector general (IG), an independent watchdog who is tasked with rooting out misconduct in the agency. There was an acting IG during Clinton's tenure, but the Obama administration never made a permanent appointment.

"Every agency needs a permanent, independent inspector general," says Sen. Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican who is pushing the State Department to release records explaining the lapse. "The position is too important to assign to a placeholder. An acting inspector general doesn’t have the mandate to lead, and he or she might not be able to withstand pushback from an agency that doesn’t want to cooperate with oversight."

Grassley also argues that "it’s fair to say some of the problems exposed lately probably could have been prevented with a permanent inspector general in place." He is referring to ongoing allegations that Clinton regularly used her position for personal gain and convenience, and that her use of a private email server for State Department business may have compromised classified information. Bonnie Kristian

The future has arrived
10:55 a.m. ET

Meteorologists get a lot of flak for getting the weather wrong, but 10 years ago, one meteorologist made a forecast that was eerily prescient. As Hurricane Katrina brewed in the Gulf of Mexico, National Weather Service meteorologist Robert Ricks of Slidell, Louisiana, predicted that it would be "a most powerful hurricane with unprecedented strength...rivaling the intensity of Hurricane Camille of 1969."

Unfortunately, Ricks' prediction was largely ignored in the run-up to the hurricane. As he told NBC News years later, "I would much rather have been wrong in this one. I would much rather be talking to you and taking the heat and crying wolf. But our local expertise said otherwise."

It wasn't just the strength of the hurricane that Ricks predicted either — he also forecasted the breadth of damage the monstrous storm eventually wreaked. Ricks wrote:

"Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks...perhaps longer. At least one half of well constructed homes will have roof and wall failure. All gabled roofs will fail...leaving those homes severely damaged or destroyed.

The majority of industrial buildings will become non functional. Partial to complete wall and roof failure is expected. All wood framed low rising apartment buildings will be destroyed. Concrete block low rise apartments will sustain major damage...including some wall and roof failure.

High rise office and apartment buildings will sway dangerously...A few to the point of a total collapse. All windows will blow out." [Twitter]

Ricks went on to detail the spread of airborne debris and its devastating effects: a power outage that "will last for weeks," and water shortages that "will make human suffering incredible by modern standards." For once, it would've been nice if the weatherman had been wrong. Becca Stanek

For those who have everything
10:48 a.m. ET
Courtesy photo

"The only thing better than a remote-controlled plane is a remote-controlled boat" — unless you can find a toy that handles both functions, says Adam Clark Estes at Gizmodo. Parrot's Hydrofoil Minidrone ($179) is the first mini-drone that can capture video by air or sea. In a pool or lake, the vehicle acts like a fan boat: Four copter blades propel it to a speed of 6 mph as it skims across the water under the control of a smartphone or tablet. When you remove the quadcopter, that component can fly in the air at double the speed. It's not a game changer, but "it's a really cool new trick." The Week Staff

Democracy in action
10:28 a.m. ET

This past spring, the city of Columbia, Missouri created a very gerrymandered community improvement district (CID), a special designation of territory within which voters can levy extra taxes to fund projects like roadwork or landscaping of public green spaces. Per state law, if there are no voters registered in a CID, property owners get to make the tax decision instead.

That was property owners' plan in Columbia until they found out that a single University of Missouri college student, 23-year-old Jen Henderson, is actually a registered voter in the new district. While the CID was carefully designed to exclude residences, Henderson lives in a guest house in the area and registered to vote at that address.

Now, Henderson is the sole deciding voter in a referendum to impose a 0.5 percent tax on goods — including groceries — sold within the CID. She's leaning toward a "no" vote, especially after the CID's director asked her to unregister and forfeit her vote. "Taxing [nearby residents'] food is kind of sad," too, Henderson says, particularly when the CID director "is going to be making like $70,000 a year off of this whole deal. These people make a quarter of that. They can barely afford to go buy food, and you’re taxing their food."

The architects of the CID are considering canceling the vote altogether if Henderson commits to voting no. Bonnie Kristian

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