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February 12, 2016

PBS hosted a spirited, earnest, mostly break-free Democratic debate in Milwaukee on Thursday night, and its post-debate analysis by Hari Sreenivasan was similarly different from the post-game chatter we've seen on cable news and network TV. When they joined Sreenivasan, liberal columnist Mark Shields and conservative columnist David Brooks agreed that Hillary Clinton started out the debate stronger and Bernie Sanders ended the night fighting on his home turf.

Clinton's "strategy was pretty simple, it struck me," Shields said. "She ran as Hillary Obama. She hugged the president, she wouldn't let any daylight between them, and accused Bernie of infidelity." Brooks laughed, quipping, "That's good, coming from a Clinton." He argued that Clinton's "Obama moment is the moment that will go viral, when she dropped the Obama bomb" on Sanders. But Sanders ended the night in good shape, he said, in part because he has a "core narrative" and so these debates are "always sort of on his turf," but also because "he's unhindered by budgetary reality," while Clinton "limits herself to what is practically possible."

Brooks returned to that theme later. "I think the question for Sanders is, is there a point where the Democratic voters begin to say, 'Wait, is any of this actually going to happen?'" he said. "Are people going to think, 'Is any of this ever going to happen?' Because it seems highly implausible unless the Democrats sweep everything.... Whether people get that, sort of, into the wonkery of it, or whether they just want to express some anger, is really the core question between these two." Watch the earnest Shields-Brook wonkery below. Peter Weber

12:44 p.m. ET
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus on Sunday declined to attempt explaining where his party's nominee stands on immigration. Asked by NBC's Chuck Todd whether Donald Trump is undergoing something of an evolution on the topic, Priebus deferred, promising that Trump himself would "be giving prepared remarks on this issue" sometime soon.

"I don't speak for Donald Trump," Priebus continued. "Here’s what I know: [Trump's] position is going to be tough. His position is going to be fair, but his position is going to be humane." As Todd pressed for more details, Priebus seemed unsure as to whether Trump would really attempt to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants — though he was willing to state with certainty that Trump would work to build a border wall (which, for the record, already mostly exists).

While Trump has long made strict border security a central issue of his campaign, this week he said "there could certainly be a softening because we're not looking to hurt people." Trump then reversed himself one day later, suggesting he is instead engaged in a "hardening" of his immigration views. When these pivots led to confusion and accusations of flip-flopping, Trump blamed the media for "miss[ing] the whole point" and taking his words out of context. Bonnie Kristian

12:04 p.m. ET
Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images

Acting Democratic National Committee Chair Donna Brazile said Sunday she doesn't see cause for concern in emails showing Clinton Foundation staff coordinating State Department access for their donors during Hillary Clinton's tenure as secretary of state.

"The way I look at it, I've been a government official," Brazile said in an interview on ABC's This Week. "So, you know, this notion that, somehow or another, someone who is a supporter, someone who is a donor, somebody who's an activist, saying 'I want access, I want to come into a room and I want to meet people' — we often criminalize behavior that is normal. I don’t see what the smoke is."

Brazile may have been referencing remarks from Clinton herself earlier this week, when the candidate told Anderson Cooper "there's a lot of smoke, and there's no fire" where accusations of a corrupt, pay-to-play relationship between the Clinton Foundation and State are concerned. Watch Brazile's comments below. Bonnie Kristian

11:33 a.m. ET
THAER MOHAMMED/Getty Images

A pair of barrel bombs killed at least 16 people in Aleppo, Syria, on Saturday as they attended a funeral for children killed by a previous bombing in the same neighborhood earlier this week. Another estimate puts the death toll as high as 24, with dozens more injured.

A video believed to show the aftermath of the attack sees a mother speaking to her 12-year-old child, who was killed in the strike. "Hassan, it's your mom," she says, but cannot wake him. "My sons, your brother is dead, your brother is dead."

The bombs were dropped by a helicopter, observers said, and hit the rebel-controlled area of Bab al-Nayrab. Barrel bombs are repurposed oil drums filled with scraps and explosives, and they are criticized by human rights advocates for their indiscriminate killing, especially in residential contexts. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has denied using such devices, but the activist group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says regime helicopters have dropped more than 28,000 barrel bombs. Bonnie Kristian

10:52 a.m. ET
Josh Edelson/Getty Images

In a turn of events that would be bizarre in any other election year, Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton are both attempting to create a link in voters' minds between their opponent and the Ku Klux Klan.

Clinton brought up the KKK in her speech on Thursday, in which she accused Trump of handing a "national megaphone" to the "paranoid fringe in our politics." The same day, her campaign released a online ad in which self-proclaimed Klan members and white supremacists explained their enthusiasm for Trump. And on Friday, Clinton's running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine, reiterated the connection by declaring, "Ku Klux Klan values, David Duke values, Donald Trump values are not American values."

Trump wasted no time returning the accusation. On Saturday, he retweeted a post from Lynette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson, two African-American sisters who support his campaign, referencing Clinton's ties to the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W. Va.). Byrd was a member of the KKK in the 1940s and filibustered the Civil Rights Act of 1964, though for the bulk of his political career he vehemently repudiated his past Klan involvement. When he died in 2010, Clinton mourned Byrd as "a true American original, my friend and mentor."

Hardaway and Richardson told CNN they called attention to Byrd's history because "Donald J. Trump can't help who embraces his campaign but Hillary Clinton could've helped who she embraced." CNN reports neither campaign offered comment. Bonnie Kristian

10:01 a.m. ET
Guillermo Legaria/Getty Images

After more than half a century of conflict, the government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) will announce a ceasefire Sunday to take effect at midnight local time. The two sides signed a historic peace agreement after negotiations in Havana, Cuba, on Wednesday, an accord Colombian voters will be able to approve or reject in an October referendum.

Colombians reacted to the news of peace with a mixture of hope and skepticism. "It is the opportunity to end a cycle of this terrible violence," said musician Julio Correal, who has worked on a state-led project to promote a cessation of hostilities. "It will not be easy — it has never been easy — but it is easier than a war scenario."

The 52 years of fighting between FARC and the government in Bogotá have claimed an estimated 260,000 lives and caused millions more to leave their homes. Bonnie Kristian

8:41 a.m. ET
Bulent Kilic/Getty Images

Supported by Turkish airstrikes, Syrian rebels seized territory from Kurdish-led fighters in northern Syria on Sunday. The attacks killed at least 35 people, most of them civilians in the villages that changed hands.

This offensive is part of a new escalation of Turkish involvement in neighboring Syria's conflict, intervention which includes fighting both the Islamic State and the Kurds. This weekend's airstrikes were the first time Turkish forces have targeted Kurdish militias in Syria, though Turkey's government has fought a Kurdish insurgency within its own borders for some time.

This dual opposition complicates matters for the United States, as Turkey is a NATO ally helping in the war on ISIS, and some anti-ISIS Syrian rebels are backed by the CIA — but the Kurdish forces Turkey is killing also oppose ISIS and are funded, armed, and trained by the Pentagon. Bonnie Kristian

8:16 a.m. ET
Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

The media "has missed the whole point on immigration" and distorts his remarks to create confusion about immigration policy, Republican Donald Trump said Saturday afternoon while speaking in Iowa.

Trump's comments moved away from the softer tone he adopted in recent days, proposing a tracking system for visa recipients as well as the swift removal of "criminal, illegal immigrants" — phrasing which leaves unclear whether he is again proposing mass deportation of 11 million people.

In an interview published Saturday, Trump's running mate, Mike Pence, argued the candidate's variation on this issue is "a classic CEO process" of developing an effective plan with a diversity of input. "At the end of the day, when [Trump] articulates a position, it’s going to be very much consistent with the priorities that he's laid forth and that have really resonated with millions of Americans," Pence said.

Since I wouldn't want to "take phrases and statements, chop them up, take them out of context," as Trump accused the media of doing on Saturday, here is a link to watch his entire speech. Bonnie Kristian

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