HUFFPOST HILL - National Puppy Day Marred By Crass Partisanship

Today is National Puppy Day, when Donald Trump reminds us that he is not only a good little boy, he is the BEST little boy. Trump threatened to "spill the beans" about Ted Cruz’s wife, Heidi, though if pressed, he’ll probably insist he was planning to upturn a can of Hormel in her general vicinity. And Paul Ryan delivered a speech on our souring political conversation in front of a group of interns and if they could run to the Fracking industry reception in Cannon and grab a few dozen sliders, that’d be great. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016:

CONVENTION PLANNERS BRACING FOR WORST - Anna Palmer "The campaign headlines alone -- featuring tense protests and fistfights, and a front-runner warning of riots -- are cause enough for concern. Add two major terrorist attacks abroad in four months into the cauldron, including Tuesday’s bombings in Brussels, and it’s not hard to imagine the potential for chaos at the Republican National Convention this summer. Still, convention organizers and security officials say they’re ready to execute a plan that was in the works before fisticuffs broke out regularly at Donald Trump’s rallies. Numerous officials involved with convention planning told Politico they’ve been preparing meticulously for months, mapping out every contingency. An array of law enforcement agencies, from the Secret Service to the Department of Homeland Security, are involved, in concert with the city of Cleveland’s own efforts to keep the event safe. The security blueprint already took into account worst-case scenarios, from mass riots to terrorist attacks, among other possible crises. The convention is expected to draw some 50,000 attendees, along with potentially tens of thousands of protesters." [Politico]

BRUSSELS AFTERMATH LATEST - "Belgian authorities on Wednesday stepped up the manhunt for a key suspect in the worst terror attacks in the country’s history, as news emerged that they had previously been warned about another suspect by the Turkish government.... Officials believe a fourth suspect, whose image was captured on CCTV at the airport, was able to escape and are continuing a nationwide manhunt for him that started on Tuesday. Police conducted raids across the country and asked the media not to report any specific details of the searches. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday that Turkish authorities had caught Ibrahim El Bakraoui, 29, last year near the Syrian border. Turkey deported him to the Netherlands and warned both Dutch and Belgian authorities that the man was a foreign fighter, according to Erdogan." [HuffPost]

BUT IS IT GOOD FOR THE CRUZ? Presidential criticism edition - Igor Bobic: "President Barack Obama slammed Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Wednesday for the presidential hopeful’s statements that he would empower law enforcement to 'patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods' in the wake of the deadly terror attacks in Brussels. 'I just left a country that engages in that kind of neighborhood surveillance, which, by the way, the father of Sen. Cruz escaped for America, the land of the free,' Obama said during a press conference in Argentina, referring to his historic trip to Cuba earlier this week. He said the proposal 'makes absolutely no sense' and goes against basic American values." [HuffPost]

DELANEY DOWNER - Ugh, millenials and their hoverboards and their poser jihad. Kurt Eichenwald: "These European attackers are not like the Al-Qaeda members of old -- the radicalized adherents to fundamentalist Islam. Many of these new age killers were small children when the World Trade Center fell in 2001 and have spent much of their lives watching major wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and now Syria. Their knowledge of Islam is quite limited; they are more like jihadi hipsters than dedicated Islamists, or what some experts in the intelligence community call 'jihadist cool.' They celebrate what the Dutch coordinator for security and counterterrorism called 'pop-jihad as a lifestyle.'" [Newsweek.com]

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CONGRESS DOES PUPPY DAY - Paige Lavender and Amanda Terkel report: "Don Stewart, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), is a well-known dog enthusiast who shares photos of pups on Instagram with the hashtag #StewMeetsDogs. Loving dogs is a 'bipartisan experience,' he said. 'Dogs make people happier,' he added." Heartwarming. [HuffPost]

PAUL RYAN NOT AT ALL INTERESTED IN BEING GOP NOMINEE - Matt Fuller: "Assembled Wednesday in a committee room full of congressional interns -- and reporters -- House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) rebuked the disagreeable tone of politics in the 2016 race and even criticized his own use of divisive rhetoric in the past. From his familiar perch in the Ways and Means room, Ryan told the crowd of interns that, in this space, members used to hold themselves to a 'higher standard of decorum.' 'We treated each other with respect,' Ryan continued. 'We disagreed -- often fiercely so -- but we disagreed without being disagreeable.' Ryan said he spoke in the past tense only because he no longer serves on the Ways and Means Committee. 'But it almost sounds like I’m speaking of another time, doesn’t it?' he asked. Ryan's entire speech was an indirect repudiation of the 2016 race. Without naming names -- something he said he wouldn't do during a question-and-answer session after the speech -- the speaker didn't leave much to the imagination as to whom he was most directly referring...Ryan also reflected on some of his own divisive contributions to American politics. Specifically, Ryan criticized his use of the words 'makers and takers' to describe people on government benefits, an admission he has made previously." [HuffPost]

Today in the Daily Caller.

KASICH NOT GIVING UP ON THE DREAM - Sure, he was beat yesterday by a guy who dropped out, but he's changing the tone! Dave Weigel: "A chorus of Republicans, from hard-core supporters of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) to nervous establishment figures like Mitt Romney, is telling Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio) to stop campaigning and let voters consolidate behind a single Not-Trump candidate. Kasich's response: Thanks, but you don't know what you're talking about. 'When we get to Pennsylvania, we get to New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island -- let me tell ya, if I drop out, Donald Trump is absolutely going to be the nominee,' Kasich said after a town hall in the suburbs of Milwaukee. 'I'm not out here to stop Donald Trump, but I can tell you the reality of it. I don't believe Sen. Cruz can come to the east and win. I mean, if you take a look at what we've done so far, in Vermont I almost won. In Massachusetts I finished second. In Ohio I won by 11 points. In Michigan there was a lot of early voting, just like there was in Arizona, by the way. But with the late deciders, I won overwhelmingly.'" [WaPo]

SPLIT SCOTUS HEARS ABORTION CASE - Cristian Farias: "The Little Sisters of the Poor and other religious groups want the Supreme Court to free them from the government’s requirement that they sign a form to opt out of providing contraceptive coverage to the women who work for them. Without the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the bench, the court on Wednesday heard their pleas in a contentious hearing — likely to be evenly split along ideological lines — where the groups’ claim to religious freedom was pitted against the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that female employees have wide access to contraceptive services. The four liberal justices came down strongly on the side of the federal government, which means that the final outcome will once again depend on Justice Anthony Kennedy. The centrist judge, who is Catholic, appeared conflicted during the hearing by the “burden” the nuns and other religious groups face in objecting to providing coverage." [HuffPost]

The science is clear, though: "The case, Zubik v. Burwell, challenges the provision of the Affordable Care Act that requires employers to cover birth control for their female employees or opt out if they have a religious objection. The Little Sisters of the Poor, along with several other groups of religious conservatives, morally object to birth control because they believe it is the same as abortion. They argue that the law’s accommodation for religious groups, which asks the employer to fill out a form stating their objection, does not suffice to protect their religious freedom… The science is clear on birth control: it works by preventing the sperm from fertilizing the egg. Even emergency contraception, which women can take for up to 72 hours after sex to prevent pregnancy, works before fertilization happens and therefore is not the same as abortion." [HuffPost's Laura Bassett]

SWEET HOME(WRECKER) ALABAMA - "Here's the story: On Tuesday, the two-term governor [Robert Bentley] fired the state's top cop. That same day, the now-fired top cop told AL.com that Bentley had been having an affair with one of his top advisers. And he said he could prove it. The governor has denied affair rumors in the past, calling them 'ridiculous.' But he hasn't been able to shake that over the past year, whether in unsubstantiated blogs or in the halls of Alabama's capitol. There has been a rumor swirling he was having an affair with his chief adviser, Rebekah Caldwell Mason. (Mason is married, but Bentley's 50-year marriage officially ended this fall, an abrupt ending that Bentley has said shocked him.)" [WaPo]

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Here's a boy meeting a fawn.

THE WAY WE ___ NOW - Funny, the GOP has been swiping the vote for years. Brendan Klinkenberg: "Tinder is launching a new 'Swipe the Vote' feature on Wednesday for everyone using the app in the United States, to help people figure out which candidate to vote for in the upcoming presidential election. “Swipe to Vote” works a lot like regular Tinder, except instead of helping you hook up with a romantic liaison, you end up with, say, Donald Trump. It’s the app’s first official foray into politics. Tinder built the tool after some overzealous Bernie Sanders fans began using it for a different tactic: openly campaigning for their candidate. That got people banned, but it also indicated that there was a place for politics on a dating site. So, like any good tech company, it adapted to its users’ behavior." [BuzzFeed]


- Historical figures with photoshopped tattoos.


@logandobson: Lion Ted Cruz is the mane opposition to Trump at this point. Probably a point of pride. Feline pretty good about it.

@jonward11: 3 weeks ago, Paul Ryan said, "I hope this is the last time I need to speak out on this race."


@SimonMaloy: DELI GUY: whaddaya want
JEB: hello sir, what are my options
DELI GUY: well, we got a shit sandwich, and a shit sandwich with rabies
JEB: hmm

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