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Bridget Johnson

Bridget Johnson is a veteran journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She is an NPR contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.
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McKeon Farewell: ‘Shame on All of Us’ If We Cannot Take Care of Our Troops

Friday, December 5th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

The retiring chairman of the House Armed Services Committee delivered a scathing rebuke of administration defense policy in his farewell speech on the floor yesterday, arguing that the troops’ sacrifice is repaid with failing equipment and pay cuts.

Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), whose 22 years in Congress have included famous tangles with the White House over weak policy, bid goodbye to colleagues as the defense reauthorization bill passed 300-119.

McKeon said he hopes a bill can come to the floor next year that ends defense sequestration. ”When that solution comes, it will be a tough vote on both sides,” he said. “For some of my colleagues, it might be a fatal vote. I pray that you will hold this thought in your hearts when that vote comes: Remember the great sacrifice our troops are making around the world.”

“Right now, they are walking patrol in the mountains of Afghanistan. They are at sea within missile range of Iran. They are flying wingtip-to-wingtip against Russia bombers over the North Sea. They are nose to nose with the North Koreans. They are sweating in the equatorial heat of Africa, fighting a horrible disease. They are standing on the sand of Iraq, risking everything against a brutal enemy. They take those risks, they make those sacrifices, because of you. They do it for you. They do it for us. For their families, for their flag. For our freedom,” McKeon continued.

“And how we have repaid them? With equipment that is falling apart. By laying them off while they’re off in war zones. By docking their pay and their medical benefits. By throwing them out of the service and onto a broken economy.”

The congressman quoted Lord Byron: “They never fail, who die in a great cause.”

“I’ve met our forces on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, dirty and sweaty from fighting. I’ve watched too many families spend long months waiting for the deployed to come home. I’ve seen too many heroes put into the ground. They never failed us. Not once,” he said. “So shame on us, if we’re unwilling to pay back the debt we owe them. Shame on all of us, from the White House down, if we cannot make far less a sacrifice on their behalf.”

McKeon said it will fall on the 114th Congress and President Obama “to make these injustices right.”

“So please, show our troops the respect they deserve. Give them the tools they need. Help keep them safe. Honor their service, with your service. I know you will do the right thing.”

Befitting a McKeon, he left the chamber with an old Irish blessing.

“May the road rise up to meet you, may the wind be ever at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face and the rain fall softly on your fields. And until we meet again, may God hold you in the hollow of his hand,” the chairman said. “To this great body, and to our troops – wherever you may be — may God bless you and keep you, and may God bless America.”

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FBI Adds Accused Honor Killer to Top 10 List While Skirting Issue of Honor Killings

Friday, December 5th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

The FBI added to its Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list an Egyptian sought for the honor killing of his daughters in Texas in 2008.

Yaser Abdel Said, 57, was a cab driver from Lewisville, Texas. The FBI is offering a reward of up to $100,000 for information leading to his arrest.

The bulletin says the feds suspect Said could have gone back to Egypt or is hiding in Egyptian communities within the U.S.

On January 1, 2008, Said persuaded his estranged daughters Amina, 18, and Sarah, 17, to visit him on the premise he was going to take them to get some food. “Instead, he allegedly drove them in his taxi cab to a remote location and used a handgun to murder them,” the FBI said. “One of the girls was able to make a 911 call and was heard screaming for help, saying she and her sister were being shot by their father. Their bodies were discovered several hours later in the cab, which was abandoned outside a hotel in Irving, Texas.”

According to the Dallas Morning News, Irving police “said they explored all possible motives for the murders” and cited “previous domestic problems” in the family.

Relatives have said that Said physically abused the teens and threatened to kill them after discovering they had boyfriends. “A documentary film about the murders said Said shared a belief held in some parts of the world that women in a family are the property of men,” said the DMN report.

The documentary released this year, The Price of Honor, argues that Said did not flee to Egypt. It also revealed, through Amina’s own communications, her plan to protect her boyfriend from her dad and her prediction that her father would eventually kill her.

The film also argued that U.S. law enforcement mismanaged the case and needs to “raise the bar” on how honor killings are confronted.

The FBI bulletin on Said’s addition to the Top 10 list, also released in Arabic, doesn’t mention honor killing at all.

“Yaser Abdel Said is wanted for his alleged role in committing a terrible act of violence against his own daughters,” said Diego Rodriguez, special agent in charge of our Dallas Field Office. “Adding him to the Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list shows our commitment to seek justice for Amina and Sarah.”

“We believe that the combination of publicity, the significant reward, and the team of experienced investigators working the case from the Dallas Violent Crimes Task Force and the Irving Police Department will result in Said’s arrest,” he said.

“In addition to Egypt and Canada, investigators believe Said has ties to the Dallas-Fort Worth region and the New York City area,” the bulletin states. “He frequents diners—including Denny’s and IHOP restaurants—smokes Marlboro Lights 100s cigarettes, and loves dogs, especially tan- and black-colored German Shepherds. He may be working as a taxi driver.”

Special Agent Gil Balli, a task force supervisor who is leading the investigation, said because of the “cold-blooded” nature of the slayings the FBI need “to catch this individual and prevent him from harming anyone else.”

Said becomes the 504th person added to the Ten Most Wanted list since its inception in 1950.

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Defense Undersecretary for Personnel and Readiness Hands in Resignation

Thursday, December 4th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

The Defense Department is losing its undersecretary for Personnel and Readiness not six months after she was confirmed by the Senate.

Jessica Wright, who retired as a major general in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, had done the duties of her job as acting undersecretary since Jan. 1, 2013, and was confirmed June 25, 2014. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was nominated on Jan. 7, 2013, and his pending resignation was announced Nov. 24.

The Pentagon said this evening that Wright submitted her letter of resignation to President Obama and Hagel.

“She has decided to step down from her position effective March 31, 2015, in order to spend time with her family and enjoy her retirement,” the statement said.

“I want to thank our Undersecretary for Personnel and Readiness, Jes Wright,” Hagel said in a statement. “Thank you Jes for your service to this country, and the many, many long and distinguished years that you have given to our nation.”

Hagel’s clashes with Obama that led to his involuntary resignation included ISIS strategy and concerns that the administration’s defense cuts were hurting readiness.

In March, Wright told a House Armed Services subcommittee that “we believe that the quality of life of our military personnel is — is — is good.”

“At this point in time quality of life is good but quality of service, we believe, for our military member is lower. And so we would like to balance that for our service member,” she said.

That balance, she said, was figuring out how to pull enough from compensation to pay for needed training.

As an example, Wright noted the fighter squadrons grounded in 2013 for budget reasons.

“To bring that training up to a level where their readiness is sufficient takes a very long time. If we don’t use the money that we can get from that balanced approach then we will never get those fighter pilots to the proficiency that we need to get them to perform the mission that we’re asking them to perform,” she testified.

Wright was the first female aviator in the Army National Guard and the first female maneuver brigade commander in the Army.

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House Passes Bill Blocking Obama’s Immigration Executive Actions

Thursday, December 4th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

The House passed a bill this afternoon to neuter President Obama’s executive order on immigration, a vote in the waning days of the lame-duck session that will do little but put lawmakers on the record for or against the president’s actions.

The White House threatened a veto earlier in the day.

Rep. Ted Yoho’s (R-Fla.) Executive Amnesty Prevention Act states, “No provision of the United States Constitution, the Immigration and Nationality Act, or other Federal law shall be interpreted or applied to authorize the executive branch of the Government to exempt, by Executive order, regulation, or any other means, categories of persons unlawfully present in the United States from removal under the immigration laws (as such term is defined in section 101 of the Immigration and Nationality Act). Any action by the executive branch with the purpose of circumventing the objectives of this statute shall be null and void and without legal effect.” It would be retroactive.

The final vote was 219-197. Seven Republicans voted against the measure: Reps. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.), and David Valadao (R-Calif.). Gohmert and Stutzman protested that Yoho’s bill didn’t go far enough.

The three Democrats to vote for the bill were Blue Dog Reps. John Barrow (D-Ga.), Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.), and Collin Peterson (D-Minn.). Only Peterson is returning for the 114th Congress.

“The United States Senate should take this bill up and pass it,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said. “For the outgoing Senate Democrat majority to do anything less would be an act of monumental arrogance. The American people elected us to heed their will, and not to bow to the whims of a White House that regards the legislative process established by the Constitution as little more than a nuisance.”

The Office of Management and Budget, in its veto recommendation, said Yoho’s bill “would make the broken immigration system worse, not better.”

“By attempting to restrict the Administration’s ability to conduct national security and criminal background checks on undocumented immigrants, H.R. 5759 would make the Nation’s communities less safe. By attempting to make it more difficult for undocumented workers to register and pay taxes, the bill would hurt the Nation’s economy as well.”

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Boehner: GOPs ‘Griping the Most’ on Immigration Signed Off on Short-Term Funding Punt

Thursday, December 4th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters today that the lower chamber will focus next week on keeping the government open “while keeping our leverage so that when we have reinforcements in the Senate, we’re in the strongest position to take additional actions to fight the president’s unilateral actions.”

Boehner wants to pass long-term funding of all departments except Homeland Security, which would receive short-term funding and punt immigration to the spring.

He argues that the best way to confront President Obama’s executive action is when the GOP has a majority in the Senate.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), meanwhile, is lobbying House conservatives to go the shutdown route a la 2013.

“The simple thing that I would urge to every Republican who spent the last year campaigning across this country saying ‘If you elect me, we will stop President Obama’s amnesty,’ do what you promised,” Cruz said at a rally on the Hill yesterday. “Doing what you promised doesn’t mean, as it so often does in Washington, sending a really stern letter and having a meaningless show vote.”

The House is voting on the Preventing Executive Overreach on Immigration Act of 2014, a bill from Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) to block Obama’s action. The Office of Management and Budget issued a veto threat today.

“The bill’s objective is clearly to nullify and block implementation of these executive actions, which would have devastating consequences,” the OMB statement said. “…The President’s actions will increase accountability in the Nation’s broken immigration system while he continues to urge the Congress to finish the job and pass commonsense immigration reform that offers meaningful solutions to the broken system.”

Boehner said that the short-term funding course of action “is based on numerous conversations with our members and I frankly think it gives us the best chance for success.”

“…And we listened to some members who were, frankly, griping the most. This was their idea of how to proceed.”

Boehner said he expected “bipartisan support” for the plan, as well.

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.) said the short-term DHS funding would be damaging.

“A stop-gap funding measure would create harmful ripple effects for state and local governments who receive support from the Department for emergency response and law enforcement needs,” Carper said in a statement. “The Secret Service would be unable to move forward with new training and the hiring of additional Secret Service agents – something that Congress called on the agency to do just a few months ago. It would also hurt the Department’s efforts to bring on more Border Patrol agents and other resources to stem the flow of migrants crossing the border and to fund new border surveillance technology.”

Boehner also argued that the 114th Congress will be a better time to chip away at Obamacare.

“Listen, we have worked and voted and voted and voted to get rid of the Affordable Care Act. It’s hurting families, it’s raising cost, and it’s frankly wrecking the best health care delivery system the world has ever known,” he said.

“And so we’ve — we’ve put an awful lot of effort in it. I haven’t gotten very far. But again, come January, we’re going to have a Republican House and a Republican Senate, and we’ll be in a stronger position to deal with not just only the issue of the president violating the Constitution, but in a stronger position to deal with the Affordable Care Act.”

When asked if he planned on not inviting Obama to address the nation in the State of the Union address, Boehner replied, “Listen, the more the president talks about his ideas, the more unpopular he becomes. Why would I want to deprive him of that opportunity?”

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Obama Refuses to Move U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, Again

Thursday, December 4th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

President Obama again used a national security loophole to keep the U.S. Embassy from moving to Jerusalem as required by a nearly 20-year-old law.

“I hereby determine that it is necessary, in order to protect the national security interests of the United States, to suspend for a period of 6 months the limitations set forth in sections 3(b) and 7(b) of the Act,” Obama wrote in a memorandum to Secretary of State John Kerry, mirroring what he’s written every six months.

Under the 1995 act, which was overwhelmingly approved in the House and Senate, the Embassy was supposed to be relocated from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem by May 31, 1999.

George W. Bush suspended the requirements of the bill, too, but always included this sentence in his memos: “My Administration remains committed to beginning the process of moving our embassy to Jerusalem.”

The Obama administration considers Jerusalem on the table for potential division in a final-status agreement.

Two months ago, the White House accused Israel of “poisoning” the peace process with construction in Jerusalem.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Oct. 1 that the U.S. is “deeply concerned by reports that Israeli government has moved forward with the planning process in the sensitive area — or in a sensitive area of east Jerusalem.”

“This step is contrary to Israel’s stated goal of negotiating a permanent status agreement with the Palestinians, and it would send a very troubling message if they were to proceed with tenders or construction in that area,” Earnest continued. “This development will only draw condemnation from the international community, distance Israel from even its closest allies, poison the atmosphere, not only with the Palestinians but also with the very Arab governments with which Prime Minister Netanyahu said he wanted to build relations.”

“It also would call into question Israel’s ultimate commitment to peaceful negotiated settlement with the Palestinians.”

Since then, a U.S. citizen baby was killed in a terror attack at a Jerusalem light-rail station and three American rabbis were killed in a vicious synagogue attack.

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Bush Admin Official: ‘I Wish Hugo Chavez Had Passed Earlier’

Thursday, December 4th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

A former assistant secretary of State in the Bush administration said in an Al Jazeera forum that things would be better today if late Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez died earlier.

Chavez came to power in 1999 and set about trying to create his socialist Bolivarian Republic until his March 2013 death.

In an episode of Head to Head airing Friday on Al Jazeera, former Assistant Secretary of State Otto Reich, a Cuban-American with vast experience in Latin American affairs, was asked by a member of the Oxford Union audience if he regretted how relations between the U.S. and Venezuela are today.

“Yes, I feel regret. I wish that Hugo Chávez had passed earlier,” Reich replied, adding, “I don’t want to put myself in the position of the person who made that decision… he died of cancer, as you know.”

Reich noted that the regime accused him of injecting Chavez with cancer. “This shows you the ridiculousness of the allegations.”

The Al Jazeera host suggested that their paranoia wasn’t unfounded since the U.S. tried to kill Fidel Castro.

“The U.S. did, and, and I’m sorry that it failed. Just like, if we had been able to kill Hitler in 1938, we should have with no regrets,” Reich said.

He stressed that he had nothing to do with the 2002 coup against Chavez, “and what I used to joke at that time is if I had something to do with the coup it would probably have turned out differently.”

Branding the Venezuelan government an “authoritarian regime,” Reich argued with the host on the legitimacy of elections that kept Chavez in power.

Reich also said the Cuba embargo should be “kept as it is” as long as the Castro regime is in power. President Obama is considering using executive actions to dial it back despite continuing human rights violations and the five-year imprisonment of USAID subcontractor Alan Gross.

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Holder Launching Civil Rights Investigation Into Garner’s Death

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Attorney General Eric Holder emerged at the Justice Department podium in primetime to announce that his department will proceed with a federal civil rights investigation into the death of Eric Garner.

Holder’s announcement came just hours after a grand jury on Staten Island decided to not indict NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who was placed his arm around Garner’s neck while pulling him to the ground and keeping him there during the July arrest. Garner complained he couldn’t breathe, and soon after died of a heart attack.

Holder said that the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Civil Rights Division of the DOJ and the FBI had been monitoring the local grand jury proceedings “closely,” and will now conduct an “independent, thorough, fair and expeditious investigation.”

The attorney general said he’d been in touch with Garner’s widow, President Obama and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio about the DOJ decision.

“We have all seen the video of Mr. Garner’s arrest. His death, of course, was a tragedy. All lives must be valued,” Holder said. “Mr. Garner’s death is one of several recent incidents across the country that have tested the sense of trust that must exist between law enforcement and the communities they are charged to serve and protect.”

“This is not a New York issue or a Ferguson issue alone. Those who have protested peacefully across our great nation following the grand jury’s decision in Ferguson have made that clear.”

Holder stressed that the “vast majority of our law enforcement officers perform their duties honorably and are committed to respecting their fellow citizens civil rights as they carry out their very challenging work.”

“It is for their sake as well that we must seek to heal the breakdown in trust we have seen,” he said.

Holder acknowledged that “substantial numbers of people” are “disappointed and frustrated” in today’s grand jury verdict. “I know many will plan to voice their disappointment publicly through protests,” he said. “This is the right of all Americans.”

He urged protesters to remain peaceful and “not to engage in activities that deflect our attention from the very serious matters our nation must confront.”

Garner’s wife, Esaw, told media, “My husband’s death will not be in vain; as long as there’s a breath in my body I will fight the fight.”

“I don’t know what video they were looking at; evidently it wasn’t the same video the rest of the world was looking at,” his mother, Gwen Carr, said.

“We’ve gotta make this right, and we’re so happy that the federal government is now talking about taking over and investigating. We asked them twice before,” Carr added.

She urged protesters to “make a statement, but make it in peace. Do what you have to, but do it in peace.”

Obama delivered a few thoughts on the Garner decision as news broke during the White House Tribal Nations Conference.

The video showing Garner’s death, he said, “speaks to the larger issues that we’ve been talking about now for the last week, the last month, the last year, and, sadly, for decades, and that is the concern on the part of too many minority communities that law enforcement is not working with them and dealing with them in a fair way.”

“And there’s going to be, I’m sure, additional statements by law enforcement. My tradition is not to remark on cases where there may still be an investigation,” Obama said. “But I want everybody to understand that this week, in the wake of Ferguson, we initiated a task force whose job it is to come back to me with specific recommendations about how we strengthen the relationship between law enforcement and communities of color and minority communities that feel that bias is taking place; that we are going to take specific steps to improve the training and the work with state and local governments when it comes to policing in communities of color; that we are going to be scrupulous in investigating cases where we are concerned about the impartiality and accountability that’s taking place.”

“And as I said when I met with folks both from Ferguson and law enforcement and clergy and civil rights activists, I said this is an issue that we’ve been dealing with for too long and it’s time for us to make more progress than we’ve made,” he added. “And I’m not interested in talk; I’m interested in action. And I am absolutely committed as president of the United States to making sure that we have a country in which everybody believes in the core principle that we are equal under the law.”

New York’s senators called on the Justice Department to investigate soon after the verdict was announced.

“The Justice Department must launch a Federal investigation into Eric Garner’s death as soon as possible,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) tweeted.

“While this decision is shocking, I want to echo the statement of a wide range of leaders inside and outside of government who are urging that protests remain peaceful in the aftermath of this decision,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said in a statement. “The death of Eric Garner is a tragedy that demands accountability. Nobody unarmed should die on a New York City street corner for suspected low-level offenses. I’m shocked by this grand jury decision, and will be calling on the Department of Justice to investigate.”

The congressman who represents Staten Island, Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.), defended the job done by the grand jury.

“There’s no question that this grand jury had an immensely difficult task before them, but I have full faith that their judgment was fair and reasoned and I applaud DA Donovan for overseeing this case with the utmost integrity,” Grimm said in a statement. “As we all pray for the Garner family, I hope that we can now move forward and begin to heal together as a community.”

Rep. Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.), who represents the Bronx, said the decision “just adds to the feeling of that our criminal justice system is failing minority victims and letting the perpetrators get away.”

“Today’s decision will rightfully reignite the sense of outrage that many felt after the Ferguson grand jury decision, especially in New York,” Serrano said. “While I understand their frustration, I encourage people to express it through peaceful means. We don’t need to resort to violence to make our voices heard.”

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No Indictment in Videotaped NYPD Chokehold Death

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson
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A grand jury on Staten Island has decided to not indict a New York Police Department officer in the death of Eric Garner, who was placed in a chokehold and died of a heart attack.

Garner, who suffered from asthma, was captured on video telling arresting officers that he couldn’t breathe as Officer Daniel Pantaleo’s arm was around his neck, pushing him face-first toward the sidewalk.

The medical examiner ruled the death a homicide, saying compression of the neck and chest with asthma, obesity and hypertensive cardiovascular disease as contributing factors killed Garner.

Officers suspected Garner, 43, was selling loose, untaxed cigarettes. A full video of the incident was shot by a bystander, which shows Garner arguing with police but not being physically aggressive before he was taken down. Witnesses said he caught the eye of cops when he helped break up a fight on the sidewalk.

The grand jury was given a broad slate of charges to consider ranging from reckless endangerment up to second-degree manslaughter.

Previous complaints against the 29-year-old cop in the incident include a 2012 settlement for a public strip-search that cost the city $30,000. Another lawsuit against Pantaleo alleges he arrested a man with no cause.

Garner’s 18-year-old son, Eric Snipes, told the New York Daily News on Tuesday that there would not be riots regardless of the verdict.

“It’s not going to be a Ferguson-like protest because I think everybody knows my father wasn’t a violent man and they’re going to respect his memory by remaining peaceful,” Snipes said. “It’s not going to be like it was there.”

Activists on Twitter were urging protesters to meet at Union Square this evening. Tonight is the Christmas tree lighting at Rockefeller Center in New York.

Pantaleo issued a statement saying he “became a police officer to help people and to protect those who can’t protect themselves.”

“It is never my intention to harm anyone and I feel very bad about the death of Mr. Garner,” the officer said. “My family and I include him and his family in our prayers and I hope that they will accept my personal condolences for their loss.”

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Gowdy Warns GOPs to Not Take the Shutdown ‘Bait’

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) said Republicans need to be careful to not “take the bait” with a dramatic response to President Obama’s immigration executive action.

Reps. Steve King (R-Iowa) and Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) are holding a noontime press conference with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who has been urging House conservatives to force a shutdown if lawmakers refuse to defund Obama’s immigration programs.

Gowdy noted this morning “the House is debating right now how to respond to it.” Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) wants to pass long-term funding for all departments except Homeland Security, which would receive funding until the spring and give a GOP-majority Senate and House the chance to tackle immigration funding in the 114th Congress.

“I think it’s careful that we not take the bait. You know, what the president wants us to do is to over-respond so our public approval ratings are as low as his,” Gowdy told Fox.

“My personal preference in terms of strategies is for the Senate to use advice and consent,” he continued. “You just spoke about ambassadors who can’t find the country they’re going to on a globe. That’d be a great place to start, where John McCain said, ‘You know what, Mr. President? You want to act like an emperor? We’re going to do our job and not confer advice and consent and not approve some of your nominees.’ That is where I would start if I were calling the shots, but I’m not.”

Gowdy said he would go after both nominations and funding, but “the funding gets into a shutdown debate, which we, historically, have never won.”

“The advice and consent, I think most of my fellow citizens want legitimate, serious ambassadors going to foreign countries. We want good judges. We want good cabinet level officials,” he said. “So I think with respect to advice and consent, my fellow citizens would be on our side.”

McCain told Fox yesterday that he doesn’t expect a government shutdown.

“I do not expect that because I just don’t think most of us believe that that’s a viable option,” the senator said. “We need to rifle-shot these programs to keep from a government shutdown. As far as the other aspect of it, no, we shouldn’t shut down the government. But at the same time, there are certain things that we just shouldn’t compromise on either. So it’s — very tough decisions are going to be made in the next few days.”

“I am absolutely convinced that our lesson from this last election that they want us to govern — and we will govern and we’ll have a positive agenda. And if the president wants to veto the results of that positive agenda, he can. But we will be coming forward with progressive and productive legislation to send to the president of the United State and that way we can elect a Republican president in 2016.”

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Paul: If You Label Some Conservative and Others Not, ‘You Miss What’s Going on’ in GOP

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) called it a “mistake” for people to label some in the Republican Party as “conservative” and others not.

Paul made the comments on Fox last night after host Megyn Kelly noted, “Jeb Bush was considered to have taken some sort of a shot at conservative Republicans yesterday suggesting that the GOP doesn’t need conservatives to win the White House and what it needs is a candidate who would be willing to lose the primary in order to win the general.”

“I think your first mistake is when you talk about conservatives in the third person, if you don’t consider it’s a ‘we’ rather than ‘them,’ you miss what’s going on in the Republican Party,” Paul replied. “We are a conservative party. As a conservative, I can’t understand really even referring to conservatives in this third person.”

The senator announced yesterday that he’s running for re-election, while his campaign teams figures out how he might run for president at the same time.

“Right now we’re only announcing for one office, so it’s really not a controversy” of how he’ll legally run for both in Kentucky, he told Fox.

“But let’s say, hypothetically, in the spring we’re having this discussion again and we were considering running for the nomination, I think there are many different ways it could be done. Probably the simplest way is the primaries in Kentucky are controlled by the party and we could simply move up our primary, make it a caucus, we’d be more relevant and then the law wouldn’t apply. So that’s probably the easiest way to fix things should I decide to run,” Paul said.

“Is the message that I’m bringing to the country, is it viable? Is it something that’s enough different that Republicans will pause and say, you know what? This is a Republican that can attract African-American votes. This is a Republican that can attract independent votes. Is that going to resonate enough to pull new people into the party so say hey, this is a party big enough to win Illinois, a party big enough to win Pennsylvania and Ohio again. That’s what the debate will be about. We’ll see things come down. I’ll make my decision probably in the March-April timeframe.”

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House Dem Leader: GOP Caucus Needs to Find Its Anchor

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

The chairman of the House Democratic Caucus said his party is benefiting from having a better “anchor” than lawmakers on the other side of the aisle.

“I think the Republican Party is trying to figure out who it is, you know, this internal civil war they’re having,” Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) told MSNBC this morning.

“But once they do, then you know where the anchor is. And on the Democratic side, you — there’s a better sense of where the anchor is. And you do exactly as you said. You come together. You figure out where the middle is. And then you get things done,” he continued.

“And we’ve not been able to get things done because as you can see with immigration, there is a far right element to the Republican party that’s unwilling to let the right do what it would like to do, and that is get us moving. And it’s unfortunate.”

Becerra likened House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) trying to get his caucus to agree to punt the immigration funding fight to next year to “John the gambler, the poker player, coming out of his caucus, saying we’re not talking about shutting down the government.”

“And a whole bunch of the poker players at the table saying, hey, this isn’t good enough. We’re — we’re ready to shut down the government,” he said. “And he’s hoping, I believe, that there will be enough votes, Republicans, and maybe he can gather a few Democrats that he can get something out of the House.”

“And he’s got to do that, because he’s got to try to navigate the ship. And unfortunately, you gotta — he’s gonna have a crew, part of the crew that wants to shut the government down. And so, I think he’s — I think Speaker Boehner does not want to shut the government down. But I believe he’s got an element in his Republican caucus that does.”

This morning Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who has previously held secret meetings with a core group of House Tea Party allies to try to sway House action, issued a statement saying “both Houses should use the power of the purse” to stop President Obama’s immigration executive action.

“We should pass a short-term continuing resolution that includes language defunding the implementation of the president’s executive action on amnesty,” Cruz said, arguing that a dozen Senate Democrats have expressed concern with Obama’s unilateral action. However, while Democrats have expressed displeasure with the executive action, most have said they agree with the policies and purpose.

“Most people will tell you, OK, let’s get tough on the border. Let’s get tough at the workplace so we don’t let Americans violate the law and hire people who don’t have the right to work. Let’s deal with those who have been trying to come in the right way for years and are upset that the process doesn’t work with legal visas. And then let’s deal with the 10, 11 million people who are here, who some of whom have been working a long time, paying taxes. Give them a chance. And the rest, go ahead and start deporting,” Becerra said.

“And most people would tell you there’s a common sense way to do this. They just don’t see why Washington can’t understand that.”

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Scott: NAACP Ignoring Historic Victory Was ‘No Slight’ at All

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Sworn into office yesterday as the South’s first black senator to win election since Reconstruction, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) said he hold no ill will toward the NAACP for not recognizing his historic victory.

“It’s no slight, to be honest with you,” Scott told Fox News on the Hill.

“Ultimately, I’m thankful for those who actually know who I am, who celebrate the success of me and my family, particularly my grandfather and my mother, who paid a high price to make sure that I had an opportunity to succeed,” he said.

“This is a good day. Frankly, the fact that the NAACP does not weigh in, in a positive position has been my experience for the last four years of elected office. Nothing has changed. That’s OK with me.”

Scott also gave some insight into how communities can move forward in the wake of the Ferguson grand jury verdict and protests.

“Perhaps one of the things that we could focus on as a nation and as a community is having a vision, a positive, constructive vision about the future,” he said. “I am so thankful that we have law enforcement officers who are willing to put their life on the line to serve people that they never met before. And at the same time, I understand the pain and misery that comes with living in poverty.”

“So when you put those two together, I would love to see a positive outcome. One of the ways that we have a positive outcome are to bring stakeholders to the same table and have a serious conversation about moving forward.”

Scott said he’s reached out to “friends of mine” in the Congressional Black Caucus and at the Urban League.

“I also reached out to Hispanic leaders, as well as white leaders, so that we could bring people together,” he said.

“The one thing that has made America the most amazing country on Earth is the ability to overcome obstacles. We are good at that when we focus on the future and not simply getting mired in the past.”

By focusing on his “opportunity agenda,” which includes school choice, the senator said he believes “we can move the country in the right direction.”

“But we need more mentors showing up in neighborhoods that are at risk. We could take those at-risk kids and make them into high-potential kids. This takes work. It doesn’t take just merely having a good vision. It takes rolling up your sleeves up and going to work.”

Asked if his next stop is the White House, Scott replied “no” before quipping, “I think the next step is going to vote in about three minutes.”

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McCain: New Defense Secretary Warned That ‘He Will Not Have Influence’

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

The Defense Department was mum today on whether President Obama is poised to nominate Chuck Hagel’s former No. 2 to fill his job, but Ashton Carter will likely have an easy road to confirmation.

A road that will be lined with lawmakers warning the former deputy secretary of Defense that he’ll be neutered by the White House.

“I’m obviously mindful of the swirl out there in the media environment today about the potential nominee for next secretary of Defense,” Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby told reporters today. “So let me just say right at the outset that this is a decision that only the president can make and only the president can announce. And it’s up to the president and the White House to determine the timing of any such announcement.”

“I have no information to share with you today about who the nominee might be or when the nominee might be announced,” Kirby continued. “For our part here in the Pentagon, Secretary Hagel is focused on doing his job as secretary of Defense, making sure that our men and women have all the support and resources they need to conduct the missions that they’ve been told to conduct around the world, to include many of them in harm’s way. And I think that’s important to remember as we start to head in towards the holiday season.”

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said “as soon as we’re in a position to start making those announcements, we’ll be sure to let you know.”

“I personally am a pretty strong advocate, people who have previously performed well in deputy roles being promoted to the top job,” quipped the former deputy to Jay Carney. “So that’s been a recipe for success in filling previous personnel positions.”

After Obama selected Hagel for Defense secretary, he personally asked Carter to stay at the Pentagon as Hagel’s deputy. Carter resigned in November 2013.

“I think he’s a very good man. I think he’s been very good on defense acquisition and some other programs,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the incoming chairman of the Armed Services Committee, told Fox. “I just hope that he realizes that if he takes the job, he will not have influence, just as his three predecessors didn’t, on national security policy. As long as he understands that, then so be it.”

Democrats signaled approval with the potential pick, as well.

“Carter is an ultimate professional. He knows the Department of Defense inside and out, is a former assistant secretary for acquisitions and weapons development,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) told Bloomberg. “He is a real professional, digs and drills down on questions. And I think he’s a very solid choice for the president.”

“He’s got broad experience in the Department of Defense, knows it well and also knows Capitol Hill and the dynamics of dealing with all of the complexities of the Department of Defense, especially now when we have a major engagement against ISIS and have other challenges that are — other national security, as well as fiscal challenges,” Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) told CNN. “So he’d be a great choice.”

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Short-Term DHS Funding Strategy Would Punt Immigration Fight to 2015

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Republican leadership should “step up and put these extremists in their place so that we can govern like adults” while trying to pass funding to keep the government running.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) proposed to the GOP caucus behind closed doors that a viable strategy would be to pass funding for most of the government through September and leave the department that would fund Obama’s immigration executive action, Homeland Security, on a short-term spending approval.

The move would basically punt the immigration standoff to next year when Republicans have control of both houses of Congress.

“I think they understand that it’s going to be difficult to take meaningful action as long as we’ve got Democratic control in the Senate,” Boehner told reporters.

“Listen, we’re taking a look at a number of options in terms of how we address this. Now, this is a serious breach of our Constitution — it’s a serious threat to our system of government and frankly we have limited options and limited abilities to deal with it directly,” he said. “But that’s why we’re continuing to talk to our members. We have not made and decisions on how we are going to proceed, but we are in fact going to proceed.”

Reid emerged from his policy luncheon with “just a gentle reminder — nine days, the government runs out of money.”

He also stressed that Democrats want “a long-term omnibus dealing with all of our appropriation bills,” meaning they could put their foot down over Boehner’s short-term DHS funding plan.

“I think it would be quite a burden for the Republicans to bear if the first thing out of the box is government being unfunded,” Reid said. “…There’re still factions within the Republican Party who want to take these extreme measures. We read about them and hear about them everyday. So there’s nothing new in this instance.”

“But for these extremists, there’s always a reason to try and poke the president. If it’s not one thing, it’s another. At some point, it’ll be time for responsible Republicans to step up and put these extremists in their place so that we can govern like adults. I hope this will happen sooner rather than later.”

Reid called it “kind of unfortunate they’re talking about not doing Homeland Security, but that’s the way it is.”

Still, it wouldn’t be an automatic rejection from his caucus, Reid said.

“I think it’s a shame that they’re not going to include the very important Homeland Security appropriation bill, but I understand why they’re doing it. We’ll take a look at it,” he said. “We’ve had a long discussion in caucus. Let’s see what they send us, what’s in it, and we’ll make that decision then.”

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Holder at MLK Church: DOJ Determined to ‘Help End Racial Profiling, Once and for All’

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Speaking at the Atlanta church of Martin Luther King, Jr., Attorney General Eric Holder said last night that “it’s apparent that our nation’s journey is not yet over” from the tribulations of the civil rights movement.

“And so we return once more to this hallowed place to seek shelter from a terrible storm – a storm that I’m certain we will weather, so long as we continue to stand united – and unafraid to address realities too long ignored,” Holder told the crowd at the Ebenezer Baptist Church.

He wouldn’t give details on the progress of the federal investigation into the shooting death of Michael Brown by Officer Darren Wilson as well as practices of the Ferguson Police Department, only to say that the probes are “ongoing and active.”

“I understand that the need for this trust was made clear in the wake of the intense public reaction to last week’s grand jury announcement. But the problems we must confront are not only found in Ferguson. The issues raised in Missouri are not unique to that state or that small city. We are dealing with concerns that are truly national in scope and that threaten the entire nation,” Holder said.

“…Our overall system of justice must be strengthened and made more fair. In this way, we can ensure faith in the justice system. Without that deserved faith, without that reasoned belief, there can be no justice. This is not an unreasonable desire – it is a fundamental American right enshrined in our founding documents.”

Holder said the loss of Brown or any young life is “heart-rending, regardless of the circumstances.”

“And it is deeply unfortunate that this vital conversation was interrupted, and this young man’s memory dishonored, by destruction and looting on the part of a relatively small criminal element,” the attorney general continued.

“Dr. King would be the first to remind us that acts of mindless destruction are not only contrary to the rule of law and the aims of public safety; they threaten to stifle important debate, ‘adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.’ They actively impede social progress by drowning out the legitimate voices of those attempting to make themselves heard.”

Holder renewed MLK’s call “for all those who seek to lend their voices to important causes and discussions, and who seek to elevate these vital conversations, to do so in ways that respect the gravity of their subject matter.”

“I urge all Americans to stand in solidarity with those brave citizens, in Ferguson, who stopped looters from destroying even more local businesses, who isolated people responsible for acts of violence, and who rejected lawless and destructive tactics – just as I have urged them to stand with law enforcement personnel to ensure the rights of protestors and defuse tense situations whenever and wherever possible.”

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Missouri Dem: Nobody ‘Except the Crazies’ Feels Comfortable with Police-Community Tension

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

The former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus said only the “crazies” feel the tension between police and communities is acceptable in the wake of Ferguson.

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) told MSNBC last night that he believes what President Obama “is trying to do is to inspire Americans to do what they don’t really want to do in order to achieve what they really would like to achieve, which is a race-less society.”

Obama pulled together mayors and leaders of advocacy groups ranging from the NAACP to La Raza yesterday to talk about reforms after the shooting of Michael Brown and subsequent protests. His game plan includes putting tighter restrictions on military equipment used by police and sending Attorney General Eric Holder out to meet with community leaders.

“And it’s difficult where — it’s not the number one job that the president has. But in many ways he is an evangelist,” said Cleaver, who’s also a Methodist pastor. “And the meeting at the White House today was evangelistic in the sense that, he’s trying to come up with ways in which we can reduce the tension and then try to move forward to get to another level in this country.”

“I don’t think there’s anybody except the crazies who feel comfortable right now with what’s going on. And for the president to call a meeting in the White House I think is symbolic of what he what people to do around to the country today is look for solutions. This is not about hating police department.”

The former mayor of Kansas City stressed he had security for eight years from the police department. “And 99.9999 percent of those guys are good human beings.”

Cleaver lauded the five Rams players who came onto the field with a “hands up, don’t shoot” gesture, drawing criticism from the local police union.

“Back in the 1970s we had professional athletes like Jim Brown, like Kareem Abdul Jabbar and others who became intimately involved with the civil rights movement,” he said. “…I am trilled that there are young athletes, professional athletes now who are going beyond taking up their paycheck and performing on the field or on the basketball court. I think it’s a good thing.”

Cleaver said that doesn’t mean people need to agree with the gesture, but can take away the message: “Look, please try to understand our pain. You don’t have to agree, just try to understand how we feel when these things like this happen.”

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Portman Decides Against Running for President; Could He Be Tapped for VP?

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said he’d rather run for the upper chamber again than shoot for the White House.

“It’s a great honor to represent the people of Ohio in the U.S. Senate, and I have decided to run for re-election in 2016,” Portman said in a statement late Monday night. “I am excited about continuing to serve, especially with the change in the Senate leadership.”

“With the new Republican majority, I see a real opportunity over the next two years to break the gridlock in Washington and actually get things done to help Ohioans and all Americans. That’s where I believe I can play the most constructive role.”

Portman added, “I don’t think I can run for president and be an effective senator at the same time.”

“…While I appreciate the encouragement I have received from many to run for president, my focus will remain on Ohio and running for re-election to the Senate in 2016.  I look forward to formally announcing my re-election campaign in the new year.”

The former Office of Management and Budget Director was on Mitt Romney’s VP shortlist in 2012, leading many to believe he wouldn’t mind being tapped for No. 2 by the 2016 nominee.

Portman would be a pick for a presidential hopeful who wants to add a swing-state social moderate to the ticket.

In March 2013, Portman wrote an op-ed in favor of same-sex marriage, noting how his son Will came out as gay two years before.

Support for gay marriage in Ohio was at 50-43 percent earlier this year.

“I have come to believe that if two people are prepared to make a lifetime commitment to love and care for each other in good times and in bad, the government shouldn’t deny them the opportunity to get married,” Portman wrote in the Columbus Dispatch. “…My position on marriage for same-sex couples was rooted in my faith tradition that marriage is a sacred bond between a man and a woman. Knowing that my son is gay prompted me to consider the issue from another perspective: that of a dad who wants all three of his kids to lead happy, meaningful lives with the people they love, a blessing Jane and I have shared for 26 years.”

“I wrestled with how to reconcile my Christian faith with my desire for Will to have the same opportunities to pursue happiness and fulfillment as his brother and sister. Ultimately, it came down to the Bible’s overarching themes of love and compassion and my belief that we are all children of God.”

Last November, Portman voted for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, intended to protect gays and lesbians in the workplace.

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Rand Paul Running for Senate in 2016 — and President, Too?

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) announced this morning that he’ll run for re-election to the upper chamber in 2016.

But that doesn’t mean he won’t be running for president at the same time.

Paul’s campaign released a statement touting his endorsements from Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who will be majority leader next month and benefited from Paul campaigning on his behalf, and every other member of the state’s GOP delegation.

“I ran for office because, like many Kentuckians, I was alarmed at the problems facing our country: a stagnant and uneven economy, a growing national debt, out-of-control federal spending, a disastrous health care plan, the assault on our civil rights and liberties, and a misguided foreign policy,” Paul said.

“I have drawn attention to these problems and others here in Kentucky, like the War on Coal, an overzealous EPA and Army Corps of Engineers, and the ban on industrial hemp. I have sought to work with any and all who are eager to find solutions and promote reforms. I stand with Kentucky in this fight, and I hope to continue together in the task of repairing and revitalizing our great nation.”

McConnell joined the announcement, calling Paul “an irreplaceable partner” in the Senate.

“His innovative mind for conservative reforms that create jobs and get the economy working again is essential in the U.S. Senate as we seek to reverse Obama policies that have hurt Kentucky families,” he added.

Paul told Kentucky media in a story published Monday that he’s “four to six months” away from deciding whether he will run for president.

And the next steps? National Journal reports that the senator’s “brain trust has spent months developing an exhaustive political and legal battle plan to ensure he can run for both Senate reelection and the White House in 2016—despite a Kentucky law that suggests otherwise”:

They have developed backup plans for their backup plans in an all-out effort to safeguard Paul’s Senate seat should he falter in the presidential sweepstakes. The contingencies range from changing Kentucky into a presidential caucus state to filing a lawsuit challenging the law, from daring Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes to keep him off the ballot to taking her out next November if she does.

…The problem facing Paul is pretty simple. Kentucky law says “no candidate’s name shall appear on any voting machine or absentee ballot more than once.” Yet Paul wants to appear as a candidate both for Senate and president.

…They argue the Kentucky statute is unconstitutional when applied to federal races, citing the U.S. Supreme Court tossing out state-imposed federal term limits. Other national candidates, including Paul Ryan in 2012 and Joe Biden in 2008, have successfully sought lower federal offices simultaneously. But Paul’s team wants to avoid fighting a court battle, if possible.

Currently, the top option Team Rand sees is to shift Kentucky’s May 2016 presidential primary to a caucus in March, which would technically mean Paul isn’t on the same ballot and thus could circumvent the restriction.

The shift would have another advantage for Paul: moving up his home state in the nominating calendar. His team is eyeing March 16—the earliest date a winner-take-all caucus could be held without penalty, per Republican National Committee rules.

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‘Draft Romney’ Campaign from Utah GOP Points to Poll as Evidence of Grass-Roots Support

Monday, December 1st, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

The leader of a campaign to draft Mitt Romney to run for president — again — said he’s simply responding to the groundswell of popular support wanting to see the former Massachusetts governor on the ticket again.

A Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday found Romney in the top position among possible 2016 contenders and edging out Hillary Clinton in a head-to-head matchup.

Jeb Bush came in second for the GOP nomination in the poll, but a Clinton-Bush matchup puts the former Florida governor five points behind.

Utah Republican Party Chairman James Evans told Fox News that Romney has made “a lot of different statements” about future aspirations, leaving his supporters’ dreams alive.

“I would ask that you look at the chorus of individuals just from every spectrum of our society encouraging Governor Romney to run again,” Evans said.

“And I think that says a lot. So, while we started with a draft Mitt effort, this has gone far beyond our grass-roots effort. You have those at the top of the political spectrum encouraging Governor Romney to run, all the way down to grassroots individuals like myself,” he continued. “So the bottom line is, is that the demand is there. Governor Romney is the supply. He’s a businessman. And he knows the law of economics, supply and demand.”

Evans argued that it “states volumes” for a Romney candidacy that he hasn’t even said he wants to run yet beats out a vast pack of other hopefuls or potential candidates.

“So, if I were Governor Romney, I would also play it a little cool and make sure that I can have everything in place, and, if I choose to run, then I will choose the time and place of my announcement,” he said. “But I wouldn’t be rushed into it.”

The state party chairman said the movement to draft Romney isn’t connected to the 2012 candidate in any way: “The easiest way to think of us is that we’re kind of peasants out of there.”

“Governor Romney is a resident of Utah, and he will make an extraordinary president.… Governor Romney has a track record of resolving issues, fixing problems, and putting us in a better position than we were before.”

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Kerry Says Obama ‘Set a Higher Standard’ to Fight AIDS Than Bush’s Historic Commitment

Monday, December 1st, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

The White House marked World AIDS Day today without either Secretary of State John Kerry or National Security Advisor Susan Rice mentioning President George W. Bush’s historic investment in the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) that has supplied life-saving drugs to millions of patients infected with HIV worldwide.

In fact, last year AIDS activists were noting that the Obama administration kept chipping away at the successful program, knocking down PEPFAR funding 12 percent since 2010.

“When the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief first was launched in 2003, there were then some 10,000 infections daily. Today, new HIV infections are down by nearly 40 percent, though still higher, obviously, than we want them to be. Back then, more than 2 million people died from AIDS-related causes on a worldwide basis. Today, we’ve cut those numbers by 34 percent. Back then, AIDS threatened to wipe out a whole generation, leaving behind 14 million orphans and vulnerable children. Today, we’ve slashed new infections among children in half,” Kerry said today at an event in D.C.

“So it is fair to say that we have achieved much of this because President Obama, when he came into office, was determined to set a higher standard.”

Kerry added that “our commitment has only been strengthened by the progress that we’ve made and the lives that we have saved.”

“We’re not done yet,” he said. “That’s the message that comes out of here from the president and from everyone in this administration.”

Rice said that “since President Obama came into office, we’ve amped up PEPFAR’s impact and built on America’s bipartisan legacy of fighting global AIDS.”

“We’ve worked smarter and increased our efficiency. We’ve invested in interventions that have the greatest impact, allowing us to reach more than 7.7 million people with life-saving treatments,” she said.

During Obama’s 2013 trip to Africa, the Washington Post noted that “some administration officials bristle at the comparison to Bush” on founding and funding PEPFAR, “and Obama hinted at the frustration during his conversation with reporters on Air Force One.”

Today the George W. Bush Institute posted a piece on the Huffington Post that combined two causes of the former first couple: fighting HIV and cervical cancer.

 

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Congressional Aide Who Criticized Obama Girls’ Dress, Attitude Resigns

Monday, December 1st, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

The congressional aide who chided the first daughters for their attitude and dress at last week’s turkey pardoning ceremony has stepped down.

Malia and Sasha Obama struck bored poses with coordinating facial expressions during the president’s quips and jokes, and Malia refused when President Obama asked if she wanted to pet the turkey.

Elizabeth Lauten, a former Republican National Committee staffer and current communications director for Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn.), came under fire for posting an open letter to the girls on her Facebook page.

“Dear Sasha and Malia, I get you’re both in those awful teen years, but you’re a part of the First Family, try showing a little class. At least respect the part you play. Then again your mother and father don’t respect their positions very much, or the nation for that matter, so I’m guessing you’re coming up a little short in the ‘good role model’ department,” Lauten wrote.

“Nevertheless, stretch yourself. Rise to the occasion. Act like being in the White House matters to you. Dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at a bar. And certainly don’t make faces during televised, public events.”

Hours after a Twitter-led uproar began, Lauten removed her post and posted a Facebook apology.

“When I first posted on Facebook I reacted to an article and I quickly judged the two young ladies in a way that I would never have wanted to be judged myself as a teenager,” she wrote. “After many hours of prayer, talking to my parents, and re-reading my words online I can see more clearly just how hurtful my words were. Please know, those judgmental feelings truly have no place in my heart.”

“Furthermore, I’d like to apologize to all of those who I have hurt and offended with my words, and I pledge to learn and grow (and I assure you I have) from this experience.”

But when Congress came back from recess today, Lauten was handing in her resignation, as first reported this morning by NBC News.

There was no statement issued on the matter by Fincher’s office. Yet social media forces who spread Lauten’s words urged people to keep pressure on the congressman. For instance, Sirius Urban View host Joe Madison urged listeners to call or write Fincher; one of his Facebook followers today said the congressman’s office line was constantly busy.

Others on Twitter thought the congressman was buckling to PC pressure by showing Lauten the door.

Fincher was elected to a third term this November. Lauten also used to work under former Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.), a Tea Party activist who served one term before losing to Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.). Walsh now hosts a conservative radio show.

On ABC’s This Week, NPR analyst Cokie Roberts opined, “Social media is a problem and people should stay off of it, particularly if they’ve had any substance that they shouldn’t be on.”

Democratic strategist Donna Brazile noted that Lauten was “insulting, but she did apologize.”

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Patrick: Obama Trying to Not Give Appearance of Influencing Brown Investigation

Monday, December 1st, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said he thinks President Obama isn’t heading to Ferguson, Mo., because he doesn’t want to be viewed as influencing the Justice Department’s civil rights investigation in the Michael Brown shooting.

The administration sent Attorney General Eric Holder to Ferguson after the August shooting to try to calm tensions and hear from stakeholders.

After that trip, Holder broadened the DOJ investigation to probe the practices of the police department in general.

Patrick worked in the Justice Department in the Clinton administration as assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division.

He told NBC on Sunday that “it is a higher bar” for the DOJ to bring charges against Officer Darren Wilson. “It’s a consideration about whether there’s been a violation of civil or constitutional rights. That is different from what the grand jury in a state prosecution has to consider,” he said. ”And it will be a tough case to prove.”

Patrick added that “without knowing all of the facts, of course, I wanted to see an indictment, mostly because I think a trial and the transparency of a trial would be good for the community and because so many of us have the supposition that police officers are not going to be held accountable and not going to have to answer for the shooting of unarmed young black teenagers.”

“But the facts and the process as the president says does have to be respected. That is separate and apart from the anxieties so many black people have about encounters with law enforcement, the anxiety that some in law enforcement have about encounters with black people and the startling lack of understanding between the two.”

He was asked about Obama’s reluctance to go to Ferguson.

“I think he wants to go, by the way, and because I know that, I just sense that, knowing the man, I think he would like to be there to comfort the family of Michael Brown, who are having to relive this tragedy all over again and to reassure both the community at large and the community of law enforcement,” Patrick said.

“You still don’t want to appear, I think, as president, to influence that investigation. I think also that the president is in a really, really tough place, trying to be and having been elected to serve as president of the whole country and being — and having higher expectations on issues related to race. And I have experienced that at home.”

Patrick recalled a murder in Boston where the boy’s mother publicly asked where the governor was.

“Now governors are not normally expected to come to street crime scenes,” he said. “She had not called out the mayor but we had run a very grassroots campaign so we had engaged a lot of people and the expectations of me, by virtue of being a black elected official, were different and I had to learn that and ultimately I did go out.”

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Congressional Black Caucus to Speak on House Floor Today About Michael Brown Case

Monday, December 1st, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus are planning to speak on the House floor today about the grand jury’s decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown.

The lower chamber comes back into session at 2 p.m. as lawmakers return from the Thanksgiving break.

Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) told MSNBC this morning that he plans to note that there have been “just too many times, too many instances where people of color, particularly African- Americans and Latinos, have been victimized by a scenario where they’ve been unarmed and — and killed by the police, and that has to stop.”

“You know, we’ve got what took place in Ferguson. And we have two incidences right here in New York, my home state. And so, we’ve got to say that there’s got to be a way that we can — we can do better,” Meeks said.

“…And so, I think that this should be a wake-up call for all of us throughout this country to make sure that this kind of scenario does not take place again. And you know, there should be special training.”

The congressman noted that police departments across the country should review their practices in the wake of Ferguson “so we don’t continually have to come back and see where unarmed African-American, unarmed Hispanic person is being again shot because somebody is afraid of them or something of that nature.”

“That just seems to be too many — too many people have died that way,” he added.

Meeks, who’s also a former assistant district attorney, said he thought the prosecutor in the Ferguson case “did not want an indictment from the beginning.”

“Because if he did, you know, it’s not something that’s hard to do,” he said. “But the people, if you’re not satisfied with that D.A., the best thing to do is to come out and elect someone that really will be the representative of the people. Because any time you have a criminal case, it’s the people versus so-and-so.”

“In this case, the district attorney was not representative of the people. And the only way that you can change that is getting out and electing someone, not just coming out in presidential elections, but coming out on local elections where you can elect your D.A.s and make sure that the D.A. then has the appropriate police chief and it runs all the way down the line.”

Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) last week called the decision not to indict “a slap in the face to Americans nationwide who continue to hope and believe that justice will prevail.”

“This decision seems to underscore an unwritten rule that Black lives hold no value; that you may kill Black men in this country without consequences or repercussions,” Fudge said in a statement issued by the CBC. “This is a frightening narrative for every parent and guardian of Black and brown children, and another setback for race relations in America.”

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Former N.Y. and N.O. Mayors on Race and Crime, Police Diversity and Ferguson Response

Sunday, November 30th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Though he supports the decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani told Fox News Sunday that he believes African-Americans have a legitimate complaint about racial discrimination by police.

Host Chris Wallace cited polling that found 70 percent of African-Americans saying they feel treated less fairly than police treat whites, while 37 percent of whites said blacks are treated less fairly by cops.

“I do believe that there is more interaction and more unfair interaction among police officers, white and black, in the black community than in a white community. And I think some of that responsibility is on the police department. And on police departments to train their police officers better and to make their police departments much more diversified,” Giuliani said.

“But I think just as much if not more responsibility is on the black community to reduce the reason why the police officers are assigned in such large numbers to the black community. It’s because blacks commit murder eight times more per capita than any other group in our society.”

Giuliani said during his time in office he assigned police by statistics. “If I put all my police officers on Park Avenue and none in Harlem, thousands and thousands more blacks would have killed during the eight years that I was mayor,” he said.

“…If you want to work on the problem, you’ve got to work on both sides. When the president talked about training, he talked about training police. I’m all with him. Train the police and make them better. I tried it hard, we have a diverse police department in New York. You got to work on the other side of it, too. This is not a one-sided story and it is presented always as a one-sided story.”

Marc Morial, president of the Urban League and mayor of New Orleans from 1994 to 2002, stressed in response to Giuliani that “about 84 percent of all whites are murdered by other whites.”

“And the concern about violence in the black community is pervasive. The advocacy, the rallies, the events that take place, it should be no mistake that black on black violence is not tolerated in the black community,” Morial told Fox.

The protests, he said, are due in large part to “the fact that we’ve had five high-profile incidents in this country in a short period of time, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Marlene Pinnock out in Los Angeles and now, the young boy down in — out in Cleveland. And combined with the fact that the number of killings of citizens by police is at a two-decade high, all of this is a perfect storm of events which means that there’s this response across the nation, peaceful protests for the most part, that says this must change.”

Morial brought up Giuliani’s support for the grand jury finding in the Wilson-Brown case,  and stressed that “in the Abner Louima case, in the Rodney King case, in the Danziger Bridge case in New Orleans, those are all cases where local prosecutors failed to either seek or secure an indictment or a conviction, where the federal government stepped in after the fact and secured justice for the victims.”

“The history is simply not good for local prosecutors and to some extent local police departments policing their own. That’s why this is a time for us to change how we handle these incidents, and I think at the first instance, I support body cameras, I think there ought to be a national accreditation system for police officers, I think every city should review their deadly force policy. I think that cities should also completely revise how they train. They have to re-evaluate how they hire police officers,” Morial continued.

“This is a time when we’ve got to promote positive change. And I might add, I led a city, New Orleans, at the same time Rudy led New York. We reduced crime by 60 percent. We did it with community policing, and we also had a significant reduction in civil rights complaints against police departments.”

Giuliani said he’s changed his mind on body cameras. “At one time, I thought they were a mistake. Now, I believe they are a very good idea, because 90 percent, 95 percent of these situations, the police officers turn out to be justified. And had this police officer had a body camera, we would not be having this discussion,” he said.

Giuliani also advocated stop-and-frisk “based on a reasonable cause to believe somebody’s committing a crime.”

Morial said stop-and-frisk used “selectively and in a targeted way is absolutely permissible and a valid police tool.”

“I think it’s better, if you will, to embrace a proactive, and this is the term, proactive policing system where police officers are out on the beat, where they’re building relationships with people in the community,” he said. “Because after all, the way you bring down crime in a community is not simply by making arrest, but by preventing crime from occurring. And that’s the essence of community policing. It focuses on prevention.”

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The Story Behind the Most Touching Photo of the Ferguson Protests

Sunday, November 30th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

 

Freelance photographer Johnny Nguyen snapped this shot of what some are calling the hug heard ’round the world — Ferguson is even making the news in Afghanistan, after all — at a Portland protest in the wake of a grand jury not indicting Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown.

In the Nov. 25 pic, Portland Police Sgt. Bret Barnum, a 21-year veteran of the force, hugs 12-year-old Devonte Hart. The Oregonian has the details on the photo that spread like wildfire across social media:

According to Sgt. Barnum, the interaction took place at the beginning of the rally. With emotions running high as speakers were addressing the crowd, he noticed a young man with tears in his eyes holding a “Free Hugs” sign among a group of people.

Sgt. Barnum motioned him over and the two started talking about the demonstration, school, art and life. As the conversation ended, Sgt. Barnum pointed to his sign and asked, “Do I get one of those?” The moment following his question was captured in the photo above, which shows Devonte’s eyes welling up with tears once again as he embraces the officer.

Devonte’s mother Jen Hart posted her version of events on her Facebook page:

It was one of the most emotionally charged experiences I’ve had as a mother. He trembled holding a Free Hugs sign as he bravely stood alone in front of the police barricade. Tears rushing from his eyes and soaking his sweater, he gazed upon them not knowing how they would react. After a while, one of the officers approached him and extended his hand. Their interaction was uncomfortable at first. … There were generic questions about his favorite subject and what he liked to do in the summer, but the one that mattered hit straight to the heart. He asked Devonte why he was crying. His response about his concerns regarding the level of police brutality towards young black kids was met with an unexpected and seemingly authentic (to Devonte), “Yes. *sigh* I know. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” The officer then asked if he could have one of his hugs.

The Associated Press talked to the police sergeant:

Barnum told The AP he noticed the boy and wondered what was wrong. So he motioned for him to come up to his motorcycle.

The officer asked for his name and shook his hand. He also asked Devonte where he went to school (he is homeschooled), what he did this summer (he traveled around the U.S. with his family), and what he likes to do (art). The tears stopped.

Barnum has two teenage sons and has worked for Portland’s police force for 21 years. While continuing to talk to Devonte, he looked at the “Free Hugs” sign on the ground and asked if he might get a hug as well.

Devonte put his arms around the officer.

“Knowing how he struggled with police, his bravery and courage to catch my eye and approach me were impressive,” Barnum said. “And it’s a blessing for me that I didn’t miss an opportunity to impact this child.”

Devonte’s had a hard life that was turned around by his adoption. A New Zealand site featured the boy’s story earlier in the month:

Devonte Hart entered the world 12 years ago with drugs pumping through his tiny newborn body.

By the time he was 4 years old he had smoked, consumed alcohol, handled guns, been shot at, and suffered severe abuse and neglect.

He knew only a handful of words, including fuck and shit, and he struggled to identify with the names of food, body parts and every day objects. Devonte was a violent toddler and his health was weighed down by a heavy list of disabilities.

It was a life with little hope and a future that seemed over before it began.

That is until Jen Hart and her wife Sarah entered Devonte’s life and adopted him and his two siblings seven years ago.

Jen says the day she met Devonte was frightening and traumatic.

“That night, after we finally got him to sleep, I cried harder than I had ever cried in my life. I felt like there was no way we could raise this child, and the five others we had adopted.”

Yet, she says, there was something inexplicable pulling at her heart.

“I felt more connected to this fragile little boy more than I had ever felt to anyone in my life.”

With their unconditional love, nurturing natures, patience and acceptance, Devonte defied all odds and has grown into a young charismatic man with a heart of gold.

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Congressional Staffer Apologizes for Saying First Daughters Acted Classless at Turkey Ceremony

Saturday, November 29th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

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A communications director for a GOP congressman has apologized for saying the first daughters weren’t showing “class” and were wearing clothes fit for a “spot at a bar” during this week’s turkey pardoning ceremony.

Malia, 16, and Sasha, 13, weren’t as into the annual turkey pardoning ceremony as they were in their younger days. The teens struck bored poses with coordinating facial expressions during the president’s quips and jokes, and Malia refused when President Obama asked if she wanted to pet the turkey.

Elizabeth Lauten, a former Republican National Committee staffer and current communications director for Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn.), posted an open letter to the girls on her Facebook page.

“Dear Sasha and Malia, I get you’re both in those awful teen years, but you’re a part of the First Family, try showing a little class. At least respect the part you play. Then again your mother and father don’t respect their positions very much, or the nation for that matter, so I’m guessing you’re coming up a little short in the ‘good role model’ department,” Lauten wrote.

“Nevertheless, stretch yourself. Rise to the occasion. Act like being in the White House matters to you. Dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at a bar. And certainly don’t make faces during televised, public events.”

Hours after a Twitter-led uproar began, Lauten removed her post and posted a Facebook apology.

“When I first posted on Facebook I reacted to an article and I quickly judged the two young ladies in a way that I would never have wanted to be judged myself as a teenager,” she wrote. “After many hours of prayer, talking to my parents, and re-reading my words online I can see more clearly just how hurtful my words were. Please know, those judgmental feelings truly have no place in my heart.”

“Furthermore, I’d like to apologize to all of those who I have hurt and offended with my words, and I pledge to learn and grow (and I assure you I have) from this experience.”

 

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Ferguson Protesters Leading TIME Person of the Year Poll

Saturday, November 29th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

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The Ferguson protesters are leading TIME’s reader poll for Person of the Year.

Voting continues online through Dec. 6 and the results of the reader survey will be announced Dec. 8. TIME’s editors will announce the magazine’s pick for Person of the Year on Dec. 10.

India Prime Minister Narendra Modi is currently in second place, followed by 18-year-old pro-democracy wunderkind and Hong Kong protest leader Joshua Wong.

President Obama is pulling in 2.3 percent of the vote, same as Beyonce.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has 1.4 percent, same as Hillary Clinton.

Secretary of State John Kerry and his onetime dinner companion Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are tied at 1.2 percent.

Kanye West has 0.1 percent more votes than Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and the Koch brothers are just behind TMZ founder Harvey Levin with 0.4 percent each.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is at the rock-bottom of the list with 0.3 percent.

See current results here and vote here.

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Obama Goes Book Shopping, Confronted with ‘Sad’ Cover of Chuck Todd Book

Saturday, November 29th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson
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President Obama took the first daughters to a D.C. bookstore today in support of Small Business Saturday, picking up a basket full of titles including a classic novel on European colonialism and a book on growth in modern China.

The Obamas visited the same bookstore, Politics & Prose, last year to show public support of small businesses.

According to the White House pool report, Obama picked up a baby and interacted with shoppers, then asked the workers behind the counter of the Connecticut Avenue shop, “Do I get a discount for that?”

The clerk replied that the president could have a “neighbor’s discount.”

One shopper called out “hope you can close Guantanamo” to Obama. “We’re working on it. Thank you. Yep. Any other issues?” Obama replied before the press were ushered out and the first family got back in the car.

The books purchased by Obama, according to the White House:

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End – Atul Gawande
Junie B. Jones and a Little Monkey Business (Junie B. Jones Series #2) – Barbara Park
A Barnyard Collection: Click, Clack, Moo and More – Doreen Cronin
I Spy Sticker Book and Picture Riddles – Jean Marzollo
Nuts to You – Lynn Rae Perkins
Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus (Junie B. Jones Series #1) – Barbara Park
Brown Girl Dreaming – Jacqueline Woodson
Redwall (Redwall Series #1) – Brian Jacques
Mossflower (Redwall Series #2) – Brian Jacques
Mattimeo (Redwall Series #3) – Brian Jacques
Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms – Katherine Rundell
The Narrow Road to the Deep North – Richard Flanagan
The Laughing Monsters – Denis Johnson
All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr
Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
Nora Webster – Colm Toibin
Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the New China – Evan Osnos

The Obamas spied another title in the store: The Stranger: Barack Obama in the White House by Chuck Todd. “Oh, Chuck Todd,” Obama said upon seeing the book displayed behind the counter. “Let’s see what Chuck Todd has to say about me.”

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Rangel: ‘Scare the Hell’ Out of a White Cop in a Black Neighborhood with Kind Words

Friday, November 28th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) said he hopes people are taking advantage of the holiday protest lull in Ferguson, Mo., to consider how they can come together ”in a nonviolent way and improve the quality of life in this community.”

“I always try to find something good that comes out of conflicts like this, and perhaps people realize that this is not a Ferguson problem at all; it’s a problem around the country,” Rangel told MSNBC today.

“And as long as people feel awkward and embarrassed in talking about the racism that exists, we can never, never, never attack it.”

The 22-term congressman said “the indifference of the patrol officer’s an indication that good people ought to say that you should be sorry when you take anybody’s life.”

“It’s not just the question of what you thought of whether you were afraid,” Rangel said, referring to Officer Darren Wilson’s interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos.

“But his total indifference just polarized that community, and I only wish that — that they had not vented themselves in a violent way and taken advantage of people coming together, white and black, and saying that you should at least be able to say you made a hell of a big mistake at least,” the congressman added.

Rangel stressed that the community and the police need to have a good relationship “to be able to be pointed out the wrongdoers, to get information that’s necessary, to form a type of relationship that is not the police and us, it’s a community, and the police are a part of it.”

“Just saying, ‘Good morning,’ to policemen — I know. I’m 84 years old. I’ve seen this go up and down in the city of New York. You can scare the hell out of a white policeman in a black community saying, ‘Good morning. How you feeling today’? They look around, they tell people this, they give it back to you,” he said. “And the whole idea of coming to the job thinking that you’re going to control people means you don’t have the same feeling about them as you do your own family and your own community, and I don’t care what color you are.”

“I’ve been overseas in combat, and when you’re trained that people are different, they can be on your side or not on your side, if you’re not an American, you can feel that they’re inferior. It is bad how the mind can do it.”

In the end, Rangel said, “mutual respect is stronger than any camera” implemented on a police officer to either catch wrongful conduct or exonerate officers.

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Interior Secretary Calls Redskins’ Name a ‘Relic of the Past’ That ‘Should Be Changed’

Friday, November 28th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

The secretary of the Interior Department says she believes the Washington Redskins’ name must be changed, but stresses it’s still not a high priority agenda among tribes that face bigger problems.

In September, Secretary Sally Jewell told ABC News that “personally” she found it “surprising that in this day and age, the name is not different.”

“I think we would never consider naming a team the ‘Blackskins’ or the ‘Brownskins’ or the ‘Whiteskins,’” Jewell said, adding “my personal views are not necessarily reflected in the tribes that I talk to. It isn’t high on their agenda.”

Today on MSNBC, Jewell called the Redskins’ name ”a relic of the past” that “should be changed, in my opinion.”

“There are many things that tribal leaders face, and when they talk to me, they’re talking about those things that I have control over or things that I have influence over, like their budgets, like Indian education, like coordinating the federal family to work together,” she added.

“I don’t control the name of a football team, but I think it’s very clear that it’s a name that is a relic of the past, and I think it’s time that the owners take a hard look at it.”

As Interior secretary, Jewell oversees the Bureau on Indian Affairs. On Wednesday, she’ll deliver remarks at the annual White House Tribal Nations Conference.

Panel discussions at the White House event will focus on topics such as climate change, education reform, economic developments and treaty obligations, the Interior Department said.

Jewell said she looking to put government in more of a supporting role in tribal affairs and “turn control of the things that tribes know they need most over to the tribes.”

“For hundreds of years, we’ve had trust and treaty obligations to our — our country’s first people, and yet, we have not fulfilled the obligations that we are supposed to under those trust and treaty obligations,” Jewell told MSNBC.

“One of the things this administration has really pushed, at the encouragement of tribal leaders, is self-governance and self-determination. It’s been a movement now for a few decades toward this, and we’re accelerating it forward through the work of the White House Council on Native American Affairs.”

This would include reforming Bureau of Indian Education schools that teach about 44,000 children. “Their academic performance is substantially below just about any other group of students,” Jewell said. “So we are not serving Indian children in the way that we’re really committed to do, and what we’re doing isn’t working.”

“So we are in the process of some very significant reforms, which actually involve turning control of those schools over to the tribes and then providing them with the kind of support that they need to do a much better job than we’ve been able to do.”

She’s pushing Congress for an additional $3 billion in funding in 2015 to bring these schools up to par. “I have been to a number of schools across the country, I’ve been to 20 different reservations, and pretty consistently, I see facilities that have gone without repairs for many years.”

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California Dem: ‘Is a Police Officer Supposed to Be the Jury and the Executioner?’

Friday, November 28th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

A California Democrat said a lesson in the wake of the Michael Brown shooting is a need to look at police acting as “jury and executioner” when confronting suspects.

Rep. Karen Bass, a House Judiciary Committee member, said in a statement after the grand jury opted to not issue an indictment this week that it “continues a trend of injustice that has rightfully created an environment of anger and concern in Ferguson, Missouri and across the United States.”

“Ferguson officials botched this case from the beginning when they left Michael Brown’s body on the street for over four hours after he was killed. They were mean-spirited when they leaked information to the media to assassinate Michael Brown’s character. The Ferguson Police Department violated the constitutional rights of the Ferguson community when they attacked and tear gassed lawful protesters,” Bass said, adding that the grand jury “attacked justice by not holding Officer Wilson accountable for his actions.”

The congresswoman added she would “continue to insist that the United States Department of Justice conduct its own investigation to determine if the Ferguson police violated Michael Brown’s civil rights.”

On CNN, Bass stressed “we have to do a short-term and a long-term strategy, and we really need to begin to come to grips with this in our country, because you can go down a long list of these cases.”

“You can rattle off these instances, and one of the most important thing that I think people need to do who are not African- American, who are not Latino, is need to just take a deep breath for one minute and say maybe I don’t understand. Maybe there’s something going on here that I need to look at, because you know, all of the polling shows the sharp divide,” she said.

“…And Ferguson, they most definitely need to diversify the leadership of that city, the police department, the city council, and so we need to look at things both in the short-term and the long-term.”

Bass addressed Brown taking cigarillos from a convenience store before the attack.

“Since when do we not have trials? Since when do we execute people?” she said. “I mean, the way that the information was leaked from Day One of this case, intentionally leaking the information about the video. It’s terrible if he committed a crime before this happened, but even if he did commit a crime, is a police officer supposed to be the jury and the executioner on the spot? So, you know, it’s that kind of mentality that we really need to begin to look at.”

Bass also pushed back against criticism of the media exposure of the Brown shooting and protests.

“If you think about the Civil Rights Movement, if you think about the Rodney King beating, if it wasn’t for the media showing those images to the world, you know, there’s no telling how much longer these situations would go on.”

More: 

Rangel: ‘Scare the Hell’ Out of a White Cop in a Black Neighborhood with Kind Words

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Labor Secretary Asked to Pressure Businesses to Make Thanksgiving Easier on Workers

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

A New York Democrat argued to Labor Secretary Tom Perez in a letter today that the federal government should do more to make sure workers are treated fairly on Thanksgiving.

Rep. Steve Israel told Perez that as working families watch “their pay checks shrink,” more employees “find themselves working in retail on Thanksgiving — away from their families and with no additional compensation.”

“Thanksgiving Day was once understood to be a time for families to sit down at the dinner table, give thanks for the good in their lives, and be a respite from the chaos of daily life. While we know that some have always had to work on Thanksgiving there has been a gradual creep of retail stores opening on the holiday itself,” Israel wrote.

Stores opening on Thanksgiving to get early Black Friday shoppers include Walmart, Target, Macy’s, Sears, Kmart, J.C. Penney, Staples and Toys ‘R’ Us.

“We understand that people choose to shop on Thanksgiving and that stores would not open if it was not profitable to them,” Israel wrote. “That is why we believe the workers, who do not have a choice, should receive overtime pay. Some states require this and in ones that don’t, many companies already provide such overtime, but all should out of respect for those workers who have to leave their families on what is supposed to be a day to gather with loved ones and give thanks.”

“We believe the Department of Labor can play a role in encouraging companies to do the right thing. Specifically, we ask DOL to encourage companies to: 1) first ask for volunteers to work on Thanksgiving Day; and 2) provide overtime or holiday pay for those who work. At your earliest convenience, please advise how you will work on these efforts.”

Eleven of Israel’s colleagues joined him in signing the letter to Perez.

“The Department of Labor has done important work on behalf of workers around the country and we hope you will continue this leadership to ensure workers have an opportunity to spend time with their families and loved ones on holidays.”

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Malia and Sasha Make Epic Faces While Obama Pardons Turkey with Amnesty Jokes

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

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President Obama made quips about amnesty and executive actions at today’s turkey-pardoning ceremony that left Malia and Sasha less than thrilled.

Usually held outdoors, the pardoning of turkeys “Mac” and “Cheese” took place in the White House Cross Hall due to snow coming down outside.

“I am here to announce what I’m sure will be the most talked-about executive action this month,” Obama said. “Today, I’m taking an action fully within my legal authority — the same kind of action taken by Democrats and Republican presidents before me — to spare the lives of two turkeys, Mac and Cheese, from a terrible and delicious fate.”

The pardoned turkeys were raised by the son of the chairman of the National Turkey Federation. Cheese won an online pardoning contest, with Mac as alternate.

“Let’s face it — if you’re a turkey, and you’re named after a side dish your chances of escaping Thanksgiving dinner are pretty low. So these guys are well ahead of the curve.  They really beat the odds,” Obama said.

“It is important to know that turkeys have always had powerful allies.  Many of you know that Benjamin Franklin once wrote, ‘I wish the bald eagle had not been chosen as the representative of our country. He is a bird of bad moral character…the turkey is, in comparison, a much more respectable bird.’ I think these two turkeys would agree with Mr. Franklin. And they’ll get to live out the rest of their days, respectably, at a Virginia estate.”

Obama quipped that “some will call this amnesty,” but “don’t worry, there’s plenty of turkey to go around.”

The Obamas planned to take a couple of turkeys “that didn’t make the cut” to a local food pantry.

“Finally, The Washington Post recently questioned the wisdom of the whole turkey pardon tradition,” the president continued. “‘Typically on the day before Thanksgiving,’ the story went, ‘the man who makes decisions about wars, virus outbreaks, terrorism cells and other dire matters of state, chooses to pardon a single turkey … plus an alternate.’”

“Tell me about it.  It is a little puzzling that I do this every year. But I will say that I enjoy it because with all the tough stuff that swirls around in this office, it’s nice once in a while just to say:  Happy Thanksgiving. And this is a great excuse to do it.”

Obama had to urge his daughters to come over and pose near the turkey. When he asked if they wanted to pet it, Malia responded, “No.”

 

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Brewer Leaving Office Without Obama Accepting Border Invitation

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson

Outgoing Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) said she’s asked President Obama to come visit the border for the past six years, to no avail.

“I believe that what he has done is just absolutely wrong and unjust. And certainly unconstitutional,” Brewer told Fox of his immigration executive actions.

She added that she’s been communicating with incoming Texas governor Greg Abbott to “see just exactly … how we can join with him to see if something can be accomplished.”

Texas is planning on taking the immigration action to court.

“Financially, it’s a killer. You know, we’re still in economic concerns that we’ve been facing for the last few years. And to be a — forced upon us to take care of these people, educate them, provide healthcare for them, social security for them. The bottom line is that we simply just cannot afford it,” Brewer said.

“United States is the largest country in the world that allows immigrants to come in. But we are a nation of laws.”

Today, she would tell Obama: “Mr. President, I’ve invited you to my border for six years. You have never come. We have a issue. We have a problem. And nothing will be resolved, Mr. President, until you see with your own eyes the issues that we’re all facing. And it’s up to you to lead this country and do it constitutionally.”

In January 2012, Brewer had a testy exchange with Obama on the tarmac after he landed in Phoenix.

“Bottom line is that he generally wants to talk about amnesty and I want to talk about securing our border,” she told reporters afterward. ”…I must say, I was not hostile. I was trying to be very, very gracious. I respect the office of the president, and I would never be disrespectful in that manner.”

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