Let’s just print Secretary of State John Kerry’s statement on the retirement of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) in full:
History will remember Harry Reid for leading the Senate through the single most important period of progressive legislating since The Great Society.
None of what he has accomplished was easy or preordained, but again and again, in his own unique way, without flash or puffery, Harry just went out and found the strategy and the votes — even when everyone said it couldn’t happen.
He’s a Senator’s Senator and one of the most accomplished Senate leaders in modern times.
There’s much to celebrate about Harry Reid, and much that will be remarked on today, whether it’s his only-in-America journey from Searchlight to the Senate’s leadership, his famously direct, blunt, and candid leadership style, his Lazarus-like underdog victories in election after election, or his devotion to family.
Every bit of it is admirable.
But I particularly hope that in these years where we’ve witnessed the retirements of people like Barbara Mikulski and Chris Dodd and Dick Lugar, that people will really pause and reflect on what Harry’s meant to the Senate, and what his work has meant to his state and to the country.
It’s a roadmap for all the Senators who will come along now with big shoes to fill. He’s a master tactician and it really counts: the fact is – because of Harry Reid’s time as Leader – more people in our country have good health care, the tax code’s a little more fair, gays and lesbians can serve openly in the military, and we’re investing more than ever in clean energy.
That’s a record of a lifetime, and that’s Harry Reid.
Since I became Secretary of State, I’ve been particularly grateful for his tireless efforts to reinstate bipartisanship in foreign policy.
In working to give us time and space to try to find a peaceful resolution to the international community’s concerns about Iran’s nuclear program, in confirming our Ambassadors who maintain America’s presence in the world, in fighting for the State Department budget, Harry Reid has long been a strong advocate for our diplomats worldwide.
I am grateful for Harry’s leadership and his friendship. We still have two years to work together, and so much work to do.
Pew Research has released a new poll revealing that more than half of Americans (53%) think they pay the right amount of taxes to the federal government. On the other hand, 40% say they pay too much and sadly, only 27% are bothered “a lot” by their tax burden.
The public’s opinion of corporate taxation isn’t so generous. Almost two-thirds (64%) say they are bothered “a lot” by corporations that don’t pay their fair share of taxes. Add class-warfare into the mix and we see that 61% are bothered “a lot” by wealthy people who are not paying their fair share.
If you were curious about how these results break down along party lines, you will not be disappointed. Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say they are paying too much in taxes with 50% of Republicans saying so and 30% of Democrats saying the same.
The partisan contrast is becoming more stark. “In the 2011 survey, nearly identical percentages of Republicans (37%) and Democrats (38%) said they were paying more than their fair share.”
And it’s not just the personal tax issue that has a partisan divide. Republicans and Democrats differ in attitudes toward corporations and wealthy people. Three-quarters of Democrats are bothered “a lot” by corporations and wealthy individuals (72%) that do not pay their fair share in taxes. By comparison, 53% of Republicans are bothered “a lot” by corporation getting away with a lower tax burden and 45% are bothered by wealthy people.
The survey was conducted among 1504 adults between the dates of February 18-22, 2015. Perhaps it would be interesting to see what the results would be if these questions were asked immediately following tax day.
Bill Whittle is awesome. No. That’s an understatement and too generic. He’s the greatest videoblogging conservative the world has ever seen. Case in point? This hilarious, spot-on and intelligent video about the hardcore Left’s new idea to let 16 year olds vote.
In short: no. Just no. In fact, it could very well be the most horrific idea of the last ten years. Yes, that includes Obamacare and the president’s plans to negotiate with the Islamonazis in Iran.
Whittle says that he considers voting a “civic duty,” but I disagree with that. It’s a civic privilege. We’ve made a major mistake in the West — in both Europe and America — by allowing people who live on the dole to vote. General voting rights — without any requirements except for being a citizen — have enabled the lazy and incompetent to live entirely off of people who actually try to be successful and take care of their families. Considering man’s natural inclination to do as little as possible to get by, it isn’t exactly illogical that most Western countries have become social democracies, if not downright socialist.
Sixteen year olds aren’t capable of taking care of themselves (which is why their parents do it for them). Letting them vote would undoubtedly result in more unaffordable government programs that will, in the years to come, bankrupt the country. I understand Obama and his ilk don’t have a problem with that, but those of us who actually love America beg to differ.
While speaking at a candidate forum at Chicago State University earlier this week, embattled mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel speculated that it would be a good idea to name an airport after Chicago’s favorite community organizer, Barack Obama.
When asked at a candidate forum at Chicago State University why he was no longer supporting his own proposal to name two high schools after Obama and influential religious and community leader Arthur Brazier, Emanuel said that he was still looking for ways to “acknowledge people who have done significant things.”
“We have an airport, two of them, you know, Midway Airport, O’Hare Airport,” Emanuel said. “[Obama and Brazier] are people who have been transformative in the city of Chicago. But we have airports named after battleships.”
Emanuel walked back his statement when his spokesman said he had no plans to rename the Chicago airports.
O’Hare airport is named after a WWII Navy pilot Edward “Butch” O’Hare and Midway is named after the WWII Battle of Midway.
The Battle of Midway, Sept. 16, 1942.
After an all-night budget battle in the upper chamber, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced in a video statement today that he had time to “ponder and to think” after his recent accident and subsequent eye surgeries, and would not be running for re-election.
“We have to make sure that the Democrats take control of the Senate again,” Reid said. “And I feel it is inappropriate for me to soak up all those resources on me when I could be devoting those resources to the caucus, and that’s what I intend to do.”
Reid already knows who he wants to replace him at the head of the Democratic caucus: not current No. 2 Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), but Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).
“I think Schumer should be able to succeed me,” Reid told the Washington Post, noting the potential leapfrogging No. 3 Dem is “extremely smart.”
Schumer, whose current title is Vice Chair of the Conference and Chair of the Senate Democratic Policy and Communications Center, issued a statement calling Reid “one of the best human beings I’ve ever met.”
“His character and fundamental decency are at the core of why he’s been such a successful and beloved leader,” Schumer continued. “He’s so respected by our caucus for his strength, his legislative acumen, his honesty and his determination. He has left a major mark on this body, this country, and on so many who have met him, gotten to know him, and love him.”
The final choice will be up to the Democratic caucus at the beginning of the 115th Congress, leaving Schumer and Durbin lots of time to jockey for position in the leadership brawl.
“Harry Reid is one of the ablest leaders of the Senate Democratic caucus in modern history—he has served our country and the people of Nevada with a tenacity and passion rarely seen,” Durbin said in a statement. “The former boxer from Searchlight never forgot his roots and never went down without a fight.
“…The Senate will miss his leadership and I will miss his friendship, but with the 114th congress only just underway, Leader Reid and Senate Democrats have a lot of work to do on behalf of working families in this country. I will be by his side every day in that fight.”
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) could also find herself in leader contention. “All of our children and grandchildren will grow up in a country that is more just, more tolerant, and offers more opportunities because of Harry Reid’s hard work and service to our nation,” the Democratic conference secretary said.
“…He has asked me to take on some tough jobs over the years, but I have always appreciated the trust he placed in me, the work he did to make sure I had the space I needed to get the job done, and the knowledge that, no matter what, Harry had my back and was going to fight for what was right.”
President Obama praised Reid as a “fighter” for “good jobs, a safer environment for our kids, and affordable health care for all” during his five terms.
Obama said Reid has “never backed down from a tough decision, or been afraid to choose what is right over what is easy.”
“Time and time again, Harry stood up to special interests and made sure every one of his constituents had a voice in their nation’s capital,” he said. “Above all else, Harry has fought for the people of his beloved state of Nevada. The son of a miner and a maid from the tiny town of Searchlight, he never forgot where he came from, and he never stopped working to give everyone who works hard the same shot at success that he had.”
“As the leader of the Senate Democrats during my time in office, Harry has become not only an ally, but a friend. I’m proud of all we have accomplished together, and I know the Senate will not be the same without him.”
Reid stressed he’s going to be around Congress for another 22 months.
“And you know what I’m going to be doing? The same thing I’ve done since I first came to the Senate,” he said.
Every member of the Senate last night went on the record supporting what could be described as an Iran sanctions-lite amendment to the budget.
The language from Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), co-author of the tough Iran sanctions bill still pending with Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), establishes “a deficit-neutral reserve fund relating to reimposing waived sanctions and imposing new sanctions against Iran for violations of the Joint Plan of Action or a comprehensive nuclear agreement.” It was co-sponsored by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).
The non-binding amendment, getting senators on the roll call, passed 100-0.
Menendez-Kirk imposes crushing sanctions if Iran does not agree to a deal by June 30. Another bill from Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Menendez, which is coming to committee early next month, requires congressional approval of any deal. Both are vehemently opposed by the White House.
Democrats who oppose those bills and support the administration said the amendment reaffirmed the White House reasoning that sanctions can be turned back on if Iran violates an agreement. Menendez has warned, though, that sanctions can’t be turned on and off like a spigot.
The amendment actually pulled language directly from the Kirk-Menendez bill, the Illinois Republican said. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), though, claimed in an interview with Politico that it was inspired by her White House-approved legislation — which reinstates sanctions if President Obama says Iran violated the agreement. The final amendment says reimposed and new sanctions will come if Obama “cannot make a determination and certify that Iran is complying.”
“By passing the bipartisan Kirk-Brown amendment to impose sanctions on Iran, the Senate voted for the security of the United States and Israel and against making dangerous nuclear concessions to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei,” Kirk said in a statement. “The unanimous vote for the Kirk-Brown amendment signals the Senate’s strong support for the Kirk-Menendez Iran sanctions bill, which stands ready now for a full Senate vote.”
That bill has 52 co-sponsors, including Democrats Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Bob Casey (Pa.), Chris Coons (Del.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Gary Peters (Mich.) and Chuck Schumer (N.Y.).
The Corker-Menendez bill’s co-sponsors include Democrats Michael Bennet (Colo.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Tim Kaine (Va.), Bill Nelson (Fla.), and Angus King (Maine), an independent who caucuses with the Dems. Blumenthal and Donnelly are also co-sponsors.
And Schumer signed on Thursday. “We must do everything to prevent a nuclear Iran and so any potential agreement must prevent Iran’s ability to develop a nuclear weapon,” the senator said in a statement carried by Israeli media but receiving little press in the U.S. “Congress played a lead role in crafting the tough-and-effective sanctions regime that brought Iran to the table, and Congress should have a role on how those sanctions are altered in any final agreement with Iran.”
“This issue is far too important – for the United States, for Israel, for the entire Middle East – for Congress not to have any ability to review a nuclear deal with Iran.”
Twelve Democrats wrote to Obama on Jan. 26 in support of Kirk-Menendez, vowing to act if Iran “fails to reach agreement on a political framework that addresses all parameters of a comprehensive agreement.”
Menendez charged yesterday that the latest report out of talks in Switzerland indicates “we are not inching closer to Iran’s negotiating position, but leaping toward it with both feet.”
The Associated Press cited officials saying the United States “is considering letting Tehran run hundreds of centrifuges at a once-secret, fortified underground bunker in exchange for limits on centrifuge work and research and development at other sites.”
“We have pivoted away from demanding the closure of Fordow when the negotiations began, to considering its conversion into a research facility, to now allowing hundreds of centrifuges to spin at this underground bunker site where centrifuges could be quickly repurposed for illicit nuclear enrichment purposes,” Menendez said. “My fear is that we are no longer guided by the principle that ‘no deal is better than a bad deal,’ but instead we are negotiating ‘any deal for a deal’s sake’.”
This excuse simply won’t work – we have to hold Iran accountable with swift sanctions. pic.twitter.com/b69ZHUmoSP
— Mark Kirk (@MarkKirk) March 27, 2015
Don’t take it from me, take it from one of the major Democrat Party house organs, Politico:
Barack Obama faces a slew of Middle East crises that some call the worst in a generation, as new chaos from Yemen to Iraq — along with deteriorating U.S.-Israeli relations — is confounding the president’s efforts to stabilize the region and strike a nuclear deal with Iran. The meltdown has Obama officials defending their management of a region that some call impossible to control, even as critics say U.S. policies there are partly to blame for the spreading anarchy.
“If there’s one lesson this administration has learned, from President Obama’s 2009 Cairo speech through the Arab Spring, it’s that when it comes to this region, nothing happens in a linear way — and precious little is actually about us, which is a hard reality to accept,” said a senior State Department official.
I imagine it is hard for the Barry Hussein administration to understand that not everything is about Barry Hussein. But wait — it gets worse:
Not everyone is so forgiving. “We’re in a goddamn free fall here,” said James Jeffrey, who served as Obama’s ambassador to Iraq and was a top national security aide in the George W. Bush White House.
For years, members of the Obama team has grappled with the chaotic aftermath of the Arab Spring. But of late they have been repeatedly caught off-guard, raising new questions about America’s ability to manage the dangerous region.
Obama officials were surprised earlier this month, for instance, when the Iraqi government joined with Iranian-backed militias to mount a sudden offensive aimed at freeing the city of Tikrit from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. Nor did they foresee the swift rise of the Iranian-backed rebels who toppled Yemen’s U.S.-friendly government and disrupted a crucial U.S. counterterrorism mission against Al Qaeda there.
Both situations took dramatic new turns this week. The U.S. announced its support for a Saudi-led coalition of 10 Sunni Arab nations that began bombing the Houthis, while Egypt threatened to send ground troops — a move that could initiate the worst intra-Arab war in decades.
Meanwhile, the U.S. launched airstrikes against ISIL in Tikrit after originally insisting it would sit out that offensive. U.S. officials had hoped to avoid coordination with Shiite militias under the direct control of Iranian commanders in the country. Now the U.S. is in the strange position of fighting ISIL alongside Iran at the same time it backs the Sunni campaign against Iran’s allies in Yemen — even as Secretary of State John Kerry hopes to seal a nuclear deal with Iran in Switzerland within days.
These people are the worst kind of amateurs: simultaneously cocksure and malevolent. Terrible things are coming our way, and, in the rubble, Obama will look around and find nobody left standing to blame but himself. Alas, we are all prisoners of L’il Barry’s coming of age.
On the cusp of launching his expected presidential campaign, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who visited Ferguson, Mo., in the wake of the Michael Brown shooting, joined with Democrats to introduce police body camera legislation this week.
The Police Creating Accountability by Making Effective Recording Available (Police CAMERA) Act of 2015 would establish a grant program to equip departments with body cameras “in order to deter excessive force, improve accountability and transparency of use of force by law enforcement officers, assist in responding to complaints against law enforcement officers, and improve evidence collection.”
Paul joined with Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) to introduce the bill in the upper chamber, while Reps. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.) and Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) have introduced the legislation in the House.
“Body cameras will benefit the brave men and women who serve in our police force and the people they protect,” said Paul, who has been focusing on criminal justice reform with the other side of the aisle. “The use of body cameras helps officers collect and preserve evidence to solve crimes, while also decreasing the number of complaints against police. The Police CAMERA Act will help state and local police departments access this new tool, while ensuring that the privacy rights of every civilian is respected.”
Ellison said that “after the tragic deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Robert Saylor and Tamir Rice, a stronger bond must be forged between our communities and police forces.”
“The pilot program created by the Police CAMERA Act empowers law enforcement officials who want to do better for the people they protect and serve,” he said. “Body cameras alone won’t stop the next tragedy, but we should take every common-sense step we can to increase accountability and protect both civilians and police officers.”
The bill is backed by the NAACP and the ACLU. Built into the bill is a study after two years of the program’s operation to determine if the body cameras make a difference.
Paul begins his “Stand with Rand” tour April 7 in Louisville, Ky., with stops afterward in New Hampshire, South Carolina, Iowa and Nevada.
Over at the Washington Times, Sean Parnell certainly thinks so, no matter which way the Burwell case goes in the Supreme Court:
The Supreme Court decision in King v. Burwell, the case challenging the Obama administration’s decision to award tax credits for health insurance sold through federally established exchanges, could turn on the question of whether a ruling that ends the tax credits on federal exchanges might cause something known as a “death spiral” in health insurance markets.
The good news is the answer is probably no, but the bad news is that’s only because the death spiral has probably already started. A death spiral generally occurs when insurers are forced to raise premiums sharply to pay promised benefits. Higher premiums cause many of the healthiest policyholders, who already pay far more in premiums than they receive in benefits, to drop coverage.
When healthy policyholders drop coverage, it leaves the insurer with little choice but to raise premiums again because they now have a risk pool that is less healthy than before. But another premium increase means many of the healthy people who remained now drop their policies, too, and this continues until the only people willing to pay the now-very-high premiums are those with serious medical conditions.
This, of course, was all evident from the start of this wretched fraud of a Democrat program. You can’t mandate insurance-on-demand, and you can’t extend it to cover healthy young adults without demolishing the entire concept of “insurance” in the first place. But then Obamacare was never an insurance program; it’s simply a tax increase on the middle class imposed via the individual mandate.
The other sign health insurance markets are in the early stages of a death spiral is the age mix of those buying policies through Obamacare. Originally it was estimated that around 40 percent of enrollees had to be in the relatively healthy 18 to 34-year-old age segment, so their premiums could be used to pay for the health expenses of older, less-healthy enrollees. So far it appears only some 28 percent of enrollees are in that coveted age group, which also comprises around half of the uninsured.
All of this means insurers are getting a risk pool that is less healthy than expected, and more premium hikes are around the corner. While subsidies hide some from the full impact, others in the middle class will not be shielded.
It will undoubtedly take a few years to know for sure, but for anybody concerned about setting off a death spiral or thinking Congress surely didn’t intend to do so, don’t worry. It looks like it’s already here, whether Congress intended it or not.
John Roberts should have killed this misbegotten beast the first time when he had the chance, but he was right about seeing it as a tax. Now, with Obamacare’s ultimate doom written on the wall, the chief justice has a chance to rectify his cowardice and do the right thing.
The top Republican and Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee have jointly asked UN Ambassador Samantha Power to not throw Israel under the bus.
The Obama administration — everyone from anonymous officials to spokesmen to President Obama himself — have said since Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s election victory that the U.S. will “re-evaluate” how it approaches two-state solution efforts. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle fear this could include not having Israel’s back at the United Nations when the Palestinian Authority tries to declare a state.
Reps. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) told Power this week that they have “deep and abiding” support for U.S. efforts in the Mideast peace process “with the understanding that any lasting solution will be decided by the parties themselves.”
“We are concerned by reports that the Administration is ‘re-evaluating’ United States policy toward Israel. In the wake of comments that Prime Minister Netanyahu made during Israel’s election last week—that he has now contextualized—the Administration appears to be considering new steps at the United Nations that could depart from our nation’s historic and principled defense of Israel at the United Nations against biased and one-sided resolutions,” they wrote.
Netanayhu has clarified that a two-state solution cannot happen while Hamas is in a unity pact with Fatah, along with other longstanding conditions about the recognition and security of Israel. This week, though, Obama said “even if you accept it, I think the corrective of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s in subsequent days, there still does not appear to be a prospect of a meaningful framework established that would lead to a Palestinian state, even if there were a whole range of conditions and security requirements that might be phased in over a long period of time, which was always the presumption.”
“And we can’t continue to premise our public diplomacy based on something that everybody knows is not going to happen, at least in the next several years,” Obama said. “That is something that we have to — for the sake of our own credibility, I think we have to be able to be honest about that.”
Engel and Royce noted that “for decades, the U.S. has used its U.N. Security Council veto to protect Israel from undue pressure at the world body, which has historically exhibited selective and unjustified bias against Israel.”
“We join in the Administration’s efforts to encourage the parties to return to the negotiating table and take steps to assure the other side of their commitment to a more peaceful and secure future. However, it is difficult to see how such a shift in U.S. policy at the United Nations would bring the parties closer to peace,” they continued. “Both Republican and Democratic Administrations have recognized that efforts to internationalize the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are not a substitute for direct negotiations between the parties, and in fact, can undermine these negotiations.”
“Given the serious threats facing both the United States and Israel, cooperation is needed now more than ever. We continue to support direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority toward a two-state solution and will oppose any effort to turn to the Security Council for imposing the terms of this process. Only a solution negotiated directly between the Israelis and Palestinians can result in a lasting peace.”
Royce and Engel ask Power for her assurance “that the United States will veto resolutions at the United Nations that are biased and one-sided against Israel.”
Senate Harry Reid confirms he will not run for re-election.
But not before boasting about how the bits he contributed are a resounding success, of course:
President Obama slammed Republicans Wednesday for continuing to war against his signature healthcare law five years in. ”It’s working, despite countless attempts to repeal, undermine, defund and defame this law,” Obama said in a speech commemorating the Affordable Care Act’s anniversary of passage.
“We’ve made our share of mistakes since we passed this law, but we also know beyond a shred of doubt the law has worked,” he said. “Deficits have been slashed, lives have been saved.”
Since emergency rooms must, by law, treat the indigent, I doubt that a single life was saved under Obamacare that wouldn’t have been saved otherwise, so there’s a typically meaningless Barry boast. (Why does Obama always sound like he’s running for high school president? The man has not matured a whit after six years in office.)
It’s been half a decade since Democrats in Congress passed the healthcare law and it remains arguably the most controversial piece of legislation passed during Obama’s tenure. Democrats spent this week touting its provisions extending coverage to millions of Americans, while Republicans aired their many ongoing complaints about the law. There’s one thing members of both parties agree on: Major reforms are still needed in how healthcare is delivered and paid for…
[Obama]reminded Republicans that some of the ideas behind the Affordable Care Act — most notably its individual mandate to buy coverage — were once supported by some conservatives, although its Medicaid expansion and some other big parts of the law stem more from liberal thought.
“The Affordable Care Act pretty much was their plan before I adopted it,” he said.
The audacity of a dope strikes again.
Hillary Clinton is very unhappy about Indiana’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act and on Thursday, she joined in the histrionics of the angry mobs who were complaining about the horrid, discriminatory law.
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) March 27, 2015
But Sean Davis, co-founder of The Federalist, pointed out that it was Hillary’s husband, then-President Clinton, who signed the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 1993.
I remember when your husband signed the federal version into law. RT @HillaryClinton Sad this new Indiana law can happen in America today.
— Sean Davis (@seanmdav) March 27, 2015
— The Federalist (@FDRLST) March 27, 2015
Davis then noted a whole litany of Bill Clinton policies that Hillary Clinton apparently finds problematic.
Hillary's dumped on NAFTA, DOMA, RFRA, welfare reform, balanced budget deal, cap. gains tax cut. Pretty much ever major WJC accomplishment.
— Sean Davis (@seanmdav) March 27, 2015
With RFRA now under the bus, I have to ask: does @HillaryClinton support a single law her husband signed during his 8 years in the WH?
— Sean Davis (@seanmdav) March 27, 2015
Just to set the record straight on Indiana’s RFRA, despite Hillary’s hysterics and the shrieks of the mobs calling for a boycott of the entire state (but not the other 30 states that have religious liberty protections), the new law does not actually discriminate against anyone. There’s not one word in the legislation that enshrines discrimination into Indiana law.
Gov. Mike Pence defended the RFRA in a statement after he signed it into law:
This bill is not about discrimination, and if I thought it legalized discrimination in any way in Indiana, I would have vetoed it. In fact, it does not even apply to disputes between private parties unless government action is involved. For more than twenty years, the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act has never undermined our nation’s anti-discrimination laws, and it will not in Indiana.
It’s Kentucky vs. West Virginia and Notre Dame vs. Wichita State in the Midwest Regional semis tonight. Xavier vs. Arizona and UNC vs. Wisconsin from the West Regional will complete the night.
Kentucky will be tested by the Mountaineers tough defense, but should have enough to make it to Saturday’s final. The Irish are slight underdogs against a very talented Shocker team. But neither team plays stellar defense so Notre Dame has a good shot at pulling off a mild upset. The Musketeers benefitted when Georgia State knocked off 3rd seeded Baylor in the first round and Xavier then faced the Panthers in the second round, defeating them handily. But 2nd seed Arizona has talent to spare and the Wildcats should be able to handle Xavier’s pressing defense.
That leaves the game of the night; North Carolina against Wisconsin. For North Carolina, the health of their standout forward Kennedy Meeks weighs heavily on their chances. Meeks injured his knee in the Tarheels win over Arkansas, and his availability for the game against the Badgers is questionable:
“We don’t know anything about Kennedy,” Roy Williams said on Wednesday during the pregame news conferences at the Staples Center. “This morning he did some contact on a limited basis for the first time. You saw him out there, if you chose to go out there, he didn’t do much, but our whole team didn’t go because we had already practiced. But the big thing now is we’ll have to wait to see if there’s any more swelling or any pain tonight for what little he did this morning, and probably it won’t be — well, if there is swelling or pain tonight, we won’t play him. If there’s not, then we’ll probably make the decision during warm-ups tomorrow.”
If Meeks can’t go, it’s possible Coach Williams may go small, moving Tokoto to the wing and playing 3 forwards. Or, Williams could put in 6’10″ Joel James who has the bulk to match up with the Badger’s bigs.
The key man in Williams offense is Marcus Paige, a diminutive guard who can get out on the break and make Wisconsin’s life miserable. If UNC has its running shoes on, Wisconsin will be hard pressed to stay with them.
But it is likely to be a game won or lost in the frontcourt.
Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky, Nigel Hayes and Sam Dekker vs. North Carolina’s Brice Johnson, J.P. Tokoto and Joel James.
UW’s talented trio contributed a combined 62 points and 22 rebounds in the second round against Coastal Carolina, but the numbers dipped to 47 and 12 in the third round against Oregon. North Carolina surely will pay extra attention to Kaminsky, meaning Hayes and Dekker should get favorable matchups. Hayes might prove to be too strong and/or quick for whomever guards him. Dekker must remain active on both ends of the floor. When he moves without the ball and defends hard good things happen. He must make sure his feet are set when he has an open three-pointer. The 6-foot-9 Johnson is tenacious on the interior. He averages 12.9 points and a team-high 7.9 rebounds per game. He has 88 offensive rebounds, the No. 2 mark on the team, and is shooting 56.0%, second best among the starters. He has not attempted a three-pointer this season and has fouled out five times. Tokoto, a graduate of Menomonee Falls High School, is an outstanding defender who scores better in transition than in half-court sets. He also is No. 2 on the team in assists (4.3). His athletic ability is remarkable but his jumper is wildly inconsistent. With Kennedy Meeks iffy because of a sprained left knee suffered last weekend, it will be interesting to see if James, a 6-10, 280-pound junior who is averaging 2.5 points and 1.9 rebounds per game, can produce. If he gets the call, he has to give the Tar Heels quality minutes. Edge: UW.
Kaminsky is a load because he can score from anywhere on the court. From the free throw line extended to the blocks, his deft touch can get you points in a hurry.
But Kaminsky is prone to getting into foul trouble, and you can bet that Paige is going to test him early by going right at him, especially on the break. If Kaminsky can stay on the court, he could be the difference maker in the game.
The Badger’s other bigs will also be tough to handle for the athletic, but undersized UNC forwards. Hayes is a good rebounder (6.5 a game) with a knack for snaring offensive boards, while Dekker can shoot the 3 ball well for a big man.
UNC’s Brice Johnson is only 6’9″, but weighs nearly 230 pounds. He may guard Kaminsky one on one to start the game, trying to play him physical to wear the Big Ten Player of the Year down. James is a beast at 280 lbs but is better suited to playing a low post game. The perimeter shooting of Wisconsin’s bigs could give him problems.
The Tar Heels aren’t whining about possibly losing Meeks. It will be next man up for UNC in what should be the most entertaining game of the night.
A leading Democratic skeptic of the White House’s nuclear negotiations with Iran, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), said the latest report out of talks in Switzerland indicates “we are not inching closer to Iran’s negotiating position, but leaping toward it with both feet.”
The Associated Press cited officials saying the United States “is considering letting Tehran run hundreds of centrifuges at a once-secret, fortified underground bunker in exchange for limits on centrifuge work and research and development at other sites.”
“The trade-off would allow Iran to run several hundred of the devices at its Fordo facility, although the Iranians would not be allowed to do work that could lead to an atomic bomb and the site would be subject to international inspections, according to Western officials familiar with details of negotiations now underway,” said the AP report. “In return, Iran would be required to scale back the number of centrifuges it runs at its Natanz facility and accept other restrictions on nuclear-related work.”
Menendez, whose Iran sanctions legislation and bipartisan bill have drawn veto threats from the Obama administration, has previously accused the White House of moving the goalposts to tempt Iran into a deal.
“We have pivoted away from demanding the closure of Fordow when the negotiations began, to considering its conversion into a research facility, to now allowing hundreds of centrifuges to spin at this underground bunker site where centrifuges could be quickly repurposed for illicit nuclear enrichment purposes,” he said in a statement moments ago. “My fear is that we are no longer guided by the principle that ‘no deal is better than a bad deal,’ but instead we are negotiating ‘any deal for a deal’s sake’.”
“An undue amount of trust and faith is being placed in a negotiating partner that has spent decades deceiving the international community; denying the International Atomic Energy Agency access to its facilities; refusing to answer questions about its nuclear-related military activities; and all the while, actively destabilizing the region from Lebanon to Syria to Iraq to Yemen,” Menendez continued.
“A good deal must meet our primary negotiating objective – curtailing Iran’s current and future ability to achieve nuclear weapons capability. If the best deal Iran will give us does not achieve this goal, it is not a good deal for the United States or its partners. A good deal won’t leave Iran as a nuclear threshold state.”
Menendez, the target of what many have noted is a conveniently timed Justice Department investigation, also sent a letter to President Obama asking what he plans to do about Bashar al-Assad’s latest use of chemical weapons — a deadly chlorine gas attack.
Last week, the towns of Sarmin and Qmenas were hit with chlorine bombs by Assad forces, video reviewed and confirmed by human rights groups. The Syrian Coalition said six were killed, including three children, and about 70 were injured, 13 seriously. Assad has been using chlorine since crossing Obama’s “red line” with other chemical agents.
“Bashar al-Assad and those forces backing his regime, including the government of Iran and its proxy force, Hezbollah, are once again challenging the world and testing the boundaries of the will of the international community to respond. As the Syrian civil war enters its fifth year, I urge you to reenergize the broad international coalition that is committed to a Syria without Assad. This includes exposing and targeting the tools of Russian and Iranian support for Assad’s bloody regime, and working with like-minded partners to increase pressure on him and his allies,” Menendez wrote.
“…Only a month ago, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 2209 by a vote of 14-1 with the agreement of all permanent members including Russia. The resolution states that the use of chlorine gas is a violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and any future use would result in the imposition of Chapter VII measures. UN Chapter VII punishments could include additional sanctions and the use of force to prevent future attacks.”
The senator stressed that Obama’s deal to dispose of Assad’s declared chemical weapons stockpiles “has not prevented the use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians, nor has international pressure changed Assad’s calculus with respect to murdering his own people.”
“Worse, Assad’s supporters, including the Iranian regime, the Russian government, and Hezbollah have actually increased their support for the regime as these attacks have continued and increased in nature and scope.”
Decrying that President Obama’s policies have pushed the Middle East to a “tipping point,” Republican senators accused the commander in chief of not acting against Iran’s aggression in Yemen and other places because of his “obsession” with placating the Islamic Republic during nuclear talks.
“Operation Decisive Storm,” launched at midnight Saudi Arabia time, bombarded Yemen’s Houthi rebels with the power of 100 Saudi fighters jets, 150,000 soldiers and naval units in the operation. The United Arab Emirates pitched in 30 fighter jets, Bahrain contributed 15, Qatar sent 10, Kuwait deployed 15 and Jordan contributed six. Even North Africa got into the game, with Sudan sending three fighter jets, Egypt supplying four warships and air support, and Morocco sending six fighter jets. Pakistan also provided naval and aerial support in the attack on the Iran-backed Houthi rebels. The White House said the U.S. provided “logistical and intelligence” support.
But it was revealed today that Pentagon officials were told about the coalition operation just a few hours before the Saudis struck. The Saudi ambassador to Washington announced the attack at their embassy in D.C. shortly after the military found out.
“The reality is that countries in the region no longer have confidence in or are willing to work with the United States of America,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) somberly noted at a press conference on the Hill moments ago.
“Look at where we have come from — our closest allies in the region no longer trust us that they wait to tell us a few hours before they begin a major military operation,” McCain said. “I understand why these countries did not notify us or seek our coordination. That’s because they believe we are siding with Iran.”
The Saudis launched the operation as the U.S. sat down with Iran in Switzerland for the latest round of negotiations. The Associated Press published an exclusive today revealing that Washington “is considering letting Tehran run hundreds of centrifuges at a once-secret, fortified underground bunker.”
Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) told reporters that the administration is making a huge mistake by keeping Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism and spread of influence through backing Shiite rebels in key countries off the negotiating table.
“You cannot divorce the two of them,” Ayotte said, stressing that “Iran’s backing of the Houthis has caused this situation to devolve where we had to evacuate from Yemen.”
She noted that another Iran target is home of America’s Fifth Fleet, Bahrain. “They are backing Shia groups that are trying to undermine the government in Bahrain,” the senator said. “This will continue to spread further.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) stressed that Obama’s “leading from behind” policy left the region poised for a “bloodletting between Sunnis and Shia that we haven’t seen in 1,000 years.”
“We’re on the verge of a full-scale proxy war in Yemen between Iran and Arab states” that threatens to spill over into the entire region, Graham said. “The Mideast is on fire and it’s every person for himself.”
All three senators made clear that they support the Saudi-led offensive — “the Saudis did the right thing,” McCain said — but, in the words of Graham, “categorically reject President Obama’s foreign policy that we believe has substantially contributed to this mess.”
Graham backed an international operation that would take out the Houthis and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula at the same time. “We’re not in the Sunni-Shia debate here,” he said.
“I think it’s fine that they did it themselves; the question is, what’s the reason for that?” McCain asked, adding it’s “unacceptable that we’re negotiating a bad nuclear deal and at same time turning a blind eye to Iranian aggression.”
McCain said he does not believe that the Saudis launched the offensive to derail the P5+1 talks.
“The saddest things about this whole series of events that have taken place over the past several years is we predicted every single thing that would happen,” he said, ranging from the effects of an Iraq pullout to a refusal to assist the Free Syrian Army in the early days of the war to the non-enforcement of the red line drawn by Obama when Syrian President Bashar al-Assad unleashed chemical weapons on his people.
Graham saw the red line as a “defining moment” as Obama “failed to act in a way the region saw as meaningful.”
“ISIS will never be destroyed on his watch,” Graham predicted. “…He’s afraid to disrupt negotiations by taking on [Iran's] puppet Assad.”
He further predicted that the Arab coalition “will probably not stop in Yemen and Iran will probably push back — God help us all.”
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest held a Twitter Q & A today:
Join me today for #AskPressSec from 12:30-1:00pm ET, send any questions you may have my way!
— Josh Earnest (@PressSec) March 26, 2015
It didn’t take long for some sharp Twitter users to come out swinging:
— Josh Earnest (@PressSec) March 26, 2015
And Twitter collectively answered, “Game on!”
@PressSec when will we get the truth about Benghazi IRS Bergdahl ACA Illegal EO Iran agenda why RU betraying ME allies admission FP failure
— Taz (@moose_taz) March 26, 2015
@PressSec is POTUS plan to destroy America still the goal for his last days in office?
— Painters Wife (@Beanst2) March 26, 2015
— KRenner (@KRenner2) March 26, 2015
@PressSec Why ask when every time anyone does, they just get lies and evasions? But I'll bite. Why is Obama hellbent on destroying America?
— Jim Simpson (@jamesmsimpson) March 26, 2015
@PressSec When will you stop the Orwellian newspeak? Does Obama still consider Yemen a foreign policy success? Try answering honestly.
— Jim Simpson (@jamesmsimpson) March 26, 2015
Sadly, Earnest answered none of these probing questions. Not even this one from RNC Chairman Reince Priebus:
— Reince Priebus (@Reince) March 26, 2015
Instead, the White House spinmeister pontificated about baseball and The West Wing (the TV show, not the real West Wing):
— Josh Earnest (@PressSec) March 26, 2015
— Josh Earnest (@PressSec) March 26, 2015
To be fair, Earnest did field a couple of substantive policy questions (by “field” I mean that he head-faked and dodged the questions while typing 140 characters on Twitter):
— Josh Earnest (@PressSec) March 26, 2015
That’s not what AG asked, but head pats for trying, Josh. Let’s try again with another substantive question:
— Josh Earnest (@PressSec) March 26, 2015
Another disappointed interrogator whose question was dodged by Earnest. One more try on Iran:
— Josh Earnest (@PressSec) March 26, 2015
— Josh Earnest (@PressSec) March 26, 2015
So glad to hear your thoughts on the Royals, Josh! Maybe next time you can give us your rundown on House of Cards.
Sir Thomas More: [to Will Roper] Now, listen, Will. Two years ago you were a passionate churchman. Now you’re a passionate Lutheran. We must just pray that when your head’s finished turning, your face is to the front again.
And, I suppose we can hope that when Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s head is finished turning, we might actually know exactly where he stands on the question of granting a path to citizenship for illegals.
In 2013, he told an audience in Milwaukee that the comprehensive immigration reform bill, in which illegal immigrants can become United States citizens by first paying penalties and enduring a waiting period, “makes sense.”
Earlier this month, he told Fox News:
However, he is now saying such a plan is tantamount to amnesty, amid criticism that he has flip-flopped on that issue and others — including right-to-work legislation in his home state.
“I don’t believe in amnesty,” said Walker, who finished second Saturday in the Conservative Political Action Conference’s straw poll for potential 2016 Republican presidential candidates. “We need to secure the border. We ultimately need to put in place a system that works — a legal immigration system that works.”
Now, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that he told a private dinner in New Hampshire that he supported a path to citizenship:
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker told a private dinner of New Hampshire Republicans this month that he backed the idea of allowing undocumented immigrants to stay in the country and to eventually become eligible for citizenship, a position at odds with his previous public statements on the matter.
Mr. Walker’s remarks, which were confirmed by three people present and haven’t been reported previously, vary from the call he has made in recent weeks for “no amnesty”—a phrase widely employed by people who believe immigrants who broke the law by entering the country without permission shouldn’t be awarded legal status or citizenship.
The changing positions by Mr. Walker, a likely candidate for the GOP presidential nomination, show the difficulty that some in the Republican Party face as they try to appeal both to the conservative GOP primary electorate—which largely opposes liberalizing immigration laws—and business leaders and general election voters who have been more supportive of granting legal status to undocumented immigrants.
This isn’t just a matter of flip flopping. This is chameleon-like — and kind of creepy. Usually, politicians aren’t quite so brazen about telling a specific audience one thing, while telling another audience exactly the opposite.
But Walker, whether he intended for his remarks to get out or not — and if he thought he could keep it a secret, he’s either stupid or naive — picked the wrong issue on which to be all over the map and back again. Supporting a path to citizenship is a deal breaker for a lot of conservatives and now that his support is out in the open, he must either renounce his now twice stated position again (and hope that few people believe him), or embrace the suck and join Jeb Bush in being the only major candidates supporting “amnesty.”
Twitter hasn’t blown up yet, but I suspect once this information gets out there, Walker is going to be in for a very rough few days.
UPDATE: Spokesman Denies
Likely 2016 Republican U.S. presidential hopeful Scott Walker’s stance on illegal immigrants remains unchanged, his spokeswoman said on Thursday, disputing a report that he favored letting them stay in the country and eventually become eligible for citizenship.
Kirsten Kukowski, a spokeswomen for the Wisconsin governor, labeled as “erroneous” a Wall Street Journal report detailing what the newspaper called Walker’s shift in stance on the matter.
“Governor Walker has been very clear that he does not support amnesty and believes that border security must be established and the rule of law must be followed,” Kukowski said in an emailed statement.
That’s his story and he’s sticking to it.
The Senate is plowing through a slew of amendments today expected to last until midnight, dubbed the “vote-a-rama” that precedes the budget vote.
One of those amendments would create an ISIS tax.
Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), backed by Senate Budget Committee Ranking Member Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), proposed a “temporary surtax” to help cover the cost of military operations against ISIS.
That would be discontinued, his office said without offering more details, “once relevant military operations have concluded” against the Islamic State.
According to yesterday’s congressional record, the amount collected would be $8,800,000,000.
“As our nation’s Armed Forces continue their critical mission to degrade and destroy ISIS, which is already months underway, we need to consider another part of our strategy–paying for the war. This is not a new concept. Our nation has a long history of paying for our military missions. In fact, every war since the Revolutionary War, to the first Gulf War, was paid for,” Coons said on the Senate floor last night.
“Through each of our nation’s armed conflicts, new revenue streams not only provided the resources our military needed, they reminded the American people that our country was at war and we all needed to contribute to the effort. But after 14 years and 2 wars that have cost our nation trillions of dollars, I fear we have forgotten this important lesson from our history,” he continued. “We cannot write another blank check for a war. Paying for a war against ISIS is the right thing to do. It is fiscally, morally, and militarily responsible. As we continue to debate this war authorization in Congress, we need to be honest with the American people and each other about what it will cost our nation. That is why, as we debate the budget this week, I have offered an amendment that requires us to raise the revenue to pay for the fight against ISIS. The American people deserve no less.”
“I urge my colleagues to join me on this amendment to pay for a critically important war against ISIS and ensure we fight this battle together as one country.”
Sanders said the GOP “has to end their hypocrisy with regard to deficits and the national debt.”
“They are going to have to be honest with the American people. Wars are enormously expensive, not only in terms of human life and suffering, but in terms of the budget,” Sanders said. “If the Republicans want another war in the Mideast, they are going to have to tell the American people how much it will cost them and how it will be paid for.”
UPDATE: The amendment failed this evening, but not by a lot — 46-54.
It’s no surprise that the Obama administration is populated with nasty, petulant, arrogant creeps; how could be it be otherwise given the “I won” nature of their boss? Still, it looks like even President Precious has finally had it with one of his appointees:
The White House is expected to ask the embattled chairman of the Chemical Safety Board to step down Wednesday, congressional sources tell CNN.
Chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso has been accused by members of Congress of malfeasance, hostility towards his staff and retaliation against whistleblowers. And an inspector general report found he used personal email to conduct government business, which contradicted his sworn congressional testimony.
The use of personal email has come under scrutiny since revelations that Hillary Clinton used her personal email to conduct official business while she was secretary of state.
What a reeking cesspool of opportunistic, vengeful morons Washington has become under Obama. And why the hell do we have a “Chemical Safety Board,” anyway? Is everything the province of the federal government and, if so, where does it say that in the Constitution?
The chairman of the Senate Environment Committee wrote Obama on March 12 requesting the President ask for Moure-Eraso’s resignation. In the letter, Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe cited a congressional investigation that found leadership under the chairman engaged in a “pattern of hostility toward career staff and whistleblowers.”
“He has violated his oath of office. He has violated the law. The [Chemical Safety Board] can no longer continue to operate credibly under this leadership, and it is therefore our recommendation that you ask for Chairman Moure-Eraso’s immediate resignation,” Inhofe wrote.
“Violated the law”? Since when has that been a problem with this bunch?
Graham: ‘No Military Member…Should Expect Our Country to Release Hardened Terrorists to Secure Their Release’
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who is a colonel in the Air Forces Reserves focusing on military law, was opposed to the trade of five high-ranking members of the Taliban for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from the moment it happened last May.
But he’s also opposed to the administration reasoning that, after Bergdahl’s five years in captivity, they had no choice because they couldn’t leave a man behind.
“No military member, up to and including a Medal of Honor recipient, should expect our country to release hardened terrorists to secure their release,” Graham said in a statement Wednesday after the Army announced Bergdahl would face charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. “There is a general understanding that the mission and national interest come ahead of any individual. This is particularly true while hostilities are still raging as they are today in Afghanistan.”
Graham, who is considering a run for the White House in 2016, called the swap “a politically motived maneuver designed to help achieve the Obama administration’s goal of emptying the Guantanamo jail of some very dangerous terrorists.”
“My concerns about the swap were never related to the quality of Sergeant Bergdahl’s service, but to the nature of the transfer and how it undermined the war effort,” the senator said. “President Obama’s ill-conceived decision to release the ‘Taliban 5’ put our men and women in uniform at increased risk. I have no doubt that in the future the ‘Taliban 5’ will return to the fight against the United States.”
Graham told CNN he has “nothing but disgust” for the deal.
“This undermined the war effort. These people are going to go back to the fight. And what do you tell a family member that may be killed by one of these guys down the road?”
Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), a Air Force pilot who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, told Fox that he was told in survival training “your country will never leave you behind, and we take a lot of heart in that.”
“But it’s a two-way street. Your country will not leave you behind but you can never leave your country behind either. A lot of people, probably even in Bowe Bergdahl’s unit, that looked at the mountains and truly wanted to leave base and go out and explore but, at the end of the day, they knew they had a bigger obligation,” Kinzinger said. “…Look, if we had had sent a Special Forces team in to rescue him or something like that, that’s one thing. But trading five of among the biggest enemies of the United States. And by the way, we are getting reports that at least three of them are starting their kind of pre-confinement activities again.”
The White House, however, stands by the swap despite the desertion charges.
“The commander in chief will not allow a member of the United States armed forces to be left behind,” press secretary Josh Earnest told CNN.
“It was an important message for this president to deliver to the American people, but also to people all around the world, that the United States and their commander in chief stands squarely behind our men and women in uniform and with the commitment we have made to not leave them behind,” Earnest said.
Israeli newspaper Yediot got their hands on the European Union’s 40-point plan to “pressure Israel into negotiations” in the wake of Netanyahu’s re-election.
An EU diplomatic source told Ynet that there was a definite chance that the recommendations in the report, which the member states have yet to approve, were more likely to be implemented following Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s statement during his election campaign that a Palestinian state would not be created under his rule.
“We are on a collision course,” said the European diplomat. “It’s clear to everyone in Brussels that there must be a response to these statements.”
…”If Israel continues its policy beyond the Green Line, it will affect the relationship between European nations and Israel,” he warned.
Headings of the 40-point plan include, “Preserving the viability of Jerusalem as the future capital of two states” and “Strengthening the role, visibility and policy of the European Union.” The full report has been scanned and is linked via the Ynet story.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said his colleague’s entrance into the 2016 presidential race only makes the field stronger, and the party is “blessed” to have strong candidates.
Rubio told Fox last night that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) “will be a very strong candidate.”
“You can see in the past he has made a lot of people excited about the things he stands for. We are blessed as a party. We have a lot of really good candidates,” Rubio said. “The Democrats are struggling to come up with even one. I think our country will be better for it at the end.”
It hasn’t been possible to view Cruz’s interaction on the floor with his colleagues — and potential challengers — since his Monday announcement. Cruz has not shown up for any votes this week as the Senate works through hundreds of budget amendments.
Rubio said he understands the date is approaching when he needs to announce his own 2016 decision.
“As I said, we are getting closer to that date and we understand that if I decide to run for president it’s going to take time and energy to do it. So we will make an announcement here fairly soon,” he said.
“Probably not months, but certainly multiple weeks. And that’s important,” Rubio said. “Like soon means when we are ready to make the decision. There is a lot that goes into something like that and a lot this to announcing whatever direction we go.”
“But it’s something I’m increasingly excited about and look forward to sharing with you and others here fairly soon.”
The “Operation Decisive Storm” coalition that bombarded Yemen overnight now has full control of the country’s airspace, said Saudi officials, who unleashed 100 fighters jets, 150,000 soldiers and naval units in the operation.
The only regional country that stayed out of the fight was Yemen’s neighbor Oman. The United Arab Emirates pitched in 30 fighter jets, Bahrain contributed 15, Qatar sent 10, Kuwait deployed 15 and Jordan contributed six. Even North Africa got into the game, with Sudan sending three fighter jets, Egypt supplying four warships and air support, and Morocco sending six fighter jets. Pakistan also provided naval and aerial support in the attack on the Iran-backed Houthi rebels.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest told MSNBC this morning that the Saudis decided “on their own” to launch the attack, “and the reason is simply that Saudi Arabia and Yemen share a long border.”
“And they have enlisted the support of other partners and allies of theirs in region, and they have asked the United States for some intelligence support that we can provide. And the president has agreed to that request and we are providing them support,” he said. “But the Saudis are in the lead in this military action they are taking to protect the interest they have along their border with Yemen.”
The White House has been urging a UN-backed diplomatic solution to the Houthi overthrow in Yemen.
But Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) made clear that it was the administration’s policies that allowed this mess in the first place.
“The takeover of large swaths of Yemen by Iranian-backed Shia militants has forced our Saudi allies to take military action. Months of fairy tale negotiations and appeasement by this administration have led Iran to believe that it can act with impunity on an international scale,” Issa said in a late-night statement as the Saudis bombarded targets.
“Now, more than ever, it is clear that any real settlement with Iran is impossible, and the president must acknowledge this fact,” he said. “The continued easement or outright removal of sanctions against this rogue state will only further embolden Iran and facilitate its belligerent behavior. We must make it clear that we will support our allies and punish our enemies through steadfast resolve and decisive action.”
Earnest said this morning that the Iran-fomented instability and Saudi reaction shouldn’t affect nuclear negotiations in Switzerland. “There’s no doubt that we believe that it’s in the best interest of the United States, our allies in Israel, and our partners in the region, including Saudi Arabia, for us to try to find a diplomatic resolution to the concerns that the world has about Iran’s nuclear weapons program,” he said.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), though, stressed to Fox that “this is about Iran, again, the source of instability in the region and many parts of the world.”
“These are Shia militias and Shia rebels making advances there. They are equipped, protected and supported by Iran. It’s part of their strategy to become the dominant regional power. It’s part of encircling Saudi Arabia, Sunni country. So you see their presence in Yemen. They basically invaded Iraq. Obviously, their influence they have in Lebanon. They control Assad in Syria. So, slowly but surely they are carrying out their master plan of regional dominance and Yemen is the latest piece of that puzzle,” Rubio said.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said “clearly, the Saudis and their gulf partners have determined the situation in Yemen presents further danger to regional stability and their own territorial integrity.”
“I hope their intervention helps to restore some sense of security, but I fear Yemen may be too far gone to prevent an all-out civil war,” Burr said.
Here are the hosts in the top 10, along with clips from the five of them that I like enough to include in my own top 10 (the order of which I’m still weighing and would appreciate your input on. Who are your favorites? Hannity or Limbaugh? Beck or Levin?)
1. Rush Limbaugh
2. Sean Hannity
3. Dave Ramsey
4. Michael Savage
5. Glenn Beck
6. Mark Levin
7. Howard Stern
8. Joe Madison
9. Thom Hartmann
10. Mike Gallagher
A few of my favorites who should have been higher on the list, and I’ll include on my list: Dana Loesch (#24) has a lot of talent, Dennis Prager (#33) of course remains one of my regular work-time listens, Larry O’Connor (#42) has a gifted radio presence and good values, Hugh Hewitt (#62) puts on a smart show and should have been much, much higher on the list… And great to see Elisha Krauss, Ben Shapiro, and Brian Whitman making the list too at #82. I listen to them every morning on KRLA while editing PJM.
Well, I suppose with those five in bold from the top ten and then the other four and Elisha/Ben/Brian as one, then I have my top 10, though the order shall remain a mystery for the time being. I’ll want to weigh commenter suggestions. Who do you regard as the 10 best?
Jewish Americans are being baited by a radical Left that has sharpened their anti-Bibi fangs in the ready to rip apart the nation of Israel and the entire body of world Jewry. It’s a bold statement, but it’s an honest one. If you thought V15 would dissolve, their participants cashing in the last of the State Department’s change for a defeat party in Vegas, you’re wrong. The ideological fervor is stronger than ever. It has to be, because ideology is the only thing they have fueling their “hope and change” community-organizing momentum that is anything but.
Jonathan Mark at the New York Jewish Week succinctly catalogs the radical-Leftist Jewish bias against Bibi, noting that this isn’t the first time a right-wing leader’s victory has been condemned in the American media. “Begin as in Fagin” a 1977 Time magazine article explained, conjuring up one of the most insulting anti-Semitic stereotypes in history.
Today it is the J Street crowd sacrificing their pound of flesh by cutting themselves off from the “Jewish establishment” in a radical attempt to “directly take on Jewish organizations …complicit with Israel’s occupation” via the Obama method. If Israel won’t directly negotiate, they’ll just be forced into a solution …and what? Be told to deal with it, or else? According to reports, the conference was keynoted by Obama’s chief of staff and fueled nothing more or less than the “Bibi is racist” tagline.
Hannah Senesh wrote about the power of one match to light a fire. In this instance, the blaze is burning out of control in this radicalized segment of the Jewish world.
Mark adopts the Israeli attitude toward the radical Left’s recent drumming up of hostilities, concluding:
If Israel has to go alone, so be it, writes The Wall Street Journal’s Brett Stephens: “Repay contempt with contempt. Mr. Obama plays to classic bully type. He is abusive and surly only toward those he feels are either too weak, or too polite, to hit back…. The Israelis will need to chart their own path of resistance…. Israel survived its first 19 years without meaningful U.S. patronage. For now, all it has to do is get through the next 22, admittedly long, months.”
In the end, he is right. Israel has the self-determination and autonomy to weather the storm. The question is, will the Jewish American community rise to the occasion, or be consumed in the fires of its own outrageous fury, drummed up by a mad man who has no problem negotiating the Jewish people’s terms of destruction on an international scale?
Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat who represents the District of Columbia, was caught on video Wednesday trying — and failing — to maneuver her vehicle into parking spot in a lot between the Longworth and Cannon House Office buildings. According to Roll Call:
Once the aide seen assisting Norton from outside the slow-moving vehicle finishes waving her into clearly disastrous position, Norton emerges from the car, clicks her remote locking device (better safe than sorry) and starts to walk away.
Then, all of the sudden, she doubles back.
Has her conscience gotten the best of her? Is she going to slide a quickly composed apology onto the now-stuck truck’s windshield? Or perhaps a business card?
Norton simply retrieves some forgotten item from inside the car and then heads on her merry way.
Note that around the 40-second mark in the video a U.S. Capitol Police officer rides by on a motorcycle and ignores the silver car, which is obviously parked the wrong way in the slanted parking space.
According to Roll Call’s tipster, after spending twenty minutes in the Cannon Office Building, Norton simply got into her car and drove away, not even bothering to leave a note on the red car that she struck several times with her vehicle.
Her office told Roll Call that there was no damage to the adjacent cars, but said they “left a note with a business card” just in case.
The good news is that Ms. Norton, a delegate from the District of Columbia, is a non-voting member of Congress. The bad news, if you live in the District, is that she might try parking next to you the next time you’re at Trader Joe’s. And you thought the drivers with the diplomatic license plates were bad!
Saudi Arabia launched airstrikes into Yemen a short time ago, with the Saudi ambassador in Washington telling reporters that the aim is to “to protect the people of Yemen and its legitimate government from a takeover by the Houthis.”
“The Gulf Cooperation Council countries tried to facilitate a peaceful transition of government in Yemen, but the Houthis have continuously undercut the process by occupying territory and seizing weapons belonging to the government,” Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir said in a statement. “…The Houthis have reneged on every single agreement they have made and continue their quest to take over the country by violent means.”
“Based on the appeal from President Hadi, and based on the Kingdom’s responsibility to Yemen and its people, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, along with its allies within the GCC and outside the GCC, launched military operations in support of the people of Yemen and their legitimate government.”
Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates said in a joint statement that President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government had asked for help in battling the Iran-backed Houthis.
Warplanes of the Royal Saudi Air Force bombed the positions of Yemen’s Houthi militia, destroying an airbase in Sanaa and most of the militia’s air defenses, Al Arabiya News Channel reported early on Thursday, citing Saudi sources.
King Salman bin Abdulaziz ordered the airstrikes on the Iran-backed Houthi militia on Thursday at 12 am Riyadh time, the news channel reported, adding that the kingdom’s air force was “fully in control of the Yemeni airspace.”
Shortly afterwards Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to Washington Adel al-Jubeir announced that the kingdom had launched a military operation involving air strikes in Yemen against Houthi fighters who have tightened their grip on the southern city of Aden where the country’s president had taken refuge.
Al-Jubeir told reporters that a 10-country coalition had joined in the military campaign in a bid “to protect and defend the legitimate government” of Yemen President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
“We will do whatever it takes in order to protect the legitimate government of Yemen from falling,” Jubeir said.
Al-Arabiya also reported a cyberwar component, saying that several Houthi websites had crashed.
Yesterday, while appearing in Riyadh with the British foreign secretary, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal hit at Iran and the Houthis.
The prince stressed that “it is not possible to grant Iran an undeserved deal” in the P5+1 nuclear negotiations.
On Yemen, he said, the Gulf Cooperation Council’s “aim is to provide the vehicle for the president to return peacefully to Yemen and provide the leadership as required to bring this country back.”
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said the “takeover of southern Yemen by the Iranian-supported Houthis has led to chaos, threatening the national security interests of our regional partners and the United States.”
“Regional states, led by Saudi Arabia at President Hadi’s request, are taking action from the air,” Royce said. “The United States should support our Saudi and Gulf partners with appropriate logistical and intelligence support to combat this threat.”
National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said in a statement late Wednesday that President Obama “has authorized the provision of logistical and intelligence support to GCC-led military operations.”
“While U.S. forces are not taking direct military action in Yemen in support of this effort, we are establishing a Joint Planning Cell with Saudi Arabia to coordinate U.S. military and intelligence support,” Meehan said. “At the same time, the United States continues to closely monitor terrorist threats posed by al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula and will continue to take action as necessary to disrupt continuing, imminent threats to the United States and our citizens.”
“We strongly urge the Houthis to halt immediately their destabilizing military actions and return to negotiations as part of the political dialogue. The international community has spoken clearly through the UN Security Council and in other fora that the violent takeover of Yemen by an armed faction is unacceptable and that a legitimate political transition – long sought by the Yemeni people – can be accomplished only through political negotiations and a consensus agreement among all of the parties.”
The strikes came as the Obama administration resumed talks with Iran, which backs the Houthis, in Switzerland.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest was pressed at the briefing earlier today on whether they still consider Yemen a model for counterterrorism success.
“What the United States considers to be our strategy when confronting the effort to try to mitigate the threat that is posed by extremists, is to prevent them from establishing a safe haven. And certainly in a chaotic, dangerous situation like in Yemen, what the United States will do and has done is worked to try to support the central government, to build up the capacity of local fighters, and use our own technological and military capabilities to apply pressure on the extremists there,” Earnest replied.
“There’s no doubt that we would like to see a functioning central government in Yemen. We don’t see that right now. And that is why we’re supportive of the U.N.-led process to try to put an end to the violence and instability; to bring the sides, you know, all sides together to the table to try to resolve their differences; to build up the capacity of the central government; to build up the capacity of local forces; and to continue to apply pressure to extremists.”
But, Earnest maintained, “We do continue to enjoy the benefits of a sustained counterterrorism security relationship with the security infrastructure that remains in Yemen.”
State Department press secretary Jen Psaki acknowledged earlier today that Saudis “have legitimate concerns about the possible impact of current events in Yemen to their security, given their proximity.”
On Yemen as a success, she said “we have had success working on counterterrorism operations, and we expect and hope that will continue.”
At least three of the Taliban 5 terror commanders who were traded for Bowe Bergdahl made attempts to make contact with their former terrorist networks, reports Fox News.
The new allegations come as Bergdahl now faces desertion charges, and as the one-year deal governing the former Guantanamo detainees’ supervised release in the Gulf nation of Qatar is set to expire — at the end of May.
The director of the Defense Intelligence Agency recently told Congress that, after that expiration, all his officers can do is warn the U.S. government if the men return to the battlefield.
“I’ve seen nothing that causes me to believe these folks are reformed or [have] changed their ways or intend to re-integrate to society in ways to give me any confidence that they will not return in trying to do harm to America,” Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., a member of the House intelligence committee, told Fox News.
The official who described the attempts by three to make contact did not identify the men by name. But the evidence came to light through intelligence from liaison services and monitored communications available to the U.S. government.
A defense official did not dispute the claim, emphasizing that one of the men has come “very close, trying to provide advice, council or inspiration” to his terror network, while the other two had not crossed that line.
In January, CNN was first to report, and U.S. officials later confirmed, that one of the five fighters was making phone calls to militants. The latest claim indicates those efforts were more widespread.
A State Department official, though, disagreed with the characterization of the intelligence and how it relates to the “Taliban Five’s” activities.
“None of the five individuals has returned to the battlefield and none of the five have left Qatar,” the official said. “Since their transfer many actions have been taken to restrict the actions of these individuals, and they are all being closely monitored by the United States and Qatar.
“We are in frequent and high level contact with Qatari government about the implementation of these measures, to ensure our concerns about these individuals are being met. For example, by enabling us to closely track their activities.”
The State Department is putting political spin on the revelation, as is the office of the DNI:
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence also uses a strict definition for re-engagement, saying they do not “consider mere communication with individuals or organizations — including other former GTMO detainees — an indicator of reengagement. Rather, the motives, intentions, and purposes of each communication are taken into account when assessing whether the individual has reengaged.”
It’s all doubletalk. They raise the bar high enough that they don’t have to do anything unless the terrorists actually carry out an attack.
This was a bad deal from the start and we still don’t have all the facts surrounding it. Was there a ransom paid? Were reports of a possible rescue operation called off true? What were the other options to get Bergdahl out facing the administration?
While Bergdahl’s case was being considered, the DoD begged off answering questions before Congress. Now that the fate of the deserter is known, maybe some of those questions will be answered.
The conservative group Freedom Watch has filed a racketeering lawsuit against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that accuses her of failing to produce documents under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The civil suit, filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, argues that Clinton used her private emails to sell access to other officials in return for donations to the Clinton Foundation.
It alleges that, during her tenure, Clinton withheld documents requested under FOIA regarding State Department waivers given to businesses or individuals doing business with Iran, possibly undermining U.S.-imposed sanctions.
The complaint, which lists Bill and Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation as defendants, alleges the Clintons sold access to other U.S. government officials in return for donations to their organization, which they concealed, allegedly, by using a private computer server for her emails operated from their home in Chappaqua, New York.
Larry Klayman, the founder of Freedom Watch, launched dozens of lawsuits against former President Bill Clinton’s administration… In a statement, Klayman cast his lawsuit as “the first and only hard-hitting case to address the growing email scandal.”
Good for Larry Klayman. Use lawfare against them. Aside from brute force, it’s the only thing these miscreants understand.
There was a time in America, not too long ago, when the most controversial question in the country was whether the Yankees should be broken up.
We took a lot of things for granted back then — things I wish now I had appreciated a little more. This is especially true after I read this incredible account of how school advisors in Lexington, Massachusetts, tried to talk the junior class at the local high school out of holding a dance with the theme of “American Pride.”
Yes…THAT Lexington, Massachusetts. THE Lexington, where the “shot heard ’round the world” was fired and the American Revolution got underway in earnest.
A high school dance will keep its “American Pride” theme after a debate over concerns that people of other nationalities might feel excluded, the school superintendent said Tuesday.
Assistant superintendent Carol Pilarski said in an interview with Boston’s WHDH that school advisors suggested students abandon their chosen “American pride” theme in favor of “maybe a national pride theme, so they could represent their individual nationalities. Maybe it should be more inclusive and it should be national pride.”
Students complained to WHDH, which quoted one student, Ethan Embry, calling the decision “ridiculous.”
Now that the crap has hit the fan, school administrators are backtracking furiously:
But superintendent Paul Ash told Boston.com on Tuesday that as far as he knows, the theme was never officially changed. He said Lexington was “very proud of its history” and that administrators were “delighted” that students had chosen an American pride theme.
Still, he acknowledged a debate.
“There was discussion. I’m not going to deny that,” Ash said.
“Official policy is made by the high school principal. And she didn’t change it,” he added. “I talked to the high school principal and I believe her.”
He declined to comment on Pilarki’s remarks, adding that he was not involved in the discussions.
“As you can imagine, superintendents of schools don’t get involved with school dances,” he said.
Actually, we can imagine superintendents getting involved in anything if they thought it could advance the cause of multiculturalism and diversity. We’ve seen this so many times before. A school does something incredibly stupid like banning flag T-shirts, or preventing men in uniform from walking the halls, and then quickly backs down when the matter becomes public.
It doesn’t get much more politically correct than ginning up controversy over the concept of American pride. It’s one of those things we took for granted growing up. Who could have imagined otherwise?
This is the 40th anniversary of one of the most successful advertising campaigns in American history. Watch this Chevy ad from 1975 — unabashedly pro-American.
Just 25 years ago, in Field of Dreams, James Earl Jones gave a speech about America that spoke of how the country is always changing, but remains basically the same:
People will come Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good and that could be again. Oh…people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.”
You couldn’t put that speech in a film today. It would be laughed out of the theater.
When conservatives talk about “taking America back,” liberals will inevitably say that what they really mean in their heart of hearts is that they want blacks in the back of the bus, women barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen, gays back in the closet, and white privilege the rule.
It may be that way for some. But for most of us, it means we want an America where “American Pride” is not now and never will be a controversial subject. Where we don’t have to walk on eggshells when we speak in public, fearing we’re offending someone — or someone who might pretend to be offended. And we want an America where we can be reasonably certain the Congress and the executive branch pay attention to the tenets and precepts found in the Constitution.
Is that really too much to ask?
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl could face life behind bars for walking away from his unit and into the hands of the Taliban, the Army announced today.
Bergdahl, who has been pulling desk duty at Fort Sam Houston since last summer, was charged with counts of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.
Taken in 2009, Bergdahl was the only American POW held by the Taliban. They received five high-level Guantanamo prisoners in exchange for his return.
Bergdahl will now face an Article 32 proceeding similar to a grand jury where the charges will be weighed. There was no word on whether Bergdahl’s defense team would try to work out a deal.
“This case has been made more difficult by the administration’s failure to follow the law surrounding the release of the Taliban 5,” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) said in a statement. “But, Sgt. Bergdahl’s conduct should be considered under the Uniform Code of Military Justice as would any other service member’s, and I trust it will be.”
Qatar agreed to keep the Taliban 5 for a year, which will be up in a couple of months.
“I don’t have anything to discuss about it at this point in time. As you mentioned, it’s a couple of months from now. Obviously, we’ll continue consultations, as will many in the United States government, but I don’t know,” State Department press secretary Jen Psaki said today when quizzed about that looming date.
“As you know, the incidents of recidivism have dropped dramatically over the last couple of years,” she added. “We work closely with the government of Qatar on these issues. But I don’t have any predictions for you on what will happen several months from now.”
White House spokesman Josh Earnest was asked whether the administration knew the charges would come today, when Afghan President Ashraf Ghani addressed a joint session of Congress.
“I’m not aware of any plans for them to do that, but this is a process that’s being run by the United States Army, so I’d direct you to the Pentagon for an answer,” Earnest said.
President Obama threw a White House Rose Garden ceremony last May with Bergdahl’s parents to laud the sergeant’s release. Members of Congress, though, fumed that they weren’t notified of the trade. The administration said they had to move forward without notification as required by law because they feared Bergdahl’s life was in danger.
A week later, National Security Advisor Susan Rice defended the swap, as well as her defense of Bergdahl. “I realize there has been lots of discussion and controversy around this,” Rice said. “But what I was referring to was the fact that this was a young man who volunteered to serve his country in uniform at a time of war. That, in and of itself, is a very honorable thing.”
In January, the White House said the Bergdahl swap didn’t qualify as negotiating with terrorist groups.
“The Taliban is an armed insurgency. ISIL is a terrorist group. So we don’t make concessions to terrorist groups,” spokesman Eric Schultz told reporters.
“As you know, this was highly discussed at the time, and prisoner swaps are a traditional end of conflict interaction that happens,” the spokesman said. “As the war in Afghanistan wound down, we felt like it was the appropriate thing to do. The president’s bedrock commitment as commander in chief is to leave no man or woman behind. That’s the principle he was operating under.”
Then, he said the Taliban — hosts of al-Qaeda camps, suicide bombers, throwers of acid on schoolgirls — didn’t qualify as terrorists.
“The Taliban is an armed insurgency. This was the winding down of the war in Afghanistan. And that’s why this arrangement was dealt,” Schultz continued. “Our view is, as the president said at the time, which is, as the commander in chief, when he sends men and women into armed combat, he doesn’t want to leave anyone behind. That was the commitment he was following through on this.”
On yesterday’s episode of The O’Reilly Factor, Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck clashed with each other about Beck’s statement that he no longer supports the Republican Party. It was an interesting debate, although O’Reilly didn’t appear to grasp Beck’s point about defunding the Republican leadership and supporting individual candidates instead:
Beck’s point is well-taken. Why fund the Republican Party itself if you only support certain conservative candidates — and those candidates are being attacked by their own party’s leaders?
Increasingly, voters try to find candidates they support, not a specific party. Parties played a major role in organizing campaigns on every level (local, state, federal) in the past, but that’s increasingly less the case nowadays. Also, when you donate your hard-earned dollars to a party rather than to an individual, part of your donation ends up helping candidates you don’t support or even actively hurting the ones you do.
Both the Democratic Party and the GOP are “big tents” now, with people who often have conflicting views. See how Elizabeth Warren Democrats think compared to Hillary supporters, or how Cruz supporters think compared to Mitch McConnell and his ilk. They often have opposing — not complementary — goals.
Political parties are outdated, so why not stop supporting them?
In a warmly received address to a joint session of Congress today, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani reassured lawmakers that his country wants nothing more than to be safe and self-reliant, and will not “be the lazy Uncle Joe” who won’t get a job.
“We owe a profound debt to the 2,350 servicemen and -women killed and the more than 20,000 who have been wounded in service to your country and ours… I want to thank the American taxpayer and you, their representatives, for supporting us,” Ghani said, reiterating remarks he made Monday to servicemen and women at the Pentagon.
“Veterans will always be welcome in Afghanistan. Our deepest hope is that the time will come when Americans visiting our country see the cultural heritage and natural riches… Not as soldiers, but as parents showing their children the beautiful country where they served in the war that defeated terror,” he said. “On behalf of my entire country, when that day comes, you will be our most welcome and honored guests.”
Ghani reflected on how he was in his office at the World Bank when planes leveled the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. The Columbia University graduate — along with his Christian Lebanese wife, Rula — recalled fondly eating “corned beef at Katz’s, New York’s greatest, meatiest, pickle-lined melting pot.” That was one of many lines that drew applause from the chamber; Afghan media counted 20 standing ovations.
“Close friends were working near the Trade Center. My children were born in New York, and my daughter was living in New York when the Twin Towers fell. I visited Ground Zero that very week. Seeing firsthand the tragedy and devastation drove home the realization that after 9/11, the world would never be the same. I went home knowing that America would seek justice, and I began to write the plan for our national reconstruction,” the president continued.
Ghani stressed that despite “thankfully rare, but nonetheless tragic” green-on-blue attacks, “the overwhelming majority of Afghans continue to see the partnership with the United States as foundational to our future.”
“We have made great sacrifices, we Afghans, but then, it’s our patriotic to do so. You, on the other hand, had a choice. And when it came to a fork in the road, chose to do the right thing. Thank you.”
While the Taliban banned girls from attending school, today more than 3 million are in class, Ghani said. “Their parents thank you.”
“In 2002, when the allies built their first clinics, the average life-span of the ordinary Afghan was 44 years. Today, it’s over 60. Their children thank you.”
Afghanistan, he said, “contrary to wide perception, is well-suited to democracy.”
“Like Americans, Afghans are individuals. None of us defers to anyone else. We have neither had caste nor class, so persuading each other is an art form,” Ghani said. “Our key characteristics are our openness and hospitality. We believe in equality. Even in the most traditional parts of the country, our leadership must earn rather than inherit their position. There’s a strong public conscience. People are expected to act for the common good. We love debate.”
Ghani acknowledged ISIS as “another, darker cloud that is making its way towards our country.”
“The promise of the Arab Spring gave way to the emergence of Daesh terror and collapse of states. But the changed ecology of terror could have not formed without some states tolerating, financing, providing sanctuary and using violent, nonstate actors as instruments of shortsighted policies,” he said. “…From the West, the Daesh is already sending advance guards to southern and western Afghanistan to push our vulnerabilities. To the south, Pakistan’s counterinsurgency operations in which more than 40,000 people have already died are pushing the Taliban from South Waziristan towards Afghanistan’s border regions.”
Afghanistan, he stressed, “is carrying forward everyone’s fight by containing this threat.”
“Properly supported, Afghanistan is uniquely positioned to block the spread of extremism. We have none of the historical inferiority complexes that choose resentment across Western domination. After all, we defeated most of the empires,” he said. “…Ordinary is what has escaped us, and we’d really like to be leading ordinary lives, to go to school and to come back. To shop without being blown up. To play volleyball without being attacked.”
Ghani spent a substantial portion of his speech outlining plans to advance women’s rights, and to highlight gains already made.
“No country in the modern world can be self-reliant with half of its population locked away, uneducated and unable to contribute its energy, creativity and drive to national development… educating women is not solely a matter of rights, important though they are. It is a matter of national necessity,” he said, stressing “a mental and cultural revolution must take place over treatment of women in and by our society. There is no point talking about how much we respect woman’s honor if we let rape go unpunished or allow harassment in our streets.”
The president said he is “meeting frequently women who are entertaining the idea, seriously, the idea of becoming the first woman president of Afghanistan, and we will support them.” Four women have been appointed to his cabinet for a 20 percent share — “still too low, but at least fulfillment of our promise.”
Vowing Afghanistan “will be the graveyard of al-Qaeda and their foreign terrorist associates,” Ghani said that “although we may be poor, we’re very proud.”
“Our goal of self-reliance is no pipe dream… we want your know-how, the business skills of your corporations, the innovation of your startups and the commitment of your NGOs,” he said. “But we don’t want your charity. We have no more interest in perpetuating a childish dependence than you have in being saddled with a poor family member who lacks the energy and drive to get out and find a job. We are not going to be the lazy Uncle Joe.” Lawmakers laughed; Vice President Joe Biden was sitting behind Ghani as he spoke.
“Together, our two countries will finish the job that began on that clear, terrible September morning almost 14 years ago. We have the way, and we have the commitment that will anchor our country into a community of peaceful, democratic nations.”
Yemen’s descent into political chaos makes it the latest Mideast nation too dangerous for U.S. officials to operate in — a development intelligence sources say will dangerously limit America’s ability to track and target al Qaeda and other extremist terror movements in the region.
While some Obama administration critics see the military triumphs of Shiite Muslim Houthi rebels in Yemen as a victory by the region’s Shiite powerhouse, Iran, others say the more dangerous fallout will be the loss of real-time intelligence and on-the-ground assets following the withdrawal of U.S. special forces from a Yemeni air base that has long played a key role in the battle against Sunni extremist al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
Yemen is the home base of the Sunni terrorist group, which U.S. intelligence officials have described as the most likely among jihadi organizations around the world to “attempt transnational attacks against the United States.” Despite the value of the base, the administration ordered the pullout of all U.S. forces from Yemen’s Al Anad air base on March 20 after AQAP forces and aligned tribal fighters briefly took control of the nearby city of Houta.
While military and intelligence officials are mum on the role the base has played in hundreds of drone strikes carried out against AQAP operatives during recent years, the sudden American pullout underscores the extent to which the administration’s counterterrorism strategy has collapsed in the region. A year ago, President Obama pointed to Yemen as a model for his strategy and a success story in the counterterrorism fight.
A few more successes like this and we’ll be in real trouble. But just another’s day work for the most anti-American president in American history. Hey! Maybe Obama’s middle name, “Hussein,” should have been a dead giveaway.