Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) generated quite a few headlines in his interview with NPR’s Steve Inskeep this week, but not necessarily for the right reasons.
The story that got tongues wagging inside the Beltway was hard to miss: the conservative senator dismissed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s presidential future, arguing the nation is at a “generational, transformational crossroads,” and Clinton is “a 20th century candidate.”
Maybe it’s just me, but hearing a far-right lawmaker who opposes marriage equality, supports limits on contraception access, opposes reproductive rights, balks at ENDA, and fails to believe in climate science turn around and present himself as a forward-thinking leader for the future is a bit much. As Barbara Morrill joked, Rubio’s “the guy for a generational, transformational change. Assuming you’re talking about a transformation back to the 19th century.”
But just as interesting were the senator’s comments about comprehensive immigration reform, which Rubio co-sponsored in the Senate, which passed a bill fairly easily last year.
“I’ve been through this now, I was involved in the effort. I warned during that effort that I didn’t think it did enough on this first element, the [border] security front. I was proven, unfortunately, right by the fact that it didn’t move in the House.”
As the senator probably knows, this assessment doesn’t line up especially well with what’s actually transpired.
As Rubio now sees it, immigration reform died because the Senate bill – which is to say, Rubio’s bill – came up short on border security. We know this is wrong. To shore up GOP support in the upper chamber, the bill’s bipartisan sponsors agreed to a “border surge” that would nearly double the “current border patrol force to 40,000 agents from 21,000, as well as for the completion of 700 miles of fence on the nation’s southern border.”
It took border security so seriously that some reform proponents wavered, fearing it went too far in militarizing the border. One GOP senator conceded at the time that the legislation went so far on the security front that it was “almost overkill.”
Rubio now says he was right all along, warning senators that the bill wasn’t tough enough. But that’s plainly silly. Indeed, as Simon Maloy discovered, Rubio actually praised his bill’s security provisions at the time, boasting that it “mandates the most ambitious border and interior security measures in our nation’s history.”
So why did the House Republicans kill it anyway? Because the comprehensive solution required them to compromise, accepting a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants already in the United States. House GOP lawmakers refused to strike a deal – hell, they refused to even go to the negotiating table – so the legislation died, again.
The related question is, why would Rubio make such obviously untrue claims now? The answer, I suspect, is that the Florida Republican took a sharp hit from his party’s far-right base for supporting immigration reform, and as Rubio looks ahead to the 2016 race, the senator needs a way to distance himself from his own legislative handiwork.
This, apparently, is the argument he’s come up with. If you’re thinking the talking points aren’t going to persuade anyone, you’re not alone.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 23, 2014
Much has been said of former Vice President Dick Cheney’s Wall Street Journal op-ed where he criticized President Barack Obama’s handling of Iraq. Cheney’s contribution to the discourse in Iraq is as meaningful as someone holding an emergency meeting on the Titanic to ascertain the whereabouts of the missing bucket.
I doubt there are many levelheaded individuals who would take seriously anything Cheney offers about Iraq, given his dubious contribution to what can only be considered as an unmitigated disaster.
Included in Cheney’s recent screed was the now infamous quote: “Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many.”
Short of Saddam Hussein was a bad guy, what were the artisans of the Iraq War correct about? Weapons of mass destruction, victory would be a “slam dunk,” along with “mission accomplished” are among of the misguided quotes that placed American lives and treasure on a fool’s errand.
Appearing on Meet the Press, Republican Senator Rand Paul countered Cheney’s charges:
I don’t blame President Obama. Has he really got the solution? Maybe there is no solution. But I do blame the Iraq War on the chaos that is in the Middle East. I also blame those who are for the Iraq War for emboldening Iran. These are the same people now who are petrified of what Iran may become, and I understand some of their worry.
While Paul appears to have come to the aid of the president, it was also a salvo fired toward former Secretary of State, and possible 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton. An area where Clinton could be vulnerable remains the clumsy manner that she explains her vote as senator in support of the Iraq War.
But Clinton’s inability to explain her participation in Iraq is the least of America’s problems. What should America do as a growing number of Iraqi military forces are withdrawing in the wake of the consolidation of power by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which is now reportedly controlling much of Iraq’s western border?
The latest developments in Iraq are the most glaring evidence to date how sophomoric the 2003 preemptive invasion has proven to be. Democracy is not something that can be imported. Nor is it displaying a purple finger after casting a vote.
Voting does not equate to democracy. Stalin had elections, as did the South during Jim Crow segregation.
Some even attempted to argue that the Arab Spring was the unintended consequence that vindicated former President George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq.
What plagues Iraq and ostensibly the Middle East is most likely beyond America’s sphere of influence.
Columnist Tom Friedman has argued the Middle East needs someone that can appeal to the moral consciousness of the region, a Nelson Mandela, Mohandas Gandhi, or Martin Luther King-like figure.
While the aforementioned fought against oppression in their homelands, they did so in countries that possessed enough democratic infrastructure so that their marvelous abilities and influence could ultimately rise to the top.
Shadi Hamid, author of Temptations of Power, argues that before any democratic ideals can take hold authentically, the Middle East must go through its own form of Enlightenment period. But such efforts require time.
The Age of Enlightenment in the West began more than 200 years before the Declaration of Independence was signed. Moreover, the Revolutionary War was fought while many Americans remained loyal to the British.
How can there be any type of stabilization in the Middle East that is not rooted in its own people? And how can the people undertake that revolutionary mission until there is an emphasis placed on reason and the individual that untangles the unhealthy interdependence between religion and politics?
These were probably questions that should have been posed before the preemptive invasion in 2003. But alas, everyone’s IQ is higher ex post facto — certain neocons notwithstanding.
By: Byron Williams, The Huffington Post Blog, June 24, 2014
The right has long seemed stuck in the 1980s, ever basking in Ronald Reagan’s warm glow and policy solutions. This month it seems conservatives have decided to switch things up and temporally relocate themselves to the 2000s, if just for a little while.
So a giant squirrel is following former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton around the country on her book tour. Seriously. The Republican National Committee has dispatched someone in a bright orange squirrel costume to appear at her book events. The costume, Mother Jones reported this week, is left over from a similar 2008 publicity stunt in which the party used the squirrel to illustrate its concerns about ACORN, the now-defunct voter mobilization group. There was a logic to it then – squirrels and acorns – but now it’s as if someone at the RNC was cleaning out a closet, came across the squirrel suit and thought to themselves: Well, we can’t let this beauty go to waste. So the squirrel now wears a T-shirt which reads, “Another Clinton in the White House is Nuts.”
That sentiment neatly channels one of the early, sanctimonious premises of the George W. Bush presidency – the idea of Clinton fatigue, that the country didn’t want any more of the 42nd president, that “America wants somebody to restore honor and dignity to the White House,” as Bush put it while campaigning for the office. That somebody at the RNC thinks describing a return to Clintonism as “nuts” indicates that that particular delusion hasn’t been dislodged in the intervening 14 years. Remember that when he left office Bill Clinton enjoyed a 66 percent approval rating, according to Gallup. And just this week a Wall Street Journal/NBC News/Annenberg poll found that he is easily the most admired president of the last quarter century, with 42 percent of respondents naming him the most admired chief executive in that time. That’s light-years ahead of President Barack Obama (18 percent), the Bush who succeeded Clinton (17) and the one who preceded him (16). Peace and prosperity will do that for you.
Of course the Bush presidency reoriented itself after 9/11, and we’re getting a flashback of those years as well, thanks to the collapse of the Iraqi armed forces in the face of the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (an al-Qaida splinter group) and the civil war in Syria. So the whole neocon cast that devised the original Iraq fiasco have crawled out of the GOP memory hole apparently intent on proving the old Karl Marx-ism that history repeats itself first as tragedy then as farce. “This is about preventing another 9/11,” former Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said on MSNBC this week, having updated his talking points not a wit from the first time he advocated sending armed forces into Iraq. Writing on The Weekly Standard’s website, Fred Kagan and Bill Kristol argue for air strikes and ground troops as “the only chance we have to persuade Iraq’s Sunni Arabs that they have an alternative to joining up with” al-Qaida or facing government death squads. Truly nothing persuades people of our benevolent intentions like bombing and invading their country. We’ll be greeted as liberators – just like we were the first time, right?
But the award for abject lack of self-awareness goes to former Vice President Dick Cheney, who wrote with his daughter in The Wall Street Journal this week: “Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many.”
Meanwhile back in the original Bush country – Texas – the 43d president’s gubernatorial successor this month channeled one of the uglier aspects of the 2004 presidential campaign, shameless gay-bashing. Recall the role played in the Bush re-election campaign of riling up the social right with state level campaigns against gay marriage. Speaking in San Francisco last week, Texas Gov. Rick Perry compared homosexuality with alcoholism, saying that both afflictions can be resisted with a sufficient amount of will power. This sort of noxious comparison might have been unremarkable a decade ago, but times have changed and rapidly, with polls now showing majorities of Americans favoring marriage equality, for example. In 2014 it draws rebukes like this one, from CNBC host Joe Kernen: “I don’t think gay marriage leads to cirrhosis of the liver or domestic violence or DWIs.” Yeah, there is that.
Perry seems to have gotten the message, telling reporters at a press lunch on Thursday that he – and the GOP in general – shouldn’t get “deflected” onto social issues like the nature of homosexuality. “I stepped right in it,” he said.
Adjusting to rapid change can be hard, doubly so for conservatives whose ideology inherently resists it. Perhaps the best recent example of that emerged this week from North Carolina. State House Speaker Thom Tillis, the GOP Senate nominee, told “Carolina Business Review” in 2012 (the interview was ferreted out this week by Talking Points Memo) that “the traditional population of North Carolina and the United States is more or less stable. It’s not growing. The African-American population is roughly growing but the Hispanic population and the other immigrant populations are growing in significant numbers. We’ve got to resonate with those voters.” When asked whether Tillis was characterizing whites as the state’s and the country’s “traditional population,” his spokesman said no, that he was merely referring to “people who have been in North Carolina for a long time.” This is transparent nonsense. He contrasted the “traditional” population with, among others, the African-American population, which I’m fairly certain has been in the Tar Heel State for some time now.
But take a step back and look past the offensive content: Tillis was answering a question about his party’s inability to appeal to minorities, so when he talked about non-“traditional” voters he was doing so in the context of wanting to “resonate” with them. If this is the right’s idea of reaching out, it’s going to be a long decade for them – no wonder they’re trying to C.
By: Robert Schlesinger, U. S. News and World Report, June 23, 2014
In the years since the terrorist attack that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens, his aide Sean Smith and CIA officers Tyrone Smith and Glen Doherty in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, President Obama’s congressional critics have complained long and loudly about his failure to apprehend the perpetrators immediately. Republican experts like Ted Cruz and Darrell Issa, along with the right-wing media machine, even insinuated that Obama might not really want to catch the Benghazi perps.
So when news came last weekend that US forces had picked up Abu Khattala, the chief suspect, in a long-planned secret raid, all the politicians who have proclaimed their anguish over the murders of our diplomatic and intelligence personnel ought to have been elated. They should have sent congratulations, if not apologies, to the White House.
But if the Benghazi tragedy has revealed anything, it is the utterly partisan obsession of those who have tried to stoke the “scandal.” So naturally, the same Republicans who have been preparing yet another Capitol Hill show trial – their “select committee” to investigate Benghazi – were barely able to conceal the dismay they so obviously felt over Khattala’s capture.
It is astonishing to watch the long faces of these elected officials, who yield to none in their flag-waving super-patriotic posturing, when the Obama administration manages to neutralize a dangerous enemy of the United States. Their animosity toward the president always seems far more intense than their hatred of our country’s actual adversaries. It is equally remarkable to listen to their petty complaints and phony arguments, as they try in every instance to diminish his achievement.
In this particular instance – as the Republican “terrorism experts” on Capitol Hill, in Washington think-tanks and the national media undoubtedly know – the time required to nab the alleged Benghazi ringleader was fairly short. Remember that the Bush administration never managed to find Osama bin Laden for seven years following 9/11 – after seeming to allow the al Qaeda chief to escape from Tora Bora. Nobody heard a whining peep from the likes of Lindsey Graham or Darrell Issa over that “intelligence failure” – indeed, they appeared content to pretend, along with President Bush, that bin Laden truly no longer mattered. And former vice president Dick Cheney, author of all those failures, even invented a cheap reason to attack the president.
Finding and arresting terrorists abroad is almost always a long game, as proved in the 1998 African embassy bombings that killed a dozen Americans and hundreds of local employees in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. That investigation entailed 15 years of hunting before Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai was finally grabbed by American forces last October – including eight years during which the Bush administration accomplished nothing, again without eliciting a word of recrimination from the Republicans who now criticize Obama incessantly. Evidently none of those critics thought the Ruqai arrest worthy of notice.
No doubt the Republicans will persist in their Benghazi inquest, without embarrassment – although everyone understands that it is nakedly aimed at Hillary Rodham Clinton, who worries them more than any terrorist could. But even as they brood and plot, the news proceeding from the Khattala arrest is even worse than they might have expected. Now that the alleged ringleader is in custody, the key element behind accusations of a White House “cover-up” is evaporating.
According to the Republican narrative, Ambassador Susan Rice was dispatched to recite misleading talking points about the Benghazi attack. In television interviews, she indicated that a video offensive to Muslims might be the underlying cause of the attack. The purpose was to suggest a spontaneous assault rather than a planned act of terror, which might contradict the president’s assertions, in the midst of the 2012 election, that his efforts had decimated al Qaeda.
The truth turned out to be more complicated than the guidance provided to Rice by the CIA. Terrorists, mainly from a Libyan gang known as Ansar al-Sharia, did participate in the assault on the U.S. diplomatic compound.
But The New York Times last weekend reported that Khattala told his associates he led the attack to “take revenge for an insult to Islam in an American-made online video.
“An earlier demonstration venting anger over the video outside the American Embassy in Cairo had culminated in a breach of its walls, and it dominated Arab news coverage. Mr. Abu Khattala told both fellow Islamist fighters and others that the attack in Benghazi was retaliation for the same insulting video, according to people who heard him.”
He made the same assertion on the record to a reporter for The New Yorker, while denying his own culpability.
So much for the Benghazi scandal, which was never much of a scandal at all: Whatever details may emerge in the months to come about the motives of Khattala, we already have learned all we need to know about the motives – and character – of the scandalmongers.
By: Joe Conason, The National Memo, June 20, 2014
“The Big Benghazi Dance”: In The End, Both Democrats And Republicans Are Going To Get Exactly What They Want
Nancy Pelosi has now announced the five Democratic members of Congress who will serve on the Republicans’ select committee to investigate Benghazi. They will be outnumbered by the committee’s seven Republicans, but at this point we can safely predict what’s going to happen with this committee.
To quote Macbeth, it will be a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
OK, so maybe the “idiot” part is too harsh — no one thinks that Rep. Trey Gowdy, who will be leading the committee, isn’t a smart guy. But it’s easy to see exactly how the big Benghazi dance will unfold, and how everyone will play their appointed parts.
That’s partly because of the nature of this matter, partly because of everything that has happened up until this point, and partly because of who’ll be on the committee. This description in the New York Times makes the contrast in who got chosen to represent each party:
The Democrats chosen were Mr. [Elijah] Cummings, who clashed repeatedly over Benghazi with the chairman of the Oversight Committee, Representative Darrell Issa of California; Adam Smith of Washington, the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee; Adam B. Schiff of California, a member of the Intelligence Committee; Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, a decorated and severely wounded combat veteran of the Iraq war; and Linda T. Sánchez of California, the ranking Democrat on the Ethics Committee.
The Republican members, by contrast, largely lack foreign policy and military credentials, although with Mr. Gowdy and Representative Susan W. Brooks of Indiana, they have prosecutorial experience. They include Representative Peter Roskam of Illinois, Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, Representative Mike Pompeo of Kansas, Representative Martha Roby of Alabama and Representative Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia.
Just by looking at the committee’s membership, you can see what the two parties are trying to achieve. John Boehner picked a combination of prosecutors, intense partisans, and hard-right blowhards, people who are there to pound the table, shake their fists, and raise their voices. Pelosi could have picked similar Democrats (there was a move to get Rep. Alan Grayson on to the committee), but instead she selected a group of serious members who come with some knowledge on the matters to be explored. Despite the fact that Democrats (even those on this committee) think this is all a waste of time, they’re taking a high road approach, hoping that they’ll look reasonable and sober while Republicans look wild-eyed and angry.
So here’s how this is going to go down:
1) The first day of hearings will get blanket coverage in the media. The members will each get a chance to make their opening statements, which will leave the walls of the hearing room quivering under the power of all the thunderous outrage the Republicans can muster.
2) At some point, Hillary Clinton will testify. The media will rub their hands together in anticipation of the confrontation, the smack-down, the Capitol Hill cage match! Republican members will preen for the cameras, and Clinton will, most likely, parry all their assaults. It’ll be good television, but no new information will be revealed.
3) After that, the media will quickly lose interest.
4)Republicans will then complain that the liberal media are covering up the scandal.
All that is predicated on the assumption that the committee is not actually going to discover damning new evidence of Obama administration malfeasance that will lead to resignations, criminal indictments, or even (be still the Republicans’ hearts) impeachment. I feel secure in assuming that, given how much Benghazi has been examined over the last year and a half. Keep in mind that there have already been investigations and hearings on Benghazi not only by Darrell Issa’s oversight committee, but also by House and Senate committees on foreign affairs, intelligence, armed services, and homeland security (not to mention lengthy investigations by the FBI and news organizations). Is it theoretically possible that there is some blockbuster revelation that none of these committees were able to uncover, but the select committee will? Sure. It’s also theoretically possible that there really are space aliens being held at Area 51.
In the end, both Democrats and Republicans are going to get exactly what they want out of this committee. Republicans will be able to show their base that they’re holding Barack Obama’s feet to the fire and giving Hillary Clinton the business. Democrats will be able to show their base that Republicans are crazy. Everybody wins.
By: Paul Waldman, The Plum Line, The Washington Post, May 22, 2014