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“From A Failed And Flawed Man”: Dick Cheney’s “Second-Rate” Personnel Assessments

It struck me as amusing last week when former Vice President Dick Cheney, complaining about proposed measures to reduce gun violence, complained there “isn’t adequate regard for the rights of law-abiding citizens.” Given Cheney’s track record while in office, it seemed like an odd thing to say.

But these remarks from the weekend were even more striking.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney said Saturday night that President Barack Obama has jeopardized U.S. national security by nominating substandard candidates for key cabinet posts and by degrading the U.S. military.

“The performance now of Barack Obama as he staffs up the national security team for the second term is dismal,” Cheney said in comments to about 300 members of the Wyoming Republican Party.

Cheney, a Wyoming native, said it was vital to the nation’s national security that “good folks” hold the positions of secretary of state, CIA director and secretary of defense. “Frankly, what he has appointed are second-rate people,” he said.

There is a certain oddity that underpins Cheney’s whining. For many political observers, the fact that so many national security policies from the Bush/Cheney era are still in place is cause for alarm, though Cheney himself seems eager to suggest this administration has departed radically from his predecessor.

But really, that’s just scratching the surface of what’s wrong with Cheney’s odd perspective.

Whether you agree with their positions or not, there’s nothing even remotely “second rate” about John Kerry, Chuck Hagel, and John Brennan. These are experienced, capable individuals, with considerable expertise in their areas. Indeed, Kerry has a broad diplomatic background and was very nearly the president; Hagel is a decorated veteran and sage voice on the use of force (Cheney never got around to serving in the military before becoming the Pentagon chief); and Brennan actually served in the Bush/Cheney administration.

If the former V.P. has specific complaints about these nominees, I’d love to hear them.

But the real kicker here is Cheney’s confidence in his ability to make personnel assessments. Obama’s team, in Cheney’s mind, is “second rate,” but his team — filled with notorious names like Rumsfeld, Addington, and Libby — which oversaw some of the most spectacular failures in recent memory, was top tier?



By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 11, 2013

February 12, 2013 Posted by | Dick Cheney | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Heads-Up”: Republican Post State Of The Union Whining Today

Here’s a heads-up: After President Obama delivers his State of the Union address tomorrow, Republicans will wave their hands in front of their faces and whine that it was viciously, horribly, frighteningly “partisan.” And what will this partisanship consist of? Hold on to your hat here. He’s expected to argue for the same policies he has been arguing for and pursuing for the last four years. If the Republican members of Congress restrain themselves from shouting “You lie!” during the speech, it’ll only be because of their superior breeding and manners.

This, of course, is a follow-up to Obama’s inauguration speech, which was condemned by Republicans not because he said anything mean about them, but because he talked about some of the policies he prefers. That, you see, is “partisanship,” and when the other side does it, it’s beyond the pale. So in today’s Politico, under the headline “Obama’s State of the Union: Aggressive,” we read, without any particular evidence for the assertion, that the SOTU “will be less a presidential olive branch than a congressional cattle prod.” Surely this will be the first time a president ever used the speech to encourage Congress to pass legislation he supports. “That strategy has its dangers,” the article goes on. “If Americans perceive Obama as too partisan, he’ll lose a serious share of his personal popularity.” All that’s missing is a quote from Bill Galston explaining how the President is courting doom by not adopting Republican policy positions (I assume Galston was busy over the weekend).

You might say that because he originally ran for office promising to bring Republicans and Democrats together, Obama has a special responsibility to be accommodating to the other side. But let’s not forget that nearly every president comes into office promising to bring Republicans and Democrats together. Remember George W. “I’m a uniter, not a divider” Bush? Bill Clinton said it, too. But Obama seems to get an unusual amount of criticism from both his opponents and folks in the media for doing the same things that every president does, with every article an opportunity to remind readers that in 2008 he ran promising to bring people together.

Let me offer a prediction about tomorrow’s speech. There will be a good deal of now-familiar language about how he’s open to ideas from anywhere, and how if we all just be honest with each other we can come up with common-sense solutions to our problems. He’ll make a couple of good-natured jokes at his opponents’ expense (something Ronald Reagan particularly loved to do in his SOTUs). And he’ll go into numbing detail about his policy agenda. In other words, it’ll be a lot like every other SOTU in the last 20 or 30 years. And afterward, Republicans will cry that it was the most partisan State of the Union speech they’ve ever heard, and claim that they were all ready to work with him, but after being so terribly insulted, they just have no alternative but to oppose everything Obama wants to do, hold up his nominees, and proclaim him to be the enemy of American values.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, February 11, 2013

February 12, 2013 Posted by | State of the Union | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Party Of Ideas, From 20 Years Ago”: Which 1990s Era Bad Idea Will The GOP Pull Out Of Its Policy Posterior Next?

I wrote in my column a few weeks back that conservatives seem stuck in the 1990s. The NRA swaggers like the organization that could claim credit for taking down so many Democratic members of Congress … nearly two decades ago; House Republicans—including some from the class of 1994, apparently trying to relive their, uh, inglory years—are openly aching for a government shutdown; some even want an impeachment. It almost begs the question: What hoary policy proposal will they summon out of the Gingrich years next? The answer is apparently the Balanced Budget Amendment.

My old bloleague Scott Galupo, now at The American Conservative, flags the news that the GOP is going to try to write a balanced budget into the Constitution, including a supermajority requirement for raising taxes and raising the debt ceiling. Scott writes:

Just as problematic is the institutional folly that the BBA represents. Instead of reasserting democratic control over fiscal policy, as had been the plan until five minutes ago, a BBA regime would take us in the opposite direction – toward newly empowered judges. The literature on how a BBA would invite judicial interference into fiscal policy is vast — for a taste, see Ed Meese, Walter Dellinger , and Peter H. Schuck – and, to my lights, dispositive. But that’s not all. The executive branch, too, would potentially gain new authority over spending — which the Goldwater Institute, strangely, sees as a feature rather than a bug.

And David Frum points out perhaps the biggest problem with the scheme:

A cap on spending, especially one at 18 percent, also means recessions will be turning into depressions. The automatic stabilizers that have induced such deep deficits since 2008, especially unemployment insurance, would be capped under such a plan. Without that spending to prop up demand, expect the boom and bust cycle to get worse.

Even former U.S. News-er Jim Pethokoukis questions the realism of this idea. And you know something extraordinary is going on if I’m approvingly citing Jimmy P.

So which 1990s era bad idea will the GOP pull out of its policy posterior next? I suppose they have to wait until the Defense of Marriage Act has actually been overturned or repealed before they try to revive it. Maybe a flag burning amendment?


By: Robert Schlesinger, U. S. News and World Report, February 11, 2013



February 12, 2013 Posted by | GOP | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Genuinely Crazy Or Brain Dead”: Republican Congressman Steve Stockman Invites Ted Nugent To State Of The Union

Ted Nugent, the unhinged former rock star who’s now best known for his repeated threats against President Obama, will be in attendance at the president’s State of the Union address Tuesday night.

Nugent’s invitation comes from genuinely crazy congressman Steve Stockman (R-TX), whom Mother Jones’ Tim Murphy has aptly described as “the closest his state ever came to electing a gun.” Stockman — who is supported by every major “gun rights” organization, has sponsored legislation banning all background checks, waiting periods, and registration of firearms, and threatened to impeach the president over his gun safety executive orders — presumably invited Nugent as a counterweight to the more than 20 gun violence survivors who will be in attendance.

“I am excited to have a patriot like Ted Nugent joining me in the House Chamber to hear from President Obama,” Representative Stockman said in a statement Monday. “After the address, I’m sure Ted will have plenty to say.”

Nugent has had plenty to say leading up to the address. An NRA board member, Nugent has repeatedly threatened Obama over the president’s support for gun safety measures. In January Nugent referred to Obama as “an evil, dangerous man who hates America and hates freedom” and warned “if you want another Concord Bridge, I got some buddies.” In April, 2012, Nugent’s claim that he “will either be dead or in jail by this time next year” if Obama won re-election drew Secret Service attention.

Stockman’s decision to invite Nugent is almost certain to backfire on the Republican Party politically, given the contrast it creates with Republican leaders such as Eric Cantor’s attempts to moderate the GOP’s tone. If Republicans really want to stop being the “stupid party,” then step one should be staying far, far away from the likes of Nugent.


By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, February 11, 2013

February 12, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“With Friends Like This”: Michele Bachmann Still Has Access To Our Nation’s Top Secrets

Here are just a few of the people who have publicly condemned Rep. Michele Bachmann’s work on the House Intelligence Committee in the past year — from her own party: The GOP’s most prominent voice on foreign policy, the speaker of the House, the party’s leading 2016 presidential candidate, and the chairman of that very committee.

Then there was the epic eye roll that White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennnan, who was recently tapped to lead the CIA, delivered when asked about Bachmann. “I’m not even going to try to divine what it is that sometimes comes out of Congress,” he said with a laugh.

The rebukes followed Bachmann’s neo-McCarthyite witch hunt against Muslims in the federal government, for she feared “deep penetration” by Muslim Brotherhood agents. One suspect included Huma Abedin, a top aide to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who it turned out was not a terrorists and happened to be beloved by members of both parties.

While the witch hunt was surprising, the fact that Bachmann would use her perch on the Intelligence Committee to do something stupid was entirely predictable. This is Michele Bachmann, after all, who sees conspiracy theories everywhere and for whom the word “intelligence” is rarely used in the same sentence without the addition of a negative qualifier.

And yet, Bachmann has now officially been reappointed to her seat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. On Friday, House Republicans released their list of committee members for the nascent 113th Congress, and Bachmann’s name is on it. The post gives her access to classified information and the power to oversee the country’s intelligence agencies, including the use of drones and efforts to thwart Iran’s nuclear program.

And if that’s not enough, two of her co-conspirators, Reps. Lynn Westmoreland and Tom Rooney, will retain their seats on the committee as well. Westmoreland and Rooney, along with Reps. Louie Gohmert and Trent Franks, signed on to Bachmann’s letters to the inspectors general of five national security agencies demanding investigations into alleged Muslim Brotherhood penetration.

(Incidentally, security breaches are not really the domain of inspectors general, who deal more with budgetary and administrative impropriety. Counter-intelligence agents would be the more appropriate choice if Bachmann were actually concerned about infiltration and not using the campaign to boost her fundraising and reelection bid.)

That means that most of Bachmann’s anti-Muslim cabal remains on the Intelligence Committee, representing a quarter of the 12 GOP members of the group. The only new member, Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo, replaces Rep. Sue Myrick, who had one of the most notoriously anti-Muslim records in Congress before resigning last year. Pompeo may not be much better.

Why is Bachmann getting another round on a committee she probably has no business being on? We can’t know for sure, but probably because immediate domestic political concern trumps foreign policy competence every time, especially if you’re John Boehner.

In July, the National Review’s Robert Costa reported that “many senior House GOP aides were wary of elevating” Bachmann to the Intel Committee at the time of her appointment, but “Boehner assured them that it was an appropriate gesture.” After losing her presidential race, the seat was “a political lifeline” for Bachmann and it was all thanks to Boehner, Costa explained.

The uproar over the Abedin affair threatened to undo all of that, but apparently was not enough. Either Boehner is scared of taking on Bachmann and her vast grass-roots network of admirers, or he’d rather appease her and tap into that political power. Either way, he’s choosing to keep her in a position of power over national security, despite calling her views “dangerous” only a few months ago.

And it’s all the more surprising considering that Boehner had no problem culling a number of other high-profile Tea Party members from plum committee posts last month, in what became known as the “Tea Party purge.”


BY: Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon, February 11, 2013

February 12, 2013 Posted by | National Security | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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