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“When Bluster Meets Reality”: A Chance To Start World War III, Republicans Neither Know Nor Care What They’re Talking About

I’m from Jersey and we like to talk bluntly, but Rand Paul is correct when he says that Chris Christie could easily start World War Three if he actually governed as advertised in the White House:

Christie said that as president, he would shoot down a Russian plane if it breached a no-fly zone in Syria, and claimed Obama wasn’t strong enough to do the same.

“Maybe because I’m from New Jersey I have this plain-language hang-up,” Christie said. “I would talk to Vladmir Putin a lot, and I’d say listen, Mr. President, there’s a no-fly zone and it applies to you and yes we’d shoot down the planes of Russian pilots if they were stupid enough to think that this president was the same feckless weakling that the president we have in the Oval Office is right now.”

Meanwhile, in the real world:

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday accepted Russia’s long-standing demand that President Bashar Assad’s future be determined by his own people, as Washington and Moscow edged toward putting aside years of disagreement over how to end Syria’s civil war.

“The United States and our partners are not seeking so-called regime change,” Kerry told reporters in the Russian capital after meeting President Vladimir Putin. A major international conference on Syria would take place later this week in New York, Kerry announced.

Kerry reiterated the U.S. position that Assad, accused by the West of massive human rights violations and chemical weapons attacks, won’t be able to steer Syria out of more than four years of conflict.

But after a day of discussions with Assad’s key international backer, Kerry said the focus now is “not on our differences about what can or cannot be done immediately about Assad.” Rather, it is on facilitating a peace process in which “Syrians will be making decisions for the future of Syria.”

Kerry’s declarations crystallized the evolution in U.S. policy on Assad over the last several months, as the Islamic State group’s growing influence in the Middle East has taken priority.

How relevant does Christie’s bluster look in light of the factual situation on the ground in Syria?

The Republican candidates debated each other last night in Vegas, but they might as well have been debating a dining room table. They neither know what they are talking about, nor care. It would be sad or maybe just funny if there weren’t a remote possibility that one of them might win and get the chance to start World War Three.

 

By: Martin Longman, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, December 16, 2015

December 20, 2015 Posted by | Chris Christie, GOP Presidential Candidates, Vladimir Putin, World War III | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Getting To The Source Of The Lies”: The Fabricated Story About Tashfeen Malik’s Public Facebook Postings

A theme emerged at Tuesday night’s Republican debate that went something like this: because of political correctness, the Obama administration has failed to keep us safe from terror attacks. It was applied in reference to the shooting in San Bernardino by several candidates, including Ted Cruz.

It’s not a lack of competence that is preventing the Obama administration from stopping these attacks. It is political correctness. We didn’t monitor the Facebook posting of the female San Bernardino terrorist because the Obama DHS thought it would be inappropriate. She made a public call to jihad, and they didn’t target it.

That is the story that has become embedded over the last week in the right wing mindset. But as FBI Director James Comey said yesterday, it’s not true.

So far, in this investigation we have found no evidence of posting on social media by either of them at that period in time and thereafter reflecting their commitment to jihad or to martyrdom. I’ve seen some reporting on that, and that’s a garble.

There was no major breakdown in security at DHS as a result of political correctness. It’s all about a couple who were inspired by ISIS to go on a killing spree – much as Robert Lewis Dear was inspired to go on a shooting spree at Planned Parenthood by the anti-abortion movement and Dylann Roof was inspired to kill African American church-goers by white supremacists.

But as Kevin Drum reports, there’s more to the story. The question becomes: what was the source for the story about Tashfeen Malik’s public Facebook postings? It was an article in the New York Times titled: U.S. Visa Process Missed San Bernardino Wife’s Zealotry on Social Media. And not only that. As Drum says:

The story was written by Matt Apuzzo, Michael Schmidt, and Julia Preston.

Do those names sound familiar? They should. The first two were also the authors of July’s epic fail claiming that Hillary Clinton was the target of a criminal probe over the mishandling of classified information in her private email system.

Is it merely a coincidence that these two NYT reporters have been fed stories by their sources that are fabricated lies about the dyad the Republican candidates blamed consistently with such disdain Tuesday night – Obama/Clinton? I’m not a conspiracy theorist. But you don’t have to be one to understand why it is important to get an answer to that question.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, December 17, 2015

December 20, 2015 Posted by | Journalism, Journalists, Reporters | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Part Of A Deliberate Strategy”: The Religious Right Finds Its Man

The pattern started in earnest in 1996. Social conservative leaders weren’t sold on Bob Dole as the Republicans’ presidential nominee, but the religious right movement struggled to rally behind a credible alternative.

As we discussed in March, in nearly every election cycle that followed, a similar dynamic unfolded. In 2000, the religious right wanted John Ashcroft, who didn’t run. In 2008, the religious right hated John McCain, but it couldn’t settle on a rival. In 2012, social conservatives were skeptical about Mitt Romney, but again, it failed to coalesce behind someone else.

The movement and its leaders were absolutely determined not to repeat their mistakes. This would finally be the cycle, the religious right’s heavyweights insisted, in which social conservatives en masse made an early decision, chose a competitive GOP candidate, and helped propel him or her towards the convention.

And though I was skeptical of their organizational skills, social conservative leaders, for the first time in a generation, are doing exactly what they set out to do. National Review reported late yesterday:

James Dobson, founder of the Christian group Focus on the Family and one of the nation’s most influential evangelicals, will endorse Ted Cruz for president today, according to sources briefed on the announcement. […]

Dobson, sources say, has long been an outspoken voice on Cruz’s behalf, arguing in previous private gatherings that Marco Rubio was not sufficiently conservative to earn the group’s support.

The endorsement from Dobson, a powerhouse in religious right circles, comes on the heels of similar support from the Family Leader’s Bob Vander Plaats, the National Organization for Marriage, and GOP activist/direct-mail pioneer Richard Viguerie.

This isn’t a situation in which prominent social conservatives suddenly saw the merits of the Texas Republican’s candidacy. On the contrary, it’s part of a deliberate strategy.

National Review reported earlier this week on the religious right’s initiative to formally choose the movement’s presidential hopeful.

The initiative, spearheaded by Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, had originally brought together a loose coalition of some 50 like-minded conservative leaders from around the country. Together, beginning in early 2014, the group – referred to internally simply as “The GROUP” – met every few months to discuss the state of the race, to pray for guidance, and to conduct a straw poll to see which candidates enjoyed the most support at each stage of the campaign.

It had all built to this day and to this meeting, where members would vote until they reached a verdict. Once finalized, their decision would represent the culmination of an oft-dismissed undertaking that began several years earlier and aimed at one thing: coalescing the conservative movement’s leaders behind a single presidential candidate in a show of strength and solidarity that would position them to defeat the establishment-backed candidate in the head-to-head stage of the 2016 Republican primary.

And two weeks ago, in a hotel boardroom in Northern Virginia, Ted Cruz cleared the 75% supermajority threshold “required to bind the group’s membership to support him.”

Dobson’s endorsement is part of the initiative’s rollout, and his Cruz endorsement will reportedly soon be followed by the Senate Conservatives Fund Ken Cuccinelli and the FRC’s Tony Perkins.

Will this translate into success for the far-right senator? It’s true that social conservatives’ influence over the direction of the Republican Party isn’t as strong as it once was, but this constituency still represents a significant chunk of the GOP base, especially in states like Iowa.

In a competitive nominating fight, which will likely come down to three or four people, Cruz’s formal alliance with the religious right may very well make an enormous difference.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, December 18, 2015

December 20, 2015 Posted by | Christian Right, Establishment Republicans, Evangelicals, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Put Fear In Perspective”: Don’t Let The Republican Candidates Fool You; The U.S. Has Dealt With Much Worse Than ISIS

“We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”

Franklin Roosevelt’s historic statement was not exactly the mantra at this week’s Republican presidential debate.

As I listened to the apocalyptic predictions from the Republican candidates Tuesday night, I could not help but compare the concerns about the Islamic State group to what many of us faced during the Cold War – the very real threat of nuclear Armageddon and fear of the mushroom cloud.

The fallout shelters that people were building in their backyards (they make nice wine cellars now), the drills where we crouched under our desks at school, the sounds of air-raid sirens testing the early warning system, the fear we felt during the Cuban missile crisis, living with the mutual assured destruction policies of the U.S. and the Soviet Union – these all combined to create much more of a threat than a group like the Islamic State group – the nuclear arms race was viewed as truly potentially catastrophic.

The devastation of the world-wide 1930s depression that FDR was addressing was truly catastrophic.

The 1918 flu pandemic that infected 500 million people across the globe, killing 50 to 100 million and 500,00 to 675,000 in the U.S. – that was catastrophic.

I understand the fear of the Islamic State group, but in comparison, please, this we can deal with rationally and pragmatically.

Sadly, this past Republican debate leads us to the conclusion that when it comes to using fear to incite voters, this field of candidates will go to nearly any lengths.

Not to go over the top here, but this is what noted Nazi official Heinrich Himmler said about the use of fear: “The best political weapon is the weapon of terror. Cruelty commands respect. Men may hate us. But, we don’t ask for their love; only for their fear.”

This is what the Islamic State group is counting on – bringing America to its knees simply by using terror to create fear. By reacting with a “war on Muslims” as many Republican candidates seem to be advocating, the real terrorists gain control and are handed a golden recruiting tool.

This makes no sense. We can defeat this movement. We can organize the nations of the world to unite against their terrorism. We can surely be victorious without resorting to scare tactics and whipping the American voter up into a frenzy.

We have faced much worse, but just as the spread of Ebola became a daily concern and created close to a panic a year ago, the reality is our media and out politics whip the public into a frenzy when calmer heads should prevail.

During the Republican debate the words terror, terrorist and terrorism were used 81 times. The word attack was used 50 times, according to reporting from Rex Huppke of the Chicago Tribune.

As he pointed out, here are just a few quotes from this week’s debate:

“We need to understand that our nation is in grave danger.”

“We have people across this country who are scared to death.”

“ISIS and Iran have declared war on America, and we need a commander in chief who will do everything necessary to keep our children safe.”

“Our country doesn’t win anymore. … We can’t defeat ISIS.”

OK, I get the politics of all this. I get the perceived need of these performers to out-do one another, but isn’t it time we had some reasoned leadership that acted responsibly to understand the true nature of the threat and deal with it properly? Isn’t there one person on that stage who could put this in perspective and not demagogue the Islamic State terrorists?

The threat is real but does not deserve the draconian response of nearly every Republican candidate for President. If we ever needed cooler heads like FDR, Eisenhower, and Kennedy, certainly that time is now.

 

By: Peter Fenn, Democratic Political Strategist and Head of Fenn Communications; U. S. News and World Report, December 18, 2015

December 20, 2015 Posted by | Fearmongering, GOP Leadership, GOP Presidential Candidates, Terrorism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Forever Active Or Proxy Warfare”: Republican Lies And Distortions About The Middle East

One of the reasons it is difficult to comment on the actual content of what the Republican presidential candidates said last night is that so much of it was simply untrue. By the time you are done fact-checking, there isn’t much there there.

The debate produced a lot of material for the fact-checkers to work with. But most troubling, given the topic they were focused on, was the complete lack of understanding and/or truthfulness about what is actually going on in the Middle East. A perfect example of that was the claim from Ted Cruz that the Obama administration “toppled former President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt.” One can only assume that Cruz is ignorant of the whole “Arab Spring” rebellions of 2010/11 and the fact that it was the people of Egypt who forced him to step down.

For a more comprehensive review, Ishaan Tharoor has written: The Middle East dreamed up at the Republican debate doesn’t really exist. He begins by talking about Cruz’s proposal to “carpet bomb” ISIS.

Cruz’s emphasis is on tough, withering, relentless action, but you can’t bomb the Islamic State to smithereens without contemplating an enormous civilian death toll. That places Cruz in the same camp as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has for years now been bombing civilian areas in his own nation’s cities with barrel bombs and other crude, indiscriminate forms of munitions…

Cruz and, to varying extents, other candidates onstage appeared to view the Middle East as a kind of set for “American Sniper” — a woebegone place of dusty towns crawling with bad guy extremists and not much else.

It wouldn’t be the first time a Republican confused the real world with the movie version.

Tharoor goes on to talk about Carson’s proposal to move Syrian refugees to the Hasakah governorate in northeast Syria, which “is still a theater of war and the site of bitter clashes between Kurdish militias and the Islamic State,” as well as the complex realities of working with various Kurdish parties and militias. But then he got to what I noticed in the proposals we heard last night from Kasich, Rubio and Christie.

But none of this was being deliberated in Las Vegas, of course.

Instead, there was a vague embrace of Sunni Arab elites — namely the ruling royals of countries like Jordan and Saudi Arabia — and a parallel demonization of Iran, a regional bogeyman on the other side of a sectarian divide with the Saudis.

The truth is that the neocons in the Republican Party want the United States to take sides in the centuries-old battle between the Shia and the Sunnis in the Middle East. Specifically, they want us to take the side of the Sunni majorities in countries like Saudi Arabia against the Shiites in Iran. That means aligning with the country whose oil wealth has been used to support groups like al Qaeda and ISIS. Here is how Kasich put it last night:

Assad is aligned with Iran and Russia. The one thing we want to prevent is we want to prevent Iran being able to extend a Shia crescent all across the Middle East. Assad has got to go…

I don’t want to be policeman of the world. But we can’t back off of this. And let me tell you, at the end, the Saudis have agreed to put together a coalition inside of Syria to stabilize that country.

He must go. It will be a blow to Iran and Russia.

In the Republican mind, we have friends and we have enemies. Saudi Arabia – which has one of the worst human rights records in the world – is a “friend.” Russia and Iran are “enemies.”

That is exactly why Republicans are so vehemently opposed the the deal that was recently negotiated with Iran to stop their development of nuclear weapons. As President Obama told David Remnick prior to the conclusion of those negotiations, it sets the stage for a potential geopolitical realignment in the Middle East.

Ultimately, he envisages a new geopolitical equilibrium, one less turbulent than the current landscape of civil war, terror, and sectarian battle. “It would be profoundly in the interest of citizens throughout the region if Sunnis and Shias weren’t intent on killing each other,” he told me. “And although it would not solve the entire problem, if we were able to get Iran to operate in a responsible fashion—not funding terrorist organizations, not trying to stir up sectarian discontent in other countries, and not developing a nuclear weapon—you could see an equilibrium developing between Sunni, or predominantly Sunni, Gulf states and Iran in which there’s competition, perhaps suspicion, but not an active or proxy warfare.

For all their bluster about the President being weak and ineffective, this is the real reason Republicans oppose his strategy in the Middle East. They can’t conceptualize peace in the Middle East short of a military solution that provides a win for our friends and defeat of our enemies. In other words…forever active or proxy warfare.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, December 15, 2015

December 20, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Middle East, Terrorism | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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