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“The Right’s Rekindled Affection For Russia’s Putin”: Back To Drawing Hearts On Their Pictures Of Putin

It was early last year when Republicans decided Russian President Vladimir Putin was an autocrat worthy of their gushing affections. In March 2014, Rudy Giuliani (R) said of Putin, “That’s what you call a leader.” The same month, Mike Rogers, at the time the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, expressed his own admiration: “Putin is playing chess and I think we are playing marbles, and I don’t think it’s even close. They’ve been running circles around us.”

At one point last summer, a Fox News personality went so far as to say she wanted to see Putin serve as “head of the United States,” at least for a little while.

By late last year, however, Republicans were no longer drawing hearts on their pictures of Putin. Russia’s economy was deteriorating quickly; Putin was isolated on the international stage; Russia’s standing and credibility around the world was in tatters; and the sanctions President Obama helped impose on Russia were making a real difference.

Suddenly, the U.S. conservatives who’d enrolled in the Putin fan-club fell quiet, realizing that their contempt for the American president led them to praise the wrong foreign leader.

As of this week, however, many Republicans have apparently come full circle.

One day after President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin made little headway in their standoff over Syria at their first formal meeting in more than two years, Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump is agreeing with Putin on his backing of Syrian President Bashar Assad. […]

 “I will tell you that, in terms of leadership, [Putin’s] getting an ‘A’ and our president is not doing so well,” he said.

Jennifer Rubin, a conservative voice at the Washington Post, added this morning, “In taking this action just days after meeting with President Obama, Putin is delivering one more finger in the eye of a president whom he continues to out-wit and out-muscle.”

Yes, we’ve apparently reached the point again at which Republicans once more see Putin as some kind of strategic mastermind.

As the New York Times’ Thomas Friedman explained yesterday, [T]oday’s reigning cliche is that the wily fox, President Vladimir Putin of Russia, has once again outmaneuvered the flat-footed Americans, by deploying some troops, planes and tanks to Syria to buttress the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and to fight the Islamic State forces threatening him. If only we had a president who was so daring, so tough, so smart…. Putin stupidly went into Syria looking for a cheap sugar high to show his people that Russia is still a world power.”

For Republicans, the response seems to be, “At least Putin is going after targets in Syria.” What the White House’s GOP critics have refused to acknowledge for the last 14 months is that President Obama has launched thousands of airstrikes against ISIS targets.

There are two main differences between Putin’s engagement in Syria and Obama’s. The first is that the size of Obama’s military commitment is vastly larger. The second is that Russian lawmakers actually authorized Putin’s mission, while the Republican-run Congress in the United States has done literally nothing since the American military offensive began in August 2014, preferring to watch developments unfold on TV while Obama’s mission continues.

Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum added this morning, “Do you know how many military bases the US has in the Middle East? Nearly two dozen. Plus the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean and the Fifth Fleet in the Persian Gulf. Plus a whole bunch of close allies. And we’re supposed to be quaking in our boots because Putin hastily upgraded a single aging base in Latakia under pressure from his sole remaining ally? You’re kidding, right?”

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 1, 2015

October 2, 2015 Posted by | GOP, Syria, Vladimir Putin | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Malignant Abuse Of Congressional Authority”: Hunting Hillary; Dim Speaker-To-Be Reveals Select Committee’s Partisan Goal

Ever since House Speaker John Boehner unveiled yet another committee to investigate Benghazi – the eighth congressional panel to investigate that September 2012 tragedy, along with a State Department Accountability Review Board – suspicions have festered that its purpose was purely partisan and political.

Even Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace sounded skeptical when he interviewed the Speaker last February:

Wallace: Finally, you have set up a select committee to investigate what happened in Benghazi, even though there have been about a half dozen investigations; the Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee basically said there was no there there — like this last year. Some people have questioned: is all of this an effort to hurt Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign?

Boehner: No, Chris, it’s — the idea here is to get the American people the facts about what happened.

But on the evening of Sept. 29, the amiably dim Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) fully vindicated those original suspicions during an interview on Fox with Sean Hannity. Attempting to defend the departing Boehner, whom he is touted to succeed as Speaker, McCarthy highlighted what he considers the outstanding achievement of the House Select Committee on Benghazi.

“Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right?” said eager beaver McCarthy. “But we put together a Benghazi special committee. A select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would have known that any of that had happened had we not fought to make that happen.” Or in plain English: We brought down Hillary Clinton’s polling numbers by dispatching a select committee to pursue her – and Rep. Trey Gowdy, chairman, has done a great job! The equally dim Hannity naturally agreed.

For the rest of us to fully understand this craven betrayal of the solemn responsibilities entrusted to congressional leadership, let’s begin with Gowdy’s own remarks on the day that his committee’s work began last January.

“I remain hopeful there are still things left in our country that can transcend politics. I remain convinced our fellow citizens deserve all of the facts of what happened before, during, and after the attacks in Benghazi and they deserve an investigative process worthy of the memory of those who died and worthy of the trust of our fellow citizens…

“The people we work for yearn to see the right thing done, for the right reasons, and in the right way. They want to know that something can rise above the din of politics. They want to trust the institutions of government. So to fulfill the duties owed to those we serve and in honor of those who were killed perhaps we can be what those four brave men were: neither Republican nor Democrat. We can just be Americans in pursuit of the facts, the truth, and justice no matter where that journey takes us.”

“Above the din of politics” is an inspiring phrase, but what has ensued ever since — as anyone paying attention already knows — is nothing more than a long series of partisan leaks and other shenanigans by the Republican majority and its staff, all plainly designed to ruin Hillary Clinton by any means necessary.

There is little doubt, for instance, that Gowdy’s crew was behind the false “criminal referral” leak last summer that so badly embarrassed its enthusiastic recipients at the New York Times. The committee members spent hours (and taxpayer dollars) behind closed doors, grilling Clinton advisor Sidney Blumenthal not about Benghazi, a topic on which he had no personal knowledge, but about his work with Media Matters for America and American Bridge. Of approximately 550 questions posed to Blumenthal, less than two-dozen concerned the terrorist attack that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

In fact, the pertinent questions that Boehner and Gowdy claimed to be exploring were already answered by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, chaired by Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI, now retired). The HPSCI report concluded last November that there was no “stand-down” order, as Boehner once claimed, no intelligence failure, and no inappropriate conduct by any responsible officials before, during, or after the terrorist assault.

Sometime next year, Gowdy will have to account for the fruits of his “investigation,” which by last June had already had expended almost $4 million and will have required far longer to complete than the congressional probes of the Iran-Contra affair or the Watergate scandal. It will surely be amusing to see how he justifies this wasteful circus.

Only three weeks from now, however, he will face the formidable Clinton in a day-long open hearing. As of today, that event is framed not by her email controversy, but by the blurted confession of McCarthy – who exposed the malignant abuse of congressional authority that Gowdy has sought to conceal.

 

By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, Featured Post, Editor’s Blog; The National Memo, September 30, 2015

October 1, 2015 Posted by | Benghazi, Hillary Clinton, House Select Committee on Benghazi, Kevin McCarthy | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Your Choice Mr. Speaker”: House Intel Committee Finds No Benghazi Scandal; Will Boehner Ignore Its Findings?

According to Representative Mike Thompson, Democrat of California, a report from the Republican led House Intelligence Committee on the September 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, “confirms that no one was deliberately misled, no military assets were withheld and no stand-down order (to U.S. forces) was given.”

Late last week, before Congress headed out of Washington for August recess, the body voted to declassify the document.

After nearly two years of investigations, millions of dollars spent, tens of thousands of pages of documents handed over by the administration, a Republican-led committee is about to release a report stating that there is no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the Obama White House. In fact, nearly all of the accusations levied against the White House over the past year by conservatives in Congress, and amplified by the media, have now been determined to be false—by a Republican jury.

House Speaker John Boehner is now left with a choice. Will he allow Rep. Trey Gowdy’s kangaroo court, formulated in the guise of a select committee, proceed with its Benghazi investigation, covering ground already delved into not only by the House Intelligence Committee, but by the House Armed Services Committee, the Senate Intelligence Committee, the Accountability Review Board and numerous other investigatory panels?

Doing so would now be nothing short of an explicit vote of no confidence in House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, the Michigan Republican. What will Gowdy, Republican of South Carolina, discover that two years of investigations by his GOP colleagues could not? If the House leadership views the Intelligence Committee as that incompetent, shouldn’t its chairman be replaced?

As The Daily Beast’s Eli Lake reported in May,

“There is deep unease within the Republican leadership that the select committee, which has yet to announce a schedule of hearings, could backfire, and badly. Investigate and find nothing new, and the committee looks like a bunch of tin-hatted obsessives. Investigate and uncover previously-hidden secrets, and it makes all of the other Republican led panels that dug into Benghazi seem like Keystone Kops.”

But what is even more clear now than it was a few weeks ago is that, for Boehner, the appointment of the Benghazi Select Committee has nothing to do with finding the truth about the attack that took the lives of Ambassador Chris Stevens, along with those of Sean Smith, Glen Doherty, and Tyrone Woods. It was theater—and bad theater at that.

Attempting to placate the ideological fringes of the Republican conference by using a taxpayer-funded investigation is at best the most cynical form of politics. To continue the charade after a Republican chairman releases findings that undermine the very core of your investigation is outright fraud.

But the Benghazi Select Committee will keep on moving forward. And it will not end after the 2014 elections. If Hillary Clinton chooses to run, the committee will become a principal tool in the conservative movement’s campaign apparatus against her, holding hearings designed to obscure the truth and smear Clinton during the least opportune moments of the electoral cycle.

And if Clinton is elected in 2016, there is little doubt the work of the committee will continue as long as Republicans continue to control the House of Representatives. Why surrender a taxpayer-funded campaign attack dog, especially one endowed by Congress with subpoena power?

 

By: Ari Rabin-Hayt, The American Prospect, August 4, 2014

 

August 5, 2014 Posted by | Benghazi, GOP, John Boehner | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Bigoted Republican Two-Step”: The GOP’s Ridiculous Executive-Authority Hypocrisy

Speaker of the House John Boehner wants to sue President Obama. Former Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin wants to impeach President Obama. And Republicans across the board are in a froth over the president’s allegedly aggressive use of executive authority.

And yet, there are some issues that have so discombobulated Republicans that they are turning their lonely eyes to Obama for answers: Namely, the influx of Central American child migrants on America’s southern border. Faced with the unappealing prospect of using their own congressional power of the purse to solve the problem, Republicans are reacquainting themselves with the allure of executive power.

The current border crisis is the result of Obama following a law signed in 2008 by President George W. Bush and designed to save children from human trafficking. The law created different rules for children hailing from nations contiguous to America — Mexico and Canada — and children from elsewhere. For children coming from the two contiguous nations, Border Patrol agents can use their discretion to quickly send them home to their families. But since repatriation is more logistically complicated for children coming from farther away, the law requires the Department of Health and Human Services to provide housing and care as well as the guidance to seek legal counsel, which generally puts them on a path for a formal judicial review.

Speaker Boehner has now proposed changing that law, saying last week, “I think we all agree that the non-contiguous countries, that now we’re required to hold those people, I think clearly, we would probably want the language similar to what we have with Mexico.” But to apply the language we have with Mexico to Central American child migrants, you’d have to empower Obama’s Border Patrol agents — and effectively, Obama — to decide if those children must go back.

While Boehner wants to pass new legislation expanding Obama’s executive power, other Republicans just want Obama to assert his Oval Office authority without action by Congress. On Fox News Sunday, Texas Gov. Rick Perry repeatedly shrugged off the stipulations of the 2008 law and suggested Obama solve the problem on his own by deploying the National Guard to block entry at the border. Fox’s Brit Hume incredulously responded, “Are they really going to be deterred by the presence of troops along the border who won’t shoot them and can’t arrest them?”

House Intelligence Committee Chair Mike Rogers said on Meet The Press that Obama “has tools in his toolbox that he can use immediately to stop this,” citing Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s interpretation of the 2008 law which she co-authored. What Rogers chose not to highlight on national television is that Feinstein says Obama has the power to modify how the law is being implemented by directing the Department of Homeland Security to write new regulations — exactly the type of action that has prompted all the Republican talk of lawsuits and impeachment on other issues.

This may seem like your standard-issue Washington hypocrisy: Shake your fist against presidential power when you don’t like what the president is doing, and then pound your fist to demand presidential action to shift focus away from your reluctance to take any responsibility for governing the country.

But the Republican two-step is about more than hypocrisy. Their sudden renewed attraction to executive power lays bare how empty their excuses are for burying comprehensive immigration reform.

If Republicans really believe Obama is too slippery to trust with any legal directives to “secure the border,” they would be pushing for laws that tie his hands, such as mandatory deportations without judicial review and mandatory increases of National Guard or Border Patrol troops on the border.

They’re not, because deep down Republicans know their talking points about a lawless, trustless president are bunk. And the only thing stopping Republicans from passing comprehensive immigration reform is the fear of losing votes from anti-immigrant bigots. Any other excuse has been rendered inoperative.

 

By: Bill Scher, The Week, July 16, 2014

July 18, 2014 Posted by | Border Crisis, Executive Orders, GOP | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Realities Of Modern Warfare”: Why ‘We Don’t Negotiate With Terrorists’ No Longer Holds Up As Policy

Like so many Americans, I have spent the past few days assimilating as much information as possible regarding the circumstances involving the ‘player trade’ that will bring Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl home to the United States while five terrorists check out of Gitmo and make their way to freedom in Qatar.

While there seems to be no end to the ‘angles’ to be considered in attempting to reach a conclusion as to the propriety—both long term and short term—of the deal, increasingly I find that one of our more culturally ingrained and instantly accepted axioms has been challenged by this case and turns out to be a position that cannot—and should not—be allowed to govern our behavior in the future.

That axiom?

“We don’t negotiate with terrorists.”

This is a sentence that few would challenge for all the obvious reasons—but one that has never really been true, despite the preposterous statement made by Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, wherein he suggested that the President’s deal to retrieve Bergdahl ends the chapter in American history where we don’t negotiate with terrorists.

In 2007, a British IT consultant named Peter Moore, who had been captured in Baghdad by Shiite militiamen who ambushed Moore and his bodyguards, was freed after some 900 days in captivity. Sadly, only Moore would ultimately survive the experience as the terrorists murdered the remaining four members of his party.

To secure Moore’s release, the U.S. government agreed to free Qais al-Khazali who had previously served as a spokesman for the Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr (remember him?). We had, most assuredly, negotiated with terrorists to arrange for Moore’s release and handed over a high value detainee in the process.

Note that Mr. Moore was a civilian—not military—and yet we freed a high value terrorists as the price for the freedom of an American captive.

In 1985, the Reagan administration used the Israelis to ‘front’ a deal (not unlike how we have used the Qataris in the instance of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl) whereby the Israelis freed 700 prisoners in trade for Americans that were taken captive on a hijacked TWA flight.

And then, of course, there is the whole Iran-Contra thing.

These are but a few examples of the secret dealing with terrorists that has long taken place.

But should we be following this rule more rigorously?

On it’s face, the notion of not negotiating with terrorists is a sensible proposition. When one choses to reward evil behavior by giving the bad guys what they want, it is reasonable to anticipate that these bad guys—and others like them—will continue their horrendous acts of violence knowing that there may well be a prize in it for them.

To that end, there is simply no getting around the fact that trading five supposedly high-value terrorists (there is disagreement as to how effective the released prisoners will be given their age and time out of the battle) for one unpopular U.S. serviceman may very well encourage others with ill intent to take more American soldiers from the battlefield and hold them for trade—not to mention civilians, diplomats or whomever.

However, where this accepted rule of thumb that demands no negotiating with terrorists comes into serious conflict with the reality of modern warfare is when it comes to members of our military who fight these wars.

Few would dispute that it is a fundamental mission of the U.S. military to do all it humanly can to avoid leaving any American combatant behind. This principle of warfare was, at one time, an easy one to grasp—if sometimes hard to execute—at a time when warfare involved a clash between nations fought by soldiers in the uniform of the nation they serve.

 

By: Rick Ungar, Op-Ed Contributor, Forbes, June 5, 2014

June 8, 2014 Posted by | Bowe Bergdahl, POW's, Terrorists | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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