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“Running Out Of Excuses”: The NRA And Prominent Republicans Are… Considering Gun Control?

Faced with the tragic killing of 49 people in Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, notable conservatives seem to be running out of excuses for why we need less gun control.

Bill O’Reilly surprised many on Tuesday when he said that new laws were “definitely needed” as a response to the Orlando shooting. After going after Democrats for not being tough enough of terrorism, O’Reilly conceded that gun crime is a problem in the U.S., and that guns are too easy to get.

“That’s the fact. So let’s deal with it. We all have the right to bear arms, but we don’t have the right to buy and maintain mortars. Even if you feel threatened by gangsters or a New World Order. No bazookas, no Sherman tanks, no hand grenades.”

“The FBI and other federal agencies need the power to stop suspected terrorists or other evildoers from buying weapons,” he said. “That law needs to be very precise.”

O’Reilly had a much different opinion last January, when President Obama announced a gun control executive action after the San Bernardino attack. “The truth is, terrorists are not going to submit themselves to background checks — neither are dangerous felons or insane people,” he said in his January 6 program. “They are not going to sign any paper when they buy a gun. Do we all get that? They will buy their guns on the black market. And no registration law will prevent that.”

Also on Tuesday, O’Reilly’s fellow Fox News host Gretchen Carlson had a change of heart about gun control in the aftermath of the Orlando tragedy.

“Do we need AR-15s to hunt and kill deer?” Carlson asked. “Do we need them to protect our families? Yes, I’m in favor of people being able to carry. I think some of these mass shootings would have been less deadly if that were the case. But I’m also with the majority today taking a stand. Can’t we hold true the sanctity of the Second Amendment while still having common sense?”

Perhaps most shocking, the National Rifle Association put out a statement on Wednesday saying the organization agrees that terrorists should not be allowed to buy firearms, and that they are “happy” to meet with the Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump to discuss the issue.

Oh yeah: Donald Trump announced he was meeting with the NRA, the strongest gun lobby in the world, to discuss keeping suspected militants away from guns.

I will be meeting with the NRA, who has endorsed me, about not allowing people on the terrorist watch list, or the no fly list, to buy guns.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 15, 2016

“Anyone on a terror watchlist who tries to buy a gun should be thoroughly investigated by the FBI and the sale delayed while the investigation is ongoing. If an investigation uncovers evidence of terrorist activity or involvement, the government should be allowed to immediately go to court, block the sale, and arrest the terrorist,” the NRA’s statement read.

The NRA tweeted that this statement did not represent a change in their position, and that “due process protections should be put in place that allow law-abiding Americans who are wrongly put on a watchlist to be removed.”

 

By: Germania Rodriguez, The National Memo, June 15, 2016

June 17, 2016 Posted by | Gun Control, National Rifle Association, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“What’s There And What Isn’t”: What Does The New Inspector General Report Actually Tell Us About Hillary Clinton’s Emails?

Today the State Department’s inspector general released a report on Hillary Clinton’s email use during her time as secretary of state. Both Democrats and Republicans are going to spin the report to argue either that Clinton is completely blameless or that it reveals her to be history’s greatest monster. Donald Trump will likely say that the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) found that Clinton kidnapped the Lindbergh baby and produced Vanilla Ice’s first album.

So let’s see if we can sort through what’s there and what isn’t.

You can read our story by Rosalind Helderman and Tom Hamburger for a summary, but here are the two key excerpts from the IG’s report that deal with Clinton. First:

Secretary Clinton should have preserved any Federal records she created and received on her personal account by printing and filing those records with the related files in the Office of the Secretary. At a minimum, Secretary Clinton should have surrendered all emails dealing with Department business before leaving government service and, because she did not do so, she did not comply with the Department’s policies that were implemented in accordance with the Federal Records Act.

So that’s one problem: she should have printed out her emails so they could be archived, but she didn’t do that until the department sent a request to multiple secretaries of state, two years after she left office. Here’s the other part, which is more serious:

Secretary Clinton used mobile devices to conduct official business using the personal email account on her private server extensively, as illustrated by the 55,000 pages of material making up the approximately 30,000 emails she provided to the Department in December 2014. Throughout Secretary Clinton’s tenure, the FAM [Foreign Affairs Manual] stated that normal day-to-day operations should be conducted on an authorized AIS [Automated Information System], yet OIG found no evidence that the Secretary requested or obtained guidance or approval to conduct official business via a personal email account on her private server. According to the current CIO and Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security, Secretary Clinton had an obligation to discuss using her personal email account to conduct official business with their offices, who in turn would have attempted to provide her with approved and secured means that met her business needs. However, according to these officials, DS and IRM [Bureau of Information Resource Management] did not — and would not — approve her exclusive reliance on a personal email account to conduct Department business, because of the restrictions in the FAM and the security risks in doing so.

Get past all the abbreviations and government-speak, and what it comes down to is that Clinton should never have used a personal email account, no matter how secure she thought it was, for department business, and that she repeatedly failed to consult with personnel who should have been aware of how her personal system worked.

If you’re saying, “Didn’t we already know that?”, well yes, we mostly did, though there are some new details here. So here’s what Clinton and her supporters will say: This report doesn’t reveal anything new. Clinton already said that using a private email server instead of the State Department’s system was a mistake, and she apologized for it. But there’s no evidence that national security was actually compromised, none of her emails contained information that was classified at the time she sent or received it, and even if she violated departmental policy, she certainly didn’t do anything criminal. And don’t forget that the report was highly critical of Colin Powell, who also used his personal email for official business.

And here’s what her opponents will say: This report shows the true gravity of Clinton’s misdeeds. She violated the department’s policies. She probably committed crimes. For all we know Kim Jong Un was reading her emails every night. At every step, she tried to hide from scrutiny and accountability.

How valid are those arguments? Clinton’s case is meant to lead you to the conclusion that in the end this is not that big a deal. The Republicans’ case is that she was reckless and irresponsible, and terrible things might have happened as a result. On one hand, we don’t have any evidence of anything terrible happening, but on the other hand, speculation is all Republicans need to get what they want out of this matter.

That’s because the political reality is that Republicans aren’t making a big deal out of this because of their deep and abiding concern for cybersecurity. They just want something to hammer Clinton with. Which is fine — that’s politics. But they also know that the details are all but irrelevant. Most Americans couldn’t tell you what this controversy is actually about; they just know that Clinton did something shady with emails. As long as Republicans can weave that into a larger argument about her being untrustworthy, they’ll run with this, even if they’d be even happier if Clinton got indicted (which is theoretically possible but looking extremely unlikely at this point).

And though Clinton would like us to believe that her intentions were pure and unimpeachable, while Republicans would like us to believe that her intentions were dark and sinister, the truth is probably somewhere in between. I don’t doubt that Clinton made the initial decision to use a private server in order to retain control of her communications. That’s not because she was planning to execute some kind of nefarious criminal conspiracy over email, but because she knew that she’ll always be the target of lawsuits and fishing expeditions from her political opponents, and she didn’t want to give them any more material to work with. As a piece of forward-looking political strategy, we now know how foolish that was; it’s done far more damage to her than it would have if her emails had regularly been FOIA’ed and then leaked to the press by her opponents.

But it also appears, from what we know so far, that there weren’t really any practical consequences for the country because of her decision — no covert operations compromised, no key national security information delivered to our enemies. And cybersecurity experts will tell you that her emails likely would have been no less vulnerable had they been on the State Department’s servers, which are the target of constant hacking attempts.

So maybe the best thing for Clinton to do now would be to say that this whole episode has brought home to her the need for the federal government to dramatically improve its cybersecurity, and she wants to assemble a blue-ribbon commission of experts to devise a plan to reform the systems across the government, one that she hopes Republicans will join with her to pass through Congress within her first year in office so it can be implemented as soon as possible. At least then some good might come of this controversy.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, May 25, 2016

May 29, 2016 Posted by | Clinton Emails, Hillary Clinton, Republicans | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Cheney Hates Trump, Endorses Him Anyway”: He’s Just Fine With Trump Leading The Country

Dick Cheney’s presidential pick is a man he once suggested was a 9/11 truther.

Cheney reportedly told CNN on Friday he intends to support the GOP nominee in 2016, just as he has every prior cycle.

This is—surprising.

Shortly after the first presidential debate, Cheney told Fox News’ Bret Baier that the real estate mogul’s assertions regarding the September 11 attacks—including that George W. Bush willingly let them happen—were “way off base.”

“He clearly doesn’t understand or has not spent any time learning about the facts of that period,” Cheney said.

“It’s, um, misleading for him to campaign on that basis,” he added.

It’s a little curious that Cheney has decided to board the Trump Train. It’s also a break from the rest of Bush World, as representatives for George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush say neither former president will back the mogul’s presidential bid.

But, in fairness, Trump may not be too thrilled with Cheney’s endorsement either.

In 2011, Trump made a YouTube video for his “From The Desk of Donald Trump” series, (a series I cannot recommend highly enough), in which the presumptive nominee trashed the former VP and his then-newly released memoir.

“He’s very, very angry and nasty,” the mogul said. “I didn’t like Cheney when he was a vice president. I don’t like him now. And I don’t like people that rat out everybody like he’s doing in the book. I’m sure it’ll be a best-seller, but isn’t it a shame? Here’s a guy that did a rotten job as vice president. Nobody liked him. Tremendous divisiveness. And he’s gonna be making a lot of money on the book. I won’t be reading it.”

And in 2008, Trump said he was disappointed Nancy Pelosi didn’t push to impeach Bush over the Iraq War.

“It just seemed like she was going to really look to impeach Bush and get him out of office, which, personally, I think would have been a wonderful thing,” he said, discussing Nancy Pelosi with Wolf Blitzer on The Situation Room.

In the same interview, Trump asserted that Bush deliberately lied to persuade Americans to support the Iraq War—a view that Cheney et al (unsurprisingly) find deeply problematic.

“He got us into the war with lies,” he continued. “And, I mean, look at the trouble Bill Clinton got into with something that was totally unimportant. And they tried to impeach him, which was nonsense. And, yet, Bush got us into this horrible war with lies, by lying, by saying they had weapons of mass destruction, by saying all sorts of things that turned out not to be true.”

Speaking of national security, Cheney told radio host Hugh Hewitt in December that Trump’s proposed ban on Muslim immigration “goes against everything we stand for and believe in.”

“Religious freedom’s been a very important part of our history and where we came from,” he added—but if Cheney has anything to do with it, then Trump’s America is where we’re going.

 

By: Betsy Woodruff, The Daily Beast, May 6, 2016

May 9, 2016 Posted by | Bush-Cheney Administration, Dick Cheney, Donald Trump | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“He Believes In Nothing And Everything”: If This Was Trump At His ‘Presidential’ Best, He’s In Big Trouble

After Donald Trump’s big speech yesterday on foreign policy, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said on Twitter, “Washington elites mock Trump for mispronouncing Tanzania. They don’t get it. He said the most important word correctly: America. He gets it.”

I suppose this is true in a literal sense. It is “important” for an American presidential candidate to pronounce the name of their own country correctly, and if this is the new standard for success, I’m pleased to report that Gingrich is correct: Trump cleared this absurdly low bar.

But aside from pronouncing “America” correctly, the rest of Trump’s remarks were an unnerving mess. MSNBC’s Benjy Sarlin reported:

Looking to soothe fears that he lacked the experience and gravitas necessary to manage the most powerful military in the world, Donald Trump delivered a rare pre-written speech Wednesday in Washington outlining his foreign policy vision.

In many ways it raised more questions than it answered, bouncing between typical anti-Obama talking points, jarring threats to America’s friends and rivals, and soothing talk of peaceful global cooperation.

“Jarring” is the ideal adjective in this case. At one point, Trump said the United States must be prepared to tell our old allies that they should “defend themselves” and not look to us for support. In the next breath, Trump expressed dismay that so many U.S. allies feel abandoned by President Obama.

How did the Republican frontrunner reconcile the contradiction? He didn’t – Trump simply transitioned to new contradictions before anyone could fully come to terms with the last one.

Americans were told, for example, that a Trump administration would replace “randomness with purpose” through “a disciplined, deliberate and consistent foreign policy.” He then insisted, “We must as, a nation, be more unpredictable.”

Trump opposes the idea of a foreign policy based on “ideology,” rejecting the idea of exporting Western-style democracy abroad. He then emphasized the importance of “promoting Western civilization” around the globe.

Trump lamented the way in which our “resources are overextended.” He also believes the United States must “continually play the role of peacemaker” and “help to save lives and, indeed, humanity itself.”

Trump boasted about all of the leverage we have over China, around the same time as he complained about how we no longer have leverage over China.

And don’t get me started about Trump’s ridiculous factual errors.

So, what does Donald Trump believe about foreign policy? He believes in nothing and everything, all at once. As president, he would do more and less, wage war and peace, reach out and push away, all while being unflinchingly consistent and wildly unpredictable.

In other words, Trump doesn’t have the foggiest idea what he’s talking about – and unfortunately for him, quite a few folks noticed. Politico reported:

[A]cross the ideological spectrum, and even among natural allies, Trump’s speech received a failing grade for coherence and drew snickering and scorn from foreign policy insiders who remain unconvinced that Trump is up to the job.

“It struck me as a very odd mishmash,” said Doug Bandow, a foreign policy scholar at the libertarian Cato Institute, who shares many of Trump’s beliefs about scaling back America’s role abroad. “He called for a new foreign policy strategy, but you don’t really get the sense he gave one.”

Trump’s speech was “lacking in policy prescriptions,” and its “strident rhetoric masked a lack of depth,” said Robert “Bud” McFarlane, a former national security adviser to President Ronald Reagan who attended the speech.

If Trump had merely presented a blueprint for a bad foreign policy, that would at least be the basis for a credible debate. Plenty of candidates offer misguided ideas and dangerous solutions, and if nothing else, they serve as the foundation for something that can be critiqued.

But dealing with an incoherent, contradictory mess is far more difficult.

The irony is, yesterday’s speech, coming on the heels of his five landslide primary victories the day before, was supposed to help Trump appear more presidential. Speaking from a teleprompter, the Republican frontrunner hoped to convey a sense of seriousness and gravitas. But for anyone who actually listened to the content of his remarks, yesterday served as a powerful reminder that the former reality-show host isn’t yet prepared for the role of Leader of the Free World.

 

By: Steve Beben, The Maddow Blog, April 28, 2016

April 29, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Foreign Policy, U. S. Allies | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Huge, Glitzy, Unembarrassed”: Trump’s Incoherence Veers Into The Danger Zone

Perhaps the laws of political gravity are about to take hold in the case of Donald Trump. But the lesson of this appalling primary season cautions against discounting Trump’s appeal — which prompts another Trump column, this one on the utter incoherence of his policy views.

It’s not simply that Trump is wrong on policy. Ted Cruz is wrong on policy. Trump is wrong on policy and argues for policy positions glaringly inconsistent with his asserted principles. All politicians do this, sure. But Trump’s incoherence is classically Trumpian — huge, glitzy, unembarrassed.

That phenomenon was on vivid display last week, as world leaders gathered for a summit on nuclear nonproliferation. On this topic, Trump stands, or says he does, with the global consensus. He raised the issue in his discussion with The Post’s editorial board, in response to a question about whether he believes in man-made climate change.

“The biggest risk to the world, to me . . . is nuclear weapons,” Trump said. “That is a disaster, and we don’t even know where the nuclear weapons are right now. . . . The biggest risk for this world and this country is nuclear weapons, the power of nuclear weapons.”

Okay, and — leaving aside the strange suggestion that authorities don’t know where the nukes are — give Trump credit for emphasizing the nuclear risk.

Except, jump ahead a few days, to Trump’s interview with the New York Times and his CNN town hall. Given Trump’s argument that the United States should withdraw military protections from Japan and South Korea, the Times’s David E. Sanger and Maggie Haberman asked: Should those countries be able to obtain their own nuclear weapons?

Trump’s answer managed to combine his concerns about proliferation with opening the door to more. “There’ll be a point at which we’re just not going to be able to do it anymore,” he said. “Now, does that mean nuclear? It could mean nuclear. It’s a very scary nuclear world. . . . At the same time, you know, we’re a country that doesn’t have money.”

So the United States can’t afford a nuclear deterrent? The cost of maintaining and modernizing the U.S. nuclear arsenal was $24 billion in 2015, and is expected to total about $350 billion over the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

The cost of Trump’s proposed tax cuts is around $1 trillion — annually. I’m no billionaire, but that doesn’t seem like a smart balance of spending priorities.

CNN’s Anderson Cooper pushed Trump further on the conflict between his anti-proliferation stance and his willingness to allow more proliferation — during which Trump opened the door to a nuclear Saudi Arabia, closed it, and then cracked it open again.

Cooper: “So you have no problem with Japan and South Korea having . . . nuclear weapons.”

Trump: “At some point we have to say, you know what, we’re better off if Japan protects itself against this maniac in North Korea, we’re better off, frankly, if South Korea is going to start to protect itself . . .”

Cooper: “So if you said, Japan, yes, it’s fine, you get nuclear weapons, South Korea, you as well, and Saudi Arabia says we want them, too?”

Trump: “Can I be honest with you? It’s going to happen, anyway. . . . It’s only a question of time.”

This is a radical position, even contained to South Korea and Japan. “That would be an incredible catastrophe,” said Kingston Reif of the Arms Control Association. “We have a big enough problem with stability in that region without introducing two new nuclear weapons states.”

The cornerstone of U.S. nuclear policy for decades has been to prevent additional countries from acquiring nuclear capability. The more countries with nuclear weapons, the greater the risk of use, and of technology and material falling into the wrong hands. China would likely respond by increasing its nuclear arsenal. Other countries would lobby to go nuclear. U.S. influence in the region — on trade rules that Trump cares about, for example — would wane.

“No contender for the presidency of the United States in either party has ever said that since nuclear weapons were invented,” Michael Green of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, who served on the National Security Council under George W. Bush and advised the Jeb Bush campaign, said of Trump’s view. “It would cost us enormously . . . in terms of the steps we’d have to take to defend ourselves against a much more weaponized world.”

There are other examples of Trumpian incoherence, but perhaps none so striking, and so dangerous if taken seriously.

 

By: Ruth Marcus, Columnist, The Washington Post, April 3, 2016

April 4, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Nuclear Weapons, World Leaders | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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