Nel's New Day

September 19, 2016

Media Focuses on Clinton’s Non-Stories, Largely Ignores GOP Zombie Issues

Benghazi and Hillary Clinton’s emails are two issues that Republicans refuse to let die, despite tens of investigations into each one that fail to prove anything that the Democratic presidential candidate has done wrong. Today, the Clinton Foundation zombie problems returned when a headline referencing a quote from Bill Clinton read “‘Natural’ For Foundation Donors to Seek Favors.” As usual, the media, determined to make something out of nothing, took this headline out of context from Bill Clinton’s response in an NPR interview:

“It was natural for people who’ve been our political allies and personal friends to call and ask for things. And I trusted the State Department wouldn’t do anything they shouldn’t do.”

Leaked emails show that people aren’t getting the favors that they request, and all the aggressive searching by Hillary haters has found absolutely no “pay for play” from the Clinton Foundation that has saved hundreds of thousands of lives.

While dwelling on Clinton non-stories, Sunday talk shows ignored the real story about the “pay for play” Trump Foundation already fined for illegal campaign donations to Florida’s AG Pam Bondi in exchange for her dropping an investigation into the fraudulent Trump University. A less biased media would have covered the New York investigation into Trump illegally using the Trump Foundation charity funds to purchase at least one oil painting and one football helmet. Trump has not donated one cent to his “foundation” since 2008 while he gets credit for donating funds that other people gave to his foundation. Instead of reporting on Trump’s “pay for play” violations, the media concentrated on Clinton’s pneumonia diagnosis and Trump’s infomercial on Dr. Oz’s show.

The same media largely ignored Kurt Eichenwald’s detailed cover story in Newsweek which reported that Trump’s business interests “will constantly jeopardize the security of the United States” if Trump wins the presidency and does not sever all connections to the Trump Organization. As Eichenwald wrote, the Trump Organization has been “largely ignored” by media despite its “serious conflicts of interest and ethical quagmires” in nearly all foreign policy decisions during a Trump presidency. Eichenwald provides information about the Trump Organization’s “deep ties to global financiers, foreign politicians, and even criminals” and “a web of contractual entanglements that could not be just canceled” which could conflict with presidential major national security decisions and negotiations.

GOP members zombies:

Donald Trump desperately wanted to drop the birther issue after claiming for many years that President Obama wasn’t born in the United States. His giant mistake, however was blaming Clinton for initiating the theory. A strategist had suggested that the 2008 Clinton campaign could use the idea that Barack Obama was “not American,” but Clinton immediately quashed it. There’s no fire where Trump is blowing smoke. Yet campaign manager Kellyanne Conway and RNC Chairman Reince Priebus repeatedly accused Clinton of starting the birther theory on Sunday talk shows.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie went one better. He told CNN’s Jake Tapper that Trump hadn’t said anything about the issue “for a long time.” Fortunately, Tapper, a journalist who believes in telling the truth, reminded Christie that Trump continued birthering for five years after the president released the long-form birth certificate to the public in 2011. A lively exchange of “true” and “not true” ensured followed by Christie saying, “It wasn’t like he was talking about it on a regular basis.” In fact-checking Christie’s claim, the Washington Post wrote:

“This is such bogus spin that we have to wonder how Christie manages to say it with a straight face…. [C]learly Christie is either lying or he is so misinformed that he has no business appearing on television.”

Christie should shift to protecting himself. His involvement in the closure of the George Washington Bridge that created havoc and physical danger to people has returned. While his allies and employees have pled guilty or gone to court in this issue, Christie has stuck to his position that “I had no knowledge or involvement in the planning or execution of this act.” In today’s trial for two of those accused of closing the bridge, both both prosecutors and lawyers for the defendants agree that Christie “knew his close associates were involved in a plan to shut down lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge as it was happening and that the closings were intended to punish a local mayor for declining to support him.”

In 2013, at the time of the event, Christie ridiculed the controversy because his office would never be so petty and partisan. After evidence proved that it was a petty and partisan vendetta, Christie claimed ignorance. The micromanaging governor swore that he had no idea that his top aides used his name to abuse their power. Today Assistant U.S. Attorney Vikas Khanna has told jurors that David Wildstein and Bill Baroni “bragged” to the governor directly about the scheme to close lanes onto the George Washington Bridge in order to deliberately cripple Fort Lee. The trial is against former top Christie aides Baroni and Bridget Anne Kelly, but Christie may suffer the fallout, perhaps to the point of being impeached. It already lost him being a potential GOP vice-presidential candidate, and last May, Christie’s approval rating had fallen to 29 percent.

Dick Cheney, another zombie, has come to life in the body of GOP vice-presidential candidate, Mike Pence who said that his role model is the vice-president who put the United States into the preemptive war with Iraq costing the country millions of jobs and trillions of dollars. Cheney’s career as VP was a time of incompetence, lies, opaque ruling, scandal, missing emails, and deadly bad judgment. When he left office, Cheney’s approval rating was 13 percent, about half Richard Nixon’s support at the height of Watergate. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell called Cheney an “idiot.” If Trump were elected and followed his plans, Pence, who sees himself a Cheney clone, “would be in charge of domestic and foreign policy” while Trump would focus on “making America great again.”

The zombie of Ralph Nadar, which may have led to George W. Bush’s appointment as president in 2000, may have returned in the name of Gary Johnson. A rumor circulated last week that Bill Weld might drop out of the race as Libertarian vice-presidential candidate because he didn’t want to be another Nadar. “No chance,” says Gary Johnson, top of the Libertarian ticket. Polling at 9 percent, Johnson is far away from the 15-percent threshold for participating in a presidential candidate debate, an advantage for him because he doesn’t interview well and might lose votes in a debate. Asked on public radio whether he was worried about votes for him leading to Trump as a president, he responded that he didn’t care and that it wouldn’t be his problem.

A pattern in GOP campaigning is to have one message in English and a different one in Spanish. For example, during his successful Nevada senatorial run in 2012, Dean Heller put his hardline immigration policy into English with a softer approach in Spanish. Another shift came from the GOP response to the State of the Union address last year when the Spanish version supported immigration reform—opposite to the message in English. This last spring, Kansas printed the wrong voter registration deadline, six days after the deadline, in the Spanish version and omitted the use of a passport for identification.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) brought this zombie to life in his struggling re-election. In Spanish, McCain brags about seeking comprehensive immigration reform and a pathway to citizenship for children brought illegally to the United States; the English skips over these policies and draws an image of McCain as hardcore immigration control. After this “translation” was questioned, a campaign spokesperson said that the website versions were “never intended to be identical.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) blocking the budget bill has aroused the zombie of shutting down the government. Congress has only 11 more days—two “working weeks” before a the government closes down, but McConnell “delayed” a procedural vote until 2:15 pm tomorrow. At least the bill may allow Puerto Rico’s Planned Parenthood clinic to access federal grants to fight the Zika virus, a provision that had held up the bill for several months. In his arrogant manner, McConnell said that “Senate Republicans stand ready to move forward” and wants Democrats to “complete negotiations,” something that they have been willing to do for some time.

Asked about the agreement, Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said, “Close is relative.” The Dems also want funding for the Flint (MI) water crisis to be in the mix, something the GOP turns down.

Ideally two weeks is enough time, but the bill must be sent to the House, returned, and then reconciled while ultra-conservatives in that chamber demand itty-bitty budget bills instead of an omnibus which go into next year instead of being a stopgap that returns—in zombie fashion—on December 9 this year.

Just a few zombies from people who ignore history.

December 20, 2013

Stop War By Doing Nothing

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 7:23 PM
Tags: , ,

Congress has given us a great gift this year. The segment of government designed to make law for the nation managed only 58 public laws during the past twelve months—public laws being measures of broad impact. This year is only half the 113th Congress, but if the number of laws passed would triple in the second year of this Congress, it would still be at the bottom. Yet Congress has kept the United States, at least temporarily, out of war. And they did this by doing nothing.

Congress bills

Ten years ago, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney drove Congress into a hawkish frenzy by spreading lies about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Ten years later, the reasonable people of the U.S. know that there were no WMD, and many members of Congress who voted to give Bush carte blanche to declare war in the Middle East have regretted their votes. To most people in the United States, another war is anathema.

This year, Iran has been the potential war zone, and, much to the dismay of the war hawks, Secretary of State and President Obama have agreed to a six-month agreement in which the International Atomic Energy Agency will increase inspections to daily ones from the past bimonthly checks and halt the installation of any additional centrifuges used to enrich uranium. It will also dilute the country’s stockpile of uranium enriched to 20 percent and stop construction at the heavy water reactor in Arak while will produce plutonium if operational.

In an international exchange, six countries—United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, China, and Russia—will provide “limited, temporary, targeted, and reversible” relief from sanctions to Iran. Approximately $4.2 billion of Iranian funds will be released as well as $1.5 billion worth of sanctions on “gold and precious metals, Iran’s auto sector, and Iran’s petro-chemical exports.” During the six-month period, embargoes against Iranian oil, banking institutions, and other financial sanctions will remain in place, but there will be no new sanctions.

In typical snarky manner, GOP members complained about the possibility of avoiding war. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) tweeted, “It’s amazing what WH will do to distract attention from O-care.” Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) issued a statement that the deal “appears to provide the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism with billions of dollars in exchange for cosmetic concessions that neither fully freeze nor significantly roll back its nuclear infrastructure.”

Sen. Marco Rubio said:

“I think this is a big win, I hate to say it, for Iran. I think they’ve taken a step forward in solidifying their position. And I think we’ve seen this play out before. This is very, very similar to what the North Koreans did at the end of the Bush presidency, and we’re seeing repeating again the playbook we’ve seen before.”

As usual, GOP members of Congress are on the opposite side of public opinion. A new Washington Post/ABC News poll released last month showed that a large majority of people approve of the agreement with Iran. Only 30 percent of the respondents disagree with the agreement.

One cause of the opposition may be that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has used strong language against the agreement, “wigging out” about it to quote Tufts University professor Dan Drezner on his Foreign Policy blog. Yet some current and former high level Israeli officials disagree with Netanyahu’s anti-agreement rhetoric.

A bipartisan group of 79 U.S. national security experts have praised the diplomatic efforts, including two former National Security Advisers to U.S. Presidents Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush, Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft. They wrote:

“We support President Obama’s decision to seek a first phase understanding with Iran to limit Iran’s nuclear program now. The agreement under discussion would slow crucial elements of the Iran program, make it more transparent and allow time to reach a more comprehensive agreement in the coming year.”

There still is the slightest possibility that Congress could start a war in Iran this year. Twenty-six senators—13 of each party—introduced legislation to impose new sanctions on Iran if the country breaks the deal to curb its nuclear program. But the bill will take weeks for a vote and then go to the House before the president vetoes the bill. Despite Iran’s declaration that passing this bill would destroy the negotiations among the world powers, these 26 senators are determined to move forward while the agreement is successful. The initiators of the bill refuse to wait until there are problems with the agreement.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a Time interview that “the entire deal is dead” if Congress passes new sanctions, even if these would be triggered only by the failure of the talks. He explained:

“We do not like to negotiate under duress. And if Congress adopts sanctions, it shows lack of seriousness and lack of a desire to achieve a resolution on the part of the United States. My parliament can also adopt various legislation that can go into effect if negotiations fail. But if we start doing that, I don’t think that we will be getting anywhere.”

Fortunately, ten chairs of the 16 standing Senate committees are taking action against the attempt of Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ) to start a war with Iran. They  have written a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada asking him to reject Menendez’s efforts to tighten sanctions against Iran. In their letter, they state that “at this time, as negotiations are ongoing, we believe that new sanctions would play into the hands of those in Iran who are most eager to see the negotiations fail.”

MoveOn Executive Director Anna Galland wrote:

“Democrats like Senators Schumer and Menendez should stop supporting Republican efforts to undermine President Obama’s diplomacy. The last thing our country needs right now is another war. It is shameful and wrong for Senators to intentionally undermine the potential for a negotiated, diplomatic solution. We urge all Senators to avoid action that heightens the risk of conflict.”

A major argument to support the agreement with Iran is that former Vice President Dick Cheney hates it. He hates it so much that he can’t even be coherent in his arguments. In his appearance on the Fox network, he argued that the agreement is bad because of health care issues:

 “We don’t follow through and Iran we’ve got a very serious problem going forward and a deal now been cut. The same people that brought us ‘you can keep your insurance if you want’ are telling us they’ve got a great deal in Iran with respect to their nuclear program. I don’t believe it…. I don’t think that Barack Obama believes that the U.S. is an exceptional nation.”

Cheney is the man who led our country for eight years into two wars that cost hundreds of thousands of lives and trillions of dollars in deficit.

For his part, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said this year that the best way to evaluate Congress isn’t by legislation it passes, but rather, Congress “ought to be judged on how many laws we repeal.” They fail on this basis, too, as they focus the repeal on only one law—the Affordable Care Act. Perhaps Boehner meant that the best way to evaluate Congress is by the number of times that it repeals one law.

Let’s hope that Congress continues to do nothing and keep us out of war.

May 14, 2013

GOP View of Benghazi Falls Apart

No one questions that the killing of four people, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, at the Benghazi consulate was a tragedy. But the fallout after this disaster has been disgusting as conservatives put everyone involved on the grill—over and over. During the GOP flack last October, Ambassador Susan Rice withdrew her name for consideration for Secretary of State, but the House came back for another round of hearings in January. I thought that was the end of the investigations.

Like a zombie, however, it’s come back to life after former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s high level of popularity. Sunday’s Meet the Press spent most of the show on the issue with Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) as the star. The real star, though, was conservative columnist David Brooks.

For 15 minutes, Issa tried to justify his accusation of a coverup because an email had 12 changes and because the administration didn’t answer all the questions. One of Issa’s big talking points was that the president was wrong because he said “act of terror” instead of “terrorist act.”  He called both former CIA Director David Petraeus and Ambassador Pickering liars, even though he was sitting beside the ambassador.  Issa looked like a fool.

The real star, however, was conservative columnist David Brooks. In a follow-up discussion, he said:

 “My reading of the evidence is that a very terrible event happened at a CIA, basically a CIA facility, they went into intense blame shifting mode, trying to shift responsibility onto the State Department, onto anywhere else, and the State Department pushed back. They said no, it is not our fault. It’s your facility. And so they push back and they say why we are suddenly releasing information that we haven’t been releasing so far. So the CIA was super aggressive, there was some pushback, out of that bureaucratic struggle all the talking points were reduced to mush and then politics was inserted into it. So I don’t think we should necessarily say this is politics intruding on a CIA pure operation.”

That’s it in a nutshell: Benghazi is not the big story that the GOP want.

Refusing to be a GOP shill, moderator David Gregory ran the list of casualties at embassies over the past decades, but Issa just ignored it in the same way that he ignored the casualties at 13 embassies and consulates during Bush’s two terms—96 people killed and at least 90 people wounded. Republican lawmakers made no outcry after 241 members of the military were killed in the Beirut Barracks Bombing of 1983, despite the fact that the blame was placed on Reagan’s administration because the president ignored then-Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger’s attempts to change Reagan’s military orders.

One of Issa’s arguments is that the military should have charged over to Benghazi to save the day. Bush’s and Obama’s former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates disagrees. On Face the Nation, Gates called these ideas “cartoonish” and agreed with testimony given by former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and the Chairman of the Joint  Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey.

Gates said:

“We don’t have a ready force standing by in the Middle East—despite all the turmoil that’s going on—with planes on strip alert, troops ready to deploy at a moment’s notice. And so, getting somebody there in a timely way would have been very difficult, if not impossible.”

In referring to dangers from surface-to-air missiles, he considered the sending of military aircraft in the volatile situation as too risky. “I would not have approved sending an aircraft,” Gates said, “a single aircraft, over Benghazi under those circumstances.”

Trying to make hay out of nothing, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), a GOP presidential candidate in 2016, travels the country, proclaiming, “I think it precludes Hillary Clinton from ever holding office. I think her mistakes were of such significance that she should never again be in that position, to make those decisions.”

Less than two months ago, Congressional members saw what they now perceive as the damning emails when lawyers from the Office of National Intelligence briefed House and Senate Intelligence Committee members. At that time, House Speaker John Boehner declined to attend or send a representative. Both Sens. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and Richard Burr (R-NC) had said that briefing satisfied their concerns. No one from the House raised any questions. The emails were also shared with Congressional members during the confirmation of CIA Director John Brennan, who was confirmed 63-34.

Six months and one week after the 2012 election, Karl Rove’s Super PAC, American Crossroads, has launched the first ad for the 2016 campaign, using the Benghazi disaster and targeting Hillary Clinton. Polling shows that the smear campaign isn’t making a difference. Voters trust Clinton over the GOP on Benghazi by a 49 to 39 margin, and her +8 favorability at 52 to 44 is identical to that in late March. Meanwhile Congressional Republicans have a 36 to 57 unfavorability rating. By a 56 to 38 margin, voters say that passing the immigration reform bill is more important than a focus on Benghazi, and passing a bill requiring background checks for gun purchases is higher by 52 to 43.

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) described Benghazi as ten times bigger than Watergate and Iran Contra put together. Even more outrageous is former Vice-President Dick Cheney’s comment, “I think it’s one of the worst incidents, frankly, that I can recall in my career.” Even worse than the lies and intelligence failures of 9/11, the Iraq War, the outing of Valerie Plame, the disasters in Afghanistan, the travesty of Abu-Graib, the failed response to Hurricane Katrina, the stock market debacle, the recession, the deaths in consulates and embassies on his watch, …?

After the Tea Party’s three-day boycott of Fox News last weekend, protesting the network’s lack of Benghazi coverage. Fox and Friends put out a highly “edited” video of President Obama. It lies about his statements regarding the “sideshow” of the GOP party. Their falsehoods have gone viral across the Internet on right-wing blogs.

Satirist Andy Borowitz gave a quality description of  the GOP dilemma:

“A deep divide has emerged within the Republican Party over whether to waste Congress’s time investigating Benghazi talking points or repealing Obamacare, G.O.P. lawmakers confirmed today.

“House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), sounded the first discordant note at a press briefing this morning, telling reporters, ‘The time for wasting day after day investigating Benghazi is over. The American people are counting us to waste our time repealing Obamacare yet again.’

“Warning that ‘the American people don’t have an endless appetite for meaningless political theater,’ Cantor added, ‘If we’re going to do something that’s purely symbolic, pointless, and detached from reality, I say it should be repealing Obamacare for the thirtieth or fortieth time.’

“Rep. Cantor’s comments drew a strong rebuke from Darrell Issa (R-CA), who has spearheaded the investigation into Benghazi: ‘Quite frankly, we have all the time in the world to blow repealing “Obamacare. The moment to waste our time investigating Benghazi is now.’ Noting that previous attempts to repeal Obamacare had cost the taxpayers approximately fifty million dollars, Issa said, ‘I think we’re entitled to spend at least that much, if not more, investigating Benghazi again and again and again.’

“But even as the debate raged over whether Obamacare or Benghazi was more worthy of Congress’ wasted time, House Speaker John Boehner offered a third point of view: ‘Personally, I think the time we’re wasting on Benghazi and Obamacare could be better spent blocking progress on guns and immigration.’”

After her appearance on Meet the Press, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) wrote an excellent summation:

“If my Republican colleagues are serious about conducting real oversight on the tragedy in Benghazi, they should start by looking in the mirror….

“But Republicans choose to ignore these facts and are instead running negative ads and raising campaign dollars off the tragic events in Benghazi. Republicans tried and failed during the 2012 presidential election to use this tragedy for political gain and now appear eager to recycle these failed attacks. Their efforts are clearly aimed at the 2016 presidential race….

“As a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I well remember Secretary [Hillary] Clinton’s testimony following the Benghazi attack. She took responsibility and pledged to do everything in her power to put corrective measures in place….

“Republicans are shamelessly seeking to turn this tragedy into ‘Benghazi-gate’– comparing it to the Watergate scandal. Let’s remember: Watergate involved Republicans paying campaign money to break in and bug the Democratic National Committee headquarters. Benghazi involves Republicans cutting money for embassy security–funding that was clearly desperately needed.

“But Republican efforts to manufacture a controversy surrounding this tragedy are not only disingenuous, they are dangerous because they take our eye off the ball and divert attention from where it should be: protecting the American people and those who bravely serve our country overseas.”

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/3019154/posts  The plethora of GOP Congress members should take heed of Boxer’s advice instead of calling for a special investigative committee into Benghazi. Perhaps they will after today’s breaking news about the recently “leaked” emails. It now appears that someone falsified them to make it appear that the White House was trying to hide what happened.

After the unraveling of their Benghazi arguments, the GOP may switch their target to the IRS for targeting conservative fund-raising groups and the DoJ for obtaining Associated Press telephone records.

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