Last week, when we first wrote up this story, the narrative was relatively straightforward: Omar Gonzalez was detained shortly after jumping the White House fence ten days ago. And while it was abundantly clear that there was some sort of egregious breakdown in security and communication -- the guy made it inside, after all -- it was implied that the president and his family were not in any real danger if they had been at home.
Obviously, we now know that’s not true. The Washington Post has the exclusive:
The man who jumped the White House fence this month and sprinted through the front door made it much farther into the building than previously known, overpowering one Secret Service officer and running through much of the main floor, according to three people familiar with the incident. An alarm box near the front entrance of the White House designed to alert guards to an intruder had been muted at what officers believed was a request of the usher’s office, said a Secret Service official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The female officer posted inside the front door appeared to be delayed in learning that the intruder, Omar Gonzalez, was about to burst through. Officers are trained that, upon learning of an intruder on the grounds, often through the alarm boxes posted around the property, they must immediately lock the front door.
After barrelling past the guard immediately inside the door, Gonzalez, who was carrying a knife, dashed past the stairway leading a half-flight up to the first family’s living quarters. He then ran into the 80-foot-long East Room, an ornate space often used for receptions or presidential addresses. Gonzalez was tackled by a counter-assault agent at the far southern end of the East Room. The intruder reached the doorway to the Green Room, a parlor overlooking the South Lawn with artwork and antique furniture, according to three people familiar with the incident.
In other words, a knife-wielding Gonzalez ran through numerous parts of the White House and almost made it up to where the First Family sleeps. That, of course, is unacceptable and a very different narrative from the one we were first presented with.Fortunately, no one was injured or killed. But if the Secret Service doesn't systemically and comprehensively review what happened (and take the findings seriously), this might not be the last time an armed intruder gains access to the people's house.
Chris Christie and Michelle Obama both have gone to Wisconsin for campaign events, as the Associated Press reports:
In two western Wisconsin appearances, Christie held Walker up as someone with both honesty and integrity. He contrasted that with Burke who is being criticized by Walker and Republicans as a plagiarist for having language and ideas in her jobs plan also used by four other Democratic gubernatorial candidates. Burke blamed a consultant who worked for all of the campaigns and cut ties with him. "If you can't trust her honesty and her integrity when she tells you this is her plan, why would you trust her on anything else she tells you about what she'll do for Wisconsin or Scott's record?" Christie said at a local Republican Party headquarters. Burke addressed the plagiarism allegations only indirectly while criticizing Walker for failing to fulfill his jobs promise from his first campaign.
The plagiarism allegations have continued to haunt Burke even as the polls have vacillated. An exclusive new Townhall/Gravis Marketing poll out today has Scott Walker trailing Mary Burke by five points:
Townhall's PollTracker has the race a dead heat:
In the past thirteen presidential elections, the state of Kansas has given all of its electoral votes to the Republican nominee. The state's House of Representatives is comprised of a GOP super-majority at 73.6 percent and both U.S. Senators are red. So why is the incumbent GOP governor, Sam Brownback, behind in the polls?
During Brownback's first term, he supported substantial tax reform that reduced the top income tax rate by 25 percent, lowered the state sales tax, and did away with a tax on small business income. Though many liberal opponents disagreed with his approach, the advocacy group, Americans for Tax Reform praised Governor Brownback and said that the "tax cuts are working."
This August, Standard & Poor downgraded the state's credit rating from an AA+ to AA citing the controversial tax overhaul. The decrease in state income did not help the budget's bottom line leaving uneven income and outcome numbers to blame for the credit downgrade.
Kansas Democrats have anchored their campaign in what they believe is failed tax reform and have cornered Brownback for his small government, low taxes platform. According to a recent Rasmussen Reports poll, Gov. Sam Brownback is down 4 points against Democratic candidate, Paul Davis who has been running a spotless campaign thus far.
And now, finally, Governor Sam Brownback has something to hoot and holler about.
After weeks of giving Republican Gov. Sam Brownback a strong challenge in GOP-leaning Kansas, his Democratic opponent is on the defensive over disclosures that he was inside a strip club during a 1998 meth raid and an officer reported finding him in a dark back room with a nearly naked woman.
Democrat Paul Davis was 26 and single, a young attorney in a firm representing the owner of the club near Coffeyville in southeast Kansas. The owner spent six years in federal prison after the raid, but Davis was not arrested.
Now the deeply conservative voters of Kansas will have to decide: Do moral convictions outweigh controversial tax reform? Are they okay with a gubernatorial candidate caught with a stripper during a meth raid? I think conservatives could go either way on this issue, but one thing is for sure: Governor Brownback's attack ad with a guy getting a lap dance will be easy for voters to understand and possibly turn their stomachs.
For the past two years, Pastor Saeed Abedini has been suffering in one of the world’s cruelest prisons, Iran’s Evin Prison, simply for practicing his Christian faith. Pastor Saeed’s wife, Naghmeh, attended and spoke at this year’s Values Voter Summit in Washington, DC. I asked her about her family’s struggles, the president’s inaction and, most importantly, her and her family's unwavering faith.
Is there a certain Bible verse you’ve gone to for comfort during this trial?
“The one that has spoken to me the most has been 2 Corinthians 12: 8-10, where Paul is talking about a thorn in his side and he wants it removed. I felt with Saeed’s imprisonment, it was painful, was something in our life I wanted removed. And I felt God telling me that His grace is sufficient for me and His strength is made perfect in my weakness. And then the following verse where God says, 'Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities and distress and persecution and need' and all of that. I just have learned to really – even when I feel things are distressed or hard – to really learn to embrace, as Paul said, because it just helps me discover God in a deeper way, it breaks me in a way and takes me to more dependency on Him and prayer and more intimacy. Knowing this is being used for the gospel, it makes it really comforting.”
Pastor Saeed has refused to deny his faith and has even converted some of his fellow prisoners. Can you talk more about that?
“He’s not denied his faith and under intense persecution and torture, especially early on in his imprisonment, and he’s who he is. No matter where he’s at, loving people means sharing about how God has changed his life. So that’s been who he is. It’s not because he’s being confined. He’s just sharing about hope and life that he’s found in Christ – wherever he’s gone.”
Last year, President Obama called Iranian President Rouhani expressing his concerns about Saeed’s imprisonment. A lot of people think that he and his administration could be doing even more. Do you agree with this? (emphasis mine)
“I agree. It’s been frustrating. It took a lot of pressure from the American people for him to say something, make a phone call and then – he did mention Saeed at the prayer breakfast. But, I feel like that decision hasn’t been made to use leverage or to put pressure to bring Saeed home. I don’t know if his statements have been made to just appease me or the American people. Deep down I don’t think there has been a decision made to bring him home because I do believe if that decision had been made, he would be home right now. I believe they’re going to use all the leverage that they have for nuclear talks, and I do believe Saeed has been abandoned and forgotten in this process. Again I’m thankful for those statements, but there has to be action to back that up. It’s been two years too long.”
You’ve also spoken about how your faith in Christ has been strengthened through this trial and it’s given you an opportunity to share your faith. At the UN, you shared it with millions of people. Can your experience encourage other Christians going through trials?
“When you’re going through trials, you reach a point of desperation. And the trails can be here in America. Maybe we have fears of future, how’s my life going to look, what is my future going to look like. Fears of finances, of course a lot of families going through divorce and trauma, different things, relationship issues and I think you allow it to take you into a deeper intimacy with God. A lot of times we believe in Christ, but have we really experienced Him? One of my favorite sections of the Bible is John 15, where it talks about the vine and the branches and for the first time – I’ve been a Christian for over 30 years, I felt like I connected to the vine and when we connect to that source, God brings the fruit. We don’t really have to try too hard, we just rest in Him and are in communion with Him and I think that’s what God is calling the church to do. To just seek Him deeper and walk into a deeper intimacy. And you mentioned, I think God uses your life, anyone, it’s not necessarily how many connections you have or who you know or how much money you have. It’s once you can dig deeper to Him and connect to Him, then He can take you before the United Nations and countries and ambassadors and human rights groups, just all over. I think once you discover Him in a deeper way, you become a testimony for Christians and non-Christians alike. Like knowing Christ and making Him known. You have to know Him first, you really have to know Him. You have to experience Him, taste Him, before you can even present it to anyone else. It has to be so real in your life. Persecution and hardships, really you have to know when you’re going through a hardship. When you’re going through cancer, when you have a loved one who’s dying, when you’re going relationship trauma, whatever, you have to connect. Either you walk away and say, 'my faith is empty,' or you have to discover God and the reality of Him. Once you discover that, nothing can stop you to become a light. People are drawn to you to know about God.”
Mrs. Abedini says she's received at least 10,000 letters of support from people hoping and praying for her husband's safe return.
If anything, this trial has highlighted the importance of religious freedom. How can we not take that for granted here in the US?
“This is a core value. Of course one of the frustrating parts, is Saeed is an American citizen whose religious freedom is trampled upon and we’ve allowed Iran to do that for the past two years. But this is an important value for our nation. If we don’t speak out, if we’re not vocal about it, if we’re not taking action to defend our religious freedom, it will be taken from us. It’s slowly approaching our borders and I think it’s something that we should defend. There were lives that were paid - people paid a heavy price for freedom here. This is what makes America great. When I was a child, I came to America and discovered Christ. That’s the most beautiful part of America for me. I had the freedom to choose my religion and so it’s something we have to defend. If we don’t fight for it, it’s something we will lose. It’s not a guarantee our children will enjoy the same freedom we’re enjoying – or our children’s children. It’s a value, it’s a core value. It what makes this great nation great – allowing people to live freely, which a lot of countries don’t and it’s something we really have to stand up for.”
You have so many people praying for you and for your husband. What would you like to say to them?
“Thank you. Honestly, it gives me a lot of strength to know I’m not alone. Hebrews 13:3 says, 'Remember those as if you’re in chains with them.' A lot of times where it talks about the body of Christ that’s hurting or in prison or in chains, it just says remember. And when people are praying, or when people tell me they’re praying, or write letters, it just reminds me they’ve not forgotten us. Two years doesn’t mean Saeed’s forgotten or our family’s forgotten. That’s really what you need to hear. I know people going through a lot of suffering, I know that’s the number one comfort. At least that’s what it’s been in my family – to know you’re not alone. People are there with you, you’re not forgotten. They’re standing with you, and that’s the most comforting part of the journey.”
Abedini estimated she’s received at least 10,000 notes in the past two years.
“A lot of people send to (The American Center for Law and Justice), then some send to my church, then directly to me. I literally pick up boxes and boxes from my church every week and initially it was 20, 30, 40, 50 coming in and I would try to answer them and then it just became so overwhelming I pick and choose and answer some of them.”
She is dedicated to answering them because she knows they are sincere.
“I feel like people took the time to write, they’re pouring out their heart, they’re sharing verses. I feel like I could dedicate a day or two and answer as much as I can. There’s literally days that I feel so discouraged, that I just open my messages or open my letters and start reading them and it’s like water to a thirsty soul. Literally every letter I read, it gives me hope.”
At the Values Voter gala Saturday night, Meriam Ibrahim was honored for her courage in escaping Sudan after being sentenced to death for her Christian faith. During her special remarks, Ibrahim spoke directly to her "sister" Mrs. Abedini, encouraging her to keep the faith that her husband would escape religious persecution as well. Earlier in the evening, when it was her turn to speak, Abedini shared a video of her children pleading for their father’s return. Attendees were attempting to dry their eyes even before the video finished playing.
Maybe a plea straight from the Abedini children will convict the president to help bring their father home. Keep writing and keep pressuring the Obama administration to take action.
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, remarked at Saturday's gala that perhaps this time next year, they would be celebrating Saeed's return.
The Obamacare program in America's largest state may be called "Covered California," but simply holding an insurance card in one's wallet does not guarantee one access to needed health appointments. Obtaining "coverage" is distinct from receiving actual care. The Los Angeles Times reports that the state's Obamacare provider networks will remain narrow in 2015, with some contacting further:
Finding a doctor who takes Obamacare coverage could be just as frustrating for Californians in 2015 as the health-law expansion enters its second year. The state's largest health insurers are sticking with their often-criticized narrow networks of doctors, and in some cases they are cutting the number of physicians even more, according to a Times analysis of company data. And the state's insurance exchange, Covered California, still has no comprehensive directory to help consumers match doctors with health plans. This comes as insurers prepare to enroll hundreds of thousands of new patients this fall and get 1.2 million Californians to renew their policies under the Affordable Care Act. Even as California's enrollment grows, many patients continue to complain about being offered fewer choices of doctors and having no easy way to find the ones that are available.
Health Net has proposed the most dramatic change for 2015, the data show. It's dumping the PPO network that Edwards and others purchased and switching to a plan with 54% fewer doctors and no out-of-network coverage, state data show. Yet premiums for that stripped-down policy are going up as much as 9% compared with pricing for the PPO. State regulators have questioned the company's moves. Health Net said its cutbacks were necessary to avoid even steeper rate hikes and it's confident the smaller network will be sufficient. Its separate HMO network is unchanged for 2015 after about 4,000 doctors were added this year. The insurer is following the lead of its two rivals Anthem and Blue Shield, which opened last year with sharply limited networks.
"Covered" California. Adding to the frustration, beneficiaries still can't access a reliable provider directory, as the state pulled down its initial version following complaints of rampant inaccuracies. The resulting confusion has caused real financial consequences for consumers:
There's no timetable for a state provider directory after the exchange scrapped an initial version that was riddled with errors. Instead, Covered California refers people to insurance company websites that vary in usefulness...Some consumers have been saddled with huge medical bills after insurers refused to pay for care deemed out of network...Mary Edwards, a 63-year-old librarian in Mar Vista, was excited about a Health Net PPO she picked out last fall because it offered a wide selection of doctors at a reasonable price. But it turned out that several physicians listed on her plan didn't accept the insurance or weren't taking new patients. "This is part of the Affordable Care Act that doesn't quite work yet," Edwards said. "This game of who's in and who's out is tiresome."
Last week, Townhall had the opportunity to ask David Limbaugh a few questions about his new book Jesus on Trial, which has become a New York Times bestseller. Despite being the most religious country in the industrialized world, America has a deep anticlerical bias in politics and culture. Is there a war on faith being waged here? If so, does this book serves as one of many tools aimed to fight this trend?
Mr. Limbaugh, an attorney and nationally syndicated columnist (you can find his works here too!), noted that he was a skeptic before becoming a believer twenty years ago. He believed in God, but wasn’t sold that Christ was divine.
He also said he wasn’t putting “Jesus on trial,” but noted that this book documents his own spiritual journey. Moreover, he hopes that it will invite skeptics to give the Bible a second look, look at the evidence, and “give it a chance.” Most importantly, he stresses that readers should use their own intellect on this spiritual journey. Forget what others have told you about how the Bible is a myth; use your own logic to come to your own conclusions about the most influential book in human history.
Far too often, we hear about the close-mindedness of atheists. Limbaugh stressed that this book doesn’t ridicule, mock, or aim to be judgmental. It invites skeptics to open their hearts and minds to these stories. Moreover, Limbaugh said his book also includes Christian doctrine in various chapters to give new Christians a “jump-start” in theology.
1. Why put Jesus on trial? What caused you to write a book affirming the Gospel?
The truth is I didn’t put him on trial. I put – I examined Christianity’s truth claims and of course, I did that twenty years ago or more–and I’ve been studying it on and off; this book is a chronicling of my own spiritual journey. The publisher wanted to call it Jesus on Trial; I wanted to call it Beyond A Reasonable Doubt. I thought people might be misled by the title, but when the subtitle reads “A Lawyer Affirms The Truth Of The Gospel,” it’s clear that I’m not really challenging him. But, ultimately, I’m examining the validity of Christianity’s truth claims, not putting him on trial.
2. How long were you a skeptic? Was there any event that pushed you towards becoming more open to the Christian faith?
Well, this book is a chronicling of my own spiritual journey and then I examine the reasons–the evidence that support Christianity’s truth claims. So, I became a believer by studying all this stuff and overcoming my doubts. But that occurred twenty years ago. Of course, I’ve continued to study theology and apologetics in the Bible since, which has reaffirmed my belief in my faith, but I became a believer some–twenty years ago at least.
I always believed in God, but I wasn’t convinced that the God in the Bible was “The” God, or that Christ was divine. After studying the Bible; studying theology; studying Christian apologetics–finally the thing that put me over the tipping point was exposure to the Messianic Prophecies. How Micah 5:2 prophesized the town that Jesus would be born in–Bethlehem–and Isaiah 53 and Psalms 22 talk about Christ’s crucifixion in minute detail; that his side will be pierced, that no bones would be broken. That he would be punished along with the transgressors (i.e. the thieves); that he would not lift a finger to defend himself; that he would die for our sins. All of these pointed to me unmistakably towards a supernatural writing of the Bible.
It was a bunch of things, but if there was one culminating event many, many seeds were planted over the years in my spiritual journey, but that’s the one final one that I think–if any–took me over the top.
3. Do you think there is a war on faith in America and how can we push back against it?
Christianity has been under attack by the popular culture–and by the Left for a long time. I wrote a book about it ten years ago. And it continues to be under attack and all throughout the world with the rise of radical Islam–and the rise of new atheism and secularism; Christianity is a primary target–Christians and Christianity throughout the world. I think we Christians need to stand up for what we believe and we need to speak and we need actively engage in the culture and try to fight for our own values. But one of our values is religious liberty; we don’t believe in coercion. We don’t believe in forcing people to convert to our faith. We believe in people coming to the faith by their own volition. And, so, we evangelize, but we don’t do any coercion at all. So, I don’t want us to get involved in the culture so we can compete in a coercive way. ...
I don’t want to force people; I don’t think any Christian does.
4. What do you hope readers get out of reading your book? Do you seek to persuade non-believers and skeptics towards being more open to a higher order?
Not a higher order; that’s nebulous spirituality. I want to open the minds of skeptics. I want to invite skeptics to take a second look at the Bible, and theology, and Christian apologetics. Examine the evidence and weigh it. Don’t abandon your rational faculties–use them. Christianity supports using your reason and rationality it is not contrary to faith. And I think if they give the Bible a chance and give the evidence a chance; they just might find that the God of the Bible is true and they might then decide to place their trust in Jesus Christ. But I also wrote it not just for the skeptic, but also for the believer because studying these things reaffirms our faith–and also for the new Christian, who I think needs a jump-start in theology. I’ve included a lot of Christian doctrine and theology here in a few other chapters to help give new Christians a jump-start as to what the faith really stands for.
So, it’s written for pretty much everyone. It's primarily targeted though at the non-believer with the idea that if he really looks at this and give it a second look; it’s not hectoring. It’s not judgmental. It doesn’t ridicule. It doesn’t mock; it invites skeptics respectfully to take a look at the Bible. Read it with an open mind and an open heart; it promises the power of conversion. Give it a chance to fulfill that promise. Give the Bible a chance. Don’t believe what other people have said that it’s myth; give it a chance for yourself with an open mind and an open heart and see what you find in your own discovery using your intellect.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took to the podium today at the United Nations to confront Israel’s enemies directly and expose their fanatical ideology.
“I come here from Jerusalem on behalf of my people, the people of Israel,” he began. “I’ve come here to speak about the dangers we face, and the opportunities we seek. I’ve come here to expose the brazen lies spoken from this podium against my country and the brave soldiers who defend it. “
“Militant Islam is on the march,” he declared. “To protect the security and peace of the world, we must remove this cancer before it’s too late.”
He explicitly said that Hamas and militant Islam are “branches from the same poisonous tree,” and that the “same global ambition” that actuates Hamas -- namely, world domination -- runs through all terrorist organizations ... including ISIS.
“Hamas is ISIS; ISIS is Hamas,” he boldly declared. “They all share a fanatical ideology where there is no freedom and tolerance.”
And yet he acknowledged that this concept would be difficult for some ideologues to comprehend.
“Militant Islam’s ambition to dominate the world seems mad,” he admitted. “But so too did the global ambitions of another fanatical ideology.”
“The Nazis believed in a master race,” he said. “The radical Islamists believe in a master faith.”
As expected, he left no stone unturned and therefore publicly eviscerated the Republic of Iran, condemning their faux concerns about the rise of global terrorism.
“To say that Iran doesn’t practice terrorism is like saying that Derek Jeter didn’t play short stop for the New York Yankees,” he said. “So don’t be fooled by Iran’s manipulative charm offense. It’s designed for one purpose and one purpose only: to lift the challenges and lift the obstacles to Iran’s path to the bomb.”
“Once Iran produces atomic bombs, all the charms, and all the smiles, will suddenly disappear,” he continued. “And it’s then that the ayatollahs will show their true face and unleash their aggressive fanaticism on the entire world.”
Thus, he implored the international community to take this threat seriously and work with Israel to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear weapons.
He also addressed the recently-concluded, 50-day war between Israel and Hamas.
He defended his country’s right to defend itself while also confronting the lies spread about Israel’s war practices. Moreover, he blasted the UN Human Rights Council for investigating Israel for war crimes, when Hamas routinely fired rockets from UN schools, executed political dissidents, and used children as human shields.
“No other country and no other army have gone to greater lengths to avoid casualties against the civilian populations of their enemy,” he intoned. “Israel’s soldiers do not deserve condemnation, but admiration from decent peoples everywhere.”
And yet, despite Israel’s attempts to save innocents, the rise of anti-Semitism in supposedly civilized countries worldwide is unmistakable, he said.
“We hear mobs today calling for the gassing of Jews, we hear some national leaders compare Israel to the Nazis,” he averred. “This is not a function of Israel’s policies; it’s a function of diseased minds.”
He therefore labeled this age-old and ugly hatred by its rightful name: anti-Semitism.
“In the past outrageous lies against the Jews [led to] the wholesale slaughter [of my people],” he added. “But no more. Today, the Jewish people have the power to defend ourselves, and we will defend ourselves on the battlefield [and] in the court of public opinion.”
“Israel will continue to stand proud and unbowed,” he said.
While Maine's gubernatorial race remains neck and neck, some interesting polls are coming out for the 2nd Congressional District house race. The race, which was named by The Hill as a "sleeper race to watch," could be an unexpected pickup for Republicans come November.
In a Portland Press Herald poll released yesterday, results showed that the Republican candidate Bruce Poliquin has a 10-point lead over Democrat Emily Cain and independent candidate Blaine Richardson. Poliquin was the former treasurer of the state, while Cain currently serves in the state Senate.
The seat was formerly held by Democrat Mike Michaud, who is currently running for governor, and the seat has been held by Democrats for nearly 20 years. Maine's 2nd District has consistently supported Democrats in national elections as well.
Poliquin has a 10-point lead over Cain, while independent Blaine Richardson is a distant third, according to a Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center.
Among likely voters, Poliquin garnered 40 percent support, Cain had 30 percent and Richardson had 3 percent. All three candidates received additional support when interviewers asked voters whom they were leaning toward, but the margins between the candidates did not change.
While the polling sample is admittedly quite small, this is certainly encouraging news for the Maine GOP.
The congressional survey, part of a larger statewide poll, has a 6.2 percent margin of error because of the smaller sample size. The survey of 220 likely voters on landlines and cellphones was conducted from Sept. 18 to Sept. 25.
In virtually every foreign policy speech or interview the president gives, he reiterates this simple message: His administration will not re-deploy combat troops to Iraq.
Instead, he emphasizes the importance of building an international coalition of nations to take the fight to ISIS. This will provide coordinated and targeted air strikes against enemy targets, he argues, as well as much-needed cover and assistance to our allies on the ground.
Perhaps not surprisingly, many active duty troops support this strategy:
As the tide of war rises again in the Middle East, the military’s rank and file are mostly opposed to expanding the new mission in Iraq and Syria to include sending a large number of U.S. ground troops into combat, according to a Military Times survey of active-duty members. On the surface, troops appear to support President Obama’s repeated vows not to let the U.S. military get “dragged into another ground war” in Iraq. Yet at the same time, the views of many service members are shaped by a deep ambivalence about this commander in chief and questions about his ability to lead the nation through a major war, according to the survey and interviews.
The reader survey asked more than 2,200 active-duty troops this question: “In your opinion, do you think the U.S. military should send a substantial number of combat troops to Iraq to support the Iraqi security forces?” Slightly more than 70 percent responded: “No.” “It’s their country, it’s their business. I don’t think major ‘boots on the ground’ is the right answer,” said one Army infantry officer and prior-enlisted soldier who deployed to Iraq three times. He responded to the survey and an interview request but, like several other service members in this story, asked not to be named because he is not authorized to discuss high-level military policy.
Furthermore, according to the Military Times, there are additional reasons why our military personnel broadly oppose on-the-ground intervention.
First, the ineffectiveness and weakness of the Iraqi government is a top concern. Would the sacrifice be worth it, for example, if the Iraqi government still can’t stand on its own hind legs? Second, the administration’s willingness to dedicate itself to Iraq until the job is finished remains uncertain. Understandably, many troops are asking the following question: Since we pulled out of Iraq prematurely last time, would we not do so again if and when the war falls out of favor? Third, combat fatigue is a feeling that runs deep through the military. “We’re burned out,” one soldier told the Times.
But perhaps this is the biggest concern of all:
Troops intuitively understand that final decisions ultimately land on Obama’s desk. And support for Obama within the military — never especially high — has dropped significantly since he took office, according to the Military Times survey. In 2009, 35 percent of service members approved of the way Obama was “handling of his job as commander in chief.” This year, that figure dropped below 15 percent.
That lack of support for Obama may underpin some service members’ views on Iraq today, Feaver said. “It’s very hard to mobilize the military to follow an uncertain trumpet,” he said in an interview after reviewing the results of the Military Times poll. “If they have doubts about the commander in chief, they are going to have doubts about a major military operation.
American troops, therefore, are losing faith in our commander-in-chief. And even if they're not, as some have suggested, garnering an abysmal 15 percent approval rating from our men and women in uniform is hardly a ringing endorsement.
Be that as it may, the military’s strong preference for staying out of Iraq stands in sharp contrast to the NBC poll Matt wrote up on Sunday. All told, 72 percent of respondents say, sooner or later, US ground troops will occupy Iraqi soil.
The president, for his part, says the possibility of re-deploying our military to the region is completely off-the-table. But if the public keeps applying the pressure, who knows what might happen.
Earlier this morning, Katie posted several video snippets from President Obama's 60 Minutes interview, which aired last evening. Pressed on the failure of America's Iraq policy, Obama agreed that someone had misjudged the situation on the ground -- someone other than himself, of course:
CBS: How did [ISIS] end up where they are in control of so much territory? Was that a complete surprise to you?
Obama: Well I think, our head of the intelligence community, Jim Clapper, has acknowledged that I think they underestimated what had been taking place in Syria
"They." Classic, dishonest Obama blame-shift. We know that the Obama administration has been specifically warned by US intelligence about the rise of ISIS since at least 2012, with presidential briefings on the matter dating back to last year. Daily Beast national security correspondent Eli Lake asked members of the scapegoated intelligence community about the president's assignment of blame, and they responded with bracing candor:
Reached by The Daily Beast after Obama’s interview aired, one former senior Pentagon official who worked closely on the threat posed by Sunni jihadists in Syria and Iraq was flabbergasted. “Either the president doesn’t read the intelligence he’s getting or he’s bullshitting,” the former official said...senior intelligence officials have been warning about ISIS for months. In prepared testimony before the annual House and Senate intelligence committees’ threat hearings in January and February, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, the recently departed director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said the group would likely make a grab for land before the end of the year. ISIS “probably will attempt to take territory in Iraq and Syria to exhibit its strength in 2014.” Of course, the prediction wasn’t exactly hard to make. By then, Flynn noted, ISIS had taken the cities of Ramadi and Fallujah, and the demonstrated an “ability to concurrently maintain multiple safe havens in Syria.”
Flynn's testimony came around the same period when Obama laughed off ISIS as the equivalent of a terrorist "jayvee" squad. As for the unnamed former spy's blunt 'either-or' scenario presented above, I'm not sure it's necessarily a dichotomous proposition. This president has been known to take extremely generous liberties with the truth, and he's been accused of not taking his daily intelligence sessions seriously, having skipped a substantial majority of his in-person briefings during his first term. Team Obama has countered that the president prefers to read his briefings. Perhaps Obama doesn't always read the intelligence he's getting, and is therefore BS-ing today, now that his failures stand exposed. Even the New York Times took note of the Commander-in-Chief's 'the buck stops over there' deflection: "Mr. Obama made no mention of any misjudgment he may have made himself." Who's surprised? He's habitually dodged responsibility for catastrophic foreign policy outcomes in the region, from Syria to Libya to Egypt to Iraq (and coming soon: Afghanistan). On Iraq and ISIS, Obama pretends that he had nothing to do with America's failure to secure a status of forces agreement (SOFA) before abandoning Iraq. That's just not true, as has been detailed in numerous accounts...and was reflected in the president's own publicly-stated attitudes: