Former CIA Director, Secretary of Defense, decorated First Lieutenant, and decades-long veteran of the federal government Leon Panetta was candid in an interview with Foreign Policy.
He criticized the gridlock in Washington, said America should engage with Iran, and revealed that he wished President Obama had gone through with the strike on Assad's regime in Syria.
- Washington is suffering from a "breakdown in trust"
- Young people in general are disappointed in public service
- Congress is behind NSA/CIA intelligence activities
- Obama's drone war is a good strategy
Because Panetta worked in Washington for most of his life, his comments on gridlock merit closer attention.
He faulted the Republican Congress's obstinacy and, to a lesser extent, President Obama's inability to reach out to legislators (emphasis mine):
President Obama is dealing with a Congress -- and particularly a House of Representatives -- that is probably the most difficult I've seen in 50 years of public service...Yes, it's the Republicans, it's [House Speaker] John Boehner, it's the leadership in Congress, but it's also the president in terms of his ability to work with people and try to get things done.
Panetta was also cynical about Syria and Iran. With regards to Syria, he said he "would have preferred an attack on President Bashar al-Assad's regime." Now that negotiations are underway, he thinks the U.S. should keep its options open. Although Panetta believes President Hassan Rouhani of Iran is "willing to engage," he says moving forward on its nuclear program is going to be very difficult.
See Foreign Policy for the full interview.
Yesterday, The New York Times reported that President Obama had hired former-President Clinton Chief of Staff John Podesta as "counselor" for a year.
This would actually be the second time Podesta served Obama, since Podesta led Obama's presidential transition team in 2008. Since then, Podesta has not only returned to the progressive think tank he founded, the Center for American Progress (CAP), but he has also created a brand new think tank, the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, to focus on just income inequality.
So just what will Podesta be doing for Obama this time around? The NYT reports:
Mr. Podesta will help [Obama’s chief of staff, Denis] McDonough on matters related to the health care law, administration organization and executive actions, said a person familiar with the plans, and will focus in particular on climate change issues, a personal priority of Mr. Podesta’s.
It is those "executive actions" that conservatives, and really anybody who claims to honor the United States Constitution, should worry about.
After Obama was soundly rejected by the American voters in 2010, Podesta penned a report for CAP titled, "The Power of the President," writing:
Concentrating on executive powers presents a real opportunity for the Obama administration to turn its focus away from a divided Congress and the unappetizing process of making legislative sausage. ... It would be a welcome relief from watching legislative maneuvering to see the work of a strong executive who is managing the business of the country through troubled times.
Since that report was published, Obama has completely ignored Congress on a wide variety of issues, from immigration to energy, instead asserting his own power as president to make law as he, and he alone, sees fit.
The move to hire Podesta now, as opposed to waiting till after the 2014 elections, is an admission by the White House that their second term legislative agenda (immigration reform, gun control, and climate change) is already dead.
If progressives are going to make any progress expanding government during the rest of Obama's presidency, it will only be through unilateral executive action. It will not be sanctioned by Congress.
Here’s how CNN covered the handshake heard ‘round the world (via TWS)
“This is a man, and it is so true, who brought people together in life and he continues to bring people together in death.”
If you like your prescription medicine and want to keep your prescription medicine, you may have a leetle bit of a problem under ObamaCare. The Washington Post helpfully explains.
Rather than simply having the option of picking a plan that offers prescription drug coverage for an extra cost, now prescription drug coverage is one of the "10 essential benefits" (sort of like the maternity coverage for the geriatric set, I guess) that every health insurance policy will now cover, courtesy of a US government mandate by the US government.
But that doesn't mean you will necessarily get what you want -- or need. Yes, there's prescription drug coverage -- but not for all drugs. Just for "at least one drug in every category and class in the U.S. Pharmacopeia, the official list of approved medicines." It's a little like every plan being required to cover obstetric care . . . just not necessarily with the doctor you have and like -- or the hospital that you want to use.
As the Post notes, it's best to be careful when you're shopping for a new plan:
Your co-pay or co-insurance — the amount that you’re responsible for — could vary enormously. Some plans may ask you to pay $30 for a medicine while others could charge you $1,000 for the exact same thing, so be sure to check the name of the drug and the specific dosage you need. Don’t forget to find out whether the plan covers the number of monthly doses needed. If you are taking medication for a chronic condition or something that has a high retail price, you may want to ask whether your plan maintains a separate list of specialty pharmaceuticals that are covered.
Sound complicated? You're only getting started:
You should pay attention to a few other things, including whether the drug requires authorization under certain plans. This could be time-consuming and means you’re not guaranteed access to the medication. Also, you should find out whether there is any “step” requirement — meaning that your doctor may have to try a different drug first and provide documentation that it failed before the insurer will cover another medicine.
So if you suffer from migraines, for example, you may have to go without the medicine that you know actually works -- to give your doctor time to document that you were sick as a dog with all the other available options.
Got a medicine you need, but thanks to ObamaCare, it's not on the approved list? Don't worry! The Post chirps:
Your doctor can ask for an exception for medical need so that the insurer will cover it. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is encouraging insurers to respond to such requests within three days. If your request is denied, you can go through your state’s appeals process, which usually is handled by insurance regulators.
I bet that's a speedy, pleasant process! Finally, if all else fails, the Post concedes:
If you still can’t get coverage and need to take the drug, you’ll have to bear the full cost out of pocket, as it won’t count toward your deductible or your co-insurance maximum.
Thanks, ObamaCare. Now it's not just health insurance and doctors that Americans may lose -- it's their prescription drugs, too. Way to go.
On Monday, with only minutes to spare, Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Tex) unexpectedly filed the necessary paper work to primary his fellow Texas Republican, Sen. John Cornyn. Cornyn is up for re-election next year.
Let the fireworks begin:
Texas Republican Party spokesman Spencer Yeldell confirmed reports that Stockman withdrew his application for his congressional seat and filed papers to run in the Senate race.
Monday was the filing deadline to enter the race. The primary is March 4.
Stockman was elected to the House last year and has been an outspoken critic of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.
Cornyn was elected to his second term in 2008, taking 55% of the vote against Democrat Rick Noriega.
Question: Why is Stockman (a fiery Tea Partier himself) primarying a guy National Journal described as recently as last year as the second most conservative member of the upper chamber? Because he betrayed Ted Cruz, or something (via WND):
Stockman told WND he is filing the paperwork Monday evening and that he is running against his fellow Republican because, “We are extremely disappointed in the way he treated his fellow congressmen and broke the 11th commandment and undermined (Sen.) Ted Cruz’s fight to stop Obamacare.”
The Texan added, “And now, it looks like Cruz was right and Cornyn was wrong. He (Cornyn) sided with the president, essentially, in making sure Obamacare became law while Cruz did everything possible to stop it.”
It wasn’t just what Cornyn did, but how he did it, that rankled Stockman.
“If you disagree with someone, that’s fine, but I really believe you should do it privately, not so publicly,” he said. “He made a big show of removing his name from a letter supporting Cruz.”
For their part, some on the Right would perhaps welcome this fight. Cornyn, they argue, isn’t a True Conservative anyway:
John Cornyn is an establishment Republican who's hostile to grassroots conservatives. Replacing him w/ Steve Stockman would be a big upgrade— John Hawkins (@johnhawkinsrwn) December 10, 2013
Since Stockman is apparently jumping into this race because Cornyn stabbed Ted Cruz in the back, so to speak, how will the junior Senator react to the news? Will he back the “establishment” candidate, even though Cornyn famously abstained from endorsing him when he had the chance? Or will he just sit this primary out? Or, better yet, will he throw all his weight behind Stockman? Now that would make things interesting. But for whatever reason Cruz has reportedly hinted he won't directly help conservative challengers unseat Republican incumbents. So there's that.
As expected, a Cruz spokesman told the DC that Texas’ junior senator is “unlikely” to take sides:
Cornyn’s fellow Texas Republican Senator, Ted Cruz, whom many of those outside groups tout as an ideal of what a Senator should be, has praised Cornyn, but declined to endorse him. Reached for comment, Cruz’s press secretary Catherine Frazier told The Daily Caller that Cruz still felt he was “unlikely to get involved in incumbent primary races.”
I suspect he’ll let the two Republicans duke it out just like Cornyn himself did last year when Ted Cruz and David Dewhurst were vying for the Republican nomination to occupy the open seat the former currently holds. But if that’s the case, Stockman would almost certainly need some other kind of game-changer to make this race interesting. After all, starting off in debt isn’t a winning campaign strategy, especially when attempting to unseat a popular (conservative) incumbent from a state as red as Texas:
Cornyn, the GOP whip, spent four years running the party’s Senate campaign. He has $7 million in the bank and access to plenty more, whereas Stockman’s campaign is in the red, with $32,027 cash on hand and $163,010 in debt.
Editor's note: This post has been updated.
"Propaganda is a strong word but..."
Conservative activists determined to keep federal spending as low as possible are not happy about the emerging deal between House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray (D-WA).
The deal, according to reports, would raise federal discretionary spending from a scheduled $967 billion in 2014, to as much as $1.015 trillion. In exchange for raising spending today, Democrats would promise to cut spending years from now.
Heritage Action for America Communications Director Dan Holler comments:
Heritage Action cannot support a budget deal that would increase spending in the near-term for promises of woefully inadequate long-term reductions. While imperfect, the sequester has proven to be an effective tool in forcing Congress to reduce discretionary spending, and a gimmicky, spend-now-cut-later deal will take our nation in the wrong direction.”
Scholars at the libertarian Cato Institute are not happy about the deal either. "If Republican leaders up-end the budget caps this year," Cato Director of Tax Policy Studies Chris Edwards writes, "they will empower big-spending Democrats, liberal Republicans, and appropriators to completely blow up the caps in later years."
The House of Representatives is scheduled to adjourn for the rest of the year this Friday. Perhaps the best conservatives can hope for is that Ryan runs out the clock, and the House adjures with no budget deal.
If that happened, the House would still need to pass another continuing resolution before January 15, when the deal struck to open the federal government in October, expires.
At times, it's easy to be skeptical of the "scoops" obtained by journalist Seymour Hersh. There's been a lot he's wrong about. Even so, when he was a Bush critic, his work was given wide and respectful coverage by the MSM.
So it will be interesting to see what happens with his latest claims -- that President Obama withheld information that Syrian rebels in the (al Qaeda-friendly) al Nusra Front had the capacity to produce chemical weapons, and that Obama manipulated the timing and sequence of intelligence about the use of chemical weapons in Syria:
A former senior intelligence official told me that the Obama administration had altered the available information – in terms of its timing and sequence – to enable the president and his advisers to make intelligence retrieved days after the attack look as if it had been picked up and analysed in real time, as the attack was happening.
According to Hersh, the administration had decided that Assad was responsible, and then went looking for evidence to justify that assessment. Keep in mind, of course, that the President was calling for American military action based on what Hersh clearly considers to be "cherry-picked" intelligence (ironic, given the left's criticisms of the Iraq War, where no "lie" by the President actually existed, contra the MSM narrative). Hersh writes:
The administration’s distortion of the facts surrounding the sarin attack raises an unavoidable question: do we have the whole story of Obama’s willingness to walk away from his ‘red line’ threat to bomb Syria? He had claimed to have an iron-clad case but suddenly agreed to take the issue to Congress, and later to accept Assad’s offer to relinquish his chemical weapons. It appears possible that at some point he was directly confronted with contradictory information: evidence strong enough to persuade him to cancel his attack plan, and take the criticism sure to come from Republicans.
If true, Hersh's reporting would explain a lot.
It may not be exactly the type of show you would expect, but Sarah Palin will be hosting her very own show. She is slated to host a reality show on the Sportsman Channel starting in April of next year. The show will be called “Amazing America with Sarah Palin.”
“Amazing America with Sarah Palin explores and experiences the coolest and most original people, places, businesses, and gadgets that appeal to Red, Wild and Blue America. Former Governor Sarah Palin takes viewers into the life of those living the American dream,” reads the website.
This will be Sarah’s second time on a reality show since she left office. The Sportsman Channel CEO said, “Governor Palin is one of America’s most popular leaders, whose powerful love of country and passion for the great outdoors is inspiring to millions and millions of people.”
Everyone, get your DVRs ready. Sarah Palin will be on a TV near you, very soon.
As the debate over religion in American political spaces rages on, Oklahoma state's legislature recently approved a monument of the Biblical Ten Commandments on public ground. A group called The Satanic Temple has followed suit, claiming Oklahoma's actions have paved the way for a "public-friendly" Satan-related monument "for young children."
The move is a clear attempt to make a statement, a fact highlighted by the fact that The Satanic Temple is based in New York even though they are petitioning for a monument in Oklahoma.
The Satanic Temple has launched a crowd-funding campaign on Indiegogo in an attempt to procure the financial backing to construct the Satanic monument. If the organization does succeed in raising the money, its bid will certainly be rejected by Oklahoma lawmakers. In that case, "all funds will go toward efforts to appeal or contest the rejection, and/or place another Satanic monument in another relevant location." As of the writing of this article, the campaign has only raised $120 of its $20,000 goal - but it only began yesterday and will run for 40 days.
Advocates claim that the benefits of erecting their Satanic monument next to the Ten Commandments would include:
The ACLU is on the same page as The Satanic Temple. Brady Henderson, legal director for ACLU Oklahoma, said (emphasis mine):
"We would prefer to see Oklahoma's government officials work to faithfully serve our communities and improve the lives of Oklahomans instead of erecting granite monuments to show us all how righteous they are. But if the Ten Commandments, with its overtly Christian message, is allowed to stay at the Capitol, the Satanic Temple's proposed monument cannot be rejected because of its different religious viewpoint."
Lucien Greaves, the man behind the push for a Satanic monument, launched an unsuccessful effort a few months ago to garner support for The Satanic Temple's participation in New York's Adopt-a-Highway Campaign. Amazingly, that venture found 67 funders and raised $2,244.
The AP reports that Greaves credits Republicans and Rep. Mike Ritze in particular for furthering the Satanic cause (emphasis mine):
"He[Rep. Ritze]'s helping a satanic agenda grow more than any of us possibly could," Greaves said. "You don't walk around and see too many satanic temples around, but when you open the door to public spaces for us, that's when you're going to see us."
The Satanic Temple's attempts to become relevant and make a statement on religious freedom will likely drag on far beyond the monument bid.
Panetta: Republican Congress "Most Difficult I've Seen in 50 Years of Public Service" | Nicole Bailey
Obligatory Video: Obama and Raúl Castro Shake Hands at Memorial Service For Nelson Mandela | Daniel Doherty