Right off the bat, Holder makes a string of errors. She mispronounces Rose's name, wrongly asserts that Rose herself appeared in the undercover videos (in fact, Live Action volunteers who were actually six months pregnant filmed the exposes), and appears to deny that post-birth killing qualifies as infanticide. She also tosses out the tried-and-true "selective editing" accusation, which is a fair critique in some cases, but not in this one. Rose calmly notes that the full videos are available online. The really interesting bit of the exchange, though, comes when Rose and Hannity ask Holder when she believes a fetus becomes a child (terms that she momentarily conflates, then corrects herself). She ducks the question three times. First, she waxes poetic about the rule of law and representative democracy. Fine, but what does she believe? Next, she throws the question back at Rose, who confidently offers a cogent reply. When does 'protectable' life begin, Hannity presses; "nine months?" Holder laughs and scoffs, "nine months? No!" So a fetus does transform into a baby at some stage of pregnancy, but she never says when. This line of inquiry -- which gets to the heart of the abortion debate -- is interrupted by commercial break. In the next segment, Holder at least summons the clarity to reject Kermit Gosnell as a "disgusting, disgusting criminal person," if he's found guilty. (Speaking of which, three days of deliberations and still no verdict from the jury. Could they possibly be hung on this guy, or are they making their way through more than 200 counts? LifeSiteNews reports much of the discussion appears to be centered around Gosnell's co-defendant). Meanwhile, Live Action released its third late-term abortion video yesterday, this time from a clinic in Arizona. Pull quote: "Uh, no. They do not resuscitate."
Ed Morrissey notes another revealing portion of the conversation, wherein the doctor advises her prospective "patient" not to go to the hospital if she enters premature labor:
Dr. Mercer: No, call us first…if you showed up in an average emergency room with an emergency room physician who’s not a gynecologist, probably has never seen or done a termination, they will treat you as though you are somebody with a desired pregnancy…
Investigator: So they would basically like try to take care of it.
Dr. Mercer: Right they would intervene and do all kinds of crazy things that you don’t need to have done to you…
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) says he shares colleagues’ concerns that the Affordable Care Act could become a “train wreck” if it’s not implemented properly. Reid warned that people will not be able to choose health insurance plans on government health exchanges if federal authorities lack the resources to set them up and educate the public. “Max said unless we implement this properly it’s going to be a train wreck, and I agree with him,” Reid said, echoing a warning delivered last month by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.). Reid warned the federal government is not spending enough money to implement the law because of Republican opposition to ObamaCare. “Here’s what we have now, we have the menu but we don’t have any way to get to the menu,” Reid said. “The president is taking money — I wish we had the money just to do this on its own, but he’s agreed, he’s determined he’s going to take money from some of the other things that he feels are less important in the healthcare bill and put it on letting you and others know what’s in the bill,” Reid [said].
In 2008, Oregon expanded its Medicaid program, but because the state could not cover everybody, lawmakers opened up a lottery that randomly drew 30,000 names from a waiting list of almost 90,000 and allowed them to apply for the program. This created a unique opportunity for health researchers, ultimately allowing them to compare the health outcomes of 6,387 low-income adults who were able to enroll in the program with 5,842 who were not selected. Contrary to liberal assumptions, researchers found that those who enrolled in Medicaid spent a lot more on medical care than those who weren’t able to enroll, but didn’t significantly improve their health outcomes.
Specifically, researchers found that those who received Medicaid increased their annual health care spending by $1,172, or 35 percent more than those who did not receive Medicaid. Those with Medicaid were more likely to be screened for diabetes and use diabetes medication and to make use of other preventive care measures. The study also examined health metrics including blood pressure and cholesterol. Ultimately, the authors concluded that, “This randomized, controlled study showed that Medicaid coverage generated no significant improvements in measured health outcomes in the first two years...
Righty wonks are treating this like a bombshell insofar as it might halt Democratic efforts to expand Medicaid under ObamaCare, but I don’t know. It might give confidence to Republicans in purple states, but the blue states will plow ahead. If they did ten more studies confirming this result, those would all be spun away too. This is an “identity” issue for Democrats — they’ll fight to protect the welfare state, whether it works or not, whether we can afford it or not — and as with abortion (or guns on the right), they won’t cede an inch on “slippery slope” grounds. Even if they were convinced that Medicaid isn’t worth the expense, they won’t relinquish a key political bludgeon against the right. Celebrate the result as a win for truth, but not because policy’s likely to shift dramatically.
Terry McAuliffe wants Virginians to know how much of a family man he is. Here's his campaign's warm-and-fuzzy first ad of the cycle, which isn't all that dissimilar to Republican Ken Cuccinelli's soft, biographical opening foray:
Isn't that special? The man is all about family. Except when he isn't (Dorothy is his wife):
Dorothy was starting to well up in the backseat. She was having trouble understanding how I could be taking my wife and newborn baby to a fund-raiser on our way home from the hospital. We got to the dinner and by then Dorothy was in tears, and I left her with Justin and went inside. Little Peter was sleeping peacefully and Dorothy just sat there and poor Justin didn't say a word. He was mortified. I was inside maybe fifteen minutes, said a few nice things about Marty, and hurried back out to the car. I felt bad for Dorothy, but it was a million bucks for the Democratic Party...
Hey, there were a million union dollars on the line for The Almighty Party. If it took a little discomfort for his exhausted, weeping wife and newborn son to rake in that cash, so be it. Good guy. Oh, then there's this heartwarming account:
I was going stir-crazy, which drove Dorothy nuts. 'Isn't there something you need to do?' she finally said. I told her The Washington Post was having a party that evening for Lloyd Grove, who wrote the 'Reliable Source' column. 'Go!' she said. 'You're like a caged animal here. I'll call you if I need you.' I went flying out the door and drove to the party. I kept calling Dorothy to make sure she was fine. I made the rounds at the party and ran into Marjorie Williams, who was writing a story on me for Vanity Fair, magazine. She was shocked to see me at the party. 'Isn't Dorothy having a baby today?' she asked. 'That's right,' I said, 'but she threw me out the room.' Marjorie just couldn't understand how I left Dorothy alone.
MKH snarks, "Congratulations, Terry. You’re less connected to the priorities of normal people than a Vanity Fair reporter." In case you're keeping score, that's two nights, two McAuliffe births and two glitzy parties. And both anecdotes were shared by Terry himself in his autobiography, What A Party! Super relatable, no? Keep that "million bucks" passage in mind as you read Kimberly Strassel's brutal take-down of McAuliffe's recent born-again embrace of the liberal conventional wisdom that there's -- cough -- "too much money in politics:"
This is, after all, the same Mr. McAuliffe whose entire rise through the Democratic Party ranks came through is reputation as a fundraising juggernaut. Mr. McAuliffe served as the national finance director of the Carter re-election campaign. He was director of finance for the Democratic National Committee, then director of finance for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, then chairman of finance for Dick Gephardt's president run, then chairman of finance for the Clinton-Gore re-election committee, and so on and so on, all with "finance" labels.
This is the same Mr. McAuliffe who became famous for doing anything necessary to make a buck for his side. In 1980, he wrestled a 260-pound alligator for three minutes, in order to land a $15,000 donation to the Carter campaign. As part of a campaign-finance probe, he once bragged to Senate investigators that he was "the guy who jumps out of planes and falls through burning buildings" to raise money. And to be clear: He was incredibly good at it, in particular in raising vast sums for the Clinton-Gore machine. He routinely shattered fundraising records, so much so that Mr. Gore would at one point present Mr. McAuliffe with a plaque that read: "THE GREATEST FUND-RAISER IN THE HISTORY OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION." In the post Clinton-era, when he served as the head of the DNC (2001-2005) Mr. McAuliffe would raise a record $578 million for his party.
Alas, McAuliffe's money-making talents do have some limits. For instance, in the private sector, where his now-former "green" car company is widely considered to be a massive flop. (Aren't they all)? And for those Virginia voters who were taken in by Democrats' alarmist warnings about Mitt Romney's (non-existent) corporate outsourcing, "nefarious" Caribbean tax shelters, and unreleased tax returns, McAuliffe should be positively radioactive. At least Bain Capital never filed intimidation lawsuits against news organizations for reporting uncomfortable facts about their business dealings. Basically, McAuliffe has all of Romney's political vulnerabilities on this front, but without the success. No wonder some Virginia Democrats are already grousing about the man who will top their ticket in November.
UPDATE - Seriously, what is up with Terry McAuliffe and the birth of his children? This is a separate incident, involving a separate child:
Dorothy was suffering through the pain of labor and the doctors and I were having a heated argument. "Do you want socialized medicine?" the anesthesiologist asked me, his voice rising. "Of course not," I said. "However, there are thirty-seven million uninsured people in this country with no access to health care. Is that fair?" I was almost shouting by then and began to worry that in his first moments on earth, poor little Jack was going to have his mind seared for life with this health-care debate. "And last year we spent $45 billion on administrative costs," I said. "That's not providing health care. That's pushing paper. You call that efficient?" We were making so much noise that we got kicked out of the delivery room by a nurse...
(Photo credit: Flickr)
I guess I wasn't alone in my assessment of the president's rambling, defensive presser on Tuesday. Stick around until the tail end of this clip for the White House's feeble defense:
"A White House official told me that the real source of the president's juice is the American people. And on the big issues, this White House believes -- big issues like guns, immigration and the budget -- public opinion is with the president."
Federal Budget Deficit: 38% Approve, 58% DisapproveIllegal Immigration: 44% Approve, 50% DisapproveGun Policy: 45% Approve, 52% Disapprove
Veteran mainstream media journalist Ron Fournier wasn't impressed by Obama's performance either, suggesting the president channeled a Democratic predecessor's "worst day" in office with his "pack up and go home" remark:
A president is in trouble when he’s forced to defend his relevancy, as Bill Clinton did 18 years ago, or to quote Mark Twain, as Barack Obama did Tuesday. “Rumors of my demise,” he said at a news conference, “may be a little exaggerated at this point.” Not wrong--just “exaggerated.” Not forever--just “at this point.” Parsing aside, Obama channeled Clinton’s April 18, 1995, news conference by projecting a sense of helplessness--or even haplessness--against forces seemingly out of a president’s control.
Liberal New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd is none too pleased with Obama these days ("lame duck"), as well -- although a significant element of her beef is about Guantanamo Bay, a subject on which she and the president hold an extreme position. But at least the public is "with the president" on those other issues...
UPDATE - Two more data points from a new Q-Poll. Obama's now underwater on guns by double-digits (41/52), and support for a path to citizenship has dropped to a bare majority. How 'bout a vote on the president's budget, Senate Democrats?
Two of the three men taken into custody today in connection with the Boston marathon bombings are being charged with obstruction of justice, having allegedly helped destroy or hide evidence that could further implicate their friend, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. The two non-citizens are also in the United States unlawfully, and one even managed to re-enter the country in late January despite his illegal status. CNN's Jake Tapper reports, first on the apparent crime itself:
A U.S. government official tells CNN that the three students in law enforcement custody Wednesday are two students from Kazakhstan, Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov, and another student, U.S. citizen Robel Phillipos. The official says that their case reveals more holes in information sharing. Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov are being charged with obstruction of justice. Complaints from the U.S. Attorney Office say they helped destroy evidence that might further implicate Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in the April 15 terrorist attacks at the Boston Marathon, namely disposing of a backpack containing fireworks and a laptop belonging to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. The complaints say Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov "admitted that they agreed to get rid of [the backpack] after concluding from news reports that Tsarnaev was one of the Boston Marathon bombers."
That final, important detail differs from their previous claim that they agreed to ditch Dzhokhar's items without understanding the full context of his request. Allahpundit explains why that excuse wouldn't have washed anyway: "There’s really no innocent explanation for doing a friend a solid when he asks you to throw his computer in the trash right away and no, he won’t be around for awhile to do it himself." Onward, to the immigration angle:
Kadyrbayev, Tazhayakov and the third student were interviewed by the FBI on Friday, April 19, four days after the bombing, after law enforcement learned the identity of the Tsarnaev brothers. The interview, the official said, lasted late into the evening and into Saturday morning. But there wasn’t enough evidence to charge them with a crime. It wasn’t until the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement division heard about the interviews later on Saturday that they realized Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov were not currently of legal immigration status, and ICE officials went to pick them up and detain them.
The first US government official told CNN that at an immigration court hearing this morning, the court learned that Tazhayakov returned to Kazakhstan in December 2012, and his status with U. Mass-Dartmouth was terminated on January 3. Yet somehow he was allowed to return into the U.S. on January 20. “They shouldn’t have let him in,” the first official told CNN. “Bells should have gone off.”
They shouldn't have, but they did. How many more of these "bells" also haven't gone off across the country, one must wonder? Which brings us to our political Rorschach test of the week: Do these new developments prove that immigration reform is urgently needed, or that we should slow things down and view the effort more skeptically? Both sides of this debate will seize on today's report as vindication for their agenda, but it'll be interesting how the public reacts. 'Gang of Eight' supporters will point out that their bill mandates beefed up visa tracking at entry/exit points across the country, which theoretically would have blocked Tazhayakov from re-entering the US a few months ago. Opponents will correctly note that a robust regime of increased visa enforcement was passed by Congress 17 years ago (and reaffirmed several times since), but hasn't been properly enforced. Pass all the laws you want -- if the federal government can't or won't enforce them, what's the point? To that end, it looks like Marco Rubio is inching closer to backing more stringent border security measures these days, admitting candidly that his own bill probably doesn't stand a chance of passing the GOP-held House. And since we've already touched on two hot-button issues in this post -- terrorism and immigration -- why not toss in a third? Seventy percent of Americans support the death penalty for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev if he's convicted, including large majorities of Democrats, Independents and Republicans. The only group that's even close to evenly split? African-Americans, with a 52/43 spread in favor of executing the terrorist suspect.
UPDATE - In case you missed it yesterday, the Tsarnaev family reportedly received more than $100,000 in taxpayer-funded welfare assistance over the years, including $5,500 in college aid for Tamerlan. You're welcome, guys.
An attorney for at least one would-be Benghazi whistle-blower told a Beltway radio host this morning that the Obama administration is deliberately obstructing justice to prevent her client from taking the requisite legal steps to reveal classified information in Congressional testimony. In an interview with WMAL's Chris Plante, Victoria Toensing contended that the Obama State Department's actions violate both civil and criminal law. At issue is her client's current inability to freely discuss his or her knowledge of the case with Toensing, which she called an imperative step in the process. Some of the pertinent information this individual wishes to divulge was gleaned during classified briefings, and therefore cannot legally be imparted to anyone below a certain security clearance level. Toensing, who served as a Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Reagan administration, has held numerous high-level clearances throughout her career, but isn't being "given the time of day" now that she's requesting one on this matter. Receiving such a clearance is central to her ability to zealously represent her client, she said; the venerable Washington attorney is seeking to shield her client against any legal ramifications that may arise from "going public." Toensing wouldn't comment on the identity of the person she's representing, beyond the fact that he or she is a career State Department employee based on the East Coast. The key is what her client knows:
Toensing disclosed that her client has pertinent information on all three time periods investigators consider relevant to the attacks: the months that led up to September 11, when pleas by the ambassador and his staff for enhanced security in Benghazi were mostly rejected by senior officers at the State Department; the eight-hour time frame in which the attacks unfolded; and the eight-day period that followed the attacks, when Obama administration officials falsely described them as the result of a spontaneous protest over a video.
She also confirmed that a Special Ops whistle-blower who spoke anonymously to Fox News earlier this week is not her client. That official -- who reportedly lives on the West Coast -- alleges that the US government could have deployed at least two different "asset" groups to intervene in Benghazi prior to the second wave of the attack, during which terrorists claimed two more American lives:
The U.S. government had the ability to “react and respond” to the Benghazi terrorist attack and could have had forces on the ground before the second wave of the assault began, a special operator with knowledge of the response told Fox News in an exclusive interview. Due to the explosive nature of his allegations, the special ops member asked to remain anonymous. “I know for a fact that C 110, the EUCOM CIF, was doing a training exercise, not in the region of northern Africa, but in Europe. And they had the ability to react and respond,” he told Fox News.
How very "Cornball Brother" of him:
In a land of freedom we are held hostage by the tyranny of political correctness— Robert Griffin III (@RGIII) April 30, 2013
God help me, but this guy may convert me into a 'Skins fan yet. RGIII's tweet is relevant and interesting for several reasons. First, his simple and powerful affront against society's PC bullies prompted...a nasty spate of PC bullying. A tiny sampling, courtesy of Twitchy:
Oh shut up. RT @rgiii In a land of freedom, we are held hostage by the tyranny of political correctness.— Aaron Nagler (@Aaron_Nagler) April 30, 2013
You privileged jackass. RT @rgiii: In a land of freedom we are held hostage by the tyranny of political correctness— Chemmy (@felixpotvin) April 30, 2013
...and my personal favorite, via a Media Matters goon:
dont do this. RT @rgiii In a land of freedom we are held hostage by the tyranny of political correctness— Oliver Willis (@owillis) April 30, 2013
Don't do this, Griffin. Don't you go and say things I don't like, and that may be offensive to some people. Ace's take is pitch-perfect:
RGIII: We live in a PC regime where people aren't allowed to speak their minds The Left: That's a lie, take it back, or we'll boycott— DepressiveBlogger69 (@AceofSpadesHQ) April 30, 2013
The other intruiging element of this tempest is what prompted Griffin's statement. Was it this inane errand by Washington DC's nattering city council? (National Reviewseems to think so). Or was it Jason Collins-mania, wherein an NBA center has received massive media attention and adulation for coming out as gay? During an on-air conversation about the matter, ESPN NBA analyst Chris Broussard espoused a fairly orthodox Christian worldview on homosexuality, drawing gales of criticism from other media personalities:
“I’m a Christian. I don’t agree with homosexuality. I think it’s a sin, as I think all sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman is. [ESPN's] L.Z. [Granderson] knows that. He and I have played on basketball teams together for several years. We’ve gone out, had lunch together, we’ve had good conversations, good laughs together. He knows where I stand and I know where he stands. I don’t criticize him, he doesn’t criticize me, and call me a bigot, call me ignorant, call me intolerant. In talking to some people around the league, there’s a lot Christians in the NBA and just because they disagree with that lifestyle, they don’t want to be called bigoted and intolerant and things like that. That’s what LZ was getting at.
Just like I may tolerate someone whose lifestyle I disagree with, he can tolerate my beliefs. He disagrees with my beliefs and my lifestyle but true tolerance and acceptance is being able to handle that as mature adults and not criticize each other and call each other names… Personally, I don’t believe that you can live an openly homosexual lifestyle or an openly premarital sex between heterosexuals, if you’re openly living that type of lifestyle, then the Bible says you know them by their fruits, it says that’s a sin. If you’re openly living in unrepentant sin, whatever it may be, not just homosexuality, adultery, fornication, premarital sex between heterosexuals, whatever it may be, I believe that’s walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ. I would not characterize that person as a Christian because I do not think the Bible would characterize them as a Christian."
One can agree or disagree with that statement of beliefs, but it's a real strain to characterize Broussard's words as mean-spirited or bigoted. Nevertheless, ESPN was pressured into issuing a quasi-apology for the exchange, calling it a "distraction." A distraction from what, exactly? The conversation was specifically about a basketball player who chose to publicize his sexuality. In response, one commentator offered his critical, but respectful, views on the general subject amtter. That's not a distraction, it's a viewpoint on the relevant topic. Still, ESPN wanted to make sure that everyone understood that they are "fully committed to diversity." Except, perhaps, moral and intellectual diversity. In fairness, the network did not repudiate Broussard's comment -- which, they allowed, was part of a "respectful discussion." CBS Sportscaster Tim Brando also ignited a firestorm by daring to suggest that Collins isn't a "hero" for revealing his sexual orientation:
I called Jason and his brothers games in the NCAA's and was happy for him upon being drafted. He is good guy. Good for him. Hero? No sorry.— Tim Brando (@TimBrando) April 29, 2013
.@amandabusick bravery doesen't automatically translate to heroism.I'm sorry there's a difference.My Godpeople wake up!Enough it's a choice— Tim Brando (@TimBrando) April 29, 2013
I agree that what Collins did was brave. To step up and make that announcement in the macho world of pro sports takes some courage. And I disagree with those who wave the episode off as a total non-story. Being the first active (ie, non-retired) American athlete from a "big four" sport to come out of the closet isn't nothing. But I also agree with Brando's statement that "hero" gets tossed around far too liberally, and that Collins' decision simply doesn't rise to that level. Incidentally, Brando later clarified that his "it's a choice" codicil dealt with the choice to go public, and had no bearing on the debate over whether homosexuality is a choice. In light of the Broussard/Brando pile-on, Griffin may have been making a statement in favor of free speech and expression. If that's what he was getting at, endorsed.
And that's not even the worst of it. Fully 42 percent (!) of Americans don't even realize that Obamacare is the law of the land. Wishful thinking, or ignorance? I'll go with door number two, which in this case probably doesn't have too many conservatives behind it. Jim Geraghty snarks, "How do we know the media is downplaying the problems in implementing Obamacare? When 40 percent of Americans are unaware that the law is in place." Nevertheless, approval of the president's top legislative "accomplishment" has plunged to its second-lowest point in three years. Politico reports:
“Obamacare’s popularity has plunged steadily since November, according to monthly polling … by the Kaiser Family Foundation. … statistically tied with its lowest level of support since it passed in March 2010. … The poll … found that just 35 percent of Americans view Obamacare ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ favorably, down 8 points since Election Day. Only once since the law passed has support run lower … 34 percent … in October 2011. … The poll found that with just a few months until the key coverage expansion provisions go into effect, more than 40 percent of Americans don’t know it’s on the books. About half of that group believes it’s been repealed by Congress or overturned by the Supreme Court, and the rest aren’t sure.”
In terms of the law’s political future, just over half of Americans (53 percent) continue to say that they approve of efforts by opponents to change or stop the law “so it has less impact on taxpayers, employers, and health care providers”, a view which theoretically encompasses a range of positions from hard-core repeal supporters to those who believe the law only needs minor tweaks. One in three (including more than half of Democrats) believe that the law’s opponents should accept that it is the law of the land and stop trying to block its implementation, down somewhat from January (33 percent now compared to 40 percent at the start of the year).
Democrats are fretting that Obamacare is going to crush their hopes of big gains in the midterm elections, just like it cost them the House in 2010. And as bad-news headlines and big-time dips in the polls pile up, the signs of anxiety are starting to show. On Monday night, South Carolina’s Elizabeth Colbert Busch, a favorite of the Democratic left, couldn't get away from the law fast enough, calling Obamacare “extremely problematic” — a quote that got wide play from GOP groups like the National Republican Senatorial Committee...All the panic forced President Barack Obama to rush to the law's defense, saying at a news conference Tuesday: “Even if we do everything perfectly, there'll still be, you know, glitches and bumps. … And that's pretty much true of every government program that's ever been set up.” Obama’s goal was to dismiss what he called “all the hue and cry and, you know, sky-is-falling predictions about this stuff.” Don't bet on that happening. Democrats have been fretting about the law since it passed, and they're not exactly falling in love with it now either.
Yes, please. He wasn't serious, of course; he was responding to a question from ABC's Jonathan Karl, who essentially asked him if he still has the political juice to accomplish anything these days. A few thoughts on the president's performance this morning, issue by issue:
Syria - The president was asked about his administration's non-response to Syria's use of chemical weapons -- which was the "red line" standard his administration erected months ago. They repeated this line often, but reportedly now regret ever establishing it. Here's Obama "clarifying" what he meant by calling WMD deployment a game-changer: “By game changer I mean that we would have to rethink the range of options that are available to us.” How that changes the game in any practical sense is a complete mystery. As I wrote last week, the administration has no good options in Syria, and I'm not convinced that we should intervene militarily. But "red-line" threats from the Commander-in-Chief of the United States of America must hold substantial weight. By talking big then backing down, Obama has sent a muddled message to outlaw regimes in Damascus and beyond, while projecting weakness and reluctance to friends and foes alike.
Benghazi - Katie's got you covered, but I wanted to add my two cents as well. The president plead ignorance on the explosive allegations that Benghazi survivors and potential whistle-blowers have been intimidated into silence by his administration. We can probably go ahead and assume that he is also "not familiar" with the provocative report released by House investigators last week (with more major hearings to come). But let's focus on what the president did say about Benghazi today:
“Our job, with respect to Benghazi, has been to find out exactly what happened, to make sure that U.S. embassies – not just in the Middle East but around the world – are safe and secure, and to bring those who carried it out to justice."
We're approaching eight months since dozens of terrorists overran our consulate and murdered four Americans, including our sitting Ambassador, yet the president is recycling his status-quo rhetoric from last September. Obama says it's his "job" to determine what happened and carry out justice. His administration is working to obstruct testimony to the former end, and has made zero arrests in pursuit of the latter.
Sequester - To the surprise of nobody, the president attempted to blame his sequester on his political opponents. Maybe the three-thousandth time is the charm on that approach. Stephen Hayes offers a quick and dirty history of Obama's nuanced relationship with his own program of cuts:
Obama: (1) proposed the sequester, (2) threatened to veto any attempt to avoid it, (3) ignored warnings about its consequences for months,— Stephen Hayes (@stephenfhayes) April 30, 2013
(4) promised it wouldn’t happen, (5) pledged to pay legal fees of federal employees if it did, (6) complained he had too little flexibility,— Stephen Hayes (@stephenfhayes) April 30, 2013
(7) rejected Republican efforts to give him more flexibility, and then, (8) predicted calamity once the cuts he’d championed went through.— Stephen Hayes (@stephenfhayes) April 30, 2013
I'd also add stage (9), when people recognized the White House's pain game for what it was, and Democrats lost this battle. Obama is finally poised to sign the FAA flexibility bill, but he made clear to today that he's not happy about it. The American people remain perfectly comfortable with the sequester's miniscule spending reductions. Just over one-third believe the "cuts" are harming the economy.
Guantanamo - Again, check out Katie's post on this subject. The president has been talking about closing the terrorist detention facility for at least six years, and renewed his commitment to shuttering the prison today. He called it "unsustainable," which isn't true. It's quite sustainable, actually -- and has been sustained rather well since it opened its doors to hardened jihadists in 2002. If Obama meant it isn't morally sustainable, that's another argument. He expressed concern about the ongoing prisoner hunger strike at the facility. Evidently, he'd rather see terrorists die pre-interrogation via drone strike than post-interrogation via hunger strike. A strange calculus. The president's dreams of closing down Gitmo have been stymied and stifled at every turn by members of both parties; he's far out of the mainstream on this issue. Indeed, a majority (53 percent) of self-described liberal Democrats support keeping Guantanamo Bay open, alongside 70 percent of the overall public.
Obamacare - This may have been Obama's most fascinating response. Asked about the negative reviews pouring in from members of his own party, the legislation's key author, and the program's top administrator, the president's effective answer was, "nothing to see here, folks." He actually argued that the vast majority of Americans are already enjoying Obamacare's wonderful benefits, ahem, "even if they don't know it yet:"
He returned to this refrain several times, basically arguing that most of the law has been implemented, and that the tough part is over for people who currently have insurance. This claim was too much for even for a New York Times correspondent to stomach:
Whoa, Obama claim that folks who have insurance now have already gone through the ACA implementation is just not rt. Lots of issues left— Jonathan Weisman (@jonathanweisman) April 30, 2013
Immigration - The president talked a lot without saying very much, which was probably politically shrewd. The more he inserts himself into that legislative effort, the less likely passage becomes. When President Obama doesn't have a filibuster-proof Senate majority and Speaker Pelosi, he's not very good at getting much of anything done.
The plot thickens, again (via the WSJ):
Investigators have found female DNA on at least one of the bombs used in the Boston Marathon attacks, though they haven't determined whose DNA it is or whether that means a woman helped the two suspects carry out the attacks, according to U.S. officials briefed on the probe. The officials familiar with the case cautioned that there could be multiple explanations for why the DNA of someone other than the two bombing suspects—Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his younger brother, Dzhokhar—could have been found on remnants of the exploded devices. The genetic material could have come, for example, from a store clerk who handled materials used in the bombs or a stray hair that ended up in the bomb.
Innocent third party, or maleveolent co-conspirator? US authorities are on the case. If you're thinking, "what about Tamerlan's wife, who reportedly wasn't all that surprised to hear about her late husband's heinous acts?" you're not alone. The FBI had the very same thought:
On Monday, Federal Bureau of Investigation agents were seen leaving the Rhode Island home of the parents of Katherine Russell, the widow of Tamerlan Tsarnaev. The elder brother died after a shootout with police four days after the April 15 bombings. Ms. Russell has been staying with her parents since the bombings, and FBI agents have been seen posted outside the home since her late husband was identified as one of the bombers. Her lawyer has said she is "doing everything she can to assist with the investigation." One official familiar with the case said agents went to the house Monday to collect a DNA sample from Ms. Russell, the culmination of days of negotiations. FBI officials also have been negotiating with Ms. Russell's attorney in recent days to get fuller access to question her, the officials familiar with the case said. The officials briefed on the investigation said the DNA request was needed to determine whether it matched the DNA found on the bomb remnants.
Dear old mom might be at the top of my list, too, if she weren't living thousands of miles away. Prior to shutting down post-Miranda warning, Dzhokhar told investigators that he and his brother acted alone. There are plenty of reasons to be dubious of that claim. First, experts say the technical complexity of the bombs they constructed betray a fair degree of expertise. Tamerlan may have gained all the requisite, sophisticated know-how during his infamous six-month visit to Dagestan, or they might have had some extra help. Second, there's all the chatter about additional "persons of interest" being sought in the case, the series of arrests and detainings in New Bedford, and the mystery of "Misha" the unidentified radical. None of these elements point two a simple two-man operation. Third, I'm deeply distrustful of the younger brother's storyline. He's supposedly telling everyone who will listen that the whole plot was cooked up by his older brother, which may be true, but also seems awfully convenient. Sure, Tamerlan was known to family members as the more aggressive radical, but Dzhokhar ran him over with his getaway car on the heels of the brothers' intense fire-fight with cops. And Dzhokhar was the one who had the calculating presence of mind to tweet misleading messages to deflect any suspicion from himself in the immediate wake of the attack. And he was the one who casually swung by a campus kegger within hours of murdering three people and wounding hundreds. This 19-year-old isn't just some wide-eyed kid who got caught up with the wrong crowd. He's an insanely cold, ruthless operator in his own right. The point is that if Dzhokhar says he and his brother received no outside assistance, nobody should simply take him at his word -- especially in light of the female DNA evidence. It seems as though American authorities are doing no such thing, which is good. Too bad their interrogation process was short-circuited by a quasi-judge:
Now the news comes that the person who actually read the Miranda warning to Tsarnaev wasn't even an FBI agent, but a U.S. magistrate judge (magistrate judges are sort of like junior federal judges -- they are appointed by the courts to assist them, but they are not real judges, and are subject to revision by real federal judges). This is an outright violation of the separation of powers. It is not for federal judges, or worse yet their assistants, to rove around looking for criminal cases in which to act as law enforcement agents. The decision whether to read Miranda lies up to the executive branch. The right of the courts to affect the warnings and conditions of interrogation stems only from their control over the criminal trial of the suspect. Miranda itself is only a declaration by the courts that they will exclude from evidence any confessions received without a warning.
The immediate drama is over, but this case is most certainly not.
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