The latest Fox News poll on immigration is a fount of interesting -- and seemingly contradictory -- political data. Let's dig in. First thing's first:
Border security is another aspect of this issue, and opinions are changing. Nearly twice as many voters say border security is at the right level today (32 percent) as said so in 2010 (18 percent). Still, the poll finds 60 percent of voters think it is not strict enough, and another 68 percent want new border security measures to be completed before changes to immigration policies. Republicans (75 percent) are more likely than Democrats (66 percent) to say new security should be done first.
The real headline here is that two-thirds of Democrats back a "border security first" approach, which the most ardent advocates for "comprehensive" reform have resisted for years. The 'Gang of Eight' pact ostensibly addresses this point by erecting a series of security triggers along the path to amnesty, but for reasons I've explicated over the last two weeks, I'm skeptical about the efficacy of those benchmarks. I'm not alone. From a separate national survey:
But the poll found that only 23 percent of the likely 2014 voters surveyed believe that the government will actually be able secure the border, whereas 53 percent believe it will not. The immigration bill also aims to prevent newly legalized residents from going directly on government assistance and living at taxpayer expense. But 49 percent of those surveyed believe the government will be unable to prevent this from happening.
The fact is, Americans have heard a string of promises about immigration reform and border enforcement from their elected officials for many years -- yet the problem endures, to put things charitably. 'Gang' backers face another PR headwind: Overall trust in the federal government is scraping the bottom of the barrel, skepticism that's no doubt been spurred by failed and wasteful programs like the "stimulus," and a deteriorating healthcare law:
Just 28% rate the federal government in Washington favorably. That is down five points from a year ago and the lowest percentage ever in a Pew Research Center survey. The percentage of Democrats expressing a favorable opinion of the federal government has declined 10 points in the past year, from 51% to 41%. For the first time since Barack Obama became president, more Democrats say they have an unfavorable view of the federal government in Washington than a favorable view (51% unfavorable vs. 41% favorable). Favorable opinions of the federal government among Republicans, already quite low in 2012 (20% favorable), have fallen even further, to 13% currently.
People don't trust the federal government to do much of anything competently, let alone fix a perennial problem that Washington has failed to adequately address for decades. Reports like this about shifting goalposts and slippery standards don't help matters either. Back to the Fox poll for a moment, which includes some additional nuggets. In spite of their deep-seated cynicism, Americans overwhelmingly endorse (78/21) a path to citizenship for most illegals who are currently in the country, presumably after the border issues are resolved. But is that welcoming spirit running on empty? This is eye-opening:
More than half say we should cut the number of legal immigrants allowed into the United States. A just-released Fox News poll finds 55 percent of voters think fewer legal immigrants should be accepted into the U.S. That’s up from 43 percent in 2010. Majorities of Republicans (67 percent) and independents (53 percent) as well as a plurality of Democrats (47 percent) want to decrease legal immigration. Overall, 28 percent of voters say the U.S. should increase legal immigration.
Hasn't the mantra always been, "more legal immigration, less illegal immigration"? Apparently not, and I must say that I'm a little dismayed by this result. America has always been a nation of immigrants, and embracing those who come here in accordance with our laws has strengthened us throughout our history. We should enthusiastically welcome educated and skilled workers in particular, yet less than a third of our citizens share that view, evidently. At the same time, the poll reflected fairly positive views of immigrants overall, with a majority of respondents (50/38) asserting the belief that immigrants benefit the country. A few more take-aways from the survey:
- President Obama has slipped deeper underwater on the issue, with 39 percent approving of his performance and 51 percent disapproving.
- A plurality of Americans say illegal immigration is a bigger problem today than it was five years ago (when Obama took office), nearly five times the number of those who responded that things have improved.
- Despite all the recent discussion of immigration and guns within the Beltway, these issues aren't priorities for the public. Only four percent of Americans identify immigration reform as the top issue facing the nation; five percent say the same of gun control.
I'll leave you with this:
That's a new television ad from a group called "Americans for a Conservative Direction." It's airing in six states (Texas, Florida, Utah, North Carolina, Iowa and Kentucky), and urges conservatives to stand behind the bipartisan proposal -- casting it as a super-tough border enforcement plan. Will the Right bite? If National Review's editors are any indication, it's going to be a tough sell. I share several of the concerns laid out in NR's editorial and hope to address a number of them in a one-on-one interview with Sen. Rubio later today. Stay tuned...
Let's begin with the unambiguous promise that undergirded Barack Obama's "fairness" philosophy over two presidential campaigns:
"I can make this firm pledge. Under my plan, no family making less than $250,000 per year will see any form of tax increase. Not your income tax. Not your payroll tax. Not your capital gains taxes. Not any of your taxes."
Obama has already violated this vow on numerous occasions, especially through Obamacare and its central mandate tax. According to a new nonpartisan analysis, the president's FY 2014 budget would drive another stake through the heart of his "firm pledge" to middle class voters:
President Obama’s budget would raise taxes mainly on people earning more than $200,000 a year, although earners at nearly every income level would face a somewhat higher tax burden, according to a new nonpartisan analysis. The study by the Tax Policy Center finds that in 2015, 86 percent of the increase in taxes would be borne by people earning $200,000 or more a year. That would largely be a result of dramatically scaling back tax breaks that disproportionately benefit the wealthy and establishing a minimum level of taxation for people who earn $1 million a year. But the study also finds that some Americans of more modest backgrounds would face more taxes...The increase in taxes on middle-class earners is notable because both political parties have said that they do not want to raise taxes on people earning less than $200,000 a year. The president’s budget was released this month but is not expected to be taken up by Congress anytime soon. “We knew the president wanted to raise additional revenue focused on high-income folks,” said Donald Marron, director of the Tax Policy Center. “The old idea of not raising taxes on people earning below $200,000 and $250,000 seems to have gone away.”
Now that Obama has been re-elected, he no longer has to worry about the prospect of facing voters. This affords him the luxury of enjoying the post-election "flexibility" he's touted in the past -- and on which he's followed through. In addition to an abstruse shift in tax formulas affecting personal exemptions and the standard deduction, the bulk of Obama's proposed lower-income tax increase comes in the form of new tobacco taxes, which we've discussed previously. This is a sharply regressive tax that disproportionately affects the poor. The administration claims the tax's receipts would simultaneously discourage people from smoking and provide a viable long-term funding mechanism for a federal universal pre-K program. Policy analysts on both sides of the spectrum have concluded that the math won't work. This new levy comes in addition to Obama's 2009 cigarette tax. His overall FY '14 tax hike package is layered on top of $1.6 trillion in previous tax increases he's already imposed. Obama's budget calls for approximately $1.1 trillion in new taxes, nearly double the amount that the White House has stated publicly. Obama's desired tax hikes on the lower and middle class appear to be a baby step toward the fiscal scenario articulated by former DNC Chairman Howard Dean: Significantly higher taxes for everyone, to partially keep pace with runaway Washington spending.
Good news, bad news here. First, the news itself:
Montana Sen. Max Baucus will not seek reelection in 2014, becoming the latest senior red-state Democrat to bail out of a potentially difficult reelection campaign, a senior Democratic official confirmed to POLITICO. Baucus, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, had nearly $5 million in the bank at the end of the first quarter but was expected to face a tough fight in his GOP-leaning home state.
The good news is that Baucus joins a growing list of red and purple-state Democrats who aren't interested in facing voters next year, increasing Republicans' chances of making significant gains in the upper chamber. The GOP needs to net six seats to seize the Senate -- still a very tall task, but one that's made easier by this roster:
Baucus joins colleagues Tim Johnson of South Dakota, Tom Harkin of Iowa, Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, Carl Levin of Michigan and Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey in exiting the 2014 race. His Montana seat is likely to be one of the toughest on that list for Democrats to defend.
Of these open races, Republicans simply must have at least three of the following four seats to have a prayer of displacing Harry Reid as majority leader: Johnson's, Harkin's, Rockefeller's, and now Baucus'. The plan would also require knocking off a string of vulnerable incumbents, including North Carolina's Kay Hagan, Arkansas' Mark Pryor, Louisiana's Mary Landrieu, and Alaska's Mark Begich. Of the eight Senators listed, seven represent states carried by Mitt Romney last fall (Iowa being the lone exception). So the good news from a conservative perspective is that the tracherous road for the DSCC is getting tougher, and a realistic path to a GOP majority is at least in sight. Baucus was re-elected in 2008, carrying 73 percent of the vote and winning every county in the state. The fact that he's languishing in the mid-40s (see below) demonstrates how far he's fallen. The bad news? Baucus may actually have been easier to supplant as an incumbent. Democratic sources in the state tell me that the senior Senator isn't especially popular back home, a fact underscored by a recent poll that showed former Democratic Governor Brian Schweitzer leading Baucus in a potential primary match-up. Schweitzer posted the results on his Facebook page, fueling speculation that he was considering a run at Baucus and perhaps chasing the incumbent from the race. Schweitzer is well-liked in Montana, and could make it harder for Republicans to pick off the seat if he decides to run, which looks more likely than ever. For context, Mitt Romney won Montana by 14 points last year, but Tester managed to hang on by four points, despite voters' disapproval of Barack Obama. Nevertheless, Republicans have four elements in their favor at the moment: (1) Indecision on the other side, (2) a national discussion about gun control -- anathema to Montana voters that could allow the GOP to nationalize the election there, (3) a president who's very unpopular in the state, and (4) several potential candidates who are effectively tied with Schweitzer in hypothetical match-ups:
A February survey from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling found that Baucus was polling in the mid-40s and trailing both GOP Rep. Steve Daines and former Gov. Marc Racicot in general election matches. Schweitzer was effectively tied with both top-tier Republicans in the same poll, leading Daines by 3 points and following Racicot by 1 point.
For his part, Schweitzer seemed to rule out a Senate run last year, taking a pointed shot at the institution: "I am not goofy enough to be in the House, and I'm not senile enough to be in the Senate." Schweitzer attracted negative attention for telling an out-of-state group of trial lawyers that he used his power as governor to exert ethically-questionable influence on the electoral process to help secure Sen. Jon Tester's narrow 2006 victory over Republican Conrad Burns. Schweitzer claims he was joking. He also told an Ohio group that many of his state's voters are "racists" and "rednecks." Baucus recently described Obamacare's implementation as a "huge train wreck." He was a key co-author of the 2010 law. Aides say that because Baucus is liberated from his re-election struggle, he can focus on pushing for comprehensive tax reform, free from partisan pressures. I'll leave you with the NRSC's statement on the race:
"Just days after calling ObamaCare a 'train wreck,' its architect Max Baucus waved the white flag rather than face voters. ObamaCare has gone from being an ‘abstract’ discussion to a real life pain for workers and families, which has Democratic candidates like Bruce Braley, Mark Pryor, Mark Begich and Kay Hagan backpedaling. Vulnerable Democrats will face voters just as ObamaCare's tax hikes, mandates, fees, penalties, and red tape bureaucracy take shape over the next eight months, and Senator Baucus' retirement reflects that political reality. The 2014 electoral map is in free–fall for Democrats, who were already facing a daunting challenge."
If the GOP has a big cycle next year, it will share one major theme with 2010's tidal wave: Obamacare.
A few days old, but worth flagging anyway. As conservative debate over the 'Gang of Eight' proposal begins in earnest, Democrats are reportedly pleasantly surprised by the contents of the legislation:
The Senate’s Gang of Eight delivered an immigration overhaul bill this week that was far more generous to their constituencies than Democrats and Hispanic activists expected. The pre-bill marketing campaign — driven by leaks that seemed to come from Republican negotiators — focused on stringent new border-control measures and a long, difficult path to citizenship. The goal was to minimize conservative opposition by creating a first impression of the bill as a tough solution to the country’s illegal immigration problem. But when Democrats got a look at the 844-page measure, they discovered that their negotiators extracted more concessions than they thought possible. Those include an expansive version of the DREAM Act and subtle but meaningful tradeoffs on all the major pieces of the system, from family reunification to legalization and border security. Democrats are reluctant to sound too positive, fearing that would scare away Republicans. Their official response to the bill has been muted, with one press release after another calling it a starting point that must be improved. Yet that description, while an accurate reflection of their political strategy heading into the debate, understates the extent to which Democrats believe their side made off with more policy victories than it could’ve predicted.
Why are liberals quietly celebrating? Policy specifics. GOP negotiators extracted some concessions, but Democrats engineered a plan that offers a generous and immediate amnesty* [see update] to millions:
Republicans succeeded in making the path to legalization contingent upon the government meeting border security benchmarks, prohibiting undocumented immigrants from accessing federal benefits even as they pay taxes, blocking a provision to allow foreign spouses of same-sex couples to apply for visas, and creating a temporary worker program. But in return, Democrats got what Mary Giovagnoli, a former Kennedy immigration aide and director of the Immigration Policy Center, called an “extremely generous legalization program.” Advocates don’t like the 10-year waiting period for legal permanent status or the provision that prevents immigrants who entered the country after Dec. 31, 2011, from being eligible for legalization. Democratic negotiators sought a cut-off date of at least Dec. 31, 2012. But the $2,000 in fines are much lower than the 2006 and 2007 bills. The employment requirements are more flexible than expected. And border-security requirements aren’t as arbitrary as immigrant advocates expected, allaying fears that they could be used to block the path to citizenship.
Immigrants who have already been deported may apply for legal status from the outside the U.S. if their spouses or children are citizens or green-card holders — a significant concession to advocates upset about hundreds of thousands of deportations on President Barack Obama’s watch. Immigrants barred from gaining the provisional legal status because of a criminal record from long-ago offenses can seek a waiver. The bill contains a far more expansive version of the DREAM Act than Congress has ever considered. Undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country as children would have to wait only five years to receive a green card, and they could immediately apply for citizenship. By contrast, a 2010 bill that nearly passed the Senate included a 16-year path to citizenship and barred anyone older than 30 from applying. There is no age cap in the Gang of Eight bill.
Placing my cards on the table: I'm in favor of immigration reform, and I want to trust Marco Rubio and others on these issues. But implementing bad policy could be worse than doing nothing, and I'm generally concerned that this package will prove to be unbalanced, ineffectual, and unenforceable. This assessment stems from questions about the border enforcement "triggers" and additional requirements, some of which seem hopelessly toothless. The Examiner's Byron York combed through the bill itself and discovered that several of the toughest-sounding measures aren't even in the legislative language:
It sounded tough, intended to convince skeptical conservatives that reform would be based on stringent border security. But as it turns out, the structure Gang sources described is simply not in the bill. The bill requires that the head of the Government Accountability Office then review the report to determine whether the Commission’s recommendations are likely to work and what they will cost. And then — the process stops. “The Commission shall terminate 30 days after the date on which the report is submitted,” says the bill. There is nothing about the Commission going from “being an advisory panel to a policy-making one.” The strict trigger that Gang sources advertised as being in the bill just isn’t there. Finally, even after the bill was released, a leading Gang member, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, stressed that the Commission would not be a Washington-centric panel, the kind that are so common and so ineffective that they are the butt of jokes...The bill specifies that the Commission will have ten members. Two will be appointed by the president. One will be chosen by the Majority Leader of the Senate, and another by the Minority Leader. (Formally, both will be appointed by the President pro tempore of the Senate.) Another one will be chosen by the Speaker of the House and one by the House Minority Leader. And the other four, one from each border state — California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas — will either be the governor of the state or someone the governor designates. So that is six Washington-based appointments and four border state appointments, which may or may not be the border state governors.
Not a single one of these drawbacks is political in nature, although I harbor worries on that front, too. The fact that the Left is so pleased with this bill raises red flags in the first place, and I thought Rush asked pertinent questions in his discussion with Rubio last week. Many conservatives are also put off by the increasingly negative and judgmental tone being adopted by Republican 'gang' supporters. People who oppose amnesty aren't ipso facto racists. Hell, many of us are willing to accept some amnesty path so long as the feds finally get serious about protecting the border and American sovereignty. At the moment, they are not. It's that simple. Rubio's right that the status quo is effectively tantamount to a continuous amnesty, and that something must be done; the current system is unfair to US citizens, legal immigrants, and illegal immigrants alike. But bullying and preening isn't the way to win over conservative hearts and minds. The bipartisan proposal as currently constituted is, on balance, unacceptable. There are some positive elements, and negotiators on both sides should be commended for attempting to tackle a politically risky problem. Up next is the Senate amendment process, which will be crucial. Unless Republicans can secure more robust and meaningful border enforcement mechanisms, the underlying bill may be in real trouble. Republicans have 45 Senators and a House majority to significantly improve this bill. Republican backers, to their credit, have pledged support for a lengthy and thorough amendment process. Republicans shouldn't use their numbers to mindlessly obstruct any progress, but they should flex their muscles to tug the law in a more productive direction.
*UPDATE* - Rubio Press Secretary Alex Conant emails to correct my oversimplification on this point:
Nobody receives temporary legal status until the first 2 triggers are met & we begin securing the border – probably in 6 months. After that, illegals do not get permanent status for 10 years – and only then if we’ve secured our borders & implemented the toughest immigration enforcement in US history.
My wording was imprecise. "Immediate amnesty" isn't a fair characterization because, as Conant notes, two triggers must be met before illegal immigrants can begin applying for legal status. As I've written previously, though, the first two layers aren't particularly onerous; millions become eligible for legal status after two plans are in place. That's not enforcement. It's a plan for enforcement. We are working on a sit-down interview with Sen. Rubio to address some of conservative concerns about his bill.
Phase one of the Boston investigation came to a head on Friday night, but the saga is far from over. The latest: (1) Despite not being designated as an enemy combatant, the surviving bomber will get worked over by our high value detainee interrogation team:
A special group of interrogators, part of what is known as the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group, is expected to conduct the questioning. The group is a mix of investigators, drawn from the FBI, CIA, State Department and other agencies, created in 2009 to quickly question terror suspects to thwart any additional threats. Separately, investigators have been reviewing a number of detonated and un-exploded devices, the official said. All of the explosives recovered so far, about a handful, appear to be homemade devices that were assembled with commonly available components, much in the style of the pressure-cooker bombs that were detonated at the marathon site. The suspects also had a cache of firearms, a mix of handguns and long guns. It was not immediately clear how the weapons were acquired, the official said.
Agents wearing FBI and Department of Homeland Security jackets detained two men at the Hidden Brook apartment complex just hours after releasing three people believed to be associated with Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. A neighbor who declined to identify herself said the same two men were among the three people taken into custody by the FBI Friday afternoon. An FBI spokeswoman could not provide any information on the two men, both of whom were led away in handcuffs around 3:50 p.m. Saturday, or anything related to the apartment, citing the “ongoing” nature of the investigation...Earlier Saturday afternoon, a silver mini-van with consulate license plates arrived at the Carriage Drive apartment along with the FBI and Homeland Security, and stayed a half an hour longer than the agents. The van left with two women, neither of whom appeared to be restrained. One was carrying a pink backpack as she exited the apartment and ran into the van, which sped away as the women told reporters they did not wish to comment.
The story doesn't specify which consulate the van was from, but given the circumstances, Russia is a fairly safe bet. The New York Daily News says the men in question are a pair of 19-year-olds from Kazakhstan. The UK Daily Mirror quotes American national security sources who believe the Tsarnaev brothers may have been part of a radical Islamist sleeper cell comprised of up to 12 individuals. The story says that the Tsarnaevs were trained to carry out their mission, which would align with reports that the elder brother made a mysterious trip to Dagestan (a Russian republic in the Caucuses) last year. One witness tells NBC News that Tamerlan routinely met with a radical Salafist at a mosque during his visit. We already know the FBI looked into -- and cleared -- him in 2011, at the Russians' behest; but did they drop the ball in 2012, too?
It was one of six times in total that surveillance officials witnessed Tsarnaev meeting this militant at the same mosque, according to the police official. The militant contact later disappeared, the police official said, but so did Tsarnaev before investigators had a chance to speak with him. The FBI never responded, according to the Dagestani police official.
(3) Were the brothers Tsarnaev considering a drive to New York City to wreak more destruction? The man they car-jacked in greater Boston (who thankfully managed to escape) believes so, via the New York Times:
More details of what the authorities said was the original plot were becoming clearer. The Boston police commissioner, Edward Davis, said the authorities believed that Mr. Tsarnaev and his older brother, Tamerlan, 26, had planned more attacks beyond the bombings at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, which killed three people and wounded more than 170. When the suspects seized a Mercedes-Benz sport utility vehicle and held the driver hostage, they told him that they planned to head to New York, the senior United States official said Sunday. It was not clear whether the suspects had told the driver what they planned to do there. Mr. Davis told CBS News’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday: “We have reason to believe, based upon the evidence that was found at that scene — the explosions, the explosive ordnance that was unexploded and the firepower that they had — that they were going to attack other individuals.”
The terrorists had quite an arsenal at their disposal. Amazingly, terrorists don't respect gun laws, either:
Along with determining that the suspects had made at least five pipe bombs, the authorities recovered four firearms that they believe the suspects used, according to a law enforcement official. The authorities found an M-4 carbine rifle — a weapon similar to ones used by American forces in Afghanistan — on the boat where the younger suspect was found Friday night in Watertown, Mass., 10 miles west of Boston. Two handguns and a BB gun that the authorities believe the brothers used in an earlier shootout with officers in Watertown were also recovered, said one official briefed on the investigation. The authorities said they believe the suspects had fired roughly 80 rounds in that shootout, in which Tamerlan Tsarnaev was fatally wounded, the official said.
(4) Tangentially related, for obvious reasons (via the CBC):
Canadian police say they have arrested two men and thwarted a plot to carry out a major terrorist attack on a Via passenger train in the Greater Toronto Area. The two accused are Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, of Montreal, and Raed Jaser, 35, from Toronto. They have been charged with conspiracy to carry out a terrorist attack and "conspiring to murder persons unknownn for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with a terrorist group." The two men arrested are not Canadian citizens, police said Monday, but would not provide any details about their nationalities. The RCMP accused the two men of conspiring to commit an "al-Qaeda-supported" attack.
So the Canadians have thwarted two foreign nationals' plot to execute a "major" terrorist attack on a passenger train. Couple the details of this unfolding story with the marathon bombings, and one has to wonder if violent Islamist extremists may be shifting their focus to softer targets. Planes are hard. Trains, sporting events, shopping malls, movie theaters are not. Very worrisome. Also of note: "Al-Qaeda supported," which differs from the events in Boston. The Tsarnaev brothers were Chechen Islamists; no tie to AQ has been established. An interesting side note: Chechen separatists aren't universally pleased with the Boston blasts. Some view the attack as a boost to Russia, and therefore counter-productive. I'll leave you with video of Sen. Lindsey Graham making the case that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should be considered a "potential enemy combatant," with an eye toward intelligence gathering:
This interview explores an interesting gray area. Graham suggests charging and trying Tsarnaev as a citizen in a civilian trial, but also subjecting him to a tough interrogation to extract actionable intel under the laws of war, even if that information can't be used against him at trial -- which looks like an open-and-shut case anyway, based on the feds' criminal complaint.
Four Americans, including our sitting ambassador, murdered in a terrorist attack. Repeated warnings and requests for beefed up security ignored and denied in a notorious jihadi hotspot. Zero assistance, hour after hour, as two murdered former SEALs begged for back-up. Let's wrap this up and move on, says the Obama administration's top diplomat. Via Erika Johnsen:
KERRY: Let's figure out what it is that's missing, if it's legitimate or if it isn't. I don't think anybody lied to anybody. And let's find out exactly, together, what happened, because we need -- we got a lot more important things to move on to and get done.
Just so we're clear, under questioning about significant details of the 9/11 Benghazi massacre, President Obama's two most recent Secretaries of State have responded, "we got a lot more important things to move on to" and "what difference does it make?" This cavalier and dismissive attitude is disturbing. The fact is, we still don't have answers to a litany of crucial questions about both the lead-up to Benghazi, the attack itself, and its aftermath. When Obama reacted to Monday's Boston attacks, he made a strong -- and, I think, heartfelt -- vow: To visit "the full weight of justice" upon those responsible for the bombings. But he used strikingly similar language about tracking down and punishing the Benghazi terrorists, of which there were dozens. Seven months later, nothing. Unless you want to count a possible arrest of one person. And the scapegoats at State who "lost their jobs" for this giant failure were merely reshuffled into new positions. No wonder "multiple" new whistle-blowers are stepping forward:
CBS News has learned that multiple new whistleblowers are privately speaking to investigators with the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee regarding the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attacks on the U.S. compounds in Benghazi, Libya. The nature of the communications with the whistleblowers and their identities are not being made public at this time. But in response, the Oversight Committee yesterday sent letters to the three federal agencies involved: the CIA, the Defense Department and the State Department…Four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, were killed in the Benghazi attacks seven months ago. No arrests have been made.
Secretaries Clinton and Kerry might be decidedly uninterested in learning the truth, and the White House may say it's finished answering questions on the matter, but others aren't quite so willing to let this outrage slide.
A former abortion clinic worker has capped the murder trial of her former boss with testimony that she saw more than 10 babies breathe before they were killed. Kareema Cross is the final prosecution witness against Dr. Kermit Gosnell. She says she saw the babies' chests move but was told by Gosnell they were not breathing. She also says she saw three babies move their arms and legs and heard a fourth give a soft whine. Cross says she was so upset by clinic procedures that she took photos and called authorities. A 2011 grand jury report lambastes state and city officials for failing to inspect the busy Philadelphia clinic.
What else is there to be said? A few more things, actually: This woman is the prosecution's star witness, though she mustn't be confused with another Gosness "nurse" -- a 15-year-old high school student employed at the clinic. That girl was paid under-the-table to assist in macabre late-term abortions, all with zero legal training. Trial testimony has also revealed that Gosnell re-used disposable, unclean surgical materials, posing major heath risks to the patients that he wasn't intentionally killing (via Ed Morrissey):
Lewis indicated that Gosnell’s equipment was outdated and never inspected, and that he often reused disposable curettes, which is the sharp-ended tube that enters the womb in abortion procedures and applies suction for the removal of the pre-born baby and other tissues and fluids. Lewis testified that the curettes were washed, dried and placed in an antiseptic solution, then reused. The curettes are meant to be disposable and for single use only. She indicated that she noticed that women who had abortions using the reused curettes began returning to the clinic suffering from sexually transmitted diseases. Earlier testimony indicated that plastic curettes are more porous than metal surgical instruments and simply cannot be adequately cleaned for reuse.
Read this full story for even more stomach-turning details. Have we mentioned that this sickening saga also includes overt racism? Because it does:
Regarding racism, Pescatore told the jury that it was Gosnell who practiced racism at his Women's Medical Society clinic, on Lancaster Avenue near 38th Street. He treated white female patients better than women of color, she said, by placing whites in different rooms, personally meeting with each and ordering his staff to keep him apprised of every aspect of their treatment. " 'It's the way of the world,' " Gosnell would respond when his employees questioned him about those practices, Pescatore said. "This so-called doctor didn't treat all the women the same. He treated the white women differently," the prosecutor said. To maximize profits, Gosnell performed a high number of abortions, including illegal ones on women beyond the 24th week of pregnancy, Pescatore said. " 'That baby is big enough to walk me to the bus stop,' " Gosnell is alleged to have joked about one of the seven babies he is accused of murdering, Pescatore told the jury.
Needless to say, Gosnell's defense is playing the race card at trial -- replete with a despicable "lynching" reference -- claiming that the African American abortionist is being targeted because of the color of his skin. Not the fact that he murdered at least eight people. "Allegedly." The New York Times evidently doesn't find this story especially compelling; they've recalled their only reporter covering the trial, stating that they'll only cover "highlights" from here on out. I wonder why.
UPDATE - Good Lord:
A former staff worker at the Kermit Gosnell abortion facility testified during the murder trial today that the abortion practitioner and his staff once tossed a newborn child who survived a failed abortion and was still breathing into a shoe box.
Does the Times classify this as a "highlight"?
UPDATE IX In his speech to the American people tonight, President Obama praised the work of this nation’s police forces and remembered the loss of 4 Americans in the events this week in Boston. He said, “We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to all our law enforcement officials".
Additionally, the President made a point to speak to the questions that still exist and the justice that will be served against this criminal. "We will determined what happened...we will do whatever we have to do to keep our people safe." The President made a strong statement to others to explain that we will not be victims and this was an example of how we respond to terror threats.
Finally, the President offered his thoughts to those in West, Texas. He made sure to explain that we have not forgotten about their losses in the wake of the events in Boston.
UPDATE VIII Mayor Menino: "I just want to say thank you, thank you, thank you." Police officers thank all of the officers and the public for their aid in finding the suspect. Governor Deval Patrick lists those lost in the various incidents this week in Boston and reminds us of their losses. Thank you to all those who were involved in taking the suspect into custody.
UPDATE VII - It's over, and he's alive. Intel gathering needs to start as soon as possible, especially in light of the previous update:
NBC: The cops have Tsarnaev, and he's alive— Allahpundit (@allahpundit) April 20, 2013
Questions abound: Does he lawyer up, or can he be classified as an enemy combatant? Probably not. He's a citizen. And can authorities wring info out of this kid? He was reportedly the quiet follower of the duo -- but then again, he attended a college party shortly after bombing people to death, so he's pretty damn cold.
UPDATE VI - The plot thickens, as the net widens. A total of five conspirators? A major development, via the Globe:
BREAKING NEWS: Three people taken into custody in New Bedford as part of Boston Marathon terror bombing investigation.— The Boston Globe (@BostonGlobe) April 20, 2013
UPDATE V - Various reports: The suspect is not moving. The suspect is moving and alive. The suspect is covered in blood. The boat is on fire. There's a negotiator on scene. There were multiple explosions. We'll know soon enough.
UPDATE IV - Huge, if true:
Fox says the suspect is "alive, surrounded by law enforcement, and still moving."— Charles C. W. Cooke (@charlescwcooke) April 19, 2013
UPDATE III - Sounds like a case of "see something, say something" gone right:
Shep Smith on Fox cites a w'town woman calling in to cops to say she saw a shed door open, clothes and blood.Cops came back, shots fired— jmartpolitico (@jmartpolitico) April 19, 2013
UPDATE II - Let's hope this is true. As much as people would like to see this terrorist dead, he could provide valuable intel if snared alive:
RT @tobyharnden: CNN says bomber is cornered and cops are firing gas to incapacitate him— WhiteHousePressCorps (@whpresscorps) April 19, 2013
Something big's going down right now:
BREAKING: Journalists in Watertown report hearing shots fired and have seen large police presence respond to the scene— CBS News (@CBSNews) April 19, 2013
WCVB report: A body has been found in boat in a back yard on Franklin St.— WGBH News (@wgbhnews) April 19, 2013
*Editor's Note:* I've imported several updates from the previous Boston thread into this one. Things were moving very quickly tonight, and I didn't want you to miss some of this crucial information:
Update - Two more whoas:
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had passed an apparently normal day at the school Wednesday, according to a UMass official, working out at the gym, then sleeping in his single-unit room at the Pine Dale Hall dorm that night, while law enforcement officials were frantically scanning photos and video trying to identify him and his brother.School officials know he was there Wednesday because of card swipes, but it was not clear if he had been there earlier. He was described as good, typical student who played intramural soccer. A student, who didn’t want to be identified, said she saw Dzhokhar Tsarnaev at a party Wednesday night that was attended by some of his friends with whom he played intramural soccer. “He was just relaxed,” she said.
Bomb a major city, kill an eight-year-old, then hit up a kegger with your bros two nights later. It doesn't even compute. One wonders if this kid was coached to return to his everyday life as to not arouse suspicion. If so, coached by whom? Let's US officials they capture him, for intel-gathering purposes. Plus:
FBI now acknowledges they interviewed Tsarnaev 2 years ago at the request of a foreign country about possible extremist ties— CBS News (@CBSNews) April 19, 2013
Update - Boston has lifted its city-wide lockdown...even though authorities are openly admitting they have no idea where the second suspect is. He reportedly escaped on foot last night, despite being involved in a massive firefight and at least one car crash. (How?) I'm not sure entire cities should be shut down due to a single manhunt, but this strikes me as a bizarre time to re-open the city. "We don't know where he is, but TGIF, Boston! Have fun." Odd decision.
Update - A pair of jaw-dropping reports, presented without further comment:
From CBS'Bob Orr: FBIinterviewed Tamarlan Tsarnaev 2 yrs ago abt extremist ties, found nothing & closed file. More on CBS Evening News— Major Garrett(@MajorCBS) April 19, 2013
[Updated 4 p.m. Friday related to arrest versus conviction issue]: One of the Chechen terrorists who carried out the Boston Marathon bombings could have been deported years ago after a criminal arrest and/or conviction and the other was granted American citizenship on the 11th anniversary of the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil. Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the 26-year-old killed in a wild shootout with police, was a legal U.S. resident who nevertheless could have been removed from the country after a 2009 domestic violence arrest and conviction, according to a Judicial Watch source. That means the Obama administration missed an opportunity to deport Tsarnaev but evidently didn’t feel he represented a big enough threat. Other reporting confirms Tsarnaev’s arrest for domestic violence but we’re seeking confirmation of a conviction. Nevertheless he would have been subject to removal for the arrest itself.
If either, or both, of these items prove to be true, oh my.
Hours before his death, Tamerlan called his uncle and asked for forgiveness - revealing the news of his young family. Alvi Tsarnaev told The (Westchester County, N.Y.) Journal News that his nephew phoned him Thursday night for the first time in about two years. The call came at 7 p.m., just a couple of hours before Tamerlan was shot dead. "He said, 'I love you and forgive me,' " said Alvi Tsarnaev, who lives in Montgomery Village, Md.
Another thread of circumstantial, unconfirmed evidence: Someone calling himself, ahem, "Tamerlan Tsarnaev" created a YouTube account that featured a number of Islamist videos:
The account, listed under the name Tamerlan Tsarnaev and identified as active since August 2012, includes two videos under the sub-category “terrorists.” It also includes seven videos filed under “Islam,” five under “favorite videos” and three under “Timur Mucuraev,” a popular Chechen singer. Both of the videos filed under “terrorists” cannot be viewed as they have been removed from YouTube since the owner of the account had added them. An error page says that the account that had originally posted the videos has been terminated, a common YouTube response to hate speech videos of incitements to violence. The videos were likely removed long before Friday’s news.
So there's that.
We were told he'd be a chief spokesman -- if not the chief spokesman -- for the 'gang of eight' compromise, and so far he's living up to that billing. In addition to making a (second) blitz on conservative talk radio, Rubio released a quick-and-dirty summary of the legislation on YouTube. No frills, just a short, digestible, unscripted break-down of how the bill is designed. Give it a quick watch, then scroll down for some analysis:
It seems to me that Rubio's tactical goals are threefold here: First, to get his side of the story out before opponents start torching the bill -- which is smart, regardless of how you come down on reform. Second, to woo conservatives, with whom he has a strong brand. It's already working in some quarters; even those who aren't necessarily fans of the plan are giving him props for entering the fray and having the discussion. Third, to telegraph a spirit of openness and engagement, which is why he's also promising to ensure a lengthy and robust debate on the subject. He's talking weeks, not hours or days. A few more points: (1) I'm a little surprised that he starts out by describing the guest worker program, rather than underscoring border enforcement. Once he gets to that topic, however, he goes for the gold: "I can say, without reservation, that the enforcement package that we've come up with as part of this idea are the most stringent and strictest immigration enforcement laws in the history of the United States." Byron York wonders, is it, really?
The most serious ambiguity might be in the concept of “effectiveness rate.” How will Napolitano, or her successor at the Department of Homeland Security, determine when the effectiveness rate reaches 90 percent? The calculation has to start somewhere, and it is with the total number of people attempting to cross the border illegally. Napolitano has to certify that the Department of Homeland Security is catching nine out of ten of them — a calculation that starts with that total number of illegal crossing attempts. That’s where the confusion will come in. New ways of surveying the border have shown that the Department has greatly underestimated the number of people attempting to cross any given part of the border. Experimental programs with the new drone-based Vader surveillance system have shown that at least twice as many illegal immigrants crossed the border in some areas as were apprehended.
That means the government, which thought it had a pretty high apprehension rate, was actually catching less than 50 percent of illegal crossers. So now, if the new 90 percent standard becomes law, how would the effectiveness rate be calculated? Would it be 90 percent of the old, pre-Vader estimates of illegal immigrants crossing the border? If so, that would likely mean that in fact the U.S. would be apprehending far less than 90 percent of those actually crossing the border. Or would it be 90 percent of up-to-date Vader-generated numbers, which would suggest that U.S. officials are much closer to capturing nearly all the illegal crossers?
These questions must be answered. Also, why limit the enforcement threshold to just three "high risk" regions? Do slightly less-trafficked border crossings not count or matter?
(2) I'm emphatically not in love with this idea of establishing a "border commission" if DHS fails to meet its benchmarks after five years. Since when has a Washington-appointed blue ribbon panel solved any complex problem satisfactorily? Two recent examples should serve as cautionary tales: The Simpson-Bowles debt commission was ignored by the president who convened it, and the "super committee" fell on its face, leading to the Obama sequester. I recognize that this concept is designed as a fail safe, but I expect failure, followed by a punt over to this panel. Question: Who are considered "leaders of the border states"? Are we talking about Rick Perry, Jan Brewer, Jerry Brown, and Susana Martinez -- the four (current) border state governors -- or some other group cobbled together to form a "consensus"?
(3) Rubio emphasizes that the bill offers no special or expedited path to citizenship for most illegals (exceptions exist, such as the DREAM kids). That's true. Most applicants would have to wait at least a decade before being eligible to even apply for a green card, followed by an opportunity to seek citizenship several years after that. But the bill does include an almost-immediate path to legalization, or amnesty for non-criminals and fine payers. I'm not necessarily opposed to that on principle, but let's be very clear about what we're debating. Another concern: How on earth will the federal government determine how much each illegal immigrant owes in back taxes? And how can we verify whether applicants arrived in America prior to late 2011, which would be the supposed cut-off?
(4) Rubio closes with two compelling points, tailored specifically at conservatives: First, "provisionally" legal illegal/undocumented immigrants (he uses both phrases) would not be eligible for a cent of federal monetary assistance -- be it welfare, food stamps, Medicaid or Obamacare. But can we guarantee adherence to that standard? And finally, Rubio casts the status quo as an unstable, ongoing de facto amnesty for millions of people. Like it or not, he's right on that score.
UPDATE - Here's full audio of Rubio's tough but fair interview with Rush earlier today (via the Right Scoop).
The Federal Bureau of Investigation just held a press conference at which they released a series of photos of two young men they're identifying as "persons of interest" in this week's deadly bombings at the Boston Marathon. The potential suspects appear to be in their twenties. Some people are describing them as caucasian; I would call them light-skinned. They could be radical Islamists. They might be domestic terrorists. The one with the backwards cap almost looks like a frat boy. I'm interested in the decals on both hats, which could be significant clues if identified. The FBI's website is struggling to keep up with traffic, so here are the best individual photos:
And one shot of the two men together:
Finally, authorities released this short edit of some relevant surveillance footage:
Investigators are asking anyone with information to contact the FBI by calling: 1-800-CALL-FBI .
Update (Leah): Greg posted video of the presser: