Thin red line.
As I've reported before, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents are not capable of checking up on student visas or arresting illegal immigrants until they have been put in jail by another law enforcement agency. Over the weekend, it was difficult for CNN's Candy Crowley to wrap her head around these facts as she interviewed pro-amnesty Senator Dick Durbin about the Boston bombings. Two of the men who served as accomplices to the Boston bombing suspects were here illegally and had overstayed their student visas.
"Effective immediately, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents will have real-time updates to the student visa status of every foreign student entering the U.S," Crowley informed. "Authorities allege two of the three people suspected of hiding evidence for the accused bomber were in violation of their student visa requirements."
Citing a broken immigration system, Durbin argued that we need to better track visas and know not only when those on student visas arrive but also when they leave. Crowley remarked that when she first heard this story, she thought, "Isn't that what customs is for?"
“It is incomprehensible, I think, to people, that that information is available, and yet, the very people at the front lines…who say, ‘Yes, come on in’ or ‘Hang on a second and go to that room,’ don’t have the information they need,” Crowley asserted. “And, you know, 9/11 was, you know, more than a decade ago.”
Durbin blamed ICE not being able to check up on student visa holders on a lack of communication between agencies when in reality, the reason the hands of ICE agents have been tied lies with the Obama administration and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who for political reasons are preventing agents from doing their jobs.
ICE Council President Chris Crane also explained the erosion of the rule of law thanks to special interest groups representing and advocating on behalf of illegal immigrants while agents are often punished for simply enforcing the law. Crane even went so far as to suggest law enforcement has been turned into a joke.
"For the last four years it has been a roller coaster for ICE officers with regard to who they can or cannot arrest, and which federal laws they will be permitted to enforce," Crane said. "Most Americans would be surprised to know that immigration agents are regularly prohibited from enforcing the two most fundamental sections of the Unites States immigration law. According to ICE policy, in most cases immigration agents can no longer arrest persons solely for entering the United States illegally. Additionally, in most cases immigration agents cannot arrest persons solely because they have entered the United State s with a visa and then overstayed that visa and failed to return to their country."
"My confidence level with the administration right now is zero that we're going to be able to do out jobs now or in the future."
Let's start with the good news, at least from a purely partisan perspective: Republican Mark Sanford appears to be riding a wave of momentum heading into tomorrow's special election in South Carolina's first Congressional District, reversing his fortunes over the last two weeks. Via Democratic pollster PPP:
PPP's final poll of the special election in South Carolina's 1st Congressional District finds a race that's too close to call, with Republican Mark Sanford leading Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch 47-46. The 1 point lead for Sanford represents a 10 point reversal from PPP's poll of the race two weeks ago, when Colbert Busch led by 9 points at 50-41...A plurality of voters in the district- 47%- say they think Colbert Busch is a liberal compared to 43% who characterize her as ideologically 'about right.' Colbert Busch's favorability rating has dropped a net 19 points compared to 2 weeks ago, from +25 then at 56/31 to +6 now at 50/44.
Despite being cut loose by national Republicans, Team Sanford nationalized the race, essentially arguing that a vote for Colbert-Busch is a vote for the Obama/Pelosi agenda (see: the cardboard cut-out). This is a valid attack. Though Colbert-Busch is talking a decent game these days -- when she's talking at all, that is -- there's ample reason to suspect that she'd be a reliable partisan Democrat in the House of Representatives. So Sanford's got a real shot at winning this thing. The bad news is self-evident. It's still Mark Sanford, his favorability ratings are underwater by double-digits, and the race is tied in a district that Mitt Romney carried by 18 points seven months ago. Jump ball going into tomorrow. Will the district's voters prioritize national policy, or focus on Sanford's awful and erratic personal conduct? And with that, let's take a spin around the three other major electoral races of 2013:
Cuccinelli vs. McAuliffe (Virginia Governor) - Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has opened up a slight lead over Democrat Terry McAuliffe, according to a new Washington Post poll. The presumptive GOP nominee leads by five points overall, and holds a ten-point edge among those who are certain to vote. McAuliffe continues to be dogged by stories about his failed business dealings, and has served up a pile of opposition research on himself, courtesy of his autobiography. We've already highlighted his unseemly behavior during the birth of three of his children; why not try his reaction to 9/11 on for size?
"If not for September 11, Bush would have been gone politically. His approval ratings were sinking and his policies were hurting the country and the American people. He had nothing going for him after the attacks we knew he was going to get a huge bounce and it soon became clear that the press would come to see its role as making him look good and downplaying any criticism of his administration's fixation on being fast and loose with the facts. I was one of our party's most visible spokesmen and I had to keep a low profile after the attacks. I was like a caged rat. I couldn't travel. I couldn't make political calls. I couldn't make money calls. I couldn't do anything. I went to my office and worked with my staff to prepare for when we could finally come back out again that made me feel a little better, but basically there was nothing for us to do in the immediate aftermath."
The nation had just suffered the worst terrorist attack in its history, and Terry's big take-away was frustration over his inability to conduct overtly political fundraising. But hey, he's just your average Virginian. The Virginia GOP is also rolling out a new tagline against McAuliffe, noting that the Democrat "won't release his taxes, but he will raise yours." Question: Did McAuliffe narrate his own audio book? Oh, he sure did:
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Barbara Buono’s campaign war chest is so skimpy she may not generate enough contributions to secure all of her public matching funds for the primary or general election. State election finance records show that if the senator from Middlesex County wants to get the maximum public matching funds before the June 4 primary, she would need to raise about $250,000 a week, or about eight times her current $30,000-a-week clip...Buono is on pace to become the first major party nominee in state history who fails to raise enough money in the primary to qualify for maximum public financing.
Click through to read details of a shady power play her friends in the state assembly pulled to try to drag her over the fundraising finish line.
Gomez vs. Markey (Massachusetts Senate) - The Sanford race isn't the only special election on our radar screen. Former Navy SEAL Gabriel Gomez is challenging career politician Ed Markey to fill Secretary of State John Kerry's vacated US Senate seat. Early polling is surprisingly tight, given the state's lefty politics. Gomez will never be mistaken for a hard-line conservative, but he's several leaps to the right of Markey -- a leading carbon tax crusader. Markey's first attack ad of the cycle raised eyebrows for juxtaposing a photo of the Republican nominee with one of Osama bin Laden (here's why OBL is an issue in the campaign). Gomez has opened with a much more positive message:
According to the Heritage Foundation, the cost to grant more than 11 million illegal immigrants amnesty through the Gang of 8 plan amounts to $6.3 trillion. More from FoxNews:
The cost would arise from illegal immigrants tapping into the government's vast network of benefits and services, many of which are currently unavailable to them. This includes everything from standard benefits like Social Security and Medicare to dozens of welfare programs ranging from housing assistance to food stamps.
"No matter how you slice it, amnesty will add a tremendous amount of pressure on America's already strained public purse," Robert Rector, the Heritage scholar who prepared the report, said in a statement.
The numbers could raise additional concerns for Republicans as a Senate committee prepares to consider the legislation later this week.
The comprehensive study also factored in the cost of public education and other services like highways and police. The government is already providing some of those services to illegal immigrants, so the $6.3 trillion figure would not represent all new costs.
But most of that cost would be new spending, according to Heritage, as illegal immigrants gain access to additional government benefits. The study acknowledges that, for a 10-year period, illegal immigrants seeking a reprieve would be barred from these benefits. After that window, though, Heritage forecasts the costs skyrocketing.
From the executive summary of the report:
Unlawful immigration and amnesty for current unlawful immigrants can pose large fiscal costs for U.S. taxpayers. Government provides four types of benefits and services that are relevant to this issue:
-Direct benefits: These include Social Security, Medicare, unemployment insurance, and workers’ compensation.
-Means-tested welfare benefits: There are over 80 of these programs which, at a cost of nearly $900 billion per year, provide cash, food, housing, medical, and other services to roughly 100 million low-income Americans. Major programs include Medicaid, food stamps, the refundable Earned Income Tax Credit, public housing, Supplemental Security Income, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
-Public education: At a cost of $12,300 per pupil per year, these services are largely free or heavily subsidized for low-income parents.
-Population-based services: Police, fire, highways, parks, and similar services, as the National Academy of Sciences determined in its study of the fiscal costs of immigration, generally have to expand as new immigrants enter a community; someone has to bear the cost of that expansion.
The cost of these governmental services is far larger than many people imagine. For example, in 2010, the average U.S. household received $31,584 in government benefits and services in these four categories.
Gang of 8 supporters are accusing Heritage of using "the same flawed scoring method routinely employed by liberals to argue against all tax cuts as 'budget busters.'" Townhall reached out to Senator Marco Rubio's office for comment, they do not have one at this time.
"We believe that the only approach that can work at this point is a piece by piece approach," Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint said during a press conference Monday.
UPDATE II: It is important to point out the Heritage study and assessment of $6.3 trillion only covers the amnesty/citizenship cost of the Gang of 8 bill, not the entire cost of the bill.
(1) Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) was directly involved in the 9/11/12 raid that killed four Americans, including our Ambassador to Libya. Leaders in Washington knew the Benghazi massacre was a terrorist operation "almost immediately," and officials on the ground suspected as much "from the get-go." The administration misleadingly denied and downplayed the terrorist connection for weeks.
(2) A special ops officer with detailed knowledge of the US response to the attacks says Washington could have ordered a rescue/intervention mission to save American lives, but did not, for reasons that remain unclear.
(3) Lawyers for potential whistle-blowers within the government say their clients have been intimidated into silence by the administration. These attorneys also allege that the government has been uncooperative in granting them security clearances, which they say are necessary to facilitate adequate legal representation.
(4) Nearly eight months after the fact, and as political scrutiny is again ratcheting up, the FBI has finally released photos of several Benghazi suspects. No arrests have been made in connection to the deadly terrorist attack so far.
(5) Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's signature appeared on a memo denying requests for increased security assets in Benghazi. Amb. Chris Stevens and his predecessor in Tripoli both asked for enhanced protection due to the increasingly dangerous climate on the ground.
(6) The identities of three Benghazi whistle-blowers/witnesses who will testify this week have now been revealed.
On Fox News Sunday, Massachusetts Democrat Stephen Lynch assailed the administration's talking points about the act of terrorism, labeling them "false" and "wrong:"
"This was a deliberate and strategic attack on the consulate."
Over the weekend, Chairman of the House Oversight Committee Darrell Issa announced the names of Benghazi whistleblowers who will testify Wednesday about the deadly 9/11 terrorist attack before a congressional hearing on Capitol Hill. As a reminder, the White House told the country the attack in Benghazi, which left four Americans dead including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, was simply a protest that spun out of control. According to whistleblower and State Department veteran Gregory Hicks, who will testify Wednesday, his "jaw hit the floor" when he heard this explanation being used by UN Ambassador Susan Rice on multiple Sunday news shows, the White House and the State Department after the attack. Hicks has told congressional investigators that everyone at the State Department knew this was a terrorist attack from the very beginning yet the State Department, with White House approval, repeatedly changed talking points to avoid classifying it as a terrorist attack for the American people. Further, Hicks said he never reported a demonstration but that he reported an attack. Not to mention, the White House and State Department threw the President of Libya under the bus with their excuses and lies in the process.
Acting Ambassador Hicks watched the Sunday shows and said he found this contradiction shocking. "The net impact of what has transpired is the spokesperson of the most powerful country in the world has basically said that the President of Libya is either a liar or doesn't know what he's talking about," he accused. Hicks added, "My jaw hit the floor as I watched this...I've never been as embarrassed in my life, in my career as on that day."
Hicks believes the stunning failure of diplomacy on the Sunday news shows explains why it took the FBI three weeks to gain access to the Benghazi site. The U.S. had effectively humiliated the Libyan President on national TV. That decision, he believed, probably compromised our ability to investigate and track down those responsible.
According to Hicks, no one from the State Department contacted him about what Amb. Rice would be saying in advance. The next morning he called Beth Jones, Acting Assistant Secretary for Near East Affaris, and asked her why Amb. Rice had made the statements she had. Jones responded, "I don't know."
In the words of Hillary Clinton, "What difference does it make?" The answer: a ton of difference. Clinton's testimony is about to get a major test on Wednesday as whistleblowers put their careers and families on the line to tell the truth in the face of retaliation and threats.
Victoria Toensing, a former Justice Department official and Republican counsel to the Senate Intelligence Committee, is now representing one of the State Department employees. She told Fox News her client and some of the others, who consider themselves whistle-blowers, have been threatened by unnamed Obama administration officials.
“I'm not talking generally, I'm talking specifically about Benghazi – that people have been threatened,” Toensing said in an interview Monday. “And not just the State Department. People have been threatened at the CIA.”
“It's frightening, and they're doing some very despicable threats to people,” she said. “Not ‘we're going to kill you,’ or not ‘we're going to prosecute you tomorrow,’ but they're taking career people and making them well aware that their careers will be over [if they cooperate with congressional investigators].”
And Barack Obama? Well, he'll probably just respond to testimony by saying "Benghazi happened a long time ago."
Yesterday Dan Rather, the former CBS News anchor who was fired after reporting President George W. Bush dodged the draft based on fraudulent documents, offered a full defense of President Obama and slammed his critics. Rather said it is difficult to be "nice" to Onama's critics because they want to "cut his heart out and throw his liver to the dogs." Newsbusters reminds us this is the second time Rather has made this comment. The first time was on Chris Matthews' show on MSNBC, of course.
I thought it was George W. Bush who was supposed to be the intemperate, shoot-from-the-lip cowboy in The White House. You know -- they guy without nuance, who spoke before he thought . . .
So how to explain this piece on the front page of this morning's NY Times: "Off the Cuff Obama Line puts US in Bind in Syria"? It's a lengthy explication of how Obama's big line about Syria crossing a "red line" by using nuclear weapons was actually something the President blurted out, and which now presents a not-insignificant complication for US foreign policy.
It's a tiresome exercise in media hypocrisy, but just imagine the kind of hellfire that would rain down from the heights of the Times editorial board had George W. Bush made such an error. We'd never hear the end of it. Instead, we get delicate excuse-making, and a detailed explanation about how such a nuanced, cerebral President could have made such an error.
About the now-famous "red line":
“The idea was to put a chill into the Assad regime without actually trapping the president into any predetermined action,” said one senior official, who, like others, discussed the internal debate on the condition of anonymity. But “what the president said in August was unscripted,” another official said. Mr. Obama was thinking of a chemical attack that would cause mass fatalities, not relatively small-scale episodes like those now being investigated, except the “nuance got completely dropped.”
Don't you love that first sentence? In other words, administration policy was to try to scare Assad by some tough talk without ever planning to follow through. But now, thanks to the President's "unscripted" ad-lib, the "nuance" of this (pathetic) position was lost -- and the impression was given that the US was actually serious about Syria not using chemical weapons and intended to back it up with something more than tough words.
And then here's a bit of inspirational ethics:
Mr. Obama’s advisers also raised legal issues. “How can we attack another country unless it’s in self-defense and with no Security Council resolution?” another official said, referring to United Nations authorization. “If he drops sarin on his own people, what’s that got to do with us?”
One needn't advocate that America police every international or civil dispute to find something chilling about that callous dismissal of a leader condemning his own people to an ugly, awful death.
Ultimately, it's hard to decide which is more embarrassing: The President's rookie mistake itself, or the moral and strategic vacuousness of the official administration policy of "all tough talk, no action ever intended" that it actually reveals.
While Congress investigates the Obama Administration's actions during the Benghazi terrorist attack this week, President Obama will be leaving town to promote his "jobs" agenda in what the Associated Press dubs "a series of day trips."
The White House says President Barack Obama's trip to Austin, Texas, on Thursday will kick off a series of day trips aimed at highlighting his proposals on jobs and the economy.
While in Texas, Obama will visit a technical high school and meet with entrepreneurs. He'll also drop in on a tech company and talk with blue-collar workers.
The trip shows Obama wants to keep Americans focused on his economic proposals even while Congress is busy with an immigration overhaul and confirmation for Obama's second-term Cabinet nominees.
Despite the fact that the Obama White House continues to condemn the spending cuts of sequestration as economically devastating, President Obama will reportedly "travel every few weeks" in order to promote his economic agenda.
Austin seems an unlikely place to make a jobs pitch - their economy is doing well, as The Hill reported that unemployment dropped by 9% in Obama's first term, spurred by businesses like Apple and General Motors moving jobs there. Nonetheless, Obama will urge the residents in Austin that tens of billions of dollars need to be spent by the federal government to boost the economy - and he will continue his pitch to hike the minimum wage.
The short answer is that Wilkerson is a retired U.S. Army Colonel who served as Chief of Staff to Colin Powell when he was US Secretary of State. But more recently, his name is turning up in some awfully strange contexts.
A report in Haaretz quotes Wilkerson as alleging that the use of chemical weapons in Syria might well have been part of an Israeli "false flag" operation, designed to justify Israeli attacks. Obviously, this is hardly a mainstream view; even the President's now-famously-reneged-on "red line" formulation reflects a belief that Assad has chemical weapons and a wllingness to use them. Interestingly, Wilkerson surfaced to make his charges -- and to call Benyamin Netanyahu an "idiot" -- on nutty-left Current TV, which Al Gore famously sold to Al Jazeera. He actually seems to be something of a regular there, and has appeared on Democracy Now to blame Dick Cheney for Colin Powell's UN speech indicting Iraq for having WMD.
Wilkerson is also part of the ironically named Military Religious Freedom Foundation, the group hostile to religious expression in the military, as discussed on this blog last week. As such, he's working with the intemperate Mikey Weinstein, the guy who has denounced the "fundamentalist Christian monsters" in the military (so much for the left's oft-touted calls for "civility").
Oh, and Wilkerson's also the guy who claimed that the GOP was "full of racists" during last year's presidential election campaign.
Pretty interesting commentary on Colin Powell that this guy was his chief-of-staff. He now seems to be something of a convenient mouthpiece for the left -- though he claims to be a Republican.