The US and Afghanistan are nearing confirmation of a security deal that is a priority on both sides. As the bilateral negotiations finally produced mutually agreeable language, President Obama reassured President Karzai that American forces would "respect the sanctity and dignity of Afghans" but did not apologize for the US military presence (as many reported had been requested).
The fact that America and Afghanistan finally reached an agreement on the language of the proposal was no small matter.
Major points of negotiation included how crimes committed by American soldiers in Afghanistan would be resolved and if US forces can continue to conduct surprise raids on civilian homes. (The agreement's answers to those two points are, respectively: in the US military legal system; and only in "extraordinary circumstances involving urgent risk to life and limb of U.S. nationals.")
Afghan leaders began holding a grand assembly today to determine whether they will accept the proposal. If confirmed, the agreement will be long-lasting: it would go into effect in 2015 and continue through 2024 and possibly longer. A full draft of the document is available here.
What distracted many Americans from the good news, however, were countless reports from the media that Afghan President Hamid Karzai expected US President Barack Obama to apologize for US military operations. That report has been thoroughly denied by American officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry and National Security Advisor Susan Rice.
The media has failed to provide any evidence supporting the story that Afghanistan sought an apology, and the letter Obama sent to Karzai gives no indication of one. The original including translations is available online. Here it is:
President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
Dear Mr. President:
I am pleased that we have reached agreement on the text of a Bilateral Security Agreement that will enable the United States and Afghanistan to implement the promise of our Strategic Partnership. This is a strong agreement for both our countries, which provides the foundation to continue our cooperation to build a better future for Afghanistan. It provides the basis for cooperating in a new context after 2014, when the International Security Assistance Force mission will have ended, the number of U.S. forces will be much reduced, and a sovereign Afghanistan will be responsible for its security, with the support of the international community. In that new context, America's role in Afghanistan will be one of a supporting partner. Under this Agreement, we will be cooperating in training, advising, and assisting your forces and in a targeted, smaller counterterrorism mission as we continue to help strengthen Afghanistan's own growing counterterrorism capabilities. We look forward to concluding this agreement promptly.
I know that you have been concerned for some time to limit the impact of the conflict in Afghanistan on the Afghan people, with particular attention to the sensitive issue of the safety and privacy of people in their homes. Over time, and especially in the recent past, we have redoubled our efforts to ensure that Afghan homes are respected by our forces and that our operations are conducted consistent with your law. We will continue to make every effort to respect the sanctity and dignity of Afghans in their homes and in their daily lives, just as we do for our own citizens.
Many of my countrymen and women have given their lives or been seriously wounded in the pursuit of protecting Afghans, and we honor the enormous sacrifices they have made, side by side with Afghans. As this new Agreement states, U.S. forces shall not enter Afghan homes for the purposes of military operations, except under extraordinary circumstances involving urgent risk to life and limb of U.S. nationals. The U.S. commitment to Afghanistan's independence, territorial integrity, and national unity, as enshrined in our Strategic Partnership Agreement, is enduring, as is our respect for Afghan sovereignty.
An off-the-record meeting was held on Wednesday with some conservative members of the Republican Party. The topic du jour? Should Republicans shut down the government again in January when the (latest) continuing resolution expires? Gulp:
Conservative leaders from more than a dozen outside groups warned congressional Tea Party Caucus members against another government shutdown.
A heated discussion broke out Wednesday at a closed-door Tea Party Caucus meeting organized by the group TheTeaParty.net, according to a source in the room.
The consensus in the meeting was that House Republicans should work to avoid another government funding fight when current funding levels expire on Jan. 15 — “though there was a vocal minority cheering it on,” according to an attendee who was not authorized to speak about an off-the-record meeting.
The pro-shutdown contingent said that a second shutdown fight could be won with better GOP messaging.
The current continuing resolution funding the government runs through Jan. 15, and the leaders of both parties have vowed to work together to agree on a longer-term budget deal. Absent a budget deal or another continuing resolution, the government could be poised for another shutdown.
I’ve written about this before; partially shutting down the government again strikes me as the most asinine thing Republicans could possibly do. Let me explain why. Congressional Democrats up for re-election are desperately clinging and frantically searching for a life preserver. And if they’re not, well, they darn well should be. Day after day reports surface not only about how bad Obamacare is as a matter of public policy, but the implementation process itself -- and at times the administration’s hilarious incompetence on full display -- is an electoral game-changer. Why would Republicans want to interfere with the Democrats’ epic implosion? As someone somewhere once said, “Never interfere with an enemy while he’s in the process of destroying himself.” In other words, don’t give Democrats a punch line the media can run with -- “GOP obstructionists are shutting down the government again!” Let them squirm in the wind for the next twelve months.
In Republicans’ defense, however, the vast majority of conservatives seem to be with me. They understand that experimenting with admirable yet ultimately unhelpful tactics is counter-productive. The pro-shutdown caucus, meanwhile, assures all of us that another shutdown adventure can be successful -- that is, if Republicans stay focused and on-message. But that’s a mighty big if given recent history.
Stay the course, Republicans. Leverage what little power you have by getting the best budget deal possible in 2014. Remember, the only way to really implement bold, conservative reforms at the federal level is by winning elections. That’s ultimately where power rests: with the people. Shutting down the government, then, would impede that effort by unnecessarily angering voters looking to embrace Republicans in 2014. That would be a mistake.
Last week Progress Colorado, headed by misogynist Alan Franklin, produced a series of heinously sexist and degrading advertisements to promote Obamacare.
One ad with a woman holding a package of birth control pills and standing next to a man reads, "Let's get physical. OMG, he's hot! Let's hope he's as easy to get as this birth control. My health insurance covers the pill, which means all I have to worry about is getting him between the covers."
Another of a young woman standing next to a male cutout says, "Hey girl. You're excited about easy access to birth control and I'm excited about getting to know you."
Today, White House Senior Communications Advisor Tara McGuinness endosed the ads on her Twitter page.
Got insurance? http://t.co/vP69pmI2ew— Tara McGuinness (@HealthCareTara) November 21, 2013
I thought the White House was fighting the "war on women?" Not only are millions of women losing their health insurance thanks to Obamacare, they're also being portrayed as simple sexual objects by progressive groups and now the White House.
In case you're wondering women, young women in particular, aren't impressed.
UPDATE - And in a flash, it's over. The nuclear option is now a nuclear reality:
Senate votes 52-48 against the ruling of the chair, thus implementing the #nuclearoption— Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) November 21, 2013
Read Sen. Mitch McConnell's impassioned speech by clicking through. Just three Senate Democrats voted with all Republicans to keep the filibuster rules intact. Democrats govern with an 'ends justify the means' mentality. They pioneered circuit court filibusters under Bush, then changed the rules when Republicans used their own tactic against them. Rest assured that they will start threatening to nuke the legislative filibuster when it suits their needs. Maybe the GOP can play hardball and beat them to the punch next time they have a majority. This is exactly right. Harry Reid lit this fire. Let the Senate burn. And what future Republican majorities could do in this brave new world is precisely what veteran Democrat Sen. Carl Levin is worried about:
Sen Carl Levin (D-MI) says new precedent "used to change rules (makes) people's health and welfare less secure. #nuclearoption— Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) November 21, 2013
Harry Reid has initiated the process of invoking the so-called "nuclear option," which would break Senate rules to change the way the upper chamber considers certain presidential appointments. The coup de grace to decades of Senate precedent could come this afternoon. Reid is acting with the explicit consent of President Obama -- who, as a Senator, voted to filibuster one of President Bush's Supreme Court nominees. Senate Democrats came awfully close to pulling this move over the summer, but ended up balking at the eleventh hour. Having manufactured a judicial crisis -- which Republicans allege is a transparent attempt to turn attention away from Obamacare -- Reid and his caucus are taking another bite at the apple. Republican leader Mitch McConnell slammed the proposed power grab:
"The Majority Leader promised over and over again that he wouldn't break the rules of the Senate to change the Senate," responded McConnell. "When Democrats were in the minority they argued strenuously for the very thing they now say we will have to do without, namely the right to extend a debate on lifetime appointments. In other words they believe that one set of rules should apply to them and another set to everybody else." ... Typically 67 votes are required to change Senate rules, but under the nuclear option Democrats - who control the chamber with a 55-45 majority – would change those rules with a simple majority vote.
McConnell cited Reid's repeated promises not to fiddle with filibuster rules, invoking a familiar Obamacare-style construction: “He might as well have said if you like your Senate rules you can keep them.” The Kentucky Republican noted in his speech that Senate Democrats pioneered the practice of filibustering circuit court nominees when they were in the minority, adding that Republicans have used their filibuster prerogative judiciously and rarely. He reminded Democrats that more than 200 judicial nominees have been confirmed during President Obama's term in office, warning Democrats that they would end up regretting their decision if they move forward. Indeed, it wasn't long ago that Reid and company zealously defended the rights of the minority party as sacrosanct:
What was once a "constitutional crisis" and "unAmerican" is now on the brink of being implemented by the very people who leveled those charges. Here's how I described the recent history of this battle back in July:
If he pulls the trigger on this, Reid would not only break his on-the-record, unambiguous promise to the Senate in 2011, he would also execute a ploy that he deemed "un-American" when the shoe was on the other foot. Here is a parade of Senate Democrats angrily denouncing a(n abandoned) Republican proposal to enact a similar rule change in 2005...The 'Gang of 14' compromise ultimately prevailed in '05, thus averting the "Constitutional crisis" Chuck Schumer warned about. It has held ever since.
That bipartisan compromise is now on extremely thin ice as frustrated Democrats seem intent on getting their way every time, and appear willing to destroy long-standing checks on their power. Harry Reid has already chipped away at minority rights during his time as leader, but executing the nuclear option on nominees would be an unprecedented escalation in partisan tensions. Democrats' pretext for going nuclear is thin. They're allegedly outraged over a series of votes on DC circuit court judges, which Republicans have denounced as a "court packing" scheme. The Wall Street Journal editorial board explains the context:
We remember when a "judicial emergency" was the Senate's way of calling attention to vacancies based on a court's caseload. Those were the good old days. Now Democrats are threatening to change Senate rules if Republicans don't acquiesce to their plan to confirm three new judges to the most underworked appellate circuit in the country. That's the story behind the fight over the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, with the White House trying to pack the court that reviews much of its regulatory agenda. On Monday Senate Republicans blocked the third nominee to the D.C. appellate court in recent weeks, and Democrats with short memories of their judicial filibusters in the Bush years are claiming this is unprecedented. Majority Leader Harry Reid and other Democrats are threatening to resort to the so-called nuclear option, which would let the Senate confirm judicial nominees by a simple majority vote. This is nothing but a political power play because the D.C. Circuit doesn't need the new judges. It currently has 11 authorized judgeships and eight active judges—four appointed by Democratic Presidents and four by Republicans. The court also has six senior judges who hear cases varying from 25% to 75% of an active judge's caseload. Together they carry the equivalent caseload of 3.25 active judges, according to numbers from Chief Judge Merrick Garland. That means the circuit has the equivalent of 11.25 full-time judges. That's more than enough considering that the court's caseload is the lightest in the country.
Reid's crew has been saber-rattling on the nuclear option for years, with liberal members leading the charge. Will they finally take this radical plunge? Stay tuned...
Even this 5 percent figure is a deception. As Avik Roy points out, the individual market actually accounts for 8 percent of health-insurance consumers. Obama can’t help himself: He even minimizes his minimizations. So, if Obama were telling the truth in rationalizing that his broken promises affect only consumers in the individual-insurance market, we’d still be talking about up to 25 million Americans...But that’s not the half of it. Obama’s claim that unwelcome cancellations are confined to the individual-insurance market is another brazen lie. In the weekend column, I link to the excellent work of Powerline’s John Hinderaker, who has demonstrated that, for over three years, the Obama administration’s internal estimates have shown that most Americans who are covered by “employer plans” will also lose their coverage under Obamacare. Mind you, 156 million Americans get health coverage through their jobs. John cites the Federal Register, dated June 17, 2010, beginning at page 34,552 (Vol. 75, No. 116). It includes a chart that outlines the Obama administration’s projections. The chart indicates that somewhere between 39 and 69 percent of employer plans would lose their “grandfather” protection by 2013. In fact, for small-business employers, the high-end estimate is a staggering 80 percent (and even on the low end, it’s just a shade under half — 49 percent).
We'll return to the second point momentarily, but first let's revisit the administration's attempts to wave off 25 million people as a rounding error. If the White House considers five-to-eight percent of the market to be no big deal, then Megan McArdle makes a good point about percentages: If we're dismissing "small" groups of Americans, why bother tackling the uninsured problem at all? Perhaps Team O can explain why the eight percent of people on the individual market don't really matter, while the 7.5 percent of uninsured Americans are worthy of uprooting the entire system:
All the people who are ultimately expected to get additional coverage from the new law, including the Medicaid expansion, amount to only 7.5 percent of the population, so if 5 percent is too small to worry about, then probably so is the number of uninsured.
She goes on to echo McCarthy, Avik Roy and others by pointing out that the individual market is only the first shoe to drop on cancellations -- according to the Obama administration's own estimates. Many consumers in the group and employer-based markets are already seeing premium increases under Obamacare (including yours truly); soon enough, millions of people within this group will discover that they, too, are slated to become Obamacare customers -- whether they like it or not. That's because a not-insubstantial portion of small and large businesses are expected to drop their existing coverage plans ahead of 2015, when the postponed employer mandate kicks in. A recent nationwide survey of hundreds of business and franchise owners generated some attention because its results demonstrated that Obamacare is having a negative impact on hiring and worker hours. But it also showed that 28 percent of these businesses intend to cease offering coverage after next year because of Obamacare, opting instead to pay a less expensive per-employee fine. If you work at one of these companies and like your healthcare plan, you won't be able to keep it. How many group and employer-based market consumers will be betrayed by the president's lie? The estimates vary. We highlighted one MSM analysis that pegged the number at up to 52 million. 93 million is another figure that's been tossed about. A new assessment from the American Enterprise Institute falls establishes wide brackets for the range:
A new and independent analysis of ObamaCare warns of a ticking time bomb, predicting a second wave of 50 million to 100 million insurance policy cancellations next fall -- right before the mid-term elections. The next round of cancellations and premium hikes is expected to hit employees, particularly of small businesses. While the administration has tried to downplay the cancellation notices hitting policyholders on the individual market by noting they represent a relatively small fraction of the population, the swath of people who will be affected by the shakeup in employer-sponsored coverage will be much broader. An analysis by the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, shows the administration anticipates half to two-thirds of small businesses would have policies canceled or be compelled to send workers onto the ObamaCare exchanges. They predict up to 100 million small and large business policies could be canceled next year.
The second wave will be bigger than the first. And by the way, you may not be able to keep your doctor either. And you're probably going to end up paying more than you used to -- both on the individual and family level, at at the national level. Oh, and 30 million people (at least) will still be uninsured. All for the low, low price of nearly $2 trillion over ten years. What a deal. Incidentally, we've focused a lot on how every last Senate Democrat who is now frenetically casting about for dropped coverage "fixes" voted against a GOP measure that would have dealt with the issue in 2010. It's worth noting that House Democrats killed a similar proposal in committee, too. And the overwhelming majority of Pelosi's caucus voted against the "Keep Your Plan" Act just last week, toeing Obama's veto threat line. Parting thought: Given Healthcare.gov's endless screw-ups and woefully incomplete machinery, the administration is likely to start encouraging people to sign up for coverage directly through insurers. But the law clearly states that people who do so will forfeit eligibility for any subsidies. Is Obama going to try to waive another black-and-white provision of his own law without Congress? Will the lawlessness ever stop? I'll leave you with this dilemma:
They're in a tough spot. Calling it Obamacare reminds ppl it was Obama's plan; calling it ACA reminds ppl it was supposed to be affordable.— Matt Lira (@MattLira) November 20, 2013
DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz has already proudly announced her party will be running on Obamacare for the 2014 midterms as President Obama's approval rating continues to plummet as a result of the disastrous law.
But today, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus will announce that his party will also be running on Obamacare in 2014 during a press conference. In addition, the RNC has created special websites for vulnerable Democrats who voted for Obamacare, i.e. PryorLovesObamacare.com and the following list of lawmakers have been invited to attend Priebus' announcement.
Sen. Mark Begich (D- AK)*
Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR)*
Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO)*
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL)*
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA)*
Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) *
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)*
Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM)*
Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC)*
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) *
Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-01)*
Rep. Ron Barber (AZ-02)*
Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (AZ-09)*
Rep. Ami Bera (CA-07)*
Rep. Raul Ruiz (CA-36)*
Rep. Scott Peters (CA-52)*
Rep. Elizabeth Esty (CT-05)*
Rep. Patrick Murphy (FL-18)*
Rep. Joe Garcia (FL-26)*
Rep. Brad Schneider (IL-10)*
Rep. Bill Foster (IL-11)*
Rep. Bill Enyart (IL-12)*
Rep. Cheri Bustos (IL-17)*
Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01)*
Rep. Dave Loebsack (IA-02)*
Rep. John Tierney (MA-06)*
Rep. Gary Peters (MI-14)*
Rep. Tim Walz (MN-01)*
Rep. Collin Peterson (MN-07)*
Rep. Rick Nolan (MN-08)*
Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) *
Rep. Ann McLane Kuster (NH-02) *
Rep. Tim Bishop (NY-01)*
Rep. Steve Israel (NY-03)*
Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18)*
Rep. Bill Owens (NY-21)*
Rep. Dan Maffei (NY-24)*
Rep. Pete Gallego (TX-23)*
Rep. Jim Matheson (UT-04)*
Rep. Nick Rahall (WV-03)*
The Real Clear Politics average shows Republicans are gaining favoritism on the generic ballot for 2014, a change from where they were just before the Obamacare rollout.
This post has been updated.
Back on October 31, I wrote about suspicions that ObamaCare is designed to serve as a massive get out the vote ("GOTV") operation for Democrats:
It would certainly explain why ACORN, United Labor Unions, Planned Parenthood, National Urban League, and Virginia Poverty Law Center Inc. have signed on as Navigators. And can it be a coincidence that a Soros-funded outfit has produced a blueprint for how ObamaCare can be used to register voters?
A new film from Project Veritas makes it pretty clear that these suspicions are well-founded. It shows the Communications Director of Texas Enroll America -- a 501(c)(3) committed to getting people to sign up for ObamaCare -- conspiring to obtain confidential data of potential ObamaCare enrollees for (lefty) partisan and/or political use. (Note that Enroll America was the group for which HHS Secretary Sebelius was fundraising.)
ObamaCare reeks of the stench of corruption from beginning to end. Repeal and replace.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s popularity is on the same track as the president’s. With 56 percent of voters giving Cuomo a negative job approval rating, according to a Siena College poll, which is eight percentage points down from October, he’s having a hard time finding friends these days. Much of the disenchantment, it seems, is due to his push for gun control and the controversial SAFE Act Cuomo hurried into law in January after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.
Cuomo’s gun control legislation requires New York to have the toughest gun laws in the country. The local news station WHEC Rochester outlined the specifics:
The law bans the purchase of assault weapons. If you had the weapons before January 15, you have to register them. It limits the number of rounds you can legally have in a magazine to seven and requires mental health professionals to report credible threats from patients.
It’s easy to guess gun-owning New Yorkers aren’t happy. The law is so unpopular that 52 out of 62 counties in the state have passed resolutions opposing it. The NRA’s state affiliate is even asking for a hearing to challenge the law.
“When you are able to stand in front of someone and verbalize the case, it becomes abundantly clear how ridiculous some of these things are,’’ Tom King, president of the gun-rights group, said Tuesday.
Pro-Second Amendment New Yorkers also showed up at Cuomo’s private political fundraising event in Buffalo Tuesday night to give the governor a not-so-warm welcome (and it wasn’t because of the weather.) Protesting outside of the Hyatt Regency hotel (opposite some anti-fracking demonstrators), members of the Second Amendment Coalition of Western New York chanted “Cuomo’s gotta go!” to criticize his anti-gun policy.
"For him to say that he thinks that he can take our rights away is to say that he's God, and until he gets promoted as some sort of divinity, he doesn't have that right," says Joseph Mesler.
Mesler’s frustrations are justified when considering studies that have shown no correlation between gun control and less violent crime. What's more, Governor Cuomo has not provided any concrete numbers of his own to prove his SAFE Act is having an impact in New York and the Rochester Police Department released new crime data last month to show shootings actually increased from this time last year.
Not too "SAFE," huh?
EPA regulations have been getting tougher, and now the states are fighting back to try and take back some of their power in this situation. The newest carbon emissions standards for existing power plants will be coming out in June and the states are looking to keep the EPA from destroying their abilities to make their own decisions.
The National Association of State Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) adopted a resolution today calling on the EPA to recognize the primacy of states to “lead the creation of emission performance systems that reflect the policies, energy needs, resource mix, economic conditions of each State and region.”
The NARUC also stated in their resolution that,
“[T]he guidelines should be flexible enough to allow States individually or regionally to take into account, when establishing standards of performance, the different makeup of existing power generation in each State and region.”
[T]he guidelines should provide sufficiently flexible compliance pathways or mechanisms that recognize State and regional variations to achieve the most cost-effective emissions reductions in each State,”
How many times does one need to explain that states always know what’s best for their citizens and their companies. The NARUC couldn’t have said it any better. The EPA needs to stop meddling in states’ rights and allow them to prosper, yet comply with new (absurd) regulations in their own ways.
Katie walked you through this morning's CBS News poll showing Barack Obama's approval rating bleeding to a new low of (37/57), with Obamacare support tanking to (31/61). If those are the national numbers, imagine what the president's standing must look like in places like, say, Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina. One swing state that has trended blue since 2004 is Colorado, where Republicans have begun to struggle in major statewide races. There have been a few glimmers of hope in the Rocky Mountain state over the last few months, but can the GOP begin to reverse nearly a decade of erosion? A new Quinnipiac survey of Coloradans suggests that Democrats' position of strength in the state is in real peril:
- The president's job approval number is upside down by 23 points (36/59). This is a state he carried by five points one year ago. Obamacare is unpopular (40/56), and respondents split blame for the government shutdown nearly evenly between Obama and Congressional Republicans.
- Incumbent Sen. Mark Udall appears vulnerable in his 2014 re-election bid, failing to break 45 percent support against all potential challengers mentioned in the poll. By a 47-41 margin, Colorado voters say he does not deserve another term in office. His fellow Democrat Sen. Michael Bennet, who isn't up until 2016, has a weak job approval rating of 39 percent.
- In hypothetical 2016 presidential match-ups, Hillary Clinton trails three Republicans, and is tied with another:
Gov. Chris Christie 46 / Hillary Clinton 38
Sen. Rand Paul 47 / Hillary Clinton 44
Rep. Paul Ryan 45 / Hillary Clinton 43
Sen. Ted Cruz 44 / Hillary Clinton 44
Presidential polling three years away from an election is silliness, but Clinton's very mediocre showing in this poll indicates that Obama's troubles are dragging down his whole party. Congressional Democrats know it, which is why they're flipping out and venting to the media. And I'd be willing to bet that most voters aren't yet aware that Obamacare is Hillarycare. Charles Krauthammer called Hillary a "paper tiger" on Hugh Hewitt's radio show last night. Might he be onto something?
“Every single one can beat Hillary. Hillary’s a paper tiger,” the conservative columnist said, according to a transcript. “Hillary was inevitable in ’08 and what happened to inevitability? I don’t think she’s that, I think she can win, of course. And I think she’ll get the nomination by acclamation for religious reasons.”