Category Archives: Graphic of the Day

Cartoon of the Day: Gun Running

Cartoon of the Day: “Well, here we go again!”

Leaked Emails: Boehner Worked With Reid to Save Lawmaker Subsidies

Tuesday, 01 Oct 2013 12:23 PM
By Sandy Fitzgerald

House Speaker John Boehner Monday called on colleagues to ban an exemption lawmakers and staff receive for health insurance, but he and his aides had worked for months with Democratic leaders to save the subsidies, leaked documents and emails show.

The documents were provided to Politico, which revealed Tuesday morning that Boehner and aides were working closely with Democratic rivals to protect the payments.

Roll Call had earlier reported that Democrats were mulling divulging the private communications between Boehner Chief of Staff Mike Sommers and Reid Chief of Staff David Krone as proof that Boehner was trying to protect the payments.

The revelations are sure to cause more friction between Boehner and more conservative members of the House of Representatives, who have been pressing for all Obamacare exemptions for Congress to be scrapped.

The documents show Boehner and his aides discussed the matter with the offices of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, and others. Further, the documents show that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell knew of the discussions.

A possible legislative solution was drafted, the documents show, and they continued to push for a solution from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

Further, Boehner and Reid asked for a meeting with President Barack Obama to lobby him for help, the documents show. The meeting never happened, but a senior Boehner aide was able to speak to White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough about the Speaker’s wish to retain the employer subsidy.

Obamacare requires lawmakers and staff to join insurance exchanges, and the debate over whether they should continue collecting the employer contribution from the federal government has been the source of many heated discussions.

The OPM ruled that lawmakers and their staff could not receive employer payments once they went into the subsidies. The office reversed its decision, saying the employer payments could continue.

But Boehner put the issue into the government shutdown debate, attaching an amendment ending the subsidies to a House GOP funding bill.

Boehner spokesman Michael Steel told Politico the White House should solve the problem, and that “we always made it clear that House would not pass any legislative fix.”

He said Boehner was aware that Reid and the White House had been discussing the issue and that the speaker’s “fix is repealing Obamacare.”

Boehner’s office said the leak shows how concerned Democrats are.

“Any emails from Mr. Sommers will reflect the Speaker’s position: he voted against ObamaCare, and he wants to repeal Obamacare,” Steel said. “If the Senate Democrats and the White House want to make a ‘fix’ to the law, it would be their fix. The Speaker’s ‘fix’ is repeal. This is just a desperate act by Harry Reid’s staff to protect their own subsidy.”

Reid communications director Adam Jentleson, meanwhile, said his boss worked closely with Boehner and was grateful for his help.

Roll Call reported the communications could back up Democrats’ claims that Boehner’s decision to add an amendment revoking the contributions was a shot at vulnerable Senate Democrats up for reelection in 2014, such as Kay Hagan of North Carolina or Mark Pryor of Arkansas.

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A Small President on the World Stage

At the U.N., leaders hope for a return of American greatness.

The world misses the old America, the one before the crash—the crashes—of the past dozen years.

By PEGGY NOONAN

That is the takeaway from conversations the past week in New York, where world leaders gathered for the annual U.N. General Assembly session. Our friends, and we have many, speak almost poignantly of the dynamism, excellence, exuberance and leadership of the nation they had, for so many years, judged themselves against, been inspired by, attempted to emulate, resented.

As for those who are not America’s friends, some seem still confused, even concussed, by the new power shift. What is their exact place in it? Will it last? Will America come roaring back? Can she? Does she have the political will, the human capital, the old capability?

It is a world in a new kind of flux, one that doesn’t know what to make of America anymore. In part because of our president.

“We want American leadership,” said a member of a diplomatic delegation of a major U.S. ally. He said it softly, as if confiding he missed an old friend.

“In the past we have seen some America overreach,” said the prime minister of a Western democracy, in a conversation. “Now I think we are seeing America underreach.” He was referring not only to foreign policy but to economic policies, to the limits America has imposed on itself. He missed its old economic dynamism, its crazy, pioneering spirit toward wealth creation—the old belief that every American could invent something, get it to market, make a bundle, rise.

The prime minister spoke of a great anxiety and his particular hope. The anxiety: “The biggest risk is not political but social. Wealthy societies with people who think wealth is a given, a birthright—they do not understand that we are in the fight of our lives with countries and nations set on displacing us. Wealth is earned. It is far from being a given. It cannot be taken for granted. The recession reminded us how quickly circumstances can change.” His hope? That the things that made America a giant—”so much entrepreneurialism and vision”—will, in time, fully re-emerge and jolt the country from the doldrums.

The second takeaway of the week has to do with a continued decline in admiration for the American president. Barack Obama‘s reputation among his fellow international players has deflated, his stature almost collapsed. In diplomatic circles, attitudes toward his leadership have been declining for some time, but this week you could hear the disappointment, and something more dangerous: the sense that he is no longer, perhaps, all that relevant. Part of this is due, obviously, to his handling of the Syria crisis. If you draw a line and it is crossed and then you dodge, deflect, disappear and call it diplomacy, the world will notice, and not think better of you. Some of it is connected to the historical moment America is in.

But some of it, surely, is just five years of Mr. Obama. World leaders do not understand what his higher strategic aims are, have doubts about his seriousness and judgment, and read him as unsure and covering up his unsureness with ringing words.

A scorching assessment of the president as foreign-policy actor came from a former senior U.S. diplomat, a low-key and sophisticated man who spent the week at many U.N.-related functions. “World leaders are very negative about Obama,” he said. They are “disappointed, feeling he’s not really in charge. . . . The Western Europeans don’t pay that much attention to him anymore.”

The diplomat was one of more than a dozen U.S. foreign-policy hands who met this week with the new president of Iran, Hasan Rouhani. What did he think of the American president? “He didn’t mention Obama, not once,” said the former envoy, who added: “We have to accept the fact that the president is rather insignificant at the moment, and rely on our diplomats.” John Kerry, he said, is doing a good job.

Had he ever seen an American president treated as if he were so insignificant? “I really never have. It’s unusual.” What does he make of the president’s strategy: “He doesn’t know what to do so he stays out of it [and] hopes for the best.” The diplomat added: “Slim hope.”

This reminded me of a talk a few weeks ago, with another veteran diplomat who often confers with leaders with whom Mr. Obama meets. I had asked: When Obama enters a room with other leaders, is there a sense that America has entered the room? I mentioned de Gaulle—when he was there, France was there. When Reagan came into a room, people stood: America just walked in. Does Mr. Obama bring that kind of mystique?

“No,” he said. “It’s not like that.”

When the president spoke to the General Assembly, his speech was dignified and had, at certain points, a certain sternness of tone. But after a while, as he spoke, it took on the flavor of re-enactment. He had impressed these men and women once. In the cutaways on C-Span, some delegates in attendance seemed distracted, not alert, not sitting as if they were witnessing something important. One delegate seemed to be scrolling down on a BlackBerry, one rifled through notes. Two officials seated behind the president as he spoke seemed engaged in humorous banter. At the end, the applause was polite, appropriate and brief.

The president spoke of Iran and nuclear weapons—”we should be able to achieve a resolution” of the question. “We are encouraged” by signs of a more moderate course. “I am directing John Kerry to pursue this effort.”

But his spokesmen had suggested the possibility of a brief meeting or handshake between Messrs. Obama and Rouhani. When that didn’t happen there was a sense the American president had been snubbed. For all the world to see.

Which, if you are an American, is embarrassing.

While Mr. Rouhani could not meet with the American president, he did make time for journalists, diplomats and businessmen brought together by the Asia Society and the Council on Foreign Relations. Early Thursday evening in a hotel ballroom, Mr. Rouhani spoke about U.S.-Iranian relations.

He appears to be intelligent, smooth, and he said all the right things—”moderation and wisdom” will guide his government, “global challenges require collective responses.” He will likely prove a tough negotiator, perhaps a particularly wily one. He is eloquent when speaking of the “haunted” nature of some of his countrymen’s memories when they consider the past 60 years of U.S.-Iranian relations.

Well, we have that in common.

He seemed to use his eloquence to bring a certain freshness, and therefore force, to perceived grievances. That’s one negotiating tactic. He added that we must “rise above petty politics,” and focus on our nations’ common interests and concerns. He called it “counterproductive” to view Iran as a threat; this charge is whipped up by “alarmists.” He vowed again that Iran will not develop a nuclear bomb, saying this would be “contrary to Islamic norms.”

I wondered, as he spoke, how he sized up our president. In roughly 90 minutes of a speech followed by questions, he didn’t say, and nobody thought to ask him.

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What’s inside your computer…?

Miranda Rights Update … NSA Spying

We can waste readers’ time with the latest revelations about the NSA’s espionage activities against Americans, highlighted fully in the following WaPo article NSA broke privacy rules thousands of times per year, audit finds” whose title is sufficiently self-explanatory about how seriously the administration takes individual privacy, or we can just showcase the following cartoon which shows how the Miranda rights have been ‘adjusted’ for the New Normal…

But a cartoon does it best …

And if you think it’s only 1000s then suckers you deserve what you get!

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Skepticism required in the face of Obama’s terror warnings

By Christopher Harper

As new information surfaces about last year’s attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and as the National Security Agency scandal continues to swirl throughout the media, the Obama administration has come out with a worldwide warning about the possibility of serious terrorist attacks.

Please forgive my skepticism. The news media need to dig into the timing and motivation of these warnings, coming as they do against the backdrop of scandals, particularly when the administration has created what it thinks is a win-win situation. Simply put, if the attacks fail to occur, President Obama’s team can claim that they thwarted them. If the attacks do occur, the administration can say it provided fair warning. But that’s a fool’s bargain when dealing with terrorists who can simply strike another day.

In an hour-long broadcast Tuesday, “The Truth About Benghazi,” CNN reported that dozens of CIA operatives were on the ground in Benghazi on Sept. 11 — something the agency has apparently tried to cover up. That’s the night Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed.

CNN reported the CIA may have been moving surface-to-air missiles out of Libya and into the hands of Syrian rebels. The CIA declined to comment on the claim.

Such information brings the Benghazi issue — one the administration thought had lost significant traction — back into public view. If the CIA had people on the ground, why were Stevens and the three others essentially left to die?

The Department of Justice filed a sealed indictment against a Libyan militia leader on the same day CNN broadcast its report on the Benghazi attack. Amazing coincidence? Please forgive my skepticism again.

By promoting its efficiency in picking up the chatter about possible terrorist attacks, the intelligence community may believe it can quiet critics outraged by the revelations of the NSA’s widespread domestic surveillance programs — information leaked by onetime NSA contractor Edward Snowden to Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian.

Once again, pardon my skepticism. The NSA scandal is unlikely to die down anytime soon, despite the terrorist threat taking over the news for this week. And think about it for a moment. Do you honestly believe that the leader of al Qaeda communicates with his right-hand man in Yemen without considering how many other sets of ears may be listening? I strongly doubt it.

Now is the time for reporters to look to their confidential sources about the nature of the terrorist threats. One problem exists — one you might have missed last week. The Justice Department won a key victory in the U.S. Court of Appeals to force a reporter for The New York Times to reveal his confidential sources about information he published in a book on the Iranian nuclear program. That decision creates a significant chill among sources who might want to talk about severity of the current threat.

I spent a decade reporting about Middle East terrorism for Newsweek and ABC News. Terrorists typically have several objectives. One is to inflict death and destruction. Another is to create fear among the civilian population of a stronger adversary, such as the United States, and its allies.

By closing 22 embassies and consulates throughout the Middle East and North Africa and keeping 19 of them shut for the rest of the week, the Obama administration has already given the terrorists a major public relations victory.

Remember during the campaign when Mr. Obama constantly said al Qaeda was on the run? Maybe he wanted to use intelligence information back then to get re-elected. Now maybe he and his administration want intelligence information to provide cover for a variety of scandals. The dots really don’t need to be connected; the connections are all too obvious.

Christopher Harper is a professor at Temple University. He worked for more than 20 years at the Associated Press, Newsweek, ABC News and “20/20.” He can be contacted at charper@washingtontimes.com. Twitter: @charper51.

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Cartoon of the Day

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