By most accounts, former Florida governor Jeb Bush performed well (to some observers, “very, very” well) in his Friday appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference outside Washington. The likely presidential candidate succeeded in defying expectations by receiving a warm reception at the right-wing confab, even as his unorthodoxies on a few important issues for conservatives were highlighted in the appearance.
Bush spent several minutes fielding questions from Fox News host Sean Hannity about a host of issues, including those like Common Core and immigration on which Bush differs from grassroots conservatives. Animated and funny (he preempted a lightning round question by blurting out “boxers!”), Bush looked comfortable onstage as he faced plenty of boos as well as ample applause from the large contingent of supporters filling the ballroom.
Surrounding Bush’s potential bid for the Republican nomination are questions not just about his conservative bona fides but the prospect of a third member of his family in as many decades occupying the White House. At CPAC, he confidently asserted he’d have the ability to make the case for himself in a presidential campaign. Bush encouraged conservatives to find new converts and suggested his candidacy might be one to do that. “If we share our enthusiasm and love for our country and belief in our philosophy, we will be able to get Latinos and young people and other people that we need to get to get 50 [percent],” he said.
How would Bush combat perceptions of a family dynasty?
“If I run for president, I have to show what’s in my heart,” he said. “I have to show that I care about people, about their future. It can’t be about the past.”
Nevertheless, Hannity pressed Bush on some of the former governor’s past statements and positions, particularly on immigration. Bush said that he didn’t regret his unsuccessful efforts as governor to allow drivers licenses for illegal immigrants or to provide in-state tuition rates for the children of illegal immigrants. He also reiterated his support for a path to legalization, arguing it’s the only way to deal with the current problem.
“There is no plan to deport 11 million illegal immigrants,” he said.
Bush was inarticulate, however, in his response to the question about what Congress should do in the current debate over funding the Department of Homeland Security. Conservatives in the House and Senate have sought to pass a bill that funds the department while prohibiting any federal dollars to implement President Obama’s executive order on immigration. Senate Democrats stymied efforts to pass such a bill via the filibuster, and Obama has said he would veto any funding block to his order. Other Republicans have pushed for passing a “clean” DHS funding bill, with nothing about blocking the funding. What, Hannity asked Bush, should Congress do?
The tenuous (and likely temporary) truce in Ukraine may have put another feather in German chancellor Angela Merkel’s cap: It seemingly vindicates her Diplomatie statt Waffen (“diplomacy instead of weapons”) stand against Obama. And it’ll be a while before everyone wakes up to how Russia uses the freeze to consolidate territorial control. In the meantime, Merkel is once again the woman of the hour in Europe.
But there’s still one thing she wants from the Americans: TTIP, the Trans-Atlantic Trade & Investment Partnership, the huge U.S.-EU free-trade agreement that harmonizes regulations. Merkel made a little-remarked-upon pitch for it while in Washington earlier this month.
Merkel enjoys being the CFO of the EU. The rest of the world does, too: They look much more to her for financial stability than to Mario Draghi (president of the European Central Bank) or Jean-Claude Juncker (president of the European Commission). German economic might is not the only reason. For the past 70 years Germany has eschewed “national interest” and instead focused on becoming (one of the few) both fiscally responsible and non-belligerent European powers. Many of the country’s most basic laws are a reductio ad absurdum of the European subsidiarity principle: nearly all regulation is pushed down to the level of the German states. The federal government is an exercise in minimalism.
While this comports well with German Schuld (guilt, shame or debt) over World War II, many of its partners would welcome a more assertive national government, especially when it comes to doing something to stop material support for terrorism. The United Nations, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) have all found Germany subpar in its financial regulations against terrorism. Embarrassed, Germany is scrambling to pass legislation to fix this, but the draft legislation is deficient.
Germany’s new draft counter threat finance legislation, which is on course to be signed into law in May, is an effort to implement U.N. Security Council Resolution 2178. Adopted last September, the resolution calls on member states to pass legislation to stem the flow both of foreign terrorist fighters and the financing that enables them. Germany’s draft law focuses nearly exclusively on stemming the flow of fighters in support of the Islamic State (nothing to sneeze at, as more than 600 of its citizens have joined ISIS), while doing almost nothing about the lucrative grey economy in which its own (and other Western) businesses participate. This, at a time when ISIS, al Qaeda, and Hezbollah are increasingly profiting from illicit trade (smuggling or counterfeiting) of otherwise legal consumer goods: oil, pharmaceuticals, tobacco, etc.
Resolution 2178, which the German law is supposed to implement, makes specific mention of Interpol as a relevant authority seeking information for enforcement actions against support of terrorism, and Interpol has been pretty clear on what they want from the German government: They want companies to implement know-your-customer regulations to ensure they are not entering into transactions with criminal organizations engaged in illicit trade that funds terrorism.
Kentucky senator Rand Paul strolled onto the stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference outside Washington Friday as a committed crowd of supporters cheered. Wearing a light blue Brooks Brothers shirt (sleeves rolled up), a red tie, and blue jeans, Paul made a case for his liberty-focused agenda.
“There comes a time in the history of nations when fear and forgetfulness causes a nation to hesitate, to waver, and perhaps even to succumb,” Paul said, sounding as if he were reading from a founding document. “When the time comes, those who love liberty must rise to the occasion.”
Paul’s speech ran the gamut of issues, from Obamacare to privacy, but the most resounding applause came during his discourse on foreign policy and national security. The Republican set the tone of his remarks when he paraphrased the line from the U.S. oath of allegiance. “We must defend the Constitution against all enemies,” Paul said. “Foreign and domestic.”
Responding to the charge that Paul’s views on foreign policy aren’t “strong enough,” the senator argued that while he prioritizes national defense spending above all else, “when we get to foreign policy, we’re not all the same. Not all Republicans are the same on foreign policy.”
Paul said the country should “promote stability instead of chaos” and “unencumbered by nation-building.” Defeating jihadists must be done, he said, “without losing who we are in the process.”
“At home, conservatives understand that government is the problem, not the solution,” Paul said. “But as conservatives we should not succumb to the notion that a government inept at home will somehow become successful abroad, that a government that can’t even deliver the mail will be able to build nations abroad.” He described the terrorist group ISIS as a “dangerous and barbaric cult” but blamed its rise on the “safe haven created by arming Islamic rebels in the Syrian civil war.”
Paul criticized former secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s “war in Libya” and her response to the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. “Her dereliction of duty should forever preclude her from higher office,” he said.
This week, prosecutors in New York introduced eight documents recovered in Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan as evidence in the trial of a terrorism suspect. The U.S. government accuses Abid Naseer of taking part in al Qaeda’s scheme to attack targets in Europe and New York City. And prosecutors say the documents are essential for understanding the scope of al Qaeda’s plotting.
More than 1 million documents and files were captured by the Navy Seals who raided bin Laden’s safe house in Abbottabad, Pakistan in May 2011. One year later, in May 2012, the Obama administration released just 17 of them.
While there is some overlap between the files introduced as evidence in Brooklyn and those that were previously made public in 2012, much of what is in the trial exhibits had never been made public before.
The files do not support the view, promoted by some in the Obama administration, that bin Laden was in “comfortable retirement,” “sidelined,” or “a lion in winter” in the months leading up to his death. On the contrary, bin Laden is asked to give his order on a host of issues, ranging from the handling of money to the movement of terrorist operatives.
Some of the key revelations in the newly-released bin Laden files relate to al Qaeda’s dealings with Iran and presence in Afghanistan.
A top al Qaeda operative asked bin Laden for permission to relocate to Iran in June 2010 as he plotted attacks around the world. That operative, Yunis al Mauritani, was a senior member of al Qaeda’s so-called “external operations” team, and plotted to launch Mumbai-style attacks in Europe.
As THE WEEKLY STANDARD first reported, the al Qaeda cell selected to take part in al Mauritani’s plot transited through Iran and some of its members received safe haven there after the planned attacks were thwarted.
In the memo to bin Laden, a top al Qaeda manager wrote, “Sheikh Yunis is ready to move and travel.” The file continues: “The destination, in principle, is Iran, and he has with him 6 to 8 brothers that he chose. I told him we are waiting for final complete confirmation from you to move, and agree on this destination (Iran). His plan is: stay around three months in Iran to train the brothers there then start moving them and distributing them in the world for their missions and specialties. He explained those to you in his report and plan.”
Bin Laden’s reply is apparently not included in the documents.
Other intelligence recovered in the raid on the al Qaeda master’s home show that al Qaeda and Iran were at odds in some ways. Iran detained a number of senior al Qaeda leaders and members of Osama bin Laden’s family. Al Qaeda forced Iran to release some of them by kidnapping an Iranian diplomat in Pakistan. Some of the newly-released files provide hints of these disagreements as well, including a suggestion that one of bin Laden’s sons may complain about the jihadists’ treatment in Iran once he was freed.
Wisconsin governor Scott Walker received a warm reception from the crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday evening, but faced a lot of criticism for his response to a question about what he would do to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. "I want a commander in chief who will do everything in their power to ensure that the threat from radical Islamic terrorists does not wash up on American soil," Walker said. "If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world."
Walker immediately faced criticism from the mainstream press, and even some conservatives, for allegedly likening union protesters to terrorists--a contention Walker strongly disputed in an interview with Bloomberg immediately after the speech.
"One thing I've said many times before is that one of the most significant foreign policy actions taken during my lifetime was when Ronald Reagan, who was a governor before he was president, fired the air traffic controllers. Even though it had nothing to do with foreign policy, I think it had a tremendous impact because it send a powerful message around the world that this guy was serious," Walker said. "To our allies, you knew you could take him seriously and you could trust him. To our adversaries, you knew not to mess with him."
"My point was just that if I can handle that kind of pressure and kind of intensity, I think I'm up for the challenge of whatever might come if I choose to run for president," Walker added.
Walker has made this argument about Reagan and the air traffic controllers for a long time. So has Reagan's secretary of state George Shultz. As Peggy Noonan wrote in her book When Character Was King, Shultz "said that the [Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization] decision was the most important foreign policy decision Ronald Reagan ever made." No one thought that Shultz was suggesting American air traffic controllers were morally comparable to the men who ran the Evil Empire. So why would anyone believe Walker was likening union protesters to Islamist terrorists?
The emerging nuclear deal with Iran is indefensible. The White House knows it. That is why President Obama does not want to subject an agreement to congressional approval, why critics of the deal are dismissed as warmongers, and why the president, his secretary of state, and his national security adviser have spent several weeks demonizing the prime minister of Israel for having the temerity to accept an invitation by the U.S. Congress to deliver a speech on a subject of existential import for his small country. These tactics distract public attention. They turn a subject of enormous significance to American foreign policy into a petty personal drama. They prevent us from discussing what America is about to give away.
And America is about to give away a lot. This week the AP reported on what an agreement with Iran might look like: sanctions relief in exchange for promises to slow down Iranian centrifuges for 10 years. At which point the Iranians could manufacture a bomb—assuming they hadn’t produced one in secret. Iran would get international legitimacy, assurance that military intervention was not an option, and no limitations on its ICBM programs, its support for international terrorism, its enrichment of plutonium, its widespread human rights violations, and its campaign to subvert or co-opt Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon, and Syria. Then it can announce itself as the first Shiite nuclear power.
And America? Liberals would flatter themselves for avoiding a war. Obama wouldn’t have to worry about the Iranians testing a nuke for the duration of his presidency. And a deal would be a step toward the rapprochement with Iran that he has sought throughout his years in office. The EU representative to the talks, for example, says a nuclear agreement “could open the way for a normal diplomatic relation” between Iran and the West, and could present “the opportunity for shaping a different regional framework in the Middle East.” A regional framework, let it be said, that would leave American interests at risk, Israel one bomb away from a second Holocaust, nuclear proliferation throughout the Middle East, and Islamic theocrats in charge of a large part of a strategic and volatile region.
Not long ago, Harvard Law School's Charles Ogletree toldPolitico that Eric Holder "is a race man":
Obama clearly respects Holder’s four decades of experience as an attorney and judge and supports Holder's positions on LGBT rights and racial profiling, often telling his staff he recognizes it’s not all Holder’s fault: The job of attorney general is a “shit magnet” for the most intractable controversies.
But there's another explanation, and according to the two dozen current and former Obama administration officials and confidants of both men I’ve spoken with in recent weeks, it may well be the main reason the first black president of the United States has stood so firmly behind the first black attorney general of the United States: Holder has been willing to say the things Obama couldn’t or wouldn’t say about race.
“He’s a race man,” says Charles Ogletree, a longtime friend of Holder’s who taught and mentored Obama and his wife, Michelle, as Harvard Law School students in the 1980s. “He’s gone farther and deeper into some issues of race than the White House would like, but I know he has the president’s well-wishes. It’s clear [Obama and Holder] believe in the same things.”
Well, Holder's "exit interview" with Politico certainly confirms Ogletree's theory of Holder's worldview:
[W]hen he was asked what book he would recommend to a young person coming to Washington, like his 32-year-old aide Kevin Lewis, who started at the White House at age 26, Holder made a revealing choice: “The Autobiography of Malcolm X.”
“I say this not to every African-American of his age, but for every American, that you read ‘The Autobiography of Malcolm X’ to see the transition that that man went through, from petty criminal to a person who was severely and negatively afflicted by race, to somebody who ultimately saw the humanity in all of us,” Holder said. “And that would be a book I would recommend to everybody.”
My own #1 book recommendation for young folks coming to Washington probably would have been The Federalist, which would seem slightly more relevant to the work of Washington in general and the Justice Department specifically, but I'm not the attorney general of the United States so what do I know?
Holder goes on to say in this new interview that the most important priority for the Justice Department needs to be to lower the burden of proof necessary for the federal government to prosecute state and local government officials on accusations of civil rights violations.
The economy did not grow as robustly in the 4th quarter as had been thought. Bloomberg reports that:
Gross domestic product, the value of all goods and services produced, rose at a 2.2 percent annualized rate, down from an initial estimate of 2.6 percent, Commerce Department figures showed Friday in Washington. The median forecast of 83 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a 2 percent pace.
Consumer spending last quarter climbed by the most in four years, underscoring the underlying strength of the expansion. An improving job market and cheaper fuel costs will probably keep underpinning households this year, which will help the U.S. overcome a slowdown in exports as the dollar climbs and foreign economies struggle.
If the recovery were an NFL team, it would be in a rebuilding year. 9-7, maybe. Or 8-8. And looking to make the playoffs next season.
President Barack Obama will not be meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu next week when the Israeli leader comes to Washington. Neither will Secretary of State John Kerry. And though Netanyahu will deliver an address to a joint session of Congress (thanks to an invitation from Republican John Boehner), he will not be getting a photo op from the Democratic administration at either the White House or State Department.
Unlike a Cuban diplomat, who will be getting a State Department photo-op later this morning.
"U.S.-Cuba Talks - Camera Spray with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere, Roberta Jacobson and Cuban Foreign Ministry’s Director General for U.S. Affairs, Josefina Vidal Ferreiro, at the Department of State," the State Department announced in an email.
Vidal Ferreiro has taken public shots at President Obama, as the Miami Herald recently reported:
Josefina Vidal Ferreiro, who will head the Cuban delegation in this week's talks to begin normalization of diplomatic ties with the United States, is described as well prepared, intelligent and a keen observer of U.S. policy — and she is a woman who doesn't mince words.
In February 2013 after President Barack Obama said in an interview with Telemundo that it was time for Cuba to “join the 21st century,” the senior Cuban official shot back: “It's unfortunate that President Obama continues to be poorly advised and ill-informed about the Cuban reality, as well as the sentiments of his own people who desire normalization of our relationship.”
Al Sharpton met with the president of the United States yesterday. "President Obama met with African American civil rights and faith leaders to provide an update on the Administration’s priorities as described in the State of the Union. The meeting was also an opportunity to have a dialogue with the leaders about the issues facing their communities, including criminal justice, education, health care and economic development," the White House announced in a read-out of the meeting.
"The President highlighted the upcoming release of the report by the Task Force on 21st Century Policing, and emphasized the work of the Task Force leading to the report’s creation. The President also spoke about his efforts to work with a broad bipartisan coalition to continue to reform the criminal justice system and the significance of doing so for the country. The President noted the upcoming anniversary of the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative tomorrow and the progress made by the initiative with over 150 elected officials, cities and tribes having accepted the community challenge. The President and leaders also agreed to work together to find ways to strengthen our nation’s voting laws and reduce any barriers that prevent Americans from voting. The leaders in attendance agreed to continue their outreach to their communities and to work with the Administration on its efforts to implement its initiatives."
The full list of participants include:
· Cornell Brooks, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
· Sherrilyn Ifill, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (NAACP LDF)
· Marc Morial, National Urban League (NUL)
· Spencer Overton, Interim President and CEO, Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies
· Catherine Pugh, National Black State Legislators
· Al Sharpton, National Action Network (NAN)
· John Boyd, President, National Black Farmers Association
· Ron Busby, President, U.S. Black Chambers, Inc.
· Edwin Bass, COGIC Urban Initiatives, Inc.
· Bishop George Battle, Jr., African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church
· Reverend Traci Blackmon, Christ The King United Church of Christ
· Reverend Kip Banks, Sr., Interim General Secretary, Progressive National Baptist Church
· Reverend Jesse Bottoms, Jr., National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. of the Northeast Region
· Bishop Charles Ellis, Pentecostal Assemblies of the World
· Michael McBride, PICO’s Lifelines to Healing Campaign
Usually when the Obama administration is discussing doctors and health issues, Obamacare is on the table. Thursday, however, the White House threw a curve by linking health to climate change. In a new blog post, the White House declares that "7 out of 10 Doctors [say] Climate Change Is Already Harming Patients’ Health." While often the White House has been a source of upbeat reports on recent health improvements attributed in part to the Affordable Care Act, the language of this post stands in sharp contrast. For example:
"Already, 1 in 10 children in the U.S. suffers from asthma. Heat-related health problems are growing. Pollen concentrations are up. Rising temperatures are only going to bring more smog, more asthma, and longer allergy seasons that put more Americans at greater risk of landing in the hospital."
"...increases in air pollution due to climate change are worsening the severity of illnesses in their patients, and they expect these health impacts will further increase in the future."
"...their patients are experiencing other climate-related health problems — including injuries due to severe weather, allergic reactions, and heat-related impacts."
The survey cited by the White House was conducted by the American Thoracic Society, a group of over 15,000 doctors, researchers, nurses, and other health professionals with a focus on "research, clinical care, and public health in respiratory disease, critical illness, and sleep disorders." Although 5,500 members were randomly selected for invitations to participate in the survey, only 17 percent responded. Of the 915 respondents, 65 percent (rounded to 7 in 10 by the White House) agreed that climate change is 'relevant to patient care" either "a great deal" or "a moderate amount."
The White House also cites, but does not link to, a survey of the National Medical Association's membership whose results are said to be in line with the American Thoracic Society survey. (The National Medical Association, according to its website, "promotes the collective interests of physicians and patients of African descent", and is distinct from the more well known American Medical Association.) The survey to which the White House apparently refers can be found at climatechangecommunication.org and indeed reports that respondents felt that "climate change is affecting the health of their own patients a great deal or a moderate amount (61 percent)." This survey had a response rate of 30 percent, or 284 respondents.