Thursday, January 31, 2013

Cruz Holds Hagel Accountable During Confirmation Hearing

As he promised, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) has released for the record the 2009 al-Jazeera interview show in which Chuck Hagel agreed with a caller's statement that the U.S. is a bully and isn't laying down its nuclear weapons as we ask other nations to do. Also, he agreed with a caller that there is an absence of "moral leadership" in the world.

First, the question and answer part of Senator Cruz and Hagel: 

Next, the most dramatic part of the questioning as Senator Cruz introduces video confirmation of his line of questioning:

Some Highlights of the Hagel Confirmation Hearing

The level of unpreparedness exhibited by nominee Chuck Hagel Thursday before the Senate Armed Forces Committee was surprising, to put it mildly, to both Democrats and Republicans.  The water carrying media was shocked.  It was Hagel looking like Obama in the first debate against Mitt Romney.  He was unprepared and fumbling around for answers as he was questioned on past statements and votes.

This was a devastating part of the Hagel nomination hearing in the Senate Armed Forces Committee Thursday.  Senator Lindsey Graham, (R-SC) grilled Hagel on his ugly comments about Israel, in particular his reference to the "Jewish lobby" and Senators who are pressured to do "dumb things" to appease that lobby:

Two previous works of Hagel were mentioned multiple times in questioning. One was a paper put forth by GLOBAL ZERO -  U.S. NUCLEAR
POLICY COMMISSION REPORT where Hagel had to back off his position of nuclear disarmament.  The other was from The Center for Strategic and International Studies in which Hagel speaks about Iran and criticized the Bush administration's approach to that country.  He advocated, in 2007, that we must hold unconditional talks.

In the last year, the President has authorized the U.S. Ambassador in Iraq, Ryan Crocker, to hold narrow and limitedagenda bilateral talks with Iranian officials regarding Iraq and I have supported this effort.  Three rounds of talks have been held, with another round scheduled soon.
However, now is the time for the United States to actively pursue an offer of direct, unconditional, and comprehensive talks with Iran.  We cannot afford to refuse to consider this strategic choice any longer.  We should make clear that everything is on the table – our issues and Iran’s….similar to the opportunity that we squandered in 2003 for comprehensive talks with Iran.  This should include offering Iran a credible way back in from the fringes of the international community, security guarantees if it is willing to give up nuclear weapons ambitions, as well as other incentives.  This will require the day-to-day efforts and presence of a very senior administration official, higher ranking than the American Ambassador to Iraq. 
And, yes, Senator Hagel has a book to hawk.  These guys read it so you don't have to do it.

We'll conclude with "The 80 Worst Seconds of the Chuck Hagel Hearing" from the GOP Rapid Response team: 


Hagel Appears Before Senate Armed Forces Committee

I have written about former Senator Hagel and the opposition he faces in his nomination to be Secretary of Defense. To say his hearing before the Senate Armed Forces Committee Thursday was brutal, to put it mildly.  He took fire from both sides of the panel. 

President Obama used this quote during his second Inaugural speech as he dipped briefly into foreign policy:
"Peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes".
Was it ignorance of his speechwriters or was it a deliberate choice to use a quote which is credited to British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain as he wanted to bury his head and appease an advancing Hitler in Europe?  Perhaps this is the "common creed" Hagel subscribes to with President Obama. 

President Obama has a distinctly off-putting habit of using a bury his head in the sand stance as first reaction to global happenings.  Chuck Hagel hopes to sound as though he is in favor of a lighter footprint in the world from America.  It is no doubt one of the most ingratiating aspects of his foreign policy ideology that Obama finds acceptable from a Republican so will be his administration's token appointment.

This is a list of recent happenings, however, from The Wall Street Journal, which may prove to be difficult for Obama and Hagel to ignore:

In the week since President Obama declared "a decade of war is now ending" at his inauguration, a few things happened.
• Israeli warplanes on Wednesday struck a truck convoy outside Damascus and headed to Lebanon's Hezbollah, according to news reports, amid concern about the spread of chemical and advanced antiaircraft weapons from convulsive Syria.
• The U.S. commander in Kabul predicted a tough spring of fighting and "an uncertain future" for Afghanistan.
• The French retook northern Mali from Islamist militias.
• Egypt's military chief warned of the "collapse" of the Arab world's largest nation.
• China moved ahead with naval exercises around Pacific islands disputed with Japan.
• And the Pentagon announced plans to boost American cyber defenses and set up an air base in north Africa (near Mali, Libya, Algeria, etc.).
Hagel's complete embrace of bending to popular opinion and saying whatever works best for him in a situation, the hearing day conversion of past remarks and votes was in full display.  Noted HERE , pretty much has allegiance for his own political career and little else. It seems he isn't so troubled over a possible sequestration of the military funding, either.
This may not trouble Mr. Hagel, a former Republican Senator from Nebraska in the President's dovish mold. In his most notable comments about the Pentagon, he averred last year that the military is "bloated." According to Bob Woodward, such advice secured Mr. Hagel the Pentagon nod.
Hagel will be a good fit for Team Obama, especially teaming up with the new Secretary of State Kerry.  These three will no doubt change the face of American foreign policy.  

Elections have consequences.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Obama Demands Immediate Action on Immigrant Reform

So, President Obama flew to Las Vegas Tuesday to deliver his thoughts on immigration reform.  Why he felt the urge to continue to campaign on the taxpayer's dime instead of simply delivering the speech in the Washington, D.C. area remains to be uncertain. Though the Congressional Hispanic caucus asked him to not do it, President Obama again ignored the legislative process and demanded his wishes be immediately put into law.

As was pointed out HERE , the President's fake urgency and bossiness over scheduling immediate action on an immigration reform bill is a bit much:

"If Congress is unable to move forward in a timely fashion, I will send up a bill based on my proposal and insist they vote on it right away.
"Yes, well, when he is Prime Minister of the World he might be able to tell the Intergalactic Parliament what to vote on and when, but as of now Mr. Obama is merely the President of the United States and the Congress has been loathe - over the past 224 years - to cede the power of Floor scheduling to the White House.
Someone should remind the President each and every day that he is now entering his fifth year - not fifth day - in office and he could have "insisted" on Immigration Reform at any point in his first term
 It is clear that one could question Obama's sincerity here.  He would like nothing more, no doubt, to use this hot button issue as a battering ram on Republicans in the 2014 elections, should it twist in the wind until then. He will continue to rant about non-existent straw men, as is his nature.  Instead of working with Congress, letting the process move forward, he had to jump in and up the ante.  He raises concerns that Democrats hoped to sidestep.  

Republicans were burned in the 1980's when Ronald Reagan struck a lopsided deal with Democrats.  Complete, unequivocal amnesty was granted then and the border remained unsecured.  It is understandable for reasonable people now to question how stipulations and requirements will be enforced.

This is the statement from Senator Rubio, one of the gang of eight, as he noticed a lack of enforcement triggers mentioned by the president:

“I am concerned by the President’s unwillingness to accept significant enforcement triggers before current undocumented immigrants can apply for a green card. Without such triggers in place, enforcement systems will never be implemented and we will be back in just a few years dealing with millions of new undocumented people in our country. Furthermore, the President ignored the need for a modernized guest worker program that will ensure those who want to immigrate legally to meet our economy’s needs can do so in the future.  Finally, the President’s speech left the impression that he believes reforming immigration quickly is more important than reforming immigration right. A reform of our immigration laws is a consequential undertaking that deserves to be subjected to scrutiny and input from all involved.  I was encouraged by the President’s  explicit statement that people with temporary legal status won’t be eligible for ObamaCare. If in fact they were, the potential cost of reform would blow open another big, gaping hole in our federal budget and make the bill untenable.”
Liberals will argue that border enforcement is at its strictest now. That also means that the number of those illegally crossing is increasing. That number is up 9%.    

Even as President Obama travels to Las Vegas Tuesday to call for legalizing illegal immigrants, the latest numbers from the U.S. Border Patrol suggest that the flow across the nation’s southwest border jumped by 9 percent last year.The Border Patrol made 356,873 arrests along the U.S.-Mexico border in fiscal year 2012, up from 327,577 in 2011, according to figures obtained by the Associated Press and confirmed by The Washington Times. Border Patrol officials estimate that apprehensions are a good proxy for illegal crossings, so when the numbers go up, it means that the flow of illegal immigrants is going up as well.Last year’s increase marks a reversal. Apprehensions peaked in 2005 at 1.2 million and had been steadily dropping every year since as first President George W. Bush and then Mr. Obama committed more manpower and resources to the border.
President Obama may think he can simply declare the border secure and the issue dead, thus reform measures are ready to be made. That is a troubling assertion, considering the data would indicate the number of illegal crossings are increasing now, not on the decline.

This issue doesn't have to be rushed.  We have the time to do it right.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Senators Roll Out Immigration Reform Proposal

Another secretive gang of eight in the U.S. Senate has emerged from behind closed doors and presented what is described as a bipartisan approach to immigration reform.  The continued use of legislating with these small, shadowy groups is disturbing but now we have to hope some meaningful reform will begin to be discussed.

The members of the panel are four Democrats: Senators Schumer, Durbin, Menendez and Bennet.  The Republicans are: Senators McCain, Graham, Rubio and Flake. It would seem we have seen this show before.

The proposal is quite close to the reform that former President George W Bush tried to move forward in 2007.  This was quickly shut down by both Republicans and Democrats.  Democrats certainly didn't want a Republican president to lead such major reform that will affect future voting populations.  HERE are the four specific points of the current proposal:

1. Create a tough but fair path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants currently living in the United States that is contingent upon securing our borders and tracking whether legal immigrants have left the country when required;

2. Reform our legal immigration system to better recognize the importance of characteristics that will help build the American economy and strengthen American families;
3. Create an effective employment verification system that will prevent identity theft and end the hiring of future unauthorized workers; and,
4. Establish an improved process for admitting future workers to serve our nation’s workforce needs, while simultaneously protecting all workers.
It looks good on paper but it is easy for Republicans to be skeptical working with this very liberal President and Senate leadership.  It is easy to realize that the safeguards of accountability over border security and reforming visas will be tossed to the curb when it is all done.  Democrats do not support accountability measures, as a general rule.  This president is far to eager to ram through sweeping legislation rather than allowing Congress to do its job and provide sensible and workable solutions.  Remember Obamacare?  Obama's legacy is more important to him than the future needs of our country.

The senators rolled out their framework for immigration reform Monday, the day before President Obama traveled to Las Vegas (why?) to deliver his own speech containing his proposal.  He has a habit of overreaching, this president. He compliments the senators for their work then goes on to muddy the issue with his own words.  The legislative body should be able to present and debate the issue on its own.  Even the Congressional Hispanic caucus asked Obama to not give his speech, to let the debate blossom and not muck things up. So, naturally, his ego made the decision.  He flew to Vegas and bloviated.

As he was interviewed Tuesday morning, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) said on getting out in front of the president's speech in Las Vegas on immigration reform: "If people don't know where you stand on something, your opposition will say where you stand and I guarantee they will not tell the truth."

The two Texas senators- both Republicans-  have exhibited restraint in their support of the reform measure put forth.  Senior Senator John Cornyn expressed concern that citizenship for those here illegally would allow them to jump the line over those doing it the legal way:

Speaking on Andrea Tantaros’ radio show Tuesday, Cornyn said he didn’t “want to discourage” the bipartisan effort by the eight senators, but he added: “I do worry that people get the cart ahead of the horse and start talking about a pathway to citizenship before they talk about the prerequisites to that — and really what I would consider to be necessary confidence building measures — to show that the federal government and Congress can be trusted when it comes to border security, when it comes to work site enforcement and when it comes to visa overstays, which accounts for about 40 percent of immigration currently.”
Cornyn also said he thinks the solution, if possible, should come from the Judiciary Committee and was skeptical of a plan crafted “behind closed doors.

Newly elected Senator Ted Cruz also expressed concern about the process put forth for a pathway to citizenship. The statement released by his office:

I appreciate the good work that senators in both parties have put into trying to fix our broken immigration system. There are some good elements in this proposal, especially increasing the resources and manpower to secure our border and also improving and streamlining legal immigration. However, I have deep concerns with the proposed path to citizenship. To allow those who came here illegally to be placed on such a path is both inconsistent with rule of law and profoundly unfair to the millions of legal immigrants who waited years, if not decades, to come to America legally.

This sums it up as to how many conservatives and Republicans brace for the upcoming legislative battle:
If we’ve learned anything from the 1986 amnesty, it is that trust but verify is not going to cut it when it comes to illegal immigration policy.  We need inviolable enforcement mechanisms on the enforcement side before we are prepared to make painful concessions.  Otherwise, comprehensive immigration reform will look a lot like comprehensive healthcare reform.  And we will be having this same debate in 20 years from now, albeit with a permanent Democrat majority.

This is just beginning.  Stay tuned.  Pay attention.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Obama and Hillary on 60 Minutes

I think it is safe to say that Hillary Clinton will run for president in 2016.  As part of repayment for assisting his re-election using her popular husband and for saving him from being called before Congress to testify about Benghazi, President Obama sat for a joint interview with Hillary Clinton on 60 Minutes Sunday night.  He has not done that with any other member of his cabinet.  Frankly, the only other joint interviews he does is the occasional one with is wife.

It was a slobbering love fest.  No questions of worth were asked of the outgoing Secretary of State.  Nothing about how this administration has failed on the world stage, nothing about the continuing Arab unrest, nothing about digging deeper into the Benghazi tragedy, just nothing.  It was all about how does she feel and how is her health and the like.  It was a big ole campaign hug for Hillary 2016.

Can you imagine that kind of interview with a Republican, any Republican at all? No, of course not.  

THIS is a good list of pros and cons for Hillary's 2016 run.

Republicans and conservatives and Independents continue to make Fox News Network the most watched on cable television for a reason.  After decades of only one point of view - the liberal world vision - it was a breath of fresh air to hear both sides of political arguments.  Barack Obama, however, has renewed his objection to Fox News and to conservative talk radio. He would like to demand only his ideas to be in the public square but can't really officially demand that of television viewers, so he whines.  

It is normal for a president to voice despair with the media and reporters.  It is not normal for a president to call for a boycott of a news organization simply for allowing more than one point of view to emerge on its airwaves.  Remember during the 2008 campaign when Team Obama decided to shut out Fox News from their press plane and gave no interviews to the network reporters? Yeah.  Like that. 

This 60 Minutes interview was an embarrassment.  Some even on the left call it dangerously close to something a state run media would run. You may remember Ms. Powers from the Clinton administration as she was in the State Department and a big supporter of both Bill and Hillary Clinton.

The New Republic, a liberal online publication, has re-launched and lo and behold, the cover story is on President Obama and a main point is how displeased he is with FOX News and conservative talk radio. The publisher and editor in chief is Chris Hughes, a dot com millionaire and a major Obama donor.  He pledged non-biased reporting but the very first issue violates that promise. On working with the other party, Obama expects the media and reporters to carry his water and tout his agenda.

And I think if you talk privately to Democrats and Republicans, particularly those who have been around for a while, they long for the days when they could socialize and introduce bipartisan legislation and feel productive. So I don't think the issue is whether or not there are people of goodwill in either party that want to get something done. I think what we really have to do is change some of the incentive structures so that people feel liberated to pursue some common ground.One of the biggest factors is going to be how the media shapes debates. If a Republican member of Congress is not punished on Fox News or by Rush Limbaugh for working with a Democrat on a bill of common interest, then you'll see more of them doing it.
It's that uncooperative Fox News, I tell you.

Washington Post political columnist and commentator Charles Krauthammer said that Obama's scowl towards FOX News should be accepted with pride:

I love to hear the president whine about FOX News and talk radio. I think we ought to be proud of the fact that we annoy him so much. If you look at the line-up on one side, the liberal media, you start with ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, PBS, MSNBC, the elite newspapers, the one remaining news magazine, the universities, Hollywood -- it doesn't stop anywhere. And on the other side, talk radio, FOX News. And they can't stand the fact that they no longer have a monopoly. 
So, I think it ought to be taken as a compliment. What I've always said about Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch, their genius was understanding and locating a niche audience in broadcast cable news, which is half the American people. The half that have suffered for decades by the fact you get the news presented from a single perspective over and over again. 
In Barack Obama's world, it is never his inability to govern or to work with Republicans or socialize with those in Congress to establish working relationships.  No, it is any variance of the mainstream, liberal media and press.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Presbyterians Pontificate Progressive Points as Doctrine

I was raised in the Presbyterian church. I was baptized in that church, too.  My parents were active in the church. My husband was also raised in the Presbyterian church.  Articles written by members of the Presbyterian church, therefore, catch my attention.  In recent years, though, I am left with a feeling of disappointment.  

The reason my husband and I no longer support the church is because the politicization has penetrated too deeply.  We don't think God is either a Democrat or a Republican.  We think God has bigger issues to deal with than American politics.

We believe in the separation of church and state.   

An article I read recently was a glowing account of the Inaugural speech delivered by President Obama.  It was further justification for our feelings towards our church.

Obama’s speech, his second inaugural address, repeatedly cited civic and religious doctrines — namely the God-given equality extolled by the “founding creed” of the Declaration of Independence — to essentially reconsecrate the country to the common good and to the dignity of each person.
It was a faith-infused event that recognized both the original sins as well as the later atonements of America’s history, especially on race, which was front and center as the nation’s first African-American president took the oath on the holiday commemorating the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
And Obama and other speakers vividly traced the nation’s tortuous path from slavery to civil rights — from the Emancipation Proclamation 150 years ago to the March on Washington 50 years ago, the latter presided over by King.

No mention of this, though:

Myrlie Evers-Williams, widow of civil-rights activist Medgar Evers, delivered the invocation at President Obama's second inauguration today. She is the first woman and the first layperson ever to do so; ordained pastors or priests have always performed the invocation prior to Evers-Williams. 

The author was more concerned about noting over and over the elements of Obama's speech which reached out to gays and Latinos.  Rich with irony is the lack of criticism that Team Obama disinvited the first pastor invited to deliver the benediction, due to some anti-gay speeches made in his earlier career.  Christians defend him by saying he was delivering the message in reference to Biblical text.  Also, Obama's thoughts on the rights of gay Americans conveniently "evolved" to include the acceptance of gay marriage - only as a state issue - in the last months of his last presidential campaign.

Nevertheless, the article insists this Inaugural speech proves a Fourth Great Awakening.  No, I am not kidding.

“If you had any doubt that we are in the middle of a Fourth Great Awakening, you just missed one of the greatest inauguration speeches in American history,” Diana Butler Bass, a historian of American religion, wrote on Facebook as she watched the speech.

I don't remember any glowing reports written about former President George W. Bush, though I do remember much angst from the left side of the aisle that the man embraced his religious beliefs.  Usually he was accused of exhibiting a false sort of religious expression - as though he was faking it.  

So, I googled it.  I came across this guy:


Social commentator, writer and radio commentator on Minnesota Public Radio's "All Things Considered" (MPR), 91.1 FM. Pastor, Shepherd of the Hill Presbyterian Church in Chaska,MN. Live and breath reflection on the spoken and hidden convictions that shape the news and personal life. Dyed-in-the-wool Phillies and Twins fan!

And his blog post from August, 2012 HERE.  See, George W. Bush and Mitt Romney/Paul Ryan are bad, as they pose with military equipment. Martin Luther King, Jr. is good. It is a nonsensical comparison yet this is what is expected today in the intersection of politics and religion.  National security and non-violent protests are not in the same argument for common sense people.

The First Presbyterian Church in Houston doesn't seem to be too thrilled with the overtly liberal agenda pushed by a growing number in the church.  

One of the largest Presbyterian churches in the country, located here in Houston, is voting this Sunday on whether or not to enter into a discussion of what its ultimate affiliation should be with its denomination — the Presbyterian Church USA
 The minister clearly states it is not just the matter of interpreting gay rights in a church's doctrine, but the overall direction of the church.

In May of 2011, The Presbyterian Church USA, or PC USA, voted to allow openly gay clergy.  Just this past summer, PC USA narrowly defeated a motion that would create a path to same-sex marriages. First Presbyterian Church senior pastor Birchfield says issues over homosexuality and the church aren't what's pushing them into having a vote."No, at this point it's really not about gay marriage. It's really more about the fundamental differences in how we interpret scripture and how we view the nature and work of Christ."church document posted on its website lists the theological drifts from PC USA.  Bullet points include defeated motions on the "singular saving of Jesus Christ," encouragement to not use words like "Lord" and phrases like "spiritual blindness" and only a narrow defeat on the redefinition of marriage.Birchfield says he has no end game in mind.  But he does hope that the church body this Sunday votes to have a discussion."My biggest hope is that should we go into the process that we will allow the process to lead us to the conclusion about what our options are at the end."
Yes, this is a discussion long past due.  By taking this vote, First Presbyterian Church in Houston leads the way in the process.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Kerry Appears Before Senate Foreign Relations Committee

President Obama begins his second term in the office with potentially a very different foreign policy team around him.  The new team of a Secretary of State John Kerry and a Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel - no doubts, really, that they will both be easily confirmed - signals a clear choice to stand down.  The team of Bob Gates or Leon Panetta and Hillary Clinton were much more mature, reasoned and attentive to the hot spots in the world.  As Hillary Clinton testified for the last time Wednesday, she warned of this administration's tendency to withdraw rather than engage.  She warned of the emerging strength of the terrorists to do harm in Northern Africa, for example.  

John Kerry appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Thursday morning.  The last time he was doing that was during the Winter Soldier hearings and he was deliberately slandering his fellow soldiers.  He even had the audacity to reference this past performance as a protester was escorted from his hearing:

Most Vietnam veterans, certainly the one living in my house, think of him as a deeply flawed man. His despicable behavior during the Winter Soldier hearings was immoral and dishonest, all for his own political gain.  It was sick. This is the man our president - who proclaims an undying respect for the military - has nominated to be Secretary of State. So be it.

A president nominates his choices to serve in his cabinet.  Elections have consequences. The Senate will do its job of "advise and consent" and he will be accepted as one of their own in that network. Even John McCain, a Vietnam veteran who was tortured as a captured serviceman, said that Kerry would get the job easily, though Kerry would not have been his personal choice for the job. You may note that Kerry is the outgoing Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the committee holding his hearing.

Chuck Hagel will be the token Republican as Secretary of Defense.  Remarks made during his political career in Congress have brought questions and criticism from other sides of the aisle. Thursday Senator Barasso wrote an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal. On television you will see him sitting next to Senator McCain. Just back from a visit to Israel and Prime Minister Netanyahu,  he voiced concern about disparaging remarks made by Hagel while in office and votes taken concerning Israel's enemies.

Since Chuck Hagel, a former Republican senator, was nominated to be the next defense secretary, there is new attention on his many controversial statements. One of them, his remark that "the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people" on Capitol Hill, I found to be particularly offensive and wrong.As a senator required to provide "advice and consent" on his appointment, I recently asked Mr. Hagel about his comment. He apologized for it and explained that he was only commenting on the strength of the lobby. While I respect his apology, I can't respect his explanation. My national-security votes are based on America's national security—not lobbyists' issues, interests or intimidation.
While Mr. Hagel's troublesome and insulting words matter, his policy positions matter even more. He has a record of votes and decisions that are far outside the mainstream of foreign policy supported by both Republicans and Democrats.
Mr. Hagel was one of only two U.S. senators to oppose financial sanctions against Iran in 2001. In 2007, he wrote to President George W. Bush urging "direct, unconditional, and comprehensive talks with Iran." In 2008, he again was one of only two senators to vote against sanctions. That same year, he even implied, in his book "America: Our Next Chapter," that a nuclear Iran might not be so bad because countries with nuclear weapons "will often respond with some degree of responsible, or at least sane, behavior."
Like John Kerry, Chuck Hagel is a political opportunist.  He voted for the war in Iraq and then decided to openly withdraw that support.  He was adamant that the surge would not work, too. The surge proved to be a turning point in the war. He threw his support to Barack Obama in his run for president over John McCain.  He campaigned around the country for Obama and ingratiated himself at every opportunity, laying the groundwork for his current nomination.

Like John Kerry, Chuck Hagel has been consistently wrong on decisions involving foreign policy.  I am certain that he will, however, be the next Secretary of Defense.

Hagel is slowly building support from the Democrats who will vote for him in the Senate.  To date, no Republican has voiced a commitment to voting for his confirmation.  Today after some Democrats came forward with statements of support, Kerry spoke up for Hagel:

Their statements came shortly after Sen. John Kerry, the president's choice for secretary of state, found himself defending Hagel at his confirmation hearing.
"I know Chuck Hagel. I think he is a strong patriotic former senator, and he will be a strong secretary of defense," Kerry said of Hagel, who, like Kerry, served in Vietnam.

The team of Kerry and Hagel will be interesting to watch.  It will be very dangerous for our partner in democracy, Israel, and that is a pity.  While Barack Obama clearly hopes to focus on domestic issues in his second term, this is no time for America to bury its head and withdraw from the world.

Americans are worried about the direction in which our country is going.  This week's polling showed that Americans are the most downbeat about the state of our country since the days of the Jimmy Carter presidency.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Hillary Clinton Testifies Before Congress on Benghazi

Hillary Clinton ends her reign as Secretary of State soon and Wednesday marked her last scheduled appearance to testify before Congress.  She testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in the morning and the House Foreign Affairs Committee in the afternoon.

Clinton has been mum about any future political plans but if we are to take a cue from Congressional Democrats, she's a contender in 2016 in the Democratic presidential primary. Freshman congressman from California Bera said : "We didn't get a chance to really serve with you. We hope in a few years we will get that chance again."

Not exactly what Vice-President Biden wants to hear.

No new truths were gleaned from the hearings.  I didn't watch the morning session but I saw the afternoon session.  The big news from the morning Senate hearing was the theatrics between the Secretary of State and Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton got testy on Capitol Hill Wednesday in response to a query from Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who called into question her department's accounting of the Sept. 11, 2012, attack in Benghazi, Libya.
Facing expected scrutiny from Republicans during her testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Clinton appeared to take exception to Johnson's pointed inquiry into the State Department's initial report that the attack had been mounted spontaneously as a reaction to an anti-Islam YouTube video.
"With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans," Clinton responded, raising her voice at Johnson, who continued to interrupt her. "Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk last night who decided to kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, Senator."
Clearly, Hillary had this answer well rehearsed. The Democrats needed a strong Hillary moment. The bolded sentence is my emphasis.  It set off a firestorm in social media and a Washington Post reporter responded to it:

No matter your view of the media’s role in Benghazi; no matter your take on whether U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice leveled with the country on the Sept. 16 talk shows; no matter your view of Fox News’s Benghazi campaign, it surely does make a difference whether it was “because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they’d go kill some Americans.” It makes a difference to the media, the public, the government, everyone.
The trustworthiness of the administration’s version of events — even the early one — makes a difference. Whether it was hard-core terrorism or a spontaneous attack or something else — that makes a difference too, with strong implications for intelligence accountability. Goodness gracious, in her very own statement, Clinton herself even seems to acknowledge that it makes a difference, when she says, “It is our job to figure out what happened …”
At one point in the proceedings, Clinton stated, “Maybe we didn’t do a good enough job of explaining that we didn’t have a good picture.” Yes, that would have helped. 
I firmly believe that had Fox News not stayed on the story and addressed it consistently, the White House would have successfully allowed it to be swept away.  None of the other networks would touch it until it simply became too embarrassing to ignore it any longer. It does matter that the American people were deliberately mislead to support the re-election of Barack Obama.

Rep Faleomavaega of Guam felt the need to state that politicians "shouldn't use terrorist attacks for political gain" which was a flash of irony, given that is exactly what Hillary Clinton did as Senator Hillary Clinton after the attacks of 9/11/01.  She went to the floor of the Senate and held up a New York Post  headline: "Bush Knew" as she spoke about that day.  Yeah, so that happened.

Rep Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) countered during his questioning time by stating that it is not seeking political gain but the democratic way to fix problems by asking questions and placing blame for mistakes.  Hillary was masterful, as usual, at diverting the questions from real substance.

Democrats were strongly going for sainthood.  Saint Hillary was even praised for her "extraordinary daughter" who helped out at The Rockaways after Hurricane Sandy by Rep Gregory Meeks, (D-NY).

Republicans weren't having it. Rep Jeff Duncan from South Carolina - "you allowed the consulate to become a death trap", for example, voiced with frustration in statement as Clinton continued to deflect responsibility to the barrage of  correspondence her office receives as she insisted she was taking responsibility.

Democrats continued with their insistence that it was the penny pinching GOP led House of Representatives that wouldn't appropriate more money to keep our foreign service personnel safe overseas.  The commission hired by Hillary Clinton published the conclusion, however, that more money would not have solved the Benghazi tragedy.  It was found to be caused by systematic failure.

The four employees suspended after the findings were published are still being paid.  They have not been fired.  The only person held accountable to date has been the video maker who is in jail now after all the publicity which caused his past troubles to be known.  Hillary Clinton now denies she blamed the video, though we remember her speech at the Andrews AFB hangar in which she clearly blamed anger over the video for the attack. She never answered clearly why Ambassador Stevens was in Benghazi instead of at the secure embassy in Tripoli on the date of 9/11/12.

It is always all about politics for Hillary Clinton.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

40 Years After Roe v Wade Decision

Tuesday marks the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision known as Roe v Wade.  This decision's influence in the political landscape resonates today.  

Republicans wear the pro-life badge with pride.  Democrats view it as a woman's choice as it relates to her life and her health. I am of the opinion that this subject is a decision best made between a woman, her God and her doctor. 

I am of an age that I remember this decision and look at it from conditions both before and after this became federal law. I will not demonize anyone for whatever belief is held - it is a very personal opinion. Speaking as a woman, I resent the political football it has become.

The decision is showing an increased support among Americans while the majority of supporters also believe that some restrictions should be made.

Seven in 10 Americans believe Roe v. Wade should stand, according to new data from a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, as the landmark Supreme Court abortion-rights ruling turns 40 on Tuesday.
That is the highest level of support for the decision, which established a woman's right to an abortion, since polls began tracking it in 1989. The shift is mostly the result of more Democrats backing the decision—particularly Hispanics and African-Americans—and a slight uptick in support from Republicans.
But the poll showed a consistent tension in Americans' attitudes toward the decision. Almost seven in 10 respondents say there are at least some circumstances in which they don't support abortion.
President Obama is the most abortion-friendly of our American presidents. He was the most liberal in the U.S. Senate, though his service there was brief before taking the presidency.  In the Illinois legislature, where he served longest in his political career, he was known for being in favor of late term abortion and for a vote on allowing an aborted child who was alive at delivery to not be resuscitated by medical staff.  That is infanticide and a gruesome opinion to have. He famously said on the campaign trail in 2008 that no young girl should be "punished" with a baby, as justification for being pro-choice.

 U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) today issued the following statement:
Today marks the dark anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that overturned a Texas law that prohibited abortion on demand. Since that 1973 ruling, more than 55 million lives have been lost to abortion.
Defending life, at its core, includes protecting both the unborn child and his or her mother from an irreversible injustice.
We cannot know how many inventors, musicians, scientists, athletes, physicians, and entrepreneurs were never allowed to breathe their first breath of life. We cannot know the medical cures, artistic masterpieces, thriving businesses, and life-transforming charities that never came into existence.
Today we mourn those 55 million souls.
I have been honored to defend the dignity of human life, helping successfully defend the federal Partial Birth Abortion Act, state parental notification laws, and Texas’s law prohibiting state funds for groups that provide abortions.
No right is more precious and fundamental than the right to life, and any just society should protect that right at every stage, from conception to natural death.

TFRW Issues Statement on Immigration Policy Reform

After much study and consultation with experts, the Texas Federation of Republican Women issued a statement on immigration reform:

Texas Federation of Republican Women- Immigration Reform Policy
Whereas, The Texas Federation of Republican Women appointed a committee to study the issue of immigration, legal and illegal, in the United States and it met this obligation by hearing from and evaluating the positions of experts, recent immigrants, business and land owners, advocates, adversaries and law enforcement;
Whereas, Within the United States there currently reside between nine (9) and fifty (50) million undocumented residents from all cultural and socio-economic backgrounds and nationalities;
Whereas, Our current immigration policies rely on an antiquated system of geographic quotas and that the federal government has failed to modernize the system with available technology and entrance rubrics that reflect current social, educational and economic requirements and that such an outdated system serves to encourage illegal immigration;
Whereas, The economic, civil and criminal unrest in other countries has had a significant impact on illegal immigration at our borders and the federal government has refused to commit the resources necessary to adequately secure our physical borders;
Whereas, The federal government’s failure to properly secure our borders has led to the unconscionable treatment and death of people entering the United States illegally and the loss of life, liberty and property of American citizens to foreign criminal enterprise;
Whereas, Millions of children brought to this country illegally and who know no country other than America as their home will become adults in this country and, as such, it is in the best interest of these young people and our Nation that they become self-supporting, tax-paying, productive members of our society rather than to allow them to be another disenfranchised generation living in the shadows;
Whereas, We acknowledge the changing demographics of the United States as clearly illustrated by the increased voting strength of minorities and recently naturalized citizens, and the significant role immigrants have played in the history of our country; and
Whereas, The federal government has an urgent obligation to address the issue of immigration in this country; now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the Texas Federation of Republican Women strongly urges the federal government to expedite the resources necessary to finally secure United States borders;
Resolved, The Texas Federation of Republican Women calls on the federal government to immediately pass legislation and appropriate funds necessary to reform the current immigration system using state-of-the-art technology and create a guest worker program that documents guest workers and their families and requires them to pass health and criminal background checks, to be self-supporting, including the purchase of health and other required insurance, to pay taxes and to demonstrate a working knowledge of English in a reasonable amount of time in order to obtain permanent legal resident status;
and Resolved, The Texas Federation of Republican Women urges the federal government to expeditiously establish criteria for young people in this country illegally through no fault of their own to earn legal resident status or citizenship when they demonstrate English fluency and knowledge of American civics, comply with all health requirements, have no criminal record, graduate from an accredited high school, and pursue a college degree, trade certification or enter into military service.
Adopted by the Texas Federation of Republican Women, this, the 17th day of January

Obama Delivers To His Base in Inaugural Address

President Obama begins his second term with the third worst Gallup Poll numbers, overall, for his first term. The two worst in polling for a first term were Presidents Carter and Ford.  Of course the Republicans are not pleased with Mr. Obama but it is also worth noting that some on the left are not so enamoured either.

His word is not his bond. All sides have been disappointed.  He is too liberal for conservatives and too conservative for liberals. Even the choice to use a bible belonging to the late Martin Luther King, Jr. has come under fire. From a Democrat.  Calling it a "political calculation", Princeton professor Cornel West said:
 “I got upset because you don’t play with Martin Luther King, Jr. and you play with his people, and by his people what I mean is people of good conscience, fundamentally committed to peace, and truth, and justice,” he said.  

 If we are to believe what was said in his second inaugural speech, all bets are off.  President Obama is going full out progressive. The man intends to seize the moment.

This was no centrist conciliator. It was the speech of a committed, unapologetic progressive, an Obama doctrine for domestic policy that included concrete commitments in areas he made little progress on over his first four years. Above all, he was speaking to a changing America – the nation that propelled him to a second term, and whose voices he will need to channel to be effective over the next four years.
And he sees those opportunities mainly to his left. Obama made a firm commitment to pursue climate-change legislation, in addition to immigration reform and gun control. In an era of budget-cutting, he delivered a rousing endorsement of the social safety net, including Medicare and Social Security.
Obama cited the civil-rights movement and listed Stonewall – the 1960s demonstrations over a police raid of a New York City gay bar that galvanized the gay-rights movement – alongside Seneca Falls and Selma. He also promised equality for “our gay brothers and sisters,” apparently becoming the first president to use the word “gay” in an inaugural address.
Obama’s defining challenge as president has been to deliver on the hope and promise he rode into office on in 2008. He may never hope to fulfill the expectations that surrounded his elevation. But speaking to the largest crowd he’s likely to ever appear before again, the president sounded both more optimistic and more committed to progress on his priorities than anything in our current political system would suggest is warranted. 
Included in the speech was plenty of direct slaps at Republicans as he called for working together, for mutual sacrifice from all.  That is the real Obama. He does not have the ability of restraint to not overplay his hand.   He is clueless on how to get along with his opponents while disagreeing on ideological points. The speech was directed at his base of support and they loved it.

This was the real Obama.  He is a progressive Democrat.  He is farther left than a run of the mill liberal.  He is a community organizer at heart and brought along in politics by the south side Chicago political machine.  He goes for the throat of his opponents and believes in dividing them along the way to clear his path.  His pretense of working with the other side and grand compromises are long gone.  I would argue that it was all a ruse to begin with as he began his first term.

Along with the help of a Democratically controlled Senate, Obama intends to push his pet projects in these two years before the 2014 elections.  He believes he has a mandate and that Americans now prefer a center left agenda, after decades of being a center right country.  He fails to realize that while he may be personally popular, his policies have for the most part been distinctly unpopular with the majority of Americans.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Obama Campaigns And Fails to Lead

There is a lack of a big agenda in President Obama's second term, as it has been laid out to date.  No doubt liberals are feeling a bit of disappointment as their hero continues to simply campaign in a very un-unifying way instead of taking the reins of leadership in Washington to move big items forward.

It is not “big” to reduce every opportunity for major consensus on fiscal reform to the lowest common denominator of action so as never to disappoint his left-wing base. It is not unifying to claim Republicans harbor “suspicious about government’s commitments, for example, to make sure that seniors have decent health care as they get older. They have suspicions about Social Security. They have suspicions about whether government should make sure that kids in poverty are getting enough to eat.” Too often he sounds more like his campaign hacks David Plouffe and David Axelrod than the president of the United States.
When it comes to demonizing his opponents - the GOP - his biggest supporters, the national media, are only too happy to help out.  In Sunday's New York Times, the editorial board tore into newly elected Texas Senator Ted Cruz.  Senator Cruz is a threat to President Obama's agenda, such as it is, because he is a popular Hispanic Republican from a very red state.  He is articulate, aggressive, personable and a very happy warrior.

From an editorial in  The New York Times:
Ted Cruz, the newly elected Tea Party senator from Texas, embodies the rigidity the public grew to loathe in Congress’s last term. He is bursting with fervor to fight compromise and consensus-building in Washington wherever it is found. Unlike 85 percent of the Republicans in the Senate, he would have voted against the fiscal cliff deal. He says gun control is unconstitutional. Breaking even withconservative business leaders, he would have no qualms about using the debt ceiling as a hostage because he believes (falsely) that it would produce only a partial government shutdown and not default.Considering the damage that this kind of thinking did to the country and the Republican Party over the last two years — a downgraded credit rating, legislative standoffs, popular anger, a loss of Republican seats — it might seem obvious that the party should marginalize lawmakers like Mr. Cruz. Instead, they continue to gain power and support. Party leaders named Mr. Cruz vice chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Yes, true to form, The New York Times editors blame Republicans for the country's woes and not joint blame for Democrats or the President  himself, who has proven time and time again that he is incapable of working with Congress and Republicans in particular.

In this article in Politico, Senator Cruz is described as coming forward as an "answer man" for leadership on issues such as immigration reform and outreach to the Latino community from the GOP.

“There is no doubt Republicans have got to do a better job with the Hispanic community. … Immigration matters, especially tone. No one is going to vote for you if they think you don’t like them,” he said at a recent gala for the American Principles Project. “Republicans need to remain a party that supports securing the border and at the same time, stopping illegal immigration and at the same time, welcomes and celebrates legal immigrants.”
“I’m something that’s not supposed to exist — a Hispanic Republican.”
President Obama did not reform immigration policy, as he promised on the campaign trail in 2008.  He promised to do that in his first year in office, as a matter of fact.  Instead, he was obsessed with little more than ramming through Obamacare for the first two years of his first term.  Now that there is a presence of strong conservatives in Congress - like Senator Cruz and Senator Rubio - with Latino heritage, a vacuum of leadership on the issue is being filled.  Therefore, these Republicans will be demonized by the media in the coming months to promote whatever President Obama brings forward, if anything.

Without a true agenda and the knowledge as to how to work with Congress, all that is left is to demonize the GOP and hope that the press continues to play along.  President Obama's word mean little in the grand scheme of his administration.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Senator Cruz on Meet the Press

Sunday Texas Senator Ted Cruz appeared on Meet the Press to discuss today's current events along side New York Senator Chuck Schumer.

Here are some highlights from the video below:


"You know, there actually isn’t the so-called “Gun Show Loophole.” That doesn’t exist. Any licensed firearm dealer who sells at a gun show has to have a background check. It’s a requirement that applies to every licensed firearm dealer. What it doesn’t apply to is personal sales one-on-one. And that’s true whether it’s at a gun show or not."

"I do think there is a fundamental point here, and there is a point of hypocrisy when it comes to gun control. That many of the proponents of gun control are very wealthy, live in communities where they can outsource police protection, but you have a lot of people that are worried about preserving the safety of their own home.

"If you’re talking to a single woman living in Anacostia who has the misfortune to live next to a crack-house to tell he she doesn’t have a constitutional right to keep and bear arms I think is fundamentally wrong."

"What I don’t think is constructive is what the President is doing right now. Which is within minutes of that horrible tragedy in Newtown, the President began trying to exploit that tragedy to push a gun control agenda that is designed to appeal to partisans – designed to appeal to his political partisans.

"Number one, it would have done zero to prevent the crime in Newtown. Number two, many of the provisions are contrary to the constitutional protection of the Second Amendment. Number three, they don’t work.

"You know, Chuck said a minute ago the assault weapons ban was tremendously successful. The assault weapons ban was one of the least successful bills that has ever been put in place. And in fact, when the ban expired there were roughly 700 murders using all rifles. Today there are roughly 300. There are less than half. This is not designed to actually solve the problem of violent crime, this is designed to assuage liberal partisans who want to push gun control."


"There is no doubt the Senate hasn’t done its job. It’s been nearly four years since it’s passed a budget and the Senate should pass a budget…We have a crisis. I’ll tell ya, I just got back last week from Afghanistan, and I had multiple service men and women clasp me on the arm and say, “Please do something about the debt a deficit. We’re bankrupting the country.

"That’s what the American people are looking for, and to date, politicians from both parties have been unwilling to take even a tiny step in the right direction. We gotta fix the problem."

"There was an area of substantial agreement with what Chuck just said. He said we should never, ever, ever compromise the full faith and credit of the United States. I agree. And in fact, there is a bill that I am cosponsoring, the Full Faith and Credit Act which provides that regardless of what happens in the Debt Ceiling, the United States will always, always, always meet its debt. We will never default on its debt.

"That was introduced in 2010. It didn’t pass because Harry Reid and President Obama didn’t want it to pass. They wanted to raise the specter of a default …
So Chuck, you know, you and I, we could make news right now on national television. Would you agree to support the Full Faith and Credit Act and take the possibility of a default off the table?

Friday, January 18, 2013

Some Reality in the Debt Ceiling Battle

I am heartened to read some truthful strategy suggestions from those who have been around the block a few times.  In the past few days, columnists and politicians have put forth some realism in the form of opinion and strategy moving forward in President Obama's second term.

Those the temptation is great and understandable, those demanding that Republicans vote no on the raising of the debt ceiling are wrong.  Looking at the big picture, planning a long term strategy, and firming up the Republican base all require some mature contemplation.  We lost the election and we have this president for four more years.  We also failed to take the Senate and we lost seats in the House.  That is the reality in Washington.  We must now move ahead and get the best deals we can without further killing off our party.

Charles Krauthammer has some advice for the GOP and it involves a much needed dose of realism:

The debt-ceiling deadline is coming up. You can demand commensurate spending cuts, the usual, reasonable Republican offer. But you won’t get them. Obama will hold out. And, at the eleventh hour, you will have to give in as you get universally blamed for market gyrations and threatened credit downgrades.
The more prudent course would be to find some offer that cannot be refused, a short-term trade-off utterly unassailable and straightforward. For example, offer to extend the debt ceiling through, say, May 1, in exchange for the Senate delivering a budget by that date — after four years of lawlessly refusing to produce one.
Not much. But it would (a) highlight the Democrats’ fiscal recklessness, (b) force Senate Democrats to make public their fiscal choices and (c) keep the debt ceiling alive as an ongoing pressure point for future incremental demands.
Republicans should develop a list of such conditions — some symbolic, some substantive — in return for sequential, short-term raising of the debt ceiling. But the key is: Go small and simple. Forget about forcing tax reform or entitlement cuts or anything major. If Obama wants to recklessly expand government, well, as he says, he won the election.
Republicans should simply block what they can. Further tax hikes, for example. The general rule is: From a single house of Congress you can resist but you cannot impose.
Aren’t you failing the country, say the insurgents? Answer: The country chose Obama. He gets four years.
Want to save the Republic? Win the next election. Don’t immolate yourself trying to save liberalism from itself. If your conservative philosophy is indeed right, winning will come. As Margaret Thatcher said serenely of the Labor Party socialists she later overthrew: “They always run out of other people’s money.”

It is easy to sit on the sidelines and demand philosophical purity from those elected officials sent to Washington to represent the voters.  It is easy to spout bon mots such as "elections have consequences", especially if the spouter uses that as a basis for an opinion.  What is not so easy is to support politicians who are doing the best possible with what is available.  Does anyone really think that a GOP led House of Representatives - by a more narrow margin now than before the November election, by the way, - can win the battle over the debt ceiling?

Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) penned an op-ed published in the Houston Chronicle. He will no doubt take heat over his common sense approach to the debt ceiling vote he will soon cast.  He will push for a limited government shutdown and another debt ceiling short term extension to thwart the spending spree Democrats and President Obama refuse to end.

"It may be necessary to partially shut down the government in order to secure the long-term fiscal well being of our country, rather than plod along the path of Greece, Italy and Spain," he wrote. "President Obama needs to take note of this reality and put forward a plan to avoid it immediately."
The senator did not provide details, either in the article or in his interview with the editorial board, about what areas of the government might be shuttered or for how long. He frequently has said, however, that Republicans should use the debt ceiling and the forthcoming debate over the continuing resolution necessary to finance government as leverage to cut spending on entitlement programs.
"Technically, he's right," said University of Houston political scientist Jim Granato. "We can pay for 60 percent of what we're spending, which means we wouldn't default. The rest is just a huge dogfight, with 40 percent of our spending obligations not met."
Granato also noted that if the debt ceiling is breached, the federal government will not default on paying interest on the debt, Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid benefits, but after that the Treasury Department takes over and Obama gets to decide who gets paid and when.
Cornyn, asked whether his statement Thursday represented a change of position from the views expressed in the op-ed, said the article represented something of a negotiating ploy.
"You sometimes try to inject a little doubt in your negotiating partner about where you're going to go, but I would tell you unequivocally that we're not going to default," he said.

However, Cornyn will not risk fiscal irresponsibility to destroy progress that has been made:

Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the Republican whip, said in Houston Thursday that Congress will not allow an impasse over raising the debt ceiling to result in the federal government defaulting on its spending obligations.
"We will raise the debt ceiling. We're not going to default on our debt," Cornyn told the Houston Chronicle editorial board.

And, Cornyn has put forward three points for President Obama to address in this press release:

 President Obama has repeatedly called on Congress to raise the debt ceiling, but he has yet to submit a formal request or indicate how much he will need. To avoid another round of fiscal brinkmanship, U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) is calling on the White House to answer three questions:

“When will the President formally submit his request for an increase in the debt ceiling to Congress? “How much of an increase in the debt ceiling does the President want? “The White House has indicated this year’s budget request will not be submitted on time – when can Congress expect to receive it?”
Republicans in Washington must hold out for what they can get from this hyper-partisan administration and U.S. Senate and work to win the next election cycle.