Barack Obama

Reports: Armed Convict Got On Elevator With Obama Two Weeks Ago

It was a violation of Secret Service protocols, the Post noted.

The Post reported that the incident happened on Sept. 16 when Obama went to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to deliver remarks on the country’s response to the ongoing crisis concerning the Ebola virus.

Secret Service agents asked the contractor to stop using a camera phone he had to videotape Obama while in the elevator, the Post said. Secret Service agents did question him and checked a database to find out out about his criminal background.

A supervisor for the private security firm learned about the Secret Service agents’ concern with the contractor and the contractor was then fired. He agreed to hand over his gun as well, which surprised agents who did not know until then that he had been armed while he was near Obama.

Elements of this were first reported by The Washington Examiner.

The new report comes as the Secret Service is already under scrutiny over a man scaling the White House fence and making it deep into the White House before being tackled by an off-duty agent.

Eric Holder Replacement Will Be A Woman, Says Longtime Friend Charles Ogletree

The Huffington Post

As the dust settled after the abrupt announcement of Attorney General Eric Holder’s resignation, the speculation around who will assume the role as the nation’s top justice official has started to swirl.

According to someone who knew Holder well, prognosticators should trim their likely candidates — it will be a woman.

In an interview with MSNBC on Saturday, Holder’s longtime friend and Harvard Law School professor Charles Ogletree repeatedly referred to the potential replacement as “she.” Pressed by MSNBC’s Alex Witt to reveal his pick for a replacement, Ogletree said, “I’m not gonna put her name out,” reasoning, “I don’t want her to not be able to be confirmed by the Senate.”

Ogletree, who is also considered a mentor to President Barack Obama, had earlier told Witt of his undisclosed pick, “she would be a great attorney general. I think we’re gonna have a long way to go to figure out who she will be — and I hope it will be a woman.”

Holder announced on Thursday that he would step down from the head of the Justice Department, a position he has held since 2009, as soon as a replacement is selected. Obama has yet to announce a replacement for Holder, who was also one of the president’s close friends. There have been many names floated as possibilities, including Former White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler, U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan, and University of California System President Janet Napolitano.

There are many issues that await the next Attorney General, including security amid the threat of ISIS, concern over government surveillance, and prosecuting misconduct in the financial sector. But first, Obama’s eventual nominee must clear confirmation in a divided Senate, which would be all the more challenging should Republicans take control of the chamber after midterm elections.

(H/T BuzzFeed)

This Is What Eric Holder’s Legacy Will Be

The Huffington Post

Attorney General Eric Holder, the first African-American to hold the top law enforcement position in the United States, announced on Thursday that he plans to step down from his position as soon as a successor can be confirmed. If he remains in office until December, Holder will become the third longest-serving Attorney General in the history of the United States. Here are some key components of his legacy.

He decided not to defend DOMA

The Obama administration initially defended the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, which banned federal recognition of same-sex marriages. At first, Holder maintained that while the administration disagreed with the law, it was the Justice Department’sresponsibility to defend the laws that Congress had passed. (Some of the briefs written by Justice Department lawyers arguing that DOMA was constitutional were considered offensive by gay rights organizations.)

But Holder’s analysis changed. He announced in February 2011 that the Justice Department would no longer defend components of the statute because DOMA “contains numerous expressions reflecting moral disapproval of gays and lesbians and their intimate and family relationships — precisely the kind of stereotype-based thinking and animus the (Constitution’s) Equal Protection Clause is designed to guard against.” Ultimately, the Supreme Court agreed, ruling in June 2013 that key portions of DOMA were unconstitutional.

He lost the fight to bring the Sept. 11 trial out of Guantanamo Bay and into New York City

In one of the biggest disappointments of his tenure, Holder ultimately lost the fight to try the key perpetrators of the Sept. 11 attacks in federal court in New York City. The plan, first announced by Holder in Nov. 2009, faced stiff resistance from many politicians in New York who feared the impact a high-profile trial would have on the city. Others objected because they believed that a military commission was a more appropriate venue for the terrorism trial. Holder ultimately announced he was reversing his decision to try the cases in New York and moved them back to the military commission in Guantanamo.

While the process in Guantanamo has hit numerous roadblocks, Holder’s Justice Department has gathered a string of wins against other terror suspects in federal court. Holder has remarked that the Sept. 11 defendants “would be on death row as we speak” if the case had been allowed to proceed in federal court.

He helped turn around the Civil Rights Division and fought for voting rights

The Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department was heavily politicized during the Bush administration. A 2008 inspector general report found the conservative leadership had hired lawyers with little to no civil rights experience into positions due to their ideological beliefs. The environment caused a massive exodus in the Civil Rights Division: more than 70 percent of its attorneys left between 2003 and 2007. Holder, who has long made civil rights a top priority, was widely credited with overseeing the turnaround of the division.

“I think Eric Holder put the ‘J’ back in DOJ, and in particular he restored the luster of the crown jewel which is the Civil Rights Division, and I had the privilege of having a front-row seat for that,” Labor Secretary Tom Perez, who headed the Civil Rights Division from 2009 to 2013, told The Huffington Post after Holder’s announcement on Thursday.

Holder oversaw several of the Justice Department’s successful voting rights lawsuits during President Barack Obama’s first term, as well as the agency’s continued efforts after the Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act. DOJ is currently involved in several voting rights cases, including high-profile suits against voter ID laws in North Carolina and Texas.

He addressed racism head on.

Shortly after his confirmation in 2009, Holder delivered a speech to Justice Department employees at an event commemorating Black History Month. In his remarks, he called out the U.S. as a “nation of cowards” when it comes to addressing race. He said Americans believe that “certain subjects are off-limits and that to explore them risks at best embarrassment and at worst the questioning of one’s character.”

Those words echoed throughout Holder’s tenure at the DOJ as he fought back against laws that suppressed voting and defended the Voting Rights Act. He stepped in to request federal oversight of the New York City Police Department’s stop-and-friskpolicy, a program that has overwhelmingly targeted black and Latino individuals. More recently, he ordered a civil rights investigation into the largely white police force in Ferguson, Missouri, following the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown at the hands of Officer Darren Wilson.

“Will we yet again turn a blind eye to the hard truths that Ferguson exposed?” Holder asked during a speech this week, echoing his 2009 remarks. “Or will we finally accept this mandate for open and honest dialogue?”

He oversaw a crackdown on leaks and disappointed civil liberties advocates

Under Holder, the Justice Department has aggressively — some would say obsessively — pursued government leakers. Eight have been charged with violating the draconian Espionage Act of 1917, more than under all previous administrations combined. Journalists have also come under the gun: Holder’s DOJ subpoenaed AP reporters’ phone logs in a leak investigation, named a Fox News reporter as an “un-indicted co-conspirator” in another case, and is still trying to force Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter James Risen to testify about his sources under threat of jail time.

All of that led Risen to call Holder’s boss, Obama, “the greatest enemy to press freedom in a generation.”

One of the leakers charged, Edward Snowden, revealed another disappointment for civil liberties advocates: the DOJ’s intimate role in coming up with the legal rationale that underlies the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of American phone records.

The FBI’s frayed relationship with Muslim communities, meanwhile, has seen little improvement under Holder. The bureau has continued to use sting operations, which critics say are tantamount to entrapment, to arrest Muslims involved in bogus terror “plots.” And NPR reported on Wednesday that the racial profiling guidelines set to be released soon will still allow the FBI to “map” the demographics of Muslim communities.

Perhaps most worrying for many across the spectrum, it was Holder’s DOJ that came up with the “drone memos” — the legal justification that the Obama administration leaned on to kill al Qaeda propagandist and American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen without a trial.

He released the so-called “torture memos,” but didn’t go after their authors — Shadee

Two months after assuming office in 2009, Holder moved to publicly release a series of previously classified “torture memos” from the Bush administration that sanctioned specific acts of torture, including waterboarding, for CIA use against al Qaeda suspects.

“There is no reason we cannot wage an effective fight against those who have sworn to harm us while we respect our most honored constitutional traditions,” Holder said in March 2009 after releasing nine previously classified Justice Department memos.

Despite the release, which faced significant pushback from senior intelligence officials, the attorney general’s office never brought criminal charges against any government officials investigated for their involvements in over 100 cases of severe prisoner abuse.

While crediting Holder in other areas, American Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Anthony Romero issued a statement on Thursday noting “profound disagreements with the Attorney General on national security issues.”

“During his tenure, DOJ approved the drone killing of an American far away from any battlefield, approved the NSA’s mass surveillance programs, failed to prosecute any of the Bush administration torturers, and presided over more leak prosecutions than all previous Justice Departments combined,” Romero said.

He became the first-ever cabinet member to be held in contempt of Congress

In 2012, Holder became the only sitting cabinet member in history to be held in contempt of Congress after the White House claimed executive privilege over documents subpoenaed in relation to Operation Fast and Furious, a botched federal investigation intended to combat gun smuggling. The documents that the Justice Department refused to turn over related not to the actual operation, but rather to how DOJ responded once Congress began investigating the matter.

Holder later dismissed the vote — led by the Republican-controlled House — as political theater, calling it “a crass effort and a grave disservice to the American people.”

The White House also indicated in 2012 that Holder would not face any criminal charges in the matter since the documents being sought were protected by executive privilege.

He took on “draconian” drug sentences and slowly but surely scaled back the war on drugs.

In what Obama described as a “gutsy speech” in front of the American Bar Association in 2013, Holder outlined his plan for “sweeping, systemic changes” to how the Justice Department prosecutes drug-related offenses. While Holder initially faced a lot of internal resistance from career federal prosecutors as he attempted to rein in the so-called war on drugs, he pressed ahead, pushing for changes like allowing low-level and nonviolent drug offenders to avoid “draconian” mandatory minimum sentences and permitting the early release of some elderly defendants.

He continued to push for sentencing reform in March, lending his support to aproposal that would reduce penalties for some drug offenders and help cut prison costs.

“This overreliance on incarceration is not just financially unsustainable, it comes with human and moral costs that are impossible to calculate,” he said.

Holder has also urged first responders to carry the heroin overdose antidote naloxone.

He oversaw a crackdown on marijuana shops, but allowed state legalization to move forward

During the first term of the Obama administration, Holder oversaw an expansive federal crackdown on hundreds of state-compliant medical marijuana dispensaries in states like Colorado and California, which was spearheaded by the Drug Enforcement Agency and several U.S. attorneys.

But in a historic step, Holder announced in 2013 that DOJ would allow for Colorado and Washington to implement their groundbreaking new laws legalizing and regulating the possession, use and sale of recreational marijuana.

While Holder never explicitly came out in favor of legalization or decriminalization, he has been more open to rescheduling marijuana, which is still classified by the federal government as a Schedule I substance like heroin. Holder said the Obama administration would be “more than glad” to work with Congress to re-examine how cannabis is scheduled federally. He even said in April that he’s “cautiously optimistic”about how the historic changes in marijuana law were working out in Washington and Colorado.

And now, as he plans to step down from his post, he appears to be more open than ever to the possibility of classifying marijuana as a less dangerous drug. He said in an interview just this week that “we need to ask ourselves, whether or not marijuana is as serious of a drug as heroin” adding that science should be used to make that determination.

He reached big settlements on pollution cases

The DOJ reached a record $4 billion settlement with BP in November 2012 over criminal charges stemming from the 2010 oil spill, which dumped 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. That included charges related to the deaths of 11 workers on the rig and the “misconduct or neglect of ships’ officers.” The DOJ is still pursuing civil charges related to the spill, but the agency recently scored a big win when a federal judge ruled that BP was grossly negligent in allowing the spill to occur — a ruling that opens the door to up to $18 billion in civil penalties that could be levied against the company.

The DOJ topped its own record fine this year, however, with a $5.15 billion settlementin April 2014 with Anadarko Petroleum over a decades-long legacy of pollution left by one of its subsidiaries.

He failed to hold Wall Street accountable for the financial crisis

Holder’s legacy is likely to be marred by what critics view as DOJ’s lax approach to investigating and prosecuting the alleged crimes that sparked, or exacerbated, the 2007-09 financial crisis.

Few Wall Street firms, and even fewer senior financial executives, were officially charged with breaking the law for conduct related to the crisis, despite what experts contend is a wealth of evidence — thanks to civil lawsuits brought by aggrieved investors, prior investigations by state authorities, and probes by Congress and the federal Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission — that at the very least should have prompted the Justice Department to investigate further.

Holder’s approach to crisis-era wrongdoing stands in stark contrast to the playbook followed by federal prosecutors contending with the fallout of the savings-and-loan debacle of the late 1980s and early 90s.

“In striking contrast with these past prosecutions, not a single high-level executive has been successfully prosecuted in connection with the recent financial crisis, and given the fact that most of the relevant criminal provisions are governed by a five-year statute of limitations, it appears likely that none will be,” Judge Jed Rakoff of the U.S. District Court in Manhattan wrote earlier this year in the New York Review of Books.

The lack of public evidence that Holder’s Justice Department thoroughly investigated crisis-era wrongdoing has contributed to the perception — one eagerly promoted by the defense bar — that perhaps few crimes were even committed in the runup to the financial crisis.

“But if, by contrast, the Great Recession was in material part the product of intentional fraud,” Rakoff wrote, “the failure to prosecute those responsible must be judged one of the more egregious failures of the criminal justice system in many years.”

Democrats turn on Debbie Wasserman Schultz

 is pictured. | AP Photo

Debbie Wasserman Schultz: The party has lost confidence in her as a unifying leader and a party spokesperson. | AP Photo

She has never been my favorite spokesperson for the DNC…

Politico

Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is in a behind-the-scenes struggle with the White House, congressional Democrats and Washington insiders who have lost confidence in her as both a unifying leader and reliable party spokesperson at a time when they need her most.

Long-simmering doubts about her have reached a peak after two recent public flubs: criticizing the White House’s handling of the border crisis and comparing the tea party to wife beaters.

The perception of critics is that Wasserman Schultz spends more energy tending to her own political ambitions than helping Democrats win. This includes using meetings with DNC donors to solicit contributions for her own PAC and campaign committee, traveling to uncompetitive districts to court House colleagues for her potential leadership bid and having DNC-paid staff focus on her personal political agenda.

She’s become a liability to the DNC, and even to her own prospects, critics say.

“I guess the best way to describe it is, it’s not that she’s losing a duel anywhere, it’s that she seems to keep shooting herself in the foot before she even gets the gun out of the holster,” said John Morgan, a major donor in Wasserman Schultz’s home state of Florida.

(Also on POLITICO: DNC chief rips Christie on Bridgegate)

The stakes are high. Wasserman Schultz is a high-profile national figure who helped raise millions of dollars and served as a Democratic messenger to female voters during a presidential election in which Obama needed to exploit the gender gap to win, but November’s already difficult midterms are looming.

One example that sources point to as particularly troubling: Wasserman Schultz repeatedly trying to get the DNC to cover the costs of her wardrobe.

In 2012, Wasserman Schultz attempted to get the DNC to pay for her clothing at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, multiple sources say, but was blocked by staff in the committee’s Capitol Hill headquarters and at President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign headquarters in Chicago.

She asked again around Obama’s inauguration in 2013, pushing so hard that Obama senior adviser — and one-time Wasserman Schultz booster — Valerie Jarrett had to call her directly to get her to stop. (Jarrett said she does not recall that conversation.) One more time, according to independent sources with direct knowledge of the conversations, she tried again, asking for the DNC to buy clothing for the 2013 White House Correspondents’ Dinner.

(Also on POLITICO: DNC chief walks back Walker ‘words’)

Wasserman Schultz denies that she ever tried to get the DNC to pick up her clothing tab. “I think that would be a totally inappropriate use of DNC funds,” she said in a statement. “I never asked someone to do that for me, I would hope that no one would seek that on my behalf, and I’m not aware that anyone did.”

Tracie Pough, Wasserman Schultz’s chief of staff at the DNC and her congressional office, was also involved in making inquiries about buying the clothing, according to sources. Pough denies making, directing or being aware of any inquiries.

But sources with knowledge of the discussions say Wasserman Schultz’s efforts couldn’t have been clearer. “She felt firmly that it should happen,” said a then-DNC staffer of the clothing request. “Even after it was explained that it couldn’t, she remained indignant.”

This story is based on interviews with three dozen current and former DNC staffers, committee officers, elected officials, state party leaders and top Democratic operatives in Washington and across the country.

(Also on POLITICO: DWS: Walker gives ‘back of his hand’)

Many expect a nascent Clinton campaign will engineer her ouster. Hurt feelings go back to spring 2008, when while serving as a co-chair of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, Wasserman Schultz secretly reached out to the Obama campaign to pledge her support once the primary was over, sources say.

Meanwhile, the Obama team was so serious about replacing her after 2012 that they found a replacement candidate to back before deciding against it, according to people familiar with those discussions.

Obama and Wasserman Schultz have rarely even talked since 2011. They don’t meet about strategy or messaging. They don’t talk much on the phone.

Instead, the DNC chairwoman stakes out the president of the United States at the end of photo lines at events and fundraisers.

“You need another picture, Debbie?” Obama tends to say, according to people who’ve been there for the encounters.

(QUIZ: How well do you know Debbie Wasserman Schultz?)

Chairing the DNC should be a political steppingstone — Ed Rendell, Terry McAuliffe and Tim Kaine all went on to bigger things, and even Howard Dean used the post to rehabilitate himself from the man who yelped his way out of a presidential campaign.

And without a doubt, the Florida congresswoman has had plenty of successes. She has overseen the integration of key elements of the Obama campaigns, including its voter file and data programs. After being left with $25 million in bills from the Obama campaign, the DNC enters the fall with the debt cleared and over $7 million on hand. She’s started new efforts to build relationships with labor and small business leaders and prioritized the DNC’s outreach to female voters.

“My tenure here is not about me,” Wasserman Schultz said in an interview with POLITICO at DNC headquarters. “I like to help build this party. That’s what I love and that’s what I focused on.”

She rejects the idea she is over-extended.

“I have always taken on a lot. It’s what I love to do. I don’t do anything halfway,” she said, dismissing any worries that she’s overextended. “In some cases, it’s sniping; in other cases people are worried about me. I have a lot of Jewish mothers out there that I think very kindly say, ‘My god, she’s doing so much.’ It’s OK.”

(Also on POLITICO: Wasserman Schultz and Pelosi split)

SPLIT WITH OBAMA

The White House is staring at two years of life under a GOP-controlled House and Senate. The DNC chair, however, isn’t involved in the strategy talks with the president.

They don’t want her there.

For even the occasional Obama briefing by the heads of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, she is not invited. That includes a key session on July 31, the last day the House was in town before the August recess, when House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), DCCC Chair Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) and DCCC executive director Kelly Ward sat on the couches in the Oval Office running through the political landscape for the president.

Wasserman Schultz described her relationship with the president as speaking to him on an “as-needed basis, whenever I have a need to talk to them or give them a sense of what’s going on, but also, as it happens, as we connect on the trail.” She declined to provide details of how often, where or when.

When Kaine was DNC chairman during the president’s first year in office, he had a monthly lunch with Obama on the calendar (although not all of the lunches actually occurred as planned). Wasserman Schultz demurred when asked if it would be fair to characterize her as speaking “regularly” with the president.

(Also on POLITICO: DWS, O’Malley agree on border kids)

“The best way to describe it is: as often as we need,” she said.

According to multiple people familiar with the president, Obama’s opinion of Wasserman Schultz was sealed back in 2011. Shortly after becoming chairwoman, she pushed hard for a meeting with the president that she kicked off by complaining that she had been blocked from hiring the daughter of a donor — who’d been on staff in her congressional office — as a junior staffer to be the DNC’s Jewish community liaison.

Obama summed up his reaction to staff afterward: “Really?”

Asked about the relationship between the president and Wasserman Schultz, the White House issued a statement praising the chairwoman and DNC staff.

“The president’s foremost political goal is helping Democrats do well in the midterms — and Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is doing a great job in that effort,” said White House spokesman Eric Schultz. “The president is grateful for all of the hard work being done by the entire team at the DNC. He fully recognizes the value of their work, and that’s why he has worked so hard to support them.”

Continued:    2    3

U.S. Will ‘Degrade and Destroy’ ISIS Militants, Obama Says

Isis fighters parade through Raqqa

Isis fighters parade through Raqqa is Syria. Photograph: AP

NBC News

President Barack Obama vowed to “degrade and destroy” the Islamist militant group behind the beheading of a second American journalist. “We will not be intimidated,” Obama told reporters during a visit to Estonia on Wednesday. “Those who make the mistake of harming Americans will learn that we will not forget and that our reach is long and that justice will be served.”

Obama said that Americans were “repulsed” by the slaying of Steven Sotloff by Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants, adding that such “horrific acts only unite us as country.” He also vowed that the U.S. would continue to lead the battle against “the kind of barbaric and empty vision that [ISIS] represents.” He said that mission would “take some time but it is going to get done,” adding: “We will degrade and destroy [ISIS] so that it is no longer a threat to Iraq, the region and United States.” A video showing Sotloff’s beheading surfaced days after the journalist’s mother pleaded with ISIS for mercy. Its release followed the murder of James Foley, who had also been held hostage by the Sunni extremists. The president said that Sotloff “deeply loved the Islamic world” and had risked his life traveling in the Middle East to “tell the story of Muslim men and women demanding dignity. ” He added: “Steven’s life stood in sharp contrast to those that murdered him so brutally.”

Watch video report here…

IN-DEPTH

The Magical President doesn’t exist: What the left must really do to defeat the wingnuts

The Magical President doesn't exist: What the left must really do to defeat the wingnuts

Barack Obama (Credit: Reuters/Jim Young)

Progressives need to pay attention and read this ASAP.  Kudos to Salon‘s Joan Walsh for putting this out there…

Salon – Joan Walsh

The myth of a president who can solve our problems alone is inane. The big task right now? Rescue these midterms

Labor Day marks the traditional kickoff to election season, and all Democrats can say for themselves about the coming midterms is: Things look bad, but they could be worse. Republicans will almost certainly gain Senate seats, and could very well take it over, though their chances diminish every time we hear new audio of Mitch McConnell and his GOP cronies sucking up to the Koch brothers at their last retreat. But traditional low midterm Democratic turnout could make McConnell the Senate majority leader in January nonetheless.

This political season opens against a backdrop of profound pessimism, captured in an August Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll that found that 71 percent of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track. The president’s approval rating is at an all-time low, but so is that of congressional Republicans. Even worse, the two big stories dominating the end-of-summer headlines – the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri. and the rise of ISIL – only deepen the political gloom, because they reflect two enormous American problems that are coming to seem almost unsolvable: profound and persistent racial injustice, and the shape-shifting chaos that is Iraq.

These problems are particularly vexing for people who subscribe to the Magical President theory of politics — which includes too many of us, including me sometimes – because those are two issues Americans thought we’d “solved,” or at least responsibly addressed, by electing our first black president, who’d famously opposed the “dumb” Iraq war and promised to end it. Now race relations are arguably worse than when Obama took office, and so is Iraq, and this is a rare case where you can fairly say people on “both sides” blame the president — mostly wrongly.

Cornel West is now slipping deep into Maureen Dowd territory: a formerly incisive, moderately influential social critic (a genuinely important one, in West’s case) driven to cruelty and irrelevance by Obama hatred. The National Journal’s Ron Fournier is a consistent proponent of what some deride as the “Green Lantern” approach to the presidency: If only Obama would justlead, our problems would solve themselves, though Fournier doesn’t stoop to channeling Abraham Lincoln or Aaron Sorkin when he criticizes Obama. But even fair and sober observers are frustrated with some of Obama’s moves.

You can certainly criticize the president on the margins – I have, and I’m sure I will again. Personally, if I worked for him, I’d probably have suggested not golfing after his moving statement on journalist James Foley’s execution, and not equivocating as much in his Ferguson remarks, which Michael Eric Dyson fairly laments. But those are issues more of stage management than statecraft.

Still, even for people who respect Obama, it’s hard to see us mired in what feels like ancient, intractable conflict in both Ferguson and Iraq. It hurts. Yet I would argue (after having been demoralized about both issues) that the unrest in Ferguson is in fact a kind of social progress: Within hours of Mike Brown’s awful shooting a network of new and seasoned activists came together to demand justice, pushing both Gov. Jay Nixon and the president to take action to rein in abusive local cops and drive the investigation into what happened.

Even the ugly situation in Iraq represents political progress, because as painful and outrageous as Foley’s execution was, and as disturbing as it is to see ISIL gain power in Iraq and Syria, the vital debate over what the U.S. can and should do there has actually been strengthened by the existence of intervention skeptics on the left and the right. Obama has repudiated the neocon approach, but he’s still wrestling with Colin Powell’s Pottery Barn doctrine: If you break it, have you really bought it? Certainly, we’ve already paid for it, many times over.

Let’s be clear: There is neither a Democratic nor a progressive consensus on what is to be done there. All we have is a profound skepticism, and I’ll take that over a cynical Cheneyesque certainty, built on lies to the American people. Disagreement, even deadlock, is preferable.

The belief that somehow Obama can lead us out of our summer of misery reflects Magical President thinking. Which leads me back to the rapidly approaching and dispiriting midterms.When I reviewed Rick Perlstein’s “Invisible Bridge,” I noted that the major political difference between the right and left seems to be that when defeated and disillusioned, the right gets back to the nuts and bolts work of electoral politics. The left, or some of it, disintegrates, a flank here promoting direct action over electoral politics (a debate that’s understandably renewed by events in Ferguson); a flank there preaching about a third party; and one over there fantasizing about the perfect left-wing challenge to the mainstream Democratic candidate, like that dreamy African-American senator who opposed the war in Iraq who looked so magical eight years ago. Meanwhile, Republicans count on division on the left, and low turnout by the Democratic base of younger, poorer non-white voters, to help them take back the Senate.

And when they do, Mitch McConnell has promised only more obstruction and gridlock. I should point out, this isn’t just a byproduct of Republican victories, but one of the goals. It’s become obvious in the GOP’s approach to Obama that obstruction is at least partly intended to demoralize the reluctant, occasional voters in the Democratic base. For if there’s no action on those “gosh darn” issues, in McConnell’s words, like a minimum wage hike, student loan relief or extended unemployment insurance, let alone immigration reform or climate change, even after Obama became the first president since Dwight Eisenhower to win more than 50 percent of the vote twice, those of us who say that voting is the most reliable path to social change sound either foolish or dishonest. People say, why bother?

The cause isn’t helped by spineless Democrats who try to blur their differences with Republicans instead of heighten them. Right now Karl Rove is attacking Democratic senators like North Carolina’s Kay Hagan and Arkansas’s Mark Pryor for endorsing Obama’s Simpson-Bowles commission report, which recommended cuts to Medicare and Social Security. But nobody could have predicted anyone would use entitlement cuts as weapons, right? Except many of us did. Again and again.

On the other hand, Hagan, Pryor and also-vulnerable Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana are doing better than expected, either leading their GOP opponents or tied, at least partly because during this election year, they’ve been feistier and more progressive, particularly when it comes to defending the Affordable Care Act. And Kentucky voters may yet make Mitch McConnell pay for sucking up to the Kochs. He shouldn’t be redecorating the Senate majority leader’s office, at any rate.

Democrats have two months to make sure this election doesn’t turn out like 2010 did. It’s not about the president right now, and we shouldn’t wait until 2016 for a new magical president. The kind of thoroughgoing change we need won’t happen in eight years, or even 80. It’s an eternal battle, the constant effort to expand the realm of human freedom to everyone, against the constant crusade by the wealthy to ensure that the trappings of human dignity – education, leisure, family life, childhood itself – are reserved for those who can afford to pay for them. The Kochs and their allies are trying to repeal the 20th century. Progressives can’t just suit up for that battle every four years.

Ted Cruz: ‘Kitty cat’ Obama should be more like ‘Russian bear’ Putin

This is outrageous.  The name calling, the innuendos aimed at the president’s sexuality and/or political “muscle”  is simply unacceptable in a civil society.

What has become of this nation and it’s unabated disrespect for the POTUS?

The Raw Story

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R) took a swipe at President Barack Obama’s foreign policy decisions in a speech on Saturday at conservative think tank Americans for Prosperity’s Defending the American Dream summit in Dallas.

According to Business Insider, the Tea Party darling and possible Republican presidential contender for 2016 was enthusiastically cheered by the crowd, who chanted “Run, Ted, run!” and wildly applauded his attacks on the Obama administration.

“Back in Washington there’s a diet that is now very, very popular,” Cruz quipped. “It’s called the Obama Diet. Works very, very well. You simply let Putin eat your lunch every day.”

Cruz further riled up the crowd by taking aim at the Affordable Care Act — also known as “Obamacare.”

“In the year 2017, a Republican president in the Rose Garden is going to sign a bill repealing every word of Obamacare!” he crowed.

He went on to belittle Obama’s decision not to commit thousands of ground troops to containing the spread of radical Islamic group ISIS in Iraq and its neighbor Syria.

“(A)ll across this world America has receded from leadership,” Cruz complained. “Look at Russia right now. Sadly, the state of the world is the Russian bear is encountering the Obama kitty cat.”

“You know what? The United States of America has never been a kitty cat,” he went on. “The reason Putin feels no fear to march into his neighbors, the reason why our allies up and down Europe are terrified of what’s next is because this president, as he puts it, is leading from behind.”

Obama, Cruz said, should position “anti-ballistic missiles in Poland and the Czech Republic.”

Watch the full speech, embedded below via Business Insider:

 

Obama vs. Bush: Who Took More Presidential Vacations?

Just an FYI for holiday family gathering discussions…

The Huffington Post via FactCheck.org

Q: Is it true that George W. Bush took more vacation days than Barack Obama?

A: Yes. Before his two-week trip to Martha’s Vineyard in August, Obama’s count was 125 full or partial days and Bush’s total at the same point in his presidency was 407.

FULL ANSWER

Our inbox is chock full of questions about who took more vacation days, Obama or Bush. (The short answer: Bush. The long answer: There’s no such thing as a true non-working vacation for the president.)

The recent barrage from our readers coincides with Obama’s 15-day family vacation on Martha’s Vineyard — he returned to the White House on Aug. 24 – which occurred during major news events including the beheading of a U.S. journalist by Islamic militants and protests in Ferguson, Missouri, after a police officer shot and killed an unarmed 18-year-old black man. The vacation also occurred during the funeral of Maj. Gen. Harold J. Greene, the only general officer killed in Afghanistan.

Obama faced criticism for being on vacation during these times, but those types of complaints are nothing new — either to Obama or presidents in general.

Readers may recall the criticism directed at Bush for the August weeks spent at his ranch in Crawford, Texas. Others may remember Democrats chastising President Dwight Eisenhower for spending time on the golf course.

We last dealt with the who-took-more-vacation question in January 2010, at which point Obama had spent 26 days on “vacation” during his first year in office, fewer than the first year totals for Presidents Bush, George H.W. Bush or Ronald Reagan. Our numbers are all courtesy of CBS News White House Correspondent Mark Knoller, who has covered every president since Gerald Ford and tracks the commander in chief’s travel.

But, as we noted then, presidents never fully escape from the job. Knoller told us he doesn’t consider these days away from the White House real “vacation” days. He said then in an email: “I have long held the view that a US president is never really on vacation. The job — and its awesome powers and responsibilities — is his wherever he is and whatever he’s doing.”

Bush officials called the Crawford ranch the “Western White House” to emphasize the days there involved plenty of official business, and Obama’s recent Martha’s Vineyard break included several presidential statements and two days spent back at the White House in the middle of the “vacation.” Presidents may clear brush or hit the links, but they are never actually off the clock.

Still, much is made of these presidential vacation days — and how to count them. Knoller doesn’t include visits to Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland often used to host foreign leaders. On Aug. 8, the day before Obama left for Martha’s Vineyard, Knoller tweeted that Obama had spent 125 full or partial days on vacation, and at the same point in Bush’s president, he had spent 381 days at his Texas ranch plus 26 days at his parents’ home in Kennebunkport, Maine, for a total of 407.

When we emailed Knoller on Aug. 26, Obama was up to 140 days by his count. Bush’s total for his two terms in office is 533 days, which includes 490 at the ranch and the rest at Kennebunkport. For comparison’s sake, President Bill Clinton’s total is 174 days, and Reagan hit 390 (349 at his ranch and 41 in Palm Springs), according to Knoller.

Adding in Camp David visits would bring Obama’s total to date to 223 (that’s 83 days at Camp David) and Bush’s total for his entire time in office to 1,024 (491 days at the presidential retreat). Note that Obama still has more than two years in office to narrow the gap.

Deciding how to count these “vacation” days can create some confusion. CNN recently listed a count of 879 days for Bush and 150 for Obama, numbers that came from a Washington Post “Outlook” piece on “Five myths on presidential vacations.”(Myth No. 1: “Presidents get vacations.”) The 879 figure, it turns out, is from March 3, 2008, at which point Bush had spent that many days at the ranch and Camp David (but it doesn’t include days in Kennebunkport). The numbers are in a 2008Washington Post piece and attributed to Knoller.

If readers want to make an apples-to-apples comparison, the best solution is to use Knoller’s figures as of August 8, cited above: Bush, 407; Obama, 125. But the numbers say more about how many days the presidents spent away from the White House than they do about how much time the presidents spent not working.

House Candidate Called Female Senators “Undeserving Bimbos in Tennis Shoes”

Hagedorn for Congress/Facebook

During the run up to the mid-term elections for 2010 some GOP candidates made so many controversial statements that they were simply deemed un-electable by most politcal analysts.  Their constituents felt the same .  They included Senate candidates Sharon Angle, Christine O’Donnell, and Joe Miller of Alaska.  All were sidelined because of public faux pas and simply not knowing enough about politics to get elected.

Looks like the 2014 mid-term races might have a few crazies as well…

Mother Jones

Statement was from Jim Hagedorn’s old blog, “Mr. Conservative,” is a ticking time bomb.

Republican congressional candidate Jim Hagedorn could face a major obstacle in his race to unseat Minnesota Democrat Tim Walz: conservative blogger Jim Hagedorn.

Hagedorn, the son of retired congressman Tom Hagedorn, was a surprise victor in last Tuesday’s GOP primary. But he brings some serious baggage to his race against Walz, a four-term incumbent. In posts from his old blog, Mr. Conservative, unearthed by the now-defunct Minnesota Independent, Hagedorn made light of American Indians, President Obama’s Kenyan ancestry, and female Supreme Court justices, among others, in ways many voters won’t appreciate.

Hagedorn deleted many of his old posts prior to his 2010 run for Walz’s seat—he lost in the GOP primary. But some of his writings can still be found via the Internet Archive or in screenshots taken by the Independent. These were not mere juvenile ramblings, either: Hagedorn was a Treasury Department official at the time.

“Turns out half-aunt Zeituni is an illegal alien from Kenya who has illegally contributed money to her half-nephew’s campaign, which should make Americans half-pi$$ed,” he wrote in a typical missive during the 2008 election cycle. “The migration from Barack Obama’s second country to the United States during the next four years is going to look like a low-budget remake of Eddie Murphy’s hit comedy ‘Coming to America.'”

Hagedorn also reveled in the type of gay innuendo you may have heard in high school courtyards in decades past. (Kids these days know better.) He referred to former Wisconsin Sen. Herb Kohl as an “alleged switch-hitter” and a “packer.” Former GOP candidate Mike Taylor, the target of a homophobic attack ad during his campaign against then-Sen. Max Baucus,came out even worse: “[T]he ad really bent Taylor over with rage and caused him to go straight to the bar and get lubricated,” Hagedorn wrote. “It must have taken all Taylor’s power to refrain from fisting…err…using his fists on Max Baucus, or at the very least ream him inside and out.”

In an entry on the Supreme Court’s 2003 Lawrence v. Texas decision, which ruled that state bans on sodomy were unconstitutional, he wrote: “Butt (sic) never have winners lost so dearly. The Court’s voyage into uncharted, untreated cultural bathhouse waters was designed to offer a gentle push from behind…to generate a small skip forward for the pink triangle class…to throw them a bone, so to speak.”

Lest anyone challenge his bona fides, Hagedorn wanted to make abundantly clear he was a straight white male. “Senator McCain’s campaign was all but flat lined before he brought the feisty Caribou Barbie into our living rooms,” he wrote in 2008. “Which reminds me, on behalf of all red-blooded American men: THANK YOU SENATOR McCAIN, SARAH’S HOT!”

Not all female politicians were viewed as favorably. In a 2002 post, Hagedorn referred to Washington Democratic Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray as “undeserving bimbos in tennis shoes.” Former Bush White House counsel Harriet Miers, he wrote in 2005, had been nominated “to fill the bra of Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.”

Writing about now-Sen. John Thune’s race against Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson, Hagedorn turned his razor-sharp wit on America’s most coddled demographic—Native Americans. “The race has been highlighted by a Democrat drive to register voters in several of several of South Dakota’s expansive redistribution of wealth centers…err…casino parlors…err…Indian reservations. Remarkably, many of the voters registered for absentee ballots were found to be chiefs and squaws who had returned to the spirit world many moons ago.” Alleging that fake votes from Indians would provide the margin of victory, he echoed “John Wayne’s wisdom of the only good Indian being a dead Indian.”

Hagedorn may have been joking. (The quip’s real author, General Philip Sheridan, wasn’t.) But American Indians were a favorite punching bag over at Mr. Conservative. In that same post, he referred to Nevada as a land of “nuclear waste and thankless Indians.” What made the state’s Native American population thankless? Hagedorn didn’t say.

Democrats seized on some of the Mr. Conservativepostings during Hagedorn’s brief 2009 foray, prompting him to slip into damage control mode. “I understand that some of the folks on the left aren’t going to like what I write,” he told the Rochester Post-Bulletin. “I poke fun at everybody, including Republicans.”

Although Walz’s district went to Barack Obama by less than 2 points in 2012, the incumbent has faced a string of less-than-stellar opponents. Allen Quist, the GOP’s 2012 nominee, crafted a school science curriculum contending that humans coexisted with dinosaurs. Aaron Miller, the Iraq War vet who was picked to run against Walz at the district nominating convention but lost in the primary, stated that he was motivated to run for office because his daughter had been forced to learn evolution in public schools. And now Hagedorn.

It looks like Tim Walz might be staying in Washington a little bit longer.

Netanyahu Tells U.S. ‘Not To Ever Second Guess Me Again’ On Hamas

NETANYAHU

Israeli Defense Minister, Moshe Ya’alon, left, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, attend the cabinet meeting at the defense ministry in Tel Aviv, Israel, Thursday, July 31, 2014. (AP Photo/Dan Balilty, pool) | AP

When the leader of the United States and his political equivalent in Israel don’t like each other…this occurs.

The Huffington Post

Following the quick collapse of the cease-fire in Gaza, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the White House not to force a truce with Palestinian militants on Israel.

Sources familiar with conversations between Netanyahu and senior U.S. officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry, say the Israeli leader advised the Obama administration “not to ever second guess me again” on the matter. The officials also said Netanyahu said he should be “trusted” on the issue and about the unwillingness of Hamas to enter into and follow through on cease-fire talks.

The Obama administration on Friday condemned “outrageous” violations of an internationally brokered Gaza cease-fire by Palestinian militants and called the apparent abduction of an Israeli soldier a “barbaric” action.

The strong reaction came as top Israeli officials questioned the effort to forge the truce, accusing the U.S. and the United Nations of being naive in assuming the radical Hamas movement would adhere with its terms. The officials also blamed the Gulf state of Qatar for not forcing the militants to comply.

With the cease-fire in tatters fewer than two hours after it took effect with an attack that killed two Israeli troops and left a third missing, President Barack Obama demanded that those responsible release the soldier.

Obama and other U.S. officials did not directly blame Hamas for the abduction. But they made clear they hold Hamas responsible for, or having influence over, the actions of all factions in the Gaza Strip. The language was a distinct change from Thursday when Washington was focused on the deaths of Palestinian civilians.

“If they are serious about trying to resolve this situation, that soldier needs to be unconditionally released as soon as possible,” Obama told reporters. He added that it would be difficult to revive the cease-fire without the captive’s release.

“It’s going to be very hard to put a cease-fire back together again if Israelis and the international community can’t feel confident that Hamas can follow through on a cease-fire commitment,” he said. His comment reflected uncertainty in the U.S. and elsewhere that Hamas was actually responsible for the incident or if some other militant group was to blame.

At the same time, Obama called the situation in Gaza “heartbreaking” and repeated calls for Israel to do more to prevent Palestinian civilian casualties.

Despite the collapse of the truce, Obama credited Kerry for his work with the United Nations to forge one. He lamented criticism and “nitpicking” of Kerry’s attempts and said the effort would continue.

Kerry negotiated the truce with U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon in a marathon session of phone calls over several days while he was in India on an official visit. Kerry had spent much of the past two weeks in Egypt, Israel, the West Bank and France trying to mediate a cease-fire with Qatar and Turkey playing a major role because of their close ties with Hamas.

Those efforts failed with Israel saying it could not trust Hamas and some Israelis and American pro-Israel groups complaining that the U.S. was treating the group — a foreign terrorist organization as designated by the State Department — as a friend.

Late Thursday, however, Israel accepted Kerry and Ban’s latest proposal, despite its reservations. Once the truce was violated, though, Israeli officials hit out at not only Hamas, but the United States and Qatar for its failure.

An Israeli official said the Netanyahu government viewed both Hamas and Qatar as having violated the commitment given to the U.S. and the U.N. and that it expected the international community to take practical steps as part of a “strong and swift response,” especially regarding the return of the abducted soldier.

In a phone call with U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro, Netanyahu vented his anger, according to people familiar with the call.

Netanyahu told Shapiro the Obama administration was “not to ever second-guess me again” and that Washington should trust his judgment on how to deal with Hamas, according to the people. Netanyahu added that he now “expected” the U.S. and other countries to fully support Israel’s offensive in Gaza, according to those familiar with the call. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter by name.

They said Netanyahu made similar points to Kerry, who himself denounced the attack as “outrageous,” saying it was an affront to assurances to respect the cease-fire given to the United States and United Nations, which brokered the truce.

___