White House

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.


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.

Obama Will Attend MSNBC Host Alex Wagner’s Wedding

Alex Wagner | Screenshot MSNBC

Well, how cool is that?


The city of New Rochelle, N.Y., will soon play host to the wedding of MSNBC host Alex Wagner and White House special advisor/chef Sam Kass,Vogue Magazine’s official political “It-Couple.” And according to Politico, President Barack Obamawill be in attendance.

Obama first hired Kass in 2008 as his family’s personal chef, eventually bringing him to the White House and tapping him as an advisor for nutrition policy and the executive director for Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative. Insiders say that the president considers Kass as family, and that the two have a long-standing golf/basketball/every-sport-ever rivalry.

The New Rochelle Talk, which broke the news of the Obamas’ visit, added that he would also attend two fundraising dinners, tickets to which cost $32,000 each.

The wedding itself will take place at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, a renowned restaurant/farm run by Dan Barber and a favorite of the Obamas. If you are a follower of celebrity chef culture, this choice of wedding venue is not a surprise.

[h/t Politico]

10 things you need to know today: August 13, 2014

An American flag flies while Yazidi Iraqis escape into Syria.

An American flag flies while Yazidi Iraqis escape into Syria. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

The Week

White House sends 130 more advisers to Iraq, Ukraine vows to stop Russian-supply convoy, and more

1. White House sends 130 more advisers to Iraq
The U.S. has deployed 130 Marines and Special Operations forces to northern Iraq to help assess ways to rescue thousands of members of the Yazidi religious group taking refuge on Mount Sinjar, U.S. officials said late Tuesday. Those military advisers will not have a combat role, but the Defense Department left open the possibility that U.S. troops could help create a safe passage for the Yazidi off Mount Sinjar. That would likely put U.S. troops in direct combat with the ISIS militants trying to kill the Yazidi — a proposition President Obama has not signed off on, but one the military advisers are exploring. [CBS, The New York Times]


2. Ukraine vows to stop Russian-supply convoy unless conditions are met
Wary that the Russians may be trying to move military supplies into their country to aid pro-Moscow separatists, Ukrainian officials said they would not allow a convoy of 280 Russian trucks to cross the border unless the Red Cross took over the delivery. The cargo, which Russia insists is humanitarian aid, must be loaded onto other vehicles by the Red Cross, Ukraine says. It will take the trucks about two days to make the 620 mile trip from Moscow to eastern Ukraine. [Reuters]


3. Iran endorses Maliki’s replacement
The U.S. and Iran don’t agree on much, but it appears the two countries are backing Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s replacement, Haider al-Abadi. Iran’s endorsement on Tuesday means that Maliki, who has indicated he won’t go quietly, will have an even harder time holding onto his position. The United States and its allies hope that replacing Maliki, who alienated the Sunnis of Iraq, will undermine support for the militant group the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). [The Washington Post]


4. Lauren Bacall dies at the age of 89
Lauren Bacall, a star from the golden age of Hollywood, died on Tuesday at her home in New York at the age of 89. Her career spanned seven decades and included several classic films like Murder on the Orient Express, How to Marry a Millionaire, and The Big Sleep. Bacall earned a honorary Oscar, two Tonys, and a National Book Award for her autobiography. [The Guardian]


5. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo rebuffs Palestinian invitation
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is heading to Israel on an official state delegation, but the politician, who is said to be mulling a 2016 run at the White House, declined an invitation to meet with Palestinian leaders. Cuomo and a handful of New York lawmakers are calling their trip a unity mission to express solidarity with Israel. “Our message is simple and is clear,” the governor said. “We stand with Israel, and we support Israel’s right to defend itself in this conflict.” [The New York Times]


6. Former Microsoft CEO officially buys the LA Clippers
Steve Ballmer, the former chief executive officer of Microsoft, officially purchased the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday for the tidy sum of $2 billion. The team went up for sale after its previous owner, Donald Sterling, was recorded making racist comments to a companion. Sterling, who bought the team for $12 million in 1981, lost a lawsuit to retain possession of the team and has been banned from the NBA for life. [CNN]


7. Details of Robin Williams’ death emerge
Marin County officials announced on Tuesday that Robin Williams‘ death was a suicide by hanging. The Oscar-winning actor was found by his assistant who became concerned about him after he didn’t respond to her knocking on his door. Williams also had a few shallow cuts on his left wrist, according to authorities. [USA Today]


8. Maryam Mirzakhani becomes the first woman to win major math prize
A woman has won the prestigious Fields Medal for the first time. Maryam Mirzakhani, a professor at Stanford University, won the award, which has been described as the Nobel Prize for Mathematics, for her contributions to “the dynamics and geometry of Riemann surfaces and their moduli spaces.”


9. Toxic algae threatens the Florida coast
Microscopic toxic algea are blooming near the coast of Florida, creating a red tide effect that is threatening local wildlife. Though it is still 20 miles off the coast, the size of the tide — 60 miles wide, by 90 miles long, by 100 feet deep — has authorities concerned that it could kill off millions of fish and potentially disrupt the lucrative tourist season. Officials say they haven’t seem a bloom this large in nine years. [NBC]


10. Haiti captures high-profile fugitive Clifford Brandt
Haitian authorities captured Clifford Brandt, a notorious fugitive who admitted to kidnapping the children of a rival businessman, Haiti’s Prime Minister announced on Tuesday. Brandt broke freewith 328 other inmates on Sunday when a gang attacked the jail where he was incarcerated. He was found trying to cross the border into the Dominican Republic. [Miami Herald]

10 things you need to know today: July 12, 2014

James is headed home.

James is headed home. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

The Week

LeBron James announces return to Cleveland, White House answers new NSA revelations, and more

1. LeBron James announces return to Cleveland Cavaliers
LeBron James announced his return to the Cleveland Cavaliers in an exclusive essay for Sports Illustrated on Friday. “I always believed that I’d return to Cleveland and finish my career there. I just didn’t know when,” James wrote. “I looked at other teams, but I wasn’t going to leave Miami for anywhere except Cleveland…I’m coming home.” James’ free agency fueled weeks of rumors, but a return to Cleveland began to seem more likely when Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert flew down to Florida last weekend, and the team subsequently made a cap-clearing trade on Wednesday. “In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given,” James added. “I’m ready to accept the challenge.” [Sports Illustrated]


2. White House knew of British government’s plans to destroy NSA data
Newly declassified documents show that the Obama administration was made aware in advance of Britain’s plans to force The Guardian newspaper to destroy data it had obtained on leaked National Security Agency documents. The White House had previously said it would be “very difficult to imagine a scenario in which that would be appropriate” in regard to performing a similar operation on an American media outlet. On Thursday, Obama administration officials said that while the White House had been aware of the plans after all, it had not assisted the British government in forcing the newspaper to destroy the computer data. [The Associated Press]


3. CDC improperly sent pathogens at least five times in past decade
Anthrax, lethal botulism bacteria, and deadly bird flu virus pathogens all may have wound up in laboratories via improper shipment procedures over the past decade, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released on Friday. “These events should never have happened,” Tom Frieden, CDC director, said in a conference call. “Frankly, I’m angry about it.” The report was released following last month’s safety lapse, in which more than 80 workers may have been exposed to live anthrax after other employees mistakenly sent samples of the bacteria to a different CDC lab. [The Washington Post]


4. U.S. on track for lowest annual deficit since 2008
The Treasury Department announced a $71 billion total June surplus on Friday afternoon, putting the U.S. on track for its lowest annual deficit since 2008. The deficit totals $366 billion in the first nine months of this budget year, down 28 percent from the same amount of time in 2013. Currently, the Congressional Budget Office is forecasting a total deficit of $492 billion, although the actual number will not be realized until the end of the full budget year, on Sept. 30. [ABC News]


5. Dutch Supreme Court blocks U.S. extradition of Al-Qaeda suspect
The Dutch Supreme Court ruled on Friday that Sabir Ali Khan could not be extradited to the United States to face charges of conspiracy to commit murder in support of al-Qaeda. Khan has citizenship in the Netherlands thanks to his mother, who was Dutch. He was arrested by Pakistani forces in 2010, allegedly at the request of the U.S., and he says he was subsequently tortured. When he was released to Dutch officials, the U.S. began trying to arrange an extradition. Khan currently lives freely in the Netherlands, although he told Time in January that he believes he is under constant surveillance. [Time]


6. Border Patrol stops migrant flights to San Diego
Following two weeks of protests from activists on both sides of the national immigration debate, the Border Patrol halted transfers of Central American migrants from Texas to San Diego on Thursday. San Diego’s U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency had stepped in to handle an influx of immigrants arriving at the Texas border who required processing. But, a spokesman for the Border Patrol said the Texas backlog had been reduced and that location could “handle their own processing on site.” [San Diego Union-Tribune]


7. Kurdish forces seize Iraq oil fields as ministers halt government roles
Kurdish forces seized two more oil fields on Friday, in northern Iraq, prompting Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s government to threaten “dire consequences” if the Kurds did not withdraw. Meanwhile, Kurdish politicians halted their roles in Baghdad’s government, although they plan to still attend parliament. “The country is now divided literally into three states,” Hoshiyar Zebari, a Kurd and Iraq’s current foreign minister, said. “Kurdish, a black state (ISIL) and Baghdad.” [Reuters]


8. Death toll rises past 120 in Gaza Strip fighting
More than 120 Palestinians have been killed in fighting between Israel and militants in the Gaza Strip, according to Palestinian sources. The United Nations estimates that more than three-quarters of the dead are civilians. Israel has promised to continue its operations, which are targeting militant and militant facilities housing senior operatives. “The objective is to restore quiet to the cities of Israel, and I intend to achieve this objective,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. [BBC News]


9. Seattle’s only legal marijuana shop runs out of pot after three days
Seattle’s Cannabis City, the first legal marijuana shop in Washington’s largest city, sold out of its pot stock just three days into its state-approved license. While 24 other stores across Washington were also given state approval to retail marijuana this week, Cannabis City was the first in Seattle to begin selling, and its 11 pounds on hand did not last long. Shop owners blamed the shortage on the plants’ maturation process, which takes three to four months (pot growers and processors were only issued licenses last week). “We knew it was coming,” Cannabis City owner James Lathrop said. “We didn’t have any guaranteed additional deliveries.” [Bloomberg Businessweek]


10. Last living member of the Ramones dies at 65
Tommy Ramone, a co-founder of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band the Ramones, died on Friday at age 65, according to a business associate. Tommy Ramone, born Erdelyi Tamas in Hungary, started the band in 1974 with singer Jeff Hyman (Joey Ramone), Douglas Colvin (Dee Dee Ramone), and John Cummings (Johnny Ramone). While the Ramones struggled to gain commercial success, the punk group influenced a number of other artists, including Green Day, Nirvana, and even Bruce Springsteen. They are best remembered for classics such as Blitzkrieg Bop. [CBS News]

The Survivor: How Eric Holder outlasted his (many) critics.

Obama has resisted calls from inside and outside the administration to dismiss Holder. | Paul J. Richards/ AFP/Getty Images

Politico Magazine

Why the hell is Eric Holder still around? That’s a question many of Barack Obama’s political advisers have asked at various points throughout Holder’s tumultuous five years at the helm of the Justice Department.

For most of Obama’s presidency, in fact, if there’s been controversy, Holder was likely to be in the middle of it, from the failed efforts to close Guantánamo Bay and to prosecute alleged Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a Manhattan court to his inability to send Wall Street executives involved in the mortgage meltdown to jail. His detractors in the West Wing of the White House, and there have been many, have seen the attorney general as a never-ending source of questionable decisions, tin-eared political missteps and off-the-reservation remarks. “If it was coming out of the Justice Department,” a former top adviser to Obama recalled to me, “it was bad news.”

Congress has it in for Holder, too: House Republicans howled for his scalp after voting him in contempt of Congress two years ago in a dispute over a gun investigation gone awry, making Holder the first Cabinet member ever to be sanctioned. And at least one Hill Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, suggested Holder step down after it was revealed the department had secretly obtained journalists’ phone records as part of leak investigations involving the Associated Press and Fox News. “Whenever you feel that you have lost your effectiveness … to the detriment of the job that you do,” Manchin told Bloomberg, “decisions have to be made.”

And yet Holder, an affable, ambitious and stubborn 63-year-old career prosecutor, has not only weathered these attacks but emerged, improbably, with greater leverage and more access to Obama than ever. How did he do it? To start, it helps that he is one of the few administration figures to cross the threshold from employee to friend of the famously reserved president. Holder, in fact, is one of the only Cabinet members Obama routinely invites over for dinner and drinks (Education Secretary Arne Duncan, a hoops buddy from Chicago, is another) and the only one who times his summer vacation to hang out with the president on Martha’s Vineyard. Their wives are even closer, and Michelle Obama is a not infrequent drop-in guest for Friday pizza night at Holder’s house. Besides, the attorney general is nothing if not a loyalist, an increasingly valuable commodity to a second-term president rattled by accelerating congressional investigations. Obama clearly respects Holder’s four decades of experience as an attorney and judge and supports Holder’s positions on LGBT rights and racial profiling, often telling his staff he recognizes it’s not all Holder’s fault: The job of attorney general is a “shit magnet” for the most intractable controversies.

But there’s another explanation, and according to the two dozen current and former Obama administration officials and confidants of both men I’ve spoken with in recent weeks, it may well be the main reason the first black president of the United States has stood so firmly behind the first black attorney general of the United States: Holder has been willing to say the things Obama couldn’t or wouldn’t say about race.

“He’s a race man,” says Charles Ogletree, a longtime friend of Holder’s who taught and mentored Obama and his wife, Michelle, as Harvard Law School students in the 1980s. “He’s gone farther and deeper into some issues of race than the White House would like, but I know he has the president’s well-wishes. It’s clear [Obama and Holder] believe in the same things.”

Holder himself recently told another African-American friend that he feels part of his job is “to talk about things the president can’t talk about as easily.” Asked to describe Holder’s role, one of his former top aides described him as “Obama’s heat shield.”

There’s no question that Obama has resisted calls, from inside and outside the administration, to dump Holder, including quiet rumblings by some aides who wanted Obama to ease him out after the 2012 reelection.

But the president brushed off such talk, as he has done repeatedly with those who have tried and failed to come between him and his AG. From the start, the White House staff has been at odds with Holder—a conflict that, my sources told me, has been one of the longest-running hidden dramas of this White House. “He says he’s on Team Obama, but he’s really on Team Holder,” one top Obama aide told me.

The bad blood goes all the way back to a month into Obama’s first term—as the West Wing staff was working 18-hour days to keep the economy from collapsing—when Holder jolted Obama’s team seemingly out of nowhere. Tellingly, the subject was race. Holder informed the White House he planned to deliver a Black History Month speech but never got around to telling Obama’s aides what he would actually say, a habit that would infuriate the White House time and again over the years—and underscore Holder’s special standing in Obama’s world.

“Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards,” Holder declared to a gathering of Justice Department employees—a bombshell assertion that caused the predictable rage among Obama’s attackers on the right, who accused him of playing the race card.

Obama’s top political aides—white liberals to a man, and they were all men—didn’t necessarily disagree with Holder’s sentiment; they just thought it was a dumb way of saying it and dangerously ill-timed to boot. Obama was ticked off, too, and did nothing to stop his top advisers David Axelrod, Rahm Emanuel, Robert Gibbs and Jim Messina from severely restricting Holder’s public utterances and imposing a ban on Sunday show appearances that stands to this day.

But the president’s anger only went so far, and Holder takes no small satisfaction in outlasting those early rivals. In interviews, many of the officials I spoke with offered a blunt explanation for his bond with Obama: For all the president’s success at breaking barriers, Obama is often the only black person in the room when a major decision is being made—unless Holder, senior adviser Valerie Jarrett or National Security Adviser Susan Rice is present. This isn’t just about skin pigment, and it’s not a phenomenon unique to Obama; all presidents draw close to them people who share common personal experiences and their deepest priorities, people they trust, who provide the elusive “comfort level” they seek in times of extreme stress. John F. Kennedy had his “Irish Mafia,” Ronald Reagan had his California buddies, Bill Clinton surrounded himself with pals from Arkansas.

Balanced against such bonds, Holder’s scraps with Congress, his battles with a press corps furious over the most leak prosecutions of any administration in history and the opposition of Obama’s palace guard—who view him as politically clueless—just can’t quite compete.

Ed. Note:  This is a very long magazine article…

Continue reading here…

The White House Is Exhausted

The National Journal

The past week has not been kind to Obama. But could it be a turning point for his presidency?

Day 1,956 of his presidency was not too kind to President Obama. Having to announce within a four-hour span that he had lost both an embattled Cabinet secretary and his chief spokesman, Obama looked Friday like a man gamely trying to get a stalled administration back on track. He entered the week still stuck with low approval ratings and facing fierce criticism of his policies both at home and abroad. On Wednesday, he tried to chart a new course internationally with a West Point speech setting out a new foreign policy. On Thursday, he dealt with widespread criticism of the speech. On Friday, he tried to dig himself out of a troubling Veterans Administration scandal by jettisoning VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, a man he thought was being unfairly blamed for the problems. Then he accepted the resignation of press secretary Jay Carney, the longtime public face of his White House. It is a cliché to note the aging of our presidents, to count the gray hairs sprouting with each passing day in the Oval Office. But Obama does look weary. And he is at a point in his administration when his agenda seems tired and many of his appointees are exhausted. In that regard, he is no different than every second-term president since World War II. For all of them, the sixth year was troubled and filled with administration scandals, political challenges and executive turnover. A second-term president has to figure out how to govern effectively without his original band of hardy loyalists. Most of them have fled government at this point. When Obama looks around his White House these days, he sees Valerie Jarrett and Dan Pfeiffer and only a handful of other aides who were with him on that frigid day in 2007 in Springfield when he announced his long-shot candidacy. Only three of Obama’s original 16 Cabinet officers remain—Eric Holder at Justice, Tom Vilsack at Agriculture, and Arne Duncan at Education. He is on his fourth budget director, his fifth chief of staff, and, soon, his third press secretary.
The turnover at press secretary is the least surprising. Few appreciate what a tough job that is. Marlin Fitzwater, who served Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, said that the biggest shock to him when he became press secretary was how hard he had to dig to get the facts and to make sure what he said publicly was accurate. As Carney was later to learn, most of that work is done off-camera, fighting to be included in the inner circle. The two-term presidents since Dwight Eisenhower have all worn out their press secretaries. Bill Clinton and George W. Bush each had four, and Ronald Reagan had three. Lyndon Johnson, who served less than two full terms, had four. Each had to struggle with the reality that the public starts to tune out a president in his second term. This is a highly personal office. A president is the only politician whom voters, in effect, invite into their homes and watch on television every night. But in a sixth year, people tend to believe they have pretty much heard it all from the president and about all they hear seems to be bad news. In making his announcements on Shinseki and Carney, the president did all the things expected of him in the circumstances, projecting determination and even smiling bravely. But what he didn’t do was signal convincingly that he knows how to provide a way forward for the 966 days he has left in the White House. How he responds now will determine whether this week is regarded as a low point or a critical turning point for his presidency.

White House Mistakenly Outs CIA Afghanistan Chief

This was pure sloppiness on their part.  Unacceptable…


During President Obama‘s surprise trip to Afghanistan on Sunday, the White House mistakenly exposed the identity of the Central Intelligence Agency’s top official in Kabul.

According to the Washington Post, the officer’s name (which has been redacted by the press to protect the individual’s safety) was inadvertently included among a list distributed to the press showing the names senior U.S. officials participating in the president’s trip.

The mistaken list reportedly identified the individual as “Chief of Station,” the CIA’s term for the highest-ranking spy official in a given country. After the White House recognized the error, they quickly issued a revised list.

The oversight was brought to light by Washington Post White House bureau chief Scott Wilson, who noticed the name on a pool report sent to the press and asked the White House press team if the name’s inclusion was intentional.

WaPo‘s report continues:

Initially, the press office raised no objection, apparently because military officials had provided the list to distribute to news organizations. But senior White House officials realized the mistake and scrambled to issue an updated list without the CIA officer’s name. The mistake, however, already was being noted on Twitter, although without the station chief’s name.

It is unclear whether the disclosure will force the CIA to pull the officer out of Afghanistan. As the top officer in one of the agency’s largest overseas posts, with hundreds of officers, analysts and other subordinates, the station chief in Kabul probably has been identified to senior Afghan government officials and would not ordinarily take part in clandestine missions beyond the U.S. Embassy compound.

Read the rest of the report here.

Carney: GOPers Admit Benghazi About ‘Trying to Raise Money and Motivate Their Base’


During an appearance on MSNBC on Friday, NBC News reporter Kristen Welker grilled White House Press Sec. Jay Carney about how the White House views the establishment of a select committee to investigate the Benghazi attack. Carney said that the investigation is unnecessary and even Republicans have confessed that the effort is not aimed at uncovering the truth but to increase campaign donations and excite the GOP base.

“House Republicans, in what is a blatantly political and partisan effort, voted to start another investigation into this matter,” Carney began, “presumably because the six previous investigations by Congress, by Republicans, were somehow not adequate.”

“It’s unfortunate that House Republicans continue to pursue this in a highly partisan manner,” he added. “And, in fact, they themselves have acknowledged how political it is and how oriented it is toward trying to raise money and motivate their base for a midterm election.”

Watch the clip below via MSNBC:


Secret Service: Motorist who followed motorcade onto White House grounds made a mistake

A man is taken into custody by Secret Service on Tuesday. Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Luckily he wasn’t shot dead by the Capitol Police. I’m sure some will dispute the comparison and that’s ok…

The Washington Post

Mathew Goldstein’s wrong turn near the White House started as a moment of confusion and ended as a national incident.

The IT specialist for the Internal Revenue Service was driving his gray Honda Civic along 17th Street NW on Tuesday afternoon when he inadvertently followed the motorcade carrying President Obama’s daughters into the secure perimeter for the presidential compound.

Goldstein, 55, who is charged with a misdemeanor and was released after a brief appearance in D.C. Superior Court on Wednesday, told law enforcement officials that he had made a mistake and was not familiar with the roads around the White House.

“He was at a function downtown with colleagues and said he was just checked out mentally and confused,” said an official familiar with the incident. “It seems to be bad luck on his part.”

But Goldstein’s mistaken left turn raised serious questions about how an unauthorized vehicle was able to travel within five feet of the Obama girls’ motorcade and get through two rows of metal security bollards at the checkpoint at 17th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue.

Goldstein, described by a friend as brilliant but absent-minded, was so close to the motorcade that the large metal posts could not be raised in time to block the car, according to court papers filed Wednesday.

A foot patrol officer stopped Goldstein, of Mitchellville, by stepping in front of the Honda as it neared Jackson Place NW and Pennsylvania Avenue. The officer removed Goldstein from his car. He was arrested, and the Honda was towed to lot in Southwest for “safe keeping,” according to the documents.

When asked Wednesday how Goldstein was able to breach the outer perimeter, Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan said the agency would “have to review and find out how that did happen.”

“This incident is being taken seriously and it should not have happened,” Donovan said.

Former Secret Service officials characterized the incident, which led to the lockdown of the White House for more than an hour, as a modest failure of security. Even though Goldstein maneuvered past the checkpoint, he did not get past the rear-most vehicle.

“Obviously, any failure is basically viewed as unacceptable with the Service,” said W. Ralph Basham, who served as director of the agency from 2003 to 2006.

“It’s the human element,” he said. “You’re not expecting to see something like that and when it’s that quick, being able to react in a timely fashion is challenging.”

Dan Emmett, another former Secret Service agent, said it was “amazing this did not happen long ago.”

A presidential motorcade has a marked tail car that stops to block the entrance once the “secure package” transporting the president is inside. On Tuesday, there was apparently no tail car blocking for the Obama daughters.

“Literally anyone can follow them,” said Emmett, the author of a book about his career, “Within Arm’s Length.” “I would be willing to bet they now have a tail car and will from now on.”

Donovan, the Secret Service spokesman, said the agency “does not comment on specific security arrangements for motorcades and neither should our former personnel.”

But it is not uncommon for a presidential motorcade to be inadvertently breached when the president travels outside the District, and it happens a couple of times a year, according to the agency.

Intrusions occur when checkpoints are unmanned prematurely and cars enter the lengthy motorcade, which can have substantial gaps between the more than 20 vehicles. The overwhelming majority of breaches are considered mistakes.

But having a breach at the 17th Street checkpoint is extremely unusual, according to two law enforcement sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Both Basham and another former Secret Service agent, who has experience with motorcades, said Obama’s daughters would have been traveling in a “stripped down” motorcade with far fewer support vehicles than the president’s entourage. In some cases, the smaller motorcades are without local police escorts so as not to draw attention, they said.

Basham said that during his tenure, confused motorists sometimes got near the motorcade but that they were forced out by police or intelligence vehicles. He could not recall any instance when a motorist got near the motorcade with the intent of doing harm to the president or another dignitary.

The president and first lady Michelle Obama would probably be briefed on Tuesday’s incident, he said.

“I’m sure they would be curious about whether this should have happened,” Basham said.

In the courtroom Wednesday, Magistrate Judge Karen A. Howze released Goldstein pending a hearing May 21. The misdemeanor charge of unlawful entry carries a maximum of 180 days in jail and a fine of as much as $1,000. The judge ordered Goldstein to stay away from the White House and its grounds.

Goldstein and his attorney declined to comment.

Don Wharton, who runs the Secular Perspectives blog, said he recruited Goldstein to be a contributor about five years ago. He described Goldstein as an introverted and intelligent atheist who cares deeply about the separation of church and state and had concerns about government surveillance.

Wharton said Goldstein never expressed any ill will toward President Obama or showed signs of violence. He spends some time as an activist for the coalition and writes a personal blog called the Explicit Atheist that has touched on subjects ranging from cosmology to political races in Arizona.

Goldstein’s brilliance, Wharton said, was also punctuated by an absent-mindedness.

“He is very capable of taking philosophical aspects of quantum mechanics and talking about them with clarity, Wharton said. “By most standards, that is a very competent manner of thinking. I can imagine him getting lost though.”

Gwen Ifill Lists Stories That Deserve More Attention Than Benghazi (VIDEO)


PBS news anchor Gwen Ifill


“If this weren’t about politics, we would be talking about the 200-plus missing girls in Nigeria,” Ifill said Sunday on CNN. “We’d be talking about the outbreak of war in South Sudan. There are so many important issues around the world which involves people’s lives, helpless people’s lives, that could use a little attention.”

Emboldened by an email that shows a White House aide explaining how to discuss the attack, House Republicans announced their intention last week to set up a select committee to investigate the attack.

Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer gloated that many journalists “are somewhat embarrassed by the fact that unlike Fox they allowed themselves to be stoned and spun and rolled for a year-and-a-half and now the memo appears and it’s obvious they missed the story.”