U.S. Politics

Trump touted ‘armada’ he was sending to North Korea while it was sailing in opposite direction

CREDIT: Fox Business screengrab


The White House is blaming the Defense Department for the mistake.

The armada Trump bragged about sending to North Korea last week was actually headed in the opposite direction, according to a new report from the New York Times.

In an interview with Fox Business that aired on April 12, President Trump declared that the United States was “sending an armada” to deal with the threat posed by the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un’s refusal to stop testing weapons.

“We are sending an armada. Very powerful,” Trump said.

Trump’s comments came on the heels of news reports that the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson strike group was headed toward North Korea — news seemingly confirmed by a strike group spokesman.

The day before Trump’s Fox Business interview aired, Press Secretary Sean Spicer also seemed to confirm the strike group was on the way to North Korea, saying during a news conference that “a carrier group is several things. The forward deployment is deterrence, presence. It’s prudent. But it does a lot of things. It ensures our — we have the strategic capabilities, and it gives the president options in the region.”

“But I think when you see a carrier group steaming into an area like that, the forward presence of that is clearly, through almost every instance, a huge deterrence,” he added. “So I think it serves multiple capabilities.”

News of the strike group’s proximity to North Korea contributed to an alarming NBC report that the U.S. military was “prepared to launch a preemptive strike with conventional weapons against North Korea should officials become convinced that North Korea is about to follow through with a nuclear weapons test.”

But turns out it was all false— the strike group wasn’t en route to North Korea last week after all.

On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that while Trump and Spicer were touting the strike group’s new mission to North Korea, “the Carl Vinson [and] the four other warships in its strike force were at that very moment sailing in the opposite direction, to take part in joint exercises with the Australian Navy in the Indian Ocean, 3,500 miles southwest of the Korean Peninsula.”

The White House is blaming the Defense Department for the mistake.

“White House officials said on Tuesday they were relying on guidance from the Defense Department,” the Times reports. “Officials there described a glitch-ridden sequence of events, from a premature announcement of the deployment by the military’s Pacific Command to an erroneous explanation by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis — all of which perpetuated the false narrative that an American armada was racing toward the waters off North Korea.”

A key to unraveling the confusion, the Times reports, was a photo taken Saturday and posted online by the Navy on Monday showing the Carl Vision sailing through Indonesian islands thousands of miles away from North Korea.

CREDIT: Bradd Jaffy on Twitter

If it makes anyone feel better, the Times reports that the strike group “is now on a northerly course for the Korean Peninsula and is expected to arrive in the region sometime next week,” according to Defense Department officials.

News of the USS Carl Vinson strike group’s true location was first broken by Defense News.

Aaron Rupar

U.S. Politics

Why Obama’s Legacy Is His Foreign Policy

Why Obama’s Legacy Is His Foreign Policy

From L-R, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, French President Francois Hollande, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, U.S. President Barack Obama, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, European Council President Donald Tusk, and British Prime Minister David Cameron visit Ise Grand Shrine in Ise, Mie prefecture, Japan, May 26, 2016, ahead of the first session of the G7 summit meetings. REUTERS/Nicolas Datiche/Pool


Secretary of State John Kerry outlined the Obama administration’s detailed vision for the future of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process on December 28. His speech provoked a negative response from Israel for the criticisms of Netanyahu’s government, but the central point of Kerry’s speech was his concern over the peace process. Kerry declared that the two-state solution is in serious jeopardy almost a quarter of a century after the Oslo Process began, and forcefully argued that it offers the only path to peace.

The potentially landmark speech comes as the relationship between the Obama and Netanyahu administrations is—not for the first time—under great stress, especially following Washington’s decision to abstain last month from a U.N. resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Kerry defended that decision asserting that the Obama team has done more for Israel than any other administration, yet acted as it did to try to preserve the viability of the two-state solution.

The roadmap of principles outlined by Kerry, which President-elect Donald Trump condemned, comes shortly before he leaves office on January 20. Despite this coming at the end of his tenure, he hopes to put a marker in the ground that helps shape the debate, internationally, about the peace process, and consolidates the Obama administration ’s foreign policy legacy.

Like Obama, previous presidents have often seen foreign policy as a fundamental part of the legacy they wish to build. For instance, after the trauma of the 2001 terrorist attacks, President George W. Bush sought to spread his democracy and freedom agenda across the Middle East, which included the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi regime.

President Bill Clinton was the last president to devote significant time to securing a comprehensive peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians. And he came relatively close to securing a breakthrough deal in 2000 at the Camp David Summit, but compromise ultimately proved elusive.

That Obama is looking to foreign policy to establish a legacy reflects, in part, the fact that since his re-election in 2012, he has achieved relatively little high profile domestic policy success. For instance, his gun control bill and immigration reform were defeated by the Senate and Supreme Court, and a long-term federal budgetary “grand bargain” with Congress collapsed.

Many re-elected presidents in the post-war era, just like Obama, have found it difficult to acquire momentum behind a significant new domestic agenda. In part, this is because the party of re-elected presidents, as with the Democrats now, often holds a weaker position in Congress in second terms of office.

Thus Dwight Eisenhower in 1956, Richard Nixon in 1972 and Bill Clinton in 1996 were all re-elected alongside Congresses where both the House of Representatives and Senate were controlled by their partisan opponents. This dynamic means domestic policy initiative in Washington—if it exists at all—can edge back to Congress.

This overall political context means Obama has placed ever increasing emphasis on foreign policy (which Congress has less latitude over), as Tuesday’s Arab-Israeli speech by Kerry exemplified. This international orientation has been especially marked as the U.S. economic recovery has built up steam.

Laying down the potential foundations for a future Israeli-Palestinian peace deal is only one key area in which Obama is looking to define his legacy. Also in the Middle East, among his key—if intensely controversial—foreign policy accomplishments is the final, historic nuclear deal with Iran. The agreement between Tehran and the so-called P5+1 (United States, China, Russia, United Kingdom, France plus Germany) was a major victory for Kerry and Obama, albeit one that the incoming Trump administration may now seek to unwind in 2017.

The landmark deal has long-term potential not only in forging a lasting rapprochement with Iran. It also holds possibility, ultimately, to help transform the wider geopolitics of the Middle East, and help consolidate Obama’s broader desire to enhance global nuclear security. In this policy area, as well as pushing inter-state nuclear diplomacy with countries such as Iran and Russia, Obama has created the Nuclear Security Summit process to counter nuclear terrorism, which he has described as the “most immediate and extreme threat to global security.”

Turning to the Americas, the Obama team has sought to reset relations with Cuba whose revolutionary leader Fidel Castro died in November 2016. In December 2014, the two countries announced they would restore diplomatic relations, and Obama became the first U.S. president to visit the country in almost 90 years in March, announcing a new suite of measures that further eroded the bilateral sanctions regime introduced during the Cold War era.

Perhaps Obama’s biggest regret on the foreign front will be the lack of progress in his plans to pivot U.S. policy toward the Asia-Pacific. Particularly notable is the failure of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement between the United States and 11 countries in the Americas and Asia-Pacific (Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam) that collectively account for about 40 percent of global gross domestic product. With this agreement, Obama had wanted to “lock-in” his re-orientation of U.S. international policy toward the region and other markets in the Americas, allowing the country to help write what U.S. officials have called “the rules of the road” for the 21st century world economy.

Yet, with Donald Trump’s election, the deal now looks dead in the water, and the Obama team has not even tried to secure congressional approval for the deal this year. Most likely, the initiative is now over and Chinese-led trade deals such as the proposed Free Trade Area of Asia Pacific may now emerge into the vacuum, as well as the planned Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

Taken overall, Obama’s legacy will rest heavily on foreign affairs given that he has struggled to secure major domestic policy momentum in his second term. He scored important international successes with the Iran deal and his Cuba initiative, but this is tempered by failure to advance the Asia-Pacific pivot more fully. Moreover, much of his legacy now risks being rolled back, at least partially, by the incoming Trump team with its potentially very different agenda to Obama’s.

Andrew Hammond
Posted with permission from Newsweek

U.S. Politics

Trump dares GOP Senate to reject Tillerson


President-elect Donald Trump’s wide-ranging search for a secretary of state has gained him allies. | Getty


It could take only three Republicans to sink him, and Marco Rubio, John McCain and Lindsey Graham have all been critical.

Donald Trump’s selection of Rex Tillerson for secretary of state on Tuesday amounted to a dare to Senate Republicans to reject the ExxonMobil chief over his close ties to Russia.

Early signs suggest the GOP won’t defy the president-elect.

Barring new revelations about Tillerson’s past and connections with Russia, there are early indications that he will be confirmed. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he “looks forward to supporting” Tillerson, and several members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee sounded positive notes about the nomination after it became official.

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who was in the running for the job, said he told Trump on Monday that “you’re making the best choice for the country and for you at this time.” Corker will oversee the confirmation process and wouldn’t explicitly predict Tillerson’s prospects, but he’s clearly optimistic about the energy executive’s confirmation.

“I’ve got to believe he’s very, very savvy. If I look at the people that were pulling for him in the national security community … his views on Russia are not out of the mainstream,” Corker said in a telephone interview on Tuesday. “This guy is highly impressive. This guy didn’t just get off the last turnip truck. Rex Tillerson’s got a good sense of the things that people are going to be concerned about.”

Still, Trump and Tillerson will have little margin for error. GOP Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Marco Rubio of Florida and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina have all reacted critically to Tillerson’s business ties to Russia. It would take only three Republicans to sink him, if all Democrats vote no.

But no Republicans have said they will oppose Tillerson. Though several Cabinet picks over the past several decades have withdrawn their names after being selected, only one has been rejected by the Senate — John Tower, George H.W. Bush’s choice for defense secretary, in 1989.

Rubio, who is emerging as a pivotal swing vote on Tillerson, said on Tuesday he has “serious concerns” despite Tillerson’s business prowess. The onetime Trump rival, however, left himself room to back the selection.

Trump’s pick comes amid rising scrutiny of Russia that it interfered in the presidential election, further complicating Tillerson’s prospects. The president-elect has cast any caution aside, charging hard into a confirmation fight that could sap energy and early momentum from Republicans taking control of Washington for the first time in a decade.

“Is Mr. Tillerson so close to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin … that he can’t push back when he needs to?” Graham said during a Facebook chat on Tuesday. “I’m gonna give him a fair shake, but I got a lot of questions.”

Democrats agree, but said it was unclear whether they will unanimously vote against Tillerson either in committee or on the floor. In an interview Tuesday, Foreign Relations ranking member Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said his committee would scrutinize Tillerson’s Russia ties, climate change views and foreign policy knowledge in places like South America and Africa.


U.S. Politics

Hillary Clinton Eviscerates Donald Trump In Her Best Speech Yet



She called his foreign policy “dangerously incoherent” and said he was “temperamentally unfit” to serve as president.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton characterized Donald Trump’s approach to the world as “dangerously incoherent” on Thursday in a scorching speech about national security and foreign policy in San Diego.

Clinton made the case that a Trump administration would pursue a risky and unpredictable foreign policy agenda, one that would threaten the United States’ relationships with its allies.

“Donald Trump’s ideas aren’t just different, they are dangerously incoherent,” she said. “They’re not even really ideas, just a series of bizarre rants, personal feuds and outright lies. He is not just unprepared, he is temperamentally unfit to hold an office that requires knowledge, stability and immense responsibility.”

The election, Clinton added, presented “a choice between a fearful America that’s less secure and less engaged with the world and a strong, confident America that leads to keep our country safe and our economy growing.”

Clinton had a lot of material to get through. She recited some of Trump’s past statements on foreign policy, provoking laughter from the audience when she noted that he said he understands Russia because he held the Miss Universe pageant there. She also mentioned his past support for increased nuclear proliferation,taking out the families of terrorists and defaulting on the national debt, and mocked his remark that his primary consultant on foreign policy issues is himself, because he has a “very good brain.”

She ridiculed him for saying that climate change is a hoax perpetuated by the Chinese and criticized his statement that he prefers prisoners of war who weren’t captured, like Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was.

“This is not someone who should ever have the nuclear codes, because it’s not hard to imagine Donald Trump leading us into a war just because someone got under his very thin skin,” Clinton said. “We cannot put the security of our children and grandchildren in Donald Trump’s hands, we cannot let him roll the dice with America.”

Clinton noted that Trump has praised leaders like Russian President Vladimir Putinand North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un, declaring he has a “bizarre fascination with dictators and strongmen.”

“I will leave it to the psychiatrists to explain his affection for tyrants,” she said.

She also criticized Trump for his suggestion that the United States should scale back its involvement in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

“If Donald gets his way, they’ll be celebrating in the Kremlin,” she said. “We cannot let that happen.”

Clinton had to balance the temptation to spend her entire speech mocking Trump with her desire to appear presidential, which is perhaps why she spoke in front of a backdrop of American flags in San Diego, a city that has a strong connection to the military.

She already has an edge against Trump when it comes to national security. A NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that 56 percent of Americans believe she would be better at handling foreign policy, compared to 29 percent who thought Trump would be better. She also led Trump by 10 points on the question of who would be a better commander-in-chief.

She noted that her tenure as secretary of state gives her the type of foreign policy experience Trump lacks, mentioning her work to advance agreements to fight climate change, a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, a nuclear weapons reduction deal with Russia and sanctions against Iran. She also pointed out that she was in the Situation Room with President Barack Obama debating whether to initiate the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

“I’m not new to this work, and I’m proud to run on my record, because I think the choice before the American people in this election is clear,” she said. “Making Donald Trump commander-in-chief would be a historic mistake.”

Trump has attempted to walk back some of his past statements while simultaneously arguing that Clinton is misrepresenting them. On Wednesday, for instance, he claimed that he had never said Japan should have nuclear weapons, though he said exactly that, arguing that Japan would be better off if it had nuclear weapons to defend itself against North Korea.

The reality television star and presumptive GOP nominee frequently calls Clinton’s judgment into question by noting that she supported the United States’ invasion of Iraq and intervention in Libya, even though he supported both of those endeavors as well. His claim that he was prophetically opposed to the Iraq War “from the very beginning” has been thoroughly debunked by numerous news and fact-checking outlets.

Trump didn’t respond substantively to Clinton’s remarks, but tweeted that she didn’t look presidential.

While Clinton’s speech made it seem like the general election has already begun, she is spending the next five days campaigning in California, where Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) threatens to embarrass her in what polling suggests is a tight race ahead of the state’s June 7 presidential primary.

Clinton is only about 70 pledged delegates away from reaching the 2,383 she needs to secure the Democratic nomination.

Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liarrampant xenophoberacistmisogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.

U.S. Politics

John Oliver pounds Donald Trump’s unfathomable ignorance about nuclear weapons

Last Week Tonight host John Oliver -- HBO screenshot

Last Week Tonight host John Oliver — HBO screenshot


The presidential candidacy of businessman Donald Trump has been a rich vein of comedy gold for Last Week Tonight host John Oliver, who once again hammered the buffoonish billionaire on Sunday night — this time for his ignorance of all things nuclear.

Calling Trump “America’s potential next president,” the HBO host noted that Trump seemed ill-equipped to talk seriously about foreign policy and nuclear proliferation.

In an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper last Tuesday, Trump glibly suggested that countries that live under the umbrella of American security should step up, protect themselves and be allowed to possess nuclear weapons.

“At some point we have to say, you know what, we’re better off if Japan protects itself against this maniac in North Korea,” Trump told Cooper. “We’re better off, frankly, if South Korea is going to start to protect itself.”

Asked about Saudi Arabia getting nukes, Trump replied: “Saudi Arabia? Absolutely.”

“He says that with the confidence of a man who could easily find Saudi Arabia on a map if he was given three tries — and the map only included countries ending with ‘Arabia,’” a smirking Oliver said.

Trump also stated that nukes could be used in Europe because: “Europe is a big place.”

“It’s ‘a big place’ is not a good excuse for using nuclear weapons,” Oliver explained. “It’s barely a good excuse for peeing in the ocean.”

Oliver then turned to comments made by President Obama about Trump’s interview, with the president stating that Trump “doesn’t know much about foreign policy, or nuclear policy, or the Korean Peninsula, or the world generally.”

“President Obama is basically implying there that you could fill a book with the things Donald Trump doesn’t know,” Oliver translated. “That book being the encyclopedia.”

Watch the video below via YouTube:

U.S. Politics

Donald Trump just tripped up on the air over foreign policy. Again and again.

(AP Photo/Richard Shiro)


Donald Trump, leading in the polls and riding a wave of momentum in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, just hit a speed bump named Hugh Hewitt.

The conservative radio host peppered Trump with a host of foreign policy questions in a Thursday interview that produced some uncomfortable moments for the real estate mogul, who appeared upset at the line of questioning.

At one point, Hewitt asked Trump if he was familiar with “General  Soleimani” and the “Quds Forces.” (He referred to Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, commander of the elite Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guard Corps.) Trump said he was but then appeared to mistake the Quds for the Kurds, a Middle Eastern ethnic group.

“The Kurds, by the way, have been horribly mistreated by us,” said Trump.

Hewitt corrected him: “No, not the Kurds, the Quds Forces, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Quds Forces.”

A portion of the video was posted on YouTube:

After that, Trump said he thought Hewitt said “Kurds.”

“No, Quds,” responded Hewitt.

Later on, Hewitt insisted he didn’t believe “in gotcha questions.” Trump disagreed.

“Well, that is a gotcha question, though,” he said. “I mean, you know, when you’re asking me about who’s running this, this this, that’s not, that is not, I will be so good at the military, your head will spin.”

Asked what he would do as president if China were “to either accidentally or intentionally sink a Filipino or Japanese ship,” Trump refused to say.

“I wouldn’t want to tell you, because frankly, they have to, you know, somebody wrote a very good story about me recently, and they said there’s a certain unpredictable, and it was actually another businessman, said there’s a certain unpredictability about Trump that’s great, and it’s what made him a lot of money and a lot of success,” said Trump. “You don’t want to put, and you don’t want to let people know what you’re going to do with respect to certain things that happen.”

Hewitt told Trump that when it comes to terrorism, “I’m looking for the next commander in chief, to know who Hassan Nasrallah is, and Zawahiri, and al-Julani, and al-Baghdadi. Do you know the players without a scorecard, yet, Donald Trump?”

Trump said he did not.

“No, you know, I’ll tell you honestly, I think by the time we get to office, they’ll all be changed,” he said. “They’ll be all gone. I knew you were going to ask me things like this, and there’s no reason, because number one, I’ll find, I will hopefully find General Douglas MacArthur in the pack. I will find whoever it is that I’ll find, and we’ll, but they’re all changing, Hugh.”

For the record, Hasan Nasrallah is the secretary general of Hezbollah; Ayman al-Zawahiri is the new leader of al-Qaeda after the death of Osama bin Laden; Abu Mohammad al-Julani is the leader of Jabhat al-Nusra, or al-Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda affiliate fighting in Syria; and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is the leader of the Islamic State, which controls parts of Syria and Iraq.

Ordinarily, an interview like this would put a candidate at serious risk of falling in the polls. But nothing about Trump’s candidacy has been ordinary, so it remains to be seen whether it will hurt him or not.

In the same episode, Hewitt interviewed the GOP race’s other business leader-turned-candidate, Carly Fiorina. He asked her the same questions — informing her that “there’s been social media” coverage of how Trump did.

“Aren’t you familiar with General Soleimani?” Hewitt asked.

“Yes,” said Fiorina, who also recognized the name of the Quds Force. “We know that the general of the Quds Force has been a powerful tool of the Iranian regime to sow conflict. We also know that the Quds Forces are responsible for the deaths and woundings of American soldiers. We also that the Quds Forces have been in Syria and a whole bunch of other countries in the Middle East.”

Fiorina was more hesitant when Hewitt mentioned Nasrallah, Zawahiri and Julani, as well as Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

“Do you know most of these without a scorecard, Carly Fiorina?” Hewitt asked.

“I have to be very honest with you,” said Fiorina, “and say that sometimes I can get confused a bit between the name and group because they sound a bit alike sometimes, so I have to pause and think sometimes. But, I certainly know all those names both of the individual leaders and of the terrorist groups.”

The former Hewlett-Packard CEO was on firmer ground when Hewitt asked her to differentiate between Hamas and Hezbollah. “Hamas is focused in Palestinian territories,” she said. “Hezbollah focuses in Beirut and other places, but the truth is, both of them are proxies of Iran.”

Trump hasn’t seen the last of Hewitt. He is slated to ask questions at the second Republican debate later this month.

“At the debate, I may bring up Nasrallah being with Hezbollah, and al-Julani being with al-Nusra, and al-Masri being with Hamas. Do you think if I ask people to talk about those three things, and the differences, that that’s a gotcha question?” asked Hewitt.

“Yes, I do. I totally do. I think it’s ridiculous,” Trump responded.

Sean Sullivan and David Weigel

U.S. Politics

Three Reasons Joe Biden Should Definitely Run for President

Image Credit: AP


The trial balloon went up on Sunday morning, when New York Times columnist and noted Clinton family antagonist Maureen Dowd reported that Vice President Joe Biden is “talking to friends, family and donors about jumping in” the 2016 presidential race.

Three days later, that balloon is looking more like a hydrogen-powered blimp. To start, a senior aide to Biden’s late son, Beau, has joined the push as an adviser to the Draft Biden Super PAC, a group dedicated to luring the vice president into the primary. His name is Josh Alcorn, and he has a talent for corralling campaign cash. If Biden were to join the fray at this late hour, stocking a feasible war chest would be his most immediate priority. Between April 12, when she entered the race, and June 30, Hillary Clinton raised $45 million. She began running ads in Iowa and New Hampshire on Tuesday, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The darkest clouds, however, are not on the horizon. They are here, right now. The vice president is a grandfather many times over, and with Beau’s passing in May he has kept his public schedule relatively sparse. On Tuesday, for instance, Biden will take one meeting with a visiting dignitary, according to his White House schedule. A day before and over the past weekend, he was in Wilmington, Delaware, absent from any political events.

Still, the speculation continues apace. Because Biden could silence it with a word, there is real reason to believe he is seriously weighing his options. At 72 years old, this is it — there is no next turn. In her column, Dowd relates a deeply personal anecdote that suggests there could be more in play than a simple electoral calculation.

Toward the end of Beau’s life, Down writes, he “was losing his nouns, and the right side of his face was partially paralyzed. But he had a mission: He tried to make his father promise to run, arguing that the White House should not revert to the Clintons and that the country would be better off with Biden values.”

The narrative here, especially for a political press thirsty for more drama in the Democratic primary, is irresistible. But how would a Biden run really go? Here are three reasons the vice president might as well take a shot:

Even with the people likely to vote for her, Hillary Clinton is not very popular.

According to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Monday, only 37% of voters enjoy a positive view of Clinton, even as 59% say they plan to vote for her in a Biden-free primary.

Source: Uri Schanker/Getty Images

Though the vice president is hardly a newcomer to the national stage — he has run for president twice, in 1988 and 2008, and served in the Senate for 36 years before being sworn in alongside President Barack Obama in 2009 — he is not quite the cultural icon that Clinton is. That means more room to maneuver politically and something closer to a “fresh start” with voters who don’t pay close attention to the daily grind.

Even then, Biden has a reliable base of national support. In their round-up of major national polling, RealClearPolitics finds the vice president with nearly 14% backing among Democrats, despite his absence from the campaign trail. According to a recent Quinnipiac poll surveying all voters, Biden has a 49% approval rating to Clinton’s 40%. Fifty-one percent disapprove of Clinton; only 39% have a negative view of the vice president.

For liberals who might currently favor Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) but worry about his ability to take on a Republican in the general election, Biden provides a tested alternative to Clinton — not exactly a “progressive alternative” in the mold of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), but someone who has twice been elected to within that proverbial heartbeat of the presidency.

He has an advantage with liberals on foreign policy.

Republicans are on the record with their reviews of Clinton’s time running the State Department. Hint: they don’t think she did a great job. Donald Trump, for instance, told NBC News, “there has never been a secretary of state so bad as Hillary. The world blew up around us. We lost everything!” Hysterical flourishes aside, Trump, the Republican primary frontrunner for a reason, touches a nerve here.

Clinton was the top U.S. diplomat during a time of historic unrest and fracture in the Middle East and Afghanistan. Even putting the ruthlessly demagogued Benghazi tragedy aside, Clinton’s support for the U.S. intervention in Libya, which successfully deposed dictator Moammar Gadhafi but created a riotous, violent power vacuum currently being filled by a number of extremist groups, could become a liability in a primary contest.

Source: SAUL LOEB/Getty Images

Then there is the U.S. troop “surge” in Afghanistan, the foreign policy point on which Clinton and Biden diverged most famously. Upon arriving in office in 2009, Biden immediately registered his opposition to any plan that would deliver more troops into the cauldron. But Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates successfully lobbied Obama and, in 2009, he announced that 33,000 more Americans were headed to Afghanistan. Two years later, they were withdrawn on schedule but amid worsening Taliban violence and a series of deadly attacks on U.S. soldiers by Afghan trainees.

Clinton is not without her successes. She backed Obama’s successful 2011 raid on Osama Bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan while Biden, according to Situation Room scuttlebutt, counseled the president to take more cautious steps. But in a Democratic Party wary of Clinton’s hawkish streak, the raid’s value is diminished.

On the question of the Iraq War and the vote that did so much to sink Clinton in 2008, Biden cannot pursue the same path as Obama, whose opposition to the invasion set the tone for his campaign. But in the aftermath, Biden has shown a more nuanced understanding of the regional dynamics. His 2006 op-ed in the New York Times,largely ridiculed at the time, called for Iraq to be split among the Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds in the form of three “autonomous regions.”

Fast forward nearly a decade and the Iraqis have, in effect, done that themselves. Civil war has cleaved the country into three parts: a de facto Kurdish state in the north; a Sunni Islamic State group-held western region; and the withering Shiite stronghold in Baghdad.

If he can win the Democratic primary, Biden matches up well with Republicans.

A recent poll from Quinnipiac shows Biden performing almost identically to Clinton when pitted against the GOP presidential frontrunners. In a potential matchup with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Biden prevails, 43% to 42%. Clinton loses that contest by a point, 42% to 41%. Voters were similarly divided when asked to choose between the Democrats and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

Source: T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty Images

While those numbers are all well within the poll’s margin of error, the message is clear: Biden is already primed to be a formidable candidate in the general election, and that’s without the benefit of having made a single campaign stop, speech or commercial spot. Clinton, on the other hand, has been a declared candidate for more than three months and an undeclared contender for much longer than that.

Hurdles ahead: The Joe-mentum is gathering, no doubt, but the vice president would not enter this race without considerable political baggage. A sympathetic figure today, in the aftermath of his son’s untimely death, he would inevitably be subject to the same brand of often merciless scrutiny now being directed at the vast field of even semi-legitimate White House hopefuls.

On Monday morning, Politico published a long piece about the young then-Senator Biden’s decision to effectively bail on his pro-busing colleagues when the issue roiled the upper chamber in the mid-1970s. Whether Biden was being pragmatic — many Northerners, including his constituents in Delaware, were vehemently opposed to enforced integration programs — or simply unwilling to take on a righteous fight is hard to say.

Whether he’ll be asked about it is not.

Gregory Krieg

Immigration Debate · Immigration Reform

Mitt Romney Warns Obama Not To Get Too Uppity (VIDEO)

The so-called “Party of inclusion” or tolerance or [fill in the blank]” is apparently exasperated with America’s first African American president side-stepping them and taking other measures to pass urgent legislation.  They’ve tried everything within their power to derail both elections.  They’ve tried to block any meaningful legislation the POTUS tries to send to Congress for a vote, thus forcing him in very rare circumstances, to use or threaten to use executive action to get certain actions which are vitally needed done…without the political theater.

For some of us the president has not been “uppity” enough…

Addicting Info

Mitt Romney, a.k.a. the guy who lost the last election to the current President, took to CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday to issue a racially coded warning to Barack Obama: that he should remember that “he lost” the midterm elections and that he should back off and let the real men govern.

For some inexplicable reason, host Bob Schieffer first asked Romney about ISIS and despite the fact that Romney has exactly zero foreign policy experience, he answered that Obama was “inept.”

Romney, who seems to be getting his foreign policy advice from his losing predecessor, John McCain, argued that we should have kept troops in Iraq (even though it was Bush who agreed to the withdrawal).

He also argued that Obama should engage Syrian moderates. Again, I stress that Romney has ZERO foreign policy experience and if he had some, he might be aware that Syrian President Assad is anything but trustworthy and that “There is no organized insurgency in Syria. Rebels fight with rebels who fight with rebels. There was no possible course of action that would have allowed moderate rebels to fight ISIS.”

McCain Romney then argued that we should maybe probably send “boots on the ground,” but we shouldn’t let ISIS know we’re sending boots on the ground, or something like that.

Then Schieffer turned the subject to immigration, asking Romney what his advice might be to Republicans on the issue. Romney skipped right over the Republicans into telling Obama what he should do.

What Obama should do, Romney argues, is sit back and let the Republicans drive. He should passively wait till the Boehner and McConnell hand him a bill on immigration reform and just sign it.

Romney refers to any action Obama might take from the executive level as “poking Republicans with a stick in the eye.”

“The President has got to learn that he lost this last election round,” Romney said, despite the fact that the President wasn’t on the ballot and that the Democrats who lost were the Democrats that ran away from the President.

Here’s the video via YouTube:

This is far from the first time the country club former presidential candidate has used coded racism in referring to Obama. Of course, Romney is far too cultured to use the “n” word or other obvious racial slurs, but his racism was clear, even on the campaign trial.

You can watch the full Face the Nation exchange above.


7 reasons the Democratic coalition is more united than ever

Hillary Clinton |Andrew Burton Photo


Last weekend, Ross Douthat penned a provocative column arguing that Democrats should be thankful for the super-star power of Hillary Clinton because without her the party could be in severe trouble. Much of the subsequent debate has involved speculation about likely possible outcomes of the 2016 general election, about which I think the best one can say is that it will probably depend on the objective state of the world over the next 18 months.

His more intriguing idea was a vision of a deeply divided Democratic Party that, absent the presence of a star candidate, would likely fall apart: “the post-Obama Democratic Party could well be the Austro-Hungarian empire of presidential majorities: a sprawling, ramshackle and heterogeneous arrangement, one major crisis away from dissolution.”

This, I think, is completely wrong. The Democratic Party could easily lose the next election, but the coalition as a whole is more durable and robust than it’s ever been for reasons that go much deeper than Hillary’s popularity.

1) Hillary seems inevitable because Democrats are united

Edward Kimmel/Flickr

Hillary Clinton’s celebrity status and stature in the party combined with the lack of appropriately credentialed and charismatic alternatives put her head and shoulders ahead of the competition. But if the party faced a major policy divide, someone or other would emerge to champion it. Perhaps someone who would lose! But someone.

Today we have the opposite situation. It is impossible to mount a coherent anti-Clinton campaign because there is no issue that divides the mass of Democrats. If she were to unexpectedly decline to run, some other figure (perhaps Joe Biden, perhaps Martin O’Malley) would step into the void and lead the party on a similar policy agenda.

2) 2008 was about Iraq

Subsequent events have tended to obscure this, but the 2008 Democratic Primary was, among other things, a major argument about foreign policy. Hillary Clinton had supported George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq, and Barack Obama had not. Obama’s appeal, obviously, stretched beyond this fact. But his core substantive argument against Clinton dealt with Iraq in particular and foreign policy doctrine more broadly.

Crucially, both sides of the argument agreed that an argument was taking place. Clinton hit Obama as weak and naive for his willingness to undertake direct negotiations with leaders of rogue states and charged him with being unready to keep the nation safe in an emergency.

The 2008 campaign directly echoed the 2004 primary between the less-compelling figures of Howard Dean and John Kerry. Many of Obama’s key primary-era foreign policy aides — people such as Susan Rice and Ivo Daalder — had been Dean supporters, and the arguments and recriminations between Obama-supporting and Clinton-supporting foreign policy hands were vicious.

That Clinton ended up serving as Obama’s Secretary of State makes this look a bit ridiculous in retrospect. But it seemed very important at the time.

The 2008 campaign directly echoed the 2004 primary between the less-compelling figures of Howard Dean and John Kerry. Many of Obama’s key primary-era foreign policy aides — people such as Susan Rice and Ivo Daalder — had been Dean supporters, and the arguments and recriminations between Obama-supporting and Clinton-supporting foreign policy hands were vicious.

That Clinton ended up serving as Obama’s Secretary of State makes this look a bit ridiculous in retrospect. But it seemed very important at the time.

3) The banking picture is muddled

Valerie Jean/FilmMagic

Many intellectuals who care passionately about regulation of the financial services industry would like to believe the Democratic Party is deeply divided between a bankster-friendly establishment and its populist critics.

There is something to this, but really much less than the proponents of schism-ism think.

Crucially, the allegedly bank-friendly faction of the party doesn’t accept this account of where they stand.They see themselves as having shepherded a massive bank regulation bill through congress, and as constantly fighting on multiple fronts — inside bipartisan regulatory agencies, in the courts, at international meetings, in congressional negotiations — to get tougher on the banks.

And the financial services industry agrees! Ever since the Dodd-Frank debate began, the financial services industry has poured enormous sums of money into GOP congressional campaigns and the effort to beat Barack Obama.

People who follow the issue closely will know that there are some very real disagreements about the details of bank regulation. And there are some even realer disagreements about atmospherics, rhetoric, and overall feelings about the financial sector. And even Obama has, selectively, engaged in populist anti-finance rhetoric when it suits his purposes.

Broadly speaking a non-specialist voter is going to see that any plausible 2016 nominee is going to push for tighter bank regulation, will be opposed by the bank lobby, and probably won’t accomplish everything she tries for due to GOP opposition.

4) Everyone agrees on inequality

David Shankbone/Flickr

Twenty years ago, Democrats were divided on the question of inequality with moderates largely accepting the Reaganite precept that some loss of equity was a reasonable price to pay for faster economic growth. Today, all Democrats think that inequality is out of control (heck, the CEO of Goldman Sachs thinks inequality is out of control) and that it should be addressed through tax hikes on high-income Americans.

Clearly, different people are going to differ on the details. But congressional Republicans have also made it clear that securing any tax hikes is going to be a very difficult political battle. Any Democratic nominee will try to raise taxes on the rich if she wins, and any Democratic President will end up in a huge fight with the GOP about it.

5) K-12 education doesn’t matter enough


For an example of the kind of issue that does divide the Democratic Party, look no further than K-12 education. The Obama administration has pursued an “education reform” agenda that features calls for more charter schools, and for more linkage of teacher compensation and job security to test results. Many Democrats around the country agree with Obama about this. But many other Democrats around the country agree with teachers unions that this is entirely backwards, and there should be fewer charter schools and less reliance on test-based assessments of teacher quality.

This is the kind of tug-o-war with one faction pulling one way and another faction pulling the other way that really does tear a party apart.

Except it’s not an important federal issue. Not because education isn’t important, but because the federal government plays a relatively modest role in America’s K-12 education policy. The education divide can be quite explosive and state and local politics (witness the disputes between Bill de Blasio and Andre Cuomo in New York) but it just isn’t important enough on the federal stage to lead to a major schism.

6) Demographics aren’t destiny

American Federation of Government Employees/Flickr

The much greater demographic diversity of the Democratic Party coalition may give it an illusion of fragility. Talk during recent primary campaigns of “wine track” versus “beer track” Democrats further amplifies that sense. But a look at the congressional caucus’ behavior reveals a party that is dramatically more united than at any time in the past hundred years. Defections come overwhelmingly from outlier legislators representing very conservative states like Arkansas or Louisiana.

What you would expect to see from a party torn apart by demographics is elected officials who put together very different voting records. But even though Jerry Nadler (Greenwich Village and the Upper West Side), Peter Welch (in Vermont), and Maxine Waters (South LA) represent very different people they vote in very similar ways. And you see that on most big issues Democratic Senators representing the contested terrain in the Midwest, Southwest, and Virginia vote together with those from the Northeast and the Pacific Coast.

Rustbelt legislators back Obama’s EPA regulations, and comprehensive immigration reform was unanimously endorsed by Democratic Party Senators. American politics is becoming more ideological, and the Democratic coalition is increasingly an ideological coalition that happens to be diverse (and, indeed, that upholds the value of diversity as an ideological precent) rather than a patchwork of ethnic interests or local machines.

7) American politics is getting nastier

Partisan_animosityAs a recent Pew report on polarization showed, completely apart from substantive policy issues both Democrats and Republicans are increasingly alarmed by the other party’s agenda. This alarmism in fact stronger on the GOP side, but it’s quite strong — and growing — on the Democratic side as well.

This seems like an unhealthy trend for the country, but it’s excellent news for party cohesion. Splits require not just internal disagreement, but a relatively blasé attitude toward the opposition.

None of this means that victory is somehow assured for Democrats in 2016 — far from it. But it does mean that the coalition is at no risk of collapse. The kind of electoral mega-landslides that happened in 1964 or 1980 where one party’s candidate gets utterly blown away simply can’t happen under modern conditions.

West Wing Week

West Wing Week 03/14/14 or “What’s Up, Captain America?”

The White House

This week, the Vice President and Dr. Biden traveled to Chile to attend the inauguration of Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, while President Obama worked on improving access to college for students, raising the minimum wage, and negotiating a peaceful settlement to the conflict in Ukraine. He also got out the word about the March 31 deadline for health insurance applications, congratulated NCAA champs, and designated a new national monument.


Friday, March 7th

·       The President and First Lady visited Coral Reef High School in Miami, Florida to speak about the importance of signing up for Federal financial aid.

Monday, March 10th

·       The President participated in a conference call with healthcare enrollment leaders.

·       The President congratulated the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Division I Champions at the White House.

Tuesday, March 11th

·      Funny or Die released an interview with President Obama on the web series Between Two Ferns.

·      The President added the Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands to existing National Monument land in California

·      Later that day, the President visited a Gap Store in New York City to highlight Gap’s choice to raise the minimum wage for their               employees.

Wednesday, March 12th

·     The President met with a group of advocates who are getting the word out about the Affordable Care Act.

·      Later that day, the President held a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk of Ukraine.

·      Then, the President hosted a meeting with women members of Congressto discuss the 2014 women’s economic agenda.

Thursday, March 13th

·       The President spoke on the urgent need to get hardworking Americans the overtime pay they deserve.

·       Later, the President took a photo with the 52nd Annual U.S. Sentae Youth program.