A new poll from CNN demonstrates that Americans say the continuing investigations into two scandals that have arisen in the last week are important.
According to the poll, 55 percent of those polled say the questions about the administration's conflicting stories on the cause of the September 11 attacks on the American diplomatic post in Benghazi are "very important," with another 29 percent saying they are "somewhat important." And on the issue of the IRS targeting conservative groups for increased scrutiny, 55 percent said the it was "very important" and another 30 percent said it was "somewhat important."
But 59% now say that the U.S government could have prevented the attack in Benghazi, up 11 points from last November. And only 37% say that congressional Republicans are overreacting in their handling of the matter, with 59% saying they've reacted appropriately.
It's the same story on the IRS controversy, with 54% saying the GOP in Congress has not overplayed its hand.
The CNN poll results are similar to those found by Gallup earlier this weekend.
In a commencement address at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, President Barack Obama recalls Jim Crow laws and racism of the 40s and 50s. Morehouse College is a historically black college.
"Dr. King was just 15 years old when he enrolled here at Morehouse. He was an unknown, undersized, unassuming young freshman who lived at home with his parents. I think it’s fair to say he wasn’t the coolest kid on campus; for the suits he wore, his classmates called him 'Tweed.' But his education at Morehouse helped to forge the intellect, the soul force, the disciple and compassion that would transform America. It was here that he was introduced to the writings of Gandhi, and Thoreau, and the theory of civil disobedience. It was here that professors encouraged him to look past the world as it was and fight for the world as it should be," Obama will say, according to text provided by the White House.
And it was here, at Morehouse, as Dr. King later wrote, where “I realized that nobody…was afraid.”
Think about that. For black men in the forties and fifties, the threat of violence, the constant humiliations, large and small, the gnawing doubts born of a Jim Crow culture that told you every day you were somehow inferior, the temptation to shrink from the world, to accept your place, to avoid risks, to be afraid, was necessarily strong. And yet, here, under the tutelage of men like Dr. Mays, young Martin learned to be unafraid. He, in turn, taught others to be unafraid. And over the last 50 years, thanks to the moral force of Dr. King and a Moses generation that overcame their fear, and cynicism, and despair, barriers have come tumbling down, new doors of opportunity have swung open; laws, hearts, and minds have been changed to the point where someone who looks like you can serve as President of the United States.
Later, Obama adds:
So your experiences give you special insight that today’s leaders need. If you tap into that experience, it should endow you with empathy – the understanding of what it’s like to walk in somebody else’s shoes. It should give you an ability to connect. It should give you a sense of what it means to overcome barriers.
Whatever success I achieved, whatever positions of leadership I’ve held, have depended less on Ivy League degrees or SAT scores or GPAs, and have instead been due to that sense of empathy and connection – the special obligation I felt, as a black man like you, to help those who needed it most; people who didn’t have the opportunities that I had, because but for the grace of God, I might be in their shoes. So it’s up to you to widen your circle of your concern – to create greater justice both in your own community, but also across our country. To make sure everyone has a voice; everyone gets a seat at the table; to make sure that everyone – no matter what they look like or where they come from, or who they love – gets a chance to walk through those doors of opportunity if they want it bad enough.
Obama aide Dan Pfeiffer said this morning on TV that it's "irrelevant" who edited the Benghazi talking points:
"Let's start with Susan Rice," said Pfeiffer. "Ambassador Rice went out that day, and represented the administration and spoke to what happened with the best information we had, that everyone in the administration had, is what she looked at. And that was the consensus of the intelligence community. What we do is we want to go out and speak to the problems ... And what's important is that when problems happen is that the president takes responsibility for them and tries to fix them. And that's what we're talking about in Benghazi. You're right, that is an abosulute tragedy what happened. And the question isn't who edited what talking points. That is largely irrelevant. What is relevant is to make sure that never happens again which is why the president is calling on Congress to pass legislation to beef up embassy security around the world and protect our diplomats."
Obama aide Dan Pfeiffer said it's an "irrelevant fact" where the president physically was during the Benghazi terror attack on September 11, 2012:
Host Chris Wallace reminds Pfeiffer that Obama didn't really talk with Secretary Clinton, Secretary Panetta, or Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that night. "He was talking to his national security staff," Pfeiffer insists.
Asked about whether the president entered the Situation Room, Pfeiffer says, "I don't remember what room the president was in on that night, and that's a largely irrelevant fact."
Pfeiffer then argues that Wallace's questions about the president's handling of the Benghazi terror attack are "offensive."
UPDATE: Here's a full rush transcript of the exchange:
Most Americans say that the issues being raised by congressional hearings into the Benghazi terrorist attacks and the revelations that the IRS unfairly targeted conservative groups "involve serious matters that need to be investigated." According to a new poll from Gallup, 69 percent of those polled agreed that questions over the Obama administration's public response to the September 11, 2012, attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya deserve more investgiation, including 52 percent who "strongly agree."
On the IRS scandal, even more Americans, 74 percent, agree that issue needs to be investigated more, including 56 percent who "strongly agree." Gallup's Frank Newport has more:
Americans place similar importance on these two issues despite the administration's appearing to give more weight to the IRS situation. The Obama administration has acknowledged the seriousness of the IRS situation, going so far as to fire the acting head of the IRS as a result, while being more critical of the continuing focus on the way it handled the aftermath of the Benghazi crisis. However, Obama on Wednesday released a long series of emails relating to the development of talking points after the crisis and Thursday asked Congress to increase embassy funding worldwide.
In addition, Gallup found that a majority of Americans are following both scandals very or somewhat closely, including 54 percent following the IRS scandal and 53 percent following the Benghazi scandal in those ways.
"Trade makes the cake bigger so everyone can benefit.” So advised our distinguished visitor, British prime minister David Cameron, on the op-ed pages of the WallStreetJournal.
Well, not everyone—not the American worker who is displaced by exports, or the French film maker protected from competition by l’exception culturelle, or Europe’s farmers who can’t compete with America’s more efficient ones, or German manufacturers of solar panels who probably won’t survive even if the EU does slap a 68 percent tariff on Chinese imports. In short, the decision to extend free trade has losers as well as winners, the latter in this case the multinational companies that want restrictions on foreign investment in infrastructure relaxed, and consumers of the goods and services that might flow more freely across borders.
President Obama agreed to join Cameron in pushing for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) that would cover about $1 trillion in world trade annually. The British prime minister is predicting “huge benefits,” although these would not be immediate in terms of impact on employment and economic growth. Dispassionate analysts believe the U.S. would benefit if the EU reduced regulation of services and allowed imports of genetically modified crops, and Europe would gain if the president could somehow force or persuade states to abandon buy-American policies. Europeans think a deal would boost their GDP by 0.52 percent (economists love decimal points) over the long term, or by €120 billion. Not peanuts, but hardly a game changer for the stumbling EU economies, now in the deepest post-war recession.
At the same time, Obama is attempting to negotiate a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as part of his “pivot” to Asia and, if truth be told, away from Europe. This would result in freer trade between countries on this side of the Pacific (U.S., Mexico, and Canada, among them) and several Asian countries, lately including Japan, a late but now enthusiastic player to the consternation of its highly protected farmers, U.S. auto makers stung by competition from Japanese makers, and, for different reasons, China.
Trade is never only about trade. Interest in TTIP stems in part from Obama’s desire to show that he is trying to stimulate exports and growth, and in part from European politicians’ desire to show that they can do more than squabble over the future economic architecture of the EU. As for TPP, Obama is hoping that closer economic ties will show our Asian allies that we are with them as they confront an increasingly aggressive and expansion-minded China. The Chinese regime claims America is trying to encircle it, which we are, and with reason.
Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona announced Friday afternoon that he will introduce a bill that would ban abortions after the fifth month of pregnancy (20 weeks after conception) nationwide--with exceptions for when the life or physical health of the mother is at risk.
Why 20 weeks? Franks's bill points out that the child in utero is very developed at that point. Medical science indicates that at 20 weeks, if not earlier, a baby can feel pain. Some infants born that early survive long-term.
"In June 2009, the Journal of the American Medical Association reported a Swedish series of over 300,000 infants," Dr. Colleen Malloy testified before Congress in 2012. "Survival to one year of life of live born infants at 20, 21, 22, 23, and 24 weeks postfertilization age was 10%, 53%, 67%, 82%, and 85%, respectively." So a law restricting abortion after 20 weeks would not run afoul of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy's dictate that abortion must not be restricted prior to "viability."
Franks's new bill will be debated in the wake of the murder trial and conviction of abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, who killed infants immediately after they were born by severing their spinal cords. That trial left many Americans asking what the moral difference is between killing a baby born at six months and killing that same infant moments before birth. "What we need to learn from the Gosnell case is that late-term abortion is infanticide," wrote liberal columnist Kirsten Powers. "Legal infanticide."
Although Gosnell is behind bars, tens of thousands of late-term abortions (or "legal infanticides," if you will) take place in America every year. Dr. LeRoy Carhart has said he will perform "purely elective" abortions on babies 28 weeks into pregnancy in the state of Maryland. Another late-term abortion doctor named James Pendergraft says he will perform even later abortions under Maryland's "health exception" if a pregnancy is causing "anxiety and stress."
The Washington Post editorial board is quite upset with “Republicans and conservative media obsessed” with the “phony” issue of the administration’s misleading public explanation of the nature of the attacks in Benghazi. In a lengthy editorial, the Post makes a haughtier and more condescending version of a complaint we’ve heard from others. So it’s worth a response.
The piece begins with a complaint that critics charged that “Susan E. Rice ‘willfully or incompetently misled the American public’ when she appeared on news programs Sept. 16 and described the attackers as having emerged from a spontaneous demonstration against an anti-Muslim video.” That argument is wrong, the Post avers, because “it was established that Ms. Rice was simply repeating talking points prepared by the intelligence community.”
That’s incorrect, and for an editorial devoted to much harrumphing that “actual facts don’t seem to matter much to the scandal mongers,” it’s an inauspicious start.
It has not “been established” that Rice was simply repeating talking points prepared by the intelligence community. While the IC wrote the original draft, the version provided Rice before her Sunday show appearances had been heavily rewritten following objections from the State Department. In an internal CIA email, an official from the Office of Public Affairs cited “major reservations” from the State Department and reported “we revised the document with their concerns in mind.”
In all, objections from Obama officials resulted in all or part of four paragraphs of the six-paragraph talking points being removed. That’s 148 of 248 words. These were not simply “talking points prepared by the intelligence community.” (The Post later implicitly concedes the point, when it asks: “So why were those talking points eventually edited?”)
Beyond that, even a cursory look at Rice’s Sunday show performances demonstrates that she did far more than simply repeat the scrubbed talking points. Instead, she offered a narrative that went well beyond them, built on misleading claims that an anti-Islam YouTube video led to the violence in Benghazi that evolved into an attack. “What sparked the violence was a very hateful video on the Internet. It was a reaction to a video that had nothing to do with the United States.” None of the drafts of the talking points mentions a video. And aside from two passing mentions – once on a list of cables and once as a subject line of an email describing a White House meeting – neither does it appear in the nearly 100 pages of email discussions released this week by the administration. If the video were, in fact, the proximate cause of the Benghazi attacks, one imagines it might have come up.
So, the talking points Rice used weren’t simply “prepared by the intelligence community,” and the YouTube video she emphasized wasn’t in the talking points.
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Among the questions the Internal Revenue Service asked an pro-life conservative group in Iowa: What do you pray about? Chris Moody at Yahoo! Newshas the story:
On June 22, 2009, the Coalition for Life of Iowa received a letter from the IRS office in Cincinnati, Ohio that oversees tax exemptions requesting details about how often members pray and whether their prayers are "considered educational."
"Please explain how all of your activities, including the prayer meetings held outside of Planned Parenthood, are considered educational as defined under 501(c)(3)," reads the letter, made public by the Thomas More Society, a public interest law firm that collected evidence about the IRS practices. "Organizations exempt under 501(c)(3) may present opinions with scientific or medical facts. Please explain in detail the activities at these prayer meetings. Also, please provide the percentage of time your organizations spends on prayer groups as compared with the other activities of the organization."
The IRS is currently under fire for allegedly targeting conservative groups that applied for non-profit status in recent years. In response, two IRS officials have stepped down, including Acting Commissioner Steven Miller.
She made the announcement hours before the first day of a two-day state Republican convention. She becomes the fourth formal GOP candidate for the spot, with U.S. Reps. Paul Broun, Phil Gingrey and Jack Kingston.
Handel's campaign had sent strong signals that she wouldn't enter the race this week, but that was before businessman David Perdue, also a Republican, announced the formation of an exploratory committee. Handel and Perdue share some of the same support.
Handel, the AJC's Jim Galloway goes on to note, struggled to gain support among pro-life voters in her 2010 bid for governor, leading her to lose a close primary match-up against Nathan Deal. But Handel's subsequent work at the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation, during which she endorsed the group pulling back from supporting Planned Parenthood, earned Handel nationwide recognition among conservatives.
Galloway has Handel's whole statement, below:
I have been incredibly fortunate and blessed in my life. Only in America could I have the life I have. I'm running for U.S. Senate because I want to make sure that the next young person who ends up on his or her own at 17 will have the opportunity to prosper and achieve. But that won't happen unless we make some big changes in Washington.
“States, especially those with Republican governors, are doing a good job -- they are balancing budgets with targeted spending cuts, creating jobs, and tackling tax reform. The biggest problems we face today are in Washington, and that's where we so desperately need fresh thinking, bold solutions, and real leadership.
“Out of control spending has left us with a crushing debt. It's time to deal with it and stop kicking the can down the road -- this cannot be the legacy we leave to future generations. So many Georgians are still unemployed or underemployed. To really unleash our economic potential, we need prosperity driven by free market solutions -- not prosperity propped up with government spending and bailouts. Businesses, especially our small businesses, need government to get off their backs and out of the way, so that they can do what they do best: innovate and create jobs.
“Georgians want a conservative Senator with the courage to take on the status quo, to fight for them and our constitutional ideals, to be accountable to them -- and not Washington.”
In his prepared remarks on the IRS’s targeting of his political opponents, President Obama said that “we’re going to hold the responsible parties accountable,” but only once we determine “who is responsible.” In today’s Wall Street Journal, Kim Strassel offers some helpful thoughts on determining responsibility, writing that it’s really not all that hard — and, indeed, it’s not.
According to the IRS’s own website, “The IRS is a bureau of the Department of the Treasury.” Under the heading, “Statutory Authority,” the IRS site reads:
“The IRS is organized to carry out the responsibilities of the secretary of the Treasury under section 7801 of the Internal Revenue Code. The secretary has full authority to administer and enforce the internal revenue laws and has the power to create an agency to enforce these laws. The IRS was created based on this legislative grant.”
The Department of the Treasury, in turn, was established in 1789, the same year that the government under our Constitution began. The Treasury website reads,
“The First Congress of the United States was called to convene in New York on March 4, 1789, marking the beginning of government under the Constitution. On September 2, 1789, Congress created a permanent institution for the management of government finances:
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That there shall be a Department of Treasury, in which shall be the following officers, namely: a Secretary of the Treasury, to be deemed head of the department; a Comptroller, an Auditor, a Treasurer, a Register, and an Assistant to the Secretary of the Treasury, which assistant shall be appointed by the said Secretary.”
As this language suggests, Congress was empowered to establish the Department of the Treasury and the offices that would compose its leadership. However, the decisions about who should fill those posts (made with the advice and consent of the Senate), and the responsibility for how to run the department (or any executive department), was not Congress’s to grant. Rather, that power was granted by the Constitution itself, which reads, “The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America.”
So, in short, the IRS is a part of the Treasury Department, the Treasury Department exercises a part of the executive power, the executive power — in its entirety — is vested in the president, and Barack Obama is president.
White House spokesman Jay Carney says it's "been a good week." He made the comment to the New York Times.
“Honestly, I find it enjoyable,” Carney says of coming under fire this week . “I find it challenging. It’s hard, but it’s better than 45 to 60 minutes of calling on reporters who are kind of sleepy and disinterested. For me personally, it has been a good week.”
The pressures began two weeks ago with the growing controversy over the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the American Consulate in Benghazi, in which four Americans were killed.
Mr. Carney is far from the center of that controversy. But Republicans turned their focus on his November assertion that the administration’s original talking points on the episode, “originated from the intelligence community,” further insisting that the White House edited only a couple of words in the memo.
Recently revealed e-mails demonstrate a more coordinated process in which the White House and State Department were intimately involved. While Mr. Carney “appreciated” the questions about the inconsistencies, he did little to clear them up.
“The downside for Jay on this is his own, repeated statements are cast under a considerable cloud,” said Ann Compton of ABC News Radio, who has covered the White House since 1974. “The flip side is he does not appear to be a policy voice arguing on behalf of fuzzing up the facts.”
The tensions continued with Mr. Carney’s defense of the White House in the investigation over whether the I.R.S. inappropriately targeted conservative groups for special scrutiny and his push back on questions relating to the the seizure of telephone records of Associated Press journalists, over which the press relentlessly grilled him.
Carney told the paper he doesn't "take it personally."