|10:25 PM, Nov 24, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
President Obama, speaking live to the nation after the decision in Ferguson not to indict a police office for the killing of Michael Brown, said that "America isn't everything that it could be."
"We shouldn't try to paper it over," said Obama. "Whenever we do that the anger may momentarily subside, but over time it builds up. And America isn't everything that it could be. And I am confident that if we focus our attention on the problem and we look at what has happened in communities around the country effectively, then we can make progress not just in Ferguson but in a lot of other cities and communities around the country."
Obama made the statement as a split screen showed mayhem breaking out in Ferguson, Missouri.
10:10 PM, Nov 24, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
The prosecutor that announced Darren Wilson will not face charges for the murder of Michael Brown is a Democrat. From the 8th paragraph of a CBS report from the summer:
McCulloch, a Democrat who has been in office since 1991, referenced his father's death in his initial campaign. He survived a Democratic primary earlier this month and faces no Republican opposition in his re-election bid.
The report also details prosecutor Bob McCulloch's close ties to police:
The Missouri prosecutor overseeing an investigation into the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown has deep family roots among police: his father, mother, brother, uncle and cousin all worked for St. Louis' police department, and his father was killed while responding to a call involving a black suspect.
The connections now are being cited by some local residents and black leaders who question whether St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch can remain impartial. Brown, who was black, was fatally shot in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson on Aug. 9 by local police officer Darren Wilson, who is white.
The grand jury in Missouri did not indict Darren Wilson in the murder of Michael Brown. McCulloch made the announcement tonight.
9:35 PM, Nov 24, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
The family of Michael Brown has released this statement, upon hearing that Officer Darren Wilson will not be indicted for killing Brown in Ferguson, Missouri:
"We are profoundly disappointed that the killer of our child will not face the consequence of his actions.
"While we understand that many others share our pain, we ask that you channel your frustration in ways that will make a positive change. We need to work together to fix the system that allowed this to happen.
"Join with us in our campaign to ensure that every police officer working the streets in this country wears a body camera.
"We respectfully ask that you please keep your protests peaceful. Answering violence with violence is not the appropriate reaction.
"Let's not just make noise, let's make a difference."
Lesley McSpadden and Michael Brown, Sr.
Parents of Michael Brown, Jr.
5:25 PM, Nov 24, 2014 • By MICHAEL LEDEEN
He did it again, as we should have expected. Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei walked us right up to the finish line, spat on us, and walked away. Months and months of secret and public talks, letters, back channels, and gestures produced nothing of the sort the president, assorted foreign ministers, pundits, and politicians had been predicting. Instead we are to keep talking, and keep paying the Islamic Republic for the pleasure and privilege.
It's not Barack Obama's unique failure; the same thing happened to Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Both of them came to believe they had a deal with Khamenei, and both of them were rudely disabused of their error when the Iranians walked away. Bush's secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, was so sure it was a done deal, and so intent on getting it signed and sealed, that she issued three hundred visas over a single weekend in September 2006, for passengers to travel on Ali Larijani's plane to New York for a signing ceremony at the UN. She then flew to New York to await the Persians. But Larijani's plane sat on the tarmac in Tehran, and neither he nor the 300 ever came.
It's time for serious students and policy makers to draw appropriate conclusions from this consistent pattern, and to rethink their Iran policy views.
The basic conclusion: Khamenei does not want a deal with the United States (aka “The Great Satan”). Obama has been pursuing a strategic alliance with Iran since 2008, well before his inauguration and even before his election. During the election campaign he quietly dispatched retired Ambassador William Miller to Tehran to inform the mullahs that a new era in Iranian-American relations was about to begin, and the "dialogue" between Washington and Tehran has continued for more than six years. No sensible person doubts Obama's willingness to be generous to the Iranians. Any lingering skepticism should be definitively eliminated by the latest "extension," which reportedly bestows $700 million on Khamenei every month for continuing to talk.
Khamenei could certainly have had a very good deal if he wanted it. If he didn't take one, it's because he doesn't want it. Why? Because it's all about core convictions: he hates us, and he doesn't want to go down—possibly quite soon, if reports of the gravity of his prostate cancer are accurate—as the ayatollah who came to terms with Satan.
Moreover, he doesn't need to get in bed with the devil in order to achieve his basic objectives. The interim agreement gives him plenty of nuclear wiggle room, as we see from the rude treatment of the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency. They insisted on visiting the suspected nuclear facilities at Parchin, the Iranians told them to go to hell, and nothing happened. On the sanctions front, Khamenei certainly hates them, but he's grinding down their enforcement, finding myriad ways to avoid them, and getting cash money in the bargain.
3:01 PM, Nov 24, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
President Obama and his team do not intend to go gentle. They have made it clear that they are determined not to govern like proper wounded ducks and have, instead, come out snarling.
Justin Sink of The Hill reports that Dan Pfeiffer, White House point man is saying that:
“We feel good on how the last two and a half weeks have gone here. Typically when you have a change in power in Congress, the new congressional majority dominates the conversation and drives the discussion. Since right after the election, the president has been driving the discussions and moving forward aggressively on core priorities.”
So expect more of the trademark sarcasm (“I didn’t dissolve parliament”) blended with sanctimony:
“I think there is no reward for being meek here,” Pfeiffer said. “He does feel the pressure of time. We all do. As the president says to us, this is the greatest opportunity any of us will have in our lives to do good for people. He wants to maximize it every day.”
Going by the polls and the election, people are plainly weary of the way the president and his Team of Grubers, have of doing good for them.
So, the White House as Sink writes, “is winning news cycles and setting the national agenda."
Which may account for the firing of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel today, when the news might otherwise have been the administration’s failure to secure a nuclear deal with Iran, despite its almost unseemly eagerness to do so.
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THE WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with editor William Kristol on Chuck Hagel's firing and the Obama administration's continuing appeasement of Iran.
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1:35 PM, Nov 24, 2014 • By THOMAS DONNELLY
The resignation of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel creates a golden opportunity for the new Republican majority in the Congress: not only will the hearings on Hagel’s replacement be a natural venue for reviewing the defense reductions and many retreats of the Obama years, but they provide a forum for Republicans to begin to chart a positive alternative.
That is critical for America and for the party’s prospects in 2016. Only lately – and thanks to Obama’s serial weakness on issues from Syria to Iraq to Ukraine and even China – has the Republican party reclaimed its traditional advantage as the party of peace through strength. No doubt we’ll hear plenty of criticism of Obama’s no-boots-on-the-ground-ever conduct of the ISIS war, but will we hear Republicans advancing a theory of victory? Both the Congress and the prospective defense secretary will rend garments and gnash teeth on the pernicious effects of sequestration, but will the Republicans – whose job it is to frame a budget resolution that reflects the opposition party’s priorities – be so bold as to advance a solution to the underlying problem posed by the limits imposed by the 2011 Budget Control Act?
The confirmation hearings will also naturally focus on Sen. John McCain, in line to take the gavel as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. McCain has a unique position as a voice of American strength in the world, but how he will behave as committee chair and as a steward of the defense establishment is an uncertain prospect. To oversimplify only slightly, McCain has never met a foe he wasn’t willing to fight but has never met a weapons program he didn’t want to cut. McCain should realize that the armed forces have been so gutted by recent reductions that they are no longer capable of executing even the watered-down Obama defense strategy, let alone fulfilling the actual security needs of our time, in Europe, in the Middle East and in East Asia. And McCain’s “reformist” tendencies have been a skirt for Senate majority leader Sen. Mitch McConnell and other less-than-hawkish Republicans to hide behind. If the Republican Congress is to accomplish anything of serious purpose on defense, McCain must take a leading role, arguing without hesitation that rearmament is now more important than reform.
Despite the White House spin that the president was unsatisfied – the New York Times, almost laughably, pins the blame for the failing anti-ISIS strategy on the outgoing secretary – the need to replace Hagel comes at an unfortunate time. On a crass political level, it knocks the president’s immigration ploy out of the headlines. But it also recalls the underlying and ongoing narrative of Obama weakness, of which Chuck Hagel was a symbol. Indeed, given how Hagel loyally stuck to the White House line both on defense budget and war-related matters, he may be hard to replace.
12:05 PM, Nov 24, 2014 • By ELLIOTT ABRAMS
Today we learned that it has been impossible to reach an agreement with Iran over its nuclear weapons program. Even a short "framework" agreement or one-pager was beyond reach. And this, despite the extension of the talks from the original deadline last spring.
It should be clear now that there will be no comprehensive agreement with Iran. Today's announcement says the talks will be extended, again, this time through to next summer. But all sides know what the key issues are, and there will be no deal merely because extra months pass by. The only way to get an agreement is for the United States to give more and more concessions, beyond the dangerous concessions already made to Iran. It may be that the president and Secretary Kerry would be willing to do this, given the concessions already made (starting with the abandonment of the critical demand that Iran stop enriching uranium). But the election results portend a tougher line in Congress and among Democrats, and reality has a way of setting in. The truth is that the Islamic Republic has, and demands to retain, a nuclear weapons program, and will not agree to a deal that forces it to abandon this program. Our negotiators and theirs can, no doubt, imagine what a compromise would look like, but it cannot be reached without the United States or Iran abandoning positions that neither wishes to sacrifice.
Why are these Iran talks and the Israeli-Palestinian talks alike? Because in the latter as in the former, it is long past time to recognize that a comprehensive agreement is not attainable. Years of previous efforts on the Israeli-Palestinian front should have proved this, from the Camp David negotiations to those after the Annapolis meeting, and including those led by Secretary Kerry. Why he thought a complete and comprehensive deal was within his grasp remains a mystery, but at long last even he seems to be concluding that he will not be able to seal a deal. Arafat said no at Camp David in 2000, to Ehud Barak; Abbas said no to Ehud Olmert in 2008. Abbas is not going to say yes no matter how many times Kerry asks. So the United States should stop pushing for an unattainable agreement, stop seeking additional Israeli concessions, and start thinking about how to manage the consequences—that is, help Israelis and Palestinians achieve the maximum security and prosperity and independence from each other given the real circumstances.
There will be no comprehensive Iran deal either, and similarly we should be thinking now not about how soon Wendy Sherman can return to Vienna or what other concessions we can make to Tehran, but how to manage the real world consequences. Are partial agreements any part of the answer? Surely sanctions should be strengthened, or Iran will be rewarded for its obfuscations and delays. And the military option should be made far more credible than it has appeared in the last couple of years.
11:12 AM, Nov 24, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
The Emergency Committee for Israel calls for Congress to "reimpost" Iran sanctions and to "limit the president's authority to waive sanctions."
"After relaxing sanctions and making ill-advised concessions on Iran's nuclear program, the Obama administration has nonetheless been unable to close a deal," the ECI statement reads.
"There's no point waiting seven months for either another failure or a truly terrible deal. Congress should act now to reimpose sanctions and re-establish U.S. red lines that will prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability. To that end, such legislation must limit the president's authority to waive sanctions, an authority the president has already signaled a willingness to abuse in his desperate quest for a deal with the mullahs."
9:33 AM, Nov 24, 2014 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
So Chuck Hagel has been fired as defense secretary. We were critical of his appointment, and opposed his confirmation by the Senate. But let's be clear: Hagel has done what he was asked and what was expected of him at the Pentagon. To the degree he has deviated from the Obama White House line, he's been more right than wrong (e.g., on the threat the Islamic State poses).
So why has he been fired? Because the Obama White House needs a scapegoat. President George W, Bush fired Don Rumsfeld in connection with a change in strategy (the surge) and to bring in someone of independent stature. That's not the case today. President Obama continues to want a Pentagon with weak leadership and little independence. There's therefore no reason to expect the next two years of Obama foreign and defense policy to be any better than the past two.
8:40 AM, Nov 24, 2014 • By LEE SMITH
The deadline for the Joint Plan of Action ended it seems without a final agreement between the P5+1 and Iran over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. It’s not yet clear what happens next.
“There will be some kind of extension,” says Mark Dubowitz, executive director at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, says Dubowitz, with parties reconvening in December to continue to negotiate. "Iran has 'hooked the fish' with Western negotiators so committed to negotiations that they will do whatever it takes to keep everyone at the table."
It’s useful then to see exactly what, for better or worse, has been resolved so far, either during the course of these talks or previously. According to Omri Ceren at the Israel Project, a pro-Israel public affairs organization that focuses on the Middle East, there are several issues on the table, many of which the Obama administration has already caved on.
—Sanctions. The White House is offering upfront sanctions relief that the administration says it can "snapback" if the Iranians fail to comply with their end of the bargain. However, as Dubowitz explained in congressional testimony last week, the idea that it will possible to re-impose sanctions once Iran is opened for business, is politically and economically unrealistic.
—Sunset clause. The Jerusalem Post reported that the administration has offered Iran a 10-year sunset clause, meaning that after ten years, whatever so-called permanent deal is reached comes to an end, constraints go away, and Iran is a normalized nuclear power despite the fact that, for instance, the Islamic Republic is a state sponsor of terror.
“If this is true it’s shocking,” says Dubowitz. “Congress has been talking about many decades, and the administration said 20 years. Iran asked for 3 to 7, 10 would be a significant climb down. And it means that within a decade most of the constraints would disappear and Iran will be well-positioned to develop a massive industrial-size program, which will be much more difficult to monitor, and an easier clandestine breakout route to a bomb."
—Enrichment. The administration gave up on its demands that Iran enrich no uranium at all. The Joint Plan of Action acknowledged Iran’s “right” to enrich which will allow them to close their breakout time by increasing materials to enrich. “Under several presidential administrations,” says Dubowitz, “the United States denied Iran any enrichment and now we’re haggling with them over how much uranium they get to enrich.”
—Centrifuges. The White House abandoned its demands Iran must dismantle its centrifuges. Now they must only disconnect, or unplug, them, which which will allow them to close their breakout time by making sure there is equipment on hand to do the enriching.
8:05 AM, Nov 24, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
The latest episode of Conversations With Bill Kristol, featuring Brit Hume:
"In this conversation, Kristol and Hume discuss the early days of Fox News and the story of its ascent. Hume recalls his experiences in print journalism during the 1960's and 1970's and his work as a White House and Capitol Hill correspondent for ABC News during the 1980's and 1990's. Kristol and Hume also reflect on the media environment of today and its effects on American politics," the Foundation for Constitutional Government, the sponsor of the series, notes.
7:01 AM, Nov 24, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
Vice President Joe Biden just returned Sunday from a three-nation trip that concluded with a 48 hour visit to Turkey. The vice president, his wife, and his entourage arrived in Turkey via Ukraine Friday evening around 7:30 local time for meetings with President Erdogan and other government officials. Biden departed for Washington, D.C. Sunday after meeting with Patriarch Bartholomew of the Eastern Orthodox Church. The stay in Turkey alone racked up a hotel bill of approximately $624,734.
The notice of the hotel contract was posted online uncharacteristically quickly, appearing on the very day of Biden's departure from Turkey. The documents called for 200 rooms and one large conference room at the Hilton Harbiye in Istanbul:
Numerous other hotels were considered but not deemed suitable due to various reasons including lack of sufficient rooms, distance from planned events, and even ongoing renovations at one facility.
Documents related to lodging for the the Moroccan and Ukrainian legs of Biden's trip have not yet been posted.
7:02 PM, Nov 23, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Saturday Night Live mocked President Obama's executive amnesty -- and that it changed how a bill becomes a law in Washington, D.C.
It's a clear riff on the Schoolhouse Rock "How a Bill Becomes a Law" jingle.
“I’m an executive order and I pretty much just happen,” says the character playing an executive order.
The actor playing the kid learning about U.S. government replies, "Wait a second, don’t you have to go through congress first at some point?"
"Aww, that’s adorable. You still think that’s how government works," says the executive order.
Via the Washington Free Beacon.
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