|10:02 AM, Jul 8, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Lee Smith, writing for Tablet:
Events are moving so quickly in the Middle East that it seems like whatever you are reading is already outdated. Yesterday, after Hamas fireddozens of rockets into Israel over the weekend, Israeli Air Force planes targeted the Gaza-based group and killed at least seven members. Hamas’ actions follow the murder of a 16-year-old Arab Israeli, who was killed by soccer thugs in an alleged act of retribution for the abduction and murder of three Jewish Israeli teenagers, whose bodies were found last Monday. Netanyahu has repeatedly warned Hamas to cease its attacks. Hamasresponded on Monday that it will continue its attacks until the blockade on Gaza is lifted. Both sides are likely to escalate.
So, how did we get here? Who is to blame? From one perspective, what we’re watching is the latest round in a nearly century-long cycle of Arab-Israeli violence, so it’s hardly surprising to see violence erupt once again. However, it’s also worth noting that it is precisely because peace is so rare in the Holy Land that the status quo needs to be given its space and left alone. Or you need to have a very good reason for disturbing it.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry thought he had one. “People in Israel aren’t waking up every day and wondering if tomorrow there’ll be peace, because there is a sense of security and a sense of accomplishment and a sense of prosperity,” Kerry said last May in Jerusalem. “But I think if you look over the horizon,” he continued, “one can see the challenges.” In other words, what lay over the immediate horizon was more violence and bloodshed, unless Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas got together under American leadership and changed their act.
9:01 AM, Jul 8, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Hillary Clinton has an answer to the question of whether America will turn into a monarchy if she -- another Clinton -- is elected president of the United States. "We had two Roosevelts. We had two Adams," she tells the German magazine Der Spiegel.
"It may be that certain families just have a sense of commitment or even a predisposition to want to be in politics. I ran for president, as you remember. I lost to somebody named Barack Obama, so I don't think there is any guarantee in American politics. My last name did not help me in the end. Our system is open to everyone. It is not a monarchy in which I wake up in the morning and abdicate in favor of my son."
Then she's asked whether she would support a Chelsea Clinton entry into politics.
"It is really up to her, and I'll support her in whatever she chooses," says Hillary Clinton.
SPIEGEL: If you should decide to run for the presidency in 2016, your opponent could be Jeb Bush and he could quite possibly be the third Bush in the White House. Even his mother Barbara Bush has declared that she does not think it is a good idea. Do you agree?
Clinton: I think the point she was making is understandable, but I also think in our democracy, anybody can run for any reason. And his last name may factor into it. The color of his eyes might factor into it. His policies, I hope, factor into it.
SPIEGEL: A majority of people is glad that the Bush era is finally over. What kind of message would that send?
Clinton: Well, there will be plenty of time to comment on that if indeed an election were to involve somebody with that last name, but I am not going to say anything about it now.
SPIEGEL: For the past 25 years, there were two families that were very prominent in politics, your family and the Bush family. First George Bush was president for four years, then your husband led the country for eight years, and then George W. Bush was president for eight years. If either you or Jeb Bush were to win the election in 2016, once again a member of these two families would become president. Will the American democracy turn into a monarchy?
Clinton: We had two Roosevelts. We had two Adams. It may be that certain families just have a sense of commitment or even a predisposition to want to be in politics. I ran for president, as you remember. I lost to somebody named Barack Obama, so I don't think there is any guarantee in American politics. My last name did not help me in the end. Our system is open to everyone. It is not a monarchy in which I wake up in the morning and abdicate in favor of my son.
SPIEGEL: Would you like to see your daughter in politics?
Clinton: It is really up to her, and I'll support her in whatever she chooses.
8:36 AM, Jul 8, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
Hillary Clinton's tour promoting her book Hard Choices may be having an effect—though perhaps not the one the 66-year-old former secretary of state might have wanted. A new poll of the potential 2016 presidential field from Quinnipiac, conducted at the end of June, found support for Clinton among Democratic primary voters at 58 percent. That's an 11-point drop from an ABC News/Washington Post poll of the potential Democratic field—conducted in late May, before Hard Choices was released—that found 69 percent supported Clinton over any other possible Democrats.
According to the Quinnipiac poll, the biggest beneficiary of Clinton's drop in support appears to be Elizabeth Warren, the first-term senator from Massachusetts and a favorite of progressive populists. Warren received 11 percent support, while Vice President Joe Biden has 9 percent. Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York received four percent, while governor Martin O'Malley of Maryland and former governor Brian Schweitzer of Montana each polled just one percent.
Clinton still looks to be the overwhelming favorite in this early polling, with a 47-point advantage over her closest rival, Warren. But the book tour—which has often appeared to be a preview of a presidential campaign—hasn't seemed to boost the former first lady and New York senator's standing among her base in the Democratic party. Hard Choices is currently ranked at number 98 on Amazon.com's best seller list and weighs in at just under 2.5 pounds.
Clinton first ran for president in 2008, when she lost the nomination to Illinois senator Barack Obama. Obama went on to win in the general election, selecting her as his first secretary of state.
8:24 AM, Jul 8, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
In an interview with Der Spiegel, the German magazine, Hillary Clinton doubles down on her claim that she was "dead broke" when leaving the White House.
"You recently described your financial situation during the presidency of your husband Bill Clinton as dead broke," says Der Spiegel.
"Well, when we came out of the White House, we were deeply in debt because of all the legal bills that we owed because of the relentless persecution of my husband and myself, and he had to work unbelievably hard to pay off every single penny of every debt we owed. And we did," Clinton responds.
The magazine posits, "Today, you are multimillionaires. Your husband has earned $104 million with his speeches since 2001."
To which the former secretary of state responds, "We are very grateful for where we are today. But if you were to go back and look at the amount of money that we owed, we couldn't even get a mortgage on a house by ourselves. In our system he had to make double what he needed in order just to pay off the debt, and then to finance a house and continue to pay for our daughter's education."
In the same interview Clinton makes the case that income inequality is a threat to America's democracy.
SPIEGEL: American society is polarized as never before. The French economist Thomas Piketty wrote a bestseller "Capital in the Twenty First Century" which is making a lot of noise right now. Have you had the chance to read it?
Clinton: I haven't read it yet. I've read very long essays about it and know what his principal point is. I think he makes a very strong case that we have unbalanced our economy too much towards favoring capital and away from labor. And I agree with his principal concern, which is that we have devalued labor. He talks about Europe, but it is the same thing in the United States.
SPIEGEL: Piketty argues that the growing gap between the rich and the poor is threatening democracy.
Clinton: I do agree with that. We've had this huge experiment known as America that was a diversity of populations, and we have held it together because we had a democracy that slowly over time included everybody. Even during the Great Depression people in the streets believed that they could make it and they would be better off. Now the relative wealth is much higher, but the disparity makes people believe that they're stuck. They no longer believe that things are going to get any better, no matter how hard they work. People have lost trust in each other and the political system and I think that's very threatening to democracy.
SPIEGEL: The average annual income of an American household is $22,296 (€16,397). You earn up to $200,000 an hour for a speech. Can you understand if people are bothered by that?
Clinton: Well, certainly, I can understand that, but that's never been the crux of the concern in our country, because we've always had people who did better than other people. That's just accepted. The problem is that people on the bottom and people in the middle class no longer feel like they have the opportunity to do better. The question is, how do we get back to having an economy that works for everybody and that once again gives people the optimism that they too will be successful.
7:15 AM, Jul 8, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Lucy Flores is the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor in Nevada. And as Benjy Sarlin reports for MSNBC, she's known in part for taking an unconventional approach to abortion--she talks openly about her own decision to have an abortion at the age of 16.
Here's how she first brought up her abortion, according to Sarlin:
In 2012, she testified in support of a bill expanding school health programs. As she explained from the witness table, her school’s failure to teach sex education had a direct impact on her family. “I had six other sisters … all of them became pregnant in their teens – all of them,” Flores said. “One of them was 14 years old when she got pregnant with twins.”
Then, with a nervous laugh, Flores told her colleagues something she had never admitted to anyone. “Since I’m sharing so much this session, I might as well keep going,” she said. “I always said that I was the only one who didn’t have kids in their teenage years. That’s because at 16, I got an abortion.”
Her eyes welled up and her voice caught as she described how she had convinced her father to pay the $200 cost for the procedure. She didn’t want to end up like her sisters, Flores told him. “I don’t regret it,” she said. “I don’t regret it because I am here making a difference, at least in my mind, for many other young ladies and letting them know that there are options and they can do things to not be in the situation I was in, but to prevent.”
She's being praised in places like Slate ("Finally, a Politician Admits to Having an Abortion Simply Because She Wasn’t Ready for a Baby"). And as she takes the campaign to MSNBC, which she did over the weekend, she's talking about her decision to have an abortion--and the courage she believes she's so far displayed.
"I'm unapologetic about being pro-choice," she said in an on-air interview with MSNBC, "and standing up for women and their ability to make their own health decisions and, you know, I've always been pro-choice, I am that now, and so that hasn't necessarily been, you know, a wedge issue that has been brought up in the campaign.
"Now certainly people do remember my testimony -- and people, you know, are just thankful that there is a politician -- I mean I hate to refer to myself as a politician -- but, you know, an elected official. I mean, I came here to do a job to try to improve people's lives and sometimes that requires making courageous decisions and I think that's what all elected officials are supposed to do. And people you know really appreciate that--that I did that, and I've always just been very honest about the things that have occurred in my life. You know, decisions that I've had to make. Because people experience that every day of their lives."
The MSNBC host agreed with Flores's claim that it took courage to speak out. "I think voters really appreciate that level of candor and courage, really."
3:10 PM, Jul 7, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
It seems these days, everything's coming up Romney. There's talk the two-time presidential candidate and the 2012 Republican nominee ought to run for the job again in 2016. Writing in Politico magazine, Emil Henry makes "the case for Mitt Romney" and draws comparisons to Richard Nixon's political resuscitation after eight years as vice president, a failed presidential run in 1960, and a failure to win the California governor's race two years later:
Romney recognizes well the historical odds against becoming a repeat nominee. In the film Mitt, which documents his two presidential campaigns, he is captured at a fundraiser making an “L” on his forehead to depict how a failed nominee becomes “a loser for life.” “We just brutalize whoever loses,” he says. We can assume George McGovern, Michael Dukakis, Bob Dole, Al Gore, John Kerry and John McCain came to a similar conclusion.
Will Romney be different from these other failed nominees? Could he defy the odds and make a comeback presidential bid capturing the GOP nomination after all the doubt, second-guessing and blame that accompany such a loss? According to the latest Quinnipiac poll, many Americans seem to think so—45 percent of voters said the United States would be better off today with Romney as president.
And Romney hasn't exactly disappeared from the political scene. He's made some high-profile endorsements in this year's Senate races, including rising political star Joni Ernst of Iowa. The latest is a little more predictable, though perhaps no less effective, with the former Massachusetts governor endorsing former Massachusetts senator Scott Brown last week in the latter's bid for Senate in neighboring New Hampshire. (Like Romney, Brown lost in 2012.)
Here's a new video from the Brown campaign featuring Romney's endorsement speech, which sounds very similar to the standard Romney stump speech from 2012:
And now, the National Republican Senatorial Committee is selling bumper stickers (for $5!) featuring the old Romney 2012 logo and claiming that "Romney was right"—a pithier version of the old "don't blame me, I voted for..." standby.
"The fact that it turned out that Romney WAS right at so many issues, from Obama's saccharine approach to global threats to ObamaCare," says NRSC communications director Brad Dayspring, explaining the genesis of the bumper sticker.
2:10 PM, Jul 7, 2014 • By GARY SCHMITT
Yesterday, the Washington Post’s top story was another leak from NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Unlike many of the Post’s other Snowden stories, where sensationalism has greatly outweighed the reported facts about this or that NSA program, this one had more substance and less breathless analysis.
The core of the story is the Post’s own analysis of some 160,000 email and instant messaging exchanges that NSA had intercepted and which Snowden had somehow gotten access to and passed along to the Post’s Barton Gellman. The headline in the story is that the vast majority of the Internet cache collected by NSA was not of suspected terrorists but non-targeted individuals, American and non-American alike. With graphics included, the Post concludes that NSA has been collecting vast amounts of data involving the communications of ordinary, presumably, innocent citizens, while finding within this collection sweep only a small percentage of useable intelligence.
Yet, as the Post reporters also report: NSA does make a significant effort to minimize the identities of Americans caught in the collection sweep.
“Nearly half of the surveillance files, a strikingly high proportion, contained names, e-mail addresses or other details that the NSA marked as belonging to U.S. citizens or residents. NSA analysts masked, or “minimized,” more than 65,000 such references to protect Americans’ privacy….At one level, the NSA shows scrupulous care in protecting the privacy of U.S. nationals and, by policy, those of its four closest intelligence allies — Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. More than 1,000 distinct “minimization” terms appear in the files, attempting to mask the identities of “possible,” “potential” and “probable” U.S. persons, along with the names of U.S. beverage companies, universities, fast-food chains and Web-mail hosts.”
And isn’t the fact that the proportion of useable versus unusable intelligence is precisely what one would expect from the effort to find the proverbial “needle in the haystack?” An effort, I might add, that we demanded from the intelligence community in the wake of the attacks on 9/11 in order to help to preempt similar attacks? And, indeed, as the Post story reports, in the cache of materials they reviewed, there were considerable intelligence finds, including intelligence leading to the capture of a terrorist bomb builder and the discovery of a covert nuclear project abroad.
12:48 PM, Jul 7, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is the brainchild of senator (and possible candidate for president) Elizabeth Warren. It was, one assumes, designed to do, more or less, what the name implies. It is based in Washington and like any self-respecting government bureaucracy needs to be housed in facilities equal to the majesty of its purpose. So, as Emily Study of Reverse Mortgage Daily reports, we have some serious interior decorating going on as:
The agency has spent more than $215 million on the renovations — $65 million more than the agency’s estimate just six months ago and $120 million more than last year’s estimate, according to a report released by the Office of the Inspector General. This figure amounts to more than $590 per square foot, meaning that the CFPB is spending significantly more per square foot than it cost to build the Trump World Tower ($334 per square foot) and the Bellagio Hotel and Casino ($330 per square foot).
The agents at CFPB will, for sure, know fraud when they see it.
11:31 AM, Jul 7, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
Reporting on the Veterans Affairs, its problems, and what Congress might do to solve them, Craig Harris and Michelle Ye Hee Lee of the Arizona Republic are not terribly encouraging. They write that:
The climate in Congress makes at least some change at the VA likely, though a complete overhaul of the troubled agency is doubtful. The VA health-care system is just too big, and its customers — veterans — are loyal despite the problems that ignited the scandal.
And, then, there is this sort of thing. As reported by Stacy Kaper at the National Journal:
"The first order of business is for VA and CBO to produce information regarding certain costs and considerations associated with possible reform permutations," said a congressional aide familiar with the negotiations.
A lot of veterans will die waiting for that – whatever it is – to happen.
Get them where they drive.9:24 AM, Jul 7, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
Washington needs more money and if it doesn’t get it, your morning commute will become:
a) more expensive
b) more unpleasant
The problem, you see, is that the Highway Trust Fund is "going broke,” by the Beltway’s curious definition of the phrase. It is sort of the way that after a round of painful “cuts,” spending somehow still goes up.
The Highway Trust Fund takes in more than 18 cents on every gallon of gasoline sold in this country, so there is plenty of revenue. Just not enough to meet Washington’s needs and desires. People are driving more fuel efficient cars and with gas already around $4 a gallon, not taking the trips they might otherwise take. So instead of having the $50 billion that Congress budgeted, the trust fund is looking at $34 billion.
So cuts are coming, possibly as soon as August, and, as Keith Laing of The Hill reports:
Those cuts could leave drivers facing congested or damaged roads, sparking anger ahead of November's midterms.
Sort of like closing down the monuments during one of those government shutdowns. The idea being to inflict immediate pain.
The president has gotten involved, talking about the jobs that are at stake and saying:
“We’re not going to be able to fund the Highway Trust Fund and to ramp up our investment in infrastructure without acts of Congress.”
Gasoline is not a discretionary item in the budget of most Americans. Making it more expensive means there will be less to spend elsewhere. The people calling for urgent measures to keep the trust fund from going broke say they are concerned about jobs.” Theirs.
One wonders just how much pork a penny a gallon in new taxes would buy.
No talk, of course, of privatizing. Using the tolls mechanism.
Just more taxes. For jobs.
8:39 AM, Jul 7, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
At the same time the Obama administration once again renewed its Equal Pay push, the White House released salary figures for White House staff. Upon analysis, the Washington Post, among others, concluded that the gender pay gap (as defined by the White House) that has existed since President Obama was elected is as wide as it was in 2009, a thirteen percent difference:
The average male White House employee currently earns about $88,600, while the average female White House employee earns about $78,400, according to White House data released Tuesday. That is a gap of 13 percent.
In 2009, male employees made an average of about $82,000, compared to an average of $72,700 earned by female employees — also a 13 percent wage gap.
One of the key reasons is that more men hold the higher-paying, senior jobs in the White House, and more women hold the lower-paying, junior jobs.
Although the sample size is significantly smaller, a similar analysis of the salaries of First Lady Michelle Obama's staff shows a substantially larger difference. The analysis considered a White House employee as working for the first lady if the "position title" provided by the White House included "first lady," but also "Let's Move" and "Joining Forces," the first lady's two signature initiatives.
As it turns out, there are only two men on the first lady's staff. They are the directors of Let's Move and Joining Forces. Their salaries average $123,307. The other fourteen staffers are women (the salary for the deputy director of Let's Move was listed as $0 and was therefore not included in the analysis). The average pay for the remaining thirteen women is $84,133, a 46 percent difference from the men's average.
There are three women whose pay is higher than the men's average, including one making $172,200. The position title for each of these women also includes "assistant to the president" in addition to responsibilities for the first lady. A fourth woman, whose salary of $103,000 is well above the women's average, is also listed as assistant to the president.
7:50 AM, Jul 7, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Alana Goodman of the Washington Free Beacon reports:
Hillary Clinton weighed in on her 1975 legal defense of an accused child rapist on Saturday, her first comments on the case since it came under scrutiny following aWashington Free Beacon report last month.
Clinton spoke in clinical, legal terms while explaining her defense of the rapist, who Clinton helped to avoid a lengthy prison term by relying on a technicality relating to the chain of evidence of his blood-soaked underwear, as well as arguing at the time that the 12-year-old victim may have exaggerated or encouraged the attack.
“When you are a lawyer, you often don’t have the choice as to who you will represent, and by the very nature of criminal law there will be those who you represent that you don’t approve of,” said Clinton in an interview published on Friday with Mumsnet, an online forum for parents in the UK.
“But at least in our system you have an obligation, and once I was appointed I fulfilled that obligation,” she added.
The Free Beacon reported in June on previously unpublished audio tapes from the 1980s that revealed Clinton laughing while discussing her successful effort to secure a plea bargain for her client and suggesting she believed the 41-year-old man was guilty of rape.
Whole thing here.
6:41 AM, Jul 7, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
The Scrapbook introduces readers this week to conversationswithbillkristol.org:
"The Scrapbook has previously lauded the work of the Foundation for Constitutional Government. To support the serious study of politics and political philosophy, it’s developed a series of websites devoted to important, contemporary thinkers (Walter Berns, Irving Kristol, Harvey Mansfield, James Q. Wilson, and more to come).
"Now we’re pleased to alert readers to the foundation’s latest venture: Conversations with Bill Kristol. The foundation has been preparing videos of discussions, hosted by this magazine’s editor, with some of America’s leading thinkers and figures in public life. Already available at conversationswithbillkristol.org are talks with the aforementioned Harvey Mansfield, with Elliott Abrams, and with Amy and Leon Kass. Look for a discussion with Charles Murray in mid-July, and more to come every couple of weeks. The videos are an hour-and-a-half to two hours long, so you’ll want a big tub of popcorn, and maybe some Sno-Caps, too. Think of them as summer blockbusters for grownups. Unlike the fare at your local multiplex, though, they’re free, and you’ll be more intelligent when the credits roll than you were going in."
6:25 PM, Jul 6, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Border protection chief Gil Kerlikowske, whose official title is commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, says the influx of illegal immigrants on the Southern boarder need not be feared. "These are family members. These are not gang members. These are not dangerous individuals," said Kerlikowske.
He made the comments on ABC:
As the ABC reporter said, "But in an exclusive interview with ABC News This Week, his first since the crisis began, Customs and Border Protection commissioner Gil Kerlikowske said these immigrants should not be feared."
"These are family members. These are not gang members. These are not dangerous individuals," said Kerlikowske.
"Kerlikowske says the young immigrants and mothers from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras often run towards his agents--wanting to be detained," said the ABC reporter.
The Customs and Border Protection commissioner praised his employees. "These agents have gone well beyond the call of duty taking care of these kids, treating them with true compassion, with true heartfelt sympathy."
11:28 AM, Jul 6, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson struggled this morning on NBC to say whether the Obama administration will deport most of the recent influx of illegal immigrants:
Said the NBC host, "I know there's a process they have to go through. Will most of these children that we have seen in this desperate situation stay in America, or will they be returned to their homes in Central America?""There's a deportation proceeding that is commenced against illegal migrants, including children. We are looking at ways to create additional options for dealing with the children, in particular consistent with our laws and our values," said Johnson.
The host replied, "I'm trying to get an answer to will most of them end up staying, in your judgment?""I think we need to find more efficient, effective ways to turn this tide around generally and we've already begun to do that," said the Homeland Security secretary, not answering the question.
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