Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat from New York, sent out a fundraising email on Monday condemning congressional efforts to investigate Planned Parenthood's practice of harvesting and selling aborted baby organs to biotech companies.
Gillibrand writes that the congressional investigation of Planned Parenthood "makes my head explode."
"I’m confident that if we had more women leading in Washington, we would not still be dealing with the right wing’s efforts to trample women’s health care," she says. The fundraising email concludes by urging supporters: "Please, click here to give every dollar you can right now."
Defenders of the nuclear deal with Iran are right to ask what the alternatives are to the offer that’s now on the table. What’s excessive is their confidence that the only alternative to this deal is war. In fact, the alternative is not hard to describe and is not terribly dramatic.
War is not imminent because the structure of the deal now on the table gives Iran very strong incentives to remain cooperative at least until the next American president takes office and Tehran finishes negotiating long-term contracts with the multinational energy firms that are so eager to claim a share of the Iranian market.
Therefore, if a two-thirds majority in Congress prevents President Obama from waiving sanctions, the result will not be an Iranian sprint toward the bomb, but rather the first step toward restoring America’s diplomatic leverage. In addition, if Congress says no, Iran may find it very difficult to access the $100-150 billion of escrow funds and frozen assets it hoped to collect as the result of deal.
Finally, given what strong incentives the Iranians have to remain in compliance, the next president and the next Congress will almost certainly have the same opportunity as today to accept the terms negotiated in Vienna. Thus there is nothing to lose by waiting and much to be gained.
A vote of disapproval by Congress, even with a veto-proof majority, will not affect the nuclear deal for at least nine months, since that is the earliest point at which Iran would be eligible for relief from sanctions. On July 20, the U.N. Security Council voted to approve the deal with Iran but delay implementation for 90 days. Experts have estimated that Iran will require at least six months to pare down its stockpile of enriched uranium, put thousands of centrifuges away in storage, disable the core of its heavy water reactor, and carry out the other tasks necessary for inspectors to certify it has met the criteria for sanctions relief.
In effect, the U.S. will remain in de facto compliance with the deal through April 2016, despite a vote of disapproval by Congress. From a legal perspective, nothing will change on the morning after the vote.
There is a slight chance, however, that a veto-proof disapproval by Congress will upset the political balance in Tehran, leading the Iranian government to withdraw from the nuclear deal. Yet if Tehran withdraws while President Obama is still working aggressively to implement the deal, Iran will become the spoiler and dispense with all the good will it has generated in Europe and Asia. It will also forgo the benefits of extensive foreign investment. By contrast, President Obama would maintain the sympathy of his negotiating partners and be in an ideal position to secure their commitment to maintain or strengthen the international sanctions regime.
On Monday, President Obama arrived on a presidential visit to Ethiopia. The trip to the east African state raised eyebrows, even among President Obama’s allies on the American left.
"The timing of President Obama's . . . travel to Ethiopia could not be worse, or more troubling,” said Jeff Smith of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, a couple of weeks prior to the trip. President Obama’s visit “comes in the aftermath of an election that has been universally decried as a sham and a mere rubber stamp for the long-ruling governing party. If President Obama truly wanted to stand behind his strong human rights rhetoric, and behind the values of democracy and respect for human rights, then visiting Ethiopia is not the way to live up to those professed ideals,” he added. The Open Society Foundations and World Movement for Democracy later joined the RFK Center in releasing a letter raising questions about the president’s Ethiopia sojourn.
Making matters worse, while speaking at a news conference in the Ethiopian capital, President Obama – in the words of the New York Times – “lashed out” at several of the Republican candidates to succeed him. First, he bemoaned “a general pattern [in the election] we’ve seen that would be considered ridiculous if it weren’t so sad.”
The Times continues:
Mr. Obama went on to note Mr. Trump’s assertion that Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona and a former prisoner of war in North Vietnam, was not a genuine war hero. Mr. Obama, who defeated Mr. McCain in the 2008 presidential campaign, said it was offensive to “challenge the heroism of Mr. McCain, somebody who endured torture and conducted himself with exemplary patriotism.”
But the president also made it a broader indictment of the Republican Party, many of whose leaders denounced Mr. Trump’s remarks as well. “The Republican Party is shocked, and yet that arises out of a culture where those kinds of outrageous attacks have become far too commonplace and get circulated nonstop through the Internet and talk radio and news outlets,” Mr. Obama said. “And I recognize that when outrageous statements are made about me, a lot of the same people who were outraged when it’s made about Mr. McCain were pretty quiet.”
Mr. Obama said candidates should not “play fast and loose” with comments like that. “The American people deserve better,” he said. “Certainly presidential debates deserve better. In 18 months, I’m turning over the keys. I want to make sure I’m turning over the keys to somebody who’s serious about the serious problems the country faces and the world faces.”
Asked directly by CNN's Wolf Blitzer whether she would vote to support President Obama's Iran deal, Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz demurred, saying:
"I am in the middle of really reviewing it and looking at all of the moving parts to the Iran deal. I've had many administration briefings, I've talked to experts on both sides of the deal, and I'm gonna go home and speak to my constituents who have been weighing in, and I'll reach a conclusion on what I'm gonna do with my vote once I really feel like I've been able to thoroughly review the whole deal."
Hillary Clinton was asked about new poll numbers that show the American people don't trust her. "Well, I don't like to read that, it won't surprise you to hear me say it," Clinton said with a big grin on her face.
Clinton suggested that people will see that she's a fighter as she continues to campaign. And that Americans will vote her for that reason. Clinton did not say that she thinks people might change their minds on whether they can trust her.
She answered the question today in Iowa, where she's on a multi-day campaign swing.
The following is an excerpt from a fact sheet prepared by Omri Ceren of the Israel Project that explains the significance of the Obama administration’s latest concession to Tehran—the reported collapse on the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program.
The WSJ revealed late last night that the Obama administration has collapsed on the long-standing condition that the Iranians resolve the International Atomic Energy Agency's concerns about their past nuclear weapons work. This isn't a collapse on sequencing. It's not that the Iranians will get sanctions relief, and then they'll be expected to disclose their past work. This is a collapse on ever requiring the Iranians to fully come clean.
The development will be politically toxic on Capitol Hill.
The Obama administration has spent the last two years promising lawmakers that, whatever else would happen, Iran would at least have to fully resolve the possible military dimensions (PMDs) of their program. It had to be that way. The administration never secured any concession that would physically preclude the Iranians from going nuclear: dismantling centrifuges, shuttering facilities, and so on. Instead White House officials told Congress that the Iranians would be deterred from cheating by a robust verification regime. But any robust verification regime requires, as a prerequisite, that the IAEA have full insight into what the Iranians have done and what they've stockpiled.
And since no one imagined the Iranians would ultimately refuse—how could there be a deal with no PMD resolution?—the administration thought they had a safe deliverable to promise Congress. Officials went to the Hill and emphasized, 1st, that nothing mattered except verification, 2nd, that PMDs were the be-all and end-all of verification and, 3rd, that the Iranians would agree to resolve those issues. That was the message from the very beginning of talks—before the JPOA even took effect—all the way through the eve of Vienna. I've pasted some of the main testimony and briefings below.
Now the administration will move the goalposts. They'll argue they never needed Iranian cooperation because the U.S. intelligence community has adequate insight into the Iranian nuclear program and that they've shared that intelligence with the IAEA. There are policy problems with those claims—the U.S. intelligence community probably doesn't have adequate intelligence and the IAEA says it certainly doesn’t— but the administration also faces independent political problems. White House officials asked lawmakers for breathing room to conduct talks, and in exchange they promised to secure a resolution to the PMD issue as a basis for the verification regime. They said it was the most important element of the most important part of the entire Iran deal. They'll have to justify collapsing on it.
Religious conservatives are fighting back against allegations of homophobia.
The World Congress of Families (WCF) is “an international network of pro-family organizations, scholars, leaders and people of goodwill from more than 80 countries that seek[s] to restore the natural family as the fundamental social unit and the ‘seedbed’ of civil society.”
In 2014, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) added WCF to its list of anti-LGBT hate groups. That same year, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), another left-leaning advocacy group, repeatedly accused WCF of promulgating homophobia, hatred, and violence.
SLPC has earned notoriety for listing conservative and religious groups alongside neo-Nazi and white-supremacist organizations on its list of hate groups. After Floyd Corkins attacked the anti-gay-marriage Family Research Council in 2013, shooting one person, he explained that he had chosen his target from SPLC’s list of hate groups. Had he not been stopped, he would have continued on to the Traditional Values Coalition, which SPLC also considers “anti-LGBT.” He had brought sandwiches from Chik-fil-A, the owners of which are outspokenly Christian and oppose gay marriage. He planned to stuff the sandwiches in the mouths of his victims as a form of protest.
SPLC has also made several notable omissions. In 2001, when the Holy Land Foundation was charged with funneling money to terrorists, prosecutors released a long list of unindicted co-conspirators. None of those groups, including the influential Council on American-Islamic Relations, is listed by SPLC as a hate group.
Others have castigated SPLC’s fundraising methods. With the decline of the Klu Klux Klan, the organization’s direct mail campaigns have focused ever more on LGBT issues and “general hate,” as their net assets double every decade. The multi-story office building SPLC commissioned in in the mid-2000s has been dubbed the “poverty palace.” President Jimmy Carter’s former press secretary, Jody Powell, is among many who have criticized SPLC’s fundraising practices. Their appeal to “ignorant Yankee contributors… pisses me off.”
Throughout the document, WCF repeats its commitment to nonviolence, nondiscrimination, and civility. WCF “stridently condemns any violence against homosexuals and would never support any legislation that would advocate such,” and “has never…taken a position on the criminalization of homosexuality.”
A former Obama administration official says Hillary Clinton should release her private email server to the public.
Steven Rattner, the "auto czar" during the first months of Barack Obama's presidency, said on MSNBC's Morning Joe Monday that Clinton, a Democratic candidate for president, should allow others to access the server she kept in her New York home while serving as secretary of state. Questions have been raised about whether any classified or sensitive information ran through her relatively unsecure server, and two inspectors general have made a criminal inquiry to the Justice Department in order to seek a federal investigation.
"I think Hillary Clinton needs to get this issue off the table as best she can by being as open and as disclosive as possible about what happened," Rattner said.
"How can she do that?" asked co-host Mika Brzezinski.
"Personally, I think she should basically say, 'Yeah, at this point, I have no secrets, you can look at the server, you can see what's there, I'll help you the best I can,'" Rattner replied.
Watch the video below:
Rattner isn't just a former Obama official. He and his wife, Maureen White, are on the list of top bundlers for Clinton's campaign (dubbed "Hillblazers"). The couple has raised at least $100,000 as members of the campaign's national finance committee.
On an official visit to Kenya over the weekend, President Obama labeled himself "the first Kenyan-American to be President of the United States."
"I am proud to be the first American President to come to Kenya -- (applause) -- and, of course, I'm the first Kenyan-American to be President of the United States. (Laughter and applause.) That goes without saying," the president said.
Secretary of State John Kerry's warning that Israel will be "blamed" if Congress opposes the Iran agreement conjures up troubling memories of other instances in which Israel or Jews were warned they might be blamed for international conflicts.
Secretary Kerry made his remark in an address to the Council of Foreign Relations on July 24. He appeared to be not merely predicting that Israel might be blamed, but hinting that the Obama administration itself might do the blaming. And since the administration has repeatedly claimed that rejection of the agreement will lead to war with Iran, the implication of Kerry's statement seems to be that Israel, the Jewish state, would be to blame for such a war.
The possibility that the blame would be extended to Israel's supporters in the United States has already been raised by President Obama himself, in his warning that unnamed "lobbyists" and "money" were trying to block the Iran deal.
One unfortunate comparison brought to mind by this kind of talk is an episode involving the pundit and unsuccessful presidential candidate Pat Buchanan. In the months preceding the first Persian Gulf war, Buchanan charged that "there are only two groups that are beating the drums for war in the Middle East—the Israeli defense ministry and its 'amen corner' in the United States."
In another broadside, Buchanan named four prominent supporters of war with Jewish-sounding names as being part of "the Israeli Defense Ministry's amen corner in the United States." He accused them of planning to send "kids with names like McAllister, Murphy, Gonzales and Leroy Brown" to the Persian Gulf to do the fighting.
New York Times columnist A.M. Rosenthal described that remark as a "blood libel," and Anti-Defamation League director Abraham Foxman called Buchanan's statements "an appeal to anti-Semitic bigotry."
Such blame-the-Jews rhetoric was all too common on the eve of World War II.
The U.S. ambassador to Great Britain, Joseph Kennedy, reportedly warned one Jewish leader in 1939 that "if the United States is dragged into war with Germany there might even be a pogrom in the U.S.A. itself."
Kennedy addressed a meeting of Hollywood notables, many of them Jews, in November 1940, shortly after the release of Charlie Chaplin's anti-Hitler film, The Great Dictator. According to the actor Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., who was present, Ambassador Kennedy warned them "that the Jews were on the spot, and that they should stop making anti-Nazi pictures"--and if not, "we all, and the Jews in particular would be in jeopardy" for allegedly pushing the U.S. to go to war.
The most infamous attempt to blame Jews for encouraging war was the speech by aviation hero Charles Lindbergh in September 1941. "Instead of agitating for war, the Jewish groups in this country should be opposing it in every possible way, for they will be among the first to feel its consequences," Lindbergh menacingly declared. "Tolerance is a virtue that depends upon peace and strength. History shows that it cannot survive war and devastation."