Wednesday, January 07, 2015
In a sentiment, with which I think most Americans agree, President Obama expresses his deepest sympathies to the people of Paris and France for the horrific terrorist attack on the newspaper Charlie Hebdo. The satirical weekly paper has been repeatedly threatened for its caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.
President Obama went on to say, "The fact that this was an attack on journalists, attack on our free press, also underscores the degree to which these terrorists fear freedom of speech and freedom of the press. But the one thing that I'm very confident about is that the values that we share with the French people, a belief, a universal belief in the freedom of expression, is something that can't be silenced because of the senseless violence of the few."
That's another sentiment with which I think most Americans agree; however, the Obama administration, specifically the president's Justice Department has come under attack for attempting to silence, or at the very least, obstruct the news gathering of some American journalists and their organizations.
In 2013, the Justice Department collected two months of telephone records for 20 reporters at the Associated Press. However, the AP wasn't aware of DOJ's subpoena because it was issued to the AP's phone providers. DOJ said it collected the records to investigate a leak of classified information and alerting the AP could have threatened its investigation.
The same year we learned Fox News reporter James Rosen was also a target of the Justice Department's surveillance. His visits to the State Department, phone calls, and personal emails were monitored. He was even accused of being a possible criminal "co-conspirator" for his alleged role in publishing sensitive security information.
Also, the president's remarks about the tragedy in France come as former CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson sues the Justice Department for illegal surveillance. In the lawsuit Attkisson says three different forensic exams on her computers revealed she was being monitored over a two year period by hackers connected to the Justice Department. She's seeking 35 million in damages.
Friday, January 02, 2015
It's a new year, brimming with wishes for peace, joy, and prosperity.
Like you, we here at Beltway Buzz are also excited about what's in store for the year ahead. From a news perspective, there will be a lot of compelling and interesting story lines to follow.
Here's a quick look at what to expect in 2015:
- Defining the relationship: There will be renewed efforts to work together in Washington, as a newly minted Republican-controlled Congress attempts to prove to the American public they can govern, while President Obama works to secure his legacy. First major vote on the roster? The Keystone XL Pipeline. First major test if it passes will be whether President Obama signs or vetoes the project.
- 2016 Race for the White House: Former Sen. Jim Webb may be the only major candidate to have formed a presidential exploratory committee to date, but in the coming weeks and months the candidate pool will expand. Who will emerge as the leading contenders? And the big question for Democrats: will she or won't she? Expect Hillary Clinton to announce her decision sometime this spring.
- Marriage Equality vs. Religious Freedom: the issue may resurface (truthfully, it never went away) if the Supreme Court decides to wade back into the debate to resolve conflicting lower court rulings. To date, there are 35 states where gay couples can legally marry and several challenges arguing on behalf of those with sincerely held religious beliefs.
- Papal Visit: Pope Francis makes his first trip to the United States as the leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics to address the world meeting of families in Philadelphia. Expect a media circus.
Wednesday, December 10, 2014
The political fallout is as loud as the 'thud' that sounded when Democrats released what's now commonly known as the CIA torture report.
It harshly criticizes the actions of the Central Intelligence Agency in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, questions the efficacy of "enhanced interrogation techniques" in gathering intelligence, and condemns the use of torture as unlawful and incongruent with American values.
"While I understand this is a dangerous world and am grateful to the rank-and-file intelligence professionals that keep our country safe, the facts show that torture did nothing to protect America from foreign threats," Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said in a statement.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who led the investigation as the chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, explained why she decided to publicly release the report's findings.
"It is my sincere and deep hope . . . that U.S. policy will never again allow for secret indefinite detention and the use of coercive interrogations," she writes in the study's foreward.
Read the full summary here.
But Republicans have a completely different take.
They believe it was "unconscionable" to release the report and potentially increase the risk to the United States and possibly imperil relations with America's foreign allies.
"Simply put, this release is reckless and irresponsible," wrote Sens. Marco Rubio, R and Jim Risch in a joint statement.
In their own rebuttal minority report, Republicans offered a scathing review of the intent, methodology, and effect of the Democratic majority's study, which, according to the CIA, cost more than $40 million and diverted CIA resources.
"The Study does not offer any recommendations for improving intelligence interrogation practices, intelligence activities, or covert actions. Instead, it ... attack[s] the CIA's integrity and credibility ... and create[s] the false impression that the CIA was actively misleading policy makers."
Read the minority report here.
The response from the intelligence community and their supporters was equally as forceful, claiming the CIA program was lawful, effective, and helped to save lives.
A dozen or so former top CIA officials created a website, Ciasavedlifes.com, to counter the report's impression and defend the program they say played a key role in dismantling al Qaeda.
Make no mistake: the fallout is far from over.
The full report is ten times longer than the summary released this week, at a whopping 6,68 pages. There's no indication when the full report will be made public. But someday it inevitably will.
If you think the frenzy is bad now, just wait. It has the potential to get much worse.
Tuesday, November 11, 2014
They're a symbol of bravery, strength, and unyielding resolve to defend liberty at home and abroad.
Watch CBN's exclusive interview with ex-POW Jessica Lynch as she details "The Deadliest Day"
America's all-volunteer fighting force embodies what's best about the United States. And every citizen and freedom lover should appreciate the sacrifices that were made for America to become the beacon of hope and opportunity she is today.
We owe a debt of gratitude to all who served, and we should show it unceasingly.
Yet Veterans Day gives us all a chance to say thank you to America's 22-million vets.
Here are some ways to honor a veteran and thank them for their service:
- A simple "thank you" goes a long way
- Pay for their meal at a restaurant
- Proudly display the American flag
- Volunteer at a VA hospital or with veterans support organizations
- Send care packages
- Donate your old wireless phone
There are many more things you could do to show your thanks. But perhaps most important is to keep an attitude of support and appreciation all year round.
Thursday, November 06, 2014
In July of 1863, the Battle of Gettysburg became a turning point in the Civil War and one Union Army officer who died in that battle has now received the nation's highest military honor more than 150 years after his death.
President Barack Obama awarded 1st Lt. Alonzo H. Cushing, the Medal of Honor Thursday for acts of personal bravery above and beyond the call of duty.
Lt. Cushing commanded six cannons and more than 100 men, defending the Union position on Cemetery Ridge against Pickett's Charge, a major Confederate campaign. On the third day of battle, Cushing's small force stood its ground under severe artillery bombardment and an assault by nearly 13,000 Confederate infantrymen.
Cushing was wounded in the stomach and right shoulder, but despite his wounds he refused to move to the rear. Instead, he ordered his guns to the front lines.
As Confederate forces closed in on his position Cushing was shot and killed. He was 22 years old.
Recommendations for the Medal of Honor typically must be made within two years of an act of heroism and the medal must be presented within three years, but Congress made an exception for Cushing.
The Army officer was born in Delafield, Wisconsin, raised in Fredonia, New York, and buried at his alma mater, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
A monument to Cushing and two of his brothers, Naval Cmdr. William Cushing and Army 1st Lt. Howard Cushing, stands at Cushing Memorial Park in Delafield, Wisconsin.
Wednesday, November 05, 2014
Conventional wisdom tells us to expect constant partisan bickering and gridlock. And, there probably will be plenty of shining examples in the next two years in the Beltway.
But there are some indications Washington just may wind up getting a few things done in the concluding era of a divided Congress and the dawning of a legislative branch completely controlled by Republicans.
At a post-election news conference, Pres. Obama said he remains “optimistic” about the future.
And Sen. Mitch McConnell, the presumptive Senate majority leader in the 114th Congress, told reporters on the day after his Election Day win he had already spoken with several Democrats about his intent to get the Senate "working like normal."
"I've been called by three prominent Democrats," McConnell recounted. "They're anxious to be relevant again."
McConnell also extended what appeared to be an olive branch of sorts to Pres. Obama during his Tuesday night victory speech.
"We do have an obligation to work together on issues where we can agree," McConnell told the crowd of supporters in Louisville, Ky. "I think we have a duty to do that."
Talk of working together with the president is monumental, especially since the two don't have much of a relationship. Sen. McConnell's initial unavailability to accept a White House congratulatory call is emblematic of that relationship, or lack thereof. They did ultimately connect before McConnell's press conference Wednesday.
The Kentucky lawmaker ticked off some of his legislative goals, which include passing a budget, restoring the appropriations process, and reining in an "overactive bureaucracy" that he says is strangling the country's economic recovery. He also mentioned energy (read Keystone Pipeline), trade agreements, and tax reform.
Those are all substantive and could resonate with the American electorate.
But first McConnell, a proficient politician, must master the art of compromise in his new role as majority leader - a tool he'll need to employ first with his own conference and with Pres. Obama, who still wields the power of the veto pen.
Many will be watching to see how the GOP will govern with their new majorities in the House and Senate. Will Republicans battle with the Tea Party once the dust and afterglow settle? And if so, will they spend their time on symbolic measures, like repealing Obamacare, which the president would certainly veto?
Republicans need to be cautious not to spend too much time on symbolism and possibly squander the goodwill and hard-fought gains they've made in this wave election.
It appears, at least for now, that McConnell is looking at the more meaningful route. He has already ruled out a wholesale repeal of the president's signature health care law. He also rejected the notion of shutting down the government and risk potential default on the nation's debt.
For now, it's wait and see.
Monday, November 03, 2014
Let's face it. Come Election Day, most political and news junkies will be watching the scorecard on races for the U.S. Senate -- and rightly so. Those contests could dramatically alter the balance of power in Washington and offer some clues about what to expect over the next couple of years in terms of political storylines and who's potentially best positioned to run for the White House in 2016.
On the other hand, one race outcome you almost certainly won't see on the networks will be for the candidates on the Board of Commissioners in Carroll County, Maryland.
Updated with elections results below.
Beltway Buzz brings it to your attention because a few months back we featured a story about the board of directors' prayer policy that resulted in a lawsuit over public prayer and put the county in the national spotlight.
It also earned headlines for one of the commissioners, Robin B. Frazier, after she initially claimed she was willing to go to jail for her right to conclude the commission's prayers in Jesus' name.
Last June, Frazier wound up losing her re-election bid to a fellow Republican, Steve Wantz. And now she's running as a write-in candidate, hoping to prevail over the man who beat her in the primary. To be successful, she will also need to defeat Jackie Jones, who's running as a Democrat.
On Frazier's campaign website, she describes her write-in candidacy as a challenge to the influence of unions and outside money -- and what she calls "unwelcome invaders" trying to undermine local elections.
"I wanted to raise awareness on government union strategy that's not only happening in Carroll County, but it's happening all across the United States," Frazier told the Carroll County Times. "What occurred [in the primary] was a collaboration between government unions… [to target] candidates that are in favor of privatization, deregulation and tax cutting. That would describe me."
Frazier sees Wantz as a candidate beholden to his union backers as opposed to voters. Wantz, who won the endorsement of the county newspaper over Frazier, is a retired Baltimore County firefighter and has also won the support of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) and the Maryland State Education Association.
On his website, Wantz pledges to bring a change of pace and leadership style to the board of commissioners and offers a thinly-veiled rebuke of his would-be predecessor:
"I have no personal agenda, and don't believe in grandstanding or time wasted on distractions."
In her interview with CBN News last July, the two-term incumbent conceded her primary loss was, at least in part, possibly the result of voter backlash over the commission's prayers. During that interview, she answered critics who charged her stand on prayer was a political stunt to sway public support in her favor.
"That was the furtherest [sic] thing from my mind," she explained. "I even tried hard not to politicize it, which is one of the reasons why I'm having this interview now and not before the election -- because I didn't want to even give the impression that I was trying to do that, because this wasn't about that at all."
Frazier now says she has re-entered the race to defend the hard-won victories she has championed to help preserve Carroll County's agricultural heritage and political conservatism.
"If unions are needed to win elections, the candidates will be catering to the unions," Frazier said. "Then they can deal with the unions in order to get elected instead of listening to the people. That totally undermines our Constitution and the whole idea of America."
She's running a long-shot campaign.
Write-in candidates typically perform poorly at the ballot box. But it won't be over until the last vote is counted.
--- ELECTION UPDATE ---
According to the county's unofficial results, Steve Wantz (R) won the race for county commissioner with 79.7%. Jackie Jones (D) garnered 11.3% and 9% of the ballots was classified under "write-in votes."
(Current as of Nov. 5, 2014)
Friday, October 31, 2014
His name won't be on any ballots this election cycle. But the political baggage attached to President Barack Obama is weighing heavily on Democratic candidates, particularly in some of the most competitive races across the country.
Watch Jennifer Wishon's report: Liability-in-Chief: Obama the 'Invisible Man'
Virtually every poll has ruled out the possibility of Democrats picking up enough seats to win back the gavel from Republicans, who control the U.S. House. What's really at stake this time around is a potential shift in control of the Senate.
And that's where the real battle has been taking place.
After all the issues, campaigning, stumping, fundraising, debating, door-knocking, and getting out the vote -- elections ultimately boil down to a question of simple arithmetic: which candidate gets the most votes?
But in the battle over the Senate, there is a magic number at play -- and that number is six.
If Republicans gain six additional seats on Tuesday, they will have a majority in the Senate and wrest leadership from Sen. Harry Reid and the Democrats who won control of the upper chamber in 2006.
That would also result in upsetting the balance of power in Washington, with a Democrat in the White House and a Republican-controlled House and Senate.
If you've complained about partisan gridlock in the last six years, imagine what it will be like for the next two.
Click here to watch the one race that could swap Senate control.
Should the GOP win control of the Senate, which it appears poised to do, most will pin the blame on the sagging popularity of the president and his policies -- an "invisible man" on the congressional campaign trail but whose presence and political liability are undoubtedly felt.
Friday, October 24, 2014
Washington has an image problem.
It's a city filled with fat-cat bureaucrats, bogged down by partisan gridlock, and boundlessly broken beyond repair.
But the one thing Washington is good at is spending taxpayer money -- often unwisely.
The release of the fifth annual "Wastebook" by the office of Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., makes the image even worse - if it's even possible.
- $200,000 to study why Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia, is sexist
- $80 million to build a real-life "Iron Man" suit
- $5 million for college students to dress up as their favorite fruits and vegetables to promote healthy eating
These are just a few examples.
For a more exhaustive list, watch this story on CBN News
At a time when there's still plenty of uncertainty about the economy and when many Americans are still struggling, the nation's leaders seem to have no problem needlessly spending taxpayer money on wasteful projects. It's nothing short of outrageous.
In fact, the absurdity of it all caught the attention of some of the biggest pranksters in Hollywood. (Really, this is the stuff comics dream about.)
Late-night comedian Jimmy Kimmel quizzed his audience whether some of the "Wastebook" projects were real expenditures or ideas from someone stoned on drugs?
While Beltway Buzz doesn't condone or advocate the use of drugs, it 's really funny and provides a good laugh.
Coburn's Senate staff produced a clip reminiscent of Jay Leno's "JayWalking," asking passersby on Capitol Hill what they thought about spending $380,000 on Swedish massages for rabbits.
Off the cuff, people came up with better alternatives, like using the money on schools or medical research.
These two clips show how preposterous Washington's wasteful spending has become. It'd be even funnier if it weren't your hard-earned money at work.
Monday, September 15, 2014
Christian fathers told to convert to Islam or watch their children lose their heads.
Christians fleeing their communities shot, their dead bodies lined up on the ground, then rolled over by a bulldozer as their loved ones watch.
These are just some of the stories Canon Andrew White and Dr. Sarah Ahmed shared at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. Monday.
Ahmed is a Muslim woman who's organizing aid for Christian and other religious minorities fleeing for their lives in northern Iraq through the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East.
Canon White is president of the foundation. He's lived in Baghdad for 15 years serving as vicar of the only Anglican church in Iraq, and as chaplain to the U.S. Embassy.
"Now when I want to see my people I go to Chicago," he says in his British accent, referring to the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christians who have fled and are fleeing barbarian ISIS terrorists.
White recalled a recent phone call from one of his friends in northern Iraq. The man was hysterical. He told White ISIS fighters came to his house. They told him if he didn't recite the words to convert to Islam they would behead his children immediately.
He converted to save his children, and asked Canon White through sobs, "I'm a Christian, I live for Yeshua, does Yeshua still love me?"
When Dr. Ahmed visits Christians in refugee camps she asks what the ISIS fighters look like. They tell her they have long beards, intense eyes, and no hearts.
"I have no idea how the country (Iraq) will heal or how we will come out after this," she says.
Now the foundation is doing something unheard of. Ahmed and others are working to buy Iraqi Christian girls that ISIS has captured and is now selling as sex slaves.
"So many girls are being raped and sold everyday," she says, "and nobody is doing anything about it."
Their goal is to buy the women and reunite them with their families, but Ahmed says it's difficult because few people will talk.
How did this happen? Both White and Ahmed blame, in part, the U.S. and its allies for pulling out of Iraq before Iraq was ready. White also says Sunni Muslims were treated so poorly by Iraq's government he's not surprised so many turned to terrorism.
And as long as the religion of Islam is tied to the government of Iraq, Ahmed says her country will never enjoy a thriving pluralistic society.