Monday, March 16, 2015
If there was any question, recent news events reveal racial divides in America persist 50 years after the Civil Rights movement. It's a problem that a handful of presidents have tried to address, including the nation's first African American president. But even President Obama has faced roadblocks.
April Ryan covers the White House for American Urban Radio Networks, a job she's held for nearly 20 years. As a journalist for urban stations, it's her job to find out what the commander in chief is doing for urban America and what he thinks about issues important to her listeners.
After keeping a journal about her adventures for nearly two decades, April has written a book called, The Presidency in Black and White: My Up-Close View of Three Presidents and Race in America.
I chatted with April about how she landed her job covering the White House, what she thinks about racial tensions, and why she often feels like the "black Forest Gump."
Wednesday, March 11, 2015
Now more than ever it appears the United States must do more to promote religious freedom abroad. What's one way America can encourage rogue nations that oppress Christians and other religious minorities? Money!
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham led a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee to look at how the United States can use the power of foreign aid to encourage regimes to chose religious liberty over religious persecution. Research shows countries that allow religious freedom prosper economically.
"This is a religious war and we must take sides," Graham said, referring to the crucifixions and beheadings of Christians and other religious minorities at the hands of ISIS and other terror groups in the name of Islam.
Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford sits on Graham's subcommittee and stepped out of the meeting to talk to Beltway Buzz about what he hopes the United States can achieve.
Wednesday, February 18, 2015
A man standing outside the White House on a frigid February day held a large sign that read, "It's Islam Stupid." He was protesting President Obama's Summit on Countering Violent Extremism and the deliberate move by the White House to not make the summit all about radical Islam.
However, much of the questioning by the media has focused on semantics. Is the administration tiptoeing around the real threat? Why is the administration quick to suggest Muslims are targeted for their faith, but refers to the Coptic Christians beheaded in Libya as "citizens?"
Does the administration think it's counter productive to mention religion?
In his remarks on the first day of the summit, President Obama made it clear that neither the Islamic State nor al Qaeda represents Islam.
"We are not at war with Islam, we are at war with people who have perverted Islam," he said.
He also said Muslim leaders in America and elsewhere need to do be very clear about their condemnation of the Islamic State and other groups beheading and burning people alive in the name of Allah. They need to make it clear, he said, that the extremists don't speak for all Muslims or Islam generally.
The goal of the summit is to engage and equip communities in the United States and around the world to catch extremism before it gets out of hand.
For instance, the president says a young person in the United States who is becoming radicalized will demonstrate symptoms, such as becoming withdrawn at school, that his or her teachers and others will notice right away. He says people in communities need to serve as the first level of prevention.
Watch President Obama's speech below:
Tuesday, February 17, 2015
President Barack Obama will launch his summit on countering violent extremism Tuesday amid news that Christians, journalists and other innocent people are being beheaded and burned alive in the name of Islam and the creation of an Islamic State.
However, the administration isn't focusing exclusively on threats from the Islamic State or any other Muslim extremists making international headlines and grating the nerves of counter-terrorism officials worldwide. Instead, the Obama administration is aiming to look beyond the headlines at all types of extremism.
As one senior White House official said in a conference call previewing the summit, violent extremists "come in all shapes and sizes."
They say they're not leaning on stereotypes to determine who's more likely to be recruited to violent extremism or which communities in the United States are more susceptible. Officials also say they're not treating extremists as part of a religion, rather they're just calling them terrorists.
The first part of the three-day summit will focus on domestic counter-terrorism strategies and best practices.
The second half will include representatives from more than 60 countries. Representatives from the private sector will also participate. The goal, officials say, is to engage communities and fight extremism from the grassroots.
Senior White House officials say President Obama is expected to make a series of announcements and/or take actions during the summit, but they're not saying what form those may take.
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.