In what was a highly anticipated hearing, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hosted three whistleblowers — Gregory Hicks, Eric Nordstrom, and Mark Thompson. The three State Department staffers have come forward with a clearer picture of what happened before, during, and after the terrorist attack that took place last September at the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which claimed the lives of four Americans.
The three biggest allegations on which Republicans on the committee focused was the State Department’s involvement in the initial talking points that removed references to terrorism, the role those talking points played in preventing the FBI from getting to the consulate to investigate the attack, and a “stand down” order given that kept military assets from responding in its aftermath.
Hicks, who made the most damaging allegations and was the primary focus of the questioning from both Republicans and Democrats on the committee, offered a detailed description of the attack:
In his first full public accounting, Gregory Hicks, a Foreign Service officer and ex-deputy chief of mission in Libya, recounted in vivid detail what happened the night of the attacks. Republicans insist that the Obama administration and the State Department didn’t do nearly enough to aid U.S. personnel under attack in September 2012.
Though Democrats are still behind the law, many are beginning to worry about the effects of ObamaCare on Americans, including rising insurance premiums and implementation efforts, which Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) described as a “train wreck.”
The worry from Democrats coupled with the law’s unpopularity with Americans presents an opportunity for opponents of the law — and opponents are seizing on it. The New York Times has noted that Republicans plan to make the law a central part of their campaigns in the 2014 mid-term election:
Republicans are trying to make the law perhaps the biggest issue of the elections, and are preparing to exploit every problem that arises. After many unsuccessful efforts to repeal the law, the Republican-led House plans another vote soon. And Republican governors or legislatures in many states are balking at participating, leaving Washington responsible for the marketplaces.
“There are very few issues that are as personal and as tangible as health care, and the implementation of the law over the next year is going to reveal a lot of kinks, a lot of red tape, a lot of taxes, a lot of price increases and a lot of people forced into health care that they didn’t anticipate,” said Brad Dayspring, spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “It’s going to be an issue that’s front and center for voters even in a more tangible way than it was in 2010.”
We’re heard time and time again that the federal government is having to make tough decisions to avoid the sequester, which are simply cuts to the rate of spending increases. However, Washington is still spending taxpayer dollars on completely wasteful endeavors that the simply should not be subsidizing.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the International Trade Administration, part of the Department of Commerce, spent $300,000 last year to help independent record labels promote their artists and products overseas:
For the first time, the U.S. government’s trade arm is stepping in to help the music business, funding trade missions to Brazil and Asia in recent months for the heads of a dozen independent music labels, which make up one-third of the U.S. music market.
It is a departure for the International Trade Administration, which has been spending $2 million annually to boost exports for the past two decades under its Market Development Cooperator Program but has never before given one of its $300,000 grants to the music industry, instead favoring sectors like machinery, technology and engineering services.
“We need to find new revenue streams,” said Rich Bengloff, president of the American Association of Independent Music, whose idea it was to apply for the grant. He led the trips and arranged meetings with local distributors, mobile-phone carriers, booking agents and ad agencies. “We now need to adjust to a smaller monetization at home.”
If you’ve read the Drudge Report at all over the past several months, you know that ammunition is flying off the shelves at an alarming pace. Part of the reason for high-demand is reaction consumer reaction to President Barack Obama’s push for new gun control.
The other aspect is that the federal government is buying up a lot of ammunition, which some claim is a scheme to dry up supply. Some of this is myth — some is fact. But with reports that the Department of Homeland Security will purchase 1.6 billion rounds of ammunition over the next five years, some in Congress are speaking out.
In a radio interview over the weekend, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) expressed concern over the ammunition purchases and touched on legislation that he has introduced that would require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to determine the effect the government is having on ammunition supply:
Last month, a handful of Democrats joined Republicans to defeat the Manchin-Toomey amendment, which would expand background checks, and the Assault Weapons Ban. Mayors Against Illegal Guns, anti-gun group founded by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, has been running ads against any Senator who voted against the measures, including Democrats, and now Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is worried that it could hurt his party:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s aides met recently with staffers of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to warn them: Targeting vulnerable Democrats like Arkansas’s Mark Pryor on gun control could backfire on the party, several sources told POLITICO.
It didn’t work.
Ads from the Bloomberg-funded Mayors Against Illegal Guns are going up soon in Alaska, Arkansas and North Dakota — three states with Democratic senators who broke with the White House on last month’s background checks vote.
Of course, Reid and other Democrats want the anti-gun group to focus on the Republicans who voted against the gun control measures, which is completely intellectually dishonest.
On Monday, the Senate passed the so-called “Marketplace Fairness Act,” legislation that would allow states to force businesses into serving as tax collectors. While it cleared the chamber by a large margin, the House of Representatives appears to be cool to the proposal, at least for now:
“Call me a conservative, but I believe the right approach to tax fairness is to reduce rates — not force higher rates onto others,” said Tom Graves, a House Republican from Georgia.
House Speaker John Boehner plans to send the bill to the House Judiciary Committee, a senior Republican aide said. That will mean hearings ahead. The Senate uncharacteristically bypassed this step.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Robert Goodlatte, a Republican, has reservations about the legislation, including its complexity and potential impact on small businesses, a spokeswoman said.
Goodlatte has yet to schedule any hearings on it, she said.
Goodlatte’s statement on the online sales tax proposal was more encouraging than what his spokeswoman has told the media. Specifically, Goodlatte says that the scheme “attempts to make tax collection simpler, [but] it still has a long way to go.”
During a commencement address at The Ohio State University, President Barack Obama praised government, played down the role of the individual, and urged students to reject the voices of tyranny.
“We, the people, chose to do these things together — because we know this country cannot accomplish great things if we pursue nothing greater than our own individual ambition,” President Obama told graduating students. “Unfortunately, you’ve grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that’s at the root of all our problems; some of these same voices also doing their best to gum up the works.”
“They’ll warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner,” he continued. “You should reject these voices. Because what they suggest is that our brave and creative and unique experiment in self-rule is somehow just a sham with which we can’t be trusted.”
The shot against “individual ambition” is ironic because President Obama himself is the defintion of that term. He was an Illinois state senator who gave a keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in 2004. Later that year, he was elected to the United States Senate. By 2007, he was campaigning full-time for his party’s presidential nomination, which he won in 2008, and would subsequently be elected president.
If that doesn’t define ambition, what does? That’s not a shot against him, by the way. President Obama’s personal story is one that should be admired. The problem with him, of course, is the policies he pushes, which leads us to the next point.
As the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee begins its hearings on the latest Benghazi revelations, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is receiving well-deserved criticism over the role she may have played in what increasingly appears to be a cover-up.
During a hearing earlier this year, Clinton, who is seen as the early frontrunner for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in 2016, erupted at Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) over his questions about the State Department’s post-attack talking points. The State Department had originally claimed that the incident at the American consulate was a protest in response to anti-Muslim video that had been posted on YouTube. It was revealed a few days later that it was a terrorist attack.
“With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans,” Clinton said angrily at Johnson. “Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk last night who decided to kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make?
“It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, Senator,” she added.
President Obama doesn’t think you should listen to people warning against “tyranny”. That’s what he said in a graduation speech at Ohio State University anyways. I addressed this in a piece over at TheBlaze:
President Obama is warning people to ignore those of us talking about tyranny. In a speech at Ohio State University, President Obama is quoted as saying, “Some of these same voices also do their best to gum up the works. They’ll warn that tyranny always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices. Because what they suggest is that our brave, and creative, and unique experiment in self-rule is somehow just a sham with which we can’t be trusted.”
In short, he’s saying that you should pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.
This is just the latest example of Obama’s demonizing of the right. After all, when President Bush was in office, many of the left went on and on about tyranny. After the passage of the Patriot Act, it was perfectly understandable to me. The government is supposed to have limited powers, and enacting a law that expanded those powers contra to the Constitution in some cases is something that should be troubling.
Now, however, since Obama is in the White House, talk of tyranny is clearly ridiculous. After all, it was President Obama who signed the NDAA into law that allows the indefinite detention of American citizens. It was President Obama’s administration that took ages to finally come out and say, “No, we won’t use drones to kill Americans who aren’t engaged in combat against the United States.” It was the Obama administration that sent piles of guns across the border into Mexico, then used the resulting use of guns as grounds to take away our Second Amendment rights.
Shhhhhh. Don’t tell the gun control crowd, but their biggest argument for enacting more stringent restrictions on firearms just went down in flames.
For months they’ve been telling Americans that expanded background checks and the Assault Weapons Ban were needed to prevent gun violence. Shortly after his gun control measures failed in the Senate, President Barack Obama lashed out at those who voted against the proposal, calling it a “shameful day in Washington.” He said the measures were needed to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and to prevent instances of gun violence.
But what if gun violence is already on a downward trend? According to new numbers from Pew Research, the gun homicide rate has dropped by 49% since its peak in 1993 and non-fatal gun violence has dropped by 75% over the same length of time:
Compared with 1993, the peak of U.S. gun homicides, the firearm homicide rate was 49% lower in 2010, and there were fewer deaths, even though the nation’s population grew. The victimization rate for other violent crimes with a firearm—assaults, robberies and sex crimes—was 75% lower in 2011 than in 1993. Violent non-fatal crime victimization overall (with or without a firearm) also is down markedly (72%) over two decades.