Barack Obama

Dems admit supporting war in Syria is for loyalty to Obama

Cliff1066™ (CC)

For those that are not familiar with our nation’s Capital, that is the Peace monument pictured in front of the Capitol building - something that Democrats on the Hill probably should take a moment to consider. As they approach the time when they will vote on whether or not we will become involved in the civil war in Syria, it seems that the real issue isn’t what Bashar al-Assad has done, or which Syrian rebels are honestly friendly to our nation - if there are any. The real issue is that we could end up going to war simply because Democrats feel that they must vote for it, to save face for Barack Obama.

Obviously, that isn’t remotely close to a good reason, but if anyone is expecting an uproar from the public or the press, it’s not very likely that it will happen. The peaceniks of Secretary of State John Kerry’s generation have long-forgotten those roots, and some of them, like Kerry himself, are probably on the side of the administration. Perhaps their excuse will be “it’s for the children,” since we saw the horrific photos and videos of dead and dying children in the wake of the latest chemical attack.

Conservatives unlikely to side with Obama on Syria

It isn’t always quite easy to predict where some conservatives will stand on some issues simply because they have been somewhat inconsistent when faced with matters of great importance to their base, but the unpredictability seems to be withering. Especially when it comes to foreign policy.

In a statement issued Saturday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) claimed he believed that the “United States has significant national interests at stake in the conflict in Syria,” but while Congress doesn’t engage in a full debate into the matter, he sees “no good options” and firmly believes that the President still has quite some work to do to convince them an air strike is the best way to go about this problem.

While Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) congratulated President Obama on reaching out to Congress for authorization before a strike, she didn’t seem to come to terms with the rationale the President is using to justify the attack. According to the congresswoman, “President Obama has not demonstrated a vital American national security interest in the conflict in Syria or a clear strategy outlining what the use of force would accomplish. The American people do not support a military intervention and I cannot vote for one.”

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) also issued a statement after Obama’s announcement. According to Ryan, the President has some work to do to recover from his grave missteps in Syria. He needs to clearly demonstrate that the use of military force would strengthen America’s security. I want to hear his case to Congress and to the American people.”

Pew Poll: A Plurality of GOPers Oppose Intervention in Syria

Pew poll on Syria

According to new survey data from Pew, a plurality of self-identified Republicans oppose bombing Syria to help we-don’t-really-know-who. Across partisan divides, respondents overwhelmingly believe that a U.S. military intervention would elicit significant blowback, and would likely lead to an actual war (as opposed to a strategic, surgical bombing campaign to even the score for the rebels fighting Assad’s regime):

Three-quarters (74%) believe that U.S. airstrikes in Syria are likely to create a backlash against the United States and its allies in the region and 61% think it would be likely to lead to a long-term U.S. military commitment there. Meanwhile, just 33% believe airstrikes are likely to be effective in discouraging the use of chemical weapons; roughly half (51%) think they are not likely to achieve this goal.

Read the full report here (PDF).

Obama goes to skeptical Congress for Syria intervention

Barack Obama

In what was a welcome development, President Barack Obama announced on Saturday that he would make the case to a skeptical Congress to authorize military intervention in Syria, following an example set late last week by UK Prime Minister David Cameron.

“I’m confident in the case our government has made without waiting for U.N. inspectors. I’m comfortable going forward without the approval of a United Nations Security Council that, so far, has been completely paralyzed and unwilling to hold Assad accountable,” said President Obama in the White House Rose Garden.

“As a consequence, many people have advised against taking this decision to Congress, and undoubtedly, they were impacted by what we saw happen in the United Kingdom this week when the Parliament of our closest ally failed to pass a resolution with a similar goal, even as the Prime Minister supported taking action,” he continued, referencing the failed vote that took place on Thursday in Parliament.

“Yet, while I believe I have the authority to carry out this military action without specific congressional authorization, I know that the country will be stronger if we take this course, and our actions will be even more effective,” he added. “We should have this debate, because the issues are too big for business as usual. And this morning, John Boehner, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell agreed that this is the right thing to do for our democracy.”

House members seek congressional authorization for Syria intervention

UPDATE: Rigell’s office now reports that 140 House members have signed the letter. An update copy of it can be found below. The story has been updated to reflect the current number of signatories.

Scores of members of the House of Representatives are urging President Barack Obama to seek congressional authorization for any military action that his administration plans to take in Syria.

The White House has said that President Obama will consult leaders in Congress about the planned air strikes against Bashar Assad’s regime, which is the administration’s response to the alleged use of chemical weapons against his own citizens. But that’s not enough for House members who note that a president is legally required to seek authorization from Congress before using force overseas.

“We strongly urge you to consult and receive authorization from Congress before ordering the use of U.S. military force in Syria. Your responsibility to do so is prescribed in the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution of 1973,” wrote Rep. Scott Rigell (R-VA), who has circulated the letter to his colleagues in the House, gathering 140 signatories from members of both parties.

Rigell noted that the Founders gave the executive branch the power to take action during emergencies, but he pointed out that Syria doesn’t represent a direct threat to the security of the United States.

The Decline of American Exceptionalism is Not Inevitable

In one of the most iconic and powerful political ads in America history, Americans were reminded that, under the leadership of Ronald Wilson Reagan, it was once again “Morning in America”. Having suffered through the decline of America’s economic, military, and political exceptionalism under the feckless Jimmy Carter, confidence in America’s future was being restored.

Under Reagan, the ad proclaimed, “Today, more men and women will go to work than at any time in our country’s history…nearly 2000 families will today buy new homes, more than at any time in four years…Under the leadership of President Reagan, our country is prouder and stronger and better. Why would we ever want to return to where we were just four short years ago?” It was a powerful message that resonated with the American people, and Reagan was re-elected in a landslide, taking 59% of the popular vote and 49 of the 50 states, losing only Minnesota (Mondale did not even get a majority in that state, winning 49.72% to 49.4%).

I was a boy of just eight years old when Reagan was first elected. Though I was too young to understand the intricacies and minutiae of the political debates, I remember sitting in front of our old Zenith black-and-white TV and being mesmerized by Reagan, whose cheerful demeanor and unquenchable optimism was inspiring after four years of Carter malaise, where we were told that we would have to accept a declining American economy and the spread of communism. Reagan made me proud to be an American, and I believed him when he said that America had a brighter future ahead, and that we did not have to settle for what America had become.

The Trouble with U.S. Middle East Non-policy

On Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal carried a fair and objective analysis of what’s happening in the Middle East, and the new strategy in Washington to — essentially — just kind of ignore it. Or, put in a kinder way, take a “wait and see attitude”:

In just a few years, the U.S. has executed a 180-degree strategic turn in the Mideast, from President George W. Bush’s muscular interventionism to President Barack Obama’s more backseat approach. That, according to some regional diplomats and experts, has disoriented Arab governments and Israel, who have become accustomed to extensive U.S. leadership in their region…

“I would challenge anyone today to tell us what our Mideast strategy is,” said retired Gen. James Mattis, the former top military commander in the Middle East. “The realist and interventionist schools of foreign-policy thought are not established on any strategic basis. The crises are blowing away an intellectual fog, revealing there is nothing there.”

There are certainly valid arguments advocating the wisdom of both sides of the debate — intervening in Syria, for example, may force the U.S. to work alongside al Qaeda, something no one is particularly keen to do. However, our continued distance appears to be one reason the region has destabilized the way it has, if for no other reason, because the optics suggest the U.S. no longer cares about being a stabilizing force.

WSJ: NSA programs cover 75% of Internet traffic, keeps some e-mail content

The National Security Agency’s Internet communications surveillance is so vast that it can reach nearly 75% of all online communications, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal.

President Barack Obama has gone to great lengths recently to downplay the NSA’s surveillance apparatus, telling Americans that the government isn’t spying on them and publicly discussing reforms that would protect privacy. But the Wall Street Journal’s report indicates that the snooping programs do in fact retain both email and phone communications between American citizens.

“The system has the capacity to reach roughly 75% of all U.S. Internet traffic in the hunt for foreign intelligence, including a wide array of communications by foreigners and Americans. In some cases, it retains the written content of emails sent between citizens within the U.S. and also filters domestic phone calls made with Internet technology, these people say,” noted the Wall Street Journal.

“The NSA’s filtering, carried out with telecom companies, is designed to look for communications that either originate or end abroad, or are entirely foreign but happen to be passing through the U.S.,” the paper added. “But officials say the system’s broad reach makes it more likely that purely domestic communications will be incidentally intercepted and collected in the hunt for foreign ones.”

Congress denied access to classified document prior to NSA vote

In May 2011, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) took the floor of the Senate to warn his colleagues that Americans would one day be outraged to learn that the U.S. Government was actively engaged in surveillance activities that most citizens would consider outright criminal.

With carefully measured words, to avoid being reprimanded, the Senator from Oregon took the time to bring up an even more serious problem, which also worried his colleague Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM): the Obama administration’s unwillingness to cooperate by allowing for an open debate on the specifics of the government’s classified interpretation of the Section 215 of the Patriot Act, the particular section that allegedly authorizes the NSA to collect records on nearly every single American citizen.

The Obama administration managed to avoid looking into the query and Sen. Wyden’s amendment, which would declassify the Administration’s legal interpretation of Section 215, failed. Congress finally voted to reauthorize the Patriot Act for four more years despite not having access to one single classified document concerning the number of Americans affected by the surveillance activities authorized under the Patriot Act.

Fast forward to August, 2013. During a recent speech, President Obama claimed his administration had already begun the process of opening the debate on the NSA’s surveillance activities long before Mr. Edward Snowden stepped into the picture.

Veterans Affairs Backlog May Foreshadow Obamacare Provision

Veterans Affairs

It would appear the US Department of Veteran’s Affairs’ answer to the backlog of VA disability claims is to burden high-performing offices with some of those unanswered claims to help offset the build up.

While the effort to do something — anything — should be applauded, this kind of shuffling off of responsibility to high performing offices like the one in Sioux Falls, South Dakota seems almost like a punishment for efficiency. And, while some legislators have been vocal about the travesty of delaying disability payments to those who defend us abroad, President Obama — if his recent speeches to service men and women are any indication — is more interested in getting buy-in from our military for his policy positions, rather than focusing on what needs to be done to spur the provision of their benefits.

Speaking to servicemen and women and veterans this past week, most recently at Camp Pendleton, the President spent most of his time trying to convince them that a failure to reverse sequester cuts was detrimental to veterans and the actively enlisted, and that this was the fault of Congress and, most especially, House Speaker John Boehner.

Meanwhile, those who have a vested interest in some of the fixes to address the disability claim backlog are asking some rather interesting questions:

 


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