Ukraine

Today in Liberty: House GOP slams Harry Reid’s dictatorial Senate rule, voters remain skeptical of military intervention

“Conservatives who want to seal the border because liberal elites have taken over are directing their wrath at the wrong people. The problem isn’t the immigrants, it’s the elites and their multiculturalist predilections who want to turn America into a loose federation of ethnic groups. Conservatives are right to complain about bilingual education advocacy, anti-American Chicano studies professors, Spanish-language ballots, ethnically gerrymandered voting districts, La Raza’s big government agenda, and so forth. But these problems weren’t created by the women changing the linen at your hotel, or the men building homes in your neighborhood.”Jason Riley

Sorry, McCain and Graham, Americans have become foreign policy skeptics

There are plenty of reasons to criticize President Barack Obama on foreign policy. He and his administration have made a number of missteps over the course of five-plus years, often coming across incoherent or badly prioritized.

President Obama, for all of his missteps, has largely put forward the same foreign policy as his predecessor, George W. Bush. He’s either intervened or tried to intervene in countries that present no threat to the United States. Even though the U.S. is (finally) withdrawing from Afghanistan, this administration has continued the war on terrorism through targeted drone strikes that violate the sovereignty of other countries.

But Hawkish Republicans have used these blunders to criticize his leadership on foreign affairs, frequently saying that he projects weakness and emboldens the United States’ enemies. There is some truth to that, but for different reasons.

Take Syria, for example. President Obama did project weakness in this situation, but only because he made a bold declaration by drawing a “red line” on the use of chemical weapons, which, if crossed, would bring a military response against Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

It provided a convenient opening for the GOP to criticize President Obama’s foreign policy, much like the situation in Ukraine and tension relations with Russia do today. But the hawkish rhetoric that many Republicans doesn’t represent the way most Americans view foreign policy.

Harry Reid has completely lost his mind

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) may be losing his mind as he desperately clings to his party’s majority in the chamber. The usual partisan bickering is to be expected, but this isn’t the norm, even for an election year.

First, Reid took aim at Charles and David Koch on the Senate floor last month, part of a targeted strategy to take Americans attention off of the still-stale economy and Obamacare. He called them “evil” and “un-American,” claiming that “Republicans are addicted to Koch.”

Americans have responded with a yawn. A George Washington University Battleground Poll found that 52% of Americans have never heard of the Koch brothers, while just 25% have heard of them. Oh, and the details aren’t likely to bring a smile to Reid’s face.

“One in four respondents, 25%, had a strong or somewhat negative view of the brothers, while 13% had a strong or somewhat favorable view,” USA Today reported. “The GW poll also tested Reid’s favorability: 24% have a strong or somewhat favorable view; 35% have a strong or somewhat unfavorable view, and 25% say they have never heard of the Nevada Democrat.”

Today in Liberty: FEC wants answers from Harry Reid, pollster warns Democrats on Obamacare

Today in Liberty is a daily roundup of recent political news and other interesting stories presented with liberty-minded commentary. We frequently keep tabs on liberty-minded politicians and candidates in these updates. We also inject some humor on occasion. Click here to receive Today in Liberty every morning via email.

— Harry Reid’s campaign expenditures come into question: So…the FEC wants details about $16,786 in “holiday gifts” purchased for donors and supporters of Friends of Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader’s campaign name. “The gifts,” Jon Ralston reports, “were purchased from his granddaughter, Ryan Elisabeth Reid, who is a jewelry vendor in Berkeley, CA. The gifts were later passed on to donors and supporters, a Reid spokeswoman told me.” Reid’s campaign tried to hide the disbursement by listing his granddaughter’s name as “Ryan Elisabeth” rather than disclosing her full name. The FEC has given Friends of Harry Reid until April 25 to respond to its inquiry.

Cruz, Paul lead charge to block Ukraine aid package over IMF expansion

International Monetary Fund

Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rand Paul (R-KY) have gotten the band back together after a brief squabble over foreign policy, and they’ve been joined by Sens. Mike Enzi (R-WY), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Pat Roberts (R-KS).

The five Republican senators have informed Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) that they plan to object to the Ukrainian aide measure unless he allows a vote to strip language that would expand both the amount of money the International Monetary Fund can loan and the United States’ contribution to the fund.

“We are deeply concerned that the Ukraine aid legislation reported by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee contains ‘reform’ provisions that would unnecessarily double the United States contribution to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), part of the largest proportional increase ever, yet ultimately undermine our influence in that body in a manner that provides no actual relief to Ukraine,” the five Senate Republicans wrote in a letter to Reid.

The letter was dated on March 13, but was not released to the public until March 21.

“As we understand it, this reform would double the funds the IMF can loan, involving a doubling of the United States’ contribution from its current level of $63 billion, while simultaneously reducing U.S. influence over how these funds are directed—and increasing that of Russia,” the letter continues. “Regardless of the magnitude of this change, this idea is antithetical to the driving purpose of the underlying legislation.”

American taxpayers funding Russian companies, conservative group says

Ex-Im Bank

The Club for Growth has waded into foreign policy, an unusual area for an organization that exclusively emphasizes free market policies, by urging on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to join its call for an end to taxpayer-subsidized loans to Russian companies, amid escalating tensions between the United States and Russia.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Club for Growth pointed to a January 2013 story from Reuters on discussions between the Export-Import Bank and Gennady Timchenko, a Russian billionaire, for “U.S. government-backed funding to buy luxury aircraft.” Timchenko was described as “a long-time associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin.”

Another story highlighted in the statement was an August 2000 report from the Center for Public Integrity which noted that the Export-Import Bank had “guaranteed $489 million in credits to a Russian oil company whose roots are imbedded in a legacy of KGB and Communist Party corruption, as well as drug trafficking and organized crime funds

“We don’t think that the Export-Import Bank should exist at all, let alone even consider giving loans and loan guarantees to Russian oligarchs and companies with ties to the Russian mob,” said Club for Growth President Chris Chocola.

Crimea crisis not worth taking foreign policy risks

The increasingly rocky, tense relations between the United States and Russia have provided an opening for Republicans to criticize President Barack Obama’s foreign policy strategy, or lack thereof.

There are many entirely valid criticisms of President Obama on foreign policy. Yes, he looked weak in the eyes of the international community when threatened military intervention — the so-called “red line” — against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad if his regime used chemical weapons against his own citizens in a bloody civil war.

After it was revealed that chemical weapons were used, the source of which remains unclear, President Obama was pressured to seek a vote in Congress to authorize the use of military force rather than unilaterally launch military strikes, much like his administration did in Libya. Despite support from congressional leaders of both parties, the administration found a skeptical Congress and a war-weary public, and backed down.

Hawkish Republicans say that this is an example of President Obama projecting weakness to the international community, which only emboldens the United States’ foes in the world. They’re right, but only to a point.

Rand Paul talks CPAC straw poll win, young people on Fox News Sunday

Rand Paul on Fox News Sunday

Fresh off a successful weekend at Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) joined Fox News Sunday to talk about his straw poll victory and young voters’ disenfranchisement with President Barack Obama.

“[T]he one thing about CPAC it’s just chock full of young people,” Paul told host Chris Wallace. “There are young people everywhere, and I think young people, their lives sort of rotate, and, you know, disseminate.”

“Everything goes out through their cell phone and they are very aware of their privacy,” he continued, “and they don’t think when the government tells them that the Fourth Amendment doesn’t protect your cell phone, doesn’t protect your records, they don’t accept that, so I think not only conservative young people from colleges and high school, I think young people across the country are fed up with the government that says, ‘Hey, the Fourth Amendment doesn’t apply to your records, doesn’t apply to your cell phone.’”

Defense Cuts in the Time of Crimea

The situation in Ukraine has come at a very inconvenient time for the Obama administration given their desire, announced at the end of February, to “shrink [the] Army to pre-WWII level.” The optics, as they say, are bad.

According to the paper of record at the time of the announcement:

The cuts proposed by Mr. Hagel fit the Bipartisan Budget Act reached by Mr. Obama and Congress in December to impose a military spending cap of about $496 billion for fiscal year 2015. If steeper spending reductions kick in again in 2016 under the sequestration law, however, then even more significant cuts would be required in later years.

The budget is the first sweeping initiative that bears Mr. Hagel’s full imprint. Although Mr. Hagel has been in office one year, most of his efforts in that time have focused on initiatives and problems that he inherited. In many ways his budget provides an opportunity for him to begin anew.

So, okay, that’s good. This administration isn’t known for paying attention to things like budgets. Nice to see them decide to meet one of the parameters of a bipartisan effort to get things under control. And, truthfully, as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) pointed out last year in pushing back against the National Defense Authorization Act, defense spending could use some oversight and tightening up:

Today in Liberty: Lois Lerner to appear before committee, Alan Grayson accused of domestic battery

“In government, the scum rises to the top.” — F.A. Hayek

— Disgraced IRS official to appear before Oversight committee: Lois Lerner, the ex-IRS official at the center of the agency’s targeting of conservative groups, will appear before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee this morning at 9:30. Though Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) said Lerner would testify, her lawyer has denied that claim. You can livestream the hearing here. Should be fun.


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