The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

Nobody Ever Wants to Admit Baghdad Is Under Attack


Ouch, courtesy Campaign Spot reader Jeff:

Obama’s statement at the White House today was reasonably realistic . . . except he did point out that events were moving quickly . . . and that he and his advisers would take several days to consider their options.

A good option on Friday evening may be moot by Monday morning.

Tags: Iraq , Barack Obama

Big Questions on Iraq that Americans Have to Resolve Quickly


Happy Friday the 13th . . . An appropriately ominous Morning Jolt closes out the week . . . 

Some Big Questions to Consider on Iraq

First the obvious: Is ISIS bad for our interests? Does anyone want to dispute this?

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria has thrived and mutated during the ongoing civil war in Syria and in the security vacuum that followed the departure of the last American forces from Iraq.

The aim of ISIS is to create an Islamic state across Sunni areas of Iraq and in Syria . . . 

It wants to establish an Islamic caliphate, or state, stretching across the region.

ISIS has begun imposing Sharia law in the towns it controls. Boys and girls must be separated at school; women must wear the niqab or full veil in public. Sharia courts often dispense brutal justice, music is banned and the fast is enforced during Ramadan.

Sharia law covers both religious and non-religious aspects of life.

Some may point to their dispute with al-Qaeda . . . ​

The stories, the videos, the acts of unfathomable brutality have become a defining aspect of ISIS, which controls a nation-size tract of land and has now pushed Iraq to the precipice of dissolution. Its adherents kill with such abandon that even the leader of al-Qaeda has disavowed them. “Clearly, [leader Ayman] al-Zawahiri believes that ISIS is a liability to the al-Qaeda brand,” Aaron Zelin, who analyzes jihadist movements for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told The Washington Post’s Liz Sly earlier this year. . . . 

But a dispute with al-Qaeda does not indicate they’re any less dangerous or ruthless:

But in terms of impact, the acts of terror have been wildly successful. From beheadings to summary executions to amputations to crucifixions, the terrorist group has become the most feared organization in the Middle East. That fear, evidenced in fleeing Iraqi soldiers and 500,000 Mosul residents, has played a vital role in the group’s march toward Baghdad. In many cases, police and soldiers literally ran, shedding their uniforms as they went, abandoning large caches of weapons.

Two: Is the preservation of the existing government in Iraq in the U.S. interests?

It’s understandable if Americans feel no particular affection for Nouri al-Maliki . . . ​

The stunning gains this week by Iraq’s Sunni insurgents carry a crucial political message: Nouri al-Maliki, the Shiite prime minister of Iraq, is a polarizing sectarian politician who has lost the confidence of his army and nation. He cannot put a splintered Iraq together again, no matter how many weapons the Obama administration sends him.

Maliki’s failure has been increasingly obvious since the elections of 2010, when the Iraqi people in their wisdom elected a broader, less-sectarian coalition. But the Obama administration, bizarrely working in tandem with Iran, brokered a deal that allowed Maliki to continue and has worked with him as an ally against al-Qaeda. Maliki’s coalition triumphed in April’s elections, but the balloting was boycotted by Sunnis.

. . . and it’s understandable if Americans see this as similar to Syria — an Iranian-backed leader stuck in a bloody fight with Islamist extremists:

In the worst case, if Mr. Maliki were driven from power, the shrines were threatened and radical Sunni insurgents were killing Shiite civilians, Iran would more than likely be compelled to intervene, say experts close to Iran’s leadership.

“They are our ally and we will help them,” said Hamid Taraghi, a political analyst who is close to the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. But exactly how Iran would do so is unclear.

But we do have interests in keeping the country stable

Iraq is a major oil-producing country that shares borders with Iran and Syria. The United States has a large embassy in Iraq, and the country has attracted sizable foreign investment. “We’re committed to this country,” [James Jeffrey, a former U.S. ambassador to Iraq], said. “Its stability is important.” Growing chaos in Iraq would lead to a spike in oil prices and would likely spread instability throughout the region.

Three: Can we make a difference? Obviously Maliki thinks we can, otherwise he wouldn’t be asking for the air strikes, and Obama wouldn’t be considering them.

While initial reports indicated that the Iraqi army turned and ran, there are some men in Iraq willing to stand and fight against ISIS:

Volunteers flocked to protect the Iraqi capital on Friday as militants inspired by al-Qaeda seized more territory overnight, continuing a rampage that is threatening to tear the country apart.

Iraqi officials said tens of thousands of volunteers had answered a call to join the ranks of the crumbling security forces and repel advances by heavily armed fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) as the group seized the towns of Saadiyah and Jalawla north of the capital.

Iraqi state television showed the new unpaid volunteers scrambling to get on packed army trucks at recruitment centers after a call from the Shiite-led government. The mobilization of the irregular forces, as well as Iraq’s notorious Shiite militias, to battle the radical Sunni Muslim insurgents threatened to plunge Iraq into large-scale sectarian bloodletting. The volunteers also appeared to be mostly Shiites.

For what it’s worth, some like Leslie Gelb argue we need to ensure our help is minimal:

And before the U.S. government starts to do the next dumb thing again, namely provide fighter aircraft and drone attacks and heaven knows what else, it should stop and think for a change. If America comes to the rescue of this Iraqi government, then this Iraqi government, like so many of the others we’ve fought and died for, will do nothing. It will simply assume that we’ll take over, that we’ll do the job. And when things go wrong, and they certainly will, this cherished government that we’re helping will blame only America. Don’t think for a moment it will be otherwise. Don’t think for a moment that the generals and hawks who want to dispatch American fighters and drones to the rescue know any better today than they’ve known for 50 years.

Sure, I’m in favor of helping governments against these militant, crazy and dangerous jihadis. But first and foremost and lastly, it’s got to be their fight, not ours. As soon as the burden falls on the United States, our “best friends” do little or nothing and we lose. If they start fighting hard, and we’ll know it when we see it, there will be no mistaking it. Then the military and other aid we provide will mean something.

That’s persuasive in the abstract, but what if the Iraqi government is just short of being capable of pushing back ISIS? Is it worth withholding our assistance to make the point that they need to be independent? How much can fear of future scapegoating limit our options in the here and now? If we really are going to adopt a philosophy of “we could help you, but we suspect you’ll grow dependent upon us and blame us for problems down the road,” could we please apply that to domestic spending programs as well?

Four: What is the risk to our forces? We already have drones over Iraq.

The U.S. since last year has been secretly flying unmanned surveillance aircraft in small numbers over Iraq to collect intelligence on insurgents, according to U.S. officials.

The program was limited in size and proved little use to U.S. and Iraqi officials when Islamist fighters moved swiftly this week to seize two major Iraqi cities, the officials said.

Before the Islamist offensive, the program was expanded based on growing U.S. and Iraqi concerns about the expanded military activities of al Qaeda-linked fighters.

Officials wouldn’t say what types of drones were being used but said the flights were conducted only for surveillance purposes. The program was launched with the consent of the Iraqi government.

A senior U.S. official said the intelligence collected under the small program was shared with Iraqi forces, but added: “It’s not like it did any good.”

Obviously, manned flights would include more risk to pilots than unmanned drones. Downed helicopters are more common that fixed-wing aircraft getting shot down, but sometimes the enemy is lucky, and sometimes accidents happen.

We already have Americans in harm’s way:

U.S. contractors began evacuating the air base in Balad, 50 miles north of Baghdad, that is being prepared for the arrival this year of F-16 aircraft purchased by Iraq. The international engineering and electronics company Siemens was trying to move 51 people out of Baiji, about 30 miles farther north, where they are upgrading Iraqi power plants . . . 

About 10,000 American officials and contractors are in Iraq.

Tags: Barack Obama , Iraq


The Coming ‘There’s Nothing We Could Have Done’ Excuses


Sometimes you can see the administration-defending Washington conventional wisdom forming before your very eyes: “The Iraqi government was always weak and destined to collapse sooner or later. There’s nothing the Obama administration could have done.”

Even if, say, they asked for assistance a month ago and we turned them down.

As the threat from Sunni militants in western Iraq escalated last month, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki secretly asked the Obama administration to consider carrying out airstrikes against extremist staging areas, according to Iraqi and American officials.

But Iraq’s appeals for a military response have so far been rebuffed by the White House, which has been reluctant to open a new chapter in a conflict that President Obama has insisted was over when the United States withdrew the last of its forces from Iraq in 2011.

We’ve seen a lot of this “There’s nothing the Obama administration could have done!” thinking recently, and we’ll probably see a lot more of it in the coming years:

Tags: Iraq , Afghanistan , Barack Obama

Another Foreign-Policy Crisis Catches the Obama Team by Surprise


Big, busy Morning Jolt today:

Oh, Hey, No Big Deal, Iraq’s Just Being Taken Over by Terrorists, That’s All

Most Americans never want to hear the word “Iraq” again, and our president is happy to oblige, no matter how bad it gets.

And it’s getting pretty damn bad, as Eli Lake points out:

Two and a half years after the last U.S. soldier departed, an al Qaeda offshoot is in control of Mosul and headed for Baghdad — and Iraq’s prime minister is requesting U.S. air strikes.

It seems like only yesterday that Iraq’s prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, was celebrating as the last American soldiers left Iraq. Now, with an al Qaeda offshoot threatening to take Baghdad, Maliki’s government is quietly asking at least some troops — specifically airmen and drone pilots — to return.

These guys — too vicious for al-Qaeda! — are taking over city after city. And the forces we trained to keep order . . . apparently just aren’t up to the task:

Soldiers in Mosul threw down their guns and stripped off their uniforms as Sunni insurgents approached and raised their black flags on Tuesday, allowing the city to fall after just four days of fighting. Terrified residents were streaming out of the city.

The fall of Iraq’s second largest city to Islamist extremists Tuesday sends an alarming message about the deterioration of a country where the U.S. spent eight years, 4,500 lives and $1.7 trillion. Mosul, a city of 1.8 million located in the far north of the country, long cultivated a reputation as a military town. But Iraqi soldiers threw down their guns and stripped off their uniforms as the insurgents approached on Tuesday, according to officials stunned by the collapse of its defenses.

I know this will shock you, but it appears the Obama administration was caught flat-footed by quickly developing events:

The quickly unfolding drama prompted a White House meeting Wednesday of top policy makers and military leaders who were caught off guard by the swift collapse of Iraqi security forces, officials acknowledged . . . 

Some military officials now believe ISIS is the single greatest terrorist threat the U.S. and its allies face — stronger than the al Qaeda affiliates in Yemen or Africa and far more powerful than al Qaeda’s central leadership in Pakistan. Other senior U.S. officials say ISIS has yet to carry out any attacks directly targeting the U.S.

“It makes you want to kill yourself,” a senior U.S. official said of the intelligence on ISIS, which was presented by U.S. and Gulf allies during the May meeting in Jeddah.

The Obama administration, unable to operate openly in Iraq since the U.S. withdrawal and unwilling to intervene in Syria for fear of getting pulled into another conflict, has left itself few options to directly confront the growing threat, according to senior U.S. defense and intelligence officials.

Watch for movement on this front in the next 24 to 48 hours:

The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad is preparing contingency plans to evacuate its employees if necessary now that one of the deadliest Islamic militant groups in the region has taken control of large swaths of Iraq, a U.S. official told TheBlaze.

The State Department also warned U.S. citizens against traveling to Iraq, following several days of bloody clashes between insurgents with the Al Qaeda-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and Iraqi military forces. ISIL has taken control of Mosul, Tikrit and Fallujah and aims to create an Islamic state across the Iraq-Syria border.

Coming to Baghdad soon?

Tags: Iraq , Barack Obama

A Bad Trend for Charlie Crist in Florida


A Florida polling result some might find surprising:

PPP’s newest Florida poll shows that the race is a toss up. Despite having an approval rating of only 39 percent with 48 percent disapproval, incumbent Governor Rick Scott is tied with possible Democratic candidate and former Republican governor Charlie Crist at 42 percent apiece. Helping Scott is the fact that Crist is also underwater with a 32 percent favorable rating and 48 percent unfavorable.

In the RealClearPolitics polling average, Crist leads by 2 percentage points, his smallest lead of the year.

Tags: Charlie Crist , Rick Scott


The Steep Drop in Cantor’s Primary Vote Total from 2012


Here’s a piece of evidence arguing against the “Democratic crossover votes helped Dave Brat beat Eric Cantor” theory.

With 100 percent of precincts reporting, House majority leader Cantor received 28,898 votes in the GOP primary, to Brat’s 36,110.

In June 2012, against a similarly little-known and underfunded challenger, Cantor won 37,369 votes to Floyd Bayne’s 9,668.

In other words, Cantor lost 8,471 votes from his total in the last primary. It’s not just that new voters out of the woodwork to vote for Brat; it’s that some of his past supporters either didn’t show up or voted for Brat this cycle.

Note that in 2012 there was a contested, if not quite competitive, GOP Senate primary, where George Allen beat Jamie Radtke. In the 7th congressional district that year, 77,169 votes were cast in the Senate primary, and only 47,037 votes cast in the House primary. So quite a few voters — self-identifying as Republicans, at least for that primary day — cast ballots in the Senate primary and didn’t bother to vote in the House primary.

(That 2012 GOP primary was for congressional offices, not the presidential race. Virginia held its presidential primary in March, and only Mitt Romney and Ron Paul qualified for the ballot.)

UPDATE: More useful evidence: “Michael McDonald of the United States Elections Project found similar results analyzing precinct-level data Tuesday night, reporting GOP primary turnout was lowest in the most Democratic-leaning areas of the state.”

Did some Democrats vote in the GOP primary for Brat? Sure, some local Democrats, such as “Cooter” from The Dukes of Hazzard — also known as former congressman Ben Jones — encouraged this, and probably helped Brat achieve his eye-popping 11-percentage-point margin. But Cantor and his allies and supporters are simply fooling themselves if they attribute his defeat to crossover voters.

Tags: Eric Cantor , Dave Brat

Take a Victory Lap, Mickey Kaus, Mark Levin and Laura Ingraham!


From the Wednesday Morning Jolt:

Mega-Earthquake: Eric Cantor Loses GOP Primary to Dave Brat

Kirsten Anderson: “For my non-political but still nerdy friends, the primary election in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District tonight is kind of like the ‘Red Wedding’ Game of Thrones episode for politics.”

This is why we hold elections. Sometimes, a broad bipartisan consensus emerges that represents the views of the business community, activists, lobbyists, the media . . . everybody except the folks who actually vote.

A significant portion of Republican voters loathe anything that smells like amnesty with the passion of a thousand blazing suns going supernova. Immigration reform is not going to get through the House before midterms — good news for GOP unity heading into November — and there will never be significant GOP support for any Obama-backed immigration reform bill.

The bad news is, Obama’s going to enact as much as he can, as close to a broad amnesty plan as possible, through executive orders.

Take a victory lap, Mickey Kaus, Mark Levin, Laura Ingraham.

Lauren Luxenberg puts it in perspective: “Eric Cantor won his last GOP primary with 79 percent of the vote.”

Cantor and his allies can’t blame low turnout for this one. My old colleague Derek Willis noted that the 2012 primary turnout was surpassed with only 71 percent of the precincts reporting. “People who ran David Brat’s turnout operation are gonna be getting some phone calls, methinks.”

Dave Levinthal: “Eric Cantor raised $5.4 million this election cycle. Dave Brat just north of $200,000. Money usually matters. This isn’t one of those times.”

Brit Hume, speaking on Fox News last night:

This is bad news, long term for Republicans, because it is argued by some that immigration reform will never pass, because the Republicans feel chastened by the Cantor loss. Republicans will go into 2016 without having their names attached to immigration reform. I’m not sure I buy that, but that is what you’ll be hearing in this town. Conventional wisdom forms quickly.

For what it is worth, some locals strongly disagree with that interpretation; A Morning Jolt reader in Cantor’s district writes in:

I think everyone on FOX and the other channels who are seeing something bigger than local politics here are missing the boat entirely. Brat ran a very Obama-like campaign, using the local Tea Party to get out the vote among low information voters (“Cantor agrees with Obama on amnesty” was Brat’s message). I don’t think there is any “big” message tonight, other than all politics is local.

But make no mistake, this is a terrible night for VA-7 — we just voted out a man with a 95 percent ACU lifetime rating, and replaced him with a man I am pretty sure is not a “life-long conservative” and soon probably we will see someone more liberal than Eric replace him as Republican leader.

On one of my mailing lists, somebody quipped, “Every single Cantor operative on that race should consider selling popsicles and burgers — incredible act of not knowing the district.”

But as another campaign veteran pointed out, Cantor’s pollster, McLaughlin & Associates, ought to be cut a smidgen of slack for degree of difficulty: Polling House districts is hard, polling House district primaries is even harder, and polling a U.S. House district primary without a baseline for turnout in a competitive primary in recent cycles is particularly difficult.

Phil Klein: “ ‘Tea Party is dead’ narrative now as dead as immigration reform.”

James Pethokoukis: “Losing Eric Cantor means GOP loses someone with a deep and thoughtful understanding of the economic challenges facing modern USA.”

Kevin Madden: “Every election is a job interview for candidates. Never show up late to a job interview.”

Democrats will get excited about knocking off Brat in the general election race, but note this is an R+10 district.

Tags: Eric Cantor , Dave Brat

Hillary Interrupts Book Tour for Speaking Gig at Produce Convention


Today’s schedule for Hillary Clinton:

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will be the keynote speaker June 10 at a joint general session of the United Fresh Produce Association and Food Marketing Institute in Chicago.

The keynote session is scheduled for 3:30 to 5 p.m. in the Arie Crown Theater at McCormick Place.

Bill Clinton is giving a paid speech today as well:

Former president Bill Clinton is scheduled to speak Tuesday in Indianapolis at the annual conference of the Insurance Accounting and Systems Association.

Hillary Clinton is reportedly paid $200,000 per speech. Bill Clinton averaged $189,000 per speech from 2001 to 2012.

Those mortgages on those houses don’t pay themselves!

Day job interrupting your book tour? Tell me about it, Madame Secretary.

Tags: Hillary Clinton , Bill Clinton

Brookings Survey: The Most Trusted Name in Television News Is . . . Fox News!


Media analysts frequently describe Fox News Channel and MSNBC as mirror images of each other, one a conservative news channel and the other a liberal one. A Pew study contended the comparison wasn’t quite accurate, as commentary and opinion made up 85 percent of the programming on MSNBC, and only 55 percent on Fox News.

This new report on views on immigration from Brookings and the Public Religion Research Institute includes some fascinating figures on trust in particular media institutions:

MSNBC is “trusted to provide accurate information about politics and current events” by only 5 percent of respondents, while 25 percent feel the same about Fox News. CNN is in the middle at 17 percent. Obviously, Republicans and conservatives trust Fox News the most, and Democrats and liberals trust it the least. But what’s kind of fascinating is that only 10 percent of Democrats and only 10 percent of self-identified liberals trust MSNBC.

Self-described independents trust Fox News more than any other network, but self-described moderates trust it less than broadcast news, CNN, and public television.

Tags: Media , Fox News , MSNBC , CNN

Why Hillary’s ‘Dead Broke’ Comment Matters


From the Tuesday edition of the Morning Jolt:

Why Hillary’s ‘Dead Broke’ Comment Matters

Hillary’s “Dead Broke” comment is the 2016 presidential cycle’s early version of her “Tuzla Dash,” – when she claimed that during a visit to Bosnia as First Lady, “I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base.” Of course, there is no record indicating any danger to her.

Hillary Clinton misremembers events so they fit into her own personal heroic narrative, not as they actually were. Lots of people do this, particularly politicians, but this is a dangerous habit for a leader to have. If they cannot assess and interpret past events clearly, how much faith can we have in their ability to assess and interpret what’s in front of them now? Or in the future?

In case you missed it . . . 

Hillary Clinton said she and husband, Bill, were “dead broke” when they left the White House in 2001 with a meager income of $416,039 and $11 million in debt, as she defended her $200,000 speaking fee to ABC’s Diane Sawyer.

Clinton insists the speaking fees were necessary for the family of three to make ends meet, managing two mortgages and the steep bills for daughter Chelsea’s private school education.

“We struggled to, you know, piece together the resources for mortgages, for houses, for Chelsea’s education. You know, it was not easy,” Clinton told ABC’s Diane Sawyer, in an interview to air Monday.

Remember when I chuckled about a New Yorker writer referring to her as “Lunch-Pail Hillary,” suggesting she will run a populist campaign that is “critical of the Wall Street types”? Apparently she really intends to do this.

A woman with a net worth of $200 million, who gives speeches to Goldman Sachs for $200,000 each, is perhaps the single least plausible populist of all time. She may attempt to pose as this reform-minded outsider who will shake up “The System,” when she is perhaps the personification of “The System.” You can count on one hand the number of people who have had more influence over public policy than her since January 1993.

But she’s going to try it, because she is apparently incapable of perceiving herself as she is. Because massive wealth is seen as suspicious or inherently corrupting in today’s political culture, particularly in Democratic circles, she has to pretend she’s middle class, that her personal finance worries are just like those of Americans making mid five figures or less.

The “he’s unbelievably rich and out of touch” attack clearly did damage to Romney in 2012. Hillary Clinton has to hope lots of people don’t react the way Jimmie Bise Jr. did: “I know of dozens of ridiculously-talented, hard-working people who’ll never set foot in a mansion. But Hillary Clinton buys two and weeps.”

Our Charlie Cooke:

Leaving aside for a brief moment how utterly farcical it is to use “struggle” and “houses” in the same sentence, the notion that the Clintons were presented in their post-presidency with anything other than a license to print money is unyielding in its abject hilarity. By 2001, Bill Clinton had made $200,000 per annum for eight years while paying nothing toward his housing or upkeep, and, in addition to the extraordinarily lucrative speaking gigs that American ex-presidents are now to expect, he had a lifetime of pensions and benefits to look forward to. (David Graham points out that, in the last 14 years, he has received nearly $16 million from the government.) By the end of the year in which he left office, the couple had made $16 million and enjoyed between $5 and $30 million in assets. By 2004, they had $50 million to their names. And by 2014, Clinton had become the highest-earning former president in America’s history, with net assets of nearly $200 million. Being smart sorts, the couple knew full well that this was coming, which is why in 1999, with their apparently destructive legal bills still racking up, they bought a $6 million house in Chappaqua, N.Y., so that Hillary could legally run for the Senate. One suspects that if the Clintons had been genuinely worried that their legal fights might bankrupt them, they would not have done this, nor would friend Terry McAuliffe have agreed to loan them $1.3 million toward its purchase.

Tags: Hillary Clinton

Sometimes, an Independent Bid Just Doesn’t Matter.


Back in December, I grumbled about former GOP lawmaker Larry Pressler launching a third-party bid in South Dakota’s Senate race.

Maybe I worried too much. A May poll by SurveyUSA found Mike Rounds up by 14, and Rasmussen this morning puts Rounds up by 15.

Tags: Larry Pressler , MIke Rounds

Hillary Clinton: ‘Rich People . . . Do Not Contribute to the Growth of Their Own Countries.’


Hillary Clinton, speaking to an audience at the Clinton Global Initiative in September 2012: “There are rich people everywhere, and yet they do not contribute to the growth of their own countries.”

Over in the Corner, Andrew Johnson notes that Hillary Clinton continues to speak as if the term “rich” doesn’t apply to her:

Hillary Clinton and her husband have made millions on the speaking circuit since leaving the White House in 2000, but she explained to Diane Sawyer that they did it only to “pay off the debts and get us houses and take care of family members.” The former secretary of state also lamented the burden high taxes put on the family’s effort to pay off the debts.

“We came out of the White House not only dead broke, but in debt,” she said in an interview set to air on ABC World News on Monday night. “We had no money when we got there, and we struggled to piece together the resources for mortgages for houses, for Chelsea’s education — it was not easy.”

Clinton praised her husband, who has “worked really hard” to pay down the debts by making speeches, and noted that the former first couple had to make “double the money because of, obviously, taxes.”

We examined Hillary’s housing in Part Five of “The Better Homes and Gardens of Populist Democrats” series.

Bill and Hillary Clinton have an estimated net worth of $200 million.

In Washington, D.C., the Clintons own a five-bedroom, brick colonial-style house near Embassy Row that the District of Columbia assessed at more than $5 million.

In Chappaqua, N.Y., the Clintons own a Dutch Colonial that the Town of New Castle assessed at $1.7 million; Zillow estimates the property could sell for $9 million.

Tags: Hillary Clinton

Hillary’s Publisher: This Is ‘The Most Admired Woman in the World’


Jonathan Karp, the president of Hillary Clinton’s publisher, Simon & Schuster, just sent along this promotional e-mail:

Dear Jim,

I thought you might want to know that Hillary Rodham Clinton writes about you in her new book, Hard Choices. She begins this deeply personal and fascinating memoir by describing the end of the 2008 campaign and her gratitude to all the friends and supporters who put 18 million cracks in the “highest, hardest glass ceiling.”

As Secretary Clinton’s publisher, I’m hoping you’ll immediately want to buy a copy of this extraordinary book. Hard Choices is the best account I’ve read of what it’s like to be in the room with the leaders who are confronting some of the most challenging and interesting issues of our time…

I also hope you will forward this letter to your friends and family to let them know of this book’s publication. Even though Hard Choices will be front page news, the best way to appreciate Hillary Clinton’s story is to read it in her own words, unfiltered.

I wanted to convey the magnitude of publishing Hillary Clinton to my nine year-old daughter, so I sat her down at the computer with me, went to Google, and typed in the phrase, “Most Admired Woman in the World.” You can imagine whose name was the first to appear on the screen, again and again and again.

One day, soon, my daughter will be reading Hard Choices and finding great inspiration in Hillary Clinton’s work. I hope this remarkable book will have a similar impact on you and your loved ones.


Jonathan Karp
President and Publisher of Simon & Schuster

Tags: Hillary Clinton

Why This Week May Not Be So Bad for Lindsey Graham and Eric Cantor


A busy morning with a busy Morning Jolt. I’m scheduled to appear on The Daily Rundown with Chuck Todd on MSNBC today, discussing the book, and chat with WLS-AM in Chicago at about 8:15 or so. Today’s Jolt includes warnings about how amnesty/”comprehensive immigration reform” could derail the GOP’s midterm hopes, Leon Panetta’s thoughts on the Bergdahl deal, what it’s like to appear on Real Time with Bill Maher, and then this look ahead to Tuesday . . . 

Looking Ahead to Tuesday’s Primaries

Tomorrow is primary day in Maine, Nevada, North Dakota, South Carolina, and Virginia.

In South Carolina, incumbent Sen. Lindsey Graham faces his primary challengers — Nancy Mace, Lee Bright, and Richard Cash among them. Graham needs 50 percent to avoid a runoff, and a recent Clemson poll put him at 49 percent. Bright is the leading challenger . . . at 9 percent.

Turnout is expected to be low.

So it’s likely that Tuesday night, Graham either avoids a primary or enters a runoff with a gargantuan lead over his runoff opponent. The anti-Graham Republicans have pledged to unite behind any challenger in a runoff, but . . . we’ve seen conservative factions fail to unite before.

In a sign that South Carolina Democrats aren’t paying attention, that same poll found 74 percent of Democrats were undecided between their primary candidates, state senator Brad Hutto and Columbia’s Jay Stamper.

Virginia Republicans won’t be picking their Senate nominee with a primary; Ed Gillespie won the nomination, as expected, this weekend at the GOP party convention. As much as I’m a fan of Ed, and his victory was never really in doubt, I think Virginia Republicans would be wise to shift to primaries, allowing more Republicans to be involved in selecting the party’s nominee.

Still, I have to give Virginia Republicans credit on other fronts; BiasedGirl called my attention to this maneuvering:

Republicans appear to have outmaneuvered Gov. Terry McAuliffe in a state budget standoff by persuading a Democratic senator to resign his seat, at least temporarily giving the GOP control of the chamber and possibly dooming the governor’s push to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

Sen. Phillip P. Puckett (D-Russell) will announce his resignation Monday, effective immediately, paving the way to appoint his daughter to a judgeship and Puckett to the job of deputy director of the state tobacco commission, three people familiar with the plan said Sunday. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.

The news prompted outrage among Democrats — and accusations that Republicans were trying to buy the Senate with job offers in order to thwart McAuliffe’s proposal to expand health coverage to 400,000 low-income Virginians.

In Virginia’s seventh congressional district, GOP challenger Dave Brat has run heavily on the immigration issue against incumbent and House majority leader Eric Cantor. The Daily Caller commissioned a poll and found Cantor up, 52 percent to 38 percent. (The Caller characterized this as Cantor “struggling.”) If Brat finishes in that neighborhood, he can claim credit for a solid performance against a long-time, well-funded incumbent, but chances are Cantor will be celebrating a win Tuesday night.

One other hitch:

Former congressman Ben Jones (D-Ga.), better known as “Cooter” from Dukes of Hazzard, has a plan to knock Eric Cantor out of the House. He’s urging his fellow Democrats to cross over and vote for a tea party-backed candidate in Virginia’s primary election.

Cooter, who ran against Cantor in 2002, has penned an open letter calling upon Democrats in his former Virginia district to vote in the open primary next Tuesday for tea party opponent Dave Brat in order to defeat U.S. House Majority Leader Cantor.

In Virginia’s eighth congressional district, Democrats complete their scrum in the race to replace Jim Moran. Micah Edmond is the GOP candidate.

Tags: Lindsey Graham , Eric Cantor

The Administration’s Cavalcade of Lies on the Bergdahl Deal Continues


Today I’m off to Los Angeles to appear on this evening’s edition of Real Time with Bill Maher. My co-panelists will be Nicole Wallace, formerly of the McCain-Palin campaign, and some guy you may have heard of by the name of Anthony Weiner. Yes, that Anthony Weiner. You can watch tonight — 7 p.m. Pacific, 10 p.m. Eastern — and I’ll let you know how it went Monday.

A portion of today’s Morning Jolt:

The Administration’s Cavalcade of Lies on the Bergdahl Deal Continues

Oh, I guess we can relax now.

The five senior Taliban leaders released to Qatar after years of detention at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are subject to strict bans on militant incitement or fundraising that might pose a danger to the United States, according to people familiar with the negotiations that freed American prisoner of war Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

How is this enforced? If these guys begin fundraising or incitement, do the Qataris send them back to us? What about beyond the first year?

Thursday’s big spin:

The Obama administration told senators it didn’t notify Congress about the pending swap of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban officials because of intelligence the Taliban might kill him if the deal was made public.

That fear — not just the stated concerns that Bergdahl’s health might be failing — drove the administration to quickly make the deal to rescue him, bypassing the law that lawmakers be notified when detainees are released from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, congressional and administration officials said Thursday.

They spoke only on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment publicly.

Many folks closely following this story immediately dismissed that explanation as bull-you-know-what. Why would the Taliban kill their best bargaining chip? Why would they want absolute silence about a deal that they were going to use for propaganda purposes?

Allahpundit noticed problem number one, from the New York Times, May 9, 2012:

The parents of the only American soldier held captive by Afghan insurgents have broken a yearlong silence about the status of their son, abruptly making public that he is a focus of secret negotiations between the Obama administration and the Taliban over a proposed prisoner exchange.

The negotiations, currently stalled, involved a trade of five Taliban prisoners held at the American military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl of the Army, who is believed to be held by the militant Haqqani network in the tribal area of Pakistan’s northwest frontier, on the Afghan border.

Then John Sexton noticed this Associated Press report from June 20, 2013, roughly one year ago:

The Taliban proposed a deal in which they would free a U.S. soldier held captive since 2009 in exchange for five of their most senior operatives at Guantanamo Bay, while Afghan President Hamid Karzai eased his opposition Thursday to joining planned peace talks.

The proposal to trade U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for the Taliban detainees was made by senior Taliban spokesman Shaheen Suhail in response to a question during a phone interview with The Associated Press from the militants’ newly opened political office in Doha, the capital of the Gulf nation of Qatar.

So how the hell could the Taliban be insisting that Washington be silent about the deal when they were literally calling up the Associated Press and telling them about it?

To quote Joey from Friends, . . . “First, you lied. Then, you lied about lying. Then, you lied about lying about lying. So before you lie about lying about lying about lying about lying . . . STOP LYING!”

By the way, just in case you had faith in senators’ ability to remember what they had been told earlier…

Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) said that administration officials who briefed senators said that “if word of the discussions had leaked out there was a danger that Sgt. Bergdahl would have been killed.”

But other senators, including Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), told reporters that they couldn’t recall officials sharing that information during the briefing presented by officials from the White House, Pentagon, State department and CIA.

Somewhere, Thad Cochran is saying, “And they complain about my memory!”

The strict travel ban will keep them from returning to any active role fighting U.S. forces for at least a year, U.S. officials said. By that time, all U.S. combat forces will be gone from Afghanistan. A small force devoted to training and counterterrorism will remain.

Wait, we’re supposed to be pleased that these guys won’t be actively fighting U.S. forces until this time next year? What do you think happens after that? How long until these guys go after that small force remaining, and/or the Karzai government?

You know this path ends with the Taliban running Afghanistan again, right?

Trust Charles Krauthammer to sum it all up so succinctly:

The swap itself remains, nonetheless, a very close call. I would fully respect a president who rejected the deal as simply too unbalanced. What is impossible to respect is a president who makes this heart-wrenching deal and then does a victory lap in the Rose Garden and has his senior officials declare it a cause for celebration. The ever dutiful, ever clueless Susan Rice hailed it as “an extraordinary day for America.”

Good God. This is no victory. This is a defeat, a concession to a miserable reality, a dirty deal, perhaps necessary as a matter of principle but to be carried out with regret, resignation, even revulsion.

The Rose Garden stunt wasn’t a messaging failure. It’s a category error. The president seems oblivious to the gravity, indeed the very nature, of what he has just done. Which is why a stunned and troubled people are asking themselves what kind of man they have twice chosen to lead them.

Tags: Bowe Bergdahl , Afghanistan , Barack Obama , Angus King

Thank You, Readers!


If you didn’t see this Tweet yesterday, The Weed Agency is going to its third printing on its second day after publication. This obviously doesn’t happen often, and is a sign that the book is on the road to success. Thank you so much to all of you who have been a part of that.

For those of you who haven’t purchased yet — I know, I know, both of you — it’s at $9.94 on Amazon with Amazon Prime (expect it to ship within days, not weeks), $7.99 on Kindle, $10.45 at Barnes and Noble, $9.99 on Nook, and IndieBound can steer you to an independent bookseller near you. (Cover price is $13.)

John Mark Reynolds offers a largely, but not completely positive review of the book over at Patheos. Unsurprisingly, I concur with the praise and disagree with the rest.

Tags: Something Lighter , Shameless Promotion

The Obama Administration Needs to Become Reacquainted With the Truth


Also from today’s Jolt — check your spam folder if it didn’t arrive this morning — is this top-to-bottom look at the corrosiveness of the Bergdahl deal decision . . . 

American Government Needs to Become Reacquainted With the Truth

We can’t be governed like this. Shameless lies about life-and-death matters erode the consent of the governed.

The president wants to empty out Guantanamo Bay by the time he leaves office, and perhaps as soon as the end of the year. As the Obama administration sees it, once the war in Afghanistan ends at the end of the year, we don’t have a right to hold our captured Taliban any longer.

You may recall that on the afternoon of September 11, President Bush declared that we would treat those who shelter, support, fund, or feed terrorists the same way we treat terrorists. Throughout his presidency, he repeatedly set a clear standard: “If you harbor terrorists, you are a terrorist; if you train or arm a terrorist, you are a terrorist; if you feed a terrorist or fund a terrorist, you’re a terrorist, and you will be held accountable by the United States and our friends.”

We made a clear offer to the Taliban: Turn over al-Qaeda, or you’re at war with us. Mullah Omar made his choice. (“He chose . . . poorly.”) At no point have they said “uncle” or surrendered. Mullah Omar hasn’t come out of hiding to say, “All right, all right, we won’t shelter al-Qaeda anymore.” In fact, we dropped that demand, if you believe unnamed official sources in the Daily Telegraph:

One official significantly added that a requirement for the Taliban to drop relations with al Qaeda — something which had stymied previous attempts at direct talks — was no longer necessary in order for them to progress.

“We’ve long had a demand on the Taliban that they make a statement that distances themselves from the movement from international terrorism, but made clear that we didn’t expect immediately for them to break ties with al-Qaeda, because that’s an outcome of the negotiation process,” the official said.

We never recognized the Taliban as the legitimate ruler or government of Afghanistan. Yet now we’re talking about returning their guys because our president wants the Afghanistan war to be over. (As someone put it, you can tell whether we won in Afghanistan by the fact that we’re negotiating with the Taliban, the guys we set out to fight.)

And the message is spreading through Afghanistan . . . the bad guys are loose again.

Taliban forces led by Mohammed Fazl swept through this village on the Shomali plain north of Kabul in 1999 in a scorched-earth offensive that prompted some 300,000 people to flee for their lives.

Fifteen years later, local residents here are responding with fear and dismay to the U.S. release of the notorious commander, along with four other Taliban leaders in exchange for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the only American prisoner of war who was held by the Taliban.

Keep in mind, all of these guys are associated with al-Qaeda or attacks against Americans:

In addition to Mr. Fazl, other released detainees also played major roles in the former Taliban regime. Khairullah Khairkhwa, a minister of interior in the former Taliban government, served as the militant group’s liaison to al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, according to a 2008 Pentagon assessment. Noorullah Noori, once a senior Taliban military commander in northern Afghanistan, led Taliban forces against the U.S. and its Northern Alliance allies during the 2001 invasion, according to the Pentagon.

Pentagon assessments describe the two other former prisoners, Mohammed Nabi Omari and Abdul Haq Wasiq, as linked to other Islamic extremist groups, including al-Qaeda.

The president does this in complete contradiction of public opinion.

A prisoner exchange that released U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five top-level Taliban prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay has sparked debate over negotiating with terrorists. Fully 84 percent of voters are concerned that making deals with terrorists will encourage those groups to take more American soldiers hostage. That includes a 57-percent majority that is “very” concerned and another 27 percent that is “somewhat” concerned.

Only 15 percent aren’t worried deals like this will put more troops at risk.

Back to Guantanamo Bay. The Obama administration has convinced itself — after the Iraq withdrawal, after the Arab Spring, after the collapse of Syria and the 160,000 dead there, after the Benghazi attacks, after Boston — that somehow if we shut down Guantanamo Bay, that will create a discernible reduction in anti-American attitudes around the world and particularly in the Muslim world.

What’s more, the Obama administration seems to think that by releasing the most dangerous members of the Taliban in custody, they will make the Taliban more peaceful, agreeable, and cooperative:

During the same debate, officials were considering the emerging prisoner-exchange proposal. White House advisers believed that a successful exchange would not only free Bergdahl but would also encourage moderate Taliban members to take an Afghan-led reconciliation process seriously.

The Gitmo prisoners are all members of groups that have pledged to kill Americans, tried to kill Americans, or have actually killed Americans. If an American is convicted of killing another American, they’re sentenced to life in prison or perhaps the death penalty. A lot of folks think Gitmo is pretty cushy considering their former lives in places like Afghanistan.

Obama himself admitted that in the case of these released detainees, there’s “absolutely” a chance that these guys will go back to trying to help their allies kill Americans again. So, to sum up: If these guys stay in Gitmo, there’s no chance they’ll kill an American in the future. If they get released, there is, in the president’s own words, “absolutely” a chance they kill again in the future. Where is the upside for us? What do we, the American people, get out of this deal?

(One caveat: The Qatari government has to know that if any of these five get loose and kill Americans, the outrage from the American public will be volcanic. You have to wonder if the Qataris have some back-pocket “unfortunate car accident” plans if any of these five seem a little too eager to get back to the battlefield.)

Anyway, if Obama were a better president, he would level with all of us, and declare, “I intend to hand off all of the Guantanamo Bay detainees to foreign governments by the end of the year.”

Of course, the reaction from the public would be apoplectic, as Obama would be announcing that he would be effectively undoing years of unbelievably difficult work which cost the blood, treasure, and lives of the U.S. military and our intelligence agencies, and putting all kinds of ruthless terrorists in the hands of governments that may or may not be all that diligent about keeping them under control.

Obama doesn’t do that. He tries this deal for these five as a trial balloon. Of course, he doesn’t tell Congress, not even Senator Dianne Feinstein, because she would say no. (Strangely, he appears to have told Senator Harry Reid alone.) He goes ahead and does it, even though the law requires him to give Congress 30 days notice. How long does it take to inform Congress? It requires a few secure phone calls. You could do it in an hour.

Ignoring the legislative branch is pretty bad, although it’s not clear the public will get up in arms about members of Congress being irked they weren’t kept in the loop. But the public can, should, and I suspect will be mad when the administration lies to them. Certainly, members of our military could not abide the administration’s claim that Bergdahl was a hero or Susan Rice’s claim that Bergdahl “served with honor and distinction.”

(Although I suppose being captured by the Taliban is pretty distinctive.)

Charles Lane, usually one of the most sensible non-conservative columnists out there, writes:

Obama made a bit of a fool of himself by treating Bergdahl’s impending return as appropriate for Rose Garden celebration, complete with grateful parents, even though he knew, or easily should have known, that Bergdahl is hardly a hero.

That attempt to gin up an election-year feel-good story fell flat, as did national security adviser Susan Rice’s clueless depiction of Bergdahl’s Army career as one of “honor and distinction.”

White House efforts to glorify Bergdahl were matched by the right’s efforts to demonize him. He stands accused of desertion, which is indeed a very serious offense. Convicting him of it under military law requires proof, which we don’t yet have, that he intended to leave his unit for good or sought to avoid a hazardous assignment.

Okay, but we have nine members of his platoon coming forward and contending he is a deserter. We have some evidence — after all, he went missing! — and we have, at this point, not even a theoretical alternate explanation for his actions. He just went for a walk? Sleepwalking? No gun, vest, or night-vision goggles? Come on, Charles, the circumstantial evidence fits. Of course Bergdahl deserves his day in court. And he’ll get it. But let’s not pretend that these nine other soldiers don’t exist because they’re proving so inconvenient to the administration’s narrative.

Tags: Barack Obama , Bowe Bergdahl , Afghanistan , Guantanamo Bay

Obama Official: ‘What if His Platoon Was Long on Psychos and Short on Leadership?’


Meet Brandon Friedman, deputy assistant secretary for public affairs at U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; he previously served as director of online communications at U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. He is a veteran; he was as an infantry platoon leader and executive officer in the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division, completing combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq between 2001 and 2004.

So he has firsthand familiarity with the war on Afghanistan. However, last night he asked some questions that a lot of people are likely to interpret as smearing the members of Bowe Bergdahl’s platoon.

At 11:44 p.m. last night, discussing the Bergdahl deal, Friedman asked the world on Twitter, “What if his platoon was long on psychos and short on leadership?”

Interesting that his comments contend Bergdahl is being smeared, but that he doesn’t seem to see his “long on psychopaths” comment as a smear.

He concludes, “Given other examples, it’s not out of the realm of possibility — and more reason to withhold judgment until after an investigation. I’m not a fan of such speculation, but this story could not be more unbalanced — with so many premature calls of ‘traitor.’”

This is the lead item in today’s Morning Jolt.

Tags: Bowe Bergdahl

Obama’s Tuned Out, Rice Is Mendacious, and We Didn’t Appreciate Panetta Enough


Also in today’s Jolt, some impressions confirmed and contradicted by the revelations about the Bergdahl deal:

Obama’s Tuned Out, Rice Is Mendacious, and We Didn’t Appreciate Panetta Enough

The revelations of the ever-worsening Bergdahl deal tell us that two of our early impressions have been confirmed by subsequent events, and one has been contradicted by subsequent events.

Impression One: Obama has mentally checked out of his presidency.

In light of everything that we’ve learned about Bergdahl in the past few days, we must consider two possibilities. One is that Obama knew that Bergdahl opposed the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, that he told his father he was ashamed to be an American, that he renounced his citizenship before disappearing, that other soldiers lost their lives because of his decision to leave his post, and that he may have been helping the Taliban in their bomb-building and ambushes . . . and Obama went ahead with the trade anyway.

Guy Benson offers the supremely cynical “they knew” assessment:

They figured that the feel-good nature of the “POW” returning home narrative would be blindly seized upon and enabled by a media exhausted by the egregious VA scandal story. Unpleasant details would be white-washed or mostly ignored, and the only real outrage would emanate from the usual suspects on the Right. They thought they could counter critiques of the nature and terms of the trade with faux-indignant questions about whether skeptics were in favor of “leaving Americans behind.”

The other possibility is that Obama didn’t know any of this, and he approved the deal — and invited Bergdahl’s parents to the White House! — poorly-briefed and ill-informed about this supremely consequential, life-and-death decision. Of course, this wouldn’t be the first time Obama has been called “disengaged” on matters of war or the first time someone suggested that “White House officials have not been reading their briefing books.”

In a long, detailed profile piece, Politico paints a picture of a president increasingly ready to wrap it up and move on to post-presidential life:

With his daughters around less, the Obamas are taking fuller advantage of the perquisites of the office, such as squeezing “A Raisin in the Sun” on Broadway into a recent Manhattan fundraising trip.

In a departure from a long practice of keeping his personal circle strikingly tight and rarely lingering at official events, Obama has been hosting star-studded dinners that sometimes go on well past midnight and inviting a few newcomers such as former NBA star Alonzo Mourning into his social sphere. He’s playing golf more than any other year, replacing basketball as his go-to sport, partly because of concerns about getting injured . . . 

The presidential dinners, inside the White House and beyond, are more and more frequent. At one dinner, not previously disclosed, the Obamas hosted U2’s Bono, Gen. Colin Powell, Apple CEO Tim Cook, investor Warren Buffett and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim. Another drew actors Will Smith and Samuel L. Jackson, along with journalist Gayle King. Anna Wintour, the editor-in-chief of Vogue, attended a dinner with fashion-industry insiders.

The guests don’t appear on the public visitor logs because they are considered “purely personal” visits. Multiple White House aides claimed not to know about them. Valerie Jarrett, the senior adviser and longtime confidant of the Obamas who organizes the dinners, appears to be the only regular from the West Wing . . . 

The president has traveled more during the first half of 2014 than he has at any other time of his presidency, except when he faced reelection in 2012, according to a review of his schedule. He’s left town at least once a week since the State of the Union address.

As the crisis in Ukraine escalated in early March, White House aides turned to a less consequential matter: Should Obama travel to Florida for a planned weekend golf getaway?

Earlier in the presidency, current and former aides said, they probably would have canceled the trip. Obama, and his image protectors, had always been mindful about doing anything that could be turned into a Republican attack line.

This time, Obama saw no need to stay back in Washington, in part because the situation in Ukraine had cooled by that Friday. He told an aide that he’d be making the same calls to foreign leaders whether he was in the Situation Room or sunny Key Largo.

At a leisurely dinner with friends on that Saturday night, Obama expressed no regrets about the mini-vacation at the lush Ocean Reef Club resort or the publicity surrounding the trip, which reportedly required planes, five helicopters, more than 50 Secret Service agents and airspace restrictions over South Florida. After a difficult few weeks dealing with an international crisis, he relished the break, which included two rounds of golf.

He’s got presidential senioritis.

Impression Two: Susan Rice is a partisan hack masquerading as a policy expert.

The evidence for this reputation goes back a long way. From April 1994:

At an interagency teleconference in late April, Susan Rice, a rising star on the NSC who worked under Richard Clarke, stunned a few of the officials present when she asked, “If we use the word ‘genocide’ and are seen as doing nothing, what will be the effect on the November [congressional] election?” Lieutenant Colonel Tony Marley remembers the incredulity of his colleagues at the State Department. “We could believe that people would wonder that,” he says, “but not that they would actually voice it.” Rice does not recall the incident but concedes, “If I said it, it was completely inappropriate, as well as irrelevant.”

Of course, since then she’s offered the infamous Benghazi lies, but now we’ve gotten a rerun, raising the question of just how frequently and blatantly a national-security official can lie to the American public without career consequence:

“Sergeant [Bowe] Bergdahl wasn’t simply a hostage; he was an American prisoner of war captured on the battlefield,” National Security Advisor Susan Rice insisted on Sunday morning in an appearance on ABC’s This Week. “He served the United States with honor and distinction.”

Adding cryptically that there will be time to “learn what has transpired in the past years,” Rice went on to inform the public how they should feel about Bergdahl’s release. “[T]his is such a joyous day,” she swore.

Well, 48 hours after that appearance, it seems the public is not taking Rice’s advice. As more details of Bergdahl’s service emerge, none of which looks especially exemplary, some have begun to ask if Rice had again disseminated misleading information on the Sunday morning talk shows.

On Tuesday, no less a figure than Ret. U.S. Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey definitively asserted that she had.

“I think what bothers people is having our commander-in-chief on television putting a glow of euphoria around this guy,” McCaffrey began, summarizing what he thought was fueling the backlash against this prisoner swap. “And then followed on with Dr. Susan Rice, who’s such a brilliant person, calling him having him served with honor and distinction when they knew full well this wasn’t the case.”

Impression Three: Leon Panetta was a tired old Washington hand, probably too old to be much more than a placeholder at the CIA.

Mea culpa, Mr. Panetta. From the perspective of us on the Right, Panetta may have been the best choice Obama has made so far. We now know he opposed trading any captured Taliban for Bergdahl. You may recall that when he was CIA director, he pushed back hard against Nancy Pelosi’s convenient claim that “the CIA lies to us all the time.” Despite some doubts at the start, Panetta proved to be a pretty solid director at Langley, having a big hand in the bin Laden raid. Later, as secretary of defense, Panetta asked other Obama administration officials why they were picking a fight with Catholic bishops over contraceptive coverage. Most recently, he supported the creation of a select committee to investigate the Benghazi attacks, saying, “I hope Democrats participate, and it really is a legitimate effort.”

I’m sure conservatives can find Panetta decisions they disagree with, but let’s face it: In a national-security team that included or includes the likes of Susan Rice, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, and Tommy Vietor, he looks like George S. Patton.

Tags: Barack Obama , Susan Rice , Leon Panetta

Six Soldiers Who Served With Bergdahl Have Offered Critical Accounts


Six members of Bowe Bergdahl’s platoon spoke to the media in recent days, offering a consistent account of Bergdahl leaving his platoon.

“We all served together and we were all in it together over there and he broke that bond by leaving us,” Army sergeant Josh Korder told NBC’s The Today Show.

Sergeant​ Evan Buetow, in the New York Daily News:

Sgt. Evan Buetow, 28, recalled he was among a small team including an interpreter who spied on radio and cell communications in the area of their base on the frontlines in eastern Afghanistan, listening for clues to the Bergdahl’s whereabouts following his disappearance on June 30, 2009. He said he heard Afghans from a nearby village say: “There’s an American here looking for someone who speaks English so he can talk to the Taliban.”

Sergeant Matt Vierkant, speaking to CNN:

“I was pissed off then, and I am even more so now with everything going on,” said former Sgt. Matt Vierkant, a member of Bergdahl’s platoon when he went missing on June 30, 2009. “Bowe Bergdahl deserted during a time of war, and his fellow Americans lost their lives searching for him.”

Pfc. Jose Baggett, also speaking to CNN:

Former Pfc. Jose Baggett, 27, of Chicago, was also in Blackfoot Company and said he was close to two men “killed because of his (Bergdahl’s) actions.”

“He walked off,” Baggett told CNN. “He left his guard post. Nobody knows if he defected or he’s a traitor or he was kidnapped. What I do know is, he was there to protect us, and instead he decided to defer from America and go and do his own thing. I don’t know why he decided to do that, but we spent so much of our resources, and some of those resources were soldiers’ lives.”

Joshua Cornelison, a former medic in Sergeant Bergdahl’s platoon, speaking to the New York Times:

“Yes, I’m angry,” Joshua Cornelison, a former medic in Sergeant Bergdahl’s platoon, said in an interview on Monday arranged by Republican strategists. “Everything that we did in those days was to advance the search for Bergdahl. If we were doing some mission and there was a reliable report that Bergdahl was somewhere, our orders were that we were to quit that mission and follow that report.”

Cody Full, another member of Sergeant Bergdahl’s platoon, also speaking to the New York Times:

Cody Full, another member of Sergeant Bergdahl’s platoon, Mr. Cornelison and Mr. Full both said they wanted to see Sergeant Bergdahl court-martialed as a deserter.

“I’m not going to speak on the political, but I think that now that he’s back, he needs to be held accountable,” Mr. Full said.

Mr. Cornelison echoed Mr. Full. “I won’t get into the politics, but now that he’s back he needs to be held 100 percent accountable,” he said. “For putting myself and 29 other people in my platoon in hell for 90 days.”

At this point, no member of Bergdahl’s platoon has come forward offering a contrary version of events. No one has articulated a reason to doubt the veracity of this account from these men who were there at the time and knew Bergdahl.

The new spin from the Obama administration and its defenders is that there has been a rush to judgment, and that Bergdahl is innocent until proven guilty. That is true in a courtroom. But with six men who served with him offering a clear and disturbing account and little or no contrary evidence, the public is free to draw its own conclusions.

Tags: Bowe Bergdahl


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