Tags: Boston Marathon Bombing

Susan Rice: No Successful Attacks on U.S. Homeland Since 9/11


From 60 Minutes last night:

Lesley Stahl: But when you have so many phone records being held, emails, heads of state’s phone conversations being listened in to, has it been worth our allies being upset? Has it been worth all the tech companies being upset? Has it been worth Americans feeling that their privacy has been invaded?

Susan Rice: Lesley, it’s been worth what we’ve done to protect the United States. And the fact that we have not had a successful attack on our homeland since 9/11 should not be diminished. But that does not mean that everything we’re doing as of the present ought to be done the same way in the future.


Above: Apparently not a successful attack on our homeland since 9/11.

That’s our National Security Adviser!

Tags: Susan Rice , Boston Marathon Bombing

What’s at the Heart of the ‘Free Jahar’ Movement?


Also from today’s Jolt:

So What’s at the Heart of the ‘Free Jahar’ Movement?

Would the Rolling Stone magazine cover be less bothersome if we hadn’t also seen a “Free Jahar” movement appear in recent months?

Let Elizabeth Stoker of The Atlantic summarize the phenomenon:

Since the capture of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the young man allegedly responsible, along with his now deceased older brother, for this year’s Boston Marathon bombings, media outlets have anxiously observed the development of the “Free Jahar movement.” Less a typical protest group and more a loosely affiliated confederation of conspiracy theorists, Tsarnaev sympathizers, and anti-government dissenters, these individuals communicate mainly through social media sites like Tumblr and Twitter, where they keep up to date on the latest developments in Tsarnaev’s trial by tagging pictures and text posts with #FreeJahar. The Twitter account devoted to the cause, @FreeJahar, has fewer than 2,000 followers. The handful of Tumblr accounts devoted to the same purpose use hashtags to indicate posts related to Dzhokhar, allowing for easy, anonymous perusal.

Oh, wait; Stoker feels these folks have been . . . wait for it . . . unfairly stereotyped!

Those who support Tsarnaev have a variety of reasons for doing so. Some believe he is innocent, and that the marathon bombings were perpetrated by the U.S. government. Others believe that Tsarnaev’s rights were violated during and shortly after his capture, while others fear that he will be subject to the death penalty, which they oppose. Yet despite the fact that conspiracy theories and their adherents abound all over the web, it is the primarily female users of these social media outlets who have been, despite their varied reasons for supporting Tsarnaev, uniformly reviled as a single entity in the media.

To properly smear Tsarnaev’s female supporters, it was first necessary to lump them together in a gender-based cadre stripped of whatever affiliations they may have ascribed to themselves: Tsarnaev fangirls.

What’s that? You feel the media isn’t giving these folks a fair shake? Then listen carefully, because somewhere the Tea Party is playing the world’s smallest violin in sympathy.

I’m going to do something I don’t ordinarily do: cheerfully cite Amanda Marcotte of Slate as a rebuttal:

Tsarnaev’s supporters insist that they have purely intellectual reasons for supporting the young man accused of causing three deaths and 14 amputations. They believe the government set him up. But they sure do spend a lot of time sharing pictures of him on Tumblr, squealing over any behavior of his that can be construed as “cute,” and clucking maternally over his well being. On Wednesday, outrage flared up in “Free Jahar” circles because of the unflattering portrayal of him in the court illustrations. The whole thing feels uncomfortably like a Justin Bieber fan squee — bad enough when it’s for Bieber, but even worse for someone who appears to be a remorseless killer.

Unfortunately, there’s nothing new about this. Every reasonably good-looking, famous criminal can count on getting a fan club of excitable women who justify their affections by denying his guilt or rationalizing his crimes — or both, since we’re not talking about rational people here. Olympian Oscar Pistorius, accused of murdering his girlfriend, has a devoted fan base that swings between claiming he was framed and hinting that his victim had it coming. Ted Bundy had scores of groupies, and even managed to marry one of them. And there are so many rabid fans of the violent Chris Brown (notably, not a killer) that even the object of their affection has asked them to cool it with the constant haranguing of whoever he’s currently beefing with.

So what’s in it for the women? I think the answer is in the fantasy many women have of loving a dangerous man who then, by virtue of this love, eventually reveals a gentleness he doesn’t show the rest of the world. It’s the old “my love tamed the dangerous beast” fairy tale of romance novels and Disney movies.

This puts Amanda Marcotte on largely the same page as . . . Michelle Malkin. Bipartisanship!

I would like to declare a war on women — namely, on all those cringe-inducing ninnies who lust after every celebrity criminal defendant with big muscles, tattoos, puppy-dog eyes, or Hollywood hair.

You know who I’m talking about, right? America’s Bad Boy groupies. They’re on the courthouse steps with their “Free Jahar” signs, cooing over how “hot” and “cute” the bloodstained Boston Marathon bombing suspect is. He “can blow me up with babies,” one moral reprobate quipped shortly after his capture. “I’m not gonna lie, the second bombing suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, is hot. #sorrynotsorry,” another young girl boasted.

If you think he’s hot now, sweetheart, you should check him out when he sits in the electric chair.

(I know, I know, the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled the death penalty unconstitutional in 1984, and if federal courts sentence him to death, he’ll get lethal injection.)

So, in the Free Jahar crowd, are we seeing the same old freaky-crush-on-a-serial-killer phenomenon amplified in the age of social media, or is this something different?

It ties into his appearance, doesn’t it? We’re used to terrorists looking like this:

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What, no Khalid Sheik Mohammed groupies? Okay, I guess they have some standards.

Terrorists in the public eye are not usually so young, and their life experiences are usually extremely different from that of the average American teenager. So perhaps Little Brother Bomber’s visage breaks through some young people’s cultural filters because he’s not old, he’s not obviously from another culture; he seems like someone they could have known.

And one of the constants of our popular culture is some young, fresh-faced allegedly cute young man who makes young women go insane with excitement and devotion:

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Pick your generation.

However, this is a particularly dark turn for our already pretty insufferable culture, because it suggests that some people really can’t get past the idea that beautiful people are good and ugly people are bad. Although that school of thought has been around for a very, very long time:

The early Greeks were inclined to think that beautiful people were good and ugly people bad — still a common point of view, though likely to lead to disillusion. “The most beautiful is the most just,” proclaimed the Delphic Oracle. Plato opined that beauty lay in harmony and proportion, and was best discerned by the mind, not the eye. In late antiquity and the Middle Ages, following the philosopher Plotinus and Abbott Suger of St Denis, many were of the opinion that light and colour emanated from the divine.

The belief that a person’s character, good judgment, moral virtue, etc. is tied into their appearance is horsepuckey, of course.

Charles Krauthammer, back in 1999:

Early in their training of cinematic conventions, kids learn the rule of thumb for sorting out good guys from bad guys: the good-looking guy is good and the bad-looking guy is bad. Indeed, if the guy is positively ugly, he is the likely villain. And if he has something visibly wrong with him — a limp, a scar — he’ll be an especially cruel one.

Of course, Hollywood did not invent this cultural convention. It is a tradition that goes back at least as far as Richard III, whose “Deformed, unfinish’d . . . half made up” body — a hunchback, a limp — prefigured the disfigurement of his soul.

Krauthammer’s column went on to critique the deformed, handicapped Confederate Civil War–veteran villains of Wild, Wild West.

Did years and years of Hollywood’s visual shorthand somehow get hard-wired into how young people see the world?

Tags: Boston Marathon Bombing

Rolling Stone, Begging the World to Pay Attention Again


Also from today’s Morning Jolt:

Like a Crazy Ex, Rolling Stone Desperately Hoping You’ll Pay Attention to Them Again

Look, we get it. It’s tough to run a print magazine, particularly if a magazine thinks of itself as a journal of cultural trends that entice and excite young people. Kids don’t read print anymore. People pass by the newsstand and don’t give it a second glance, their eyes pulled away by the latest starlet half-naked and pouting on the cover of Maxim. And if a publication’s editors start feeling financial pressure and a sense of declining relevance to the conversation they seek to influence, they can get desperate, resorting to shock headlines and a sneering tone . . . as we’ve seen:

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But Rolling Stone editors knew what they were doing by putting the Little Brother Bomber on the cover. They were getting the news world to talk about a magazine that had in past months become largely indistinguishable from Entertainment Weekly: Johnny Depp in full Tonto regalia, comedian Louis C. K., Mad Men lead actor Jon Hamm, Seth Rogan and his co-stars of This Is the End.

And in using the soft-focus, Dylan-esque image of Little Brother Bomber on the cover, they scrambled some of our usual political lines. The editor of ThinkProgress says the image makes the bomber look like Jim Morrison.

And some complaints are coming from on high:

Former White House National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor expressed concern on Wednesday about Rolling Stone magazine putting Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on its cover, tweeting that “A disaffected US kid could see this and think terrorist are afforded rock star status.”

The same image once appeared on the cover of the New York Times; objections seem to primarily revolve around the fact that Rolling Stone almost only features celebrities on its covers — most recently Johnny Depp — and thus this image would put an accused terrorist into that category, of someone to be celebrated.

Bingo. A traditional newsweekly could have run that image with the headline, “Into the Mind of a Killer” or something similar, with little objection. The New Republic recalls Time magazine covers featuring Hitler, Stalin, Saddam Hussein, and Osama bin Laden.

But this is the cover of Rolling Stone, where we’re used to seeing Janet Jackson’s cleavage, or Angelina Jolie’s cleavage, or Katy Perry’s cleavage, or Shakira’s cleavage, or . . . where was I going with this? Ah, yes! For most of the past decades, Rolling Stone covers have fit into three categories 1) celebrity cleavage 2) here’s a singer or band who is very hot at the moment and whose image will instantly date this magazine 3) “Isn’t Obama awesome!”

There really isn’t a strong tradition of “here’s a detailed look into the face of evil” cover pieces.

Let’s also note that the cover’s text doesn’t help matters, either.

How a Popular, Promising Student Was Failed by His Family, Fell Into Radical Islam and Became a Monster

To their credit, the editors label him a monster. But “failed by his family” seems to suggest his actions aren’t entirely his responsibility, and “fell into radical Islam” is a strangely passive way of describing the choice to commit murder. It’s not a pothole.

Also . . . had Rolling Stone editors personally known any of the victims, would they have made the same choice?

Apparently Rolling Stone editors are comfortable writing off Boston from their circulation area:

Pharmacy chain CVS has announced it will not sell copies of next week’s Rolling Stone featuring suspected Boston terrorist Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on the cover.

“As a company with deep roots in New England and a strong presence in Boston, we believe this is the right decision out of respect for the victims of the attack and their loved ones,” the company said in a statement.

The cover, which was teased late Tuesday night, has incited a flurry of controversy, with Rolling Stone’s website being bombarded with complaints and a Facebook page started to boycott to the music magazine. Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick have both criticized the cover as in poor taste.

Here’s Erik Wemple, a usually fair-minded reporter and blogger on the media beat for the Washington Post:

*This is good journalism, as the photo depicts the same Dzhokhar Tsarnaev that The Post and the New York Times — and others — depicted in deeply reported pieces. That is, a regular, good guy with friends, interests and activities — a “joker,” even.

*Showing this alleged bomber in his full humanity makes him appear even more menacing.

*Some are saying that Rolling Stone is exploiting this image — this story — for commercial gain. Well, Rolling Stone is a magazine. It exploits all its stories for commercial gain, some more effectively than others.

. . . I’ll leave the last word to two of the victims:

Brothers J.P. and Paul Norden of Stoneham each lost a leg in the attacks and they let the magazine know how they feel in this long Facebook post Wednesday morning.

Here you go Rolling Stones; if you required a cover and wanted marathon related, one would assume that you would have promoted a nation of continued healing, provided American heroes and encouraged moving forward. This is just one of several available shots that would have made sense if you were looking for togetherness.

Instead, your irresponsible behavior did more to tear open wounds and insult victims, survivors and families that have been slowly healing and accepting the horrendous acts of terrorism. There is a very long road that awaits the involved victims and your magazine ripped at the hearts in an instance and cut at the deepest levels and for what, “To increase sales of a magazine that usually is worthy of music celebrities.” Well, Rolling Stones, you just reclaimed your 15 minutes of fame, we only hope, it lasts only fifteen minutes.

What you did yesterday with your incredibly poor decision, was weaken extreme good that has been built from unimaginable evil.

Well, we are here to remind you that we are 2 BROTHERS 1 NATION. . . . Standing Boston Strong. . . . and no room for magazines intended on highlighting evil, hate and death.

Today, we take a step over that magazine and hold our heads up high and ask our supporters to do the same and to also ignore the sensationalism perpetrated by RS.

Tags: Boston Marathon Bombing , Rolling Stone , Media

World’s Dumbest Gun-Control Supporter Speaks at Rally


It’s just one yokel at one rally in New Hampshire, but still . . . 

A man was arrested and two people, including a Concord police officer, were allegedly assaulted during a rally Tuesday in a clash between a gun control group and gun rights supporters.

The event had people supporting the Mayors Against Illegal Guns movement, founded by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, reading the names of those “killed with guns” since the Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary outside their “No More Names” bus.

Some of the loudest shouts came when a reader spoke the name of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects who was killed by police during a gunfight.

“He’s a terrorist,” several protesters shouted.

And if you claim him as a victim of “gun violence,” aren’t you forgetting that little matter of his brother running him over with an SUV?

UPDATE: For that one goofball who insisted the story could not possibly be true:

The office of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Wednesday apologized for including Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev among a list of shooting victims’ names that were read during a demonstration in Concord on Tuesday.

The apology came after several groups, including the New Hampshire Republican Party, blasted the Mayors Against Illegal Guns campaign for included his name.

Alex Katz, deputy communications director for the Mayors Against Illegal Guns campaign, said rally organizers relied on a list compiled by of people killed by guns since the Dec. 14 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., “and his name was on the list.”

Tags: Gun Control , Boston Marathon Bombing

How Trolls Turn Our Tragedies Into Partisan Food-Fights


The first Morning Jolt of the week looks at two dramatic developments in Syria, some big decisions coming down the line from the Supreme Court, and then this observation…

How Tragic Events Turn Into Partisan Foodfights, Faster Than Ever Before

Let’s examine a familiar pattern in news stories…

Something awful and shocking happens: A madman shoots up a kindergarten classroom.  Two jihadist wannabes blow up the Boston Marathon. A tornado tears apart an Oklahoma City suburb. A group of jihadists in the United Kingdom behead a soldier leaving his barracks and then bark tirades to the passersby, hands dripping with blood.

Some of those horrific incidents tie into some sort of policy debate, but for most people, that’s something to be addressed some time after a tragedy, not in the immediate moments after the news breaks. But almost immediately, people begin citing the horrible event as proof that their political worldview has been vindicated once again. Some writers seem to specialize in their ability to take a terrible event and have the first op-ed on an editor’s desk, tying the shocking event to their preexisting policy preferences. David Sirota may be the champion of this:

April 16:Let’s hope the Boston Marathon bomber is a white American.”

May 16: “The Texas fertilizer plant explosion reveals that lax regulations are far more dangerous than any form of terrorism.”

May 21: “Anyone regret slashing National Weather Service budget now? With GOP-backed cuts to forecasting agency, experts warn future storms will go undetected and more lives lost.”

When people die suddenly and terribly, and an editorial page editor needs a column to argue it’s ultimately the fault of Republicans, Sirota’s always there to step up.

These horrible events are all distinct and separate, but they hit us with big questions – i.e., how could this happen? Where was/is God? Why must the innocent suffer, and why must we live in a world where evil exists and can strike us without warning? Should the sudden death of others remind us to live each day like it’s our last? How can you make long-term plans for the future, knowing that tragedy could strike at any time? Do we, or does any society, sufficiently thank and appreciate and honor those who risk and lose their lives in efforts to protect the rest of us?

Those are tough questions.  The political questions are pretty easy by comparison – and I suspect some people eagerly turn to them after something terrible happens, because it’s almost calming to turn one’s attention to bashing the familiar scapegoat of the political opposition. We can’t do anything to un-do the actions of jihadists, tornadoes, or a kindergarten gunman, but boy, can we tell the world how angry we are about the political opposition, who we’re certain is really to blame for the terrible event.

Almost immediately after a terrible event – sometimes while they’re still going on – we find someone throwing a political argument at us – sometimes some random yokel on Twitter, sometimes a semi-professional blame-thrower like Sirota.  Naturally, the public square is full of people who hate leaving any argument or attack unanswered. Before you know it, just as you’re getting your head around some sudden tragedy or abomination, you look up and your Twitter feed has become a food-fight of competing “how dare you!” shrieks.

This phenomenon is problematic for a lot of reasons. One big one is that each time this happens, the public debate becomes a little less focused on the terrible event – “X” -  and a little more on what somebody said about “X.” Perhaps this is my cynicism showing, but I’m no longer surprised that people say terrible and stupid things after awful events. I’m starting to get skeptical about the need to treat obnoxious post-tragedy comments as newsworthy. Half of these are cries for attention, anyway.

Recently a conservative blogger pointed out some cretin attempting to raise money, making light of the death of a figure that many on the Right respect. Some folks wanted to blog more about this cretin and denounce him and call him out for his outrageously vile behavior, etc. Of course, the cretin wanted attention, and it’s quite likely that his ultimate desire is precisely to get a bunch of conservative bloggers talking about how terrible he is – because that will bring his fundraising effort to the attention of more people. I would define vindication as his pathetic fundraising effort dying a quiet death – a reminder that no one wants to give him money to continue being obnoxious, no one really cares what he says or thinks, and that in the grand scheme of things, he doesn’t really matter.

How widely could we get a “don’t feed the trolls” policy adopted?


Tags: Boston Marathon Bombing , Media , Twitter

May 2013: The End of Unreasonable Paranoia


The first Morning Jolt of the week features a furious denunciation of the media’s excuses for losing interest in Benghazi, a look at Mika Brzezinski’s new book, Obsessed: America’s Food Addiction — and My Own, and of course, the fact that a lot of our once-“paranoid” fears have proven true lately . . .

No Kidding: The IRS Has Had a Vendetta against Conservatives Since 2011

Let’s see here. . . . The Benghazi hearings and reporting about the “editing” of the talking points indicate that the Obama administration covered up the truth about what happened. Then we learned one of the Boston bombers sought out jihadists while in Russia in 2011 and listened to Internet sermons of al-Qaeda fan/cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, while collecting public assistance. Then we learned disclosures from the IRS prove that the federal government targeted groups based upon their political views. Hell of a week for the fears we once dismissed as paranoia, huh? This afternoon we get Elvis’s reappearance and Thursday is scheduled to feature the truth about the aliens at Roswell.

Naturally, today Obama will deal with these shocking headlines in his traditional manner: going to a bunch of Democratic fundraisers in New York City.

And yes, the IRS story is basically as bad as the most paranoid would have you believe; sometimes they really are out to get you.

The Internal Revenue Service’s scrutiny of conservative groups went beyond those that had “tea party” or “patriot” in their names — as the agency admitted Friday — to also include ones that raised concerns over government spending, debt or taxes, and even ones that lobbied to “make America a better place to live,” according to new details of a government probe.

The investigation also revealed that a high-ranking IRS official knew as early as mid-2011 that conservative groups were being inappropriately targeted — nearly a year before then-IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman told a congressional committee the agency wasn’t targeting conservative groups.

The new disclosures are likely to inflame a widening controversy over IRS handling of dozens of applications by tea-party, patriot and other conservative groups for tax-exempt status.

The details emerged from disclosures to congressional investigators by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. The findings, which were reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, don’t make clear who came up with the idea to give extra scrutiny to the conservative groups.

The inspector general’s office has been conducting an audit of the IRS’s handling of the applications process and is expected to release a report this week. The audit follows complaints last year by numerous tea-party and other conservative groups that they had been singled out and subjected to excessive and inappropriate questioning. Many groups say they were asked for lists of their donors and other sensitive information.

One point to keep in mind: Sometimes no organizational boss has to explicitly say that there’s a great incentive to target a particular political foe. Sometimes these sorts of illegal and unjust incentives simply resonate throughout the culture of an organization. If everyone within a particular office culture (i.e., Internal Revenue Service employees) believes that a particular group is particularly bad (conservatives) and another group is good (liberals), there will be enormous psychological incentives to pursue the “bad” groups, both out of personal beliefs and out of reinforcing groupthink.

There’s a simple, direct method for changing the culture, of course: fire anybody involved.

Tags: Barack Obama , Boston Marathon Bombing , IRS , Benghazi

Higher Education’s Role in the Boston Marathon Attack


So, UMass-Dartmouth, you have a campus where one student decided to place a bomb next to a child and blow up marathoners, and several of his friends, also students, learned of his actions, and then turned around and tried to help him by destroying evidence.

This is on a college campus, a place where “tolerance” is considered the supreme value. Yet somehow, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev never learned to tolerate the existence of American children watching a marathon. Somehow his friends managed to find blowing up Americans tolerable. However, they couldn’t quite tolerate a successful FBI investigation leading to the capture or arrest of Tsarnaev.

Just what were these students learning, seeing, and experiencing on that campus? What made Tsarnaev believe that blowing people up was okay? Why didn’t he encounter any person or group or place that would stir a sense of moral objection in him, if indeed it was his brother who first proposed the attack? Why didn’t he encounter anything that would make him think, “wait a minute, no, hating Americans and trying kill them is wrong”?

Why didn’t these other students react with horror at the thought that their friend could be a terrorist? Why didn’t they call the cops or FBI? Why was their first instinct to help their friend, instead of helping the authorities take a dangerous bomb-maker off the streets?

How did all of these young man fail to encounter one professor, one mentor, one role model, one person around them who would lead them to conclude that mass murder is wrong, and those who do it ought to be punished?

The culture on the campus of UMass-Dartmouth didn’t create the monster that Tsarnaev became, nor did it make his friends into moral pygmies. But that campus atmosphere sure failed to mitigate any of this, didn’t it?

Tags: Boston Marathon Bombing

Boy, UMass-Dartmouth Sure Knows How to Pick Them.


Today’s Morning Jolt looks at Penny Pritzker — I remember when it was standard to just give ambassadorships to your top donors — some embarrassing stories about Terry McAuliffe, and then this ominous news in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing investigation:

What Was In the Water of That Dorm Room?

These Kazakh roommates aren’t quite as bad as the Boston bombers. But they’re bad:

Kadyrbayev, 19, texted Tsarnaev that evening around 8:40 to ask [why he resembled the bombers in the released FBI videos].

“Tsarnaev’s return texts contained ‘lol’ and other things KADYRBAYEV interpreted as jokes,” according to a federal criminal complaint released today, “such as ‘you better not text me’ and ‘come to my room and take whatever you want.’” That turned out to be a fateful series of texts.

According to the complaint, earlier that day, Kadyrbayev and their mutual friend Azamat Tazhayakov entered Tsarnaev’s dorm room at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth . . . between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. They watched an unspecified movie with Tsarnaev’s roommate while Tazhayakov noticed that Dzhokhar’s backpack contained “fireworks.” Allegedly, Kadyrbayev put two and two together when he saw the empty fireworks containers — it’s unclear if that happened before he texted Tsarnaev — and figured their friend was the bomber. News reports on the room TV showing the fateful footage of Tsarnaev, followed by his texts, confirmed it.

Then they decided to help their bro.

According to the complaint, Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov gathered up the backpack, [along with] Tsarnaev’s laptop — apparently to avoid making the roommate think they were stealing Tsarnaev’s stuff — and placed it into a trash bag. During that crucial evening, Tsarnaev allegedly texted his friends, “I’m about to leave if you need something in my room take it.” The next morning, Kadyrbayev allegedly placed the bag into a dumpster near Tsarnaev’s Carriage Place apartment.

I wouldn’t even keep my side of the room clean for my college roommate, but these guys were willing to dispose of evidence? How twisted do you have to be to suddenly realize that someone you know, a friend, is actually a terrorist who killed three people and injured and maimed hundreds more, and your first thought is how to help them get away with it?

What, does UMass-Dartmouth have some sort of special jihadist student exchange program? Do they cluster them together as roommates?

And yes, there is an immigration angle to this story:

A federal law enforcement official says one of the students from Kazakhstan arrested Wednesday in the Boston Marathon bombings was allowed to return to the United States this year despite not having a valid student visa. Authorities say that after the explosions he helped remove a laptop and backpack from the bombing suspect’s dormitory room before the FBI searched it.

Federal authorities on Wednesday arrested three college friends of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, a bombing suspect, including Azamat Tazhayakov, a friend and classmate of Tsarnaev’s at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. Tazhayakov left the U.S. in December and returned Jan. 20. But in early January, his student-visa status was terminated because he was academically dismissed from the university, the official told the AP.

Hey, if he’s academically dismissed, just what is he doing in this country, if he’s no longer going to school? How’s he paying his expenses?

Very few people believe the promises of the Gang of Eight, because the government does such a lousy job of enforcing the laws on the books already.

Tags: Boston Marathon Bombing , Immigration

Who Knew ‘Game Changer’ Was a Synonym for ‘the Status Quo’?


The midweek edition of the Morning Jolt features grim statistics on attitudes in the Muslim world, thoughts on Marvel’s superhero film franchises, and then these notes from the president’s press conference:

‘Hello,’ the President Lied

Three quick points on Obama’s press conference from Tuesday

First, Obama demonstrates that the term “Game Change” is now the most useless buzzword since “value-added”:

THE PRESIDENT:  If I can establish in a way that not only the United States but also the international community feel confident is the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime, then that is a game-changer because what that portends is potentially even more devastating attacks on civilians, and it raises the strong possibility that those chemical weapons can fall into the wrong hands and get disseminated in ways that would threaten U.S. security or the security of our allies.

Q    By game-changer you mean U.S. military action?

THE PRESIDENT:  By game-changer I mean that we would have to rethink the range of options that are available to us.

Watch your rear, Assad, or we might have to rethink the range of options.

In Syria and all of the world’s trouble spots, the American people are going to resist intervening internationally until they’re confronted with something more horrible than the loss of blood and treasure spent in the war in Iraq. Right now, Americans aren’t convinced that anything can happen overseas that is so bad, so consequential and horrific, they’ll wish they had sent their sons and daughters and neighbors to go fight and die for something. For now, they’re right; they will probably be wrong someday.

Secondly, examine Obama’s reaction to Jessica Yellin’s question:

YELLIN: Lindsey Graham, who is a senior member of the Armed Services Committee, has said that Benghazi and Boston are both examples of the U.S. going backwards on national security.  Is he right?  And did our intelligence miss something?

THE PRESIDENT:  No, Mr. Graham is not right on this issue, although I’m sure generated some headlines.

I think that what we saw in Boston was state, local, federal officials, every agency rallying around a city that had been attacked — identifying the perpetrators just hours after the scene had been examined.  We now have one individual deceased, one in custody.  Charges have been brought.

I think that all our law enforcement officials performed in an exemplary fashion after the bombing had taken place.  And we should be very proud of their work, as obviously we’re proud of the people of Boston and all the first responders and the medical personnel that helped save lives.

Notice the sneer that Graham merely wants to “generate headlines” with his statement, as if it’s outlandish to argue that a terrorist murdering our ambassador or a terrorist bombing on the streets of Boston constitute “going backwards on national security.”

Then notice that Yellin asks about the intelligence before the bombing, and Obama responds by citing the work of law enforcement after the bombing.

Thirdly, Obama declared about his signature health care reform, “ A huge chunk of it has already been implemented.  And for the 85 to 90 percent of Americans who already have health insurance, they’re already experiencing most of the benefits of the Affordable Care Act even if they don’t know it.  Their insurance is more secure.”

Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times responded, “Obama’s claim that folks who have insurance now have already gone through the ACA implementation is just not right. Lots of issues left.”

The tax penalty for not having insurance isn’t in effect yet. Businesses may still decide to drop coverage and pay the fines  (for some companies, it may actually be cheaper to pay the fines). We’re seeing companies try to shift as many employees as possible to less than 30 hours a week.  As Inc. put it:

The law’s new mandates–such as requiring insurers to cover preventive care at 100 percent–could drive rates higher. And small employers that buy insurance through the newly created Small Business Health Options Programs, or SHOP exchanges, may find higher costs once they are lumped in with a general-population risk pool.

And as for that claim that your health insurance is “stronger,” perhaps the president meant, “more expensive”: “Premiums could increase by an average of 30 percent for higher-income people in California who are now insured and do not qualify for federal insurance subsidies, the study said.”

Tags: Barack Obama , Syria , Boston Marathon Bombing , Obamacare

Fluff Stories Conveniently Distract from the Government Failures Around Us


From today’s Morning Jolt

Forget the Rest of the World; President Personally Calls Some Athlete You Never Heard Of Before

Hey, remember North Korea? They’re detaining a U.S. citizen.

Unless the Syrian rebels figured out some way to fake the presence of Sarin in the bloodstream of some volunteers, the Syrian regime used chemical weapons and crossed the red line… and no one can come up with a way to demonstrate the consequences of crossing that line.

Oh, and the guys we may soon intervene to help, the Syrian rebels, may have just tried to shoot down a Russian airliner.

Remember Boston?

But U.S. Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) told ABC News yesterday that the FBI is also looking into “persons of interest” in the U.S. possibly linked to the Boston bombings.

U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said he’s spoken with the FBI about the probe into possible trainers the brothers had.

“Are they overseas in the Chechen region or are they in the United States?” he said. “In my conversations with the FBI, that’s the big question. They’ve casted a wide net both overseas and in the United States to find out where this person is. But I think the experts all agree that there is someone who did train these two individuals.”

Remember Boston, again?

State lawmakers have launched an investigation into whether the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings improperly received public benefits.

Sources who have seen the 500 pages of documents sent to the House Committee on Post Audit and Oversight told News Center 5’s Janet Wu that the Tsarnaev family — including the parents of the two bombing suspects, the two suspects themselves, their sisters, the widow of the suspect killed and their child — received “every conceivable public benefit available out there.”

Remember the economy?

We’re still stuck in the muck.

That’s the conclusion to draw from the new report on gross domestic product. The U.S. economy grew at a 2.5 percent annual rate in the first three months of the year, which was an improvement from the weak 0.4 percent of the final months of 2012… We’re muddling along at basically the same pace we’ve been at for nearly four straight years of this dismal recovery, with growth too slow to make up the lost economic ground from the 2008-2009 recession.”

National debt? $ 16,756,644,393,707.05,as of Friday. (That’s $16.7 trillion.)

Remember Obamacare?

In total, it appears that there will be 30 million to 40 million people damaged in some fashion by the Affordable Care Act—more than one in 10 Americans. When that reality becomes clearer, the law is going to start losing its friends in the media, who are inclined to support the president and his initiatives. We’ll hear about innocent victims who saw their premiums skyrocket, who were barred from seeing their usual doctor, who had their hours cut or lost their insurance entirely—all thanks to the faceless bureaucracy administering a federal law.

With all of this going on, guess what the top story was on Memeorandum, measuring what bloggers and news sites are writing about?

An NBA player coming out of the closet as gay. Wait, there’s more:

A groundbreaking pronouncement from NBA veteran Jason Collins — “I’m gay” — reverberated Monday through Washington, generating accolades from lawmakers on Twitter and a supportive phone call from President Barack Obama.

Hours after Collins disclosed his sexuality in an online article, Obama reached out by phone, expressing his support and telling Collins he was impressed by his courage, the White House said.

Collins, 34, becomes the first active player in one of four major U.S. professional sports leagues to come out as gay. He has played for six teams in 12 seasons, including this past season with the Washington Wizards, and is now a free agent.

This president can’t get squat done about North Korea or Syria, and so he doesn’t want us to focus on those far-off lands. His policies have done diddlysquat for most of the long-term unemployed. He’s not interested in throwing people off public assistance, even when they don’t deserve it, and he wants to insist that every terror attack is a one-time occurrence, instead of connected bits of an international ideological movement dedicated to killing Americans. Obamacare’s a mess, and he’s hoping you don’t notice. The debt continues to increase, even with the alleged horrors of sequestration.

“God, gays and guns.” That’s what he’s got left. And that’s what he hopes stays on your mind, for as many days between now and November 2014 as possible.

Tags: North Korea , Syria , Economy , Debt , Barack Obama , Boston Marathon Bombing , Obamacare

They Always Blame America First.


Today I’m off to Orlando, for the Future of Media Summit and Heritage Foundation’s Resource Bank. Campaign Spot posting will be light in the coming days.

The lead item in today’s Morning Jolt:

They Always Blame America First.

Jeanne Kirkpatrick had it right.

In Tuesday’s New York Times, Marcelo Suarez Orozco and Carola Suarez-Orozco, dean and a professor, respectively, at the U.C.L.A. Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, wrote an op-ed entitled, “Immigrant Kids, Adrift.” It began:

THE alleged involvement of two ethnic Chechen brothers in the deadly attack at the Boston Marathon last week should prompt Americans to reflect on whether we do an adequate job assimilating immigrants who arrive in the United States as children or teenagers.

Really? Really? These guys blow up a marathon and shoot a cop in the back of the head, and we have to look at ourselves to see where we failed? Where we’re not adequate?

(By the way, after this piece appeared, the Boston Globe is reporting Little Brother Bomber* confessed, so we can drop the “alleged.”)

You’ll be seeing this theme of the brothers as troubled immigrants, struggling to build a better life, and failing to find acceptance in a cold-hearted, xenophobic America society a lot in the coming days. As one of my Twitter followers said, this is what happens when you’re absolutely determined to avert your eyes from a politically or culturally inconvenient conclusion — i.e., young Muslim men can be easy pickings for a radical imam who offers them a vision of themselves as noble warriors, earning vast celestial harems in the afterlife for struggling to defeat the evil infidel oppressor, offering them a channel for their anger that he assures them is morally just. After a while, you begin speculating about the bombing being prompted by boxing-related concussions, which, of course, would help explain why so many retired NFL players go on to become members of al-Qaeda.

(Oh, look, Time’s doing it, too.)

The initial biographical sketch of the bomber in the New York Times featured the headline, “Far From War-Torn Homeland, Trying to Fit In.” The only thing these guys were trying to fit in that week was more nails inside the pressure cooker. (After considerable ridicule, the headline and top photo were changed.)

William Jacobson assembles more examples over at Legal Insurrection, including a Slate writer calling for “an emotionally fraught conversation, a careful reckoning of the particular variety of welcome we offer to children from abroad” and the usual suspects on MSNBC going on about “demonizing the other.”

Hey, doesn’t blowing up a marathon crowd count as demonizing the other? Could you spare some time to point out that the bombers’ refusal to grant us the right to walk the streets without being shredded to a pulp by incendiary-propelled shrapnel is pretty darn intolerant, too?

Now, let’s return to the argument put forth by the dean and the professor.

Do they realize that by drawing a connection between the Boston bombers and “immigrants who arrive in the United States as children and teenagers,” they’re suggesting that every one of those kids is a potential terrorist, if they have a life experience like the bomber brothers? Even the most vehement opponent of the DREAM Act wouldn’t make that claim.

The inanity of it all prompted me to throw a bit of a fit on Twitter Tuesday afternoon.

The quasi-sympathetic “bomber brothers struggled with new identities in America” feature pieces are doing no favors for immigration reform. The notion that these two are somehow representative of some universal immigrant struggle to adapt to American life is weapons-grade horse[puckey]. Millions upon millions of immigrants made new lives for themselves in this country without feeling the need to bomb the Boston Marathon. If you think adaptation to American culture might cause you sufficient stress to commit mass murder, please leave immediately.

By the way, this society was pretty damn kind to these two. The terror financing blog “MoneyJihad” assembles what we know of the brothers’ finances — and it includes a $2,500 scholarship from the city of Cambridge in 2011 and public assistance for the family.

Peggy Noonan points out that either they weren’t struggling . . . or somebody out there was sending them money:

The past few days I’ve looked through news reports searching in vain for one item: how did the brothers get their money? Did they ever have jobs? Who or what supported them? They had cellphones, computers, stylish clothes, sunglasses, gym equipment and gym membership, enough money to go out to dinner and have parties. They had an arsenal of guns and money to make bombs. The elder brother, Tamerlan, 26, had no discernible record of employment and yet was able to visit Russia for six months in 2012. The FBI investigated him. How did they think he was paying for it? The younger brother, Dzhokhar, was a college student, but no word on how he came up with spending money. The father doesn’t seem to have had anything — he is said to have sometimes fixed cars on the street when he lived in Cambridge, for $10 an hour cash. The mother gave facials at home. Anyway, the money lines. Where did it come from?

Acknowledging that young Muslim men could be particularly vulnerable to the demonic cajoling and propaganda of a radical imam would force too many people in too many high places to rethink their entire worldview. So we’ll be hearing a lot about concussions and the mean, nasty, xenophobic culture of . . . Cambridge, Massachusetts can turn an otherwise happy immigrant success story into a child murderer.

Tags: Boston Marathon Bombing , Immigration

How Well Is Our FBI Keeping an Eye on Self-Radicalizing Immigrants?


From the first Morning Jolt of the week:

How Well Is Our FBI Keeping an Eye on Self-Radicalizing Immigrants?

The bombers’ mother may be cuckoo for cocoa puffs. Probably is, in fact. But this . . .

One of the two ethnic Chechens suspected by U.S. officials of being behind the Boston Marathon bombings had been under FBI surveillance for at least three years, his mother said.

Zubeidat Tsarnaeva told the English-language Russia Today state television station in a phone interview, a recording of which was obtained by Reuters, that she believed her sons were innocent and had been framed.

“He (Tamerlan) was ‘controlled’ by the FBI, like, for three to five years,” she said, speaking in English and using the direct English translation of a word in Russian that means monitored.

“They knew what my son was doing, they knew what sites on the Internet he was going to,” she said in what Russia Today described as a call from Makhachkala, where she lives in Russia’s Dagestan region after returning from the United States.

. . . coupled with this . . .

Deceased Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev was identified by a foreign government as a “follower of radical Islam and a strong believer” whose personality had changed drastically in just a year, according to the FBI.

As investigators considered possible motives for Monday’s fatal bombings, U.S. authorities acknowledged that an unnamed government had contacted the FBI to say the 26-year-old ethnic Chechen “had changed drastically” since 2010 and was preparing to leave the United States “to join unspecified underground groups,” according to an official statement from the FBI.

U.S. officials have not named the foreign nation, but it is presumed to be Russia. Tsarnaev traveled there in 2012 and stayed for six months.

. . . coupled with this . . .

Department of Homeland Security officials decided in recent months not to grant an application for American citizenship by Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of two brothers suspected in the Boston Marathon bombings, after a routine background check revealed that he had been interviewed in 2011 by the F.B.I., federal officials said on Saturday.

It had been previously reported that Mr. Tsarnaev’s application might have been held up because of a domestic abuse episode. But the officials said that it was the record of the F.B.I. interview that threw up red flags and halted, at least temporarily, Mr. Tsarnaev’s citizenship application.

Late last year, Homeland Security officials contacted the F.B.I. to learn more about its interview with Tamerlan Tsarnaev, federal law enforcement officials said. The F.B.I. reported its conclusion that he did not present a threat.

At that point, Homeland Security officials did not move to approve the application nor did they deny it, but they left it open for “additional review.”

. . . raises some disturbing questions.

Russia (confirmed) makes its inquiry in 2011; the FBI investigates. Apparently there’s not enough evidence for the FBI to take further action, but “late last year” DHS decides there’s enough suspicion around this guy to delay his citizenship — not enough to deny it — and he’s just left there. Meanwhile, sometime around this time (September 11, 2012) the younger brother gets his citizenship. Then they later decide that whatever they’ve found is sufficient to deny the citizenship . . . but not enough to get him out of the country. (Oh, and somewhere along the line, one or both illegally register to vote.)

For what it’s worth, an unidentified intelligence source tells Jake Tapper that it is “rare” for the “Russians to reach out like that, to ask FBI to look into someone as they did with Tamerlan Tsarnaev.” So obviously, Russia doesn’t ask the FBI to check out every Chechnyan immigrant just out of spite. Tapper also asks a big, big question: Why didn’t the FBI re-interview Tsarnaev after his six months in Russia and Chechnya?

Before we move on to a 844-page immigration-reform bill, whose primary purpose is to say to 11 million people currently in the country illegally, “you can stay and become citizens as long as you do X, Y, and Z,” we need to make sure that our current immigration-law-enforcement institutions are capable of meeting the minimal standard of keeping out those who are here to do us harm. Obviously, this applies to terrorism, but also to the less dramatic crimes that harm Americans — gang membership, drug smuggling and dealing, people smuggling, etc.

Tags: Boston Marathon Bombing , Immigration

The Boston Bombers and the Collapse of Assimilation


We don’t know all the details of the lives of the Boston bombers, but a portrait is starting to take shape.

Presuming what we have seen reported is accurate, this pair came to Kyrgyzstan in 2000-2001 as refugees, and from there into the United States a year later.

The life of an immigrant is rarely easy, but for these two, life seemed to go quite well. They go to good schools and get an education. One went to UMass-Dartmouth. They’re involved in intramural soccer, boxing competitions and tournaments, and the like. One gets U.S. citizenship, and the other becomes a permanent resident on the road to citizenship. At some point, they get registered to vote (illegally for one, or both, depending upon whether they registered to vote before September 11, 2012).

You’re hearing some folks cite these bastards in discussing the immigration bill. While it may be premature, it isn’t insane to look at this horror before us and ask how someone can come to this country, be offered citizenship and then turn around and murder their fellow citizens – a child, a foreign student, a young woman, a cop – in the coldest of blood. Here’s a pair of young men — and who knows, perhaps others — who have every opporunity to assimilate, to live the American dream, to see this country as a home to love…

… and somehow, instead of coming to love the country whose citizenship they sought, instead of appreciating the rare opportunity that luck, fate, and our kind nation has offered, they become the kind of ghouls capable of placing a bomb, filled with nails, next to an eight-year-old boy in the middle of a cheering crowd, and then smiling.


Some will say “Islam”, or its radical version, explains their transformation; we’ll know more as we learn more about them.

Of course, only a small fraction of the 11 million illegal immigrants in this country mean us harm (those with ties to gangs, drug cartels, people smugglers, and the like), and perhaps none as coldly and ruthlessly as this pair. But our government chose to give the privilege of citizenship to the man who has effectively shut down the city of Boston today. This week, we have reason for great doubts in our culture’s ability to assimilate those who come here into good Americans, and our government’s ability to examine potential citizens and weed out those who would seek to harm us.

Tags: Boston Marathon Bombing

The Mystery of the (Alleged) Bombers’ Voter Registration


This morning, people are responding in shock at a Buzzfeed report that Djohan and Tamerlan Tsarnaev are registered to vote (complete with screenshots of their voter registration records). People are wondering how the Tsarnaevs could be registered to vote if they were not U.S. citizens.

One report indicates the pair were permanent residents, a legal status that does not permit a person to vote in federal elections:

 Non-U.S. citizens, including permanent residents (green card holders), who vote, or register to vote, in a federal election also can be denied naturalization and/or removed (deported) from the United States. 

There are very few jurisdictions where a non-U.S. citizen may vote in a local election.  However, this web site does not provide information regarding voting qualifications for state and local elections.  You can obtain information regarding voting qualifications in local elections from your local voting authority.  It is important to remember that even if you are allowed to vote in a local election, you are not eligible to vote in a federal election if you are not a U.S. citizen, nor in any other election that requires you to be a U.S. citizen.

A Campaign Spot reader checked the Massachusetts voter database and did not find the name.

The issue may relate to being registered to vote in local elections:

The idea of petitioning to legalize voting for noncitizens in Massachusetts is nothing new. Officials in Amherst, Cambridge and Newton all have approved measures affording local voting rights to noncitizens, but the state Legislature must approve them, something it has not done to date. Cambridge filed a petition in 2004 to allow noncitizens older than the age of 18 to vote in elections for school committee and city council, according to interim city clerk Donna Lopez.

However, the Cambridge Election Commission states, “You may register to vote in Cambridge if you are a US citizen, a resident of Cambridge, and will be at least 18 years old on or before Election Day.”

So the pair should not have been registered to vote… and yet, somehow, they were.

UPDATE: Judicial Watch cites an unnamed source that “Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was rewarded with American Citizenship on September 11, 2012 in Boston.”

ANOTHER UPDATE: Peter Baker of the New York Times quotes an unidentified government official who says, “younger Chechen became U.S. citizen last year and the older was in the middle of the process.”

Tags: Boston Marathon Bombing

Mr. President, Spare Us Your Tantrums During This Crisis


From the Thursday edition of the Morning Jolt:

Spare Us the Usual Partisan Blame Game During Terror Crises, Mr. President

A big reason why no version of any gun control proposal passed the Senate with 60 votes Wednesday was because none, or almost none, of the senators believed it would actually prevent another massacre. Vice President Joe Biden, leading the president’s gun task force, declared, “Nothing we’re going to do is going to fundamentally alter or eliminate the possibility of another mass shooting or guarantee that we will bring gun deaths down to 1,000 a year from what it is now.” (Video here.) I don’t need to rehash it much: the Newtown shooter stole the guns he used; none of the recent massacre perpetrators purchased their firearms at gun shows; most of them hadn’t done anything that would flag them in the instant check system until they pulled the trigger; police ignored the warnings of the Aurora shooter’s psychiatrist, and so on.

When we learned the details about the Newtown shooter, it was painfully clear that no policy, short of banning private gun ownership and forcibly collecting every last firearm in private hands could prevent something like that from happening again. And yet the whole argument for this bill was driven by invoking Newtown every moment possible.

Even my half-hearted cut-Toomey-some-slack argument was based upon the political realities, not the sense that the bill would prevent another awful day. Suburban soccer moms who have marinated in the Oprah-fied feel-don’t-think culture for decades demand “something be done” so incumbents who want to appeal to those soccer moms must appear to be attempting to “do something,” regardless of whether it accomplishes the stated goal. (My cynicism may be appalling, but it does enjoy a lot of supporting evidence and footnotes.)

The White House video of kids begging for gun control, the constant use of the parents of slain children as the primary advocates, the knee-jerk declarations from the likes of Piers Morgan that to disagree with any of the legislative proposals is to desire more dead kindergarteners, all of this represented a particularly ruthless and emotionally manipulative form of politics…

… and then Monday, real life intruded.

Mr. President, we’ve got real problems to worry about, much bigger than whether a feel-good, largely-symbolic measure passes the Senate and you get a political win.  Somebody blew up Boston’s happiest day of the year, dozens maimed, families torn apart, and we don’t know (as of this writing) if it’s one guy or a group or whether he’s got more efforts planned or whether he’ll inspire copycats.

(Dear store clerks: if, in the coming days, somebody wants to buy a pressure-cooker and wants to pay cash, take their picture. And if somebody wants to buy a bunch of pressure cookers all at once, feel free to ask a lot of probing questions.)

Some guy decided to take out his grievances with the government by sending Ricin, either not knowing or caring that his most likely victims would be postal workers and unpaid Capitol Hill interns. Across the country, airport terminals, courthouses, high schools,  train stations, and city halls are getting evacuated every time someone absent-mindedly leaves their bag somewhere.

We don’t have time for your usual let’s-start-messaging-for-the-midterms pep rallies, Mr. President. We have some non-symbolic problems we would like to see resolved. It’s time to stop worrying about wasting crises and start focusing on resolving them.

Perhaps the president was in a particularly foul mood because of this headline:

At Pivotal Point in Presidency, Obama Routed on Gun Control

Ron Fournier’s lead lays out the cynicism of the whole gun control push from the beginning:

Blame the gun lobby. Blame Republicans. Blame a handful of skittish Democrats who gave the GOP cover. Blame the entire band of demagogues who killed the modest attempt to close loopholes in a law requiring background checks for guns.

Blame them, too, for jeopardizing President Obama’s entire legislative agenda. That was the point, anyhow, right?

Look, Mr. President, it’s not like it was a secret that Baucus, Begich, Heitkamp, and Pryor would be the likely swing votes on the Toomey-Manchin proposal. Heitkamp’s not up until 2018. The Huffington Post’s Elise Foley notices, “None of the Dems who voted no on background checks were invited to dinner with Obama.” Mr. President, if you needed them, did you act like you needed them?

Fournier continues:

The defeat raises questions about Obama’s ability to unify congressional Democrats and to mobilize supporters via his nascent Organizing for Action, a first-of-its-kind political machine controlled by the White House. The president will need party unity and grassroots muscle to battle the GOP on immigration, federal spending, climate change and other White House interests.

Coming into the week, Obama’s agenda appeared to be at an important juncture—with guns, immigration, and deficit-reduction talks at various stages of progress. Winning an expansion of the background check, even as bolder gun measures failed, would have given Obama momentum to push the other two items.

Conversely, his rivals may now feel emboldened to block Obama’s entire agenda. In their most cynical moments, Republican leaders privately cheer themselves with the fact that a president’s approval rating usually suffers amid gridlock.

Obama’s team took news of the defeat hard Wednesday, with some advisers predicting that gun regulation won’t be revived. It is hard for them to explain the failure of a measure supported by 90 percent of the public without making the president appear weak.

Kemberlee Kaye: “Political opportunism is not an effective means of governance, as @TheDemocrats learned today. Plus, Constitution and stuff.”

Ace: “Obama showed the passion and anger at his personal defeat that he wasn’t able to manage after the Benghazi slaughter.”

Richard Grenell: “More anger on one’s failed Senate vote than on international terrorism is a sure sign of a large ego.”

King Shamus: “Obama throws a temper tantrum because his permanent campaign couldn’t make it happen. He’s basically admitting his failure as a politician.”

John Ondrasik, also known as the voice of Five for Fighting: “I love how politicians only blame politics when they lose.”

Iowahawk: “Most popular president in history can’t persuade own party to vote for commonsense legislation supported by 90% of voters. Or something.”

Tags: Barack Obama , Gun Control , Boston Marathon Bombing

Unity, Nice While It Lasted


Sentiments like this one were destined to end at some point after this crisis…



… but it’s striking that the press felt the need to goad Congress into turning the attack in Boston into a partisan cudgel.

At his weekly Capitol briefing Tuesday, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer said the explosions in Boston demonstrates “why having the ability to dress security concerns is important,” and thus provides more evidence that sequestration should be turned off.

As the rest of the report lays out, the reporter set the stage for Hoyer by asking, “whether Monday’s attack makes the argument for addressing sequestration,” and to his credit, Hoyer said he doubted sequestration was hindering or influencing the response to the attack. 

Hoyer added, “I doubt that [sequestration's] having any impact presently — and the reason for that, this is a priority item and I’m sure they’re shifting what resources are necessary. Even if they’re shorter resources than they otherwise would’ve had, I’m sure they’re putting all the resources necessary on this effort. Certainly at the federal level — I think the President’s made that pretty clear.”

Tags: Steny Hoyer , Sequestration , Boston Marathon Bombing

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