Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Not The Man I Used To know

Several years ago, on a flight bound for our nation’s capital, I found myself sitting next to the House Republican candidate for the Indiana 6th district, Mike Pence. I do not remember the specific details of our conversation. What I do remember is that I was struck by his unbridled, infectious optimism and the openness with which he cherished the opportunity and responsibility of representing his constituents and his country. As our flight descended into Washington we could see the Capitol rotunda brightly illuminated against the clear darkened sky. The soon to be congressman looked at me, pointed out the window, and in an almost a giddy fashion chuckled and said: “That’s my office.”

Fast forward to 2015 where we see now Indiana Governor Mike Pence reeling from the backlash over his state’s controversial Religious Freedom law. The law is facing withering attacks from activists, politicians and major corporations who see it as providing legal protection for those who chose to discriminate against members of the LGBT community. The Governor has been adamant that he will not take steps to rescind the law: “That’s not on my agenda” he said.

Defenders of the Indiana law say it is the same as the federal statute signed into law by President Bill Clinton…the same law that is currently in force in 19 other states. Those statements simply are not true. I would suggest that supporters take the time to read those other laws for themselves before alleging such comparisons.

In an effort to clarify the legislature’s intent, Governor Pence appeared on ABC’s “This Week” with host George Stephanopoulos. To his credit Stephanopoulos bored right in to the key question…is the law discriminatory against gays and lesbian.

STEPHANOPOULOS: “And so yes or no, if a florist in Indiana refuses to serve a gay couple at their wedding, is that now legal in Indiana?”

PENCE: George, this is where this debate has gone…with misinformation…

STEPHANOPOULO: “It’s just a question sir. Question sir, Yes or no?”

The Governor refuse to answer; preferring to find cover in talking points that sited similar laws in other states and blamed the media for the misinformation.

Stephanopoulos gave the Governor another chance to respond:

STEPHANOPOULOS: “So when you say tolerance is a two way street does that mean that Christians who want to refuse service or people of any other faith who want to refuse service to gays and lesbians, that is now legal in the state of Indiana?” That’s the simple yes or no question".

Once again the governor refused to provide a direct answer. Once again he referred to his talking points.

The Mike Pence that I see in that interview is no longer the wide eyed optimist who wants to put his constituents and country first. The Mike Pence I see is a hardened politician who has one eye firmly on a run at the White House.

The civil servant who resides in the Indiana governor’s mansion today is not the same man that I met on that Washington flight so many years ago.

That’s a shame.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Is The Arab World Finally Stepping Up In its Own Defense?

There are two major news stories that have captured the headlines over the past several days: the downing of a commercial jetliner by its suicidal co-pilot and the looming deadline of the controversial US/Iran nuclear negotiations. Certainly these events are worthy of our attention. But there is another story that has surprisingly gone underreported by the fourth estate; a story that could have long term implications on the world stage.

Over the course of recent history the United States has played the role of the world’s “peacekeeper.” Nowhere is that role more evident than in the Middle East. Arab leaders have long complained publically about America’s intervention into Middle East affairs, but behind closed doors they are more than happy to have their reign secured by American arms and money.

Egypt’s Mubarak railed against American aggression yet accepted billions in US dollars to keep a lid on the region’s largest Muslim state. Afghanistan’s Karzai threatened almost daily to join hands with the Taliban while the CIA bribed him with green garbage bags full of cash. The US handed Iraq’s Maliki the reins of power along with a $125 million dollar fully trained and equipped army. Maliki responded by schmoosing with the Iranians as he showed the us the door. The Saudi Royals kiss our cheeks and gladly take our oil money and protection, yet sponsor splinter groups that fight against US interests.

The Obama administration has said repeatedly that the US will continue to work to secure peace within in the region: “But the only way that a lasting peace can be achieved is through an agreement put together by the Arab states themselves.”

For too long the United States has spent its blood and treasure to secure peace in the Middle East while Arab rulers lounge in opulence. But recently there have been signs that the regional Arab nations are starting to step up in their own defense.

Last week Saudi Arabia, concerned about the unrest along its southern border, engaged in air strikes against Iranian backed Houthi rebel strongholds in Yemen. And the Saudis have amassed over 150,000 troops along the Yemeni border. When is the last time you saw the Saudis weigh in with anything but their check book?

Egypt has stepped up as well…sending 10 warships south to the critical Yemeni coast to protect the flow of oil and commerce through the Red Sea.

Perhaps most striking of all is news that Arab League members have agreed in principle to form a joint inter-military peacekeeping force to deter the spread of Islamic extremism and Iranian power. The proposed 40,000 member standing army will be headquartered in Cairo or Riyadh.

Reports are that the Arab states are taking these actions because they have lost faith in the president’s commitment to the region…particularly as it pertains to the elephant in the room, Iran. Arab leaders have described the president’s Middle East policy as “flawed,” “confusing” and “disjointed.” The president’s critics here at home would agree. Who could blame them? After all the US is working with Iran in Iraq but against Iran in Yemen. It is working with Iran to stop ISIS in Syria but working against Iran to remove the Syrian regime. It is trying to keep Iran from gaining access to a nuclear bomb but by all accounts is working on an agreement that would allow Iran to keep at least part its nuclear processing infrastructure.

It appears on the surface that the Arab states are finally answering the call to take up in their own defense. Perhaps their actions are the result of the president’s “flawed, confusing and disjointed” policies. If that is the case then let’s hope for more “flawed, confusing and disjointed” communications out of the Obama White House.

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Enemy Of My Enemy Is...?

Middle East politics is complicated. It’s like trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube blindfolded. Consider the events of this past week.

Yemen is a woebegone country that lies on the southern border of the Arabian Peninsula. It is noteworthy for two reasons: It is the new home for Al Qaeda and similar terrorist groups that once resided in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan prior to the US invasions; and its geographic location is such that whomever controls Yemen controls the flow of oil from around the Arabian Peninsula to the Red Sea and eventually the shores of Western Europe.

The Yemeni government was once a partner to the US in the fight against terror; allowing the US to conduct drone strikes against key terrorist strongholds within Yemen’s borders. I say “was” because the Yemeni government no longer exits. Angered by their government’s partnership with the US, Houthi rebels, armed and trained by Iran, have driven the Yemeni government from power. The rebels now control roughly one third of the country. Anarchy reigns. The Yemeni president and his ministers have fled. The violence is so bad that the US has closed its embassy and ordered all US citizens and military personnel to leave the country. Even the Special Ops forces that provided logistical support for the drone strikes have pulled out. You know it’s bad when the Seals bug out.

Just across Yemen’s northern border lies Saudi Arabia. The Saudis are very concerned about maintaining the security of that border. This week the Saudi Air Force, assisted by US technical and logistical support, launched a series of airstrikes against the Houthi rebel forces and amassed 150,000 troops along the Saudi/Yemen border. The Saudis are backed by a 10 nation coalition of regional Arab countries. Egypt has sent ten warships to the Yemeni shores to protect the flow of commerce.

To summarize…in Yemen, US backed Saudi forces are fighting AGAINST Iranian backed Houthi rebels…who have overthrown the US backed Yemeni government.

Are you with me so far?
Now let’s turn to Iraq and the war against ISIS.

In Iraq, US military forces continue to attack ISIS targets from the air. The ground war against ISIS in Iraq is being conducted by the US backed Iraqi army along with Iranian backed militia. Except in the battle to retake the Iraqi city of Tikrit; where the Iranian backed militia have refuse to fight because they are pissed off at the US for conducting bombing raids in the city. The Iranians wanted to take Tikrit without US help.

To summarize…In Iraq, US backed Iraqi forces are fighting WITH Iranian backed forces against ISIS…except in Tikrit.

Are you still with me?

It’s simple…the United States is fighting WITH Iran in Iraq…and AGAINST Iran in Yemen.

My head hurts!

Leave it to the “Daily Show’s” Jon Stewart to put it all into perspective: “So after 20 years of destabilizing the region, the United States is fighting a proxy war against itself.


Check in with this space tomorrow where, assuming my head stops hurting, we will examine our “Fighting with Iran/Fighting against Iran” foreign policy vis a vis the ongoing nuclear talks with our enemy Iran…which are being undermined by our ally, Israel.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Cruz Gets A Reality Check

I always say that when ideology runs head long into reality…reality usually prevails. Ted Cruz just got a reality check.

Ted Cruz is well known as the standard bearer for the fight against the Affordable Care Act (ACA). You will seldom see him in a public forum where he is not calling for its repeal. Two days ago he officially announced that he was running for president. In his very important first speech as an official candidate Cruz asked his audience to imagine a congress that repeals “each and every word of Obamacare.” Repealing Obamacare sits at the very core of his political principles.

Or does it?

24 hours after giving that speech we learned that Cruz and his family are signing up for Obamacare.

Senator Cruz’ wife has a high profile job at Goldman Sachs. The Cruz family has its health insurance through Mrs. Cruz’ employer. Mrs. Cruz has elected to take an unpaid leave of absence to work on her husband’s campaign. Her decision means that the Cruz family will not only lose her pay check but the family’s health insurance as well.

The Cruz family finds itself at the same crossroads faced by millions of Americans in the days before Obamacare. The loss of a job or some other significant event that causes a reduction in income are two of the main reasons that people lost their health insurance…and in part the reasons why the Affordable Care Act exits. Unlike many unfortunate families in the days before Obamacare, the Cruz family has some options. Senator Cruz can buy coverage, if he wants it, through his employer, the federal government. In fact he is required by law to do so.

Back in the days when the president and the Democrat controlled congress were trying to pass the ACA Republicans attempted to torpedo the bill by attaching an amendment requiring that all members of congress purchase their insurance through the federal the exchange. In essence Republicans were saying: “If Democrats think that government provided health care is such a good idea then they should be forced to buy their coverage through the program just like any other citizen. Republicans believed the amendment would scare off the Democrats and kill the bill. But Democrats believed in the legislation and passed the bill with the amendment attached.

When the story leaked that Cruz was purchasing insurance through the federal exchange the media sought him out for an explanation. He said he had no choice…that he was required by law to do so. “This is one of the good things about Obamacare" he said. "Members will be on the exchanges without subsidies just like millions of Americans…Members of congress should not be exempt.”

This is what we call “spinning.” Cruz had another option.

He could have stood on principle, paid the fine and opted out. He could have taken a stand against the hated, socialist, big government program. He could have joined over 6 million of his fellow Texans and gone without coverage. Cruz’ great state of Texas leads the nation in the number of uninsured people…6 million uninsured…over 1 million of them children. Uninsured in part because Cruz and his fellow state Republicans opted out of the ACA and federal funds that came with it; denying Texans the opportunity for affordable health care. Ted Cruz could have made a principled stand and joined his fellow Texans. But he didn’t. The basic kitchen table need to protect his family took precedence. Cruz made the prudent and logical choice. Unfortunately Cruz and his Republican state legislators didn’t allow his fellow Texans the same opportunity.

Ted Cruz isn’t the first politician to see his ideology wither in the face of reality. He won’t be the last.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

With friends like these...

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Israeli intelligence eavesdropped on the US/Iran nuclear negotiations and shared the information with sympathetic US lawmakers in an effort to derail the sensitive talks.

According to the WSJ: “The spying operation was part of a broader campaign by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to penetrate the negotiations and then build up a case against the emerging terms of the deal.”

It is no secret that allies spy on each other. In fact it was US intelligence agencies that provided Israel with its communication gathering capabilities.

The White House discovered that the Israelis were listening in to the talks when US intelligence agencies, spying on Israel, intercepted communications between Israeli officials that carried details that could only have come from the negotiations. Apparently the eavesdropping didn’t upset the White House as much as the sharing of inside information with US officials. As one senior official told the WSJ: “It’s one thing for the US and Israel to spy on each other. It’s another thing to steal US secrets and play them back to US legislators to undermine US diplomacy.”
The WSJ reports that personal animus between the president and the Israeli Prime Minister played in integral part in the events that followed.

There is no love lost between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu. So when the US began talks with Iran over their nuclear program the president intentionally kept Netanyahu out of the loop for fear of leaks. The Israelis picked up on the talks from outside sources and decided to eavesdrop on the negotiations. The Israelis knew that the eavesdropping would anger the White House but decided the stakes were worth the risk. Raising objections to a perceived unsympathetic White House would reveal the espionage. So the Israelis decided to try a different path. Israel approached US lawmakers who were sympathetic to Israel and disdainful of the president’s diplomatic efforts toward Iran. Israel shared the cache of snooped classified information with these lawmakers in an effort to solicit their help in undermining the president. Speaker Boehner invited the prime minister to lay out his case before congress and 47 US senators sent an open letter to Iranian leadership to queer the deal. Add the prime minister’s flip flopping on a two-state Palestinian solution and his blatantly inflammatory, racist rhetoric about “Israeli Arabs flocking to the polls” and you have the makings of a diplomatic train wreck.

During his address before congress, Prime Minister Netanyahu said in reference to the nuclear talks with Iran: “There is an old saying that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. In this case the enemy of your enemy…is your enemy!” I didn’t realize that he was talking about Israel. With friends like these…

Congratulations to reporter Adam Entous and the Wall Street Journal for breaking this important story.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Comedy & Tragedy

Two stories today…one comedy, one tragedy.

COMEDY…LET THE CLOWN SHOW BEGIN – Its official…Ted Cruz is running for president. The junior senator from Texas tweeted his official announcement shortly after mid-night: “I am running for president. I hope to earn your support.” Cruz will make an appearance today at Jerry Fallwell’s Liberty University where he is expected to make his first official campaign speech. Cruz becomes the first Republican hopeful to officially enter the fray.

Senator Cruz is the undisputed head of the Tea Party and the heartthrob of the far right. He is also the embodiment of all that is wrong with Washington. Cruz craves the media spotlight and never disappoints; a clever quip or a controversial phrase always at the ready. But while he is long on partisan rhetoric he is woefully short on substance.

Cruz is the guy who tied up the senate for 21 hours while he read the children’s classic “Green Eggs and Ham.” Cruz’ story was that he was engaging in this filibuster to delay a vote on Obamacare. The truth is that the Senate had already scheduled a vote on the matter for the following day. There was no possibility for postponing the vote. The session had already adjourned. Cruz’ speech was just a speech…a sideshow…a faux filibuster that offered nothing in the way of a substantive alternative.

Cruz is also the guy who orchestrated clandestine meetings with House Republicans where he lobbied them to shut down the government rather than pass a funding bill that included Obamacare. Republicans bought into his hair brained scheme and shut down the government for 17 days. 800,000 government workers were furloughed…Standard and Poor's reduced the country’s credit rating…and our GDP took a $25 billion hit. Responding to the political carnage, Cruz said that he knew all along the scheme wouldn’t work but he applauded House Republicans for their courage. What a guy!

Cruz’ decision to deliver his first campaign address at Liberty University is telling. Liberty bills itself as the world’s largest Christian university. While the rest of his party is trying to distance itself from divisive social issues, Cruz’ jumps in the deep end. Number one on his list…abortion rights. Abortion rights may play well with the base but it won’t win you many independents. Doesn’t matter. Playing to the base wins primaries. Cruz will worry about the rest later. Besides…all Liberty students are required to attend the speech so the event will look good for the cameras. Form always trumps substance with Cruz.

Cruz is the first clown to throw his hat into the ring. More funny guys to follow.

TRAGEDY – Two months ago we listened to the president as he spoke about the “successful” military operations in Yemen. Two days ago the US evacuated its remaining personnel due to the deteriorating security situation. Included among the evacuated were about 100 Navy Seals and Green Berets. You know it has all gone to hell if the Seals and Green Berets are bugging out.

Yemen now joins Libya and Syria as failed states within the region; torn apart by a centuries old war between Sunni and Shiite. ISIS sews seeds of terror. Iranian backed militia expand Iran's influence. Moderate Sunni’s, critical in the war against ISIS, remain on the sidelines; hedging their bets on who the winner might be. The Iraq that we see on the map may today cease to exist. Jordan is teetering. There is the very real possibility that the Saudi Kingdom, home to Islam’s two most holy places, may be next. The relationship between the US and its one real partner in the region, Israel, is the worst that it has been in decades.

Fourteen years ago the US engaged in an unnecessary war to avenge the attacks on 9/11. The resulting conflagration destroyed Iraq and left a power vacuum that radical groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS were quick to fill. The violence and political upheaval has spread throughout the region. Secular differences etched in stone thousands of years ago remain. Who are we to change the world?

Dick Cheney says that it could all have been prevented had President Obama defied Iraq’s elected leadership and left a 5,000 troop residual force in country. Dick Cheney is a war criminal trying his best to re-write history.

The lesson here is that America’s presence in the region does not quell the violence…it exacerbates it.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Birds Of A Feather

“He was for it before he was against it…and against it before he was for it.”

With those words columnist and best-selling author Mark Halperin summed up Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s brazenly political tactics in the days immediately surrounding his re-election.

In 2009 Beebe Netanyahu said that he supported a peaceful two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In 2015, the day before voters were to decide if he deserved to be re-elected their prime minister, Netanyahu, desperately seeking support from the hardliners, promised that if elected he would never agree to a two state solution. Minutes after the votes were tallied a victorious Netanyahu told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell that he was supportive of a two state solution if conditions improve.

To say that the White House is pissed off by Netanyahu’s politically motivated flip flopping would be a gross understatement. Relations between the White House and the Israeli government could be called “strained.” The personal relationship between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu is toxic. They can barely stand each other. So it comes as no surprise that the White House announced
that given Mr. Netanyahu’s remarks it would be re-evaluating the entire Middle East peace process.

“Steps that the United States has taken at the United Nations had been predicated on the idea that a two state solution is the best outcome, “said spokesman Josh Earnest. “Now our ally in these talks is no longer committed to that solution. That means we need to re-evaluate our position in this matter, and that is what we will do moving forward.

As expected, right wing conservatives here at home came out in unfettered support of the Israeli Prime Minister. Even more moderate conservatives questioned the White House response: “Look I totally understand that the White House has every reason to be pissed off at Netanyahu,” said highly respected conservative morning show host Joe Scarborough. “ But what do they have to gain by taking this very public stance. Wouldn’t it be better to express their anger off the record behind closed doors? After all this is our closest most important ally in the region.”

This makes my teeth hurt.

The Republican led United States Congress makes the unprecedented decision to invite the Israeli Prime Minister to address a joint session of the United States Congress, the world’s most powerful body, for the sole purpose of publically criticizing United States' President. Then 47 United States Senators write an open letter to the leadership of Iran, a nation they refer to as our “greatest enemy,” for the sole purpose of undermining the credibility and authority of the United States’ President. Then these same Republicans criticize the White House for daring to publically object to the self- serving political tactics of Israel’s leader. Better, they say, to air such disagreements quietly behind closed doors. Really!

Prime Minister Netanyahu has proven throughout his career that he will do or say anything that is in his own best interests. He tapped into the Republicans’ unabashed distain for President Obama to further his own political ambition and he used the United States Congress as a political prop to further his election chances. He disavowed a long standing agreement with our country to court the hardliners that he desperately needed to win re-election; only to reaffirm his previous agreement with the US once his re-election was safely won. Netanyahu and his government have lied to us, spied on us and undermined our policies. These are the reasons that many Washington insiders call him a liar. Yet the Republicans continue to curry favor with him...even to the extent of diminishing the president.

As I watched Netanyahu over these past few days I was reminded of the Republican candidates in the recent presidential races; engaging in all manner of inflammatory hyperbole to win the party’s nomination only to shift to the more pragmatic middle in hopes of winning the general. Crazy talk may play well with the wacko birds who inhabit the base but it typically gets you in trouble with those who have a brain. I guess that is why conservatives flock to the Israeli prime minister. They use the same playbook.

There is no doubt that Israel is our most important ally in the region. Netanyahu seems to be taking that relationship for granted. Not a wise move. Israel needs us far more than we need them.

Poking the bear may have brought the prime minister a short term victory back home…but it may have cost him and his country in the long run.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

GOP Budget Proposals Offer Nothing New

The Republican controlled House and Senate have released the details of their respective budgets for the fiscal year beginning in October 2015. As you might expect both plans offer a long term approach to balancing the budget and cutting the debt and deficit without calling for any increase in tax revenue. Both plans promise to produce a surplus by 2015.

Republicans say their approach is a “sensible and sustainable” approach that empowers states while securing our economic future.

I say that their approach is yet another example of voodoo economics that places the burden of the county’s economic future squarely on the shoulders of the impoverished and the working poor. Simply put…the Republican proposals want to achieve a balanced budget and economic stability by gutting the safety net that is essential for tens of millions of Americans.

Both plans offer virtually the same path to economic stability. The first order of business is to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Verified numbers form both state and federal governments show that 16 million Americans have acquired health care coverage through the ACA. Republicans offer no alternative solution for these people. However, they DO include in their budgets the $2 trillion in tax revenues produced by the ACA…even after the plan is repealed?

The Republican proposals claim to find $4.3 trillion in savings by introducing changes to Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps. However they provide no details. We do know that part of that savings would come from turning the administration of Medicaid and food stamps over to the states in the form of block grants. We also know that between the repeal of the ACA and the cuts to Medicaid, 37 million people would lose their health insurance. Again, no alternative is offered.

As with previous Republican budgetary proposals, the wealthiest Americans are left untouched by their austerity programs. Tax loopholes, subsidies…all the perks that big corporations and the wealthiest Americans have come to expect remain in place.

Remember all the clamoring Speaker Boehner use to do about jobs? “Where are the job?” There’s nothing in these proposals to address the Speaker’s question. Nothing to create jobs. No plans to rebuild our infrastructure. Nothing for education, investment or research.

The Republican approach to fiscal responsibility is always quite simple…gut the safety net and damned the consequences.

Nothing new here.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

GOP Replaces "Obstruction" With "Obstruction"

Remember Mitch McConnell’s post-election promise that the GOP would end partisan gridlock and go about the business of governing? Here is what “governing” looks like under the GOP led congress.

Last September Attorney General Eric Holder announced his resignation. He agreed to stay on until his replacement was confirmed. Four months ago President Obama nominated the highly qualified Loretta Lynch to be the country’s new Attorney General. Ms. Lynch sailed through the confirmation hearings without a peep of objection or controversy. The only thing standing in her way was the formality of a confirmation vote by the Senate. That vote is still pending.


Because Mitch McConnell refuses to bring her confirmation to the floor for a vote.The Majority Leader has managed to bring several other matters to the floor while Ms. Lynch waits on the sideline, including the confirmation vote of the president’s candidate for Secretary of Defense, Ashton Carter. Mr. Carter was nominated for his post BEFORE Ms. Lynch was presented for hers. For some reason Senator McConnell decided to move Mr. Carter to the head of the line.


When pressed, Senator McConnell said: “We can’t pass the trafficking bill right now. And I wanted to hold the vote on the attorney general but if I can’t get this bill through then I’m going to have to delay the confirmation vote…We need to finish it. It’s on the floor now. Then we have the budget.”

The trafficking bill that McConnell is referring to is the Justice of Victims of Trafficking Act. The bill would increase penalties for sex and child labor smugglers. The bill passed through committee with bi-partisan support. But the Democrats blocked a vote on the bill when they discovered that Republicans had inserted ant-abortion language into the proposal. The language would effectively ban using tax payer money for abortion purposes under the newly formed Domestic Trafficking Fund.

McConnell blames the Democrats for holding up the trafficking bill and subsequently the attorney general confirmation vote. “We have to finish the human trafficking vote first. Then we’ll turn to the attorney general.” McConnell’s assertion that the confirmation vote cannot take place until the trafficking bill is resolved is simply not true. McConnell could have taken up Lynch’s confirmation vote on any number of occasions but he chose not to. He can pull the trafficking bill and return it to committee. He simply chooses not to.


Because McConnell is once again playing to the base. And there is nothing the GOP base wants more than to block anything this president wants to move forward.
The level of contempt and animosity that the far right has for this president has been well documented. While the president tops the list of left wing liberals that Republicans love to hate…Eric holder is a close second.


Eric Holder has taken on the mantle of the president’s proxy…willing walk go where the president cannot dare to tread. Holder has been blunt in discussing matters of race where the president must remain politically correct. Holder has openly expressed contempt for Republicans where the president must remain cool and polite. Whenever Holder has found himself testifying before a congressional committee he has made no attempt to hide his contempt for the Republicans questioning his activities. As Dara Lind wrote in “Vox”: “The man responsible for carrying out some of the Obama policies they hate most is also a personal proxy for the president…not just because they’re both black men, but because they are personal friends.”

Eric Holder wants out of Washington but has committed to stay until his replacement id confirmed. What better way to screw Eric Holder and roadblock one more piece of the president’s agenda than to slow walk Loretta Lynch’s confirmation.

Republicans could rid themselves of the one administration official that they despise more than any other save the president. They could rid themselves of the man who in their eyes embodies all that is wrong with the left wing government that is destroying the country. But in the convoluted world Republican Party politics, rather than send him packing they would keep him in office just to screw with his head and toss yet another roadblock in the president’s path.

This is what governing looks like in the GOP led congress.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Yet Another Battle Over America's Debt?

America has maxed out its credit card once again.

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew informed congress on Friday that he will once again have to use “extraordinary measures” to keep the government under the legal debt ceiling after a suspension of the limit expires today.

Translation…beginning on Monday the government will have to rob Peter to pay Paul if congress doesn’t extend the government’s credit card limit. Without an extension the government will default on its obligations. Estimates are that the Treasury Department can play its little shell game until sometime in October; after which the government will shut down dragging the US and world economies down the tubes.

Raising the debt ceiling should be a no brainer. It is simply an authorization by congress to allow the government to borrow the money necessary to pay for the goods and services it has already acquired and consumed. But this is Washington and nothing is ever easy. Partisan politics have a way of making even the simplest of matters difficult. There is already talk of Republicans agreeing to raise the debt limit only if Democrats agree to changes in the Affordable Care Act.

We’ve seen this movie before.

In 2013 Tea Party Republicans refused to allow an increase in the debt ceiling unless Democrats agreed to a number of spending cuts. Democrats refused; repeating the logical argument that raising the debt limit was to secure payment for past expenses not future spending. The deadline past…the government shut down…hundreds of thousands of government workers were furloughed…Standard and Poors downgraded our credit rating…and the GDP took a $26 billion dollar hit. All for a 17 day political stunt.

On March 8, 2015 Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell appeared on CBS’s Face the Nation where he repeated a point that he has made several times since his party took control of congress:

“I made it very clear after the November election that we are certainly not going to shut down the government or default on the national debt.”

We’ll see!

Friday, March 13, 2015

"America's Mayor" Weighs In

“America’s Mayor” is at it again.

This past Tuesday the smoldering embers of racial unrest in Ferguson, Missouri burst into flames when two police officers were shot and wounded by an unknown assailant. Tensions were high as law enforcement officers began a massive manhunt to find the shooter. It would not take much to return an already heated situation to the violent conflagration that erupted in the aftermath of the shooting of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson. Yet here was Rudy Giuliani pouring gasoline onto the flames.

“What happened in Ferguson is that a man committed a robbery, attempted to assault a police officer, and the police officer--to save his life--shot him. The police officer did his duty. The officer should be commended for what he did.”

The circumstances surrounding Officer Darren Wilson’s shooting of Michael Brown have been adjudicated. Our justice system acquitted Officer Wilson of any wrong doing. In a subsequent report the system also found a “pattern of racial bias within the Ferguson Police Department, with officers routinely discriminating against blacks by using excessive force, issuing petty citations and making baseless traffic stops.” The report has led to the firing or resignation of several high ranking Ferguson officials including the Chief of Police.

Naturally, Mr. Giuliani disagrees with the report: “It’s an allegation. There’s no proof yet.” No surprise here. Mr. Giuliani has been outspoken in his support of law enforcement; placing the blame for aggressive police tactics on the violence within black communities.

I’ve never been to Ferguson, Missouri. My guess is that neither has Mr. Giuliani. I don’t know what it feels like to live as a black man in this country. My guess is neither does Mr. Giuliani. I don’t know with any specificity what happened the day Officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown because I wasn’t there. Neither was Mr. Giuliani.

I am smart enough to know that there are two America’s; and the racial divide between the two is very real. I am also smart enough to know that if you continue to poke a bear with a stick long enough you are liable to get hurt. Apparently Mr. Giuliani is unfamiliar with the concept.

Rudy Giuliani has a long and distinguished career as a prosecutor and mayor of our country’s largest city. His actions in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks have been described by many as heroic. His supporters describe his style as “straight forward” and “edgy.”

The Rudy Giuliani we see today is not THAT Rudy Giuliani. The man who helped unite the country is now a divider. The commentary that may once have been “edgy” is now laced with racism and bigotry. The mayor of our largest city has been replaced by a sad and pitiful politician searching desperately to bask once again in the spotlight.

Rudy Giuliani relishes the moniker of “America’s Mayor.” If he truly wants to live up to that title then perhaps he should work towards healing rather than fomenting the racial unrest that simmers within this country.

“America’s Mayor” must serve ALL the people…not just the privileged few.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

It Feels Like The 1990's...Let The Conspiracy Theories Begin!

It feels like the 1990’s.

Hillary Clinton unofficially kicked off her 2016 presidential campaign yesterday, fielding seven questions on the subject of her controversial use of a personal email account while serving as Secretary of State. If Secretary Clinton thought that by taking a few questions she could put the media firestorm to rest, she was sadly mistaken. As I expected the brief press conference raised more questions than it answered.

Here is what she told us.

She elected to use only her personal email account to conduct official government business because she felt it would be more “convenient” than maintaining both a government account and a personal account.

All of her emails were stored on a personal server which was located in her home. The server had been set up for President Clinton’s use. There had not been any security breaches of the server. The server would remain private.

At the request of the State Department she and her staff had vetted all of her 62,320 emails and had turned over the work related emails (30,490) to the government. She said that the government had already received most of the work related emails (approx. 27,500) because they were communications with state department officials and therefore already archived on government servers. The remaining 31,830 emails were deemed to be of a personal nature and deleted.

She had gone “above and beyond” that which she was required to do as respects the preservation of her emails.

Vintage Clinton! Here are the facts! Nothing to see here! Let’s move on.

As a government official you are allowed to use your own personal email account for your communications provided you archive them on a secured government server. There is only one reason to store all of your emails on a private server in your own home…and it’s not convenience. It’s because you want sole control over the content and to the parties made privy to that content. Secretary Clinton made herself the sole arbiter of what would and would not be released to the government. That doesn’t speak toward convenience…that speaks to transparency and playing by one’s own set of rules.

The average Joe in Whoville, Kansas probably doesn’t give a dam about the content of Secretary Clinton’s emails. But when he goes to the voting booth he will take into consideration the character of those asking for his vote. This goes to character and a method of doing business. And if you are at this moment the odds on favorite to be the next President of the United States then character and transparency are reasonable topics for discussion.

Watching yesterday’s press briefing I could not help but harken back to the Clinton years of the 90’s…to Whitewater and “Tradegate” and “Travelgate” and Lewinsky. To the days when you were certain that Clinton’s were being less than forthcoming…and you were just as certain that they would get away with it. So as I watched I kept asking myself: “Do we really want to go through this again…do we want to spend the next two to ten years doing this again?”

It feels like the 1990’s. Let the conspiracy theories begin.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

GOP Takes Its Clown Show Overseas

Just when you thought the rancor in Washington could not get any worse…

In yet another partisan effort to undermine and embarrass the president, 47 Republican senators, including four presidential candidates, signed an open letter to “The Leaders of the Republic of Iran” which in essence says that any agreement reached with this president may not be worth the paper on which it is written.

The senators begin with what I perceive to be a condescending lesson on our Constitution and the powers of the president to conduct business on behalf of the country:

“…you may not fully understand our constitutional system. Thus we are writing to bring to your attention two features of our Constitution…the power to make binding international agreements and the different character of federal offices…which you should seriously consider as negotiations progress.”

The letter goes on to say that while the president negotiates international agreements it is the Congress that must ratify the agreement to make it binding. “Anything not approved by congress is a mere executive agreement.”

Having schooled the assumedly clueless Iranians on an abbreviated version of Civics 101 the signers take a crack at undermining the staying power of any agreement by delving into the always riveting subject of term limits:

‘Second…the offices of our Constitution have different characteristics. For example, the president may serve only two 4-year terms, whereas senators may serve an unlimited number of 6-year terms. As applied today, for instance, President Obama will leave office in January of 2017, while most of us will remain in office well beyond then - perhaps decades.”

The letter closes by informing the Iranians that without congressional approval any agreement reached with this president has a short term shelf life:

“What these two constitutional provisions mean is that that we will consider any agreement regarding your nuclear-weapons program that is not approved by the Congress as nothing more than an executive agreement between President Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei. The next president could revoke such executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms at any time.”

Freshman Senator Tom Cotton (R-AK), the author and initiator of this reckless tactic, said that the signers were concerned that the Iranian negotiators may not have been familiar with our system of government and they wanted to make clear that Congress would have to weigh in for any deal to be binding long term. Senator Cotton is being disingenuous. His reasoning strains credulity and is an insult to the intelligence of the American people.

It is really difficult to put into words my reaction to this unprecedented effort to damage a sitting president on the international stage.

Reckless is the first word that comes to mind. Iran is the number one sponsor of terrorism in the world. A nuclear armed Iran would be our worst nightmare. These sensitive negotiations and possible treaty may be the only thing standing between us and a third world war. Not only does this letter jeopardize the president’s ability to come up with a peaceful diplomatic solution it sends a message to our enemies that the president’s word is meaningless.

Not only is this missive reckless it is thoughtless. The letter sends a bad message to our allies. Does America have their back? Can America be trusted to stand behind its agreements?

This letter is shortsighted as well. A dangerous precedent has now been set. Will future congressional leaders feel embolden to circumvent or demean their president on the international stage? Can you imagine the reaction from “Tea Party Patriots” if a Democratic congress were ever to pull such a stunt on a sitting Republican president? I can see them marching down Pennsylvania Avenue…wrapped in their patriotism…waving their flags…shouting “hang the traitors from the highest tree.”

The Republican Party’s hatred of this president knows no bounds. It is divisive, destructive, dangerous, short sighted and to some degree racist. It strains the very democratic tenants and moral fiber on which this country was founded. There is no place for it in our society.

The Republicans have taken their clown show overseas; and we are all the worse for it.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Hillary Hurting Hillary

On Friday we learned that the economy had produced 295,000 new private sector jobs in February. The event marked the 12th straight month of 200,000+ job growth; five straight years of positive numbers. We should be celebrating this remarkable economic recovery and figuring out ways to build on this momentum.

Instead we are talking about Hillary Clinton’s emails.

The stock market has been consistently producing record numbers. Corporations are making record profits. We should be debating how we can help the middle class share in this bounty.

Instead we are debating Hillary Clinton’s emails.

This past weekend thousands of Americans went to Selma, Alabama to remember, mourn and celebrate Bloody Sunday. We should all be taking this time to remember one of the most historic moments in our nation’s history and discussing how we can bridge the racial divide that still exists.

Instead we are discussing Hillary Clinton’s emails.

We should be finding ways to create jobs, debating the plight of the middle class, resolving immigration reform, fixing the ACA, reducing our debt, improving our education system, repairing our bridges and roadways, securing Medicare and Medicaid, and passing a budget to fund the government.
But instead we are transfixed by the hype over Hillary Clinton’s emails. Watch any interview with any government official and one of the first questions you will hear concerns Hillary Clinton’s emails.

If you don’t think this is a big deal check out the White House response to the Hillary frenzy. The White House knows that everything they have worked for over the past six years will be torn apart if a Republican takes over the White House. Hillary Clinton is their best chance to keep that from happening. But when fielding the obligatory questions about the secretary’s actions you find nothing remotely resembling a word of support.

Check out the president’s manner and response when hit with the same subject. He is clearly pissed. The last thing the president wants to be the centerpiece of his last two years in office is a scandal over Hillary’s emails. He has a legacy that the wants to secure. Hillary is not part of it.

My concern is not about Hillary’s emails. My concern is what happens if Hillary becomes president. I mean, is this what a Hillary Clinton presidency looks like? Progress held hostage by scandal? Transparency clouded by secrecy? Obfuscation in congress replaced by conspiracy theories emanating from the White House? Does the country stall in a ditch while Mrs. Clinton battles to fight her demons and repair her self-inflicted wounds?

Consider this… Hillary Clinton becomes Secretary of State. She sets up a private server in her own home for her to use/store her personal and government related emails. She later advises all state department employees that they are to conform to a White House directive requiring ALL administration employees them to establish and use a secured government email account for all government email correspondence. At one point she even fires one of her ambassadors in part for failing to comply with this directive. Once again proving that in Clintonville the rules are but suggestions and secrecy is key.

Key members of the Democratic Party have urged Secretary Clinton to come forward and address the issue. The word from the Clinton camp is that she will finally do so this week. But will anybody believe her? After decades of playing fast and loose with the truth her reputation would seem to be baked in the cake.

It seems to me that the only way that she can change the narrative and put this behind her is to turn her private server over to the government. Let the public see it all…the good and the bad. The photos of the doting grandmother…and the United States Secretary of State using her position to leverage donations from foreign governments for the Clinton Foundation. She will either be vindicated and her reputation going forward enhanced; or she will crash and burn like so many politicians before her that thought they were somehow above the law.

Hillary Clinton is the presumptive Democratic nominee for the presidency. There is no one to challenge her. Recent polls show that if the general election were held today she would trounce any of the possible Republican challengers by a wide margin. The only person that can keep Hillary Clinton form becoming our nation’s first female president…is Hillary Clinton. Over the past several days she has been doing just that.

Maybe that’s a good thing.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

I'm Tired Of Hillary Rodham Clinton

I’m tired!

It is twenty months until the 2016 election. Hillary Rodham Clinton has yet to announce her inevitable candidacy…and I am already tired of Hillary Rodham Clinton.

For the past 36 hours I have watched and listened to the firestorm over Hillary Clinton’s emails, and my reaction is that I just don’t want to deal with this anymore.

Secretary Clinton made the conscious decision to defy federal and White House regulations when she elected to exclusively use personal email accounts to conduct government business.

Secretary Clinton made the conscious decision to defy federal and White House regulations when she elected to secure those emails on a server in her home rather than the requisite servers at the State Department.

When she was asked by the State Department to turn over those emails so that they could be properly archived; Mrs. Clinton made the conscious decision to defy the directive and turn over some but not all of the communications.

When the media began to question her actions she tried to deflect their attention to the activities of her predecessors.

When the media scrutiny grew even more intense she went on the offensive; releasing a statement designed to obfuscate while appearing transparent. “I told the State Department to release all of my emails. I want people to see them.” Of course the State Department could not release all of her emails because she had only released a portion of them.

The Clinton’s make their living in the public eye but they live in a private bubble. They have become so isolated from those they profess to serve that I often wonder what version of reality they are watching. For the past 30 years I have watched the Clinton’s play the game by their own set of rules. I have watched them obfuscate, bend, deflect and stretch the truth to suit their own agenda. I have watched them parse reality to the point of absurdity: “It depends on what the mean of the word “is” is.” And now I see it starting all over again.

Watching the Clinton camp spin this latest controversy brings it all back once more. I am not surprised by it.

I’m just tired of it.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Bebe, Boehner, Clinton, Ferguson and Patreaus

Yesterday was an extraordinary day for our country.

At the invitation of the Speaker of the House; a foreign head of state stood before a joint session of congress and criticized the foreign policy of our president. The majority party in congress was forced to capitulate on a major policy initiative. A presumptive presidential nominee was accused of violating the law. The ugly racial divide in this country was exposed in a new light and a decorated war hero was pled guilty to inappropriately releasing classified documents.

BEBE – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered his much anticipated address before a joint session of congress. The atmosphere in the hall was electric. After extending his thanks and appreciation towards the president and the seated congressional body for their support of his country, the prime minister proceeded eviscerate the president’s efforts to stop Iran’s development of a nuclear program. On twelve separate occasions the hall exploded and rose to their feet in acknowledgment of the prime minister’s remarks. He went into great detail about Iran’s violent past and the threat that the regime poses to both Israel and America should it be allowed to obtain a nuclear bomb. It was a classic case of Fear Mongering 101. It was vintage Dick Cheney. Historians will remember that like Cheney, Netanyahu got in wrong in the post 9/11 fever to go after Saddam. When the prime minister wasn’t criticizing the president’s policy he was painting the president as naïve to think that Iran could ever be trusted to hold up its end of any negotiated deal. His conclusion was straight forward: “This is a bad deal…a very bad deal.” Unfortunately, like most of the president’s critics, he offered little in the way of a substantive alternative. Netanyahu faces a close election in the upcoming weeks. He is desperate to woo the hardline hawks, who prior to yesterday’s address, were not in his camp. Speaker Boehner allowed the prime minister to use the most important deliberative body in the world as a political prop. Never in the history of our republic has the head of a foreign power been invited to address congress for the purpose of attacking the policies of a sitting president. Speaker Boehner has the dubious distinction of being the first speaker to extend such an invitation. It was hard to watch. It used to be that disagreements over this country’s foreign policy ended at the water’s edge. Patriotism always trumped political opportunism. Never more!

BOEHNER – Once the Bebe pep rally ended, Speaker Boehner quietly called the House into session and went about the bitter task of passing a one year clean bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security. This was a complete capitulation on the part of Republicans who vowed for weeks that they would never take up a vote to fund the DHS unless the bill stripped out all of the president’s initiatives on immigration reform. In the end the House did what everybody knew they would do several weeks ago. The Republican Party is in disarray. If they can’t negotiate a consensus within their caucus how will they ever negotiate an agreement with the Democrats? Republican’s had promised us that we would see “effective governance” once they took control of congress. So far…not so much. The Speaker can thank the Bebe love fest for taking over the news cycle and overshadowing this huge defeat.

CLINTON – The firestorm over Hillary Clinton’s exclusive use of her personal email account continues to grow. Yesterday, I wrote in this space that her use of a personal email account was in violation of the Federal Records Act. That was a misstatement on my part. The former Secretary of State has yet to be found guilty of violating any laws. However according to the procedural rules in place during her time as the country’s chief ambassador all federal government employees were required to secure their communications on the appropriate government servers so that they may be preserved for archival and security purposes. The White House has confirmed that all administration officials were expected to comply with these rules. We now know that Mrs. Clinton chose not to set up a secure government email account; preferring to use several personal email accounts to conduct government business. While her communications to other State Department officials were sent to their secure state department accounts and therefore archived; we have no idea what communications were sent to other parties by way of her personal email accounts. Consequently when oversight committees, such as Darrel Issa’s committee investigating the Benghazi affair, subpoenaed her state department emails, they found nothing. When the proverbial poop hit the fan the Clinton camp perused through her emails and decided among themselves which emails would be released. So much for oversight, security and archival integrity. From my prospective there is only one reason not to comply with the governments regulations on government communications…so that you can maintain sole control of access. Once again we see a Clinton playing fast and loose with the law. We should expect better from the presumptive nominee for the presidency.

FERGUSON – The Department of Justice released its findings on the inner workings of the City of Ferguson Police Department. You may recall the events in Ferguson, Missouri surrounding the police shooting of unarmed Michel Brown and the days of violent unrest that followed. The DOJ determined that a culture of racial bias was rampant within the police department. The DOJ found that over 85-95% of all arrests, fines, stops and incarcerations involved members of the black community. A review of police department emails produced racially insensitive correspondence. These findings come at the same time that white New York City Mayor Bill di Blasio continues to be disparaged for saying that he has to counsel his black son on how to behave in the presence of police officers. Racism in this country is alive and well. There are two Americas. People need to open their eyes to the reality.

PATREAUS – Former CIA Director and retired four star General David Patraeus has pled guilty to mis-handling classified documents. The war hero and former commander of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, shared classified military secrets including the names of covert operators, war strategies and conversations with the president with his biographer and mistress, Paula Broadwell. Patraeus took the plea deal to avoid jail time. Isn’t it interesting how the reaction in Washington to the general’s betrayal pales in comparison to the firestorm over Hillary Clinton’s emails?

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Boehner/Netanyahu: Political Hacks

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will address the United States Congress today concerning the impending threat of a nuclear armed Iran. Unfortunately the content of his speech has already been overshadowed by the political controversy surrounding his invitation to speak.

Speaker Boehner and the Republican leadership do not approve of the manner in which the president has used his executive authority to circumvent the obstructionist tactics orchestrated by Congress. They are particularly incensed with the president’s efforts to negotiate a peaceful agreement with Iran over the regime’s development of a nuclear material.

In an effort one up the president, Boehner invited the Israeli Prime Minister to address congress on the Iranian issue without running the idea through the Obama administration. The goal here was to show the world that it is the Republicans, as opposed to the president and the Democrats that are willing to stand with the only democratic government in the region against the Iranian threat.
Prime Minister Netanyahu has accepted the invitation and will address congress today.

This is nothing more than a political stunt orchestrated by two political hacks.

Boehner is terrible at his job. The clown show that he failed to control last Friday proves the point. Inviting Netanyahu without giving the White House a heads up is nothing more than an effort to embarrass the president and score political points. His allowing Netanyahu a worldwide audience a mere two weeks before the prime minister faces a tough re-election vote diminishes congress; turning the institution into a political prop. Boehner has given the world the impression that United States Congress is taking sides in the Israeli election.

Netanyahu is a political hack. His opposition to a US/Iranian accord has been well documented. Boehner’s invitation is like manner from heaven; a lifeline for the embattled incumbent. The only reason he is coming here at this particular time is to strut his bona fides in front of the Israeli electorate. Otherwise why not wait until after the election and avoid all fuss.

No profiles in courage here. Just politics at its worst.

Clinton: Playing Fast And Loose Once Again

The New York Times is reporting that while serving as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton used a personal email account to send and receive her government correspondence. Using a personal email account for government business is a violation of the Federal Records Act; which for security and archival purposes requires that all federal government employees establish and use a federal government email account for all correspondence.

A spokesperson for Clinton said that the Secretary had been “complying with the letter and spirit of the rules” noting that “the Secretary’s emails were sent to department officials at government email addresses where she assumed they were being retained.” According to the Times, the spokesperson did not address emails that were sent to other foreign leaders, private individuals or other government officials outside the department.

The Times reports that last October the State Department, as part of an effort to improve its record keeping, asked all former secretaries as far back as Madeline Albright, to provide copies any records from their time in office for preservation. The Clinton camp reviewed Mrs. Clinton’s correspondence and submitted 55,000 pages of emails.

This is pretty amazing.

Hillary Rodham Clinton, while serving as our nation’s chief ambassador, used an UNSECURED personal email account to transmit correspondence to…well…everybody. Due to her position in the administration, it is safe to assume that some of that correspondence was sensitive in nature and pertained to national security. We know that this sensitive information was sent via her UNSECURED email account because that was the only email account she had.

So we are expected to believe that over a four year period nobody found it odd that they were receiving sensitive communications from the UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE via a freaking HOTMAIL account!!! HRC.hotmail.com!!! Are you kidding me?

Then, 22 months after she leaves office, the state department finally gets around to asking her for her correspondence…and allows HER STAFF to decide which documents they will release?

If you are old enough to remember the Clinton years in the White House you are probably having a Déjà vu moment right about now.

The Clinton’s have always played fast and loose believing that the rules don’t apply to them. The Clinton’s tell a tale…the heathen media unearth the truth…the Clinton’s lawyer up. This scenario repeated itself numerous times during the Clinton years. Are we about to face another rendition of the same Clinton song?

Hillary Clinton is about formally announce her candidacy for President of the United States.

But first she’ll have to clean up another mess.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

GOP Not Ready For Prime Time

When Republicans were handed control of congress last November they promised a new era of effective government. The dysfunction and gridlock that held the nation hostage was to be replaced with a new found spirit of co-operation and a resolve to get things done.

If the past few weeks are any indication…Republicans may have been handed the keys to the car but they have yet to learn how to drive. Last Friday served as glaring proof that they have yet to master the controls.

Republicans managed to avoid a politically devastating partial shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security but only after suffering through a humiliating defeat earlier in the day.

During the previous weeks there had been a heated debate within the Party about passing a DHS funding bill that excluded any monies for the president’s executive orders on immigration reform. Moderates in the caucus wanted to pass a clean funding bill and have the debate on immigration reform another day. Hardliners wanted nothing to do with the president’s executive orders and were willing to shut down the DHS rather than give the president what he wanted. The clock was ticking.

As the midnight deadline approached on Friday it became apparent that there was no solving the impasse. The Speaker floated the idea of passing a clean temporary bill that would fund the DHS for three weeks while buying his caucus more time to reach a consensus.

He thought he had the votes.

Speaker Boehner allowed the bill to come to the floor…only to see it fail. 52 Republicans crossed party lines to defeat the bill and in the process embarrass the Speaker.

Speaker Boehner and Republican leadership scrambled to find a palpable alternative before the midnight deadline. With the help of House Democrats a one week extension was passed and sent to the president for his signature. The bill was signed with ten minutes to spare. 55 Republicans voted against the Speaker.
House Democrats said they agreed with the short term extension because the Speaker had promised a vote on a clean bill next week. The Speaker’s office denied that any such promise was made.

This marks the third time this year that the Republican majority had to pull a bill because of internal conflicts within the Party. The question must be asked…if Republicans cannot agree among themselves how do they expect to reach an accord with Democrats.

And why the last minute skirmish over such an important funding resolution? The February 28th funding deadline was no secret. Like Christmas, everyone knew the date. So why all the last minute frenzy?

Why does this “new era of effective government” look more like a bunch of harried procrastinators on Christmas Eve?