Josh Earnest announced yesterday that President Obama will meet the media for a year-end press conference later on today. In light of the White House press corps' track record of feeble, lethargic performances at these types of exchanges in recent years, I figured I'd offer a small sampling of questions that might be appropriate to put to the president. These aren't comprehensive, but they're a start:
(1) Mr. President, here is what you said about using executive power to suspend deportation for millions of illegal immigrants in 2011: "With respect to the notion that I can just suspend deportations through executive order, that’s just not the case, because there are laws on the books that Congress has passed...for me to simply through executive order ignore those congressional mandates would not conform with my appropriate role as President." Then, after you unilaterally implemented DREAM Act-style enforcement discretion for minors in 2012, you said "I've done everything that I can on my own," adding, "if we start broadening that [action], then essentially I would be ignoring the law in a way that I think would be very difficult to defend legally." Was your legal assessment of the limits of your own authority inaccurate at the time? (Be equipped with this information for a possible follow-up).
(2) On a related note, when you were a candidate for president, a central theme of your campaign was criticizing what you called your predecessor's inappropriate arrogation of executive power, at Congress' expense. You told a crowd of supporters, "The biggest problems that were facing right now have to do with George Bush trying to bring more and more power into the executive branch and not go through Congress at all, and that’s what I intend to reverse when I’m President of the United States of America." Some -- including prominent liberals -- would argue that your views on that 'big problem' have evolved ever since you attained that power. Do you agree?
(3) The Hill reported last week that consumers who selected the most popular 'Obamacare' plans last year are in for double-digit 2015 rate increases. Many customers now face the prospect of paying even more, or once again switching plans. A recent Kaiser study found that 41 percent of uninsured Americans are choosing to remain uninsured, with "the vast majority" citing lack of affordability. You told Americans that your health reform law would save the average family $2,500 per year. Has that promise, which your adviser Jonathan Gruber dismissed as wishful thinking, been kept? Follow up: Every major poll shows that significantly more Americans say the 'Affordable Care Act' has directly harmed their family than who say they've been helped. Are these people mistaken in the perception of their own lives and finances?
(4) A group of former CIA directors are pushing back hard against Senate Democrats' controversial report regarding the agency's post-9/11 interrogation program. A core disagreement is whether tough tactics were effective in extracting useful intelligence from high-value Al Qaeda detainees. Sen. Feinstein's report -- which didn't include interviews with any CIA officials who oversaw or carried out the program -- says that the so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" were not at all effective. Numerous CIA officials strongly dispute that assertion, citing evidence to fortify their position. Did 'enhanced interrogations' work, and were they appropriate at the time? (Follow-up: Why are summary executions via lethal drone strikes in line with "our values," but harsh interrogations are not?)
(5) This week, members of the Taliban laid siege to a grade school in Pakistan, massacring 145 students and faculty. Are you concerned that an American withdrawal from Afghanistan will strengthen these radicals lead to even more atrocities like this? Does your administration continue to believe that direct negotiations with the Taliban can be a fruitful endeavor?
(6) Two North Korea-themed films have been cancelled in the wake of a major cyber hack and series of terrorist threats -- which the US government have linked to Pyongyang. Does Kim Jong Un's regime now wield veto power over American consumer's entertainment choices? Are you troubled by the potential precedent this episode has set regarding free speech and expression? Is America prepared to retaliate?
(7) A new NBC/WSJ poll shows that fewer than one in five Americans believe you've heard, and are responding to, the message voters sent you and your party last month. In what ways are you respecting the voters' wishes, as represented by November's Republican landslide victory? (Be prepared with this reality check in a follow-up).
Josh Earnest announced yesterday that President Obama will meet the media for a year-end press conference later on today. In light of the White House press corps' track record of feeble, lethargic performances at these types of exchanges in recent years, I figured I'd offer a small sampling of questions that might be appropriate to put to the president. These aren't comprehensive, but they're a start:
Did you know that having First Amendment rights in the United States comes with the responsibility not to offend dictators from North Korea? Had no idea? Me either.
Last night on CNN "journalist" Sharon Waxman, who has worked at a number of media outlets including the Washington Post, argued that having First Amendment rights means we shouldn't be making fun of North Korean dictators because they might get upset. She was of course referring to the recent and massive hack on Sony pictures by North Korea as retaliation for "The Interview," a comedy about assassinating Kim Jong-Un.
"I also want to point out something else that does not seem to be part of the discussion which is, where are our responsibilities in our exercising of the First Amendment? And I mean both those of us in the media and those of us who are making movies and those of us who are writing about the community that makes movies which is to say what is the thought process behind making a movie in which we decide to depict the assassination of a living foreign leader," Waxman said on air with someone on set in the studio agreeing by saying "good point."
"I think common sense has to prevail when we express our artistic freedoms," Waxman added.
"Living foreign leader"? More like living, foreign, brutal dictator. What's the process behind this thought process? This is America, we say and do what we want. Period. The entire purpose of the First Amendment is to be able to speak out against tyranny. We don't restrict our First Amendment rights to appease a guy who puts thousands of people into starvation, labor camps. It's "common sense" to mock people like Kim Jong-Un, not to act like cowards and cave to his demands.
It is rumored President Obama could be taking a trip to Cuba next year to golf. If the president ends up going, Fox News' host, comedian and author Greg Gutfeld wants Obama to bring back cop killer Joanne Chesimard, also known as Assata Shakur, upon his return to the United States.
"Unlike North Korea, Cuba is a jewel of the left because both adore marxist thugs. Those who failed at life but excel at taking it. Do you think that occurred to our President?" Gutfeld said.
As I wrote yesterday, Chesimard escaped from prison in 1979 and fled to Cuba after murdering New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster during a traffic stop in 1973. In 1977, Chesimard was convicted and given a life sentence. Now that President Obama has "normalized" relations between the U.S. and Cuba, many in the law enforcement community looking for justice and for Cheismard to be extradited.
On this week's Townhall Weekend Journal:
Hosted by Michael Medved and Dennis Prager.
I already mentioned in a previous post that Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Ky) route to the presidency isn’t clear-cut or exactly legal. You cannot run for two offices at the same time in Kentucky. To change the law, Republicans would have to go through the legislature, where the GOP failed to gain the majority in the Kentucky State House of Representatives.
Rand’s team has been working tirelessly to find legal avenues that would permit him running for both offices, but wants to avoid a court battle. But, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes isn’t moving an inch. She bluntly says that Paul cannot run for two offices simultaneously–and said she won’t be “bullied” on this issue (via Politico):
“The law is clear,” Grimes told WHAS-TV in Louisville. “You can’t be on the ballot twice for two offices.”
“We’ll look to the court for any guidance that is needed,” she added. “And at the end of the day, we’re not going to be bullied.”
Grimes also told the Louisville ABC affiliate in the interview published on Wednesday that she has not decided whether to seek a second term as secretary of State in the 2015 election.
The 36-year-old left no doubt that she continues to harbor political ambitions beyond the Bluegrass State’s chief elections official. She would be a top Democratic recruit to run for Senate in 2016 if Paul bows out.
Grimes said she knows “there’s a bigger plan in store” and pronounced herself “excited for 2015.”
She’s also been talked about as a Democratic primary challenger to Attorney General Jack Conway in next year’s Kentucky governor’s race or against GOP Rep. Andy Barr in 2016.
Grimes’ comments about Paul seem aimed as much at rallying her liberal base after a tough loss as anything else. If she doesn’t run for reelection as the state’s chief election official, she would have no legal basis to challenge Paul’s dual candidacy.
So, it seems Paul will have to go to court to settle this dilemma, or he could opt not to run and most likely cruise to re-election in 2016.
House cybersecurity chairman Patrick Meehan is warning that the attack on Sony may be just the beginning. Nation-state hackers like North Korea and Iran could also hit Wall Street, the nation’s power grid, or the federal government next, he said, making it all the more important President Obama sign pending cybersecurity legislation into law.
“The attack on Sony is the latest high-profile example of the growing danger of the cyber threat, and it won’t be the last,” Meehan said.
“American businesses, financial networks, government agencies and infrastructure systems like power grids are at continual risk. They’re targeted not just by lone hackers and criminal syndicates, but by well-funded nation-states like North Korea and Iran. A lack of consequences for when nation states carry out cyberattacks has only emboldened these adversaries to do more harm,” he continued.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest called the cyberattack on Sony a “serious national security matter” but fell short of acknowledging whether the North Korean government played a role or not.
Others, like Newt Gingrich, went as far as to say that by Sony giving in to North Korea, the U.S. has lost its first cyberwar, which sets a very dangerous precedent. This is why, Meehan said, it’s vital the U.S. upgrade its cyber defenses.
“We need to ease the sharing of threat information between government and the private sector and strengthen our ability to prevent and respond to attacks," the Pennsylvania lawmaker said. “Congress took important steps last week by passing bipartisan legislation that builds our cyber defense capabilities – it’s time for those bills to be signed into law and implemented.”
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest called the cyberattack on Sony, Inc. "a serious national security matter," but declined to acknowledge whether or not North Korea had any role in the incident.
"This is a matter that is still under investigation both by the FBI and the National Security Division of the Department of Justice," Earnest said in direct response to a question about whether the White House believes North Korea was behind the Sony hack. "I think for pretty obvious reasons I am not going to get ahead of that investigation or any announcements they may make about that investigation."
Earnest did go on to describe the "cyber incident" as "a serious national security matter" and said President Obama has been getting daily briefings on the matter in meetings led by his Homeland Security advisor and cyber coordinator.
"There is evidence to indicate that we have seen destructive activity with malicious intent that was initiated by a sophisticated actor," Earnest carefully read from his notes. "And it is being treated by those investigative agencies, both at the FBI and the Department of Justice, as seriously as you would expect."
Earnest said the Obama administration is "considering a range of options" and are "mindful of the need for a "proportional response." Pressed to describe what an appropriate "proportional" response might be, Earnest declined insisting on the need to let the investigation finish.
Pressed later in the briefing by Major Garrett of CBS News as to whether the White House considered North Korea "a nation of interest" in the investigation of the Sony hack, Earnest directed the question to the FBI and Justice Department.
Asked near the end of the briefing if Obama would consider screening Sony's movie, "The Interview," at the White House, Earnest did not rule out the possibility, but he did note that the president is scheduled to leave for a two week Hawaii vacation on Friday and that there are no screenings scheduled before his departure.
Following yesterday's cancellation of the movie The Interview because (supposed) North Korean hackers released a few old emails and lobbed threats of attacks on movie theaters that showed the movie (threats, by the way, the Department of Homeland Security says are entirely baseless), some theaters said that they would have free screenings of Team America: World Police instead. Both movies lampooned North Korean dictators.
However, referring back to the quote in the opening paragraph, apparently the United States can no longer have nice things and Paramount has banned screenings of the movie.
Due to to circumstances beyond our control, the TEAM AMERICA 12/27 screening has been cancelled. We apologize & will provide refunds today.— Alamo Drafthouse DFW (@AlamoDFW) December 18, 2014
Three movie theaters say Paramount Pictures has ordered them not to show Team America: World Police one day after Sony Pictures pulled The Interview from release. The famous Alamo Drafthouse in Texas, Capitol Theater in Cleveland, and Plaza Atlanta in Atlanta said they would screen the movie instead of The Interview but Paramount has ordered them not to do so. (No reason was apparently given and Paramount hasn't spoken.)
This is an extreme and ridiculous act of cowardice. Hollywood shouldn't be afraid of North Korea, period, and film studios shouldn't be bowing down out of fear. There are plenty of controversial movies released that resulted in no protests, no attacks, and no deaths. Hey, here's six movies that involved North Korea that apparently didn't cross the line. This is all just madness.
I'll leave you with this NSFW ditty from Team America to serve as a reminder of how Hollywood once understood humor: [Strong language warning]
Outrage over Nativity scenes, menorahs, images of Santa Claus, wreaths, and even candy canes have become just about as traditional in America this time of year as eggnog and tree lighting.
Across the nation, controversies and Christmas caution are already underway.
In Indiana, the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) is seeking a court order for the permanent removal of a Nativity scene outside a local courthouse. Note: this is the fourth year in a row FFRF has tried to get it removed.
Michigan, however, may win the prize for diversity. It’s Capitol Building will not only have a Nativity scene, it will also have a display from the Satanic Temple. What exactly does this ‘display’ look like? It is a snake, wrapped around a tree and coming through a black cross. An open book hangs on the tree with the proclamation “The Greatest Gift is Knowledge” written above it.
What’s a little curious, though, is that while the Satanic Temple received permission to have its display out from Dec. 21-23, the Nativity scene must be taken down every night and put up each morning. Michigan lawmaker Rick Jones (R) has offered to head this nightly venture.
Oh, and as far as diversity goes, don’t forget about the "Festivus" pole, a six foot high stack of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer that is on display for the second year in Florida. I guess atheists just really need something to celebrate, and a Seinfeld joke about a “Festivus for the rest of us” was as good as any.
The good news is, that while these outlandish stories will likely make headlines every season, the majority of Americans aren’t offended when they see a baby Jesus display.
Only 20 percent believe there should be no religious displays on government property, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey. In fact, most people still consider the Christmas story to be an historical event:
About three-quarters of Americans believe that Jesus Christ was born to a virgin, that an angel of the Lord appeared to shepherds to announce the birth of Jesus, and that wise men, guided by a star, brought Jesus gold, frankincense and myrrh. And eight-in-ten U.S. adults believe the newborn baby Jesus was laid in a manger.
In total, 65% of U.S. adults believe that all of these aspects of the Christmas story – the virgin birth, the journey of the magi, the angel’s announcement to the shepherds and the manger story – reflect events that actually happened.
So call me traditional, but whenever a cashier, barista, or anyone working for a "tolerant," politically correct company sends me off with a “Happy Holiday!” I always respond with a bright, unapologetic: “Merry Christmas.” After all, that is what this federal holiday is called (for now at least).
The Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL) group conducted a mass execution of women in Fallujah, according to a statement issued by the Iraqi government. The Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights announced Tuesday that a man identified as Abu Anas al-Libi had killed more than 150 women and girls in Iraq's Fallujah, some of whom were pregnant.
"The women were executed because they refused to accept the policy of Jihad al-Nikah [sexual jihad] that ISIS is enforcing in Fallujah," the ministry's statement added. ISIS has carried out "wide-ranging massacres" in the Anbar province's Fallujah, the ministry also said, specifying that the jihadist group has been burying the dead in two mass graves in the city's Hayy al-Jolan neighborhood as well as the suburb of Al-Saqlawiyyah.
It is worth emphasizing and repeating that one man did this. Unlike the tragedy in Peshawar, wherein several Taliban savages butchered some 132 school children, this act of horror was carried out by one man. One man.
Let’s take this stunning horror story -- picked up by a number of different media outlets -- to its logical conclusion: If one man is capable of such barbarism, imagine how dangerous an Army of these savages is. That is, after all, what we're now dealing with.
ISIS’ brand of terrorism is defined by its ruthlessness. They roam their "caliphate" with reckless abandon killing and torturing at will. And they are recruiting westerners to participate in the bloodletting because they can.
Killing women and children because they will not submit to “sexual jihad” -- and burying them in mass graves -- is a new low even for ISIS that, if anything, merits a military response. But for now, as the fight continues, let us hope and pray that good will ultimately triumph over evil, and that the families affected by these paralyzingly awful events will somehow find comfort in their anguish.
UPDATE: Richly deserved:
U.S.-led air strikes against Islamic State in Iraq have killed three of the militant group's top leaders, the head of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff told the Wall Street Journal on Thursday.
Government watchdog Judicial Watch has obtained and released graphic photos from a 2013 gang assault on a Phoenix, Arizona apartment complex. During the assault, an AK-47 firearm sold and trafficked through the Department of Justice's Operation Fast and Furious was used, leaving behind a bloody apartment and at least one Mexican national with severe gunshot wounds to the head. As previously reported, when the incident occurred and during investigation afterward, the Phoenix Police Department [PPD] worked with federal law enforcement agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Department of Homeland Security, FBI and Drug Enforcement Agency in the case, raising suspicions the assault wasn't simply a typical, local gang shootout and prompted questions about the details of where the weapons that were used came from. Documents and the new photos surrounding this crime were turned over to Judicial Watch after the group filed a law suit against PPD due to non-cooperation with valid freedom of information requests.
"According to press reports at the time of the assault, police investigating the shooting that left two wounded found an AK-47 assault rifle in the front passenger area of a vehicle that had crashed into a fence surrounding the apartment complex. Inside sources informed Judicial Watch at the time of the crime scene investigation that the AK-47 used in the assault had been provided to the assailants as part of the Obama-Holder Fast and Furious program. On October 16, 2014, Judicial Watch announced that, based upon information uncovered through its October 2 public records lawsuit, the U.S. Congress had confirmed that the rifle was tied to the Fast and Furious operation. Attorney General Eric Holder has already admitted that guns from the Fast and Furious scandal are expected to be used in criminal activity on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border for years to come," Judicial Watch stated in a release. "Despite the fact that the crime scene photos obtained by Judicial Watch clearly revealed a serial number that would show that the AK-47 used in the commission of the crime was a Fast and Furious weapon, the City of Phoenix and Department of Justice failed to turn over the incriminating photos to Congress, despite longstanding requests for such information. According to Judicial Watch sources, investigators knew at the scene and subsequently that the AK-47 was a Fast and Furious weapon."
“Another Obama administration Fast and Furious cover-up has been undone by Judicial Watch. These crime scene photos graphically illustrate the legacy of President Obama and Eric Holder’s deadly Fast and Furious lies,”Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement. “Even as the evidence and casualties mount, the Obama administration is still secreting information about its reckless program. These photos show the American people firsthand the bloody consequences when an out-of-control administration will not even admit – or correct – its own mistakes.”
On Monday the family of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry marked the four year anniversary of his murder in Peck Canyon, Arizona. His killers were carrying Ak-47s like the one seen above that they obtained through Operation Fast and Furious. Hundreds of citizens inside Mexico have been murdered as a result of the program.
The candidate least like President Obama will have the best chance of succeeding him. HotAir's Noah Rothman reports for the December issue of Townhall Magazine.
For political professionals, the next presidential election begins the minute the last one ends. Even before revelers abandon the cavernous halls in which a new president accepts the public mandate and sleepy custodians sweep up the confetti that rained down upon the victor hours prior, aspiring presidential candidates begin the process of gaining allies, securing the support of donors, and vying for media attention.
The once “invisible primary” has grown more perceptible in recent decades. While the public can enjoy their lives in the years between a presidential and a midterm election unaware that presidential politics is raging, it is a comfort of which all are robbed when the midterms are over. In just nine months, Hawkeye State residents will convene for the Ames Straw Poll. Overt campaigning for that honor begins months earlier.
The 2016 presidential election cycle is upon us.
Barack Obama’s presidency has left the country with one enduring lesson: Campaigning and governing are distinct activities that require divergent, often conflicting, skill sets. As always, the next president will be the candidate who out-campaigns his or her opponents. But history suggests that Americans are seeking more in a president today than merely a campaigner-in-chief. The voting public is already asking themselves which traits would be most desirable in Obama’s successor, and it serves both parties to be aware of what those characteristics might be.
Ensuring that the tepid post-recession recovery does not reverse course, reviewing the prosecution of America’s endless Middle Eastern wars, unfreezing the debate over how to address the failing Affordable Care Act, and preventing nascent revanchism from taking hold in Moscow and Beijing will certainly be on the next president’s agenda. However, any number of unforeseen eventualities is certain to test the character of America’s 45th president.
So, what character traits will Americans most favor in their next chief executive? Recent history suggests the public will back the politician who is the most dissimilar to the current president. The mass media era has turned the quadrennial presidential race into even more of a beauty contest, and the winner a celebrity. After years of unmet promises and the best intentions producing suboptimal results, Americans hunger for efficacy from the next occupant of the Oval Office. The record indicates there will be no appetite for an Obama doppelganger.
Americans knew President Nixon had competently managed America’s affairs abroad. Imagine another president honored with a standing ovation from a joint session of Congress dominated by the opposition party in the summer of an election year, an honor bestowed on Nixon after he opened China. When he resigned as a result of his ethical deficiencies, his once vaunted obsessive attention to managerial details was no longer trusted. He was justifiably seen as manipulative, paranoid, and Machiavellian.
Nixon’s vice president and immediate successor was deprived of a fresh look from the voters, and acquired a few negative traits all his own. The 37th president’s elected successor, President Carter, was everything the long-time GOP standard-bearer was not. He appeared earnest, forthright, faithful, and sincere to the point of naiveté.
The Carter presidency did not deliver on its promise. President Reagan benefited from the perception that he was Carter’s polar opposite; a strong, decisive, competent manager who would not be distracted by trivialities, pitiless when need be, and undaunted by adversity.
When two-term presidents leave office in times of general public satisfaction, voters will often seek out traits in their successor that mirror the outgoing president. President Bush was seen as a sufficient successor to Reagan and a dispassionate manager who would keenly oversee the collapse of communism in Europe.
President Clinton was buoyed by the perception that Bush was rigid, inaccessible, hopelessly dated, and married to a code of conduct that belonged to another age. Clinton—sanguine, affable, and charismatic—represented a welcome change. President George W. Bush, far more so than Al Gore, was an affable everyman who promised to extend the post-Cold War vacation from history he had inherited from Bill Clinton.
September 11 and the War in Iraq changed Bush and the American people. The public’s preferred antidote to a president now perceived as headstrong, provincial, and inept, was the professorial, worldly, meticulous, and self-assured President Obama.
Predictably, those traits that were once Obama’s attractive attributes are now his curse. Obama’s professorial nature seems aloof today. His worldliness is seen as a mirage, a product of self-delusion. His meticulousness perceived as paralysis that betrays a lack of conviction.
History suggests that Obama’s successor will be the candidate who can present the strongest contrast with the president. In 2016 Americans will seek out a figure of demonstrable executive competence; a doer, not a talker.
Value a candidate’s competence, policy prescriptions, and pedigree above all else. But do not discount the intangibles. The fundamentals of war or peace and growth or recession will largely determine who takes the oath of office on January 20, 2017. But in this election, perhaps more than most, character will matter. We cannot determine who will best address crises not yet known or meet challenges not yet manifest, but we can identify the type of person we want to be in a position to face that adversity.
In 1973 former Black Panther and Black Liberation Army member Assata Shakur, also known as Joanne Chesimard, killed New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster in cold blood during a traffic stop. Shakur took Foerster's police issued firearm and used it to shoot him twice in the head. In 1977 Shakur was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Foester's family never received full justice as Chesimard escaped in 1979, fled to Cuba and been protected by the Castro regime ever since. She is listed on the FBI's most wanted terrorists list with a $1 million reward for information leading to her arrest.
Tracking down Shakur under the protection of the Castros has been difficult, but with President Obama's announcement of normalization between the United States and Cuba, many are asking if Shakur will be extradited.
Renewed relations with Cuba brought hope that New Jersey cop-killer JoAnne Chesimard might finally be extradited to the U.S. to finish serving her prison term.
"We view any changes in relations with Cuba as an opportunity to bring her back to the United States to finish her sentence for the murder of New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster in 1973," State Police Col. Rick Fuentes said in a statement. "We stand by the reward money and hope that the total of $2 million will prompt fresh information in the light of this altered international relationship."
Considering the Obama administration's history of supporting cop killers, Shakur's extradition and return to the U.S. justice system might take awhile.
U.S. officials have concluded that the North Korean government ordered the hacking attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment — a breach that led to the studio cancelling the planned release of "The Interview". One U.S. official told NBC News that the country "can't let this go unanswered." The officials told NBC News the hacking attack originated outside North Korea, but they believe the individuals behind it were acting on orders from the North Koreans.
"We have found linkage to the North Korean government," according to a U.S. government source. An official said the U.S. is discussing what form a response could take, and couldn't detail what options the government has available.
You’ll recall that North Korea has been warning the U.S. about releasing the film for months. If the film is released, North Korea’s state mouthpiece once threatened, it would be “an act of war.” Now that Sony has basically met the demands of a maniacal dictator, however, the film has been permanently tabled. Put differently: The “Supreme Leader” has brought the “Great Satan” to its knees. Splendid.
As pathetic as that might sound, I’m also left scratching my head about Sony’s decision. The damage has already been done. So why not just release the film now?
Apparently, one could argue, they didn’t really have a choice:
Sony said it was cancelling “The Interview” release “in light of the decision by the majority of our exhibitors not to show the film.” The studio said it respected and shared in the exhibitors’ concerns.
“We are deeply saddened at this brazen effort to suppress the distribution of a movie, and in the process do damage to our company, our employees, and the American public,” read the statement. “We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression and are extremely disappointed by this outcome.”
So blame the exhibitors for being cowardly then -- although Ed Morrissey points out that they had legal niceties to think about. Nevertheless, the whole situation reeks of gutlessness. Even President Obama shrugged his shoulders when asked if “The Interview” could threaten the safety and security of the United States:
The US president certainly did not seem overly concerned. Asked about the stern warnings of retribution targeted at screenings of The Interview, which invoked the memory of the 9/11 terror attacks, Barack Obama told ABC News: “For now, my recommendation would be that people go to the movies.”
Now they can’t, of course, and many people are pissed off. Take, for instance, Mary Katharine Ham who has already started a petition to get the film onto the big screen:
Sign it if so inclined. But at least read the whole thing. She makes some excellent points.
Tuesday’s news was hard to read. The Taliban senselessly murdered schoolchildren in Peshawar, Pakistan. Stunningly, 148 young lives were taken – with the number still rising.
On Wednesday night, a few hundred people came to Dupont Circle in Washington, DC to honor these innocent victims in a candlelight vigil. In fact, that was a common theme of the night: lost innocence. Peshawar parents dropped off their kids at school, not even considering that their precious sons and daughters wouldn’t come home to play with their toys after school. Their innocence could not save them from the Taliban’s savage plans.
Amnesty International’s Noor Mir, who helped organize the vigil, explained how they gathered 140 candles to represent the lives who were lost. The candles were surrounded by pictures released from the hospital in Peshawar.
Attendees also contributed to the display with signs they made, including one that had this powerful message, “The smallest coffins are the heaviest.”
Mir explained that Peshawar parents found out their children were dead by coming to a hospital and seeing a sheet with the victim's name and age, with the word, ‘Dead’ next to it.
Famed journalist Raza Rumi also addressed the crowd, especially thanking the Pakistani Americans in attendance for practicing solidarity. He urged participants to keep in mind that all Taliban are terrorists.
"There are no good Taliban and there are no bad Taliban."
The organizers were only able to find 40 of the victims’ names. They read each one as quiet sobbing could be heard throughout the crowd.
The vigil ended with a participant reading off an original poem he penned in response to the Peshawar attack, entitled, “Innocence.” I thought this was the most powerful line:
“A school that was supposed to be a fountain of knowledge, became a pool of blood.”
The senseless terrorists who performed this cowardly act are dead. Yet, the Taliban still looms.
May they be brought to justice.
Unfortunately, the liberal dream has been mugged by reality: Democratic Gov. Shumlin announced that they're going to abandon the plan because it's too expensive.
Going forward with a project four years in the making would require tax increases too big for the state to absorb, Shumlin said. The measure had been the centerpiece of the Democratic governor's agenda and was watched and rooted for by single-payer health care supporters around the country.
The legislation called for the administration to produce a plan for financing the Green Mountain Care system by 2013 but it wasn't completed until the last several days. Shumlin said it showed the plan would require an 11.5 percent payroll tax on businesses and an income tax separate from the one the state already has of up to 9.5 percent.
Shumlin said small business owners would be hit with both, and he repeatedly expressed concern about whether those businesses, many of which now don't offer health insurance or offer much less costly insurance, could cover the new expense.
Those are astonishingly high tax increases. The politically-feasible solution would be to exempt "small business owners" from those tax increases, but the problem then becomes that it's impossible to get the revenue elsewhere. The entire state would have become a disaster zone, without enough economic activity to provide the tax revenue necessary to support such a scheme.
What's amazing is that Shumlin says this is partly due to our still-sub-optimal economy, recovering from the 2008 crash. This is absurd. If there's only enough revenue to support such a scheme in boom times, it's unwise to implement it at all - ever. A system that can't sustain itself through business cycles is unsustainable. Oh, and Shumlin also lamented that the state couldn't get enough federal money to assist their scheme. As if it needs to be said - a scheme that relies on tax money from other states funneled into one state is unsustainable, as well.
Yes, it happened. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush is “actively” exploring a possible 2016 candidacy. Needless to say, conservatives aren’t happy. Sen. Rand Paul has already begun attacking Bush, but the former governor is convinced he’s a mainstream conservative. Yet, his potential candidacy looks fragile–even more so than Mitt Romney. Bush supports Common Core, immigration reform, walks a waffled path on climate change, and is sort of open to tax increases.
“If you could bring to me a majority of people to say that we’re going to have $10 of spending cuts for $1 of revenue enhancement — put me in, Coach,” he once said in 2012. Bush gave his answer on a hypothetical budget deal at a congressional hearing, which had spending cuts and tax increases.
Again, more than a few Republicans might find this as rational, but to the base–this is anathema. He also never signed Grover Norquist’s pledge to oppose tax increases.
In Politico, they wrote how Cato Institute found that government spending increased 45 percent under his administration, though Bush’s allies claim the uptick was due to disastrous weather the struck the Sunshine State during his tenure. Yet, the piece also pointed out some of Jeb’s strong points as well:
It’s not that any of the friction from the right is a surprise to Bush. Even though his allies say he did, in fact, have a conservative record as Florida governor — cutting taxes by $19.3 billion, building the state’s reserves to $9 billion and streamlining regulations — they say his statement about “losing the primary to win the general” was meant to signal that he’s not going to change to please the right.
In some respects, Bush would be an unlikely candidate to be accused of being soft of tax increases. As governor, he cut levies on businesses, investments, large estates and homes.
Campbell [Spokesperson Kristy Campbell] says Bush “does not support tax increases” and that “his record on fiscal issues is clear,” especially with his deep cuts in Florida. And not all conservative activists have a problem with Bush’s record. The conservative Club for Growth said it is willing to hear Bush out, saying it could abide tax increases if they got major spending cuts or an overhaul of the Tax Code in return.
The article also mentioned that Bush supports repealing Obamacare and replacing it with a Republican alternative. Yet, he’s critical of the defunding strategy to undercut the law. On climate change, Mr. Bush has positioned himself as a skeptic, but warned how this issue could make Republicans look “anti-science.”
His embrace of Common Core will surely rub conservatives the wrong way–and he’s made no indication that he would compromise to suck up to the right of the Republican Party.
As the Wall Street Journal wrote back in June, he was warned by an aide to avoid referencing Common Core at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in 2013, he simply said, “I respect those that don't agree with me," he told the group gathered in Chicago. "What I can't accept are dumbing [sic] down standards and expectations."
Last April, he told Fox News, "I just don't feel compelled to run for cover when I think this is the right thing to do for our country. And others have, others that supported the standards all of a sudden are opposed to it."
To be fair, Common Core isn’t the brainchild of the left:
Created by a bipartisan group of governors and adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia, Common Core was designed to boost academic achievement and allow for comparisons across states. One goal was to hand power back to the states to implement standards called for in President George W. Bush's No Child Left Behind law. But after President Barack Obama tied the disbursal of federal education grants to states adopting Common Core, conservatives revolted.
So, Jeb has some advantages; he doesn’t like Obamacare; he’s pro-life; he cut taxes as governor; and he’s leading in the polls, but that’s without Romney being factored into the equation.
Still, to quote A&E’s Storage Wars, there’s no “wow” factor with Bush. If anything, he’s like Mitt Romney, but only with a backbone.
Regardless, this looks like a campaign that can quickly venture towards rocky shoals.
On immigration, Bush said, “yes, they [illegal immigrants] broke the law, but it’s not a felony. It’s an act of love, it’s an act of commitment to your family.” He also supports background checks at gun shows, which isn’t going bode well with the NRA.
The Democrats are already trying to find dirty laundry belonging to any potential Republican in the 2016 crop. While American Bridge, which compiled a 900+ page opposition research paper on Romney in 2012, noted that Jeb could fundraise well. Yet, his work with Lehman Brothers and Barclays could reopen old wounds from the Bush administration. Whether we like it or not, the financial collapse happened in the twilight of Bush’s second term. That’s the sticking point. Bush’s presidency grappled with the financial industry’s potential demise, which led to the passage TARP. It also helped Obama trounce McCain 2008, which led to the stimulus in 2009. The Bush name is roped in with one of the worst economic recessions in recent memory and TARP. The latter of which is also anathema to the Tea Party.
Then again, National Journal noted that such dealings with Lehman and Barclays is relatively unknown. If there’s something, it will be made public. The article noted that Florida has good public-record keeping laws–and Jeb would release 250,000 emails during his time as governor. This all could be one huge nothing burger regarding Jeb’s work in the financial sector. And if he’s as certain about sticking to his guns about Common Core, it’s probably something–in Jeb’s view–that he feels won’t be as bad as the Democrats’ flaying of Romney via Bain Capital.
Charles Cooke over at National Review wrote a piece on why Jeb is not our guy in 2016. He also cited the Lehman-Bush obstacle as well:
As it stands, the Republican party has not won a presidential election without a Bush on the top of the ticket since 1984, and it has not won the presidency without a Bush somewhere on the ticket since 1972. If Jeb were elected president, it would be the case that, for three decades, one family had been in charge of the country each and every time the electorate moved in its party’s direction. What, I wonder, would that say about conservatism? And what, I wonder, would it say about America writ large if, 36 years after George H. W. was first sworn in as vice president, the Right concluded that the only way that it could credibly win power was to tap into the same, oft-pumped well?
Dynastic objections aside, it strikes me also that Jeb is almost perfectly wrong for this moment in American history. Without doubt, he is a talented, upstanding, and accomplished man, and he would probably do an admirable job if he parachuted into power. But, this being hardball democratic politics, and not the Biography Channel, there are many, many more questions for us to consider. In 2012, a weak President Obama not only managed to draw an astonishing amount of blood simply by riffing on Mitt Romney’s remarkable business career, but, with a little help from Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry, was able to adroitly leverage the still-tender memories of the recent financial collapse and to paint his opponent as a detached, Gilded Age demon. Presumably, Bush would get precisely the same treatment. Just a few months ago, he teamed up with a bunch of Wall Street bankers and started a private-equity fund that will specialize in oil and gas. A few years ago, moreover, he worked with Lehman Brothers until, in the heat of the 2008 financial crisis that is still largely blamed on his brother, it collapsed in ignominious disgrace. Fair or unfair, what exactly do we imagine the story will be if the next Republican candidate is not only vulnerable in this area in his own right, but has the surname “Bush” to boot?
Also, history is against Bush. He possibly waited too long to mount a serious run for the White House. When 2016 comes around, the gap between Jeb's last successful election (2002) and 2016 will be 14 years. The last president that had the same gap in time between his last winning campaign and clinching the presidency was 150 years ago with Abraham Lincoln. His last victorious campaign before winning the presidential election of 1860 was his 1846 congressional run.If Mr. Bush becomes more serious about 2016, he faces some rather staggering obstacles.
Last night Senator Marco Rubio, whose parents fled just before Castro's brutal regime takeover, made an appearance on Fox News to discuss President Obama's plans to normalize the relationship between the United States and Cuba.
Rubio specifically addressed comments made by Obama yesterday that the United States has tried to "colonize" Cuba, pointing out that statement is propaganda used directly by Dictator Raul Castro himself.
"I don't know what he's talking about, the United States tried to colonize Cuba? I don't know of anyone who seriously believes that. That's a talking point of the Castro regime. In fact, that was a term that Raul Castro used today in his address to the Cuban people, that this is walking away from the era of colonialism. I have no idea what he [Obama] is talking about when he says something like that. It's an outrageous statement," Rubio said. "When it comes to Cuba in specific is that I think this president believes that much of what's happened between these two countries is the fault of the United States and I think that has led him to make many of these decisions."
"It's a very simple equation, you have a government that controls every aspect of society. You have a military, you saw Raul Castro today wearing his military uniform, they have a military that basically controls the island and every aspect of it. The more money comes in from the United States, to their economy, the more money will line their pockets. Very little of it will trickle down to the Cuban people," Rubio continued. "It is one ridiculous statement after the other that this President made during this announcement."
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have condemned Obama's move and plan to take steps on Capitol Hill to stop him.
Editor's note: A previous version of this post said Rubio's parents fled Castro's regime. His parents left Cuba in 1956, the year the revolution started. Fidel Castro took over Cuba in 1958. The initial passage has been changed for clarification.
By now you know President Obama announced yesterday he will unilaterally normalize the relationship between Cuba and the United States. Back in 2008, Obama said he would talk and negotiate with Iran and now, sources tell the Los Angeles Times that the president attempted to start talks with North Korea and failed last year.
A White House official made two secret visits to North Korea last year in an unsuccessful effort to improve relations after new ruler Kim Jong Un assumed power, according to former U.S. officials familiar with the trips.
The former U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the back-channel trips have not been formally disclosed, said the first visit was an unsuccessful attempt to persuade Pyongyang not to launch a long-range rocket.
Incredible. Negotiating with North Korea? What could possibly go wrong?
Meanwhile, Newt Gingrich is calling North Korea's hack attack and threats of violence against Sony cyber warfare. By the way, we're losing.
No one should kid themselves. With the Sony collapse America has lost its first cyberwar. This is a very very dangerous precedent.— Newt Gingrich (@newtgingrich) December 17, 2014
There is literally one working computer in North Korea, and we just lost to it.— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) December 17, 2014
Exit question: When will Obama send White House officials to talk with the GOP on Capitol Hill?H/T @WilliamAmos
President Barack Obama signed the 1,603 page Omnibus Appropriations Bill on Tuesday. The 1.1 trillion dollar spending bill ensures that the federal government will be up and running through Sept. 30, 2015.
New to this year’s budget is a 25 million dollar Ebola emergency preparedness and response fund. Money has also been allocated to fight the terrorist organization ISIS, “including $3.4 billion to continue the air campaign and replenish weapons and $1.6 billion to train and equip our Iraqi allies.”
The Internal Revenue Service saw a $345.6 million cut, and vice-president Joe Biden will not be getting a raise.
So where exactly is the money going? After all, 1.1 trillion dollars is an almost incomprehensible sum for the average person. To help put that number into perspective think of it this way — you could go shopping with 10 million dollars every day for 273 years and still have a million left over to buy a vacation home.
Here is how the breakdown of the government plans to spend $1.1 trillion in 2015:
From overhauling the immigration system to imposing economic sanctions, President Obama has issued more presidential memoranda than any other president in history, according to a USA Today review.
Why is this significant? Well, because they’re nearly identical to executive orders in what they can accomplish and how they impact everyday Americans.
Like executive orders, presidential memoranda don't require action by Congress. They have the same force of law as executive orders and often have consequences just as far-reaching. And some of the most significant actions of the Obama presidency have come not by executive order but by presidential memoranda.
Obama has made prolific use of memoranda despite his own claims that he's used his executive power less than other presidents. "The truth is, even with all the actions I've taken this year, I'm issuing executive orders at the lowest rate in more than 100 years," Obama said in a speech in Austin last July. "So it's not clear how it is that Republicans didn't seem to mind when President Bush took more executive actions than I did."
Obama has issued 195 executive orders as of Tuesday. Published alongside them in the Federal Register are 198 presidential memoranda — all of which carry the same legal force as executive orders.
The difference, of course, is the messaging.
“Executive order immediately evokes potentially damaging questions of ‘imperial overreach,’” Kenneth Lowande, a political science doctoral student at UVA, told USA Today. Memorandum, on the other hand, does not.
If there’s one thing this administration is good at, it’s deceiving the American people.
Small businesses irreparably destroyed, lives ruined, and abject chaos engulfed Ferguson over the past few months. The shooting death of Michael Brown by former Officer Darren Wilson threw the small city outside St. Louis into turmoil.
Now, as some of the residents begin rebuilding their lives, the community finds donations, gofundme.org pages, and the “I Love Ferguson Campaign” representing the point of the lance in their effort (via CNSNews):
Abandoned by its destroyers, now forgotten by the cameras, this is Ferguson--still suffering the fallout from the rash of riots, looting, and vandalism the community endured in November after a grand jury chose not to indict Darren Wilson, a while police officer, in the shooting death of 18-year old black teenager Michael Brown in August.
But for the 52,000 citizens of the small St. Louis suburb, many retain hope that their city can and will recover, and dozens are already pitching in to help save their town.
Bryan Fletcher, chairman of the newly created I Love Ferguson Campaign, said he clings to that hope every day. A 30-year resident of Ferguson, Fletcher said it breaks his heart to see the town he loves so scarred and struggling--so much so that he decided to do something about it.
“The image that was being portrayed around the world of Ferguson being a so-called suburban ghetto was an inaccurate portrayal of our beloved city, and several of the residents, including myself, got together and we wanted to grab the media’s attention,” Fletcher told CNSNews.com in Ferguson. “So what we did was grab, collected money at the local coffee house, and within 24 hours we raised $8,000. And we bought 3,000 of the ‘I Love Ferguson’ yard signs.”
Already, dozens of businesses have set up pages on the fundraising website gofundme.org, which currently has an entire category of entries dedicated to raising funds for Ferguson businesses. So far, nearly $575,000 has been raised from donors across the nation to help the small community get back on its feet.
Kurt Barks, owner of the Complete Auto Body and Repair in Ferguson, said his company has had to lay off four workers since the riots decimated his store on W. Florissant St., located a few blocks from where Michael Brown was shot. Business continues to be far slower than normal, and employees who work on commission are struggling to earn money with so few customers.
Even still, Barks said his business will help in whatever way possible to give back to their hurting community, even as they work to repair thousands in damages to their own building and thousands more in lost business.
“We do a lot of fundraisers for local charities,” Barks said. “We’ve always focused on North County, and now we will truly focus on the businesses that are no longer here. More so the families and the employees of those businesses.”
Even though the business owners that CNSNews.com interviewed incurred massive amounts of damage, they're still helping fellow members of their community get back on their feet. I certainly hope this community becomes stronger than ever–and that everyone can move on from this horrible event.
Following terrorist threats and the hacking of Sony's computers by North Korea in response to the film "The Interview, which is about an attempt to assassinate North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, Sony Pictures has canceled the theatrical release of the movie. The film was due to be released on Christmas Day.
Earlier today, five major movie theater chains announced that they would not show the film in their theaters.
In light of the decision by the majority of our exhibitors not to show the film The Interview, we have decided not to move forward with the planned December 25 theatrical release. We respect and understand our partners’ decision and, of course, completely share their paramount interest in the safety of employees and theater-goers.
The Department of Homeland Security said there is no credible threat regarding the movie or any theaters that would have shown the movie.
Freedom-loving Americans took to Twitter to express their disbelief and outrage that Hollywood would cave to the demands of a murderous dictator:
This #HollywoodNorthKorea thing means we're missing out on a probably-bad movie, but getting a really good South Park episode.— Angela (@Bear2theRight) December 17, 2014
Don't let the terrorists win unless they threaten to leak mildly embarrassing emails you wrote 4 years ago.— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) December 17, 2014
Saw @Sethrogen at JFK. Both of us have never seen or heard of anything like this. Hollywood has done Neville Chamberlain proud today.— Rob Lowe (@RobLowe) December 17, 2014
Trey Parker and Matt Stone are going to have soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo much fun with this.— T. Becket Adams (@BecketAdams) December 17, 2014
Don't change your lives because of terrorist threat! Go to the movies = 2002. Vague terrorist threats! Cancel the movies! = 2014— Noah Rothman (@NoahCRothman) December 17, 2014
Just absolute madness.
Alan Gross was imprisoned in Cuba for half a decade. He’s a free man now and spoke to the public today from the nation's capital about his deliverance.
“Today is the first day of Hanukkah,” he said. “And I guess so far it’s the best Hanukkah I’ll be celebrating for a long time. What a blessing it is to be a citizen of this country and thank you President Obama for everything you have done today and leading up to today.”
He also especially thanked his wife and lawyer who worked tirelessly to bring him home.
“They have my endless gratitude, love, and respect,” he emphasized.
“I want to thank all of the members of Congress from all sides of the aisle…who spoke up or visited me, subjected themselves to my ranting, and helped me regain some of my weight,” he continued. “Even in Cuba, M&Ms melts in your mouth and not in your hand.”
He also thanked Muslim, Christian and especially Jewish organizations and individuals who never gave up on him.
“It was crucial to my survival knowing that I was not forgotten,” he said. “Your prayers and your actions have been comforting, reassuring, and sustaining.”
Not surprisingly, perhaps, he also effusively praised President Obama.
“Ultimately, the decision to arrange for and secure my release was made in the Oval Office,” he said. “To President Obama and [his] staff, thank you.”
“I’m incredibly blessed finally to have the freedom to resume a positive and constructive life,” he continued. “But for now I’ll close with a quote from one of Nelson Demille’s characters: ‘It’s good to be home.’”
Florida Senator Marco Rubio responded to President Obama's announcement earlier today to "normalize relations" with Cuba and now it's Texas Senator Ted Cruz' turn.
"This announcement today will be remembered as a tragic mistake," Cruz, whose father Rafael Cruz escaped Castro's Cuba in 1957 after beatings and torture, said during an interview with Fox News Wednesday afternoon. "There is no doubt this is a unilateral president."
During the interview, conducted by Neil Cavuto, Cruz reminded viewers that the Castro brothers are allies of North Korea, Russia and Venezuela.
"Cuba is an avowed enemy of this country," Cruz said. "They are a leading state sponsor of terrorism."
Cruz slammed President Obama for negotiating from a position of weakness with enemies of the United States while turning on allies like Israel and Poland.
"He [Obama] does not understand the difference between our friends and our enemies," Cruz said.
Cruz also released the following statement in response to President Obama's annoucement:
“We rejoice that Alan Gross’ wrongful imprisonment by the brutal Castro regime has finally come to an end, and that he will be able to spend the holidays with his loved ones. But make no mistake, although we are glad Alan is now free, the agreement the Obama Administration has entered into with the Castro regime has done nothing to resolve the underlying problem. Indeed, it has made it worse.Cruz and Rubio are not alone in their criticism of President Obama's decision on Cuba. Democrat Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey strongly condemned the move earlier today and warned about the direct impact on Americans.
“Fidel and Raul Castro have just received both international legitimacy and a badly-needed economic lifeline from President Obama. But they remain in control of a totalitarian police state modeled on their old state sponsor, the Soviet Union. Their government can continue to detain individuals like Alan Gross indefinitely without process—as the many political prisoners still languishing in the Castros’ prisons can attest. They retain their close, long-standing ties with hostile nations, notably Russia, Iran, North Korea and Venezuela. They will continue their support for terrorist organizations from FARC to Hezbollah and Hamas.
“The President spoke today about a new era for relations between American and the Cuban people, but these circumstances do not bode well for either. We have seen how previous Obama administration attempts at rapprochement with rogue regimes like Russia and Iran have worked out, with our influence diminished and our enemies emboldened. Now they are revisiting this same disastrous policy with the Castros, blind to the fact that they are being played by brutal dictators whose only goal is maintaining power. And if history be our guide, the Castros will exploit that power to undermine America and oppress the Cuban people. First Russia, then Iran, now Cuba – this is one more very, very bad deal brokered by the Obama Administration.”
"It invites dictatorial and rogue regimes to use Americans serving overseas as bargaining chips. I fear that today’s actions will put at risk the thousands of Americans that work overseas to support civil society, advocate for access to information, provide humanitarian services, and promote democratic reforms," Menendez said in a statement. “President Obama's actions have vindicated the brutal behavior of the Cuban government."