Greg Corombos of Radio America and Jim Geraghty of National Review highlight the important messages for young men to grow up and embrace responsibility in Jim’s new book, “Heavy Lifting.” They also sigh as the Justice Department, to the surprise of no one, refuses to prosecute Lois Lerner over the IRS targeting of conservative groups. And they marvel at just how terrible Jeb Bush has been at running for president.
Archives for October 2015
The former chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence says it’s now blatantly obvious former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lied about a YouTube video sparking the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, but he says the lies go even deeper on the video and that Republicans should have done a better job pressing Clinton on critical issues.
On Thursday, Clinton testified before the House Select Committee on Benghazi. In one of the most critical parts of the hearing, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, presented an email Clinton sent to her family and transcripts of phone conversations she had with Libyan and Egyptian officials on the night of the attack. Each time, Clinton stated that an Al Qaeda-type group as responsible for the attack and deaths of Americans.
The most specific communication was with the Egyptian prime minister.
“We know the attack in Libya had nothing to do with the film. It was a planned attack, not a protest,” said Clinton in the phone conversation.
Clinton defended her public blaming of he attack on “Innocence of Muslims,” by saying there was a lot of information coming in and it was difficult to sort out. She says that explanation was plausible because the video was stirring protests that same day in Egypt, Tunisia and on the Arabian Peninsula.
But even that assertion is being challenged.
“I talked to people who were on the ground in Egypt who were very clear. The video had nothing to do with the attacks in Egypt. People said there were attacks going on throughout the region because of the video. That story just grew and grew,” said former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Pete Hoekstra, who is now author of “Architects of Disaster: The Destruction of Libya.”
“The attacks in Egypt didn’t have anything to do with the video,” repeated Hoekstra.
In addition to the revelations offered by Rep. Jordan, Hoekstra was impressed with the line of questioning from Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kansas on two different fronts. First, he was happy to see questions about the alleged weapons transferring going on in Libya to help arm Syrian rebels.
Secretary Clinton denied any such trafficking took place. Hoekstra isn’t buying it.
“I think there’s a lot of evidence out there, I talk about it a little bit in my book, that there was a weapons flow into Libya to support the rebels. It could have been going on at exactly the time were prohibited from going into Libya. I believe some of those weapons and fighters ultimately made their way into Syria,” said Hoekstra.
Another topic raised by Pompeo is one of Hoekstra’s biggest criticisms of the U.S. policy in Benghazi, that we chose our friends very poorly in Libya.
“America sided with radical jihadist groups that we used to help overthrow an ally, Moammar Gaddafi. (It was the) first time in American history that we believed that we could train, equip, manage and trust radical jihadist groups and that if we did that, they would change their behavior. As we found out in Benghazi, we were dead wrong,” said Hoekstra.
But while he applauded Jordan and Pompeo for their lines of questioning, he believes the Republicans on the committee could have done a much better job.
“I think in some cases we just didn’t drive hard enough. We had other material we could have used that just wasn’t followed up with,” said Hoekstra.
He specifically wanted to see more emphasis on our alliance with radicals and the facts on any weapons trafficking.
“I think there’s a lot more to talk about with weapons going into Libya and weapons going out of Libya and the U.S. government was involved in one way or another. Only a few people, like Hillary Clinton, know exactly how we were involved,” said Hoekstra.
Committee Democrats spent most of the marathon hearing defending Clinton and accusing Republicans of a partisan obsession with Clinton rather than a genuine passion to learn the truth.
“They stayed on message. They stayed focused. They weren’t about to do anything to get any closer to the truth about what happened in Benghazi or what happened in Libya that precipitated that. I don’t like it but my hats are off. Their political spin machine was working overtime and they ran it very well,” said Hoekstra.
Democrats and many media pundits suggest Clinton’s performance boosts her 2016 White House bid. Hoekstra strongly disagrees.
“We took a success story that was built on 20 years of bipartisanship and with a single decision to flip sides, we took Libya from an island of stability into the chaos that we see today. It is exporting weapons, ideology and fighters all supporting radical jihadism. They want to destroy America. We unleashed that because of the decisions that Secretary of State Clinton made,” said Hoekstra.
Greg Corombos of Radio America and Jim Geraghty of National Review applaud the Republicans on the Benghazi committee for revealing key facts, including that Hillary knew right away that the video had nothing to do with the attack. They also scold some GOP members for using the hearing as a soapbox. And they slam Democrats for doing nothing but ripping Republicans and sucking up to Hillary.
A staunch conservative member of Congress says the House Freedom Caucus may have it’s heart in the right place but he says its tactics are counterproductive and actually aid the opposition.
The House Freedom Caucus was created earlier this year in the wake of the challenge from the right to House Speaker John Boehner. It is credited with forcing Boehner from power and halting the rise of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy to replace him. On Wednesday, a supermajority of the caucus backed House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan to be speaker but fell short of an official endorsement.
Rep. Tom McClintock, R-California, was a member of the House Freedom Caucus but resigned in mid-September, concluding that the group’s strategy did more harm than good.
“I feel that the HFC’s many missteps have made it counterproductive to its stated goals and I no longer wish to be associated with it,” said McClintock to The Hill newspaper at the time.
McClintock who enjoys an “A” rating from the Conservative Review Scorecard, the same tally that gives Ryan an “F”, hasn’t changed his opinion at all in the past few weeks.
“What the Freedom Caucus has done, in the name of conservatism, is to move the political center of gravity of the House dramatically to the left,” said McClintock.
He says it’s not the political positions of caucus members he disagrees with. In fact, he is very sympathetic on many policy issues. However, McClintock says the approach the caucus often takes results in the opposite of its intentions.
“The danger of the House Freedom Caucus is that their position is that decisions on running the House, that are traditionally made by the majority party in its conference, ought to be moved instead to the House floor. I’ve tried repeatedly to warn them that on the House floor there is a disciplined block of 188 Democrats who get to vote, led by Nancy Pelosi. Not one of them gets to vote in the House Republican Conference,” said McClintock.
He then explained why caucus members taking their fight to the floor is a bad idea.
“(If) you want to move these decisions of selecting a speaker or scheduling floor votes from the conference to the House floor, beware. Those 188 Democrats are far more likely to combine with the 30 most liberal Republicans in the House, not the 30 most conservative,” said McClintock.
McClintock says this is not just political theory. He asserts that Freedom Caucus tactics have inadvertantly reinvigorated an issue conservatives hate.
“We’ve already seen that with the scheduling of the revival of the Export-Import Bank. That’s a battle that we had won. The Export-Import Bank, which is a poster child for crony capitalism, expired on June 30. Beacuse it is opposed by a majority of the Republican Conference, it was never scheduled for a vote to be renewed,” said McClintock.
“But when the Freedom Caucus broke that tradition, it freed the liberals in the conference to join with Democrats and execute the first discharge petition in 12 years. Now we’re going to have a vote on that and those 188 Democrats will combine with the most liberal members of the Republican conference and vote that bill out,” said McClintock.
A discharge petition forces the majority leader to bring a bill to the floor if supporters can prove over half the members are in favor of it.
McClintock says if caucus members don’t change course on their tactics, the Export-Import Bank will just be the tip of the iceberg.
“The real danger for conservatives is this same math works for amnesty for illegal aliens, blowing the lid off of spending caps, bringing back the tawdry era of congressional earmarks. That’s the Pandora’s Box the House Freedom Caucus has opened,” said McClintock.
He says that threat could also materialize in the vote for speaker if the party is fractured.
“By threatening to withhold votes on the House floor for the Republican conference’s choice for speaker, there’s already discussion now, if Paul Ryan isn’t able to make that 218-vote threshold, there will be a coalition formed between those 188 Democrats and the 30 most liberal members of our conference,” said McClintock.
House Republicans passed legislation Wednesday to ensure debt payment on the national debt would go forward in the event the debt ceiling is not raised in the coming days, but the chief sponsor says President Obama and Democrats refuse to embrace that protection of our credit rating and will not take steps to rein our government’s insatiable spending.
In a vote largely along party lines, the House approved the Default Protection Act. Rep. Tom McClintock, R-California, the lead sponsor of the bill, says this one-page measure could save the United States from financial misery if Congress and the president cannot find common ground on the debt ceiling.
“It simply guarantees the sovereign debt of the United States will be paid in full and on time, regardless of what differences and quarrels we are engaged in in Washington,” said McClintock.
Noting that our national debt now exceeds the size of the U.S. economy, McClintock says protecting the credit rating of the United States is essential and more difficult as our debt soars.
“When people lend you money, they generally like you to pay it back. Until you do, they like you to pay interest on that. If there is any doubt that the full faith and credit of the United States will be honored, the interest that is charged to us for borrowing could go up. It could spike. Given the amount of debt we’re carrying, that would be absolutely catastrophic,” said McClintock.
The congressman says even at current, record-low interest rates, the amount of money spent paying interest on the national debt is staggering and being in danger of missing payments could be very problematic.
“Interest costs on the national debt are already exceeding $220 billion. Within eight years, they will exceed our defense spending, so any spike in interest rates caused by any question that we’ll make our payments on time and in full could be catastrophic,” said McClintock.
Wednesday’s vote took place a day after the White House announced President Obama would veto the legislation if it reaches his desk.
“Default by any other name is default,” is a common refrain from Democrats, ranging from White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest to Rep. Sander Levin, D-Michigan, the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee.
McClintock says Democrats are badly mischaracterizing his bill.
“What they’re doing is confusing default on the sovereign debt of the country, which is basically our credit, with postponement of paying other bills. Neither of those is a good thing. If you’re a family that is living off of its credit cards, as we are at the moment, you had darn well better make the minimum payment on the credit card first or you won’t be able to pay the rest of the bills,” said McClintock.
“That’s exactly the situation the United States government is in at the moment,” he added.
The congressman’s greatest frustration on the issue is the refusal of Democrats to show any inclination to find ways to tackle our debt, which is now officially north of $18.4 trillion.
“When the family has to increase its credit limit because it’s spending above its means, it had also better have a serious conversation about what’s driving this debt and what to do about it. That’s what the Democrats refuse to engage in,” said McClintock.
McClintock says most members of both parties acknowledge that existing debts need to be paid but he says only one sees the status quo as a problem.
“When you are increasing the debt limit, you also have a responsibility to address the policies that are driving that debt. Republicans acknowledge that responsibility. Democrats don’t, and that’s the crux of the problem,” said McClintock.
Beyond the blinders McClintock suggests Democrats wear on this issue, he says they are guilty of bewildering hypocrisy on the issue.
“They support loan guarantees to foreign corporations. They support loan guarantees to domestic special interests and foreign governments. But they’re unwilling to guarantee loans made to our own government. I can’t understand the logic there,” said McClintock.
Given the partisan divide in the House vote, it’s unlikely the Default Protection Act will reach a final vote in the Senate, much less reach Obama’s desk. McClintock admits that’s the likely outcome but says it’s further evidence of a broken U.S. Senate.
“It will take six Democrats to cross party lines and agree to consider this bill in the Senate. That’s a pretty tall order considering the partisanship in the Senate. That’s also a good argument for revisiting the question that it takes 60 votes just to take up a bill in the Senate,” said McClintock.
McClintock believes his approach to staving off a credit disaster will ultimately succeed, but not until 2017.
“I’m counting on a very different president taking office in 458 days, not that I’m counting,” said McClintock. “This measure will pave the road for a future measure in the next Congress that will be signed into law.”
Greg Corombos of Radio America and Joel Gehrke of National Review react to Vice President Joe Biden’s decision not to run for president in 2016 and enjoy the shots he fired at Hillary Clinton as he declined to join the campaign. They also shudder as Wikileaks hacks into CIA Director John Brennan’s AOL account and publishes his personal information. And they discuss the latest twists and turns in the race for Speaker of the House that seem to be leading to the election of Paul Ryan.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan says he will run for Speaker of the House if the party can unify behind his candidacy and agree to his conditions, but the GOP congressman who first challenged John Boehner earlier this year says those demands are a non-starter for him.
Ryan has made no secret he doesn’t want the job. On Tuesday, he said he would agree to run if the party unifies around his candidacy and members of his party vow not to launch any efforts to remove him if he becomes speaker. He also demanded a more concerted effort to promote conservative ideals to turn the nation around and be permitted to protect the time he spends with his family.
While many House Republicans are hailing Ryan as a consensus choice, others definitely are not.
“He talked about all the shortcomings of the current leadership while Mr. Boehner was there, talking about the shortsightedness, we didn’t have a vision, we didn’t have a long-term outlook, we have bills brought up right at the deadline so it’s a crisis. We’re not unified,” said Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Florida. “He’s been here for 17 years. He’s dealt with a broken system, not willing to challenge it until the moment arrives. That, to me, is not leadership.”
Yoho mounted an eleventh hour challenge to Boehner just prior to the start of the 114th Congress in January. Two other members subsequently joined the race for speaker. Boehner survived the insurgency but last month announced his impending resignation as he faced what was likely to be a bruising fight to keep the top job in Congress.
More than two dozen Republicans defected from Boehner in that January vote. Yoho is quick to point out that Ryan was not one of them.
“Where were you come January first of 2015, when three of us put our heads on the chopping block to run for the Speaker of the House. Dan Webster (R-Florida) was the one we really wanted to run. Where were you back then, standing up saying the emperor doesn’t have any clothes or the system is broke and we need to change it,” said Yoho.
“If you weren’t willing to lead and challenge leadership back then, what makes me think you’re going to be any different than the current leadership structure,” he added.
While Ryan’s past performance bothers Yoho, his forbidding of any efforts to remove him as speaker is especially chilling to Yoho.
“I think the last caveat was, ‘I’ll take this job if you get rid of the motion to vacate the chair.’ That was something our founding fathers put in place for us to hold people in our House accountable. To take that off the table is like, ‘I’ll take the job if I know I can’t be fired,” said Yoho.
Yoho says if Ryan makes good on his promise to be a speaker who tirelessly champions conservative principles, no one is going to undermine his leadership.
“Each one of the members of Congress, we can be removed in the next election. I think that needs to be over anybody’s head. If you’re doing your job and you’re doing it well, it’s not a threat,” said Yoho.
The process to replace Boehner is taking much longer than planned. Boehner initially set Oct. 8 for leadership elections. However, that day, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy dropped his bid for speaker and Boehner pushed back elections, which will now come Oct. 28.
Yoho says that delay was unnecessary and another example of poor leadership.
“My hope is now that the leadership team with Mr. Boehner does not upset the process again. Had they not done what they did on Oct. 8, we would already have a new speaker installed. We would be dealing with a Nov. 3 debt ceiling deadline. We’d be dealing with funding the government on Dec. 11. We would be finishing up our appropriations,” said Yoho.
“The lack of leadership, and this is why we’re fighting so hard to replace it, has created this angst that we’re seeing over the last three weeks,” he said.
Yoho backs Webster for the job and Webster presently has the endorsement of the influential House Freedom Caucus.
Other than adamantly opposing any effort to scrap the option of members to “vacate the chair,” Yoho says there really don’t need to be a lot of new rules. He says GOP leaders need to abide by the ones already in play, and one in particular is on his mind.
“Follow the rules that are already in place. We’ve already got a 49-page rule book, one of them being the 72-hour rule. Before we vote on a bill, every member of Congress has 72 hours to review it. We don’t do that now. We fought to do that and leadership said no, we can’t do that,” said Yoho.
Two other issues are critical for Yoho and other members of the House Freedom Caucus. One is a commitment to pursue immigration reform in stages by securing the border, enforcing existing law and addressing guest worker programs. He also wants an end to leadership punishment for members who don’t vote as the party brass would like. Committee slots and travel perks have been stripped from some members. Yoho says that needs to stop.
Whether Ryan becomes speaker will be determined in the coming days. Regardless, Yoho has no regrets about his challenge to Boehner in January that triggered a series of events leading up to this change in leadership.
“I’m happy with my role and the results we’ve gotten. We ran on ‘Washington Lacks Leadership’ It needs new leadership,and a direction and a vision. I’m real happy where we’re at right now. we just don’t need to back up. We need to go forward,” said Yoho, who is confident this episode will ultimately be good for the country.
“This will all work out because the American people sent us here because it was a broken system. We’ve put in the mechanics to change that system. now, we’ve got to go and get our work done. The sooner we get this speaker’s race over, the better the American people will benefit and our country will benefit,” said Yoho.
Greg Corombos of Radio America and Joel Gehrke of National Review discuss Paul Ryan’s demands before running for speaker. They groan as President Obama vows to veto legislation designed to prevent defaulting on debt payments if the debt ceiling is not extended. And they slam the media for bending over backwards to distort the truth behind the latest Middle East violence.
The military is “upside down” for recommending that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl be given no jail time for voluntarily leaving his unit and being taken by the Taliban, a move that got several troops killed and led to the freedom of five hard core Taliban figures in exchange for Bergdahl.
That’s the assessment of retired U.S. Army Lt. General William “Jerry” Boykin. Boykin served 36 years in uniform, many of those with special forces including command of all Green Berets.
Earlier this month, military prosecutor Lt. Col. Mark Visgers recommended that Bergdahl be given no jail time and that his case be moved from a general court martial to a less severe special court martial. Visgers does not have the last word, but his shift from advancing charges that could have landed Bergdahl in prison for life or even the death chamber raises Boykin’s eyebrows.
“My only conclusion is these prosecutors are under some serious pressure through the chain of command. I suspect the chain of command is under some pressure from the administration,” said Boykin. “I don’t know that for a fact but what else can you conclude? These are military prosecutors. They know the seriousness of these charges.”
In June 2014, President Obama trumpeted the exchange of five Guantanamo prisoners for Bergdahl and hosted Bergdahl’s parents in the White House Rose Garden. In the ensuing days, the details of Bergdahl’s alleged desertion came to light in addition to charges that several brothers in arms died trying to find him.
Boykin says all of those details demand severe punishment.
“These are egregious charges. Look, this guy deserted in combat, and not only that, they have proven that was cavorting with or he is guilty of misbehavior with the enemy. Bergdahl went with the Taliban deliberately. He stayed with the Taliban for five years. There has to be accountability for that,” said Boykin,
“I think this guy should probably spend the rest of his life in jail. This actually carries the death penalty. I’m not advocating that by any means, but I do think he needs to be held accountable,” he added.
Desertion and misbehavior before the enemy are bad enough, but Boykin says the other two factors are even more infuriating, namely that Bergdahl’s actions cost the lives of fellow soldiers. He also winces at the thought of giving up five key terrorists to get Bergdahl back.
“The fact that we put five of the most hard core criminals in Guantanamo back on the streets, we released these people. These were commanders. These were senior people and they were some of the worst in Guantanamo. We traded them for a guy who deliberately walked off his installation and joined the Taliban there,” said Boykin.
Prosecutors dispute that last point. Maj. Gen. Kenneth Dahl says he interrogated Bergdahl for over an hour and concluded Bergdahl was never friendly with the Taliban.
Most infuriating for Boykin is the military’s penchant for harshly disciplining some soldiers for doing the right thing in Afghanistan while it looks like Bergdahl will catch a break.
“The Army is about to put an Sgt. First Class Charles Martland out of the Army for an incident in 2011, where he slugged a police chief for raping a child repeatedly. We’re going to put him out of the Army, but here we’ve got a guy that cavorted with the enemy, that deserted in wartime and we’re going to let him walk,” said Boykin.
“This is upside down and I think this is a total miscarriage of justice,” he added.
Boykin says troop morale dropped when they learned of Bergdahl’s release and the price the U.S. paid for that freedom. He says if Bergdahl faces no jail time, morale will take another punch to the stomach.
“I think that if he’s allowed to walk with some minor slap on the wrist, I think it’s going to have another huge impact on morale throughout our services, not just the Army,” said Boykin.
Greg Corombos of Radio America and Jim Geraghty of National Review discuss new poll results showing Democrats are more favorable towards socialism than capitalism by a 12-point margin and how that should be a huge advantage for conservatives in 2016. They also slam Joe Biden for dragging out his decision on whether to run for president. And they shake their heads as Jim Webb abruptly quits his 2016 bid and the Democratic Party while mulling an independent bid. Finally, they observe five years of the Three Martini Lunch by looking back on one of their favorite martinis of all time.