In a macho culture that some equate with men in dark glasses gallivanting with prostitutes, Julia Pierson has made it to the top. Eleanor Clift on the woman tapped to whip the Secret Service into shape.
The highest-ranking female agent in the U.S. Secret Service, Julia A. Pierson, will be sworn in Wednesday at the White House to head the organization where she has worked for over 30 years. The first woman tapped for the top job, she takes over an agency rocked by a prostitution scandal last year.
Julia Pierson. (US Secret Service via AP)
Pierson has been chief of staff in the director’s office in Washington since 2008, where her main areas of responsibility have been technology and modernization. Over three decades, beginning as a special agent in Miami, she has held a wide variety of protective and investigative assignments and served as deputy assistant director in the Office of Protective Operations.
In announcing her appointment, President Obama said, “Julia is eminently qualified to lead the agency that not only safeguards Americans at major events and secures our financial system, but also protects our leaders and our first families, including my own. Julia has had an exemplary career, and I know these experiences will guide her as she takes on this new challenge to lead the impressive men and women of this important agency.”
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments for a case challenging California’s controversial law known as Prop 8, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman. Read the full transcript and listen to the courtroom audio here.
As the Supreme Court hears arguments today on California's gay marriage ban, follow along as we collect the smartest court-watchers' latest tweets.
Remember the Obamacare ruling debacle? Pundits read too much into the oral arguments—and got the outcome wrong. Adam Winkler warns against overanalyzing the clues in today’s gay marriage hearings.
In Arthurian legend, the sorceress Morgan Le Fay lured sailors to their death by using magic to create false yet alluring images of fairy castles out at sea. She was said to be capable of enticing even the most experienced ship captain to veer from his course and meet an untimely end. Her mirages offer a valuable lesson for prognosticators and legal commentators weighing every word spoken by the justices in the Supreme Court hearings over gay marriage this week.
People queue to enter the Supreme Court in Washington on March 25, 2013. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty)
Oral argument can be a window into the court and its deliberations. Justices hostile to a lawyer’s argument often reveal their disagreement through penetrating—sometimes devastating—questions, while a friendly justice can offer a struggling advocate a helping hand. Court watchers eager to get an early lead on how the justices will decide the most important questions of the day look to these hints, analyzing each change in tone and expression of frustration.
Even before the beginning of the marriage hearings, people have been reading the clues. On Monday, reports circulated that the lesbian cousin of Chief Justice John Roberts was attending one of the arguments as his guest. Was this is a sign that Roberts will rule in favor of gay rights? The cousin was hopeful: “I believe he sees where the tide is going,” she said. “I absolutely trust that he will go in a good direction.”
The former presidential candidate talks to Howard Kurtz about Republicans in denial, the 2016 race, forging a positive message—and returning to the moon.
Newt Gingrich is talking to me about landing on the moon.
But he’s not being a space cadet; he is building an argument about how Republicans have to get in touch with reality by conjuring up positive plans. Gingrich believes the GOP made huge mistakes in last year’s campaign—he doesn’t exempt himself—by believing its own propaganda.
Newt Gingrich, former presidential candidate and speaker of the House, at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) March 16, 2013 in National Harbor, Maryland. (Pete Marovich/Getty)
“You have a combination of large donors and very clever consultants, neither of whom have any interest in building a healthy party, so they look for nasty ways to have more impact,” Gingrich says. “If it becomes how clever we can be in vilifying Hillary Clinton, that’s a party that will not win in 2016.”
With public opinion shifting at ‘breathtaking’ speed, Republican politicians are finding themselves on the wrong side of gay marriage—but they must also keep their conservative donors happy, reports Eleanor Clift.
On no other public policy issue have attitudes have changed as rapidly as on gay marriage, and Karl Rove, the man George W. Bush dubbed “the architect” of his reelection, epitomizes the shift in the Republican Party. Asked on ABC’s This Week if he could “imagine” a Republican presidential candidate unequivocally backing gay marriage, Rove replied, “I could.”
Karl Rove and moderator Tom Brokaw appear on "Meet the Press" in Washington, D.C., Sunday, March 14, 2010. Rove, the former Senior Adviser to President Bush was a proponent in trying to pass anti-gay marriage legislation but said on the show over the weekend that he could see the possibility of a republican president who embraces gay marriage in the future. (William B. Plowman/NBC via Getty)
This is the same Karl Rove who in 2004 helped push a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and worked to put similar bans on the ballot in swing states such as Ohio to generate conservative turnout. Once a wedge issue that worked to the advantage of the GOP, gay marriage is now seen as benefiting the Democratic Party.
“This issue has been lost. It’s about time Republicans get over it,” says Ron Haskins, a former Bush White House official who co-directs the Center for Children and Families at the Brookings Institution. “Having hung out with Republicans for many years and knowing Republicans who either themselves were gay or had sons or daughters who were gay, Republicans always were very queasy about this issue,” he says. “Republicans think the less said, the better, but there’s a certain amount of relief. It’s hard to be a consistent conservative and be opposed to gay marriage.”
Forget the legal handicapping, says Michael Tomasky. This Supreme Court is virtually guaranteed to decide same-sex marriage on political—and maybe moral—grounds. Not a comforting thought.
I’ll leave it to the masters of the jurisprudential universe to handicap how the Supreme Court might deal with the two same-sex marriage cases in legal terms. But since this Court is the most nakedly political since at least the New Deal if not ever, I’ll do a little handicapping on political grounds, since it is largely on political grounds that I think the justices (especially the conservatives) decide things. The question, I think, comes down to two factors: how deeply this heavily Catholic conservative majority feels a collective moral antipathy to same-sex marriage; and the role this majority sees the Court playing in the post-2012-election era—what kind of role the Court should play in this alleged redefining of conservatism that’s going on. My hopes, it may not shock you to hear, are not high on either point, but especially the second one.
(L-R) Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justices Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan applaud before President Barack Obama's State of the Union address during a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington on Feb. 12, 2013. (Charles Dharapak/AP)
Let’s just go over the basics quickly. The Court is hearing two cases today and tomorrow, the Prop 8 case out of California and a challenge to the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage federally as being between a man and a woman. Because the DOMA case also deals with issues of states’ rights, it seems to most experts I read that the Court will rule against DOMA. Liberal Scotus blogger Scott Lemieux of The American Prospect told me yesterday that he expects to see a 6-3 decision here against DOMA, or maybe even 7-2, leaving only Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito defending the usual reactionary flank.
The Prop 8 case is more complicated. The legal question here involves whether to uphold a federal court decision from California that Prop 8, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman and passed as a ballot referendum in 2010, is unconstitutional. It can uphold the courts that ruled against Prop 8, in which case same-sex couples can start marrying, perhaps only in California, or perhaps across the nation, depending on how such a decision were to be written. It could strike the California ruling down on narrow grounds in a way that wouldn’t necessarily have much reach beyond California. Or it can say the courts were wrong, the voters were right, Prop 8 stands, and bans on same-sex marriage do not violate the Constitution.
Add the Office of Congressional Ethics to the long list of probes and lawsuits that may be the only enduring legacy of Bachmann’s presidential face-plant. John Avlon exclusively reports.
The Hindenburg. The Titanic. Michele Bachmann.
Eighteen months ago, the Minnesota House member was considered an unlikely but undeniable Republican rising star, winning the Iowa straw poll that unofficially begins the primary season. Today, she is embroiled in a litany of legal proceedings related to her rolling disaster of a presidential campaign—including an Office of Congressional Ethics investigation into campaign improprieties that has not previously been reported.
Michele Bachmann speaks at the 40th annual Conservative Political Action Conference on March 15. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)
The Daily Beast has learned that federal investigators are now interviewing former Bachmann campaign staffers nationwide about alleged intentional campaign-finance violations. The investigators are working on behalf of the Office of Congressional Ethics, which probes reported improprieties by House members and their staffs and then can refer cases to the House Ethics Committee.
Can the GOP escape from 1955?
In his new biography of Roger Ailes, Zev Chafets writes that Ailes longs for America when it was “its natural, best self, which he locates, with modest social amendments, somewhere in midwestern America circa 1955.” Chafets does not say what those modest social amendments might be, but it got me thinking about the nature of conservative nostalgia.
Stu McKay, 19, left, Andrew Hornsby, 20, and Taylor Wright, 19, all with the college group Young Americans for Freedom, rolling posters of Ronald Reagan while attending the 40th annual CPAC in National Harbor, MD, March 15, 2013. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)
Mitt Romney lost in part because his was a vision of Father Knows Best America in a time of Modern Family. Romney, by all accounts a devoted family man, could not seem to wrap his mind around the reality that families today come in a vast variety of configurations. His views on gay rights, women’s rights, and immigration (on which even Newt Gingrich accused him of wanting to divide families by deporting grandmothers who have lived here for decades) seemed hopelessly out of touch rather than charmingly retro. Meanwhile, Barack Obama cruised to reelection on a one-word slogan: Forward.
The Republican National Committee has, commendably, performed an autopsy on the carcass of its 2012 campaign. To its credit, the GOP seems to recognize that it doesn’t just need to moderate, it needs to modernize. You know a party is in trouble when its “celebrities” are has-beens like Hank Williams Jr., Charlie Daniels, and Ted Nugent (who, to be fair, had a big hit—in 1977). As the authors of the GOP report put it: “At our core, Republicans have comfortably remained the Party of Reagan without figuring out what comes next. Ronald Reagan is a Republican hero and role model who was first elected 33 years ago—meaning no one under the age of 51 today was old enough to vote for Reagan when he first ran for President. Our Party knows how to appeal to older voters, but we have lost our way with younger ones. We sound increasingly out of touch.”
Introducing The Daily Beast’s weekly rundown of the wildest ideas being proposed—or passed—by state lawmakers.
North Dakota’s state legislature this week passed what would be the nation’s strictest anti-abortion package, which would ban abortions as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detected, which could come as early as six weeks. Arkansas, which currently has the toughest abortion laws in the U.S., bans the procedure after 12 weeks. Republican governor Jack Dalrymple, who’s yet to signal his position, has until Wednesday to either veto or sign the package, which would likely be challenged immediately in court if it becomes law.
South Carolina State Rep. Bill Chumley (R) this week sponsored a bill that would enlist low-level inmates in modern-day chain gangs. The idea was first thought-up by a local sheriff, who said convict labor would shorten prison terms and save money for the state. “You work somebody six days a week, 12 hours a day, they don't have time to sit around and think about how to be stupid anymore," said Wright.
Rev. Matthew Crebbin, who led Newtown’s televised memorial service, tells Joshua DuBois that his community’s grief is only beginning—and that he worries America is making guns into false idols.
When President Obama traveled to Newtown, Connecticut, to console that community and the nation after the massacre that killed 20 children and six adult staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School, it was Rev. Matthew Crebbin of Newtown Congregational Church who led the nationally televised interfaith memorial service. Three months after the tragedy, I emailed with Reverend Crebbin to see how Newtown is still coping, and what’s next for that community. (Our exchange has been slightly condensed and edited.)
Rev. Matthew Crebbin during service at Newtown Congregational Church. (courtesy of Rev. Matthew Crebbin)
1. Rev. Crebbin, you had the task of counseling some of the Newtown families immediately after the massacre. What was that experience like?
It was the most challenging experience of my ministry. One of the more difficult aspects of that time was the waiting that had to be endured—through the process of identification and notification. There were also teachers, staff, and first responders in those early hours who were trying to comprehend the magnitude of the event that had engulfed all of us. In that moment I was trying to help people to hang on in whatever way they could and to let them know that they were being held by God’s sustaining grace.
First it was the ‘left’ turn after the election, then Benghazi cover-up accusations. Activists have a list of demands for the conservative network, which some say is ‘not as fair and balanced as I thought.’
Is Fox News going soft?
That is what a number of Tea Party activists are saying, and they are organizing a boycott to protest the conservative station’s coverage, especially what they view as the network’s relative silence in investigating the attacks on a diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya.
File photo: Tea Party members in Montgomery, Alabama, 2013; Sean Hannity, 2011. (Dave Martin/AP; John Amis/AP)
“Particularly after the election, Fox keeps turning to the left,” said Stan Hjerlied, 75, of Fort Collins, Colorado, and a participant in the boycott. He pointed to an interview Fox News CEO Roger Ailes gave after the election in which he said that the Republican Party and Fox News need to modernize, especially around immigration. “So we are really losing our only conservative network.”
Michael Tomasky rebuts the GOP’s three fiscal lies and calls on Democrats to do the same.
As we immerse ourselves in March Madness this weekend, a thought experiment for you: imagine that a majority of Americans were under the impression that the team that committed fewer fouls won the game. After all, not committing fouls is a good, even salutary, thing. It demonstrates self-discipline. It gives the other team fewer opportunities for what are literally called “free” throws. The propensity not to foul reflects a house in order, a group that plays by the rules, a team rich in inner—nay, even moral—strength. That is all self-evidently preposterous, of course. But it is exactly how we talk about the budget in Washington, such talk being driven by a Republican Party that is way out of the mainstream, saddled with near all-time-low approval ratings, and desperate for a campaign issue with which they can hold on to the House in 2014. How can the public be educated not to buy this nonsense?
Dick Cheney, David Cameron, Paul Ryan. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty, Nick Ansel/WPA Pool/Getty, J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
Dick Cheney went a little overboard (as he was wont to do) when he said “deficits don’t matter,” and of course it was quite a hoot coming from a member of the party that has been haranguing us about deficits for half a century now whenever it suited their purposes to do so. But as hypocritical as he was being, he had a point. Today the GOP has completely flipped on this point and is cynically hyping three fictions that will harm the economy—but (maybe) help them electorally.
The first is this canard that we have to balance the budget. Absurd. There is no reason to balance the budget. None. Ever. Oh, it’s nice if it happens—that is, if it happens as a result of an economy that’s shooting skyward like a bottle rocket, as Bill Clinton’s was. That’s something to feel good about. It was an astonishing accomplishment for Clinton, that he brought us into surplus for that brief golden age before George W. Bush and his advisers, those secret agents of world communism, started destroying American capitalism.
The president may be African-American, but the black caucus is upset with his latest Cabinet appointments. Eleanor Clift on what’s driving the complaints.
The numbers are stark: of President Obama’s nine new Cabinet appointments, three are women and one is Hispanic.
President Barack Obama is greeted by Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio upon his arrival at Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport in Cleveland, Thursday, June 14, 2012. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)
This has prompted African-Americans, who voted for Obama in record numbers, to question whether they are getting their fair share of representation.
Ohio Democrat Marcia Fudge, who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus, sent Obama a letter last week saying that his appointments “have hardly been reflective of this country’s diversity.” She noted numerous phone calls from constituents to the offices of the CBC’s 42 members “questioning why none of the new appointees will be able to speak to the unique needs of African Americans.”
Republicans’ trumpeted makeover plan has been out only a few days, but it’s already crumbling. Bob Shrum on how Paul Ryan and anti-gay zealots are shooting their party in the foot.
The Republican Nation Committee’s postmortem on 2012 is hardly a guarantee that the party will come back to electoral life in 2014, or even 2016.
And to find out why, look no further than Paul Ryan.
Paul Ryan at CPAC 2013
First, though, the report itself, grandly titled “The Growth and Opportunity Project.”
Eric Nordstrom, who worked at the Benghazi consulate on the day it was attacked, choked up during Wednesday's hearings. 'It matters,' he said, that the committee investigate what happened before, during, and after the siege.
Corry Booker’s the hero mayor of Newark, and, yes, he’s running for Senate. By Lloyd Grove
The president’s push for $9 an hour has the GOP on the defensive. Eleanor Clift on the strategy behind the move. But this push could take the politics out of the perennial argument.
Meet the new Treasury secretary, same as the old Treasury secretary. Lloyd Green on nominee Jack Lew.
For John Kael Weston and other men on the frontlines of Iraq and Afghanistan drone strikes raise many uncomfortable questions. He writes on why we need clearer policy and guidelines for these silent killers.