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Twist of Faith

10 Religious Surprises in Congress

Chip Somodevilla/Getty

A Modern Orthodox Jew, a Buddhist and a Quaker walk into…the Capitol? No joke, the US Congress is filled with a host of representatives from all types of religions.

If you let national approval ratings tell the story, the 113th Congress is known for being divided, do-nothing and often just plain dismal. But did you know that this is also the most religiously diverse Congress in American history? There are plenty of faithful surprises in the House and Senate. Here are 10.1. When you think of Mormons in politics you generally think of...Utah. And Republicans. And of course, Mitt Romney. But did you know that the most powerful Mormon in Congress today is not from Utah at all? In fact, he’s not even a Republican, and also wasn't a huge fan of ol' Mitt!  That's right folks: To the surprise of many, the most powerful Mormon in Congress is Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV).


Julian Assange Invades SXSW

The WikiLeaks founder participated in a glitch-filled—but candid—live video chat from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London as part of the South By Southwest tech fest.

Introduced as “a trailblazer who has led the fight against censorship,” the White Stallion of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, was beamed into a packed hall of journalists and concerned citizens from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London where he has been staying in asylum from an extradition order for over a year, for a Skype chat with Benjamin Palmer of The Barbarian Group, an interactive marketing firm based in Boston.And the dapper Assange, who’s been in exile for 650 days, had some harsh words for President Obama on the National Security Agency revelations brought forth by Edward Snowden.


CPAC Shifts to the Libertarians

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty

As hangovers cleared, on panels and in booths, Day 2’s momentum drained away from the GOP’s aging “values” peddlers—in favor of the young, energetic followers of Rand Paul.

Day 2 of CPAC got rolling with a more subdued crowd than Day 1. Not because folk weren’t having fun. Quite the opposite: More than a few attendees clearly had stayed up too late having too much fun Thursday night. Throughout the convention center, you heard people asking variations on the questions: “So what time did you get to bed?” In the downstairs exhibit hall, attendees of all ages slumped on the white sofas like bleary-eyed rag dolls. Standing in line at the hotel’s sundries shop, one young Citadel cadet groaned to his buddies: “I’m hung over harder than I deserve.

Zero Dark Data

What's in CIA's 'Black Site' File?


The CIA and the Senators overseeing the agency are nearly at war. And it all revolves around the contents of a secret database documenting the CIA's clandestine prisons.

At the center of CIA director John Brennan’s first major clash with the Senate is a massive database containing millions of pages of secrets about the agency's "black site" prison networks and what the CIA euphemistically labeled “enhanced interrogation.” The rest of the world called it torture. The CIA created the database in 2009 so that staffers from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence could review the documents at an agency facility as it prepared its own report ontorture.

Same Old Song

CPAC’s Weak ‘Minority Outreach’

Shawn Thew/EPA, Landov

For all the urgency in the 2012 post-mortem’s directive to reach out to minority voters, the GOP’s vanguard still isn’t offering them anything new—not that anyone’s listening anyway.

Here is a short list of the things and people present at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference: Ted Cruz, Paul Ryan, a panel on the world after Obamacare ends medicine, a session on the global-warming “hoax.” Star Wars cosplayers. A large gaggle of stressed, frustrated journalists. Awkward teenage boys in the Beltway uniform of triple-pleated khakis, oversize blue blazers, and unusually wide ties.But with all the people and conversations and exhibitions and presentations—which ran the gamut of conservative concerns and characters—there was one thing missing: a meaningful effort at minority outreach.

Props to Hillary

Hillary's Right on Putin & Hitler

Jim Watson/AFP/Getty

Calm down, everybody. Clinton's Hitler analogy was accurate—and it's hilarious to watch Republicans trying to use it to dent her foreign policy credentials.

I, for one, was sorry to see Hillary Clinton clarify her remarks comparing Vladimir Putin to Adolf Hitler. Yes, I know the rule. No Hitler analogies. No mentions of his name period. I know the rule, but I don’t like the rule. I think in some ways we need more Hitler analogies, because when political figures around the world do things like some of the things Adolf Hitler did, we ought to be able to say, for the sake of historical accuracy and for the sake of issuing warnings that will get people’s attention, “This is like that thing Hitler did.

Come for Crazy, Stay for Party

Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty

Virtual rifle ranges! Tug-o-war! Storm Troopers! And that was just the appetizer portion of what was served up at CPAC. For the main course, conservatives got a tasty helping of The Donald and the NRA’s gun-loving head honcho Wayne LaPierre. Ka-pow!

Ever been to a wedding or family reunion where the event starts out reasonably genteel, then, as the hours roll by and the attendees start to get tired and/or drunk, things start to get weirder and rowdier? The opening day of CPAC was a lot like that. Plus firearms.Now, I know what you’re thinking. How can CPAC not be gonzo from the opening bell? This isn’t some weak-tea of a party convention, where pols have to fret about whether they’re going to scare off voters in the mushy middle.

Power Broker

The Johnson (Broadway) Treatment

Evgenia Eliseeva

How LBJ passed the ’64 Civil Rights Act—by lying, schmoozing, charming, and threatening—is dramatized in the new Broadway play, starring Bryan Cranston.

Cub political reporters, if they are lucky, are told the great big secret about covering Washington D.C. soon after they arrive: it is not that the workings of government are opaque necessarily, or that politicians dissemble, or that sources are hard to come by.Rather, the great secret of covering the federal government is that politics is often really, really boring.Which makes it a little odd then that the biggest show on Broadway this season is All The Way, a theatrical biopic about Lyndon Baines Johnson, starring Breaking Bad hero Bryan Cranston.

Sexual Assault Bill SNAFU

Kevin Dietsch/UPI, via Landov

The New York Senator may have lost the vote to move prosecution of sexual assaults outside the military, but she’s still a champion in certain circles who will continue to maintain a watchful eye on reform.

Legislation that would have transferred the decision to prosecute sexual assault in the military from commanders to lawyers outside the chain of command failed to get the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster in the senate Thursday. The 55 senators that supported New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s Military Justice Improvement Act included all but three of the 20 women currently serving in the senate. Those three, Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill and Republicans Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Deb Fischer of Nebraska backed legislation crafted by McCaskill, which cruised to an easy victory after two hours of emotional debate.

Enemy of My Enemy

Christie Makes Frenemies at CPAC

Brendan Smialoski/AFP/Getty

Last year, the Republican wasn’t invited but was hated at the conservative confab. Today, he was cheered for being liberals’ newest enemy.

When a lighthearted Chris Christie faced the attendees at CPAC late Thursday morning, it felt almost as though Bridgegate was just a bad dream.The New Jersey governor arrived on stage nearly an hour late. The crowd rose to greet him as Christie first stepped to the podium and it again rose to cheer him after his brief speech, which touched on topics ranging from public unions to his own pro-life beliefs. He did not, predictably, address the scandal which has threatened to bring his political career to a premature end.


Justice Served in the Senate

Alex Wong/Getty

Republicans and the seven Democrats who joined them to oppose a convicted cop-killer’s defense attorney joining the Justice Department voted with their conscience, not racism.

Wednesday afternoon, the Senate rejected the nomination of Debo Adegbile to become the next assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice.  This marks the first defeat for President Obama under the new simple majority vote structure Democrats rammed through on a party line vote last year to consider presidential appointments.Obama was quick to lash out at those who opposed Adegbile’s nomination.  Shortly after his nominee failed to receive a majority of the vote, the president asserted:The Senate’s failure to confirm Debo Adegbile to lead the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice is a travesty based on wildly unfair character attacks against a good and qualified public servant… As a lawyer, Mr.


SCOTUS Wife: Obama Aids Terror?

Charles Dharapak/AP

Ginni Thomas wants to know if the White House committed any crimes at a panel on “Benghazigate.”

The wife of a sitting Supreme Court Justice wants to know if the Obama administration has provided material support to terrorists.At a panel on “Benghazigate: The Ugly Truth and Coverup” held by a rival conservative conference to CPAC, Ginni Thomas, a conservative activist and wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, asked a panel that included controversial retired General Jerry Boykin if the Obama administration had committed any crimes, in particular, providing material support to terrorists.

Get Real

The Dems’ Dumb Koch Strategy

Eric Thayer/The New York Times, via Redux

Why Harry Reid and his friends’ demonization of the right-wing brothers won’t change anyone’s vote.

George Soros may lend his personal fortune to a number of causes with which I disagree, but I do have to thank him for one thing: letting me see Dave Matthews Band live in concert for free.In 2004, musical acts fanned out across the country, playing free shows on the “Vote for Change” tour, presented by America Coming Together (ACT), a 527 group funded by Soros and a variety of “1 percent” liberal donors. Gainesville, Florida was visited by Dave Matthews Band, and despite my budding love for limited government, I was not prohibited from attending.


Tea Party Eats Their Own

Chip Somodevilla/Getty

New GOP primary challengers are looking to serve their Tea Party challengers a scalding hot cuppa change. Their goal? To oppose!

They arrived in January of 2011, unfamiliar with the ways of Washington, and promising never to adapt. The Republican freshman of the 112th Congress had helped take back the House, riding a Tea Party-infused, throw-the-bums-out wave of conservative disgust with career politicians.But after three years in office and an election season looming, a number of GOP Congressmen find themselves facing scrappy challengers who say that they are now the ones with a serious case of Potomac Fever.

Read the Pentagon ‘Black Budget’

The Daily Beast

The U.S. military has billions of dollars’ worth of secret projects it doesn’t want you to know about. Too bad—here they are.

President Obama proposed a $495.6 billion defense budget yesterday, almost half a billion dollars leaner than the previous year’s. But there’s still one category where the Department of Defense is not scaling back: its secret projects.According to the budget documents, the DoD plans to spend around $58.7 billion on classified programs (fondly known as its “black budget”) in fiscal year 2015, a 1.5 percent increase from the previous year.But what exactly is the “black budget?”The term is an unofficial one, as shadowy as the thing that it seeks to describe.

'Clinton Vs. Bush? Count Me In'

A Hillary Clinton-Jeb Bush presidential faceoff would be great for America. So says Daily Beast contributor Mark McKinnon, who joined 'Morning Joe' to explain why the U.S. needs this.

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