If drug-war crusaders would get out of the way, the harmless cannabis product could become an invaluable cash crop. Jonathan Miller on the full-court press to legalize it.
Poor, poor, pitiful hemp.
Hemp plants in Barrie, Ontario. (Jim Craigmyle/Corbis)
Its cooler cannabis cousin, marijuana, gets all the buzz—generational bards from Bob Dylan to Snoop Dogg sing Mary Jane’s praise; cancer and AIDS patients declare her glory.
And even though smoking hemp won’t make you feel high—just really stupid for trying (as well as a sharp burning sensation in the lungs)—the feds still crack down on it because they think it kinda sorta looks like the wacky weed that threatens to send our nation back into reefer madness. Just another innocent casualty in the war on drugs.
Lois Lerner is in the eye of the IRS–Tea Party firestorm. Caitlin Dickson reports on the ‘apolitical’ director of the IRS’s Exempt Organizations Division—and whether she could have averted the scandal.
One woman sits at the center of the developing—and utterly confusing—Internal Revenue Service scandal. It was Lois Lerner, director of the IRS’s Exempt Organizations Division, who let slip at an American Bar Association meeting on Friday that, between 2010 and 2012, conservative nonprofit groups were improperly scrutinized by the IRS. And it is Lerner who has since become the target of a number of accusations and conspiracy theories, lobbed from both ends of the political spectrum. As the media waits impatiently for the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration to release an investigative report detailing who knew about the IRS’s inappropriate practices and when, it seems crucial to get to know the main character in this unfolding drama and the core issues swirling around her.
Lois Lerner, a senior IRS offical, was grilled last week about allegations that her department targeted the Tea Party for greater scrutiny. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP,IRS.gov)
Lerner was appointed as head of the IRS Exempt Organizations Division during the Bush administration, in 2006. She served as director the IRS Exempt Organizations Rulings and Agreements Division for four years before that. A graduate of Boston’s Northeastern University and Western New England College of Law in Springfield, Mass., Lerner began her legal career as a staff attorney in the Department of Justice’s criminal division before joining the Federal Election Commission as an assistant general counsel in 1981. She spent 20 years at the FEC, where she was appointed head of the Enforcement Division in 1986 and then acting general counsel for six months in 2001.
Larry Noble, who served as general counsel at the FEC from 1987 to 2000, was involved in hiring and promoting Lerner. “I worked with Lois for a number of years and she is really one of the more apolitical people I’ve met,” Noble told The Daily Beast. “That doesn’t mean she doesn’t have political views, but she really focuses on the job and what the rules are. She doesn’t have an agenda. “Reporters grew frustrated with Lerner during a conference call last Friday, when she appeared reluctant to answer most of their questions. She seemed to dig herself into a deeper hole by acknowledging that she is “not good at math” when asked for a statistic, and she said she would not have publicly acknowledged her employees’ wrongdoing if she hadn’t been asked about it directly—further fueling the argument that the focus on conservative groups was politically motivated. Noble attributes Lerner’s discretion not to a coverup but to her rule-abiding nature.
Not so long ago, Europe restrained America. Now, it urges us toward intervention. Peter Beinart on how we switched places with our allies across the Atlantic.
Once upon a time, skittish European leaders came to Washington to warn their trigger-happy American counterparts about the dangers of war. Not anymore. Yesterday at the White House, Barack Obama hosted British Prime Minister David Cameron, who—along with French President François Hollande—has for months been pushing to arm Syria’s rebels. Earlier this year, France dragged a reluctant Obama administration into supporting its intervention against Islamist rebels in Mali. And in 2011, Team Obama at first declined to embrace a British and French push for a no-fly zone in Libya (before ultimately assisting in the war that drove Muammar Gaddafi from power).
Since when did the cheese-eating surrender monkeys on the other side of the pond change their spots? Actually, they haven’t. It’s we who’ve changed.
Despite the stereotypes sometimes peddled by American jingoists, Britain and France have not spent the last decade practicing pacifism. In 2000, Britain sent troops to Sierra Leone to prevent rebels from overrunning the capital. In 2002, France sent troops to quell unrest in Côte d’Ivoire. Together, Britain and France have lost over 500 troops in Afghanistan.
Obama needs to be more specific about how he plans to address the IRS matter, says Michael Tomasky.
There’s an old question in politics. If you (a public figure) decide to address potential controversy X head on by taking this or that action, are you effectively playing offense, or are you just drawing needless attention to a story that four out of five Americans don’t even know anything about? Politicians and their handlers always, always, always reach the second conclusion. Then, the controversy grows and mutates, like some creature from a bad 1950s horror movie. President Obama, as is his custom, tried to split the difference on the IRS question at his Monday morning press conference. It wasn’t enough. Of course in this Washington, nothing will ever be enough. We are now entering the phase of gullible mainstream thumb-sucking about Obama’s “credibility.” The folks at the White House had better understand how quickly a campy horror movie can get ugly.
President Barack Obama pauses during a joint news conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron in the East Room of the White House. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Obama appeared with David Cameron—about half an hour late, a little more than usual, which added to the sense that there might have been some people back behind the curtain furiously figuring out what he should say when the inevitable questions came. Sure enough, the IRS matter was the first question. Obama said he first learned about the improper audits of right-leaning groups “in the same news reports as everyone else,” last Friday. If this is true, he said, “that’s outrageous, and there’s no place for it.” He used “outrageous” a second time, called it “contrary to our traditions,” and said he “will not tolerate it.”
What he didn’t do is say what he plans to do about it. There’s an investigation going on, he said, and he didn’t want to comment on it, and we’ll see what it says. Okay. I don’t want to sound like one of those Green-Lantern pundits who seem to believe that if Obama just says something forcefully and passionately enough, the Red Sea will part and his political foes will bend to his indefatigable will. That’s a silly Hollywood view of the world.
As the GOP becomes increasingly a guy’s party, the Texas senator and Jersey governor are bringing the unapologetic machismo, writes Michelle Cottle.
Two Republican heavy hitters are bringing manly back to their machismo-starved party.
In terms of public image, it’s hard to think of two Republican pols less alike than Ted Cruz and Chris Christie. Since his Beltway arrival this winter, the Texas senator—laboring tirelessly to cast himself as the party’s loudest, proudest, most uncompromising ideologue—has rocketed past more senior colleagues to become the GOPer that non-right-wingers love to bash. A couple hundred miles north, meanwhile, the equally in-your-face New Jersey governor reigns as the Republican non-wingers love to praise: a bellicose poster boy for pragmatic governance.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP, Julio Cortez/AP
Still, Cruz and Christie possess a key similarity: an abundance of old-school manliness. Sure, one is a twangy Texan with that shit-kicking, boot-wearing thing going on (despite being a double-ivied, cosmopolitan kind of guy). The other is a Jersey bruiser, with a (much-discussed) physique reminiscent of Tony Soprano after a doughnut bender. But both are delivering a booster shot of testosterone to the GOP in a way few have managed to pull off of late.
‘Rodham,’ a film about the life of a young Hillary Clinton, is generating serious buzz in Hollywood and Washington. The Daily Beast has the screenplay. Here are some of the juiciest bits from the movie.
The most powerful woman in the world is about to get the Hollywood treatment.
Hillary Clinton, the former first lady, senator, and secretary of state—who is maybe running for president in 2016—is the subject of a new feature film about her youth. Rodham focuses on 1974, when the 26-year-old was a determined—and relatively humorless—lawyer working as a member of the House impeachment inquiry staff in Washington, D.C. When she wasn’t helping impeach Nixon, Rodham was struggling to maintain a long-distance relationship with a suave Arkansas law professor by the name of Bill Clinton, who was himself busy running for the House of Representatives in his home state.
Illustration by The Daily Beast
Rodham was written by Young Il Kim, a relatively unknown South Korean. Though casting and filming haven’t begun, the movie is set to be produced by Wyck Godfrey and Marty Bowen of Temple Hill Entertainment (The Twilight Saga) and directed by James Ponsoldt, whose coming-of-age drama The Spectacular Now was a standout at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. The screenplay for Rodham was a hot commodity in Hollywood, earning a place on the 2012 Black List—an annual compendium of the best unproduced screenplays floating around Tinseltown. And according to The Wrap, “industry executives who have read the script claim it offers a potentially award-worthy role for one lucky ingenue.” Kim, meanwhile, has received the Sundance Institute’s Alfred P. Sloan Commissioning Grant to develop his next project—an original, untitled script based on the life of Stephen Hawking.
The permanent campaign has arrived, and it’s carried on a wave of dark money, writes John Avlon.
Less than five months after Barack Obama began his second term, the 2016 presidential campaign kicked off this weekend with a Benghazi-themed attack ad that takes direct aim at Hillary Clinton.
The 90-second web ad, called “Benghazi”, was issued by the Karl Rove–founded American Crossroads, which spent more than $21 million in the last election cycle. It is the freshest evidence that hyperpartisan super-PAC slush funds are now a core part of the permanent campaign.
This American Crossroads ad matters because of its unsubtle purpose: a preemptive strike against a potential Clinton presidential campaign in 2016. Remember that through 2008, Clinton was widely considered the most polarizing figure in American politics. The days of Hillary as Republicans’ favorite member of the Obama cabinet are over. This dynamic was unlikely to the point of absurdity—a case of political amnesia brought on by a combination of her voting record in the Senate and the ’08 campaign-era conviction that the enemy of my enemy is my friend.
When a billionaire mayor’s news company uses his financial company’s products to spy on the nation’s top bankers and officials, no line is left uncrossed.
It’s the sort of overblown abuse of power we like to laugh at in other countries, confident it could never happen here.
A multibillionaire, dissatisfied with being just a business tycoon, starts a media division, brands it with his name and starts to gobble up competition and talent. Then he decides to run for office, knowing his opposition will do the good-citizen thing and stay within the established public-finance law, considered a national model of good government. He plays by his own rules, changing parties not because his politics have changed but because otherwise he’d have no chance of winning, and outspends his competition by tens of millions of dollars. He vows if elected to put aside control of his business to avoid any conflict of interest.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg arrives for a news conference at City Hall in December 2012. (Seth Wenig/AP)
He wins and it’s never clear how much he separated himself from the businesses that bear his name. When it comes time for him to step down after two terms as required by law, he decides, no, he’d prefer a third term, thank you very much, and claims a “crisis” requires his personal leadership. After meeting mogul to mogul with the owners of the city’s three leading newspapers, all three editorial boards have changes of heart and declare that what’s good for the billionaire is good for the citizens. Once running, he starts touting how well things are going, thanks to him. When a City Hall reporter asks him if he still needs to run if the crisis has passed, he’s offended and scolds the reporter: “You’re a disgrace.” He spends another fortune and bullies his way into a third term.
Why are we debating intervention in Syria but not Afghanistan and Iraq? Peter Beinart says it’s because Americans prefer to clean up the messes of others, rather than our own.
In recent weeks, the biggest debate in American foreign policy has been: should we intervene in Syria? Good question. Let me add two of my own: should we intervene in Iraq and Afghanistan?
Civilians and security forces gather at the scene of a car-bomb attack in the southern Shiite city of Karbala, 50 miles south of Baghdad on April 29. (AP)
Yes, “intervene.” Present—not past—tense. You see, both countries appear headed for civil war. Last December, Iraq’s Shia Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki (remember him?) tried to arrest his own finance minister, a Sunni. That sparked massive Sunni protests, which Shia troops put down ruthlessly. Now the Sunni militiamen that helped the United States fight al Qaeda during George W. Bush’s famous “surge” are turning their guns on Maliki’s Shia-dominated regime. In April, sectarian clashes killed more than 700 people, the worst monthly toll since 2008. Iraq, notes the International Crisis Group, “has begun a perilous, downward slide toward confrontation.” If all this wasn’t on the tip of your tongue, don’t feel bad. Iraq hasn’t made the front page of The New York Times in over a month.
Then there’s Afghanistan, from which the United States is supposed to withdraw by the end of next year. To fight the Taliban, the U.S. has spent the last few years arming local militias, many of which barely feign loyalty to the Afghan military. When America pulls out next year, many Afghans believe that even the pretense of a unified, pan-tribal army will crumble. (As Dexter Filkins pointed out in a brilliant New Yorker investigation last year, maintaining Afghanistan’s national army and police at their current size costs $8 billion a year, which is twice the Afghan government’s entire budget.) When that happens, Afghanistan could well slide back into the Hobbesian hell it lived through in the 1990s, except with better weapons. “Mark my words,” one pro-Western Afghan told Filkins, “the moment the Americans leave, the civil war will begin. The country will be divided into twenty-five or thirty fiefdoms, each with its own government.” If you’ve missed this too, don’t blame yourself. Despite laudable exceptions like Filkins’s New Yorker story, Afghanistan hasn’t gotten much more press coverage than Iraq. Over the past month, it’s made the Times’s front page twice. Syria, by contrast, has been there nine times.
From Michele Bachmann's '9-11 Pray' Day to the Texas 'Birther Ballot' bill, our weekly rundown of American politics at its wackiest.
Minnesota: 9-11 Pray Day
Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann really wants a September 11 “National Day of Prayer and Fasting,” not only to commemorate the lives lost on that fateful date in 2001 and 2012, but to reflect on the things we, as Americans, have done to cause God such disappointment that he would choose to punish our country twice on the same date. “Our nation has seen judgement not once but twice on September 11 and that’s why we’re going to have ‘9-11 Pray’ on that day,” she said at a Capitol Hill event this week. “Is there anything better that we can do on that day rather than to humble ourselves and pray to an almighty God?” Bachmann has joined forces with World Net Daily editor Joseph Farah to promote the event. 9-11 Pray Day is necessary, Farah said, because the U.S. is experiencing a “slide from moral malaise to cultural hedonism” – pointing to support for gay marriage and equal rights as examples.
Texas: The Birther Ballot Bill
Nearly five years after he was first elected President of the United States, the Texas state legislature is considering a bill that would determine once and for all whether Barack Obama is actually qualified to hold the highest office in the land. The so-called Birther Bill would mandate that the Texas Secretary of State run a citizenship check on any presidential candidate to determine whether they’re qualified to be included on a Texas ballot. Ironically, one of the politicians potentially harmed by the GOP-backed legislation is Republican darling Ted Cruz, should he ever make a bid for the White House. Though his mother’s American citizenship was technically passed to him at birth, the fact that Cruz was born in Canada should--if the bill were to pass--complicate his path to the ballot box.
The playbook that worked so well for the conservative senator and think tank in 2007 backfired this year, writes Jamelle Bouie.
The Heritage Foundation was supposed to be where Jim DeMint expanded his influence. Drawing on the lessons of his term-and-change in the United States Senate representing South Carolina – DeMint stunned Washington by resigning on January 1 to take the helm of the influential, nonprofit think tank – he would use the new post to shape the national debate on a whole host of issues, and bring his brand of right-wing conservatism to bear on the Republican Party.
On May 6, 2013, Former Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C. (left), president of the Heritage Foundation, Robert Rector (right), and Derrick Morgan, both of the Heritage Foundation, conduct a news conference at the Foundation's offices to discuss the U.S. Senate's "Gang of Eight" immigration bill and how the amnesty portion would have negative effects on the economy. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call, via Getty)
If moving from the Senate to a think tank seems like a step down, consider the frustrations of working in a legislature. You need to build compromise with other lawmakers, defer to party leaders, make disclosures on what you raise and what you spend, and satisfy constituent problems. It takes a lot to do this for six years, much less twelve. And given the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizen’s United—which shifted money and power from elected officials to independent groups—it’s no surprise that DeMint decided to step up from the Senate to Heritage.
But less than a week after the disastrous rollout of the Heritage case against immigration reform – effectively his big debut in his new role – it seems that DeMint may have made a big miscalculation.
Behind the scenes, Raúl Labrador and Luis Gutierrez are using their bond over heritage to get a comprehensive overhaul through the House—all with Paul Ryan’s blessing.
They are a congressional odd couple, dos amigos with a powerful third working in the wings. Both are Puerto Rican. One represents an urban district in Chicago, the other the Panhandle of Idaho.
Left, Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill. speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington and Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 10, 2011.
One is a liberal Democrat. The other a conservative Republican. Both serve on the Judiciary Committee. They schmooze over neighboring lockers in the House gym, sleep on almost identical leather sofa beds in their respective offices, and describe each other with the same word—“awesome.” And they might just be the best hope of getting comprehensive immigration reform through the House.
Meet Congressman Raúl Labrador: a low-key, second-term, Tea Party-backed 45-year-old from rural Eagle outside Boise. And Rep. Luis Gutierrez, aged 60, is an exuberant and savvy 20-year Hill vet: a Chicago insider and the first Hispanic elected to the House from the Midwest.
The president’s second-term appointments reflect his top-bottom political coalition, writes Lloyd Green.
President Obama’s pincer movement on the middle class continues. To the rich, Obama has bequeathed billionaire Penny Pritzker as Commerce Secretary, and to the poor he bestows North Carolina Congressman Mel Watt to head the Federal Housing Finance Administration. As for the middle class, Obama sticks them with a Social Security tax hike. So let’s consider each pincer, top and bottom.
Pritzker makes Treasury Secretary Jack Lew look like an amateur. As Forbes explained, “Lew only had $56,000 invested in the offshore venture fund. By contrast, offshore tax avoiding trusts seems to have played a substantial role in the growth of the Pritzker fortune” that give Penny a net worth of $1.85 billion.
The agency seemed unaware prior to the attack of how unreliable or possibly compromised the February 17 militia actually was, reports Eli Lake.
CIA officers at the Benghazi mission’s annex had responsibility for vetting the Libyan militia that they counted on, but failed to arrive, as one of the first responders on the night of the 9-11 anniversary attacks last September, according to U.S. intelligence officers and U.S. diplomats who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.
A man walks near the entrance of the American consulate building in Benghazi, Libya shortly after the attack earlier this year. (Mohammad Hannon/AP)
Yet the CIA has managed to avoid much Congressional scrutiny as House Republicans turn attention to the dramatic testimony of two new State Department whistleblowers this week that testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
The CIA has been singled out for praise because of the heroic rescue performed by its security contractors at the Benghazi annex. On that evening, two former SEALs—Glenn Doherty and Tyrone Woods—helped lead a team that rescued all but two of the U.S. personnel at the Benghazi mission that evening. U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens and Sean Smith, a communications specialist, died of smoke inhalation after the attackers set the U.S. compound ablaze with cans of kerosene the raiding party found after breaching its gates. Doherty and Woods were killed at around five the next morning by mortar fire.
Politically selective enforcement by a local branch is a scandal, writes John Avlon, but the bigger story is the systemic abuse of tax-exempt status by non-profit groups in the wake of the Citizens United decision.
Forget slow-news Friday. The IRS admission today that it singled out for scrutiny political action committees with the words “Tea Party” and “Patriot” in their names rocketed around the Internet, fueling conservatives’ feeling of persecution.
Exterior of the Internal Revenue Service building in Washington DC. (Susan Walsh/AP)
The actions were apparently taken in isolation by workers at a local Cincinnati, Ohio, branch and announced with a public apology by Lois Lerner, head of the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt groups.
This imposition of political impulses into IRS inquiries is completely out of line —and given the Nixon administration’s record of using audits for political purposes, the feeling of persecution has some roots in reality. But the inevitable rhetorical rush to the ramparts—that this was part of a concerted effort by the Obama administration to investigate its political enemies—is not rooted in fact, to date. Beyond the fact that the White House and the IRS now keep each other at arm’s length because of past abuses, the larger slumber scandal at the IRS is actually a reluctance to aggressively investigate the systemic abuse of tax-exempt status by nonprofit groups in the wake of the Citizens United decision.
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.