There’s no word yet if the Russians will follow suit after President Obama.
In his first visit to Berlin since becoming president, Barack Obama will give a speech including an update on his plan to rid the world of nuclear weapons and an announcement that he wants to further reduce America’s deployed stockpile of nuclear bombs by one third, a proposal that already faces stiff GOP opposition.
Obama laid out his famous Prague agenda in a landmark speech speech in the Czech capital only three months into his presidency in 2009.
“The existence of thousands of nuclear weapons is the most dangerous legacy of the Cold War… Today, the Cold War has disappeared but thousands of those weapons have not,” Obama said. “So today, I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. I’m not naive. This goal will not be reached quickly—perhaps not in my lifetime. It will take patience and persistence. But now we, too, must ignore the voices who tell us that the world cannot change. We have to insist, ‘Yes, we can.’”
Sarah Palin is now trying to present herself as a libertarian. Don’t be fooled, writes Reason editor Nick Gillespie.
Are you ready for the great Sarah Palin Revival of 2013? The former Alaska governor and 2008 Republican vice-presidential candidate is back from her exile at Fox News and, like the former child star played by Bette Davis in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, the self-described Mama Grizzly is ready for a big comeback. But to be blunt, she seems more like a relic of a bygone, little-missed era in showbiz-cum-politics. Indeed, she no more represents a viable future for the GOP than her 76-year-old “angry bird” running mate, John McCain.
Sarah Palin addresses the Faith & Freedom Coalition’s Road to Majority Conference in Washington on June 15. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters, via Landov)
To give her full credit, Palin is talking what sounds like a whole new game. Specifically, Palin is aiming to channel the ascendant libertarian elements of the Grand Old Party. Back in April, for Time’s list of the “most influential people in the world,” she wrote the entry for Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who rightly topped the list of political leaders. “His brand of libertarian-leaning conservatism attracts young voters, and recently he inspired the nation with his Capraesque filibuster demanding basic answers about our use of drones,” she enthused, before pulling the conversation back to her favorite subject, herself. “I sent him some caribou jerky from Alaska to help keep up his strength on the Senate floor.”
Over the past weekend, Palin was one of the main speakers at the Road to Majority meeting of the Faith & Freedom Coalition, a group of religious Republicans headed up by Ralph Reed, the former head of the Christian Coalition. During her remarks she took partisan shots at President Obama and his supporters in “their itty-bitty purple Volts,” but she also sounded specifically libertarian notes, disdaining yet more intervention in the Middle East, giving absolution to Edward Snowden for leaking details of surveillance programs, and casting a pox on both Democrats and Republicans. “The problem,” she explained, “is government grown so big that it intrudes into every aspect of our lives ... The scandals infecting [the government] are a symptom of a bigger disease. And it doesn’t matter if it’s a Republican or a Democrat sitting atop of a bloated boot on your neck. With bloated government, everyone gets infected, and no party is immune.”
Investigators still do not know if the FISA system has been compromised, or if Edward Snowden was the source of the Verizon warrant published by the ‘Guardian.’ Eli Lake reports.
The FBI is investigating whether the highly protected and segregated computer systems that store the secret court warrants authorizing electronic surveillance inside the United States have been breached, according to current and former U.S. intelligence officials. Thirteen days after the Guardian published a top-secret court order from the top-secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court disclosing the National Security Agency's collection of all phone records from Verizon's business customers over a three-month period, the U.S. intelligence community has yet to determine how the warrant, one of the most highly classified documents inside the U.S. government, was leaked.
Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former technical assistant for the CIA, pictured in Hong Kong, revealed details of top-secret surveillance conducted by the U.S. National Security Agency regarding telecom data. (The Guardian via Getty)
Those who receive the warrant—the first of its kind to be publicly disclosed—are not allowed “to disclose to any other person” except to carry out its terms or receive legal advice about it, and any person seeing it for those reasons is also legally bound not to disclose the order. The officials say phone companies like Verizon are not allowed to store a digital copy of the warrant, and that the documents are not accessible on most NSA internal classified computer networks or on the Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System, the top-secret internet used by the U.S. intelligence community.
The warrants reside on two computer systems affiliated with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and the National Security Division of the Department of Justice. Both systems are physically separated from other government-wide computer networks and employ sophisticated encryption technology, the officials said. Even lawmakers and staff lawyers on the House and Senate intelligence committees can only view the warrants in the presence of Justice Department attorneys, and are prohibited from taking notes on the documents.
Rand Paul in ‘The New Republic,’ Chris Christie on ‘Morning Joe,’ Marco Rubio in ‘GQ’—why do conservatives keep engaging with left-leaning outlets? David Freedlander reports.
Remember that big Nancy Pelosi profile in The Weekly Standard? Or the time Elizabeth Warren sat for a long interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity? How about the big RedState.com Q&A with Joe Biden?
If you missed them, perhaps it’s because such meetings of liberal pols and the conservative press are comically rare. But not on the other side of the aisle. On Monday, two proudly progressive publications, The New Republic and The New Yorker, hit with big stories about, respectively, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s and the Senate’s efforts to pass an immigration-reform bill. In the first instance, Paul was portrayed largely positively, except for the cover, where he was photographed with his fingers crossed, under the headline “The Real Rand Paul (Can’t Be Trusted).” Plus, he was quoted telling a group of college students, “I am not a firm believer in democracy.” In the second piece, an aide to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who like Paul is considered a frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination, was quoted disparaging American workers, saying the immigration-reform bill Rubio is pushing needs to pass because American workers are not “star performers.”
The Rubio camp quickly distanced the lawmaker—who did not participate in the story—from the quotation. But the dual profiles left some Republican media strategists and consultants wondering why two of their leading lights were getting waylaid by left-leaning outlets in the mainstream media when there are plenty of conservative talk-radio shows and Web sites to choose from.
If conservative Republicans like Rubio and Ayotte don’t help to shape the immigration bill, that change will be left to the liberals, writes Stuart Stevens.
If no one much cared about immigration, it would be a relatively easy problem to fix. The United States economy is so large that the Bureau of Economic Analysis recently announced that new models of calculation show that our economy is 3 percent bigger than previously thought and no one seemed to really notice. But that $450 billion adjustment is more than the GDP of most of the countries in the world.
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks as Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn looks on after a Republican policy luncheon, June 11, 2013. (Alex Wong/Getty)
As in any underground economy, no one really knows how many illegal immigrants there are in the United States, but the number most often cited in 11 million. (And please, let’s don’t dumb down language by insisting on calling those who are in fact here illegally “undocumented.” If I’m travelling abroad in a country that requires a visa and lose my passport, I’m undocumented. If I enter that country without a visa, I’m illegal.) In a population of over 313 million, that’s not a huge number—just over 3 percent, making up about 5 percent of the civilian workforce, according to Pew.
For example, there are over half a million Farsi-speaking Iranian immigrants (mostly here legally) in the Los Angeles area nicknamed Tehrangeles, yet most Southern Californians are oblivious to hosting what amounts to a good-size Iranian city. America is a big place, and it can absorb a lot without most of us even noticing.
Younger voters and independents have soured significantly on the president in the last month, writes John Avlon.
President Obama has a problem: the Teflon’s worn off.
President Obama delivers a keynote address at the Waterfront Hall ahead of the G8 Summit on Monday in Belfast. (Pool photo by Paul Faith)
That’s the clear conclusion of a new CNN/Opinion Research poll (PDF) showing the government-surveillance scandals taking a real toll on the president’s popularity—particularly with the younger voters who have been among his staunchest supporters. In just one month, support for the president among voters under age 30 plummeted by 17 points.
Perhaps the most devastating poll number, though, is the reversal of perception on what has been one of this president’s core characteristics: honesty and trustworthiness. Around three in five voters have consistently seen Obama possessing these traits, meaning that even voters who didn’t approve of his job performance saw him as an essentially honest guy and a trustworthy chief executive. No more. On this measure, too, the president is underwater at 49 percent—a nine-point drop.
As the French arrange high-level meetings with the rebel leadership, the U.S. continues to maintain its distance. General Idris talks with The Daily Beast’s Josh Rogin.
Despite the White House’s public announcement Wednesday that it would provide “military assistance” to the Syrian rebels, Washington has yet to communicate with the rebels about that assistance, Gen. Salem Idris, the head of the Free Syrian Army’s Supreme Military Council, told The Daily Beast Sunday.
Syrian rebel fighters belonging to the Martyrs of Maaret al-Numan battalion leave their position after a range of shootings on June 13, 2013, in the northwestern town of Maaret al-Numan. (Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty)
“We are still waiting for the military support from the United States. They didn’t tell us anything about the military support. Direct and officially, we didn’t receive any information from the United States,” Idris told The Daily Beast, adding that he had heard from “my friends who are close to the administration” while waiting to hear directly. “We welcomed the announcement from the United States,” he said. “They announced that the regime used chemical weapons. But we are waiting for the next step, which will be the decision to support the FSA with weapons and ammunition.”
Much like in the Libyan civil war two years ago, the White House has followed Europe’s lead in the intra-Syrian conflict. The French, and to a lesser degree the British, have been in close consultation with Idris and the other leaders of the FSA over the past days and weeks, according to the general, who said that he met privately on June 11 with French President François Hollande in Ankara, Turkey, after the French government decided to provide military assistance on June 5, according to two government officials and sources close to Idris.
The old Confederate states now have America’s fastest-growing economies, and populations. Joel Kotkin reports on why Northerners have been slow to notice or credit the South’s rise.
One hundred and fifty years after twin defeats at Gettysburg and Vicksburg destroyed the South’s quest for independence, the region is again on the rise. People and jobs are flowing there, and Northerners are perplexed by the resurgence of America’s home of the ignorant, the obese, the prejudiced and exploited, the religious and the undereducated. Responding to new census data showing the Lone Star State is now home to eight of America’s 15 fastest-growing cities, Gawker asked: “What is it that makes Texas so attractive? Is it the prisons? The racism? The deadly weather? The deadly animals? The deadly crime? The deadly political leadership? The costumed sex fetish conventions? The cannibal necromancers?”
These are just Civil War reenactors, but the South's rise is as real as it gets. (Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty)
The North and South have come to resemble a couple who, although married, dream very different dreams. The South, along with the Plains, is focused on growing its economy, getting rich, and catching up with the North’s cultural and financial hegemons. The Yankee nation, by contrast, is largely concerned with preserving its privileged economic and cultural position—with its elites pulling up the ladder behind themselves.
This schism between the old Confederacy and the Northeastern elites is far more relevant and historically grounded than the glib idea of “red” and “blue” Americas. The base of today’s Republican Party—once the party of the North—now lies in the former secessionist states, along with adjacent and culturally allied areas, such as Appalachia, the southern Great Plains, and parts of the Southwest, notably Arizona, largely settled by former Southerners.
The small but foul pro-Confederacy strain on the right has proven stubbornly perverse, writes Rich Lowry.
When John Wilkes Booth jumped from the balcony at Ford's Theatre after shooting President Lincoln, he famously shouted, "Sic semper tyrannis." There's an element of the contemporary right that may disagree with the assassin's method, but certainly agrees with his sentiment.
A pro-Lincoln satire, c. 1860. The Republican candidate ponders the miniature figures of Northern and Southern Democratic nominees Stephen A. Douglas (left) and John C. Breckinridge (right), which he holds before him on two oyster shells. (Currier & Ives/Library of Congress)
It is the Lincoln-Hating Right. You can't belong unless you feel a compulsion to write "bloody-minded tyrant" immediately before or after the name "Abraham Lincoln." Some members of this fraternity are old-style Lost Cause romantics, deluding themselves about the “War for Southern Independence,” as some Southerners have been doing since about 1866, while others are a peculiar breed of libertarian.
Libertarianism is supposed to make the Republican Party sleek and modern, but this variant of the creed—associated with Ron Paul—is stubbornly perverse and highly unappealing.
Obama’s half-hearted Syria strategy is a disaster in the making, says Peter Beinart. One way or the other, he needs to make a decision on intervention—and explain it to voters.
On Thursday night, when Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes was announcing that the U.S. now believes Syria’s government has used chemical weapons against its people, President Obama was in the East Room of the White House, being introduced by two third graders at an event marking Gay Pride Month. On Friday, when Rhodes confirmed that the Obama administration would begin sending Syria’s rebels small arms, Obama was in the East Room yet again, celebrating Father’s Day with students from Chicago taking part in the “Becoming a Man” program.
A man holds a Syrian flag during a demonstration against Western involvement in the Syria conflict outside the U.S. Embassy in London on June 15. (Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty)
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for celebrating LGBT rights and helping inner-city kids learn about fatherhood. But this is no way to begin a war.
I say “begin a war” because if there’s one thing on which supporters and critics of military intervention in Syria agree, it’s that sending small arms won’t change much. “How can small arms make a difference?” asked Louay al Mokdad, political and media coordinator for the Free Syrian Army. “They should help us with real weapons, anti-tank and anti-aircraft, and with armored vehicles, training, and a no-fly zone.” John McCain added, “Every bone in my body knows that simply supplying weapons will not change the equation.” C.J. Chivers, who is covering the war for The New York Times, agreed that “small arms won’t change the current dynamic.”
The RNC chairman’s weekend speech to a “teavangelical” convention demonstrated why Republican efforts to moderate are going nowhere. By Michael Tomasky.
Occasionally, I lose my bearings and permit myself an ounce of sympathy for Republican chairman Reince Priebus. I mean, that’s quite an asylum he’s trying to run. Then I remember (usually in about four seconds) that no one is making him, and I resume the normal contempt posture. I went through this ritual again over the weekend as I watched Priebus’s speech to the Faith and Freedom Coalition. The speech made headlines for the chairman’s promise to shorten the primary calendar and move the convention forward, but it was actually noteworthy because it was painfully clear that Priebus is scared to death of Ralph Reed’s “teavangelicals,” a fact that does not bode well for his much-publicized movement to build a less intolerant GOP.
Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus at the National Press Club, March 18, 2013, in Washington, D.C. (Win McNamee/Getty)
Priebus took the stage to the kind of applause one might associate with a Broadway understudy filling in for the star—a vague curiosity, a few dollops of encouragement from the kinder souls, but mostly suspicion. This is because, to the rabble-rousers Reed can manage to convene these days, Priebus is Da Man. Mr. Establishment. A sellout, a puller of strings, a molly-coddler of the Roves and other consultants who would have the party sell its soul in exchange for a softer image. He twice had to reassure the audience as he made his case and listed his points that “this is not an establishment takeover,” it’s just common sense or some such.
I loved the way he started: “I just wanna let you know. I’m a Christian. I’m a believer. God lives in my heart. And I’m for changing minds, not changing values. Are you with me?” That was intended as an applause line. To call the response indifferent would be so kind as to be irresponsible.
Finally, our polarized political leaders have found their bipartisan spirit. Lloyd Green on why members of Congress from both sides of the aisle like government data mining.
The center lives. Bipartisanship is not dead, as Democratic and Republican congressional leaders rally around the National Security Agency’s big data grab. With the exception of op-ed writers, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Pauls—Rand and Ron—Washington’s establishment is standing together with the administration. In this scrum, party is secondary, at least on Capitol Hill.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP
In a show of unity virtually unseen since 9/11, the congressional leadership has come out unanimously in support of the status quo, while deflecting allegations that The Guardian’s news story was actually news. According to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, senators who complain about being left in the dark have only themselves to blame, and all other Americans should sit down and shut up.
As Reid tells it, “We’ve had many, many meetings that have been both classified and unclassified that members have been invited to.” And the public? “Everyone should just calm down and understand that this isn’t anything that is brand new.”
With the House about to take up the farm bill, the Republican Party’s ascendant libertarian wing is taking aim at the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Eleanor Clift on whether food stamps will survive.
It’s a big number and it gets people’s attention when they hear it: 47 million Americans receive food stamps in what is now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The program has expanded significantly under President Obama, who boosted benefits and allowed states to waive some work rules under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Still, the spiraling need for food assistance even as the unemployment rate has come down is tied to the weak economy and jobs that are so marginal that millions of working people earn so little they still qualify for SNAP.
This week, 30 members of Congress embarked on the “SNAP challenge,” eating on a SNAP budget of $4.50 a day for a few days or a week. Above, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter took on a weeklong food-stamp challenge in April 2012. (Matt Rourke/AP)
For decades, since the 1970s, food stamps enjoyed bipartisan backing, with farm-state senators and legislative icons George McGovern and Bob Dole championing the program. More recently, even the authors of the famed Simpson-Bowles report on deficit reduction left SNAP untouched. But House Republicans have a different mind-set about food stamps and want to cut $20.5 billion over 10 years from SNAP, five times more than the $4 billion authorized by a big bipartisan vote, 66 to 27, in the Senate this week, setting the stage for the kind of class-based and racially tinged debate about the poor that poisons our politics and on occasion breaks out into the open.
“All of a sudden it’s become a popular thing to go after SNAP. Some members want to eliminate it entirely,” says Rep. James McGovern (D–Maine). “Balancing the budget by making it harder for poor people to get food is a rotten thing to do.”
Rape still won't get you pregnant, Obama owes Oklahoma an apology for spending on climate change research, and other bold statements from our fearless political leaders this week.
Arizona: Rape Rarely Results in Pregnancy
Didn’t we go over this already? Apparently the backlash surrounding Missouri Rep. Todd Akin’s controversial—and wildly inaccurate--claim that you can’t get pregnant from “legitimate rape” didn’t make an impact on Trent Franks. In an attempt to argue that a bill he authored banning abortions after 20 weeks should not have an exception for cases of rape and incest, the Republican representative from Arizona declared this week that “the incidents of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low.” Needless to say the blowback was almost immediate, with Nancy Pelosi’s office, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic National Committee each sending out mass emails decrying Franks’s comments. But the representative didn’t back down. In a surprise appearance at the Faith and Freedom Coalition conference in D.C. Thursday night, Franks told a room of cheering conservative activists, “I’ve been through the spin dryer here in the last 48 hours and I wish I hadn’t assisted them so much to that end. But somehow in the long run, truth and time travel the same road. And we are very blessed that the Lord that we serve will prevail in the final analysis no matter what.” He’s also taken advantage of the hate he’s getting from pro-choice groups as an opportunity to fundraise, writing in an email to supporters, “NARAL, Planned Parenthood and the taxpayer-funded abortion lobby is attacking me for one reason—I’m 100 percent unapologetically pro-life and I won’t back down. Will you contribute $25, $50, $100 or even $500 right now to help me fight back?”
Iowa: Illegal Immigration is like Bank Robbery
The top Democrat on the House’s oversight committee tells Ben Jacobs that chairman Darrell Issa is ‘scrambling ... to find the facts to match the allegations.’
Did the IRS deliberately target nonprofits for political reasons? Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, thinks otherwise, and is calling on Darrell Issa, the committee chairman, to release the full testimony in question—saying the excerpts Issa had released were misleading and “hurt the credibility” of the probe.
Cummings told The Daily Beast that the testimony, yet to be publicly released, shows that the decision by the IRS to flag for extra scrutiny Tea Party groups seeking nonprofit status was in fact the brainchild of a Cincinnati-based screening manager, rather than the political move coming from Washington that Issa and other conservatives have called it. What’s more, said the Maryland Democrat, that manager is a self-described “conservative Republican” who volunteered that information to a committee investigator. “They didn’t ask him. He said he was.”
Cummings—who has yet to receive a response to the letter he sent Issa on Thursday, asking for the manager’s full testimony to be released by this coming Monday—ripped the committee chair for first offering inflammatory allegations and then “scrambling ... to find the facts to match the allegations.”
President Obama tried to dispel concerns over NSA spying on 'Charlie Rose' Monday, saying 'if you are a U.S. person, the NSA cannot listen to your telephone calls, and the NSA cannot target your emails... and have not.' So what's the big deal, right? Right?
Laura Colarusso on how Edward Snowden, who wasn’t directly employed by the government, got top-secret intel.
Every week this month, the Supreme Court will hand down rulings. Josh Dzieza on what’s at stake.
Pentagon papers lawyer James Goodale has seen Holder’s actions before—in Richard Nixon.