Week of May 24, 2015 – May 30, 2015
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THEHILL – Iowa straw poll on death watch? – 05/25
The Iowa straw poll deathwatch is underway. Political watchers in the Hawkeye State say the controversial event, which has served as the traditional starting point for the GOP presidential campaign, has suffered significant blows to its credibility and is at risk of collapsing. “The straw poll is toast,” said Steffen Schmidt, a professor of political science at Iowa State University. “The brand is dead.” The event, which has been a big moneymaker for the state party, has been criticized for years, chiefly for two reasons: the cost of full participation for candidates has been prohibitive, and the results have tended to push forward long-shots with no real chance of winning the GOP nomination.
NEWSMAX – Bob Woodward: Bush Didn’t Lie About WMDs to Justify Iraq War. – 05/25
Former President George W. Bush did not lie about the presence of weapons of mass destruction to justify the Iraq War, Journalist Bob Woodward said Sunday. The argument has been used for years by Democrats and other detractors, but Woodward said on “Fox News Sunday” that his own 18-month investigation showed that Bush was actually skeptical that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had WMDs as Saddam claimed. Though plenty of mistakes were made in the invasion of Iraq, Bush actually told CIA Director George Tenet, “Don’t let anyone stretch the case on WMD,” Woodward said. The reason the United States went into Iraq was “momentum,” he said. “That war plan kept getting better and easier, and finally at the end people were saying, ‘Hey, look, it’ll only take a week or two.'” Though it can be argued the war was a mistake, Woodward told host Chris Wallace, “there was no lie in this that I could find.”
NEWSMAX – ISIS Suggests It Can Smuggle a Nuke Into US Through Mexico – 05/24
The Islamic State is using the latest issue of its propaganda magazine Dabiq to pose the “far-fetched” hypothetical of purchasing its first nuclear weapon from Pakistan within a year and getting it into the United States through the porous Southern border. The terrorists raise the issue in an op-ed piece entitled “The Perfect Storm” that it attributes to John Cantlie, the British photojournalist whom ISIS took hostage in November 2012, The Independent reports. Cantlie has since appeared in many of the group’s propaganda videos. Here are the key sections of the piece, according to the Independent Journal Review:
“Let me throw a hypothetical operation onto the table. The Islamic State has billions of dollars in the bank, so they call on their wilayah (Province) in Pakistan to purchase a nuclear device through weapons dealers with links to corrupt officials in the region. The weapon is then transported overland until it makes it to Libya, where the mujahidin move it south to Nigeria.
THEHILL – The GOP’s Benghazi summer – 05/24
Welcome to the GOP’s Benghazi summer. After being hammered for months by Democrats for moving at a “glacial” pace, the GOP-controlled House Select Committee on Benghazi is picking up the pace. “We are pedal to the metal because we are ready to get this thing done,” said Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (Ga.), one of the panel’s seven Republicans. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said the uptick was result of mounting frustration among Republicans over what they view as foot-dragging on the part of the Obama administration to the panel’s various document and information requests related the 2012 attacks that killed a U.S. ambassador there and three other Americans, and their aftermath. “Let’s get going because there’s only so much frustration until finally you got to say, ‘Well, we’re going to do whatever now to try to get that information now,’” he said.This week the panel subpoenaed Sidney Blumenthal, an informal adviser to Hillary Clinton when she helmed the State Department, and who has since agreed to appear before the select committee by the requested June 3 deadline.
WND – ‘Climate change’ worries Obama, pope more than ISIS – 05/24
NEW YORK – President Obama and the Vatican under the leadership of Pope Francis are equally committed to elevating climate change to a top public policy priority, ahead of issues such as the continued surge of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and its massacre of Christians. But they are ignoring a growing body of scientific evidence challenging the assumptions on which the theory of human-caused “climate change” is based, critics contend. Marc Morano, editor of the website ClimateDepot.com, called President Obama’s speech on the subject Wednesday at the Coast Guard Academy commencement “politically contrived nonsense,” arguing “scientific studies, data and history refute Obama’s climate/national security claims.” “The president’s speech was so farcical in its claims that it hardly merits a response,” Morano said in a statement posted on ClimateDepot.com. “Contrary to the president’s claims, it seems ISIS may in fact trump ICE as a bigger concern.” Morano said that “believing Obama’s climate claims undermines our nation’s ability to distinguish real threats from politically contrived nonsense.”
NEWSMAX -David Koch: Brothers Plan to Back ‘Several’ Republicans for 2016 – 05/23
David Koch said Saturday that he and his brother Charles plan to support more than one Republican’s presidential campaign this year, but they are not ready to announce who they are backing. “We are thinking of supporting several Republicans,” the billionaire Republican supporter said on The Larry Kudlow Show. Koch said the support will likely come in “the primary season, winter and next spring” and will be determined based on the policies the hopefuls back. “If we’re happy with the policies that these individuals are supporting, we will finance their campaigns,” Koch told Kudlow. The brothers are reportedly planning a massive $900 million strategy to put a Republican in the White House in 2016, including a $125 million budget next year for its flagship Americans for Prosperity, in an effort described as “beyond the biggest, boldest, broadest effort AFP has ever undertaken.
WASHINGTON POST – Obama wins trade victory in the Senate -05/23
President Obama won a big victory for his trade agenda Friday with the Senate’s approval of fast-track legislation that could make it easier for him to complete a wide-ranging trade deal that would include 11 Pacific Rim nations. A coalition of 48 Senate Republicans and 14 Democrats voted for Trade Promotion Authority late Friday, sending the legislation to a difficult fight in the House, where it faces more entrenched opposition from Democrats. The Senate coalition fought off several attempts by opponents to undermine the legislation, defeating amendments that were politically popular but potentially poisonous to Obama’s bid to secure the trade deal.
THE HILL – Administration moves to end bulk data collection – 05/23
The Senate is preparing for a last-minute attempt to save expiring portions of the Patriot Act, but it may already be too late. The Obama administration is already starting to end the National Security Agency’s (NSA) bulk collection of Americans’ phone records, after legislative inaction forced the upper chamber to kick the can until next Sunday — mere hours before the laws expire. Without congressional approval, the White House failed to ask the secretive Federal Intelligence Surveillance Court to renew the program by a Friday deadline. The administration also began taking its own steps to end the NSA’s controversial phone records collection program. “We’ve said for the past several days that the wind-down process would need to begin yesterday if there was no legislative agreement,” one administration official told The Hill early on Saturday morning. “That process has begun.”
THE HILL – Senate takes key step toward passing fast-track for Obama – 05/21
The Senate voted Thursday to end debate on fast-track trade legislation, handing a significant victory to President Obama and moving the bill a step closer to passage. A final vote could come as soon as Thursday if senators agree to limit the final 30 hours of debate allowed under Senate rules. Senators voted 62-38 on the bill, which will allow the president to send a sweeping Asia-Pacific trade deal to Congress for an up-or-down vote, and prevent the deal from being amended by Congress. Sens. Patty Murray (Wash.), Maria Cantwell (Wash.) and Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.) were among the final Democratic yes votes. They appeared to vote after Cantwell secured an agreement from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to allow a vote in June on renewing the Export-Import Bank’s charter. The bank, which has come under criticism from conservative Republicans, helps finance U.S. investments meant to increase trade, and has been supported in the past by Boeing. The very final vote was cast by Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), a former U.S. trade representative for the Bush administration who is in a tough reelection cycle. He voted yes.