Monday, December 21, 2015

Cruising the Web

The Washington Post explains why Chuck Hagel's interview with Foreign Policy in which he complained about how the White House micromanaged defense policy and had no strategy for fighting in Syria matters. We now have three Secretaries of Defense under Obama who have subsequently complained about their time trying to manage policy and being undercut by the White House.
Gates, who served for both President George W. Bush and Obama, wrote in a book released early last year that he was “seething” and “running out of patience with on multiple fronts” with the administration. All too often, he wrote, “suspicion and distrust of senior military officers by senior White House officials — including the president and vice president — became a big problem for me as I tried to manage the relationship between the commander in chief and his military leaders.”

Panetta followed last fall with his own book, saying Obama had a “frustrating reticence to engage his opponents and rally support for his cause” and too frequently “relies on the logic of a law professor rather than the passion of a leader.” In an interview promoting the book, he added that the president had “kind of lost his way” and was partly to blame for the collapse of the Iraqi government last year because he didn’t press harder to keep American troops in the country in 2011, ahead of a complete military withdrawal.

Hagel, for his part, told Foreign Policy that he got “the hell beat out of him” figuratively at the White House for delaying in signing transfer orders to release detainees from the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, when he had concerns about the individuals involved. He also said he felt micro-managed — something that Gates, Panetta and other defense officials have all expressed.

“There is a danger in all of this,” Hagel told Foreign Policy, referring to White House micromanagement and the administration’s expanding national security staff. “This is about governance; this isn’t about political optics. It’s about making the country run and function, and trying to stay ahead of the dangers and the threats you see coming.”
So we now have two Republicans and one Democrat who all have basically the same complaint about this administration's conduct of defense policy. As The Atlantic observes, it's startling how indecisive this administration is. He points to a question that John McCain asked of Chuck Hagel as to whether we would repel Assad's air attacks on the Syrian rebels. Hagel admits that there was no administration policy at the time so he just made up a policy on the spot.
The then-Pentagon chief replied, “Any attack on those that we have trained and who are supporting us, we will help ’em.” In his recent Foreign Policy interview, Hagel astonishingly admitted that he improvised on the spot and came up with that highly consequential policy declaration on his own. “We had never come down on an answer or a conclusion in the White House. I said what I felt I had to say. I couldn’t say, ‘No.’ Christ, every ally would have walked away from us in the Middle East.”

If this is actually what happened, it is an extraordinary case of strategic negligence by the White House. Whether and to what extent the United States would provide direct military support to the Syrian rebels who the Pentagon overtly trained and equipped was a major component of the anti-Islamic State strategy that President Obama had announced just six days earlier. Either Obama had not personally decided before he made his speech or he had left it unresolved or unclear by the time Hagel and then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey testified before the Armed Services Committee. Whether due to negligence or neglect, this was not a policy declaration that any secretary of defense should have made up on the spot. It is one thing for the White House to consciously leave matters unresolved publicly to retain flexibility as a situation unfolds, but this instance of inadequate policy coordination and indecisiveness suggests that the Obama administration had not even made a decision internally. This is another damning anecdote that reflects on the Obama administration’s poorly conceived and implemented approach to the Syrian civil war and rise of the Islamic State.
But, apparently, that was how things work in this White House when it comes to defense or foreign policy.

Speaking of indecision, the Pentagon is weighing a cybercampaign against ISIS. I have a question: why are they leaking to the press about doing it? Can't our military debate a tactic without playing it out in the press?

These continued examples of the indecision and ineptness of this administration in combating terrorism here and abroad explain why no one was buying Obama's attempt at a victory-lap end-of-the-year press conference.

Michael Godwin understands where Obama is coming
from when he had his off-the-record confab with a group of hand-picked journalists last week.
Poor Barack Obama. Americans don’t appreciate his wisdom, and those nasty Republicans are picking on him again. Woe is the leader of the free world.

That was the essence of his private meeting with friendly journalists, where the president gave his water-carriers talking points so he could jet off to Hawaii and still look as if he’s engaged in ­national security.

The session was off the record, so Obama couldn’t be quoted or put on the spot with tough, public questions. But his trademark self-pity, partisan pique and warped ideas came through in the subsequent stories and columns.

He blamed cable TV for whipping up fears over Islamic State, and said, weirdly, that he missed the public mood swing because he doesn’t watch much cable news. The session included his standard lecture about not sacrificing “our values,” meaning we should keep pretending that Islam has nothing to do with Islamic terrorism.

A more horrifying point is that the president confirmed the widespread perception that he is pulling punches in the fight against Islamic State. “Obama doesn’t think this is an existential battle that’s worth the cost to the United States of an all-out war,” columnist David Ignatius said in The Washington Post. A similar conclusion appeared in a New York Times article about the meeting.

Both say Obama will not change course even if America suffers what he regards as minor terror attacks, presumably like the one in San Bernardino that killed 14 people and wounded 22. Ignatius described this as Obama’s “cost-benefit analysis” and wrote that the only thing that would lead the president to alter his strategy “would be a big, orchestrated terrorist incident that so frightened the public that it began to prevent the normal functioning of America.”

Think about the implications of that approach. Despite Obama’s efforts to reassure the country that he is serious about fighting the bloodthirsty jihadists, in truth he is not. He is merely committed to maintaining the status quo.
He wants us to become like Europe where we just accept periodic terrorist attacks at home as the new normal. And our President goes on blithely trying to persuade us that his policies are succeeding even though there is not any evidence that they are. His only defense is to mischaracterize the options that others propose as being an all-out ground war in the Middle East.

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Brit Hume also nails what the President really thinks.
I think it was snark against cable TV and it fits in with what I think is the unmistakable subtext of what the President has been saying on this issue and indeed what he said this week. He conveys to me a clear impression that this ISIS threat is really overblown, yes, Paris was terrible and San Bernardino was awful, but if you look at it in the larger scheme of things, which is how he professes to think of the world, ISIS is really too minor a threat to really worry about and much too minor a threat to mount a ground war the way we did to drive out Saddam Hussein’s army out of Kuwait and later to invade Iraq or any of that. We don’t want to do any of that. I can’t believe ISIS wants that but, because they’d all be wiped out if we did that. He says that's the impression he creates, you got to go with me with my more patient strategy and I have an eye on the larger picture and really serious threats like climate change, and the rest of it and I think he's impatient with the American people for being so easily excited by [cable] news about these occasional attacks.
Obama must really hate it that the American people just haven't gotten on board with the priorities that he has.
In the WSJ/NBC poll, 40% of respondents said terrorism should be the top priority for the federal government. Just 21% of respondents named terrorism as top priority in the same survey in April. The second-most important issue from the December survey was job creation and economic growth, with 23% of respondents ranking that as the top priority.
Climate change only ranks up as the most important issue with 75 of those polled, down from the 8% who thought that in April. It's amazing how, with all the fearmongering about climate change from the Democrats, they haven't been able to move the dial at all on people's concerns about it.

Perhaps it is because the public, like Josh Gelernter, has more optimism about how the world will change in the future.
Consider that 2023 is eight years from now. Eight years ago, did anyone at COP21 know Uber was coming? Did any of those foreign ministers know how popular drones would become? That new supersonic passenger planes would be in development? That four different private companies would be launching space flights? That two companies would be going forward with tests of “hyper-loop” transportation? Did they know that zero-friction “quantum levitation” would be demonstrated? Or that hydrogen-powered cars would become commercially available? Did they know about the fracking boom?

Of course not. Michael Crichton — the brilliant novelist and thinker — posed this question in a speech at Caltech in 2003, re climate predictions for 2100. What environmental problems would men in 1900 have predicted for 2000? Where to get enough horses, and what to do with all the manure. “Horse pollution was bad in 1900,” said Crichton. How much worse would someone in 1900 expect it to “be a century later, with so many more people riding horses?

“But of course, within a few years, nobody rode horses except for sport. And in 2000, France was getting 80 percent of its power from an energy source that was unknown in 1900. Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, and Japan were getting more than 30 percent from this source, unknown in 1900. Remember, people in 1900 didn’t know what an atom was. They didn’t know its structure. They also didn’t know what a radio was, or an airport, or a movie, or a television, or a computer, or a cell phone, or a jet, an antibiotic, a rocket, a satellite, an MRI, ICU, IUD, IBM, IRA, ERA, EEG, EPA, IRS, DOD, PCP, HTML, Internet, interferon, instant replay, remote sensing, remote control, speed dialing, gene therapy, gene splicing, genes, spot welding, heat-seeking, bipolar, Prozac, leotards, lap dancing, e-mail, tape recorders, CDs, airbags, plastic explosive, plastic, robots, cars, liposuction, transduction, superconduction, dish antennas, step aerobics, smoothies, twelve-step, ultrasound, nylon, rayon, Teflon, fiber optics, carpal tunnel, laser surgery, laparoscopy, corneal transplant, kidney transplant, AIDS. None of this would have meant anything to a person in the year 1900. They wouldn’t know what you are talking about.

Now: you tell me you can predict the world of 2100. Tell me it’s even worth thinking about. Our [emissions] models just carry the present into the future. They’re bound to be wrong. Everybody who gives it a moment’s thought knows it.
Gelernter goes on to hypothesize which technological developments over the rest of the century might make all the concern about climate change obsolete. He concludes,
Exhaust fumes will be the horse droppings of the future. John Kerry will continue to look silly.

Well, those who are most concerned about the climate are the ones turning out to hear Hillary.
Recently Time's Joe Klein traveled with Clinton to New Hampshire. At a town hall in Salem, Clinton opened the floor early, and there were dozens of questions from the audience. "You might wonder how many [questions] concerned the topic of the moment," Klein wrote, "the need to rethink national security in an era when the terrorists have switched tactics and are attacking low security targets — theaters and restaurants in Paris, Christmas parties in San Bernardino."

The answer was none of them. Instead, Klein reported, the questions were about: "Genetically modified food. Climate change. Gun control. Whether Exxon Mobil suppressed information about carbon pollution. Voting rights. Mental health. Student loans. Immigration (pro-family preservation, not border control). Preserving social security and Medicare. Taking care of veterans (with the implicit assumption that veterans are victims of the military-industrial complex)."

Anyone not in the room might find it astonishing that in the midst of highly publicized terror attacks around the world and in the United States, not a single Democrat in the New Hampshire town hall brought up the subject. But that's what happened.
No wonder the Democratic politicians keep acting as if climate change was the most important issue confronting the country. In their bubble, it is.

Any guesses why ISIS would want these?
- The Islamic State group may have stolen "tens of thousands" of blank passports that it could use to smuggle its fighters into Europe as refugees, a German newspaper reported Sunday.

- The Islamic State group may have stolen "tens of thousands" of blank passports that it could use to smuggle its fighters into Europe as refugees, a German newspaper reported Sunday.
But any worries about Syrian refugees is just bigoted paranoia.

But this statement from Hillary Clinton should be just as comforting as Obama's reassurances.
Hillary Clinton said during Saturday night’s Democratic Party debate that the United States and its allies have a strategy and commitment to combat the Islamic State.

Yet earlier in the evening, Clinton said she had a plan to not just “contain” ISIS, which appeared to be a veiled shot at President Obama’s claim to have the group contained in the days before it killed 130 people in Paris, France.

“Look at these complex problems. I wish it could be either or, I wish we could say yes, let’s go destroy ISIS and let’s let Assad continue to destroy Syria which creates more terrorist, more extremists by the minute. No. We now finally are where we need to be. We have a strategy and a commitment to go after ISIS, which is a danger to us as well as the region and we finally have a UN Security Council resolution bringing the world together to go after a political transition in Syria,” Clinton said.
Oooh. A UN resolution. That should take care of things.

Ryan Lizza points out that the Democrats running for president, particularly Hillary Clinton aren't on the train of triumph that Obama has been trying to ride. Obama's White House has been trying to characterize this past year as a year of accomplishments in all fields for the President. But Clinton isn't drinking that Kool Aid.
When asked about the Affordable Care Act, Clinton quickly cited two aspects of the law that were successful, and then moved on to the ways she would improve it. She did not mention that Obama had just signed into law a delay in the so-called Cadillac tax on high-cost insurance plans, a policy she had previously argued was one of the crucial ways in which she would amend the A.C.A.

On foreign policy, Clinton distanced herself even more from Obama. As she has in the past, she noted that Obama rejected her advice on what to do about Syria when the civil war there first started. “I advocated arming the moderate opposition back in the day when I was still Secretary of State, because I worried we would end up exactly where we are now,” Clinton said. Her suggestion seemed to be that if Obama had listened to her, the current situation would not be nearly as dire, an argument Obama has said is a “fantasy.”

In another subtle rebuke to Obama, who has been heavily criticized for stating earlier this month that ISIS had been “contained,” Clinton said, “I have a plan that I’ve put forward to go after ISIS. Not to contain them, but to defeat them.” It was a particularly uncharitable distinction to make, considering that the President’s comment about ISIS being “contained” was in the very specific context of the group’s geographic growth in Iraq and Syria. Moreover, Clinton’s plan to defeat ISIS is little different than Obama’s, with the exception of her call for a no-fly zone, the practical benefits of which are dubious.

Finally, Clinton talked about American leadership in a way that had an awfully familiar ring if you’ve been watching the Republican debates. Clinton oddly took credit for a United Nations Security Council resolution on Syria, which Secretary of State John Kerry helped secure on Friday. “Now that Russia has joined us in the Security Council, has adopted an agreement that we hashed out a long day in Geneva three years ago, now I think we can have those conversations,” she said, without giving any credit to Obama or Kerry.

Later on in the debate, she returned to the subject and suggested, just as many Republicans do, that Obama has failed to show American leadership. “And we finally have a U.N. Security Council Resolution bringing the world together to go after a political transition in Syria. If the United States does not lead, there is not another leader. There is a vacuum. And we have to lead, if we’re going to be successful.” Perhaps this was just a generic statement about American leadership and not actually an implicit criticism of Obama. But it seemed to have an accusatory tone, and it accords with what is known about how Clinton and those around her privately assess Obama’s foreign-policy record.
She might want to separate herself from Obama's failures, but that is going to be very difficult given that she was in charge of his foreign policy for four years.

I continue to think that she made a big mistake in accepting the offer to be Secretary of State. She would have done better to have stayed in the Senate where she could have been better able to draw a line of separation between what she believes and what the President has done. And count up the scandals that wouldn't be buzzing around her now if she hadn't been Secretary of State: Benghazi, the private server, her funneling money to help her husband and the Clinton Foundation.

There is a story about how John Adams, when he defeated Thomas Jefferson for the presidency in 1796, wrote to Jefferson and basically asked him to share the presidency with Adams. Jefferson considered the offer, but took the advice of James Madison to turn down the offer so that he wouldn't be tarred with the policies of Adams and could better criticize what Adams did. This worked out well when the Federalists overreached and passed the Alien and Sedition Acts and Jefferson could work behind the scenes to criticize those laws. Perhaps Barack Obama understood what LBJ had said about maintaining J.Edgar Hoover in the FBI, “It's probably better to have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in.” While Obama probably would never have phrased things with the vulgarity that LBJ did, he knew that it was better to co-opt Hillary Clinton than having her in the Senate trying to establish her independence from Obama. Too bad for Hillary that she didn't understand the lessons of these two stories.

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Does anyone at all believe Jeb when he says that he's glad he's not the front-runner anymore? Yet Chris Christie makes a good point.
Chris Christie bashed Jeb Bush Sunday for calling Donald Trump a jerk, in a latest instance of GOP presidential hopefuls forming a circular firing squad.

"I stood right next to him at the debate and he said, 'You can't insult your way to the presidency,'" Christie said of the former Florida governor while campaigning Sunday in New Hampshire. The New Jersey governor was responding to Bush saying Saturday that "Donald Trump is a jerk."
Christie is right. Of course, I don't know if Christie is a model of gentle responses to those with whom he disagrees.

With Ted Cruz now the up-and-coming lead challenger to Donald Trump, Paul Waldman explains how, with that lead, comes the spotlight. He's had to explain the somewhat contradictory things he's said about immigration fulfilling the Rubio campaign's hopes that they could raise enough dust about what he really believed that Cruz would have to spend some time on the defensive.
Detailed explorations of Cruz's history on this topic are showing up in both conservative and mainstream media. If Cruz were in fifth or sixth place, no one would care. It isn't like anyone's writing any long examinations of George Pataki's policy positions.

It isn't just about immigration. For instance, he has said multiple times that we ought to "carpet-bomb ISIS." Now that he is a contender, however, commentators feel free to enquire about what exactly he means, and if he knows what he's talking about. As it happens, the United States hasn't carpet-bombed anyone since Vietnam, and to do so — bomb an area indiscriminately without concern for civilian casualties — would probably be a war crime. And as Michael Cohen notes, it just isn't something our military does anymore. "Today, virtually all U.S. weaponry is precision guided," he writes.

If Cruz were a trailing candidate, no one would bother explaining the meaning of a term he had used and seeking out experts to comment on its feasibility. But unless he falls in the polls quickly — and given the care with which he has constructed his campaign, raising lots of money and assiduously courting the evangelicals who form his base, that isn't too likely — there's more to come. His ideas about everything from health care to taxes to energy will get more and more scrutiny, so voters will have at least some idea of what sort of president he could be.
The carpet-bombing line until we can find out whether "sand can glow in the dark" was particularly ill-chosen. Wolf Blitzer caught Cruz in his Trump-like braggadocio when he asked Cruz in the debate if he'd carpet bomb Raqqah, the city in which ISIS is centered and where there are a lot of civilians. Cruz responded that he'd just kill the ISIS troops somehow ignoring how they embed themselves among civilians and aren't camped out by themselves in the desert. He seems to be advocating a sort of precision carpet-bombing that has never before existed.

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The New York Times reports that the Trump campaign hasn't done the necessary groundwork to mobilize voters in Iowa.
Mr. Trump’s Iowa director predicted that he would recruit a leader for each of the state’s 1,681 Republican precincts by Thanksgiving. Instead, the first major training session for precinct leaders, heavily promoted in emails and conference calls, drew only about 80 people to West Des Moines last weekend, with about 50 participating online.

Some of Mr. Trump’s Republican rivals have spent months calling and knocking on doors to identify potential supporters to draw them out to caucuses, but Mr. Trump does not appear to have invested in this crucial “voter ID” strategy until recently.

The Trump campaign hopes to attract a surge of independents and disaffected Democrats on caucus night, but the latest data from the Iowa secretary of state show no significant growth in Republican registrations.

Interviews in Iowa with Mr. Trump’s campaign workers, his volunteers and dozens of attendees at his rallies over two months, as well as observations of voter outreach, conference calls and confidential training sessions, indicate that Mr. Trump’s support in the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses may fall short of his poll numbers in the state. He is now trading the lead position with Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.

Mr. Trump’s greatest organizing asset is a database of thousands of email addresses of Iowans who have attended packed rallies. Yet it appears that organizers have only recently begun tapping that database, which a Democratic strategist in Iowa called “malpractice.”

The “magic number” of voters the Trump campaign has revealed it wants to turn out — 48,000 — is highly optimistic in the view of other Republican campaigns and independent experts.
This is a similar story to the complaints about the Rubio campaign's slow efforts to organize in Iowa. After Obama defeated Hillary in Iowa in 2008, I thought it would be clear to any serious political campaign about how important it is to organize the ground-game there. Ted Cruz seems to understand this. It might be too late at this point for Trump and Rubio to catch up there.

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I have given up thinking that anything that Donald Trump says could be enough to turn off his supporters or get Rush Limbaugh to read him out of the conservative movement like William F. Buckley did for the John Birchers in the 1960s. If Trump's statement about Vladimir Putin doesn't provoke that response then nothing will. Pete Wehner rightly excoriates Trump's remarks on MSNBC when asked about how Putin had praised him.
On MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Friday, Donald Trump was asked about the praise he received from Russia's brutal dictator, Vladimir Putin. Trump praised Putin in return ("at least he's a leader"). And when Joe Scarborough pointed out some of the Putin's nastier habits -- killing journalists, killing political opponents and invading countries -- Trump responded, "Our country does plenty of killing, too."

Remember the good old days, when Republicans and those on the right defended America from attacks like this? We'll see whether what Trump said bothers some of his more vocal conservative defenders. So far their record is rather discouraging. Mr. Trump can ridicule John McCain for his time as a POW, unleash crude attacks on female journalists, cruelty mock reporters with disabilities, and they shrug it off, if not delight in it. They are invested in Trump, and he is pulling them into a dark alley.

Now Mr. Trump is engaging in the worst form of moral equivalence in the process of defending a tyrant. Rather the criticize Mr. Putin, he lavishes praise on him and denigrates America in order to defend Putin.

It's worth recalling Jeane Kirkpatrick's speech to the 1984 Republican conventions, when she assailed liberals by pointing out that "they always blame America first." She went on to contrast that with Ronald Reagan, ending her address this way: "And now, the American people, proud of our country, proud of our freedom, proud of ourselves, will reject the San Francisco Democrats and send Ronald Reagan back to the White House."

So now Trump's defenders -- many of whom portray themselves as admirers and even heirs of Reagan -- face a test. Will they finally criticize Donald Trump for having crossed a line -- in this case, on the grounds that he has trashed the United States? Will they finally see that Trump embodies many of the qualities they once savaged the left for? Will they defend America against the most primitive form of moral equivalence? Will they criticize Trump for repeatedly praising an anti-American tyrant? Or is the intellectual and moral confusion and degeneration among some on the right so advanced that those who once proudly defend America will now defend Trump instead?

It tells you something important and depressing that the question doesn't answer itself.
Paul Mirengoff adds,
It’s also noteworthy that Trump slandered America in defense of a dictator. Here too, he channels a strand of modern leftism, which has seldom encountered an anti-American dictator or would-be strongman — e.g., Chavez, Castro, Assad (pre-revolution), Morsi — it doesn’t sympathize with, if not (as in Trump’s case) like and admire.

Of course, Putin has the one quality that excites Trump's respect - high poll numbers.
Well, he is a strong leader! What am I gonna say, he’s a weak leader? He’s making mincemeat out of our president. He’s a strong leader. You would like me to call him a weak leader. He’s a strong leader, and I’m not gonna be politically correct. He’s got an 80 percent approval rating done by pollsters, from I understand this country, okay? So it’s not even done by his pollsters, he’s very popular within Russia!
Yes, because that is how we know someone is a good leader - by checking their poll numbers. Jim Geraghty comments,
(Can anyone imagine any reason why Russians might be reluctant to tell a stranger they disapprove of Putin?)
And apparently, Trump thinks that other Republicans wish that a ruthless dictator were praising them.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said Saturday that anyone who criticises the warm compliments he has swapped with Russian President Vladimir Putin is simply “jealous as hell”.
Apparently, Trump has adopted Obama's playbook of accusing those who criticize him of some straw-man sort of position.
“Then what do they want to do? They want to have a world war three, OK? World war three. For what? For what?” Trump said. “And they have problems, we all have problems. Russia has got plenty of problems. But I’ll tell you what: If Putin likes me, and if he thinks that I’m a good, smart person – which I hope he believes, you know, I am. Actually he’s right, I am brilliant. You know that, right?”
So, in Trump's mind there is no middle ground between acknowledging that Putin is a murderous dictator who is not a force for good in the world as he works with Iran and Assad and invades Georgia and Ukraine and desiring to fight World War Three.

And there are probably supporters who don't mind his remarks on MSNBC because Joe Scarborough kept bringing up that Putin has killed journalists and there are probably some out there who don't mind so much hearing that journalists have been assassinated by the leader of a government. But does someone like Rush Limbaugh mind that Trump has put forth a moral equivalence between Russia's actions and the US having done "a lot of killing too"?

Now Trump defends Putin against the accusation that he has killed journalists.
rump again dismissed the claims. "He's always denied it," Trump said of Putin. "He's never - it's never been proven that he's killed anybody. So, you know, you're supposed to be innocent until proven guilty, at least in our country. He has not been proven that he's killed reporters."

ABC's George Stephanopoulos asked about a presumed moral equivalency innate in Trump's answer, to which Trump fired back: "I'm saying, when you say a man has killed reporters, I'd like you to prove it." Trump did add that if this had happened, it was "despicable."

The Committee to Protect Journalists, however, does provide names of journalists killed in Russia, and notes that, since 1992, 56 journalists of various nationalities have been killed in the country.
Well, nice of him to acknowledge that killing journalists would be "despicable." Clearly, this man knows very little about foreign policy or history. But hey, he can listen to the shows so who cares?

Rubio had a typically good, detailed response to Trump's praise of Putin.
"He shouldn't be [honored]," Rubio said. "[H]e's jailed and murdered journalists, political opponents. He bombed an apartment building as a pretext to attack the Chechens. He is responsible for the downing of the Malaysian airliner over Ukraine, because he provided the anti-aircraft weaponry that was used for that. So this is a person who has done some horrifying things on the global stage."

"From a geopolitical, realistic level, we have to deal with him because he's the leader of an important country that, between them and us, control over 90 percent of the world's nuclear weapons. But he is not someone who is going to go down in history as a great leader."
I guess Trump would say that there is no proof that Putin did any of that so he gives Putin the benefit of the doubt.

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And then we get this comment from Trump's spokeswoman.
A spokeswoman for the GOP front-runner asked what the point of having nuclear weapons is if the United States is “afraid” to use them during an appearance on Fox News’ “O’Reilly Factor.”

Katrina Pierson’s bizarre comment came as she was attacking Republicans for pushing endless war and talking tough.

“What good does it do to have a good nuclear triad if you’re afraid to use it?” she asked.
I am confused. I thought that Trump wanted to be friendly with Putin so that we wouldn't have World War Three. He better talk with his spokeswoman.

Ted Cruz's parody Christmas ad is really well done. He manages to attack the Democrats with humor while presenting a different, more likable, side of himself with his daughters.

There is yet another problem with how the San Bernardino murderous couple got her admitted to this country.
One of the requirements for a K-1 visa is for the couple to prove they have met in person. When the reviewer asked for proof, the evidence the couple provided was a statement by Farook that they met in Saudi Arabia and copies of pages from their passports showing entry and exit stamps.

The stamps were in Arabic, and the reviewer requested English translations, but the file doesn’t contain those documents, raising the question of whether the reviewer ever saw them.

For the Judiciary Committee’s investigation, it had the non-partisan Congressional Research Service, through a contractor, translate the stamps into English. Malik’s passport showed an entry to Saudi Arabia that appeared to be June 4, 2013. The exit stamp is only partially legible, and the month and day were obscured.

Farook’s passport showed an entry date of Oct. 1, 2013, and the exit stamp appeared to be Oct. 20.

While it’s possible the two met during that time, the Judiciary Committee said the stamps aren’t good enough proof — and besides, since Malik’s visa was only good for 60 days, if she’d followed the law she would have had to have left Saudi Arabia by the beginning of August.

“This would cast doubt on the claim that the two were in Saudi Arabia at the same time. And even if Farook and Malik met in Saudi Arabia, there is insufficient evidence in the file for USCIS to have made that determination,” the committee concluded.
Gosh, the more we learn about the visa-granting system, the more worried we should be.

And here is another worrying bit of news.
Two suspects in the November 13th attacks were arrested over the weekend at a refugee centre in the western city of Salzburg after a tip-off from French police, a separate source in Austria told the AFP news agency.

The Austrian source said the men were Algerian and Pakistani.

Fingerprint analysis has shown the suspects were processed among migrants arriving on the Greek island of Leros on October 3, according to a French source close to the investigation.

Two of the three suicide bombers who blew themselves up outside the French national stadium on the night of the attacks were processed on Leros on the same day, the source said.
Add in the fake Syrian passports that ISIS has and we have some terrifying facts that must keep security officials awake at night.

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Hugh Hewitt points out that Hillary did manage to make news during the Democratic debate. And he wasn't talking about her coming back late from the break.
The first came with Clinton's astonishing declaration that "We are now where we finally need to be in the fight against ISIS." With the Islamic State orchestrating terror attacks for two months in Paris and the Sinai Peninsula, inspiring others such as in San Bernardino, Calif., and running the remnants of the state of Libya she orchestrated the destruction of without a replacement standing by, this was a jaw-hitting-desk moment.

Hillary's bear hug of her own Libyan fiasco as the country erupts in explosion after explosion of refugees and terrorists signals that she is clueless about the electorate's assessment of President Obama's and her foreign policy — from her "Russian reset" button to the Egyptian dizziness to the Benghazi fail and subsequent descent of the country into Islamic State Land 2.0.
Then she made a false accusation about how ISIS is making propaganda videos featuring Donald Trump. No one has found any evidence of such a video.
So Hillary in a single performance drew attention to her biggest policy failure and her biggest character flaw — by lying about a non-existent video even as she pretends Libya is something other than an Islamic State playground.

Saturday night was supposed to be a content-free glide into Christmas break. Instead it became a train wreck for a fundamentally flawed and untrustworthy candidate who reminds voters of that reality every time she appears, even when flanked by props intended to set her off as serious and truthful.
Of course, few were watching or would care enough to read the stories about the debate. But it is more evidence of what a lousy candidate she is.