As early as April, but president wasn't told.
What did President Obama know about the IRS scandal and when did he know it? New information from a White House source indicates that the president’s lawyers were informed the week of April 22 that an audit of the IRS would reveal unflattering information. Treasury Department lawyers told Kathryn Ruemmler, chief of the Office of White House Counsel, that an inspector general’s report would show that IRS employees had “improperly scrutinized” conservative organizations. The revelation has fueled criticism that the president, who said he learned of the scandal on May 10, is too lax in his management style.
For such a diverse city, the Los Angeles City Council is a depressing bastion of likeminded men. John Phillips on the city's political glass ceiling.
Los Angeles is the second-largest city in the country and arguably its most diverse. We have beaches and mountains. The superrich and the desperately poor. Beautiful people from all over the planet trying to make it in Hollywood and ugly people here to take 10 percent from them. You name it, we have it.
Los Angeles mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti greets supporters at the Avalon Theatre in Hollywood on March 5. (Damian Dovarganes/AP)
Except for women on the Los Angeles City Council.
All signs point to a May 21 city election where all 15 of the L.A. City Council's seats could be filled by men. Who would have thought the only person with binders full of women in Los Angeles would be Heidi Fleiss?
Legalized abortion causes school shootings, Obamacare will lead to conservatives being denied health services, and other wacky assertions from our political leaders.
North Dakota: Legalized Abortions Cause School Shootings
U.S. Representative Kevin Cramer knows the answer to why there have been so many school shootings in the U.S. over the past few years, and it’s not easy access to guns or inadequate treatment of the mentally ill. No, the Republican from North Dakota insists, the rise in school shootings is directly connected to the legalization of abortion and a supposed decline in Christian values. “We learned this week that the Pentagon is vetting its guide on religious tolerance with a group that compared Christian evangelism to rape, and advocated that military personnel and colluding chaplains who proselytize should be court martialed,” Cramer said during a commencement speech at the Catholic University of Mary that, miraculously, went unnoticed by the national media until this week. “Forty years ago, the United States Supreme Court sanctioned abortion on demand. And we wonder why our culture sees school shootings so often.” Cramer’s link between “normalized perversion” and mass murders rings eerily similar to Michele Bachmann’s argument that the September 11 terror attacks in 2001 and 2012 were God’s way of passing judgement on our country’s moral demise.
Missouri: The Gays Killed the Bullying Bill
Missouri's Republican Representative Sue Allen has called on her constituents to contact openly gay lawmakers Jolie Justice and Mike Colona and blame them for the death of her anti-bullying bill. The key difference between Allen’s bill and other, more successful anti-bullying legislation is that it bans enumerated lists of specific groups of people that need protection--such as gay and transgender students--because she believes they are too partisan. “I typically try to keep partisanship out of my message, but this is an issue for the Democrats who wish for certain students (LGBT-gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender) to be ‘enumerated’ within school policies...What they [Justus and Colona] don’t seem to understand is that stronger policies help ALL students, even those they would have characterized.” The problem with Allen’s argument is that enumerating specific groups does not, as she suggests, negate protection for anyone else, it simply ensures that any bullying of people who identify with these particularly at-risk groups is reported.
Plan properly, prepare for uncertainty—the former secretary of defense’s new book is full of great lessons for success in various fields. Just one problem, says comedian Dean Obeidallah: Google.
The Donald is back with a new book. Not Donald Trump, but the original cantankerous, ill-tempered Donald, who possibly has uttered the expression “You’re fired” with more glee than Trump. I’m speaking of Donald Rumsfeld—the man who served in several positions in the federal government, the most recent his “star turn” as secretary of defense under President George W. Bush.
Donald Rumsfeld. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty)
In Rules, Rumsfeld offers numerous lessons to succeed in these various fields. But the No. 1 lesson I have gleaned from his book is: ignore your past and instead recreate yourself so you sound amazing. Rumsfeld has done just that by offering us rules to live by that paint him as a thoughtful, considerate person who is cross between Steve Jobs and Gandhi.
Obama has reportedly spoken about ‘going Bulworth.’ Michael Tomasky says that would be a terrible idea—and he has another Hollywood role model in mind for the president.
If ever there was a made-for-Twitter revelation, it was the little nugget in Peter Baker’s New York Times report Wednesday that had an aide saying Obama sometimes pines at the thought of “going Bulworth.” In all the commentary I’ve seen on this, I haven’t yet seen anyone point out that going Bulworth is a pretty stupid idea, because the Warren Beatty character, after enjoying a brief resurgence in the polls, became as I recall sort of a laughingstock (at least, that’s what I thought) and then ended up staging his own assassination at the depths of his self-loathing. No. If we’re going to delve into movieland for analogies, it’s not Bulworth that Obama needs to “go,” but Rambo—on the Republicans, and in a hurry.
The House hearings yesterday on the IRS matter only left the Republicans hungry for more. NBC’s Lisa Myers, who repeatedly proved back in the Clinton era that she had good Republican sources and that she took them at their word, now says the IRS chose to withhold information relating to the current mess until after last year’s election. This is meant, of course, to raise the specter that the White House was in on this, possibly the president himself.
Then we have Benghazi. And beyond that we have, you know, the actual affairs of state. This doesn’t quite qualify as that, since it’s a waste of everyone’s time and everyone knows it, but the House voted yet again to repeal Obamacare. Of course it hopes never to have to vote on background checks. But by cracky, a 38th meaningless vote to repeal the health-care act, let’s do it!
The controversial military tool is cleared for use domestically in 2015. Miranda Green reports from the House committee charged with what setting the rules on new eyes in the sky.
Congress started it all this year when it voted to allow drones to fly in the U.S. as soon as 2015. Now it’s fighting against its self-imposed deadline to pass legislation that limits the scope of the new technology.
Maintenance personnel checks a Predator drone before its surveillance flight from Fort Huachuca in Sierra Vista, Arizona on March 7, 2013. (John Moore/Getty)
At a hearing Friday, the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations discussed what measures should be included in a federal bill that would protect Fourth Amendment rights without limiting the potential benefits of drones.
“The expectation of privacy down the road is going to not be expanded but made smaller,” said Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX). “I think that’s what members of the Supreme Court, to me, are saying, which concerns me. So Congress needs to set a standard.”
A bid by Republican legislators to legalize discrimination in the state constitution ended up backfiring—by emboldening equality activists, writes state Rep. Karen Clark.
This week, Minnesota became the 12th state, plus the District of Columbia, to allow same-sex couples to marry.
Rep. Karen Clark second from right and her partner Jacqueline Zitaduring, right, look on as Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton signs the same-sex marriage bill in to law in front of the Capitol in St Paul, Minnesota on May 14, 2013. (Craig Lassig/AP)
During the final debate on the legislation in the Minnesota House, I shared a photo with my colleagues that had been taken at the 1993 gay pride parade in Minneapolis. Pictured there were me and my partner of 24 years, Jacquelyn, standing next to my parents, Millie and Joe Clark, who were carrying a sign that read: “Our Gay Children Should Have the Same Rights as Our Heterosexual Children.”
They’d marched with the Parents and Families of Lesbians and Gays contingent to celebrate the historic passage, a month earlier, of the strongest state civil-rights protection for LGBT citizens in the country. Though my parents did not live to see it, 20 years later their message rang true and helped me to pass the Freedom to Marry Act.
Republicans lack any coherent program other than cutting taxes for the wealthy. That’s why they’re going after Obama now, says Robert Shrum
I've written that in the end, congressional Republicans won't agree to move forward on the budget, tax reform, immigration, job creation, or any other issues that matter to mainstream America before the presidential elections. But the fall of 2016 is a long time away, and they have to do something in the meantime. Now we know what it is.
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, flanked by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, right, and Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN), meet with reporters on Capitol Hill, April 10, 2013. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
It's not much different from what they've done, or haven't done, all along: obstruct Obama. Traduce him, delegitimize him—and slow economic recovery in hopes that voters will cast a protest vote for the GOP. It worked in 2010, and failed miserably in 2012.
Conservatives are back at it again because the GOP lacks any coherent program other than cutting taxes for the wealthy. Republicans are deeply divided—between the government-hating Tea Party Torquemadas and an establishment that dreads primary defeat, or in John Boehner's case, defenestration as speaker; between the isolationists like Rand Paul and the neo-cons and John McCain.
The scandal isn’t about politics—it’s about civil liberties. And Congress needs to make sure it never happens again, writes the CEO of conservative activist group FreedomWorks.
It’s not paranoia if they really are out to get you.
Nearly 500 groups applying for tax-exempt status have spoken out against the Internal Revenue Service for abusing its power, intimidating groups that were aiming to educate citizens on the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and their civic duty to hold government accountable.
Kevin Lamarque/Reuters, via Landov
It began in March 2010, when an IRS manager in Cincinnati began a bureaucratic filibuster.
Republicans blasting Obama over the AP snooping scandal seem to have selective-memory disorder. They’ve been trying to nail journalists and leakers for years, writes Kirsten Powers.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus demanded Eric Holder's resignation Tuesday, saying the attorney general had "trampled on the First Amendment." This is rich. But there is more.
An elephant sits on the steps of a building in Washington (Justin Sullivan/Getty)
Preibus wrote in a statement that if Obama doesn’t fire Holder, “the message will be unmistakable: The President of the United States ... does not respect the role of a free press.” Let me save Priebus some time. We already know that Obama doesn’t respect the role of a free press. But neither does the GOP.
So, why the sudden interest? Whatever could make the GOP jump on a media bandwagon and express outrage over government overreach in the investigation of leaks?
It was rough—the IRS, Benghazi, the AP phone calls. But the president’s already moving past the week’s ‘Watergate’ to get back to business, as immigration reform edges forward.
President Obama didn’t take the bait when a reporter asked how he felt about the comparison some of his critics were making about the scandals in his administration with those that happened when Richard Nixon was in the White House. The question capped a weeklong orgy of rhetoric with Republicans assailing abuses of power at the IRS and Justice Department, and the media all but writing off Obama’s second term as a colossal management failure.
Obama didn’t protest “I’m not Nixon,” which would have echoed the former president who once famously said in response to a question, “I’m not a crook.” He replied in the measured way that is his trademark, “You can go ahead and read the history, I think, and draw your own conclusions.” For the record, Nixon headed what can fairly be called a criminal conspiracy; some 40 people in his administration went to jail and did hard time.
The fact that a trio of scandals hitting roughly at the same time took on the aura of Watergate says more about the way our media work today than about any corrosive lapses in the White House or personality flaws in the president. “It’s fine to take a pounding for a couple of news cycles to figure out what you’re going to do,” says Chris Lehane, an alumnus of the Clinton White House, who says the president with his remarks Thursday afternoon in the Rose Garden is “out of the bunker” and has made “the pivot” to where it will be harder for the Republicans to use the scandals to thwart his agenda.
Obama swatted away the controversies eroding his authority and credibility, linking Benghazi to his budget request for more money for embassy security, effectively shifting the onus to the GOP, and he made a compelling case on national-security grounds for Justice’s action in pursuing a leak investigation. “I make no apologies, and I don’t think the American people would expect me as commander in chief not to be concerned about information that might compromise their missions or might get them killed.”
They argued. They voted. They failed. Again. A Michele Bachmann-led push to overturn the Affordable Care Act went nowhere, but that’s not stopping anyone from fighting it.
Republicans want the American people to know that Thursday’s House vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act was most definitely not an act of empty political theater.
Yes, H.R. 45 has zero chance of surviving the Senate, much less the president’s veto pen. Yes, the House had already voted 36 times to repeal the law in part or in its entirety. And, yes, there may be one or two other matters on which lawmakers could be more productively expending time and energy. (Immigration reform? The budget?)
But just because Vote No. 37—this one spearheaded by former presidential candidate and noted stateswoman Michelle Bachmann—was futile does not mean it was pointless. No, siree. As the GOP leadership’s office was at pains to lecture reporters this week, Obamacare remains broadly unpopular, and therefore Republican lawmakers have an obligation to the public to keep fighting the good fight.
Meet a hard-charging federal prosecutor at the center of the Justice Department’s controversial leak investigation. By Daniel Klaidman.
One of the lead federal prosecutors behind the Justice Department’s sweeping seizure of the Associated Press’s phone records is deputy chief of the criminal division Jonathan Malis—a hard-charging 15-year veteran of the U.S. Attorney’s Office who is known among colleagues for a single-minded, even zealous, pursuit of his criminal targets. And there’s perhaps no better illustration of his aggressive style than the fact that he once had a caustic, highly personal exchange with Eric Holder, who at the time was a defense lawyer in private practice but is now the attorney general—that is, Malis’s boss.
Jonathan Malis is considered by some to be overzealous. (Mark Lennihan/AP)
It was 2007, and Holder was representing Chiquita Brands, which the Justice Department had charged with material support of terrorism for making millions of dollars in payments to Colombian paramilitary groups. Ultimately, Chiquita pleaded to lesser charges and agreed to pay a $25 million fine. At the sentencing hearing, Holder accused Malis of an overzealous prosecution. “I think that certain things said by Mr. Malis are either unfair, incorrect, or draw inappropriate inferences,” he intoned. “Frankly, I don’t think they are worthy of the office he represents ... Great power is given to prosecutors, and the single-minded focus of some on the prosecution team to get this company without consideration of what I believe are rather obvious nuances is alarming.” Shot back Malis: “I am not going to respond to what I view as the ad hominem attack on this prosecutor.”
Today, of course, the tactics of Malis and other prosecutors are under scrutiny for intruding on the sanctity of the reporting process at one of the country’s most influential news organizations. Members of the media, civil liberties groups, and some prominent members of Congress have characterized the Justice Department’s subpoenas of the AP’s phone records as shockingly broad and unnecessary. They say such actions are bound to have a significant chilling effect on the free flow of information. But those who know Malis say he is unlikely to be moved by the criticism. “I can tell you one thing,” says one former prosecutor who worked with Malis, “he won’t be shedding any tears for the Fourth Estate.” (A DOJ spokesperson said Malis was not available for comment.)
The RNC’s guy in charge of reaching out to Florida Hispanics has bolted for the Dems. Pablo Pantoja talks to John Avlon about the racist immigration report that was the final straw.
Conservatives should consider this a warning sign. The Republican National Committee’s former Hispanic outreach director for Florida has left the GOP and registered as a Democrat, citing a “culture of intolerance.”
Pablo Pantoja is ready to join the Democratic Party. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)
Pablo Pantoja is a decorated Iraq war vet who began his brief career with the GOP by volunteering for John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign and serving as field director for Marco Rubio’s triumphant 2010 senate campaign. He says he was originally drawn to the GOP “because of my business-minded mentality. Fiscal issues are important for all families—Hispanics and non-Hispanics.”
But a recent anti-immigration report from the right-wing think tank Heritage Foundation sent the Puerto Rican–born Pantoja heading for bluer pastures this week. Not only did the paper tally the cost of immigration form at an absurdly high $6.3 trillion, but its author, Jason Richwine, was found to have written an overtly racist dissertation in 2009 that labeled American immigrants as having lower IQs than those of white natives.
Washington’s understanding of damage control is all wrong, says Michael Tomasky. To win, you have to be willing to hand the other side a temporary victory.
Did I, as a liberal columnist who called immediately on President Obama to seek Eric Holder’s resignation over the Associated Press scandal, provide aid and comfort to the enemy? First of all, I don’t care—what happened struck me as a serious abuse of power. It’s rather obvious to all of you that I support Obama’s agenda in broad terms, but I sure don’t support what happened with the AP. And second, no, I don’t think I provided them aid and comfort anyway. In fact I think recent history shows beyond a doubt that foot-dragging and avoidance are the true aid-and-comforters; they always, always, always make these things worse. That, not my recommended course of action, is what’s going to give Republicans both fodder and power. Thus my aphorism of the week: trying to contain damage only does more damage.
President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder attend the 32nd annual National Peace Officers' Memorial Service at the West Front Lawn at the U.S. Capitol May 15, 2013 in Washington, DC. President Barack Obama delivered remarks at the event, invoking the law enforcement officers who worked to bring the Boston Marathon bombing suspects to justice. (Pool photo by Olivier Douliery )
The president demonstrated that he understood this point with respect to the IRS situation—to Republicans, the most toothsome of the three problems the White House is now trying to manage. Firing the acting IRS commissioner within days was the kind of move Obama hasn’t made often enough while in office. He knows very well how potentially dangerous this issue is for him, but whatever the motivation, good for him for moving so fast and striking an assertive posture.
In contrast, Holder’s two attempts at damage control on Tuesday and Wednesday, his press conference and his testimony to the House, struck a defensive one. At his press conference, he wasn’t sure how often reporters’ records are seized, among other lapses. The next day on the Hill, he acknowledged that he did not submit his recusal in writing (it took all of eight seconds for someone on Twitter to produce the relevant legal language showing that such was required), and that he couldn’t remember the date! All Holder’s damage control accomplished was the raising of more questions that will be masticated for days and days.
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.