Every year since 2006, Republican leaders have joined some of the country’s most notorious anti-gay, anti-choice activists and fringe conspiracy theorists at the Family Research Council’s annual Values Voter Summit.This week’s summit will be no different, as potential GOP presidential contenders rub elbows with people who want to deny First Amendment protections to Muslims, defend laws criminalizing homosexuality, and think President Obama used the health care reform law to raise a private army of Brownshirts.Don’t be surprised if summit speakers venture off into the deep-end of the right-wing fringe this week. Far from anomalies, intolerant rhetoric, self-serving claims of persecution and doomsday predictions are a Values Voter Summit tradition.Here, we’ve collected seven of the worst moments from previous Values Voter Summits.1. The Antichrist Will Be GayThe Values Voter Summit is often an educational affair, and one thing we learned at the 2006 conference is that the Antichrist will be gay. Right-wing pastor Dwight McKissic told the VVS audience that year that the gay rights movement is a “Satanic” effort birthed “from the pit of Hell itself,” before suggesting that “the Antichrist himself may be homosexual.”“The gay rights movement, I believe, was birthed and inspired by the Antichrist,” McKissic added, while conservative pastor and co-panelist Wellington Boone lamented that it is no longer socially acceptable to call people “faggots.”2. Hillary Clinton Will Imprison Christians, ‘Shut Down’ ChurchesRemember when Hillary Clinton destroyed the Constitution, closed churches and put all Christians in jail? No? Well, 2012 speaker Kamal Saleem predicted that by the end of her term as secretary of state, Clinton would “subjugate American people to be arrested and put to jail and their churches and synagogues shut down.”Saleem has made a career as a phony ex-terrorist who converted to Christianity, and has concocted several other insane conspiracy theories.Of course, the Values Voter Summit regularly features warnings that the U.S. has morphed into Nazi Germany and will establish concentration camps for Christians.3. Mormonism MeltdownOn one rare occasion, even a Republican politician couldn’t ignore the rank bigotry that takes place at the Values Voter Summit.In 2011, televangelist Robert Jeffress, who introduced then-presidential candidate Rick Perry at the summit, blasted Mitt Romney in a post-speech interview as a cult member and fake Christian, comments thatcame as no surprise since Jeffress had railed against the Mormon faith and Romney in previous speeches.Romney, incidentally, was set to speak that year immediately prior to American Family Association spokesman Bryan Fischer, who is notorious for his incendiary comments about gays and lesbians, immigrants, African Americans, Native Americans, Muslims and, yes, Mormons. During his speech, Romney criticized Fischer’s “poisonous language,” prompting Fischer to lash back at Romney. Romney ally Bill Bennett also jumped in, criticizing Jeffress for promoting “bigotry” while Perry went back and forth between ignoring the controversy and eventually distancing himself from Jeffress.While Romney may have spoken out against Fischer during the summit, Fischer had the last laugh as he succeeded in his campaign to oust a gay official from Romney’s presidential campaign.That wasn’t the last time we would see infighting at the Values Voter Summit. Last year, Rep. Louie Gohmert accused Sen. John McCain of supporting Al Qaeda, to which McCain responded: “Sometimes comments like that are made out of malice, but if someone has no intelligence I don’t feel it as being a malicious statement.”4. Demand Abortions Be Performed In PublicLila Rose, the anti-choice activist known for her campaigns against Planned Parenthood, had a modest proposal at the 2009 summit: “If I could insist, as long as they are legal in our nation, abortions will be done in the public square.”Rose, who sees herself as the Malala Yousafzai of America, said that mandatory public abortions are necessary so we can “hear angels singing when we ponder the glory of conception.”Many other Values Voter Summit speakers have also shared memorable messages for the women of America.5. Perkins Mocks Gay SoldiersAt the 2010 summit, in the midst of the fight over the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins warned that if the ban on openly gay service members was lifted, then the U.S. military would become nothing but a parade-marching force.Speaking on a panel with Bob Maginnis, FRC’s senior fellow for national security, Perkins said that militaries that allow openly gay members — which by that time included Israel and NATO allies such as Canada, the United Kingdom and Germany — are the “ones that participate in parades, they don’t fight wars to keep the nation and the world free.”Maginnis also predicted, wrongly, that military chaplains would be forced to perform same-sex weddings and made fun of transgender service members.6. A Bigger Crown In HeavenMiss USA contestant Carrie Prejean told the 2009 conference that while she may have lost the beauty competition, which she said was a result of her answer to a question about gay marriage, she knew “that the Lord has so much of a bigger crown in Heaven for me.”In fact, she said, the “vicious” reaction she received following the pageant was one of worst incidents of persecution in American history.Prejean later sued Miss USA for discrimination but settled the case for legal fees after a sex tape she had made materialized.7. Obamacare ‘Is The Worst Thing That Has Happened In This Nation Since Slavery’Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, Values Voter Summit speakers have been in a fierce competition to see who can come up with the most insane reaction to the law. Michele Bachmann pilloried the health law as “DeathCare,” Ken Cuccinelli blasted it as “the greatest erosion of liberty” in modern history and Rick Santorum linked it to the French Revolution.But Ben Carson outdid them all, telling the conference last year that “Obamacare is really, I think, the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery, and it is slavery in a way.”After all this, it is no wonder that Santorum told the Values Voter Summit in 2012 that “we will never have the elite, smart people on our side.”
h/t: Brian Tashman at RWW
Just like 2008 presidential candidate John McCain, Illinois gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner wanted to choose a “superstar” to be his running mate. But just a few days into their shared campaign, the question is whether Rauner’s choice will end up going rogue on him down the road.
During a campaign stop in downstate Quincy Thursday, GOP candidate Rauner and his running mate, Wheaton City Councilwoman Evelyn Sanguinetti, were asked where they stood on key social issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion. The question came after about 20 minutes of generalizations about the need to fix a broken state, the duo’s likely effectiveness as political outsiders and whether Illinois was pro-business enough, issues on which they are in lock step. The social issues questions were a different story.
Sanguinetti represents something of a risk for Rauner, a first-time political candidate vying for the state’s top job. As a relative unknown herself, she fits into the Rauner campaign’s image of itself as an outsider’s crusade, riding in to Springfield to upend a broken political culture. At the same time, her life story—daughter of a 15-year-old mother in Miami who pulled herself up by the bootstraps to become a lawyer and politician, despite having multiple sclerosis—is likely to prove compelling to primary voters and could well prove a boost to the ticket.
During the campaign stop in Quincy, however, signs that the Rauner/Sanguinetti team was something of a marriage of convenience appeared. After Rauner threw the issue of same-sex marriage at the feet of voters by saying he supported a referendum on the topic, he unequivocally said he supported a woman’s right to choose. “I believe in some common sense regulations and restrictions so it’s rare and safe, but I support a woman’s ability to decide,” he said.
Such a position pretty much flies in the face of where his running mate stands, and potentially undercuts a key rationale behind choosing her as a running mate. Moments after Rauner’s answer, the Wheaton councilwoman clearly said she didn’t agree.
"On the issue of life…I must say, my mother chose me and she had me at age 15. For this reason, I am pro-life. I also believe in marriage with the traditional definition,” Sanguinetti said.
In the run-up to the 2008 presidential election, Republican John McCain and his advisers made a stark political calculation: America was hungering for a candidate that was a political outsider but who could attract voters with a compelling story and clear social conservative credentials. And while Sanguinetti may be no Sarah Palin, there’s ample indications Republican primary voters are looking for someone who can wear her opposition to issues such as same sex marriage and abortion proudly.
Yet, as McCain/Palin proved in 2008 when the one-term Alaska governor went “rogue” on the campaign trail and started speaking out about issues she cared more about than the campaign did, marriages of convenience have a tendency to suffer under the strain of a grueling campaign. Candidates who feel strongly about hot-button issues such as same-sex marriage or abortion can find it extremely difficult to stick to campaign themes question after question, month after month.
More important, perhaps, is the difficulty in asking voters to keep two ideas in their mind as they head into the voting booth: that a ticket both does and doesn’t support something the voter cares deeply about, such as same sex marriage or a woman’s right to choose.
During the press conference in Quincy, Sanguinetti seemed to understand this. Immediately after answering the question, she pivoted away from the topic of social issues and back onto safer ground of tested campaign themes.
“While we’re apart on social issues, I want to bring you all back to the bigger picture,” she said, essentially changing the subject.” Illinois is broken, and only Bruce and I can fix it.”
Rauner and his team better hope she can keep up her focus in the days and weeks to come.
Rauner/Sanguinetti ticket = Illinois’ version of Walker/Kleefisch.
h/t: Mark W. Anderson at NBC Chicago’s Ward Room
John McCain seems to have forgotten how Americans died after his beloved “surge” was implemented during the Iraq war.
The collapse of Iraq back into a Bush-era Hell on Earth has brought the usual suspects out of the woodwork to insist that the United States should have kept sending Americans to fight and die in the hellhole that they lied us into. They include Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who has been making the cable news rounds, demanding firings and trying to sell the comparison of a “residual force” in Iraq with those left in Bosnia, where there were a total of 18 U.S. casualties for the duration of that conflict.
On MSNBC’s Morning Joe Friday morning, he also compared a hypothetical U.S. residual force in Iraq with those in “Bosnia, Korea, Germany, Japan,” but it was on CNN’s New Day that McCain’s sales pitch really jumped the shark.
“It’s important for us to note that in other wars and other conflicts, we have left residual forces behind, not in a combat role, but a stabilizing role,” McCain told Chris Cuomo. “Whether it be Korea, Japan, Germany. We still have forces in Bosnia from that conflict.”
He also added “We had it won, and we needed to have a residual force.”
The key differences between those post-conflict nations and Iraq are rather obvious, as is the more apt comparison with another conflict with which McCain is intimately familiar. President George W. Bush began using the language of Vietnamization barely two years into the Iraq war, and the deeply-divided Iraq we left behind much more closely resembled Vietnam than any of those that McCain listed.
McCain’s implication is that, like in those other countries he listed, the U.S. could have kept a small force in Iraq without risk of casualties, handing out Hershey bars and training Iraqi commandos, and maybe we didn’t because we’re just yella, or something.
“We had literally no casualties there in Iraq during the last period after the surge was over,” McCain said, “and by leaving a vacuum, then that was obviously filled.”
He literally said “literally.” Watch:
The truth is, of course, that there were hundreds of U.S. casualties in Iraq following the end of “The Surge,” including 66 fatalities, 38 of them killed in combat, and 297 wounded in action. Keeping in mind McCain’s vision of the post-conflict mission, among those casualties were:
January 15, 2011 – Sgt. Michael P. Bartley, 23, of Barnhill, Ill. (and) Spc. Martin J. Lamar, 43, of Sacramento, Calif. died Jan. 15 in Mosul, Iraq, of wounds suffered when an Iraqi soldier from the unit with which they were training shot them with small arms fire. They were assigned to the 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas.
And, on September 7, 2010, weeks after the surge had ended:
An Iraqi soldier opened fire Tuesday on a group of U.S. soldiers in northern Iraq, killing two and wounding nine others, the U.S. military and the Iraqi military said.
In fact, the United States continued to take casualties right up until the last soldier left in December of 2011. Whether a “residual force” would, or could, have prevented the current situation in Iraq, it is a lie to say that they could have done so without further loss of lives and limbs. As a wounded soldier himself, John McCain ought to know better, but giving him the benefit of the doubt, perhaps he just doesn’t. The next time he tries to make this claim, though, someone should set him straight.
Source :Tommy Christopher for The Daily Banter
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) on Sunday asserted that the five Taliban members traded for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was being held prison of war, were “hardcore military jihadists who are responsible for 9/11” and should have been detained indefinitely at Guantanamo Bay or some other U.S. prison.
"First of all, I wouldn’t release these men," McCain told CNN host Candy Crowley.
"Ever?" Crowley wondered.
"Not these men," McCain insisted. "They were judged time after time during their confinement in Guantanamo, they were evaluated and judged as too great a risk to release. That was the judgement made."
The Arizona Republican argued that Bergdahl knew when he joined the military that he was taking “certain risks, and among those risks are wounding, death, imprisonment. That’s why we cherish and love all of those men and women who serve so much.”
Crowley pointed out McCain had supported a prisoner exchange with the Taliban to save Bergdahl earlier this year.
McCain, however, insisted that the president had chosen the wrong prisoners, but refused to say exactly which detainees he would have selected.
"First of all, we’re not sending everybody home," he chuckled. "We are going to send them — even if we close Guantanamo — we are going to send them to facilities inside the United States of America, that’s been the plan all along."
On Tuesday, President Obama defended his administration’s decision to bring home U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from Taliban captivity, pushing back against critics who argue that Bergdahl’s public protest of America’s mission in Afghanistan and possible desertion to Pakistan in 2009 made him unworthy of rescue.
“The United States has always had a pretty sacred rule, and that is: we don’t leave our men or women in uniform behind,” Obama said in Warsaw, Poland. “Regardless of the circumstances, we still get an American soldier back if he’s held in captivity. Period. Full stop.”
Since Obama’s decision to trade Bergdahl for five Taliban-linked militants imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay, Republican lawmakers, conservative commentators, and even some soldiers who served in Bergdahl’s unit have accused the administration of endangering American security by releasing high level Taliban officials into Afghanistan while American soldiers are still in the country. They also argue that Bergdahl’s growing disillusioned with the U.S. Army make his return less than desirable.
“I think the whole transaction represents really bad staff work. I’d be very, very careful before you run the president out to sort of claim victory at having earned the release of somebody who in effect went AWOL apparently, and left his post. So if I were there, I would not have supported the transaction,” former Vice President Dick Cheney told Fox News Monday night. His comments echo similar sentiment expressed on Twitter by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and conservative publications that labeled Bergdahl a traitor.
However, General Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, repudiated the notion that certain prisoners of war or hostages are not patriotic enough to be rescued, writing on Facebook that “the questions about this particular soldier’s conduct are separate from our effort to recover ANY U.S. service member in enemy captivity.” He added that while Bergdahl should be considered “innocent until proven guilty,” the Army’s leaders “will not look away from misconduct if it occurred.”
That sentiment is shared by veterans and POW groups. “We hope the Department of Defense does a complete investigation of the circumstances surrounding Sgt. Bergdahl’s initial disappearance and take whatever steps are warranted by the findings of that investigation,” American Legion National Commander Daniel Dellinger said in a statement.
“It’s totally premature for anyone to be jumping to conclusions until more is known, clearly he is undergoing some medical treatment and evaluation now and until a thorough investigation is done, I just think it’s inappropriate to be speculating on the circumstances that nobody knows much about,” Ann Mills-Griffiths, Chairman of the Board of the National League of POW/MIA Families, told ThinkProgress.
During his remarks, Obama also responded to charges that he circumvented a law requiring Congress to be notified 30 days before prisoners are transferred from Guantanamo Bay. “We have consulted with Congress for quite some time that we might need to execute a prisoner exchange,” Obama claimed, noting that officials acted quickly out of concern for Bergdahl’s declining health. “The process was truncated because we wanted to make sure we did not miss that window,” he said.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-MI) admitted on MSNBC’s Morning Joe Tuesday that “in 2011 [the administration] did present a plan that included a prisoner transfer.” He claimed the committee hadn’t heard anything since.
President Obama made the right decision to release Bowe Bergdahl home to the USA.
As of this moment, he is innocent until proven guilty, despite the fact that many conservatives and right-wing hacks are already saying that “Bergdahl is a ‘traitor’ or ‘deserter.’”
Looks like Republicans are in need of a History Lesson. Again. Especially former prisoner of war John McCain, who now “has concerns” over how Bowe Bergdahl was released. If that isn’t emblematic of GOP hypocrisy then I don’t know what is
As pressure grows on Shinseki, the record shows questionable practices dating from the 1920s. Efforts at reform have long been frustrated.
Does this sound familiar?
The General Accounting Office report —“VA Needs Better Data on Extent and Causes of Waiting Times” — concluded that “although VA has begun to collect data systematically on waiting times for outpatient care, it has yet to develop reliable national waiting time data.”
Those are the same charges being leveled against the Department of Veterans Affairs this spring. But that GAO report is from May 2000.
In response to growing concerns about negligence and possible coverups at VA facilities, the Office of Inspector General issued its preliminary findings on Wednesday. At the Phoenix VA facility, said the report, at least 1,700 veterans waiting for medical care were not scheduled for an appointment or even placed on a waiting list; it’s unclear how many vets may have been “forgotten or lost” in the system. The IG report described a “systemic” practice of manipulating appointments and waiting lists at the Phoenix facility and said that scheduling practices are now being investigated at 42 VA facilities across the country.
Embattled VA Secretary Eric Shinseki called the findings “reprehensible” and ordered that the 1,700 veterans be immediately “triaged” for care. His reaction did not mollify outraged veterans nor stem calls for his resignation from Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, and others, including, for the first time Wednesday, four Democratic U.S. senators who are up for re-election this year.
At a contentious House hearing on Wednesday evening, Rep. Mike Michaud of Maine, the ranking Democrat on the Veterans Affairs Committee, reportedly asked Dr. Thomas Lynch, the VA’s assistant deputy for clinical operations and management, who had authorized the destruction of the “secret list” that allegedly misrepresented waiting times at the Phoenix facility. Lynch said he wasn’t sure.
Richard J. Griffin, the VA’s acting inspector general, wrote in the report that “when sufficient credible evidence is identified supporting a potential violation of criminal and/or civil law, we have contacted and are coordinating our efforts with the Department of Justice.”
The new report noted that since 2005, the IG has issued 18 reports that identified “deficiencies in scheduling resulting in lengthy waiting times and the negative impact on patient care.”
“If you dug deep, you would undoubtedly find references to inappropriate scheduling activity and gaming the system at VA offices as far back as you want to track it,” Jim Strickland told International Business Times. Strickland is a Vietnam-era veteran and advocate who runs VAwatchdog.org, which uncovered a document-shredding scandal at the Detroit VA in 2008.
Strickland said Detroit staff would take claims coming in the door from veterans, but “they would not process them. Instead, the claims were shredded. We found out about this because of a veteran whistleblower at that VA. It’s the same kind of thing we are reading about now across the country. … It’s been going on at VA for years and years.”
In addition to the 18 past reports from the IG, there are at least 30 from the GAO that point to chronic, systemic problems at the VA.
In its 2005 audit, the IG concluded that managers at VA hospitals were telling schedulers to create false wait times. The IG wrote, “Schedulers did not follow established procedures when selecting the type of appointment and when entering the desired appointment date into VistA. In some cases, supervisors instructed schedulers to create appointments contrary to established scheduling procedures.”
In 2007, the IG said the VA had failed to address the issues it had cited in 2005 and that the accuracy of reported waiting times could still “not be relied on and the electronic waiting lists at those medical facilities were not complete.”
A primary motivation for VA executives to manipulate wait times was to receive bonuses and advancements, which was true as far back as 2007, when the agency was caught in a related scandal. News reports of the bonus scandal broke around the same time the IG reports were published, and Veterans for Common Sense, a nonprofit advocacy organization, filed a landmark lawsuit against the VA and Shinseki.
The lawsuit complained of unreliable wait times, among other problems at the agency. Last year, the Supreme Court announced it would not hear arguments in the suit, and in May 2012, a federal appeals court in California voted 10–1 to dismiss the case, ruling that only Congress or the president has the authority to direct changes on how veterans are treated. The decision overturned a 2–1 ruling in 2011 by the same court which said the department’s “unchecked incompetence has gone on long enough.”
When the issues of long wait times became widely publicized at the time of the lawsuit, said Thomas Bandzul, legislative counsel for Veterans and Military Families for Progress and past associate counsel for Veterans for Common Sense, the VA “implemented a system of metrics to ensure proper scheduling took place. Once the system was in place, it didn’t take long for the various offices to figure out how to game the system rather than do their job.”
“It’s safe to say this has a timeline going back to at least 2000,” Bandzul said. “It’s not something new.”
More recently, a 2012 GAO report concluded that outpatient wait times for appointments at the VA remained “unreliable.” Another 2012 IG report concluded that schedulers were “not following procedures” and as a result, reported waiting time data “was not accurate or reliable.” In 2013 the GAO again found that outpatient medical appointment wait times were “unreliable.”
This year, the GAO concluded, “Although access to timely medical appointments is critical to ensuring that veterans obtain needed medical care, problems with VHA’s scheduling and management of outpatient medical appointments may contribute to delays in care, or care not being provided at all. Over the past few years there have been numerous reports of VAMCs [medical centers] failing to provide timely care to patients, including specialty care, and in some cases, the delays have resulted in harm to patients.”
President Barack Obama’s critics have hammered him for failing to fix the dysfunctional agency. But he joins a line of U.S. presidents going back to Calvin Coolidge who have struggled to reform the bureaucracy meant to care for those who served in America’s armed forces.
The original Veterans Bureau was created in 1921 for World War I veterans and initially led by Col. Charles R. Forbes, who only two years later was convicted of entering into corrupt agreements with contractors, including some who were involved in hospital operations, and selling government property at a fraction of its value. In 1923, Forbes went to prison for the offenses.
After that inauspicious beginning, Gen. Frank T. Hines took over, but due to recurring problems the bureau was officially dissolved in 1930 and reconstituted as the Veterans Administration — with Hines still at the helm. By 1932, the situation had improved little, and thousands of World War I veterans, the “Bonus Army,” marched on the nation’s capital to protest unpaid bonuses and poor health care. Hines survived in the job until 1945, when he was forced to resign over the poor care received by returning World War II vets.
A decade later, in 1955, a reform commission uncovered evidence of widespread waste and negligence, leading to other incremental efforts at reform. Afterward, the agency remained generally scandal-free until the 1970s, when problems returned with the influx of Vietnam War veterans. Those issues came to a head when Richard Nixon gave his GOP presidential nomination acceptance speech in 1972 and was interrupted by Vietnam veteran Ron Kovic, the subject of the book and movie, “Born on the Fourth of July.” According to Kovic’s biography, he called out, “I’m a Vietnam veteran. I gave America my all, and the leaders of this government threw me and others away to rot in their VA hospitals.” In 1974, after a 19-day hunger strike by Kovic and other veterans, VA Secretary Donald Johnson resigned and Nixon launched an investigation into VA practices.
President George W. Bush pledged to clean up the agency, which was elevated to Cabinet department status in 1988, only to be inundated with new claims as a result of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Veterans’ claims are often poorly handled, and many veterans are not treated as well as they should be by the healthcare bureaucracy,” Bush said at the swearing-in of Anthony Principi as secretary of VA. “Tony and his department will set new goals for better service.” Principi was later implicated in an audit that found a California company he headed had overcharged the VA some $6 million under a long-term contract to conduct physical evaluations on veterans applying for disability benefits.
In 2007, presidential candidate Obama said the country had a moral duty to take care of its vets. In response to wait time issues, then-undersecretary for health Robert Petzel put in place measures that reduced waiting times from 30 days to 14 days in 2011. Those measures, he later conceded, were difficult to sustain, and may have inspired VA staff to “game the system” to make it appear that treatment was being given in a timely manner.
The current problems at VA are “neither new nor unusual,” said Diane Zumatto, national legislative director of American Veterans (AMVETS), in an email to International Business Times.
“There can be no doubt the VA suffers from deep-seated, systemic problems and neither the department nor its employees believe that they are actually accountable to either the veterans they serve, or the American people who pay their generous salaries,” said Zumatto, a veteran herself.
Zumatto described the agency as akin to “the mythical hydra,” the multi-headed monster, and said that when problems arise, the solution is to “either throw money at it or chop it off. Before we know it, more problems pop up to take its place.”
"Now is the time to slay the VA hydra by effectively changing its culture," she said.
But after all these years, the obvious question is: Why is VA so difficult to fix? The simplest answer is that it is a huge bureaucracy, subject to political influence and the needs of 300,000 employees, whose client base fluctuates dramatically according to the vagaries of war. The result is an agency with a $154 billion budget that in 2012 infamously spent $762,000 for a training conference in Orlando, Florida.
Among the proposed remedies, few point to a need for more funding. During the first two years of the Obama administration, the VA’s budget was increased by $20 billion, and since then its problems have apparently worsened. The Senate Appropriations Committee has meanwhile approved a VA spending bill that would provide $5 million for the inspector general’s investigation alone. Veterans advocate Bandzul does believe the agency needs more money — especially to spend on automation. The Social Security Administration “spent an inordinate amount of money to turn an archaic system into something more modern. That investment was worth it,” he said.
Responding to the interim IG report, House Chairman Miller released a statement calling upon Attorney General Eric Holder to launch a criminal investigation and for Shinseki, a retired general and former Army chief of staff, to resign.
Shinseki, he said, “is a good man who has served his country honorably, but he has failed to get VA’s health care system in order despite repeated and frequent warnings from Congress, the Government Accountability Office and the IG. What’s worse, to this day, Shinseki – in both word and deed – appears completely oblivious to the severity of the health care challenges facing the department. VA needs a leader who will take swift and decisive action to discipline employees responsible for mismanagement, negligence and corruption that harms veterans while taking bold steps to replace the department’s culture of complacency with a climate of accountability. Sec. Shinseki has proven time and again he is not that leader. That’s why it’s time for him to go.”
Arizona GOP censures McCain for ‘liberal’ record
The Arizona Republican Party has formally censured Sen. John McCain, citing a voting record that they say is insufficiently conservative.
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Don Feder, the communications director for the World Congress of Families, is out with another anti-immigrant blog post, this time attacking immigration reform proponents like “Senator Juan” McCain for promoting the “loss of national identity” through immigration
In the blog post, posted in his capacity as a freelance “political/communications consultant” on the website GrasstopsUSA.com, Feder promotes the now-familiar line that Mitt Romney lost the 2012 election because he just wasn’t conservative enough (or, in Feder’s words, lacked “manly firmness”). In particular, Feder attacks McCain and GOP strategist Karl Rove for their support for immigration reform, which he claims will turn off “Main Street voters” who “care deeply about…loss of national identity.”
"Rove isn’t just wrong, he’s wrong the way Napoleon was wrong when he invaded Russia," Feder writes. "Today, elections aren’t won in the middle but on the fringes."
He contends that the Democratic base, or “fringe,” constitutes “the ideological, the envious, public employees, angry, single women and the mooch brigade.”
Last year, Feder wrote a virulently anti-immigrant blog post, in which he claimed that “the illegal immigrants swarming over our southern border are more akin to the pagan armies which regularly invaded the land of Israel and were repulsed by military force.”
Although Feder has written these rants in his personal capacity, his railing against Latino immigrants would seemato conflict with his employer’s goals of uniting “many national, ethnic, cultural, social and religious communities” in their anti-gay, anti-choice cause.
The Maricopa County Republican Committee voted overwhelmingly at its annual meeting to censure McCain, who was described as having a “long and terrible record of drafting, co-sponsoring and voting for legislation best associated with Liberal Democrats,” Phoenix TV station KNXV reported.
The resolution passed 1,150 to 351, according to Timothy Schwartz, chairman of the Legislative District 30 Republicans.
H/T: TPM LiveWire
A six-part series by New York Times reporter David Kirkpatrick destroyed several myths about the September 11, 2012, attack on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, myths often propagated by conservative media and their allies in Congress to politicize the attack against the Obama administration.
Since the September 2012 attacks, right-wing media have seized upon various inaccurate, misleading, or just plain wrong talking points about Benghazi. Some of those talking points made their way into the mainstream, most notably onto CBS’ 60 Minutes, earning the network the Media Matters' 2013 "Misinformer of the Year" title for its botched report.
Kirkpatrick’s series, titled "A Deadly Mix In Benghazi," debunks a number of these right-wing talking points based on “months of investigation” and “extensive interviews” with those who had “direct knowledge of the attack.” Among other points, Kirkpatrick deflates the claims that an anti-Islamic YouTube video played no role in motivating the attacks and that Al Qaeda was involved in the attack:
Months of investigation by The New York Times, centered on extensive interviews with Libyans in Benghazi who had direct knowledge of the attack there and its context, turned up no evidence that Al Qaeda or other international terrorist groups had any role in the assault. The attack was led, instead, by fighters who had benefited directly from NATO’s extensive air power and logistics support during the uprising against Colonel Qaddafi. And contrary to claims by some members of Congress, it was fueled in large part by anger at an American-made video denigrating Islam.
Fox News, scores of Republican pundits, and Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsay Graham (R-SC), among others, dragged then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice through the mud for citing talking points that mentioned an anti-Islamic YouTube video on Sunday morning news programs following the attacks. Despite right-wing media claims to the contrary, however, Kirkpatrick stated that the attack on the Benghazi compoundwas in “large part” “fueled” by the anti-Islamic video posted on YouTube. He wrote (emphasis added):
The attack was led, instead, by fighters who had benefited directly from NATO’s extensive air power and logistics support during the uprising against Colonel Qaddafi. And contrary to claims by some members of Congress, it was fueled in large part by anger at an American-made video denigrating Islam.
There is no doubt that anger over the video motivated many attackers. A Libyan journalist working for The New York Times was blocked from entering by the sentries outside, and he learned of the film from the fighters who stopped him. Other Libyan witnesses, too, said they received lectures from the attackers about the evil of the film and the virtue of defending the prophet.
Another talking point that right-wing media used to accuse the Obama administration of a political cover-up was the removal of Al Qaeda from Rice’s morning show talking points. Kirkpatrick, however, affirmed in his NYTimes report that Al Qaeda was not involved in the attack in Benghazi (emphasis added):
But the Republican arguments appear to conflate purely local extremist organizations like Ansar al-Shariah with Al Qaeda’s international terrorist network. The only intelligence connecting Al Qaeda to the attack was an intercepted phone call that night from a participant in the first wave of the attack to a friend in another African country who had ties to members of Al Qaeda, according to several officials briefed on the call. But when the friend heard the attacker’s boasts, he sounded astonished, the officials said, suggesting he had no prior knowledge of the assault.
Kirkpatrick also dispelled the notion that the attack on the compound was carefully planned, writing that “the attack does not appear to have been meticulously planned, but neither was it spontaneous or without warning signs.”
The NYT investigation on the Benghazi story is yet more proof that the right-wing was using scaremongering tactics about what happened there as a tool to attempt to get Romney elected President in 2012, smear President Obama (and Democrats by extension) with impunity, and to deliberately harm Hillary’s reputation for the 2016 elections.
Louie Gohmert is angry with John McCain for making the factual statement that Republican lawmakers caused the government shutdown. He’s so angry, in fact, that he told Values Voter Summit attendees today that McCain “supported Al Qaeda.”
One year ago today, on September 11, 2012, a U.S. diplomatic outpost and Central Intelligence Agency annex were attacked by extremists in Benghazi, Libya, killing four Americans, U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, U.S. foreign service officer Sean Smith, and two security personnel, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, both former Navy SEALS.
While the Obama administration had been successful in degrading the capabilities of core-al Qaeda — or the terror organization’s centralized version that was responsible for the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington — the tragedy reminded Americans and U.S. allies that the threat from like-minded extremists was still alive and well.
Instead of joining to unite the country in the face of this terrible tragedy, Republicans, at first led by then-GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney and later Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), turned the Benghazi attacks into a political fiasco, searching far and near for a way to hang the blame on President Obama and with the aim of damaging his political stature at the least, or at most, bringing down members of his national security team or even ultimately his presidency.
But the long, drawn-out campaign to bring down Obama turned up nothing. Everything conservatives and Republicans held up as evidence of malfeasance on the part of the Obama administration’s handling of Benghazi and its aftermath was later discredited by either facts or logic. The right’s biggest achievement throughout this whole Benghazi mess was keeping Susan Rice, who was U.S. ambassador to the U.N. at the time of the attacks, from being nominated as Secretary of State. But even that campaign — led by McCain — seemed to backfire as Rice is now Obama’s National Security Adviser, a position with arguably more influence on the President’s foreign policy thinking.
Media Matters has a run-down of the some of the top Benghazi myths. And throughout the GOP’s Benghazi witch-hunt, ThinkProgress has been compiling a timeline of the key events — from Romney’s first baseless attacks on Obama, the faux-scandal surrounding the infamous “talking points” delivered by then-U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice, McCain’s smear campaign, and highlights of how all the GOP-led attacks on Obama were eventually fully debunked. On January 23, during a Senate hearing on Benghazi, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton scolded Republicans for politicizing Benghazi, and in this instance, for focusing on whether a protest over an anti-Muslim video sparked the attacks:
CLINTON: With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans! Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night decided to go kill some Americans?! What difference at this point does it make?! It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again.
We have updated the timeline which can be viewed here.
Conservatives aren’t done with Benghazi. Fox News, Tea Party types and a dwindling number of Republican hangers on in Congress keep trying to pin Obama down with something. But they’ll never find anything nefarious. Benghazi is not the next Watergate. Nor will President Obama be impeached over the matter. “The whole thing defies logic,” an exacerbated Obama said in May. “And the fact that this keeps on getting churned out, frankly, has a lot to do with political motivations.
“We dishonor [the four Americans killed in Benghazi] when we turn things like this into a political circus,” Obama added. “What happened was tragic. It was carried out by extremists inside of Libya. We are out there trying to hunt down the folks who carried this out, and we are trying to make sure that we fix the system so that it doesn’t happen again.”
TruNews host Wiles: "Obama, McCain and Graham Transforming US 'Into an Islamic Bastion'" | Right Wing Watch
Erick Stakelbeck of the Christian Broadcasting Network joined fellow conspiracy theorist Rick Wiles yesterday, where they wondered why John McCain and Lindsey Graham have “sided” with the Muslim Brotherhood. Wiles said that they are “carrying out the instructions of their master,” and like President Obama, “are in the pockets of radical Muslims.”
“This country is being converted while we watch into an Islamic bastion,” the TruNews host warned, “it’s frightening.”
From the 08.15.2013 edition of TruNews:
H/T: Brian Tashman at RWW
The great Republican myth that Obama is socialist started when then presidential candidate Obama told Joe the non-Plumber in 2008 that we need to spread the wealth around a little. John McCain responded by saying that, “sounded a lot like socialism,” and a wing nut talking point was born. (McCain not only gave us Sarah Palin, but also the bogus idea that Obama is a socialist.) Since the moment McCain uttered those fateful words, everything that Obama has even thought of doing has been met with Republican cries of socialism.
The auto bailout, which was a loan that was paid back, was considered socialism. Obamacare, which actually inserts more consumers into the free market, is also considered socialism by the right. Crazed Republicans love to talk about how Obama is planning to nationalize this industry or that one, when President Obama doesn’t intend to nationalize any industries.
In fact, Barack Obama has been a consistent champion of the free market. Getting rid of Fannie and Freddie is capitalism. Encouraging people to buy health insurance in the free market is capitalism. Obama is so capitalistic that even his ideas for education reform are centered around the notion that students have to have the skills required to compete in today’s job market.
None of this matters to Republicans who will go to their graves believing that Obama is secretly plotting to turn the United States into a socialist paradise. The right’s inability to shake their deep seeded delusions is the reason why Obama is still having to debunk their cries of socialism.
For five years, President Obama has been explaining to the right that he isn’t a socialist. Their obsession with Obama’s socialism is one of the many reasons that the Republican Party has become a punchline.
The whole thing would be funny if it wasn’t so pathetic.