Ten years ago this month, U.S. Marine Wassef Ali Hassoun disappeared from Camp Fallujah in Iraq. After a five-month military investigation, he was charged with desertion and theft, brought back to Virginia's Quantico Marine base and then transferred to North Carolina's Camp Lejeune for trial.
Yet, a full decade later, Hassoun is as free as a bird. The accused deserter's whereabouts are unknown. No trial ever began. No punishment ensued. And our leaders in Washington don't seem to be doing a thing about this.
The Obama administration has given a fresh explanation to justify its secret deal with the Taliban to exchange five Guantanamo Bay detainees for Bowe Bergdahl: the radical Islamists who held the Army sergeant would execute him if the terms of the exchange were made public before the handover was carried out.
Yet among the Big Three network evening newscasts tonight covering developments in the prisoner-swap saga, only NBC's Nightly News hammered home the point that the Obama White House's story has significantly changed and that without a sufficient explanation from White House aides. What's more, only NBC's Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski pointed out that the administration did give a heads up to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) prior to the deal going down -- which, logic dictates, unnecessarily risked a leak which could have endangered Sgt. Bergdahl's life [Listen to MP3 audio montage here; Video follows page break]:
Q. When it comes to the release of five of the worst of the worst Gitmo detainees, what does Eugene Robinson know that the Pentagon doesn't? A. That President Obama must be defended at all costs and in every circumstance.
How else to explain his mind-boggling claim on today's Morning Joe that the impact on the war of the release of five senior Taliban officials would likely be "negligible." Incredibly, Robinson was only willing to put "senior" in skeptical air quotes [see screengrab after jump]. The WaPo columnist's claim sparked controlled outrage from Joe Scarborough, and energetic disagreement even from former Obama car czar Steve Rattner. View the video after the jump.
It's the latest viral video burning up the Internet, the talk of watercooler conversation all over the country today: President Obama looking positively goofy strenuously working out with a set of dumbbells. [I'll pause to let you write your own punchline]
It was video too good to ignore for both ABC's World News and CBS's Evening News, while NBC Nightly News decided to take a pass. Of course, both networks worked in a relatively positive spin for the president, with ABC worrying about and subsequently dismissing the notion of the video being a "security breach" while CBS's Maurice DuBois hailed the president as an disciplined athlete who sleepily hit the gym while on a grueling overseas trip. [See the relevant transcripts below the page break; Listen to MP3 audio here; Video follows page break]
Five years ago, I publicly raised questions about Bowe Bergdahl's desertion from Blackfoot Company, 1-501 Infantry (Airborne), 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division.
A few weeks after his so-called "capture" in late June 2009, three conflicting accounts surfaced: U.S. officials told the Associated Press Bergdahl had "walked off" the base with three Afghans; the Taliban claimed on its website that "a drunken American soldier had come out of his garrison" and into their arms; and Bergdahl claimed in his Taliban "hostage video" that he had "lagged behind a patrol" before being captured. I asked on my blog: Were the AP's sources mistaken? Or is the disturbing first account the right one? What about the "three Afghans" Pfc. Bergdahl reportedly "just walked off" with after his shift? Who are they? What's going on?
Psst: David Gregory! You can stop auditioning to fill Jay Carney's White House spokesman spot. President Obama has already appointed someone else. Given his rotten Meet The Press ratings, it's understandable that Gregory would be prospecting for his next position. Even so, his performance on today's Morning Joe was pitiable.
With even liberals like Mika Brzezinski, Donny Deutsch and John Heilemann dumping on the Bergdahl deal, there was Gregory as President Obama's lone defender. Thus: Dianne Feinstein has criticized the lack of consultation? Meh: she's been critical of the Obama admin on other things. And twice Gregory made the argument that Commanders-in-Chief, whatever the circumstances, just don't leave soldiers on the battlefield. That was too much even for Heilemann, who argued that there are limits to what a C-in-C should do, particularly when the soldier in question might have been a deserter. View the video after the jump.
Mother Jones blogger Kevin Drum favors reducing the federal workforce...by one position. Specifically, that of White House press secretary.
In a Monday post, Drum argued that junking the position would eliminate the routine posturing at White House briefings from journalists who are "less interested in gaining actual information than in simply playing gotcha." The source of that approach, opined Drum, is reporters' post-Watergate "habit of treating everything like a scandal."
It's not scientific, of course, but a reader poll at the bottom of an MSNBC.com piece headlined "Is Bowe Bergdahl the GOP’s new Benghazi?" seems to indicate that not even fans of the Lean Forward network are falling for the network's absurd pro-Obama spin on the prisoner swap.
By a nearly 2-to-1 margin (65 percent), readers answered "no" to the poll question, "Do you support Obama’s decision to release 5 Taliban prisoners in exchange for Bergdahl?" You can see thescreen capture taken at 9:09 p.m. Eastern below the page break
On his June 3 Hardball program, MSNBC's Chris Matthews expressed his disapproval of the president having broken federal law in the process of securing Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's release in exchange for transferring five high-level Taliban detainees from Guantanamo Bay to Qatari government custody.
Of course, it took a liberal Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) complaining about the matter to register with Matthews as a problem for the president, but all the same, the Hardball host seemed angry that President Obama violated a law which he signed into effect. The relevant transcript appears below the page break [emphasis mine; Listen to the MP3 audio here or watch the video below the page break]:
In order to press through with the five-for-one POW exchange to return Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, "the White House overrode an existing interagency process charged with debating the transfer of Guantanamo Bay prisoners and dismissed long-standing Pentagon and intelligence community concerns based on Top Secret intelligence about the dangers of releasing" the five high-level Taliban detainees, Time magazine's Massimo Calabresi reported this afternoon at Time.com.
Indeed, "Obama’s move was an ultimate victory for those at the White House and the State Department who had previously argued the military should 'suck it up and salute,' says the official familiar with the debate," Calabresi reported. Appropriately, Time editors ripped that "suck it up and salute" line and made it the teaser headline on the Time.com front page [see screen capture below page break]. Aside from delving into the internal debate in the intelligence community and the administration over the release, Calabresi also reported how Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was given a heads up, even as it seems everyone else in Congress on both sides of the aisle were kept in the dark [emphasis mine]:
Who the hell was President Obama rescuing: Bowe Bergdahl or the Taliban terrorists themselves?
The questions arises out of the mind-boggling defense of the Bergdahl deal proferred on today's Morning Joe by Bloomberg columnist Jeffrey Goldberg, who argued that by dint of the deal, "the President managed to get five guys out of Gitmo, which is a goal." Well, at least President Obama didn't have to send Navy Seals in helicopters over the Gitmo fence to rescue the Talibans. He achieved his goal with a mere stroke of his mighty pen.
President Obama's newly-announced EPA regulations on coal-fired electric plants are engendering opposition from red-state Democrats hoping to win crucial Senate elections this November. For her part, Senate Energy Committee Chairman Mary Landrieu (D-La.), who says she favors "reduc[ing] carbon in the atmosphere," criticized the president's end-run around the legislature. "Congress should set the terms, goals and timeframe" for the policy, she insisted in a statement quoted by The Hill newspaper.
But you'd know nothing about this if you only got your news from MSNBC's Hardball, where on his June 2 program, host Chris Matthews used the new EPA regs simply as an excuse to team up with two liberal guests -- Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Center for American Progress's Neera Tanden -- to blast Republicans as know-nothings on climate change who are motivated sheerly out of partisan animus in opposing the president's push for curbing carbon dioxide emissions. Matthews also worked in a swipe at the Left's favorite fraternal bogeymen, assailing the Koch brothers as moral monsters for "hurting the planet's health so they can have more money." [Listen to MP3 audio here; Watch video below page break]
NBC News's Luke Russert is a self-described former "addict to carbohydrates" who lost a lot of weight when he cut back heavily on added sugars in his diet. Now, apparently, he thinks his epiphany about junk food needs to take root all across the fruited plain.
"I now look at one of those supersize Cokes and a bag of chips like I would cigarettes, so that mindset needs to be all around America," Russert enthused on the June 2 MSNBC program The Cycle. The substitute co-host made the pronouncement as he thanked his guest Ellen Gustafson, a self-described "sustainable food system activist," for coming on the program to promote her book "We the Eaters: If We Change Dinner, We Can Change the World."[Listen to MP3 audio here; watch the video below]
Washington Post reporter Paul Farhi reported on Jay Carney stepping down as White House spokesman and how exhausting the job is. It's "Washington's ultimate burnout job."
Farhi found some of that was just dodging: Yahoo News reported last June that Carney had responded to questions at the daily briefings with some variation of “I don’t know” nearly 2,000 times since his first briefing in 2011. It also reported that Carney had somehow dodged reporters’ questions approximately 9,486 times. Reporters were split in their evaluations of this former Time White House correspondent who switched sides:
We just had to pass this on for your amusement. Time magazine's Zeke Miller has a piece documenting House Democrats' overwrought, melodramatic fundraising emails. You can check them out here.
As you read through them, you realize these sort of emails are ripe for late-night comedy and maybe for snarky treatment on shows like Morning Joe or The Five. Of course, as Miller explains, this catastrophic sky-is-falling fundraising copy, well, it's actually working for the Democrats:
When you’ve lost Chris Matthews, have you lost liberal America? The Hardball host stopped by for a visit on the May 30 edition of MSNBC’s NewsNation for an analysis of the resignation of VA Secretary Shinseki and the VA scandal overall.
The former Tip O’Neill staffer didn’t hold back, repeatedly hitting Obama and Shinseki for a lack of alertness regarding the scandal. Matthews was aghast at the utter lack of awareness the president has shown–not just on the VA –but on his signature legislative achievement, ObamaCare. He even insinuated that a lack of cognizance was a part of the president’s habitual behavior, proclaiming [audio here; video below]:
Mass murder at a sunny college campus in a beach town would normally be considered "newsy," but Elliot Rodger's massacre at the University of California-Santa Barbara last Friday is getting surprisingly little press.
This is not a good case for liberals: The killer was an immigrant, a person of color, and the majority of his casualties resulted from attacks with a car or knife. It makes as much sense to rant about the NRA as to blame the Auto Club of America or the National Knife Collectors Association.
The Wall Street Journal published a fascinating op-ed yesterday by Dr. Hal Scherz, a pediatric urological surgeon and medical school instructor who relayed "Doctors' War Stories From VA Hospitals." Scherz noted that, in his experience, "the best thing that a patient in the VA system could hope for was that the services he needed were unavailable" because then he would get outsourced "to doctors in the community, where their problems are promptly addressed."
What's more, Scherz noted, while the dedicated medical staff at VA hospitals try their darndest to cut through red tape to serve the patients, often personally attending to tasks not in their job description, doing so was punished, not rewarded by the bureaucrats who supervise them:
A group of prominent journalists -- including former Washington Post executive editor Len Downie -- met yesterday with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder but walked away from the meeting disappointed that the Obama administration's top cop won't amend vague Justice Department guidelines which, they argue, make it far too easy for the administration to hound a reporter with the threat of criminal prosecution for protecting his or her sources in a leak investigation.
Yet in covering the story, Post editors shoved Paul Farhi's reporting on the matter to the front page of Style, rather than the A-section, and slapped on a yawn-inducing headline guaranteed to entice only the wonkiest of readers: "Media group, Holder meet on leak cases." "U.S. rules on warrants and subpoenas targeting reporters are challenged," noted the subheader. According to Farhi, the group of journalists want to see DOJ policy amended so that the attorney general must personally get involved in a subpoena request for a journalist's records (emphasis mine):
PORTSTEWART, Northern Ireland -- President Obama Wednesday replayed a familiar scenario when dealing with scandal, in this case delays for treatment, deaths, alleged cover-ups and other acts of malfeasance reported at Veterans Administration hospitals in the United States: first express outrage, next announce an investigation and then say he won't comment on the scandal until the results of the investigation are in, promising people will be held "accountable," if they violated the law. Good luck with that.
Meanwhile, critics are using the VA scandal to indict Obamacare. They believe what is occurring at VA hospitals is a preview of coming destruction should the U.S. government move beyond meddling in health insurance into a full-scale takeover of the entire health care system.
These critics need only look across the Atlantic at the United Kingdom's crumbling National Health Service (NHS) as a glaring example of the dysfunction that results when government runs health care. For years, as is the case with VA hospitals, NHS horror stories have abounded, reported dutifully by the British press. These include neglect of elderly patients, long waiting times (like the VA) to see a doctor and longer waits for necessary surgery, which the government in some cases denies based on cost, age of patient and unusually high numbers of deaths at some hospitals.
The VA could learn from what occurred at Hinchingbrooke hospital in Cambridgeshire, England. As reported by the Daily Mail, as recently as two years ago, Hinchingbrooke had a deficit of $16.8 million a year; it ranked 102nd in the country in admission waiting time; charged $67 to park, with fines for overstaying, and in what sounds like the punch line to a joke, took one week to change a light bulb.
Today, the hospital is due to break even. A surplus is expected next year. Hinchingbrooke has zoomed up in ranking to number 20 in the country in waiting time. Parking now costs $4.21 with fines scrapped. Minor maintenance problems are dealt with in one day.
How was Hinchingbrooke, an NHS hospital, miraculously transformed? It was turned over to a private firm. Once described as a "basket case," the hospital is now ranked number one in patient satisfaction.
A key to its healing, reports The Daily Mail, was "loosening the grip of managers and accountants." A majority of board members, once bean counters and bureaucrats, are now clinicians. "Doctors, nurses and admin(istrative) staff have also been put into small groups which have representatives who meet senior managers twice a month" to discuss problems. Patients are promised any complaints will be resolved within three weeks.
The Hinchingbrooke example should teach the VA something about privatization and what can happen when government tries to run a nation's entire health care system. Veterans who face long waits, or suffer from life-threatening conditions, should receive vouchers so they can be treated at private hospitals. Since, according to the White House, President Obama only "learned about" the VA scandal from TV news reports (though he spoke about them during the 2008 presidential campaign and was critical of President Bush for not fixing them), Congress must take the lead in offering treatment alternatives to veterans. Again, lack of money isn't the problem. Bureaucracy and incompetence are the problems.
Reforming VA hospitals should be a 2016 campaign theme all presidential candidates must address and they must then offer specific solutions. A quasi-government-private approach might work. It couldn't be worse than the current system.
The phrase uttered by President Abraham Lincoln, which is the motto of the Veterans Administration, must always be uppermost in our minds: "To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan."
Sadly, that goal is not being met. It must be. We owe veterans (and those we memorialize next Monday) our freedom. Perhaps what happened at Hinchingbrooke Hospital can guide the VA and veterans to a better future.
The Washington Post's Jenna Johnson reported yet another black mark against Maryland's rollout of ObamaCare. It seems the "board that oversees Maryland's troubled health insurance marketplace repeatedly violated a state law that requires such groups to fully explain their reasons for meeting behind closed doors" according to a ruling issued Tuesday by the Maryland Open Meetings Compliance Board.
Red Alert at the White House! How bad is the VA scandal? Bad enough to make even such as Sam Stein question liberalism. The VA scandal is getting so grievous for the Obama admin and for the liberal project at large that it has led even liberals to reconsider their most cherished ideological beliefs.
On today's Morning Joe, Sam Stein of the Huffington Post wondered "is liberalism, is progressivism, in this instance the right thing" given that the additional money the Obama admin spent on the VA has not yielded results? View the video after the jump.
Facing a respectful if at times skeptical panel as he promoted his just-released book, One Nation, on ABC's The View today, world-renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson described his prescription for fixing health care in America, which revolves around market-oriented changes which empower consumers rather than bureaucrats.
Asked about his presidential aspirations, Carson made clear he doesn't desire to seek office and hoped a solidly conservative candidate would enter the race, but, failing that, "as a patriotic American, I certainly have to think about" running. Carson received a rousing round of applause from the audience after his brief appearance, which you can watch in its totality by clicking play on the video below the page break [h/t The Right Scoop]
At the end of a live radio interview earlier today on WMAL's Mornings on the Mall, Benghazi whistleblower attorney Joe diGenova was asked by co-host Brian Wilson to "help poor Chuck Todd out and maybe give him one question that you think has not been answered?"[listen to the full interview by clicking play on the embed below the page break; the relevant portion begins at 7:15 in]
DiGenova, obliged, rattling off a handful of questions [see transcript below page break] while noting occasions where administration officials lied, including in the Obama/Clinton State Department's Accountability Review Board (ARB), which, you may recall, failed to interrogate Mrs. Clinton. What's more, the former federal prosecutor promised the WMAL audience:
What at times is worse than the Jurassic Press not covering something? The Jurassic Press covering something.
The all-encompassing government-Internet-power-grab that is Network Neutrality rarely gets outside-the-Tech-World media attention. But Thursday the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted in Democrat Party-line fashion to begin its process of imposing it. This was a big enough deal that it garnered over-the-weekend Big Media coverage from ABC (with a Bloomberg assist) and PBS (with a Washington Post assist).
What will it take for ABC, CBS, and NBC to cover the IRS targeting scandal, which is no doubt bigger than Watergate? Time after time after time, we’ve seen major developments in this story go completely unreported, or, at best, given a few token seconds. The liberal media are downright allergic to the truth about the IRS scandal.
This administration has lied countless times to the media’s face, and they just continue to sit there and take it. They’re so lovesick with everything Obama that they can’t bring themselves to do their jobs and report the news. It’d be pitiful if it weren’t so dangerous for the country.
"Faith first, government second for GOP candidate," blares a teaser headline on MSNBC.com. They say that like it's a bad thing.
Of course, to MSNBC it is, when religious freedom objections stand opposed to ObamaCare, so MSNBC.com writer Morgan Whitaker sought to explain to Lean Forward partisans all the ways that Ben Sasse is supposedly a danger to civil society, including a ludicrous suggestion that his views could allow for establishment of Sharia law (excerpt below; emphasis mine):
The Obama administration continues to suppress documents that could finally explain why U.S. officials lied to the world that the September 2012 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, occurred as a protest over an American-made anti-Muslim video. And the families and friends of the four brave Americans murdered there continue to suffer without answers, reasons or justice. Is there not a shred of heart left in Washington?
USA Today explained this past week how the watchdog group Judicial Watch blew the whistle on the White House's withholding of documents and obtained a letter from the U.S. Department of Justice under the Freedom of Information Act. In it, the Justice Department tries to justify its withholding of further Benghazi documents.
First, let’s get this straight: By very definition, Hillary Clinton actually did suffer a "traumatic brain injury" in 2012. She fell; she hit her head; she suffered a concussion; and she developed a blood clot which hospitalized her. A concussion is precisely a “traumatic brain injury,” according to official medical definition.
Thus, when Karl Rove indelicately -- and perhaps not wisely for political purposes -- raised a point the other day about Hillary Clinton’s health, based on the "traumatic brain injury" she suffered in 2012, he was technically on solid ground. What wasn’t so solid was the over-reaction by media outlets to Rove’s rather unchivalrous suggestion. To see the difference between the “pile on Rove” mentality and actual, balanced coverage, consider how CNN rushed to paint Rove as evil, compared to how Washington Post blogger Chris Cillizza put the issue in broader perspective.