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Political commentary from Andrew Malcolm

Category: Security

Weekly remarks: GOP's Hutchison decries domestic energy delays; Obama says school reforms can't wait

Capitol Hill as Budget Deal is announced 4-8-11

Weekly remarks by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, as provided by the Republican Party leadership

Hi, I’m United States Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison from Texas.

With energy prices soaring nationwide, many American families are struggling to put gas in their cars and trucks. We are seeing the price of food and other goods rise. An overwhelming majority of Americans say gas prices are causing financial hardship for their families. And more than half say they have had to make major changes to their budgets to compensate.

Unfortunately, rather than work to increase domestic energy production and help bring down gas prices, the Obama administration is seeking to impose more regulations and taxes on oil and gas companies. This is placing our own valuable resources out of reach and stifling job creation -– their proposals will actually increase pain at the pump. 

Earlier this week, Republicans put a modest bill to increase production on the floor, and Democrats couldn’t even support that with gas hovering around $4 a gallon!

Republicans have consistently called for greater access to our domestic sources of energy to spur good American jobs, and to prepare for circumstances we can’t control, like....

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Doomsday May 21 end of the world rapture judgment day; Questions before The End

end of the world may 21st

End of the World May 21? May 21 Judgment Day? The Rapture? Doomsday?

Whatever you call it. Likely very few people believe the world is really going to end Saturday (Pacific time). It simply can't. We just mailed the mortgage check. Planted a tree. Made a college housing deposit.

And what apocalypse arranger would dare interfere with the Real Good Talker's weekend golf game?

Obama has so much yet undone. He's not quite finished demolishing America's longstanding relationship with Israel. There are numerous taxes yet unraised. Several billion dollars left to spend. Still a few Harvard alums who don't work for the federal government.barack Obama awaits a white house signal

And think of all those speeches Obama's still got left in him: "Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, everybody. Thank you. Thank you. Please be seated. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you." Oratorical skills like that don't come along just every milennium.

Looking at the grim week Newt Gingrich just had, however, we are inclined to be careful about dismissing the possibility of earthly life winding down this weekend.

Not to mention Air Force One's missed landing in Hartford. That colossal planet-sized storm currently enveloping Saturn. Forecasters' prediction of 10 behemoth hurricanes this year. The Lakers' playoff plop. Saturday's Iceland volcano eruption.

Maybe Rev. Huckabee knew something about this weekend when he announced against a presidential run last weekend.

You'll notice too, that just to be on the safe side, Tim Pawlenty scheduled his presidential campaign announcement for Monday -- as you'd expect from a stingy Republican.

That way if everything does end here in the next few hours, he won't have to pay for all the signs, risers and audio equipment, which will be vaporized along with the NFL season, which is dying anyway.

Doomsday will also leave some important questions unanswered:

Would Sarah Palin have really tried to run this time? What new way can Joe Biden screw up verbally? What is Steadman's commitment problem anyway? Do frequent flyer miles carry over to the hereafter? Do they have Daylight Time there or is Hell like Arizona -- because I already changed my watch?

Who gets the last Tweet? Will Facebook add another Relationship choice: Called Up? (Sent Down?)

What were the creative guys thinking (or smoking) when they settled on selling that erectile dysfunction drug with a man and a woman in separate bathtubs on the front lawn? (And what do you suppose future archaeologists will think about 21st century human sacrifices when they dig up that petrified scene?)

Of course, everyone being summoned somewhere wouldn't be all bad:

A permanent recess for those congressional clowns. Bedbugs and Bill Maher would probably survive somehow. But at least no more Charlie Sheen and Joy Behar. Traffic might be more manageable, in a Mad Max kind of way. And, finally, a permanent end to venti price hikes at Starbucks.

See you Monday. Maybe.

(UPDATE: Saturday 6:02 p.m. Pacific: Well, so far so good. We're still here and no reported probl.....

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Pete Souza / White House

What they're saying about Obama's Mideast speech, mainly on Israel and Palestine

Full text of President Obama's latest Middle East speech is available here.

Now, for some reactions:

Office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:

Prime Minister Netanyahu expects to hear a reaffirmation from President Obama of U.S. commitments made to Israel in 2004, which were overwhelmingly supported by both Houses of Congress.
Among other things, those commitments relate to Israel not having to withdraw to the 1967 lines which are both indefensible and which would leave major Israeli population centers in Judea and Samaria beyond those lines.

Those commitments also ensure Israel’s well-being as a Jewish state by making clear that Palestinian refugees will settle in a future Palestinian state rather than in Israel. Without a solution to the Palestinian refugee problem outside the borders of Israel, no territorial concession will bring peace.

Simon Wiesenthal Center, Rabbis Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper:

We welcome the president's recognition of Israel's security needs and that Hamas cannot be a partner in the peace process, but a call to a return to 1967 borders as the basis for negotiations, even with "land swaps," is a non-starter, when at least half of the Palestinian rulers are committed to Israel's destruction. The road to peace has been clear for a long time -- direct negotiations between parties who recognize each other's legitimacy.

Republican former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney:

President Obama has thrown Israel under the bus. He has disrespected Israel and undermined its ability to negotiate peace. He has also violated a first principle of American foreign policy, which is to stand firm by our friends.

George Will:

Obama should have said nothing about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, his prior statements (about Israel housing construction, and a deadline for a peace settlement) having made matters worse. Obama's idea -- Israel's, too -- is "two states for two people." Now, there is nothing more to be said until a Palestinian leader also says that.

Edward Walker of Hamilton College and former ambassador to Israel and Egypt for President Clinton:

The president's speech on the Middle East was clear about where he wants to go and not so clear on how to get there.

Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio of the Foreign Relations Committee:

I’m pleased the president used his unique platform to address America and the Middle East during this critical moment in history.  We need to back up our words with actions and policies. Our actions should leave no doubt that America is on the side of those who strive for freedom....

Unfortunately, the president’s reference to Israel’s 1967 borders marks a step back in the peace process, as the U.S. must not pre-determine the outcome of direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. Our focus should be in encouraging direct and meaningful negotiations between the sides, and to continue playing an important role as a security guarantor in the region.

Republican former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty:

President Obama’s insistence on a return to the 1967 borders is a mistaken and very dangerous demand. The city of Jerusalem must never be re-divided.

To send a signal to the Palestinians that America will increase its demands on our ally Israel, on the heels of the Palestinian Authority’s agreement with the Hamas terrorist organization, is a disaster waiting to happen.  At this time of upheaval in the Middle East, it's never been more important for America to stand strong for Israel and for a united Jerusalem.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:

President Obama was very clear. And what we want is to continue to support the voices of democracy. Those who are standing against the brutality.  But we're also well aware every situation is different. 

And in this one, (Syrian President Bashar Al) Assad has said a lot of things that you didn't hear from other leaders in the region, about the kind of changes he would like to see. That may all be out the window, or he may have one last chance.

Republican Jewish Coalition:

....It is, in fact, President Obama’s insistence on a settlement freeze as a pre-condition to negotiations, more than anything else, that doomed his administration’s peace-making efforts. That stand emboldened Palestinian extremists, damaged the PA’s ability to negotiate, and forced Israelis to question the sincerity of the administration’s friendship.

With that immediate history in mind, we are concerned that when President Obama speaks of “the 1967 borders,” he means borders for Israel that are much less secure and defensible and that put Israel at risk.

Leave your own reaction to the president's remarks in our Comments section below.

More reactions will be added here as they become available.

Obama speech text: Middle East has 'a choice between hate and hope'

ObamaIsraelSpch5-19-11GazaTVSetAPAdel Hana

President Obama's speech on Middle East and North Africa, as provided by the White House

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you very much.  Thank you.  Please, have a seat.  Thank you very much.  I want to begin by thanking Hillary Clinton, who has traveled so much these last six months that she is approaching a new landmark -- one million frequent flyer miles.  (Laughter.)  I count on Hillary every single day, and I believe that she will go down as one of the finest Secretaries of State in our nation’s history.

The State Department is a fitting venue to mark a new chapter in American diplomacy.  For six months, we have witnessed an extraordinary change taking place in the Middle East and North Africa.  Square by square, town by town, country by country, the people have risen up to demand their basic human rights.  Two leaders have stepped aside.  More may follow.  And though these countries may be a great distance from our shores, we know that our own future is bound to this region by the forces of economics and security, by history and by faith.
 
Today, I want to talk about this change -- the forces that are driving it and how we can respond in a way that advances our values and strengthens our security.

Now, already, we’ve done much to shift our foreign policy following a decade defined by....

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A three-speech day for President Obama, starting with the Coast Guard Academy graduation

Coast Guard Academy graduation 5-18-11

Every year a president traditionally gives the commencement address at one of the nation's five service academies.

This year was the Coast Guard Academy's turn in New London, Conn. The president spoke (full text below) to the 229 graduating cadets, families and faculty for 19 minutes enroute to two more speeches today, at a pair of political fundraisers in Boston.

President Obama's Graduation Remarks at the Coast Guard Academy, as provided by the White House

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Please be seated.  Well, good afternoon, everyone.  Distinguished guests, Governor Malloy and Congressman Courtney, families, friends, and most of all -- well, let’s try it this way. Cadets, what class is this?

CADETS:  Class of 2011!  (Applause.) 

THE PRESIDENT:  I just wanted to make sure. 

It is a great honor to be with you as we commission the newest ensigns in the United States Coast Guard.  And, cadets, let me say -- and I know your families will agree   -- you all look fantastic.  (Laughter.) 

Thank you, Secretary Napolitano, for your introduction, but more importantly, your outstanding leadership in keeping our homeland secure and -- along with Admiral Papp -- keeping our Coast Guard strong.

And to Admiral Burhoe and Academy faculty and staff, thank you for building these....

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Why do one-in-five American voters now believe Osama bin Laden is still alive?

Osama bin laden supporters in Pakistan protest his reported death 5-6-11

Here we go again.

It's been only two weeks since President Obama reported on national television that an American commando team in four military helicopters had killed Osama bin Laden in his Pakistan bedroom. Within literally minutes, word of the terrorist's death by gunshot prompted seemingly spontaneous street celebrations outside the White House and elsewhere.

Now comes word from noted pollster John Zogby that while an overwhelming majority buys the administration's account, a surprising almost one-in-five likely American voters believes the Al Qaeda founder is not dead at all, nor buried at sea, as Obama officials have stated.

How could this possibly be?

That's more than twice the accepted estimate of silly folks who think Elvis is 76 now, watching his old movies and collecting Social Security in a secret somewhere.

How could so many presumably normal citizens (19%, according to Zogby) be so ignorant as to....

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Sunday shows: Haley, Gingrich, Holder, Huckabee

South Carolina Republican Governor Nikki Haley

ABC's "This Week" with Christiane Amanpour: Gov. Nikki Haley (R-S.C.), with Sheila Bair, Roger Altman, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, Richard Haas, Robert Kagan, George Will, Amy Roberts and Cokie Roberts.

Bloomberg's "Political Capital with Al Hunt:" Obama Atty. Gen. Eric Holder.

CBS' "Face the Nation" with Bob Schieffer: House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) with excerpts from Wednesday's taped town hall with President Obama.

CNN Fareed Zakaria "GPS": Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Kishore Mahbubani, Joshua Cooper Ramo, Eric Schmidt and Anne-Marie Slaughter.

CNN's "State of the Union" with Candy Crowley: Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), Michael Gerson, Joe Lockhart, Admiral Dennis Blair and John Negroponte.

Fox News Channel "Fox News Sunday" with Chris Wallace: Former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-Ark.), Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), Sens. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), with Brit Hume, Nina Easton, Mort Zuckerman and Kimberley Strassel.

NBC's "Meet the Press" with David Gregory: Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), with Peggy Noonan, Matt Bai, Helene Cooper and Mark Halperin.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Associated Press (Haley).

Obama White House celebrates 50 years of the Situation Room being there

White House Situation Room president johnson 1967

Statement by the Press Secretary on 50th Anniversary of the White House Situation Room, as provided by Jay Carney

To mark the 50th anniversary of the opening of the White House Situation Room, today the President delivered remarks to the Situation Room staff to thank them for their around-the-clock work to keep the President informed and the country safe.

“We could not meet the national security challenges that we face without the capabilities of this room and the people who work here,” the President said. Situation Room 2011

“It’s the President’s eyes and ears. Providing the latest information and alerts, it’s the nerve center for the U.S. government, the place where we come together to make policy and respond to crises from wars abroad to floods at home.”

The President also presided over a ceremony to name a secure conference room after the father of the Situation Room, President John F. Kennedy.

In attendance at the ceremony were:

President Obama, Caroline Kennedy, John "Jack" Schlossberg, National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism John Brennan, Former National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger, Former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft, Former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, Former National Security Advisor Richard Allen, Former National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane, Former National Security Advisor John Poindexter, Former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger, Former National Security Advisor James Jones, Former Homeland Security Advisor Fran Townsend and Former Homeland Security Advisor Kenneth Wainstein.     ####

 

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Photos: Yoichi Okamoto / Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library (Johnson meets in the Situation Room during a 1967 crisis); Pete Souza / White House (Osama bin Laden raid, 2011).

Americans question 3 Osama bin Laden widows, but they are reported openly hostile for some reason

Osama bin laden housing Compound in Pakistan 5-3-11

A surprising bit of news out of Pakistan this morning:

After repeated pleas to Pakistani counterparts, American intelligence officials were given access to three of Osama bin Laden's widows.

That's potentially helpful presumably. But that's not the surprising part. The surprising part is that these three new widows were openly hostile to interrogators representing the government that had made hunting down their husband a top military and political priority for almost a decade since the 9/11 attacks.

The trio of females with a range of assorted children were living together in the million-dollar Bin Laden housing compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

Early in the morning of May 2 four helicopters appeared over their house. One crashed into the compound. Several dozen heavily armed men burst into the buildings, participated in a firefight, shot three men dead including a son and their husband, wounded one of the wives in the leg and removed considerable property, including their dead terrorist spouse's body.

Why would anyone be hostile after such a successful raid in which no Americans were reported injured?

CNN is reporting that American intelligence officers were finally permitted to question the three women Thursday. But only in the presence of Pakistani intelligence officials and only with the three women together.

Standard interrogation procedures would involve questioning the women separately to acquire, compare and contrast details of their stories and play them off against each other. The presence of Pakistani intelligence operatives would likely inhibit the spilling of any details on how they might have been protecting the world's most wanted man living near the country's main military academy.

Bin Laden actually had at least 20 children with his five wives, but he was separated from two of the spouses. One of Bin Laden's sons was killed in the SEAL raid. Bin Laden himself came from an extended family of 53 siblings from 23 women married to his father.

The Americans apparently hope to renew their questioning at another time.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Pho0to: AFP / Getty Images (The Bin Laden housing compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan).

Americans so happy over killing Osama Bin Laden they're even giving Congress credit

SEALTeamHangsoffChopperFileUSNAVYAFPGty

Finally, a new Gallup Poll reveals this morning, the American public has settled on who should get a chunk of the credit for that daring, deadly raid on Osama bin Laden's housing compound over there in Pakistan:

Members of Congress.

No, really. Those brave folks who make only $174,000 a year and take vacations back home for every conceivable holiday, are basking in a newfound approval among Americans.

Gallup reports today that following the assassination of Bin Laden, the approval of that congressional crowd jumped by almost half from 17% to 24%. Amazing the effect a little righteous killing can have on the American mind.

Yes, yes, that's still only one-in-four approval.

But it's way better than they'd been viewed for a long time. In fact, 24% is one point higher than Congress' approval rating has been since the beginning of 2010.Osama bin Laden

Gallup calls this congressional approval bump the halo effect, as Americans feel generally better about many things and people, having been told they brought the Al Qaeda founder to final justice for what he orchestrated on 9/11 and in other deadly attacks around the world. And even without a bloody death photo to cherish.

No one ever said these bumps have to make sense. President Roosevelt got an approval bump after the Pearl Harbor disaster and Congress got a 42-point bump just for being around on 9/11 and singing on the Capitol steps.

Americans have been in such a good mood this month they even gave a nine-point bounce to Obama, who watched the raid on TV in the White House basement.

Obama aides dismissed considerable confusion over varying raid details and accounts and said their boss showed amazing "gutsiness" before and during the operation, as we detailed here the next day. Obama has put the terrorist's slaying to good use in a pair of political fundraising speeches that raised $2 million in Texas on Tuesday night.

The SEALs also had a hand in the victorious raid, of course, having been involved in the rappelling, the firefighting, the capturing, the intel-gathering and the tricky extrication. But polling on their unanimous approval is deemed unnecessary.

Related:

Osama bin Laden's son says U.S. broke international law 'if' his father is dead

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: U.S. Navy (SEALs on a battle commute); Al Jazeera (Bin Laden).

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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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