In the USA...
Very few of those who live in American know this fact: It's U.S. Supreme Court made it legal for any media, the corporate media, to lie without consequence so that lies and pure propaganda can be passed off as truth. Sadly, below, is such an example.ABC Faces No Consequences for Passing Republican Propaganda Off as Fact
By: Sarah Jones
May. 17th, 2013
It’s really not that hard to spot a planted story. They have tells.
On the heels of last night’s bombshell courtesy of CBS’s Major Garrett that Republicans are behind the lies/propaganda about the Benghazi emails, you might be expecting an apology from ABC or at the very least, an acknowledgment that they were had. Someone should be investigating the lying leak, right?
Nope. None of that is going to happen, and if you think this is an anomaly, I’m sorry to tell you that actually, there were two stories this week sourced by Republican congressional aides’ interpretation of facts not available to the press. Yes, that’s right. It’s not just Benghazi.
Republicans are in the habit of planting stories in the press, and your “free press” falls for it over and over again. Big kudos to CBS, which was also fed the bogus Benghazi propaganda and turned it down. That’s called journalism.
This past week, I pointed out how the IRS scandal was sourced in a mainstream article as via “Republican congressional aides.” See, the entire narrative that conservatives were targeted and higher ups knew about it and did nothing was based on the interpretation of the briefing by the IRS given to Republicans.
A day later, ABC got outed as having misled the public on purpose by claiming they had actually reviewed the emails, after they got taken by a Republican source who deliberately lied to them about the content of the emails.
This is huge, but it will die with the Friday news dump, and the press will continue on their pseudo serious journey to “expose” the Executive Branch, when in reality, these same folks catered to the Bush White House’s propaganda and now they are catering to Congressional Republicans’ agenda. See the trend? It has nothing to do with the Executive Branch or the Legislative Branch, and everything to do with siding with the money/corporate overlords/and the scandal makers who know how to dress a story up with a Hollywoodesque marketing campaign.
An anonymous source makes sense in some cases, but when that narrative plays into a partisan agenda and it’s an “aide” instead of an actual elected official, caution is advised. Aides can be thrown under the bus. They exist to protect their celebucritter. True, sometimes an aide will leak things or say something the official can’t say.
I’m a liberal, but there’s no way I would take a Democratic congressional aide’s interpretation of documents I am not allowed to see for myself and source. There is no “exclusive” worth that risk, and it is inaccurate to call that an “exclusive”. It’s a fictional story being used to generate hits.
To deliberately choose to run an unvetted accusation as a fact and deliberately mislead your audience as to the source is unforgivable. That is not a mistake. That should be a career ender for whoever’s name is on that story.
People must learn to read articles with an eye for the source. No, you can’t honestly dismiss a source because it’s partisan. But they should disclose their bias to you, and their facts should be transparent and checkable.
If it’s a breaking story with a huge bombshell, they better have a source better than the interpretation of Republican congressional aides. Yes, everyone makes mistakes; it’s impossible not to when you’re covering news. New information corrects previous information, things shift, etc. These things should be transparent to the reader. ABC should apologize for passing Republican propaganda along as fact.
It should inform caution when two “scandals” in the past week were both sourced to Republicans leaking their “info” to the press. We should be investigating these Republicans and we should be holding the press accountable.
ABC should apologize, and the reporter should be fired. If you were going to bet your integrity on someone else’s interpretation of the facts that they won’t give to you to view with your own eyes, you’d better be damn sure they don’t have an agenda. You’d better be damn sure you trust their ability to be accurate.
Even then, who does that?
Ever play telephone? One go around with telephone should inform an average person that we all bring bias, emotion, history, triggers, and more to our interpretation of what is actually said. A reasonable person does not base a story on emails they have never seen, while claiming to have read them. They do not believe a partisan source with an agenda so much that they will take their word for what the emails said. This is absolutely outrageous, but nothing will happen to the press for it because the people tolerate it.
If you want a free press that vets its sources and is honest with you about who they are and what they have actually seen with their own eyes, outrage at being lied to on purpose must be voiced.
For a political writer, every source has an agenda. They give you a story because they have an agenda — no matter who they are. You have to vet that story. Agenda doesn’t mean they are lying. Sometimes the agenda is exposing the truth. But an agenda is always at play.
A sad, sick, example of the utter corruption of the U.S.A corporate media and the purposeful propaganda they create to further their own self interests ....
May 17, 2013 08:41 PMMaddow: Fair Game to Disclose Names of Republicans Who Lied to ABC News
After taking her viewers through the whole, long, ugly mess with ABC's big "scoop" on the Benghazi emails and the how the story pretty much fizzled out by the end of the week with the discovery that Republicans were responsible for doctoring the supposed quotes from the emails that they published, Rachel Maddow gave her two cents on ABC still protecting the sources who lied to them.
MADDOW: And now, part of the scandal here is a press scandal. You know what? When you get used like this and you end up publishing false information, false quotes, you have to correct it. But the bigger scandal here is not a process matter, not a press matter. There's a very stark fact that somebody in Congress right now, or somebody working for somebody in Congress right now, a staffer, concocted a big lie to try to make the White House look very desperately bad on this Benghazi scandal that they otherwise have not been able to get traction on.
Who told the lie? And a note to my journalist pals who got involved in this scandal. If your source lied to you, they are not actually a source. They are a con artist and you are their victim. It means you don't have to protect them any more. They're not a source.
When you get lied to, when you are a tool of somebody else's deception, when you get lied to, the person lying to you is no longer a source, they are news. Their lie to you is itself news and you can report that news. Republican Congressional offices shopped a false dossier as if it was a White House email. That is a story. The office and the staffers and the members of Congress maybe who did that... that is news. And if you know who it is, you can say so.
Boy do I wish they'd take her advice, but again, I'm not holding my breath.
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*****************Benghazi Backfires on Republicans as Democrats Eviscerate Issa and the GOP
By: Jason Easley
May. 17th, 2013
The GOP’s Benghazi house of cards has collapsed, and now Democrats are eviscerating Darrell Issa and his fellow Republicans for overreaching and politicizing a tragedy.
Rep. Elijah E. Cummings the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform blasted Rep. Darrell Issa for going back on his word to hold a public hearing with the Accountability Review Board that examined the security situation in Benghazi.
Today’s subpoena is a stark example of extreme Republican overreach and the shameful politicization of this tragedy. Chairman Issa’s accusations keep getting shot down one by one, but he simply resorts to even more extreme measures. After falsely accusing former Secretary Clinton of lying to Congress, falsely accusing the White House of deliberately misleading the American people, and falsely accusing the military of withholding critical assistance on the night of the attacks, the Chairman is now accusing Admiral Mullen, the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Ambassador Pickering, a seven-time U.S. ambassador, of being complicit in a cover-up.
Both Admiral Mullen and Ambassador Pickering have made clear that they stand ready and willing to testify at a public hearing to respond directly to these reckless accusations, but Chairman Issa is now imposing new conditions to keep them behind closed doors. The Chairman should reverse his decision, conduct a responsible and bipartisan investigation, and allow the American people to hear directly from these officials.
As the ranking member on the committee, Rep. Cummings is leading the Democratic pushback against Rep. Issa, Sen. Lindsey Graham, and other Republicans who have politicized Benghazi. There is no cover-up, but Republicans keep moving the goalposts in their never ending quest to find the scandal that never was.
A backlash is growing against these relentless Republican attempts to drum up an Obama scandal. While Darrell Issa chases conspiracy theories while the walls are crumbling around the Republican Party. Republicans have politicized a tragedy to the point where it has become an insult to the victims, and for that there will be a price to pay.
Gallup recently concluded that the number of Americans who are paying attention to the Benghazi and IRS stories is well below average. The Republican habit of looking for a scandal in everything President Obama does has resulted in most Americans tuning out their cries of wolf.
Instead of being the scandal that would bring down Obama, Benghazi is turning into another reason for many Americans to not trust, or vote Republican.
That’s what’s called a Benghazi backfire.
************House Republican Hypocrites Rage About The IRS While Demanding An Audit of the AARP
May. 17th, 2013
It has been a week since revelations the Internal Revenue Service questioned the legitimacy of political activists’ applications for tax exemption as “social welfare” organizations started the phony scandal of whether or not the scrutiny was part of an Obama Administration plot carried out by IRS criminals singling out beleaguered conservatives for vicious persecution. Republicans are playing up another phony scandal out of sheer spite and part of their four-year campaign to discredit the President, but as is always the case with Republicans, they are projecting on the President what they themselves are guilty of. Corporate media is remiss to remind Americans that Republicans targeted the voter registration organization ACORN for eradication after racist angst, fabricated evidence, and phony allegations drove them to destroy what they perceived as an outfit that served African Americans who supported the President in the 2008 general election. Conservatives deemed their attack was warranted and legitimate, and bristled at suggestions their effort was racially or politically motivated. Now, while Republicans are raging at President Obama and the IRS for what they call politically motivated persecution, they are using the IRS to target an organization for its support of the Affordable Care Act.
Last week, a day before the IRS apologized for scrutinizing conservatives’ applications for “social welfare” tax exemption, House Republicans sent a letter to the IRS Commissioner demanding an audit of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) claiming the organization does not qualify for tax-exempt status and deserves extra scrutiny. Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee want the evil IRS to investigate AARP’s finances, but AARP asserts all of its revenue is put to use supporting it mission of assisting senior citizens. The letter sent to the deposed acting-commissioner said “facts laid out in our report strongly suggest that AARP, Inc., and its affiliates may no longer qualify as a tax-exempt organization.” In light of the Republicans’ repeated attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act they failed to thwart in 2010, it is more likely they are meting out punishment on AARP for throwing its considerable weight behind the healthcare reform law, and the hypocrisy in using their new arch-enemy the IRS to do their bidding in revoking AARP’s tax-exempt status is stunning, but not unusual.
The IRS must be reeling from the ambiguous signals emanating from Republicans who are, on one hand, pressuring the agency to scrutinize AARP’s tax exempt status for its support of the healthcare reform law, and questioning whether or not there are “political implications of access to healthcare, denial of healthcare” in light of the phony IRS scandal Republicans are raging over. According to Michele Bachmann, the “extremely troubling” IRS scandal is proof her opposition to the Affordable Care Act is warranted because “knowing it’s the IRS who will be the enforcing mechanism for this new entitlement program of Obamacare, it is very important to ask could there be potential political implications of access to healthcare, denial of healthcare,” and “will that happen based upon a person’s political beliefs, or their religiously held beliefs?”
The prescient question Republicans need to answer is could there be potential political implications in their demand for the IRS to scrutinize AARP’s tax exempt status based on their support of the Affordable Care Act because as Bachmann says, “this question is more than reasonable, and more than fair for the American people.” Bachmann was addressing teabaggers from around the nation and joined by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul who impugned the “extremely troubling” IRS they expect to scrutinize AARP in a purely partisan political act of retribution. The mixed messages aside, Republican hypocrisy is the story Americans will never hear from the conservative media.
The notion that the phony IRS scandal is political partisanship on the part of the Obama Administration as claimed by every Republican on the planet fails to admit, and media is loath to report, is that the IRS commissioner who sanctioned the appropriate scrutiny was a Bush appointee. The previous director of the Exempt Organizations Division also said it was appropriate for the IRS to look closely at conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status during the 2010 and 2012 election cycles. Marcus Owens said, “I think that it would be unreasonable to expect the IRS to simply approve these 501(c)(4) applications from politically active organizations as if they were Scout troops or Little Leagues; there should be special evaluation.” Republicans disagree because the special evaluations were aimed a conservative groups, and yet they have no qualms demanding the IRS investigate AARP with a view toward revoking their tax exempt status based on their support of the ACA.
Republicans cannot have it both ways, and yet that is precisely what they propose. They had no issue with the senior advocacy nonprofit until they supported healthcare reform, and their demand the group be investigated and no longer qualifies as a tax-exempt organization is politically motivated in the same vein as their assault on ACORN was and they know it. George W. Bush’s appointee oversaw the conservative groups’ scrutiny, and the IRS performed its job with due diligence without political motivation, and the previous director agreed giving extra attention to politically active organizations was well-warranted as part of the IRS’s job and not politically motivated.
However, Republicans assailing AARP is politically motivated because it supported healthcare reform, and it is not the first time Republicans encouraged IRS scrutiny of non-conservative groups. During Bush’s administration, Republicans pushed the IRS to target an anti-war religious group, the NAACP, environmental advocate Greenpeace, and a progressive nonprofit Emerge America. Those IRS investigations were politically motivated, Republican attacks on the IRS now are politically motivated, and the media is complicit in covering up the other real scandal; Republicans are politically motivated hypocrites.
***********The IRS did Nothing to Deserve Criticism From Republicans
By: Dennis S
May. 17th, 2013
I’ve just got to take one more spin around the contrived IRS “scandal” track.
The Tea Party and its radical “Patriot” offspring are political organizations. They’re gaming the system by avoiding taxes by claiming alleged no-profit status. If I had any reservations about the IRS, it would be the question of how dense do you have to be as an investigative agency not to pick up on that irrefutable fact?
I will help out the easy-to-fool bureaucrats with some real life facts and figures, but first an observation. Maybe, just maybe, the IRS is heavy with Tea Party sympathizers. The IRS’ newly-resigned Interim Commissioner, Steven T. Miller, was once Deputy Commissioner for Services and enforcement under G.W. Bush. One of the entities he oversaw was the IRS Tax Exempt and Government Agencies Division tasked with looking into non-profit organizations. Maybe this is all a scam to make it look like the Tea Party and Patriot organizations were being intentionally targeted and gee, golly whiz, they’re just as honest as they can be. Why, we didn’t find anything suspicious. Maybe this phony patina of “the letter of the IRS law” behavior will spare any future snooping into the radical right’s non-profit business. There’s my paranoia. By the way, Daniel Werfel, the new acting IRS head, comes from the White House Budget office and has also worked for Republicans. Let us continue.
A lot has been made of the IRS wanting to know who Tea Party donors and money supporters were while processing applications. This is apparently outside the bounds of the IRS right to know. It’s not outside my bounds and it’s no secret. The Koch brothers fund the political Pied-a-Terre for the Tea Party with substantial fiscal input from FreedomWorks. Jane Mayer let that cat out of the back way back in the August 30, 2010 issue of The New Yorker Magazine.
Mayer credits David and Charles Koch and other conservative foundations with greasing the tea party propaganda skids with multiple-millions of dollars. Organization and implementation money mostly came from FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity (AFP). David Koch and Koch Industries board member, David Fink, founded the latter.
Here are the requirements for retaining tax-exempt non-profit status as a 501 (c) (3) taken from Title 26: Internal Revenue Code, Part 1, Income taxes…
(3) Authorization of legislative or political activities. An organization is not organized exclusively for one or more exempt purposes if its articles expressly empower it:
(i) To devote more than an insubstantial part of its activities to attempting to influence legislation by propaganda or otherwise; or
(ii) Directly or indirectly to participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office.
The easy conclusion is that the groups under scrutiny simply don’t meet those requirements.
Digging deeper into this tea party, Republican, political propaganda abyss, let’s take a peek at a recent South Carolina Tea Party convention speaker lineup. At the podium was the most right-wing Senator in all the land, Jim DeMint, just before leaving the Senate and assuming the leadership of the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation. Also making his way to the dais, Representative, Tim Scott, damn near as right-wing as DeMint and soon to assume his Senate seat. It’s Scott’s vacated seat that Mark Sanford recently won. This moral and ethical misfit was greeting by fellow House Republicans as a conquering hero.
Meanwhile back at the convention, Dick Armey, who at that time was still in the good graces of FreedomWorks, spread some of his predictable BS. Shortly thereafter Armey left his consultancy with the organization as FreedomWorks guaranteed him $400,000 a year until he was 92 (potentially $8 million if he were to live that long), to prevent a threatened Armey lawsuit; something about Matt Kibbe, another “FreedomWorker.” Kibbe was being groomed to be the new face of the organization. Armey accused Kibbe of pocketing book royalties that should have gone to FreedomWorks. The media hinted there was a gun involved. Yikes!
The State Republican Party Chairman said a few words, as ironically did Kibbe. There were a total of 4 FreedomWorks speakers over the two-day confab. The Tea Party Patriots founder spoke the first day. Tea Party state convention delegates also heard from the Republican governor, the Attorney General, Treasurer and the State’s Education Superintendent. There were also several “experts” on assorted issues (“Free Market Warrior”, Sharia Law, the fair tax) all slanted waaaay to the right. Appropriately, Michele wound things up.
According to the Southern Pverty Law Center, there were about 149 “patriotic” groups in 2008. Then a black man up and got himself elected president. The 2010 number of racists ‘er patriot groups skyrocketed to 1,274. Don’t know the latest numbers, but Obama is still in office so I’m betting they’re higher yet. As for tea party organizations, they number about 600-700 at latest count. Combined, you’ve got about 2,000 of these right-wing propaganda centers.
In light of what you’ve just read, please recall the core imperative for claiming a tax-exemption. No, it’s not the fact the 501 (c) (3) is engaging in political activity. It’s the imperative that “politics cannot be the primary mission.” For (c) (4′s) the requirements are a little more stringetn. So, if you’re nothing but a right-wing political mouthpiece; if that’s all you do all day, every day, the IRS is going to deny your application as a non-profit. Even if the Kochs stuff your pockets with money and Glenn Beck sings your praises. That’s why you’ve drawn special attention and asked to provide more info. Yes, you’re being rightfully “targeting” by the IRS.
In addition to “targeting”, the IRS was also accused of causing long delays because of their questions and record-producing demands of the applicants. Isn’t it just possible that the tea party or patriot organizations themselves took the extra time, hiding, changing and camouflaging certain requested information and stretching out the process themselves for PR purposes? Yes, it’s very possible!
Even though not a single application has been denied to this point, the tea party and patriot organizations have been taken down a peg. They thought their ‘Koch and friends’ Money Monkeys had insulated them against irritants like abiding by IRS regulations. Interesting the pressure would come from Cincinnati, not exactly the epicenter of progressive thought.
Consider your bluff called T’publicans. When all’s said and done and you continue to flaunt the rules, you’d better keep looking over your shoulders. The latest polls show the public is not much invested in your latest nonsense.
**************Outgoing IRS chief deflects Republican attempts to link scandal to White House
Steven Miller issues public apology at House hearing in which he blamed tax-targeting scandal on procedure, not politics
Ewen MacAskill in Washington
guardian.co.uk, Friday 17 May 2013 18.31 BST
Republican attempts to turn the row over the IRS into a scandal engulfing the White House fizzled on Friday when the ousted head of the agency delivered a public apology at a congressional heading into the affair.
Steven Miller, who was fired on Wednesday, portrayed the tougher scrutiny meted out to conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status as the result of overworked employees struggling to cope with a flood of applications, rather than a partisan effort.
In a three-hour hearing at the House ways and means committee, Morris conceded that "foolish" mistakes were made by people trying to be more "efficient".
Despite repeated attempts, Republicans on the committee failed to establish a link between the IRS scandal and either the White House or the 2012 Obama re-election campaign. No new major details about the scandal emerged, offering the White House breathing space going into the weekend after one of the most frenzied weeks since Obama took office in 2009.
At the opening of the hearing, the Republican chairman David Camp accused Barack Obama of hiding the scandal in the run-up to last year's presidential election. "Listening to the nightly news, this appears to be just the latest example of a culture of cover-ups – and political intimidation – in this administration," Camp said. " It seems like the truth is hidden from the American people just long enough to make it through an election."
His comment immediately alienated Democrats on the committee, leaving it divided, with Democrats defending the Obama administration. With the committee split, it lost much of its momentum.
The White House was helped by the testimony of Miller, whom it had sacrificed this week. Miller, who received a hostile reception from the Republicans throughout the hearing and who was repeatedly accused of lying, started with an apology. "I want to apologise on behalf of the Internal Revenue Services for the mistakes that were made," he said.
He portrayed the affair as the result of incompetence by overworked staff at an office in Cincinnati, Ohio, rather than a politically motivated conspiracy. "I do not believe partisanship motivated the people involved in the practices described … I think what happened here was that foolish mistakes were made by people trying to be more efficient in their workload selections," he said.
Miller described what had happened as intolerable but said it had been "a mistake, not an act of partisanship". Further playing down the scandal, he described it as "horrible customer service" and insisted that nothing illegal had happened.
The Republican attacks failed to hit home partly because Miller came across as an old-fashioned public servant caught up in a mess for which he had not personally been responsible.
Camp was among Republicans who accused Miller of lying. "Despite a two-year-long investigation by this committee, the IRS never told the American people or their representatives about this simple truth. That is not being misleading. That is lying," Camp said.
Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney's vice-presidential running mate, was one of the Republicans who pushed Miller the hardest and echoed Camp's point.
Miller denied he had misled them, saying he had been replying at an earlier committee hearing to another point. "I answered the question truthfully," Miller said. "I answered them as they were asked."
Asked by Ryan why then had he resigned, Miller said that, as head of the agency, he took responsibility for the mistake even though he had not been personally involved in this particular episode, an answer that won him the sympathy of some committee members.
Earlier, Miller described the treatment of conservative groups by the IRS as obnoxious but said the IRS had received 70,000 applications for tax-exempt status and only 150 people to deal with them. He suggested appointing more staff.
The Republicans' failure to achieve the political coup they were seeking was down in part to their decision from the outset to make it a partisan issue, alienating Democrats. The Democrats castigated the Republicans for trying to blame Obama and pointing out that some of the key appointees had been made by the Bush administration.
Camp, opening the hearing, said: "Trimming a few branches will not solve the problem when the roots of the tree have gone rotten. And that is exactly what has happened with our entire tax system – it is rotten at the core, and it must be ripped out so we can start fresh." He then added his remark about the alleged culture of cover-up by the Obama administration.
The ranking Democrat on the committee, Sandy Levin, following Camp, rounded on him. "We must seek the truth, not political gain," he said, taking issue with him for suggesting that there were a culture of cover-up.
Republicans turning it into a political issue, as part of the warm-up for the 2014 election would be making a "very, very serious mistake," Levin said, who departed from prepared remarks to deliver the rebuke.
************Republican law would punish Ohio colleges for helping students vote
By David Ferguson
Friday, May 17, 2013 12:58 EDT
Republicans in the Ohio state legislature are promoting an amendment to a state budget bill that would punish public universities that provide students with the necessary materials to register to vote. According to Talking Points Memo, the legislators say that they are trying to resolve discrepancies between residency requirements for in-state tuition and voter registration. Democrats accuse the Republicans of attempting to disenfranchise another traditionally Democratic constituency in an important swing state.
“What the bill would do is penalize public universities for providing their students with the documents they need to vote,” said Ohio University professor and election law expert Daniel Tokaji to TPM. “It’s a transparent effort at vote suppression — about the most blatant and shameful we’ve seen in this state, which is saying quite a lot.”
To vote in Ohio elections, a person must be a resident of the state for at least 30 days prior to the election in which they intend to vote. To register to vote, they must present a photo ID, a current utility bill, bank statement, current government check or other government document (besides voter registration acknowledgment) that bears their name and address.
Students living in on-campus housing may not have some of the above items, so universities in Ohio typically supply necessary documents to students wishing to register to vote.
However, for students to qualify for in-state tuition at public universities in the state, they must have attended an Ohio school or have a parent or spouse who lives in the state prior to enrollment.
Republicans say this is a double standard, and the new law would force colleges and universities to charge in-state tuition to students it helps to vote.
“The amendment has the purpose of getting a discussion going on sort of the mismatch that exists in Ohio, where we have one requirement for when a student becomes in-state for tuition purposes and another requirement for voting,” Republican state Rep. Ron Amstutz told the Cincinnati Enquirer.
Losing out-of-state tuition would cost state colleges and universities an estimated $272 million. The institutions say they intend to continue to distribute the materials, however.
Democratic Ohio Senate Minority Leader Eric Kearney told the Enquirer that Republicans’ real intent is to nullify an important constituency which helped President Barack Obama carry Ohio in the 2008 election against former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA).
“They’re somehow trying to thwart the strategy that worked to elect President Obama,” he told the newspaper.
Tokaji warned that the strategy could backfire.
“The way that they’ve written this bill makes it clear that its only purpose is to suppress student voting,” he told TPM. “What I’d say to the Republican Party is this is not only a shameful strategy, but it’s a stupid strategy because, you know, the Republican Party already has a signifcant problem with young voters. They’re on the verge of losing a generation of voters. Their path to victory is not to suppress the student vote, but to win the student vote.”
Ohio Republicans and the state’s Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted ran afoul of the Department of Justice in 2012 when they tried to do away with early voting in the November election. Early voting has historically been an important resource for hourly workers and other people who can’t get to the polls on Election Day.
By eliminating voting, Husted and the Republicans hoped to dilute the African-American vote, an intention made explicit when Franklin County, Ohio Republican Party Chairperson Doug Priesse told the Columbus Dispatch, “I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine. Let’s be fair and reasonable.”
May 17, 2013U.S.-Russian Diplomacy, With a Personal Touch
By STEVEN LEE MYERS and DAVID M. HERSZENHORN
WASHINGTON — When Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, clashed over Syria last year with Hillary Rodham Clinton, then the secretary of state, he called her hysterical, the sort of impolitic remark that showed just how sour their relationship had become.
The hardened positions of Russia and the United States over Syria and other issues have not changed significantly since then, but with John Kerry replacing Mrs. Clinton, the tone at least has.
Despite fight after fight in recent months over everything from new sanctions targeting Russian officials for rights abuses to the detention of an American Embassy official this week on charges of espionage, the two diplomats seem to have found common purpose on one of the most intractable disputes between the United States and Russia: Syria’s civil war.
They have revived the prospect of a negotiated settlement in Syria that was first proposed a year ago but then abandoned as the death toll from the war grimly mounted — although much remains uncertain. They have done so with greater comity than Mr. Lavrov ever showed toward Mrs. Clinton or her predecessor, Condoleezza Rice. Both women had famously frosty relationships with Mr. Lavrov and Russia’s leader, President Vladimir V. Putin, shaped in no small part by the Russians’ perception that the United States relentlessly meddles in their country’s internal affairs.
Mr. Lavrov ended hours of talks with Mr. Kerry in Moscow last week with a post-midnight dinner at the Foreign Ministry’s guesthouse and a toast to the American B-50B bomber that made the world’s first nonstop flight around the world in 1949 — with a wine of that year’s vintage. When asked in Sweden this week about the espionage scandal, Mr. Lavrov passed on the chance to excoriate his counterpart while officials in Moscow were ridiculing the Central Intelligence Agency as an organization trapped in cold war habits.
Since then, they have managed to corral growing support for a meeting to try to negotiate a Syria settlement — most likely to be held in Geneva in June — even as relations between the United States and Russia continue to lurch between cooperation and confrontation. The latest dispute came over new American intelligence warnings that Russia was shipping new anti-ship missiles to Syria, which the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Martin E. Dempsey, said Friday was “ill-timed and very unfortunate.”
“It’s at the very least an unfortunate decision that will embolden the regime and prolong the suffering,” he said.
The United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, met on Friday with Mr. Putin and expressed support for the work accomplished so far by the two diplomats. “We should not lose this momentum generated by Minister Lavrov and Secretary Kerry,” Mr. Ban said in Sochi, the Black Sea city where the Winter Olympics will be held in February.
Although he did not announce a date for convening peace talks, he added, “There is high expectation that this meeting should be held as soon as possible.”
The conspicuous shift on Syria has benefits for both countries.
It has given Russia the opportunity to reassert its view of geopolitics, arguing against international efforts to remove undesirable governments from power, as the United States and its allies did in Libya. It has also allowed the Obama administration to defer, for now, calls for the United States to act more forcefully to intervene in the Syrian conflict.
Mr. Kerry’s focus on Russia and its role in Syria reflects a decision by the White House to pull relations with Russia back from the brink in President Obama’s second term. The first term included a honeymoon that Mrs. Clinton called a reset, which led to reductions in nuclear weapons and Russia’s ascension to the World Trade Organization, among other things.
Tensions erupted, though, over the Arab spring, the overthrow of Libya’s dictator, Muammar al-Qaddafi, and ultimately Mr. Putin’s own return to the presidency in elections widely denounced as undemocratic.
Mr. Putin, as a candidate and as president once again, adopted stridently anti-American views. After the disputed parliamentary elections of 2011, he accused Mrs. Clinton of personally instigating large protests in Moscow. Russia subsequently ended more than two decades of collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development, labeled legally defined nongovernment organizations receiving American assistance as “foreign agents”; and after the United States imposed sanctions on Russian officials under new legislation named after a lawyer who died in prison, Sergei Magnitsky, it barred adoptions of Russian children by American parents.
All of those actions have made Mr. Kerry’s personal outreach to Mr. Lavrov even more striking. Since being sworn in, Mr. Kerry has met with Mr. Lavrov five times — in Berlin, London, Brussels, Moscow and Kiruna, Sweden, where they talked one-on-one for an hour on the sidelines of a meeting of the Arctic Council this week to work out details of the coming negotiations over Syria. The five meetings are the most Mr. Kerry has had with any foreign diplomat, exceeding his four with Turkey’s foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu.
Mr. Kerry and Mr. Lavrov, according to one official familiar with their exchanges, have developed a rapport. In Moscow, they bantered about “their mutual love for hockey and the grace of the older school style.” The two men left their delegations inside the Foreign Ministry’s guesthouse and strolled through the mansion’s gardens, engaging in a lengthy — at times animated — discussion over the exact wording of the statement they announced later that night.
Mikhail V. Margelov, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the upper chamber of the Russian Parliament, said that Russia’s position on Syria had been consistent and that Mr. Kerry had finally accepted it.
Mr. Kerry’s arrival, he said, had helped the relationship between the two countries, but the ability to move past the spy case had a parallel in a mutual expulsion of diplomats after an espionage scandal in 2001. That was followed by Mr. Putin’s cooperation with President George W. Bush after the attacks of Sept. 11.
“The world has changed,” Mr. Margelov said. “It’s not a bipolar world anymore. We are facing many threats, and many of the same threats. We are made to cooperate.”
Mr. Kerry’s tactics have political risks at home, where many lawmakers have called for the administration to act far more forcefully on Syria. Senator John Barrasso, the Wyoming Republican who is chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee, criticized Mr. Kerry’s “hat-in-hand” trip to Moscow. “Asking Russia to support U.S. interests in Syria is like asking the fox to guard the henhouse,” the statement said.
It remains to be seen whether either country can get the warring parties to the table in Geneva, let alone to agree on a transition government that would replace Mr. Assad’s, but officials and analysts in Washington and Moscow said the joint effort was a genuine attempt to resolve an increasingly intractable crisis.
“It’s not simply another diplomatic engagement just to show the world they are pursuing a settlement,” Dmitri Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, who closely scrutinizes American-Russia relations, said of the Kerry-Lavrov effort. “I think they mean to achieve a result.”
Steven Lee Myers reported from Washington, and David M. Herszenhorn from Moscow. Thom Shanker contributed reporting from Washington.
May 17, 2013President Seeks Path Forward Beyond Troubles
By MARK LANDLER and MICHAEL D. SHEAR
BALTIMORE — President Obama, struggling to find his footing after one of his most turbulent weeks in office, will try to push past the moment’s political furor with a focus on the few pieces of legislation he believes have a chance in Congress and on executive actions that do not require Republican approval.
The president’s aides, wary of what they say are Republican attempts to seize on woes as a way of thwarting Mr. Obama’s agenda, have ordered the White House staff not to be distracted by approaching hearings on Capitol Hill. Denis R. McDonough, the White House chief of staff, has told those in the West Wing that he expects them to spend no more than 10 percent of their time on the controversies.
In a meeting with Democratic strategists on Thursday morning, Mr. McDonough outlined a plan to intensify focus on revamping immigration laws, reaching a budget deal, and carrying out the health care law. The White House is also preparing a new push to keep student loan rates low when the current ones expire this summer, on the theory that the best way to get past the controversies is to emphasize policy proposals and contrast them with what the administration will portray as political gamesmanship by the Republicans.
“We’ve got to stay focused,” Mr. McDonough told the group of strategists, according to Mike McCurry, a former spokesman for President Bill Clinton, who was at the meeting. “Even if it’s not going to break through in the short run, we’ve got to keep hammering on,” Mr. McDonough added, according to the account.
Aware that few substantive bills can receive the bipartisan support needed to pass Congress in the current political climate, White House officials are also turning their attention to narrower policies Mr. Obama can carry out on his own. On Friday, he flew by helicopter to Baltimore, where he announced an accelerated process for federal approval of infrastructure projects.
“Others may get distracted by chasing every fleeting issue that passes by,” Mr. Obama said to a crowd of 500 at a factory here. “But the middle class will always be my No. 1 focus, period.”
Republicans have already criticized Mr. Obama’s executive actions as big-government overreach, and are likely to use the controversies to further their case, especially as the White House turns to thorny areas, like greenhouse-gas emissions.
As Mr. Obama spent the day in Baltimore, his adversaries in the House grilled the acting commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service and its inspector general, trying to determine whether other officials in the administration knew that conservative groups had received special scrutiny.
Beyond executive actions, the White House has made a spate of nominations in the last week, after having left many jobs unfilled at the State Department and elsewhere, and continues to lobby to win approval of a nominee to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals.
Publicly, White House officials say they will continue to push for major bills, like energy legislation, a long-term deficit deal and a bill to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws. But the officials acknowledge that only immigration has a strong chance of receiving enough Republican support to pass, with a budget deal having an outside chance.
Mr. Obama and his aides have deliberately played a low-profile role in the immigration debate, believing his involvement could stoke Republican opposition and damage the bill’s prospects. Congress appeared to make progress on immigration this week, with the Senate starting to mark up a bill and a bipartisan group in the House announcing the outlines of an agreement.
Senator Max Baucus, the Montana Democrat who is a central player in negotiating a budget deal, suggested that the troubles could even bring a silver lining. If the president is focused elsewhere, he said, it could soothe partisan furies and raise the prospects for a compromise.
“It’s good he’s not as excited right now,” Mr. Baucus said.
Mr. Obama’s visit to Baltimore underscored the White House’s strategy. At Ellicott Dredges, Mr. Obama announced a plan to streamline the process for issuing permits for federal public-works projects, the kind of modest measure that does not require legislation.
But his first stop, at an elementary school, brought a reminder that most of his ambitious social initiatives — like a federal-state plan to expand pre-kindergarten and early childhood education, which he promoted — probably cannot pass Congress on their own. Aides hope that financing for the education plan might ultimately become part of a broader budget deal.
Thursday’s meeting in Mr. McDonough’s office was the latest in a series of gatherings with Democratic thinkers that he has held since becoming chief of staff in January. The controversies — not just the I.R.S., but the debate over the attacks in Benghazi, Libya, and the Justice Department’s seizure of news media phone records as well — quickly became the topic of the day.
“You have to contain the so-called scandal,” said Steve Elmendorf, a veteran Democratic strategist who was at the meeting. “But you have to change the subject by accomplishing things.”
One of the most consequential but quietest areas of White House deliberation is climate policy. In his State of the Union address this year, Mr. Obama promised to address climate change aggressively, but has done little so far.
Searching for policies that do not require Congressional approval, he has proposed to divert about $200 million a year from oil and gas royalties to clean-vehicle technologies. The administration is also moving forward with new rules on appliance efficiency, among other steps.
But scientists say that major progress depends on cleaning up the electric utility sector, which produces roughly 40 percent of the nation’s climate-altering gases. The Environmental Protection Agency is weighing whether to impose emissions limits on new and existing coal-burning power plants, but that project, which would be hugely controversial, is on the shelf for now as the E.P.A. studies the costs and benefits.
Some of the president’s allies have urged him to develop a political “circuit breaker” in case the Republican effort to stoke controversies continues for months, said Jennifer Palmieri, the White House communications director. But she said there were no plans for Mr. Obama to make a big speech to confront controversies that White House officials do not believe will last.
In the last few days, the administration appears to have stopped the bleeding. The release of internal e-mails on Benghazi largely confirmed the White House’s account; the inspector general’s report on the I.R.S. did not tie anyone outside the agency to its actions; and the press freedom issues raised by The Associated Press leak investigation are a bigger concern for journalists than the broader public.
“Our circuit breaker is dealing with it aggressively and moving on to other stuff,” said Ms. Palmieri, a veteran of woes in the Clinton administration.
Mark Landler reported from Baltimore and Michael D. Shear from Washington; John M. Broder and John Harwood contributed reporting from Washington.