Live Blog Primary Tuesday: Eric Cantor losing to Tea Party Primary Challenger

Cantor-makeover-605

This is breaking news.  With 68% of the precinct reporting, it appears that Eric Cantor will lose his seat in Congress.Here’s some information on the race from earlier today.

Disorganization and poor funding have stymied the campaign of tea party activist David Brat, even as he tapped into conservative resentment toward a party leader who has been courting the Republican right for years.

Brat, an economics professor, simply failed to show up to D.C. meetings with powerful conservative agitators last month, citing upcoming finals. He only had $40,000 in the bank at the end of March, according to first quarter filings. Cantor had $2 million.

Despite those shortcomings, Brat has exposed discontent with Cantor in the solidly Republican, suburban Richmond 7th Congressional District by attacking the lawmaker on his votes to raise the debt ceiling and end the government shutdown, as well as his support for some immigration reforms. At a May meeting of Republican activists in the district, Cantor was booed, and an ally he campaigned for was ousted as the local party chairman in favor of a tea party favorite

Cantor was assumed to be the next Republican Speak of the House should Boehner resign.  Cantor lives in suburban Virginia.

. has called the race for Brat. loses in GOP primary

Another old school republican, Lindsey Graham, is on the ballot too and facing a tea party challenger tonight also.

Graham’s opponents are divided and getting little help from powerful anti-establishment outside groups.

With the most recent poll indicating Graham close to the 50% threshold needed to avoid a runoff, he spent the day before the primary on a bus tour through the conservative, voter-rich upstate region.

In his final campaign commercial before the primary, Graham touted his conservative credentials, which he said included support for “building the Keystone pipeline, opposing Obamacare, looking for answers on Benghazi, standing up for our military.”

Turn on the TV to watch the exploding talking heads of Washington.

2009_0326_Getty_Eric_Cantor_0Update from the NJ.

In one of the biggest political upsets in recent memory, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost his primary election on Tuesday to a political unknown who focused his campaign on Cantor’s support for a path to citizenship for the children of immigrants.

Randolph-Macon College economics professor Dave Brat won the Republican primary in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District. Brat had 56 percent of the vote to Cantor’s 44 percent when the Associated Press called the race just after 8 p.m.

Cantor’s defeat will send shockwaves throughout Washington. The House majority leader was one of the most well-known Republican figures in the country, reputed for his strategic acumen and political ambition. He wielded an immense amount of clout within the Capitol and was widely expected to one day seek to become the speaker of the House.

His primary was never expected to be seriously competitive, and his loss is catching everyone — from veterans of Virginia politics to longtime analysts in Washington — by surprise.

 

The speculation is that District Republicans did not like his squishy stand on immigration and his talk of le Republican “Dream Act”.  He also was  not spending a lot of time in the District itself.

 

The bad news about the winner via LGF.

The big news of the evening: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has lost the Virginia GOP primary to Tea Party challenger Dave Brat … a Christian Reconstructionist who cites 16th century theologian John Calvin as an influence. Just what we need, another extreme right wing religious fundamentalist in Congress.


and now for something completely different: The Republican Response to the SOTU (Live Blog)

127166_600Let’s start with the first one of many!

When it comes to rebutting President Obama’s national address Tuesday night, Republicans have four different approaches from four different corners of the party’s ideological wings.

This four-vs.-one approach, to some, is the result of the expanding media universe that allows many different views to be heard, reaching so many different voters. Yet others see the various responses as a sign of a divided Republican Party that cannot unite around the single idea or a single voice to respond to Obama’s State of the Union address.

This Is Why People Say the SOTU Rebuttal Is Cursed

After President Obama delivers hisState of the Union address tonight, all eyes will turn to Washington state Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the highest ranking Republican woman in Congress, who will deliver the GOP’s rebuttal.

While giving the rebuttal address is a major opportunity to shine in prime time, the Republican response to the State of the Union during Obama’s presidency has seemed more like a curse.

Those who have come before McMorris Rodgers have made embarrassing fumbles, have left politics all together, lost a national race or now face federal charges.

Susie Madrak ‏@SusieMadrak  8s

She reminds me of the reanimated dead people from American Horror Story. #GOPresponse

Melissa McEwan ‏@Shakestweetz  37s

This is all I’m hearing: “Who’s got the cutest feetsies? I’m going to eat those toes! Yes I am!” That’s what every GOP rebuttal sounds like.

Mahjabeen ‏@mahjabeenkarim  3m

@robertloerzel@Karoli I used to teach little kids that complained about how teachers use “baby talk.” She is definitely using “baby talk.”

Donna Brazile ‏@donnabrazile  1m

Rep McMorris voted against raising the minimum wage and extending employment insurance.

Nerdy Negress ‏@NerdyNegress  4m

It’s Miss Whatever from Romper Room…..#republicansoturesponse

Top Conservative Cat ‏@TeaPartyCat  8s

Well, Cathy McMorris Rodgers said God more times in 4 minutes than Obama did in 75 minutes, so the GOP wins! GAME OVER!

CBS News Politics ‏@CBSPolitics  2m

McMorris Rodgers: GOP has “plans to close [income] gap, plans that focus on jobs first w/out more spending, government bailouts”

countrymarxist ‏@countrymarxist  1m

“GOD GOD GOD GOD GOD”- the Republican “response.”

Planned Parenthood ‏@PPact  4s

Just amazing. GOP response focuses on economy and “trusting people”—but spent the day voting to restrict abortion access. #StopHR7#SOTU

Ana Marie Cox ‏@anamariecox  1m

McMorris-Rodgers’ dogwhistle abortion reference: parallel to how some would like us to return to keeping women’s health care a dirty secret.

Nadine Finigan-Carr ‏@doctornayaka  6m

After that rebuttal, I would take the trolley to visit Mrs Rodgers’ Neighborhood but I wouldn’t want to live there. #SOTU #Rebuttal

Okay, and for the off brand responses:

Tea Party Response To 2014 State Of The Union Delivered By Mike Lee

Excerpts of his speech show Lee will pin the widening wealth gap on the president’s policies and tout the ideas of a new generation of leaders including himself and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.

“Americans know in their hearts that something is wrong. Much of what is wrong relates to the sense that the ‘American Dream’ is falling out of reach for far too many of us,” Lee plans to say. “We are facing an inequality crisis — one to which the president has paid lip-service, but seems uninterested in truly confronting or correcting.”

Obama plans to use the State of the Union to announce executive actions to raise the minimum wage for new federal contracts, help the long-term unemployed find work and expand job-training programs.

Lee, an attorney who is halfway through his first term, was chosen by Tea Party Express because he is a recognized leader who is popular among the GOP base because of the message he delivers about improving the economy and reducing the size, cost and intrusiveness of the federal government, said Sal Russo, co-founder of the organization. Tea Party Express is a national group representing the movement.

“People who have been willing to stand up and say, ‘Stop,’ like Mike Lee, have drawn a great deal of support,” Russo said.

huhn?

Suzy Khimm ‏@SuzyKhimm  3m

OK, Mike Lee gets the line of the night: “Obamacare is an inequality Godzilla” http://static.teapartyexpress.org/ 

and then there’s Rand Paul who is just speaking as the egotistical, opportunistic, self aggrandizing asshole that is Rand Paul.

“What I’ve been proposing is that we not shy away from the president on the debate about lowering taxes,” Paul said, speaking in his office. “I think the way to get to more jobs is to bring less money to Washington, leave more money with the businesses that create the jobs.”

Paul recently joined Snapchat and is a frequent presence on Facebook and Twitter. He noted that his response to the State of the Union will be easily disseminated through his online channels.

and there’s a fourth one …

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) announced Monday she will deliver her own State of the Union response in Spanish that will be televised by CNN, Telemundo Univision and other channels.

and I’m still trying to figure this out.  I admit to being flummoxed.

Charles P. Pierce ‏@ESQPolitics  10m

Does anyone know what frequency my fillings need to be set at to hear Rand Paul and Mike Lee?


What Fresh Hell? (Live and unfolding)

The chaos stemming from an insurrectionist movement within the Republican Party continues to be felt in all corners of the world. Meanwhile, a Capitol Police bachmannOfficer–on duty but not being paid–has just been choppered off the West Lawn of the White House. It appears a woman tried to ram a gate at the White House.

“The United States Capitol Police have stabilized the incident,” officials said in a message.

The incident began a little after 2 p.m. when the woman tried to breach White House security at 15th St. and E but didn’t get through, law-enforcement sources said.

She was chased at high speeds for about 12 blocks, the sources said. Near the Capitol, she began firing and was shot, the sources said. Her condition was unknown.

The Capitol Police are having a live presser now.  There was a baby in the car and it’s fine.  Another presser is due at 4:15 est.  They do not believe this is related to terrorism and is considered an isolated incident.

Meanwhile, the insane are still running the asylum: Bachmann: Republicans ‘About The Happiest’ They’ve Been In A While During Shutdown (VIDEO).

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) on Wednesday said she wasn’t worried about Republicans caving to pressure to end the government shutdown because “this is about the happiest” she’s seen her conservative colleagues in a long time.

Appearing with colleague Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS), Bachmann told Fox News host Sean Hannity that she believes there has been “strong unity” between conservatives on almost every budget vote.

“This is about the happiest I’ve seen members in a long time, because we see we are starting to win this dialogue on a national level,” she said.

Then there’s a potential Hurricane Karen churning in the Gulf just waiting to head towards the coast.  Where is FEMA?

The Federal Emergency Management Agency confirmed just after 1 p.m. it has re-activated the Hurricane Liaison Team ahead of the anticipated landfall of Tropical Storm Karen.

For the latest on the storm’s strength and projected track click here.

“Gulf Coast residents in potentially impacted areas should take steps now to be prepared and follow the direction of local officials,” FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said in a prepared statement. “FEMA will continue to support our state and local partners as they prepare for any potential impacts.”

The liaison team works in tandem with the National Hurricane Center in Miami. It was not immediately clear how many FEMA employees are affected by the re-activation.

Non-disaster FEMA personnel were deemed non-essential earlier in the week, but it remains to be seen how much of the agency the White House will reinstate to address the storm expected to make landfall Saturday or Sunday somewhere between eastern Louisiana and the Florida panhandle.

I am assuming these folks are going to be unpaid also.

Can the Republicans get over their wet dreams that we don’t need a federal government now?


Countdown to Shutdown (live blog)

la-na-tt-ted-cruz-shutdown-20130912-002Well, it seems a shut down is eminent!

There are 233 Republicans in the House. Insiders estimate that three-quarters of them, or about 175 GOP lawmakers, are willing, and perhaps even eager, to vote for a continuing resolution that funds the government without pressing the Republican goal of defunding or delaying Obamacare.

On the other side, insiders estimate about 30 House Republicans believe strongly that Obamacare is such a far-reaching and harmful law that the GOP should do everything it can — everything — to stop it or slow it down. That includes precipitating a standoff leading to a government shutdown. “This isn’t just another bill,” Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., one of the most vocal of the 30, told me. “This isn’t load limits on turnip trucks that we’re talking about. This is … an extremely consequential bill that will impact every American, and that’s why you have such passionate opinions.”

Another 20 to 30 GOP members sympathize with that position but might be willing to compromise, except for the fact that they fear a primary challenge from the Right.

In the continuing resolution fight, it is the 30 most committed members, along with their 20-30 allies in the next-most-committed group, who are setting the House Republican agenda. The ones pushing for a fight over Obamacare, even if it leads to a shutdown, are controlling what the House does.

Which has led to the question: How can 30 Republicans beat 200 Republicans? How does that work?

The one thing that Cruz and his cronies kept saying were that the American people are with them.  Come again?

Polls consistently show that Americans aren’t happy with Obamacare. They think the law will make health care more expensive, and decrease its quality. But a new survey of 1,976 registered votersfinds that only 33 percent believe that the health law should be repealed, delayed, or defunded. 29 percent believe that “Congress should make changes to improve the law,” 26 percent believe that “Congress should let the law take effect” and see what happens, and 12 percent believe that the law should be expanded. The bottom line? Voters are skeptical that Obamacare will live up to Democrats’ hype. But they also believe that it should be given a chance to succeed.

The new poll was conducted by the Morning Consult, a healthcare media company founded by Michael Ramlet. Ramlet, in evaluating the results of his survey, finds that voters are “unmoved by three months of the defund argument,” and that a majority would “blame congressional Republicans a lot for a government shutdown.”

How’s that working for Speaker Boehner?  He really has to choose between  his country and his tea party caucus.  Many Republicans aren’t with him either.  Does he really think he can keep his speakership either way?

Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK): Asked on MSNBC on Monday if a shutdown was “going to hurt the Republicans,” Cole said, “I do, but more importantly I think it’s going to hurt the American people.”

Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA): “I’m prepared to vote for a clean resolution tomorrow… It’s time to govern. I don’t intend to support a fool’s errand at this point.”

Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ): “Obamacare is definitely not ready for prime time. But I do not want the government to shut down. I think after voting against it some 40 times, we have represented our constituents and made our point.”

Rep. Chris Gibson (R-NY): “From my perspective, the desired end state remains the same — a delay of the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare and a temporary lifting of the sequester — both to January 2015… However, we need a successful strategy to get that implemented, and this approach will not do it.”

Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY): “The circus created the past few days isn’t reflective of mainstream Republicans — it projects an image of not being reasonable. The vast majority of Republicans are pretty level-headed and are here to govern.”

Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY): “[A]s a lifelong and consistent supporter of women’s rights and health care, I do not support addressing divisive social issues such as access to birth control on a last-minute continuing resolution.’’

Rep. Peter King (R-NY): “We should not be closing down the government under any circumstances… That doesn’t work, it’s wrong, and, you know, Obamacare passed. We have to try to defund it, we have to try to find ways to repeal it. But the fact is, we shouldn’t be using it as a threat to shut down the government.”

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA): “We’re pretty much out of options at this point. They’re all giddy about it. You know who benefits the most here from a shutdown? The Democrats benefit and they know that.”

Rep. Tom Rooney (R-FL): “The shutdown doesn’t do anything to help our reputation as an incompetent Congress,.. People hire us not to get to this point in the first place.”

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI): “We have to stay on the right side of public opinion…Shutting down the government puts us on the wrong side. The fight is on the debt limit.”

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA): Wolf warned that his party will be blamed in the case of a shutdown. “That’s the battle that’s going on in my party. There are some that are saying, ‘shut it down! … If we shut the government down, who’s going to fund the [Veteran Affairs] Hospital? Who’s going to fund the veteran who doesn’t have a leg? Who’s going to fund the FBI who’s working on a counter-terrorism case? Who’s going to fund cancer research?”

Exactly who is behind this push besides Cruz’s ego and a few maniacs like Bachmann?

Republicans and Democrats in Congress are trading blame ahead of Tuesday’s government shutdown, but there’s another culprit in DC’s latest dysfunction whose offices are not to be found in the gilded suites of the Capitol, but in a drab, fluorescent-lit office five blocks away. There, a team of organizers, lobbyists and 20-something social media specialists are harnessing the power of the Tea Party to drive a wrench into Congress’ gears. Heritage Action for America, the political arm of the once esteemed Heritage Foundation, has been working day and night for years to bring about just the crisis now gripping DC.

Since its founding in 2010, Heritage Action has worked aggressively to influence lawmakers on issues from immigration to agriculture to the budget. It uses a three-pronged strategy to twist arms on Capitol Hill: lobbying members on hot-button issues, ranking them publicly on how they vote, and getting word out far and wide when lawmakers buck the conservative line. That combination—unparalleled in either party—has given Heritage the ammo to take on the leadership of its own party, widening the gap between the conservative grassroots and their leaders in Congress. As Heritage’s clout accumulates, the group’s divisive style offers a window into the new way of doing business in Washington, where, thanks to redistricting, lawmakers are more worried about primary challengers than the opposition

I guess this is the revenge of outcasts like Demint and Grover Norquist who seem like prime candidates for the sociopath of the month club.

How long do you think this will last?

popcorn-bowl


Live Blog: The President’s Case for Syria

kalThe issue of what to do with Syria, its civil war, and its brutal dictator’s gas attacks on its innocent citizens is on the US agenda tonight as President Obama takes the case for “narrow” attacks on specific Syrian targets.  Can he persuade a war weary nation who has heard this type of case once before?   The speech will be carried on TV and the internet live tonight at 9 pm EST.

Some suggested before Speech Reads:

From the National Journal:   Whose Reactions to Watch for After the President’s Syria Address with ongoing updates.

President Obama’s big national address on Syria tonight isn’t aimed just at a deeply skeptical American public. It’s also targeted to the members of Congress who could decide the fate of the Obama administration’s actions on Syria, including the request for an authorization of force, if that route is still open.

What those actions could look like is totally in flux as of Tuesday afternoon, with a new report fromThe Wall Street Journal that Syria is not only acknowledging it has chemical weapons for the first time, but also saying it would tell the “United Nations, Russia, and others” where they are located. This development comes a day after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad declared to an American audience that his country has never used such weapons and refused to comment on whether Syria had a stockpile.

With the White House privately starting to believe it may not have the votes for an authorization of force, the administration has spent some of the last day trying to win Republican Senate support for getting a new agreement through Congress, reports National Review‘s Robert Costa. That agreement could be pegged to the diplomatic progress made over the last day, and it could be something we all hear more about tonight.

So far, Obama has given many of his usual staunch opponents a good deal of face time to discuss the possibilities on Syria. Obama and Vice President Joe Biden hosted a group of Republican senators—including Lindsey Graham, Kelly Ayotte, and Saxby Chambliss—for dinner (Italian was served) at the Naval Observatory on Sunday. And a half-dozen Republican lawmakers were granted the attention of White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough this week.

Obama’s speech will likely be about more than just missiles—specifically, the whirlwind of diplomacy that we’ve seen over the past 24 hours. But how members of Congress take tonight’s speech will go a long way toward deciding just how much room the administration will have to act.

Russian Times:  Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Syria’s chemical arms handover will only work if the US and its allies renounce the use of force against Damascus.

“Of course, all of this will only mean anything if the United States and other nations supporting it tell us that they’re giving up their plan to use force against Syria. You can’t really ask Syria, or any other country, to disarm unilaterally while military action against it is being contemplated,” President Putin said on Tuesday.

President Putin said that the matter of bringing Syria’s chemical weapons under international control has long been a subject of discussion by experts and politicians.

Putin confirmed that he and President Barack Obama had “indeed discussed” such a possibility on the sidelines of the G20 summit in St. Petersburg last week.

It was agreed, Putin said, “to instruct Secretary of State [John Kerry] and Foreign Minister [Sergey Lavrov]to work together and see if they can achieve some progress in this regard.”

President Putin’s comments came shortly after the Syrian government said it would agree to place its chemical weapons arsenal under international control.

The Telegraph (UK):  Syria, chemical weapons, and the worst day in Western diplomatic history

Think about what will happen if the Russian initiative starts to fly.

Chemical weapons are relatively easy to make and store (and fire), but much harder to dismantle safely. The chemicals themselves are fiendishly dangerous and need to be destroyed with specialist equipment without creating environmental hazards. Plus the explosive part of the 132877_600delivery shell needs careful handling. Destroying CW stocks is therefore a complex and expensive operation, even under calm conditions. Both the United States and Russia have both heavily failed to meet internationally agreed deadlines for destroying their massive Cold War legacy chemical weapons stocks.

There is no precedent for attempting anything like this in a country wracked by civil war. It just can’t happen. No Syrian chemical weapons will be destroyed or “handed over” quickly.

Meanwhile any new process of setting up an international monitoring and destruction regime will require painstaking UN and wider negotiation with the Assad regime, thereby giving Assad and his state apparatus a massive boost of renewed confidence and legitimacy. Before long Washington may find itself locked on to implicitly or even explicitly supporting Assad in his civil war as the best chance to get some sort of internationally agreed CW destruction programme delivered in Syria.

Bloomberg:  15 Questions About the Increasingly Crazy Syria Debate

1. Is Kerry a national-security genius, or a guy who says whatever half-baked idea comes to mind, or both?

2. Why are the Russians seemingly so ready to aid Kerry and President Barack Obama by helping relieve Syria of its chemical weapons? Since when is Russia interested in helping the U.S. out of a jam, even if it burnishes its own reputation in the process?

3. Do these early signs that Russia might be interested in making a deal to avert an attack prove that threatening to attack was the right thing to do?

4. Who is making American policy on Syria? Kerry or Obama?

5. Why would Assad give up his chemical weapons? He saw what happened when Libya’s late dictator Muammar Qaddafi gave up his weapons of mass destruction program, which is to say, he lost some of his deterrent power.

6. How do you possibly verify that Assad has given up all of his chemical weapons? The Syrian regime possesses hundreds of tons of these munitions.

7. Does Syria get to keep its biological weapons under this still nonexistent deal?

8. If the U.S. gives up the idea of an attack, would the remaining moderate rebels, so dispirited, start moving toward the al-Qaeda column?

9. How do you secure and transport all of these chemical-weapons components in the midst of a horrifically violent civil war?

10. Even if the theoretical strike was intended to be “unbelievably small,” why would the U.S. tell Syria this?

11. A related question: Who goes to war not to win?

12. Let’s just say that Assad gives up his chemical weapons. Does that mean he gets to kill civilians in more prosaic ways indefinitely? Is that it?

13. If Assad’s behavior is even somewhat analogous to Hitler’s, as administration officials (and surrogates like Senator Harry Reid) are suggesting, then how is it possible to argue for anything other than Assad’s total defeat?

14. At a certain point in this drama, will any of the various Arab countries that want the U.S. to bomb Syria then go do it themselves?

15. How did the U.S. get so bollixed-up by the tin-pot dictator of a second-tier Middle East country?

sat2_custom-76063b1ba3164f3d01900c73be5497446cf526e7-s6-c30Watch Live: President Obama’s Address to the Nation on Syria

Tonight at 9:00 PM ET, President Obama will address the nation from the East Room of the White House.

The President will be speaking about the United States’ response to the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons that killed more than 1,400 civilians — including more than 400 children.

You can watch the President’s speech live on WhiteHouse.gov/Syria.

I have to believe that we’re all going to have some different thoughts on all of this.  I am still torn.


Live Blog: SOS Kerry’s Speech on Action In Syria

US-SYRIA-POLITICS-KERRY“That was a War Speech” says WAPO about a previous Kerry Presser.

It’s difficult to find a single sentence in Secretary of State John Kerry’s forceful and at points emotional press conference on Syria that did not sound like a direct case for imminent U.S. military action against Syria. It was, from the first paragraph to the 15th,a war speech.

That doesn’t mean that full-on war is coming; the Obama administration appears poised for a limited campaign of offshore strikes, probably cruise missiles and possible aircraft strikes. President Obama has long signaled that he has no interest in a full, open-ended or ground-based intervention, and there’s no reason to believe his calculus has changed. But Kerry’s language and tone were unmistakable. He was making the case for, and signaling that the United States planned to pursue, military action against another country. As my colleagues Karen DeYoung and Anne Gearan wrote, “Kerry left little doubt that the decision for the United States is not whether to take military action, but when.”

Kerry made the moral case for attacking Syria. He described what’s happening in Syria as “the indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders by chemical weapons,” which he called “a moral obscenity” and “inexcusable.”

Kerry made the international norms case for striking Syria. “All peoples and all nations who believe in the cause of our common humanity must stand up to assure that there is accountability for the use of chemical weapons so that it never happens again,” he said. The argument here is that punishing Assad’s use of chemical weapons matters “beyond the conflict in Syria itself,” because the world wants to deter future military actors from using chemical weapons.

Kerry hinted at international coalition-building, saying that he’d spoken “with foreign ministers from around the world.” He later said that “information [about the attack] is being compiled and reviewed together with our partners.”

The United States is not going to win approval from the United Nations Security Council, where Russia has consistently opposed even milquetoast resolutions condemning Assad. But Kerry still made a point of gesturing toward the institution it’s about to bypass, saying, “At every turn, the Syrian regime has failed to cooperate with the U.N. investigation, using it only to stall and to stymie the important effort to bring to light what happened in Damascus in the dead of night.” He accused Assad of blocking U.N. inspectors and “systemically destroying evidence.”

Kerry was mindful that the hyped up case for war against Iraq and the results of previous US engagement in countries like Egypt, Libya an Afghanistan have not been good.  Yet, Kerry made it clear that the US was ready to take some kind of action today.

France appears ready to join the US.

BREAKING NEWS: Secretary of State John F. Kerry says the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made preparations three days before last week’s chemical weapons attack on the outskirts of Damascus and fired the rockets from regime-controlled areas. This story will be updated shortly.

LONDON – French President Francois Hollande said Friday that his country is prepared to act in Syria despite Britain’s surprise rejection of military action, potentially making a nation that turned its back on Washington during the war in Iraq the primary U.S. ally in a possible strike against Syrian forces.

The Guardian characterizes the speech as “polarizing for world leaders.”

As the US moves towards military intervention in the Syrian conflict, world leaders have issued a string of belicose statements, with Iran and Russiastanding alongside the Assad regime against a western alliance led by the US, UK, France and Australia.

In their toughest terms to date, David Cameron and US secretary of state, John Kerry, spoke of the undeniable and “asbolutely abhorrent” and use of chemical weapons in Syria. In response, the Assad regime and Iran warned that foreign military intervention in Syria would result in a conflict that would engulf the region.

Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman, Abbas Araqchi, intimated that Tehran would respond, should the west strike.

“We want to strongly warn against any military attack in Syria. There will definitely be perilous consequences for the region,” Araqchi told a news conference. “These complications and consequences will not be restricted to Syria. It will engulf the whole region.”

Walid al-Moallem, Syria’s foreign minister, also vowed that the regime would defend itself using all means available in the event of a US-led assault.

“I challenge those who accuse our forces of using these weapons to come forward with the evidence,” he told reporters at a press conference in Damascus. “We have the means to defend ourselves, and we will surprise everyone.”

Shia Iran is Syria’s closest ally and has accused an alliance of militant Sunni Islamists, Israel and western powers of trying to use the conflict to take over the region.

The rhetoric from the Shia camp came a day after Kerry gave the strongest indication to date that the US intends to take military action against the Assad regime. On Monday, Kerry said President Bashar al-Assad‘s forces had committed a moral obscenity against his own people.

“Make no mistake,” Kerry said. “President Obama believes there must be accountability for those who would use the world’s most heinous weapon against the world’s most vulnerable people. Nothing today is more serious, and nothing is receiving more serious scrutiny.”

Full transcript here at WAPO.

President Obama will ensure that the United States of America makes our own decisions on our own timelines, based on our values and our interests. Now, we know that after a decade of conflict, the American people are tired of war. Believe me, I am, too.

But fatigue does not absolve us of our responsibility. Just longing for peace does not necessarily bring it about. And history would judge us all extraordinarily harshly if we turned a blind eye to a dictator’s wanton use of weapons of mass destruction against all warnings, against all common understanding of decency, these things we do know.

We also know that we have a president that does what he says that he will do. And he has said, very clearly, that whatever decision he makes in Syria it will bear no resemblance to Afghanistan, Iraq or even Libya. It will not involve any boots on the ground. It will not be open ended. And it will not assume responsibility for a civil war that is already well underway.

The president has been clear: Any action that he might decide to take will be limited and (sic) tailored response to ensure that, a despots brutal and flagrant use of chemical weapons is held accountable. And ultimately, ultimately we are committed — we remain committed, we believe it’s — the primary objective is (sic) to have a diplomatic process that can resolve this through negotiation, because we know there is no ultimate military solution.

It has to be political.

It has to happen at the negotiating table.

And we are deeply committed to getting there.

So that is what we know. That is what the leaders of Congress now know. And that’s what the American people need to know. And that is, at the core of the decisions that must now be made for the security of our country, and for the promise of a planet, where the world’s most heinous weapons must never again be used against the world’s most vulnerable people.

What do you think?


Live Blog: Obama Outlines New Policies for Drones, Gitmo in Major Speech

A drone designed and constructed by Concepcion University and the Chilean army is seen during a flight test at Concepcion city

This is a live blog to discuss President Obama’s speech today at the National Defense University. The speech is scheduled for 2PM Eastern time. As I wrote in the morning post, Obama is expected to propose limits to the use of drones to assassinate suspected “terrorists” in places like Pakistan and Yemen.

Time Magazine’s Swampland Blog:

Obama’s speech is expected to reaffirm his national security priorities — from homegrown terrorists to killer drones to the enemy combatants held at the military-run detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba — but make no new sweeping policy announcements. The White House has offered few clues on how the president will address questions that have dogged his administration for years and, critics say, given foreign allies mixed signals about U.S. intentions in some of the world’s most volatile areas.

Obama will try to refocus an increasingly apathetic public on security issues as his administration grapples with a series of unrelated controversies stemming from the attack on a U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya, the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups and government monitoring of reporters. His message will also be carefully analyzed by an international audience that has had to adapt to what counterterror expert Peter Singer described as the administration’s disjointed and often short-sighted security policies.

“He is really wresting with a broader task, which is laying out an overdue case for regularizing our counterterrorism strategy itself,” said Singer, director of the Brookings Institution’s 21st Century Security and Intelligence Center in Washington. “It’s both a task in terms of being a communicator, and a task in term of being a decider.”

The White House said Obama’s speech coincides with the signing of new “presidential policy guidance” on when the U.S. can use drone strikes, though it was unclear what that guidance entailed and whether Obama would outline its specifics in his remarks.

Do we really need to keep using the word “decider” now that Dubya is gone? Oh well…Time’s description of Obama’s remarks makes it sound like he’s not really going to make any real changes–just say some words. I hope that’s wrong.

Here’s USA Today’s take on the speech:

The White House said Obama “will discuss why the use of drone strikes is necessary, legal and just, while addressing the various issues raised by our use of targeted action.”

Obama has also approved new “policy guidance” that sets out “standards under which we take lethal action,” the White House said.

The president “will also discuss how to balance securing our country and protecting our civil liberties at home,” said the statement.

That includes new steps Obama plans to take to close the Guantanamo Bay prison, a frequent target of criticism from civil libertarians. Some detainees at the prison are in the midst of a hunger strike, protesting their conditions.

Obama had pledged to close the facility during his first year in office. But his efforts ran afoul of congressional Republicans who opposed trials of terrorism suspects in the United States, and other countries that refused to take some prisoners.

NBC News’ First Read has a little more:

A White House official, per NBC’s Shawna Thomas, says that the president’s speech also will discuss better securing U.S. diplomatic facilities (after the 2012 Benghazi attack), balancing security while protecting civil liberties at home (see the leak investigations), and stating his desire to close the Guantanamo Bay prison (an action which Congress opposes). Don’t be surprised if Obama says something along the lines of, “We will never send another detainee to Gitmo” as a way to express his willingness to close the facility. And don’t be surprised if he addresses — head on — the Justice Department’s seizure of reporters’ phone records in its prosecution of national security leaks. Obama delivers his remarks at 2:00 pm ET at the National Defense University in DC.

For further reference, here is the letter Attorney General Holder wrote to Congress acknowledging the drone assassinations of four American citizens and Charlies Savage’s article about it.

At Wired’s Danger Room Blog, Spencer Ackerman offers 4 Questions Obama’s Big National Security Speech Should Answer.

I’ll do my best to keep up with the speech, but I would greatly appreciate your contributions too. You can watch the speech on-line at C-Span.org.