Posts Tagged ‘Media’

Fast and Furious Denials

Friday, October 7th, 2011

I have typically kept my political writing aimed at the economy and related issues. But today I feel compelled to discuss a story that has been very slow to break. Operation Fast and Furious. I had come to the conclusion long ago that Attorney General Eric Holder and President Obama were aware of this program from the start. I had also come to the conclusion that the mainstream media were going to sweep this story under the rug. That’s all beginning to change due to CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson.

If you haven’t followed this story, I don’t blame you. You’ve probably seen the headlines about the death of border patrol agent Brian Terry who had been killed by guns that had been allowed to walk as part of the ATF’s Fast and Furious operation. Let’s start with a little background and  a few terms.

ATF: The ATF is the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. In 2003 it was transferred under the Homeland Security bill to the Department of Justice. The DoJ is lead by attorney general Eric Holder. (You can read the ATF’s mission here.)

Project Gunrunner: You’ll see comments about this project in the news. This is the ATF’s program dating back to 2005. The program is intended to stem the flow of firearms into Mexico, in an attempt to deprive the Mexican drug cartels of weapons. (Read more on Wikipedia or directly from the ATF.)

Operation Fast and Furious: A sting operation run by the ATF beginning in 2009 as part of Project Gunrunner. The stated purpose of the operation was to permit otherwise-suspected straw purchasers to complete the weapon’s purchase and transit to Mexico, in order to build a bigger case against Mexican criminal organizations suspected of being the ultimate buyer. (Read more on Wikipedia.)

Straw Purchase: A straw purchase is any purchase wherein the purchaser knowingly acquires an item or service for someone who is, for whatever reason, unable to purchase the item or service himself. This term can be applied to any such purchase, but it is most widely used in relation to the sale of firearms, especially in United States federal gun laws.

Gun Walking: Allowing guns to be transferred to suspected arms traffickers. This is the most controversial part of Fast and Furious.

It is the stated position of the DoJ that they do not allow guns to walk, despite testimony from ATF agents to the contrary. Here is testimony from former ATF Special Agent William Newell where he continues to deny that it was policy to allow guns to walk into Mexico:

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Here’s testimony from ATF agent John Dodson who says that it was the policy under Fast and Furious to allow guns to walk:

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And from CBS News:

Surveillance video obtained by CBS News shows suspected drug cartel suppliers carrying boxes of weapons to their cars at a Phoenix gun shop. The long boxes shown in the video being loaded in were AK-47-type assault rifles.

So it turns out ATF not only allowed it – they videotaped it.

More from Sharyl Attkisson and CBS in a moment.

Who Knew What and When?

The investigation from Congress has been lead by Darrell Issa (R), the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. You may have seen this exchange where he asks attorney general Eric Holder when he first learned about Fast and Furious, and Holder’s response that he “…probably heard about Fast and Furious for the first time over the last few weeks.”

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But now that new documents have surfaced revealing that Holder had been continually briefed on Fast and Furious, the administration now says that Holder misunderstood the question. If you watch the video (above), it’s difficult to believe that he misunderstood the question. And in the video below, we see top DoJ officials discussing gun walking. Here’s more from CBS News and the released documents:

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At the beginning of this post, I mentioned that I had come to the conclusion long ago that Holder and Obama were aware of this program from the start. Though they never mention it by name, they have talked around the edges of this program.

In 2009, the President explains how he has asked Holder to do a “complete review” of current gun enforcement operations during a joint press conference with Mexico’s President Calderon. He even mentions gun tracing, a key element of Fast and Furious, in this video:

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Here is Deputy Attorney General David Ogden in March of 2009, who talks about new efforts from the ATF and gun tracing. This is right around the time that Operation Fast and Furious was launched:

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It’s not proof, but it’s common sense. This was a big and important operation to the ATF, the DoJ and the White House. They all were talking about this “new” operation. They just never mentioned it by name.

Bullying the Media

In an interesting twist this week, Sharyl Attkisson was on the Laura Ingraham Show, and revealed that she had been “yelled” at by DoJ spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler and that White House associate communications director Eric Schultz “literally screamed at me” over her reporting on Fast and Furious. She was told that she’s not reasonable like other members of the media such as the New York Times, the Washington Post and the LA Times. She explains that she was told that she’s “the only one who thinks this is a story, and they think I’m unfair and biased by pursuing it.” This is about ten minutes long, but very interesting:

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Bush Did It Too!

We are also starting to learn that under Bush’s DoJ that a program called Operation Wide Receiver may also have allowed guns to walk into Mexico.

This is a legitimate story despite claims from Team Obama to the contrary. It appears that the Attorney General has lied to Congress. Thousands of guns have been allowed to walk into Mexico. And it will be interesting to see who takes the fall as more information is exposed. It sounds like CBS and Attkisson have even more information to come, provided that CBS doesn’t shut down the investigation first. They wouldn’t want to be seen as unreasonable by the administration, would they? Stay tuned.

UPDATE (9:40 am, 10-7-11): I had meant to include this earlier. In April of 2009, Eric Holder visited Mexico and spoke about operations to limit gun trafficking to Mexico (see full text here):

The topic that has been addressed over the past two days could not be more important – the development of an arms trafficking prosecution and enforcement strategy on both sides of the border.

I would like to thank the Mexican and U.S. experts who have worked so hard on this issue. On our side, Secretary Napolitano and I are committed to putting the resources in place to increase our attack on arms trafficking into Mexico.

Last week, our administration launched a major new effort to break the backs of the cartels. My department is committing 100 new ATF personnel to the Southwest border in the next 100 days to supplement our ongoing Project Gunrunner, DEA is adding 16 new positions on the border, as well as mobile enforcement teams, and the FBI is creating a new intelligence group focusing on kidnapping and extortion. DHS is making similar commitments, as Secretary Napolitano will detail.

Does this sound like an attorney general who would not have been briefed about Operation Fast and Furious, which coincidentally, had just been launched by the ATF? That would be difficult to believe. (Note: I added the bold for emphasis.)

Channeling Reagan

Saturday, July 23rd, 2011

“Congress consistently brings the Government to the edge of default before facing its responsibility. This brinkmanship threatens the holders of government bonds and those who rely on Social Security and veterans benefits. Interest rates would skyrocket, instability would occur in financial markets, and the Federal deficit would soar. The United States has a special responsibility to itself and the world to meet its obligations. It means we have a well-earned reputation for reliability and credibility – two things that set us apart from much of the world.” — Ronald Reagan warned Congress of the possible repercussions for failing to raise the debt limit in a 1987 radio address.

President Ronald ReaganIt has been interesting to watch the media and liberals find a common brethren in their warnings about the consequences or not raising the debt ceiling in Ronald Reagan. Here are just a few examples (there are many available):

Rep. John Larson, chairman of the Democratic Caucus: “It could not be put more bluntly or more articulately than [how] Ronald Reagan laid it out.” Larson added that the debt ceiling was raised in the Reagan administration 17 times “without the taking of any hostages.”

Thomas Roberts from MSNBC: “Alright, so there we have it. President Reagan tying this up in a nutshell. For current day Republicans that evoke President Reagan’s name so much, why don’t Republicans listen to that message from the icon that they have in Ronald Reagan and move off of some of the far-right rhetoric that we’ve been hearing over the last weeks and months?”

Lawrence O’Donnell from MSNBC: “Somewhat to my surprise, that lesson that Ronald Reagan was trying to teach about the debt ceiling, what it actually means, what happens if you wouldn’t raise it. He said that in the context of having to sign a debt ceiling increase that included pieces that he did not like, that he was absolutely opposed to, but he said I got to sign it because if I don’t, look what happens.”

Peter Fenn from US News: “The point is that Republicans should shelve using the debt ceiling vote as a means of negotiation. This is not a negotiable item. Should they take this right up until the 11th hour and refuse to fund the government not only will Reagan’s admonitions come true but the Republicans will seal their fate as an irresponsible, minority party–a pariah for years to come.”

Chris Matthews on MSNBC: “There [Reagan] is saying this brinksmanship, this trickery, around the time of a deadline just to get your way is sort of economic terrorism.”

The media and liberals have one goal here — to paint fiscal conservatives as extremists. I’ve seen repeated use of phrases including “economic terrorism”, “hostage takers” and that they’re “holding a gun to the head of the economy”. And the left is now attempting to use the words of President Reagan against fiscal conservatives to paint them as extremists.

But if you listen to the rest of the radio address from Reagan, you end up with a different picture all together.

“You don’t need more taxes to balance the budget. Congress needs the discipline to stop spending more, and that can be done with the passage of a constitutional amendment to balance the budget,” explained Reagan.

That sounds more like Paul Ryan than President Obama to me.

A Final Point
I think ultimately we will need to increase tax revenues to solve our long-term problems, but this needs to be accomplished in a complete overhaul of our tax code. Not by cherry picking a few political points such as the depreciation of corporate jets and oil subsidies. And I despise the tactics of painting fiscal conservatives as extremists. From the recent CNN poll, 74% favor a constitutional amendment for a balanced budget, and 34% favor tackling our deficits without raising any new tax revenues. And Gallup, who typically polls a bit to the left, found that 50% favor tackling our deficits either “only with spending cuts” or “mostly with spending cuts”.

I guess there are a lot of extremists out there.

Congress Votes on Budgets and Debt Limit

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

CongressA couple interesting tidbits from Washington this last week.

The Budget Vote
In the Senate, four different budgets came to the floor and were voted on by senators. All were defeated. I did some googling over the weekend to read the coverage from the press. Virtually every story detailed how the “controversial” Paul Ryan budget had been defeated 40-57. And at least half of the stories I read from the major media outlets completely ignored that President Obama’s budget had been voted down 0-97.

Here’s one sample article from ABC News. The headline is “Senate Shoots Down Controversial Ryan Budget & President Obama’s Plan, Too”. At least ABC News mentioned Obama’s budget, which they must not consider controversial at all. The explanation from ABC News, which echoed the rest of the mainstream media when the Obama budget was mentioned, was that the Democrats were “voting against it because they believe it is outdated”.

I have a problem with this explanation. The President gave a speech outlining some different priorities than the budget proposal he had released just a couple months ago, but has never actually released an updated budget. His original budget proposal is still displayed on the White House website. And for that matter, the democrats in the Senate have not proposed a budget in more than 750 days. So the President’s budget proposal IS the most recent budget proposed by Democrats.

The Debt Ceiling Vote
In another vote that was purely political, the House voted on a “clean” bill to raise the debt ceiling by about $2 trillion. The President has been requesting a clean bill on a debt ceiling increase, meaning that there are no budget cuts or other proposals tied to the bill. There were 114 Democrats in the House who had signed a pledge in support of President Obama’s preference for a clean bill. But when the vote came to the floor, it went down 318-97 with 7 Democrats voting “present”. Nearly half of the Democrats voted against the bill. Of the 114 Democrats who had signed the pledge for a clean bill, 29 ended up voting AGAINST the clean debt ceiling bill.

This bill was expected to fail, and was intended to fail. The only question was which Democrats would vote for or against the bill. And who would cowardly vote “present”.

KANU Comments on NPR’s Firing of Juan Williams

Monday, October 25th, 2010

The fallout continues for NPR and Vivian Schiller over the firing of Juan Williams.

In telephone interviews with Fox News this week, general managers of several stations affiliated with NPR spoke sharply about Schiller’s performance in the episode. Janet Campbell, general manager at Kansas station KANU, said she did not believe Williams should have been fired at all, and that she “absolutely” saw a double standard at work in the network’s treatment of Williams and Totenberg.

“I think it had to do with the network he was on,” said Campbell, who has served as KANU’s general manager for fifteen years. “I thought it was a knee-jerk reaction. And I was extremely disappointed at [Schiller’s] remarks in Atlanta. I thought that was very childish. Someone in charge of such a large organization should know better.”

Speaking at a newsmakers’ luncheon at the Atlanta Press Club on Thursday, when controversy over Williams’s firing was still fresh and reaching a feverish peak in news media circles, Schiller said Williams’s feelings about Muslim airlines passengers should be between him and his “psychiatrist or him and his publicist, take your pick.” Schiller apologized to Williams later that afternoon, calling her remark hasty and “thoughtless.”

“I feel a little bit like the street sweeper at the elephant parade,” said KANU’s Campbell. “I’m getting twenty to forty calls…a lot of people asking me for my budget information. That’s all I’ve done for three days. By the time I got in Monday morning – while I appreciated her apology – I thought it was a little late.”

Campbell was not the only one to speak out. Read the full story here.

BTW — For clarification, Schiller did not apologize to Williams. She made a public apology for how she handled the firing. But as far as I’ve seen, she’s never apologized to, or spoken with Williams, since he was fired. Or before for that matter.

Political Hits — 10-23-2010

Saturday, October 23rd, 2010

Lots of subjects to touch on today, so let’s jump right in.

Don’t Ask Don’t Tell
The majority of Americans want Washington to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. I think the administration has the right approach on this one. They would prefer we settle this in Congress than in the courts. I’ve been a longtime supporter of gay rights, and hope that we’ll do the right thing by repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. But doing so through legislation in the Congress is a much better course of action than allowing our courts to make this decision for us. Now if only Congress would do the right thing.

NPR Fires Juan WilliamsThoughts on Juan Williams and NPR
I’m a fan of NPR. I think in many respects they do a tremendous job with their reporting. I’ve listened to their morning broadcast on KPR literally thousands of times — almost every weekday morning for the last 15 years. As a former employer and business owner myself, I have had to hire and fire a lot of people over the years. Let me tell you, firing people sucks. I will defend NPR’s right to fire people all day long. But I want to make a couple points.

1. If you listen to the entire exchange between Juan Williams and Bill O’Reilly, it’s very clear (at least to me) that Williams is not an “islamophob”. He certainly said something that can easily be taken out of context without hearing the full exchange. And he said something that’s not “politically correct”. It made me cringe the first time I heard it. But I’ve seen enough of Williams over the years to be confident that he’s not prejudice against Muslims.

2. NPR did not fire Williams because he expressed an opinion (and technically, this was not an opinion, but a personal feeling). NPR has long allowed their reporters to express opinions in the media. CEO Vivian Schiller never bothered to speak with Williams directly before making her decision, or after.

3. Schiller’s public comments were reprehensible. Did you see her quote? Schiller told an audience in Atlanta on Thursday that Williams should have kept his comments about Muslims between “himself and his psychiatrist.” The feedback against Schiller and NPR has been substantial. Schiller later apologized for her comments, but never apologized to Williams directly. (This is called “cover your ass” in legalese.) As a former employer myself, I can tell you that this is complete incompetence. You should NEVER make a comment like this about a former employee.

4. So why was Williams fired? NPR has long disliked Williams’ association with Fox News. Williams, an admitted liberal, does not neatly fit into NPR’s perception of what a liberal should be. I suspect that NPR has long considered firing Williams, and was waiting for the right opportunity. And they quickly pounced on Williams’ “politically incorrect” statement.

5. People will argue that Williams is an islamophob and deserved to be fired for his comments. But when I see such broad support for Williams, I wonder who was really offended by his comments? I’ve seen support on the left from people such as Whoopi Goldberg and Bob Beckel. I’ve seen support on the right from people like Karl Rove. I’ve seen support from moderate Muslims. From Republicans and Democrats alike. And if the reactions among NPR’s own audience is any indication, then NPR has a big problem on their hands.

6. I’ve long believed that we should eliminate public funding for the media. We’ll see if this becomes the triggering point for defunding NPR and all publicly funded media.

CongressMidterm Elections
I’ve been following the polls, but find it difficult to predict what the outcome will be in the upcoming election. So I’m not going to try. The general consensus is that Republicans stand a good chance of taking back the House, and a much slimmer chance of taking back the Senate. The polls attempt to determine “likely voters”, but with a midterm election, that’s a tough thing to determine. Dick Morris generally has a pretty keen insight into the polls and voter behavior. He predicted months ago that the Republicans would win huge gains this election cycle, and take back both the House and the Senate. We’ll see. That might prove to be hopeful thinking on his part. Morris has become a very outspoken critic of the left.

I wrote a post back in January about how Scott Brown’s win in Massachusetts could help President Obama win a second term. My comments still seem relevant given the likelihood that Republicans will make gains in Congress. If you missed it the first time, you can read it here.

European Socialism
Are you watching the meltdown in Europe? This has been building for months. In France, the government wants to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62. And the unions are rioting in the streets. But it’s not just France. Several countries in Europe have all come to the same conclusion — that an entitlement society is financially unsustainable. Countries across Europe are enacting huge cuts in benefits and spending, and are eliminating hundreds (if not thousands) of government programs.

I’ve long considered writing a post explaining that socialism is a failed economic model, but just haven’t gotten around to it. It’s the road that the President and Congress have been taking us down these last two years. Though technically, state capitalism is a better description of what we’re becoming than socialism.

The same thing could happen here if Congress ever decides to restore fiscal discipline.

The Federal Budget
I find it incredibly irresponsible that Congress has failed to pass a budget for 2011. And it’s not just that they failed to pass a budget. They didn’t even attempt to pass a budget. Many have predicted that the Democrats will pass a budget after the midterm elections when they return in December. The thought being that passing a budget before the elections would only hurt the Democrats at the voter booth.

My take? I don’t expect them to pass a budget in December either.

Why? Because they don’t want to be on the hook for what comes next. Once a budget is passed, then we’ll compute the upcoming budget deficit for 2011. There is no way to avoid a budget deficit next year. As our national debt increases, we will soon be approaching our national debt ceiling again. (Last January I wrote about Congress raising the debt ceiling by $2 trillion in order to push that next increase beyond the 2010 midterm elections. I was right.)

So what happens next? Call my cynical, but I think this has been the plan all year. Let’s assume that the Republicans take back the House and the Senate. One of the first things they’ll have to do is pass a budget for 2011. And unless their initial budget includes SIGNIFICANT spending cuts (which the President will never sign), then Congress will soon be faced with another vote on the debt ceiling. There will be no way around raising the debt ceiling again.

The Democrats will then scream “See, they’re the same old Republicans”.

What comes next? Have you been watching Europe?

JoPo Leaves the Star for SI

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

Joe Posnanski from the Kansas City Star has long been my favorite sports writer. He’s proven that you don’t have to be “edgey” or “controversial” to be a columnist in today’s world. I love Joe’s style. I love his eternally optimistic outlook. And I’ve sincerely enjoyed his writing for many years.

Congrats Joe. I hope you love your new job at Sports Illustrated as much as I’ve loved your work at the Star.

Joe’s farewell piece in the Star