Five Thoughts on Obama Final 2014 Press Conference


President Obama just wrapped up his traditional year-end press conference, wishing the media a Merry Christmas as he prepares to depart for a Hawaiian vacation. A few comments on his performance:

(1) Obama repeated his now familiar spiel about the country being in much better shape now than when he took office, praising what he termed an "American resurgence." He claimed improvement by almost any conceivable measure; "pick any metric," he said. Setting aside numerous metrics like the national debt, poverty rates, median household income, wage growth, workforce participation, and (still) rising healthcare costs, Obama is advancing an argument that Americans just don't believe. Right track/wrong track numbers are in the toilet. His job approval rating is weak. Americans don't believe the country is better off, nor do they feel as though our standing in the world is stronger. But he's welcome to use his bully pulpit to try to convince them otherwise -- if they're still listening to him.

(2) The president's answer on the North Korea/Sony situation was solid. He stated in no uncertain terms that Pyongyang was responsible for the "cyber assault," and vowed that "we will respond." Obama said he wouldn't spell out what that response would be, or when it might come, for public consumption.  Despite expressing some sympathy for the tough spot in which the company finds itself, the president condemned Sony for caving to the terrorists' demands by canceling the release of a comedy film that drew North Korea's ire.  Obama forcefully stated that free societies cannot censor themselves to placate the threats and demands of violent actors. Yes, he can be criticized for hypocrisy here, and I'd be curious about his thoughts on Western media suppressing the Mohammad cartoons, but his tone and message were on point in this case.

(3) He didn't come out and say it, but the president telegraphed an inclination toward vetoing the Keystone Pipeline if and when Republicans pass legislation next year. Obama listed the alleged drawbacks of the popular project, sniffing that it would only create "a few thousand" temporary jobs. At another point in the press conference, he demanded more government spending on infrastructure projects (ignoring his failed "stimulus" altogether, of course). So Obama is unimpressed with temporary, private sector infrastructure jobs, but he's insistent upon taxpayers funding other temporary infrastructure jobs.   Hmm.

(4) Aside from the North Korea exchange, none of my suggested questions were asked. One reporter touched on executive power, but her question was weak. It basically asked if he's worried about Republicans working with him less as a consequence of his unilateral action -- a political process question that skirts around the core issue. On immigration, Obama again claimed that Congress' refusal to carry out his will 'forced' him to act on his own, via an executive decree that he'd repeatedly averred was beyond his presidential authority.

(5) I counted eight total questions (or question sets), all of which came from women. The president did not call on any male reporters, nor did any television reporters get a question. Many of the questions were sharp, and there's obviously nothing wrong with selecting female interrogators, but it's worth noting that Obama's picks ensured that three of the journalists who consistently ask the toughest questions in White House briefings (Fox's Ed Henry, CBS' Major Garrett and ABC's Jonathan Karl) were all shut out. Make of that what you will.

Obama Blames Sony

President Obama blamed Sony, Inc. for the demise of the movie "The Interview" today at his end of the year press conference.

"I think they made a mistake," Obama said in answer to a direct question as to whether Sony made the right decision to pull the movie from theaters.

“We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States,” Obama continued. "I wish they had spoken to me first. I would have told them, ‘Do not get into a pattern in which you’re intimidated by these kinds of criminal attacks.’”

Obama did not elaborate as to why, if not being intimidated is so important, he did not call Sony to offer his administration's full support. 

Obama also made it clear he has little intention of working with Republicans in Congress on anything in 2015. Asked if tax reform is possible in 2015, Obama launched into a speech about the importance of investing in infrastructure. 

What does infrastructure have to do with tax reform? 

It has long been the Obama administration's position that any tax reform must include new revenues (a.k.a. higher taxes) that can then be immediately spent on new spending programs. Higher taxes has always been a complete non-starter for Republicans in Congress.

Obama also signaled that he will veto any bill in Congress that tries to force him to approve the Keystone pipeline. 

The oil from the Keystone pipeline is "not American oil, it is Canadian oil," Obama noted. “That oil currently is being shipped out through rail or trucks and it would save Canadian oil companies, and the Canadian oil industry enormous amounts of money if they could simply pipe it all the way down to the Gulf,” he continued. 

"It’s very good for Canadian oil companies, and it’s good for the Canadian oil industry but it’s not going to be a huge benefit to U.S. consumers, it’s not even going to be a nominal benefit to U.S. consumers,” Obama said.

Obama did not say if a new pipeline would benefit American consumers who currently have to put up with oil-train derailmentsPipelines have long been proven to be the safest way to transport oil and gas.

Considering Obama's steadfast opposition to infrastructure programs that Republicans support, like Keystone, and his insistence on higher taxes to pay for more infrastructure spending, it does not look like a deal on either issue is very likely.

MRCTV Discovers That 'Principle Is More Important' Than Fact At Black Lives Matter Rally

Earlier this week, MRCTV’s Dan Joseph ventured into Washington D.C. for the Black Lives Matter protest promoted by Al Sharpton’s National Action Network. Michael Brown and Eric Garner were the focus of this demonstration–and Joseph got a chance to speak with a few protesters. For starters, some felt that Brown didn’t charge then-Officer Darren Wilson, who then shot him reportedly in self-defense last August.

Of course, the “hands up, don’t shoot” theme was pervasive at the rally. Yet, Joseph noted that narrative is probably not correct (via MRCTV):

Multiple eyewitnesses who testified before the grand jury in Ferguson claimed that Brown’s hands weren’t up at all and that he was charging Officer Wilson when he was shot. Forensic evidence and multiple autopsies that were conducted concluded a similar pattern of events transpired that run contrary to the protesters' mantra.

Despite the doubt cast on the favored slogan, most of the protesters that MRCTV talked to at the Sharpton rally continued to insist that the original narrative is the correct one.

Citing “various news sources,” Sharpton’s protesters defended the notion that Michael Brown had his hands up and was surrendering when he was shot and killed.

Sharpton’s protesters rejected eyewitness testimony and forensic evidence that Brown did not have his hands up and may have been charging the officer who shot him:

  • “No, no, the autopsies don’t have anything to do with that.”
  • “That’s not true; I’ve read the whole report, too.”
  • “No, he didn’t resist arrest.”

“It’s not necessarily the exact motion of ‘hands up, don’t shoot’ – it’s the idea that Mike Brown was an unarmed, innocent man who was shot multiple times,” said one protester, arguing that the principle is more important than the precise details of the event.

Friday Filibuster: The Cuba Libre Edition

The Friday Filibuster: The one-stop-shop for everything you need to know about this week in politics.

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Closing Numbers:

51% of Americans say tough CIA interrogations on suspected terrorists after 9/11 were appropriate.

47% have a favorable opinion of the Republican Party after the midterm elections.

19% of self-identified Republicans favor Mitt Romney for the GOP presidential nomination, dominating the field of Republican candidates

62% of self-identified Democrats want Hillary Clinton to get the Democratic presidential nomination.

*** 

Terror Around the World: The hostage situation by an Islamic terrorist and Iranian refugee at a café in Sydney, Australia came to an end Tuesday morning (Sydney time) when police stormed the building after hearing gunfire from inside. The lone gunman, Man Haron Monis, who had a long rap sheet that included murder and rape, was shot dead by police. Two hostages died and several others were wounded. Later on Tuesday, nearly 7,000 miles away, the Taliban gunned down 132 children and nine staff members at a school in the Pakistani city of Peshawar. The Pakistani military took swift action, launching massive airstrikes against the Taliban in retaliation. And in Iraq’s Fallujah, one member of ISIS singlehandedly killed more than 150 women and girls.

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Cuba: President Obama’s unilateral move to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba was criticized by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle this week who saw it as a vindication of brutal behavior. Sen. Marco Rubio blasted the new policy, calling it a concession to a tyranny, and slammed fellow Republican Sen. Rand Paul for being 'utterly clueless' on the issue. The Cuban American senator also pointed out that by saying the U.S. was trying to colonize Cuba, Obama was using the same talking point as the Castro regime. Sen. Ted Cruz, whose father escaped the country in 1957 after undergoing beatings and torture, said the move will be remembered as a tragic mistake. Meanwhile, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest dismissed threats to defund the move, claiming the administration has all the money it needs to move forward with the plan. Many are also wondering if the new “normalization” means Cuba will return cop killer Joanne Chesimard.

The Interview: After hackers released Sony’s films, salary information of top executives, embarrassing emails, social security numbers, employee medical records, and finally, threatened 9/11 style attacks on movie theaters that screen the comedy, Sony caved and pulled the film. The White House called the Sony hack a “serious national security matter” and House Cybersecurity Chairman warned the U.S. power grid and Wall Street could be next. Unsurprisingly, the North Korean government turned out to be behind the ‘cyber warfare.’ One “journalist” said having First Amendment rights comes with the responsibility to not offend dictators, which apparently Paramount, in their decision to ban showings of “Team American,” has taken note of. Meanwhile, we learned this week that the Obama administration tried to open up talks with North Korea last year and failed.

Immigration: A federal judge issued an opinion this week classifying Obama’s executive amnesty as unconstitutional. And a New York Times story shows why an injunction against the program is the only way to stop it. Interestingly, however, the nominee to head Immigration and Customs Enforcement doesn’t seem to have a problem with it.

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Elections and campaigns: The 2014 midterm elections have officially come to an end with Rep.-elect Martha McSally winning the recount in Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District. On the presidential front, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren insists she’s not running, although she only responded in the present tense. And Joe Biden still hasn’t made up his mind. On the Republican side, Rand Paul may have to jump through legal hoops if he decides to run. Jeb Bush is actively exploring a shot at the White House, even though policy and history are against the Florida governor. Meanwhile, his Floridian protégé Marco Rubio is quietly laying the groundwork for a run. Mittmentum isn’t gone yet, however.

Health Care: Insurers are extending another Obamacare deadline. Costs will now spike in 2016. Meanwhile, Vermont had to abandon plans to establish a single payer system because it’s too expensive. And the guy who outed Jonathan Gruber came forward to reveal another hidden agenda in Obamacare: It’s actually a $250 billion tax grab per year. 

Gun Control: The Senate confirmed Dr. Vivek Murthy, President Obama’s anti-Second Amendment nominee for surgeon general this week. And families of the victims of Newtown are suing Bushmaster, whether or not the case will go anywhere is a different story.

EITs: Discussions about the CIA’s Enhanced Interrogation Techniques continued this week, with a former CIA officer saying that Nancy Pelosi and her Democratic colleagues raised no objections to the practice in 2002. And former Vice President Dick Cheney went on Meet the Press to defend the CIA and EITs. 

Year-End Presser: Townhall editors Guy Benson and Conn Carroll have a few questions for the president before he heads off on his 17-day vacation in Hawaii. 

Graphics by Feven Amenu. 

Video: Exposing the White House's Dumb 'Executive Action' Numbers Game


Whenever the White House is pressed on President Obama's promiscuous and impactful use of executive action to achieve his policy objectives, they fall back on a specious talking point: Contrary to Republican claims, they say, Obama has issued significantly fewer executive orders than his predecessors from both parties over the last century. The goal is to paint critics as hypocritical, foolish, and blinded by irrational opposition. Many journalists seem to have swallowed Team Obama's story whole. But not USA Today reporter Gregory Korte, or Fox News' Ed Henry, who challenged White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest on the president's math, exposing the cynical and contradictory "rules" by which the administration has been playing in order to sustain their misleading claim:



EH: You will remember some months ago the president claimed he was using executive orders at the lowest rate in more than 100 years. 195 executive orders less than Democratic and Republican predecessors but when you add on 198 presidential memorandum, it actually turns out he is using a lot more than his predecessors, right? ...

JE: It was true because the number of executive orders is lower, as you pointed out, than executive orders that have been issued by many of his previous predecessors.

EH: Presidential memoranda have essentially the same effect, despite being called something different. The fact of the matter is that he is taking a lot more executive action.

JE: There is an important difference between executive orders and presidential memorandums. I would grant the premise that the president has used every element at his disposal to use -- to move the country forward and he has done that in a way consistent with the law and precedents and is often carried out in the face of pretty rigid Congressional obstruction….Generally speaking, presidential memoranda are associated with more technical issues and often directives related to a subset of agencies. Executive orders are often more sweeping and impactful...

EH: Generally they are more sweeping, but in the case of immigration, which you will announce was pretty sweeping, it was a presidential memorandum. So by your definition, I am slightly confused? You said the executive order was quite sweeping. The Immigration one actually was not. The point that I was trying to make them the matter what you call it, he was kind of misleading people about how often he was using executive actions.

JE: I think the president was being explicit that his predecessors have issued far more than he has. I do not think anyone has made the case come here that he is not willing to use executive authority to move the country forward. In fact, he has. Thank you, Ed.


"Thank you, Ed.  I've had enough of your questions on this subject."  That is some weak sauce spin from Earnest, parsing terms and harping on semantics to obscure the larger truth.  But as I said on Fox earlier, the numerical quantity and technical categories of executive action are far less relevant than the legality, propriety and consequences of the action being taken:


Even if a president almost never issued any executive orders or memoranda, if he then turned around and exceeded his authority with one giant violation of the separation of powers, those raw numbers don't matter.  They're a distraction.  And while this president's comprehensive hypocrisy on issues from campaign finance, to transparency, to executive power is well established at this point, I couldn't help but quote him as a presidential candidate in the 2008 cycle:


Notice that he wasn't troubled by President Bush's excessive issuance of executive memos vs. executive orders, or whatever.  He was (or at least claimed to be) worried about what he saw as Bush's improper arrogation of power, vis-a-vis Congress.  That Barack Obama is long gone.  Because Barack Obama's guiding principle is employing whatever argument or behavior Barack Obama needs in the moment.  His own standards and previous statements don't matter when the 'greater good' is at stake.

Shorter Marco Rubio: Rand Paul is Utterly Clueless on Cuba; UPDATE: Rand Responds

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) thinks the president’s decision to “normalize” relations with Cuba is “probably a good idea.” Once again, he’s walking a lonely and desolate road as almost all Republicans and even some Democrats oppose such a policy shift. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), for instance, has been sounding the alarm about appeasing an entrenched and despotic dictator, warning that doing so will not bring prosperity and self-government to Cuba as intended. On the contrary, as he stated in his much-watched press conference earlier this week, reconciliation will merely “tighten this regime’s grip on power.”

With respect to the embargo, he also reminded his colleagues last night on The Kelly File that we already trade with Cuba and send Americans there. Thus lifting the embargo, he argued, will not, in any meaningful sense, improve conditions on the island. To emphasis his point, Rubio slammed the junior Senator from Kentucky for regurgitating and believing false talking points.

“Like many people that have been opining, [Rand Paul] has no idea what he's talking about,” Rubio said. “What’s hurting the Cuban people is not the embargo. What’s hurting the Cuban people is the Cuban government.”

Watch the full clip below:

UPDATE: Well that didn't take long:

UPDATE: Read this too.

VIDEO: Rep. Bill Flores: Obama's Legacy a 'Disaster'

Last week, Townhall sat down with Congressman Bill Flores (R-TX) about his new role as the Chair of the Republican Study Committee. 

Read more here.

Flores believes President Obama's attack on family values, his disregard for unborn life, and his careless defense of religious freedom attribute to what he calls a disastrous legacy the American people won't forget. 

WATCH:

Unbelievable: Rolling Stone Writer Is Re-Reporting Her Botched UVA Story

Talk about sending the arsonist to put out the fire. Rolling Stone made it known that a re-reporting mission will be assembled to address the abysmal journalism in their disgraceful Nov. 19 story about an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia. Sabrina Rubin Erdely wrote the piece and came under fire for failing, amongst other things, to reach out to the alleged attackers for their account of the night’s events. Now, it seems Erdely is re-reporting what happened on the night of the alleged assault, a night where the fraternity allegedly at fault held no social gathering.

To recap, the alleged victim named Jackie claims several men gang raped her in a darkened room on a broken glass table. When the ordeal was over, she was bloodied, beaten, and traumatized. Yet, her three friends (“Andy,” “Cindy,” and “Randall”) who also weren’t contacted by RS, claimed that they felt something traumatic had happened to her, but there were no visible injuries on her when they saw her that night. They wanted to go to the authorities, but Jackie was against this course of action.

It’s a far cry from how Erdley described them. In her piece, they were distant, apathetic, and consumed about their position on UVA’s social ladder; claims they rejected in their recent interview with ABC News. Oh, and their real names are Ryan Duffin (“Randall”), Alex Stock (“Andy”), and Kathryn Hendley (“Cindy)”

Now, Erdely is reaching out to them (via Associated Press) [emphasis mine]:

One of the friends, a 20-year-old, third-year student referred to as "Randall" in the Rolling Stone article but whose real name is Ryan Duffin, told the AP that not only did he encourage the alleged victim to go to police, but he started to dial 9-1-1 on his cellphone until she begged off saying she just wanted to go back to her dorm and go to sleep.

"I couldn't help but notice that everything that the article said about me was incorrect," Duffin said.

The AP also spoke with the other two friends portrayed in the article: third-year, 20-year-old U.Va. students Kathryn Hendley and Alex Stock, known as "Cindy" and "Andy" in the article. None of the three friends was contacted by Rolling Stone's reporter, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, before the article was published; each of them rejected multiple assertions made in the article, for which Rolling Stone has since apologized for and noted discrepancies.

All three say Erdely has since reached out to them, and that she has told them she is re-reporting the story. Hendley told the AP Erdely apologized to her for portraying her the way she did.

Erdely and Rolling Stone Managing Editor Will Dana did not respond to an email from The Associated Press on Sunday morning seeking comment.

Should we be skeptical about this effort? Yes! Alex Pinkleton, a student at UVA and a friend of Jackie, was interviewed for the original RS piece, and mentioned that Erdely had an agenda when writing this story (via Newsbusters) [emphasis mine]:

BRIAN STELTER, HOST OF CNN’s RELIABLE SOURCES: So what did you experience with the reporter? She was on campus for a long time. She interviewed you and a lot of other students. What were your impressions of her?

ALEX PINKLETON, FRIEND OF ALLEGED UVA ASSAULT VICTIM: I think she had her heart in the right place. She wanted to bring light to this issue – and it is a prevalent issue at UVA, and on campuses across the nation. However, she did have an agenda, and part of that agenda was showing how monstrous fraternities themselves as an institution are, and blaming the administration for a lot of the sexual assaults.

STELTER: What were some of the questions she asked you that made you feel that way?

PINKLETON: When she asked about my own assault, she kept asking – you know, did he feed you the drinks? Was he keeping tabs of the drinks that night? And he wasn't, and that's something that I had to keep saying over and over again, and I think – I felt like she wasn't satisfied with my perpetrator as someone who wasn't clearly monstrous.

[…]

PINKLETON: I think that she should have fact checked, and I'm really upset and angry, like a lot of people are, that that didn't happen. And now, we're in a very difficult situation....

...Again, I think her intentions were good. I just think that the job was done poorly, and I am upset with that aspect of it. But I also know that she was trying to come from a point of advocacy. But as a reporter, you can't be like an advocate and support a story and listen to it and think everything is true; and then, report on it without trying to figure out if it's true.

My job as an advocate was never to question Jackie's story or question the details, because I didn't need to. But the role that she's in, as a reporter....she needed to do that.

Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone, who incurred the wrath of the right on social media when he penned an inflammatory obituary to the late Andrew Breitbart; said the magazine is feels awful about how this story fell apart, especially on the fact-checking side. According to Taibbi, the process for him is a slow, arduous one, but noted that he feels safe publishing pieces there since he knows everything has been looked at with a fine-tooth comb (via WaPo):

“For people like me and for a lot of the other reporters who’ve worked there over the years, this was a real shock to us because, speaking personally — people laughed at me when I said this on Twitter — what I go through normally in the fact-checking process at that magazine has always been a really difficult, long, thorough, painful process,” said Taibbi. “And that was actually one of the things that always attracted me to working there, which is that I feel safe when I publish things because I feel like it’s been double-checked and, you know, that was always a good feeling. And clearly I think in this particular situation, the controls got broken down somewhere and they’re looking into that. I’m sure they’re coming up with some answers.”

That’s fine, but Erdely’s fact-finding mission is already complete. All she has to do is read the Washington Post. After all, they did the job she was supposed to do when first reporting on this story. Red flags should have gone up when the pictures of her date that her three friends saw on the night of Jackie’s alleged assault turned out to be one of her former classmates from high school. But, Erdely never contacted them, so this tripwire was never seen.

I can only imagine what kind of Frankenstein monster-like article will come out of this re-reporting initiative on behalf of RS. Seriously RS, everyone else did the legwork for you; it’s over now.

Bill, Hillary Used $1.5 Million in Midterm Travel Expenses to Stump for Failed Candidates

The average voter will be happy to know that the Clintons used over $1.5 million this midterm election to campaign for failed Democratic hopefuls. Democratic campaigns and political committees shelled out this exorbitant amount of money for the political duo to use private jets and the like to make speeches that, according to the polls on November 5, reached no further than their podiums.

Here’s just a taste of the waste:

The tally includes $44,360 the final weekend of the campaign for a plane in Iowa. That was when Bill Clinton did a fly-around for failed Democratic Senate hopeful Bruce Braley. There was also a $21,801 charge that weekend to Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu’s unsuccessful reelection campaign, a POLITICO review found.

For those who haven’t been keeping count, just know that the majority of the candidates Bill and Hillary stumped for lost – badly. In addition to Braley’s and Landrieu’s unsuccessful bids, other failed campaigns included Michelle Nunn in Georgia, Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky, and Kay Hagan in North Carolina. Because of the Clintons’ terrible track record this year, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) even encouraged social media users to use the hashtag #HillaryLosers on Twitter.

I guess that Clinton charm has lost its power. 

The Clintons couldn't legally pay for their own travel, but they surely could have insisted on more reasonable travel plans and gotten rid of a few stops from their itinerary. Do they know the meaning of being frugal?

They may not be able to get candidates elected, but they proved they definitely know how to waste money!

Five Questions for President Obama

Today at 1:30 p.m., President Obama is scheduled to give his end of the year press conference at the White House. Guy Benson has already posted 7 questions he would like to see asked, and here are five more.

1. Mr. President, some in Hollywood have called the canceling of "The Interview" a "tragic" loss for "freedom of speech and freedom of expression." Do you believe your administration did all it could do to let Sony and its employees know they would not be harmed despite terrorists threats?

2. Mr. President, on Wednesday you called our fifty year old policy toward Cuba an "outdated" and "failed" approach. But research shows that benefits from economic liberalization under despotic regimes almost always benefits the regimes themselves. How will we know if you're new policy isn't also a failure?

3. Mr. President, the unemployment rate has fallen and the economy is growing, all be it slowly. But the gains from this recovery seem to be going almost exclusively to the wealthy. Median income is still $2,000 lower today then when you took office. Why isn't the middle class benefitting from your recovery and what do you plan to do about it?

4. Mr. President, your unilateral executive actions are popular among your liberal base but have eroded any trust you may have had with Republicans in Congress. Are there any areas where you think you can work with Republicans to reform government, and if you pursue tax reform, will you continue to insist on new revenues?

5. Mr. President, considering that your unilateral actions on energy, immigration, and Cuba make cooperation with the new Republican Congress highly unlikely, what other areas is your administration contemplating executive action? 

Year-End Presser: Seven Questions For President Obama


Josh Earnest announced yesterday that President Obama will meet the media for a year-end press conference later on today. In light of the White House press corps' track record of feeble, lethargic performances at these types of exchanges in recent years, I figured I'd offer a small sampling of questions that might be appropriate to put to the president.  These aren't comprehensive, but they're a start:

(1) Mr. President, here is what you said about using executive power to suspend deportation for millions of illegal immigrants in 2011: "With respect to the notion that I can just suspend deportations through executive order, that’s just not the case, because there are laws on the books that Congress has passed...for me to simply through executive order ignore those congressional mandates would not conform with my appropriate role as President."  Then, after you unilaterally implemented DREAM Act-style enforcement discretion for minors in 2012, you said "I've done everything that I can on my own," adding, "if we start broadening that [action], then essentially I would be ignoring the law in a way that I think would be very difficult to defend legally."  Was your legal assessment of the limits of your own authority inaccurate at the time?  (Be equipped with this information for a possible follow-up).

(2) On a related note, when you were a candidate for president, a central theme of your campaign was criticizing what you called your predecessor's inappropriate arrogation of executive power, at Congress' expense.  You told a crowd of supporters, "The biggest problems that were facing right now have to do with George Bush trying to bring more and more power into the executive branch and not go through Congress at all, and that’s what I intend to reverse when I’m President of the United States of America."  Some -- including prominent liberals -- would argue that your views on that 'big problem' have evolved ever since you attained that power.  Do you agree?

(3) The Hill reported last week that consumers who selected the most popular 'Obamacare' plans last year are in for double-digit 2015 rate increases.  Many customers now face the prospect of paying even more, or once again switching plans.  A recent Kaiser study found that 41 percent of uninsured Americans are choosing to remain uninsured, with "the vast majority" citing lack of affordability.  You told Americans that your health reform law would save the average family $2,500 per year.  Has that promise, which your adviser  Jonathan Gruber dismissed as wishful thinking, been kept?   Follow up: Every major poll shows that significantly more Americans say the 'Affordable Care Act' has directly harmed their family than who say they've been helped.  Are these people mistaken in the perception of their own lives and finances?

(4) A group of former CIA directors are pushing back hard against Senate Democrats' controversial report regarding the agency's post-9/11 interrogation program.  A core disagreement is whether tough tactics were effective in extracting useful intelligence from high-value Al Qaeda detainees.  Sen. Feinstein's report -- which didn't include interviews with any CIA officials who oversaw or carried out the program -- says that the so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" were not at all effective.  Numerous CIA officials strongly dispute that assertion, citing evidence to fortify their position.  Did 'enhanced interrogations' work, and were they appropriate at the time?  (Follow-up: Why are summary executions via lethal drone strikes in line with "our values," but harsh interrogations are not?)

(5) This week, members of the Taliban laid siege to a grade school in Pakistan, massacring 145 students and faculty.  Are you concerned that an American withdrawal from Afghanistan will strengthen these radicals lead to even more atrocities like this?  Does your administration continue to believe that direct negotiations with the Taliban can be a fruitful endeavor?

(6) Two North Korea-themed films have been cancelled in the wake of a major cyber hack and series of terrorist threats -- which the US government have linked to Pyongyang.  Does Kim Jong Un's regime now wield veto power over American consumer's entertainment choices?  Are you troubled by the potential precedent this episode has set regarding free speech and expression?  Is America prepared to retaliate?

(7) A new NBC/WSJ poll shows that fewer than one in five Americans believe you've heard, and are responding to, the message voters sent you and your party last month.  In what ways are you respecting the voters' wishes, as represented by November's Republican landslide victory?  (Be prepared with this reality check in a follow-up).

Journalist: First Amendment Rights Mean Not Offending The North Korean Dictator, Okay?

Did you know that having First Amendment rights in the United States comes with the responsibility not to offend dictators from North Korea? Had no idea? Me either. 

Last night on CNN "journalist" Sharon Waxman, who has worked at a number of media outlets including the Washington Post, argued that having First Amendment rights means we shouldn't be making fun of North Korean dictators because they might get upset. She was of course referring to the recent and massive hack on Sony pictures by North Korea as retaliation for "The Interview," a comedy about assassinating Kim Jong-Un. 

"I also want to point out something else that does not seem to be part of the discussion which is, where are our responsibilities in our exercising of the First Amendment? And I mean both those of us in the media and those of us who are making movies and those of us who are writing about the community that makes movies which is to say what is the thought process behind making a movie in which we decide to depict the assassination of a living foreign leader," Waxman said on air with someone on set in the studio agreeing by saying "good point." 

"I think common sense has to prevail when we express our artistic freedoms," Waxman added.

"Living foreign leader"? More like living, foreign, brutal dictator. What's the process behind this thought process? This is America, we say and do what we want. Period. The entire purpose of the First Amendment is to be able to speak out against tyranny. We don't restrict our First Amendment rights to appease a guy who puts thousands of people into starvation, labor camps. It's "common sense" to mock people like Kim Jong-Un, not to act like cowards and cave to his demands.  

H/T MKH

Gutfeld: If Obama Goes to Cuba For Golf, He Should Bring Back Cop Killer Joanne Chesimard

It is rumored President Obama could be taking a trip to Cuba next year to golf. If the president ends up going, Fox News' host, comedian and author Greg Gutfeld wants Obama to bring back cop killer Joanne Chesimard, also known as Assata Shakur, upon his return to the United States. 

"Unlike North Korea, Cuba is a jewel of the left because both adore marxist thugs. Those who failed at life but excel at taking it. Do you think that occurred to our President?" Gutfeld said.

As I wrote yesterday, Chesimard escaped from prison in 1979 and fled to Cuba after murdering New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster during a traffic stop in 1973. In 1977, Chesimard was convicted and given a life sentence. Now that President Obama has "normalized" relations between the U.S. and Cuba, many in the law enforcement community looking for justice and for Cheismard to be extradited.

History of Christmas Special

On this week's Townhall Weekend Journal:

Hosted by Michael Medved and Dennis Prager.

Grimes To Paul: I'll See You In Court

I already mentioned in a previous post that Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Ky) route to the presidency isn’t clear-cut or exactly legal. You cannot run for two offices at the same time in Kentucky. To change the law, Republicans would have to go through the legislature, where the GOP failed to gain the majority in the Kentucky State House of Representatives.

Rand’s team has been working tirelessly to find legal avenues that would permit him running for both offices, but wants to avoid a court battle. But, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes isn’t moving an inch. She bluntly says that Paul cannot run for two offices simultaneously–and said she won’t be “bullied” on this issue (via Politico):

“The law is clear,” Grimes told WHAS-TV in Louisville. “You can’t be on the ballot twice for two offices.”

“We’ll look to the court for any guidance that is needed,” she added. “And at the end of the day, we’re not going to be bullied.”

Grimes also told the Louisville ABC affiliate in the interview published on Wednesday that she has not decided whether to seek a second term as secretary of State in the 2015 election.

The 36-year-old left no doubt that she continues to harbor political ambitions beyond the Bluegrass State’s chief elections official. She would be a top Democratic recruit to run for Senate in 2016 if Paul bows out.

Grimes said she knows “there’s a bigger plan in store” and pronounced herself “excited for 2015.”

She’s also been talked about as a Democratic primary challenger to Attorney General Jack Conway in next year’s Kentucky governor’s race or against GOP Rep. Andy Barr in 2016.

Grimes’ comments about Paul seem aimed as much at rallying her liberal base after a tough loss as anything else. If she doesn’t run for reelection as the state’s chief election official, she would have no legal basis to challenge Paul’s dual candidacy.

So, it seems Paul will have to go to court to settle this dilemma, or he could opt not to run and most likely cruise to re-election in 2016.

After Sony, House Cybersecurity Chairman Warns Power Grid, Wall Street Could Be Next

House cybersecurity chairman Patrick Meehan is warning that the attack on Sony may be just the beginning. Nation-state hackers like North Korea and Iran could also hit Wall Street, the nation’s power grid, or the federal government next, he said, making it all the more important President Obama sign pending cybersecurity legislation into law. 

“The attack on Sony is the latest high-profile example of the growing danger of the cyber threat, and it won’t be the last,” Meehan said.

“American businesses, financial networks, government agencies and infrastructure systems like power grids are at continual risk. They’re targeted not just by lone hackers and criminal syndicates, but by well-funded nation-states like North Korea and Iran. A lack of consequences for when nation states carry out cyberattacks has only emboldened these adversaries to do more harm,” he continued.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest called the cyberattack on Sony a “serious national security matter” but fell short of acknowledging whether the North Korean government played a role or not.

Others, like Newt Gingrich, went as far as to say that by Sony giving in to North Korea, the U.S. has lost its first cyberwar, which sets a very dangerous precedent. This is why, Meehan said, it’s vital the U.S. upgrade its cyber defenses.

“We need to ease the sharing of threat information between government and the private sector and strengthen our ability to prevent and respond to attacks," the Pennsylvania lawmaker said. “Congress took important steps last week by passing bipartisan legislation that builds our cyber defense capabilities – it’s time for those bills to be signed into law and implemented.”

White House Calls Sony Hack "A Serious National Security Matter"

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest called the cyberattack on Sony, Inc. "a serious national security matter," but declined to acknowledge whether or not North Korea had any role in the incident.

"This is a matter that is still under investigation both by the FBI and the National Security Division of the Department of Justice," Earnest said in direct response to a question about whether the White House believes North Korea was behind the Sony hack. "I think for pretty obvious reasons I am not going to get ahead of that investigation or any announcements they may make about that investigation."

Earnest did go on to describe the "cyber incident" as "a serious national security matter" and said President Obama has been getting daily briefings on the matter in meetings led by his Homeland Security advisor and cyber coordinator.

"There is evidence to indicate that we have seen destructive activity with malicious intent that was initiated by a sophisticated actor," Earnest carefully read from his notes. "And it is being treated by those investigative agencies, both at the FBI and the Department of Justice, as seriously as you would expect."

Earnest said the Obama administration is "considering a range of options" and are "mindful of the need for a "proportional response." Pressed to describe what an appropriate "proportional" response might be, Earnest declined insisting on the need to let the investigation finish.

Pressed later in the briefing by Major Garrett of CBS News as to whether the White House considered North Korea "a nation of interest" in the investigation of the Sony hack, Earnest directed the question to the FBI and Justice Department.

Asked near the end of the briefing if Obama would consider screening Sony's movie, "The Interview," at the White House, Earnest did not rule out the possibility, but he did note that the president is scheduled to leave for a two week Hawaii vacation on Friday and that there are no screenings scheduled before his departure.

Paramount Bans "Team America" Showings

To borrow a line from the 2004 animated movie Team America: World Police, "Why is everyone so f***ing stupid?"

Following yesterday's cancellation of the movie The Interview because (supposed) North Korean hackers released a few old emails and lobbed threats of attacks on movie theaters that showed the movie (threats, by the way, the Department of Homeland Security says are entirely baseless), some theaters said that they would have free screenings of Team America: World Police instead. Both movies lampooned North Korean dictators.

However, referring back to the quote in the opening paragraph, apparently the United States can no longer have nice things and Paramount has banned screenings of the movie.

Seriously.

Three movie theaters say Paramount Pictures has ordered them not to show Team America: World Police one day after Sony Pictures pulled The Interview from release. The famous Alamo Drafthouse in Texas, Capitol Theater in Cleveland, and Plaza Atlanta in Atlanta said they would screen the movie instead of The Interview but Paramount has ordered them not to do so. (No reason was apparently given and Paramount hasn't spoken.)

This is an extreme and ridiculous act of cowardice. Hollywood shouldn't be afraid of North Korea, period, and film studios shouldn't be bowing down out of fear. There are plenty of controversial movies released that resulted in no protests, no attacks, and no deaths. Hey, here's six movies that involved North Korea that apparently didn't cross the line. This is all just madness.

I'll leave you with this NSFW ditty from Team America to serve as a reminder of how Hollywood once understood humor: [Strong language warning]

'Tis the Season: The Fight Against All Things Christmas is in Full Swing

Outrage over Nativity scenes, menorahs, images of Santa Claus, wreaths, and even candy canes have become just about as traditional in America this time of year as eggnog and tree lighting.

Across the nation, controversies and Christmas caution are already underway.

In Indiana, the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) is seeking a court order for the permanent removal of a Nativity scene outside a local courthouse. Note: this is the fourth year in a row FFRF has tried to get it removed.

Michigan, however, may win the prize for diversity. It’s Capitol Building will not only have a Nativity scene, it will also have a display from the Satanic Temple. What exactly does this ‘display’ look like? It is a snake, wrapped around a tree and coming through a black cross. An open book hangs on the tree with the proclamation “The Greatest Gift is Knowledge” written above it.

What’s a little curious, though, is that while the Satanic Temple received permission to have its display out from Dec. 21-23, the Nativity scene must be taken down every night and put up each morning. Michigan lawmaker Rick Jones (R) has offered to head this nightly venture.

Oh, and as far as diversity goes, don’t forget about the "Festivus" pole, a six foot high stack of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer that is on display for the second year in Florida. I guess atheists just really need something to celebrate, and a Seinfeld joke about a “Festivus for the rest of us” was as good as any.

The good news is, that while these outlandish stories will likely make headlines every season, the majority of Americans aren’t offended when they see a baby Jesus display.

Only 20 percent believe there should be no religious displays on government property, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey. In fact, most people still consider the Christmas story to be an historical event:

About three-quarters of Americans believe that Jesus Christ was born to a virgin, that an angel of the Lord appeared to shepherds to announce the birth of Jesus, and that wise men, guided by a star, brought Jesus gold, frankincense and myrrh. And eight-in-ten U.S. adults believe the newborn baby Jesus was laid in a manger.

In total, 65% of U.S. adults believe that all of these aspects of the Christmas story – the virgin birth, the journey of the magi, the angel’s announcement to the shepherds and the manger story – reflect events that actually happened.

So call me traditional, but whenever a cashier, barista, or anyone working for a "tolerant," politically correct company sends me off with a “Happy Holiday!” I always respond with a bright, unapologetic: “Merry Christmas.” After all, that is what this federal holiday is called (for now at least).

Pure Horror: One ISIS Fighter Reportedly Killed 150 Women and Girls

Sickening and truly upsetting:

The Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL) group conducted a mass execution of women in Fallujah, according to a statement issued by the Iraqi government. The Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights announced Tuesday that a man identified as Abu Anas al-Libi had killed more than 150 women and girls in Iraq's Fallujah, some of whom were pregnant.

"The women were executed because they refused to accept the policy of Jihad al-Nikah [sexual jihad] that ISIS is enforcing in Fallujah," the ministry's statement added. ISIS has carried out "wide-ranging massacres" in the Anbar province's Fallujah, the ministry also said, specifying that the jihadist group has been burying the dead in two mass graves in the city's Hayy al-Jolan neighborhood as well as the suburb of Al-Saqlawiyyah.

It is worth emphasizing and repeating that one man did this. Unlike the tragedy in Peshawar, wherein several Taliban savages butchered some 132 school children, this act of horror was carried out by one man. One man.

Let’s take this stunning horror story -- picked up by a number of different media outlets -- to its logical conclusion: If one man is capable of such barbarism, imagine how dangerous an Army of these savages is. That is, after all, what we're now dealing with.

ISIS’ brand of terrorism is defined by its ruthlessness. They roam their "caliphate" with reckless abandon killing and torturing at will. And they are recruiting westerners to participate in the bloodletting because they can.

Killing women and children because they will not submit to “sexual jihad” -- and burying them in mass graves -- is a new low even for ISIS that, if anything, merits a military response. But for now, as the fight continues, let us hope and pray that good will ultimately triumph over evil, and that the families affected by these paralyzingly awful events will somehow find comfort in their anguish.

UPDATE: Richly deserved:

U.S.-led air strikes against Islamic State in Iraq have killed three of the militant group's top leaders, the head of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff told the Wall Street Journal on Thursday.

Fast and Furious: [Warning] Graphic, Bloody Photos Show Carnage From 2013 Phoenix Gang Assault

Government watchdog Judicial Watch has obtained and released graphic photos from a 2013 gang assault on a Phoenix, Arizona apartment complex. During the assault, an AK-47 firearm sold and trafficked through the Department of Justice's Operation Fast and Furious was used, leaving behind a bloody apartment and at least one Mexican national with severe gunshot wounds to the head. As previously reported, when the incident occurred and during investigation afterward, the Phoenix Police Department [PPD] worked with federal law enforcement agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Department of Homeland Security, FBI and Drug Enforcement Agency in the case, raising suspicions the assault wasn't simply a typical, local gang shootout and prompted questions about the details of where the weapons that were used came from. Documents and the new photos surrounding this crime were turned over to Judicial Watch after the group filed a law suit against PPD due to non-cooperation with valid freedom of information requests. 

"According to press reports at the time of the assault, police investigating the shooting that left two wounded found an AK-47 assault rifle in the front passenger area of a vehicle that had crashed into a fence surrounding the apartment complex. Inside sources informed Judicial Watch at the time of the crime scene investigation that the AK-47 used in the assault had been provided to the assailants as part of the Obama-Holder Fast and Furious program. On October 16, 2014, Judicial Watch announced that, based upon information uncovered through its October 2 public records lawsuit, the U.S. Congress had confirmed that the rifle was tied to the Fast and Furious operation. Attorney General Eric Holder has already admitted that guns from the Fast and Furious scandal are expected to be used in criminal activity on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border for years to come," Judicial Watch stated in a release. "Despite the fact that the crime scene photos obtained by Judicial Watch clearly revealed a serial number that would show that the AK-47 used in the commission of the crime was a Fast and Furious weapon, the City of Phoenix and Department of Justice failed to turn over the incriminating photos to Congress, despite longstanding requests for such information. According to Judicial Watch sources, investigators knew at the scene and subsequently that the AK-47 was a Fast and Furious weapon."

Here are some of the photos Judicial Watch has produced of the crime scene. There are more here and additional photos will be uploaded

“Another Obama administration Fast and Furious cover-up has been undone by Judicial Watch. These crime scene photos graphically illustrate the legacy of President Obama and Eric Holder’s deadly Fast and Furious lies,”Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement. “Even as the evidence and casualties mount, the Obama administration is still secreting information about its reckless program. These photos show the American people firsthand the bloody consequences when an out-of-control administration will not even admit – or correct – its own mistakes.” 

On Monday the family of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry marked the four year anniversary of his murder in Peck Canyon, Arizona. His killers were carrying Ak-47s like the one seen above that they obtained through Operation Fast and Furious. Hundreds of citizens inside Mexico have been murdered as a result of the program.

America's Next President

The candidate least like President Obama will have the best chance of succeeding him. HotAir's Noah Rothman reports for the December issue of Townhall Magazine. 

For political professionals, the next presidential election begins the minute the last one ends. Even before revelers abandon the cavernous halls in which a new president accepts the public mandate and sleepy custodians sweep up the confetti that rained down upon the victor hours prior, aspiring presidential candidates begin the process of gaining allies, securing the support of donors, and vying for media attention.

The once “invisible primary” has grown more perceptible in recent decades. While the public can enjoy their lives in the years between a presidential and a midterm election unaware that presidential politics is raging, it is a comfort of which all are robbed when the midterms are over. In just nine months, Hawkeye State residents will convene for the Ames Straw Poll. Overt campaigning for that honor begins months earlier.

The 2016 presidential election cycle is upon us.

Barack Obama’s presidency has left the country with one enduring lesson: Campaigning and governing are distinct activities that require divergent, often conflicting, skill sets. As always, the next president will be the candidate who out-campaigns his or her opponents. But history suggests that Americans are seeking more in a president today than merely a campaigner-in-chief. The voting public is already asking themselves which traits would be most desirable in Obama’s successor, and it serves both parties to be aware of what those characteristics might be.

Ensuring that the tepid post-recession recovery does not reverse course, reviewing the prosecution of America’s endless Middle Eastern wars, unfreezing the debate over how to address the failing Affordable Care Act, and preventing nascent revanchism from taking hold in Moscow and Beijing will certainly be on the next president’s agenda. However, any number of unforeseen eventualities is certain to test the character of America’s 45th president.

So, what character traits will Americans most favor in their next chief executive? Recent history suggests the public will back the politician who is the most dissimilar to the current president. The mass media era has turned the quadrennial presidential race into even more of a beauty contest, and the winner a celebrity. After years of unmet promises and the best intentions producing suboptimal results, Americans hunger for efficacy from the next occupant of the Oval Office. The record indicates there will be no appetite for an Obama doppelganger.

Americans knew President Nixon had competently managed America’s affairs abroad. Imagine another president honored with a standing ovation from a joint session of Congress dominated by the opposition party in the summer of an election year, an honor bestowed on Nixon after he opened China. When he resigned as a result of his ethical deficiencies, his once vaunted obsessive attention to managerial details was no longer trusted. He was justifiably seen as manipulative, paranoid, and Machiavellian.

Nixon’s vice president and immediate successor was deprived of a fresh look from the voters, and acquired a few negative traits all his own. The 37th president’s elected successor, President Carter, was everything the long-time GOP standard-bearer was not. He appeared earnest, forthright, faithful, and sincere to the point of naiveté.

The Carter presidency did not deliver on its promise. President Reagan benefited from the perception that he was Carter’s polar opposite; a strong, decisive, competent manager who would not be distracted by trivialities, pitiless when need be, and undaunted by adversity.

When two-term presidents leave office in times of general public satisfaction, voters will often seek out traits in their successor that mirror the outgoing president. President Bush was seen as a sufficient successor to Reagan and a dispassionate manager who would keenly oversee the collapse of communism in Europe.

President Clinton was buoyed by the perception that Bush was rigid, inaccessible, hopelessly dated, and married to a code of conduct that belonged to another age. Clinton—sanguine, affable, and charismatic—represented a welcome change. President George W. Bush, far more so than Al Gore, was an affable everyman who promised to extend the post-Cold War vacation from history he had inherited from Bill Clinton.

September 11 and the War in Iraq changed Bush and the American people. The public’s preferred antidote to a president now perceived as headstrong, provincial, and inept, was the professorial, worldly, meticulous, and self-assured President Obama.

Predictably, those traits that were once Obama’s attractive attributes are now his curse. Obama’s professorial nature seems aloof today. His worldliness is seen as a mirage, a product of self-delusion. His meticulousness perceived as paralysis that betrays a lack of conviction.

History suggests that Obama’s successor will be the candidate who can present the strongest contrast with the president. In 2016 Americans will seek out a figure of demonstrable executive competence; a doer, not a talker.

Value a candidate’s competence, policy prescriptions, and pedigree above all else. But do not discount the intangibles. The fundamentals of war or peace and growth or recession will largely determine who takes the oath of office on January 20, 2017. But in this election, perhaps more than most, character will matter. We cannot determine who will best address crises not yet known or meet challenges not yet manifest, but we can identify the type of person we want to be in a position to face that adversity.

Will Cuba Return Cop Killer Joanne Chesimard To U.S. With New "Normalization"?

In 1973 former Black Panther and Black Liberation Army member Assata Shakur, also known as Joanne Chesimard, killed New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster in cold blood during a traffic stop. Shakur took Foerster's police issued firearm and used it to shoot him twice in the head. In 1977 Shakur was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Foester's family never received full justice as Chesimard escaped in 1979, fled to Cuba and been protected by the Castro regime ever since. She is listed on the FBI's most wanted terrorists list with a $1 million reward for information leading to her arrest. 


Tracking down Shakur under the protection of the Castros has been difficult, but with President Obama's announcement of normalization between the United States and Cuba, many are asking if Shakur will be extradited.

Renewed relations with Cuba brought hope that New Jersey cop-killer JoAnne Chesimard might finally be extradited to the U.S. to finish serving her prison term.

"We view any changes in relations with Cuba as an opportunity to bring her back to the United States to finish her sentence for the murder of New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster in 1973," State Police Col. Rick Fuentes said in a statement. "We stand by the reward money and hope that the total of $2 million will prompt fresh information in the light of this altered international relationship."

Considering the Obama administration's history of supporting cop killers, Shakur's extradition and return to the U.S. justice system might take awhile.

Government Sources: Yes, North Korea Hacked Sony

The cat is out of the bag:

U.S. officials have concluded that the North Korean government ordered the hacking attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment — a breach that led to the studio cancelling the planned release of "The Interview". One U.S. official told NBC News that the country "can't let this go unanswered." The officials told NBC News the hacking attack originated outside North Korea, but they believe the individuals behind it were acting on orders from the North Koreans.

"We have found linkage to the North Korean government," according to a U.S. government source. An official said the U.S. is discussing what form a response could take, and couldn't detail what options the government has available.

You’ll recall that North Korea has been warning the U.S. about releasing the film for months. If the film is released, North Korea’s state mouthpiece once threatened, it would be “an act of war.” Now that Sony has basically met the demands of a maniacal dictator, however, the film has been permanently tabled. Put differently: The “Supreme Leader” has brought the “Great Satan” to its knees. Splendid.

As pathetic as that might sound, I’m also left scratching my head about Sony’s decision. The damage has already been done. So why not just release the film now?

Apparently, one could argue, they didn’t really have a choice:

Sony said it was cancelling “The Interview” release “in light of the decision by the majority of our exhibitors not to show the film.” The studio said it respected and shared in the exhibitors’ concerns.

“We are deeply saddened at this brazen effort to suppress the distribution of a movie, and in the process do damage to our company, our employees, and the American public,” read the statement. “We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression and are extremely disappointed by this outcome.”

So blame the exhibitors for being cowardly then -- although Ed Morrissey points out that they had legal niceties to think about. Nevertheless, the whole situation reeks of gutlessness. Even President Obama shrugged his shoulders when asked if “The Interview” could threaten the safety and security of the United States:

The US president certainly did not seem overly concerned. Asked about the stern warnings of retribution targeted at screenings of The Interview, which invoked the memory of the 9/11 terror attacks, Barack Obama told ABC News: “For now, my recommendation would be that people go to the movies.”

Now they can’t, of course, and many people are pissed off. Take, for instance, Mary Katharine Ham who has already started a petition to get the film onto the big screen:

Sign it if so inclined. But at least read the whole thing. She makes some excellent points.

"The Smallest Coffins Are the Heaviest"

Tuesday’s news was hard to read. The Taliban senselessly murdered schoolchildren in Peshawar, Pakistan. Stunningly, 148 young lives were taken – with the number still rising.

On Wednesday night, a few hundred people came to Dupont Circle in Washington, DC to honor these innocent victims in a candlelight vigil. In fact, that was a common theme of the night: lost innocence. Peshawar parents dropped off their kids at school, not even considering that their precious sons and daughters wouldn’t come home to play with their toys after school. Their innocence could not save them from the Taliban’s savage plans.

Amnesty International’s Noor Mir, who helped organize the vigil, explained how they gathered 140 candles to represent the lives who were lost. The candles were surrounded by pictures released from the hospital in Peshawar.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Attendees also contributed to the display with signs they made, including one that had this powerful message, “The smallest coffins are the heaviest.”

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Mir explained that Peshawar parents found out their children were dead by coming to a hospital and seeing a sheet with the victim's name and age, with the word, ‘Dead’ next to it.

Horrific.

Famed journalist Raza Rumi also addressed the crowd, especially thanking the Pakistani Americans in attendance for practicing solidarity. He urged participants to keep in mind that all Taliban are terrorists.

"There are no good Taliban and there are no bad Taliban."

The organizers were only able to find 40 of the victims’ names. They read each one as quiet sobbing could be heard throughout the crowd.

The vigil ended with a participant reading off an original poem he penned in response to the Peshawar attack, entitled, “Innocence.” I thought this was the most powerful line:

“A school that was supposed to be a fountain of knowledge, became a pool of blood.”

The senseless terrorists who performed this cowardly act are dead. Yet, the Taliban still looms.

May they be brought to justice.