The Huffington Post: Is Rand Paul Going Neocon on Iran?

Two years ago, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), after giving a foreign policy speech at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Service, said, “Iran has a large undercurrent of people who like the West. They like our music, our culture, our literature, and so I think we can influence people in those ways. I’d rather do that than go to war with Iran.”

This statement was lauded by those–including myself–who seek a diplomatic solution with Iran.

Less than a year later, in March 2012, Sen. Paul put his money where his mouth is by standing up to his colleagues in Senate. He attempted to block a non-binding resolution that he felt would give the President carte blanche to preemptively attack Iran.

In October, I was able–along with another fellow Iranian-American from Kentucky–to meet with one of Sen. Paul’s senior staff members.

“Sanctions don’t have a history of working. All they do is lead us down a path to war,” the staffer said, almost scoffing at the current within Congress to increase sanctions. I walked away feeling positive that diplomacy may actually get a chance.

What a difference a year makes.

Last Friday, I received an email from Rand Paul’s office. He was, ostensibly, responding to my letter urging the Senate to oppose a new resolution that would call for the U.S. to enforce sanctions and provide economic, political, and military support if Israel attacked Iran. I opened it assuming that I’d read an email about how Senator Paul remained committed to standing strong against the push for war and sanctions. Boy was I wrong.

Ten months after sitting with what I assumed was a sympathetic ear, I read the following:

Iran continues to pose a threat to the region and the world as it continues nuclear development in the face of international sanctions and pressure to halt this aggressive behavior. Though a nuclear Iran would be a threat on the global scale, there is also concern that a nuclear Iran would aggressively target our ally Israel.

The United States and Israel have a special relationship. With our shared history and common values, the American and Israeli people have formed a bond that unifies us across many thousands of miles and calls on us to work together toward peace and prosperity. This peace is not only between our two nations, but also our neighbors.

In February 2013, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) introduced S.Res.65, a Senate resolution stating it is the sense of Congress that the United States and international organizations should continue the enforcement of sanctions against Iran. In addition, S.Res.65 reiterates the policy of the United States to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and our continued support of our ally Israel.

I supported S.Res.65, which passed both the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the full Senate unanimously.

He goes on to mention that he got language included in the resolution stating that it does not authorize war. But I admittedly had to re-read the letter a few times. Here was a letter from Sen. Rand Paul, a supposed anti-sanctions, anti-war isolationist, that was basically doing a complete 180 degree turn away from what Paul’s been advocating since before his election.

I guess Sen. Paul is no longer an anti-sanctions, anti-war stalwart. Instead, he’s claiming sanctions and war threats are a vital part of preventing Iran from building a nuclear weapon, despite the intelligence community’s continued analysis that indicates Iran has still not decided to build one.


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National Journal: Michigan’s Amash Quietly Tries to Build a National Brand

The libertarian lawmaker wants to be a known name, whether he runs for the Senate or not.


The young conservative known to Republican colleagues as the most reliable “no” vote in Congress is trying to build his political brand—and collect the campaign cash that comes with it.

Maybe it’s for a Senate run. (Justin Amash still won’t say.) But what’s certain is that the Michigan Republican wants to be seen as the go-to libertarian in the House—a position he’s been trying to fill since Ron Paul left Congress.

“Regardless of what my decision is [on the Senate race], I think it’s important to get out there, spend some time throughout the state and try to spread the message that I’ve been spreading here and in my district—the message of limited government, economic freedom, and individual liberty,” Amash said.

Amash, in his second term, has already earned a reputation as one of the libertarian stalwarts in Washington. After the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs were revealed, Amash was sought out by reporters and lawmakers alike. When he introduced a bill with Democratic Rep. John Conyers to limit the NSA’s targeting of phone records, dozens of members, in both parties, asked to become cosponsors. And last week, as the House considered an appropriations bill for the Defense Department, Amash pushed an amendment to defund the NSA’s surveillance.

But those limited accomplishments don’t easily penetrate the donor class beyond the Beltway and his own district. So now, Amash is focused on bolstering and broadening his fan base.

Last week, the lawmaker attended a series of fundraisers in the vast expanse known as Metro Detroit—on the opposite side of the state from his district. He met with well-heeled Republican donors in Birmingham, chatted with the Lebanese Chamber of Commerce in Southfield, and held private gatherings with a smattering of other business groups, according to a source close to Amash.

And last month, he quietly launched a national mail campaign, targeting wealthy libertarian-leaning donors in places such as Florida and California, the source confirmed.

Amash is seeing a return on the investment already. According to his newly filed report to the Federal Election Commission, he raised roughly $220,000 in the second quarter of 2013—significantly more than the $125,000 he raised in the first quarter and easily eclipsing his haul from the second quarter of last year.

Still, these improved second-quarter numbers are not particularly strong for any member of Congress, much less someone considering a Senate campaign. As a point of comparison, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., who also weighed a Senate bid, raised more than $420,000 during the same period. And their Michigan colleague, Rep. Gary Peters, who entered the Senate race in June as the Democratic favorite, raised more than $1 million.


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Roll Call: GOP Leaders Face Libertarian Revolt Over NSA, Egypt, Syria

House GOP leaders are scrambling to quell a quiet libertarian rebellion that threatens to block consideration of the Defense appropriations bill.

A small group of Republicans are holding the spending bill hostage until they get votes on several controversial amendments.

“We’ve conveyed to the whip team that we won’t vote for the rule if they don’t allow debate and votes,” Thomas Massie, R-Ky., said Friday. “We don’t need all the amendments to be allowed. We need at least one substantial amendment on three things: Egypt, Syria and NSA.”

Massie has two amendments before the Rules Committee: one that would defund military operations in Syria and one that would defund military operations in Egypt. Another leader in the Republican rebellion, Justin Amash of Michigan, has an amendment that would end funds for the National Security Agency’s blanket collection of telephone call records in the wake of Edward Snowden’s leaking of the program.

Rules Committee member Rich Nugent, R-Fla., has a similar NSA amendment, but the libertarian lawmakers say it insufficiently addresses the issue.

GOP leaders have been coming off a string of impressive victories lately — from passing the farm bill without a single Democratic vote to navigating a No Child Left Behind rewrite. But the Rules Committee postponed their meeting Thursday on the Defense appropriations bill, and leaders are still figuring out if they have the votes to squash the Republican revolt.

Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., has pleaded with lawmakers in the group to not shoot down the rule and, consequently, shoot Republicans in the foot.

According to an aide to one lawmaker in the group threatening to vote down the rule, leadership has used “every tool in the toolbox” to block the amendments. The aide said they have faced a number of procedural roadblocks, from leadership saying their amendments legislate on an appropriations bill to having their amendments submitted to the Congressional Budget Office for a score. The aide said it has been a “concerted effort.”

But the lawmakers have cleared the hurdles, they say, and they want votes. They are drafting a letter calling for the opportunity to vote on their amendments, and they are seeking signatories.

On Friday, Jim McGovern, D-Mass., who will be controlling the Defense appropriations rule on the floor for the Democrats, said the Republican Conference is “just chaos.”

“They can’t seem to get their act together. So they got a problem,” McGovern said. “The Republican leadership long ago lost the ability to lead.”

McGovern, who is also a Rules panel member, said Democrats were initially told the Rules Committee was delaying its Thursday meeting on the Defense appropriations bill “out of deference to us” so Democrats could vote in the ranking member of the Natural Resources election, even though no Democrat asked the committee to delay the hearing.

“And then they delayed for another hour, and then they delayed it indefinitely and never told us why,” McGovern said. “We all know why: It’s because of these NSA votes.”

The Rules Committee plans to mark up the rule for the Defense appropriations bill at 5 p.m. on July 22, and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said Friday that the House will consider the DOD appropriations bill next week.


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Video: Fourth of July Reflection, What if we actually had a sound (and constitutional) foreign policy?

On the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence for the GREATEST country in the world, let us reflect as to what our foreign policy should be going forward. What would the founding fathers have wanted? Does our current foreign policy follow the constitution? What does our current foreign policy do to our national debt? Does our foreign policy actually make us safer? Please keep those questions in mind when watching this video…..

The National Journal: Why the Obama Administration Can’t Win on Health Care

The Obama administration had been absorbing constant political attacks about the so-called job-killing nature of Obamacare, with its complex employer reporting requirements and fines for large companies that don’t offer their workers insurance. But when it announced Tuesday that it would delay implementation of the employer mandate to give businesses more time to prepare, the attack lines simply shifted from arguments about policy merit to those about the administration’s competence.

Republicans used the decision to amp up their calls for repealing the law, sounding as bullish as ever that the Affordable Care Act was inevitably flawed.

It shows that when it comes to the health care law—the president’s signature legislative accomplishment—the administration can’t win.

The White House appeased an angry business community with its decision to postpone a requirement that large employers offer their workers health insurance or pay a fine. The rule had angered even businesses that already insure their workers. It gave Republican opponents ammunition to attack the law, claiming it slowed economic growth. Its delay is likely to quiet some of those particular critiques, at least until after the 2014 election.

But the decision will still be politically useful to the health care law’s political foes, who are now painting the administration as incompetent. A flood of press releases Tuesday night described the law as “unworkable,” its implementation a “train wreck,” and the delay as evidence that all of Obamacare should be taken off the books. “This is a clear acknowledgment that the law is unworkable, and it underscores the need to repeal the law and replace it,” said House Speaker John Boehner in a statement.


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ABC News: GOP Presidential Candidate Chris Christie Wants Gun Control: Chris Christie’s Gun Gamble

The Newtown, Conn., shooting has prompted a handful of states to enact tougher gun laws, and blue-state governors have led the way.

With Congress yet to agree on any federal changes, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo — both thought to be Democratic presidential contenders in 2016 — have shepherded tighter restrictions in their states. In Connecticut, Democratic Gov. Dan Malloy signed a new gun law earlier this month.

Add Chris Christie to that list.

On Friday, the New Jersey Republican governor and possible GOP White House hopeful unveiled a new plan for tighter gun laws in the Garden State.

Previously on the record as supporting some gun restrictions on the books in New Jersey — some of the toughest in the nation — the governor took an active turn on the gun issue. Christie proposed requiring mental-health adjudication records be added to background checks, banning the Barrett .50 caliber rifle, new and stiffer penalties for straw-purchasers and gun trafficking, parental consent for violent video game sales, and making it easier for doctors to mandate commitment or outpatient treatment for mental-health patients deemed dangerous. He added a mental-health working group to a state gun-violence task force, charged with making recommendations.

“The existing system that we have placed in New Jersey is much stronger already than the proposed Toomey-Manchin legislation that failed in the Senate earlier this week,” Christie said at a news conference on Friday. “The [state] assembly has put some bills forward, the [state] senate’s gonna put some bills forward, I’ve now put bills forward, and now we have to let the process work to reach consensus of what works for the people of the state.”

PHOTO: In this March 12, 2013 file photo, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie addresses a packed house at St. Luke's Baptist Church in Paterson, N.J., during his 102nd town hall meeting.

Highlighting a political conundrum for Christie, the gun push will likely play well in his home state, which already restricts guns more aggressively than most — but it might raise concerns among Republicans elsewhere, posing a hurdle for Christie if he seeks the presidency in 2016.

“It’s only gonna hurt him,” said Keith Appell, a former adviser to Steve Forbes’ 2000 presidential campaign, the Swift Vets and POWs for Truth campaign, and Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s 2010 campaign.

“He may come right at it and try to stare people down by sheer force of his personality and attempt to convince people that he’s one of them in spite of these steps,” Appell said. “He will find, as many have before him, that it won’t play. It’ll slam him right back in the face.”

In his new push, Christie has bucked conservative orthodoxy for the second time this year. In February, he joined seven other Republican governors in accepting an expansion of state Medicaid programs under President Obama’s health-reform law, the Affordable Care Act.

“It is clear over the past two or three months that he really worked to prioritize his New Jersey constituency over his national conservative constituency, and this is kind of groundbreaking, because up until about two or three months ago, we saw a series of actions that really defied public opinions in the state,” said Prof. Brigid Harrison, who teaches political science and law at Montclair State University in Montclair, N.J.

Harrison referenced Christie’s cuts to family-planning funding in the state budget.

Christie already has some problems with conservative activists. After supporting a federal Hurricane Sandy relief bill, he was not invited to the Conservative Political Action Conference, an annual confab that hosts top conservative politicians for speeches to a large crowd of activists in the Washington, D.C., area.

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AP Poll: Trust in government, Obama approval slip

President Barack Obama’s re-election glow is gone. Congress’ reputation remains dismal. And only about one in five Americans say they trust the government to do what’s right most of the time, an Associated Press-GfK poll finds.

Most adults disapprove of Obama’s handling of the federal deficit, a festering national problem. But they also dislike key proposals to reduce deficit spending, including a slower growth in Social Security benefits and changes to Medicare.

Rounding out the portrait of a nation in a funk, the share of people saying the United States is heading in the wrong direction is at its highest since last August: 56 percent.

The government in Washington is “dealing with a lot of stuff that are non-issues,” said Jeremy Hammond, 33, of Queensbury, N.Y.

Hammond, a Web programmer and political independent, said Congress should focus on “the incredible debt and lack of spending control.” He said it’s absurd for Congress to force the Postal Service to continue Saturday mail delivery when the agency says “we can’t afford it.”

Hammond reflects the lukewarm feelings toward Obama found in the poll. Asked his opinion of the president, Hammond paused and said: “I don’t know. I voted for him in 2008, not in 2012.” When it comes to presidents, he said, “it’s one set of lawyers or the other.”

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ABC News: Rand Paul Hints at Presidential Run in 2016

Sen. Rand Paul is considering a run for the presidency in 2016, but will not decide until next year, the Kentucky Republican said today at the Christian Science Monitor Breakfast in Washington, D.C.

A Tea Party favorite, libertarian like his father-congressman and perennial presidential candidate, Paul told reporters he plans on multiple visits to primary states in the next few months to gauge his viability as a candidate.

Paul, 50, had previously said he was “seriously” considering a run.

He said the visibility he gains from being considered a presidential prospect helps his voice to be heard.

On the issues of the day, he said gun-control measures now before the Senate would do nothing to stop mass shootings like the one in Newtown, Conn., so he opposes them. Paul says the federal government should enforce existing laws, not make more.

Paul did indicate support for the immigration bill introduced in the Senate today. But, despite not having read the details, he still plans to introduce amendments to make border security even more stringent.

He did endorse a pathway to “citizenship” after the border is secure, terminology he had refused to utter out loud until this morning.  Instead, Paul had previously called for an underclass of legal immigrants without full citizenship in a speech last month that was widely seen as his first indication that a run at the presidency was on his mind.

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