# Libya

3 ways Matt Lauer failed to press Donald Trump on his Russian entanglements

Donald Trump’s potential to be unduly influenced by Russian President Vladimir Putin has been worrying me for some time, so my head nearly exploded when I watched NBC’s Matt Lauer question Trump about Putin during last night’s “Commander-in-Chief forum.”

Other commentators have already noted how Lauer interrupted Hillary Clinton repeatedly but let Trump get away with long-winded non-responses, didn’t follow up when Trump lied (again) about supposedly having opposed the war in Iraq and military intervention in Libya, and didn’t mention controversial Trump statements of obvious relevance to an audience of veterans.

Lauer also flubbed a perfect chance to scrutinize Trump’s Russia connections.

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CBS finally acknowledges Benghazi story debacle

“60 Minutes” correspondent Lara Logan and her producer Max McClellan are taking a leave of absence after an internal review at CBS News acknowledged major problems with a segment broadcast last month. Logan highlighted an alleged eyewitness’s sensational account about the 2012 terrorist attacks on the U.S. compound at Benghazi, Libya. But much of that security contractor’s story appears to have been fabricated, leading to his publisher taking the extraordinary step of pulling his book about Benghazi.

Here’s a timeline of the “Benghazi Trainwreck”, and here are seven major problems with the story Logan aired.

Among the unanswered questions surrounding this black eye for the flagship CBS news program: “why the hell did CBS News continue to defend this story after evidence emerged that Davies had fabricated his tale?” Jay Rosen chronicled the network’s “reckless denials” here.

Also, did Logan’s husband play a role in getting some unsourced allegations on the air in her Benghazi piece? Perhaps most important, why hasn’t Logan been fired, rather than merely asked or forced to take a leave of absence? After an inaccurate “60 Minutes” story aired in 2004 about George W. Bush’s National Guard service, CBS commissioned an independent panel (rather than an internal review) and eventually fired several employees who were involved in producing the segment.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.  

Final IA-01 news roundup, with closing ads from Braley and Lange

Shortly before election day 2010, Representative Bruce Braley and his staff were sweating it. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spent significant funds to help Braley fend off a ton of attack ads funded by conservative groups. Braley defeated Ben Lange by just 4,209 votes. If not for Iowa Democrats’ early vote program and the presence of two minor-party candidates on the ballot, Lange might be in Congress today.

This year, Iowa’s first Congressional district looks far less competitive. A final review of Braley’s rematch against Lange is after the jump, including some fireworks from the candidates’ Iowa Public Television debate last week.  

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Obama-Romney foreign policy debate discussion thread

In a few minutes President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney will debate for the last time. Bob Schieffer of CBS News will moderate the final debate, which will focus on foreign-policy issues. I imagine the ratings will be much lower tonight than for the previous two debates, partly because foreign policy isn’t a priority for most voters, and partly because the debate is up against Monday Night Football and game 7 of the National League Championship Series in baseball.

Any comments about the debate or the presidential race in general are welcome in this thread. I will update later with some thoughts and news clips. Most national tracking polls show Romney and Obama within the margin of error for each other; Gallup continues to show Romney leading and above 50 percent. The candidates haven’t focused on foreign policy in many speeches or commercials, but the latest spot from the president’s re-election campaign highlights the drawdown of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.

UPDATE: Added thoughts and links after the jump.  

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Middle East violence puts foreign policy at center of U.S. politics

This thread is for any comments related to this week’s assassination of Christopher Stephens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, and the violent protests at the U.S. embassy in Egypt. Here’s a timeline of events and statements from various officials and politicians. The diplomatic community is mourning Stephens, who became the eighth U.S. ambassador killed in the line of duty since 1950. There were some pro-American and anti-terrorism rallies in Libya on September 12. The U.S. has warships en route to Libya and is tightening security at embassies around the world.

Yesterday several commentators lambasted Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney for bungling his “3 a.m. phone call” moment. While events were unfolding in the Middle East, Romney criticized the Obama administration’s handling of the incidents. As Matt Vasilogambros reported here, the facts do not support Romney’s claim that the president’s “first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.” President Barack Obama told CBS correspondent Steve Kroft, “Governor Romney seems to have a tendency to shoot first and aim later. And as president, one of the things I’ve learned is you can’t do that.”

Iowa reaction to the death of former Libyan dictator Gadhafi

Libyan forces captured and killed Colonel Moammar Gadhafi today in the former dictator’s hometown of Sirte. Representative Bruce Braley (D, IA-01) welcomed news of the “victory for freedom-loving people” but added that “With Gadhafi out of the picture, it’s time for US involvement in Libya to end.” Braley has been an outspoken critic of the Obama administration’s open-ended intervention in Libya. He has voted against authorizing military action there and repeatedly demanded a cost accounting of our mission.

Representative Dave Loebsack (D, IA-02) reacted to today’s news with a statement calling on “international organizations to step forward and help the Libyan people” so that the U.S. can “focus on creating jobs here at home.” Loebsack sits on the House Armed Services Committee but has generally avoided commenting on the U.S. mission in Libya. In June, he voted against authorizing the intervention but also against defunding it.

The full statements from Braley and Loebsack are after the jump. I will update this post if other members of Iowa’s Congressional delegation comment on today’s events. UPDATE: Added reaction from Leonard Boswell (D, IA-03) and Steve King (R, IA-05). King and Boswell supported authorizing the Libya intervention. King was one of only five House members to vote against barring federal funding for U.S. ground troops in Libya.

SECOND UPDATE: Comments from Tom Latham (R, IA-04) and Senator Chuck Grassley are below.

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Libya regime change discussion thread

President Barack Obama declared Monday that the regime of Colonel Moammar Gadhafi “is coming to an end” in Libya. Both rebel forces and Gadhafi loyalists claim to control most of Tripoli, the Libyan capital, but the rebels have made substantial gains during the past week. For the past five months, the U.S. has supported the Libyan rebels as part of a NATO military intervention. Obama said his team is “in close contact with NATO as well as the United Nations” to plan next steps in Libya.

The full text of the president’s statement is after the jump. I will update this post if I see any Iowa political reaction to the latest developments. Iowa’s Congressional delegation split on U.S. House votes regarding our military intervention in Libya and potential funding for ground troops there. Among Iowa elected officials, Democrat Bruce Braley (IA-01) has been the only consistent critic of the policy.

Any comments about U.S. policy toward Libya are welcome in this thread.

UPDATE: This is a good summary of what happened in Libya during the past six months.

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Braley sets himself apart on Libya policy

Among Iowa’s Congressional delegation, Democrat Bruce Braley (IA-01) continues to be the only consistent voice against President Barack Obama’s military intervention in Libya. Since shortly after the U.S. joined NATO air strikes against Libyan targets, Braley has demanded a full cost accounting of our country’s third major military conflict, as well as details on an exit strategy. When the U.S. House considered two Libya resolutions on June 3, all five Iowan representatives voted for a toothless option criticizing the administration’s actions. However, only Braley voted for a stronger resolution that would have required the U.S. to withdraw from NATO operations in Libya within 15 days.

After the votes, Braley criticized the White House for giving “nothing but vague explanations” about our Libya intervention. Meanwhile, Republican Tom Latham (IA-04) and Democrats Dave Loebsack (IA-02) and Leonard Boswell (IA-03) made no public statement on Friday’s House votes, in keeping with their reluctance to comment on Libya during the past two months. In a June 3 press release, Representative Steve King called on Obama to give Americans more “answers” about the intervention. King’s votes and public statements about Libya don’t make clear where he stands on this conflict, though, or on the president’s power to conduct war without Congressional consent.

Details on the Libya resolutions are after the jump, along with some analysis of recent comments from Braley and King.

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How the Iowans voted on the Defense Authorization Act

Catching up on news from last week, Democrat Bruce Braley (IA-01) was the only Iowan in the U.S. House to vote against the National Defense Authorization Act for 2012, which passed May 26 on a 322 to 96 vote (roll call). While Dave Loebsack (D, IA-02), Leonard Boswell (D, IA-03), Tom Latham (R, IA-04) and Steve King (R, IA-05) all supported the bill’s final passage, their votes broke down differently on a number of important amendments the House considered Thursday.

Follow me after the jump for details on those votes and statements some of Iowa’s representatives released regarding this bill.

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Osama Bin Laden dead

President Barack Obama announced minutes ago that Osama Bin Laden, the leader of the Al Qaeda movement, is dead following a “targeted” U.S. operation in the city of Abbottabad, Pakistan. Speaking on national television late Sunday night, Obama said that shortly after taking office, he had instructed the CIA to make capturing Bin Laden a top priority. He was briefed on a possible lead to Bin Laden last August, and last week he decided that the U.S. had “enough intelligence to take action.” Today Obama authorized a “targeted operation,” in which Bin Laden was killed in a firefight. The U.S. has custody of his body, according to the president, and there were no American casualties. Obama emphasized that the U.S. is not at war with Islam, saying Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader and was a “mass murderer” of Muslims. Obama credited Pakistan’s counter-terrorism efforts with helping locate Bin Laden and said he had contacted Pakistani leaders, who agreed that the death of Bin Laden is good for both countries.

I will update this post as more news and Iowa reaction become available. Official statements from Representatives Leonard Boswell (IA-03) and Bruce Braley (IA-01) are after the jump. Former President George W. Bush issued a statement congratulating Obama and the members of the U.S. intelligence community who made today’s events possible.

Meanwhile, use this thread to discuss the political implications of Bin Laden’s death. Al Qaeda isn’t going to disappear overnight, nor is the U.S. likely to end its military presence in Afghanistan sooner. I don’t know enough about U.S.-Pakistani relations to have a sense of the likely impact.

The UK newspaper Daily Mail published an article yesterday on how Bin Laden escaped elite British and American troops near Tora Bora, Afghanistan, in December 2001.

Comments about other U.S. military interventions are also welcome in this thread. Yesterday in Tripoli, a NATO air strike killed the youngest son and three grandchildren of Col. Moammar Qaddafi. The Libyan leader and his wife were reportedly not harmed. Some GOP senators have said regime change should become the explicit U.S. policy goal in Libya.

UPDATE: Likely Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney released a statement congratulating “our intelligence community, our military and the president.”

SECOND UPDATE: Representative Tom Latham (IA-04) via Twitter: “On this night of historic news may God bless the victims of 9/11 and may God continue to bless the United States and freedom’s cause.” Kind of a strange tweet from Senator Chuck Grassley: “Pres bush was right when he said there aren’t enuf caves for Osama bin Laden to hide. That we wld get him. We got him”

THIRD UPDATE: The State Department has issued a worldwide travel alert for American citizens due “to the enhanced potential for anti-American violence given counterterrorism activity in Pakistan.”

FOURTH UPDATE: An administration official briefing journalists after Obama’s speech said the U.S. did not inform Pakistani authorities about this mission in advance. Official says four people were killed in raid in addition to Bin Laden: one of Bin Laden’s sons, two other male associates and a woman who allegedly was being used as a shield. The large compound where Bin Laden was found was reportedly built about five years ago, but U.S. officials do not know how long Bin Laden had been living there.

FIFTH UPDATE: Added Representative Dave Loebsack’s (IA-02) statement after the jump.

MONDAY UPDATE: The large compound where Bin Laden was reportedly killed is very close to a Pakistani military academy, raising “suspicions that Pakistan has played a double game, and perhaps even knowingly harbored the Qaeda leader.”

U.S. officials said they buried Bin Laden at sea last night in accordance with Islamic law, after flying his body to Afghanistan to confirm his identity. Burial at sea will prevent any gravesite from becoming a shrine for the Al Qaeda leader’s followers, but the quick disposal of the body may prompt questions about whether he is really dead.

Marc Ambinder reports on “The Secret Team That Killed bin Laden.”

After the jump I’ve added Latham’s full statement, comments from Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds and a interesting stream of comments from an Abbottabad resident who started tweeting after hearing a helicopter at 1 am Sunday (“a rare event”). Still no statements released by Senators Tom Harkin or Chuck Grassley or Representative Steve King (IA-05).

FINAL UPDATE: I never did find a press release from Steve King regarding Bin Laden’s reported death, but he seems to have given most of the credit to U.S. policies sanctioning torture of terror suspects. On May 2, King posted these two Twitter updates:

Wonder what President Obama thinks of water boarding now?

ObL “Sealed” into eternal damnation. Intel from KSM in Gitmo:-) “It feels like the entire country won the World Series,” Bill Hemmer-FOX.

I don’t know why King would be quick to assume torture led to Bin Laden’s capture. Interrogating Khalid Sheikh Mohammed didn’t stop the trail for Bin Laden from growing cold. If this New York Times article “Behind the Hunt for Bin Laden” is accurate, Pakistani agents working for the CIA produced the key lead in the search for the Al Qaeda leader last summer.

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Iowa reaction to Obama's speech on Libya

President Barack Obama addressed the nation tonight regarding our nine-day-old military intervention in Libya. He explained why the U.S. and its allies in the United Nations Security Council authorized a no-fly zone and why it was not in “our national interest” to let Colonel Moammar Gaddafi continue killing his country’s people. Obama emphasized that “in just one month, the United States has worked with our international partners to mobilize a broad coalition, secure an international mandate to protect civilians, stop an advancing army, prevent a massacre, and establish a No Fly Zone with our allies and partners.” It took the international community more than a year to settle on a similar sequence of actions to curtail violence in Bosnia during the 1990s.  

Obama promised to work with allies to assist the people of Libya and support a political transition. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will fly to London tomorrow to “meet with the Libyan opposition and consult with more than thirty nations. These discussions will focus on what kind of political effort is necessary to pressure Gaddafi, while also supporting a transition to the future that the Libyan people deserve. ”

Obama also made clear that the U.S. will not try to “overthrow Gaddafi by force” with troops on the ground, because we cannot afford to repeat our experience in Iraq:

Of course, there is no question that Libya – and the world – will be better off with Gaddafi out of power. I, along with many other world leaders, have embraced that goal, and will actively pursue it through non-military means. But broadening our military mission to include regime change would be a mistake. […]

As the bulk of our military effort ratchets down, what we can do – and will do – is support the aspirations of the Libyan people. We have intervened to stop a massacre, and we will work with our allies and partners as they’re in the lead to maintain the safety of civilians. We will deny the regime arms, cut off its supply of cash, assist the opposition, and work with other nations to hasten the day when Gaddafi leaves power. It may not happen overnight, as a badly weakened Gaddafi tries desperately to hang on to power. But it should be clear to those around Gadaffi, and to every Libyan, that history is not on his side. With the time and space that we have provided for the Libyan people, they will be able to determine their own destiny, and that is how it should be.

The full text of Obama’s remarks, as prepared, are at the end of this post.

Reacting to the president’s speech, Senator Chuck Grassley said he “was an early advocate of a no-fly zone,” which has helped the Libyan opposition make progress “despite the President’s delay in offering this help [….].” Grassley added that Obama hasn’t made clear how long our mission in Libya will last, and said Congress should discuss our commitment there.

Senator Tom Harkin said that given Gaddafi’s “humanitarian atrocities, I was supportive of the initial UN-backed military strikes.  But with the U.S. ongoing military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, I have concerns about an open-ended engagement in Libya.” He added, “while there is merit in handing over operations to NATO, ultimately, a political solution is needed to end the conflict in Libya.”

Representative Bruce Braley (D, IA-01) released a statement expressing concern “that tonight we didn’t get a clear and accurate accounting from the President on how much this conflict in Libya is going to cost American taxpayers. We’ve got two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – and Americans deserve to hear from our President what this third conflict is going to cost us. I look forward to meeting with Secretary Gates and Secretary Clinton later this week and hearing their explanation of the costs of this operation and their strategy for moving forward in Libya.” Last week Braley asked Obama to provide a full cost accounting for our latest military mission. He was the only Iowan in Congress to issue a statement on our new involvement in Libya.

The complete statements from Grassley, Harkin and Braley are after the jump. I will update this post later if Iowa’s other members of Congress comment on the president’s speech.

UPDATE: After returning from a weekend trip to Afghanistan, Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-02) spoke to reporters on March 28 (before Obama’s speech):

Noting the U.S. still has troops in Iraq, Loebsack said involvement in Libya raises concerns about overextending the military.

However, he said, Petraeus told the congressman he doesn’t expect enforcement of a no-fly zone over Libya “to have any major effect on what we’re doing in Afghanistan.”

“Our troops (in Afghanistan) are doing their mission,” he said. “They have the resources they need to do their mission. That’s critical.”

As of March 29, I still have not seen any reaction to Obama’s speech from Loebsack or Representatives Leonard Boswell (IA-03), Tom Latham (IA-04) and Steve KIng (IA-05).

SECOND UPDATE: Further comments from Loebsack, Boswell and Latham are now below.

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IA-01: Braley asks Obama for cost accounting on Libya

Representative Bruce Braley (D, IA-01) has asked President Barack Obama to disclose all costs associated with the current U.S. military intervention in Libya. From Braley’s March 24 press release:

“Just as we’re struggling to cut federal spending and bring down our national deficit, we’re also faced with the challenge of managing two military conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. If we’re going to be involved in Libya, we must know how much a third military conflict will cost us,” said Rep. Braley. “I know I’m not the only who’s asking these questions – Speaker Boehner, for one, has also expressed his concerns – and I think it’s important that the President give us and all American taxpayers an accurate answer on this issue. I will always stand with people fighting for freedom and democracy around the world, and I know both President Obama and Speaker Boehner would too. But America has to address many important challenges right here at home – with spending as the most critical one. And before we spend any money abroad, I want to know how much it’s going to cost us.”

The full text of Braley’s letter to President Obama is after the jump.

Braley is right to ask substantive questions about the U.S. operation in Libya. I have been surprised by the Iowa delegation’s muted reaction to our latest military intervention, given that Obama launched this operation without Congressional authorization. To my knowledge, Senators Chuck Grassley and Tom Harkin and Representatives Dave Loebsack, Leonard Boswell, Tom Latham and Steve King have not issued any official statement regarding “Operation Odyssey Dawn.”

Braley’s letter is consistent with his increased focus on fighting the deficit since last November’s election. As I’ve written before, I disagree with austerity movement types who make the deficit out to be our country’s biggest threat. Our national strength depends more on fixing other problems: reducing unemployment, reorienting our energy policy and fixing the still-broken health care system, to name a few. Getting the economy moving would do more to shrink the budget gap than the non-defense discretionary spending cuts deficit hawks demand.

I give Braley credit for acknowledging that the U.S. doesn’t have unlimited free money to blow on wars around the globe. The same can’t be said for many members of Congress who claim to care about excessive government spending.

UPDATE: Braley issued this statement on March 25:

Washington, DC – Today, Congressman Bruce Braley (IA-01) released the following statement after White House spokesperson Jay Carney was asked about Rep. Braley’s letter calling for an accounting of the Libyan conflict. According to USA Today, Carney replied to reporters, “there are contingency funds…for this kind of thing.” Today Rep. Braley said:

“Yesterday I asked for accountability on the question of how much this conflict is costing us, and I have yet to see a clear response from the White House. The fact that funds for contingency military operations exist doesn’t answer the question of how much we’re spending, and will continue to spend, in Libya. I’m not the only one asking these questions – the American people are demanding answers too. And the President must give Congress and all taxpayers an accurate answer.”

Yesterday, Rep. Braley sent a letter to President Obama asking for a full accounting of the Libyan conflict and the costs to taxpayers. Speaker Boehner sent a similar letter to the President. Rep. Braley has previously called for a full accounting of the human and financial costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Weekend open thread: No shortage of bad news

Frantic efforts to control the situation at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant have not had much success during the past week. The areas of greatest concern appear to be the reactor in unit 3 and the spent fuel pool on the roof of unit 4.

President Barack Obama indicated yesterday that the U.S. and its allies may embark on a new military campaign in Libya, if Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi does not comply with demands for a cease-fire with rebels. On Thursday the United Nations Security Council authorized military action against Qaddafi. Like other commentators, I don’t feel reassured by Obama’s promise that the U.S. won’t deploy ground troops in Libya. The president’s reasoning for intervening there (but not elsewhere to avert atrocities) is not convincing.

The Des Moines Register has published front-page stories three days in a row on an Ankeny couple who exploited a loophole in mortgage law to get a nice house for free. Lee Rood’s reporting suggests the couple misrepresented their assets to obtain the mortgage and were in a position to know about the loophole before they closed on their house (without the wife signing the documents). I don’t condone obtaining a house by fraudulent means, if that’s what has occurred in this case. That said, foreclosure fraud by lenders appears to be far more prevalent than the scheme this Ankeny couple may have implemented. Most of the time the mainstream media ignores stories about innocent homeowners jerked around by banks. I hope the Register will follow up with a number of front-page stories about that side of the foreclosure story.

Iowa State University economist Neil Harl argued that Republican tax cut proposals won’t spark economic growth. Speaking on Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press” program,

“The question is what is in the best interest of this state in terms of long-term economic growth,” Harl said. “What attracts companies to come to Iowa? I don’t think it’s potholes in the streets. I don’t think it’s a third-rate school system. I don’t think it’s a situation of starved universities.” […]

Harl said he opposes the Republican plans because they would inevitably cut into state revenue needed to support the services he believes are the real attraction for businesses. One of Iowa’s main assets is a high quality of life, he said.

“I think it’s a state that’s viewed as forward looking and offers a great environment for a company to move into,” he. “This is being sold on the grounds that it will attract more companies here, but I really doubt that.”

As part of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization, Borders will close its West Des Moines bookstore by the end of May. For now, Borders plans to keep its stores in Ames, Dubuque and Davenport open. Even though I support locally-owned businesses like Beaverdale Books, Borders is one chain I will be sorry to see go.

I’ll close this gloomy post on an upbeat note: less than one week remains before Planned Parenthood’s giant semi-annual book sale at the State Fairgrounds.

This is an open thread. What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers?

UPDATE: And on March 19, the U.S. launched air strikes in Libya. Happy Iraq War anniversary! This is not going to end well.  

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