Monday, September 30, 2013

Marine Commandant abuses security laws to hide his own criminal actions in another court martial

Courtesy of

The Marine Corps officer who filed a complaint against the commandant for intervening in the Taliban urination cases against eight Marines is now the target of reprisals from superiors, his attorney says.

Retired Marine Col. Jane Siegel, who is representing Maj. James Weirick, said superiors have subjected the major to retaliations since it became known that he filed a whistleblower complaint against Gen. James Amos, the commandant and Joint Chiefs of Staff member.

“Headquarters Marine Corps is undercutting a hero,” Col. Siegel said. “He did the right thing, and they are trying to bury it and him.”

Maj. Weirick, a staff judge advocate at the Combat Development Command at Quantico, Va., accuses Gen. Amos of violating the military edict against unlawful command influence by urging guilty verdicts to the general overseeing the cases.

The major also told the Pentagon’s inspector general that Gen. Amos’ legal advisers unlawfully classified most of the evidence, including potentially embarrassing emails at headquarters, to keep the material away from defense attorneys.

Earlier this month, Maj. Weirick sent an email to a lawyer who had worked on Gen. Amos’ staff, urging him in pointed language to cooperate with investigators.

Marine higher-ups responded Tuesday with a series of retaliations against Maj. Weirick, Col. Siegel said.

Marines escorted Maj. Weirick out of his office and seized his government computer.

 • He was transferred to a nonlegal job as a training officer.
His new commander suggested that he get a mental health evaluation and report for an interview with a Naval Criminal Investigative Service agent, to whom he refused to talk.
The major was ordered not to communicate with officials, including Gen. Amos, and was denied leave.
He was told to turn over his licensed personal firearms kept at home, which he did.
The Corps also is doing a risk assessment to determine whether Maj. Weirick is a danger to himself or the base.

“These steps are all designed for a single purpose and that is to undermine the credibility of Maj. Weirick, the credibility of his complaints to the [Defense Department inspector general] and to push him very close to the very edge of being able to drum him out of the Marine Corps,” Col. Siegel said.
“I’ve been practicing military justice exclusively for 40 years, 25 of which were in the Marine Corps, and I have never seen anything quite this destructive carried out by people who I considered to be heroes, the commandant of the Marine Corps.”

Seizing his computer is a way to find out what he has been telling the inspector general during its investigation, she said.

Col. Sean Gibson, spokesman for the Quantico command, confirmed that Maj. Weirick had been relocated and ordered to cease certain communications.

“It would be inappropriate to comment further on the specifics,” he said. “The Marine Corps is well aware of obligations to service members who have made protected communication to the inspector general.

“The Marine Corps has and will continue to meet these obligations. The Marine Corps has taken legitimate steps as the result of a recent incident that is unrelated to his previous protected communications,” Col. Gibson said.

The “recent incident” is a sharply worded email Maj. Weirick sent Sept. 21 to Peter Delorier, a retired lieutenant colonel who worked on the commandant’s legal staff at the time of events cited by the major in his formal complaints. Maj. Weirick urged Mr. Delorier to “come clean.” At times, the major referred to himself in the third person.

He referred to Mr. Delorier’s former bosses at the Pentagon, saying: “None of them, can stop Weirick. You know this. They have not done it thus far, what makes you think they will in the future? This will not stop until all the wrongs are righted and those responsible are held to task. You know this is true.

“I know you from a decade ago in Okinawa. You are not like them. You are not dishonest. You want to do the right thing. You were just caught up in the pressure and you did not know what to do. It is not too late; it is never too late to do the right thing. You want to do the right thing. You want to be honest. You want to be honest like you were when you were a company commander. You know how important this is. You always preached the importance of honesty and integrity.”

‘Accountable to the fullest extent’

Col. Siegel said retaliation against her client began long before he sent that email.

In May, Maj. Weirick filed a hotline reprisal complaint with the inspector general after he learned that Gen. Amos’ legal staff wanted him investigated for contacting the office of a senator on the Armed Services Committee.

Afterward, the Marine Corps inspector general opened an investigation of Maj. Weirick, who contends that whistleblower protection laws allowed him to contact a member of Congress.

Col. Siegel said that probe was given to the Navy inspector general and may be transferred to Gen. Amos’ staff.

Col. Siegel said that in another instance, the rules counselor on Gen. Amos’ staff accused Maj. Weirick of breaching attorney-client privilege for including in his inspector general complaint conversations he had with the commanding general at the time, Lt. Gen. Richard P. Mills.

She criticized the accusation as being bogus because her client obtained permission to include those facts in the complaint.

These events preceded Maj. Weirick’s office eviction on Tuesday.

“He was so rudely escorted out of his office by his colonel that he did not have time to remove personal photos of his wife, uniform items or anything,” Col. Siegel said. “He was at the uniform store this morning buying uniform apparel because he is not allowed, even with an escort, to retrieve anything from his office.”

Central to the charge of unlawful command influence is the case of Capt. James V. Clement, whose cadre of Marine snipers were accused of urinating on four dead Taliban fighters. They made a video that was uploaded to YouTube in January 2012, sparking White House denunciation and a criminal investigation. The administration sent clear signals that it wanted the Marines punished.

“Those found to have engaged in such conduct will be held accountable to the fullest extent,” said then-Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta.

Marine Lt. Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, now on the Pentagon’s joint staff, was appointed as the “convening authority” to oversee charges against eight Marines in the urination incident.

Two pivotal events happened in February 2012.

First, Gen. Amos met privately overseas with Gen. Waldhauser and commanded him to “crush” all defendants. Gen. Waldhauser refused.

Later, acting on a tip from Maj. Weirick, the defense team learned of the Amos order by interviewing Gen. Waldhauser. The attorneys consider such an order a blatant example of unlawful command influence.

Gen. Amos also ordered Gen. Waldhauser to court-martial all the accused and discharge them — orders that Gen. Waldhauser refused.

A sea of changes

A spokesman said Gen. Amos had second thoughts about his intervention and replaced Gen. Waldhauser with Lt. Gen. Richard P. Mills, who was in charge of Combat Development Command at Quantico.

But the commandant’s legal officer never notified the replacement, or the defense team, about why Gen. Waldhauser was removed. Capt. Clement’s defense team considers this a cover-up that unraveled because Maj. Weirick came forward and allowed them to obtain a statement from Gen. Waldhauser.

Col. Jesse Gruter was Maj. Weirick’s superior at Quantico and supports the major. Col. Gruter filed a court statement saying he tried to find out why Gen. Waldhauser was dismissed, but was told by Gen. Amos’ legal adviser at the Pentagon that it was none of his business and he should not try to find out why.

Several weeks after Gen. Waldhauser was removed, Gen. Amos’ legal staff made another move that defense attorneys contend was part of a cover-up.

Gen. Amos’ counsel, Robert Hogue, issued a sweeping order to classify the publicly available video and the criminal investigation, according to court records. This made it much more difficult for defense attorneys to force disclosure of witness statements, internal headquarters emails and other evidence because the prosecution could deny on grounds the material could not be aired in an open courtroom.

“I was surprised by the classification because our — mine and my deputy, Maj. James Weirick — analysis of the application did not support classification of the videos,” Col. Gruter said in his declaration. “This was also the opinion of every security manager with whom we had discussed the matter.”

Col. Gruter said that after his complaints became known at headquarters, Maj. Gen. Vaughn Ary, the Corps’ top attorney, telephoned and told Col. Gruter that he would be replaced as legal adviser to Gen. Mills.

Maj. Weirick considered the blanket classification illegal. He watched all this unfold as Capt. Clement was nearing a court-martial on a charge of dereliction of duty for not supervising his men.

The captain said he had no knowledge of plans to urinate on corpses or make the video. He denies any wrongdoing.

Maj. Weirick decided to take the step of filing a whistleblower’s complaint with the Defense Department’s inspector general against the commandant. The inspector general’s senior officer’s division has been conducting an inquiry.

“This incident involves the attempted, and in many ways, successful unlawful command influence by Gen. Amos to influence the outcome of cases involving Marines accused of urinating on human remains in Afghanistan,” Maj. Weirick told the inspector general.

As a pretrial hearing was to begin Sept. 11 and Capt. Clement’s attorneys were set to call witnesses to describe Gen. Amos’ intervention, a new convening authority suddenly dropped all criminal charges. Lt. Gen. Kenneth J. Glueck had replaced Gen. Mills, who had assumed another command.

A spokesman said Gen. Glueck reviewed the case and decided it did not merit criminal charges.

Defense attorneys say the action avoided embarrassing the commandant during hearings that would focus on his actions.

Gen. Glueck ordered an administrative board of inquiry, set to meet Oct. 15, to decide whether Capt. Clement should be retained or separated from the Corps.

John M. Dowd, Capt. Clement’s lead civilian attorney, said that to this day Marine prosecutors are denying defense requests for witness statements because they are classified.

Charles Gittins, a former Marine officer who practiced military law and who has been following the case, said one email to a potential witness asking him to “come clean” is not harassment.

“The Marine Corps is an embarrassment,” Mr. Gittins said. “Shoot the messenger. They have real problems with violations of law and regulation and unethical conduct at the most senior levels, which continue to be unaddressed, so they choose to go after the whistleblower. Typical. The lack of moral courage and ethics at the senior-most levels of the Marine Corps is breathtaking.”

When it comes to the swinging lifestyle, nobody in Europe tops the Danish

Courtesy of

A new arrival to Denmark might be forgiven for thinking that the locals are a repressed bunch. Big on rules and organised fun, small on spontaneity, Danes would rather wait for 10 minutes by the side of a deserted road for a little green man to appear than commit the crime of jaywalking, and can only be coaxed into a casual post-work drink if it’s renamed ‘beer club’ (and someone’s taking minutes). But when it comes to sex, the Danes are anything but reserved.

Naked women regularly appear in the pages of major newspapers, porn is screened on public television and nudist beaches are so common that my in-laws got an eyeful on a recent visit when they strayed too far from a Lonely Planet-listed sun-spot.

Even the clergy are at it, with a Zealand priest conducting carnal-themed masses to encourage couples with flagging passions. A public heath survey found that 90 per cent of 16 to 95-year-old Danes said that a good sex life was "vital" to them – which means that men and women in their 10th decade are getting down and dirty in Denmark.

Singles can sleep with whomever they like, without social stigma, and those in relationships aren’t shackled to sex with the same person forever. With some of the highest divorce rates in Europe, most Danes get around the problem of wanting to sleep with someone other than their partner by splitting up and moving on. But for a growing number of Denmark’s sexually curious, there’s another option – and it’s right up my street, it turns out (literally, but by no means figuratively).

Scanning the local free sheet as it’s routinely conveyed from my doormat to the recycling bin, I notice a few words I recognise. Aside from a threatened strike and a special deal on pizza, there’s a headline featuring, "Tucan Swinger and Wellness Naughty Nightclub". Since moving from central London to The Sticks-on-Sea last year, fast food offers and threats of union walkouts have been the extent of the exciting occurrences in my area. The idea that I’ve been living in the eye of a swinging storm all this time is nothing short of staggering. I find myself coming over all Home Counties and having to sit down with a cup of tea and a biscuit… before Googling it.

The Tucan Club, it turns out, is Denmark’s biggest swinging establishment – and it’s just up the road from me in rural Jutland. The club was established by husband and wife team Mie Hansen and Torben Nielsen who wanted to "push the boundaries of accepted sexuality" and "bring secret dreams and wishes to fruition". Intrigued, and in the name of journalistic endeavor (honest), I pick up the phone.

“We got into swinging 12 years ago,” Mie tells me, in the same tone one might use to describe getting into jogging, or juicing. “We decided to start our own club and it just grew by word of mouth. Now, we’re the biggest in Scandinavia.”

Mie explains that couples arrive, have a look around to see if there’s anyone they like the look of, then issue "invitations" for whatever takes their fancy. “There’s no pressure,” she says, “and there’s also a disco, a sauna and a jacuzzi for couples who aren’t ready to swing yet.” And when they are? “Then we have lots of facilities to make things more fun.” The word "facilities" conjures up chlorine-doused leisure centres but Mie sets me straight: “We have go-go dance poles; love swings; gynecological chairs-”


“You know, like the chairs you have in hospital. With stirrups.”

“Oh,” I reply faintly.

“And then we have rooms for those who prefer privacy, without glory holes.”

“Right. And…er…why would the rooms have glory holes?”

I ask this at the precise moment my husband comes home from work. His eyebrows hover somewhere around his hairline as I try to mime the action for ‘nothing to worry about: I’m just interviewing a swinger’. Mie clarifies the whole/hole business (I’ll spare you the details), before adding: “Basically, everyone just does what they’re comfortable with. It’s good to experiment as part of a couple because then you’ve got someone you trust with you and the other pair understand the dynamics of the relationship. My husband and I have never looked back!”

Swinging became big in Denmark in the 1990s, according to the country’s dedicated swinging hub, “Danes are pretty open minded,” says the website’s Jesper Christensen, “and swinging in Denmark is really popular - especially compared to the rest of Scandinavia.” About 90,000 Danes admit to swinging regularly though many more are "curious" and the website gets 190,000 visitors a year.

Dogging is also gaining popularity and outdoorsy Danes embrace the practise with online guidelines and lists of upcoming events. But the swingers are a step ahead when it comes to organising their troops, with scheduled activities, courses for newbies and even lectures. The Danes even set up International Swingers Week in 2008 with events and functions.

Suddenly, it all starts to make sense: there’s nothing spontaneous about swinging, Danish-style. Lectures? Diarised events? "Best practice" guidelines? Swinging is just another of the extracurricular activities so beloved by the Danes. Sure, it may involve slightly more risqué outfits, but still – there are rules! It is ‘organised fun’! Someone, somewhere, is probably taking minutes!

A great slew of my fellow Jutlanders may well be indulging in partner-swapping on a regular basis. But by viewing it as essentially an evening class, I can carry on attending dinner parties and leaving my car keys unsupervised, safe in the knowledge that it’s my own husband I’ll go home with - unless I’ve signed up for an organised event months in advance or attended some kind of course. With a certificate at the end of it. Assured, I set off to revive Mr Russell with a stiff gin. And explain about the glory holes…

International Swingers Week 2013 begins on November 8 (and the Danes are preparing already).
Helen Russell is a British journalist who lives in Denmark. Follow her on Twitter @MsHelenRussell. Read the rest of her columns, and those by our other guest writers, here.

CNN crushed by Clinton's refusal to let them produce a biopic about Hillary; terrified too many inconvenient truths would come out abut her

 Courtesy of

An upcoming CNN documentary about Hillary Clinton has been canceled.

The show's director, Charles Ferguson, made the announcement at the Huffington Post two hours ago.

According to Ferguson, CNN had approached him about doing a documentary for the network in late 2012. After kicking around a number of subjects, they decided on Mrs. Clinton.
Ferguson was quickly given complete editorial control over the final version and a generous budget.

The day after the contract was signed, Ferguson received a message from Nick Merrill, Hillary Clinton's press secretary. He proceeded to interrogate the director who asked for an off-the-record, private conversation with Mrs. Clinton.

The request was denied.
Phillipe Reines, Hillary Clinton's media fixer, then interrogated various people at CNN expressing concern about alleged conflicts of interest generated because the film was a for-profit endeavor. Reines refused to speak to Ferguson about this opting instead to echo his allegations to Politico.
After the project was officially revealed to the public, Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus sent a letter to CNN threatening to boycott the network's 2016 presidential debates if it went forward with the documentary.

This didn't surprise Ferguson. "What did surprise me was that, quietly and privately, prominent Democrats made it known both to CNN and to me that they weren't delighted with the film, either," he wrote.

Readers are advised that roughly a week after the project was revealed, prominent liberals at MSNBC complained about NBC's proposed mini-series about Mrs. Clinton. I immediately smelled a rat sensing that they were likely doing this with pressure from the Clintons.

But none of this deterred Ferguson and CNN who vowed to move forward with the project until the director attended a dinner with Bill Clinton in June.

Ferguson had an opportunity to speak privately with the former president:

"I asked him about the financial crisis. He paused and then became even more soulful, thoughtful, passionate, and articulate. And then he proceeded to tell me the most amazing lies I've heard in quite a while.
"For example, Mr. Clinton sorrowfully lamented his inability to stop the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, which banned all regulation of private (OTC) derivatives trading, and thereby greatly worsened the crisis. Mr. Clinton said that he and Larry Summers had argued with Alan Greenspan, but couldn't budge him, and then Congress passed the law by a veto-proof supermajority, tying his hands.
"Well, actually, the reason that the law passed by that overwhelming margin was because of the Clinton Administration's strong advocacy, including Congressional testimony by Larry Summers and harsh public and private attacks on advocates of regulation by Summers and Robert Rubin.
"Wow, I thought, this guy is a really good actor. And I also saw one reason why Hillary Clinton might not be thrilled about my movie.

DC thugs getting around gun laws by using Tasers instead - "Pass all the laws you want; criminals by defintion don't obey laws."


Poor America: The President at the UN

Jewish Policy Center

By Shoshana Bryen
American Thinker
September 30, 2013

As he waited in the wings at the United Nations, President Obama was struck with this sledgehammer from Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff:

Tampering... in the affairs of other countries is a breach of international law and is an affront of the principles that must guide the relations among them, especially among friendly nations. A sovereign nation can never establish itself to the detriment of another sovereign nation. The right to safety of citizens of one country can never be guaranteed by violating fundamental human rights of citizens of another country.

This impassioned defense of national sovereignty and fundamental human rights (self-serving as it might have been) was followed by a speech from Mr. Obama that was almost a parody of how other countries see the United States -- self-referential, militaristic, whiny, petulant, and riddled with faux humility and underlying threats.

He began, naturally enough, with "my time as President." Mr. Obama told the assembled, "Some of our most urgent challenges have revolved around... our efforts to recover from the worst economic crisis of our lifetime." The people of Syria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Mali, Libya, Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, Darfur, Sudan and South Sudan, and Nigeria might be forgiven if, in their time, the "most urgent challenges revolved around" war, physical insecurity, and brutal rulers.

Mr. Obama's favorite -- but mistaken -- mantra, "we have worked to end a decade of war" followed. American participation in the Iraq war was closer to two decades [which he cannot acknowledge lest he remind people that President Clinton presided over as many years as President Bush, and his tenure included the odious Oil for Food debacle]. It was the inability of Presidents Bush (41) and Clinton to force Iraq to meet the terms of the UN Security Council Ceasefire Resolution that reignited open warfare under President Bush (43).

Mr. Obama conflated an American military presence with war and its absence with the absence of war. "Five years ago, nearly 180,000 Americans were serving in harm's way, and the war in Iraq was the dominant issue in our relationship with the rest of the world. Today, all of our troops have left Iraq. Next year, an international coalition will end its war in Afghanistan, having achieved its mission of dismantling the core of al Qaeda that attacked us on 9/11."

The American departure from Iraq fueled today's sectarian fighting, and our departure from Afghanistan will have little impact on the Taliban's belief that the Afghan war should end only with its reoccupation of Kabul. Whether the U.S. should have remained in those countries is food for esoteric debate, but it is high-handed to suggest that the departure of American troops brings peace, and arrogant to ignore that people in those countries remain "in harm's way."

And then, there's the whiny part:

I know there are those who have been frustrated by our unwillingness to use our military might to depose Assad... Others have suggested that my willingness to direct even limited military strikes... shows that we have learned nothing from Iraq, and that America continues to seek control over the Middle East for our own purposes... the United States is chastised for meddling in the region, and accused of having a hand in all manner of conspiracy; at the same time, the United States is blamed for failing to do enough to solve the region's problems, and for showing indifference toward suffering Muslim populations. I realize some of this is inevitable, given America's role in the world.

Regarding Egypt:

America has been attacked by all sides of this internal conflict, simultaneously accused of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, and engineering their removal from power.

Damned if we do and damned if we don't. It's damned tough to be a superpower.

And then there's arrogance.

The United States has a hard-earned humility... The notion of American empire may be useful propaganda, but it isn't borne out by America's current policy or public opinion. Indeed... the danger for the world is not an America that is eager to immerse itself in the affairs of other countries, or take on every problem in the region as its own. The danger for the world is that the United States... aware of the hostility that our engagement in the region has engendered throughout the Muslim World, may disengage.

Was Muslim hostility engendered by "our engagement" in Libya? No, says Mr. Obama. "I know that some now criticize the action in Libya (and) point to problems that the country now confronts... No one is more mindful of these problems than I am... But does anyone truly believe that the situation would be better if Gaddafi had been allowed to kill, imprison, or brutalize his people into submission... We live in a world of imperfect choices."

So, for HIS "engagement," the choices are imperfect, but President Bush's "engagement" in Iraq, where Saddam was indeed "allowed to kill, imprison (and) brutalize his people" and use poison gas on the Kurds, "engendered hostility" in the "Muslim World."

Mr. Obama then described America's "core interests" as four variations on the theme of his ability to order American forces to war in other places:

"Confront external aggression against our allies and partners."

"Ensure the free flow of energy from the region to the world."

"Dismantle terrorist networks that threaten our people." Acknowledging that this is best done with partners, nevertheless, "When it's necessary to defend the United States against terrorist attacks, we will take direct action."

"Not tolerate the development or use of weapons of mass destruction."

Yes, said Mr. Obama, democracy, human rights, and open markets are important, but "I also believe that we can rarely achieve these objectives through unilateral American action -- particularly with military action. Iraq shows us that democracy cannot be imposed by force."

The people of Iraq, Mr. Obama's bête noir, fought with American troops against the al Qaeda presence in their country and voted more than once under American protection. Iraqis might respectfully suggest that democracy and human rights can only grow under conditions of security -- whether imposed by their own government, or by our military.

Mr. Obama left the world with a warning. "America must remain engaged for our own security (and) I believe the world is better for it." But watch out, because, "I must be honest, though: we are far more likely to invest our energy in those countries that want to work with us."

Like Brazil?

Friday, September 27, 2013

Obama at the UN: The shrinking American president gets smaller and smaller on the world stage

Courtesy of

The world misses the old America, the one before the crash—the crashes—of the past dozen years.
That is the takeaway from conversations the past week in New York, where world leaders gathered for the annual U.N. General Assembly session. Our friends, and we have many, speak almost poignantly of the dynamism, excellence, exuberance and leadership of the nation they had, for so many years, judged themselves against, been inspired by, attempted to emulate, resented. As for those who are not America's friends, some seem still confused, even concussed, by the new power shift. What is their exact place in it? Will it last? Will America come roaring back? Can she? Does she have the political will, the human capital, the old capability?

It is a world in a new kind of flux, one that doesn't know what to make of America anymore. In part because of our president.

"We want American leadership," said a member of a diplomatic delegation of a major U.S. ally. He said it softly, as if confiding he missed an old friend.

"In the past we have seen some America overreach," said the prime minister of a Western democracy, in a conversation. "Now I think we are seeing America underreach." He was referring not only to foreign policy but to economic policies, to the limits America has imposed on itself. He missed its old economic dynamism, its crazy, pioneering spirit toward wealth creation—the old belief that every American could invent something, get it to market, make a bundle, rise. The prime minister spoke of a great anxiety and his particular hope. The anxiety: "The biggest risk is not political but social.

Wealthy societies with people who think wealth is a given, a birthright—they do not understand that we are in the fight of our lives with countries and nations set on displacing us. Wealth is earned. It is far from being a given. It cannot be taken for granted. The recession reminded us how quickly circumstances can change." His hope? That the things that made America a giant—"so much entrepreneurialism and vision"—will, in time, fully re-emerge and jolt the country from the doldrums.

The second takeaway of the week has to do with a continued decline in admiration for the American president. Barack Obama's reputation among his fellow international players has deflated, his stature almost collapsed. In diplomatic circles, attitudes toward his leadership have been declining for some time, but this week you could hear the disappointment, and something more dangerous: the sense that he is no longer, perhaps, all that relevant. Part of this is due, obviously, to his handling of the Syria crisis. If you draw a line and it is crossed and then you dodge, deflect, disappear and call it diplomacy, the world will notice, and not think better of you. Some of it is connected to the historical moment America is in.

But some of it, surely, is just five years of Mr. Obama. World leaders do not understand what his higher strategic aims are, have doubts about his seriousness and judgment, and read him as unsure and covering up his unsureness with ringing words.

A scorching assessment of the president as foreign-policy actor came from a former senior U.S. diplomat, a low-key and sophisticated man who spent the week at many U.N.-related functions. "World leaders are very negative about Obama," he said. They are "disappointed, feeling he's not really in charge. . . . The Western Europeans don't pay that much attention to him anymore."

The diplomat was one of more than a dozen U.S. foreign-policy hands who met this week with the new president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani. What did he think of the American president? "He didn't mention Obama, not once," said the former envoy, who added: "We have to accept the fact that the president is rather insignificant at the moment, and rely on our diplomats." John Kerry, he said, is doing a good job.

Had he ever seen an American president treated as if he were so insignificant? "I really never have. It's unusual." What does he make of the president's strategy: "He doesn't know what to do so he stays out of it [and] hopes for the best." The diplomat added: "Slim hope."

This reminded me of a talk a few weeks ago, with another veteran diplomat who often confers with leaders with whom Mr. Obama meets. I had asked: When Obama enters a room with other leaders, is there a sense that America has entered the room? I mentioned De Gaulle—when he was there, France was there. When Reagan came into a room, people stood: America just walked in. Does Mr. Obama bring that kind of mystique?

"No," he said. "It's not like that."

When the president spoke to the General Assembly, his speech was dignified and had, at certain points, a certain sternness of tone. But after a while, as he spoke, it took on the flavor of re-enactment. He had impressed these men and women once. In the cutaways on C-Span, some the delegates in attendance seemed distracted, not alert, not sitting as if they were witnessing something important. One delegate seemed to be scrolling down on a BlackBerry, one rifled through notes. Two officials seated behind the president as he spoke seemed engaged in humorous banter. At the end, the applause was polite, appropriate and brief.

The president spoke of Iran and nuclear weapons—"we should be able to achieve a resolution" of the question. "We are encouraged" by signs of a more moderate course. "I am directing John Kerry to pursue this effort."

But his spokesmen had suggested the possibility of a brief meeting or handshake between Messrs. Obama and Rouhani. When that didn't happen there was a sense the American president had been snubbed. For all the world to see.

Which, if you are an American, is embarrassing.

While Mr. Rouhani could not meet with the American president, he did make time for journalists, diplomats and businessmen brought together by the Asia Society and the Council on Foreign Relations. Early Thursday evening in a hotel ballroom, Mr. Rouhani spoke about U.S.-Iranian relations.

He appears to be intelligent, smooth, and he said all the right things—"moderation and wisdom" will guide his government, "global challenges require collective responses." He will likely prove a tough negotiator, perhaps a particularly wily one. He is eloquent when speaking of the "haunted" nature of some of his countrymen's memories when they consider the past 60 years of U.S.-Iranian relations.
Well, we have that in common.

He seemed to use his eloquence to bring a certain freshness, and therefore force, to perceived grievances. That's one negotiating tactic. He added that we must "rise above petty politics," and focus on our nations' common interests and concerns. He called it "counterproductive" to view Iran as a threat; this charge is whipped up by "alarmists." He vowed again that Iran will not develop a nuclear bomb, saying this would be "contrary to Islamic norms."

I wondered, as he spoke, how he sized up our president. In roughly 90 minutes of a speech followed by questions, he didn't say, and nobody thought to ask him.

Democrats go over the top with off-the-wall comparision of opposition to ObamaCare and politics just before the War Between the States

Courtesy of

As the clock ticks down toward a possible government shutdown, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, isn't holding back.

On the Senate floor before 10 a.m. Friday, the senator gave a speech describing how American politics have reached the level at which "a small group of willful men and women who have a certain ideology"read: the tea party and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texashave been able to take over the congressional budget debate in the last week. "Since they can't get their way," Harkin said, "they're going to create this confusion and discourse and hope that the public will be so mixed up in who is to blame for this, that they'll blame both sides."

This isn't just congressional business as usual, Harkin said. It's much, much more dire:

It's dangerous. It's very dangerous. I believe, Mr. President, we are at one of the most dangerous points in our history right now. Every bit as dangerous as the break-up of the Union before the Civil War.

This isn't the first time the senator has spoken out about the spiraling budget and the fight over Obamacare. Harkin suggested Thursday that Cruz looked "foolish" for his "little tirade" that lasted from Tuesday afternoon until Wednesday morning. Harkin called out Cruz as being part of "the most extreme tea-party wing" of his party, and for his "ideology-driven obstructionism."

Of course, it'd be a stretch to think that the United States is on the cusp of anything as violent as the Civil War. But the consequences of a government shutdown or topping over the debt ceiling could be massively harmful for the U.S. economy, whether you're looking at the possibility of a downgrade in U.S. credit or just the shutdown in payments and services with thousands of government employees out of work.

Harkin isn't the first to pull out a dramatic historical analogy on the Senate floor this week, either. During his 21-plus hour speech, Cruz hearkened back to Nazi Germany for a comparison to "pundits" who think Obamacare cannot be defeated:

If we go to the 1940s, Nazi Germany—look, we saw it in Britain. Neville Chamberlain told the British people: Accept the Nazis. Yes, they will dominate the continent of Europe, but that is not our problem. Let's appease them. Why? Because it can't be done. We cannot possibly stand against them.
In America there were voices who listened to that; I suspect the same pundits who said it couldn't be done. If this had happened in the 1940s, we would have been listening to them. Even then they would have made television. They would have gotten beyond the carrier pigeons and letters and they would have been on TV saying: You cannot defeat the Germans.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., later pilloried Cruz on the floor for the comparison.

So, for those of you keeping track at home: With just three days to go until a possible government shutdown, we've already had comparisons to Nazi Germany and the Civil War. And we're surely not done yet.

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