By STEVE CHAGGARIS, STEPHANIE CONDON
The Obama administration has concluded that Syrian President Bashar Assad‘s government used chemical weapons against the rebels seeking to overthrow him and, in a major policy shift, President Obama has decided to supply military support to the rebels, the White House announced Thursday.
“The president has made a decision about providing more support to the opposition that will involve providing direct support to the [Supreme Military Council]. That includes military support,” Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communication Ben Rhodes told reporters.
President Obama has repeatedly said that the use of chemical weapons is a “red line” that, if crossed, would be a “game changer” for more U.S. involvement in the Syrian civil war.
“The President has been clear that the use of chemical weapons – or the transfer of chemical weapons to terrorist groups – is a red line for the United States,” said Rhodes in a separate written statement.
“The President has said that the use of chemical weapons would change his calculus, and it has,” he continued.
In terms of further response, Rhodes said, “we will make decisions on our own timeline” and that Congress and the international community would be consulted. Mr. Obama is heading to Northern Ireland Sunday for a meeting of the G8 group of nations; Rhodes indicated the president will consult with leaders of those countries.
“Any future action we take will be consistent with our national interest, and must advance our objectives, which include achieving a negotiated political settlement to establish an authority that can provide basic stability and administer state institutions; protecting the rights of all Syrians; securing unconventional and advanced conventional weapons; and countering terrorist activity,” Rhodes said.
To date, the U.S. policy on Syria has primarily focused on offering the rebels nonlethal assistance and humanitarian aid.
San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, a star at the Democratic National Conventionand leading advocate of immigration reform, criticized Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell‘s call for significant changes to the bipartisan bill now before the Senate.
“What we need now are folks who are seriously working to pass it come together and make the compromises, make the small changes that are needed,” Castro told CBS News after a White House event with business and labor leaders united behind comprehensive reform. “It has a strong framework and it’s going to take serious legislators who actually want to get things done.”
McConnell took the Senate floor and predicted the bill as drafted by the so-called Gang of 8 (four Republicans and four Democrats) would fail as written. Even so, McConnell voted to begin debate on the legislation, helping it clear one important procedural hurdle.
“At the risk of stating the obvious, this bill has serious flaws,” McConnell said. “In the days ahead there will need to be major changes to this bill if it’s going to become law. These include, but are not limited to, the areas of border security,government benefits and taxes.”
On the issue of border security, Castro echoed the White House contention that improvements in border security ought to pave the way for comprehensive reform. The chief goal of that reform is creating a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants already here. Under the legislation, most undocumented workers would be immediately protected from deportation but have to wait up to 13 years to obtain citizenship.
Castro also said it would be impossible to create absolute border security, implying any attempt to tie legalization of undocumented workers to that standard would gut the 1,077-page bill.
(CBS News) People often ask me, “Of all the administrations you’ve covered, which was the most secretive and manipulative?”
The Nixon Administration retired the trophy, of course. Since then, my answer is, “Whichever administration is currently in power.”
Information management has become so sophisticated, every administration learns from the previous one. Each finds new ways to control the flow of information.
It’s reached the point that if I want to interview anyone in the administration on camera, from the lowest-level worker to a top White House official, I have to go through the White House press office.
If their chosen spokesman turns out to have no direct connection to the story of the moment, as was the case when U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice was sent out to explain the Benghazi episode, then that’s what we (and you, the taxpayer) get.
And it usually isn’t much.
But it shouldn’t stop there. The president needs to rethink his entire communications policy, top to bottom. It is hurting his credibility and shortchanging the public.
And to head the review, how about someone other than the Attorney General, whose department is so deeply involved? That makes no sense to me. [FULL QUOTE]
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Before a counterterrorism address, the Obama administration disclosed for the first time the drone deaths Wednesday.
I could not find the details of the President’s TV appearance at 5 AM today. Sorry. Reuters reported that there will a change in drone policy. NBC NEWS says Obama will talk about justification for drone strikes and security for our ambassadorial staffs around the world.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
By Michael O’Brien, Political Reporter, NBC News
President Barack Obama’s team emerged on Sunday to defend his handling of revelations that the IRS had targeted conservative groups for scrutiny, as senior Republicans conceded they lacked evidence — so far — that the president directed the abuses.
Republicans appeared on the Sunday talk show circuit with hopes of sustaining their political momentum generated during this past week, one of the toughest weeks of Obama’s presidency. A series of controversies — that the IRS had targeted conservative groups, new questions about the administration’s response to last year’s terrorist attack in Benghazi, and news that the Department of Justice seized phone records of Associated Press journalists as part of an investigation regarding national security leaks — have forced the White House onto the defensive.
Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell said the IRS controversy amounted to evidence of a “culture of intimidation” by the administration. But he and Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., admitted they lacked evidence that the targeting of conservatives was ordered by the White House.
YOU WILL REMEMBER THAT SENATE MINORITY LEADER MITCH McCONNELL LED THE REPUBLICAN PARTY IN A WAR TO RENDER PRESIDENT OBAMA INEFFECTUAL AND IMPOTENT IN AN ATTEMPT TO LIMIT HIM TO ONE TERM:
- Obama picks temporary IRS head as Tea Party decries scandal (news.yahoo.com)
- White House defends IRS handling, McConnell asserts ‘culture of intimidation’ (firstread.nbcnews.com)
- Obama Appears Unscathed By Unfolding Scandals (huffingtonpost.com)
- McConnell: IRS flap ‘critical mistake’ (politico.com)
- EXCLUSIVE: McConnell: IRS Revelations ‘Just The Beginning’ (patdollard.com)
- Obama agenda seems to be weathering controversies (news.yahoo.com)
- McConnell calls for review after IRS admission (politico.com)
- Week of controversies take center stage for Sunday talk shows (firstread.nbcnews.com)