Sunday, May 4, 2014

Political Chatter: Benghazi, Ukraine and deconstructing Obama’s veiled humor

Political Chatter: Benghazi, Ukraine and deconstructing Obama’s veiled humor

At the annual White House Correspondents Dinner on Saturday night, President Barack Obama and news groups were roasted and toasted amidst a crowd full of Hollywood celebrities. On Sunday morning, journalists got back on topic, dissecting the latest deadly violence in Ukraine, the ongoing investigation into Benghazi and of course, presidential politics. 

If you missed the Sunday political talk shows, we’ll get you up to speed on the latest events and opinion in Washington with this comprehensive round up of all things political:

Foreign policy: Republicans continue to beat up on the President over his foreign policy. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, said Obama isn’t doing enough to combat Russia’s heavy hand in Ukraine.

“It really is spinning out of control, and you know the sad fact is sanctions haven't worked,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union” after a recent trip to Ukraine.

Violence escalated in recent days in the Black Sea port city of Odessa, where a street battle between supporters and opponents of Russia ended in a deadly blaze that killed more than 40 people.

Ukraine releases protesters; PM visits Odessa
Amid continued defiance, Ukrainian official vows: 'We are not stopping'
While Obama said he would impose tougher sanctions on Russia that target the country’s economy if President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine or if he interfered with Ukrainian elections set to take place on May 25, Republicans think tougher sanctions should go into effect immediately, including Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-New Hampshire.

“The bottom line is if we wait until the elections, it will be too late at that point,” she said on “Fox News Sunday.”

The U.S. and Europe has imposed two rounds of sanctions directed at individuals in Putin’s inner circle. Financial punishment hasn’t been expanded because Europe relies on Russia’s energy exports and knows that industry-focused economic sanctions could harm its economy.

Despite that, Republicans want to see more done.

“Vladimir Putin is only going to respond to action, strength and resolve. He's not going to respond to words,” Johnson said.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that the President is “delusional about what’s going on in Ukraine.”

Rep. Eliot Engel, D-New York, defended the President’s actions in Ukraine, saying on “State of the Union” that sanctions have “affected” Putin’s behavior, noting that the Russian leader hasn’t yet deployed his military across the border.

The GOP senators on three talk shows mounted another pitch echoed by their party for weeks: Send small arms and “anti-tank weapons” to Ukraine, something Obama has not supported.

Engel cautioned against jumping ahead of European allies. “We’re going to have to work in conjunction with NATO because if we don't, then the NATO alliance is dead,” Engel said, countering Republican demands.

But Johnson insisted the United States do more. “It’s the type of weakness that has given Vladimir Putin certainly the signal that he can continue to do those things with impunity,” he said.

Obama’s leadership – or lack of - has been a Republican talking point throughout his presidency, pointing to Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, Russia and now it emerged as an issue on the Sunday political shows regarding Nigeria.

In Nigeria, where more than 200 teenage girls have been abducted by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram last month for attending a Western school, Johnson said, “America has to lead. That’s what’s missing now.”

Demand for return of hundreds of abducted schoolgirls in Nigeria mounts
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, had an unsurprisingly similar sentiment: “I believe in American exceptionalism. I believe we have a leading role. I believe in peace through strength.

Unfortunately, we have a president who is not believed around the world. He's lost the credibility. I think he had that credibility and had the military strength to back it up, there would be a lot more peace out there.”

Benghazi: A flurry of activity over Benghazi erupted this week with the release of an administration memo written after the deadly attacks that advises Susan Rice, then U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, to underscore that the violence was a result of a protest on a series of Sunday political show appearances.

The fight between the White House and congressional Republicans reached a new level as House Speaker John Boehner announced that he will create a special committee to investigate. But Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California, said that Democrats shouldn’t participate in the committee, which he called a “colossal waste of time.”

“I don't think it makes sense for us to give this select committee any more credibility than it deserves,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”

While Schiff called the Republicans’ investigations political in nature, Ayotte said the White House’s explanation of what happened on September 11, 2012, just two months before the presidential election, was the thing that was political.

“The President had been saying al Qaeda was on the run. They were trying to push a narrative of strength in foreign policy. This did not fit their narrative,” she said.
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