Morning Bits

Another nominee, another problem. “  Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.): Jack Lew was also at the Office of Management and Budget when the Obama administration “violated federal law with respect to the so-called Medicare Trigger. In order to properly review this nomination, Congress must have detailed information about Mr. Lew’s complicity in the violation of federal law, as well as a legislative proposal that would bring the Administration into compliance and take Medicare off its course to disaster. Our Treasury Secretary cannot be a man who, for nearly three years, contributed to the violation of a law designed to protect our nation’s seniors. As these and other matters are explored, including his enriching time at Citigroup, I believe Mr. Lew will have a difficult confirmation.”

President Obama (Jason Reed/Reuters)

Another shoe drops. “At the Senate’s Benghazi hearings this afternoon, secretary of defense Leon Panetta and General Martin Dempsey said neither of them spoke with secretary of state Hillary Clinton throughout the seven-hour period of the attacks on the consulate. Panetta also shared that both he and Dempsey did speak with President Obama about the Benghazi attacks during an already-scheduled 30-minute meeting that same day.”

Another sign conservatives are coming around on immigration reform. “[Faith and Freedom Coalition leader Ralph] Reed’s group released a letter Tuesday that outlines broad goals for reform, like keeping families together, reforming the visa system and securing the border. High profile leaders are also weighing in. Mathew Staver, vice president of Liberty University, the college started by former TV minister Jerry Falwell, is on board. Focus on the Family, which for years has focused on issues like opposing abortion rights and gay marriage, is supporting immigration reform for the first time in its history — even using its radio broadcast that reaches millions to push its message.”

Another four years of economic doldrums may be ahead. “With economic growth subdued until 2014, … [the Congressional Budget Office] forecasts that the unemployment rate will remain high — above 7½ percent through next year. If that occurs, 2014 will be the sixth consecutive year with unemployment exceeding 7½ percent of the labor force, the longest period of such high unemployment in the past 70 years. . . . Although CBO anticipates faster economic growth after this year, output is likely to remain below its potential (or maximum sustainable) level until 2017 — almost a decade after the recession started in December 2007.”

Another instance (like Afghanistan) where the president ignored military advisers to maintain his do-nothing foreign policy stance. “The nation’s top military commander and the secretary of Defense testified Thursday that they both supported arming Syria’s rebels but were overruled by President Obama. Outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey made the comments in response to a question Thursday from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the leading supporter of arming the rebels and for greater U.S. intervention in Syria.” This isn’t even using U.S. forces; no wonder we garner so little respect in the region.

Another national security official, a different standard for disclosure. “[W]hen Hillary Clinton was nominated to be Secretary of State, the Clinton Foundation waived that right [to keep donors private] and disclosed a very long list of foreign contributors. … [Defense secretary nominee Chuck] Hagel at least has the obligation to ask the directors of the groups with which he has been affiliated to do likewise.” Yeah, but what does Hllary know? She thinks that Iran is moving toward a military dictatorship.

Another reason to try making the military option a tad more credible. “Iran’s highest authority, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on Thursday slapped down an offer of direct talks made by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden last week, saying they would not solve the problem between them.” I’m not sure why Biden was making the offer, by the way, but maybe it was to do just this — sniff out how uninterested in a peaceful resolution are the mullahs.

Another indication that President Obama’s endless talk about income inequality is largely empty. “Higher Payroll Tax Pinches Those With the Least to Spare . . . ’If you wanted to design a policy to squeeze the spending of lower- and middle-income households, raising the payroll tax is the way to do it. . . . It’s very regressive.” Obama just wants to give the money to rich people for free retiree health care.

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